Friday, November 30, 2018

Go On An Endlessly Charming Holiday With Katharine Hepburn And Cary Grant

Just like musicals, superhero movies, Muppet movies and documentaries about classic cinema legends, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant movies just make me ever so happy. Few actors have ever had such rich chemistry as these two, Grant and Hepburn just had such a natural rhythm together that made the sight of them doing something as simple as exchanging small-talk a riveting sight to behold. Best of all, their dynamics didn't leave Hepburn on the side as an object for Grant to covet, in the likes of The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby, Hepburn gets to go toe-to-toe with and even overpower Geant in their interactions, which is just perfect for a performer like Hepburn whose got spunk for days.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

With A Story And Cast This Good, No Wonder Jackie Brown Is So Thoroughly Entertaining

We all know how much Quentin Tarantino loves making movies that extensively pay homage to genres of cinema that proved highly influential to him while also putting his own spin on said genres, it's his own trademark as a filmmaker. While I've heard Jackie Brown frequently referred to as Tarantino doing a homage to blaxploitation cinema of the 1970's, I wouldn't quite classify it as occupying that specific region of filmmaking beyond the font used for the title and of course the casting of Pam Grier in the titular lead role. Like another 1990's movie I reviewed recently, Miller's Crossing, Jackie Brown actually skews closer to 1940's movies like The Big Sleep involving a lead character of questionable morals trying to keep their head above water among numerous intersecting storylines.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Creed II is Satisfying But Disappointingly Not Very Surprising

Creed II is not as good as the first movie. That was inevitable because Creed is one of the best movies of the last few years, how could you possibly top it? Trying to follow up that motion picture was gonna be a difficult task for anybody and new director Steve Caple Jr. (taking over for the original Creed's director Ryan Coogler who is now off in Wakanda) does a commendable job expanding on the story of Creed from the first movie. Even without comparing this sequel to its predecessor though, one can't help but feel like some spark of originality is missing from Creed II. This movie knows how to pack a punch but you can always see the punch coming.

Beautiful Boy Is An Imperfect Drama With Two Great Lead Performances

Drug addiction, as well as addiction in general, is, like many epidemics that affect actual human beings, something that crops up in American cinema frequently as just a cheap ploy to drum up shock value drama. The people actually suffering from the illness of addiction don't get their plight or just their own separate personalities humanized. Writer/director Felix Van Groeningen seeks to rectify this with his new movie (which marks his first foray into English-language American cinema) Beautiful Boy, which is based on two separate non-fiction books chronicling the life of Nic Sheff (here portrayed by Timothee Chalamet) who has struggled with his addiction to numerous different kinds of substances for years.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Ralph Breaks The Internet And, Along With Creed II, The Domestic Box Office Over A Busy Thanksgiving Box Office

All weekend box office figures discussed in this article are for the three-day weekend unless stated otherwise.

Remember those TV spots for Saw sequels that proclaimed "If it's Halloween, it must be Saw"? Well, Disney should start doing something similar by having TV spots for their Thanksgiving animated fare that proclaim "If it's Thanksgiving, it must be time for an animated movie blockbuster from Disney." The studios tradition of releasing box office hits (and also The Good Dinosaur) over the holiday timeframe continued on with Ralph Breaks The Internet, which grossed $55.6 million over the weekend, the third-best three-day Thanksgiving opening weekend in history behind fellow Disney Animation titles Moana ($56.6 million) and Frozen ($67.3 million). That opening weekend is a 15% improvement over the opening weekend of its predecessor despite Ralph Breaks The Internet burning off demand with a Wednesday lunch unlike the original Wreck-It Ralph which bowed on a Friday.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Instant Family Stumbles In Trying To Make Heartfelt Family Fare

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne), the two leads of Instant Family, have been debating for a while now whether or not they wanna make the dive into having kids. They finally decide to commit to it though upon learning more about the foster care adoption process which they dive headfirst into by way of doing all the necessary training. None of that training can prepare them for when they actually adopt three kids, teenager Lizzy (Isabela Moner) and her two younger siblings Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz), and their whole lives get turned upside down. A whole lot of chaos might just help them become a family, yee-haw.

Layers of Ambiguity Fuel The Beautifully Filmed Thriller Burning (SPOILERS)


Director Lee Chang-dong's newest motion picture Burning is a thriller, but it takes a little bit of time before it reveals itself as just that. At first, the audience is just following around aspiring writer Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) as he putters around in his day-to-day life doing deliveries to earn money as he tries nearly everything, including getting his neighbors to sign a petition, to ensure that his violent father doesn't get a harsh prison sentence. While going about his life, he runs into childhood friend Shin Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo) for the first time in ages. The two promptly go out for dinner where Shin reveals that she's about to go to Africa as part of her desire to fulfill her Big Hunger, a term meant to refer to a persons desire to find out their purpose in the universe. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Thoughtful Heist Movie Widows Is The Very Best Kind of Expansive Cinema

Widows is so jam-packed with so many plotlines, themes, and social commentary that it feels like it shouldn't work at all, this should be the quintessential case of an overstuffed movie that people refer to as something that should have been an HBO miniseries instead.  A heist thriller with so much going on at once really does sound like it should be the kind of ambitious project that exceeds an artists grasp. Instead, Widows is more than just "not overstuffed", it's phenomenal cinema from top-to-bottom, an immensely impressive achievement that, like an expert magician pulling a tablecloth off a table without disrupting any items actually on the table, manages to do the seemingly impossible so effortlessly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Grinch Is Painless And Average Which Puts It Above Most Dr. Seuss Movie Adaptations

Adapting Dr. Seuss works into feature films is a process that does not have a great track record, to put it mildly. The live-action Grinch and Cat in the Hat movies were abominations, The Lorax missed the darker underpinnings of the story it was adapting and Horton Hears A Who! was the one exception here, being a reasonably charming fare, probably one of the better Blue Sky Studios movies and definitely the best Dr. Seuss film adaptation. The Grinch (this time fully animated compared to the live-action 2000 Ron Howard directorial effort) is the newest film to try and tackle this daunting task and the result is something that's just inoffensive enough to probably rank in the upper pantheon of both Dr. Seuss movies and Illumination Entertainment films, though neither of those are high bars to clear.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Charlie Chaplin Bid Farewell To The Tramp By Embracing Real-World Turmoil In Modern Times

Whether you're Bear in the Big Blue House or Johnny Carson, there comes a time when you must say goodbye. Whether it's because the general public has gotten tired of you, by your own choice or other external circumstances, there comes a moment when all pop culture figures must take their final bows and walk off gracefully into the sunset. This was true even for a cinematic icon like Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp character, who had been entertaining audiences for more than two decades since he first premiered in the 1914 short film Twenty Minutes of Love. Yes, even The Tramp couldn't last forever and so the character went out with a bang with the 1936 movie Modern Times.

Monday, November 19, 2018

John Turturro, The Coen Brothers And Especially John Goodman Are All In Top-Notch Form In Barton Fink

One of the most realistic depictions I've ever seen of being a writer came from, of all places, a SpongeBob SquarePants episode entitled Procrastination depicting the shows titular lead character trying to get an essay about red lights done for his boating class. What constantly gets in his way is his own inability to concentrate, SpongeBob keeps on finding new reasons for him to delay doing his essay, whether it's doing stretches or cleaning his kitchen until it's all shiny and chrome. It's a brilliantly funny episode in and of itself (so many of those classic SpongeBob episodes are) but it especially resonates with me as an accurate depiction of how hard it can be to focus on actually getting writing done.

From The Ashes of FilmStruck Rises Criterion Collection!

The abrupt cancellation of streaming service FilmStruck, which hosts countless classic movies from all over the planet, sickened me for a whole horde of reasons. At least I wasn't the only film geek to be crestfallen by the departure of FilmStruck, in fact, my disappointment was shared with a whole bunch of iconic filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Rian Johnson and Guillermo del Toro who, along with many other directors, signed a petition calling for FilmStruck to be saved and sent it directly to Toby Emmerich, head of Warner Bros. Pictures (which is part of the WarnerMedia family that FilmStruck belongs to).

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Coen Brothers Return To Westerns In Successful Fashion With The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The anthology film refers to movies that are comprised of individual, typically stand-alone, short segments instead of one grander story. Modern examples of this trend are few-and-far-between, but they've been most common in the horror genre which has produced the various V/H/S movies and The ABC's of Death. I guess the wretched 2013 abomination Movie 43 would count as an anthology movie? Easily the most high-profile modern example of this type of feature has to be the newest motion picture from Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which sees the iconic duo weaving six separate stories each inhabiting the Western genre they previously explored with 2010 directorial effort True Grit. 

A Trio of Newcomers, Including Fantastic Beasts 2 And Widows, Underperform At The Pre-Thanksgiving Box Office

Some Warner Bros. executives may be experiencing some Wizard Angst right now given that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald only debuted to $62.2 million domestically, or at least, they'd be experiencing that until they saw the massive $191 million it took in overseas, giving it a $253 million worldwide haul to date, the 38th biggest worldwide box office opening weekend in history. In the U.S. though, the newest Fantastic Beasts films didn't fare so well, scoring the lowest opening weekend for a movie topping the pre-Thanksgiving weekend frame since 2007 and having a 17% lower domestic opening weekend than its predecessor despite costing 11% more to produce. Good thing they hired Johnny Depp for this project or else it might have come in shy of expectations domestically!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Miller's Crossing Is Another Early Coen Brothers Winner

For their third directorial effort, The Coen Brothers (though only Joel Coen is credited as a director) returned to the crime genre that has served them well so many times in their expansive careers. For this particular take on the crime movie formula, they decided to go in the direction of a period piece, setting the tale in the 1920's specifically. Despite being set in the era where the sale of alcohol was banned, the film, entitled Miller's Crossing, was actually taking more cues in its tone and style from 1940's noir features, particularly ones like The Big Sleep involving a single lead character trying to use their wits to make a whole bunch of other peoples agendas work in his favor.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crime of Grindelwald Leans Heavily On Poorly Developed Characters To Dismal Results


One of my favorite childhood memories is when I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the very first time as a nine-year-old boy. I'd heard so much praise regarding about The Boy Who Lived from my friends and family members but it was a whole other experience to actually read it and get enveloped into this world of wizardry and wonder populated by well-realized characters I could relate to so easily. There was so much vivid humanity that informed Harry Potter, his friends and his enemies, it just made that world so compelling. With the newest entry in this sprawling Harry Potter universe, clumsily entitled, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the world, specifically all kinds of extended mythology that takes place in it, has taken precedence over the characters and that results in a total mess of a movie that would be wretched even if it wasn’t connected to an infinitely superior series of books & films.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Can You Ever Forgive Me? Is A Skillfully Subdued Triumph

Like the boys (A.K.A. Zac Efron and Corbin Bleau) in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, writer/director Marielle Heller is back after her outstanding 2015 directorial effort The Diary of a Teenage Girl. A movie bursting at the seams with authentic portrayals of all the complexities of a specific teenagers angst, anything she did as a follow-up to that excellent motion picture was gonna grab my attention. But the fact that such a sophomore directorial effort, entitled Can You Ever Forgive Me?, would also serve as a chance for Melissa McCarthy to flex her dramatic acting muscles meant this was a movie that's been very much on my radar for ages now (it probably would have been on my radar anyway though given how many times I've seen the trailer over the past seven months).

How to Talk to Girls at Parties Is An Exceptionally Fun Ode To Punk Rock And Cosmic Weirdness

One of the movies A24 brought to premiere at last year's Cannes Film Festival was the new John Cameron Mitchell directorial effort How to Talk to Girls at Parties. Arriving with oodles of hype, the feature debuted to mixed reviews, which shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone involved in the production considering it was such a strange entity that wasn't going to be for everyone's tastes. Unfortunately, A24 really seemed to have been taken aback by this response and it caused the films domestic theatrical release to constantly get delayed until it got dumped at the end of May 2018 in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it theatrical release.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Magnificent Ambersons Are The Centerpiece of A Well-Done Orson Welles Directorial Effort

For any director, doing a follow-up directorial project to a particularly acclaimed piece of work is a daunting prospect, one that some filmmakers have exceled in (like Marielle Heller) while other filmmakers (like Dan Gilroy) found more mixed results in the same scenario. For Orson Welles, this was a particularly tricky scenario for him back in the early 1940's as he was preparing his directorial follow-up to a little-known movie called Citizen Kane. Though plagued by controversy in its initial release, Citizen Kane was still garnering acclaim and had set the bar high for whatever he did next, which turned out to be a motion picture adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Back In The Mid90s, A Solid Coming of Age Story Occurred Just As Bojack Horseman Was On A Very Famous TV Show

First Jordan Peele, then Bo Burnham, now Jonah Hill, there are so many comedians getting into the business of directing dramatic pieces of cinema these days! At this pace, I expect Horatio Sanz to have an acclaimed indie feature out by Summer 2020 at the latest. Hill's contribution to this trend is a coming-of-age story called Mid90s taking place in the middle of the (when else?) 1990's. Serving as Hill's first time directing or writing a movie (though he has received a Story By credit on a number of past movies), Mid90s isn't as good as the directorial debuts from the aforementioned likes of Peele or Burnham, but it is good enough to make me curious about where Hill goes as a filmmaker from here, he's certainly got a distinctive creative voice that has real potential.

The Grinch Has The Strength of Ten Grinches (Plus Two!) In Impressive Opening Weekend As Overlord And Girl In Spider's Web Underwhelm At The Box Office

And now, a look at Universal sharheolders after this strong opening weekend for The Grinch
The holiday season appears to be well underway if the opening weekend for The Grinch is any indication. This animated feature became the newest box office hit for Illumination Entertainment, which just keeps producing one box office sensation after another. Opening to $66 million, The Grinch scored the biggest opening weekend ever for a Christmas movie, the third-biggest opening weekend for an animated movie in November (only the $67 million bow of Frozen and the $70 million bow of The Incredibles were higher). This opening is 5% below the opening weekend of the last Illumination Dr. Seuss film The Lorax, but given that Christmas movies tend to have excellent legs, that's no biggie, The Grinch should be well on its way to, at the very least, a $220 million final domestic total, above the final domestic gross of The Lorax.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Outlaw King Impresses With Its Production Value But Underwhelms With Its Characters

The Hollywood epic was a common sight in the 1950's and 1960's as Hollywood tried to combat the rise of television programming with a horde of movies that used gargantuan budgets to bring to life massive-in-scale stories that usually took place in ancient periods of history. How funny then to consider that the newest Netflix original movie Outlaw King, which reunites director David Mackenzie with his Hell or High Water leading man Chris Pine, is an obvious homage to those types of movies, complete with a $120 million budget that makes it the most expensive Netflix movie yet (Martin Scorsese's The Irishman is waiting in the wings for its chance to turn to Outlaw King and say "Hold my beer!"), yet it'll be seen by the vast majority of people on...televisions!

Everybody's Talking About Midnight Cowboy, Though I Can't Hear A Word They Say

The end of the 1960's saw American cinema getting to really strut its stuff as the Hayes Code, which put restrictions on what kind of material American films could cover, collapsed and the floodgates opened in terms of major American films suddenly being able to deal with aspects of reality that had previously been off-limits. One movie that certainly would never have been allowed to exist in the days of the Hayes Code existing was Midnight Cowboy, a John Schlesinger directorial effort whose content was so explicit that it was given an X-rating (the equivalent in that day and age for the modern-day NC-17 rating) from the MPAA.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

It's Taken Forty-Plus Years To Get Released, But The Wait For The Other Side of the Wind Was Worth It!

This is my 1,000th movie review for Land of the Nerds! Over the course of about four-and-a-half years, I've watched and written about a ton of movies and I'm grateful to each and every one of you readers for supporting my cinematic pursuits, which include a most unique motion picture to serve as the subject of my 1,000th review!

You take the good with the bad. Yes, Netflix may finance annual Adam Sandler comedies, one of which features the sight of David Spade physically beating Paula Patton while shouting about what a good guy he is, but at least they've done good for the world of art by using their seemingly endless oceans of money to complete Orson Welles final film The Other Side of the Wind. This project started filming in the early 1970's and after a six-year-long filming process began an extensive post-production session that Orson Welles didn't finish before his passing in October 1985. In the more than three decades since then, the footage for this film has been mired in endless legal controversy that prevented it from being finished up.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Dance To The Gruesome & Thoughtful Rhythm of Suspiria

For his sixth narrative feature film directorial effort, Italian director Luca Guadagnino decides to go the horror remake angle by doing a new take on the seminal horror film Suspiria. Horror remakes don't have the best track record in the world but what Guadagnino has mad in his mad scientist lab is a totally off-the-wall creation that bears more in common stylistically with an Andrei Tarkovsky movie than one of those horror remakes Platinum Dunes was churning out in the mid-2000's. It's gory, it's slowly paced, it's an improvement over the original Suspiria, it's gonna alienate a lot of people who come to it expecting a routine horror film and it's also pretty darn exceptional.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Hate U Give Is A Thoughtful Character Study Packed With Outstanding Performances

2018's been a good year for the Young-Adult novel film adaptation subgenre, hasn't it? It's nice to see this strain of American cinema having such a banner considering that I've always felt its gotten too much of a bum rap from people always associating it with Twilight and its various knock-off's rather than also considering that the high-quality likes of The Fault In Our Stars or The Spectacular Now also qualify as entries in this subgenre. Twilight isn't good (though the hate for it seems a wee bit overblown at this point), but judging the entire YA-novel film adaptation realm just by it is like judging all of superhero movies on Batman v. Superman. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Is In A Constant Battle Between Being Derivative And Being Weird

It is late in the evening. Rain comes down outside an office on the Disney lot as a group of Disney executives contemplate what their next big blockbuster should be. What public domain fantasy-IP can they turn into a motion picture next? They've already done so many, there can't possibly be any left....and then somebody remembers that The Nutcracker Suite exists, why not make a movie based on that famous piece of ballet music? Disney's adapted that material before with a Mickey Mouse short and kind of sort of in a Fantasia 2000 segment, surely a live-action adaptation is only the next logical step for the studio! Those Disney executives likely thought they had a surefire family movie hit on their hands, but what they got is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a movie that excels most when it's just being as odd and campy as possible.

Bohemian Rhapsody Makes The Rockin' Box Office World Go Round As The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Has Nightmarish Bow

November 2018 is the first November since 2011 to not have either a James Bond, Marvel Cinematic Universe or Christopher Nolan movie bowing in its first two weeks. That means a usual source of reliable blockbuster box office in November just isn't around this year. Luckily for the 2018 domestic box office, Bohemian Rhapsody was able to fill in nicely for those vacant titles (next weekends The Grinch should have a similarly prosperous opening) by opening to a fantastic $50 million, the second-biggest music biopic opening in history and the biggest opening weekend by a long shot for movie with an LGBTQIA+ lead, dethroning the $36.3 million opening of Interview With A Vampire, which has held the record for 24 years. That atter achievement would feel more like an impressive accomplishment if the film itself didn't treat Freddie Mercury's sexuality in such a retrograde manner, but at least this is another piece of proof that movies explicitly marketed with LGBTQIA+ leads aren't box office poison.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Don't Stop Me Now Unless I'm Planning On Seeing Bohemian Rhapsody

Walk Hard so successfully and hysterically skewered the music biopic back in December 2007 that one would hope that it inspired the makes of future music biopics to show more creativity in how they presented the lives of famous musicians. Sadly, that Jake Kasdan directorial effort ended up as a box office misfire in its initial theatrical release before becoming a cult classic and that means, aside from occasional far better than expected entries like Straight Outta Compton or Love & Mercy, music biopics have mostly stayed the same in the last decade or so. This trend extends to Bohemian Rhapsody, a music biopic of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen that falls prey to the worst elements that can crop up in these music biopics while also finding time to inject its own unique flaws into the proceedings.

Like Be Kind Rewind, Hearts Beat Loud Is An Exceptionally Endearing Movie About How Unifying Art Can Be

Hearts Beat Loud is 2018's answer to Bernie in that it's a sublime indie movie that totally would have been a big box office hit in both arthouse and mainstream movie theaters if only it had been distributed by a more high-profile movie studio that had actually given it a noteworthy theatrical release. Oh well, Hearts Beat Loud (as well as Bernie for that matter!) will live on long after a woefully small theatrical release thanks to just how entertaining it is. This is feel-good cinema done impeccably right that shows how well-realized characters, not unearned schmaltz, are what's needed to get one's heart soaring.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Original Suspiria Is An Alright Movie With Exemplary Production Design

Before I spend two-and-a-half-hours this weekend seeing what the director of Call Me By Your Name has done with his horror remake of the same name, I felt it was high time to see what all the fuss was about the original Suspiria motion picture. Hailing from Italy and released in 1977, the film's reputation precedes it both in my social circles where people talk about it in reverent hushed responses and in the larger pop culture where its impact has become so immense that it even got mentioned twice in the 2007 Best Picture nominee Juno. The films larger influence on horror movies, in general, may be even greater than the praise it's received, the amount of horror fare that owes more than a tip of the hat to this Dario Argento directorial effort is unfathomable.

Slice Is A Classic Example of an Overstuffed Movie That Still Feels Empty

You'd be forgiven if you began watching Slice and presumed, thanks to the shockingly dense amount of mythology it throws at the viewer, that it was part of some larger franchise, perhaps it's a sequel to another movie or even just a feature-film adaptation of an Adult Swim show. In fact, this is a completely stand-alone motion picture hailing from writer/director Austin Vesley that just has a wider universe it needs to establish before its plot can get underway. Peculiarly though, a proper story or anything else similarly substantive never really materializes despite a whole horde of characters and supernatural tomfoolery getting introduced, Slice instead just has a lot of chess pieces in play that it never bothers to move around the board.