Monday, December 30, 2019

Honeyland Is A Sweet Intimate Portrait of a Helpful Beekeeper

Given how often movies aim for endlessly gargantuan spectacle regardless of whether or not it works for their story or not, it's always refreshing to find an unabashedly simple motion picture like Honeyland. It crossed my mind more than once whether or not the basic premise of this project could sustain a feature-length story. Such thoughts quickly vanished as Honeyland constantly proved my doubtful thoughts misplaced. In fact, Honeyland is quite remarkable in how it gets such an engaging movie out of so little. Directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov demonstrate that it's not the number of tools you have, but how you use them.

The Utterly Impressive Crime Thriller Uncut Gems Will Leave Your Nerves Shattered

Saying that the new Adam Sandler movie Uncut Gems begins with a sequence taking place inside buttocks of Sandler's protagonist, Howard Ratner, might make you think this project is some kind of stealth Grown Ups sequel. But Uncut Gems isn't that at all, it's the newest project from Ben and Josh Safdie, the directorial duo responsible for Good Time. These two know how to deliver good movies and that means they have a great reason for starting Uncut Gems within someone's colon. Such an opening follows up a prologue sequence set in Ethiopia, where two miners discover a rare black opal gem. The prologue ends with the camera zooming into the gem, revealing all the dazzling colors within.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Douglas Laman's Twenty-Five Best Movies of 2019

A live image of people getting ready to devour Douglas Laman's Twenty-Five Best Movies of 2019 list
Ah, another year has come to an end. How is it already New Year's Eve once again? With 2019 about to head into the past, it's good to look back on what's happened to us all in the past 365 days. For me, it's been a year of momentous firsts as I attended my first film festival, did my first ever red carpet coverage, finished writing my first ever feature film screenplay and got my first ever paid writing gigs. In between all of that (plus college!), I managed to see a whole slew of new movies, 176 of them to be precise. Normally, I'd have to wait until late January or early February to publish this list thanks to so many new movies not coming to theaters near me until the new year. But thanks to the aforementioned film festivals I've been able to attend plus new advanced press screenings, I actually can do this Best Movies of the Year list before New Year's Eve for the first time ever! How about that, it's like I'm a real film critic or something!

Not changing from year's past is that this list will be done in alphabetical order sans one title that I've picked as the absolute best of the year. It was immensely tough to whittle down just 25 movies to represent the best of 2019 cinema, but it is done, I've achieved just that. Let's begin this Twenty-Five Best Movies of 2019 list with...

Friday, December 27, 2019

John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch Is A Very Specific And Very Funny Creation

You're gonna know right away if the specific style of humor of John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch is going to be for you or not. This is a satire of classic children's variety specials hosted by John Mulaney and a large collection of children that's broken up into an assortment of comedic musical numbers, off-the-wall gags skewering hallmarks of children's television (like those "Can You Guess What The Image Is?" puzzles) and a couple of celebrity cameos. Much of the humor seems designed to leave some viewers more baffled than amused and that's totally fine. All art is subjective but that's especially true when it comes to comedy.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Bombshell Lets Down Essential Perspectives With A Poor Movie

Based on the true stories regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault cases at Fox News, Bombshell chronicles a trio of individual stories each centered on a different woman (two of them being actual people, one of them being a fictional creation) working for Fox News, in-film narrator Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and newbie employee Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). Bombshell explores the work environment they reside in as well as the gradually increasing presence of a sexual harassment lawsuit (one spurred on by Gretchen Carlson) brewing against the network and its founder, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow).

Just Mercy Is A Courtroom Drama With Plenty of Empathy And Great Performances

Lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) has just graduated from Harvard with a law degree, which means there’s only one clear course of action to take one. That’s right, Stevenson is going to move down to Alabama and create a non-profit law firm that specializes in providing free legal services to death row inmates. It’s a crusade that’s highly unorthodox, to put it gently, especially considering Stevenson is a Black man trying to fight against a justice system that inherently sees people of color as immediately guilt. However, Stevenson wants to use his lawyer's gifts to help the most underserved of American citizens. After all, these are not inhuman monsters, but people who could be anybody. Heck, Stevenson himself observes to his Mother at one point that “It could have been me, Mama”

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Noelle's Bursts of Originality Highlight Its Heavily Derivative Elements


There's a really interesting idea for a Yuletide family movie nestled within Noelle, one of the first original films made for the Disney+ streaming platform (it was once set for a November 2019 theatrical release). But much like a Christmas present tucked away at the very back of the tree, it remains out of grasp of writer/director Marc Lawrence. Well, mostly out of grasp I should say. There is a stretch of the third act where Noelle actually manages to hit upon something special and unique. Unfortunately, too much of it settles for being derivative, a hodgepodge mixture of Elf, The Year Without A Santa Claus and Arthur Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Top Sixteen Cinematic Discoveries of 2019

We've come to the end of another year, my friends. How does all the time go by? In addition to completing two more semesters of college (just one more and I'll have a Bachelor's Degree!) and getting my first three paid writing gigs, I also managed to watch a whole slew of classic movies for the very first time. The amount of acclaimed classic cinema I managed to finally catch up on 2019 was vast, making it hard to par down a Top Sixteen Cinematic Discovers of 2019 list. Despite its daunting nature, I managed to get such a list made and looking back on these sixteen specific titles fills me with oodles of joy, both because of the quality of the titles themselves and also for how many of these movies are connected to happy memories of mine in 2019. Cinema and my life have always been permanently intertwined and 2019 was no different.

Let's begin this look back on my Top Sixteen Cinematic Discoveries of 2019 (done in alphabetical order) starting with...

Monday, December 23, 2019

Grab Your Catnip For The Musical Madness of Cats

Musicals are inherently absurd creations. People don't sing their feelings in real life, after all. Because they work as the antithesis to reality, the best musicals can create sights & sounds you'd never see in another medium of creative expression. Avenue Q, for example, where else could you see a puppet show that doesn't even try to conceal that the puppets are being operated by people? Or how about Little Shop of Horrors or The SpongeBob SquarePants Musical? Both thrive on unabashed weirdness! Such strange yet enjoyably bold creativity is why I love musicals. When people think of musical oddness, though, one go-to reference point might be Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1981 musical Cats.

The Two Popes Has A Formulaic Script But Two Solid Lead Performances

The idea that the best leaders are the ones who don't want to become a leader is heard early on in The Two Popes and it's an apt descriptor for Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce). An easygoing fellow open to new practices (a sharp contrast to the Catholic Church's default to tradition) and who works as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio is preparing to retire. This is a task that requires him to get the permission of the current Pope, Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins), who's the total opposite of Bergoglio in every way. Turns out, Bergoglio's prospective retirement is coming just as Benedict XVI is facing a slew of scandals that mean he could use the aid of Bergoglio.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Nightingale Echoes Au Hasard Balthazar In Being Well-Done Harrowing Cinema

CW: Discussions of Sexual Assault ahead

The first word that pops into my mind when thinking about The Nightingale is "uncompromising". Jennifer Kent's new film, her follow-up to her horror movie sensation The Babadook, is the farthest thing one could imagine from a cookie-cutter major studio production with its bleak examination of how English settlers dehumanized members of marginalized populations, like women and Aboriginal Australians. It's something that evokes Au Hasard Balthazar in numerous moments in its unflinching darkness. Kent's filmmaking is wall-to-wall misery but it isn't just empty gruesomeness. This is an extremely appropriate tone, especially in the way she executes it, for the bleak story she's seeking to tell here.

What A Twist!: Spoiler Thoughts on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (SPOILERS)


Friday, December 20, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Closes Out The Saga On An Underwhelming Note

For the final entry in the nine-film Skywalker Saga, we reunite with the heroes of the most recent entries in the story, scavenger turned Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley), stormtrooper turned Resistance hero Finn (John Boyega) and folk singer turned pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Ultimate baddie Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has returned from the dead and is now working with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) on a whole new evil plot. In order to save the galaxy and win the war against these dastardly foes, Rey must muster up all her courage and confront both old & new evil forces as well as her struggle to define who she is.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Jumanji: The Next Level Delivers Some Laughs But Can't Quite Hit A High Score

The good news with Jumanji: The Next Level is that it's hard to dislike this Jake Kasdan directorial effort. How many comedy sequels can you say that about? Unfortunately, at the same time, it's also hard to really get wrapped up in this fourth entry in the Jumanji universe (yes, Jon Favreau's Zathura is apparently canon). It's not necessarily because the production is a big mess or that a singular element has gone horribly wrong in the scripting department. It's just the gags just aren't as spry as before, the adventure stuff still feels more perfunctory than it should, enough stuff comes up just short that it begins to add up after a while.

One Cut of the Dead Is Constantly Full of Wonderful Surprises (SPOILER REVIEW)


I've mentioned this in prior reviews, but when I'm watching a movie, I tend to live in the present. Sometimes I can predict plot beats coming a mile away if a movie is really just tedious, but usually I'm like a horse on a racetrack; stuck with blinders on that keep me focused on only what's in front of me. I'm not sure if that's something related to my particular form of Autism or if that's just a Douglas Laman thing, but this means twists and turns in movies tend to hit me extra hard. This means the barrage of already clever surprises that make up the crux of One Cut of the Dead were like a revelation to me. Going into this movie totally unaware of what it was beyond just being the newest acclaimed zombie comedy made this such a rich and exciting cinematic experience!

In Laman's Terms: The Definitive Ranking of the Six Best Star Wars Characters

Max Rebo, one of the greatest Star Wars characters of all-time
In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

Star Wars discourse is toxic. It's been that way ever since the Phantom Menace backlash caused Ahmed Best and Jake Lloyd to receive relentless bullying and the ever-growing presence of the internet in the modern era has only accelerated that level of toxicity for the modern Star Wars movies. With The Rise of Skywalker just two days from release, the Star Wars discourse is about to get revved up into overdrive and inevitably, a large sum of that is gonna be virulent. In an effort to combat that, I've decided to make a positive Star Wars essay for this weeks In Laman's Terms column. I've decided to run down six background/supporting Star Wars alien characters I adore. Basically, this is The Definitive Ranking of the Six Best Star Wars Characters!

No Han Solo to be found here, but plenty of distinctively designed aliens are ahead, starting with...

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Dead or Alive Begins and Ends With A Bang...Literally

Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive certainly begins with a bang, doesn't it? That iconic opening sequence is like the love-child of Edgar Wright & the Safdie Brothers on a hundred Red Bull's and also a healthy dose of bath salts. Said opening sequence depicts a bevy of human beings being taken out in violent ways by a group of criminals. The editing used to cut between individual locations is Road Runner-fast and none of the deaths are subtle. Noodles explode from one dying person's body instead of blood and the presence of drugs and sex is similarly pervasive in this stretch of bravura filmmaking. To watch this opening scene of Dead or Alive is to feel like you've just gone on the world's faster rollercoaster, your head is spinning, your mind is in shambles yet you kind of want to do it again?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Sweetheart's Script Can't Quite Balance Monster Mayhem With Human Drama

We get about five or six Blumhouse Productions movies a year that get major theatrical releases, the likes of Get Out, The Purge and Halloween (2018) but what about the rest of Blumhouse's annual output? The Jason Blum-run production outfit actually releases more films annually than you might realize, they just end up getting way less prolific direct-to-video bows after brief film festival runs. Such a fate is the one seen by their 2019 feature Sweetheart, a new directorial effort hailing from J.D. Dillard, the filmmaker behind the 2017 film Sleight. After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival this past January, Sweetheart basically vanished before getting dropped on digital retailers in October (currently, there is no physical home video release for the title).

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Richard Jewell Is Another Empty Modern-Day Clint Eastwood Directorial Effort

What on Earth has happened to Clint Eastwood as a filmmaker this decade? The iconic Western gunslinger turned director has spent his most recent years helming features like American Sniper, The 15:17 to Paris and Sully that are just tedious rehashes of real-world events with nary an interesting perspective or trace of memorable filmmaking to be found. Little in the way of thoughtful exploration of the perspective of human beings caught up in the grand sweep of history can be found, his recent movies have been too bland for that. Even his foray into musical cinema with Jersey Boys used the same shadow-heavy cinematography and lack of thoughtful character work that have plagued Eastwood's recent efforts.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Cinema Paradiso Poignantly Reaffirms The Emotional Power of Movies

Unless you’re Paul Schrader, chances are you have fond childhood memories connected to cinema if you’re an adult devotee of movies. For me, it’s my faint memories of being an expert in inserting and ejecting VHS tapes in my families VCR player before I even learned how to talk! That kind of childhood connection to cinema can have long term effects that are felt well into adulthood and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Oscar-winning feature Cinema Paradiso isn’t just aware of this, it’s the foundation on which the entire story is built. Unlike sand, the experience of youthful love for cinema turns out to be a great foundation on which to build something.

Waves Is A Frequently Successful Ambitious Directorial Effort From Trey Edward Shults

Writer/director Trey Edward Shults has previously been responsible for two movies, Krisha and It Comes At Night, that generated much of their tension from restricting their stories about families going through turmoil primarily to singular locations. Through this restrained method, Shults has created some memorable pieces of intense cinema, but for his newest movie, Waves, Shults is looking to expand his creative canvas. Waves is a project that doesn't just span numerous locations, it also takes place over an expansive amount of time (a sharp contrast to the likes of Kirsha that took place over a holiday dinner) and utilizes a number of bold visual techniques such as shifting aspect ratios. Oh, and Shults is also going to comment on a number of real-world social issues.

A Bunch of Famous Names Can't Make 6 Underground Interesting

Two very distinct creative talents have formed a union to bring the new Netflix blockbuster 6 Underground to life. In one corner, we have director Michael Bay, the man behind the first five Transformers movies and an assortment of other high-octane action films. In the other corner, we have the writing duo of Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, the screenwriters who penned the two Deadpool movies. Though both known for making movies where big things blow up, their sensibilities are quite different. Bay is known for his lavish hyperactively edited visual-oriented productions whereas Reese & Wernick tend to work in the confines of mid-budget comedic exercises relying heavily on snappy self-referential dialogue.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Heavily Moving And Impressive A Hidden Life Is Terrence Malick At His Finest

In the past, me and the works of Terrence Malick just haven't gotten along. I actually really liked Days of Heaven but much of his 21st-century-works, including his widely acclaimed The Tree of Life, ended up leaving me cold. Malick must be doing something right considering how so many of his movies have left such a profound impact on so many, but sadly, his movies have predominately left me unmoved rather than engrossed. Keeping all that in mind, watching his newest motion picture, A Hidden Life, was like a lightbulb going off in my brain. All the distinct traits of his recent works, ceaseless voice-over, slow pacing, a singular style of camerawork, that had come off as self-indulgent in other works were put to fantastic use in the context of this story. Count me in on the Malick hype for A Hidden Life, this movie truly works.

Atlantics Ain't Afraid of No Ghost...or Committing to Bold Storytelling & Cinematography Choices

In art, the act of falling in love with someone is connected with the notion of being alive. In the traditional language of cinema, being able to connect with another person is to reaffirm that you're indeed a living, breathing person. How ironic, then, that Atlantics would be a romantic-drama that would so heavily feature ghosts. Whether they come in the forms of Casper or entities the Ghostbusters would track down, ghosts are always depicted as the very opposite of love, and by proxy, the very opposite of the traditional cinematic depiction of romance. But writer/director Mati Diop works wonders in bringing together life and death for a one-of-a-kind romantic drama.

In Laman's Terms: Award Season Continues To Fail Non-White Male Filmmakers...Now What?

An image from Little Women, a movie not worthy of awards because it stars fleshed-out women rather than a dude in clown makeup dancing down a staircase.
In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

There have only ever been five women nominated for the Oscar for Best Director.

Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow and Greta Gerwig are the only ones to break into the category. Looking over to the Best Picture Oscar category, only fourteen movies directed by women have been nominated for Best Picture in the 91-year-history of the Academy Awards. Of those fourteen movies, only one (Selma) has been helmed by a woman of color. Clearly, this stunningly low level of recognition for women is not representative of actual Hollywood, where women have been directed films since Alice Guy-Blanche was helming motion pictures in the earliest days of Hollywood.

Monday, December 9, 2019

It's Remarkable That For Sama Exists But Thank Goodness It Does

You know how sometimes you see movies execute some wondrous feat with practical visual effects and you ponder "Wow, how did they pull that off?" That same sense of awe in pondering how a cinematic feat was accomplished defines For Sama, a documentary hailing from directors Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts comprised of footage I honestly can't believe was captured on film. This feature is all about the experiences of living in the middle of a wartime scenario in real-time as captured by Waad Al-Kateab's camcorder. At times, bombs go off around Al-Kateab, yet the footage keeps rolling. She knows the urgency of what she's recording. She knows that to create art about oppressed people is to create permanent reminders that they existed.

My Neighbor Totoro Is Irresitbly Pleasant Hayao Miyazaki Fare

You know how some movies tend to stuff their movies too full of extraneous conflict when their central premise has enough tension? My Neighbor Totoro is the exact opposite type of film, this is a feature film that runs entirely away from the traditional concepts of creating tension or danger in a movie. No villains are found here, there's no apocalyptic plot to foil. You don't need tension to make a good movie and My Neighbor Totoro is proof positive of that. It's just about two sisters enjoying the company of some fantasy creatures. It's a gentle hug of a motion picture, Hayao Miyazaki's love for the natural world at its most serene.

Douglas Laman's Thoughts on the Male-Centric 77th Golden Globe Nominations

First of all, before we get into the nominees for this year's Golden Globe ceremony...why must Ricky Gervais host this again? I know his devil-may-care attitude seems like a perfect fit for the loosey-goosey style of the Golden Globes, but his hosting stints have proven to be more awkwardly unfunny in years past than uproarious comedic experiences. Plus, why are we having a guy whose comedy is so tired that he resorts to transphobic humor hosting a major award ceremony? There are so many better options to choose from! Rachel Bloom! John Mulaney! Tiffany Haddish! Oooo! We could go full chaos and have Eric Andre and Hannibal Buress host! Let's do that instead of having Ricky Gervais host the Golden Globes once again.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Out of Sight Is Another Steven Soderbergh Crime Movie Winner

If you’re watching a Steven Soderbergh movie, it’s likely gonna have a burning contempt for the wealthy. That's been an especially notable fixture in his most recent cinematic works, even the one psychological thriller he did in 2018. There also might be heist movie elements, though there are plenty of titles in his filmography (like Contagion) devoid of influences of that genre. Still, there are a number of entries in Soderbergh’s canon that do manage to combine those two central thematic elements, with one such example being his 1997 motion picture Out of Sight.

Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story Is A Powerful Piece of Filmmaking

In many ways, it feels like Noah Baumbach has been working his whole career to get to the point where he could make Marriage Story. Throughout his nearly quarter-of-a-century of making movies, fractured families have been a recurring element across a number of his works. The concept of people you're supposed to be closest to having deep-seated problems with one another is one that Baumbach's explored plenty of times beforehand, but never in as insightful of a manner as he has with Marriage Story. Here, the scope is grander, the characters are richer in detail and the emotional moments really hit you in both the gut and the heart. 1995 Noah Baumbach couldn't have made a movie like Marriage Story that so unflinchingly tackles the complexities of going through with a  divorce. Turns out, waiting for him to be ready as a filmmaker was more than worth the wait.

Friday, December 6, 2019

"Can I Be Your Legacy?": A Review of Queen & Slim

Though it eventually sprawls out into becoming a movie following two people evading law enforcement across multiple state lines, Queen & Slim starts out under extremely mundane circumstances. Angela (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Ernest (Daniel Kaluuya) are sharing a first-date dinner together at a diner. It's not going ideally, their conversations keep going nowhere, perhaps because their personalities couldn't be more polar opposite. Angela is a defense attorney determined to always stand up for something as small as a miscooked order of eggs while Ernest is a soft-spoken go-with-the-flow Costco cashier. Sparks don't exactly fly between the two of them.

1917 Puts You On The Nerve-Wracking Front Lines of World War I

It started out as a relatively normal day. Well, as normal as it can be behind enemy lines in World War I. Still, soldiers Lance Corporal Blake (Dean Charles-Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George McKay) were not expecting their day to go like this. They’ve both been suddenly recruited to deliver a message on foot to another battalion informing them to call off tomorrow’s attack against enemy forces. Turns out the whole battle is a trap. In order to get to their destination, Black and Schofield will have to walk across all kinds of terrain, from No Man’s Land to an abandoned farmhouse to a demolished city, all of which are packed with deadly obstacles.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Hotel by the River Quietly Captures Humans Struggling To Connect

Winter always gets me into a melancholy reflective mood. It's hard to put into words why, but it's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one whose introspective mood tends to intersect with the chilly weather. Poet Young-Hwan (Ju-bong Gi) is also having the same kind of contemplative mood as the snow falls outside, though his own personal circumstances are informing his current mindset more than the external weather. As he sits in his hotel room, he decides to call up his two estranged sons, Kyung-Soo (Hae-hyo Kwon) and Byung-Soo (Joon-Sang Yang) to meet up with him in the lobby of the hotel.

In Laman's Terms: What Non-Disney Movie Could Top The 2020 Box Office?

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Con Air Is Anything-Goes Ridiculousness, Which Is A Good Thing

Con Air begins and ends as a music video for How Do I Live by Trisha Yearwood. In between, a lot of recognizable actors dodge explosions. This is the aptest summary for the directorial debut of Simon West, which might be the epitome of the 1990's American action movie filmmaking if Face/Off didn't exist. That doesn't mean Con Air is the absolute best American action movie made in this era, but it does embody a number of the traits found in abundance in this era. A plot clearly aping Die Hard. Lots of R-rated action. Dialogue that runs the gamut from cornball to unbelievably hokey. Recognizable landmarks going boom. Oh, and it's also pretty fun to watch.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Live-Action Disney Remakes Come To Streaming With Lady and the Tramp

You didn't think 2019 would close out without one more live-action remake of a classic animated Disney movie? The fifth one of these in 2019 arrives in the form of Lady and the Tramp, which also serves as one of the first original films on Disney's new streaming platform Disney+. This newest remake also serves as a throwback title for Disney, one that harkens back to their more traditional family films like Homeward Bound and Beverly Hills Chihuahua rather than the mega-budget live-action remakes that define modern-day Disney family entertainment. That's not inherently a good or bad thing, but it does give one an idea of what kind of original movies we can expect Disney+ to deliver in the coming years.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Good Liar Is A Subpar Hitchcock Knock-Off (SPOILERS)

Isn't internet dating a pain? The Good Liar makes the awkwardness of such experiences clear without even getting into the modern-day pitfalls of Catfishing or specific peculiar personalities you could only find on Grindr. But even if internet dating isn't perfect, it did at least bring Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren) and Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) together. The two of them bond over a shared sense of humor and them being widows. Sure, McLeish's grandson may not like Roy all that much, but it doesn't matter, the two of them share a connection. Unbeknownst to Betty McLeish, though, Roy is not who he seems. He's a scammer looking to take her for every penny she has and this cutthroat dude is willing to do whatever it takes for hefty sums of cash.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Both Marielle Heller and Tom Hanks Bring Their A-Game For A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Though he's plastered all over the marketing, Tom Hanks' Fred Rogers is not the lead character of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Rogers is certainly a pivotal part of the movie and the visual trappings of his children's television show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, are also reflected throughout the production as well. But those expecting this Marielle Heller directorial effort to be a traditional movie biopic about Fred Rogers or any other kind of film exclusively focusing on this man will be disappointed. Heller and writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster have concocted something much more unique for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood that may not put Fred Rogers center-stage but certainly is influenced by the man and especially his worldview.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Major Misfire of a John Travolta Performance Anchors the Dismal The Fanatic

People on the Autism spectrum like myself have to deal with a lot of...let's say troublesome depictions of people in our community in pop culture. Typically, people on the Autism spectrum are reduced to being childlike savant sidekicks in American film/television that exist to deliver quips rather than actually function as people. To boot, such depictions are almost exclusively based on cis-het white dudes, furthering the incorrect perception that people of color and women cannot have Autism. There have been some exceptions to this rule, thankfully, but The Fanatic is not one of them, which features a person on the Autism spectrum as the titular lead whose fixation on a celebrity eventually turns violent.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Burial of Kojo Finds Humanity In Stylized Dreams

Much like Sean Baker's The Florida Project, The Burial of Kojo is a story about the struggles of adulthood told through the perspective of a child. In the case of this Blitz Bazawule directorial effort, the story is told as a quasi-fairy tale through the eyes of Esi (Cynthia Dankwa), who recounts a story about her Father, Kojo (Joseph Otsiman), who brought Esi and her Mother out to an isolated part of Ghana after a personal tragedy. Kojo and his family are lured back to city living by Kojo's brother, the person who was hurt most by Kojo's actions from so long ago. The past begins to catch up to the present for Kojo and her family and nothing good can emerge when these two elements collide.

In Laman's Terms: Important Takeaways From Dark Fate and Doctor Sleep

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

I may have an obsession with box office figures so passionate that even Box Office Mojo's self-destructive revamp can't dilute, it must be said that box office has no correlation to the actual artistic merit of a motion picture. Box office figures are so much fun to pore off and geek out on, but they're a wholly separate conversation from determining whether a movie is good or not. Maybe that sounds obvious, but unfortunately, movie studios, the entities tasked with actually creating cinema, tend to conflate the two. To most movie studio heads, a box office bomb is immediately something terrible to be avoided while a box office hit is something to be replicated at all costs. It's why we have so many more Happy Madison comedies than Donna Deitch films, it's all a financial game rather than the more prevalent one being inherently better for the art of cinema.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Doctor Sleep Manages To Be More Than Just 2 The 2 Shining

Every brand with even a modicum of fame is getting exploited for sequels, reboots, TV shows and everything in between in the modern era of pop culture, so it was inevitable that somebody would eventually come along with a sequel to The Shining, especially since Stephen King already penned a sequel to his original Shining book in the form of Doctor Sleep. The feature film sequel to The Shining decides to adapt that Doctor Sleep text while also trying to wed that story to Kubrick's original film. Considering how wildly detached King's books were from Kubrick's movies, the notion of trying to fuse the two together sounds like a massive task for writer/director Mike Flanagan at best and a potential recipe for disaster at worst.

The Fantastical Is Brought To Stunning Life In Princess Mononoke

A few months back, I wrote about how much better animation is when it's engaging in stories and visuals that you couldn't possibly replicate in reality. If you ever wanted perfect proof of this phenomenon, look no further than Princess Mononoke, a feature film hailing from the one and only Hayao Miyazaki, a filmmaker who is all about using animation to create creatures you couldn't possibly find in the real world. In the hands of Miyazaki and the animators at Studio Ghibli, fantasy truly looks fantastical. Does anything in My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo or especially Spirited Away look remotely like anything you'd find in the real-world? Good luck translating those movies to an ultra-realistic live-action remake!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Scorsese And Gangster Cinema Collided For The First Time On Mean Streets

With The Irishman dropping on Netflix streaming this coming Wednesday, now seems like a fine time to look back at the very first time Martin Scorsese directed a gangster picture. Granted, his second feature film, Boxcar Bertha, had heavy crime movie elements to it too, but that was a romantic drama first and foremost. Mean Streets is 110% a gangster crime vehicle, the kind of movie Scorsese would go back to multiple times in his career. Despite being a recurring genre stop for him, Scorsese manages to make sure each of his crime films are different from one another, The Departed is not the exact same movie as Casino, for example.

Road to Perdition Is A Crime Thriller That Sticks With You

It’s amazing what a difference a hat can make. Like a pair of glasses, a person can look totally different whenever they’re wearing them. Take Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition for instance. When he’s wearing a low-tipped hat covering the upper part of his face in this movie, he totally looks older, weary and menacing. Those aren’t words one usually associates with Hanks, but they totally come to mind when his character, Michael Sullivan, dons a hat. Whenever he takes that hat off, though, a magical transformation occurs. Suddenly, Hanks is back to looking boyish and charming, like it hasn't been a day since Turner & Hooch. What a difference a hat can make.

Greta Gerwig's Little Women Takes An Iconic Story And Makes It Brand-New

Why should we do another Little Women movie?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Irishman Is Like No Other Gangster Movie Scorsese Has Ever Made

Early on in The Irishman, the film's titular lead character, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), recounts a story about his time serving in World War II where he held two enemy soldiers at gunpoint while they dug their own graves. Sheeran, while telling this tale, puzzles over why the two soldiers were doing this task. "Did they think that, if they did a good enough job, they would be let go?" he ponders. Whatever drove them to dig those graves, it really didn't matter in the end, they ended up as corpses in the ground. Such a tale ends up being a parallel for the overarching story of Martin Scorsese's epic crime saga The Irishman, which is all about gangsters like Sheeran digging their own graves while ignoring the inevitable doom that awaits them.

Death by Hanging Confronts Ludicrous Prejudice With Equally Ludicrous Dark Comedy

It was supposed to be a simple execution. R (Don-yun Yu), son of Korean immigrants raised and living in Japan, would be executed by way of hanging by a group of Japanese law enforcement officers. Seems like a foolproof way to kill somebody but once the lever got pulled and the hanging was executed, it turned out R wasn't dead, he was surely alive. In fact, he was not just revived but he had total amnesia about his life up to that point. Now all the powerful members of Japanese society tasked with killing R are stuck in a conundrum; can they re-kill a man, especially one who is now a shell of the former murderer? They all decide to give it their best go in restoring R's memory so that they can kill him and restore their sense of warped justice.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Edward Norton's Motherless Brooklyn is an Undercooked Film Noir Homage

You can't help but root for Motherless Brooklyn, that rare modern-day adult-drama movie released by a major American studio. A two-and-a-half-hour long homage to noirs featuring nary an explosion in sight? It's a welcome surprise to see a studio like Warner Bros. financing and releasing this type of title. Unfortunately, noble artistic ambitions can't actually make Motherless Brooklyn a good movie. On the contrary, this is a shockingly disposable feature film with only brief glimmers of actual entertainment or quality to be found. Despite having spent two decades in development, Motherless Brooklyn is still a movie that could have used a whole lot more work.

In Laman's Terms: Remember When Disney Ran Away From Disney Princesses?

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

Apologies for this being the second week in a row where In Laman's Terms has focused on Disney content. Lord knows there's plenty of that out there both on the internet in general and in the news cycle, I promise to deliver something more original next time over the holiday week.

In 2019, the idea of Princesses being a crucial piece of the Disney monopoly empire puzzle isn't just assumed, it's a certainty. After all, Disney as a producer of feature-length movies began with Snow White in 1937, Disney and Princesses have been connected since the very beginning. In modern-day terms, though, Princesses have remained oh so important for Disney. Walt Disney Animation Studios got their first movie to cross $200+ million domestically since The Lion King with Tangled in 2010 and since then the studio has embraced Princess power, especially when it comes to the Frozen franchise. Elsa and Anna didn't even exist when this decade began but now they're two of the most popular characters the studio has ever created, hence why they're coming back for a sequel on Friday.