In the world of anime fans it’s actually kind of a scandal that I haven’t seen Mamoru Hosoda’s masterpiece Wolf Children. I love Hosoda so I’m not sure why I put off seeing it but now that I have I’m delighted to tell you all that it lives up to the hype. It’s not a loud movie but it is one of the most beautiful depictions of motherhood I’ve seen.
Wolf Children tells the story of a woman named Hana who falls in love with a mysterious man while in attending college. Eventually she finds out the man is a wolfman, but not the man-eating variety we see in horror movies. Hanna and the man end up having 2 children, Yuki and Ame who share the wolfman traits of their father.
When the man dies Hana must figure out how to not only be a young single Mother of 2 but also raise 2 children that are of a different species from her own- one that she and everyone around her is entirely unfamiliar with. She ends up moving to the country to keep them safe and learning how to farm and teach her children how to manage both sides of themselves.
What’s also interesting is the different trajectories of the children. Yuki wants to live as a human being. She goes to school, makes friends, and is able to hold her wolf side in with the help of a little song her Mom made up. On the other hand, Ame is drawn to the wolf side especially after he becomes friends with a wolf named Sohei.
If you are watching Wolf Children looking for a big narrative or strong action you will be disappointed. It’s a simple film about the every day life of our 3 lead characters. We get to know them and become invested in their journeys. The animation is absolutely stunning- right up there with the best of Studio Ghibli. The sound design is also very impressive with the lushness of nature coming to life before our eyes. It really helps us become immersed in the story.
But mostly Wolf Children is a beautiful story about the power of a Mother’s love to save her children. Even if they are of different species that love is powerful and that says a lot. I don’t think you have to be a big anime fan to enjoy this film. If you have a mother, are a mother or long to be a mother you will be moved by this touching story. I highly recommend it.
One of the difficult things about reviewing anime as a movie critic is so many of the films require investment into their accompanying series. Some like My Hero Academia Movie try to get you up to date on what is happening and others just throw you into the fire and hope you can figure it all out. Now, in my recent Downton Abbey review I said I didn’t think it was the job of the movie to please non-fans of the show. I’m fine with a film having a narrow audience; however, it does put me in a bit of a tough situation when I an admitted bystander doesn’t like the end product. Do I toss it up to not being in the intended audience or do I review it for the problems it has? It’s a tough dilemma but in the end I can’t imagine what the intended audience will think. I can only know what I think and share my experience in my review.
This rather long-winded lead-in, is my way of saying: I did not like Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. It clearly has lots of fans, and I respect that, but it didn’t work for me in some fundamental ways. Let me explain:
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie tells the story of a group of bounty hunters that live on the planet Mars in 2071. They are hunting down a mysterious man in black named Vincent who is intent on destroying all of humanity (supervillains are so ambitious these days). The main characters are leader Spike Spiegel, femme fatale Faye Valentine, punk kid Ed, brooding Jet Black and super intelligent dog Ein. These are an eclectic group of characters (much like Guardians of the Galaxy), but I never felt like I got to know any of them very well. Plus, we spent a lot of time on stuff I didn’t care about like what type of microwave noodles they each liked.
I never got the sense they were developing a case to follow Vincent but instead they kept accidentally running into him which made the momentum drag. There is some cool animation and some violent action scenes but rarely was the futuristic setting used to its advantage. Most of the events could have been done in any modern situation on any planet. This made the world-building and scifi elements feel generic to nonexistent.
Vincent is a cool character and his scenes are engaging, as his motivations are complex and troubling. I also really enjoyed how he was animated with the feel of an outlaw in an old-fashioned western. There are scenes some Johnny Cash tunes would have fit right in, which was a fun aesthetic.
Unfortunately a good villain can’t save a film. I found myself getting sleepy while watching Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and losing interest. The story is probably compelling for fans of the series but here in the film it felt pedestrian and bland. It was a lot of time of people sitting around, talking, mixed in with some enjoyable action, which isn’t enough to make a compelling movie for 2 hours (it’s at least 20 minutes too long).
The only reason I could recommend Cowboy Bebop: The Movie it’s one of the few anime films that has a lot of Halloween in it, which makes it an eclectic holiday choice. But even then it is more ornamentation than an actual interesting part of the plot. This movie just didn’t do it for me. It’s crazy how something with so many pieces can still feel so slow and bland? I’m sure some anime fans will be horrified by that statement but there it is.
Are you a fan of Cowboy Bebop? What do you think of this movie and should I watch the show before making a final judgement? Let me know what you think.
Hi friends! It’s time once again for one of my current mini reviews where I give my brief thoughts on some of the latest movies I’ve been able to see. Make sure you are subscribed to my youtube channel so you get all the latest videos from me including weekly family movie night reviews! I’m also excited to announce I have created separate podcast feeds for 2 of my monthly podcast series:
Talking Disney Classics- with my friend Stanford Clark where we discuss a Disney Canon film each month in random order.
I know you will enjoy them if you give them a chance!
Anyway back to the reviews!
Falling in Love-
It shouldn’t be any surprise to any follower of my work at the Hallmarkies Podcast that I will always be a defender of escapist silly romcoms and Falling Inn Love is certainly an example of the genre. It stars Christina Milian as a woman who goes to New Zealand only to find the big prize Inn she’s won is actually a money pit. Luckily she has hunky Adam Demos there to help her with the renovations. They spar at first and of course fall in love by the end. Is it predictable and silly? Of course it is. That’s all part of the appeal. I thought it was adorable and thoroughly enjoyed it.
6 out of 10
I’ve been known to like my fair share of faith-based films. I recognize they have a very tricky task of entertaining a skeptical audience base while trying to tell an inspiring story. However, far too often they forget that the best preaching comes from a story well told, not by actual preaching in your film. The latest hit from the Kendrick Brothers is called Overcomer and is directed, written and starring Alex Kendrick and perhaps he bit off more than he can chew? This film should be a simple inspirational story about a girl with asthma who finds faith and the confidence to race cross country. Instead it’s a clunky, belabored story of the man who is begrudgingly forced to coach her. The dialogue is really bad along with most of the acting. There’s one moment where Priscilla Shirer literally compliments her own prayer and I laughed out loud. Watching this made me realize how good Breakthrough from earlier this year really was. Check that out instead.
2 out of 10
Can You Keep a Secret?-
I love the writer Sophie Kinsella but for some reason her books make terrible movies. The latest adaptation is Can You Keep a Secret starring Alexandra Daddario and Tyler Hoechlin. The elements that are charming in the book come across as forced and off-putting in this film. Hoechlin is super dishy but he and Daddario have no chemistry together. Most of the time it is awkward and uncomfortable which is not what you want in this kind of escapist romcom. The big reveal at the end is super underwhelming and the supporting cast is wasted. Honestly I wanted to turn it off it was so bad.
2 out of 10
Trigger Studios has long made some of the most arresting and eye popping anime on the market. Their latest film Promare is my first experience with one of their films and I must admit I was really impressed! It tells the story of a futuristic society where a band of firefighters protect the world from a mysterious race of mutants called the Burnish. As the two races fight they start to learn there might be more to the story than their leaders have told them. The animation in this film is intense, frenetic, crazy, whatever word you want to use but it is also exhilarating. I loved the unique geometric style and the electronic music. It’s an experience I highly recommend to those willing to take a risk.
8.5 out of 10
Please check out my youtube review for my thoughts on the latest film from DreamWorks, Abominable. This film marks the end of our multi-film trend of yeti movies in animation and to my surprise it is definitely my favorite. While the story of the little girl Yi finding a mysterious creature to protect may not be the most original, Abominable has huge heart with well-developed sweet characters. It’s also funnier than I expected with beautiful animation and music. This first collaboration between DreamWorks and Pearl Studio is a terrific film, and I hope people will go see it.
8 out of 10
Last up is the musical biopic based on Judy Garland’s last year of life, Judy. I love Judy Garland and think her life is so hauntingly tragic that it breaks my heart to think about it. Unfortunately this film pulls out every cliche in the musical biopic playbook. It’s generic, boring with a very surface-level script. Some might feel the same way about the recent Rocketman but at least that movie took some creative risks with its flights of fancy. To add insult to injury they make the choice to have the actress portraying Judy, Renee Zellweger, sing for Judy. What on earth were they thinking? She sounds NOTHING like Judy Garland! I’ve listened to the London concert recordings and that’s not how she sounds! Basically the poor singing choices, generic script and screaming-for-an-Oscar performances make Judy a big miss.
This year the lead up to the Oscars has been more than a little bit of a mess. Whether it is an announcement for ‘best popular film’ category or the choice to not air categories like editing and cinematography. However, what has been relatively drama free is who will win the Best Animated Feature Film award. This is perhaps surprising as the 5 nominees are all very strong films yet a clear winner has emerged in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Let’s start with the least likely to win,Mirai, from famed director Mamoru Hosoda. It’s actually a huge accomplishment for Mirai to be nominated, as it is the first non-Studio Ghibli film to receive such an honor (a designation very frustrating to those of us who loved snubbed films like Your Name and A Silent Voice). And fortunately it is not just a token nomination as the film is a sweet journey into childhood. Recently my friend David said it was ‘the most creative animated film he had seen this year’ and he hates anime!
Our next most likely contender to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars comes from Disney in a rare Disney Canon sequel calledRalph Breaks the Internet. This sequel to 2012’s Wreck-it Ralph avoids the potholes of most sequels by giving us something entirely new and it worked for me even better than the original! I loved the evolution of Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship and how they had to accept each other in new ways. I loved the humor especially the princesses (which I didn’t think I’d like) and we even got a surprise Alan Menken song! Still because it is a sequel and the response to it was dampened a bit by the release of Spider-Verse, it is unlikely to win (although never count Disney out entirely!).
Coming up in 3rd place of most likely to win the Oscar is our stop motion animated offering from Wes Anderson,Isle of Dogs. Earlier in the year I speculated whether this was the most likely winners as the Oscars doesn’t tend to like sequels or animated superhero movies (and it has a long standing tradition of loving both Wes Anderson and stop motion). It’s such a sweet enchanting movie with incredible attention to detail. I love all of the dogs and the backgrounds are dazzling (the one pictured made out of pieces of glass is a particular favorite). However, the human sections aren’t as strong and some of the writing is a little clunky. Still, a delightful film from 2018 animation.
My prediction for the runner up for the Oscar this year is Brad Bird’s follow up to his 2004 superhero film, The Incredibles 2. I love this movie and in any other year this would be a clear favorite. It’s not only funny with terrific action but it is a treatise on how hard it is to be a parent. Even Edna Mode says it best: ‘parenting when done well is a heroic act’. The reason I don’t think Incredibles 2 will win is because it hasn’t won any awards prior to the Oscars. Spider-Verse has won every major prize from the Golden Globes to the BAFTA’s. It would take a very bold ballot to pick this film to win but it wouldn’t be the first time Pixar has surprised everyone (Brave…) if it did. Still it would be a big shocker if it won.
Finally, the clear favorite and most likely to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This isn’t just my opinion, but the opinion of critics, fans, and experts alike. In fact, there are a number of other publications out there that see Into the Spider-Verse as an incredible favorite. Like I said, it would be a huge shock if it didn’t win. It is not only a game changer for animated films and superhero movies, it also speaks to the Academy’s goals to honor diversity both on and off the screen. It honestly should have been nominated for Best Picture in my and many others opinions.
So what do you think of the animated Oscar race this year? Am I too bullish on Spider-Verse? Do you agree with me it has been a strong year for the category? What other predictions are you making for this year’s Oscars? I’d love to hear in the comments section.
Hey everyone! Before I start my review I want to wish you all a Happy Valentines Day and share with you the annual valentine I designed. This year’s design is based on my recent selection as a critic at rottentomatoes.com. I even used the same color of green as the rotten splat is on their website. Happy Valentines!
I also have my review of Isn’t it Romantic on my youtube channel
ALITA BATTLE ANGEL REVIEW
Honestly Alita: Battle Angel is a movie I probably wouldn’t have seen if I wasn’t trying to be a more well-rounded critic. Fantasy movies don’t tend to be my thing and most of the live action anime adaptations haven’t been great (although I did enjoy the recent Ghost in the Shell adaptation more than most). With all that said, I actually enjoyed Alita: Battle Angel quite a bit.
Alita: Battle Angel tells the story of a cyborg (Rosa Salazar) with a fully intact human brain that is found by a cyborg scientist (Christoph Waltz) in the scrapheap. At first she can’t remember anything of her previous life but as she fights she gets back bits of that memory.
In the dystopian world they have a sport called Motorball which is kind of like a grittier form of roller derby and it turns out Alita is a natural. If she can win the grand championship of the sport she can get to a special city in the sky called Zalem, which is where she originally came from.
Alita also meets a boy named Hugo (Keen Johnson) and discovers there are assassins out to get her and her father. She can train as a ‘hunter-warrior’ to defeat these assassins but they are very strong and make things difficult for her and her friends.
That’s all I will say about the plot. The strengths of Alita: Battle Angel is in Alita as a character. The giant eyes may be off-putting for some, but I adjusted to them quite quickly. Rosa Salazar and the motion capture animators do a really good job making Alita likable and endearing. She’s such an honest character in a dark world that you can’t help but root for her. I also liked her and Hugo’s little relationship quite a bit (you know I’m a sucker for romance!).
It is also a beautiful movie with stunning world building. I saw it in 3D and I recommend it as it feels even more immersive than the flat images would on their own. Beautiful world building isn’t enough alone to win me mover but it is still a plus in the movies favor.
The downsides to Alita: Battle Angel is I didn’t like the goons who were hunting Alita down. There are 2 main cyborgs, and I found both of them to be pretty grating. Also the middle section of the movie where most of the fighting takes place gets repetitive and dull. However, it picked back up with a strong finale so I can forgive the film.
If you like action or scifi movies you should find more than enough to like with Alita: Battle Angel. It’s beautifully made with a charming and sweet lead character. Even if you don’t typically like sci-fi/fantasy you might like it with the teen romance, and sweet relationship between father and daughter. It’s true that some actors are wasted in bland roles like Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly, but I still had a pretty fun time with the film. It has its flaws, but I was entertained more than enough to give a recommendation.
Today I am back with a small edition of my mini reviews post. Mostly the end of January was taken up by the Sundance Film Festival but I was able to squeeze in a few other viewings which included both new and 2018 releases.
So here goes!
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
At the risk of losing some of my film snob credibility with #filmtwitter I must own I have not enjoyed most of the Coen Brothers recent comedies. They seem to rely so much on setting that they forget to tell a good joke. Films like Hail Caesardidn’t work because instead of being funny they decided to be boring and repetitive. Their early work like Raising Arizona focused on script first, setting and set-pieces second and this is what made it so funny.
Now we get a western themed anthology from them and it has much of the same problems of Hail Caesar. Lately the Coen Brothers seem content to simply pay homage to classic storytelling (in this case the western) instead of crafting compelling scripts within said genre.
For starters, I didn’t think that any of the shorts were funny. A couple were sweet and tender like The Gal Who Got Rattled, but even it, is not something I am going to remember. In contrast, their films like Fargo or Oh Brother! Where Art Thou I will never forget (memorable characters, script and setting!).
The shorts in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs are well made and acted but aren’t memorable nor did they inspire any large emotion from me. Pretty bland I’d say.
4 out of 10
MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE
Another missed opportunity came with Andy Serkis and his version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Of course we all know that Disney hit a real homerun with their 2016 version directed by Jon Favreau. I wasn’t as in love with that version as some moviegoers but it was certainly better than this new version that went straight to Netflix for a reason.
To put it quite bluntly Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is unmemorable and boring in every way. The child performer Rohan Chand who plays Mowgli is pretty good (perhaps better than the kid in the Favreau version tbh) but the story was not interesting. They go a darker angle which will be too traumatizing for kids but it isn’t compelling enough to entertain adults so it’s just really bland.
Also the cgi, which was so memorable in Favreau’s version, is very hit and miss here. The voice cast is all good but the characters don’t do anything interesting and Mowgli is a jungle boy who stays the same through the movie. I immediately forgot about the movie as soon as I finished watching it, which is a real shame.
3 out of 10
This Oscar nominated documentary follows climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to ‘free solo’ climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The directors do a good job creating stakes for the danger of the climb and helping us get to know the free-spirited Alex. This helps his climb during the last third of the film feel wracked with tension!
I couldn’t help but ask myself while watching what all this risk was for? What was the point of going solo? I guess just to prove you can but is that something to be applauded? It’s similar to Evil Knievel jumping over 20 cars through a ring of fire for our entertainment or Philippe Petit walking across the World Trade Towers in 1974. Man always wants to entertain us via risking their own lives and more often than not such stunts are compelling and hard to not watch and applaud.
They had a lot of challenges while making the movie because they couldn’t disrupt his dangerous climb in any way to get either sound or images, so what they accomplish is really quite impressive. If they win best documentary I won’t complain (knowing the documentary branch it will probably go to something more pedestrian like RBG). Regardless you should check out Free Solo while you have the chance.
8 out of 10
I WANT TO EAT YOUR PANCREAS
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is definitely the strangest title of the year but fear not! It is not a cannibalism movie after all. In fact, it is a sticky sweet coming of age love story in the vein of A Fault in Our Starsor a Nicholas Sparks film like A Walk to Remember.
It tells the story of Sakura, a teenage girl suffering from pancreatic disease who becomes friends with a sullen teen boy who wants no part in her dreaming and life. Sakura is very much a manic pixie dream girl who exists mostly to inspire this boy (who we don’t even get a name of for most the movie) to live a full and exciting life. She also has a best friend who is very suspect of this new boy in her friends life.
Despite the somewhat tired setup, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is actually quite sweet with nice moments between the 2 characters that teens will relate with and enjoy. The animation is beautiful throughout using light and a watercolor aesthetic to make Sakura seem all the more angelic and hopeful. I also enjoyed the music and the character designs while fairly generic were pleasant to watch.
Overall, if you like these kinds of coming of age weepies than you’ll enjoy I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and I’d recommend checking it out.
7 out of 10
WHAT MEN WANT
If you are new to my blog you might not know that I hate the original What Women Want with a passion. I think it is such a putrid terrible lazy excuse for a comedy. Especially with the Marisa Tomei character’s plot I find it quite morally repugnant to be honest. So you can imagine I was horrified to see it was being remade with a gender swap with Taraji P Henson in the Mel Gibson role. Unfortunately the filmmakers couldn’t swap my feelings for the film into enjoying this new version
The positives for What Men Want is it has a funny poker scene where Shaquille O’Neal and other NBA stars get some good laughs. Also Wendi McLendon-Covey is funny in the 3 or 4 scenes she is in.
The rest of the movie is awful. The stereotyping is embarrassing. The laughs are few and far between (and extremely repetitive). The movie is way too long at nearly 2 hours and the lead character is an insufferable, entitled jerk for way too long. Also her skill of reading men’s minds seems to come in and out very conveniently. I know a lot of people hated I Feel Pretty last year but I thought that had way more heart and a way better message than this mess.
Worst of all it wasn’t funny (except for the poker scene). There’s tons of R rated humor and that did nothing for me. (I’m not sure why people think saying the f word a lot is funny. It’s just using a word. You have to do funny things with it). Anyway, What Men Want is trash. Don’t watch it or the original. There’s way better comedies out there to watch. Put on Game Night or even TAG instead.
Please let’s move on from this lazy gender stereotyping movie concept!
1 out of 10
Have you gotten to see any of these releases? Let me know in the comments section. Thanks!
Hey guys! It’s early in the morning and I can’t sleep so I figure I might as well give you one of my mini-review posts. I actually haven’t done one since Dec 7th but there have been some posts with thoughts like my best and worst films of the year lists. Like always, this will not include movies like A Dog’s Way Home that I have written full reviews for. Also I haven’t reviewed Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse on this blog yet but I have reviewed it (as well as several others on this list) on my channel and I have done a full podcast on it. I would like to do a full detailed analysis on it at a later date.
So, let’s get started with the most recently watched first:
Anyone who reads this blog knows of my shaky career with director M Night Shyamalan. His self-indulgent style and fixation on twists is often not for me. With his latest Glass, I was not looking forward to it much. I didn’t like Split at all and Unbreakable I found was just ok. My ending thought was it was a mixed bag, which is probably a win for me and Shyamalan. The pacing is very mixed and Shyamalan’s usual pretentiousness is in full display. The ending isn’t really earned by the characters or the script but the idea of a reverse origin story was mildly interesting. It wasn’t great but I didn’t hate it, so there you go! James McAvoy was terrific and we didn’t have the weird ‘your worthy because you were raped as a child’ element that Split had.
5 out of 10
Smile Worthy (just barely)
Dragon Ball Super: Broly
It makes me very happy to say that anime has been on a bit of a roll lately with good original films like Miraiand well done serial films like My Hero Academia: the Movie. While I don’t think the new Dragon Ball Z movie is as good as either of those films it was solid film. It doesn’t do as good a job as My Hero in explaining the world for newcomers but after a few minutes I was able to catch on to what was going on. Broly is an interesting character and I liked that the villain Frieza is an old school, screechy maniacal villain. I miss those. These days it seems like every villain has to be conflicted with a tragic backstory, so how refreshing to have one that is just over the top bad guy. The animation shines and Super: Broly is an overall fun experience at the theater.
Overall Grade 7/10
Mary Queen of Scots
If you are looking for historical accuracy this take on Mary Queen of Scots life will not be for you. There are sections particularly near the end that are quite howler-worthy but I nevertheless enjoyed the film. It’s silly fluff but my kind of silly fluff. Both leads Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are great in their roles (we see much more of Ronan than Robbie) and have just enough camp to make it fun. This is more The Other Boleyn Girl or The Tudors kind of historical film than something solemn and reverential like A Man for All Seasons. The makeup and costumes are tremendous so I can see why it got nominated in those categories. It’s not silly like The Favourite but I still enjoyed it.
7 out of 10
If Beale Street Could Talk
Unpopular opinion time! A lot of people were upset that If Beale Street Could Talk wasn’t nominated for best picture. I’m not one of those people. While I acknowledge there is craft to be found in this film, I really was irritated while watching it. Nobody talked like a human being. It all felt like watching a bad off-broadway play where the talent is way better than the script. We are supposed to be invested in this couple but we hardly get to know them at all. I knew way more about Chiron in Moonlight in just the scenes of him learning to swim than I ever get about these 2 characters. The only character that was interesting was Regina King and her plotline going to Puerto Rico to try and exonerate her son-in law. Other than that, I found the movie to be an insufferable slog.
3 out of 10
I really wanted to like this more than I did. The idea of Studio Ponoc releasing serialized anime shorts is very exciting but I found these 3 to be quite forgettable. You can read my full review for rotoscopers here. The only one that had any lasting value for me was the 2nd short about a Mom dealing with her son’s severe allergy. It ended weirdly but it is an urban modern setting and real-world heroism you don’t often see in anime and I appreciate that. I hope they keep making shorts and films but this first effort wasn’t my favorite.
4 out of 10
Another winner from one of my favorite directors Hirokazu Kor-eeda. He always has such humanity for his characters and that is no exception here. This story of a band of misfits that comes together to become a family in many ways feels Dickensian- like a fresh take on Oliver Twist. These people are technically breaking the law but we all know as viewers they belong together and yet it is clear their love has a ticking clock accompanying it. I loved every performance especially Lily Franky as the father and the stunning Sakura Ando as his wife. The two little children who play Yuri and Shota are also adorable.
9 out of 10
This is a perfectly pleasant romcom with JLo doing what she does with tons of charisma. There’s also a sweet message at the core about adoption and being brave no matter where you come from. The moviemaking is pedestrian but I like this genre so I enjoyed it. Could have used more romance and the lie feels a little stretched out but it’s cute watch.
6.5 out of 10
This animated film from Netflix is very derivative of films like Iron Giant, Bumblebee and even Terminator but it has a cool world and some nice moments of heart. The girl can be a bit too unlikable at times and gets pretty close to hurting her classmates in a disturbing way. The PG rating is pushed so it may not be for small children but overall I enjoyed it.
6 out of 10
From director Clint Eastwood The Mule wasn’t awful but it wasn’t what I hoped it would be. As a big fan of Gran Torino, I was hoping it would have that grumpy guy charisma we know Eastwood can bring but it was just bland and self indulgent. I think Eastwood called in a lot of favors because the cast is much better than the script deserves with Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena, and Dianne West all doing a good job. They elevate it but it’s just felt like something you’d see on TNT at night. Blahh!
4 out of 10
This is another animated film that went straight to Netflix and I guess I went into it with very low expectations but I didn’t think it was that bad. It is a played out Coraline-lite story but the lead character was likable and it had enough sarcastic humor to be watchable. Not great but a passable babysitter for the kids.
5 out of 10
Old Man and the Gun
Supposedly going to be Robert Redford’s last role and if so it’s a nice way to go out. They even find a very clever way of paying homage to some of his earlier outlaw roles in this story of him as a elderly bank robber. He’s a gentleman and leaves his victims with a smile on their faces. He’s just so charming. Director David Lowery continues his win streak with a slickly made movie with great performances from Redford, Cissy Spacek, Danny Glover and Casey Affleck. The clothes and production design feel steeped in 1970s so it has a nice sense of time and place. Pleasant watch.
8 out of 10
Alfonso Cuarón is such a great director and he has another win with ROMA. Following Cleo as she works as a domestic for a family may be boring for some but I was engaged. I particularly thought anything involving Cleo’s pregnancy was devastating and compelling. Many of the characters are dynamic and feel easy to relate to. The cinematography and production design are perfection. It feels like something students will be studying in film school for many years to come and yet unlike many arthouse pieces it made me cry. I was invested in these people and their lives. It does have strong nudity so be warned if you are sensitive to that.
9 out of 10
I was reticent to see this film because I did not like Yorgos Lanthimos’ last film The Lobster but happily I liked this entry much better. It’s a genuinely funny, wacky take on a historical drama. Like The Lobster, Lanthimos makes this film top heavy with most of the good jokes and fun scenes happening in the first 45 minutes. After that it becomes more repetitive and less interesting. It’s also probably too long for what it’s trying to be. However, the performances from Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are so much fun that it carries me through and I enjoyed it. Not one of my favorites (pun intended) of the year but still pretty good. This is a fairly strong R rating just so you know.
7.5 out of 10
Anna and the Apocalypse
This energetic indie sums up why I love going to the movies. To get such a joyful, creative experience is really special. I loved pretty much everything about this mash-up of zombies, musicals and Christmas movie tropes. ‘Hollywood Ending’ and ‘Turning My Life Around’ are the highlight sequences but I enjoyed all the songs and I thought all the performances were great. Ella Hunt could be a big star and Malcolm Cumming was very sweet as her best friend. I even liked the jock cool kid who turns out to be a pretty tragic character. I was shocked at some of the zombie kills and overall I just loved it. I will definitely make this a part of my regular Christmas viewing each year. That’s for sure.
9 out of 10
Once Upon a Deadpool
I have never seen anything Deadpool related and so I thought I would give this experiment of a PG-13 Deadpool 2 a shot (figuring I was the ideal audience for it). Unfortunately I did not care for this film at all. I didn’t think it was funny, mostly obnoxious and the action was underwhelming. Juliean Dennison who was so great in Hunt for the Wilderpeople was terrible as this strange bad guy, which was unfortunate when you have Josh Brolin doing a great job as Cable. Forming the X-Force felt like a waste of time and didn’t have the humor payoff to make it work. I was just thoroughly underwhelmed by this PG-13 Deadpool 2. A few of the Fred Savage jokes were good.
3 out of 10
This movie was frustrating for me to watch. I recently finished reading the book by Josh Malerman and it was an engaging thriller novel with well developed characters I cared about. The movie mostly loses those strengths in favor of schlocky moments and cheap laughs. The cast is great but all the stuff at the house felt like a cheap syfy channel movie. For example, in the book her sister dies at the house in a creepy, terrifying way that is devastating. In this she gets hit by a bus in the first 10 minutes. Not as good! In the book a character named Gary comes into the house for many days and Tom and Gary have different philosophies on how to live in this apocalyptic land and how to run the house. This builds tension and endears us to Tom. Here it is just a cheesy mad-man. However, I did like the scenes with Sandra Bullock and the children on the river. These were well shot and I was genuinely engaged. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the book but that’s my thoughts!
4 out of 10
Everyone who follows this blog knows I did not care for this year’s Sorry to Bother You. It’s narrative was so over-stuffed that the compelling metaphors became muddled and exhausting. Blindspotting, on the other hand, does a much better job of keeping control of the script while still having madcap touches. Rafael Casal is particularly good as the leads toxic, erratic friend. He is always on the edge of insanity which kept me tense and worried for our lead character. The film has social commentary but it doesn’t distract from the narrative making it a quite mesmerizing portrayal of racial conflict and how even the most toxic people get free passes depending on their race.
8 out of 10
So there you have it! Did you get to see any of these films? What did you think? I would love to see your reviews in the comments section. Thanks so much!
As many of you know I have been hard at work watching every Christmas movie of 2018 (over 50 new releases already!) for my Hallmarkies Podcast. However, that does not mean I am slacking off on the regular releases. I’m doing the best I can to fit them in as well. I am also still doing monthly obscure animation and Talking Disney over on my other podcast Rachel’s Reviews. We just posted one talking all about Mary Poppins I think you will enjoy.
Anyway, I thought it was about time for another one of my Current Mini Reviews post where I catch you up on the quick thoughts on recent films I’ve seen. Obviously this will not include films like Ralph Breaks the Internetwhere I have a full written review. Let me know your thoughts on these in the comments section.
With such an amazing cast and a great director like Steve McQueen it is difficult to go into Widows without very high expectations and maybe that is part of my problem. While I certainly didn’t hate Widows, I found it kind of frustrating. The writing for the characters isn’t deep enough to be a compelling drama and the heist isn’t fun enough to be an engaging heist movie. Instead it is some pretty camera work and good acting that doesn’t have much to say and was a little plodding. I also thought the lighting on the women didn’t do them any favors. It seemed to me it was being shot to take away their femininity and make them look pasty and ugly which is a very strange choice for these stunning women. Even the love scenes felt very masculine and strange. I guess that could be interesting but it didn’t work for me.
Frown Worthy but other people love it so I guess decide for yourself
93 out of 135
The Christmas Chronicles-
Netflix has stepped up their Christmas game this year and Christmas Chronicles is a really fun entry from them. Starring Kurt Russell as a kick butt, cool Santa who ends up taking care of 2 kids who have lost their father. It was funny and had a nostalgic charm to it. Some of the bits go on a little too long and the thugs are a bit too violent for my liking but it’s a lot of fun. I also thought the elves were adorable.
43 out of 135
While not as fancy as the first Creed film I really enjoyed Creed 2. I enjoyed all the storylines between Adonis and his fiance and him and Rocky. The match-up with the Dragos really worked and I honestly didn’t know who was going to win the final boxing match (and I would have been happy with either winning which is tough to do in a boxing movie). I guess it doesn’t reinvent the boxing genre but what it does it executes very well. I think it’s a little underrated for this year.
19 out of 135
2018 hasn’t had as many indies and anime films as some years but Mirai is certainly one of the standouts. It’s a very simple movie from Mamoru Hosoda about a little boy struggling to adapt to a new sister in the house. Through a series of magical realism events he learns about his family and that he is loved and it is thoroughly adorable. The animation is so fun and the message sweet it really works. It reminded me a little bit of Takahata’s Only Yesterday, which I love.
16 out of 135
Pokemon: The Power of Us-
Last year we got a reboot of the Pokemon series with Pokemon: I Choose You and this year we get The Power of Us and fortunately both are solid entries in the series. I Choose You has more stunning animation but the plot in The Power of Us is less convoluted. Either way, I enjoyed both. If you are a fan you have to see it!
68 out of 135
I love stories about friendship and Green Book is a great example of how to do it right. Both men obviously have racial differences but they have many other differences including class, sexuality, tastes and everything else. I thought it was great seeing the 2 overcome their differences and become friends through their road trip. Some people are mad at this movie for not starting a movement or telling the entire black experience. That’s not what it was trying to do. It was just portraying this one friendship and it did a great job. I love both lead performances and the script is excellent. Loved it.
9 out of 135
Every Day has an intriguing premise that probably works better as a book than a movie but I still enjoyed this YA film. The idea is our young girl meets a boy who wakes up each day in the body of another person for just that day. Naturally this makes having a relationship difficult but the overall message about loving who a person is rather than their outward appearance is a good one and all the acting is sincere and sweet. In the world of dopey YA films, this is a solid entry.
56 out of 135
In Instant Family director Sean Anders tells his own story about when he and his wife adopted 3 siblings and the challenges/blessings that went along with that. This film is easy to disregard if you are only paying attention to the trailers with pratfalls and cheap humor but I loved it. It doesn’t shy away from how hard adoption and foster care can be but the emotional sections really worked for me. I was balling when I left the theater. I mean ugly, got to compose myself, kind of tears. These kids are out there and they need to be loved but they can be so hard to love. I liked all the performances and when the credits showed the Anders family and all the other adoption and foster care families involved in the film I lost it. It’s really good.
12 out of 135
Illumination Studios is the junk food of animation. They provide commercially appealing, brightly colored films that make a lot of money and are instantly forgotten. Such is the case with The Grinch. It’s not awful like their previous attempt with Seuss, The Lorax, but it’s just super bland and lacking in creativity. None of the jokes landed for me and they change the message from Christmas doesn’t come from a store into loneliness is bad, which is a definite downgrade. It has some nice traditional carols in the soundtrack and there’s nothing offensive about it. It’s just super mediocre and bland.
90 out of 135
Tea with the Dames-
If you are an anglophile like myself you have to check out the documentary Tea with the Dames. It’s very simple. They just gather Dame Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith together to talk about their careers and lives. They have some naughty language and can be very catty but it’s all delightful. It will make you want to call your old friends and catch up.
30 out of 135
I actually saw this Turkish film at Sundance but I thought I would give you my thoughts really quick. Butterflies is about 3 estranged siblings who have to journey to bury their recently deceased father. What follows is a bit of a dark comedy with some poignant moments between the very good lead actors and some hilarious bits. I particularly died laughing every time a set of chickens meets their maker (I won’t spoil it for you but it was LOL).
24 out of 135
I was hoping this would be a silly action movie but I don’t know what they were thinking with this disastrous adaptation of the classic story. Almost every choice from the accents, to the action, to the special effects are terrible. I knew it was going to be really bad when the opening sequence is a long Medieval take on American Sniper...Every performance is either bland or way over the top and the story is so dumb. It’s violent and yet the script expects you to care about these ridiculous characters….
128 out of 135
Robin Hood is the worst of this grouping and Green Book is the best! Some fun times at the movies. Let me know what you think!
This month’s blind spot pick marks a big accomplishment in my animation blogging career: I have now seen every Studio Ghibli film! I’ve even seen the obscure 2 shorts Panda! Go, Panda! (adorable btw). This month’s entry Whisper of the Heart is my final film to check off the list and fortunately it marks another solid entry from the studio. Not my favorites but perfectly amiable animated film with some great messaging.
Whisper of the Heart is by one-time only director Yoshifumi Kondō. It also marks the only Studio Ghibli film to have a spin-off or sequel. Covered earlier this year, The Cat Returnsis about a minor character in a fantasy story that the lead character Shizuku writes.
In the movie Shizuku is a 14 year old who loves reading and writing. She loves going to the library but she starts to notice that all of the books she is checking out have already been read by a boy named Seiji. What she doesn’t know is Seiji is a young man who she is annoyed with and has to work on a school project with singing ‘Country Road, Take Me Home’ by John Denver.
Seiji is learning to make violins and even goes to Italy to study under a master. Meanwhile Shizuku spends time with Seiji’s grandfather Nishi, who owns an antique store. He shows her the statue of the cat Baron and she decides to pursue her dreams of writing.
The romance between Seiji and Shizuku plays out like a classic romantic comedy, which I really enjoyed. I also thought the sequences with the fantasy story with the Baron were a lot of fun. As a big fan of homeschool, I also like that Shizuku decided when she wanted to focus on her writing and when she wanted to attend the public high school.
The animation is nice and it feels like a Miyazaki movie with a young heroine, trips to Italy, flying sequences and talking cats, so you can’t go wrong there. I also enjoyed the music and overall it’s a fun little movie.
I guess what keeps it from being a favorite is at nearly 2 hours it feels a little drawn out for the plot. It would have been a little better at the 90-100 minute mark and some might find it boring.
Aside from that I would definitely recommend Whisper of the Heart. Watch it and then watch The Cat Returns and you will be delighted!
So there you have it! My last Studio Ghibli film to watch. What other anime films would you recommend? Let me know in the comments section.