Rough Night

“I feel like “”I wanted to love this movie”” has been a consistent theme this year. A female led dark comedy? Yes please! Bachelorette party that takes a turn when the stripper is killed? Shut up and take my money (even though I’m sure there have been variations of this movie before, Very Bad Things comes to mind).

Alas, my enthusiasm was mostly unwarranted as the film was mostly uneven. When it was funny, oh boy was it funny. Clever jokes and shocking punchlines, just how I like ’em. But that wasn’t consistent. I feel like when they accidentally killed the stripper (not a spoiler, main plotline as divulged in the trailer) the movie lost all momentum. And then it didn’t know where to go from there.

It’s a shame really, because this was a great cast. I enjoyed seeing Scarlett Johannson have a blast. It was a great showcase for Jillian Bell. And I absolutely adored Zoe Kravitz, since this wasn’t a role we’ve seen her in before.

That’s not to say I had a bad time watching the movie, it was just nowhere near as good as it could have been.

Rough Night – \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Beguiled

“So I said in my Stardust reaction that I wished I could love Sofia Coppola. I realized that it wasn’t entirely true that I never liked her movies. I did really like Somewhere and kinda liked The Bling Ring. I was mostly thinking that I had a very similar reaction to this as The Virgin Suicides. In short, Coppola creates a beautiful world full of meaningful imagery, but her pacing is dreadfully slow.

Set in Virginia during the Civil War, an injured Yankee solider is taken in by the few women that remain at a girls boarding school. From how it’s being marketed, you’d assume that all hell breaks loose and that these are some crazy ladies and there’s weird circumstances and all these mind games going on. There’s maybe a little of that, but it takes a while to get there.

If we’d just cut right to the last half hour, I might have been raving about this. But that hour before was just so long and slow, although the cast was great.

There was one idea I found really interesting. This film was based on a book, that had been previously adapted for film starring Clint Eastwood in the 70’s. In his version, the soldier was the protagonist, but this version was told from the point of view of the women. As different events would occur, I’d try and picture them from the other side. I think there might have been a bit more terror on his end. Let’s be real though, I’m unlikely to track that movie down and check it out.

The Beguiled – \m/ \m/”

Cars 3

“I saw this out of a sense of obligation and loyalty to my man Mickey Mouse. Cars 2 was such a bummer (at least for the high standards of Pixar) that it was hard to get enthusiastic about this movie. The last thing I expected was for this movie to be so emotional. Wow, the feels.

When we catch up with our four wheeled friends, Lightning McQueen is still on top of the racing world, but not for long. The new generation of racing cars is invading the track and kicking all the old timers into retirement. McQueen teams up with a new facility and new trainer, Cruz Ramirez, and all the latest technology those kids are using these days. If he wins the next big race, he can prove he’s not obsolete.

So why the feels? There were two parts of the story that got me. One had to do with Cruz trying to earn her place in the racing world. Especially on the (w)heels of Wonder Woman, that storyline felt empowering and beautiful.

But the one that really got me was the Doc Hudson stuff. As you may recall, Doc Hudson was voiced in the first Cars by Paul Newman in what would be his final film. Using previously unused recordings from that first film, they were able to bring back Doc in a really moving and appropriate way. Newman is actually a very special actor for me because his work in Cool Hand Luke makes me think of my Daddy. So there were layers of feels there, but it tugged straight to my heart.

The kids will love the movie just fine. The adults may or may not. But this big kid in an adult world had a good time. Cars may still be at the bottom of the Pixar totem pole, but that pole still sits high above any other animation studio out there.

Cars 3 – \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Big Sick

“I think we have a new candidate for coolest thing to happen to me since moving to LA: I got to go to a movie premiere! Long story short, I’m on an email list for advanced screenings, and they offered tickets for the premiere of The Big Sick, and I jumped at it.

No, I didn’t get to walk the red carpet. That was to the west of the theater entrance, and they lined up us riff raff to the east, out of camera sight. I did see it as I walked to my place in line, where the line turned the corner around the block. After waiting for an hour (during which I kept entertained by reading Anna Kendrick’s “”Scrappy Little Nobody””), I was handed my ticket and allowed into the lobby. There were stacks of popcorn buckets and soda. I wasn’t sure how long I’d have to absorb the atmosphere, so I quickly went in and found my seat.

I stared at the screen in front of me and was practically turning my head around Exorcist style, watching for something or someone exciting to happen. At some point, it did. I saw Jack McBrayer walk in the entrance right behind me, and I sent some excited texts out. This was real. I was at a legit Hollywood event.

Eventually, the rest of the audience filed in. A producer took the stage to announce the movie, and was soon joined by fellow producer Judd Apatow (!!). He cracked a few jokes, and introduced the cast, the majority of which were all there: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano. They talked for a bit and the movie started.

We’ll get to the movie in a second, but let’s just wrap up the event recap. When the movie was over, I refused to leave my seat until I absolutely had to. Would they really let us common folk potentially mingle with the bright stars who were in attendance? Lord knows I wasn’t gonna rush out. Eventually, I did file out of my seat, and started to walk towards the exit. Behind me, I heard someone in a greeting tone say “”Mr Middleditch!””. My heart jumped as I turned around. Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch was directly walking behind me, and Zach Woods was right next to him. I walked slowly, listening to the chatter between Thomas and the greeter dude, desperately trying to figure out something to say. The best I could come up with was “”I work in software, and your show is everything”” but I didn’t think I could pull it off, esp since the guys were clearly there to support their costar and not necessarily looking to get mobbed by fans. I took a very bad stealth shot of him on my camera, and my eyes followed the boys as they walked out. At that point, I noticed that Martin Starr was with them too. Yup, all the Pied Piper boys were together (well except TJ Miller, but he’s in a different league).

Okay, I really wasn’t about to leave now. I awkwardly waited in the lobby, fiddling with my phone. That’s when I saw Judd Apatow (!!) emerge from the hallway. Okay, maybe I couldn’t think of something to say to the Silicon Valley boys, but Judd is a god in my eyes, and this had to happen. Besides, as producer of the film, he is supposed to be schmoozing and playing nice. I saw people crowd around him to take selfies and exchange pleasantries. Eventually I made my way to the front and snapped a quick pic (!!). I thanked him, told him I was a big fan, and congratulated him on a fantastic film.

I waited in the lobby a few more min, but they were starting to try and get people out of there. So I hung out just in front of the theater for a bit, and did a quick Stardust reaction, while having an internal debate about whether or not I should be mad at myself for not trying to record video with Judd (!!) to use on Stardust. David Koechner (you prolly know him from Anchorman *whammy*) walked right by me, and I was struck speechless and unable to utter a hello. At that point, it was clear that the whole thing was over, so I practically skipped back to my truck. I couldn’t get my Judd (!!) pic up on Instagram fast enough.

Yeah yeah yeah, that all sounds exciting and I’m totally green jello, but how was the movie, you’re prolly thinking to yourself if you’ve read this far. It was fantastic. Easily one of the best of the year thus far. In case you didn’t take a sidebar to Google exactly what The Big Sick is all about, it’s a fictionalization of the early days of Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with his now wife Emily. After a couple months of a fun romance, they end it over cultural differences. Kumail’s family is determined to see him marry a Pakistani girl, and he doesn’t want to risk losing them. But then Emily is suddenly hospitalized with a mysterious illness and is put into a medical coma. Kumail ends up by her side until her parents arrive, and finds himself unable to abandon her. He grows closer to her family and realizes that their relationship may be worth risking his parents and culture for.

I know, sappier than I tend to go for. And yeah, it kinda was. But it felt very real. True, it was based on a real story, but that’s not what made it real to me. It was the honesty with which it handled the situations, and the balance of the good and bad. Remember how last year I said that Manchester By the Sea was one of the best screenplays I’d ever encountered, mostly impressed by it’s ability to weave humor into the darkest scenes? Similar vibe, but this movie was actually meant as a comedy. But that ability to joke in the face of trauma, and using humor to make sense of an absurd situation, felt very human to me. I freaking love that in a movie.

And on top of that, it was just funny. I don’t often laugh out loud during a film (I’m more of an inward chuckler), but this movie really had me going. The characters especially really helped that. The ease with which Kumail carried the film was impressive, but I think the real stand out was Ray Romano. I’d never particularly been a fan, but seeing this, I understand why he’s a big deal. He navigated his role and the humor with graceful expertise, and it drew me in.

This is definitely one I’ll be recommending if anyone asks if I’ve seen anything good lately. It just checks so many boxes of what I think makes a good film, and it’s more unique and heartfelt than the sappy crap Hollywood likes to chuck at us. Very grateful that I got to see the movie in the setting that I did, because it was just that much more magical. This is why I love movies.

The Big Sick – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

It Comes at Night

“Oh the buzzy small horror movie. These have been so hit or miss for me. Loved It Follows, bored by The Witch, and Don’t Breathe fell in between. Yet I still jumped when I heard good things about It Comes At Night, despite the trailer never having really caught my attention. Turns out, I needn’t have bothered.

I couldn’t quite figure out how to describe the plot from what I knew about the movie, but hopefully having seen it, I can paint a clearer picture. A small family has confined themselves to a remote cabin in the woods, where they’re hiding out from some unknown plague that’s destroyed much of humanity, or at least that’s what they believe has happened. Another family crosses their path, and they bring them in, strength in numbers and all that. What follows has been described as a “”zombie movie without the zombies””, but to me it was a horror without the horror.

I’ll just flat out say, I didn’t find it scary or particularly suspenseful at all. I was bored (just like with The Witch). Things dragged out too slowly, and the threat wasn’t building as much as I’d have liked. What sucks though, is that I do see a very brilliant subtext they were working towards, but it’s completely lost if you can’t get into the movie.

What’s the subtext? The _true_ horror of the movie isn’t the fear of the unknown or the disease devouring society. The true horror comes from human nature, and not knowing who to trust or when to let your guard down. I totally got that that was the point the movie was trying to make, they just didn’t drive it home as hard as I think they could have. It could have gone way more psychological. It could have been scarier (without resorting to seeing those unknown outside forces). It just wasn’t.

It Comes at Night – \m/ \m/”

The Mummy

“Is anybody else hearing all this Dark Universe stuff and thinking it’s a little “”Stop trying to make ‘Fetch’ happen?”” Well before we get into whether or not fetch can/will happen, let’s see how the first movie fares.

Okay, so my first thought when hearing tell of a new Mummy movie was “”really? why?””. I think I was a bit more convinced when hearing it would be a whole new thing instead of continuing Brendan Frasier’s franchise. You can tell all sorts of Mummy horror stories that don’t need to draw from the same thing. I also got really excited to see Sofia Boutella cast as our titular baddie. That’s a new twist we haven’t seen, and she is such a powerful and capable actress, I was mesmorized even by the trailer.

Did it work? Eh. I was with the movie for the first two acts or so. It wasn’t anything too new and inventive, but it was fun and enjoyable, if innocuous. THe mythology was interesting, and Tom Cruise was charming. When we got to the last act, I was just bored. It was pure action with no story, and specifically it was CGI action, which just doesn’t do it for me. I went from having a nice time watching to waiting for it to be over.

Where does this leave the potential franchise? Eh. I like the idea of revisiting these classic movie monsters, and the cast they’re assembling is incredible. However, it may have been premature to launch this big interconnected movie thing. It’s been really bugging me how desperate studios are to make hit franchies, rather than crafting quality individual movies. Maybe further installments here will prove to be great movies, or maybe the DU is DOA.

The Mummy – \m/ \m/ \n

PS – Check out my Stardust reaction for this movie!”

Wonder Woman

“I know, I’ve been delinquent in posting. Buuuut, if you want near instant reactions to every movie I see, be sure to follow me on Stardust!!

Let’s cut right to it, this is the movie that I didn’t know I needed. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the variety of praise for this movie. It’s a fully fleshed out film with three dimensional characters, and well paced plot, and basically restored faith in superhero humanity. I knew that it’d be a big win for girl power, but I didn’t expect to be so moved by it.

I can’t remember the last time a movie made me feel so incredibly empowered. I’ve seen countless superhero movies and battle sequences over the years. None have ever brought me to near tears as this done, several times. The most impactful moment for me was an early on sequence when the Amazon warriors stormed the beach on their horses and rode into battle. With all the films I’d seen thus far, I hadn’t realized that I was missing and craving this type of female representation. The fact that my hypothetical one day future daughter(s) can grow up seeing this, means the world to me. It’s been a week and I’m still feeling the high. Is this what men feel like when they go to a movie, or are they jaded by the same old same old by now? All I know is I want more of this.

Hats off to Gal Gadot, who was perfection. I hate that it did take Wonder Woman oh so very long to reach the big screen, but it’s like she was waiting for the right Woman to take up the mantle (or lasso). Stunning in every way: her power, her presence, her grace, her beauty, her innocense, her wisdom. Some of that is writing, much of that is acting. Opposite her, Chris Pine was also perfection. A true woke bae, who knew when to step up and when to stand aside. I saw an article that explained how his character was what every superhero girlfriend should be, but rarely gets fully realized. I respect him (and the writers) for understanding his role and taking his opportunities to shine without stealing the spotlight.

Something else that really struck me was that these battle sequences had a grace and beauty to them that we hadn’t seen before. Just by the nature of Wonder Woman’s lithe movement, we got something completely different in a genre that often recycles the same thing over and over again. But what I really want is this exact movie over and over again.

Wonder Woman – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Baywatch

“Furthering the “”good”” vs “”entertaining”” dichotomy, we come to Baywatch. I remember being concerned from the first trailer that the tone seemed inconsistent. Was direction was the humor going? Self aware parody? Hard R? Visual slapstick? I couldn’t tell. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m still not sure which way I would classify it, and I don’t think they really knew either.

Watching it, I couldn’t help but think that it was a bad movie. Yet somehow, I was having a lot of fun watching it. I mean, it’s exactly what I want in a summer movie: action, humor, pretty cast, fun vibe. It’s just nothing that I would consider quality.

And yet, it was utterly fun and watchable. I was with every predictable beat and lame attempt at humor. Maybe The Rock and Zac Efron just have so much combined charisma, they can carry anything. Maybe I was just euphoric because I was watching this at Downtown Disney, taking a break after standing in line for the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride for a longer period of time than I care to admit right now. I don’t know, but at the time, it felt like a perfect summer movie. On reflection, it was oh so wrong.

But you know I value entertainment over quality so I’m gonna call it a qualified win. It’s a fun mindless afternoon, just know what you’re in for.

Baywatch – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”