August: Osage County

This is one of those movies that as soon as the casting was announced, they prolly started booking all of Meryl’s awards appearances. After the powerhouse play stormed the theater world, it was going after Hollywood with one of the most impressive casts ever assembled. I’m not even gonna list them all here, just go IMDB it.

Honestly, I’d have rather seen Meryl win for this than The Iron Lady. I just love this movie so much more. Intense family drama that makes me grateful for my family. I prefer our faults to theirs. But you can cut the tension in any scene with a knife, it’s that palpable. Putting Meryl toe to toe with Julia Roberts is a long overdue pairing and one I hope to see again someday.

I’ve talked more about the film before so I’ll just leave this at saying that this is another one on Meryl’s nomination list that’s essential viewing.

Tag

One of my favorite ways to break an overlong silence is to spontaneously tag somebody. I had to stop tho when I tagged my BFFF on the subway, and he then tagged the rando sitting across from us. Still, I love everything about the premise of this movie.

Based on a true game of tagging happening between a group of grown men, the movie follows a group of childhood friends who have continued their playground game well into adulthood. For one month a year, they (Jon Hamm, Ed Helmes, Hannibal Buress, and Jake Johnson with an assist from Isla Fisher) will stop at nothing try to tag each other, making sure they’re not the last one it. They’re hoping that this is the year they finally tag the untaggable Jeremy Renner who uses his Avengers skillz to elude them (oooh that’s Hawkeye’s power?).

This is the rare comedy that worked for me on every level: dialog, cast, concept, visuals, everything. I realized partway thru the film that this movie had no boundaries. They were taking things much farther than most comedies would dare, and it just kept going. I ate up every second of it. A big part of why so many comedies fall flat for me is that they play it too safe, and I can see every joke coming from a mile away. Not a problem here.

The cast was incredible. Standouts for me were Isla Fisher and Jeremy Renner. Fisher wasn’t doing anything too different from what we usually see from her, but it reminded me that she needs to be doing it more. And whodda thunk Renner was such a great comedian? Whole new side of an actor who’s been underapprecaited. Also quick shout out to Jon Hamm who I love seeing play funny, and to Ed Helms who hadn’t had a decent role in a while. Seriously, this played to everyone’s strengths.

I think we have a solid contender for my favorite comedy of the year.

Tag – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Incredibles 2

Was someone saying something about super hero fatigue? Because the world’s most super family is back, and it’s been too long. Yet we’re somehow picking up exactly where we left off.

Now that the Incredibles have made themselves known, it’s time to see if the world is ready to reevaluate their currently anti stance on supers. Elastigirl is hired by a PR duo to promote their super cause, leaving Mr Incredible at home to play Mr Mom to the kids. There he finds that baby Jack Jack is starting to exhibit signs of super powers – 17 of them.

The A story, was okay. I found it a bit slow and predictable, not really anything too special. The B story was where it was at. Jack Jack stole every single scene he had (the raccoon fight will go down in history as a classic). If the whole movie had been built around him, I’d have dug it so much more. I also woulda dug it more if Edna had additional screen time because she was criminally under used.

I’ve come to realize that what makes The Incredibles movies work isn’t that they’re good super hero movies, it’s that they’re good family movies. That family just happens to have super powers. This film highlighted that strength even moreso than the first. Also, they make for a really great theme park ride

The Incredibles 2 – \m/ \m/ \m/

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I got an email inviting me to a Premier Event Screening of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom! I RSVP-ed so dang quickly. It promised a Fan Fest with dinosaur props and tshirts and video games and all sorts of fun stuff. And as a bonus, I’d finally get to go to Walt Disney Concert Hall. Sooooo, it turns out that the premiere was the night before, and this was just a fan screening. Still, totally cool. And it also turns out that it’s such a maze getting to the concert hall, that it took me an extra half hour to find the right road and I didn’t have much time at the fan fest. Can’t really complain though. It was a fun change of pace for watching a movie.

Isla Nublar has been abandoned in the wake of the events at Jurassic World, and the dinosaurs are running wild. A volcano on the island erupts, threatening their extinction all over again. Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt are back to try and rescue as many of these noble creatures as they can, but the people bankrolling this mission might not actually have their sights set on an honorable mission.

The first half was basically more of the usual run-from-the-dinosaurs style we’re used to, where they continually tried to up the ante from previous films. The change of scenery for the second half made for a more calm film, hoping for an unsettling slow burn suspense. While I give them points for trying something different, for me, I felt like it killed the momentum and created a less thrilling film that I was expecting. The suspense just wasn’t there.

Something else I think they did right was to further try and establish the dinos as sympathetic creatures. They were more than just monsters to be scared of, but ones that you felt genuine emotion for. Again, not sure how well it worked since it toned down the urgency, but it did increase the emotional connection of the film.

Ultimately, you go see this movie for the dinosaurs (and Chris Pratt). And these dinos wanna be seen on the big screen. Just be sure to temper your expectations and not ask for anything more than that. Jurassic Park is long gone

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – \m/ \m/ \m/

Ocean’s 8

YESSS!!! I was all about this movie from it’s initial announcement. With each addition to the cast being revealed, I got more and more excited. Sandra Bullock. Cate Blanchett. Anne Hathaway. Helena Bonham Carter. Rihanna. Mindy Kaling. Sarah Paulson. Awkwafina. All the yes!!!

So it turns out George Clooney’s Danny Ocean has a sister (Debbie) and she is just as deep in the family business. After being paroled, she wastes no time getting some cohorts together (at which point I must highlight that it takes less ladies than men to get the job done) to execute a heist at the Met Gala. Specifically they’ll be stealing the jewels off the neck of an A list actress attending the exclusive event.

I loved every second of this. I can’t remember the last time I was so absorbed in a film from start to finish. It was fast and funny and fun and slick and sexy and smart. To me, this felt more in the spirit of Ocean’s Eleven than any of the other sequels did. The twists and turns were much sharper than Twelve or Thirteen and the payoff was possibly the best in the series.

Each stellar actress was cast perfectly to her strengths. I can’t even pick a standout or favorite because it changed from scene to scene. Can we do this again please?

Ocean’s Eight – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Hereditary

Lemme preface by saying you know I’m picky about horror, yeah? At least when it comes to straight up horror, I’m very specific about what I’m into. Camp, gore, suspense, those are all well and good. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I don’t typically scare easily, and I need more from a movie than just trying to scare me. I bring this up because I know that Hereditary is getting a lot of love. I just didn’t care for it much.

Hereditary starts off as more of a family drama, which is an angle I was all about. Toni Collette is having trouble keeping herself and her family together after her mother dies. I don’t know how detailed I can get without spoiling, but let’s just say it’s not going well. In fact, it’s kinda disturbing in how badly it’s going.

For me, I felt like it dragged a bit too much in getting going. Again, I like the idea of this basically being a family drama that just happens to have horror elements, but it was too drawn out for me. Once we did start to get into full on freak out, it felt like every other occult horror ever. They’ve never scared me before, and they didn’t scare me now.

Now doing some homework later, I found out that a lot of it could be interpreted as a take on mental illness. I kinda see it in retrospect, but it was nowhere near apparent to me when watching. I feel like if I had connected better to that, I would have enjoyed the film more. Those are the types of layers I like to see. But if I hafta learn about that later instead of picking up on it as I’m watching, that just doesn’t work for me. Bummer.

Hereditary – \m/ \m/ \n

The Iron Lady

And after all these films, Meryl _Finally_ gets another win. Think about it. In my 33 years on this earth, this is the only time she’s taken one home (thus far). That’s a huge gap between victories. But I feel like the sense in the Academy was that the bar was so high for her, she had to do something truly special to win.

Honestly, I don’t care for this movie much. You know how this Oscar season I was annoyed with Darkest Hour because it’s little more than a vehicle for Gary Oldman to win an Oscar? That’s basically my feeling towards The Iron Lady.

At least Thatcher is a character that hasn’t been fully explored on screen before (unlike Churchill), and I applaud Meryl for taking on yet another revolutionary feminist role, but the movie does little for me. I barely paid attention on the rewtach

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I can count on one hand the number of documentaries I’ve seen in a theater, and still have some fingers left over. This one is special. I’m gonna start this post with a link to my Stardust reaction filmed on my way out of the theater. I was a mess. So many feels. So so many. Most of the comments I was getting on the reaction from friends on the app were about how just the trailer got them crying. If you’re gonna see this movie (and you absolutely should) then bring tissues.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a documentary about Fred Rogers (please tell me I don’t need to explain who he is? If I do, this world is already lost.) It’s less about his life and more about his career and the philosophy of kindness he spread through his work and his life. It’s absolutely beautiful.

The film revisited stories I’d heard and taught me far more than I didn’t know. Mostly, I was in awe. In awe of this beautiful man and the beautiful work that he did, but also in awe of how rare he was. Why hasn’t there been a spiritual successor to Mr Rogers on tv? Why don’t we have someone validating our needs and feelings and teaching us the true value of our self worth? I rewatched some episodes of his show a couple months ago, and my main takeaway was that this world would be such a better place if we spent a little time in the Neighborhood every day.

Getting onto the more technical aspects of this as a film, one thing I’d like to point out that I thought was clever was the way that montages of children’s programming were used to highlight the passage of time. Each era of his career was prefaced with a brief clip of the television world he was counter programming. It was so effective in showing the contrast of his style as well as framing the setting. The editing in general was great. Bear in mind, I’m still learning about that art, but the clips of the show and old interviews and new interviews were seamlessly interwoven to tell the story

If I were to get picky about this film, my one criticism is that there were a lot of thoughts (especially towards the end) that were introduced and explored for only a few minutes and then dismissed. I would have liked to dive into these things more or just left them out. But really, I can’t complain. This film was so moving and has left me with such a good feeling to know I’m alive, and such a happy feeling I’m growing inside. I woke up ready to say I think I’ll make a snappy today.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Hotel Artemis

Scored an early check in to the Hotel Artemis, including a Q&A with the cast. Plus I got a free tshirt that’s a lil big!

This particular hotel is really a hospital for baddies. Not too far removed from The Continental in the John Wick movies. Questionable characters pay a membership fee to be allowed access. If a room is available, they get to stay and recover while under the care of the Nurse (Jodie Foster) and her Orderly (Dave Bautista). On this particular night of riots in the big city, Sterling K Brown and his brother Bryan Tyree Henry take shelter after a robbery gone bad. They encounter Sofia Boutella and Charlie Day already tucked into their rooms, and are soon joined by big bad boss dude Jeff Goldblum and his angry son Zachary Quinto.

Didja catch all those names I dropped? Oh let’s also throw in Jenny Slate just because. But yeah that list of names is why you see this movie. The one liner premise is cool, but the actual details of the plot are not anything special. We’re not uncovering any new storytelling ground. But that cast? Amazing.
-Great character work from Foster who we haven’t seen on this side of the camera in a while.
-Bautista got to take a bit more spotlight without hiding under extensive Drax makeup.
-Brown is very much the anti-Randall here and was almost my favorite.
-Favorite was Boutella who was mesmorizing and deadly. She wore the attitude required for her characters profession with such grace and style. And her fight sequence towards the end was worth everything.

I feel like I mighta expected a bit more, but for being small and gritty and low budget, it delivered.

Hotel Artemis – \m/ \m/ \m/

Doubt

This movie is incredible. I’ve seen it a couple times before, and was still completely blown away. I know this focus of this post series is to talk about Meryl Streep, but I’ve got more thoughts than that, that haven’t been covered here before.

That screenplay. THAT SCREENPLAY. It’s amazing. I haven’t seen the stage play (but gosh dang do I really want to), but it translated really well. Despite the minimal settings, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic, because the dialog is so rich that it fills the screen. Again, seen it a few times, and I still have no idea what happened. Not in the sense that I don’t know what’s going on, but in the sense that I don’t know what the truth is.

Lemme back up in case you’re unfamiliar with this story. It’s set in a Catholic school that’s run by the strictest nun that ever was (Streep’s Sister Aloysius). When a priest (a never been better Philip Seymour Hoffman) takes an interest in a young African American boy, Sister Aloysius begins to believe that there might be some scandalous behavior at play. But here’s the brilliance of how it’s written. Every scene, you think you know what the real story is. And then the next scene comes in and you completely change your mind. Then comes another scene. Ooooh that’s why it’s called doubt!

The acting is phenomenal. This was mine and much of the world’s first intro to Viola Davis as the boy’s mother, scoring her first Oscar nod with minimal screentime. But this is really about Hoffman and Streep going toe to toe. Two of the greatest actors of my lifetime digging into one of the richest scripts either has ever taken on. It’s such a masterclass in acting, and these performances are utterly compelling. Oh Amy Adams is in this too, and fantastic of course, but she’s kinda dwarfed by the other greats.

I should also say, this movie is the one that made Meryl my favorite actress. Well, this in combination with Mamma Mia. The fact that both those movies came out in the same year, on completely opposite ends of the spectrum genre wise, and she freaking killed both of them. That’s epic.

This movie should be mandatory viewing for any hardcore film buffs