Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I was not looking forward to this one. I did enjoy the last iteration of Godzilla, as well as Kong: Skull Island (which I’d only heard days before was meant to be connected to this), but I had concerns. For one, I was sick of how often I’d seen the trailer, but mostly, there was nothing about this that excited me. Sure, the monsters would look cool, but would that be enough for me. Not so much.

Normally paragraph two is where I give the plot, but I don’t know that there really is one. Godzilla is back with a bunch of friends and foes across the globe, and he’s our only hope to save the planet or something. Vera Farmiga invented something, but she’s mad at Kyle Chandler. Millie Bobby Brown is getting into trouble while Bradley Whitford is being witty. Godzilla stomps Tokyo or some other interchangeable large city.

The monsters really did look amazing. I saw this on IMAX (not full size, but good enough) and my jaw was agape for the entire third act. It was so beautiful. Had this been a fifteen, even thirty minute short with some big slimy things pawing at each other, I’d have eaten it up. But you stretch it into a 2+ hour movie, I need more. Substance of some sort, more developed plot, more dimensional characters, some bit of protein amidst the creature carbs.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – \m/ \m/

Rocketman

A story. At the end of high school, a big arena opened in our home town for a minor league hockey team (which I still don’t understand) and big concerts. One of the first ones was Elton John. About a week before the show, a pair of tickets arrived for me in the mail. Apparently I had won some sort of contest? To this day, I still don’t have any memory of entering, but cool free concert tickets. Except at that point, all I knew about Elton was that he’d done the music for The Lion King and I knew “Tiny Dancer”. I’d recently seen Almost Famous for the first time, and fell in love with that song as a result, but it’d be a few years before I officially designated it as my favorite song (which it still is, but my ultimate version of it is Ben Folds’ cover).

I tried unsuccessfully to sell the tickets, but finally decided it’d be worth going to hear that song performed live. A friend who was not yet out to his parents decided to come with and sit in the nosebleed seats, giving up the baller seat he had with his parents, so he could fully enjoy the show. Cool.

Two other friends had gotten tickets too and were seated across the arena. “Tiny Dancer” was one of the first few songs that played, and I loved it. Shortly thereafter, I got a message from the other friends that they’d left for some reason. I don’t remember much else of the show cause I didn’t really know anything. The concert ends, lights come up, and it’s noisy as everyone is trying to get out and go home. My phone rings. It’s one of the friends who bailed. She’s asking me how the rest of the show was, and I’m having a hard time hearing her. Then this happened:
“Did he play Your Song?”
“Yeah he played my song. You were still here for it.”
“No did he play Your Song?”
“Yes, I told you, It was before you left”
“No, I mean Your Song”
“Yeah, my song. Tiny Dancer. You heard it”
“He has a song called Your Song. Did he play it?”
“Really? Oh I have no idea”

Over time, I’ve of course come to know and love Your Song and so many others of his songs, and I have nothing but love and respect for this man. When he announced the beginning of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour last year, I snatched up tickets for a show a few months back. This looked like it could be my last chance to see this man live, acutally knowing his music, and my final opportunity to hear my all time favorite song. I bawled so hard when Tiny Dancer started playing (I’m sure you can hear me sobbing in the video I took on my phone).

So now there’s a movie about the Rocketman himself, and it was something I was oh so very excited about. The film promised a fantasy element to it and I really wanted to know what that meant. Turns out, it means that this feels more like a Broadway musical than a movie (something I can absolutely get behind). While some songs are performed on stage, many of them are performed by characters “singing their feelings” (but not as cheesy as I made it sound). Sequences were staged and choreographed with a heightened reality to represent what was happening instead of literally showing it. I ate up every second. There was this sense of spectacle that you don’t get in a typical rock biopic, and it was befittting a man known for his theatrics.

Taron Egerton was perfect as Elton, as I expected when I first saw him KILL an Elton song as a singing gorilla. Part of the Broadway vibe meant we had new arrangements so Taron sang everything, in a way that made sense for the story. As soon as I hit my next payday, I am buying that soundtrack. And I’m sure singalong screenings are inevitable, so lemme know when they’re starting and then SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY

Besides Taron, I adored Jamie Bell as John’s lyricist Bernie Taupin. Bernie is as important to the music as Elton, and I enjoyed seeing his side of the story. His sympathetic bestie character stole my heart, and I lit up every time I saw him.

Inevitably, there’s gonna be comparisons to last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but I think that’s a bit unfair. They have different approaches, one being more traditional biopic (BoRap), the other being more artistic (RMan). Maybe not quite apples and oranges, but at least red delcious and granny smith. I will say that while I appreciate the artsy approach, I didn’t get a big Live Aid type sequence that made me feel like I need to keep running back to the theater. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few days I find myself reserving another ticket. I’ll def be doing that for the singalongs tho

Rocketman – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m

Booksmart

I got the first two movies of the long weekend in Chicago out of the way before I met up with my buddy, but I still had one left. After we met up and he defended (and passed yay!) I told him I was all his for the next day. If he wanted to have the sleep in to end all sleep ins, I would happily go to the movies in the morning and catch him later. “What movie?” he asked and long story short we met up in the afternoon to watch this together. It was quite fitting for the occasion.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are best friend overacheivers finishing up high school. They’ve kept their heads down for four years and gotten all their work done so they can get into good schools. Parties were for the other kids, the losers who’d never be anything. Until they find out that the losers all got into equally good schools. Was it really possible to enjoy the best of both worlds? The night before graduation would be their one chance to see if it was possible, to party like there was no tomorrow.

High school movies can be tough for me because I didn’t have the best social experience, and I identified oh so very hard with these straight edge gals. I loved that I finally felt represented in one of these type of teen comedies. That was actually only the beginning of what I loved.

I also loved how this was a raunchy teen comedy that wasn’t based around sex. Yes, that was part of it, but the basis was the friendship between our two leading ladies, whom I adored. Beanie caught my eye long ago, and I love that she’s been promoted from quirky bestie commanding the film. Although Billie Lourd in her surprise supporting role was the one who truly stole the film for me. Every time she appeared (which was always unexpected) she walked away with that scene.

The whole thing was just very smartly written. The humor was clever (even if some of the story got a tad absurd for my taste), it felt very grounded, the characters felt real. One thing I also appreciated was that it was highly LGBTQ friendly without making it “a thing”. Dever’s character just happened to like girls, and that was cool. It was an organic part of the story, but it was never a source of conflict. It’s just a part of who she was, as it should be.

It’s such a bummer that this didn’t get the box office love it deserved, but if the word of mouth is any indicator, it’ll grow to be a big hit over time as it’s discovered. Olivia Wilde did something fantastic with her directorial debut (side note: I love the role she found for her boo Jason Sudeikis ) and it absolutely earned its spot in the high school comedy lexicon

Booksmart – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Aladdin (2019)

If you know me at all, you know that the original 1992 animated Aladdin is my all time favorite movie. It’s not even a question. I can probably quote the entire film, I watch it every year on my birthday, I’ve seen it on Broadway, I chase Al at Disneyland, it’s my ultimate happy place. Obviously that means there was a lot riding on this remake for me, and I’ve never been so scared to see a film. All of the Disney remakes thus far have been beautiful in the moment, but quickly forgotten, rendering them unnecessary at best. But it could very easily be so much worse than that. I won’t go into all the fears I had, but as a result I went into the film with very tempered expectations.

I’d gone to the very first early AM Dolby screening that Friday while I was still in Chicago. I had just enough time to watch the movie then catch an uber to my buddy’s thesis defense. It started with Will Smith singing Arabian Nights, not the best singer, but it got the job done. I noticed some updated lyrics and a bit of the Broadway arrangement. We started moving into the first couple scenes when it hit me: this was working! Everything was going to be okay! I teared up out of relief and then allowed myself to just sit back and bask in the magic of it all.

Don’t get me wrong, it in no way holds a candle to the original, but there was a lot going for it that I enjoyed. For me, the biggest win was Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Jas has always been my favorite princess by default (even though I really hate that I essentially pick her because I love her man), but Scott EARNED that title. I love that the Princess has always been strong independent woman who will not be tied down by any man, but this princess took it one step further. She didn’t ,just not wanna be a prize to be won, she wanted to be the freaking sultan and rule over the kingdom. YAASSS QUEEN! (SULTAN) She even had a new song (and its reprise) to prove exactly how powerful she could be AND there were some slight changes along the way that made her much more pivotal to the story. All the yes!

More yes: it looked gorgeous. The costumes, the sets, the Disney magic. All of it was stunning (and I really hope there’s a costume Oscar in this film’s future). We had some big Bollywood dancing (Aladdin could dance! Even if there were some stunt doubles involved).

Now about Will Smith as the Genie. He may have been the most controversial element going in. Few had faith in him, but I wasn’t actually too concerned. We all knew he’d never be Robin Williams, and he had the foresight to not try to go that route. Those first costume photos suggested to me that he’d be going the Broadway/James Monroe Iglehart route. He didn’t quite go there either. He was the Fresh Prince genie. It worked, but I felt like he played it a bit safe. They didn’t expand Friend Like Me like they could have (the Broadway upgrade is a literal showstopper–standing O midshow). Outside the songs tho, he certainly had the charisma and the presence to be the Genie. He may have been a little lackluster, but he didn’t drown.

Look there’s so much more I can talk about with this one. I’ve been talking about it non stop for the past week. Hell, I’ve been talking about it since it was announced. Again, everyone knows how much I love Aladdin so everyone knows I have an opinion here, and everyone knows I’m more than happy to give movie opinions on command. This will still never touch the original. Maybe it didn’t need to exist (except maybe to update a few problematic cultural issues). But I prolly would have been upset if this never got a shot at a live action redo. Anyways, all that is to get to my point that as a companion piece to the original, it’s a nice film. I thoroughly loved my visit to Agrabah, and it’s nice having another way to get there.

Aladdin – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Brightburn

After one crazy weekend in LA, I then went to Chicago for another crazy one. I was there to support a very close friend of mine who was defending his thesis, and I explicitly told him not to worry about me when I got into town. I’d entertain myself and would meet him at the defense the next day. It sounds like I was being thoughtful, but really I just wanted to make sure I got my movies in for the weekend. Memorial Day weekend, no less. Several big movies to see. Starting with Brightburn.

I absolutely LOVED the concept of this. What if when Kal-El crashed landed in Smallville Kansas, he actually had some evil lurking inside him. And despite the love and best efforts from Ma and Pa Kent, he didn’t turn into Superman. He turned into something sinister. That’s basically Brightburn, if they shuffled around the proper nouns Dracula/Nosferatu style. There’s so much potential in that premise, but unfortunately, the film didn’t live up to any of them.

First problem was that the movie was very rushed. The 90 minutes could easily have gone on longer with more details fleshed out. This wasn’t nearly enough time to dive into anything. For starters, we didn’t go deep enough into lil Brandon’s psyche. That for me is always the most interesting part when we get a story from a villain’s perspective: what drives them and how does their mind work? We barely got any of that. Some disturbing illustrations and a scary voice but very little motivation. For the main character in the film he felt rather flat and two dimensional.

So that was a pitfall, but it still could have been saved. There were some great moments of horror in this. Some gruesome gore and terrifying suspense. Motivation is less important if you’ve got some good scares. But unfortunately again, they were only moments. They didn’t really commit and lean in to the horror route, it was more of a tease. Actually more of a oh-we-can-do-this-do-we-want-to-we-dont-know. Therefore, I wouldn’t actually classify this as horror then.

What I think could have been really cool is if they focused on the story from Elizabeth Banks’ perspective as the mother. A sort of We Need To Talk About Brightburn type of film. I think that could have been something very special. I really liked her character and thought that angle would have been something interesting to explore. For me she was the strongest element of the film, and that could have taken the film to the next level.

Alas none of these options played out, and we were left with something that was wholly unsatisfying. I’m not being as harsh on this as some of the reviews I’ve read (or watched on Stardust) but I’m still highly disappointed at the lost potential. I still found it watchable, but it was in no way as strong as it could have been.

Brightburn – \m/ \m/ \m/

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

Heh, I guess I fell a little behind huh? Had some travel and some friend stuff and basically having fun and keeping busy. Add in the fact that my eyes still hate the computer screen, I didn’t wanna spend the lil bit of rest time I had behind my laptop. #sorrynotsorry

Actually the friend stuff started with an opening night John Wick in IMAX with a buddy. Talk about starting it off with a bang. Cause you know, guns. Lots of guns. Picking up about an hour after Chapter 2 (which as you may recall ended with Ian McShane telling Keanu Reeves he had a one hour head start before it’d be open season on his butt) Wick is on the run for his life about to face off with every hit man on the planet. Violence ensues.

I’ve said many many times that my Daddy raised me to love action movies, and my God would he have loved this one. As with its predecessors, the action is non-freaking-stop. And best of all, it’s practical effect ultra violence. You really don’t get better than that, and John Wick is the best of the best.

What really impressed me though was that every sequence had a different weapon and therefore a different fight style. Guns, knives, samurai swords, fists, a book?! Throughout the whole movie I kept on yelling “oooh!” and “damn” and “oh shiiiiii—“

We got some new additions to the cast. Halle Berry reminded everyone she can kick ass like the best of ’em, but the one that made me really happy to see was Asia Kate Dillon. They fit into this world so well and I was very excited to see them in such a big film. Oh and there’s more doggos now!

I don’t know that I even need to keep talking (blogging). If you’re an action junkie, I assume you’ve already seen this, or else are running out to the theater right now after reading all that. If you’re not into action, you weren’t gonna go anyway were you? You still should tho

John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Hustle

I’m all for this wave of gender flipped remakes. Why should the boys get to have all the fun? So I revisited Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as homework for this lady friendly redo (I have since learned there have been earlier versions, but for the purposes of this blog, we’re considering DRS the original) and didn’t care for it. Michael Caine and Steve Martin are legends whom I adore very very much. However, I didn’t find it very funny. I actually found it rather cringey and I was a bit uncomfortable watching it. I hoped that the gender flip would alleviate some of the issues I had problems with. And it did help some, but not quite enough.

Caine and Martin pass on the con to Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. If you’ve seen DRS, then you know the ENTIRE PLOT. I can’t remember the last time a remake truly did stick so closely to its source material. Sure, some details are changed and the jokes are different, but it’s the exact same structure.

Was it a worthy upgrade? Well, it was a bit more feminist, so that fixed some of the issues. Yet it was still pretty cringey in its humor. I just wasn’t finding it very funny. Plus since I already knew where the story was going, I didn’t even get the fun of the twists and turns because it turned into the exact same twists as before.

I will say tho that I do absolutely adore these leading ladies. They were certainly bringing their A game, but unfortunately the material didn’t provide a worthy playing field. I really would love to watch them work together again in a better film.

The Hustle – \m/ \m/ \n

Detective Pikachu

I never got into Pokemon. I was maybe a year or so too old when they first hit the scene (junior high is NOT when you wanna start picking up new kids’ trends), and I just never hopped on that bandwagon. Nearly gave in to play Pokemon Go a few years ago, but concerns about battery and data usage kept me away. Obviously I’m plugged into pop culture enough to know a few basics, but I’ve got so many other fandoms going that I never felt the need to catch ’em all. My interest in seeing this was solely rooted in my love of Ryan Reynolds (who was voicing Pikachu) and the humor I hoped he’d bring.

Okay so we covered Ryan Reynolds if voicing Pikachu, who normally would only say “Pika pika” but for some reason this one kid can hear him. Pikachu and the kid are trying to solve a few mysteries such as why Pikachu has no memory and whether or not the kid’s dad is actually dead from a car crash or alive in hiding somewhere. And there’s some Poke-politics going on in this world as well.

As a n00b, I found it rather easy to slip into the Poke-world. There were elements that were clearly thrown in to explain things that gave just the right amount of info without sidetracking the film. I appreciated it. I also appreciated the humor (as hoped) and goshdarn it those little pocket monsters are so goshdarn cute.

Partway thru tho, I kinda lost interest. I will blame part of it on me being rather tired that day, and I will blame even more on the unnecessary 3D at my screening. It was making my eyes hurt to look at the screen (so much movement, they couldn’t rest and focus) and giving me a headache. However, I did also just stop caring about the story. Clearly, tho, I was never meant to be the target audience for this. And that’s okay. I have it on good authority that those who were did enjoy the film, which is how it should be.

Detective Pikachu – \m/ \m/ \n

Tolkien

Lord of the Rings is my favorite book. I’ve read it at least half a dozen times or so, and we won’t talk about how many times I’ve seen each of the films. As much as I know that story inside and out, I knew little of the author, JRR Tolkien. Hell, I had to rack my brain to remember that JRR stands for John Ronald Reuel, so I was very excited to dive into this story about the man behind all the myths.

Tolkien follows the early life of the author, from his childhood as an orphan, to the friendships he formed in school, to his wartime experiences and the love of his life Edith (Lily Collins). There are a few creative licenses taken, but it shows how the forces in his life influenced the characters and stories he would one day be famous for. I adored every second of it, but not for the reason I expected.

I expected a lot of Middle Earth magic and references to that world that I am so enamored with. It was there, of course, but it was subtly laced into the beautiful period piece. Now I typically don’t care for period pieces, but this didn’t feel so weighty as they often are. It was light and magical. The vibe I was getting specifically reminded me of that version of The Secret Garden with Maggie Smith. The setting was rich and the sense of wonder in the atmosphere was palpable. I can’t remember when I last saw a film that had that balance so beautifully done.

This film also appealed to the literary nerd in me. Again, not specifically the LOTR tie ins, but the overall love of arts and language made me feel like I was curled up with a good classic book, perhaps diving into Little Women for the 4th time. It’s been so long since that side of me was stimulated, just that feeling nearly brought me to tears. There were moments in the film that did that as well, and some that made me smile so brightly.

What also made me smile? I went to an early screening that was followed by a live stream Q&A between Stephen Colbert, the stars, and the director. Colbert is known as the world’s biggest Tolkien fan, and more than anything I just wanted to hear what he thought about the film and see him geek out over it. The interview did not disappoint. I hope the internet makes it available sometime because watching it was such a treat. The perfect dessert to the lovely film I’d just experienced

Tolkien – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Long Shot

I was in NYC this past weekend! I primarily went because I absolutely NEEDED to see Beetlejuice on Broadway, but I made sure to be there for as much of the weekend as possible (about 36 hours) so I could hang with the BFFF and maybe catch other shows. Except I didn’t wanna spend money on other shows, so I just entered a couple ticket lotteries that I did not win. So I spent about 34 of those 36 hours with the bestie. After spending a few hours at a board game cafe, we wanted to get in another activity before the big show. It was too late for a too long Avengers round 3, but really I wanted to see Long Shot. I mean c’mon, the two of us aren’t often on the same side of the country, and if there’s a new Seth Rogen movie, we gotta see it together. It’s because of a Seth Rogen movie that we say we’re BFFF’s (with that extra F). Luckily there wa showing in Times Square that we could get to after one last game and have enough time to grab a quick slice before the ‘Juice.

Charlize Theron is the current secretary of state, and she’s just earned the sitting president’s endorsement to run in 2020. Seth Rogen, is a journalist with such a strong sense of morals and ideals that he’s lost his job over it. Turns out, he and Charlize knew each other as young’uns and they reconnect under typical romcom meet cute circumstances. He takes a job as a speechwriter for her campaign, and like I said, romcom, so they fall for each other. Much hilarity ensues.

And I really do mean MUCH hilarity. The two of us were laughing nonstop at this very smartly written screenplay. For the rest of the weekend, we were exchanging quotes, but it wasn’t just the comedy that was smart. Earlier in the day we’d been talking about the very positive shift in tv and film towards showing healthy dating, and this very much continues in that movement. Okay so it’s a bit problematic that she’s his boss, but otherwise it’s a step in the right direction towards depicting a good communicative relationship. It did lean just a tad too hard into the romcom tropes, so I gotta knock off half a point, but that’s my own personal preference and general aversion to the genre.

Charlize and Seth may seem like quite the odd couple, but they worked so well. She hasn’t really been given the chance to do comedy, and she excelled at it. Each knew how to play up the other’s strengths and it gave them a genuine and unexpected chemistry. I also wanna give a shout out to O’Shea Jackson Jr, who had a small but important supporting role. He’s had the charisma to steal his scenes in the films I’ve seen him in so far, and he’s def gonna be one to watch out for going forward. Anyways yeah that’s all to say this was just another awesome part of an awesome weekend

Long Shot – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n