Friday, February 14, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: February 14, 2020

In Theaters: Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog is an entertaining re-imagining of the classic video game.  It's wonderful performances, great special effects, and plenty of humor and callbacks to the game will quickly entertain you!  For more information, check out our review!

In Theaters: The Photograph
The Photograph tells a fresh romantic drama, with realistic characters in a modern story layered with an amazing jazz and hip-hop soundtrack and believable dialog.  For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Ford v Ferrari
Ford v Ferrari is a high octane experience with fantastic acting, a compelling story, and a combination of exhilarating sound and heart pumping race scenes that will make you think you are on the track!  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You
The follow up to Netflix's surpisingly entertaining teen rom-com continues the story of the characters that we met in the first movie and fans of the original should definitely put this on their Valentine's schedule.  And if you haven't seen the first one, make sure to check that out first! 

Streaming (Vudu Free With Ads): La La Land
La La Land is a celebration modern day Los Angeles and tells the story of two people pursuing their dreams in a city that is known to either make those come true, or crush them mercilessly.  This story is set against a backdrop of music and style that is intoxicating and exciting.   

Streaming (Amazon): Pati Patni Aur Woh
Pati Patni Aur Woh has entertaining moments with a likable cast who are put in some very ridiculous situations.  However, the film's rush to conclusion and desire to shoehorn a happy ending hurts the overall message.  For more information, check out our review!

Review: The Photograph

Release date: February 14, 2020
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Issa Rae, Chelsea Peretti 

The Photograph tells an unrealistic romantic drama with realistic characters.  Michael (Stanfield) is a talented writer working on a story about loss in Louisiana.  Mae (Rae) is an art museum curator who happens to be the daughter of a talented photographer.  The two's paths cross due to Mae's mother's photography, leading the two into a complicated relationship.  

The Photograph's main story is actually two stories in one: part of it is the story of Michael and Mae; the other part is an important relationship for Mae's mother.  These stories are told in increments, with flashbacks from the main story occurring to flesh out more of Mae's mother's life.  Despite these stories taking place decades apart, they deal with similar themes.  Learning more about Mae's mother's life helps to understand Mae's perspective; seeing the choices and sacrifices she made helps flesh out Mae's character.  And these characters are very well realized.  They thankfully do not follow your typical relationship movie tropes and feel much more authentic than you would normally get.  Aside from Michael and Mae, there are a few additional characters that help move the story and Michale and Mae's relationship along.  Additionally, some provide comic relief, particularly Michael's brother (Lil Rel Howery).  His lines and entertainment are especially entertaining and his humor helps to humanize these characters.  

These realistic characters also have mostly believable dialog.  There are some cheesy romantic movie lines, but for the most part the dialog is smart and well thought out.  But one of the most impressive aspects of this film is the soundtrack.  There is a mix of jazz, blues, and hip-hop (sometimes in the same songs) to really provide some exciting ambiance to the film.  The soundtrack is not overpowering, but it is essentially to set the mood and give insight into what is happening on screen.  The one negative about The Photograph is that the story is a long one with some pacing issues.  The movie starts off slowly, which I appreciate, but unfortunately slows down in the middle of the film as well.  However, this should not dissuade you from seeing this film.  The Photograph provides a fresh perspective on a romantic drama, with an all black cast and some aspects that take sharp deviations from your typical romantic movie plot.  

The Photograph provides a fresh romantic drama, with realistic characters in a modern story layered with an amazing jazz and hip-hop soundtrack and believable dialog.

Watch It

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review: Downhill

Release date: February 14, 2020
Running time:  86 minutes
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Miranda Otto

Downhill is the 2020 remake of the 2014 Swedish Film "Force Majeure" where we follow Billie (Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete Staunton (Ferrell) as they embark on a family vacation with their two sons to an Austrian ski resort.  But during this family vacation, a reaction to an avalanche puts their marriage to the ultimate test as each questions the other's choices, the protection of their family, and their feelings for one another. 

Will Ferrell has a pretty recognizable type of over the top humor, but in this movie it was turned down a notch.  Thankfully, although his humor was muted, his facial expressions and mannerisms were not.  It was nice to see his character here to add some diversity to his roles.  It is also worth noting that Will Ferrell and Julia Louise-Dreyfus have good on-screen chemistry.  In fact both of them did excellent jobs in their roles: they were able to capture the emotional turmoil that they were going through in a believable manner, which helps the audience empathize with what they are going through.  

This dark comedy has a good amount of humor and laughs, however it is tough for me to see what the target audience of this is given its Valentine's release date.  It is not a traditional date movie, and although the dialogue and scenarios are realistic, it is tough to get invested in these characters.  The beautiful shots of Austrian mountains are a huge plus for anyone who loves seeing beautiful scenery, but those views are put against a dark comedy and plenty of awkward tension.  Additionally, the story seems to swirl downhill only to lead to a far too convenient conclusion, hurting my overall enjoyment of the film.  I would have liked for them to fully explore some of the themes, rather than tying up this relatively short movie. 

Considering a very competitive opening holiday weekend, this movie might have to wait till you reach the bottom of the slope for you to view.  Downhill has interesting roles for its two stars set against a realistic story and beautiful scenery for this relationship dark comedy.  

Rent It

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Review: Malang

Release date: February 7, 2020
Running time: 135 minutes
Starring: Aditya Roy Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Disha Patani

Malang is a new thriller that is essentially two distinct movies blended together.  It is one part youth exploration film, where two people meet in Goa and live their best life partying, experimenting, enjoying their freedom, and slowly conquering their worldly fears.  It is also a thriller about a seemingly superhuman killer hunting down cops on December 24.  These two movies intertwine throughout, providing context to one another and pulling you deeper into the madness that is Malang. 

The visual style of Malang is really a sight to behold.  Especially during the party scenes, the colors and effects really pop off the screen.  Neon lights, glowing paint, various drug-induced effects, they all contribute to a visual style that lets you experience what the youths in the film are.  Outside of the party scenes, there are some beautiful scenes exploring Goa.  And even in the darker parts of the movie, the visual style is apparent.  Colors will pop, including lots of neon placed at the right times.  The fight scenes use an appropriate amount of slow motion and other effects (lots of rain and other water) to really make them feel impactful.  This impact is helped along by some great sounds.  Not only some fantastic music during the party scenes, but some bone crunching effects during the fights and action.  And although there is a decent amount of violence, it is never too pronounced or over the top.   

The story of Malang is well done, aside from one complaint.  The film weaves the two disparate stories together well, and slowly reveals aspects of both stories to the viewer.  The thriller side of the film is really interesting, and some of the reveals happen at just the right time.  However, there is one turn in the movie that just feels like it is too over the top.  It really dampened what is an otherwise very enjoyable story.  It was critical to the overall plot of the film, but I feel like it could have either been altered to something less extreme or have been foreshadowed more during the film.  However, that being said Balang was one of the more enjoyable films I have seen out of Bollywood.  It has a very good story and also embraces some aspects of youth culture that are often hidden away in Hindi films.  

Unleash the madness with Malang's wonderful visuals, bone crunching sound, and story that will keep you guessing!

Watch It

Monday, February 10, 2020

Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

Release date: February 14, 2020
Running time: 99 minutes
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ben Schwartz, James Marsden

Who would have thought that a movie based on a 90s videogame with a less than stellar recent track record would be good?  I definitely didn't think so after the debacle of the first trailer.  But thankfully, the Sonic movie is a really fun movie!  It quickly endears itself to you with enough references and callbacks to the film to keep you entertained.  In it, Sonic is an alien from another planet blah blah, who cares!  The story itself, like most sonic video games, is only a vehicle for good effects, a sense of speed, and the hedgehog putting himself into ever more perilous moments.  

The hearts of this movie really comes from two sources.  The first is the enjoyable camaraderie between Sonic (perfectly voiced by Schwartz) and Sheriff Wachowski (Marsden).  The two play off each other well with Sonic speaking quickly, telling good and bad jokes, and getting into all sorts of trouble.  Marsden, is the perfect foil to Schwartz, a calmer, more confident figure to counteract Sonic's crazy style.  Schwartz does a fantastic job as Sonic and really seems to get the character and his mannerisms.  The other source is Jim Carrey's amazing performance as Dr. Robotnik.  It seems like the filmmakers just told him to go crazy and do what he wanted to.  He has some really funny lines, some outbursts that come from nowhere, and even a part where he just dances during his evil plan.  It doesn't always make sense for the character, but it is always enjoyable.  In fact, most of the Sonic movie doesn't really tie itself to the video games, and that is a good thing.  The filmmakers took the characters and many of the elements, and rather than being saddled by them, made a thoroughly enjoyable film on top of them.  

As with the Sonic video games, Sonic the Hedgehog has really good effects and an amazing sense of speed.  The risk in a computer generated film is that the CG can break your immersion, but here they do just enough to bring Sonic to life without pulling you out of the movie.  And as you would expect from a film based on a video game series, the movie also has plenty of throwbacks to the Sonic games.  From ring sound effects, to actual rings, to some animations and expressions that are inspired by the video game, there is definitely enough nostalgia here to please Sonic fans.   

Sonic the Hedgehog is an entertaining re-imagining of the classic video game.  It's wonderful performances, great special effects, and plenty of humor and callbacks to the game will quickly entertain you!

Watch It

Thursday, February 6, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: February 7, 2020

In Theaters: Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey is a triumphant breakout for Harley Quinn, a wild celebration of this character filled with bold style, entertaining action, a wonderful cast, and plenty of craziness.  For more information, check out our review!

In Theaters: The Traitor
The Traitor is an Italian mob epic, with amazing acting, a brutal and compelling story, and perfect music that will keep you engaged until the final shot.  For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Playing With Fire
Playing With Fire takes a very funny cast, ridiculous situations, and lots of funny moments and tells a silly but heartwarming story that the whole family will love!  For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep pairs a stellar cast, with a big score, and enough nostalgia from the original movie to keep you entertained.  Whether you are a fan of the novel or have seen Kubrick's original masterpiece, you will thoroughly enjoy Doctor Sleep. For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Showtime): The Best of Enemies
A historical film starring two amazing actors playing very different characters, The Best of Enemies tells the story of the clash between a civil rights advocate and a leader in the local Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina during school integration.  This was an underappreciated film in theaters and should not be missed now!

Streaming (HBO): John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
John Wick Chapter 3 is an action-packed new chapter in the John Wick saga.  It has John Wick's trademark flair, brutal and imaginative action, and continues the assassin's story against ever increasing odds.  For more information, check out our review!

Review: Birds of Prey

Release date: February 7, 2020
Running time: 109 minutes
Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

After 2016's less than stellar Suicide Squad, DC decided to make a clean break from that movie's Joker... twice!  It made a dark, serious origin story in 2019's Joker; and it salvaged the best thing from Suicide Squad for a separate movie featuring Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn.  And wow was that a great decision.  Whereas the Joker is a dark descent into one person's madness, Birds of Prey is an explosive celebration of Harley Quinn's craziness and individuality.  After her final breakup with Mr. J, Harley Quinn decides to set out on her own.  However, she finds that life without the Joker is tougher and more dangerous than she originally thought.  She has to quickly learn some very dangerous lessons in order to survive in her new solo lifestyle.

The main draw of Birds of Prey is Robbie's fantastic portrayal of Harley Quinn.  She has the right combination of ruthlessness, humor, charm, and pure craziness to bring the iconic DC character to life.  Quinn is both predictable and unpredictable at the same time.  I'm glad that Suicide Squad was made because it gave birth to this badass lady who will hopefully appear in more DC movies.  Robbie is joined by an eclectic group of other leading ladies who are all insanely different making for an unlikely, but very interesting cast.  None of them are your typical villain or hero, but they each have their motivations for being pulled into the gravitational craziness that is Harley Quinn.  One is a cop who ends up investigating Harley, there is a singer and a pickpocket who both run into Quinn, and a vengeful assassin (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead who is especially engaging as the Huntress).  Each of these ladies' backstories are explored briefly; it is a nice touch but doesn't make you lose focus from the main star.   

However, outside of the stellar cast, Birds of Prey has style in droves.  There are bold color choices throughout that give the movie a comic book feel despite the realistic, New York setting.  Some scenes have splashes of color that pop off the screen; it's not in your face but it is enough to make you appreciate the comic book origins of this film.  Additionally, the costume choices--especially Quinn's--are bright and deliberate.  Birds of Prey also has a surprising amount of action, with varied and imaginative fight sequences.  The fight choreography is not lighting quick, but it is very creative, uses the unique environments and skills of the various characters, and will leave you very entertained.  Whether it's Quinn taking on a group of overconfident thugs, or an imaginative chase scene involving some pretty whacky antics, the action in this film delivers both fun and thrills.  And all of this is complemented by some really great musical choices, both atmospheric music and covers of known songs to fit this movie's style. 

Birds of Prey is a triumphant breakout for Harley Quinn, a wild celebration of this character filled with bold style, entertaining action, a wonderful cast, and plenty of craziness.  

Watch It