Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Review: Weathering With You

Release date: January 17, 2020
Running time: 114 minutes
Starring: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri 

From the creators of the critically acclaimed Your Name comes another beautiful, heartfelt animated journey.  Hodaka Morishima (Daigo) has run away from home to Tokyo.  Struggling to survive, he befriends Hina Amano (Mori), a girl with a special power.  Together, the two struggling teenagers survive and thrive in a Tokyo covered by perpetual rain.  

As you would expect from the team that brought you Your Name, Weathering With You is absolutely gorgeous.  The animation is crisp and beautiful, with a clean style that really helps to tell the story.  The film is mostly set in Tokyo, and from what I remember, it looks just like it.  Many of the buildings are recognizable and even some of the minor details like alleyways and housing evoke that special city.  Also what you would expect from a movie called Weathering With You, it has stunning weather.  From beautiful rays of sunshine to some torrential downpours and slow motion rain shots, the weather is as important to this story as the main characters are and is as beautifully animated as well. 

On top of the amazing animation, the music of Weathering With You contributes just as much to the story.  The lyrical songs are wonderful and fit what is going on in that specific scene.  However, there are sections of piano music that are beautiful and understated, yet come in at exactly the right time to set the mood and contribute to the moving story.  And the story itself, although a little quirky and dramatic, is a wonderful story about children maturing and finding their place in this world.  The characters and their struggles tell a beautiful, heartfelt story that will stick with you well after the movie's credits.

Weathering With You is an absolutely stunning film with amazing animation, incredible weather effects, and moving music that combine to tell a beautiful, heartfelt story.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: January 17, 2020

In Theaters: Bad Boys For Life
Bad Boys For Life brings the iconic duo back for another ride with enough nostalgia to please fans of the first films and enough humor, action, and new characters to start a new franchise. For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Gemini Man
Gemini Man is a beautiful action movie with some amazing CG, but unfortunately the rest of the film fails to entertain after the explosions have cooled.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Disney+): Aladdin
Aladdin is a fine remake of the animated classic.  It is not as good as the original movie, but Disney did a good job re-imagining the film and Will Smith's genie, though not as good as Robin William's portrayal, still has a lot to love about his character.  Smith makes the role his own, and has a fresh take on the character that is fun to see.     

Streaming (Netflix): Bad Boys
Prepare for Bad Boys for Life by going back to the classics.  Bad Boys was an entertaining film that took two charismatic leads at the top of their game and added a ton of Michael Bay explosions into the mix.  Plus, Bad Boys for Life has a lot of nostalgia so seeing the originals will help prepare you for those references.

Streaming (Netflix): Bad Boys II
The follow up to Bad Boys, Bad Boys II went bigger in pretty much every way.  Keeping the same amazing chemistry, Michael Bay went for bigger explosions in this perfect summer action fest.  Though not critically acclaimed, audiences loved the sequel and again, seeing it will help remind you of the nostalgia references in Bad Boys for Life.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Review: Dolittle

Release date: January 17, 2020
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen 

Dolittle tells the tale of a brilliant, eccentric doctor who has the rare ability to talk to animals.  However, because of past events, he has since become a recluse, preferring the company of his animal companions to the human world.  Dolittle is less of an origin movie and more of a rebirth film.  The movie starts with an animated history of Dr. Dolittle and explains why he has shunned the human world.  Then it opens after the man has already become somewhat of a recluse.  But an unexpected visitor or two lead Dolittle and his animal companions on an epic journey. 

Dolittle is accompanied on his journey by his young apprentice Stubbins (Harry Collett) and an all-star cast of voice talent including John Cena, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, and Tom Holland to name a few.  The sheer number of characters and the chaos that their animal actions cause is much funnier than I expected.  There are some silly moments for kids but also some genuinely funny moments for adults to enjoy.  

Dolittle's journey takes him to a couple of interesting places with their own animals and humans for the group to interact with.  However, the journey does feel drawn out.  The movie is an hour and forty five minutes, probably about the limit for a kids film, and it definitely feels like it.  You do visit some interesting places, but it feels like the movie lingers in those places for far too long.  It drags around the middle part and the end gets slightly ridiculous.  The ending does continue the theme of the film but the climactic encounter feels like its jumping the shark (unfortunately without a talking shark).  

Dolittle takes its all star cast and sends them on a journey with plenty of heart and funny animal and human moments. 

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Review: The Gentlemen

Release date: January 24, 2020
Running time: 113 minutes
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Hugh Grant

From the wild mind of Guy Ritchie comes a new complicated crime tale featuring a unique cast and plenty of twists and turns.  Marijuana king pin Mickey Pearson (McConaughey) is on top of his game and thinking of getting out.  However, as soon as he starts to look for options, everything goes wrong.  Be it potential rivals (Henry Golding) or clever journalists looking to make some money (Hugh Grant), Mickey and his right hand man Ray (Hunnam) will have to use all of their wits to stay kings of jungle.  

This movie has plenty of Guy Ritchie's trademark look.  From the very noticeable and perfectly done costumes, to the choice of shooting locations, and the great camera shots, this film oozes style.  The Gentlemen gangsters all dress and act impeccably, with crisp suits and calm words.  The interloping gangsters are less put together, but equally fitting.  And Colin Farrell's character has such an outlandish but perfect style that just endears you to him and his boys.  And I absolutely love scumbag Hugh Grant; scumbag Hugh Grant might possibly be my favorite Hugh Grant.  His character acts as a narrator to the film and he is such a breath of fresh air.  This style is also helped by a fantastic soundtrack that sets the mood.  The opening song sets a wonderful tone, one that is continued throughout.  

And the story is classic Guy Ritchie: it starts with a little nibble of information and weaves new characters, plots, and sub plots in as you take this incredible journey.  It is an interesting caper that has plenty of twists and turns and keeps drip feeding information that will have you wondering what will happen next.  And all of this is fueled by Ritchie's incredible and irreverent dialogue.  It is sharp, serious, and when it needs to be very clever.  Listen to every word because they're all important for the story.

The Gentlemen is classic Guy Ritchie: a fantastic cast acting in a complicated crime caper fueled by Ritchie's amazing style and sharp, clever writing.  Dignify yourself and don't miss this one.  

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Review: Bad Boys For Life

Release date: January 17, 2020
Running time: 123 minutes
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Alexander Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens

They're finally back!  After a 17 year hiatus, Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) return to play their iconic roles for one last ride.  However both Mike and Marcus are much older than their earlier, shoot first ask questions later selves, and must deal with the realities of their age, moving on from their past, but also confronting issues from it.  

The best thing about Bad Boys For Life is the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.  This was a draw of the original movies; the two personalities complemented each other and made for a fun dynamic duo.  And although we haven't seen them together in a very long time, and they are still natural as partners.  The two play off each other perfectly, Mike with his invincible, hot-headed demeanor and Marcus with his more cautious, humorous personality.  As with the original two movies, this levity helps break up tense scenes; Marcus has a knack for cracking a joke even when the gunfire erupts.  However, this time it is not just Marcus and Mike taking on the world.  They have the help of a new team at Miami PD who use the latest advances in technology to solve cases, rather than old school, brute force detective work.  It is a fun dynamic to see; Marcus and Mike are already dealing with growing older and having this young, crack team thrown in just amplifies this.  

And like the original films, Bad Boys For Life has plenty of humor.  The movie is genuinely funny.  Lawrence is the central focus of this, but other characters definitely add to the humor.  There are several legitimate laugh out loud moments that really help to break up some of the action scenes.  But those action scenes are quite good.  From the gun play to the intense chase scenes, this movie has enough action to keep you entertained.  And as you would expect from a sequel, the Bad Boys For LIfe is full of nostalgia.  From characters from the original films making appearances, to old songs and nostalgic shots, the film has plenty of throw backs to the original Bad Boys movies.  But, the best part of Bad Boys For Life is that the film also stands on its own.  It uses the nostalgia and plays off of it, but the movie itself is a wildly entertaining ride.  It is Bad Boys x Gemini Man x NCIS x Fast and Furious.  If that sounds appealing to you, you should definitely watch this new adventure.

Bad Boys For Life brings the iconic duo back for another ride with enough nostalgia to please fans of the first films and enough humor, action, and new characters to start a new franchise.  

Watch It

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Review: Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior

Release date: January 10, 2020
Running time: 131 minutes
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Kajol

Tanhaji: the Unsung Warrior tells the tale of Tanhaji (Devgn), a 17th century Maratha military leader.  He is a great warrior, leader of men, and family man; basically your typical Hindi action star.  Tanhaji volunteers to defend his kingdom against an invading force led by Udaybhan Rathod (Khan), who is hoping to conquer all of India for Emperor Aurangzeb.  

As mentioned, Tanhaji features a larger than life protagonist that personifies your typical Hindi action star.  He is a fearless warrior, general on the battlefield, devoted father, and also puts his country first.  It is a trope, but it can be effective at times.  Devgn is great as Tanhaji, pulling off this man with an understated strength and conviction.  Khan is likewise great as Rathod, a cunning, ruthless, conniving warrior leading the invading forces.  Again, another Hindi movie trope, where Tanhaji is wholesome and pure, Rathod is heartless and evil.  His only motivation seems to be killing and the enjoyment he gets from it.  And these two larger than life personalities meet in some grandiose battles.  Although not as epic as some war movies, the fights are complicated and have many facets to them.  And the build up to the final fight is surprisingly tense as you wonder whether all the moving parts will come together. 

So overall, enjoyable characters and action.  But, the large battles were distracting at times due to some less than believable CG.  From some of the battle wounds, to the battle animals, to the landscape that is being fought on, the poor CG pulls you out of the experience whenever it becomes noticeable, which unfortunately is pretty frequent.  Additionally, as already alluded to, the movie has a very black and white tone.  The good guys are pure, wonderful, and care about country over anything else.  The bad guys are unpredictable, backstabbers, and murder without care or concern.  It goes beyond their personas as well.  The Maratha's are all cloaked in white and bright colors, whereas the invaders only wear black or dark colors.  It is a little too polarized for my taste, as many of these historical stories have shades of gray in them. 

Tanhaji pits two larger than life warriors in an epic battle that culminates in a tense final encounter.

Rent It

Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: Ip Man 4: The Finale

Release date: December 20, 2019
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, Kwok-Kwan Chan

As its name implies, Ip Man 4: The Finale concludes the saga of Ip Man, the Wing Chun martial arts master and teacher of Bruce Lee.  In it, Master Ip Man (Yen) travels to America in order to find a foreign school for his son.  But he encounters an entrenched Chinese population in San Francisco dealing with the problems and prejudices of being an immigrant population in America in the 60s.  On top of this, Master Ip Man has his own problems to deal with while he hunts for a new life for his son.   

First and foremost, this movie should have good martial arts.  And thankfully, this is definitely a strong suit of the film.  Donnie Yen is up to the challenge and this movie has some pretty fantastic fight choreography with a variety of styles.  Yen is joined by some very talented martial artists to create some beautiful and brutal fight sequences.  However, what is also apparent from this film is that it is a love letter to classic martial arts movies.  From the yellow tint to the film, to the exaggerated dialog where even the English lines sometimes sound like bad English dubs, to the way that most problems can be resolved by one epic fight, this film invokes everything you loved about classic martial arts movies.

And don't get me wrong, I loved this movie and I especially love Donnie Yen's quiet, confident master.  However, there is a lot of overt racism in this film against Chinese and against white Americans.  I don't know how bad it was in the 1960s, so maybe this is all an accurate representation, but a lot of it seemed exaggerated for dramatic effect.  It definitely feels like a film where American culture is depicted in an overly exaggerated stereotypical fashion.  And, the underlying message of the film, that many disputes can be solved by a simple fight, seems like an outdated idea.  Again, I want to caveat that I loved this film and if this is a throwback to old martial arts films, it is a well done one.  However, if this is meant to teach lessons, then this might not be the best exemplar for life. 

Ip Man 4 finishes the epic story of Master Ip Man, with a wonderful love letter to classic martial arts film, with the exaggerated scenarios and amazing fights that you would expect from the Wing Chun master.

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