It’s HERE! Ever since 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ literal “cliffhanger” of an ending, I salivated at the thought of Episode VIII. Not only was I just exited because it was another Star Wars film, this film is directed by Rian Johnson. Who if you don’t know, is a fantastic filmmaker who is the man behind films like Brick and Looper. So I waited two long years, but I finally got to lay eyes on Star Wars: The Last Jedi last night. And after my first viewing I can safely say that I absolutely LOVE this film. Now, I don’t think this is a perfect film. But, god damn, I had a blast with this film. To get my negatives out of the way, without spoiling the film, the character of Finn and the newcomer Rose have a story line in this film that I thought screeched the film to a halt. It makes the film feel a little long because it drags. I do like the character of Rose, but I think their story line is pretty weak. While enjoyable, I was invested in other stories that made me wish that we were not watching what they were doing. I know that was very vague and I am just making sure I don’t spoil any thing for you guys. Now on to my positives. The performances in this film are the best I’ve ever seen in a Star Wars film. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, once again is fantastic. Daisy Ridley as Rey, as well such a great actress. But the obvious stand out to me is Mark freakin’ Hamill as Luke Skywalker. He is truly special in this film and that’s all I’ll say. Oscar Issac again is so much fun as Poe. He has a lot more to do in this movie and I was really happy to see that because I really liked him in The Force Awakens. Carrie Fisher, in her last performance as Leia due to unfortunate passing, is the best she’s ever been in a Star Wars film. Now the action in this film…..oh man. Some of the best action scenes in any Star Wars film. So stuff involving lightsabers made me so happy because there are shots and sequences that I have wanted to see for YEARS. That leads me into the cinematography. This is by far the most beautiful Star Wars film yet. Rian Johnson directed the hell out of this film and there are a couple shots in particular that are so strikingly beautiful that I want to hang on my wall like now. Now lets talk about the meat of the film. Without spoiling ANYTHING (I would never do that), this film takes a lot of risks. It does things with characters that I really wasn’t expecting. Twists and turns that I was constantly surprised. Now some of you, may not be on board with some of the risks they take. For me, and I think for most hardcore Star Wars fans like myself, will be. To me, the risks they take were EXTREMELY satisfying. And there is incredible fan service in this film. But, it’s not cheap fan service. It’s not like in Rogue One, where the fanservice happened and didn’t serve the story. The fanservice in this film serves the story. It’s there for a reason and bravo to Rian Johnson for brilliant writing for this film. The humor in this movie is very strong too. It’s a really funny movie there are a lot of jokes that hit hard for me. And yes the Porgs and crystal foxes are freaking adorable. This is a powerful, satisfying, fun, and emotional rollercoaster of a film. This is a Star Wars film that builds on the previous films so well while having a basis for the future that I can’t wait for and I can’t wait to watch this film about 5 more times in the theater.
‘Good Time’ stars Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, and Jenifer Jason Leigh and is also directed by Benny Safdie and his brother Josh. This is an indie film that is produced by the critically acclaimed company A24 and is about a bank robber (Robert Pattinson) spends a night trying to free his mentally ill brother (Benny Safdie) from being sent to Riker’s Island prison after a heist goes wrong. This is a film that was released in limited amounts of theaters in the late summer and was just released on VOD. I was hearing a lot of great things about this film. It got a lot of buzz coming out of the Cannes film festival and I decided to check it out and I am SO glad that I did. This film is dark, disturbing and INTENSE. This might be one of the best thrillers I have seen in quite a while. There are a ton of positives that I found in this film. First off, if you thought Robert Pattinson was just ‘okay’ as an actor, WATCH THIS MOVIE. Robert Pattinson is incredible in this film. Don’t be surprised if he just nominated for an Oscar for this film this year. The thing that makes his performance so amazing is that the character that Pattinson plays in this movie is a complete ASSHOLE. There is NOTHING redeemable about him other than he loves his brother and the fact that we are rooting for this guy is remarkable. And the reason we do is Pattinson is electrifying to watch. I was so blown away by his performance because I hate the Twilight movies and I haven’t been blown away in his other roles. This is his best work by far because if his performance isn’t as good as it is, this movie would not work. Next, the direction in this film is really cool. This film’s cinematography highlights the neon-drenched, dark, gross, side of New York City, in a kind of beautiful way. The Safdie brothers injected some high-quality intensity in this. The first thirty minutes of the film are pretty much perfect. It’s an incredible set up for the characters and it’s extremely intense. But what I like most about this film is its kind of unconventional. There are not a lot of films that I can think of that make the audience root for a complete ASSHOLE as a protagonist. And when the film ends, it adds a whole other layer to the film that makes this film more than just a really intense real-time thriller. Last positive, I LOVED the soundtrack! It’s such a cool electronic score, in the vein of the film ‘Drive’. As for negatives, there is a point in the film in the second act where the film drags a little bit, and then it picks up again but just that 15-minute segment in the middle I thought wasn’t as strong as the rest of the film. But other than that, I think if you like THRILLERS and want to see a great electrifying performance I would highly recommend this film and will probably be in my top ten films of the year list.
‘Justice League’ is a small indie film that stars Ben Affleck, Gal Godet, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, and Jason Momoa and is about Batman aka, Bruce Wayne, Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act from ‘Batman V Superman’, he enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman, to face an even greater enemy, by joining forces with Arthur Curry aka Aquaman, Victor Stone aka Cyborg, and Barry Allen aka The Flash. This is obviously one of the biggest films of the year. My relationship with the DC films has been a rocky one. I really liked ‘Man of Steel’, I honestly liked ‘Batman V Superman’, I HATED ‘Suicide Squad’ and I LOVED ‘Wonder Woman.’ So I kind of went into this film with low expectations. I was preparing myself for disappointment because at the writing of this review this film has a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes. And I’m here to say that….the critics are being way too harsh with this film. Is this film perfect? No. Not at all. BUT, I’m not going to lie, I had a blast with this film. DC and director Zack Snyder (and Joss Wheadon) take a more light and “fluffy” approach to this film. They are obviously trying to make their new films lighter than their older films. This was apparent with Wonder Woman as well. So the positives that I found in this movie, are quite slim but they are important. This movie works for one reason in my opinion. It’s the Justice Leauge themselves. They are all fantastic. Ben Affleck remains my favorite incarnation of Batman (Ooooo controversial). I love everything about his portrayal of Bruce Wayne and this film continues to confirm that. I loved Gal Godet as Wonder Woman in her solo film, and she is probably the heart and soul of this film. She’s truly exceptional. Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, The Flash, is probably the standout in this film. He’s very funny and he gives a really charismatic performance and he made me want to see his solo film as soon as possible. Jason Momoa is badass as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher is good as Cyborg. But what is truly great about everyone is their chemistry with one another. It is great and my favorite scenes in the film are when they are with one another interacting with one another. I thought the dialogue was witty and since all these guys and gals are giving great performances, it really works. Zack Snyder directs the hell out of the action scenes in this film. They’re great. But I was expecting that. Now I have more negatives. The biggest one being, this film feels RUSHED. This film is 2 hours long. That’s pretty short for a film like this. I felt like I was on a freight train. It goes from scene to scene and there were a ton of scenes that needed to breathe because there are a lot of great scenes in this movie! I just wanted them to be longer. The villian….is terrible. But to me, that’s not that big of a deal. I don’t really care about the villain in these films because I care more about the heroes. But it is a problem because if they had a stronger villain it would make it a stronger film. Back to the pacing, in the beginning of the film it feels like a series of vignettes. It is EXTREMELY choppy. And that’s kind of all I can really talk about without spoiling this film. It is a very choppy film, but very entertaining. There are great moments of greatness that show what the DC universe can do and while I don’t love this movie, I think this is a very good step in the right direction for DC and Warner Bros. And just a last positive when Superman appears in this film….it is AWESOME. My favorite scene in the film by far.
IT’S HERE. IT’S FINALLY HERE!!!! Short review: Dear Duffer Brothers, I LOVE YOU. The end.
No, but seriously, I was salivating at the thought of a season two of this show. Like most people, I fell in love with ‘Stranger Things’. Mostly because it caught me completely off guard. I knew nothing about this show when season one came out and I got recommended it from just the buzz off the internet. Then I watched it all in like two days and I fell in love with the kids and just the feel of the show. It literally captured some of my favorite stories and films from the 80s all in one show. Spielberg films, Stephen King stories, and coming of age films from the decade are just some of the obvious influences of the show. All the characters I was in love with and I felt like I was playing Dungeons and Dragons with Mike, Dustin, Will, and Lucas. And plus this show was just so damn fun. Now, when I originally heard that there was going to be a season 2, I hesitated. Because I loved season one so much and I really did not want the ‘sequel’ to tarnish the original. SPOILER: It does not. This season is better than season one. ‘Stranger Things 2’ does everything a season two of ‘Stranger Things’ should have done. Dial the 80s nostalgia up to 11, check, introduce more awesome and fascinating characters into the mix, check, more back story for “Eleven”, check, ghostbuster costumes, check, and finally develop the existing characters with an even more emotional weight to them, check. I was blown away of how this surpassed the first season in every way.
This season picks up a year after the events of the first season. And I swear to you it’s like the Duffers didn’t miss a beat. It’s so obvious that they have the style of the show down pact. I obviously don’t want to spoil anything about the show, but in order to talk about season two’s plot, I have to SPOIL something for season one so just a warning here. So as you know they got Will out of the upside down and Eleven is stuck in the upside down in the end of season one. We meet Will and the gang during Halloween, but things are happening to Will….strange things. Like I said the direction in this show is fan-freaking-tastic. The Duffer Brothers, Shawn Levy, and now a newcomer to the series Andrew Stanton all do an incredible job. I was SO happy to see Stanton involved with this show. If you don’t know Stanton is a regular at the animation studio Pixar and has directed some of my favorite films of theirs like “Wall-E’ and ‘Finding Nemo’. The performances are just as good here as they are in season one. All the kids are just so great. I want to hang out with them all so bad. But obviously, Millie Bobbie Brown who plays ‘Eleven’ steals the show again. She is truly a special talent. When she matures and becomes an even better actress, she is going to be HUGE. Winona Ryder is back as Joyce and she’s even better in this season. You can tell that she learned a lot from the first season of playing this character and she knocks it out of the park again. David Harbour as Hopper again is another standout. The thing about this show is there is no weak link. Everyone is great. The new characters are great as well. I love Max who is a new girl in town who gets involved with the gang and she is great. But I was so excited that I heard Sean Astin was going to be part of this season. I’m a huge fan and I loved him as Bob in this season. Another major pro of this season is the pace of it. With the exception of one episode, (that I will talk about later), this show didn’t really have a “filler” episode. Each one of the nine episodes propelled the story along with interesting and super fun plot elements. I was so surprised that I liked mostly EVERY turn and risk that the plot took in this season. My favorite episodes by far were MADMAX, The Spy, and The Mind Flayer. As for negatives, I think most people who have seen the season know what I’m going to say. Episode 7: The Lost Sister was a weak point for ‘Stranger Things’. In my opinion, it is the worst episode that ‘Stranger Things’ has done so far. The execution of that episode was very weak. And I wasn’t a huge of the style that the director chose to do in the episode. While I liked the concept of the episode, I just think they failed at executing it to their fullest. But other than that I FREAKING LOVED THIS SEASON! Bring on season three!!!
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I thought this would be an absolutely perfect opportunity to discuss my favorite film to watch during this time of year. As many of you know, ‘Halloween’ came out in the year 1978 and changed the horror landscape forever for the better as well as for worse. In this review, I’m going to discuss why I feel ‘Halloween’ is the best movie you can watch on this awesome day as well as hopefully giving some insight into why this film is so revered and is celebrated over 30 years later. And also maybe explain why I like horror so much. Because I have a lot of friends that just don’t understand the horror genre. HOPEFULLY, I CAN CHANGE THEIR MINDS AND MAKE THEM ENJOY HORROR! If you don’t know the story of ‘Halloween’, the film is about Michael Myers 15 years after murdering his sister on Halloween night, he escapes his mental asylum to his small hometown to kill again. This film was directed by horror LEGEND, John Carpenter. He is also behind another one of my favorite horror films, ‘The Thing’. And this was the debut role for Jamie Lee Curtis, who is the original “scream queen”. What I love most about this film and what I think makes this film so timeless is the atmosphere that this film builds as well as the AWESOME killer with Michael Myers. Before going into the incredible direction in this film, I must stress how great the character of Michael Myers is. The best thing about him is that their many questions asked about him. Is Michael Myers just a crazy guy? Or is he a supernatural force? Carpenter gives us just the perfect amount of back story on this guy and shoots him in an almost ghostly way creating the blurred line between human and supernatural. The more little you know about the killer the scarier he is. And obviously, Carpenter created an ICON. Whether you’ve seen the film or not, you know exactly what Michael Myers looks like. Back to the atmosphere, this film just makes me feel so cozy inside. Fall is my favorite season and I love Halloween and the spirit around it in suburbia. It reminds me of my childhood. So watching this on Halloween or during the fall season is the perfect time to watch it. And probably the most important thing that Halloween did for cinema, it created the modern-day slasher film. Many tropes that you see in modern slasher films, ‘Halloween’ started it. Teenage victims, the scream queen, punishing teens for using drugs and sex, and of course the theme song. Another great about this film is, of course, the scares. While I don’t find this movie quite terrifying, there are a lot of creepy shots that I love. I don’t want to spoil any of the iconic shots in this film so I’ll just leave it at that. The scares are a lot of fun and this film isn’t very gory so If you want something scary with not a lot of gore, I would recommend this film. Long review short, this is a very iconic and fun horror film to watch during this time of year. It obviously is a hugely influential film and launched a crap load of sequels(Most of which are HORRIBLE). Without this film, we wouldn’t have gotten things like ‘Friday the 13th’ or ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ franchises.
So after talking about ‘Halloween’, I wanted to answer a question that I get a lot from friends. Why do I enjoy horror films? Why does anyone enjoy horror? Horror is one of the most popular genres of film in the modern age. Just look at the box office. Just this past month, “It” has made TRUCKLOADS of money. And “Happy Deathday” is doing well too in the box office. So why? In my opinion, I think it is very related to comedies. Why do we go to comedies? To laugh of course! Laughter is a visceral reaction that when done well can make an auditorium full of people have a great experience together. Fear is the same thing. There is something about getting goosebumps in fear in a theater. Having that experience with a group of strangers is a beautiful thing in my opinion. To me, horror movies are like roller coasters. In a great horror film, (like ‘The Shining, for example), I honestly get the same reaction that I do in a rollercoaster that I do in a horror film. And personally, I like scaring people. As an inspiring filmmaker, our job is to create reactions. it’s our job to get you to react and have several feelings watching a film. And the best way to do that is by scaring people.
‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ is directed by indie darling Noah Baumbach and stars Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Thompson. This film is streaming on Netflix only. I was looking forward to this because I really enjoy most of Noah Baumbach’s movies like Francis Ha and While We’re Young, And I call myself an Adam Sandler apologist. Growing up, I loved his comedies like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison and I just really like watching him on-screen. So I’m not a Sandler hater. He has a place in my heart. So I am always really excited to see him in something that’s not his brand of crappy comedy that he does nowadays. ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ is another great movie in Baumbach’s career. This film is about an estranged family (the Meyerowitz family), who all gather in New York City to celebrate their father’s artistic work. That is just the set up of the film. There are a lot of layers and things that happen between the characters that I don’ t want to discuss because I think they are really compelling and I want you to experience them on your own. The strongest part of the film to me by far is the screenplay. Baumbach wrote a really riveting and engaging script. This film is filled with witty dialogue and great humor. The characters that Baumbach wrote here also are great. Each one of the characters in this film is fleshed out and compelling. And the relationships between that each family member in the family, particularly the two brothers Danny and Matthew (Sandler and Stiller) and their father played by Dustin Hoffman have is really compelling. The performances here are just as strong as the screenplay. Adam Sandler gives a great performance in this film. I know that’s shocking but hear me out. When he does drama he can be REALLY good. I first noticed this in a film called ‘Reign Over Me’. And I always thought he was really strong in the dramatic parts in the Judd Apatow film about stand up comedy ‘Funny People’. He is great because you can really tell that he is the son of Dustin Hoffman, who is also great as always. Sandler mimics a lot of Dustin’s mannerisms and it’s extremely believable that he is the son of Dustin’s character. Ben Stiller, also, is great in this movie. He is starting to dive more into dramatic roles and he’s always been good at them in my opinion. This isn’t a straight-up drama there is plenty of dry humor and signature Baumbach humor that I really liked. Baumbach’s direction is great as well. As a director, he reminds me a lot of a young Wes Anderson with the certain quirks that Baumbach includes in his films. The only issue that I found in this film is that there are a couple of scenes that I felt went to long and a couple scenes/moments that were odd and pulled me out of the film. I originally wasn’t going to review this film but I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this film and I thought I should direct you to it. It’s streaming on Netflix right now and I definitely recommend it. And it’s finally an Adam Sandler movie that doesn’t completely suck!!
‘Blade Runner 2049’ is the sequel to the cult classic science fiction film ‘Blade Runner’ from 1982. But more importantly, this film is directed by Denis Villeneuve. He has been behind some of my favorite films of the last 5 years. Those films being Arrival, Enemy, Prisoners, and Sicario. And it stars Ryan Gosling. A tour de force in acting right now and probably the best actor of his generation right now. Also, Harrison Ford. Who doesn’t like Harrison Ford? If you don’t….what? So this film had all the ingredients to be incredible. And I just saw it and OH MY GOODNESS. Denis KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE FREAKING PARK AGAIN!! This film is a film geek’s dream. This film is thought-provoking, absolutely GORGEOUS, and emotional. The performances in this film are incredible. Ryan Gosling as ‘K’ is…..well great. At this point, I don’t expect anything else than greatness from him. Jared Leto as ‘Wallace’, Harrison Ford returning as Deckard, and Ana de Armas as ‘Joi’ are all great as well. But a standout is Sylvia Hoeks as ‘Luv’. I’ve never seen her in anything else but this is a breakout performance for her. She was awesome. While the performances were great, it’s the characters that writer Hampton Fancher and Michael Green create which makes it compelling to watch. I don’t want to go into the plot at all of this film because I think it’s best for you to go in completely blind and experience this eye-gasmic 2 hour and 45 min experience. This is why we go to movies. To see movies like this. To emerge in a new world and to be invested in a great story and get lost in it. This is truly the true embodiment of cinema. With that being said, this is a deliberately paced science fiction film. Do not expect a lot of action scenes or anything like that. This is a film about humanity….and what makes us human. Please go watch this movie. This is going to spark conversation with the party that you see this without a doubt. I would recommend seeing the first Blade Runner from 1982 before seeing his film. This film does stand on its own, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the world of Blade Runner and certain characters. This is one of my favorite films of the year and I hope you go see it and enjoy it as much as I did. Lastly, if cinematographer Roger Deakins doesn’t WIN the academy award for cinematography…..the oscars will become dead to me.