Friday, July 20, 2018

Weekend Movie Guide

Lakeith Stanfield & Armie Hammer (r) star in Sorry to Bother You

First Reformed - 4 Stars. Grieving minister Ethan Hawke tries to counsel an environmental activist on the value of bringing children into our world. Tension-filled and thought-provoking.

RBG - 4 Stars. Inspiring life story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She's quirky, smart and determined.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? - 4 Stars. Touching biography of seminary student/turned television pioneer Fred Rogers.

Sorry to Bother You - 3½ Stars. Outrageous science fiction comedy satire, that starts in a telemarketing pit and goes from there.

Blindspotting - 3 1/2 Stars.  Brilliant mix of comedy, drama and hip hop.  Daveed Diggs must stay out of trouble to complete probation, but his friends don't help. 

The Death of Stalin - 3½ Stars. Funny but painful history lesson of the dance for power to replace the Soviet dictator, with outstanding performances by Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, and Simon Russell Beale.

Mamma Mia! Here we go Again---3 Stars---Irresistible  sequel to the Meryl Streep/Abba musical with all star cast.

Deadpool 2 - 3 Stars. More of the wisecracking, anti-hero superhero played by Ryan Reynolds.

Ocean's 8 - 3 Stars. Sandra Bullock masterminds a multi-million dollar heist with a gang of women you'd better not cross.

Avengers: Infinity War - 3 Stars. All of the characters in the Marvel Universe fight Thanos, who plans to depopulate the world. A Grand Opera approach to comic books, fans will love.

Eighth Grade - 3 Stars.  A young girl struggles in the age of technology.

Book Club - 2½ Stars. Four mature women begin reading "50 Shades of Grey" and things change. Great cast includes Jane Fonda, Candace Bergen, Diane Keaton, and Mary Steenburgen.

The Catcher Was a Spy - 2½ Stars. Based on true story of 1930s baseball player Mo Berg, who left sports for the CIA during World War II.

The Equalizer 2 - Run of the mill spy thriller gets a lift from Denzel Washington as an off the grid ex CIA operative. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp - 2 Stars. Uninspired sequel to the much better original.

Tag - 2 Stars. Childhood friends carry on a game of tag into middle age. Feels tedious, until the credits show video of the real guys involved.

Solo: A Star Wars Story - 2 Stars. Uninspired prequel to the 1977 original.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - 1 Star. Same old monster mash, only longer.

SICARIO: Day of the Soldado - Zero Stars. Violent sequel to a much better original. The ending made the audience laugh.

Blindspotting --- 3 1/2 Stars --- Opens July 20, 2018

"Blindspotting" tackles the issues of prejudice, black/white friendship, police shootings based on race, and gentrification with elements of comedy and hip hop. The result is one of the year's most challenging and brilliant films.  Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal play life long friends working as movers in fast changing Oakland, California.  Diggs is completing probation.  He has a few days left before he can move out of the halfway house where he lives and get on with his life.  His friends don't make staying out of trouble easy, which provides much of the comedy.  One night rushing to return before his curfew, he witnesses a white policeman shooting and killing a fleeing black man.    The event stays with Daveed and informs the story.  "Blindspotting" has genuine moments of sly humor.  The actors use hip hop to express their emotions.  They both grew up in Oakland and wrote this script as a love letter to their home town.  "Blindspotting" avoids sentiment and judgment.  This one's extraordinary.  "Blindspotting"  3 1/2 Stars. Rated "R."  Does it deliver what it promises?  Funny yet thoughtful story of our times.  Is it entertaining?  Brilliant mix of genres.  Is it worth the price of admission?  One of the year's must see movies.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - 3 Stars - Opens July 20, 2018

"Mamma Mia!  Here We Go Again!" dares you to resist.  I could not.  The plot mixes a prequel --- the story of how the Meryl Streep character came to the island where everyone sings Abba songs --- with a sequel --- the story of Meryl's daughter's quest to turn the rustic farmhouse where she grew up into a world class hotel.  The inter generational mix works thanks to deft editing and wonderful casting, especially of Lily James as the younger Streep as she might have been in 1979.  James has a delightful voice and plenty of charm as she meets and beds three handsome boys, one them the father of her daughter but nobody knows which one.  Amanda Seyfried returns as the daughter, taking her mother's place.  The film never runs low on energy.  Someone always breaks into song or tells a joke or knocks out a good one liner.  The grand finale includes a Streep/Seyfried Mother/Daughter ballad.  If that's not enough, Cher takes everything over the top.  I admit Cher felt a little cheesy but in hindsight, why not?  "Mamma Mia!  Here We Go Again" is an exercise in joy.  3 Stars PG-13.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Exactly.  Is it Entertaining?  Exactly.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Exactly. 

Eight Grade --- 3 Stars --- Opens July 20, 2018

Eight grade hasn't gotten any easier, especially in the age of social media.  Elsie Fisher plays Kayla, voted most quiet by her fellow classmates.  Raised by her single father, she posts little seen self help videos aimed at herself.  Early in the story she suffers the ultimate tech crisis:  a cracked i phone screen.  In spite of social media, Kayla longs to connect and as you can guess her attempts fall flat.  An invitation to a popular girl's swimming party brings back memories to us in the audience.  We've all been there and we all know things get better.  "Eight Grade" delivers that hope rising  above the usual coming of age story.  "Eighth Grade" Rated "R" 3 Stars.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Kids and social media and hope.  Is it entertaining?  Connects with your experience.  Is it worth the price of admission?  An eye opener.

The Equalizer 2 --- 2 Stars --- Opens July 20, 2018

Denzel Washington reprises his role as an off the grid ex-CIA operative presumed dead.  He's a vigilante with morals who tells his victims in advance why he plans to kill or hurt them.  The character's strong like Dirty Harry in the 70's.  The script takes the usual path, good men and women killed by those gone over to the dark side.  The story includes a former partner gone rogue, and a fight to the finish during a hurricane.  Washington's presence is so strong he manages to rise above the material.  "The Equalizer 2" - 2 stars - Rated "R."  Does it deliver what it promises?  Good versus evil and good wins.  Is it entertaining?  Strong Denzel performance.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Look for it as the in-flight movie soon. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Great Movies of 2018, So Far...

Chadwick Boseman stars in Black Panther

Halfway Thoughts: 10 titles I liked, between January and June:

1. Black Panther - Re-energized the superhero saga.

2. A Quiet Place - Horror/thriller. Stay quiet or get eaten.

3. Won't You Be My Neighbor? - Mr. Rogers on civility.

4. RBG - Explains Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

5. Thoroughbreds - Two spoiled rich girls plot a murder.

6. Tully - A new mother makes an unusual friend.

7. The Death of Stalin - Veep style satire, but historically accurate.

8. First Reformed - Ethan Hawke as a minister in crisis.

9. Sorry to Bother You - Wildly creative, funny, and revolutionary!

10. Hearts Beat Loud - Father/daughter bond with music.