Friday, July 19, 2019

Weekend Movie Guide

Zendaya and Tom Holland (r) star in Spider-Man: Far From Home

Rocketman - 4 Stars. Elton John's life played out to his music in spectacular segments. R-rated with no holds barred.

The Farewell - 3 1/2 Stars. Awkwafina returns to China to say goodbye to her terminal grandmother.  Funny, sad, and surprising. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco - 3½ Stars. Extraordinary visual poem about friendship, love, loss, and relation to home & place.

Yesterday - 3½ Stars. Himesh Patel as a struggling songwriter in a world where no one remembers The Beatles. Comedy mixes with science fiction and romance, just for fun.

Apollo 11 - 3 1/2 Stars.  Amazing footage of the amazing feat.

The Perfection - 3½ Stars. Thrilling horror/revenge extravaganza with Allison Williams & Logan Browning as cello prodigies. A worthy companion to "Get Out."

Booksmart - 3½ Stars. Pushes the edge of the usual last night in high school formula. Director Olivia Wilde keeps the energy high with a winning young cast.

Spider-Man: Far From Home - 3 Stars. Further adventures of the Marvel Universe. Kudos to Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya and Samuel L. Jackson and a creative plot.

Toy Story 4 - 3 Stars. More adventures of the gang we loved, in the almost 25-year-old original.

Shaft - 3 Stars. Sly update on the 1971 classic, with Jesse Usher as a third-generation millennial heir, to his tough guy father (Samuel L. Jackson) and equally tough grandfather (Richard Roundtree.)

Late Night - 3 Stars. Emma Thompson turns in a hilarious performance as a toxic late night host, who hires Mindy Kaling to satisfy diversity and gender concerns.

Pok√©mon Detective Pikachu - 3 Stars. Fans will love this rambunctious live-action comedy, with Ryan Reynolds voicing the furry star. 

The Highwaymen - 3 Stars. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play the Texas Rangers who hunt down Bonnie and Clyde. A fascinating twist on the 1967 classic.

Avengers: Endgame - 3 Stars. Fans will love this curtain call for all of the Marvel characters. Casual viewers will leave confused.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum - 3 Stars. Violent as Hell. I tried to resist, but I couldn't. Keanu Reeves as the hit man to end all hit men.

Aladdin - 2 Stars. Will Smith tries hard to recreate Robin Williams' iconic role in this live-action remake of the animated classic. The cartoon was fun: This remake feels like work.

Didn't See it, Don't Wanna See it:  In honor of my increasing grumpiness toward the new world of movies.

Godzilla:  King of the Monsters - Not in my world.

Men in Black International - Been there, seen that.

Crawl - See you later, alligator.

Stuber - No room in my brain for another dumb comedy.

The Lion King - Back for more cash. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Farewell - 3 1/2 Stars - Opens July 19, 2019

"The Farewell" gives Awkwafina another break out role as An Americanized Chinese born millennial returning to China for a final visit with her dying grandmother.  The result is funny and surprising and never sentimental.   
Awkwafina, now known for her break out role in "Crazy Rich Asians," tops that in "The Farewell."  She plays Billi, a Chinese born U.S. raised millennial returning to China for a last visit with her beloved Grandmother.  Word has arrived that Grandma has terminal Cancer.  The family vows to honor Chinese custom and not let the elderly matriarch know she's dying.  But will Americanized Awkwafina go along along with it? "The Farewell" strikes some funny truths about family and generations and never goes where you expect.  "The Farewell" is a summertime delight.

Friday, July 5, 2019

10 Movies I Liked During the First Half of 2019

Tom Schilling stars in Never Look Away

10. Late Night - Emma Thompson at her best, as a biting, late night talk show host with her career on the line. Mindy Kaling makes a plucky foil as the new and only female writer.

9. Yesterday - Delightful comedy romance about a world where only Himesh Patel remembers The Beatles. Hard-to-beat combination of music, romance and the price of fame.

8. Rocketman - Jukebox musical based on Elton John's life. Taron Edgerton sings great, and the production numbers make this sparkle.

7. Toy Story 4 - Pixar advances computer animation. Tony Hale creates a hilarious new character, and Tom Hanks adds gravitas.

6. Gloria Bell - Julianne Moore plays a modern day Mary Tyler Moore, who hilariously gets even with difficult boyfriend John Turturro.

5. The Perfection (Netflix) - Cello prodigies Alison Williams and Logan Browning combine "Me Too" with "Get Out" and fascinating story telling.

4. Us - Jordan Peele knows how to tell a story and throw in a twist. Lupita Nyong'o gives a master class in acting.

3. The Last Black Man in San Francisco - Jimmie Fails loves his home town and the house where his grandfather lived. A poem to place and family and longing for connection.

2. Booksmart - Olivia Wilde makes a smashing debut as a director. Kaitlin Dever and Beanie Feldstein delight as two smart girls who sew their wild oats the night before graduation.

1. Never Look Away - German epic about an artist's life before and after World War II. The best three-hour German subtitled epic you'll ever see.

At the Movies with Arch Campbell & Loo Katz - Spider-Man: Far From Home

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home Review - 3 Stars

"Spider-Man: Far From Home" picks up where "Avengers: Endgame" left off, with great humor and a compelling script. Marvel shows once again they know their audience, and they know their stuff. Rated PG-13, 3 stars.
Tom Holland makes Spider-Man easy to like in the Marvel Universe's latest epic "Spider-Man: Far From Home." Holland won me over as a geeky teen who just happens to have super strength and super powers. He and his high school friends embark on a summer tour of Europe, the better to provide global backdrops, including Venice, which you will not be surprised to learn gets blown to heck in an early battle. While not fighting towering water creatures or burning fire villains, our hero pines for Zendaya. They have great chemistry and make an extraordinarily cute couple. Marvel loads the front with an action tease and several laughs about the plot from "Avengers: Endgame" known as "the blip" - the dirty deed that wiped out several characters for several years. I loved the addition of Jake Gyllenhaal as "Mysterio," who lives up to his name. Samuel Jackson adds his usual sly presence. The writers manage to keep several subplots going. As usual, the final third builds to a fight to save the world and everyone in it. "Spider-Man: Far From Home" stages that fight with more than usual creativity. The credit sequences serve up a couple of advance scenes that drew oohs and ahhs and one final scene worthy of a "WTF." It's hard not to like the combination of acting, story, and special effects. If you're a Marvel fan, you gotta love it.