Friday, December 22, 2023

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

My View: Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023) PG-13 In Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, having failed to defeat Aquaman (Jason Momoa) the last time, Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is determined to find the mythic Black Trident, a weapon that could help him defeat the man that killed his father. Aquaman must turn to his imprisoned brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) to defend his family and the world from irreversible destruction. I was not too fond of the first Aquaman film, feeling the film was too silly and only worked slightly because of the charm and charisma of Jason Momoa. This film is better than the first one but not by much. The film feels underdeveloped, and it takes forever to get going. Black Manta is back and is determined to get his revenge. He finds a magical trident that teaches him how to use ancient technology that is warming the world even faster than anyone thought would happen. Aquaman must turn to his brother, the same one he defeated and imprisoned. The plot gets complicated, the ancient technology somehow uses computers and another bad guy is supposed to be badder than the Black Manta. The film goes on too long, and the big finish is over in what seems like one mighty blow. I don’t think anyone other than Momoa will shed a tear that this will probably be the last of Aquaman. By the way, Amber Heard is in this as Aquaman’s wife/queen, but there is an Octopus named Topo who probably has more screen time than she does.   My Rating: Cable Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire (2023) PG-13 Kora (Sofia Boutella) is a stranger with a mysterious past, who, after crash landing on a moon, is allowed to start a new life among a peaceful settlement of farmers. However, an evil Regent named Balisarius (Fra Fee) and his cruel emissary, Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein), come to the settlement with the intent of destruction. Now, Kora must gather a group of insurgents and mercenaries to fight Balisarius and his army. This is a mess of a film. It feels like it should have been a series, not a two-parter movie. The film starts with a voice-over that tells us a story, one which I could not tell you what that story is. And that’s how this film begins. The film feels like it’s taken the plot from a terrible YA novel and then took out what made that novel almost work and thrown it away. We spend most of the film on a quest to find warriors throughout the galaxy who will join the quest with Kora to take on the evil empire. There is a story here somewhere, but it never finds it. I like Sofia Boutella in the role of Kora, and she makes a believable fighter who could take on an empire by herself. However, the rest of the cast is given almost nothing to work with, and the writing is so clumsily done, with virtually no hope of giving us any reason why anyone would join this sure-to-be hopeless quest. Besides characters that seem to change their minds in midstream, the film’s cinematography is so poorly done that it becomes a distraction. By the end of the film, I didn’t care about any of the characters or what will happen to them in the second film.   My Rating: Cable  Rebel Moon: Part One Website    Now playing on the Netflix platform.

My View: The Iron Claw (2023) R  The story of the professional wrestling family, the Von Erichs, who went from fame and fortune to horrible tragedy in just a few years. I have always been a big wrestling fan, and the Von Erichs were my favorite wrestlers of the 80s. They did something that no one thought could be done, filled football stadiums with wrestling shows, and took their brand of wrestling worldwide long before WWF and Vince thought it was possible. The story of the Von Erichs is one of tragedy, of Shakespearean proportions, as like a Shakespearian king, their father was a man who believed his sons were destined for greatness and nothing would stop them from becoming world champions. Like many Shakespearian characters, they were destined for greatness and profound tragedy. The film’s center is Kevin, played by Zac Efron, a son who never quite met the expectations of his father, Fritz, played by Holt McCallany. The film is filled with foreshadowing, as a black cloud always seems to hover over the Von Erichs, even when they succeed. Efron gives the best performance of his career as the son who wants to succeed, but is always to toe the line and do what Fritz feels is the best for his sons. As someone who watched the Von Erichs during their prime, I was a little disappointed in how Kerry was portrayed, and it’s not the fault of Jeremy Allen White; it’s that the film didn’t capture the charisma and larger-than-life presence of Kerry that we saw on our TV’s every week. The Iron Claw is a film where you know tragedy will strike. You just don’t know how hard. And by the way, the film takes some liberties with the story; there is another son, Chris, who is not shown in the film, and his story is probably the most tragic of them all. The Iron Claw is a film about wrestling, but it’s about family and the heavy weight of expectations that can never be fulfilled.   My Rating: Full Price  The Iron Claw Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: American Fiction (2023) R Monk (Jeffery Wright) is a writer whose last book wasn’t exactly a success. He is fed up with ‘Black’ entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. Monk decides to write a ‘Black’ book of his own, and much to his surprise, it becomes a big hit. Now Monk must play the part of a mysterious, anonymous, angry black writer, precisely whom he claims to disdain in real life. This is a film that is easily made in my top ten films of 2023, with a mesmerizing performance by Jeffery Wright and an original script that contains some incredible dialogue. American Fiction is a film that you will talk about long after leaving the theatre, and if Wright doesn’t get an Academy nomination, then there isn’t justice in the world. Wright is perfect as Monk, a man who feels that he embodies what a Black writer should be: intelligent, articulate, and confident. Unfortunately, this isn’t what the modern literary world is like anymore, and his writing style no longer sells books. The film is funny, touching, and filled with a plethora of compelling characters. American Fiction is a film that was a joy to watch from beginning to end, and it’s all because of the brilliance of Jeffery Wright.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  American Fiction Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View: Maestro (2023) R The love story chronicling the relationship of conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan). Leonard was a famous conductor because of his TV appearances and brilliant composing, but he had a secret that threatened his career and marriage. This is an ambitious film with performances that perfectly capture the man and the woman who loved and stood by him through good times and bad. Cooper is captivating as the talented but flawed man whose talent and charisma captured a nation at a time when television began dominating how we saw and understood culture and music. The film is worth the price of admission to see Cooper as Bernstein directs an orchestra for over 6 minutes in the movie, giving us the reason why everyone so loved Bernstein. While Cooper is perfect in the role of the man, it’s Carey Mulligan as the woman behind the man that makes this film work so well. Mulligan is captivating as the woman who falls for this brilliant man and is willing to bask in his shadow, even when he turns his back on her. It’s a moving performance that gives us a look into someone who was used to being in the spotlight but was willing to become part of the team Bernstein, who kept his legacy and his indiscretions away from the public, sacrificing themselves to keep Leonard’s fire of personality burring. Maestro doesn’t quite have the emotional punch as Cooper’s 2018 film A Star Is Born, but it’s still a magical ride into the world of music and the brilliance of a man who, for a time, had the world at the command of his baton.  My Rating: Full Price  Maestro Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: All of Us Strangers (2023) R Adam (Andrew Scott) lives in a London high-rise that is nearly empty. He meets what seems to be his only neighbor, Harry (Paul Mescal), a stranger who shows up at his door in the middle of the night. It’s a chance meeting that could change Adam’s life. This is one of those films that is hard to review because I don’t want to give away too much of the plot. Let’s say that what happens to Adam makes us question if what is happening is in his mind or is real. All of Us Strangers is a film about taking chances on love and finding a way to make things right from the mistakes of the past. The performances are brilliant, especially Andrew Scott, who plays Adam as a man who wants to love but has difficulty finding the guts to take a chance. The film is a beautiful and sometimes painful look at family, love, and finding forgiveness.   My Rating: Full Price  All of Us Strangers Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View: Anyone But You (2023) R Anyone But You starts when Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben (Glen Powell) go on a first date that has sparks at first, but then things happen that sour the two on each other. Now they have been unexpectedly reunited at a destination wedding in, of all places, Australia. Their exes are also there, so they do what two mature adults would do: pretend they are a couple. I had fun watching this film as the two leads make a good team together and have great chemistry. The story is a takeoff on Shakespeare’s As You Like It, with the couple trying to fool the rest of the wedding party into thinking that they are really into each other, even though they hate each other. We, of course, know this won’t last, and that’s part of the fun. Anyone But You is a fun rom-com that is a pleasant escape from all the Christmas films seemingly sprouting from every streaming service. It doesn’t hurt that it was filmed in Australia, though I have a feeling that it was shot during COVID restrictions, as we don’t see as much of the country as I would have liked. Still, this is a light, fun rom-com that doesn’t disappoint.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Anyone But You Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View
:  Poor Things (2023) R Bella (Emma Stone) is brought back to life by a brilliant but unorthodox scientist (Willem Dafoe) by putting a baby’s brain inside a grown woman. Bella is eager to learn and is whisked off to discover life by Duncan (Mark Ruffalo), a lawyer who only wants Bella for himself. Free from the prejudices of the times, Bella is about to discover her place in the world and her purpose, to stand for equality and liberation. Emma Stone is a force of nature in this film, and it could win her another Academy Award. It is hard to describe her performance because she goes from someone who can barely talk and walk to someone who is in control of both her body and her mind. It’s an astounding feat of acting, and it’s wonderful to watch. Now, I will warn you that you will see her character, Bella, have sex a lot. I mean a whole lot. There is a reason, and I won’t ruin it; it’s essential to the storyline. Still, it’s a bit of a shock. Mark Ruffalo is hilarious as the man who seduces Bella and then can’t keep up with her. Willem Dafoe, as the mad scientist (and he is mad), looks as if he is having so much fun in the role, and his character’s face is genuinely horrifying to look at. The story is beautifully told, and the set design, which is best described as steampunk meets 1900 European, is so much fun to look at and significantly adds to the film’s feel. Poor Things is one of the best pictures of the year. It's a strange and funny film filled with surprises and wonder, one I want to watch again. And did I mention that Emma Stone is pretty darn good in it?   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Poor Things Website   Now playing in theatres. 

Forgotten Film: Klaus (2019) PG Jesper (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) is an entitled man who thinks the world owes him a living because of his wealthy family. The Postal Academy has different ideas about Jesper and assigns him to a remote village without postal service for years. Jesper meets a huge, bearded woodworker named Klaus (voiced by J. K. Simmons), and the two start up an unlikely friendship. It’s a friendship that will start an amazing tradition involving gifts given throughout the world. Klaus is a beautiful animated film that never got the attention (or the theatrical run) it deserved. The story is fun, about friendship and how when things look hopeless if you believe, they might turn around and surprise you. Klaus is a delight for the whole family for your Christmas weekend and beyond.  My Rating: Full Price  Klaus Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Rebel Moon: Part One - A Child of Fire: Mechanical Teeth

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Argylle (2024) PG-13 Elly (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a best-selling spy novelist who rarely leaves home. On a train, she meets Aiden (Sam Rockwell), who tells her he is a real spy and has been sent to save her from being kidnapped. Elly is now living the life that she has only written about, and it turns out that her books are the key to saving the world. Elly and her beloved cat Alfie are plunged into a covert world where nothing and no one is as they seem. I can’t wait to see this film as it is reminiscent of one of my favorite films of the 80s, Romancing the Stone.   In theatres on February 2, 2024.  Argylle Website

Until Next Time!

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