Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Film: Atomic Blonde

GENRE: Action
RATING: R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity
RUNTIME: 1 hour and 55 minutes
STARRING: Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, Fate of the Furious)
James McAvoy (Wanted, X-Men), John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)
DIRECTOR: David Leitch (stunt guy, upcoming Deadpool 2)
WRITER: Kurt Johnstad (300, 300:Rise of an Empire)
PLOT: A MI6 agent goes to Berlin during the Cold War to retrieve important spy documents.  

FULL DISCLOSURE: Expected John Wick type action.

STORY STUFF: Did not care for the story or the characters involved. Setting it just before the Berlin Wall comes down was interesting but not enough to pull me through. And here’s a tip spies, never consolidate all your agents and their identities into one file that can be stolen. Amateur hour.

ACTING STUFF: As I didn’t care about the characters, I found the acting just so-so. You can tell that Theron had trained for a long time to do the action sequences. But the character should be deeper than just some cool action moves.

ARTISTIC STUFF: Other than the action sequences there were two things that stuck out for me, in a good way. The soundtrack was loads of fun. Lots of eighties new wave stuff that fit nicely. It’s been a great summer of soundtracks. The other thing was the art direction of Berlin in the 1980s. Fun neon and other vibrant backgrounds.   

VERDICT: One and a half stars out of five
SEE IT IF: You have a crush on Charlize Theron
UPCOMING REVIEWS: 2017 Fall Television Preview

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Film: Dunkirk

GENRE: War, Drama
RATING: PG-13 for some language and intense war stuff
RUNTIME: 1 hour and 46 minutes
STARRING: Fionn Whitehead & Harry Styles (newcomers)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Tom Hardy (Inception, The Revenant)
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight Trilogy, Interstellar)
WRITER: Christopher Nolan (Inception, Memento, The Prestige)
PLOT: Trapped British soldiers need to be evacuated so England sends a bunch of regular boats.  

FULL DISCLOSURE: Didn’t know story but love Christopher Nolan.

STORY STUFF: Wow. I am surprised I never heard about this event in WWII before. It’s simply fascinating, intense and inspirational. Nolan does a deft job of showing three different timeframes at the same time and keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Not a single second is wasted in this story. Every moment counts. It’s amazing.

ACTING STUFF: Nolan peppers his cast with a couple of his favourites like Hardy and Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins), some fresh-faced newbies and a few acting heavyweights like Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet) and Rylance. It is important to mention that there is hardly any dialogue in this film. The drama comes from the looks on these faces. They will pull you in with their shows of fear, concern, morality and bravery. One of my favourites was Rylance as a father doing what needs to be done to save young soldiers. He has such an earnestness to him. It’s riveting.

ARTISTIC STUFF: There is a lot I could write about but there are two elements that wowed me. The first is the cinematography. Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar, Spectre) not only dazzles with some breath-taking aerial shots but also keeps us focused on the POV of our main characters. If they don’t know what’s going on outside the boat, neither do we. Creating that suspense kept me glued to the screen. The other element helping the suspense is the ticking time-bomb of Hans Zimmer’s (Inception, The Dark Knight) score. The actual ticking reminds you of the time constraints these soldiers are dealing with. It’s spellbinding.  

VERDICT: Five stars out of five
SEE IT IF: You have eyes and ears.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Film: The Big Sick

GENRE: Romantic Comedy
RATING: R for language
RUNTIME: 2 hours and 0 minutes
STARRING: Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, Portlandia, Burning Love)
Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks), Holly Hunter (The Incredibles, The Firm)
DIRECTOR: Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer writer)
WRITERS: Emily V. Gordon & Nanjiani (newcomers)
PLOT: A new couple deals with their cultural differences and then is interrupted by a coma.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Really enjoy Nanjiani work on Silicon Valley.

STORY STUFF: What a great story. Even better that it’s based on the writers’ real life. There are some good laughs but it’s not an outrageous comedy. There are some sweet romantic moments, but not too syrupy. There is some tense family drama but light enough to not make you squirm. The story is very well balanced. The last half hour drags a bit but because of the realistic responses, makes perfect sense. I hope the Academy remembers this script come Oscar time.  

ACTING STUFF: A very well cast film. Nanjiani and Kazan have great chemistry, which makes their relationship a treat to follow. Nanjiani has this great earnestness about him that makes this film so endearing. While Hunter’s protective Mama Bear routine works well, it’s Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) who steals the show when it comes to the parents. Nanjiani’s mother is also pretty awesome.

ARTISTIC STUFF: Not much to report here. It’s shot well and doesn’t distract which is a good thing. They do spend a bunch of time behind the scenes at a comedy club and I’ve been watching Crashing and I’m Dying Up Here so I’m actually getting a little tired of how things work backstage. But that’s totally just me. Some might find it really interesting.  

VERDICT: Four and a half stars out of five
SEE IT IF: You like a great romantic comedy and aren’t racist.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Film: Despicable Me 3

GENRE: Animation
RATING: PG for action violence and rude humour
RUNTIME: 1 hour and 30 minutes
STARRING: Steve Carell (The Office, Crazy Stupid Love, The Big Short)
Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters), Trey Parker (South Park)
DIRECTORS: Kyle Balda (Minions), Pierre Coffin (Despicable Me)
Eric Guillon (newcomer)
WRITERS: Cinco Paul & Jen Daurio (Despicable Me, Secret Life of Pets)
PLOT: Gru meets his twin brother and they join force to get revenge on an 80’s inspired villain.   

FULL DISCLOSURE: Love the minions and Agnes.

STORY STUFF: The story has some good moments, but the main plot I found meh. I was not engaged in the twin storyline as much as the writers probably wanted me to. I did enjoy the minions in jail and Agnes’ continued obsession with unicorns. They made me smile and laugh.

ACTING STUFF: Carell is fine and all as Gru and Dru, so is Wiig as Lucy but the real scene-stealer is Parker who has a lot of fun as Balthazar Bratt, a villainous former child star. You can tell the eighties stuff is more to appease the adults in the crowd but it works.

ARTISTIC STUFF: The animation doesn’t blow your mind but gets the job done. It’s still a well-made film with good production values.

VERDICT: Three stars out of five
SEE IT IF: You like the minions and can wait for their screen time.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Film: Spiderman - Homecoming

GENRE: Action, Adventure
RATING: PG-13 for action violence and some language
RUNTIME: 2 hours and 13 minutes
STARRING: Tom Holland (The Impossible, The Heart of the Sea)
Michael Keaton (Birdman, Batman), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man)
DIRECTOR: Jon Watts (Cop Car)
WRITERS: Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daly (Horrible Bosses),
Erik Sommers & Chris McKenna (Lego Batman Movie),
Christopher Ford & Watts (Cop Car)
PLOT: Peter Parker tries to juggle school life and going up against the Vulture as Spiderman.  

FULL DISCLOSURE: Love Spiderman, second only to Batman.

STORY STUFF: That was a lot of fun. I think what I enjoyed most was the fact that Peter Parker looks like a high school student doing teenagery things. The story moves at a great pace, has fun dialogue, well-made action sequences, loads of humour and interesting characters.
It also helps that Marvel is involved with its inclusion of Iron Man, Avengers aftermath and cheesy PSAs. Oh, and there are some fun twists. Don’t bother looking for them tough. Just enjoy.

ACTING STUFF: Holland is fantastic as Peter Parker/Spiderman. I liked Toby Maguire but Holland is perfectly cast. He has the right look, the right charisma (at times) and the right amount of insecurities as a new hero. Keaton surprised at his take on Vulture. He grounds it in reality by not just going the crazy route. He has a motive that makes sense. Jacob Batalon (newcomer) as Peter’s friend, Ned, is also well cast. I also liked how this version of New York seems to fit the racial diversity of the city without it feeling like it’s going the PC route. I will say it was weird to see Martin Starr (Silicon Valley) in such a straight-laced role.

ARTISTIC STUFF: It has all the artistic qualities you would expect from a Marvel film. Great action, cinematography, and general production value.  

VERDICT: Four and half stars out of five
SEE IT IF: You like Marvel films and enjoy a younger Spiderman.
UPCOMING REVIEWS: Despicable Me 3, The Big Sick

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Film: The House

GENRE: Comedy
RATING: R for lots of language, violence and brief nudity
RUNTIME: 1 hour and 28 minutes
STARRING: Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Daddy’s Home, The Other Guys)
Amy Poehler (Sisters), Jason Mantzoukas (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
DIRECTOR: Andrew Jay Cohen (newcomer)
WRITERS: Brendan O’Brien & Cohen (Neighbors)
PLOT: A graduate’s parents decide to join their friend and open an illegal neighborhood casino to pay for her tuition.  

FULL DISCLOSURE: The trailer looked funny.

STORY STUFF: The film is full of laughs. It is well paced and leaves you rooting for our heroes. The problem lies in the last fifteen minutes when it becomes clear that the writers/director don’t really know how to end the movie. It’s unfortunate because I was having so much fun until then.

ACTING STUFF: Ferrell and Poehler do an admirable job. We’ve seen them have fun with these types of characters before in previous films and SNL but it is always welcome. The real standout is Matzoukas who steals every scene he is in; his wild eyes and commitment to the role is outstanding. I felt bad for the funny Nick Kroll (The League) who is subjected to the thankless bad guy, a role Jeremy Piven would have played twelve years ago.   

ARTISTIC STUFF: It’s not going for artsy but they do have fun with some montages and slow motion shots. The soundtrack also has some ballin’ money and mobster songs.

VERDICT: Three and half stars out of five
SEE IT IF: You like Will Ferrell and enjoy outrageous situations
UPCOMING REVIEWS: Spiderman: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3

Friday, June 30, 2017

Film: Baby Driver

GENRE: Action, Crime
RATING: R for some language and violence
RUNTIME: 1 hour and 53 minutes
STARRING: Ansel Elgort (Fault in Our Stars, Divergent series)
Lily James (Cinderella), Jon Hamm (Mad Men, Million Dollar Arm)
DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World)
WRITER: Wright (Shaun of the Dead, The Adventures of Tintin)
PLOT: A young getaway driver with mad skills pays his dues and tries to escape a life of crime after a heist gone wrong.    

FULL DISCLOSURE: Hate the title; heard the car chases were awesome

STORY STUFF: I’ll admit it took me a little bit to get invested in the characters and plot but once I did, I was hooked. A well told story that is full of heart, fun and creative driving. It also has some fun dialogue. I mean ‘who doesn’t love hats’?

ACTING STUFF: You can tell that everyone is having fun making this film together. Hamm and Jamie Foxx (Ray) are lovin’ their bad boy personas as is Kevin Spacey (House of Cards). I wish Spacey’s leader had a bit more quirks to him. I’m not a huge fan of Elgort but he grew on me as the story progressed. I did not like his Han Solo-esque black vest on white shirt look though.  

ARTISTIC STUFF: There are obviously two things that stick out in this film: the driving and the music. The driving is incredible and full of sweet drifting and gear changes. I like how non-green screen it was. And it seems like Wright went the Tarantino route of picking his soundtrack before filming his script. Some of the gunfire even goes to the beat. The music is a beautiful mix of classic rock and quirky fun from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. There are some recognizable hits and some obscure gems. I really liked the opener ‘Bellbottoms’ by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and I was transported back to my youth with the stone cold rhyming of Young MC with ‘Know How’. This soundtrack gives Guardians of the Galaxy a run for their money.

VERDICT: Four stars out of five
SEE IT IF: You enjoy fast cars with a kickin’ soundtrack.
UPCOMING REVIEWS: Despicable Me 3, The House

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Film: Cars 3

GENRE: Animated
RUNTIME: 1 hours and 49 minutes
STARRING: Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, Zoolander)
Cristela Alonzo (Cristela – TV show), Chris Cooper (American Beauty)
DIRECTOR: Brian Fee (newcomer)
WRITERS: Kiel Murray (Cars), Bob Peterson (Up, Finding Nemo),
Mike Rich (The Rookie, Finding Forrester)
PLOT: As Lightning McQueen gets older, he needs to prove he can race with the new guys. 

FULL DISCLOSURE: Liked Cars, did not like Cars 2.

STORY STUFF: It’s a well-told story that entertains but is not at the same caliber of Pixar’s best. It follows the trilogy staple of going back to the original and getting nostalgic, which is nice. I felt a little bad for the residents of Radiator Springs who don’t get that much screen time this time around. The story itself is a nice blend of comeback training (like Rocky IV), mentor/mentee relationships (like Karate Kid), mixed with girl power (like Spice Girls?).

ACTING STUFF: Great voice acting all around. Wilson does a fine job as McQueen. Larry the Cable Guy continues to grab laughs as Mater. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black’s Big Boo) as brash Miss Fritter. Sad that Michael Keaton did not return as Chick; guess he’s busy.

ARTISTIC STUFF: Pixar animation is always amazing but there were a couple of scenes that blew me away. As they are driving to find Doc Hudson’s mentor, Mack goes over a bridge that looks like they put the animated cars on live footage; but it’s not live footage. These scenic backgrounds are breathtaking and so realistic. Kudos animators.

VERDICT: Three and half stars out of five
SEE IT IF: You liked Cars and appreciate well-crafted animation

Monday, June 26, 2017

2017 Emmy Dream Nominations

The official Emmy Award nominations are due tonight. The announcement happens in a couple weeks. Looking over the very long ballot, these would be my dream nominations for the upcoming Emmys. Many of these are long shots but its fun to dream.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series
·         Sterling K Brown as Randall Pearson [This Is Us]
·         Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz [Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD]
·         Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn [Homeland]
·         Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates [Bates Motel]
·         Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill [Better Call Saul]
·         Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood [House of Cards]

Lead Actress in a Drama Series
·         Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II [The Crown]
·         Elizabeth Henstridge as Simmons [Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD]
·         Rose McIver as Olivia Moore [iZombie]
·         Elisabeth Moss as Offred [The Handmaid’s Tale]
·         Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings [The Americans]
·         Robin Wright as Claire Underwood [House of Cards]

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
·         Aziz Ansari as Dev [Master of None]
·         Wyatt Cenac as Ozzie Graham [People of Earth]
·         Ted Danson as Michael [The Good Place]
·         Donald Glover as Earn Marks [Atlanta]
·         Thomas Middleditch as Richard Hendricks [Silicon Valley]
·         Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta [Brooklyn Nine-Nine]

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
·         Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop [The Good Place]
·         Zooey Dechanel as Jess Day [New Girl]
·         Vanessa Hudgens as Emily Locke [Powerless]
·         Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer [Veep]
·         Leighton Meester as Deborah [Making History]

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
·         Riz Ahmed as Nasir Khan [The Night Of]
·         Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes Sherlock
·         Alex Lawther as Kenny [Black Mirror: Shut Up & Dance]
·         Ewan McGregor as Ray/Emmit Stussy [Fargo]
·         John Turturro as John Stone [The Night Of]

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
·         Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle [Fargo]
·         Bryce Dallas Howard as Lacie Pound [Black Mirror: Nosedive]
·         Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright [Big Little Lies]
·         Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford [Feud: Bette and Joan]
·         Resse Witherspoon as Madeline MacKenzie [Big Little Lies]

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
·         Asia Kate Dillon as Taylor Mason [Billions]
·         Michael Kelly as Doug Stamper [House of Cards]
·         John Lithgow as Winston Churchill [The Crown]
·         Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson [Stranger Things]
·         Michael McKean as Chuck McGill [Better Call Saul]
·         Chris Sullivan as Toby Damon [This Is Us]

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
·         Carly Chaikin as Darlene [Mr. Robot]
·         Aubrey Plaza as Lenny Busker [Legion]
·         Maggie Q as Hannah Wells [Designated Survivor]
·         Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers [Stranger Things]
·         Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler [Better Call Saul]
·         Samira Wiley as Poussey Washington [Orange is the New Black]

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
·         Ken Hall as Jeff the Grey [People of Earth]
·         Manny Jacinto as Jianyu/Jason [The Good Place]
·         Jake Johnson as Nick Miller [New Girl]
·         Kumail Nanjianai as Dinesh Chugtai [Silicon Valley]
·         Sam Richardson as Richard Splett [Veep]
·         Eric Wareheim as Arnold [Master of None]

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
·         Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz [Brooklyn Nine-Nine]
·         Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler [The Big Bang Theory]
·         Aidy Bryant as Various Characters [SNL]
·         Melissa Fumero as Amy Santiago [Brooklyn Nine-Nine]
·         Kate McKinnon as Various Characters [SNL]
·         Cecily Strong as Various Characters [SNL]

Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
·         Bill Camp as Dennis Box [The Night Of]
·         Martin Freeman as John Watson [Sherlock]
·         Alfred Molina as Robert Aldrich [Feud: Bette and Joan]
·         Adam Scott as Ed MacKenzie [Big Little Lies]
·         Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner [Feud: Bette and Joan]

Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
·         Mackenzie Davis as Yorkie [Black Mirror – San Junipero]
·         Jackie Hoffmann as Mamacita [Feud: Bette and Joan]
·         Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Kelly [Black Mirror – San Junipero]
·         Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango [Fargo]
·         Shailene Woodley as Jane Chapman [Big Little Lies]

Writing for a Drama Series
·         Chicanery [Better Call Saul]
·         Assassins [The Crown]
·         Pilot [Designated Survivor]
·         R for Romeo [Homeland]
·         eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes [Mr. Robot]
·         The Animals [Orange is the New Black]

Writing for a Comedy Series
·         Streets on Lock [Atlanta]
·         Moo Moo [Brooklyn Nine-Nine]
·         Everything is Fine [The Good Place]
·         New York, I Love You [Master of None]
·         Five Minutes [Modern Family]
·         Groundbreaking [Veep]

Writing for a Limited Series
·         Big Little Lies
·         The Law of Vacant Places [Fargo]
·         And the Winner Is…(The Oscars of 1963) [Feud: Bette and Joan]
·         The Call of the Wild [The Night Of]
·         Sherlock: The Lying Detective

Drama Series
·         Better Call Saul
·         The Crown
·         House of Cards
·         Marvels’ Agent of SHIELD
·         Stranger Things
·         This Is Us

Comedy Series
·         Atlanta
·         Brooklyn Nine-Nine
·         The Good Place
·         Master of None
·         People of Earth
·         Silicon Valley

Limited Series
·         Big Little Lies
·         Fargo
·         Feud: Bette and Joan
·         The Night Of

The nominations are announced on July 13th.