Movie Review: The Invisible Man

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Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) has the strange feeling she is being watched in Leigh Whannel’s timely yet disappointing rendition of The Invisible Man. (Source: Cinema Blend)

Do you remember the disastrous 2017 version of The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, was only the beginning of a new cinematic universe?  Do you also remember that the Dark Universe cancelled its other entries after the film’s failure? Do you ALSO remember that Johnny Depp was originally attached to play the titular Invisible Man? 

Now–Universal Studios has decided to reboot their classic monster movies from the 1930s without a hint of the Dark Universe. Australian filmmaker Leigh Whannel, known for writing the screenplays for Saw and Dead Silence, directing Upgrade, and stealing the show as a paranormal investigator in the Insidious movies, has adapted H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name. Unlike other adaptations from the past (the original 1933 version and the 2000 film Hollow Man), this latest version of The Invisible Man is a timely allegory of the #MeToo movement. Holding a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.6/10 on IMDb, I am amazed how much people actually liked this movie. I cannot agree any less.

Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), an architect from San Francisco, escapes from the abuse of her wealthy boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), an optics scientist. She lives with her good friend/police officer James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). One day, she gets news that Adrian has committed suicide, leaving $5 million under her name. However, Cecilia doesn’t believe he died. Because of this, she starts noticing bizarre occurrences of an invisible presence has arrived to terrorize her. Her sanity becomes tested when she is eventually checked into a mental institution. 

It’s clear the movie has similarities to Steven Soderbergh’s 2018 film Unsane, I could write a whole book about it. But–the plot above is more than enough. The first half-hour had promise; the opening scene is fabulous and there are some suspense-filled moments. However, the narrative is riddled with plot holes bigger than the tunnels in Boston, characters making stupid decisions as an excuse to keep the film going, and there are plenty of twists and turns I could see from a mile away. Not to mention, the effects look fine…maybe in the late-1990s. Moss does a rock-solid job, but can we please give her a lead role in a charming, light-hearted romance film for once?

4.5/10

Movie Review: Impractical Jokers: The Movie

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The Impractical Jokers hit the road in their first-ever feature-length adventure. (Source: TV Insider)

I was introduced to the show Impractical Jokers five years ago from someone in high school. The hidden-camera reality show following four 40-somethings from NYC–Brian Quinn, Sal Vulcano, James Murray, and Joe Gatto–who partake in challenges where they must do and say whatever they are being told while wearing an earpiece. Whoever loses the most challenges by the end of each episode has to endure in a humiliating punishment without backing out. The surprisingly popular series on truTV has recently reached a milestone–200 episodes over the course of eight years. With every challenge and punishment getting worse over the years, the show never fails to make me laugh.

Being a long-time fan, a feature-length adventure featuring the four Jokers sounds too good to be true. Apparently, Impractical Jokers: The Movie has hit theaters nationwide after a successful run in selected cities; cashing in at over $2 million on its opening weekend. The movie has plenty to offer for massive fans.

In the 1990s, Joe, Sal, Murr, and Q sneak into a concert featuring the one-and-only Paula Abdul (playing a fictional version of herself). Of course, it all goes horribly awry. Years later, they all agree to correct the past by going on a road trip to see her perform in Miami. Here’s the problem: She only has three VIP passes. 

Driving in Q’s old Crown Victoria, they decide to do their usual challenges on their way down–from sharing strangers their horrible eulogies in DC to attempting to get a job with the Atlanta Hawks by doing and saying whatever they are told. Whoever loses the most challenges will not be able to attend the concert.

Impractical Jokers: The Jokers is no Citizen Kane, but it’s never boring to see four man-children mess with each other like the good-ol’ days. The scripted sequences, although funny, feel a little forced at times. There are plenty of callbacks from the show that will get a laugh out of fans. The challenges in this definitely serve their purpose for being too humiliating for television, and they hit it right on the money! I walked out of the theater with my face sore from laughing so much. Who knew Paula Abdul would make an intimidating villain?

8/10

Also, whoever hates the Impractical Jokers, I have one thing to say…

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SUCK IT! (Source: GIPHY)

Movie Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

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Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) adopts a hyena in her highly-anticipated solo film Birds of Prey. (Source: WhatCulture)

Harley Quinn made her silver-screen debut in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Although far from good, Margot Robbie easily stole the show with her dark, offbeat humor and her insane nature. She was so good that Warner Brothers and DC decided to make a spin-off. Joker and Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn are the only movies in the DCEU to influence the films of Martin Scorsese. The newest entry in the DCEU is miles better than Suicide Squad, but it comes across as disappointing.

After the events of Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn (Robbie) breaks up with the Joker (good riddance). She takes up roller derby and adopts a pet hyena. Meanwhile, a new crime boss arrives in Gotham City in the form of Roman Sionis a.k.a. The Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), who rips faces off of his victims. After putting a target on her back, Harley must join three other vigilantes–Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), The Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to take him down and save a young girl named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

The movie isn’t as awful as one would expect. Robbie still gives a lot of her sassy energy with a rougher edge, even though it looks as if she got her wardrobe at Hot Topic or Spencer’s. However, the supporting characters have a lot more backstory than its protagonist. I particularly enjoy Winstead’s Huntress, who is out for vengeance after dealing with a dark past. Whenever a movie is not entirely good, it’s always great to see McGregor having a blast. This movie is no exception.

Birds of Prey has a similar structure to Deadpool, where it doesn’t shy away from its self-awareness. When it overdoes it, the movie comes across as a little awkward (not to mention the abundance of narration). The pacing is all over the place–ranging from a dark mafia film to a quirky, lighthearted action film with cartoonish violence–which worsens the flow of the narrative. Although there are fun action set pieces (including one set inside a prison), the last act feels anticlimactic. It’s a messy film with bright spots here and there.

5.5/10

Movie Review: The Gentlemen

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Mickey Pearson pulls a gun in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen. And also, don’t EVER mess with Matthew McConaughey! (Source: Cinema Blend)

Fresh from directing the live-action version of Aladdin, writer-director Guy Ritchie returns to his roots of adult R-rated crime-thrillers. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are two from his filmography that have become smash hits in the UK and cult classics in North America. Those films showcase Ritchie as “The British Tarantino”, with his dark wit and unexpected violence. The Gentlemen, his latest film that received modest box-office returns in the U.S., definitely deserves its R-rating, which is laden with profanity, graphic violence, and comedy.

Born in poverty in Texas, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) owns the biggest marijuana empire in London while attending Oxford University. If anyone crosses the line, Mickey might put a bullet in their skull. He decides to sell his business to live a happy life with his wife Rosalind (Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery, who replaced Kate Beckinsale days after shooting began). This causes a chain of events: from a group of gangsters attempting to get a piece of him to a flamboyant Cockney private detective named Fletcher (a scene-stealing Hugh Grant) investigating the entire situation, typed as a screenplay.

There is plenty to like in Ritchie’s return to adult comic-thrillers. There is enough tension to keep the film afloat. However, the razor-sharp wit and lightning-fast pacing of Ritchie’s writing and directing is what makes The Gentlemen all the more worth it. 

The all-star cast, that also includes Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, and Jeremy Strong, has pitch-perfect timing with humor and being badass. McConaughey (who refuses to play roles with any accent other than his native Texas twang) gives enough suave energy wearing a variety of suits and showing off his violent nature. Charlie Hunnam, who worked with Ritchie in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, has never been better playing Mickey’s right-handed man who does Fletcher a favor of pitching his script. Dockery’s Rosalind is easily the opposite of Lady Mary, who never looked more badass than holding a tiny golden pistol. This movie also serves as a good audition for Golding to potentially be the next James Bond.

The biggest drawback is the conclusion being a mess. Nevertheless, The Gentlemen still has twists, turns, and plenty of dark humor. The constant racial slurs might not be for everyone’s liking, which is understandable. But–there is nothing more than having a good time with a new release so early in the year. I have a feeling this is going to gain a cult following for years to come.

8.5/10

Movie Review: Troop Zero

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Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) tries to make her dreams a reality in Troop Zero, the latest Amazon Prime original film. (Source: The New York Times)

Troop Zero, the sleeper hit at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, has finally hit the smaller screens of Amazon Prime Video The preview has promised an average family dramedy set in the South after the Civil Rights Movement. The female-writing duo Bert and Bertie adapt their directing debut from the 2010 play Christmas and Jubilee Behold The Meteor Shower, written by Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild). It showcases a timely story of female empowerment, but I wish the movie moved me more than it should have.

Set in Georgia in 1977, Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) is a quirky 9-year-old girl obsessed with outer space after the death of her mother. She is offered the opportunity of a lifetime to join the Birdie Scouts Jamboree, a talent show where the winners can have their singing voices be put on a Golden Record to be played on the Voyager spacecraft. As an outsider among her peers, Christmas goes out of her way to create her own troop of misfit kids to get one chance to have her voice heard.

It’s hard not to admire the vintage production design. The attire, the cars, and the architecture are all on-point. The themes involving death are surprisingly handled with maturity. Grace, who has impressed me since the 2017 film Gifted, never ceases to amaze with her charm and energy. She leads a terrific diverse cast including Allison Janney, as Prinicipal Massey who assigns the troop, and Viola Davis as Miss Rayleen, who works for Christmas’ father’s (Jim Gaffigan) law practice in his camper and eventually becomes the head of her troop to earn enough badges in order to compete in the talent show. Its cutesy, sugar-coated nonsense is enough to make up for its flaws.

Although the second act of Troop Zero hits right at home, the uneven tone, awkward attempts at humor, and its familiar narrative all falter a bit. Nevertheless, it’s still a rock-solid movie that families with older kids will find some enjoyment during the winter. Not to mention, the soundtrack is top-notch. There is a scene that pays tribute to the beginning of Reservoir Dogs, where our protagonists walk in slow-motion to George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag”. Also, the use of David Bowie’s music couldn’t be more appropriate.

6.5/10

Movie Review: 1917

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It’s a race against time in Sam Mendes’ latest masterpiece 1917. (Source: Military.com)

There have been plenty of great movies set during World War I. The 1925 classic The Big Parade became one of the finest masterpieces of the silent era. However, it wasn’t until two years later, when Wings became the first film ever to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Over the years, famous filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick (Paths of Glory) and Steven Spielberg (War Horse) also brought their A-game to capture the horrors and outcomes of the Great War. The 2004 film Joyeux Noel captured an unbelievable story about the British and German troops making an agreement to stop fighting for one day to celebrate Christmas.

None of them compare the brutality and wonder of 1917, the latest collaboration of director Sam Mendes and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (their first since Skyfall). Using clever filmmaking and editing techniques, the movie makes it look and feel like one seamless, continuous shot through the trenches of France. Fresh from winning a Golden Globe for Best Picture and directing, dethroning Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in the box office last weekend, and receiving 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, this movie is worth all the hype.

The movie opens on April 6, 1917, the same day the U.S. would enter the war. General Erinmore (Colin Firth) enlists two young British soldiers–Lance Corporals Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Will Schofield (George MacKay)–to deliver an urgent message to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch), of the Devonshire Regiment. Here’s the catch: He and his army are across enemy lines planning an attack on the Germans, who have taken refuge at the Hindenburg Line. The two race against time to avoid getting killed and possibly save 1,600 lives.

This isn’t the first movie to use the one-shot effect. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller Rope and the 2014 Best Picture winner Birdman are both wonderful movies that have achieved the effect. Expect some edits, but Deakins is the perfect cinematographer to shoot a movie like this. It makes the audience feel like we are with these two soldiers through the duration of the mission. The camera follows in front of them, behind them, or beside them. It’s hard to imagine how difficult it must be for the crew to determine which direction the actors have to go. With brilliant editing, there are a lot of shots that will send chills down your spine.

At the film’s core, it’s a story about survival and compassion during the toughest of times. Mendes, who dedicated the film to his late father (who actually fought in World War I), does an outstanding job keeping the stakes and suspense higher than a bald eagle soaring through the sky with his direction and writing. The marvelous cast including British favorites Cumberbatch, Firth, Mark Strong, Richard Madden are given smaller roles than the two unknown actors who have long careers ahead of them. As the two young soldiers, Chapman and MacKay beautifully capture the courage and sympathy on this dangerous mission. The astounding sets and Thomas Newman’s excellent score are also enough to make 1917 a WWI epic for the ages. Sorry, Joker, but this is certainly the film to beat in this year’s Oscars.

10/10

Top 100 Best Movies of the 2010s: 50-41

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(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)

50. Ford v. Ferrari (2019) – There are several movies over the past ten years that were worth seeing on the big screen. Clocking in at two-and-a-half hours, James Mangold’s return to biopic-territory drives by (no pun intended) like a breeze. I have never heard of the story behind the 1966 24-hour race at Le Mans until walking into the theater. This is an exhilarating and downright hilarious movie with superb performances by Matt Damon and Christian Bale (rare to see him perform with his native British accent nowadays). Also, big thumbs up for actually filming the climactic race in Le Mans.

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(Source: The New York Times)

49. Lincoln (2012) – From Young Mr. Lincoln to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Abraham Lincoln has been portrayed and parodied hundreds of times since the beginning of the 20th century. However, no other movie would have this much power that Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner bring here. Even as a child, I imagined Lincoln to have a high-pitched voice (without even knowing, years later, that he actually did). Daniel Day-Lewis perfectly embodies the 16th president of the United States, with his tall stature, killer sense of humor, and his love for public speaking. Leading a stellar cast including Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tim Blake Nelson, and David Strathairn, this is a patient and timely portrait of a legendary man’s final months in office.

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(Source: NPR)

48. 12 Years a Slave (2013) – Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winning film is far from easy viewing. At the same time, it’s an uplifting odyssey of Solomon Northup (a superb Chiwetel Ejiofor), an African-American violinist from upstate New York encountering the horrors and unexpected sympathies as a slave on his road to freedom. An all-star cast with the likes of Michael Fassbender as a vicious slave owner, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, and Benedict Cumberbatch all carry through in a movie so disheartening and beautiful.

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(Source: The Collegian)

47. Selma (2014) – For her portrait on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quest for civil rights in Alabama, director Ava DuVernay takes David Webb’s screenplay to make the most powerful film on the subject. David Oyelowo’s portrayal of King is a gentle soul, who is a caring husband and an ambitious leader in the Civil Rights Movement. With a gifted supporting cast including Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King and Tom Wilkinson as LBJ, a lot of research was done to get the history 100% accurate. It all worked out beautifully. Selma is required viewing for American history classes.

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(Source: ComingSoon.net)

46. Midnight in Paris (2011) – Woody Allen has made some of the greatest films since the 1970s–Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Blue Jasmine. Coming from somebody who loved all those movies, Midnight in Paris is probably his magnum opus. It’s a downright charming, witty story about an American screenwriter named Gil (Owen Wilson, who has never been better), who moves to Paris with fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams). One night, while resting after a late-night stroll through the city, he mysteriously goes back to the 1920s, and encounters several historical figures including F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). This movie contains themes that are familiar with his other movies involving characters in love affairs and Gil’s love for this magical era is infectious. There is a line from Hemingway that is not only, but also rings true about writing: “If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing, and if it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate all the more.”

"Manchester by the Sea" Casey Affleck, from Roadside Attractions press site

(Source: Boston Herald)

45. Manchester by the Sea (2016) – Kenneth Lonergan’s drama set in New England is about as hard-hitting as it is engaging. Casey Affleck received a well-deserved Oscar for his performance as Lee, a janitor from Quincy returning to his home in Manchester-by-the-Sea setting up funeral arrangements for his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) while looking after his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Through a series of flashbacks, we quickly begin to learn how and why Lee has left his home after all these years. Talking too much about it will ruin the whole movie. 

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(Source: Chicago Tribune)

44. Skyfall (2012) – Daniel Craig is arguably the best James Bond since Sean Connery. He gains enough charm of Connery, as well as having the violent side of Timothy Dalton. Casino Royale served as my proper introduction to the ongoing franchise with its incredible stunts and the most intense game of poker ever witnessed on film. After the disappointing Quantum of Solace, Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins both take the franchise to another level with Skyfall. From beginning to end, this is a gripping, stunning ride of getting rid of someone from M’s (Judi Dench) past. As Rauol Silva, Javier Bardem gives enough complexity to his delightfully over-the-top performance. Skyfall is up there with Casino Royale, Goldfinger, and GoldenEye as one of the best in the series. Bring on, No Time to Die!

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(Source: IMDb)

43. John Wick (2014)/John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)/John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) – This exhilarating trilogy showcases how awesome Keanu Reeves truly is. It tackles the familiar concept of “bringing back the past” in a unique way. Chad Stahelski (who worked as Reeves’ stuntman in The Matrix) is behind the director’s chair to give some of the most amazing action in recent years. Sprinkled with dark, deadpan humor and suave energy from its talented cast with the likes of Ian McShane, the late Michael Nyqvist, Laurence Fishburne, Willem Dafoe, Halle Berry, and John Leguizamo. The first had a simple revenge plot, while the sequels up the ante. I mean, how can you not get excited seeing our action hero riding on a horse through the streets of NYC?

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(Source: The Wrap)

42. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)/Captain America: Civil War (2016) – After his introduction in the flawed yet entertaining origin story from 2011, “The First Avenger” returns to get caught up on American society in The Winter Soldier. This is where directors Anthony and Joe Russo introduce a more political vibe in the MCU. Although it contains plenty of humor, it surprised me on how dark it becomes. Robert Redford couldn’t be any better in a villainous role. 

Its follow-up–Civil War–ups the ante in a showdown of terrific proportions. It features characters we know as well as some new ones and some of the best action set pieces in the franchise. The titular battle showcases the most thrills and laughs the franchise has to offer. Thank goodness Chris Evans decided to play the most badass Avenger after the disastrous Fantastic Four films. Oh–and take out the tissues. You might need them.

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(Source: Vox)

41. The Shape of Water (2017) – There is a familiar theme in the films of Guillermo del Toro: the real monsters are more human than one might expect. His Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water, is a fantasy, romance, Cold War thriller, and a delightful tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood all wrapped into one. Sally Hawkins leads a talented cast as Elisa, a mute janitor at a government facility, who gains a connection with a sea creature known as the Amphibian Man (Doug Jones), which is obviously inspired by The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Dan Laustsen’s cinematography and Alexandre Desplat’s Oscar-winning score are enough to carry the beauty and madness of this movie.

 

100-91 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1