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: The Best of the Bunch (10-1)

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(Source: The Atlantic)

10. Whiplash (2014) – Damien Chazelle’s film about aspiring drummer Andrew (Miles Teller), who goes to a New York music school, under the instruction of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar for his role), a music teacher with an appalling temper is nail-biting as it is darkly comedic. This is a movie about the hardships of following your dreams. The jazz music, the brisk-paced editing, and the performances are all top-notch. The ending will have you cheering. And remember: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.”

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(Source: Deadline)

9. Dunkirk (2017) – After seeing Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic for the first time in theaters, I knew I had to see it again…and again. Its nonlinear narrative might throw audiences off a little, but Dunkirk is a movie that demands repeated viewings. There is so much going on throughout its 106-minute runtime that there is always something you catch up on in repeated viewings. Everything that is shown on the screen is real–the Spitfire planes, warships, and sailboats. The performances from the massive cast are all strong, and the suspense is on a level that Alfred Hitchcock would probably appreciate.

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(Source: IndieWire)

8. Call Me by Your Name (2017) – I have never seen a more beautiful romance than what director Luca Guadagnino and screenwriter James Ivory bring in Call Me by Your Name. One of many reasons why it works is the chemistry between Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. This slow-burning film takes its time getting to know our two protagonists–Elio and Oliver. They spend time teasing one another until they express their feelings while spending an Italian summer (gorgeous cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom) they will never forget. Their friendship takes a more subtle approach than your average romance (not to mention allowing the two having freedom to improvise). It’s fascinating to find out these characters happen to be Jewish (take note of the Star of David pendant necklace Oliver wears). While struggling to come to terms with his own identity, Elio explains that he and his parents are only “Jews of discretion.”

As Elio’s father, it stuns me Michael Stuhlbarg did not get nominated at all. Particularly his powerful monologue near the end is something every dad should give to their children. Call Me by Your Name is more of a coming-of-age story than anything else. Honest, lovely, stunning, and miraculous on every level.

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(Source: Brittanica)

7. Moonlight (2016) – Not only is this the first Best Picture winner with a shoestring budget ($1.5 million), but it’s also the first to feature an all-black cast. Barry Jenkins adapts Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue with stunning results. Everything about this movie is flawless: the powerful story about a black boy named Chiron struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality, the marvelous performances by Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, and Janelle Monae among others, the gorgeous cinematography by James Laxton, and Nicholas Brittel’s score. The scenarios–including having a proper father figure–all feel authentic and relatable.

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(Source: Vox)

6. BlacKkKlansman (2018) – After a series of box-office misfires, Spike Lee returns with his most successful film about the true story of Colorado Springs police detective Ron Stallworth infiltrating the local Ku Klux Klan. It has been a while since I’ve seen a movie that will make you laugh one minute and would give you goosebumps the next. Who cares if BlacKkKlansman is dramatized (*ahem* Boots Riley)? With a terrific cast and soundtrack, this is a risky yet captivating wake-up call to where this country is at right now, in terms of racial relations. The last few minutes will make you speechless. 

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(Source: IndieWire)

5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Easily one of the best action movies of all-time, George Miller’s return to Mad Max is set mostly on the road. This is the only film in the series ever to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. As straightforward as the narrative might be, it has themes of redemption. To complement the impressive, wall-to-wall action, most of the stunts are practical. With memorable characters and beautiful cinematography, Mad Max: Fury Road will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout its two-hour runtime.

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(Source: IndieWire)

4. Little Women (2019)/Parasite (2019) – After the success with the directorial debut Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig enters the mainstream with her second feature Little Women. Although Louisa May Alcott’s book has been adapted so many times since the 1900s, there has never been a version as charming and honest as this one. It’s perfect on every level. Gerwig keeps it traditional while modernizing it for today’s audiences, kudos to her wonderful screenplay and directing. Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography beautifully contrasts the present-day scenes with the flashbacks (they feel like something out of a scrapbook). The stellar cast including Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, and Meryl Streep is absolutely stellar. Yes, Saoirse Ronan is fantastic as Jo, the tomboy of the March sisters aspiring to become a writer. However, I had more of a connection with Amy (played with such panache by Florence Pugh), the aspiring painter. And also, I couldn’t anyone to play Laurie more perfectly than Timothée Chalamet!

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(Source: IndieWire)

With Parasite, writer-director Bong Joon-ho returns to his native Korea after making two movies in America with this brilliant film (which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) about two families from two different class structures–the Kims, the lower-class family living in a basement struggling to earn cash, and the Parks, the upper-class family with a dark secret. Filled with dark humor, stunning imagery, big surprises, and nonstop suspense, there is not a single moment in Parasite that feels wasted. As the movie begins to take off, it will never let you go. This future classic in world cinema is required viewing for movie buffs everywhere. 

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(Source: IMDb)

3. Toy Story 3 (2010) – More than a decade after Toy Story 2, Lee Unkrich and the wonderful people of PIXAR bring the wonderful characters back for a third installment in the beloved Toy Story franchise. There is so much to like about this movie: the gorgeous-as-ever animation, its introduction to new characters, its sense of humor (particularly Spanish Buzz Lightyear), and subtle references to sci-fi films (i.e. Jurassic Park). Toy Story 3 has probably the most intense climax in any film PIXAR has ever made. The movie couldn’t have ended on a better note.

The Social Network

(Source: IndieWire)

2. The Social Network (2010) – Believe it or not, The Social Network served as my introduction to director David Fincher. This movie following Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) creating of Facebook and the consequences that followed is an emotionally intense biopic sprinkled with the director’s signature dark humor, brilliant editing, an excellent techno score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Aaron Sorkin’s fantastic script. Also, I have never seen a poster tagline as honest as the one for this movie: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”

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(Source: NOLA.com)

1. Her (2013) – Who knew a romantic drama about a lonely man falling in love with his operating system would be so heartbreaking? Nobody can direct this type of movie like Spike Jonze can. Joaquin Phoenix should have got nominated for his performance as Theodore, a man who works at a business where he writes letters for people who are unable to write them. He is going through a rough divorce until he updates his operating system with a virtual assistant named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Almost right away, they build a connection unlike anything Theodore has experienced before.

With an amazing cast including Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, and Rooney Mara, their performances add to the experience. Through Jonze’s excellent writing and directing, the beautiful cinematography and music, Her will make you laugh, cry, think, and be flat-out amazed.

There you have it! I would like to thank everyone of you for following my blog over the past five years. It’s been my extreme pleasure to share my love of movies this past decade; either on YouTube, Letterboxd, or on WordPress. I’ll definitely be back to give you more movie reviews in the coming years. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on what your favorite movies of the decade are. See you in 2020!

 

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