10 Intriguing Films from D23 Expo (2017)

Okay, so apparently there’s an official Walt Disney Company fan club known as D23, and every other year they get together to throw a massive exposition event that includes exclusive footage and trailers for upcoming Disney films. I knew none of this. Then, over the weekend, I see one bombshell Disney announcement after another due to the event that saw appearances from a number of celebrities including the newest Spider-Man, Tom Holland, and the attendance of over 100,000 guests. As a Disney fan, I’ll certainly be more attentive to D23 going forward. Here’s a list of the ten films that stood out from the show co-written with my friend and fellow blogger, Becky Davidson. You may note the exclusion of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. My excitement for the next installment couldn’t be higher, and the D23 expo showcasing a cool, but insubstantial behind the scenes featurette did nothing to fuel the flame.

Coco          November 22, 2017

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Directed by Lee Unkrich         Voices of Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Cheech Marin

My Take-It’s not the first animated film to take on Mexican culture’s Day of the Dead holiday. That was The Book of Life (2014). Will Coco suffer from comparisons? Doubtful. Pixar, when doing original material, generally blow the competition out of the water. They’re still a first class company. Still the most ambitious animation company (at least here in America), and despite not knowing much about this film, and not being overly impressed by what I do know, I trust the brand. I like that they are using all actual Hispanic people for the voice cast as well.

Becky-I’m always really excited any time I hear either Pixar or Disney Animations Studios is coming out with new, original stuff! Needless to say I’m super pumped for this film. I didn’t know what to expect from Coco at first, but the more I learn, the more I want to see the film. I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with music and it’s cool that our main character is Mexican. Go diversity! We need more of it, especially in animation. Also the animation looks really pretty. I’m at the point where I don’t want to see any more things for this film and just want to watch it.

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure               November 22, 2017

Directed by Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers                                    Voice of Josh Gad

My Take-It’s a short film, so only a small deal, but it’s leading to the forthcoming Frozen 2. The short will be good. The full length Disney sequel? Disney never used to make theatrical sequels. They always focused on creating new adventures. The theme of the expo for me was cash grab.

Becky’s Take- This Frozen short sounds adorable and I love me some Olaf. There’s nothing more to be said, except that I’m here for it!

A Wrinkle in Time March 9, 2018

Directed by Ava DuVernay       Starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis

My Take-I’ve never read this book. I’m a pretty avid reader, and especially of classic children’s lit, but somehow Madeline L’Engle’s 1963 novel slipped through. Truth be told, I’ve started reading it 2 or 3 times and just never felt compelled to continue past chapter 1. Perhaps I need this movie to spark my interest. The cast is strong. I like the director; a black female directing a big-budget Disney movie in 2017 shouldn’t be as important as it is. I don’t understand the plot, and the trailer didn’t help much.

Becky’s Take- I didn’t even realize that this was a thing until the trailer was released and everyone started talking about it. I know that it’s based off of a book, and I’ve heard of the book, but that’s all I really know about this story. I’m actually pretty indifferent about this film. I like that we get a diverse cast. I say again, go diversity! Some of the visuals are pretty cool too, but nothing that really excites me. We’ll see I guess.

Ralph Breaks the Internet         March 9, 2018

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Directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston                                                  Voices of John C.Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Taraji P. Henson

 My Take- I’m hearing about all kinds of crazy things they’re doing in this film. Cameos from Mario and all the Disney princesses for one thing. Wreck-it-Ralph 2 should be good.

Becky’s Take-Okay so this is a sequel that I’m actually excited for! I loved Wreck It Ralph. I thought it was refreshing in so many ways and I loved all of the referential things. I love the title “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and am just hooked off of that. To learn that there’s this whole self-aware Disney Princess reunion thing happening in the film just makes it better. The only worry, that all of the “cameos” and references could overpower the story. What made the first film so great was the story and I don’t want to lose that. I have faith that Rich Moore and Phil Johnston will prevail as they did an incredible job with the first film.

The Incredibles 2       June 15, 2018

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Directed by Brad Bird                                                                            Voices of  Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson

My Take-Finally. At long last. 14 years later. It is coming. The sequel to possibly my favorite super hero movie. Brad Bird returns. The cast is back Everything is in place for a successful sequel. This time around, according to Holly Hunter, Elastigirl is the lead protagonist, and Mr. Incredible is stuck at home with the kids.

Becky’s Take- Out of all of the films we are talking about in this post, this is the one I’m the most excited for! The Incredibles was such a good film and one that deserved a sequel. There was so much material there to be explored and I’m in disbelief that it’s taken this long for a sequel to be made. I love that it’s taking place right where the first one left off, I’m excited for more Frozone, and I need more Jack Jack. If you’re not excited for this film, you should be!

Dumbo (live action remake)         March 19, 2019

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Directed by Tim Burton                                                         Starring Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell, Eva Green

My Take-The good news is Michael Keaton reteams with Tim Burton (Batman, Beetlejuice, Batman Returns). The bad news is I couldn’t be less interested in a live action remake of Dumbo. If anything belongs solely in the realm of cartoon it was Dumbo. It’s going to very difficult to make a big eared elephant as charming in CGI as he was traditional animation.

Becky’s Take-Disney, seriously we’re gonna need to have a talk about all of these live action remakes. You’re obsessed with them! I get it, the money is appealing, but why must you remake everything?! I don’t even care that Tim Burton is the one directing it, he didn’t do too great of a job on the Alice in Wonderland films. Why is this a thing? Again, I just don’t get it and I’m not feeling it.

The Lion King (live action)       July 19, 2019

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Directed by Jon Favreau                Starring Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Hugh Jackman, Seth Rogen

My Take-When I mentioned bombshells, the cast announcement for the upcoming live-action Lion King remake was chief among them. Hugh Jackman as Scar? Here’s the thing. No question Jackman can act, but Jeremy Irons was perfect. Jackman will have to work so much harder than Irons did to be scary, nasty, and sardonic. Those qualities came so naturally to Irons’ mellifluous voice. I think Jackman and this film will have to completely put aside Irons’ take, and just build a whole new villainous character out of Uncle Scar. He can’t be scary in the same way Irons was scary. And James Earl Jones is back as Mufasa? This is kind of hilarious to me. I agree anybody else would have been a pale imitation, but then why not bring the whole voice cast back? No one’d dead. Better yet, why remake this at all? It’s not even a “live-action remake.” It’s just a different form of animation. I’m not seeing it. I won’t mind if I’m proven wrong, and this turns out to be anything beyond passable, but I will be shocked.

Becky’s Take-WHY IS THIS A THING?! I DON’T GET IT! Okay, I so I know that this is a money grab, but still! The Lion King is one of those films that should not be touched or remade. This film is already doomed to fail as you will never be able to top the original. Also, can we even call this live action? All of the animals are getting the same CGI treatment as the ones in The Jungle Book. The Lion King is all about animals, so isn’t this really just some elevated animated remake? It seems that they just want to show off their new technology. You want to do that, cool, just go make something original. Apparently people were moved by what they saw at D23 Expo, but I’m still extremely skeptical of it. This is something I didn’t ask for, and certainly don’t want.

Toy Story 4     June 21, 2019

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Directed by Josh Cooley                            Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

My Take-I’m so disgusted by this. The trilogy was ended exactly right. Now Woody’s coming back to find Bo Peep. Eww. That’s featherweight stuff. This is a flagrant cash grab by a company that has always been better than third sequels.

Becky’s Take-Ugh, I’m so upset that this is actually a thing too. I thought that Toy Story 3 was such a solid way to end the trilogy, and the three films feel very contained. Usually, when there is a change in the director it doesn’t bode well. However, since the reason Lasseter left was related to not having the time to do it, it doesn’t make me more skeptical of this project. I hope this sequel brings lots of new things to the table, it is the only way it will be good and not a rehash of any of the previous films.

Aladdin (live-action)        No Release Date

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Directed by Guy Ritchie                                                                      Starring Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott

My Take-I’ve written previously on my blanket opinion about these live-action remakes. At a certain level, they will always be pointless. Will Smith stepping into the beloved Robin Williams’ shoes is a brave undertaking. He has the charisma. Guy Ritchie directing intrigues me. I’m a fan, despite recent missteps. There’s really nothing to do with these films except wait and be skeptical. It’s a cash grab for the studio but not for these actors, the director, and his crew.

Becky’s Take-Another live action remake that is totally unnecessary. The new casting does not make me excited for it one bit. When you had first asked me to co-write this blog post with you, you were like, “I’ll just send you 10 things that interest me and you can share your opinion, like Will Smith as Genie?” I honestly thought this was some weird ass example that you had pulled out of your ass. I can’t believe that this is a real thing! What is this casting? Have the directors lost their mind? Probably, seeing as how they didn’t cast a Middle Eastern actress to play Jasmine. I think part of the appeal of these live action remakes is seeing these characters we’ve loved in real life. People have always felt that Princess Jasmine was so white washed in the animated film, so why not take the opportunity to get this representation right? I don’t have anything against Naomi Scott, but I just think it’s the wrong call. Also, these casting choices worry me for the eventual Mulan remake, which I had originally been excited for as it is something that could be captured well cinematically.

Pixar’s Suburban Fantasy Movie           No Release Date

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My Take-Not much information yet, but the key words here are “original” and “Pixar.” News feeds mention talk of elves and trolls mixed with a suburban setting. Curious. It’s also a very personal film for the writer, Don Scanlon, who lost his father when he was a year old, and is incorporating some of that in the story.

Becky-Finally, another original film that we get to talk about! Sometimes it feels like we’re living in sequel and remake hell, so I’m always excited for things that are original especially when it comes to Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. They are just so fucking brilliant sometimes, and this new film from Pixar sounds like it has serious potential. The idea of a suburban fantasy is cool and Pixar can get super creative with the world building. Also anyone else get the feeling that we’re all going to cry our eyes out?

-Becky Davidson, https://simplybecky8.wordpress.com/-

-Walter Howard-

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Week of Films (July 10-16)

It was a slow movie week for me, as I was unfortunately pretty busy, but I managed to scratch a few films off my to-do list. I also rewatched a personal favorite, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Apart from these films, I saw the epic War for the Planet of the Apes in theaters, and am still working my way through the sprawling British mini-series, The Jewel of the Crown.

Victor/Victoria    96% on Rotten Tomatoes           7     (DVD)

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Starring Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston, Leslie Ann Warren, Alex Karras, John Rhys-Davies

Plot Summary-Desperate in the extreme to eke out a living in ’30s Paris, two American entertainers (Victoria played by Andrews and Toddy played by Robert Preston) cook up a scheme that can make them rich and famous. Victoria will pretend to be a man who pretends to be a woman on stage. Things grow complicated when an American gangster (Garner) falls for her, and she for him.

My Take-It’s an elaborate and exuberant farce that features fantastic musical numbers, a torrent of gags, and witty one-liners. Feels old-fashioned and edgy, which is why, even today, the film seems progressive. Rather than being laugh out loud funny, Victor/Victoria has a tremendous energy, and even amidst the madcap plot and never ending misunderstandings, the characters are authentic.

-Directed by Blake Edwards

Christine No Rotten Tomatoes Score            7           (Filmstruck)

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Starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Micheline Presle, Fernand Ledoux

Plot Summary-Tragedy about a young officer caught in an affair with the wife of his superior, just as he has fallen in love with a local Austrian girl.

My Take-The fatalism of its ending was, for me, contrived, but that didn’t keep me from caring. The stars-Schneider and Delon- are two of the most beautiful and photogenic ever to be on screen, and their romance is brief but sweet.

-Directed by Pierre Gaspard-Huit

The Spy Who Loved Me 79% on Rotten Tomatoes       6          (DVD)

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Starring Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel

Plot Summary-The threat of a complete psychopath bent on sparking World War III forces James Bond to team up with Russian spy, XXX (a female counterpart equal to him), to take the villain down. Meanwhile, a henchman named Jaws with metal teeth stalks the heroic duo.

My Take-I though about my feelings for this movie long and hard. Many of the elements are great and very memorable. The intro song by Carly Simon might be my favorite Bond song. The villain, who wants to start a new world under water, and his silly but terrifying henchman, Jaws, are unforgettable. I also like that Agent XXX (Lord, that name) is seen as a sort of parallel to Bond. My main problem was that I didn’t find a majority of the action sequences thrilling, and that severely dampened my overall enjoyment of the film.

-Directed by Lewis Gilbert

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 85% on Rotten Tomatoes     (VHS)

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Starring Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan, Amrish Puri

Plot Summary-Indiana Jones, through chance or fate, winds up in a small village in India in desperate need of a hero. The village’s people are afflicted ever since their sacred stone was stolen. Indy promises to help, leading him to a beautiful palace, discovered to be a base for an underground Thuggee cult. He’s aided on this quest by his loyal and diminutive friend, Short Round (an eleven year old Chinese boy), and Willie (a high-maintenance lounge singer).

My Take-I love this movie. It was the first Indiana Jones film I saw, and that probably played a part in why it’s my favorite of the series. India, to me, is one of the most exotic, mysterious, adventurous locations, and I’m constantly drawn to films that feature it as their setting. The weirdness, the grotesque dinner scene, the bizarre violence that caused the MPAA to step in and create a PG-13 rating, are compelling attractions to me. It’s all part of the amazing spectacle, and Spielberg is at his best here, showcasing his ability of layering the suspense and telling a story.

-Directed by Steven Spielberg

-Walter Howard-

10 Things I liked about Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017, Directed by Jon Watts) 7

Starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau,  Donald Glover, Marisa Tomei

Spider-Man is back for his third incarnation, this time being played by young Brit, Tom Holland. As you probably know, Marvel got a hold of their original property, snagging the rights back from Sony who had made a mess of the work over the years (remember the Amazing Spider-Man 2?). This time out, Peter Parker, fresh off a stint helping the Avengers, impatiently waits his turn to save the world. Tony Stark is holding him back, he feels. Treating him like a kid. All he needs is a chance to show what he can do. In comes Adrian Toomes, an abnormally powerful weapons dealer played by Michael Keaton, and Peter sees his opportunity for a seat at the Avengers’ table. This was an all around good film; not a great film, but one that perfectly manages the right mix of high stakes action and adventure movie fun. Here is a list of the things I liked about Marvel’s Spider-Man:

  1. Tom Holland-Great Peter Parker. Great Spider-Man. I look forward to seeing him again in the inevitable 7 or 8 future appearances. He’s likeable. Convincing as a young man, because he is one (Andrew Garfield was pushing 30). Awkward. Clever. Everything you’d want from a protagonist in a teen comedy.
  2. Fun and Fancy Free: The newest Spider-Man, more than any Spider-Man film before it, feels like a movie about teenagers. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield had the weight of the world on their shoulders. Tom Holland lives in a world with Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther, etc. He wants more to deal with as opposed to his predecessors who wanted less. The result is this film is light and fun in a way that older Spidermans couldn’t be; especially the ill-conceived Amazing Spider-Man movies.
  3. Smells Like Teen Spirit: I mentioned that this felt like a movie about teenagers. Well that comes complete with petty romances, school bullies, uncool friends, awkward moments. In this case, I love the clichés.  While battling black market deals on world domination weapons, Peter also struggles with his crush on Liz, the pretty and popular senior girl on his Academic Decathlon team.
  4. The Vulture-This could have been the worst part of the film. A vulture? As great and as dominant as Marvel has been, villains are definitely their weakness. They haven’t had anyone to rival The Joker for example from DC. They tend to go for big, abstract villains rather than compelling character based baddies, which is what they did here. Casting Michael Keaton signaled a good direction, and he is excellent in the film. Compelling, real, intimidating, even relatable at times. His Vulture is truly more of a family man who saw an opportunity and took it. He’s ruthless rather than diabolical, and a big part of why the movie works.
  5. No Origin Story-We all know by now that Peter Parker was raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. That Peter makes a mistake that leads to his Uncle’s death. That the guilt Peter feels is one of his chief motivations. That he was bitten by some kind of spider that endowed him with these unique abilities. The last Spider-Man decided to recycle those plot lines, and it was a major drag. I don’t think anybody’s favorite part of a superhero story is his origin (unless we’re talking about Unbreakable). No need to retread here. When the movie, begins Peter Parker is already Spider-Man, and he knows how to use his abilities. Get on with the film. They do.
  6. Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime-Spider-Man gets a sidekick. That’s new. His name is Ned. He’s Peter’s best friend. He obviously knows his identity, and by the end begins to aid Peter with his elite computer skills. He’s also terrific comic relief during adding to the teen comedy vibe throughout the picture.
  7. Diverse Cast-Alright so Peter Parker’s still white. Fine. But his love interest: black. Best friend: Filipino. MJ: mixed. School bully: Hispanic. I approve. Plus Donald Glover is in the movie as a kind of nod to the popularity of his campaign for the Spider-Man role.
  8. The Adults- The veteran supporting cast definitely bolster the film without stealing the show from the young actors. Downey Jr., playing a more responsible Tony Stark, is a witty source of wisdom as opposed to earlier movies’ reliance on fortune cookie sayings from Aunt and Uncle. Marisa Tomei is a much more realistic Aunt to Peter Parker, and the film finds the humor in this attractive version of Aunt May. Jon Favreau, Bokeem Woodbine, Jennifer Connelly round out the cast, and I’ve already told you about Michael Keaton.
  9. Her, the Sequel-Peter gets his own version of JARVIS, and its the understanding voice of an attractive older woman (Jennifer Connelly). This makes the middle sequences where we basically are leaning about his abilities and functions way more entertaining than the instruction video it could have been. It also highlights the sheer number of abilities new Spider-Man has thanks to the suit.
  10. Surprise, Surprise-I won’t tell you what it is, but there was a pretty clever surprise towards the end of this film that I have to include on this list. It raised the stakes; both dramatically and comically. You’ll see.

-Walter Howard-

 

 

My Week of Films (July 3-July 9)

Spent most of my July 4th weekend, and actually just most of this week watching long movies. Fortunately, though I’m still working on the Taiwanese epic Yi Yi (2000), the ones that I have finished have been long and worth it. I show a couple of classic films to my siblings, and got to the movie theater once for this week’s blockbuster, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Top Hat 100% on Rotten Tomatoes    10   (VHS)

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Starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore

Plot Summary-Though American tap dancer sensation, Jerry Travers (Astaire), falls instantly in love with Dale Tremont (Rogers), and she can’t help falling for him, things become very complicated when she mistakenly believes him to the husband of her close friend.

My Take- Astaire and Rogers are charm personified. Whether dancing are feuding, they give the impression that there is no one in the world they’d rather be with. The supporting cast, who are semi-regulars in Astaire and Rogers’ films, are fantastic. Horton as the self-important fool, Eric Blore as the seemingly always insulted servant, and Helen Broderick as the eye-rolling wife. The dance numbers are eternal aided by some of Irving Berlin’s best music. “Cheek to cheek” is pure joy captured in film. The best of Astaire and Rogers.

-Directed by Mark Sandrich

Grand Prix 100% on Rotten Tomatoes           8          (DVD)

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Starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Francoise Hardy, Brian Bedford, Jessica Walter, Toshiro Mifune

Plot Summary-Follows the lives of four Formula One drivers through the 1966 racing season as they compete to be world champions. There’s Pete Aron (Garner). A stoic, but somewhat reckless American driver who’s blamed for his teammate’s wreck. Sarti (Montand), a Frenchman. The best in the sport, but starting to grow weary of it. He starts an affair with an American journalist (Saint). Scott Stoddard (Bedford), an Englishman recovering from a major wreck and his wife leaving him. And Barlini (Sabato), an arrogant and carefree Italian racer.

My Take-The women, though certainly beautiful, are completely short-changed in this picture. As a result, the surrounding drama around the stunning race sequences do not measure up. Yves Montand’s character is the only one with any real depth. That being said, the racing scenes truly are special. John Frankenheimer is an amazing craftsmen, and the film’s nearly three hour running time flew by thanks to his vision.

-Directed by John Frankenheimer

The Wind and the Lion 75% on Rotten Tomatoes              7      (DVD)

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Starring Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith, John Huston

Plot Summary- An American widow and her two children are kidnapped and held for ransom by a brigand named Raisuli (Connery) in early 20th century Morocco. President Teddy Roosevelt gets involved in saving the widow, just as she begins to form some respect for her captor.

My Take-Okay, so Sean Connery is playing a Muslim leader. Right away, that’s pretty ridiculous. The crazy thing is that, though he makes no discernible effort to be convincing as a Berber, he’s still pretty compelling in this role. My main problem with the film is that at 2 hours (so not a short film), it still felt like it wanted to be much longer. Splitting time between President Roosevelt and Raisuli with the American family didn’t allow enough time with either. I did love the old-fashioned spirit of the movie; soaring score, epic battle scenes, romanticized characters. Overall, it’s a good film.

-Directed by John Milius

The Secret Life of Pets 74% on Rotten Tomatoes            6     (Netflix)

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Voices of Louis C.K, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Hannibal Burress, Steve Coogan, Lake Bell, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks

Plot Summary-Beloved, spoiled dog Max has a rude awakening when his owner brings home, Duke, a monstrous dog that he’s asked to see as his brother. The two don’t get along, and this leads to them being lost in New York City for a crazy ninety minute adventure.

My Take-Animation studio, Illumination, certainly don’t over-exert themselves. On the positive side they consistently deliver movies that are generally pleasing with enough jokes to pass the time and a whole lot of mass appeal. On the other hand, they’re not aspiring for much. The voice work is super solid. The animation is bright and appealing. There’s just nothing special about this movie.

-Directed by Chris Renaud

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 94% on Rotten Tomatoes          10         (DVD)

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Starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Thomas Howard, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold

Plot Summary-After the death of one of the Senators in an unnamed state, it falls to the governor to pick a replacement. But it’s a corrupt state of affairs, and the governor takes orders from Jim Taylor a man who has his hands in everything. They want a dummy in the Senate. Someone who will look pretty and say nothing. They pick Jefferson Smith (Stewart), and the young idealist proves them wrong, taking on all political corruption in the fight if his life.

My Take-Classic Capra combination of ideals mixed with comedy and tears. Wonderful movie. James Stewart is in his best role here, and Jean Arthur is the perfect romantic foil as the cynical, intelligent Saunders. The supporting cast is great from the top down.

-Directed by Frank Capra

-Walter Howard-

 

The Mummy (2017 Directed by Alex Kurtzman) English 4

Starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe

Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy (1999) knew what it wanted to be and delivered. Starring the largely forgotten Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, that blockbuster horror film which launched a trilogy was an unabashed knock-off of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones series. Period setting, heroic male, beautiful but capable leading lady, mysterious loot. All hallmarks of the Indiana Jones franchise. But because it had no pretensions about being a great film, and thus embraced its B movie status so confidently, The Mummy was a terrific success, and still holds up as a tremendously entertaining 2 hours. Now, 18 years later, we come to yet another iteration of The Mummy story (remember that there were about a dozen or so versions well before Brendan Fraser had his turn). The new Mummy. The Mummy 2017.  This is the second worst Mummy film I’ve seen.

Starring Tom Cruise as Nick Morton, in another dedicated, seemingly effortless performance in an action picture, the film picks up with our hero and his reluctant partner fortune hunting in the Middle East. The two are Army officers who’ve stumbled on the tomb of Ahmanet, while disobeying practically every order given to them by their superior officers. Jennifer Halsey, an archaeologist played Annabelle Wallis, joins forces with the men, and together they unleash an ancient curse of unspeakable evil, in truly inept fashion. Rather than wasting time creating suspense, the film steamrolls past any possible build-up, and unleashes the Mummy first thing. The remainder of the movie deals with Morton and Halsey working together to eliminate the catastrophic power, before she…probably some kind of end of the world scenario, but I honestly don’t remember her plot. The Mummy, Princess Ahmanet, was second best in her Fathers eye, dwarfed by the existence of her brother, and so she murders her whole family. Making your monster even the slightest bit sympathetic is problematic in a blockbuster. The best example of a movie monster for me is Jaws, and what was his backstory? Filmmaker Alex Kurtzman would have been wise to follow that example. No sympathetic backstory, please. A large dose of the plot concerns the secret organization known as Prodigium, an excuse for Universal to contrive their “cinematic universe.” Russel Crowe plays Dr. Jekyll setting himself up for a follow up solo effort (although it seems pointless after this movie’s lack of success). Dr. Jekyll runs Prodigium, giving very long expositions, and teasing us with the inevitable Mr. Hyde appearance.

None of the film is done particularly well. Director Alex Kurtzman has absolutely no track record that would suggest he should have been given this job. He wrote the screenplay for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? You’re hoping to rival Marvel with their proven cinematic universe, and you debut with this dud. To be clear, and anybody who knows me understands that I pretty much enjoy just about any movie watched at the theater. if I’m eating popcorn and sour patch kids while watching you, you’d have to be unwatchable for me not to have a good time. So this wasn’t the worst time in the world, but there’s nothing to endorse about The Mummy. There is almost no supporting cast to speak of which is incredibly odd and ill conceived for a horror film. You need characters we can anticipate dying in horrific fashion. There’s no one in this movie longer than five minutes for us to have any rooting interest in besides the stars and we know they aren’t going to die, which means there is zero suspense. Badly mediocre monster movie. Poor, probably death sentence start to Universal’s Cinematic universe.

For the record, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is the only worse film in The Mummy franchise.

-Walter Howard-

Film of July (2017)

This July is set to be epic. With Baby Driver and Despicable Me 3 closing out last month, rolling into Spider-Man: Homecoming this week, I’m expecting huge blockbuster returns for July. There’s a big box office draw just about every week, and on top of this, many of them are already getting great reviews. People should appreciate this crop of films before the impending month of duds, also known as August kicks in. I looked at seven of the biggest movies being released this month, along with my brother and sister, and tried to predict box office production and rotten tomatoes score (if not already rendered). This is a sort of contest we’ve amused ourselves with over the years.

July 7

Spider-Man: Homecoming 92% on Rotten Tomatoes

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Starring Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Michael Keaton

The last time people truly cared about Spiderman (Mr. gay except the physical act Andrew Garfield’s films never had enough momentum), the film rewarded us with Toby Maguire crying like a teenage girl and getting jiggy in the streets sporting an emo do. People were not pleased. Spider-Man died a little that day. I wasn’t sure he’d ever recover. Then, Marvel got their rights to the property back, and all of the sudden people are excited again. I don’t think it’s quite at the level of Peter Parker’s hey-day with Toby and Kirsten Dunst, but I do think people are ready to see it. One critic compared this new film to a John Hughes movie. I love that. Peter Parker has always been more interesting to me than Spider-Man. My Prediction: $420-430 million

David-It’s going to follow the Marvel formula, by the numbers, but still highly entertaining. Prediction: $310-320 million

Ava-Now that Marvel has their property back, they’re going to do it right. Has to be awesome. Prediction: $350-360 million

July 14

War of the Planet of the Apes 95% on Rotten Tomatoes

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Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer

The third installment in one of the most ambitious blockbuster franchises ever. Filmmakers always talk about upping the ante in sequels but few actually deliver. These Planet of the Apes add more and more emotional stakes each time up, rather than just more explosions. I’m pumped. My prediction: $260-270 million

David-My most anticipated film of the summer. Potential to be one of the best trilogies ever. Love Caesar. Prediction: $215-225 million

Ava- This movie is going to be amazing. That’s all I have to say. Prediction: $240-250 million

July 21

Dunkirk No Rotten Tomatoes Score

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Starring Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance

Christopher Nolan’s 70mm spectacle comes rather soon considering its apparent Oscar potential. I’m surprised by its 100 minute runtime which seems awfully short for what I thought was meant to be an epic. Bottom line though, Christopher Nolan delivers. He’s an excellent filmmaker, and I’m going to watch whatever film he wants to make. My prediction:$180-190 million/80-90% on Rotten Tomatoes

David-Christopher Nolan+it has Tom Hardy. Prediction:$225-235 million/80-90% on RT

Ava-Not a lot of action I’ve heard. Seems like it’s going to be boring. Prediction: $200-210 million/90-100% on RT

Valerian and the City of a Thousand No Rotten Tomatoes Score

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Starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delavigne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, Rutger Hauer

Perhaps a harkening to his old classics, chiefly The Fifth Element, a film that managed to pull off a ginger heroine, a shrieking black man in drag, and a villain with a southern accent for no reason. Luc Besson’s last few films haven’t been great, but I believe in this project. But I don’t believe anyone will see it. My Prediction: $60-70 million/55-65% on Rotten Tomatoes

David-I’m getting a John Carter (reference 2012 box office nuclear bomb) vibe. Prediction: $90-100 million/65-75% on RT

Ava-I’m getting a John Carter (reference 2012 box office nuclear bomb) vibe, but I say that’s a good thing, even though I haven’t seen it. Prediction: $150-160 million/70-80% on RT

Girls Trip No Rotten Tomatoes Score

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Starring Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish

Women can be just as raunchy as men part two after last month’s flop, Rough Night. Clearly, Bridesmaids was the template for these R rated rom-coms led by female casts, and Girls Trip is attempting to reach an audience that is often marginalized. We’ll see if that pays off, but I’m predicting a “the cast does all it can, but they deserve better than this” from the critics upon release. My Prediction: $35-45 million/30-40% on Rotten Tomatoes

David-Didn’t laugh at the trailer. Don’t plan on seeing it in theaters. Believe it will be a hit though. Prediction: $105-115 million/50-60% on RT

Ava-I did laugh during the trailer; non-stop. Prediction: $90-100 million/40-50% on RT

July 28

Atomic Blonde 78% on Rotten Tomatoes

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Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, Til Schweiger

Stylish, cool spy mystery based on a graphic novel that I have read, but don’t remember in the slightest. I’m hoping this Charlize Theron action vehicle is more memorable. I loved the energy and soundtrack shown in the trailer, and I’ll definitely check this one out. My Prediction: $80-90 million

David-I’m excited as a fan of Charlize Theron (since Mad Max). Prediction:$90-100 million

Ava-Trailer looked great and it has James McAvoy. Prediction: $100-110 million

The Emoji Movie No Rotten Tomatoes Score

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Voices of T.J Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright

Wow. This movie. Just the fact that this is a movie. Attempting to be fair, I had similar feelings about The Lego Movie initially, and look how that turned out. But the trailer didn’t change my mind. Still, I’m going to go all in and predict that this will be a sleeper hit. My Prediction:$200-210 million/45-55% on Rotten Tomatoes

David-Yeah, pretty unimpressive. Idea is stupid. Will fail miserably. Small hope for Lego Movie success. Prediction: $90-100 million/35-45% on RT

Ava-Poop emoji. Prediction: $140-150 million/40-50% on RT

-Walter Howard-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despicable Me 3 (2017, Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda) English 6

Voices of Steve Carrell, Trey Parker, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Julie Andrews, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate

Some film-thirds tie together and conclude epic storylines in spectacular fashion (see The Return of the King or The Dark Knight Rises for examples). The newest Despicable Me film, following the wildly and unexpectedly successful first two entries, does exactly what it did the first two times, with no apparent thoughts of slowing down or concluding. This series is going to go on for a while, more like Ice Age than Batman. And why not? They are relatively inexpensive money-making machines. The first one made half a billion on a 70 million dollar budget. The second made nearly a billion. I only hope that for as long as they make these films, they make them good, and so far, that’s been the case. Despicable Me 3 is an amusingly eccentric, fun, fast-paced, colorful film, much like its predecessors.

This time, Gru (voiced by Carrell), his new wife, Lucy Wilde (Wiig), and three adoptive girls meet Dru (also voiced by Carrell), Gru’s long-lost twin brother. When the two were babies, their parents separated, taking one child with them and keeping the other secret from his brother. Gru’s mother tells him she got second pick. Dru’s a fun-loving, gregarious type, but he doesn’t have the intelligence of Gru. So he tells his brother about their family’s history of masterminding great feats of villainy, and how he needs his help fulfilling his legacy. Gru’s given up villainy though, becoming an agent against crime along with his wife. Eventually, Dru brings Gru out of retirement, and the two plan to steal a precious jewel from Balthazar Bratt, an ’80s has-been turned supervillain.

One of the chief pleasures of these films has been the use of classic cartoonish humor. A character coming to see Gru is strapped to a rocket, launched into orbit, crash lands back on Earth, and limps his way back to Gru’s lawn. It’s looney tunes seen in modern three dimensional animation. Another hallmark of these films has been Pharrell Williams accomplished soundtracks, spawning the hit song “Happy” in the second entry. I doubt any of the songs this time around score that level of success, but they still work well with the movie. Third and finally, the voice acting is always on point, Carrell, Wiig, and Parker’s voices fully integrated within their characters.

I have no real complaints against the film except that I’ve seen this before. The combination of sweet and funny should work again to make the studio rich and the audience happy. Worth watching for those who love animation.

-Walter Howard-