His Dark Materials
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Disney has officially released its long-awaited streaming service, Disney+. While many viewers are excited to rewatch their classic favourites and new upcoming Star Wars and Marvel series, it also seems that they will be creating their own original films every so often as well. One of their first at launch was that of Noelle. Just in time for the Christmas season, Disney+ released this Christmas film to warm the hearts of families around the world. Sadly, I feel that the execution of this movie is a mixed bag. Do I think Disney+ is worth purchasing? Yes, very much so. Do I think this is the movie that you should watch before anything else? Probably not.
After the passing of their father, siblings Noelle (Anna Kendrick) and Nick (Bill Hader) find themselves having to take over the family business. With their father having been Santa Claus and them having lived in the North Pole all their lives, they know nothing else. Nick is next in line to become Santa but ultimately flees the scene when nerves kick in. Noelle ventures to find him and hijinks ensue. Noelle is a film that works as a sweet, yet super corny little Holiday flick, but the third act of the film sort of took away from the rest of it for me.
Without giving anything away for those who wish to watch, the third act of this movie really begins to hit you over the head with the messages it's trying to send. While I have no problems with these messages, it's almost like the filmmakers thought viewers didn't see these messages slowly presenting themselves throughout the entire movie. I liked the conclusion for what it was, but the way it was executed fell flat for me. There was a lot of emotion set-up throughout the movie that does have a payoff, but I felt disconnected from it all.
Anna Kendrick is as loveable and quirky as she has always been and Bill Hader (although having much less screen time) is quite good with the material he is given as well. Where this movie fell apart was easily in the screenplay. I didn't mind the direction here, in fact, I actually liked it, which was no surprise seeing as I enjoyed director Marc Lawrence's work on Music & Lyrics. With that said, he also wrote this screenplay and I found a few key elements were missing to make the finale of this movie truly work.
In the end, Noelle is a passable, at times very enjoyable Christmas movie, but ultimately collapses by the end for me. It's not that I despised where they went, it's just how it was done. For fans of Holiday films, no matter what they are about, this movie might appeal to you more. I personally love a great Holiday flick and I'm usually pretty forgiving of them, but this one didn't quite work. It's not a bad movie, but I was certainly hoping for better.
This usually happens to me about once a year or so, but it's so close to the end of this year that I didn't think it was going to happen. I usually find one film that warms my heart to the point that I find myself putting it on my list of best films of the year, simply because I found nothing wrong with it on an emotional level. The Peanut Butter Falcon is easily the best feel-good movie out there of 2019 and also one of the best overall movies of 2019, in my opinion. This movie has flown under the radar for mainstream audiences, so please, seek this one out.
Living with down syndrome in an old age home, young Zak escapes in hopes of find his wrestling hero that he sees on television on a daily basis. The film equally focusses on him, as well as Tyler, who has issues of his own and is currently on the run to save his life. Bumping into each other, the two of them form a bond that leads to a very heartwarming friendship. With a few more layers to unpack as the movie progresses, this film has all the heart you could ever ask for out of a film, without getting overly sappy.
Written and directed by two newcomers to the feature film sphere, Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz have created one hell of a little indie here. It's very clear that this isn't their first rodeo in cinema/television, but as a first film, they deserve all the praise in the world. While this movie will most likely go under the radar when awards season rolls around, I truly do feel they have given some of the best work behind the camera all year. On top of their stellar work, the talent on-screen is just as notable.
Although Shia LaBeouf hasn't exactly quit acting, it has become very apparent over the last few years that he just wants to pursue smaller projects. Personally, I love that he has done that because his talents are far more suited for projects like this. Quite honestly, I'm not sure if I've ever seen him give a stronger performance than that of his portrayal of Tyler in The Peanut Butter Falcon. That aside, the true standout here is Zack Gottsagen as Zak. Nilson and Schwartz were able to bring out such a charismatic and natural performance from him and I felt like I was nearly watching a documentary with the amount of chemistry that LaBeouf and Gottsagen shared.
In the end, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a film that I have been looking forward to for a while and I'm very happy with the experience I had when watching it. This may seem repetitive, but I can't stress enough how heartwarming this film truly is. I watched this movie with a smile on my face the entire time and with such great performances and direction to boot, there really weren't any glaring faults. When this film hits home video in the coming weeks or becomes available to stream in your area, I can't recommend checking it out enough. The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of the best movies of 2019.
Netflix wasn't known for producing great films when they first started but rather produced some great television shows instead. Nowadays, with films like Roma being up for best picture, Eddie Murphy making his return in Dolemite is My Name, and Martin Scorsese releasing his three and a half hour epic gangster film in The Irishman, they are nothing short of being all-in. Sadly, for every great film, they're still releasing a poor one as well, and that's the case with the latest Stephen King adaptation, In the Tall Grass. While it had a promising premise and some unique ideas, it never fully grasps where those ideas should lead. Here's why I don't think this movie is worth your time, even as a casual watch on Netflix.
Stopping on the side of the road during a long drive, siblings Becky and Cal venture out into a field of endless, tall grass after hearing the cry of a young boy. Learning that this location has much more going on under the surface, other characters appear and other-worldly things begin to happen. Playing with time and horror, this is a premise that has a lot going for it but ultimately fails. Sadly, another aspect that didn't help the wasted potential, was the fact that the cast just really wasn't all that good. That's saying a lot coming from me because Patrick Wilson actually gets quite a bit of screentime, and I usually love his performances.
Laysla De Oliveira and Avery Whitted lead this film for the most part until other characters begin to appear, and while I can see the potential for them in the future, I haven't seen either of them in a film before and it really does show throughout. I will cut them some slack though because I truly feel the biggest culprit here is the screenplay. I was shocked to see Vincenzo Natali's name all over this film, because Paris, je t'aime is a fantastic film by him and I also quite enjoyed his little horror film, Splice. For these reasons alone I was interested in In the Tall Grass, but his dialogue here could have really used some work. Even less of it and using the score to keep the movie ominous I believe would have helped, but that's just my opinion.
The absolute best thing I can say about this film is the fact that it's actually nicely shot from start to finish. Known for working on very popular shows like Fargo, Legion, and The Umbrella Academy, his extensive resume shines through here and is on full display. If an award had to be given to any aspect of this movie, it would surely be for the cinematography. If for nothing else, I enjoyed looking at this movie. Truthfully, I believe the camerawork is what kept my attention the whole time.
In the end, In the Tall Grass begins with a promising concept, but is bogged down by a confusing finale, subpar dialogue, a cast that deserved to be in a better film, and direction that was very off, which is really saying something, seeing who was behind the camera and story here. There's no way I can get myself to recommend this movie to anyone, except for maybe suggesting it to cinematographers who like to shoot horror films. Good in theory, but gad in execution.
Director Bong Joon Ho has been on my radar for years now, as I believe him to be one of the best storytellers out there right now. Admittedly, I haven't seen the majority of his films but his two most recent works in Snowpiecer and Okja were among the best films of their consecutive years. I thought both of those films were great, so I was very eagerly awaiting his newest film, Parasite. After viewing, not only does this film deserve to be talked about as one of the best films to be released in 2019, but I personally think this may just be the very best movie you'll see all year. Now, some people may not like the turn it takes, but here's why I think Parasite demands to be seen.
To go into detail about this premise would be to ruin it for those who haven't seen it, so I'll stick to the basics here. The Kim family lives in a basement living space. All unemployed, they find any way they can to make things work. Ki-woo, the eldest sibling in the family, is given the opportunity to tutor the daughter of the rich Park family. Getting smarter and smarter as the first act really kicks into gear, the Kim family becomes a group of very clever con-artists. Meaning well and doing everything they can to keep things legitimate, this makes for some terrific tension.
The biggest praise I can give this film is that it's constantly in motion, never wasting a moment to surprise you. The set-up for this movie has many clever aspects to it, the second act throws you a real curveball and the finale doesn't disappoint either. Some viewers may think this movie goes off the rails toward the end, but I found it to be an overall brilliant piece of storytelling. Each time you think the movie has said everything it wants to, it becomes that much more interesting. In other hands, this story could've have come off as a very generic film, but there's truly something special about how well-made Parasite is.
Wonderfully shot by cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong, each frame of this movie has more than one thing to say. It's very rare these days that shot compositions are done in such a way that they seem to tell a story as well, but even in the moments when the focus is on the characters alone, there are things happening in the background or even signs in the framing that things are coming soon. This movie is brilliantly made in every way.
It's very rare when I review a film and struggle to at least come up with one negative here, so I won't bother trying, because I loved this movie too much to let anything take away from it. I will just say that certain aspects may not work for everyone. Parasite is a perfect example of why I love movies so much. A great, engaging story that surprises you from start to finish, along with one of the best crews to work on a film yet this year. I can't praise this film enough. This Korean language film has broken through and I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if it takes home the award for best foreign film and even a nomination for best picture. This is as close to a masterpiece you can get today.
Eddie Murphy was known as one of the greatest comedic personalities of all time by many, and is still remembered for being that great, but it's safe to say that his career took quite the nosedive in terms of the projects he was attaching himself to. I would argue that his last truly committed performance was in 2006's Dreamgirls, even though I enjoyed him in Tower Heist as well. Now, with a stand-up special on the way, Coming to America 2 and Beverly Hills Cop 4 in the works, he seems to be on his way back into the spotlight if those movies turn out great. We're not here to discuss his career though. Dolemite is My Name is one of the latest feature films to hit Netflix and Murphy is the shining star here in what may just be his best performance in decades.
Following the tropes of many biopics, Dolemite is My Name follows Rude Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) as his stand-up comedy/rap routines are winning audiences over. With a very niche audience that follows his work, people never believed his personality could translate well to the big screen. Determined to show his character Dolemite to the world, he sets out to fund his feature film on his own. With ups and downs throughout his career, this true story lends itself to a very formulaic movie as a whole.
Thankfully, the care put into making this a great watch is very much present, leaving the issue of feeling like a retread by the wayside. Eddie Murphy delivers one of the best performances I've ever seen him give and the supporting cast in performers like Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key, and even Snoop Dogg are all giving it their all. This movie needed to have a very specific type of feel in order to work and a lot of that weight was on the cast. Personally, I don't think a better cast of performers could've been put together for this particular story.
From a bizarre drama like Black Snake Moan to the remake of Footloose (which I happen to prefer over the original), I've always enjoyed watching one of director Craig Brewer's films, who was also at the helm here. The way this film is visually presented, along with the great performances from everyone involved, it really seems like his best work yet as a director. I'm very excited that he is the one who will be taking on the role as director for the upcoming sequel to Coming to America.
In the end, Dolemite is My Name has quite a bit of energy to it and the screenplay is very quippy, which made the run time not feel like the full two hours that it is. If you're a fan of Eddie Murphy, then I can't see why you won't be glued to the screen as I was. This character was pretty much made for him to play. I'm glad to see him making a comeback and having it work so well. This is a very, very good, funny, and engaging biopic that I feel a lot of people will get a kick out of. Come Oscar season, you may also hear some buzz about how good Eddie Murphy truly is here. This was a great watch.