His Dark Materials
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Coming from the creator of essentially every CW show currently on air, Greg Berlanti, I didn't know what to expect from Love, Simon. Being that his first film wasn't well received several years ago, how would he bounce back after being hailed as a television genius. Well, it's fair to say he did quite well. Love, Simon is not only a good coming of age film, but a touching romantic drama as well. The catch being that no one knows Simon is gay and he's been secretly communicating with another gay classmate over the internet, who is also unknown. It becomes a story about identity and empathy, and how everyone deals with their true selves differently. I liked that this movie had several moving pieces and it always kept you guessing as to who the "mystery person" Simon was communicated with was. However, I'm not sure the payoff was worth the wait. Fair or not, I was hoping for a more clever conclusion the film long mystery, even if that means using a cliche here or there to get to that point. The film also suffers from one too many characters that Simon has an emotional beat with. Just as you start to connect with his mom, dad, sister, or one of his many friends, the film moves on to the next person. And never truly lets you feel the weight of one of those particular bonds breaking or coming back together. In that way, it's a little too stuffed with material, which is not to say any of them are bad sequences, just not fulfilling. With that said, there are undoubtedly great moments of heart and levity which makes for an always enjoyable film, just not a complete one.
The Mission franchise is an interesting one. It's spanned over 20 years, has only had two actors appear in every film, has never fully embraced continuity, and has undoubtedly gone through many production issues. Alas, it's also one of the greatest franchises because it has defied what it means to impress audience with action and it keeps getting better and better with every film. Although admittedly, I'm not exactly sure how it can get any better from here. I saw this movie early, and instantly felt it was one of the best action movies of all time, but I also knew I needed to see it at least one more time before I really did give it that title. Well, I've seen the film 4 times now and each time further cemented my feelings. Everything from the Halo jump, to the middle act (which is essentially one long chase sequence), to the callbacks, to the Helicopter scene, to Henry Cavill's unnecessary but totally bada** facial hair. Mission: Impossible Fallout is an unbelievable ride that simply never lets up. Even in its quiet moments, it has touching dialogue that makes the action more weighted. Even in my 4 viewings, I've never been bored, and I can't wait to see it again. It also surprisingly had a great amount of emotional stakes, something the serious didn't really have since Mission 3. There are a few moments with Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and Michelle Monaghan that really hit me emotionally, and I never would have expected that from this series. It has the best antagonist(s) since Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and maybe even better, the action is easily the most impressive in years (probably since Fury Road), and the actors have never been better. If there's going to be another one, then take your time and do it right, because this could very well be the best conclusion possible for the series. Thank you to Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie for making this an instant classic.
Marvel is coming off quite possibly their best streak of 3 films including Thor Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Infinity War; Ant-Man & the Wasp found itself in a unique situation. Some people thought all it had to do was be fun and present a different tone than what Infinity War did a few months back, others thought it had even more pressure to continue the streak of greatness. For me, I just wanted a good movie that would make me laugh. Because for the most part, that's what the first Ant-Man did.
Sadly, the sequel barely does anything to separate itself from other superhero films or really make a mark in a crowded field of movies. Let's begin with the humor (which is getting a lot of credit for some reason). There are a few characters in this film that are anything but actual humans. They are caricatures that are only there to spout jokes for ever second they are on screen. Randall Park and Michael Pena no longer feel like real people. Walton Goggins (albeit not there for humor) is a completely useless character that is solely there so that the secondary characters can have a brief action "chase" sequence. You never get a true sense of his purpose or motivations. He's just there.
The villain, Ghost, (played by Hannah John-Kamen) looked like an interesting addition in the trailers and has the ability to phase through anything. Her goal in this movie directly relates to a spoiler-ish mission that Ant-Man & the Wasp go on, but there was never once that she had an imposing presence on screen. In fact, there isn't a single character that even feels like an antagonist or a conflict, which is a good reason for why this movie fails.
Evangeline Lilly is incredible in this movie and is a complete 180 from her role in the first film. She actually gets a chance to do something and every second she's on screen is electric. Unfortunately, a lot of that comes at the expense of Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. He's no longer a nifty bada**, but rather a clumsy guy in a suit that's good for a few punches and one too many jokes.
As a whole, the film is easily the worst and most pointless entry into the MCU. There's no reason this film should get more praise simply because its a lighter movie that comes right after Infinity War. Years from now I think people are going to realize that there is just a lack of substance here.
Is this film for everyone? No, probably not. But I think there's at least something everyone can enjoy. It's a sports movie with a little bit of romance, comedy, and plenty of heart. So even if you're not out at your local park pretending to be Jordan or LeBron, there's plenty to be enjoyed here. I found it to be a lot like Tag from a few weeks prior. I didn't necessarily laugh out loud more than a few times (dissimilar to what my audience did at the theater), but I found myself connected to these ridiculous characters and smiling along with this wild ride. Reggie Miller and Chris Webber were surprisingly tolerable as actors, and actually pretty funny at times. Kyrie Irving did his best to co-lead a film in which he's in makeup that's "supposed to" age him 60+ years. And of course there's Shaq, who certainly improves upon the last movie I remember him leading, Kazaam. But the film only works if you buy into Lil Rey Howery as Dax, a down on his luck basketball coach who just wants to win the Rucker Park tournament one year. I could do without the Tiffany Haddish storyline, which felt like something out of a lame sitcom, but I bought into his failed basketball career and his aspirations to coach a champion. Sure, you know exactly where the film is going, but if the film succeeds in telling the story it wants to tell, it doesn't necessarily matter the route it took to get there.
In retrospect, Tag was definitely poorly marketed and a clear missed opportunity to make this film out to be something its not. Tag is a drama disguised as a comedy, and I think that's the way people should go into it thinking. Even amidst its unbelievable true source material, there is a great deal of heart that Tag delves into. Yes, this a 90 minute film based around a group of friends that plays tag every year for the entire month of May, but there's so much more beneath the surface that gets explored here. And I think most people are not critiquing the movie based on that, but rather, the failed comedic attempts in Tag. And admittedly, the movie isn't all that funny. There are some standout scenes and performances, particularly anything involving Jeremy Renner, Hannibal Buress, Leslie Bibb, and Isla Fisher. They were very funny, but the film succeeds far more in its subtle attempts at drama than it does in its blatant attempts at making you laugh. But I really enjoy the types of films that move me in a personal way. Tag does that due to my nostalgia for my childhood playing outside with my neighborhood friends. The idea of having something like that end for any number of reasons always saddened me. And the reality is, those things don't live on forever. So when Tag explores those themes it really hit home. Maybe that wasn't exactly the filmmakers intentions, but that's the way I interpreted the film. Sometimes that's all you need to connect to a film.