2018 Half Time Report

halftimereport1

 

I am rather surprised that the first half of 2018 has had a rather good share of quality films, nearly breaking the tradition of having mainly bad films in the first half of a year. It actually made me realize that while I can make a top five of the year so far, I could not do a bottom five (for it would include films I actually enjoy).

That being said, such good movies like Deadpool 2, A Quiet Place, Incredibles 2, Ready Player One, and Set it Up did not make the list.

First, the bottom three…

 

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

After the nice revival of the series in 2015, we are given this let down. Nice visuals, but way too many plot turns and clichés that make you shake your head rather than nod.

2. Irreplaceable you

It is rather sad when there is a romantic movie that tries hard to bring the tears and fails. Too many characters making choices that are really difficult to relate to, let alone agree with.

1. The Cloverfield Paradox

Credit to the film makers for keeping this project a secret up until the release right after the Superbowl. That is really the only positive I can think of. I have not seen any of the other Cloverfield films, but it still does not hide what a waste of time and money this was.

 

Note: The last two films mentioned star actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I point this out because I wish to say she is talented, and I hope she gets better material soon.)

 

Now the best so far…

5. Isle of Dogs

Leave it to Wes Anderson to, as always, give us as fresh an original movie as possible. It is weird, quirky, funny, touching, and has Bill Murray. So, you know, a basic Wes Anderson film.

4. Black Panther

Easily one of Marvel’s top films, the kingdom of Wakanda gives us some of the best action, grit, and realism we have seen in any action film. All the cast is wonderful.

3. Avengers: Infinity War

As if the previous film were not enough, Marvel then proceeded to give us the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight. Seriously, think of how bad this movie could have been, and yet there is hardly a fault. Regardless of how you feel, there is no doubt of the wonderful, terrifying screen presence of Thanos (Josh Brolin is definitely having a good 2018).

2. Hereditary

This horror thriller reminded me a lot of 2016’s unseen gem The Witch. With a stellar cast (mainly Toni Colette), this film leaves a taste that I have still not fully gotten out of my system. I don’t think I want to either.

1. Won’t you be my Neighbor?

We still have more action packed films (comic book or otherwise) to endure this year, but they did not come much more humble and respected than Fred Rogers (who took me years to realize his first name). A documentary that is sure to bring tears and cheers, it is as necessary a film as the world needs these days. Like Hereditary, it will leave a taste (albeit a much warmer and comfortable one) in your bones and soul that will not leave you (not to mention make you feel somewhat guilty for the parodies Rogers had to suffer).

 

Now to the second half of 2018…

 

 

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Deadpool 2

Wind Advisory: The super-duper group is formed.

 

Obviously, there are too many quips and jokes and one liners to list in a review of Deadpool 2, and would be redundant. As was the case with the original, the sequel has Ryan Reynolds at the core of its cinematic power. While it is not a masterpiece, it is an upgrade from its predesceor.

The film starts (with a nod to Scorsese’s Casino) with Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Reynolds) right where we left him: fighting crime and coming home to his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Caccarin). In fact, one of the best things about this film is that it stands by itself, not requiring you to know much about the first film (though there are some inside jokes you would miss). After a tragic event, Deadpool tries his hand with the X-Men , as they try to help a young mutant named Firefist (a well casted Julian Dennison). They soon find out he is being hunted down by Cable (Josh Brolin), who has traveled back in time after the future Firefist has killed his wife and daughter.

What happens from there is for you to discover. There is more than a fair share of crude humor and fourth wall breaking, as well as other film references such as Say Anything. It is yet to be half way through 2018, and Josh Brolin is already set with this as well as Infinity War, giving two performances of impressive strength. Other returning actors include T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, and Karan Soni as Deadpool’s friends. New characters include Zazie Beetz as Domino (who, despite Deadpool’s unbelief, is lucky), Shioli Kutsuna as Yukio, and a surprise mutant who the credits say plays himself.

The biggest mistake I made was looking at the cast on IMDB before I saw the film. There are a good amount of cameos that I found out about too soon. Don’t look until after the film. Personally, I know there are a few I missed and need to seek out the second time.

Parents, it should be no surprise that you should know this is not a family film (though Deadpool does disagree on that perspective). There is no nudity (aside from some obscure male nudity) or strong sexual content as there was in the first film. There is, however, a lot of swearing and violence. A whole lot. High School and above.

Despite the film’s flaws (the sentimental scene at the end, though funny, does go long), there is no doubt that the credit scenes (which you would expect) are the funniest scenes in the whole film. They are better than any credit scenes in any film of the past decade. They almost make the price worth paying to see the movie itself, which is not to say the movie is bad. Rather the contrary.

Now if you excuse me, I need to watch Yentl.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers Infinity War

Thanos (Josh Brolin) shakes the Avengers to their core, as well as the audience.

For the past ten years, Marvel has made (for the most part) solid entertaining movies. It has also been that long since The Dark Knight, which has always been the best superhero movie. Few movies have been any kind of a threat (Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther). Now comes the cream of the crop, Avengers: Infinity War. In my mind, The Dark Knight is still number one, but it has been shaken by a solid silver place finisher.

I will be brief, for I would fear of any form of spoilers (there will be none here). If you have seen any of the Marvel films (I know you have), you know there have been six infinity stones in the universe. They are being hunted by Thanos (Josh Brolin), in his quest to bring balance to the cosmos. This is done with the infinity gauntlet, which he can use to wipe out half of all living things, with a snap of his fingers.

That is as far as I will go. Standing in his way are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Captain America (Chris Evans),….ok, basically everyone in every Marvel movie except for Ant-Man and Hawkeye (that was easier).

Remember Spider-Man 3, when there were too many characters and story lines? Well, Infinity War has only one real story line and one villain. Nevertheless, all the star players are not only here, but needed. Afterall, that is how hard it is to defeat a guy like Thanos. The first ten minutes alone prove my point.

Credit also must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Each character is given same amount of screen time, but the right amount of it. Kudos to the actors for remembering the old rule: no small parts, only small actors.

Speaking of which, there is even a role for Peter Dinklage. I mean that transition not as a put down joke, but from the heart. There is no doubting the man’s talent.

Parents, I was about to say it is like any Marvel movie, but, to be fair, there are a lot of darker moments. That is all I will say. Middle School and above.

That is all I will say, because this is not a movie to read about. It is one to experience. And what an experience.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

 

Hail Caesar

George Clooney in “Hail, Caesar!”

When you see a lot of trailers like I do, you know the name of the director(s) can make or break the perception you will have of the film. Seeing a name like Spielberg, Scorsese, Tarantino, Eastwood, Nolan, or Inarritu will give a sigh of relief, while names like Bay or Shamalyn make you lose all faith in the movie. Joel and Ethan Coen obviously belong in the first catagory. Whenever a trailer for a Coen brothers film is released, a voice in my head seems to say “Oh boy, what have they got for me this time?” with a smile.

Their newest film, Hail, Caesar!, is another Coen classic. It tells the story of a film studio in the 1950s called Capitol Pictures. The film centers around Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). He is in charge of making sure all the stars stay in lie and behave. To say Mannix is a workaholic is an understatement. One day, his biggest star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) goes missing, and life seems to go downhill from there.

We also get a Western star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) who is the new star of a period piece by director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), whose name pronunciation is never fully clear. Their rehearsal scene is sure to garner big laughs. Other stars in the film include Scarlett Johansson as another troubled star, Tilda Swinton as (twin) sister reporters, Frances McDormand (real life wife of Joel Coen) as an editor, Jonah Hill as a reliable go to man (I won’t say how), and Channing Tatum as a musical star (no kidding).

What I loved most about the film is it seemed to be the Coens’ personal love letter to the movies. We get scenes that seem to cover almost every genre. There is a little bit of Western, Film Noir, and even some musical (a dancer scene is in the film that I may consider buying on Itunes).

Parents, the movie is PG-13, which I feel is because it is a Coen brothers film. There is no sex or nudity (some mild innuendo), some smoking (it is 1950s Hollywood after all!), and some swearing (probably the least amount of swearing in a Coen brothers film I can remember). Middle School and up would be ok.

The film has some mild flaws (I was a little confused why Tilda Swinton, a fine actress, had to be twins), and some scenes tended to run a little long. Still, this is another Coen brothers film to be remembered for a long time. It is one of the best movies about movies made in some time.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Sicario (2015)

Benecio Del Toro and Emily Blunt in Sicario.

Benecio Del Toro and Emily Blunt in Sicario.

It was in last year’s Edge of Tomorrow (which is still in my mind horribly underrated) that I learned how tough Emily Blunt can be. In that film, she held her own against one of the biggest stars in the world (Tom Cruise), and seemed to do so with out any struggle.

In Sicario, she stars as FBI agent Kate Macer, who (at the start of the film), comes across the house of bodies due to the war on drugs. She is recruited by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). It is not entirely clear (at least to me) what branch of government he works for, but it is clear his view on how to stop the drug war: Things must be done off the book, and it is clear with the man he uses named Alejandro (Benecio Del Toro).

While Brolin is good, and Emily Blunt shows she is one tough cookie, it is Del Toro who steals the show. His Alejandro is easily one of the most memorable characters in cinema for the past few years (he reminded me of Anton Chigurgh from No Country for Old Men).  While I always knew he was a great, underappreciated actor (he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for 2000’s Traffic), I admit I had forgot about it (he has not had many great films since then, save for 21 Grams). Here he gets a chance to spread his wings again in a performance that is, as teens today might say, sic (pun intended). Here is looking at another Oscar nomination.

The problem with the film I think is the confusion of characters. I admit I had trouble remembering the names of certain characters, and had no idea who some of them even worked for. Still, the film is wonderfully made (the director is Denis Villeneuve, who recently directed Prisoners with Hugh Jackman). It also has stellar cintamatography (which is no surprise when you realize it is 12 time Oscar nominated Roger Deakins who did it).

Parents, High School and above. There is no real sexual scenes (one where a character is about to after a lot of kissing, but then does not go farther than that). The movie gets its R rating from its swearing (which is language any teen would hear sadly these days in school), but the violence is graphic. For those who can handle it, it is one of the gems of 2015.

Overall: Four Stars ****