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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I won't own this film on DVD like I do the originals, but I will own that I enjoyed every second.
Life finds a way to bring back Jurassic Park movies every few years, even though we are all familiar with the two sentence plot: What could go wrong if we bring back dinosaurs? — run!
I'm an unabashed fan of 2015's Jurassic World revival with Chris Pratt, who delivered that Bruce Willis/Harrison Ford movie magic combo of wit and action hero believability. It was my favorite movie that summer, hitting all the right notes of wonder and thrills.

This year's sequel roars into the theater with the same challenge that the 90's sequels had: Dinosaurs breaking free from the park is a thrilling story, but what do we do now? Similar to the 90's, the new film tackles consequences and animal rights — in addition to all the running.
However, the film cleverly brings something new to the series  that was a fun surprise — a haunted house genre twist in the final act that works well.

The writing team, same as for the previous film, and a new director J.A. Bayona, give Bryce Dallas Howard and the supporting cast more one-liners this time around, at the expense of utilizing Pratt more. He is the only one with star power, so there is some spark missing this time around.

Compared to the 2015 film (and the 1993 original), the good guys never seem to be in believable danger as the story plays towards more absurd. While it won't be a classic, it was classic summer fun.

In a nutshell: Dino-mite for escapist fun.

A solid number three in the series of five.

Award potential: Best Special FX contender on Oscars night.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Ocean's 8

Someone stole my ten bucks.

In a year of super hero and Star Wars burnout, it couldn’t be more timely to bring back a fast-paced heist movie — and it couldn’t be more timely to reshape everyone’s favorite heist franchise with an all-actress cast. 

That’s right, Ocean’s 11 is now Ocean’s 8 — although it’s really kind of a six that never really goes to eleven.

The film's ensemble cast includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina and Elliot Gould, who resumes his franchise role. It’s a delight to see all of these on screen, and for a few minutes it’s fun to see Bullock swipe some luxury products in a realistic way. However, the big hustle is a huge, unrealistic one, which leads to a pretty dumb hour and a half to follow.

Director Gary Ross (Hunger Games, Sea Biscuit, Pleasantville, Big) replaced the swagger and cocktail energy of the Soderbergh's Vegasy films with the pleasant world of NYC fashion and art, perhaps intended as a Sex & The City take on the franchise. Some of the fashion onscreen is a feast for the eyes, but much of it is forced. There’s literally of montage of uninspired jewelry photos. Yes, still photos.

There's never much at stake in this plot. While it is fun enough to watch the on-screen talent go through the motions for a Friday night at the movies, you can’t help but wonder if each of them could have spent time on something that you wouldn’t forget the second you walk out of the theater.

Sort of seems like a crime, right?

In a nutshell: A female-cast sequel to the boozy Ocean’s films should have served up bubbly champagne, but it delivers an OK glass of wine.

Award potential: None.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Is Fred Rogers the same as his character on tv
Positively ten buck worthy. Is it possible to make an intriguing, 94-minute documentary about a man who was filled with positivity and goodness — without a scandal arc to the story? 

Yes it is.
While the production of this film involves nothing revolutionary, the subject was. Old footage of Fred Rogers is the real star of this doc about about the beginnings of his PBS show and its noble purpose — giving children the tools they need to navigate the world.
The words shared in the film are good advice for adults too. Everyone alive in 2018 can benefit from seeing this huggable film and I hope it’s a success when it opens in theaters this June.
In a nutshell: Zip up your cardigan and join this neighborly good time. It's more lovable than artful, but contains a message everyone should hear. It, like you, is special.

Award potential: Filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) has won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. His clout. plus this lovable subject, should have this film on all short lists for nominees. 

It’s an unlikely winner however, as it’s not a deep subject and drags on about ten minutes too long — not that inappropriate given that Mr Rogers never was one for hurrying.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War

Super disappointing.  

(No spoilers.) I never expected The Avengers (2012) to be a good superhero film. Usually when one or more heroes or too many villains joined a series, it ended up like the dreadful Batman and Robin (1997), a franchise-ender filled with superstars, multiple plots and lots of reasons to look at my watch.

I was wrong. That first one, with a smart script and a balance of humor and action with characters we care about, raised the bar for the genre. It's the best one, period.

That talented team has their work cut out for them with Avengers: Infinity War, for all the reasons I thought the first one would fail. With too many heroes, each with about 10 minutes of screen time each, there is no soul to this film. Clearly, this is a film that intentionally culminates in hero-gathering chaos, to end a 10-year chapter in the Marvel Universe, but what does that leave the viewer? 

There are moments to enjoy. Seeing Cumberbatch's Dr. Strange interact with Downy Jr.'s Iron Man is delightful. I had the same reaction watching Pratt's Star Lord's inferiority complex when paired with Hemworth's Thor, and  it was riveting when they all assembled for battle. And the crowd in my cinema roared with applause when two characters just showed up. However, this does not make a movie.

My usual critique of the superhero films is that the crap ones always end with the bad guy growing large and someone throwing a special thing at it. 

The good news is — that does not happen. The bad news is that this two-parter ends on a cliffhanger, and I'm guessing that next summer, time travel is going to force us to see this whole bluh battle again, watch you-know-who die as sacrifice, and big baddie Thanos will get large just in time to have something thrown at him. 

Those Marvel geniuses have met their match. Although I know you're gonna see it anyway, the smart move is to watch this for free on cable next summer and shorten the cliffhanger time. It's a long film that puts the Infinity in Infinity War, so skip the credit closer and just read about it online.

In a nutshell: If you think the celebrity-stuffed We Are The World is a quality song, this movie is for you.

Award potential: Iron Man (2012) was nominated for Best Sound Editing. The Avengers (2012) was nominated for Best Visual Effects. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) got a nom for Best Makeup. And Logan (2017) was nominated for Best Screenplay. But there will be no Oscar nominations for Infinity Mess.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Quiet Place

Quiet scary.  

Listen up, horror movie lovers, the spring movie to see has landed. Director John Krasinski and his wife, actress Emily Blunt, have noted their love of Jaws (1975), and it shows in their first film together. It’s a quiet shark attack that never lets up. 

Kraskinski and Blunt portray parents of one of the few families left on an earth, which has been overrun by beastly creatures that hunt based on sound. One of the reasons they are still alive is having known sign language for their child who cannot hear. 

Emily Blunt communicates everything viewers need to know without many words to speak. Surprisingly a buffer new Kraskinski resembles action hero Ben Affleck more than The Office’s Jim Halpert. They make a great pair for this thriller. 

The nightmare begins in the first minute of the film and it is relentless until the last second. Mercifully, the film is only one hour and thirty-one minutes long. Extra good because I was afraid to eat my noisy popcorn during. 

In a nutshell: A beautifully crafted thrill ride that is best seen in the theater. (I won’t reveal why.) 

Award potential: Unlikely that a spring movie would get a nomination. Of course, I would have said the same thing about Get Out, so leave some room for Best Sound.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Monday, April 23, 2018


For the privileged.

Prior to seeing this docu-drama, I knew only a few details about Chappaquiddick, and I sure couldn’t pronounce it.

I was age two in 1969, and I don’t think my history classes ever got past World War II, so I should note up front that my interest in this film was higher than anyone who was more studied about that infamous car accident.

Director John Curran’s film, Chappaquiddick, dramatizes the late-night drive off a bridge in Martha’s Vineyard, and the days that followed. The film is a mix of facts and speculation, told (thankfully) without melodrama. It’s a slow, thoughtful film that threatens to bore, but smartly wraps up at a relatively short 101 minutes.

It wouldn’t be a Kennedy film without leaving room for conspiracy theorizing of course, and in this telling there is only non-romantic friendship between Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke from Zero Dark Thirty and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Mary Jo Koepechne (Kate Mara from House of Cards and Fantastic Four), and the wreck was clearly an accident.

It’s an interesting choice. By avoiding a story of infidelity or perhaps a murder cover up, the film can focus on a story of political privilege and the man who would consider a career and family legacy over rushing to save a friend.

In a nutshell: A slow burn visualization of a completely somber story. Not a lot of fun for a Friday night, but it's a great set up for coffee chat after.

Award potential: You don't release a historical drama in April if you think it has a chance of Oscar attention.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Ready Player One

Great Scott! That was fun.

In my Wishes For 2018 blog this past January, I noted that if Ready Player One was anything less than "this generation's Back To The Future," I'd be disappointed. Well, I'm not the teenager like I was in 1985, but I expect I would have loved this film if so.

Director Steven Spielberg returns to his blockbuster popcorn movie making skills again, as well as his inability to lose those Spielberg sappy endings. No matter. Eighties movie fans will love this.
Those who loved Ernerst Cline's book, such as I, can exhale. They will likely enjoy the film version as much, and appreciate that the '80s references were kept to the perfect amount of sights and sounds. A literal version of the book would have been too much. Book lovers will likely appreciate one addition not in the book— a movie-inspired twist that translates to some bloody good, lean-forward movie magic.

Those who love CGI and gaming movies should have their new favorite film as well. 

And more importantly, everyone else should get wrapped up in this story about a glimpse at a VR-obsessed future and a boy and a girl in search of three clues that could bring some 2018 back to their world.

Spielberg has expertly and lovingly captured the spirit of '80s cinema in this modern adventure. All that, and we get to see that famous Delorean in action once again. Great Scott, that was a fun movie treat for April!

In a nutshell: Get Ready. A well-loved book gets the movie it deserves.

Award potential: While this movie may qualify for Best Animated Film, Academy purist Spielberg probably won't let that happen. If remembered, it has a chance for a Best VFX nomination.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.