Category: Movies

Blade Runner 2049

At the end of the screening of Blade Runner 2049 we were asked to wait through the end credits. As the house lights came up our wonderful public relations person read a lengthy message from Director Denis Villeneuve begging us to avoid spoilers. Not only that but to avoid basic plot, characters and other details as we gave our impressions. The funny thing is, 2049 doesn’t feel that spoilable – especially at its 2-hour and 45-minute runtime.

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Battle of the Sexes

Tennis was my sport growing up.  From the moment I could hold up a racket my Dad had me out on the court chasing balls until my feet hurt.  In retrospect this was obviously an easy way to where out a tween boy who stayed up too late on the weekends but I still appreciated it.  I played all through high school and less so in college but always stayed a fan of the professional game.  Growing up with Sampras, Agassi, Federer (who is still doing it, showoff,) Graf, Seles then the Williams sisters I never had a shortage of favorite players.  One of the best things about the game is how it embraces its history and keeps legendary players around each modern iteration of the game.  It’s how I learned about Arthur Ashe, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and of course Billie Jean King.

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Secret Service was released in 2014 to little fanfare. A relatively unknown spy property with some established talent (Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson) introducing a new leading man (Taron Egerton) from the Director of Kick Ass (Matthew Vaughn) would make most Hollywood studios queasy. But the risk paid off as Vaughn imbued Kingsman with a manic, almost cartoon like energy as Eggsy (Egerton) was recruited to a secret underground agency by Merlin (Mark Strong) and Gallahad (Firth.) It was one of the best blockbuster surprises of that year. So, of course the honest impulse of any good executive is following such a rousing debut is, “let’s franchise this shit!”

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IT

When Stranger Things debuted in July last summer it was instantly a phenomenon.  Not only was it an impeccably made series but it also paid homage to our intense nostalgia-pangs for the 1980’s.  All 10-episodes were peppered with references to John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Goonies and most obviously Stephen King.  King’s 1986-opus IT was a clear inspiration for the brigade of tweens as they hunted for their friend in the upside-down.

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Ingrid Goes West

You’ve seen the photos on Instagram:  The perfect plate of tuna tartar, then immaculately framed “candid” shot at the top of a craggy mountain ridge, the sunrise over Maui so stunning it makes you want to barf.  The corporate world has a term for these people, “influencers.”  What are they influencing exactly? Typing that makes me feel like Matt Damon transforming into his old self at the end of Saving Private Ryan.  The entire nature of the enterprise is smug and cynical but to deny their existence in a marketing portfolio is to have your head in the sand.  Influencers have reach and reach equals eyeballs, eyeballs attached to wallets.

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The Glass Castle

In 2005 Jeannette Walls released her memoir The Glass Castle. To put it lightly, the book touched on a variety of personal stories from Walls slightly “non-traditional” upbringing. And these stories aren’t just slightly unkempt anecdotes about Walls life on the road with her 3-siblings, mother and a father who’s dreams always massively outweighed his reach. These stories were dark and upsetting, powerfully so. It’s a story of the redemptive human spirit and one that touched millions of readers. It also lends itself to film in a perfect sense. Walls story is tailor-made for Hollywood which unfortunately is the film’s biggest curse.

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Atomic Blonde

In 2015 a legend decided to revive a franchise, lying dormant for nearly 30-years and in doing so created the best action film of the decade.  That man was George Miller and that revival was Mad Max: Fury Road.  At the center of the film was the titular Max played by Tom Hardy (in one of a seemingly endless string of performances where his beautiful face is covered by a mask) but the film had other priorities.  The real beating heart though was Imperator Furiosa played by the always riveting Charlize Theron. 

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Once upon a time in the land of the early-90’s an oddly revered sci-fi romp called The Fifth Element graced the silver screen.  Sure, it was derivative, oddly paced and featured Bruce Willis in full Die Hard mode while surrounded by alien beings but it had a certain verve (and a breakout Mila Jovovich) that has cemented it as a nostalgic burr in our minds.  Director Luc Besson had a string of interesting work in the 90’s and has worked steadily since, with less success.  His 2014 film Lucy had ScarJo as a supped-up experiment gone wrong that was as stupid as it was mind-blowingly bat shit.

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Dunkirk

I watch every horror movie generally the same, with my hands over my eyes but my fingers just cracked enough that I can see the screen.  It’s the 1st grader, peeking out the blinds method – one I’ve perfected over the years.  I also love that feeling – of the tension ratcheting up from the fellow poor souls littered in the theater around you.  Collectively you’ll bring the room temperature just praying for some sweet relief from the torture you’re putting yourself through.  What’s amazing is that Christopher Nolan has accomplished that same feeling with Dunkirk – a film of awe-inspiring and staggering intensity – that is unlike any war film ever made.

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War for the Planet of the Apes

If the NBA Finals and blockbuster Hollywood trilogies have one thing truly in common it’s that close-out games are the hardest to pull off (unless you’re the 2017 Golden State Warriors.)  The 2016 Warriors had a 3-1 lead and booted three-straight closeout games.  Hollywood has also failed to stick the landing numerous times.  Godfather Part III suffered from the cardinal sin of adding a precocious tween to the mix, sullying the legacy of the previous classics.  Return of the Jedi introduced a merry band of teddy bears that looked like mangled Jim Henson characters and actually ended with an Olympics-style medal ceremony and ghost send-off.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

Over the last decade I’ve collected many nits worth picking with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Little things bug me here and there and they seem to plague each film to varying degrees.  That’s not to say the MCU is without merit – the accomplishment of creating such a universe is somewhat staggering – but the problem often lies in tone and execution.  The films of the last 5-years have felt like assembly line creations, arcs we can digest easily and never remember.  It felt lazy.  Smash-cut to 2017 and we’ve already had two-spectacular superhero films (Logan & Wonder Woman) that avoided this pratfall simply by allowing the characters and story to stand on its own.

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Baby Driver

There are many things to admire about Director Edgar Wright.  He’s an incredible young visionary that writes and directs with such verve and candor that it’s impossible to mistake his work for someone else.  That’s what I love most about Wright, how singular his vision is.  From Shaun of the Dead to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – he’s never compromised (which is probably why his Ant-Man movie never happened) and if you ride for his style you should be very excited about Baby Driver.

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