Saturday, December 29, 2018
In regards to the original "Mary Poppins," the story behind it's development is a fascinating one that may or may not be told accurately in "Saving Mr. Banks." Long story short, Walt Disney promised his two daughters that he would make a film version of "Mary Poppins," which was their favorite book. But it took 20 years to get it made because author P.L. Travers was not a fan of the idea. She finally agreed mainly because she was running out of money, but the agreement included her getting the final script approval. In a bit of a devious move, though, Disney essentially tricked her into getting his version of the movie made despite her disapproval because she wasn't given any say during the editing process, which she thought she was going to get when she officially approved of the script. This resulted in her hating the movie. In fact, she hated the movie so much that she cried during the film's premier, an event that she wasn't even invited to initially. After the premier, she approached Disney and told him that the animated sequences were the first thing that needed to go, to which Disney replied, "Pamela, the ship has sailed." In other words, after 20 years of frustration, he finally got his version of the movie made and he didn't care what she thought of it.
That's kind of brutal if you think about it. But is this a case where the end justifies the means? Should Disney have given in to her demands since she is the original creator? Does an artist deserve more creative control when their property is being adapted? Should Disney have shown her more respect rather than tricking her into letting him do what he wanted? These are all interesting questions to ask, but I find myself not feeling too bad for Travers that she thinks her original property was ruined by Disney because the movie made her a multi-millionaire since she was given a certain percentage of the royalties. Also, I tend to love Disney's final product. Travers may have been a Grinch when it came to animation, but I think the combination of live action and animation was used brilliantly to help teach the positive use of creativity and imagination for kids. Travers also may have not liked exactly how the character of Mary Poppins was portrayed, but I think Julie Andrews gave an absolutely iconic performance. Not only is the character a lot of fun, but she does a perfect job of helping teach the young Banks kids a lot of important life lessons while also helping out their parents. And of course the music and dance numbers are some of the best that musicals have seen.
For those reasons, I wasn't necessarily beaming with excitement. Not initially, anyways. That all changed, though, when they started showing footage. The initial teaser didn't show much, but it set a tone for the movie that was visually impressive while Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins looked and sounded brilliant. So it had my attention. But then that full trailer arrived. Just... wow! This seemed like Disney had something special on their hands. I didn't realize how much I needed a Mary Poppins sequel in my life until I saw how magical that trailer looked. And, yeah, I'm happy to report that the movie is just as magical as the trailer. In regards to plot, the movie takes place in 1935, 25 years after the events in the original movie. Michael and Jane are now grown adults. Jane is still single, but Michael is now a widower after his wife has passed away a year ago, leaving him to raise their kids on his own. He's also ran into a lot of financial difficulties as his wife was the one who was good with the finances. So it's safe to say that he's in a bit of a dark place that gets even worse when two lawyers show up to the door and tell him that he has only a few days to pay off a huge loan he took or else his house is going to be repossessed, which is the same house they grew up in as kids.
Enter Mary Poppins who is here to save the day. And she does so in a very Mary Poppins way. She's there as a nanny spending most of her time with the three children, but the ultimate goal is to help Michael get back on his feet. He's lost a lot of his passion and creativity that he had as a kid that certainly wasn't helped by the passing of his wife. This is a bit reminiscent of "Christopher Robin" from earlier this year, which showed Ewan McGregor's portrayal of Christopher Robin as one who had become so obsessed with work that he had all of his priorities a bit backward. Although what makes Michael's position in "Mary Poppins Returns" feel more real and intense is that feeling of loss that has completely wrecked him. I think this aspect of the film has a good chance of hitting home for anyone who has experienced a similar loss like this and it's boosted by an excellent performance from Ben Whishaw as Michael, as well as Emily Mortimer as Jane, who is such a great sister as she's there to provide support wherever he needs it, whether it be watching the kids or helping him find a deed for the bank that could help them save the house. I mention these performances first because I don't want them to get overshadowed too much by some of the other performances.
But of course one of the said performances get most of the attention is Emily Blunt, who steps into some very large shoes as she tries to follow-up on Julie Andrews' performance. Talk about pressure there. As I stated earlier, Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins is one of cinema's most iconic and well-loved performances. What makes Emily Blunt so excellent is that she takes that pressure and makes it look so easy. I watched the original "Mary Poppins" literally right before I went to the theater for the sequel and this is one of those performances that made me convinced that someone had a time machine and was able to go back to 1964 and convince 29-year-old Julie Andrews to come to 2018 to reprise her iconic role. Not only do I have to give props to the make-up, hairstying, and costume design teams for helping Emily Blunt look like Mary Poppins, but she also had the voice, the personality and all the mannerisms down perfectly. This movie worked because Mary Poppins was back. The very Mary Poppins that I grew up adoring because of how perfect she is. The only major difference is that Emily Blunt's singing voice isn't quite on the same level as Julie Andrews, but few females on this Earth are and thus I think Emily Blunt does a great job in her own right.
Speaking of singing and dancing, I said earlier that I initially thought this movie was going to live or die based on how good the music in the movie is. That turned out to not exactly be the case because I genuinely thought the story line of the movie had the right amount of emotion and depth to it, and I loved all of the characters and the arcs that they experienced. But boy is this movie a beautiful spectacle. The director here is Rob Marshall, who has a lot of experience with this genre and it's evident that him and the team around him knows how to properly craft a musical. The dance choreography is a blast to watch while the music is well written and well sung. I do think that it's a bit unfair to directly compare the music and dance to the original since those numbers have had 54 years to entertain audiences. I think we need to give this new music a bit of time before we give it a final judgment, but I honestly think this new music has the potential to be just as well-loved for this new generation of kids as the original music did for its generation and the many that have followed it. I didn't walk out of the theater with the songs stuck in my head, but I really enjoyed them as they were happened and I think I just need to give the movie a few more watches and it might stick.
So yeah, when all is said and done, this was a very well done sequel by Disney that I think Walt himself would've been very proud of. After watching both movies back to back on Christmas Eve, I walked out of this new movie feeling that they had perfectly recaptured the magic of Mary Poppins. Some might complain that this movie was too similar to the original with not enough creativity and ingenuity to it. I don't see it that way. I saw it as filmmakers and actors who loved and respected the original movie and wanted to bring it back for a new generation of families to love. And they succeeded. And not only did the movie do a good job at pleasing me personally as one who grew up with this movie, but I was a bit surprised to see how much all of my nieces and nephews loved the film as well, so this serves as the perfect family film for this holiday season and beyond. The movie has already played quite well at the box office in the last week and a half, showing some great signs that it'll have a leggy box office run and that makes me delighted. If you haven't yet jumped on the train yet, then now is the perfect time. This has the potential to develop into a new classic for Disney and if they keep making movies like this, I'm happy to give them my money. I'll give "Mary Poppins Returns" a 9/10.
Thursday, December 27, 2018
Despite all this, I still was excited going into "Aquaman." Why? Because DC has had one huge success and that was "Wonder Woman." With "Wonder Woman," the focus wasn't to help set up a cinematic universe or to try too hard to copy Marvel. The focus was to simply make a good movie. A competent director in Patty Jenkins was hired and she did her absolute best to bring a proper "Wonder Woman" movie to the screen. And that brought me so much joy. With "Aquaman," I saw legitimate signs that DC had learned from what they did right in "Wonder Woman" in order to bring us a proper "Aquaman" film. An excellent director in James Wan was hired to take charge and, from everything I saw, it seemed like they gave him full control to do what he wanted with the movie. And that was an exciting prospect. Based on the trailers and advertising, it seemed like Wan's focus was to give the world a good "Aquaman" movie. DC deciding to put their focus primarily on the individual movies rather than their cinematic universe is something that I wish they had done from the very beginning, but at least they appear to be learning from their mistakes instead of stubbornly continuing down the same road, which was only going to bring them even more scorn from everyone.
Thankfully I can report here that my optimism towards this movie was rewarded with a positive cinematic experience. It feels rather refreshing to walk out of a DC movie having been thoroughly entertained without feeling like I deserved more. It also feels refreshing that "Aquaman" successfully stands on its own as a movie you can watch and enjoy without thinking about whatever big picture it is that DC is planning. There is one brief reference to "Justice League" as Amber Heard's character briefly mentions Aquaman having helped stopped Steppenwolf. But that's it. If you skipped any movie in the DC due to the general negativity towards the DCEU, there is no need for a marathon or for you to read the Wikipedia pages of the films. You can go in completely blind, not knowing anything about the DCEU or the underwater world of Atlantis and be totally fine. In fact, doing so would put you at an advantage because the movie itself starts completely fresh. I even think that there are scenes in "Justice League" regarding Aquaman that they completely retconned or ignored and I am totally fine with that. I think it was the right decision to make. Acknowledge the past, like they briefly did, but move forward with fresh eyes and a fresh vision for this character.
As a character, Aquaman has an Atlantian mother and a human father, making him the perfect individual to stand as a mediator for both worlds, yet the drama in this film is that he has no desire to do anything with Atlanta. He grew up on land with his father and is convinced that the Atlantians killed his mother because she left them to start a relationship with a man on the land. So he fully plans to stay on land and not associate with the Atlantians at all. Early on as a kid, he discovers his ability to communicate with the sea creatures and initially his peers make fun of him for it, but then when he gets mad at this bullying and uses all the sea animals to intimidate the bullies, that's an intense scene. It made me want to have those powers of communicating with the sea. Imagine what you could do with all that! On top of that, the ability to swim as fast as an underwater sea vessel while being able to breath and talk under the water would be really awesome. And the icing on the cake is that he's super strong. So yeah, all of this immediately makes him quite the appealing and likable character. And with the backstory regarding his parents, it gives him some emotional depth that I wasn't expected, which sets up for some real character growth.
As far as the plot of the film goes, I will fully admit that this is a lot of movie. It's not like "Batman v. Superman," which is like five movies in one. There's just a lot of story that they tell. I walked out of the theater feeling like I had just binged an entire season of an Aquaman T.V. show rather than having simply watched the pilot episode. This is both a positive and a negative in certain ways. On a positive note, this makes it much more than just your average origin story that I have a habit of being super picky with. But on the negative side, they could've done a better job of focusing the movie up a bit. In fact, there's one specific story arc that they could've completely cut out and the movie would be improved. I'll leave you hanging there for a second because I plan on diving into that a bit later. But as is, both of these positive and negative elements end up cancelling each other out a bit to the point where I was able to accept what was happening and simply enjoy the long, crazy ride that I was being taken on. Because, yeah, this is quite the adventure and the great part is that none of it is taken too seriously. It felt like a 90's superhero cartoon brought to life and dumped into the end of 2018, making the whole thing an enjoyable and relaxing ride that felt fairly nostalgic.
The main element of the plot involved Nala coming to Simba to inform him that there is a lot of commotion happening at Pride Rock with his Uncle Scar. Simba has ran away from home and wants nothing to do with Pride Rock. He's moved on with life. But Nala is here to beg him to come back to Pride Rock and take his rightful place as king because Simba is the one person who is capable of bringing order back into the world. Eventually some sense is knocked into Simba, so he runs back to Pride Rock in order to challenge Scar for the throne. And here's where the twist is. Before he is able to challenge Scar, Rafiki comes to Simba and tells him that he must first find the Holy Grail so that he can properly take the kingdom back. He's a little rebellious at first, so he challenges Scar anyways and mostly fails, but before all is lost, Nala comes to save the day and then they are off to find the Holy Grail as Simba has successfully transformed himself into Indiana Jones, who then has to face all sorts of fancy obstacles along the way, which get more and more intense as the journey goes on. In the midst of that, we also go on a random tangent where Simba/Indiana Jones has allowed a random evil dude's father die, causing evil dude to have a serious vendetta against him.
The other point I wanted to make with that paragraph is to illustrate the fact that this is a lot of movie without giving specific plot details. I can draw comparisons to "The Lion King" and "Indiana Jones" to prove a point and I don't have to spoil "Aquaman" in the process. I will add that it does veer away from both of these movies quite a bit. In regards to "The Lion King," it's his younger half brother that's in control of Atlantis and not his uncle. And Aquaman didn't run away from Atlantis following the death of his father. It's his mother that ran away before he was born, and was then forced back to Atlantis before Aquaman was too old. And the whole Indiana Jones thing isn't following a specific Indiana Jones story arc. He's not actually searching for the Holy Grail. He's searching for something else. But the idea there is that he's searching for a lost artifact that is thought to have not existed or permanently lost a long time ago. And yes, the final part of that is the tangent involving the movie's secondary villain, which is precisely the story line that I was referring to earlier when I said there's an element of the movie that could've been completely cut out. Since the cat is already out of the bag, that secondary villain is that of Black Manta, a popular Aquaman villain from the comics.
Now I did enjoy Black Manta in this movie. He's played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who does an excellent job in the movie. He has solid motivation and is a formidable opponent for Aquaman with quite the epic supervillain suit. It's just that the story arc itself felt like more of a side thing that distracted from the main story. I think they should've saved Black Manta solely for the sequence while focusing this movie specifically on Aquaman's half brother, who is also played brilliantly by Patrick Wilson. In fact, there's a lot of great acting in this movie. Jason Momoa and Amber Heard are more than just eye candy for fans. They own it in the lead roles. And in addition to who I've already said, we also have Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgreen and Temuera Morrison in the film who all work together to provide a great cast of supporting characters who are all directed excellently by James Wan in order to provide us with a cinematic experience that felt great in magnitude. And the aquatic visual effects were honestly breathtaking. We've done a lot of things with superheroes in the last 10 years or so, but exploring the sea is not something we've done very much, so that element managed to make this movie feel a bit fresh and unique when compared to the rest.
In summary, if you've not been on board with the DCEU at this point, I don't blame you. It's been a really rough ride as of late that have caused many fans to give up on DC. But the great thing about "Aquaman" is that it feels separate from all of that. We can pretend for a moment that "Man of Steel," "Batman v. Superman," "Suicide Squad" and "Justice League" all ceased to exist and that this is the second DCEU movie after "Wonder Woman." With that in mind, it feels like a much safer venture to dive into "Aquaman" because "Wonder Woman" is the DC movie that "Aquaman" belongs in the same conversation with. No, it's not as good as "Wonder Woman." But it shows that the success of "Wonder Woman" was not a fluke and that DC actually can make good movies if they continue to follow that formula instead of what they were trying to do before. Because this works. "Wonder Woman" and "Aquaman" are both good movies and it gives me a renewed sense of hope for the DCEU moving forward that makes me confidently excited for "Shazam!" in April, because that seems like yet another example of DC done right. As far as a grade goes, that's a bit fickle. It's easily the second best DCEU movie, so take that as you will. For now, I'll give "Aquaman" an 8/10.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
Why was I excited for "Bumblebee" when I didn't even see "The Last Knight" in theaters last year (I watched it on Google Play in December -- I never even got a full review out)? Well, OK, I can't say I was excited from day one. But I was certainly intrigued. Cautiously optimistic, if you will. This because Michael Bay was NOT back to direct this movie. But not just that. He was being replaced by Travis Knight, director of "Kubo and the Two Strings." Now I don't know if this was Michael Bay ditching the franchise or if it was Paramount finally telling him to get lost after the failure of "The Last Knight," but either way, could this mean that someone else might come in and actually treat the franchise with the love and respect and deserves? Because remember, this is a franchise that people actually care about. The Hasbro toys this whole thing is based off of are still a huge hit among kids today and the cartoon was a beloved part of many people's childhood. It was painful to watch Michael Bay continue to take a dump on this whole thing while showing the middle finger to the fans who just wanted to see a faithful adaptation of the series they loved. The answer is yes. Travis Knight HAS come in and finally delivered us a Transformers movie we've all been waiting for.
After this initial battle on Cyberton, Optimus Prime realizes that the Autobots aren't strong enough to overcome the Decepticons, so he sends Bumblebee off to Earth, a remote planet where Bumblebee can lay low and establish a base for the Autobots to eventually build up their forces until they are strong enough to win the war. Things don't go quite as smoothly as planned, but Bumblebee is eventually able to disguise himself as a yellow VW Beetle and disappear from all the commotion. Thankfully this is not a movie with Transformers testicles. It's not a movie with dogs humping each other or parents telling dirty jokes. It doesn't double as a Megan Fox photo shoot made for immature teenage boys who love watching her run in slow motion with revealing shots. We don't see Transformers peeing on people or legendary actors making a fool out of themselves as if they lost a bet and were forced to let Michael Bay push them around as he sees fit. We don't see endless amounts of fireworks-style explosions and other overly long action sequences that only please Michael Bay and no one else. We're not subjected to a three-hour movie with a paper thin plot full of uninteresting characters who serve no purpose and experience no character development. All of those Michael Bay-isms are completely removed and we are left with an actual movie that feels professionally done.
Yes, it's been pointed out about a thousand times that the plot of this movie very closely resembles "E.T." or any other movie about an alien who crash lands on Earth and befriends our main character. Because of that, that derivative plot did not bother me at all. I prepared myself to enjoy watching this relationship play out between Bumblebee and Hailee Steinfeld. And that's exactly what I did. Again, if this were a Michael Bay movie, Hailee would've been oversexualized with tons of skimpy outfits and unnecessary closeup shots. But that's NOT what happens. She's a normal teenage girl with an emotional backstory that immediately makes her worth caring. She's had a rough time trying to deal with the sudden death of her father and she hasn't come to terms with her mother's new boyfriend (or husband?) and thus has no one to turn to for emotional support. She's also an extremely handy girl who's great with cars, because working on cars is what her and her dad did. On her 18th birthday, she stumbles on a beat-up yellow beetle and convinces the owner of the junk yard to let her fix it up and bring it home for her birthday. And, well, you guessed it. Hailee becomes rather surprised when that yellow beetle turns out to be Bumblebee.
Eventually you know you were going to get some action sequences in this movie and when they happen, there's actually some emotional weight to them. The Decepticons have tricked John Cena and his military forces into thinking Bumblebee is the enemy, which wasn't that hard to do since John Cena had a bad first encounter with Bumblebee anyways. Knowing that Bumblebee wasn't quite strong enough to take on everything by himself, I was genuinely worried and afraid. I cringed every time he got attacked and cheered every time he succeeded in a battle. I appreciated Hailee Steinfeld's in all of this. She wasn't just a useless human running around amidst the danger. She had a purpose in all of this and became a very strong female character as she battled to help Bumblebee. I also appreciated the specific action sequences. The Transformers actually transformed like the toys do. They aren't just robots that magically turned into cars and vice versa. When they go into robot form, you can see all of the individual car parts, like the headlights, the tires and whatnot. And the visual effects of the transformation were actually spectacular. Travis Knight, in his first experience in live action, proved that he knows how to properly construct an action sequence and it was beautiful.
At the beginning of this review, I referred to "Bumblebee" as a rebootquel. That's because I really have no idea if it is either a reboot or a prequel. It's set in the late 80's and properly leads into the main saga of films like a good prequel should. But at the same time, they also have the potential to simply wipe the slate clean with this movie and pretend that Michael Bay's movies never existed. Thus the movie would also perfectly act as a reboot. Quite frankly, I hope that the latter direction is where they go because this franchise has always had potential. There's many stories that can be told and a lot of fun to be had. They just need to make sure that from this point on, Michael Bay never steps back into that director's chair. Keep Travis Knight on board and let him steer this franchise. Or bring on other acclaimed directors who respect the source material and know how to properly construct an action movie. Whatever it is they decide to do, I hope they can learn from the success of this movie and build upon it. If so, I can be excited for this franchise moving forward as we usher in a new era of Transformers movies. I know this holiday season is primed to be a busy one, but I'd encourage you to make time for "Bumblebee" as I'm going to give it an 8/10.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
It is worth noting that me honoring a request to review a movie doesn't guarantee you that you'll get the review you were hoping for. Fans of "Hocus Pocus" found that out this Halloween as I am not a fan of that movie, so I gave it a good beating in my review, which was very therapeutic for me, but a bit upsetting for some. Luckily, though, fans of "Home Alone" can breath easily after I probably made you a bit tense following that statement. I am a fan of "Home Alone." I have a lot of positive nostalgia from watching many times growing up. However, there are some things to talk about as it's not all rainbows and butterflies for the entire 103 minutes. Watching the movie as a kid and analyzing it many years later as an adult do bring two very different movie-watching experiences. Yeah, sure, you might get mad at me for that and tell me to just shut up and enjoy a holiday film, but that's not how my brain works, especially considering how powerful holiday nostalgia can be. I get a bit weary with people sometimes claiming a holiday movie is a flawless masterpiece just because a character said "Merry Christmas" at some point in the movie, if you know what I mean. Yeah, it's nice to have some feel-food holiday themes, but I still like my holiday movies to be made well.
In regards to "Home Alone," if you don't want me to be a bit nit-picky with the movie, well I suppose you don't have to continue reading if you don't want to because that's what I'm going to do. There's some things in this movie that bother me and I want to point them out. I think this is very much a 90's film and as such, there are certain elements of the movie that don't hold up as well as you might remember. Some of these things I didn't care about when I was younger as I simply had a lot of fun watching some dumb robbers getting beat up by a little kid. It's slapstick humor at its finest and that's going to make every kid fall in love. But as an adult, I can totally understand why critics weren't necessarily on board with this movie. I don't want to say critics "hated" this movie, but it got mixed reaction. Even today it gets mixed reaction from critics. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at a 63 percent with 51 reviews counted and a lot of those are from more recently. And when I went to look at those reviews, many of the positive reviews aren't necessarily praising it either. There's a lot of average and barely positive reviews among that 63 percent score. And the average score of those 51 reviews (because Rotten Tomatoes DOES provide that stat) is a 5.5/10.
The first thing that needs to be said in regards to my opinion of the movie itself is that, despite any flaws the movie has, the entire film is completely held together by the charming and wonderful performance of Macaulay Culkin as young 8-year-old Kevin McCallister. He gives what might be one of the most iconic performances ever from a child actor. And it's a performance that still holds up today. Watching the movie for the upteenth time earlier today, I was still enamored by his performance. When his family is being rude to him early in the movie, I felt for him. When he was having a blast all alone in his house, I was having a lot of fun just watching him have fun. When he was off at the grocery story having conversations with adults, he just oozed cool. He was having the time of his life and he did a great job. Even when everyone around him seemed to be phoning it in or being overly cheesy and comical with their performance, he was still giving it his all. His life and career following "Home Alone" is an interesting tale. For a while, he went the way of a lot of child actors and even disappeared for a while. But he's resurfaced again recently, joining Twitter for the first time and he's absolutely hilarious there, so go give him a follow if you don't already.
When it comes to my nitpicks of the movie, it's everything around Kevin that's the problem and I think it starts out at the very top with the writing and directing. For some reason, his whole family hates him. All of his siblings are saying awful, nasty things to him. Even his parents are jerks. There's a whole lot of ruckus going on around the house, yet Kevin is the only one that his parents get mad at. And they're rude to him. And the idea of them accidentally leaving him at home is not executed very well. I could argue that it's not realistic for them to accidentally forget him and not remember at all until they're on the airplane, but that's almost beside the point. The writing and directing just aren't on point. The movie was very heavily advertised as a John Hughes film because he was a huge deal at the time, but the actual director here is Chris Columbus. He had his big break as the screenwriter for "Gremlins" and "The Goonies," but this was his huge breakout role as a director and I honestly don't think he's that good of a director. He directed the first two Harry Potter films, which are weak in comparison to the others, in my opinion, and that's the best he's got. Nostalgia boosts a lot of his 90's work and his most recent two films, "Percy Jackson" and "Pixels" are pure trash.
John Hughes' screenplay maybe could've used a bit of work, but I think on paper this is mostly fine. An issue with the directing is what makes most sense to me when I take a look at Chris Columbus' filmography as a whole. I think a top-notch director, like a Steven Spielberg, would've taken John Hughes' screenplay and created a masterpiece of a film that would've smoothed out a bit of the rocky edges here. Even growing up, the movie as a whole is not what stuck out to me the most. I always enjoyed the slapstick humor with the robbers in the house. All of that I think is classic and is still fun to watch in 2018. I don't know, something about a kid setting a bunch of traps for adults is entertaining, especially when it's Kevin McCallister setting the traps. In regards to this, one of the reviews that caught my attention was the review of legendary critic Roger Ebert. He took issue with the elaborate scheme that Kevin sets up, calling it completely unrealistic for an 8-year-old. Maybe that's true. But I think this is a situation where you can turn off your brain and just enjoy. If we had to be completely realistic, this would be a kidnapping episode of "Criminal Minds," which wouldn't have quite the same effect. The absurdity of it all is a huge part of the fun.
The final point of discussion with "Home Alone" that I want to bring up is the question of is this a Christmas movie? This question is most prevalent when it comes to the movie "Die Hard," which I argue is NOT a Christmas movie. I think there's a huge difference between a movie being set on or around Christmas and a movie being about Christmas. My definition of a Christmas movie is the latter. It has to be about Christmas, not just set around Christmas. "Die Hard" is an action movie that happens to take place around Christmas. It's not about Christmas. In fact, if "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie, than so is "Iron Man 3." When I think Christmas movie, I think "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "The Santa Claus," "Elf" or "A Christmas Carol." Those movies are specifically about Christmas. "Home Alone" rides the line a bit, but I think I would put it just over the edge because there are strong themes of wanting to be with your family on Christmas. Kevin is initially excited to be all alone, but then misses his family. Christmas music is playing throughout and we have a great Christmas finale. But it's not Christmas through and through, if that makes sense. It's more of a slapstick family comedy with a touch of Christmas sprinkled in occasionally.
Does that effect the overall quality of the movie? Absolutely not. Christmas or not, it's still a fun movie to watch and if you want to put it on during this Christmas season, then be my guest. If you're a longtime fan of "Home Alone," I hope you didn't find this review too harsh. Because I do have overall positive feelings towards this movie. I just enjoyed the opportunity to explore this movie in more depth with more of a critical eye. Nostalgia is a powerful thing that often clouds our judgment when it comes to being critical of something, so I enjoy the task of taking a nostalgic movie and determining if nostalgia is the only thing holding it up or if there's some actual substance there and "Home Alone" is a bit of both. Macaulay Culkin is an absolute gem that holds the movie together, giving an iconic performance when it comes to child acting. There is a good amount of emotion regarding him ultimately missing his family despite all the trouble they give him. And of course the classic sequences of him beating up on the dumb robbers are a whole lot of fun. It's just that it's a bit rough around the edges and it maybe could've been smoothed out a bit with some better writing and directing. I still have fond memories of the movie, though, thus I think it's fair to give "Home Alone" an 8/10.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Similar to pretty much all of his recent movies he's directed, "The Mule" is also based on a true story and it's a rather fascinating one at that. Sure, the general concept is not that unique as it's yet another drug trafficking sort of movie that we've seen a lot of recently, with "American Made" and "White Boy Rick" being two examples. And yeah, all of these movies have pretty much the same structure. A person without a ton of money gets caught up in the wrong crowd and gets greedy as they see how much money they can in the drug business. And of course they learn the hard way that this is the wrong business to get involved in, which usually ends up with them getting arrested or killed. These never have a happy ending. However, what makes "The Mule" a bit unique is that it involves a 90-year-old man named Leo Sharp, who had no prior criminal record. He was married with children and grandchildren, he was a war veteran, and he had a fairly successful day-lily business that he had spent most of his life working on. So how does a normal, successful family man like this randomly get involved in the drug business as a drug mule? I mean, can you imagine waking up one day to learn that your grandpa has been driving as a drug mule for over a decade? That would be crazy!
New York Times article that I have linked right there and Sam Dolnick, the journalist who wrote the article, describes in a separate article that despite his best efforts of trying to get all the details hammered out, he couldn't quite crack it. He mentioned that he had his theories, but as a journalist he could only write the facts as opposed to reporting on theories. Now the article itself was written in 2014 and immediately got national attention due to how crazy of a story it was. The rights to the article were immediately sold in 2014, but it wasn't until January of this year when Clint Eastwood was officially brought on as the director. Now I don't know if it was Clint Eastwood or screenwriter Nick Schenk who made the final decisions on how exactly to go about this. But regardless of that, the final decision was to not tell Leo Sharp's story directly, but to create a fictional movie that was based on his story.
I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this, but I suppose I understand the reasoning here. If Leo Sharp wasn't willing to reveal how or why he got into this, then there had to be a lot of fiction that filled in the gaps. And if that was the case, then why not make the whole thing fiction? So this ends up not being the story of Leo Sharp directly, but rather the story of Earl Stone, a fictional old man played by Clint Eastwood, who is loosely based on Leo Sharp. I didn't realize this was the case at first. But I was highly suspicious that something was going on since the movie opens in 2005, then rather quickly jumps forward 12 years to 2017. From then on, a timeline of events is not discussed at all. While I didn't read the article before watching the movie, I knew that the article was published in 2014 and I was pretty sure I remembered beforehand that Leo Sharp had been a drug mule for at least a decade. So if Clint Eastwood's character of Earl Stone started driving in 2017, how does this all fit into the timeline? I decided to watch and enjoy, but I was definitely curious to figure out the actual facts. Discovering that Clint Eastwood took a fictional approach made everything make sense, even though it was still a bit confusing as the movie advertises this as a true story.
But OK. Accepting this fact means that we have to take a "Breaking Bad" or "Ozark" approach to this, two fictional TV shows revolving around family men that get involved in the drug business. And I can get on board with that, so long as the movie itself is intriguing. And it's decent enough. Not only is Clint Eastwood directing this movie, but he also decided to step into the lead role, making it the first acting job that he's done since 2012's "Trouble with the Curve," not counting his brief cameo in "American Sniper." It's also the first time he's starred in a movie that he's also directed since "Gran Torino" in 2008. Clint Eastwood definitely turns this character into his own. I don't think he even ever attempted to become Leo Sharp. Rather his fictional character of Earl Stone feels very much like a Clint Eastwood role as he seems to have a whole lot of fun acting as a gruff, grumpy old man, taking every shot he can at the internet and other modern technologies. How Earl Stone actually gets into this business feels a bit rushed, but once he's in there, Eastwood also has a lot of fun acting as this carefree old man who isn't at all afraid of any of these young drug cartel people, making for a lot of genuinely humorous moments as the cartel people tried to get serious with him.
The other angle that I liked was the angle of the D.E.A. agents trying to hunt this guy down. In real life I believe they were clued in beforehand that the guy they were searching for was an older man, but in this movie that fact was a complete mystery. Bradley Cooper and Michael Pena play the two agents on the case, with Laurence Fishburne as their boss, and the three of them make for a good trio of agents on the case. I enjoyed watching them try to solve this mystery as they initially search for your more traditional drug mule, not knowing that their real target is someone who they are not expecting at all, making it really easy for Clint Eastwood to casually walk by them and other officers or even have a conversation. I will say that after reading up on the story afterwards, how this all turned out is some really fascinating drama that could've made for an intense movie, but all of that was cut out as Eastwood chose to focus more on the story of this man and his family dynamics rather than telling the story of the drug cartel itself. I suppose I can understand and appreciate that, but it still doesn't change the fact that I was a little baffled when I learned that there was a whole lot more story to this story that wasn't told. It could've made the movie even better.
In summing this whole thing up, it's interesting to note that this movie had a really quick turnaround from when Eastwood was brought on to when the movie was filmed and finished. As I said, it was January of this year that Eastwood was announced as director. The movie started filming in June. Now it's December and the whole thing is done and in theaters. This makes me believe that there wasn't a whole lot of time and effort put into this movie on Eastwood's part. It's as if this was more of a side project for him to keep him busy until he finds something more interesting to devote more time to. Suddenly when you think about it from those terms, this whole thing makes sense. This movie could have been big. It could've been super intense and super gritty, given the subject matter. It could've been the type of movie that sticks with you long after leave the theater. But it's not really any of those. It's just kind of a movie that exists. That said, as a small Clint Eastwood side project, the movie is certainly not bad at all. If you're not interested in the likes of "Aquaman," "Bumblebee" or "Mary Poppins Returns" this holiday season, this is a decent movie to hold you over until some of the bigger adult-targeted Oscar contenders come your way. I'll give "The Mule" a 7/10.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Little did I know that Sony had something miraculous up their sleeve. In fact, I'm partially convinced that Sony had no idea that they had something miraculous up their sleeve, either. It's not like they're the most trustworthy studio out there. Sony Pictures Animation is certainly no Pixar or Disney. Although in their defense, not every one of their movies is as bad as "The Emoji Movie." Most people like the "Hotel Transylvania" trilogy, even though I personally think those movies are a bit juvenile. I also rather enjoy both "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" movies as well as some of their lesser known gems like "Arthur Christmas" and "Pirates! Band of Misfits." But then they also have those Smurfs movies, that garbage Christmas movie "The Star," and this year's "Peter Rabbit," which I've been extremely hesitant to give a chance to. That's not a good resume of movies to get me excited about an animated Spider-Man. Yet the teaser trailer that debuted last year had me curious. People who went to Comic-Con this year claimed that footage that they saw was very encouraging. The full-length trailers released shortly after looked spectacular. Then we had "Venom" show a sneak peak of the movie, which had me excited. So it was quite the journey for me, but I eventually jumped on board.
I'm certainly glad I did because this is one heck of a crazy journey that left me absolutely blown away. Despite everything I described in the previous paragraph, I did come to the movie with a bit of hesitation due to the reviews, which were through the roof. That seems like a silly reaction to reviews, but it was initially at 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (it's now down to 97 percent) and everyone I heard was calling this one of the best Spider-Man movies ever made, the best animated movie of the year, and one of the best superhero movies of the year, challenging "Infinity War" for that honor. I didn't buy it. I believed that the movie was going to be good, but no way it was going to be THAT good. Right? In the back of my head, I speculated that maybe people were overreacting because of the fact that this is the first on-screen appearance of Miles Morales as Spider-Man, making this another culturally significant film. I mean, I feel many people did that to "Black Panther" earlier this year. A decent movie that is elevated above what it deserves due to its cultural significance. Maybe "Into the Spider-Verse" is getting the same treatment? But no, I don't think that is the case. This movie is genuinely fantastic. I was shocked and amazed at what I saw. The hype is real.
But there's more, in addition to this movie's animation certainly pleasing fans of 2D animation as well as comic book readers, the most impressive thing to me personally is that this is a blend of several different animation styles. This specifically comes into play with several of our side characters, namely Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham and Peni Parker. We'll get to their actual characters in a bit, but when Spider-Man Noir was on the screen, we had that old-fashioned black and white, detective style of animation on the screen, because that's what his character is. Laugh at the fact that they brought on Spider Ham, but his style of animation is the Loony Toons style of cartoon animation, which they implemented into this movie when he was featured on the screen. And finally, Peni Parker is a Japanese anime version of the American Spider-Man story, with a young girl in the lead role instead of a young boy. Whenever she was on the screen, the movie was an anime. Even when all of them were on the screen together, along with Miles Morales, Peter Parker and Spider-Gwen, their individual characters were still animated in their individual style, giving us a brilliant and unique mashup of comic book animation, cartoon animation, neo-noir animation and anime.
So yeah, I spent the whole movie being blown away by the animation of this movie. At the exact same time, I was also blown away by the movie itself. We've done the Spider-Man origin story so many times that you would think that we'd all be sick of it by now, but yet "Into the Spider-Verse" somehow manages to do a full-out Spider-Man origin story while still making me glued to the screen the whole time. The biggest difference here is that this is not a Peter Parker origin story, but a Miles Morales origin story. Now I know that there are some people who are so emotionally invested in Miles Morales that having him on screen in and of itself is enough for them to call this a great movie, much like going to Wakanda was enough for people to love "Black Panther." If you are one of those people who love Miles Morales, then you will absolutely be madly in love with what the do with him because they do his character justice. That said, I have no prior emotional investment in Miles Morales, so I was going in with a blank slate. But what they did with this kid's story was so inspiring and so uplifting that I don't think you need to know anything about him going in to completely fall in love with him. After watching this movie, I'm totally on the Miles Morales bandwagon.
If you don't know the specifics of the Miles Morales origin story, I'm not going to tell it to you because I didn't know everything about it going in and thus there were a few surprises in the first part of the movie that I didn't see coming. Yeah, he gets bit by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man. We all know that. But there are a few specifics that are different than the Peter Parker origin story that make this a bit fresh. I will say in a more general sense that this involves Miles' relationship with his dad, his Uncle Aaron and with Peter Parker. His dad is an officer who doesn't like Spider-Man and Miles doesn't have the best relationship with him. His dad tries his hardest to connect with his son, but Miles is just going through a lot of things that your typical teenage kid is going through. Miles does have a great relationship with his Uncle Aaron, who is more of the cool uncle. But his dad and Uncle Aaron, who are brothers, haven't actually talked to each other much, so there's a lot of inner family drama that the movie makes you emotionally invested in. The writing is spot on and the voice acting is also spot on, making this a beautiful story. Once Miles gets his Spider-Man abilities, his connection with Peter Parker is also an interesting one, but I won't say a whole lot about that.
Despite all of this multiverse stuff, I do want to stress that this is not like a Spider-People Avengers movie. This is still a Miles Morales origin story, which is something that I was very impressed with. The movie was able to maintain its focus on Miles Morales and his journey of becoming Spider-Man while also introducing a whole slew of fun characters that I want to see more of. Our main trio is Miles Morales, Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, but we start out with just Miles Morales and Peter Parker as they try to come up with a plan to infiltrate Kingpin's lair despite Miles having no idea what he's doing and Peter not having the best knowledge of how exactly to help him. Gwen comes in a bit later and when she did, I immediately fell in love with her. I think Emma Stone's portrayal of the character in the Amazing Spider-Man movies was sheer genius, making me fall in love with both Emma Stone and Gwen Stacey, so to see her here as an alternate version of Spider-Man, or Spider-Woman as she calls herself, from a different Earth, was pure gold. I now want a full-on Spider-Gwen movie. Impressively, though, she doesn't steal the movie, but rather makes Miles' story even better.
Then we have our three side characters that show up even later than Miles, Peter and Gwen. Those are the three that I talked about above, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham and Peni Parker. Their roles are fairly minor, but they add a lot of great humor. Nicolas Cage plays Spider-Man Noir and he absolutely relishes in this role. In fact, Nicolas Cage does great with animation as I also loved him in "The Croods" and now he has two pretty solid roles in 2018 as Superman in "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies" and as Spider-Man Noir in "Into the Spider-Verse." Spider-Ham is the weirdest of the bunch, but it's a crazy weird that I really love. He's not a pig that got bit by a radioactive spider like you might think. He's a spider that got bit by a radioactive pig. And that's about all you need to know. He's crazy and loony and I absolutely loved it. And then we have Peni Parker. This is were fans of anime are going to go crazy because her character humorously implements just about every anime trope. Again, all three of these characters, in addition to Peter and Gwen, don't step on Miles Morales' origin story at all. They aren't distractions. Rather they are there as a support to Miles. But I'm not going to lie, I would love to see individual movies of all of them, which is how you properly set up a shared universe.
I think the only negative thing I came up with for this movie, outside the animation being a bit jarring at first, was that this was the second best Kingpin that we've seen this year. Kingpin, aka Wilson Fisk, in the now cancelled "Daredevil" show from Netflix is one of the most brilliantly written and portrayed comic book villains ever in my opinion. Thus this version of Kingpin had huge shoes to fill and even though he's not awful by any means, he was probably the most forgettable element of the movie. In fact, the movie has a lot of villains thrown in there and the best thing I can say about them is their animation style comes straight from the comic books, making them a lot of fun. But that's more of a nitpick than anything. It didn't take anything away from my experience as a whole. The movie is a ton of fun. It had a lot of moments that had be busting up laughing. It's extremely emotional and powerful. All the characters are brilliantly written with great voice acting. It's honestly one of the best Spider-Man movies I've seen, behind only "Spider-Man 2." It's not too far behind "Infinity War" for best superhero movie of the year and challenges "Isle of Dogs" for best animated movie of the year. As such, I'm going to award "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" a strong 9/10.
Monday, December 17, 2018
This is a movie that has gone through several different title changes, but I liked the fact that they settled on "Mowgli" because that seems like a very fitting title for what this movie is trying to accomplish. Yes, in every iteration of "The Jungle Book," which initially began in 1894 as a collection of stories by author Rudyard Kipling, Mowgli is the central character. But in most of these versions the focus seems to be more on all of Mowgli's adventures in the jungle, which is especially the case with Disney's 1967 animated movie. While that movie is adorable, charming and super infectious with all of its music, it barely has much of a story to it. It's more of a collection of fun sequences loosely threaded together with a basic storyline, which was a common narrative structure for early Disney. Meanwhile, Andy Serkis' "Mowgli" has less of a jungle focus to it as it's more of a coming of age story for Mowgli himself, with everything in the jungle being there to support his journey in figuring out who he is. Because, yeah, he's a human who grew up with animals, so he naturally doesn't fit in with the animals super well, but when he goes back to the village, he's not cultured enough to figure out how to properly interact with the humans because he's had zero experience in that area.
Surprisingly I found myself quite invested in this story and it has enough unique twists to it that I genuinely didn't know what direction the movie was going. We start out with Mowgli with the pack of wolves, like in every other Jungle Book movie, but this iteration of the story takes a more grounded, realistic approach. The older Mowgli gets, the more he realizes that he's not a wolf. There comes a point in the pack where all the cubs need to pass a certain test in order to be able to be able to hunt with the pack and Mowgli sure as heck ain't gonna pass this test. Why? Because he's a human. He wasn't built like a wolf. He can't run as fast as the wolves, nor does he have the skills to be evasive enough to make up for it. He's not a wolf and nothing he can do can change that. Baloo does his best to try to train him to use his other skills so that he can pass the test, but it's a huge uphill battle. This leads to Bagheera playing the voice of reason, demanding that he needs to go to the man village because that's where he belongs, especially because Shere Khan is out there in the jungle with a vendetta against Mowgli. The longer Mowgli stays in the jungle, the higher the probability that Shere Khan, or one of the other dangerous animals in the jungle, catches him.
I wish Disney would take some notes from these other versions of these movies, but they're most certainly not going to because Disney is making a ton of money by creating carbon copies of their popular classics, with "Beauty and the Beast" being a prime example of that. Now I actually enjoyed that live action "Beauty and the Beast," but my biggest complaint then, that certainly is the case now, is that if I'm going to revisit "Beauty and the Beast" in the future, which version am I going to gravitate to? The answer there is the animated version. That's why I really appreciated the story of "Mowgli" because it does something different. This is a darker, grittier, more grounded version of the story that doubles as the evil step-brother of Disney's own live action remake from a couple years back, which is why I think both can live in harmony with each other. Now if we hone in specifically on Disney's remake of "The Jungle Book," that's a scenario where Disney took their previous material and crafted it into a better film, which is why it's their best live-action remake yet. But it's still a Jungle Book film that you know what's going to happen. "Mowgli" uses the Jungle Book lore as a backdrop to tell its own story, which is why I really appreciated it as a remake.
On that note with the Disney remake, that segways perfectly into the history of this film. Is this a scenario where Andy Serkis looked at the success of Disney's film, which nearly made $1 billion worldwide, and decided to use that as a motivation to make his own Jungle Book film? No. Absolutely not. In fact, production for this film started back in 2012 with Warner Bros. deciding that they wanted to do this film, with Steve Kloves, Alejandro Inarritu and Ron Howard as early directors attached to the project before Andy Serkis was officially brought on in 2014. Disney didn't start production of their movie until 2013, so the real story is that there was a race to see which studio would get their film out first. A race that Disney would go onto win because their production went a bit smoother. Andy Serkis spent a long time crafting this film because he wanted to make sure all of the visual effects were right. Instead of doing the whole thing on a computer, which is what Disney did with their version, Serkis was more focused on doing this one via performance capture. Given that he is the king of performance capture with the likes of Gollum and Caesar, it seemed right to make sure he got everything correct rather than rushing things for the sake of money.
There's a bit of a double-edged sword with that, though. Personally I had been following this race since it began. Knowing Andy Serkis, I was willing to be patient with him and accept both versions of the film. But I knew that this was going to kill the movie's popularity. With Andy Serkis being so late in getting his film finished, I knew everyone else was going to be confused as to why we were getting another Jungle Book movie. And my fears were realized once they finally started advertising this film. No one seemed interested. And I was sad. That's also part of the reason why this ended up on Netflix instead of getting a theatrical release because Warner Bros. knew that this was going to be a disaster at the box office, so they sold the rights to Netflix for distribution. Again, people are going to look at this negatively because "Netflix original" seems to be the new "straight to DVD" in people's minds. And while there's basis to that thought with a lot of bad Netflix films out there, I don't think it's completely fair because Netflix and Amazon are working on changing the game when it comes to streaming as both platforms have been scowering the indie market, searching for films that deserve an audience, yet probably wouldn't get one with a traditional theatrical release.
That's why I'm glad at the work that Netflix and Amazon are doing, or at least trying to do. That's why I don't see "Mowgli" as a Netflix dump. In fact, I see it as a situation where Netflix knew that it was going to be a failure in theaters since audiences just weren't reacting to the marketing and collectively Netflix, Warner Bros., Serkis, and co. decided that a Netflix release would be the best platform to actually give this movie an audience. Has it worked? Well, I don't know. Netflix doesn't exactly release their viewing numbers, so I can't just look up the stats like I do for weekend box office totals. I just know that this movie was going to be a flop in theaters, so I hope that it's getting good viewing numbers on Netflix. Netflix wants more big-budget films like this on their platform and I hope that this can be a stepping stone for that because it's hard for every movie to do well at the box office because there's only so many theaters around to show all the films. Yet there's unlimited space on streaming services so more movies can co-exist on Netflix as compared to the theaters. Now I do wish I could've seen this movie on the big screen because I feel it was made for that. But that just wasn't destined to happen due to everything that I've stated in this review.
My final word on this movie is that I hope you give it a shot. If you already have a Netflix account, you can close this review and go watch it right now without spending any extra money than you otherwise would've. Just your normal monthly Netflix fee. If you don't have Netflix, then I'm sure you can find someone that does if you want to watch this movie because it's worth it. Yes it's true, I have more emotional investment in this film than your average person because of how closely I've been following this. If I take a step back, I have to admit that Andy Serkis is not as experienced at writing and directing a film as he is with his performance capture. So the movie is a bit rough around the edges in terms of some of the writing and directing. Disney had a smoother film with their 2016 movie that ultimately makes it better. But Andy Serkis' performance capture work is rather fascinating and I liked how we had real sets instead of the movie being a glorified animated film. Does it always work? Well, I don't know. Some of it seemed a bit rough and unfinished, but I don't know if that was the movie itself or the picture quality on my tablet. As a whole, though, I still think this is a solid effort that I enjoyed watching, so I'm going to give "Mowgli" an 8/10.
Friday, December 14, 2018
If you're not as crazy about the Oscars as I am and you're wondering what in the heck this "Green Book" movie is, well let me explain. This is a movie that is directed by Peter Farrelly, one half of the Farrelly brothers duo who directed "Dumb and Dumber," "There's Something About Mary," "Me, Myself & Irene," "Shallow Hal" and several other similar wacky comedies. But no, "Green Book" is absolutely not that style of comedy. In fact, it couldn't be any different from pretty much everything Peter Farrelly has done in the past, which is impressive in and of itself. Yeah, sure, it has comedy in it, but it is first and foremost a drama that tells the true story of an unlikely friendship between Dr. Don Shirley, a black classical pianist in the 1960's, and Tony Lip, a through and through New Yorker who has spent most of his time working as a bouncer in various clubs. They meet because Tony's job is done for a few months while the club remodels, so he needs a new job. Eventually he gets referred to Dr. Shirley, who is looking for a driver for his upcoming tour. It takes a bit of convincing, but Tony eventually accepts the job, with permission from his wife, which puts him on the road with Dr. Shirley for several weeks. Thus the movie becomes a road trip movie with these two characters.
But no, this is not your normal every day road trip on a concert tour. This is a white guy and a black guy travelling together through the South, because that's the region that Dr. Shirley insists on doing his tour. And remember, the time period here is the 1960's. So yeah, with that in mind, you know exactly what type of movie this going to be. And for better or for worse, the movie delivers on that. In terms of the "for worse" part of that, there's a term called "Oscar bait" that oftentimes comes with a negative connotation. The movie does a great job of specifically pandering to the awards season crowd, taking the list of things needed to be included in order to be considered for awards and shamelessly checking off every single box. The movie knows what it needs to do to be culturally relevant in 2018 and it makes sure to do just that. I imagine some might get bothered by this, viewing the movie that as one made to bait the Academy rather than being made to tell a good story worth telling. But I wasn't one of said people bothered by it. I think the big reason that I wasn't was because I was so attached to these two characters. I had a feeling I knew what was coming for them, but the idea still made me nervous and I spent the whole movie cheering for them to make it out of it.
Because, yeah, racism is the big theme here. Dr. Shirley is certainly no stranger when it comes to racism in the 60's, but he also doesn't fit into your typical black person mold from the time period. He personally doesn't feel like he quite fits in with his people, which provides a significant portion of drama for the film. He's not trying to fit in. He's trying to be himself and hopefully do his best to change people's hearts. But that obviously doesn't go quite as planned, especially when they get into the deep South. One of the things that is interesting about their experiences in the film is that Dr. Shirley is going around to people who are openly welcoming him in to perform for them. White people who are mostly super rich. They are inviting him to perform so that they don't look racist, but of course it's all superficial because they don't let him eat in their restaurants, they don't let him use their restrooms and they usually only give him a small closet to get prepared in. So deep down they are super racist, but are using him to put on a mask to make themselves seem good. This is all heartbreaking and tragic, especially when we see Dr. Shirley accept this without any fight or argument. As an audience member, you want to see something done about all of this.
I left "Green Book" feeling so uplifted. It brings all of the warm, fuzzy feel-goods to you in all the right ways. It was a movie about racism that reminded me of something like "Remember the Titans," which is a movie that showcased people of completely different backgrounds and cultures converging to become best friends. Those genuinely crafted relationships in "Remember the Titans" bring you so much joy that you can see the film as an example of the fact that good things can happen in an awful world. These are the exact same feelings I had with "Green Book." It may not go as dark, grim and violent in the portrayals of racism like movies such as "BlacKkKlansman" or "Detroit" do. But it does enough to get the point across loud and clear while focusing mainly on this friendship between Dr. Shirley and Tony that leaves you with such positive, happy feelings. There are plenty moments of humor, but a lot more moments of solid, powerful, genuine emotion. In fact, the movie is centered around the Christmas holiday as the goal is to get back from this tour on Christmas Eve so Tony can spend the holiday with his family. Because of this and other themes that I won't dive into, this could be seen as a perfectly festive movie for the season. I'm going to give "Green Book" a 9/10.