Perhaps this would be better if your kids reviewed this
movie, but for some unknown reason, I was intrigued when I first saw the film
on the release schedule. Unable to catch it when it was first released, it’s
now on home video; so I’ve given it a viewing.
Based on the children’s educational series, Dora The
Explorer, this movie isn’t afraid to be self-aware. Very early on, Dora (Isabela
Moner) brakes the fourth wall and addresses the audience a couple of times to
the bewilderment of her father Cole (Michael Peña) and his wife Elena (Eva
Longoria). They are explorers who have
been living in the jungles of Peru with Dora. Cole and Elena figure out the
location of Parapata, the lost Incan city of gold and decide to set off to find
it. However,they also choose to send
Dora to Los Angeles to live with her cousin Diego (Jeff
Wahlberg) and his parents, who left Peru ten years earlier.
The film plays with Dora
exploring life in “the city,” which she is thoroughly unfamiliar with, and she continually
embarrasses Diego with her unfamiliarity. Dora doesn’t understand because she
and Diego were quite close when he lived in Peru, but Diego has grown quite
accustomed to life in the city, and he’s less than enthused in guiding his
cousin through the process of acclimation.
Dora and her classmates go on a field trip to a museum, and when
she wanders off to explore some off-display exhibits in the museum basement,
she, Diego and two other classmates are locked in a crate and shipped off to
Peru by a group of mercenaries. These
mercenaries plan to use Dora to find her parents and convince them to find the
lost city of Parapata.
It’s all somewhat goofy and transparent, but kids will probably enjoy it.
Zack Gottsagen is Zak, a young man with no family and Down’s
Syndrome, who has been placed in a retirement home because there is no other
facility to place him in. Zak spends his days watching a videotape purporting
to teach one wrestling. Zak also spends a lot of time trying to escape from the
Shia LaBoeuf is Tyler, a young man who appears to be a crab
fisherman, but who we learn is actually stealing crab pots from a man, Duncan
(John Hawkes), who took over fishing licenses held by Tyler’s brother (Jon
Bernthal) who has recently died. Tyler clearly feels that Duncan “stole” the
licenses from his family and, so, he is merely taking what belongs to him. Not
that Tyler doesn’t know that what he’s doing is illegal because he’s spending
his days ducking the authorities and Duncan.
Zak shares a room with Carl (Bruce Dern), who he’s driving
crazy with his constant viewing of the wrestling tape; so Carl devises an
escape plan for Zak to gain some peace.
Meanwhile, Duncan confronts Tyler over the stolen crab pots and
threatens him if Tyler doesn’t stop. Tyler doesn’t take kindly to the threat
and takes an action that propels Duncan to pursue him.
Tyler takes off in a boat in which Zak is hiding, and it
sets up the journey that we are about to follow. While Duncan is pursuing
Tyler, Zak is being pursued by Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a volunteer at the
nursing home who was supposed to be watching Zak and who had dubbed him a
Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz, who wrote and directed The
Peanut Butter Falcon, set up a scenario where the characters Tyler and Zak
become traveling companions as Tyler tries to escape Duncan and head to Florida
while Zak travels to the wrestling school advertised on his video, which is
along the route Tyler plans to take.
My only problem is with the screenplay, which too often
takes convenient short cuts to move the story along. However, there are
delightful performances by LaBoeuf, Johnson, Hawkes and Gottsagen, who himself has
Down’s Syndrome but turns in a dynamic performance as a man who single-mindedly
sets out to accomplish his goal of becoming a wrestler. Add in a marvelous
performance by Thomas Haden Church as The Salt Water Redneck, the wrestling
guru Zak is determined to meet and be trained by.
All too often, society imposes their ideas of what a person
is capable or incapable of doing, and this story does its best to implode those
myths and give us a different perspective on people’s capabilities and our
concepts of friendships and families. I’m a sucker for a story with heart,
despite some weaknesses in the narrative.
Despite these minor misgivings, The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of the better films of 2019, and I definitely recommend you give it a chance. In limited release and now available on home video, it’s worth your time.
In real-time, 28 years have passed. In movie time, it has been a couple of decades. A young Mexican couple are making out near a bridge when they notice sparks appearing in the deck of the bridge. A large familiar sphere appears, and a nude female figure falls from the sphere to the ground. When the couple goes to investigate, the police arrive and begin to question the couple about this semi-conscious nude female in their presence. At that moment, the female (Mackenzie Davis) puts a hurting on la policia and takes the young Mexican dude’s clothes and makes her way to find Daniela Ramos. Daniela lives with her brother Diego, an aspiring musician, and their father in Mexico City. Daniela wakes Diego as he and she work in an auto plant; she doesn’t want to be late. She also begs her father to make his doctor’s appointment.
After Daniela and Diego leave for work, sparks fly at their
residence and who should turn up at their apartment but another terminator, a
Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) who quizzes their father on the whereabouts of Daniela. Soon after, D&D’s father turns up at
their work location because his kids forgot their lunch. Except Diego points
out that Daniela brought their lunch.
Can you guess who Diego’s father is?
Of course, you can and that’s the problem with much of Terminator:
Dark Fate. Much of what we see has either been revealed in the trailer, or
it doesn’t take much thought to figure out what’s going on. The previously nude
female has been sent to protect Daniela.
She battles the Rev-9 on the factory floor and she—identifying herself as Grace—, Daniela and Diego escape in a truck with the Rev-9 in
hot pursuit. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) shows up and we’re off on another
The balance of the story is a mishmash and rehash of ideas
out of originator James Cameron and a committee of storytellers and
screenwriters that defy credulity. Cameron and his cohorts have devised a
scenario where what happened before didn’t really happen. It’s the old problem
of dealing with time travel except this time, we don’t really deal with
it. We’re presented a story and expected
to accept it, even though it’s banal and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Don’t blame any of this on the actors or the director. The actors do a credible job with the story
they’ve been given, and director Tim Miller has kept the action moving, perhaps
in the hope that the script won’t catch up to him.
All-in-all, Terminator: Dark Fate is a disappointment. The return of Schwarzenegger, Hamilton and
Cameron held out so much promise, and only Arnold and Linda delivered. Here’s
hoping that Cameron is saving his best material for those Avatar sequels
he’s been threatening us with.
Roman Griffin Davis is Johannes Betzler, a ten-year-old boy
who enthusiastically joins the Hitler Youth. “Jojo,” as his mother
and second-best friend call him, dresses up in his uniform and talks to his
best friend, an imaginary Adolf Hitler, played with delightful abandon by
director, co-producer and co-screenwriter Taika Waititi. I’m most familiar, I’d
imagine like most people, with Waititi’s work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,
but I’m now destined to examine his entire body of work which, as it turns out,
is rather quite extensive.
Along with his tangible best friend Yorki (Archie Yates), Jojo
goes to a Hitler Youth training camp, run by Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell)
or rather “Captain K,” in an attempt to make him more accessible. During their
training, Jojo is tasked with killing a rabbit in a scene that demonstrates the
power of peer pressure and the concepts of nature versus nurture. Jojo can’t bring himself to kill the rabbit. He
ends up running into the forest to the taunts of the other campers who have now
dubbed him “Jojo Rabbit.” While in the woods, Jojo imagines a conversation with
Hitler which galvanizes him into grabbing a grenade from an instructor and
throwing it against a tree with disastrous and unforeseen results.
Jojo is injured and while confined to his home, he discovers
his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johanssen) has been hiding a young Jewish girl, Elsa
(Thomasin McKenzie), in a secret room in their house. Jojo gives some thought
to turning her in, but Elsa convinces him that it would have disastrous consequences
for Jojo and his mother. So, instead,
Jojo decides to discover what makes Jews tick. Elsa feeds his paranoia, which
makes for a delightful narrative.
Waititi has taken a difficult subject and turned it into a
masterwork of drama, comedy, and just a tinge of horror. He turns in a
delightful comedic performance as an imaginary Hitler while at the same time
constructing a tale of a town about to be liberated seemingly against its
wishes. The film is exceptionally photographed by Mihai Malaimare Jr., which,
combined with the direction of Waititi, communicates feelings subtly and
Scarlett Johanssen is marvelous as a mother who is trying to
raise her son among the madness of a world at war, and Davis is good as the dutiful
son of his parents and the Third Reich. Throughout the film, the relationship
between Jojo and Elsa evokes curiosity and tenderness. Sam Rockwell continues
to turn in nuanced performances as in this one where he is at times comic and,
other times, compelling.
Jojo Rabbit is currently in limited release, and it
was challenging to find a theatre where I could see it. Fortunately, it opens in wider release on 8
November. If you have the opportunity, I
highly recommend you see it.
Some mild spoilers of the first film follow immediately.
I recently re-watched Zombieland(2009) and this movie basically picks up where that one left off except, as narrated by “Columbus,” some years later, presumably ten. The family of “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson), “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg), “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin) are still together after all these years. As the opening credits roll, they take up residence in the abandoned White House.
Columbus and Wichita are still paired off, and Tallahassee has taken a paternal interest in Little Rock, who has grown into a young woman and is now quite restless as a result. Little Rock’s annoyance at being treated like a “little girl” and a miscalculation by Columbus in his relationship with Wichita creates an event that propels the plot of the rest of the movie.
When our family leaves the White House and begins traveling again, they have to avoid a new breed of zombies, which Columbus names the T-800. These zombies are stronger, faster and more deadly than other zombies our troupe has encountered before. Incidentally, Columbus has classified the zombies they’ve come across into groups. So, now the zombie types have names to go along with Columbus’ rules.
The problem here is the way the script develops is somewhat redundant of the first film. Some very similar events happen; so if you’ve seen the first film, you might be getting a little bored as to how things progress. However, other events happen just new enough to keep you mildly interested.
While the script may be lacking, the performances are not. The characters are familiar, but the acting is fresh and delightful. There are also some new characters that we meet along the way, beginning with the daft blonde we saw in the trailer, Zoey Deutch as Madison, and an equally cliche free spirit named Berkeley (Avan Jogia).
The saving grace of the script is that it’s incredibly self-aware, and that brings enough humor to carry us through the entire film. This includes performances by “guest stars” (my phrase) Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch.
If you’ve seen the first film, you’ll enjoy the second one. Although I’ve listed it as a prerequisite, it’s not absolutely necessary to view it before viewing Zombieland: Double Tap. There’s enough exposition in Columbus’ narration that you’ll be able to follow along just fine.
I found Zombieland: Double Tap to be mildly humorous, but other people in the audience were laughing out loud, and I can understand why. There’s a mid-credits scene you should stay for and a post-credits scene you can catch at home whenever you get around to watching it there.
Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix team for an unconventional comic book movie about a man and a city’s descent into madness. There has been some discussion that this isn’t a comic-book movie, but it undeniably is. It is an origin story.
Arthur Fleck is a devoted son. He lives with his mother, but he is not dependent on her. Rather, he takes care of her, and he does it by working as a clown for hire. His job takes him to various places: for example, a music store going out of business and a children’s hospital. Arthur also suffers from a (real-life) condition, which causes him to laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate times. So much so that he carries a card that can explain it to people when he cannot.
The construction of the story is masterful and subversive, and it requires the audience to think and deduce some of the action going on before them. Phoenix’s performance is nuanced and skilled. It captures some of the cartoon-like nature of The Joker without it being cartoony. In some form, you respect Fleck’s struggle, and then he shocks you with his behavior. In a sense, Fleck has a code, and until the very end of the film, he never violates it.
To tell you more would spoil the experience.
Rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images, Joker is the best comic book film with that rating since Logan.