Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 review – no surprises in Sega's speedy-critter sequel | Movies | The Guardian

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is an ideal sequel, committing to many of the best parts of the first while vastly expanding the sandbox in which it operates. The first Sonic was a fairly formulaic road trip romp, but this sequel bounces back and forth between being a superhero story, a fantastical adventure, a coming of age story, and a family comedy with the speed and precision of Sonic traversing a level from the games upon which these movies are based.              

 

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 sees our favorite speedy blue hedgehog Sonic (Ben Schwartz) on another adventure, this time even greater than his last. He’s found a home with humans Maddie (Tika Sumpter) and Tom (James Marsden), who in trying to be a father to Sonic, warns him of the great responsibilities that come with the power he possesses. Sonic, in the meantime, is acting as a vigilante, stopping robberies and preventing low-level crimes in the areas surrounding his hometown of Green Hills. When Maddie and Tom head to Hawaii, Sonic gorges himself on junk food, blasting music throughout his house, and takes full advantage of his “parents” absence until his celebrations are brought to a halt by the arrival of a familiar enemy. That’s right, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) has returned from his exile to a mushroom planet and he’s brought an angry, red echidna with him who also has beef with Sonic named Knuckles (Idris Elba). Fortunately, Sonic has a new ally in a double-tailed creature who wants to help him in his fight against Robotnik and Knuckles, aptly named Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey).

 

This may be a Sonic movie but you can’t cast Jim Carrey and not expect him to make every moment his own. Carrey is back and bringing more of the same hyped-up energy to Ivo Robotnik that made him stand out in the previous Sonic installment. Carrey is the only live-action actor in this movie constantly animated enough to rival that of the actual animated characters he interacts with. I will admit, sadly, there is less Carrey in this movie, but to be fair, that’s because there’s so much more going on. With the addition of Tails and Knuckles, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 goes all-in on the richness and arguably, the insanity of Sonic’s lore. And if the post-credits scene that drew excitement and cheers from the audience I saw this with is any indication, this is only the beginning of exploring the expansive worlds and cast of characters that come with Sonic. The inclusion of Knuckles makes the action more interesting because Sonic has an adversary operating on his level. And the visual flourish present in Knuckles’ red streak facing off against Sonic’s blue one is quite engaging. Director Jeff Fowler isolates that visual contrast numerous points, often in slo-mo, although these characters may have similar origins, but they have very different goals in mind. In what first felt like stunt casting, Idris Elba is great, playing a Knuckles that’s all menace. Elba’s rendering of Knuckles can almost feel like self-parody of the unflappably stern attitude he’s brought to other characters, but he’s more than happy to play along. 

 

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 actually attempts to mature its lead character a bit this time around. If Sonic was a little kid in the previous film, but here, he’s a rebellious teen, more naïve, more impulsive, and just barely keeping Robotnik’s plot under control that threatens him and everyone he loves. His heart’s in the right place, but until he embraces the message of a speech Tom delivers that feels straight out of a Spider-Man movie, he can’t be that hero he wants to be. Ben Schwartz’s performance follows suit, toning down Sonic’s more cartoonish mannerisms and fits of quippiness. We know this character, specifically Schwartz’s spin on him, so there is less need for the in your face  gags he’s exhibited before, Schwartz finds the humanity in this little blue hedgehog and pushes that to the forefront. It’s an intricate voice performance and I commend Schwartz for bringing it 2 times in a row now.

 

And Sonic the Hedgehog 2 admirably examines the delicate dynamic between Tom and Sonic. Tom wants to be a father to Sonic, but his son is an extraterrestrial hedgehog with speed that would make even the Roadrunner envious and he has the emotional swings of a teenager, sullenly dodging his pleas for moderation in the usage of his power set and then desperately asking him for assistance in fixing the mess he’s made. Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s takeaways from the experiences of this found family at the movie’s center, still figuring things out, but tighter than ever, aren’t eh the most complex, but it’s enough to pluck the heartstrings.

 

If you’d told me the most entertaining sequence in a Sonic movie would be a bride at a wedding that wasn’t as it seemed, smashing up ice sculptures and exacting revenge on her fiancé with a golf cart in the aftermath of a genuinely shocking twist, there’s no way I would’ve believed you. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first, but I must say this won me over. It’s a good, old-fashioned blockbuster with its heart on its sleeve, kind of bonkers, more laughs, larger action sequences, greater scope and it has the x-factor that is Jim Carrey. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 speeds into theaters on April 8th, 2022.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 review - is the Sonic sequel any good?

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Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home is the 27th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third film starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker, the titular web-slinger. This movie has been heavily anticipated for months, not just as the return of Holland’s iteration of the character (especially after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home), but the marketing teased and revealed its connections to other onscreen iterations of the character. However, is this movie just another forgettable big-budget blockbuster, or is it worth your time and money?

 

No Way Home starts up immediately after the end of Far From Home where Spider-Man’s identity was revealed and he was accused of the murder of that movie’s antagonist, Mysterio. Peter’s life and the lives of his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), his girlfriend, MJ (Zendaya), and those closest to him, drastically change in a matter of minutes. Suddenly, Peter’s reputation is getting destroyed by the Daily Bugle on a daily basis. He and his Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) have to relocate and Ned and MJ’s college dreams are dashed by their connection to Peter and his heroic activity. As a result, Peter consults Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) about casting a spell that would make everyone forget his identity as Spider-Man. The spell collapses because of Peter’s tampering with it to keep Ned, MJ, and Aunt May in the loop, but is stabilized by Strange’s wizard abilities. However, we soon find out that the failed execution of the spell has opened the barriers of time and space just enough to let the enemies of Spider-Mans from other universes invade Peter’s. 

 

It’s a confusing setup, but the movie does a decent job of packaging it in a way that’s pretty easy to understand. Buckle up, though, because that’s just the beginning of the multiversal shenanigans in No Way Home. If the ending of this movie is any indication, it will not be the last we see the multiverse feature prominently in the goings-on of the Marvel universe.

 

Unlike Homecoming or Far From Home, this is really a movie about sacrifice and what Peter Parker has to lose to keep being Spider-Man. Homecoming and Far From Home have very different ideas of the sacrifices necessary to maintain his heroic persona, though. Peter isn’t having to miss the school dance or alter his plans to ask out the girl he likes on a summer trip across Europe. Things happen in No Way Home that can’t be taken back or reversed that feel like they’ll heavily inform and influence the Spider-Man we’ll see going forward.

 

No Way Home accomplishes the impossible in ways I wouldn’t even begin to explain as to not spoil the experience of watching this movie unfold on its own terms. Every part of this movie lived up to and exceeded my sky-high expectations, as it is a thrill ride from beginning to end packed with surprises and pathos that lays the groundwork for an uncertain and exciting future for Spider-Man in the Marvel universe. There are so many ways this could’ve floundered, but with No Way Home, Director Jon Watts is responsible for one of Marvel’s finest films yet. Spider-Man: No Way Home is in theaters now.

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The Batman

The Batman is everything you’re expecting from another adventure with this caped crusader at the center and unlike any Batman movie we’ve seen yet. It retools the whole world of Gotham City and looks at its spread of criminals, villains, and masked vigilantes through a whole new lens, as well as the character of Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting counterpart. 

 

The Batman opens aptly on Halloween night and sees a younger and slightly more naive Bruce Wayne in only his second year as Batman, played by Robert Pattinson. We learn from hearing Bruce’s diary entries he started writing since he started patrolling the city as the Batman that Bruce is at a critical point in his journey as the masked hero, questioning the effect he’s having on the city grew up in and the home he fights for each and every day, Gotham. Bruce is being stretched thin, he can’t be everywhere at once and certain aspects of life in Gotham have only gotten worse in the time since Batman arrived on the scene. A string of murders of Gotham’s most powerful and high profile figures from members of Gotham’s most distinguished offices to a mayoral candidate, whose murder bears a striking resemblance to the manner in which Bruce lost his own parents decades before, a flashpoint that haunts him still decades later. These brutal, connected killings send the city into disarray perpetrated by a masked serial killer named The Riddler who runs rampant with a penchant for leaving clues to be deciphered at his crime scenes. This mysterious murderer seems to have no other aim than to destroy the city that Batman so passionately defends. Wayne befriends a burglar named Selina Kyle, who’s looking for her missing friend, and with a morally upstanding cop, they try to track down the elusive criminal and keep his catastrophic plan from running its course.

 

Christopher Nolan who helmed the now-iconic Dark Knight trilogy may be the most accomplished filmmaker to show us his take on the bat, but Matt Reeves and the sensibilities he brings to the table feel most suited to this character. Realism, realism, realism even in the most outlandish of set-ups And it’s just that, like his previous film War For The Planet of the Apes, the character almost never leaves the foreground. He made the trials and tribulations of hyper-intelligent apes relatable, I had no doubt, he’d nail Bruce’s own inner struggles, communicated brilliantly by those diary entries I mentioned. Oh man, the night isn’t just The Batman’s central setting, it’s Batman’s domain. It’s the shadows that give him his hold over the whole city. Criminals see the Bat-signal and look into a pitch-black alley not knowing who’s gonna walk out and whether or not they’ll be dealt the whupping of the century. And with Pattinson’s Batman, there is terror in those moments of uncertainty and he’s the one we’re rooting for. What is the swirling storm of rage and conviction within Bruce capable of? 

 

Robert Pattinson had made this character his own. This Bruce Wayne is divorced from notions of charisma or the qualities of the billionaire playboy that he usually has to pretend to be, he’s moody and antisocial and passive like he’s more out of place without the cowl on than with it. He spends a lot of this movie fully in the suit and it’s a credit to Pattinson that he can mask act, even when not even a quarter of his face is visible. Batman has to play it cool, he has to be intimidating, without that, he’s just a guy in tactical gear with an affinity for justice and dressing up as a flying nocturnal animal, it’s Pattinson’s eyes that are fully utilized, those wells of emotion that give us a window into Bruce’s internal journey and moments of fear and sadness that he refuses to let other observers see. His crusade has fully transformed him, better for Gotham, worse for Bruce. He is a near-silent cipher for which Batman to gather intel, an invisible cloak of prestige that garners attention from Gotham’s most notable people. There’s something about this Gotham that feels more fully realized than other interpretations and it’s in just making it feel like a real place, Reeves’ Gotham is alive in its lack of life. This is a movie that desperately tries to understand Bruce Wayne and his actively evolving mindset about what he brings to the city he loves by defending it and how his own perception of his own family’s history and Gotham changes through his pursuit of the Riddler.

 The Batman shows its admiration for the world and characters of Batman’s universe in the skill with which it brings them to life, original, but familiar. Director Matt Reeves has made a tense, sorrowful, borderline disturbing modern noir about Batman needing to alter his work-life balance. Plus an enthralling mystery that doesn’t lose steam even at almost exactly 3 hours long driven by an ever-expanding web of corruption and a perfectly imperfect Gotham with grit and grime to spare as a backdrop. This is Batman at its finest and I sincerely hope this is not the last we see of The Batman. I’ve never been a Batman guy really, but this movie made me feel like I could run a marathon. Just electric. Bravo, Matt Reeves.  The Batman is in theaters now.

 

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Eternals

 

Eternals is a grand swing in the right direction for the future of Marvel’s cinematic universe. The moment Avengers Endgame ended, it felt like Marvel was at an apparent crossroads. Bidding farewell to much of its main cast opened the door to the future faces of the franchise. Since then, we’ve been introduced to new heroes like Shang Chi and Yelena Belova, who will no doubt lead the next phases of this ongoing story. Nevertheless, Marvel is taking risks by continuing its ambitious gambit and by taking a chance on property like Eternals and the movie director Chloe Zhao has made out of it.

Eternals is an epic that spans the arc of human history, a comedy about an impromptu family reunion of immortal cosmic beings. This superhero extravaganza makes a character uppercutting a huge alien into the walls of an ancient civilization just as electrifying to watch as the questions asked by its titular team about what the human race has done to the planet with the gifts and wonders they’ve given them.

Eternals begins thousands of years ago and follows a team of guardians (Not the other heroic galactic guardians though) dispatched to Earth by some of the grandest powers in the entire universe to protect the planet from the deviants, beasts who they’ve clashed with for millennia. The Eternals go their separate ways after the deviants are beaten back into hiding and they live their own lives for centuries, away from one another. Some vie for Bollywood stardom or a teaching position at a museum while others go into hiding. Either way, they are drawn back together after the events of Avengers: Endgame by a disturbance in the universe generated by the energy of the snap that brought half of the universe back.

The Eternal that stands out the most is Kingo, played by Kumail Nanjiani. When Eternals starts to get too drab, it’s Nanjiani’s charisma and on-point comedic timing that pulls the movie back from the black hole of self-seriousness. And yet, his performance doesn’t feel out of step with a movie that isn’t as high-spirited as his character. Marvel movies can have a tendency to hit a slump in their 3rd acts; the themes they were playing with are thrown to the wind in favor of a massive action sequence that brings all the heroes together and puts the work of the special effects team on full display, but for Eternals, the final act is where it peaks. The climax hinges on the conflict between these characters and if they can put differences aside to rally together to save the planet, rather than their teamwork just being by design. And Zhao takes something like the destruction of the entire planet, the transformation of the earth to ash, to make way for a greater cosmic object and finds beauty in it. After movie after movie of antagonists promising they’ll destroy the earth, it’s kind of cool to see it at least sort of come to fruition, especially in such a literal way.

It’s remarkable that a filmmaker like Zhao, whose work up to now has consisted of soulful indie dramas, finds the rhythm of these ensemble-based fight scenes, as she singles out heroes to get their moment in the spotlight. It brings to mind the thrill of watching the original Avengers and seeing just how well they played with the dynamic of these heroes in motion, taking on these extraordinary threats. But she doesn’t lose the soul of this whole enterprise either. These are gods who’ve been worn down by the charms of humanity to be their most loyal, powerful protectors. The gods to humans arc has always been one Marvel has excelled at. Characters who are inherently heroic because they use their unbelievable abilities to help others, especially their Eternals who use theirs to help

It’s Zhao’s eye for scale and composition, but also a heart that distinguishes Eternals from the rest of its Marvel movie contemporaries for the right reasons rather than the wrong ones. It’s big, but not loud, remarkably pensive, but not lacking in momentum. I wholeheartedly say see it. It’s bummed out Power Rangers and I enjoyed every minute of its morose if hopeful spectacle. Eternals is on Disney Plus now.

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Booksmart: Pancakes Amidst Transition

*spoilers below*

The first moment Booksmart begins to give away the hands it’s playing and just how much it intends on entertaining, surprising, and delighting, occurs right at its opening frame as we see Molly (Beanie Feldstein) sitting upright and cross-legged in the middle of her room. Most times we are introduced to characters as they wake up, sure, we see them go through the daily steps that make up many of our own mornings, but that is not how we meet Molly Davidson.  We have arrived as she listens to an expletive-laden affirmational tape (Thanks to the voice work of Maya Rudolph) that starts with broad statements about the sacrifices made for greatness and mountains of success, meanwhile cutting to different objects in her room, various framed pictures of her heroes, awards, the valedictorian jacket that lies in front of her, right before this pump-up session begins to grow more mean-spirited. Here, we get to Molly’s foremost attitude towards her fellow high school classmates: F*** those losers. F*** them in their stupid f***ing faces. 

This is Molly Davidson, driven and ambitious, the president of her student government, more concerned with a smooth transition of power than senior year festivities, we now know who she models herself after, the mindset that’s gotten her through her high school career, but whose own worldview is poisoned by her contempt for her classmates, as a result. Our protagonist, her mission statement, and the central conflict, all laid out within the first 48 seconds of this 105-minute movie. How will someone who’s convinced her classmates should be f***ed in their f***ing faces widen her perception to see them as human beings?  And how will the daunting prospect of the transition out of high school help her reach that point? Booksmart chronicles how two friends, Molly and Amy, on the cusp of graduation the following day, come out of a night of Ayahuasca-fueled drug trips, self-discovery, and party after party, seeing the future that they spent their high school years working towards, their fellow graduates, and their friendship with an entirely fresh perspective. Regarding transition, Booksmart looks at it as an opportunity to reassess and grow, for Amy to take on a greater initiative and do things by her own terms before she goes off on her gap year to Botswana, for Molly to find value in the people around her that she maybe didn’t before and recognize the things she might’ve missed from the way she tackled high school, but also as a reminder of what they both already held dear, mainly their friendship.

Molly has a carefully calibrated, plan that spans several years for how to reach what she see as ultimate success: Getting into Yale University, which she has, editing law review at Georgetown University, clerking for a federal judge, before eventually becoming the youngest justice ever nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States. Molly wants to have it all, her ideal future more than anything, her desire for perfection from her perspective is her most powerful compass and that’s what sets Booksmart in motion. The moment where she finds three of her classmates, who mock her mercilessly in the bathroom, not aware she can hear all of their insults are headed to the same colleges she worked so hard to get into (or coding for Google), it’s not just a bombshell for Molly, the ethos that’s been her north star through the uncertainty of high school hallways has been disproven. She has lived so contently in her bubble, laser-focused on what lied beyond it, so she didn’t enjoy any of what high school had to offer besides as a pathway to better, bigger things or wonder how other people went through it. She’s spent years working towards her vision of the future and now that that future is at hand, she’s got a deadline to make her high school experience worthwhile in her eyes, a party at her vice president and, as yet to be revealed to her closest friend, crushes house representing a perfect opportunity “…to experience a seminal, fun anecdote…”. Along the way, though, through trial and error to reach that party, Molly’s mission changes. She goes from attempting to end high school with a flourish to trying to widen her understanding of her classmates. Her “F*** those losers” mentality has led her to view the people she’s gone to school with for years as competitors, stepping stones towards her true ambitions. Over the course of the night, the much-ridiculed Jared, who shows up to school with gift bags and stupid T-shirts for all to see and just might’ve had a prostitute at his 14th birthday, becomes a kid who uses his parent’s wealth to desperately try to buy people’s affection, sadly, the one thing he can’t seem to buy. Really, he just wants to get through high school and go design airplanes and produce musicals. Annabelle, who gets called “Triple A” by nearly all her classmates at school for sexual exploits the previous summer, resents her moniker deeply and looks forward to turning a new leaf at Yale the next year. Gigi, of course, Jared’s best friend, who provides the strawberries for Amy and Molly’s unplanned drug-induced nightmare, remains an enigma. We see through Molly’s valedictorian speech the next day that she’s gained a much deeper appreciation of the people she went to school with 4 years and it may have taken nearly that long for her to have her epiphany, but it’s a leap she had to make before her high school years came to close. Transition is what forces Molly Davidson to look inward and wonder if she could’ve things differently, but also to look inward towards her fellow high schoolers and not just try to understand them, but sit down and have a conversation, throwing her previous notions to the wind and showing as much admiration and humanity towards Jared or Annabelle, as she does Amy.

If we’re talking about Molly Davidson, we got to talk about her partner in crime, confidant, best friend, and her ride to school, Amy (Katelyn Dever), who shares her boundless passion for over-achieving. It’s their dedication to that success that’s drawn them together, but Amy doesn’t have the same ravenous appetite for what she sees as success, both in and out of school as Molly does. Molly is the force that gets them both out of the house the night before graduation when Amy would much rather stay home and watch The Dust Bowl, ignoring the opportunity to tell her crush, Ryan how she feels. Molly’s a pusher, but that’s just her set mode, which means she can overstep boundaries. On the other hand, Amy sometimes leans too much on Molly. She cowers at the idea of telling Molly about the gap year she’s taking to Botswana because she fears, reasonably, but still, how she’ll take the news. They’ve done everything together, freshman to senior year, so the idea of splitting apart for that long is understandably frightening. Molly doesn’t take the news well, even when Amy musters the courage to tell her, but it’s the strength of their bond that leads them to be excited about each other’s futures, even if thanks to transition, they’ll be pursuing theirs apart.

There’s a Wizard of Oz quality to Booksmart’s journey with the two main protagonists both gaining qualities in greater amounts by the end, at the point of the graduation ceremony where Amy and Molly burst through the fence in Jared’s car, Amy, fresh out of prison for a diversion she set up to distract the cops from the crowd of teens leaving a party, has gained courage and Molly has gained a heart. Booksmart ultimately frames transition as a daunting prospect, but a necessary change. Rarely is it convenient or easy, but it can build a greater understanding of others and a stronger sense of self and even in the upheaval of transition, we know that Molly and Amy’s friendship will survive.  As they arrive at the airport to go their separate ways and a solemn, downbeat song plays in the background, as tears roll down their faces, the song cuts off abruptly, Amy jumps in front of Molly’s car and hops in, ” I can be the last one on the plane… you wanna get pancakes?” Even as their paths diverge, they’ll still have time to have a laugh and grab some breakfast together.

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Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain Documentary 'Roadrunner' Sets Release Date - Variety

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is a personal, honest, albeit loving look at and into the life of Anthony Bourdain and all the various detours it took, charting his journey from chef to writer to acclaimed TV host, as told by his closest friends, the people he worked with, and his family.

 

After an opening credits sequence that runs through the years leading up to Bourdain’s career as a chef, Roadrunner begins its sprint in 1999 after he’s secured a deal to write a book about his experiences in the restaurant world that would end up being Kitchen Confidential, the New York Times bestseller that would put Bourdain on the talk show circuit, talking to the likes of Oprah and David Letterman, and quickly kickstarting his ascent towards celebrity. As a result, in preparation for the writing of his second novel, called A Chef’s Tour, he was approached by a TV producer duo who asked him if he wanted to make a series in tandem with the upcoming novel, thus forming a partnership that would spawn multiple shows, win several Emmys and begin Bourdain’s over a decade long tenure on television screens everywhere and Bourdain’s status as a world-famous traveler.

 

  Compared to documentarian Morgan Neville’s wonderful last film Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, this is a significantly different challenge, Bourdain’s suicide is still a recent event in the public eye and I’m certain a fresh wound for those who knew him. It’s difficult to watch a feature-length charting of basically someone’s whole life, knowing that it’s going to end so inevitably, suddenly, and sadly, but Roadrunner succeeds in showing us Bourdain in totality, his flaws, idiosyncrasies, fascinations, a headfirst leap into the world of jiu-jitsu later in life comes to mind, along with the testimony of his loved ones all striving to answer the question: We know who he was on-screen, so who was he off of it? 

 

Roadrunner mirrors Bourdain’s own frequent departures from home and journeys to parts unknown, taking us back and forth from what he did on television and his home life, his relationships, his raising of his daughter. We see a conversation between Bourdain and his friend Josh Homme, where they discuss the paradox of wanting to return home when they’re away, but immediately wanting to get back on the road when they get home. It’s one of the more purely tragic moments in Roadrunner and incisively implemented by Neville and co., getting right to the heart of the movie’s namesake and just how reflective it was of Bourdain’s own everyday life.

 

After a TV episode of his show shot in Beirut goes awry, Bourdain talks about his faltering belief in the power of the table at which we eat and share, but Roadrunner, however unknowingly, becomes a testament to that power. Nearly every interview in the film is organized across a table, where these deeply personal details and anecdotes are exchanged. Neville operates with a wealth of outtakes from his TV shows and all the excess footage from someone who had cameras rolling on their every moment for nearly 20 years straight, but it’s these genuine moments with those who knew Bourdain the arrangement fosters that cut the deepest. 

 

 It’s another strong documentary from Morgan Neville that like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? chronicles an icon who forged their legend on television but seeks to give us an understanding of who they were off of it. It’s a celebration of someone who guided viewers around the world and a fond farewell to someone who left us far too soon. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain lands in theaters on July 16th.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (2021) - IMDb

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The Father

Where to Watch Anthony Hopkins' 'The Father' Movie

The Father is practically a psychological horror movie, depicting the decaying psyche of an old man, battered by dementia. The Father tends pretty grimly, but its excellent lead performance from Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and the film’s structural fluidity set it apart from similarly bleak dramas about the dilapidating mental functions of a senior citizen.

Anthony (Played by Anthony Hopkins) at first glance, an ordinary elderly man, in the waning years of his life, awaiting his daughter’s arrival (Played by Olivia Colman) to discuss her new living arrangements. This all serves as a prelude to the mental and emotional fireworks. From there, everything becomes a lot less concrete. Faces of loved ones morph, the layout of Anthony’s apartment shifts, Anne gains a husband and Anthony is introduced to an in-home care person who bears a striking resemblance to his youngest daughter who may or may not be dead. As dementia wreaks havoc on his subconscious, Anthony’s only attachment to reality becomes a watch he keeps misplacing, an almost perfect metaphor for Anthony’s spiraling reality.

The Father commits itself to depicting the realities of dementia through oft-surreal ripples in the consciousness of its protagonist. That first sign that things are amiss in Anthony’s flat is quite alarming and so, so well-executed, a slight, but perceptible alteration to what we’ve been told by Anthony’s daughter about why she’s come to see her father, that becomes a dire sign for what’s to come as minuscule shifts balloon into far more concerning and substantial lapses in memory that we witness through Anthony’s point of view.

Anthony Hopkins is the focus of this movie and Hopkins’s performance is a consistently surprising lead performance representative of a film that is just as unpredictable. He doesn’t play it too big even in the very erratic and sporadic launches between an almost effortless effervescence and the prickly, defensive edge that comes to the surface whenever his self-sufficiency comes into question. Hopkins not only has to channel a frequently changing demeanor but a frame of mind. He goes from distant, resigned in his cloud of seemingly eternal confusion, to in your face, saying truly cruel things to his daughter and finding himself reduced to tears, calling out for his mother. It’s no secret we’re nearing Oscar season and Hopkins’ turn here is poised to reap some awards, unlike other performances that often find themselves in a similar position, there isn’t that moment that feels like he’s reaching, attempting to milk an enthralling monologue or moment within the material. Hopkins’s performance stays in line even in its frequent transformations within his mind and mood, everything feels of a piece with that character. He is just as compelling as when he putters down a hallway as when he explodes at his daughter, the person who cares for him most. Speaking of his character’s daughter, Olivia Colman is in this too and she’s good! Her performance is almost all nuance, amidst her father’s declaration of his preference for her sister over the daughter in earshot who’s taken care of him, a palpable look of dejection spreads across her face, Colman’s strength, as an actress lies in her conviction, whether it’s the queen of England or a local detective, it’s the poise she possesses that has shaped so many of her roles. She has that same poise in The Father, but the real key to her performance here is in the moments that poise slips, the cracks in the armor brought about by her father’s outbursts, a person who gives her father so much to make sure he’s taken care of and gets nothing back. It’s a really complicated and interesting perspective and it’s almost to the film’s detriment that Anthony’s point of view is so distinctive and encompasses so much of the movie and it spends so little time with Anne.

The Father applies precision to the unraveling of an old man’s reality. You can see The Father where theaters are open on March 12th and it will be available on Video On Demand platforms starting March 26th.

The Father movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert

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A Glitch In The Matrix

Image result for a glitch in the matrix movie

A Glitch In The Matrix is a radical, uniquely presented look at simulation theory in the digital age, how those who prescribe to the notion that we’re all living in a simulation came to those beliefs and how it affects their outlook going forward. Dense, but accessible, directed by Rodney Ascher, it’s the rare documentary that asks a question it knows it can’t answer.

 

In the late 1970s, famed author Phillip K Dick, known for his sci-fi stories, gave a talk where he laid out his theory that we are living in a simulation. This becomes the entry point to dive into the maw of simulation theory, its depth only outmatched by its complexity. Similar to another Rodney Ascher joint Room 237, which mined the Stanley Kubrick film The Shining for its hidden meanings, A Glitch In The Matrix utilizes a famed and celebrated movie as its main frame of reference in exploring its theme, as it pertains to simulation theory, that film or masterpiece rather is the 1999 Keanu Reeves-led sci-fi wonder The Matrix, the point at which simulation theory went fully mainstream. Ascher’s film investigates where stimulation theory stemmed from, how its tenets and principles have been echoed throughout history by everyone from Plato to Elon Musk and how it’s looked at in this day and age.

 

I’m so glad I went into this movie knowing as little as I did and frankly, I’m not sure how much any research pre-watch could prepare you for what this film is. Initially, my interest peaked at the possibility of exploring the making of The Matrix in a documentary format, which, for the sake of forwarning this is very much not, but I soon realized that this was about simulation theory and after a short explanation from a friend about what that even means, I sat down and watched the film. Rodney Ascher’s film subverts a lot of documentary trappings. The conceit of A Glitch In The Matrix can’t so much be explored as marveled at and the possibilities of a simulated reality tinkered with and so that’s exactly what it does, boldly depicting this proposed reality entirely through CG animation that brings it to life and clips from popular culture that has dealt with similar ideas. I respect that a film about simulations indulges so heavily in the same thing, even many of the people’s identities it seeks out to discuss the topic with are shielded by these heightened virtual avatars that their perspectives are filtered through. More simulation-like choices. It gets very meta, but in a way that tries to adhere to and honor the film’s focus and not in a way where it’s constantly tapping you on the shoulder trying to see if you got what it was going for. 

 

The movie even interrogates its existence and whether or not it is a tool of the simulation it’s circling and what impact will it have, but on a different level, not will it change hearts and minds, but how will it warp its viewer’s sense of reality? And while mine didn’t feel shattered by the film’s conclusion, I don’t think that’s what’s A Glitch In The Matrix is going for. I have respect for any movie that seeks to make you question the world you live in, socially, politically, A Glitch In The Matrix does that quite literally. If you’re looking for a documentary that finds the key to its main topic and deconstructs it bit by bit, this isn’t that, but if you’re willing to go on a bit of a journey through a school of thought via the lens of a capable filmmaker that challenges what you think about your reality, sit down, give this a chance and I think you’ll enjoy it. A Glitch In The Matrix is left incomplete almost by design, but somehow that works to its charm.  It just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and it will be available in theaters and at home on February 5th.

Image result for a glitch in the matrix movie

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News of the World

Tom Hanks Western 'News of the World' Coming to Netflix Internationally -  What's on Netflix

News of the World is a classical, character-driven western amped up by the strength of its lead performances and cinematography.

Directed by Paul Greengrass of Captain Phillips and United 93, News of the World stars Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran and former newspaper man. He charts course across a divided, post-civil war America, going from town to town and doling out the news along with hope or despair depending on the headline. It’s on these journeys that he finds in the woods a corpse and a toppled buggy, with a lone girl inside and some papers telling her story. She’s Johanna, a German orphan adopted by  then taken from the Native Americans who slayed her parents. Kidd takes it upon himself to find her the home she’s had taken away from her on more than one occasion, undeterred by the challenges ahead of them.

Tom Hanks is a gem as usual. This is a capital m movie star who’s committed to naturally exuding warmth and empathy with nearly every role he takes on in this stage of his career, but it works and he’s great at it. Hanks plays Kidd as gruff, grizzled, a little rough around the edges, a performance that seems a little out of left field in the canon of Hanks but without sacrificing the qualities that make him so endearing as a performer. He’s flawed, we know he’s done some things he’s not proud of prior to the events of the film, but he’s atoning for those actions with an outstretched hand and caring heart to a person who needs it, a beacon of decency in a world that doesn’t always adhere, the ideal stage on which for Hanks to work his magic. Fortunately, Hanks has a more than capable scene partner throughout in Helena Zengel, who plays Johanna, the child who he embarks on the journey at the center of the movie with. Her performance is mesmerizing and layered with nuance and captures a character with a fiery spirit and worldly inner life. 

The vistas and wide plains of a western are catnip to any cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski creates a soft unease amid the ethereal hues of the frontier. There’s an air of uncertainty that comes with their arduous journey that clouds over the majesty of the terrain. Wolski’s cinematography basks in that majesty but doesn’t let it shake its focus on the characters at the center of it all. You become enveloped in the vastness of Captain Kidd and Johanna’s travels, but fearful of what may lie ahead.

Greengrass’s film seems primed for the big screen with its wealth of setpieces motivated by scale and environment, but in the current times, a good portion of the people who watch this movie will watch it at home and the movie seems just as set for that viewing experience with its stripped-down moments in between those grander ones.

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Mosul

Mosul': Venice Review | Reviews | Screen

Mosul is a whirlwind of a movie anchored by legitimately visceral sequences throughout and brisk pacing that the film sustains from beginning to end. In an environment where streaming has become the predominant mode of consuming content, it’s gratifying to get a movie this immersive, one that never truly lets up and one that will certainly keep you invested in the different directions it goes in.

Based on a New Yorker article from 2017 and produced by the Russo Brothers and the production company AGBO, Mosul takes place in the titular city and follows the exploits of the Nineveh SWAT team, who gained their prestige through their clashes against ISIS forces. We meet the team through the eyes of Kawa, a rookie cop who is ushered into the team by the steely commander Jasem after they save Kawa and his seasoned partner mid-ambush. With ISIS on the retreat from the city and the arrival of a new command, the team has gone rogue and decides to carry out one final mission of their own, the details of which are kept from Kawa, but we come to find it’s rooted in a far more personal place than the ones they’ve gone through prior.

Through the absorbing bend much of the film takes, we are put in the heat of battle at every turn, but it’s rarely energetic and that becomes an effective element of the film’s tone. There’s a weariness to each encounter with the enemy as they occur with increasing frequency and over the course of their journey, these soldiers are just trying to survive, and here’s where Mosul cements its stakes breathlessly and efficiently. It begins to feel inevitable that the Nineveh will lose one of their own nearly every time they make contact with ISIS’s opposing forces. What sets Mosul apart from similar tactically minded flicks is the moments of loss it frequently hammers home. In between the intensity of the action and each waypoint on their venture, there are moments of stillness where we get to witness the fighter’s true colors which makes their losses sting with greater severity, sometimes it’s commentating over a soap opera on television and at others, it’s cruising in a humvee through the ruins of Mosul, as they’re reminded of why they fight and who they’re fighting for. The secret sauce that really makes those points of the film work where the team isn’t being rained down on by gunfire is that they’re still actively pushing the story forward and doing the necessary work to engage us with the characters at the center of the story. Mosul’s structure reminded me of that of a video game, with each conflict or objective so to speak being separated by points of exposition and development but it works for a mission-focused narrative in this case.

 Mosul is a raw testament to the heroism of the Nineveh SWAT team with an unexpectedly emotional conclusion and I’d greatly recommend it.  You can see it on Netflix right now.

Mosul (2019) - IMDb

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