Ah, “Cars” movies. They will never soar like Pixar’s finest work, but there is a modesty to them, a pureness of heart that is difficult to deny. “Cars 3” is in many ways a rehash of “Cars,” in which a humbled Lightning McQueen needs to learn a valuable life lesson in order to rise above the setback of the moment. There are a couple of things, though, that elevate “Cars 3” slightly above its predecessors, namely the stunning blend of what appears to be live action photography with cutting-edge CGI (you’ve literally never seen a Disney/Pixar film like this), and an ending, however predictable, that delivers multiple gut punches.
The idea of Tom Cruise being involved in “The Mummy” seems odd on a number of levels. It doesn’t fit his m.o. at all, which makes one wonder how they were able to lure him in. My theory, based mainly on that new Dark Universe title card, is that Universal wants to reboot their classic horror properties to launch their own MCU, the Monster Cinematic Universe, and they wanted a bona fide star, someone with a higher Q factor than Brendan Fraser had when Universal last rebooted the “Mummy” franchise in 1999, to serve as the anchor. Hmmm…
“Free Fire” is the idea that hits someone 12 hours deep into a Quentin Tarantino/Guy Ritchie movie marathon. “You know what would be cool? It’s like paintball, but with real guns.” And to be fair, that is an interesting framing device, but when everything that follows has been done several times before, the device loses its charm rather quickly. This would explain why the film felt like the longest 85-minute film ever made. It’s interesting, but maddening, thanks in large part to a threadbare story structure, underwritten dialogue, and next to no character development.
As sweet and lovely as Disney’s 1991 animated film “Beauty and the Beast” is, the story has some, um, inconsistencies. Belle somehow manages to get an injured, beaten Beast up on a horse to bring back to the castle. There is a painting of an adult Prince that could not possibly have been painted. How is it that the local village has no knowledge of an enchanted castle just a short ride away? All of these issues, thankfully, are addressed in the live-action remake of the film, and the emotional stakes are raised quite a bit in the finale (though not in the manner that you might think). The production design is gorgeous, Belle’s yellow dress is as stunning as Cinderella’s blue dress in the 2015 remake of that film, and Emma Watson is an inspired choice to play Belle, and is quite the singer as well.
Sick Boy and Begbie find Renton, and spend the entire film beating him to death. Roll credits.
The first two-thirds of “Fist Fight” play like a Ben Stiller movie from the early 2000s. Our hero is kind but doesn’t assert himself, and is perceived to be a loser by everyone around him, including the ones he loves (and supposedly love him). This part of the movie is less fun, because from a filmmaking standpoint (and in life), picking on the 98-pound weakling doesn’t take any courage or risks. When our hero finally sticks up for himself, the movie feeds off of his adrenaline and begins to soar, culminating in a rather spectacular finish. The path to the ending is littered with dick jokes, but “Fist Fight” makes the early hardships worthwhile. Just barely, though.
There is a great book that was recently released called “All Our Wrong Todays.” It is about a man who lives in a world that enjoys an unlimited supply of renewable energy thanks to an invention that harnesses the power of the earth’s rotation. The short version of the story is that the main character – due to the ensuing events, one may or may not want to consider him the protagonist – has access to time travel, and winds up stuck in our horribly messed-up world (his words, but also mine). It’s a very fun read, and author Elan Mastal gives us some perspective in the process; in his alternate, superior-in-nearly-every-way universe, one in which there is no war or starvation, punk and hip-hop never happened, because there was nothing for people to rebel against. Our world may be awful, but our music, as far as the protagonist is concerned, is much, much better.
From 3:00 in the afternoon on March 29 until about 10:30 in the morning on April 3, with the exception of one dinner, every single penny my wife and I spent in that stretch went to Disney. Hotels, park passes, in-park meals and drinks, gift shop stuff, a three-day Disney cruise, and the shuttle bus we took to get from hotel to boat and back to the airport (which we will discuss in detail later, using unkind language), all Disney’s now. They have organized their properties in a manner that highly discourages their customers from doing anything outside of the Disney universe, like a group of interconnected black holes. And I would gladly pay for the privilege to do it again. No, I am not suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
When “The LEGO Movie” was first announced, it was met with a fair amount of skepticism that it was going to be a cynical promotional tool to sell toys. And it may have been that in a way, but it was also smart, funny, and far better than it had the right to be. “The LEGO Batman Movie,” meanwhile, is absolutely a tool designed to promote the LEGO Dimensions platform system, working no less than seven of their licensed intellectual properties into the story. Fortunately, it manages to be a highly entertaining film despite the shameless sales pitch. The absence of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in the writing and directing chairs is noticeable (they are executive producers only this time around), but this is a very fun, if a bit more predictable, ride.
As if time wasn’t already at a serious premium, I have decided to launch a podcast. Since it’s much easier for me to talk about music than it is for me to write about it anymore, this seemed like the logical thing to do.