With my previous review, I said I was finished writing about movies, but I wasn’t 100% truthful about why. It has gotten harder to do, it’s true, but the fact of the matter is that when I move to Madison (for those not connected to me on socials, we’re moving to Wisconsin), I have to resign from the Columbus Film Critics Association, so bye bye early screenings. Once that happens, odds are you all will see more movies than I do. You probably already do, at this point.
There’s a certain beauty to how much technical wizardry James Cameron inserts into details that don’t really matter that much. The Marines in “Avatar: The Way of Water” possess machinery and weaponry that are the stuff of sci-fi wet dreams, yet here they’re just part of the scenery. That’s what gets Cameron excited: the ability to show the audience something they’ve never seen before, while treating it as if it’s no big deal.
If only he paid that level of attention to his screenwriting. Case in point: early in the film, a commanding officer tells his men, “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” It’s 2022, and Cameron is putting 83-year-old pop culture references in his scripts. Jesus.
Disney has taken on some big-picture topics with their recent films, be it racism (“Zootopia”), colonialism (“Frozen II”), or tribalism (“Raya and the Last Dragon”), but “Encanto” has its eye on something both deeply personal yet universal: the idea of what makes a person special. It’s tempting to scoff at the thought of a group of the world’s most talented artists, animators, designers, songwriters, and musicians telling its audience that they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves – or their children, more pointedly – when you know that they worked themselves to the bone to make this movie, but at the same time, where’s the lie?
The ending of “Irresistible” is a cinematic chef’s kiss,
a move that bears resemblance to a somewhat recent Martin Scorsese movie, of
all things (a comparison that will surely thrill writer/director Jon Stewart).
It’s the kind of thing that only a politics junkie like Stewart would put in a
Unfortunately, getting there is a bit of a chore. The
movie starts off strongly enough, but the middle part drags, seemingly
forgetting that it’s a comedy. If “Irresistible” were as funny as it is clever,
it would be an instant classic.
You’ve already seen “The King of Staten Island.” Heck, this
is the third time that “Staten” director Judd Apatow has made this movie alone.
Pete Davidson’s character Scott is a more emotionally troubled version of Seth
Rogen’s Ben from “Knocked Up,” and both Scott and Ben share more than a few
traits with Amy Schumer’s Amy in “Trainwreck.” This resemblance to Apatow’s
earlier work is what drew a hard pass from my wife when I asked if she wanted
to watch it with me. “I’m tired of movies about a man-child,” she said.
After a terribly disappointing fourth installment in the popular teen death series, New Line does the unthinkable by not only making a fifth “Final Destination” but, horrors (see what we did there?), casting old people as the leads. You know, people who are, like, 30, and even some born in the ’70s, ewww. Who wants to see old people die?
As it turns out, it was a very savvy move. “The Final Destination” was in a tough position in that its predecessor ramped up the death scenes’ difficulty factor (Rube Goldberg would have been proud, then probably ashamed) while maintaining self-awareness. “FD4” tried to maintain the planned chaos, but it was undone by bad dialogue, poor acting, and too much foreshadowing. From the very beginning, “Final Destination 5” does two things to separate itself from the previous movie: it casts grown-ups in the lead roles (David Koechner and Courtney B. Vance, holler) and gets serious in a hurry after a premonition on a suspension bridge leads a group of white collar drones to hop off the bus, Gus. Also, there are no bad last lines like “I’ve got my eye on you” (poor, poor Krista Allen), and while a death may be triggered by a chain reaction, the cause of death itself is often something normal (fall, fire). Don’t think they didn’t get creative, though; one of the women suffers a particularly gruesome accident that is impossible not to react to.
They’ve also changed the rules – which is ironic, but for reasons we cannot divulge – when coroner William Blodworth (Tony “Candyman” Todd, returning for a third tour of duty, fourth if you include his voice work in “FD3”) suggests that the survivors can cheat death by killing someone else, a la “The Ring.” It adds an interesting wrinkle, since you get a glimpse of what people are willing to do in order to stay alive. Do not under any circumstances watch the bonus features if you haven’t yet seen the movie, otherwise the big surprise, which is a good one, will be spoiled. Definitely check them out afterwards, though, as you’ll get a glimpse of Koechner adding some of his natural comic flair. A welcome return to form for what was presumed to be a, um, dead franchise.
In the 14 years between 1995’s “Toy Story” and 2009’s
“Up,” exactly four men had sat in a Pixar director’s chair. Starting with
2010’s “Toy Story 3,” there was a concerted effort to spread the wealth, and
founding fathers John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter, along with
unofficial Pixar brother Brad Bird, only directed one film each over the next
decade, while seven others helmed the rest.
This is where a rather disturbing pattern emerges. Of those new directors, the only one to make films on par with Pixar’s best work was Lee Unkrich, who directed “Toy Story 3” and “Coco” (and won Oscars for both) after serving as co-director for Lasseter, Stanton, and Docter, and clearly learning a few things along the way. Remove the films made by Unkrich and the founding fathers, and you’re left with “Brave,” “Monsters University,” “The Good Dinosaur,” “Cars 3,” and “Toy Story 4.” That’s the Pixar movie marathon that runs nonstop on TV in the Medium Place.
This is the first time I have put a year-end list
together since (checks notes) 2015. It seems longer than that – I was convinced
I hadn’t done one of these since 2011. Some of that has to do with the fact
that I’m no longer doing the writing thing on a full-time basis. Some of that
is because it’s been several years since there was a batch of movies that got
me truly excited. That 2015 piece that I wrote? That was not a great batch of
flicks. Good, but not great.
That the makers of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” could
find time in their schedules to write and shoot a sequel, with all eight of the
principle characters, two years after the original, is simply unthinkable in
this day and age. It took Disney six years to follow up “Frozen,” and it took
Sony a decade before “Zombieland: Double Tap” happened. They must have had a
can’t-miss idea ready to throw at audiences, right?