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« Beauty vs Beast: Devils of the Details | Main | Showbiz History: Ryan Phillipe's debut, Diane Kruger's next project, and the Luu brothers »
Monday
Jul152019

Review Catch-Up

by Nathaniel R

A confession: After an alarm mishap I accidentally slept right through my Lion King critics screening earlier in the week. Upon waking I was angry with myself because there is no way I wanted to actually pay to see photorealistic animals singing. After perusing the early reviews both pro and con, I became convinced that the sleep was no accident but a divine intervention from the cinematic gods. My new stance is that I can wait for the screener to arrive during awards season... as no movie has ever struck me (from afar) as less necessary than this one. In truth I don't even love the 1994 picture (as Disney renaissance movies go, it's low on my personal list). Anyway, on to movies we have caught up with recently that we either haven't reviewed or talked at length about on the podcast...

Spider-Man: Far From Home (Jon Watts)
Synopsis: In the absence of The Avengers, Peter Parker's school trip is interrupted by an alien superhero (Mysterio) and a new apocalyptic threat that requires immediate attention. But appearances can be deceiving...

Capsule: The best that can be said about the now oppressively dominant superhero genre is that the movies are often very enjoyable in a communal delayed call and response way (i.e. internet memes and funny reads) as well as an in-the-movie-theater popcorn munching sense. That is when they're done right. You could actually argue that they're thrilling in similar ways to older genres like swashbucklers or musical comedy:  bold splashes of color, thrilling displays of physicality, and broad emotional feeling that's not in conflict with the comic winking. There's much fun to be had here and Tom Holland continues to make the perfect Spidey. So why does it feel so insubstantial? Or is it simply that it arrives on the heels of the single most inventive and funny Spider-Man movie (Into the Spider-Verse) and just isn't in that league?
 

MVP: Beyond the adorability of Tom Holland, that'd be Jake Gyllenhaal, superbly cast to gently subvert his generally earnest screen persona. 
Grade
: B 

 


Toy Story 4 (Josh Cooley)
Synopsis: Bonnie makes a new toy at school named "Forkie" but Forkie think he's trash causing comic mayhem. As Woody seeks to rescue Forkie (again and again) and convince him that he belongs with Bonnie, Woody reunites with Bo Peep and questions his own journey. 


Capsule: It was fun while it lasted but it's the first Toy Story movie to evaporate in the memory quickly after watching it. Which means it's the first non-essential entry. It's chief problem is the repetitive under-plotting (how many times can Woody be tasked with rescuing a wayward toy in these movies? Surely there are other potential sources of adventure and conflicts!) but mostly it just struggles to feel necessary in the long shadow of Toy Story 3's full circle finale.

MVP: Bo Peep and her sheep "you have six eyes. How are you so bad at driving?!?" with runners up aplenty in the new characters including Forkie, Gabby and her creepy ass henchmen, and Duke Kaboom. For the first time while watching a Toy Story movie, no emotions stirred within me besides a surface smile and a few good giggles.
Grade:

 


Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Michael Dougherty)
Synopsis: Several sleeping titans are awakened causing mass global chaos and lots of monster-on-monster throwdowns. The humans struggle to survive the carnage as Godzilla takes on his greatest enemy, King Ghidorah.

Capsule: Given the lackluster response to this film, one assumes that you have to have grown up with this franchise to really be into it. The Godzilla films were always in syndication on television when I was a tiny boy so I felt giddy as each famous monster emerged and I could name them before the characters could. But recognition alone does not a satisfying movie make and only 1 of the "extra" monsters get anything like a satisfying beat within the narrative. Overall this isn't a patch on the eery beauty of 2014's underrated Godzilla, though Mothra's big moment is a ridiculously beautiful image. What's more the villain's plan and adjacent family drama are unearned as if the film couldn't commit to them in the desperation to up the monster count. And vice versa, actually; the balance always plays out strenuously. Nevertheless I mostly enjoyed myself though this installment definitely lacks for personality. 

MVP: The visual effects team
GradeC

 

Papi Chulo (John Butler)
Synopsis: A weatherman (Matt Bomer) breaks down on live TV. During his forced leave from work he hires a painter (Alejandro Patiño) to work on his house and tries to force a friendship to ignore his pain.

Capsule: John Butler's follow up to the underappreciated Handsome Devil is more polished but not as successful due to the discomfort at its core. Regarding that polish: this is the kind of movie that's never noted for its cinematography but some of the lighting choices by the cinematographer Catthal Watters are just lovely. Though we haven't read any full reviews we assume it's been chastised, as most interracial dramas are, for focusing on the emotional journey of the white man. How the film avoids the other pitfalls of its hot potato subgenre, is that (if you're paying attention) it's pretty clear that the film understands that the men aren't actually friends (helped in large part by Alejandro Patiño's sly sometimes silent performance... as he's trying to figure out what his strange employer's deal is). The movie has been reductively described as a friendship drama or a bromance so the potential misreads makes sense. Like Butler's earlier film, it is about a relationship between an oddly matched pair, one gay and one straight, only this time they don't actually become friends friends. They just become friendly while navigating a fraught emotional breakdown and peculiar circumstances. The film's stealth and difficult-to-dramatize subject is grief and the inappropriate ways people in pain try to project what they need on to other (often unsuspecting people). I wish the movie were more successful as its chosen and worthy topic but it does get distracted and distracting while attempting to dramatize cross cultural divides especially when it tries for comic beats or while making some pretty iffy narrative leaps in its last half hour.

MVP: Alejandro Patiño
Grade: C+

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Reader Comments (6)

Yeah, Spider-Man had all the pieces, but just felt dull somehow. As for Toy Story 4...I was traumatized by Toy Story 3 and was given excellent closure by the finale. Toy Story can’t just stroll back into my life like a 2015 twitter post, I’m fragile.

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkris01

Ha, I was wondering if anyone else in the world had even noticed that Papi Chulo was a thing that made it into theaters. I totally agree that the final beats were suspect, but I really enjoyed the chemistry between the two leads. As you say, Patiño in particular provided the skeptical side-eye that the film absolutely requires. I find myself joking often, "más que un día... más que one day."

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Evan and Kris - thank you for commenting. I feel guilty when i skip reviewing so many movies but you can't write about everything.

July 15, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I liked this Spider Man more than the first one but you are right these Marvel movies all seem to be the same movie after a while/

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Felt exactly the same way about TS4. It was fun, but it was unnecessary.

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterForever1267

Toy Story 4 was fun. I think that the ending with Woody staying behind was rewarding and a nice place to go for the franchise after what felt like a definitive ending in part 3. But yeah, it was the exact same plot as the other 3. But it was fun.

Spiderman was a huge mess with a ton of continuity errors, ridiculous plot and at times, some terrible vfx.

Papi Chulo has a horrible title and a horrible trailer a horrible premise and a very uninteresting lead. So who would watch that?

July 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJulia Roberts

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