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Movie Review: ‘Voyagers’ Lacks Entertainment with Slow Action and Predictable Plot, Storyline

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April 12, 2021 Before I get into trashing 6th place weekend box office finisher “Voyagers,” I want to take some time to say some nice things about 8th place finisher “In the Earth.” The latter film played on less than a third as many screens as “Voyagers,” yet it made nearly two-thirds as much money. The underpromoted horror movie is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve seen in a long time. And by “pleasant,” I mean in terms of quality, not subject matter, because there are some brutal scenes in that film. But if the film is playing in your area, if you can handle an R-rated horror film, and if you can withstand a barrage of strobe and other potentially-nauseating lighting effects, then I recommend seeing it. I would have given it a grade of B if I weren’t stuck reviewing “Voyagers,” a bomb that is playing on nearly 2,000 screens, but in its second weekend couldn’t beat “Tom & Jerry” in its eighth. I’d say to stay away from “Voyagers,” but since the movie hasn’t risen above fifth place at the box office since it opened, it doesn’t seem people need to be told that. The actors are putting their backs into what must have seemed like a juicy script about sexual awakening in space, but between page and screen this movie just became blah. I’m hoping that “In the Earth” builds up enough of a cult following among adult viewers (and it does need to be adults, and ones who can handle an assault on the senses at that) that I’ll wind up regretting the choice to review this lousy movie. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ isn’t Captivating; Humans are Boring with Too Much Screen Time

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April 12, 2021   “Godzilla vs Kong” is a follow-up to “Godzilla” (2014), “Kong: Skull Island” (2017), and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019). Those films are respectively known as the one that kills off Bryan Cranston too early and cuts away from a monster fight that should have been the most exciting sequence in the movie, the one where someone stretched a “Viet Kong” joke out to two hours, and the one with a human villain who ripped off their evil plan from Thanos. Maybe the logic was that since the two Godzilla movies were about a 3 out of 10 and the Kong movie was about a 4 out of 10, combining them all would result in a 10 out of 10. This movie… isn’t quite that good. I wasn’t particularly captivated by “Godzilla vs. Kong.” It was always clear to me that these Titans both need to stick around to keep making the studio money, so some sort of compromise finish was inevitable. But Kong is a worthy protagonist and some of the fighting he does with the lumbering Godzilla is impressive. And it’s hard for me to get mad at a movie that does so much to stimulate the box office – $48 million domestically in a five-day weekend. Hopefully we have bigger numbers from better movies on the horizon, but this movie is serviceable as a blockbuster for now. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Nobody’ is a Sporadically Awesome Violent Action Movie with Extended Fight Scenes

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March 30, 2021 NOTE: This review is coming from a person who loves a good violent action movie. If the genre isn’t for you, this movie isn’t for you. “Nobody” wears its resemblance to the “John Wick” movies on its sleeve. David Leitch, director of the first “Wick” film, is a producer for this movie, and the advertising hasn’t been shy about playing up that connection. Like the “Wick” series, this movie takes place in a world of sophisticated gangsters and assassins. I’d say it could be a shared universe, but the characters in this movie use gold bars and paper money (which can be burned dramatically) for currency instead of those cute doubloons, so… not the same. Bob Odenkirk stars as Hutch Mansell, a seemingly-lame suburban dad who is stuck in a rut. He’s unhappy in his job working for his father-in-law (Michael Ironside), his wife Becca (Connie Nielsen) isn’t affectionate, and everybody thinks he’s a wimp, including his own son Blake (Gage Munroe). When a pair of burglars break into his house and assault Blake, nobody is surprised that Hutch takes a path of inaction and lets them get away. The official word from the police is that he did the right thing, but even some of the officers think he should have taken more steps to protect his family, to say nothing of his neighbors, co-workers, and Blake. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘The Courier’ Has Actors Who Worked Hard to Craft Suspense and Despair

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March 24, 2021 “The Courier” would have done well to open last month, before the cutoff date to qualify for the Academy Awards. I doubt it would have gotten a Best Picture nomination, and Chadwick Boseman is such a lock for a posthumous Best Actor Oscar for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” that nobody would care if Benedict Cumberbatch eked out a nomination for this film. But it could have been a factor in the Best Supporting Actress race. That field is so scattershot that the Academy omitted Golden Globe winner Jodie Foster (“The Mauritanian”) and nominated Razzie contender Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”). I would not have been surprised if Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley, or possibly both pulled in a nomination for this film. And then the awards buzz could have given this film its best shot at commercial success, because as it is, this is a bleak film whose bleakness doesn’t translate into Oscar gold or box office green. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Chaos Walking’ Has Likeable Leads but Poor Pacing, Predictability, and Lack of Action

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March 15, 2021 It was weird two weekends ago when the movie theaters in NYC reopened and this movie was playing on all the IMAX screens. I thought the dazzling animation (and Disney branding) of “Raya and the Last Dragon” would have put that film in such prime real estate, but for whatever reason, theaters thought “Chaos Walking” should get those slots instead. I noticed this past weekend that theaters were giving their IMAX theaters to “Tenet,” as if they had more confidence in that six-month-old disappointment than either the thus-far-underperforming “Raya” or “Chaos Walking,” which has been #3 at the domestic box office since it opened. The film hasn’t even been able to beat “Tom and Jerry” for the last two weekends, and that movie is free to anyone with an HBO Max subscription. The film takes place on a distant planet called New World, which is seemingly inhabited only by men. The men are subject to “The Noise,” a series of audible words and holograms that convey their innermost thoughts. Most of the older and supposedly “stronger” men have learned to control their Noise so as to remain enigmatic. But Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) is so darn young and emotional that his Noise is louder than anyone else’s. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Tom and Jerry’ Has Too Much Predictable Physical Humor that is Played Out

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March 1, 2021 I didn’t really grow up with the “Tom and Jerry” cartoon. I was more into Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, but I understand the two pairs have similarly adversarial relationships. The key difference is that while Wile E. definitely wants to eat the Road Runner, I don’t think Tom the Cat would know what to do with Jerry the Mouse if he ever caught him. The two need each other as enemies to give their lives purpose. The new film takes place in a world where all humans are live-action and all animals are animated. At least the animated animals are 2-D cartoons and not CGI abominations. Tom moves to New York City with dreams of becoming a famous pianist. Jerry moves to NYC with dreams of lazing about in a luxury apartment. Frankly it’s hard not to side with Tom here for following his passion, as opposed to Jerry, who wants to get ahead with as little effort as possible. Tom tries to earn a living by playing music for people in Central Park, and it takes just a few seconds of Jerry trying to upstage him by dancing for the entire act to be ruined and Tom’s only keyboard to be destroyed. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Nomadland’ Has So Much Passion In Every Scene, Its Brilliance is Appreciated

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February 22, 2021 Since September of last year when the film won top prizes at both the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals, it has been clear that Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” would dominate awards season. Mind you, awards season itself was in question, with all the delays and compromises that affected all institutions in the last year. But whenever awards season was going to take place, “Nomadland” was going to be there to pounce on it and devour its many accolades. Now the film has opened, both in theaters and streaming on Hulu (try to see it in theaters if you can, though with my work schedule I had to settle for Hulu), and it’s frankly it’s not doing too well at the box office. But I have a feeling that things are going to change this coming weekend with the Golden Globe Awards, and even more in a few weeks when Oscar nominations are announced. People are going to want to see this film that is all over those programs. Not much happens in “Nomadland” besides simple conversations and contemplative looks at scenery. Yet so much passion is put into every scene and shot that it seems like there’s zero fat on this movie. It’s like reading Shakespeare – it’s probably not high on the list of things you “want” to do, but if you push yourself to take it in, you’ll appreciate its brilliance. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ Is an Award-Worthy Movie Worth Going Out to See

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February 15, 2021   One good thing about the year 2021 in movies is that we might get two Oscar seasons. Usually the deadline to qualify for a year’s Oscar race is the end of the calendar year, so December is often loaded with awards-chasers. But because there were so many releases pushed back in 2020, the Academy has decided to extend the deadline two months, so last-minute Oscar bait is actually opening now, in February 2021. Hopefully the system can be restored by the end of the year, meaning that we’ll get one margin of Oscar eligibility that lasts fourteen months followed by one that lasts ten months. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is a film that is shrewdly positioning its release date at the end of the fourteen-month frame. And it is wise to do so, because I can see this film doing very well in the Oscar race. At the heart of “Judas and the Black Messiah” is the fully-dedicated Kaluuya performance, virtually a lock for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, if not the win. I could see Fishback slipping into the Best Supporting Actress race as well, and even the movie for Best Picture. I haven’t seen many of the direct-to-streaming awards contenders, so I don’t know where this film falls in relation to them, but this is certainly a film that screams “award-worthy.” In fact, it’s better than any film released in the year 2020 that I reviewed. And it’s only February. I always recommend seeing movies in theaters for the sake of supporting theaters, but now there’s a movie that’s worth going out of your way to see. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Promising Young Woman’ Is an Exciting, Unpredictable, Terrifying Film of 2020

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February 9, 2021 I had particularly high hopes for “Promising Young Woman.” When I saw the first trailer in early 2020, my instincts told me that this was going to be one of the most exciting, unpredictable, maybe even terrifying films of the year. I made it a point to see the film on my 35th birthday because something told me it was going to be a monumental film and I wanted to connect it to a monumental day. The good news is that it is indeed one of the exciting, unpredictable, terrifying films of 2020. The bad news is that with 2020, anything halfway competent is going to be one of the most exciting, unpredictable, terrifying films of the year. It doesn’t mean that this film could hold its own against a proper holiday movie slate. I’m writing this article a few days after the announcement of the year’s Golden Globe nominations. “Promising Young Woman” is nominated for Best Picture – Drama, Best Actress in a Drama, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. I haven’t seen many of the other nominees, so I can’t say where this film belongs in relation to them, but I hope that at least one of them is better so we don’t have to settle for this movie as the best of the year. I am by no means saying that this passionately-made movie isn’t among the best of the year. What I’m saying is that if it is, the year settled for very little. Which, given the year, is not surprising. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘The Little Things’ Is Boring But Cast Does What They Can With The Material

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February 1, 2021 We all know that 2020 was a weird time for the movie business (as well as every other business), but the weirdness started back in January, before everything went haywire. “Bad Boys for Life” made $206 million at the domestic box office and wound up as the biggest theatrical release of the year. Obviously that achievement wouldn’t have held up to stronger competition had more blockbusters been allowed to open, but it still counts. And even if it didn’t sit atop the year-end list, it still would have made more money than any film to ever open in January by nearly $60 million (movies like “American Sniper” that technically opened in December and then went wide in January don’t count). The point is that January is traditionally not the time for juggernauts like “Bad Boys for Life.” It’s a time for certain flops to become lesser flops because they are able to be the big new release on weekends no other studio wanted – for good reason. In that way, 2021 is a return to tradition. We’ve only had two new movies this year: “The Marksman,” from last week, and “The Little Things” from this week. Both films’ biggest selling point is nothing more than a dearth of competition. The studios weren’t going to make much money with these movies anyway, might as well capitalize on that advantage. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘The Marksman’ Barely Qualifies as an Action Movie with its Sequences and Script

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January 26, 2021 “The Marksman” has the unfortunate timing to come out less than a month after “News of the World.” Although the two movies are set over 150 years apart, the plots are very similar: a crusty adult has to go on a long, dangerous journey with a child they don’t know, to the point where they don’t even speak the same language. But while “News of the World” was able to get a plum Christmas release date, thanks in no small part to the star power of Tom Hanks, “The Marksman” feels like it was always destined for the doldrums of January, even with Liam Neeson attached. I’d say this movie is a disappointment as a Liam Neeson action vehicle, but there’s so little action that it barely qualifies as one, it’s more of a road trip movie with action sequences at the beginning and end. By all means see this movie to support your local theater, but only after you’ve seen better movies like “News of the World.” By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Monster Hunter’ Isn’t Good Enough For the Big Screen with Uncompelling Characters

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January 11, 2021 I should have reviewed this movie three weeks ago, when it was #1 in the country. But my weekend work schedule was just too tight, and I had to settle for reviewing On Demand release “Greenland” instead. I wrote at the time that “Greenland” should have been released in theaters, and now I can say that it should have gotten the theatrical release that wrongfully went to “Monster Hunter.” This film did well enough to justify a review from a commercial standpoint, but it does not come close to deserving my time and energy from a creative standpoint. I should consider it a blessing that I got to review the superior “Greenland” instead, even if I did have to see it on the small screen. This movie isn’t good enough for the big screen. Or my TV. Or my laptop. At best, it belongs on a phone. But not a nice smartphone, more like a low-end flip-phone from back when phones were just starting to have screens. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘News of the World’ Doesn’t Have Much Wrong; Most People Will Find Something to Appreciate and Enjoy with Rustic Mood

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January 4, 2021 One of my favorite children’s books is “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. There’s a scene where the main characters are driving through a lush green landscape. They comment on the view, saying that it’s beautiful, but then a new character chimes in and says, “If you happened to like deserts, you might not think this was beautiful at all,” and this leads to a whole conversation about perspective. “News of the World” is a movie for people who happen to like deserts. Ironically-named director Paul Greengrass makes sure we get plenty long, loving looks at the rocky, rugged greatness of rural Texas circa 1870. This is a world where if your carriage wheel breaks, you’re stranded a barren wasteland. I cannot imagine liking a world where such circumstances are possible, but whatever there is to like about this setting, Greengrass capitalizes on it. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is the Closest Thing to a Theatrical Blockbuster this Holiday Season

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December 28, 2020 “Wonder Woman 1984” is the closest thing we’ll get to a theatrical blockbuster this holiday season. After only one weekend, the film already has the fifth-highest domestic box office ($16.7 million) of any film released in the last nine months of 2020. I was initially shut out of getting a ticket for a Christmas Day screening before the one viable theater upped its number of showings for that day. Never mind the simultaneous HBO Max release, I want audiences (if able and comfortable, and of course following all safety protocols) to support theaters by seeing this movie on the big screen – even if the movie itself isn’t all that great. This movie has the release date and the franchise appeal to justify a great box office performance, just not the story or dialogue or overall charisma. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Greenland’ is a Worthy Disaster Movie with Relatable Characters in an Extraordinary Situation

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December 21, 2020 “Greenland” was supposed to get a big theatrical release as recently as August. I remember seeing trailers for the film before “Unhinged,” the first movie I’d seen in theaters since March. Come to think of it, it may have been the first theatrical trailer I’d seen in months. I remember robotically thinking, “I’ll see that. I’ll see anything in a theater.” But this being 2020, the film was pushed back and pushed back until finally it was released On Demand. Several movies this year have been denied theatrical releases and dumped On Demand, and most of them turned out to be undeserving of theatrical releases in the first place (looking at you, “Antebellum”), but I think the studio got it wrong with this one. This movie’s high stakes and visual spectacle make it appropriate for the big screen, and it could have held its own at the box office on a weekend without strong competition. Maybe even with strong competition. This movie should have been released in theaters. The only halfway decent reason I can see for deciding otherwise is that maybe the studio thought it would be too depressing. With daily victims of COVID-19 numbering in the thousands, maybe they decided it was a bad idea to release a movie where the deaths number in the millions. I would have recommended another pushback of its theatrical release instead of an On Demand blowoff, and it saddens me that the studio has botched its handling of a potential blockbuster. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘The Croods: A New Age’ is Well-Animated Junk with Predictable Conflicts

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December 10, 2020 Going into “The Croods: A New Age,” I barely remembered anything from “The Croods” from 2013. I remembered that Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener, and Cloris Leachman voiced cave people, but that was about it. I had even forgotten that Ryan Reynolds was in it, mainly because I had written Reynolds off as a box office draw prior to his 2016 resurgence in “Deadpool.” Speaking of 2016, that was the year of “La La Land,” which won Emma Stone an Oscar for Best Actress (the highest-profile announced win for that movie to stick). Two of the cast members have moved on to bigger and better things, but they were able to return and do this sequel. That’s a win for the movie in and of itself. And aside from some pathetic box office domination during weekends where nothing else wanted to open, that’s the only win this movie gets. This story is dull, dull, dull. I should be rooting for this movie to bomb against stronger competition, not begging for it to succeed so that something – anything – can keep the theaters in business. As it is, I’ll recommend going to see “The Croods: A New Age” in theaters (following all safety protocols, of course) and checking your opinion against mine to see if you too think this movie is a piece of well-animated junk. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Fatman’ Offers Different Take on Santa, But Does Not Live Up to Potential

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December 7, 2020 In “Fatman,” Mel Gibson plays Santa Claus on steroids. He actually does say that he’s on steroids at one point, but I mean it as more of an attitude thing. This Santa spends the better part of his days drinking, smoking cigars, and working out – chopping firewood and beating the stuffing out of punching bags. It’s not that he doesn’t have a nice-guy side: he has a loving relationship with his wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, in probably the best-ever portrayal of Mrs. Claus), he cares deeply about the elves in his employ, and he recognizes his role as an inspiration to millions of children. But he’s not so jolly. The world is turning naughtier and the U.S. government is threatening to cut back on his subsidies if he doesn’t have the elves build things like fighter jets. Without ever saying it, he’s on the verge of a violent outburst. Violence comes a-calling, and although he wants to end things efficiently for the protection of his loved ones, you get the sense that he’s been looking forward to this excuse to let out some hostility out of his system. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Let Him Go’ is One of the Best Surprises with Memorable Performances

image-3November 9, 2020 For once, I have something nice to say about the sparse schedule of theatrical releases while studios push back their surefire hits until they can play to full houses. In a field of blockbusters, the quiet adult drama “Let Him Go” almost surely would have been lost at the box office. But with the release calendar cleared save for one meager release per week, this movie can comfortably open at #1. Granted, it’s a pretty pathetic #1 with many theaters closed or at reduced capacity, but there’s room for this movie to grow through word of mouth, which it decidedly deserves. The film excels in many departments, including lighting, score, and cinematography (if you like gorgeous Midwest scenery, this is the movie for you), but it’s the performances that are most memorable. “Let Him Go” is one of the best surprises of the year. See it while you can, though I hope it has a nice long run in theaters and success at the box office. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: Tomb Raider

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March 19, 2018. There’s a rule among movie buffs that there has never been a decent live-action adaptation of a video game. Not a single one. A scant few detractors will defend the original “Resident Evil” or “Mortal Kombat” movies, but even then the arguments are rarely more passionate than “it works as a guilty pleasure.” The Angelina Jolie-led “Tomb Raider” movies from the early 2000’s are certainly no exception to this rule, though the 2001 original is the highest-grossing video game movie of all time. This commercial success from nearly two decades ago has led Hollywood to excavate the character of Lara Croft and let her take another shot at representing the medium. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: “Red Sparrow”

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Mar. 5, 2018. ““Red Sparrow” is a movie that never stays the same quality for very long. It’ll seem clever and intricate for a few scenes and then do something stupid. It’ll be bland and meandering for a bit and then pull out something tender or well-thought-out. I suppose that such an inconsistent film is better than a consistently bad one, but I’ll admit there were times where it would have been more convenient to write this off as a bad film and just check out. The one thing that is consistent is that this is the kind of spy thriller where Nothing Is As It Seems, so it doesn’t really pay to get invested anyway. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: Game Night

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Feb. 26, 2018. “Game Night” sees its characters playing one of those elaborate role-playing games that’s spread out over several miles and involves a full company of actors. I’m weary of movies with this kind of premise because of the inevitable twist: at some point, we’re going to learn that everything that’s been happening is all part of the game. It’s the same thing with movies about con artists, magicians, or people who meddle in dreams. It’s not that I necessarily mind being played for a fool, I can enjoy some well-planned manipulation, but it just seems like a waste of time when the movie practically announces its intentions so early the way this one does. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: Marvel’s “Black Panther”

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Feb. 19, 2018. We were first introduced to T’challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) two years ago in “Captain America: Civil War.” A prince from the fictional African country of Wakanda, T’challa ascended to the throne when father the king was killed during a peace conference. His thirst for revenge led to the apparent creation of the Black Panther persona, and though he was certainly gifted athletically, it looked as though his “powers” were mostly royalty-based, similar to how his MCU colleague Tony Stark’s “powers” are mostly money-based. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: an Opinion on Fifty Shades Freed

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Feb. 12, 2018. I don’t blame the birds for chirping or the fish for swimming. I don’t blame February for being cold or a romantic restaurant for being booked up on Valentine’s Day. So I can’t say I blame the third and final “Fifty Shades” movie for being awful. Of course it’s awful. That’s what these movies do, they spend two hours being awful. There’s no pleasant surprise here, but there’s not really an unpleasant surprise either. The best thing I can say about this movie is that it isn’t like “Boo! A Madea Halloween 2” or “Daddy’s Home 2” where I’m astonished by how it manages to be worse than my meager expectations. It’s exactly as bad as it’s expected to be. By Bob Garver

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Movie Review: ‘Pitch Perfect 3’ The Music Is Good, The Rest Just Dumb Antics

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Jan. 3, 2017 When we last saw the a cappella group The Bellas in “Pitch Perfect 2,” most of them were graduating college and the sky was the limit for their futures. But, as we see in clips of a documentary being made by the franchise’s oddly Bella-obsessed commentary team (John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks), things aren’t so sunshiny out in the real world. For example, Beca (Anna Kendrick) can’t stand her job as a music producer because the artists don’t like being told that they’re not talented enough to produce their tracks themselves. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) isn’t doing so hot as an Amy Winehouse impersonator for all the reasons one would think that isn’t a stable vocation. And everyone else’s life is similarly off-key. By Bob Garver.

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Movie Review: ‘Coco’ A Delightful Offering – Many Heartfelt Moments

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Nov. 30, 2017 I cannot overemphasize how badly 2017 needed “Coco.” After 2016 saw no fewer than four animated films end up on my year-end Top 10 list, this year has been one of the worst in recent memory for animation. I barely have anything nice to say about “The Boss Baby,” “Despicable Me 3,” “The Lego Batman Movie,” or “Smurfs: The Lost Village.” Critics treated “The Emoji Movie” like a sign of the apocalypse and “Leap!” was even shoddier. Even Pixar, usually the shining example of consistent greatness, had a relative misfire with “Cars 3.” But not to worry, Pixar wasn’t content to let that cash-grab sequel be their sole offering this year. Enter “Coco,” a spectacle that’s worthy of the studio’s talents and should have no trouble winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
12-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) loves music even though his family is strongly opposed to it. His great-great grandfather walked out on his wife and daughter Coco to pursue a music career, and since then music has been strictly forbidden in the family. By Bob Garver.

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