Tomb Raider (2018): Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.
Man.....this is going to go down as a huge disappointment for me this year. I wanted to like Tomb Raider. I was so stoked when Alicia Vikander, one of the best actresses in the business today, was cast to play Lara Croft. But sadly we ended up with a disappointing, soul-less, lifeless film. There are a few things to like here: the film stayed pretty loyal to the latest game iterations, which are fantastic, and you do get that over-the-top feeling of destruction with the environments that you see in the video games often. And Lara takes an utterly unrealistic beating and shakes it off like the boss that she is. Unfortunately, that's about all this film has going for it. Everyone, including Vikander, is clearly in it for the paycheck here. The script is obviously focus group tested/approved as the film goes for the lowest common denominator and stays far away from any controversial subjects. It also features a criminally forgettable villain in Mathias, which sadly mutes a fun screen-chewing performance from Walton Goggins. But his character is written SO frustratingly poorly. Also, and this is another major gripe I have.....why oh WHY did you have to go and hold the best twist of the first of the new Tomb Raider games until the last few moments of this film? It could've been a fun and enjoyable "twist" in the middle of this movie, but of course Warner Brothers HAD to go and hold it until the end to sequel-bait, which completely wastes the great Kristin Scott Thomas in the process too! UGH. End of the day, this is a forgettable film that wastes its premise, but if you're a fan of the video game it's based on there may be something for you. Everyone else? Stay VERY far away.
My Number: 4/10
7 Days in Entebbe
7 Days in Entebbe (2018): Inspired by the true events of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight en route from Tel Aviv to Paris, and the most daring rescue mission ever attempted.
What happened here?? Here's what I liked about this film: the editing. There are some dynamic cuts to be found scattered about, and the text of the film interacts in its environment in a cool way. It's a real shame that this editing had to be wasted here, (If only it were in Love,Simon) because the rest of the film is so dull that no one will be able to enjoy that specific aspect. The rest of this movie SUCKS. You want to talk about self-serious while bringing absolutely nothing of value to the table.....just look at that IMDB description! "The most daring rescue mission ever attempted." GTFO. Director Jose Padilha clearly believes he's created this big important film that makes a grand statement about..... well.... something, but to say it doesn't work is an understatement. The characters are shallow, the dialogue is crap, Rosamund Pike's accent is distractedly terrible, (again with this..... is she just not good at doing accents or does she not care enough to make it sound legit? First Hostiles and now this) and the film is poorly shot. The "daring rescue" is done as a montage sequence with an interpretive dance scene that's in the movie because.....reasons? Like, I don't even know what Padilha is trying to do with the dancing that's just randomly thrown into the film for no rhyme or reason. It's as if someone said, "Hey! This looks really cool! Let's be sure to include it!" aaaaand that's as far as the thought-process went. And it's used frequently throughout the film to the point that we even see one of the dancer's personal lives, which is with one of the soldiers that was involved in the rescue, but that's literally how far the connection goes. WTF? Why don't we spend more time focusing on the hostages and not this random interpretive dance? Nothing against dancing, it just doesn't have a place in this movie. There are a few interesting dynamics brought up within the relationship of the hostages and the terrorists, but none of its really investigated because, "Hey! We need another dance sequence!" Ugh. At least Nonso Anozie was screen chewing in the 3 scenes he's featured in. That was fun..... but still. AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE
My Number: 2/10
Isle of Dogs (2018): Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy's odyssey in search of his lost dog.
Is it possible to fault a film for being too good? Because if that were ever a possibility, Isle of Dogs would make a case for itself. Don't get me wrong: I love this movie. It's always awe-inspiring to watch a master of the craft do what they do best, but.....the Wes Anderson footprint is real here, and sometimes it was a little too over-the-top for my tastes. Scenes would linger for a hair too long, dialogue would use 10 words to say what could be said in 5, and the dramatic push-ins that is a trademark of Anderson were used a bit too much. When you use push-ins on things that are not dramatic at all, it makes the times when you use it efficiently feel....less so. If you are not a fan of Wes Anderson, this will not convert you. He's not as in love with himself as someone like Quentin Tarantino is, but he's flirting with that path. That said! I have enjoyed all the Wes Anderson film I've seen prior to, and I had a ball watching this. The stop-motion here is incredible. This should be an easy shoo-in for a Best Animated Feature nomination come Oscar season, because the animation here is stunning to watch. (And the rest of modern American animation leaves a lot to be desired.....freaking Boss Baby, man) The environment most of the film takes place around, Trash Island, is at the forefront of this. There is so much meticulous detail in the backdrops! Love it. The story here is quite charming until a somewhat messy and rushed fourth act. (Ya, this film makes it clear that it has four acts) The idea of all of the people speaking Japanese was a nice touch, though the ways they got around that for American audiences were a bit distracting at times. The cast is HUGE, (the trailers really liked to remind us of this) but this does lead to someone like Tilda Swinton only having 3 lines in the film, (for real, that's it) so some of these roles are more like cameos, and didn't really deserve to be on the poster and in all the trailers. But the core cast is awesome. I looooooooved Bryan Cranston. That man can do anything, including voice act. At the end of the day, this is a really good movie. Fans of Wes Anderson will love it. But it's not a very approachable one, and it is Wes Anderson's style to a fault, and thus I don't foresee it having the same staying power as something like his previous work,The Grand Budapest Hotel, did.
My Number: 7.5/10
Best F(r)iends: Volume One
Best F(r)iends (2018): When a drifter befriends a quirky mortician, an unlikely business partnership is formed. Paranoia soon develops, however, and both men are forced to come to terms with the fragility of friendship and loyalty.
He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. 15 years after the release of The Room, often referred to as the "Citizen Kane of bad movies," Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero have finally teamed up once more in Best F(r)iends. Volume One, too! First off, let me just say that I am SO HAPPY that we have another Wiseau/Sestero film in our lives. It's a terrible film, but I am glad it's here. This film is basically The Room but with more production value. It doesn't have quite the same charm as its unofficial predecessor, but I never did expect this film to be quite as disastrously beautiful as The Room was. However, seeing this film in a packed theater with a bunch of other diehard fans of the cult classic, not sure what exactly we were in for, is a fantastic movie-watching memory that I will cherish for a long time. And maybe brag about it a bit in the future. So....how is the actual film? Well.....it's messy, and a lot of times flirted with being just "bad" as opposed to "so bad it's good." The biggest distraction for me also happened to be the biggest billing this film has: the score. Daniel Platzman (from Imagine Dragons) composed the score for this film, and to say he REALLY wanted to remind us of the fact that he composed the score here is an understatement. It made the film feel like it was trying to be more serious than it actually was, and was EXTREMELY out-of-place. It was easily the weakest part of the film, and the fact that it came from a member of Imagine Dragons made it all-the-more frustrating. And, don't worry, fans of The Room: this film has its fair share of illogical inconsistencies. There will be plenty of times you'll find yourself saying, "WTF?" out loud. But....still. Seeing Wiseau again on screen was incredible, and he sure knows what he is at this point. He was having a blast as Harvey Lewis and stole the show (in a sometimes uncomfortable way) in every scene he was in. If you even remotely enjoyed The Room, then this is well worth the watch in a group of other people with similar interests. If you have no idea what I've been referring to this whole time, then go see that RIGHT NOW and then maybe think about seeing this, because you are doing a disservice for yourself if you even consider seeing this first.
My Number: 2/10
Unsane (2018): A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear--but is it real or a product of her delusion?
I love this movie. It is a wonderful mind-bender of a thriller that keeps you guessing up until its somewhat disappointing final act. But while the destination leaves something to be desired, the journey is amazing. The suspense here is very real, as the screenplay does a great job to keep you guessing on what's real and what's not until that final act. The film features a strong performance from Claire Foy, (of The Crown acclaim) and is filmed entirely on iPhones. Some may find the cinematography distracting, (it was at points for me) but for the most part it was a great choice from director Steven Soderbergh (Hey, Oscar, wasn't he retiring? I mean, I'm glad the criminally underappreciated director is still around, but he's pulling a Brett Favre, to say the least) as it (the cinematography, in case you forgot...I know that was a long aside) made the film feel even more claustrophobic than it already did. The set design adds to this feeling of claustrophobia as well, but the iPhone cinematography really sells it. However, much to the chagrin of the filmmaker, because of this cinematography style I don't feel you need to see this one in the theater, but it is well worth a watch when it hits streaming services. There's some great scenes in here, particularly between Sawyer (Claire Foy) and David, (Joshua Leonard) and the film will keep you on the edge of your seat until all the way through the lackluster final act. It will only be after the film's done that you realize that the final act was rather disappointing. Only other complaint I have with this film is with Nate. While I did get a kick out of casting Jay Pharoah for this role, the film missed a major opportunity to make his character far more interesting than they did. Won't say any more than that so as to not spoil, but his role is definitely at the heart of the disappointing final act. However this, like Thoroughbreds before it, is a fun and crazy suspenseful thriller that is a very enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes of your time on a rainy day.
My Number: 7/10