Love, Simon (2018): Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he's gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity.
I'm going to be honest: going into this I did not have the highest of expectations. I try and refrain from judgement before going and seeing a film, but the marketing campaign for this seemed to be rather exploitative of its subject matter. Fortunately, though, this movie is a pretty good coming-of-age film for a demographic that's sorely lacking in them. While I do wish the star had been someone who was gay in real life, (can we stop having straight white men play these roles, PLEASE? Least the character "Blue," who I won't reveal because it's the most interesting plot point of the film, is played by one....progress? I guess?) Nick Robinson more than holds his own in the lead role, as does everyone around him. The parents, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel, are pretty great, and the film features an awesome soundtrack of modern hits. It hits pretty much all of the notes you expect a coming-of-age flick to hit, except its lead is gay. The film is a bit of a slow burn, but the adversity Simon faces in the second act did solicit a pretty solid ugly cry from yours truly by the end, which makes the rest of this film worthwhile. The weakest part, though, is the the cinematography. The film features a LOT of characters looking/interacting with computers, and the film makes no attempt to try and approach this in any way other than the standard shot/reverse shot, which really slows down the pacing of the film. This is especially apparent in the first act. Otherwise, there's not much to say: it's a fairly standard coming-of-age flick, but for a demographic that isn't represented nearly as much as it should be, so I strongly recommend sending some money its way. Studios need to know they can do films like this and still make all the money. Hopefully one day we'll look back at this and think of it as just another coming-of-age film.
My Number: 7/10
A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place (2018): A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
Ah! I love this movie! Director (and lead) John Krasinski takes a simple idea, monsters that can hunt by sound, and executes it SO WELL. Anyone that follows my blog knows that I love when silence is effectively used in a film, so it was inevitable that I would like a film who's premise is literally that. But, man! Seeing this in a full room was amazing. A packed theater, and yet you could still hear a pin drop. For those wondering, it's not a scary film, but man is it tense. Krasinski and co. make the GREAT choice to reveal the monsters right off the bat enough so we understand their unrivaled dominance over man, which makes the setting of the film, a farm, feel earned. Never once was I clamoring to see what was out past its intimate setting, like I was in It Comes At Night or the first Purge film, because I understood that there was nothing out there except death. This film definitely captures lightning-in-a-bottle with its premise and screenplay, but its just about as good a suspenseful thriller that we've seen in recent years. The film features a small (and great) cast, and utilizes a claustrophobic set design and cinematography to add to the tension. Sure, there are some cheap scares scattered here and there, and the final 30 seconds of the film felt a little silly to me, (but do set up a pretty cool sequel that's already in the works) but the journey to it was a blast. And, of course, the sound design was amazing! To the point that I'm almost rooting for this film to get a bit of love come 2018's Oscar season. The sound design had to be good to sell this, and boy did they knock it out of the park. The characters are a bit shallow since they can't talk much, but that complaint is really splitting hairs. End of the day, this is a film that really innovates within a genre that desperately needs it, and I hope it makes a bajillion dollars because we need more studio films to take risks like it does. Anyway, what do you have for us next, Jim? I mean, John? .......you'll always be Jim Halpert in my heart, and I love you for it.
My Number: 9/10
Blockers (2018): Three parents try to stop their daughters from having sex on prom night.
Wow. Where did this thing come from?? I just gotta say: the marketing team behind this film needs to take a good, long look at themselves because they made this out to be NOTHING like what it actually was. I had ZERO interest in seeing this film initially because I cringed every time I saw the trailer for it. All the sex jokes, no morals, and going all out on the butt jokes. (The Cena butt chug moment ended up being my least favorite part of the film! Seriously, guys, why did you think that should be the centerpiece of the marketing campaign?) But underneath the over-the-top raunchiness are shockingly touching and meaningful messages focusing around parenting, sister bonds, feminism, and even coming out. Now, some of these messages aren't executed as well as they could have been, (particularly the last one) but they come from a good place and are extremely welcomed in what otherwise would have been a disgusting, over-the-top comedy that appeals to teenage boys. From what I understand, director Kay Cannon was pivotal in rewriting the script (though she does not get a screen credit in this department....also, this is her directorial debut. No big deal) and made a film that has something for everyone. The biggest strength of this film, though, is the relationship between Lisa (Leslie Mann) and Julie. (Kathryn Netwon) Their story arc combines sharp jokes with a really meaningful and lasting message on feminism and a single mother coming to grips with letting her only daughter leave the house. For a script that was initially centered around 3 dudes trying to stop their daughters from having sex, it's ironic that by FAR the strongest part of the final product centers around the single mother. It's like there's a lot more meaning there than yet another white male power story....... anyway, if you're a fan of modern American comedies, you now have two good films to check out this year! (This and Game Night) Everyone else? The over-the-top raunchiness will be too distracting for you to enjoy the messages within. Well done, Kay Cannon. I'm looking forward to seeing what she directs next. This is a strong a directorial debut as I've ever seen given the making of this film.
My Number: 7/10
Rampage (2018): When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.
Ugh. I went into this with admittedly low expectations: I was hoping for a big, stupid action movie with a charismatic lead and not much more. While Rampage is a big, stupid, action film with a charismatic lead....there's just no soul to this one. Like, why does this film even exist? It doesn't seem to be a labor of love, and it's based off a video game which are notorious black holes far as making money is concerned. No one, not even its leads Davis (The Rock) and Kate, (Naomie Harris) seem like they want to be here. Ugh! Naomie Harris, I was really hoping she'd be a boss like they made her out in the marketing campaign, but she's basically just every other female lead you see in action films: only there to serve the men. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is just playing his role from The Walking Dead here as Harvey, (I haven't even seen The Walking Dead but I know he's just doing that) and Malin Akerman was doing her best villainess impersonation as Claire but is offset by one of the worst characters I have ever seen in her brother, Brett. I hate Brett. Poor Jake Lacy. I've liked him in other things in the past, but holy crap what even was his character? It was distracting, unlikable, unfunny, and just plain stupid. Jake Lacy, my man, next time someone offers you a role like this, please throw coffee in their face and say NO. The rest of this film is pretty mediocre: the effects are.... fine, (this is the baseline of what we can expect nowadays in the VFX department) the editing and the sound design are just kind of there, and the score is merely distracting. I'll just circle back to my original question: why does this film even exist? There are at least a few good odes to the video game this thing is based off of, (particularly with the fate of one of the characters) so at least someone actually played the game (there's not much to it) before they filmed this, but.....still. Why? No doubt this thing will be lost to the annals of time as soon as Avengers: Infinity War comes rolling around, so why did anyone want to spend $120 million making this? It'll make its money back thanks to overseas, (This film solidifies The Rock as a bankable overseas asset, something very rare with anyone younger than Tom Cruise nowadays) but I think even they will be asking the same question I am. Check it out if you're a fan of The Rock, but do yourself a favor and wait until it's in Redbox (or on Netflix) before even considering it.
My Number: 3/10
Chappaquiddick (2018): Depicting Ted Kennedy's involvement in the fatal 1969 car accident that claims the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne.
I like this movie. It doesn't break new ground or push anything even resembling boundaries, but it is a well-made and well-executed film revolving around a story that needs to remain in the nation's memory. It doesn't take an obviously hard-line political stance as it tells its story, which is to its benefit because anything resembling that would've been nothing short of distracting. I personally knew nothing about the events told in this film, and now feel like I can go and discuss with with someone who still is where I was before seeing the film. I think that's exactly what director John Curran and co were going for. If anything, this felt like one of those HBO mockumentaries you'll see late at night and flip on out of sheer curiosity. (ie Too Big to Fail, Recount, or Game Change) That's probably where this film should've been released, but as long as it makes its production budget back I won't complain. Because of this low budget style, you get to see things that you wouldn't see in a bigger film, like Ed Helms or Jim Gaffigan in serious roles. Both of them are pretty good, (good enough that they can put this on their resume if they wish to pursue the drama world) but are outshined by Jason Clarke and Bruce Dern. The later of which is the highlight here. It's almost a shame that this film isn't making a bigger splash, because Bruce Dern's portrayal of father Joseph Kennedy is a towering one, to say the last. Despite being in a wheelchair and saying about 7 words the entire film, he absolutely steals the show and makes his presence felt even when he's not on screen. Otherwise....it's a naturally dramatic and important story that's well-executed, but that's about it. It's worth a viewing once it hits the streaming platforms, especially if you are completely unfamiliar with its subject matter, but that's about it.
My Number: 7/10