Tom and Jerry, the world famous cat and mouse from Hanna and Barbera, return to the big (and small) screen in a live-action/CG-animated hybrid film, which has the same humor you come to expect from the duo, but the dullness of a modern children’s comedy trying so hard to be funny, yet will only appeal to the youngest of kids. The good thing I can say about this mediocre mess of a film is that, unlike the previous animated film from 1992, the cat and mouse do not talk. As you can expect, they fight, slap, chase, pull, prod, and many other things, yet while all the action is happening, we have to sit through a story concerning human characters that we end up caring little about, making us wish we had better things to do.
Nomadland has been getting quite the buzz lately in terms of awards season; it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and has now been nominated for four Golden Globes, including ‘Best Motion Picture – Drama’. I would not even be surprised if it won the Golden Globe, let alone be nominated for the prestigious ‘Best Picture’ Oscar. Nomadland is a gorgeous, fantastic, calming film. In a world filled with films that feel the need to be bombastic, showy, and loud, in comes a film that ignores all the noise in favor of a character’s journey through an all-too-real world. Nomadland may actually be the most peaceful movie I have ever seen, and I doubt there will ever be another movie that shares its quietness with such captivation. It truly is amazing.
As long as there is political unrest in the world, film will always have something to say about it. Last year, something happened that shook up the entire nation; the death of George Floyd. Most people saw it as a motivation to start an uprising that could have quickly gone out of hand, while there were others on the opposite side who thought that there were much worse things to worry about. Judas and the Black Messiah is a film that came at a time when such things were a matter of discussion. It has as big of a voice as the political leaders and the people have; it is political as political can be.
Once in a while, a film comes along that you only watch once that becomes nothing but a distant memory later. Said film could have a dramatic actor in a contrived plot, dealing with messy situations only for it as a whole to not go anywhere. It is a film so disposable that you are most likely to find it at your local dollar store, or $5 bargain bin at Wal-Mart. I am of course talking about The Little Things.
The Little Things is the newest film in the Warner Bros. lot to be released both in theaters and on HBO Max, though I don’t even think it is worth even going out of your home to see (and not just because of the pandemic either). Instead, it is a film that does not do much with its story or genre, nor does it really have anything interesting to add either. It is just an excuse to give the likes of Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto more work, though I doubt that anyone, except their fans, may even bother in checking it out. The promotional material even has the gall to play the “Academy Award Winner” card and pretend it is something special, when all it is is your typical detective crime-thriller comparable to the much-more interesting Se7en.
John Lee Hancock writes and directs this seedy tale of a serial killer committing heinous crimes against young women in such a graphic display, as we see dead bodies getting investigated, while two detectives; one, an experienced rugged cop who knows the ins-and-outs of every crime scene (Washington), and the other, a rookie with love for his family and faith in God (Malek), try to search for him. It is clear that we have seen this type of movie many times before that it is pretty easy to just write off and forget about it later. I don’t even need to explain the story, you are getting what you see in a span of two hours.
The Little Things is a film that feels like it wants to be the next David Fincher film, though it is lower in the ranks of the previously mentioned Se7en , or Zodiac. In fact, it is probably disposable.
The best type of movies that Pixar makes are the ones that are the most meaningful. It is clear that the studio known for making films like Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and The Incredibles know a thing or two about what speaks to people. Sure, their films are kid-friendly, but the thing that makes Pixar the gold standard in animation, besides the beautiful animation that gets better with each entry, but the themes that resonate with the oldest of viewers. Soul is no exception. While it may be as fun as a Pixar film should be, it ranks along the likes of Up, Inside Out, and Coco as one of the studios most emotional, deep, and mature efforts.
The latest in Disney’s slate of live-action remakes, Mulan, is now available to watch, free, on Disney+, after months of waiting for a release. Niki Caro’s feature was supposed to be premiere in March of this year, but as we all know, circumstances beyond our control got in the way, which is a shame, because this remake seemed destined for the big screen, especially with all the effort and money put into it. Yet, there is not much we can do but accept the gift that has been bestowed upon us by the “House of Mouse”
What a year this has been! We have dealt with a Coronavirus pandemic, racial prejudice, a near-descent into WWIII, you name it! With everything that has been going on in the past year, the conclusion is that 2020 was the worst start to a new decade there has been. Movies have especially been pushed back to the next year, which, if we are being honest, means that there are more movies to look forward to. However, as always, I can only talk about the ten I am looking forward to the most. Whether theaters reopen or not is up to society, but that does not mean that I am not as passionate about these following films!
Borat has returned to America in order to tackle politics, biased viewpoints, and *Shocker* the Coronavirus in the long awaited (but never expected) sequel to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan , proudly titled Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (There is an even longer title, but I feel it would take up much of my writing time to even fit here). During the past fourteen years, a lot has changed. People are constantly keeping their noses in their phones, technology has expanded, and the world has gone crazier than it has ever been; especially with President Donald Trump running the show. Luckily, Borat is there to save the day and challenge the views of what may be the last of the unsuspecting American people, which almost makes you wonder if it is nothing more than a staged event.
Sacha Baron Cohen once said that he uses his brand of shock comedy to expose the prejudices of the American people and he does so with colorful characters; many we know to be offensive, yet cannot help but laugh with. Cohen strikes with ironic hypocrisy to get those who see him as nothing more than a simple foreign immigrant learning about the customs and traditions of the USA. In a way, Cohen is brilliant and his methods are respectable, though I cannot say that those who find themselves easily offended will appreciate the subtle commentary lying within a bigoted Kazakhstan news reporter with a skewed view on the world.
Where has Borat been for the past fourteen years? Well, let’s just say that he has suffered quite the punishment since his first movie made quite a splash back in 2006, bringing shame to his country of Kazakhstan (mirroring the real-life controversy surrounding the foreign country and its problems with how the movie depicted it). Everyone in town treats him as a pariah and he has been doing heavy labor in the Gulag. One day, he gets tasked by the Prime Minister Nursultan Nazarbayev (Dani Popescu) to return to America to deliver a monkey to Vice President Mike Pence in order to redeem himself (Trust me, it is as ridiculous as it sounds).
Gladly, Borat accepts and travels once again to America to complete his mission. Yet, he is not alone, as his fifteen-year-old daughter Tutar Sagdiyev (Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova) has unwittingly hitched a ride in order to spend time with her estranged father. What follows is a series of events where Cohen and Bakalova prank unsuspecting citizens, including the likes of Pence and Rudy Giuliani, in character while also learning about the value of family.
While Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is as shocking and unapologetic as you expect, the sequel surprisingly has heart to go along with its many raunchy setups and punchlines. It is a story about a father and daughter trying to understand each other. Cohen and Bakalova make quite the team and work quite well together as they bicker in each other’s respective languages disguised as casual Kazakh while also shocking everyone, with an ending that is equally parts shocking, brilliantly hilarious, and touching.
I cannot guarantee that Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a laugh riot all the way through depending on how well you can tolerate its most shocking jokes, but for me, it was a pleasant ride I enjoyed taking. It is a movie fit for the crazy times we are living in, especially since it is a movie I never thought would be made in such a politically-correct world.
Anyone who remembers watching Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book The Witches at a young age could tell you how truly horrifying of an experience that is. I was never one of those kids that grew up with it, but it exceeded in gruesome practical effects and an eerie nature that could give any child nightmares. What Robert Zemeckis does with his version, however, is far from horrifying. Instead, it relies heavily on the CG that he is so used to using. I am not saying that his version is not prone to terrifying the youngest of kids, but that it is hard to beat a hideous looking witch when you have Anne Hathaway’s cartoonish wide sharp-toothed smile rendered in the silliest of effects.
The story is the same: A young boy whose parents have suffered a demise goes to live with his loving grandmother who is aware that witches exist in the world with only one purpose: To rid the world of children by turning them into the most helpless of animals, mostly mice, then crushing them. What follows is nearly a recreation of the 90’s film with only a few changes (including one that Dahl’s readers might find taken from the source). At most, The Witches is lighthearted fare, from its choice of music to the grating narration of Chris Rock recalling the time he, as a young boy (Played by Jahzir Bruno), and his grandma (Octavia Spencer) encountered their share of witches, led by the Grand High Witch (an over-the-top Hathaway relishing in the glamour of it all).
As the story goes, the witches have come to the hotel the boy and his grandmother are staying at under the guise of the RSPCC, in order to enact their evil plot. While playing with his pet mouse, the boy hears of the plan, only for the witches to discover him by sniffing him out with the Grand High Witch turning him into a mouse. Yet, he and his mouse Daisy (Voice of Kristin Chenoweth) escape with the help of a boy named Bruno (Codie-Lei Eastick), who has suffered the same fate.
There is no doubt that Zemeckis’ take on The Witches is inferior to Roeg’s film, yet what keeps me from writing it off as an abashedly awful remake is the charm it brings once the talking mice come into play and the family dynamic, which I found the least bit heartwarming. However, this is just me being generous. Kids will love watching it with their parents, yet I cannot seem to recommend it for anyone who really loved the original film. As someone who found the original average, what Zemeckis has accomplished is the ability to make me appreciate Roeg’s efforts a bit more.
If there is one thing that makes Charlie Kaufman such an interesting writer, it is his exploration of the human psyche and what makes the mind tick. Whether it be the fulfillment of desire/longing to live another life (Being John Malkovich), what we decide to do with our memories both good and bad (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), the dedication of achieving an ambition (Synechdoche, New York, Kaufman’s directorial feature), or finding meaning in a life filled with monotony (Anomalisa, which Kaufman also directed). The films which Kaufman has written for may be quirky, existentialist fantasies, yet somehow, they feel as real as can be. The characters Kaufman creates are just ordinary people, though it takes a certain fantastical situation to help dig in to the recesses of their minds as to make them relatable, whether they achieve their goals or not.
The same could be said for Kaufman’s newest feature I’m Thinking of Ending Things, based on Iain Reid’s debut novel, which hit Netflix on September 4th. Like Kaufman’s earlier works, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is yet another mind-bender about the human psyche that deals with existentialism, identity, and how we perceive relationships told through the inner monologues of a young woman (Jessie Buckley) as she goes off to meet her boyfriend Jake’s (Jesse Plemons) parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) during a snowstorm. As expected from a Charlie Kaufman film, things take a turn for the psychologically bizarre.
How else can I describe I’m Thinking of Ending Things without spoiling anything? It is a film that requires you to accept the eerie bizarre reality of its protagonist’s mental state, where one event twists into a completely different outcome in the strangest of ways, until we find ourselves pulled into its deteriorating state of psychosis. I cannot guarantee that I’m Thinking of Ending Things will go down easy with the average viewer, especially with scenes that feel as if they could halt the movie in its tracks, but it will give fans of Charlie Kaufman the satisfaction of questioning everything they have seen.