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MCKillswitch123's Vaccination Center - Y8 Movie Reviews

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January

 

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Losers Weepers

dir. Liz Friedlander

 

Spoiler

Scheming Sibling for Villain of the Year at the Boffies. There, I said it.

 

This was actually the first Y8 movie I read, out of extremely morbid curiosity. The first one, Finders Keepers, I actually sort of enjoyed as a trashy Final Destination-lite comedy-slasher with some horrible, horrible characters that I got satisfaction out of seeing them get killed in brutal ways. Of course, most people remember it as the movie of the characters with... those names, or the movie with a hilarious typo, but all things considered, it was a memorable experience.

 

Little did I expect that it would get a sequel, but it did. And my Oh my, it is even crazier than the previous one. Just the names... the fucking names.

 

Better than that, though, is its insane plot of how the bad guy from Finders Keepers (the REALLY bad one) has an extensive list of siblings that he decides to kill off because he wants to inherit the family's fortune. And he goes on a mission to hunt down every single one of his one note, stereotype siblings. Jason Voorhees is dead, long live the new king, Scheming Sibling. Gawd almighty.

 

I enjoyed this movie so much, I'm not gonna lie. It is absolutely bonkers and it does not shy away from that a single bit. I won't give away everything that happens, all I'll say is that it's just a delirious amount of batshit crazy, but entertaining. Definitely entertaining. It makes zero sense, it is completely over-the-top, it has twists that'll just make you go utterly 'WTF'... but it's so, SO much fun, and unironically so. Liz Friedlander, you are a hero. I'll be honest: I think it's better than the first one.

 

C+

 

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Gunman Clive

dir. Shane Black

 

Spoiler

Shane Black is uncanceled, apparently. Hmm. And him directing a movie based on an obscure video game. Well, I guess it had to happen one day. Ignoring the misfire that was The Predator, Black's career as a director has been pretty significant, from two clear bullseye shots in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, to the underrated blockbuster Iron Man 3. In CAYOM, he's also responsible for one of the highest grossing films in the game, Voltron: Rise of Lotor.

 

This is a big stepdown for him in terms of scale from Lotor, but that obviously doesn't invalidate Gunman Clive, an absolutely bonkers sci-fi western about a gunman who teams up with two other people to rescue the citizens of a town from a bunch of steampunk ducks. Yeah, that's the plot.

 

The film is scarce on little details - it's as straightforward as it is - but as such, you can do a lot worse regarding completely unpretentious fun. It's very basic, though, lacking the grit and writing snark that Black usually brings with his films, and just really feeling like an excuse to shoot some ducks even though the rights to Duck Hunt are in Blankments Productions. The duck mech was pretty cool, though.

 

C+

 

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White Wyvern

dir. Drew Goddard

 

Spoiler

Drew Goddard is a creator that I have appreciated from the very start. His first movie, The Cabin in the Woods, I'm a fan of. The series he developed, Daredevil, I'm a fan of. A CAYOM movie he directed, The Epsilon Syndicate, I'm a fan of. Really, this guy is a slick package of style and substance that I think brings a lot to the entertainment world.

 

So... what in the ever loving fuck was he thinking when he directed THIS?

 

White Wyvern is the latest movie by New Journey Pictures in their well-estabilished magical realism genre, and their in-competition entry into the Y8 Film Festival. Sometimes, this specific genre works well. Other times, not so much. This is one of those times when it really doesn't work. And not necessarily because the magical part is poorly done, but more so because the realism part is butchered beyond belief.

 

Julia Garner stars as Bethany, a young woman who is on the run from an abusive boyfriend and finds shelter in a family farm, where she finds a secret. That setup sounds perfectly intriguing, right? And I'll tell you this: the first act of the film is actually... ok. It's not great, it's not terrible, it's alright. It launches the film with promise. That is one of three positives that I can point, alongside Garner's charismatic central performance that saves the film from being a complete wreck, as well as the interesting parallel that the film makes using its fantasy elements, which I think is, admitedly, a sweet one.

 

So where exactly did this movie go wrong? Well, as I said, while it didn't start bad, you could point holes in it during the opening act, where you could only roll your eyes at the personalities of some of these supporting characters, intentionally or not. However, as soon as Aaron Taylor-Johnson enters the film, it gets progressively worse. It just completely falls off a 10-feet tall cliff and lands flat on its belly.

 

But honestly, I don't even think the worst part of this movie is Taylor-Johnson. He is absolutely abysmal, don't get me wrong - he comes from a completely different galaxy, nevermind movie, acting as a character from the Jersey Shore with his Post Malone face tattoos, slurred form of speech and horrendous, horrendous dialogue. He's completely, ridiculously over-the-top, in a movie that's trying to have realistic commentary on domestic violence. This kind of super exaggerated, alien portrayal of an abuser can honestly feel insulting, if it wasn't pretty much laugh-out-loud comical.

 

The worst part, however, really is that the characters - well, one character specifically - is so idiotic and so braindead that I was literally willing to punch a mirror wall in anger. My understanding is that the movie was purposefully portraying him as a moron, and I can even understand that yes, there are people in the world who do in fact ignore or overlook blatantly obvious signs of abuse - but this movie wasn't trying to portray that element because it wanted to advise the audience about those signals, but rather because this character holds... certain political beliefs. And I think that even Trump supporters aren't total idiots when it comes to this type of thing (well, not all of them at least), so this just comes across as vomit-inducing to anyone in any side of the political spectrum. The film even dares to try to make you sympathize with all of these characters, but it's way, way too late to try to garner any sort of empathy for these people.

 

White Wyvern is an absolute failure. One that tries to be deep and emotionally resonant, but ends up as so Godawfully misguided that I cannot even begin to believe that Drew fucking Goddard was the director of the movie. You didn't even feel like it was a Goddard movie - does this really bear any significance to an Epsilon Syndicate or a Cabin in the Woods?

 

It doesn't get an F simply because of Garner's performance, as the other two things I mentioned wouldn't save it from that rating were the movie dependant on them. But if not the technically worst, this is likely gonna end up as my least favorite movie of the year.

 

D-

 

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Home Invasion: Part III: Hunted

dir. Joe Carnahan

 

Spoiler

Joe Carnahan was responsible for this? Eesh. Where did his career go wrong?

 

I'll admit it: I actually enjoyed the first two Home Invasion movies (the second of which was also directed by Carnahan). They knew that they were just trashy B-movie action flicks and gave their leads some space to kick ass. This third one attempts to do the same, bringing Neeson and Statham together to kick even more ass, which sounds promising. But if Home Invasion I and II, despite their B-movie nature, you could sort of take seriously for what they were... Part III is impossible to take seriously in any way. You can't, you just can't. It's way too silly for that. Like, it straight up veers into comedy territory, and I don't know if it's all that intentional (it might be, but the fact that I'm not sure is pretty bad). I laughed out loud multiple times with this, it was like if The Asylum decided to remake Roland Emmerich's Godzilla or any of the Jurassic Park sequels.

 

Do Neeson and Statham still get to smack bitches together nonetheless? Yeah, they do. And that's what saves this movie from being an abomination even for B-flick standards. It's Neeson and Statham killing space lizards in Moon jungles. How can you not love that? Unfortunately, the film around that is so stupid that you question if the people behind it have any sort of intelligence whatsoever. You will laugh, though. You will laugh a lot.

 

C-

 

 

Edited by MCKillswitch123
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February

 

Capoeira Action | Martial arts workout, Martial arts techniques, Martial  arts

 

Christie Monteiro

dir. Melina Matsoukas

 

Spoiler

As far as fighting video game franchises are concerned, I've always had a soft spot for Tekken. From Tekken 3 in the PS1, to Tekken 5 that I experienced both on PS2 and PSP (the superior version), some of the games in this series are in my heart. I like this franchise, and I think that, if Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter have been turned into movies, then I think that Tekken can be turned into a movie as well.

 

But here's the thing: the few movies based on fighting video games that we have gotten... are not very good. The only one that I think is somewhat acceptable is the original Mortal Kombat (have not seen the 2021 version yet). But Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation are not good, I've never seen Dead or Alive but I'm very aware of its bad reputation, there's SoulCalibur in CAYOM which I think is awful... and guess what: there's also an actual irl Tekken movie! And it sucks. So yeah, movies based on this genre of video games tend to not be particularly competent.

 

So, did Christie Monteiro turn that tide around? I'd say... not entirely. I guess it's one of the better ones, though.

 

Christie Monteiro is about, well, a woman named Christie Monteiro (played by Letitia Wright - and to be clear, I will not hold irl stuff surrounding Ms. Wright and her political or religious beliefs against this movie... I think she's an idiot for thinking what she thinks, but I draw a line between the artist and the art itself), who goes out on a mission to try to stop her friend Eddy Gordo (Jonathan Majors) from committing a revenge act.

 

As someone who was directly behind another video game-based tournament movie, I think that Christie Monteiro has a few of the right lessons down. It has a protagonist that you care about, with Wright's strong performance as Christie Monteiro, a woman desperate to prove to her friend that he isn't the terrible person he has apparently resigned himself to be; it has an emotional conductive tissue that you do follow, as the film cleverly touches on Christie and Eddy's friendship, with frequent usage of flashbacks that actually help estabilish the connection between the two; and it delievers on the thing that I'm sure most people walk into a movie like this for: the action. The fight choreography is quite good, especially in one of the earlier sequences. I also liked the way that the movie appropriated the game's rules and even its environments into the narrative... at first I thought it was kinda random and out of nowhere, sorta like the Mortal Kombat movie, but then I saw what the film was doing and I admit I appreciated the concept.

 

But then you kinda have to get into... the not so good stuff. First of all, while the flashbacks present us some of the more emotional moments, they can also feel intrusive at times, as they are plentiful in the film and sometimes show up when you would like the present timeline to actually move forward. They can be intrusive in that regard. Then there's... the villain. Now I won't directly spoil the villain, as the character is not being sold as a part of the main cast and therefore could be a surprise for Tekken fans alike, but I'll just say that the way the villain is portrayed in this movie is insanely over-the-top, borderline cartoonish, and I don't think it works all that well. But then again, the film opens up with a bizarre scene about the villain and the lore of the universe, it is a weird, weird scene which just tells you what you're in for. And sure, it is faithful to the lore of the games, but sometimes, faithful doesn't mean good. 

 

Also, at times, this movie really felt like something taken out of the 2000's decade. And I don't mean that in a good way. It feels genuinely outdated at points. And finally, I don't like to play Blank, but there's one character in this movie that, uhh, doesn't get a lot to do, some of what they get to do is just totally out of left field (I understand what happened off-screen, but any unsuspecting person who has no clue on what Tekken is will just be left baffled), and I feel like there was a casting error there.

 

Despite these issues, Christie Monteiro isn't terrible, and, as I said, it's probably one of the best movies based on a fighting video game, if not the best one. It is pretty problematic, though, and while an entertaining watch, not really the movie that will turn public opinion on this kind of films around.
 

B-

 

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Romance Road

dir. Tina Gordon

 

Spoiler

From Tina Gordon, the screenwriter of the likes of ATL and Drumline, as well as director of Little, comes this rom-com starring Naomi Scott and John Boyega as two people driving down to Miami in a rush, while finding love along the way.

 

For what it is, Romance Road is perfectly adequate. Unpretentious, okayishly witty and exciting enough. Scott and Boyega have nice chemistry and it's entertaining to see them together.

 

It won't reinvent the wheel, but if you're looking for some escapism on Valentine's Day, no reason as to why this wouldn't make you happy.

 

B+

 

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Funny Business

dir. Albert White

 

Spoiler

Well, I guess Dave-Day is no longer the only R-rated animation of Y8 - although it more than likely will remain the only claymation of the year, so props to me all the same. (Not that this moment of self-indulgence has anything to do with this movie, though. Sorry.)

 

Funny Business is a live-action and animation hybrid directed by a newcomer, Albert White, and it is about a cartoon character who rebels about being a cartoon character - specifically, the idea that his only purpose is to make people laugh - and wants to be something else.

 

That premise (an animated character who wishes to be something more than what he was designed to be) is not exactly unknown to the public, we've seen with the likes of Wreck-it Ralph irl or Sir Thymes Time in CAYOM. But would I go and call this a Wreck-it Ralph rip-off? Not really, it stands enough on its own ground.

 

It does offer some interesting questions in the camp of animation as an artform and how we perceive it. It effectively works as a rally of protest against the idea that cartoons are only children's fluff. It also pokes other holes at issues within mainstream animation, such as the lack of LGBT representation.

 

However, it does raise a couple of questions along the way, such as the need to have a generic evil corporate villain and a kidnapping goon, or the sort. The third act in particular devolves into the typical action shenanigans that you would typically see in this kind of film (and points also deducted for the princess' gimmick being a rip-off of Snow White in Shrek 3), and the movie also happens to *be* a comedy, whereas if I were in charge of the film, I'd try for it to be more dramatic exactly to exacerbate the whole point of the film.

 

But overall, I had a fun enough time watching Funny Business. It's not a fantastic movie, but it's one that values the artform of animation while criticizing its gatekeepers, and it deserves credit for that. Hopefully the big giants of animation are watching to pay attention.

 

C+

 

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Pokémon: The Case of the Orange Outrage

dir. Uta Briesewitz

 

Spoiler

Shawn Levy steps aside from the director's chair of the Pokémon franchise to give way for Uta Briesewitz, a German director notable for her recent work on TV shows like Stranger Things and Westworld. An interesting change of pace, noteworthy since Levy is a pretty big name across the board and Briesewitz is an obscure talent, but always nice to see fresh blood step up.

 

Pokémon: The Case of the Orange Outrage is the fourth film in the CAYOM 3.0 Pokémon franchise from Numerator Pictures, and it's effectively a PG-rated crime thriller featuring the three lead heroes from the original Pokémon anime - Ash (played by Ryan Potter), Misty (Sophie Turner) and Brock (John Boyega). They have to find out the reason behind a mysterious surge of Pokémon evolutions ongoing in the Orange Islands.

 

I am not a huge fan of the entire Pokémon franchise - not because I dislike it, but because I just don't have the same level of experience with it as everyone else. But I did like the few episodes of the anime that I saw as a kid, and also the games and stuff. I too enjoyed Detective Pikachu (the movie; never played the game)... The First Movie, not so much. And as far as this CAYOM franchise is concerned, I enjoyed the first movie enough, and I really liked the second and third films.

 

Now, The Case of the Orange Outrage can't completely be compared to any of the Kanto trilogy films, because it is a standalone adventure that's not bound to a trilogy, an element that was clearly influent in the previous films. The events of this movie are canon, but they don't have a massive impact in the remaining series nor do they necessarily require the viewer to be fully aware of what happened in the predecessors, so Orange Outrage is able to start and complete the arcs that it sets out to achieve in one go. And that works very much in its favor, as this is the most coherently structured Pokémon film out of the four we've gotten.

 

The choice to have Ash, Misty and Brock protagonize this flick is clearly a handwave to long time devotees of the series, and the nods don't stop there, as this film is basically an elongated episode of the anime series - it literally tells a story off an arc of the anime, the Lake of Rage arc - with a lot of mentions to the well known lore. But the film isn't just cheap fan service, perhaps more so than any other Pokémon film we've gotten so far, given that there's cinematic weight to the characters that should resonate with anyone regardless of their experience with this media juggernaut that's Pokémon.
 

While I may have not been as invested in Ash and co as I was with Stephanie and Gary, the relationship between myself and those two characters was built across three films, whereas the leads of this one only showed up as supporting characters in the previous movies - apart from being the central characters of the anime, but that's another story. And this movie does do a good job at making you feel acquainted with these characters, as if you know them for long enough to not feel estranged that Stephanie isn't at the center. Besides that, the movie also very much does justice to three other characters who are iconic to Pokémon fans - Jessie, James and Meowth, the Double Trouble trio, known for being spectacular but amazing idiots. These guys steal the show and are by the far the funniest, most compelling and most interesting characters in the movie.

 

As for the grand action that you likely come to watch a Pokémon movie for, it's certainly here, though not quite on the same level of holy shit incredible as the third act of The Cinnabar Conspiracy - not that I was expecting that to be the case. What is present here still holds its own as pretty cool on its own right.

 

Sadly, one of the reasons why I can't necessarily sympathize with the concept of this being my favorite movie of the franchise is that the film is pretty sluggish; it doesn't necessarily move slowly, but it feels very often like it's on second gear, since it has (as it should be expected from Pokémon) a very basic plot with pretty generic villains, moved by cool action, cuteness and a few character interactions above all else. Also, the one thing that makes it stand out from the other Pokémon movies - the different leads - is also something that hurts it: the movie almost assumes that you already aware of who these characters are, not just from previous films but from the anime as well. And that is perhaps even more noticeable in Jessie/James/Meowth, whose arcs are nowhere near as meaningful if you have no history or even awareness of who these characters were before the film rolled.

And, the film also doesn't have quite the same emotional impact as either Rise of the Rockets (movie #2) or The Cinnabar Conspiracy (#3), since not being linked to a trilogy means that your characters run the risk of not being as interesting and well developed as a character that already had a previous movie's work. In the case of Ash/Misty/Brock, sure, they already had years on air in an animated show, but even back then they weren't the most legendarily interesting characters. That's not to say Stephanie is, nor that the leads here aren't charming and fun on their own right (their interactions are pretty gold), but it's just the natural shortcoming of structuring your franchise like this.

 

Still, The Case of the Orange Outrage is a rollicking good time in the theater and perfect enough if you are a long time fan, also enjoyable if you're new to the series. It functions as a spin-off sequel to the main franchise with no major issues and it gives out some solid fan service without being too obnoxious - just the right amount. In the end, can't recommend it quite as highly as I would've if I had been around to review the previous film originally, but I reckon that it's about on par with Rise of the Rockets. Not as emotionally striking as those two films, but much more solid structurally - a fruit of being its own thing, plus Numerator's production experience at this point - and, as always, a lovely way to spend time at the movies.

 

B

 

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Holland Hannah

dir. Anton Corbijn

 

Spoiler

It's only fitting that one of the most iconic music video directors maybe in history brings us an action movie that feels like a music video into the Y8 Film Festival, as Alpha Pictures' representative in-competition. But attention, reader: if you think that that is a bad thing, you're wrong... at least as far as Holland Hannah is concerned.

 

Elizabeth Debicki shines as Hannah, a contract killer hired by a Dutch mafia to murder a rival mobster. It turns out, however, that this target of Hannah's is actually someone she's acquainted with.

 

Debicki absolutely soars in this film as a silent, focused femme-fatale who can be both sexy and deadly, a combination that fits perfectly within the time frame of Amsterdam night streets in the 90's, providing both the confidence, the suaveness and the action beats all too well. Her performance is one of my favorites coming out of the Film Festival, especially when it comes to in-competition films.

 

Alongside her is Omar Sy, who also does a really strong job. Debicki and Sy's chemistry is palpable in every scene they're together, almost as if they're made to act with each other. Some of the film's strongest moments exploit this chemistry, the relationship between these characters that unfolds.

 

But this is also an action movie, and one that has all the intention in the world of taking advantage of the fact that it's set in Europe during the 90's. Almost every scene in the film is accompanied by European 90's pop music, and the film does risk becoming a radio channel from time to time. However, it knows when to pull back and it knows when to hit you on the spot, and the soundtrack choices are all wonderful. Besides that, the action itself is filmed with pizzaz, with crazy hand-to-hand madness pulled off effortlessly. Tag this along with a vibrant cinematography filled with neon and strobe lights, and you have one of the coolest movies you will see in Y8. Some people have compared Holland Hannah to Drive, and I do agree that they are similar, but this similarly isn't destructive for the former.

 

Sadly, though, the film does try to overcompensate a bit on the element of Hannah being a cold protagonist, by introducing a character late into her story that really should've just been cut off entirely, as well as leading to a particular moment that I felt was completely out of character for Hannah. Also, because this is a pretty short movie, it's not particularly deep or anything. It is what it is, you'll take it if you like it and you'll forget about it if you don't. It's as simple as the movie itself.

 

But frankly, I was more than okay with its simplicity, as Holland Hannah told a perfectly good story that I was emotionally invested in, thanks to clever writing, great acting and extremely well stylized technical design that allowed for gorgeous visuals and great action. I personally disagree with the rather mixed reviews it has gotten and commend moviegoers alike to give it a shot. And I wouldn't be surprised if this movie helped make some of that old 90's music trend again in current radio stations.

 

B+

 

Edited by MCKillswitch123
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March

 

Pin on Laugh a little? Laugh a lot.

 

Fable

dir. Michael Dougherty

 

Spoiler

From Michael Dougherty, the director of Trick 'r Treat, Krampus and the "masterpiece" Godzilla: King of the Monsters, comes a movie that has very little to do with any of those, other than I guess being a fantasy and that shares similarities with the creatures in all of those other films...?

 

Fable is a video game adaptation, based on a game called, well, Fable. It's about two young people, siblings, named Garrett and Theresa, and they have to stop an evildoer from doing something bad, I dunno.

 

I never played any of the Fable games, I have only seen select gameplay showings of some of the offerings in the series and am aware of how famed they are (although the first game, if I'm not wrong, has a bit of a reputation for being marketed as having features that it didn't end up having, but that's kind of expected given the people behind the game). So this was my first basic introduction to the lore of Fable.

 

As such, I think that if I were playing the game, I would probably be having a lot more fun than I did watching the movie. Fable is as boring, generic and clichéd as a fantasy adventure film can get. The characters are just a collection of tropes, the script is over 50% devoted to dull exposition, the story is mostly predictable and the movie feels longer than it is - and it's almost 2 and a half hours.

 

There's some occasional thrills and decent filmmaking and acting, but this is just a painfully dull and mediocre fantasy movie. My apologies to Numerator, but I didn't feel this one (and I wanted to).
 

C-

 

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Flightless Bird: The Downfall of the Boeing 737 MAX

dir. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg

 

Spoiler

Before getting into things, I wanna say that I found it bold as fuck to have a $10 million budget, 3k+ theater documentary that's not a concert movie, a nature doc or a Michael Moore pic. I felt a bit guilty when I had The Gift of Life open as wide as it did, although I felt justified. No longer is that the case.

 

Now, as for this movie, I preface by saying that stories about aviation are things I am a fan of. I've loved Mayday: Air Crash Investigation for quite a while now and I think that these are stories you can learn something from. And, well, as far as Cookie Pictures documentaries are concerned, I whole-heartedly adored From Earth to Infinity: An Odyssey Through Space (which is fairly different from this one, but the studio tends to have high standards of quality). Does this movie live up to that, though?

 

This documentary details the history of the Boeing 737 MAX model and the relationship that said history has with the bigger picture regarding the conducts of Boeing as a company.

 

To say that this documentary was gripping from the start is an understatement. This was an excellently told story that really had me pretty much all the way through. It effectively played like an elongated, mega-budget episode of Mayday and I love that it did so, because telling its story that way makes it not only an intriguing movie, but one of easy access to even people who understand jack-all about aviation. You could even call this movie a horror pic, because it will leave you absolutely terrified at the Godsmackingly greedy, power-hungry nature of the human kind, one that will sometimes put money over human life if necessary.

 

Sure, you can say that this movie doesn't tell a brand new, life-changing message or anything - of course that billion dollar corporations are profit-seeking soulless beasts that would sometimes rather put money over life. However, it reaffirms that sad truth about humanity in a gritty, inescapable way. To realize just how shady Boeing really is as a company, and how government higher-ups at the time were hand over heels ready to jump on its lap all the same, and how overlooking entities were pretty much consumed by fear and pressure... you wouldn't be wrong if you looked at Boeing as a criminal entity.

 

The only issue I have with this movie... I guess you can't really call it that it overstays its welcome, as it has a pretty compact runtime of just under an hour and a half, but it does resort to literally spelling out its message by the third act. And yes, you understand why it's doing that, as there is still a big picture the film is keen to get into, but ultimately, it just feels like a moment where the filmmakers don't seem to trust the audience enough to realize by then what the message of the film is.

 

Despite that, Flightless Bird is a triumph of a documentary. One that'll revel in people's minds for quite some time. And the Sting song at the end is pretty great.

 

A

 

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Recompense

dir. Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

 

Spoiler

From the director of A Prayer Before Dawn and Johnny Mad Dog, comes this R-rated action thriller that hopes to steal a slice of that specific market's box office, despite the looming presence of Far Cry a few weeks later. Risky choice by New Journey Pictures, but let's see how it pays off.

 

This film tells the story of two bodyguards assigned by the British Prime Minister to hunt down a bunch of terrorists. (Btw, I'm not entirely sure that bodyguards can even be assigned for a job that clearly belongs to special police forces... yeah.)

 

I've never seen any movie by Mr. Sauvaire, though I've heard of the two films I've mentioned. But this seems to be in his wheelhouse enough, being an action film that attempts to give gritty socio-political commentary regarding a number of different themes, the main of them being, of course, radicalism and terrorism. Attention: this movie is not trying to just be a stupid action film, but it also attempts to give you some self-serious opinions on the aforementioned themes. As such, Recompense does have some boosts of interesting thematic energy that come up from time to time, even if it also has its wasted opportunities as well.

 

Despite that, though, it still plays out very much like a pretty dumb action flick in the vein of a Gerard Butler Has Fallen movie, only with less explosions. Certain things make little sense, other things are just silly (what kind of Islamic terrorist organization would call themselves "Rabbit's Foot"?) and the film is as giddy to get into the killings and shootings as it is to briefly talk about its takes on what it wants to address.

 

As such, I can't say that I wasn't entertained while watching this film. It is ridiculous in plenty of spots and it brings up some interesting ideas but also wastes taking its chance on others, but the pacing is kept brisk, the action is well shot and the acting is fine for the kind of film that it is, with Kingsley Ben-Adir and Tahar Rahim being the spotlights in the cast (the latter in an admitedly reduced role, but he still stood out).

 

So, to answer the dilemma presented at the beginning of this review, can this coexist with Far Cry? I'd say so. I mean, one skews older adult and has some appeal to a minority audience while the other is broader appealing with a tendency for younger adults. But it is still risky to schedule this 2 weeks before Far Cry all the same, and we'll see how the numbers pay off.

 

Ultimately, Recompense is a decently fun flick that doesn't shy away from pure stupidity at times, even though it is trying to give important commentary, but its dumbness pays off with some engaging thrills. Not a great film, but entertaining for what it is.

 

C+

 

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MEG

dir. Bruce Hendricks

 

Spoiler

Not related to the Jason Statham masterpiece The Meg. It's actually immensely different.

 

F

 

I kid.

 

I mean... I'm not even sure if I've listened to any music from Ms. Megan Thee Stallion (other than WAP with Cardi B). I've heard of her, for sure, but I'm unaware if I've ever let my ears appreciate her art. Should I? I dunno. Will I? Probably not. (Again, other than WAP. Can't go wrong with WAP. In music and in your life. Unless it's not your type, of course.) Concert movie's okay, though.

 

C

 

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2 Big Families

dir. Tyler Perry

 

Spoiler

A Tyler Perry sequel. Great.

 

I saw the first one, One Big Family. It was typical Tyler Perry stuff. A bit heavy for my liking, even. This is more laidback, but it's still a shrug of a movie. I guess you could have fun with the kids all nagging at each other... I didn't, I found that kinda annoying.

 

C-

 

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Citizen Kale: A VeggieTales Movie

dir. Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki

 

Spoiler

I will admit that I did not read the previous VeggieTales movie, which I believe came out in Y5, and I also won't necessarily say that I know much about VeggieTales at all, really. It's animation about vegetables. Sure, why not.

 

The title made me think: "Alright, at least it seems like the humor is in good spirit... I guess it makes sense to parody Citizen Kane if you're going to adapt a comedic family animation series to film." But the film itself plays like, well, someone with questionable sitcom writing skills tried to make a story about fake news.

 

New Journey Pictures Animation deserves to be commended for making a film that really goes out of its way to try to educate its young target audience on politics, a rare thing to see. Citizen Kale does offer some good advice, at the end of the day. But it is bizarre that a movie about fake news takes place in the 1940's - cause even though fake news was always a thing, I understand that, it should've been crucial to set a film like that today, in the current era, where it is more important than ever to detect fake news.

 

To continue the nitpicking, it is also quite questionable that the story, which seems, regardless of odd temporal choices, fairly straightforward and solid for its intended public, ends up with such a dramatic turn in the third act, which is then resolved by the film revealing itself as preaching to the choir. I have nothing against people choosing Christianism in their lives, but I kinda take it a little wrong when a film literally says "say the truth about Jesus" as a moral, would-be correct lesson to its antagonist.

 

But, as it is, I still wouldn't tell children and families not to go see it. It is a mostly astute, well aware film for something that skews as young as it does, and that deserves props. With such in mind, it's probably not going to be in my Best Animated Feature ballot, unless the race is abysmal this year.

 

C

 

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Kings of the 6

dir. Sean Menard

 

Spoiler

From the director of a number of sports documentaries, including The Carter Effect - about Vince Carter - comes this doc about the Toronto Raptors rising up in the 2010's decade, culminating in the 2019 NBA finals.

 

It's a very simplistic doc, really, nothing out of the ordinary. Just a quick little thing that Horizon Entertainment conjured up while on the fly.

 

The kind of thing that you'd be perfectly fine catching on ESPN, but, if you really wanna make a trip to the theater to see it... I guess there's worse options.

 

B-

 

Edited by MCKillswitch123
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40 minutes ago, MCKillswitch123 said:

Ultimately, Recompense is a decently fun flick that doesn't shy away from pure stupidity at times,

 

I think I'm the one that's dumb 😅

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April

 

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Numbers Theory

dir. Jeremy Rush

 

Spoiler

And we go at it yet again with the Y8 Film Festival, home to some of the most imaginative filmmakers in the world, who finally got their chance to showcase their talent. One of the three out-of-competition films we got was this Liam Neeson action-thriller, based on real events in the Box Office Theory forum.

 

Neeson stars as Shawn, a professional market analyst, especializing in predicting box office runs of films, who seems to have a perfect life. But when someone is mislead by a prediction that he got wrong and starts targeting him, he enlists the help of Mary, a witty and charismatic PI (played by Dakota Johnson), to stop this bad guy.

 

Jeremy Rush brings us this new team-up between Neeson and Numerator Pictures, the next one after last year's entertaining revenge action flick Vengeance. This one, however, doesn't jump to action immediately, as it takes its time to set things up before throwing Neeson and his partner in crime Mary, into what you paid a ticket to see the film for. As such, Numbers Theory feels more methodical than you'd expect a Neeson thriller to be at this point, and that's a refreshing change of pace.

 

However, don't fool yourself into thinking that this is some Oscar-bait or anything like that: this is still Neeson playing motherfucking Neeson. And, yeah, like always, it's fun to watch. But it seems that most critics agree that the real show-stealer is Johnson, and I can't really argue with that as she far outacts Neeson in their scenes and Mary is generally just a more fun character to be around. As far as the remaining cast goes, Joaquim de Almeida brings some nice ham to his role, and Elizabeth Shue helps the film from an emotional perspective, despite the fact that she has a limited role. Points also for the casting of Diogo Morgado as the silent gunman who gets a few cool action moments - a lot of Tuga representation in this movie, which I'm totally approving of.

 

Overall, there's not really a whole lot to say. It's a perfectly serviceable Neeson movie with some fun thrills, and even a few winks every now and then to Neeson fans. Nothing out of this world, but a solidly packaged flick for its target audience.

 

B

 

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Doc Dreams

dir. Steve James

 

Spoiler

Well, okay lol. This is a filler documentary about making a filler documentary lmao.

 

You could say it's an insight into the creative process, but it's a total trolljob. Props for that.
 

D+

 

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Snow Monkeys

dir. Drew Fellman

 

Spoiler

More snow animals! Adorable.

 

Snow Leopards was legit one of my favorite docs of Y7 and probably the best nature doc we've gotten in the game so far. This one isn't quite as awesome (by the nature of how cool snow leopards are compared to everything else), but it's cool as it is, because snow monkeys are still badass as Hell.

 

B

 

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The Idiots

dir. Casey Affleck

 

Spoiler

The first of two films by Numerator Pictures in Y8 dedicated to baseball history is this documentary directed by Casey Affleck. I'll start off by saying that my general familiarity with baseball is, at best, slim. So, this review comes from the perspective of someone who doesn't have a phenomenal understanding of the sport.

 

Now, this doc details the fall and rise of the Boston Red Sox, one of the most famous baseball teams in the world, as they come back from a drought of 86 years. The kind of pitch that seems made for fans of sports films, with the traditional fall and rise comeback story that is well known within the genre, and also within sports themselves.

 

But more than just a comeback story, The Idiots is a tribute to the city of Boston, Massachussetts, with various mentions to its political engagements during the same era as that of this return by the Red Sox, showing us that it wasn't just the team, but the whole city was returning.

 

You get some not too developed but still engaging looks at some of the Red Sox's eccentric characters and their nature on and off-pitch during this time, as well as some other people related to the club that left a great impact for the better or worse. While I think that some of these people could've gotten a little more fleshed out than they did, if for no other reason than I think some of the events detailed later in the film would've been more impactful had these people been further looked at deeper, I do still think that they made for an interesting batch of characters.

 

All in all, The Idiots is a satisfying documentary that will certainly please baseball fans and Boston people, as well as pretty much anyone who's neutral to the conflicts presented in the film. A nice little comeback story that we sometimes need in our lives to remind us that we never stay in the bottom forever.

 

B+

 

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No Mercy

dir. Louis Leterrier

 

Spoiler

Giving a slight twist to the words of famed video game YouTube channel Angry Joe... "you wanna watch a motherfuckin' zombie movie?"

 

Based on one of the main campaigns of 2008's Left 4 Dead, No Mercy tells the story of four different people who unite forces to survive a zombie outbreak, as they travel across the city to reach the top of Mercy Hospital, where, should they get there, they'll be rescued.

 

Now, I've never played much Left 4 Dead. I've played a little bit, but really not a lot. That being said, I absolutely recognize that it is - or was, in its heyday - an absolute pop culture sensation. There was Left 4 Dead everywhere, it was all the rage. So I guess a movie based on it was sort of inevitable, even if, at this point, it feels about a decade too late.

 

Having seen No Mercy - which, prior to watching, I had no clue was gonna be a Left 4 Dead movie, and again, having full awareness of my non-expertise in that game series - I can say that it was an adaptation that I'm sure fans will enjoy very much. And casual moviegoers will probably get a kick out of it as well, especially teenagers looking for a horror thrill ride or a cool action movie.

 

No Mercy really isn't necessarily rocket science: it's four people shooting zombies almost non-stop. And that pitch allows, or at least should allow, for good technical achievements. And the film accomplishes that. It's a breakneck movie with action happening at almost every minute, and the action itself is well shot and appropriately gorey. It can feel exhaustive/repetitive as the film heavily relies on its zombie shooting sequences to go forward, but it is undeniable that the action itself is pretty well done.

 

Sadly, though, for a movie that's about four people - and you really do need these four people to have any sort of emotional investment in the film - No Mercy doesn't do a particularly great job with its four main characters. This is not the fault of Louis Leterrier or the writers, to be honest, as it really comes from the source material, but these characters just aren't very interesting. I guess no one gives bad performances - particular kudos to Kurt f'n Russell, who plays a badass war veteran, the only character that I thought was compelling from start to finish, in good part thanks to Russell himself - and these characters, superficially, aren't a bad base either, but I never felt like the film went the extra mile to make me really care about these people, beyond giving them the typical archetypes you'd expect. Some characters are either sort of hard to sympathize with, or they're kind of useless beyond sparking some drama every now and then. And in a film that relies so heavily on characters and character interactions, they're just not strong enough for the most part, which helps in making the film's constant zombie shooting feel exhaustive/repetitive as aforementioned. It definitely gives off the vibe that it would be a lot more fun if you picked up the controller and played it yourself instead of feeling like you're watching someone else play the game, which is kinda what this movie gives you.

 

Yeah, there really isn't a lot to say here. It's a serviceable action film that will surely please Left 4 Dead fans quite a bit and will be a perfect catch on Syfy in a rainy night. For me, however, I found that its characters were too whatever to really care.

 

C

 

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The Insect God

dir. Daniel Ulrich McBroom

 

Spoiler

(Wrote this when this was the first movie posted by @El Squibbonator, so keep that in mind.)

 

Welcome in, Fossil Record Studios! It's always encouraging to see new studios enter the frame of CAYOM, and I personally wish nothing but the best for your future prospects.

 

The debut feature for a brand new studio is rarely their best output, as experience over the years is key to become an expert in the business - that is the case for pretty much everything, isn't it? But with that, it was certainly a ballsy move to go ahead with a PG-13 animated film, directed by an unknown and featuring a voice cast of mostly unknowns, as your feature debut. Does the risk pay off?

 

The Insect God is an original sci-fi horror movie about the discovery of alien species in a volcano crater, and how these species diverge from humanity when it comes to the idea of self-awareness.

 

As Mr. Daniel Ulrich McBroom's first full length picture - it might even be his first film in general as we know it - I will say that I have seen much, much worse first time outputs. And the same applies to Fossil Record. For a debut, mission accomplished, cause you did a pretty good job.

 

Animation not specifically geared towards younger audiences is becoming all the rage now, what with the success of some CAYOM films like Y2's To the Moon, and, just last year, Best Picture winner Laika and the juggernaut The Ends of the Universe. And it's always nice to see more animated fare targeted at adults. That alone however obviously isn't enough to carry the film, but luckily, the film's fundamental pillars stand firm on solid ground.

 

At the center of this story is the theme of how have we evolved as people and how our own evolution has clashed with that of irrational/non-self-aware animals over the course of history, and it really is a reflection of the horrible nature of humanity at its worst perhaps because of the very thing that makes us humans in the first place. It is a genuinely thoughtprovoking picture, which is bound to cause some discussion over the years.

 

Of course, while its greater thematics may fly over children's heads, I still think that kids everywhere will enjoy this movie, due to the pretty animation/visuals and the action sequences. I wouldn't say that it's a hard PG-13, at least not much harder than, say, the average superhero movie.

 

I will mention that I think the setup sounded a bit similar to Atlantis: The Lost Empire in some capacity, and I also think that plenty of relationships between the central characters were kinda underdeveloped. Not that the characters were inherently terrible, but I would've liked to have seen further fleshing out of these people. As such, we were given an ensemble of characters that was interesting, but never really quite spectacular.

 

Still, I think that this movie will engage audiences alike, and I think that this was a brave first step for the people involved that ended up paying off far better than I could've expected. If it doesn't succeed at the box office, I expect it to become a cult classic akin the likes of Titan AE, The Iron Giant or Treasure Planet in the years to come.

 

B

 

Edited by MCKillswitch123
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May

 

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Mass Effect: Revelation

dir. Olatunde Osunsanmi

 

Spoiler

From the director of many episodes of Falling Skies and Star Trek: Discovery and the movie The Fourth Kind, comes my most anticipated movie of Y8!

 

The continuation of the Mass Effect franchise takes us to another conspiracy investigation in space. A mysterious beacon is found in a human colony, and certain schemers are planning to do things with it and/or the information it contains. It's up to Shepard, old and new allies to stop the wrongdoers.

 

The Mass Effect franchise is probably my favorite space opera series in CAYOM, more so than even Scavvies or Spark, based on both the pure quality of the movies (Ascension, in particular, is an A+ in my books) and, admitedly, fanboy boners cause I played the games and I'm a fan and shit. I love these movies, I find them to be faithful but smart adaptations that know exactly how to take this story and make great films out of it. Naturally, Revelation was something I was quite excited for.

 

This film is busy - quite busy. Revelation is a direct adaptation of the main plot of the original Mass Effect game... and I can tell by personal experience that is not an easy game to cram down to under 3 hours, invading you with a lot of new information and characters to learn about. The movie plays out partly as I was wary it would, as it throws a huge lot at the viewer - some of which can come across as sci-fi gibberish for those unaware of the games; I understood it all myself, but I am a critic, not just a fan - from exposition, to characters and McGuffins. At times, it can feel overstuffed and overclocked, with so many different threads running at the same time and one errand leading to another in typical video game movie fashion.

 

And it's not just a first act thing where you're getting acquainted to a lot of new concepts: the whole movie feels like it is barely holding together when juggling so many different bowling balls. There is a somewhat clear three act-structure, but the weight of the film is quite clear when you're not even done with the second act and you're already exhausted with the amount of plot movement, character interactions and big spectacle that you've seen unfold.

 

But despite that, it never completely lost sight of itself, maintaining a clear narrative focus all across the multiple different subplots that it was trying to service.

 

Part of what makes it so good is the thing that pretty much every space opera lives and dies by, and it absolutely rocks in Mass Effect: the characters. Revelation not only sticks by characters that you've come to know and love from previous films, but balloons up the ensemble cast by adding or expanding upon way, way more. Garrus Vakarian is given more to do than just the third act, the entire supporting party of the original Mass Effect is thrown at you, and you're introduced to not one, not two but three standout villains right out of the gate (and who knows what else the movie holds...). And yet, Revelation brings them all together and manages to put a spotlight on every single one of them under one thoroughly cohesive story, that enthralls you pretty much from start to finish with its sweeping visuals, crazy action, dialogue as sharp as ever from Numerator and twisty story.

 

Is it the best film in the series? No. I would even say it's perhaps the weakest. Is it as good at juggling a batshit amount of characters as, say, Pillars of Eternity 2? Maybe not. Is it still a noteworthy, decent enough time in the theater? Absolutely.

 

For now, I will say that it is the one movie that has me legit split on which grade to give it, so I'll just go with the inbetween.

 

B/B+

 

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Walking with Dinosaurs: The Cinematic Experience

dir. Richard Diamond

 

Spoiler

A nature documentary about dinosaurs. Not a bad idea, I guess.

 

As it is, I find it to be very much like any other nature doc, only with the difference being that, you know, everything is animated, so it's a big question as to whether or not it counts as "a doc". Docufiction is probably more of a correct guess.

 

Either way, it's an entertaining watch for anyone of all ages, just like any nature doc is, but I can't rank it the same way that I rank "real" nature docs. Yes, all of what's presented is based on scientific research and conclusive facts, but I just cannot commend it the same way that I would something that was actually shot on location.

 

B

 

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Wet Willy

dir. Josh Greenbaum

 

Spoiler

Funny title, first of all.

 

Second... what the fuck have I just seen?

 

Josh Greenbaum is best known for recently directing the Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo film Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar, and now he's challenged by New Journey Pictures to do an R-rated horror comedy about a water park haunted by the ghost of a young boy who drowned there.

 

This movie is beyond ridiculous. I think it might actually be even more absurd than Losers Weepers. But I laughed out loud a number of times, and considering the film attributes "comedy" as one of its genres, mission accomplished, because you did succeed at being a comedy. Surprisingly, it also succeeds at the horror element - beyond the gory deaths - because there are some creepy sights in the film. The movie is basically a giant parody of tropes, and while you could call it clichéd in a lot of ways, it's clear that its intention is to poke fun at all these stereotypes.

 

It does go a little too far on the ridiculousness level to the point where it's not really funny anymore, though, particularly in the third act with the reveal of the big bad, which was just too stupid tbh. That being said, I would be lying through all my teeth if I said that I didn't have any fun. Oh, I had fun. A lot. Definite unironic recommend, especially for Summer season as it is a perfect watch on a warm day. The score won't actually be high, cause fucking of course, but morally, it's a 10/10.

 

C+

 

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Rhino Riders 2

dir. Dean DeBlois

 

Spoiler

A $120 million investment on a sequel that doesn't exactly scream "high demand". Big risk on that one.

 

So Rhino Riders 2 is the sequel to, well, Rhino Riders, and Dean DeBlois (famed by the likes of How to Train Your Dragon and Lilo & Stitch) comes back to direct. This follows a young girl (played by Millie Bobby Brown) who wants to be the best rhino racer in the world, and partakes in a big championship race or whatever.

 

I did watch the first one just to get a heads up, and I found it shockingly bleh. It has a cool concept, but the film itself is as basic and dry as it can get. DeBlois was lazy when doing that. So naturally, I was expecting the sequel to just be a total dump that he had made in spare time.

 

But actually, I was surprised that Rhino Riders 2 was kinda entertaining. Legitimately well made and thoroughly fun from the perspective of an extravaganza sports movie for children. It is a dazzling movie with vibrant colors, strong cinematography, impressive visuals and a solid structure that keeps you engaged despite most of the movie being a large sports sequence. Bobby Brown is solid in the main role as well, and the film also has some surprising commentary on corporate interference on sports.

 

It is not Shakespeare by any means, as the story still remains pretty basic as it is and Aaron Taylor-Johnson's character - aka the protagonist of movie #1 - gets shafted for no good reason other than the lulz, but for what it is, Rhino Riders 2 is a decent Summer recommendation for young and adult alike.

 

B-

 

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Dealer's Choice

dir. Cory Finley

 

Spoiler

The guy that directed Bad Education brings us a romantic crime thriller about a man and a woman that start conning people in blackjack.

 

It's a perfectly solid crime flick, with suave performances from Andrew Garfield and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the central couple, beautiful visuals, a sharp script and a few predictable twists, but also a great ending. Mark Rylance is also smooth as fuck in his role.

 

Nothing more to say, just a fun time.

 

B

 

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Heartman

dir. Nia DaCosta

 

Spoiler

From the mind behind Little Woods and the upcoming Candyman remake and The Marvels, as well as Jordan Peele on the producer's position, we have an original horror movie based on Bajan culture for Memorial Day.

 

Heartman tells the story of a killer that rips the hearts out of naughty children, and the woes that a family has to go through to fight him off.

 

This is a pretty classic horror thriller, with a structure that you have seen many times before. So, usually, in cases like this, it's the details that matter in order to really make it stand out. And luckily, the details are quite good in what is a very, very solid horror film.

 

Heartman has really strong writing that not only gives us likeable, interesting characters, but also human characters that are not often seen in mainstream horror movies, who prefer to go for stereotype robots. Even our villain, a freaking child murdering demon, is effectively humanized - not in an offensive way, but in a "I hate what you're doing, but I hope you get out of this situation safe" way. The performances are also solid enough, and the display of Barbados culture (which I know nothing of, tbh) gives the film a refreshing personality.

 

Again, it is not a horror film that will change the game in terms of what you have seen before, nor is it very scary tbh. But it is well written, well paced, well acted and has a unique identity based on its cultural choices. It's my kind of movie and worth a watch on a hot Summer night for sure.

 

B+

 

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Sandboy

dir. Benh Zeitlin

 

Spoiler

Coming off Beasts of the Southern Wild and Wendy (two films I haven't seen, but my fellow critics who loved them have given me an idea of how they play like), Benh Zeitlin seems to be a director that focuses on the whimsical wonderland that is childhood, its exploits and the tales that are left to then tell when a child grows to adult. That mindset seems very much to be behind his CAYOM debut, Sandboy, an out-of-competition entry into Y8's Film Festival.

 

Royal Patel stars as Bree, a young girl desperate to find some escapism in a pandemic-ridden world where even her parents don't seem to interact in calm manners. Unexpectedly, she comes to find Arthur, a boy that seems to reserve some unbelievable surprises up his sleeve. The relationship that booms between these two characters is, at its best, magical, not only thanks to the kind performances of the two child actors, but also thanks to a whimsical screenplay and absolutely breathtaking cinematography, bringing you some truly gorgeous visuals in a film that can really remind you of the best work of Studio Ghibli, but in live action. Some fellow critics have referred to this as a better version of Ponyo, as a matter of fact.

 

Sandboy is a beautiful exploration of a child's hope to find something to be hopeful about and to smile about when everything, from the world being upside down to her parents literally hating each other, seems like a lost cause. And when that child does find something to smile about, she can't let go. Our children, our future, are here to enjoy a playful, imaginative childhood, and this film is a spectacular interpretation of that rule of life, that seems more and more like a goner in a world that has become increasingly cynical. Furthermore, the film also provides a gorgeous message about the meaning of a child - or really, just someone in general - in a family, no matter how scattered this family might be overtime.

 

If there's something I could complain about, it really is a spoiler, so I will talk about it in the box below:

 

Spoiler

Personally, I wish that Arthur wasn't real. I wish that he had been a product of Bree's imagination, an absolute beacon of hope made out of her pure desire for escapism in what seemed like a hopeless situation. Retroactively, the fact that he is real does kind of dampen the movie a little bit on re-reads, as you are aware that it's not Bree's fantasy, which I think would've been a more interesting choice. This is a preference thing for myself, all things considered.

 

Besides that, I think maybe the portrayal of two parents frustrated at each other was a bit exaggerated, at times it felt like it was just slightly overblown. That's more of a nitpick though, and both actors playing the parents did a good job.

 

Other than these complaints, I have absolutely nothing else wrong to say about Sandboy. It was a touching, beautiful, heartfelt tale that really resonated with me, and while it didn't compete in the Film Festival, it ended up being one of the most memorable films of the Festival nonetheless. Well done, Mr. Zeitlin.

 

A-

 

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The Wild Thornberrys

dir. Beth McCarthy-Miller

 

Spoiler

First of all, I would like to say "you're welcome" when it comes to getting the Beth McCarthy-Miller train going. I didn't expect it would, but it did, and what can I say except... well, you know it.

 

Now, The Wild Thornberrys was not exactly one of my favorite shows. I grew up on a myriad of different children's channels, and one of my faves was Nickelodeon. The Wild Thornberrys was on air and I saw a few episodes, out of curiosity not just because it was a Nickelodeon show, but also because I had been introduced to Eliza and Darwin through a video game. But it turns out that I didn't enjoy it all that much. I can't explain why, specifically - I guess I didn't find it all that funny. But ultimately, I much preferred other shows. Needless to say that this was in 2005-06, so I was just a kid and I had no real idea. Maybe if I watched it today, I would appreciate it much more.

 

Either way, I'll be the first to admit that, despite trusting Endless Entertainment, an adaptation of this show wasn't on my most anticipated list for the year. And as I found out that it is actually not a reboot, but a sequel to the original show that depicts older versions of the characters, I still didn't know what to expect. Especially with Ms. McCarthy-Miller - whom I picked for The Turkey Squad specifically because she was an SNL director, and I feared that this movie would also feel like an SNL sketch - at the helm.

 

As it turns out, McCarthy-Miller did take this a lot more seriously than I expected, and the end result was a pleasant surprise.

 

Karen Gillan stars as an adult version of Eliza Thornberry, a girl (now woman) with the power to talk to animals, but she can't tell it to anyone. As an adult, she has a daughter (played by Pixie Davies, Hilda herself), who also experiences these powers. The two team up to go on an adventure to figure things out. And an adventure does in fact unfold.

 

The Wild Thornberrys is pretty much what you'd expect a big budget movie based on this show to be: a wild romp with a lot of crazy action and fun animal shenanigans. But it also boasts a darker tone than I expected (far darker, at times), which isn't necessarily a bad thing given that this film is trying to be four-quadrant. Most oddly, though, it has pretty much the entirety of Hollywood in it. No, seriously, this cast is, to say the least, overqualified, a lot of huge stars get small roles at best and downright unintentional cameos at worst (this is most notable with Timothée Chalamet - while I can see why he would accept the role he took here, I can't believe he actually negotiated to barely show up in the film).

 

Luckily, Karen Gillan's Eliza and Pixie Davies' Diane are more than fleshed out, and they are fun to watch together, bringing a resonant mother-daughter dynamic that isn't exactly uncharted territory in a movie like this, but is certainly worthy of a thumbs up, especially as they were the one thing keeping the plot afloat even in the moments where it dragged the most (aside from the admitedly sorta weak opening act). And the way their characters wrap up, without spoiling anything, is really strong (despite the fact that there were some missed opportunities as well).

 

Besides them, John Cleese and Trevor Jackson are delightful as the voices of Darwin and Kipp, the show-stealers of the movie that get the most laughs and charms. Other actors, like Kumail Nanjiani and Mila Kunis, are there for easy paydays in almost typecast roles, while the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Timothy Spall, Beanie Feldstein, etc.... well, they showed up. Then there's the villains, who can only be described as one-note cartoon characters, really, but I guess I shouldn't have expected anything else. They do get one or two intimidating moments, I'll admit that.

 

At its best, The Wild Thornberrys is an entertaining adventure with some nice thrills and a few laughs. It really isn't anything otherworldly, but it's an enjoyable experience for all ages.

 

PS: The Toons v Reality short that preceeds this is perfectly serviceable slapstick as it is. It's basically a Duck Amuck rip-off, but you and your kids will enjoy it. (This does not affect the rating given to The Wild Thornberrys, though.)

 

B-

 

Edited by MCKillswitch123
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June

 

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Everything I Never Told You

dir. Chloé Zhao

 

Spoiler

Hot on the heels of her Best Director and Best Picture victory, Chloé Zhao is one of the hottest names in Hollywood. Her success goes beyond Nomadland, though, as The Rider was also a widely well recieved film, and she has Eternals on the docks.

 

New Journey Pictures Classics decided to put her in the director's seat for one of their films, this being an adaptation of a Celeste Ng crime novel. Everything I Never Told You tells the story of a Chinese American family torn apart by the sudden disappearance of their oldest daughter.

 

Zhao manages to milk the tension out of every actor accordingly, and the end result is a gripping drama with clear intentions to make the viewer try to step on the shoes of what it's like to not be privileged by society, what it feels like when the world seems against you, and what happens when there are people hurt by your actions nevermind how noble they might be.

 

The best aspect of this movie, hands down - besides the Oscar-worthy performances of Michelle Williams and Daniel Wu as the lead protagonists - is the arc surrounding the mystery of the disappearance of this teenage girl that unfolds as the centerpiece of the film, with the reactions from the different characters, as well as the events leading up to the mystery turning what could've been a simplistic crime thriller into a powerful tale of resentment, contempt towards the world and pain.

 

The movie loses points on some of its characters. Nath, played by Ryan Potter, is an immensely annoying character, and the movie really tries to force him down your throat as sympathizable in any way, but as things become more and more clear, it becomes increasingly apparent that he's a dickwad. While the younger daughter is really only there for no good reason, and Emily Mortimer is completely wasted in a totally forgettable role.

 

But it is a very good movie, and I do think worth watching, especially if you are a person of Chinese descent, or hostile towards Chinese descent people. In the current landscape where xenophobia against Chinese people is growing, it is an important film to watch and take in, despite a few narrative failures that stop it short of being as good as it could've been.

 

B+

 

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Bailey Buckets: A Hoops Story

dir. Charles Stone III

 

Spoiler

Another fucking one of these. Argh.

 

Luckily, it's probably the best one. It's about a girl who wins a scholarship and whatever. It is the most structurally coherent Hoops film, even if it is still average as all Hell.

 

C

 

Edited by MCKillswitch123
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July

 

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Meme Th(II)eves

dir. Jake Szymanski

 

Spoiler

Meme Thief wasn't even profitable and yet we're getting a sequel... sure.

 

The first one was obnoxious as Hell for something that could've at least been funny. This one, however, is indeed hilarious... as a shitpost movie. It's a gooooood shitpost movie. Trust me: it's truly one of those "once in a while" kind of experiences that would only be even better if you're totally blazed when you see it. The best part is when our teenage "heroes" literally escape in a car chase from the American Secret Service, reaffirming to the world what everyone already knows since 9/11 unfortunately happened: the American Secret Service is trash. But not to be completely outdone is my second favorite part, of a dank meme that can hack the White House. You heard that right, ladies and gentlemen. I swear I'm not on LSD.

 

No, this is obviously bad. It's not F-bad, because the movie is charmingly in on the joke and is legit more fun for it, but it is really, really bad. I wouldn't call Losers Weepers and Wet Willy good movies, but I'd call them legitimately good bad movies; whereas this is a little more on the obnoxious bad side. That being said, I did still have some entertainment, so its grade isn't a complete reflection of my feelings on it lol.

 

D-

 

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The Gnashing

dir. Trey Edward Shults

 

Spoiler

Trey Edward Shults is a director that's been on the rise in the last couple of years for his strong dramatic sensibilities, and films like Waves and It Comes at Night made the director an indie sensation for the last couple of years. Personally, out of his work, I'm only truly familiar with It Comes at Night, and I feel like it is a quite solid movie, although, yes, I can't disagree with the controversy surrounding the misleading marketing campaign - which, to be fair, wasn't really the movie's fault whatsoever, but it is what it is.

 

As far as his CAYOM work goes, Y2's After Party I think is a movie that bravely and (mostly) respectfully deals with an extremely sensitive subject matter, within the confines of the claustrophobic suspense thriller that it chooses to be - but I also feel like it had some shortcomings in the vein of at times feeling a bit over-the-top. And, I could honestly draw some parallels between that and this film, The Gnashing.

 

The Gnashing is a horror movie where a group of six teenagers find a mysterious book that damns anyone who writes their name on it to Hell. Very simple premise, nothing exactly out of the ordinary, but with Shults at the helm, I expected that there would at least be some interesting underlines to this film.

 

And I will say that there are - albeit, they're not as strong as maybe there should be. The Gnashing is trying to lift up some debate on whether or not do we deserve to go to Heaven or Hell, and it does so with a realistic enough edge - not preachy or gratuitous like what you'd see in other Christian/religious films - that it warrants some respect to be given to Shults and New Journey Pictures.

 

Praise also has to go to the filmmaking itself, with some absolutely beautiful shots along the way; as well as the cast, with Hailee Steinfeld in particular being an obvious stand out for her strong performance as the lead character, Lisa. Ryan Potter and Amandla Stenberg also have some meat to their characters, and Dean-Charles Chapman does the best he can with the material given to him. The others are really just there, tbh.

 

However, despite the many elements that do work in The Gnashing, there is still an underlying cartoonishness in this slasher-esque horror thriller that never manages to quite depart, one that I did feel with elements of Shults' previous CAYOM work, After Party, and apparently the director still hasn't quite done away with them.

 

This is most noticeable in the writing of Bruce, Dean-Charles Chapman's character. While he can have some moments where he brings out a compelling inner pain and hatred of the world, as well some seriously fucked up deliriousness - you wouldn't be wrong if you thought this guy is a paranoid schizophrenic who hasn't received any sort of medical attention in his life - there are some points where it's just... too much. Note it down, really: for every one or two moments where it feels like the character's diabolic nature can feel creepily real, there's one or two moments where he's dialed up to 100 and it sort of takes me out of the scene. Fortunately, it never reaches Aaron Taylor-Johnson in White Wyvern levels of ridiculousness, if you wanna compare with other Y8 villains.

 

The writing as a whole can be cheesy, sometimes to crippling effect, and it doesn't help that I'm pretty sure that it will ultimately make this film feel dated at some points.

 

But, to its credit, it does boast enough good things that I can't really consider it an awful time at the movies. Could it have been better? Absolutely. Is it a huge offender? Thanks to some strong filmmaking, very good casting and some kernels of interesting philosophical discourse, not really.

 

C+

 

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Fullmetal Alchemist: A Tale of Two Brothers

dir. Scott Derrickson

 

Spoiler

Anime adaptations. These are always interesting beasts, no matter what happens - they can either be rewarding and engaging, like Megalo Box; or ambitiously messy, like Attack on Titan. No matter what you get, it's always a unique feature, for whatever that's worth.

 

Fullmetal Alchemist is one that I've heard of since childhood, I've known of the existance of this series for a long, long time, but I've never really figured what it was about. I knew there was robot stuff in it (I was a bit off, it's actually "suits of armor"), but beyond that, not much. So, this was basically my introduction to the franchise, so keep the fact that I knew almost nothing about Fullmetal Alchemist before going into this movie.

 

With that said, does this movie hold up on its own right?
 
A Tale of Two Brothers is the origin story of Ed (Jaeden Martell) and Al Elric (the voice of JD McCrady), two brothers who tried to basically do a magic trick (alchemy, more specifically) to bring back their dead mother, but the operation fails and their bodies are taken away. A few years later, they're recruited to become alchemists for the state.

 

At least, that's the simple premise of it all. The end goal of these brothers is to get their bodies back, but given how this movie played out, that feels like at least 3 or 4 movies away. Instead, Ed and Al had to deal with a bunch of subplots whose thematic depth ranged from interesting to kinda shallow in a movie that blatantly feels like a setup film, comparable to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (hehe) or The Odyssey: The Spoils of War.

 

The thing, though, is that both of those movies are quite good, despite the fact that they so obviously feel like Part 1 of their respective franchises, while A Tale of Two Brothers never really quite achieves that quality in comparison. But I definitely wouldn't call this movie awful either. It's... another anime adaptation attempt, basically; it works in parts, and not so much in others.

 

The things that work, work pretty decently. The relationship between the two brothers is well estabilished and fleshed out in the film, and their chemistry together is enjoyable to watch. I also liked the performances of Kathy Bates and Florence Pugh, though saying that I liked the performances of Kathy Bates and Florence Pugh really shouldn't come as a surprise - they are brilliant, even though their roles basically came down to simplified versions of home mom and worried sister, and they don't really get much to do, but the little they do, they do it well. Alicia Vikander is probably the gold standard of the supporting cast, getting a badass character that allows her to flesh her muscles a little bit. The visual effects are quite good, albeit reminiscent to what Scott Derrickson had already done with Doctor Strange, but I guess that's exactly why New Journey and Horizon picked him as director. And, the main theme of this movie, the overall arc that this film explores, does end with a conclusive, not really life-changing but certainly worth discussing message regarding the irreversability of death.

 

Where this movie fails, however, is in its many other strings that it tries to pull. For starters, it has a lot of characters being played by way, way too qualified actors - Dave Bautista gets literally two or three lines; Colin Firth appears in one scene; Andrew Garfield gets almost nothing to do; Henry Golding... he's given more than the aforementioned but he never really rises beyond the archetype veteran character, though his casting makes more sense than others. Then, there's the villains - two of them specifically. One of them is not immediately revealed, and there is some level of thematic intrigue to this character that harkens to the film's overall messaging, but at the same time, it is executed in a hammy way that not only makes it feel like the kind of padding you would see in an actual anime that doesn't translate well to a standalone film, but that also kinda takes away from the seriousness of the subject matter. And then there is the main villain, who is just a generic cartoonish evil figure who could've been a lot better explored, given some of the other thematic hints this character has around them, but, once again, never really takes off beyond "muahahahaha I'm the bad guy evil nefarious" and that's that. There could've and should've been more. All of these things, interwoven between each other, make for a film that feels a bit rushed and a bit messy.

 

With that said, I wouldn't say that it was as frustrating and exhausting as something like an Attack on Titan... it was just there, really. Not a terrible adaptation, and I'm sure that the fanbase will enjoy it, but as an introduction to the series, it doesn't do a lot - just about the bare minimum.

 

C+

 

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Animal Crossing

dir. Steve Martino

 

Spoiler

This past year, Animal Crossing went from being a relatively decently-known video game franchise, to an absolute global phenomenon thanks to the release of New Horizons right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The franchise has been around for decades now, but this was the game that powered it to the heights of a legit record-breaking series.

 

Naturally, we had to get an Animal Crossing movie in CAYOM, especially with the amount of successful Nintendo adaptations in the game (obviously there's the Pokémon movies; and animation-wise, Super Mario Bros. and Splatoon combine to over $500 million in profit... of course, there's also the less commercially successful adaptations, like New Journey's own Pikmin, which still have an audience of their own). Steve Martino, director of the likes of Horton Hears a Who and The Peanuts Movie, was a wise choice to bring this project together, but did it actually work for me?

 

Well... ehh. I've read much worse video game movies in CAYOM (and seen much worse video game movies irl), but I've also read far superior. As a matter of fact, compared to the other Nintendo adaptations in the game (except Pikmin, which I haven't read), this is easily the weakest. Animal Crossing is a very literal adaptation of the game itself, and while sometimes that kind of translation can work, in this case, it makes for a film that's just too emotionally distant.

 

Elijah Wood voices Johnny, the movie's take on what would be the player's Villager character in the actual game. Johnny is a new resident on Leaf Town, a brand new town that's still in construction. And when he gets to Leaf Town, he's surprised by the news that he's actually the mayor of the city. As such, he's tasked with the job of pretty much building the town to the best of his physical and financial abilities.

 

As I mentioned, it's a 1 to 1 translation of the Animal Crossing video game itself - in that the lead character is someone (in this movie, voiced by Elijah Wood) moving in to a new place and inexplicably becoming the mayor, henceforth having to literally build the town using financial resources they acquire by doing communal chores. On paper, adapting the gameplay of a game to a movie isn't necessarily an inherently bad idea. However, it's usually best when it comes accompanied with some emotional depth, especially if your movie happens to be a G-rated animation primarily targeted at young children (not that you obligatorily have to have a life-changing message for your movie to be good or anything, but ultimately, it helps to emotionally invest your audience as much as you can).

 

Animal Crossing doesn't have any of that, besides a sloppily concieved message about how you shouldn't be a liar. Instead, it only feels like the movie overfocused on adapting the gameplay all too literally and forgot about how to enrichen the film from a thematic perspective. Its supporting characters are only there to spout exposition or have glorified cameos, the setup isn't anywhere near as viable in movie form, the film is emotionally mechanical and an opportunity to explore some of Animal Crossing's themes of learning to love your neighbors and your home place feels totally missed. I'm sure the reaction I have to this movie is how fellow critics reacted to Y5's Portal, both films being very similar in their approach to their source material - only that while I found Portal to be fun, this just feels meh.

 

That being said, it's not all bad in this movie. Elijah Wood delievers a rock solid voice performance, the animation is butter smooth, it is entertaining to see the evolution of Leaf Town itself, and there are some moments of charm spread throughout. And, ultimately, it's a film that I'm sure audiences will enjoy with its laid-back atmosphere and technical faithfulness to the game itself. Personally, not really my cup of tea, but I will admit that it still could've gone worse in less careful hands.

 

C

 

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The Exchange: European Studies

dir. Sean Anders

 

Spoiler

Sean Anders returns to direct a spin-off sequel to last year's The Exchange, and this time around, Marcus Scribner goes to France to learn all about romance and some teen angst.

 

It exists. Nothing really out of the ordinary, just a totally whatever movie. There's a teen, there's romance, there's a little bit of social anxiety, but generally, nothing really stands out. I actually did like The Exchange (the original), but this definitely feels like a cash-grab.

 

C

 

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Static Shock: Frozen Summer

dir. F. Gary Gray

 

Spoiler

Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious director F. Gary Gray's - if you count Spark: Homeward - third attempt at a CAYOM superhero movie and his return to DC brings us to a sequel to Y5's Static Shock.

 

Virgil (played by Niles Finch) is on Summer break, and a new threat arrives by the name of Permafrost, a metahuman that can create blizzards. But he finds out that Permafrost is actually a low class young woman named Maureen (Sierra Capri), who lives on the edge of a depressive crisis everyday.

 

I was not a huge fan of Static Shock, the original movie. It was too unfocused and generic to really stand out as special, despite some great action and a few good characters. But when I heard of the pitch for this sequel, I was immediately guessing that it had potential to be a clear improvement. And, it is.

 

Frozen Summer is much less generic and far more interesting than the first Static Shock film, driven by a twist on the traditional narrative of a superhero film - that the antagonist isn't really a villain per say. Maureen is a troubled, tragic character driven by the heartbreak of living in terrible conditions and feeling the weight of the world in her shoulders. It's ultimately her anxiety that drives the plot of Frozen Summer in ways that we haven't seen many superhero films try to do before, and Sierra Capri did a pretty solid job as the character.

 

Regarding Virgil and the other supporting characters, they're pretty good as well. Virgil's dilemma of wanting a Summer break from his superhero identity, coupled with the evil government making a superpolice that takes big need out of him to always be present, was a clever idea for an arc for our protagonist and for this sequel to have a refreshingly smaller scale. We get a lot more of characters like Sharon and Freida, who barely made a footprint in the first movie but are now clear presences, and they're enjoyable, while Virgil's buddy Richie still has gold interactions with him.

 

As for flaws, the movie is a little overlong at 2 hours (1h45 would've been enough for this, honestly); the first act is a bit on the slow side, takes a while before the interest really kicks in; and I wish the movie had been more ballsy in actively criticizing the law system in America, particularly since this is a film that deals with a corrupt government empowering the police in a city driven strongly by minorities. Would've been a great opportunity for that.

 

Other than this, this is an enjoyable sequel and an obvious step up for Static Shock. Out of the three big blockbusters that F. Gary Gray's done in CAYOM, I'd say this is the best one.

 

B

 

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August

 

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Frankenstein Jr.

dir. Peter Ramsey

 

Spoiler

From the director of Rise of the Guardians and the co-director of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - in another words, this guy's got a lot of cred - comes another film from one of the new studios in the town, this time around, a PG family animation.

It certainly paints the picture regarding this studio that their strategy seems to bank on animation, which is a strategy that I appreciate as I personally am a big fan of animation lol. And as I mentioned in my review of said movie, The Insect God was good. So where do I stand regarding this film?

 

Frankenstein Jr. is an adaptation of a TV series, which consists of a teen inventor who finds himself at war with an Elon Musk-type who owns the biggest corporation in the world, and he counts with the help of his family and a giant robot named Frankenstein Jr..

 

I know absolutely nothing about the original show, Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles (in this case, the Frankenstein Jr. segments). I didn't even know it existed until I became aware of this movie. But having seen the film, I think that it sounds like one of those cartoons that 10 year old me would have absolutely devoured, cause kick-assery, sci-fi, superheroes and that kind of stuff was right up child MCKill's alley.

 

But, that doesn't matter, because a movie should always stand on its own firm ground, regardless of what an adaptation of something else does with it. And with that, I can confidently say that Peter Ramsey's Frankenstein Jr. is... ehh.

 

I don't like having to be a little harsh towards new players in the game, definitely not, and as I already mentioned, I enjoyed The Insect God, so El Squibbonator can rest assure that something worked out in their debut year. But as far as this adaptation is concerned, it really isn't anything special. It's a very clichéd boy inventor meets radical invention and tries to save the world type of plot, without really trying to deviate much from the kind of formula you'd expect out of a film like that.

 

And... that's really that lmao. It really is just a clichéd sci-fi family movie full of tropes that you've seen before a million times. The family hidden from civilization for years to come, the evil corporate villain whose only purpose is to take over the world, the cute relationship between a boy and a pet, in this case, robot - it's, beat for beat, a mashup of been there, done that. And that's disappointing, cause there was an opportunity to delve deep into perhaps themes of corporate greed and overpowering tactics, but it seems less interested in any of that and more so in just blowing shit up.

 

Now, is that to say that the movie is not entertaining? I wouldn't say so. For the type of clichéd film that it is, I still found myself engaged in it enough, if for nothing else than the fact that there's a lot of action and it is exciting to see a giant robot and a giant robot wolf punching each other. The cartoon this film is based on was a superhero show, so I'm not surprised that the big bombastic stuff is cool looking, but otherwise, I really did expect more, especially after The Insect God.

 

The film was apparently produced by Warner Animation Group, and, without having seen the likes of Smallfoot or (God forbid) Scoob! or Tom & Jerry, it is certainly a step down from The Lego Movie or Storks, while probably a step up from The Lego Ninjago Movie. Audiences will probably enjoy it,.

 

C+

 

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The Space Between Trees

dir. Debra Granik

 

Spoiler

Coming off Leave No Trace and CAYOM Y6's Best Picture winner Paradise Island, it seems like Debra Granik is a director with a clear vision that has left an impact on current film fans. EssGeeKay Studios wanted to take advantage of that, signing with Granik for a film that ends up being the studio's in-competition entry for the Y8 Film Festival.

 

An adaptation of the homonimous novel by Katie Williams, The Space Between Trees tells the story of two high school seniors, Evie (played by Olivia DeJonge) and Hadley (Diana Silvers), who are trying to uncover the mystery of the murder of a friend of theirs. As it turns out, however, this investigation leads the two girls down a seriously dark path of lies.

 

The immediate movie that springs to mind when thinking about The Space Between Trees is Dear Evan Hansen, as its lead character Evie, similarly to Evan, too manages to ditch herself so far underground with a lie that can't be untold and then continues to lie, and lie, and lie, which leads to her getting to know Hadley, who too falls into this trap of lies. But the key difference between the two films - besides the fact that Dear Evan Hansen is a PG-13 musical while Space Between Trees is an R-rated mystery - is that Dear Evan Hansen, despite what you may feel about its central character, has a cohesive narrative... something that I just cannot bring myself to say about The Space Between Trees.

 

This movie, narratively speaking, is very problematic. Things are introduced in the film and then forgotten about until very later, or things are introduced and made irrelevant, or things that should've been introduced sooner are introduced way too late, all of this in a mish-mash of scenes that feel like our lead characters' motivations are never made remotely clear, always trying to find excuses to never tell the audience itself the truth.

 

And yet, that very last line is what makes The Space Between Trees strangely compelling. The film is told from the perspective of these two wildly troubled girls, one of whom is just a "bad girl" by nature and the other who seems to have some sort of social anxiety disorder and sometimes feels like she understands the difference between right and wrong and goes ahead with some decisions she's aware are not very good all the same. This makes neither of these characters extremely sympathetic. But, the film is bold enough to actually go forth and continue to follow these characters through and through, as they dive further and further into their own web of lies and mischief, and really reveals its intentions to make them the heroines all the same, because, at the end of the day, it recognizes that these two teens are really just looking for an excuse to get some adrenaline rush and attention-seeking in their life. One of the lines really says everything - they do it "just to know what it feels like", and if necessary, they will endlessly lie about it, no matter how it makes them feel afterwards. When you understand the movie from that perspective, it really does shine a light on how interesting its device of presenting the film as incoherently as it does is - because the characters are lying to you just as much as they are lying to the characters around them.

 

DeJonge and Silvers - more so DeJonge - do a really good job in their roles, and their supporting cast isn't bad either despite the fact that no other character really felt like they had that much to do. Jack Reynor has the most fleshed out supporting character and he does a fine job, but really, this film puts all of its eggs on the Evie and Hadley basket, and one could easily argue either way. I myself am somewhat in the middle, and yet, at the same time, definitely in the positive camp.

 

This is not a movie for everyone. I could without question see someone say that this movie is crap. No surprise, therefore, that the source material is pretty divisive on its own right - if it's anywhere near like the movie, it should be, and apparently, it actually is even more disorienting than the film. But I feel like the film gets somewhat misrepresented, and it's partly its own fault as the film never makes it clear that it's actually more of a psychological drama than it is a murder mystery. But reading the movie for the first time with that in mind, I was able to picture things much more clearly, and I'm sure that it'll get better on re-reads. Love it or hate it, it's a movie you need to experience for yourself in order to truly form an opinion about it.

 

B+

 

My Dreams

 

New Tricks

dir. Stephen Chbosky

 

Spoiler

Out of "critic"-character note for Slam: I know that this movie is your passion project and I'm very glad that you were able to realize it for all of us to see. Thank you for sharing it, from the bottom of my heart!

 

Now, Stephen Chbosky is one of the best working today at crafting stories about youth. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is legitimately excellent, while Wonder is a heartfelt (if somewhat saccharine) movie. So I was excited to see what Chbosky was going to cook up next (besides the upcoming irl Dear Evan Hansen movie), which was apparently a long yierned-for project in New Journey Pictures.

 

New Tricks (previously titled Greg on All Fours - I guess this Christian studio realized the amount of sexual innuendo memes on the title) is the tale of Greg (Sean Giambrone), a college student spending Summer at his dad's, when, overnight, he turns into a dog. The movie that follows afterwards is him and his family and friends dealing with that transformation and its consequences. A simple pitch, but one with plenty of potential for compelling storytelling.

 

I expected New Tricks to be of note, as it's yet another New Journey film that injects a realistic tale with fantasy elements, but this time around, it truly was a passion compromise for the studio, and I imagined that it was something that many of its creative higher-ups, particularly the ones responsible for the development of this film, were genuinely proud of and felt like they related to it, and wanted to make something that we as an audience would relate to.

 

What New Tricks is... is a perfectly solid family dramedy that didn't quite meet my lofty expectations, but was still enjoyable nonetheless.

 

At its heart is the performance of Giambrone, who really is the star of the film, both physically and as the dog version of Greg (and btw, the CGI on dog Greg is quite cute, albeit identical to the work done on Olive from Olive the Other Reindeer). His performance brings out the comedy and the emotional stakes and really elevates the film to a higher degree. Other good performances include those of Bryan Cranston and Catherine Keener as Greg's parents.

 

I will also point out that the message that Tricks pretends to transmit is a warm and comforting one, ultimately about how you are important in someone else's life no matter how down on yourself you are at a certain point in your life. Appropriate for a family film of this kind. And, the film is well shot, well paced and has some nice music to go along. It's a frankly easy ride to go along with.

 

What downs this from being as good as, say, Wallflower, really is an amalgamation of different things that kinda made the film a bit more over-the-top than I hoped it would've been. For instance, some of the characters in the film are either given very little to do beyond basically be completely obscured by Greg himself, or they are a bit too much - in particular, that of (uhh, I dunno if it's Haley Lu Richardson or Kathryn Newton, as the plot summary and the thread post both say different things). At first, I was willing to go along with this character and thought she was adorable... but as the film progressed and it became increasingly more apparent that she was just a sitcom idiot, I was turned off. Despite me mentioning her performance as good, Keener as Greg's mom can also... overdo it at times, albeit it's not entirely her fault - which leads me to another major issue with the film, the dialogue. The dialogue in this movie is inoffensively cheesy at best, and... well, bad at worst. And I know that the screenwriters were trying to really bring a heartfelt script to life, but the lines they gave their actors were hard to take seriously, especially in the more dramatic scenes. Some lines, in particular, just left me in a state of "WTF". Finally, there are some scenes in this film towards the end that felt completely redundant and should've just been cut out of the film altogether.

 

These issues take away from what could've been a really good movie and make it an ultimately just fine one. New Tricks is a decent watch for all ages and I really do think that it is a warm movie with good performances and a nice message. However, it reaches its hand far and it doesn't grab the brass ring, due to its shortcomings.

 

B-

 

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Strangers in the Town

dir. Claire Scanlon

 

Spoiler

From the mind behind almost every big comedy show of the modern age, and the director of Set It Up and many TV shows, comes this original period comedy imported from the 1.0 era of CAYOM - a relic, basically.

 

Strangers in the Town tells the story of Jim Linn (played by Jon Hamm), the local hero of a Minnesota town in the turn of the 20th century. But his luck changes when two strangers arrive town and start playing their games.

 

I'll be very straight to the point here: this isn't really my kind of movie. It actively relies on you sympathizing with a bunch of unlikeable assholes and being willing to forgive them in order to go along. There have been a few comedies that made similar concepts work - The Royal Tenenbaums is literally one of my favorite movies ever, actually - but generally, it's not quite my style. Probably because I'm a very hard forgiver (blame my autism spectrum disorder for it) and I resent for long lmao. But yeah, the main characters of this movie are jerks.

 

Is the movie bad because it's not my style, however? No, not at all. It's a legit well told tale about two men seeing their bad paths in their own ways and coming to gripes with each other in their lives. Jon Hamm is excellent in the lead role, as he normally is; the remaining cast all do their jobs well; Michael Schur gives us another sharp script with well written comedic setpieces; the production design is appropriate; and it is a generally entertaining time at the movies.

 

Not my cup of tea, but won't blame the movie or its makers for it, and it is pretty decent for what it is.
 

B

 

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The Outback

dir. Alistair Fothergill

 

Spoiler

How much money does John Williams make on these nature documentaries? He seems to score all of them.

 

Anyhow, it's another one of these, and just like all of the others, it's cool. I like these. This one is about an entire ensemble of animals from the outback, rather than just one species, which I guess helps dissipate the monotony that the docs focused on just one kind of animal can potentially bring. But, it's still not as cool as a Snow Leopards or even a Snow Monkeys.

 

B

 

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Learning to Care

dir. Brett Haley

 

Spoiler

Coming from I'll See You in My Dreams and Hearts Beat Loud writer-director Brett Haley, Blankments Productions' entry into the Y8 Film Festival in-competition - after their out-of-competition home run with Sandboy - is this naturalistic dramedy about, well, learning to deal with the future.

 

Learning to Care tells the story of Rob (played by Nick Robinson), a recently graduated young adult who starts working at a child care center. A very simple pitch, and the execution of the concept itself is also extremely simplistic, through the naturalistic lens that the film sees its events unfold. However, just like everything, simple isn't bad if it's correctly done, and in this movie, it's just right.

 

Learning to Care is a movie about how, at the end of the day, no matter what decisions you make in your life, you will always have someone watching out for you. It's a hug in form of movie form. It's reassurance that you are never alone, and that while you may not have as much time as you think to make your decisions, it's never too late to go forth with them.

 

Nick Robinson is terrific in his very subdued performance as Rob, who timidly steps forward to a job and just lets the world around him unfold. A potential career high performance for him, and that's saying something that he's already proven his talent before. However, it's unarguable that both Brigitte Lundy-Paine and Jimmy Tatro outshine Robinson. Lundy-Paine's Ashley is a similar character to Rob who takes time to open up to the same child care job, while Tatro plays Robby, outgoing center worker that is just an absolute delight to be around. Both of these characters are far more fleshed out than Rob and, ultimately, their actors give superior performances, in my mind - again, potential career highs for both.

 

Beyond the main trio, the rest of the cast all do a perfectly adequate job, even if not extraordinary, but it really is Robinson, Lundy-Paine and Tatro who make this movie soar so high at its absolute best. The combination of actor, character and script in this film simply functions to the best of its potential. Speaking of script, it is important to note down that even though this isn't a movie with some grand scale character arc or a movie where really a lot of things happen, it is still so incredibly easy to watch, because of how laid-back it is and how refreshingly clean its script shows itself to be.

 

Do I have some problems with Learning to Care, though? Yes, I do. The main of which is something that I've already hinted at: Rob is not an incredibly well fleshed out character. We never really get a sense of who he truly is, beyond his rare opening ups with a select few people. I think it would've made it a lot more interesting if he were to interact with other people in his personal life, like his parents or anyone else in his close family. Despite the fact that he is the main character, Ashley and Robby feel so much more complete because they have far more distinct personalities than "silent person who is anxious about things in general". Rob is a very likeable and relatable person, but it would be good if audiences were let in more in his life.

 

Also, I think that the film drops certain elements of information a bit too abruptly. Don't wanna get into spoilers, but there are certain decisions that characters take that really could've almost been spin-off movies in their own right - I know these exact words have been spoken by another fellow critic, and I absolutely agree with them. Granted, they deserve the benefit of the doubt due to the naturalistic approach that the film takes, as it is told from Rob's perspective and decisions like these do happen out of nowhere in real life. I don't think that they are poorly executed. I do think, however, that they would've resonated far more with me had they gotten some sort of build up to, instead of just hammered on you like a pipebomb being thrown at you with no anticipation. Ultimately, the emotional moments that these decisions provide do work, but they didn't really hit me to the core probably as much as the movie wanted them to. And, in a somewhat related note, there are elements of narrative in the film that get thrown at you... and then they're dropped very suddenly. Some other critics have hinted at what one of these elements is, but I have others in mind besides that one.

 

With that said, I think it's impossible not to enjoy Learning to Care. It's such a kind-hearted film that utterly invites you to love its characters and its world. Brett Haley proved himself as an amazing talent, and this is possibly one of the most memorable films of Y8.

 

A-

 

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Soar

dir. Kasi Lemmons

 

Spoiler

From the brilliant mind that has a quite successful career in acting, has made her way through directing and has even adapted a novel into an opera libretto, comes a sports biography about a significant American volleyball player during the 70's and 80's.
 

Soar is the definition of a crowdpleaser. It is not a heavy biographical drama that dives deep into the dark psyche of a star, but is rather focused on the fun side of Flo Hyman's legendary life. The subject matter for the film isn't presented with the most interesting personality or intimate life, but we are given an opportunity to understand her impact not just in the sport she played, but also in the lives of many people around her.

 

The best part about the film is likely the actual volleyball game sequences - I'm not a huge fan of playing volleyball (I suck at it), but I like watching it, and it is fun to see a legend in action. The climactic sequence is predictably tragic, but successfully brings closure to Hyman's life. Laura Harrier does a pretty job as the lead.

 

Unfortunately, because this movie is so focused in being a simple crowdpleaser, it ends up not really having much substance. We don't really know much about Flo Hyman as a person, nor do we get to understand her takes and true position on American social politics during the 70's - not that the film necessarily had to do that, but it feels like a wasted opportunity not to remind us that her story is inspiring in spite of certain things that could've gotten in her way. It just feels like a very basic rundown of her life's achievements and death.

 

As is, though, Soar is fun and watchable. It's a pretty skin and bones biopic, but as is, you probably would enjoy it. Certainly wouldn't be the worst pic to choose when you're browsing through Netflix.

 

C+

 

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Frankenstein Jr. is not a Warner Animation Group film-- it was produced by a fictional studio called The Workshop. CAYOM players are discouraged (though not banned) from using real-world studios, in an effort to create a consistent parallel-universe narrative. 

Edited by El Squibbonator
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September

 

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Panzer Dragoon

dir. Roar Uthaug

 

Spoiler

First thing's first, I have never played Panzer Dragoon Saga or any other game in the series, but I am well aware of its cult classic status and praise New Journey Pictures for going forth with an adaptation. I also praise the choice of Roar Uthaug, director of The Wave and the 2018 Tomb Raider reboot, to helm this film.

 

Panzer Dragoon tells the story of Kyle (Mena Massoud), a young man who is tasked with saving the fate of dragons against the moves of a crazed leader (Rami Malek) that wants to punish dragons. Kyle teams up with the snarky dragon Wisp (Chiwetel Ejiofor's voice) to stop his parade.

 

Just like with Tomb Raider, Uthaug did a pretty solid job of adapting Panzer Dragoon. I already mentioned how limited I am in my awareness of the game, but I'm very positive that this is a very faithful adaptation - not only that, but it's a pleasant movie on pretty much all accounts.

 

The standout is definitely Wisp - from his own personality, to his relationship with Kyle that has him commit to protecting his rider even through death. Wisp was the heart of this film and Chiwetel Ejiofor deserves the world, nothing new. The dragons in general were far more interesting than the majority of the humans, as even our protagonist was a bit of a generic hero kid we don't really know much of, beyond the fact that he's a bit whiny, but also courageous. On that note, Rami Malek's evil villain, while also on the generic side, was a bit better developed, with an interesting enough backstory that made me a little invested in his character.

 

Besides the characters, the movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Its $175 million budget was clearly well spent in some incredible visual effects and cinematography. The film is dazzling, sprawling and epic.

 

Though Panzer Dragoon lacks in complex storytelling and extremely rich main characters for the most part, it is perfectly serviceable blockbuster entertainment that will surely be worth the price of admission for the combination of a decent story and incredible visuals. Watch it in IMAX as the experience of seeing in the biggest screen possible is definitely the way to go.
 

B

 

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The Million-Dollar Jacket

dir. Michael Dowse

 

Spoiler

From the maker of The F Word, comes a remake of a 1931 action rom-com where Daniel Kaluuya wins a million dollars, gets it on with Issa Rae and then the two have to chase a missing lottery ticket while getting chased by loan sharks.

 

It's entertaining enough for a filler. A bit too dry bones, but I guess Kaluuya and Rae are a good choice for rom-com protagonists and the hook is nice.

 

C+

 

M A R V E L H E R O E S

 

The War Between Ants

dir. John-Paul Davidson

 

Spoiler

Another big scale documentary! Y8 has been the year of documentaries, for sure.

 

This one brings us the tale of the rivalry between Disney/Pixar and DreamWorks/PDI in 1998, that led to the separate releases of Antz and A Bug's Life one month apart from each other.

 

This isn't a completely new subject to film fans around the world, especially those who have a fondness of animation. However, to actually see a documentary dive deep into this toxic clash of egos between Jeffrey Katzenberg, a paranoid man desperate to prove to Disney that he was better than they thought he was and that he deserved everything and more than he had asked for, and John Lasseter and Steve Jobs, two prideful asshats who weren't gonna stand for a collision between their concept for a film and someone's very similar concept as well, was gripping.

 

This doc resourcefully made sure that, above all else, the characters mattered - Katzenberg in particular, who this film really didn't shy away from portraying as a vengeful psycho. The characters' wars were at the center, and the film created around it was enthralling pretty much from start to finish.

 

This is an extremely entertaining character study at its essential, and one that film fans - particularly animation devotees - will adore.

 

B+

 

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Green Arrow: The Ninth Circle

dir. Paul Greengrass

 

Spoiler

I'm not a huge Green Arrow fan, tbh. He's definitely not one of my favorite DC characters, I've never seen the CW Arrow show, etc. My relationship with Green Arrow is that of mostly apathy. I like his character fine, but I don't really care that much.

With that said, Y6's Green Arrow was a pretty satisfactory origin story superhero film. I felt like it maybe could've done better with an R-rating, due to the intensity and brutality of its action sequences as well as the graphic nature of some other moments, and I also felt that Charlie Hunnam was a... mixed pick for the job, as well as a few writing problems. But asides from that, it was a solidly structured movie with characters I cared about, and excellently choreographed action.

 

So, I was okay with it getting a sequel. I mean, why not, I guess. And with Paul Greengrass at the helm, it would at least be indicative of some good action setpieces.

 

As it turns out, I think that this movie is comparable with Greengrass' previous efforts in CAYOM, the Call of Duty trilogy. I would say Green Arrow: The Ninth Circle is around the quality range of the Call of Duty films. But obviously, being on par with a CoD movie isn't necessarily an amazing feat on its own right, and this movie doesn't really bring the goods as far as being a really strong superhero film. As a matter of fact, I would even say that this is worse than the previous Green Arrow movie.

 

The plot of this movie is that there's a mysterious death cult called the Ninth Circle roaming in the shadows of Star City, and Green Arrow has to step up and destroy it before it conquers the world. Nothing out of the blue, but then again, neither was the first movie, which I think was more satisfactory than this one.

 

On the plus side, the action scenes were once again well choreographed, some good stuntwork and setpieces, anchored by Greengrass' grittier directing style that I think blends decently with the kind of tone that Endless has wanted out of these Green Arrow films. Lana Condor is really good as Artemis/Arsenal, she's probably the highlight of the cast, for me. And... yeah, as a whole, it is an entertaining enough movie for what it is.

 

But, honestly, I didn't feel anywhere near as emotionally invested as I did with the previous film. Hunnam is fine as a far more humanized Oliver Queen than the one we got in the previous film, but obviously that this arc isn't anywhere near as interesting, despite bringing some facets of intriguing stuff from an emotional core perspective. Other supporting characters, like Felicity or Malcolm, aren't all that interesting on their own, to be completely real with you. They're not bad, but they're not all that great either. And then there's... Matt Damon. I guess that this being a Greengrass film was how Damon was on board for this sequel, but the role he gets here... ehh. He's kind of over-the-top, the film builds him up as the ultimate scumbag but then just kinda pulls him off as a lackey. I personally wasn't all that invested in his character, and I'm surprised that Damon even accepted the role in the first place.

 

Not only that, but the whole Ninth Circle plotline, while not necessarily terrible, can feel convoluted at times and is just sort of the most generic thing a superhero movie sequel could possibly go about with. The best thing it brings - and the best part of the whole movie, really - comes with the end credits stinger. I don't know how other critics will react to that reveal, but I thought it was clever.

 

I wasn't very emotionally invested in this movie whatsoever, and while it did have some cool action and a good performance by Condor, and it ultimately comes across as a serviceable at best blockbuster feature, Green Arrow: The Ninth Circle was a bit of a letdown. Out of all the superhero films I've read in CAYOM so far, I'd say this is probably one of the weakest, if not the weakest.
 

C

 

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October

 

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Olive's Hallowed Eve

dir. Jemaine Clement

 

Spoiler

Taking the helm of Olive from Taika Waititi is Jemaine Clement, and if you've never heard of What We Do in the Shadows (both the film and the TV show - which he not only starred in but also created and directed), you must've been living under a rock for a while now, but his work as an actor and comedian goes far beyond that.

 

Olive's Hallowed Eve is the much anticipated sequel to CAYOM's gold standard for musicals, Y5's Olive the Other Reindeer. In this movie, Olive the Dog (voiced by Zendaya) is challenged to rescue Halloween from mischieve, and that's as much as I wanna put out without going into deep spoilers.

 

It wasn't that long ago that I read Olive the Other Reindeer for the first time. I had never seen the TV movie, as it is. But Olive was every bit as good as people were hyping it up to be. It was charming, wholesome, gorgeous, brilliantly acted and written and just the absolute definition of a Christmas classic. But I was admitedly worried about the direction that Blankments Productions could take for a sequel. The idea of a Halloween movie seemed interesting, though I was afraid that it would feel like a redux of the previous movie.

 

Luckily, Olive's Hallowed Eve is smarter than that. This is a satisfying sequel that will surely please young and adult alike.

It takes a while before it gets going. The first act is entirely devoted to setting up the inner conflicts of the characters - from Olive's depression over the idea that her life peaked now that she's saved Christmas (Zendaya is really good in the role as always); to Martini the Penguin spending more time in his office than with his friends; to new character, shy and awkward Tortie - played by Jemaine Clement himself - being afraid that his brother Josh, Olive owner Tim's boyfriend, will no longer care about him. You can see by this first act that Hallowed Eve is a more personal and slightly darker sequel. But admitedly, it never really clicks strongly. Perhaps because a lot of characters are juggled in, many of whom don't really have much to do, and the film's direction isn't exactly clear from the get go - attention: the latter point can be a good thing, leading to lack of predictability; but since this is a family movie that's obviously about saving Halloween, you kinda know where it's gonna go eventually, so the fact that the beginning of the film is a bit clunky is off-putting.

 

Thankfully, things improve pretty much from the second act (or even half) of the film onwards, as Ted Danson's villain goes to work. Danson is extraordinary in his role, a villain that I thought to be quite funny (not quite the MVP of the movie, that would be Clement, who I think wouldn't be undeserving of a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but then again, neither would Danson), although I was a bit hesitant at first cause it looked for a moment like he was just going to be a Postman 2.0; luckily, the film goes in a few different directions, enough to veer him away from retread territory.

 

The movie in general takes a big swing from a certain point onward, and it really starts shining its light from there onforth. Hallowed Eve reveals preoccupation for those who feel lonely, or like they have a chip on their shoulder and don't know what to do with their lives, and asks them to relax and never forget that they're not alone. A warm, positive message that is befitting of a Holiday movie - Halloween is a Holiday, after all. And while it sometimes feels like it's about to career off the road with a lack of focus due to either too many characters or just not enough streamlining, it manages to correct itself just in time with a great conductive tissue carried strongly by the characters of Olive and Tortie, who really are the film's heart and soul.

 

While I can't say that this is as good as Olive the Other Reindeer, this is still a recommend for anyone alike, and I feel like it is going to become a Halloween tradition for children - maybe not for grown ups who'd rather watch a horror movie, though.

 

B+

 

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Out of Order: The Decline of the Arcade

dir. James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot

 

Spoiler

Wow, this really has been the year of the documentary, with stuff like Flightless Bird, The Idiots, The War Between Ants and now this churnout by New Journey Pictures Nonfiction.

 

Out of Order: The Decline of the Arcade is a movie based on, well, the rise and fall of arcade games and how this is a parallel to the ever mutating changes in communal or even personal habits for many people. In some cases, the decrease of interest in these habits can lead to businesses going down, like the arcade owned by the lady highlighted in this film.

 

NJP Nonfiction has been a force in the documentary field in the last couple years, with Calendars being one of my favorite documentaries ever in CAYOM, while the likes of Yolanda Dreams of Yogurt and The Last Fifer: Portrait of a Clarinetist being pretty solid on their own right. Does this live up to that legacy?

 

I'd say so. This is a pretty solid movie. It helps that it's a topic of interest for me, but I think it manages to successfully tell its story in an approachable way for people who are not well versed in video game history, while also containing not exactly completely brand new but certainly reaffirming information for those who have followed closely the history of arcades. It was nice to put the focus on the dying art of the arcades, one that I have some memories of during my life and feel sad that is becoming increasingly more distant.

 

Now, I'm sure that some critics may point out that this is fairly similar to another documentary that we've already had in CAYOM, Hourglass Pictures' Paddles: The Video Game Story. It does share some plot points and the overall thematic of video game history - though, personally, I don't hold that against this movie, as both are different enough to stand out from each other, one being about the rise and fall of Atari and the evolution of video games as a whole while the other being specifically about arcades.

 

What makes this movie probably superior to Paddles, I would say, is a heavier emphasis on emotional grip to the viewer, by putting us face to face with a businesswoman who just lost her work due to the disinterest in arcades. It was an interesting idea to basically utilize arcades as a metaphor for the constant reshaping of habits and the entertainment world as is over the years.

 

It's a very solid watch that I think will certainly get some buzz from the video game community at large, like Paddles did back in the day.

 

B

 

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World of Trouble

dir. Jason Bateman

 

Spoiler

Numerator, let's see what ya got... again.

 

As you guys may be aware, I am a big fan of Y6's The Last Policeman. I thought it was a really clever idea, a traditional crime thriller set on a world literally destined to be ravaged, which asked a very interesting question of what really is the point of being yourself and continuing your routine if everything you know is about to come to an end. It had a great cast at hand and was exceptionally well written. Its sequel, Countdown City, was even more praised and actually got nominated for Best Picture among many other things... I will admit that I wasn't as high on it as everyone else was, as I thought that it sorta felt like a rehash of The Last Policeman, but I still very much enjoyed it. Needless to say, the franchise culminated with this one, and while I did have some skepticism going in, due to my less enthusiastic response to Countdown City compared to everyone else, I was still excited for it.

 

As it unfolded, I couldn't help but think that the film utterly blew my expectations away. This is now my favorite film in the trilogy and a movie that is a surefire contender to be in my top 10 of the year.

 

It's the third and final film in the Hank Palace trilogy, and Hank (now played by Alden Ehrenreich, as Ansel Elgort was replaced for... well, let's not get into it) travels far into the interior of the desolate, in-ruins America to reach out for his sister Nico (Kaitlyn Dever), who seems quite enrolled with the supposed secret plan of global salvation hinted at in Countdown City. Along the way... well, things unfold, and that's as much as I'll say without spoilers.

 

This movie blends the best of both Policeman and Countdown in clever ways, being, as the previous two were, a mystery thriller - but, unlike Countdown, where I felt that the main mystery at hand was almost a side activity that distracted us from where the focus should be, the mystery at play here absolutely makes sense and evolves the characters and the story. The stakes have never been higher and in a world that is closer and closer to the apocalypse, it really does come down to anything going for everyone involved.

 

The film subverts expectations in intelligent ways, while continuing to challenge these characters to confront who they are and what their aspirations and ambitions are in this doomed Earth. This especially applies to Hank Palace, as Ehrenreich replaces Elgort in style, although it took a while to get used to the actor change. Hank's desperate journey to find his sister Nico are the heart and soul of the movie. Other noteworthy performances are Dever as Nico, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Cortez, and especially Jimmy Tatro as Jordan, who I think gives one of the best performances of his career here. In general, a strong cast. The cinematography and set design are also top notch.

 

The only part that I would say dragged down things for me a little bit was when Hank encountered this family... without giving things away, it almost felt like the movie just abruptly changed its tone and wanted to focus on these sort of over-the-top characters that felt like they came from a different movie. Even still, these characters do eventually pay off.

 

Points also for the ending - one of the best I have yet read in CAYOM.
 

All in all, this is a banger of a franchise conclusion that I'm sure everyone will at least appreciate. Some of the twists may anger a few people, I imagine, but in my opinion, I think the movie prepared the movie-watcher for them adequately and it just felt like the place for these characters to go. I loved World of Trouble and I easily recommend it, especially if you enjoyed its two predecessors.
 

A-

 

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Dirty Hands

dir. Dan Gilroy

 

Spoiler

The man behind the likes of Nightcrawler and Roman J. Israel, Esq. has in store for us a political thriller that's very much one of the trademarks of Numerator Pictures, some critics even arguing that it bears a number of similarities with Numerator's own 24 Hours - including featuring Carrie Coon as a strong-willed protagonist in a film with parallel timelines. Having not familiarized myself with that movie yet outside of a few bare-bones descriptions, I will not hold this against Dirty Hands.

 

This movie, which was entered as in-competition into the Y8 Film Festival, tells the story of a lawyer (Carrie Coon) who is at odds with her client (Jeremy Strong), him being accused of murdering a high-ranking Syrian official. The present time story is intertwined with a past timeline that explores exactly what happened before, and helps the audience have an understanding of the inside of the brains of Strong's character David Baum.

 

Dirty Hands, like its title hints at, is a movie about people getting their hands dirty - if that sounds simplistic, bear with us. No punches are pulled back from this political satire-like approach, thanks to an extremely quick-witted and cerebral screenplay that I'm sure was one of the earliest attention-catchers for the Best Original Screenplay award at the Oscars (it actually did win Best Screenplay at the Film Festival, as a matter of fact). Gilroy writes his script with no real fear of creating rousing commentary on North American politics, in a way that I'm sure will satisfy viewers across all varied ends of the political spectrum.

 

Beyond that, Dirty Hands is also a solid showcase for its cast, particularly the two leads, Carrie Coon and Jeremy Strong, as well as Sterling K. Brown, who gets to play a lawyer in direct collision with Coon's character but also a friend of hers and one who understands that something may be happening. These three are the film's strongest actors/characters, given the most time to develop and or given the most down to Earth personality, in a film that, for sometimes better and sometimes worse, feels a bit... mechanical, you could point on that direction.

 

Make no mistake - Dirty Hands is as rock solid as a political thriller can be. However, you do get the sense that this movie looks to provide more of a political grit than anything, and while the three characters I mentioned do have interesting arcs, the narrative in of itself isn't the most immersive, perhaps because of the fact that the film continuously intertwines two different timelines and then interrupts them pretty much when they get going, as well as a script that is definitely aware of what it's talking about but sometimes actually feels like it puts its own awareness ahead of emotional engagement. Add that to a remaining cast of actors and actresses who do get to serve up some ham, but aren't given the most interesting characters at large outside of some good banter here and there, and you have a film that doesn't expand from being a really competently crafted thriller that you can certainly enjoy, but won't really blow your mind, as better has been done before.

 

Before I finalize this review, I do want to acknowledge the one elephant in the room that fellow critics have talked about as a potential film-ruining moment. This will be in spoiler box as, well, it's a gigantic spoiler, so, if you haven't checked this film out and want to, don't open this box:

 

Spoiler

The big twist. I will admit that, having read reviews of Dirty Hands before reading the film myself, I was aware that Carrie Coon's character would end up getting murdered. So, I walked into the movie with that knowledge. As such, I ended up feeling like the twist actually did work. Even though, yes, Coon's Alice was the most developed character of the movie and its centerpiece for a good chunk, what follows up right after does make it clear that not only is Strong's Baum the real protagonist at hand, but that the legacy of Coon's character in-film-universe could be carried forth and her death would even allow for some compelling drama to be created. I understand that for unsuspecting viewers alike, this will be a massive shock and may just ruin the experience. For me, I felt like it worked, and I ask fellow critics and audiences alike to give the film multiple reads/viewings, in order to see it from a different light.

 

As such, I conclude this review by saying that Dirty Hands is a perfectly well constructed movie, but it wasn't one of my faves.

 

B

 

Edited by MCKillswitch123
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8 minutes ago, El Squibbonator said:

Out of curiosity, are you writing these reviews from the perspective of someone in our world, or of someone in the CAYOM world? 

I guess you could say that it's from the perspective of an entity that lives in both worlds at the same time lmao

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38 minutes ago, El Squibbonator said:

Out of curiosity, are you writing these reviews from the perspective of someone in our world, or of someone in the CAYOM world? 

 

In my reviews, I like to pretend a little bit that I'm a reviewer in the Cayomverse, but the points that I make praising or critiquing aspects of the film are points that I have. The style that works for you would be okay, and reviews can be as simple as between two-three sentences if you wish.

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November

 

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Everything We Miss

dir. Michaël Dudok de Wit

 

Spoiler

The director of The Red Turtle brings us an R-rated animated film based on a book by the same author as the Hilda graphic novels. Now that's a departure.

 

Everything We Miss is the tragic tale of a relationship at a dead end. Will (voiced by George McKay) and Anna (Imogen Poots) are at cahoots, and action after action, it seems they are falling further apart - while those we do not know are there are watching them.

 

It may be exaggerating when I say that this is Y8's Tower of Babylon moment, and I mean that in an array of ways, but I'm very positive about that sentence. Alike what happened last year when Hunt Productions released an artsy, hardlocked film that they weren't very confident about, the same thing ocurred to Cookie Pictures and Everything We Miss.

 

This is a bizarre, undecyphirable film that almost wants to make it even harder for you to make sense of anything that's going on, and it takes joy in that. However, when you understand it - or at least, feel like you understand it - it clicks. Everything We Miss, superficially, is about how you may be so trapped in your own illusions that you miss so many small things along the way. That is the obvious symbolism the whole film is about, and it effectively works in transmitting that. But to me, this isn't just a movie about what to do when you're in a broken relationship. I interpret this as a movie about demons. It's a movie about how, when you live with your own demons, when you dwell too much in your own negativity as if you're addicted to it... life can become miserable.

 

I could refer to a number of details in this film, like that part where James McAvoy narrates someone lamenting how time flew by and it's Summer already; or how the old fat man wishes he had been in shape but never really was; or how the villain of the film is literally a shadow that our protagonist never sees, but is present in all of the moves that bring him to the edge of falling to a profoundly dark abyss. But destiny can give you a chance to redeem yourself. One lucky break, and you're welcome to experience life in a new light. For those who desperately wish that their lives are different... all it takes is one single ounce of rebelling against your mindless drone mechanisms (like the little creature that does just that), and you may veer off into a dramatically different path, a path that makes you happy.

 

This dark, brooding, visceral movie is one of those that's going to influence generations of animation enthusiasts for years to come, just like Laika did last year. It seems adult animation based on illustrated books is an apparent fountain for CAYOM success. I'd be shocked if I was alone in saying Everything We Miss is a Best Picture contender.

 

A

 

 

50 Shades of Grey Trilogy — “I don't make love, I fuck hard!”

 

The Three Caballeros Ride Again

dir. Matt Danner

 

Spoiler

Uhh................... what? What? WHAT?!

 

I don't even know what to say, honestly. I guess I'll quickly say that I've never actually seen The Three Caballeros movie or any TV stuff related, but I am well aware of the characters and have been since I was a child.

 

With that, no amount of awareness of these characters will prepare you for this. This will change everything. This movie will become a gold standard... and not for good reason.

 

All due respect to Cannastop Productions, I very much welcome the idea of LGBTQ+ representation, and in cartoons it's a good idea too. But whoever let Matt Danner direct this movie must be out of their minds. This is, for all intents and purposes, a steamy Fifty Shades of Grey-like, but with gay (or bisexual?) cartoon birds. Does that idea sound good to anyone who's not a furry? Anyone? No? Okay.

 

Even the 1940's cell shaded animation style, which is a beautiful artstyle, makes no sense when attached to this film. Nor does the "plot", which is about as thoughtful as that of your average porn film about a lonely wife and a plumber.

 

White Wyvern is a lot more offensive in comparison, but whereas I could understand appraisal for the film's concepts and the performance of Julia Garner, here, there's nothing to report other than appreciating the good intentions of representation. You will be scarred for life if you dare to see this.

 

F

 

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The Bronx is Burning

dir. Martin Scorsese

 

Spoiler

Ok, I will preface this review by saying that I don't have exactly what you would call a great understanding of baseball. Being European doesn't really help on that matter. I do know the general rules and all, I've actually played baseball in school and in Wii Sports. But I had to Google the meaning of certain terms present in this movie. That's not to say that this is an unapproachable film for people who are not baseball enthusiasts, but it's just a disclaimer about my stance on the sport before I read this movie.

 

Now, a Martin Scorsese film is always something to watch out for, regardless of it being a mobster epic, an existential piece like Silence, or a sports drama like Raging Bull or this. On the note of Raging Bull, that is a movie that I didn't wholeheartedly appreciate when I first saw it many years ago, I guess because I wanted it to have more boxing than it did. Yeah, I'm one of those who thought it was going to be Rocky 2.0. Of course, nowadays, I see the film on totally different lenses. Comparatively to that, I would say that The Bronx is Burning is a little more dedicated to the sport itself than Raging Bull was, while still maintaining the essence that the key is on the lives of the athletes themselves. But that's a little beside the point.

 

I would also say that this movie isn't some of Scorsese's best work ever or anything. But don't mind me when I say that, because this is still Martin fucking Scorsese. And this movie rules.

 

The film is set in the late 70's, during a comeback era for the New York Yankees, who have made it to their first World Series in years, but totally blunder it. The higher-ups decide to hire a brand new star for the team: Reggie Jackson (played by Michael B. Jordan), a cocky, confident guy who has superstar status and attitude. This clashes with the rest of the team, particularly the manager Billy Martin (Bobby Cannavale) and team captain Thurman Manson (Wyatt Russell), who stand off with Reggie for a number of different reasons. What unfolds is basically a dark dramedy that dives deep into these characters' colliding headstrong personalities as they try to agree to putting the Yankees in the map again, but can't commit to being united.

 

The Bronx is Burning is as Scorsese as you could ask for - really, it would only be more Scorsese if Robert De Niro showed up in it (yeah, spoiler alert, he doesn't). It manages to be a heartfelt, tragic, tension-filled and yet comical and somewhat lighthearted look at the dissention between these fighting personalities. The screenplay is an easy contender for Best Adapted Screenplay, since this is based on a best-selling book by Jonathan Mahler (which also spawned an ESPN mini-series); the soundtrack is an absolute killer, with some of the best music of the 70's; and the performances... my God, the performances.

 

Michael B. Jordan gives one of the showcases of his career here as Reggie Jackson, a star player with a chip on his shoulder to prove to the Yankees, who are a troubled team at this point in time and lack someone the status of Reggie, that he really is as talented as he says he is, never to be humbled and always to stand with his brash confidence, but still with small drops of insecurity and anxiety about his present and future with the Yankees. On the other hand, you have what might be Bobby Cannavale's career high as Billy Martin, a wrecked man who has clearly gone through better days in his life, desperate to prove to Reggie and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (Jason Clarke) that he is the one who's in charge (and who might be a bit racist too, though I think the film doesn't try to make it a clear motive on Martin's part as much as it just hints at it). The collision between these two, highlighted not just by their clearly distinct ways of life but also by their constant, bitter arguments brings out the absolute best of these two actors, who I think are very strong contenders for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nominations at the very least.

 

Beyond Jordan and Cannavale, the entire supporting cast shows up, with Wyatt Russell and Jason Clarke in clear evidence as well, but really, there's not a single person who isn't doing a fine job at the very least, regardless of how expanded upon their role is. I would say that there are some people who show up more so than others, though.

 

The Bronx is Burning is a captivating story, independently of whether or not you are a fan of sports, baseball or the Yankees. Scorsese directs the shit out of this movie and everyone in it does a good, and in some cases, incredible job. Is it the work of the director's historical career? No. Is it impressive all the same? Absolutely. I originally wrote that it wouldn't get an A+, but with the advent of time... fuck, it's only grown on me.

 

A+

 

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The Last Airbender: The Boy in the Iceberg

dir. Jon M. Chu

 

Spoiler

Jon M. Chu, the director of Crazy Rich Asians and the upcoming In the Heights, brings us CAYOM's adaptation of one of the most iconic American animated shows of all time, and one that hopefully redeems the franchise's cinematic history after M. Night Shyamalan's 2010 debacle.

 

100 years ago, the Avatar - the one that can bend earth, water, fire and air - vanished. Now, he's resurfaced. He is the last Airbender in the world, he's only a child, but he is the Avatar and he must team up with some friends and allies to learn waterbending, while being pursued by the Fire Nation.

 

My experience with Avatar: The Last Airbender is not the most expansive. The actual show, I've seen a few episodes of when I was kid in 2005/06, but I never actually watched the whole show from start to finish. That being said, what I have seen of it is pretty great. As for The Last Airbender (the 2010 film)... the less said, the better. Seriously, it is not good.

 

Blankments Productions is a fine as wine studio and I did trust them for this production, especially with a director like Jon M. Chu at the helm. And, as it turns out, The Boy in the Iceberg is a very solid adaptation of the source material.

 

The centerpiece of this movie is its characters. The characters really are the heart of The Boy in the Iceberg. From our heroes in Aang, Sokka and Katara, to the many different perky characters that they visit in their long journey, to the characters in the Fire Nation, such as Iroh and our antagonists, Zuko and Zhao. The latter three in particular steal the show - Zuko is an excellent tragic character who so desperately wants to prove himself; Zhao is a madman you love to hate; and Iroh... well, how can you not love Iroh. Chow Yun-Fat was spot on casting for that role.

 

Besides the excellent casting and writing (two things in which this movie beats the Shyamalan film by a landslide), The Last Airbender also boasts actually good visual effects, as well as great production design and cinematography.

 

The bad side of a movie that's clearly a part 1 of a franchise based on a TV show, though, is that the introductory side is gonna be there, and this movie feels extremely dense, sometimes for the worse. There are heaps of exposition, and some of it is delivered in creative enough ways, but it is a lot to learn, especially in the first act. Then there's the beginning of the second act, which has one too many flashback sequences in consecutive fashion, to the point where they were pretty intrusive. They weren't bad sequences, they further fleshed out the characters in an engaging way, but sometimes they were introduced to the film in rather random fashion and threw you off. And in the third act, it's hard not to notice the film desperately jumping from piece to piece and at times risking getting into the overstuffed territory, but it never quite reaches it, thankfully.

 

The Last Airbender: The Boy in the Iceberg is everything that the 2010 film wishes it had been, and a lovely adaptation of its source material, despite some obvious first movie weaknesses. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, it's a beefy film to watch if you wanna go see it for your kids, but it is a very entertaining, heartwarming and enriching experience that will enamore you in Thanksgiving season.

 

B+

 

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The World That We Knew

dir. Luca Guadagnino

 

Spoiler

Luca Guadagnino has been a director on the rise in the last few years. He's been around in the conversation with films like A Bigger Splash, but it really was the one-two punch of Call Me by Your Name and 2018's Suspiria that he catapulted himself to one of the key filmmakers of the current age. So I was interested in a Guadagnino-directed take on a movie whose themes revolve around the Holocaust as one of the out-of-competition entries in the Y8 Film Festival.

 

However, I won't deny that I walked into The World That We Knew with some skepticism. New Journey Pictures has some of the most imaginative filmmakers in the world, specializing particularly in stories of magical realism, and sometimes, that can work out well, while others... not so much. So, under the watch of that studio, I wasn't just gonna jump into this film with pretentions that it would easily be a winner. Especially since, at hand, were themes about one of the worst moments of humanity's history.

Well, I'm glad to say that my skepticisms were misfounded, because this was a good movie.

 

The World That We Knew is a rigid adaptation of the homonimous novel by Alice Hoffman, and it tells the tales of multiple different Jewish characters clashing with Nazi Germany in 1941. At the center are the characters of Dixie Egerickx, Lea, and Katherine Waterston, Ava, who are the heart of the picture and the focus of the film's shiniest plotline and moments. Ava, a character based entirely on Jewish mythology, is introduced to us as a figure who is meant to be a protector of Lea while the two make way towards escaping Nazi grasp, and every time the narrative focuses on them and their interactions not only with the world around them but also with other aspects of Jewish mythology, the film soars. The performances by the two actresses are sensational and really carry the big bulk of the film's weight (not to say that anything besides them is bad, obviously not). The introduction of these aforementioned mythology elements to the story is also done seamlessly and tastefully, never in any way feeling like they are a potential sour-tasting grape slapdashed on a story that had no business having any sort of relation to fantasy, given the scale of the drama at hand. Lea and Ava are this movie's soul.

 

Besides them, though, there's an entire remaining ensemble cast of actors, and some work better than others. Thomasin McKenzie plays a character that's also on the run from Nazis, but she takes a whole different path than Lea and Ava, and her performance is really strong, despite the fact that this character's story isn't quite as enrapturing as that of the protagonists. Another highlight is Finn Wolfhard, who gets to deliever a rock solid dramatic performance. And, in the brief moments where she does appear, Famke Jensen is a near scene-stealer, although her role is limited at best.

 

And there's so many more actors and characters in this movie - so many, in fact, that film almost loses track of itself trying to keep them all in check. As I mentioned, this is an extremely rigid adaptation of the novel it's based on, and because of that, it literally crams its entire story and all of its characters, with very few changes, into a rather compact 2 hour-runtime. And, sadly, some stories are a lot more interesting than others. As a consequence, sometimes it feels like the amount of characters and stories intertwined between each other is actually somewhat intrusive to the filmgoer's immersion, because there's so much to keep attention for - and not all of it is equally good material - that it risks getting messy at times. This works much better in novel than in film, because novels, as it should be obvious, have all the space they need to flesh every character out as much as they want to. The film, being a film, has to take shortcuts that leads to problems like this (as well as other problems, such as rushed character interactions that lead to WTF-type moments - this was the case between a particular interaction between Thomasin McKenzie's character and Jean Dujardin's, Dujardin who barely gets anything to do in this movie).

 

But, without spoiling anything, it all ends up paying off at the end, with an ending that's an absolute 5/5 banger that will leave audiences with an extremely sweet taste in their mouth coming out of the theater.

 

The World That We Knew is an ambitious undertaking, but Guadagnino covers the grounds more than adequately. I wish some things had been trimmed out, but as it is, it's a highly satisfying experience.

 

B

 

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Loving Shadow and Light

dir. Lasse Hallström

 

Spoiler

Ok, this will probably be one of my hottest takes of the year, but I don't really care: this movie is fucking awful. It's not just whatever, or "superficially" bad: it's terrible.

 

The first Loving a Shadow was a silly slapstick comedy that knew what it was and didn't try to be anything else. And it made a shit ton of money, so much so that Endless greenlit a sequel. Good for cat lovers everywhere, I'm sure. However, if Loving a Shadow could pass as inoffensive, Loving Shadow and Light goes the extra mile to challenge its characters... and makes some rough choices along the way (no pun intended). This anchored by such selections as a teenage girl's entire arc being that she wants more social media followers, the parents being caught up in stereotypical parent things, and of course, the pets being at odds with an evil mustache-twirling villain that is later revealed to be waaaaaaay more than you expected and frankly wanted him to be. The only character that gets something even remotely close to a not boring or off-putting arc is the teenage son (who is, of course, a prankster), and even then, that barely cuts it.

 

Mr. Hallström, you are an experienced filmmaker that has even recieved Academy Award attention for his work. And I think I'm aware that you weren't actually gonna take a movie called Loving Shadow and Light seriously, which is the right thing to do. But you overstepped it. Too much. Way too much. I believe the absolute youngest may enjoy this, but for anyone with a developed mind, I don't recommend it even as a guilty pleasure watch.

 

As far as the Gateways short that preceeds this... well, it's certainly better than the following full-length feature in just about every way. But because that's a separate entity, it won't factor into the rating I'm giving this monstrosity.

 

F

 

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Castaways

dir. Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer

 

Spoiler

The Duffer brothers, probably the most successful duo of directors in CAYOM history. Irl, they really only have Stranger Things to their credit; but in the game, they're responsible for the creations of arguably the two biggest franchises, Spark and The Scavenger Wars, and they're Best Director winners. So, yeah, no pressure when it came to their next big feature.

 

Castaways is a superhero movie about Natalye (played by Yara Shahidi) and Victor (Jack Lowden), two people from different ends of a multiverse that end up together to track down and fight a dangerous entity.

 

It's not often that you see original ideas for superhero stuff, but Castaways was brought upon from scratch by Horizon Entertainment and the Duffer brothers. And once again, you see the creative flexes of the directors, as this movie presents many creative concepts that I found to be quite interesting - concepts that I'll try not to spoil. These concepts, as well as the simple but entertaining enough goose chase between the heroes and the villain are what drives this film to be entertaining.

As usual with Horizon, the action setpieces are quite impressive, and there was more of an effort this time around with the character work as well, since Natalye and Victor have distinguishable personalities and good chemistry. Fun stuff.

 

However, the movie did raise some questions, questions that I don't wanna get into without spoiling, but certainly questions that distracted me throughout the entire runtime of the film. While actors like Simon Pegg are basically exposition dump characters who also get to do unfunny quibs every now and then. And this film pulls a few things off that I'm sure will please many moviegoers, but also will definitely turn some off.

 

As it is, I found Castaways to be a pleasant surprise and a solid little film.

 

B

 

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December

 

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As Fast as I Can

dir. Alfonso Cuarón

 

Spoiler

(Wrote this review when this was the first film released by @Safeno Rdz, so take that in mind.)

 

Welp... it seems we have a new studio in town. And, like every studio in its first year, we kinda have to take things slowly and appreciate the fact that they came in to participate. So, welcome, Safeno Rdz. I look forward to checking out more of your contributions.

 

Is their first impression a good one? Well, hiring Alfonso Cuarón - the maker of many great films like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, Gravity and ROMA to name a few - to direct a drama about athletic racing sounds  interesting. Especially if you add talent like Leonardo DiCaprio, Julianne Moore, Dev Patel, etc. to the mix, it is a pretty talented ensemble cast. But this film, which is about a family that gets caught up in a lot of stuff after the young man begins to make a career out of athletics, seems a bit *too* out there.

 

Now, to say that this film is horrendous - akin to good.movies studio's first impression, The Disappointment from Y7 - is doing it a disservice. It's not outright terrible. For one, because it is a Cuarón film, it is visually striking, with special emphasis towards the running sequences which do look good. And most of all, the cast all give good performances, with Julianne Moore in particular giving it her all in hopes of perhaps snatching another Oscar nomination, while DiCaprio is DiCaprio, pouring his soul into his performance like usual, and the likes of Jaeden Martell and Thomasin McKenzie give valid performances as well. On various accounts, this film is rock solid.

 

Where does it come up short, though? Well, in the script. This movie starts off as a simple enough sports drama about a kid who is a dreamer. Alright. Then it veers into far, FAR more serious territory. Okay, fair enough, nothing too out of the ordinary here. Then the third act comes, when it takes an even sharper 360º turn to become a crime drama. And even on that end, it concludes supremely vaguely, barely exploring the dramatic capacity of what that sharp turn could lead into and just letting all loose ends untied. At least Y7's Higher Ground's multiple heel turns were still somewhat close to each other in tone. Narratively speaking, this film tries and tries to squeeze as much as it can out of these actors, begging to register so deeply with the audience, and sometimes, it can resonate, somewhat - thanks to the brave performances of the great cast, particularly Moore. But ultimately, it amounts to a cobbling up of a bunch of different movies all loosely jumbled together by a half-baked sports movie thread. Throw in the fact that Dev Patel and Halle Berry are criminally underused and a fucking Maroon 5 song and you have the makings of a shitstorm.

 

Look, I really feel bad about harping on a new studio's output, especially their debut, as the debut year is never the best. You always get better overtime, and I fully root for this studio to comeback and make some great, great stuff. But unfortunately, As Fast as I Can was an ambitious misfire that wanted to have Oscar pretentions and instead feels like Cuarón decided to make a movie while sleepwalking, and it shows.

 

D+

 

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Christmas Shopping

dir. Noah Baumbach

 

Spoiler

Noah Baumbach is a director that has sprung to the spotlight with his storytelling about spousal relationships and their ups and downs, particularly with The Squid and the Whale and then, perhaps most notably, Marriage Story. He is a filmmaker with a knack for creating realistic families of characters and their respective connections, and I was glad to see that New Journey Pictures gave him another opportunity to shine in Y8.

 

Christmas Shopping is a movie about two young adults, Seth (played by a very different looking Charlie Plummer) and Jane (Morgan Turner, in an openly female role) who go out to do Christmas shopping with their somewhat estranged mother, Angela (Joan Cusack). An incredibly, incredibly simplistic pitch on paper.

 

And yet, what Baumbach does with this movie explores every little bit of what there is to say about the experience of going Christmas shopping with your family. I... had expectations regarding this movie, but I'm surprised at how much I actually liked it. It took me some time to really build my opinion on this movie, as at first, I didn't quite know what to say other than "I enjoyed myself with it", but I couldn't explain why. So much so that I literally decided to skim through the film a second time. But now, I feel like I do have something.

 

Here's the thing: when you think about it, there's really not a lot of stuff going on in this movie... you'll know for yourself when you actually see it. And at first read, even though I knew that I had enjoyed the movie, I couldn't help but be somewhat conflicted about whether or not were its decisions to inflict serious drama a bit exaggerared or over-the-top. I wasn't completely sure if they felt in-character or genuine. That's when the second read came along to clear things out and made it evident for me that the film unfolded in a nuanced, natural way that enlivens its messaging.

 

And now I'll get to the real bottom of my appreciation for this film: I think that this movie can absolutely make you think about how crucial the experience of going out with someone for something as mundane as buying Christmas presents can really ask you if you truly know that person. Christmas Shopping deals directly with two young people who don't exactly have the closest relationship with their mom, and it's this Christmas shopping little thing they're doing that brings them all together and makes these characters question themselves and one another: "Do I really know who you are?" And that, I think, is a brilliant way to deconstruct the mere banality of going Christmas shopping with your family. The idea that buying a gift for someone is truly representative of how well you know that person can be a scary and even somewhat cynical thought, because God forbid we depend on material possessions to express our love to someone else - but it is an interesting and cathartic exercise nonetheless, especially because it is rooted on a surely capitalist but innocent enough tradition whose purpose is to literally bring family together, and I feel like this movie squeezed all the juice it could out of that concept in a very distinctive manner.

 

I was shellshocked at how interesting this movie was. At the fact that I wasn't bored or disgusted out of my mind watching people go to these different stores and buy their products as if this movie had suddenly turned into an elongated TV commercial. Or at the fact that it has so much to say about the tradition of Christmas and the conceptual bright of going out and buying Christmas gifts for your loved ones. Baumbach brought his game yet again with another movie that smartly explores the roots of family relationships, and I think this movie is an incredibly fascinating experiment as a whole.

Of course, you could say that this movie is in fact cynical, or it is exaggerated, or it is boring and dull, so maybe it will end up being just me. However, as a whole, I think that it is an eye-opening experience. I have no clue how others will react to this. But I think that this film was a worth it exercise.

 

PS: There are a lot of people being sold to you as part of the main cast, but don't expect to see that much of them. Although Adam Driver's cameo is gold.

 

A-

 

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The Un-title-able Squirrel Girl Sequel

dir. Lauren MacMullan

 

Spoiler

Of course the year couldn't end without a massive-sized treat for families during the Holiday season, and what better than a big sequel from Endless Animation. (Well, Should You Imagine? wasn't the best movie in the world and I'm also familiar with the not spectacular reception to The Second Crash Bandicoot, but ehh, who cares.)

 

I'll preface this review by mentioning that, very recently, Y5's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl was the movie that brought me back to CAYOM after my break and, in a Y5 filled with these superhero films from Endless (including Static Shock and Green Lantern Corps: Rise of the Manhunters as well), Squirrel Girl was easily the best one, and one of the best superhero films in CAYOM 3.0 to date. It was easygoing, it was funny, well animated, well acted, had good characters, great action and a fun time in general. It wasn't spectacular as a whole - I still twitch everytime I think about Stan fucking Lee playing the villain - but as a whole, I thought it was quite enjoyable.

 

This sequel, cleverly titled The Un-title-able Squirrel Girl Sequel (and with the tagline "Nut Again"... let's say it doesn't mean quite what you're thinking), is going for something... a bit different than just pure spectacle. I say this but the first one did carry your traditional "learn to love yourself" message that Endless Animation brings frequently with their films (by no means was it just a generic superhero film with no poignance to speak of), it wasn't just pure spectacle either. But comparatively, that movie was just trying to be a rollicking time for all ages, while this actually has a thematically ambitious approach.

 

Squirrel Girl (voiced again by Anna Kendrick) is back, and she's been at her job for 7 years now, becoming arguably the world's best. And her 7 years of duty paid off, as the world is now at 75% peace. Squirrel Girl, now 32 years old, seems to still be going all the same, but age, stress and fatigue of the superhero gig may be getting to her, despite her denial of it. She has to confront herself for good as she deals with a conspicuous evil plan masterminded by a brand new villain.

 

So... after a long prologue, how do I think this sequel fares? Well, it may not necessarily be Endless Animation's best work that I have encountered (Gateways retains that position), but compared to another big sequel from the studio in Should You Imagine?, The Un-title-able Squirrel Girl Sequel is a triumph.

 

As you guys are aware, I got a chance to pre-read this film and participate on its production. Which means that I may be biased when it comes to this review, but I genuinely feel like the final product is a pretty damn good beast that manages to succesfully subvert clichés and tropes of animation, superhero movies and Endless themselves, while telling a very personal story about a hero in conflict not just with the typical supervillains, but with herself and for a very interesting batch of reasons. Squirrel Girl/Doreen Green is faced with a variety of physical and emotional challenges that really make her question her own motivations, and this arc is the thorough line that guides this movie more than safely through the finish line, providing it with the heart, soul and resonance that'll stick with moviegoers for a good while and surely provide families with a wonderful theater experience - all of this coupled with a really strong lead voice performance by Anna Kendrick. When Endless cited Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as an inspiration, they really did mean it, and you can feel it in every inch of this film, but not in a derivative way.

 

It's also worth mentioning that the cast of characters blows further in this movie, with the introduction of new characters, such as Nancy and Alchemist, who are friends to Squirrel Girl and decently compelling characters in their own right. It's hard to compare them to Dana or the squirrel sidekicks, but either way, they make for interesting additions. As for the villain, I'll say that Kelly Hu's voice performance was deliriously hammy and that the character, which could've risked feeling like a complete cartoon, manages to find a solid balance between one-note over-the-top and just human enough.

 

And of course, this being a superhero film, you still get a few moments of big action setpieces, and they're still fine, but the film really resonates thanks to its emotional prowess.

 

Do I have many negative things to say? Not really. I think that the film can drag sometimes as it piles on a lot of elements (even if fairly streamlined) and the pacing can sometimes feel the slowdown. And as I hinted at before, I don't think that the new characters, despite being good, are as good as past sidekicks for Squirrel Girl, those characters getting slightly (but not completely) sidelined in this film. Other than that, not really a whole lot of bad to say.

 

This movie delievers, it's really good. It may not be necessarily as purely entertaining as the previous movie, but it will remain in your brain for far longer, especially as it wraps up with a warm message that, deep down, even if you're not a superhero, you can still be a hero. Well done, Endless Animation.

 

A-

 

Hickory Dickory Detective! — Kenneth Branagh behind the scenes on Murder on  the...

 

Sins of Their Fathers

dir. Kenneth Branagh

 

Spoiler

No need to introduce Kenneth Branagh, the man is a living legend at this point, with a career spanning decades. Didn't think that I would see him direct a big sci-fi political thriller, though.

 

Sins of Their Fathers stars a large ensemble cast and challenges audiences to dream of a future where humans departed Earth because it was impossible to live in it (yeah, think Wall-E, except people aren't fat in this one). And with the discovery of one habitable planet, hidden agendas start to surface.

 

This is a remade import from 1.0, but if it had come out this year, the difference would've been minimal, because it feels every bit as actual as anything. It's one of my favorite movies of the year. Not perfect, but one that I'll come back to in the future, for sure.

 

As I already mentioned, as its core, it's a classic Numerator political thriller, but in space. We get to witness conspiracy theories, gunfights and a lot of sharp dialogue, with Branagh's direction giving us some fantastic acting and beautiful shots to look at.

The MVP of the cast is Olivia Colman as Haneer, one of the villains of the year, but shoutout to the likes of Awkwafina, Riz Ahmed, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matt Bomer as well.

 

The structure of the film does feel like a retread of other films from Numerator at this point (funny that it actually isn't), as well as a few turns that are a bit eye-roll worthy, particularly in the transition to the third act where there's a revelation that ended up paying off in a goofy manner. You could also say that the whole movie stems from a scheme that's just a little bit convoluted. But ultimately, this is a fine as wine diversion with a hopeful insight into the future of humanity that once again showcases the brilliance of this talented studio.

 

B+

 

Agora Sem Drama GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

 

Wii Fit

dir. Peter Sollett

 

Spoiler

Why in the world are we still getting these? What kind of contract does New Journey have with Brad Pitt, one of the pickiest actors on the planet, to make him keep appearing in these, is the money that good? (I know this was just a cameo, but still.) And why is this one supposed to be a drama, a fucking DRAMA, like the Wii Sports movie was? That thing was awful and they're trying to do the same thing again... Jesus.

 

At its best, this franchise is self-aware of what it is, it recognizes that it's an adaptation of a silly series of peripheral demos - because that's basically what the Wii game series is, let's be real - and it plays with that silliness. Wii Play did just that, and even though that movie was an abherration, it was still fun in a "was I on acid?" kind of way. This movie, however, with its plotline of a woman in depression who starts attending yoga and then, well, things unfold from there, is clearly trying to be self-serious. I mean, it hired a guy who is known for doing dramas to direct, and it tries to feel like a drama. The problem, however, is that it's a ridiculous movie that's impossible to take seriously. It's unintentionally funny. It starts off simple and inoffensive enough, even if still hard to take seriously - because it's fucking Wii Fit - but then it just gets crazier and crazier, while it retains this conviction that it's a high quality masterwork.

 

I mean, you could accuse me of getting a bit too heavy-handed with a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater movie, and I think I'd have to agree. But that movie still knew what it was and didn't try to bite off more than it could chew, while this movie aspires to be some dramatic masterpiece - at least the director and the actors are trying to make it look like they're doing that - and it just comes across as hilariously stupid. This kind of saccharine bullshit is something I'm not quite fond of. I won't give it a worse rating than the one I'll give it because it is technically competent, somewhat, but it's not good. Come back, Wii Play. You're forgiven. (And after reading this, I'm no longer that excited for Wii Sports Resort: Electric Boogaloo.)
 

D

 

Edited by MCKillswitch123
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6 hours ago, MCKillswitch123 said:

I guess you could say that it's from the perspective of an entity that lives in both worlds at the same time lmao

Well, I was confused because you specifically compared Frankenstein Jr.  to The Insect God.  While I wrote both of those movies, they have no relation to each other within the CAYOM-verse-- they aren't even from the same studios. 

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