Review: Sorry to Bother You

Stop me if you’ve heard this before but if a certain film has been generating positive hype for some time, I make it a mission to see it for myself. Remember the name Boots Riley for his debut as a writer and director is a trip that will leave you flabbergasted by the end credits. This is a dream-like picture of telemarketing, unionizing, evocative artistry, embellished and ritzy slave-labor, white-voices and a disturbing new definition of the term “workhorse” in the ghastly dimension of Sorry to Bother You.

The film’s protagonist is Cassius Greene, a survivor in this alternate universe trying to make ends meet when he lands a job in the fast-paced and exciting field of telemarketing. When a co-worker offers him a tip to really land some sales, the golden elevator doors open for our down-on-his-luck hero to an opportunity that will really change his worldview. I’d go into detail further, but I don’t want to spoil the film and I don’t think you’d believe me if I went into detail.

If I had to come up with one word to describe this picture, it would be “unforgettable.” Boots Riley has an imagination so vivid, delirious and freaky, it does bother you and doesn’t apologize for doing so and I believe this picture revels in being completely unapologetic and entertaining.

What really impressed me about this picture is not only Riley’s vision and the attention to detail that went into the execution of this film but how this was written with so many cultural references, and commentary that connects with modern day society. Riley is not only imaginative but his intelligence was on full display with this film and I couldn’t help being captive to this film. There were times when I thought that this movie just ran wild and lost its direction but to my surprise it was just tied together in a way that came full-circle and I was all the more impressed with what this picture turned out to be.

The cast was great! Lakeith Stanfield was awesome in the lead role of Cassius Green, Tessa Thompson continues her rise to superstardom as the leading lady and Cassius’ love-interest Detroit, Jermaine Fowler, Terry Crews, Steven Yeun, Danny Glover, Kate Berlant, Omari Hardwick, Michael X. Sommers, Robert Longstreet, Arnie Hammer and the voices of David Cross, Patton Oswalt and Lily James all added to the mosaic madness of this picture.

Sorry to Bother You is low-budget but it has bang to its buck for the technical acumen of this film is stupendous! Doug Emmett’s cinematography is awesome, Terel Gibson’s editing is probably the best I’ve seen this year, Deidra Elizabeth Govan’s costume design and the work that the costume and wardrobe department is contributed is striking and beautiful, Stephen Dudro’s art direction was eye-candy, the production design by Jason Kisvarday is impeccable, the set decoration by Kelsi Ephraim is superb, the music, the visual effects and the animation was revelatory! This was a well-assembled motion picture.

Going into Sorry to Bother You, I knew nothing, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know who the players behind this were but coming out, I felt that I saw a spectacle that would stay with me for long-time. Sorry to Bother You definitely lived up to the acclaim it has received and I would encourage you to see it if you believe you have a strong enough constitution!

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Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Essentially, the concept for Ant-Man and the Wasp was derived from the first Ant-Man feature.

In the last film, Scott Lang had to shrink down to microscopic size and unintentionally entered the Quantum Realm. His mentor, and the original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym originally theorized that there was no coming back from the Quantum Realm but that theory was shattered when Scott returned to full-size.

The last person to shrink between the molecules before Scott, was Janet Van Dyne, Hank Pym’s wife, Hope’s mother and the original Wasp and she was lost to the Quantum Realm and never returned but if Scott could come back, perhaps she could be saved.

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Image by Marvel Studios

The events of this film pick up two years after Civil War and perhaps days or weeks prior to the events of Infinity War. Ant-Man and the Wasp essentially answers the question of where Scott was while Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were clashing with the Mad Titan and what he was up to.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is essentially a race against time rescue flick. If Hank, Hope and Scott are to enter the Quantum Realm to rescue Janet, they have to evade the FBI, the ruthless Sonny Burch and a mysterious adversary with indirect ties to Hank’s past called The Ghost before the opportunity to save her expires.

This film isn’t the best work under Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it is enough to be likable. Payton Reed crawls the fine line between superhero feature and comedy well enough but the plot is crammed with so many subplots and characters, it’s hard to keep track of what is going on and the feel of the film shifts so uncomfortably between the tones of serious and funny.

I was also disappointed that this film walked away from the appealing heist film elements of the first film but I can see why because Reed wanted to allow Evangeline Lily’s character to flourish with a plot that is more connected to her character than Paul Rudd’s.

The writing team of Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari and star Paul Rudd do a good job at taking from previous features to shape this story while incorporating new and creative ideas into the texture of the film but I honestly feel that the film is more funny than anything. Outside of the comedy, I believe this film’s greatest strength is its ability to play to the strengths of its stars.

Paul Rudd is well into his comfort zone as Ant-Man and Evangeline Lily is finally allowed to grow into the badass audiences saw glimpses of in the first Ant-Man and she shines as the Wasp. Other strong performers include Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie and Michael Peña as Luis. Hannah John-Kamen isn’t the best villain Marvel has produced but she doesn’t do a bad job. The rest of the cast including Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Randall Park, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer and Michelle Pfieffer are either completely underutilized as characters or completely awkward to watch.

The visual effects are sharp, Dante Spinotti’s cinematography is good, Dan Lebental and Craig Wood’s editing is good, Christophe Beck’s music is rather generic compared to other Marvel scores, Shepherd Frankel’s production design is rather safe, the art direction is pretty solid, Gene Serdena and Christopher J. Wood’s set decoration is impressive here and there, and Louise Frogley’s costume design is good when you really get down to it.

I liked the first Ant-Man well enough and I can say that I liked Ant-Man and the Wasp well enough as well but when you compare it to the slate of films in the Phase Three lineup of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it doesn’t exactly measure up to the high caliber of work Marvel Studios has produced in the past.

Review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Three years ago, audiences were pulled into the battle the United States is facing at the border when an idealistic FBI agent was recruited to a very proactive task force led by a CIA spook named Matt Graver. Graver’s objective: anarchy against the Mexican drug cartels with a man named Alejandro acting as his tip of the spear.

Now, the battle at the border intensifies as suspected Middle Eastern terrorists are being escorted over the border to significantly harm the U.S. and the joint chiefs look to Graver’s methods to determine a viable solution. Graver and Alejandro return to create chaos for the major Mexican drug lords in Sicario: Day of the Soldado.

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Image by Lionsgate and Black Label Media

Of course I ventured to see this movie as I held the original Sicario in such high esteem in 2015. What we get in Day of the Soldado is another thing entirely as Stefano Sollima steps in to direct Taylor Sheridan’s follow-up.

Here we see Josh Brolin and Benecio Del Toro’s characters getting down and dirty with the cartels and thrust into unfamiliar situations compared to what we’ve seen in the first picture. We see Del Toro’s Alejandro’s backstory and protective nature come to the forefront as he takes a guardian role to Isabella Moner’s character and Brolin’s Graver put in a situation where his way of getting the job done is turned against him and he’s put in a situation he does not want to be in.

I’ve been wrestling with what I take away from Sicario: Day of the Soldado and I’ve come to the conclusion that the best word that I can use to describe it is: synthetic.

This movie goes to tremendous lengths to thrust audiences back into the explosive and relentless tension that is so staple to the first films success but the step-down in overall quality compared to the first feature is apparent.

Sollima does not have the expert vision and storytelling prowess that Denis Villenueve possess. Many of the major players from Sicario were missed, such as Emily Blunt, Roger Deakins, the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, Joe Walker and Patrice Vermette and while the cast and crew tried to elevate Sheridan’s plot to the heights of the first Sicario, it just wasn’t good enough in my eyes.

In fact, I had a hard time trying to find the point of why Sheridan wanted to come back and build upon an already epic story. I could not exactly wrap my head around the plot and the movie left itself unresolved so that it could all be told in a potentially third installment; Sheridan’s script was a little lost on me, I must admit.

It was interesting to see new twists on Brolin and Del Toro’s characters, Isabella Moner was good, Catherine Keener was decent, Elijah Rodriguez, Matthew Modine, Shea Wigham, Jeffery Donovan, Howard Ferguson Jr., Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Bruno Bachir, Jacqueline Torres; the cast was respectable as a whole.

Technically, this film lacked the gravitas and the power to live up to the first film’s standards. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is average, Hildur Guðnadóttir’s music is okay, Matthew Newman’s editing was clunky, Kevin Kavanaugh’s production design was stale, Marisa Frantz and Carlos Jacques’s art direction was good, Meg Everist and Daniela Rojas’ set decoration was respectable and Deborah Lynn Scott’s costumes were average.

I wanted to like Sicario: Day of the Soldado, but I felt like it was remarkably wasteful. Sicario, like Pacific Rim and Now You See Me, did not need a sequel, but got one and it pales in comparison to the original.

Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

You would think that they would have learned. After 25 years, after all of the carnage, the savagery born from idle splendor, the lesson would have been learned that mankind and the great beasts that roamed the Earth almost 65 million years ago were not meant to coexist, but NO!!!!! The fallout from the Jurassic World three years ago bears fruit in the form of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

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Image by Universal Pictures

Isla Nublar is ready to blow; the island’s volcano has become active and the island’s prehistoric inhabitants are in danger of going extinct once more. The government is grappling whether or not to intervene and save these creatures or leave them to die and while debates are ongoing, Claire Dearing is approached by Eli Mills, an associate of a former colleague of the late John Hammond, to mount an expedition to save the dinosaurs from Isla Nublar’s fate.

Claire must enlist the aid of her ex-boyfriend, Owen Grady, the raptor-trainer, to return to the now ruined Jurassic World site, track the dinosaurs down and spare them from Isla Nublar’s fate but does anything run according to plan when dinosaurs and the people who have an interest in exploiting them are involved? Of course not!

I recall being remarkably lukewarm/indifferent to the original Jurassic World three years back. I felt that writer/director Colin Trevorrow was beating an extinct horse trying to pay homage to the Spielberg’s groundbreaking sci-fi/disaster flick. Now J.A. Bayona is in the director’s chair working with a script penned by Trevorrow and Derek Connelly and they take the franchise into new territory with Fallen Kingdom while still holding tight to the familiar traits and tropes of the original Jurassic Park features.

Yes mankind is depicted as the stupidest animals in the feature but I honestly found a higher degree of fun watching this installment of the franchise than the last one. The craftsmanship is more sturdy with Bayona at the helm but it is still discernably flawed in its makeup.

The film is more exciting and does have a greater degree of suspense but I felt that it was too focused on the central human characters like Owen, Claire, Eli Mills, Maisie, while other characters are just relegated to background or insufficient noise.

Do I like how Trevorrow and Connelly wrote this story for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom? For the most part, I do because I felt that the film was a step-up from the last film. Do I like what Bayona brought to the film as a director? Yes because the tone of the picture is more of what I was hoping for.

I thought Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard were more engaging in this film compared to the last one. The cast as a whole, could be categorized anywhere between decent, misused and completely underutilized. Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Isabella Sermon ranked as decent, didn’t care much for Justice Smith’s character or Ted Levine, Daniella Pineda, Jeff Goldblum, B.D. Wong, Geraldine Chaplin were among the underutilized.

The visual effects and Michael Giacchino’s music were excellent, Oscar Faura’s cinematography and Bernat Vilaplana’s editing was good, Andy Nicholson’s production design was solid, as was the art decoration and the set decoration of Tina Jones and Carolyn Loucks, and Sammy Sheldon’s costumes were alright.

What do I take out of this? Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is built atop the fossils of its predecessor and it is an improvement but while it does take the franchise in new territory, it still offers the usual in what you’ve seen out of Jurassic Park; frights, head-scratching examples of human catharsis and great visuals. It’s like a new attraction in a theme park that is known for only one thing.

Review: Incredibles 2

After a 14 year stretch between films, the Parr family is back and they didn’t skip a beat. Writer and director Brad Bird finally delivered on a follow-up to Disney-Pixar’s celebrated superhero adventure with Incredibles 2!

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Image by Disney-Pixar

The Parr family springs back into action which picks up right where the first film left off: in a scramble to thwart the actions of the Underminer but the clan of supers are still operating in a world where costumed crusaders are outlawed by the governments of the world but business big shot and superhero sympathizer Winston Deavor sees an opportunity to change the political landscape for supers everywhere!

Deavor and his sister Evelyn, recruit Elastigirl to act as a superhero advocate and operate in a city where crime is high to change public perception on supers, while Mr. Incredible takes on a mission he is not prepared for: a stay at home dad.

While Bob and Helen adjust to their new roles, with Dash and Violet expressing their desires to go out and become heroes like their parents and Jack-Jack growing into his many powers, a new adversary dubbed The Screenslaver seeks to keep supers outlawed forever; The Parrs, Frozone and a new generation of supers must jump into action before the Screenslaver’s mesmerizing and mad visions become reality.

I was 13 when The Incredibles came out and I loved it. Looking back, I could see why it is considered a landmark feature for Disney-Pixar and it is certainly one of the great all-time animated adventures. Now, 14 years later, we finally get a sequel that picks up where the first film left off and when the end-credits started rolling, I applauded! Incredibles 2 is a triumph!

Brad Bird, my hat is off to you! Fourteen years and these characters and the world you have created for them are just a super as ever! The plot is engaging and zippy but it still feels so remarkably fresh, vibrant, relevant; the way this movie is written to put Elastigirl/Helen’s character in the lead, saving the world, while Mr. Incredible is relegated to staying home and watching the kids, while Jack-Jack is freaking everyone out with his abilities and we see Frozone and Edna again, while introduced to new characters, I could not be more impressed with the dedication and precision Bird put into this movie after all of these years!

The vocal talents of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Millner, Eli Fucile, Brad Bird, Michael Bird, Jonathan Banks, are still aces! The personality they brought to these characters is just as rich as they were when The Incredibles arrived in theaters! The new additions of Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush, Phil LaMarr, Isabella Rossellini and Paul Eiding also added spark to this picture.

Once again, the magic of Disney-Pixar never fails to impress! The animation is lush, dazzling and I don’t think I’ve ever been more spellbound by an animated sequence than the round of fisticuffs between the Screenslaver and Elastigirl! That was practically perfect to behold!

Michael Giacchino’s score is superb; the body of work he has building in career is only growing higher and higher and he is truly becoming one of the greats. I just have to say that if it isn’t already apparent.

Mahyar Abousaeedi’s cinematography exhilaratingly captures the action, Stephen Schaffer’s editing is outstanding, the production design is Ralph Eggleston is sublime, Josh Holtsclaw’s art direction is precise and prodigious! The technical acumen of this picture is nothing short of extraordinary!

I have a strong hunch that there will be a follow-up to Incredibles 2 and I hope Brad Bird and Disney-Pixar don’t put us through another 14 year hiatus before it happens! This raises the bar for animated films to come and we’re not done with animated features for this year!

Take a bow Disney-Pixar! Incredibles 2 swoops in, goes for the win and instead pulls off an incredible triumph!👏👏👏

Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The events of this movie take place long before Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi sit down in a bar at Mos Isley to discuss passage and payment to the Alderaan system. The events of this movie take place prior to the daring undertaking of Jyn Erso and a band of rebels to steal the battle plans of the Empire’s most powerful weapon. Before he shot Greedo, before he was in the employ of Jabba the Hut, the story of Han Solo started with a young bandit on the streets of Corellia who looked up at the sky and dreamed of flying away from it all with his girl and never looked back.

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Image by Lucasfilm

Solo: A Star Wars Story follows a young adult Han Solo and traces his path from a Scrumrat thief who had to steal to survive, to washout pilot in the Imperial Navy, fugitive, aspiring outlaw, to the smuggler he will one day be and sheds light on the characters who will aid him in his origin adventure. This movie tells the story of why Han dared to dream to fly, to how he met his friend and wingman Chewbacca, the figures who taught him the tricks and trades of the outlaw, how he crossed paths with his friend/swindler Lando Calrissian, and how he came to be in the pilot seat of the Millennium Falcon.

I’ve kept my eye on this film for a long time and followed the reports of this production as best I could. I recalled hearing at some point that the executives claimed that this film was unwatchable, that the leading man Alden Ehrenreich was doomed to fail in this role, how then-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were leading this film to disaster and there had to be extensive reshoots, which led to Lord and Miller out and Ron Howard taking over as director.

I feared the worst for Solo: A Star Wars Story but I was surprised by how smooth and solid the finished product of this movie was. I felt that this movie took a practical and straightforward approach to the origin story of one of Star Wars’ most pivotal characters, answering any questions I had with grounded and nuanced approach by adding some dash of surprise every now and then and I must say that this film is a success!

I’m not sure what direction Phil Lord and Chris Miller wanted to take this movie but I think Ron Howard was the right choice to pilot this picture. Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan crafted a story for Han Solo’s origins that is well put together, funny, smart, exciting and appealing for audiences who love the Star Wars franchise.

Alden Ehrenreich may have been a surprise choice for this role and he will never truly replace Harrison Ford as Han Solo, but he does a very good job by this character. At times, you can see that he just embodies the scoundrel Han Solo is and I think he may make Harrison Ford proud! The guy who really steals the show is Donald Glover, who steps into the skin of Lando Calrissian and knocks it out of the park; Billy Dee Williams must be as equally proud of Glover for doing his character justice.

Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, the voices of Jon Favreau and Linda Hunt, Ian Kenny, John Tui, the cast across the board are very good in their roles.

John Powell’s score was very refreshed and exciting, Bradford Young cinematography is excellent, Pietro Scalia’s editing is impeccable, Neil Lamont’s production design was solid, the art direction is vivid, the costumes designed by David Crossman and Glyn Dillon are very smart, the makeup is high caliber and the visual effects are about as good as it gets for a Star Wars feature.

Going into Solo: A Star Wars Story, I thought we were getting into a junkpile that had no chance of liftoff but what made this movie soar was the love and determination necessary to not only get it airborne and space worthy but to really make it soar through the stars! There’s no mistake that this movie hits its mark!

Review: Deadpool 2

I’m just going to leave this here for you to process however you see fit:

After surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Mayberry’s hottest bartender while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste. Searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor, Wade must battle ninjas, the Yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor – finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World’s Best Lover.

Officially, this is the synopsis for Deadpool 2 starring the only human being on the planet who can bring life and the right amount of gravitas to the role of Marvel’s celebrated anti-heroic mercenary with a mouth! Reprising the Golden Globe nominated role nobody talks about is Ryan Reynolds and this film explores where Wade Wilson belongs in this sordid and confusing world both in cinema and the real world.

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Image by Marvel and 20th Century Fox

In this marvelous metaphysical motion picture, we see Wade trying to find his own sense of “family” after suffering a traumatic loss. Wade “tries” to fill the void in his life with the X-Men, but that ends in glorious disaster, he makes a team of his own and that goes swimmingly off-the-rails but in the end, his best bet is with a troubled youth who is hounded by some cyborg-like temporal tourist with no sense of humor. Also, throughout the picture Wade is trying to up the ante on Logan by chasing the sweet release of death! (Just throwing that out there.)

Deadpool is back and he is as goofier and stupider than ever before! This pleasurable picture wastes no time at all groping your funny bone (and whatever else it can grab) and living up to its R-rating by celebrating how special this character really is; breaking the fourth-wall, profanity, graphic violence, innuendo, a mouth that never stops, unicorns, the best sense of self-awareness you’ll ever see in a comic book movie, etc.

I admit that I was concerned when David Leitch stepped in to direct because sometimes a new director can alter the dynamics of a franchise but I believe Rhett Rheese, Paul Werner and star Ryan Reynolds give Leitch enough material and guidance to ensure that the future of this franchise (whatever it is) is in good hands. This movie goes from dark to light in the blink of an eye, it’s funny, it’s shocking, it’s action-packed, it’s not afraid to show its vulnerable side; it’s Deadpool!

Will Ryan Reynolds get another Golden Globe nomination for stepping into the red and black costume? I admit, I think it’s possible because he just owns this role!

It’s great to see Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Karan Soni, Leslie Uggams and Stefan Kapicic return to this film, and it was nice seeing Brianna Hildebrand back even though she’s seriously underutilized and paired with Shioli Kutsuna. The newcomers, including Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison, Terry Crews, Lewis Tan, Bill Skarsgård, Rob Delaney, Eddie Marsan and Jack Kesy, are all great, despite the fact that most of them are only in the movie for at most five minutes. Also, most of the cameos just flew over my head because I was held captive by the plot but you won’t believe who shows up in this film!

Tyler Bates’ music was solid, Jonathan Sela’s cinematography was good, great editing by Craig Alpert, Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir and Dirk Westervelt, Kurt Swanson and Bart Mueller’s costumes are excellent, David Scheuneumann’s production design is good, the art direction is solid, Sandy Walker’s set decoration is good, the make-up and visual effects are striking; Deadpool 2 aims for the highest version of middle-of-the-road in production quality possible and succeeds in the most explosive manner possible!

Deadpool 2 is the ultimate mood elevator! You will see things that you will never forget, things that you wish you could un-see, things that you may have missed but while you are taking in the sights you will be laughing, cringing and possibly crying throughout the picture. Just pure uncut joy!