Brad Pitt Goes To The Stars!

I am finding Ad Astra to be a hard movie to review. The film by James Gray is gorgeous, and features a great performance from Brad Pitt, but considering Gray and Pitt have both admitted that Apocalypse Now and 2001: A Space Odyssey were the main influences for this movie, it shares the flaws of those two films: It is a slow internal struggle of a man set to some amazing imagery, and that is it. Ad Astra is a very hard film to engage with since it bores you and keeps you at arms length. Seemingly saying, “Look at me, but don’t get to close!” I could go on about the story, or Pitt’s acting ability, but I would just be writing in circles to fill space, and that doesn’t help anyone making a decision to see this film or not.

In the end, if you want to see Pitt at the top of his game, and Gray do his best to bring the lifeless void of space to life, give Ad Astra a shot. If you really like 2001 or Apocalypse Now and wonder why they don’t make films like that anymore, you are in luck, but for everyone else, you can probably skip it, or wait for some lazy rainy Sunday when a slow movie about a man finding himself while getting lost would go great with a warm blanket and some hot chocolate.

‘It’ Overate In Chapter 2!

It was no surprise that ‘It‘ was a hit for New Line two years ago. It was a much-needed update to a movie that was a rite of passage for kids of the 80’s. The problem is that It: Chapter 1 got to cover the more interesting child years of Stephen King’s classic, so Chapter 2 is tasked with making something out of the weirder and longer adult years. The result is predictably weirder and longer, and while not as good, still a fun popcorn horror flick.

It: Chapter 2 takes place 27 years after Chapter 1. The Losers have all grown up and moved on with their lives. They are all surprisingly successful. With one exception: Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) stayed in Derry to watch and wait to see if ‘It’ (Bill Skarsgård) was truly destroyed, and when the killer clown resurfaces, he needs to get the Losers back together to take down the clown once and for all.

It: Chapter 2 has a few problems: One, we are all wise to Pennywise’s antics; Two, there is something about adults that make their fear less relatable than children’s, and three, it is too long. That being the case, director Andy Muschietti puts together some really effective horror sequences, and the cast is great, so they sell what they are given to work with.

The casting was just about perfect for It: Chapter 2. All the older versions of the Losers look and act like their child counter parts. Bill Hader and Jessica Chastain were standouts, but the whole cast did a good job. It would be hard coming in to a movie where everyone knows they are going to be judged against the great cast from first movie, but they manage to hold their own. Obviously without Bill Skarsgård’s wonderful turn as ‘It’ the rest of the performances would have been for naught. He is otherworldly as Pennywise the clown, and an excellent counterpart to Tim Curry’s version of the sewer dweller.

It: Chapter 2 is not as good as Chapter 1, and that is a shame, but considering how bad the second part of the old ABC miniseries was, the fact ‘It’ is still so much fun is a miracle. So, while yes, It: Chapter 2 is overstuffed, and Pennywise uses the same bag of tricks, they are good tricks, and it is a lot of stuff that I liked. If you were a fan of Chapter 1, you will probably be happy with It: Chapter 2. Until next time, keep floating everyone!

Woody Goes On One More Ride In Toy Story 4!

I am not sure how Pixar does it, every time I think I am done with the Toy Story franchise they bring it back and make it great. Toy Story 3 was the perfect ending to the Toy Story series, so I wasn’t too excited about a fourth big screen outing, but here we are, and it is great. I am not sure it is as good as 3, but it is close. Which is a minor miracle.

Woody (Tom Hanks) isn’t having the easiest time at Bonnie’s (Madeleine McGraw) house. He is just another toy to her. Things get even more complicated when she brings home a spork she made in to a toy named Forky (Tony Hale), and it is now her favorite. Woody will have to do his best to mold this spork in to the friend Bonnie needs him to be. Woody will need some help, and luckily he runs in to old flame Bo Peep (Annie Potts) who is more than up to the task.

The writers found another interesting story to tell about the Toy Story crew, and that is why this movie works. From the trailers it just looked like it was a retread of movies 1 and 2, but it is its own thing. It still follows the Pixar formula: gut punch in the opening minutes, and then a journey of self discovery with an emotional conclusion, but I don’t see them ending that story loop any time soon. It is a good one, and there are a lot of tales you can hang on those bones. Pixar loves it when everyone gets a good cry in the movie theater.

There is not much left to say about the cast, it is excellent, but most of the old crew isn’t given a lot to do. It focuses a lot on Hank’s Woody, Pott’s Bo and the new characters. Which may be disappointing for some, but like always, Pixar found the best people for the job, and everyone fits in perfectly. Plus, they worked in Carol Burnett and Betty White, so listen for that!

The Toy Story films have always been a showcase for how far the visuals in computer animated films have come, and Toy Story 4 does not disappoint. They are very close to making real life quality images, without falling in to the ‘uncanny valley’. I have recently re-watched the last three Toy Story movies, and while they look good, 4 blows them out of the water. It is stunning.

I didn’t want to like Toy Story 4. It felt like they were milking something that should be left alone, but they managed to find a new worthwhile tale to tell, and look great while doing it, so I guess I will not doubt them in nine years when Toy Story 5 comes out.

Go, Go Godzilla!

Somehow the Toho/Legendary/Warner Bros Monsterverse has made it three movies. I never thought it would make it this far, but I am glad it did. I have loved the Toho monsters ever since I was a kid, and these movies have brought them to life better than I could have hoped for. The latest movie Godzilla: King of Monsters is both the best and the worst of the franchise. If, like me, seeing these giant beasts on screen is something you have been pining for, King of Monsters gives you the most kaiju action ever, but if that is not your bag, there is not a lot to the rest of the movie. King of Monsters is all kaiju all the time, and some annoying people making bad decisions.

Godzilla: King of Monsters takes place five years after the first Godzilla. The world is still reeling from the destruction of San Francisco and Las Vegas. Monarch, the secret monster finding organization, is wrestling to keep control of its operations and not be absorbed in the military. The military wants to kill all the kaiju, but Monarch wants to study them and learn how to live with them. A few dumb things happen and bada bing bada boom monsters are destroying the place.

Story wise, there is not a lot here, and that hurts the movie. I think the producers heard the complaints that there wasn’t enough Godzilla in the first Godzilla, so they amped it up a bit. Which is good for people who just want monster destruction, but bad for people who want involving story. Though why those people would come to a giant monster movie is beyond me.

There are a lot of actors in this movie, and they are all fine. They are given one note to play, and they all mostly play it well, but they are not the stars. Godzilla and his kaiju crew are, and they are amazing. The CG doesn’t hold up all the time, but for the most part everything looks great, and the fights are epic. While the trailer promises a ton of monsters, the movie focuses on four: Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan. If there was someone else you were expecting, you may be disappointed.

It is hard to fault a movie about monsters for focusing on the monsters. Though, because of this focus everything else suffers, but for kaiju fans there is a lot to like, and I think this movie will find its audience. I don’t think it is as big as Warner Bros was hoping for, but it will be remembered fondly. Still, out of the three movies in the Monsterverse: Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, and King of Monsters, King of Monsters is probably the weakest if viewed as a complete movie. If viewed as a way to see giant monster destruction, it is the best.

The Twist Is That Detective Pikachu Is Good!

Over twenty years ago I took my little brother to the first Pokémon movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back. Back then Pokémon was a fad; it was going to be a flash in the pan and then kids would be on to the next thing. Of course that did not happen. Pikachu is one of the most recognizable cartoon mascots in the world and Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a blockbuster with a massive $150 Million budget hoping to gross over $450 Million worldwide. Even more surprising? It is a good movie.

Detective Pikachu is about Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) who has to visit Ryme city to deal with his father’s recent death. His father Harry, a detective, died in a car crash, but things get complicated when Tim happens across a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) he can understand that tells him Harry is alive and that they need to solve the mystery of why Harry’s death was faked to save his life.

Detective Pikachu has kind of been billed as Deadpool for kids and that makes sense considering they share a lead in Ryan Reynolds. However, while the jokes do come fast and furious at times, I would say these are still two very different films. Deadpool does have its charms and a bigger heart than most people give it credit for; Detective Pikachu is more of a sweet kids movie. Pikachu and Tim are earnestly looking to build connections in their lives and this movie is about their relationship.

While the base movie fine, the real stars of Detective Pikachu are the fully realized Pokémon. They look great and they act exactly like you would expect them to. In fact, I wish the movie was more about them. I know this is a common complaint for these types of movies – more Transformers in the Transformers movies, more Smurfs in the Smurfs movies, but the Pokémon are so good that it is hard not to want more time with them.

The biggest flaw with Detective Pikachu is that the story is pretty generic, but it is saved by charismatic leads and cute little monsters. If you don’t like Pokémon this movie may not work as well for you, but if like me you have been around the franchise for over twenty years it is a fun experience. It also seems to work for younger children as well, my five year old loved it, so it looks like a winner for families. I am ready for more live action Pokémon movies!