Musicals can always draw people from a particular audience even if they’re not the biggest fans of the genre (myself included). For that to be possible, you need a hook within minutes of the studio logos appearing on screen. And that’s exactly what Tick, Tick…Boom! does with a great opening number from Andrew Garfield to start the movie’s monologue that draws us into this upbeat dream-chasing story. Thanks to an Oscar-worthy performance from Garfield and impressive direction from Lin-Manuel Miranda in his directorial debut, Tick, Tick…Boom! is an engaging musical that pays tribute to Jonathan Larson and the magic of theatre.
No hyperboles are in the title for the review of this movie. As someone who is against clickbait, I only speak in truths. When you look at the cast and crew assembled for Eternals, it has the makings to be the best Marvel Studios project since Avengers: Endgame. Seriously, go to IMDB and look at everyone in this movie and tell me I’m wrong. Instead of an epic rivaling the latest Avengers movie that could make a statement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Eternals is repetitive, filled to the brim with dull moments and exposition, and is almost void of joy. Brace yourselves for the most disappointing movie the MCU has ever offered.
When it comes to the stories that make the biggest headlines, we assume the big news outlets are reporting most of the information accurately. Thankfully, however, documentaries play a big role in developing the entire story from start to finish, making the stories we thought we knew even more captivating, jaw-dropping, or unheard of. National Geographic’s The Rescue is another story we thought we knew, but the entire story is even more unbelievable thanks to the remarkable work, findings, and research by filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, who also made the 2018 Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo.
Every year, more than a handful of nonfiction movies present topics on current-day issues. Most stick the landing, at the very least. But whether the stick with audiences much longer than just a few hours after their viewing, is a whole other story. This year’s movie that presents a current-day issue (or crisis) that we as a whole country face in such a powerful way is Mass. While there are no easy routes or clear resolutions by the end of its story, Mass presents its issues with force, veracity, and sincerity that are hard to ignore.
Filmmaker Mike Flanagan has blazed a trail unmatched by most other filmmakers since 2016. From Hush to Doctor Sleep and the two Haunting series, Flanagan has become a household name in the horror genre. But with the release of Midnight Mass this weekend, the 43-year-old has now cemented himself as one of the absolute best filmmakers in the entire industry right now. No one can question that statement after viewing all seven episodes of Midnight Mass, which is a methodically captivating horror story and arguably Flanagan’s best work to date. Anyone ready to be converted to the House of Flanagan and his mastery of character studies, exploration of themes, and expertly crafted horror settings should join him in his service that is Midnight Mass.
The lyrics, beats, dance routines, and messages put together in musicals have created some of the most memorable movies in cinematic history. However, musicals don’t work if more than one of these components fail to hit a high note. And in the case of Dear Evan Hansen, almost everything, aside from some of the music, just flat out doesn’t work or even make a case for having made this Broadway-hit into a movie. When you mix together the cast led by a poorly miscast titular character, complex messaging and offbeat pacing, it makes for just an oddly-made movie that’s more head-scratching than inspiring.
One of the most promising things when it comes to film right now is the idea of “spiritual sequels” to successful horror movies from decades ago. This first started with 2018’s Halloween, which turned out to be a Grade-A sequel to the 1978 classic. Last month, it was announced that Universal Pictures was making a spiritual sequel to the mega-hit 1973 horror film The Exorcist that will star Leslie Odom Jr; this too can be great given the right script and direction. Right now, Universal is the only studio to go down this path of reintroducing horror icons years and years later. I love the concept of bringing these franchises to the present with the mythology intact because there’s so much you can do. And now, we are presented with another spiritual sequel in the form of a Jordan Peele-produced (and co-written) sequel to 1992’s Candyman. Unfortunately, however, this Candyman is anything but thrilling or buzzworthy.
I think we can all agree that job interviews are among the most stressful things we encounter in life, right? Whatever your goal, you want to nail it. During the time leading up to job interviews, the nerves and anxiety reach all sorts of emotional points. And then, to make matters worse, once an interview is over, the anxiety over how you did begins. Did you do well? Did you answer everything correctly? What more could you have done? Granted, not everyone who goes through interviews experiences all these emotions. Some handle interviews better than others. All of this plays out on the big screen in the thought-provoking Nine Days. However, its subject material is not about a job interview; it’s related to souls interviewing to be given life on earth. Interviewing in the “great beyond” sounds more stressful than your typical job interview process, doesn’t it?
If you’ve seen a preview for Stillwater, then you’ve certainly noticed (and possibly were taken aback by) Matt Damon sporting a goatee. Then you may find out by watching the preview (or doing a Google search) that the title of the movie comes from the name of a town in Oklahoma. So, things might be starting to add up in your head about what type of guy Damon is playing, right? At least for me, I was immediately interested in the A-list actor’s role in this Tom McCarthy project. And if you read the plot description, the movie certainly sounds like a riff on the Taken franchise. (And Matt Damon recently discussed this on a podcast hosted by Marc Maron.) However, there is much more underneath the surface of Stillwater, and the result is a mostly character-driven drama that exceeds expectations.
Nicolas Cage, for all his up-and-down performances over the years, is still one of the most prolific actors in the business today. Sure, he’s had more duds than you might think and churns those out quite often, even as recently as earlier this year with Willy’s Wonderland. But then you take a look at his other movies, especially in the past couple of years, like Color Out of Space and Mandy, and they are great. Anytime Cage has a new movie, for all intents and purposes, it always grabs you. And so when a movie called Pig starring an actor like him arrives, it certainly will get your attention. However, Pig is not what you’re expecting. And that’s more than fine, thanks to Cage’s performance and the film’s subject material we see play out over its 90-minute runtime. Read more
I’ll never forget the day I was supposed to see A Quiet Place Part II at a press screening in March of last year, as it was also the same day everything in the country shutdown due to the pandemic that slowly grew. The pushing back of Part II to an unknown date began the bumming of other things getting inevitably delayed or cancelled altogether for movies in general. It was a sad time for millions of moviegoers and one that stretched much longer than anyone ever imagined it would. However, things now are returning to normal, slowly, thanks to the flattening of the curve and millions of people getting the vaccine. And the first sign of an actual return to normalcy of sorts at the movies was this being the first press screening I have attended in over 14 months. It made me smile, yes, and I also was excited to finally see the sequel to a movie that’s among one of my favorites from the past few years. Thankfully, Part II is a worthy sequel that’s more than just another horror movie labeled as a cash-grab hot off the heels of its predecessor that was universally praised and a smashing success at the box office. While it doesn’t reach the crescendo of its predecessor, Part II is still very much an enjoyable moviegoing experience that demands your time in a theater. Read more
Even without the title of this review, I probably don’t have to spew more than a few words into this piece before you, the reader, will know that The Mitchells vs.The Machines is another good animated movie from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. I mean, seriously. Anytime Lord and Miller have explored animated movies, they’ve struck gold. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The LEGO Movie, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—all three of these are delightful in their own ways and are arguably some of the best animated movies from the past 15 years, so I had little fear their new feature debuting on Netflix tomorrow would disappoint. It didn’t and the results deliver an intelligent, often hilarious, animated movie that is both relevant and telling when it comes to how most people have become more than dependent on technology these days.
If there’s one area that Netflix has shifted a bit of its focus to for original content in recent years, it’s the animation department. While some of their animated shows have been great, none of their animated movies has been knock-out-of-the-park material or memorable (if memory serves right) for this critic. And while I liked Netflix’s Over the Moon, released last year (and is now nominated for Best Animated Film at the upcoming Oscars), I wasn’t over the moon (insert chuckle here) about it. However, Netflix has a gem with Arlo the Alligator Boy, which drops on Netflix tomorrow. This sweet, wonderful 2D animated tale is a must-see for families and animated film lovers alike. Filled with great original songs and a message that should resonate with all, Arlo the Alligator Boy is an animated musical we’ll be talking about for the rest of the year.
It’s hard not to wonder what will happen to any of the kids who star in Stranger Things, Netflix’s most popular original show of all-time, once the series concludes. We already know that Millie Bobby Brown is on her way there, having starred in some higher profile movies since audiences got to know her as Eleven. And while I don’t doubt that she might go on to have a successful film career, I do think Caleb McLaughlin is starting to make a case for how good an actor he could be in the future with Netflix’s Concrete Cowboy. Nowhere is the boy wonder charm we see him as Lucas in Stranger Things. With Concrete Cowboy, comes a mature McLaughlin, who helps steer things in this mostly engaging drama about urban cowboys in Philadelphia. Read more