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
The path to the epic showdown between Godzilla and Kong in this MonsterVerse has not exactly been the smoothest road. All three movies leading up to this point have dealt with issues within the asphalt of said road. Godzilla didn’t show enough of everyone’s favorite lizard, Kong: Skull Island was not seen in the same light as Peter Jackson’s take on the giant ape (though I beg to differ), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters showed too much fighting in the dark, making it difficult to see exactly what was happening. Let’s also not forget that all three of these movies to varying degrees had human character problems due to script issues. And coming into Godzilla vs. Kong, I had some reservations considering how disappointed I was with King of the Monsters and how this film was being directed by someone who has made two of the worst movies I’ve seen in the past five years (one of which you can read about here). However, despite all this, Godzilla vs. Kong shows us what we’ve all been waiting for leading up to this film. While the human character issues remain a problem, when the two titans collide, it’s shown in such grand fashion that it causes pure excitement, and that alone is worth the price of admission rather than merely watching it from the comfort of your home.
I’ll be honest: faith-based movies usually fall at the bottom of the totem pole or desire for me to watch. It’s only because these faith-based movies are typically low on production values coupled with very, very bad acting. And I get it: most faith-based movies rely on low budgets to be successful (like most horror movies) these days. But they’re never my cup of tea. However, Netflix has invested seemingly more money in A Week Away than any faith-based movie I can recall in some time. The results? Well, story-wise, it’s predictable with a High School Musical spinoff vibe where religion plays a role. However, some of the musical numbers shown are entertaining and show how talented some of the young cast members are, which bodes well for their futures.
If you’ve seen a trailer for Nobody, I’m sure you’ve already thought, “This looks just like John Wick.” And you would be right, to an extent, and you’ll likely see the comparisons in other reviews of the movie. Sure, there are a handful of John Wick-esque action sequences and plenty of mystery unfolds regarding just who the main character is in this action flick. But make no mistake: the two action entries, this being just one (for now), and the John Wick franchise are still completely different animals in their own respects. Where the John Wick franchise is all about a man who turned out to be part of a group of skilled assassins, Nobody feels isolated to just one man with some sort of violent past (at least in this entry). And isolated is exactly what the doctor ordered thanks to Bob Odenkirk, who needs no assistance star-wise when it comes to delivering brute force and making Nobody an enjoyable thrill ride up until the credits roll.
In today’s age of television, there are so many options available to choose from on several streaming services and network channels. And when a new television show makes its debut, I have to decide whether I’m going to add it to the ever-growing catalogue of my entertainment menu. For me, at least, with television, since there is so much to choose from, the first episode of any television show must hook me right away to keep me invested. I get that some shows have this thing where, they seem to be saying, “Just watch a few episodes and then it really gets going.” However, with so much to see in so little time, I have to be reeled in by the time the credits roll at the end of the first episode. And not only did the first episode of Amazon’s Invincible meet this criteria, I had to watch the other two episodes I received immediately afterwards. After watching the first three episodes of Invincible, I think it’s already 2021’s best new television show of the year (so far).
It’s hard to believe that a little over three years ago, a theatrical version of Justice League was released and panned by critics, given “meh” responses from audiences, and then ultimately became a colossal box office disappointment for what should’ve been a huge celebration of DC Comics’ mightiest heroes. What happened leading up to the release of that version of the movie in theaters back in 2017 and what came afterwards has been well documented by numerous people across the globe. Hell, there’s even a recently published book with all the details. Every bit of the story from what happened during production, to the reshoots with a new director, to the theatrical release, the movement from a single hashtag on Twitter (#ReleaseTheSnyderCut) to today’s release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is crazy. And in the end, one thing is for certain: director Zack Snyder was right all along. Snyder’s fully-realized vision here is a heroic triumph of a comic-book-come-to-life that makes for one of the best superhero movies in recent years, without a doubt, and the proper introduction of DC’s best coming together to save the world.
If there’s any niche of the film industry that rising filmmakers commonly break into, it’s the horror genre, and Iranian-American director Natasha Kermani should do just that in her second feature film, Lucky. Together, she and writer-lead actress Brea Grant have crafted a darkly funny but terrifying truthful film about the horrors women face on a daily basis, and the film presents these truths in captivating fashion through a surreal tone, a creative script, incredible visuals and Grant’s standout lead performance. Read more
As the pandemic continues to linger, the state of seeing big releases in movie theaters remains in purgatory. COVID-19 case numbers are going down, seemingly causing box office numbers to go up to the point that theaters are beginning to show signs of a pulse, albeit not a strong one. Studios are still keeping a close eye on the pandemic on a week-to-week basis with movie dates changing at a moderate pace. When we will see blockbuster movies exclusively on the big screen rather than accompanied by same-day releases on streaming services at no extra cost (like Warner Brothers and HBO Max), nobody knows. But Disney, as they did with their Mulan remake, is dropping Raya and the Last Dragon not only in theaters, but also on Premier Access on Disney+ this Friday for $30, giving families the option to watch it at home. Not only is Raya and the Last Dragon the first good movie of 2021, but it’s also one of the best animated movies from Disney in recent memory.
The Russo Brothers, Anthony and Joe, are some of the best filmmakers in the business right now. Aside from helping shape the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the past decade, they also have their hands on several other interesting projects both in television and film that are enjoyable or well-respected. I’ve certainly been curious to see what this brotherly duo would do as directors post-Avengers: Endgame (and especially something that’s not superhero related). And with Cherry being their first directorial project since then, it is certainly something outside of their box and unlike anything we’ve seen them make before. However, the results in this odyssey are disastrous.
Lee Isaac Chung’s directorial debut film Minari is getting buzz in multiple categories at the Academy Awards this year, and upon first watch, it’s easy to see why it’s worthy of all the accolades it’s sure to receive. The film dedicates itself to depicting both an Asian-American experience and the trials of life on farmland in the deep South through an authentic, heartfelt script, grounded, realistic performances from its ensemble cast, and a feel that’s as gorgeous aurally as it is visually. Read more
There are certain low-budget indie movies that come out every year that are absolute must-sees. Its looks like in 2020, Nomadland is 100% that movie. There is something captivating and beautiful about a movie that feels so human and genuine. Nomadland is captivating within the first few minutes because it doesn’t even feel like a movie; It feels like as the viewer, you’re a fly on the wall during an actual person’s life. That is very hard to pull off, so props to director/writer Chloe Zhao for achieving that. Read more
If you had guessed that a grainy black and white film with a scene involving macaroni and cheese would eventually sell for $30 million during the middle of a pandemic, please reach out to me to collect your prize. Conceived and shot during the middle of the pandemic, Malcom & Marie is another drama you can file under “a story that entirely takes place in one setting with no more than two actors that appear on screen.” Approved by multiple organizations that greenlight the shooting of films, the production was scaled back in order to follow COVID-19 protocols. While the production itself may be more fascinating than the film itself when it’s all said and done, Malcolm & Marie is still a drama worth sitting through. Sure, it may not be the awards contender Netflix was hoping it would be, but it’s still a fine film with two great performances from two actors who are currently on hot trails in Hollywood.
We all have dreams growing up as children. For me, I always wanted to be a major league baseball player. However, our life’s purpose eventually collides with our dreams. Sometimes, children’s dreams mesh with life’s purpose. But for most people (like myself), our lives take another direction as we grow up. This isn’t a bad thing however, as we are meant to live every minute by making the most of it. That, among other things, is the purpose of life and the message Pixar’s Soul gives audiences. Dealing with thematic elements for people of all ages, Soul takes us on a spiritual journey that is both beautiful and touching, which makes for one of the year’s best movies. The end results will differ for kids and adults, but Pixar veteran director Pete Doctor delivers another movie that is in the top half of Pixar’s entire catalogue.