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The 15:17 to Paris (2018)
5 minutes of plot stretched way too thin
It was an interesting idea to tell this story with the real people who lived it. However, it was more an idea for a 30 minute TV special than a feature length movie. The movie is about them stopping a terrorist attack on a train, but that only takes 5 minutes so Clint Eastwood fills it out with a lot of very uninteresting backstory on the characters. They are ordinary people with ordinary lives, and that makes for very dull movies. I don't care about when they were in middle school or if they were clubbing in Amsterdam two days before the attack.
As for casting the actual people to play themselves, it serves as a reminder of how difficult acting is. No offense to Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos, but they can't act. Almost every line sounds awkward and unrealistic because they aren't sure how to behave in front of the camera. The child actors are just as bad, which is typical of most child actors. The only people who feel natural in their roles are Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer, the professional actors.
There were also several anachronisms that are minor complaints, but are mistakes that shouldn't be made. First, in the scenes from their childhood, set in 2005, there is a poster for Letters from Iwo Jima on Spencer's wall. The movie didn't come out until the end of 2006, given that it is Clint Eastwood's movie, he should get that right. Also, when Spencer decides to get in shape for the military (sometime in 2011 or 2012) they are watching a Cal football game from 2006. I wouldn't have noticed, except they mention Marshawn Lynch by name and have a shot of the game itself and the announcers can be easily heard during the scene. They had to go and find video of that game to show, so why didn't they pick a game that was from the year the scene was taking place.
Den of Thieves (2018)
A B-Movie Unaware it is a B-Movie
Den of Thieves is essentially a remake of Michael Mann's Heat, only Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are replaced by Gerard Butler and Pablo Schreiber. Round out the cast with a rapper and the son of a rapper and you have a tailor made B-movie that shouldn't take itself too seriously. At first, that is pretty much what you get, but then it slowly becomes clear that Den of Thieves is blissfully unaware that it is bad. There are several subplots that belong in a more serious movie that bloat the runtime up to a lengthy 2 hours and 20 minutes when it should be a full hour shorter. The script tries to get way too clever for its own good adding twists and turns that feel more ridiculous than enjoyable. First time director Christian Gudegast clearly demonstrates that his talents unfortunately lie elsewhere as he incorporates several shots that would feel heavy handed in even the most serious dramas.
On a positive note, the action sequences are fairly exciting even if it took an odd route to get there. The heist itself was the highlight of the movie and despite a few plot holes it played on screen about as well as any movie heists this side of the Ocean's trilogy. They were also able to recapture Heat's ambiguity as to who is the protagonist, though it was less through making both sides appealing and more through just wedging in that they all love their families.
If you are looking for a fun heist movie, then check out Netflix, because there are a lot of better ones out there than this.
The Commuter (2018)
Decent Thriller Derailed by Ridiculous Third Act
SPOILER: The Commuter delivers what it promises, a Liam Neeson action movie that relies on tension and a little bit of mystery to fill out its runtime. It begins very well with minimal exposition for the set up, using images or short conversations to explain what most movies would carve out five minutes of dialogue for. From there it evolves more like a mystery with an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation searching for someone on the train. As it enters the third act, it goes full action movie with explosions, fight scenes, and massive stakes. While this was to be expected from Jaume Collet-Serra, it undermines what had been a more contained thriller up to that point.
It is shot well enough and uses an ensemble cast well, but no one besides Liam Neeson really has too much to do. Vera Farmiga and Jonathan Banks are both talented actors that are really underutilized. All in all, The Commuter is another Liam Neeson action movie that could be best described as "Nonstop on a train."
Proud Mary (2018)
Passable Action Movie
Proud Mary is a completely fine action movie, but it brings nothing new to the table. It is formulaic and follows the standard action movie blueprint and manages to do so without any major plotholes or eye-roll inducing action sequences. Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a high ranking member of a crime family who tries to take care of a little boy she orphaned and ends up turning her life upside down.
The action sequences are well shot and entertaining, though the movie thinks the one-liners are better than they are. The characters are fairly bland and generic, though Henson manages to elevate Mary above the standard B movie action hero. Danny Glover is definitely looking his age and wasn't quite able to give his mob patriarch the edge he needed to ever be really intimidating. I was hoping for more references to the blaxploitation movies of the 70s beyond the title cards and some of the soundtrack, but there really wasn't. They also didn't really utilize the setting much, it is set in Boston, but there was nothing that would have really changed if it was any other city.
I, Tonya (2017)
A Sympathetic Perspective
I don't remember the actual Nancy Kerrigan assault and the ensuing media fallout because I was too young, so I didn't enter with any preconceived notions of what really happened. They don't try to definitively say if Tonya Harding ordered the attack, because we will probably never know for certain, but they frame her potential innocence as a strong possibility. That seems absurd until you realize the incredible stupidity of her ex-husband and his friends. The film plays out as a dark comedy following the extremely unlikely rise of Tonya Harding from trailer trash to one of the top figure skaters in the world through all of the adversity with an institution that didn't want any part of her.
Margot Robbie is excellent, if a little too tall, as Tonya, channeling the anger and drive that propelled Tonya to greatness and may have led to her downfall. Allison Janney is fantastic as her abusive, hateful mother in a performance that will earn her a surefire Oscar nod. Sebastian Stan is also pretty good in an almost unrecognizable performance as her unhinged ex-husband. Ultimately, I was left feeling a little sorry for Tonya because they took the only thing she could do away from her by banning her from skating.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
A Disappointing Slog
I was so disappointed, I had hopes that this critically acclaimed film would actually be good. I was hoping for another Brokeback Mountain, instead I sat through I film so dull it felt like it was six hours long. I don't know how old Oliver was supposed to be, every indication seemed to be that he was in his late 20s judging by his apparent education and physical appearance. That just makes him pretty much a sexual predator preying on a confused, naive seventeen year old boy. That is not the basis of a great love story. If the story was about a heterosexual relationship and Elio was a girl, then Oliver would come across as a predator and people might notice that nothing actually happens in the entire film.
There was no conflict at any point in the film, Brokeback Mountain or Moonlight had the societal pressures against their relationships weighing on them, feeding into their confusion and struggle. That is not present here, no one has any problem with homosexuality, and while there is certainly nothing wrong with that, storytelling thrives on conflict, and that was certainly missing. It was essentially a summer love rom-com without any comedy. There was no reason to care about the characters, as someone who is not homosexual, there was no way for me to connect to any of the characters, because they really weren't given any other traits. This led to me really not caring what happened to any of them in their pampered carefree lives.
The entire film is building towards a speech at the end that was well done and served as the culmination of the entire film. Then, at a perfect moment to roll credits and leave on a high note, it then proceeds for 5 more minutes to no effect besides destroying any lasting impact of the speech.
Darkest Hour (2017)
An Oscar Worthy Performance
Gary Oldman is brilliant in Darkest Hour, he becomes one of most important figures of the 20th century so effectively that I forgot I was watching a movie for a few moments. Oldman's Churchill is fighting a war not only with Germany, but with his own government, who are desperate for peace and appeasement. Churchill was willing to make the hard choices when few wanted to face the reality of the situation Britain was in at the dawn of the war.
Joe Wright puts together an excellent film that is not solely dependent on Oldman's performance. Wright captures the mood of England shortly before the war had actually begun to have a huge impact on everyday life. The threat of war was still just a looming darkness in the east, which was why Chamberlain and others were so convinced peace was possible.
In addition to Oldman, the rest of the cast performed well, in particular Ben Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn was outstanding as King George VI, the role that won Colin Firth an Oscar in The King's Speech. He perfectly incorporated the lisp into his speech patterns, and he also carried himself like the King who never expected to be King. All in all, Darkest Hour was one of the best films of the year and I would be shocked if Oldman doesn't go home with the Oscar.
Clunky Dialogue, Plot, and Mythos
Bright had an interesting concept, a world where magical creatures like elves and orcs live side by side with humans. Human police officer Daryl Ward (Will Smith) is partnered with the first ever Orc police officer Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), despite his and everyone else's protests. I had hoped they would use this pairing for some social commentary (like Enemy Mine, or even Alien Nation), but instead they just head off on a semi-buddy cop action movie backfilled with a lot of magical mumbo-jumbo.
In this society the elves are the highest class, the orcs are the middle class, and humans exist somewhere in the middle. Human society still looks just like it looks in real world LA, just with magical creatures slapped on the ends. These different races have lived side by side for thousands of years, but Earth essentially looks the same as it does in real life, with the same countries and cities. It would seem that there would be Elven countries and Orcish countries and Human countries, but they just all live together and hate each other. Also, in this world there was still the Alamo and Shrek movies apparently. There are also other magical creatures like Centaurs and Dragons that appear in the background and just make the whole this more confusing. Why is it such a big deal to have an Orc cop, but nobody thinks twice about the Centaur cop?
Because there is so much mythos that they need to fill the audience in on, there is a lot of clunky dialogue where characters tell each other things that already know. The federal agent who hunts down wands probably wouldn't need to be told what happens if a human touches a wand. The also created a world where humans and orcs would probably be extinct if not enslaved by the elves, considering the handful we see are indestructible super soldier badasses.
The writing is so poor that they managed to make Will Smith boring. Instead of him spewing one liners like he does in the Men in Black franchise, he is serious until he suddenly says a joke that falls flat. It is disappointing to see a director in David Ayer, who showed so much promise with End of Watch, consistently make such terrible movies like this, Suicide Squad and Sabotage. It is like his only take away from the success of End of Watch was that he needed to use more intercity gangs in his stories.
Molly's Game (2017)
Quick Moving and Engrossing
Aaron Sorkin may be the best writer working today, and Molly's Game is another example of this with wonderful dialogue making a 140 minute film fly by in what felt like an hour. Sorkin showed promise behind the camera as well in his directorial debut. The pacing and nonlinear storytelling were excellent and he was able to elicit some excellent performances from his cast. Jessica Chastain was fantastic as Molly Bloom, the brilliant student and world class skier who ended up running high stakes poker games for the rich and famous. She should get her third Oscar nomination for her work here. Idris Elba and Kevin Costner are also very good as her lawyer and father respectively.
All the Money in the World (2017)
"If you can count your money, you don't have a billion dollars"
J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) was the richest man in the world when his grandson (Charlie Plummer) was kidnapped in 1973. He refused to pay a dime of the $17 million dollar, saying he couldn't afford it and it would set a bad precedent. The boy's mother (Michelle Williams) is left with only the aid of the Italian police and a former CIA operative who works for Getty (Mark Wahlberg) to help recover her son.
The film unfolds in a tense drama that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Michelle Williams is fantastic as a desperate mother willing to do anything to save her child, but having to fight Getty just as much as the kidnappers. Wahlberg is also surprisingly good as the former CIA man that is really a negotiator, not a super spy. The real star is Christopher Plummer's Getty. He is outstanding as an old frail man who built an empire through ruthless negotiations and frugality and refuses to deviate from that even to save his own grandson. His misguided priorities are perfectly displayed by him claiming to not be able to afford the ransom and then spending millions on a new painting. Plummer's performance is all the more impressive considering he stepped in at the last minute and shot all of his scenes in just 8 days.
Ridley Scott blends the experiences of the hostage Paul Getty with the worry of his mother and the indifference of his grandfather beautifully. There is very little wasted movement and my biggest complaints are just the occasionally confusing decisions by some characters, but those decisions are all the ones made by real people at the time, so I can hardly fault Scott.
Father Figures (2017)
A Solid Feel-Good Comedy
Father Figures brings nothing new or innovative to the table, but it follows the formula well and delivers a perfectly fine movie. Ed Helms and Owen Wilson star as twin brothers who discover that their father, whom they were told died before they could know him, isn't actually their father. Their mother, played by Glenn Close, isn't sure who their father is, but is pretty sure it's Terry Bradshaw. They then embark on a traditional road comedy as they go to meet him and continually get clues as to who their father is moving them along. The meet an interesting cast of characters and learn about themselves along the way before realizing that the most important thing is that they have each other.
There is no stand out performer who consistently elicits laughs, but it keeps chugging along with decent jokes enough to prevent it from dragging. They avoid overusing any of the jokes and there weren't any points where I was just waiting for the scene to end. This isn't going to be a classic or something that you want to watch over and over, but there are a lot worse ways to kill 2 hours.
The Greatest Showman (2017)
A Showy, Forgettable CG Musical
The Greatest Showman is a flashy biopic of circus pioneer PT Barnum. Unfortunately, PT Barnum gets the Hollywood treatment and it is a shallow movie that portrays Barnum as a champion of the downtrodden just as much as the profiteer that he was. Hugh Jackman's version of Barnum would never say "There's a sucker born every minute."
Of even greater disappointment was the music. The writers of La La Land's incredible soundtrack follow it up with a disappointing set of songs that all sound the same. If you shuffled the songs around in this movie, I'm not sure anyone would really notice. The only song I can remember much of is The Greatest Show, and that's just because they repeatedly come back to it. Even Golden Globe nominated This Is Me sounds like the rest of them. It was also clear that for the most part the actors are not the ones singing, and those that are recorded in a studio and then lip synced, which while understandable, should not be noticeable.
There is a solid cast and they all do fine, particularly Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson. The dance numbers definitely feel like they are from a 60s musical like West Side Story or Mary Poppins rather than a modern musical. It is also shot and constructed reasonably well, but it just not gripping.
A fun action comedy for the whole family
This sequel essentially only brings the name and concept of getting trapped in a game from the original. It is essentially an action heavy version of The Breakfast Club, as four high schoolers from different social groups are all in detention together and get sucked into the game. Along the way they grow and develop and move past their differences and realize they need to work together to get out of the game.
The core of the movie is simple body swap comedy, which they all do well, but Jack Black excels in particular as a shallow self obsessed teenage girl trapped in Jack Black's body. The plot is essentially a video game, reminiscent of Tomb Raider or Uncharted, but used as a vehicle for humorous moments. The humor plays to all ages with jokes targeted at kids and jokes for adults. The adult jokes were mostly about flirting and social interactions with very few of them being sexual. There was only one joke that the 7 year old next to me felt the need to ask his mom about, but it was subtle enough that she could just move past it. There was also not a single fart or poop joke, which is a miracle in a modern comedy.
This sequel is one of the few that actually surpasses the original, which was scarier for kids and not as funny for everyone else. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is the action comedy that leans on the comedy and is actually funny without being crude.
The Shape of Water (2017)
The Shape of Water is Guillermo Del Toro's latest blend of fantasy mysticism and gritty realism. Set around 1960, Sally Hawkins stars as a mute janitor at a research facility who falls in love with a creature that they pulled from the Amazon. This is beautifully played over a cold war backdrop with outstanding supporting performances, like Octavia Spencer as the sassy coworker, Michael Shannon as the sadistic boss, and Richard Jenkins as her struggling neighbor. It is firmly reminiscent of Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, without feeling too similar.
There were several moments when it dipped into being unnecessarily crude for a few cheap laughs that felt out of place. They also took her relationship with the creature to a place that kind of undermined the beauty of it and weakened the film as a whole. Del Toro definitely played into the R rating by diverting a touching love story to places that didn't help develop it.
The Shape of Water is Del Toro's best work since Pan's Labyrinth and features beautiful cinematography and very strong work by the entire cast. However, it never manages to break through into being a truly great film despite showing the potential.
The Disaster Artist (2017)
A Hilarious Look at One of the Worst Movies Ever
Of all of the worst movies ever made, "The Room" is by far the most fun to watch. It is so terrible that I don't think something like it could ever be made intentionally, so I was excited to get a look at how it was made. The Disaster Artist did not disappoint. We see most of it through Greg (Dave Franco) as he meets and befriends one of the most enigmatic people in the world, Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Everything about Tommy Wiseau, from his thick accent to his preference for wearing several belts at once, is so absurd, that no one could make it up. There is also the strange relationship between Greg and Tommy, where Tommy becomes dependent and protective of Greg.
The highlights of the film are when the experienced members of the movie industry observe Tommy and his inane approach to film making. This is where Seth Rogen gets his lines in as the script supervisor Sandy. They also painstakingly recreate key moments from The Room and show them both being filmed, and side by side with the actual movie just before the credits role.
James Franco nails the role of Tommy, having the accent down perfectly and the constantly spaced out look. Dave Franco does well as Greg, though the height difference was notable, as Dave Franco is noticeably shorter than his brother, but the actual Greg was much taller than Tommy Wiseau. The rest of the cast is filled with recognizable faces as many notable comedians cameo.
The Hurricane (1999)
A Great Performance in a Decent Biopic
Denzel Washington gives an excellent performance as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer who was imprisoned for 20 years in connection to a triple homicide. There is significant controversy surrounding both Carter's possible involvement and the film's portrayal. The film takes the stance that Carter was completely innocent of all of charges against him, including his childhood assault and robbery, which they frame as him protecting his friend from a child molester. They also imply that his title bout loss to Joey Giardello was due to racist scoring, though Carter himself has admitted that Giardello beat him fair and square.
Ignoring all that, there was little draw to the film besides Washington's outstanding performance. There was a significant portion of the film devoted to Lesra (Vicellous Shannon) and his adopted family working to free Carter from his wrongful imprisonment. While what they did was very important and made an impact on Carter's life, there was far too much screen time devoted to them given how long the runtime already was. There were no important people shown in Carter's life besides Lesra, with Carter's wife given just a few brief scenes. The Hurricane couldn't decide if it wanted to be a courtroom drama, a boxing movie, or a character study and just dabbled in all of them without devoting enough time to thrive in any of the genres. It is disappointing to see a great director like Norman Jewison do so little with such a high quality performance like Denzel gives here.
Soylent Green (1973)
A Sci-fi Detective Story
Set in an overpopulated future (2022, but it may as well be 2075), where the environment has been damaged to the point that farming cannot produce enough food. The Soylent corporation produces most of the foodstuffs in the form of colored biscuit-like squares made from soybeans and plankton. Detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) is a NYC cop who investigates the death of a rich executive of the Soylent corporation. He determines that the murder was part of a cover up and begins to uncover the dark secrets behind their society.
Heston gives a performance in line with the rest of career and Edward G. Robinson shines in his final appearance as he died shortly after filming wrapped. There are plenty of interesting social commentaries about the massive divide between the rich and poor. There is a reintroduction of indentured servitude in this society as prostitutes come with apartments and are considered a part of the "furniture" for the wealthy. When pushed against obstacles like overpopulation and food shortages, society backslides and a few use force to dominate the masses.
The ending felt rushed, unnecessarily so, given the film's relatively short 96 minute runtime. The first hour was engaging and interesting, but the last 20 minutes was a rush to get to the revelation. Thorn also goes searching for evidence of the wrongdoing, but doesn't actually bring back any besides seeing it for himself. At that point it is just his word against their's and they have shown no hesitation to kill to protect their power.
An Exciting Victorian Heist
The Great Train Robbery follows the standard heist movie blueprint. The team gets assembled to pull off an impossible job, they do all of the complicated prep work, then there is a last minute complication that makes it much more difficult than they expected. What stands out here is the setting, Victorian England, and the much smaller crew of thieves than usual. Most heist movies have a huge crew of 10+ characters that each need to have their characters explored. Here there is just the mastermind (Sean Connery), the pickpocket (Donald Sutherland), the girl (Lesley-Anne Downs), and the greaseman (Wayne Sleep). There are a few others, but their characters are so minor that they do not even get names. Rather than get sidetracked covering side characters, there is a strong focus on moving the plot forward that makes the entire movie more interesting.
What also stands out is the impressive stunts that were done mostly without stuntmen. Wayne Sleep really scales a wall and Sean Connery really walks across the top of a moving train. In today's CGI heavy film industry, it is refreshing to see an older movie that stays simpler with its big stunts, but they feel much realer, because they are. A lot of the movie relies on Sean Connery's natural charisma, which is the secret to a good heist movie, and Connery holds up very well compared to Clooney and Sinatra in the Ocean's movies and Newman and Redford in The Sting.
The Shootist (1976)
John Wayne's Swan Song
The Shootist was the final film of John Wayne's legendary career and it may have been the perfect note for him to end on. Wayne plays J.B. Books, a famous gunfighter in his final days after being diagnosed with cancer. He is faced with the dilemma of how to handle his final days as he wants to go out with dignity and on his own terms. Everyone wants a piece of him and his legacy, while he doesn't want any part of that. Lauren Bacall and Ron Howard co-star as the widow he stays with and her son in characters that bear a strong resemblance to the Jean Arthur and Brandon de Wilde characters from Shane.
Books' desire to finish his life in the same manner in which he lived parallels Wayne finishing his career here with an aged version of the roles which made him a legend. The appearance of James Stewart also reinforced this as Wayne was playing a very similar character to his role in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
A Love Triangle... or Rectangle
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the story of a four people struggling to understand what love is or what the feelings they have mean. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are Americans spending a summer in Barcelona. They meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) a painter who embodies the concept of European free love. They fall into an unusual love triangle, complicated by Vicky's engagement. It gets even more complicated when Juan Antonio's crazy ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) is thrown into the mix.
What makes Vicky Cristina Barcelona different from most love triangle movies, is that there is no animosity between the characters. They are not in competition with each other, they are merely trying to find themselves. Everyone gives a great performance, particularly Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz. Woody Allen is working in his element here are makes a few choices that are unorthodox, but effective. Most notable is his use of a narrator throughout in the manner that was common in the 40s and 50s. The narrator relays plot points that could be conveyed in a quick scene, but rather that interrupt the flow, they are narrated in transitions.
The Most Quotable Western
Tombstone is a gritty and fun western. It is packed with memorable lines, the best of which all come from Doc Holiday (Val Kilmer). The stacked cast which features talented actors like Billy Bob Thornton and Thomas Haden Church in bit roles. Covering the great story of Wyatt Earp's vendetta ride featuring historic moments like the gunfight at the OK Corral, Tombstone has both the exciting plot and engrossing characters to make a great movie.
Doc Holiday is simply one of the best characters in history and Val Kilmer portrays him wonderfully. It is absurd that he was snubbed an Oscar nomination. Every line he says is an instant classic, from "I'm your huckleberry" to "My hypocrisy goes only so far."
There are flaws however. The scenes on Wyatt's relationship with Josephine are annoying breaks from the tension and excitement of the rest of the story. It is understandable as to why they are there, since it was an important aspect of Wyatt Earp's life. But they still are a drag of sorts on the rest of the movie.
A Fresh Perspective on the Classic Story
By 1843 Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) was a successful author known around the world, however he was in a funk. His last three books were flops and he was broke and well into debt. Out of ideas he is up against the wire knowing another flop could very well kill his career. When inspiration finally strikes, he is forced to publish the book himself because no publisher wants to do a Christmas book and he has to finish in just six weeks in order to release before Christmas.
When Dickens is writing, he sees his characters in the room with him and talks to them to develop the character. This is best done with his conversations with Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) a character he created as an amalgamation of London's snobby elite who helps he learn about himself as he writes. The story also dives into Dickens early life, especially his relationship with his father (Jonathan Pryce), which helps the viewer understand what drove and inspired Dickens.
This is definitely a movie that assumes familiarity with A Christmas Carol, since it constantly references the story. The title is also a misnomer of sorts, there is no real perspective as to what Christmas was like before A Christmas Carol. And while Dickens did shape a new form of Christmas, it is not the Christmas that is celebrated today. Dickens' Christmas was focused on charitable giving and coming together with loved ones, that Christmas has been lost for a while in favor of a more consumerist Christmas.
A Visual Spectacle with a Warm Message
12 year old Miguel comes from a family with a longstanding ban on any kind of music due to his musician great-great grandfather walking out on the family. Naturally, Miguel's passion is music which he pursues hidden from his family. After he gets transported to the land of the dead on Day of the Dead he must obtain his ancestors' blessing to return to the world of the living. When they won't give him the blessing without him swearing off music, he embarks on a quest to find his great-great grandfather and get his blessing.
Coco may be the most visually beautiful of all the Pixar movies. The stellar animation is filled with color and brings the land of the dead to life. Excellent voice work helps to make Coco one of Pixar's better works.
Coco is a great movie for kids and adults alike, though it may be a little heavy for the youngest children due to the importance of death to the story. At its core, Coco is a great story about the importance of family and honoring your ancestors.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)
Formulaic and Familiar
Jack Reacher 2 doesn't bring anything new to the action genre, but there's nothing wrong with that. It is another Tom Cruise action movie, smaller in scope than the Mission Impossible movies, but still exciting with plenty of action scenes. They mix it up a little from the standard formula by taking the lone wolf Jack Reacher and making him work with others. Those others, Cobie Smulder's Major Turner and a teenage girl (Danika Yarosh), also prefer to work alone, so there is some conflict besides the main plot and villains.
Speaking of those villains, there is really no depth there. There is the standard Bond formula of a big evil guy behind a desk and his agent working in the field. Neither one is developed as a character and there is no reason to care about what they are doing because there is no real risk that they are out-thinking Jack Reacher.
Lady Bird (2017)
Teenage Angst and the Mother-Daughter Relationship
I went into Lady Bird fully expecting to dislike the character of Lady Bird. From the trailers, she seemed like a self centered ungrateful brat. To some extent that holds true, it takes the self- named "Lady Bird" a while to consider the needs or feelings of others, but she experiences tremendous development over the course of the film. She really is an ordinary teenager, a confused girl who is simultaneously self-obsessed and tremendously empathetic.
Saoirse Ronan brings a ton to the role of Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a teenager trying to find her way in the world. She hates and loves her mother, brilliantly played by Laurie Metcalf, but she struggles to cope with those two conflicting feelings.
Laurie Metcalf really elevates the role of Lady Bird's mother, she is perfectly described by one character as warm, but scary. She loves Lady Bird, but she doesn't really like her because she sees how much more she could be if she is able to get her head on straight. Metcalf should win an Oscar for this role as she is really what makes the whole thing work. The core of the entire film is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, and Ronan and Metcalf are perfect in how they play off each other here.