FlixChatter Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Can’t believe it’s been seven years ago that I reviewed the Andrew Garfield‘s The Amazing Spider-man, which I barely even remember now so clearly it wasn’t all that amazing. I think I was mostly sentimental as I was at Comic-Con Hall H when Garfield first revealed that he was playing the role (those with eagle eyes might notice me hyperventilating just inches away behind him 😉 ) but since Tom Holland took over the role in Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017, he’s now become my favorite Spider-man. He’s a proper kid after all, while Garfield was a decade older when he was cast to play a teenager.

I’m treading as carefully as I can with this review as not to tread into spoiler territory. It is safe to say that the film takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, which if you still haven’t seen it by now, well this entire movie IS a huge spoiler. While Endgame has fixed Thanos’ snap in which he wiped off half the universe, those who had been gone for five years now co-exist with those who remained, the effect coined as ‘the Blip.’ The opening sequence addresses that in hilarious way (using a famous 90s power ballad) as Peter is reunited with his BFF Ned (Jacob Batalon) and they’re preparing on a school trip to Europe.

The heroic ending of Tony Stark weighed heavily on everyone, most of all Peter Parker who still misses his former mentor/father figure. Not only that, he also carries the burden of people’s expectations that he’d become the next Iron Man, which honestly, is too much for any capable man, let alone a 16-year-old boy! Yes he’s an Avenger, and at such a tender age, he’s had more than his fair share of battles. ‘Please! You’ve been to space!’ as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) argued, but the most important thing in Peter’s world at the moment is to declare his love to his school crush. I appreciate that this movie allows Peter be a regular boy, dealing with the angst of teen angst like any other, while juggling the huge expectations of  living up to the ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ mantra.

Just like its titular hero, director Jon Watts also has a huge responsibility on his shoulder the fact that Far From Home is the last movie of Phase Three of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) while no new movie has been officially announced for Phase Four yet. I think Marvel boss Kevin Feige said Endgame and Far From Home is ‘essentially two pieces of the same story’ which has to be quite challenging to do when you’ve got two different set of directors for each film. Yet Watts managed to pull it off marvelously, keeping the tone of this movie lighthearted, humorous and fun but not without its poignant emotional moments. The fact that he has worked with Holland in Spider-man: Homecoming, they surely have a good rapport. The returning cast such as Batalon and Zendaya as MJ have a bit more to do here as well. I have to say some of my fave scenes involve Peter and MJ, who refreshingly is much more than a damsel in distress.

Jake Gyllenhaal in his MCU debut as Mysterio couldn’t be more perfectly-cast. The less said about his character the better but I could say that he and Holland have a good chemistry together. I also like that the plot deals with the themes of trust, as any good superhero would have to quickly learn, similar to the themes in Captain America: Winter Soldier in many ways. I also love that the movie deconstructed the whole superhero myth as one character said something about how people only listen to you if you wear a cape.

Clocking in at 2 hours 9 minutes, the movie didn’t have many slow moments. The action sequences are terrific. All the perilous scenarios really puts Spidey’s power to the test. The fact that Peter now has access to Stark’s state-of-the-art technology is both a blessing and a curse, which you’ll find out why when you see the movie. I still do have issues with some of the more bombastic action sequences (just way too many explosions!) but the clever plot makes it bearable. Plus I love the European locations… Venice, Vienna, Prague… oh my! There’s also a hilarious bit of Peter in the Netherlands! It certainly helps when the script is as nimble and spry as the protagonist. Screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers turned the whole ‘saving the world from an Avengers-level threat’ upside down where nothing is what it seems. Now, my favorite Spider-man movie up until now was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 with Doc Ock as a fantastic adversary, but I think this one now stands as my new favorite Spidey movie.

Tom Holland is the true star here who absolutely rocks as both Spider-man AND his alter ego Peter Parker. He’s got the nimble physicality that makes him credible as a web slinger, but what I love most is how he wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not afraid to show his feelings, be it his deep admiration for Tony Stark or his love for MJ. I have to admit that whole ‘Peter Tingle’ phrase (thanks Aunt May!) in reference to his Spider-sense is silly and cringe-inducing, but it’s a cute scene the first time it’s introduced. Marisa Tomei is wonderful as Aunt May and nice to see Jon Favreau back as Happy who now gets to look after Iron Man’s young protégé. I already mentioned about Zendaya above but I’ll say it again, I adore her MJ and I hope she gets to do more in the future Spider-man movies!

Lastly, while I can’t talk about the ending of this movie, one thing I can say is that it’s unpredictable. That is always quite a feat for any movie, let alone one of this magnitude where there’ve been so many versions in the franchise. Oh and DO stay for the end credits scenes! Believe the hype, they’re both great and the first part actually makes you wonder just what it all means for Peter Parker in MCU Phase Four. Man, we don’t even know when the next Marvel movie comes out but I’m already looking forward to it. Bring. It. On!


What are YOUR thoughts about Spider-man: Far From Home

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FlixChatter Review: TOY STORY 4 (2019)

When Pixar Animation Studios released the animated feature Toy Story on November 22, 1995, it probably could not have imagined in its wildest dreams that the animation studio would be acquired by Walt Disney Studios, and would be releasing its fourth Toy Story movie, Toy Story 4, after the first three films received universal acclaim from critics and fans alike and made close to 2 billion dollars in the worldwide box office. Fortunately for Pixar President Jim Morris, and Pixar Chief Creative Officer (and Minnesota native) Pete Docter, all of these things did come true, and the release of the last Toy Story film, Toy Story 4, could not have come at a more perfect time.

Pixar has become synonymous with genuinely heartfelt, often hilarious, high-quality animated entertainment. And Toy Story 4 delivers just that for the Disney-owned animation studio. It’s a sequel to the massively successful Toy Story 3 movie of 2010, following the adventures of Sheriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), among other toys who reside with their human child owners, and try to bring them as much joy and laughter as possible.

While we did not review any of the previous Toy Story movies here, back in 2016 blog owner Ruth Maramis did a weekend roundup after having just watched The Secret Life Of Pets and re-watched Toy Story 3, where she said she was “blown away by how good and emotionally-compelling it was. It’s definitely much more than just a fun, feel-good kids movie. The Toy Story trilogy still reign supreme as the best animated movies ever, it won’t be a hyperbole to call it Pixar’s masterpiece.” Well I have good news for you, Ruth! Toy Story is no longer a trilogy but rather a list of feature film series with four entries (and probably one of – if not the – best four animated feature film series) and its will most definitely NOT be a hyperbole to call the Toy Story franchise Pixar’s masterpiece. In fact, Toy Story 4 could be considered the crown jewel of the franchise because it manages to maintain its superb animation qualities and the emotional complexities of its predecessors, while adding a major element of humor to its repertoire.

Ducky & Bunny – voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele

By adding the strong comedic writing style of Rashida Jones, among other writers, Director Josh Cooley added new toy characters such as Ducky and Bunny (voiced respectively by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) to a freshen up the animated toys used in the franchise. These two – a duck named Ducky and a rabbit named Bunny – make friends with Buzz Lightyear after he finds himself as a prize in a carnival booth. They exist simply for being plush toy prizes, and not belonging to any child. They long for the chance to escape their monotonous existence on the wall of a carnival booth someday and get the shot at an exciting life, belonging to a child, and of being a part of a family of toys. These are just two of the new and exciting toys in Toy Story 4, but probably the most ordinary yet magical new toys is Forky (voiced by Tony Hale). Forky was created by new child Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw) when she goes to kindergarten for an orientation. Bonnie instantly falls in love with Forky and it is the only toy she can ever think of when she wants a friend. But Forky… well Forky is much interested in the simpler life, one where he is quite simply trash. He was made from trash, and feels most comfortable when in the trash can. In fact, Woody spends the majority of the first half of the movie trying to keep Forky from ditching Bonnie for a less exiting existence in the trash. But by doing so, Woody also finds meaning to his own existence and understands that not all toys are meant to belong to just one single child.

One of the most exiting toys that I’m sure will be talked about long after Toy Story 4 finishes its theatrical run is named Duke Caboom and he’s voiced by Keanu Reeves. Duke Caboom may just be a Canadian daredevil toy with a white outfit, a mustache, and a toy motorcycle. But Duke Caboom is also a major hero, where he risks everything just so the toys he just met could be saved.  You see, Duke suffers from low self-esteem due to believing that he let down his previous owner (a Canadian child), unable to do the stunts that his commercial ads had promised. His current state is that of being confined to the shelved as an antique, but his backstory is equally tragic. When Woody and Bo Peep (voice by Annie Potts) meet Duke in pinball machine inside the spooky antique shop, the daredevil openly pines for what he once lived and lost. He tells them “You have a kid? I had a kid. I let him down!” You see, he wasn’t able to perform the stunts that his TV commercial promised. But he is given the chance to redeem himself and boy does he ever. You could say that Duke Caboom is my favorite new toy to appear in Toy Story 4.

Keanu Reeves-voiced Duke Caboom

The main arc of the story also introduces us to a doll named Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks). While at first, Gabby Gabby and her henchmen at the antique store (a group called the Bensons, who are silent but sentient puppets) aren’t very friendly to Woody and Forky. We learn that there is a very good reason Gabby Gabby is interested in Woody and taking something that is very personal to him. But Gabby Gabby is a vintage 1950’s doll that doesn’t get almost any attention from children, and this is what motivates her to take her existence into her own hands and find the one child who will love her like she deserves. This helps Woody, Bo, Buzz and the whole gang to ultimately find their place in life, whether it’s with one child or one that helps other toys, sometimes lost toys, to find their owners. This is where Toy Story 4 succeeds. It doesn’t try to be overly sentimental in its approach to humanizing these animated toys, but rather it draws on the emotions we feel as human beings on a daily basis; the desire to belong, to be loved, to help others. I think this will be the legacy that the Toy Story franchise leaves its admirers – to accept others and treat others like you want to be treated.

Gabby Gabby, voiced by Christina Hendricks

There is a touching tribute at the end of the credits – to thank and acknowledge the passing of actor Don Rickles, who voiced Mr. Potato Head in the previous movies. Also stay in your seats after the credits for a special bit involving the Pixar Logo and Duke Caboom. I can’t tell you more but I promise you that you won’t regret it. Overall, Toy Story 4 succeeds where the other three Toy Story movies also succeeded, but it also builds upon the franchise with great humor and a great ending. Perhaps the Disney and Pixar bosses will try to make a fifth movie in this franchise (just take a look at what Disney has done with the Star Wars franchise) but it would be beneficial for everyone if they just let Toy Story 4 be the movie that concludes the franchise. Maybe take some time and reflect on the Toy Story legacy, and what it brought adults and children alike in the past 24 years. Then take another one of Pixar’s troves of films (maybe Inside Out 2?) or just go with an original concept (what a novelty!) and hope that it turns into Disney and Pixar’s next animated perfection and makes them “a bajillion dollars” in the process. Because by this time, you would be foolish to ever doubt Pixar, wouldn’t you?


Have you seen TOY STORY 4? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Written & Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

In The Dead Don’t Die, the quiet small town of Centerville is thrown into chaos as the dead begin rising from their graves and feasting on the citizens’ flesh. The few police in town (Bill Murray’s Chief Cliff Robertson, Adam Driver’s Officer Ronnie Peterson, and Chloe Sevigny’s Officer Mindy Morrison) do their best to defend the town and take out as many zombies as they can, aided by the mysterious new town coroner, Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton).

This movie is pretty fun, although it does move at a painfully slow pace for an hour and forty-five minute run time; it takes a surprisingly long time to get to the actual zombie plot thanks to all of the various character setups, since the film boasts a pretty large cast. Fortunately, everyone in the cast gives a thoroughly enjoyable performance, making the pace slightly more tolerable. Adam Driver is especially hilarious, and Tilda Swinton gives a delightfully weird and fun performance as well. Even some of the smaller cameo roles stand out; Carol Kane’s undead Mallory O’Brien groaning “Chardonnay” and Iggy Pop’s coffee-guzzling zombie awkwardly shuffling around while pouring coffee in the general vicinity of his mouth made me laugh extra hard.

The writing in The Dead Don’t Die is kind of a mixed bag. Most of the dialogue is pretty funny, although there are a couple running jokes where the repetition quickly becomes boring. My biggest gripe is the ending; I won’t give anything away, but it’s meta in a way that feels super lazy considering there’s next to no indication that that’s the direction they’re going.

While this is a comedy, it’s still a zombie movie, and although it is fairly grisly, it’s doesn’t feel quite as gory as other zombie films, so if you’re thinking about seeing it but have a sensitive stomach you’ll probably be okay. The zombie design is mostly what you would expect, and I really like the creepy, disjointed way they move. I also like that instead of bleeding when  decapitated, the zombies expel this gritty black dust; it’s a small detail, but it’s always cool to see something different done with the popular horror movie creatures.

While The Dead Don’t Die is kind of a slog to get through, it’s mostly a fun slog, thanks to a slew of talented actors and funny dialogue, even if the ending is a little disappointing. If you like zombie movies, give this one a watch.

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Have you seen Dead Don’t Die? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: LATE NIGHT (2019)

I watched Dame Emma Thompson on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where she described this movie as a science-fiction given that her character is a late-night talk show host. Ba da bing! She definitely has a point there, a jab at the establishment she delivered rather stealthily the only way she could.

Thompson’s character, Katherine Newbury, is the only woman ever to have a long-running program on late night in a male-dominated field, just like real life. However, the award-winning late-night talk show host has been losing her mojo. In fact, her ratings is declining so much that her network threatens to replace her with a younger, more hip male host. Portrayed as a sarcastic British icon who’s notoriously principled and detached, she’s also, as her producer points out, has a reputation as a ‘woman who hates women.’ All her writers, which Katherine herself barely even knew, are all white males. Along comes Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), a former quality control expert from a Pennsylvania chemical plan, who’s swiftly hired to fulfill the gender diversity quota.

It’s amazing how timely this film is right now, so much so that you can’t help but cringe at some of the humorous bits. Not cringing because the jokes were bad, but because they feel so true. There’s a scene when Molly came in to an office full of guys who refuse to even give her a chair to sit on that she had to sit on trash bin. Not to mention the blatant male chauvinistic remarks and how they constantly made her feel that she doesn’t belong. I find myself astonished at how Molly seems impervious to those remarks and how she’s able to deflect those harassments. But of course in real life, it’s the kind of thing many people of color have to deal with and I for one, can definitely relate to her.

The fact that Katherine and Molly are from very different backgrounds and have led extremely different lives are played to great effect here. Naturally, culture clashes is always a potent subject for comedies, and in the right hands, they can be poignant, eye-opening as well as hilarious. Thompson is a legend on and off screen and I can’t imagine a more perfect actor for the part (apparently Kaling wrote this character specifically for her). Katherine is quite a difficult person to like at first, but then again, it’s not like she gives a hoot if you actually like her or not (so long as you watch her show), yet she made you care about her journey. Molly on the other hand, is someone you utterly sympathize with from the start, but soon you realize she doesn’t want/need your pity. She doesn’t need a savior, thank you very much. A message that’s delivered brilliantly in the ‘white savior’ bit in Katherine’s show where she basically forces herself to ‘save’ people of color in various circumstances such as hailing a cab. It’s delivered with glee but the message is utterly powerful.

The world of late-night TV feels really believable. Now, I don’t know how it actually works behind the scenes with the writers, etc. but it felt like the filmmakers spent a great deal researching it to present something that felt true. Director Nisha Ganatra keeps the flow at the right pace while balancing the funny bits with genuine emotional moments. The parts between Katherine and her husband Walter is deeply moving. John Lithgow‘s performance elevates him far above the token supportive husband role. Hugh Dancy is quite convincing as the pretty boy home-wrecker, while Reid Scott and Max Casella have some memorable scenes as two of Katherine’s writers.

Kaling and Thompson plays on the the ‘odd couple’ type that you don’t often see on screen. What an intriguing and powerful new dynamic duo who actually displays character resilience and inner strength that’s truly inspiring. It’s also refreshing to see a ‘coming of age’ story about a woman in her 60s for a change. As in real life, it’s never too late to reinvent oneself and it takes courage to admit one’s mistake and own up to it. I also appreciate the ending that offers a subtle nod to the burgeoning relationship between Molly and Scott’s character, without pandering to the fact that the leading lady wouldn’t be complete without a man in her life. We need more movies like Late Night, it proves just how satisfying AND enjoyable a movie can be when women get to be in charge of their own narrative.


Have you seen LATE NIGHT? Let me know what you think!

 

Netflix Pick: Always Be My Maybe (2019)

I can’t remember when was the last time I was SO excited for a Netflix Original movie! But when the first trailer came across me a couple of months ago, I was immediately hooked on Always Be My Maybe.

Ok, the title alone, is a clever rift of Mariah Carey’s hit song Always Be My Baby. If you pay attention to the lyrics, well you could say it’s a bit of a spoiler for this movie. I for one love stories about romantic reunion (a la Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which highly influenced my own film Hearts Want) where the two leads who have a past reunite and sparks still fly between them. I love the way director Nahnatchka Khan sets up the story of Vietnamese-American Sasha Tran (Miya Cech) and Korean-American Marcus Kim (Emerson Min) from the time they were in grade school growing up as neighbors in San Francisco. While Sasha’s parents always leave her alone at home to work on their store, Marcus’ loving parents are often home that Sasha’s got a taste of her cooking skills from Marcus’ own mom. As they become teens, the two ended up hooking up (it’s no spoiler as it’s right there on the trailer) that ended up straining their relationship.

Fast forward 15 years later. Sasha (now played by Ali Wong) is now a famous celebrity chef living in L.A. who’s dating a hotshot, hunky manager (Daniel Dae Kim), while Marcus (Randall Park) still remains at home, working with his dad as an A/C repairman while playing in the same hometown band, Hello Peril. The stark contrast between their career and life trajectory is played on perfectly here, and a great source for jokes between the two. Wong and Park are so perfectly-cast and have such an amazing chemistry together, the most potent recipe for any good rom-com. The first time they see each other as adults is absolutely hilarious and perfectly captures how different their lives have become, yet some things remain the same.

Co-written by Wong, Park and Michael Golamco, the script is a refreshing delight in that it shows a believable world the Asian-American characters inhabit, without resorting to stereotypes. It’s also not just a generic Asian-American community, but two distinct communities of Vietnamese and Korean descents. Both Sasha and Marcus feel like real people, but yet not the typical Asian characters you see in Hollywood movies. One perfect example is Marcus’ loving and free-spirited dad Harry (James Saito) who’s as far away from the typical strict, business-minded, demanding Asian fathers as you can get. Harry is just one of the many memorable supporting characters here – I also love Sasha’s sarcastic best friend Veronica (Michelle Buteau) and Marcus’ exuberant girlfriend Jenny (Vivian Bang). But of course, one cannot review this movie without mentioning Keanu Reeves as Sasha’s new boyfriend who sure knows how to make an entrance!

Apparently Reeves is a fan of Wong’s stand-up shows and was happy to be a part of her and Park’s love story (as he was quoted). Fresh out of John Wick 3, Reeves actually filmed his scenes in between shoots for that action movie! Clearly he relished in the role of playing a version of himself, the ultra-famous Hollywood celebrity who can fork in $6k for dinner and wears expensive glasses without any lens in them, ha! The scene of their double date is a hoot and would definitely count as a rom-com classic, it even inspires a hilarious song featuring Reeves that plays at the end of the movie. As fun as Reeves’ role here, the stars of the movie are still Wong and Park, which is a testament to how well-written their characters are. If I had to nitpick however, is the Notting Hill-inspired finale. I feel that it’s perhaps deliberate and while the actors still made the scene their own, I wish they’d come up with something more original.

I hope one day that a Hollywood movie with all-Asian-American cast would no longer be considered a novelty. The success of Crazy Rich Asians opened the door (ok maybe a window) for movies like this one, which I hope will continue. Whilst CRA is perhaps more fantastical in nature, showing the top tiers of the 1% club, Always Be My Maybe is much more grounded. Now, just because the movie is important in terms of representation, it still has to be judged on its merit. I can say confidently that Always Be My Maybe is a great movie, period. It’s got everything one would want in a rom-com, plus SO much more!

The locations in the Bay Area is almost a character in itself and food naturally plays a major part in the movie, as they do in the characters’ lives. I have to mention that the production quality is top notch. From Sasha’s swanky restaurants, the ultra-posh (or should I say preposterous) restaurant where they meet Keanu are beautifully-designed, not to mention Sasha’s beautiful dresses. Oh, and those fabulous glasses! Between her chic specs and Keanu’s lens-free, dark-rimmed glasses, this movie is basically spectacles-porn!

But the secret weapon of the movie is the definitely the charming leads — Ali Wong and Randall Park are now one my of my all-time favorite rom-com couples! I’ve actually never seen any of Wong’s comedy specials, but I’ve been a fan of Park as a character actor in various movies. SO glad that they both have a chance to shine here in leading roles. You know the term ‘Asian Don’t Raisin,’ well it definitely applies to Park and Wong who are 45 and 37 respectively, yet they could believably pass as college students!

I absolutely adore this movie and I’m glad it’s on Netflix so I can watch it again and again. The zippy script fires humorous lines on all cylinders, but still packs an emotional punch. This is another great collaboration between Nahnatchka Khan and the stars Wong and Park, who worked together in the ABC series Fresh Off The Boat. I sure hope they’d all work together again in the future. Heck, I’d love to see a sequel to Always Be My Maybe, I think there’s plenty of places where the story could be expanded.


Have you seen ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review – DARK PHOENIX (2019)


Written & Directed by: Simon Kinberg

Let me preface this review by saying I’m not an X-Men fan. That’s not to say I dislike the franchise; I just never got into it. I saw the first three movies when I was in middle and high school and liked them well enough, but I never read the comics or watched the cartoons as a kid, and I haven’t seen the newer movies. Most of what I have gleaned about the franchise beyond that is from video essayist Lindsay Ellis’s “Loose Canon” series on YouTube. That said, a film adaptation of another media should be able to stand on its own for an audience that might be less familiar with its source material. Does Dark Phoenix manage this? Not really.

In Dark Phoenix, the telepathic and telekinetic mutant Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) absorbs what appears to be a solar flare during an outer space rescue mission. But whatever is now inside her is enhancing her already frighteningly strong powers, and she soon begins to lose control. She is pulled between her friends and colleagues who want to help her (James McAvoy’s Professor Charles Xavier, Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven/Mystique, Tye Sheridan’s Scott Summers/Cyclops, Alexandra Shipp’s Orono Munroe/Storm, Evan Peters’s Peter Maximo/Quicksilver, and Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler), those who want to kill her (Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto and Nicholas Hoult’s Hank McCoy/Beast), and a dying race of aliens who want to use her, led by a being named Vuk (Jessica Chastain).

For a movie called Dark Phoenix, there’s surprisingly little focus on the eponymous mutant. There’s plenty of discussion and fighting among the people around her, but most of Jean Grey’s scenes are limited to her looking anxious, crying, or destroying everything–not a great use of a complex and interesting character played by an incredibly talented actress. Honestly, most of the talent in this movie feels so wasted.

The cast is incredible, but it feels like they’re giving maybe 70% at most, which might be because of how cheesy and predictable the dialogue is (including gems like “You want to fix me.” “I don’t need to fix you. Because you’re not broken,” “Your emotions make you weak.” “You’re wrong. My emotions make me strong,” and an extra melodramatic “NO!” exclaimed by Cyclops toward the end of the movie that made me laugh out loud). Maybe the cast just wasn’t feeling the script (which I can absolutely sympathize with). Maybe they just received some really weird direction. Either way, the acting is forgettable at best and cringe-worthy at worst.

Not everything about the movie is awful. The CGI is gorgeous, especially in some moments between Jean and Vuk toward the end. There are some decent action scenes. And while Sophie Turner is given a disappointingly small amount to work with, the scene at her childhood home (SPOILER – highlight to read) confronting her father (whom she believed to be dead) is both heartbreaking and nerve-wracking, thanks to some stellar acting and directing. But these few things aren’t enough to make Dark Phoenix a good movie.

If you’re a hardcore X-Men fan, maybe you’ll appreciate this movie more than I did. If you like cool CGI and fight scenes, maybe you’ll enjoy yourself. But I would advise saving your money and waiting for this one to hit Netflix if you want to see it.

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Have you seen Dark Phoenix? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – ROCKETMAN (2019)

Directed by:Dexter Fletcher
Written by: Lee Hall

I’m always hesitant to review biopics; it just feels weird to critique a story about someone who actually exists, and it’s tricky to talk about the writing, because who am I to say if something seems rushed or melodramatic if it actually happened that way? Fortunately, this movie still gives me a lot to talk about.

Rocketman chronicles the life of iconic musician Elton John (Taron Egerton), from his childhood with a self-absorbed mother and emotionally distant father (Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh) to his meteoric rise to fame after teaming up with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and his following struggles with substance abuse and depression, feeling cripplingly lonely despite being adored by fans all over the world.

Taron Edgerton with Bryce Dallas Howard and Richard Madden

While story-wise this is a straightforward biopic, it’s also a jukebox musical, incorporating several of Elton John’s more well-known songs into non-diegetic numbers used for exposition and scene transitions. It’s a creative use of the music, and I love that it’s used in a different context than just scenes of Elton writing or performing within the narrative. But the pacing is a little weird; there are a few musical numbers at the very beginning, but then there’s a long stretch without one, and the few that come after that are inconsistent. It’s a great storytelling method in theory, and the musical numbers don’t dull the darker aspects of Elton’s life; the titular song “Rocketman” is performed during a heartbreaking suicide attempt, and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” sung by Bernie Taupin after following an argument with a drug-and-booze-addled Elton John, nearly made me cry. I just wish the filmmakers had committed to the style a little more.

Edgerton (Elton) with Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin)

Besides that, though, I don’t really have anything else to complain about. The cast is spectacular; Taron Egerton is perfect as Elton John, both dramatically and musically (Egerton does his own singing in the film). Jamie Bell is wonderful as Bernie Taupin, and he and Egerton have excellent chemistry. Richard Madden is amazing as the suave but slimy John Reid, Elton John’s abusive manager and ex-boyfriend. After only seeing Madden play the noble Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, I was impressed to see him pull off a much more villainous role.

Madden as John Reid

Obviously, I can’t talk about an Elton John biopic without addressing the costumes, which are just as spectacular as the music and the acting. Besides being beautiful and elaborate and wonderfully glittery, they play as much of a role in the storytelling as the music does; the movie begins with Elton bursting into a drab, gray room for a substance abuse group therapy meeting wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, matching bedazzled demon horns and enormous wings, and heart-shaped rhinestone sunglasses. As the scenes alternate between him in the group therapy setting and flashbacks of his life and career, he gradually strips the costume away.

Even if you’re not a hardcore Elton John fan (which I’m not; I spent most of my childhood thinking of him as “the guy who wrote the Lion King songs”), I would absolutely recommend checking out Rocketman. It’s a fascinating look at a musical idol’s background with an incredible cast and memorable music. It’s definitely a movie I plan on watching again.

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Have you seen ROCKETMAN? Well, what did you think?