Paul Review

Paul movie posterSynopsis
Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are two friends who are traveling the American west visiting UFO hot spots. Their holiday takes an unexpected turn when they run into Paul (Seth Rogan (voice)), an alien on the run from Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman).

Review
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been a part of some pretty unique films to say the least, just look at the The Cornetto Trilogy. This time, they take the reins as the writers of Paul. The pair really let their nerd-flag fly as there is a clear love for nerddom and science-fiction put into it. However, that is only a small part of what makes this an enjoyable film.

Pegg and Frost nail the nerd-type with ease, probably because they could be considered nerds themselves and bring that energy into their characters. If I remember correctly, in an interview I saw for this film’s release, Pegg said this was a love-letter to the comic-con faring, cosplay wearing, movie marathoning group of people (I might have paraphrased that last little bit but you get the point) and it shows. There are plenty of quotes from science-fiction favorites like Back to the Future, Star Wars, Aliens and more that are sure to please genre fans. The movie pokes fun at the nerd stereotype but at the same time, there is a reverence for them, much like Galaxy Quest. It’s a good balance that is difficult to find in movies.

The cast consists of several comedy veterans. Besides the aforementioned Pegg and Frost, Jason Bateman plays Agen Zoil, the primary agent chasing Paul. He plays it very straight-faced, not visibly reacting to how the people around him are acting. It’s a very typical Bateman role but one he does so well. Joe Lo Truglio, one of my personal favorites from the television series Brookly Nine-Nine, and Bill Hader play a set of almost-dim-witted agents who are assigned to help Agent Zoil. Together they have some pretty good moments, although they might not be the most memorable of the film.

I’ve repeatedly said that my sense of humor leans heavily towards the raunchy, tongue-in-cheek style comedy and this film delivers on that. When you see Seth Rogan and Kristen Wiig on the cast list, you can expect nothing less. It’s definitely not for everyone but there are plenty of probing jokes and f-bombs sprinkled throughout. Wiig’s character, Ruth, especially curses a lot since she is β€œpretty new” to cursing, only starting after meeting Paul. I don’t know why but I find her cursing inexperience absolutely hilarious.

I’ve talked about the cast a lot but that’s really what makes this movie work. The movie never takes itself too seriously and caters to its audience perfectly. Everyone in the cast knows what type of movie they are making and lean into their parts easily. When the cast is having fun, it shows and in turn makes the film more enjoyable for the audience.

I thought Paul was GOOD πŸ™‚ It’s clearly aimed a specific audience but there is plenty for others who don’t fit the mold as well. The cast is really what drives this film. The humor might not be for everyone but you are going to find that in all comedies. If you’re looking for a fun and raunchy comedy, then Paul is the film for you.

Favorite Quote
Paul: Hey, there, sleepy face!
Ruth: Fuckeroo. That was the best titty-farting sleep I have ever had.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Greg Motolla – Director
Simon Pegg – Writer
Nick Frost – Writer
David Arnold – Composer

Simon Pegg – Graeme Willy
Nick Frost – Clive Gollings
Seth Rogan – Paul (voice)
Kristen Wiig – Ruth Buggs
Jason Bateman – Agent Zoil
Bill Hader – Haggard
Joe Lo Truglio – O’Reilly
John Carroll Lynch – Moses Buggs
Jane Lynch – Pat Stevens
Jefferey Tambor – Adam Shadowchild
David Koechner – Gus
Jesse Plemons – Jake
Sigourney Weaver – The Big Guy
Blythe Danner – Tara Walton


If you’re interested in joining the Ultimate 70s Blogathon, you can find all the information here.

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Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi Review

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi movie posterSynopsis
Rey (Daisy Ridley) locates Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who reluctantly trains her in the ways of the Force. Meanwhile, the First Order, led by Snoke (Andy Serkis) are hot on the trail of Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) Resistance.

Review
By now, everyone and their brother has said what there is to say about Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Due to the holidays, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and put my thoughts into written word. I did, however, give my thoughts in a podcast, which you can listen to here. I’ve made no effort to hide the fact I didn’t enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens as much as everyone else seems to. With a film as divisive as The Last Jedi, where do I fall on the spectrum? Somewhere right in the middle.

One of the main reasons The Empire Strikes Back is so widely loved is because of where it left the Rebellion at the end. The bad guys won. The good guys lost and were left in a very difficult spot. The Last Jedi channels that same desperation. Throughout the film, you can feel the Resistance getting closer and closer to despair. This really allows for some great character growth, particularly from Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who is learning that there are better ways of protecting your forces than just running head-first into battle.

Despite my mixed feelings about The Force Awakens, one thing from that movie I absolutely loved was its use of practical effects. The Last Jedi follows in its immediate predecessor’s footsteps and uses practical effects, uh, effectively. I don’t know what else to say other than it makes a big difference compared to the CGI-heavy Prequel Trilogy.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is one of my favorite Star Wars characters so it was great to see him in a mentor role, teaching Rey (Daisy Ridley) about the Force. Even better, I like that he wasn’t perfect. He was broken and hesitant and it made for a good relationship between him and Rey. However, I do not like his moment of weakness that drove Kylo Ren to leave the academy, but that would be discussing spoilers, which I’m not going to do.

Speaking of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), he continues to be the most interesting new character to come from this new trilogy. Once you think you have him figured out, he goes and does the unexpected. Adam Driver was a great choice to play Kylo. Driver really brings out Kylo’s emotional struggle, sort of like the Anakin we never had. The relationship forming between him and Rey is something to look out for in Episode IX.

The Last Jedi newcomer Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, was a great new addition to the cast. She really embodied the hope that the Resistance stands for and Tran played her optimism well. Her side quest with Finn (John Boyega) was a fun romp and break from the main plot line. Tran and Boyega had some good chemistry so I can’t wait to see how they’re developed in the future.

For as much as I enjoy Daisy Ridley’s Rey, I don’t feel like her character grew as much as several of the others. Coming into the film, she was strong in the Force, if untrained, determined to learn from Luke the ways of the Jedi, and optimistic about turning Kylo back to the Light Side. By the end of the film, she’s just as strong in the Force, though this time a little more refined in her training, and still has her optimism. One of my gripes with Rey, despite my love for the character, was how quickly and how strong she became in the Force in The Force Awakens. That quick growth in her first appearance doesn’t give her abilities much room to grow here.

What I can say about the story without going into spoilers is how bold it is. As I said, it takes inspiration from The Empire Strikes Back in where to take the story but how it does that is unlike any Star Wars movie to date. I appreciate it for being different and daring with its characters and story, even if I didn’t agree with all of it. That’s all I can say at this point. Most of my issues with the film go into some pretty heavy spoilers. If you would like to hear those, check out the podcast linked above.

I thought Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was GOOD πŸ™‚ After several viewings, the best way I could describe my feelings for the film is that I like the story beats but not all the character beats. Poe finally gets the development he deserves and Rose is such a great new addition to the cast. The Last Jedi answers several of the questions laid out in The Force Awakens, but not always in a very satisfying way. All I can say for sure is that Episode IX has a huge task ahead of itself drawing this new chapter of the Star Wars saga to a close.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rian Johnson – Director / Writer
John Williams – Composer

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher – Leia Organa
Daisy Ridley – Rey
Oscar Isaac – Poe Dameron
John Boyega – Finn
Kelly Marie Tran – Rose Tico
Joonas Suotamo – Chewbacca
Laura Dern – Vice Admeral Holdo
Billie Lourd – Lieutenant Connix
Adam Driver – Kylo Ren
Domhnall Gleeson – General Hux
Andy Serkis – Snoke
Gwendoline Christie – Captain Phasma
Benicio Del Toro – DJ
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Jimmy Vee – R2-D2

Justice League Review

Justice League movie posterSynopsis
Batman (Ben Affleck) discovers that an alien invasion of Earth is imminent after the death of Superman (Henry Cavill). In order to combat the coming threat, he tries to bring together several of the world’s superheroes, including Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

Review
I have made no effort to hide my favoritism of the Marvel superhero characters over the DC ones. However, I do enjoy both studios and both have some great stories to tell. Ever since The Avengers, DC has tried to play catch up to get their Justice League on screen. With the exception of Wonder Woman, the films of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) so far have been less than enjoyable. So how did Justice League, the long-awaited big team up fare? Better than the sum of its parts, apparently.

Zack Snyder had to step away from directing duties for a while due to a family tragedy, so Joss Whedon stepped in to take over. Many were worried, including myself, that while he has a good sense of what makes a good team-up, he might take too much away from Snyder’s Justice League (for better or worse). I think it is safe to say that Snyder and Whedon have two very different directing styles and it is very apparent throughout the film. Whedon added a nice layer of humor throughout the movie that wasn’t too overpowering, like some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films can be these days, but it wasn’t a one-off thing either. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (both directed by Snyder) were very dark and broody, way more than they should have been. While this film isn’t bright and cheerful, there is still a level of levity to keep the apocalyptic story from hitting Dawn of Justice level of gloominess. It looks to me that Whedon respected Snyder’s vision for the film but still put his signature stamp on it.

This movie is the first time we are seeing the Flash (besides a small cameo in Suicide Squad), Aquaman, and Cyborg. I really enjoyed all three new characters and who were cast in the roles. Ezra Miller as the Flash brought a great comedic relief to the film. He is a very different version of the Flash in the Arrow-verse. Aquaman, played by Jason Mamoa, didn’t want anything to do with anything and wanted to be left alone. Oh, and is apparently an alcoholic. He had my second favorite arc of the new characters of becoming less antipathetic as he works with the other members of the League, culminating in a great gag with Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg has the most growth out of all of them, boasting maybe the most unique power set of the group. He initially sees his powers as a curse but eventually accepts them and gives some great moments during the final, no holds barred action sequence.

As I just mentioned, this is the first time several of the League members are being introduced. Normally, these ensemble movies feel way too long, focusing on only a few of the characters and not developing the rest cough Suicide Squad cough. This time, it actually had the opposite problem: it should have been longer! For obvious reasons, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) had the two biggest roles in the movie. However, it still did a good job of balancing everybody, especially given three of the characters needed to be introduced. But there was still room for some more development of the new characters. I appreciate that the editors wanted to keep Justice League relatively short but I think in doing so, they only gave the bare minimum motivations we needed from these heroes. There is plenty of room for more.

While I don’t necessarily agree with DC’s approach to rush into a film about their superhero team-up group, I don’t necessarily think an origin movie was needed for every character beforehand. Yes, it definitely would have helped the audience connect with them but other ensemble movie’s have gone this route with moderate to great success. One that is coming to mind is the animated Justice League: War which boasts a similar story with the same characters. Another is Guardians of the Galaxy. Don’t get me wrong, Justice League is nowhere near as good as Guardians but my point is that it brought a team together without any prior knowledge of the characters the same way this movie does and the only reason that this is an issue is because these are well known characters and is comparable to The Avengers.

A common gripe in modern superhero films are the weak and flat villain. To bring Guardians back into the mix, I didn’t have a problem with Ronin being one-dimensional because his purpose was to bring the titular group together. Steppenwolf serves essentially the same purpose as Ronin only this time I was very disappointed. Other than β€œhe wants to shape the Earth in his image,” he is given very little development. This is doubly disappointing given what, or rather who, he is the precursor for. Darkseid (pronounced β€œdark side”) is one of the Justice Leagues greatest and signature villains, often fighting on par with even Superman. There was very little hint towards any of this except for one line that only those who are familiar with the characters would pick up on. Steppenwolf is an integral part of what’s to come but it’s hard to see that given how poorly he was treated in this film.

I thought Justice League was GOOD πŸ™‚ Not devoid of problems, it still offers a good time. A shallower-than-normal villain is really the biggest complaint from me, especially given the character’s importance. The new characters were fun and unique and meshed well with the previously established characters. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Zack Snyder Director’s Cut of the film to see how much Joss Whedon’s reshoots changed the final product or to get more character development. Overall, this is the best I could have expected from the mostly disappointing DCEU so far.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Zack Snyder – Director / Story
Chris Terrio – Screenplay / Story
Joss Whedon – Screenplay
Danny Elfman – Composer

Ben Affleck – Bruce Wayne / Batman
Gal Gadot – Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Ezra Miller – Barry Allen / The Flash
Jason Momoa – Arthur Curry / Aquaman
Ray Fisher – Victor Stone / Cyborg
Henry Cavill – Clark Kent / Superman
Jeremy Irons – Alfred
Amy Adams – Lois Lane
Diane Lane – Martha Kent
Connie Nielsen – Queen Hippolyta
JK Simmons – Commissioner Gordon
CiarΓ‘n Hinds – Steppenwolf (voice)
Amber Heard – Mera
Joe Morton – Silas Stone

American Made Review

American Made movie posterSynopsis
Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), an American airline pilot, is approached by a CIA agent named Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who offers him a job taking covert pictures of insurgent operations in Central America for the US government. Seal is soon approached by Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia) and his crew and is recruited into smuggling drugs into the US.

Review
I’ll admit, the only reason I really went to see American Made was because of Tom Cruise. Biopics aren’t normally my type of film and there haven’t been very many that I have greatly enjoyed. However, I was hoping that with Cruise at the forefront, this might actually be a biopic that I’d like. While it does contain several of the aspects of the genre I don’t care for, there was plenty more to enjoy than other biopics.

As I thought would be the case, Cruise’s charisma is one of the driving forces of the film. He plays Barry Seal in such a way that you like him, even though you know he is a terrible person and that you should detest him. It creates a very interesting experience. With Cruise’s infectious grin, you’ll be rooting for Seal all along the way.

Another actor who I thought did a great job was Domhnall Gleeson as the CIA operative Schafer. He was just as charismatic as Cruise except we don’t get much information about him. I supposed this works out alright because since he is CIA, this helps to build that air of mystery about him. I just wish I was able to see more of him and Cruise together because they both had an energy about them that was fun to watch.

The subject matter of American Made is actually pretty dark but you might have a hard time seeing that with the way it is presented. I’m sure part of it comes from Cruise’s charisma I brought up earlier but there is a lightheartedness to the film that was unexpected in a movie about a drug dealer. I think its unique tone made it more enjoyable for me because there are plenty of movies about criminals and drug dealers that are very grim and to see one that wasn’t was a breath of fresh air.

In the film Inside Man, the movie sporadically jumps into the future with interviews with the hostages to set up the upcoming scene. This film makes use of a similar technique. Throughout American Made, commentaries about what Seal was thinking and doing are interjected between scenes to prepare the audience for the scene ahead. I thought Inside Man should have made more use of this approach to telling its story, whereas here I think it is used the right amount. It never takes away from the experience too much and gives the audience a better insight into Seal’s character. Since this is a movie about Seal, it only helps better our understanding of him.

I thought American Made was GOOD πŸ™‚ Most biopics have a hard time keeping my attention it seems but I didn’t have that feeling during this movie. The lighthearted nature of such a dark movie and the energy from Tom Cruise and Domhnall Gleeson makes it enjoyable. While I don’t think I will go out of my way to see it, I won’t shy away either if I happen to come across it.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Doug Liman – Director
Gary Spinelli – Writer
Christophe Beck – Composer

Tom Cruise – Barry Seal
Domhnall Gleeson – Monty ‘Schafer’
Sarah Wright – Lucy Seal
Caleb Landry Jones – JB
Mauricio Mejia – Pablo Escobar
Alejandro Edda – Jorge Ochoa
Fredy Yate Escobar – Carlos Ledher
Jesse Plemons – Sheriff Downing
Jayma Mays – Dana Sibota
Benito Martinez – James Rangel
E. Roger Mitchell – Agent Craig McCall
Jed Rees – Louis Finkle
Robert Farrior – Oliver North
Alberto Ospino – Manuel Noriega
Daniel Lugo – Adolfo Calero
Jayson Warner Smith – Bill Cooper (Snowbird #1)
Mark McCullogh – Pete (Snowbird #2)

Lightning Review: Home Again

Home Again movie posterSynopsis
Alice (Reese Witherpoon), a recently divorced, single mother, moves into her childhood home in Los Angeles. After meeting Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky), she lets the three filmmakers live in her home while they try to get their big break, causing her life to take an unexpected turn.

Review
I don’t normally see films like Home Again in the theaters but I found myself in a theater-going dry spell of sorts and my mom was visiting and we hadn’t seen a movie together in a while so I figured why not. For a romantic comedy, this movie didn’t lean too heavily on either. There are the romance parts and there are comedy parts but neither completely overtake the film. First-time writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer has a story about Alice she wants to tell and she uses the romance and the comedy to tell it, however, they never become the central focus. And it never becomes over-the-top or way out-there and never resorts to a cheap laugh. Every comedy moment feels natural and genuinely funny. You might need to suspend some disbelief but this is a movie we’re talking about here! That pretty much comes with the territory, regardless of genre.

I wouldn’t call Reese Witherspoon one of my favorite actresses but I do generally enjoy her movies that I’ve seen. This seems like a very typical fair for her but she is as charming as ever. As for the rest of the cast, I am mostly unfamiliar with them, so I can’t compare their performances to what they’ve done before. Although, I can say that in Home Again, I thought they all did very well. The three filmmakers who move in with Alice, Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, and Jon Rudnitsky, were fun and believable together. They felt like actual friends and seemed like they were having a good time together. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones with Rudnitsky and Lola Flanery, playing Alice’s oldest daughter. Together, they had many playful and heartwarming scenes.

I thought Home Again was GOOD πŸ™‚ Romantic comedies aren’t usually a type of movie I go out of my way to see so I don’t have a ton of experience with the genre. However, I did enjoy the story this film told. Reese Witherspoon and the rest of the cast gave enjoyable performances with some moving and heartfelt moments. I’m sure it’s far from the best rom-com out there but running at about one and a half hours, it never feels tedious and offers a feel-good story.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Hallie Meyers-Shyer – Director / Writer
John Debney – Composer

Reese Witherspoon – Alice Kinney
Pico Alexander – Harry
Nat Wolff – Teddy
Jon Rudnitsky – George
Lola Flanery – Isabel
Eden Grace Redfield – Rosie
Michael Sheen – Austin
Candice Bergen – Lillian Stewart

Lightning Review: Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky movie posterSynopsis
When Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) gets let go from his job, he convinces his siblings, Clyde (Adam Driver) and Mellie (Riley Keough), to help him rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Logan and Clyde recruit experienced bank robber Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them get into the vault. But first, they have to figure out a way to get Joe Bang out of jail.

Review
Part way through Logan Lucky, I thought β€œWow, this is a hillbilly Ocean’s Eleven,” which felt much more original until the movie made almost the same joke and I saw that it was directed by Steven Soderbergh (the director of Ocean’s Eleven) in the credits. In any case, it had many of the elements from Ocean’s Eleven that I enjoyed in that film. Like Ocean’s Eleven, it is a fairly slow burn for the first two-thirds of the film. Most of the run time is spent on the Logans concocting the plan / setting up all the pieces. However, also like Ocean’s Eleven, the fun characters, well-written dialogue, and great chemistry between the actors make this time enjoyable and entertaining. Once the heist actually happens, the payoff is well worth it. Keeping the film close to a formula that has worked well before and twisting it slightly was a brilliant move by Soderbergh. It keeps the film familiar yet still manages to keep it feeling new and fresh.

Having a great cast too doesn’t hurt the film either. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as the Logan brothers are absolutely a blast to watch. On the surface, they seem like they might be a pair of dim-witted rednecks but you soon realize that’s not necessarily the case. Add in a Southern-accented Daniel Craig as Joe Bang and you know you’re going to have a good time. To my surprise, Joe Bang’s two brothers, played by Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson, were two of my favorite characters in the film. Several of their lines had me cracking up the most. I would love to see a sequel if only to see those two characters on screen again.

I thought Logan Lucky was GOOD πŸ™‚ There is nothing original story-wise in this film but it uses what has been tried and true before and makes it work again in an unconventional way. The vibrant cast is clearly having fun, giving a fun Ocean’s Eleven vibe and keeping my attention despite not really picking up until the end. There are many better heist films out there but few of them are as whimsical or playful as Logan Lucky.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Soderbergh – Director
Rebecca Blunt – Writer
David Holmes – Composer

Channing Tatum – Jimmy Logan
Adam Driver – Clyde Logan
Riley Keough – Mellie Logan
Daniel Craig – Joe Bang
Jack Quaid – Fish Bang
Brian Gleeson – Sam Bang
Farrah Mackenzie – Sadie Logan
Katie Holmes – Bobbie Jo Chapman
David Denman – Moody Chapman
Seth MacFarlane – Max Chilblain
Sebastian Stan – Dayton White
Jim O’Heir – Cal
Rebecca Koon – Purple Lady
Katherine Waterston – Slyvia Harrison
Hilary Swank – Special Agent Sarah Grayson
Macon Blair – Special Agent Brad Noonan