Your name

Your name ticketstubI'll admit up front that I have a particular affection and awe of Japanese animated films. I think it comes from the details that ooze from every millimeter of the screen, whether set in the city or the country, it's all about how a place is captured that makes me go all gooey inside. By captured I mean, there is a love of Japan and Japanese culture demonstrated in films like Your name that I don't see in any other style of films. The way we see a character's bedroom, with books and erasers and the next day's clothes hanging up for morning. The way a family gathers for breakfast and how the steam pours out of the rice cooker when first opened. The sounds of traffic in the city streets. A close-up of a bug crawling on a leaf in the woods. The way the rain splashes into puddles during a storm. Everything from the luscious visuals to the perfectly replicated soundtrack of the world, it always moves me deeply.

But there's more to this movie than just beautiful drawings and amazing sound design, it follows a teenage girl living in the country and a teenage boy living in Tokyo who mysteriously swap bodies a few times a week. There's the obvious elements of feeling lost in a world one doesn't know, whether it's the city or the country or the gender difference, or the family dynamics... they each have a lot of adjusting to do. And just as they think they have it down, they have an understanding between them, there are ground rules, there's routine, they communicate by leaving diary entries to each other so they know what each has done for the day, there's a shattering turn.

The movie is filled with sentimentality, as is common for films in this genre. It always feels like a fantasy to me, events and emotions, they may not work out for the best, but they occur in a way that perfectly plucks at your emotional core. I love it, though it's certainly not for everyone.

But it should be.


Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell ticketstubThere's an enormous amount of animated history behind Ghost in the Shell and it should be clear there's no way for any new live action movie to live up to the established canon. What surprised me is how well this movie does next to everything that's come before it. The look of the film matches the animated versions in precise detail. So much attention to detail can be seen in every single shot. And, of course, they were careful to include many of the iconic scenes like the Major dropping off the skyscraper and crashing through the window (as seen in the trailer), and the climactic fight with the spider tank. The story avoided the philosophical questions the series is known for, but I also never really understand the intricacies of what those ideas were in the animated series and movies, so in a way, a simpler story is a bit of a treat. I can enjoy the visuals and the action and a more character driven story without worrying that I'm missing out on all big ideas the story is trying to present.

If you like action science fiction movies, I think you will really enjoy Ghost in the Shell. If you are a fan of GitS, I think you'll be able to appreciate the visuals and maybe just try not to let the story and unnecessarily high number of non-asian casting choices get in the way too much?


Power Rangers

Power Rangers ticketstubMy memory of the Power Rangers TV show was of goofy slapstick comedy, people in costumes fighting in parks, and monsters and mechs fighting Godzilla style in model cities. This big scale movie does away with most of the slapstick comedy in favor of building stronger characters and infusing the whole bunch with some heart. We also get big budget special effects that really work well. My only problems with the movie go back to the source material. In an effort to save the world, the Power Rangers still manage to significantly contribute to the destruction of Angel Grove. But hey, they saved the world, so it's cool... There's also the prominent product placement throughout, but that's just how things work these days. Overall, a solid and fun movie that actually delivers.



Logan ticketstubLet's be clear, this is not a happy fun X-Men movie. It's about aging and loss and loneliness and guilt. Logan is complicated and he's had a long sad life only briefly punctuated by friendship and love, and he's lost all of that several times over. Now, facing the end, Logan finds a cause, and only barely the will to deal with it. This movie feels long and has pacing issues, but the acting is good and the writing works well and the subject matter feels sufficiently weighty. What actually bugs me about it is not a problem with the production, it's that this is effectively the end of the X-Men. We are watching the final moments of that story and it makes me sad. Because of this, it has a very different tone then all of the other movies and that's not bad, it's just different. Be aware, this is an R rated movie with quite a lot of graphic violence and language. I actually really enjoyed the transition into an adult super hero movie, just not a movie for the young children.


Get Out

Get Out ticketstubThis is a tough movie to categorize. There's a little comedy, some graphic shooty stabby action, a little horror, but mostly it's social commentary. I don't think I'm smart enough or even aware enough to get all the nuance I feel is in here somewhere, so I won't make a fool of myself trying to guess, but even if you're not fully aware of the message, you can clearly see there is a message there, and it does make you think about race relations. This is absolutely an excellent movie. The acting is wonderful, the writing is excellent, the pacing is probably perfect, and the reveal is a lot of fun. So why not a perfect score? Plot holes. While I can potentially excuse these issues for the sake of just enjoying the film, I feel they still detract significantly from the meaning behind the reveal. So, good job, just not perfect.


The LEGO Batman Movie

The LEGO Batman Movie ticketstubIf you are expecting LEGO sight gags and pop culture references and Batman being dark and a full on dick, then you will not be at all surprised by this movie. It does have a bunch of funny jokes and fairly clever writing that appeals to kids and adults, it's just not really new anymore. If you're wondering if it'll be fun to see with your kids, then yes, go with your kids. Should you see it on your own? Eh... you could maybe wait to stream it and avoid all those kids who don't know how to use their indoor voices.


John Wick Chapter 2

John Wick Chapter 2 ticketstubWhere John Wick 2 lacks the mild emotional punch of the original movie, it pushes far beyond in assassin mastercraftery. I know that's not a word, but this movie has earned some inventive language. The sequel, which picks up shortly after the end of the first film (I'm still not quite sure how long it's been, a couple months maybe?), shows Wick back in his comfy place, plotting and executing a precise assassination that, unfortunately, doesn't go according to plan, but that's to the audience's benefit. Wick is a goddamned unstoppable force of nature and he is a sight to behold when he's working. The brilliantly choreographed fight sequences are a delight and then we get more of Wick reaping bloody revenge on those that wronged him. Again. It's fun, not very deep with a paper-thin plot, but I came out of it thrilled and excited for whatever comes in chapter 3.


Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ticketstubReturning to the story started by the first Resident Evil movie, The Final Chapter opens with a ten minute retconning sequence catching the viewer up on everything that's happened up till now, starting now. There's actually more backstory here than we ever got in any previous movie, which is nice, but it starts exposing nagging plot holes that grow to monstrous proportions by the movie's conclusion.

TFC picks up at the end of the previous movie as Alice scavenges the wastes of Washington D.C. The Red Queen tells Alice she has 48 hours to save humanity, and the crazy artificial countdown to doomsday begins ticking. This little bit of story and a couple mysteries that I guess need answering are the scaffold around which a breathless stream of action sequences play out. The action isn't bad if you can tolerate the over-the-top sort of fighting we've come to expect from RE movies. I found it loud and the jump-cut editing made it difficult for me to follow what was happening. The unstoppable evil commander from several previous movies, Wesker, had a relatively small and inconsequential part in this movie simply relaying commands from the actual evil leader to the Red Queen. "Lock down the Hive!" he tells her... three times.

In the end, the resolution of the series was fine and this movie at least had a story that tried to get back to where the series started (even if bears little resemblance to the source material), but I found the previously mentioned plot holes to be too distracting for me to buy into what they were trying to sell me.


Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed ticketstubIntensely intense intensity! This movie is working so hard at being serious and heavy and intense that it feels like it's in the way of itself. I would not call the Assassin's Creed franchise light-hearted by any stretch of the imagination, but these are games and there's a fair bit of unreality built into them. This movie, though, is just so into itself with long stares and intensely spoken dialog, none of the characters felt real to me. There was no... humanity... anywhere to be seen, even though the plot is to save humanity's free will. And speaking of free will, we're told several times that those are the stakes, but there's no demonstration of those stakes anywhere. No scene showing a test of this power or a suggestion of how this would affect large populations. Just intense talk about how, if we take away free will, there won't be any violence. This spoken by a member of an intensely violent Illuminati-like organization. So there's never a concrete sense of what the stakes are in all this. We've got Michael Fassbender doing some Assassin's Creed style assassinating, and that's fun to watch, but all this stuff that kind of works in a video game that isn't real, doesn't seem to work quite as well in a movie that isn't real. When people start doing some of the super-human moves that work in the games, but in the real world, the need for wires or CG becomes apparent and that kind of pushed me out the movie a bit. By the end of the movie, the action picks up, but I've already lost track of what's going on. There are *gasp* reveals, but because of people's accents and the action going on all around, I don't quite follow what those reveals are.

I understand all we really want out of an Assassin's Creed movie are some sick fights and rooftop chases, and we certainly get some of that in this movie, but the story seemed flimsy and the intensity of the acting and dialog didn't match the mostly abstract gravity of the plot.


La La Land

La La Land ticketstubAs the credits started rolling, the elderly woman on my left (there was another on my right) turned to me and asked if I enjoyed the movie. She said, at her age, it's really wonderful to see a good old-fashioned musical. Now, I don't really have any experience with old movies, including musicals, but if I had, this is what they would be. A young woman goes to Hollywood to live her dream of being an actress meets a young man in Hollywood to (attempt to) open a jazz club. Classic. There are some very slight pokes at the movie industry and what it's like to live in LA (50% of those gags come in the form of titles on the screen that announce "Winter," "Spring," etc, when, of course, all the seasons in LA look the same), but this is no LA Story. We start of with a few fun song and dance numbers, and then a long lull in the middle till we get a few less happy songs toward the end. Not to say this movie doesn't have a happy ending, it's just not THE happy ending, and I think that's swell. I get the idea of doing an old-timey romantic comedy musical and La La Land works really well, I'm just sad to say that isn't the sort of musical that really excites me.

The characters are fun and feel mostly real, but still kind of like slightly cartooney versions of romantic leads because being in a movie where people randomly engage in song-and-dance is a bit cartooney. I did like the message at the core, about following your dreams and not letting that voice in your head that's always telling you you aren't good enough to drive you away from what you've always wanted. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can sing and had wonderful chemistry with each other. My personal issue with the movie is probably the persistence of jazz music, which I simply have no tolerance for, but that really shouldn't detract from the really excellent movie-making on display.