Hollywood loves making movies about movies, especially when they get to throw back to the classic theme of dreamers doing whatever it takes to break into the big leagues. Tommy Wiseau, for all his eccentricity, is the perfect candidate to write a film biopic about – though his feature film is widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever created, it is so ridiculous, and Wiseau’s dream so unbelievable, that the story of how his movie came to be is a fascinating one. Does this film have the same level of artistic masterpiece that the source of its inspiration was, though? Well, yes and no – The Disaster Artist was, for one, helmed by someone who knows the film business and how to make a decent, if not well-done, final product. It is fun and light and a relatively easy way to spend your afternoon. The story that it tells, however, may not delve deep enough into the enigma that is its chief character or the questions that inevitably arise around his cinematic “masterpiece.”
I have to say, I had to try really hard not to make a lot of comparisons to Spotlight (2015) in this review. There are a few reasons for this: One, I really love Spotlight. Two, Tom Hanks’ character is the father of John Slattery’s character, and I think that is hilarious. And three, well, it’s hard not to make a comparison about a film centered around a newspaper making a huge discovery that came to theater just in time for Oscars season when Spotlight won Best Picture two years ago. I tried to sit through the movie and judge it for itself, honestly, I did. But come on, it’s even co-written by the same guy (Josh Singer, who also wrote The Fifth Estate (2013), he has a very strong stance on the importance of journalism). So, when a movie is helmed by Steven Spielberg, stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, and discusses one of the most important journalistic discoveries in the U.S. government, how can it fail to be great? Well, it fails to be great by just being okay. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it, but there is also nothing so wonderful about it that this film will stand out.
There are some movies that exist without the need of plot twists, wild adventures, or even an over-the-top story. Wonder is one of these films, but that works in favor of the story. You won’t need to see this in theaters, because the experience isn’t larger than life – it’s a story about a boy and his life. This film isn’t going to blow you away – there is very little about it, other than the main character, that stands out as anything special. There’s nothing wrong with this, though, since the whole story is about someone who stands out but wants to fit in. It makes the quote most often associate with the movie (“You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out”) a little unnecessary, since we want Auggie to have a normal life, but you can’t call attention to wanting normality without highlighting why it’s needed.
Trying to direct a Star Wars film must be like trying to work in the government – everyone has a lot of opinions about how you do your job, and no matter what you decide, you’re going to make a lot of people angry with you. Rian Johnson’s latest addition to the galaxy far, far away tap-dances across the line of a fan’s love and hate, with some fans extolling its wonderful qualities and others bashing it for bits and pieces that didn’t flow as well. After the predecessor to this film, The Force Awakens (2015), drew attention for being too much like A New Hope (1977), it does seem as though Johnson’s approach was meant to be as original as it could be, and that didn’t sit right with everyone. Is The Last Jedi as poor a film as some of its loudest critics claim it to be? I don’t believe so – while I’ve always enjoyed Star Wars, I’ve never been a HUGE fan, so all I wanted was to enjoy myself and the newest chapter of the story. In that respect, I was not disappointed. If you are a really big fan of the franchise (we’re talking huge fanboy here), then you might love Star Wars so much that you can overlook anything this movie throws at you, or you can be irritated because it’s not the interpretation you’ve imagined. If you are not as big a fan of the series as a whole and don’t have nostalgia behind you, then this movie might stretch out long and become frustrating because you are more likely to notice its problems. But if you go in only looking for a good time, you should at least find that. Continue reading
This entire film is summed up best by one of its more background characters – the critic, James Gordon Bennett, looks P.T. Barnum in the face and says, “I wouldn’t call this art, but perhaps a celebration of humanity.” This film is not art, at least not in the sense that it is perfect – it does get very close with wonderfully uplifting songs, spectacular dances, and the sort of magic that is the ultimate culmination of theater and film – but it also doesn’t aim to be art. The Greatest Showman draws us in with an extremely arrogant title and the promise of a musical unlike anything we’ve ever seen before (and yes, it was a musical, I want to emphasize that for everyone in the back who will complain that they didn’t know it was a musical when they bought the ticket), but it’s not about being a musical we’ve never seen before – it’s about reminding us how magical a musical can be. This movie was in production for seven years because it was a musical and studios worried about backing an original musical, even one that starred Hugh Jackman and was centered on a circus, and you can see that in all of the work that went into creating it. As far as story goes, it’s a little bland, but as far as magic goes? It reminds us of why we love movies, theater, and the circus in the first place.
If there is any film that deserved to the quintessential coming-of-age, high school film, it is most definitely Lady Bird. Not only does it evoke memories of the audiences’ own experiences throughout their late childhood, but it does so without needing to resort to a fabricated, fantastical idea of what that time in your life is like. It is not a forced and exaggerated adventure, like the kind made popular with Mean Girls (2004), Easy A (2010) or Paper Towns (2015) – this is the story of wanting an adventure, and realizing that you have been living one all along. It might not be amazing or world-changing, but it is your life that is changing, and stepping back to watch it happening to someone else makes you realize just how wonderful that stage of life was, even when it hurt.
Even if you’ve never actually attended a murder-mystery Victorian dinner party, you’ve always dreamed about one and how fun it would be. Murder on the Orient Express is that dinner party in every way – colorful, rich, and with some questionable backstories and plot points that seem a little too much at times, but are fun enough to waste a couple of hours on. The film relies mostly on visuals and setting to draw the audience in, plopping you right in the center of this 1930s-style mystery, and hoping this will be enough to distract you from just how lost you are trying to keep all of the characters straight. You don’t necessarily have to read Agatha Christie’s novel to appreciate this story (though its reputation highly suggests that you do anyway), and even though the story is not necessarily a twist on the murder-mystery genre, the ending still could be. I made three or four guesses about the true identity of the killer, and additions and changes from the novel put even the biggest Christie fans in the dark.