[Early Review] The Beguiled (2017)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning

Screenplay: Sofia Coppola

93 mins. Rated R for some sexuality.

 

The Beguiled is the second adaptation of the 1966 novel A Painted Devil (rather than a remake of the 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood) and features Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as a Civil War soldier taken in by Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman, TV’s Big Little Lies, The Hours) after he is found injured nearby. Miss Martha runs a girls’ school in Virginia, and Corporal McBurney is the first interaction many of the women have had with the war. Miss Martha is untrusting of the man and how quickly he gains the trust of teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst, Spider-Man, Hidden Figures) and the girls of the school. Miss Martha continues to remind him that he will leave as soon as he is healed and repeatedly threatens to turn him over to the Confederate Army. The house is very quickly altered by McBurney’s presence, bubbling with sexual tension and jealousy among the inhabitants until finally it takes a shocking and unexpected turn, putting them all in grave danger.

I had to really tiptoe around this synopsis as I dare not spoil the events depicted in this new film from Writer/Director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, A Very Murray Christmas). I would also advise you to avoid trailers for the film as they give away a bit too much. Overall, I enjoyed The Beguiled much more than I expected to.

I’ll start with what I didn’t like about the film. First, the writing of Colin Farrell’s character. I love Colin Farrell when he gets it right. Sure, he’s had stumbles in his career, but when he nails it, he really nails it. And he is great in The Beguiled, but the manner in which his character is written doesn’t feel like a fully-formed arc. His performance is top notch but there isn’t enough screen time for us as viewers to accept the journey his character takes.

I also didn’t really like the ending. It felt almost too easy, and there’s a near-horrific plot point that gets brushed away too easily that would’ve made things more interesting. Overall, the ending does linger with you, but I think there could’ve been more to it.

Everything else in the film is amazing, most notably the incredible performance from Nicole Kidman. Coming off her Oscar-nominated performance in Lion, Kidman is chillingly cold as Miss Martha, a motivated and strong woman who takes charge of her situation. There’s a beauty to her performance with an underlying uneasiness, especially when she shares the screen with Farrell. The rest of the performances are great as well, but I want to recognize Elle Fanning (Maleficent, 20th Century Women) and Angourie Rice (who you may remember from last year’s The Nice Guys, if anyone else actually saw it) for their turns as members of the school. Both of these actresses give impressive turns in every film and The Beguiled is no exception.

Sofia Coppola became the second female director ever to win Best Director at Cannes (and hopefully we won’t wait 50 years for another), and The Beguiled is a worthy film of such an award. Its tension and drama is all based around its characters , usually a win for Coppola. The film stumbles rarely, but manages to pick itself up rather quickly and recover. It’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year, and it is worth your time to catch it when it expands to wide release this weekend.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Advertisements

[Early Review] Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Director: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon

Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker

Screenplay: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio

90 mins. Rated PG for action and mild humor.

 

Despicable Me 3 opens with Gru (Steve Carell, Foxcatcher, Café Society) losing his job at the AVL (Anti-Villain League) for failing to capture Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, Team America: World Police), a child-star-turned-villain bent on stealing the world’s most expensive diamond. Now Gru, Lucy (Kristen Wiig, The Martian, How to Train Your Dragon 2), both jobless, are invited to meet his long-lost brother Dru (also voiced by Carell), a successful, rich, and slightly better looking twin who wishes for Gru to train him in the family business: villainy. Gru decides to utilize his brother’s impressive cache of expensive technology to capture Bratt and get back into the AVL. Also, there are minions.

If you were looking for anything new or shocking in Despicable Me 3, take this as a warning. For the most part, you won’t find anything that rockets this franchise to the next level short of the excellent voice work by Parker, who is mostly known for his foul-mouthed presence on the popular Comedy Central series South Park. That being said, writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (The Secret Life of Pets, The Lorax) asked themselves, “What is this franchise missing?” and answered in unison “More Gru!” Sadly, the Gru/Dru story fizzles out. It’s rather cliché and doesn’t really add anything new.

On that note, I also felt like the film was rather overstuffed with plot threads. Gru has Dru, Lucy has a uninteresting arc of a new mom learning to become a new mom and it doesn’t really surprise and interest. The three girls gets short little arcs that kind of work but feel underdeveloped. At least the minions have a lot of fun on a somewhat solo adventure after leaving Gru when he chooses not to return to the life of villainy. Their plotline feels similar to Scrat from the Ice Age films when Scrat actually worked.

You might think I hated the film, but I didn’t. In fact, I rather enjoyed myself for one exemplary reason. I love these characters. And while I hate on Gru quite a bit, it’s because he works better when played off another, and that’s why his story with Dru might have worked better if they hadn’t been twin brothers and it someone other than Carell had voiced him. I also enjoy Lucy and the girls even if they  don’t have enough to do. I was sad at the absence of Dr. Nefario from the previous installments but I felt like the minion sections of the film learned a lot from the experiment spinoff feature that they had a few years ago. They are given enough screentime to really play around without the film relying too heavily on them.

But I must return to the impressive work Trey Parker as Balthazar Bratt. His role was so much fun as an over-the-top villain obsessed with his past (a nice parallel to Gru’s journey) and addicted to the 1980s. A big win for me as I was unimpressed with the villain of Despicable Me 2.

Now it sounds like Despicable Me 3 may be the last of the official series with Steve Carell said in an interview that he may not return as Gru outside of another Minions cameo, so if this is it, it ends on an okay note. Again, the finale of the film is nothing original, but I’m also thinking I’d rather end it there rather than see what happens next. Overall, Despicable Me 3 was a lot of fun and I did enjoy myself. This is the entry that gets closest to the original with some big wins and a few classic sequel misses, but if you’ve enjoyed this franchise so far, I see no reason to miss this one.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Okja (2017)

Director: Bong Joon-Ho

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Byun Hee-Bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yun Je-Mun, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Choi Woo-Shik, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal

Screenplay: Bong Joon-Ho, Jon Ronson

118 mins. Not Rated.

 

Well, have I got a movie for you today!

Okja is the story of a young girl named Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn, The Housemaid, Monster) who lives on a farm in South Korea with her grandfather and a unique animal, a superpig named Okja. For ten years, Mija and her grandfather have been raising Okja to win a competition against other superpig farmers around the country. Mija is overjoyed when the judge, TV personality and zoologist Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko, Life) selects Okja as the winner. But when she learns of what will happen to Okja upon returning to the United States and to its true owner, Mirando Corporation, she sets out to free him and, along the way, gains help from Jay (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine, Swiss Army Man) and his ALF (Animal Liberation Front) team. Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin, War Machine), the CEO of Mirando, will stop at nothing to use Okja for her own greedy plans in this strange and unique new film from Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, Mother).

Now, I get it. Reading that synopsis wouldn’t exactly hype me for a film, and in lesser hands, I’d believe this film to be destined for failure. But with this director, I became more and more excited to see it.

And Okja has a lot going for it. With Bong Joon-Ho’s direction  and powerful writing, the cardinal message shines clear but with enough layers to make the discussion following an important one. The use of the CG superpig allows enough separation from reality for the film to make thought-provoking statements and ask serious questions behind the guise of a science-fiction adventure.

The performances here aid in crafting the unique vision presented, specifically Tilda Swinton as Lucy Mirando, a villain with motivations and an understandable approach but one that doesn’t always have the right methods to solve her problems. Then, there’s the standout work from Jake Gyllenhaal, who steals every scene as the over-the-top Wilcox, an unhinged failing TV personality who lost his fanbase years ago. Paul Dano and Giancarlo Esposito (The Usual Suspects, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) also turn in great work, the latter portraying Frank Dawson, Lucy’s right-hand man, but the work from Seo-Hyun Ahn as Mija rises up to match her fellow performers. The young actress’s ability to play to a CG superpig and hold her own in scenes with much more accomplished actors is strong in its own right.

It frustrates me that a film like Okja was booed at Cannes for having the Netflix banner in front of its opening titles. The streaming giant has more than proved itself in recent years, and Okja stands among the best of their original films. I’ll say it simple: it’s the best film I’ve seen this year so far. This is a film that balances humor with deep political satire and genuinely heartbreaking moments. I don’t care if this film changes your mind on its subject matter. It didn’t completely change mine, but I’m happy for the interesting viewpoint it offers. This is one that will stick with you. It will make you believe in a superpig.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra MacDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson

Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

129 mins. Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.

 

It’s a tale as old as time but now Disney has turned it into a twice-told tale, but is it any good the second time around?

Belle (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Circle) is a bookworm and inventor living with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda, Dean) in the small village of Villeneuve. Belle deals daily with the advances of the slimy and arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, The Fate of the Furious) and his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad, Frozen, A Dog’s Purpose) as well as the looks from the townspeople who find the young woman rather odd. When Maurice is lost in the woods, he comes across a castle inhabited by a terrible Beast (Dan Stevens, TV’s Downton Abbey, Colossal) who trades Maurice for Belle. Then, Belle and the Beast find themselves falling for one another in the best adaptation of an animated Buffalo-Human Romance film ever to grace the silver screen.

But how about the actual film?

Well, in the world of adaptations, I found that this 2017 iteration from director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) has some improvements on the original and some elements that didn’t work. Mostly, though, it’s the same film. And in a lot of ways, that lessens it. There are very few liberties taken here, and overall it gives the film a very tame feeling which never really drew me in.

Let’s start with what works. The amount of respect given to the French location of the film is strong. Most of the accents work and even little touches like French subtitles in the end credits give flair. There’s also a sense of theatricality to the film due to Condon’s decision to treat this like a tale you’ve seen before. I highly suggest watching the film with the overture as it harkens back to the classic tale from decades back. I thought the treatment of Disney’s first gay character LeFou was respectful. I thought the tightening up of plot points in the prince’s age and in his ability to read (a major change to the character from the 1991 film) work well here. I also really liked a lot of the personalities and performances from the various living pieces of furniture, most notably Lumiere (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, American Pastoral), Cogsworth (Ian McKellan, TV’s Vicious, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Baby). I am very thankful, however, that the director decided to cut the character known as Monsieur Toilette, played by Stephen Merchant, who would have been, you guessed it, a toilet.

And of course, the film looks gorgeous. There are a number of images I’d love to have on my wall from this film. Everything here looks astounding with a tremendous attention to detail.

Now, the issues with the film are glaring. I thought “Be Our Guest” was grossly over-animated and looked terrible. I felt like the film’s forcefulness to sticking to the source material made the film feel like it was dragging on forever. The musical numbers felt very autotuned and unrealistic and none of them really enhanced the original pieces. The issues amount to very simply not improving the original. This film is essentially a shot-for-shot remake in a lot of ways, and we’ve seen how that works out a number of times, most notably with Psycho and The Omen. It never seems to work, and it only reminds you how superior the original is.

Overall, I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast much more than I thought I would. Disney continues to create enjoyable experience rehashing old tales. The biggest problem with Beauty and the Beast is that I don’t see why anyone would choose to watch it again if they have the original film to go to. It just feels forgettable for all of its 129 minutes. There’s just a better version already out.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Logan (2017)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant

Screenplay: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green

137 mins. Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity.

IMDb Top 250: #130 (as of 6/15/2017)

 

The year is 2029. Mutants all around the world are gone. All that remains is an aged Logan (Hugh Jackman, The Prestige, Eddie the Eagle) caring for an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, Green Room). They are hidden from the world, and Logan makes his money driving a limo to raise enough cash to leave it all behind. But Logan’s health is failing. He longer heals the way he once did. Even with the aid of mutant tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant, Table 19, Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie), the two elderly mutants are barely getting by. But when a mysterious girl with powers similar to Logan turns up, he and Charles are sent on one last mission to protect her from Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook, Gone Girl, Morgan) and his team of reavers. In order to survive and get the young child to safety, Logan will be forced to face the enemy he has been fighting his entire life.

Wow. This film is incredible. What a stunning finale to the Hugh Jackman Wolverine saga. Director James Mangold (Walk the Line, Knight and Day) has sought to create a wholly unique “superhero” film that stands as one of the best ever made. Logan is equal parts dystopian fantasy and western-style action encased in a comic book movie, and from a lot of what I’ve read, it really comes down to the working relationship between Mangold and Jackman. Mangold thinks on his toes and he tries new things, and it’s on full display here.

The decision to make the film R-rated was explained quite perfectly by the director who proclaimed that by aiming for an R-rating, you decide your audience, and with that, you are given the creative freedom to build the story you want. I highly suggest you hunt down the interview where Mangold described his feelings about the rating.

Do not try to forget though that this is Jackman’s movie. He commands the screen in every scene paired against terrific performances from Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen (TV’s The Refugees) who plays Laura, the young mutant with more in common with Logan than he expected.

This is also likely to be Patrick Stewart’s retirement from Professor X, and he gives it his all. I was as interested in the shadowed past given to his character as I was with the mystery surrounding Logan’s weakening abilities. Charles Xavier’s arc is one of the more beautiful, tender, and tragic to ever come from a superhero flick.

Dafne Keen holds her own as well, suprising plenty with her first major film role. I never doubted for a second that she was capable of the action she displayed in this film.

There’s a lot of questions about where this film fits into the larger X-Men context, so let me give my opinion. Clearly, Logan cannot fit into the first timeline established in the original X-Men film due to the time-traveling that happens before 2029. Therefore, it must be in the second timeline and this also helps to give some context of several canon events from previous films with callbacks here to several previous films, including conversations from X2, the Samurai Sword from The Wolverine, and a quick reference to Bolt aka Christopher Bradley.

All in all, Logan is everything it should have been. My only complaints stemmed from pacing in the second act and I was also unimpressed with the villains, but upon repeat viewings, the latter didn’t bother me at all. If you haven’t seen this film yet, I highly suggest you run out now and experience it. Seriously. Right now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle Goethe

 

 

 

So what did you think? Have you seen Logan yet? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

For my review of Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United, click here.

For my review of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, click here.

For my review of James Mangold’s The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, click here.

For my review of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, click here.

Simon Kinberg to Direct X-Men: Dark Phoenix; Jessica Chastain in Talks to Play Villain

Simon Kinberg will finally get his opportunity to sit in the director’s chair on a new installment of the X-Men Universe. X-Men: Dark Phoenix will reunite Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Tye Sheridan, all from X-Men: Apocalypse.

The film will of course adapt the beloved Dark Phoenix saga focused around Jean Grey. For fans, this is both exciting and also a touchy subject, as many still hold the wounds of X-Men: The Last Stand, co-written by Kinberg himself, the botched first attempt to adapt the material. Thanks to the events of altering the timeline in X-Men: Days of Future Past, we now have an opportunity to right the wrongs.

And not only that! The amazing and truly talented Jessica Chastain is in talks to play a villain! I absolutely adore Chastain (and yes, I have a boy crush, deal with it) and the work she puts out is consistenly incredible, but she isn’t known for her franchise or genre work, so I’m very excited to see Chastain join the iconic ranks of incredible actors playing X-Men villains (Ian McKellan, Brian Cox, Kevin Bacon, Peter Dinklage, and Oscar Isaac).

But is Kinberg the right move here? I’m not really sure. As I said before, the franchise has already ruined this story arc before, from a script partially written by Kinberg. Granted, we all know there was studio interference and also Brett Ratner behind the lens, but has Kinberg shown capabilities to prove he’s worth the risk? At this point, I don’t think so.

That being said, I’m all for the addition of Chastain to the franchise.

So what do you think? Is Simon Kinberg the right choice to direct X-Men: Dark Phoenix? And what do you think about the possible addition of Jessica Chastain? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix rises in cinemas in 2018.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Dark Universe Scores Big Hit in China with The Mummy Winning the Weekend

I was really busy this last weekend. I didn’t get the chance to see The Mummy, one of my most-anticipated films of 2017. Reviews are mixed but skewing more toward the rotten side of things, and the domestic box office displayed a win for Wonder Woman over the first film in the Dark Universe.

But over in China, The Mummy is making some bank, scoring almost $52 million in the opening weekend, accounting for more than 50% of all the film revenue at the Chinese box office.

In its opening weekend, The Mummy managed to outperform other American hits like Logan, Beauty and the Beast, and Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2.

The Mummy, from first-time feature director Alex Kurtzman, underperformed at the domestic box office but was expected to rake in heavily internationally and it stands as one of Tom Cruise’s biggest hits due to this.

It’s disappointing to me that The Mummy didn’t get more of a take domestically as I love anything that could possibly harken back to the classic Universal Monsters franchise and while I think it was a mistake to play so heavily to the Dark Universe aspect in all the promotional material, I’m still very excited to see the film.

So what do you think? Did you see The Mummy this weekend? Did you enjoy it? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Connie Nielsen Set to Appear in Justice League

Not a particularly surprising piece of news today as the ever-expanding cast of Justice League gets one more tapped in. Connie Nielsen, who played Queen Hippolyta in this year’s Wonder Woman, will is set to reprise the role in Justice League, alongside Robin Wright who played her sister, General Antiope.

I feel like I either already read this somewhere months ago or that I just kind of figured it would happen. Nielsen’s portrayal of the queen was a big win in the excellent Wonder Woman, and given the rave reviews as the first DCEU film to be Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it stands to reason that Wonder Woman‘s supporting players are more likely to pop up. If there was ever a chance of Hippolyta being cut from the film, it certainly is doubtful now.

I like that the DCEU appears to be embracing all their wins for the upcoming Justice League film. One can only hope that the franchise and the company behind it, Warner Bros., is capable of learning from past mistakes in order to move forward with this cinematic universe. I also hope that Justice League is a contained culmination less focused on leaving threads for future films than, say, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Justice League? Which secondary character are you most excited to see? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

Justice League unites in theaters November 17th.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Murder on the Orient Express is Here – Again – With First Trailer!

Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express just dropped its first trailer. The star-studded cast is displayed with each “suspect” given at least a face introduction as is Branagh himself as the famous detective Hercule Poirot.

I had some initial excitement from this film as I enjoyed Branagh’s recent endeavors Cinderella and Thor (not so much Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and I was curious to see what the filmmaker would create here.

I loved this trailer. It did a great job of setting up the initial mystery and the principal characters but didn’t give a single thing away. I liked the visual flourishes which I felt harkened back to Branagh’s famous adaptations of Shakespeare. I think the cast is engaging and fun, and I think the story could be a lot of fun. This book has been adapted to death but at the same time it has been a little while and hopefully this will bring in a nice audience reception to a solid film. Maybe more will actually read the book too.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Murder on the Orient Express? Did you read the original novel? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Sense8 Has Been Cancelled and I Hate Everything Right Now

Well, folks, it happened again. The Wachowskis created a great property with Sense8 and nobody watched it. Netflix has cancelled the series after 2 seasons. Netflix tweeted:

Now, I’m not happy about this. I personally have loved pretty much everything the Wachowskis have done in recent years. I loved Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas. I even kind of liked Jupiter Ascending but I can understand why you didn’t. But Sense8, though…

We are in the best generation of television ever but some things just do not catch on. Sense8, though, should’ve caught on.

The series followed a cluster of human beings from around the world who have a connection, emotionally and mentally as they are hunted by a mysterious man and each deal within their society.

I loved the show and how it subverted all of my expectations being equal parts fresh and interesting and an intriguing mythology. I’m upset that you didn’t watch it.

So what do you think? Did you watch Sense8? Will you now? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe