Guess what time it is! If you read the title of this short post, you probably already know that the beginning of National Poetry Writing Month is upon us once again. I always look forward to NaPoWriMo every year, a chance to challenge myself and my writing and try out various poetry forms and themes from the daily prompts on the NaPoWriMo website.
As with past years, I will endeavor to post a poem and movie review every day throughout April. Even so, I did start a new job recently and my free time is limited, so I’m not making any promises. I’ve been posting less frequently lately, so hopefully this will be a chance to catch up on my backlog of reviews as well. Thus, let the poetry writing begin!
What makes a hero, I ask you, my friend?
Some inhuman power defending good ends?
Some courage or virtue beyond normal means
Or blasting the bad guys to small smithereens?
Perhaps perseverance, refusing to yield,
Or wielding a weapon, a sword or a shield?
No, heroes are simple yet more than all these,
And those they inspire can spot them with ease.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Well, I’d say the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a new MVP. No, not Captain Marvel, although she’s pretty cool too. I’m talking about a scene-stealing cat named Goose (which is a Top Gun reference since Carol Danvers was an Air Force pilot). There are still endless possibilities in the MCU, many of which are opened by this very movie, but I’d be happy if every movie from now on had a cameo from Goose.
As for the rest of the movie, widely touted as Marvel’s first film with a main female protagonist, Captain Marvel is a success beyond the cultural box it ticks. I had some reservations about Brie Larson playing Carol Danvers, just because of how serious she is in most of the trailers, but she is a welcome addition to the MCU, finding a healthy balance between self-assured power and typical Marvel humor. It does help that she usually has someone to play off of, sometimes Jude Law as her Kree trainer Yon-Rogg but mostly that someone being Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, who has two eyes and is digitally de-aged (incredibly well, by the way) since this is set back in 1995. Having already starred together in Kong: Skull Island and Unicorn Store, the two have great buddy-movie rapport as they take on the war between the shape-shifting Skrulls and the Kree Empire.
A word to the uninitiated: Captain Marvel doesn’t try to give many concessions to the casual Marvel viewer. There are moments in the first quarter or so that are bound to leave people confused, but it picks up when events (and Captain Marvel herself) get more down to earth. The alien Skrulls, who can impersonate anyone, make for an intriguing foe, especially with Ben Mendelsohn as their leader, and the makeup work for them is much more effective than if they had been created solely with CGI. And as usual with Marvel, the effects and action are top-notch, especially when Danvers reaches her maximum power (the “Whoo!”s she makes while destroying alien ships really add to the fun).
My VC wasn’t all that excited for Captain Marvel. Not being much of a feminist, she didn’t like the gender switch, since she associated the name Captain Marvel with the male hero Mar-Vell from the comics (never mind that the name originally belonged to the DC character now known as Shazam). While it didn’t remove all her reservations, the film managed to win her over to accept this version of the character. I think this was not only due to the fun ‘90s setting but also its message of perseverance that is universally human, not being limited to male or female. Whether Carol Danvers is known as Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel (neither name is actually used in the movie), she’s a welcome heroine for the MCU for reasons beyond the fact that she’s a she.
Captain Marvel is a well-made origin story that sits squarely in the middle of the MCU rankings and, like last year’s Black Panther, doesn’t seem to have much bearing on the next Avengers movie following in its wake, aside from providing background for a major character. Nevertheless, it has lots of well-planned ties into the larger MCU (loved Stan Lee’s tribute, and I’ll never look at Fury and his scar the same way again!) and still whets the appetite of us Marvel nerds; the first thing I said when the credits rolled was, “At least we only have another month to wait,” to which my VC replied, “Thank God!” Now, in addition to all the hopes and fears I had for Endgame, I can add the hope that Goose will make an appearance. Fingers crossed!
Best line: (Carol Danvers) “What does your mother call you then?”
(Nick Fury) “Fury.”
(Carol) “What do your friends call you?”
(Fury) “If I ever have them? Fury.”
I would normally have posted this over a month ago, but, despite the delay, I wanted to give a little sneak peek of what the rest of the year holds for us movie lovers. If I had gotten to this list earlier, I would have included the likes of Glass, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and Captain Marvel (Alita: Battle Angel was part of my list from last year), but these are all films that I’m eagerly awaiting. If they’re as good as I hope they are, 2019 will be a very good year for film (and these are just the ones I know of so far).
The Best of Enemies
Reminiscent of Hidden Figures and Selma, the trailer for The Best of Enemies promises a riveting story of the real-life friendship between civil rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and KKK leader C. P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell). With two strong leads, I hope it will help in bridging the racial division plaguing our country.
In principle, I’m still not a fan of these Disney live-action remakes (The Lion King especially just feels wrong, but then again so did Beauty and the Beast), but Aladdin’s latest trailer raised my expectations. Will Smith is no Robin Williams, but he could still pull off a different kind of Genie, and the production looks sumptuous.
Cats isn’t really one of my favorite musicals, but if it means more musical films in its wake, I hope it’s a massive success.
I have no idea how historically accurate this film will be, but I do love a good literary biopic, and my love of The Lord of the Rings will no doubt bleed into my appreciation of Tolkien. I do hope they include his faith since it was so integral to his life and work.
Men in Black: International
My expectations are cautiously optimistic for this reboot largely unconnected to the original MIB trilogy. Still, it’s a promising reunion for Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, who are both due to show off their proven comedic chops, and perhaps it can kick-start the franchise all over again.
I hadn’t heard of this film till recently, but the trailer has me hyped. The Beatles are quite dear in my family, and this Twilight Zone-esque what-if plot has my interest piqued.
Is the first Frozen overrated and overcommercialized? Yes. Is it still a great Disney movie worthy of an equally great sequel? Yes again. The trailer certainly captures an intriguing, darker mood than the original.
Toy Story 4
I really think they should have ended the series with Toy Story 3, but I guess we simply must trust Pixar to pull off one more fun, tear-jerking visit with Woody and Buzz.
Weathering with You
Makoto Shinkai might have the toughest job of any filmmaker this year: following up the highest-grossing anime film of all time, Your Name. There aren’t a lot of details about Weathering with You, but we know Shinkai excels at depicting clouds and rain and weather, so it will no doubt be gorgeous to behold.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
I’ll admit I’m strangely fascinated by this movie, based on a spin-off game from 2016. Pokémon fans I’ve talked to seem to have low expectations, but I really think this film could be great if done right. Whether a Deadpool-style Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds will constitute “done right” remains to be seen, but I do wish this movie would defy the odds.
Star Wars: Episode IX
I was in the minority in loving The Last Jedi, so Star Wars: Episode IX has a doubly hard task: pleasing fans who loved its predecessor and “redeeming” the franchise for those who didn’t. I can’t wait to see how J.J. Abrams rises to the challenge.
After that ultimate cliffhanger at the end of Infinity War, there’s no doubt that Endgame is the most anticipated film of the year, at least in my house. I love how mum Marvel’s trailers are thus far (except for the next Spider-Man movie’s), leaving much room for hype-building speculation. I’m hoping time travel will be involved. Thank God it’s only a month away!
Other promising features in the coming year:
1917 – Sam Mendes directing a World War I movie released in late December. Probable Oscar material.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Can’t wait to see how Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers in this biopic.
Ad Astra – This Brad Pitt vehicle sounds like Interstellar but potentially with aliens.
Artemis Fowl – Never got into the books, but Disney might be going for a new Harry Potter-type franchise.
Call of the Wild – Not sure how this classic retelling will combine live-action and animation, but I’m curious to find out.
Dark Phoenix – Considering I hated The Last Stand, I don’t have very high hopes for this new retelling of the Dark Phoenix saga, but you never know.
Doctor Sleep – Of all the unexpected sequels being developed, a follow-up to The Shining was particularly unexpected, but since it’s also based on a Stephen King book, this might have potential.
Dumbo – I wish Disney would lay off the live-action adaptations. I’m not really a Tim Burton fan, so only time will tell for Dumbo.
Gemini Man – The plot sounds suspiciously like Looper without time travel, but Will Smith could make this a real winner.
Jumanji sequel – Welcome to the Jungle seemed like a good standalone follow-up to the original, so I’m not sure how they’ll sequelize it with the same characters.
Knives Out – An all-star cast in an Agatha Christie-style whodunit. I’m all for it!
The Lion King – This isn’t even live-action, just a more realistic-looking animation!
Little Women – Another all-star cast in a classic novel adaptation released in late December. Can you say Oscar bait? If it’s faithful to the book, I’m hoping it won’t need the R rating so common to Oscar-worthy films these days.
Midway – A Roland Emmerich war remake could be explosive or explosively bad. We’ll see.
The New Mutants – Between this and Brightburn, horror is starting to creep into the superhero genre, and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.
PLAYMOBIL: The Movie – Never played with Playmobil, but I like the animation here. Despite allegations of ripping off The Lego Movie, I’m more curious to see this one than the second Lego Movie.
Rocketman – An Elton John musical that has real promise.
Shazam – A superhero version of Big. Sure, why not? I’m game.
Sonic the Hedgehog – I’m less convinced on a live-action Sonic than a live-action Pokémon. Too early to tell.
Spider-Man: Far From Home – I’m sure this will be another solid Marvel/Sony collaboration, but I don’t appreciate the spoiler-ish trailers before Endgame. Still, marketing is marketing.
Terminator: Dark Fate – Like the Terminator himself, this franchise refuses to die. Will they end on a high note?
UglyDolls – I didn’t even know these toys were a thing until the trailer, but a cast full of singers promises a fun kid-friendly musical.
Us – Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out looks darn scary and is getting really strong reviews. Hope it’s not too R-rated.
When money’s no object,
There’s no need for greed.
You know there’s enough
To go round guaranteed.
Go buy a skyscraper
With price tag untold;
Go drink the best wines
From a glass of pure gold.
Go build a palazzo
With fountains and streams
That flow through the house
Bearing all of your dreams.
You think you’d find better,
More sane things to do,
But if I were that rich,
I might go nuts too.
MPAA rating: PG-13
The romantic comedy hasn’t gotten much love since the 1990s, has it? After the heyday of Nora Ephron, it’s languished in clichés (just look at the recent parody Isn’t It Romantic?), and even the good ones (Elizabethtown, Music and Lyrics) have rarely enjoyed both critical and commercial success. In 2017, The Big Sick seemed to buck that trend, but Crazy Rich Asians really breathed new life into the clichés and broke some barriers along the way, though it may be too soon to say it’s revived the genre in a lasting way.
Constance Wu plays NYU professor Rachel Chu, whose boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) invites her to a hometown friend’s wedding back in Singapore, where she soon finds out that she’s dating the most coveted bachelor in the country and heir to a huge fortune. While that would normally be a dream come true, she is faced with the hurdles of both jealous rivals and Nick’s judgmental mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), along with a host of extended family members to navigate.
The core plot of Crazy Rich Asians isn’t all that revolutionary, but it features plenty of opulent visuals and good humor delivered by its all-Asian cast, making up for Hollywood’s limited Asian representation with one huge and lavish ethnic crowd-pleaser. At the same time, it weaves in some unique and subtle themes, particularly involving Yeoh in disapproving mother mode; you don’t often see examples of cultural prejudice, which is apparently more prevalent outside the U.S., where everything has become about race lately. Nick’s mother and Rachel are both ethnically Chinese, but Rachel’s American upbringing makes her selfish and unworthy in Eleanor’s eyes, a conflict that is beautifully resolved with some excellent acting between Wu and Yeoh.
While Crazy Rich Asians has many merits and many advocates to praise them, it does falter at times. Despite the best efforts of Ken Jeong and Awkwafina, there aren’t enough laughs for the comedy side of things, and the splendor of the wealthy Singaporeans sometimes went annoyingly over-the-top, which was probably the point considering the film’s title. Back when I reviewed The Philadelphia Story, I had to disagree with Jimmy Stewart’s line “The prettiest sight in this fine pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges.” The same holds true here. The lifestyles of the rich and famous can become insufferable with excess, and Crazy Rich Asians features that same irritating materialism, including the strangest wedding ceremony I think I’ve ever seen, at least as far as set design (though the film does incorporate other positive elements, such as Eleanor’s Christian faith).
Negatives aside, Crazy Rich Asians manages to live up to its name and to the more favorable side of its genre. As a fan of good romantic comedies, I’m glad that it was so wildly successful and hope that other unique and well-made rom coms will follow in its wake.
Best line: (Wye Mun Goh, Rachel’s friend’s father, speaking to his son at the dinner table) “Uh, you haven’t finished your nuggets yet, sweetie. Okay, there’s a lotta children starving in America. Right? I mean, take a look at her.” [Points at Rachel]
Here’s my contribution to the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon, hosted by Drew’s Movie Reviews and Kim of Tranquil Dreams. I reviewed the 2004 sports favorite Miracle, one of the great inspirational stories of history and film. Check out the other Blogathon entries for a nostalgic visit to the 2000s!
Welcome to the final entry of week 2 of the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon! When creating a blog, coming up with a unique concept will help distinguish you among your fellow bloggers. SG from Rhyme and Reason combined his two favorite things, movies and poetry, to create a truly unique blog within the film blogging community. Go check out his one-of-a-kind format over on his site. But before you head over there, here is his review of Miracle, the biopic of the 1980 Winter Olympics gold medal US men’s ice hockey team.
A loss is a cross that the loser must bear,
In danger of letting it lead to despair.
He may have excuses of why it’s not fair,
But nothing will change while it’s there.
To shed it in favor of triumph and pride
Depends on the hope they can muster inside, And winners emerge when their hope is…
When the dust of the town seems to tremble with dread
As it blows and remembers becoming blood red
The last time that many a cowardly head
Ducked down as a bully drew near,
When fingers are itchy and tempers are short,
When fight makes you foolish and flight makes you sport,
And no one is willing, in street or in court,
To hazard their life and career,
When violence is common and wounds are left raw,
And only a few have the courage to draw,
It’s they who must lay down an unbending law
And clear the frontier of its fear.
MPAA rating: PG-13
It’s been far too long since I gave my dear Viewing Companion (VC) a chance to pick a movie, and after her choice of Tombstone several months ago, she wanted to compare it to Kevin Costner’s competitor Wyatt Earp. Released just a year after Tombstone, which centered solely on the events surrounding the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wyatt Earp sought to differentiate itself by painting a much broader picture of Wyatt’s entire life, from his childhood to his later years.
For anyone wondering up front, Tombstone is easily the better film (albeit more violent), as the Rotten Tomatoes scores of both will attest. Whereas Wyatt Earp is expansive and rambling, with the O.K. Corral as just another event among many in Earp’s life, the limited scope of Tombstone makes it much more focused, as well as an hour shorter than Wyatt Earp’s exorbitant three-hour-plus runtime. (Honestly, it might have worked better as the miniseries it was originally planned to be.)
But all that’s not to say that Wyatt Earp doesn’t have its merits. My VC called it “an admirable attempt” at presenting Earp’s full story, and it did give more insight into what formed him into the cold and fearless lawman he became. Story elements like his tragic first marriage or how his father (Gene Hackman) saved him from a particularly low period in his life certainly add to his character, with details Tombstone didn’t have the time or inclination to include. Plus, the performances are solid throughout with an all-star cast to rival that of Tombstone. I must mention the Lost alert for Jeff Fahey as Ike Clanton, but many will also recognize Mark Harmon, Jim Caviezel, Bill Pullman, JoBeth Williams, Isabella Rossellini, Catherine O’Hara, Tom Sizemore, Adam Baldwin, and Tea Leoni. And I mustn’t forget Dennis Quaid as the TB-ridden Doc Holliday, with Quaid’s commitment evident in how gaunt and sickly-looking he became for the role.
Everyone does a fine job in the acting department, but again they rarely compare with their Tombstone counterparts. As well as Quaid does, he’s no match for Val Kilmer’s career-best role as Holliday, just as Kurt Russell overshadows Costner, though I can see Costner’s darker interpretation being more true to history. The friendship between the two of Earp and Holliday is definitely better defined and presented in Tombstone.
Yet it’s mainly in the comparison that Wyatt Earp falls short; on its own, it’s still a good film with more than a few strong moments exemplifying Earp’s tough-as-nails persona. James Newton Howard’s sweeping score also elevates it as a western. If you can get Tombstone out of the back of your mind, Wyatt Earp proves to be a comprehensive and well-produced history lesson, with plenty of creative license that acknowledges how history becomes legend.
Best line: (Doc Holliday) “Dave Rutabaugh is an ignorant scoundrel! I disapprove of his very existence. I considered ending it myself on several occasions, but self-control got the better of me.”
Down the street, there marched a throng,
Arm in arm to right the wrong
Of rights unequal for so long.
Their very presence was a cause
Of hate for some, for some applause,
But hate had hold upon the laws.
These laws to justice were opposed,
And so they marched and re-exposed
The rights the Founders first proposed.
Change is born from word and deed,
From marching feet and wounds that bleed,
And truth we may not want but need.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for street violence and language)
I had wanted to review Selma in February in honor of Black History Month, but as usual this year, I’m a little late. At least now I’m on track with the whole one-Blindspot-per-month schedule. As I expected when I chose it as a Blindspot, Selma turned out to be an ideal choice for Black History Month, covering an important period of the civil rights movement and offering a compelling portrayal of the man behind so much of it, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
David Oyelowo plays Dr. King, and I’m still shocked that he wasn’t even nominated for a Best Actor Oscar that year. It’s a career-defining performance that reminded me of Gary Oldman’s turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, in that it presented a great man and what made him great while depicting his low moments and acknowledging his imperfections. Oyelowo especially excels in the reenactments of King’s impassioned and eloquent speeches, and the supporting cast is equally stellar, from Carmen Ejogo as his long-suffering wife to Tom Wilkinson as a grudgingly helpful President Johnson. The whole ensemble contributes to an engagingly personal history lesson, from established actors like Tim Roth and Oprah to then-newcomers who have become more well-known in the years since, such as Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson.
My VC thought Selma had the slight feel of a TV movie, and some critics have nitpicked its historical accuracy, but more often than not, Selma felt to me like watching real, immediate history, which is the best compliment that can be offered to a historical drama. It presents uncomfortable truths tastefully, such as the doubts surrounding King’s potential adultery, and shows the horrors of hate and prejudice in ways that are powerful but not graphic. While King certainly preaches, the film doesn’t too much, letting its story develop its themes, such as non-violence; for example, King’s assertions that their efforts need to be noticed by white America are fulfilled when the Selma march is joined by white religious leaders and supporters from across the country, lending greater numbers and prominence to the event.
I don’t know why it took so long for me to watch Selma, but I’m glad I did, even if I’m left annoyed that it didn’t get more Oscar love that year. (It did win Best Original Song for “Glory,” which ironically was the one thing I didn’t care for, not being a fan of rap.) The only criticism I have is that it might be hard to keep track of all the characters if you’re unfamiliar with the history. Nevertheless, this feels like an essential film for not just black history but American history. With its laudable lead performance and rousing conclusion, Selma deserves to be ranked among the greatest historical films.
Best line: (Dr. King) “Our lives are not fully lived if we’re not willing to die for those we love, for what we believe.”