Twelve year old Cole (Judah Lewis) is the only one left among his peers who still has a babysitter; a consequence of overprotective parents who have rendered him a timid, socially awkward milquetoast of a kid. He's afraid of getting shots (who isn't really), is constantly tormented by neighborhood bullies, and is generally a nervous sort with few social acquaintances to lean into. It's no surprise he's smitten with Bee (Samara Weaving), the gorgeous, confident sitter who treats him as an equal partner in adolescent life, even if she's a bit older and street smart. If they give you crap, ya gotta "kick 'em in the dick." Seems like solid advice.
Director Taika Waititi's comedic sense has never come into question. Whether his work on HBO's Flight of the Conchords or his hilarious riff on the social dynamics of vampire life in What We Do in the Shadows is your ultimate jam, the man is undeniably funny. So it was a bold move by Marvel Studios to give the reigns of one of its prized franchises to someone with a limited filmography, and no real skin in the game with big budget franchises. Could Waititi dial back his penchant for going for the laughs enough to respect the dramatic elements needed to propel the MCU forward, or would this simply be a campy sidebar to satiate fan's thirst while waiting for Avenger's: Infinity War?
The year of Stephen King adaptations rages on with the release of Gerald's Game, based off his 1992 novel of the same name. King adaptations can certainly be a mixed bag. This year's The Dark Tower was a tragic underachievement, yet the creepy clown tale, It, turned out to be a tremendously entertaining thrill ride. So where does Gerald's Game fall in the pecking order?
During the final shot of writer/director Taylor Sheridan's Wind River, words appear on screen indicating the FBI does not keep statistics on the disappearances of Native American women. To date, those numbers remain a mystery. It's a troubling statement for many reasons, some of which the film attempts to shine a spotlight on. But, is Wind River a purposeful thriller or just a political harangue on the plight of Native Americans?
Love or hate writer/director Darren Aronofsky (Noah, Black Swan), there's no denying his visions are bold and unique. In an era of cinema bursting at the seams with unoriginality, Aronofsky consistently stands apart from conventional studio storytelling. In many cases, it's a minor miracle that studios even throw bank in his direction, knowing the return on the investment might not pan out.
In his latest, mother!, perhaps his most daring film to date, he unleashes a cacophony of sight and sound unlike anything seen on screen in a long time, if ever. It's a film that revels in its audaciousness. But, is mother! another feather in the cap for Aronofsky, or are the legions of casual moviegoers spouting outrage over the content (the film holds a rare Cinemascore of F), causing some to walk out of theaters, correct in their assessment?
Honestly? A little of both.
Stephen King film adaptations are a mixed bag, ranging from acclaimed (Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, The Shining), to abysmal (Maximum Overdrive, The Dark Tower.) Hollywood seems to have a burning obsession with the horror master's works of late, churning out three films this year alone. The most recent is It, directed by Andy Muschietti (Mama), and written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman.
Full disclaimer, I HATED the book. I respect King's place in literary history, but I find a lot of his stuff to be long winded and tiresome. I took four stabs at reading It before I finally forced myself to choke it down. I don't begrudge anyone their fandom of a property. It certainly has its legions of followers, but I cautiously approached the film expecting to come away underwhelmed. Yet, as far as adaptations go, this one mostly succeeds, and it does so by ditching many of the things that doomed the book for me. I was pleasantly surprised with the result.
Ingrid Goes West, the first feature length directing effort by Matt Spicer, is a biting commentary about social media and celebrity obsession. Think of it as Single White Female for the smart phone generation. The script by Spicer and David Branson Smith, winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival, succeeds in balancing sharp witted satire of our plugged in culture and the consequences that come from defining self worth by the number of "followers" and "likes" that make up our online presence.
BUT, and this is a big but, all of the good will Ingrid Goes West builds up over 96 minutes of its run time is nearly relinquished in the final minute with a creative choice I found to be both unfortunate and in some ways, dangerous. More on that in a bit....
The latest entry into the Conjuring cinematic universe (yes, this is now apparently a thing), Annabelle: Creation, dabbles with the origin story of the creepy doll that first surfaced as a prop in The Conjuring (2013). Think of it as a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them spinoff to the Ed and Lorraine Warren story, but with less Nifflers. But does this film add anything significant to the franchise, or does it simply fall into line with other passable horror films we'll forget about in a few years?
When the latest version of the Spider-Man surfaced in the middle of Captain America: Civil War, fans of the web-slinger had reason to hope. In just a few brief glimpses, something existed that was sorely missing from earlier screen adaptations. The lightheartedness was there. The quippy one-liners were on point. We finally had a Spider-Man that felt aligned with the comic book source material. It's about how I felt when Hulk finally just smashed and proclaimed "Puny God" in the first Avengers film.
But, is this a character best served in small bites, or does a full course cinematic meal prove that Spider-Man is now a legitimate player in the MCU?
"There are nights when all my aching bones won't let me sleep,
And demons come to plague me as I lie in bed."
- Crash Test Dummies
What happens when compassion conflicts with suppressed urges?
Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) runs a school for girls in the Civil War era Virginia countryside. She teaches the ways of prim and proper southern lady etiquette, as an accompaniment of cannon fire echoes a bit too close for comfort. When a wounded Union soldier, Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), is unexpectedly tossed into the mix, allegiances are tested, nerves are frayed, and unspoken desires are gradually unleashed.
Steve has been writing moderately well on the Internet for over ten years. As a middle aged fan-boy, he acknowledges that his relevance in today's culture is barely recognized, but he continues to pretend people like him. Maybe you will too.