Ben M's Reviews

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Ben Montero's Reviews

Blackkklansman

I was a part of this “new works” festival my freshman year at UT. The main question they would ask us in the application process for submitting a new work would be “why here, why now,” meaning “why should this play/new work that you created be put on today?” Pretty much, if it wasn’t relevant to now, or didn’t bring on thematic elements that could reflect now, it wouldn’t be put in the Festival.

That year, there were a lot of good plays & new works that brought on those themes that reflect now very well, and some not so good. Those that weren’t good took advantage of their work being relevant, they failed to understand that just because your work is relevant and relatable to current times doesn’t mean it’s automatically good. Relevant or not, there has to be some effort and passion into the story you want to tell.

BlacKkKlansman”is horrifically relevant, but in a very rare and good way, and it’s achievement in storytelling makes it one of the best films of this year.

To say the film’s relevance to today’s political climate is what makes “BlacKkKlansman” great would be a disservice to Spike Lee’s brilliant filmmaking, as well as Ron Stallworth’s terrifyingly true story about infiltrating his local KKK chapter.

If Stallworth’s story were not true, & if I were an Academy member, I would award Lee (& the other three screenwriters) Best Original Screenplay. But since the story is true (it was inspired by Stallworth’s book of the same name), I would hand it Best Adapted Screenplay without any hesitation. Brilliant in dialogue, and brilliant in the structure of the narrative, the screenplay is the true star of this film.

What’s seen from this film’s screenplay and direction is a story that not only needed to be told, but WANTED to be told by someone passionate about telling such story. A filmmaker could’ve easily taken Stallworth’s story, made something mediocre and not do it any justice, but claim it’s good because it’s relevant.

Spike Lee is not one of those filmmakers. Lee creates a jazzy and jivey style that fits perfectly with the film’s overall tone: Exciting, scary, upsetting, &, most importantly, uplifting. Lee’s storytelling in this film is well-paced, inspiring, and ambitious. The artistic choices Lee makes throughout the film create a horrifyingly accurate depiction of the past, and his direction on the performances creates for something really incredible and people to be engaged with throughout.

It’s nice to know Denzel Washington has a son that can pass on his legacy when he’s gone in the long future. However, after this film, it seems John David Washington is forming a legacy for himself that could be bigger than Denzel’s in the future. After this role, John David Washington is now on his way to becoming the leading man that his father is, & so even more. Washington is a charming, charismatic, and a genuine joy to watch as Ron Stallworth. Washington brings so much to the character, and I look forward to the roles he takes on in his very bright career.

Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman, Stallworth’s Jewish partner and “white Ron Stallworth” was also an additional joy to watch on screen. It’s Adam Driver, of course he’s fucking great. Laura Harrier and Corey Hawkins were additional standouts in the film, likewise some of the men who play some of the KKK members. Those men were terrifying. It’s funny because they’re not the stereotypical rednecks the officers thought (or we thought) they would be. They’re cruel, yes, but their life outside of the KKK, they act differently from what we would assume. That made them unpredictable, and more intriguing to watch whenever the film’s scenes focused on them.

A final performance I want to note is that of Topher Grace. To portray David Duke is a demanding task. To call Grace’s performance so damn brilliant would be an understatement. Grace gives a very memorable supporting performance, and I would be on the lookout for him, Driver, & Washington getting nods come awards season.

Admittedly, I had mixed-to-okay feelings about the musical score (the soundtrack, however, is great), and the ending of the film (not Stallworth’s story, THE FILM) might be polarizing for some people. It wasn’t, for me. For me, it shows that the shit that happened in the film is still happening today. It got me fueled, but it made me appreciate the film even more.

Relevancy in a film is good unless the film is good. BlacKkKlansman is more than good and more than relevant. While it is definitely an important film to watch in this political climate, it’s damn entertaining and very much a landmark in storytelling.

97/100


Leave no trace

If there’s one thing that gets me excited, it’s movies that have simple stories, but have characters with loads of depth. We’ve had movies like that the past couple of years (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, HELL OR HIGH WATER, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, LADY BIRD, more recently EIGHTH GRADE), but most of the time, they tend to fall in the more cliche and generic parts of Hollywood’s filmography. 

Luckily, Debra Granik’s LEAVE NO TRACE does not fall with the mainstream. In fact, it joins the ranks of the films I listed as some of the most genuine, realistic, and heartfelt films of this decade.

Granik’s direction is simplistic, but impactful throughout, and her direction really captures the humanity of these characters and their struggles to find a new home without having to conform to a (for the lack of a better word) privileged lifestyle that typical Americans are cultured in. 

Ben Foster gives his most subtle but powerful performance to date. We get to see more range from one of the most underrated actors working today, and his struggle to accept an easier lifestyle. He’s a humble man, and does pretty much everything practically and traditionally in his eyes. He refuses to do stuff the easy way, and he teaches his daughter, Tom, this as well; and when she gets exposed to simpler stuff, we see him trying to get her away from that life, even though it’s something he knows benefits her.

Ben Foster is fantastic, but the true star of this film is Thomasin McKenzie. McKenzie, like her father in the film, gives a subtle and much more impactful performance. We see her struggle of choosing between living the life her father wants her to live and the life her father doesn’t want her to, but knows is better for them both. And when she knows the life her father doesn’t want is the best choice for her, she struggles to make her father understand such.

Both McKenzie and Foster capture an authenticity and genuineness that very few actors can really capture in roles like the ones they have. In addition, their chemistry together allows for this undercurrent of  depth to their relationship to be felt by the audience, therefore allowing us to sympathize with them and engage in theit story throughout. These performances are definite highlights in their careers and they give one of the best acted performances of this year. 

The cinematography is another impactful aspect that also captures the humanity and genuineness of these characters in their journey. Nothing about this film feels “cinematic” or a cardboard copy of what mainstreams audiences want to see in dramas. Every shot feels like you’re a fly on a wall watching these events happen as if they were true, and this is the type of cinematography I think is underrated in cinema. 

Admittedly, most of the time, I felt underwhelmed watching LEAVE NO TRACE, but I think that’s one of the beauties, if not THE biggest beauty, of this film. It’s simplistic in its nature and story. This father-daughter duo are not looking for any trouble at all, only a simple place to call home, and if director Debra Granik allowed the father and daughter to stay somewhere that didn’t fit this criteria in their eyes, it wouldn’t do the characters any justice & it would not give Granik’s message justice, either. Leave No Trace is one of the best films of 2018. Everything is simple, from the direction to the performances, but its impact is felt in the long run for the film’s overall message. If it’s showing in a theater near you, I highly encourage you to watch it. 

98/100


Mission impossible: fallout

The action film genre’s reputation tends to suffer highly because of mainstream action films these days that only focus on how big explosions are, how much CGI can be used to make something look awesome, and, more recently, how often The Rock gets to look like a badass. They feel repetitive, generic, and mindless, serving more as eye candy from the visuals and good looking stars with mediocre talent. Very few action films know the importance of character and story and sprinkle some clever action sequences within a good movie.

The MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise has been fairly consistent overall. Tom Cruise is a man with great range. From JERRY MAGUIRE to TROPIC THUNDER, I can honestly say he’s a genuinely good actor and one of the best working today. What makes the M:I franchise great is how they continue to put Cruise’s Ethan Hunt through conflicts not only through stunt work, but character, making Ethan Hunt a very iconic character that people love in the action genre.

This is definitely the case with FALLOUT. Written & Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT is the best action film of 2018. McQuarrie’s plot for FALLOUT is nothing groundbreaking or new at all; it’s also very easy to predict who the villain is once their alias name is mentioned. Likewise, the film suffers from a few expositional heavy moments. Despite that, what redeems the script is McQuarrie’s direction and the twists & turns it takes throughout, which are very clever and make the film feel more engaging to watch.

The strongest aspect of the script is that the mission Ethan Hunt is given feels genuinely impossible to complete. There are many moments that I thought would happen because of familiarity, but then it would unfold a different way and make the mission more difficult for Hunt and his crew. This took me by surprise, in a good way. The missions in the M:I franchise prior to FALLOUT did not feel impossible. You know Hunt will make it possible, but the unfolding of events can be predictable in the franchise and thus, take away from the mystery and thrills of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. However, FALLOUT definitely gives Hunt many difficult obstacles to overcome, and this mission really tests his skills and his crew’s skills. More importantly, it allows the audience to be more engaged in the story, and make us wonder what’s going to happen next in each act like a TV show, only it’s a 2.5 hour movie we’re watching.

The performances from the ensemble are very good. Ving Rhames was an absolute delight throughout, likewise Simon Pegg, Vanessa Kirby, and Tom Cruise. Rebecca Ferguson also has a good role to play and had many shining moments. It’s always great to see women kick ass.

Some of my readers know, I am not the biggest fan of Henry Cavill. I think he’s mediocre. I think he doesn’t do anything new in his roles. I think he’s one note and monotone and has a comfort zone he hasn’t gotten out of. I even watched MAN FROM UNCLE at the request of a friend, hoping I would change m mind about him, but I didn’t. I will say he gives a solid performance in FALLOUT. Sometimes his one-note does show, but most of the time he was actually very fun to watch throughout. This is the best role of his career so far and probably the only really good film he’s been in so far.

Although the aspect ratio change from regular camera to IMAX was very noticeable, the action sequences and the moments of high tension were the best parts of the film. Overlapped with a brilliant score by Lorne Balfe and shot excellently by DP Rob Hardy, they made for some very beautiful and thrilling action sequences to watch since MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. The stunt work is phenomenal and relying on more practical set pieces to make the action more authentic is a smart choice for this film. All these action scenes will leave you on the edge of your seat, or leaning back on your seat because you’re taken aback by the craziness of these stunts.

Some people claim that FALLOUT is one of the greatest action films of all time. I personally don’t think that is the case. The action sequences in FALLOUT alone are in the ranks as some of the best shown on the silver screen, but the film overall doesn’t. The more recent film to join “all time great action films” group was MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. I don’t think FALLOUT upped the game for the action genre and surpassed FURY ROAD’s achievements, but it was damn near close to doing so, in my eyes. But I cannot deny that this is the best action film of this year, and a damn good way to finish off this summer in film.

94/100


Mamma Mia! Here we go again

I saw MAMMA MIA! just recently on Netflix. Overall, I thought it was okay. Cheesy, but I can see where the fun was and understand the fandom behind it. 

Today is Sunday. I chose to buy a ticket for MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN in IMAX not knowing what to expect from the sequel. I came out of this movie liking it more than I thought I would.

On a technical, musical, and story aspect, this film is far more superior than its predecessor. If there is one thing I disliked about this movie, is that Lily James did not get first billing in the credits because she is the true star of this film (I know the billing is alphabetical, but still). Every scene with her as Young Donna was truly engaging and fun to watch. James is a leading lady, and it is time we acknowledged that. In her scenes, we saw how she meets the three men who might be Sophie’s father (the younger versions of Brosnan, Skarsgard, & Firth, who were casted fantastically and have their unique moments to shine. & yes, the actor who plays the younger version of Pierce Brosnan’s character sings much better than Pierce Brosnan.)

We also get more into depth into Donna’s friendship with Christine Barisnski and Julie Walters (whose younger versions were also fantasially casted). I would honestly pay to see a spin-off of sorts with these younger versions because they were a delight to watch throughout the film (Nina Gold, bless your soul for finding these younger versions) & their story was far more engaging in the film’s narrative overall. 

The plot with Amanda Seyfriend (who ironically cannot predict the weather this time, but her voice is still fantastic) dragged a bit in the beginning. She plans to reopen her deceased mom’s hotel, which she inherited, and also deals with her husband Sky who gets offered a job in NYC. Some of the dialogue in these scenes are slightly cheesy, but the setup in the beginning made the whole subplot feel underwhelming to get engaged in at the start. Despite that, it does pick up momentum close to the middle of the narrative. Unlike the songs in the predecessor, the songs chosen for each situation in the film lyrically make sense.

In the predecessor, it was weird hearing Seyfriend singing “Honey Honey” about the much older men who could possibly be her fathers. Meryl Streep sang “Mamma Mia” when she realized the three men were at her hotel. We understood the meaning of her singing it, but now that we’ve seen Young Donna sing it after a genuine heartbreak, it gives the song more meaning to the narrative and MAMMA MIA story as a whole. James singing “Mamma Mia” is arguably the best musical number in the film. The number up there in debate as the best in the film is “I’ve Been Waiting For You,” which mixes Donna’s past with Sophie’s future in a way that genuinely tugs at the heartstrings. A very well directed scene. The musical numbers overall are very well choreographed and very well shot. The cinematography much improved and the numbers are much more enjoyable. 

Despite the subplot with Seyfriend taking away momentum of the flashbacks with Young Donna, MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN is loads of the fun and a genuine surprise, coming from someone who thought the predecessor with the iconic Meryl Streep was meh. With much optimism, I would say “here we go again” when I am about to rewatch it. 

87/100


Eighth Grade

When I was in eighth grade, I tried to be a lot like “the cool kids.” I dressed like them, acted like them, did sports even though I was okay at them, and I rarely contacted with some of the “less popular kids,” who have now become some of my closest friends ever as the years went by.

I was a real fucking jerk in eighth grade. I regret most of my actions, but I don’t regret the experience because it really has influenced me to become a better person and embrace who I really am.

When I heard about Bo Burnham’s EIGHTH GRADE, I was excited to watch it because I love films that go deep into genuine human actions and films that are deep character studies. A lot of those kinds of films can be big misses, but some of the big hits really have some kind of profound impact on me.

This film definitely impacted me big time, and it’s one of the best films of this year. In his directorial debut, Bo Burnham has managed to create one of the best coming of age stories of our time. Burnham’s brilliant screenplay accurately captures today’s generation and their culture around social media in a realistically terrifying manner. There’s a lot of small details throughout that make the world of the film feel more like our own and also make the audience realize the colossal influence social media and technology has on today’s youth. From the youth’s realistically accurate and well written dialogue to their actions and attire, you’ll have definite moments of reflecting on your past and realize how similar yet how very different today’s youth is to the past youth. While those small details and moments may remind us of today’s world & how the world once was when we were in their shoes, EIGHTH GRADE also beautifully tells the story of a girl who gives advice about self-confidence and self-motivation on her YouTube channel, but struggles to fulfill that advice herself outside of her videos.

Elsie Fisher gives a powerhouse performance, and is a breakout star in this film. Fisher has very sincere and genuine moments as our young protagonist Kayla that make you fall in love with her & relate to her as the narrative progresses. Her character arc is clear & relatable, and key points of development are established very well with the use of her videos to keep us locked in throughout. It’s a long shot, but if Fisher gets nominated for awards, I would campaign very strongly for her. Another awards campaign that’s a definite long shot but I will definitely support is for Josh Hamilton. Hamilton gives (what will most likely be) one of the most underrated supporting performances of this year. As Kayla’s father in the film, Hamilton has to show the struggle a parent has trying to bond with their child in the time of social media & the struggle he faces seeing her child grow up and face the situations she faces; Hamilton does so masterfully. Hamilton has a particular monologue, which I think we’ve all heard before at Kayla’s age, but it reminds us of what we need to realize in this time and realize our self worth. It’s a timeless monologue, an emotional one (I cried during it), & it solidifies Kayla’s father as one of the best fathers in a coming-of-age film.

Another standout gem in this valuable treasure chest of a film is Jake Ryan’s Gabriel, who you immediately want to give a big hug at the end of the film. Wholesome character, and fun performance from Ryan.

Another fantastic element of the film is the organic and well relatable humor throughout. From random Vine references to middle school stereotypes that make us reflect and chuckle at our past, the humor lands and it also allows for the audience to very much relate to what happens in Kayla’s story.

The score is great and a lot of the cinematography, while can feel intentionally draining to the eyes at times, makes the film feel more genuine and captures those heartwarming and humane moments flawlessly.

The film’s strongest element is its humanity. Each character in the film makes choices that are consistently human and realistic. Not only that, but the actions of each character make the thematic elements of this film stand even stronger throughout.

Although some of the child performances are intentionally stereotypical of specific groups (just a small nitpick, though), EIGHTH GRADE is timeless and will become a coming-of-age classic for years to come. It is triumphant, well-crafted, and Bo Burnham in his directorial debut (filmmakers & their debuts nowadays, am I right?) has managed to achieve such a rare feat that most filmmakers fail to achieve: to tell a genuine, humane story and masterfully capture true human emotion on the camera. Burnham’s experience with YouTube and social media helped in the long run to incorporate such in a very unique way that made the narrative feel so much different compared to other generic coming of age stories that used similar approaches, but failed. I truly hope people get a lot out of this film, as I did; and like the many directorial debuts that we have witnessed so far, I hope Bo Burnham continues to tell important stories like this one.

Gucci!

94/100


Sorry to Bother You

I volunteered at SXSW & at the awards ceremony, the founder said “you don’t choose filmmaking, filmmaking chooses you.” I do pray the day filmmaking chooses me comes soon, but for those who got chosen, there are some who do not take that opportunity for granted, & those who do. Boots Riley is one of those people who got chosen by filmmaking to tell the story they want to tell.

SORRY TO BOTHER you was written starting in 2012; Riley made an album with the same name & a book, and now the film. I watched SORRY TO BOTHER YOU at SXSW completely blind. No trailers, no promo, nothing. I really did not know what to expect from someone’s directorial debut. It was claimed to be “the most wtf movie of the summer” coming out of Sundance, & that is exactly what SORRY TO BOTHER YOU is. And after a rewatch four months later, my claim still stands. From beginning to end, there are so many elements that make this film feel oddly entertaining, yet you also get so much from its message & question what the fuck you just watched. People complain about the lack of original films and will probably not watch this movie, unfortunately.

This film is wholly original and the screenplay is brilliant. The way the characters and character dynamics are written, the way the story progresses, the way the satire is presented is perfect. What really sells the screenplay’s brilliance is not only Boots Riley’s direction, but the cast. Riley perfectly cast each role, and each character has their moments to shine. Lakeith Stanfield’s performance as Cassius Green makes for a compelling tragic hero of sorts that tries to make ends meet for him & his girlfriend (the love of my life Tessa Thompson) & his uncle (God bless Terry Crews). When he gets caught up in the job and has the opportunity to make real money, there’s a shift in his character. I’m not going to go too much into spoilers and be as vague as possible, but again, Stanfield gives an excellent leading performance and we get a really good character arc out of him.

The other standout of this film is Armie Hammer. THE MAN HAS SO MUCH RANGE HOW HAS HE NOT WON AN OSCAR YET?! His character Steve Lift is the most satirical in the screenplay and the most over-the-top & Hammer makes the character work so well. I commend both performances, as well as the rest of the cast, because each actor made each character work. Their dynamics also made the story feel well paced and made all the humorous moments land organically.

One of the flaws I had on first watching was that some smaller plot point’s resolution felt underwhelming, but it kind of flew under my radar on the second viewing. The thematic elements of this film are what make SORRY TO BOTHER YOU great. There’s so much to process after first watching, but one thing you will come out understanding is what Riley has to say, and that’s the most important element. Riley says “sorry to bother you” to the film world with this film, but he can bother me all he wants because he has a bright future ahead of him as a filmmaker.

88/100


Uncle drew

Ball is not life for me.

I’m more of a football person (go Falcons), & I only watch the NBA Finals, not the NBA regular season. I don’t recall ever watching the Uncle Drew commercials, and I literally heard about this film a few days before I saw it, until my cousin told me about it & invited me to watch it. Although UNCLE DREW is essentially a love letter to basketball, I think people who aren’t basketball fans can find some entertainment in this film.

First things first, the performance by Kyrie Irving as the titular character is surprisingly very convincing and hilarious. Irving is completely unrecognizable under some excellent makeup work, and he shows some solid acting chops throughout. Lil Rey Howery also has some good moments in this film (& also breaks the fourth wall referencing his breakthrough film GET OUT).

In the end, the performances from the entire cast come off a little over the top like a stretched out SNL sketch, but they have good enough chemistry to keep you engaged in the story. The plot is very familiar, and the screenplay is a bit weak. However, the payoff at the end for Uncle Drew & Howery’s character is satisfying in an epic basketball championship game.

It’s really hard to really criticize it much deeper, as it was not made to be this Oscar-worthy, sophisticated film. This film was made for the full intention of fun, & that fun is visible throughout the entire movie. The humorous tone is consistent, and in the credits, you can see the enjoyment the cast had making UNCLE DREW. If that was their goal, to make a movie for the fun of it, it was definitely achieved; and that’s definitely a goal any filmmaker should plan to achieve with their projects, no matter what type of film it is.

65/100 (not a bad grade at all. It’s still watchable for anyone).


Incredibles 2

I was 7 years old when the first movie came out. I remember really enjoying it a lot & as I got older, I appreciated it so much more for its thematic elements and unique take on the “family becomes superheroes” dynamic.

THE INCREDIBLES is not my favorite Pixar movie (I save that spot for MONSTERS, INC.), but I cannot deny it’s definitely one of Pixar’s best (I share the same sentiment for the short film BAO, that screens before the movie starts). Fans desperately wanted a sequel to THE INCREDIBLES; as for me, I was indifferent to it, as I fear sequels will downgrade its iconic predecessor, but as it neared release, I got more excited for it. Writer/Director Brad Bird waited long to make INCREDIBLES 2 because he “wanted to make a sequel as good as the first.”

Does Bird achieve this feat?

Not quite, but INCREDIBLES 2 is still a worthy sequel, a much better & more memorable sequel than FINDING DORY was.  INCREDIBLES 2 starts off moments after the ending of its predecessor. Although 14 years is a long wait between films that take place in the same time period, the family dynamic between the Parr family feels very consistent with the predecessor, and INCREDIBLES 2 develops it even more. Bird’s script fleshes out each Parr member very well & gives them such great arcs that most people young & old watching can relate to. Each family member has their moments to shine & stands out on their own. However, the arcs I was most particularly fond of were with Elastigirl (brilliant voice work by Holly Hunter) & Mr. Incredible (an equally brilliant voice performance by Craig T. Nelson). The events they endure are equally daunting and have a lot at stake: Elastigirl is tasked with trying to make superheroes legal again, & Mr. Incredible is tasked with having to raise his kids who are so used to their mom helping them out with stuff.

The biggest theme of this film is that both of these tasks Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl can be overwhelming and can be very tiresome on the parent, but that raising your kids and building a family is just as a heroic act as saving civilians from danger. Their roles were intentionally switched in this sequel for this very reason, and it’s beautiful. 

The cinematography in this film is beautiful to look at. The color schemes used in each frame are astonishing to look at, and the action sequences are equally astonishingly shot well, with a particular scene in a room with flashing lights standing out compared to the others, and what makes each moment in the film so iconic is Michael Giacchino’s brilliant score. Animated films are tough to make, hence another reason why this sequel came out 14 years later. This film is brilliantly animated (as you can expect from Pixar) & slick to look at, it’s really amazing how far we’ve come with technology. I say that a lot, but it really is true. 

While those elements are things to praise about INCREDIBLES 2, it’s plot and villain were very predictable & the unfolding of each was very underwhelming to watch, & this partially ruined the watching experience for me. Syndrome is without a doubt one of the best villains (maybe THE best) Pixar has ever created (on the same level with recent Ernesto de la Cruz). His “if everyone’s super, no one is” line is so iconic and one that got me thinking since the first time I watched THE INCREDIBLES.

Although that philosophical theme was unintentional (Bird said so in an interview), that’s one of the things, along with the messages pertaining to family, that made THE INCREDIBLES so great. The overall setup of the villain is weak, you can already tell by the introduction of a certain character who Screenslaver is. Likewise, there are familiar plot points that you can easily predict as well, and it drains from the enjoyment once in a while.  Despite the flaws, INCREDIBLES 2 is a worthy sequel to its predecessor. Is it on Parr with THE INCREDIBLES? It falls short of doing so, but audience members will definitely get heartwarming themes about what it means to be a parent & also get much enjoyment out this film.

Was it worth the wait for many? Probably. For me? I was hoping for a bit more, but satisfied with the final product. I overheard a 10 year old sitting next to me in the theater saying “fourteen years I waited.” That bud has been waiting since before God made him from dust. Much props. 

86/100


Ant-man and the wasp

Never under estimate the little guy.

Right behind Spider-Man & Captain America (little guys in their own ways), Ant-Man is one of my favorite heroes the Marvel Cinematic Universe has presented to us. The first film is vastly underrated & definitely one of the more unique films in the MCU. Marvel’s been highly consistent on delivering sequels that are on-par or better than their predecessors, & ANT-MAN AND THE WASP is definitely on par with the predecessor. 

The performances, particularly from Paul Rudd (a delight to watch every time on screen), Evangeline Lilly (a scene stealer throughout the film), & Michael Douglass (who gives an EXCELLENT performance), are great. The chemistry between this trio is very convincing & provides for many heartfealt moments, as well as very hilarious ones. New additions Laurence Fishburne, Randall Park (great comedic chops), and Hannah John-Kamen (Ghost) are also nice additions into the MCU. Although John-Kamen’s Ghost isn’t a villain on par with BLACK PANTHER’s Killmonger or INFINITY WAR’s Thanos, her promising performance is enough to put her in the ranks of the MCU’s limited number of compelling villains.

Not so compelling is Walton Higgins’ Sonny Burch. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still good in this film, I just wish he was given a better character. Someone of his great talent definitely deserves a juicier villain role than the one-note & forgettable villain he played in this film. Definitely one of the highlights of the film is the chemistry the cast has with one another. Every relationship established, familiar and unfamiliar, had under currents of depth to them and felt more genuine when watching on screen. The chemistry between the trio of Rudd, Lilly, & Douglas and Rudd & Abby Ryder Fortson (who gives another great performance as Lang’s daughter Cassie) are crucial pieces to this film that make it more engaging to watch.

And like the predecessor, the chemistry between the actors is crucial to making the humor land, and it lands. Although there are a couple of jokes that are a miss, a lot of the humor in ANT-MAN AND THE WASP lands very well. The jokes felt organic, didn’t feel forced, and provided a lot of charm and wit to this sequel. The visual effects are phenomenal, and the action sequences (despite suffering from underwhelming and fast paced editing) are very creative in how our heroes use Hank Pym’s technology to their advantage. Peyton Reed directs an excellent sequel to an underrated hero in Ant-Man.

Although this film is charming and unique like its predecessor, I feel like it failed to capture the magic of its predecessor. I’m not sure how it failed to capture it, or what the magic of the first was, but that is definitely something I’m trying to figure out at the time. The solution to a particular situation in the end also felt underwhelmingly resolved quickly, as it is unclear how that solution is able to happen. You can make an assumption, but it was something I wish the film could’ve delved deeper into for a minute. 

All in all, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP is a worthy sequel that is just as great as the first. After the dark & gritty (& fantastic) INFINITY WAR, this film is definitely a nice breather & cleanser from all the sadness fans felt after INFINITY WAR. It’s thrilling, heartwarming, and hella fun to watch, & I recommend you watch it in IMAX, because those VFX are truly something. You also know the drill to stay for TWO post-credit scenes (you don’t want to miss them.)

88/100


Since I was a child, I never really enjoyed horror movies.

Whether they were good or bad, I had no interest in watching them because I got tired of countless jump scares and cliches in story and character. Plus, I was a real chicken and almost covered my eyes the whole time.

But then I saw THE WITCH.

Not only did this film introduce me to the brilliance of A24, but it exposed me to a type of horror that I found myself to be genuinely terrified by and to enjoy at the same time: a horror that doesn’t rely on jump scares or cliches, but an ambiguous horror that leaves you thinking about the ideas presented. I’ve learned to enjoy some mainstream horrors (A QUIET PLACE, THE CONJURING 1 & 2), but my soft spot with horror lies in the indie world.

When I found out about HEREDITARY, I got excited for many reasons: 1. A24, and 2. All the buzz it was getting from festivals since Sundance. I went to SXSW, but I could not see it, as I was working a tiresome volunteer schedule & I wanted some sleep (they screened it at midnight). However, I am glad I was able to wait 3 months to watch this film because it is a true cinematic experience.  From start to finish, HEREDITARY is a disturbing roller coaster ride filled with shock and genuine horror. 

HEREDITARY’s horror elements rely solely on the experiences of each character and how they react to them, and what they go through is hard to watch.  Toni Collette gives the performance of a lifetime, showing a great range of grief in her tragic mother role. We sympathize with her when she feels grief, and we also question how she deals with it throughout the film. Milly Shapiro (in her feature film debut) gives an excellent performance as Charlie, a child who isolates herself from others and creates creepy dolls. Shapiro portrays the quietness and subtlety of her character without giving into the stereotype of the “creepy kid.” Shapiro shines brightly in this film.  As much as I loved Toni Collette and Milly Shapiro, the performance that I came out of this film loving the most was from Alex Wolff. The events Wolff’s character experiences from beginning to end were the most terrifying to watch in the entire film. From the fear & pain in his face we see up close in the film’s most shocking twist, and his physicality in a classroom when he experiences supernatural events, Wolff is demanded to give so much in these moments, and he performs masterfully throughout. 

Ari Aster in his feature length directorial debut makes a huge leap with his film and joins the rank of giants in the horror genre. From the thematic elements and subtle metaphors he plants in his brilliant screenplay, to the genuinely shocking and surprising twists in the story, I cannot emphasize enough how much of an experience HEREDITARY is. There were moments in the film I could hear my heart beating loudly as the film progressed, and when it reaches its peak, the film exceeded my expectations, and left me leaving the theater jaw dropped.

I look forward to seeing what Aster does next. Although the introduction of the supernatural may feel underwhelming to some, and although there are a couple of brief moments of exposition (but most films have exposition, right?), HEREDITARY is a brilliant horror film that will be remembered as a classic for years to come. There are shots in this film that will be etched in my brain forever, as they were that scarring to watch. If a horror movie can do that, the filmmakers did their job right. You can make a good horror movie with jump scares, my problem is that most rely on jump scares to sell their “horror” movie.

HEREDITARY doesn’t rely on such, and brings out horror elements through real life situations a broken family endures in a way that makes you think and many ways that make you sympathize and relate to each character.  The general audience won’t love HEREDITRY (my parents didn’t, as I saw it with them at a 10pm screening opening night), but if you can appreciate a horror film without the cliches, HEREDITARY is a landmark in the horror genre because of how it achieves capturing these horror elements differently from other films, and how it makes you think of the story presented.

100/100