Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein (2019)

Director: Daniel Gray Longino

Cast: David Harbour, Kate Berlant, Alex Ozerov, Mary Woronov, Alfred Molina, Heather Lawless, Marion Van Cuyck

Screenplay: John Levenstein

32 mins. Rated TV-14.

 

I came across Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein on Netflix during a random searching, and I had to watch it. I’m a sucker for mockumentaries and short form comedy, so this was an easy choice.

David Harbour III (a fictional version of David Harbour of Revolutionary Road and Hellboy) is on the search to discover the mystery behind his father, David Harbour Jr., and the play that obsessed him. That play is Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein. By recreating his father’s office and visiting with his father’s agent and the play’s producer, David deconstructs the convoluted and extremely confusing video footage of the play while attempting not to drive himself insane in the process.

The short film is made by David Harbour’s performance. He plays a fictionalized version of himself as well as playing his father, in an Orson Welles-esque role, and the film works because of him. There’s a lot of strange comedy to the film, and that comes from a bonkers screenplay from John Levenstein (Illegally Yours, TV’s Kroll Show).

It’s simple to say that I’ve watched this short twice and still couldn’t completely unravel the confusion in its many layers, from the confusion between who is playing Dr. Frankenstein and who is playing the Monster in the play, to which lines in the play are actually in the play versus which lines are monologues about acting forcibly added in to elevate his father’s pride. It’s watching the story and letting yourself by unraveled by it that makes it funny, though not something that I would call classically comical. It’s a stupid short film but it is worth watching at least once.

Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein is not great cinema, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. I enjoyed it for what it was and I think the run time is perfect as it would have made a terrible feature, but I cannot begin to explain how it all fits together, and that’s kind of the point. Give it a try yourself and see what you can make of it.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)

or “Trust me, poster. I won’t laugh.”

Director: Chris Renaud

Cast: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Nick Kroll, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Chris Renaud, Hannibal Burress, Bobby Moynihan

Screenplay: Brian Lynch

86 mins. Rated PG for some action and rude humor.

 

I didn’t much care for The Secret Life of Pets. In fact, I felt that the trailer for the film was better than the whole movie. The film had sold itself on the idea that our pets are doing their own crazy thing as soon as their humans left the house, but it never really was about that. The finished product was a standard “new brother” scenario but for dogs. It wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t interesting. Well, I’m here today to report that the sequel…is not much better.

Sometime after the first film, Max (Patton Oswalt, Young Adult, TV’s A.P. Bio) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet, The Loft, TV’s Modern Family) have a good thing going with owner Katie (Ellie Kemper, Bridesmaids, TV’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). That is, until she gets married and has a baby. After the initial frustrations of getting to know the child, Liam, Max sees protection as his new role in the family. The problem is that all the dangerous situations Liam gets into are giving Max some heavy anxiety. When the family goes on a road trip out of town, Max meets Rooster (Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner 2049), a sheepdog who teaches Max how to deal with his new role. Also, all the other animals get into shenanigans with an illegal white tiger named Hu.

I don’t know that I’ve been more bored in a theater in 2019 than when I was watching The Secret Life of Pets 2, and don’t tell me that it’s a kids movie and my enjoyment doesn’t matter because plenty of films intended for younger audiences are good enough for adults to enjoy, and The Secret Life of Pets 2 is just a slogging bore. To be fair, I would rate it higher than the first film because it at least tries to stick to the central premise that the first film sold us on, being about pets when their owners are away. This one gets closer to that idea before being way too weighed down by all these plot threads that could not keep my interest at all.

The voice cast all does fine work, and I didn’t find it all that tough to adjust to Patton Oswalt as Max after Louis C.K. was let go. I enjoyed Harrison Ford playing a dog version of Harrison Ford. I liked their banter for what it was. This was the plotline the film should have gone with, but there’s this shift in focus when the narrative heads over the white tiger story that all-around did not work for me.

There’s just so many things about the film that feel very cringeworthy, from the way Max’s owner treats him and Duke after having a baby to the really weird way they are played as parents who seemingly have no idea what’s going on with their child and where he is at any given time. Katie is a bad parents and a bad pet owner in the film and it made me really not like any scene with her involved.

Overall, The Secret Life of Pets 2 was slightly better than the first film, but it just didn’t work for me at all. There’s a technical side of things that is well-done in the film, but everything from the plot to the characters just doesn’t land. This is one franchise that doesn’t need a third installment so that these voice actors can go on to better properties.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Anthony Michael Hall Joins Halloween Kills as…Tommy Doyle?

Anthony Michael Hall, most well-known for appearing in The Dark Knight and The Breakfast Club, has joined the cast of the upcoming Halloween Kills.

As reported by Variety, Hall will be playing Tommy Doyle, a character known to fans of the original 1978 Halloween. Tommy Doyle was the boy Laurie Strode was babysitting on that horrific night when Michael Myers went on his killing spree. The last we saw of the character was in the now-decanonized Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, where he was portrayed as an adult by Paul Rudd.

As of right now, Hall is only listed as appearing in Halloween Kills, which is a smart move, considering this is a slasher series and not much is known about the size of the role. Personally, I see Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends as being a two-parter where Kills will end with some sort of a shock or a cliffhanger. For me, the death of Tommy Doyle could be that cliffhanger. That could be what sets in motion the events of this purported final chapter, and not knowing if he’ll be in the final film leaves him in danger for the film. I really hope more unique and interesting casting announcements continue to drop for Halloween Kills, and I hope that none of them list casting for Halloween Ends until after Kills comes out.

So what do you think? Is casting Anthony Michael Hall a good choice for Tommy Doyle in Halloween Kills? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)

Director: Paul Downs Colaizzo

Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rey Howery, Micah Stock

Screenplay: Paul Downs Colaizzo

103 mins. Rated R for language throughout, sexuality and some drug material.

 

While at a Q&A following my screening of Brittany Runs a Marathon, writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo said that he wanted audiences to spend the first act of the film thinking “I know that girl,” the second act thinking “I am that girl,” and the third act thinking “I want to be that girl.” In this way, Brittany Runs a Marathon is an absolute success.

Brittany (Jillian Bell, 22 Jump Street, TV’s Super Mansion) is almost thirty, and she’s having trouble sleeping. Her doctor explains that it might be her weight that is causing her sleep problems, but Brittany’s lifestyle of drinking, partying, eating, and not caring probably have something to do with it as well. She realizes that she isn’t really moving forward in life and decides to finally do something about it. She wants to run a block, and that block turns into 2 miles and then a 5k. Now, Brittany sets her sights upon something bigger: the New York City Marathon. She has less than a year, but with her new running friends Catherine (Michaela Watkins, Wanderlust, Good Boys) and Seth (Micah Stock, Life Itself, TV’s Bonding), Brittany believes that she can achieve this almost impossible goal, but there’s only one problem standing in her way: herself.

Paul Downs Colaizzo’s debut film is a very tight character study loosely based on a friend, and his collaboration with Jillian Bell (who lived the character’s struggle in losing 40 pounds herself) in creating the film’s version of Brittany is terrific. Together, they crafted a wholly relatable and flawed human being who thinks she knows what will fix everything in her life. The depiction of the classic hero’s journey here is spot-on, and it’s anchored by a well-written screenplay and well-performed cast of supporting players. I particularly loved Bell’s chemistry with running friend Seth, played by relative newcomer Micah Stock.

What’s so great about the film is that each of the secondary characters has an important role in advancing Brittany’s arc and servicing the story. Brittany’s roommate Gretchen is similar to Brittany in that she seemingly has everything she wants in life but still isn’t a happy and good person. Her coworker Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar, Pitch Perfect, TV’s Harvey Girls Forever!) is someone who has goals in life but doesn’t really move forward in them, very similar to how Brittany’s journey begins. She is faced with all these possible versions of herself throughout the film as she is forced to confront the person she wants to be.

Brittany Runs a Marathon isn’t splashy or visually stunning. It’s a character piece, and a very inspiring story that made me want to run out and sign up for a 5k (baby steps). It’s headlined by a star-making performance from Jillian Bell and an all-around well-picked supporting cast. Colaizzo’s strongest asset is his excellent character work and story structure, and it’s on full-display here. Outside of a few nitpicks throughout, Brittany Runs a Marathon comes highly recommended.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kevin Feige Twists the Knife: “It Was Never Meant to Last Forever”

Kevin Feige has further broken our hearts on this Spider-Man situation, stating that he is glad for what Disney and Sony were able to do with Spider-Man but that “it was never meant to last forever.”

Early last week, it was Deadline that reported talking breaking down to continue the deal for Spider-Man in the MCU. The biggest detail that Deadline has repeatedly stuck to is that Disney wanted a 50/50 deal for co-financing the next several films with Spider-Man, something that Sony was smart to reject.

Feige’s stance on this seems to be coming from a place of covering for Disney’s overly-aggressive negotiations, and I can respect that, but it just seems to solidify that, at least for now, the deal will not be reached. It’s saddening because I’ve really enjoyed the flavor that Spider-Man and Tom Holland have brought to the MCU and I cannot wait to see where it goes next.

But I don’t think that this spells the end for Spider-Man in the MCU. I guarantee that this deal, which has been very lucrative for both companies, will not find some way to continue, even if that continuation is not immediate or takes longer than it already has. Not to mention, I don’t think that Tom Holland’s Peter Parker will be rebooted again, especially after Spider-Man: Far From Home became the highest-grossing Spider-Man film and the highest-grossing film in Sony’s history. There’s some spoilery places that Far From Home goes, and I think Sony will continue on with that story without the MCU. In fact, there’s already kind of a good setup for Spider-Man not being in the MCU within the finale of Far From Home.

So, no. I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of Tom Holland’s MCU appearances or his take on Spider-Man, but it does hurt that, at least for the moment, it seems like negotiations have completely stopped. Here’s hoping one day they can make his deal work for both parties again.

So what do you think? Is Spider-Man better off outside the MCU, and do you think we will see Tom Holland as Peter Parker again? Let me know/Drop a comment down below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Box Office Report] Angel Has Fallen Hits #1 But Good Boys Holds On Strong

Angel Has Fallen has delivered a #1 debut, bringing in about $21.25 million. This is an impressive opening weekend haul for the third installment of this franchise, landing just behind the opening weekend of London Has Fallen. If you’ve read my review, you’ll know that I felt that Angel Has Fallen dropped significantly in its quality over the previous film, and I didn’t have a lot of faith, but this franchise is like the little engine that could. It also seems to be hitting with fans, as both CinemaScore and Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes are quite high.

Coming in second this weekend is Good Boys, the R-Rated comedy taking in $11.75 million, which isn’t too bad of a second-weekend dropoff. For me, Good Boys having this strong of a second weekend isn’t all that shocking, as the film managed to actually give a fun and funny film in a year that hasn’t seen much from that genre. As we’re seeing, this weekend was led by some strong adult fare.

Third place this weekend belonged to the religious and uplifting drama Overcomer (with perhaps the worst title of the year) raking in a surprisingly high $8.2 million. This one, like Angel Has Fallen, is seemingly performing well with its core audience after netting a A+ CinemaScore. I’ve been particularly judgmental about religious cinema, noting that I’ve never seen very strong characters or dialogue in this genre, but I cannot speak for Overcomer as I have not caught it in theaters yet.

The Lion King is sticking out in in theaters as I expected it would, netting $8.2 million. The remake now stands at $1.5 billion at the box office, a number I didn’t expect to see given it’s mixed critical response. While I enjoyed the remake, I wasn’t sure how it would hold, but Jon Favreau has seemingly won another battle for Disney.

Lastly, Hobbs & Shaw placed fifth with $8.1 million. This is another one that I enjoyed, though not as much as I would have hoped, and I wasn’t sure how strong it would hold. I’m happy that it is winning over audiences because I think the pairing of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham could do some serious damage in a sequel and I want to see where they take a follow-up.

Other releases this weekend included Ready or Not ($7.55 million) and The Peanut Butter Falcon ($3 million). Hopefully more people come out to catch Ready or Not. The bonkers horror/comedy/action film was just a joy in theaters and I want to see it make a splash after Fox/Disney buried the marketing.

So there you have it. This weekend’s Top 5 was mostly aimed toward the heavy-hitting adult fare like Angel Has Fallen, Good Boys, and Hobbs & Shaw, but more family-friendly fare like Overcomer and The Lion King mixed it up a bit. What did you see this weekend? Let me know/Drop a comment down below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Director: André Øvredal

Cast: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint

Screenplay: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Guillermo del Toro

111 mins. Rated PG-13 for terror/violence, disturbing images, thematic elements, language including racial epithets, and brief sexual references.

 

I remember reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I had all three books, and I vividly recall the striking imagery. It was one of those first experiences that attributed to my love of horror, alongside watching Halloween with my mother when I was four and the Goosebumps book series from R.L. Stine. It was a pivotal part in shaping my fascination with fear and the macabre as ways of telling real stories, and they were damn entertaining too. Now, producer Guillermo del Toro, coming off his Oscar wins for The Shape of Water, is bringing us the film adaptation of this classic book trilogy with director André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe) behind the camera.

The story begins on Halloween night 1968, with Stella (Zoe Colletti, Annie, Skin) and her friends, Auggie (Gabriel Rush, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Chuck, who discover an old book in the supposed haunted home of the Bellows family. This book contains several scary stories and a lot of empty pages too. Stella takes the book home and discovers that new stories are appearing in it. At the same time, each of the kids that stepped foot in the Bellows home is in a story being written, one that comes true. Now, Stella and her friends are running out of time to get the book back home and break the curse of Sarah Bellows and her book of scary stories before they become a part of it.

As with many anthology films, which Scary Stories loosely is, the individual stories are one piece, and the framing device another. Of the many scary stories featured in the film, I think they all work quite well. The creature design is pretty awesome, some visual treats I haven’t seen before, and I think they, for the most part, work really well.

The main problem with the movie is the framing device. The whole story of Sarah Bellows and the book of scary stories should work on the surface, and it adds a nice layer of tone and flavor to the 1960s setting. The problem is that the framing device isn’t as strongly written as the stories that appear within the film, and this main plot of Stella and her friends is given far too much of the runtime of the film. It easily could have been cut about 20 minutes to streamline the plot more.

I also didn’t connect with Stella very much. She is a little flatly-written, and I was far more interested in the secondary characters like Auggie and Chuck as well as archetypal bully Tommy (Austin Abrams, Paper Towns, Brad’s Status).

For the problems with the screenplay, Øvredal does a great job with direction, setting tone and mood down to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of reading the stories as a kid. The film reminded me of reading Goosebumps or watching the television series for Are You Afraid of the Dark? He crafted a creepy atmosphere oozing with unsettling imagery. Much like The House with a Clock in its Walls from last year, this is a kid’s horror film that doesn’t shy away from some truly haunting imagery. Whereas The House with a Clock is closer to a Hocus Pocus, Scary Stories almost aims for It or The Monster Squad, definitely something more adult than I expected. I would caution potential viewers by saying the film has some disturbing elements, but all the same, this is exactly the kind of movie experience that adolescent Kyle would have been all over.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a winning horror experience. While the film struggles in building new mythology and setting the framing device into play, it mostly wins with the actual scary stories. It was a hellishly fun viewing experience that perfectly sets up more stories to come. Hopefully the filmmakers can course-correct some of the problems of the film for a sequel should one arise. I still had a lot of fun and would urge filmgoers looking for a nostalgic horror throwback to check this one out.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Blinded by the Light (2019)

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Cast: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman

Screenplay: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha, Sarfraz Manzoor

118 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material and language including some ethnic slurs.

 

I’ve been waiting on Blinded by the Light since January. As with several other films from this year, I started hearing great reception coming out of the early festivals, and as soon as I heard more about the plot and saw a trailer, I was sold on it. Coming out of the theater last night, I can absolutely understand and agree with all the good word.

It’s 1987, and Britain is not an enjoyable home for many Pakistani people, and it’s especially apparent in the small town of Luton, where teenager Javed (Viveik Kalra, TV’s Next of Kin) is struggling to find a place in his family, his school, and his town. Then, he meets Roops (Aaron Phagura), who gives him two Bruce Springsteen tapes, and Javed’s entire world is turned upside-down. In Springsteen, he finds an inspiration to pursue his passion for writing and poetry, and he finds the confidence to talk to the cute girl in his class and stand up to his father who believes that the most important thing he can do is make money to contribute to the family, but Javed finds that he cannot turn his back on everyone who challenges him.

I really enjoyed this feel-good film. Director Gurinder Chadha (Viceroy’s House, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife) has crafted an interesting backdrop to this music-laden love-letter to The Boss. The way she juxtaposes feelings of freedom and passion with the imposing racially-charged town that Javed lives in makes for a really strong narrative. She jumps between musical-style dance numbers with Javed and Roops to more serious family conflicts between Javed and his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir, Bend it Like Beckham, Level Up), and she does so with a keen and graceful eye.

Viveik Kalra does a great job leading the film as a mostly-newcomer performer. I connected with Javed and the layered acting from Kalra. I understand the internal conflict facing Javed about his love to write and his passion to create, but I cannot begin to understand the isolation he feels because of his nationality. The film conveys that isolation very well, though, and I think I was able to at least glimpse what it felt like.

The film’s usage of Bruce Springsteen’s music to stress Javed’s personal journey works pretty well, but I will admit it is overused at times. I think that the way to emphasize specific lyrics from the songs visually, be it swirling around Javed’s head or plastered on the walls behind him works very well, and it makes the narrative content much more accessible. It isn’t necessarily a Boss-test that makes its viewers unpack all of Bruce’s work and instead shows the audience how these two completely different people are feeling the same things. Once Springsteen’s music is introduced, it is heavily utilized, almost to a fault. I think that by trimming some of the music, the film’s pace would improve more.

Overall, Blinded by the Light was an excellent music-based film, a story with heavy-themes that also can bring a certain level of joy can be a difficult mixture to find and maintain, but Chadha is able to convey a message and a story that is so accessible even if you’re nothing like Javed. That’s the power of Bruce’s music; it connects us, and I think our filmmaker was able to pull that out here.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Lion King (2019)

or “One Step Closer to a Live-Action Aristocats”

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones

Screenplay: Jeff Nathanson

118 mins. Rated PG for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements.

 

Well, it’s finally here, everyone! The Lion King is finally in theaters! Wait, I should preface that The Lion King hit theaters in 1994. This Lion King is the remake! The live-action remake! Wait, I should also preface that it’s not a live-action film.

But, damn, it does look like it.

You know the story, but I’ll refresh you. Simba (Donald Glover, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Guava Island) is destined to inherit Pride Rock when his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones, The Hunt for Red October, Coming to America) passes. When the king  is murdered, though, and Simba feels responsible, his uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) convinces him to run away and never come back. The young lion prince flees his kingdom, embarking on a journey to discover the responsibility that lie before him.

There’s very little change in the story of The Lion King, and this remake is pretty close to a shot-for-shot translation of the original film, something I do not agree with. With all the technology being thrown at the film, I feel it would benefit the finished film to take some story risks and changes to set itself apart from what is considered by many to be the greatest animated film of all time, or at least in the conversation. I just think that by making it so similar to the original film, you are inviting comparison, and that’s not a good idea when the film you are comparing to is the considered one of the Greatest of anything.

That all being said, wow, the animation is incredible here. It looks so real, so intense, and so breathtaking. Just like with The Jungle Book, I’m shocked to find that so much of this film was done in a computer, even down to all the backgrounds (I believe only one shot in the whole film is real footage, and I don’t even know what it is). It’s gorgeously animated. My one problem with the realism is that there is a slight disconnect in some of the voice work. I think some actual motion-capture would have helped in the animating process to keep some of the facial expressions more effective, if only for behind-the-scenes video of these performers crawling around on all-fours.

The voicework is quite strong in the film, specifically from Donald Glover, Seth Rogen (This is the End, Long Shot) as Pumbaa, and Billy Eichener (The Angry Birds Movie, TV’s Friends From College) as Timon. The only voice work I would have thought differently about was Beyonce Knowles-Carter (Dreamgirls, Epic), who kind of missed the mark. I know the reason for casting her was to get a new song in the movie, but I just think she missed it.

Overall, The Lion King is a perfectly fine movie, a breathtaking visual achievement, but also a little unneeded. I would venture the question of who is picking this film off their Bluray shelf in a year to watch it if they already have the original film. That is its problem, that it cannot hold a candle to the original. Any other Disney live-action film would avoid that problem by adding something new to the film, but The Lion King doesn’t really do that.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Chef, click here.

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