[#2018oscardeathrace] Lady Bird (2017)

Director: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen Henderson, Lois Smith

Screenplay: Greta Gerwig

94 mins. Rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress [Saoirse Ronan] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actress [Laurie Metcalf] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay [Pending]

 

I’ll be real here. I had no idea what Lady Bird was about. In fact, a small part of me thought it was a biopic about a certain famous First Lady. I had seen none of the promotional material, had heard nothing but the fact that it was a great movie. I’ve seen it twice now, and my opinion hasn’t changed.

Lady Bird McPherson (Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn, Loving Vincent) is a rebellious youth experiencing her senior year in Catholic high school in 2002 Sacramento, California. The loose narrative follows Lady Bird’s senior year while exploring her strained relationship with mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf, Scream 2, Toy Story 3), father Larry (Tracy Letts, The Big Short, The Post), and best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising). Lady Bird is a little lost in her life. Her attempts at romantic relationships aren’t turning out how she plans, she is receiving a lot of rejection letters from colleges, and the lies she is spinning to make new friends are about to unravel at the seams in this coming-of-age tale.

Lady Bird is an absolute delight. It’s not too often that I sit in the theater with a big damn joyful grin spread across my face for 90 minutes, but that’s what Lady Bird did to me. I found it to be one of the sweetest and emotionally-strong experiences I’ve had at the movies in a long time, and it’s filled with terrific performances. I loved Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name, Hostiles) as Danny and Kyle, two of the potential love interests in Lady Bird’s life.

Greta Gerwig (Nights and Weekends) wrote and directed this deeply personal tale of youth so well that I found pieces of my own experience all over the film. I saw pieces of my fiancé’s life in the film. I saw pieces of my friends’ life in the film. Gerwig doesn’t judge Lady Bird or condemn her for her bad experiences. In fact, she celebrates them. It’s a celebration of bad choices and learning, one that mothers and daughters should experience together.

Lady Bird is a perfect film. There isn’t a single thing I would change about it. I wanted to watch it immediately after finishing the film, and even now, I could sit through it again. This coming from writer/director Gerwig on her first solo outing behind the camera is excellent, and it makes her a force to be reckoned with as her career continues.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

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Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson

Cast: Jack Black, Ian McShane, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Jackie Chan

Screenplay: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger

92 mins. Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

Pixar has pretty high standards. Viewers go into a Pixar film expecting something brilliant, a film with blinding visuals and a heartwarming tale that captures the human spirit.

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Dreamworks Animation…not so much. As big of an advocate as I am for films like Monsters vs. Aliens and the Shrek series, Dreamworks has difficulty hitting it out of the park. People continue to flock to the Kung Fu Panda franchise, though. Even though I didn’t care much for the original film when it came out eight years ago (I was on a date with my now fiancé and we mildly enjoyed ourselves, but the resounding feeling the film gave me was “meh”), I felt the need to return to this franchise after hearing such love from fans about the second and third installments. So here we are. How did I feel the second time around?

Po (Jack Black, King Kong, Goosebumps) is a panda who dreams of a life protecting others, a life of martial arts, a life he cannot have. Po’s father finds him to be most-well-suited in the family business: noodles. But, a dangerous evil, Tai Lung (Ian McShane, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero), has escaped from his incarceration intent on revenge, and the legendary Oogway (Randall Duk Kim, The Matrix Reloaded, John Wick) must select a new Dragon Warrior. His selection? Po. Hijinks, get ready to ensue.

On my second viewing of Kung Fu Panda, I found some elements that I really loved. My favorite sequence was Tai Lung’s prison break scene. There’s also some really unique melding of 2D and 3D animation in homage to Japanese Anime. I even found myself loving the training sequences that Po goes through learning from Shifu (Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer, Chef) and the rest of the legendary warriors.

Some good should also be said of the voicework from those I’ve already mentioned and also Angelina Jolie Pitt (Maleficent, By the Sea), Seth Rogen (This is the End, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) and Jackie Chan (Rush Hour, Dragon Blade).

Now, the cons? It isn’t really funny throughout, and it isn’t really action-packed throughout. When this film hits it, it hits it very well, but it just doesn’t hit the mark enough.

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Kung Fu Panda is uneven, though it has a lot of potential as a franchise starter. After my revisiting of the original film, I see now that this movie had the ability to do well, and it deserved to get another installment.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Mark Osborne and Stephen Hillenburg’s The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, click here.

[Early Review] Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

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Director: Jake Szymanski

Cast: Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam DeVine, Aubrey Plaza

Screenplay: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien

98 mins. Rated R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some graphic nudity.

 

Hey, everyone! I was blessed to have seen Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates last night, and here’s my Early Review! Is this comedy enough chuckles to earn a theater experience? Let’s take a look.

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Oddly enough, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a based on a true story…sort of. It’s the tale of the Stangle Brothers, Mike (Adam DeVine, TV’s Uncle Grandpa, The Intern) and Dave (Zac Efron, 17 Again, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), and their quest to get dates to their sister’s wedding. Tasked by their parents to get dates or be out of the wedding, Mike and Dave, desperate for nice girls, go to Craigslist with their request. Eventually, the two gain fame in their search, which leads them to Alice (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect, Get a Job) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza, TV’s Parks and Recreation, Dirty Grandpa), who see this as an opportunity for a free trip to Hawaii and fake themselves off as nice girls. It isn’t long, however, before the Stangles and their wedding dates find that it isn’t easy to fake nice, and supposed hilarity ensues.

I’m going to make a comparison here that you won’t expect. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is very similar to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The entire film feels like a collection of great scenes that just don’t fit together well. The movie isn’t very cohesive. It doesn’t pace very well either. There are numerous scenes that I loved (just wait for the massage bit) but overall these scenes are wasted on a splotchy story from director Jake Szymanski (7 Days in Hell).

I liked the chemistry from stars Efron and DeVine as well as Kendrick and Plaza. This film takes the approach for extreme lowball comedy which works occasionally as a style, but I don’t think Szymanski knows how to cultivate a style of his own that moves the story forward. Instead, he relies heavily on his leads to point the way. The problem with an approach like this is that you get characters that don’t evolve. The quartet of characters all have scenes that tell but don’t show growth which leads to a rather uninspired film.

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Sadly, I didn’t enjoy Mike and Dave nearly enough to endorse this film to you. It is definitely worth a Redbox-ing, but you can save your spending dollars for a better fare. For those of you that don’t want my opinion, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates opens July 8th.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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