The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019)

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, Kevin Costner

Screenplay: Mark Bomback

109 mins. Rated PG for thematic material.

 

I’m not really sure who came up with the dog-narrates-the-movie subgenre of film, but it’s a little weird, right?

The Art of Racing in the Rain, from director Simon Curtis (Goodbye Christopher Robin, Woman in Gold) is the story of a dog named Enzo (Kevin Costner, The Postman, The Highwaymen) and his owner Denny (Milo Ventimiglia, Creed II, TV’s Heroes). Denny is a GT race driver, but when he isn’t racing, he’s hanging out with Enzo, a racer at heart who loves him unconditionally. Enzo recounts his life, and all the ups and downs of his and Denny’s journey together.

I went into this one with pretty low expectations. This subgenre just doesn’t really do it for me, and I find that most of these films have the same general story outline. I was pleasantly surprised, though, with The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s very imperfect, but I found that I was so invested in Denny’s story that the Enzo narration and inclusion really only helped it along that path, and I was enthralled to see where it would end up.

It’s also the type of movie that I needed to see when I went to it. I hadn’t planned for Denny’s story to inspire me in the way it did. It’s not a fun movie at all. In fact, Denny’s story is full of tough moments, and it is in that way that the relationship between human and pet is really well-examined. I felt included, too, as a pet owner, even though my pet of choice is a cat. Unlike many of these films, where the dog is seen as heroic and there’s always an angry antagonistic cat, I felt like The Art of Racing in the Rain is about the bond between humans and animals and not so specific a pet as just saying it’s about dogs. It’s a movie about bonds.

The screenplay, by Mark Bomback (Total Recall, War for the Planet of the Apes) is nicely put together, with a few small problems littered throughout it. There’s some dialogue in the film from narrator Enzo that comes off as strange and unusual without much elaboration. Being someone who has not read the source material, I’m sure it was explained and made more sense in the book, but in the film it just didn’t translate all that well. There’s also this inclusion of the zebra scenes, which I found didn’t translate well either. I know, that already sounds silly, but let me explain. There are several scenes in the finished film that center around Enzo’s fear of a stuffed zebra toy at the house. He goes so far as to call it a demon, and I think that it kind of works with one exception, a dream sequence in which the zebra toy comes to life, something that looks absolutely silly in a section of the movie that it supposed to be very silly.

I’ve been a fan of Milo Ventimiglia’s since Heroes and I really liked him in the film, and I think the chemistry between his character and Eve (Amanda Seyfried, Les Misérables, Gringo) was particularly strong. In fact, the principle cast of the film does some admirable work even throughout some of the more melodramatic story beats, and overall, I don’t think any of them failed to convey the story.

Although, I will say the best performance in the film comes from Kevin Costner narrating Enzo’s story. This should have been something that I kept thinking about in my head. “Kevin Costner is voicing a dog…Kevin Costner is voicing a dog.” I was never once taken out of the film due to that, and I think it’s a tougher sell than anything else in this film, especially when comparing the way Enzo sees Denny as a father figure and yet Kevin Costner is much older than Milo Ventimiglia. It all worked for me quite well.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is imperfect, but even throughout all that, it’s probably the best film is this trend of dog-narration movies. I liked all the actors and voice work and the script accomplishes a lot of things that I didn’t expect to work. There’s some bumps along the way but overall this was a more impressive film than I expected. Now, I don’t think everyone will share in my thoughts about the film. It just happened to be the perfect film for what I needed on the day I saw it. The theater staff should be handing out free Kleenex for this one.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Long Shot (2019)

Director: Jonathan Levine

Cast: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgard

Screenplay: Dan Sterling, Liz Hannah

125 mins. Rated R for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use.

 

Long Shot kind of came out of nowhere. I don’t think anyone expected to be such a crowd-pleaser but reviews have been pretty solid for the film. I finally got a chance to catch it in the theater, and while I don’t it is ground-breaking comedy, it was still quite a chuckler.

Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron, Monster, Atomic Blonde) is planning on running for President when currently-seated President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk, Incredibles 2, TV’s Better Call Saul) decides not to attempt a second-term run. Charlotte’s biggest opportunity heading into the race is that she is considered cold and the public doesn’t connect with her, so when she comes across someone she knew from her youth, recently-out-of-a-job journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth, Rogen, This is the End, Like Father), she takes him on as her speech-writer to help connect her to voters. Then, as they work more and more closely together, they find that they each bring out the best of each other, but is Flarsky a liability for Charlotte’s White House run?

The term I would use to describe the central relationship of Long Shot is cute. I genuinely believed the chemistry between Theron and Rogen, and their scenes together were cute. I think director Jonathan Levine (50/50, Snatched) mined the relationship and the screenplay from Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah for some pretty solid comedy gold. This is a surprisingly good role for Charlize Theron, considering we haven’t seen much from her in a romantic comedy aspect. Yes, there have been films like Young Adult and Tully, but those roles have been much more tied into her dramatic performance than the guffaw-style laughs she goes for here.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a level of drama to Long Shot, but it is clear that the film is not taking itself as seriously as the films I have previously mentioned. It’s taking shots at our current political climate, lampooning and laughing at the current administration with its President Chambers, and Alexander Skarsgard (The Aftermath, TV’s True Blood) is rather silly and playful as the Prime Minister of Canada. Not everything works in the film, and some of the comedy dries up near the end as the film somewhat struggles to find its ending, but the last ten minutes were a fantastic finale that plays into its romantic comedy elements while also remaining somewhat unexpected.

The film also features a scene-stealing performance from the enigmatic and often-unrecognizable Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin) as Peter Wembley, a media mogul who bought the paper that Fred previously worked for and also wants Charlotte on his team, politically-speaking. He doesn’t have a lot of scenes but every time he popped up, I lost it laughing. His performance is the best of the film, and some of the things he does are slimy as can be.

Long Shot limps a bit in its second act. It struggles to find its footing in order to get to a reasonably-satisfying conclusion, but thankfully it finds a great ending to land on, saving a fun romantic comedy that strives to be about more than just romance and comedy. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how successful it is in that respect, but I found it quite funny. I would temper your expectations for all the people saying it’s the best romantic comedy in years, but it works quite well all the same.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Black Panther (2018)

Director: Ryan Coogler

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke

Screenplay: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole

134 mins. Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence and a brief rude gesture.

 

Well, Black Panther’s finally here. Compared to every other MCU film to date, Black Panther is one of the titles I hadn’t read until the film was revealed. Like Iron Man before it, I just didn’t know much about the character or the comic, but as soon as I heard about the adaptation and the inclusion of director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station), I wanted to read as much as I could. Black Panther is under a lot of pressure to be good. Expectations have been abnormally high on this one. How did it turn out?

Picking up about a week after the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman, 42, Marshall) arrives home in Wakanda to claim his birthright as King. He is reunited with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), an old flame who sees Wakanda’s secretive advances in technology as a tool to help the world, but T’Challa believes that revealing Wakanda for what it is puts the country in jeopardy and creates enemies. One such enemy is Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, War for the Plane of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin), a smuggler and arms dealer, has allied himself with the mysterious Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, Fantastic Four, That Awkward Moment), who has his own reasons for wanting to reach Wakanda.

Black Panther is one of the most-layered films in the MCU, and it excels in two areas that MCU films regularly fail: the villain and the music. First, the villain is an interesting and flawed character who has understandable motives in his ultimate quest. Just like Civil War before it, Black Panther presents a very interesting dilemma that has merits on both sides of the argument, and T’Challa is just as flawed with his decision as Killmonger.

The music is also a major step up from previous MCU films in that Black Panther has a theme, courtesy of Ludwig Goransson, and its complimented by Kendrick Lamar’s music supervision of the soundtrack. This film has a unique feeling that stands on its own while embracing the tightrope act of the larger MCU framework.

Coogler presents powerful themes in the film like Responsibility and Legacy. While T’Challa doesn’t want to lead from a throne, he is challenged by what has come before. He would rather be out hunting for Klaue himself. He looks up to his father but he is challenged by the difficult decisions T’Chaka had to make as king. T’Challa is forced to confront these difficult decisions and their aftermath, further conflicting his views on the legacy that his father left. The way he interacts with Killmonger, too, brings forth conflicts in identity and the question of nature vs. nurture in their lives.

I think Black Panther is a hell of a showcase of its principal cast. It’s proof of the incredible amount of top-notch performers of all races. Each role was cast with purpose, from Danai Gurira (The Visitor, TV’s The Walking Dead) as Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje, an all-female team of protectors, to Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Arrival) as Zuri, a spiritual figure in Wakanda who protects a special and powerful herb. Every performer in the film is so precisely cast that you couldn’t see anyone else playing that character. I was especially impressed with Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Sicario) as W’Kabi, friend to T’Challa. Up until his role in Get Out, I did not know Kaluuya, but with such a small amount of screen time, he creates a lasting impression in the film.

For all the amazing things Ryan Coogler did with Black Panther, one cannot forget that this is a superhero movie in a crowded genre at the beginning of the year. He should be recognized too for the absolutely incredible experience of watching the film. Black Panther was downright fun to watch and be a part of. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I’d advise you to head to your theater immediately to see it in the largest crowd you can. This is probably my favorite film so far this year.

 

5/5

-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 Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro

Screenplay: Rian Johnson

152 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [Pending]

 

I guess it’s true. No one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans. This movie was divided as hell, but does The Last Jedi deserve the hate or is it missing the praise?

Picking up moments after the events of The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley, Murder on the Orient Express, Only Yesterday) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, Brigsby Bear, Bunyan and Babe) on Ahch-To to discover that he has abandoned the Jedi code to live out his days in quiet solitude. Meanwhile, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, Maps to the Stars, TV’s Family Guy) leads the resistance forces away from D’Qar as a First Order fleet arrives to take them. Now, they are on the run from First Order forces. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina, Suburbicon) makes a costly mistake in the defense of the convoy and falls into a path of mistrust when Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern, Wild, TV’s Big Little Lies) assumes command of the Resistance forces. Now, as the First Order closes in, Finn and Poe attempt to save the convoy, Rey finds herself drawn ever closer to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Paterson, TV’s Girls) and the truth about her past.

Okay, so I’m not a Star Wars apologist. I find the prequels to be extremely middling in quality, and even though I love all the Star Wars films, I’m not above finding glaring issues that stick out. That being said…

I loved The Last Jedi. It completely changed the game and added so much to the mythology by driving the film forward rather than looking to the past. This is an incredible addition to the Star Wars Saga. Rian Johnson (Looper, The Brothers Bloom) came to the table and took what J.J. Abrams created with The Force Awakens and pushed it further. It’s definitely not like its predecessor in that it isn’t how I expected it. In fact, that’s what I love most about the film. I walked into it with all these preconceived ideas about how the movie has to go, and I would say just about all of them were wrong. I love The Last Jedi because I was shocked and surprised when I watched it, and that hasn’t happened since The Empire Strikes Back.

The film’s performances and cast are top-notch yet again, particularly leads Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher, this being her final Star Wars outing. Hamill could easily have been nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars with his most subtle and tortured performance in his entire career. Skywalker is broken by his failure to save Ben Solo.

There’s also some really great work from Ridley and Driver, especially in their shared scenes. We see some darkness in Rey and some potential good in Kylo. It’s clear that these two have not fallen into their roles as enemies yet. There are some nice flaws showcased on both sides here.

I also have to say some about Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin) as Supreme Leader Snoke. He doesn’t get as much to do in this new installment, much like The Force Awakens, but the way he is utilized in this film is far superior to Episode VII. Unfortunately, Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Queen of Katwe) and Gwendoline Christie (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, TV’s Game of Thrones) feel shoehorned in as Maz Kanata and Captain Phasma, respectively.

But the film was always going to be divisive. I just wasn’t prepared for how divisive it would be. Even Mark Hamill expressed concerns to Johnson about the direction of the film, but after seeing the finished product, it sounds like he has since been won over.

And there are things I take issue with in the film, but they are merely nitpicky things like a particular Leia scene that comes across a little silly. There’s a moment early on with Luke that could have emotional impact but instead falls to cheap comedy. These are mere nitpicks and, in the scope of the film, this being the darkest film in the saga, I can understand the reliance on some levity.

The Last Jedi honors what has come before while also paving the way to what’s yet to come. It’s a unique Star Wars film, and it’s the best in the series since The Empire Strikes Back. Rian Johnson’s attention to detail and the film’s connective tissue with the rest of the sage, including Rogue One, is just another reason that this film works as well as it does. With this film, Anthony Daniels (The Lego Movie, The Lord of the Rings) becomes the only actor to appear in all the Star Wars live-action releases. I unabashedly loved the theater experience of seeing The Last Jedi, so much so that I saw it an additional two times. See this movie. Three Times.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, click here.

For my review of Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, click here.

For my review of Richard Marquand’s Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, click here.

For my review of J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, click here.

 

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Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2017

 

Hey folks, another year has come and gone and here we sit, at the end of it, looking back on what was. 2017 had some truly great films and I’m going to count down my top ten today.

Just a couple notes before we get into all this:

  • These are my personal top ten films of the year from the many I have seen. I judge the films from my list in their success as a film in what they are trying to accomplish.
  • I haven’t seen all the movies released in 2017. If you read this list and find that something is missing, let me know, drop a comment, and start the conversation. Everyone loves a good recommendation.
  • Due to some of the heavy-hitters of Oscar season still on the way, this is a tentative list and it will change as more limited release films open up.

There, with all that out of the way, my Top Ten Films of 2017.

 

  1. Wind River

-I was not entirely excited about Wind River. That’s not to say anything wrong about the marketing, but I didn’t know anything about it and, living in an area with intense cold several months of the year, I wasn’t all that interested to see it in the summer. Thankfully, my other plans fell through and I ended up at the theater. Wind River is the powerful tale of a murder on an Native American Reservation and the unlikely duo who team up to solve the mystery. It’s been said a lot but this is Jeremy Renner’s best performance of his entire career. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water, Sicario) jumps into the director’s chair this time around and crafts a tightly-paced and shocking look at these characters and their world. It’s emotional, exciting and thought-provoking in every stroke.

 

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi is an incredible new addition to the Star Wars lore for the simple fact that it surprised me. I haven’t been genuinely surprised in a Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. Writer/Director Rian Johnson created a follow-up that subverts expectations while simultaneously honoring what has come before and driving forward on a new path. Not everyone loved it (someone once said that the people who hate Star Wars the most are the fans) but I enjoyed it for all the reasons that others didn’t love it. It’s exciting, emotional, and funny, and I cannot wait to see it again.

 

  1. Thor: Ragnarok

-With Thor: Ragnarok, Director Taika Waititi and Marvel Studios have given the public the closest thing to a new Flash Gordon that we are likely to get. A rollicking 80s road-trip style space movie with everyone’s favorite god of thunder and his pal the Incredible Hulk,  Ragnarok embodies the best of what the MCU has to offer, an incredibly fun and riveting blast of a film that stands on its own while contributing to a larger narrative. In Hela, we get an interesting villain with ties to Thor, and new characters like The Grandmaster, the Valkyrie, and Korg keep the thrills light and fluffy.

 

  1. Okja

Okja is one of the best films that Netflix has ever released. It is a strange tale, a unique tale, a funny-at-times tale, and a heartfelt tale. It’s the story of a girl and her superpig Okja. The company that created Okja , Mirando, has invested a lot of money in crafting a creature that is environmentally conscious with a minimal carbon footprint that tastes great, and now they plan on harvesting Okja to make billions for themselves, but Mija is not about to let the company take her friend. The film is one of the weirdest I’ve seen in a long time, but thanks to top-notch directing from Writer/Director Bong Joon-Ho from a great screenplay by him and Jon Ronson, Okja is a powerful ride from beginning to end.

 

  1. Dunkirk

Dunkirk is a film made for the theater experience. I was lucky that a colleague of mine got tickets to the 70mm/IMAX presentation and I was floored by the majesty of it all. The scenes in the air were breathtaking. The sequences on the beach were thrilling. The scenes on the boat were emotional. The whole film experience was astounding. Then, I watched it again when it hit home video. The film is still exhilarating. Even with the loss of the massive screen, this is a tightly-packed narrative that has so much going on but still feels so focused.

 

  1. Blade Runner 2049

-Who would’ve guessed that a sequel to a cult classic sci-fi thriller would be good? Blade Runner 2049 is even better than the original! How the hell did that happen? Director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) takes what works about the original film and crafts a companion piece that stands on its own and connects really nicely to the original film. Blade Runner and its sequel become two sides of the same coin, a breathtaking double-feature that is well worth the lengthy runtime. Harrison Ford returns as Deckard and joins Ryan Gosling’s Agent K, providing some of the best work in either of their careers.

 

  1. Lady Bird

-Greta Gerwig directs Lady Bird with such realism that it brought me back to a time in my youth when I was very much like Saoirse Ronan’s Christine. This incredible coming-of-age story feels like it’s the first of its kind in a world where dozens of similar films are released each year. The terrific chemistry between Christine and her mother is palpable and real. The film wanders through Lady Bird’s life as she encounters situations that many of us have been through in this interesting semi-autobiographical look at adolescence from a fantastic up-and-coming director.  I can’t wait to see what she does next.

 

  1. War for the Planet of the Apes

-How the hell did Planet of the Apes craft one of the best trilogies of all time? How does that happen? Matt Reeves takes on his second film in this franchise following Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and after having seen a few times, I can honestly say that War tops it. Andy Serkis is an actor who deserves performance credit for his role as the immensely complex Caesar, and he is matched on the battlefield by the chameleon that is Woody Harrelson, a man that can be joyful in one instant and terrifying in the next. Matt Reeves should be considered one of the hottest acts in Hollywood right now for his recent track record, and I look forward to his take on The Batman (if it ever does happen).

 

  1. The Big Sick

The Big Sick has been a critical darling since it was released in early 2017. The story, based on true events, is a dramedy based on the relationship of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily. The movie mixes emotion and comedy to present one of the best and truest representations of love I’ve ever seen. The performances in it are all fantastic, especially Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents. The Big Sick has a lot of award consideration and I’d be more than happy to see it take away some Oscars when the time comes as it hasn’t had a wide viewing outside of the general film community, and a few statues may help with that.

 

  1. The Shape of Water

-I hadn’t even heard of The Shape of Water at the beginning of 2017. In fact, it was only during an interview for The Bye Bye Man that Doug Jones even dropped he was working on a fish romance film with Guillermo del Toro that I even knew of the film’s existence but little else. Thankfully, late last year I was able to catch a screening for the film, and I just fell in love with it. I had always said that Pan’s Labyrinth would likely be del Toro’s masterpiece, but The Shape of Water is just so personal and lovely and strange and beautiful that I couldn’t get it out of my mind long after my initial viewing. Doug Jones, like Andy Serkis, won’t garner awards recognition for his work here and that’s a shame. Thankfully, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Shannon turn in career-topping work here and the film is getting a lot of talk now. See this movie. It’s the best film of 2017.

 

Well, there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I look forward to #2018oscardeathrace to begin, and I may see a few favorites get knocked off as I continue catching up on what I missed in 2017, but overall, it was another great year for films. We’ll see you in 2018 (which is like, right now).

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 15 – Cloverfield (2008)

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Annable

Screenplay: Drew Goddard

85 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.

 

Damn, this movie drove me crazy with its marketing. Seriously, I was one of those people.

Cloverfield is presented as found-footage from an incident that took place in New York City in 2008 in which a large creature terrorized the city. We are mostly filmed by Hud (T.J. Miller, How to Train Your Dragon, Deadpool) who is at a going-away party for his best friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David, In Your Eyes, LBJ). While there, Hud and the rest of the party witness the beginning of the attack and flee the party into the streets of New York. Hud joins up with Marlena (Lizzy Caplan, The Interview, Allied), Rob, his brother Jason (Mike Vohel, The Help, The Case for Christ), and Jason’s girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas, Evil Dead, TV’s Gotham) in an effort to seek shelter and hopefully find Beth (Odette Annable, The Unborn, TV’s Pure Genius), who left the party earlier after a fight with Rob.

People don’t give enough credit to director Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes, Let Me In). Over the last decade, he has crafted several films that should be classics of their respective genre, but have largely gone unnoticed or underappreciated. Cloverfield often finds itself lost in the mostly unimpressive found-footage subgenre, but its characters are developed, its visuals are striking, and its pace is excellent. At a tight 85 minutes, Cloverfield doesn’t let up.

Drew Goddard (The Martian, TV’s Daredevil) put out a real nice screenplay with mostly-sharp dialogue, although there are times where his dialogue gets a little too expositional, and T.J. Miller is forced to give that exposition, which isn’t a strong point in his performance.

Overall, Cloverfield is an experience like no other. This is a film that deserves to be seen and have more recognition, and maybe it will with the success of the Cloververse that I still don’t really understand. If you don’t get motion sickness, you just might enjoy the ride.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, click here.

For my review of Matt Reeves’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, click here.

For my review of Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes, click here.

 

 

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[Early Review] War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn

Screenplay: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves

140 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

War for the Planet of the Apes opens tonight, but I got a chance to catch it earlier in the week following a rewatch of the previous two installments. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one that I enjoyed, but it has since really grown on me a lot more. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one I already loved but seeing it again on the big screen only increased my respect of the film. So what about War?

Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Cloverfield) returns to helm this third chapter in the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise. In it, Caesar (Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Adventures of Tintin) leads a vengeful rampage after his home is attacked by a team of human soldiers led by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson, No Country for Old Men, Wilson). Along the way, he comes across a mute little girl and a new ally nicknamed Bad Ape (Steve Zahn, Dallas Buyers Club, Captain Fantastic) in his mission to take out the human threat, but he underestimates the horrifying tactics the Colonel is willing to use in order to save the human race and keep Earth from becoming a Planet of Apes.

Damn. War for the Planet of the Apes is absolutely incredible. It’s so rare to find a trilogy in which each installment gets better and better, but this Caesar trilogy actually does it. Even the second and third installment, both from director Reeves, prove to be different films that each tell a different story with a different flavor. The first film is a film about the dangers of science and the mistakes of hubris. The second film is a Shakespearian tragedy about leaders trying walking a dangerous tightrope in effort to avoid conflict. With this third film, Reeves hits elements of classic Westerns while also hitting homage to Apocalypse Now and other classic war films.

The performance from Andy Serkis and Steve Zahn using motion capture is unmatched, as are the other MoCap performers, but it is the scenes Serkis shares with Harrelson that create electricity on the screen. You forget that you are watching a MoCap performance here, and it is incredibly engaging and moving.

There’s also the element of Donkeys that Reeves uses in the film. War features apes, remnants of Koba’s faction, who fight for the humans, termed Donkeys. The interesting parallels created by Reeves and co-screenwriter Mark Bomback are interesting, intense, and unlike anything I’ve seen in recent memory.

War for the Planet of the Apes is another fantastic release in 2017. It is the end of an amazing trilogy, one of the best ever put to screen. You need to see this movie for its incredible performances, the gorgeous cinematography, and the unbelievable advances in motion capture. It’s an experience I’m not likely to forget, and with the exception of a little pacing in the second act, it’s a near-perfect film.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, click here.

For my review of Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, click here.

Kyle’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2017

 

Okay, folks, I’m a little late on this one, as I’ve already seen a few of 2017’s early films. But don’t worry, I made this list almost a month ago and am just now getting the chance to write it up for you. So, let’s start off with a point.

  • This list is most anticipated, not what I think will be the best by any stretch. These are the films I’m most looking forward to at the beginning of the year, so there will be a lot of bigger blockbustery films because that’s Sundance is just now happening and the other big Oscary films haven’t premiered yet. So with that being said…

 

NOTE: THIS IS NOT A COUNTDOWN BUT A LIST.

 

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Star Wars Episode VIII

  • Whatever the title may be, I’m so excited to pick up with the further adventures of Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Luke, and Leia in Star Wars Episode VIII. It’s also a bittersweet film for me personally as it is the last time fans will see Carrie Fisher as their general. It means so much for fans to have that connection, one that many have felt since 1977. But there are many things to be excited for in Episode VIII. More revelations about Snoke, seeing Luke back in action, and new characters played by Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern. What’s not to love? Have I even mentioned director Rian Johnson? So excited!

 

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Alien: Covenant

  • I may find myself in the minority here, but I really enjoyed Prometheus. I had issues with some of the plot points, but the film made me yearn for more from this universe, and this year, we get it in full force with Alien: Covenant. I reported years ago about the then-titled Prometheus 2 having no Xenomorphs. I’m glad that director Ridley Scott changed his mind on that are we are getting Alien proper. Add in Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, James Franco, and a return from Michael Fassbender as android David and you have a recipe for one hell of a film. At least…I hope.

 

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War for the Planet of the Apes

  • I really enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I absolutely loved Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Talk about a film that services fans both big and small. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was one of the best films of 2014 and remains a powerful work of art. Director Matt Reeves returns to helm War for the Planet of the Apes, and after Dawn, Cloverfield, and his remake Let Me In, I’m overjoyed to see what he does with this franchise next. Add in the extremely underrated Woody Harrelson to match the mo-cap performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar. This is an opening night kind of movie.

 

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Kong: Skull Island

  • The fact that Skull Island is actually happening is pretty impressive. The fact that the trailers look amazing is even more so. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts adds some lovely flair to this story of 1970s-set Kong tale with John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, and Tom Hiddleston. I only hope that the focus is on Kong and not set-up for the eventual match between the King of Skull Island and the King of Monsters, Godzilla in a few years. I’m thankful this one is coming out around my birthday so I have an excuse to drag everyone I know to this movie with me.

 

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It

  • As sad as I am to be missing Will Poulter as the titular creature and Cary Fukunaga behind the camera, I’m still very excited to see this new R-rated take on Stephen King’s classic story. It is a fascinating look at fear itself as a beast targeting children. Splitting it into two films scares me only for the concern that we may not get the conclusion we want if the first isn’t successful. Thanks to Stranger Things from last year, I do not believe that to be the case, but hopefully a trailer drops soon to help convince film-goers to spend their money.

 

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The Dark Tower

  • While we are on the subject of Stephen King, the long-gestating adaptation of his behemoth series The Dark Tower is almost upon us. Starring Idris Elba as the gunslinger Roland and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, there has been a lot of confusing information being thrown around about what the film is actually going to concern itself with. With producer Ron Howard helping shepherd the film, I trust that it will be a hell of an experience, but I hope it will also bring in casual moviegoers with its marketing campaign. I’ll be there opening night, and I hope you join me.

 

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The Mummy

  • Cinematic universes are such a big thing right now that many fail to realize the first universe created was the Universal Monsters universe with films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and House of Dracula. Universal hopes to ignite a new fire in their monsters with The Mummy, the first in a series of monster movies aimed at bringing these creatures out from the darkness. After the first attempted failure of Dracula Untold, write Alex Kurtzman took directing duties with powerhouse producer and star Tom Cruise set to introduce the female mummy played by Sofia Boutella to the world. Aided by Russell Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll, Cruise’s Nick Morton must save the world from an ancient and malevolent princess recently awakened. Count me in.

 

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Thor: Ragnarok

  • I’m only picking one Marvel film this year and that’s because I really love Thor. I love Chris Hemsworth. I love the Hulk. I love Mark Ruffalo. I love director Taika Waititi. I just love everything I’ve heard coming out of this film. I cannot wait until November to see how this all plays out. Yes, I get it. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 will be pretty great. Spider-Man: Homecoming has a lot riding on it. But Thor…Thor is my favorite film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I’m just dying to see him suited up, especially after that [SPOILER ALERT] post-credits scene in Doctor Strange.

 

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Blade Runner 2049

  • I’m pretty late to the Blade Runner game, having only recently falling in love with the original film from Ridley Scott (Final Cut for the win!), but with Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners, Arrival, need I say more?) behind the camera and original scribe Hampton Fancher’s screenplay, Blade Runner 2049 looks to be serving up some excitement heading towards its October release. It’ll be exciting to see original star Harrison Ford back in the fold with Ryan Gosling joining him. Another situation here of what’s not to love about this movie? Much in the way of The Force Awakens, there’s just so much to be excited about after being absent from these characters for over 30 years.

 

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God Particle

  • Lastly, we get to the strangest entry in this list. God Particle is apparently the third installment of the Cloverfield series, and after only last year discovering that there is a Cloverfield series, its safe to say that something interesting is happening here. Now, the film was pushed back to October for reasons, and the IMDb page has updated with the title Untitled Cloverfield Anthology Movie (2017), I can only wonder when news will come of this tale featuring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, and David Oyelowo. One thing I can say: J.J. Abrams is insane.

 

SO there you have it. What film are you most excited for in 2017? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

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