There was a point in my childhood where every stuffed animal I had was also an imaginary friend. The polar bear, the frog, even the armadillo with a barbecue stain on the front-left paw. All of them. Unfortunately for "Real Friendless Joe", the collection got out of control and cuts had to be made. It was emotional, difficult, and provided such a feeling of raw power that never manifested into superpowers like they should've. I just wanted to shoot water out of my hands, dammit!
When I pick and choose which movies to write a review for, so many others fall to the side. Between 50 hour weeks, the podcast, and gazing into the empty void that is time, I don't have the scheduling power to see and write a full piece on everything. That, and I really just didn't want to see The Nun. Still, I want to give quick reviews on all the movies I saw this year that didn't get the full review treatment. Behold, the shortened glory!
(Reviews are out of 10 possible points, with "soft", "steady", and "solid" acting as further definitions of my rating)
I was between reviewing this and Annihilation, and Black Panther just barely lost out due to some less-than-savory CGI rhinos. Besides the occasional visual gripe in armored pachyderms and lookalike villains, Black Panther comes through as one of the strongest, boldest entries in superhero cinema. And Michael B. Jordan? COME ON!
A steady 8 out of 10.
This film hits like a forgotten anniversary, and a big one, too. One that ends in a five, or maybe even a zero. It's funnier than it had any right to be, the cast is spectacularly balanced, and the cinematography is surprising in execution of skill and style. Is it a standard comedy with action elements? Yeah, but a damn good one.
A solid 8 out of 10.
The Death of Stalin
The balance of tragedy and comedy run in the same degrees of justification. If the topic is lighthearted, then things are easier to laugh at. Joy, after all, flows easily. If we're at my grandfather's funeral, however, the comic in the room better tell a top notch zinger in order for me to break my spell. Armando Ianucci brings the sharpest humor one can to The Death of Stalin, and yet paints a darker, relevant setting of strife and depravity. Trusting anyone else with the impossible balance of hilarious and reflective would be as foolish as every character in this dark masterpiece.
A steady 9 out of 10.
Isle of Dogs
More of a scheduled reunion than a thoughtful expression, Wes Anderson brings a delightful, yet forgettable film. Serving as his second feature-length foray in animation, Anderson's Isle of Dogs enchants the screen, but the script and vocal performances weaken some of the meaning and message. Isle of Dogs is fun, but not worth all of the people in my theater cheering at the mere mention of Cincinnati.
A solid 6 out of 10.
You Were Never Really Here
Writing this review was the hardest, primarily because I can't think back to Lynne Ramsay's film without feeling the need for a flannel and several blankets. The chills-inducing You Were Never Really Here is a quiet spectacle that makes use of Joaquin Phoenix's unsettling expressions and distant humor. How Lynne was able to believably salvage hope out of this dire thriller is a testament to every piece, put together in just the right way. Is this something you should watch with your entire family, all because your mom likes movies where bad guys get their fiddly bits whacked in with a hammer? No, although that does happen. Is it something that will spur the emotional consumption of crappy sit-down Mexican food to suppress all the feels you get after the credits roll? Yes, so I've heard.
A steady 9 out of 10.
A film stripped of any lavishes or extras, Disobedience has a timelessness to it. The old-school score offers the film a feeling of something screened in either 1969 or 2019. While the naked stylings of the movie can become a tad too dour in spots, this movie's central performances (Rachel Weisz, Alesandro Nivola, and Rachel McAdams) drive a powerful, emotional force. Nivola's beard in the film is also a severe jealousy point for me.
A solid 7 out of 10.
The entirety of this venture comes from people who are clearly stoked to be in storytelling. Not only is the script complex, but writer-director Bart Layton and his rock-solid cast seems to excited to be full of themselves. This energy is a little dizzying in its third act, and there are a few narrative moments that feel brushed over. Even with unforeseen speed bumps, Layton has pieced together a competent, entertaining heist film.
A steady 7 out of 10.
Brad Bird has always been an artist of insatiable ambition. Unfortunately, his follow-through on big ideas has faltered in recent years, none more so than Incredibles 2. There is a lot to love about this sequel, particularly in a time where most superhero movies look the same. This film brings back the gorgeous art style, delectable score, and a voice cast to die for. However, Bird introduces a litany of conversations on topics from body cameras to internet hackers that feel thrown together and half-baked. In trying to make this movie for adults, your kids might suffer. Just a bit, though. Eesh, that sounded harsh. There's still Jack-Jack! And dad jokes!!
A steady 6 out of 10.
The Avengers of currently working comedic actors are given the Justice League of scripts. For an idea as uniquely uproarious as 20+ years of an ongoing children's game, Tag is pretty generic on jokes. The chemistry is palpable, and each performance is doing its absolute best with what its given. Hell, even the action moments are standout and memorable. In the end, though, the story is weak and the humor is tepid.
A soft 6 out of 10.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Instead of continuing down the dark introspection of the first film, Sicario: Day of the Soldado plays more like driveling xenophobia porn than thoughtful interpretation of embattled borders. Benicio del Toro does what he can with moronic script, but everyone else coasts to paychecks and craft services, writers and directors included. To its credit, the action is pretty good, if unable to live up to the highway scene in its predecessor. Much like an apple pie with sliced baseballs baked in, the tone doesn't lend itself to the intake.
A soft 4 out of 10.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
With a likeness to a semi-melted chocolate bar awarded to a child who just found out their dog died, Ant-Man and the Wasp gets more praise than necessary for its gift of levity after the end of Infinity War. The concepts and characters brought on for this sequel are more interesting and affecting than the first film, but are handled with far less confidence. Moments in villainy and other dimensions felt tame and shallow when director Peyton Reed should have wielded bravado and depth. Not a bad movie in any respect, but one that could've been audaciously presented.
A soft 7 out of 10.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
This is the best kind of blockbuster. It's just smart enough that I don't have to turn off or tune out the dialogue, the action is engaging and genuinely surprising, and Henry Cavill has me all in a tussy. Is that a word? Does it even mean what I think it means? Who cares? He's great in it and deserves more non-caped action movies. Tom Cruise is at his Tom Cruise-iest, which is either endearing or grating, sometimes all at once. The film works both because of, and despite his performance.
A soft 8 out of 10.
Sometimes, you need a reminder that hate groups are both evil AND dumb. Spike Lee has come to embrace his chaotic, driven self in BlackKklansman. John David Washington is given a role with enough meat and wit to generate many more film deals, while the rest of the cast makes off pretty okay, too. Laura Harrier's part in the film is unfortunately one-note, and the empathy for both the cops and the klan feels oddly nestled against the film's messaging. Still, Spike has come to entertain and to lecture in full force, which isn't a bad thing.
A steady 7 out of 10.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again was somehow more enjoyable than the first Mamma Mia, although I didn't enjoy the first one all that much. Pierce Brosnan has gotten minutely better at singing, and Lily James ignites any screen she's on. The throwback segments are hit-or-miss, but everyone seems to be having fun. Well, except for Dominic Cooper, who has to feign feelings for his real-life ex Amanda Seyfried. Even with all that going for it, the movie is hokey, poorly written, and unable to bring out the true charm that is ABBA.
A solid 4 out of 10.