Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie spectacle. If you like the likes of King Kong, Godzilla, and Jurassic Park, with a bit of Apocalypse Now thrown into the mix, then you’ll surely be satisfied with Kong: Skull Island. If the aforementioned titles don’t get your cinematic juices flowing, then you can skip this latest spin on a really, really big ape and the island he reigns over. I didn’t not like it, but I wasn’t blown away either, because I’m simply not a monster movie maven. It took me decades to get around to seeing the original Jurassic Park. This film has a similar vibe. Humans invade the turf of giant creatures and pay a hefty price.

Cinema Clash podcast: Logan; Table 19; Before I Fall; Land of Mine; My Life as a Zucchini

On this edition of the Cinema Clash podcast with Hannah (Mainstream Chick) and her movie nemesis Charlie: A grim final farewell to Logan; Table 19 serves up some lukewarm wedding comedy; Before I Fall aims for the YA crowd; Land of Mine wins Charlie’s vote for best foreign language film; My Life as a Zucchini (Ma Vie de Courgette) offers up a smart, animated tale about orphans, not veggies; and Hannah mixes up her mammals. #oops #BeerFail #WhatIsAWolverineAnyway?

Just click on the box and Tune in!

Cinema Clash podcast: Get Out; Rock Dog; Kedi; Bitter Harvest; Punching Henry

On this edition of the Cinema Clash with Mainstream Chick and her cinema nemesis Charlie Juhl: The best movie of 2017 so far. You’ll want to Get Out and see it! Plus: the (pooper) scoop on the Chinese-American computer-animated comedy Rock Dog; the philosophical underpinnings of Kedi, a documentary about cats in Istanbul; the bitter truth about Bitter Harvest; a mockumentary drama about a struggling comedian looking for his big break in Punching Henry; a few wayward Oscar predictions; and beer. Let the clash begin!

Table 19

Table 19 is a so-so romantic comedy that practically screams CHICK FLICK from the get-go. We haven’t had one of those in a while, so for anyone craving the genre, it’s worth taking a seat at the Table. The film has some genuinely funny and poignant moments and is extremely relatable for anyone who’s ever been seated with a random group of strangers at a wedding reception. It’s a bit like The Breakfast Club – wedding edition. The plot centers around ex-Maid of Honor Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect, Up In the Air) whose boyfriend, the bride’s brother, recently dumped her via text message. After a raging internal debate, Eloise decides to attend the wedding as originally planned and is exiled to Table 19, along with five other misfits who fall into the category of obligatory invitees who “should have known to just send regrets – but not before sending something nice off the registry.”

Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

This is also a hard category, because the films are all so different, and the art of telling a story in a short time without either rushing it or shortchanging the narrative creates its own sort of film making. There’s dancing, and singing, and interrogation, and infatuation, and this year’s theme of the Islamic immigrant/refugee is included. They’re funny and romantic and sad and surprising. It’s really a great bunch of shorts. I am sure they will land their filmmakers a meeting or two with people who can help them and their careers along. See them if you can. They’re in theaters now and will certainly be streaming later. And once more I will plead with theaters to start showing shorts before the features. Please!

(Trailers for all the films below.)

Logan

Logan could be one of the most divisive Marvel movies of all time. Hardcore fans of the Wolverine mythology may appreciate this dark, R-rated send-off to the most iconic and sardonic of the X-Men superheroes. But I was not prepared for, and did not enjoy, the grim final farewell (or so it appears) to Logan/Wolverine, portrayed for nearly 20 years by the multi-talented and seemingly ageless Hugh Jackman. I’m not a huge X-Men fan (I prefer the Avengers), but I’ve always had a soft spot for the bitter, sexy, ripped, self-healing Wolverine who was blessed and cursed with immortality and killer claws. This Wolverine is different. He’s bitter, aging, self-loathing, and just no fun at all. Apparently, that’s what the filmmakers were going for. And that’s what some film critics and fanboys are raving about. But I don’t like hyper-violent, bloody, raw, and depressing. Especially in my Marvel movies. Deadpool earned its R-rating with unexpectedly entertaining raunchiness and wit. Logan gets its R-rating from a string of curse words and a very high body count. Heads will roll… literally.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Great Wall; A Cure for Wellness

This is a really great week to catch up on one (or more) of those Oscar-nominated movies that are still in theaters or available on DVD or VOD. Why? Because, comparatively speaking, the new releases are rather dismal. Granted, I didn’t have a chance to see the new Ice Cube/Charlie Day comedy Fist Fight, about a couple of high school teachers engaging in a good ol’ fashioned afterschool throw-down. But I’m going to go out on a limb and surmise that you can save that one for a rainy day or a plane ride. It’s probably mindlessly entertaining. Can’t really say the same about The Great Wall or A Cure for Wellness. But if I had to pick among those two, I’d definitely go with The Great Wall because at least it’s got Matt Damon (Jason Bourne, The Martian) — and cool views of one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

John Wick: Chapter 2

He’s back! And he’s still a bad ass killer. I called the original John Wick stylishly violent, and this one takes it up another notch, both on the style and the violence. But it’s still the story of a sad and weary hit man who’s brought back in to the violent world he’s trying to leave behind. Keanu Reeves stars as Wick and he’s just as fun to watch as the last time.

Animation (Short Subject) Nominees

The Animated shorts category is always a hard one for me to judge. Will the Academy members go with the best, most amazing animation, or will it be about telling a great story? Since I don’t really know how hard it is to create these films (I’m assuming it ain’t easy), I’m going with the power of story to keep my attention. Without doubt all the films’ nominees this year are fabulous animators.  Since one of them is from Pixar, that is a given. But are the stories worthy of the animation? Or are these animators using their films as calling cards, looking for a step up to features?  I don’t have a clue, but here are my takes on the nominees for the 2017 Oscar.

Fifty Shades Darker

Defending this movie is like Donald Trump defending one of his executive orders. The built-in base will eat it up. Others will accept it, with reservations. And everyone else will run for the cinematic equivalent of Canada. So the bottom line is this: If you’ve read the books (as I have) and were at least okay with the first film (as I was), then you may feel compelled to escape back into the unconventional romantic fantasyland that is Fifty Shades Darker. It’s not a must-see now, unless you’re into instant gratification, but it is essential to the climax of the film adaptation of the steamy story arc detailed in the best-selling trilogy by E.L. James. Part three, Fifty Shades Freed, has already been shot and is scheduled for release next Valentine’s Day, 2018. So you have a year to debate your inner goddess (as Anastasia would say) on the merits of seeing this relationship through to its happily-ever-after. This is, after all, nothing more than a risqué fairytale written –without apology– in the vein of Twilight fan-fiction. Shakespeare it aint. But it is a very lucrative enterprise. So somebody’s making out.