Saturday, November 26, 2016


2016 has kinda been the year of the animated film for me. I've seen five this year. Five in the theater, that's a new adult record for me. I'm I ashamed? No. All of them have been very good if not great! To be honest most Disney Animated and Pixar films give the live action stuff a run for their money. That's a scary thought. Not from a creative perspective but a business one. Do movie goers only flock to the theater to see Disney films anymore? That's a opinion I may tackle some other time. Today I'm talking about MOANA.

I almost took a pass on seeing MOANA at the theater. With already seeing ZOOTOPIA and FINDING DORY, I felt MOANA could wait till Netflix. It's a good thing I didn't wait, because MOANA rocks on the big screen. We're well on our way to Winter 2016 so it was inviting to see an animation style lush with color and Polynesian culture. The music is good as well!

This is a animated musical so you gotta talk about the music. You've got the guy wrote the HAMILTON Broadway musical co-writing some of the songs. While I cannot vouch for HAMILTON , I do know that Lin-Manuel Miranda is talented. The songs in MOANA are proof, plus the new cantina song he wrote for STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS is awesome!

But the ultimate credit for the music in MOANA has to go to the directors of the movie, Ron Clements and John Musker. Among others they directed ALADDIN and THE LITTLE MERMAID, so right there it's a automatic win. I had a friend in high school who had the ALADDIN soundtrack. We listened to that thing ironically for the most part, but those songs were catchy I'll admit.

So of course MOANA is about Moana, a young woman who will one day rule her people. But Moana has no interest in such things and would rather go sailing beyond the reef and explore the sea. Her chieftain father will have no such thing as it is forbidden for anyone to go past the reef.

Years go by and something (as in a curse) has been slowly killing the plant life on the island. Moana and her grandmother know the cure is out beyond the reef. The sea has always had a special bond with Moana. She knows it's up to her to find Maui, the demi-god, who according to the myth is responsible for the curse because he stole/lost an important stone.

Against her father's will Moana sets sail to find Maui and return the stone to where it belongs. And it's here where our adventure finally begins.

I say finally because it feels like the film takes forever to get the adventure going. I know this is a kids movie so it's normal for exposition to get repeated, but I clearly felt a redundancy issue with MOANA. There were too many false starts to the adventure in my opinion.

Once Moana and Maui meet the real fun begins. I felt myself getting lost in the mythology of the film. The search for Maui's hook-staff was my favorite part. Our two heroes have to dive into some kind of monster realm to steal back the hook-staff from a giant crab. It reminded me of CLASH OF THE TITANS or a SINBAD film.

It also made me think of another animated film that was released this year. I found myself getting a tad bit distracted thinking about KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS during some key moments. But that's okay, stuff like that is bound to happen in movies. Blame it on coincidence and the writings of Joseph Campbell.

In conclusion, I highly recommend MOANA if you're a fan of Disney animated films. It's a beautiful movie to look at with fun mythological adventure, the songs are great too.

Friday, November 25, 2016


The other day while seeing THE HANDMAIDEN at my local art-house movie theater, I saw a trailer for the film LOVING. They had the poster in the lobby and I thought nothing of it. Just looked like a romance movie to me. The trailer however pulled my heart strings. Very moving.

LOVING is a 2016 film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It is based on the true story of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving, and their years-long civil rights case that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1967. The couple went out of state to get married in Washington D.C., the state of Virginia didn't like that very much and put them in jail. And after jail, banned them from the state for 25 years.

After a new residence and three kids later, Mildred decides the city is no place for her children to grow up. Taking a friends advice she seeks the help and writes a letter to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The situation gets his attention and a lawyer from the ACLU quickly gets appointed to handle the case.

Spoiler alert, they win. What I love about LOVING is Nichols and his decision to make the civil rights aspect of the film always in the background. What is front and center is two people madly in love and just wanting to be a family. I was waiting to cringe at the Oscar bait moments concerning speeches from lawyers and judges ( if this was the 90's there would be). But there was none. In fact there wasn't one cliché. The film just shows us the power of their love.

Okay, the scene I'm about to describe may sound cheesy but I swear it's not. The Loving's just received news that the Supreme Court is taking their case. They tell the lawyers they are not going, seeing that it's not required for them to be present in Court. A tad shocked and dismayed one of the lawyers asks Richard “What do you want me to tell the Court”? Richard replies, “Tell them I love my wife”.

That scene sums up the entire film perfectly! Not to mention the whole point of the film.

LOVING certainly will be one of my favorite films of the year. Will it crack the Top 10? Doubtful. I love a good drama, but I'm a genre kinda guy. But you never know? My list so far has a lot of art-house in it. Here's a preview (in no particular order): THE NEON DEMON, SING STREET, THE NICE GUYS, GREEN ROOM, HELL OR HIGH WATER, and EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!.

I left the theater changed after seeing LOVING. Not to get political or religious but I left a little teary-eyed thinking to myself thoughts about the 'pursuit of happiness', 'enabling rights', and who are we to judge what love is. It's good when a film fills you with emotion to stop and think about society. LOVING didn't get preachy so neither am I.

In conclusion, I highly recommend LOVING if you like a good love story and civil rights drama that's cinematic. Which reminds me. I still need to see Jeff Nichols' other 2016 film MIDNIGHT SPECIAL!

Thursday, November 24, 2016


One film franchise I've yet to talk about are the Harry Potter movies. I like the series just fine but seven films is something I just don't wanna commit to right now. What I will do is give you a brief history of how I became a fan of the books and movies.

When I first heard about HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERERS STONE I wrote it off as a kid's movie. I eventually saw the film and thought it was okay, okay enough to watch the second movie as well. Cool kids films and nothing more. Long story short, it wasn't until going to see HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX with some friends that I became a fan.

To say the film had me confused is a understatement; but, I loved the world these characters were living in. The next day I went to the bookstore and bought the first three books. I had just gotten out of a terrible relationship and craved alone time. All I did for a month was go to work, and come home to read Harry Potter. Not bragging, but I read Years 1 – 4 in a 2 two weeks time. I slowed down after Book 4.

By the time I got to HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE I was disappointed. The books were becoming way way better than the movies. Meaning the films really felt like they were becoming fan service to those who've read the books. One of these days I might watch them all again just to see if they hold up as just films? PHOENIX, HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, and DEATHLY HOLLOWS I & 2 probably do not.

When Warner Bros announced they were making more Harry Potter films I wasn't very excited. I quickly thought it was going to be about his kids going to Hogwarts. Boring! But when I heard it was a non Potter tale, that's when I became open to the idea. An original movie set in the Wizarding World written by J.K. Rowling, count me in!

The year is 1926 and Newt Scamander is making a brief stopover in New York City. Newt, a collector and document keeper of magical creatures runs into trouble when his suitcase gets swapped with an identical case. The mix-up causes Newt's creatures to run amok in the city causing trouble. Meanwhile ,a dark force is wreaking havoc as well. Coincidence? Or is dark magic afoot?

Porpentina, a lackey for the Magical Congress of the United States of America, notices Newt using magic in public. She tries to report it but gets lectured about her role in the MACUSA. Instead the Congress seem to busy trying to determine if dark wizard Grindelwald is on the prowl. And Percival the security chief is on the case.

Eventually Newt's task of finding all of his Beasts crosses paths with Percival and his investigation. And he must stop the dark force before it's too late.

For a original story FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM manages to make a very entertaining film set in the Wizarding World universe. My favorite character was the aspiring baker Jacob. This character was the audience guide for the movie. The filmmakers did very well with how they handled the info drops to Jacob (and us) to move the plot forward. A lesser screenwriter and director would have put the required exposition in a voice over narration, or something boring along those lines.

The other thing that makes the new film great is that the reminders you are watching a Harry Potter spin-off are kept to a minimum. There was no winking to the audience that we're indeed watching a Potter movie. I noticed a few easter eggs but nothing too obvious.

In conclusion, I might end up liking this new Wizarding World franchise better than the Harry Potter films. It's way too early to tell for sure but I just have a feeling. The seeds have been planted for Dumbledore vs. Grindelwald! Even though fans know the outcome, it'll be a treat to see it play out on the big screen. Wizards during WWII, I cannot wait!


Thursday, November 3, 2016


Before I begin I must tell you that if you're going to see this movie you MUST see it in IMAX 3D. Tonight I just saw it in a standard theater, but that's changing tomorrow. Even if I had seen it on the IMAX I'm still seeing it tomorrow. Yes, it's going to be one of those posts/reviews!

DOCTOR STRANGE is my favorite comic book movie of 2016! It's debatable the movie might be my favorite comic book movie of all time! Now, I don't wanna get carried away so I'll give the film some days if not weeks to brew in my head before I make a statement like that legit. But there is a sequence toward the end of the film that is the best live action comic book I have ever seen. Ever!

My knowledge of the Doctor Strange character is very limited but I know enough that the film seemed very faithful to the source material. To be fair this is Marvel Studios we're talking about, they know how to do it right! To prepare for the movie I had been reading the new series for about a year (12 issues and a couple one-shots), and I was surprised at how much I picked up on. If I was able to notice a few easter eggs, then fans shouldn't have a problem finding tons more I'd imagine!

The only thing I dreaded about seeing DOCTOR STRANGE was the chore of sitting through another origin story. Can I just wait and see DOCTOR STRANGE 2? But like it or not origin films are necessary. I really believe Steven Strange is going to play a vital role in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. And for us the audience to buy into what he can do with his powers, they need to start at the beginning. Showing up to save the day in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR without a proper introduction can't cut it these days.

Doctor Steven Strange is one of the best Neurosurgeons in the country, maybe the world. After a horrific car accident leaving his hands practically useless, Steven searches for a miracle procedure, but no surgeon on Earth will take the risk. One day a physical therapist tells him about a patient far worse than him who got better because he didn't give up hope.

Steven meets the patient who then tells him he must go to Nepal if he wants to be healed. Reluctant at first, Steven goes anyway. There he meets the Ancient One, who tells Steven about healing and his greater purpose if he so desires to choose it. After an astral out-of-body experience and trips to several multiverses, Steven Strange wants to know more. All of it in fact. And thus Doctor Strange is born.

Good thing Steven is a fast learner because as soon as he learns some of the mystic arts, he's reluctantly defending one of the three Sanctum Sanctorum's from Kaecilius, a evil Sorcerer Supreme hell bent on destorying Earth.

DOCTOR STRANGE is your standard origin comic book film. But there are enough interesting distractions that make you forget it is a standard origin movie. I actually found myself wanting more scenes of Strange learning the mystic arts. It's so good! My favorite is a shot of him sleeping while his astral body is hovering bedside reading a book.

I still have lots and lots to say, but I wanna give people a chance to see it. And I want to see it a few more times as well! I'll try my best and share more thoughts at the end of the year.

In conclusion, I highly recommend DOCTOR STRANGE. It's my favorite comic book movie of 2016 I have no doubt. And in all seriousness I can't believe we even got a Doctor Strange film to begin with? What will they give us next? Thank you Marvel Studios! If they keep making them I'll keep saying “Make mine Marvel”!