Tuesday, October 16, 2018

MAN ON THE MOON: a review of "First Man"

Based upon the book First Man: The Life Of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen
Screenplay by Josh Singer
Directed by Damien Chazelle
***1/2 (three and a half stars)

Despite the still vivid memories I hold of the deep fascination I had with the stars and the cosmos when I was a young child, it was enough to completely turn me off from the idea of ever leaving the planet to voyage to outer space. In fact, it was enough to make me forever want to keep my two feet firmly planted upon the ground.

Dear readers, let me express to you that the first sequence contained within Damien Chazelle's "First Man" is a showstopper as it is violently propulsive and superbly volatile to the point of being simultaneously breath taking and anxiety inducing. The set up is as follows: the year is 1961 and astronaut Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) is a test pilot riding an X-15 upwards into the clouds and ultimately into space and back down to Earth again.

Chazelle frames every moment from a first person perspective, essentially allowing the audience absolutely  no panoramic viewpoints. Solely the extremely limited vantage point of Armstrong himself, his head obviously encased within his helmet, and all peripheral vision essentially robbed. What we are given are the pulse pounding G-Force vibrations, so raging in its turbulence that it feels the ship weighs even less than a tin can and is threatening to shatter in a moment's notice, therefore scattering Armstrong himself to the four winds. What is visible is not much more than what is in front of his eyes with portions of darkness punctuated by aggressive flashes of light. The sound is utterly terrifying in its deafening cacophony, which feels to ascend in its intensity the higher Armstrong climbs.

And before it is even realized...complete silence and the sheer majestic tranquility of outer space. That is, before beginning the hyperbolic descent and ferocious landing. To think, the man only continued to voyage upwards and beyond over and a gain over the next eight years before becoming that first man to set footsteps upon the lunar surface of the moon.

"First Man," the latest feature from Damien Chazelle, further cements his status as one of our most versatile young filmmakers working today. Following his exhausting, incendiary "Whiplash" (2014) and "La La Land" (2016), the lavish, extravagant musical that most of you loved but I was tremendously underwhelmed by, Chazalle's new film is a return to form (for me) as well as an extension of his sharp, complex artistic palate as he has created an experience that is a compelling work of rich juxtapositions, as the epic pursuit of Americans attempting to reach the moon runs concurrently with the piercing, painful intimacy of an interior, psychological drama, making for one of 2018's especially poignant films.

As previously stated, Ryan Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong as "First Man" chronicles, in an episodic docudrama fashion, the eight year journey from the film's opening X-15 sequence to the Apollo 11 mission, which did indeed find revolutionary success upon the moon in 1969. During this same period of time, the film focuses upon Armstrong's private, increasingly melancholic home life with his wife, Janet Shearon (Claire Foy) and their two sons after the illness and death of their 2 year old daughter, Karen (Lucy Stafford).

Damien Chazelle's "First Man," will undoubtedly earn comparisons to both Philip Kaufman's "The Right Stuff" (1983) and Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" (1995), and deservedly so, with its superlative filmmaking, photo realistic special effects that celebrate the realities of Science, Math, and the wellsprings of equal parts inspiration and intelligence that once mined our societal curiosity at what laid beyond our own planet and the ingenuity, plus healthy competition with the Russians in the "space race," that provided us access to travel to the stars.

While Chazelle  more than supplies his film with the characteristics that showcase the epic qualities of this story, "First Man" is, in actuality, much more of a hushed chamber piece that demands strict attention from the audience to piece together the motivations and meanings when regarding such an inscrutable figure like Neil Armstrong. Chazelle and Ryan Gosling do not go out of their collaborative ways to tell or even necessarily guide the audience into determining precisely what Armstrong may be thinking or feeling, especially as he continuously attempts to return to space over and again, after so many have failed or even perished trying the same feats.

And truthfully, it is in the nature of mortality that the soul of "First Man" exists. For it is indeed the death of Armstrong daughter that fuels this narrative, giving the film its palpable sadness as we are unquestionably experiencing a film that serves as a meditation upon grief and mourning as it parallels the nature of personal longevity and the pursuit of legacy, much as one could witness in a film like Pablo Larrain's excellent "Jackie" (2016) starring Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy as she struggles to wrestle control of her life and legacy immediately after the 1963 assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. 

As I think about both "Jackie" and "First Man," I am now discovering just how similar both films actually are in regards to their respective tones and themes, merging the historical and the psychologically individualistic, both areas equally seismic. As with "Jackie," Damien Chazelle has ensured that "First Man" thrives upon its own juxtapositions and parallels as he has unveiled a film that is often distressing--yet not to melodramatic degrees by any stretches--but one that is, even moreso, decidedly claustrophobic.

Whether inside the rocket cockpits, the Armstrong homestead or within the respective minds of both Neil Armstrong and Janet Shearon, the atmosphere is increasingly stifling and constricting as the loss of Karen Armstrong is seemingly the only element that permeates each specific area. I found it very interesting that Chazelle's film really possesses only scant dialogue. No, it is not a silent movie, so to speak. But it is one where the dialogue is purposefully not designed to advance the narrative or to supply any interior insights. In doing so, Chazelle seems to have found a truly perceptive take upon the individualistic and solitary nature of the grieving process with "First Man."

There is one scene in particular that occurs late in the film and directly before the landmark Apollo 11 mission, during which Neil is confronted by Janet to address their two sons to answer their questions, to either assuage or confirm their fears and to admit that there is indeed a strong possibility that he may never return home, as several of Armstrong's colleagues and friends have perished in previous attempts. Armstrong's answers towards his children are blankly technical and devoid of emotion and empathy, leaving everyone in the household to remain in their respective corners--poetically illustrating that the distance from one person to another, even when living inside of the same space, can feel as far away as the Earth to the moon.

To that end, throughout the course of the film, as Chazelle presents to us the honest, matter-of-fact reality that the ambition to reach the moon is fraught with as much peril and tragedy as inspiration and determination, I often questioned just why precisely would Neil Armstrong challenge and cheat death repeatedly. Yet, it is indeed with in the film's scenes upon the surface of the moon, when Neil Armstrong is able to take in the meaning of his journey--both inner and outer--the parallel tracks of his professional aspirations and the mourning over his daughter feel to converge, beautifully displaying some sense of understanding or peacefulness at the tip of infinity. Undeniably Kubrick-ian or akin to Terrence Malick's "The Tree Of Life" (2011) in its scope and profundity. 

As Neil Armstrong, Ryan Gosling has again presented another accomplished, mature, difficult, and quietly intense performance. In a career that has found Gosling often portraying taciturn men, from films like Ryan Fleck's "Half Nelson" (2006), Craig Gillespie's "Lars And The Real Girl" (2007), and Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" (2011) for instance, his portrayal of Armstrong feels even more inscrutable than the performance he delivered in Denis Villeneuve's "Blade Runner 2049" (2017)! But, to find the soul of the performance, I suggest that you just watch Gosling's eyes throughout because they speak nearly all you need to know in order to find your way into this portrayal. Again, those juxtapositions are at work as Ryan Gosling's severe focus and minimalism.in actuality unearths a wide emotional and psychological terrain that creates an existential trauma that is fully accessible to us in the audience...even when he is not uttering a single word. 

Can the pain and stranglehold of grief and mourning serve as an engine for inspiration, drive and discovery? Damien Chazelle's "First Man," while not necessarily answering that philosophical quandary, does indeed provide an often riveting, disquieting, visceral, aching, exquisitely filmed and acted exploration that makes for one of 2018's most compelling films. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

12 HIGH NOTES: a review of "A Star Is Born"

Based upon "A Star Is Born" (1937) 
Story by William A. Wellman & Robert Carson and Screenplay Written by Alan  Campbell & Robert Carson & Dorothy Parker

Screenplay Written by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters 
Directed by Bradley Cooper
**** (four stars)

It is rare to ever witness a movie that announces itself so grandly, so rapturously and so confidently that it feels as if it has already swept the Academy Awards. I am now here to express to you that Bradley Cooper's "A Star Is Born" is indeed one of those rare films.

With all of the cinematic greatness that I have already experienced this year so far--a year that has already included Spike Lee's "BlaKKKlansman," Boots Rileys "Sorry To Bother You," and Wes Anderson's "Isle Of Dogs" just to name three-- and to the films not yet released that will also undoubtedly prove their greatness, what Bradley Cooper has achieved in his outstanding directorial debut is an uncontested triumph, the type of which that nearly dares any other film to come and swipe the grand prize from its cinematic hands.

It is the type of film that we tend to not see anymore as it is  an updated version of an old fashioned Hollywood star driven event, as well as existing as the fourth remake of the now iconic showbiz based love story starring its rise and fall protagonists. That being said, and for all of its inherent nostalgia, Bradley Cooper has delivered a film that honors its legacy tremendously while also crafting a film that perfectly exists within our 21st century landscape as he weaves in potent and poignant themes regarding the explorations of fame and celebrity, a piercing addiction narrative in addition to providing layers of sequences designed to explore fading male dominance and rising female empowerment.

And yes, Lady Gaga, in her film debut, is a powerhouse, an explosively natural acting talent capable of unveiling nuance and depth as well as being able to hit those high notes. to that end, as well as Ms. Gaga can act, Bradley Cooper has not only unleashed his finest acting work to date, his skills as a filmmaker and as a singer/musician are superlative. Multi-layered and masterful, Bradley Cooper's "A Star Is Born" is a bounty of riches that never once strikes one false note.

"A Star Is Born" stars Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine, a forty-ish music legend whose musical aesthetic falls somewhere in the alt-country/stadium rock/fragile blues realm of Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Neil Young, as his consistently sold out stadium concerts display his heartfelt and thunderous confessionals augmented by is crack band and his white lightning guitar heroics.

Despite the adoration and legacy status, Jackson is suffering from decades long tinnitus plus an increasingly fractured relationship with his older brother and manager Bobby Maine (the treasure that is Sam Elliott). Most crucially, Jackson is spiraling deeper into artistic disenchantment and personal depression which is further fueled by his rampant alcoholism and drug addictions.

And then, along comes Ally...

Lady Gaga stars as Ally, a waitress and aspiring singer/songwriter who often performs as a singer at a drag bar. Ally meets Jackson one fateful evening as he arrives at the bar to drink the night away privately yet he is fully swept away by Ally's performance of "La Vie En Rose." The twosome meet, share drinks, one long night and songs together and soon, begin a whirlwind romantic and professional relationship.

Jackson strongly encourages Ally to pursue her songwriting and most definitely, her singing, which she is reluctant due to the negative pushback she has received due to her unconventional appearance. Yet, on one night during Jackson's tour, as she watches from the wings, Jackson further encourages her to step into the spotlight and perform a song they wrote together. The crowd is enraptured and Ally quickly becomes a social media sensation and quicker still, Jackson's muse, and songwriting and performing partner.

As with the previous versions of this story, Ally's star continues its ascension while Jackson's celebrity and life descends further into his addictions, creating a devastating turbulence and tragedy that threatens the art and love they have so rapturously shared.

Bradley Cooper's "A Star Is Born" is splashy, splendidly spectacular filmmaking and storytelling filled end to end with dynamic musical performances (which, if I am correct, were all filmed LIVE on set and location-no lip syncing whatsoever), outstandingly urgent Cinematography by Matthew Libatique and swing for the fences acting work from the entire cast top to bottom. It is a film that unapologetically embraces the melodrama and magical, mythical qualities of its own cinematic legacy with its past three filmed versions, most notably, Frank Pierson's 1976 rock musical version starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand.

For those who will undoubtedly complain that this film knows not a whit about the music industry (you know they are out there), to those people I offer the following: this movie is not a documentary! There is more than enough elements of fantasy weaved through the narrative, which is indeed self-aware enough to know that it is the latest re-telling of a showbiz soap rock opera. But, what made me appreciate the film even more than its own sense of grandness was how beautifully multi-layered the whole experience actually was, making for a much more complex film that it needed to be and frankly, we should be more than thankful that Bradley Cooper's cinematic vision possessed such a splendid reach as well as depth.

What I am primarily speaking about is the sheer authenticity that Bradley Cooper placed into "A Star Is Born," for as grandiose as the film is, he also provided an emotional and psychological weight that keeps the proceedings grounded in the most humanistic fashion even as the songs and intensity takes flight. The film opens with a veritable roar as Cooper gives us Jackson Maine and his band in full rock and roll outdoor festival glory and even though we first witness Lady Gaga's character of Ally as the hard working waitress taking out the trash as the restaurant at which she is employed, her first moments of glory are set during her show stopping performance of "La Vie En Rose."

Yet, the initial courtship between Jackson and Ally in remarkably unhurried as Cooper allows his scenes and their relationship to play out in an almost meandering quality, much like what one would see in an independent film, or more truthfully, the ways sometimes real people act and behave during those magical long nights when interpersonal connections, romantic and otherwise, find their specific moments to play out luxuriously.

Furthermore, Cooper could have easily taken Jackson Maine's addiction and played them for histrionics and yet, he also grounded this aspect of the film through his gritty, aching performance. I wish for you to really witness how Cooper drops his voice an octave or so, eliciting a throaty speaking growl, therefore sounding almost exactly (to an eerie effect) like his on-screen sibling Sam Elliott, which again, lends the film overall a specific gravity, as we are given Jackson's family history, the origins of his addictions as well as the cycle of abuse that he suffers from and which fuels his demons--all of which then, informs all of the musical performances, that are presented as if he is routinely attempting to chase away or is succumbing to the ocean of his inner torments.

Cooper also frames this quality of Jackson Maine to perhaps explore the fragility of the male ego and a supposed sense of dominance, especially as Ally's star begins to rise while his falls. Again, while not necessarily dialing down a certain melodrama, Cooper stages some of the truly disturbing battles between Jackson and Ally (including one fight set in a bathroom as Ally soaks in a tub) with the sort of raw brutality that is akin to a Martin Scorsese film. Yes, we see not only the melodramatic aspects of professional jealousy and resentment but the raucous unleashing of a man's internalized cycle of abuse towards the woman he loves and fears will eclipse him romantically and artistically as well as towards himself.

In a strange way, "A Star Is Born" also takes its multi-layered approach in to the character of Ally and Lady Gaga's performance of her in a style that could possibly make the film work as "The Origin Story Of Lady Gaga." I do think that it is telling that the screen credit is given to "Lady Gaga" instead of her given name, which is Stefani Germanotta, as this film feels to be the next (and carefully staged) sequence in the artistic odyssey and shape shifting that this larger than life performer has adopted for herself--especially as this film follows upon the heels of Lady Gaga's most and soft-rock styled recent album entitled "Joanne" (released October 21, 2016), which is incidentally her real life middle name.

For Lady Gaga in the real world and Ally within "A Star Is Born," we are witness to a "rages-to-riches" story that feels purposeful in the ways that the two mirror each other. Maybe more truthfully, what we are witnessing in the film is Lady Gaga almost speaking in character within a character directly to us about how she has tried to create her own career in our fame obsessed society and how she has persistently attempted to claim her path for herself and with the very drive and integrity that has since inspired legions of fans to embrace and believe in her. But of course, that path in maintaining one's integrity in a word that cares nothing about such things possesses a powerful struggle that I would feel certain Lady Gaga has struggled with from time to time and what we do witness Ally confronting...and possibly not always succeeding.

After one incredible concert performance together Ally is accosted by Rez (Rafi Gavron), a record producer and would be Svengali who wishes to sign Ally and mold her career--much to Jackson's chagrin and jealousy and at times, to Ally's consternation, which does place her inside of a inner quandary about achieving her wildest dreams but how much of herself would she compromise to do so and furthermore, how does this affect her reaching her own levels of female empowerment?

For Ally, changing her hair color leads to having a team of back up dancers which leads to a more processed, synthetic sound which leads to the concert tour-new album-concert tour treadmill, all of  which provides her with inner conflict, does indeed lead to appearances upon "Saturday Night Live" and winning Grammy Awards. We have seen all of this with the real Lady Gaga yet within this film, it really felt to me that she, through Ally, was giving us a "behind the scenes" peek at the machine at work and the difficulties of monkey wrenching art and honest soulfulness into the gears.

Yet Ally is nobody's fool and I loved how Lady Gaga portrayed this character with such earned street smarts and with such a strong perceptiveness into human nature that we can easily see not only what attracts her to Jackson Maine (which really has nothing to do with his celebrity, which attracts him in turn) but also how she knows at their first meeting that he is an addict, yet she is willingly gets herself into a relationship with him. Even moreso, Ally is presented as someone who is also but is more than willing to walk away if need be, consequences be damned. Ally gives as good as she gets, making her a formidable partner in love and in music.

Again, the authenticity at work grounded every single moment of this story, which does fly into fairy tale dreams of super-stardom, yet Lady Gaga's performance is a study in effortless naturalism. No artifice. No prefabricated emotions. Not one moment at any point felt remotely false and therefore, unrealistic. She delivered the goods in ways that I had not imagined that she even contained within herself. And when she sings, merging, character, lyrics, emotion and psychology together, the effect is stupendous. Her final scene in the film, which Cooper brilliantly and beautifully films in a (mostly) unbroken, unedited close up will lay you flat in its power for certain, but for all of the honestly earned emotions that Lady Gaga conjured in her stellar acting from her first moment on screen. A Best Actress nomination for her is as inevitable as it is fully deserved.

Bradley Cooper's "A Star Is Born" is a passion project in every meaning of the expression. By combining elements of reality and fantasy, music and drama, authenticity and myth-making, Cooper has marvelously delivered a film that sits within the rare cinematic universe that houses not only something like Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" (2009), but more perfectly, Albert Magnoli's "Purple Rain" (1984) and Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" (2000)!!

Yes, Bradley Cooper hit a cinematic grand slam on that level and ensuring that everyone within his cast--which includes both Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle, who each elicited astoundingly beautiful performances in just a few short scenes--and his crew operated at the very same peaks. There was noting that I could have wanted that Bradley Cooper did not give to me at any moment in the film and to accomplish a feat that heroically, is nothing less than movie magic to me.

Bradley Cooper's "A Star Is Born" is easily one of the very best films of 2018. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

DE-EVOLUTION: a review of "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"

Based upon characters and situations created by Michael Crichton
Screenplay Written by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow
Directed by J.A. Bayona
* (one star)

Steven Spielberg's
original "Jurassic Park" (1993) is beginning to look more and more like Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941), with each passing new installment of this increasingly stupefying series.

Dear readers, I have to say that I have never really been that enamored with the "Jurassic Park" series. Yes, the original film was certainly a visual milestone and an event experience that only someone on the level of Steven Spielberg could deliver. But even as thrilling and as entertaining as it was (and remains), I was a tad underwhelmed due to two elements: my lifelong lack of interest in dinosaurs as they have never effectively captured my imagination and even moreso, the paper thin quality of the human characters. I do realize that the dinosaurs are the true stars of these films but even so, how much stomping and chomping does one need to see?

Obviously, I am in the minority, as now we have the arrival of Director J.A. Bayona's "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the fifth installment--itself the middle chapter of a proposed trilogy, which are sequels or something to the first three films, oh I just cannot follow it--in this series and good Lord, somehow, someway, they have made yet another dynamic, bombastic visual feast that is preposterously dumber than the previous installments, including the Director Colin Trevorrow's downright and numbingly awful "Jurassic World" (2015).  

Despite some well executed set pieces and action sequences and of course, the seamless special effects, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" is an inexcusably boneheaded and sloppily conceived film so terrible that I am at the point where I will have to begin to root for the dinosaurs to ravenously devour us so as to stop any filmmakers from making another painfully stupid chapter.

Picking up three years after the events of "Jurassic World," our latest episode again stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard (this time, sans high heels) as Owen Grady and Claire Dearing, former Velociraptor  handler and Operations Manager for the now destroyed Jurassic World theme park.

As the island of Isla Nublar's remaining dinosaur population faces new extinction due to volcano eruptions, Claire, now a dinosaur rights activist (?!) and founder of the Dinosaur Protection Group (?!?!), is rapidly convinced by the wealthy Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), himself the former business partner of the original Jurassic Park's creator John Hammond, and his unsurprisingly duplicitous aide Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), to return to the island to rescue all of the dinosaurs and release them to live freely in a new private sanctuary. And to do so, of course, she would have to enlist the aid of Owen to retrieve the personally trained and raised Blue, the last surviving Velociraptor.

And so, about less than three seconds after you've figured out that Claire and Owen have been duped (which is incidentally about an hour before the characters have figured out the very same thing), our heroes have returned to the island thus beginning the latest feeding frenzy which stretches from the ashes of Jurassic World to Benjamin Lockwood's massive isolated compound ,all the while and once again ignoring the prophetic warnings from this entire series' smartest character Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum in a cameo appearance) in order to justify one more overlong and and painfully under-thought entry in a series that truly needs to go the way of the dinosaur.

Look, even for fans of this series, I just have to believe that even this installment just had to be more than enough as  J.A. Bayona's "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" truly adds nothing new and is just drowning in an ocean of sheer stupidity and a profound lack of inspiration regardless of how terrific the special effects continue to be. Yes indeed, I did like the sequence with the erupting volcanoes and our human and dinosaur characters racing away from the lava filled fireball fallout but beyond that and overall, the suspension of disbelief I was asked to undertake was just too much for the filmmakers to ask of me, and even moreso, I ask a gain, is it just too much to have any intelligent characters to populate this series?

Oh where do I even begin? OK...first of all there is the entire premise of this thing, which again is one of the cardinal sins of the "Jurassic Park" film series: How and why is it possible that these films, which are direct sequels to each other, somehow operate as if they have no knowledge whatsoever of what has happened in previous installments...even though we in the audience are given more than enough signposts to the contrary?

Case in point: If the general public within this series is now fully aware of the events that occurred at both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, why would anyone ever wish to return to the island, let alone any of the main characters? Of course, if they did not, there would not be a movie but aside from that, what is the motivation to go back again? To that end, WHY for the love of Mike is Claire now a dinosaur rights activist?! Why are there dinosaur rights advocacy groups?  There is not one conceivable notion, piece of information or stitch of character motivation that would even allow me to buy this part of this specific fantasy and frankly, it was downright laughable.

Even worse is the brevity at which our dispassionately underwritten heroes do indeed return to the island. It was as if the filmmakers themselves did not care a whit about how it would happen but just so that they get there so we can again see the stars of the movie do that thing they do: eat stupid people doing stupid things solely to find themselves getting eaten.

As with the previous two episodes in this series especially, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" offers no real sense of suspense, terror, awe or anything remotely visceral regarding all of the predicaments these characters find themselves entangled with, so of course, the entire proceedings unfold as a loud, bombastic, belligerent bore.

Once again, would it really kill the filmmakers to make that valiant attempt to apply themselves and create characters, situations and dialogue that showcased even a modicum of intelligence, therefore making the fight for human survival something to give a damn about?! Nope! It's just the same prehistoric same prehistoric. Characters roam unprotected in environments where the most vicious dinosaurs are hiding. Greedy businessmen and foolhardy mercenaries continue to think that they are able to tame and control what has ravenously shown an inability of being controlled--over four previous films, no less! 

Not even a preposterous and nearly random seeming late film plot twist which itself leads to a faux "dark" yet undeniably credibility shattering climax thus setting up yet another potentially apocalyptic chapter can save this mess. People scream, they get themselves chomped and again, I yawned and shifted in my seat with an incredulity and gradually incensed temperament that I am again wasting precious time in my life watching another glistening piece of cinematic trash. Yes trash because if the filmmakers treat their own work as disposable, then why should I hold it up to any higher esteem?

With that, I feel compelled to express my utter distaste of the character of Franklin, a hacker, as portrayed by Justice Smith. Aside from being as underwritten as all of the film's characters, it more than disturbed me to see this young African-American male being served to mass audiences as the most fearful of all of the film's characters, heroes and villains alike. Yes, I get it. He is the tech geek thrust into an impossible situation and he would be scared. Sure. But a little of, "Was that a T-Rex?" goes a long way, especially when his constant screaming is literally pitched at a higher frequency than even Bryce Dallas Howard's.

Whether by accident or design on the part of the filmmakers, it was a presentation that was emasculating and even mildly racist to regard, as I felt witness to yet another stereotypical depiction of an ancient cinematic trope regarding the presentation of Black people, a shameful sight in a year in which we have already been given several rich and complex explorations of Black people and therefore, Black excellence in films like Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther," Ava DuVernay's "A Wrinkle In Time," Boots Riley's "Sorry To Bother You" and Spike Lee's "BlacKKKlansman." Yes, it is great to see a young, Black male computer genius/Scientist but it is all profoundly undercut when he is the sole character in the film who is used as comic relief while being a Screaming Mimi throughout. Just disheartening, to say the least.

Dear readers, I elicit the deepest of exhausted sighs. I wish for you to understand that I am not expecting something from the "Jurassic Park" series that it does not need to deliver, so to speak. I am not wishing for them to be things that they are not. I wish for them to be the finest of popcorn entertainment but of course, as we are still able to witness, from films like the aforementioned "Black Panther," plus Joe and Anthony Russo's "Avengers: Infinity War," Ron Howard's "Solo: A Star Wars Story" and most certainly, Christopher McQuarrie's "Mission:Impossible-Fallout," popcorn movies do not need to be artless and forgettable while they entertain. At their very finest, popcorn movies can still be examples of the reasons we all even go to the movies in the first place.

That is what makes "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"  such a resounding failure as well as existing as a perfect example of its own title. A dumb, lumbering beast of a movie crashing and bellowing its way in and out of multi-plexes nationwide leaving absolutely nothing of value in the rubble of everything laid to waste.

J.A. Bayona's "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" is easily one of 2018's worst films.

Monday, October 1, 2018


How the responsibilities of life have taken over during this past month! Thankfully, the movie releases has slowed down enough where I felt that I could take a breather and deal with those aforementioned responsibilities as well as catch my breath for October is already loaded with new material that I am anxious to see due to the already high critical responses. Hopefully life will allow me to fit them all in!

In addition to one review I have in the hopper plus another feature that I still have not found the proper time to devote to it properly, here is what I am looking forward to seeing this month.

1. Yes indeed, "A Star Is Born," Bradley Cooper's directorial debut starring himself and the inimitable Lady Gaga in the fourth remake of the classic rise and fall musical drama is opening this coming weekend and I am hoping that I am able to find the time to get into the theater to see this one. I have to say that the film really was not upon my radar whatsoever until the first trailers impressed me and then, the subsequent rave reviews from the film festival circuit arrived. So, now I am ready to check it out for myself.
2. "Whiplash" (2014) utterly blew me away while "La La Land" (2016) profoundly underwhelmed me. With "First Man," I am curious to see how the latest from Writer/Director Damien Chazelle affects me.
3.   The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas' 2017 novel is, without question, worthy of all of the rave attention that it has received. Now that the film adaptation from Director George Tillman Jr. is ready to be released, itself already having received rave early reviews, again I am more than ready.

So...we'll see what occurs as I seriously wish to get to and write about them all. Wish me luck and as always, I'll see you when the house lights go down!!!