A boy with a terminally ill mother encounters a story-telling tree monster.
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson
Initial Review by Phil Crone
A Monster Calls should be commended for taking on a difficult subject with a more whimsical approach than we normally see, but confusing underlying decisions ultimately undermine what could have been one of the great movies of 2016. The story starts with a strong enough foundation. Conor is a young boy with a life no one wants: his mother is sick and presumably dying, he has no other significant support system to look to, and he is constantly bullied by another boy who may or may not actually be in love with him, but I digress. His life is almost comically terrible – why not just give him a physical deformity while we’re at it? Conor finds respite in his drawing, and these fantasies manifest themselves in the form of a tree monster who visits Conor with the promise of telling him three stories, after which Conor will reveal “his truth.” The structure is reminiscent of the 2006 modern classic Pan’s Labyrinth, but the similarities begin and end there.
I have no recollection of The Jungle Book books nor the animated movie from the 90s other than Baloo nearly dies. I wish I knew how true to the original this story was compared to the animated version.
The Jungle Book does a lot of things well. Once you get past the first scene, the CGI is nearly flawless. I’m not sure if my brain needed time to adjust or the CGI legitimately improved, but I was worried for my senses after Mowgli’s first sprint through the jungle. By the end, I hadn’t given the CGI another thought – it was spot on.
They say misery loves company.
Mississippi Grind is a road trip story of degenerate gambler Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) and his good luck charm new friend Curtis (Ryan Reynolds). Mississippi Grind asks a lot out of the 2 leads to carry the film start to finish by putting them on a road trip never spending too long in any stop and they absolutely deliver. The introduction of Gerry and Curtis is an absolute homerun. Gerry listening to Joe Navarro’s 200 Poker Tells (6.99 for Kindle at Amazon, use the link below) before walking into a casino where he is obviously a regular, his messy hair, his posture, his sad face - the viewer knows Gerry is a lifelong loser before he speaks a word. Our first look at Curtis is a cool confident operator. Reynolds shows through Curtis that he is the best in Hollywood at playing disarmingly charming, entering the poker game as an outsider at a table full of regulars and very quickly wins them over with that charm. After the tourney at the bar, Gerry tells the barman he placed 3rd and immediately bet the winnings on a basketball game showing his addiction, then tells Curtis he placed 2nd, showing his character. The two of them get wasted and bond over a rainbow, and gambling. Curtis is Gerry’s lucky charm and Gerry is a buddy for Curtis to hang out with before Machu Picchu time.
In his first 8 movies, Steven Spielberg made two of those about aliens. The first, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, has only been seen by two of us, at least as far as the spreadsheet is concerned, and in comparison to E.T., that film is very different. The aliens don't show up until the end in Close Encounters, where they're present at frame one of E.T., and the endings of each film present the protagonist with a choice of whether or not to go with the aliens. Most importantly, Close Encounters is told from an adult's perspective, while E.T. is told through a kid's. That contributes to a much darker film, perfect for the decade in which it was released. E.T., however, is released several years later in the more optimistic 80's, and reflects the lighter, more frivolous era of its consumption. In exchanging adult fascination for childlike wonder and changing the protagonists' relationship with the aliens from one of obsession to one of companionship, Spielberg is making a less interesting film, albeit a more emotional one.
The Princess Bride cleverly told an old story. It was the classic tale of a damsel in distress but also reminded us of the difficult relationship between the grandfather and grandson. It told two continual, yet competing stories, one with the book by "S Morganstern" and the other played by Fred Savage and Peter Falk. Doing that is a recipe for disaster because it takes a careful hand to guide a story through such precision and Rob Reiner pulled it off masterfully. In the end, viewers learned the power of love but not in a gooey way. The Princess Bride showed loves influence through comedy, sport, adventure, and suspense. Its ability to successfully achieve these aspects made it an instant classic for all generations.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.