There is a slang meaning for "red rocket" that I won't go in to (Google it if you must). but its an appropriate title for the latest film from Sean Baker. Baker has been on an upward trajectory himself, first making waves with the 2015 indie hit "Tangerine" (shot completely on an iPhone) and then following that up with his highly-regarded 2017 film, "The Florida Project," which landed an Oscar nomination for one of its stars, Willem Dafoe.
Baker has an uncanny knack for shining light into corners of rural, lower class America that rarely get attention, and the "deplorables" that populate these overlooked areas. "Red Rocket" fits in perfectly - thematically - with "The Florida Project" and "Tangerine" and features one of the most surprising comeback performances of this or any year.
Yes, Simon Rex - who once went by the rap name Dirt Nasty, who was a famous MTV VJ in the mid-90s and who dabbled as an actor in pornography - gives one of the year's best performances in "Red Rocket," against all odds, playing a washed-up ex-porn star. Go figure.
There are usually two types of critiques of a Paul Thomas Anderson film: The film is either a masterpiece, or it is a masterpiece that you just do not understand.
I tend to be told the latter half by those that swoon over everything P.T. Anderson touches. You see, P.T. Anderson films are inherently great because he made them. got it? And if you don't like one, well, you just MISSED its greatness, because it's all in there.
In other words, if you don't like a P.T. Anderson movie, it's not his fault...you're the problem.
It may include the greatest ensemble cast of A-Listers and talent that you'll ever see: Meryl Streep. Jennifer Lawrence. Leonardo DiCaprio. Jonah Hill. Timothée Chalamet. Mark Rylance. Ariana Grande. Ron Perlman. Rob Morgan. Cate Blanchett. Tyler Perry. Melanie Lynskey. Himesh Patel. And even Kid Cudi.
It's very easy to get hypnotized by their brilliance, and swept in on the sheer star-power of those sharing the screen together. "Don't Look Up" is a brash and super-funny political satire from the mind of Adam McKay, director of "Vice" and "The Big Short" in recent years, not to mention his iconic films with his old business partner Will Ferrell, like the two "Anchorman" movies, "Step Brothers," "Talladega Nights" and "The Other Guys."
But for all it gets right, it's also a bit of a mess, with way too much jammed into its over-long run time (2 hours and 18 minutes). Still, it's maybe the best comedy of the year, and could yield a few acting nominations as well this awards season, especially for Leonardo DiCaprio, who is given a big "Network"-level monologue at one point that could land him an Oscar on the strength of that one scene alone.
More of a remix than a reboot, "Ghostbuster: Afterlife" definitely taps into the correct vein that made the original 1984 "Ghostbusters" such a roaring success, and such a beloved movie. It opens up the franchise for a new generation of kids, while simultaneously offering plenty for parents and old-school fans to chew on.
But while nostalgia alone might be enough for many who call themselves fans of "Ghostbusters," this latest effort is just another unfortunate reminder that, seemingly, there are no new ideas left in Hollywood. They've resorted to attempting to resurrect intellectual properties that are clearly dead and gone, literally relying on ghosts of the past to fuel their financial futures. In that spirit (pun intended), "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is running on fumes and is to the original "Ghostbusters" what "The Force Awakens" is to the original "Star Wars" film: A new cake baked from the same old ingredients.
(Minor spoilers to follow...minor! Promise!)
Who doesn't love Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot or Ryan Reynolds? Throw them all together however, and the individual flavors just don't mix.
"Red Notice" is a serviceable but forgettable action-comedy - directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who teams with "The Rock" for their third film together. Their previous two films are spiritual cousins to "Red Notice" - "Central Intelligence" and "Skyscraper" - movies that are light and implausible, that seem to want to drift by based on the sheer star-power of the actors involved, instead of offering up anything innovative to the genre.
Yes, the "Red Notice" cocktail of Johnson, Gadot and Reynolds may look delicious from a distance, but an ounce of "originality" is the missing ingredient that might have made it go down a bit smoother.
Movie reviews for films like "Clifford the Big Red Dog" are a bit pointless...like, who is this for? The target audience for the movie (children under the age of six or Guantanamo Bay prisoners) are not going to be checking RottenTomatoes to see if this is a film worth checking out. Is a negative or (gasp!) a positive review of this film going to deter parents from taking their young ones to the movie? Most likely no. So for real...what's the point?
If you're a parent, you likely have more access and insight to "kids movies" than the average movie-goer who only gets to see what comes to multiplexes...most of those without children have never experienced or explored the depth of the unlimited amount of movies aimed at young children that can be found in the dark abyss of streaming sites like Disney+ or Paramount+. So there is a BIG difference between a "good" kids movie and a terrible one...we've all seen both. The best kid movies are able to keep the attention of a young child, and at best, offer a valuable life lesson about friendship, family, teamwork, compassion or love. At worst, this kind of film is still watchable by children, but will make parents want to gouge their eyes out. Because let's face it: Children will watch almost anything, especially with a bag of popcorn and some candy on their laps.
"The French Dispatch" is a Wes Anderson film.
While that sounds obvious and direct, it actually says a lot about whether or not you are going to enjoy it or not. Fans of the eccentric filmmaker will experience pure bliss, as this film - frame-for-frame - is everything you might hope for. But unlike his last few films ("Isle of Dogs," "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "Moonrise Kingdom") "The French Dispatch" feels superficial, and is purposely a narrative mess as it tries to honor the spirit of journalism. Instead, it's more of a glossy and colorful magazine you might casually browse through in a doctor's waiting room, devoid of any real substance.
One of the most delightful, impressive, heart-warming and optimistic productions you will ever witness comes to Apple TV+ this weekend. "Come From Away" is a Tony-winning musical that was filmed and made into a movie (just like "Hamilton" was for Disney+ in 2020), and it comes just in time for the 20-year anniversary of 9/11.
Yes, the "feel good" movie of the year centers around one of the worst, horrific tragedies in American history, and if there was ever something that this divided nation should be able to agree on, it's that "Come From Away" is an absolute treasure and should be seen by every American...despite it taking place in Newfoundland, Canada.
"Small Engine Repair" is a small film that you root for. The camaraderie between the three main actors is the definition of chemistry, and you'll find yourself laughing and caring for these bums in surprising ways.
But with a quick jump out of the gate and a slowly accelerating pace that will have you easily accepting your invitation to ride, "Small Engine Repair" nearly runs itself off the road as it hits a late patch of dark ice...however it ends up staying on track somehow, due to the three red-hot performances steering the wheel.
Are there any comedies that movie studios are willing to green-light anymore, that don't star Ryan Reynolds?
Since his starring role in 2016's "Deadpool," Reynolds has been one of the hottest comedic commodities in Hollywood. But is the Ryan Reyn-aissance starting to over stay its welcome? One might begin to think so, judging by his latest romp.
"Free Guy" is part "The Truman Show," part "The Matrix" and part "Groundhog Day," with not even one pixel of the same creative spark or ingenuity of any of these films. It aims low and succeeds in hitting its target, I guess, but with a little care, "Free Guy" could have been so much more.
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