Saturday, January 13, 2018

Paddington 2 review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
Paddington Bear is back for seconds in Paddington 2

            Seriously, why are these movies so good!?! Pretty much that sums up my reaction to both films based on the beloved Paddington Bear children’s books by Michael Bond. I was ready to hate the first film when the trailer debuted and all it showed was Paddington cleaning his ears with electric toothbrushes (Apparently that was enough to sell a movie…k?).
            Much to my surprise the film was extremely well-received by critics upon its release which is strange because most live-action films with CGI talking animals usually backfire like Cats & Dogs, the live-action Scooby-Doo movies, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. But once in a while there’s a Homeward Bound or Babe along the way, and that’s where the first Paddington film fits in, it’s a charming movie through the eyes of a child and as an adult with a likable protagonist, a decent sense of humor, an enjoyable cast, and a sweet story.
            I was a little more concerned with the sequel, Paddington 2 because it was a sequel I wasn’t really asking for and thought this was going to be the Paddington movie that would crash and burn. And now I am apologizing to this little bear for even having those expectations to begin with, because Paddington 2 is just as fun as the first one.
            It does what all good sequels do, put the characters you loved from the first film into new situations, take the story further and make it bigger, and introduce new characters to grow attached to without rehashing the first movie. Actually, with all seriousness I thought this one was funnier than the first Paddington, which I recall having good jokes and humor but nothing really that memorably funny, this one I was laughing frequently because of its energy, timing, and acting.
            The film follows Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw-Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Skyfall, The Lobster), having settled with his new family, the Browns in London, becoming extremely popular in the community, and offering emotional support in various ways to all the people he comes across. One day Paddington visits an antique shop to look for a present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday and comes across a valuable pop-up book that is apparently worth a lot of money.
            So, he decides to perform several odd jobs from working as a barber to cleaning windows to raise enough money to buy the book for his aunt. Unfortunately, Paddington sees that someone has broken into the store and stolen the book, which results in Paddington being framed for robbing it.
            His supportive family, Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville-Iris, Downton Abbey, Twenty Twelve), Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins-Happy-Go-Lucky, Blue Jasmine, The Shape of Water), Judy Brown (Madeleine Harris-Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Being Human, Man Down), and Jonathan Brown (Samuel Joslin) believe that Paddington is innocent and will do whatever it takes to clear his name and find the true culprit. Meanwhile Paddington somehow finds a way to make prison into a fun place (I want that bear now!).
            The film also stars Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Troy, Edge of Tomorrow) as Nuckles McGinty, Julie Walters (Educating Rita, Dinnerladies, Harry Potter franchise) as Mrs. Bird, Jim Broadbent (Brazil, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter 6, 7, and 7.2) as Samuel Gruber, Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who, World War Z, The Fifth Estate) as Mr. Curry, Hugh Grant (Mickey Blue Eyes, Notting Hill, The Pirates!: Band of Misfits) as Phoenix Buchanan, Simon Farnaby (The Mighty Boosh, Jam & Jerusalem, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Barry, Imelda Staunton (Chicken Run, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Pirates!: Band of Misfits) as the voice of Aunt Lucy, Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow, Harry Potter 3-7.2, Victoria & Abdul) as the voice of Uncle Pastuzo, Joanna Lumley (James and the Giant Peach, Corpse Bride, Me Before You) as Felicity Fanshaw, Ben Miller (Armstrong and Miller, Johnny English, Asylum) as Colonel Lancaster, Jessica Hynes (The Royale Family, Shaun of the Dead, W1A) as Miss Kitts, Noah Taylor (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Game of Thrones, Edge of Tomorrow) as Phibs, Eileen Atkins (Gosford Park, Cold Mountain, Last Chance Harvey) as Madame Kozlova, Tom Conti (Reuben, Reuben, Friends, Rosemary’s Baby) as Judge Gerald Biggleswade, Sanjeev Bhaskar (It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, The Indian Doctor, Doctor Who) as Dr. Jafri, and Marie-France Alvarez (Criminal Justice, Albatross, Ransom) as Mademoiselle Dubois.
            Overall, Paddington 2 is a funny and charming adventure for the entire family and a sequel to a movie that probably shouldn’t have been that good to begin with. But thanks to its likable characters, impressive production design and animation, and a perfect balance between zany, slapstick-filled, kids humor and morals about family and seeing the good in everyone, they completely surpassed my expectations with the final product.
            Paddington is a very likable character, whether you’re a kid or an adult, it’s impossible to not find the appeal of him. Even when things don’t work out for him, it doesn’t stop his upbeat personality and from doing the right thing. Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Brown is hands down one of the best mothers I’ve seen in both movies and television, she goes to these extreme lengths to save her family members no matter how crazy others might see her, you go girl!
            I’m not a huge fan of Hugh Grant as an actor but he is an absolute joy to watch in this movie as Phoenix. He’s just hamming it up and it looks like he’s having a great time every time he’s on-screen, got a huge laugh out of me.
            The production design of this movie is very eye-catching despite the film taking place in a suburban environment. It’s kind of similar to what Martin Scorsese did with Hugo, they manage to take these real-life environments like the city of London, a train station, and even a prison and make it look like a fairy-tale come to life.

            If you’re looking for wholesome family fun at the movies, Paddington 2 might be the marmalade-flavored film for you. The movie was so good I almost forgot I saw the Teen Titans Go! To the Movies trailer prior to it but we’ll see what happens with that movie.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Post review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s The Post

            Director, Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln) returns with his latest film, The Post. A political drama which depicts The Washington Post and New York Times journalists who published the Pentagon Papers regarding the United States government’s covert involvement in the Vietnam War.
            This film marks the first-time beloved actors, Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, Bridge of Spies) and Meryl Streep (Sophie’s Choice, The Iron Lady, Florence Foster Jenkins) have worked together in a film. Amazing, these two cinema darlings have never worked on a movie together until now.
            Given that Spielberg was passionate about the source material but wasn’t originally planning to direct this, he nailed The Post to the wall and its themes are just as relevant today as they were back then. Do I consider it one of his best films? No, but it’s a solid political drama that’s worth talking about especially during awards season.
            After a cover-up that spanned three decades and four U.S. presidents forces the country’s first female news publisher, Kay Graham (Streep) of The Washington Post and its editor, Ben Bradlee (Hanks) to join forces, they participate in an unprecedented battle between journalism and American government in publishing the Pentagon Papers. Kay and Ben race to catch up with The New York Times and expose a massive cover-up of government secrets and fight for the First Amendment.
            The film also stars Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story, Mud, 12 Years a Slave) as Tony Bradlee, Bob Odenkirk (Saturday Night Live, Tom Goes to the Mayor, Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) as Ben Bagdikian, Tracy Letts (U.S. Marshals, Killer Joe, Lady Bird) as Fritz Beebe, Bradley Whitford (Adventures in Babysitting, Saving Mr. Banks, Get Out) as Arthur Parsons, Bruce Greenwood (First Blood, Double Jeopardy, Capote) as Robert McNamara, Matthew Rhys (Titus, Brothers & Sisters, The Americans) as Daniel Ellsberg, Allison Brie (Scream 4, The Lego Movie, The Disaster Artist) as Lally Graham, Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Leftovers, Fargo) as Meg Greenfield, Jesse Plemons (The Master, Black Mass, Bridge of Spies) as Roger Clark, David Cross (Arrested Development, Kung Fu Panda trilogy, Pitch Perfect 2) as Howard Simons, Zach Woods (The Office, Silicon Valley, Ghostbusters (2016)) as Anthony Essaye, Pat Healy (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Freaks of Nature) as Phil Geyelin, Phillip Casnoff (Law & Order, Frasier, NCIS) as Chalmers Roberts, Jessie Mueller (The Family, Blue Bloods) as Judith Martin, Stark Sands (Lost at Home, Inside Llewyn Davis, Minority Report) as Don Graham, and Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water) as Abe Rosenthal.
            Overall, The Post is a fascinating political drama that depicts the long-time battle between the press and the American government and another solid addition to Spielberg’s directing credit despite being on short notice. Even though he wasn’t originally planning on directing it and his next film, Ready Player One was in post-production, the rushed decision to direct this film was definitely for the best because it speaks just as loud today as it did back then.
            The film doesn’t really do anything new with its subject matter or execution but it’s certainly a movie worth talking about. The movie’s themes of the U.S. government trying to control the media and state what is allowed to print and what’s not can be connected to the Trump Administration and how it wants to control the media and hide secrets from them (That’s as political as I’ll go with this review).
            The performances of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep hold this movie together and they have strong chemistry every time they’re on-screen. I don’t think they’re Oscar winner worthy here but you’re always invested in what the two of them are doing, hopefully this will lead to more starring collaborations in the future.

            If you’re a Spielberg, Hanks, and/or Streep fan and believe in the First Amendment then The Post is a must. Even if I consider the film to be a little overhyped and not quite as mind-blowing as films like The Disaster Artist, Lady Bird, or The Shape of Water, I still feel like it’s a movie that should be watched and discussed for generations, just like All the President’s Men.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Molly's Game review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly’s Game

            Writer, Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs) makes his directorial debut with the crime-drama, Molly’s Game, based on the true story of Olympic-class skier turned underground high-stakes poker host, Molly Bloom. The film stars Academy Award nominee, Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Martian, Miss Sloane) as Bloom and follows the events of when she ran the most exclusive high-stakes poker game in Los Angeles and New York City and what led to her inevitable arrest.
            I’m glad to say that Aaron Sorkin has knocked it out of the park here, this is a solid directorial debut that’s well-written and Chastain’s performance is stellar. While I don’t think this film is quite as strong as Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, it’s still a smart, dramatic, and at times witty game of poker.
            The film follows Molly Bloom (Chastain), a young woman who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested by the FBI. Her players included Hollywood celebrities, athletes, business titans, and unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob.
            Her only ally during all of this was her criminal defense lawyer, Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba-Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim) who learns that there’s much more to Molly than the tabloids led us to believe as she faces federal charges.
            The film also stars Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Field of Dreams, McFarland, USA) as Larry Bloom, Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno, This is the End) as Player X, Brian d’Arcy James (Friends with Kids, Smash, Spotlight) as Brad, Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, The Sapphires, Thor: The Dark World) as Douglas Downey, J.C. MacKenzie (Murder One, The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Harrison Wellstone, Bill Camp (Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Black Mass, The Night Of) as Harlan Eustice, Graham Greene (Maverick, The Green Mile, Wind River) as Judge Foxman, Jeremy Strong (Lincoln, Black Mass, The Big Short) as Dean Keith, Joe Keery (Chicago Fire, Empire, Stranger Things) as Cole, Natalie Krill (MVP, Remedy, The Next Step) as Winston, Claire Rankin (Death Wish V: The Face of Death, Side Effects, Stargate: Atlantis) as Charlene Bloom, and Jon Bass (The Newsroom, Big Time in Hollywood, FL, American Horror Story: Roanoke) as Shelly Habib.
            Overall, Molly’s Game is a fascinating journey through the events of Molly Bloom’s underground poker career and shows a bright directing future for Aaron Sorkin. If you’ve seen plenty of films written by Sorkin then you can point out a lot of his tropes and clich├ęs in the screenplay, but unlike Christopher Nolan where he bombards you with exposition and dialogue-heavy scenes that give your brain a headache, Sorkin actually keeps you invested in what the characters are discussing.
            I’ve seen movies good and bad that had a lot of dialogue-driven scenes with exposition and analyzing that either overwhelmed my mind or put me to sleep. Aaron Sorkin’s movies don’t do that to me, this film clocks in at two hours and twenty minutes with a lot of game statistics and dialogue-heavy moments and not once, NOT ONCE, was I ever bored in this movie.
            Even at slow moments or whenever I started to acknowledge the running-time, I wanted to know everything that was going to happen and hear what the characters are saying. Take some notes Nolan, this is how you make us care about characters in movies, give us characters that act like people and keep us invested, not exposition-spitting robots.
            Besides Sorkin’s writing and directing, the performances by Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba are what truly sell the movie. Chastain always gives it her all whenever she’s on-screen and delivers a powerhouse performance and Elba offers some of the best acting by him I’ve seen in a while.

            Molly’s Game shows a bright directing future for Aaron Sorkin and if you’re a poker enthusiast or looking for a great time at the movies around awards season, this is a “Game” that’s definitely worth playing. Aaron Sorkin has successfully made the transition from writing to directing and I’m looking forward to what he has planned next.