Cruella and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Now I’m sure that 101 Dalmatians is a classic and that Cruella is a great villain in it, but the fact is that it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I just don’t have any attachment or fondness for it. What I DO have attachment and fondness for however is Maleficent which was a brilliant deconstruction of the fairy tale mythos and made an otherwise one note villain into a complex character with depth and pathos. It’s clear that this is the template that Disney is using for this reimagining of Cruella De Vil with a sprinkling of Joker throw in for good measure, and frankly that’s what got me interested in this movie more than whatever connection it has to the Disney classic. Does it manage to be another outside the box interpretation of the Disney formula, or are they scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find anything else that people want to see again? Let’s find out!!
There once was a girl named Estella Miller who had really awesome black and white hair and she knew that one day she would become a world famous fashion designer! That or a professional MMA fighter because every day in school she was getting in fights with the boys and telling teachers off for being fools which eventually forced her beleaguered mother (Emily Beecham) to take her out of the countryside and to the town of London where she may find her place. Along the way however, her mother makes a stop at an old friend’s house, and… well this IS a Disney movie, so it’s not long before things spiral out of control there and Estella is left an orphan through rather ludicrous means. Without anywhere else to go, she heads to London and meets up with two street punks who take her in and as they survive the means streets of London by pick-pocketing for their bread; and this is BEFORE Thatcher’s Britain! As is wont to happen, Estelle does grow up into a bright young woman (Emma Stone) who gets a job working for the biggest fashion designer in the city simply known as The Baroness (Emma Thompson) and for reasons that I shan’t spoil here, Estelle gets VERY cross with The Baroness and decides to assume an alter ego as the Fashionista Cruella who will take London by storm at the expense of her current employer! With the help of her two ruffian friends Jasper and Horace (Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser), will she become the fashion icon that she always dreamed of with getting back at The Baroness as a fun bonus? Is this Estelle just lashing out at the unfairness of the world around her, or perhaps is Estelle the mask that Cruella has been forced to wear this whole time? Perhaps there’s a little Cruella in all of us; just yearning to tell the collective bosses of the world where to shove it!
Da 5 Bloods and all the images you see in this review are owned by Netflix
Directed by Spike Lee
It’s not often that a film gets released at the EXACT moment it should be, but leave it to Spike Lee to make a movie worth talking about at a time when its message couldn’t be more relevant. I’ve certainly liked more of Spike Lee’s movie’s than I haven’t with Chi-Raq being a downright masterpiece and it’s like movie studios are giving us anything else worth watching at this period of time (including Disney who thought putting Artemis Fowl on Disney+ was a better idea than just chucking it in a garbage can), so consider me pumped to see something important instead of just spending another evening watching reruns and staring at the ceiling! Is Spike Lee’s timely examination of Black people’s relationship to the Vietnam War and by extension the systems created it which are still in place to this day, or is Lee like the rest of us and finds himself missing a step in these unusual times? Let’s find out!!
Nearly fifty years after their tour in Vietnam, the remaining members of The Bloods return to Vietnam to reconnect, remember the good times, and find their fallen comrade Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman) who died during the war and whose body is still out there. Our surviving members are Paul, Otis, Eddie, and Melvin (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr) as well as an unexpected fifth member David (Jonathan Majors) who’s the son of Paul and wants to keep an eye on him during this trip. Now that’s all MOSTLY true, but there are some details missing such as the fact that The Bloods buried a whole bunch of gold back then and are out here to find it along with Stormin’ Norman to secure their retirements, though saying that to the US government who’s gold it is they’re digging up (it was supposed to be delivered to the Vietnamese government that was declared a loss after the plane crashed), so they omitted that part when they appealed to both countries’ governments to explore the area. And so the journey begins, with our heroes telling stories of their time in the war, confronting the demons of their past, and hopefully leaving the country far richer than they entered it. Will The Bloods find what they are looking for in this country they left long ago, and will it be what they came to find in the first place? What hardships will they face along the way, and will their struggles ultimately be in vain? How the heck is it that the ONE dude to die in the war was Black Panther!? Isn’t he bulletproof!?
Late Night and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios
Directed by Nisha Ganatra
I’m fairly certain that my usual theater had a poster for this and then just decided not to actually screen it so this is yet another trip to the far away theater (i.e. thirty minutes away) which honestly is usually a good sign. Not always, in fact this is the exact same story that preceded The Green Inferno, but the movies that aren’t wide enough for my local theater to get are usually have a lot more going for them; for good or ill. I hadn’t heard much about this movie and only have a vague idea of the premise, but the cast is very talented and I’m always intrigued by entertainment that’s ABOUT the making of entertainment which is always a journey in its own right. Does this glimpse into the world of late night television give us a funny and insightful look at the behind the scenes action, or will this end up being as boring as… I don’t know whichever one of those shows is the worst? Let’s find out!!
Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is the host of a late night show that has been running for over twenty years, yet despite such a phenomenal legacy and a small army of Emmy awards behind her, the new network President Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan) tells her that the show will be cancelled in a few months and that she’ll be replaced with a hip young talent that gets those pesky millennials! With basically nothing left to lose, she starts to do the one thing she has come to fear in the last ten years; actually try. I know, truly a fate worse than death. Part of her initiate to revitalize the show includes hiring someone in the writers room whose only qualification is to NOT BE A WHITE GUY, and as luck would have it Molly (Mindy Kaling) is interviewing that day and meets those very stringent qualifications! Sure, she’s never written for a comedy show ever, but why should that stop her from filling up space and shielding the show from further criticisms of being too old and too white? AH HA! It’s not as simple as that however! For you see, Molly is not JUST a blatant diversity hire! She actually has good ideas, some decent writing chops, and may just be what this crusty old talk show needs in order to genuinely appeal to today’s audience instead of whatever crap Katherine and the other writers were gonna try to fake their way into relevance! Can Molly learn to thrive in this dinosaur of a work place and find the right balance between respecting its legacy and changing it for the better? Will Katherine realize what she’s been doing wrong all this time and genuinely change for the better before losing the best thing she has in her life? Well I mean she has her husband (John Lithgow), but is he paying the bills around here!? I DON’T THINK SO!!
BlacKkKlansman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features
Directed by Spike Lee
There’s a lot going on right now and as much as I’d honestly like to take a step back from the heavier subject matter to focus on terrible horror films and laughable thrillers, well… there’s a bigger story that needs to be told and at the very least I can try to stay engaged with the films that are being made because of it. Fortunately the films this year that faced issues of racism, white supremacy, privilege, and state sponsored oppression have been pretty great so far with The First Purge being a worth addition to one of the best film series we have today, Sorry to Bother You feeling like the kind of gonzo shot in the arm film making that will inspire others to think outside the standard feature film model, and Blindspotting being a supremely empathetic examination that’s palatable and poignant for any audience member. However, it’s time for the king to return to his throne as Spike Lee has spent his entire career (barring Oldboy) speaking on these very issues that the rest of Hollywood is just catching up to and is now throwing their weight behind these artists. Did Spike Lee make the definitive film of our turbulent times, or has his style gotten tiresome in the face of newer voices in his political circle? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the strange yet true story of Detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who joined the Colorado Springs police force in the seventies and not long after joining the force started a sting operation against the KKK in the area. With the help of a fellow cop Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) he managed to impersonate a white supremacists over the phone while Flip would pretend to be him in person; a plan that was so successful that they even managed to dupe KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) who had several conversations with Ron never realizing he was in fact black. As the investigation goes along though, things start to get complicated as certain members of the Colorado chapter of the KKK start to suspect their newest recruit, and Ron start to find it hard to live not only a double life as a fake white man, but also the dichotomy of being a black man and a police officer in that period of time; especially when he starts falling for the President of the Black Student Union Patrice (Laura Harrier) who is just as militant against white systems of power as Ron is determined to use his position in said system to take the KKK down a peg. Will Ron and Flip manage to stop the KKK from whatever it is they’re planning without getting caught in the crossfire themselves? How far will the KKK members go to assert themselves as a threat to be taken seriously, and who do they plan to hurt in the process? Just how many white people jokes can Ron get away with before David Duke becomes suspicious!?
I, Tonya and all the images you see in this review are owned by Neon
Directed by Craig Gillespie
We can’t have an Oscar Season without at least ONE off the wall biopic, right!? Sure, you’ve got the more straightforward historical dramas like The Post and Darkest Hour, but despite Scorsese striking out with The Wolf of Wall Street at The Oscars, it still made a huge impact and many have tried to recreate its success since then. Not only that, but the fact we’re starting to look back at the nineties in a historical context with at least two recent OJ Simpson projects getting a huge amount of critical praise, it’s no wonder that right after him we get to the other big crime story of that decade; the assault on Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding’s possible involvement with it. Does this reexamination of one of the biggest names in nineties pop culture end up being a phenomenal look at her life and the decade around it, or is this a cynical cash grab trying to get a jump start on Gen X and Millennial nostalgia? Let’s find out!!
Back in the early nineties, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) was one of the most prominent names in Women’s Figure Skating; having come from a very poor background and taking a lot of her social upbringing into her performances. Despite Figure Skating being a sport that prizes tradition and perfection in its (none of that uncouth “rock and roll” music!), they could not ignore Harding who was a natural on the ice and the first American female figure skater to land a triple axel (a feat accomplished by Midori Ito and Mao Asada from Japan a few years earlier). Still, it wasn’t an easy road as she had to deal with her abusive mother LaVona Fay Golden (Allison Janney) and her just as abusive husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan); both of whom seemed hell bent on making her life miserable despite swearing they were only looking out for her best interests. Things get complicated though when Tonya’s anxiety and even paranoia start to get to her as the weight of her modest celebrity as well as the skills of other skaters made her quite distressed. From here, we start to get speculative about what happened, but the general idea is that one of Jeff’s friends Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) has a friend of his attack one of Tonya’s rivals Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) and the big mystery surrounding it is just how much did Tonya know about what was happening. Did she orchestrate the attack herself? Was she aware that it was going to happen but said nothing to stop it? The movie addresses these questions and more as this dramatized retelling of her story gives us not only a look at the facts as we know them of the case, but the media circus that built up around it and the… interesting characters that were involved. Oh, and there are a few skate numbers as well!