RBG

Directed by Julie Cohen, Betsy West

Starring – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton, Sharon Frontiero

The Plot – At the age of 84, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. But without a definitive Ginsburg biography, the unique personal journey of this diminutive, quiet warrior’s rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans…until now.

Rated PG for some thematic elements and adult language

POSITIVES

– Unique character framing. While it’s certainly no surprise for a documentary’s title figure to receive the royal treatment, Ginsburg’s superhero-like appeal is captured in the most unlikely of situations; with T-shirts and websites comparing her to figures like Notorious B.I.G. What I love about this is that it puts the world’s celebrity focus where it deserves to be; firmly with the support of those patriarchs who paved the way in crafting the world we live in today.

– Despite a brief runtime of 92 minutes, ‘RBG’ manages to envelope Ruth’s entire story, most notably her time on the Supreme Court bench, as well as her relationships at home. The latter was certainly more fascinating to me, as it’s in those interviews with her children, as well as soundbites from her deceased husband, that carve out a woman who truly did have and do it all. She never sacrificed her career to be a Mother or vice versa, and her up at dawn routine is firmly documented throughout.

– Because so many classic Supreme Court battles didn’t have the benefit of being filmed, we are treated to soundbites inside of the hearings as our depictions during the narrative. However, Cohen and West visually treat us to vital quotes that appear in eye-popping detail with a courtroom backdrop, to put us in the heat of the moment, without ever missing a step in dramatic pulse. This more than anything cements Ruth’s on-going legacy as a presence who never just rested on getting a seat at the table.

– Part of what makes Ruth such a lovable protagonist is her unabashed humility and selfless presence that is captured wonderfully in the up-close-and-personal style of shooting throughout this picture. Even at the age of 84, she can still command a room with her soft deliveries and stern-but-sweet personality that feels like the sweet grandmother we all deserved growing up. In the film, Ruth says she never yelled or intimidated when she spoke, because she believed that is the moment when a listener will tune out, and she couldn’t be more accurate, as my attention never withered or strained from hearing about her lasting legacy.

– My favorite aspect of the film that I think many people will indulge in, is her fifty-plus year marriage to her husband Martin. If there was ever a story for perfect couplings, Ruth and Martin take the cake. Throughout the picture, we learn that Martin was not only her biggest supporter during a time when the male majority was anything but, he was also her balancing act in making up in humor what she lacked. All of this is further elaborated on when you see the glow that Ruth preserves each time she looks at or speaks about him. There’s is a love too authentic for the silver screen.

– Revealing, insightful details. Even if you are the biggest of Ginsburg fans, ‘RBG’ will fill you with enough biographical, researched knowledge to make your head spin. Without spoiling a lot, some of the aspects of her time at Harvard Law greatly surprised me and enlightened me to the conditions that women were dealing with in seeking mutual employment. Interesting enough, this aspect of history repeats itself later on, when the focus turns to a group of females who seek entry into the Virginia Military Academy. You know what they say about learning from history.

– Now more than ever, a film like ‘RBG’ has such distinct value in those who seek the change that they wish to see in their own worlds. Inspiration is one thing, but this film teaches us that Ruth wasn’t alone in laying the bricks of activism, and if we’re going to see results of change, you won’t get a reaction without the action needed to push forward. Because of this, the film establishes that sense of being the perfect film at the perfect time for the #MeToo movement, proving that even though women have come so far, they still have a great distance to travel.

– In her inspiration of many young women, as the film so dutifully shows, the lasting impression of Ginsburg will never go one day again without being felt. This will undoubtedly give the film great replay value in terms of aging, that most films can’t pay for. Documentaries to me are usually a one-and-done kind of sit, but I see ‘RBG’ as being the cliff note for many future battles that our civilization will endure, going forward.

NEGATIVES

– While I can credit West and Cohen for their successful rendering of the topic subject, I cannot award them style points for anything groundbreaking or original in their visual presentation. Documentaries anymore provide a flare to compliment the hard-hitting details that virtually fly off of the page at you, and in this regard the movie was very plain and derivative for me, of everything else in the genre that came before it.

– My biggest fear coming into the film did come true, as the movie does divide our political cultures, instead of being the catalyst to unite them. It isn’t quite left-side propaganda, but it isn’t far off either, as much of the third act material takes valuable time to fling mud at any right-winger who has come in Ruth’s path of destruction. Being an independent voter myself, I am able to flesh out these instances of promoting, and to me it felt so very different from the woman Ruth evidently is. She’s never someone who uses a negative to reduce someone, but sadly the film is never as admirable with its clear-cut intention.

8/10

Leave No Trace

Directed by Debra Granik

Starring – Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Jeffrey Rifflard

The Plot – Will (Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (McKenzie), have lived off the grid for years in the forests of Portland, Oregon. When their idyllic life is shattered, both are put into social services. After clashing with their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland.

Rated PG for thematic material throughout

POSITIVES

– This is a beautifully shot film, documenting the Oregon countryside with such an evocative colorful palate of vivacious strokes. The natural lighting is a meaningful choice for authenticity, but it’s in the yellow sunlight bleeding through the green of the trees that gives the backgrounds that stained glass effect that only comes naturally when you’re shooting a majority of your film outside.

– As for the work of Foster and McKenzie, they are asked to be in 100% of the scenes, and that dependency really drives home the work of these two polished actors carrying the movie. These performances never include those long-winded diatribes that feed into Academy recognition, but rather they are praised for feel synthetic to the human approach. Most of their charm is that they don’t ever feel like characters, but rather real people, and both respective actors bounce off of each other with the father/daughter honesty that radiates the chemistry between them.

– What I love about the exposition is that it never feels forced or convenient to the unfolding knowledge that we are learning about Will, in particular. This requires audiences to hang on to literally every single conversation between the two characters, if they wish to learn more about them. Even then, the film leaves plenty to abstraction, choosing not to follow these bombshell droppings within the three act structure like we’re used to. Granik is wise enough to not have to force-feed the audience these vivid details, instead spreading out these details of truth that speak volumes to her trust in us to adapt.

– Poignancy in parenting. One great debate frequently revolved around in this film is the spotty definition of the terms “Provider” and “Providing”. Through the ventures that feature many ups and downs between these two characters, we as audience are left with plenty of instances for an enlightening conversation, with no side ever being clearly defined for being wrong. Will believes he is right because it’s worked this way for so long between them, and the Children’s Services believe they are right because they act within the best interests of the child. The best part is that no matter where your allegiance lies on this issue, Granik as a screenwriter throws many wrenches along the way that are sure to keep you updating your stance from one side to the next.

– Deep beneath this family drama that engulfs the entirety of this film, is a maturing coming-of-age narrative that develops terrifically during the third act. These developments certainly speak wonders to the fragility of adolescence, and just how tragically some kids are forced to grow up far too quickly. I took great empathy towards this aspect, because it is in those aspects that we can’t control that feel the most damning to those they sneak up on, and it all leads to a bittersweet finale that reflects the miles that these two have traveled.

– Like Granik’s earlier work in ‘Winter’s Bone’, I find it quite indulging how the environments in her films present themselves as an integral member of the cast, allowing her to play with volumes for such an immersive experience. What this does is allow us to soak up the atmospheres whole not only in sight, but in sound. There’s excellent capturing of forest sounds like birds and branches rubbing up against one another that you could almost close your eyes and imagine yourself right there with the protagonists.

– The comparisons with 2016’s ‘Captain Fantastic’ are inevitable, and while I think this is the weaker of the two films by comparison, ‘Leave No Trace’ is more appealing on a personal measurement of character study that the former just can’t get close enough to. Because this movie only has two central characters, we are able to focus more prominently on the dynamic that eventually shapes the emotions that each are feeling. This kind of story I feel works better with less characters for the danger and isolation that we feel for them, making their situation feel more bleak upon dissection.

– Likewise to Granik’s admirable patience within her current masterpiece, the musical score from Dickon Hinchliffe also has great restrain in its presence throughout. The musical inclusion is certainly there, most notably when a scene requires self-reflection, but it does so in a way that never intrudes or soils the somber deliveries or required focus that remains faithful to your investment in the characters. Hinchliffe instead serves as more of an underlying current of steady keys that never needs to push the volume to eleven to maximize a scene.

NEGATIVES

– It pains me to say that even though this film succeeds on its own merits, it’s a difficult recommendation because of plodding pacing that eventually catches up. Much of this fault is due to redundancy in the material that shortcuts any kind of tension that this film so desperately requires, but the overall lack of a central antagonist certainly shouldn’t be understated. Without that continuous presence hot on the heels of this duo, the film gives up on an early included subplot that just kind of dissolves without resolve.

– While I mentioned earlier that this film can contribute more of its time to two characters, as opposed to a big cast, the film kind of squanders the psychological presence of the movie by never delving into Will’s head in the way we need for context. I was never lost or confused by the brief details delivered in the film, but I wouldn’t have been opposed to some flashback sequences involving the Mother in this family, no matter how forced or cliche that may sound. To me, I couldn’t escape this feeling of a bombshell delivery coming throughout the movie, but it never comes, and we are left to put together Will’s pieces without ever having a look at the box for the bigger picture.

8/10

First Reformed

Directed by Paul Schrader

Starring – Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer

The Plot – Reverend Ernest Toller (Hawke) is a solitary, middle-aged parish pastor at a small Dutch Reform church in upstate New York on the cusp of celebrating its 250th anniversary. Once a stop on the Underground Railroad, the church is now a tourist attraction catering to a dwindling congregation, eclipsed by its nearby parent church, Abundant Life, with its state-of-the-art facilities and 5,000-strong flock. When a pregnant parishioner (Seyfried) asks Reverend Toller to counsel her husband, a radical environmentalist, the clergyman finds himself plunged into his own tormented past, and equally despairing future, until he finds redemption in an act of grandiose violence.

Rated R for some disturbing violent imagery

POSITIVES

– In casual Schrader fashion, there’s a lot within this film to be said about the world that offers much poignancy in debate. Whether it’s the corporation narrative that churches have become, the whiplash as a result of people not taking care of our world, or the confines that come from being a pastor, this is very much a Schrader movie, in that he’s a director who is never afraid of alienating his audience.

– The film uses narration so skillfully, a la Taxi Driver, in that there is a deep psychological tug-of-war between what Toller is thinking in his mind as compared to what he is writing in the notebook. This commentary in take allows us plenty of evidence of the struggle from within that help to shape the figure that he becomes by the powerful third act. Basically, he’s his own unreliable narrator, and that stance is something rarely seen by a narrator in a film.

– Hawke is doing some of the very best work of the latter part of his career. As Toller, we see a conflicted figure who is deeply affected by the loss of his son from many years ago, as well as a struggling patron outside of the cloth to live with the deep-seeded issues that come with living in the today’s world. Toller unleashes a beat down upon himself that allows Hawke to portray him as someone who is keeping the deepest secrets buried deep within the many people who only see him as this leader, and we as an audience find it easy to soak up his presence because of Hawke’s untimely collapse that is depicted in 100% of the film’s shots.

– Spell-binding photography. What impressed me the most about this film, aside from it being shot in a 1:37:1 ratio, was how reserved and dedicated that it stayed in camera style throughout the picture. With the exception of two memorable scenes that clearly point to the change within Toller’s life, the rest of the film is single, still-framed shots that insist on the characters coming to it. Throughout many single character perspectives, as well as wide-lens establishing shots, we learn as much as there is to know about the characters and atmospheres that Schrader would rather audiences grasp visually instead of audibly, and I couldn’t be more impressed with this decision.

– Minimal music cues. Perhaps even more surprising than the impeccable photography is the decision to accompany this film with very little musical tones. Composer Brian Williams chooses instead to play up his dark and ominous influence for the right moments, so as to not take too much away from the surrounding circumstance that suffocates through each scene. I believe this is the best way to not dilute how the audience interprets these scenes, and sometimes minimal inclusion makes for the biggest result.

– Alexander Dynan’s bleak cinematography that speaks levels to Toller’s aging disposition the further the truth takes him. Despite the fact that the majority of this film takes place inside of such a spiritual confinement, it’s interesting to see how the production takes advantage of such bare and desolate surroundings, creating beauty in the atmospheric sin that withers inside.

– Nothing ever felt predictable to me, despite the fact that many key elements are introduced early on that play a more prominent role the further the story develops. For my money, the ending was very much a last second twist that I didn’t see coming. Even if I can’t feel fully satisfied with the way the lack of effect that it takes on everyone but the two characters involved, I can still appreciate what Schrader is trying to tell us in terms of this important element that outranks everything else. This effect was even more evident, in that none of my audience members wanted to get up from their seats. They were that transfixed on the final images.

– While I don’t agree with many people labeling this as the Taxi Driver for the new generation, I can say that Schrader has brought along all of his best traits to make First Reformed feel like a greatest hits of his creativity. Aside from the claustrophobia in focusing solely on our lead character, Schrader again insists upon a candid view of the world that many are afraid to depict. He’s a director who excels in that hard-to-watch imagery that other directors look away from, but Paul stays committed to those shocking necessities that get under the skin of those who take in his films.

NEGATIVES

– Despite convictions that I can truly admire and respect him for, Schrader’s social commentary does occasionally overstep boundaries into heavy-handed and preachy territory that made me say “Enough already”. My problem isn’t so much that Paul uses 103 minutes to focus on overlooked social issues, but rather how redundant it feels when compared to the lack of development that some of the characters don’t receive. Because of this sluggish pacing, many people will give up on First Reformed before it reaches its best stuff, so the recommendation here comes with a bit of a warning.

– The film severely lacks nuance. I can get over a scene where two characters are flying over a city in an almost metaphysical moment, but a pregnant woman named Mary (of all names) is when I draw the line. And this is only one example of the lack of subtlety that plagues the film. I could go on, but it would be spoiler territory.

8/10

Incredibles 2

Directed by Brad Bird

Starring – Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L Jackson

The Plot – Everyone’s favorite family of superheroes are back in Incredibles 2, but this time Helen (Hunter) is in the spotlight, leaving Bob (Nelson) at home with Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) to navigate the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life. It’s a tough transition for everyone, made tougher by the fact that the family is still unaware of baby Jack-Jack’s emerging superpowers. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, the family and Frozone (Jackson) must find a way to work together again, which is easier said than done, even when they’re all Incredible.

Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild adult language

POSITIVES

– As to where most superhero films will stretch and even force a family narrative amongst a supergroup, this comes natural to a film like Incredibles 2. Most of the film’s material in dynamic stems from the importance and value of those we should never take for granted, etching out a layer of heart in bloodline that we surprisingly rarely get from the superhero genre.

– Bird once again captures the imagination and heart-pumping sequencing when it comes to off-the-wall action that pushes the boundaries for animation. It’s clear that Brad is a fan of vintage superhero shows like the cult 60’s Batman saga, as he incorporates a multitude of sight and sound gags that feel artistically lifted from the pages of a graphic novel. These scenes serve as the strongest positive for the film, and give life to superpowers within a character that never lacks creativity in the way they are used.

– The animation has aged like a fine wine over fourteen years. While the illustrations remain faithful to the previous film, the layering, shading, and overall attention to detail allows technological advances of 2018 to finally catch up to this ahead-of-its-time animated feature. Some of the aspects that blew my mind involved the crinkling of bed sheets, Pixar’s continued excellence in bringing fluidity to water properties, and of course the city skyline backdrops that immerse us within the architectural beauty of a fictional place. While the setting of Incredibles 2 is timeless, there’s a sense of 60’s art deco shapes and sights to cleanse our palate, all the while saving room for the endless blue skies that breed opportunity.

– Poignancy amongst its material. As a screenwriter, Bird allows plenty of humorous but observant takes when it comes to the parallels of parenting, be it toddler, child, or adolescent. Some of my favorite scenes involved the clever visual metaphors that Bird takes in providing a wink-and-a-nod to parents in the audience who know what it’s like to see their own pink monster in their child, but with the nature and patience of a provider, it can all work to their benefit.

– As expected, the leading cast continues to be in-sync when it comes to their impeccable audible chemistry with one another. 14 years have passed, but Nelson, Hunter, Sarah Vowell, and Huck Milner all shine and narrate their respective roles to a tee. It’s clear that Hunter’s Elastigirl is certainly the centerpiece for the sequel, and deservingly so. Hunter’s southern drawl and raspy delivery bring to life an indulgence of excitement for her and women everywhere who break out of the confinements that society often puts them in, behind their male counterparts. As for new additions, the work of Catherine Keener as Evelyn Deavor certainly presented a stark contrast to the roles Keener has been saddled with as of late, and Sophia Bush’s Void was someone who I thought deserved a lot more screen time, if only for her energetic free-flowing delivery that bridges the gap of fan becoming superhero.

– Much of the comedy lands too, although nowhere near as accurate as the original classic chapter that at the time was arguably the greatest superhero film of all time. In fact, much of the film’s three act structure feels slightly more directed towards a dramatic narrative that twists and pulls the strings of family well-being to its breaking point. As for that humor though, the inclusion of this new baby character is one that reminds us of great innocence and humility for an experienced family that is, at the very least, still learning.

– Michael Giacchino’s immersive musical score that roars with passionate thunder through two chilling hours. Michael is certainly no stranger to scoring Pixar films, most recently with his versatile level of emotional response from 2015’s Inside Out, but for Incredibles 2 it’s certain that these boisterously epic horns and trumpets are there for one reason; to inspire. Likewise, the music provides the extra emphasis and impact of each crushing blow that our protagonists orchestrate, once again paying homage to those timeless television cereals that crafted a third-dimensional sense of their own, feeling like they allowed us to actually see the music.

– I mentioned earlier that the boundaries and limits of animation are pushed here, and a lot of that has to do with the invasive camera movements that faithfully follow our heroes throughout their winding trysts. These sharp twists and turns bend with such volume in angles that it really reminds you just how far animation as a whole has advanced over the years, reminding us that the sky just isn’t high enough of a limit for a film so full of heightened adrenaline and entertainment.

NEGATIVES

– Far too much predictability. Considering I mapped out who the reveal was going to be for the centerpiece antagonist Screen Slaver. This is the second film this month that I feel has shown too much of its cards, this time incorporating obvious character slights and overly-insightful clues that you would truly have to not be paying attention to get it. Disney or Pixar, however you want to slice it, is going through a major antagonist problem with their films, and Incredibles 2 unfortunately does nothing to silence it, treating the film’s major plot twist with not even enough air to fill a balloon.

– Second act sleep. It’s not that I hated the second act of the movie, it’s just compared to the excitement and action involved with the first and third act, it’s the obvious weakness for the movie, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. This is clearly the moment for character exposition, and I’m Ok with that, but it becomes a problem when you’re only getting one of the Incredibles in action for a majority of the film. If this is the direction we’re heading, and please consider the mostly child audience, then I would be happy with a 10-15 minute trim to keep their attention.

8/10

Upgrade

Directed by Leigh Whannell

Starring – Logan Marshall-Green, Richard Anastassios, Rosco Campbell

The Plot – After his wife is killed during a brutal mugging that also leaves him paralyzed, Grey Trace (Marshall-Green) is approached by a billionaire inventor with an experimental cure that will “upgrade” his body. The cure; an Artificial Intelligence implant called STEM that gives Grey physical abilities beyond anything experienced and the ability to relentlessly claim vengeance against those who murdered his wife and left him for dead.

Rated R for strong violence, grisly imagery, and adult language

POSITIVES

– Falling in love with the overall presentation is easy to do. This film never specifies what year this is, but establishes with it a believable presence not only in its humble technology, but also in the vantage points of city skyline shots that relates this world being not too far from our own. Because of this, ‘Upgrade’ combines the best of both in fantasy and reality that hammer home the imagination time and time again.

– This is Whannell’s first directing effort since 2015’s less-than-stellar sequel ‘Insidious: Chapter 3’, and it’s clear that Leigh has come a long way in finding a signature visual presence that he can mold. The camera work here breathes the kind of creativity necessary to put you in the presence of the protagonist without ridiculing us in a POV circumstance, jerking its way back and forth through the twists and turns of Grey’s interactions, and the attention to detail in story challenges our attention on more than one occasion, to make sure we’re constantly paying attention.

– Jed Palmer’s masterful musical score that establishes a nightmare inside of a daydream. Considering the variety that Palmer establishes with heart-pounding exuberance, I pondered quite often a multitude of composers for the project, but Jed’s emphasis on tone and environmental shifts prove that if you want to do something right, you have to do it on your own. This might be my favorite score so far, in 2018.

– Of the many influences that Whannell pulls from for inspiration, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Blade Runner’, ‘The Terminator’, and especially ‘Robocop’ feel the most prevalent. But homage, not imitation, is the key here. In crafting a film the tributes those classics of yesterday, Leigh puts together a modern day science narrative capable of walking in its own shoes, while conjuring up the poignancy of man’s dependability in technology.

– There’s great restrain from the writer of the original ‘Saw’ movie in where he inserts his violent touch. Because this is a Sci-Fi film first and a horror movie second, the gore is spread out carefully, making its mark when the film needs that impact the most. On top of this, the effects work in makeup and detail to these bloody battles are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Truly gritty stuff for the gorehound in all of us.

– Something that fascinated me about this film is that the single best flow in chemistry was between Grey and STEM, his artificial intelligence working from within. Besides the fact that this depicts just how easy man’s obsession with technology can flourish, it’s also a shining example of Grey’s fading interaction with human beings who are trying to help him. Super smart.

– On the field of performances, Marshall-Green (Visually a poor man’s Tom Hardy) gives us two for the price of one. Aside from his dramatic pull which unravels with subtlety the longer the film goes on, Logan also immerses himself in the sheer physicality that the role demands. All of his movements feel precise with awkward pull, considering he is being controlled by something entirely opposite of what he is, and there’s no shortage of bending that these intense fight sequences require of his body. Harrison Gilbertson’s corporation head Eron is also a shining presence, feeling so foreign because of his time and dedication spent with so much advanced technology.

– Further meaning within the lighting scheme. Even though it’s fairly obvious what these sequences of half blue-half red face coloring are conjuring up, it’s in their illumination of the surrounding set pieces that serves greater value within the beauty hidden in such a grungey and reactive situation that replicates our own real world.

NEGATIVES

– Despite the fact that the screenplay hits more than misses, there are some truly atrocious lines of dialogue that completely take me out of certain scenes. One such line has Grey taking out a gang leader by putting his foot on top of the man’s beaten body and saying “Didn’t anyone tell you? I’m a ninja”. UGHHHHH!!!! My problem isn’t so much inserting humor in tension-filled situations, but rather just how forced that said humor feels when compared to the rest of Grey’s personality and actions.

– Tug-of-War ending. There are two bombshell deliveries associated with the ending. The first one is obvious because of how little the movements of the main cast are blessed with. The second pleased me initially because it was a swerve from what I previously mentioned, but soon soiled when you start to think how little it makes sense. It’s hard to say this without spoiling it, but there’s no real reason why Grey was even necessary in this particular plan. Besides this, it makes even less sense when you consider how many times this true antagonist put themselves at risk just so the plan would come to fruition.

8/10

Deadpool 2

Directed by David Leitch

Starring – Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison

The Plot – Fresh off of his last adventure, Deadpool (Reynolds) forms a team of mutants called the X-Force to protect young mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) from the time-traveling soldier Cable (Brolin).

Rated R for strong violence and adult language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material

POSITIVES

– First thing’s first, the comedy still hits more than misses. This time the main area of interest points to D.C Comics and their muddled efforts, backstory conveniences, and placing the limited production value under the microscope for Deadpool’s dissection. Most importantly, the film never relies on the humor or jokes of the first film, unlike modern comedy sequels, and the pleasure of enjoying a laugh after the somber surrealism of ‘Infinity War’ never feels more needed than now.

– My favorite aspect of this film is that there are measures taken within the relationships and revenge of Wade Wilson to give his character the depth he never received in the first film. It greatly surprised me that there were long spans of time when the film took itself seriously with this gripping change of pace, but it does so in a way that never compromises the consistency of the humor listed above.

– The X-Force union feels necessary and not just a sequel device. Cable feels like the first villain who has ever cracked Wade’s armor of personality that he often uses as his strongest weapon, and the inclusion of some fresh faces not only re-charge Deadpool’s efforts against evil, but also dive a little deeper in solving his trust issues.

– Much improved action sequences. From the upping of the ante in the production budget, to the crisp edits during intense fight choreography, ‘Deadpool 2’ feels like the next logical progression after a blockbuster that restored faith to the R-rated superhero concept. My one light critique in this field is that some of the C.G effects, particularly that of background green-screen, still could use some refinement. It’s funny that the teaser trailer pointed this out with one of Cable’s limbs, but the film did little to settle this joke-turned-reality.

– Enjoyable cast all around that each add an element of range to the foreground. Reynolds still lives and breathes Wade Wilson. With his witty one-liners and sarcastic smothering, he never misses an opportunity to remind you that this is still his passion project, and he’s having the time of his life in the role. Brolin as Cable was surprisingly stirring considering they didn’t give his character a lot of time to make an impact. He invades the film a half hour in, but juggles a steady offering of menace and sorrow that make for one truly terrifying nemesis. Also along the recommendation path are Julian Dennison as mysteriously gifted Russell, and Zazie Beetz as Domino, echoing off some of the best chemistry exchanges with Deadpool throughout.

– Keep an eye open for cameos. On the fictional and non-fictional spectrum, ‘Deadpool 2’ has plenty to offer, giving the casual and dedicated fans of the comic something to enjoy with delight.

– Constantly moving pacing that never translates the nearly two hour investment that you take on. This is as fun a sit as you’re going to get because of the combination of personality and ever-changing scenery that consistently keeps the screenplay moving.

– Once again, appropriate soundtrack musical cues. A-Ha, Peter Gabriel, and of course Air Supply are all here among others, and when they’re combined with some detailed slow-motion capture sequences, they truly bring out the beautiful bizarre that surrounds this larger than life presence.

NEGATIVES

– Is this a Terminator sequel? I say this as bluntly as I can put it; there is nothing original about the plot of ‘Deadpool 2’ A vicious killing machine comes back from the future to kill a boy who is responsible for something devastating in the future. Sound familiar? It did to me after about ten minutes of the film. What’s even worse is the film barely acknowledges this fact, meaning it’s not even there to pay homage.

– There was an end of the second act twist that totally changed the landscape of everything moving forward, and I completely hated it. I feel like this jaded direction aims more to give us more of the interaction between two particular actors and less about the conflict that the film had been building for the previous hour. Because of this, the ending is fine enough, but that switch is such a betrayal that it feels like false advertising in the least satisfying way possible.

EXTRAS

– The credit sequences, before and after the film, are some of the most hypnotic and creative that I have seen during the last decade. I won’t spoil anything for those of you seeing the film, but these sequences will definitely warrant replay value once you pick up your Blu-Ray copy.

8/10

Cobra Kai Season 1

Starring – Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Xolo Mariduena

The Plot – Set thirty years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, the series focuses on Johnny Lawrence (Zabka) reopening the Cobra Kai dojo, which causes his rivalry with Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) to be reignited.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, some minor adult language, and scenes of drug and alcohol abuse by teens.

POSITIVES

– I watched ‘Cobra Kai’ in two sits, totaling nearly five hours of television. This isn’t an easy thing to attain, but screenwriters Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and company easily immerse us back into the San Fernando Valley, picking up over thirty years later by answering every burning question about our favorite characters, both in-and-out, of this show along the way. Binge-worthy television at its finest.

– For one of Youtube’s first real ventures into television, the production quality here offers enough to be appreciative of without it feeling like a Funny or Die sketch. The editing is crisp for the most part, the soundtrack offers a wide range of hair metal favorites, and the bright, obstructing Cobra Kai title screen offers a whimsical surge of 80’s nostalgia that makes it impossible not to feel energetic.

– This is first-and-foremost a character piece between two characters who have taken different roads since that one fateful day. For Johnny, it’s very much a road to redemption from a life of regret, but for Daniel it’s showing the negatives to success that prove too much of a good thing can sour the experience. This and much else illustrates that shade of grey between heroes and villains that prove in the real world the majority is defined somewhere in the middle

– A complete cast ensemble that is in it for the long haul. What I mean by this is some shows will leave a character or two out for an episode, but this talented cast sticks around for all ten episodes, bringing to light two exceptional performances that steal the show. One of course is Zabka who feels like he has been waiting for another opportunity for decades. As Johnny, it’s refreshing that his personality still hasn’t changed, despite that lighter side of humanity just dying to get out. The big story here though, comes from Xolo Mariduena for his unlimited depth as Miguel, Cobra Kai’s most prestigious student. The chemistry between he and Zabka transitions smoothly from student/teacher to a kind of father/son relationship, and Xolo’s timely character arc made for the most intriguing of subplots for me in the entirety of the series.

– Surprisingly impactful fight sequences that frequent without overstaying their welcome. Because this is an action-first series, it would be easy for these moments to intrude on the story, but thankfully the action is well spread and choreographed with such believability that is far beyond the silly Karate Kid story that people expect from this offering.

– In addition to those fight scenes, the dialogue offers the best of modern day sitcom writing to instill a comic prowess that keeps consistent giggles coming. The first thing you will fall in love with in these characters is their dry-witted demeanor, and for the entirety of the ten episodes, ‘Cobra Kai’ is never too grown to ever keep itself from laughing at the true irony and ridiculousness of the situation.

– My favorite aspect of this season without question is how certain character arc’s don’t turn out the way you think they would from obvious telegraphic supplanting. For two characters in particular, this strategy pays off immensely, taking them on character transformations that feel like they come from a galaxy far away (Hint Hint) and remind you how far you’ve come with these people for five measly hours.

– This show has no choice but to come back for a second season, and a lot of that reason is in the two outstanding stingers that happen in episode ten that shake the foundation of this show to dust. It’s clear that the writers have a lot of faith in where this story can expand, saving up their biggest bombshell for the closing moments that leave you yearning for more of the Cobra Kai teachings.

NEGATIVES

– For much of the flashback sequences, we see scenes from the original film. A few times early on didn’t bother me, but the producers feel like they have zero faith in their audience, and choose to use this perk of reminder to the point that I was screaming “I GET IT!!!!”

– There’s almost a bit too much reliance upon the original films, especially the deeper you go into the second half of this season. Beyond what I mentioned above, the very structure of the set-ups are almost completely identical to what happened in the first movie. I view this as completely unnecessary because the show thrives the most when it’s creating its own thing and not catering to cringe-worthy fan service. The characters and plots are entertaining enough, and I’d like to see the second season strike rich with its own independence.

8/10

Tully

Directed by Jason Reitman

Starring – Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston

The Plot – The film is about Marlo (Theron), a mother of three including a newborn, who is gifted a night nanny (Davis) by her brother. Hesitant to the extravagance at first, Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny named Tully.

Rated R for adult language and some sexuality involving nudity

POSITIVES

– The most revealing look into motherhood that film has ever produced. To define this film as candid means that it covers the whole spectrum on the creative front. Beyond what’s going on with Marlo and her own daily routine, Reitman is genius with depicting how other people view and treat her, as well as offering some honest observations between husband and wife that points to a lot of the problems without being too preachy.

– Great performances are often transformative ones, and Theron has this concept quite literally by the nipple. As Marlo, we meet a woman who is not only psychologically bent, but also physically defeated with the effects that three children have had on her body. Theron gained fifty pounds for the role, proving once again that when you sign Charlize into a role, you aren’t getting someone who acts, you’re getting someone who lives and breathes this fragile leader of the household.

– Strong casting all around. In addition to Theron’s award-worthy praise, I also have to give kudos to Davis as the title character, as well as Livingston as Marlo’s ineffective counterpart. We can still adore Livingston’s dry straight man routine, but I found myself getting angrier with his ignorance the longer it went on, in turn feeding into what this poor woman has dealt with for a very long time. As for Davis, her quirky diatribe on positivity felt like a breath of fresh air to combat the smothering surrounding that have plagued our main protagonist. When Theron and Davis are together, the film thrives the most, and that’s because they are simultaneously bouncing off of one another with experience versus experimentation.

– Meaning with montage. Most films that use montages in modern cinema do so without much meaning or context behind them. ‘Tully’ showcases these scenes by depicting the perils of repetition in routine that fill in the gaps wonderfully with a limited run time (89 minutes). With some clever editing to boot, the days feel like they blend together, meaning we (Like Marlo) feel like we’re stuck in this bubble that never progresses. If hell is repetition, we have reached the seventh circle of hell. Cinematic birth control.

– Going into this film and knowing Reitman as a writer, I expected a strong combination of dramatic pull and unabashed humor that go hand-in-hand, but I didn’t expect how well these things converge with one another in this particular setting. Parenting in general screams comedy, but most films are afraid to get politically incorrect with how agonizing this endless and thankless job can get, and it’s in that honesty where I appreciated the undercurrent in emotional registry that Reitman commanded in forcing us to pay attention. This isn’t as dominant of a comedy as his other films ‘Juno’ and ‘Young Adult’. Instead, ‘Tully’ proves just how far Reitman has grown, proving that you can move someone by laughter or pain and have it reach the same effect.

– The handheld camera work here is beautifully meaningful. To me, it feels like we have stumbled upon the home movies of a family because nothing is glamourized or glorified here, and in that documentarian design we can move confidently throughout these characters without ever feeling constricted to choreographed storyboards that keeps the focus on one particular section of frame.

– From a tonal perspective, I loved that there was such unpredictability with where this story could truly be heading. I credit a great trailer a lot for this reason, as the story of a nanny who basically takes over the nightly routines could’ve easily turned into a horror or suspense film during the third act. Where it did go was satisfying aplenty, but I appreciate a film more that pokes its audience without taking away the interesting material boiling just beneath the surface.

– Diablo Cody’s sharp poke of the pen that articulates the growth of one of Hollywood’s best writers. When Diablo wrote ‘Juno’, she was childless, and now with ‘Tully’ she has two children of her own, and it’s in that change where we learn that as much as things change, they remain the same. Cody still has her finger on the very pulse of the subject matter that she crafts, and her newest sets a precedent that is every bit as visceral as it is provocative.

NEGATIVES

– There are certain subplots introduced in the first and second acts that are never followed through with. I won’t spoil much, but a college friend of Marlo’s is introduced early, only to never be seen again, as well as some hints at a polyamorous side to marriage that is never further realized.

– I feel like the third act swing in conflict felt so unnecessary and so typical to screenplays just to please a studio. This film moved smoothly when the focus stayed on peeling back the many layers of Marlo’s bruised psyche, and this out-of-left-field bombshell subdues more than it sizzles in keeping the consistency of this impactful narrative.

8/10

Isle of Dogs

Directed By Wes Anderson

Starring – Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Koyu Rankin

The Plot – In this stop-motion-animated film, an outbreak of canine flu in Japan leads all dogs to be quarantined on an island. A boy (Rankin) journeys there to rescue his dog Spots (Liev Schreiber), and gets help from a pack of misfit canines who have also been exiled. His quest inspires a group of dog lovers to expose a government conspiracy.

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent imagery

THE POSITIVES

– It’s clear even in the slightest sense that Wes Anderson has a fondness for man’s best friend. If you ignore the spelling of the movie, it reads instead as I LOVE DOGS, and the script overall has more than a few unique quirks in presenting things from a canine point of view. One such is the language barrier for the film that sees the dogs speaking in English, while the human characters speak in their native tongue without translation. This is to no doubt focus entirely on the animal aspect first and see the human antagonists in the same way that the dogs might see them.

– Perhaps the most noticeable difference between this and Anderson’s animated predecessor is that ‘Isle of Dogs’ speaks with a surprisingly mature approach to the themes and concepts it endures. Beyond the PG-13 rating that the film has for itself, the subject matters of violence, death, and politics push this even further than your typical children’s movie, crafting a kind of adult bedtime story to feast on.

– Breathtaking stop-motion animation. Between this and ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, Anderson has carved out for himself quite the artistic touch, breathing life into characters and locations that highlight even the slightest detail. It’s abundantly clear that the lighting and scenery feels greatly improved here, and the use of abundance in photographic lens offers so much for a one-off shot that never appears again.

– The movement of the camera feels well paced and incredibly choreographed, mapping out the most of every sequence with a comically familiar nod to Anderson’s one-of-a-kind touch. Considering most of this film is a faithful homage to Japanese classics, the marriage between this and Anderson’s signature style of framing and quick-pans blesses us with endless energy to combat the often monotonous line reads.

– Perfection in music capturing the proper moods and environments. First of all, the soundtrack vibrates that of the bleak and despair that surrounds the island with these betrayed dogs. On top of that, Alexandre Desplat continues the momentum of his Oscar winning year in ‘The Shape of Water’ with a score that is equally ambitious for different reasons entirely. Desplat’s masterful beat of the drum adds the proper kind of energy necessary in combating the prior moods mentioned, but does so in a way that never feels overbearing or compromising to the consistency of the picture.

– Much of the film’s comic muscle dealt with the small touches that I greatly enjoyed as being a fan of 80’s animation cliches. One such instance is that of the dog tussles that are surrounded by what feels like an endless array of smoke, in which we only see the occasional paw or contact. Also great was the on-screen text that sarcastically translates what we already knew with certain foods or emotional responses.

– One thing that worried me about the big name cast voicing these characters was their familiarity in tones that would make it difficult to immerse themselves in their respective characters, and while that is the case as a whole, I think those actors also do wonders for the diversity in character traits that prove no two dogs are exactly the same. Anderson invites the larger-than-life personalities to seep through, and fans of each of them will indulge at this hitters row of A-listers sharing the stage in vocal capacity.

– It is refreshing to see a dystopian film in which a society seems to be progressing. Ignore the obvious plot device of a flu tearing through the city, and you have a beautiful, heavily-populated setting that succeeds in all of the opposite directions that YA novels have soiled.

THE NEGATIVES

– While I was never bored by the film, I found myself lacking the proper engagement in the characters to worry about their well being. One reason for this I believe is that the film drops the ball midway through on juggling unpredictability that compromises the danger in their situation. Had the film went through on the surprising and out of nowhere scene that felt replicated from one in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, then I probably would’ve believed that any character was expendable. I find this a huge disappointment because I myself am as big a dog lover as anyone.

– The plot to the film is a bit elementary when you really think about it. You’re taking what is virtually an episode of Lassie, giving it 95 minutes of screen time, and adding overly ambitious artistic merit in hoping it will hide such single-dimensional penning. It feels like you’ve seen this kind of narrative direction before, and the moot examples of surprises all but confirms our suspicions.

8/10

Andre the Giant

Directed by Jason Hehir

Starring – Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Vince Mcmahon

The Plot – A look at the life and career of professional wrestler AndrĂ© Roussimoff, who gained notoriety in the 1980s as Andre the Giant.

This documentary is currently not rated

THE POSITIVES

– Hehir’s unshakeable focus captures the drama and sadness of a lifestyle that seems electric from afar, offering a perspective that is every bit as educational as it is honest.

– Insightful narration by Andre’s closest colleagues. It’s rare especially in the wrestling business that a man is unanimously respected and universally praised, but it serves as a testament to the infectious touch that Andre had in such a short amount of time that he influenced.

– Soundly paced. At 85 consistent minutes, the film never lags or strays from the live fast style that Andre excelled at. Even the tales of his drinking legend are enough to fill a blank canvas.

– My favorite part was the never before seen material at home and outside of the ring that feels like the only honest look at Roussimoff. While the character was hard to remove from the person, these brief instances illustrate an outline of knowledge that Andre was so much more than booze and bodyslams.

– There’s an overall sense of tragedy by era that makes us wonder what if Andre was living today and able to easily seek the kind of medical advances that could reverse his judgmental health. Where I view this as a positive is that the kind of things that Andre suffered from can now be prevented for youths who would otherwise grow up to be on a limited clock just like him.

– Strong revolving camera techniques that alter back and forth with crisp execution during the testimonials. Beyond this, the inclusion and walking effects in and out of the places that Andre frequented, added a unique perspective that almost transports us back in time.

– This is a documentary with tremendous crossover appeal between wrestling and non-wrestling fans. In Andre, the uninformed see a protagonist and a man plagued by the gift that made him special, and that overall concept lays thick on the sense of empathy that people will feel almost immediately upon meeting him.

– It doesn’t shy away from those moments that are difficult to watch. The third act is full of the diminishing spirit of Andre’s lasting memory, but Hehir’s duty to his audience to stay with him all the way to the tearful goodbye is one that you have to admire for the dedication in not painting a fairytale. Bravo sir.

– HBO Films have proven their vast improvements in production over the years, and the collusion with WWE Films is a blessed marriage that fruitfully articulates the rise. From the over twenty years of wrestling footage, to the epic-thumping musical score by Rudy Chung, ‘Andre the Giant’ feels like it combines the rich textures of a Hollywood film with the unlimited access of a documentary, and it is a marriage worthy of a man responsible for leaving such an immense shadow not only on wrestling, but also the world.

THE NEGATIVES

– There’s a period of about fifteen minutes when the story drifts a bit too far from Andre for my taste. I get that the reason is to paint the boom in the ever-changing world of wrestling, but this distance feels like an unnecessary distraction that simply doesn’t belong.

– Without a doubt, the meat of Andre’s story is certainly the wrestling, but I was hoping for more of a direction of Andre’s personal life to fill some time. Much of Andre’s childhood is glossed over in a matter of sentences, and this was disappointing considering a lot of his troubles with school that I read in his autobiography is something that accurately prepares him for the lifetime of polarization that he will face.

8/10

A Quiet Place

Directed By John Krasinski

Starring – John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe

The Plot – In this modern horror thriller, a family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threaten their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you.

Rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody imagery

THE POSITIVES

– Considering Krasinski is pulling triple duty here (Writer, Director, Star), it goes without saying that he digs his grip deep on the pulse of what makes horror films work. Classics like ‘The Thing’ and ‘Psycho’ work because they focus on the characters long before the terror surrounding them. This movie often feels like a coming of age story for two kids that just so happens to take place in a post apocalyptic setting, leaving the ambiance of the antagonists firmly in hand, without soiling their mysticism.

– The performances are equally impressive without needing much dialogue. I don’t get to brag about child actors often, but Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe command the screen, playing a brother and sister duo that harvest such resentment towards their tortured pasts. If this wasn’t enough, Blunt’s on-screen chemistry with real life husband Krasinski transcends any kind of story setting, and illustrates some of that surreal bond between them that gives their on-screen relationship believability.

– Much of the sound mixing and design is impeccable. For Simmonds, she is deaf in real life, as well as the film, so what the film does is highlight her point of view by dimming the volume any time we get a point-of-view shot from her perspective. Beyond this, the film juggles tension in sound so wonderfully that it gives meaning to each of the terrific jump scares that it designs.

– I have mostly good and a few bad things to say about Krasinski’s writing here, but for the positives I will say that he carefully places the focus of each scene on a singular object and watches the madness implode around that object. It’s pretty cool because we as an audience know that thing is there and we know what’s going to happen, we just don’t know how, and it’s in the how where such tension is built continuously until the big impact happens. Perfection in patience, sir.

– As for the C.G antagonists, I loved their mix of Carnage and Predator in design scheme that felt like it brought an entirely new hybrid to 21st century monsters. Much of the effects work for this artificial property does present itself as visually stimulating for a low budget horror flick, and their movements were given plenty of weight to make it constantly breed danger anytime they show up.

– There’s tons of respect that I have for any movie that forces audiences in a theater to shut up and just focus. Because the film’s audio is mostly dimmed for a majority of the scenes, it transfixes us in this kind of muted embrace to immerse ourselves within this world on-screen, making it easy to get lost in the story and characters that outline the rules.

– The combination of Krasinski’s unnerving camera angles combined with composer Marco Beltrami’s stimulating musical score, carves out the most suspense in every conflict. Beltrami never feels intrusive or betraying of the very mood set up in the film, and his score seems to remain guarded until our characters finally decide to make a move.

– Most of this film is surprisingly well paced considering its plot is quite basic. Most of it can be credited to the credible performances, but I feel that the credit in keeping the audience invested relies upon Krasinski’s desire to show us what is boiling in his left hand, while reaching for something else to get ready with the right. It proves that he never stops thinking, and his sequencing of these attacks are something of a worthy prize during the scenes that push us to the edge with ensuing tension.

THE NEGATIVES

– There were a few too many conveniences especially during the final ten minutes of the movie that soured my investment into the well-being of these characters. There are times when their decisions are incredibly smart for a film in this genre, yet others when they fall under the very same stupidities that have made us laugh for decades. Once you know the trick in diluting these monsters, it becomes fairly easy how this family can get rid of them. But they keep them around because the plot requires them to, and the longer the film goes on, the more this becomes obvious.

– As I mentioned before, Krasinski nearly fires on every cylinder in his screenplay, but one such scene gave me the impression that he lost faith in his talented cast’s ability to visual storytelling. It happens during the middle of the movie at a waterfall, and gave me a sour taste with how it reviewed everything up to that point in a cliff notes sort of manner. One character blames themselves for something bad that happened a year prior, and it’s fairly obvious that this person lives with that grief, but the movie wants to keep checking to make sure we know this VIA a father and son talk that serves as nothing but a review for people who haven’t been paying attention up to this point.

8/10

Love, Simon

Directed by Greg Berlanti

Starring – Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner

The Plot – A young coming-of-age teenage boy, Simon Spier (Robinson), goes through a different kind of Romeo and Juliet story. Simon has a love connection with a boy, Blue, by email, but the only problem is that Simon has no idea who he’s talking to. Simon must discover who that boy is–who Blue is. Along the way, he tried to find himself as well.

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual references, adult language and teen partying

THE POSITIVES

– This really feels like the first original look at the teenage side of gay sexuality, and in doing so, much of the material refreshingly depicts the silly and drastically misunderstood perspective that many straight people still harvest in not understanding the similarities between the gay and straight lifestyles. This film’s message is to showcase that nothing changes with people that come out, they are just more enlightened to go after what they want and deserve, and this stance gives the film an entertaining, as well as educational look at things.

– I’ve heard much comparison to John Hughes teenage films of the 80’s, but I only see that in terms of the time-traveling musical score by composer Rob Simonsen. For my money, I hear a lot of ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ in his synthesizing tones, and it presents a classy outline to the film’s narrative moments that most teenage films are strongly lacking.

– The performances fire on every cylinder. Robinson as the title character really comes into his own, playing Simon as this boy on the cusp on manhood who is dealing with that unshakeable voice in his head that sounds like it is getting louder. In addition to Robinson, Garner and Duhamel should also be cherished as two parents who really feel honest in their reactions to the news that could shake their family if they allow it to.

– You hear often in reviews how a particular film will take you on a roller-coaster of emotional response, but ‘Love, Simon’ is legit in this stance because it is always trying to surprise the reader in the mature stances it takes. Because of the awkwardness, I was constantly laughing. Because of the smothering in Simon’s own personal life, I felt great empathy and sadness for him. And in the immaturity of some characters, I felt great anger in their inability to just let people be happy for themselves.

– Beneath the surface, there’s a strong and compelling mystery at play for Simon’s mystery e-mailer, and I found the finishing result to be very satisfying in its big reveal. Along the way, there’s plenty of varying faces to feed into Simon’s possibilities for who it can be, but the answer I feel is one that will surprise more than not.

– There’s a lot of personality to the style and sequencing of the film. Berlanti as a visual storyteller combines the use of technology in garnering the feedback of this small town, but he knows this isn’t enough. The inclusion of Simon’s narration is one that Berlanti uses accordingly in getting us close to the protagonist in ways that a post online simply won’t, and I greatly appreciated the combination of both here.

– Beyond this being just about Simon, this script takes enough time to get to know the valuable pieces of family and friends in Simon’s life so to better understand the price tag in risk that perplexes him to keep quiet. His interactions with them feel every bit as genuine as they do vital to the mounting pressure that surrounds him.

– This is not just an entertaining film, it’s one that I feel is immensely important to many youths discovering and finding themselves on-screen. Far too often, this voice goes silent in big screen releases, and it’s a feel good sentiment that because of a film as special as this one, more studios will feel comfortable in expanding their approach to stories that would otherwise never receive the time.

THE NEGATIVES

– There’s one character who plays a bully of sorts that I needed a re-write or just edited out of the film completely. This character blackmails Simon into keeping his secret, but the problem is that the film takes valued screen time to get to know and feel for his own situation with a girl, making his villainous stance feel illegitimate. I think you could’ve incorporated much of his material into the two other jocks in the school to make it feel more synthetic.

– Some of the dialogue does suffer from that quip in deciding to be entertaining first and authentic second. There were many times in the film where I felt thankful for the depth of A-list actors like Duhamel and Garner being enough to override some of this obvious banter that no parent in this predicament would ever sound like.

8/10