Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Fat Jesus Year End Review

Short intro, I wanted to do reviews on a ton of these throughout the year, but got a little busy with life. So here’s my thoughts on 21 films, probably with typos somewhere, I hadn’t more than Tweeted about if I did so far this year. There's probably spoilers, so here's your warning. If you’re interested in my Top Films of 2019 or Top Films of the Decade, head over to those links! Thanks for reading and hope you’re having a good holiday season and have a great start to the new year! 

Fighting With My Family
Wrestling has been a part of my life since I started watching around Wrestlemania 19. It’s been both a blessing and a curse watching pro wrestling over the years. There’s been highs like watching CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in the WWE in the first half of the 2010s, watching All Elite wrestling start up and getting into New Japan Pro Wrestling over the past half decade. There’s also been lows, like pretty much everything WWE has done, aside from NXT, over the past almost four years. “Fighting With My Family” follows the story of real life WWE star Paige, played by Florence Pugh, and how she broke into the company. This was in the works, with help from The Rock, I presume after she retired, and I'm sure it’s embellished at parts. Pugh was great as Paige and had great screen presence. The family dynamic of the Knight’s are the best part of the film, because Lena Headey and Nick Frost are great as Paige’s parents Julia and Patrick. Her brother Zak, played by Jack Lowden was good as well. My problems come with the mostly glossed over time in NXT, where she exploded in popularity and it felt rushed by the end of the film. If you’re not a wrestling fan, this movie probably won’t work as well, but if you’re a fan of wrestling, there’s a lot to like.

Detective Pikachu
As someone about to turn 30 and born in 1990, I remember when Pokemania swept the US originally as a kiddo. I had Red Version, my dad and I collected the trading cards, I watched the anime after school, and even all these years later, I can’t let Pokemon go as I’m breeding competitive Pokemon in Sword and Shield. “Detective Pikachu” is the first live action Pokemon film and after seeing it twice, it kind-of loses its luster after your first viewing. The voice acting by Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu was fine, but the rest of the movie seems like a Pokemon nostalgia bomb rather than a coherent story. Not to mention the acting was pretty sub par even when Reynolds’ Pikachu is there. This is loosely based off a Nintendo 3DS game of the same name, and it doesn’t really feel like it has a narrative like the game. The CGI and more realistic Pokemon coming to life on the big screen were great to see, but ultimately, if you’re not a fan of Pokemon this doesn’t offer much to you.

Aladdin / The Lion King 
It doesn’t really matter which we start with, but I’ll concede that The Lion King was better than Aladdin. “Aladdin” was doomed because of Robin Williams original performance, it took the original to the next level. He was allowed to ad lib and Disney would animate things he did after. Will Smith followed a weak, severely changed script to the tee, that was made worse with poorly arranged songs, and no offense to Mr. Smith and crew, poorly sung sung songs as well. The two leads acting was very bad and the new song added was pretty awful too. The CGI was also bad as well. In “The Lion King” it wasn’t changed like Aladdin was. It was pretty much a CGI shot for shot of the original. The CGI looked good, the voice acting was alright all around, the music was pretty decent, but the changes made to some of the songs and the lack of emotions by the “realistic” CGI made everything feel hollow. Also the new song added to this felt forced and I wasn’t a fan of it either. As someone who grew up with the original animated Lion King and Aladdin, I went into these films with an open mind and came out of them shaking my head and/or wondering why these were made. I mean I know why, money, but there’s no way Disney is actually out of ideas right? My summary of both of these just end up being, “Who are these made for?” Because people like me who grew up with the originals know they’re better and the kids seeing these are probably going to like them less as well, because they’re lesser quality.

Booksmart / Good Boys
“Booksmart” wanted to be this generation's “Superbad.” “Good Boys” ended up being the middle school version of “Superbad.” These films are pretty much the carbon copy of raunchy coming of age films, one set of kids heading for high-school and one set of teens heading for college. Both have probably far too smart and quippy parents and both get into a situation that has likely never happened to the majority of kids in school currently. Though I think they both did a good job of being somewhat realistic with the plot devices. My problem with “Booksmart” is, I just didn’t relate to it like I did with “Superbad” growing up or even to an extent “Good Boys” here. The acting was fine in both films, though nothing stands out overall. I found myself laughing more with “Good Boys” than I did with “Booksmart” though. “Booksmart” seemed like it was trying to be more serious, which a film branded as raunchy comedy doesn’t need to be. Where “Good Boys ” was always absurd, and while the jokes didn’t always land, there were plenty and quite a lot will probably land for you. If you liked “Superbad” growing up, chances are you’ll like one of these. Did you follow all that?

The Beach Bum
I almost don’t want to review “The Beach Bum” because it’s just an experience you need to just go in and watch. A soon to be pattern in this post. It’s a haphazard story, led by a brilliant performance from Matthew McConaughey as Moondog. A man who is the embodiment of “go with the flow,” though it doesn’t always flow well. My only real complaint is the length of the film, because I felt that some scenes went on longer than needed and the aforementioned all over the place story. The style is undeniable, if you liked “Spring Breakers” (which I actually didn’t), you’ll love this film and the acting from McConaughey is enough to keep you invested in whatever of the story you can decipher.

Spider-Man: Far From Home
If “Booksmart” and “Good Boys” were comedic coming of age films, then “Spider-Man Far From Home” is the 2019 comic book equivalent.Not quite as good as “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and coming off of the “Avengers: End Game” finale, “Far From Home” is a fun little movie that adds just enough to the Spider-Man Marvel Cinematic Universe lore to keep the films swinging. The story follows Peter Parker and the crew from “Homecoming” and they go abroad in Europe with their schoolmates. The story is decent enough, the CGI was fine and the acting from the main cast is good like in the first film. The performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio was awesome. It’s one of the best villain performances in the MCU, and took the movie up a notch, even though the end result of his plot was kind of bland. If you like Spider-Man or the MCU, this will wet your appetite.

Toy Story 4
I went into “Toy Story 4” not expecting much and I came out of it pleasantly surprised. It’s not the best Toy Story film, it’s probably the worst of the series. But it’s still very watchable. The animation, which straight up just looks like they were just filming a movie without CGI at times, is amazing. The characters were all the same, though most of the old guard really felt like they were on the back burner for most of the film. The voice acting was good as usual as well and the humor was fun. I just don’t really have anything I feel overly good or bad about this film.

Midsommar is a beautifully shot film that’s the equivalent of what the film ends up being about. A bunch of modern day hippies in Europe, tripping on hippie juice, while WWE superstar Paige becomes their qween. This film is gorgeous to look at with the landscapes of the small town they’re in. It’s also brutal, because there’s no holding back the way people die or how they end up. The acting is alright, the people in the commune are sufficiently creepy, while the students abroad range from wholly annoying all the way to “I don’t hate this character.” I did like Florence Pugh this. Some of this could be the writing too, as I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I did Ari Aster other feature “Hereditary.” This is the perfect film to grab some friends and just experience and joke around.

The Art of Self-Defense
“The Art of Self Defense” is a dark comedy that follows a man who was recently mugged and put in the hospital. After he gets out he decided to learn self defense. If you’re into films like “Napoleon Dynamite” or “Fight Club” then this mishmash of styles will be right up your alley. Jesse Esienberg and Alessandro Nivola are the perfect compliment to each other in this film. They’re the perfect amount of awkward and teacher/student dynamic. This film is a smaller feeling film than almost anything you'll see this year, aside from “The Lighthouse.” The humor is as dry as it comes, the story isn't just “random so it’s funny.” Not to mention Imogen Poots is a cutie.

The most polarizing film of the year until “Star War: The Rise of Skywalker” released last week was Todd Philip’s take on the origin of the iconic Batman villain “Joker.” The media blitz tried to convince people it was a movie that would rile up the masses. It didn’t. People tried to pigeonhole it into only a group of people “getting it.” That didn’t work either because it became the highest grossing R-Rated film of all time, surpassing “Deadpool” with a relatively decent critical reception. “Joker” is a tense film, that without yet another Joaquin Phoenix masterful performance would likely be worse than it ended up being. There are other characters, but they’re all plot devices. Not bad by any stretch, but no one really outstanding. The story was fine, a younger man, beaten down by life and finally having enough. The message was ham-fisted, but it worked in the context of Joker’s character being over the top. The cinematography was also surprisingly pleasant throughout the film. The copious wide shots of the dreary city and the now infamous staircase just looked good. This is a tense film from start to finish with a fantastic performance that’s made this film worth your time.

Once Upon a Hollywood
There were a lot of films that came out this year that left me with that feeling of watching a movie, not just watching a blitz of colors and sounds. “Once Upon a Hollywood” is my personal favorite of the year. Quentin Tarantino crafted an alternate reality, but one that isn’t so out of the realm of possibility of occurring. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie played the best lead trio this year. After the film released, I noticed people asking why Robbie was a lead, because of her least amount of screen time of the three. While DiCaprio and Pitt more or less have full story arcs, Robbie plays as the letting you breathe in between scenes. These breathers were lovely. The story was solid, mostly coming to terms with fading out what you used to be. The acting, especially by DiCaprio and Pitt, was outstanding. The music, especially in the driving scenes, was impeccable. Finally, the cinematography and set design was amazing, like near the end when all the stores were turning on their neon lights and signs for the night. And yes, there is a scene of copious violence like in all Tarantino films.

If you had asked me what I thought one of the worst movies of the year was gonna be based off of trailers I saw while at the movies or watching wrestling or football, I would’ve told you “The Hustler” before watching it. A Jennifer Lopez led film about a bunch of dancers sticking it to the man by taking their money in illicit ways. And while the plot is thin, it’s a movie that is well acted, especially by Lopez and her co-star Constance Wu. There is a lot of little things like framing, settings for scenes (though it gets repetitive at times) and the backstory that goes into the characters that make this a pretty interesting watch.

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
I could go into how this film is rushed, and it is. I could go into how there’s about 400 different expanded universe books that could be made of the plots ran through in this film. I could go into how they had to retcon a metric ton of  “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to try to appease the fans that hated “The Last Jedi.” Only to make the people who liked “The Last Jedi” mad at this one. I could go into somehow Rey just having the ability to Jesus heal people out of nowhere, because why not? I could go into how they reduced Fin to a character with a ton of potential in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to someone who said multiple times in this they had something to tell Rey, only to never do it. I could go into the fact that Rey being a Palpatine, while in theory cool, but instead coming out of nowhere, comes off as a desperate plea that Disney’s Star Wars wasn’t out of ideas. I could be going into many more things like that, like the waste of the actually great chemistry between Daisy Ridley, John Boyeyga and Oscar Issac, or the fact they they introduced a ton of new characters during the last film of a trilogy. I know they had to include Carrie Fisher, but the de-aged Carrie Fisher from the training scene looked just as bad as from “Rogue One.” I loved that Harrsion Ford looked like he rolled out of bed for his scene with Driver (which was nice scene.) BUT despite all that, I had fun watching the movie. It felt like a Star Wars film to me. Far, far from perfect, but they did enough things right, like superb acting from Adam Driver throughout the trilogy, continuing to here. Fin and Poe weren’t as useless like in TLJ. Rey is Rey at this point, and her stuff with Kylo was the best stuff in the film. The action was fine, sometimes, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the busy space battle at the end. But for the most part with all the rush and confusion of this film, I enjoyed it much, much more than I thought I would.

The Nightingale
If “Midsommar” was brutal in a more drug induced fever-dream way, “The Nightingale” is brutal in a more realistic “Jesus, this is gonna be hard to watch for people” way. “The Nightingale” follows the story of Clare Carroll who has her life ripped from her and feels she must exact revenge on the people who took it from her. This film is set in the 1820s in England during the Black War and spares nothing from the viewer. The way Calre, played wonderfully by Aisling Franciosi, and her travel mate played by Baykali Ganambarr are treated and spoken to. The harsh reality of traveling through a country you’re not wanted in. To even just surviving out in the wilderness with only the thought of revenge on your mind. This film is a pretty unflinching look at the lengths people can and would go to when they, quite honestly, have nothing left to lose and the hope that can blossom amidst all of it. If you’re a fan of “The Witch” from a few years ago, you’ll like this.

The Irishman
Netflix put out actual quality films this year. Somehow The Office machine got Martin Scorsese to stop trashing superhero films long enough to create this mobster epic and release it on their streaming service. This film truly “an epic” because of the supremely crafted story that spanned over three hours long. The story of a World War II vet, Frank Shareen, turned mafia, turned Jimmy Hoffa’s right hand man is wonderfully acted by Robert Di Nero, Al Pachino and legend himself, Joe Pesci. The story that unfolds is a mobster drama, at times a family drama, with bits of humor and brevity thrown in as well. A complete film in almost every way, but for some reason I feel that it didn’t click, and I think it mostly has to do with how the film was presented. These guys no doubt, gave some of the finest performances of the year, but it’s hard to ignore that in the time frame these events were happening. These guys were younger in this story that spanned decades and decades, and needed to look the part. But for a lot of the film, when say, Di Nero’s character was supposed to be in his 40s or so, Di Nero never really looked younger than being in his 60s even with the de-aging. It took me out of the film at times. Not to mention there’s parts in the early going, like the bakery fight, that were laughably bad. This film is very very good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not without it faults, and if you’re into mobster films, you’ll love this.

Jojo Rabbit
The film from the man that brought us “Thor Ragnarok” comes “Jojo Rabbit,” a movie that tells the story of a boy in Nazi Germany who has Adolf Hitler as his imaginary friend and a mother who thinks war is senseless is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. This film one that hooks you from the cold open of Jojo conversing with Adolf. The film is irreverent, but tasteful. I never thought it was making light of the terrible things the Nazis did. Instead it poked fun at how they thought about things and how they went about things in laugh out loud ways. Scarlett Johansson, Thomasin McKenzie, Sam Rockwall and Taika Waititi (the director playing Hitler) were all sublime. They were anchored by the performance of Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo, who is funny, charming and above all earnest in how he begins to learn how the world is actually working vs the romanticized version he’s been taught. This film isn’t going to be for everyone, but the ones that keep an open mind and give this a try will be treated to a delightful story and growing up and being able to see that what you think you know, may not be what reality is.

Knives Out
I wish Rain Johnson had turned “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” into a murder mystery like this, I would’ve liked it about a thousand times more. “Knives Out” works because you know, or at least think you know, what happens throughout the entirety of the film. You change your thought process as new things are presented, that lets you try and guess where everything is heading. The performance from Ana de Armas was amazing. Between her and Daniel Craig, reminding us that he’s pretty good at what he does outside of 007, the film never skips a beat. Chris Evans post Captain America role is great and the rest of the family at the center of this mystery are absolutely awful people you want to see lose. Mothers, daughters, cousins and uncles are all just terrible to everyone, which makes de Armas’ character such a pleasant one in this film. Piecing together this irreverent version of Clue was a blast, and the witty writing (sometimes kind of off putting I’ll admit) make this the perfect film if you just want to veg out and have a good time. Side note, Lakeith Stanfield is becoming one of my favorite Hollywood people.

It’s hard to write anything about this film, because it just needs to be watched. This Korean film by filmmaker Bong Joon-ho was unlike anything I watched this year and it will keep you fully invested until the credits roll. To give a brief summary, a down on their luck family, who will do anything to survive and make ends meet, stumble across something that could get them out of the basement apartment they live in. The acting, from literally everyone is a treat, because everyone was a different role to play. Each person in the main family, especially  Song Kang-ho and Choi Woo-shik, the father and son, play both sides of their role superbly. While on the other side of things, Lee Sun-kyun as Park Dong-ik and Cho Yeo-jeong, husband and wife, make a delightful on-screen pairing as well. The story is engaging until the very end and is a roller-coaster of humor, drama and character development. Everything about this film just works and it blew me away when I first watched it.

Marriage Story
You want a story about emotions. You want a film with acting. You want a film that would make you rethink falling in love, having kids, managing a work/life schedule and doing anything remotely successful in your life while married, then “Marriage Story” is right up your alley. Superbly acted by its two leads Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, this film follows the story of Kylo Ren and Black Widow as they begin the process of divorce and all of the bad that eventually comes with it. Their friendships fracture, the relationship between Charlie and his son deteriorates, just when they think everything will be applicable, both lawyer up at the behest of lawyers, money problems galore begin on Charlie’s side, while Nicole has to start coming to terms that she might not be as good a mother as she could be while chasing the dream of acting. This film is not about two people falling out of love, because the note being read at the beginning and end of the film prove that. This film is about two people, who want to move on from each other the right way, get roped into doing it the messy way and have to deal with the reality and emotions that come with it. Oh yeah, Netflix of all places put this out. I’m amazed too.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Avengers: Endgame [A Fat Jesus Work in Progress]

My critic side would've given this a 4. My inner nerd that's seen all but two of the MCU films in theaters would've given it a 5. So I pleased both sides. And if you're a fan of the MCU you'll be probably be pleased with this film too. Also, look at this slick poster by artist @kazoomori up there.

I don't know if I'm going to review it fully until I see it again, there's just so much to process. But what I will say is...CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS WIELDING MJOLNIR LIKE A EXECUTING A FINAL SMASH AND ANT-MAN PUNCHED A LEVIATHAN INTO OBLIVION AND WE'RE GETTING ASGARDIANS OF THE GALAXY!


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Captain Marvel [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

I will not be mentioning any of the social politics and whatnot that surrounding the marketing and lead up to the release of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 21st film, Captain Marvel. I don’t think it should hold any weight on how the film turned out. Though I will note it did rile everyone up and all sides were probably in some way in the wrong.

All the films surrounding The Avengers films lately, aside from Spider-Man Homecoming, have been utterly average at best. Black Panther, Ant-Man and the Wasp and now Captain Marvel. While all of these are perfectly okay films and worth a watch, they’re not ones that you really need to give a second look, because they just don’t and won’t hold up. Even the mediocre Dr. Strange had some of the most visually impressive CGI in the MCU behind it. Lackluster narratives, copious mediocre to bad CGI, so-so acting and just a general sense of forgettability, despite everyone’s insistence that these films are amazing and just as good as other entries. I went into Captain Marvel hoping it was another overblown situation, like with Black Panther but the other way around. But to my surprise, all the people calling it a mediocre entry to the MCU, weren’t just disgruntled people, but people like me who just watched a Phase One MCU film in 2019.

Captain Marvel is set in 1995 as Starforce member Vers / Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is suffering from recurring nightmares about a woman who she has no recollection of. She is still on Kree Empire’s capital planet and goes to meet with her commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law.) After sparring and being told she needs to control her emotions and her powers, her Starforce group sets off on a mission and are ambushed. Vers gets captured and they probe her mind, allowing her to remember a bunch of places and people from earth. She breaks free, fights her way out, and ends up on an escape pod that crash lands on earth. The next morning SHIELD Agents Nick Fury and Phil Coulson (Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg) are questioning her when Skrull (the people Kree are warring with) attack them and a chase ensues. What follows is the account of Nick Fury and Vers as they journey across the country to try and figure out who Vers is and why she’s here.

We’re going to get the good out of the way because while I think there’s a lot of mediocre in this film, there’s some merit and the film isn’t a complete failure. I quite liked the “buddy cop” narrative between Fury and Vers. It’s the time where Brie Larson shines the most and whenever Samuel L. Jackson is on-screen, it feels like the film gets a shot in the arm. They have legitimate chemistry and these buddy scenes are some of the best in the film. You can lump in Fury’s interactions with Goose in the second half of the film to this as well. I thought the “twist” was done decently well too. It’s not one that you don’t see coming, but it’s effective in the constraints of the narrative. I also thought the de-aging of Coulson and Fury were done well, or at least better than whatever Star Wars has been doing. Not to mention the Stan Lee opening as well as him reading a Mallrats script on the train were great touches in the live action film since his passing.

My problems begin with the story and plot. The first part is vastly removed from the second part and the climax is like throwing a rubber bouncy ball in a racquetball room. Like with Bird Box last year, I dislike films where you’re jumping around the narrative or having the viewer fight with the main character’s amnesia or what have you. I get they wanted the big twist in the middle, but this movie could’ve started out with the twist and it wouldn’t have changed the narrative much at all. Vers still has amnesia and the viewer isn’t left in the dark. Look at me, armchair directing here, like I know everything. Conversely, jumping from Space Force raid, to buddy cop film, to Dragon Ball Z arc finale is jarring. Most Marvel movies, even ridiculous over-the-top ones like Guardians of the Galaxy have a structure that works within the narrative presented. Captain Marvel does not do this and it feels disjointed. Like three different parts from three different scripts were pieced together. It’s not outright bad, but it’s also not the best MCU origins film either, it’s just lackluster.

This takes us to the characters and acting, because as much as the Jackson + Larson combo works, Larson on her own really doesn’t do it for me in this film. She reminded me of Chris Hemsworth in Thor. Mega powerful and can kick ass, but in the constraints of the film he’s watered down and only shows glimpses of freedom of character. This is how I feel about Brie Larson, as she has some decent solo moments, but is very stiff and forgettable. I also don’t like how she just has powers, never really struggles with her powers, then in the end poof she’s Superman tier. I get the “control your emotions padawan,” but man that’s such a boring way to let us see her growing with her superpower. I don’t really watch trailers before films nowadays since I want to try and experience films fresh, but if I had known Jude Law was in this, I would’ve been worried. Because hands down he’s probably one of the worst MCU villains. I cannot name a single moment where he was effective as a character.  Vers friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) is just kind of there and I only remember the part where she said she was going to put her foot in the ass of some dude. And for some reason at the end knew how to fly and alien spaceship. I guess, because she was in the Air Force it all works the same. She’s just another fine in the moment, but forgettable character. Ben Mendelsohn as Talos was pretty alright as well, just a solid enough character. The rest of the cast like Dijmon Honsou as Korath and Annett Benning as Mar-Vell were equally as “they're on the screen at times.” All these people are okay in the film, but thinking back I’m only remembering Larson, Jackson and Goose parts.

I didn’t like a lot of the humor as well. Even though the dynamic between Larson and Jackson worked quite well, there’s a lot of forced humor that didn’t go over well. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of chuckle-worthy moments and decent gags, but a lot of it fell flat for me. The Goose stuff was probably the most effective use of humor in the film. Sam Jackson and a CGI cat shouldn’t work but it does. The score and music also didn’t really work for me either. I keep thinking about Guardians of the Galaxy and how it had a perfectly crafted soundtrack that worked with each character and scene. This did not have that good of an OST, like with the humor, the songs felt forced and its score was lackluster overall. I think films like this try to recreate the magic of Guardians of the Galaxy and it never works out. I’m comparing this to a lot of other MCU films, but it really does feel like it tried to take elements from all over the place and it just did not work. I can live with so-so acting and a barebones story and narrative, but if I must listen to bad music along side that, it really takes me out of it.

This finally brings us to the CGI. As I mentioned above, I quite liked the de-aging done in the film and it didn’t detract from either character for me. But the rest of the film was pretty…shaky. Alright that pun didn’t need to be made, but man there is a ton of shaky cam in this one. The action itself, well I couldn’t name really any memorable action aside from the old lady getting punched and the climax, which is my one big gripe about the film. If I’m going to see a big budget MCU action film, give me some memorable, non-shaky cam, non-let’s poop out all our CGI budget on the climax, action. I don’t care about the airplane stuff, the hand to hand combat stuff wasn’t well choreographed. I swear to God the mission they went on to start the film was shot and CGI'd with a sticky note telling them, “no lighting allowed, make them squint.” The climax wasn’t even done all that well, but it was better than everything else in the film. I will say at least the CGI was better in this than in Black Panther, I think.

Despite me lamenting Captain Marvel is lackluster for about four paragraphs there, it’s still nowhere near the worst superhero movie we’ve had come out in recent years. For all its lackluster, it’s still a fairly enjoyable watch. For a two-hour film that I had this many quandaries with, I really only thought the middle slogged on. Though I wouldn’t re-watch this anytime soon and I’m really hoping it isn’t just “Captain Marvel does all the work in Avengers: Endgame,” you could do much worse with your time. If not for Samuel L Jackson though, I’m not sure this would even be watchable.


Saturday, February 23, 2019

The 91st Annual Academy Awards [Fat Jesus' Thoughts]

2018 was a solid year for movies. But, man I have almost no enthusiasm for who the academy has chosen to be the "top eight films of the year." I don't get why people praise the academy sometimes, when it's clear they're never for the people's choices 99% of the time. Could I be wrong about some of my opinions? No, never. But there's likely is a sizeable chunk of people out there that do like a lot of the films nominated. I’m not one of them that can't admit a lot of them are subpar. For the first time in a long time I wasn’t jazzed about going through the nominations. I only gave one of the best picture nods above a 7/10. I liked a ton of performances this year much more than the lackluster films they were in. No offense to Black Panther, but should it have really been nominated for the same award that Moonlight, Birdman or No Country for Old Men won? BlacKkKlansman was inferior to Sorry to Bother You and I guarantee it’s purely because of Spike Lee for some reason. Somehow a film about Freddy Mercury didn’t have the best singing lead actor in it. And we’re still trying to find the next The Wolf of Wall Street and newsflash, it’ll never happen. According to Brie Larson, I shouldn't be allowed to comment or review films cause I'm a white male, but I'm going to do it anyway. That'll show her. So, strap in for another year of the stars patting themselves on the back, but this year it’s with a slate of films that had better performances than things to say.

Best Picture

Black Panther
I’ve never publicly written (aside from some Tweets) about Black Panther. I’m a huge fan of the MCU, to no one’s surprise if you’ve been reading my blog, but Marvel’s 2018 offers aside from Avengers: Infinity War were wholly sub-par and lacking. Coming off Thor 3, which was awesome, Black Panther had a bare bones narrative with one of the better Marvel villains we will never see again. There were some kind of interesting Wakanda politics situations too. The acting was underwhelming and the CGI was some of the worst in an MCU film. It also didn’t really expand Black Panther's character, Wakanda or anyone else's lore that you had to go out and see the film. I felt like I knew all I needed to know through earlier films as well as Infinity War. This is a puzzling choice to say the least for a best picture nomination considering it’s literally not nominated for any other meaningful award (no offense to Best Costume and the like.)

I was on board for BlacKkKlansman for most of the film. It’s Spike Lee so I knew it was going to be overly politically charged, but those last few minutes right before the credits really irk me. There was a lot of other ham-fisted political moments too, but they weren’t just full on egregious. Regardless it was a well crafted enough story, with solid humor that kept you engaged until the end. My problem is the whole “based on a true story” thing, so you know Spike embellished the hell out of this. John David Washington and Adam Driver were great in their roles and pulled off the buddy cop dynamic well. But, as much as I enjoyed it, I would’ve much rather had Sorry to Bother You in this spot. I think it was, overall, a better made film with a unique storytelling, a better message everyone can get behind, one of a kind style and great acting.

Bohemian Rhapsody
I love Queen, they have a deep running and eclectic array of songs and history (both in music and film.) The Shaun of the Dead bar scene with “Don’t Stop Me Now” playing while they beat down a zombie to the song is still amazing. My direct problem with Bohemian Rhapsody is that it’s everything but Freddy Mercury’s iconic style. Rami Malek was fine, as was the rest of the cast. But this is a film that, while entertaining and you can tap your foot to, doesn’t do anything your average biopic would, aside from possibly pushing books (or Greatest Hits albums in this case.) We follow our [insert main character] as he goes from nobody to getting a taste of fame or glory, finding love and then we hit the big points of their life until their untimely death all while getting some cool music or montages in there. Queen’s music is legendary, Freddy Mercury was one of a kind, but Bohemian Rhapsody is anything but.

The Favourite
If this was just another period piece, I likely would’ve not cared anywhere near as much. But from the first 10-20 minutes, you’re shown this isn’t just another historically accurate period piece (of course maybe it is, I’m not the most knowledgeable.) The Favourite is a dark comedy embellished in all of the best ways. First of all the comedy and humor is very well done and it’s sprinkled in at time to keep the average dolt like myself engaged. Second, the performances by Oliva Coleman (Queen Anne), Emma Stone (Baroness Masham) and Rachel Weisz (Duchess of Marlborough) were all in top from. Abigail Masham and Sarah Churchill are both trying to court the favorites of Queen Anne and it turns into a love triangle of one-upsmanship that goes from a lighthearted affair to much darker places as the temptation of power creeps into the fold. This might be my favorite Emma Stone performance, Rachel Weisz is amazing as well, while Olivia Coleman as the queen is perfect. If I had any complaints it would the length and the fact there’s a lot of scenes that are long-winded.

Green Book
Green Book is a lighthearted buddy travel comedy that splashed in the racial tensions of the 1960s and never really commits to what it wants to be as a film. The story and presentation are fine and it’s worth a watch. Ali and Mortensen are a great pairing and it has a feel-good storybook ending. The problem is along the way, there’s a ton of “real” stuff dealing with racial inequality that doesn’t feel like it fits in 100% with the film. This is why I say it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It does a decent enough job of trying to blend happy-go-lucky narrative with the more serious racial problems present back in the 1960s. I just wish they had stuck one way or another in our second “based on a true story.” But at least this one seemed much more faithful than BlacKkKlansman.

Roma is a lighthearted…just kidding. Roma is a drama that tells the story of a housekeeper of middle-class family living in Mexico City. Apparently, this is partially related to the director’s, Alfonso Cuaron, life growing up. We see basically the every day lives of Cleo (said housekeeper) and the family she lives with over the course of two years in the early 1970s. Let me tell you what, the first half of this movie was not for me in the slightest. I have no connection or interest in Mexico in the 1970s, it’s just something I don’t really care about deeply. The character building over the first half of the film was fine, and the cinematography was great, but I thought it was utterly dull. The second half of the film for me was a lot better and I feel like trying to emotionally connect with Cleo and the rest of the family was infinitely easier to do. Cleo was the best part of this film and without her influence on the film, it would be dull and completely forgettable.

A Star Is Born
Against all odds, one of the Best Picture nominations I wanted to see the least, turned out to be my favorite of the nods. I went into A Star Is Born not even knowing it was based on another film. I thought it was going to be just another movie about a singer getting her shot at stardom, and it partially still is. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper have amazing on-screen chemistry. The story is nothing new and doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s not trying to either. That’s what puts it a step above the rest, it knew what it wanted to be. It’s an emotional roller coaster (he said it) of highs and lows between the characters, telling a complete and satisfying story with well-made and sung music.

Ever since The Wolf of Wall Street came out Adam McKay (with Christian Bale) have been scouring the world of finance and politics, trying to recreate the magic. Unfortunately, they haven’t succeeded, but The Big Short and now Vice are very watchable films. The story of Dick Cheney is probably one that no one asked for and despite the sublime performances from Amy Adams and Bale, probably isn’t one you’re going to go revisit with your kids one day. But it is still fairly entertaining, Sam Rockwell does his thing as George Bush and like with most of these other best picture nods it suffers from two things. It has length problems as well shoving the current political climate into a film that has nothing to do with it.

Who I Want to Win: A Star is Born
Who Will Win: Roma

Best Actor

This category is probably most defined by Christian Bale for Vice and Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born. In classic Christian Bale fashion, he went all out for the role of Dick Cheney and completely immersed himself in the role If you didn’t know it was Christian Bale, you might not be able to tell until they cut back to his earlier years. On the other had Bradley Cooper has been playing the safe but highly effective character for years now. There’s nothing overly special about Jackson Maine. He’s a famous country music star, he has some health and drug problems and runs into his soulmate and they become a power couple. There’s nothing revolutionary about his character, but he’s still one of the best acted characters of the year. Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate I have no way of judging since I didn’t see the film and I find it unfair to judge him based off his role in Aquaman either. Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody was pretty alright, but the safe narrative and overall formulaic biopic style never let him have a chance to actually be Freddy Mercury. So, he’ll probably win. While Viggo Mortensen in Green Book was another great character, one we got to see a positive transformation in from start to finish, but like the movie, the tone of his character never really knew what it wanted to be during the duration.

Who I Want to Win: Christian Bale
Who Will Win: Rami Malek

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio for Roma is the one everybody has fallen in love with and for good reason. Even as someone who wasn’t enamored with Roma, her role as Cleo was the driving force for the film and the one character out of these you can relate to the most. Olivia Coleman for The Favourite was another astounding performance as the Queen. Not only was the Queen jugging the fate of her nation, her health seemed to always be at risk, her emotions were constantly being torn by Abigail and Sarah, also mention she had like a million rabbits to take care of. Just an absurd number of things pour into a convincing performance. Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born is in the same boat as Bradley Cooper for me. She isn’t a groundbreaking character by any means. She’s a woman with talent that hadn’t yet been discovered thrust into superstardom with her famous musician boyfriend. Gaga plays the role with conviction and emotion and has the real-life musical chops to pull of the singing. The last two left are, Glenn Close in The Wife and Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Gonna be honest, I didn’t watch either of these purely because I didn’t want to.

Who I Want to Win: Lady Gaga/Olivia Coleman
Who Will Win: Yalitza Aparicio

Best Supporting Actor

I liked Mahershala Ali’s Green Book performance a tad bit more than Viggo’s purely because he showed more emotion and vulnerability throughout the film. That doesn’t save the problems I have that I’ve already talked about twice with the film. Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman was another strong performance. While he’s not the greatest actor in the world, he brought charm, sensibility and seriousness to the majority of the runtime and, with John David Washington (why is he not nominated, he gave a better performance than Driver), keep you engaged. Sam Elliott plays Bradley Cooper’s older brother in A Star Is Born. While it’s not a role that ever dominates screen time, it’s an emotional role that’s the driving force behind a lot of the decisions and actions that Jackson makes in the film. If you know Sam Elliott, it’s a Sam Elliott-esque role. Sam Rockwell played George W. Bush in Vice and much like Elliott, it’s a role that never dominates screen time, but makes an impact thanks to the importance to the narrative. Plus, you can never go wrong with Sam Rockwell. Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a performance I have zero ability to comment on.

Who I Want to Win: Mahershala Ali, I guess
Who Will Win: Adam Driver

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams for Vice would be the front runner almost any other year. She was the perfect compliment to Christian Bale. She even had her own scenes and moments that stood out to past Bale being a powerhouse. She gave campaign speeches, got Cheney out of the dirt when they were younger, was strong-willed and wasn’t afraid to show it and most of all she iss a loving mother. Adams pulled it off with aplomb. But then you have both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz for The Favourite. Both for different reasons, both (like Amy Adams) better than all the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. Emma Stone starts off as her likable. Humorous and charming self only to get drunk with power and deliver a performance I’ve we’ve really only seen once out of her (in Birdman.) On the other hand, we have Rachel Weisz. I can’t say I’ve personally ever seen her in a memorable role and here we are. Starting off as the no-nonsense boss of the women working in the castle, she truly does have the Queen’s best interests hidden beneath her seemingly cold demeanor. And her chess match with Emma Stone was superb to watch unfold. Marina de Tavira for Roma was the one character nominated here that I just didn’t care for at all. There was some emotion finally near the end, but it felt like a “just a mom” role to me. Regina King was nominated for If Beale Street Could Talk but I can’t speak on the performance because I never got around to watching it.

Who I Want to Win: Amy Adams/Emma Stone/Rachel Weisz
Who Will Win: Regina King

Animated Feature Film

The Incredibles 2 was bit of a letdown for me. I absolutely, like most, adore the first film and was expecting good things from the follow up, but it was just lacking something. The action was fine, the family was just as charming and it’s worth a watch. There was just something that didn’t click with me with sequel. Isle of Dogs was a charming little stop motion film by Wes Anderson that tells the tale of a boy looking for his lost dog in Japan. The only problem is that they have outlawed dogs to a trash island, the dogs have formed pacts, the mayor will never lift the ban on dogs and it’s up to a group of dogs to reverse everyone’s fortunes. Truly one of the more unique animated films of the year. Mirai is a charming anime film from Japan and the first non-Ghibli film to be nominated for an Oscar. It follows the story of Kun, his father and mother who have recently had a baby girl named Mirai. Kun is a toddler who is having his whole world changed with the addition of the baby and copes with the changes by retreated into his mind and trying to learn to love his whole family again. Ralph Breaks the Internet this is much of the same as for Incredibles 2 for me. Well worth a watch, good humor, visuals and a solid story, but it’s just missing something. The scene with all the Disney Princesses was pretty standout though I will admit. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse not only is it the best animated film of the year, I think it’s the best movie of the year period. I’ve done a full review of the film already, but even if you’re not a fan of comic books or superheroes, the story, style, action, humor, animation and the list goes on and on. You owe it to yourself to give this a watch if you haven’t already.

Who I Want to Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Who Will Win: One of the Disney Boys


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What I Played in 2018 [Fat Jesus Video Game Thoughts]

I’ve played a lot of new video games for the first time this year. From 2018 releases like Celeste and Super Smash Bros Ultimate, to older titles such as Mega Man for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance. I’ve streamed my adventures listed below on Twitch to boot. The only games I feel I’ve missed out on are God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 (both of which I would have played, had I still had my PS4.) Also, I don’t feel I’ve missed out on Spider-Man for the PS4 since I watched my friend play through it. I’ve played hacks, ports and even a 3DO game, and while I haven’t played a ton, I feel that these 26 games were a full year of myself jumping into digital adventures. I hope you all enjoy my thoughts on what I’ve played in 2018! (After my top six, I’m going to only being giving brief thoughts.)

Celeste (PC) - 10/10
Celeste is already up there as one of my favorite games of all time and is up there with Super Meat Boy and Donkey Kong Country 2 as my favorite 2D platformer of all time. It’s not just a jumpy jump game, it has an emotional nature of the story, beautiful art, precise gameplay, tight controls and astounding soundtrack. You can pick up this game a play through it in a couple of hours, or you can spend countless hours collecting Strawberries and doing the B and C-Sides of the worlds. All of this adds up to one of the most complete games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in my life.

Super Mario Odyssey (NSW) - 9/10
I finally got my hands on a Nintendo Switch in October, and oh boy was I stoked to get my hands-on Super Mario Odyssey. As a huge fan of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine growing up, Odyssey falls more in line with those to games than it does with the Galaxy titles. The game is packed with plenty of collectables (Power Moons, purple coins and outfits), a wide array of completely unique worlds and an awesome soundtrack to boot. Even if you’re just finishing the game and not collecting all the Power Moons and purple coins like I did, there’s an abundance to do.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NSW) - 9/10
I’ve already put over 30 hours in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and I haven’t even touched the online yet. I played a healthy amount of my time has, so far, been finishing World of Light and collecting spirits. I’ve also done a few of the Classic Mode runs to hit my nostalgia. Both modes are incredibly varied and highly creative (if a bit repetitive.) I put quite a few hours into Smash 4 between my Wii U and 3DS, but it never really captured my attention like Ultimate has thus far. The unbelievable number of fighters (with six more to come), what feels like every stage ever, an incredible array of original, remixed and reintroduced tracks and gameplay that feels more refined and faster than the previous entry.

Mega Man (NES) - 9/10
I need to get to the rest of the NES Mega Man games because this was a blast to go through for the first time since I was a kid. I’m still not convinced I beat this as a kid either. This game is tough, but the gameplay is still very fair. Each stage is challenging, and you feel a sense of accomplishment finishing a stage and the game. Not to mention this game has some of the best music from the NES era.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS) – 8/10
Ever since I played Danganronpa, I’ve been looking to get into more visual novels, and the first one I played since finishing Danganronpa V3 was Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The game play is a bit dated, as is some of the dialogue, but this was a joy to play through. Each case had its own distinct feel and story. The overall story was great, the characters are memorable, the music is banging and the gameplay (both collecting evidence and in the courtroom) will leave anyone satisfied.

Hollow Knight (NSW, 70% Done) - 8/10
I’d been waiting to play Hollow Knight since it came out but never had the opportunity until now. I’ve never been huge into Metroidvania’s, but playing the game next on my list really spurred me to getting Hollow Knight as soon as I got my Switch. With great gameplay (both platforming and power-ups), awesome stage and background design, a huge map, challenging enemies and bosses, this game so far (I’d say I’m about 70% done at the moment) hits in all the right places.

Metroid Fusion (GBA) - 8/10
The afore mentioned Metroid Fusion clocks in just outside of my top five. Great gameplay, awesome design, engaging story and good mechanics, power ups and movements.

Pokémon Crystal Clear (GBC, Open-World Hack) - 7/10
If you’ve ever played Pokémon over the years, you’ve been clamoring for an open-world adventure, where you can start off and go anywhere. Pokémon Crystal Clear gives you an open world, scaling gym leaders, an abundance of starters to choose from, following Pokémon, customizable music and a litany of other customizable options.

Kirby Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA) - 7/10
I’m not a huge fan of Kirby games, I would say that these GBA Kirby games were the last exceptional ones. Nightmare in Dream Land is a remake of Kirby’s Adventure and it makes everything much nicer to look at, listen to and most of all, play.

Kirby Super Star (SNES) - 7/10
I only put this below Nightmare in Dreamland because of focus. I enjoyed traversing a map and going from world to world more than going to a main menu to go to the different portions of the game. Though I will concede, that Kirby Super Star still has the best gameplay of all Kirby games.

Crash Bandicoot Trilogy (PS1) - 7/10
I never had a PlayStation growing up, so I had no nostalgia for these next two series. I liked Crash Bandicoot slightly more than Spyro, but as far as platformers go, you can do way worse, even if you’re playing the originals. Side note, playing Crash 1 blind is absolutely brutal.

Spyro the Dragon Trilogy (PS1) - 7/10
Like above, you can apply everything I said about Crash Bandicoot to Spyro the Dragon as well. It’s a decent time and there’s many other games you could go to from that era that don’t have the same sense of fun behind them.

Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! (NSW)– 6/10
As someone who has played every main series Pokémon game, this is far from the worst, but I’m not giving it an A+ either. The removal of random encounters was nice, and it was cool going back to Kanto on my Switch in HD. But, the game is short, made far too easy and packed with Pokémon Go gimmicks and has a post-game that simply not worth doing after a few hours.

Detective Pikachu (3DS) - 6/10
I played Detective Pikachu after Phoenix Wright and I was hoping for Ace Attorney x Danganronpa x Pokémon. I kind of got that. This is a short game, with okay mechanics, a decent story and characters and a vibrant world that just doesn’t quite click on all cylinders.

Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon (3DS) - 6/10
Luigi’s Mansion on the GameCube benefitted from its brevity. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a game that plays well and has a good story, but I felt like I was doing too much of the same stuff over and over and over in each different mansion.

Pokémon Penumbra Moon (3DS, Difficulty Hack) - 6/10
If you want a little more challenge in your Pokémon games a difficulty hack is the way to go. I felt sense of accomplishment when I beat Hau and took my place atop the Alola League that I can’t say I felt after playing the base game.

Pokémon Sweet Version (GBA, Full Rom Hack) - 6/10
This is a full hack, with all new “Sweet” inspired Pokémon, pixel art, with an all new type chart and story. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to learn the new types, it seems like the Pokémon aren’t placed with any reason and the story is just okay.

Cave Story+ (PC) - 6/10
I wanted to like Cave Story+ a lot more than I did. The platforming and power ups were fun and there were challenging parts too. But I just wasn’t as enamored by the art and story as much as a lot of other people.

Mom Hid My Game (3DS) - 6/10
If you’ve got an hour, you too can save your game console from your mother who keeps hiding it from you in ridiculous ways. Take the time to play this gem that’s sure to get a laugh out of you.

Comix Zone (GEN) - 4/10
The idea and presentation of Comix Zone is great. Unfortunately, this is a game that is difficult and punishes you as well. On top of that the controls aren’t the greatest and it’s mired in the arcade style of “you game over, you start all the way over.”

Hatoful Boyfriend (PC) - 4/10
All visual novels aren’t created equal and this falls into the “tries too hard” portion for me. In Hatoful Boyfriend you’re turned into a bird and go to a bird high school. You do anything a Japanese kid would do, but you’re a bird. Yeah.

Plumbers Don't Wear Ties (PC) - 2/10
In this 90s misfire turned internet meme, you’re trying to help a man get together with a woman he meets in a parking lot. The writing, humor, story, acting in this 3DO title is all just awful.