Welp, the summer movie season has officially taken flight (wink).
The day after I saw “Top Gun: Maverick,” a friend sent a text asking for my review. Thoughts were still swirling in my brain, and I hadn’t yet written down (or typed up) anything. So, I simply replied, “In three words or less: Totally worth seeing.”
And that seems to be the consensus among those who’ve already bought a ticket for this follow-up to the high-flying 1986 flick, with its macho bad-assery, extreme cheese factor, and scenes so steamy that every character was literally drenched in sweat. All. The. Time.
Good to see they got the A/C working for the new installment, which was postponed and delayed and held up again – for more than two years – before finally hitting theaters this past Memorial Day weekend.
But that wait? Worth every minute.
Tom Cruise is back, more than three decades after he bolted across the sky and into everyone’s heart as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the Navy aviator with little regard for caution – or authority. He still looks the same, though slightly less boyish and cocky. But only slightly.
And as this “Top Gun” sequel kicks off – in almost identical fashion as its forerunner, with jets taking off from an at-sea airbase, with thumbs up signals flashing across the flight deck and Kenny Loggins crooning about that familiar “Danger Zone” in the background – Maverick is once again pushing buttons. And his limits.
Surprised? Me either.
After stern looks and tongue lashings from his higher ups, Maverick gets word from Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm, meow): “You’ve been called back to Top Gun.”
But they don’t want him to fly. Oh, no.
“Everyone here is the best there is,” Lt. Trace/“Phoenix” (Monica Barbaro) states, matter-of-factly. “Who the hell are they gonna get to teach us?”
In this high-stakes mission with its narrow training timeline and a success rate that requires “two miracles,” who else can teach this crew?
How about the guy who “can’t get a promotion, won’t retire, and despite his best efforts, refuses to die.”
For anyone who hasn’t seen the original (which may have only been me, until a year ago. I KNOW!), it’s not entirely necessary to see “Top Gun” to follow the action and story here. Through quick explainers and wistful flashbacks, “Maverick” fills in the blanks where necessary.
But, having seen the first flick will give a better understanding of the motivation, the journey, and the legacy of some of these characters. And those quiet moments of tight close-ups and determined stares? They’ll ooze the sentimentality needed to carry the weight of their significance.
“Maverick” dazzles while taking its audience inside the cockpit for every ride, with shaky camera effects – for real G-force effect; high-speed twists, turns, and spins that put us right behind the yoke; and those intense quick cuts, warning signals, and flashing instrument panels that’ll send your anxiety through the canopy.
This is a fun flick, plain and simple. Packed with action and nostalgia, “Maverick” hits every mark without wasting a moment or a look – or our time. The sarcasm and humor sprinkled throughout keeps the mood playful while being restrained enough for the audience to take the movie seriously.
The connection to the first film remains solid and profound, even 30-plus years later.
When the essence of something so beloved is nurtured and developed and held to an even higher standard than its predecessor, the audience wins. Based on the blatant corniness of some of the scenes and lines in “Top Gun,” this sequel really has no business being good.
But it’s not. “Top Gun: Maverick” is an exceptional, real-deal summer blockbuster.
And it’s, in three words or less, totally worth seeing.
“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a little while.” – Elton John
This year, like the past several, was supposed to be filled with an abundance of live music. My concert calendar was already starting to fill up as 2020 got underway.
A friend and I had tickets to see Martin Zellar’s NEIL! Tribute on Valentine’s Day and were all set to rock out to Hall & Oates from the nosebleed section at Xcel Energy Center in July. I bought A TICKET – singular – to go solo to another Zellar show in March. My husband and I had seats for Barenaked Ladies, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Gin Blossoms in June. I was looking forward to another Gear Daddies show at First Avenue in early May… .
But at that February 14 show at the Parkway Theater, I remember hearing people starting to talk about a virus that was wreaking havoc halfway around the globe.
And then the entire world turned on its head.
In the blink of an eye, everything changed. Those concert plans were gone, taking with them all hope for any musical enjoyment this year.
But by far the biggest and most significant question mark on my live music schedule was the Martin Zellar house concert we had booked earlier in the year. The date was three days after the now-canceled Hall & Oates show, and I was absolutely crushed by the thought that this event, too, would suffer the same fate.
A BIG DAMN DEAL
Why was this house concert such a big deal? If you know me, you already know.
I’ve been a fan since college and have made a habit of catching at least half a dozen Zellar and Gear Daddies shows every year.
Excessive? No way. Necessary?
You know it.
As a songwriter, Zellar is altogether honest. And purposeful. And brilliant. His expressive lyrics craft each tune into its own melodic powerhouse that can bring out a smile or deliver the most intense gut punch.
And his gentle-calm, low-growl voice provides the most profound delivery of this harmonic poetry. Listening to Zellar’s music is medicinal; it’s therapeutic. His tunes help right the ship when things seem painfully off course.
Y’know, like this dumpster fire year.
He’s also one of the most gracious and likable people I’ve ever met.
So, yeah. For me? This was a big deal. This was a big damn deal.
We needed to adjust the date for the show – and again later, because Mother Nature is a big ’ol bitch sometimes – and attendance would have to be extremely limited (thanks a lot, COVID), but I received confirmation that the house concert was a go.
I was overjoyed to FINALLY have something to be excited about, since excitement wasn’t really a thing anymore.
I prepared and planned, and I mapped out the performance area and spots for guests, allowing plenty of space for social distance seating. We set up tents and stocked the coolers and purchased way too many snacks. We bought extra masks and hand sanitizer and caution tape – because who even knows what’s real anymore?
And I vacuumed the patio.
I VACUUMED. The PATIO.
And when the day came and Martin pulled into the driveway, I was stoked. So. Unbelievably. Stoked.
He met the dogs almost immediately, because dogs. I mean, they had no idea who he was but were just thrilled to see and sniff another person.
We showed Martin where he’d be setting up and gave him a tour of the house. He met the cats, talked trains with my husband, and commented on my collection of Daniel Craig-era 007 posters lining the basement hallway.
Which led to an awesome back and forth about Daniel Craig being the best James Bond. Ever.
Side note: My dad likes Martin “even more now” after learning of his Double-O preference.
With his sound system ready to go – thanks to a little help from our pooch, Chet the Roadie – and the undersized but enthusiastic crowd trickling in, we were set to safely get this Martin Zellar: Social Distance Tour 2020 House Concert Series™ show started.
I almost wrote up a set list – as a joke, only because I know he never uses them.
STRUMMIN’ AND HUMMIN’
Martin opened this 2-set, backyard show with Gear Daddies staple “Statue of Jesus” and then kicked up the tempo with “Goodbye Marie.” After encouraging requests he cranked out “Ten Year Coin,” which I would have asked for anyway, because I love that tune.
And then he belted out my favorite, “Blown Kisses.”
He sang “Everything We Had” and the ultra-heavy “Took the Poison,” both of which I dig like crazy but hadn’t heard performed live in far too long. And we were even treated to some of his newer tunes: “Rose of Jericho” and, by request, “A Thousand Little Things.”
To his credit, Martin honored our other requests, too, as we shouted them out throughout the evening.
He tenderly delivered “So Far Away” and “Brown-Eyed Boy” back-to-back, and I’ll never grow tired of hearing about the influence behind their lyrics. He strummed and hummed a little Neil Diamond “Kentucky Woman.” And though he said he couldn’t remember all the words he nevertheless crooned that achingly beautiful Yazoo tune “Only You.”
And it was perfect.
He paused mid-song only twice and just long enough to swat a mosquito from his arm (I swear we sprayed for those bastards!), or visually do a quick key check before putting his harmonica to work.
As the evening rolled on and the patio lights took over when the sun’s glow surrendered, we sang along to the timeless classics “She’s Happy” and “Wear Your Crown.” We felt that “Low Road” crescendo and joined Martin in hitting those elevated pitches in “Cut Me Off.”
And “Don’t Forget Me” is a wistful song anyway. But on this night, especially, its lyrics hit me like a semi.
“Cause on certain nights when the crowd’s just right/The magic can return/I took so much for granted then; I took so much for granted…”
Those words practically reached into my chest and squeezed from it every possible emotion.
Maybe it was because I hadn’t been to a show in forever. Or because this was such a big deal to me. Or because, despite everything else this year had taken away, my favorite musician was on our patio, singing some of my favorite songs – and, on this night, nothing else had to matter.
Or it was ALL of that.
NO HIGH FIVES
Between songs Martin made us smile and laugh, the way he does, with those whip-smart observations and his endearing, self-deprecating humor. And with those narratives he weaves with such detail that you both envision AND feel each experience.
We heard about his family, about his home, and about Randy. Hooray!
Martin shared some insight on how “Stupid Boy” wasn’t supposed to be the quick-paced toe-tapper we all know and love, and… wait, WHAT?!?!
And while we neither heard nor requested “Zamboni,” we did listen as he recalled the most amazing story involving that song, an opportunity, an ultimatum – and the process by which one measures the value of his soul.
If ever there was a high-five moment, THIS was it.
But there were no high fives. There were no handshakes, and there were no hugs. We couldn’t do any of that. Not right now. Not tonight.
This night was about refueling our spirits with solid, soul-stirring tunes. About being respectful and keeping everyone safe.
About being grateful to this talented guy for sharing with us his music, his energy, and his heart – which, for one mid-August night, inspired the return of that magic we so desperately needed to feel.
And it was about, for the first time in a long, LONG time, being excited for something that allowed us to feel happy.
This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has selected nine titles to duke it out for its Best Picture prize. I once again saw all of them and have some ideas on which title(s) should take home Oscar gold.
Let’s just get to it, shall we? The nominees, in the order in which I saw them, are:
What’s the big deal? This haunting tale of Arthur Fleck’s downward spiral into madness is highlighted by that captivating performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Director Todd Phillips’ masterful camerawork helps define this character’s mindset, and the artistic look of “Joker” breaths life into his desolation.
Will it win? No. Superhero – and supervillain – movies have only recently gained recognition as legitimate contenders. But at this point AMPAS would sooner shit a solid gold statuette than award Best Picture to a “comic book movie.”
FORD V FERRARI
What’s the big deal? American automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale, SNUB) work to build a machine for the Ford Motor Co. that’s capable of taking on Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance event. “Ford v Ferrari” goes beyond the sport to explore the relationships of its characters and the science behind the designs.
Will it win? Probably not. But Bale should have been recognized for his endearing, playful, and entertaining performance.
ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD
What’s the big deal? A 1950s TV Western star (Leonardo DiCaprio, up for Best Actor) and his stunt double (Supporting Actor nominee Brad Pitt) struggle to find big screen success in the late-1960s Hollywood. This fable sprinkles touches of Tinseltown lore among its otherwise outrageous, amusing, and moderately violent narrative. But this is quintessential Quentin, so what do you expect?
Will it win? Maybe. Hollywood LOVES movies about itself, so the title alone gives “Once Upon a Time…” a leg up. Pitt is fantastic and almost surely will take home the Supporting Actor award.
What’s the big deal? Director Sam Mendes tells this stunning and engaging story the only way that makes sense – as one continuous take. Breathtaking and brilliant and told essentially in real time, this one-shot wonder literally follows two young British soldiers on a dangerous mission to deliver a message to the front lines during World War I. And, oh by the way, it’s fucking amazing.
Will it win? Yes. If you’ve seen the film, you know it, too. I don’t need to explain anything.
What’s the big deal? This intuitive, honest, and uncomfortable examination of a crumbling marriage will hit you in the feels. Can we just for a second pause and reflect on that visceral shouting match that takes place in Charlie’s living room? My god! Scarlett Johansson, who finally seems comfortable onscreen, and Adam Driver more than deserve their acting nominations.
Will it win? While “Marriage Story” has a strong emotional resonance, I don’t think that’s enough to secure this year’s title. I would, though, love to see Driver steal that Best Actor win from Phoenix.
What’s the big deal? Absurd humor and whimsical visuals balance weighty issues in this World War II tale that’s saturated with subtle and obvious satire. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis, who is outstanding and should have been nominated for Best Actor; I don’t care if he’s only 12) discovers a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his home, causing Jojo to evaluate his loyalty to Hitler’s army. Take notice of the astute correlation between the film’s cheeky vibe and Jojo’s journey.
Will it win? Doubtful. But this is my second favorite film of the nine, so if a dark horse hopeful exists….
What’s the big deal? (Another) Martin Scorsese mobster flick, starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. I know. Oh, and it’s five days long. I’m exaggerating, but barely.
Will it win? You know, I kind of hope not. I thought “The Irishman” was fine, but I wasn’t blown away (heh). I feel like this nomination stems mainly from the marquee names pinned to the film’s credits.
What’s the big deal? Written and thoughtfully directed by Greta Gerwig (SNUB), this stunning adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel chronicles the lives of four sisters, each very different and uniquely determined.
Will it win? I don’t think so, but wouldn’t that be a satisfying “up your ass” for Gerwig? And how about the inspired and powerful performances from Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh? Ronan could give Renée Zellweger a run for her Best Actress money. Fingers crossed!
What’s the big deal? What a bizarre mix of genres. Bong Joon Ho intentionally and sensibly intertwines these classifications, and the result is altogether fascinating. I dare you to look away. Filled with layers of symbolism, this flick will occupy your mind long after the credits roll (read this again). Yeah, we’re talking next-level symbolism here.
Will it win? It might, but I think this could be the “Roma” saga revisited. “Parasite” is also nominated for International Feature Film and most likely will take home that prize, leaving the night’s overall Best Picture title up for grabs – and awarded to “1917.” Wink.
And there you have it. But let us not forget: The Academy doesn’t care what I think.
Watch the 92nd Academy Awards on February 9 to see if your top picks take home a top prize.
You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel.
The new Sam Mendes epic war drama “1917” is a Best Picture contender for one simple reason: It’s fucking amazing.
Which, once I picked up my jaw from the floor, is exactly what I said to my husband after we saw the movie last week. He agreed.
Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, “1917” follows two young British soldiers on a seemingly impossible mission during World War I. The pair must venture through no man’s land and deliver orders calling off an impending attack to prevent 1,600 troops, including one soldier’s brother, from walking into certain death.
And when I say “follows,” I mean it literally.
Best Director nominee Mendes presents this story in one long, fluid shot (he gave us a taste of this in the opening scene of 2015’s “Spectre”). From the moment we meet Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) in an open meadow, we’re buckled in for the journey – every uninterrupted step of the way.
This one-shot technique (one of my favorites, when its use is this purposeful) allows Mendes to tell us this story essentially in real time. And his vision is nothing less than brilliant; his camera placement puts us squarely in the middle of the action.
The audience sees, learns, and experiences everything alongside and in sync with these characters, which creates a level of anxiety that must be felt to be understood. We know nothing beyond the frame of the camera, and that uncertainty heightens both curiosity and concentration.
And all the while this continuous scene refuses to blink, keeping us on edge and hanging on every. Single. Movement.
The occasional pivot or rotation or close-up gives a slightly different perspective and some additional detail, but our attention by way of the lens never deviates from its focus. And that slow zoom – the camera barely inching closer – on General Erinmore (Colin Firth) as he doles out this mission at the film’s start gives every indication of its importance.
If your heart isn’t already pounding out of your chest, those background drum beats add to the film’s intensity and fully express the significance of this race against time.
The tension is real.
In addition to calling shots behind the camera, Sam Mendes also gets his first writing credit here. Those efforts earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
I don’t see many war movies, but “1917” is beyond impressive. I was completely mesmerized and have been raving about this flick since I left the theater. As if the story itself isn’t fascinating enough, the seemingly seamless visuals will blow your mind.
“Stories are nothing unless you’re emotionally engaged,” Mendes said in an IMDb On the Scene interview.
His statement is a hundred percent accurate, and presenting “1917” as one long take was the only way to effectively tell this story.
I held my breath. I jumped. I winced, and I gasped.
“Knives Out” is the (fairly) new dramatic crime thriller from
writer-director Rian Johnson (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”). The movie also incorporates
bits of dark and twisted humor – which is exactly how I like my comedy – and an
ongoing element of mystery that keeps its audience fully engaged.
On the night of his 85th birthday, esteemed crime writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) dies. Enter Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, meow!), with his analytical mind, a judging gaze, and that “Kentucky-fried Foghorn Leghorn drawl.”
Without question, Detective Blanc thinks something is fishy
about Harlan’s death.
“I suspect foul play,” he says.
And, with the help of Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield)
and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan), Detective Blanc proceeds to question the estate’s
staff and, one-by-one, the members of Harlan’s unstable, self-absorbed family.
Blanc’s hope? To see through the smoke screens and beyond
the distractions to find out what really happened to Harlan Thrombey.
If you’re paying attention, you know something is up from the moment each family member – including daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis); son-in-law Richard (Don Johnson); son Walt (Michael Shannon); and grandchildren Ransom (Chris Evans), Meg (Katherine Langford), and Jacob (Jaeden Martell) – is seated for the inquisition.
Those close-up shots almost scream deception. And the slow zooms
and pull backs as each character recalls the events of the evening in question hint
that what we’re hearing and seeing may not entirely be the truth.
Director Johnson shuffles in helpful flashbacks that crisscross
the storyline and help fill in the events we didn’t see that led up to
the outcome serving as the film’s crux.
Either nothing or everything is exactly what it seems. And as
Detective Blanc attempts to uncover the mystery, the audience is right there
“Knives Out” is an unpredictable yet delightful shell game.
The storyline is a magician’s pursuit that keeps its
audience disoriented and speculating and hanging on every word, sound, movement,
or glance. Everything could be a clue – or a diversion.
If you haven’t yet seen this flick, I highly recommend giving it a look. If you have seen it, I’d suggest watching this fun, shrewd puzzle again – to take notice of all the pieces that are hiding in plain sight.
The trailer for “Yesterday” first caught my ear – and then it caught my attention.
Incorporating tunes from the Beatles into pretty much anything deserves an automatic high five. But I was super intrigued, because the premise of this flick sounded like one of the freshest ideas to come along in decades.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one (and you won’t, because you haven’t): A talented but unknown musician struggles to make a name for himself when a freak incident symbolically aligns the stars and presents Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) with a career-making opportunity.
After waking up in a hospital bed, Jack learns from his manager friend Ellie (Lily James) that “the electricity flicked off for 12 seconds” worldwide the night before. This was just enough time for Jack to get hit by a bus – and to alter the course of music history.
Gifted with a new guitar by his saucy but loyal friends, Jack is encouraged by them to “play something.” And since “a great guitar requires a great song,” Jack proceeds to perform a snippet of “Yesterday.”
A delicate camera spin captures the awakened reactions from Jack’s friends while creating a soothing vibe that’s enhanced by Jack’s vocals and harmonious strumming.
He has just played them “one of the greatest songs ever written.” Only problem is, no one’s ever heard it before.
The Beatles? Shrug.
Mention of the band’s name elicits only confusion – and a valid question from Jack’s friend Rocky (Joel Fry): “Like, insect beetles or the car Beetles?”
Despite his research, Jack finds nothing to prove this English rock band from Liverpool ever existed. But he remembers the band, and he knows the songs. So, he’s got an idea…
“Yesterday” is so much fun. The absurdity of the plot line mixed with the camera’s funky angles and quick edits gives the movie an enjoyable and upbeat feel that will keep you smiling from start to finish.
And if for some reason that doesn’t do the trick, the whip-smart banter between Jack and his friends will keep you engaged with its snap and snark.
Patel is outstanding. OUTSTANDING! His dumbfounded responses to the aftermath of the blackout are surpassed only by his vocal talents. Don’t worry for a second that this guy doesn’t do justice to legendary songs such as “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be” and “In My Life.” I was so impressed to the deepest depths by every aspect of what Patel delivered.
Also, a shout out and bonus points to whomever slipped The Fratellis shirt into the wardrobe selection.
Lily James is a delight, and her eleventh-hour statement to Jack will hit you right in the feels. Joel Fry plays Rocky with a charm so ridiculous that he’ll win you over with his first blank stare.
Big names have small parts in “Yesterday” as well. Ed Sheeran plays himself, and he’s actually really funny.
James Corden also makes an appearance, which made me wonder if this movie was in any way inspired by the Late Late Show host’s incredibly moving Carpool Karaoke with Sir Paul McCartney. I could find nothing online to confirm this, but it’s nevertheless worth a mention. That installment is still one of the single best pieces of entertainment that has ever been produced.
“Yesterday” is highly entertaining as well. The performances are amazing. The laughs are genuine. The songs are classic, profound, timeless.
And the idea certainly is new, but let’s be glad we don’t have to imagine a world without the Beatles.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been waiting with
bated breath for about a year for the arrival of “Avengers: Endgame” and no
doubt have seen the film’s ambiguous trailer at least once – or, more likely,
two dozen times.
The plot has been so shrouded in secrecy that one of the
movie’s stars filmed a scene without any knowledge of what was happening with
his or her character.
And I’m not an asshole. So out of respect for those who
haven’t yet purchased tickets, everything here also is intentionally vague.
“Endgame” is the 22nd film in the MCU and has the
enormous task of wrapping up the all-encompassing narrative with which we’ve
been engrossed since 2008’s “Iron Man.”
And with so much to cover it’s no wonder this flick’s run
time exceeds three hours; however, its pace keeps the action rolling such that
you won’t even notice the time investment. But I wouldn’t recommend getting the
extra-large beverage, because your bladder might be less forgiving than your
Seeing the previous titles obviously is helpful, just to be
sure that you’re neither missing nor confused by a face or a name or a
reference – or a joke. And because this is Marvel, you know there will be humor.
My husband and I saw “Endgame” on back-to-back,
opening-weekend nights, and reactions from the sold-out crowds at each showing
made for an enthusiastically interactive experience, which was so much fun.
Viewers cheered and gasped and sniffled and laughed, all of
which is typical – some more than others – when watching a Marvel flick.
But I think folks were more affected this time – because the
investment is so extensive, and the stakes are higher than ever before: “Whatever
This one signifies the end of an era, so it means a little
And audiences get that.
The only thing I will tell you for sure is that “Endgame” is
worth it. Go see it. It’s a doozy, and it’s one final chance to see the “Avengers…
It has been a long, long time since I last saw the 1941 original “Dumbo,” so there’s very little about it that I remember – y’know, aside from the obvious “cute baby elephant with piercing blue eyes and ears big enough to pick up free HBO.”
But what’s not to love about the idea of a live-action version,
directed by Tim Burton and co-starring a villainous Michael Keaton, right?
This new “Dumbo” drops us into Sarasota, Florida, circa 1919 and
the financially strapped Medici Brothers’ Circus (psst… keep an eye on that
Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), the lead of former stand-out act The Stallion Stars, returns from war, no longer able to do the thing that sells the tickets.
It’s obvious that the show is struggling: “We’re all wearing
multiple hats.” But Master of Ceremonies Max Medici (Danny DeVito) has his
hopes and livelihood invested in an Asian female elephant, and “… she’s havin’
But when that baby’s freakishly large ears appear to be a hiccup
Holt’s children – science whiz Milly (Nico Parker) and the always curious Joe
(Finley Hobbins) – accidentally discover otherwise.
If you thought the title character from the animated original
was adorable (and who didn’t?!), wait’ll you see the star of this show.
There’s a lot to like about the new “Dumbo,” but it wasn’t the
emotional force I really was hoping for.
Don’t get me wrong; Dumbo is precious, and his cuteness is what
saves this film. His big, eager eyes and affinity for plumage is worth the
price of admission for sure.
The story is fine, though my husband was upset at the omission
of some memorable events from the original.
The acting is engaging, and Keaton’s bad guy is both comical (“Is
that a monkey in your desk?”) and dastardly, safe enough to not scare the young
‘uns but smarmy to the point that you understand his intentions. And if you
don’t, the shadows in which his likeness is cast will no doubt spell it out.
There are plenty of harrowing moments as well as scenes that
will give a little tug at your heartstrings, make you chuckle and keep you
invested; there’s the occasional (trippy) nod to the original, and a tip of the
hat to Busby Berkeley musicals; those shots from Dumbo’s perspective take us
for a ride and offer a lovely flying elephant’s eye view.
So, if you have any interest in this little pachyderm’s
live-action adventure with its seamless and often dazzling effects, it’s worth
investing your time.
It’s cute, it’s very
pretty, and it’s enjoyable. And in this case, that’s enough.
“Dumbo” likely won’t leave you bawling your eyes out, but maybe
that’s a good thing.
Hopefully it’s summer. And with the scents, sounds and sun of the season also (usually) comes sizable cinematic celebrations.
While there aren’t as
many titles this summer that have me super jazzed there are a handful that have
piqued my curiosity. So, slather on the sunscreen, grab a glass of lemonade and
enjoy some insight (and quips) on the summer flicks about which I’m most
AVENGERS: ENDGAME When it’s out:April 26 What it’s about: With the universe in peril and its fate in question the Avengers once again assemble to try to repair the damage done in the franchise’s previous installment. Why I’m pumped: Take a peek at the cast list; in some form or another everyone is here – everyone! If this follow-up to last year’s “Infinity War” truly is the end, it looks to be one immense and intense final bow.
BOOKSMART When it’s out: May 24 What it’s about: Two smarty pants seniors, regretting the academic paths they took throughout high school, attempt to stuff four years of bad decisions and missed opportunities into the night before graduation. Why I’m pumped: I think Kaitlyn Dever is hilarious, and after seeing the red band trailer for this movie, I’m sold. “Booksmart” looks to be comparable to “Superbad,” and any movie with a tag line like “getting straight As; giving zero Fs” – I mean, just take my ticket money already!
SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 When it’s out: June 7 What it’s about: It’s another look at what Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt), Chloe (Lake Bell) and their animal pals do when their owners are away. Why I’m pumped: Its predecessor purr-fectly honored the species-and breed-specific quirks, and I want to see more. And as a mom to four fur kids, I always wonder what my pets do when I’m not home (probably nap; that’s what I would do).
MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL When it’s out: June 14 What it’s about: Alien attacks are a global issue, of course, so this fourth flick in the franchise follows London-based Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent M (Tessa Thompson) as they travel the globe to internationally battle intergalactic baddies. Why I’m pumped: Loved the first “Men in Black” (who didn’t?!?), so I want to see if No. 4 is as enjoyable at No. 1 – or as forgettable as… the ones I don’t remember. Maybe it was the flashy thing?
TOY STORY 4
When it’s out: June 21 What it’s about: A new face joins
Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen), Woody (Tom Hanks) and the rest of the toy crew for
new adventures and shenanigans. Why I’m pumped: Because Pixar.
When it’s out: June 28 What it’s about: Imagine (heh) that
no one except you has heard of the Beatles. That’s exactly what happens when
Jack (Himesh Patel) awakens after a bizarre power outage. Playing the band’s
never-before-heard songs could be his ticket to ride – err, I mean success. Why I’m pumped: Forget that this
idea is crazy fresh; this flick is directed by Danny Boyle and no doubt will be
chock full of Beatles tunes – and that’s a world in which I want to immerse myself
for two hours.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM
When it’s out: July 5 What it’s about: Peter Parker’s (Tom
Holland) summer Euro trip is anything but relaxing, as he must don the Spidey
suit to face a foe across the pond. Why I’m pumped: It’s another big-action
Marvel adventure, which means it’s sure to entertain, amuse and wow audiences
into seeing it again (at least twice). And Holland is an amazing Spider-Man (see what I did there??)
THE LION KING When it’s out: July 19 What it’s about: Hakuna Matata! This live-action journey tells the Simba-centric tale with which we all fell in love in 1994. Why I’m pumped: Looking forward to seeing how director Jon Favreau delivers this beloved Disney story, since I was really impressed with his 2016 live-action adaptation of “The Jungle Book.” Plus, how adorable is that lion cub? Get outta here!
Hopefully these movies just scratch the surface of an exciting season at the cinema. Let me know which flicks are on your summer must-see list – and I wish you happy viewing!
With Oscar Sunday less than a week away, I figured it was about that time – to take a peek at each of the eight nominees for this year’s Best Picture and cast my vote (not that The Academy cares what I think) for which title (likely) will take home the evening’s top prize.
And the nominees – in the order in which I saw them – are:
What’s it about?
In this marvel from Marvel, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda to
take his rightful place as King following the death of his father. But when a
new and unexpected threat surfaces, it puts T’Challa’s reign, the future of
Wakanda and the fate of the world at risk.
What makes it a
contender? Everything. Seriously, everything. “Black Panther” takes
superhero movies to a new level with its strong story and stronger characters,
including some of the strongest
females ever assembled. Its themes, performances and direction, colors and
effects, and cultural homage easily prove “Black Panther” to be an all-encompassing
powerhouse that gets so many things right
Will it win? It
might. Wakanda Forever! The film reined in the Screen Actors Guild award for Cast
in a Motion Picture. If that’s any indicator… .
A STAR IS BORN
What’s it about?
Bradley Cooper stars in and directs this romantic drama in which a hard-core
addict musician discovers and falls for a woman (Best Actress nominee Lady
Gaga) with untapped yet undeniable musical talents.
What makes it a contender? In addition to captivating performances from Cooper, Gaga and Supporting Actor nominee Sam Elliott, “A Star is Born” yields achingly beautiful vision from its director; its thoughtfulness and tone adds a sense of heartache to this triumphant yet woeful story; the original songs are delivered with such tenderness and energy that you feel them in your soul.
Will it win?
Probably not, but look for Gaga to nab a statue for Original Song. And I’m
actually surprised Cooper (who garnered recognition as a Best Actor hopeful) didn’t
get a nod for his rhythmic work behind the camera. Anyone else?
What’s it about?
This biographical flick follows the four gents that wowed with their music and
showmanship as Queen, the storyline focusing mainly on the band’s iconic lead
singer. “Bohemian Rhapsody” brings to life the times and the tunes as well as
the turbulence of success.
What makes it a contender? This one definitely is a toe-tappin’ crowd pleaser. Rami Malek channels his inner rock star, embracing the nuances that defined the legend and almost literally transforms into Freddie Mercury.
Will it win?
Probably not, but Malek very likely will take home that Best Actor award.
What’s it about?
A good blend of comedy and drama, “Vice” tells the “… as true as it can be…”
account of Dick Cheney’s (Best Actor nominee Christian Bale) dominant and powerful
track to becoming Vice President of the United States.
What makes it a contender? Best Director nominee Adam McKay, the same writer-director who gave me a big headache with the troublingly truthful peek at the housing market crash in 2015’s “The Big Short,” once again delivers wry humor, innovative narration techniques, fourth-wall breaks and stinging realism. This one is full of amazing performances – with spot-on personal ticks – from Bale and Supporting Actor nominee Sam Rockwell (as George W. Bush), as well as the commanding Amy Adams (up for Supporting Actress as Lynne Cheney), who kicks ass and steals scenes like it’s her job.
Will it win? Just
like “The Big Short,” no.
What’s it about?
Set in 1708, “The Favourite” is part comedy, part drama – and total diabolical
malevolence, in which cousins Sarah Churchill (Supporting Actress nominee Rachel
Weisz) and Abigail Hill (Supporting Actress nominee Emma Stone) try to best one
another to be the court favourite of Queen Anne (Best Actress hopeful Olivia
What makes it a contender? It’s visually stunning. Stun-ning! From the sets to the costumes to the camera angles and techniques, it’s a cinematic masterpiece. The use of the fish eye lens offers a unique perspective, allowing us to see so much while it symbolically speaks volumes of inescapable loneliness.
Will it win? I
don’t think so, but keep an eye on “The Favourite” to be a favorite for
Costuming, Production Design and Cinematography (though it’s up against a tough competitor there).
What’s it about?
Inspired by a true story, pianist Don Shirley (Supporting Actor nominee Mahershala
Ali) hires Copa Cabana bouncer Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Best Actor nominee Viggo
Mortenson) – based on his “innate ability to handle trouble” – as his driver
for a musical tour in the 1960’s deep South.
What makes it a contender? Knockout performances from both Mortenson and Ali will resonate long after you’ve left the theater; personal and definitive discussions of one’s heritage and its place in 1962 society; arguably the best (and most unlikely) onscreen bromance since Buzz and Woody – amiright?!?!
Will it win? I absolutely loved “Green Book,” so I wouldn’t be upset if it won (though I doubt it will). Its cerebral story runs the gamut of emotions, and its message still is relevant – perhaps even more so – today.
What’s it about?
Based on the 2014 memoir “Black Klansman,” this flick follows Colorado Springs
Police Department’s first African-American detective, Ron Stallworth (John
David Washington), as he attempts to not only infiltrate but expose the local
chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.
What makes it a
contender? “Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real sh*t.” The story
alone is insanely bold, and director Spike Lee makes an even bolder statement
the only way he knows how. The use of those split screens gives “BlacKkKlansman”
that fo’ real 70s vibe, and the recent footage at the film’s close is a
head-shaking eye opener.
Will it win? Oh, man. It really should. It’s intense and so well done. “BlacKkKlansman” is brilliant and significant. It’s also entertaining AF because of the engaging work from Washington, Supporting Actor nominee Adam Driver, Laura Harrier and Robert Burke; and Ryan Eggold, Michael Buscemi, Topher Grace and Jasper Pääkkönen. And there’s that heavy, heavy scene with Harry Belafonte. Right? Damn!
What’s it about? Best
Director nominee Alfonso Cuaròn wore many hats to bring to the screen this
semi-autobiographical look at his upbringing in Mexico City; the narrative
depicts the life of live-in housekeeper Cleo (Best Actress nominee Yalitza
Aparicio) in the early 1970s in the Colonia Roma neighborhood.
What makes it a contender? It’s the nuances: the imagery; the focus; those hypnotic long takes; the way the camera moves – or doesn’t – to capture the action; the care given to simultaneously show activity on multiple planes. Simply put, “Roma” is visual poetry. It’s a very personal story that deftly balances anguish with artfulness.
Will it win?
Probably. A no-brainer for Cinematography, “Roma” already nabbed a Best Film
BAFTA and a Best Picture Golden Globe, so don’t be shocked if (when) it takes
home Oscar gold.
Find out for sure which film wins this, that or the other
thing at 7 p.m. CST Sunday, Feb. 24.