Best Picture: Oscars 2019

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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:

BLACK PANTHER

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?

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

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.

VICE

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.

THE FAVOURITE

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 Colman).

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).

GREEN BOOK

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.

BLACKkKLANSMAN

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!

ROMA

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.

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.

Glass

If you’ve seen writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” and “Split,” I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did, and I invite you to proceed.

If not (gasp!), please go watch them now – in that order – and come back. I’ll wait.

Just kidding; I’m gonna keep writing, but please proceed with caution… and an understanding that while I won’t give away anything, you’ll likely be confused AF. Also note that whatever is seen in the trailers is fair game.

Here we go…

It was in 2000’s “Unbreakable” (easily my favorite M. Night flick) that Shyamalan first introduced us to David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a soft-spoken and keeps-to-himself security guard trying to salvage his marriage and connect with his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), after walking away from a horrific train crash in which every other person onboard perished.

We also met Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), whose difficult and pain-filled childhood led to a fascination with comic books that in adulthood became somewhat of an obsession.

And David unknowingly was exactly the one for whom Elijah had been searching.

Sixteen years later, Shyamalan freaked the “Split” out of audiences with his tale of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy, like you’ve never before seen him) – and his slew of alternate personalities, resulting from Kevin’s dissociative identity disorder.

Shyamalan actually wrote “Split” based on a character that was initially intended to appear in but later scrapped from “Unbreakable,” which makes sense looking back.

So while these storylines always seemed destined to intersect, they finally do exactly that in “Glass”

And this time, Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) attempts to debunk the theory believed by each of these characters to be the basis for his – or in Kevin’s case, his and his and hers and his, “etcetera” (wink) – existence.

“If superheroes exist,” Dr. Staple asks, “why are there only three of you?”

But again, all of this is from the complex mind of one of the most inventive and creative cinematic storytellers, so the digestive process takes some thought and dissection because Shyamalan’s movies are notorious for possessing deeper meanings that extend well beyond what’s on the surface.

Love it!

The use of color is again important, and it’s everywhere: the costuming; the backgrounds; the obvious indications, such as the neon signs glowing above Joseph’s head in the back of the comic book store or the stripes painted on the floor of Kevin’s room.

The greens and purples and yellows and even the reds all have meaning, and Shyamalan chose each color specifically based on the qualities possessed by the character or situation being represented.  

Pay attention to the chromatic expression and what’s happening in this narrative when the saturation becomes more or less intense.

And, of course, there are those subtle clues that are inescapable from this wily filmmaker, who again makes a small cameo.

That twitch in Elijah’s eyes that seems to be his only movement in the presence of hospital personnel didn’t make much sense to me at the time, but….

And to David’s dismay there’s early mention of the “Tip-Toe Man.” An understated comment of that slinking action by another character later on will have your mind scrambling to make a connection, if you catch it at all.

A lot of the visuals again bring about a deliberate comic book feel; there’s a stylized look to “Glass” that’s both unique and so very Shyamalan.

He capitalizes on those slow, revealing zooms that all but beg for your attention. The stop-flash sequences that are used when David passes through a crowd put us directly under his rain poncho and allow us to get a first-hand feel of how he does what he does.

The use of shadows feels surreal; the reaction shots we see instead of the action create tension and insane curiosity; the around-the-corner and over-the-shoulder techniques drop us smack into those scenes and conversations and effectively pull us closer into this narrative.

And those tilted angles from Elijah’s point of view hearken back to a quote from “Unbreakable” involving a “skewed perception” of how the world is seen.

Oh. My. God.

“Glass” combines the visual brilliance of “Unbreakable” with the disturbing nature of “Split” to create one walloping, gut-punch finish to this masterful trilogy.

My husband had some issues with the storyline, so he’d like to have some words with Mr. Shyamalan.

On the other hand, I’m looking forward to seeing “Glass” again (and again?) to pick out other nuances I missed during the first go-round.

I was excited to see all of these characters onscreen together, further exploring ideas from the previous films and wrapping up this saga the only way that it could.

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.

Boy Erased

“You cannot be born a homosexual… it’s behavioral; it’s a choice.”

These are the kinds of things Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton) proclaims to the attendees of his Refuge Program at the beginning of “Boy Erased.”

“We’ve got to learn… where this behavior comes from,” Sykes asserts to his conversion therapy patients, “so we can change it!”

Blink, blink.

The film, also directed by Edgerton, is based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name and follows Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) as he struggles with being outed as gay – and the consequences that holds for a pastor’s son in small-town Arkansas.

That we’re aware of the setting is important, and the close-up of the state motto on that license plate is about as blatant and ironic a message as they come: The Land of Opportunity.

Sure.

“Boy Erased” packs an emotional punch. Being a behind-the-fourth-wall witness to the verbal and psychological dehumanization of these therapy patients in the name of religion is deeply troubling.

And if not for the compelling performances from this ensemble cast as well as the steadying sensitivity of Edgerton’s direction, this movie might be too daunting to sit through.

“I wish none of this had ever happened,” Jared states. “But sometimes I thank God that it did.”

A quick glance at Hedges’ filmography proves that at almost 22 years old his talents are legit.

The troubled youth/coming-of-age roles are his specialty – “Manchester by the Sea,” “Lady Bird,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and the upcoming “Ben is Back” – and he’s so good that it almost hurts to watch him do his thing.

At this point it’s not a matter of if but when he’ll take home an Oscar (watch out, Timothée Chalamet!)

The bouffant blonde ’do, caked-on lipstick, perfect French manicure, fine threads and fancy jewelry cannot conceal yet another stunning portrayal from Nicole Kidman.

As Jared’s mother, Nancy, Kidman starts off distant yet strong and just gets better as the film progresses – proving to be an explosive force in one especially memorable sequence.

Equally as moving is Pastor Eamons’ (Russell Crowe) profoundly weighty 11th-hour conversation with his son. My god!

I could hear sniffling throughout the theater, and I’m telling you it was completely justified.

The look of the film makes this story feel exactly like the personal tale it represents.

Edgerton’s shot selection is both delicate and purposeful, with softened images and intimate close-ups and camera movement that’s so subtle you’ll barely even notice.

But you’ll feel every bit of the desperation.

Let’s discuss the restroom confrontation between Jared and Brandon (Flea, superbly icky here), shall we?

That shot of Jared’s eyes, barely visible as he peers over the top edge of the partition, is wickedly unsettling. Edgerton masterfully creates a palpable distrust that, without so much as a single word, says far more than any verbal exchange ever could.

And what happens next pushes the tension of this scene completely over the edge.

Edgerton’s vision emanates an organic quality, and its beautiful composition helps to counter-balance this harsh and nightmarish narrative. God bless!

Some of the events here are predictable while others very much are not – and they’ll rattle you to the core, so buckle up.

“Boy Erased” is exhausting. And punishing. And alarming.

There are moments that will make you feel hopeful and others that’ll just make you angry.

With such captivating displays of talent on both sides of the camera I fully expect “Boy Erased” will generate Oscar nominations for its cast and its director.

Joel Edgerton gives us exactly the story we need to see – good or bad – to fully understand and appreciate Jared’s journey.

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.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The Beasts are back. Well, sort of.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: is installment No. 2 in the J.K. Rowlings series that further explores the Wizarding World made famous by and that sequentially predates the author and screenwriter’s “Harry Potter” tales.

And while its 2016 predecessor “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” really was all about the title creatures this follow-up uses them more as accessories, focusing instead on the issues plaguing the wizards and Muggles in this satisfying adventure: the struggle for power, a search for identity, and matters of the heart.

In New York City, circa 1927, the Magical Congress of the United States of America is transferring dastardly knave Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) because “it’s time for him to answer for his crimes in Europe.”

To remove all doubt, director David Yates (who, oh by the way, directed the first “Beasts” film, as well as four “Potter” flicks) brilliantly highlights Grindelwald’s gaze with the tiniest sliver of light across his different-colored eyes, taking this pale-faced baddie to next-level villainy.

Right? Shudder.

But Grindelwald is “… very persuasive…,” so this transfer doesn’t go as smoothly as planned, but it does showcase some insanely impressive visuals and the magic that makes these flicks such a treat.

Three months later Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is asking the Ministry to life the ban prohibiting him to travel internationally – y’know, because his briefcase filled with Fantastic Beasts wreaked havoc in the last movie.

Newt will need travel access, because old pal Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) needs a favor.

And no one else can do it: “It has to be you,” Dumbledore assures.

But Newt isn’t the only one on this mission….

Before watching “Crimes” it’s helpful to have seen the first “Beasts” flick and at least familiarize yourself with the “Harry Potter” series. There are familiar faces, places, names and events that otherwise might be confusing.

I was happy to see Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) return as Newt’s Muggle sidekick, once again offering his subtle quips; and Credence Barebone (the always awesome Ezra Miller), sporting a much better haircut than when last we saw him. God bless!

As for the Beasts: Pickett the Bowtruckle is back to lend his talents as needed and to tug at a heartstring or two; the Nifflers (squeee!) still are enthralled with all things shiny while being the most adorable things ever; and we meet the Zouwu, a sort of Chinese New Year dragon critter with cat-like tendencies (watch its eyes light up at the jingle of a simple bell toy).

But the true stars here are the magic and adventure, and “Crimes” delivers both – big time.

From the slow-motion shot of a Niffler popping a champagne cork, to the morphing transformation of one of the major players, to rage-fueled destruction of a building, to the memories and foreshadowed imagery, to the transporting of characters – the effects are seamless and altogether mesmerizing.

You’ll be completely immersed in this Wizarding World because it looks and feels legit.

The sets are amazing, with their old-world aura and larger-than-life scale.

The danger and mystery is intensified with sounds from a hurried and somber orchestral score.

And the story not only dives deeper into defining these characters and relationships, but it begins to connect the dots between “Beasts” and “Potter” and, of course, sets itself up beautifully for the next installment, set for release in November 2020.

“Revelio!”

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. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Beautiful Boy

“This is a personal matter… it’s about my son,” David Sheff (Steve Carell) states in the opening scene of “Beautiful Boy” – a true-life tale based on the memoirs if the father and son at the heart of this film.

An off-screen voice indicates there’s someone specific with whom David is communicating, but with the camera’s unflinching eye trained solely on David it becomes clear that he’s speaking to us.

“There are moments that I look at him…,” David continues, “… and I wonder who he is.”

This is David’s reality, because his son Nic (Timothée Chalamet) has a problem.

And David has some questions: “What is it doing to him? What can I do to help him?”

Given that introduction, I was prepared for “Beautiful Boy” to be a heavy and emotional look at the effects inflicted not only on an addict but on the lives of those around him.

I also expected I would be watching one of the most melancholy films of the year.

And it’s all of those things, steadied by incredibly moving performances from, well… everyone – smallest cast members Christian Convery and Oakley Bull included.

There’s no question that Carell is a funny guy, but I feel like his more serious roles (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love”) historically have been some of his best. He once again proves that here (and for the record, I cannot wait to see what he does in next month’s “Welcome to Marwen.”)

His scenes with Chalamet – no matter the context – bring about every emotion and help define this unique father/son relationship.

Chalamet seems so at ease with demanding roles. His performance here is a very close second to the fan-effing-tastic, Oscar-nominated effort he put forth in last year’s “Call Me by Your Name,” so I think he could net another nom with his portrayal of an angry-and-combative yet remorseful-and-loving young addict.

Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan – as Nic’s stepmom and mother, respectively – deliver short-but-powerful efforts, including one emotionally charged vehicular pursuit that likely will crush your soul.

Everything here feels very real and is absurdly depressing.

But it’s supposed to be.

Director Felix Van Groeningen uses natural lighting, unique angles and slow zooms to soften the look, giving these images a visual tenderness because the story they’re telling is so goddamn harsh.

And those extended takes that hold a shot just a bit longer allow for a more intimate connection to these characters, making this journey feel as personal as David indicates at the film’s start.

There’s one element I found to be brilliantly frustrating, and that’s the repetitive nature of events.

Incidents and actions and dialogues often circle back, but I totally get it; that’s the cycle of addiction: “Relapse is part of recovery.”

And in portraying it the way he does, Van Groeningen essentially transfers the anxiety and discontentment to US, systematically pulling us into this story and making us feel the helplessness as if it’s our own.

The tension it creates keeps us hoping for the best while preparing for… you know.

It’s a maddening pattern for sure, but that’s the point. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, which is exactly what Van Groeningen intended.

So smart.

Throughout this flick we see flashback memories – usually triggered by a familiar setting – of some of David’s favorite and most vivid moments with his young son (Jack Dylan Grazer playing younger Nic; Kue Lawrence playing youngest Nic) interspersed between Nic’s current and habitual spirals downward, as he wrestles with getting and attempting to stay clean.

The contrast is compelling.

And desperate.

And heartbreaking.

“Beautiful Boy” is a tough one to watch, not gonna lie.

But if you’re looking to be pushed to the emotional brink and wowed by some amazing talent, it’s definitely worth your time.

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. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Halloween 2018

Photo courtesy of Matthew Toumi, the “Toum-raider.”

“You don’t believe in the boogeyman? You should.”

There’s a reason I don’t do scary movies; it’s called “‘Dark Night of the Scarecrow,’ and I was seven.”

For real.

The trauma of that 1981 TV movie has persisted for decades – almost as long as it’s been since Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) first faced onscreen trauma of her own: a methodical maniac named Michael Myers.

(Insert that creepy-ass theme music here)

But this freaky franchise is too iconic to be missed, and “Halloween” by way of Blumhouse Productions simply is a recipe for scary success. Am I right?

It’s been forty years since that Halloween night when Judith Myers was killed, the details of which are recounted here with visual flashbacks as well as narration from investigative journalists Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees).

For their podcast, Aaron and Dana pay a call to Smith’s Grove Rehabilitation Facility to interview “a person who’s spent the last four decades in captivity and never spoken a word.”

Y’know, because this is a good idea. (Sarc!)

Aaron has a surprise for Michael, hoping to get him to “say something!!

The confrontation balances jumpy and quick images of and howls from other patients with systematic and intermittent zooms on Michael as he stands in the yard, unflinching and unaffected, each shot of him inching closer in the most disturbing of ways.

Shudder.

And that pattern beneath Michael’s feet is no coincidence; this absolutely is just the start of a truly demented chess match – one that began 40 years ago….

If by some miracle you haven’t seen 1978’s “Halloween,” its backstory is filled in enough for you to follow along, though you’ll miss the visual nods paying homage to the original film in the series.

Upholding the expectations of the genre, “Halloween 2018” offers plenty of moments that will have you wincing, shaking your head, and wondering whyyyyyyy?!?!

But if you’re a character in a horror film, you’re supposed to make poor choices, the results of which most likely get you killed. So, there aren’t any real surprises in that regard, but that doesn’t mean the expectations aren’t intense.

Director David Gordon Green effectively keeps us on edge, evoking gasps of suspense by setting up scenes in such a way that we see the danger approaching, but these characters do not; using point-of-view restrictions to direct or impede what we’re able to see until just the right moment; incorporating silence to build anticipation and pull us into a scene to that point that we’re afraid to look away, make a sound – or even breathe.

As the body count increases, so does the audience’s level of anxiety. Bravo, man!

This newest flick is unexpectedly gorier than the original – including perhaps the most disgusting thing I’ve seen onscreen since “American History X” – but the movie counters that heaviness with some humorous dialogue, most of which is courtesy of pint-sized scene-stealer Julian (Jibrail Nantambu).

The big draw to these movies has always been Michael Myers, the psychopath that refuses to die and has carried the franchise for decades.

Maybe the most disturbing thing about his killing sprees is that he commits them with zero emotion; that eerie white mask with the hollow eyes erases all humanity and exposes Michael as nothing more than “pure evil.”

This new installment, though, wisely centers on a trio of feisty females: Laurie; her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer); and granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). Each is plenty capable on her own but becomes stronger yet when forces are combined.

Your move, Michael.

“Halloween 2018” is intense and gruesome and funny and frightening.

It’s everything you’d hope for from a horror flick and a fulfilling chapter in this terrifying and longstanding franchise.

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. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Venom

It sadly has been months since I’ve been to the cinema; the late-summer offerings didn’t remotely pique my interest, so I waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

And then the heavens opened and once again cast a warm, welcoming glow on the big screen: Tom Hardy was starring in a new movie.

God bless!

But as the opening date approached there were hints that “Venom” wasn’t very good; those who attended early screenings slammed it, and social media spread that negativity like a soul-killing plague.

Did I care? Nope. Wasn’t listening.

I love Tom Hardy, so I was seeing this paranormal superhero flick regardless.

I’m not sure what audiences were expecting. And maybe it was beneficial that expectations were low going into it, but I enjoyed the hell out of this movie.

“Venom” does start out a bit of a mess, but that’s because there are a lot of pieces that must be put into place before the parts we care about can get rolling and make sense.

Former and semi-famous (you’ll see) investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy – meow) gets a tip from an insider that the super-secret laboratory run by space-and-science whiz Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed, at his smarmiest) is into some shady – and scary – practices.

And though Eddie has vowed to be “done with this ‘saving my fellow man’ shit,” he decides to do some poking around – and winds up finding far more than he bargained for.

What’s happened? Well, through sickly and dazed glances he states, “I have a parasite.”

Boy, does he!

This malady leads to shrieks of confusion, looks of paranoia and inexplicable impulses from our reluctant hero. And watching Eddie fight against, converse with and ultimately oblige this alien alter ego is pure gold.

It’s like Jekyll and Hyde on a crazy cosmic level.

Hardy masterfully – and hilariously – shows a range of physical reactions and facial expressions and unexpected humor never before seen from the Academy Award nominee, but it’s what makes “Venom” such a delight.

And probably what saved the movie from being a bust.

The neighbor confrontation and the frozen tater tots and the lobster tank scenes were unexpected and so completely absurd that I was laughing out loud. They’re prime examples that this flick doesn’t take itself seriously – and neither should you.

“Venom” packs plenty of quick and exciting, albeit predictable, action into that motorcycle chase as well as the climactic symbiote boxing match.

Conversely, there are some adorably sweet moments between Eddie and Anne (Michelle Williams) that continue to tease us throughout while pretty much cementing Eddie’s liability factor.

I mean, c’mon!

And because this is Marvel, you already know to be on the lookout for the patented Stan Lee cameo. You’ll also want to sit through the ridiculously lengthy (not kidding) end credits for two (yes, two) extras.

“Venom” is no “Avengers” or “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

It is, however, campy fun with a bit of an “X-Files” vibe – and it’s certainly not the unwatchable dreck you’ve been reading about on the Interwebs.

With everything seemingly stacked against “Venom” before it even hit theaters, it was almost safe to assume it can’t be any good.

But, to steal a line from Eddie Brock: “There’s no such thing as ‘can’t’.”

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. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

At the Cinema: Fall and Winter 2018

Noo-nee-noo.

Been twiddling my thumbs for weeks, waiting for something worth seeing to hit theaters.

And then I wondered: What am I waiting for?

With that in mind and with fall (and winter – gasp!) just around the corner I thought I might peek ahead and figure out exactly which titles I’m most looking forward to seeing in the upcoming weeks.

And they are…

Venom – Oct. 5

Its premise: Investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) develops superpowers after becoming host to an alien organism.

Why it shows promise: Two things. First, “Venom” is a Marvel movie.

And second, it’s Tom Hardy. Duh!

But for the love of god, can Hollywood please stop covering up this man’s face (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Dunkirk”)?!?! Asking for a friend. Wink.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween – Oct. 12

Premise: That creepy marionette Slappy (Avery Lee Jones) and his monster friends plan Halloween mayhem after being released from an R.L. Stine manuscript.

Promise: I was surprised and immensely entertained by the first “Goosebumps” flick in 2015. No Dylan Minnette this time, but I’m hoping “Haunted Halloween” will offer talent of a similar caliber (no pressure, Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris). And the timing of its release couldn’t be better for family frights.

Halloween – Oct. 19

Premise: Forty years after Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) famously threw down with maniacal masked killer Michael Myers, they meet again in Haddonfield. (Cue that eerie theme…)

Promise: I don’t do horror movies, but A) this is from BlumHouse, and B) “Halloween” is too iconic to be ignored. And unlike the original that’s now almost comically corny, this newest “Halloween” looks horrifying AF. Bring it, Mike.

Bohemian Rhapsody – Nov. 2

Premise: This biographical flick showcases the music of Queen, following the band’s rise while celebrating the life of its unconventional lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek).

Promise: Umm… it’s Queen, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is under the direction of Bryan Singer. Giggity.

Boy Erased – in limited release Nov. 2

Premise: A pastor’s son in small-town America is outed to his parents and subsequently forced to attend a conversion therapy program or be exiled by his family and friends as well as his church. Shudder.

Promise: Based on a true story, with screenplay and direction from Joel Edgerton, “Boy Erased” is a touchy dichotomy that once again will reveal to the world the insane talents of Lucas Hedges.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – Nov. 16

Premise: The dastardly Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has grand plans of wizardly overlordness which Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) intend on halting.

Promise: This continuation of the series that precedes the “Harry Potter” stories is sure to entice fans of any age. “Fantastic Beasts” already  has proven to be a whole new realm of magic and excitement, and “The Crimes of Grindelwald” looks to follow suit.

Robin Hood – Nov. 21

Premise: This action adventure is an updated version of the timeless tale in which Crusader Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) leads a valiant rebellion against corruption of the highest order.

Promise: Robin Hood” looks to have some bad-ass battle scenes, highlighted by intense and well-choreographed action. Aaaaaand there probably will be a tad bit of romance.

Welcome to Marwen – Dec. 21

Premise: Following a brutal attack, artist Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) creates a “fictional” world in his back yard to help with his healing process.

Promise:Marwen” looks like an artistic marvel. The film combines live action with animation, and it’s got a wicked-strong cast of leading ladies. Carell is a funny guy, but I think he’s at his best with more serious roles (“Crazy Stupid Love” anyone?). We shall see….

Which movies are you most looking forward to this fall and winter? Leave a comment and let me know.

SEPT. 14
The Predator
A Simple Favor
White Boy Rick

SEPT. 21
The House with a Clock in its Walls
Life Itself

SEPT. 28
Hell Fest
Night School
Smallfoot

OCT. 5
Venom
A Star is Born

OCT. 12
Bad Times at the El Royale
First Man
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
The Oath

OCT. 19
Halloween
The Hate U Give
Serenity

OCT. 26
Hunter Killer
Johnny English Strikes Again

NOV. 2
Bohemian Rhapsody
Nobody’s Food
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Suspiria

NOV. 9
Burning
The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch
Overlord

NOV. 16
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Instant Family
Widows

NOV. 21
Creed II
The Front Runner
Green Book
Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2
Robin Hood
Second Act

DEC. 7
Schindler’s List (re-release)
The Silence

DEC. 14
Mortal Engines
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

DEC. 19
Mary Poppins Returns

DEC. 21
Alita: Battle Angel
Aquaman
Backseat
Bumblebee
Holmes and Watson
Welcome to Marwen

**Information courtesy of FirstShowing. Release dates are subject to change.

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. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Eighth Grade

If, by some chance, you had forgotten how much junior high school sucked, writer/director Bo Burnham delivers an eye-opening, slap-in-the-face reminder of that tumultuous time in “Eighth Grade.”

The film follows Kayla (the phenomenally superb Elsie Fisher), an insanely shy eighth grader, as she struggles through the last week of junior high school.

She doesn’t have many friends (or any, really); she thinks her dad is “weird; she’s voted “Most Quiet” among her peers; her Friday nights are spent perusing social media on her phone or laptop.

If it wasn’t for Burnham keeping the camera stationary, with Kayla at the center of the crowd shots during the school assembly, she would all but disappear.

The only time she really stands out is when she’s making videos for her online channel.

The film opens with Kayla addressing the camera while recording one of these digital displays of wisdom, this one covering the topic of “being yourself.”

It’s filled with an exorbitant number of “umm”s and “like”s, but it also shows a happy, confident, chatty young woman insisting that “everything will work out if you’re just being yourself.”

That’s good advice, especially in a time when the internet and social media tend to dictate what kids think they should do and who they think they should be.

Check out those shots when Kayla’s scrolling through social media feeds – the way her face reflects in the images she’s seeing, and how her eyes line up in perfect registration with the photos she’s viewing on Instagram and Twitter. It’s a constant tug-of-war, allowing for arbitrary comparisons that lead to unrealistic expectations.

“Eighth Grade” marks Burnham’s feature film debut behind the camera, but watching this flick you’d never know it.

His faming and shot selections deftly express Kayla’s persistent social awkwardness and embarrassment; every bit of her uneasiness is obvious thanks to Burnham’s vision and execution.

His use of jumpy camera and quick cuts during Kayla’s pre-swimsuit panic attack allows us to feel her anxiety as the whirlwind of images sends our senses into overdrive.

Deep breath!

The tracking shots – up to the front door at Kennedy’s (Catherine Oliviere) house, through the hallways at school, among the swarms of popular kids at a pool party – lets us to not only watch her hesitation, but they’re sort of interactive, at times putting us in her shoes and her mindset.

There’s really no better way to show discomfort than with awkward silence, tight shots and long takes, and Burnham utilizes those to next-level expertise: Kayla’s dinner table conversation with her dad, Mark (Josh Hamilton); trying to impress her crush, Aiden (Luke Prael), during an active-shooter drill; the gift opening scene at Kennedy’s party.

But nothing will make you cringe more than Kayla’s ride home from the mall. Burnham holds the shots on Kayla so long that your mind will race, and the anticipation will have you holding your breath and begging for resolve.

Fisher is an absolute marvel. She’s the eager and observant wallflower who so desperately wants to be somebody. You’ll want to reach through the screen and give her a hug.

As Kayla, Fisher is at times naively funny (the banana?), charmingly pitiful, and boldly assertive. But she’s always very real.

And Hamilton is a fantastically nerdy dad. His confused reactions to Kayla’s comments and requests are spot on, and that backyard bonfire scene might be the one of the most precious moments in recent cinematic memory.

“Eighth Grade” is one of my favorite movies this year.

It’s honest and faithful and delicate. It’ll put you on edge. It’ll break your heart. It’ll make you smile. And it’s worth every emotion.

“Gucci!”

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. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Disney’s Christopher Robin

Earlier this year I was smitten by a movie about the adventures of a marmalade-obsessed British bear; it was “Paddington 2,” and if you saw the film, I don’t even have to explain to you why I absolutely loved it.

Taking a crack with its own bear tale, Disney is stirring up memories of childhood fun and simpler times with “Christopher Robin,” a live-action flick about that ragtag bunch from Hundred Acre Wood and its “hunny”-loving skipper, Winnie the Pooh.

And I absolutely loved it.

Director Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace”) flawlessly introduces everything right from the start with pages of a storybook flipping before our eyes, stopping to allow us to read snippets here and there so we know the setting (“… deep in the Hundred Acre Wood…”) and the characters (“… Christopher Robin plays with his friends…”) and the details (“… comes the day… they say ‘goodbye’…”).

We watch young Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien) have a final tea party with his friends before saying “fairwell” and exiting through that magical doorway – and re-entering the real world.

His final childhood chat with Pooh (voice by Jim Cummings) is profoundly wistful – and probably will make you cry.

Chapter titles in the book continue to detail Christopher Robin’s life as he “leaves childhood behind,” each step of the way enhanced by a sketch of the action that then morphs into real life – and then back to a sketch, all the while Pooh stands at the doorway, waiting and hoping to see his friend again.

The drawings, by the way, that we see moving across the pages are based on Winnie the Pooh illustrations by E.H. Shepard that accompanied the stories of A.A. Milne.

It’s a brilliant way to show this story literally jumping off the page.

Many years later, a now-grown Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) has a wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), and a daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) – and a job that sadly has become his top priority.

What to do, what to do?

But with some unexpected help – or “expotition,” if you will – from some old friends, he may just remember that “doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”

That Pooh! He’s like a more colorful and less wrinkly Yoda, full of cyclical and nonsensical philosophy that’s actually substantial and genius in its simplicity: “I always get to where I’m going by walking awary from where I’ve been.”

For a bear with few facial features and even fewer expressions, he sure knows how to deliver a most sincere message.

When he brushes his paw against Christopher Robin’s eyes and tells him in that soft, matter-of-fact Pooh tone, “it’s still you, looking out,” you’ll be sitting in a puddle of your own emotions because that bear has a way of tugging at your heart.

I think a lot of that is because of Cummings’ distinct and familiar voice; he’s been the voice of Winnie the Pooh since the late 80s, and hearing it again brings about those warm feelings of nostalgia.

And joining Pooh is the always energetic Tigger (also voiced by Cummings), who even sings his Tigger song; the downtrodden yet sometimes hilarious Eyeore (Brad Garrett); unassuming worry-wart Piglet (Nick Mohammed); Rabbit (Peter Capaldi); Owl (Toby Jones); Kanga (Sophie Okonedo) and Roo (Sara Sheen).

These characters are fluffy and real, like stuffed toys brought to life by movement so fluid you’ll buy into it completely.

McGregor’s interactions with them – mostly with Pooh – are delightful and captivating and authentic and whimsical. And there are unexpected moments of humor that caught me off guard, witty comments or reactions that had me legitimately laughing out loud.

There’s action and adventure, and there are quiet moments of meaningful discussion and subtle messages.

The delicate lighting gives the overall look of the film a pleasant, vintage-like feel. There are select focus images that metaphorically call attention to little details.

There’s mention of Heffalumps and Woozles – which, of course, are real things because “it’s on the sign!”

You’ll also reminisce with some of those famous Pooh lines, such as, “There’s a rumbly in my tumbly,” and, “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”

Silly ‘ol bear!

Sure Winnie the Pooh is a timeless collection of classic stories for children, but what Disney has done with “Christopher Robin” is delivered a lovely and very sweet piece of entertainment that offers something for all generations.

It has set a place at the tea party for everyone.

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. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.