Yesterday

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.

Gasp.

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.

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.

Avengers: Endgame

What you are about to read contains NO SPOILERS.

None!

So, please continue without fear…

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.

You’re welcome.

“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 brain.

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 it takes.”

This one signifies the end of an era, so it means a little bit more.

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… assemble.”

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.

Dumbo

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 sign).

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’ a baby!”

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.

Heart. Melt.

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.

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.

Summer Movies 2019

(Sniff, sniff) What’s that smell?

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 excited.

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.

YESTERDAY
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 HOME
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!

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.

SUMMER MOVIE SCHEDULE 2019

APRIL 26:
Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame

MAY 3:
The Intruder
Long Shot
UglyDolls

MAY 10:
The Hustle
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Poms

MAY 17:
A Dog’s Journey
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
The Sun Is Also a Star

MAY 24:
Ad Astra
Aladdin
Booksmart
Brightburn

MAY 31:
Godzilla: King of Monsters
Ma
Rocketman

JUNE 7:
The Secret Life of Pets 2
X-Men: Dark Phoenix

JUNE 14:
Men in Black: International
Shaft

JUNE 21:
Child’s Play
Pixar’s Toy Story 4

JUNE 28:
Annabelle Comes Home
Yesterday

JULY 5:
Spider-Man: Far From Home

JULY 12:
17 Bridges
Crawl
Stuber

JULY 19:
The Lion King

JULY 26:
The Boy 2
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

AUGUST 2:
Dora the Explorer
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
The New Mutants

AUGUST 9:
Artemis Fowl
Brian Banks
The Kitchen
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Where’d You Go, Bernadette

AUGUST 14:
Blinded By the Light

AUGUST 16:
47 Meters Down: Uncaged
The Angry Birds Movie 2
Good Boys
The Informer
Playmobil: The Movie

AUGUST 23:
Angel Has Fallen
Overcomer

Courtesy of firstshowing.net
Release dates may be subject to change

Best Picture: Oscars 2019

Courtesy of Getty Images

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.