Movie Reviews: Moana, Allied, Moonlight, and Bleed For This

01-moana

We’re coming down to the end of the year, and I don’t even think I have a definitive #1 movie of the year yet.  As you’ll see once again by this group of reviews, everything I see lately seems to wind up in the B grade area.  How many more chances are there for A grade movies?!  Rogue One?  La La Land?  Assassin’s Creed?  (haha just kidding on that last one)

One thing I am very much looking forward to at the end of this month, though, is that I will never have to see the trailers for Collateral Beauty or Passengers ever again.  I don’t know how much they dumped into marketing these things, but I’ve seen both trailers before every single movie I’ve gone to, to the point that I’ve begrudgingly memorized the lines.  “So why did you give up your life on Earth?” and “Howard doesn’t write letters to people, he writes to things.” are two lines I hope I never have to hear again once 2017 starts.

 

02-moana

MOANA

I know what this is, but explain it to me anyway, just cuz:  Disney is at it again, with another movie I would have owned in one of those thick plastic VHS cases if it were released in 1992 (membah those?  I memmmmbaahhhh).  Scrambling to figure out which culture they had not tapped into for hit songs yet, they finally settled on Polynesian this time around.  Has Disney made a movie about an aboriginal Australian orphan with a kangaroo sidekick named Boomer yet?  No?  Well, there’s always 2019 for that.

What was so good about it?  It felt very “classic 90’s Disney”, while at the same time not being as basic and overrated as Frozen was.  I’ll keep my Frozen bashing to a minimum here, but that was basically a straight-to-DVD story with three really good songs.  Also, Moana doesn’t have Josh Gad in it, so that’s another reason it’s better than Frozen.

Moana legitimately had an interesting story, with great visuals, and a few hit songs of its own (mostly written by that Lin-Manuel Miranda dude from Hamilton).  My personal favorite song was the giant sea crab song “Shiny”, because Jemaine Clement rules and it was basically a Flight of the Conchords song.

Was there anything crappy about it?  Not entirely the fault of the movie (but still…  somewhat), I was tired and I think I fell asleep for a few minutes in the first act.  I regained 100% consciousness at the moment when Moana was first on the boat in the middle of the ocean with the chicken (who was a pretty funny animal sidekick), and from that point on the movie was entertaining until the end.  And while we’re on the note of animal sidekicks, the pig in this movie was lame, and I’m pretty sure it was just included to sell stuffed animals at the Disney Store.

Give a fake negative quote for the haters:  “More like Groan-a…!”

Grade:  B+

 

03-allied

ALLIED

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of this, maybe, but what is it again?  It’s that Brad Pitt movie.  Yeah, that’s what I’ve been telling people whenever I say I saw Allied, and they go, “Wait, what’s that again?”  To a more film savvy person, I could describe it as Robert Zemeckis’ new non-creepy-motion-capture movie.  NEED MORE?  JEEZ…  It’s the one where he thinks his wife is a spy!  COME ON!

What was so good about it?  It had a very old-fashioned feel to it, despite (what I assume) was a hefty dose of classic Zemeckis digital gloss all over it.  I think it takes a lot of guts to set a *new* WWII movie in Casablanca.  Especially after that one movie made that location a pop culture staple.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  The Bourne Ultimatum, I think it was called?

A lot of the scenes in Allied had a gluttony of good camerawork and awesome production design.  This thing will probably win a slew of technical Oscar awards.  I also didn’t know where the story was going and was legitimately surprised by the ending.  I mean, there were only a few different ways it could have unfolded, but I wasn’t really expecting it to happen the way it did.

Was there anything crappy about it?  This was a movie where Brad Pitt secretly ruins a Nazi gala event by playing an undercover foreigner, but he never once yells “AND I WANT MY SCALPS!”  Waited for it the whole time.  Super disappointed.

Give a fake negative quote for the haters:  “The only alliance I had was with the manager of the theater to refund my money!”

Grade:  B+

 

04-moonlight

MOONLIGHT

My friend who listens to NPR has heard of this movie, but I haven’t, so what is it?  It’s the movie that everyone who likes independent cinema will tell you is the best movie of the year.  Why?  Because it’s suuuuuuper indie.  To try to sum it up in one sentence (probably poorly): It’s a three act character study of a closeted gay black kid in Georgia who has a crack addict mom, and falls into a life of crime while pining for the past.  You KNOW that it has artsy camerawork and a moody soundtrack!  Don’t even ask, bro!

What was so good about it?  I think the parts when it shines are super freaking good.  The third act in particular, is about as well done as they could have made it.  It’s tense, it’s intriguing, and it’s well acted (and it has the dude who played Edwards from The Knick!).  The closing scene from the second act literally got an audible gasp from the audience at my screening, and deservedly so.

Was there anything crappy about it?  I think it tries to do too much, and falls into a lot of the traps of the genre.  Not that is doesn’t handle the issues (often times) tenderly, but there are about four movies worth of content jammed into this, kind of in a sloppy way.  By the time we get to a really focused final thirty minutes, it made me wish that the whole movie could have been as on track.  I wasn’t sold on the whole movie, but I definitely admired the little elements.  I wish I could have liked it more, but something just seemed not that memorable about it to me.

But I mean, considering that Moonlight features a gay black urban youth who systematically falls into the life of a drug dealer, just be thankful that this wasn’t released three weeks ago, before your racist grandpa came over for Thanksgiving dinner.

Give a fake negative quote for the haters:  “I wish it was a waning crescent moon, that way it’d be shorter!”

Grade:  C+

 

bleed-for-this

BLEED FOR THIS

I’m legitimately sure that barely anyone knows what this movie is, explain it to all of us:  It’s the true story of Vinny Pazienza, a boxer who gets his neck broken in a car accident, but continues to train against his doctor’s orders, so he can have one more chance to not have a total failure of a career.

What was so good about it?  There was something about this movie, maybe especially after seeing Moonlight, that made me happy that I was able to just shut my brain off and watch an unchallenging boxing biopic.  Despite this being White Boxer Story #117, there’s actually something pretty cool about watching a guy overcome such an insane injury.  So it has that going for it.  It’s worth a rent or a HBO DVR recording.

This is also a big fat helping of wish fulfilment for anyone who thinks Miles Teller has a punchable face.  You get to see people smash his dumb melon for two hours!

Was there anything crappy about it?  It probably stole elements from just about every boxing and underdog sports movie there is.  There’s nothing here that you haven’t seen in pieces somewhere else.  It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of familiar storytelling.  But at least it wasn’t iFrankenstein, am I right?  That was for you, Aaron Eckhart, who is actually good for the first time in a while in Bleed For This.

One final bad note: Miles Teller never once sold me on the idea that he actually knew how to box.  That dude is so hit-or-miss for me (no boxing pun intended).

Give a fake negative quote for the haters:  “Bleed For This?  I don’t even want to PAY for this!”

Grade:  B-

 

See you next week for whatever comes out!

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