Another insane five movie weekend this week.
We have a film that focuses on the darkest moment in Ted Kennedy’s life, which is saying something, yet another horror film from a comedic director, an R rated comedy featuring John Cena, Wes Anderson’s return to stop-motion animation, and an overly sentimental sports movie showcasing one of the most over-the-top musical scores I’ve ever heard in a film.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
First up is “Chappaquiddick.”
Based on the true story of the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), this film follows Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke), the events leading up to the fateful incident that took Mary Jo’s life, and the ramifications that changed Ted Kennedy’s life forever.
This is another historical film where I wasn’t too aware the actual story going into it.
I knew Ted Kennedy was somehow involved in an accident that lead to a woman’s death, but I didn’t know any of the details surrounding it.
When they tell you about the Apollo 11 moon landing as a kid, most don’t add in the brewing Kennedy scandal that happened the very same week.
So in that respect this movie is very interesting and it’s fascinating to see all these events unfold.
That said, I’m not sure if this movie does the story of the Chappaquiddick incident justice.
To give the film credit though the acting’s pretty solid all around.
Jason Clarke easily has the strongest performance of the entire movie and makes for a very believable Ted Kennedy.
Also the movie somehow manages to make Ed Helms less annoying than he normally is in other films. That’s no small feat.
I don’t know what to think about Kate Mara though. It hardly even felt like she was playing a character. Just Kate Mara acting as herself.
I feel like I learned absolutely nothing about Mary Jo after seeing this film. I know Ted is the focus of the film, but a little more development for her character would have been nice.
And while I said I liked Clarke’s performance, the writing for his character did leave something to be desired.
It’s like they went out of their way to make Ted Kennedy completely unsympathetic in this movie.
For example, right after the deadly accident Ted goes to inform two of his friends what just happened. There isn’t an official record of what was said, so the writers had artistic license here.
But they don’t have Ted say something like “There’s been an accident” or “I’ve done something terrible,” you know something that would give the man a breath of humanity.
Instead Ted simply tells his friends “I’m not going to be president.”
How callous and uncaring can you get? You just accidentally killed someone and your first concern is your political career?
That one scene sets the tone for the entire remainder of the film.
Instead of exploring Ted grappling with the guilt of involuntary killing a woman yet not wanting to tarnish his family’s legacy, everything from then on seems like Ted trying to avoid responsibility.
Even when he finally does confess to any wrong doing, it comes across as cold and calculated just because of that one sentence.
Who knows? Maybe that’s what Ted actually told his friends. We’ll probably never know what was said that night.
I don’t have a huge issue with writers taking artistic license with historical events to make films more interesting
But that line doesn’t make Ted’s character more interesting. It robs him of his humanity.
Another thing that threw me for a loop was Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. in this film.
I’m no Kennedy expert so I wasn’t aware Kennedy Sr. had suffered a stroke eight years prior to the events of this movie.
Because of that, when Ted called his dad telling him about the accident, I had no idea what was happening when Kennedy Sr. responded to the bad news by breathing heavily into the phone and croaking out a single word.
I thought the news had somehow given Kennedy Sr. a heart attack. I had no idea what was happening.
You have to set something like that up.
Maybe add in someone asking Ted about his dad before the Chappaquiddick accident happens. Even just cutting to Kennedy Sr. while he’s talking on the phone would do, but give me something.
I feel like I’m being long winded, but I haven’t even gotten to my least favorite aspect of this film.
Nope, that would be the cinematography.
I hated the way this movie looked.
It’s like a made for TV film. There’s no style. It all looks flat and digital. Nothing like the 1960s at all.
Maybe I’m spoiled by films like “Jackie” or Battle of the Sexes,” but you can tell from just a single frame which time period those movies take place.
If the actors weren’t wearing period clothing, I would have never guessed the movie was set in the 1960s.
It’s things like this that make me feel like the movie as a whole doesn’t live up to the story’s potential.
It still makes for a captivating tale to be sure, but I can’t help but feel a film about Chappaquiddick could have been so much better.
“Chappaquiddick” is rated PG-13.
Next is “A Quiet Place.”
Set in the not so distant future, this film follows a family (John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe) forced to live their lives in complete silence thanks to mysterious and terrifying creatures that hunt by sound alone.
If they can hear you, they hunt you.
What is it with comedic actors turning around and directing horror films?
First we have Jordan Peele breaking out of the comedy mold and directing one of the best, if not the best, horror movies of 2017 with “Get Out.”
Now we have John Krasinski, best known for playing Jim from The Office, directing this film.
I don’t know if this is some kind of trend, but I must say if these two movies are any indication, more comedians should try their hand at horror.
This movie is fantastic.
I love high concept horror like this. If you make a sound, the monsters hunt you. Super simple and incredibly effective movie premise.
The first thing that hits you when the film starts is the sound. Or the lack of sound rather.
Because of that even the smallest noises become unnerving, not to mention loud noises which have never been more bone chilling.
That’s not to say the entire film is complete silence. This movie has a fantastic musical score that beautifully accompanies the nearly quiet environment of the film.
This movie uses sound, and more importantly silence, better than most films can even dream.
I haven’t felt this much tension from a horror movie in ages. I was wide-eyed and white knuckled the entire second half of the movie. And the film managed to do all this while barely showing any violence or gore.
Along with the first-rate sound design, this movie also has fantastic world building.
I love the little details visually showing how this family survives this bizarre future. Things like spreading sand on forest paths to dampen sound, or painted spots on the floor to show which floorboards don’t creak. It’s all very well thought out.
We’re never explicitly told where the sound hunting creatures came from and frankly I think it’s better that way. Monsters are always scarier when details are left to the imagination.
Naturally since no one can make a sound without risking death, nearly all the film’s dialogue is in sign language with subtitles for those of us who aren’t fluent in ASL.
That doesn’t stop the actors from delivering passionate and incredibly sincere performances though.
John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are both brilliant. Each manage to express so much emotion without saying a word.
Even the younger performers were great.
Krasinski reportedly went as far as insisting a deaf actress (Millicent Simmonds) be cast to play the family’s deaf teenage daughter, and boy did it pay off. Her performance really helped add another layer of authenticity to the film.
This is easily the best horror movie of 2018 so far, at least that I’ve seen. If you love scary films, this movie is a must see.
“A Quiet Place” is rated PG-13.
Third is “Blockers.”
When three parents (Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena) stumble upon their daughters’ pact to lose their virginity at prom, they set out to do everything in their power to stop them.
If you’re like me, the first thing that pops into your head upon hearing this premise is “Oh, it’s American Pie, but with girls.”
And while the two films share a similar concept, this movie is much more focused on the parents and less on the teenagers.
Honestly I was kind of looking forward to this film. Sure the trailers made it looked stupid, but other critics seemed to be giving it universal praise. I thought we might have another great R rated comedy on our hands.
After seeing it though, I have zero clue what other reviewers were thinking.
This is just another dumb gross-out comedy.
I’m no prude. I can enjoy gross humor here and there, but that’s all this movie has.
I don’t know about you, but there’s only so many times I can find projectile vomiting and full frontal male nudity funny.
Sure there’s a few actual jokes here and there. Some of them even got a laugh, but so many more of them just fell completely flat.
I didn’t care for Leslie Mann in this movie at all. Out of all the parents in the film, her relationship with her daughter felt the most forced. Besides, I think her comedy shtick is beginning to wear thin on me.
Surprisingly John Cena and Geraldine Viswanathan make the most convincing parent-child couple in this film. At least those two had an ounce of chemistry together, unlike the others.
The movie also tries to have a message about female vs. male sexuality and how girls are unfairly repressed, but it continually undercuts itself with the actions of the parents.
It’s like they’re saying one thing, but doing another.
Even when the parents finally begin to respect their daughters’ boundaries by the end of the film, one final gag manages to undercut any character growth the parents might have had.
I guess if you enjoy dumb gross-out comedies, you’ll probably enjoy this one just fine. This movie isn’t for me though.
“Blockers” is rated R.
Fourth is “Isle of Dogs.”
Set in a dystopian near-future Japan, a dog flu spreads throughout the canine population. Concerned the virus will jump species, Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) signs a decree banishing all dogs to Trash Island.
Determined to rescue his pet, Atari (Koyu Rankin) steals a plane and flies to Trash Island in hopes of finding his dog Spots.
Along the way Atari gets help from a friendly pack of dogs, Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Boss (Bill Murray), and Chief (Bryan Cranston). Together they seek Spot’s whereabouts all while avoiding Mayor Kobayashi’s minions.
Oh Wes Anderson, you certainly know how to make unique films.
First thing you should know going into this movie is that even though it’s animated this really isn’t for kids.
Not that there really anything terribly inappropriate for children, I just can’t see a movie like this holding a kid’s attention.
This couldn’t be further in tone from other films featuring talking animals. If you’re expecting something like “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” you will be firmly disappointed.
This is a Wes Anderson movie through and through. If you’ve seen his other films like “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” or “Fantastic Mr. Fox” you know exactly what you’re getting into.
Wes has a striking visual style, one I personally can’t get enough of, but I could see some finding it a bit odd.
There’s just something inexplicably charming about his films. From the way they’re shot, to their color palette, and even the music. It all makes for a delightfully endearing aesthetic.
This movie also has a fun gimmick where all the humans speak in their native language, but the dogs all speak English. So basically you can understand the dogs, but unless you speak Japanese you have to rely on translators or subtitles to understand what the humans are saying.
It’s a neat idea to be sure. Unfortunately Wes takes the quirkiness a bit too far in my opinion.
Oftentimes the movie will show Japanese writing along with English subtitles to translate. The problem is the translated text changes location on the screen almost constantly.
My eyes never knew where to look. By the time I found the words a split second had passed and the text was gone.
I understand Wes was going for a stylistic thing, but this was a bit too much in my opinion.
Also, while I did enjoy the story overall, it feels like it lags a bit in the middle. It never really gets boring, but I didn’t find the film quite as engrossing as some of Wes Anderson’s other movies.
Here’s the bottomline. If you like Wes Anderson, you’ll enjoy this film. Simple as that.
If you have no idea who Wes Anderson is, go rent “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” It’s Anderson’s other stop-motion animated film and it’ll give you a good idea whether you enjoy his style or not without risking a bad trip to the theater.
I think if you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson film, you’re in for a treat.
“Isle of Dogs” is rated PG-13.
Last this week is “The Miracle Season.”
Based on the true story of the West High School girls’ volleyball team.
After the loss of the school’s star player Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh) in a tragic accident, the remaining team members, lead by Line’s best friend Kelley (Erin Moriarty) and their no-nonsense coach (Helen Hunt), band together to try and win the state championship in Line’s memory.
This movie is like a dose of saccharin injected directly into your brain. Like bathing in a tub filled to the brim with maple syrup.
“The Miracle Season” is pure emotional junk food.
It starts out overly sweet and idyllic to an absurd degree. It almost reminded me of a Disney Channel Original Movie. Then, as soon as Line dies, it just becomes overly sad and melodramatic.
There’s no depth. None of the characters have any defining traits beyond loving and missing Line.
Except for Line herself I suppose, but she feels less like a real person and more like the second coming of Christ in the form of a teenage girl.
She’s just too perfect. Everyone loves her and she can do no wrong.
I know they’re trying to show how great of a person she was, but the way she’s portrayed here makes her feel completely unrelatable.
Line’s friend Kelley is supposed to be the main character, but we know absolutely nothing about her besides that she loved and misses Line.
She has a boy that likes her I guess. Can’t have a movie starring a teenage girl without having some kind of romance inserted.
But the guy is the most boring, uninteresting love interest possible. He feels completely pointless and tacked on. You could cut him out of every scene in the film and absolutely nothing would be lost.
Fine you say. You don’t care about characters being interesting or having depth, you just want to see an inspirational sports story.
Well you’re in luck because this film follows the generic inspirational sports movie formula to a tee.
It has all the ups and downs exactly where you expect them with no surprises whatsoever.
It even has the montage scenes set to cheesy pop songs, just like all your favorite sport movies.
Speaking of music, this film has one of the most ridiculous, over-the-top music scores I’ve ever heard.
I’m not kidding. For a movie about a high school volleyball team, the music is insanely bombastic.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any crazier, they go and add more horns, more drums, and even throw in a tower bell tolling just for good measure.
It was absurd.
The music here is more dramatic than most big budget action films.
This movie is pure, overly sentimental goodness. Like a stick of deep fried butter, wrapped in bacon, and dipped mayonnaise.
If that’s what you enjoy, more power to ya. As for me though, I feel like I need to go on a diet after seeing this film.
“The Miracle Season” is rated PG.