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Movies with Dave

Well it’s November now, which means the beginning of awards season for films.
It also means, every studio is trying to cram their movies in theaters before the year is out. Which is why I ended up watching five movies last weekend, and I’ll probably see at least five next weekend.
Oh well. I never did care for sleep anyway.
This week we’ve got yet another film in the long running “Terminator” franchise. An animated movie starring an arctic fox voiced by Jeremy Renner. The latest film from acclaimed Koren director Bong Joon-ho. A film starring, written, and directed by Edward Norton about a mobster detective with Tourettes. And finally a historical drama featuring one of America’s most heroic figures, Harriet Tubman.
Let’s get to the reviews.
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“Harriet”
Based on the inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, this film tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo), her escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes.
This is a movie I really wish I could have loved.
Like the synopsis says, Harriet Tubman is an American hero. Someone whose life story should be memorialized in book, song, and film.
And while this movie does an okay job telling her tale, at the end of the day I just couldn’t help but feel like the whole thing was a wasted opportunity.
To her credit, Cynthia Erivo made for a really good Harriet. In fact, I don’t think I’d fault any of the performances in this movie. They’re all more than competent across the board.
My biggest problem was, while everyone seemed to love commending Harriet on her often incredible actions, the filmmakers here did a pretty bad job showcasing her heroics.
Beginning with her own escape, when Harriet makes it to Pennsylvania for the first time, I wanted to feel moved, I wanted to break down watching what could have been an incredibly emotional moment.
But I didn’t. And it’s because the movie did a poor job showing the struggle and hardship that led up to this life changing moment.
When Harriet first arrives in Philadelphia and is greeted by abolitionist William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.), he tells her that completing the journey she made alone was nothing short of a miracle. But in the movie the whole trek took less than 10 minutes.
It’s great that we’re told how amazing Harriet’s actions were, but I wanted to see them, I wanted to feel them for myself. And most of the time, this film just wasn’t up for the task.
And not to nitpick too much, but I was really unimpressed with how this movie was filmed. It just looked boring and uninspired. It was far from unwatchable, but again, it was less than it could have been.
The movie as a whole still makes for an incredible story to be sure.
This film would definitely be worth watching as an introduction to Harriet Tubman if you knew nothing about her. Even if the filmmakers did take a few liberties with the historical record for dramatization, at the very least it keeps with the spirit of her tale.
I really wish I could have loved this movie, but instead I just liked it okay. If you have any interest in Harriet Tubman, or pre-civil war America, this film is probably worth a watch. Just don’t go in with expectations as high as mine.
“Harriet” is rated PG-13.

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"Arctic Dogs”
Swifty the Arctic Fox (Jeremy Renner) works in the mailroom of the Arctic Blast Delivery Service, but has much bigger dreams. He yearns to become a Top Dog, the Arctic’s star husky couriers.
To prove he can do it, he commandeers a sled and delivers a mysterious package to a secret location. There he stumbles upon a hidden fortress overseen by the nefarious Otto Von Walrus (John Cleese) and a sinister plot to destroy Swifty’s arctic home.
It’s these kind of movies that make me regret being a critic.
This is yet another trash film released to theaters by Entertainment Studios, which is all they seem to do lately.
Their biggest claim to fame is “47 Meters Down,” low budget shark based horror movie released in 2017. In fact that seems to be the only movie in their repertoire that hasn’t been a complete box office failure. And for the most part, it’s for a very good reason.
At Entertainment Studios they have a talent for finding garbage no one wants or cares about. And “Arctic Dogs” fits that bill perfectly.
You can tell just from watching the trailers how cheap this movie looks.
This is by far the worst looking animated movie I’ve seen all year.
The animal characters here look completely lifeless. It’s like watching someone puppet their creepy collection of taxidermied pets. Nothing about their movement feels natural.
Why star furry animals in your animated movie when can’t make fur look realistic? This is something Pixar was doing back in 2001 with “Monsters, Inc.” Sure, at the time it was revolutionary, but that was 18 years ago. It’s like this movie didn’t even try.
Their environment looks just as low effort. It’s like the film is a black hole for creativity. Everything about it, from the landscapes, to design of the town just looks generic and uninspired.
And why in the world did they set this movie in the middle of the arctic when they clearly didn’t have the ability to animate snow properly? At best the white dust they have floating around here looks more like clouds if they’re lucky.
And don’t worry, the bad doesn’t stop with just the animation.
Though this film features a collection of fairly high profile actors like Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin, Heidi Klum, James Franco, and John Cleese, they all sound just as stilted and lifeless as their animated counterparts look.
Add on top of that a horribly generic, yet surprisingly unfocused story, annoying dialogue, terrible comedic timing, and you’ve got yourself an atrocious film firing on every terrible cylinder.
The worst part of all though? It’s just boring.
I swear even though the movie is only 91 minutes long, it felt like I sat there in that theater for three hours straight.
And it seemed the few kids in my showing felt about the same as I did. Most of them weren’t paying attention to the screen towards the end. Quite a few were out of their chairs and looked completely restless.
And who can blame them? Their parents took them to see “Arctic Dogs” for crying out loud. I wouldn’t even take a kid to see garbage as a punishment.
Don’t be like those parents. Don’t take your kids to see this movie.
If you see the Entertainment Studios logo, just run away. This is a studio that has made a name for themselves by releasing bad movies, and until they make an effort to change that image, every new movie they produce is best avoided.
“Arctic Dogs” is rated PG.

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 “Terminator: Dark Fate.”
More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator (Gabriel Luna) travels back through time to hunt and kill her.
Dani’s survival depends on her joining forces with Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). As the Terminator ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Sarah’s past that may be their last best hope.
Six.
That’s how many movies are in the “Terminator” franchise now.
You know how many of them have had the same basic story? You know, a machine being sent to the past to eliminate a foe while they’re most vulnerable, and a savior being sent from the future to protect them.
Well this film makes five.
Oh sure, they’ve all had their twists.
Heck, back in the 90s, before the formula became so stale, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” did a fantastic job taking the concept from the first movie and not only turning it on its head by sending a reprogrammed Terminator to protect the future savior of humanity, but it also went a step further by allowing Sarah Connor to change the future itself. Preventing Skynet and judgment day from ever happening.
Sarah spat in the face of destiny itself and made her own future.
Of course this all becomes undone in the next movie. Destiny is suddenly unavoidable in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” Forget about “no fate but what we make.” Instead it’s more like “fate is inevitable and there’s no point in even trying.”
“Terminator Salvation” is the one movie that doesn’t fit the typical “Terminator” time travel mold. Instead it follows an adult John Connor battling machines in the far off future world of 2018. And while I applaud it for at least doing something different for once, I found the movie itself pretty unremarkable.
Then of course there’s “Terminator Genisys,” which is by far the biggest retread of them all, not to mention the lowest point in the franchise.
So I guess that brings us to “Terminator: Dark Fate.”
Right off the bat, the movie does the smartest thing it could have possibly done, and pretends “Terminator” 3-5 didn’t exist. Something many of us wish we could do ourselves.
Still, it’s the same basic story we’ve all seen before.
This time the evil Terminator is basically two machines slammed together. It has the traditional Terminator skeleton, along with a skin made of a liquid metal like the T-1000 in “Terminator 2.” It’s similar in design to the T-X “Terminator 3,” but this guy can actually separate itself into two functional robots.
Our savior from the future isn’t a T-800 for the first time in awhile, so that’s something different I guess.
Grace is actually human, though significantly enhanced with a few cybernetic alterations. And with those augmentations come some pretty debilitating limitations.
If she spends too much time fighting, she suddenly becomes weak to the point of fainting. And every so often she has to inject a cocktail of prescriptions just to stay upright.
Not exactly the person you want defending you against a relentless and unstoppable killing machine. Personally I’d take Arnold over her anyday.
Then of course there’s Dani, our Terminator’s target. She’s okay I guess. Though personality wise she’s definitely no Sarah Connor.
The story is one you already know if you’ve watched the first “Terminator.” Even the supposed “twists” can be seen coming a mile away.
The only changes are the setting. This time all the action takes place in Mexico and Texas.
Plus there’s the addition of some old faces.
And I’ll admit, it is nice to see Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the big screen together again. It’s interesting to see what’s become of them over the years. Especially Arnold’s T-800, even though this is a different model than we saw in “Terminator 2.”
As for the action itself, it’s fine. Good even. It’s competently shot, fairly well choreographed, and largely entertaining.
Look, I’m not gonna say “Terminator: Dark Fate” holds a candle to the first two “Terminator” movies. But as far as the series goes, it’s one of the better ones.
If you’re looking for a fun action movie with a large dose of nostalgia, this certainly fits the bill. At the very least it didn’t attempt to brutally murder the franchise like Genisys did.
“Terminator: Dark Fate” is rated R.
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 “Parasite”
Meet the Park Family (Yeo-jeong Jo, Sun-kyun Lee, Ji-so Jung, Hyun-jun Jung), the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim Family (Kang-ho Song, So-dam Park, Woo-sik Choi, Hye-jin Jang), rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity.
But as a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families, the Kims’ newfound comforts become jeopardized, and a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.
I don’t have the opportunity to watch many foreign language films. In fact, I had to go out of my way this week to even watch this one.
But considering the waves this movie has been making in the film critic community, I knew I had to make an exception.
“Parasite” isn’t just being touted as a good movie, heck it’s not even just being called the best film of the year. I’m hearing people say “Parasite” is one of the best movies of the decade.
If word of mouth like that doesn’t get someone like me off their butts to go all the way up to the AMC Theater in Quail Springs Mall to watch a film, I don’t know what will.
And so I did just that. And yeah, they were right. This is indeed one of the best movies I’ve seen all year.
There is not a single throwaway moment in this film. Every scene, every captaving shot, every seemingly insignificant line of dialogue ends up meaning something more in the grand scheme of things.
The characters here are all absolutely fascinating in their own ways.
Despite essentially being a family of scammers, the Kim’s are impossible not to love. I love their family dynamic, and the dialogue between the four of them makes for some surprisingly hilarious moments throughout the film.
Make no mistake though, “Parasite” is no comedy. Or at least it’s only one part of the time. Other times it a thriller, and it even adds horror to the mix as the movie drifts closer to its climatic conclusion.
Through it all is a deeply intertwined message about class and the divide between the poor and wealthy.
It’s almost subtle enough to miss at first. But once you start noticing certain details, it’s impossible to ignore the movie’s brilliant, yet heartbreaking message about social inequality, expertly woven together by the film’s writer and director Bong Joon-ho.
And unlike another movie the wealth divide released earlier this year, you can tell the film’s underlying meaning had some thought put into it and wasn’t just carelessly thrown in the script in an attempt to appear more intellectual. I’m looking at you “Joker.”
The only reason I wouldn’t recommend this movie to absolutely everyone remotely interested in a dark comedy, horror, thriller is because the film is entirely in Korean.
In fact, I’m certain I would have enjoyed it much more myself if I could have just heard the dialogue instead of reading every single line. It can be a chore, especially if you’re not used to it.
And it’s a shame that reading subtitles will keep so many from watching this incredible film. Because a story like this one is well worth the trouble.
If you love cinema, this is one movie that can’t be missed. Heck, if you can get past the foreign language aspect at all, I’d say this movie is a must watch.
Don’t be surprised when the 92nd Academy Awards roll around and you see “Parasite” buried in nominations. If this movie doesn’t at least get a nod for Best Picture, I would be flabbergasted.
Go see it. Even if you have to drive all the way to the AMC at Quail Springs Mall like I did. I promise it’s worth it.
“Parasite” is rated R.
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 “Motherless Brooklyn”
Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is a small time gangster who doesn’t let Tourette’s syndrome stand in the way of his job. Gifted with a few clues and an obsessive mind, Lionel sets out to solve the murder of Frank Minna (Bruce Willis), his mentor and only friend.
Scouring the jazz clubs and slums of Brooklyn and Harlem, Lionel soon uncovers a web of secrets while contending with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city.
You know, it’s not every day they come out with a mobster-noir movie, starting a man with Tourettes. Guess it was my lucky day.
I didn’t know much about this film going into it, but about halfway through it struck me that this movie must have been written by Edward Norton.
After all, who but Norton would write a character like this, a man’s whose sole purpose in the film it to be constantly told how quirky yet brilliant he is.
Sure enough, not only was Norton the film’s screenwriter, but he directed it too. Zero surprises there.
I’m not gonna say Edward Norton isn’t a great actor. He is. But he also has a reputation of being an incredibly difficult man to work with when it comes to making movies.
He has a very bad habit of rewriting his roles, whether the filmmakers like it or not. And in the case of “American History X” he even made the production re-edit the movie. And though the film is generally well reviewed, it resulted in a final product the movie’s director didn’t even want his name on.
Luckily for Norton, he didn’t have to worry about any of that for this movie.
He could make it as long and as self flattering as he wanted. And boy did he.
This film clocks in at nearly two and a half hours, and the time doesn’t exactly fly by. That said, it did end up being an experience I enjoyed, at least for the most part.
At its heart, the film is an old fashioned noir detective movie. Constant moody narration and all.
Though Norton’s character starts off as a gangster flunky, he morphs into an incredibly competent private eye about 30 minutes in. And not long after that, he steals a reporter’s press pass and instantly becomes the most approachable journalist in New York.
All this, despite his random vocal tics and odd mannerisms.
To the surprise of no one, Norton’s character is the most interesting thing in this movie. He definitely made sure of that.
But even though I think Norton is a talented actor, and even a competent filmmaker, I think he bit off a bit more than he could chew here.
The movie isn’t bad. There’s just too much going on. Too many things that don’t serve the story. Things that probably shouldn’t have even made the screenplay in the first place.
It was a struggle towards the end to keep characters and their backstories straight. Some of which feel completely pointless looking back on the whole thing.
Luckily for me, despite its flaws, I really like stories about brilliant people who manipulate everyone around them through their sheer wit and charisma. And Norton’s character here fits that bill pretty well.
It definitely could have been a good 30 minutes shorter, but at the end of the day I still liked it pretty well.
I think if you enjoy noir detective movies, and you don’t mind the odd addition of a private eye with Tourettes, you’ll probably have a good time too. Just make sure to use the bathroom beforehand.
“Motherless Brooklyn” is rated R.

 

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