New Model (Child’s Play, 2019)

Childs_Play_2019_PosterThe Child’s Play franchise is seven films in and has a TV series in the making, so when a remake of the 1988 original, it was met with…skepticism. Especially as the film has no real ties to the original film via writer or director.

Here we get the basic story idea.  Andy gets a doll that turns out to be dangerous and homicidal.

Here, Andy is a bit older.  His mother gets a Buddi Doll that has AI and can connect to your Smart Home devices.  It was returned as defective, and Andy’s mom takes it to give her son, as Andy is becoming more and more withdrawn. At first, the quirks do not seem to be to big a deal…until Chucky tries to kill the family cat after it hurts Andy.  Andy forbids Chucky from killing.  And for awhile, they become close friends.

But after some other kids discover that Chucky can swear and be generally rude, they want to hang with Andy.  It is only after Chucky murders someone that they all realize how dangerous Chucky actually is.

And a lot of the film is pretty effective.  I like Andy and his mom. And I think the AI take actually works in some interesting ways. Chucky is not inherently homicidal.  He becomes increasingly so, desensitized by his environment and working as a stalker.   He is not killing people out of a love for murder…but rather a warped ideal of his relationship to Andy.  And while this comes at the sacrifice of Dourif’s memorable characterization, I really appreciate the new approach.

Andy’s friends are a bit obnoxious, and honestly, it seems like much of the film they made sure to give Chucky victims who were pretty morally reprehensible.  I mean, there is only one character he kills that I genuinely liked.  I appreciated the attempt they made with Brian Tyree Henry’s Detective Norris, making him a friendly face in story…but the character is kind of dull (which is definitely not Henry’s fault, we saw him be pretty wonderful in Into the Spiderverse in a similar role.

And…well…Chucky’s design should have gone through a few more revisions.  He looks genuinely goofy sometimes.

But I found myself largely entertained by the film and felt it has far more positives than negatives.  I walked out feeling pretty satisfied with a film that I confess to having not had a lot of hope for.

A Time For Grief, A Time for Theft (Widows, 2018)

Widows_PosterVeronica, Linda and Alice have lost their husbands in a tragedy. They discover their husbands were professional thieves. To add to their grief, they find their lives under siege, specifically from Jamal Manning.  While he is running for public office, Manning is also a local crime lord…and it so happen’s the women’s husbands died stealing from him.  He wants his money and gives them a month.

When she discovers her husband’s records of all her heists, Veronica brings the other widows together to try and complete the next heist that her husband had planned.

Widows is one of those movies that you don’t really get prepared for from the trailers.  Most Heist films are heavily focused on the planning and the heist. Widows is more interested in setting up its characters.  Everyone feels important.  We walk with them as their lives intersect. This is to the film’s benefit.  We get to really know everyone involved, both the heroes and villains of the tale.

Viola Davis gives a great performance as Veronica.  She is both vulnerable and tough as nails.  Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall play son and father of a political dynasty that are at each other throats.  Daniel Kaluuya is riveting and immensely terrifying as Manning’s right hand man.

Director Steve McQueen makes some bold choices in the film (one sequence takes place within a car, and we only hear the actors as the camera stays outside, as the focuses on the car itself). The end result is a very compelling character film that happens to feature a heist.  Managing some excellent surprises before it ends, I found Widows a very satisfying watch.

Where the Bad Guys Go (Hotel Artemis, 2018)

hotel_artemis_posterIn some vague near future, slightly more advanced than where we are now in a society that is collapsing in on itself, two brothers are trying to complete a heist.  Wounded, they seek the Hotel Artemis.  It is a private hospital created specifically for the criminal element.  It is run by the Nurse and her assistant Everest (he is fixit man, security and policy reminder).  If you do not have membership, you cannot get in.

Things get tough for the brothers when a wounded Gangster they just stole from shows up needing medical intervention.  Will anyone get out alive? Is there a setup that was able to bypass the security of the Hotel Artemis?

First time director Drew Pearce delivers a simple and straight forward action film.  It almost feels like a John Wick spin-off. It is full of crazy action scenes, unique characters and a lead you root for in Sterling K. Brown.

Foster gives a great “world weary” performance, a woman who took the pieces of her shattered life and put them back together as best she could. Dave Bautista as Everest is remarkably engaging. Jeff Goldblum, well, this is Jeff Goldblum.

Hotel Artemis does not reinvent the wheel. But it is a whole lot of fun.

You Can Never Have Too Much Spider-Man (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018)

Spider-Man_Into_PosterA few years ago, after the big Sony hack, Sony and Marvel resumed the failed talks about  Spider-Man films. It resulted in the very fun Spider-Man: Homecoming, pretty much run by Marvel. But Sony still holds the rights to do with the Spider-Man characters what they want.  And so…that gives us this animated feature.

Miles Morales lives with his mom and dad, but is starting life at a new school. After a frustrating week, he goes to see his uncle Aaron, who takes him to a hidden place where he can do some street art. Miles gets bit by a Spider-Man. When he witnesses a tragedy and finds himself having to make a promise to Spider-Man moments before he is killed…with no idea how to do it. Until he stumbles across Peter Parker…Spider-Man???

They discover that whatever the Spider-Man of Mile’s Morales’ world was trying to thwart has actually brought several Spider People into Miles’ world. But the world may end and so they have to team up to send everyone home and stop the destruction of the Spider-Verse.

And you know what? This only sounds confusing.  Because the movie manages to make everything pretty darn simple. Our focus is on Miles, and even the Spider-Man we meet in the beginning is a celebrity. We don’t get to know him. We just get glimpses, enough to know he was a real hero.

The film also gives us intros to each character that are a whole lot of fun. Each Spider-Man has a unique look and artistic style. And it even impacts how they interact with the world they are in. Spider-Man Noir speaks in dark pulpy fashion and is always in black and white. And he is perplexed by color.

Jake Johnson’s Spider-Man is one whose life went a bit off track compared to the Spider-Man of Mile’s world.  Spider-Gwen is keeping the world at bay, avoiding really connecting to people. And Spider-Ham is just hilarious.

This movie has a lot of heart, there are genuinely touching moments. Moments between Miles and his father, Peter and the life he has left in his universe (wondering if it is even worth going back to). Miles and Gwen, Miles and Peter….

But the film is also ridiculously funny.  I mean, seriously funny. And part of that is in how the movie makes use of its medium. I cannot recall another animated film that took such grand opportunity to put it’s possibilities on full display.

In my book? This has been the best of all the Spider-Man movies. I want more with these characters. I want more movies with this version of Miles and his family and all the other Spider-People. This was a genuinely fun movie and I recommend checking it out. Sony raised the bar here…And I did not expect that.  But Marvel better pay attention.

 

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