The idea of the cost of war has never been more thoughtfully and emotionally conveyed than in Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies.” The 1988 animated film is still one of the most emotional and powerful films I’ve ever seen, it’s a film that completely transcends all ideas of storytelling, and destroys any stigma that animation is a child’s medium that is limited in scope and substances, especially when telling human stories.
Netflix’s horror drama “Bird Box” has been unfairly dismissed and ignored as a blatant rip off of acclaimed horror film “A Quiet Place.” That’s disappointing (especially considering “Bird Box” is an adaptation of a book from 2013) since, while “Bird Box” and “A Quiet Place” share similar tones and framing devices, they’re more companion pieces than copies. “A Quiet Place” examined a family trying to stay together during impossible odds as well as the extremes parents go for their children, while “Bird Box” is ultimately about learning to let go, and the paralyzing fear of losing our children to an outside world that we can’t understand or ever fully trust.
It took us over ten years, but hell, we finally got a great live action “Transformers” movie. The only thought that came to mind while I was watching the opening ten minutes of “Bumblebee” was: Why didn’t we get this in the first place? Why did Sony opt for such a moronic, nonsensical, incoherent mess of a franchise, rather than deliver what is easily the best live action representation of the franchise I’ve seen so far. Everything in “Bumblebee” is the antithesis of what Michael Bay’s movies were, right down to the lack of racial stereotypes, and the jingoism. Granted, there is a meat head military hero with John Cena, but that’s a miniscule nitpick in a movie that’s just such a great experience from beginning to end.
Miles Morales was introduced to the Marvel universe in 2011, established in the alternate label the “Ultimate” universe. When that universe’s Peter Parker died, Miles stepped up to become Spider-Man. Since then Morales has become one of the banner Spider-Man iterations that have taken on the mantle of the hero. Morales wasn’t just welcomed in to the primary Marvel universe, but he’s managed to become just as popular as Peter Parker and the original Spider-Man. Some fans will even argue he’s better than Peter Parker’s Spider-Man. It’s general sentiment that’s been accepted by many because Spider-Man is not a person, it’s a movement. It’s a movement where literally anyone can wear the mask and strive for the same goals Peter Parker did.
Warner Bros and DC Comics begins correcting course from their disastrous first run of films by finally focusing on characters that have been woefully under valued for decades. If “Aquaman” is any indication, DC and Warner are on course for a huge comeback that could signal a string of fantastic comic book films, finally. DC garners such a gallery of wonderful mythical superheroes, and James Wan comes on board to not only embrace Aquaman’s universe whole hog, but show us why he’s not at all the geekiest superhero in his stable. If there was anyone that could pull Aquaman out of the doldrums, it’s James Wan. Wan is one of the best, most dynamic filmmakers working today and he can put a creative spin on just about everything.
Often considered one of the greatest of the horror movie boogey men, Candyman probably would have been a swing and miss were it not for the gravitas that Tony Todd exudes with every performances he takes on. “Candyman” is one of the more genuinely eerie and gruesome ghost stories of the 1990’s that also doubles as a gory slasher. It’s a great fit for a decade where horror was mostly a serious affair and audiences were looking for more novel, entertaining fare to get lost in. “Candyman” is one of the few genuine slasher icons of the nineties that was able to keep the horror genre mostly afloat. While the sequels leave a lot to be desired, it’s hard to top what sense of terror the original from Bernard Rose brings to the table.
Every few years, the Hollywood machine dips in to their pool of public domain legends and stories, failing to realize that no one is interested in them. No matter what new spin they put on them, they almost always turn out poorly. “Robin Hood” is on the chopping block once again, with Summit Entertainment trying their damndest to superhero-ify the merry thief. The only problem is that we’ve had a superhero Robin Hood for decades now, and—no one gives a shit about Robin Hood anymore. No matter gloss the studios put on the tale, even turning him in to pseudo-Batman, “Robin Hood” (or “Robin Hood Begins” or “The Dark Hood Returns”) is a swing and a miss, a giant squishy thud that lands in a year filled with some truly stellar action and fantasy films.
John Turtletaub’s adaptation of “The Meg” may not have been everyone’s cup of tea in 2018, but for me it was a damn good time with an eye on being about as novel as possible. While it does pander to the ever important Asian movie going audience, “The Meg” is a weird and wild action movie that feels like an eccentric amalgam of Peter Benchley, Renny Harlin, and Paul WS Anderson. It’s a comedy, a science fiction film, an action movie, a romance, a man vs. nature picture, and a tale of redemption all rolled in to one. It even squeezes in a bang up cast of character actors like Cliff Curtis, Li Bingbing, and Rainn Wilson as an eccentric billionaire thrust in to the extraordinary confrontation with a giant megalodon.