My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de courgette) (2016)

I truly, truly hope that when “My Life as a Zucchini” comes to the states that people to come to see it. I want people to seek it out, I want people to take their families, and I want everyone to tell others about what is easily one of the best animated movies I’ve ever seen. “My Life as a Zucchini” is simple and it’s short, but its rich in human themes, and complex characters that you’ll fall in love with. Rest assured I fell in love with every single character, and understood even the antagonists. “My Life as a Zucchini” isn’t a film that shoehorns in a villain. It’s merely a slice of life about the pitfalls and emotional turmoil that comes with being an orphan in a very cruel, and often difficult world.

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The Squid and the Whale (2005): The Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Director Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale” explores the prospect of a family at war, and a family that will likely always be at war. Director Baumbach has a lot to say about family and how parents can decide what kind of people we ultimately grow up to be. “The Squid and the Whale” is a weird, darkly comic and often demented look at how the eternal grudge of a man and his ex-wife will likely keep their sons at odds with then and one another for the rest of their lives. Director Baumbach contorts the dynamic of a grudging family, but also stays true to a lot of themes that find two sons on a diverging road and a dark path. Jessie Eisenberg is great here as the son of Jeff Daniels’ Bernard, an educated often pompous individual who has a keen sense of attempting to make his equals feel inferior.

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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Lee Chandler is a man who is literally a hollow individual who spends his entire life going through the motions. He works a hard job as a superintendent for four apartment buildings, gets little to no respect, and falls asleep every night in his basement hole in front of his television. On rare occasions he stops by his local bar to get drunk and engage in fist fights with locals. He may not have died the night his house burned down with his children in it, but he might as well be in his grave. Chandler isn’t a man who has given up any hope of a happy life, but a man who has given up on himself and only himself. “Manchester by the Sea” has every opportunity to be a sickly sweet sitcom about a man learning to live again thanks to his nephew. Until the very end, though, director Kenneth Lonergan’s drama is a somber, incredibly compelling masterpiece that confronts guilt, grief, and the difficulty of dealing with losing someone we loved.

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The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

“Batman works alone. That’s my motto. Copyright Batman.”

2014’s “The Lego Movie” surprised fans two fold, not just by being an excellent movie, but by turning Batman in to one of the funniest supporting characters in an animated movie since—well ever. “The Lego Batman Movie” initially had me very skeptical as to how far they could stretch the hilarious side character in to his own feature film, and shocking enough Lego Batman’s spin off is fantastic. It’s laugh out loud funny, very clever, and has a bonafide appeal to both hardcore fans and new audiences looking for a giggle or two. Like the original movie that spawned it, “The Lego Batman Movie” garners a myriad absurdity and off the wall hilarity that will keep many viewers laughing almost non-stop, but the writing team also injects a lot of heart. While Batman is a self confident, obnoxious, egomaniac in love with his own vigilante persona, he’s also a man who doesn’t realize much of it is hollow without a family or someone to lean on.

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The Adventure Club (2017)

I would love nothing more to tell you that “The Adventure Club” is a real gem that deserves discovering. But sadly this is a kidsmovie that even kids might eventually fall asleep during. It’s not that the movie is fundamentally bad it’s just so bland and listless, no matter how many talented character actors that director Geoff Anderson stuffs on screen. And it’s sad because the movie tries its best to utilize greats like Kim Coates, and Billy Zane to account for the fact that the rest of the cast aren’t too good in their roles. I’m all for a film of this ilk, which encourages curiosity, learning, imagination, and wonder. I love movies that carry the aesthetic of a classic serial, but “The Adventure Club” feels like one of the many clones of “The Goonies” we saw throughout the nineties that would often pop up on cable inexplicably.

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Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

“If you must blink… do it now!”

It just serves to prove my theory that bad animated movies can be excused since they’re “for kids” is a cheap cop out meant to let crap pass by us. Animation studios are providing amazing kids fare, including Laika who seemingly snuck out of nowhere to deliver yet another stop motion children’s masterpiece. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is probably their great animated stop motion achievement to date. It’s an immense, epic, and heartfelt ode to the art of storytelling and the power of memories. It’s teeming with fantastic Asian folklore offering a very respectful view of its characters, and creates a wonderful hero who is capable of defeating evil not with his fists or guns, but with magic and his ability to think outside the box.

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My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)

It’s about time Hollywood started admitting that Nia Vardalos is a one trick pony. After her wildly successful vanilla sitcom romantic comedy in 2002, she returns to the original premise fourteen years later. After many more failed cinematic vehicles, and a really embarrassing attempt to turn her movie in to an actual Television sitcom, Vardalos goes back to the well to deliver what feels like a pitch for another sitcom. Or maybe a TV drama comedy, since sitcoms are so passé and old fashioned. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is a painfully contrived and moronic sequel that takes everything that was likable about these characters and turns them in to shrill and obnoxious plot devices.

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Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

homealone2“Home Alone” already stretched the idea of logic and suspension of disbelief already, but when Dreamworks squeezed out a sequel hoping for equal to more success, we instead got “Lost in New York.” Not only did this follow up basically prove that the original’s premise was a tad far-fetched, but something of a flash in the pan. This sequel is just leaps and bounds sillier than even the third “Home Alone” and even presents a ton of misguided morals within its narrative. You can sense the movie is one giant misstep, when it casts the likes of Tim Curry as one of Kevin’s adversaries, and turns Rob Schneider in to a hilariously slimy bellboy, and wastes them in favor of rehashing the same dynamic we saw with Marv and Harry from the first film.

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