Quick Movie Review: Batman (1989)


I’m never sure how I feel about Michael Keaton. He always has such unorthodox delivery in his performances. I can’t deny the personality he brings to his characters. And a lot of the time that’s what makes certain performances so good. But he has such a specific style, that at times he seems a little out of place. Not every role is fit for his idiosyncrasies.

At times you feel that way about his role as Bruce Wayne. He does an okay job as Batman, but his usual tongue-in-cheek style gets somewhat stymied as Wayne. You can tell he’s holding back, but then other times he doesn’t, and it seems out of place. The result is a character who is neither stoic nor hyper. He’s just lethargic.

The premise is pretty convoluted, so I’m going to bare-bones it. The Joker (Jack Nicholson) becomes Batman’s first true supervillain as the Caped Crusader tries to clean up the streets of Gotham City.

Nicholson is the obvious standout in this film. He’s a psychopath who makes you uneasy just because you know he literally has no conscience.

Over the course of the film, the story turns into the Joker attempting to create some sort of political race with Batman to become the city’s favorite bad guy. It’s twisted and doesn’t make much sense–but in the most intentional way possible. The way only the Joker could pull off.

But this trend continues as other characters have muddled motives also. The Joker’s motives are supposed to not make sense, but the rest of the characters’ still should.

There’s some backstory in the first 45 minutes of how the Joker comes to be, but it’s confusing as well.

Watching the film now, it’s an exercise in nostalgia, but it’s still a very slow watch, sagging all throughout. However, the dialogue is snappy and holds up pretty well (the dialogue does–not the movie as a whole). The movie is definitely dated and would never fly as a Batman movie these days. Post-Christopher Nolan, we as a society have become extremely picky about our Batman films.

Twizard Rating: 79


Quick Movie Review: The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

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In The Cabin In the Woods, cliches turn to genre subversions almost seamlessly. By the end, you look back 90 minutes and can’t believe where it started.

With a setting that arbitrarily gives off the vibe of late-’90s/early-’00s teen horror films, we get five vicenarians with slasher film archetypes going away on a trip to a relative’s cabin in the woods. At the same time, in an undisclosed location, there are a couple of government employees, played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, who are involved in what immediately comes next in these young adults’ lives.

Written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, it brilliantly detaches the audience from any of the characters, both becoming like the many slasher films it mimics, and fulfilling a vital part of its satire. If we cared too much about the characters, we would, in turn, be alienated once bad things start happening to them–being more invested in them than in the film’s point. But actually establishing certain appealable traits also prevents the movie from becoming flippant.

The film gets very close to actually becoming self-aware–to where the satire becomes parody–but never does. Jenkins and Whitford’s characters mirror the audience, providing the subtle commentary for us. In fact, becoming commentary for audiences of horror films in general–getting too excited when someone dies or when a woman’s blouse comes off. Their perspective is the satire–but luckily that’s not its sole purpose

What’s great is that the film is about more than just critiquing the horror genre. It also gives us a fresh new story.

Visually, it’s very appealing. Narrative-wise, it’s a blast. The payoff is worth it. Whedon and Goddard give you exactly what you want and what you want to know, answering mostly all of your questions by the end.

The film isn’t without its holes, but I don’t think it really cares. And neither do we, because that’s never the point. It’s a throwback to when horror movies were simple. This time with a more involved premise–proving that it’s possible for the genre to survive and grow.

Twizard Rating: 95

Quick Movie Review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)

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Hunger Games is, hands down, the most famous post-apocalyptic YA film series. And it’s ironic that only half of the series is good. The first two Hunger Games are fantastic, but the last two are pretty bad, with the 3rd film being borderline unwatchable. Maze Runner should be the real star of the genre. And while this final installment is a slight step below the previous two, it’s entertaining at the very least.

Even that aside, the series has a lot going for it. The characters are way more likable. We can relate to them more since they don’t just spend hours of the film brooding. I know it’s probably more realistic in these dire circumstances, but it’s just not very entertaining to watch someone mope about on screen for that long. In Maze Runner, we also don’t get some forced love triangle that turns out to have an even more forced resolution. Hunger Games may be filled way more with edgy political commentary and a grand philosophical meaning, but Maze Runner has stuff to say itself. Hunger Games began as a cool concept but didn’t know where to go from there. It almost wanted too badly to be artsy, which just made it seem self-indulgent. While the Maze Runner films know how to be entertaining and never really try to be pretentious.

With that said, the impact of this film, as well as the driving purpose for the characters in it, will only seem worth it to those of us who are fans of, and have an invested interest in the previous two movies.

Minho has been captured by WCKD so they can torture and run tests on him, so Thomas and his crew attempt to break him out of their headquarters. Pretty much the whole movie is based on this premise–including an elaborate and action-packed scene at the beginning where they steal a train car, hoping that Minho is inside. But it turns out it’s all for naught since they got the wrong train.

It’s an event that’s created to justify a nearly two and a half hour movie, but at least what follows is entertaining and gives us nice closure to the series. Even if it wouldn’t have happened at all if they hadn’t stolen the wrong train car.

It does get a little frustrating and confusing at times because you have the tendency to over think it. When reality is, there’s not much to think about. It’s a basic plot that takes 142 minutes to be accomplished. And while much of it turns out to be unnecessary and in vain, it never actually feels that long. Mostly because it’s really entertaining all the way through.

The only derailment of that enjoyment is when we get confused or lost due to the film relying too much on the audience remembering details from its predecessor. But even if you do remember, it gets slightly convoluted with the plot holes that keep popping up.

There’s nothing countering the tension–not enough at stake. Or at least, you don’t realize what’s at stake until the very end. It’s not quite as poetic and masterful as its predecessor, but that’s a really hard act to follow.

With the first movie being a great jump-off point for the series, creating mystery and intrigue, and the second movie being a near-perfect follow-up that not only improves on its predecessor, but becomes an amazing standalone film in its own right, this finale may not quite be the one we’ve been waiting for. However, they could have done the unthinkable and tried to separate it into two terrible films and it could have been much, much worse.

Twizard Rating: 79

Quick Movie Review: I, Tonya (2017)

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2017 has truly been an amazing year for film, with I, Tonya being one of the highlights.

The film revolves around figure skater, Tonya Harding, played by Margot Robbie, and her relationship with her mother (Allison Janney) and her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). It eventually, and expectedly, builds up to the controversial incident involving her peer, Nancy Kerrigan, getting her knee whacked by an expandable baton.

This story has next-to-nothing to do with Harding and Kerrigan’s relationship. In fact, the two never have any dialogue with one another–however badly we want it. Though, it does give you a different perspective on an event that was shown bias by the media in a sport that is obsessed with its image. It was America’s candy months before we moved on to O.J. Simpson.

It shows, in depth, the skater’s history with physical abuse–both by her mother and Gillooly. But I won’t go into detail on her complex psyche and the flaws in professional figure skating, because the film depicts both of those brilliantly.

Harding had a lousy upbringing. A redneck who never finished high school. Her dad left when she was little and she was dirt poor.

Even though Harding was likely not guilty and didn’t want Kerrigan to be crippled, she was bitter about her competitor’s pretentious attitude and how her image was everything the figure skating industry wanted. Kerrigan was the sweet girl next door who played the game in order to win the judges affection. Harding was the exact opposite. At one point, she says something like, “Look, Nancy gets hit one time and the whole world s***s. For me, it was an all-the-time occurrence.”

Never once does the movie feel constricted by formula or standards. It tells the story how it wants to and gets a lot done because of it. It’s blatant, but it fits the tone.

I love the creative narration–using recreated interviews from several sources in order to show several perspectives.

And the film properly utilizes cause and effect with how people change each other and how it’s never just one person’s fault. Harding gets constantly abused by her mother all her life. And the ironic thing is, it does make her a better skater. But at what cost? Is being a good skater even worth it if it makes the rest of your life worse?

Janney does a perfect job throughout the entire film. She is so aware of her every word and facial expression, while keeping them beautifully ambiguous at the same time.

But Robbie should also not be overlooked. It’s by far her best performance yet. She makes you feel for Tonya so much. Someone who was once a pariah and a punchline. You never thought you’d be watching a movie where Tonya Harding was the protagonist and you’d be moved to tears for her. It’s all so amazing. Hands down, one of the year’s best.

Twizard Rating: 100

Quick Movie Review: Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise (1987)

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1984’s Revenge of the Nerds didn’t need a sequel. Everything gets accomplished in that movie. It could have stood alone as a piece of history. A treasured work of art that we could look back on and admire. In making a followup film, you risk losing the quality and integrity of the predecessor.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Before sequels typically had any chance of being good, the filmmakers of Revenge of the Nerds decided to take this risk. While critics back then may have been less than pleased, true fans probably enjoyed seeing more nerds.

What makes Revenge of the Nerds so great isn’t only its goofy premise, but mostly its incredible characters. And when you like the characters, it makes an unnecessary sequel more justifiable.

However, these characters don’t always live up to their full potential in the sequel. Some fan-favorites from the first film are missing, and that messes with the dynamics a little.

Lewis and the rest of the nerds in the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity head to Florida for a national fraternity convention. They’re met with harsh adversity when their rivals in the jock fraternity get offended by how the nerds are ruining the cool vibe of the convention.

Their incentives aren’t exactly crystal-clear, but neither are they in previous film.

Fortunately, you can make a case that it’s even funnier than its predecessor. There are some bits that are even more clever, and less focus on sexcapades.

And in an unexpected twist, the film holds up just as well.

Twizard Rating: 82

Quick Movie Review: The Post (2017)

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Boy, does Steven Spielberg know how to get you into a story. Even one with a topic as dry and heavy-handed as this one. He turns moments that probably shouldn’t be emotional into things that get you pumping your fist with the win.

The Post takes place in Washington D.C. in 1971, dealing with the Washington’s Post decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, which contained thousands of pages of secret information about how the government had been lying about the actual objective of the Vietnam War.

The New York Times had already gotten some information and run some stories about it, but they were silenced by the government with a court injunction. So the Washington Post now has a choice to make. Does it run the rest of the stories at the risk of violating the court order?

Meryl Streep plays Katharine Graham, owner of the newspaper, in a brilliant character transformation. Graham has mastered the ability to exploit society’s view of her as a “dumb woman”, playing it up to her advantage when necessary.

It’s also a film about the press in general. It was a much different world back then. Newspapers seemed to have more integrity because they had to. They were society’s main source of information. They couldn’t afford to state their blatant opinions as much as today. Nowadays, there are so many news outlets that the papers can have more of a bias because there will always be an audience for them.

It’s hard to imagine this happening in this day-and-age where information can be released by anyone with a keyboard, but in 1971, if no official news outlet ran the story, it didn’t get heard.

The Post is filled with some thought-provoking and powerful messages about freedom of press and protection of the governed. It doesn’t take a political stance on any one president, but on all presidents.

The most powerful scene is when Bob Odenkirk’s character, Ben Bagdikian, assistant editor for the Post, tracks down Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the papers. They meet in a hotel room and Ellsberg discusses why he chose to disclose the information and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the truth. He asks Odenkirk, “Wouldn’t you go to prison to stop this war?” As viewers, we have to think about if we would do the same. Odenkirk responds, “Theoretically, sure.” Most of us are on the same page. It’s one of the only scenes not featuring Streep or Hanks, yet it ties the whole film together and brings the uninvested audience members into it for good.

Like I said, this is dry stuff. The details are as convoluted as the Pentagon Papers, themselves, and so the second act drags a little. But somehow Spielberg makes a gripping movie about the topic. And reels us all in by the end.

Twizard Rating: 100

Quick Movie Review: Get Out (2017)

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Get Out is an important movie for where we are right now in this country. It’s a race-relations story that takes things to the extreme.

A young white woman, Rose (Allison Williams), takes her black boyfriend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), to meet her parents at their rural upstate home. He’s immediately met with friendly, yet uneasy encounters with them. He jumps to the conclusion that it’s because of his race, but still tries to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

It begins with circumstances that are humorous, but that we know still occur in our society. Like blunt comments about his genetics, or awkward conversations about Barack Obama. But then it slowly adds more and more so that it soon becomes ridiculous.

Some things are almost too weird. To the point where almost every scenario exists only to support the twist at the end. So we just end up sitting there, consciously trying to take note of it all because we’re aware that we’ll be needing it again.

Luckily, the film doesn’t take itself that seriously. You might imagine writer/director Jordan Peele laughing to himself as he writes it. It’s silly, but it’s often rooted in truth. And it finds that happy medium for almost the entirety of the film. The tone is established early on. It’s not laugh-out-loud, but it’s also not too stern. And it has some touches of farce. Many touches.

I get that Peele is trying to prove a point. Actually, it’s less polemic than it is a hyper-exaggerated version of some reality (though in some cases, not entirely). It’s hard to believe that there are people out there who actually go around telling black people that they’re fans of Tiger Woods like it’s going to make them happy.

There are a lot of different pieces thrown at you along the way that you’re tempted to doubt that it will all come together in the end, but Peele gains our trust by making a smart movie to where we know it still will.

Peele has an excellent vision for Get Out. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s very good. It may not be as powerful as some would hope, but I also don’t think that was his intent.

It also should be noted that Lil Rel Howery’s role as Chris’ best friend, Rod, may be the highlight of the film. His earth-shattering comedic performance is one of the best I’ve seen in recent cinema and truly grounds this film.

Twizard Rating: 94

Quick Movie Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

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I always say that a film’s true greatness is found in how close the finished product is to the filmmaker’s true vision. This doesn’t always mean that it’s in line with our own personal enjoyment, but you can’t deny that it’s well-done.

The Shape of Water is a pretty good example. Not everyone will be into it. It’s very weird, yet it’s almost too normal to be weird.

Set in the early 1960s, Sally Hawkins’ character, Elisa, works as a cleaning lady in a government lab building. She’s mute, but can still hear. One day, she discovers a human-like animal that is being treated violently in some top secret room. It looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. She becomes very empathetic, and even sympathetic towards this creature, to the point of falling in love with it.

That’s when the weirdness starts. The film turns into a love story between Elisa and the creature. If you thought that Harold and Maude was too much, you’ll likely not enjoy this one either.

It all feels too relatable, while at the same time distances itself from us by using foreign examples to help us sympathize. It becomes preachy, which is actually a turn off, because of the fact that it’s a little too real. At times you just wish that it possessed more of a sci-fi tone, so then it could just be weird and nothing else.

It’s also hard to stay invested because the creature we are rooting for has few redeeming qualities. It’s animalistic and even eats cats. I mean, so did ALF, but at least he was able to joke around and cohabit with humans.

I appreciate the visionary set design and artistic direction, but it’s just too strange for me, and will be for many people. I usually don’t even mind if the themes and message of it all are too on-the-nose, but here it’s not worth sitting through all the weirdness.

Oddly enough, you still know that this is probably the exact film that writer/director Guillermo del Toro wanted to make. And that makes me respect it as art, but I just don’t really care for it as entertainment.

Twizard Rating: 82

Quick Movie Review: Molly’s Game (2017)

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A great film can present itself non-linearly and still have you understand all of the information just as well as if it were presented linearly. If it’s done poorly, it leaves you confused, but if it’s done well, you get a near-perfect film.

But along with a sporadic narrative, you also need a compelling story. Something that makes you want to follow a film through all of its twists and turns.

Molly’s Game is a film that’s appealing because it loves the grey areas. Mostly because writer/director Aaron Sorkin is a fan of these. Whether it’s in a character whose moral compass is pointing in no convincing direction, or a scenario that really has no right or wrong answer. In this case, he gives us both.

The film follows Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a former competitive-skier who, after a bad accident during a competition, drastically changes her life, eventually leading to her starting one of the biggest underground poker rings in the country.

It’s a film of epic proportions, with Chastain giving a performance rivaling her best. Molly changes so much from beginning to end, while always allowing us to see her true self underneath it all.

While a movie like The Big Short explains complicated things in a colloquial fashion, Molly’s Game requires a little bit more work and previous knowledge of poker. There’s a lot of esoteric jargon, but it never leaves you high and dry. You have to understand the game a little bit, but instead of trying to explain it in a contrived way, Sorkin opts to just keep the poker, itself, as basic as possible–not really discussing hands outside of pairs, three-of-a-kinds, and full houses.

Idris Elba does an amazing job playing Molly’s lawyer, Charlie Jaffey. He and Chastain have absolute firework chemistry. When they banter on screen you can’t look away.

Charlie is the real good guy in the movie. Molly is our protagonist, but not all protagonists come in a neatly wrapped package. Like I said, she walks the line somewhere in the middle, morally.  So if Sorkin makes his main protagonist an anti-hero, he still has to have an actual hero to represent the one end of the spectrum. Charllie is that guy. Then we have characters, like Player X (Michael Cera)–an anonymous actor who tries to ruin people’s lives by making them go broke–who represent the other end.

There are tons of things keeping this film afloat, but I suppose it could have had a tighter grip on its themes. A lot of times you get the sense that it’s merely a cool story for the sake of telling us a cool story.

Some may get the feeling of “why do we care?” Well, in a way it’s also a character study. Why do we ever care about a character study? Because the character being studied is a unique and complex individual. Not only is Molly Bloom both of these, but so are the situations she’s put herself in.

Molly’s Game has a tendency to act self-aggrandized for the sake of being cool. But it’s a cool film. Why wouldn’t it want to show it off a little? Maybe the most impressive thing Sorkin does here is make us believe that this topic is way more interesting and important than it actually is. That sounds like a slight, but it’s not. It’s actually high praise.

Twizard Rating: 97

Quick Movie Review: Bright (2017)


Will Smith might be the very best at bringing genuinely hilarious humor to intense action films without making them feel like comedies. His jokes never cause a movie to lose its intensity, but bring a human-quality to it.

It’s a skill that fits in perfectly with Bright–a film about humans and fantasy creatures, like Orcs and Elves, living together on Earth. Smith plays Daryl Ward, a street cop who is partners with an Orc named Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton).

Jakoby is the country’s first Orc police officer. In this version of America, Orcs are considered low-class scum. Jakoby is hated by humans for being an Orc, and he’s ostracized by other Orcs for “selling out”.

The dialogue throughout the film is extremely smart. It’s like a more on-the-nose Blade Runner–and much more relatable. Because of that, you reflect on it a little bit more within the context of your own life.

The themes are heavy-handed, but not as preachy as you would think. It shows issues with racism from all sides, causing the entire audience to be self-reflective without evoking any hate or bitterness for either side.

To make the story even more interesting, it gives us a lot more to play with in terms of subplot and lore, so we can see perhaps another film set in this universe–either a sequel or a spinoff.

This is peak Will Smith–on par with anything he did back in the ’90s. Bright is easily Smith’s best movie in over 10 years.

Twizard Rating: 99