The musical biopic, just like the bitch, is back. After the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, we almost immediately have Rocketman, which does more for Elton John than the former ever did for Queen. Movies should not always be reviewed via direct comparison, except there is an important connection between the two: Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) is openly the director of Rocketman, and he was the secret director of Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired. Where Bohemian Rhapsody was a spectacular creative failure and a massive commercial success, Rocketman is an actual movie, with an aesthetic, a voice, and not total contempt for its ostensible star. Rocketman is still a music biopic, with all the drawbacks of the genre, but it at least attempts something with the form.
Aladdin is the second of three live action adaptations of classic Disney cartoons released in 2019. After the retrofuturistic art deco Dumbo, which took extreme liberties with the source material, Guy Ritchie’s (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) Aladdin is a more straightforward piece. With an extra forty minutes to fill and a desire to give Princess Jasmine more agency, the new Aladdin has its points of difference without compromising its story. Even without the spontaneity of Robin Williams, who practically invented improv animation, Aladdin still has something to recommend it.
Stephen King is in a constant state of adaptation renaissance. For this reader and viewer’s money, Pet Sematary 1989 was a slavishly faithful adaptation of the novel, keeping all of the content but missing out on the soul. You can safely say this 30 years after the event, but the child actors weren’t up to much, either. (And Dale Midkiff barely got any work again)
Pet Sematary 2019 is a different beast entirely. It has the bones of the story right, and it changes things up. An esteemed colleague postulated that when it makes these changes for its climax, Pet Sematary becomes “just a horror movie.” A pet theory around these parts is that King’s works often lose much in the translation from page to screen due to the novels’ inherent interiority of character.
Despite all of that, Pet Sematary is a fair shake at some of King’s more challenging and troubling thematic work. The changes make Pet Sematary more enjoyable than its literary counterpart because we lose the intense nihilism of the original incarnation. The misery may have been the point, but this new movies shows that sometimes you want a bit of an undead sting instead.
Who amongst us has not been burned by a DC Extended Universe movie? Since Man of Steel, it’s been a bit of a bust. They haven’t all been bad, but it’s rare that you can recommend a DC movie without reservation.
Shazam! is that movie. Finally returning to the superhero wellspring of found families (even Bruce Wayne has an entire menagerie of Batkids and Batcousins, a fact that most movies forget), Shazam! is family friendly, it’s funny, and it has Mark Strong in it, and as we all know, Mark Strong is game for anything.
If the measure of a movie is how much you think about it afterwards, Us is the finest film of 2019. It’s the sort of movie that rewards repeat viewing, because it is packed with details that you’re guaranteed not to pick up on the first time around.
The following review isn’t entirely accurate: it claims that Us is largely humourless. This was written through the haze of the sheer anxiety and panic that a first run through can provoke in someone (ie me) trying to grasp exactly what is happening. It’s pretty funny at times, and not just because it has Tim Heidecker in it.
More than that, Us is a painstakingly constructed film that contains elements of horror, but realistically it’s a complete experience, drawing from many different sources to become a cohesive and disturbing hole. You can take it at face value, but to give it even a little thought, you’ll be chewing on it for a long time thereafter.
We, as a society, are rapidly closing in on Avengers: Endgame. The movie designed to bridge that gap is set in 1995, crammed with nostalgia that its lead character is incapable of feeling. It even has snippets lifted directly from Top Gun.
Brie Larson, able though she may be, does not carry Captain Marvel alone. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury gets a leading role, and Ben Mendelsohn performs a career highlight underneath a sea of makeup and prosthetics.
Happy Death Day was one of the best genre subversions of 2016, and it did so well at the box office that it took less than 18 months for a sequel to come out. Far from being a rush job, Happy Death Day 2 U is a fresh new movie that makes one of the best moves a sequel can: the total genre shift.
A quantum murder comedy with a great promotion of a bit character from the first, Happy Death Day 2 U is fresh, funny, and wild as heck.
Most of the time, a movie is not better than the book that inspired it. A Simple Favour is not that time. An impossibly stupid book has become a gleefully over the top two hander about two women who need each other, except they really don’t.
John Cho uses a computer that always has the camera turned on – basically the nightmare of anyone who uses the internet consistently. Searching is a movie defined by its limitations, but it doesn’t suffer too terribly from them. You just wouldn’t want to watch too many of these screen time movies.
Constance Wu is one of the finest actresses working today: magnetic, funny, tough and vulnerable, she deserves to have her own movie. In Crazy Rich Asians, that dream has come true for us all. Crazy Rich Asians is a fun rom-com based on – and changed from – the first instalment of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling trilogy. It’s exactly like a lot of things you’ve seen before, but it never matters when it’s done as well as this.