Writer David Mamet – with Barry Levinson directing – switches his focus from the small cons of “House of Games” and the like to the global con of “Wag the Dog” (1997), a delightful and sometimes hilariously absurd examination of the cover-up of a presidential scandal. It’s also harrowing enough now and then to be more than a straight-up comedy. Savvy followers of the news cycle know the adage: If a huge story breaks, look at what the previous big story was and ask if the new one has been manufactured as a distraction.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) is a typical, solid animated kids’ movie about teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) learning how to be Spider-Man, but on my home viewing I got the sense that it’s mostly supposed to be a visual spectacle. Many action sequences are tailored to theatrical 3D, and some frames look like when you remove your 3D glasses and peek at the screen. My Cold Bananas colleague Shaune tells me this isn’t lazy 2D conversion, but rather a mimicking of old-school comic-book printing, with colors bleeding together. I might’ve enjoyed the visuals more with that perspective.
The Matrix” was a cultural phenomenon when it was released on March 31, 1999. It elevated Keanu Reeves from movie star to superstar and introduced the world to “bullet time” (the slow-motion portion of an action scene). It was a critical and commercial success, spawning two sequels and a series of animated shorts. Does it hold up 20 years later? Let’s take a look:
Iwouldn’t mind looking at a series of still photos from “The Untouchables” (1987) or listening to the genre-hopping score by Ennio Morricone. But when watching the film, I kept expecting character depth or layers of insight into alcohol Prohibition and the government-versus-mob battles, and these things never emerge. There are occasional lines with a David Mamet flavor (“Yes, surprise is half the battle. A lot of things are half the battle. Losing is half the battle”), but his screenplay doesn’t take the reins of “The Untouchables,” and the film doesn’t rise above something that looks gorgeous and sounds pretty.
Looking for a Throwback Thursday in conjunction with Brie Larson’s “Captain Marvel,” I perused her IMDB credits to note the films I’d already seen. I was surprised to find it was about a half-dozen films. To me, Larson is an actress who doesn’t pop off the screen but gives solid, workhorse turns in whatever she’s in. “Room” (2015), though, stands out because she’s asked to carry the film along with young Jacob Tremblay as her son; this is also the role where Academy Awards voters noticed her, thus leading to the bizarre situation at this year’s show where Larson is introduced as an Oscar winner and Samuel L. Jackson as a mere nominee.
Writer-director Peter Farrelly smooths out the excesses of his filmmaking traits for the surprisingly mainstream and easy-to-like “Green Book” (2018), now back in theaters and also available for home viewing. It’s not as funny as his best films like “Dumb and Dumber” and not as high-concept as the likes of “Stuck on You” and “Shallow Hal.” It’s possibly a crass grab at mainstream and critical acceptance, but it’s hard to quibble with the finished product.
When I throw around the phrase “makeshift family” in reviews, I’m usually talking about tight groups of friends. But the Japanese film “Shoplifters” (2018) shows us a more literal makeshift family. It’s about six societal castoffs who live together in a tiny house owned by the woman they call “Grandma” (Kirin Kiki).
Alot has been made about how horror (“Get Out” last year) and superhero (“Black Panther” this year) films are making inroads with the Oscars, but – in terms of percentage of all films released – comedy remains the most snubbed genre. “The Favourite” (2018) finds a path to Academy attention, though, by chronicling the royal court of Britain’s Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in 1708, replete with gilded paintings, frilly dresses, pancake makeup and powdered wigs. Oscar-film trappings, in other words.
With the Oscars coming up, the guilt of constantly scrolling past “Roma” (2018) on Netflix en route to “Daredevil” episodes finally got to me, and I gave the Best Picture nominee a watch. And also, my Cold Bananas colleague Shaune watched the first 20 minutes, laughed, and said I can claim this one in our attempt to check Oscar films off our list.
Prior to seeing “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018), I was hardly a Queen fan. The band’s popularity had faded before I was old enough to appreciate it, and growing up, their music was not something I was into. My knowledge of Queen was limited to knowing they had a handful of decent songs and a few overplayed stadium anthems, and were led by one of the most eccentric frontmen of all time. That said, I’m a huge music fan in general and had heard good things from friends about the film, so I was excited to learn about the legend of Queen.