With “Shazam!” – the superhero answer to “Big,” starring Zachary Levi – hitting theaters April 5 and “Aquaman” available for rental March 26, it’s a good time to look back at the DC Extended Universe as it stands so far. While I admit the DCEU can’t hold a candle to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which again owns the superhero calendar with three 2019 films, or even the in-flux X-Men Universe, I’m probably in the role of DCEU apologist in most conversations about superhero movies.
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.
It’s been a cliché for more than four decades now that spectacle can’t overcome a bad screenplay, but it’s still remarkable how many films can nail everything except communicating to a viewer what the heck is going on. With “Captain Marvel,” the fun and technically amazing 21st Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, I can’t discount that I may have spaced out on important details, but I do suspect I was spending too much time trying to figure out the nature of Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) superpowers rather than kicking back for the ride.
“Summer ’03” (2018) had the misfortune of coming out the same year as “Eighth Grade,” which showed new blood can be wrung from the stone of coming-of-age dramedies. Stacked against other entries in the genre – but especially that one – “Summer ’03” is tame, without a sharp or original perspective. The trappings of a decent film are here, including lead actress Joey King – very much in her “She’ll be a star someday” mode – and nice Georgia cinematography (although the film takes place in Cincinnati for some reason) by Ben Hardwicke.
In the tradition of great Asian cinema, “Burning” (2018) is intensely strange and immensely engrossing. Fittingly, lead actor Ah-in Yoo, as Lee Jong-su, seems to barely be giving a performance, but we’re right there with him as his life gets weirder and weirder.
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).
A lot 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.
I’m usually not a fan of remakes, but I make exceptions if the remake brings a fresh perspective to the material. I can also be won over if the remake is really f****** good. Such is the case with “A Star is Born” (2018), which was also made in 1937, 1954 and 1976, and which makes a solid case for its existence in dialog from Sam Elliott’s Bobby: “It’s the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes. That’s it.”