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We♥Movies: Christmas Week film reviews

posted Dec 22, 2018, 4:20 AM by Vu Nguyen

We♥Movies: Christmas Week film reviews

With Winter officially here (now according to the calendar) and temps staying frigid as the concert bookings slow around the holidays, it’s a perfect time to head inside and catch a movie.

Here’s a few that we’ve managed to see, to help navigate your holiday viewing, and we’ll also make mention of the musical content in each--



Aquaman

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Films
In the forthcoming Bumblebee film (to be release on December 21, 2018), a spinoff of the popular Transformers films, actress Hailee Steinfeld (as Charlie Watson) is seen wearing a The Smiths T-Shirt in the film trailer (youtube.com). …

Aquaman

This much-awaited entry from the DC Universe returns Jason (Game of Thrones, Conan) Momoa to the title role, with Amber Heard as love interest Mera, and Nicole Kidman as his mother, directed by James Wan, best known for Saw and the last couple Fast and Furious films.

Told mostly chronologically, the movie opens with his origin (including Kidman in some heavy action scenes that rival her ex-husband Tom Cruise) and the plot involves the Atlantian taking the throne from his evil half-brother Orm (Ocean Master), played by a stoic Patrick Wilson.

Less dark than any of the Zack Snyder DC films, it features a quick moving story (aided by comic book writer Geoff Johns on the script) but some sequences and dialogue come off as hokey or contrived, maybe better off staying in the comics, than on-screen. The third act amps up all the CGI and even features the voice of Julie Andrews (?!) as a monster guarding a sacred trident.

Hit and miss, it has its moments, but is no Wonder Woman, or wouldn’t rank high if it was a Marvel Studios movie. Ocean Master and the other villain, Black Manta don’t seem too menacing, though Heard does look good in her green bodysuit.

Musically, the film is well scored by Rupert (Wonder Woman) Gregson-Williams but also includes a Pitbull (ugh) remake of Toto’s “Africa”, snippets from Depeche Mode, Greta Van Fleet, Roy Orbison, and Sigur Ros, and a mostly forgettable end title song from Skylar Grey.

Director Wan throws in some quick easter eggs (H.P. Lovecraft paperback, Anabelle doll, and other movie homages) to keep the attentive on their toes and a short mid-credits scene doesn’t add much to the continuing storyline. Not terrible, but often shallow.

Aquaman is in theatres now

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (W♥M rating – 7 out of 10 hearts)



Mortal Engines
Mortal Engines

With a look that is part steampunk, part Terry Gilliam, part Neil Gaiman, this ambitious film directed by Peter Jackson protege Christian Rivers, is often a marvel to look at, but often weak in the storyline and dialogue.

A post-apocalyptic tale of moving and dueling cities stars a conniving Hugo Weaving and outsider female hero Hera Hilmar, in her first studio film. The film (based on books by British author Phillip Reeve) is mostly a case of too much icing/ too little cake, with the Junkie XL soundtrack being one of the high points.

Mortal Engines is in theatres now-

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (W♥M rating – 6 out of 10 hearts)





Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

One of the only good things about seeing Venom in the theater recently, was the end-credit extended preview of this eye-poppingly good movie from Sony Pictures Animation, a movie that could have so easily been an over-confusing trainwreck, but instead is a hyper-fun rollercoaster ride.

Armed with original looking animation and a strong voice cast (including Mahershala Ali, Lily Tomlin, John Mulaney, Nicolas Cage, and Liev Schreiber), it overcomes any negative feelings I had going in for mostly lame characters like Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, and even Spider-Ham.

Musically, the soundtrack balances a Daniel (Oceans 8, Molly’s Game) Pemberton score with hip-hop tracks from Post Malone, Swae Lee, and Nicki Minaj (zzzz).

Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is in theatres now.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (W♥M rating – 8 out of 10 hearts)



Bumblebee
Bumblebee

This is the sixth film in the modern Transformers film series, the first without director Michael Bay and is a prequel that shows the robots’ first journey from their home planet of Cybertron, to Earth.

Basically, a teen and her robot friend story, the action is more subdued than the previous films and there’s a little more script attention to character development than before. Hailee Steinfeld is tolerable in the lead tomboy role, with wrestler John Cena playing a Section 7 agent on her (and Bumblebee’s) trail while the Decepticons try to influence the humans to take their side. For a better version of a similar enough story, just re-watch The Iron Giant.

With Bay out of the director’s chair, Travis Knight takes over, with his previous credits being the son of Nike founder Phil Knight and starting out as a wannabee rapper called Chilly Tee (ok, he helmed the good Kubo and the Two Strings as well), but I actually started to miss the trademark Bay over-the-top fighting and effects at some point.

Musically, the film thinks because it’s set in 1987, that any familiar 80’s tune can be placed in randomly- from “Save a Prayer” (1982) to “Runaway” (1984) to “I Can’t Drive 55” (1984) and so on, whether it fits the year the film is set in, or not. Steinfeld proves her music street-cred by wearing Motorhead, Smiths, and Madonna tour shirts throughout and my colleague Vu will appreciate the numerous Smiths placements, from “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “Girlfriend in a Coma” heard, to The Smiths’ album Strangeways, Here We Come being the first cassette tape inserted into Bumblebee- at least that one got the year right, released in 1987.

Bumblebee is in theatres now

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (W♥M rating – 6 out of 10 hearts)



Vice
Vice

Christian Bale’s literally transformative performance as former VP Dick Chaney is the main (and maybe only) reason to see this film, which starts chronologically but eventually devolves into an over-opinionated skewed character study, often to the point of Michael Moore-like parody.

Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Amy Adams as wife Liz Chaney are in fine form as well, but the problem lies in the script from director Adam (Anchorman, The Big Short) McKay which is as scattershot as Chaney himself was, when he accidentally shot his friend in the face while hunting in Texas, but Bale is worth the watch.

Oscar winner (for Moonlight) Nicholas Britell provides the musical score for the film, which is effective and never too intrusive.

Vice opens on Christmas Day

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (W♥M rating – 7 out of 10 hearts)



If Beale Street Could Talk
If Beale Street Could Talk

At its heart, this overdue adaptation of a James Baldwin novel set in Harlem in the early 70s, is a just a simple love story. KiKi Layne and Stephan James play the young couple, he soon incarcerated for a crime he likely did not commit.

Both sets of parents play into the story with a particularly strong performance from Regina King, who plays Layne’s character’s mother and writer/director Barry Jenkins continues the subtle less-is-more style he showed first in the Best Picture Oscar-winning Moonlight, portraying a quiet elegance in a closeup of a face, or on a slow pan of a living quarters.

Like Vice, Nicholas Britell provides the score, but it’s much more effective here, with slow jazz framing one scene, while mourning cellos help set another. Not quite as strong as Moonlight, it’s still a poignant and very literary film.

If Beale Street Could Talk opens Christmas Day

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (W♥M rating – 8 out of 10 hearts)



Escape Room
Escape Room

With a familiar set-up of six supposedly random strangers put together in a situation where things soon go wrong, this Adam (forgettable Paranormal Activity and Insidious sequels) Robitel-helmed psychological drama starring Taylor (who?) Russell and Logan (Love, Simon) Miller is somewhat entertaining for the first two-thirds as the group try to unravel the keys of getting out of five different and deadly rooms.

Where the train goes off the rails is the cheap and somewhat rushed ending, where the anticipated big reveal is underwhelming and the door is not only wide open for a sequel, it practically starts the next movie, over-confident that this franchise will continue.

The musical score is by Brian Tyler and John Carey, Tyler coming hot off of Crazy Rich Asians and having worked on Avengers Age of Ultron and Iron Man3, and the music while reasonable, is ultimately as forgettable as the film itself.

Escape Room opens in theatres on January 4

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (W♥M rating – 5 out of 10 hearts)


john (johnc@weheartmusic.com) weheartmusic.com twitter.com/weheartmusic
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