“Cans Without Labels” (2019)

This cartoon is rather… infamous for its behind the scenes trouble, especially with regards to its Kickstarter page. But, you know, maybe, just maybe, if the final product was actually any good, then maybe all, or at least some, could be forgiven. No such luck here, because this short is simply atrocious. It’s earned its negative reputation as one of the worst pieces of animation to ever be conceived by man. John K (of Ren & Stimpy fame) definitely has a very grotesque style with regards to his animation, but here he often does it for no discernable reason, other than to adhere to his “never draw the same face twice,” rule. Also, the blending of John K’s 2D animation, and 3D animated cans really doesn’t work. Despite the fact that the cartoon is only 11 minutes long (9 if you remove the credits and extraneous crap at the end), it moves at such a sluggish pace. The sound work in this short is horrendous. It’s just a mish-mash of random stock sound effects, and random stock music cues, seemingly placed at pure random, again with no rhyme or reason, combined with terrible voiceover work that is often so poorly mixed you can’t make out what the characters are saying. There is no better word I could think of to describe this cartoon, than “grotesque,” and I don’t mean that as a compliment. This is an insult to all the people who donated to bring this atrocity to life.

Rating: 1/5

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (2018)

One of the greatest action films ever made, and that’s not an exaggeration. Despite being 150 minutes, not a single second feels wasted in this adrenaline rush of a film, that actually manages to handle the different agendas, double-crossing, and twists and turns that are endemic to the spy genre with such skill and finesse, that it makes it look so easy. This is writer/director Christopher McQuarrie’s second foray into the MI franchise, and he’s proving that he is not only more than capable to keep the franchise going, but that this a match made in heaven, as he’s somehow not only managed to keep this franchise fresh with this sixth film, he’s managed to make the best of the bunch. With breathtaking, exhilarating action scenes, unforgettable characters, and a load of very smart and clever moments, this is a must see for action-film aficionados, and really anyone who enjoys a good popcorn munching film. Do yourself a favor and see it.

Rating: 5/5

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” (2019)

I went into this thinking I would like it just fine. I did not go in expecting to like it this much. I also was not expecting this to be my favorite superhero film of 2019. And yet, here it is. It has everything, and I mean everything, that I would want in a superhero film. The characters are fantastic, it’s funny (including some surprising moments of dark humor), it’s creative, it’s weird, it’s both familiar and fresh, it takes some genuinely shocking twists and turns, it’s poignant, and the action is incredible. Honestly, there is very little I could complain about here. Even when it seems like the film has taken a wrong turn, it eventually ended up getting revealed as being foreshadowing, showcasing just how incredibly smart and clever this film is. And again, Marvel is proving that they’ve learned from their past mistakes with yet another incredible antagonist, making this the 8thMCU film in a row with a great villain. And the two incredible mid and after credit scenes show that Marvel is unafraid to take bold storytelling risks. What else can I even say about this film? It’s just great, great, great fun, and one of the most entertaining times I’ve had at the movies in a long time. Marvel may have closed the door on a huge chapter of this world, but if this film is any indication, they don’t have any signs of slowing down on the path to the next chapter.

Rating: 5/5

“Win Win” (2011)

This underrated and hidden gem, from Spotlight director Tom McCarthy, is a wonderful film. Ostensibly a film about wrestling, but really a complex film about relationships, this film offers us many different characters that are all given clear motivations for what they do, even when those decisions are less than stellar, and it invites us to understand them without judgment. This might be one of the more human films about relationships I’ve seen, and the relationship that sprouts between Kyle and the Flaherty family feels incredibly natural and likable. The acting is great, there are some genuinely funny moments, some very well-executed emotional moments, and the film feels genuine, like these characters are real people. If you haven’t seen this film please at least give it a chance, because it deserves to be talked about way more than it is.

Rating: 5/5

“Heaven Knows What” (2014)

Obviously hard to watch at times, but that’s honestly kind of the point. This raw examination of a group of heroin addicts living in the city, is a sad and tragic tale of characters who seem to be unaware, or worse are aware, of the damage they’re inflicting on themselves for fleeting instances of instant gratification, but don’t seem to care. It helps that the leading actress, Arielle Holmes, is playing a semi-fictionalized version of herself (the script was based on her unpublished novel) which I think helps sell the scenes. She is fantastic in the film, and truly captures the pathetic nature of her character, without making her feel unsympathetic. The main thing I don’t like about the film is the ending, because some parts of it just seem unclear and inconsistent. I think I know what the directors were going for, but I’m not really sure, and the film suffers as a result, because it doesn’t stick the landing. However, the rest of the movie is so effective, that it can be forgiven. Not a feel-good movie, and definitely not for everyone, but worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a raw, and uncompromising film.

Rating: 4/5

“The Disaster Artist” (2017)

A pretty funny movie, but I couldn’t help but feel like it could’ve been a lot more. This is an interesting look at how it might’ve been to be on the set of the most infamously bad film of all time, and James Franco is extremely good as the man behind the madness. As a director, he’s decent, but nothing to write home about. Still, it feels like parts of the story were missing, that there was so much more material that could’ve made it into the film, but was cut, for whatever reason. Also, the ending, if anyone knows anything about the real event, is not even close to how it actually happened, which, to say the least, is very distracting. This is a very entertaining and well-made film, but I feel with a little tweaking, and some added scenes, I think this could’ve been something truly fantastic.

Rating: 4/5

“Escape Room” (2019)

This is PG-13 horror junk food; nothing more, nothing less. It’s an enjoyable enough diversion that will satisfy those just looking for a brainless waste of time, just so long as you don’t think about it too much. It has just enough creativity in it that you might overlook most of its flaws, but it still won’t leave a lasting impact. While some of the clues and hints are painfully obvious, there are some genuinely clever instances of puzzle solving and ingenuity. It does manage to wring out some suspense, as well as having passably written characters (by brainless horror film standards). The film’s atmosphere is also great, and it’s clear that director Adam Robitel (who also directed the solid Insidious: The Last Key) has an understanding of how to handle good atmosphere in horror. The film’s ending sucks (not “ruin the whole movie” bad, but definitely “leaves you scratching your head” bad). And one of the supporting characters is completely insufferable. But still, the film is entertaining and enjoyable enough, has a great premise, and capitalizes on it a little bit. Honestly, maybe it’s fitting that this film was inspired by Saw, because based on its massive box office return, along with the fact that they’re planning an Escape Room sequel to be released as soon as next year, we could very well be looking at the next horror franchise zombie.

Rating: 3/5

“Nevada” (2017)

I don’t really get the purpose of this short. I guess if you didn’t get your fix of awkward stop motion puppet sex from Anomalisa, this one has it. But when you get down to it, it’s just a couple having sex, the condom breaking, and then she takes the Plan B pill. And in between is dialogue that’s awkward in a bad way. And most bizarrely is the decision of the couple to humanize the maybe fertilized egg as if it was a real baby, before she takes the pill, which doesn’t paint either character in a good light. This seems like a short that seems to be trying to be “daring” or “edgy” or “push buttons” simply to stir up controversy, rather than because the filmmakers actually had a compelling story they wanted to tell. And for a comedy short, it has a suspicious lack of actual laughs or even amusing moments. This is ultimately just a waste of time that doesn’t offer either any entertainment or any genuine insight.

Rating: 1.5/5

“A Grand Day Out” (1989)

This first Wallace & Gromit short made by Nick Park is a real treat. Even though not much happens, you can’t help but be charmed and sucked in by its simplistic nature. It may not be a laugh-a-minute comedy, but it’s still a very difficult film to not at least have a smile on your face throughout the majority of it. On top of that the stop-motion animation, while still rough around the edges in some spots, is just so fluid and alive. Chances are, you’ve already seen this and these words of praises are nothing new to you. I guess consider this a review to act as a reminder that this exists, and that maybe it’s time to revisit a great classic.

Rating: 4.5/5

“Agua Viva” (2018)

This beautifully animated short does a great job of looking into the inner monologue of what a Chinese manicurist might be thinking as she interacts with her clients. It offers surface level, but still compelling thoughts about the worries of speaking in a language that’s not your natural tongue. On top of that, this film is simply beautiful to look at, with an animation style that makes it look as if it’s a painting that’s moving and has come to life. The best way I can describe this short is that it breathes and feels real, and that’s really all that’s needed for me to say this is worthy of your time.

Rating: 4/5