“Ready or Not” (2019)

Ready or Not is a twisted fun ride. Samara Weaving is a great and compelling lead, as she hits every mark that she should, and her character is well developed gradually. The film is well shot, the production design is fantastic, and the film hits exactly the tone that it should. There are lots of genuinely funny moments of wicked dark comedy; I really dug this film’s sick sense of humor. Also, it was refreshing to see a film where both the heroes and the villains in a horror film act reasonably intelligent. The first two acts are fantastic and showcase the film at its absolute best. Unfortunately, the film makes some story mistakes in the third act that take it down a peg from the genius it could’ve been. The motivational shift in one of the characters is too jarring and isn’t set up properly. The film does a good initial job at setting up the nuance of the film’s antagonists, which the third act completely removes. The film also goes nowhere with the initial subtext about the conflict of nature vs. nurture. And finally, I kind of wish the film’s big reveal was different than what it ended up being, (even if it admittedly does lead to some genuinely hilarious moments regardless). Still, the semi-lackluster third act doesn’t screw up enough to ruin the film. It’s still an entertaining, funny horror comedy, one that could’ve been genuinely fantastic, instead of just great.

Rating: 4/5

“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (2019)

I’m honestly surprised that it took the Fast & Furious franchise this long to do some kind of spin-off. Getting dangerously close to Sci-Fi/Superhero territory with this franchise’s first cybernetic supervillain (played very well by Idris Elba), this film makes it very clear from the get-go that it’s not intended to be taken too seriously. As a conduit in order to see some creative over-the-top action, this film more than gets the job done. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham both have great chemistry, and Vanessa Kirby does great work, and also has the opportunity to show that she too is capable to being a compelling action lead. It’s exciting, it’s funny, and it’s even subtly subversive, which more than makes up for some of it’s weird pacing issues early on. Whether you’re a long-time fan of this franchise, or a newcomer who’s never seen a Fast & Furious film before, this brainless, testosterone-laced, entertaining thrill ride is extremely entertaining and enjoyable.

Rating: 4/5

“Dumbo” (2019)

I was saying before that I wish more “Disney Live Action Remakes,” would take more chances and tell a different story than the original version. And Dumbo at least attempts it, but it doesn’t quite work. I mean, given how incredibly short and minimalistic the original film is, this film basically had no other choice but to tell a different story than the original. But the story they tell is a very generic and uninspired one; it’s basically yet another kid’s film about how the bigger, more elaborate, and more corporate circus is so much more artificial and superficial than the humbler, lower-class circus (quite ironic when you consider this film was made by one of the biggest entertainment corporations on the planet). We’ve seen this before and know exactly where it’s heading. Most of the human characters are boring (Eva Green as Colette is the only exception), the story is predictable, and some of the references to the original film (Pink Elephants, anyone?) feel so forced. There are a few solid moments, and some of the visual animation is gorgeous to look at (Dumbo’s ears in particular look extremely well textured and real-looking). But I still don’t know why this movie was made, even from a business perspective. I’ll give it a little bit of credit for at least attempting something different than the original film, but if this plot was the best they could come up with, they shouldn’t have even tried.

Rating: 2.5/5

“Crawl” (2019)

This film is proof that you can still make an entertaining, old-fashioned Jaws-esque creature feature; you just need to have someone behind the camera who actually knows what they’re doing. Directed by Alexandre Aja, who also directed the cheesy, gloriously over-the-top Piranha 3D, he definitely seems to have an understanding of how to wring genuine tension out of a film like this, namely by filling the cast with sympathetic characters, and striking the perfect balance of not taking itself too seriously, but also grounding the film. It also helps that he knows how to handle an effective jump scare. The film also manages to work in some clever subversion with the typical “creature horror” conventions, making the film feel a little bit more fresh than it had any right to be. Does it have problems? Yes. The CG on the alligators usually doesn’t look very convincing, the characters sometimes act stupidly to artificially raise the tension, and the film sometimes forgets about the extent of how bad character’s injuries are. But overall, this is a quick, fast-paced, entertaining film, that will almost assuredly please any creature feature fan.

Rating: 4/5

“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” (2005)

It seemed to make perfect sense to make a feature length film based on the Wallace & Gromit shorts. And for the most part, it does. This film does, for the most part, capture the charm, ingenuity, and creativity of the shorts, and of course the stop-motion animation is simply stunning. But you also can’t help but feel like sacrifices were made to the film’s story to appeal more to a wider audience. The reason why the shorts were so fantastic is because it really did feel so unique, like there were no other stories like them. Here, while the premise itself is outlandish and creative, the execution has some Americanized coglike quality to it, complete with some kid’s film clichés that you’d expect Wallace & Gromit to be above. But still, even with all those sacrifices that were made, you still get the same low-key charm and likability that the shorts provide; it’s clever, it’s funny, and it’s still these two great characters being these two great characters.

Rating: 4/5

Top 10 Worst Disney Animated Films

Very quickly, let me clarify what I mean by “Disney animated films.” What I’m referring to specifically is the animated films in Disney’s official animated canon. As such, direct-to-video sequels, Disneytoon movies and the like were not considered for this list. Anyway, on to the list.

10. Hercules

And already I’ve lost some of you. This isn’t a bad film (honestly, there aren’t enough bad Disney animated films to fill this list). But it is a film I find very flawed. The main issue I have is that the characters (with the exception of Hades) are just kind of dull. And the really bizarre style, while definitely giving the film a unique visual identity, can also be too distracting at times. Honestly, the film is definitely watchable, with James Woods’ performance as Hades single-handedly elevating it.

9. Saludos Amigos

The one Disney animated film that you’ve probably never even heard of. And it’s not hard to see why. This is a 42-minute long package film in which we see the Disney animators taking a trip to South America, and using what they see as an inspiration for a cartoon which we then get to watch. This feels more like a behind-the-scenes featurette than an actual film. The cartoon shorts are good and creative, but the framing device simply isn’t engaging enough to justify making this into a feature film, especially when you consider how short it is.

8. Dinosaur

This film boasts some incredible 3-D animation, very well integrated into real-life backgrounds. It also boasts an incredibly boring and generic story, with boring and generic characters. Honestly, the best part of the film is the opening scene, which wordlessly shows us the journey of a lost egg. Had the film been at that same level throughout, and especially if they’d decided to tell the story visually without any dialogue whatsoever, I probably would’ve liked this so much more.

7. Home on the Range

I personally don’t think this film is quite as bad as everyone says it is; there are some funny moments, and I do like that the film is attempting to emulate a more old-fashioned Looney Tunes-esque style when it comes to its animation, slapstick, and humor. But even so, I can’t overlook its many flaws; obnoxious characters, very hit or miss timing when it comes to the slapstick, and a dumb plot. I can’t say I regret watching it, but I’d also be lying if I called this a good film, because it’s not.

6. Ralph Breaks the Internet

I was convinced that Wreck-It Ralph didn’t need a sequel, and this film did very little to convince me to the contrary. This film has to bend over backwards with its previously established universe and characters to get the plot moving in the direction they want. And that’s simply not how you write a sequel. On top of that, it’s clear that the writers of this film don’t really understand how the Internet works. It’s not a total waste, because it has some entertaining moments, but as a sequel to a film as good as Wreck-It Ralph, I expected something much better than this.

5. Pocahontas

One of Disney’s more polarizing films, I tend to lean more towards the negative camp on this one. So, what doesn’t work in this film? How about the fact that this film grossly oversimplifies the complicated race relations between the European settlers and the Native Americans? How about the fact that this is a very stock premise (Dances with Wolves already did this 5 years prior)? Or how about the fact that this film beats the message and point it’s trying to make over and over again without any hint of nuance or subtlety? But still, the film isn’t without its pros; the music is incredible, the animation is gorgeous, and Pocahontas is a very likable protagonist. It’s just the film’s script that holds this thing back.

4. The Aristocats

This one was a nostalgic childhood staple at my house. But looking back on it now that I’m an adult, it’s pretty easy to see that it doesn’t hold up especially well. It’s pretty clear that it was trying to do for cats what A Hundred and One Dalmatians did for dogs. The only problem? The villains aren’t anywhere near as memorable this time around, the premise is dumb even by cartoon logic standards, and the plot progression is a lot more convoluted and all over the place than the much more straightforward, but highly effective Dalmatians.

3. Oliver & Company

This was made during a time when Disney was desperately trying to save itself after the financial failure of The Black Cauldron. And it shows. This feels like a movie that was designed solely to be an easily digestible mass-market product to make money, and not because the filmmakers actually had a compelling story they wanted to tell. I mean, it’s the story of Oliver Twist as told via stray dogs in New York City. And very little is done with the story otherwise, other than making the story palatable for kids. The reason this is so high on the list, is because of just how bland and forgettable the whole experience is. And if there’s one thing that a Disney film should never be, it’s forgettable.

2. Brother Bear

Let’s start with the positives first. The animation is at times stunning, the film does a good job at immersing the audience a unique culture, and the climax is actually surprisingly well thought out and compelling. Those are some pretty good positives. So, this begs the question; why is this so high on the list? Simple. The second act sucks. Really bad. Most of the animal characters are annoying, and their more modernized dialogue does not gel at all with the more mystical and old-fashioned dialogue of the humans. On top of that, the plot is extremely predictable (even as a kid, I could see the huge twist coming from a mile away). This is simply an instance where a section of a film is so bad that it completely drags the rest of the film down with it.

1. Chicken Little

This is pretty much the only Disney animated film that they’ve made that I would completely recommend skipping altogether. Honestly, there’s not much else I can add to this conversation that hasn’t already been said; it’s mean-spirited, it’s got some very mixed messages, the characters are awful, and the plot is so far removed from the original fable that they might as well have made it its own thing. This was Disney clearly attempting to copy DreamWorks, but not knowing to write like DreamWorks. This movie is exactly what happens when you both try too hard, and don’t care, simultaneously. It’s a mess, and quite frankly, it’s earned its reputation as Disney’s worst film in their animated canon, hands down.

“Spider-Man” Films Ranked

8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Starting off with, we have the one Spider-Man film that most people universally agree is the worst, or at the very least, up there with the worst. While most blockbuster films usually have some input from execs, usually they can keep it well hidden in the final product. This is the not the case with this film. This film has Sony’s name written all over the place, with so much stuff crammed into this film that was clearly supposed to be set-up for future Spider-Man films (which will never materialize), that it’s just quite frankly exhausting. Individual elements work, like Jamie Foxx as Electro, and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone still have good chemistry, but the film’s script is a disaster, and there was simply no saving this film.

7. The Amazing Spider-Man

There are flashes of a good movie in here, like they do make some solid changes to the origin story, Andrew Garfield is a great Spider-Man (although a less than stellar Peter Parker) and Emma Stone is great as Gwen Stacy. The main issue is largely the script, which for the most part feels as if it’s going through the motions. There’s not really a whole lot that’s inspired here. It’s almost like the filmmakers didn’t really want to do another Spider-Man origin story, but felt obligated to do so. While it’s technically better constructed and has less flaws than a film like say Spider-Man 3, I remember a lot more of the imagery and plot elements from that film, than almost anything in this film (barring one of Stan Lee’s most hilarious cameos ever). While I liked it a lot when I first saw it, the more time I’ve had to ruminate on it, plus the fact that I’ve never once felt compelled to revisit it, I think it’s safe to say that I can consider this a perfectly solid, if rather forgettable, experience.

6. Spider-Man 3

I’m not going to lie and pretend that there aren’t legitimate grievances with this film, like having too much stuff crammed into it (although certainly not as much as The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Tobey Maguire’s performance as the “tortured” Peter Parker. But is this film a touch over hated? I think so. Maybe it’s because people went in expecting something as great as Spider-Man 2, but were disappointed when it didn’t deliver. I think part of the issue is that, because this came out after Batman Begins, Sam Raimi was attempting to make this film darker (literally in some cases, as the color palette of this film just seems less bright and colorful than the first two films), and Nolan’s darker and more realistic take on superheroes doesn’t mesh with Raimi’s style. But this was the most interesting that Kirstin Dunst’s MJ ever was, Sandman was an incredible antagonist, and some of the action scenes are still incredible and creative. It’s not perfect, in fact this probably contains the largest number of cheesy scenes out of all the Spider-Man films, but there’s still something kind of charming about it that makes it difficult to hate, in spite of its flaws.

5. Spider-Man: Homecoming

I was probably a bit too harsh on this one during my first viewing of the film. While I didn’t hate it, I didn’t really think was anything particularly special. I just thought it was okay. However, my opinion has since changed. Now, I still think the runtime is a bit too excessive, and that stupid subplot about Ned telling everyone at school he knows Spider-Man, and that he can get him to stop by a party should’ve been dropped entirely. But there’s far more here that’s good than bad. Tom Holland is both a great Peter Parker and a great Spider-Man. While Tobey Maguire is a better Parker than Spider-Man, and Andrew Garfield is a better Spider-Man than Parker, Holland nails both of them perfectly, and there’s not one that he’s better at. Also, Michael Keaton is a genuinely fantastic villain, who brings both menace and nuance, to what could’ve been a rather archetypal antagonist. This was an attempt at a more low-key and personal MCU entry, and it mostly succeeds. Could it have been better? Yes. But’s in no way a bad film.

4. Spider-Man

Here it is, the very first Spider-Man film ever made, the film that single-handedly saved the superhero genre, and a pretty darn good film that still holds up pretty well. Under the direction of Sam Raimi, he knows when to be subtle and subdued, and when it’s okay to go over-the-top goofy. The action scenes are well done, including the final fight between our hero and villain being exceptionally brutal and genuinely hard-hitting. Tobey Maguire was a great pick for the titular character, and Willem Dafoe completely steals the show as the Green Goblin. Not everything is perfect though. There are some moments that are… pretty corny and stupid, even taking into account that this is a comic book film. But still, this is an entertaining, fun superhero film, that has rightly earned a spot in the pantheon of most influential superhero films.

3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I don’t think anyone could have anticipated how well received this film was going to be. I certainly wasn’t. But any movie that has so much creativity, so many subtle touches, and so many well written characters deserves every heap of praise that gets tossed its way. This is one of the most seamlessly entertaining superhero films ever made, and its animation is simply stunning, and possibly even groundbreaking. All the characters are memorable and well-written, especially Miles Morales, who became my favorite cinematic iteration of Spider-Man in just one movie. It’s a great family film, it’s a great superhero film, and it’s a great comedy. If it had managed to pull off just one of these it would’ve been impressive. The fact it managed to hit all three so perfectly is a truly remarkable feat.

2. Spider-Man 2

This is the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film in which everything just clicked together perfectly; the plot, the characters, the action, the villain, the drama; everything just works together nearly perfectly. Do I have a soft spot for this film because it was the first superhero film I ever saw? Possibly. But that doesn’t change the fact that when I rewatched this recently for the first time in years, I was blown away by how well-made and entertaining it was. I think what makes this film work as well as it does is that it everything balances out; it’s a little goofy, but not as goofy as the first Spider-Man could get, the drama also feels the most realistic and relatable out of all these Spider-Man films without becoming melodramatic, and this also has some of the most striking imagery out of these films without feeling showy. Honestly, nothing really much to say, other than this was the peak for the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films and is one of the very best superhero films ever made.

1. Spider-Man: Far from Home

If I had been told just a few weeks ago that this film was going to be my new favorite Spider-Man film, I wouldn’t have believed it. I mean, I would’ve expected to like it, but new favorite? That’s not a statement that I make lightly. So, why is it my favorite? Because it has everything that I want in a superhero film done to its almost absolute best. It’s funny, it’s emotional, the characters are all wonderful and at their very best, the villain is excellent (like top 5 greatest supervillains in film, excellent), the romance is believable and sweet, the action scenes are incredible, the writing is at the top of its game, and it’s a film that actually gets better on reflection. It takes everything in Spider-Man: Homecoming that worked, and improves on everything that didn’t. Also, one of the very best endings to a superhero film in cinematic history. There’s really not much else I can add that anyone else hasn’t already said; it’s just a film that’s both all-around great and genuinely entertaining.

“Escape Plan 2: Hades” (2018)

I’m not asking for much. I’m really not. All I want is an action film with competent fight scenes and a straightforward plot. Even if it’s not great, it can offer an entertaining diversion. So, what did I get here? A virtually incoherent disaster, with incoherent plotting, and incoherent action scenes, made even worse by the headache inducing shaky-cam. Everything that made the solid first film so entertaining is completely stripped away (one of this film’s biggest missteps is that it takes itself way too seriously). Even Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t be bothered to return to this nonsensical drivel. This movie was so boring and uninteresting; I legitimately almost fell asleep while watching it. This sequel feels so far removed from the original film, that you’d swear that this is a sixth film in a franchise, not the second. Most shocking is that they actually brought back one of the two screenwriters of the first film to return. I have no idea how you go from writing something that’s actually good, into this trash, in the span of two movies. Also, Sylvester Stallone and especially Dave Bautista are not in this film as much as you would think, with Stallone being relegated to a supporting role, and Bautista being on screen just long enough to avoid the label of “cameo.” Hades is an appropriate title, because that’s exactly where this film should reside for the rest of eternity.

Rating: 0.5/5

“Coneheads” (1993)

There are a lot of things that can be said about this film, but the one thing you can’t say about it is that the people behind this didn’t try. For all its faults, this film does create a uniquely quirky experience. It may just be weird for weirdness’ sake, but sometimes the over-the-top antics do manage to elicit some laughs. Plot-wise the film is kind of mess (subplots will be brought up and then quickly dropped, and the film’s timeline is less coherent than the X-Mencinematic universe). Also, when a joke bombs, it completely falls flat on its face. There are two reasons to see this film; one is that it’s the perfect time capsule for 90s filmmaking (including a slew of cameo appearances of whatever American comedians were popular at the time) both the good and the bad, and two is if you want to see an off-kilter, quirky, bizarre comedy that truly is like no other comedy out there. I’m not sure this can be reasonably referred to as a good comedy, but it is begging to be both a guilty pleasure and cult classic.

Rating: 3/5

“The Wrong Trousers” (1993)

This cartoon short took all the elements that made the original short so great, and ups its game. The animation is better and a lot smoother, the humor is better, and the plot is better. This cartoon’s creativity is simply bursting with personality. On top of that, it also manages to hit the audience with a pang of poignancy and pathos. And of course, the gorgeous, and absolutely pulse-pounding climax still remains, to this day, one of the best and most exciting pieces of stop-motion animation ever committed to film. Honestly, there’s nothing more to say. This is a charming and delightful treat.

Rating: 5/5