Category: Morning After

Review: Trolls World Tour (2020)

The Trolls: World Tour

The Trolls: World Tour

Rating



Director

Walt Dohrn

Screenplay

Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Elizabeth Tippet

Length

1h 30m

Starring

Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom, James Corden, Ron Funches, Kelly Clarkson, Anderson .Paak, Sam Rockwell, George Clinton, Mary J. Blige, Kenan Thompson, Kunal Nayyar, Caroline Hjelt, Aino Jawo, J Balvin, Flula Borg, Ester Dean, Jamie Dornan, Gustavo Dudamel, Ozzy Osbourne, Anthony Ramos, Karan Soni, Charlyne Yi, Zooey Deschanel

MPAA Rating

PG

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The Morning After: Jan. 11, 2021

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

One Night in Miami


Recently, I took Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom to task for not opening the material up more, leaving it feeling a bit stage-bound. Now, we have an example of what we mean when we say that. Regina King’s directorial debut takes Kemp Powers’ potent stage play and turns it into a resounding successing, opening the play up to places beyond the stuffy hotel room in which it’s set. These aren’t perfunctory diversions like in Ma Rainey’s, the characters, both individually and in tandem, venture out beyond the hotel not just in numerous flashback and flashforward sequences, but in shifting venues from Cassius Clay’s ringside event to the hotel to the rooftop and then splitting characters off in various combinations until we not only have a foundation for the world in which these characters now live, their desperation and frustration and hope for the future are amplified by these moments.

The production is about a fictionalized meeting of four Black titans as they discuss their successes, dreams, and goals for the future with each tackling their mediums differently. At this meeting of minds are minister Civil Rights leader Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), heavyweight champion Clay (Eli Goree), singer and music industry giant Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and NFL titan Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). As the four figures discuss their past, present, and potential futures, the four often butt heads questioning each other on the best way to bring equal rights to all Black Americans. While Ben-Adir and Goree are classed as leads, Odom Jr.’s character and performance seem better suited to lead classification while Goree’s Clay is often a less prominent figure. Regardless of positioning, all four actors deliver superb performances with Odom Jr. commanding the screen in each moment, especially in his final vocal performance at the film’s end.

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The Morning After: Dec. 21, 2020

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The Trial of the Chicago 7


While Aaron Sorkin has long proven himself a capable writer, having turned out some brilliant work in the past, including on television, his directorial efforts have been hit-and-miss. The Trial of the Chicago 7 more than stymies claims that he has no skill behind the camera as it’s a tightly wound, captivating courtroom drama that brings his script to life through a cast that’s impressive, but properly confined.

During the 1968 Democratic National Convention, four outside groups came to protest, their leaders were put on trial for the violence that ensued in spite of consensus being that it was the police who started the riots rather than the protestors. The sham trial is egged on at the behest of incoming Attorney General John Mitchell (John Doman). Put in the hands of young prosecutor Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and associate Thomas Foran (J.C. McKenzie). Eight men are roped into the proceedings for various reasons including the actual seven, Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), John Froines (Danny Flaherty), and Lee Winer (Noah Robbins), along with the unassociated leader of the Black Panthers, Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Matten II).

All but Seale are represented by attorneys William Kuntsler (Mark Rylance) and Leonard Weinglass (Ben Shankman), a point brought up numerous times as Seale’s attorney was in the hospital. The trial is being conducted by Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella), a bigoted jurist who seems to be suffering from cognitive decline, but whose clear bias is evident from the moment he steps in the courtroom.

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The Morning After: Dec. 14, 2020

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Mank


Written by his father before his death in 2003, it took almost two decades for David Fincher to bring Mank to the big screen and whether or not you agree with its portrayal of the fraught relationship between legendary screenwriter Herman L. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) and legendary director Orson Welles (Tom Burke), the film is no doubt a love letter to old Hollywood.

Filmed in black-and-white, the trajectory of Mank follows a similar one to that of the background subject matter of the film, Welles’ cinematic touchstone Citizen Kane. Whereas that film saw a present day Joseph Cotten searching through old acquaintances trying to uncover who Rosebud was and why she was the last name on Charles Foster Kane’s lips as he died, this film has all the parade of characters move into and out of Mankiewicz’ bedroom as he recuperates from a near-fatal car accident. There is no word on a man’s dying lips to propel this film, however. Instead, the audience travels back-and-forth in time, another cinematic throwback to Citizen Kane, as we explore the backroom machinations of Old Hollywood and the rise and fall of Mankiewicz that eventually led to his current removal from Hollywood to write the screenplay for which he would forever be linked.

There are more than a few parallels between the original RKO Radio picture that became a filmic reference point for multiple generations of filmmakers and the Fincher film about the thorny subject of cinematic authorship. As the auteur theory emerged out of the French New Wave and the Cahiers du Cinema believe that the director is the true author of the picture, Citizen Kane may well be one of the best examples of that early theory at work. His use of camera positions, novel framing devices, and potent use of art to mirror and inform reality all came together in a landmark picture. While Mank has no illusions of being such a picture itself, it’s a fascinating look back at Hollywood in the 1930s and the evolution of modern cinema from it.

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The Morning After: Dec. 7, 2020

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Promising Young Woman


Promising Young Woman could be subtitled “A Guide to Toxic Masculinity” and should most definitely be used as a litmus test for critics. That’s not because everyone will see it as a good movie, there will undoubtedly be some who don’t, but certain critics, most likely straight white male critics, may be tempted to defend some of the men in the film. The film more than clearly spells out why that should not stand.

The film follows Carey Mulligan’s Cassie as she finds a way to cope with her best friend’s rape while they were medical school by conducting a social experiment. Pretending to be wasted, Cassie is taken home countless times by men who take advantage of her inebriated state before revealing the ruse and admonishing them for their horrendous actions. Giving up a promising career, Cassie feels the need to punish and repudiate men who take advantage of women to hopefully raise awareness with those men that their actions are far from the conscientious ones they pretend to support.

Mulligan is fierce in determination while letting the audience in on her vulnerability as she navigates supportive friends, a potential romantic entanglement, and an increasingly depressed faith in men who claim to be looking out for the best interests of women, but who ultimately look out only for their needs. Emerald Fennell’s directorial style is fluid, precise, and moving. She lingers on moments that become uncomfortable for the audience, hoping they’ll learn something about themselves and the men around them. Were this a direct indictment of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh’s collegiate offenses, I wouldn’t be surprised. However, the broader implication, one going well beyond a single high profile case of sexual assault, is of the notion that men succumb to their basest instincts. That societal crutch of defending their actions while of a younger age, belies a notion that regardless of how promising their careers may be, the same promising young women they assault and whose psyches they destroy aren’t given the same benefit of the doubt.

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The Morning After: Jun. 22, 2020

I am not willing to venture to the theater yet even though my area has been thankfully spared the worst of the pandemic. That being said, I’m not sure when I’ll feel comfortable entering a public space like that. However, I still have the ability to watch films at home. I have not been doing that, though. I began some months ago my great Star Trek watch/rewatch and I don’t have many more episodes to go in the final series I play to watch during this period, Star Trek: Enterprise. Once that’s done, I’ll assess my options and decide what to watch. I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

The Morning After: Mar. 2, 2020

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn


The first female superhero to have her own movie was Supergirl. That colossal failure in 1984 ensured that female-led superhero films would remain ephemeral for more than three decades when Wonder Woman finally picked up her Lasso of Truth and rastled up a box office hit in 2017. That film’s success finally led studios to believe that women could indeed lead superhero films. Captain Marvel was announced shortly thereafter and Wonder Woman 1984 is right on the horizon, as is the Black Widow movie everyone’s been clamoring for since the character was introduced in Iron Man 2 ten years ago.

The Russo brothers even teased an all-female Avengers during the final film in the massive 10-year story arc last year. It won’t happen, but it was a nice, if somewhat condescending moment. Birds of Prey, like Wonder Woman before it, is DC’s attempt to start a new revolution and prove an all-female superhero film can succeed. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. did some poor marketing and no one knew it was part of the DC Extended Universe and was an indirect sequel to Sucide Squad. Yet, Birds of Prey is one of the best films DC has ever produced, right up there with Wonder Woman. Margot Robbie is a terrific lead as the ex-lover of the toxic villain Joker. She meats up with four other disparate individuals who have no ties to one another and certainly no love, yet they eventually come together to take out the rampant misogyny of spurned rich kid Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) and his serial killer henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina).

With the help of Rosie Perez, Mary Elzabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Ali Wong, Robbie leads a brilliant cast in the most thrilling ensemble piece since X-Men: Days of Future Past. Cathy Yan’s superb direction and the terrific, complex screenplay from Christina Hodson help make this a fine example of how putting women in charge of the top level positions on a film allows them to subvert the cinematic form and buck tradition to convey a compelling voice. The film may be rough around the literal edges, but its figurative impressiveness more than makes up for any minor quibbles. The rotting production design of a city in decay is perfectly fitting for a film with bubble-gum pop sensibilities baked into a city rife with political and social struggles.

The Morning After: Feb. 10, 2020

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Jumanji: The Next Level


When Jumanji came out in 1995, there was little like it in cinema and the concept was so entertaining that it drew audiences in droves and gave Robin Williams one of his biggest successes of the decade. When it was rebooted in 2017, there was a lot riding on the film and the end result was something truly hilarious, even better than the original film. Jumanji: The Next Level picks up a year after the events of the prior film as the four high schoolers are separated by college, but return home for a reunion.

Two new characters are introduced to audiences this time, Spencer’s grandfather played by Danny DeVito, and his grandfather’s former business partner played by Danny Glover. Inside the game, we get one new character played by Awkwafina. The complications of the plot are such that discussing it too deeply would give it away. Suffice it to say, the same overarching concept of the prior film is there, but the new adventure will take them across deserts, gorges, and snowy mountains. The original players are back inside the game. Dwayne Johnson tries to affect a new accent that doesn’t work; Jack Black nails everything he does; Kevin Hart is also on point; and the prior film’s M.V.P., Karen Gillan, is given quite a bit to do, but doesn’t really excel at any of it; Nick Jonas does a rather unexceptional job; and Awkwafina tries her best, but comes off a bit awkward at times, though is certainly third in this roster.

The reboot caught everyone off guard with some tremendously funny comedy with a fascinating story at its heart. The story here is pretty solid, but the hilarity is largely below its predecessor. There’s still promise for the expected third film in the series, but I suspect there may be a bit of diminishing returns with each successive film, at least if this one is indicative.

The Morning After: Feb. 3, 2020

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Klaus


The former dark horse contender for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars has become something more than that and if you’ve seen the film, you can understand why. Klaus is the story of a young dilettante forced by his father to become a mail man and shipped off to a remote wintry locale to use the skills he hasn’t learned to revitalize the town’s postal services.

Voiced by Jason Schwartzman, Jesper wants nothing more than to get out of the hell hole, but if he gives up, he will be disinherited and forced to live on the street. When happenstance results in a letter he was holding for a small child reaching a mysterious woodsman who makes toys, the story of Santa Claus finds its origin. Or does it? As expected everything starts crumbling around him in the most predictable way possible and whether he can save his own hide or the hides of those in this community remains to be seen.

The most delightful vocal work in the film is by Joan Cusack as the leader of one of the village’s two factions who have been warring Hatfields & McCoys style for as long as any of them can remember. Schwartzman’s lack of emotional detail and clarity to his performance make him an incomplete hero, one that the story must forcefully push forward. J.K. Simmons voices the huntsman, Rashida Jones the school teacher saving up to get out of town, Will Sasso as Cusack’s chief rival, and Norm MacDonald as the haranguing ferry boat captain who eggs Jesper on.

The art work is stylized for the most part and sometimes quite inventive, but the overall look of buildings and the towns miserable attitudes seem like a mirror universe version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and a lot more predictable. This sweet and endearing film tells a solid, if predictable narrative and audiences of all ages could welcome it into their homes as a regular holiday tradition.

The Morning After: Jan. 27, 2020

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Oscar-Nominated Short Films from 2019


Doing a short review of fifteen different short films will be nigh impossible as the main reviews will be short enough. So, I’ll break this down into three additional paragraphs, one for each grouping.

The five animated short films are a strong bunch with all of them standing out more so than those in the other two categories. The best of these five are Hair Love, about a father struggling to tame his daughter’s incredibly curly coif, and Kitbull about a kitten who must come to terms with a new pitbull introduced into his neighborhood. Both films feature bittersweet endings and both are incredibly well made. The former is such a beautiful bit of animation while the latter is a rather rudimentary form. The storylines for both are quite engaging and endearing. The other three films, with Dcera (Daughter) being the least affecting, are also emotionally driven. Only Hair Love of these has any amount of humor to it.

Among the live action short films, the overall quality of the films is a bit less impressive than the animated shorts. The Neighbors’ Window, Saria, and A Sister were the best with Window and Sister close in terms of quality. All three are rather affecting. The remaining shorts are decent, but not spectacular.

On the documentary short subject side, a group of nominees I’ve never typically reviewed, two stood above the crowd, In the Absence and Walk Run Cha-Cha. Each takes a different approach to documentary filmmaking and both are compelling from beginning to end. The other three titles, also dealing with very worthy subjects, all struggle to impress as they seem more interested in form than function. That’s not always a bad thing, but to be compelling, there has to be more to them.

The Morning After: Dec. 30, 2019

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Little Women


When Louisa May Alcott wrote her novel Little Women in 1868, cinema wasn’t even an inkling of an idea. Yet, her celebrated novel has been adapted to film seven times. The first was a silent film in 1917. The most celebrated was the third adaptation released in 1933 starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo. The 1949 version was also well received with June Allyson as Jo and Elizabeth Taylor as Amy.

The 1994 version starring Winona Ryder as Jo also received solid reviews, but it’s this seventh adaptation starring Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Florence Pugh as Amy, Emma Watson as Meg, and Eliza Scanlen as Beth that might just be the best one yet.

The classic story of the headstrong Jo, bratty Amy, practical Meg, and shy Beth is told out of sequence with the bulk of the story set near the end of the story as Jo pursues he career as a writer in New York City. Told in flashback, the film unfolds with intelligence and wit as Ronan and Pugh outshine the others with Timothée Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep providing superb support.

What works best in the film is that it never digs for the maudlin. Each tear and laugh are earned organically. Director Greta Gerwig has now made two films that could one day be considered masterpieces, each tackling a new genre and bringing a fresh voice to cinema. Little Women is a film that feels both instantly classic and revolutionary.

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The Morning After: Dec. 23, 2019

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The Irishman


Martin Scosese is one of our greatest working directors and with The Irishman, he returns to a genre he has become synonymous with: crime films. His long absence from the genre, 13 years since The Departed and 24 years since Casino, may explain why some of his characteristic flourishes are here, but so are his recent tendencies towards self-indulgence.

Starring Robert De Niro as an Irish union man, the film follows his lengthy career in service to the Teamsters, specifically notorious leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). As the film shifts back and forth between the present and the past, we come to understand the venality of union politics in the 1960s and 1970s and the organized crime influences that made that all happen.

Scorsese and his cadre of frequent Collaborators have crafted a generally satisfying saga, but the film drags in many spaces, forgetting that pacing is a key element of an editor’s job. Thelma Schoonmaker skillfully winds all of the narrative threads together, but the long spans of tedium showcase either a lack of interest in getting to the end or a directorial push to linger for ego’s sake.

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The Morning After: Dec. 16, 2019

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Parasite


Bong Joon-ho is a director who has something to say. The most vital voice that’s ever emerged from Korean cinema has made his most accessible film to date. Parasite tackles poverty and wealth in his new movie, a riveting social drama for a modern age.

Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and his family live in a half-basement apartment struggling to make ends meet. When the opportunity presents itself, he, his son, daughter, and wife each take on jobs for a wealth family in an effort to bring in as much money as possible. As is always the case in such affairs, the grift eventually goes wrong when a surprise rain storm threatens to upend all of their carefully curated plans.

While Bong has been working tirelessly as a well respected genre director, his films have always tackled unusual topics that are easily accessible. The Host was a popular horror project while Snowpiercer was a startling sci-fi take on the climate change crisis. Both were well regarded by American audiences who were fans of the genres they represented. This film lays bare not only his unique perspective on freedom, wealth inequality, and other heady topics, but it presents a rather straight forward tale of a family of con artists who cannot predict every unforeseen circumstance that might bring their house of cards tumbling down.

With strong performances and a compelling narrative, even those who haven’t previously been impressed by Bong’s work should finally stand up and take notice of one of modern cinema’s most vital voices.

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The Morning After: Dec. 9, 2019

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Waves


Trey Edward Shults steps behind the camera for his third feature film, a daring, unvarnished look at a middle class black family on the edge of collapse. Made from his own screenplay, Waves is a haunting and unrelenting picture that slowly unravels as the family collapses from its own internal struggles.

Choosing to explore the internal relationship between the four members of the Williams family, Shults slowly maneuvers through the quietly fracturing quartet as they crumble under the weight of perceived expectations. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is a high school senior whose wrestling career he hopes to take him places, but a torn shoulder threatens to destroy his career. Sterling K. Brown is Tyler’s domineering father, a man who recognizes that blacks aren’t allowed to be ordinary, and pushes Tyler harder than he should, creating a rift between the two and leading to Tyler’s lashing out at his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie).

Renee Elise Goldsberry plays Tyler’s stepmother who seems to have a strong relationship him and his sister Emily (Taylor Russell), but whose own insecurity about her insertion into an existing family dynamic and replacement of their late mother, leads her to push hard for acceptance. Emily is the last of the four and lies in her brother’s shadow, self-consciously staying out of the limelight as her father dotes on her brother. The film ultimately becomes hers and being marginalized to the background gives her a surprising resilience that pushes the film to its conclusion.

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The Morning After: Dec. 2, 2019

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The Farewell


Lulu Wang’s second feature film, her first in five years, is a wonderful character study exposing American audiences to the cultural dynamics that exist in China and how different they are from Western traditions.

Awkwafina delivers a strong performance as a young Chinese-American artist who learns that her grandmother is dying, but that her family has decided not to tell her so that she can live a fuller and longer life. As Awkwafina’s Billi returns to China to spend as much time as she can with her Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao), she struggles with her desire to tell her grandmother the situation, while adhering to the cultural mores that make it difficult to do so.

While the film ends on a hopeful, but low-key note, we’re left to experience the wonderful, full narrative that is modestly reminiscent of what Wayne Wang did with The Joy Luck Club in 1993. Zhao is wonderful as is the rest of the cast, though Awkwafina shows us that she’s not just the manic character she’s played previously in films like Crazy Rich Asians. It’s a film worth watching just to get a better understanding of the subtle, but potent differences between myriad cultures around the world.

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