The Morning After: Jan. 28, 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:

Mary Queen of Scots


Mary, Queen of Scots, has been a popular figure in cinema for decades. This latest version of the story stars Saoirse Ronan as the eponymous queen as she returns to Scotland following the death of her French husband to rebuild her claim to the throne of Scotland and England.

Margot Robbie takes on the role of her rival, Queen Elizabeth, as the pair strike a tentative peace while the men around them plot, manipulate, and connive to thwart Mary’s claim to the throne of England. Told almost entirely from the perspective of Mary, giving Ronan a chance to shine as the headstrong queen, we’re given an in-depth look at the political and religious climate of the period as Catholic Mary finds enemies within the Protestant church, led by the firebrand John Knox (David Tenant) while her own half-brother, the Earl of Moray (James McArdle), works behind the scenes to undermine her legitimacy.

The performances are all strong in this sumptuous period drama that strikes at the heart of the familial relationship between Elizabeth and Mary, two of the only people who know the struggles of being queen in a world run by men. That theme plays a key part of the plot and helps the film rise to be a sort of feminist bulwark in a modern climate where the re-emergence of toxic masculinity has become a threat to the stability of our culture. Mary Queen of Scots is a momentous piece of filmmaking even if few have given it the opportunity it deserves.

Bumblebee


More than thirty years after the original Transformers animated program took Saturday morning cartoons by storm, Bumblebee gives us the first genuine evocation of that show’s bountiful spirit, a full eleven years since Michael Bay first bastardized the show into a non-stop action thriller.

A film about family, belonging, and defending the world against external threats, Bumblebee follows the struggle of Autobot warrior B127 as he attempts to figure out his place on earth after a deadly battle left his memory banks in tatters and his voice box excised. Through his relationship with an 18-year-old human girl (Hailee Steinfeld), Bumblebee learns not only what it’s like to be part of a family again, but what it means to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Steinfeld is a suitable lead for this down-to-earth action comedy as she guides Bee and the audience through her difficult life as her own family has moved on from her father’s passing while her world has come apart. Pamela Adlon is superb as Charlie’s mother. With Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight in the pilot’s seat, the audience is treated to excellent action sequences and thrilling adventures all with a heartfelt core that sets it apart from its bombastic Bay predecessors.

The film is horribly predictable and corny in far too many places. It’s a family-friendly tale that feels a bit childish at times, but is always filled with wonder and excitement. Further, casting John Cena in the role of a military guy who mistrusts these alien invaders is a poor decision. While he has done solid work in the past, his performance here feels like it was taken out of a different kind of movie altogether. Stilted comic delivery propped up by off-putting macho bravado makes the character a tedious unnecessary element.

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