Tag Archives: Sterling K. Brown

The Angry Birds Movie 2

The people (birds) of Bird Island have been deeply engaged in an epic prank war with the people (pigs) of neighbouring Pig Island. But then an actual serious threat arrives from a third island, which has the pigs’ King Leonard (Bill Hader) calling for a truce so the two frenemy nations can discuss. Red (Jason Sudeikis), however, isn’t into truces. He’s the bird who gained popularity last movie when he saved the birds’ eggs from the evil green piggies. He’s afraid that a truce would make him irrelevant, and worse, unpopular.

But the threat is real, y’all. Purple-feathered tyrant Zeta (Leslie Jones) from Eagle Island is tired of living on the cold island. Birds and pigs are going to have to band together to overcome the threat together. Only problem: both Red and Leonard are reluctant to give up alpha status. Red is terrified if no longer being needed. But things are a little more complicated than the bill we’re being sold.

The movie hits all the cute notes the first one was known for: bright characters, great voices, zany antics. Plus pigs and flightless birds breaking out into dance almost constantly to crazy catchy pop songs. That’s literally all an animated film needs to be popular with kids. Angry Birds knows it. It’s undemanding, at times even unthinking, but it harnesses a charming chaotic energy that moves along so agreeably and so quickly you’ll hardly have time to think, let alone be bored. Fire! Ice! Lava injectors! Smells like bacon! Urinal hijinks and pigs in spandex: it doesn’t make a lot of sense but you wouldn’t be watching the sequel of a movie based on an app if you cared about logic in plot.

The voice talent is wonderful though it’s growing so exponentially it’s hard to give everyone their due. The animation seems to have leveled up since its last foray, if you bother to look past the garish colours and frenetic action. The sight gags are almost as frequent as the pop songs which means brainless or not, this movie is light-hearted fun.

And on a personal note, I get that Zeta is supposed to be the villain here, but as a Canadian living in my own wintry wasteland, I get you, girl. You just want to get some sun on your buns. But we could have avoided all this violence and mayhem if you did as Canadians do and buy a ticket to Mexico. Did I mention we’re going to Mexico next week? Feliz navidad, bitches.

Waves

This is my business card. I’m showing it to you today because this is the review that’s going to get my critic card revoked. You’re going to ask to see it, and you’re going to rip it up.

I considered seeing Waves at TIFF but couldn’t make it work and wasn’t that sad about it until the buzz started going around the festival that it was good. That it was this year’s Moonlight. Damn.

But no worries, these movies hit theatres eventually and I recently made my acquaintance with it. Waves, how do you do?

It’s about an overachieving suburban family – a mom, a dad, two kids – but particularly about golden boy Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr), a hard-working student athlete who excels socially and academically, at home and at school. He has a girlfriend, a part-time job working for his father, skill with the piano, power on the wrestling mat. He trains faithfully with his loving but domineering father, Ronald (Sterling K Brown). He is loving toward his little sister Emily (Taylor Russell) and mother Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry). But nobody makes a movie about a good life that stays good.

The truth is, Waves keeps me at arm’s length from the get-go, the camera spinning panoramically inside a car, my stomach lurching. The teenagers inside are idiotic, driving so distractedly I brace myself for the an accident that never comes. But try telling that to my nervous system. I watch the film on tenter hooks; never has a film so quickly and so fully established a sense of foreboding. I cannot relax. Tyler’s life looks perfect, but perfection has a habit of being fleeting. You’re sure that something is coming, something bad, but what? Slowly things start to cave in: riffs between he and his father, a fight with his girlfriend, an injury in the ring. Tyler internalizes it all, self-medicates, keeps to himself. Surely something’s about to give. And as awful as it is, it’s almost a relief when it does. I’ve never been kept on the edge of tachycardia at a non-horror film before. But as I allow my body to relax, my blood pressure to fall back into the safe zone, I wonder if I can possibly claim to have liked the film when it was so hard to watch. It was interesting though – well told, well acted. Beautiful, really, and thoughtful. And just as I rise to my feet to head home, the screen begins to tell another story. And I begin to lose my mind.

It feels like we should be done, but we’re not. We’re starting a second chapter, this one about Tyler’s little sister, Emily. Her family has ruptured, is wounded. She isolates herself and you start to dread her following in her brother’s footsteps when she is “saved” by meeting a boy, Luke (Lucas Hedges). Witnessing Luke lose his estranged father to cancer gives Emily a new perspective on family, but I had little tolerance for it. The first story felt whole and complete to me; now I felt duped. I resented this second story for keeping me in my seat after I had so triumphantly survived sustained angina. I could only survive this new onslaught by whispering to Sean about manatee poop (somewhat topical) and taking long, meandering pee breaks (chicka-cherry cola) after which I’d return reluctantly to the theatre 10 minutes later and Sean would lean over and fill me in: “They went fishing.” Oh the agony.

There’s the agony the film is causing me, and the agony I’m causing myself, beating myself up for praying for the end of a film I just can’t like despite its being universally, critically praised. It’s an embarrassing time for me, embarrassing to have preferred a Jumanji sequel to this Oscar bait. But I just can’t. I’m sorry guys, but I just can’t.

Frozen II

Reviews for Frozen 2 were a bit mixed and I confess I didn’t exactly love the first one (was I the only one on the entire planet not to?). I didn’t hate it, but it was just okay for me. I didn’t even love the song. On our recent trip to Disney World, we met pretty much the whole Frozen crew but needed to attend a sing-along (where people definitely, enthusiastically sang along) to even remember some pretty big plot points from the movie, which came out in 2013 (for example, not one of us remembered trolls). Still, we dutifully brought back an Elsa dress for our 3 year old niece, who has caught Elsa fever (not the kind that produces snow boogies) like pretty much every little girl under 10 has at one time or another.

So of course we went to the see the film. The trailers looked…well, astonishing, frankly, real marvels of computer animation, if a little light on story. We tempered our expectations and emptied our bladders (it’s not really that long, just long for kids – nearly 2 hours with previews) and took our seats in a theatre packed with kids.

And you know what? I can’t speak for the kids, but I freaking loved it. Yes, the animation is, well, staggering. There was more than one moment when I had to convince my eyes that they were looking at cartoons, not real life. The cinematography is top-tier; the light design is dazzling. But, okay, throw all that aside: what about the story? You may have heard that it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, that it lacks drama because it doesn’t have a distinct villain. That the songs are a bit on the forgettable side. I think that’s all a bunch of hogwash.

Frozen II is more interesting, more complex, and more satisfying than the first one, perhaps because its themes are more mature, perhaps because instead of battling a bad guy, it turns inward, introspective. An enchanted forest is calling to Elsa, and though everyone fears what will happen if she opens Pandora’s box, she opens it anyway, exuberantly, after obsessing over it. Though she and Anna vow to go forth together, as a team, they inevitably part ways and both will be tested.

I laughed. I cried. I was surprised on several occasions by its bold and curious choices. There’s a musical number performed by Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) that inserts what I can only describe as a 1980s-style power ballad into the proceedings for no apparent reason. The number is done as if it’s an early MTV music video, all hokey and cheesy and wonderful because of it – clearly not aimed at children who will never know that the M in MTV once stood for music.

I felt that the first film espoused a fake kind of feminism – people applauded it while apparently failing to note that lots of male characters were still propping up the sisters. But in this film they simply do, and they do well, all by themselves, without anyone needing to point it out. You can tell the ladies are genuinely getting down to business because Elsa’s beautiful dress, already being marketed to little girls in stores, comes with slacks, making it easier for her to kick butt. Elsa seemed moody and bratty in the first, but here she’s a woman full of confidence, full of competence. And Anna knows her worth, magical powers or no.

Do any of the songs rival the powerhouse Let It Go? from the first film? How could they, really? Let It Go was an anomaly, one in a million. And then horribly overplayed and quite tedious. Still, several of the songs were quite good, if not quite as memorable, and performed by Broadway’s best, well, it’s nothing to sneeze at.

I don’t know what kids think of it (yet – my 5 year old nephew and 3 year old niece will see it tomorrow – and in 2 weeks, when that 3 year old niece turns 4, her aunt Jay will bring an Elsa cake to her birthday party) but I do know that I was impressed by it, entertained by it, moved by it. I said previously that the first Frozen felt more like a merchandising tool than a movie, destined to spawn straight-to-video sequels, so this is a rare occasion when I admit my mistake, and am humbled by it. Just a bit. 😉

This is my nephew Jack, who’s providing the kid perspective.

And my other nephew Ben.

It’s okay. You can tell me their reviews are better than mine. I know it. And I’m the proudest aunt.

Ben also has something to add to my Detective Pikachu review.

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

The Lonely Island is a comedy trio consisting of childhood friends Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer. They became known for their popular digital shorts on SNL, many of which, like Lazy Sunday, went viral, for comedic songs like Jack Sparrow, featuring THE Michael Bolton, and for movies like Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. If you like them, you probably love them, and if you love them, you’re in for a treat. Especially if you also have a soft spot for late-1980s-era major league baseball.

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is a 30 minute short streaming now on Netflix that’s the supposed never before seen\heard rap collaboration between steroid bash brothers Jose Canseco (Samberg) and Mark McGwire (Schaffer) of the Oakland Athletics. I don’t give two shits about baseball (especially not historical baseball from another century), but Sean did and does and had an especially appreciative chuckle for all the references they got right.

The rap album consists of many memorable musical numbers, literally something for everyone, between such hits as Bikini Babe Workout, IHOP Parking Lot (featuring Maya Rudolph), Oakland Nights (featuring Sia, who looks an awful lot like Sterling K. Brown in a a wig unworthy of the real Sia), and my favourite, Daddy, which explores the mountainous daddy issues behind the Canseco-McGwire shenanigans.

Sean wondered how – not if, but how – high they were when they wrote this stuff. And the answer can only be: extremely. So high. And yet I was sober when I watched it and I still dissolved into fits of giggles (a credit cameo featuring “Joe Montana” had me gasping for breath). It’s light-hearted and doesn’t dare take itself serious for a single split second. The narrow theme of the “visual poem” (a la Beyonce’s Lemonade?) ensures that the songs are punchy and topical, if not always sensical. But you didn’t come for the sense. You came for the nonsense, and they’re flooding the diamond with it.

Samberg and Schaffer are both hilarious in their terrible mullet wigs, but it seems like everyone who pops up in these videos are having a riotously good time. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience offers locker room injections of satire and parody, and they will PUMP YOU UP.

Hotel Artemis

Picture it: Los Angeles, 2018. The city is in its third day of violent riots. The people are demanding access to clean water. The power is flickering, a curfew is in effect, rich people are sending servants to deposit “lootable” goods at the bank. Which means there’s all the more for a bank robber (Sterling K. Brown) with an entrepreneurial spirit to steal. Unfortunately he and his gang of merry men escape with both bullet wounds and an accidental $18M in diamonds that ruthless mob boss Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) is definitely going to come searching for.

But first things first: with his own brother bleeding in his arms, our intrepid bank robber checks in at the Hotel Artemis, a “dark room”, or a high-security, members-only hospital for the criminal underground. I believe they’ve ripped this idea directly from the John Wick movies, but it’s a good one. There, the doctor, who is called Nurse (Jodie Foster) is guided by a very strict set of rules:

1. While on the premises, no fighting with or killing other patients.

2. No disrespectful words or actions allowed against Hotel Artemis staff.

3. No guns or any type of weapon permitted through the gates.

4. Membership must be paid for, full and in advance.

5. Prior but lapsed members will not be admitted

6. No photography or video allowed.

7. No outside food or drink.

8. Absolutely no visitors.

9. If member is found to have compromised, or led to compromise of location, membership will be revoked.

10. Hotel Artemis rules are final and non-negotiable.

Tonight, with both the police, the rioters, and the Wolf King’s men bearing down on them, the brimming with injured criminals, no-vacancy hospital will come under siege, its only protector a dedicated health care practitioner named Everest (Dave Bautista), and every one of these rules will be broken.

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With such a potent premise and an A-list cast, Sean was curious as to why he was only hearing about this now. Usually, there’s only one answer: it’s no good. But actually, it’s not bad. Maybe not good, but it depends what you’re looking for. At times it reminded of Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise with all these people stuck in a building that’s starting to resemble hell. But Hotel Artemis has more modest ambitions, and if you start to get an inkling of an allegory, well, it’ll be dashed soon enough so don’t expend too much brain power on it. Sit back and enjoy the villainous Jeff Goldblum (which is THE BEST Jeff Goldblum, isn’t it?) and the kick-ass Sofia Boutella and Jodie Foster in an actual role, an actual meaty, outside-the-box role (her first since Elysium!). Of course, the downside to a cast like this is that we don’t spend oodles of time with any of them (the movie has a trim 94 minute run-time) but when Bautista calmly unclips his hospital badge from its prominent breast-pocket display and pockets it, oh hell, you know you’re in for some fireworks and it doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten to know all the players because they’re about to become hunks of meat only suitable for stewing.

So maybe it’s disposable. Fuck it. You’re not watching for the depth of the satire, are you? No, you’re watching it because someone’s about to get PAPER-JAMMED TO DEATH (wait for it) and goddamn if you can’t look away from that.