Sicario: Day of the Soldado

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Swanner: As the Mexican cartels have stopped trafficking drugs into our country and started trafficking people over the US border, federal Agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) re-teams with for hire assassin Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). Trying to turn the cartels against each other, Graver’s team kidnaps Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner), the daughter of the Reyes cartel, making it look like a rival cartel. The Reyes cartel is the same cartel who killed Alejandro’s family.

The film is less confusing than the first one, but with that being said I still don’t understand how these mercenaries and cartels get away with what they do. I do miss the Emily Blunt character because she seemed as confused as I was in the original. So, I did feel on my own this time out. Taylor Sheridan’s script is as tight as ever. He really is one of the best screenwriters working today. Brolin and Del Toro are as good as ever, and Moner holds her own standing up to these movie stars. Italian director, Stefano Sollima, makes his American directorial debut with this film, proving it never hurts to make your debut with one of Sheridan’s scripts. Sollima does make the change of directors seem seamless.

Never a big fan of gangster films, Sicario: Day of the Soldado definitely has that vibe. It’s violent and unapologetic. It’s also very timely watching the cartel moving people into the country, as this issue has become so magnified in the American south west. The film is rated R for the graphic violence, so those who are squeamish might want to skip this film. It is nice to have a non superhero/animated offering during the summer.

Swanner: 3 stars

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Jurassic World

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Swanner: The film starts three years after our last encounter with Jurassic World: where the animals were left to do what they wanted with the island. After the island’s volcano begins to erupt, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) are sent to save the remaining dinosaurs from another extinction. As the volcano prepares to blow it’s top, only a few dinos are saved. Even with all this good will, others are looking to profit from the remaining dinosaurs.

J.A. Bayona brings the same kind of intensity he brought to The Impossible, where he made a tsunami scarier than any T-Rex. Much like the original Jurassic Park 2, act one is on the island and act two has us moving dinosaurs. The third act is your standard “dinosaurs get loose and eat bad guys”. I liked that they used the same writers, Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, because it feels like a genuine extension of the last film and not the silliness we experienced in San Diego in that second Jurassic Park.

This is a big ole summer popcorn movie. It’s loud, it’s scary, and there is never a dull moment. It almost feels like an old serial where we can’t go 10 minutes without something major happening. Isn’t that what a true summer movie is all about? A handsome leading man with an equally strong female lead, and of course a screaming girl whenever something unexpected happens…which is about every 10 minutes. My suggestion is to find your nearest air conditioned multiplex, get your concessions, and sit back for some fun.

Swanner: 3 stars

Incredibles 2

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Swanner: The Incredibles 2 starts where we ended the last film. Supers are still illegal even though villains are still roaming the streets. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) is approached by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) a business man who wants to make the Supers legal again. Deavor also recruits Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to start a campaign of Super rescues that they can show on TV to build up support for the Supers. Little do the Supers realize that there is a new super villain named Screenslaver that is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Judd: The first Incredibles set an incredibly high bar, and with all the fantastic super hero movies that Marvel is putting out, Disney Pixar has a lot more competition than they did 14 years ago. The set pieces and visual design are just as Googie-styled stunning as they were the first time around, and Pixar again turned to Brad Bird to write and direct, hoping to strike gold twice. The question is, “Did they?”

Swanner: YES! I thought they made a lot of good decisions going into to this sequel. First, they made Elastigirl the main super. And instead of Mr. Incredible breaking up buildings, he gets to do homework and deal with his daughter’s boy problems. He also gets to deal with Jack-Jack, who till now hasn’t shown any powers, till now. Jack-Jack’s raccoon fight reveals all of his powers, and is hysterically one of the highlights of the film.  

Judd: I agree that Pixar stuck gold again, and this sequel is as good as the first. If there are any complaints to be made is that the movie feels a little too familiar to the first, but with the roles reversed, and the villain is easy to deduce. Though I think Bird did a fantastic job buying time by introducing Screenslaver later in the movie. The first third of the movie focuses on the family and their uncertain future. It was a good way to reacquaint us with old friends. 

Swanner: The storyline is also familiar with the wife going back to work with the husband staying at home, but good is good. The kids have a much bigger part in this one and I’m fine with that. They were funny and actually moved the storyline. I would have liked more Frozone and Edna but I’ll take what ever they give us. Overall, I’m so happy to have the Incredibles back and I hope part three doesn’t take as long to be made but Incredibles 2 was worth the wait. 

Judd: There could have been more Edna, and I think there could have been more “silly” extra Supers like Reflux, but that certainly doesn’t detract from the film. I can’t say that I would want to see a third one made, because this has such a conclusive and satisfying ending – though who knows… We didn’t stick around for the end credits!!!

Swanner 4 stars
Judd: 4 stars

Hotel Artemis

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Swanner: Hotel Artemis is a secret membership only hospital for bad guys. On June 21, 2028, Los Angeles is being tore apart as water has become a luxury and the city of millions riot in protest, but a different battle is happening at the “hotel”. As The Nurse (Jodie Foster) juggles criminals, her beds fill with patients, but one of those patients is a hired assassin there to carry out a job that will close the Hotel forever.

Judd: Hotel Artemis was written and directed by Drew Pearce, who’s biggest credit to date is writing Iron Man 3. In addition to Foster, the movie stars Sterling K Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, and Jeff Goldblum. It’s an impressive cast for a movie that ends up being a fun, but ultimately disposable, summer action flick.

Swanner: The film looked like it would have been something Tarantino would have created with it odd characters and gloomy yet beautiful production design. I was wondering why the film takes place on the first day of summer in 2028? Was it to emphasize the need for water or was it placed there because of the Los Angeles Olympics would be just a month away? Maybe I’ve over analyzed this too much?

Judd: There may have been reason for some of the things that happened in the movie, but with a huge cast and a 97 minute runtime, there wasn’t much time to build the characters, which is why the movie feels so thin. I would have loved to know more about The Nurse, Everest, The Wolf King, Morgan, Waikiki, but there wasn’t enough time to give to each character. And that’s really a shame because Foster’s The Nurse could have been a fascinating character had she had more time to flesh her out.

Swanner: Funny hearing you ask for a film to be longer, but I agree it would have been very interesting learning more about these strangers that just happen upon the Hotel Artemis, this first day of summer. I think it’s supposed to be in chaos, much like Reservoir Dogs, where there is barely time to breath. It’s a nice distraction to have a summer film that has me thinking for a change. The film is different with a great cast, and I appreciate that. I bet it’s even more fun to watch stoned.

Judd: I know how much you like to fill in the story with your own narrative when the script doesn’t provide it. In some cases that can be a good thing, but I don’t agree that is the case here. While I enjoyed it, and I would recommend it – as a rental –  I can’t let what could have been something much more interesting off that easy. 

Swanner: 3 Stars
Judd: 2 stars

Ocean’s 8

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Swanner: What I find makes a heist movie work is that we don’t know too much about the characters. This gives the writers the chance to surprise us with special abilities. I remember liking the original Ocean’s 11, since it was new and original; but as we hit 12 & 13 it got to be too predictable. So, with Ocean’s 8 we meet Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister to Clooney’s character, Danny Ocean. While they were experiencing 11 – 13 she was in jail. Now out, she needs her own gang to carry out a heist to steal a $150 million dollar necklace that will be warn at the Met Gala.

I thought it was nice that they brought in an event that might interest the audience they are trying to attract. Lots of gowns and jewels, but yet again, they had me at starring Sandra Bullock. Director Gary Ross along with co-writer Olivia Milch try to keep things light and fun with big characters and some great heist stuff. As I said, you need a gang, so of course a great cast is needed including Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Dakota Fanning, and Sarah Paulson. There are a ton of cameos, so be keep your eyes peeled for who’s attending the Gala.

People are going to say, this is just a sequel to the “Ocean’s” movie; been there done that. Okay…it’s is a sequel, but it’s not fair to say why bother making another Ocean’s movie? As I said earlier, these are different characters on a different heist. I found the movie a whole lot of fun made with a female cast for a female audience (and me).  It’s what you expect from a summer comedy, movie stars with a very funny script.

Swanner: 3 ½ stars

Hereditary

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Judd: Hereditary opens with an obituary, then a family preparing to attend a funeral. Annie’s (Toni Collette) eulogy for her mother paints the matriarch as cold and secretive. From there, one tragedy after another besets Annie’s family, as they try to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. Written and directed by Ari Aster, Heredity is a movie that makes me very excited for the future works of Mr. Aster.

There is absolutely nothing new about Hereditary; it’s story involves themes that we’ve seen many, many times before in the horror genre. Witchcraft, mental illness, creepy children, demonic possession. What Hereditary does, like the greats that came before it, is exploit the characters for who they are and what they are dealing with. Annie is torn between grief for losing her mother, and guilt for not really caring. When the second tragedy occurs (no spoilers!), and secrets are slowly unveiled, the tension mounts until the audience is at the edge of their seat. The movie is full of emotion, suspense, terror, and genuine unease.

Hereditary clocks in at just over two hours, and it sustains that level intense anxiety throughout the entirety of the film. This is, partly, due to the great story, attention to detail, and passion that Ari Aster brings to the script and direction. There are moments that reminded my very much of Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Like Rosemary’s Baby, the audience is terrified just as much at what they don’t know as what they do. The script is full of little details and clues that sometimes pan out, and sometimes don’t. Horror buffs are going to be talking about meanings and interpretations for years to come. 

The fantastic performances provided by Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne bring the movie up to par with the classics. Colette and Wolff are brilliant together, playing off each other, and tormenting one another. Neither can forgive the other for what they have done, and neither can accept the responsibility for their actions. Only Oedipus had a more complex relationship with his mother!

Hereditary is the kind of horror movie that reminds me of why I am such a fan of the genre. When it is done right, it can be a brilliant thing. Hereditary is definitely done right and a brilliant thing

Judd: 4 stars