Weathering With You Review

Weathering With You is now playing in limited release. Theater and ticket info can be found here. [poilib element="accentDivider"] For years, Makoto Shinkai has been obsessed with a singular vision: how do I capture the optimism and beauty of youth across distance and time? It started with Voices of A Distant Star, a movie about a girl who reaches out to her childhood friend via text messages as war rages over the planet. From there, Shinkai worked on The Place Promised In Our Early Days before moving on to 5 Centimeters per Second, a film that secured his name amongst some of the up and coming directors post-Ghibli era. After the short and sweet Garden of Words, it was clear: the director had established his brand of romantic drama. Finally, in 2016, he released the blockbuster Your Name, which came out and took the world by storm, becoming the highest-grossing anime film of all time. Your Name wasn’t just a phenomenon, though. It was also a clear statement that Shinkai had finally found his rhythm, pairing the blossom of young romance to emotional and inspiring music from the band RADWIMPS. Now, nearly four years later, Shinkai’s latest film, Weathering With You, has landed on western shores. For those wondering if the film rides off the success of Your Name, I can confidently say that it does indeed replicate much of what made that film so enjoyable, but with enough adjustments and variations for any Shinkai or anime fan to enjoy wholeheartedly. On the flip side of this coin though, Weathering With You also bears traditional Shinkai’s faults; there are plot contrivances, the characters are still very superficial in their personality and growth, and some of the emotional beats still feel far too rose-colored to be appreciated in depth. [ignvideo url=""] One of Weathering With You’s greatest strengths is the weight of Tokyo’s identity. Shinkai takes great care to paint the setting in every visceral stroke possible, whether it’s from the muted honks of cars zooming through the tight lanes between skyscrapers, the nonstop chatter of adults in cafes and shopping districts, or the absolutely overwhelming clutter of signs and lights in local shops and menus: Tokyo feels alive, real, and as much a part of the film as the actual characters. Even when much of the city is overcast with cloudy skies, there are enough details to carry over the presence of a rainy day. Umbrellas get shaken out by crowds, and streams of droplets fall on the window panes as city-goers trud through mud and wet pavements with their rubber boots. Throughout the film, I felt like I was there with the characters, in the cold, wet and miserable rain. This is important because Weathering With You is equally about Tokyo as it is about the romance that buds between protagonists Hodaka and Hina. Much of Shinkai’s questions about love and distance are now focused on a singular perspective: can youth blossom in the fast-paced, ever-changing and brutal reality that is Tokyo? In its apathetic crowds, shady businesses, and unconventional ways of making a living? The answer, without spoiling, is an ethereal one, but no doubt: Shinkai has much to say about the current way of life in Tokyo, and does a fantastic job of weaving it with Hodaka and Hina’s story. [poilib element="quoteBox" parameters="excerpt=Weathering%20With%20You%20takes%20a%20step%20back%20from%20the%20mysticism%20and%20instead%20chooses%20to%20focus%20more%20on%20the%20nuance%20of%20forcing%20yourself%20into%20adulthood."] Which brings us back to the main thread that binds Hodaka and Hina. If Your Name is a film that explores the red thread of fate, Weathering With You takes a step back from the mysticism and instead chooses to focus more on the nuance of forcing yourself into adulthood. That’s not to say that the movie has its fantastical moments, but the drive of Weathering With You isn’t necessarily myths or prophecies about the power to change the weather, but rather, the desperation of youth trying to live a meaningful life when the city and others consistently try to take so much from them. It’s a far more serious plot than Your Name and is what colors Hodaka and Hina’s relationship into something more realistic than just a fated union. This is a story about teenagers who want to find a life in a city that simply won’t let them have one. As a result, Weathering With You is a moodier film, but sometimes, a better one because of it. [ignvideo url=""] That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its bright moments. RADWIMPS continues to make their mark: their orchestral soundtrack fits perfectly with the tempo of the film, ranging from simple piano melodies for quiet, introspective moments, to melancholic love songs that play in the background as Hina and Hodaka chase across bridges and weather. Out of all the tracks, “Great Escape” is clearly the strongest, and played in a way that easily took my breath away. Shinkai has not lost his touch for the dramatic moments of life, and while Weathering With You doesn’t have as many of them as I’d like, it’s got enough to pack a punch when it needs it most. Many of these sweeping theatrics rely on the stunning animation and composite you come to expect in any Shinkai film. In Weathering With You’s case, Shinkai truly manages to make water feel everchanging and powerful, as much of the movie is about the rain and how weather changes our perception and mood. As a result, there’s a lot of meticulous attention on how light, shadow, and color all work together to change the setting in such a way that it really reflects the atmosphere of the current scene. Shinkai’s “painting-like” aesthetic is really felt in the urban setting, and the art direction is strong and cohesive enough that even a single water drop feels alive and vibrant on its own. Weathering_1 All of this sounds beautiful, and it’s true: much of Weathering With You is pleasant and evocative. But it also still suffers from Shinkai’s trademark issues: characterization and pacing. Hodaka barely grows as a character, so his relationship with Hina feels forced and superficial. Side characters do feel far more interesting in personality, but aren’t given enough time to become fleshed out or balanced in their relationship with Hodaka. The ending feels abrupt compared to the slow build and climax, and many of the movie’s light-hearted moments don’t feel strong enough to counterbalance a lot of the movie’s melodrama. Many plot contrivances appear towards the end of the film, and some things are wholly left unexplained. Despite these bumps in the road, Weathering With You is still a self-contained film that manages to hit all the buttons of what makes a Shinkai film so endearing, captivating, and stunning. It’s not his most polished work by any means, but if you enjoy a good dose of teen drama and romance, the film has plenty to offer. It wears its heart enough on its sleeve that its shortcomings can be swept under the rug to make for an enjoyable film that captures the frustrations and longings of youth in the current generation, while also serving as a beautiful tribute to the busy world of Tokyo.

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Bad Boys for Life Review

Bad Boys For Life -- the third movie in the popular action franchise sparked by Michael Bay's 1995 action smash starring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith -- continues the story of two rogue Miami cops who will go to any lengths to get things done. And we should also probably mention the fact that the newest addition to the Bad Boys canon happens to be completely bats*** insane. Set in what seems to be real-time so around 17 years since the last Bad Boys film and 25 since the original, we find the titular duo, Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) at a crossroads in their lives. Mike wants to keep on doing what they do best -- indiscriminately killing criminals in inventive fashions whilst driving fast cars -- but Marcus is ready to settle down as he's just become a grandfather. But when a figurative ghost from Mike's past makes a horrific and violent return, the pair are forced to weigh up what really matters to them and what they'll do to protect it. It's hard to get too far into the story without revealing some of Bad Boys' strangest secrets -- and boy does it have those -- but stylistically directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi do a great job paying homage to the bonkers of Bay whilst updating the look of the film so it doesn't seem dated when sitting alongside the Hobbs & Shaws of the contemporary action landscape. Speaking of which, Bad Boys for Life definitely feels like it took some tips from the Fast and Furious spin-off when it comes to pushing the boat out with some of its stranger action sequences and set-pieces. Whilst it never quite reaches those heights it's an ambitious attempt to meld over-the-top superhero-inspired action with the more classic R-rated violence and comedy that the Bad Boys franchise is known for. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=59-movies-to-geek-out-over-in-2020&captions=true"] Lawrence and Smith are clearly having a lot of fun here with the latter trying to recapture his youth and avoid the realities of growing up and the former just wanting to finally take some time off. In 2020 there's definitely an aspect of Bad Boys that play differently as these films arguably glamorize police violence and in the newest entry militarized policing. Bad Boys for Life does try to reckon with that a little, attempting to speak to the idea of pacifism and coming to terms with your past, but ultimately what really saves the film from any deep critical breakdown is its own commitment to being completely and utterly ridiculous. We kid you not, by the end of this movie you'll likely be wondering if the whole thing takes place in a John Wick-style alternate universe. And who knows, maybe it does? Whatever the case, there's an almost impressive amount of WTF moments that had this reviewer's theater in a mix of hysterics and total shock. Bad Boys for Life is, at its core, doing what any studio movie does these days: setting up a potential new franchise. Let's call it Bad Boys: The New Class. These new members are mostly made up of a militarized police force known as AMMO which is staffed exclusively by inexplicably good looking ex-teen actors. High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens takes on the weapons expert role, Riverdale's Charles Melton is the sassy muscle, and The Hunger Games' Alexander Ludwig rounds out the newbies as a tech genius with a tragic past. Unlike most films trying to introduce new legacy characters, though, Bad Boys for Life does it relatively well. Hudgens and co. are charming and their ongoing dynamic with the reluctant elders is a fun one. [ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=] Whilst the core cast is solid the standout here is Jacob Scipio's antagonist Armando Armas who thanks to brilliant stunts and great action direction has some truly stunning and violent moments. It helps that Scipio is a talented actor who has one of the most fully fleshed-out character arcs in the film. He's also at the center of Bad Boy For Life's most surreal subplot which makes him one of the most entertaining and empathetic characters. After all, he is seeking revenge on two murderous cops who kill dozens of people on a regular basis. Whilst visually impressive -- if you like fast cars, well-cut suits, and impeccably shot action -- and filled with an entertaining cast, Bad Boys for Life flails slightly when it comes to pacing, narrative, and anything that exists below the very shiny surface. Basically, if you're prepared for the silly, savage, and sometimes completely unbelievable R-rated action that Bad Boys for Life has to offer than you'll likely be glad you took the ride along. It works to build out the existing world of the franchise whilst delivering fan service moments, classic character callbacks, and a chance for Lawrence and Smith to ride again. For filmgoers who aren't prepared for the action assault from all sides, it might not be the movie for you, especially when it hits its wild stride in the third act and completely commits to all-out war. Though it probably won't be the last time that the Bad Boys ride it would be a totally acceptable send-off to an action franchise that is still flying the flag for the old days of bombastic blockbuster fare.

Dolittle Review

After many delays, Dolittle has finally arrived and with more red flags than fanfare. It's a bad sign when a movie has been in production for two years, including heavy reshoots, rewrites, and post-production retooling. It's a worse sign when its release date gets bumped not once but twice. Worst of all, Universal is dropping Robert Downey Jr.'s $175 million adventure in the dumping ground that is January. Then came the trailers that were roundly mocked online. And yet, I suspected I might love Dolittle. As a kid, I adored Hugh Lofting's children's novels about the quirky doctor who could talk to animals. To this day, I hold a sincere affection for the campy charms of the 1967 adaptation, Doctor Dolittle, which starred a jaunty Rex Harrison. And in past Januarys, I've proved an earnest defender of Monster Trucks and Serenity, maligned movies that were just too damn strange to be marketed to the mainstream. So I clung to hope that despite its flaws and checkered past, there might be something in this remake to celebrate. I was wrong. Dolittle is an incoherent omnishambles that is astoundingly awful. Loosely based on The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, Dolittle begins not with its eponymous eccentric, but with a boy called Stubbins (a bland Harry Collett), who comes from a family of hunters but has a soft spot for animals. Desperate to save a squirrel he's reluctantly shot, Stubbins seeks out the now reclusive Doctor Dolittle (Downey), fatefully intruding as a royal mission falls into the animal lover's lap. So, with a menagerie of animals, the pair set off on a sea voyage in search of an undiscovered island. Along the way, they'll face towering warships, a deadly dragon, and a sexy, sulking pirate played by newly minted Academy Award-nominee Antonio Banderas. So, it's not all bad. But it is bad. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=the-worst-reviewed-movies-of-2019&captions=true"] The premise is a fine jumping-off point to unfurl spectacular set-pieces and plenty of animal shenanigans. But Dolittle is structured like it was written by a room full of monkeys lazily banging on typewriters between shit-slinging, then cut together by a blind man with broken fingers. An animated opening sequence does a ton of work to set up the characters and a bruising backstory. Then Emma Thompson -- as the plucky parrot Polynesia -- delivers exposition dumps throughout in voiceover that does an embarrassing amount of heavy lifting. Forget transition scenes. Thompson's chipper voice is here for storytime, as if we're flipping the page on a picture book instead of watching a massively budgeted movie directed by the acclaimed helmer of Syriana, Stephen Gaghan. It's genuinely jarring how the film leaps in time and location without warning or much explanation. You might well wonder if you drifted off and missed a scene here or there, like the one where Dolittle apparently escapes from a palace full of armed and furious pirates. Characters aren't so much introduced as chucked in haphazardly, like James, a motor-mouthed dragonfly voiced by Jason Mantzoukas. Who is James? Why does Dolittle trust him on this mission? What is he even trusting him to do? No time for explanations. We have another bizarre action sequence to barrel into! The editing here should be examined in film schools as a prime example of what not to do. It's as if the filmmaking team has a grudge against match-on-action cuts. So again and again in one shot to the next, a character jolts from point A to point B without the connective tissue of their crossing. It's not edgy jump cuts. It's sloppy. And it happens in sequence after sequence involving Dolittle confronting carefully crafted CGI-animals. So, I began to wonder if the shoot went so poorly that Gaghan just didn't get the raw materials to make a cut that isn't an absolute eyesore. Or was there some ruthless studio note that demanded the family film have an accessibly lean runtime (1 hour and 46 minutes), which led the editing team to frantically shave seconds by chopping out the middle of actions? Either possibility speaks to the disaster that Dolittle is. [ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=] Further evidence of a troubling "fix it in post" mentality can be found in the film's absurd amount of ADR (additional dialogue recording), a common tool that is criminally abused here. A lot of the promoted cast (Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, and Ralph Fiennes) are voicing CG animals. So much of their dialogue can be smoothly tweaked in post to punch up jokes or smooth out exposition drops, then animation created accordingly. What's striking is how much of the onscreen talent won't be shown saying their lines. This hints at how heavily rewritten Dolittle must have been. If you tried to track this as a drinking game, you'd probably pass out before the end of the second act. 'Okay,' You might be thinking, 'So, technically, it's a mess. But is it entertaining?' Not really. Among the more baffling decisions in Dolittle, their leading doctor is presented as a grief-stricken grump who begins the movie with a comically long depression beard. The crackling charm that Downey brought to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is drowned in his dour pantomimes as Dolittle pines for the wife who is fridged so fast that it'd make Christopher Nolan blush. This woe-is-me widower angle sucks the fun out of Doctor Dolittle, leaving us with a barrage of creature cohorts who are mostly a bunch of one-note jokes come to life, like the duck who confuses green vegetables for surgical tools. Repeatedly. This is the only joke three-time Academy Award-nominee Octavia Spencer is given as Dab-Dab the duck. While there are bits with some bite (like a dark joke Nanjiani's ostrich makes about an omelet), the only wholly successful element of Dolittle is its villain. Michael Sheen plays Dr. Blair Müdfly, personal doctor to the queen of England and rival to the legendary Dolittle. Where Downey is fumbling with a clumsy Welsh accent and mawkish melancholy, Sheen is on fire, incensed by Müdfly's jealousy and embracing this property's camp past. With a severe goatee, bulging eyes, and a voice ever on the verge of breaking into a squeal of rage, Sheen gifts this fumbling film a surge of energy and hilarious pettiness. Perhaps the joke that proved the most silly yet satisfying is when Dolittle mutters that the man is a "chinless wonder," then the cut leaps across leagues of open ocean to Müdfly's warship where he's looking through a spyglass and yelps, "I think he said something about my chin!" Sheen is the only one who seems to truly embrace what over-the-top fun this could have been. Bless him.

Underwater Review

Kristen Stewart has long ago shed the role that made her: the quiet, awkward Bella Thorne in the Twilight franchise. 2019 saw Stewart take on the very fun (but commercial failure) Charlie's Angels and this year she continues her journey to fully-fledged action star with the uneven but still impressive deep-sea thriller Underwater.

Directed by William Eubank from a script by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad, Underwater follows the crew of a subterranean laboratory located seven miles beneath sea level as they fight for survival in the face of a terrifying threat. So far, so Alien, and honestly Underwater is at its best when it's wearing its influences on its sleeve. But a lack of convictions -- and belief in the audience -- often makes the film feel weaker than the excellent and ambitious sci-fi that's come before.

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The Grudge Review

With his 2016 directorial debut The Eyes Of My Mother, writer/helmer Nicolas Pesce had critics championing him as a bold new voice in horror for his black-and-white cinematography, dread-entrenched character study, and its bleak tale of love, isolation, and violence. In 2018, he returned to the spotlight of the Sundance Film Festival with Piercing, a horror-thriller about an aspiring killer and the sex worker he's eying to be his victim. Now, this on-the-rise horror auteur returns to put his mark on a once-hot horror franchise with the star-stuffed, studio offering The Grudge. But horror fans might wish Pesce had let dead things stay dead. This Grudge is a trudge through muck, meandering plot, half-baked performances, and tired tropes that should’ve been retired by the end of the 2000s.

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The Mandalorian: Spoiler-Free Season 1 Review

This is a mostly spoiler-free review of The Mandalorian Season 1, which is now streaming in its entirety on Disney+. (The only spoiler is the existence of Baby Yoda, which, unless you’ve been living without internet access for the past two months, is pretty unavoidable at this point.) Read our spoiler-filled reviews for every episode of The Mandalorian below.

Lupin III: The First Review

This review is via IGN Japan, where Lupin III: The First is now playing in theaters.

Lupin III: The First is the first computer-generated entry in the long-running franchise about the thieving adventures of the grandson of France’s famous thief Arsène Lupin and his merry band of frenemies. And while its story retreads old ground a little too much, it wears its new 3D animation style well. Lupin III: The First doesn’t stray far from its roots, relying heavily on the long-running franchise’s staples, but it does offer up a serviceable romp that doesn’t wear out its welcome.

The latest in the series is directed and written by Takashi Yamazaki, who’s an expert in this sort of thing: He directed 2014’s Stand by Me Doraemon, another CG take on a long-running Japanese franchise. The critical and financial success of that film no doubt inspired, at least partially, the production of this one, and Lupin’s transition to CG works just as well this time around.

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Spies in Disguise Review

With the next James Bond movie not out for another few months, you may be pining for a good spy flick. Well, it’s not quite 007, but the new animated film Spies in Disguise has gadgets, the world’s greatest spy in Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith), a villain with a robot arm (Ben Mendelsohn) and a sort of Q in the form of a goofy kid named Walter Beckett (Tom Holland). It also has our super-spy turning into a very angry pigeon. That’s where the comparisons end. Spies In Disguise has a slow start, but once it accepts its wackiness, it turns into a charming film. The pairing of Tom Holland and Will Smith absolutely works. This might not be a must-see for adults, but if you’re bringing the kids in your family, you’ll definitely be entertained.

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Cats Review

Ah, 2019, a year of cinematic innovation: The leap forward in motion-capture technology in Alita: Battle Angel. The nature documentary quality of The Lion King’s animation. The de-aging of Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino in The Irishman. And, just in time for Christmas, the cat’s finally out of the bag on the nightmare-inducing digital fur technology of director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Cats, which grants cat-like versions of Jason Derulo and Taylor Swift the freedom to do big dance numbers without the burden of feline prosthetics. Only, with CGI covering their entire bodies, not to mention Hooper’s inexplicable need for green screen environments, all that dancing feels terribly inhuman.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

While we aim to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, we understand that the definition of such and sensitivities vary. We take pains to avoid references to any specific story events, but we do discuss themes and differences between the direction of this movie and previous Star Wars films.

There’s no way to end the Skywalker Saga and make all the fans happy – and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker certainly isn’t going to make all the fans happy. Those who loved The Last Jedi will surely be peeved by the jettisoning of what that divisive eighth installment introduced, while those irked by The Force Awakens’ nostalgia-bait will likely be irritated by Episode IX’s recycling of familiar beats and plentiful fan service. The Rise of Skywalker labors incredibly hard to check all the boxes and fulfill its narrative obligations to the preceding entries, so much so that you can practically hear the gears of the creative machinery groaning under the strain like the Millennium Falcon trying to make the jump to hyperspace. It ultimately makes the film a clunky and convoluted conclusion to this beloved saga, entertaining and endearing as it may be.

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