Tuesday, July 10, 2018

In Case You Missed Them

by Adam Riske
My take on several new releases in theaters. You’ll be just as surprised as I am.

As always, these are listed in order of my least favorite to favorite.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado – The new Sicario is a movie that starts out horrifying, gets into a groove (Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin are fantastic as always) and then falls off a cliff in the second half. At the end of the film, I was pretty pissed it made me endure graphic terrorist attacks on women and children at the beginning only for it to not really matter later. Many critics have blamed the departure of Emily Blunt, Roger Deakins, and Denis Villeneuve as to why Day of the Soldado doesn’t work, but I don’t think those are reasons. My issue is that it takes the great original and shrinks into a nihilistic Choose Your Own Adventure filled with coincidences, nonsense logic (hint: a key injury) and a coda that felt as dumb as it does irrelevant. The more I think about this movie, the more I don’t like it.

Rating: 2/4 Riskes
Incredibles 2 –I want nothing more than to enjoy the Incredibles movies, but evidently they’re not my type of Pixar. I even tried seeing Incredibles 2 a second time and it frustratingly just doesn’t resonate with me. I agree with everyone who marvels at the animation quality but I think the characters are stock, the style is dul,l and the comedy is repetitious to the point where I grew antsy. Either you find Jack-Jack hilarious or you’re me…and I’m me (i.e. real baby hijinks are cute and funny; animated baby, not so much). Sorry, everyone. I feel like I let you down. I was just bored by this movie. I will say, though, that "Bao" (the Pixar short that plays before Incredibles 2) is wonderful and worth going to theaters to see.

Rating: 2.5/4 Riskes
Gotti - I found my 2018 The Bye Bye Man. I know Gotti is not a good biopic, but I really had a good time and it’s not without some quality. The lead performance by John Travolta is strong. He commits big time and it’s the type of scenery chewing, movie-star performance that fits the subject. Between this, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and In a Valley of Violence, Travolta is turning in some good work lately and I think a lot of the criticism of him in Gotti is biased. Honestly, some of the bias toward the film itself is warranted though. The movie isn’t good and the marketing campaign has been asinine (e.g. flaunting their 0% Rotten Tomatoes score, calling critics trolls behind keyboards, etc.), so this movie is asking for trouble in that regard. I liked it in a simpler way. It’s fun junk that interested me because director Kevin Connolly’s nutty point of view is that he loves the Gottis and refuses to criticize anything they do. It’s hagiography at full volume to the point where it becomes bizarrely charming. Gotti is pretty much Black Mass if it were made with the cast & crew of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and that’s why I dig it. If that sounds horrible to you, I completely get it.

Rating: G-D help me, 2.5/4 Riskes
Hotel Artemis – This one is just about out of theaters, but you should catch up with it on disc or VOD. Hotel Artemis is an incredibly watchable ensemble thriller (led by Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, and Dave Bautista) in which the titular hotel/hospital for criminals is breached. Hotel Artemis is lower key than I envisioned (I thought it would be more Smokin’ Aces level crazy and it’s not), but it’s usually engaging, the production design is interesting, and the actors are given room to create characters with personality. This would totally work as the second movie on a Friday Night Double Feature.

Rating: 3/4 Riskes
SuperFly – I was surprised how much I liked the new SuperFly. Full disclosure, I haven’t seen the classic exploitation film it’s based on, but on its own the 2018 version feels like a lost entry from the early 2000s Exit Wounds-Cradle 2 The Grave era (era) of action film. This is a gorgeously shot movie with great music, solid action, fun performances, and it kept me entertained throughout. It’s like if Michael Mann directed 2000’s Shaft. Again, it’s probably out of theaters by now but if you’re a Heavy Action person you might enjoy this.

Rating: 3/4 Riskes
Hereditary – This is an extremely unsettling and disturbing film only hampered because A24 is such a specific brand of horror now that it’s almost becoming parody to me. That aside, the MVPs of this movie are impossible to narrow down. First, there's the volcanic performance from the great Toni Collette, which is even more disturbing because she’s a woman crossing the line to insanity and seems fully aware but must by compulsion. Second, the meticulous direction from Ari Aster that makes great use of framing and shot composition. Third, the sound design, which features an underlying hum that’s there to make you feel uneasy in the pit of your stomach even when nothing is happening. It’s a filmmaker using every tool at his disposal to get under your skin and I respect that. I can’t wait to revisit Hereditary again during Scary Movie Month, but even more so alone late at night. Some horror movies are great with a scared audience; this one might be even creepier all by yourself.

Rating: 3.5/4 Riskes
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – The new film about the life and legacy of Fred Rogers is a good, inquisitive documentary first and a celebration second and therein lies its power. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the very strong Roger Ebert doc Life Itself from a few years ago. This isn’t just an easy documentary resting on its laurels because it knows its audience is already won over by its subject. My favorite part of the documentary is how it explores Fred Rogers’ positive philosophy and the work it took behind the camera to maintain that kindness and optimism. The film also bravely addresses certain areas where Rogers was ahead of the curve but arguably not enough to befit his image, and how his message is lost in many ways in today’s world of pervasive intolerance. You keep waiting for the film to give you an uplifting answer (just like Fred Rogers would have) but it’s wise enough to give its summation in a muted tone. I’m a big fan of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? It made me think and cry and reconnect with my better nature.

Rating: 4/4 Riskes

Your turn! What did you think of these films? Is there anything else you’ve seen lately in theaters that you want to recommend?


  1. I love Incredibles 1. I liked Incredibles 2, but not as much as everybody else. It's 2 movies and neither seem to totally work by themselves, let alone together. And i didn't care at all for Bao

    Soldado: it's an 'ok' sequel, but as you mentionned, has serious story issues

    Haven't seen any of the others, but i plan on seeing them at some point

  2. Agree completely on all the movies I've seen on the list (Bao, Incredibles 2, Hereditary, and Won't You Be My Neighbor?). Definitely adding SuperFly to my list. I'm dying to know though - what did you think of Fallen Kingdom?

    1. You will know my thoughts on Fallen Kingdom tomorrow morning :-)

  3. I've only seen Sicario and Hereditary among these, and I couldn't agree more. I wasn't super high on the first Sicario for various reasons, but this one is just trash. It does perk up a little in the middle, but the last 20 minutes are just laughable. It's down there with Red Sparrow and Downrange as one of the worst movies I've seen all year. Hereditary is almost the exact opposite, 2 hours of controlled insanity that goes off the rails in the best possible way. I loved it.

  4. I just saw Sicario 2, and totally agree with you. It's a mess and pretty dumb, and that is not a good combination with grim and nihilistic. That injury part was almost laughable. I accept that kind of thing in Revenge, because that is a pulp horror thriller that knows exactly what it is. This is not the movie for that.

    Incredibles 2 was fun enough, made better because I could see my fiance was loving it. But as much as I anticipated an Incredibles sequel, I was surprised to realize that I'd prefer something new like Coco or Inside Out.

    Heredity is wonderful, and Won't You Be My Neighbor is just the celebration of decency we need.