This is the third movie named “Shaft”, but is not a remake of the first two versions. Rather it is a continuation of the Shaft story. In this one we meet John Shaft’s son, an MIT graduate working for the FBI. Shaft was an absentee father and his son, J.J., needs him for an investigation. The plot is incidental because this is a showcase for Samuel L. Jackson’s talents and persona. You could say that this film is “Deadpool in Harlem”. There is lots of action and just as much comedy. Jackson is hilarious and his son, played by newcomer Jesse T. Usher, holds his own. The film really hits its stride when Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft, shows up playing Jackson’s father and Usher’s grandfather. He’s still cool. This film was a lot of fun. If you like action with comedy, don’t miss it!
I have to admit that I had trepidations about seeing Disney’s latest live action remake of one of their animated films. Robin Williams’ genie seemed impossible to duplicate. I was surprised by how good Will Smith was in that role. He didn’t try to imitate Williams, but made the character his own. The film is beautifully filmed and the musical scenes are wonderful. The special effects that are used for the genie are really amazing and flawless. This one ranks up there with the live action remakes of “The Jungle Book”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “Cinderella”. Go see it!
“Booksmart” is a female version of “Superbad” where two smart girls, who only studied in high school, decide to be crazy on the night before graduation. This is a small film, but very well written. The two leads are unknown, but do a great job. They decide that they are going to a wild party, but get side tracked a couple of times. Enjoyable and funny. I really enjoyed it.
I normally don’t review films that left the theater a while ago, but I am making an exception for “Eighth Grade”. It’s currently on Amazon Prime and I loved it! It tells the story of a young, awkward girl finishing eighth grade. Saying that the story and characters are real is an understatement. The filmmaker has captured adolescences perfectly. And the poor father can’t do anything right in the young girl’s eyes. Elsie Fisher is perfect in the starring role; awkward, arrogant, and delusional. Do not miss this one!
When I was eight years old, like everyone else my age, I was obsessed with the movie “Mary Poppins”. My brother and I played the record until it wore out. So when they announced that they were going to make a sequel I was less than enthused. The original was one of those magical, one-of-a-kind event movies. Obviously anything following it could not live up to it. How could anyone but Julie Andrews play the title role? Well I am here to tell you that “Mary Poppins Returns” is an excellent follow up, even if it comes fifty-four years after the original. Emily Blunt is perfect in the title role. From the minute she appears on screen, she owns the role. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays a street lamp lighter, much like Bert the chimney sweep, except his accent is actually pretty good. Speaking of Bert, Dick Van Dyke makes a cameo appearance as the old banker. Besides Blunt nailing the character, the musical numbers and choreography are outstanding. The highest praise I can give this film is that it made me feel like a kid. I loved it! This is not a kid’s movie; it’s for everyone who wants to be entertained for two hours.
Queen has always been my second favorite rock band, so when I saw that they were making a film about them I was excited, but nervous that it wouldn’t be any good. Well I am here to tell you that the film, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, is well quite good. Basically, it’s the story of Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, and how he transformed a band that played second rate clubs into a phenomenon. Besides his incredible voice, he had a vision that pushed the limits of rock and roll. Rami Malek plays Mercury and this is a performance that ranks with Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles and Marion Collitard as Edith Piaf. He is epic! Loved the music, loved the movie. It’s one of those films that I didn’t want to end and I want to see it again.
“Green Book” is one of the best films of the year. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Marershala Ali as an odd couple touring the Deep South in the early 1960’s it is funny, interesting and very entertaining. Mortensen plays an Italian from Brooklyn who acts as driver for Ali, a professional pianist. The latter is very educated, while the former is from the streets. They teach each other about life. Directed by Peter Farrelly of “Something About Mary” fame, this is a different kind of film for him. Beautifully done, with a great soundtrack, this is one film not to miss.
Steve McQueen, the director not the actor, has come out with a new movie. The director of “12 Years a Slave” gives us “Widows”, a heist movie that has a lot of twists. A gang of thieves is killed by the police and their wives have to pay off a drug lord trying to break into politics. Led by Viola Davis these women are bad ass. Daniel Kayuula from “Get Out” is one of the villains and he is very scary. It takes a while to set up the plot, but once it gets going hang on! A good thriller.
I did not have high hopes for the newest version of “A Star is Born”. The original, starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor, came out 80 years ago and is a classic. The 1954 version, starring Judy Garland, is my favorite and the 1977 version with Barbra Steisand was fair, but at least it gave us the song Evergreen. So could Bradley Cooper as star and director with Lady Gaga make it worthwhile? Well, they did. Both actors give extraordinary performances, with Gaga stealing every scene she’s in. Her opening number, singing “La Vie en Rose” in French is dazzling! And anyone who doubts she has an amazing voice after seeing this film should have their ears checked. She lights up the screen like Streisand or Whitney Houston. One of the surprises is that Bradley Cooper can sing. His concert scenes are great. I was struck by how well the film was directed. Cooper has always been a good actor, but who knew he could direct? And the music is pretty good. The movie is a little long in places, but well worth seeing.
The latest Spike Lee “joint” is a true tale called “BlacKkKlansman”. It’s the story of the first black to join the Colorado Springs police force. He notices an ad in the paper for the Ku Klux Klan and calls the number. Using his white voice he wins their confidence. He has to enlist a white cop, who happens to be Jewish, to play his alter ego. Together they infiltrate the Klan and thwart a planned attack. This film is a comedy and drama, played almost tongue in cheek. The lead is played by John David Washington, Denzel Washington’s son and he is good. Parts of it are hard to sit through while the Klansmen are spouting their racist rants. Topher Grace plays David Duke, who becomes friendly with the black cop, thinking he is white over the phone and it is very amusing. This is one of Lee’s best movies and he has become a subtle filmmaker. One of the best of 2018 so far.