hearts beat loud

Those of you who already know my tastes in movies, know that I'm a sucker for films about people creating songs and music and the whole "let's start a band" premise. "Hearts Beat Loud" definitely fits that description, and sure enough, I enjoyed the heck out of it. Similar to many modern-style musicals like "Once" or "Band Aid," it also features original songs here, and I'm happy to say that I liked all the songs. In fact, I wish there were more songs. After watching the movie, I did immediately go listen to the whole original movie soundtrack, and I should also mention that the songs were written by Keegan Dewitt. 

Admittedly, since the premise is similar to many of the other modern-style musicals, there can be a derivative feeling to the plot progression. Some would say that it panders a bit, by revisiting some very tried and true plot points that are suppose to generate a specific reaction, as they have done in other movies. The themes involving loving music, or living life, etc, are also similar to those other films, and it's true that some insightful lines of wisdom may seem too precious. I get that some people might consider all that a negative, but as someone who loves these kinds of films, I didn't care. I was all in, and loved giving the movie the exact kind of reactions it wanted from me. 

If you needed more reasons to see this movie, besides the premise, and the songs, then it's the cast. Nick Offerman is fantastic in the role, as somebody who seems to have arrested development, being stuck in a mindset from when he was a young man in a band. On the flip side, Kiersey Clemons is amazing in her role as the daughter, who is actually "the adult" in the family, that's genuinely looking forward to go to college. The thing is that both of them are musically talented, and the scenes where they create or perform songs, are exactly the kinds of scenes that I really dig. Both actors did in fact perform their songs themselves too, which is always appreciated. The supporting cast are also great in this, like Toni Collette, Ted Danson, and Sasha Lane. Each adding their own significant marks to the overall story and themes. Red Hook, New York, in many ways is also a character in this movie, and makes me want to visit that place after seeing this. 

I'd like to mention that I saw "Hearts Beat Loud" on Father's Day, and coincidentally enough, I would easily argue that this is one of the best movies to watch on that day. That Father and Daughter relationship featured here is the heart of this story, and it absolutely engaged me. Writer-Director Brett Haley gave me a small and simple movie that more people need to give a chance, and I for sure will gladly champion it. 

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incredibles 2

When Writer-Director Brad Bird gave us "The Incredibles" in 2004, I was impressed at how he successfully did a mash-up film of the Fantastic Four superhero family premise, a bit of deconstruction to the comic book superhero genre, and also tossed in a James Bond spy aesthetic. It's easy to argue that "Incredibles 2" is very similar to the previous installment. The superhero family dynamic is still very much present with a few tweaks, the comic book superhero genre deconstruction was increased quite a lot, while the spy stuff has been minimized a little bit. The end result is still thankfully the same though, as this sequel is simply incredible just like the first one! 

There's a lot that was done right with this, from the amazing action sequences (that train set piece!), an enjoyable sense of humor (the kids!), a huge amount of story themes and metaphors to really chew on (like the Elastigirl and Mr Incredible role reversals), plus the fantastic ensemble cast of characters that the phenomenal voice talents get to perform. Forgive my hyperbole, but I think that this animated film will go down as one of the best superhero movies of all time, let alone being one of the best superhero movie sequels of all time. 

It's not perfect though, and it takes some risks that might alienate some people. While the execution of the narrative is superb, there are many elements in the plot that leans on the derivative, with it showing it's over reliance to the superhero plot formula, some probably execusable plot conveniences, and most everything to do with the villain. If you've seen enough superhero movies, you're going to be able to predict where the story is going, even though I'm assuming you're at least going to have fun in the process of doing so. Oh, there are those seizure inducing moments to look out for though. 

What's arguably the most interesting; or controversial, aspects of "Incredibles 2" are the themes and metaphors that are spread out throughout the plot. You can gleefully just watch the story move along as is, but if you are willing to dig deep into the plot reveals, the world building, several of the conversations, you'll find that there's actually a lot to digest about what the whole thing is trying to say to you. I'm not going to go into detail there; because spoilers, but that element of the film is what I think elevates it into something beyond just being another superhero movie. 

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tag

A comedy based on a true story could either turn out really well, or crash and burn. Where does "Tag" fall under? Well, to my surprise, I would say that I would put it in the former. I got to give a round of applause to Director Jeff Tomsic, and the ensemble cast, for pulling off a highly entertaining comedy that shouldn't have worked.

I mean c'mon now. Adult men playing a game of Tag, wrecking unnecessary havoc and destruction in the wake of their game? Not only that, but there are some underlying themes and messages that are legitimately worth talking about from this premise? Ridiculous! Believe me that there were moments that I thought the lengths these characters go through just to "tag" somebody were way too outrageous that it should have broken my suspension of disbelief. That's the key phrase right there though, "it should have," but somehow I was having too much fun to care about logic. Although there were some super over-the-top moments that were pushing things a little too far for my taste. 

To be fair, the movie does acknowledge how overly outrageous it all is, and does pay some lip service to the fact that this group of friends go way too far with the game. The look of the background characters who are shocked and confused at what they are witnessing is as far as it goes though. It may be interesting to see the actual repercussions, but that would probably ruin the mood of the movie. Actually, there were some more serious moments that almost derails the comedic momentum of the story, but they make it work anyway. 

Besides the funny dialogue and the stunts, there are three other main reasons to see "Tag." First reason is the cast. The cast have great chemistry to see on screen, and they are very convincing in projecting what it's like to be among best friends. Second reason are the slow-motion sequences during the tag attempts on Jeremy Renner's character. Those slow-mo scenes can seem overdone at first, but I really thought they made good use of it. Third reason are the overall themes and messages. I'm still surprise that this movie actually has some things to say, and I think that's awesome! Solid fun here. 

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first reformed

Talk about a touchy subject, especially for today's World, but "First Reformed" juggles the topics of modern religion and climate change. Needless to say, depending on what you think, this movie may or may not be for you. Some people might even say that there are some heavy handed messaging here. I would argue that despite what you think, you probably should watch it anyway. It has provocative ideas that are presented to you, and encourages you to think about what you just watched. Then along with that, you're going to want to reserve some time to think about the final scenes of the movie as well. 

Written and Directed by legendary film maker Paul Schrader, who is probably most famous for his work with "Taxi Driver, "Raging Bull," and "The Last Temptation Of Christ," expect to follow a familiar main protagonist who is... complicated. There's a welcome confidence with the film-making here, from the deliberate pacing, the straight forward narrative, the editing, to even the aspect ratio. He is however absolutely not above surprising the audience with particular turn of events, that you will have to decide for yourself whether you agree or disagree with. 

Short of me spoiling the movie by directly commenting on the story and themes presented in the film, I can safely say that there's a simplicity to the story telling that some people might find boring. I however was completely engaged by everything Ethan Hawke's character had to deal with, plus the other supporting characters that makes an impact to his every day life. Expect conversations that are suppose to get a reaction from you with some of the things said, and Schrader isn't afraid to let some of those scenes linger longer than you probably expect them to. 

Beyond the writing and the directing, one of the main reasons to see "First Reformed" is the performance by Ethan Hawke as Father Toller. It was like he was destined to play this character, and wow what a role. While it's likely that this film is going to fly under many people's radar, I'm glad this was made, and I'm glad I took the time to watch it. 

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hotel artemis

It's almost like Writer-Director Drew Pearce watched "John Wick" and was enamored with "The Continental" Hotel subplot and decided that he could do a whole movie around a hotel, but this time it's actually a hospital for criminals. Add in a near-future setting of it being in 2028, show modern-future tech for the world building elements, set up some established rules for the hotel-hospital to give the premise some neat lore to it's own mythology, and then put in some colorful characters with broadly defined back stories. That's a recipe for an enjoyable movie right? For some sure, but for me...? 

Can I just say that this is a mixed bag of things that I thought were cool, and many other things that I didn't care for at all. I like the whole premise of this hotel-hospital for criminals, set in a huge LA riot. That's cool. What's suppose to draw us into this movie much more however are the characters, and in all honesty, they didn't interest me that much. Maybe Jodie Foster's character has the most development that I actually paid some attention to, but that's really about it. 

Essentially, the story is as expected as can be, and relies a lot on just the plot ideas to win people over. It pandered a lot to the audience by not really taking many bold risks, with the hopes that some familiar plot tropes are enough to satisfy people. There is an overall story arc from beginning to the end though, so it's not like they just decided to throw a series of fan-service and hoped that worked; some will argue that's exactly what they did. The cast are good enough in their roles, but that's not saying a lot. 

I can imagine "Hotel Artemis" will find a following for what was shown in the movie. The world building alone could justify sequels for this too. The main thing that goes against this film however is the overall derivative feeling, the lack of a truly engaging story, and how it all just felt like a disposable product that will just as easily be forgotten hours after watching it. Too bad. It could have been something special. 

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ocean's 8

POSITIVES 
- Fan service call backs reminding us that this is connected to the George Clooney Ocean movies is nice
- The whole opening sequences featuring Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean is fantastic
- Anne Hathaway hamming it up for the character she plays here is quite enjoyable to watch
- The heist itself is entertaining enough to see play out
- I actually liked all the bits involving James Corden's role in the story
- Shows promise to better things with this cast of characters

NEGATIVES 
- This cast of characters need more personality! At best they only hint at who they are, but only in very limited ways
- Some of the plot turns were kinda baffling to me, and made the heist less believable
- Most of the first half of this movie was ridiculously boring for me. Made me very restless. 
- I thought the movie needed more energy and simply more fun than what we actually got. 
- Short of some very few moments, the overall movie was mostly pedestrian and forgettable. 

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hereditary

I'll start off by saying that after seeing this movie, I felt like I needed to immediately go to Church, just to wash off the evil that I witnessed in "Hereditary." Things happen in this film that made me think that I'm watching something that I really shouldn't be watching. The premise of the story is definitely the most haunting thing about it, and the main reason why you should or shouldn't see it. I can see why people are comparing this to "The Exorcist," although I'll argue that it doesn't top that classic horror film. 

I got to give a lot of accolades to Writer-Director Ari Aster for making a fantastic piece of horror cinema. He pulled from a lot of classic scary movie techniques, mashed them all together, and mixed them with his own vision. The ominous tone. The creepy sound design. The scary imagery. The slow burn that builds up to a frightening pace. The subversion of familiar tropes. The unnerving and unsettling plot. Even the specific framing of certain scenes that mimics how one looks at doll houses, all add to an incredible package of a horror movie. It also helps that it has a very talented cast of actors, from Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, and Gabriel Byrne. 

It's not all perfect however. There were some scenes that I genuinely thought were kinda boring, and left me restless to move things along. Some of the actions by certain characters also seemed to rely on particular caveats and coincidences, just for the sake of the plot. Despite the hype surrounding this film, it's not what I would consider the scariest movie of all time either; but it is better than most. I can imagine some people might not even find it scary at all, and end up frustrated by some of the more artistically stylistic decisions this film makes to try and scare a movie audience. 

With some of my more critical thoughts out of the way, I still can't deny the effect it had on me as a scary movie. There are some scenes that I simply will not be forgetting anytime soon, and will cause me to question some of the things I see in the corner of my eye. There will be moments; and there already have been, when I would have a slight pause from hearing a bump in the night, because that's how much this film creeped me out. 

For those people who aren't used to watching horror movies, I can only imagine "Hereditary" being really successful in making a big impact on them. Possibly even in a traumatic way. For horror movie veterans, I think it'll be more a case of appreciating what was pulled off on screen, and still succumbing to some effecting scares. Either way, this is a solid horror movie all around. 

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adrift

POSITIVES  
- based on an incredible true story
- premise is relatively straight forward, but the narrative itself keeps things interesting
- the survival story angle always keeps you engaged
- Shailene Woodley excels in the role of Tami Oldham

NEGATIVES 
- it may be a true story, but it unfortunately feels derivative the majority of the time
- especially the love story, which felt too forced at the beginning, although it's more believable during the second half. Just got to put up with it at first
- the movie overall should be more memorable than it actually is
- Shailene Woodley's very present nipples might be too distracting for the boys... or should this be in the "positives" category?  

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action point

POSITIVES 
- Huge kudos to all the actors willing to do their own stunts for this movie
- the cast looked like they were having a lot of fun filming this

NEGATIVES 
- it wasn't that funny. A few chuckles at best. 
- story is very pedestrian
- the outrageous moments felt very forced and unearned
- backstory of the real theme park this movie is inspired by sounds more interesting than this
- they should have just did a series of YouTube videos involving each of the stunts and hi-jinks featured in this movie, as that would have probably been more entertaining

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upgrade

In a crowded market of movies populated by superheroes or Star Wars, "Upgrade" seems destined to be a vastly overlooked piece of sci-fi cinema. This is unfortunate, because this movie is clearly geared for that particular audience who would watch those comic book space opera films. In fact, I would say that the kind of fan who goes deep into these kinds of genre films should really appreciate what this movie has to offer. 

Writer-Director Leigh Whannell seems to have been clearly influenced by many genre films. I'm talking about movies like Robocop, John Wick, Death Wish, anime like Ghost In The Shell, or even 2001 A Space Odyssey. There are shades of those movies scattered throughout, which gives us the movie audience a comfortable sense of watching something pleasantly familiar, but at the same time recognizing it still having a fresh feel to the whole thing. 

The premise of this being a revenge tale, set in the near future, involving humans that are upgraded by cybernetics and artificial intelligence, makes this movie automatically awesome. With that said, it's not perfect. The derivative elements might not excite some people, and I know there's one particular plot point in the story that is just a tired piece of writing. There are also some plot conveniences that could have been handled a little better as well. Also, I can't deny that the characters in this movie are generic as heck! 

While the movie isn't necessarily genre-breaking, what happens in this movie will still at least give it a chance to be an instant cult classic. Any scene involving Logan Marshall-Green's character bantering with the Artificial Intelligence named STEM that Simon Maiden voices, are all just quite entertaining to watch. The hand to hand action sequences are just a blast to see on screen. Plus the follow-up camera that is utilized many different times gives this movie a kinetic personality to how it looks. I should also mention that it made the right call of not shying away from showing graphic death scenes, that's also a call back to the violent sci-fi flicks from the 1980s. 

Despite it not being a typical blockbuster of a movie, "Upgrade" was undeniably a very fun science-fiction action flick. By the end of it all, don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting there to be a sequel for you to watch immediately. 

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