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There’s a certain kind of movie that we don’t see very often anymore. The small-scale film with an unflashy but talented cast, telling a simple story. Maybe a comedy with some dramatic elements, maybe a drama with a good sense of humor. Nary a superhero to be seen nor an explosion to be heard.

Those films, once a staple of the cineplex, are now largely the domain of streaming services. Their ongoing and unslakable thirst for content means that they have, almost by accident, become the last bastion of this sort of movie.

“Jerry & Marge Go Large” is a perfect illustration of this shift. You’ve got a couple of older stars in Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening – capable, consummate pros who are very good at what they do – in the lead. Based on true events involving a man who figured out a loophole to game the lottery, it’s a movie that offers a story that revolves around people who are neither young nor wearing spandex. A movie for grown-ups, as my friend Rich Kimball likes to say.

But movies for grown-ups don’t sell. Not anymore.

Twenty years ago, this movie opens in theaters and does perfectly serviceable box office. Now, it’s an exclusive offering from a lower-tier streaming service like Paramount+. No judgment – I’m glad that there are folks out there willing to devote resources to this kind of movie – but it’s undeniably different.

The film itself is pleasant enough, albeit a little slight. It’s a story of ordinary folks stumbling into something extraordinary, yet never changing who they are. A tale of older people looking for meaning in a world that has in many ways left behind, and finding it – but not where they thought it would be. You won’t be surprised by much, but that’s part of the joy. In many ways, this is a favorite blanket of a movie: warm and a little worn, frayed but comforting nevertheless.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 13 March 2019 13:07

Marvel at ‘Captain Marvel’

There’s no disputing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe rules the box office like nothing the entertainment industry has ever seen. Film after film drawing massive numbers, with grosses in the middle nine figures AT WORST. The MCU has produced some of the most globally popular movies of all time.

As we near the end of Phase Three – set to culminate with next month’s “Avengers: Endgame” – we are finally introduced to one of the characters who promises to be a major player in how that arc ends: Captain Marvel. The superpowered spacefarer stars in her own eponymously-titled outing, serving as the first female character to headline an MCU movie.

You may have heard about efforts from certain elements to undermine the film before its release. You may have also heard about how ultimately ineffectual those efforts were. Because a LOT of people saw this movie on opening weekend. And what they saw was pretty darned good, a quippy, zippy origin story that manages to stand on its own merits while also serving as connective tissue for the rest of the MCU out of necessity.

“Captain Marvel” could have floundered under the storytelling load it was asked to shoulder, but instead manages to (mostly) soar, giving us a fun and engaging narrative, some decent gags and some solid action set pieces (along with a killer ‘90s soundtrack). Excellent performances (particularly from star Brie Larson) serve as the glue that binds it all together.

Published in Movies
Monday, 24 September 2018 12:53

This is bus - 'Life Itself'

There’s nothing wrong with a film trying to play on your emotions. Oftentimes, our whole purpose in going to the movies is to feel. The cinema is inherently manipulative, whether we’re talking visually, emotionally or what have you. I have no problem with a movie pushing my emotional buttons.

But that evocation needs to be earned. If it isn’t, you’re left with something shallow and unsatisfying. When we’re constantly aware of the buttons being pushed, it all begins to feel a bit cynical.

It begins to feel like Dan Fogelman’s “Life Itself.”

Published in Movies

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