“Tom & Jerry” stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Ken Jeong, and Rob Delaney. Released on February 26, 2021, the film has the cat-and-mouse duo wreaking havoc at a New York City hotel.
The film is directed by Tim Story, who also directed films such as “Barbershop”, “Taxi”, “Fantastic Four”, and “Ride Along”. It is based on a series of animated shorts of the same name by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Nothing is more comical and chaotic than the endless struggle between a cat and a mouse when it comes to everlasting rivalries. Warner Brothers’ animation studio, Warner Animation Group, starts 2021 off by revisiting one of the memorable cartoons that define our childhoods. Since its debut in the 1940s, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s “Tom and Jerry” has been entertaining plenty of kids and adults with its enjoyable storylines and clever slapstick. Much like “Scooby-Doo”, it took a simple concept like a cat trying to take out a mouse and made it as fun and endearing as it has any right to be. As a result, it spawned a never-ending franchise that consists of a bunch of shorts, plenty of spin-off shows, a direct-to-video lineup, and a 1992 film adaptation that saw the duo gracing the big screen for the first time with mediocre results. No one wanted to hear Tom and Jerry speak full sentences, dang it! This latest adaptation of the popular source material hopes to correct that mistake by returning to its original roots: many slapstick shenanigans and little to no communication between the main characters. Oh, and plenty of screen time for the duo. This direction, along with my love for the franchise and its animation style, was what got me both excited and curious about the film. Plus, I’m a sucker for things that involve slapstick, whether the film is good or not. Was it able to provide a proper big-screen effort for the cat-and-mouse team, or was it further proof that the concept works best for the small screen? Let’s find out.
The story centers on Tom, a cat who, along with his little rival Jerry, arrives in New York City to start a new life. Jerry takes up residence in the Royal Gate Hotel, where the staff prepares for a huge wedding. Worried that the mouse will ruin this important event, the hotel’s manager Mr. DuBros (Delaney) tasks its new staff member Kayla (Moretz) to get rid of him. She later hires Tom to be the hotel’s exterminator, resulting in him and Jerry igniting their feud. Their battle of wits quickly turns into an all-out war, threatening to destroy Kayla’s career, the wedding, and even the hotel itself. When it comes to the story, the filmmakers usually do what is necessary to keep things simple, lively, and entertaining for both kids and adults. The narratives don’t always work well for everyone in terms of execution, but they sometimes compensate with the combination of heart and silliness. “Tom & Jerry” obviously fits into that category. If you’re familiar with the other live-action/animation hybrids like “Alvin and the Chipmunks”, you can easily pinpoint some of the film’s narrative trappings from a mile away. The story does involve the title characters trying to beat the snot out of one another, but its main focus is on Kayla, who is also attempting to make it big in New York by finding a new job. It’s a simplistic yet amusing plot that started well but faltered heavily by its third act in terms of its screenplay. A couple of plot elements either went absolutely nowhere or were disappointing, such as Terrance (played by Peña), the deputy manager who seemed to be the film’s antagonist according to my research but actually isn’t. I think if they spent more time developing the human characters, the story would’ve been a bit more interesting than it should. The Tom and Jerry scenarios don’t exactly match the cleverness of the classic cartoons from the past, but they were a lot of fun to watch. Tim Story did a suitable job at making these sequences look and feel like an actual “Tom & Jerry” cartoon from my childhood, just with live-action humans. From its cartoonish slapstick to the cat-and-mouse duo’s everlasting charm, the film respectfully understood the basics of what made the source material so delightful. Now I’m not going to go out of my way to praise the film like a super fan because it still has some issues that could’ve been fixed. However, I would say that it’s another tolerable (and harmless) live-action/animation hybrid that’ll satisfy plenty of kids and maybe a few fans of the source material. Despite the human characters being only targets for the film’s cartoony shenanigans, the cast did what they could to deliver some charming performances, and they succeeded for the most part. Chloë Grace Moretz was unsurprisingly decent in her role as Kayla. I wouldn’t say that it’s as good as her performance in her last film, “Shadow in the Cloud”, but it’s agreeable enough for me to appreciate her talent onscreen. Michael Peña and Rob Delaney were also fine in their roles as Terrance and Mr. DuBros, respectively. Another thing I want to mention is the film’s animation. The animators used CGI animation to replicate the style of 2D animation in terms of the character designs and the slapstick. This is in the same veins as the earlier live-action/animated hybrids like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Space Jam”, but with an extra dose of CGI technology. At some points, they look like something out of a cheap CGI animated cartoon on television, especially Jerry. However, I will give the animators credit for actually attempting to recreate the 2D cartoon characters with CGI rather than making them 100% CGI, similar to what they did with “Yogi Bear”, “The Smurfs” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks”. The film’s blend of live-action and animation was solid at best as it suitably hearkens back to the good old days of seeing real humans interacting with 2D animated cartoon characters. The film’s humor was also pretty darn good, especially the slapstick portions. Some of them might not appeal to everyone, including the ones involving popular trends and poop jokes, but most of them worked well enough to tickle my funny bones. In addition to its flawed storytelling, I also have a tiny issue with the film’s soundtrack, which felt a bit off-putting at times. Most of the film’s soundtrack contained songs from the hip-hop category. You know, to fit the film’s New York setting and to make it look hip for the cool kids. It would’ve been nice if they throw a couple of pop songs into the mix just for the sake of variety, but what do I know? I’m a film critic, not a music critic.
Overall, “Tom & Jerry” has plenty of cartoonish and comical moments to provide a respectable dose of family-friendly entertainment. Like Jerry, the film’s story and characters may prove to be a nuisance for most viewers. However, it does well in respecting the source material that has delighted fans for 80 years. With its suitable cast, enjoyable humor, and a solid blend of live-action and animation, this is another adaptation that’s bearable enough to keep some of the people’s childhoods unharmed. If you’re a fan of the source material, then you and your kids might enjoy the film as well.
"Minari" stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton. Released on February 12, 2021, the film has a Korean-American family running a farm in Arkansas.
The film was written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, who also directed "Munyurangabo", "Lucky Life", "Abigail Harm", and "I Have Seen My Last Born". It's no surprise that some of us want to get away from the busy streets and noisy technology and go back to rural living. Nowadays, it seems to be a lot harder than it looks, but back then, it's nothing but a cakewalk. However, it still has its share of issues. This is a film that I knew absolutely nothing about aside from its poster and the rave reviews it's been getting since its Sundance debut. But I was willing to see it anyway because it's another awards contender, and it looks like it could be another good drama. As of this writing, "Minari" has been nominated for 10 Critics' Choice Awards and only one Golden Globe Award, which is for Best Foreign Language Film. Yes, a film that involves a family who speaks both English and Korean and takes place in America got nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and nothing else. Not even a Best Drama nomination. That has to be rough for the filmmakers and the people who support foreign films. But I don't want to waste your time talking about the awards process. That's not why you're here. You're here to read my take on one of the best-reviewed movies of last year, which is also my addition to my "2021 Reviews" collection. I managed to watch the film via a virtual screening from A24's official website since my closest theater couldn't get it. It didn't cost much to watch it on my computer as a virtual ticket only costs 20 dollars, which is another massive win for me. If you need another reason why A24 is the indie studio that's worth supporting, here you go. With that said, let's see if this drama is another awards contender that deserves the praise it's been getting.
The story centers on the Yi family: father Jacob (Yeun), mother Monica (Ye-ri), and their two kids David (Kim) and Anne (Cho). They moved from California to rural Arkansas in the 1980s, where Jacob plans to grow Korean produce to sell to various vendors in Dallas. The film follows the family as they attempt to adjust to their new lifestyle while encountering numerous issues, such as the arrival of Monica's mother, Soon-ja (Yuh-jung), and David's heart condition. Similar to "Nomadland", "Minari" is the type of film you would watch to explore a part of everyday life, to examine the realism of people's way of life. In this case, it's a Korean family who struggles with rural living in America. Based on Lee Isaac Chung's childhood growing up on a farm, the film painted an authentic and tenderhearted portrait of a family's uncertainty towards their new lifestyle as they slowly start to drift apart. It's a subtle portrait, but it's also a suitably captivating one. Chung has successfully crafted a masterful work of cinematic art that relies only on simplistic realism storytelling rather than style. It not only reminded me why films like these need to be supported, but it also represented the importance of family in the face of concern. The main cast was stellar in their roles, most notably Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri as Jacob and Monica. These two actors captured their characters' sympathetic personalities in a practically endearing and convincingly emotional way. Alan Kim and Youn Yuh-jung were also extremely likable in their roles as David and Soon-ja, respectively. In addition to Jacob growing produce, the film also focuses on the relationship between David and Soon-ja, who arrives from Korea to stay with the family. That section alone was the central part of the film's heartwarming nature, and it was undoubtedly adorable to witness. Chung made this relationship feel natural by balancing the humor and the drama without making the scenario too sappy for his audience. It's funny, it's compelling, and it's understandably emotive. Will Patton also did a great job with his performance as Paul, a religious man who assists Jacob with the farm. The film's cinematography was delightfully sublime as it captured the beauty of the environments and the characters with grace and charm. I would even say that it looked as beautiful as the cinematography in "Nomadland". You can't blame the guy who loves looking at majestic sceneries on the screen.
Overall, "Minari" achieves the American Dream by portraying a beautiful and heartfelt tale of family and assimilation in rural America. Extremely well-acted, respectably directed, and gorgeously shot, the film is a superb piece of cinema that reminds us what's important in life. It's a shame that the Golden Globes screwed up by nominating this "American" film for Best Foreign Language Film. The film honestly should've gotten more respect than that. Here's hoping it will get lucky at the Critics' Choice Awards and possibly the Academy Awards. If you love slice-of-life films, then you might enjoy this one as well.
"I Care a Lot" stars Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza González, Chris Messina, and Dianne Wiest. Released on Netflix on February 19, 2021, the film is about a con woman who meets her match in the form of a powerful mob boss.
The film was written and directed by J Blakeson, who also directed "The Disappearance of Alice Creed" and "The 5th Wave". Remember that feeling you get when you're at the top of your game, and then all of a sudden, karma comes along and bites you in the butt? This is that feeling. The next film I'll be talking about today showcases that crime doesn't always pay. Just ask Rosamund Pike, who received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. Since I'm on a roll watching as many nominated films as possible, I guess one nomination is good enough for me to check the movie out. The film also marks the return of J Blakeson, who hasn't directed a feature film in four years after his sophomore debut, "The 5th Wave". Do you guys remember that piece of sci-fi filmmaking? Yeah, I don't either. "I Care a Lot" made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, and in terms of reception, it became a massive improvement over Blakeson's previous film. You got to appreciate the guy for picking himself back up and making a stellar comeback. It had then made its way to Netflix in the United States and Amazon Prime Video in some international regions last weekend. Since I live in the U.S., I will be using my trustworthy Netflix to review the film. Was it wicked enough for me to recommend to the other Netflix subscribers? Let's find out.
The story follows Marla Grayson (Pike), a persuasive con woman who spends her life posing as the guardian for older people and selling their homes and assets right from under their noses. Her next target is Jennifer Peterson (Wiest), a woman who is starting her retirement. Grayson successfully convinces the judge to appoint herself as Jennifer's guardian and moves her into an assisted living facility. What seems to be another easy job turns out to be more than what Grayson has bargained for. It turns out that Jennifer is the mother of a Russian mob boss named Roman Lunyov (Dinklage), who will stop at nothing to keep her safe from harm. Grayson will have to use her wits and persuasive charm to get out of this predicament alive. It's pretty challenging to make a film that involves a person doing awful things to innocent people, especially when that person is the main character. The filmmakers want to have a movie that's enticing for their audience, but they also have to make sure that the characters are at least likable enough to make the enticement of its concept more convincing. J Blakeson was successful in making a twisty thriller that's unapologetically wicked and stylistically appealing. However, its style wasn't persuasive enough for me to overlook its flawed narrative. I thought some moments were decently-handled by Blakeson in terms of the cinematography and the film's surprises, but its screenplay missed the mark in providing a strong connection with its themes. Part of that is due to the characters themselves, especially Marla Grayson. One of the main issues I have with certain movies is that they have main characters who are downright despicable without any hint of likability or development. I hate to say that Grayson happened to be one of those characters. Aside from caring about her girlfriend Fran (played by González), I didn't see any part of her that made me feel sympathetic for her. Because of this, the film lost its charm more quickly than usual. If you can't make a con woman likable, then there's no point in me, or some of its viewers, worrying about what will happen to her. Not even the ending was enough to make me feel sorry for that disgusting excuse for a guardian. The only thing that prevented me from punching her in the face was the actress who brought her to life: Rosamund Pike. She managed to save the film from being an unbearable mess by delivering a performance that's as deliciously cunning and suitably maniacal as Marla herself. She's one of the only bright spots of the movie by far. Peter Dinklage and Dianne Wiest also delivered some worthy performances as Roman Lunyov and Jennifer Peterson, respectively. Dinklage certainly has the range necessary to portray a character who screams, "Don't mess with me". It makes me wonder why he isn't the main star of the show. Oh, that's right, because the film couldn't figure out which character is worth rooting for.
Overall, "I Care a Lot" is visually attractive, but its narrative wasn't caring enough to provide the special treatment I deserve. While a small improvement over Blakeson's previous film five years ago, the film is a middle-of-the-road thriller with potential. However, that potential was overshadowed by its average script and an intolerable main character. The only qualities that made it watchable were its slick style and the cast's performances, most notably Rosamund Pike. Everything else? Eh, not really. If you like watching twisty thrillers and Rosamund Pike in general, you might get some enjoyment out of this nasty film.
"Nomadland" stars Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, and Bob Wells. Released on January 29, 2021, the film is about a woman who travels across the American West as a modern-day nomad.
The film was written and directed by Chloé Zhao, who also directed "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" and "The Rider", and it is an adaptation of the 2017 novel of the same name by Jessica Bruder. You know what they say; if you lose a job, you find another one. Okay, I'm sure that no one has said that, but I can easily assume that it's true in many cases. We all have different ways of dealing with this situation, but little did I know there is one group of people with an intriguing solution to this dilemma: nomads. A nomad is a wanderer who travels across the country with a camper searching for a new job. In other words, they're people who are just trying to survive like us. The film I'll be talking about today explores a nomad's lifestyle after being affected by the Great Recession. It caught my attention because of this concept and Frances McDormand's involvement, who might be on her way to earning herself another Oscar nomination this year. More importantly, it's because of writer/director Chloé Zhao, who has become a household name through her filmography and is directing the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film "Eternals". Sadly, I haven't seen any of her other two films she helmed before this one, so consider this review as my first experience with her filmmaking skills. With that said, let's see if this film is genuinely another big hit for the filmmaker.
The film follows a woman named Fern (McDormand) who has lost her job at the US Gypsum plant in Empire, Nevada after it shuts down. She worked at the plant for years with her husband, who recently passed away. She then takes her van and travels across America in hopes of finding work. Along the way, Fern encounters other nomads who teach her the basics of surviving the open road. If there's one thing you should know about "Nomadland", it's that this isn't something that you would watch for entertainment. It's a film that examines a nomad's way of life from the perspective of one who recently lost everything. It's a film that you would watch to see what these people were going through during that time. It's heartbreaking, but it does feature a few bright spots to keep things from being too depressing, including a support system for nomads. The film managed to represent this balanced lifestyle artistically and emotionally. Along with this examination, the story also explores a woman's personal experience as a new nomad as she struggles with her loss. The presentation may not impress everyone due to the narrative's repetition and pacing. However, Chloé Zhao managed to transform this slow burn into a breathtaking and melancholy experience that accurately resembles real life. Her direction and screenplay were the things that should not go unnoticed because of her strong understanding of a nomad's way of living and her ability to balance out the emotions. She managed to explore both the good and the bad of being a nomad while also providing a sentimental and grounded tale about what it truly means to live. She might become a formidable competitor for this year's Best Director Oscar race. The cast was also worthy of my attention, especially Frances McDormand. Much like the film itself, her performance as Fern was subtle yet highly captivating and humane. David Strathairn was also terrific as David, one of the nomads that Fern befriends. The rest of the supporting cast consists of actual nomads who play fictionalized versions of themselves, such as Linda May and Bob Wells. By just being themselves, they succeeded in making their characters both authentic and heartfelt. A substantial amount of empathy within these characters helped build a strong connection between the film's concept and the viewers, including me. The cinematography by Joshua James Richards and Ludovico Einaudi's score were also the main highlights of the film. The former was excellent for showcasing the film's majestic sceneries with its wide-angle shots and lighting, and the latter had the proper balance of depression and beauty. I nearly teared up from listening to its soundtrack. It's that darn emotional.
Overall, "Nomadland" is a brilliant character study that truthfully captures the pain and hopefulness of living life on the open road. Aside from its minor pacing issues, this is a beautiful and delicate experience that honors the lesser-known people who genuinely know how to live. Because of its stellar cast, Zhao's masterful sense of direction, its superb script, and its gorgeous cinematography, the film truly earns its spot in the cinematic hall of fame. It's available to watch on Hulu, so please take the time to check this film out if you have a Hulu subscription. However, if you prefer to see it in the theater, that's fine too as it is worth seeing on the big screen for the cinematography alone. See you down the road.
"Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar" stars Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, and Damon Wayans Jr. Released on February 12, 2021, the film has two best friends embarking on an adventure during their vacation.
The film was directed by Josh Greenbaum, who is known for helming several documentaries like "The Short Game" and "Becoming Bond". In times like this, we could all use a break from the harsh world of reality and stupidity. Luckily for us, this weekend has the one thing we need to get the vacation we deserve, and that's seeing two ladies going on holiday themselves. This latest comedy sees Kristen Wiig re-teaming with her "Bridesmaids" co-star Annie Mumolo after making her villainous debut as Cheetah in "Wonder Woman 1984". I guess you can say that she's taking a vacation from wearing all of that cat makeup. When I first discovered this movie, I honestly thought it was based on a television series that I didn't know existed. But after looking at it a bit more, I immediately realized that it's an original project. Please don't ask me why I thought of that in the first place. I was a naive young man. Similar to what happened with "Antebellum", the film was initially set for a theatrical release. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its distributor, Lionsgate, decided to forgo that strategy and instead debut it on premium video-on-demand just in time for Valentine's Day weekend. Nothing spreads love more than relaxing on a white, sandy beach. Is it a vacation that's worth taking? Let's find out.
The story follows Star (Wiig) and Barb (Mumolo), two best friends who live in a quiet and small Midwestern town. One day, they decided to leave their hometown for the first time and go on vacation in Vista Del Mar, Florida. What seems to be a relaxing week underneath the sun turns out to be an adventure filled with silliness and love. When they discover a villain's plot to annihilate everyone in town with mosquitos, Barb and Star will have to put their vacation on hold and save the day. There's nothing wrong with releasing a silly film during a month filled with some big-time Oscar contenders. It's a matter of finding the proper balance between story and comedy that determines the film's existence. It can have plenty of nonsensical gags that you would see in a cartoon, but it also needs to have a substance worthy of the audience's time and money. I should know because I paid 20 dollars to watch it at home. Fortunately, the film managed to have just that. Sure, the plot had plenty of predictable elements and a cliched, yet amusing, antagonist, but when it comes to everything else that the film offered, that hardly even matters. The film's comedy style mostly had the same genes as some of the other goofy comedies from the past, like the "Anchorman" films and "Zoolander". It also contained the same charismatic spark as the one from the "Bill & Ted" films, which also featured two best friends encountering far-fetched scenarios. Yes, you read that right. I compared "Barb & Star" to "Bill & Ted", and I'm not ashamed of putting that thought down in my review. The film featured a few sequences that were either completely random or just straight-up absurd, including Jamie Dornan's musical number and a talking crab. The big question is, were those sequences also hilarious? Yes, they were. This film wasn't afraid to embrace its scenarios' silliness and not be embarrassed by them. Watching every piece of humor that appeared in the movie was similar to watching a Looney Tunes cartoon. Most of the scenarios were ridiculous to believe, but I couldn't help but laugh myself silly at them. There were also plenty of charm to be found in the story and the main characters Star and Barb. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo were both as delightful and funny as they have any right to be. Their characters were likable, energetic, and full of personality. Plus, they happen to talk a lot during a few scenes, which can be a bit irritating for some viewers. However, the chemistry between the main actors was entertaining enough for me to listen to their humorous conversations. It reminded me of the friendship between my mother and her friend. They like to have long, engaging conversations every time my mom visits her. I occasionally tag along to listen to them talking their butts off for minutes, and it's something that I will never get tired of because their chemistry is just that impossible to resist in my eyes. Jamie Dornan was also enjoyable as Edgar Paget, the antagonist's henchman who Barb and Star befriend during their vacation. He proved that his comedic skills were as charming as his good looks in his dramatic roles. The addition of Damon Wayans Jr. was also a big plus for me in terms of his humor. Based on my research, the movie was Josh Greenbaum's first attempt at directing a narrative-driven feature, let alone a surreal comedy from producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Having a documentary filmmaker helm something like this could've spelled disaster for the studio and the people involved, but I'm happy to see that this wasn't the case. Greenbaum's narrative feature debut was nothing but impressive as he was able to balance out the surreal-ness of the film's vibrant scenarios with the charm of the cast and the story.
Overall, "Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar" is equivalent to the "Bill & Ted" films. It's nonsensical to a fault, but it's the type of nonsense that's severely fun to witness. This is one of the movies that people would turn on whenever they had a rough day. Its bizarre narrative may not appeal to everyone. However, some of the people will find plenty of moments that'll put smiles on their faces in no time. The cast was entertaining, the colorful humor was endearing, the story was enjoyable, and Greenbaum's direction was pretty solid. This is a vacation that we all need, and I'm glad that the film delivered on that promise.