‘Charlie’s Angels’ Doesn’t Do Much to Justify Its Existence in 2019, Except When It Gets Really Silly

1 Comment

CREDIT: Chiabella James/Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Entertainment

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo, Nat Faxon

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Deafening Explosions and a Lot of Flexible Legwork

Release Date: November 15, 2019

Globetrotting in 2019: who needs it? I, for one, cannot say I find it particularly necessary after watching the 2019 edition of Charlie’s Angels. As three gadget-toting, butt-kicking, espionage-deploying young women chase a McGuffin around multiple continents, what do they, or any person of any age for that matter, have to offer us that we haven’t been offered before? Maybe something new is theoretically out there somewhere, but what I see are mostly a bunch of competently (and frequently goofily) staged action scenes. I’ve never previously seen any Charlie’s Angels TV episode or movie in its entirety, but the main feeling this one gave me was a nagging sense of “been there, done that.” (Although, it is worth noting, there is nary a whiff of the “three little girls” paternalistic energy of the original.)

Despite that shortcoming, I suspect that Elizabeth Banks, who wrote and directed and also stars as Bosley (or rather, one of the Bosleys), is not necessarily too worried by the plot being overly paint-by-numbers. As long as our new batch of Angels (Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Sabinska) get to show off some personality, there can be a feature-length rasion d’être. For the most part, they just go where the story demands that they go, but occasionally there are flashes of extreme goofball energy. Naomi Scott wears a fantastic red dress because why not? K-Stew makes “beep boop” noises while cracking a safe just for the hell of it. And then during the credits there is an onslaught of cameos: a few make obvious sense for this movie, but most of them are breathtakingly, delightfully random. So at least there’s a little bit of fun to get these angels flying.

Charlie’s Angels is Recommended If You Like: Flirting with Noah Centineo, Original pop soundtracks

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Bosleys

Movie Review: ‘Brightburn’ Has Some Chilling Horror Instincts, But It Miscalculates Its Own Stakes

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Boris Martin/Sony Pictures

Starring: Jackson A. Dunn, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner

Director: David Yarovesky

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R for Alarmingly Gory and Sadistic Violence

Release Date: May 24, 2019

“What if Superman, but evil?” sounds like a pretty slam-dunk pitch for a superhero horror movie, doesn’t it? Brightburn isn’t an official offshoot of the Man of Steel, though it does hew closely enough for me to wonder if any copyright lawyers need to get involved, considering that it’s about a childless couple living on a Kansas farm who adopt a superpowered baby boy who falls from the sky. This isn’t the first story to propose this sort of switcheroo, as the 2003 comic Red Son (in which Superman is raised in the Soviet Union) and the ’70s SNL Uberman sketch (in which he grows up in Nazi Germany) come to mind. But while those examples suggested that a superbeing’s environment is key, Brightburn comes down squarely on the nature side of the Nature vs. Nurture debate.

Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) has two loving and devoted parents (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman), but they mean nothing in the face of a spaceship that sends him telepathic messages to conquer Earth. Brightburn is most effective as a horror mashup of slasher and bad seed flicks, as Brandon quickly turns sadistically bloodthirsty as he discovers his abilities. But ultimately, the film is not equipped to work as a subversion of the superhero narrative. Once Brandon’s parents realize his intentions, it is clear that they (along with everybody else) are no match for him. In the desperation to present some sort of counterattack, Elizabeth Banks is required to deliver some pathetic dialogue that nobody could possibly salvage in the face of such an impossible-to-defeat opponent. The balances are all off-scale, and only little stinkers who want to watch the world burn could enjoy the resolution offered here.

Brightburn is Recommended If You Like: Twisted takes on superheroes, Saw, Slashers at their gnarliest

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Laser Eyes

Movie Review: ‘The Lego Movie 2’ Has Some More Valuable Lessons to Teach Us With Bright Colors and Peppy Songs

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Warner Bros.

Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman

Director: Mike Mitchell

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG for Traumatizing Lego Destruction

Release Date: February 8, 2019

Where does a sequel go after the original makes such a definitive statement? This is the conundrum facing The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. (That subtitle is infinitely unnecessary, but not indicative of the movie’s humor as a whole, and also this title would have looked rather naked without a subtitle.) 2015’s first part summed up in cinematic form the whole ethos of the iconic Danish building blocks: in a world that often favors rigidity and conformity, you cannot give up on your individuality, because everyone can be and is special. Childlike imagination and wonder are what fueled The Lego Movie to be as successful as it was. Those values will get you pretty far in life. So why do any more statements need to be made?

It turns out that while The Lego Movie offers a philosophy with wide-ranging applicability, it is not quite a grand unified theory that covers absolutely everything. It spoke to the power of a singular creative vision, but The Second Part demonstrates how collaboration is equally vital. Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and his Lego friends are now living in the wasteland Apocalypseburg, because in the human world that is controlling them, a little sister has invaded the playspace of her big brother. So Emmet, Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), and company head out to broker a peace with some differently designed block-creatures. This leads to permanent bachelor Batman becoming engaged to a sparkly shape-shifter voiced by Tiffany Haddish, while Superman (Channing Tatum) lives happily alongside General Zod in a Stepford-esque perfect suburb.

Sizing up the situation, Emmet believes that his mission is to free his friends from the brainwashing of strangers. But while it may seem that all is not what it seems, it turns out that that particular mystery trope is not being played as straight as you might expect. The Lego Movie taught us to be skeptical about a constantly smiling world insisting that everything is awesome, but it also taught us that awesomeness sometimes really is awesome if it has genuine feeling behind it. The candy-coated invading milieu of The Second Part initially appears to be fundamentally suspicious. But sometimes a bright, peppy outer layer is only covering a bright and rewarding core. Sometimes a catchy song that jams itself right in your head is so buoyant that you’re happy it’s stuck there. Belief in yourself is important, but don’t forget to be open-minded about everyone else.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is Recommended If You Like: The Lego Movie and its spin-offs, Playing with your siblings

Grade: 4 out of 5 Catchy Songs

This Is a Movie Review: The Happytime Murders

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Hopper Stone/STXfilms

I give The Happytime Murders 3.75 out of 5 Puppet Carpets Matching the Drapes: http://newscult.com/movie-review-happytime-murders-combines-noir-mystery-wonderfully-inventive-crude-puppet-gags/

SNL November 14, 2015 Recap: Elizabeth Banks/Disclosure

Leave a comment

My full review of this episode can be found on Starpulse: http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2015/11/15/saturday-night-live-season-41-episode-

Elizabeth Banks’ Monologue (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+

ARON’S List – B-

Black Jeopardy – B

Infinity + 5 – “First Got Horny 2 U” – B+

Woodbridge High School Student Theater Showcase – B+

Disclosure and Lorde – “Magnets” – A-

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Bruce Chandling – B+
Olya Povlatsky – B

The Adventures of Young Ben Carson – B

The Bureau – B-

Disclosure and Sam Smith – “Omen” – B+

U B E R for Jen – B

Ghetto – C+