Monday, July 18, 2022

Film Reviews: “Don’t Make Me Go” Is an Effective Father-Daughter Bonding Story; “Thor: Love and Thunder” Is a Live Action Lego Movie; “The Sea Beast” Is a Sea Shanty Turned Animated Film

Don't Make Me Go (c) Prime Video

Film Review: Don’t Make Me Go 
On Amazon 

It’s very risky to name your movie after a Johnny Cash song, but if the title is “Don’t Make Me Go,” well, it might seem like a warning to potential viewers as well. Thankfully, the movie is enjoyable, despite its well-trodden movie trope of a road trip, and how you will ultimately feel about the movie may come down to a 11th hour (already controversial) plot twist that may either feel germane to the film’s overall themes or a betrayal to everything that came before. Before that happens, we follow single father Max Park (John Cho) and his rebellious teenage daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) from California to New Orleans to Max’s high school reunion. Wally has to spend her last weeks of summer vacation with her father because she was grounded for partying with soccer kid Glenn (Otis Dhanji), who seems to be resistant to officially declaring them a couple. Max himself has an ulterior motive including meeting up with Dale (an amusing cameo by Jemaine Clement), who was the man who broke up his marriage to Wally’s mother. It is nice to see Cho back after his accident on the set of the TV series “Cowboy Bebop” playing a complex father that you would see in most normal high school media. And Isaac is a wonderful find, being both funny, sympathetic and maddening. It’s hard not to notice the New Zealand feel of the locations doubling as rural America, but it doesn’t distract from the emotional core of Hannah Marks’ (“Mary & Some Other People”) direction of the story. As for the twist, I can only say that the unpredictable-ness of life feels rather artificial and arbitrary in art. Unless that’s the point. I accepted that point, and found the movie refreshingly honest, funny and tender in its story of a father and daughter just trying to co-exist with no road map. 

Thor: Love and Thunder (c) Marvel Studios

Film Review: Thor: Love and Thunder 
In Cinemas 

After directing, 2017's “Thor Ragnorok,” the best of the Thor Marvel movies, Taika Waititi has decided to co-write the latest one with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, and the result is essentially a Lego animated movie come to life. Like those series of movies, the plotting takes a backseat to the jokes, which come fast and furious, while the many cameos are enjoyable if somewhat arbitrary. The movie doesn’t seem to advance any of the important plots of this new wave of MCU movies (thankfully, no talk of the multiverse) and only ends an odd diversion – that of Thor having adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy – and begins a new love relationship for him. But that’s it. The majority of the movie is filled with sight gags, funny one-liners and some ruminations about death that feel shoed in to give the movie some gravitas. Death hovers over the new villain, Gorr, the God Butcher (Christian Bale, more or less playing it straight) and the new hero, Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman) who gets one last chance to live life as a superhero before succumbing to cancer. These plot points are fine on their own, and if they were in a different movie, they would be effective. But they more or less distract from the shiny and goofy movie Waititi really wanted to make: Thor doing the splits, Thor’s jealous relationships with his axe and hammer, Thor flirting with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, doing better work here in a cameo than in all of “Jurassic World Dominion”) and of course, naked Thor. All of these moments have no bearing on the continued adventures of Thor, but like a Lego movie are just throwaway jokes to keep the laugh meter in the red. And you know what, for that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. And mostly because Chris Hemsworth as Thor is just so game to being funny. When Fat Thor showed up in the last Avengers movie, it was obvious Hemsworth was willing to laugh at himself and Thor, even bringing back his silly God-like locks. Some MCU purists have already labeled “Thor: Love and Thunder” one of the worst in the 29-strong film series. I totally disagree, but I can’t find fault with their arguments either. I say, enjoy the ride. 

The Sea Beast (c) Netflix

Film Review: The Sea Beast 
On Netflix 

The sea shanty craze at the start of the pandemic has finally reared its head on other entertainment platforms with the gay pirates on “Our Flag Means Death,” the pirates-in-space episode of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” and now, back in animation after their last major appearance in 2012’s “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.” After the death of “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, I said good riddance to this genre of film, and yet, here we are. We follow the adventures of Jacob Holland (Karl Urban), the adopted son of the Captain (Jared Harris) of “The Inevitable,” who has been on a lifelong mission to catch and kill the Red Bluster, the titled sea beast. Their latest mission is complicated by a spunky stowaway kid named Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator), whose parents were killed by the Red Bluster and seeks revenge of her own. Of course, this being an animated kids’ movie, the beast is not what Maisie expected. The biggest asset this movie has is its inventive and beautiful animation by director Chris Williams, who also made the equally imaginative “Big Hero 6.” The texture of the scenery, the ocean and especially the ship are all rendered so imaginatively that I wish I saw it on the big screen. Unfortunately, where the movie could have really taken off artistically is the beast itself, who is smooth and lacking in texture. “Red” as she is nicknamed by Maisie does have an expressive face, and she also has the incredible ability to understand children 100 times smaller than her–call it the “Godzilla” effect. The movie has the same message of the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise, which is that sometimes the thing you fear the most may not be what you expect. A good lesson to learn, even if the movie doesn’t do anything different with the story or the outcome. Kids will love it, but I could have used a bit more magic.

If you want to comment on these reviews, please do so on my Instagram account.  All reviews have their own post.  And please follow to know when new reviews are released.