I hope everyone is having a great new year as 2020 has gotten off to a great start. There are a lot of great films to be seen this upcoming year. I’ll be sure to include a long list to be on the lookout for that is #NativeNerd friendly.
This week’s film reviews include “Just Mercy” with Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson that has just been released in theaters. I also included two recent streaming released movies “Annabelle Comes Home,” the latest horror film connected to “The Conjuring” franchise and “Doom Annihilation,” based on the popular PC game DOOM by ID Software that is now on Netflix. Finally, and just back from watching the film as I type this review, “Dolittle,” starring Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. Dolittle.
#NativeNerd scoring system
I rate movies and shows based on a total achievable score of 10 stars. 10 stars being the highest score a film can get and 1 star being the worst. I employ the decimal system to a tenth of a point. Some movies aren’t an eight but deserve a little more than a seven.
Quick question: I usually put the official movie posters with each film I review, but I am curious if you readers would prefer the official movie trailers? Let me know by reaching out to me on Twitter or email me using my info below.
So that’s that. Here are this week’s movie reviews.
9.6 out of 10
My quick quote: “A star-filled cast of Dolittle come together to create a beautiful film. Robert Downey Jr. is pure magic. ”
Synopsis: Dr. John Dolittle lives in solitude behind the high walls of his lush manor in 19th-century England. His only companionship comes from an array of exotic animals that he speaks to on a daily basis. But when young Queen Victoria becomes gravely ill, the eccentric doctor and his furry friends embark on an epic adventure to a mythical island to find the cure.
Robert Downey Jr. has proved himself to be a tremendous force on screen once again. As Dr. Dolittle, Downey is pure magic.
I loved this movie. Every minute of it. I hadn’t had much time to look into it before I went to the press preview, so I didn’t realize until afterward that there was a serious amount of A-list actors who contributed to the voices of the animals in this film or played great roles, as was the case with Antonio Banderas, who hit a homerun as Rassouli the bandit king.
The actors included Emma Thompson, Selena Gomez, Ralph Fiennes, Rami Malek, John Cena, Octavia Spencer, Antonio Banderas, Craig Robinson, Tom Holland, Kumail Nanjiani and more.
I am glad I didn’t actually know until the credits started rolling that so many a-listers were in the movie.
It was a delight, a squirrel who is a conspiracy theorist, a gorilla who struggles to be brave, a panda who is always cold and much more. This is not a movie that you will take your kids or grandkids to see where you start looking at your watch, it is engaging, fun, happy and a joy to immerse yourself in.
I really have only one minor criticism. I didn’t like the CGI of the dog. It just bugged me for some reason as it didn’t look just right. Not only that, I wished he had been a ferocious type of dog to offer some nice contrast, tell me if you don’t agree after seeing this movie. But again, this is a minor note and didn’t take away from the beauty of this movie. But I did notice it. That said, Tom Holland, as the voice, was fantastic. I truly love Holland and hope to see him on the screen for years and years to come.
I have to say one more thing, I feared I would be thinking a bit too much about Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, but as a credit to Downey, I never went there, not once. This is another nod to the brilliant actor that he is. Hats off to him, we have a new Dr. Dolittle.
I cannot recommend it highly enough. Dolittle is in theaters starting January 17th.
And yes there is one end scene after the first set of credits.
9.5 out of 10
My quick quote: “Michael B. Jordan does beautiful work, Jamie Foxx is heart-achingly honest and Brie Larson joins in seamlessly to create a heart-wrenching truth about racism in America, in this case, Alabama.”
Synopsis: After graduating from Harvard, Bryan Stevenson heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or those not afforded proper representation. One of his first cases is that of Walter McMillian, who is sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence. In the years that follow, Stevenson encounters racism and legal and political maneuverings as he tirelessly fights for McMillian's life.
Michael B. Jordan does beautiful work in this film about a young black Harvard law graduate that seeks to find justice for death row inmates in the state of Alabama.
Jamie Foxx portrays Walter McMillian, a family man who lived in the poorer area of town, and as a black man, is targeted as the man accused of murdering an 18-year-old caucasian girl.
The film moves gently, but there is an underlying knot of tension that exists the entire time. It’s the knot of racism. The film is riddled with aggression and microaggressions that perhaps everyone may or may not notice. As a Native man, I certainly did notice.
Stevenson seeks justice for a number of clients, and as you might imagine, not every story ends in success. A lesser man might have given up, but not Stevenson, who finds solace and support from those he is trying to help. It’s a beautiful message. But it’s also a frightening one. I’ll explain.
As the film continues, there are good outcomes in some places and bad endings in others. But the fight—as achingly painful and unjust as it may be—will likely never be completely won.
Perhaps this sounds jaded, but there are just too many instances in history where the oppressed seek justice, and for generations, justice never seems to come.
This was only one small thing I struggled with in the film. Yes, some good things happened, and some not-so-good things happened. So was it ok for me to judge the uplifting speech Stevenson made in the light of some of his success? I hesitate to judge a movie that was so beautifully done in a way that highlights a civil rights and human rights struggle.
But there it was, the poetic prose of a victory embedded into this film—it stuck out to me. It seemed a bit more poetic rather than realistic. But who am I to judge? I have never been a lawyer, nor have I been a prisoner on death row.
It was a beautiful film that I genuinely want to see again. In this movie, Jordan, Foxx and Larson did beautiful work, it was well-acted and more than believable. They were superheroes, this time, at least for Jordan and Larson, they weren’t wearing a literal superhero costume.
Now playing in theaters.
Annabelle Comes Home
7.4 out of 10
My quick quote: “Super scary, in a truly fun way, even if a bit over the top. I love diving into the world of the Warren families’ ‘room of evil things.’ This made me want to see a movie about their daughter Judy, who already sees ghosts.”
Synopsis: Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren lock the possessed doll in the artifacts room in their house. But when the doll awakens the room's evil spirits, it soon becomes an unholy night of terror for the couple's 10-year-old daughter, her friends and their young babysitter.
Ok, I truly have to hand it to the producers of “The Conjuring” franchise as the Annabelle doll has got to be one of the creepiest looking dolls I have ever seen in a horror movie.
Ed and Lorraine Warren are spirit seekers of sorts that work to remove items with bad energy from the world. They bring home these items and lock them away in a room that is blessed by a priest regularly.
(Minor spoilers next)
In the movie, they come across Annabelle, the strongest negative spirit conduit they have ever encountered. Add into the equation a curious teenager who is a friend of their daughter’s babysitter, and you can likely see where this is going.
As Annabelle is summoned, she escapes, thus a major negative spirit conduit all of the items in the evil room get a nice boost of evil animating energy. They all come to life. (Insert evil laughter.)
I am a bit torn about what happens as I thought it was really interesting to learn about all the plethora of items they collected, and they did it with a lot of success, except the werewolf thing. That was something that could have been left out, as I would have rather they have explored Judy’s spiritual gifts to see spirits roaming the earth.
For all it’s over the top I actually enjoyed this movie, even if at times I felt it was a little bit ridiculous. But the jump scares were excellent — and I love a good jump scare.
My own scary story related to this movie
As I was typing my review on Friday evening, I was looking up the daughter’s name on the movie description and saw it was Judy. So as I went to type in her name: J-U-D-Y, as I finished the Y, the phone rang. On my caller ID was ‘Judy Johnson.” It turned out to be a spam call. But it creeped me out.
Maybe there is something to this Annabelle movie?
Now streaming on select movie sites.
6.9 out of 10
My quick quote: “Great job reviving the world of the DOOM video game with nostalgic colored key cards and the BFG-3000, not an Oscar’s contender, but who cares.”
Synopsis: A group of UAC Marines responds to a distress call from a top-secret scientific base on Phobos, a Martian moon, only to discover it's been overrun by demons.
Ok, the moon of Mars looked terrible, no awards there on the making a model look realistic, but who cares. Ok, so the ship's captain knew nothing about a secret entrance into the UAC lab on Phobos but happened to land exactly over the right spot to connect to the ship's space hatch, but who cares.
“Doom Annihilation” was fun, even if some people aren’t happy with it. But hats off to the marketing team for sending me a thousand notices about this movie, which prompted me to watch it.
I played the DOOM video game a bit years ago, but I was nowhere near as obsessed over the video game as some people I have recently seen online—who might give this movie a terrible review. I found the nostalgia of this movie great, the colored keycards, the BFG-3000 (Big ‘effin’ Gun) and more. I thought the creatures were fun and the fight between the UAC (United Aerospace Corporation) marines and the plethora of monsters a literal and figurative blast.
Don’t expect to see this movie played on the BBC for its fine acting, but as I said, who cares.
Watch this movie and have fun. I did.
Follow the #NativeNerd, Vincent Schilling, associate editor for Indian Country Today and a proud movie reviewer.
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