On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 9, 2018

So, you know Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, right? Of course you do. Remember his movie from six months ago? Rampage? The one about The Rock stopping a giant gorilla from destroying Chicago? Maybe you do and maybe you don’t (that could be due either to the fact you didn’t see it or because it’s pretty forgettable, but I digress). Regardless one of the news stories that broke around the time of that movie’s release was the fact Johnson had the screenwriters re-write the climax of the film that had the genetically modified George die. The way this was re-written was that George instead faked his death so as to play a trick on Johnson’s character. Classic, huh? Johnson wanted this done so that the audience wouldn’t go home on a dour note as they came to the movies and to that type of movie especially to enjoy light-hearted entertainment and not to see a CGI gorilla die. Well, that same guy who mandated the monkey didn’t die in his last movie opens his new movie with a flashback scene that features a suicide bomber blowing himself up and murdering his own wife and kids along with him so, happy movie-going! If you consider this a spoiler, I apologize, but this plot point isn’t brought up to spoil, but rather to open up the conversation about how from the word go Skyscraper essentially misses the mark it should have been shooting for the whole time. Why did it need to begin in this fashion? How was that decision going to be justified? I kept asking myself these questions as the film continued to march on even though in the first few expository scenes following that opening it became very clear as to why Johnson’s character was witness to and injured in the murder/suicide spurred by a father that included the unnecessary deaths of his wife and two young children-one boy and one girl. The movie quickly jumps forward a decade and establishes that Johnson’s Will Sawyer has since married the surgeon that saved his life that fateful night, Sarah (Neve Campbell), and that they’ve had a set of twins together-one boy and one girl. It is clear Sawyer will once again come face to face with the same predicament he faced in the opening sequence and will have to once again choose his actions very carefully in a scenario that could just as easily swing in one direction as it could another. I get it and I think most movie-goers who see more than three movies a year or have at least seen an action movie in their lifetime will get it, but the foreshadowing isn’t the issue as the script, from writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball, We’re the Millers, Central Intelligence), is especially symmetrical and pays off each of its set-ups quite nicely. More, the issue with opening your supposed summer popcorn movie among summer popcorn movies with such a scene is the tone it implies and the precedent it sets for the rest of your movie. Due to this decision, Skyscraper never recovers from being this bleak and bloody actioner with an unnecessarily high body count when all it really had to be was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stopping a giant fire from destroying his family and the world’s newest and tallest building. Full review here. C-

I watched an interview with Elsie Fisher on Jimmy Kimmel where she said she was reading Letterboxd reviews and now I’m as anxious as Kayla was at that pool party; wondering what I should say and how much I should divulge so as to not stick out, but not be completely invisible either.

Honestly though, what Kayla does at that pool party is braver than any thought I would have even pondered at her age. Kayla, if you’re wondering, is the mostly balanced if not sometimes age-appropriately dramatic teen at the center of comedian and all-around genius Bo Burnham’s directorial debut, Eighth Grade. Kayla is shy and possesses very little confidence. She lives in a modest home with her single father (played so lovingly by Josh Hamilton) and yearns only to be accepted for the version of herself she is able to project on her YouTube channel.

For all intents and purposes, Eighth Grade doesn’t stick out for any one particular reason as it could easily be described as a millennial’s most accurate coming of age story, but that would be to dismiss all the small, but vital attributes (LeBron James!) that make its heart beat in earnest. For example, did anyone else who’s pretty far removed from the middle school/junior high experience forget how anxiety-inducing it was when you went to a friend’s birthday party and had to wait on them to open presents all the while hoping that your present will be deemed cool not only by the birthday girl or boy, but by everyone else in attendance? Yeah, me too, but Eighth Grade does a beautifully haunting job of capturing such an experience in all its dreaded glory. Full review here. A-

Andy Samberg’s character has zero consistency, but he delivers the single funniest joke in the movie in the most genuine of ways to the point it almost makes up for how generic every other laugh in the movie is.

That said, even though the Hotel Transylvania series has always felt rather cheap and completely average the background animation in this latest entry is rather exquisite. Of course, as gorgeous as the animation indeed is, the fact it quickly shot to the top of the “pros” list should tell you enough about the mediocrity of the rest of the movie.

P.S. The Abraham Van Helsing character and character design is totally bonkers and kind of fantastic. C

If the John Wick movies were to get a TV series (and for one reason or another, I imagined this as an animated TV series) Hotel Artemis would definitely be a treatment for a five or so episode-arc as Jodie Foster's Nurse and Dave Bautista's Everest would be series regulars and Sterling K. Brown's Waikiki a recurring personality that would likely, eventually, befriend the titular assassin when he opted to stay at the Artemis instead of the Continental.

Not enough Jeff Goldblum, but plenty of sharp dialogue and striking compositions from first-time feature director Drew Pearce. Good enough fun. C+

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot is director Gus Van Sant's (Good Will Hunting) recounting of the life of controversial but legendary cartoonist John Callahan. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara and Jack Black.

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