#SpoilerFreeReviews

    Written by: Aaron (Dobler) Goldstein. Follow along on twitter.

    THE WAY BACK

    Two new movies this weekend and both with similar challenges - staying true to the world building it presents to the audience for the entire game.

    ONWARD dribbled away from an amazing 1st quarter, with a sleep worthy 2nd and 3rd only to return to the court for an ‘I’m not crying you’re crying’ final 4tha. While THE WAY BACK leaves the serviceable, predictable and sentimental 1st half for a 4th quarter that fouls out, leaving audiences without what they expect from a sports movie - the sport.

    Onward

    It’s a shame the last heartfelt 20 minutes of ONWARD are so good as the rest of the film stumbles away from the magical world building it so beautifully sets up only to become a mash-up of “Fatherhood of the Traveling Pants” and Weekend at Bernies.”

    Call of the Wild

    Despite several uncanny valley issues that would make any dog howl, CALL OF THE WILD is the perfect 20th Century movie (can’t say Fox anymore)…to stream at home on Disney+.

    Sonic the Hedgehog

    Before you warp via a giant ring from this review, please understand that I have critical “blue-ball” admitting that I enjoyed the world’s favorite hedgehog’s first movie. Yes, it was as predictably safe as Green Hill Zone Act 1, but for once a property didn’t overstuff by putting too many characters in an origin story aka not putting all of the Dr. Robotnik eggs in one basket.

    Listening to my inner child video game ❤️, I recommend you spin-dash over to the cinema this weekend and bring the kids for the first big-screen worthy movie of 2020.

    Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

    With an all in performance by Margot Robbie, BIRDS OF PREY attempts to be the next DEADPOOL, but it comes up short with an unfunny / uninspiring take on Harley Quinn. The film pays homage to the animated series but owes more to the 90’s Joel Schumacher BATMAN where at anytime Arnold as Mr Freeze could’ve appeared on screen and it wouldn’t have been any better or worse.

    The Gentlemen

    THE GENTLEMEN aspires to be as smooth as Gentleman Jack and Coke, but settles on being a single barrel knock-off mixed with generic store brand Cola.

    Weathering With You

    If audiences can weather the storm from the j-pop music video assault in the second half of WEATHERING WITH YOU, they will be treated to a modern anime classic that deals with complex emotional teen issues ranging from gun violence, global warming, young love and abandonment.

    The film has the ability to engulf audiences, flooding them with a sea of emotions that may or may not require Kleenex.

    Put differently, this is easily on the early short list for best films of 2020.

    Bad Boys for Life

    BAD BOYS FOR LIFE could’ve crashed and burned as the 15-years late threequel that audiences didn’t want and/or need, yet instead it’s a friendly reminder that you don’t need to reinvent the action steering wheel when you have two lead actors with compelling opposite style chemistry.

    Even more surprising is that the heart of an action film can belong to Martin Lawrence, who handles the emotions with consistency from the driver’s seat.

    Best Movies 2019

    Oscar nominations might be tomorrow, but my top 10 picks from www.SpoilerFreeReviews.com are ready tonight!

    This was the year of the superhero/villain. And in this scenario Martin Scorsese is not the bad guy regardless of his comments against Marvel. Joker surprised us while Avengers: Endgame broke countless box office records with a runtime so long it wrecked nerd’s bladders across the world.

    The real star this year was the resurgence of cinema being the director’s medium. Nine out of my top ten captures one person’s vision. But with that said, no director captured that essence better than my number one pick this year. She delivered a timeless classic that demands repeat viewings (I am on viewing number four).

    Before I dive into the top ten, a few honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut:

    • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: I would have rather seen this flick as a Netflix series than a feature.
    • The Two Popes: My number eleven.
    • Parasite: Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer is still the greater movie going experience due to this one having one too many false endings.
    • 1917: Technically amazing and extremely immersive, yet lacking a protagonist that can emotionally pull the audience in like Saving Private Ryan or The Thin Red Line.
    • The Irishman: I didn’t get it. But that might be the point?

    THE TOP TEN:

    1. Jojo Rabbit

    A SpoilerFreeReview rabbit hole captured in two viewings:

    Viewing One: Jojo Rabbit is the most original film of the year and an instant hipster classic courtesy of Taika Waititi.

    Viewing Two: Jojo Rabbit falls short of being a hipster classic that demands repeat viewings like Waititi’s true masterpiece, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Why? The Mel Brooks inspired farce with a touch of Wes Anderson gets too much screen time, muting the emotional impact that would have reached the emotional heights of Life is Beautiful.

    Viewing Results in other words: My wife cried a lot.

    1. Avengers: Endgame

    Avengers: Endgame is the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King of the Marvel universe.

    1. Rocketman

    Rocketman is a better broadway musical than it is a biopic and it’s easily one of the best movies of the year

    1. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

    A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is less of a movie about Fred Rogers and more of a character study about the broken journalist he inspired. By framing the movie just like the TV show, it turns simple, predictable and cliched Mr. Roger worthy lessons into profound cinematic greatness with several #IAmNotCryingYoureCrying moments.

    1. Dark Waters

    Dark Waters may be based on a chemical substance, but nothing is artificial in this true-life understated Atticus Finch like movie that is easily Todd Haynes best work to date.

    1. Frozen II

    Do “the next right thing” and see Frozen II this holiday season. It’s the sequel I didn’t know I needed that is darker, more mature, funnier and with an epic tear-inducing adventure that’s greater than the first.

    Oh, and the songs…yes, you will be hearing them at a karaoke bar on repeat soon.

    1. Joker

    Joker is beautiful / ugly cinema that is both reckless in its portrayal of violence in the world and inspiring. It emulates dark cinema like Requiem for a Dream and the brilliant Scorsese pictures it pays homage to.

    It’s nothing short of a masterpiece.

    1. Marriage Story

    Marriage Story is a brilliant narrative that somehow combines the business of divorce with the emotions of falling in love to epic comedic/dramatic levels.

    1. Uncut Gems

    Adam Sandler’s performance is the real gem in Uncut Gems, a messy masterpiece that is an inside fictional look at the life of a neurotic Jewish New Yorker. It’s a two-hour plus climax of a movie that had my ❤️beat up 10BPM throughout the entire experience.

    Oh, and two extra points for not only having the most stressful finding afikomen scene in cinema history but also getting a great performance out of NBA legend, KG.

    1. Booksmart

    Booksmart brilliantly takes two Diane Court (Say Anything) like lead characters and frees them of the standard high school boy meets girl setup. By doing this, it creates a funny, moving, coming of age classic that has something new to say while feeling comfortably familiar.

    In other words, I can’t wait to see it again.

    Spies in Disguise

    SPIES IN DISGUISE has the espionage elements of “Despicable Me” and the wacky kid scientist fun of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” yet still plays like a lesser version of both movies.

    Pain and Glory

    The latest critically acclaimed flick from legendary Spanish director, Pedro Almodóvar left me with 20% pain and 80% glory, equalling a mild thumbs up.

    Cats

    In film school we were taught, “you can learn more from watching a bad movie than a good one.” That statement has always been true…that is until yesterday when I saw Cats.

    Bombshell

    Bombshell is a #MeToo movement film that wants to be revolutionary but settles for predictable ripped from the news headline trappings.

    The real star of the film is the hair and make-up effects, masking super-famous actors to play super-famous newscasters.

    Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker

    STAR WARS: THE RISE OF THE SKYWALKER is safe fan service that acts as a good not great emotional conclusion to a saga that should’ve been forced to retire a few light years ago ago.

    In other words, it’s the equivalence of what LOST did on TV but in big budget movie form.

    1917

    1917 is an impressive technically immersive theatrical version of Call of Duty that could have benefited from less video game suspense and more emotional theatrics.

    The Irishman

    210 minutes later and The Irishman will leave Netflix streamers asking questions of why. Why did we need this film (brilliantly realized by Scorsese with stylish flare reminiscent of Goodfellas and Casino) and why did any of the events have to happen in America’s history?

    Wait, maybe that’s the point of the movie is it shouldn’t have happened at all…if only I had another 210 minutes to rewatch and ponder…🤔

    I Lost My Body

    I Lost My Body is getting lost amongst the animated films this award season but stands out as one of the best body’s of work in the genre this year.

    The Two Popes

    The Two Popes is being billed as a master class in acting thanks to Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce’s performances, but it’s also director Fernando Meirelles best work since “City of God.”

    Marriage Story

    Marriage Story is a brilliant narrative that somehow combines the business of divorce with the emotions of falling in love to epic comedic/dramatic levels.

    Pro-Tip: Bring tissues for the #IAmNotCryingYoureCrying moments.