My website it currently undergoing a pretty major design overhaul. Please bear with me as progress continues. All of the links should still work, but you may find yourself on a page that still has the old design.
Coming soon to Joel on Film: Joel on Oscars! I'm making changes, some cosmetic and others a bit more necessary, to the front page of this website and various others throughout (Pardon my dust as I clean up around here), and that includes tackling the awards season. Yes, this will be a permanent fixture at the site now, updated every two weeks from October to broadcast. Just keep an eye on the top of the page for that soon!
Transformers: The Last Knight
It might be meager praise (or, more accurately, a sigh of relief) to say this, but the fact of the incoherence of the plot of Transformers: The Last Knight didn't bother me very much this time. The film is the fifth in the franchise borne of a child's plaything, and it's been clear for five movies that director Michael Bay has no interest in the plot of these movies. That sentiment doesn't seem to extend to the screenwriters, and we've had a litany of them from the first film to this fourth sequel (written by Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, and Ken Nolan). That's the problem here: There is so much plot that Bay's indifference to it finally seems like a refreshing attitude.
All Eyez on Me
There is a shot somewhere in the middle of All Eyez on Me, the biographical dramatization of the life and death of Tupac Shakur, that goes as evidence toward the feeling that this is never anything but a dramatization. Just as the so-called "rap prophet," who revolutionized and helped to popularize the phenomenon of "angry hip-hop," is about to record the second verse of a track on which he is a guest artist, director Benny Boom's camera shifts into slow-motion for, seemingly, no reason. It's not until the film is over that the reason for the stylistic choice becomes clear.
The Book of Henry
The Book of Henry has no idea what it wants to be or to do. Its protagonist is a preteen boy of 11 who is heralded by those closest to him (almost exclusively his family) as a genius, so of course part of Gregg Hurwitz's screenplay is focused upon reiterating that point into oblivion. He is also one-third of a curious family unit that can't really be called "alternative," save for the attitudes of the three parties involved toward each other and toward the term "family unit." He is dying, a glioblastoma having found its way into his lymph nodes and impacted other crucial structures.
The couple at the center of writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones' Band Aid spends the duration of the movie evading their problems with each other, and when that doesn't seem to be working, they devise a way to retreat further inward into a newer, supposedly cleverer way of evading those problems. This is a troubling and dishonest romantic drama about two souls, each alike in his or her distrust and dishonesty toward the other, and Lister-Jones' screenplay never manages to reconcile the supposed honesty in such a view with the melodramatic methods of driving one wedge after another into the gap that divides this romance.
Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope
Even today, "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope" is relentless in its pacing and highly effective in its relaying of the hero's journey, told through the prism of an oddball space western never expected to succeed by writer/director George Lucas. It's amusing now, seeing the film as a fairly straightforward study of good vs. evil, to consider that it was mocked by those contemporary filmmakers who thought Lucas foolish to take on such fringe genre material. This is a story of light and dark, of a force that binds the galaxy together, and of three ragtag antiheroes forced into a conflict that seems to have spanned decades.
There is the young man whose past dictates his future and his fate and who dreams of better things off in the space outside his planet that includes two suns to the west. There is the young woman, a member of her planet's royal family but far more headstrong and willful than that implies, who simply wants peace for her people. There is the scoundrel, whose gruffness is as lovable as his ruthlessness is disarming (He kills another smuggler out of both self-defense and self-preservation). There is the main heavy, a villain of real menace whose connection to the hero is the fuel for a classic revenge story and who has the physical presence necessary for the job of villain.