Air tells the true underdog story behind a stamp in worldwide culture — shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro, and how he led Nike’s pursuit of the greatest athlete in the history of basketball, Michael Jordan. We know how the story will end, but seeing the risks and passion of the characters is what makes the experience of watching Air pay off. The film is led by an all-star cast of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, and Viola Davis, who are all great — as well as Chris Messina who delivers a fantastic supporting performance as Jordan’s agent. Damon takes the spirit of a many who dared to think against the company’s norm and risk everything to aim extremely high in his belief that one athlete and one shoe can make the world better for all the sports fans, shoe-wearers and dreamers out there. That heart absolutely is felt with the audience, with the knowledge that Michael Jordan has in fact become one of the most inspirational figures in the world to people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Not only that, but the writing and directing make the business side of the rise of Air Jordan interesting, when the courtside aspect of the sport is absent. Also absent is Jordan as a character in the movie, which may distract for some, but the movie doesn’t outright suffer because of it. Davis is also excellent, showing a mother that gives everything to advocate for her son, and stands for the pure belief that her son will in fact change the world of basketball forever.
The turning of a pivotal moment in the NBA into a high-stakes, big dream from humble beginnings, that changed an industry forever, definitely reminds of the recent HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of The Lakers Dynasty, which would make a great companion piece to watch with Air. The 80s feel and soundtrack that director Ben Affleck gives the movie provides a feeling of the greatness that is right around the corner, that these dreamers at Nike are just about to achieve, and the rush of whether or not their hard work and putting everything on the line will convert to success and dreams into reality. Fans of Damon and Affleck, sports films, feel-good movies, and dramas should go to the big screen for this one that turns a business deal about a shoe into the fight of a generation that changed the world and raised the bar for what humans and dreamers can do.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie assembles an all-star voice cast in the game-based movie in which Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach must band together to stop Bowser’s attack on the mushroom kingdom. The animation is colorful and lively, doing the vivid and imaginative world of Mario justice. Though the movie starts out with a sweet underdog charm due to its protagonist brothers, it soon trades any personality that makes the franchise stand out for the same flat characters and dynamics Illumination Entertainment has been writing for over a decade. The characters’ journeys aren’t all that intriguing besides some of the voice performances, and the plot, dialogue and even song choices have been borrowed from countless other movies. There are a few funny moments and the action is suitable for families to watch, but the movie never aims to have a heart that could impress teens or adults. Chris Pratt does an okay job as the titular character, though his turn is nowhere near as unique as what he brought to Emmett in The Lego Movie. Jack Black, Charlie Day and Seth Rogen perfectly fit their characters, so does Anya Taylor-Joy though Princess Peach’s characteristics are reduced to “brave female butt-kicker” and any character relationships or themes are brushed past, even the adventure feels incredibly rushed. Mario and Luigi’s brotherhood is the one thing that’s charming, though they aren’t together for that long.
The movie draws from and pays tribute to many corners of the Mario game franchise, but a lot of the game play references feel incredibly on the nose, when the point of a video game adaptation is to draw from the look and feel of the source material rather than strictly translate its gameplay. Though it does reward fans to see all parts of Mario’s history including Super Smash Bros and Luigi’s Mansion, it’s unfortunately not enough to warrant the price of admission. The film’s main strength is in the voice cast and colorful animation, as well as a few good jokes, but it’s really only worth going to to keep audiences 10 and under attentive, as most of the film’s story beats feel like an AI took Illumination’s past movies and wrote them into the Mario universe. Unfortunately, you’re better off rewatching similar movies like The Lego Movie or Wreck-It Ralph.
A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.
With the medieval action/fantasy epic genre being worn out to death in recent years, and a franchise with a less than notable track record, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is the year’s most pleasant surprise so far. Sure, the conflict and world-building tread the line of “just enough” and the exposition isn’t that engaging, but Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley imbue the film with a well-meaning, heartfelt energy that provides unexpected laughs and charm. Unlike a lot of bland fantasy action films from recent years like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Warcraft or the countless Hercules reboots, the characters in this movie feel like they have actual souls and empathetic reasons for the audience to root for them, not just in the quest but in their personal journeys. Chris Pine reminds the audience why his charisma works so naturally for a leading man, even though his character is occasionally greedy and a misfit. Michelle Rodriguez also delivers a more hardcore but lovable character than Letty from the Fast and Furious saga, and Justice Smith also delivers a sorcerer learning to gain his confidence well. Rege-Jean Page and Sophia Lillis both play standouts as very well-realized characters that may one day deserve a cool spinoff. Hugh Grant is also a silly yet fun villain, though his character’s presence and writing do the bare minimum for an antagonist to face off against the main team, and with an actor less capable than Grant, the role would’ve needed much more to sustain the audience’s attention.
Though some of the visual effects and green-screen are obvious, the movie isn’t trying to remind too much of the Lord of the Rings films, but rather create a jolly and comedic journey that perfectly fits the imagination, playfulness and vast possibilities of the Dungeons & Dragons brand. The action and excitement are enough to make up for conflict and rules that seem cliche, not to mention editing, direction and humor that make this not a must-watch, but better than it had any right to be, and will make the audience have a smile on their face and want to spend even more time with these characters than they ever thought they would.