Archive for the ‘movie reviews’ Category

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April 2020 Movie Reviews

May 2, 2020

Check out my profile on Letterboxd if you want to follow along as I write my reviews throughout the month and also because the site/app is amazing for film lovers. April was a pretty sad month because of the pandemic. Theaters are closed all throughout the United States and movie studios are pulling all their films from their original release dates. Even when theaters reopen to the public, they are talking about selling out at 50% capacity and what studio is going to want to release their tent pole films in a climate like that? I’m really curious when the next time I watch a new film in theaters will be.

Onward (2020, Disney+)

Pretty cool of Disney to release this on their streaming platform less than a month after it came out in theaters (shoutout to Covid-19). I can’t say Onward is top tier Pixar, but it was plenty good and managed to tug at my emotions like pretty much all their movies do. Amazing animation, solid voice work from Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, and enough laughs to keep me entertained the whole time. Not Pixar’s strongest work, but their middle tier is still really good stuff.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness (2020, Netflix, Documentary)

Crazy stuff, but wildly entertaining. I don’t think it’s an all-time great documentary, but it was definitely a lot of fun. All the major players are scummy though. Does anyone that watched this actually think that Carol Baskins is an animal rights hero?

Probably a must see documentary, but I’m going to rate it just a notch below that.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Bombshell (2019, Netflix Blu-Ray rental)

I’m not even remotely into politics and I spend none of my time watching news coverage, so my knowledge of the FOX News infrastructure and its relationship to the various political parties is nonexistent, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Bombshell. This movie is more about sexual harassment than politics anyways. In fact, these women bringing down FOX CEO Roger Ailes was the first domino in what eventually became a movement that sparked the Me Too hashtag. I think that story is well told here and shows the struggle of fearing those in power and wanting to protect your career or… calling a public figure a monster.

Looking at pictures of Megyn Kelly on Google images, I can see why Bombshell won the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling. Theron is virtually unrecognizable here, but she looks exactly like Megyn Kelly. It’s uncanny. John Lithgow also looks like he spent a lot of time in the makeup chair.

This movie had some great acting from pretty much everyone. Theron and Robbie were both Oscar-nominated with Robbie giving the best performance of the movie, in my opinion. Lithgow is also at his slimy best and I’m a bit surprised his role didn’t get more attention. This movie has a strong supporting cast as well.

Bombshell is well acted and entertaining and definitely worth a watch.

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019, Netflix Blu-Ray rental)

This review may contain spoilers.

Well, this series jumped the shark pretty quick. I actually liked the first reboot sequel and was pleasantly surprised by it. I thought it was a fresh, modern take and I liked the cast. But this? I was tuned out within 30 minutes, already wishing it was over, and there was 90 minutes left! Why is a Jumanji movie 2+ hours??

Anyways, the climax of this movie takes place on an ice fortress… and there’s a blimp… and a flying horse. Remember when Jumanji was a board game about jungle animals? I guess the more sequels you make to something like this, the further away from the original concept you have to get to keep things interesting. Well, consider me uninterested.

There are a couple of funny parts in this, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t painful for me to watch.

3/10 (Bad)

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Personal Shopper (2016, iTunes Store digital rental)

This is another one of those times where I go into a movie knowing nothing about it except that at some point in time something sparked me to put it on my watchlist… probably some best films of 2016 lists. A movie about mediums, the afterlife, and ghosts was about the last thing I was expecting and the content kind of knocked my socks off. I wouldn’t go as far as to call Personal Shopper riveting, but it was compelling and never lost my interest despite the fact that it is a really slow burn and Kristen Stewart’s character spends a good portion of the running time shopping, trying on clothes, and sending text messages. Speaking of which, did it drive anyone else nuts that she put a space in between her sentence and the question mark ? Like that ? Every single time.

I am not a Kristen Stewart fan at all. Prior to watching this, I had seen seven movies she’s been in and five of them have been part of the miserable Twilight franchise – movies I’ve seen because my wife wanted me to watch them with her. I’m on record calling Bella Swan one of the worst characters of all-time, so my distaste for Kristen Stewart is not much of a surprise and probably not even fair to her as I’ve seen less than 20% of her filmography. Well, this is easily the best work I’ve seen from her. She’s good in this movie!

Personal Shopper is unique, with a strong performance from Stewart and some surprisingly cool visual effects. I enjoyed it quite a bit and recommend to anyone that’s into ghost stories and doesn’t mind a deliberate pace.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tusk (2014, Netflix)

I’m trying to think of anything at all that I liked about this movie and I’m coming up empty. I guess the, uhm, “walrus” makeup/costume was… interesting? Also grotesque. Possibly appalling. Kevin Smith just sucks now. I was a pretty big fan up through Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be impressed with that movie in 2020 and the only film I’ve enjoyed of his over the last 20 years was Zack and Miri Make a Porno. That’s a long stretch of crap. Granted, I’ve skipped almost all of it, but I trust the word of mouth. Still, Red State comes to a streaming service in April 2020 and I have the Jay and Silent Bob reboot on my watchlist, so I’ll probably watch both of those eventually. This is the kind of stuff I throw on late at night when I feel like I can stay up for another 20 minutes or so and then I watch it over the course of a few days because I don’t want to show that kind of disrespect to a movie I actually want to see.

One more thing, Johnny Depp is brutal. What happened to him? There was a point in time where I thought he was one of my favorite actors working and now I can’t stand the guy. He tries so hard to create unique and weird characters and lately he’s been failing miserably. His character here seems like something Sacha Baron Cohen would try to make a movie out of and Hollywood is like, “uhm, no.” Depp is no longer a draw for me… he’s an autoskip.

2/10 (Horrible)

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013, YouTube)

I rated this documentary higher than any film in the actual franchise, but I guess it makes sense. This is 5+ hours of awesome interviews, behind-the-scenes stories, and unreleased (and cut due to MPAA wimpiness) footage from a franchise I’ve loved since I was… wait, let me look up when Jason Lives was released… 5 or 6 years old? I remember my first exposure to Jason Vorhees being that opening scene from Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives when he’s brought back from the grave (literally) and maggots and worms are crawling around on his face. I watched it on home video… at a neighbor’s house… so I’m guessing it was probably a year or two after its theatrical release. I’ve been in love with the franchise ever since and I still watch them periodically and hope they never stop making them, no matter how bad some of them are.

This is a must see for anyone that’s a fan of the Friday the 13th franchise. It’s super long, but if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Not recommended for non-fans obv.

The only place I could find this documentary was on YouTube. Check it out.

8/10 (Must See)

Locke (2013, Netflix)

98% of this movie is Tom Hardy driving in a car and talking on his mobile phone via bluetooth. If that sounds awesome to you, well… you’d be right! Ivan Locke is a construction foreman on the eve of the biggest cement pour in European history when he receives a voicemail from a woman he had a one night affair with and learns that she is giving birth to his child. The rest of the movie is Hardy talking in an amazing Welsh accent while trying to coordinate the job he won’t be attending the next day and telling his wife the bad news.

For a film with one actor that takes place entirely in a car, I was kind of blown away. It doesn’t hurt that Tom Hardy is that actor because he can be absolutely brilliant and I think he’s on that level in Locke. The movie actually has some top level supporting talent in Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, and Tom Holland, but they all phone it in. Literally.

I wish Tom Hardy wasn’t doing Venom. I wish he was doing more stuff like this. He is elite.

8/10 (Must See)

Watchmen (2009, personal collection, third viewing)

I already posted a review for this over ten years ago, but the HBO series has made me revisit both the graphic novel and this 2009 film adaptation. I heard I would appreciate the HBO series substantially more if the graphic novel was fresh in my mind and I decided I might as well watch this movie for the third time.

I actually don’t think the acting is as bad as I thought it was a decade ago. For instance, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson are actually pretty good casting as The Comedian and Nite Owl, respectively. The only choice I truly didn’t like was Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt. I just don’t buy him as “The Smartest Man in the World” and his confidence just comes across as phony to me. Jackie Earle Haley is great as Rorschach. Not only is his portrayal top notch, but when he’s unmasked, he really does look exactly like the Walter Kovacs from the graphic novel.

This is such a faithful adaptation. It’s basically a scene-for-scene translation and so much of the dialogue is lifted unaltered directly from the comic. And yet… something is off. I said in my previous review that this movie has a bit of a “hokey” feel to it. I don’t know if I can explain it any better now, but I just watched the first episode of the HBO series (which I will write about when I’m done watching all of it) and the difference in quality is stark. This movie is cheesy by comparison. Maybe I just hate Zack Snyder’s style?

Fans of the graphic novel shouldn’t be too disappointed with this movie – it’s definitely enjoyable – but I’m much more interested in what the HBO series has to offer myself.

6/10 (Recommended)

Out of Sight (1998, HBONOW, second viewing)

I’ll probably end up doing a run through of Steven Soderbergh’s entire filmography at some point, as I’m doing with Scorsese now, but I’ve been itching to rewatch Out of Sight and it’s leaving HBO NOW at the end of the month.

This is a really fun movie. The sharp banter and charismatic characters – especially George Clooney’s Jack Foley – make watching it a really enjoyable experience. You can see the Soderbergh style that became so popular in the Ocean’s 11 trilogy. Speaking of which, I’ve missed Clooney. He’s underrated as a leading man and I haven’t seen a new movie he’s starred in since Gravity in 2013. J-Lo and Clooney have great chemistry in this movie and I think that’s probably the biggest reason this film works so well.

I only remembered one thing about Out of Sight: the scene where something really surprising happens to a rather minor character. I’m sure if you’ve seen the movie, you would know what I’m talking about. Maybe that scene has stuck with me all these years because I referenced it in my music some twenty years ago.

Smart, funny, and fast-paced, with strong lead performances from Clooney and Lopez, Out of Sight was a solid revisit and one of the better films in Soderbergh’s catalog.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tootsie (1982, Netflix)

Tootsie got an astounding 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Sydney Pollack, Best Writing and acting noms for Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, and Teri Garr. Alas, only Lange was able to take home a statue for her supporting role.

I thought this was great. Dustin Hoffman is wonderful in one of the best performances of his career. I’ve only seen Jessica Lange’s later work, but she oozed natural charisma in the early 80s also. You watch a movie like Sleepaway Camp and see all this horribly corny acting and think that it’s just a reflection of the times (and the genre), but then you watch something like Tootsie – also released in 1982 – and, well, there was probably plenty of great acting happening back then. It’s probably not fair to compare a campy slasher flick with one of the most highly touted movies of 1982, but the contrast is so stark that it makes me wonder if I was just watching all the wrong movies while I was growing up. I just find a lot of the acting from the 80s really cheesy and the performances in this movie are just all so good.

Hoffman’s character gets in really deep pretending to be a woman, finding huge success on a popular soap and becoming extremely close with Lange’s character. I kept wondering how he was going to get out of this pickle and I have to say this film’s resolution was outstanding. I absolutely loved the ending.

Tootsie is a must see film from almost four decades ago. Check it out if you never have!

8/10 (Must See)

Mean Streets (1973, iTunes Store digital rental)

I liked Mean Streets a lot, but I think it falls short of greatness. I do love the soundtrack in this movie though. The song selection is elite and I love how The Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman” plays during the awesome fight scene in the bar. The soundtrack feels like a great use of classic old school songs, but every song in this movie was 40 years fresher when it came out! Robert De Niro is absolutely fantastic in this movie. He’s completely unhinged as the wild and constantly disrespectful Johnny Boy. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen De Niro so loose in his whole career, but it’s been a while since I watched Taxi Driver. He’s just wonderful and you have to wonder how he didn’t get an Oscar nomination. I’m tempted to watch all the roles that got nominated over him and see how wrong they got it (I actually did add 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly – also starring De Niro – to my watchlist).

Mean Streets was a lot of fun. You can see Scorsese getting his feet wet here with the mafioso type content he would eventually become famous for with Goodfellas and Casino. The characters and story are just so much better in those later films. This is a good movie though and I actually strongly considered watching it again before my 48 rental period expired. I can see myself revisiting it when I get through the rest of Marty’s filmography. Mean Streets is a huge leap forward from Scorsese’s first two films, but I’m still hesitating to call it his first great one. Maybe I’ll change my mind the second time I watch it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Boxcar Bertha (1972, iTunes Store digital rental)

Martin Scorsese’s second feature film doesn’t establish him as a future great, but I thought it was fun, despite some issues I had with it – mostly what seems to be a serious passage of time that goes almost entirely unaddressed. I’m not sure what kind of movie this is. A western? Reviews I’ve read have called it an exploitation film. There’s a lot of harmonica in it. It’s also supposed to be a revenge movie, but I’m not sure how well that revenge was realized. David Carradine (the future Bill of Kill Bill) is charming in his role. Barbara Hershey is naked a lot in this movie which is kind of weird because she looks 15 years old (she was 23 or 24). She does a fine job acting though.

I don’t think Boxcar Bertha was necessarily a good movie, but I enjoyed watching it. This film is not one you have to see in Scorsese’s catalog unless you want to watch them all… like I do.

5/10 (Decent)

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March 2020 Movie Reviews

April 2, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020, theaters)

I had no expectations this could be good. The first trailer was so bad it got sent back to the lab for a full reconfiguration of Sonic’s look. I’ll say this much, Sonic looks a hell of a lot better now. But the trailers leading up to the movie’s release made it look unwatchable.

And then something weird happened: the critics didn’t crucify it. Even now, Sonic the Hedgehog is sitting at a very kind 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. I get that it’s a pretty binary rating system, but over half of all critics gave this movie a favorable review?!

I wasn’t expecting that.

I guess it’s somewhat better than I was anticipating but I can’t, in good faith, say this was a good movie. I’m not even sure it was enjoyable. Of course, making a good live action Sonic movie was a colossal task and it goes about as you’d expect.

I don’t think Jim Carrey does it for me anymore. Maybe I would have loved this movie and his performance if I was ten, but I’ve grown out of whatever this schtick is. He’s doing his Ace Ventura/Riddler overacting bit and while it can be funny at times (he had a great line about being an orphan), it’s mostly just exhausting.

Has there ever been a more ridiculous antagonist than the main character’s sister-in-law? I mean… she LOATHED this man and as far as the audience is concerned he’s a solid dude with a good heart that treats his wife with respect and worked two extra jobs so she could go to school… and this woman just despises him… because why? For laughs? Ugh.

This was better than I thought it’d be but that’s not saying much. Just add Sonic the Hedgehog to a long list of video game adaptations that aren’t good. It’s probably a fine family movie, but I wouldn’t recommend seeing it by yourself if you’re a 37yo man.

4/10 (Blah)

Miss Americana (2020, Netflix)

A somewhat interesting look into the pressures of being one of the most famous singers of our time. I don’t dislike Taylor Swift, but I’m also not really into her music, so my interest level here wasn’t too high and this documentary didn’t really increase my appreciation of her work. You know who I do love as an artist? Kanye West. You know who I don’t love as a person? Kanye West. I hate how he interrupted her speech. Dude is a clown, but goodness does he make some amazing music. Wait, who was this about again?

Just kidding. Worth a watch, even if you’re not a big fan, but i’m sure megafans will go bonkers for Miss Americana.

6/10 (Enjoyable)

Lost Girls (2020, Netflix)

This was fine, but I’ve already forgotten almost everything about it. I couldn’t help but feel like Amy Ryan already went down this road in the far superior Gone Baby Gone.

5/10 (Decent)

Honey Boy (2019, Amazon Prime)

A largely biographical film written by Shia LaBeouf when he was in rehab in which he plays his own father and gives what is probably the best performance of his career. Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe are also both good in this.

I liked Honey Boy but I remember thinking the ending was a bit abrupt and the story skips completely over Shia’s teenage years and I would have liked to see what his life was like during that time also.

6/10 (Enjoyable)

Ash is Purest White (2018, Amazon Prime)

It took a bit for this movie to pull me in, but when it did, I was thoroughly entranced. It starts off looking like a film about organized crime in a poor Chinese community. We are introduced to Bin (Liao Fan), who seems to be some sort of mob-type capo, and his girlfriend Qiao (Tao Zhao), as they go about town acting like they run shit in between gambling and dancing to the Village People’s “YMCA” – you know, standard mafioso stuff.

What’s really happening though is the film developing Qiao’s ride-or-die relationship for her man and when an altercation leads to the police discovering Bin’s illegal firearm, Qiao has to decide if she’s going to take the fall and do the time herself or say it was his gun.

Shes does the time. All five years of it.

And that’s when we get into the meat of this picture. The rest of the movie focuses on her journey to reconnect with Bin after making the ultimate sacrifice for him.

Tao Zhao absolutely carries this movie. She gives an incredible performance that naturally received basically zero notice from American awards. However, she did get some wins in Asia and won Best Actress at the Chicago International Film Festival. Her performance alone makes this movie worth watching.

I feel like the relationship between Bin and Qiao could have been more developed in the early stages of the film. We see loyalty, sure, but there’s no passion and little physical love between them. This lack of connection somewhat weakens the epic storyline to follow.

Regardless, I really enjoyed this movie and give it a strong recommendation.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

I, Tonya (2017, Hulu, second viewing)

Not quite the Must See film I thought it was the first time I saw it, but still very good.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Swiss Army Man (2016, Netflix)

I remember thinking the trailer for this looked super interesting and then it sat on my watchlist forever and I could just never pull the trigger on it even though it’s been streaming on Netflix for what seems like years now.

I finally got around to it and it was as weird as it looks and, honestly, my feelings were pretty mixed on it. The trailer makes this look like a fun and silly movie, but it’s actually pretty depressing and I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable. Perhaps this is merely a consequence of misguided expectations, but when you’re in the mood for a light comedy and you get this instead, well, it’s a bit of a disappointment.

Daniel Radcliffe was my favorite part of the movie. He’s rather brilliant in what has to be one of the strangest roles I’ve ever seen.

I should probably give this another shot now that I have a better idea about its tone, but I can’t see myself getting around to that any time soon.

5/10 (Decent)

Young Adult (2011, Netflix)

This review may contain spoilers.

I guess I enjoyed my viewing of Young Adult, but I’m honestly not sure if the good outweighed the bad. The good are the performances from Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt… and to a lesser degree, Patrick Wilson. The bad… well, I can’t really discuss that too much without somewhat spoiling things, so beware.

Theron plays a depressed divorcee in her mid-30s that returns to her hometown to steal her old high school boyfriend (Wilson) away from his current wife after she gets an email announcing that he’s having a baby. While Theron is excellent, the character she plays never has any redeeming qualities and never develops any either. She goes on this midlife crisis adventure and comes out of it… pretty much the same person she was beforehand. It makes you wonder what the point of it all is? To show us that some people never grow up? I guess, but if that’s supposed to leave me feeling satisfied, well, it did not. And while some great films have depressing endings, they usually wow in multiple other ways. For instance, I doubt anyone felt good about things at the end of Requiem For A Dream, but Darren Aronofsky put on a masterclass in filmmaking and his soul-crushing film is an all-time classic in my book.

Young Adult? Not so much. For a movie that’s loosely labelled as a comedy, it’s not particularly funny. Theron is generally great in everything and that trend continued in this movie and Patton Oswalt surprised me here. I found Young Adult mildly amusing while watching it, but this is one that I’ll probably sour on the more I think about it.

5/10 (Decent)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010, Netflix, third viewing)

This has to be one of the worst movies I’ve seen more than twice as an adult. Why do I do this to myself? It’s not much of a secret that I have a soft spot for horror movies – particularly the ones starring genre icons like Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers – but I don’t even like this movie. It is truly trash. There’s just not a single thing about this film that feels like a Freddy Krueger movie. I know they went for a more realistic burn victim look here, but I absolutely hate it. Freddy looks terrible and if Freddy looks terrible, you’re already drawing dead on making a watchable A Nightmare on Elm Street movie. I just put this on as I was going to sleep and watched it over the course of six nights or so.

2/10 (Horrible)

Bringing Out The Dead (1999, Amazon Prime)

Geez. I just didn’t like anything about it. Like, during its two hour run time, the only time I thought I’m enjoying this was the scene with the drug dealer/pimp “stuck” on the balcony. That was a cool sequence. The rest of the movie? Not so much. A struggle.

I’ve been reading reviews trying to figure out why these is rated so high and plenty are claiming it’s one of Scorsese’s most underrated films. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m proving that point right now.

We are given a glimpse into the life of an overworked and burnt out paramedic in New York City during the early 90s. It’s bleak. Our “hero” is worn down by the hours and the emotional tax of the job. He’s seen too many people die and now he can’t stop seeing their ghosts all over the city. He’s ready to walk out, but no matter how many times he shows up late or flips an ambulance on its back while drinking with his partner, the department is understaffed and the demand for emergency medical staff is high. This movie is basically a journey with this man as he reaches his breaking point on a job that never lets up.

I didn’t particularly like any of the performances in the movie, but Nic Cage does get to say a couple funny lines (“they are saying ‘kill Marcus!’”).

This is the second movie I’ve seen since I started my Scorsese Challenge, but 13th overall, and I am ranking it 13th for now. It has been a while since I’ve seen The Aviator, but that’s the only other Scorsese film I’ve seen that I’m pretty sure I didn’t like.

4/10 (Forgettable/Did Not Like)

Hoop Dreams (1994, HBO Now)

“I’ve seen hoop dreams deflate like a true fiend’s weight.” -Jay-Z

When I was going through films on Letterboxd, I actually marked this off as something I’ve seen before. I’m not sure when I realized I had never watched it, but I think after seeing that its running time was around three hours, I knew for sure I never sat through a basketball documentary that was that long. And then I had that Jay-Z lyric stuck in my head for days and figured the only way I could get rid of it was to finally watch what is largely considered one of the greatest sports films of all-time and somehow, due to some magic from the movie gods, it was streaming on HBO Now when I needed it most.

Considering how lauded this film is, I was expecting to see something uplifting with multiple success stories. Hoop Dreams is actually quite the opposite. That Jay lyric is on point and relevant. William Gates dazzles as a freshman and then basically nothing good happens to him. It’s hard to watch. Our other protege, Arthur Ashe, has a happier story, but it’s not exactly cause for celebration either.

But struggle can be riveting also and I guess that’s part of what makes this movie an all-time classic. I can see myself revisiting this again in the near future. At worst, this is a must see sports documentary and if you somehow missed it these last 25 years like I did, put on your list immediately.

8/10 (Must See)

Hook (1991, Netflix, fifth viewing)

Still a fun take on Peter Pan. My wife loved it and that doesn’t surprise me at all. Dustin Hoffman is excellent as Captain Hook. This movie is a bit cheesy, but otherwise I think it holds up pretty well.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989, Netflix)

I’m not sure what I thought this movie was but an epic spanning 20+ years was not it. Driving Miss Daisy is set in Georgia during the 1940s right around the time Jackie Robinson was breaking the color barrier in baseball and stretches to the late 60s when Martin Luther King Jr. was helping make huge changes in how black folk are treated in America. And during these two decades, we see an affluent white woman (but don’t call her rich) develop a friendship with the black man her son hired to drive her around after she crashes her car backing out of her driveway.

It’s touching and funny enough to get multiple chuckles out of me. Jessica Tandy as Miss Daisy was great in an Oscar-winning role – the only movie I’ve ever seen of hers! Morgan Freeman was also good in an Oscar-nominated role as her driver Hoke Colburn. Dan Akroyd was also Oscar-nominated for his role as Miss Daisy’s son and that’s pretty insane because he didn’t do anything special in this movie that I saw.

Driving Miss Daisy won the Best Picture Oscar for 1989 films and while I liked it, I think 1989 would have to be a pretty weak year if this was the best film. Just looking at some other movies that came out in 1989, I liked Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Say Anything, and Batman more. Plus notable films like Do The Right Thing and Dead Poet’s Society also came out in 1989 – films I’m not positive I’ve ever seen.

All this is to say, Driving Miss Daisy is a good but not great film that probably got a little overrated in its time. 30 years later I think most people would point to other movies first when they think about 1989, but Driving Miss Daisy is still worth checking out if you have never seen it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Robocop (1987, HBO Now, fifth viewing)

Yep. This is a sci-fi and action/adventure classic. For its time, the special effects are unreal. I remember my dad thinking the ED-209 was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. I don’t know how long it has been since I last watched Robocop – it’s been a while – but there are scenes in this movie that I’ll never forget. The absolutely brutal murder of Murphy. The ED-209 blowing away that corporate dude in front of the whole board. The toxic waste scene. Robocop is so good that even after seeing it many times over the last 3+ decades, I could’ve watched it again immediately after this rewatch and would have been happy to do so.

10/10 (Classic)

Sleepaway Camp (1983, Amazon Prime)

A horror genre cult classic that I somehow never watched? Probably because it always looked like a cheap Friday the 13th knockoff. I mean… the first sequel had a Freddy glove and Jason mask on the cover, for crying out loud. But when this movie came out there had only been three Friday the 13th movies released and only one of them had the hockey-masked Jason we know so well today. But then I was looking at some lists on Letterboxd and Sleepaway Camp was a popular choice for the best slashers of all-time, outranking basically every Jason Vorhees outing, and that made me feel like I was missing out on a must see genre film.

I can definitely see why it’s a cult classic. The kills are hilariously grotesque and often absurd. The acting is mostly laughable, but that was typical of any of these early 80’s slasher movies. I knew who the killer in this movie was immediately – despite all the misdirection – but even so, I was still surprised and shocked by the ending. For those of you that have seen and remember Sleepaway Camp, think about this: Felissa Rose, the star of this movie, was 12 or 13 when it was filmed. That’s just insane. Usually the kids in these movies playing teenagers are in their mid-20s. The last scene in this movie is something special, that’s for sure.

This is probably a must watch for genre fans, but I won’t pretend like it’s actually a good movie. If you like early 80’s slashers and missed this one, check it out. I liked it enough that I’d try at least one sequel.

6/10 (Recommended)

Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967, Netflix DVD)

This was Scorsese’s debut feature film, all the way back in 1967. That’s over 50 years ago! And this man is still one of the best filmmakers working today, getting a Best Picture nomination for The Irishman in 2019. Insane.

I had pretty mixed feelings about this movie. This was also Harvey Keitel’s debut film and he’s so young in it that I didn’t always recognize which character he was playing in the earlier parts of the film when he’s hanging out with his friends a bunch. I’m not familiar with any of the other actors and they all kind of blended together at first and things are even harder to follow because the narrative kind of jumps around and doesn’t feel linear. Also, there’s a really bizarre and really long sex scene that seems to come out of nowhere and didn’t make sense to me. It’s clearly some sort of fantasy, but I didn’t understand the purpose of it and it more than overstays its welcome.

What I did love about Who’s That Knocking at My Door was pretty much every interaction between Keitel and Zina Bethune. Their courtship is fun and interesting and they have plenty of chemistry together.

I didn’t know where this movie was going and when the big reveal happens it is rather shocking. Bethune’s character is a rape victim and Keitel’s character has a really difficult time processing this information. Imagine if you will: we live in a time where the “Me Too” movement is as recent as a few years ago. Our culture was still victim-shaming women and bullying them into silence in the 2010s. This movie came out 50 years ago! Keitel’s reaction is rather appalling but I can’t help but wonder what audiences thought of it in the late 1960s. I can see a large portion of the male population sympathizing with him at the time.

Overall, I liked this movie even though some of it was strange to me. I wouldn’t guess that the director was on his way to being an all-timer, but Roger Ebert loved this movie the first time he saw it. This is bottom tier Scorsese for me, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

6/10 (Recommended)

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Train to Busan (2016)

March 22, 2020

Director: Yeon Sang-Ho (Psychokinesis, Seoul Station)

Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi

Anticipation Level: None

How Was It? There are movies I watch by myself and there are movies that I let my wife pick out when we want to watch something together. If you go through my film diary, you can probably guess when this is happening (“Miss Americana,” “Lost Girls”) I have to say… the last thing I expected was for her to pick out a foreign language zombie apocalypse movie that was already on my watchlist, but here we are.

*mind blown*

This was good! Nothing brings a distant father-daughter relationship together like a crisis of flesh-eating monsters! This could have been standard zombie fare, but we get plenty of fully realized and interesting characters, strong performances, and cool visual effects.

Strong recommendation.

Replay Value: It’s worth watching more than once, but I doubt that will happen for many years.

Sequel Potential: Sure, but hasn’t happened yet.

Oscar Potential: None.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019?)

March 18, 2020

Director: Celine Sciamma (Girlhood, Tomboy)

Starring: Noemie Merlant, Adele Haenel

Anticipation Level: High

How Was It? This might end up being an all time great love story. I’m not going to lie, the first 45-60 minutes I was thinking this movie was good, but not great – it is definitely a very slow burn – but the payoff is tremendous and the second half was explosive and phenomenal. The film has really stuck to me. I’ve thought about it a lot in the 24 hours since I’ve seen it.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a movie that manages to convey intense emotions without the use of a traditional score. In fact, music is only used twice in the whole film and when that happens it is people in the story creating it, not a film composer. It’s an interesting and effective tactic, as film scores are often used to dictate emotional response from audience. Here, everything is organic. Real. True.

I asked both my friends I saw the movie with which actress gave the best performance and we all unanimously voted for Adele Haenel, the gal that plays Heloise, the bride-to-be that is being painted and married off to some unseen rich Italian man. I asked the question because when subtitles are being read, it’s harder to pick up on the nuances of the acting on screen. But Haenel is so commanding, my “trick” question was met with swift and confident replies that aligned with my own opinion.

This movie is full of poetry and art. I’m positive it will take multiple viewings to appreciate to its full extent and it’s definitely a film I will be happy to revisit in the near future. With all due respect to Call Me By Your Name, I think this is the best film about passionate love in the last 5+ years. An absolute must see that pleasantly lingers hours after seeing it and might morph into a classic over time.

Marriage Story is an absolute must see movie with some knockout performances. It’s currently among my top 3 movies of the year and definitely has a chance to win the Best Picture Oscar. Check it out on Netflix streaming right now.

Replay Value: I was going to see it again last week, but, uhhh… the world is a different place right now.

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: I’m confused. This movie was nominated for a Foreign Language Golden Globe but got zero attention from the Oscars. I just can’t believe this didn’t at least get a Best International Feature Film nomination and I have to wonder if it was somehow not considered a 2019 release by the Academy. That’s the only explanation I have.

9/10 (Sensational)

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February 2020 Movie Reviews

March 4, 2020

Welcome to the Letterboxd era. Someone told me about this movie app in late January and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. The app basically functions as a social media film diary and you can make it as comprehensive as you want it to be. You can simply log whenever you see a movie and keep a watchlist… or you can go all out like I have and log every movie you’ve ever seen and copy and paste reviews from your blog to the app, and pay a little money for an upgraded experience so you can track all sorts of stats that are fun to look through. If you’re a fan of cinema, I can’t recommend this app enough. It’s a must have.

Link to my profile: Dark Knight on Letterboxd

The Invisible Man (2020, theater) – It’s weird how fond of Elisabeth Moss I am. Looking through her filmography, I’ve seen 6% of the movies she’s ever had a role in and I’ve never seen anything she was the star of. I’ve never seen Mad Men. I’ve never seen The Handmaid’s Tale.

You know what I have seen? I’ve seen her performance in last year’s Us. It was a small role, but it caught my attention. I was wondering why this actress was going all out and how she could seem so familiar and yet I’d never heard of her.

And now I’ve seen The Invisible Man and seeing her crush this role is one of the least surprising things ever. I don’t know what it is about her, but she conveys every emotion in incredibly convincing fashion. I buy everything she’s doing on screen.

Moss is the biggest reason to go see this movie but I thought it was a very good reboot of the classic Universal Studios monster as well. Its story is grounded, driven as much by spousal abuse and control as by the more fantastical elements you’d expect in a movie about an invisible man. Even the way the villain turns himself invisible feels like technology that could happen in the not too distant future.

I wouldn’t exactly call this movie scary, but it is thrilling and tense, and people highly susceptible to such things will probably find it plenty unnerving. The third act of the movie is fun, but it’s also a bit confusing and briefly threatens to send things completely off the rails. Overall, I was satisfied with it though and The Invisible Man is the first really enjoyable movie of 2020.

Also, I owe it to Elisabeth Moss to watch more of her work. She is truly brilliant.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Doctor Sleep (2019, blu-ray rental) – I got about 10 minutes into this before I seriously considered turning it off… not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because I felt like I really needed to revisit The Shining before taking Doctor Sleep on. It’s been long enough since I’ve seen The Shining that I don’t remember much of it – sure, I easily recall Jack Nicholson’s tremendous performance and multiple iconic scenes have stuck with me over the years, but I don’t remember the nuances of the film, like the themes it tackled or if it uncovered why Danny “shines” or why The Overlook hotel is the way it is.

So when Rose the Hat and The True Knot show up on screen and the script acts like we are supposed to be familiar with them, I was like huh?

I decided to power through and I’m glad I did because Doctor Sleep is a great sequel that stands on its own while paying much tribute to the original, including a finale that is about nostalgic as it gets.

I’ve only seen three of Mike Flanagan’s films (Gerald’s Game and Hush also), but he’s already proven himself one of the horror genre’s most capable directors. Doctor Sleep is probably more psychological thriller than straight up horror movie, but it does have plenty of scary elements and I’d say it’s right up there with Jordan Peele’s Us as the genre’s best film of 2019.

I wouldn’t consider myself an Ewan McGregor fan, but I liked him just fine in this movie. The whole time I was watching his performance, I kept thinking of Jason Bateman and wondered if he would have been better in the role. That’s probably not fair, but I couldn’t shake it. Kyleigh Curran as Abra Stone was great and that character really made the movie. It was kind of refreshing to see a young child experiencing unknown supernatural abilities and immediately embrace them, rather than be terrified about what’s happening to her like every other kid we’ve seen in similar situations.

Doctor Sleep has a bit of an epic feel to it and that should be no surprise since it clocks in at a whopping 152 minutes. Even so, I thought it was paced just fine, giving plenty of development for side characters and adding some unexpected emotional impact.

This is another win for Mike Flanagan and yet another successful adaptation from a Stephen King novel. One of the cool things about using Letterboxd is that it unlocks all sorts of interesting statistics. I’ve already spent a significant amount of time scrolling through movies on the app and marking everything I’ve ever seen and I was somewhat surprised to see that I’ve seen more movies written by Stephen King than any other screenwriter (Well, written by or adapted from his novels). Well, if you’re a fan of King or a fan of the horror genre, then Doctor Sleep is a must watch.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Bad Boys For Life (2020, theater) – The first Bad Boys was an all-time favorite for me as a teenager, but I revisited it on Netflix last year and found it nearly unwatchable and Bad Boys 2 was completely forgettable, so I can’t say I was looking forward to a third entry in 2020. I was kind of surprised though – I didn’t hate it. It was entertaining enough and Martin Lawrence was pretty funny. I don’t think it’s going out on much of a limb to call in the best entry in the franchise, so if you like this series, you can’t really go wrong here, but at the same time, it’s nothing special either.

5/10 (Decent)

Missing Link (2019, Hulu) – A fun, but not great animated adventure that inexplicably won a Golden Globe over the far superior Toy Story 4. I watched because I like to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as I can, but this is one you can skip if you’re not watching with your kids.

5/10 (Decent)

Honeyland (2019, Hulu) – This is the only Oscar-nominated documentary I watched and I was pretty underwhelmed by it, so I wasn’t shocked when it didn’t win last month. I have to admit I started distracting myself about halfway through this one, so I didn’t feel any emotional connection to the story when I was supposed to, but I was also expecting it to grab my attention and hold on to it from the jump and it just wasn’t interesting enough. Critics absolutely adored this movie, so take my rating with a grain of salt.

5/10 (Decent)

Joker (2019, purchased, second viewing) – Still amazing.

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020, theater) – This was better than I thought it was going to be, but I was honestly expecting an unwatchable train wreck so that’s not saying much. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was one of the few pluses in Suicide Squad and I still enjoy the character here.

The additions to the cast are pretty blah. Huntress is a cool character, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a weird take that feels a bit too aloof for my taste. I’ve long looked forward to a Black Mask appearance but Ewan McGregor’s version does absolutely nothing for me.

DC’s cinematic universe is such a mess. Wonder Woman, Shazam!, Aquaman, and Harley Quinn all exist in the same world as Ben Affleck’s Batman, Henry Cavill’s Superman, and Jared Leto’s Joker – all of which may never appear on screen again. Meanwhile, Batman is being rebooted in his own timeline and Joker just had massive success in what was supposed to be a stand-alone film. I don’t know how DC plans to get all these characters in the same world but I’m sure whoever is writing The Flash movie has had many a headache trying to figure it out.

I realize Birds of Prey is not supposed to be a good movie, but it’s definitely supposed to be a fun one. It’s moderately entertaining, but it’s probably no surprise that it’s nothing special.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Luce (2019, blu-ray rental) – There’s a lot I liked about this film, particularly the performances from Octavia Spencer and Kelvin Harrison Jr., the kid that played the title character Luce (pronounced like the word ‘loose’). Spencer is always great and Harrison Jr. oozed so much charisma I couldn’t help but think he has a bright future.

I didn’t care for the way the story unraveled. It’s supposed to be a mystery, with student pitted against teacher, and the audience is constantly guessing who is manipulating who. That’s fine, but what is annoying is how the narrative shifts perspectives, withholding and revealing information at its convenience. There isn’t a single character that is followed and established as an unreliable narrator so it doesn’t make sense for things not to unfold in a straight-forward manner. It’s done this way to keep us guessing but that’s just lazy writing.

The storytelling didn’t ruin the movie for me but it did make me pause and take note. Overall, I liked Luce. It’s intriguing and has some good performances.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Toy Story 4 (2019, Disney+, second viewing) – Enjoyed watching it a second time, but it doesn’t reach the greatness that the original and part 3 hit.

Apollo 11 (2019, blu-ray rental) – A bad ass documentary about the Apollo 11 launch into space and mankind’s first steps on the moon. This doc features real footage from the late 60s and makes it look incredibly and unbelievably crisp – it is truly amazing stuff.

Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s and that other guy’s (geez, no wonder no one remembers him) journey to the moon is a feat that still blows my mind in 2020. I can’t even fathom this happening in our day and age, let alone 50 years ago.

This is an absolute must watch documentary that somehow didn’t even get a nomination from the Academy. I mean… this was substantially better than Honeyland in just about every way possible. I don’t get it.

Check Apollo 11 out. It is truly a marvel.

8/10 (Must See)

Waves (2019, blu-ray rental) – I have a couple of friends that have been treating Waves like it is the Holy Grail of all 2019 movies and claimed that I have no credibility when it comes to opinions on films until I watched it.

Not going to lie… that kind of made me want to hate it.

But this movie is awesome. The first half shocked my face off with its frantic pacing and unpredictable narrative and then the second half slows down to an absolute crawl and gets really meaty with the character development. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it. The climax is smack dab in the middle of the movie and the second half is the characters dealing with the ramifications of what happened. It was a cool concept and the filmmakers knocked the execution out of the park.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. – the same kid I praised in my review of Luce – gives another great, yet completely different, performance in this movie. I said he oozes charm and charisma in Luce, but in this movie he’s the exact opposite: scary and unhinged. Taylor Russell plays his sister in the movie and does a good job carrying the second half.

Waves is a somewhat traumatic experience. It’s kind of hard to talk about without spoiling anything, so I’ll just say it’s a must see film that you need to see for yourself.

8/10 (Must See)

Chico & Rita (2010, Netflix)) – This is the first movie I’ve watched as a result of Letterboxd. I was scrolling through one of the many lists on here and saw that this was an Oscar-nominated Animated Feature once upon a time that somehow completely slipped my radar.

I liked it a lot! It’s a love story that spans decades as two explosive personalities keep coming back to each other because of their passion for music. It’s touching and heartbreaking with cool-looking animation and a bad ass jazz soundtrack.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Movies I watched in February that I haven’t written about yet: Jojo Rabbit, Ford v Ferrari, The Two Popes, Shutter Island (rewatch)

Expect to see a lot of Scorsese over the next few months. I’m going to be going through and ranking his whole catalog. Prior to starting this journey, I’ve seen only 12 of his 26 feature films. Less than half of the filmography of one of the greatest directors of all-time? Yeah, that needs to be fixed.

Check out my list on Letterboxd (Note: only the top 12 are really ordered): Martin Scorsese rankings

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2020 Oscar Rankings/Predictions

February 9, 2020

Oscar Rankings

I won’t rank any movies in parentheses because that means I haven’t seen them yet.

Best Picture
1. Parasite
2. Joker
3. Marriage Story
4. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
5. 1917
6. Jojo Rabbit
7. The Irishman
8. Little Women
9. Ford v Ferrari

Prediction: 1917

Best Director
1. Sam Mendes, 1917
2. Bong Joon Ho, Parasite
3. Todd Phillips, Joker
4. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
5. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Prediction: Mendes

Best Actress
1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
2. Renee Zellweger, Judy
3. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
(Charlize Theron, Bombshell)
(Cynthia Erivo, Harriet)

Prediction: Zellweger

Best Actor
1. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
2. Adam Driver, Marriage Story
3. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
4. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
(Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory

Prediction: Phoenix

Best Supporting Actress
1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story
2. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
3. Florence Pugh, Little Women
(Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell)
(Margot Robbie, Bombshell)

Prediction: Dern

Best Supporting Actor
1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
2. Al Pacino, The Irishman
3. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
4. Joe Pesci, The Irishman
(Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)

Prediction: Pitt

Best Original Screenplay
1. Parasite
2. Knives Out
3. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
4. Marriage Story
5. 1917

Prediction: Parasite

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Joker
2. Jojo Rabbit
3. The Two Popes
4. Little Women
5. The Irishman

Prediction: Jojo Rabbit

Best Animated Feature
1. Toy Story 4
2. Klaus
3. Missing Link
4. I Lost My Body
5. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Prediction: Toy Story 4

Cinematography
1. 1917
2. Joker
3. The Lighthouse
4. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
5. The Irishman

Prediction: 1917

Costume Design
1. Little Women
2. Joker
3. Jojo Rabbit
4. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
5. The Irishman

Prediction: Little Women

Makeup and Hairstyling
1. Joker
2. Judy
3. 1917
(Bombshell)
(Maleficent: Mistress of Evil)

Prediction: Bombshell

Production Design
1. 1917
2. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
3. Parasite
4. Jojo Rabbit
5. The Irishman

Prediction: 1917

Visual Effects
1. 1917
2. The Lion King
3. The Irishman
4. Avengers: Endgame
5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Prediction: 1917

Score
1. Joker
2. 1917
3. Marriage Story
4. Little Women
5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Prediction: Joker

International Feature
1. Parasite
2. Honeyland
(Pain & Glory)
(Corpus Christi)
(Les Miserables)

Prediction: Parasite

Documentary Feature

Prediction: Honeyland

Original Song

Prediction: Elton John & Bernie Taupin, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman

I don’t know anything about film or sound editing or sound mixing and I haven’t seen any of the shorts, so I won’t make any predictions there.

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January 2020 Movie Reviews

January 28, 2020

Parasite (2019, theaters) *second watch – I had to watch this one twice before I wrote about it just to be sure that it was as truly great as I thought it was the first time. It’s official now: Parasite is my favorite movie of 2019 and it’s unlikely that anything I haven’t seen yet will top it at this point. The film is just pure brilliance: it’s gripping, funny, surprising and beautifully filmed, all while acting as a commentary on the divide between social classes, plus the ensemble cast does a great (and mostly overlooked) job. Maybe the cast has been snubbed by American awards because Parasite is a Korean film and American audiences are spending a good deal of the movie reading the subtitles instead of watching the performances. You definitely can’t appreciate an acting performance to its full extent if you don’t understand what they are saying and your attention is elsewhere most of the time. I guess that’s understandable, but still… I thought the cast was great overall and, even without knowing the language, I could see that Kang-ho Song (poor dad), Yeo-jeong Jo (rich wife), So-dam Park (poor daughter), and Jeong-eun Lee (housekeeper) all gave standout performances. I think Parasite deserves the Best Picture Oscar (but I think 1917 is probably the favorite) and the Oscar for Best Screenplay should be a lock as anything else winning would be laughable. Parasite is the best movie of the year and possibly the only truly sensational film to come out of 2019.

9/10 (Sensational)

1917 (2019, theaters) – This movie is a technical marvel. It’s a war picture that’s presented to look like everything was filmed in one shot (it wasn’t). I think it’s a cool concept and while I could spot certain times where they probably made a cut (i.e. the actors disappear behind a solid object so there are no moving parts on screen), I think they sold it really well and I would imagine some of these sequences still had to be extraordinarily long and that’s pretty damn impressive, both from a filming aspect and the ability of the actors to carry out the scenes convincingly. The set designs in this film are unreal and I would imagine 1917 has a really good shot at the Production Design Oscar. The story follows two soldiers sent to the front lines to deliver a message to stop their attack, or something of that nature. The character development in this isn’t a strength but I didn’t mind. I may not have been emotionally invested in the story, but I was definitely blown away by how it was presented. I could see people that don’t appreciate the technical aspects of films thinking that 1917 is pretty meh, but I loved it and I think it firmly lands in my top 5 of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

Uncut Gems (2019, theaters) – This one has polarized audiences – people either seem to love it or absolutely loathe it. I was in the former camp, as I was entertained the whole movie and thought it was borderline hilarious, but not in the in-your-face kind of way an Adam Sandler comedy usually is. Uncut Gems is much more subtle with the humor, possibly because a lot of the funniest parts are also a bit horrifying. I’ve heard this movie described as a two hour panic attack and that’s not a bad description. The movie opens with Sandler’s character getting a colonoscopy and that’s by far the most relaxing moment he has in the entire movie. After that point, he’s nonstop on the go and the tension basically never lets up. This movie is about a foul-mouthed (Uncut Gems has the 7th most “F-words” in cinematic history) NYC Diamond District jewelry peddler that bets big on sports and spends his life looking for ways to stay in action while dodging the loan sharks he owes. It’s grimy. It’s unsettling. It’s definitely disturbing. But I liked it a lot and Adam Sandler is great in it. I’m not sure he got snubbed for an Oscar nom, but I wouldn’t have found it alarming to see him get a nod. I’m hesitant to recommend Uncut Gems because so many people disliked it, but if we have similar taste, you might find yourself enjoying this just as much as I did.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019, rental) *second watch – My first review for this movie wasn’t that favorable but a second viewing made a huge difference. Maybe it’s all about expectations? I’ve gone from wondering what the heck I just watched to loving this film. Previously, I thought the plot meandered along with no meaningful connection between the multiple storylines and the climax rubbed me the wrong way (and maybe it still does) but now I can’t help but appreciate the sheer brilliance of everything that’s happening on the screen – from the unreal performances from both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, to the ridiculously detailed old school Hollywood set designs, to the music, to the wonderful cinematography. Also, there are multiples sequences in this movie that will probably wind up being iconic. I still think the ending of this movie is weird and probably disrespectful, but… it’s also kind of cool? Same with the Bruce Lee scene. Disrespectful? Yeah, probably. Hilarious and awesome? Uh… yes. I can’t think of too many movies that have grown on me this much with a second watch, but this is now one of my favorite films of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

Little Women (2019, theaters) – I’ve never read the classic novel or seen any of the previous film versions of this story, so I have nothing to compare it to and that might be a good thing. I was excited to see Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to her excellent Lady Bird and the cast looked unreal. Unsurprisingly, the cast absolutely delivers. Saoirse Ronan is arguably the best actress under thirty and earned her fourth Oscar nomination in the last twelve years and it is well deserved. Pretty impressive for someone that hasn’t had their 26th birthday yet. Florence Pugh completed a trifecta of great performances in 2019 (the others being Fighting With My Family and Midsommar) and capped off her amazing year by getting an Oscar nod for this movie. I’m not even sure it’s even her second best performance of the year, but I’m definitely happy to see her get nominated… she deserves it. Maybe not for this role… but something. All of them? I was enjoying Little Women for most of the run time, but the last act really brought everything together wonderfully and kicked my rating up a tick. It’s a fun film about people that only cements Gerwig’s status as a top notch film director. I give it a strong recommendation, but it’s definitely not a bro movie.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Judy (2019, rental) – I did not enjoy Judy, but I do give credit to Renee Zellweger for her great performance and it’s definitely the highlight of the movie. I’ve enjoyed plenty of depressing films – and Judy Garland’s last few years on earth are definitely sad – but I just didn’t get into this one. It’s possible I just wasn’t paying enough attention, as I was multitasking while watching it. Zellweger is wonderfully unrecognizable and dives deep into character, convincingly selling herself as an old time celebrity trying to recapture the limelight while battling addiction and alcoholism and struggling to hold her family together. And she also bets out some impressive songs. I loved Zellweger’s performance. I did not love the movie.

5/10 (Decent)

I Lost My Body (2019, Netflix) – Nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar, this is a weird, but cool little film that finds a severed hand escaping from a laboratory to reconnect with its body. This was definitely an enjoyable movie with some pretty awesome animation and a quirky story. I accidentally watched the English dubbed version of this and the subtitles often didn’t match up with what was being said and that was kind of aggravating. I didn’t realize this is actually a French film, so if any of you choose to watch this on Netflix, I would recommend setting the audio to French and using English subtitles – the way it is meant to be watched. After Missing Link won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, I have no clue what to expect from the Oscars in this category, but I’d be pretty surprised to see this edge out Toy Story 4.

6/10 (Recommended)

The Mustang (2019, rental) – A long imprisoned man that can’t connect in any meaningful way with people, including his daughter, forms an unlikely bond with a stubborn wild mustang when he enters a rehabilitation program while doing outside maintenance at the jail. It’s a touching and sad film with solid performances from Matthias Schoenaerts and Bruce Dern. I give it a solid recommendation.

6/10 (Recommended)

21 (2008, Netflix) *second watch – It’s been over a decade since I watched this movie, long enough that I have mostly forgotten everything that happened in the Ben Mezrich book it’s adapted from. I really liked the book and thought the movie did a poor job of bringing the story to screen, either because they left stuff out or changed too much. I just know I didn’t like the movie because I didn’t think it did the book justice. But I don’t remember the differences between the two mediums now so I’m judging this second watch just based on the merits of the movie alone. I guess it’s a good sign that my friends started the movie and I didn’t leave the room or turn it off after they went to bed. That’s something. But it’s also pretty stupid. The concept is cool: a group of MIT students and their professor develop a card-counting system designed to avoid detection and take Las Vegas for heaps of dollars.

5/10 (Decent)

Yes Man (2008, Netflix) – A decent Jim Carrey movie that’s pretty similar to Liar, Liar in concept but not as funny. It was moderately entertaining while I was watching it, but it didn’t stick with me at all and was basically instantly forgettable.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Oscar nominated movies I haven’t seen yet: Jojo Rabbit, The Two Popes, Ford vs Ferrari, Pain and Glory, Bombshell, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Richard Jewell, Harriet, Honeyland, Missing Link