Archive for the ‘movie reviews’ Category

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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

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December 2019 Movie Reviews: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, Knives Out, Christmas Movies

December 21, 2019

Going forward, this is how I’m going to review movies – unless I want to highlight a specific movie I think warrants more discussion (i.e. leaving Parasite off this list). You can expect quick, succinct reviews here that give you an idea of how I felt about a movie and a few strengths and weaknesses, if warranted. I’ll keep track of every movie I watch throughout the month and post my thoughts on them at the start of the next month. This will include rewatches and possibly rating changes. I’ll also post some thoughts on any TV shows if I finish watching a season during the month. My rating system for TV is a little different than for movies because… I’m a psychopath.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019, theaters) – Geez. I’ve never proclaimed to be a big Star Wars fan, so it’s not like I’ve ever been super invested in these films, but… I think I’m over them. There have been eight Star Wars movies released since I was in high school and I’m a genuine fan of two of them (Rogue One and The Force Awakens) and none of them have been dear to me. That’s a lot of mediocrity. The Rise of Skywalker just adds to the list. It was mildly entertaining, but I honestly didn’t care about anything that was happening. As always, these movies are pretty good visually but I just can’t get emotionally invested in the story or find a way to care about these characters.

5/10 (Decent)

Knives Out (2019, theater) – This probably deserves a formal review but here we are. It’s a slick whodunnit with a great cast and plenty of memorable characters and is wildly entertaining the entire way. I give it a strong recommendation and would be happy to watch it again. I can actually see this growing on me and giving it a higher rating in the future.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Thoroughbreds (2017, HBO NOW) – Interesting, entertaining and a bit disturbing with some quality performances from Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy. Also features the late Anton Yelchin in one of his better roles. I recommend it.

6/10 (Recommended)

Klaus (2019, Netflix) – A worthy addition to the staple of Christmas holiday films with a fresh take on the legend of Santa and some unbelievably crisp animation. I thought this was top notch, but I want to see it again before labeling it a Must See.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Home Alone (1990, Disney+) – The most amazing thing about Home Alone is that I’ve probably seen it more than any other movie in my lifetime and yet, I still enjoy it. Even as I enter my late 30s I still don’t mind watching it every single year around Christmas time. This movie is full of plot holes, nonsense, and unbelievably dumb characters, but I still love it and it’s charm is undeniable. A true classic, even if it isn’t exactly a great film.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992, Disney+) – I can’t blame anyone involved for making this, but it’s basically just a retread of the first film set in New York City under even more unbelievable circumstances. I guess it’s still kind of fun, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the magic of the original.

5/10 (Decent)

Fatal Attraction (1987, Amazon Prime) – A movie that has always intrigued me but I never got around to watching. I always thought it was probably just softcore erotica, but Fatal Attraction actually got nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture! Seeing it streaming on Prime, I finally watched it and it was… pretty good! Glenn Close totally makes the movie and plays unhinged and obsessed really well. It didn’t strike me as a film that should be in anyone’s top 5 of any year, but it was definitely worth watching.

6/10 (Recommended)

Us (2019, HBO NOW) – I’ve seen it three times now. After two viewings, I was pretty confident labelling it a Must See, but after a third viewing, I think it’s just a pretty good, but not great film.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable) [revised rating]

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Netflix) – I thought this was really mediocre and bordering on bad the first time I saw it, but after being convinced to give it another chance (plus wanting to refresh before the new movie) I found it to be enjoyable this time around as some of the things that bothered me (i.e. Rose) didn’t anymore. I still don’t think it’s good enough that I’d recommend it though.

5/10 (Decent)

The Santa Clause (1994, Disney+) – A forgotten Christmas classic. Whenever the best holiday movies come up, I don’t seem to hear The Santa Clause get mentioned much, but it’s far too enjoyable to be omitted like that. Tim Allen is somehow great casting and this movie oozes charm and holiday spirit.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (2018, HBO NOW) – Total trash. Like… absurdly dumb. It gets called a Final Destination ripoff a lot, but I thought the movie it really wanted to imitate was It Follows. This is almost certainly the single worst movie I’ve watched in 2019 (but note it is a 2018 release).

2/10 (Painful)

Noelle (2019, Disney+) – Apologies to Truth or Dare, this is the biggest piece of shit I watched in 2019. Unbearably cheesy, misguided, and not even remotely funny, my wife and I both thought this was unwatchable. I’ll give Dina credit for making it to the halfway point – and I was going to power through if she wanted to – but when she quit it, I figured I probably shouldn’t spend my last hours of 2019 watching the worst movie of the year, and I turned it off about 50 minutes in.

2/10 (Painful)

TV SHOWS

Big Mouth (s2, 2018, Netflix) – A guilty pleasure, I guess? It’s raunchy animation focused on middle school kids going through puberty and all the emotional and physical craziness involved when your hormones start taking over. This show is NOT for kids though. It’s a hard rated-R – and possibly even worse – with absurdly graphic sex talk and even shows the kids naked sometimes. I almost feel bad even watching it. Some of the characters are way too over-the-top and gross (Jay, Coach Steve, the Hormone Monsters). On the other hand, it’s also pretty damn charming and plenty funny, plus I think it does a good job of really digging into the difficulties and wonders of discovering your bodies at that age. Nick Kroll does some excellent voicework and I really liked the addition of The Shame Wizard in this season. I’m a bit ambivalent about how I feel about this show, but I guess I like it overall and have to admit I enjoy it.

3.5/6 (Decent/Good)

The Mandalorian (s1, 2019, Disney+) – I’m going to say it… this is the best thing to ever come out of the Star Wars universe. I’ve already mentioned I don’t hold any of the films dear to me, so when I make this statement, it’s not coming from someone that is in love with the franchise. I kind of went into The Mandalorian wanting to not like the show, but it didn’t take long to win me over. Everyone knows about Baby Yoda by now and that was a goddamn stroke of creative genius. Baby Yoda is a level of cuteness that has possibly never been seen before and adds a serious mystique to the show. It’s not a spoiler to say that this character is never referenced in the trilogy that just wrapped up, so… I’m extremely curious to see where this story is headed. I think Baby Yoda makes the show, but there is plenty to love about The Mandalorian. From a technical standpoint, it’s as spectacular as any show I’ve ever seen. The sets, sounds, costumes, and creatures are all elite. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what Jon Favreau and co. have in store for season 2.

5/6 (Must Watch)

Rick & Morty (s4 pt. 1, 2019, Adult Swim) – I got into Rick & Morty either this year or last year, so I was late to the party, but it didn’t take long to win me over. I devoured the first three seasons and by the time I was done with them, I was on board with the sentiment that the show was all-time levels of awesome. Season 4 is the first time I’ve watched the episodes as they came out and I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the first half of season 4. They have released five episodes so far and I thought two of them were great (episodes one and five), while episode four (with dragons?) was one of the worst of the whole series. To be fair though, the bar for the series is insanely high, but that episode was a bit of a head scratcher for me. The other two episodes I was a bit lukewarm on but still liked overall. Considering the consistent level of greatness this show has operated on for three seasons, having two cool episodes and a weak one in the first five of season four seems like a step in the wrong direction.

4/6 (Good)

Don’t F*** With Cats (2019, Netflix) – An insane story about how a bunch of internet nerds formed a Facebook group to track down some kid that made a video of himself torturing and killing a cat and then posted it online. It’s pretty crazy how the group figure out who the person is and then watch in horror as he escalates to actually murdering a human (also posted in a video online). I guess I’m confused about how the internet works because it seems like it would be extremely easy for law enforcement to find out exactly where a video was posted and track down the person that made it, but maybe these are advances in technology that have mostly be fine-tuned in the 7+ years since these events took place. Still, this is an unreal and extremely fascinating story. There are three episodes and once you start the first one, you won’t want to stop watching until you are done.

4.5/6 (Good/Must Watch)

h1

Queen & Slim (2019)

December 15, 2019

Queen & Slim (2019)

Director: Melina Matsoukas (Insecure, Master of None)

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith

Anticipation Level: Strong

How Was It? Good. I had never heard of this movie until I saw the trailer for it and thought it looked fantastic. I liked the idea of modernizing Bonnie and Clyde by incorporating Black Lives Matter and police brutality into the story and thought there was a lot of potential for something great here. I have to admit I was a little disappointed as the film didn’t reach the highs I thought it could. I honestly think it peaked before the opening credits and the scene that sets things in motion is by far the most tense and impactful part of the entire film. And then there’s another two hours of movie to watch. I thought the writers did a poor job with Daniel Kaluuya’s character. For a movie that’s probably supposed to feel empowering for black folk, they sure have him making some really questionable decisions. I don’t want to spoil anything in this review, so I’ll just say… gas station scene… wtf… There were multiple moments like this (although this was the most egregious) that really took me out of the movie and had me shaking my head.

Overall though, I did like Queen & Slim. I’ve never seen Bonnie & Clyde, but this did remind me a lot of Thelma & Louise and I’ve always loved that movie. I think both leads did a good job. I’ve become a big fan of Daniel Kaluuya over the last few years. The writers did a really good job of building the relationship between the two main characters, taking them from a failed Tinder date and creating a bond that few couples could claim to have reached. Also, the soundtrack for this movie is pretty awesome (and includes the return of Lauryn Hill!). I give this movie a recommendation but I was honestly hoping for more. It didn’t hit me the way I was expecting it to.

Replay Value: Well, I’d rather watch Thelma & Louise for the 10th time than watch this for the second, so there’s that…

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: There’s already controversy surrounding this film’s lack of Golden Globe noms – apparently the Hollywood Foreign Press Association didn’t even attend the consideration screenings – so it’s not likely to garner any Oscar attention either. While I think it’s garbage that the HFPA isn’t even watching the movie, I don’t really think the film is award-worthy myself; the script just isn’t good enough.

6/10 (Recommended)