Posts Tagged ‘movie reviews’

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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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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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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)

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Marriage Story (2019): Best Picture Favorite?

December 13, 2019

Marriage Story (2019)

Director: Noah Baumbach (The Meyerowitz Stories, Frances Ha, Greenberg)

Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson

Anticipation Level: High

How Was It? I’m not going to lie, this movie wasn’t even on my radar a month ago, but it didn’t take long for the hype to build and make me think there might be something special here. I thought Marriage Story was absolutely fantastic. It’s a tight little story about a family going through the divorce process as the adults try to pursue their careers on opposite coasts while playing tug-a-war with their only child. I could really feel the authenticity in everything that was happening – from the recollection of happier times to the disbelief that someone you used to love more than anything in the world could suddenly become your worst nightmare, the film rang true and will probably feel familiar to anyone that has been through a difficult breakup. I didn’t think there was a phony moment in this movie. Also, while it’s a tearjerker that will pull at your heart strings, it also made me laugh more than most of the comedies I’ve seen this year.

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give absolutely sensational performances. I was blown away by both of them and there were multiple scenes throughout the film where I was enthralled by their acting. They are already both nominated for Golden Globes and both are locks for Oscar noms also, with Scarlett looking like the favorite to win right now to me. Laura Dern is also great in this movie as Scarlett’s divorce attorney. I’ve always thought of her as the actress from Jurassic Park but after her work here and in Big Little Lies on HBO the last few years, it’s pretty clear she’s become an elite actress. She has a Globe nom for this movie also and is certainly drawing live at an Oscar nom as well.

Marriage Story is definitely a difficult and sad movie. I watched it while my wife was sleeping next to me and I was so moved by the film that I gave her a long hug of appreciation for what we have while thinking about how happy and grateful I am to have her in my life. Marriage Story is a good reminder to not take things for granted and to not autopilot your way through life, work, and your relationships. I’m not a highly emotional person and usually movies that have an affect on me just make my eyes water up a little bit, but this one actually made me spill tears.

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: Not really the kind of movie that people will want to watch repeatedly, but I think I will enjoy it again before Oscar season.

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: Definitely. The film got six Globe noms in all and all three nominated actors will probably get Oscar nods as well. I’ll say a Best Picture nom is a lock and the movie should have a shot at writing, directing, and score noms.

8/10 (Must See)

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Movie Reviews: Hustlers, The Addams Family, Aladdin, and more

October 22, 2019

Hustlers (2019) – I don’t get it. This movie is at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 79 score on MetaCritic, with one critic even calling it “era-defining”, but I could barely stomach the whole film. It’s not an atrocious movie, but the characters are so hollow and the story so boring, I thought about leaving at multiple points to do something else with my day. Yes… a movie starring Jennifer Lopez as a stripper is somehow nearly unwatchable.
4/10 (Forgettable)

The Addams Family (2019) – Sometimes I go to the movies just to go and this would be one of those times. I’m not necessarily a fan of the old show or the movies from the ’90s, but I appreciate the dark humor and horror themes of the franchise. This movie was mostly forgettable, with Wednesday played by Chloe Grace Moretz providing almost all the highlights. It’s a decent first installment, but I can see eventual sequels being a lot better.
5/10 (Decent)

Aladdin (2019) – I suppose it works. The 1992 original is a top 3 traditionally animated Disney movie for me and I think this remake works largely as a function of the source material being so good. However, much like every other Disney live action remake so far save The Jungle Book it lacks the magic that made the original so special. Yes, the songs are all here and they are still great – even with some slight changes – but they just don’t feel the same. Asking Will Smith to live up to the vocal performance of Robin Williams as The Genie is an impossible task, but he actually does a fine job and certainly isn’t a negative in the movie. Something that absolutely doesn’t work for me in this movie is the casting of Jafar. It’s astonishing that a big budget company like Disney and a capable director like Guy Ritchie could actually think this version of Jafar is even remotely acceptable.
5/10 (Decent)

Ready or Not (2019) – This is a lot of fun, with a star-making performance from Samara Weaving. I wish they didn’t spoil some of the best scenes in the trailer, but I still found the movie plenty enjoyable. Weaving is hilarious and this movie is certainly worth checking out.
6/10 (Recommended)

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) – One of the surprise films of the year and arguably Shia LaBeouf’s best performance of his career, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a heartwarming story of a man with Down syndrome that runs away from his nursing home to pursue a professional wrestling career and finds himself making some unlikely friendships along the way.
7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Booksmart (2019) – I was expecting more… like one of the better movies of the year more. Instead, I found the far less mature Good Boys to be the more enjoyable Superbadesque raunchy coming-of-age comedy this year. This is still worth watching though and I think Beanie Feldstein has a bright future.
6/10 (Recommended)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) – A fine, somewhat worthy sequel, but everything about the first one was waaaaay better.
5/10 (Decent)