The Official Review Thread of 2019

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby dws1982 » Sat Mar 28, 2020 6:03 pm

Blinded by the Light
A handful of scenes make you think the filmmakers may have really figured out how to do a jukebox musical here, but it never really buys into the concept. It's a two-hour movie and at least an hour-forty of it is pedestrian culture clash and intergenerational conflict. It's still better than Yesterday, partially because Viveik Kalra makes for a much better, more appealing lead than Himesh Patel did, but on the whole it still feels way too much like a missed opportunity.

Diane
Mary Kay Place's performance is indeed very, very good in this film, which seems like it could take place in the Manchester By the Sea universe. Whereas Manchester was about people dealing with past and present traumas, this is more about observing everyday life in small-town New England. The characters deal with traumas here--drug addiction and illness--but the plot doesn't hinge on them in the same way as they did in Manchester. It's a good movie. It has a very strong ensemble of mostly middle-aged and older actors (many of whom are longtime Broadway performers), especially Deirdre O'Connell and Andrea Martin, as well as Estelle Parsons in a small role. Unfortunately it's kind of hurt by some of Jones' visual tricks; it's a well-done and well-shot movie for the most part, but at times he seems to trying way too hard for an effect that the film doesn't really warrant. Jones has written film criticism for decades, and has written extensively on Truffaut and Assayas, and he uses some techniques that might feel natural in Truffaut's and Assayas' films, but don't at all feel natural or in sync with the tone of the piece. Very much worth a watch, thought.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby dws1982 » Tue Mar 24, 2020 12:57 pm

Doing some 2019 catch-up with my free time:
American Woman:
Has a better feel for small-town working class life than you would expect from Ridley Scott's son, and Sienna Miller's performance is very good: definitely better than a few of the actual Best Actress nominees this year. But it's poorly paced (the two hours felt like four) and it's also a miserable sit, far too close to what Mister Tee calls a film about "losers losing". It piles way too many traumatic events on Miller's character: one of the plot turns near the end truly turned me against the film because it seemed to have no purpose than to throw more shit at Miller. It's too bad because with a few changes I could see myself liking this.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
I feel like I was in a better position on this than some: I never read the book, and a lot of people who did felt like the movie betrayed the book in pretty major ways. It's a mess but I liked this more than I expected, especially as a longtime Linklater-skeptic. And this is acknowledging that I'm not really sure who it's for: It's very much about depression through lens of a quirky comedy, even played as a farce at times. Blanchett's actorly tics are given a useful outlet here. Bernadette may be a giant mess of a character (a lot of it by design, but some of it because the film is a mess), but Blanchett understands her and is actually quite moving. Billy Crudup is actually really good too, doing a lot more with his character than you would expect because the movie does not serve his character well at all.

Synonyms
Nadav Lapid is clearly doing something very specific and is very focused on his themes of identity, but the movie as a whole is as abrasive as its lead character, much of it doesn't make sense, and it was pretty miserable to sit through. Well-shot, and I guess Mercier deserves some credit for committing to what Lapid asked of him but it ultimately felt much more like an intellectual exercise than anything else. Stunned it won the Golden Bear at Berlin...

By the Grace of God
...Especially over Ozon's best-ever film, in my opinion. I gave up on Ozon 10+ years ago when it seemed like every other movie was an erotic thriller; this very subdued visually and narratively, much closer in tone to something like Spotlight than anything Ozon has ever made. It's a fictionalized account of the true story of a predatory priest whose now-grown victim discovers he's still actively working in the church and with children. He eventually organizes with other victims to bring attention to the story, and it becomes clear that the higher-ups in the church knew all along about the abuse and covered it up. Much of the film is procedural, but its decision to center victims lifts it above Spotlight, in my opinion. It's made with a real understanding of the way adults function and deal with trauma from the past, the way it can still inform what you do and the decision you make, and I think the ending in particular is very strong in the way the core group ends up in very different places mentally and emotionally, but no one is right or wrong, no one is vilified, but they're all still acting in reacting in the shadow of old wounds.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Feb 23, 2020 8:03 pm

BOMBSHELL
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Malcolm McDowell, Connie Britton, Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon.
Dir: Jay Roach.

My catching up on Oscar contenders continues with this film which dramatizes the plight of Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson and their "bombshell" of sexual harassment complaints against Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News. The film is pretty much a standard "true story" docudrama that HBO does a lot (which is understandable since Jay Roach has directed a number of them). But the cast is what makes this film though. Charlize Theron does a great job of making me care about someone whose politics I find mostly abhorrent (still didn't deserve to get sexually harassed). I have to say I know Theron and Margot Robbie got all the accolades for this film but I'm surprised John Lithgow didn't get the same. He makes Roger Aisles so believably human when it could have easily devolved into caricature. The Makeup Oscar win was deserved.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Feb 22, 2020 7:41 am

LITTLE WOMEN
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlan, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Louis Garrell, James Norton, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Jayne Houdyshell.
Dir: Greta Gerwig.

This is the nth adaptation of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel about the plight of four sisters during the 1860's Civil Era America. I haven't read the book but I have seen the oft-celebrated 1994 version so I'm familiar with the story. While I liked the story and that film quite a bit, I have to admit I didn't quite get why some people are so like all-capitals passionate about it (maybe because I'm too much of a dude, eh, I don't know) But after watching Greta Gerwig's adaptation: I GET IT NOW. I completely get it now. It makes me wanna actually sit down and read the book. Gerwig infuses the film with such warmth and such humanity. It's all practically radiating from the screen. It feels so fresh, so vibrant, so alive. It's brought to life by an outstanding ensemble cast. Gerwig's 2-for-2 for me. I love it.

Grade: A.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:41 pm

WILD ROSE
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okenedo, Jamie Sives, Craig Parkinson, Daisy Littlefield, Adam Mitchell.
Dir: Tom Harper.

A young woman is released from prison. She tries to get her life back together, be a better mother to her two children and of course pursue her dream of being country and western singer. This film is surprising to me: I had no idea there are country & western fans in the UK. LOL. Anyway, this feels like one of those classic kitchen sink dramas the UK put out during the 1960's updated for today's sensibilities and blended with the usual drama of an underdog wanting to fulfill their dream type movie. The film more or less goes the way to expected it to but the performances here are outstanding that it makes the familiar ride worthwhile. Jessie Buckley and Julie Walters are both fantastic. The soundtrack is great too and this is coming from someone who's not that big of a country music fan.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Feb 08, 2020 9:04 am

1917
Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Claire Duburcq.
Dir: Sam Mendes.

It's the First World War. Two young British soldiers are tasked to cross enemy lines to get to another battalion who are walking into a trap. The entire gimmick of sorts of this film is that it is crafted to look like one continuous shot. I must say that it absolutely works. It immerses you into the action and makes the film feel urgent, brisk and more suspenseful. I was also surprised by how emotional I got at some points. Suffice to say, that it really, really works. It is an impressive, technical feat of filmmaking. Roger Deakins' cinematography is simply outstanding. At one point in one sequence, I actually said under whispered breath, "Roger Deakins, you beautiful motherfucker, you!" Seriously. This is truly one of his best works, as well as one of Sam Mendes' best works. Overall, an excellent picture.

Grade: A-
Last edited by anonymous1980 on Mon Jun 22, 2020 4:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Feb 02, 2020 11:17 am

This is a pretty neat double-feature, I must say.

HONEY BOY
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, Laura San Giacomo, FKA Twigs.
Dir: Alma Har'el.

Shia LaBeouf wrote the script and portrays his own father in this thinly veiled autobiographical film about the troubled relationship between a successful child actor and his abusive alcoholic rodeo clown father. At first I thought this is a crazy gimmick. But as the film went on, you actually get over the meta and the self-reflexive aspect of the film and you become invested in this compelling examination of a very complicated (to say the least) relationship between a father and a son. Both Shia LaBeouf and Noah Jupe (one of the finest young actors working today) give superb performances. So great are their scenes together, you can't take your eyes off of them, even when things get rough. The film loses steam a bit during Lucas Hedges' scenes but overall, this is an extremely well-crafted drama.

Grade: B+

JUDY
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon.
Dir: Rupert Goold.

Based on a stage play, this film chronicles the final year in Judy Garland's life from her engagement/marriage to her last husband and her series of performances in England. I was very skeptical of this film. I mean, I actually really liked the Judy Davis miniseries from years back and I felt that was the definitive Judy Garland biopic and you don't need another one. Certainly, not one starring Renee Zellweger. Well, you still kind of don't. It's not a bad movie. It doesn't really rise above the standard biopic trappings. I wasn't even sure of Zellweger's performance at first but as the film went along, she won me over. I can at least understand why she's an Oscar front-runner. I wouldn't go so far as to call this a must-see but it has some really genuinely nice moments in it.

Grade: B-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Feb 01, 2020 12:15 pm

SPIES IN DISGUISE
Cast: Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Rachel Brosnahan, DJ Khaled, Karen Gillan, Masi Oka (voices).
Dirs: Troy Quane, Nick Bruno.

After being framed for treason, a super spy teams up with a nerdy young, recently fired scientist and gets accidentally turned into a pigeon. This is essentially an animated mismatch buddy action-comedy that pretty much follows the familiar narrative beats of that particular subgenre. There are also quite a few genuinely funny gags and jokes here as well. But what surprised me is the fact that this film has an anti-violence message which kind of subverts this genre quite a bit and it largely works. It's one of the reasons that makes this film quite watchable. Tom Holland and Will Smith make a good team too even in cartoon voice form.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jan 26, 2020 4:44 am

JUST MERCY
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Karan Kendrick.
Dir: Destin Daniel Cretton.

Based on the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who takes it upon himself to provide legal aide for death row convicts who can't afford it. His crusade focuses on getting a wrongly convicted man Walter McMillian out of death row. As I was watching this, I can't help but wonder, had the film focused primarily on Brie Larson's character, would it have done better at the awards circuit? It's a cynical thing to think about but after last year's Best Picture winner, I can't help but think about this. It is in fact an extremely well-made and excellently acted legal drama that ticks everything you expect at this particular sub-genre but is refreshing to see it done this way. It's nothing groundbreaking but you can't help but feel inspired by it and its heart is definitely in the right place.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:39 am

RICHARD JEWELL
Cast: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Nina Ariadna.
Dir: Clint Eastwood.

This is the true story of Richard Jewell, a security guard whose actions saved lives during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombings but whose life turns upside down when he becomes the prime suspect. This is a story that needs to be told. This film certainly had everything it needed to tell it properly. Clint Eastwood is a fantastic and he has a good cast especially Paul Walter Hauser whose plain, everyman look makes him quite effective as Richard Jewell. This film is fatally hobbled by its decision to overly-vilify both the FBI and the media in the form of Jon Hamm and Olivia Wilde respectively. Especially the latter: It's almost as if she walked in from another film altogether where she plays a nasty temptress in a Christian movie. Though it's far from awful, it's still kind of a middling effort.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jan 18, 2020 11:01 am

JOJO RABBIT
Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates.
Dir: Taika Waititi

It's World War II Germany and a 10 year old boy joins the Hitler Youth and has Hitler as an imaginary friend. In the meantime, his mother hides a Jewish girl and is secretly helping the Resistance. I actually didn't expect to love this as much as I did. I kind of love the way writer-director Taika Waititi just kind of goes for it. Yep, they went there and it really mostly works. It's very funny when it needs to be, dark when it needs to be, sweet when it needs to be and heartbreaking when it needs to be. The performances are great. Roman Griffin Davis is a real discovery. Thomasin McKenzie further proves she's one of the best young actresses out there. Archie Yates is a funny scene stealer. This is a solid comedy. Another thing, I'm on Twitter and I see that a lot of people, not only hated this film, but are absolutely offended by it to the point where they think it's wrong to even like it which I'm really dumbfounded by.

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jan 11, 2020 5:17 am

CATS
Cast: Francesca Hayward, James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, Ray Winstone, Laurie Davidson, Robbie Fairchild, Steven McRae, Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois.
Dir: Tom Hooper.

Here we go: The film adaptation of the Broadway musical has a cat named Victoria discovering a group cats gathered for the Jellicle ball to pick which one of them gets to go to the Heavyside Layer. Now, I will admit it: I actually do like Cats, the musical. I consider it a guilty pleasure of mine. (I like Andrew Lloyd Webber, sue me) I listened to the cast album and I saw the filmed performance of it so I knew what it was. I thought this film did kind of a good job for structuring it as a film and being faithful to the musical. But, and there's a big but, where this film falls flat is what everyone is saying: The notion of having actors CGI'd to look kind of like cats, making them look like human-cat hybrids, is INSANE and not in a good way. If I was forced to do an adaptation of Cats, this would be the last thing I'd pick. I honestly don't know why Tom Hooper or anyone, really, would think this was a good idea. But...surprisingly, I didn't really hate it. It's not good though.

Grade: C-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Wed Jan 01, 2020 11:26 am

UNCUT GEMS
Cast: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett, Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian, Idina Menzel, Judd Hirsch, Mike Francesca, Kevin Williams Richards.
Dirs: Josh & Benny Safdie.

A jewelry store owner is in over his head in gambling debts and in trouble with the wrong type of guys makes a series of high-stakes bets on an NBA game thanks to a precious stone and meeting the acquaintance of an NBA player. The hype is real: Adam Sandler is really good in this (truth be told, he's so good in this, I almost forget it's Adam) and it's a really, really excellent film. It's a nice, taut thriller that puts you at the edge of your seat. I mean, this movie made me care about the outcome of a basketball game and I'm not a sports fan. Haha. It is intense, overwhelmingly so at times. But you stay riveted. Anyway, I really should check out more films from the Safdie Brothers. They are becoming major American auteurs. Between this and Good TIme, they're a force to be reckoned with.

Oscar Prospects: Best Actor (Adam Sandler), Original Screenplay and Editing.

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Tue Dec 31, 2019 10:50 am

BOOKSMART
Cast: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo, Diana Silvers.
Dir: Olivia Wilde.

Two overachieving senior girls realize they've missed out on all the high school fun and decided to party on the night before graduation. It's a tried and tested formula of the R-rated teenagers party, get drunk and try to laid comedy. But somehow director Olivia Wilde and a team of writers found a way to make this formula fresh and funny. Some trolls will disagree but actually updating the formula with more progressive mores is actually one of the reasons this is more refreshing than tired. Both Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are wonderful and gives this film sweetness and depth which actually helps it rise above your average bawdy teen comedy. This is officially my last film of 2019 and this was a nice way to cap the year.

Oscar Prospects: Has a long-shot chance at Original Screenplay.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2019

Postby anonymous1980 » Wed Dec 25, 2019 10:32 am

KLAUS
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, JK Simmons, Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, Norm MacDonald, Will Sasso, Neda Margrethe Labba, Sergio Pablos (voices).
Dir: Sergio Pablos.

This is actually a rather imaginative re-telling of the origin story of Santa Claus. A spoiled son of a postmaster general is sent to run a decrepit post office in an isolated Scandinavian town and befriends a lonely woodsman who makes toys. First off, I would like to say I love the look of this film. It's a unique blend of both hand drawn animation and 3D computer animation and the result is quite lovely to look at. As a film, even though it doesn't break new ground in terms of the narrative and it's fairly predictable, it's still quite enjoyable. It's actually quite funny when it needs to be (one gag involving the reindeer was a particular highlight for me) and actually sweet when it needs to be. This was a fine Christmas viewing on Netflix.

Oscar Prospects: Animated Feature.

Grade: B+


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