Sunday, November 19, 2017

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Plot:
A look at the life of author A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) who got the inspiration to create the Winnie the Pooh series from his son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston as a child, Alex Lawther as an adult). 

Pros:
•Like many others, I grew up absolutely loving Winnie the Pooh (and still do). I’ll admit though, I didn’t know too much about the author and the story behind the books other than the fact that the real Christopher Robin grew up to resent his father for everything. It’s an interesting story and I’m glad it’s finally being told. 
•I thought Domhnall Gleeson gave a good and convincing performance as someone coming back from war and suffering severe PTSD. I really wish the movie had delved further into this issue. 
•The real star of the movie for me was Will Tilston. Such a terrific actor already at such a young age.  His performance was so heartbreaking as you watch the consequences of all this fame being thrusted upon this little boy and the price he pays. He and Gleeson were great together in all of their scenes. As well as Kelly Macdonald, who plays Christopher’s nanny Olive. 
•Very emotional. You’re bound to cry more than once watching this. I know I did. 
•Beautiful cinematography. 

Cons:
•I feel like the movie could’ve benefited from being a little bit longer. Certain parts of the story felt too rushed. 
•I like Margot Robbie in some things (especially in a movie I saw recently called I, Tonya) but I didn’t care for her here. Her character was underdeveloped and honestly a real bitch at times. From what I’ve hear though, that’s how Christopher’s mother was in real life. 

My Rating: 8/10

Friday, November 17, 2017

Justice League (IMAX)

SPOILER ALERT: 
Even though I don’t consider anything in my review a spoiler since it was either in the trailers or fairly common knowledge, I’m putting this up just in case. You’ve been warned. 

Plot:
 Following the events of Batman v. Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) put together a team including Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in order to stop Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds)- who is sent by Darkseid to find three artifacts hidden on Earth. 

Pros:
•It was better than Batman v. Superman. Not that that was a hard thing to do. 
•You can tell where Joss Whedon took over. That’s definitely a good thing. For one, the story becomes more cohesive and actually slows down, taking the time to develop the characters and their formation as a believable team. Also, there’s finally some humor. And one more thing- COLOR!!! 
•The one thing I liked about Batman v. Superman was Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman. I still like him here. Interesting take on the character. 
•Speaking of Batman, I really enjoyed the ‘89 Batman vibe I got from some of the scenes. Right down to the score (they brought Danny Elfman onboard so it makes sense). 
•I’ll give Snyder this much, he is good with visuals for the most part. And there were some kick ass action scenes. I just wish he would tone it the fuck down sometimes (more on that in a bit) 
•SUPERMAN!!!!!
•Trimmed things down to a two hour run time. 
•They pulled a Marvel so be sure to stay through the entire credits. There’s two scenes, one of which I thought was pretty funny. Again that Whedon humor that I really like. 
•DC has a long way to go but this and Wonder Woman are a step in the right direction. 
•Jason Mamoa actually made a good Aquaman. You could tell he was having a blast. Ezra Miller as the Flash as well. 
•Looks good on an IMAX screen. 


Cons:
•The first part of this was definitely all Snyder. I was watching it and at times I was thinking, “Oh fuck, here we go again!”. He clearly doesn’t understand the concept of superheroes. And he goes insane with the CGI. It is CGI overload at times. So much that it was hard to make out what was happening in certain scenes. 
•Snyder also needs to stop writing and stick to visuals. There is dialogue in this that is some of the worst and cheesiest I’ve seen in a long time. 
•Terrible villain. 

My Rating: 7/10

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Victoria and Abdul

Plot:
Based on the true story of Queen Victoria’s (Judi Dench) unlikely friendship with Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), an Indian Clerk. 

Pros:
•I’ll give the movie credit for being honest. Right off the bat they tell you that this is “mostly” based on a true story. Of course I knew about Queen Victoria but until recently I didn’t know anything about her relationship with Abdul. I could tell though that this probably a very highly fictionalized version of what happened. However, that doesn’t make the movie any less enjoyable for me. 
•While I thought Ai Fazal was wonderful as Abdul (he’s certainly very charming and had great chemistry with Judi Dench), this is really Judi Dench’s movie. She was damn near perfect in this her second time around as Queen Victoria. The woman can do no wrong in my opinion. While I don’t think she’ll necessarily win, I can see her getting an Oscar nomination for her performance. 
•Director Stephen Frears (who also worked with Judi Dench on Philomena, another great movie) really nailed the look and feel of the time period. 
•A surprising amount of humor. 

Cons:
•Seemed very rushed in the beginning. 
•While the musical score was pretty, in certain scenes it felt overpowering. 
•Towards the end it got a little too emotionally manipulative for my liking. 

My Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, November 10, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express

Plot:
Based on the Agatha Christie novel. Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh, who also serves as director) attempts to solve a murder onboard a train with 13 suspects. 

Pros:
•I’ll give Kenneth Branagh this much, he knows how to make a gorgeous looking movie. I really liked the cinematography as well as the color tones. 
•As far as his performance as Poitot, I thought he did a good job. It could’ve easily come off as over the top had it been a lesser actor. 
•Intriguing enough story. If you’re into a good old fashioned murder mystery I think you’ll enjoy this. 
•Strong supporting cast. 
•Subtle yet beautiful musical score. 

Cons:
•The ending felt very rushed. At the same time the beginning moved a little too slow (didn’t really pick up pace until they got to the train). 
•While Branagh is a good director, I think he struggled just a bit trying to juggle so many characters at first. Eventually he was able to get the hang of it though. 
•A few of the characters were a little underdeveloped. 
•Some rough spots with the dialogue. 

My Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Film Columbia 2017


The Square
What an interesting film to kick off the film festival. Claes Bang gives a good performance as Christian, a curator at a contemporary art museum. Part satire, part drama, and a surprising amount of humor. Definitely took some turns I wasn’t expecting. Didn’t think it needed to be almost two and a half hours and some scenes dragged a little, but it’s a fascinating movie that’s worth checking out. 
My Rating: 7.5/10

Suburbicon
Directed by George Clooney from a Cohen Brothers script, this dark comedy was amazing. Well written, outstanding acting (especially Julianne Moore and the little boy who plays Matt Damon’s son), and so much more. Despite being slightly over the top in the last 30 minutes, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. 
My Rating: 9/10

The Russians Are Coming
From what I understand, this black and white movie was made in 1968 but was banned by East Germany (partially because it features a Nazi as the protagonist) before it was completely finished. Years later the director was finally able to piece everything together and restore the movie as best he could. So I can forgive the movie for the extremely choppy editing. It’s an interesting story but there were times where it was dull as well. Caught myself nodding off a little. 
My Rating: 6/10

The Wound
Powerful South African drama about Xolani, a factory worker who every year travels to the mountains to help initiated into the traditional right of passage into manhood. Well acted, especially considering out of the whole cast only one is a professional actor. Beautiful cinematography as well. Best way I can describe it is it’s kind of like the African Brokeback Monutain. 
My Rating: 8.5/10

A Fantastic Woman
Strong performance by Daniela Vega as Marina, a transgendered waitress/singer whose world is turned upside down by the sudden death of her much older boyfriend Orlando and having to deal with his hateful family in the aftermath. A little tough to watch during one scene in particular, but it’s a great movie that I highly recommend. 
My Rating: 9/10

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
Interesting documentary about the impact Native American music has had on other genres throughout the years. While it’s your typical documentary and I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, it’s worth checking out if you’re a music fan. 
My Rating: 7.5/10

I, Tonya
A late addition to the festival (they were suppose to be showing The Current War, but it’s a Weinstein Company movie so it was pulled for obvious reasons). The movie is about infamous figure skater Tonya Harding (played brilliantly by Margot Robbie). Supporting cast was really good as well, including Allison Janney as Tonya’s mother (I can see her getting a Best Supporting Actress nomination). My only real complaint is they do the whole break the fourth wall thing. It was fine at first but became overkill after awhile. 
My Rating: 8/10

Wind Seed
Well I can see why this was banned initially for “not being a movie”. Not a god damn thing happens here. A guy drives around (there’s a lot of driving in this movie) overseeing a highway development, another guy riding a bike hanging up movie posters, and someone else looking for the dog that bit him. That’s about it. I was bored out of my mind! Kept nodding off. What was the point? I’m pretty open minded when it comes to movies but this tested my patience. Only nice thing I can say is it’s competently shot. Avoid at all costs. 
My Rating: 4/10

The Nile Hilton Incident
Thrilling crime drama about a maid who witnesses a murder and the policeman assigned to the case. Of course, there’s all sorts of corruption and certain important people that don’t want the case solved. If you’re into these types of movies I think you’ll like this as well. 
My Rating: 8/10

Maya Dardel 
Beautifully shot movie about a poet (played by the captivating Lena Olin) who plans on ending her life and has young male poets compete to be executer of her estate. Very slow paced and certainly won’t be for everyone. 
My Rating: 6/10

Last Flag Flying
Richard Linklater’s latest movie about three Vietnam veterans (Steve Carrell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne, all three of whom give incredible performances) who reunite 30 years later to help bury one of their sons, who was killed while serving in Iraq. You’ll want to have plenty of tissues handy because this well made drama will hit you right in the feels. There’s also plenty of humor injected throughout. Well written script. One of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Highly recommended. 
My Rating: 10/10

1945
Black and white Hungarian film taking place over the course of a single day on August 12, 1945. Two mysterious Jewish men arrive in a village. Things drastically change for everyone in just a few hours. I found the story very interesting that even with the war over, how horribly the Jewish people were still being treated. The movie itself though played out a bit too much like a soap opera with all the drama and betrayal. None of the acting really stood out to me either. Still, if you’re into period pieces it’s worth checking out if it ever comes to Netflix. 
My Rating: 7/10

Chavela
Documentary about musician Chavela Vargas. I’ll admit up until now I had never heard of her. What an interesting and talented woman. A must watch for music fans. 
My Rating: 8/10

120 Beats Per Minute
Takes place in 1990. A group of activists work hard to fight the indifference towards AIDS. At the heart of it also is this beautiful love story. What I appreciate about this movie is that they didn’t shy away from showing how how brutal AIDS is. You see every agonizing minute of suffering. Tough to sit through (be sure to have plenty of tissues handy) but I highly recommend it. Could’ve used some tighter editing but other than that it’s an amazing movie. 
My Rating: 9/10

Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Tells the story of Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) who had a relationship with aging Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening). I’ll be honest, the saving grace of this movie for me was Jamie Bell and Annette Benning. They played the roles well and I thought they had very good chemistry. But the movie overall was a bit of a mess- direction, script, editing, visual effects (not that there was a lot of visual effects, but there were a few moments where it was painfully obvious they were standing in front of a green screen and not on the beach or looking out at the city skyline), etc. I also felt like it was trying way too hard to be an Oscar contender. Is it worth seeing? Sure. But I wouldn’t suggest paying to see it in theaters. 
My Rating: 6.5/10

Dog Days
It’s not even worth going into detail about. All I’ll say is the direction is competent enough, which is why I’m not giving this an even lower rating. This director needs to hire a writer instead of writing himself because he’s terrible at it. Characters are so unlikeable. Avoid this. 
My Rating: 3/10

Let Yourself Go
With all the somber movies that have been playing at the festival, this Italian comedy was such a nice change of pace. The two main actors were amazing and played off of each other very well. If you ever come across this gem, I highly recommend it. 
My Rating: 9/10

The Ballad of Lefty Brown
They don’t make too many Westerns like this anymore. Wasn’t really feeling it at first (mainly Bill Pullman who I’m a fan of but I feel like he was slightly miscast) but it got better as the movie event on. Stunning cinematography and it was nice to find out it was shot on film. Tommy Flanagan (aka Chibbs from SOA) was great in this and I would’ve liked to have seen it focused more on him. Was a little too predictable. While far from the best Western I’ve ever seen, it’s worth checking out. 
My Rating: 8/10

Happy End
FUCK.THIS.MOVIE. From the director of Amour. That’s all you need to know. Safe to say I won’t be watching any of his films again. 
My Rating: 2/10

Loveless
Russia’s selection into this years Best Foreign Movie Oscar. A couple is soon to be divorced and neither really wants custody of their 12 year old son. Soon the boy goes missing. Well made, but very disturbing. Tough to watch. If you’re a parent I would stay far away from this. 
My Rating: 8/10

The Rape of Recy Taylor
Documentary about Recy Taylor, a young African American woman who was brutally raped by 6 white men. Very powerful and something I think everyone should see. I say this all the time but it makes me sick to my stomach to think that this occurred decades ago and really not much has changed since then. 
My Rating: 10/10

Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death
Documentary about death and dying. Sounds depressing? Yeah, it is but not nearly as much as you would think. I enjoyed the second half more than I did the first half (not that the first half was bad). I was especially fascinated with the segments on cryogenics and near death experiences. 
My Rating: 7.5/10

The Leisure Seeker
Heartwarming (and at times very funny) movie starring the great Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. While not their best roles, I thought they were very sweet together. 
My Rating: 7/10

The Florida Project
Beautifully made movie about childhood taking place over a single summer on the outskirts of Disney World. Brooklynn Prince shines as Mooney. What a talented little girl. I hope she continues to be in more movies. William Dafoe gives an award worthy performance (as Bobby, the manager at the Magic Castle hotel) as well. Highly recommended. 
My Rating: 10/10

In The Fade
I can see why Diane Kruger has been getting a lot of Oscar buzz. There’s something seriously wrong if she doesn’t get nominated for her strong (and heartbreaking) role as a grieving woman whose husband and young son are killed in a bomb attack. Wasn’t that crazy about the ending but other than that it was well done. 
My Rating: 9/10

Call Me By Your Name
This was such a chore to get through. It’s a well made movie with gorgeous locations but I kept nodding off. The very definition of an art house movie. Awkward line delivery. Not a big fan of Armie Hammer’s performance in this either. 
My Rating: 5.5/10

Lady Bird
The Saturday night surprise movie this year. Absolutely wonderful coming of age story. Great mother/daughter dynamic between Saoirse Ronan and Lauren Metcalf. Impressive directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, whom I’ve always liked as an actress and now I’d love to see her direct more. Highly recommended. 
My Rating: 10/10

The Other Side of Hope
Aki Kaurismäki tackles the refugee crisis masterfully in this movie about a poker player turned restauranteur who befriends a Syrian refugee. Well acted and there was even some humor sprinkled throughout (this director uses very deadpan humor and it may not be for everyone). It started off a little slow to come together but other than that a great movie that I strongly urge everyone to see. 
My Rating: 8.5/10

Faces Places
Documentary (although some of it feels a bit staged at times) about the unlikely friendship between director Agnes Varda and photographer J.R. as they travel through France creating these beautiful poster photos, placing them on buildings and other locations throughout various villages. Fascinating. I also liked the very creative opening/closing animated credits. 
My Rating: 7.5/10

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The great Frances McDormand stars as a woman who, after several months and no progress of in her daughter’s murder case, boldly creates three billboards going into town aimed at the chief of police (Woody Harrelson). WOW!! What a movie to end my festival experience this year. I knew it would be good but holy shit was I blown away. Great job by all cast and crew. Strong story that once again shows you how fucked up the police system really is. McDormand gives one of the best performances I’ve seen this year. She better get an Oscar nomination. Once this is released in theaters I strongly urge everyone to see this. 
My Rating: 10/10

Friday, October 20, 2017

Geostorm

Plot (HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!):
When a group of satellites designed to control the weather start attacking the Earth instead, it creates a huge geostorm that threatens to wipe everyone and everything out. 

Pros:
•Make no mistake people, this is a shitty movie. But oh what glorious shit it is! I had a blast watching this from beginning to end. 
•Gerard Butler as an astronaut. He’s a terrible actor don’t get me wrong, but there’s a certain charm in how bad he is. 
•Andy Garcia as the President. Still would make a better President than Trump. 
•Such over the top “acting” by the extras when they’re reacting to all the disasters. I was laughing hysterically several times throughout the movie. 
•Surprisingly had some heart to it. Granted those moments were VERY brief but it still, more than I was expecting. 
•Somewhat decent score. 
•I’m giving this a much higher rating than I thought I would, simply because I had so much fun. This is the type of movie that’s so bad it’s good and one I recommend watching with a group of friends. You’ll have a great time guaranteed. 

Cons:
•As soon as I saw the first trailer for this what seems like forever ago, I thought, “This guy went to the Rolland Emmerich school of directing.” Sure enough, it’s one of his protégés. 
•There’s a certain actor that as soon as he appears on screen, you know he’s going to be revealed as the bad guy. Just look on the IMDb page and I’m sure you can figure it out. 
•For a movie with a budget of $120 million, the visual effects were awful. 
•Cringeworthy dialogue. 

My Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Unknown Girl

Plot:
Dr. Jenny Davin (Adèle Haenel) becomes obsessed with the case of an unknown dead woman after learning that the woman died shortly after ringing her doorbell for help. 

Pros:
•Interesting story about guilt and how, even if something wasn’t your fault or you didn’t know what would happen, it can still eat away at you. 
•Really good performance by Adèle Harnel, who a lot of the time is acting simply with her eyes or facial expressions (although she does have plenty of dialogue too). She remind me a lot of a young Kate Winslet. Looks exactly like her too. 

Cons:
•Became a little dull at times. There were long stretches where all the main character was doing was making house calls to her patients (we get get, she’s a doctor) or driving around in her car with somber expression on her face. It felt like a waste of time. Time that could’ve been put to better use. 
•It’s an interesting story as I just said, but I feel like they could’ve done more with it. 

My Rating: 7/10