Sunday, January 12, 2020
Yesterday it was off to the cinema for a long-awaited and much-anticipated screening of 1917.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailer. In the midst of World War I, a pair of British soldiers is sent on a dangerous mission to deliver an important message.
Dearest reader(s), my expectations for 1917 were so high--SO HIGH--and the movie managed to exceed them in every way. 1917 is a close-up depiction of both the horror and the heroism of war.
Lacking big battle scenes, it follows two young men on a harrowing and deeply personal mission. Bigger names in the cast, including Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, and Richard Madden, turn up for what amounts to little more than cameos, while George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman do the heavy lifting. A fine job of it they do, particularly MacKay, who surely should have been acknowledged among the year's finest performances. The movie is mostly quiet and deliberate, with the subdued soundtrack providing an ominous undertone, so each burst of noisy violence is an ugly shock to the system. The "single shot" format (actually several long shots) is highly effective, making the perilous journey feel almost like real time. 1917 looks gorgeous and offers a gut-punch or two to remind everyone of the terrible cost of war.
Art is subjective, and I don't think anyone's opinion is more valid than anyone else's; however, if you're reading this, I assume you're at least somewhat interested in mine, so here's the bottom line: When I watch a movie like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or the Irishman, much of what I see on the screen is the director's ego. The beauty of great art is that there is no trace of that; every person's effort--however extraordinary--is entirely in service to the art itself. Many exceptional talents conspired to create the work of art that is 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood isn't fit to carry its muddy boots.
1917 clocks in at 119 minutes and is rated R for "violence, some disturbing images, and language."
1917 is a reminder of how magical a truly exceptional film can make the cinema experience.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, 1917 gets all nine. Until next time...
In the years after the Civil War, Jo March lives in New York and makes her living as a writer, while her sister Amy studies painting in Paris. Amy has a chance encounter with Theodore, a childhood crush who proposed to Jo but was ultimately rejected. Their oldest sibling, Meg, is married to a schoolteacher, while shy sister Beth develops a devastating illness that brings the family back together.
Director: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep
Release Date: December 25, 2019
Genres: Drama, Romance
Rated PG for thematic elements and brief smoking.
Runtime: 2h 15 min
It's impossible to not walk away from Greta Gerwig's adaptation of Little Woman feeling uplifted. Sure it's a story that's been told multiple times before but Gerwig's take feels fresh and timely. Some alterations to the story make it feel more modern and the film overall is better for it. She shuffles up the chronology of the novel which makes the familiar story much more interesting and engaging. Gerwig is blessed with a stellar cast which makes the whole thing incredibly watchable. Her muse, Saoirse Ronan, couldn't be better suited to play the head strong Jo. It's easy to forget that she's only 25 since she's so naturalistic and engaging as an actress. Florence Pugh is just as strong in this film even pulling off the incredible feat of of making Amy less annoying and interesting. Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen round out the other tow sisters with their performances being solid but more subdued. Ultimately it's Ronan's film and she carries it with great ease even though we already know the majority of the story beats. The story does start to drag a bit near the end of it's run time and it's easy to see where 15 or 20 minutes could have been shaved off. Regardless, Gerwig's film is a fine example of how to bring something new to a well worn story but keeping it's spirit at the same time.
Sunday, January 5, 2020
Welcome to my list of favorite films from 2019. Some are critical darlings while others are more standard crowd pleasers but ultimately, they’re all films that left an impression on me.
First up are films that I'd classify as pleasant surprises but not quite top 10 worthy;
READY OR NOT – I’m always happy when a fun, well-made horror movie comes out of nowhere. This film is fun on multiple levels and you’ll need to keep your eye on Samara Weaving in the future.
BOOKSMART – Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is incredibly polished but more so, its incredibly funny and heartfelt.
LAST CHRISTMAS – Sure it looks like a paint by the numbers Rom-Com but it’s something fresh and unexpected with a charming lead.
DOCTOR SLEEP – Mike Flanagan successfully pulled off making a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining which was respectful of that film and solid enough to stand on it’s own two feet.
GOOD BOYS – A preteen Super Bad probably sounds like a risky idea but this movie made it work on so many levels.
JOKER – I’m not nearly as high on this film as most but I can still appreciate it even if it mines Martin Scorsese’s catalog and successfully graphed it on a comic book character.
TOY STORY 4 – A fourth entry wasn’t necessary in this series and there is no reason for it to be as good as it is, an impressive epilogue.
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME – Eddie Murphy’s return to R rated fare, reminds you why he was such a big deal back in the 80s.
AD ASTRA – A high concept mash up of 2001 and Apocalypse Now that nearly pulls off something impressive.
JUDY - Renée Zellweger proving she’s worthy of her first Oscar by delivering another award’s worthy performance.
MARRIAGE STORY – Sure the topic and themes are well worn in Hollywood, but this newest entry is propped up by a pair of the best performances of the year.
THE IRISHMAN – If you ever wanted to watch all of Martin Scorsese’s films but didn’t want to watch multiple films, may I present to you The Irishman.
Now onto my 10 favorite films of 2019
9) KNIVES OUT – A throwback to the classic Agatha Christie films, a sharp script and an A list cast make this one of the more enjoyable films of the year.
8) ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL – It took over a decade for James Cameron passion project to finally hit the screen, the result is one of the better sci-fi films of the last few years and probably one of Robert Rodriguez's most polished films.
7) FORD V FERRARI – A classically styled prestige film that takes a real-life tale and makes it’s an engaging dramedy carried by two movie stars.
6) 1917 – Sam Mendes war epic is a technical marvel even with a bare bones story that's been told multiple times before, it deserves to be seen on the big screen.
5) JOJO RABBIT – A weird concept that ends up being something that’s funny, meaningful and incredibly endearing.
4) ROCKETMAN – Rocketman is an example of how you shake up the musical biopic genre with something original, appropriate and appreciative of the central artist.
3) PARASITE – Bong Joon-ho's newest film is a success on a multiple levels. Unlike many arthouse films, this is easily accessible and even easier to love. It's funny, timely and tragic.
2) ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD – Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to 70’s Hollywood seems to stream directly out of the director’s brain onto the screen. Throw in a pair of excellent turns by Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt and a fanciful story that’s Tarantino through and through even though its surprisingly bloodless for the most part.
1) MIDSOMMAR – Ari Aster made two films and each of them have left a lasting impression. Midsommar though reflects an incredible leap in craftsmanship and overall quality. Midsommar is a film that needs to be viewed multiple times to appreciate the nuance of skill at work.
Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
Release Date: October 11, 2019
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Rated R for language, some violence and sexual content
Runtime: 2h 12 min
Bong Joon-ho can't be accused of making the same kind of film even certain themes do tend to carry over from The Host, Snowpiercer and now Parasite. His newest film is one of the funniest and ultimately tragic films of the years. Bong Joon-ho visual style is instantly engaging and engrossing as he relates so much information via visuals and some sharply written dialogue. One of the most impressive things about this art house film is how easily accessible it is to the audience. You don't have to be a movie aficionado to appreciate how well made and funny this film is all around. The performances the cast are great all around with Yeo-jeong Jo being particularly fun as the aloof wife. The cast and director all lull you into a strange sense of safety and fun while dropping clues and cues about the film's overall message. Once the film hits it's final act and the tone shifts in a shocking way it shouldn't come as much of surprise because Boon Joon-ho has been building to this from the beginning. As a whole, the film is a impressive cinematic experience that is sure to have a massive level of rewatchablity.