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Wonderstruck (2017)
A huge disappointment
11 January 2018
This was almost exactly what I expected based on the average reviews. Definitely a significant downgrade from Carol. I appreciated its ambition and some of its visuals, cinematography, and music is really good. But that screenplay is kind of a huge mess, and such a big missed opportunity. I don't see why this film would get much dislike, but I also don't see why it would get much love either. It's almost the complete opposite of mother!, which is probably the worst spot to be in. As soon as it was over I had forgotten it and felt so much apathy towards it. Not terrible or even bad, but not all that good either.
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The Party (I) (2017)
Pitch perfect black comedy
9 January 2018
Ever since I saw the trailer for this, I had high expectations. A black comedy with an ensemble that is stuck in one setting for a dinner party? Right up my alley. As a huge fan of Carnage I knew it would be for me. And it definitely was, although I have to say, I was a tad disappointed. I feel like the film should have been longer than it was. Perhaps it needed time in the beginning to really set things up more slowly. Only five minutes into the film do things start seeming off, and I think the film could have benefited from starting with everyone acting a bit more normally so we could see the progression throughout the evening. Still, it's a super enjoyable, entertaining little film. Hopefully it's seen by more people. Since this is technically a 2018 release (by US standards), then I say the year is starting off with a bang.
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Mr. Roosevelt (2017)
Very funny
9 January 2018
I went into this because it seemed like a cute little film, and it was. It's not flawed or that amazing, but it's super enjoyable and funny, and it has a super hilarious actress in the lead role. I loved Noël Wells in Master of None's first season and I had no idea she was such a talented comedic actress. She's aces here and is definitely the best reason to watch the film. She's a huge talent to watch out for, not just in acting but in writing and directing.
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Authentic and incredibly honest, powerful writing and acting
7 January 2018
This was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. Had no real expectations going into it, and was pretty floored by how authentic the whole film is. The film deals with a very common, painful scenario and it's one of the best films I have seen to deal with it in such a genuine, realistic way. The writing and dialogue is incredibly natural, and the film is helped by having two very strong, raw performances at its core. I had only seen Stephanie Beatriz in the always great, always consistent show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and here she gives a powerhouse of a dramatic performance. She's heartbreaking. Also powerful is Michael Stahl-David, who's equally as great at Beatriz in perfectly delivering the material in such an honest way. I strongly recommend this to anyone who hasn't seen it. Strong writing and acting make this a must-see.
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Very enjoyable
7 January 2018
This turned out to be much more involving than I had expected. Emma Stone is perhaps one of the most likable actresses around, and she's always able to effortlessly bring so much charisma to roles like this. She did it in La La Land and she does it here. Very effective. Steve Carell is also very good, much better here than in his forced dramatic performance in Last Flag Flying. From the supporting players, it is Andrea Riseborough that impresses the most. What a lovely, natural turn.
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Lucky (2017)
Good for what it is
7 January 2018
This is definitely exactly the type of film you think it is based on the premise. It's definitely a good one, definitely worth it. John Carroll Lynch did a fine job directing this as his debut, and he is aided by a pretty good performance by Harry Dean Stanton. I don't think the film ever rises to greatness but it has a lot going for it, and it is definitely recommended. I look forward to what Lynch does next.
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Wonder Wheel (2017)
Some fine acting can't save this film
6 January 2018
I don't think this is a terrible film. I would even say that the film starts off pretty good. But the longer and longer it goes on, the more problematic it gets. It's at least a coherent film, which is definitely a plus. The biggest problem with it is that it doesn't ever become a full story that is engaging enough to tell, and it also starts to paint its lead female character in very troubling ways. A lot can be said about Woody Allen's writing of women, and I fear that this film is filled with all of the clichés that come with "emotionally volatile wife" characters. It's a definite problem. Kate Winslet herself does as great as she can in the role. She has many impressive scenes and overall, it's a rather good performance, but the character itself becomes a pretty terrible one by the end. I don't mean in terms of the flaws the person she portrays has, but the character writing itself. Winslet is as theatrical as the film needs her to be, and she somehow makes it all worth it to an extent, but it's hard to forget how badly Allen lets her down. Still, I would say the film is maybe worth it for her. That's how much she almost saves it. I also think Juno Temple adds a lot to her role. She's proven herself to be an immensely talented actress time and time again, and here she also shines brightly. The one biggest problem in the cast is definitely Justin Timberlake. Completely miscasted.

Overall, not a very good film, but not one I hate. I have to admit that I did have some fun with it, in a very guilty pleasure kind of way.
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Intriguing until it's not
2 January 2018
If there's another 2017 film that starts off really well and continues greatness until it loses all its momentum and potential and becomes a mess in its third act, then I haven't seen it. This film is an intriguing but realistic psychological drama/thriller for its first two acts and then decides to become a genre film instead. By doing so, it loses everything that made it interesting. Maybe in retrospect and on a possible rewatch I will think the third act is fine for what it is, but it's such a shame the turn the film makes. Still, it remains a worthy effort overall, with some fine performances from its cast and some effective imagery.
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Better Watch Out (II) (2016)
A lot of fun
2 January 2018
This film was definitely not what I expected going in. The great thing about it is that it has quite a few surprise up its sleeve. Just when you think you've figured it out, it throws a wrench into those predictions and takes another turn. Without spoiling anything, I do want to say that I was very impressed by Levi Miller here. Such a perfect portrayal of the character, and one that should be remembered for a long time. The film has a good balance of horror with a genuine factor while sitll being emotionally investing.
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Logan Lucky (2017)
A bit disappointing
2 January 2018
The good news with this film is that the cast is aces. There is not one bad link to be found in the main cast. The only person who sticks out like a sore thumb is Hilary Swank, giving an accent that I have no idea what its purpose was. Other than that, the rest of the performers are clearly having a great time. Most surprising is Daniel Craig, giving a golden comedic performance that I did not see coming. I had no idea he was such a talented comedic actor, and it would be great for him to do similar stuff in the future.
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Could have been better
2 January 2018
It's hard to watch a film like this, or go into it without expecting it to have a good deal of sentimentality. And the film does have it. It's a good film, filled with entertaining scenes and some fine performances. Judi Dench in particular is quite predictably fantastic, as is always expected with her. But there are definite flaws in the narrative and plot structure. Not all scenes work as well as they should, and the film is maybe a bit too sentimental and sugary, too much for its own good. It's good for what it is but it could have been better.
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Gerald's Game (2017)
1 January 2018
This was an unexpected gem. I guessed I had heard a few good things about it, but I expected something at least decent. The film is actually very good, with a fantastic lead performance at its core. The premise is a simple one that could have not worked at all, but the film is crafted with such care by Mike Flanagan and it really shows. The only flaw I would point out would be the final scenes. Something about their execution didn't work completely for me. Other than that, definitely a film to be recommended.
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Another fascinating work from the master
29 December 2017
I admit, this was probably my least anticipated Paul Thomas Anderson film. Nothing about it seemed all that intriguing, but I should have known that even the most seemingly dull premise can turn out to be something quite fascinating in the hands of PTA. I would argue that it reminds me the most of The Master in some of its structure, getting more and more abstract the longer it goes on. But it's also somewhat more accessible than that. As with all PTA films, I need some time to digest this, but I can say that it's another deeply fascinating, always intriguing film from one of the best in the business. In terms of technical filmmaking, this is definitely one of the best of the year. As for the acting, the three main performers here are quite fantastic. Of course Day Lewis has gotten the most attention, but as good as he is, it's Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville who really shine, the latter with such minimal dialogue that it's impressive the impact she makes.
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Maudie (2016)
Sally Hawkins is amazing
28 December 2017
I think Sally Hawkins was great in this year's The Shape of Water. I understand why she's getting attention for it and I think she would be a fine nominee. But really, there's no question in my mind that it's her performance in Maudie that is the much more impressive overall. She gives a career-best turn here, a completely internal performance that could have been all showy, broad theatrics had a lesser actress gotten the part. She's absolutely amazing and in a fair world would be getting nominated (if not winning) for this work. Ethan Hawke is also fantastic, showing that he can really shine in character parts like this.
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Worthwhile, Cranston is marvelous
28 December 2017
I had pretty low expectations for this going into it. The premise just did not sound very interesting. To my surprise, the film turned out to be much better. I think what makes it work is that, at its core, it is a dialogue-driven Richard Linklater film. The intimate and one-on-one conversations throughout the film make it pop and are incredibly entertaining. The problem is that the premise and the plot structure around which those conversations are built are incredibly flawed, sometimes seeming inconsequential and incredibly contrived. If Linklater had found a better way to structure the main conversations and main trio around a better plot, it would have been an undeniably great film. As it is, it's a good, sometimes very good, one. Both Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston give some strong work here, especially the latter. After several films where he has given broad, over-the-top, cartoonish performances that lack any real authenticity (e.g., Trumbo, All The Way) I was beginning to think Cranston had forgotten the art of nuance. Here, he's able to bring nuance and real, heartfelt authenticity to the role while still bringing the showiness as it calls for it. Finally my faith in him as an actor has been restored, after having disappointed again and again since Breaking Bad. This is the performance he should be in awards consideration for. On the flipside, this is yet again another dramatic performance from Steve Carell that feels forced and unnatural. Even with great roles like the one in Foxcatcher he fails to be entirely convincing. Here he's not entirely bad, but he sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to Fishburne and Cranston.
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I, Tonya (2017)
Fantastic acting
27 December 2017
I guess because I had no real expectations about this being great, I was actually surprised by how great it was. I admit the writing/directing stylistic choices become obnoxious at times, but they also work to make the film stand out from the usual biopic at other times. This is one of those biopics that has the quick, showy type of editing that award bodies go for so I fully expect the editing to get some notices, but it would definitely be deserved. The film moves like a machine while still keeping the character dynamics and development in tact. Overall, the biggest standout aspect of the film is its acting, and in that department it in no way disappoints. Allison Janney was the predicted frontrunner for Supporting Actress before Laurie Metcalf started beating her for Lady Bird. Since this film has come out all I have heard from those who have seen it is how this is not an Oscar-winning type performance, and I completely disagree. I am actually now surprised by how baity and typical the performance is, compared to previous winners. Now I'm back to predicting Janney to take home the big awards. She is definitely really great in the role, although I myself prefer Metcalf. But the biggest stars of the film are Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan. The former has deservingly been in the conversation for awards, and I would say she is in the same level that McDormand, Ronan, and Hawkins (the other three frontrunners) are. She would make a fine winner. Sebastian Stan is almost equally as great, and it's a real shame he's not getting much notices at all. It's a fantastic performance through and through.
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Nocturama (2016)
Definitely not for everyone
27 December 2017
Even though it's quite clear from reading the premise that the film is surely not for everyone, that is still an understatement. The filmmaking here is incredibly detached of emotion, cold, and very, very clinical. That's part of the genius of it. A film like this needs to be executed this way, or else wavering too far into one side would be controversial, either being labeled as a film too forgiving of its protagonists and wanting us to sympathize with them, or portraying them as completely evil and not adding enough layers. In that respect the film works. It is mostly without a musical score, and scenes play out in long stretches in ways sure to infuriate many, but also impressive in their commitment. I think it's a fascinating, powerful film, but not an easy one to like.
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Beautiful, yet disappointing.
23 December 2017
I agree with the few here who have said that The Shape of Water is good, even very good, but somehow it doesn't reach greatness. Although I can pinpoint why that is. The film is very well directed, but it's working with a screenplay that is perhaps simplistic and dare I say it, pedestrian. The film should have been anything but unremarkable, but that's how so much of it felt. The romance at its core was too quickly developed for my liking, causing it to feel like the film was just going through the motions instead of stopping to let us bask in its magic. In addition to being very unremarkable, the screenplay is also filled with some questionable storylines and some unimpressive, if even dry dialogue. Visually it's on point, although I would disagree that the film's cinematography is anywhere near that of something like Blade Runner 2049, which is unfortunate because it could very well win that Oscar. The score is also very nice, although again it should have been so much more memorable. The acting is definitely the best part of it. Sally Hawkins is luminous, and although I'm not sure I would rank her as being better than McDormand and Ronan (for Three Billboards and Lady Bird respectively, all three vying for the Oscar) it's an impressive performance that is deeply heartfelt. The other biggest surprise is Richard Jenkins, who lights up every scene he is in. Stuhlbarg is fine, and Shannon is disappointing. The latter is such a talented actor, but he can only do so much with such a one-note character (again, the screenplay's fault).

Overall, it's worth it but in a pool of much more impressive award contenders like Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name, and The Florida Project, it's a film that could have been so much more.
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Solid for what it is
19 December 2017
I mean, pretty much a Star Wars film through and through. I'm shocked that it;s this film that fans are going crazy for. Ridiculous. Anyways, it's good. As others have said, I do think that it's more flawed than The Force Awakens, and sometimes a little more boring, but other times it's also more intense and exciting. Overall, it's pretty standard and pretty much on the same level as TFA. I don't see how people could get so passionate about their annoyance with it though. And it doesn't hold a candle to Blade Runner 2049 (not that it ever was going to).
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Fascinating, deeply felt, and sublimely acted
18 December 2017
What a fascinating premise. Despite the film being almost entirely composed of conversations, it's quite visually cinematic in its compositions and music, leading to my surprise when finding out it's based on a play. Although I can see why many people may not take to those conversations, and I can see many thinking it doesn't really fulfill the potential of its premise, I found it to be an emotionally and thematically rich experience. Both Jon Hamm and Lois Smith deliver some truly fine performances. The latter should especially be getting award nominations and wins left and right for her stunning work.
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Detroit (2017)
Gripping, powerful, and hard to watch.
17 December 2017
I can definitely see why the critical reception wasn't higher than it was (not that it wasn't favorable). I think the beginning and bookend portions of the film are flawed. I appreciate that Boal/Bigelow wanted an epilogue, I just wish it had been executed a lot better. Other than the section of the film that is the main event, it's a little clunky and messy. Still, the majority of the film is gripping, powerful, and heartbreaking. It's definitely not going to make for a super fun and light Saturday night, but I do think the film has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle among all the other Oscar contenders, unfortunately. This is definitely one of the best ensemble casts of the year, with everyone delivering really strong work. It's great to again see Jason Mitchell as a stand-out.
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Charming and feel good
16 December 2017
So the finished product is different than what I thought it would be when the project was first announced. Overall, it's a good film. A very good one at times. But it's also an incredibly safe one. It makes sense considering the novel it's based on, but the film was very, very kind to Tommy and Greg. It follows a very safe formula through and through, and sticks with it to the end. However, that's also probably a good thing. I was sure Franco would try something entirely crazy, but if he had, the film might not have been very good, let's be honest. Instead, the film sticks to the rulebook, sometimes being very funny throughout (although I honestly thought it would have been a lot funnier). Overall, it's decent, very enjoyable, and ultimately very light and feel good, which is sometimes all one needs. Franco did a great job. At first it seemed like a mere imitation, but he did try to go a little deeper to try to get at some core of the character. But the real star here is Dave Franco. He absolutely carries the film and gives it its beating heart and much needed grounded approach. He's incredibly charismatic, charming, and super likable. An underrated performance overshadowed by the showier one.
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Hostages (I) (2017)
Well done, but not a fun watch
10 December 2017
I can't deny the technical strengths of the film. The film is well done. The performances across the board are strong, the cinematography gripping and effective for the kind of story being told, and the screenplay never feels exploitative. However, it's not exactly an enjoyable film to watch. I definitely do recommend it as a piece of filmmaking, but it's one that's hard to love. Still, one can't deny the impact the film has. I think the mysterious incident at the core of it does cloud it in mystery, and the film rightfully doesn't want to give easy answers or excuses for the behaviors shown.
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Coco (I) (2017)
Absolutely magical and beautiful. One of the century's finest animated films.
9 December 2017
It's rare for me to finish an animated film and think "I want that to become a classic." But it happened with this one. As a Latino, I can't put into words just how beautiful it felt to hear the music in the film. I don't remember the last time the music in a film was able to move me so much. That goes for the entire film. I had heard so much about how sad it was, but I honestly think this is one of the most genuinely happy films I have probably ever seen. There's sadness sprinkled in there, but most of the emotion derives from watching such lovable, magical characters convey themes so eternal and personal. A lot of films intend to teach you the importance of family and all that clichéd stuff, but this is that rare film that truly earns it and truly rises above others to make you get it. Maybe I connected so much to it because I am of the culture, but wow do I think this is a truly special gem, needed so badly in a year like this. After it was over my friend turned to me and said "Don't you dare say anything negative about this right now because I won't be able to take it." I'm sure there are flaws in there, but the whole thing conveys such power rarely seen in animated films, and as far as I'm concerned, power that even most Pixar films don't carry. I absolutely think this is one of Pixar's best works and I hope it receives all the recognition it deserves.
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Stronger (I) (2017)
Some fantastic performances, solid film
7 December 2017
I don't really think this film does anything too extraordinary. The good thing is that it could have been a lot more sentimental, hokey, and contrived than it is. On the other hand, it doesn't really do a lot of things to elevate it to greatness. It's a pretty straight-forward film with the usual structure for inspiring films like this. The aspect that does elevate it to greatness is the acting. Jake Gyllenhaal is really strong, but perhaps even stronger is Tatiana Maslany. She showed everyone her acting talent as the lead(s) in Orphan Black, and it's great to see her talent in film. She's amazing here, doing so much with such an internal, quiet character. I hope this film helps her get even more film roles.
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