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8/10
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood(2019)
12 December 2019
I loved the heartfelt documentary that we saw recently about the live and genuine personality of Fred Rogers. It covered so much about a television icon and was an enlightening look at what made him such a cherished figure. When I heard Marielle Heller (who did a great job with Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Diary of a Teenage Girl), I became super excited. Also, Tom Hanks, America's favorite Hollywood Icon starring as Mr. Rogers? Sign me up. This turned out to be a rather wonderful viewing.

The film follows the life of Lloyd Vogel, who is a journalist for Esquire. He has a very strained relationship with his father and this seeps into his life. He is tasked by his employer to get an interview with Mr Rogers, star of a child friendly TV show. Upon meeting him, he realizes that Mr Rogers is a much more complex person than he initially thought, and Lloyd receives introspection into his own troubled life, all with the help of Fred Rogers.

I loved the presentation of this film. A chunk of it recreates authentic looking sets from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and even presents itself in his TV show format. Heller takes liberties with creativity and it works. Tom Hanks is so excellent as Fred Rogers, he disappears into the role and really transports you into the life of the beloved icon. Matthew Rhys also turns in an emotionally pained performance, its just great all around. There are lagging moments as the film carries on but its not much of a bother because of all the intriguing things going on.

This isn't that much a Mr Roger's biopic. Which is actually great, because the documentary did a good job of detailing his life already. This is more the character story of a journalist as he changes his outlook on life with the inspiration of Fred Rogers. Its about the impact that Mr. Rogers has on people of all ages. His words of wisdom, creativity, and kind soul endure through decades and generations and I really appreciate that we were able to see this film.

8/10
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Queen & Slim (2019)
7/10
Queen & Slim(2019)
11 December 2019
I've been playing catch up with films that came out recently and the next one on my list was Queen & Slim. I haven't heard of filmmaker Melina Matsoukas as she's mostly directed music videos. This is also the first time I've seen Jodie Turner-Smith in anything. The film hits on timely and real issues however I'm not sure if its approach always works. However, its a well acted and interesting film with implications that due resonate in society today.

The film is about a black man and woman on a date. On their way home they are pulled over by a hostile, trigger happy white cop and one thing leads to another and the cop is shot dead and the footage taped in the dashboard camera of the police vehicle. The pair go on the run across the country as they become wanted fugitives. They must try to find help and assistance and also come to terms with the reality of their situation and how it drastically changes their lives.

The performances in this film are top notch. I think Jodie Turner-Smith bursts into the scene and really makes an impression. I liked the lead characters and the emotional weight of the situation they find themselves in. The social and race issues in the film are definitely relevant today, there's no denying that. However, I felt like the film does rely on that quite a bit and it explores some parts of the issues but disregards other aspects.

Another thing I felt was that the film was quite long and twenty or so minutes could and should have been left on the cutting room floor. Still, this is quite an impressive directorial debut for Matsoukas who finds a voice with what she wants to stay with this film. A modern day Bonnie and Clyde on the run, becoming icons and heroes for a community. Strong messages for sure, just not always delivered to the fullest extent.

7/10
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Knives Out (2019)
8/10
Knives Out (2019)
6 December 2019
A lot of people had issues with Star Wars: The Last Jedi but I absolutely loved it. Then again, I've rated Rian Johnson since he came onto the scene with Brick and later followed up with a smart science fiction thriller in Looper. Knives Out by trailer didn't look lik anything amazing although a "whodunnit?" is always fun. Reviews seemed very positive and it is all warranted. This one comes with a unique way of solving the crime and its humor and ensemble cast make for an entertaining watch.

The film is about the death of a very wealthy novelist. Initially, his death is deemed to be a suicide but a renown detective with a bizarre southern accent named Benoit Blanc is suspicious and thinks that the man was murdered by his family. His family members appear to be hiding more than they seem and clues come one by one. However, its not a simple case of murder and the circumstances leading to the death are very unique and no as forward as it seems. Interestingly enough, Ana de Armas takes a huge role here as a lead character.

I think the film should be commended for its storytelling. Its not like other films where you have to wait till the end to make your decision on who the culprit was. In a way the film is more transparent than that but also still very elusive. The hallmark of a good film is how its just engaging throughout through a sharply written script that thrives on its humor and call backs to films of the past in the same genre. I loved seeing de Armas in a lead role. Wanted to see a lot more of her ever since Knock Knock. Daniel Craig also turns in a memorable performance.

This is definitely worth a watch also for its truly great ensemble cast. None of the family are particularly likeable and its supposed to be that way. Whatever grudges you may have had against Johnson for The Last Jedi should be freshly bowled over because Knives Out is a smartly entertaining film that is capping of a rather great year in film. Impressive stuff.

8/10
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Waves (I) (2019)
8/10
Waves (2019)
17 November 2019
Here is a film that kind of came out of nowhere, with not a lot of buzz. Trey Edward Schults returns with his follow up to It Comes at Night. There were aspects of It Comes at Night that were really admirable though I felt it didn't really reach its heights. However, with Waves comes an absolutely alluring sensational experience. Its absolutely raw and the way in which it is presented adds to a completely engorging experience at the theaters.

The film is broken up into two segments. The first is about a teenager with so much potential. He is a star on the wrestling team, has a great girlfriend, and a family who support him (albeit his father pressuring him to succeed). Slowly, things start unraveling and events transpire that drastically change things for him. The second part of the film is seen from his sisters point of view and her struggles with coming to grips with events in her own life and the weight put on by family.

From the opening minute of the film with the bright sunny Florida water and the camera circling around inside the car, you can tell you are settled in for a visual joy. The film is shot beautifully for the most part and it is vibrant and triggers your senses. The aspect ratio changes throughout which I found a little odd but I'm sure its too enhance parts of the story. The score is fantastic and at times foreboding. The entire first half of the film is jaw dropping good. Its insane but a tremendous watch.

The film slows down in its second part but its still great and appeals to the emotional element of the first half of the film. The film feels longer in its second half despite flying by in the first. Overall, this is a very impressive effort from Schults and puts him on my radar because it shows that he is extremely capable of telling and showing a story creatively. I hope this picks up more buzz as weeks go by because it was a very interesting watch.

8/10
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7/10
Ford v Ferrari(2019)
17 November 2019
I love a good film based on historical events. I knew I had to see this in IMAX format as soon as I heard about it. I'm not the biggest gear head but I do know the talent of the cast involved and the director involved so I knew we would be getting something worth watching. Having seen this in IMAX now, I will say that this film needs to be seen in that type of high quality to feel the rush, intensity, and thrill of the races. This film is a bit long in the tooth but a great watch.

The film is about the real life events of Caroll Shelby working with Henry Ford the Second to build a fast race car that would beat the best Ferrari has to offer. Shelby has a limited time frame to work with and enlists the help of hot headed Ken Miles, an exceptional race car driver who is initially at odds with the Ford company. The film follows their bond and their progress as they not only build the car but go head to head with Ferrari during the 1966 Le Mans race.

The film's racing sequences are some of the best in a car themed movie I have ever seen. Heightened by the theater experience everything was eye catching and intense. On top of that you have two extremely charismatic leads who do very well in their roles. The film also has humor here and there. Its a very interesting and inspiring story and you don't have to be a car fanatic tot enjoy the film. James Mangold's quality behind the camera shows with every detail captured.

My main complaint for the film comes from its running length. its a long 2 and a half hours and at times feels its length. I couldn't help but think a good half an hour could have been left on the cutting room floor. Its a one time watch through and through but a great effort. I think the film will be up for some of the more technical aspect Academy Award nominations. If you are a film lover, you need to see what is arguably the best racing movie ever.

8/10
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6/10
Charlie's Angels (2019)
17 November 2019
I love the Charlies Angels series from the 1970s. Have seen nearly every episode and while the show doesn't bring the utmost quality, its a very fun watch. I found the McG films from last decade to be entertaining as well and a bit of guilty pleasures. When this new edition was announced I was going to watch it purely as being a fan of the franchise. Having now seen it, i will say that this is the best feature film adaptation even though it runs into pacing issues.

A new group of Angels are brought together to look into a corporation who are developing a weapon that has catastrophic implications. While learning to band together the trio also learn that there may be secrets within the Townsend agency involving the agents named Bosley (yes this film instills the name as a rank rather than an individual character). The film stars Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and newcomer Ella Balinska as the three Angels.

The film is not a reboot as stated by director Elizabeth Banks. It rather acknowledges all the former Angels of the film and series and takes on new recruits. I liked the trio for the most part and their different personalities make it work. I think the film suffers from some pacing issues as there are stages where the film noticeably drags. The plot is also pretty predictable all things considered. It's not a wholly original concept obviously but I think Banks does a good job modernizing the film and trying to put a new spin on it.

The film is heavy on the power of women and modern feminism. The characters, while attractive, aren't purely there to be sex symbols. I think the action scenes were done pretty well, much better than anything seen in the other two films. The film doesn't really blow you away or really breath a great deal of hope into this franchise but it was an interesting film to watch, especially if you feel nostalgic of what you've seen come before.

6.5/10
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Honey Boy (2019)
7/10
Honey Boy(2019)
15 November 2019
I for one, am fascinated by Shia LaBeouf. I'm sure I'm not the only one. He is a polarizing figure in Hollywood and I was amazed that this guy marathoned all of his films in the cinema. I think he is a wonderful actor as well, see The Peanut Butter Falcon and American Honey for proof. When I heard he was writing a memoir of sorts about the tumultuous relationship with his father, I was definitely going to go see it. This film was pretty much what I expected it to be.

A semi-biographical picture about the life of Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy follows a young rising child actor and his bipolar relationship with his father. His father is a former rodeo clown and is a deadbeat, for a lack of a better word. The relationship is marred with verbal and physical abuse. The child actor grows up with post traumatic stress disorder because of his upbringing and must learn to come up with ways to cope with his past that effects him. The film stars Lucas Hedges and Shia LaBeouf in the father role.

The story feels authentic because it is. I think the child actor involved and Shia were very good and you just can't help but feel the toxicity involved in their relationship. Its something that pains the young kid much later into his life, which unfortunately in a common curse in a bad upbringing. I still feel like there were parts of the film that were left unrealized but for what we get its a worthy time watching this film about a relationship that has some ups but mostly a lot of downs.

You can feel that the film is a personal one which is why its just an entertaining watch. I'm here trying to look for parallels between the child actors works depicted and a corresponding work that Shia LaBeouf did, to see the similarities between the film and real life. Overall, this will be a painful watch for some and invigorating for others. I enjoyed it for what it was and want to see Shia do more writing for film.

7/10
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6/10
Last Christmas(2019)
12 November 2019
Bring on the Christmas movies. It is officially the holiday season so of course we are going to get some festive themed films. I actually forgot that Paul Feig was the director of this. He's a fairly good filmmaker and I like his work for the most part. I also wanted to see Emilia Clarke take a lead role where she could dabble in comedy. Also, the film features songs by George Michael which felt kind of weird to me just because the music is just kind of there and not strongly linked to the story.I thought the film was decent, entertaining when it needs to be but it goes through predictable cliches.

The film is about a woman who is going through a bit of a crisis in London during the holiday season. She's at odds with her family, has no place to stay, has trouble going on at work, and is a former singer who is struggling to find her break. She one day meets a mysteriously charming man who enables her to appreciate the spirit of giving and also the enchanting world that they live in. The two soon form a very close connection although she strives to get closer to the man, although it seems impossible.

Emma Thompson as a Yugoslavian mother is on point and funny. There is good humor around the film and a lot of the entertainment in this film can be attributed to the charm and spirit that Emilia Clarke brings. I don't think she always acts well as Daenarys Targarean on Game of Thrones but she had this role figured out. The music of George Michael is nice I guess although to me it seems more random than a tribute to him.

I think the films major third act is predictable early on and I kind of saw the events coming. Not that it wasn't done well, there just wasn't really a shock factor to events that transpire because it seems quite obvious a little of the way through. The film brings the Christmas cheers and holiday emotions in droves though and this can became a holiday time favorite for many.

6/10
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Doctor Sleep (2019)
8/10
Doctor Sleep (2019)
10 November 2019
I only found out a few months ago that Stephen King wrote a sequel to The Shining. Stanley Kubrick is one of my top three directors of all time, so it goes without saying that I loved The Shining. Its a really effective horror/thriller with imagery that has survived the decades of cinema that have followed. So, creating a sequel to one of the most celebrated horror films ever was going to be a daunting task for any filmmaker. Mike Flanagan who did quite a job with films like Oculus and Ouija: Origin of Evil took the reigns and its a good thing as well because I think he did a very good job with Doctor Sleep.

The film takes places decades after the events of The Shining and the terrifying events in the Overlook hotel. Dan Torrance is now an adult on the path to sobriety. He has learned to lock away the demonic presences that plague his mind but is contacted by a young girl who can also "shine." They form a bond but the young girl is being chased by a cult of beings that murder children and feed on their psychic powers. Dan now finds himself using his powers to protect her from this new evil.

As soon as the film opened with the infamous Shining theme I was in. The film is two and a half hours long yet it flew by for me, because I was purely invested in all of it. The performances are great and I loved Rebecca Ferguson's recent streak as a movie villain. The cult of murderers she leads are pretty terrifying in what they do. The imagery and effects in this film are eye popping, its a wonderful film to look at. The film has so much originality to it to work as a stand alone film but Mike Flanagan still chose to use set pieces and recreations from the original film. I am still mixed about this. While I don't feel like it was necessary to call back to the original film as much as he does, I still found a nostalgic element to it and was wondrously watching.

I'm trying to think of things about the film I can nitpick about but I'm struggling to come up with anything. Flanagan tells a story and brings images to life in a very satisfying way, while creating a work that has the right to stand in this new Shining universe. I had reservations like many when a sequel was announced but Doctor Sleep works in every way I wanted it to. This is exactly where you would figure Dan Torrance would be as an adult, and I'm glad to have gotten more insight into the mythos of The Shining and the spirits associated.

8/10
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Midway (2019)
6/10
Midway (2019)
10 November 2019
Say what you will about Roland Emmerich, he knows how to make a large scale action film, especially if its a disaster movie. The plot and story may not always be up to par with the popcorn action scenes are almost always there. That's kind of what I expected with Midway, although the backdrop for this film is more fact based as it covers the infamous battle of Midway. The film is very long and the story is so dull. There's very little emotional value behind the characters and there's just too many packed in.

The film is based on the World War II Battle at Midway between American and Japanese soldiers. The event was a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor six months prior. The film follows key soldiers involved in the aerial and naval warfare that ultimately led to victory for the American Forces. The film has a plethora of actors in roles throughout the film, with Mandy Moore being the only notable female character?

There's a large ensemble cast at hand here. You see actors and then they disappear. A lot of them don't have good development and are there for their star power. Not sure if it was because the presentation of the story was dull or if the plot and characters just feel convoluted but I found myself checking the clock. Granted the wartime action is great to look at; something that never lets you down in Emmerich films is the action set pieces and its no different here.

I did like that Emmerich also focuses on the Japanese soldiers and not just as faceless enemies. There's humanity to the characters which was a good touch, despite the American soldiers being very generic themselves. I wasn't expecting a whole lot so its not like I was let down by this. You just kind of know what you are getting yourself into with films like these. Maybe the film needed a little cheese and relationship drama like that of Pearl Harbor because that film was infinitely more entertaining. This is a by the numbers, going through the motions film, with pretty action sequences.

5.5/10
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7/10
Terminator: Dark Fate(2019)
4 November 2019
I think Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a perennial title in my top ten (maybe even top five) films of all time. The film serves a great nostalgic purpose from my childhood and is also one of the greatest action movies of all time. The series from there has been hit or miss. I appreciated the following two entries because I'm a fan of the first two films but Genisys was undoubtedly abysmal. Having the director of Deadpool and James Cameron in a more expansive role was reason enough to get me interested. I had a good time with this, and its easily better than anything after T2.

The film starts off in Mexico City where a Terminator from the future aims to kill a young woman. It just so happens that an "enhanced" soldier has also traveled to ensure that the Terminator's plan does not come to fruition. They soon run into Sarah Connor, a woman who encountered the first Terminator and the mother of future resistance leader John Connor. The group must try to escape this new model of Terminator Rev-9, a killing machine like no other. This film marks the return of Linda Hamilton to the series and also is her onscreen reunion with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The film may tread grounds very familiar to the first but I thought it did a good job in delivery. The action is ever present, and at extreme intensity, which was nice to see in IMAX. The plot doesn't have much going for it, however the nostalgic factor of seeing Hamilton and Schwarzenegger together is quite a site. Linda Hamilton is pretty great in this and really a badass. Don't think the relationship Mackenzie Davis' and Natalie Reyes' character was as deep or felt as it should have been. I also think the pivotal opening scene with de-aging was done quite well. The wonders of technology these days.

This is definitely the best of the bunch that came after T2. I think having Hamilton return was a big part of that. Much like how Halloween (2018) was able to succeed by retconning everything after the first film, Terminator benefits from eliminating the last three films entirely. I know people will have problems with this film and justifiably so. I was pleasantly surprised and at my minimum standards of being better than the last three films was met.

7/10
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7/10
Motherless Brooklyn (2019)
3 November 2019
I got threads in my head. I got threads in my head, man. Edward Norton is a great actor but I've never seen him as a director. I thought Motherless Brooklyn looked like an interesting noir of sorts, with a man with Tourettes in the lead role. The film looks nice and stylish, has a wonderful score, and great performances, but it is overlong and gets lost in its own narrative to ever really work, unfortunately.

The film is about a private investigator with Tourette Syndrome, who witnesses his boss's demise and then must piece together clues left behind to figure out who is behind it. This man, named Lionel Essrog, is very smart and has a great attention to detail and information. However, he is held back by his various ticks and his inappropriate verbal outbursts. He gets mixed with danger and finds love in 1950's New York City.

I'm sorry but I found a lot of Edward Norton's afflictions in this film funny. Not sure if it was intentional but the moment's he says inappropriate thing is hilarious. I think Norton is really good in this movie. Its definitely a passion project for Norton and something he wanted to get going for years. Unfortunately, as stylish and beautiful the film is, its most certainly hampered by its long running length and somewhat dull passages.

I kept clock checking the film after an hour or so and kept thinking of things that could have been left on the cutting floor. I appreciate the noir elements and the call back to NYC during the 50's but it gets boring and confusing after a while and you find yourself wanting a way out of Motherless Brooklyn. Still, Norton does a good job behind the camera though the script could have used some revision and cutting.

6.5/10
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Black and Blue (I) (2019)
7/10
Black and Blue (2019)
26 October 2019
I feel like Frank Grillo was just destined to play a villain in films. Its quite obvious that the film was going to have very ever present societal undertones as cops and acts against Black people is something that rears its head ever so often. I don't care much for making comments on what a film is trying to say about society especially with a controversial stance. This film was a surprising one. Plenty of action and suspense that is held firmly in place by a great performance by Naomie Harris.

The film is about a rookie cop who goes on an assignment with a veteran officer. Things take a turn when she witnesses that officer involved in a shooting of a street peddler. This involvement shows the corruption within the police department on the body cam that the officer had on her during the crime. The corrupt officers now try to chase her down to get that body cam, even if it means killing her. She must escape from them and rely on people of the streets with brings forth a series of complicated events.

I think Deon Taylor's films have been mostly miss than hit recently. Mildly enjoyable but forgettable. I think this was his strongest effort to date. Its message gets muddled but its well acted and the action sequences are done well. The film is an entertaining thrilling chase. In that regard its a fun watch. Naomie Harris gets another chance to show off her talents and she grounds the film with a gripping authentic performance.The last act could have possibly been done better but I wasn't that bothered by it.

When you strip away its stance on police brutality and its relationship to black lives mater, you have a well made corrupt cop thriller. Nothing to really write home about in that category but a solid venture. You get to see actors like Frank Grilo and Tyrese Gibson take on longer important roles. Black and blue won't have a long lasting impact but take it for its entertainment value and you will have a good time.

7/10
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Countdown (III) (2019)
5/10
Countdown (2019)
25 October 2019
This looked like it came from the maker of Truth or Dare. A film about a group of young people who are being plagued by a haunted game of life or death. This month is the month where I'm always in the horror movie spirit, though this didn't seem like that type of film that would cure that horror itch. This film was bland, predictable, cliched, and just flat out bad.

The film is about an app called "Countdown" which when downloaded onto your phone will tell you the exact moment when you will die. Some people have many years to live. For the protagonist of the film, she has only a few days an she must find a way to break the curse and defy her destined death. She pairs with another stranger who is in the exact same situation.

This film is cliched and just felt very generic. The scares are predictable, unoriginal, and come exactly when you would expect them. I actually like the idea for the film. We live in a modern digital age where phones and social media runs supreme, so in theory its a good idea for this film. However, its dull in many passages. Also, they stuffed in a sexual harassment angle that felt off place, most likely to address current modern movements. Also, a love story arc with the two leads that absolutely made no sense with the duration of screen time they had together.

Its just a mess of a film that is exactly what you expect. I kept checking my watch during the 90 minutes hoping for it to end as it is dull and the would be scares are so drawn out. We see these types of movies every year; a horror film that does nothing for its genre and just goes through motions we have seen before. You can completely avoid this film, which really felt like a countdown to when you gladly can leave the theater.

5/10
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8/10
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
20 October 2019
I remember enjoying Zombieland when it first came out but if I'm being honest I don't remember it too well. Well, a decade later the sequel is finally out, after being in development hell. Its also nice to see the original cast returning on top of other brand new faces. Not going to lie, I had a blast with this film. It was 90 minutes of pure balls to the wall fun and honestly might be an improvement over the first film.

The film takes place after the events of the first, where the core group of zombie killers make The White House their home. One day, Little Rock and Wichita depart with Little Rock running off with a hippie. At the same time, a new breed of smarter, faster, and less destructible super zombies are discovered making life harder for the gang. Relationships are tested in Z land but the cast must remember to look out for one another as the go on a wild journey.

I may not remember a whole lot from the first film but Double Tap doesn't really miss a beat and is presented in the same format with Eisenberg narrating and the film defining its rules regularly. Its nice to take a comedic approach to zombies because its a genre that has been overdone to death and it needs to poke fun at itself to succeed now. The violence and zombie action is as good as it gets but I think the true strength of the film comes from the very entertaining supporting characters. It was brilliant having a second version of Tallahassee and Columbus. Also, Zoey Deutch's portrayal of a dumb blonde was excellent and a highlight of the film.

I laughed at a lot of the segments in this film. The characters are all wonderfully likeable and have good chemistry. The new supporting cast add a great deal of entertainment value and the film should do its job of pleasing fans of the first. It wasn't an absolutely necessary sequel but for me is one that takes what occurs in the first film and improves upon it. I will revisit the first Zombieland very soon to solidify my rankings of the films.

8/10
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Jojo Rabbit (2019)
8/10
Jojo Rabbit (2019)
20 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Before Thor: Ragnarok, there was What We Do In The Shadows. A very funny and wonderfully written mockumentary following the lives of a group of vampires. Thor: Ragnarok was definitely the best Thor film and is one of the more entertaining additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know we would have quality and good humor from Taika Waititi's newest film and was hyped for it. A comedic take on Nazis and an imaginary Hitler? Count me in. I ended up liking this more than I thought I would especially in the third act.

The film is about a young German boy living in Nazi Germany. He talks to his imaginary friend, an eccentric Adolf Hitler and wants to learn how to become tougher. He discovers that his mother is actually anti-Nazi and is hiding a teenage Jewish girl in a secret wall of their house. Initially, Jojo (the main character) is resistant to her because of the Nazi philosophy he has been taught but soon he becomes compassionate towards her and even loves her. However, her livelihood is at stake especially at a time where the Gestapo actively search for hidden Jews.

I'd love to praise the performances in this film. I think all around there is excellence. Each character works in their dramatic and comedic element. The film is funny as I thought it would be. Waititi has proven to be excellent in penning humorous work. However, what shocked me most was the level of emotion and humanity that the film deals with, and its done so well. Its a tough line that the film has to balance itself on. Its subject matter involves the darkest time in human history and yet the film takes a comedic approach to it and to one of the vilest figures in history, Hitler. This is no easy task, but Waititi does it and brings the quality.

I liked this a lot more than I thought it would and felt like the relationship between Jojo and Elsa was just so beautiful. The humor is at times dark but always witty and I just found it to be a joy to laugh along with it. I'm glad I went out of my way to see this as I think its a memorable effort and one that I can't wait to look back on. Its a film that deals with balancing emotions and its just done well.

7.5/10
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The Lighthouse (I) (2019)
7/10
The Lighthouse (2019)
18 October 2019
I loved The Witch when I first saw it. It was legitimately such a uniquely entertaining horror film where so much went on on the screen and you could feel expert film-making in the subject matter and the attention to detail. For this reason I was very excited to see the next effort from Robert Eggers and it looked like an absolute mad one from the trailer. After watching, the film certainly is madness although I can't help but feel that my expectations were way higher than what I felt after watching the film.

The film is about two lighthouse keepers on duty in isolation. The two are initially at odds with each other with a boss-employee relationship with a lot of hostility. Soon both men realize the effects of their loneliness in the isolation and descend into madness and terror with each passing day. Reality becomes blurred and emotions and violence flares. There are very few actors in this film and it is primarily comprised of Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson.

The film is shot entirely in black and white and the aspect ratio is 1.19:1. The film looks and feels like something from the past. The film could have easily been made in the 50s or 60s, it absolutely looks the part. The sound effects and editing on the phone are stellar. Every crashing wave, siren, and moment of terror is heard precisely. The acting is also tremendous from both men. I have no worries at all about Robert Pattinson playing Batman. Between Good Time and now The Lighthouse, I already know that he is a very talented man.

This film once against offers unforgettable and unnerving imagery much like The Witch. Its a craft in technical film making although I felt like the film dragged in its narrative. A lot felt like rambling (though very well presented) and I feel like other segments feel incoherent and garbled. Its a good film no doubt but after The Witch I was expecting to absolutely love this film. Still its a good effort from a film maker with a wealth of talent.

7/10
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Parasite (2019)
8/10
Parasite (2019)
15 October 2019
There is a real insurmountable hype surrounding Bong Joon-ho's latest film. Playing only in one theater in NYC and it was sold out all weekend. Luckily, I was able to go see an early showing of this film on my day off. The hype is real. I enjoyed this film and was glued to the screen for the entire duration of the film. Its, funny, smart, violent, and socially timely. Whatever, you do please go see Parasite as it is going to be one of the best films of the year and is one of my favorites already.

The film is about a poor family who live in a shabby basement and need money and struggle to survive. An opportunity comes for the son of the family as he forges documents and gets a job as a private tutor for a very wealthy family. Soon the rest of his family begin setting up situations where each of them get hired for the family. The family keep their identities hidden but soon come across dark situations and they must go to great lengths to protect their secret and their new found wealth.

Bong Jonon-ho's films are usually very well shot and there is no difference here. Everything is so pristine and each small detail tells a story. The script for this film is a mix of comedy and thriller and it works so well. The leading family in this film are desperate and in poverty so you want to identity with them but then you realize that this family do some terrible stuff for their own greed, even if it means hurting innocent people.

The film goes into the depths of exploring class differences and the gap between the wealthy and poor. It doesn't matter the country, this is just ever present everywhere. Its underlying and subtle at first but the theme resonates, especially through the patriarch of the family, portrayed by Song Kang-ho. I'm trying to find something to criticize about the film but am struggling to find things I didn't like. It is a fairly long film but it zooms by because of how entertaining it truly is.

This is of course the final season of the year and Oscar season is in full swing. Parasite should really be up there with a Best Picture nomination and I'd say is a strong contender for being the best film of the year. Its so mesmerizing in all regards. I might need to check out more South Korean films as I greatly appreciated Burning last year. I'm gonna reiterate, go and see this film.

8.5/10
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Gemini Man (2019)
5/10
Gemini Man (2019)
12 October 2019
I want to start off by saying I think that Ang Lee is a talented filmmaker. Life of Pi was a life changing movie experience for me and I loved everything from the visuals to the wonderful story of that film. He's had his misses as well for sure and from every angle of every trailer, Gemini Man looked like it was going to be a miss. I mean a plot about an assassin meeting a younger version of himself? It sounds like cookie cutter and unimaginative sci-fi. And that's exactly what this film was. It was a very boring time to be hand despite the effects and technical aspects and a hardworking cast.

The film is about an assassin who is aging and contemplating retirement. While trying to put his mind at ease he finds out he is being gunned down by a dangerous assassin. Along with the help of a government agent he finds out that the man after him is a clone of himself and is a spitting image of his younger self. The assassin attempts to find answers as to how and why this clone is after him and how to put an end to the dangers that await him.

Ang Lee has always tried to revolutionize cinema most recently through camera work. Ill let you read about that all yourself as the technical aspects of the film would be explained poorly by me. The de-aging technology is great for the most part, not a whole lot of shoddiness with that or the action scenes. Apart from all that the plot of this film over-complicates itself and is an absolute bore. There is just no enjoyment or excitement in a film that should really be able to engage the audience.

Will Smith has been on a downward spiral for me in film. in recent years he's been in some really bad films and this is one of them. Its hard to really care about anything that goes on in this snoozefest. Good action and effects are completely lost in a film that is written poorly. You can tell this one has been in development hell, I just found myself struggling to care about a furiously bad script. One of Ang Lee's very worst.

5/10
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6/10
The Addams Family (2019)
12 October 2019
I'm participating in the 31 Days of Horror movies tradition myself and am always sure to check out any horror film that comes to the cinema during the month. I enjoyed the original Addams Family films enough, though I've never watched the series. It was odd to me at first that an animated version of the franchise was being made but didn't feel deterred checking it out with a very good voice cast to boot. I know that many weren't crazy about the film and I'm kind of in the middle myself. Its a serviceable entry.

The film is about the classic cooky and spook Addams Family. Their house in New Jersey is in a town where a reality host is trying to grow her business in the territory and then eventually heads with the family as she tries to expose and get rid of these "monsters". The family also deal with regular family things, such as their children going through identity changes and interacting with the real world.

There were a few moments in the film that got a good chuckle out of me. I think the voice acting and animation were both perfectly fine. The problem was mainly with the script. Maybe going the route of having the family face off against the local TV personality wasn't the best course of action. Its obvious that this was going to be a way safer adaptation as it is animated and really meant for children as well but I felt like the writing of jokes and dialogue could have been sharper and wittier.

There isn't much at all to remember about this film. Its a decent time at the theater, although you may find more enjoyment if you are a fan of the series. For a casual fan like me, it does its job as an animated feature nothing more and nothing less. Its still a rather fun month of binging favorite horror films so it was different venturing to a more child friendly and animated horror themed movie.

6.5/10
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Joker (2019)
8/10
Joker (2019)
5 October 2019
I've heard very polarizing things about this film prior to checking it out. On one end, I was hearing that the film received standing ovations at international film festivals with Joaquin Phoenix being considered for an Oscar. On the other, I hear many trashing the social commentary and how the film kind of speaks out to or glorifies violence and marginalized hostile communities. I have to say, I was expecting something more however I am definitely very positive about this effort and thing a stand alone rated R back story was absolutely what DC needed to inject life into its name.

The film is about a mentally ill wannabe comedian who takes care of his physically and mentally ill mother. This man named Arthur Fleck, has sporadic bursts of uncontrollable laughter, a failing and non existent love life, and is a social outcast who gets bullied and abused. Fleck begins a violent and deranged quest to becoming a comedian while inciting class riots throughout Gotham City. The film gives an inspired look and back story into the rise of the Batman franchises most notorious super villain.

I really liked the cinematography in this film Its dark yet vibrant. Joaquin Phoenix is such a tremendous actor in general and is somehow still so underrated. He is the Sam Rockwell of actors before Sam Rockwell got all that recognition a few years back. Hes fantastic in this film on all fronts and his insane laugh is instantly memorable. I can see him actually getting a nomination at the Oscars if the academy is willing to honor another comic book film with a portrayal of the Joker once again.

I definitely saw the parallels to Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. The premise is actually quite similar to that of King of Comedy, and even features Robert DeNiro who was the deranged comedy fan in the Scorsese flick. Its no mistake that he's in this film. I also liked that the film did not shy away from violence and embraced its rating. Its a good ride throughout and was quite an entertaining watch.

Now the social commentary. The film definitely does act on parallels seen today. Health care crisis, crime, mental illness, and class wars is something that is ever present. As a matter of fact I think this was a bold portrayal of mental illness. Sometimes there's no sense to the actions of the individual. Which brings me to some of the perceived criticisms. I understand about the Aurora theater shooting years ago, but to bash the film just because of the violence it may or may not cause isn't fair. A lot of critics also didn't understand the Joker character. This isn't going to be a very coherent descent into madness, that's not how the character or mental illness works.

I also saw the lamest critique being not enough strong female characters. Come on, not every film is going to be a feminist battle. Picking too hard and too deep. I can understand not liking the film but we need better arguments as related to social justice than to just align this film with it. Also a lot of the commentaries is super guesswork. You are just making connections to the (weird) incel community and mass shootings. I don't see the film as being a defense of that or glorifying it. This is a dark and different adaptation of a beloved villain that echoes with modern times.

I think the most satisfying part of the film is knowing that a successful Batman franchise film was created without even featuring Batman or even mentioning the name. Its a stand alone prequel that works so well and gives a breath of fresh air into a character who has been done many times before. I won't go into comparisons into whose Joker is best but I'm glad we get to see Phoenix's insanely dark presentation of the character.

8/10
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Judy (II) (2019)
7/10
Judy (2019)
29 September 2019
I love The Wizard of Oz, its actually one of my very favorite films of all time. It also happened to be a breakout role for star, Judy Garland. Its kind off a shame, how little I actually knew about her life. I knew she was troubled in her life but not to the extent I read about after watching this film. I felt that while the film was not perfect and does not always hit the mark, the performance by Renee Zellweger is sensational and very truly the best she has ever been in film.

The film focuses on a portion of Judy Garland, near the end of her career and life. This is where Judy was performing for a few weeks at the Talk of the Town night club in London. At this stage of her career, she is plagued with a failing love life, drug and alcohol addiction, the emotional trauma that has been with her for the duration of her career, and bankruptcy. The film is a lens into how her life was at the time as her health was deteriorating.

Zellweger was completely unrecognizable as Garland. She completely disappeared into the role and captures so much emotion, sarcastic humor, and personality of who she plays. Her performance in the film really keeps it afloat. Its not a bad film at all and was intriguing as a character study. I felt like there were parts of the film that could have been done better and parts that felt unrealized. Apart from that this will please in terms of the history of Garland and the musical numbers on display.

Its sad to think about how Garland suffered and the detriment this caused for her career. The suffering through addiction and the pressures of the industry, all led to an early death. The film could have easily been a wide scope biopic of her life but I like how it framed itself on the latter portions of her life because it does a well enough job of showing her struggle and how she tries to overcome. It kind of reminded me of Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool. Its early but I already know Zellweger has an acting nomination in the bag.

7/10
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Ad Astra (2019)
7/10
Ad Astra (2019)
23 September 2019
To The Stars. I absolutely love space themed films and usually the smarter they are the more I enjoy it. They are the type of films that have me thinking long after viewing them. Especially when the film makes a commentary about humanity and the loneliness of it all. James Gray, the director of The Lost City of Z, returns here with a pretty marvelous looking space drama starring a very good Brad Pitt. While there are moments that dragged in the film, I have to say its a gorgeous thing to look at and is all around an invigorating watch.

The film is about a lonely astronaut who is sent on a mission in the distant future to go towards Neptune because of mysterious power surges that are become harmful to the planet Earth. It is suspected that this man's (named Roy McBride) father is alive and could be responsible. Roy leaves all of what he knows behind on this dangerous mission and along the way questions his emotional and psychological state. The film also stars Tommy Lee Jones.

The film is a definite slow burner. I've had a long day myself so I felt my eyelids getting heavy but not at the films fault. Its slow and quiet but resonates in its silence. There's a lot going on internally for the protagonist, and Pitt is fantastic in this quest as a reserved but determined man. The cinematagrophy and sound is just so sleek. It is a wonderful film to watch in IMAX. I immediately praised the scene in the beginning where the camera looks down on Earth. Neptune and its rings were absolutely magnificent as well.

There are plot points that could have been done better for sure but I think the film is a space themed film that will grow in stature. I question some of the events in the film scientifically but still it presents visions of the solar system that seem so real. Also, the idea of the Moon and Mars being transport hubs seems like a thing that could happen with exploration and time. Its a smart film that goes above and beyond with its ambition and prediction for the future and yet jumps out with its loneliness and emotional weight about humanity. I will give this a rewatch as I'm sure it offers more on a second viewing.

7.5/10
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5/10
Rambo: Last Blood(2019)
20 September 2019
I'm not the super biggest fan of the Rambo series. First Blood is clearly the best of the bunch and was quality, showing the emotional turmoil of a war veteran. From there the films just got more violent and violent. Last Blood kind of came out of nowhere, and also seemed like it was the last of the bunch. While this being the final installment is still up in the air, I wish it definitely was the end. The film turns the violence up a notch but is extremely ordinary and rather uninspiring.

The film shows an older John Rambo who lives on a farm with his niece. His niece is curious about meeting her estranged birth father so she unwisely decides to travel to Mexico. While there on a night out she finds herself kidnapped by the Mexican cartel with the intention of selling her into the sex trade. When Rambo hears of this he travels to Mexico to save his niece and make life for the gangsters very uncomfortable.

The film plot itself is something too familiar and is like something we've seen too much. You can look at the xenophobic trends of the film and compare it to the current political climate but I think that I don't even need to comment on that to talk about how bad this film is. The plot moves so slowly in the beginning and is just unremarkable. The series quality has gone down and its just memorable now for its gore and violence. I have seen far more violent films in my time but this pleased the blood thirsty audience in the cinema.

While the action is somewhat fun to watch, the film reeks of tiredness and is out of ideas. Sly just looks way older now and I don't want there to be another Rambo. Last Blood would be a poor way to close out the series but still I'd be happy if it ended it. However, I feel like Hollywood will try to churn out another one which will probably be even worse. Unremarkable and totally skippable.

5/10
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The Goldfinch (2019)
6/10
The Goldfinch (2019)
16 September 2019
When Brooklyn came out in 2015, I was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the picture visually, the story, and the all around fantastic performance by Saoirse Ronan. It was a great effort by John Crowley. So when I heard of The Goldfinch I had high expectations seeing as Crowley set the bar high with his last film. I didn't really care for the trailers though I knew it was based on a well acclaimed book. What can I say, this film is overlong, has a messy narrative, and most definitely has to be losing the meaning and importance of the book because this film is not remarkable.

The film is about a boy who loses his mom in a terrorist attack and then grows up in a foster home and then with his drunken and abusive biological father, followed by a friendly antique owner. The film goes through the protagonists struggle with identity, love, and the fact that he took a really expensive Goldfinch painting the day of the bombing, and this last fact comes back in to factor in different stages of his life. Even describing the plot just now was messy for me.

The film looks quite nice. Crowley's works look grand and intricate but that doesn't really cross the finish line. The main issue with this film is that it has no heart and loses what I assume is a lot of the books importance. Its a meandering tale that doesn't go deep enough and I felt like the last twenty minutes or so were just bad. The relevance of The Goldfinch is just lost on me and its just a moving plot device in a film that doesn't know what it wants to do.

I don't like to say it but The Goldfinch is masking around as Oscar bait but doesn't have a whole lot of quality. I didn't read Brooklyn either but the film feels magical and captures the era and aura of early 1900s Irish Brooklyn. This just feels like it sucks the main ideas of its basis and pastes it onto the screen. At a whopping 2 and a half hours, this film feels its length. Ambitious? Yes, but most certainly better left alone.

6/10
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