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7/10
Anna and the Apocalyspe (2018)
12 December 2018
This is certainly something that wasn't on my radar this year. A Christmas themed zombie musical? Okay. Still I'm willing to watch anything really because of my love for film. And also because I'm virtually paying nothing for it being an AMC Stubs member. With catch songs, stupidly funny set up, and overall interesting characters and enjoyable zombie violence, Anna and the Apocalypse hits all the right notes.

The film is about a girl named Anna who is unclear about her future and her other school friends. As they prepare for a Christmas themed play they and all around them in their town fall prey to an unsuspected zombie attack. The film follows usual zombie lore, once bitten the victim turns. Also, of course the film is a musical so we get songs at very random moments in the film.

The songs are catchy and great. They are stupid and corny, as what would be expected with the lyrics and the comedic tone of the film. They are very welcome though. I like when "horror" movies can instill a comedic element, especially with something done to death like zombies. The zombie action was good and fun to watch. The characters are fairly enjoyable which makes the film have enjoyable value.

I found the combination of the holiday theme, zombies, and musical to be original and it felt like it when watching the film. The film does have a weaker second half as it pull its best material in the first half but still as a whole I'm not mad at all with this. It came out of nowhere and impressed me, there isn't much more I could ask for from this film.
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Ben Is Back (2018)
7/10
Ben is Back (2018)
11 December 2018
So, Lucas Hedges is having quite a year. A bully in Mid 90s, a gay teen who must endure conversion therapy in Boy Erased. And now in Ben is Back he is a recovering addict whose opioid addiction has caused major problems between him and his family. Directed by Peter Hedges, who also happens to be Lucas' father, this is a simple but effective film that deals with a crisis that many parents have to face. This one quietly arrived in theaters but its one to watch.

The film is about Ben, who recently returns home having been sober for 77 days. His mom wants to give him the benefit of the doubt although she is weary about whether he is using or not. Ben soon realizes that his old ways catch up to him and it causes a danger to his family. Ben tries to wrong the rights and fight off the temptation of the past, and his mom (played by Julia Roberts) strives to remain at his side to make sure that she doesn't lose her son.

I like the recent waves of films that are covering drug addiction. Working in that counseling field I see it daily and see what a problem it is. You can never be clear of your demons and relapse is a normality. I think Lucas Hedges has one of his strongest performances yet, not that that's a surprise because he's good in everything. Best Julia Roberts performance in a while as well, at least for me. Its a simple plot and takes place over the course of a day or so but its a deep story that engulfs you from the opening scene.

I don't know if this is going to get award season love but I'd like for it to get nominated for its original screenplay and some acting plaudits. Its easily identifiable, and the characters are strong and driven, a testament to the actors who commit to the performances. Wouldn't have minded this thing being 10-20 minutes longer because not a minute is wasted here.

7.5/10
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7/10
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
9 December 2018
Oh man, on paper this seemed like a prospect. Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie in a film together? Especially after award nominated films that they were in last year. Based on sheer star power alone this was something that I had to see. Also, add in the history attached of Queen Elizabeth and her Cousin Mary and their rather tumultuous relationship marred in jealousy and a craving of power. The film looks nice and the costumes are beautiful but the script lets down these two leading ladies.

The film takes place during the reign of Mary in Scotland and her cousin Elizabeth in England and Ireland. Both have to deal with the difficulties of ruling their kingdoms, family, power, producing an heir and being at odds with each other despite being family. Things come to a head when both confront each other, which decides the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots. The film is directed by Josie Rourke, who has a history in theater production but decided to come to the silver screen with this film.

The costume design and locations on display in the film look magnificent. Both leading performances by Ronan and Robbie are also fantastic. its always the case with Ronan because she's bee formidable from a young age but Robbie continues to perform extremely well after I, Tonya and shows off some versatility in Mary Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, the film does not hold its weight outside of those features as the script is too dull to excite. There are moments that grasp you only to let you go soon after.

I think the writing lets down a film that had the potential to be a real Oscar contender otherwise. Its a historically interesting story for sure, it just needed better direction to get to a finished product that gives the viewers what they seek. Its decently enjoyable overall but I wanted to really be blown away by this because there seemed to be so much going for it. P.S. I got major Pennywise the Clown vibes from Robbie's Elizabeth near the end haha.

6.5/10
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7/10
Under The Silver Lake (2018)
9 December 2018
It Follows was a film that I truly loved for its substance, style, score, and themes. It was a really good work and showed that horror films could be intensely entertaining without the jump scares. We were all awaiting what David Robert Mitchell would do next. The trailer for Under The Silver Lake looked good, like a neo-noir that would be stylish and memorable. The film's release kept getting pushed back and now we have a 2019 release. After watching I'll say the film has its moments and is nice to look at as it captures that chill California feel. Unfortunately, it doesn't compare to the innovation that It Follows delivered.

The film is about a young slacker who notices that he has a beautiful neighbor. He spends a night bonding with her and then finds out that she has disappeared without a trace. He finds clues that lead him to various parties and events all around town and then starts to realize that the circumstances of her disappearance are deeper than he had originally thought they were. The film stars Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough.

You can see the presence of David Robert Mitchell. The film is nice and bright and uses its atmosphere and location to set its mood. As a neo noir set in modern day Los Angeles the film looks the part and has the beautiful people and sex to go with it. The film does suffer from being a bit too long and slow with the next passage not being as interesting as the last. Its by no means a bad film it just doesn't capitalize on the precedent set by It Follows.

Maybe the film needed a bit of Maika Monroe, it just felt like there was something missing from this film to make it something special. I'm still excited to see what Mitchell comes up with next but maybe he should go back to what he accomplished with It Follows rather than a meandering noir that doesn't always work. It has the look and feel but needs work to be truly special.

6.5/10
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Vox Lux (2018)
6/10
Vox Lux (2018)
9 December 2018
Didn't know a whole lot about this film, so this was basically a film that benefited from the AMC stub list membership. Decided to go in completely blind; no trailers, no reviews, just that poster of Natalie Portman in blue glitter. From that, i was expecting some type of sci-fi futuristic musical. That's not what the film is, as you will find out within the resounding first five minutes or so. I found this film to be a bizarre mess that doesn't exactly know what its doing.

The film is about a teenager who is a victim of a school shooting. From that event he and her sister gain popularity from a musical performance at a memorial service which eventually molds into a music career. Soon, Celeste (the adult lead played by Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy in her youth) falls into the pitfalls of super stardom which includes promiscuous behavior, drugs, and mass interaction with an unrelenting media. The film also stars Stacy Martin (who I loved in Nymphomaniac), and narrated by Willem Defoe.

The film starts off with a bang and the first twenty minutes or so are rather incredible in its build because of its mix of shock and intense drama. However, when Celeste starts her rise as a pop star the film starts losing its soul much like Celeste in her career. Oddly, enough as soon as Celeste the star grows up and Natalie Portman enters the fray, the film starts losing its plot and derides itself into a messy piece that doesn't connect with its viewers. The acting is great all around, especially from Portman but she is let down by a script that doesn't know what its trying to be or what its trying to prove.

I left the theater kind of bewildered by the end product. I may have preferred a futuristic musical space opera then what we got. I think there will be a crowd out there that will go to bat for this work but it doesn't resonate with me unfortunately. The positive that comes from this film is that now I can use the term Vox Lux as a word the way I want. i have truly been luxed by this experience.

6/10
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Creed II (2018)
7/10
Creed II (2018)
25 November 2018
Like any other film fanatic, I have seen all the Rocky films. The films are formulaic and predictable yes, but they are good fun with enough heart to keep the series going. I did like Ryan Coogler's Creed, though not as much as many others. Still, it showed a fresh new take on the Rocky series and worked through a series of good performances and continuing the legacy of Apollo Creed through his son. I wasn't sure about a sequel without Coogler behind the camera but honestly I don't think Creed II skips a beat. its predictable and goes the route of Rocky IV but still fun to watch.

The film is about the son of Ivan Drago, Viktor and his rise in the boxing scene. he makes a wave and challenges Adonis Creed for the title. Creed has a lot going on, including a baby on the way and a falling out with his coach over the fight, Rocky Balboa. Still, Creed faces off against his toughest challenge yet in Drago, a merciless fighter who looks to hurt his opponents and ultimately avenge the loss to Rocky that his father endured over 30 years ago.

Without any surprise, the actual boxing fight scenes are terrific. People watching in the cinema felt every blow that Creed endures and throws. The film has a long running length which focuses on Creed's rehab and trying to get things with his family and friends right which may bother some and be formulaic but I think its done with taste and still manages to pack a punch with its heart. Michael B. Jordan is clearly one of the biggest stars going today and he doesn't miss a beat in this sequel.

The film feels like a sequel and just feels like it has lower stakes then the first but entertains in the fight portions which is enough to make it a good film. I'd measure it quite closely with the first Creed and think it will be as profitable. Not that mad that this series is spawning off the Rocky series because so far it is working. Just don't go the route of Rocky V and we will be good.

7.5/10
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Robin Hood (I) (2018)
5/10
Robin Hood (2018)
25 November 2018
So how many Robin Hood films are needed? Not particularly a big fan of the legendary tale or the film adaptations. I thought after the Ridley Scott incarnation we would be done for good, Of course, that was a silly deduction because this is Hollywood and its a well oiled machine that will churn out things we have seen before because they think we have the memory of a goldfish. So here goes, the latest most contemporary Robin Hood. I has a few shining moments but not very often. Otherwise, its a pretty useless venture.

The film is about Robin of Loxley and his transition into the Hood who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. News of his death during the Crusades was exaggerated and when he returns he finds his home gone, his love gone, and feels like he lost it all. He becomes the enemy of the Sheriff of Nottingham and is trained by a skilled warrior to improve his arrow shooting techniques and become honed in the craft of quickness and valor.

The film has a few good performers in a project that didn't have much hope. From the trailers and even after watching this felt a lot like Guy Ritchie's terrible King Arthur film. The green screen effects especially when the heroes escape on horseback from the castle is insanely bad for a film at this level. Ben Mendelsohn is at his screaming, prototypical, maniacal villain best. The entire film just doesn't offer anything new or engaging to warrant its existence.

I still don't think its as bad as people made it out to be because there's a rare action sequence here and there that works, and I feel like Taron Egerton really tries with what's handed to him. Overall, don't be like me and watch this film because there are plenty of other things in theaters worth the admission over this ancient and tired debacle of a story.

5/10
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Burning (2018)
8/10
Burning (2018)
24 November 2018
I actually saw this over a month ago when it came to theaters but somehow forgot to write a review for it. I didn't know a whole lot but saw a lot of rave for it and saw promotion on social media for it from the Walking Dead's Steven Yeun. I didn't know a whole lot about the film but wow this film is quality. Its a slow burn, mystery that heightens and leaves a burning impression when the credits role. I think it'll be up there as a foreign feature during awards season.

The film is about a young man in South Korea named Lee Jong-su. He one day reunites with a childhood friend named Hae-mi and falls for her. Life is good at first, though Hae-mi has some secrets to her. One day, during a trip Hae-mi meets a man named Ben who she brings back. Ben is well off, and rich and suave and this bothers Lee. Everything comes to a head, when Hae-mi mysteriously disappears without a trace. Lee tries to get to the bottom of it and is startled when he starts to discover what he sees as the truth.

The film is very well performed on all fronts. Each character has so much going on. Lee seems average but he borders on obsessive and persistent. Hae-mi seems like a care-free spirit but has a downward loneliness. Ben seems like a charmer but may have deep dark secrets when peeled inside. The film is an intentional slow build and is beautiful to look at and presents with a profound nature. A lot of what is seen needs to be deciphered in the viewers mind and the film leaves an impression.

Foreign films certainly deserve their share of love because of the creativity and sheer craft that is but into them. This South Korean film is a stand out of the year and leaves you bewildered and wanting more, even though the film itself is quite long. Go see this film as it is one of the best the year has to offer. The lingering thought of burning down green houses.

8/10
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Roma (2018)
8/10
Roma (2018)
24 November 2018
I know this is coming to Netflix in a few weeks but the rave I've heard about it and being that this is Alfonso Cuaron's next project, I had to make sure to see it on the big screen. I loved Cuaron's last film. Gravity for me was a fantastic visual experience, as well as a emotionally gripping experience. Cuaron's handiwork behind the camera was on full display with that film. Here he comes with a Spanish spoken, black and white, Mexican film that is semi biographical. This film is fairly amazing, from start to finish. I think it excels its expectations and goes to show that Cuaron is one of the best directors on the scene.

The film takes place in Mexico City in the early 70s, and is about a Mexican housemaid who takes care of a family of four children, along with their parents and maternal mother. The film shows her routines as the housemaid, her trials and tribulations at work and love, and ow her life changes when she becomes pregnant. The film stars a relatively unknown cast but has a primarily fantastic performance by Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, the housemaid.

From the opening scene of water washing tiles with the credits overlaying, you know you are in for an immense experience. Cuaron utilizes cameras set in place and slow pans to encompass the entire scope of the visual experience of the household and the daily tasks of Cleo. It seems routine at first but the build up throughout is an experience that keeps you watching every second. Cuaron has to be a contender for Best Director at the Academy Awards again as the camera work, cinematography, and sound effects are extremely vivid. Especially, the scenes with the wives in the films climax, lord.

The film becomes an emotional experience as the film builds along. You can't help but have strong responses as we see what our protagonist must deal with. The film is set in a time with political unrest and that backdrop adds to the chaos of what occurs in Cleo's life. The film is full of themes and symbolism that could be analyzed in greater detail in a separate entry. There is just a lot that goes on in each sequence of the film. I think Gravity is my personal favorite, but Cuaron's best film has arrived, and I think we have a clear favorite this year. Watch Roma on the big screen if you can, its a cinematic experience tailored with passion by Alfonso Cuaron.

8.5/10
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7/10
Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)
24 November 2018
T's taken a few years but original filmmaker, Rich Moore and the original screenwriter Phil Johnston return to bring the sequel to a fairly beloved first film. I liked the creativity that was put into the original and enjoyed it more than some of Pixar's work actually. The sequel is something where I didn't know what to expect but was going to check out just because. I don't think Ralph Breaks the Internet is as good as the first film but much like the first film the film keeps busy and has enough pop culture and video game references to keep it rolling.

In this film, Vanellope's Sugar Rush game has been shut down as the steering wheel has broken and the money required to fix the game is excessive. Times are changing and the arcade now has w-fi. Ralph and Vanellope have the idea of going into the internet and exploring the online world, in hopes of buying a replacement game steering wheel from Ebay to keep Sugar Rush at the arcade. Along the way the duo encounter all the whips and quirks of the online world.

I think the film has some pretty great moments and references. Namely, the Disney princesses segment. I thought that was funny and that's the kind of creativity and wit that makes the first film work. I wasn't overly fond of other aspects of the film especially the parts in Slaughter Race, as it felt drawn out. I think the film doesn't utilize the full extent of what it can do. The internet and everything that goes on in it is so vast but the references don't always deliver in a meaningful way.

The animation and sound is obviously brilliant. Its a competent sequel to the first film and should please fans of the original with relative ease. I think the first one had a more memorable presence, despite Ralph Breaks the Internet having some fun moments. Not that bothered that a sequel for Wreck-It Ralph has come out because its one of the better Disney films in recent years as is so it was justified, I guess.

6.5/10
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The Favourite (2018)
7/10
The Favourite (2018)
23 November 2018
Yorgos Lanthimos is quite an impressive filmmaker. I absolutely loved The Lobster. It was unique and cynically funny. I also enjoyed the creativity and somber delivery of The Killing of a Sacred Deer. For The Favourite it seemed like a different type of venture for Lanthimos, but certainly one where he would be able to implement his creativity and filming techniques. The Favourite is good in exactly the way you would expect it to be.

The film is about Queen Anne and her favourite Sarah Churchill. Churchill's cousin, Abigail Hill soon arrives to the kingdom looking for a job. She eventually gets close to the ailing Queen and Sarah and Abigail start to battle for the Queen's affection. The Queen has a history of health problems so she needs someone to attend to her consistently. The motives of Abigail seem unclear because she seems to have many different interests and pursuits. The film stars an excellent cast of Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, with supporting roles from Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn.

Yorgo's style is still ever present in this film. The camera uses fish eye and wide shots that encompass the entire grand scenery and decor of the castle. He uses natural lighting which is a common thread in his work. The characters are very well acted, especially Coleman who was just born to scream at servants and complain loudly about everything. I thought the film touches on a relationship between women but doesn't linger on it long enough. The film has comedic one liners as is expected from Lanthimos' work. Its a very interesting film with memorable characters with motivations you can't see.

The film is so very nice to look at but for me doesn't have as strong a presence of something like The Lobster. This is a historical work so I can see restrictions in the imagination that we are used to seeing from Lanthimos but its still a very interesting work because of the intricacies of the relationship between the three leads and how mad they become as the film goes along. its prim and proper in appearance but there's a royal madness to it all. Its worth the watch, and I'm excited for the next chapter of work from the filmmaker.

7.5/10
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Sisters (1972)
7/10
Sisters (1972)
23 November 2018
Brian De Palma is one of my favorite filmmakers ever. I love most of his work and think he's a versatile filmmaker who is able to successfully make films with different elements of horror, thrill, action, eroticism, and suspense. I have been meaning to watch Sisters for a while because I know in some way there would be a lingering effect that this would have, much like the rest of De Palma's filmography. After watching, my intiial sentiments resound. This is a wonderful effort that seems inspired by Hitchcock but still possesses a mind and style of its own.

The film is about two conjoined sisters and waht occurs after the seperation. One night one of the sisters murders the date of her twin and the scene is covered up and the body hidden. The newspaper journalist who lives accross the street sees the grizzly actions occur but the cops are of no use as the crime scene is cleaned up swiftly. The journalist still goes out of her way to expose the perpetrators. She soon stumbles upon a dark and disturbing mystery. The film stars Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, and Charles Durning.

This film is one of De Palma's earlier works and really sees him trying out his style that becomes more prevalent in his later work. It definitely is inspired by Hitchcock, namely Psycho, Rear Window, and Rope. The long take is very much like Rope. I loved the use of split screen to see events unfolding at the same time. Its also well acted all around, especially through Kidder who made a name for herself later on in her career. This has the sexuality, the horror, and the pure mystery that you want from a De Palma work.

It was also nice to see a film set in Staten Island, New York. There are so many themes and references that return in his later work, like the Peeping Tom show and how Body Double has a peeping tom and a murder plot revolving around spying. Its not the best from De Palma but definitely shows that the man was destined for a long career in film.

7.5/10
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7/10
Instant Family (2018)
20 November 2018
The film did a good job of using George Harrison's "What Is Life?" in its trailer because it makes you want to see the trailer multiple times just to hear that sweet song. In effect, you end up wanting to see the film. I didn't have that many qualms about seeing it as is, you don't have to ask me twice to see a Rose Byrne and Marky Mark pairing. Its been a weekend of good films actually and it doesn't really stop here. I did enjoy Instant Family quite a bit, a good film that does well mixing humor and drama.

The film is about a couple who are on the fence about having children. After much consideration they decide that they want to foster children. The task becomes tough as they take in a teenager and her two siblings. They soon realize that it is a lot to take in and then start to wonder if they are really equipped for the task. Soon, the children start to grow on them and their unconventional family starts to bond. This is another collaboration between Daddy's Home director Sean Anders and Mark Wahlberg, also the second with Wahlberg and Isabelle Moner.

The film you can say follows the formulaic family film style, sure. It still manages to be funny mostly through really good performances by both Wahlberg and Byrne. Moner herself does well as a rebellious teenager who does not trust her new foster parents. It's what you would expect from this type of film, a whirlwind of trouble but one that eventually knows how to hit the right notes. The child actors do fine to supplement the story and play to their types as a little hellraiser and a nervous klutz who apologizes for everything.

It's nice to see simple films do what it needs to do to bring an entertaining family film. I think the cast really shines here and the film remains a heartwarming story that has a satisfying resolution. Its also nice that this film is based on a true story and there are many other cases of similar stories of parents adopting fosters and taking them out of an overcrowded system. If you need some time to unwind at the cinema, this certainly is not a bad choice.

7/10
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Widows (2018)
7/10
Widows (2018)
18 November 2018
I think literally everyone was hyped for what Steve McQueen was going to do next. I don't love 12 Years a Slave like everyone does but I think his previous effort Shame is such a fine film about a man plagued with a sex addiction. Widows looked to enlist a really terrific ensemble cast and bring the action and grit to a heist film. After watching it, I can say that it is a well cast and well acted slow burn. It skims on the action at times and isn't perfect but McQueen and the writing of Gilian Flynn were able to bring a perfectly enjoyable film.

The film focuses on Veronica Rawlings, the wife of a renowned thief, who recently passes on a heist gone wrong. She and other widows of members of the same heist are forced to band together to retrieve money from a big job. The reason they need to do this is because they are being forced by a politician who is also a crime lord, as the original money that burned up in the aforementioned heist belonged to him. Having no experience herself, Rawlings and her crew must find ways to pull off the steal against all odds. The film is stacked with names such as Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, Collin Farrell and Robert DuVall to name a few.

The film isn't as action packed as I thought it would be but its more of a slow burn build to the job the leading ladies must act out. The film is filled with character development, and intersecting plot lines that show how the lives of these wives intersect with the corruption of the city and a connected race in local politics. It really felt like a longer episode of The Wire. The film is well acted on all fronts. Davis is typically great but Daniel Kaluuya stepping into a despicable villainous role was also great to see. Elizabeth Debicki was a stand out as well, as she should be.

McQueen is a master behind the camera as can be seen through the editing, cinematography, and relatively solid story. I say that because the film doesn't adequately wrap up the intersecting plot lines as I would have hoped. Just had a feeling that some resolutions were not adequately touched upon, which brings down the rating slightly for me. Otherwise, the film is still a great showing and a welcome addition to McQueen's catalog of work.

7.5/10
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Green Book (2018)
8/10
Green Book (2018)
18 November 2018
Well its hard to ignore that this looked like Driving Miss Daisy with the races of the characters reversed. It was also hard to ignore that Peter Farrelly along with his brother, is normally known for bringing often crude comedy films. While Green Book does have a ton of humor it was definitely a step in a different direction and a true story to adapt at that. I'm amazed at how much I liked this film. Every minute of this film is thoroughly enjoyable and it touches on every emotion.

The film is about a loud mouth Italian American named Tony Lip who gets a job driving and being protection for a jazz pianist named Don Shirley. Initially, it is seen that the two come from different worlds and are at odds with each other but as time goes on and the two realize how different race relations are in the south, they begin to bond and become closer than they expected they would. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in the title roles.

The film has a lot of laugh out loud moments. Especially through the eccentric nature of both leads. Whether its Tony's hard headed but uncultured nature or Don's particularities , the chemistry between the two is really off the charts. The film touches on many important concepts that still reverberate today, mainly in race relations and acceptance of sexuality. Farrelly and the real life son of Tony Lip do such a fine job writing a film that knows when to be funny and when to be serious.

I think the performances from both leads is also fantastic. We are about done with the year and I don't really care what other people say this should be getting nominations is a few categories at the Academy Awards. Was really surprised at how good this film was, as the trailers don't really show off the true excellence that this film was capable of. Urge everyone to go see it, about as good as a buddy road film will be.

8/10
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6/10
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
16 November 2018
I like many other fans of Harry Potter have read the books and seen the movies. JK Rowling did a really wonderful thing introducing us to the wizarding world. Now though, JK Rowling is doing a bad thing writing these screenplay's for the Fantastic Beasts series. Just kidding. Sort of. While Crimes of Grindelwald is definitely better than its predecessor, it still fails to inspire or instill the magic that the HP films had on its viewers.

Newt Scamander, fantastic beast catcher, is back once again this time to find his flame Tina, who has grown apart from him. Meanwhile, evil dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald has escaped and is now recruiting followers, to revolt against non magical beings and create a pure blooded wizarding world. Albus Dumbledore, enlists the help of Newt and his friends to take down the evil wizard. The film ups the starpower adding (a more prominent), Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, and Zoe Kravitz.

The acting and look of the film is good. I watched it in Dolby Cinema and it looked great on the bigger screen. The film is a fun watch in small doses and is definitely more entertaining than the first. That said, this film doesn't have the mystique of the HP films, There are no stakes at all. Where is the interest in the characters, the plot, and the story like we used to care for in the Harry Potter films? The plot is also problematic because its actually hard to follow, felt like there were too many plot lines going on that it got muddled along the way.

There overarching plot still feels basic and ruined by the non focused nature of all the side information being given to you. Yates does a good job directing visually but Rowling's story lets everything down. This film is also clearly trying to build other sequels and it was a bit irritating. And there are five films planned in this series. I have the same sentiments of the Hobbit trilogy for this, lets not try to capitalize on prequels because it kind of ruins the magic established by the original franchise.

6/10
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6/10
The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)
13 November 2018
I have seen the extended version of the original Swedish Millenium trilogy and thought it was really good. Especially the first film. Fincher's American remake with Rooney Mara starring as Lisbeth Salander was absolutely fantastic. Thought it was a complex and gripping film, with a stellar performance from Mara. I was really not happy about the recast of Mara and Fincher but of course I decided to give this new loose sequel a chance. It's not a bad film, just too mediocre and it's hard to not think what could have been with the same crew on board

The latest adventure of Lisbeth Salander involves people trying to get access to a top secret program that has information about unclear missiles around the world. While trying to deal with this, Lisbeth soon realizes that people are trying to kill her and she must try to find out what's going on. The mystery runs deeper than she thinks, tying back to her troubled childhood. Claire Foy takes over the duties of having the lead role.

I think Foy is a super talented actress and she is good in this film, no doubt. I still was longing for Mara's portrayal though. I'd say Foy's portrayal doesn't have the complexities and unique nature as the Lisbeth that Mara created. The film is simpler but still feels like it didn't iron out its plot and character development properly. The villains are about as stereotypically generic as they can get. You feel the raw and deep nature of the other incarnations, this feels like a much tamer storyline.

The film isn't bad and it's a decent watch but it doesn't reach the level of the mastery of the original and Fincher's re-imagining. Its just an all around average watch which shouldn't be the case when it comes to this series. It's certainly watchable but needed to be in the hands of someone who could make the mediocre something special, and sadly that's not the case here. Decent effort but leaves a desire for more.

6/10
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Overlord (2018)
7/10
Overlord (2018)
10 November 2018
Nitially thought of as the next film in the loose Cloverfield series but I'm glad its its own entity. That franchise is on a nose dive and I was curious as to the looks of this one. Its under the J.J. Abrams banner and from a relatively unknown filmmaker. I was actually surprised by how solid this film was and was pleased. Its a war film and zombie film hybrid but one that is really effective because of the fact that it gets both genres right. I'm happy.

The film takes place on the eve of D-Day and sees a crew land from plane and attempt to take out a German tower. Along the way they befriend a civilian who aids them to the tower. However, once they get to the tower they start to discover that there are very disturbing Nazi experiments that are occurring in that tower. These secret experiments are occurring to create the perfect war soldier and the crew need to try to contain the horrors they see.

The film, as mentioned earlier, works effectively as a war film because its tense, gritty, loud, and realistic in its depiction. Had a Saving Private Ryan feel. Then the film explores the more re-animation/zombie elements and its still great. The costumes and potential effects look great and it becomes an entertaining mindless horror survival at times. The blend of both genres works very well which makes for a good popcorn film.

The unimaginable wartime horrors witnessed are supernatural and you get to see it from the shock on the soldier's faces. There was probably a basis for truth here because I'm sure there were Nazi experiments that occurred but obviously nothing to this extent or result. Overall, Overlord is a surprisingly fun time all around and has enough originality going for it to stand on its own. An Overlord universe would fare better than a Cloverfield universe.

7.5/10
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A Private War (2018)
7/10
A Private War (2018)
10 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Didn't know a whole lot about this film before going in, but alas living in NYC means we get to see all the films in theaters! Furthermore, I finally feel like Rosamund Pike is getting the recognition she deserves. She's been in the film game for a while but only recently is getting consistent work and showing her talents. I think Pike drives this film. I really enjoyed this film, its an informative biopic that has harrowing moments and is a career high from Pike.

The film is a biopic about the life of American journalist Marie Colvin. Colvin instantly recognizable because of the eye patch she wore because of an injury she suffered after a blast in Sri Lanka. Marie is an over commited journalist who goes to extremely dangerous locations to get the truth and the whole story about the horrors that go on in warring countries, unfortunately, Colvin was killed in an explosion in the Siege of Homs in Syria but the film shows her legacy.

This is the best thing Rosamund Pike has ever been in. She's fantastic and completely becomes Colvin. Compare the way she talks to the footage of the real Colvin in the end, it felt like a dead ringer. Her character has so much story and emotion and yet Colvin remains hard hearted, strong and stern throughout the most fearful of times. I found this film to be a really satisfying work mostly through Pike being so commited

Its a really sad story. Not just what happens to civilians in other countries during battle, but also the final moments of Colvin. That's what makes this work really strong for me. It doesn't shy away from showing the violence. Its war. Nothing is off limits then. Not hearing enough people talking about this film but I definitely recommend it.

7.5/10
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5/10
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)
10 November 2018
Before actually seeing this film, I have to admit that I was hyped for this film. I've liked Disney's live action adaptations, and yes that includes Alice in Wonderland. The film looked like it would carry the form of a very excellent Beauty and the Beast from last year. The film had a good cast, looked grand viscerally, what could go wrong, right? Absolutely everything. This film was a massive disappointment almost from its opening frame. I'm actually surprised at how big of a misfire this was.

The film is about a girl named Clara who follows a thieving little mouse to find a magical world that her mother had previously discovered. The world that she discovers has all the wonders you can imagine and consists of pure fantasy. Among the four realms lives someone named Mother Ginger who is apparently trying to bring down the other realms and bring havoc. This is Mackenzie Foy's first lead role and she stars alongside Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman.

The cast can't save this film. its soulless. For all the pretty and wondrous visuals on display (no doubt the film looks amazing), it is completely soulless. Everyone is going through the motions, the plot finds itself being so convoluted, and its just hard to stay invested in anything that's going on. It's a good thing that this film wasn't so long because if it had anymore it would be absolutely miserable. Disney' usually doesn't churn out complete garbage like this, so its kind of shocking.

Visually its great, but that's not enough to save this mess. Its a shame for Foy as she could be a future star but this isn't the vehicle to go on. I kind of fear a bit for what's coming because I'm not feeling the live action Aladdin that is coming soon. I heard bad things but I had to check it out and form my own opinion. This thing is so hollow and won't b remembered at all in a few months time.

4.5/10
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Hunter Killer (2018)
5/10
Hunter Killer (2018)
31 October 2018
Gerard Butler. Somehow, in recent years he has become the go to guy for terrible b-list movies. Hunter Killer looked no different and the only reason I decided to see this was on a date and because I had already seen all the other wide releases. Still I held out hope that this film would at least be mildly entertaining and be aware of its own stupidity and run with that. That's not exactly the case with this film as it remains super serious. The good thing was that it wasn't completely unbearable. It's still bad for sure but at least it has some action sequences that were fun to watch. It's definitely not something I'm recommending at all though.

The film is about a captain and his crew on board of a submarine called the USS Arkansas. This captain (played by who else but Gerard Butler) must investigate the disappearance of another American submarine. While trying to find out what is going on, the crew realizes that there is a mass coup going on amidst the Russians and their presidents. Butler and crew, must of course save the day as he enlists help from other operatives of his country. This film stars the late Michael Nyvqist and weirdly Gary Oldman is in it as well. Going from the Oscar to Hunter Killer, wow.

The scenery in the film is great, and the action is serviceable but fairly bland. It's nothing you haven't seen before but it's one of the better aspects of an otherwise unremarkable film. A film about submarines? I'm just glad this film wasn't taking place entirely underwater and migrated to land action scenes as well. The villains are so cookie cutter and generic and the heroes are stoic and give that thousand yard stare of bravery. It's exactly what you would come to expect. I'm just mad this film wasn't as self-aware and just go with the cheese.

I was hoping for Gerard Butler to deliver a dumb but profound one liner and there were so many opportunities for him to do it. Apart from all that, this is a film you don't have to ever see. I've done the job for you for some reason and it's too long and with little pay off. I think it's not as terrible as I thought it would be but that's still not a reason to catch Hunter Killer. I kind of hope somehow a sequel gets greenlit and it becomes a running gag, while going down in history as the biggest sequel no one ever asked for.

5/10
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Suspiria (I) (2018)
6/10
Suspiria (2018)
27 October 2018
I absolutely love Dario Argento's Suspiria. I have that film and Phenomena on special collector's edition Blu-Ray discs and visit them every year. Re-watched the original Suspiria recently and it absolutely still holds up. The score, the atmosphere, the vivid colors, and the horror, its just superb. Was very into Luca Guadagnino's version of it and it quickly became one of my most hyped films of the year. A Bigger Splash sold me on him and Call Me By Your Name was absolutely stellar. It just felt like the film was meant to be re-imagined in the hands of a director so capable of creating art. After watching the film, I have to say I'm still digesting it and wanted to like it way more than I do.

The film has a political backdrop in Germany of 1977, and follows a young ballet hopeful named Susie Bannion (same name as the protagonist in the original) as she quickly becomes the lead in an esteemed ballet director's play. She enters an academy of other hopeful dancers but all is definitely not as it seems. Strange occurrences are common at the school and it becomes a tale of unfolding the witchcraft and monstrosity present at the quarters. The film stars Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton (in multiple roles), Mia Goth, and even the original Suzie, Jessica Harper.

Let's touch on what I liked first. The dance scenes and the choreography and aura it brings is amazing. Its heart pounding and vicious. The absolute body curling horror that accompanies it is madness. Its all great. I actually loved one of the insane sequences near the end of the film. I think Guadagnino did a wonderful job creating a visual and nightmarish atmosphere when he wanted to. The film is well acted of course, and Thom Yorke's score works well in many scenes. The muted colors, or lack of primary colors gives the film the dark and foreboding mood, a complete departure from Argento's original bright and vivid picture.

I feel like the plot needed to be presented in a more direct format. I love the arts and appreciate non linear story telling as much as the next guy (I'm the biggest David Lynch fan ever) but this film could have been condensed to focus on the madness in the school halls. The whole side plot with the doctor ruins the flow of the film and takes back from a film that could have been better with a different style of presentation. Just when you feel like the film starts kicking into life it meanders into something that you don't care as much about.

Luckily, Guadagnino was able to present his own vision. The links to the original are fairly minimal and this film is mostly him presenting the madness he had. I just wish it was presented better. With retouching, this film could have been great (though still not as good as the original, although I guess a comparison is unfair as both feel like two different entities). The f'ed up nature of some of the sequences is what breathes Suspiria into live, and unfortunately it needed to focus on that more to avoid is relatively uneven nature. Side note, its hard to tell if that final twisted dance sequence is meant to be comedic or not but the tone was definitely ambiguous, because it was hilarious.

6.5/10
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Wildlife (2018)
8/10
Wildlife (2018)
21 October 2018
This happened to be one of my most hyped films of the year. I am a big fan of Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan so I knew I had to check this out as soon as earthly possible. Had the pleasure of attending a screening of this film at the IFC Center with directer Paul Dano and co-wwriter Zoe Kazan present for a Q & A. The film is beautiful to look at with rich cinematography, has a number of strong performances with a fantastic one from Carey Mulligan, and shows that Dano and Kazan have the talent to get behind the camera and bring a quality piece of work.

The film shows a family in 1960's Montana and how life changing events cause their family to fall apart. After the father is fired, he decides to take a job putting out wildfires which causes him to leave the home for an extended period of time. During this time his wife struggles trying to hold her family together by doing whats best for them but she also questions if she even loves her husband. All this while, their teenage son has to watch his parents drift apart silently. The film stars Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, and Bill Camp.

As mentioned earlier the cinematography and especially the scenery in this film are gorgeous. Lush, rich and a perfect description for a simpler quieter time in 60's Montana. The film gets quite uncomfortable as you start wondering about the state of mind Jeanette Brinson (Mulligan) and what she gets herself into. You are basically like the teenage son Joe (Oxenbould). You see things from his lenses, feel exactly what he is feeling, and can't look away much like him. Its a startling tale but one that depicts a perfect looking family where it is anything but.

Carey Mulligan is one of the best actresses out there today, that's not even a debate. She's had so many great performances that I don't even know which is her best. This is definitely up there though. It's such an introspective look into the lives of a family where things are just beyond repair. I'm very impressed by Dano and Kazan. Both are talented on the camera but wow they were able to engineer something so wonderful behind the camera. I'm definitely intrigued to see if the duo decide to continue with film-making an writing.

8/10
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What They Had (2018)
7/10
What They Had (2018)
21 October 2018
What I had (ha-ha), was some time to kill before going to a screening of Wildlife yesterday so I decided to squeeze this film in before the showing. Saw the trailer for this and it looked pretty standard but I'm always game for films that depict mental health and the impact it has on others. The film also boasts a really wonderful cast and I had to think that the film would at the very least halfway decent. Its more than decent, I actually had a good time with this. It mixes a bevy of emotions but hits exactly the right notes when it needs to.

The film is about two children who come together with their mom and dad around the holidays. Their mom is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and its tough for her to remember her own children and her husband. The family have a lot of issues to resolve as they clash heads on what to do with their mother and their unspoken issues with their hard headed father. The film stars Hilary Swank, Robert Forster, Taissa Farmiga, Blythe Danner, and of course Michael Shannon in one of my favorite performances he's ever done.

The film is actually hilarious in many parts, especially through Michael Shannon. He plays a dead pan sarcastic brother/uncle and his comments made my day. There's just a good deal of humor involving the characters despite the film being emotionally heavy as it deals with a disease that impacts a family so greatly. As expected, the talented cast is perfect in this film. Forster and Swank in particular really showcase their talents. Even Blythe Danner playing the mom; she's always so happy and cheery despite the fact that she can hardly remember anything.

I think I'm most impressed by Elizabeth Chomko's script. It balances everything well. The script is simple but has a lot of heart and dimension to it. This isn't a film that's going to get a lot of buzz as it came out very limited, but I think its a very enjoyable effort. If you're a lover of film and have some time to kill, go for it. Its not an essential watch but go see the character and family dynamics on display here.

7.5/10
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7/10
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
21 October 2018
I usually don't end up liking Melissa McCarthy films. She is usually in comedies directed by her husband that aren't funny and have nothing good going for it. I was intrigued in seeing her take on a more serious role and one based on an actual biographical person than a made up "funny" person. I never heard of Lee Israel or the case of her forgery and all the stuff she got away with so I wanted to learn more about this. I enjoyed this film. Its not anything that's gonna stick out when the year ends but for a one time watch its fine, and I can finally say I enjoyed a McCarthy performance quite a bit.

The film is about the real life story of down out of luck biographical author, Lee Israel. Her books aren't doing well and she finds it hard to find inspiration. She can't afford rent or veterinarian care for her sick cat. She decides to forge letters signed and typed up by famous entertainment personalities. At first she finds the scam to be lucrative but eventually the buyers become suspicious and the FBI get involved. The film basically tells the tale of her forgery, until she gets caught, and the aftermath.

McCarthy does a good job here. She doesn't completely disappear into the role but its a believable performance that showcases her best qualities. The film is proficient in mixing comedy with humor and brings forth a rather intriguing plot in a way that keeps you engaged. I already liked Marielle Heller as The Diary of a Teenage Girl was a really interesting and well made film as it was. I think she finds a penchant for storytelling that mixes humor and drama well.

Its easy to see why something like this would have been easy to get away with in an earlier time. Its an idea people wouldn't easily think of. Crime doesn't pay, after a while anyways. If you want to see a solid biopic and an even more solid Melissa McCarthy performance then this is your film. its not anything amazing but its a generally interesting tale about a shady author that you may not have known about.

7/10
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