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A Blast with Many Missed Opportunities
To say films based on DC Comics have been all over the place over the last few years would be an understatement. Yes, they seem to have found their footing with films like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Shazam!, and they even have a new series of Batman films on the way, but were these just a fluke? No, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (a title that I'll only write in full once during this review) absolutely continues their streak of quality content for this genre, even though there were quite a few missed opportunities. Here's why this film is a blast to watch, even with its faults.
Picking up after the events of Suicide Squad, but also kind of throwing away everything that happened in it, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) finds herself broken off from the Joker and on her own for the first time in a while. Becoming involved with a young girl who gets her hands on a diamond that evil villain Roman Sionis will do anything to retrieve, she finds herself a new friend. The first two acts of this film, however, are really just a set-up for a new crew for her to join. The third act of this movie is fantastic, which brings me to my biggest complaint.
This film is called Birds of Prey, but the actual team that the title is referring to doesn't form until the film's third act, which was a real bummer. The majority of this movie is all about Harley Quinn, which is fine because Margot Robbie is terrific as this character, but this movie felt like too much of a good thing at times. She was easily the best part about Suicide Squad, but I now believe she works best in an ensemble. Her performance here is great, but she needed more people to play off of. This is the reason the end of this film is so great, which also made the rest of the movie slightly hollow for me.
Switching back over to the positive side, which this movie has much more of than negatives, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis. This performance made the movie for me. Yes, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are great supporting actresses and I really hope they further their stories in future films, but McGregor is probably the most memorable part to me. His hammy performance had me laughing on multiple occasions. If this was the second film in the Birds of Prey series and he was the only villain, playing off this group of women, it probably would've been one of the best comic book movies to date, but these elements weren't utilized together enough for me.
In the end, Birds of Prey is undeniably a lot of fun. Margot Robbie is wonderful once again, Smollet-Bell and Winstead steal the show in a few instances (which I wanted more of), and Cathy Yan does a terrific job helming as director. Being her first big film, I'm very impressed with her work here and I hope she gets to do a sequel to this because I will gladly spend another two hours with these characters. While not everything in this movie worked for me, quite a bit of it did, especially the third act, which has the perfect location to take place in. I really enjoyed watching Birds of Prey, even though I didn't think it was perfect.
Great Information in a Mediocre Film
While I wasn't all that familiar with this story that went on behind the scenes at Fox News, I was very intrigued to see a film tackling one of the very first stories of women taking a stand against a powerful man, abusing that power. While this was a great story overall, there are a lot of elements missing here that could've made it a fantastic film. This film feels more like a tool to showcase how corporations have been run in the past, but there wasn't enough depth to really dive in. Filled with great performances and a true story worth exploring, here's why I believe Bombshell is one big missed opportunity.
This film follows a few main characters, but the centrepiece of this story is the fact that Roger Ailes would sexually harass women in order to give them higher positions at Fox News. He did this for years and many of these women kept silent in order to keep their jobs. If this film is accurate, Gretchen Carlson was the first one to speak up and many began to follow her lead. There is a lot of information and many insightful moments that kept my attention, but this film severely suffers from relying on those two things. More than anything, Bombshell wants to get messages out, but the pacing was slow and it felt like I was watching a newspaper article unfold on-screen.
Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly was a show-stopper, Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil won me over every single time she was on-screen, and Nicole Kidman committed to her role of Gretchen Carlson to the point that I believed every action she made. The problem is that the material they were working with didn't care about making a masterful piece of cinema. This movie would've worked so much better as a documentary in my opinion. Yes, these performances will absolutely be remembered, but the information I got from this movie is what I will remember it for, rather than the film itself.
This film is being recognized the most for Margot Robbie and Charlie Theron's performances and the Make-Up and Hairstyling awards, which it absolutely should be, but I also feel another positive is the fact that it also has no shame. This film is presented in a way that makes news outlets look like a disaster to work for and I admired that aspect. I enjoyed watching this movie for the most part, but it just felt like it dragged on, which was surprising, seeing as it only clocks in at about 108 minutes.
In the end, Bombshell is well-intentioned but ultimately comes across as an exposé. The performances are all fantastic and the story itself was intriguing enough to hold my attention the whole time, but there wasn't much else to latch onto. While this story deserved some kind of film, I don't believe an adapted narrative was the right decision. Overall, I would say this movie is worth watching, in terms of being informed, but it feels bland otherwise. I wouldn't say this movie deserves your attention, but the story does, however you choose to find out about it. As a whole, it's okay.
Little Women (2019)
A Wonderful Film and Gerwig's Best Directorial Effort to Date
From books to plays, to films, the Little Women story is one of those stories that just keeps getting updated, which isn't a bad thing, as long as they are doing it for a specific reason and not because they are out of ideas. Thankfully, it's very clear that this adaptation was updated for the modern age, which felt like a strong enough reason when watching it. Now, I'll be very upfront with this before diving into my review and state that I don't have any knowledge of this classic material, prior to viewing this movie, so it felt pretty fresh to me. For that reason, you may want to take this review with a grain of salt, but here's why I believe the 2019 version of Little Women is worth your time.
Flashing back and forth between time periods, the focal point of this film is Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) and her writing ambitions. The film begins and concludes with her story, but the rest of the movie places her sisters Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) at the forefront as well. All trying to find a man to love and discovering what love truly is, these young women strive to become something greater than how they grew up. Diving into very emotional struggles as the film goes on, there is quite a bit of depth to this story. Loss and relationships are what kept this film emotionally resonant with me and I believe the care that was put into the characters is what made it work so well.
It doesn't hurt that the cast was so well constructed, but I believe the shining star here is director Greta Gerwig. Although I feel that this is a very solid film like all of her previous works (as she has yet to blow me away), she definitely seems to be improving, every single time she steps behind the camera. This is her best film to date in my opinion. The way she was able to bring such raw and realistic performances out of these actresses was amazing. Timothee Chalamet is also an actor on the rise to super-stardom and his presence here was nothing short of fantastic either.
Little Women is filled with some very well-done cinematography by Yorick Le Saux and I also found Nick Houy's editing style to be pretty special as well. With that said, the main thing that deterred me from loving this film was the pacing. There are times, especially throughout the majority of the second act where the movie seemed to really slow down. Yes, these moments were buoyed by effective drama, but I found myself waiting for the next scene to come on a few occasions. This is a wonderful film that I just found to be a little too slow.
In the end, although the pacing of this movie did hurt my experience a little, which doesn't usually happen with slow-paced films, I still was able to really admire it. Little Women is a fantastic effort by director Greta Gerwig and many of the technical aspects stood out to me as well. Quick shout out to the set design and costume work as well, as those will probably be worth of awards very soon. This is a wonderful movie from start to finish and it deserves all the praise it's receiving, but I just didn't quite love it myself. Still, it's a very good movie nonetheless.
Bad Boys for Life (2020)
Easily the Best of the Three Films
What a strange ride the Bad Boys franchise has been. While it didn't make a huge dent in the box office back in 1995, the first Bad Boys film is now revered by some as one of director Michael Bay's better films. That's not exactly what I believe, but there are some massive fans of these movies out there. I enjoyed one and two for what they were, but I never felt the need to rewatch them over and over. Upon the initial release of Bad Boys for Life, nearly 17 years since the release of Bad Boys II, I decided to revisit the previous two films. I still find them to be very entertaining, but lacking in many other areas. Maybe that's why this review may seem almost too positive for a film like this, but it's been a long time since a franchise has turned itself around this well.
Bad Boys for Life picks up in real-time, 17 years after the events of the previous film and nearly the entire cast has returned, which was nice to see. Marcus wishes to actually retire this time and the violence is what is keeping Mike going. Due to some unexpected circumstances, a vengeance plot is set in motion, which finds them on the hunt for the Aretas family. With a lot more drama than the last two to really make you care about these characters, this film, in terms of characters and story, is eons better than anything presented in the last two.
In many ways, Bad Boys for Life is the Fast Five of this franchise. It took the existing characters that you know from previous films, introduced a new team, made the family and friend aspect very strong, and those aspects in turn just made for a more enjoyable experience. It's still filled with cliches and moments that make you roll your eyes, but if the rest of the movie is well done, sometimes those moments can be likeable. It sounds weird to say this about a Bad Boys film, but I found myself shocked or feeling emotional on a few occasions, due to the plot twists. I didn't expect this movie to connect with me as much as it did, but I had a blast with it.
In terms of new direction, it was nice to see Michael Bay stand back and support a new vision. Directed by the duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, they presented a film that was not short on action but also felt very laid back in comparison to the previous films, which also worked with the story, as Mike and Marcus are now ageing. Most of their work is on foreign projects that I have not seen, but I may actually seek some of it out. These two guys seem to be very talented behind the camera. I will gladly see another Bad Boys movie, directed by them or anyone else, as long as they stick to this new direction.
I didn't bother mentioning Will Smith or Martin Lawrence off the top, because if you're a fan of either of them and like the last two films, then there's no change here. They both share the same charisma and chemistry that they did over 20 years ago and I don't see that going away any time soon. Bad Boys for Life injects drama into an overblown action franchise and grounds it in reality. I can actually see newcomers liking this one more than the previous films and due to some new backstory revealed throughout this movie, the previous two aren't exactly necessary, even though there are some great callbacks sprinkled throughout. I would definitely recommend checking this one out, especially if you liked the last two. This is a much better movie than I was expecting.
Tenki no ko (2019)
A Wonderful Story From Beginning to End
Being someone who watches many movies and television shows, Anime films and shows are things that I just never got around to watching much. After watching my first few shows back in 2012, I began to love them. Still, I don't watch nearly as many as I would like, but I do seek out the highly talked about ones. When Your Name hit theatres back in 2016, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it and I was eagerly awaiting director Makoto Shinkai's next project. Weathering with You is his latest work and although I haven't seen most of his filmography, this may be his finest work yet.
Weathering with You follows young Morishima Hodaka runs away from home and finds himself in Tokyo, Japan. Meeting young Amano Hina, they form a friendship that grows stronger and stronger as he realizes she is known as a "Sunshine Girl" and can control the weather. Tokyo, on the verge of flooding, is not benefitted by the fact that she has chosen to use these powers to clear the skies for money, but also to make people happy. Learning some brutal truths about what her powers lie in store for her, this film takes a turn that feels very much earned by the end.
I'm a sucker for a good fantasy film and although you do have to suspend your disbelief in order to believe abilities like this exist (since there's no real explanation as to why she has these powers, to begin with), I found myself incredibly engaged from start to finish. It's the simple moments like when the core characters would be fleeing from the law and settling down to enjoy each other's company that really stood out to me. Yes, the fantastical elements are very much present and are obviously where the movie ends up, but it has a lot more going for it than just that.
If I had to complain about something though, I would have to admit that there were two occasions where songs took me out of the movie. Not to rip on composer Radwimps, because his work here is absolutely wonderful, but the songs themselves were a little overbearing in a few scenes that felt like they should've been slightly quieter and more intense. His score is absolutely stunning and I was swept up in it, but a couple of songs just felt slightly out of place to me. With that said, I really don't have any huge complaints about the film overall.
In the end, Weathering with You is a film that sets up a fantasy storyline and follows through on it from start to finish. It has very likeable characters and I truly cared about each one of them by the time the credits began to roll. For being as grand as it is, I really just found myself appreciating the simpler moments. That's hard for a film to do when so many other things are going on. I loved watching this film and I would even call it one of the best films to hit theatres in 2019, even though it's only reaching certain countries now. Weathering with You is an absolute delight.
A Near-Perfect Cinematic Experience
If you're ever in the mood to watch a war film, there's an over-abundance of them throughout history. You can almost always find one that you haven't seen before. For this reason alone, I find myself being very cautious when one is about to get a wide release. With recent releases like Hacksaw Ridge or Dunkirk, my faith in the genre is always rejuvenated. Well, 1917 is yet another war film to come along and surprise me. For all the technical reasons to love this film on top of the powerful story itself, here's why I believe 1917 is one of 2019s very best films.
The premise is nice and simple. Two young soldiers are given the task of sneaking through enemy lines in order to deliver a message to their commander, which will, in turn, save thousands of lives if received in time. This premise makes for a very tense ride. On top of being an engaging story, this movie is filmed in such a way that it makes it feel like one continuous take, for the most part, which ultimately begs the core actors to deliver the performances of their career.
Although I've seen him in great films like Captain Fantastic and Pride, George MacKay never really stood out to me as award-worthy, but I stand corrected. This may very well be the best performance he ever gives, but that's not a negative, because I'll always remember him for this role. Alongside him is Dean-Charles Chapman, who I've also liked in Game of Thrones and Blinded by the Light, so I knew to expect a solid performance from him. With that said, he also delivers one of the better performances I've seen in 2019, simply due to the devotion he has to his character.
Now, this would absolutely be an incomplete review if I forgot to bring up how incredible the technical aspects of this film are. Roger Deakins is basically a god in the cinematography world, so his work astounds me every single time he brings his vision to a project, and 1917 is no exception to that. The way this camera seamlessly follows these actors in and out of small or big sequences was simply astonishing. Layered on top of this jaw-dropping cinematography is the superb score by Thomas Newman. The combination of being swept up in these performances, caring about the story, being impressed by the camerawork, and then finally being moved by how well the music was composed for each scene, I found it very difficult to criticize anything here.
Overall, 1917 deserves a standing ovation for the technical aspects, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that this movie also wouldn't have been as good as it is without the careful direction by Sam Mendes. Between his work on American Beauty or Skyfall, it should come as no surprise that he would make a great film, but the crew around him took it to another level in my opinion. I was sucked in from start to finish and the two-hour run time flew by. I can't recommend this film enough. Easily one of my favourite films of 2019.
Richard Jewell (2019)
A Powerful Story Worth Telling
Whether you're looking at films like Gran Torino or American Sniper, you can call Clint Eastwood masterful even to this day, but you also have to look at his recent works in either Hereafter or The 15:17 to Paris. Although he still has a knack for directing at nearly 90 years of age, he's sort of hit-or-miss over these last 10 years. Richard Jewell is his latest directorial effort behind the camera and not only is it one of his best films in years, but it's also one of the better true stories I've seen in a while. Here's why I believe this film deserves to be seen.
During the 1996 Olympics, a bomb was planted in Centennial Park during a concert. Security guard Richard Jewell noticed it before it went off and ended up saving many lives. Due to coincidences in the story, Jewell was exploited as being the one who planted the bomb to make himself out as a hero. This film tells the truth about what went on and it's one of the more moving stories I've experienced this year. It's bad enough to be falsely accused of something you didn't do, but what this man had to endure was pure insanity.
Performed by Paul Walter Hauser in the titular role, I never once believed I was watching an actor portraying someone else. His performance is so authentic that it brought me to tears on multiple occasions. He absolutely deserves to be spoken about as one of the finest performers of 2019. On top of his incredible performance (which I hope to see much more of in the future), Kathy Bates portrays Bobi Jewell, Richard's mother, and although her character is slightly one-note throughout the course of the film, she brings a needed level of emotion and makes much more of this character than what seems to have been scripted.
Normally I don't praise a film for being slow in terms of pacing, but I believe the slow nature of this movie is actually what made me enjoy it more than I would have if it has been made in a more energetic way. The way Eastwood got calm performances out of the majority of this cast felt like a way of easing the audience into certain scenes. It doesn't hurt that performers like Jon Hamm and Sam Rockwell are in the supporting roles either. Richard Jewell is loaded with talent in front of and behind the camera, so it really shouldn't be a surprise that this story would work as well as it does.
In the end, Richard Jewell is a real triumph in terms of exposing the truth and what this man had to go through. From the screenplay by Billy Ray keeping it honest, yet light-hearted at times, to composer Arturo Sandoval delivering some very subtle pieces to make you feel a certain way, to the editing by veteran Joel Cox, who has been by Eastwood's side for a long time, everything about this film was well-done. It's very straight-forward, but that was clearly the intention, so it's not exactly a negative. Richard Jewell is a great film and one of my favourites of 2019.
The Aeronauts (2019)
A Very Effective Survival Flick
When it comes to bringing true stories to the big screen, it should go without saying that things are going to be intentionally overlooked or changed in order to fit the version on-screen. Filmmakers try to make the best films possible, regardless of what they have to change from the source material. The Aeronauts is yet another true story that has been drastically altered and many viewers seem to be using the big change as a way to tear down the movie as a whole. This classic story involved two men, but for our times, it was updated so that it could be evened out. Personally, I think a film is a film, regardless of what reality actually was. If you're going to complain about things like this, then you have to complain about Quentin Tarantino's films like Inglorious Basterds or Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood. With all of that aside, let's discuss the film itself.
Seeing Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones reteam once again was very nice, as I loved their chemistry in The Theory of Everything. Redmayne portrays James Glaisher, a scientist who wishes to discover weather patterns and break the record for the highest point anyone has travelled into the sky. Teaming up with fictional pilot Amelia Rennes (Jones), the two of them take flight in a hot air balloon, venturing into the unknown. Becoming a fight for their lives, this movie provides quite a few thrills and intense moments of realization. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with this movie from beginning to end.
This film doesn't take any time in getting them into the air. The film begins with its launch and flashes back to how they got here in the first place throughout the movie. I found this to be very effective and the two leads made it that much more enjoyable. From very well-done visual effects, showcasing incredible vistas to very committed performances, I found myself enthralled and worried about the outcome. Not knowing anything about how this story ended in reality definitely helped, but The Aeronauts is a very well-made film nonetheless.
There are moments that are clearly fictionalized and exaggerated, but the way these moments are presented, feel natural and plausible. The way the aspect ratio changes and fills the entire screen during the sequences in the sky was breathtaking. Although there's nothing entirely perfect about this film, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I was swept up in the emotion of it all. Tom Harper did a great job directing this film and his writing, accompanied by Jack Thorne also provided some very solid dialogue throughout.
In the end, The Aeronauts provides a very satisfying experience for those who don't find an issue in the historical changes. Personally, I didn't even learn about these changes until after viewing the movie, so it had no effect on me. As a film on its own, it's very well done, even though it may not feel all that original. The emotion, excitement, and overall look of the movie outdo any glaring cliches that arise throughout the events. Now streaming on Prime Video, I recommend checking this one out.
The Mandalorian (2019)
A Wonderful Departure from the Main Story
Whether you're talking about a disagreement with a family member or simply how you have differing opinions about a movie or television show, it's always nice when the dust settles. The Mandalorian felt like that for me. Over the last few years, the Star Wars fan base made me never want to browse the internet ever again. I just wanted to come out and state that people are allowed to like what they like. Thankfully, it resolved itself (mostly) on its own with the release of The Mandalorian. Now, I'm sure there are still a lot of haters of this franchise as a whole, but I think this is a great series so far and the majority of the audience seems to agree.
Throughout the majority of this season, we follow a Mandalorian on the outskirts of the galaxy, bounty hunting and protecting a young child that seems to be of the same race as a famous Star Wars character in Yoda. Going on a new adventure in nearly every episode, it kind of feels like an old serial, where you can watch random episodes without being lost. With that said, it definitely becomes a much more focussed story by the final few episodes, leaving you wanting more. I'm absolutely curious where the next season is going to head.
Although there are a couple of weaker episodes, this show is fantastic for the most part. There are two episodes that take detours, which was still a nice watch, but really did nothing for the overall narrative. I loved the fact that new directors were given a shot at live-action. From Bryce Dallas Howard directing a big-budget production for the first time to Dave Feloni working on his first live-action piece of entertainment, it really felt like a lot of creative voices, that never clashed once, which is sadly how the feature films feel at the moment (in the Star Wars franchise).
Even though it's not actually him most of the time, Pedro Pascal was great casting for this central character and secondaries like Gina Carano and Carl Weathers all brought their A-Game. This is easily the best Carano has ever been. These filmmakers are utilizing her best attributes to their fullest and it really shines on-screen. If for nothing else, the talent involved in this show is truly something special. On top of that, this show visually looks incredible.
With the classic feel of the original trilogy, this show is practical, far more than it's ever digital. The time and care that was put into these set pieces is astounding. I found my jaw on the floor for the way a set looked over how well a plot twist worked throughout the entire season. That's not a sleight on Jon Favreau's writing, because it's actually really great, it's just that the visuals are truly the standout here. If television shows received Oscars, I would absolutely nominate this series for Set Design.
In the end, The Mandalorian shows tremendous potential for the future of Star Wars. Being such a simple story with elements that could easily make this a much grander story, later on, it has me hooked. I can see this becoming one of those shows that continues to be talked about for years to come, especially with short seasons, leaving fans eager to continue. Well-written and well-made throughout each and every episode, I have nothing but praise for this departure from the main Star Wars stories. I highly recommend checking this series out. Season one is great!
A Heartwarming Story
Even though Disney has been releasing a few gems over the last few years, it's really no secret that they're having a blast making money on their classics. Whether it's continuing Toy Story or making tons of live-action versions of their animated films, audiences, although flocking our to see them, don't seem to be all that impressed. With the exception of their franchise in The Marvel Cinematic Universe, I really can't see a new franchise blossoming for them anytime soon, unless you count the fact that they now own Avatar. My point is that it's always nice to see them take on an original film and Togo is their latest live-action original to be released, but this time by their streaming service, Disney Plus. Is it worth watching? Absolutely.
Without giving anything away for those who haven't heard the real story, Togo tells the opposing story to Disney's 1995 film Balto. Known as the 1925 serum run, Togo follows Leonhard Seppala (Willem Dafoe) and his sled dogs as they travel through impossible conditions to retrieve medicine for a hospital with dying children. This is the core premise of the movie, but it's also equally about the bond between owner and dog. This film will have fans of both animals and drama tearing up. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with this movie.
Although it doesn't do anything new for films like this, it adds a depth of emotion that most of them are devoid of. Willem Dafoe, although not giving an award-winning performance by any means, remains committed from beginning to end. I found myself attached to these dogs, due to the love that was very clearly coming off of him. On top of that, there are some great visuals for a film that wasn't released in theatres. Disney Plus is clearly trying to release some quality content on their streaming service.
In the end, Togo is a great film to watch with families around the holidays, so I believe those who have subscribed to their service will be enjoying this one very much this year. For the classics, Star Wars and Marvel content, I can definitely recommend signing up for this service, but I believe purchasing a month of this service just for this movie will even make you happy. It's a great feel-good story, even though it does delve into some sad elements. There's not much else to say about this movie. It's very well-made and emotionally satisfying. I absolutely recommend checking it out.
A Satisfying Conclusion to the Saga
It's now the end of an era for yet another franchise in 2019. Love or hate where this franchise has taken you throughout the years, it really should still be thought of as one of the greatest franchises of all time. Spanning decades, this series of films has divided its fan base for years, starting most notably with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. After the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I found myself incredibly invigorated, wanting to see where this new story was headed. Sadly, it's very obvious that there wasn't much of a plan from the beginning. With that said, here's why I still believe this movie serves as a fitting conclusion to this new trilogy and the saga as a whole.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker picks up roughly a year after the events of the previous film. Emporer Palpatine is back without much explanation at first and the trio of Rey, Finn, and Poe are off on side mission with a very specific goal in mind. This film takes a while to find its footing, as the first act of the movie is all about trying to have a fun adventure, while also trying to give answers to burning questions. By the end of this film, I was completely invested in where it ended up, even if I did feel like certain aspects were rushed through or messy.
I didn't see these films until Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith hit theatres in 2005. It was in that time period where I visited the franchise for the first time and really started loving it. Quite honestly, I look at this franchise very optimistically and Episodes 1 and 2 are truly the only films in the franchise that I dislike. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker falls somewhere in the middle of the franchise in terms of overall plotting and resolve, but I have to say that it might just have the best and biggest finale. Yes, there are head-scratching moments and this finale clearly going to please everyone, but it pleased me, what else can I say?
Without getting into specific details, Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren/Ben are two of the franchise's best actors/characters in my opinion. Their arcs are taken to new levels here and I was incredibly satisfied with them, as well as how well Poe and Finn were incorporated into this film. There are returning faces and unique ways of bringing the entire saga to a close, so I really didn't find myself annoyed or bothered with too many things here, even with the twists. The one thing that was very apparent, however, was the fact that they didn't have a plan since Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This absolutely hurts certain portions of the film, as it struggles to tie the events together of the previous movies, while also trying to finish the saga.
In the end, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is not a perfect movie by any means, but there are so many worse ways they could've ended this story. John Williams is at the top of his game with his score, the performances are all fantastic, there are fitting ends to classic characters, new characters, as well as story threads that have been completed. There are moments of this movie that took me out of the overall experience, but I would be lying if I didn't say that the majority of the movie is very, very solid. I believe J.J. Abrams did the absolute best that he could to finish this saga and I'm very satisfied with the end result. If you're a fan of this franchise, I would absolutely recommend checking out the finale.
6 Underground (2019)
Too Choppy to Fully Enjoy
Whether you like Michael Bay as a film director or not, it goes without saying that he has a very distinct style and never lets audiences deter him from that, which is commendable, even though most of his films are misses. From The Island to Pain and Gain, he has made some films that I quite enjoy, but nothing that was ever thought-provoking or broke new ground. 6 Underground is his latest directorial effort and it's just as grand and bombastic as his most ridiculous films. Although better than where his recent Transformers movies have been, this film isn't nearly as good as some of his best. Here's why this movie has plenty of style, but ultimately feels like a headache.
Following six agents who have gone off the grid and call themselves ghosts, form a team to save the world. All having unique skillsets, this film does everything it possibly can to utilize them. When this film first gets started, there's no shortage of action. Stating who these people are, 6 Underground begins with an action sequence that lasts a full 20 minutes. After that, we dive into these characters a little deeper as the film makes you wait for the second half, which is entirely about the set pieces. Although not a great movie by any means, there's no shortage of action for the junkies out there.
I feel that this movie found its footing in the second half, but the first half of this movie truly gave me a headache. From the quick cuts to the unnecessary excess of camera angles, this movie feels like too much of everything, all the time. There are even cuts within shots in order to give a kinetic look and feel like the movie is moving at a quicker pace. Although it's a neat style for a music video, that's how this entire movie felt. It really does feel like an over-produced music video with exposition breaks in between the action.
As far as the cast goes, Ryan Reynolds is as charismatic as ever and everyone from Corey Hawkins to Mélanie Laurent delivers some enjoyable performances. The problem is that these characters are spread out in the field too often to really be working together, so there wasn't enough time for chemistry to form between any of them. The action is the only real saving grace here because there are some terrific set-pieces. Although far too frenetic overall, the action is nearly always practical, which was great to see.
In the end, 6 Underground is one of Michael Bays weaker movies, which is a shame, because it also features some of his best action in years. I had a blast watching the third act of this movie, but the rest of it just kind of annoyed me. I've been a defender of his recent movies in 13 Hours or Pain and Gain, but this movie just technically missed the mark and the story was far too messy. For those who just want to see some cool action, I can recommend this one, since it's easily accessible on Netflix, but it's really not worth the two hours. Some nice elements aren't enough to save this bombastic piece of Bayhem.
A Wonderful, Calming Film
When it comes to showcasing famous figures in narrative films or documentaries, Mr. Rogers seems to be a very popular one to tackle. Whether you're looking back on the great kids show or watching the documentary from last year called Won't You Be My Neighbor?, he is just a man that makes for a moving story. When I heard they were going to be making a film based on a time in his life and have Tom Hanks portray him, I was completely sold. As far as Hollywood film stars go, Tom Hanks is as close to Mr. Rogers as you can possibly get in my opinion. While aspects of this film may feel predictable, it's undeniably likeable from start to finish.
Following a young journalist in Lloyd Vogel (known as Tom Junod in reality), as he struggles with his anger, his job, and his family life, he is tasked with interviewing Fred Rogers for the magazine that he works for. Not wanting to do it, he begins to realize that this kind-hearted man may be who he has needed all along. From this point on, the film becomes fairly predictable, but some of the best movies out there are predictable as well. I'm not going to overstate my enjoyment of this film and call it a masterpiece by any means, but it really is an enjoyable piece of filmmaking.
It should come as no surprise that a review of this film would include some praise for Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, but he truly is spectacular as this character. His awards praise is very much warranted and there were quite a few moments where he managed to bring a few tears to my eyes. With that said, I must admit though, Matthew Rhys who plays the reporter in this film was actually out of this world. Having only seen him in a few films before this role, I can officially say that I want to seek out his projects from now on. His commitment to this character made the movie that much more engaging.
After the release of Diary of a Teenage Girl, director Marielle Heller made one of my favourite films of 2018 in Can You Ever Forgive Me?. After really enjoying her debut and loving her second outing, I was very glad to see that she was tackling this movie and she didn't disappoint. Although a very quiet and simple movie, her sensibilities really shined. I will always look forward to her future works from here on out. It's not very often these days when directors really stand out to me, but in terms of indie dramas, Heller is one to keep an eye on.
In the end, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn't a film that will ever be known as one of the best films of 2019, but one of the sweeter movies of the years for sure. For those who share the same issues as the central character, this movie will definitely serve as a sort of therapy. It's a very calming movie that will make most viewers smile throughout the majority of the run time. Personally, I found myself relaxed and loving every minute of it, even though I knew where it was going from the very beginning. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn't perfect by any means, but it's very, very good and it features some stellar performances.
Exciting Moments in an Otherwise Mixed Bag
Movies that make me unsure if I really liked it or not don't come around all that often, but Midway will be the film that fits that description for me when looking back on 2019's film offerings. If you've seen movies like 2012 or Independence Day, you should know what to expect from a Roland Emmerich directorial outing. That said, this movie feels like clash in management. Written by first-time feature writer Wes Tooke, it definitely shows that he needs to grow into his talent a little longer. Although filled with exciting moments and some great actors, here's why I believe Midway isn't really worth your time overall.
After the attack on Pearl Harbour, Midway follows a group of U.S. soldiers as they formulate a plan to attack Midway. While this premise does make for some exciting battle sequences, it's undercut by side plots that feel slightly unnecessary to the overall arc of this movie. I understand that it was trying to cover all the bases during the events of this piece of history, but there is a specific portion of the film that feels rushed on top of having nearly nothing to do with the overall premise, so I was scratching my head on why it was even included in the first place. Other than that, this movie is fairly focused for the most part.
I think the biggest weakness of this film, however, is the fact that I truly do not buy that Ed Skrein is a leading man. I've enjoyed him as secondary characters or as a villain in movies like Deadpool, but for the lengthy screentime he gets here, I don't believe his performance held this movie together very well. I'm usually in full support of actors breaking out with large roles, but I'm just not sure he is one to carry the weight of powerhouses like Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Luke Evans, or Patrick Wilson. The entire secondary cast outshined him throughout the entire film and I really did think that was a detriment to the movie as a whole, which is a shame since he does have potential.
Now, I don't want to make people believe that this film is a pile of trash because it's not, but the most enjoyable aspect of this movie for me was also a mixed bag. Midway's strongest suit is that it doesn't hold back on the action. From the Pearl Harbour attack to the final act of the movie, there is a significant chunk of this film that's dedicated to action, and most of it is well-done in many regards, but it's far too artificial to buy into most of the time. Much like Roland Emmerich's recent movies, this film heavily relies on CGI, but I just don't think the team who worked on this movie truly delivered on what the budget was. A lot of this movie looks and feels fake, which really took me out of the battle scenes. With that said, aside from feeling artificial, it is well-filmed nonetheless.
In the end, Midway isn't going to be remembered as one of the year's best films by any means, nor as one of Roland Emmerich's better efforts, but it may please some action junkies or fans of the war genre. Other than that, it's pretty standard fare with some questionable lead acting, although it does feature some exciting moments. This movie is a fine watch in retrospect, but nothing really worth recommending and nothing I'll ever have the desire to watch again. Again, some viewers may get a kick out of the exciting elements, but it just wasn't enough for me.
Marriage Story (2019)
One of the Best Dramas of the Decade
I've been trying to come up with a way of reviewing this film in a way that doesn't seem like I personally directed it or something, because movies like Marriage Story don't come along very often and I just feel like gushing about how incredible is. Netflix has been releasing tons of quality content this year and this may very well be the best of their entire catalogue of feature films. Alone with Roma and their recent release of The Irishman, I believe you'll be seeing Marriage Story in contention for many, many awards in the coming months. Here's why I believe Marriage Story is a must-watch.
Not all relationships work out and if every single Romance film ever made had a happy ending, then that would just be a lie. It's nice to see a movie tackle this subject matter and stick with it from start to finish. Marriage Story is a look into the lives of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) as they are clearly not able to keep a working marriage, but also don't want to ruin the family they have made. From gut-wrenching scenes of excessively honest dialogue and a conclusion that feels raw and true, this movie is one of the best dramas I've seen in years.
Take your pick at who outshines who here, because it really is a toss-up as to who is more incredible between Driver and Johansson. It does help that writer/director Noah Baumbach gave them outstandingly good dialogue to work with, but the way these two play off each other is as if they were given a year to prepare for these roles and get to know each other. Everything about this film felt authentic, which made the overall impact so powerful. It's not easy to watch a movie about a love story that's about how marriage sometimes doesn't work out, but this movie does it in such a way that it doesn't feel depressing throughout the majority of the duration. This is all thanks to Noah Baumbach though.
From Greenberg to While We're Young, Baumbach has been a director I've been keeping my eyes on, as I believe he has gotten better with each of his films, for the most part. It wasn't until The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) that I really started to anticipate his next movie, but now I'll be desperately awaiting to get another story from him. His talent as a director, especially on Marriage Story, is truly something else. He is best suited for movies like Marriage Story or While We're Young, where it's all about the characters because he very clearly has a knack at getting the best possible performances out of his cast.
Marriage Story begins strong, easing you into what will be a very emotional film and concludes in a way that feels natural. Overall, from these award-worthy performances, superb writing and directing, a very minimal score, which lets you sit with these characters for extended periods of time, it's very hard to nitpick this movie. There is one scene that made me chuckle, purely because I felt uncomfortable, but this movie is otherwise perfectly done. By the time 2019 ends, I feel that I may have to say this is the best movie of the year. I absolutely loved every minute of this movie. I can't recommend it enough.
The Irishman (2019)
A Fantastic Piece of Filmmaking
I may be missing one or two that have been released over the last decade, but the last time I remember really liking a film based around the mob was probably American Gangster back in 2007. Netflix has been on fire lately with their feature films. From last year's Roma winning Best Foreign Film and now The Irishman winning many awards, along with their upcoming release in Marriage Story, they are proving to be a genuine film studio. At a very lengthy 209 minutes, The Irishman has now finished its film festival run and is now streaming on Netflix. I'm not going to beat around the bush. This film is simply one of the best films of 2019 by far and possibly even the decade.
Based on the true story, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is a recently fired truck driver who has stumbled his way into becoming a mobster, teaming up with leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Chronicling these events through the years, we get to see a large portion of the life of this man and how his past has now become his permanent present. With the addition of Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), this film is filled with rich characters. You definitely can't complain about the main characters being underdeveloped here, because their amount of screentime and endless dialogue make for a very fleshed out piece of filmmaking.
Superbly directed by Martin Scorsese, I would say this movie is his best work since Hugo or The Departed, but this film is better than both of those in my opinion. Although I haven't seen his entire filmography, I would have to go back to Goodfellas from 1990 to find a better film of his. I found The Irishman (although slightly long) to be his best film in many, many years. Each frame of this movie screams filmmaking and I was glued to the screen from start to finish. This film deserves all the attention it's getting and Scorsese is a major reason for that.
Writing films like Schindler's List and Moneyball, Steven Zaillian is no stranger to penning award-worthy screenplays, and while I believe he absolutely deserves all the attention in the world once again, it's really Charles Brandt who stands out to me. Having hardly written anything noteworthy before teaming up with Zaillian, I'm very impressed at his work here. I'm not sure who contributed more, but for a writer who is only just beginning to build a resume, it doesn't get much better than this. Bravo sir.
I could gush about this movie for hours, but I'll wrap it up. The Irishman proves that Martin Scorsese will never lose touch as a director, seeing this trio of actors on-screen will probably never happen again, the cinematography is Oscar-worthy, the deserves to win many awards, and I wouldn't be surprised if this film takes home many of the top prizes this year. Yes, it's a little long, but it's incredibly engaging. The length is really my only minor nitpick. Other than that, this film is one of the best films in recent years and will probably be remembered as a Scorsese classic in the years to come.
J'ai perdu mon corps (2019)
A Fantastic Journey from Start to Finish
It's not very often that foreign films are able to break out worldwide, as they have certain restrictions, but it's always nice when platforms like Netflix make it easier to do so. I Lost My Body is one of Netflix's latest releases and not only is it a fantastic French animated film, but simply one of my favourite films of 2019. A unique premise can go a long way when it sticks the landing on everything it promises and I believe this movie does exactly that. At a breezy 81 minutes, this film is not one to miss, if you're a fan of a good story, regardless of the medium or style.
Following a severed hand, as it ventures out to find its body, the audience is treated with many flashbacks to when the body was whole. From losing his job to falling in love, this movie takes you on a grand journey. The fact that the movie follows a severed hand as the focal point may turn some viewers away, but I assure you that there is much more under the surface. The constant flashbacks create a lot of backstory for the core character and I found myself really caring about this hand by the end. Sometimes the best stories are told in unordinary ways, but they shouldn't be ignored for that.
From the score to the dialogue (or lack thereof) in each and every scene, this movie felt like a calm journey, with a bit of tenseness throughout. I was even on the edge of my seat and tearing up at times. This premise his me really hard and I wasn't expecting it to, which is probably why I feel the need to praise it. I think the biggest compliment I can give this film is its screenplay though, which is written by Jérémy Clapin and Guillaume Laurant. Laurant is best known for his work on Amelie, which I didn't even know prior to watching this, but it's very clear that award-worthy writers worked on this.
In the end, I Lost My Body is a unique premise that exceeds all of its promises by the end. With incredibly engaging flashbacks throughout the entire duration and dialogue that brought tears to my eyes, this is a wonderful movie all around. For those who can take in weird elements in exchange for a fantastic story, I can't recommend this movie enough. Not everyone will be able to latch onto a movie like this, but for myself, it's one of the best stories I've seen all year. I Lost My Body is a fantastic film.
The Report (2019)
A Fantastic Story that Only Translated to a Good Movie
I always seem to be fascinated by true stories that make it into a feature film, that were otherwise hidden until then, but I also wonder how true it really is, given the fact that these stories were kept a secret. That aside, regardless of the source material, I always go into movies like The Report with an open mind and try not to nitpick facts that probably aren't completely true. Put together in the same vein as movies like The Social Network or Molly's Game, the pacing of this movie is off the charts. While it's absolutely an imperfect movie in retrospect, this is a solid watch and here's why.
After the horrific day known as 9/11 had passed, Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) was recruited to helm an investigation into the CIA's secretive ways of interrogating individuals. Some of the findings were disgusting and thus sparked the need to get this story in the public eye. While I don't believe all stories like this need attention, I believe this one warranted a film adaptation. The material at hand and the nicely paced editing by Greg O'Bryant were the standout elements here because the wasn't always interesting enough to hold my attention.
The Report is a film that spews tons and tons of information on its audience. There are scenes where I found myself completely invested and others where I was slightly bored. Not to say the movie as a whole is boring, but I didn't think there were enough surprises to really make this movie hit home. From the editing to the quippy dialogue, it just felt like a movie that had the potential to be a great film like The Social Network, but it just didn't go the extra mile. Still, this is a solid film with some great performances.
Adam Driver seems to get better and better as the years go on and The Report is no exception to that. This performance shows his immense maturity as an actor and I truly do see a future where he wins an Academy Award one day. It also didn't hurt that he has a lot of great dialogue to work from, written by Scott Z. Burns. From The Bourne Ultimatum to Contagion, I have really liked his work thus far (excluding The Laundromat). This movie was a nice mixture of a lot of good, that just didn't quite become great in many areas.
In the end, The Report could've been a movie that received a lot of awards consideration, but I think the novels written about these behind-the-scenes events will probably be more informative. This movie feels more like a briefing, rather than an in-depth exploration. The movie has been made and I wouldn't touch it, but I think it could've worked much better as a television series. I can't exactly rave about the movie as a whole, but it's worth watching for the story alone.
Knives Out (2019)
A Fantastically Clever Whodunnit
From Looper to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Arian Johnson has been a filmmaker on the rise for the last number of years. Although many Star Wars fans seem to not like his addition to the Star Wars franchise, I loved it and I believe him to be one of the greatest directors out there today. My love for him as a filmmaker alone had me excited for his newest release in Knives Out. He took a step backward since his last outing, writing a directing a very small movie with a very large feel. This move was the best thing he could have possibly done for his career, because he has made one hell of a crowd pleaser. Knives Out is terrific and here's why it's worth your time.
Following the death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), his entire family is questioned about his sudden demise. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) oversees this investigation and believes there to be a lot hidden under the surface of this story. This begins the story and classic "whodunnit" feel. There is something that feels very tradition about this movie, with updated dialogue and very unique camerawork to make it a fantastic watch. This movie is pretty much as good as you can get with a story like this these days. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Knives Out.
I can praise Rian Johnson for writing a clever screenplay that keeps you on the edge of your seat, which is does, or I can gush about the precise cinematography that is incredibly well-done, but this film is held together by an insanely talented cast who are all having a blast. If not for this stellar cast committing to these wacky and hilarious characters, then Knives Out would have been pretty boring. This movie benefits from the comedy and I think this cast has a lot to do with that. With that said, this film isn't quite perfect.
Even though nitpicking a movie like this is kind of ridiculous, due to the nature of it needing to contain twists and turns, I have to admit that the movie is slightly predictable, even though it leads you to believe it's not. Without ruining anything, it becomes fairly obvious where things will go after a certain point, so that was a detriment for me. Thankfully, the way everything is presented is very clever and definitely showcases the reveals in ways you're not expecting. Even if you figure out what happened, you won't be able to predict how it happened, and I really appreciated that aspect.
In the end, Knives Out has a nice blend of suspense and comedy to keep almost audiences engaged. I found this blend to be great and would happily revisit these characters again in the future. With fantastic writing and directing by Rian Johnson and a cast that's giving their all in the funnest way possible, it's hard not to like this one. For fans of murder mysteries, comedies, or even any of these performers, I highly recommend checking out Knives Out.
Frozen II (2019)
A Worthy Sequel
It has been six years since the release of Frozen, and since that release, the term "overrated" has been thrown around more and more. Personally, although I do think the music has been more than overplayed, I think the first film still stands on its own as a great animated feature film. Disney surprised me with that film in 2013 and even though I wasn't asking for a continuation, I was still very happy to watch it. Thankfully, even though it's obvious this movie got made to make the studio tons of cash, it also has some thought put into it, building off its predecessor the way a sequel should.
With a call coming from an enchanted forest that Anna and Elsa were warned to never enter as kids, the two of them, along with the return of Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf, all bravely venture inside. Discovering that she may be able to find the origin of her powers, Elsa splits from the rest of the crew. This movie separates these characters for the majority of the run time, which I feel may have slightly hurt the movie. There is some nice closure that gives reason for why everyone needed to be separated, but it would've been nice to see them all have a little more screen time together.
Aside from the song Let it Go, which will never be topped in terms of catchiness, I found that the soundtrack to Frozen II was far superior. The first film utilized the songs to tell the story most of the time, but also favoured them over the story at times. This film prioritizes them and works every song into the narrative in the way that I feel a proper musical should. Frozen II may not be an overall better movie than the first, but the musical aspect is very much an improvement.
As always, the visuals are breathtaking and almost look realistic at times, the voice work is very impressive, and the messages throughout the movie are all great for kids, which is who this film is made for first and foremost. One of my complaints however, even though I still enjoyed his presence, was Olaf. Much like the use of Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, he is overused for comedic relief, far more than he was in the first film. I really enjoy his presence as I said, so it didn't ruin the film at all, it just felt like a bit much at times.
In the end, with great music, a very solid story, visuals that would impress any viewer, and a worthy successor to that of the first film, Frozen II is worth your time. If you were a fan of the first film in any way, I think this movie will satisfy you if you have been eager to see this story continue. With that said, this really isn't a linear progression of the last film, but rather an evolution of it, which I appreciated. This is a solid sequel and I would gladly revisit it eventually, but I really don't see the need for another one. We'll see how much money this one makes I guess. Frozen II gets the seal of approval from me.
Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)
A Highly Inspirational Story
The formula of someone overcoming the odds and willing themselves into success has been done over and over again throughout the history of cinema. People complain about there being too many films based on comic books these days, and while I admit there are a lot, I would argue that there is an overabundance of every genre nowadays. There's so much content out there that the same story is probably told twice in the same year, if not more. It's an embarrassment of riches in terms of how many movies and shows are available for audiences to watch, so it's hard to see everything. Brittany Runs a Marathon looked like a movie that followed a very familiar formula, but I was still very much interested. Now streaming on Amazon Prime, I've finally had the chance to check it out.
Unhappy with her weight, diet, and overall daily routines, Brittany (Jillian Bell) decides to motivate herself to take baby steps, with an eventual goal of running a marathon. With the addition of new friends and other positive influencers entering her life, this positive story is one worth watching. Although she isn't always the most likeable character, that's the whole point of the movie in the end. It's really about not letting others get you down and taking it upon yourself to better yourself. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this movie and Jillian Bell had a lot to do with that, surprisingly.
Being the secondary character to many stars throughout the course of her career and the comedic relief in films like 22 Jump Street or Rough Night, it's roles like that, that had me disliking her as a performer, but now I see that was just the roles being given to her. She has some real, raw talent and I actually look forward to seeing what she does next. I think she is a much better dramatic actress than a comedic one, although she does have her moments. The character is what makes this story good, but her performance is what ended up making the final film as good as it is.
Writing, directing, and producing his first feature film, Paul Downs Colaizzo does some stellar work here. From page to screen, he has adapted this story in such a way that I'm sure will resonate with many viewers. Whether or not you relate to the story on a personal level or not, he does a great job in sharing Brittany's story with those around her. I can see certain viewers seeing themselves in some of the secondary characters and having realizations of their own. This is a really well-done film all around.
In the end, Brittany Runs a Marathon may suffer at times from the lead characters making some unlikeable decisions, but it's ultimately a very inspirational story. From start to finish, I found myself rooting for her to get where she wanted to be. To reiterate, the screenplay and direction by Paul Downs Colaizzo are fantastic, Jillian Bell delivers the best performance of her career to date, and the final act of the movie was worth watching the film for. It really is one of the better movies of 2019.
Jojo Rabbit (2019)
A Wonderful Satire
It goes without saying that today's generation doesn't take to offensive humour as much as they used to, or at least be as forgiving as they used to. For that reason alone I was surprised to see a movie like Jojo Rabbit even get made. After watching it, it also seems like a very necessary and welcome release for today's day. I'm so happy a film like this was made because the rich environment and characters Taika Waititi creates here are worth the price of admission alone. Although this humour absolutely won't be for everyone and may even be a little too off-beat for some, here's why I believe Jojo Rabbit is a fantastic satire, even if some may not enjoy it.
In Nazi Germany, a young boy in Jojo Roman Griffin Davis) is oblivious to the horrors that Hitler represents, so he creates him as an imaginary friend to help him through his struggles. As the plot kicks into gear, he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding Elsa, a Jewish girl, in the walls of their house. This is a film that seems funny on its surface and does have quite a few great laughs, but the surrounding atmosphere and overall story are meant to be taken very seriously. This worked very well for me and I think the end result made for a fun, moving piece of filmmaking.
Taika Waititi is definitely not new to the director's chair, but I always find myself impressed with his work. Whether it be in creating the fantastic Hunt for the Wilderpeople or the highly entertaining Thor: Ragnarok, his style is very unique. With that said, I think Jojo Rabbit is his best work to date. This is the most I've ever seen him juggle comedy and drama so well together and they never seemed to clash. I will always look forward to his upcoming projects because, at the very least, they will have some kind of entertaining aspect.
From Roman Griffin Davis in the title role to Sam Rockwell as Captain Klenzendorf, Scarlett Johansson as the mysterious Rosie to the absolutely hysterical Archie Yates as Jojo's best friend Yorki, this film is littered with talent. On top of that talent, these characters were written by Waititi with care, adapted from the novel by Christine Leunens. There was never a moment where I questioned if a certain performer should have been cast in any of these roles because although there is some great emotion, it's all played up as fun. I really enjoyed the ride this movie took me on.
Overall, Jojo Rabbit suffers from the fact that the humour is quite dry and won't be for everyone, but if ultimately one of the better films I've seen all year. Filled with laughter, heart, a meaningful story with a terrific message and gut punches that you wouldn't expect, I think Jojo Rabbit is deserving of its praises. At a mere 100 minutes, this movie flies by, delivering a really enjoyable viewing experience. As long as you know what you're in for, I highly recommend this one.
Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
A Solid Addition to a Severly Jumbled Franchise
Regardless of how much you liked any of the previous instalments in the Terminator franchise, it goes without saying that it has been a bumpy ride, story-wise. Losing James Cameron as the head of this franchise was always the biggest thing wrong, due to the fact that he told his story and wrapped it up in the second film, T2: Judgement Day. This is now the sixth film and everything past the second has been subpar to me, excluding the fact that I did get some enjoyment out of Terminator: Salvation. This time, although Cameron was not at the helm as director, he was actually backing it as a producer, so if any of these movies deserved a little hope, it was this one. After viewing it, this film didn't do anything to get me excited for another instalment or anything like that, but I enjoyed it.
Echoing many elements from the first two films, Terminator: Dark Fate follows Grace and Sarah Connor as they find themselves protecting a young girl from a liquid terminator that has been sent to kill her. Like many franchises that fear straying too far into original territory, this movie feels stale in terms of storytelling at times, but as a movie outside of the Terminator franchise, it's actually quite good. There are a few creative liberties taken throughout the movie that had me scratching my head, but for the most part, this film is just trying to deliver an exciting ride, which is what I feel it accomplished.
Quite new to the directing chair, Tim Miller had only worked on Deadpool before being hired for this film, but that didn't bleed through into the final product at all. I think this is a very well-directed piece of action cinema, with characters you love from the past and enough new stuff to keep you engaged. It may seem like a negative to say that this movie would've been so much better if it wasn't part of the Terminator franchise, but if you can look past that, I think you'll be able to enjoy yourself. This movie is riddled with story flaws, but that's honestly to be expected with these films at this point.
Terminator: Dark Fate picks up after the events of the second film, choosing ignoring instalments three to five. That will definitely be confusing to those who have followed the franchise and have no idea that's what they're doing here, but it's also a big positive. For doing this, it doesn't have to worry about the baggage that the previous films have created for any future instalments. This movie feels simpler than the rest, which was a nice change of pace. Still, this movie was more of a breath of fresh air for the franchise, rather than a great film.
In the end, I can both recommend this movie as a solid action film, as well as an okay sequel to T2: Judgement Day. Yes, it's littered with problems if you look closely and there are story choices that will more than likely annoy many Terminator fans, but I think this film falls much more in line with the classic Terminator storyline. Linda Hamilton is pretty solid as Sarah Connor once again, Arnold Schwarzenegger as a little more screentime than I was expecting, and Mackenzie Davis is probably the best performance in the entire film. Overall, this is a solid action film that I would recommend, even though this franchise is a mess in retrospect.
A Likeable Mixed Bag
Disney has officially released its long-awaited streaming service, Disney+. While many viewers are excited to rewatch their classic favourites and new upcoming Star Wars and Marvel series, it also seems that they will be creating their own original films every so often as well. One of their first at launch was that of Noelle. Just in time for the Christmas season, Disney+ released this Christmas film to warm the hearts of families around the world. Sadly, I feel that the execution of this movie is a mixed bag. Do I think Disney+ is worth purchasing? Yes, very much so. Do I think this is the movie that you should watch before anything else? Probably not.
After the passing of their father, siblings Noelle (Anna Kendrick) and Nick (Bill Hader) find themselves having to take over the family business. With their father having been Santa Claus and them having lived in the North Pole all their lives, they know nothing else. Nick is next in line to become Santa but ultimately flees the scene when nerves kick in. Noelle ventures to find him and hijinks ensue. Noelle is a film that works as a sweet, yet super corny little Holiday flick, but the third act of the film sort of took away from the rest of it for me.
Without giving anything away for those who wish to watch, the third act of this movie really begins to hit you over the head with the messages it's trying to send. While I have no problems with these messages, it's almost like the filmmakers thought viewers didn't see these messages slowly presenting themselves throughout the entire movie. I liked the conclusion for what it was, but the way it was executed fell flat for me. There was a lot of emotion set-up throughout the movie that does have a payoff, but I felt disconnected from it all.
Anna Kendrick is as loveable and quirky as she has always been and Bill Hader (although having much less screen time) is quite good with the material he is given as well. Where this movie fell apart was easily in the screenplay. I didn't mind the direction here, in fact, I actually liked it, which was no surprise seeing as I enjoyed director Marc Lawrence's work on Music & Lyrics. With that said, he also wrote this screenplay and I found a few key elements were missing to make the finale of this movie truly work.
In the end, Noelle is a passable, at times very enjoyable Christmas movie, but ultimately collapses by the end for me. It's not that I despised where they went, it's just how it was done. For fans of Holiday films, no matter what they are about, this movie might appeal to you more. I personally love a great Holiday flick and I'm usually pretty forgiving of them, but this one didn't quite work. It's not a bad movie, but I was certainly hoping for better.
A Solid Mash-Up of Time Periods
Apple TV+ has officially launched and although their catalogue is small at the moment, it's very clear that they were going for quality over quantity. Even if all of their shows were terrible at launch, the cast, crews, and budgets were all top-notch. Well, I just watched one of those top-notch productions in Dickinson, and I must admit that I quite enjoyed it. Not everyone, but many viewers believe the best way to watch a television show is all at once. I appreciate it when a series is meant to be watched like that, but I also appreciate shows like Dickinson. This series doesn't require your attention all at once. Each episode feels like its own story, even though there is a through-line. Here's why I believe this show may just be worth your time.
Following real-life poet Emily Dickinson(Hailee Steinfeld) as she struggles through the trials and tribulations of the old ways women were treated, this is a series that mashes up time periods. Although this is a period piece in many ways, modern slang terms and dialogue is spoken, along with hip-hop montages. This series might be viewed as messy to some viewers who find that these two ideals clash with each other, but I actually think it's the main reason why I enjoyed watching it so much.
From Lynn Shelton to David Gordon Green, Dickinson is a series that's loaded with many talented directors and writers. As I mentioned, each episode feels different than the last. Although the same themes and tone are very present throughout, it feels like you're reading one of Emily's poems each time an episode begins and ends. There aren't any huge cliffhangers or extravagant moments, but rather intriguing set-ups and payoffs that keep you interested enough to continue watching.
This series is different from many that are on television these days, which is saying a lot when looking at just how many are out there today. Hailee Steinfeld is a big reason this show stands out though, being the incredibly talented actress that she is. I love watching her performances in nearly everything she has done, so it was a no-brainer that she would continue her great work here. Not only does she shine as always, but Adrian Enscoe, Jane Krakowski, and Toby Haus (to name a few) all do outstanding work here.
Dickinson is hilarious, dramatic, weird, clever, and thought-provoking all at the same time. The way the modern-day language meshes with that of the classic setting worked very well to me and I can foresee this show working very well for many seasons. All it has to do is contrast how the past was to how we live in this world today. It makes for a very interesting narrative and I will gladly continue watching this series. Dickinson is well worth the watch and is now streaming on Apple TV+.