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I will stop editing this list after all the 2019 movies have been release on either streaming or home video (probably around March or April) because I want this list to represent how I feel about these movies that I have seen at this point in time. So don’t expect me to hold the same feelings for these films in three years or so.
How to Make a Smart and Fun Action Thriller 101
Hello and welcome to "How to Make a Smart and Fun Action Thriller 101." Mr. McQueen are you ready to show us your presentation?
It's always hard trying to make a fun movie that is also smart and interesting and makes you think after you see it. It's not like mindless popcorn flicks are bad inherently, but the problem is how often they feel disposable. Like every time a new blockbuster comes out in the small vain of becoming a hit franchise/cinematic universe, they usually get forgotten or under-perform, and that's largely due to apathy from the audience for not really caring about anything else besides seeing a mindless action flick. They are disposable because the audience asks for disposable films. Which is why it is sad to see a movie as great as Widows under-perform (THANKS A LOT FOX), but at the same time when you have a movie as well constructed as this, I can't help but feel like that it will have a great chance on streaming/award season. Either way this movie is fantastic!
What makes this movie work are the characters. We care for these ladies doing a man's job, not because of some cheap sense of girl power, but because these area actual characters with actual problems. They are extremely well round and also relatable and understandable too where the audience actively root for them to win. A large thanks to this from co-screenwriter Gillian Flynn, most known for writing Gone Girl and the adaptation to said book. She is a talented writer and I'm glad to see her become a successful screenwriter outside of her own works. Also it doesn't help that the acting is amazing. Viola Davis anchors this film as the lead, delivering a powerful but grounded performance here. It honestly felt like she's playing Amanda Waller in a GOOD movie (Viola Davis is a really good actress, but she was terrible in Suicide Squad because she was given nothing to work with). Everyone else is great in this movie, with Elizabeth Debicki and Daniel Kaluuya (who is terrifying mind you) giving my favorite supporting performances, but that's not to undervalue everyone else, as Collin Farrell, Cynthia Erivo, Brian Tyree Henry, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson are great too. Even Michelle Rodriguez is great here too (albeit giving some spotty deliveries here and there) and does show that she seriously can do better than the Fast and Furious franchise.
Steve McQueen is great here at directing too. The cinematography is crisp and precise, and even showcasing some damn good blocking and camera shots. Like that car scene is some of the best film-making of the year and showcases smart storytelling! Even the color choices is great too, showing that Steve McQueen is making a ton of conscious choices too with the sets and costumes. The heist is also amazing too and definitely got me on the edge of my seat! Clearly Steve McQueen should do more action thrillers in the future! I also liked how the politics of the movie is done in a subtle and non-confrontational way too, letting the audience think about what's going on with the environment and dialogue but not drawing attention to it, which while I would have preferred for it to be a little bit more open about the political subtext personally, it certainly shows that there is way more to this film!
I can't think of too many issues I had with this film. Like sometimes the dialogue can be a little bit hammy, and the twist in the film was too ridiculous for this film, but I wouldn't say it derailed this film too much. It's just a really tight film and I am happy to see it again! Definitely worth watching!
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
Underwhelming Coen Bros film
It is hard to talk about a Coen Brothers movie, because often they feel like a movie you have to think about over and over again to fully understand them. That is certainly how I felt about many of their films, like Burn After Reading, Fargo, the Big Lebowski, even No Country for Old Men. That certainly is something to respect about filmmakers as beloved as the brothers. And that might be something I can say too about the Ballad of Buster Scruggs... I think. What I mean is that while I wouldn't say this movie is as cryptic as some of their films, I will say that for an anthology film from the Coens it is very much accessible, I'm not sure that I fully "get" it, if that does make sense. Or maybe I do?
Look I love the Coens, but I'm not going to lie this was a bit of a mix bag for me. I didn't hate it, I enjoyed myself, but knowing that this was originally going to be a miniseries on Netflix it makes a whole lot of sense as to the shortcomings! Now for an anthology film, it has the usual shortcomings of one in that there are more weaker films than highlights. However unlike most anthology films, there are reoccurring thematic elements that ties them all together. Mainly the usual Coens themes of nihilism, judgement, good vs. evil, unjust punishment, quirks, etc. However the movie feels repetitive in terms of thematic cohesion. While each film are different in terms of their respective plots, it feels like you are watching the same thing over and over again when the themes are the same thing. I mean sure you can say that for every Coen Brothers films, but the Coens are pretty good varying their films and spicing things up. Raising Arizona may be similar to Fargo, but they are both feel like different films.
The other major problem with this film is that each films, with maybe two exceptions, feel rather short. Sure each films do have a cohesive plot with a beginning, middle, and end, but they often feel like cliff note versions of each film, almost like a summary to a longer story. Again it would have benefited if the movie was just a mini-series, because each one will be fleshed out properly.
Like I said, I enjoyed it, as there are a ton to really love about this film! The performances all around are great and there are no bad performances. Highlights for me are Tim Blake Nelson, Harry Melling, and Tom Waits. The sets are fantastic, as each one are beautiful to look at and makes you feel like you are in the wild west! Although the movie does lack grit and would have benefited if they were shot on film instead of digital (this is a Netflix movie after all), the cinematography is pretty damn good too, with some absolutely beautiful shots too, all done by Inside Llewyn Davis DP Bruno Delbonnel. The music is also great, with a fantastic old-timey score by Carter Burwell, along with some great musical numbers in a style of cowboy musicals!
Overall, it's pretty disappointing for a Coens film, at least for me. I can see why people love this film, but there are too many shortcomings for me personally to really love it. Like I said it's not bad, and maybe I'll have to let it sit with me and revisit it in the future to truly love it, but it could have been a really good mini-series than a movie.
Ranking each segment would be Meal Ticket (4/5), The Mortal Remains (3.5/5), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (3.5/5), All Gold Canyon (3.5/5), The Gal Who Got Rattled (3/5), and Near Algodones (2/5).
A Star Is Born (2018)
I don't care if it's overhyped it's still good GEEZ!!!
It might have been easier for me to watch A Star is Born not watching the previous incarnations of the story, including the original 1937 film and the two musical adaptations AND the Bollywood adaptation, but honestly there's a ton of good here that I just feel like overall it's just a damn good movie, albeit over-hyped.
The acting is great all around, especially from the two leads. While I wouldn't call this Bradley Cooper's finest work, at least compared to performances like Silver Linings Playbook, it's still a solid performance all around. He matches the role of the aged and drunken rock star well, plus his voice sounds absolutely amazing backed by some fantastic country and Americana tunes. However Lady Gaga shines in this role. I'm not much of a fan of her music outside of a few tunes, plus I've heard from friends that she's not all that good of an actress from previous roles (and more specifically her Golden Globe win for American Horror Story), her first leading role here works really well. She's great in this! And while I'm not a huge fan of her singing style, I'm not going to deny that she can sing! Although whether or not she deserves an Oscar for this is certainly debatable (she will probably win because the Academy LOVE to give the Best Actress award to roles like her's *coughcoughGwynethPaltrowcough*)The rest of the supporting cast is great, from Andrew Dice Clay to Dave Chappelle to Anthony Ramos. However the real standout has to go to Sam Elliott, who absolutely kills it in this movie, and dare I say one of his best performances in a film!
So let's talk about the music. Largely co-written by Lukas Nelson, son of country legend Willie Nelson, along with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and including a ton of talented musicians behind the scene, ranging from the likes of Dave Cobbs, Jason Isbell, Mark Ronson, DJ White Shadow, Diane Warren, and (unfortunately) Julia Michaels, the music is some damn great country and Americana songs backed with some fantastic playing and Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga's great vocals. Standouts for me include Black Eyes, Shallow (which will win Best Original Song I guarantee it!), and Always Remember Us This Way. There are a few duds here, like Heal Me and Why Did You Do That?, which the R&B style doesn't work for Gaga and just felt awkward when she sings it. And the closing song I'll Never Love Again just reminded me of a song Whitney would have done for the Bodyguard (specifically I Have Nothing, and double specifically because when the song is performed in the movie like that scene was so obvious it took me out of the film) and it's just not that powerful unfortunately, just felt like a pale imitator.
What I like about this movie is that, while the story has been told before and the themes are not new, the film makes up for it with just interesting characters for our leads. We can relate and see what each character is going through and feel for their triumphs and their downfalls. The movie benefits not just from the performances, but also from Cooper as a director. It's his first time directing and for a debut it's pretty great! He chooses to adopt a more up close and personal, hand held approach at directing, getting a personal, intimate, and at times unflinching look at these characters lives. This movie is a lot like La La Land in that it might not be original, the effort and care there is with making the film more than makes up for the shortcomings.
Speaking of shortcomings, Bradley Cooper is no Damien Chazelle. In terms of visual blocking and film language, Cooper's approach can't help but feel basic at times. Now to be fair not all debut films from directors can be Reservoir Dogs or Eraserhead, and Cooper certainly shows a ton of promise too, but he falls into a lot of other actor-turned-directors when they make films and go for a safe approach to film-making. His directing style is a lot like how Ben Affleck directs a film, in that it's competent and certainly does capture the feeling of a scene well, but also pretty average too in terms of what's being communicated too. Although the movie doesn't help from the editing, which can be jumbled and at times pretty bad too.
The script also has some problems too. While the movie does feel fresh with it's themes, that's largely from the performances and the direction, and certainly not from the script. Whenever the movie addresses the dichotomy of pop and rock feels dated and sticks out like a sore thumb. I wouldn't say the intent of the film is to say that pop is a shallow genre, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Plus it's not like pop was always an artificial genre that lacks substance. I mean look at acts like the Beatles or Michael Jackson or Madonna or Prince, or even with the current generation like Lorde and Grimes and Beyonce and even Gaga with her last record Joanne, who are all making some truly excellent pop music with a ton of auteurism. I'm also not a fan of how the film ends, which I won't spoil but it felt so forced and really unnecessary other than to provide some cheap emotional manipulation (which is to be expected given co-screenwriters Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, Benjamin Button, and Extremely Loud) and more egregiously Will Fetters (Remember Me, the Lucky Ones, the Best of Me) it's something to expect).
I mean a more cynical me would write this movie off as cloying Oscarbait in the style of Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves, but I'm not gonna lie there's a lot that works with this movie that makes me look pass the flaws. It's just a really great and likable film! Go see it if you are interested!
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
You Were Never Really Here is great!
Movies like You Were Never Really Here only get good once you finish watching it. Which is a weird compliment, but in this case it is a very high compliment with how many layers and interpretations the film has that after you are done watching you think about what you saw and what it all meant. It festers in your subconscious that you can't help but think about it more and more until it finally bursts and you came to a conclusion on what it all meant...until you hear a theory that makes sense that you go mad about if your interpretation is right or if the other person's interpretation is about! That is definitely a high compliment!
Joaquin Phoenix gives a great performance. I won't go as far as to call it his finest work, but he does carry this movie and understands a lot of this character and what the film is getting at. Phoenix is like a chameleon whenever he takes a role. You buy who the character is instead of seeing Joaquin Phoenix, and I bought such an interesting and unique character. Lynne Ramsey also deserves a lot of credit. This is the first movie I seen from her, knowing her from her previous film We Need to Talk About Kevin, one that's been on my watchlist for the longest time. After seeing this movie, I want to watch it. Every shot in this film is crisp and polished, and you get transported in what feels like another world, one that is alien-like but also intense and eerie. There's an atmosphere in this film that is just so off-putting you can't help but be sucked in. A large thanks to this goes to Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood working on the movie score (although it doesn't beat his work with PTA), benefiting with the other worldly score composition. All of which benefits from the brain chewing story where you aren't truly sure what is going on. Like mentioned before, there are so many layers and theories to mull over that it just entices you to truly learn more about what exactly is going on, which makes for a great watch that will surely benefit the more you watch it.
There are a few issues I did take with this film. For one, the first act is pretty sluggish. It takes a while until the movie really gets going, but the first act of the film feels more like a slog to get through. Another issue, and admittingly this one is more nit-picky on my end but I know some would take issue with this, is that it is obvious when people aren't being hit.
Overall, great movie and definitely one I'll be thinking about for a while now. I know this isn't a movie for everyone, so I will say is that if you are interested in watching a slow but interesting psychological crime thriller that will make you ponder, then give this a watch!
Next Gen (2018)
Next Gen is a Must Watch!
Look, I get why people do not like this movie. It's extremely niche, the villain is generic, it's possibly tonally confused. But I do not care! I had a ton of fun with this movie and absolutely love this! It's not for everyone but if you want a fun, fresh, and absolutely breathtaking animated film on Netflix, go see it!!!
The animation is absolutely breathtaking! Which might be surprising considering it's on Netflix and usually smaller, independent animations usually look rather cheep. However Next Gen proves once again that it's not the budget nor the software that makes the movie, but the animators who makes it and know what they are doing. The animation looks like it was made for theaters as the textures and pure scope of the film look absolutely stunning and nothing I have ever seen from a major company like Pixar or Dreamworks. The designs are cartoonish but they look great in 3D! Everyone has a distinct design from the humans to the robots. Even the world too is unique. Making futuristic utopian cities can often come off as generic in modern sci-fi stories, however Next Gen takes full use of the concept that it feels fresh and not stale! And the action scenes are amazing!
The story, while admittingly generic, does actually come off as fresh too. While sure the movie does follow the same beats as the kid befriends a robot storyline, what makes it work is that the story is well written with likable characters and a rebellious attitude that you get sucked in. Most people call it Big Hero 6, but I'd say it's more like a mix between the Iron Giant and I, Robot with a dash of Scott Pilgrim. The main character, Mai Su, might be unlikable to some, I actually found her rather refreshing as a main character. Instead of being nice she's all angsty but in a way where you can relate to what she is going through and seeing her grow is honestly a joy. She's unique for a lead hero. And the same can be said about 7723, the main robot hero. Seeing the two of them grow together is enjoyable to watch and by the end I was feeling for the two of them. The movie is smart with the presentation, being a tongue-in-cheek animated kids film but also making you feel for what each character is going through and tackling issues ranging from loss and growing up to even complex topics like human emotions in a robot society. The latter is hard to pull off when there are so many stories that tackle this issue, but the movie works not in originality but just the emotional connection with these characters. I will say that the voice cast could have been better, but they all do a fine job here. Charlyne Yi is solid as Mai Su, John Krasinski is great as 7723, David Cross is absolutely funny doing all the voices for the various robots, and Jason Sudeikis does a good job too as the movie's antagonist.
Again I get that this movie isn't made for everyone. But if you do want to watch an animated movie that is fun and different than what the major animated studios are making, PLEASE watch Next Gen! You will not regret it!
A Quiet Place (2018)
Probably the most overrated film of 2018
I'm mixed on this movie. On one hand, I can see the hype and find a lot of things to like about the movie. On the other hand, there's a ton of things I don't like about the movie that I am honestly surprised how much praise and credit it has received.
So what are the things I like? Well it's got some good atmosphere, I'll give the movie that. I wasn't sure on the premise, I felt that it was too ridiculous for me to really buy, but I think there's a nice eerie ambiance with the film. It's claustrophobic with the singular setting, the sound design is pretty solid, and even the cinematography from Charlotte Bruus Christensen and the blocking of certain shots are pretty great. I also think that John Krasinski as a director does a pretty good job, albeit not an amazing job, when it comes with working behind the camera. There was a lot of effort being made with the film and I can appreciate that. The acting is mostly good. Nothing amazing, but most of the actors does a good job with conveying their thoughts and feelings without dialogue. John Krasinski is pretty good, Emily Blunt is great as usual, Millicent Simmonds is the best child actor here (although I kept on confusing her from the girl in Heredity), and Noah Jupe is good too, although when he does talk in the film he's pretty bad.
Now what don't I like? Well the rules are pretty inconsistent and does lead to some plot holes and inconsistencies. Like the general idea is that small noises are alright, but big noises are bad. Which is fine. However it's hard to really tell what constitutes as a loud noise and a small noise. Like a toy space shuttle and a cooking alarm clock is a loud noise but apparently snapping your fingers and a fire being lit doesn't? Fire's not quiet you can still hear it! Some might say that's nitpicking, but honestly I just don't think there was a ton of care to working out the rules to making them super tight and the movie would have benefited a lot. Also what would have benefited, and this one is pretty major, is not having a score. The score used in the film is pretty bland on it's own, but it also ruins a lot of the film because it's feels so manipulative at times. I think the movie works without a score because John Krasinski does a decent job conveying the feeling of certain scenes when the movie is mute, but with the score it just feels forced with how you're supposed to feel and it just ruin a ton of scenes. Especially during the tense scenes because it is one of those damn horror films that use the "BRAAAAAAHHHH" sound during a jump scare! It makes scenes super cheesy! Speaking of cheesy, that old man scene! I bursted out laughing! I wasn't bugged too much with how the characters acted in the film, I can excuse some irrational actions because that's what humans are, but there are a ton of things that do push it. Like why would the little boy use a loud space toy when he SHOULD KNOW DAMN WELL by the information that we are given that it would be a bad idea to do so? That's the biggest one but when you break down certain character's actions and traits it can't help but feel like it's more so that either A, it's to exposition dump to the audience more about the rules, and B, these characters need to be dumb in order for the action to take place. And for the latter I can excuse that, but again there is a limit I can take!
Overall I can see why people like this movie, but honestly there's just so many problems with the film that I can't really give it too much credit than it's just around average. I didn't expect to like it, but I didn't hate it either. I was pleasantly surprised but I doubt I'll revisit this movie much after I had seen it to be honest.
A beautiful trash baby!
So this movie was kind of crap, but also kind of amazing too! It's a mess but I had a lot of fun laughing at it's expense. It was basically everything that I hoped for...well okay an R-rating is what I hoped for but ehhhh...
Tom Hardy has a really bad New Yorker accent that's like a cartoon, but looking past that he did a good job here. He really gets his character and does add a lot to the movie. And the relationship between Venom and Eddie is pretty great. It's not quite a "Jekyll and Hyde" situation, but the whole interactions between the two characters were pretty great. And the stuff with Venom that we do get is also pretty cool too. I like the buildup to when we see full Venom in action, and he does remind me a lot of the comics. So that is the one real genuine praise I can give outside of some odds and ends like the motorcycle chase being pretty fun to watch and Michelle Williams is also good here too despite her weak character, but more on that later. Unfortunately for some, but fortunately for me, the movie is broken!
The action scenes are pretty bland. While I did like the motorcycle chase scene, outside of the Symbiote power there really isn't much new when it comes with the framing and stunt choreography that I haven't seen before, and honestly better. The motorcycle chase is the only good action scene, because every other action set piece is poorly shot, jumbly edited, and depending on the setting also hard to follow sometimes when it's in darker settings. Which is especially true with the fight sequence with Venom and Riot. Both characters do look rather similar and seeing them duke it out with the mess of editing it makes it hard to figure out who was fighting who. But it does have a roundabout way of being funny to watch when you see these reoccurring elements done before in other action films.
Riz Ahmed makes for an underwhelming bad guy. Sure he is a generic bad guy, but if you ham it up it can be fun to watch. However Ahmed plays him very reserved and not very expressive, always having a very blank expression. Which I guess is kind of the point given the character is supposed to be cold, but I just never bought him. The character is a more evil version of Mark Zuckerberg, but he comes off more like Gabe from the Office! Although Ahmed got nothing on Jenny Slate! She is flat out terrible in this, underacting and looking so bored on screen! She always has a super bland and blank expression! Like there's a scene where she gets caught whistleblowing the company she works for, and her expression when she is caught comes off like she left the lights on in her apartment when she left. Like...why?
There was some bad publicity leading up where Tom Hardy blatantly said that 40 minutes of the film was cut, I don't know if it was the more gorier parts of the film that was promised to us, but I think there was a lot of development cut out, because judging on the theatrical cut this script is underdeveloped! I gave Michelle Williams credit for being pretty good in the movie, and she is, but the relationship between Eddie and her character is extremely underdeveloped, especially when there are like some kind of romantic tension with her and her new man, who is absolutely pointless in this regard. I honestly did not care about Tom Hardy and Michelle William's relationship at all. The relationship with Eddie and Venom also felt underwhelming too. Like the general tension between the two is fine, but Venom turns from a "I wanna wreck things in this world" to "actually this planet is pretty cool I'm gonna save it" in the blink of an eye! Like...where was the development? The movie flies by so fast too! It's barely 2 hours long but it feels a lot more like an hour and a half film. Which does run into a problem with the short development and story arks and especially the third act which flies by very quickly. The tone is also a mess. It's not a straight up horror film, but it does have a ton of psychological elements to it mixed with a campy Marvel movie, it's jarring but it's also hilarious having these two different tones at odds with each other. Like the third act has a song cue right out of an Avengers film and it is so out of place, it's amazing!
If there is one thing I can credit about the script, it's the dialogue. There are some intentionally funny scenes and quips, but for the most part it's poorly written and pretty cheesy and edgy. It was hilarious, and probably unintentional too which makes it better!
Overall the movie is garbage but go in with the right mindset it is a fun movie to rip apart with friends. The jarring tones, underwritten screenplay, and corny edge makes this a hilarious romp! Although I will say that it is also a bit disappointing if Sony kept it as an R-rated movie, developed more on the relationship with Eddie and Venom, and had someone who wasn't a studio hack like Ruben Fleischer and had the tone feel like an Evil Dead movie, then it would be a fun watch AND a legit good movie instead of making a safe movie for a doomed and terrible Spider-Man-less cinematic universe. But I am satisfied with the trash baby that it is!
Also the movie has practically the same story beats as Catwoman and that got me SHOOK!
So I had no real interest in watching this film really. There wasn't much out and my mom wanted to see this movie, and I begrudgingly went because it looked like the best option out, plus it has Kyle MacLachlan in it (Twin Peaks forever!!!). So I went and I honestly got to say it was surprisingly decent. I won't say this movie is good, given that I rated it as an average film in my books, but it was better than what I expected.
Owen Vaccaro is okay as the lead role. I won't say it's amazing, but for child acting he's passable. There are a few bad deliveries from him, but for the most part he didn't annoy me. Most of the child acting here is alright too. The adult acting is far better, and no one foamed in a performance as they all really cared about making the film, which is a huge plus! Jack Black is probably the weak link of the bunch as his usual Jack Black shtick sticks out in the 1950s setting, but for the most part he was pretty good. Cate Blanchett is great as usual, and her and Jack Black do have great banter and funny quips at each other. Kyle MacLachlan doesn't get a ton to do, but he's good as usual, plus his role as the big bad is actually rather menacing than what we usually get from family films.
The biggest surprise for me was that Eli Roth of all people did a decent job directing. And I am not saying that because he diverted from his usual extreme horror and gorefest films, I actually do not like him as a director honestly. He usually relies more on cheap thrills than on actually making interesting or fun movies to watch, which is very clear given the terrible remake to Death Wish earlier this year. And while I still don't think he's all that great of a director, the shot composition is basic and uninspired, the movie does come to life whenever the film gets to the magical, weirder, and darker moments of the film, which are the highlights of the film. The more creepy and strange the movie gets, the more alive it feels. There's a lot of charm and a reminder of earlier Tim Burton films like Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, which is always a plus. Roth did make a ton of effort in making the film and it does show. There's a ton of energy and enthusiasm that comes from the film with the cast and terrific production design. The costumes, makeup, and prop design do a great job creating a strange looking film, and more than makes up for the by-the-number film-making.
However I cannot really say this movie would make up for how generic the film is. And I don't mean the premise is generic, it certainly is unique of a premise. However when it comes with the structure, you've seen this before in a lot of children's films, right down to the cliched conflicts and character traits. It's a very safe film even with the scary elements that do manage to spice up the average structure of the film. The charm of the film does make up for it, but if the movie does not have any interest in this film, you don't have to watch it. Families and kids will enjoy it, but for the most part you can just rent it or watch it on TV or Netflix as background noise. Again not bad, just kind of pleasantly average.
Fan who is conflicted
I am honestly conflicted with this movie. As a Twin Peaks fan, I was excited to see this movie, especially after finishing the third/Return/limited season of the show. I knew that the movie was a prequel to the original series about the last few days of Laura's life, but I thought there would have been more honestly besides that.
There are two ways to watch this movie, either as a fan of Twin Peaks or as an outsider looking in. As an outsider looking in, I can't really recommend watching this before seeing the show. It certainly would make sense given that there really isn't much new to be added, but at the same time the movie is relying on the fact that you have seen the show before watching the movie, with how little characterization there is with Dale Cooper, the relationship with Leo and Shelly, the Black Lodge, and the final episode of the original run of the show. And as a fan of the show, there isn't much to really take away from this outside of the original show, outside of seeing Laura before she died (BTW Sheryl Lee is great in this) and more info about the Black Lodge, as well as info to the the Return and how the film bridged both series together like what happened at the last episode of the second season and with David Bowie's character, Philip Jeffries (Bowie is really weird in this movie BTW). We don't really learn anything new that the show already told us before besides providing a visual aid, albeit a more graphic visual aid, and the stuff with Chester Desmond and the investigation of Teresa Banks feels completely pointless because, again, we don't learn anything new that wasn't in the show.
So just judging the movie on it's own...well it's a mixed bag. The acting is all around pretty good, even with the more goofier acting, but given that it's true to the show it's excusable. Sheryl Lee is great in this as she really does shine more as Laura in this film than in the show, returning actors like Ray Wise, Kyle MacLachlan, Dana Ashbrook, James Marshall (even though James is the worst!), and Harry Dean Stanton are pretty great, and Moria Kelly fills in Donna's shoes nicely. The weak link in this film is Chris Isaak as Chester Desmond who is just so dull in this film, although he doesn't really get a lot to in this role. This movie is also peak Lynch at his oddest and most horrifying. The movie can be interpreted as repression and the torment and mental strains of abuse on a victim. So many scenes here are truly unnerving and uncomfortable to watch, it isn't an easy watch, which is definitely a high compliment considering that's what the movie goes for. And without the restrictions of TV ratings, the movie is uncompromising with the sex and violence, feeling like this is truly what Twin Peaks should have been if it wasn't on TV or produced by HBO. Unfortunately the structure is off. The first act of the film is about the investigation of Teresa Banks that is absolutely unnecessary and goes nowhere. Scenes often end with fade to black cuts, like it's going to cut to a commercial break, that just feels weird and unnecessary. There are characters that feel absolutely pointless to the narrative of the film. The soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti is great. Often eerie and unnerving, but also beautiful and soothing, much like the show's score as well. It enhances the film while also feeling like it can fit along with the same universe as Twin Peaks (Badalamenti did score the show BTW), as well as a good listen on it's own. Also the minimalist reworking of Laura's Theme is fantastic!
Honestly the big issue with the film is like a lot of shows that are adapted to the big screen, it is made for the fans more than anyone new. There's not a lot of characters that are fleshed out because they are in the show. And with Fire Walks with Me, I'd have a hard time seeing anyone who has not seen the show be confused as hell after seeing the film. It works well as watching this movie after finishing the original series, but again it's a prequel and not much new is learned from the film. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. There's a lot good here, but overall I didn't get much out of it besides an unnerving experience. Which could be applauded as a success, but with how murky the end result is, it's just hard to recommend the finished product.
But seriously watch the original run of Twin Peaks it's absolutely fantastic!
Ehhh it holds up alright I guess
Okay so this explains a bit of a backstory as to why I re-watched this in like 10 years. I took a class for my junior year of college about the writing of C.S. Lewis. This included essays, autobiographies, books, and one of Narnia books, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. When I took that class I never read any of the Narnia books until then, but I was hooked in reading them afterwards. However it took me a while until officially reading them. Then after one long road trip to and from Oklahoma I decided to read the first two Narnia books (chronologically speaking). And while it is written in a way for a more younger audience and some extremely on the nose Christian imagery, the books are pretty dang good, so far. So it was after I finished the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I was curious as to see how well the film adapted the book, as well as re-watching a movie I had somewhat fond memories of.
Needless to say...they hold up about as well as I expected. Not exactly great but not terrible as well. Certainly not as bad as some people made the films out to be.
So let's get the first thing out of the way first, the child acting, with one exception, is not very good. Even with bumping Peter and Susan's ages up in the books (both are about preteen age), William Moseley as Peter and Anna Popplewell as Susan are just not very good. None of the line delivery is believable and they have super dull expressions with the world around them, although to be fair on them director Andrew Adamson can be blamed for this too. William is the worst out of the four as so many of his super serious lines he is given comes off as super laughable. The only one out of the four that is the most tolerable is Georgie Henley as Lucy, but even then she does give a mixed performance. At worst she is wooden and over enunciating, but at best she does capture book Lucy very well, and at least she does feel like she's trying more than the other three. Skandar Keynes does an alright job at times as Edmund, but there are times where his delivery is just not good. Most of the other live action actors do a good job here, like Tilda Swinton, who does a great job at capturing the White Witch, James McAvoy and Jim Broadbent. The voice acting is also decent too, Ray Winstone and Dawn French are pretty great here. But Liam Neeson makes a disappointing Aslan, feeling rather cold and under performing as the voice.
The production is pretty great, as it does feel a lot like what Narnia is described in the book. I felt like I was transported in another world. The costumes were excellent, and even most of the visual effects hold up fairly well too for the animals, although there are a ton of bad green-screen composites here. As far as an adaptation goes, it's actually pretty good. While the movie never recaptures the way Lewis describes and narrates in the book, there is an attempt here that is worth praising. There are a few changes here and there, Peter and Susan do get more development than in the book as well as adding more family drama in here that's alright, they explained a lot better why Aslan sacrificed himself to the White Witch, a lot of the Christian imagery is made less ham-fisted like in the book. Although they did manage to beefen up the story with more action scenes and they never made it clear that Edmund was under an enchantment, which is why he betrayed his siblings. But overall it's not terrible of an adaptation. It's loyal and the concessions they did make to fit the screen.
The big problem with this movie besides the child acting is that it is VERY clear that the movie wants to be the next Lord of the Rings. So much of the movie dramatizes events from the books or add more stakes in translation, which isn't necessarily bad, but it is clear the intent of Disney wanting a franchise on their hands to compete with the Harry Potter films. And honestly Andrew Adamson, who most people know for co-directing the first two Shrek films (yes...really), he is no Peter Jackson. Which goes double especially for the action scenes that feel incredibly derivative (although having a PG action film certainly doesn't help that matter). I do feel that in terms of fantasy adaptations being released in the 2000s after Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, Narnia does hold up far better compared to the likes of Eragon and the Golden Compass, far worse films. But I think that the movie would have been far better if they didn't try to copy another formula and just had a distinct voice for the film.
Regardless, it's not exactly a bad movie, but it is held back from far greatness. Still it was a trip watching this movie for the first time in years, so for a nostalgic trip to hold up fairly well, I couldn't ask for anything more.
Red Sparrow (2018)
Red Sparrow is a lot like last year's Atomic Blonde. Both films are about femme fatales, both films take place largely in Russia, both films have twist and turns in their spy thrillers, both films use some bold colors (Atomic Blonde blue, Red Sparrow red), and both films are by the number spy thrillers that are not interesting. The only different is that Atomic Blonde was at least fun and did not have really uncomfortable undertones like Red Sparrow does!
One thing that I can absolutely give Red Sparrow credit is that it is a technical well made spy thriller. Francis Lawrence, most known for directing three of the four Hunger Games films, as well as I am Legend, isn't exactly an interesting or stylish director, has definitely stepped up his game, making a visually striking film with some great use of red color hues. I won't call this movie stylized really and there's not a lot of subtly and substance to really analyze, but there is certainly a lot of interesting shots that does feel pretty cool. The score is also pretty great too, being done by James Newton Howard. It's largely classical inspired and even using classical pieces, that both fit the film and adds a bit of tension and even beauty to what is going on. And that's about it for the positives really.
I mean the acting is alright really, but these characters are so bland and by the numbers they just feel like carbon copies of characters you've already seen before in spy thrillers. This is very much true for Jennifer Lawrence's character, Dominika or as she is referred to "Sparrow." J-Law has proven to be a great actress, and she goes as far as she can with her role, even with her fake Russian accent, but her character is so flat that her natural charisma does not elevate her role as far as we really want. Add to some stale chemistry with Joel Edgerton, who is shockingly bad in this film, and any sex appeal from this movie is gone down the drain.
Speaking of bland, this story is just so dull! It's nothing you have not seen before, the plot is convoluted and hard to follow at times, and it's just so long and the film drags! Like I was so bored by this dull movie. It's not a constant fun, action-packed spy film and more in the vein of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a spy film more about wit and intrigue instead of being action oriented, which I can respect. But like I have to care about what I am seeing, which I do not! It's just so uninteresting.
And not to mention really uncomfortable! Like this movie is super graphic with it's violence and sexual imagery. Like there is a scene in the film that basically was going to full blown rape, I am not kidding. This is to add to some feminist subtext with the film, but with how needlessly graphic the film gets, and really analyzing this movie in a feminist critique it is incredibly shallow. Sparrow doesn't do much work on her own as she basically has to be told what to do, including having a man forced upon her! Yuck! I can somewhat respect this movie if it was at all handled the touchy subject respectfully, or just full blown exploitative and unapologetic, but it never goes that extra step and just feels like a tepid mix of Tinker Tailor and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Maybe the book did it better but I have no interest in picking up the source material after watching this.
I can't hate this film too much because it is a well shot movie and the score is good, but it's just a long, boring, and uncomfortable slog to sit through. It's too boring for a spy film, too shallow for a feminist movie, and too scummy for J-Law fans. Just skip it altogether!
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Still good, not as good as the first
The first Deadpool, aside from being funny, was a well deserved spin on the superhero genre. So I was excited to see where this movie would take the character. And while it still is gleefully funny and raunchy, it is not quite as good as the first movie. And I think it's because the script this time around was weaker than the first. While it is true that the script never really subverted a lot of the superhero genre as it does blatantly copy all the cliches without much of the clever subversion the movie claimed, I felt that the movie was charming enough to really look pass the glaring issues with the first movie's script. This time around the story was just so much weaker than before, being written around a kid who is just not very good in this movie sadly, although that's because of the poor material he works with, as the character Russell is just not very likable or funny, outside of getting his ass kicked a few times which was funny (child abuse is bad regardless, but still it was funny). And it is in general weird that Deadpool would actually care about this character. It never felt like something he would do, although I am going to give the benefit of the doubt and say that it is true for him in the comics. The action, while not terrible, just felt kind of lazy and uninspired. Which is a shame considering director David Leitch's work on the first John Wick film. The only time I can ever say I felt any thrill was the fight on the prison transport. But other than that it's just by the numbers.
A big surprise was that the jokes and gags that callback to the first film wasn't the biggest problem with the film. Sure they do feel stale and a little lazy (although some callbacks are still funny), but for the most part I was still laughing and having a great time. Sure the constant sex jokes and pop culture references do get old, but the movie still does have a ton of wit to make the movie thoroughly funny regardless of duds that are in the film, largely thanks to Ryan Reynolds being perfect for Deadpool. Cable and Domino do make great editions to the film, as are the return of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (who doesn't get a lot of good lines in this movie like she did in the first film). The visuals and production are also a step up from the first film too, and also the intro is one of the funnest I've seen in a long time, although probably not as funny as the first film. Plus an absolutely brilliant post-credit scene.
It might not live up to the first Deadpool film, but it still is a fun ride regardless. Although I am rather worried that the third film will suck considering the trajectory of trilogies, plus the much weaker writing overall.
First Reformed (2017)
First Reformed Review
Paul Schrader is best known as a writer than he is as a director, best known for his work with Martin Scorsese writing the screenplays for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, the Last Temptation of Christ, and Bringing Out the Dead. And while he has continued to work, he has not made a movie outside of the shadows of the former two films. First Reformed might as well be that shot of acclaim. What Paul Schrader did is make a breathtaking examination of depression and salvation.
The first thing that is striking is the atmosphere, creating an ambient tone of quiet and grey, symbolizing the state of mind of the main character. All of which matched by the amazing cinematography Alexander Dynan. The movie has a unique framing, being shot in 16:9, or fullscreen. I'm not sure why exactly, but Schrader made it works regardless. The acting is also great too, with Ethan Hawke giving what might be his best performance of his career, definitely worth an Oscar (or at least a nomination), with Amanda Seyfried and Cedric Kyles (a.k.a. Cedric the Entertainer) delivering some fantastic supporting roles.
I feel like one of the most divisive aspects of the film is the reoccurring environmental messages. I will admit it can be preachy, however I don't really mind because the movie is more about depression and a deconstruction of salvation and God. It's brilliant with how Schrader uses God with the examination of hopelessness and the feeling of regret and betrayal in the backdrop of serious issues that really compliments what is going on. Also more of a nitpick but I wish the movie was entirely set in silence than having an ambient score that doesn't really show up a lot, but it did it's job well enough so I can't complain.
Overall, First Reformed is a brilliant movie that is powerful in it's unsettling deconstruction of the Church. It's hard to watch, but one that you won't forget!