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To be shown to film students when they study cinematography
At the time of writing this, 1917 is up for 10 Oscars, fresh off the high of winning best drama at the Golden Globes. I haven't poured into exactly what it is nominated for, but I know that it is up for best picture and best cinematography. Unfortunately, I can't say I agree with the academy on it being a best picture contender. That being said, this is some of the most brilliant cinematography I have ever seen in my life. For the uninitiated, the film is shot in such a way that it seems like it is all done in 1 or 2 scenes. I know some big name films have done this before, but this is my first experience with the style. When you combo that 1 take with the brilliant picture and color that 1917 provides, you end up with a stylish and enthralling story that would have otherwise felt lackluster. Definitely worth a watch and a cinematography Oscar.
The Rock (1996)
Michael Bay has controlled the space to the point that his old films look cliche
My movie bucket list gift continues to expose my intrinsic negative bias towards old movies! It is clear to me that The Rock was wildly entertaining upon its release. Audiences must have been captivated by its shot changes every 1-4 seconds, its magnificent vehicle explosions, and its big name actors. But viewing it in today's light exposes it as such a meme. Perhaps it is the fault of Nic Cage, because everything he has touched has been memeifyed. Perhaps it is the fault of Michael Bay, for being so revolutionary in the space that enough copy cats emerged to make your original product look cliche. Whatever it is, watching The Rock in 2020 is like watching the most basic action/adventure imaginable, with the exception of the magnificent shower scene.
Uncut Gems (2019)
Does nothing great and does plenty wrong
This film was a roller coaster. For the first 40 minutes I was intrigued and invested, but by the 1 hour mark I was starting to get a bit bored. The next 40 minutes actively stressed me out. Characters talking over one another in hurried tone with music to compliment. It certainly had to be the director's vision for it to be this way but it did not lend itself well to the viewing experience. I was sure I was giving this film a 4/10 until my jaw literally dropped at the ending. Throwing in a spoiler tag just because if you expect this film to have a jaw dropping ending then there is nothing left that is worth watching.
Marriage Story (2019)
As potent and real as a story can be
I vow to see more Drama films in 2020. Marriage Story surprised me on multiple accounts. Firstly, it solidified my predilection for well-acted drama, which I have been leerily pushing aside for a year now. Secondly, it proved Adam Driver to be the phenomenal actor that I have been told he is, and was unwilling to believe. What a waste of his talent Kylo Ren was! Marriage Story is the first film to make me tear up from sorrow or empathy rather than overwhelming emotion in 2 years. A must watch.
It can't hold up to today's hero standards at all
X-Men is the perfect example to showcase the gaping flaw in my reviews: older movies have a lower chance to be good, on average. Regardless about how much they progressed the industry or how new the concept was at the time, some older films have been severely outclassed by newer. X-Men was probably great in 2000. Superhero movies weren't dominating the screen, and some of the effects probably looked great. However, now that big budget hero flicks are the mainstay, X-Men looks like silly childs play. It doesn't hold up to today's standards, and whoever tells you it does is fanboying a bit too hard.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
The animation even holds up at times.
I was recently gifted a "100 movie advent calendar" for Christmas. When you are ready to watch a movie you scratch one of the boxes off and it tells you what to watch. The first draw was Monsters, Inc. I haven't seen this classic for over 10 years, but my wife was pulling quotes out verbatim. The opening 10 minutes are executed to perfection. The characters are introduced nicely, the plot and obstacle to overcome laid out, the world built, and the comedic timing perfect. The compilation of Mike training Sully with scare exercises had me rolling. The movie does lose steam after this first 10 minutes but it certainly never sputters out. Monsters, Inc. is a classic for a reason, and is a must see.
Bad relative to budget doesn't mean bad through and through
I'm a bit finicky about Star Wars because neither the original trilogy nor the prequels left a lasting impression on me. This leaves me in a peculiar position where I am fairly immune to the nostalgia hooks that Disney tried to live off of in the newest trilogy. The Rise of Skywalker is not as bad as some are making it out to be, and certainly not as bad as The Last Jedi. Fans across the world are so disappointed in this movie because they expect more in a finale. If this was a stand alone film it is decent, but it closes Star Wars out with a whimper.
Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson has 0 range
2017's Jumanji reboot surprised audiences with its twist on the classic tale actually working well and being funny. I expected the same formula in the 2nd installation, and I got a much worse version. The Rock and Kevin Hart play characters whom are inhabited by elderly folks, and they flat line it. It turns out that The Rock can only play himself. I genuinely cringed 2 or 3 times at some of his accents. I had just told a friend before I went that the nice thing about movies starring Dwayne Johnson is that they are never awful. Never amazing, but never awful. This movie was about as close to awful as big budget gets.
The Irishman (2019)
Watch with an intermission
3.5 hour runtime. Holy crap. I love that this film had enough to say that it needed that long, but by the end it felt like I was marathoning a TV show. This was compounded by the fact that it lacked any noticeable 3 act structure. Major downsides of The Irishman were its failure to fork some extra money over to CGI when it counted. I can remember a scene where a glass window breaks and it looked awful. Positives included a palpable sense of inclusion and family that comes with an Irishman being accepted into the ranks of the Italian mafia. We all long to see and feel this inclusion so it always seems to be an intrinsically good thing. Also, I appreciated the inclusion of that empty feeling elders must get when their stories and life tales fall on the deaf ears of youth. The theme of finality manifests as a cold and lonely finality for our main character.
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Bale is superb, but the content wasn't for me
Going in, I knew this film had no shot of being a 10/10 for me. I am about as far from a gearhead or racing fan as one can be. With that being said, I was still intrigued throughout the entire 2.5 hour run time. Christian Bale dominated the screen with his performance. I expect great things from him, but he really did outdo himself by portraying the oddities and ego of his character. If you are a fan of cars or racing, I imagine you will love Ford v Ferrari.
Boring characters but a fairly gripping story
I was advised to watch this film by my friend who's movie taste I trust most. Maybe it was having such high expectations based off of his opinion, but Drive just didn't pack that oomph that is in any great thriller. It had brutal violence but to no plot progression. The brutality felt like it was just for the sake of realism and brutality, which is fair, but I would love for it to feel more reasonable for the characters. Drive doesn't have a convoluted enough plot or clever enough writing to sit amongst the kings of thrillers.
Frozen II (2019)
Great for kids, but nothing for parents
The main problem with the first Frozen was it's failure to entertain adults. Most excellent children's movies in the past decade have found clever ways to slip in jokes or themes that adults can enjoy. Frozen II continues the theme of failure to entertain adults, but also performs worse in its specialization. The music wasn't quite as catchy, the plot as enticing, or the characters as funny. All this being said, your 4 year old will go bonkers for it.
Knives Out (2019)
Mentally stimulating without throwing the audience way off the scent
Daniel Craig leads an absolute rock-star cast in this classic who-done-it film. Nothing really makes Knives Out unique when compared to it's murder mystery peers, but it just performs so much better. This is attributed to it's solid pacing in the first 2 acts, it's phenomenal acting, and it's fairly cheery attitude. Knives Out is one that the whole family can follow and enjoy.
Solid cast giving it their all
Midway has starpower and an absurd amount of naval and aerial combat. Unless you absolutely love planes, WWII, Nick Jonas, or battleships, this is just going to be an okay film.
A genuinely hard to predict film
Sam Worthington joins the the thriller hype in this true-to-genre undertaking by director Brad Anderson. Fractured is a thriller stripped down to the barest of bones and I love that. No romance, friendships, or horror to cloud the vision. It will bounce you back and forth between two endings that you can predict, and then it pulls the rug out from under you in the final reveal.
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
A sequel that doesn't dishonor the original
Zombieland 2 joins the esteemed ranks of sequels that don't utterly disappoint, coming in with an "almost as good as the original" finish. The cast members still mesh well together 10 years later. Zoey Deutch is a notable new addition whose character is absolutely unbearable at first due to sheer outlandishness, but she eventually grew on me. Zombieland has a bit of comedy, a bit of heart-warming, and a healthy amount of zombie killing. Something for everyone here.
What makes the perfect villain?
Heath Ledger showed us that a truly terrifying antagonist can't be reasoned with. Joaquin Phoenix now shows us how anyone can even reach such a point. Joker is a character study of the clinically insane and wildly unfortunate comedian/clown looking for a break in Gotham.
The film's primary strength is the first-rate performance by Joaquin Phoenix, but it is further bolstered by a number of interesting creative choices and sound fundamentals. Sound is putting it modestly. The prodigious score by Hildur Guðnadóttir marches the plot forward as cinematographer Lawrence Sher always seems to find the perfect shot. This all comes together into a fantastic whirlwind of surprise and jaw-dropping disbelief as director Todd Phillips plays with audience and character perception like puppets on a string.
Joker is relentless in its character building and storytelling. It is without a doubt, film of the year.
Inside Man: Most Wanted (2019)
I was shocked to learn this is a legitimate sequel
Browsing Netflix I noticed a bank robbery film with a title similar to my favorite in the genre, Inside Man. I thought that it was a cheap trick to click-bait the name of a more famous film to draw attention, but I proceeded to give it a try anyways. To my disbelief, Inside Man: Most Wanted is the legitimate follow-up to Spike Lee's 2006 crime drama. My awe was compounded further by the vast difference in budget between the two films, which presents in spades with the CGI and hired talent of the latest installment. The story had enough going on that you couldn't guess exactly what the outcome was after 15 minutes, but not enough to overshadow its beaten tropes and TV crime drama feel.
Ad Astra (2019)
As much a journey into the human psyche as it is a journey into the stars
Ad Astra is as much a journey into the human psyche as it is a journey into the stars. Although the story takes place all throughout space, the real adventure is in our protagonist's mind. At times this works well and at times it doesn't. Reflections on his mistakes in his marriage were tiresome. His longing to make amends with his father were tiresome. But this can all be forgiven when admiring the spectacle of a few brilliant scenes in the middle of the film.
The Break-Up (2006)
Ahead of its time in Rom-Com genre breaking
The cast is allstar. The banter is fairly witty and entertaining. The premise is enticing for its boldness in shying away from the expected in a romcom. All of the above isn't enough to make anything great happen in The Break-Up. It seems that as a viewer, I wasn't prepared to enjoy anything other than the classic formula in this genre, and that is likely entirely my fault.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
A complex and relentless antagonist is the key to great cinema
This film had been on my watch list for a year before I finally got around to seeing it. I was most impressed by the Coen brothers' ability to use the typical story arc for protagonists, antagonists, and supporting cast, and flip them on their head. I jaw dropped from surprise multiple times in the first act. This classic is a great watch.
A psychological thriller with no thrills
There isn't much that can be done to save this script. The actors could have acted their minds out. Costume design could have fully immersed every single viewer. The script was just too bland and contradictory to be satisfying in any way. This film only sustains a moderate rating because it performs as an action film at times.
It Chapter Two (2019)
Far too long for its own good
I have always been an advocate for long films. If I see that a film has a 3 hour run-time, I am usually thrilled. That is because I believe a truly great story needs time to develop characters and commit the viewer to the experience. It Chapter Two is a prime example of a film that boasts a long run-time without using it properly, and it becomes a real drag. Many times the stunning visuals and costume design in combination with a gut-wrenching performance by Bill Skarsgard would have me at the edge of my seat, only to slowly sit me back as all momentum slowly burned out. It also dawned on me that the horror if IT is best viewed through the lens of a child protagonist. Some moments with a full adult squad just felt disingenuous.
I Am Mother (2019)
Poor script writing yields silly endings
It pains me to give this netflix original movie such a low score given how much I tend to love stories that commit to world building, but I Am Mother just couldn't deliver at all. The plot was fairly boring throughout its entirety, barring the slight tension we feel toward the antagonist. It all culminates into an ending that is far too absurd and poorly executed.
Angel Has Fallen (2019)
A trilogy that falls in quality, film by film
This is the perfect example of a movie trilogy that just shouldn't exist. The premise does not allow for three entirely separate catastrophic threats to be cleaned up nicely at the end of each film. Olympus Has Fallen was a great watch and I loved the narrative, but now it just feels tiresome. This negative is amplified by the subpar effort put forth by the action choreography team and the editing team. The cuts were way too quit and I actually pulled myself out of the movie for a solid 15 seconds because I genuinely could not figure out what was happening in the action. This series will continue downhill, if it continues at all.