Monday, June 1, 2020

The Platform, 2019 - ★★★

The concept of a prison where shared food is distributed through a vertical chain of cells is interesting and will executed here. We have an on the nose representation of class structure and haves and have nots but this film falls well short when compared to more polished works like Parasite. This is one of the most vile and nauseating movies I've seen. A guy literally poops on another guy's face. The ending seems abrupt and there are so many unanswered questions. It wasn't nothing though and it's worth a watch on Netflix. I'll never think of a buffet the same way again.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Wrong Missy, 2020 - ★★★½

At first I wanted to hate it but Lauren Lapkus grew on me as the film went on. David Spade looks very old and it was interesting to see this right after watching Tommy Boy earlier in the week. I'm not sure how much more I can take of Rob Schneider playing ridiculous over-the-top characters but I guess that's really all he can do. Definitely worth a watch on Netflix and if you're turned off by Lapkus early on just give her a shot and don't give up right away.

Onward, 2020 - ★★★★

Pixar's latest offering is not really groundbreaking but once again the story is solid and the message towards the end really meant something to me. I was not emotionally as invested as with Coco but I still go choked up at the end of this. Holland and Pratt are really good in the lead roles lending their voices to two well-developed characters. The quest to restore Dad's upper-torso is an interesting plot direction but Director Dan Scanlon does a great job of moving the story along. Kudos to Octavia Spencer for providing the right amount of comic relief. This is not one of the best Pixar films but it's an entertaining well-crafted quest-tale that contains the right amount of heart.

The Lighthouse, 2019 - ★★½

This is a another crazy film by Robert Eggers who wasted my time before with The Witch. This is not AS bad as The Witch but still a nautical mess. The story (not much of one) focuses on two lighthouse keepers played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. They both go cuckoo-crazy over a few weeks of their shift. It's hard to understand what is real and imagined through all the visuals of mermaids and light-obsessed fancies. I enjoyed watching Dafoe talk like a pirate and Pattinson seems to be hitting full stride as a top-notch actor now. I just didn't love the black and white 4x3 aspect ratio and think Eggers is too loony for his own good.

If you want to see a movie that makes sense, skip this one.

Waves, 2019 - ★★★½

Heavy subject matter and great acting all around. I've never seen anything else that Trey Edward Shults has done but now I think I need to. Kelvin Harrison Jr. shines especially as Tyler, a troubled high school senior. His combative chemistry with the always excellent Sterling K Brown is terrific. The cast gives their all but there are some creative choices that aren't the best at times. I also didn't really enjoy the music throughout. Definitely worth a watch during quarantine.

A Hidden Life, 2019 - ★★★★½

I normally do not like Terrence Malick films. I hated A Thin Red Line and usually the plodding pacing of his narratives bores me to tears. I decided to give Malick another try earlier this month as I streamed the 4K version of A Hidden Life. Not knowing much about the plot (an Austrian farmer and devout Catholic refuses to fight for the Nazis in WWII) I jumped in with an open mind. What I witnessed over the nearly three hours of runtime was eye-opening.

Malick and his cinematographer Jorg Widmer have produced the single most beautifully shot film I've ever seen. Yes, there are better crafted films by other talented cinematographers (1917 with Roger Deakins is the most recent example), but I've never seen anything like the visuals in this movie. Malick is able to show a simple Austrian village and shoot it in true grand splendor. Rolling hills give way to vast mountainous vistas. There are some jaw-dropping "nature-porn" elements to this film that remind you of how much natural beauty there is on this planet. It's truly an example of taking a perfect filming location and letting it shine on its own. The detail of the village shown vividly in 4K is breathtaking to witness.

August Diehl plays the lead role of Franz Jagerstatter while Valerie Pachner plays his wife Franziska. Both actors give solid, realistic performances. Malick's story here is straight-forward and makes you think about the consequences of war. The contrast of the war-torn prisons that Franz is confined to are brilliantly balanced against the pristine farmland visuals.

This movie won't be for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed it and still think about it nearly a month after I saw it. James Newton Howard provides an amazing score that lifts the visuals off the screen even further. Simply put, this is a film that MUST be seen on a large TV in 4K. I can't overstate how beautiful this movie looks.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Coffee & Kareem, 2020 - ★

It's funny in some sparse places, but this really comes off as a rushed film that seems to have a script that was written on the fly. A lot of over the top language that just isn't needed. I have no idea what Taraji is doing in this mess and I expect better out of Ed Helms.

Don't bother wasting 80 minutes with this.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Emma., 2020 - ★★

Just not my cup of tea at all. Probably more polished than Little Women but i was bored throughout. I still like Anya Taylor-Joy a lot and think she has a bright future in Hollywood. It was hard to take your eyes off her in this film and she seemed to fill the title role properly. My wife liked it well enough (a more proper reviewer for this film) but said it failed to meet the high standards set by the Gwenyth Paltrow version. Period pieces just don't do it for me, unfortunately.

The Invisible Man, 2020 - ★★★½

Moss is great in the lead role and the technology is believable. Kinda scary at times but not much new here to really stand out. I enjoyed it, but wasn't blown away by the directing or supporting performances.

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Lodge, 2019 - ★★★½

Riley Keough gives a great performance as a troubled cult survivor turned potential stepmother taking care of two kids in an isolated winter lodge. This film does nothing new but brings mild scares of the disturbing kind. Probably worth a wait for rental, it definitely is a solid February horror entry.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Gentlemen, 2019 - ★★★½

A classy Guy Ritchie crime mystery that features a bevy of strong performances headlined by Charlie Hunham giving us his best Tom Hardy. Jeremy Strong proves he's not just a Succession one hit wonder. There's nothing new or inventive here but the dialogue is classic Ritchie (the C word gets dropped about 50 times). Hugh Grant gives a very different performance than what you usually expect from him.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Bad Boys for Life, 2020 - ★★★★

A MLK day treat for me personally. This third film in the Bad Boys saga (full disclosure... I loved both 1 and 2 in the series) brings us right back to detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) as they patrol the streets of Miami Beach once again. Things are different this time as Marcus is now a grandfather and Mike is no longer "bulletproof". A supporting cast of young up-and-coming SWAT team members are in the mix this go-around and the age jokes are plentiful throughout.

The real heart of this movie is Lawrence who gives a real emotional performance that works. When Marcus sheds some real tears in the middle of the film because of a few key events that affect him, you really believe his acting. He's definitely fallen out of shape a bit but his acting may have actually improved over the years. Will Smith is still the usual cocky lead that drives these films and he makes up for the subpar Gemini Man that he released earlier in 2019. The banter between Smith and Lawrence is what makes these films so good. They just feed so well off of each other and the scenes with heavy dialogue between Mike and Marcus are the moments that shine brightest with this movie.

I really enjoyed this film and it falls right in line with the same tone and quality as the first two. Kudos to young directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah who took the franchise reigns from Michael Bay (who makes a clever cameo in this film) and are setup to direct the next Beverley Hills Cop film as well. The action they showcase on screen is top-notch and well crafted. High concept fight scenes help propel the story and raise the stakes in the end. There's a reveal towards the end of the film that sets things up for another Bad Boys entry (that has just been green-lit). I say bring it on. I love the chemistry of these two characters and as long as Smith and Lawrence are game, I'll be there to see the next film.

The Two Popes, 2019 - ★★★★

I went into this film not looking forward to it but came away extremely glad that I took the time to watch it. This is an excellent "behind-the-scenes" look at the Catholic church and that papal machine. It's really interesting to see inner-workings of the conclave and the selection process of choosing the next pope.

Jonathan Pryce is really good in the lead role as Pope Francis. He looks a lot like the real pope and his chemistry with Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) is fun to watch. Watching where Francis came from in his history and the choices he made leading up to succeeding Benedict was effectively conveyed on-screen by director Fernando Meirelles. You rarely get to see the lives of cardinals and bishops in such a raw format. I'm sure a lot of this isn't totally authentic but it makes for riveting cinema.

Make sure to watch through the credits scene to see a hilarious back-and-forth with the two popes watching the 2014 World Cup Final following the papal transfer of power. I learned a lot watching this film and it's well worth a viewing on Netflix.

Parasite, 2019 - ★★★★½

Bong Joon Ho spins an original tale of class dynamics in modern-day Korea with this interesting look at an entrepreneurial family taking advantage of an opportunity that falls in their lap. Getting into all the plot details here will ruin the experience for a first time viewer so I'll just touch on the asthetics which are remarkable. The crisp, well-paced narrative rolls along with effective from performances from a talented cast.

Bong's production design is excellent and the sleek modern home that sets the stage for much of the movie's events is filmed beautifully. So much so that the house itself becomes a key character in the film. The story is the standout aspect of this movie as there are clever twists and turns throughout. I found myself enjoying the ride and marveling at the high-level craftsmanship of Bong's work.

The only slight issue I had with this film is the over-the-top violence we see towards the end. I'm not usually one who is put off by violence but I don't really know if the film really needed to go to that level to be effective. Still this is a remarkable achievement from a foreign language entry and hopefully this gets rewarded by the Academy next month.