Monday, November 12, 2018

13 More Mini Reviews - Star is Born, First Man, Boy Erased

Hello readers, sorry I keep waiting so long to post but I just saw a really good film today and need to get this backlog of reviews out.  I just haven't been very efficient in posting right after I see a movie.  Unfortunately, that's the way this will go until I figure out another system of reviewing.  With AMC Stubs A-List I've been very busy at the theater and have dipped into the early round of award contenders.  Throughout these films I've seen three of the very best male actor performances of 2018 which i'll highlight below.  Here's a quick-hit look at the last 13 movies I've seen in theaters:

BlacKkKlansman - 3.5 JRs

Spike Lee's latest joint about an African American cop posing as a KKK member.  John David Washington is really good in the lead role, but it's Adam Driver who carries this film and makes it one of Spike's better efforts in recent years.

The Nun - 2 JRs

A slow semi-waste of time from the Conjuring family of films.  The last fifth of the film is intense and worthwhile but it takes so long to get to that point unfortunately.

The Predator - 2.5 JRs

Shane Black throws a bunch of crazy dialogue at the screen and we get a giant mess of a script.  There's a lot of kick-ass references to the first Predator but really this movie didn't need to be made.  Shouts to Sterling K. Brown for trying to throw as many curse words as possible at the audience.  Unfortunately Room's Jacob Trembley may have jumped the shark and he just didn't do it for me in this movie.

A Simple Favor - 4 JRs

Fun, witty thriller from Paul Feig and a wonderfuly tour-de-force owned performance from Blake Lively who looks great and looks to be having the time of her life in this role.  Anna Kendrick is really good as well.  The movie goes a bit off the rails at the end, but still a fun time.

Free Solo - 4.5 JRs

I saw Meru from the same director (Jimmy Chin) a few years ago and couldn't wait to see this follow up intimate look at free climber Alex Honnold.  This documentary is a brilliant in-depth look at what makes a man decide to climb thousands of feet in the air without any sort of safety precaution.  Chin does a good job of making Hollold feel human including focusing on his interesting relationship with his girlfriend.  This is right up there with Won't You Be My Neighbor as the best documentary of the year.

A Star is Born - 5 JRs

Simply the best movie of 2018 so-far and a towering achievement for Bradley Cooper.  Cooper takes a story that has been done many times before and puts a new spin on it, putting himself out there in the lead role as Jackson Mayne and just totally killing the performance.  He sings all his songs and does a nuanced take on what Jeff Bridges was able to do in Crazy Heart.  Lady Gaga is excellent as well and really showcases her natural acting talent.  Add in the great soundtrack and solid supporting turn by Sam Elliot and you have a well-crafted piece of cinema.  Bradley should be a shoe-in for Oscar in some form next year.  I see him winning Actor and contending for Director and Picture.  I hope all of you have gone out and seen this one.  This should be seen in the theater and can't be missed.

Venom - 4 JRs

Most critics hated this film but I found myself to be thoroughly entertained.  Yes the story is all over the place at times and a bit silly in some parts, but this is a comic book movie, just have fun with it!  And Tom Hardy is most definitely having a GREAT time with it.  He plays Eddie Brock with all his quirks and balances it beautifully with the campy over the top deep-voiced Venom.  Lots of good laughs throughout and a game performance by one of the best actors working today.

First Man - 4.5 JRs

Damien Chazelle is a true boy wonder.  At 33 he already has one Best Director Oscar and probably would be in contention for a second if it wasn't for Bradley Cooper.  First Man is a raw historical look at the US Space Program and showcases all the trials and tribulations that surrounded putting Neil Armstrong on the moon.  Ryan Gosling is stoic and steadfast as Armstrong while Claire Foy gives a great performance as his strong-willed, realist wife.  The real star of this film though is the synergy between Chazelle and his composing partner Justin Hurwitz.  The two took off with Whiplash, earned Oscar for La La Land and are (pun intended) soaring with this film.  The soundtrack to First Man is so involving and moving and is the perfect compliment to Chazelle's shaky-you-are-there film-making that makes the audience feel they are heading to the moon themselves.  I can't wait to see what this modern-day Spielberg/Williams combination does next.

Bad Times at the El Royale - 3 JRs

A rather disappointing neo-noir mish mash of quality actors and confusing story-telling featuring Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges and Chris Hemsworth in an over-the-top "did we really need this character" turn.  The best part of this film by far is the soulful, moving performance of Broadway actress Cynthia Erivo.  This film is worth a watch just to see Erivo sing and act on-screen.

Beautiful Boy - 3.5 JRs

Timothee Chalamet is a bona fide Hollywood STAR at the ripe age of 22.  Having killed it as the only redeeming part of 2017's Call Me By Your Name, Chalamet is asked to take on a huge role of a total drug addict teen that can't seem to shake his addiction in this film.  Steve Carrell and Maura Tierney balance out the excellent cast and the film is worth watching.  Unfortunately this film itself is somewhat of a broken record and never completely moved me (this can't be said for the OTHER boy movie below).  But this is all about the bright shining star that is Chalamet.  He is so believable in this role and acts well beyond his years.  He SHOULD win supporting Oscar this year but it's only a matter of time before this modern-day young Daniel Day-Lewis is winning multiple gold statues throughout his career.

Mid 90's - 4.5 JRs

Jonah Hill's raw directorial debut (why does everyone want to be Bradley Cooper these days?) that turns back the clock to the 90's when everyone was a latch-key kid and skating and hip-hop ruled the landscape of Southern California.  Starring the super talented skater-turned-actor Sunny Suljic, we get to see an unfiltered look at kids growing up, experimenting and making new friends.  There is actually a character named FuckShit in this movie.  It simply doesn't hold back and with the 4x3 aspect ratio it really does feel like the 90's.  Special kudos to Na-kel Smith who is another skater turned actor and gave a really real, incredible performance as Ray in the film.  Looks like Hill and Bradley pretty much have carte blanch to do what they want in front or behind the camera after 2018.

Bohemian Rhapsody - 4 JRs

Rami Malek shines in the lead role as Freddy Mercury, the lead singer of Queen and a bravado showman through and through.  This film by Bryan Singer shows us the inner-working of the band and how the group was formed.  It never really digs too deep into the drama of the band but does a great job of showing their performances and highlighting their deep catalog of hits.  The best part of the film is the shot-by-shot remake of the band's Live Aid performance that really highlight's Malek's incredible ability to "become" Mercury.

Boy Erased - 4.5 JRs

I just saw this today and was blown away by Lucas Hedges and his authentic, real, heartbreaking performance as the son of a pastor who finds out he likes men in high school and is sent to a Christian conversion camp as a result. The film, by Joel Edgerton and based on a true story, showcases Hedges' ability to not overact and become the embodiment of a "real kid" in a film similar to his excellence in Manchester by the Sea. Edgerton, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe balance out the cast that wonderfully portrays what it must be like to be gay in a deeply religious family and the pulls and bonds between parent and child.  I got very emotional watching this thinking about my Mom who recently passed and her love for me and how the world needs to be more inclusive of all people in general.  Go see this important film.  Easily one of the five best I've seen this year so-far.  Let's hope Hedges is recognized once again by the Academy and at least gets a nomination.

There you have it.  LOTS more movies to see in the next few months as we crash into OSCAR SEASON.  Let's hope there's more amazing Cooper, Chalamet, Hedges caliber performances to come.

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