Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The King, 2019 - ★★★

Timothee Chalamet is excellent as always as a war-seasoned prince turned king in this retelling of Henry V's rise to power in the 15th century. With a supporting cast of capable veteran actors including Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn and Sean Harris, the film moves along and showcases the significant events in the life of the young king.

Robert Pattinson's cheeky turn as "The Dauphin" is the performance that steals the movie. Overall I was entertained somewhat but The King really brings nothing new to the table. It's a rehash of Braveheart-style fight scenes and some throne politics that we've seen before in other shows like Game of Thrones. The excellent brooding score by Nicholas Britell helps build the tension throughout.

Not very memorable, but not a bid film either.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Jojo Rabbit, 2019 - ★★★★

Thor Ragnarok's Taika Waititi directs this off-kilter satirical look at the end of World War II through the eyes of an impressionable 10-year-old who had an imaginary friend that just so happens to be Adolph Hitler. Newcomer Roman Griffin Davis plays Jojo, a young boy who enlists in a bootcamp for aspiring Nazis. After scarring his face during an accident in the camp, he is re-assigned to a Nazi office and helps with day-to-day activities while his Mother (Scarlett Johannson) helps raise him on her own thanks to her war-enlisted husband.

The cast in this film is fantastic highlighted by Davis' pure and real performance. Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace) shows up mid-film as a Jewish teenager in hiding. Waititi himself portrays the imaginary Hitler character who starts out as a hysterical addition to the narrative but ends up growing a little thin at times towards the end of the movie. Thankfully the core of the film is the great chemistry between Davis and McKenzie. Just wait... within the next 10 years, McKenzie is going to win an Oscar. You heard it here first! She just has that special ingredient in her effortless acting ability that's going to vault her to A-list status at some point. Sam Rockwell (hilarious as always), Alfie Allen and Rebel Wilson round out the excellent ensemble cast as instructors at the Nazi youth camp.

We've heard a lot of the Nazi "Jew jokes" before in other films like Borat. They're over the top ridiculous characterizations that remind of us of just how narrow-minded Hitler and his followers were. Despite those re-used jabs, the humor in this movie is really well done and I can't wait to see what Taika does next (will he direct a new film before he helms the 4th Thor movie for the MCU?). This is a worthwhile comical take on Nazi propaganda and a brilliant showcase for two stellar young actors. I had a great time watching this film.

Harriet, 2019 - ★★★½

A deep dive into the accomplishments of the legendary navigator of the underground railroad, this film is a solid reenactment of the slave-freeing movement. The acting across the board is servicable but the spotlight shines brightly on Cynthia Erivo playing the title role of Harriet Tubman. I first noticed Erivo in Bad Times at the El Royale in which she stood out as a future star. She's one Oscar short of an EGOT and may come close to grabbing it this year. I expect her to be nominated for Best Actress for this bold turn as Tubman. She does a great job of conveying fear and confidence at the same time. You really can't take your eyes off her when she's on-screen.

Director Kasi Lemmons paints a vivid picture of the pre-civil war East Coast with desolated and isolated farm houses and small villages that set the stage for the Underground Railroad. The plight of Tubman's repeated treks across this landscape is heightened by the tense relationship between her and her former slave owner (Joe Alwyn).

Overall I liked but didn't love this film. I feel it didn't have the soul or passion of previous slavery films like Glory or 12 Years a Slave. That being said, this is still worth a watch if only for Erivo's excellent performance.

The Laundromat, 2019 - ★★½

Soderbergh means well here with an educational/entertaining look at American insurance fraud that crosses the line becoming a preachy twisted mess of a film. Streep, Bandaras and Oldman are all having a blast in the lead roles but unfortunately we don't get enough of their characters. There are too many splintered off sub-plots surrounded by an explain-it-by-numbers approach ripped from The Big Short. I applaud the effort here but this film just isn't for me.