Director: Noah Baumbach
Release: September, 2019
I like Baumback, Johansson, and Driver, a lot, but I’m worried that this movie will go in an Eleanor Rigby direction, which is definitely not what I want. As long as it steers clear of being too “experimental”, I think we’ll have a solid film on our hands; how could we not with the talent of this team.
Director: The Coen Brothers
If I hadn’t known this was a Coen Bros. film coming in, I might have been able to guess it by the mood and the actors, but I might not have been able to believe myself, since the overall product is so much worse than I have ever seen from the incomparable pair. I’ve said before that there is an entire period of early Coen that doesn’t rank anywhere near the next period, which is their absolute best, but I always liked those amateurish films anyway, because they carry a patented feel that you can tell is just blossoming into something that you know will be great in the future. But Miller’s Crossing, although still signature, simply feels like a mistake, without the saving grace of inherent genius that bolsters some of the other lesser Coen flicks, and it will probably hold its place at the bottom of this finite list until I someday see The Ladykillers.
The Irish mob controls the police, the Italian mob controls the gambling, the Jews fit somewhere in between, and the groups somehow hold a fragile alliance, as long as no one oversteps his allowable greed. When Johnny Caspar comes to Leo and asks him to whack Bernie, business should conduct as usual, and Leo’s right hand man Tom OKs the hit, but Leo can’t allow it, because he’s sleeping with Bernie’s sister Verna, and secretly so is Tom. So now the Italians are mad at the Irish because they won’t kill the Jew, and war erupts between the mobsters, the police in the middle and helping both sides. Tom is torn between his loyalty to Leo, his desire to do business with Johnny, and his attraction to Verna; a fine pickle he finds himself in, which he made for himself, and from which a can’t easily find a way out.
The first problem in the casting; Byrne and Harden just aren’t good actors. They’re asked to run the show and they simply can’t; the film fails because it couldn’t fall on their shoulders. The rest of the cast is solid: Albert Finney, John Turturro, Jon Polito, Steve Buscemi, Michael Badalucco, Frances McDormund, some of which often pop up in Coen Bros. films. But none of them had big enough parts, and so the worst actors got the most lines, and that’s not How To Make A Good Movie. The Prohibition-era action was overdone, it always felt fake, the cinematography and music were nice, but they weren’t nearly enough, and the entire thing felt like an experiment rather than a polished gem. We all know these geniuses would go on to make some of the best art we’ve ever seen; this just isn’t it yet, it’s a growing pain, and really doesn’t deserve much attention.
Director: Scott Cooper
This looks so scary, and I’m dying to see it. I don’t like to be scared as much as some people do, but often I am drawn to horror, and this is one of those times. Antlers looks a little like It Come at Night, but with a creature feature flare, plus with a ton of deep-rooted messages. And Cooper is a solid director: Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace, Black Mass, Hostiles. I’m in.
Director: William Eubank
Release: January 10th, 2020
Some movies are destined to be mediocre; I feel like Underwater might either be incredibly awesome or the worst movie of the year. The cast is cool; Stewart, Cassel, Miller, John Gallagher Jr, Mamoudou Athie. And the action looks fun, if a little recycled; I think there’s a strong chance that this style of horror works another time around. But one or two missteps could spell big trouble, so I’ll have my fingers crossed.
Director: Fred Wolf
I wanted to give House Bunny a chance because some people consider it somewhat of a cult classic, and I’m not really mad at them for recommending one of the dumbest movies ever made, I’m honestly just disappointed in myself for watching it. I don’t know what I was expecting; a hidden gem I guess. But what I got instead was stupid on top of stupid until the whole thing toppled, killing us all. This is an utter embarrassing even to sophomoric comedies, if that genre does anything for you, because there have been a few solid ones before, but this definitely ain’t it. And someone thought this was a film worth making, starring in, and showing to the public; I weep for the future.
Shelley is a perspective but aging Playboy bunny who loves her life at the mansion but wants something a little more prestigious; the centerfold. When she thinks Hef isn’t giving it to her, she leaves the grotto to find something else, and accidentally stumbles across a college campus, or, more specifically, a sorority. A House Mother would be right up her alley, if any sisterhood would accept her, but only one is so down on their luck that they need Shelley’s help, and they’re about to lose their charter. If Shelley can help Natalie and the girls find pledges, meet boys, and throw parties, she might just save the day, and find her true calling in turn.
Anna Faris is pretty funny, and she has her moments, mostly “the eyes are the nipples of the face”. And Emma Stone has talent, she has her moments as well, mostly being the awkward nerd who has a heart of gold hidden somewhere behind her thick glasses. But neither of those facts make House Bunny even semi-watchable, because the rest is complete trash. It’s not funny, it’s not sexy, it’s not clever, it’s not entertaining, and it isn’t anywhere near a comedy of acceptable quality. The story is moronic, the characters are stereotypes, the acting is abysmal, and by the end you’ll feel so much stupider than when you came in. The cast is very odd: Faris, Stone, Hanks, Kat Dennings, Hugh Hefner, Christopher McDonald, Beverly D’Angelo, Katharine McPhee for some reason, Rumer Willis for an even stranger reason, Holly & Bridget & Kendra, Matt Leinart & Dan Patrick & Shaq. It’s nonsensical, insulting, pointless, idiotic, and should be avoided at all costs.
In the hierarchy of Laika movies, ParaNorman might land near the bottom, but that still means it’s better than 90% of animated films out there, and that it still deserves our applause for its magical production and utter originality. Missing Link, ParaNorman, Coraline, Corpse Bride, Kubo, Boxtrolls; that’s probably how I would rank them, from weakest to strongest, but still, Missing Link is the only real misstep, and ParaNorman is better than most of the silly Disney stuff, so Laika remains the champion. If you like morbid claymation, this flick is for you, and the wild ride you’ll soon find yourself on is both fun and frightening, a grand combination in my book, and a great reason to watch anything Laika throws your way.
Norman isn’t like other kids; in fact, he’s pretty much a freak. See, he talks to dead people, can see them walking around everywhere, and isn’t afraid who knows it. Of course, most people don’t believe him, including his own family, but he talks to his dead grandma every day, her ghost sits right there on the couch, and he’s not about to lie about what’s happening to him. What’s about to happen to the town his family lives in is much more scary, and only Norman can put a stop to it, if anyone will trust him enough to let him help them survive. A witch was killed 300 years ago and she’s about to raise the dead to attack the town, at least that’s what a creepy old relative of Norman’s has passed on to him, and so talking to spirits is about to come in real handy.
With Laika, the first thing is always the stop-motion animation, which is flawless and fantastic. No one can do this better, few even try, and this studio just keeps pumping out the original hits. It’s amazing what they can do, what they can bring to life, and I love that they tend toward death and morbidity and creepy characters, because it fits this medium perfectly. Add in a little spooky music and some fresh story nuggets and you’ve got yourself a family film that pushes at the boundaries, while keeping modestly within them and counting on the artwork to blow your mind. ParaNorman‘s cast is cool too: Smit-McPhee, Mintz-Plasse, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Alex Borstein, John Goodman. The film is a wonderful combination of scary thrills, awesome artwork, and clever moments, which is really what we’ve come to expect from this company, and they almost always deliver.
Director: Steven Knight
Serenity slides into the Bottom Five of 2019 like it was made to fit there on purpose; if you watch it for yourself you’ll start to wonder if that isn’t exactly what the director intended, because how could someone make something so bad on accident. It should be noted that Steven Knight isn’t a director, he’s a screenwriter who’s trying his hand at something else, and although it worked well with Locke, the experiment failed this time around. And, really, it did more than that, it embarrassed everyone involved; this movie isn’t just one of the worst of the year, it’s one of the strangest, dumbest, most pointless, least talented bombs you’ll ever watch, an utter disaster from every angle that should be ridiculed for all time.
Baker Dill (no that isn’t his real name) is a fisherman with an obsession; catch the giant tuna that’s been teasing him and escaping him for the last however many years. You know, it’s funny, Baker can’t really remember how many years it’s been, or why he just has to catch this fish, but he still goes out every day to try to hook it, going broke in the process. He lives on the island of Plymouth where everyone knows everyone and no business is private, which is just plain weird sometimes. Especially when his ex Karen comes along, asks him to off her abusive husband, and everyone in the town seems to understand the choice Baker is now faced with, fish or man, while the fisherman himself flounders to make a decision.
I can’t stress this enough; don’t get curious and watch this movie. You will regret it, I assure you, and you’ll have no one but yourself to blame. For the longest time the story will make no sense, and when it finally does you’ll wish you had never found out the answer, because it’s that stupid. Seriously, Night should be ashamed of himself for writing this plot into existence, and how he fooled so many amazing actors to be a part of such a flop is completely beyond me. The “twist” is ludicrous, the characters are all ridiculous, the plot makes you want to tear out your own hair, and no level of talent could have pulled off these roles, not if the cast was given a lifetime to try to figure out what it was all supposed to mean. Don’t waste your own time trying to solve the riddle either; there are real movies to be seen, and this isn’t one of them.
Director: Terrence Malick
Release: January 30th, 2020
Terrence Malick needs to go away. His films always look so good, stir things inside you, and then you watch them and you want to die. He needs to stop making things since he’s proven that he’s no good at it; maybe I’ll start a petition.
Director: Greta Gerwig
Release: December 25th, 2019
I almost feel sick saying it, but this movie is going to be terrible. I absolutely loved Lady Bird, like adored, it was everything, so I’m rooting for Greta and I’ll always be rooting for Saoirse Like Inertia, mostly because she’s perfection. I even like Timothee, I think he’s great, Florence is cool, and I like classic literature, so I should be 100% behind this film. Except, I can tell it’s going to suck, and partially because it’s going to feel fake the whole way through, and partially because Emma Watson can’t act her way out of a paper bag. No, this is going to be a Christmas disaster, mark my words, and if it is anything otherwise I will eat my proverbial hat.