Monthly Archives: December 2019

  • -

Movie Review – Parasite

Category : Movie Review

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Starring: Woo-sik Choi, Kang-ho Song, Yeo-jeong Jo

Year: 2019

In the conversation for Best Film of 2019, Parasite packs a bonkers wallop, much like 2017’s Killing of a Sacred Deer, which, I will admit before we go any further, I liked better.  Yorgos Lanthimos and Bong Joon Ho are both legitimate visionaries, they both bring something fresh to American audiences that we are never quite prepared for, and so hats off to those amazing directors, keep up the good work.  But I do prefer Lanthimos’ style a bit more, and I only bring him up because this latest BJH film really does have an air about it that I seem to have breathed before, a sense of dread that I’ve appreciated in the past, and honestly don’t mind appreciating again.  Parasite might not be my choice for Best Picture, but there is no doubt it deserves Top 10 recognition, if just for being so daring that we can’t not talk about it.

The Kim family is jobless, pathless, desperate, but clever, so you can guarantee that they won’t stay down for long.  They each are skilled and smart, but it’s hard to find work, it’s hard to jump the track that you’re on, and sometimes opportunities only come to those who are wicked enough to snatch them.  Fate knocks when the son is offered a part-time job as a tutor for a very wealthy family, and he soon sees an opening for his sister as an art instructor.  They then recommend their dad as a chauffeur, and their mother as a housekeeper, but all while pretending they don’t know each other, attempting to milk the rich Park family for all they’re worth while the ruse succeeds.  But a sinister secret will blow it all up in their faces, and their lies will escape the darkness, forcing the false family to face what they have done.

‘Bonkers’ is the word, even if it takes a while to get there; trust me, it’s coming.  Much like the films of 2017, which feasted on the abnormal (Mother!, The Square, Killing of a Scared Deer, Get Out, Split, A Cure for Wellness), Parasite isn’t afraid to immerse itself in the onscure, especially after setting things up so carefully early on, only to pull the rug out from under our feet eventually.  The twists will surprise, but they aren’t even the meat of the movie; it has a strong foundation in story and in delivery, it is definitely built from the ground up.  The lies are great, the plot is funny, there are some red herrings throughout, you really get to know both of these families, you get so uncomfortable at times, and then shit really hits the fan; it’s rather brilliant.  BJH (The Host, Snowpiercer, Okja) knows his stuff, he crafts something masterful, and his latest project won’t just be one of the best foreign films you see this year, it’ll emerge as a leader among all this year’s dramas, as long as you are ready for unorthodox entertainment.  This type of wacky, weird, wonky violence isn’t for everyone, I’ll warn you, but it’s definitely tailor-made for some of us; deciding which camp you belong in is your job.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – 1917

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sam Mendes

Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman

Year: 2019

1917 is n0t a true one-shot film, nor even a two-shot film, but the details don’t wholly matter; it feels like a single breath to audiences, and that’s what keeps our hearts pounding until the final, incredible finish.  Like Dunkirk before it, this movie is about a ticking-clock feeling, or a first-hand encounter, not about the dramatics of typical Hollywood, and how that industry usually creates a WWI or WWII flick.  This is something else entirely, and we should be thankful for that limited experience, thankful to Sam Mendes for crafting something that seems so lifelike that we can hardly stand it.  1917 will be nominated for Best Picture this year, which is definitely deserved; I think its legend will only grow larger the more perspective we gain with the passing of time and the study of what went so well so constantly.

April, 1917, with British forces feet away from German, in a muddy, bloody standoff that would perfectly encapsulate the horrors of trench warfare.  But news has reached the line; the German forces have withdrawn, seemingly giving the British a chance to strike.  A battalion gives chase, but are being drawn into a trap, with their enemy forming new defenses that will be impenetrable.  Young corporals Blake and Schofield are given an almost impossible task; cross the no-mans-land, cut through dangerous territory, reach the battalion, and warn them that the attack on the new German line must be called off.  The lives of sixteen hundred men are in the hands of these two lads, as they make their way through hell to save their brethren.

It will seem as if this film was created with only two running shots, and although that’s not true, it’s still pretty awesome.  We march alongside these boys and we experience everything they go through, the quick cuts between scenes hidden within the movie; when a camera pans over a rock and the actors walk behind it, when they walk in one side of a building and out the other.  But you hardly notice those moments, the film feels like a continual stream of action and danger, which is so impressive.  Mendes knew what he wanted to do, created the impossible, and kept heart within his story, something that Dunkirk is accused of failing to do.  But 1917 never falters, is always high-motor, while never succumbing to typical genre cliches.  It’s fresh, brutal, personal, sad, and perfectly encapsulates a war we don’t tend to spend much thought on, but really should try to understand better.  The acting is great, with cameos from Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Richard Madden, none of which ever felt forced.  The emotion is so great, the tension palpable, and the cinematography perfect; Best Picture material for sure, and I think a movie we will look back on with even more respect.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Category : Movie Review

Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega

Year: 2019

To sum up, The Force Awakens was great and The Last Jedi was questionable.  I personally liked it, but not for the reasons that those who were looking for feminism and inclusion liked it; I’ll always be part fanboy, I just thought it was a good movie, with some amazing scenes.  But I was concerned that Rian Johnson felt compelled to completely turn the direction of the universe around; I thought where we were headed was just fine.  That is why I was excited about The Rise of Skywalker, which I thought would fix the problems but continue what was working; best of both world’s right?  But nope, no matter what character decisions the director decided on or whose Rey’s parents are, none of it matters if you make a fundamentally flawed film, and that’s exactly, sadly, what we have here.

The Resistance has fought off the First Order for now, but the population of the galaxy has not risen up to support them, and it’s only a matter of time before Kylo Ren defeats all rebels once and for all.  But there’s a disturbance in the Force; the voice of Palpatine is heard throughout space and it seems like he’s been pulling the strings all along.  Kylo hunts him down to end any rival to his power, but instead finds an ally in his war against the light side.  Meanwhile, Rey and her friends must find the same undead emperor before he can amass his forces, join the First Order, and bring the dark side to full strength.  It won’t be easy, but together, with love, and with help from where they least expect it, the last of the Jedi have one final chance to save all creatures from total destruction.

I liked this new trilogy so far, I’ve enjoyed the extra movies (Rogue One, Solo), but this last installment is a complete disasterpiece, and I’m so sad to report that.  And I promise it’s not because they turned around from where the last film was taking us; I’m fine with a return to canon, that’s cool by me, I want Rey to be someone special, and that’s all up to the director, I’m not trying to decide what the path should be.  I’m upset, rather, that JJ Abrams created something stupid, pointless, and amateur, when the groundwork was laid for something so special to come to fans who have waited so long.  He messed up big time, that’s all there is to it, he did a bad job, and I can’t understand anyone who would say differently; this movie, from top to bottom, is a mistake.

It starts with Palpatine, which is never really explained, and it goes on from there, as each “reveal” is dumber and dumber, until audiences throw up their hands and give the fuck up.  It’s that angering, we should be taking it that seriously, because this is a part of our cinematic culture, and it just got ruined.  The dialogue, the plot choices, the editing, the character introductions, the lack of time given to anything meaningful while too much effort was spent on these ridiculous twists that do absolutely nothing emotionally; my god.  Seriously, my god, and from the first moments I could tell something rancid was brewing, and it never let up.  Rey was weird, everyone else just yelled and ran around, no awesome characters were used properly, each “gotcha” was more idiotic than the last; over and over and over this film failed to live up to all that we as faithful followers deserve.  And I’m not being petulant, I promise, I’m not a toxic Twitter troll, I wanted Rise of Skywalker to be phenomenal; the fact that it’s the opposite shocked and disappointed me hard.  It’s all over now, at least for a while, and I guess that’s for the best: if we ever return to this franchise we need a fresh, improved start.

My rating:  ☆ ☆

 

 

 


  • -

Sports – NFL Picks 2019, Week 17

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 17 Picks

(10-6 last week, 144-95-1 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

Cle @ Cin

Mia @ NE

Chi @ Min

LAC @ KC

NYJ @ Buf

GB @ Det

NO @ Car

Atl @ TB

Phi @ NYG

Ten @ Hou

Was @ Dal

Pit @ Bal

Ind @ Jax

Oak @ Den

Ari @ LAR

SF @ Sea

 


  • -

Movie Review – Klaus

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sergio Pablos, Carlos Martinez Lopez

Starring: Jason Schwartzman, JK Simmons, Rashida Jones

Year: 2019

Klaus is being touted as an instant Christmas classic, but I think audiences might have had a bit too much spiked holiday eggnog.  Netflix released it, the guy who made Despicable Me created it, and the only thing I saw instantly was that it was on a lower tier than other animated flicks I’ve seen this year.  I don’t mean just Disney/Pixar, other studios are doing solid work as well, but I don’t think Klaus exactly qualifies.  I will admit to getting in a festive mood by the end, and enjoying the happiness the film brought to my kids, but to those who think that this might be the best the genre has to offer this season I’d say, did you not watch anything else?

Jesper Johansson is the Post Master General’s son, and so destined to be a Royal Postman, but in truth he’s basically a worthless human being.  He’s spoiled, selfish, lazy, conceited, and just downright unlikable (Emperor’s New Groove much?), which is why his father finally feels the need to push him out of his comfort zone and to make him do some real work for a change.  Jesper is sent north to the snowy island of Smeerensburg, where two families are at constant war with one another.  There he meets a quiet woodsman who likes to give small toys to small children, and the miracle of Christmas giving is born from this unlikely friendship, and within Jesper’s unlikely heart.

The animation is odd, Jesper is annoying, the casting is poor, most of the movie isn’t about Christmas, and, in general, the movie rubs me the wrong way as an “origin story”.  Schwartzman just talks and talks and talks, it never ends, Simmons is a weird choice, just doesn’t sounds right, Jones is the world’s worst actress, and then there’s the rest of the cast: Will Sasso, Norm McDonald, Joan Kusack.  That’s a very questionable group, and it’s not a surprise when it doesn’t work right.  I guess I’m Grinch or Scrooge, because by the end I had completely allowed the Christmas spirit to enter my cold heart, I didn’t hate anything that was happening, I just don’t think this was strong work, in fact it was the opposite; weak sauce.  If it hadn’t been for the cutest little imaginary child in the world entering the picture, I really think I might never have been affected; thank snow for Márgu.  But that was about all that I liked about the movie, the rest was average, and I think more critical minds might have trouble with this one; my advice is to leave it for the kids.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Movie Review – Little Women

Category : Movie Review

Director: Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, Florence Pugh

Year: 2019

I was wrong about Little Women, and I couldn’t be happier to say it.  I thought we were on a collision course with disaster, a Christmas whatever-the-opposite-of-miracle-is, an overworked and sooner put to rest bit of trivium that didn’t have enough talent backing to make it anything more than thin syrup.  But I was wrong; god bless us, everyone.  Gerwig is an amateur director, Watson can’t really act, the novel is 150 years old, these girls are all 10 years older than the parts they’re playing; there were reasons to be skeptical, I stand by that, but I’m so glad to report that all those reasons went by the wayside.  Little Women is a grand celebration of life, love, and the sweet pain of growing up, presented to audiences with a special skill that comes only from adoration of the original work.  I will no longer doubt Greta when she sets her mind to create something magical, especially with Saoirse Like Inertia in tow; I think we have been blessed with the pairing of the century when it comes to those two amazing women, and we should just sit back and say “thank you”.

This is the story of the ups & downs of the March family, a rambunctious troupe from Massachusetts trying their best to live good lives during the war between the states, attempting to maneuver coming of age at a time when material wealth often seemed like all the mattered.  Father is off fighting, Mother lends a hand all around town, so that often leaves the four daughters alone to their own devices and imaginations, which sometimes leads them into trouble.  There’s Meg, the eldest, serious about finding a handsome match, but also a natural actress.  Jo, the tomboy, wants to be a writer, and can’t ever see herself getting married, as unheard of as that might be.  Beth, the musician, is the most level-headed of the family, and the sweetest, wanting everyone to stay together forever.  And then there’s Amy, the baby, who is beautiful, vain, fun, and sometimes foolish, but so very good at heart.  As they grow, they will go their separate ways, although often tied together by a boy (who many of them think they might love) named Laurie, who has long been a family friend.  No matter what happens, the four will always be sisters, will always be one family, and nothing on Earth can break that everlasting bond.

I’ll say it one more time; I had doubts.  Gerwig still had some proving to do, even after Lady Bird, but she’s off the hook now, I won’t be doubting her again.  What she was able to accomplish here is nothing short of a coup, a stunning upset when I really did think she would fail.  She took the book and modernized it somehow, someway, while still keeping it set in the 1860s; I’m really not sure how she did that.  But she made the story relevant to today’s conversation, she changed just enough to make the plot about young women now, and she figured out the age bumps too; Amy is supposed to be 12, while the actress playing her is 23, so that could be weird, but Gerwig wove the 2-part story into one narrative, and created personas that were timeless, making the details almost moot.  With incredible music flowing throughout, the pieces of the puzzle of their lives connected one by one until audiences began to see the bigger picture, and the more we saw the more we were ensnared by the passion of these young women, their love for one another, and their zest for lives that not only burst the mold, but forged a clear path for all those who might come after.

Now we come to acting, which could not have been more important because, as with many period films, sure the costumes and locales are important, but most of the “action” happens within conversations and/or dramatic showdowns on the moors, so the actors had better be spot on with each and ever line or the center will not hold.  In not-so-shocking news, since Saoirse Ronan was on-set, things went rather well.  She has become a force of nature, and I can’t wait to see what she can do each time I hear she’s starring in another project.  She is the unquestionable lead, never falters under the weight, and carries the story to the finish line flawlessly, all while magnificently hiding an Irish accent that’s almost a caricature.  Not to be outdone, Timothee Chalamet, who performs with such a pompous ease that we never question his right to be wherever he wants to be; I think that’s called “command”.  And not to forget Florence Pugh, who may be having the most extravagant coming out in cinematic history (Lady Macbeth, Outlaw King, Midsommar), and who is insanely lovable, attractive, and smooth.  The rest of the cast was a mixed bag: Eliza Scalen was completely forgettable as Beth, Laura Dern & Bob Odenkirk were AWFUL as the parents, Tracey Letts is always a consummate professional, Louis Garrel was a nice addition, Chris Cooper was a nice nod, and I guess Meryl Streep was fine, though unneeded.  The biggest surprise is that Emma Watson wasn’t terrible, she was simply mediocre, which is a step in the right direction for her, if you want to think positivity.  Honestly, there aren’t many negatives to point at, other than a few performances that I think could have gone better; the film, taken as a whole, was lovely and loving, no one mistake marring what was ultimately a surprisingly moving motion picture.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Uncut Gems

Category : Movie Review

Director: Benny & Josh Safdie

Starring: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, LaKeith Stanfield

Year: 2019

The Safdie Bros. follow up Good Time with Uncut Gems?  Is that even legal?  These young directors are producing content right now that rivals the greats of the industry, and they’re just getting started.  Their films pulse with energy, violence and comedy and drama pump through each vein, and, what’s more, the endings are actually good, which we all know is something rare.  How are they able to do this with such seeming ease while scores around them struggle with the simplest of stories?  Who the hell knows, but that’s a question worth exploring, and audiences reap the benefits just sitting back in our chairs, we don’t have to do anything other than enjoy.  And that’s what I plan on doing for every Safdie flick from here on out; enjoying talent that seems heaven-sent, and counting myself lucky to be on the viewing end.

Howard isn’t really a jeweler, he’s more a juggler, keeping a hundred running chainsaws in the air at one time, hoping to God none of them chop off an appendage.  He’s pawning necklaces to get cash to place bets.  He’s placing bets to make enough money to pay back bookies.  He’s paying bookies with promises, making swaps he can’t authorize, hocking everything he owns, always hoping that the next big score will pay out.  His latest hustle is a giant opal worth around a million dollars, which he lends to Kevin Garnett the NBA baller, of all people.  Garnett plans to buy the rock at auction anyway, but meanwhile he feels like he’s got a lucky charm, so Howard bets everything on KG having a great playoff game.  If he doesn’t, Howie might lose more than some money, and he’s currently losing his wife to boot, because she knows about his girlfriend, who is also his employee.  Chainsaws, chainsaws everywhere, and ne’er a breath to take.

Good Time was brain-pounding pace, stellar acting, and constant awesome music, which I thought couldn’t be repeated.  You wonder why more directors don’t do the same thing and simply make another good movie like the other one that did so well; I guess people are just stupid.  The Safdie Bros. didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, they just made another fast, supported, beat-driven crime marathon, with a story that was fresh but with a feel that was extremely comfortable.  Bravo for being smart, we don’t see that enough, and keep up the good work, my friends.  They even elevated things a bit, especially with the cast: Sandler was magnificent, Fox was inarticulately hot, Stanfield was so cool, plus KG, The Weeknd, Idina Menzel, Judd Hirsh.  I’m not sure there’s a single piece of the film I didn’t like, it all worked, from the blood to the bombast, from the bling to the beatings.  Uncut Gems is an unusual but definite choice for a Best Picture nominee, and I think it has enough support to make the list, if not enough traction to win.  Sandler too could be in for awards, and he would deserve them entirely; don’t count this film out in any area, it’s strong from any angle.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Jumanji: The Next Level

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jake Kasdan

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan

Year: 2019

The Next Level falters for a reason that’s not its fault; we saw it coming this time.  Welcome to the Jungle was a surprise, it was shockingly fun, it was better than it had the right to be, and we clapped accordingly.  Apparently that then gave them permission to make a sequel, which we did not ask for, but was bound to make some money, so here we go again, but this time around we aren’t going to be charmed into enjoyment.  And because of that, the movie never had a chance in the world of reaching the already limited heights of its predecessor, it just wasn’t going to happen, the ceiling wasn’t high enough, which leads us exactly to the place we could have predicted with ease: fine, mostly fun, kinda dumb, and already forgotten.

The fearsome foursome have returned from the video game version of Jumanji, they’ve become fast friends despite their differences, but life goes on, and sometimes that means friends drift apart.  Spencer, specifically, is having a hard time adjusting to college life, and this leads him to repairing the cursed console and heading back inside the game, just so he can be Bravestone again.  But it’s not that simple; Jumanji is busted, and so the avatars don’t work the same way.  And there’s another problem; when Spencer’s friends jump in to save him, his grandpa Eddie and his grandpa’s rival Milo get sucked in too, so now they’ll all have to survive, beat the game, and exit Jumanji as two-time champs.

Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time, forget about Welcome to the Jungle, and so be open to enjoying The Next Level just as much, that’s just not possible.  Our shock at liking the first film in a way prevents us from digging the second as much, which is too bad, because the sequel isn’t terrible, it’s just not news.  This time we’re prepared for a certain type of comedy and a certain structure of plot, and that’s fine; I guess amazing talent and bold new ideas could have forced us to give a standing ovation anyway, but obviously that’s not going to happen.  This film has a very low ceiling, its actors are only so good, and its director kinda sucks, so there we go.  The result is a movie that’s still fun, still did well at the box office, but can’t really be taken seriously.

The characters are switched up a little this time around, and that’s amusing, at lease for a minute, but it does grow stale pretty fast.  The only role I didn’t get tired of was Kevin Hart’s, as Milo the old guy; he was spot on and mostly hilarious.  The side actors kept things fresh as well, helping move things along when they could; Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Rhys Darby.  And at the end I thought it all came together well for a cool climax, which I wasn’t exactly expecting, so hats off there.  But the story was a little laden, focusing a little too much of their outside lives, and, this is gonna sound silly, but I was never worried that they weren’t going to make it out, it always seemed a little too easy, which I know is ridiculous, because of course, but I still noticed myself feeling that.  Anyway, go see this if you thought the first was funny, you’ll have a good time, no harm done, but probably no impact left either.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Sports – NFL Picks 2019, Week 16

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 16 Picks

(10-6 last week, 134-89-1 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

Hou @ TB

Buf @ NE

LAR @ SF

Cin @ Mia

Pit @ NYJ

NYG @ Was

Car @ Ind

Bal @ Cle

Jax @ Atl

NO @ Ten

Oak @ LAC

Det @ Den

Ari @ Sea

Dal @ Phi

KC @ Chi

GB @ Min

 


  • -

Movie Review – Dark Waters

Category : Movie Review

Director: Todd Haynes

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Bill Camp, Anne Hathaway

Year: 2019

The best part about Dark Waters is that you can feel Mark Ruffalo’s passion behind every moment; this isn’t just another role to him.  He’s political, he’s an advocate, he’s using his money for good, and it shows, it’s obvious that this isn’t a case of just another actor playing just another part, punch in and punch out.  No, he’s invested, he’s trying to shed some light, and the use of some of the real people who lived this story in small parts in this film reflects how real they wanted this to feel to audiences, and that works wonders.  Todd Haynes is a strong choice for director (Carol, Wonderstruck), Mark Ruffalo is an incredible actor (Zodiac, Foxcatcher), the plot is a message we need to hear; Dark Waters might even seem too close to home for some, too personal and true.  But unfortunately we’re right in the middle of Oscar season, and this feature is no Spotlight, it’s more Erin Brockovich, if definitely with less Hollywood influence.  Still, Dark Waters isn’t Best Picture caliber, it’s much more plain than that, which is a mild disappointment.

Robert Bilott, a new associate at a corporate law firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, has just stumbled upon an exposé case that could cripple a company in one of America’s largest industries; the problem is, his firm represents that industry.  It all started when a man named Wilbur Tennant reached out to Bilott for help, knowing he was a lawyer, also knowing & living near Robert’s grandmother in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  Wilbur’s cows had all died after a landfill was bought by DuPont Chemical next to his farm, and now Wilbur and his wife are getting sick too.  Robert works for DuPont in a way, but he also knows them better than they know themselves, better than the EPA does, and he can feel that something is just not right.  What he uncovers is decades of systematic lies, all the while DuPont knowing that people’s lives were being cut short, their only real interest being their profit margin.  And so began a crusade to tell the truth, to protect the locals who were dying, and to let the world know that they might be next if action isn’t taken.

I live in Ohio, where much of this movie takes place, and I have ties to West Virginia through my in-laws, so this story was very personal to me, and more so to my wife.  Her family worked at the chemical plants in what they call Chemical Valley, they swam in those rivers growing up, they were lured into believing that companies like DuPont & Union Carbide were looking out for the well-being of their workers, and then they were diagnosed with cancer at a shocking rate.  This is real life to me, to her, to her family, they lived this, and so this film touches that nerve in a powerful way.  It’s also very well acted by Mark Ruffalo, he sells the story, and you can tell he cares.  Unfortunately, no one else stepped up to the plate.  Camp’s accent was off, Hathaway was an odd, over-dramatic choice, and none of the other actors helped much: Tim Robbins, Bill Pullman, Victor Garber.  And (spoiler alert maybe) I already knew about forever chemicals, I was already anxious about how we all have them in us and how we’re all gonna die because of it, so I’ve already gone down that bleak tunnel, this wasn’t news to me.  With that wow factor removed, the film is only OK, though still important, and I applaud Ruffalo for working so hard to tell the story; I just don’t think the ultimate delivery is award-worthy.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆