Tag: 4 out of 4

Best Films of 2019

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
My honorable mentions this year are a bit weirder. These are 100% just movies I didn’t get to see, and wanted to, and maybe would have made my list if I saw them. None of these have reviews at the time of posting!

Honey Boy, Richard Jewell, Ford v Ferrari, Weathering With You, Judy, Hustlers, Clemency, and Just Mercy.

Okay fine, one review almost made the list and didn’t. Sorry, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? but you were number 16!

For the rest of the reviews below, just click on the title to get the original review of the movie!

15) Long Shot
Why is it on the list? Good question! Usually my 15th movie is questionable. This one was just the feel good rom com I need at the time after a long string of bad movies. But the leads just really make it work.
Favorite moment? Basically every time O’Shea Jackson is talking.
Any Best Awards? Best RomCom of 2019!

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14) Booksmart
Why is it on the list?  In a year where two films were hailed as spiritual successors to Superbad, this is the one that reigned supreme to me and made me giggle the most. I liked Good Boys too, just these gals sealed the deal for me.
Favorite moment? The graduation speech.
Any Best Awards? Best comedy of 2019! (Yes the next films are all bleak).

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13) Joker
Why is it on the list? Great performance from Phoenix, unexpected plot line, and a pretty fun ending. Plus, it helps prove the only thing that DC films know how to right are related to Batman.
Favorite moment? The subway revenge scene.
Any Best Awards? Best origin story of 2019!

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12) Ad Astra
Why is it on the list? Visually a winner of a film, that takes its time to tell a personal story despite the great lengths and really respects the setting of outer space. Also, Pitt carries the universe of troubles on his face, and I love that misery.
Favorite moment? The baboons.
Any Best Awards? Best purely Sci-Fi film of 2019!

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11) The Farewell
Why is it on the list? Awkwafina showcasing she can do anything she wants in the media world, and we just have to take it. Beautiful story, learning a lot about another culture, and telling us there are many ways to say goodbye.
Favorite moment? The Wedding
Any Best Awards? Best excuse for a wedding in 2019!

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10) Bombshell
Why is it on the list? Three women give wonderful performances with two of them delving so deep into their real life counterparts, I forget who was acting. It is an important
Favorite moment? Robbie‘s restaurant breakdown, and the beginning debate.
Any Best Awards? Best real story of 2019!

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9) At the Heart of Gold / Leaving Neverland
Why is it on the list? First of all, I am allowed to have two things in the same spot if I want. It’s my list. Secondly, both of these documentaries came out around a similar time on HBO about similar subjects, sexual assault and unfortunately with different outcomes.
Favorite moment? The reading of accounts from the gymnasts in At The Heart of Gold, and the men describing when they finally realized what occurred in Leaving Neverland. Both very powerful moments.
Any Best Awards? Best documentaries of 2019!

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8) Paddleton
Why is it on the list? This film flew completely under the radar, appeared on Netflix early in the year, and captivated me with its simple story. If you aren’t crying by the end, you weren’t paying attention. Romano continues to rock it in these more dramatic roles.
Favorite moment? The ending.
Any Best Awards? Best heterosexual life mates of 2019!

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7) Avengers: Endgame
Why is it on the list? I feel like this one is rather straightforward. Much like the first Avengers, it feels like all of the build up, which was fun along the way, was brought together for these moments. And you know what? They were very creative with this film. No one expected how a lot of it would have gone down. The wait was worth it.
Favorite moment? Avengers Assembling.
Any Best Awards? Best superhero film of 2019!

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6) Midsommar
Why is it on the list? Although not as good as Hereditary, Midsommar gives me a horror film unlike any other in an unexpected setting and all in daylight! The director’s cut isn’t worth seeing just for the differences, the original stands on its own. Pugh has a great year for an actress, and this was her crowning achievement.
Favorite moment? The fertility blessing.
Any Best Awards? Best horror film of 2019!

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5) 1917
Why is it on the list? Incredible cinematographic films will always catch my eye, including ones with a bold premise like this one. Mostly real time, seemingly one shot, huge sets? Oh my goodness, all of my pants come pre-wet for this premise. I was going to dismiss it as just another war film, but the technical style and skill behind it are a sight to behold.
Favorite moment? The night time village.
Any Best Awards? Best war film of 2019! Best action film of 2019!

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4) Marriage Story
Why is it on the list? Rarely are actors so realistic with their emotions and passions as our two leads here. Couple that with fantastic dialogue and a story that should be told, that never gets told, leads to an unforgettably unpleasant and sad, yet beautiful story.
Favorite moment? Most of them? The intro, Laura Dern‘s first scene, the courtroom scene, the argument, the inspector.
Any Best Awards? Best divorce of 2019!

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3) Uncut Gems
Why is it on the list? Sandler can bring it when he needs to, and he brought it and more with this Safdie brothers flick. An intense thrill ride of uncomfortable scene after uncomfortable scene.
Favorite moment? The final bet.
Any Best Awards? Best Dark Comedy of 2019!

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2) Parasite
Why is it on the list? A lot of reason Parasite is on here is due to how shockingly original it is. A tale of class warfare that is specific to South Korea but able to resonate with everyone. And it tells a story that is impossible to figure out ahead of time.
Favorite moment? The basement reveal.
Any Best Awards? Best foreign film of 2019! Best thriller of 2019!

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1) Waves
Why is it on the list? The film changes so much throughout. From calm to extreme and back. It gives us time to grieve and to heal. The cinematography is inspired, the acting is great, and the heart break is real. Also, the soundtrack is so immersive, it is a full cinematic experience given.
Favorite moment? The party scene and the last wrestling scene.
Any Best Awards? Best drama of 2019! Best film relying heavily on music of 2019! And of course best movie of 2019!

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Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site!

And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.

Joker

Todd Phillips has directed a handful of movies in the past, including every Hangover movie, Old School, Road Trip, and Due Date. All comedies, not all of them necessarily good, but all comedies nonetheless.

So it makes sense on that level for him to direct a movie called Joker. After all, that title sounds like a comedy.

Oh wait, this is a serious drama piece, about the origins and rise of a super villain? A big acting movie that is probably going to be offered awards? Oh uhh…Todd? Are you sure you are ready for this?

steps
Nothing screams out humor like a clown smoking on some stairs. 
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is an adult, but why? Being an adult sucks. He has a disorder that causes him to laugh out spontaneously, and annoyingly, at weird times, so much that he has a card to warn people. He used to be in an asylum, but he is doing much better now. He works as a party clown, for kids, or whatever the occasion, even if it means standing on a corner with a sign.

More importantly he cares for his sick mother (Frances Conroy), who used to work for the Wayne family a long time ago. She still hopes they will respond to her letters, because they are good people. She is bed ridden now, and Arthur´s income isn´t a whole lot of money. But Arthur is kind to her and watches their favorite shows together and makes sure she is comfortable, even if he is having a bad time.

Like when he gets beaten up by some kids who steal his sign. Or his job threatens to fire him, or when they do actually fire him. A lot of bad is adding up, and he can´t take it. So when he kills some young rich adults in self defense, it starts a movement in the city. A city who is tired of the wealthy getting away with everything but murder, while the poor suffer.

This whole thing is a big misunderstanding, and a joke. But maybe it is just what Arthur needs to find his purpose in life.

Also starring Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, and Bill Camp.

stare
Phoenix playing someone with mental illnesses? You don´t say! 

Now that it has been out for over a month, most have you had already heard the praises of this movie and its record breaking $1 billion in the box office. It is by far the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time. All these records needed was just to put a superhero tag on the film and they were good to go.

Phoenix does an incredible job, but this type of role is something he has shown again and again in previous movies. It is very much in his wheelhouse, they are just usually more independent films that no one feels like watching (and honestly, a lot of them I have disliked). No other actor is really a standout here, although De Niro is at least interesting in his role.

This film offers a very unique look into the start of a movement, and the start of a supervillain. It does not say the Joker is right in his regards, but pointing out societal problems is good in the long run so that we can collectively all work on making the world a better place. There will always be problems between the classes, when one side suffers over the other. And a movie like Joker takes that to the logical conclusion. Eventually people get tired of being pushed around.

And yet, all of this is still an over simplification of what Joker is all about. The only really way to know, is to experience it and see where it takes us.

4 out of 4.

Marriage Story

Marriage Story is somehow both a film I wanted to see for so long, and also never. I knew the plot, I knew it was sad, and I didn’t want to feel sad in that way.

I love it when a film can make me cry. It usually means it had me invested in their story to care about these usually fictional characters. But to cry about a divorce and losing love? That seems like something I can totally go out of my way to avoid if at all possible.

And I waited what felt like forever for when some of my critic friends saw in theaters, and when I finally had time to see it on its Netflix release AND when I had a good span of two or so hours to try and watch it.

Not only was the wait a pain, but so were parts of the watch.

argument
And now the powerful moments are meme’d.
Love is a fickle thing. We have seen it in plenty of movies. Different ways that people fall in love, how they plan their wedding, how they spend their post marriage life rekindling that lost spark. But what about for those who do not ever rekindle that spark? For those lost souls who actually can no longer make it work with their soul mate, and need to move on with their lives with very difficult decisions to make?

Marriage Story is about the end of a marriage, and how hard it can be to let go and change. When both sides want drastically different things, there can only be one solution that works, through the courts, but it opens up a dark and dirty underside to marriage.

Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) wants to move back to LA, to work on a TV show, and live closer to her family again. Charlie (Adam Driver) wants to keep his life in NYC, where his theater company is flourishing and culture is a walk away. Their son (Azhy Robertson) is not a strong source for his feelings one way or another, because he’d rather his parents stay together.

Marriage Story is about tearing apart people, past their breaking point, and finding out truths about themselves that they kept hidden for so long.

Also starring Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Kyle Bornheimer, Julie Hagerty, and Wallace Shawn.

breakdown
Meme’d and parodied into submission. 
Director Noah Baumbach has done an incredible job of giving me movies that I liked a whole lot, and some I did not, and rarely any in between. And this film goes on his excellent pile, like most of his work with Wes Anderson and his movies about relationships.

Without getting too hard into the details, because you should just go and watch it yourself, it thrives in its realism. Both people feel strongly in their decisions and both feel they are right, even if we can see the flaws in their ideas and plans. Longer scenes are there to make us experience the awkwardness of all levels of the divorce, and you just will feel bad/sad/angry about the whole thing.

As soon as the movie finished, I knew I had to see a few of the scenes again, and I was surprised at how many of them flowed from one into another. It basically turned into a most of the movie re-watch.

Driver and Johansson are incredible at these leads. I am so angry at them for their fictional divorce, and I will always associate them with their non-real break up. Well, Driver with Outer Space, but Johansson is stuck with this one despite so many films under her belt.

Outside of the fictional money spent in this movie, it really feels like the best ending they should have had after I could reflect and revisit aspects of the film. Rarely does a film strike so hard at the realities of two people whose paths no longer coincide. And I am just so happy it is on a wide enough format for a lot of people to grieve over as well.

4 out of 4.

1917

When I got the invite first for 1917, I really just assumed I would ignore it. I try not to watch trailers, I try to avoid spoilers and go out of my way to research movies before I watch them. All I knew was that this was a war movie?

A war movie? In my 2019?! We just had Midway which was WWII (and I have not seen). I skipped one, why not skip this one as well? How can you wow me war movies?

And then a friend knocked some sense into me. He told me that this movie was done in real time. With the illusion of one continuous shout.

Hold my green apple Smirnoff ice, I’ve GOT to see this on the big screen.

trench
Words cannot describe the fear the audience will experience.

Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) is awoken one afternoon with urgent orders that General Erinmore (Colin Firth) needs him and one other for an urgent mission, time is of the essence. He chooses his buddy Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay), and they hope it is just a supply run mission to head back and bring more food for the troops. They are quite hungry.

Unfortunately, it is a lot more urgent than that. There is another British division in the woods outside of a nearby French village. They are planning on attacking the German troops nearby at dawn, who are supposedly retreating, but the intel has changed. It is a trap. And Blake has an older brother in charge over there, another incentive to get there in time.

Now these two men have to travel through trenches, across no man’s land, hope that the German’s in their area did retreat, then travel several miles over land and hopefully get to the troops before it is too late and 1,600 men get killed.

Also starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, and Richard Madden.

house
Two men, one note, no cups.

Roger Deakins is god and we are just living in his well defined cinematographic world.

Breath taking. Wonderful. Immersive. It is hard to explain. If any film had to talk about the dangers and realities of World War I, this is probably the film we need. Our delivery boys are not bad ass guys who take their revolvers and head shot Nazis left and right running down a field. Every potential threat is just that, a threat, and potentially the end of their journey.

I never can tell if they will make it out of their current predicament, and if so, will they be fully in tact along the way.

The smaller roles given to big names help give some gravitas to their situation. Also, so do the explosions, and the hundreds of extras, and the miles and miles of real sets built, and the natural lighting.

An ending scene where a runner is going across the battlefield, while bombs are going off and explosions is one of my favorite and tense scenes of 2019. Along with a nighttime scene, running through the village with fire, flares, and German soldiers. It is hard to pick which scene feels more intense, honestly, and that is a good problem to have.

I loved 1917, and it is something that should be discussed for years to come on how to just do every little thing right with a movie.

4 out of 4.

Bombshell

Sexual harassment in the workplace should never be tolerated or allowed (or anywhere, of course). And yet, the idea has always persisted and continues to be found out. It must fucking suck.

With the amount of people in positions of power, for hiring and raises, being men who feel like they can do anything without punishment (because they have already been doing it for so long), it creates a scary life to be in for those who get pushed around by these men.

Bombshell is about one of the first big news stories that came out, involving highly famous names and individuals, including those who were less famous but very powerful. This is not just Stan down the hallway. This is people who helped make and produce billions.

And it turns out this bigger moment, which helped spur on and really start the #MeToo movement, started at Fox News.

megyn
Fair and Balanced doesn´t mean a damn thing in those doors. 
Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) of Fox News fame, had a bone to pick with Republican candidate for President Donald J. Trump. He hated women, despised them, it was clear, so she wanted to ask him a question about that fact, with lots of quotes to back it up. And she was ignored, but more importantly, the rabid trolls of his fan base turned on him. That was odd. He wasn’t even likely to get the nomination, she just wanted to bring him down a peg.

It turns out a lot of the Fox News fan base liked Trump the most. And that was the beginning of the end for her career there. And it is all thanks to Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) who is about to sue Robert Ailes (John Lithgow). He has been sexually harassing women for years for women to move up the ladder at their network, and even for those who resisted, he still was mean and cruel to them for years. Even Kelly.

And during the investigation, Margot Robbie plays a fictional newer hire, who is just starting to get the stares and attention of the man on the 2nd floor.

Also starring quite a few more people. Like Richard Kind, Josh Lawson, Malcolm McDowell, Connie Britton, Ben Lawson, Kate McKinnon, Allison Janney, D’Arcy Carden, Tricia Helfer, Mark Duplass, Jennifer Morrison, Alice Eve, and Brigette Lundy-Paine.

gretchen
You go girl, bring down the empire. 

Before watching Bombshell, I wondered if this movie would be this years The Big Short or maybe even Spotlight. Both true stories, both deal with big issues in very different ways. And since this movie involved a lot of breaking the fourth wall early on to set up the scene, and quick cuts, zoom ins to faces, or whatever. A really frantic film.

And yet, given the subject matter, the real situations of sexual assault, women coming forward by the droves to talk about how they were treated by a few men in power. To think this movie mostly talks just about Ailes, and only hints at the Bill O’Reilly sexual scandals that also occurred and came out around the same time.

Bombshell is a combination of both films. I laughed quite a few times, and I cried at least twice. Robbie admitting to her friend about what she did for the man broke me down, and watching an earlier first meeting scene with him was incredibly uncomfortable.

I hated this film for telling the truth and it hurt me in my core. This film is incredibly triggering, and also important at the same time.

The fact that this takes place at Fox News is a really central aspect of this story. The channel itself is pure, conservative trash, and not really news. We all know that. But that does not mean that people there are all bad people and deserve to be sexually assaulted. No one does. These big names have hurt others over and over again with their words in a quest for ratings and fame. And we can also agree what happened to them should not be tolerated.

4 out of 4.

Uncut Gems

Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie (or The Safdie Brothers) released a movie called Good Time in 2017. And it was way better than anyone expected it to be.

Robert Pattinson was a great lead, it was high energy with a banging edge of your seat soundtrack. It made quite a few best of lists and was nominated for some of the more independent film awards.

And yeah, it caught me by surprise, but didn’t elevate itself to my best list. However, I was very intrigued with Uncut Gems, going in knowing nothing about the plot except it was their movie and Adam Sandler starring. After all, Adam Sandler is actually known for acting good in movies he had nothing to do with production or direction. Like The Meyerowitz Stories or Reign Over Me (I haven’t seen Reign Over Me, I’m just assuming).

Bring on the almost Bear Jew.

sandler
This looks like a man who could collect many Nazi scalps. 
I don’t think anyone would disagree that Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a fuck up. Sure, he has his own diamond/jewelry shop in a classy part of NYC and deals with high figures and big clients, lives in a nice fancy house and has a family. But his judgement is questionable.

For one, he owes a lot of money to various people. One guy about $100,000, but smaller amounts to others. He likes to gamble money away in hopes of getting rich. He likes to pawn peoples items to secure funds to gamble them away. Don’t worry, he will pay it back.

Oh, he is going through a divorce with his wife (Idina Menzel) but they are keeping it a secret until after Passover. His new lady (Julia Fox) lives in an apartment with him in the city and works in his store.

But things are finally going to change for Howard. He is getting a package he has waited a long time for in the mail, and Kevin Garnett (Kevin Garnett) is walking in to his shop before a big playoff game. Yep, things might finally start looking up.

Also starring Tommy Kominik, Keith Williams Richards, Eric Bogosian, Jacob Igielski, Jonathan Aranbayev, and of course Lakeith Stanfield.

lakeith
Ah yes, Lakeith, you should be in all of our movies. 
For about two-thirds of the film, I already knew most of my final thoughts. I knew this film made me feel uncomfortable. It made me feel disgusted at points. I was nervous the entire time. And I figured I’d never want to see it again, but I also knew I loved it.

Much like Good Time, once again, the soundtrack has to be experienced with excellent speakers. It almost feels like half the movie. The “action” in this movie is a lot less serious than that in Good Time, but the soundtrack still elevates his stakes and puts us in his ever more and more agonizing shoes.

Sandler is definitely giving it his all in this movie, really diving into the character. Enough to make me forget about Sandler at some point and just think of this crazed diamond dealer. I don’t know if he has ever been better, but I do know this has to be near his best and is worth the agonizing nature of the film.

The level of detail these brothers put into this movie, setting it in a specific period in 2012. The real events, the concerts, the games. I have never cared more about a 7 years ago NBA playoffs match up than this movie, and I was happy I was in a situation where I couldn’t just find out the results of the match on my phone real quick.

Finally, I was wrong with the thoughts I had two-thirds of the way in through this movie. I would totally go through the experience again.

4 out of 4.

The Farewell

Add another to the list. The Farewell was another screener I actually wanted to go to, but real life got in the way. Amusingly, this time I couldn’t go because my own wife was about to go on a week long trip, so I had to help her on her own farewell.

But I was happy in that I knew I’d have time to see it before the end of the year. It would eventually come out and be watchable.

And it looked sad, and if it could provide a good cry, I am all for it, any day of the week.


That’s a lot of people not crying who clearly want to cry. 

Billi (Awkwafina) is an aspiring writer and a Chinese-American immigrant. Her family moved her down to the states form China when she was a little girl, and she has been in America since then. Despite this, she has still maintained a good relationship with her grandmother, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen). She will call her often, update her on her life, and you know, give her a good chance to practice her Chinese.

Well, she finds out sometime soon a few things. One, her cousin is getting married in China very soon, and two, her Nai Nai has terminal cancer and is not going to last long.

However, in their culture, they do not like to tell people when they are going to die. They believe that the fear of the disease is worse than the disease itself. It is what really kills. No, they should just tell them everything is fine, so their last days are peaceful and not worrying.

Well, Billi has grown up in America. She doesn’t like that. American doctors wouldn’t lie and keep secrets like that. She should tell her. In fact, the wedding is just being rushed so that the family can gather and have a good time with Nai Nai before she passes. And despite trying to keep her away, Billi shows up anyways.

Billi promises that she will not tell her grandmother the truth, but she has to struggle with this the whole time.

Also starring Tzi Ma and Diana Lin.


Oh? Oh? Ohhhhh? Is then when the crying begins?

Gosh darn it. Here I am, in 2019, trying to be all mad at China. You know, for the President being a dictator, the poor workers rights, the former one child policy nonsense, the Hong Kong anti-protest measures. All of that.

And yet, then I have to go and watch a movie that makes me sad for China in a different way.

Awkwafina gives the performance of a lifetime for her, which might not mean much if you knew she has a rap song titled My Vag. She hasn’t been in that many movies technically, but she has been in a lot more recently, and it is great to not see her typecasted into these strange comedic roles.

This feels like a personal film for Awkwafina, and it is based on someone else’s real story, but her and all of the other actors in this film have to carry on so many emotions without easy outlets to express them. After all, they have to hide the truth from a perceptive older lady. So we get to see a lot of inner battles.

The Farewell is an intimate look at a culture that will seem unfamiliar and wrong to your likely non-Chinese eyes. And yet the glimpse into their lives cannot be called wrong, but bittersweet, and with its own pros and cons.

4 out of 4.

Knives Out

As a critic of film, I try to not let hype over take me, but for a film like Knives Out it has been quite hard to ignore the praise.

Best murder mystery in decades? Stellar cast where everyone brings their best? Laughs and shocks galore?

It was hard to not get swept up in the rush, so much that just getting ready to watch Knives Out made me appreciate the movie I saw before it a bit less due to wondering if I’d even get a good seat.

Also, it’s probably best to even skip my middle section, because generally the less you know about a mystery, the better!

cop
Unless you a detective, in which case, you want to know as much as possible.

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) was found in his attic with his throat cut, blood everywhere. By all accounts, a suicide.

But now, a week later, it looks like there are still questions. Officially led by two local officers (LaKeith Stanfield, Noah Segan), but the main questions are coming from Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a southern detective of notoriety who is being backed by a mysterious patron to find the truth of the matter.

Harlan’s Nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas), is going to be his main go to in order to get the inside scoop on the family, full of people with secrets. So many people, let’s just call them the family (Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Jaeden Martell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Katherine Langford, Michael Shannon, Riki Lindhome, Toni Collette).

But of course, nothing is as it seems, and blah blah blah, til the very end!

Also starring Edi Patterson as the house keeper.

stare
J’Accuse…!

Yes, Knives Out was very creative with its reveals and its pacing. Yes, Craig was magnificent in his role as eccentric detective, with a lot of funny lines. Yes, de Armas carried a lot of weight on her shoulders as well, and was a great leading lady. Yes, a lot of the twist and turns were very much on point and unexpected.

And yet, it still didn’t do everything perfect.

With a large cast, I felt like only three~ people ended up being important. A lot of big names are in there, have a moment or two, but are really wasted. The script does not allow for the large amount of people to shine and it is a bit disappointing in that regard. Hell, I am pretty sure Lindhome didn’t have an actual line of dialogue in this movie, outside of gasps, facial expressions, and argument background noise when everyone is talking at once.

And even if the ending technically works, and the reveals are all laid out, it is so god damn convoluted that it will not only be impossible to guess, it takes a lot of mental work to follow through.

This could be very well be a movie that is best tasted after 2-3 tries, and is still a very enjoyable experience. But if certainly did not dethrone Clue as the best murder mystery movie, in terms of humor, wit, or reveals.

3 out of 4.

Waves

I didn’t know anything about Waves going into it except for the vague IMDB description, but I have seen every movie from director Trey Edward Shults. He did Krisha, which I did not like, and he did It Comes At Night, which I loved. So a nice 50/50 going on there.

He is also super, super white. This only matters to me because I read the description for Waves. It begins with “Traces the journey of a suburban African-American family…” wait, what?

I had to ask myself before hand, am I fine with this? I don’t think Shults knows anything truly about the African-American experience. Is it going to be full of stereotypes? Is it going to touch on it at all?

On the other hand, I know that many directors stick to only what they know and that is why we only have mostly White/man stories, since too many directors are just white/men. What we have asked for these directors is to come out of their comfort zone, to tell other stories and represent the real America. And that appears to be what Shults is doing with this movie.

I can’t have it both ways, so I decided to be completely on board with this film and encourage directors to tell other stories.

ocean
And eventually, more movies about mer-people.

Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a senior in high school and seemingly has it all. He is fit and loved and popular. He is a star on their school’s wrestling team. His family is rich. He has a girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie), and they are really serious of course. Yep, no problems at all.

Well, his dad (Sterling K. Brown) is sort of intense and involved in every aspect. His step-mom (Renée Elise Goldsberry) is away with work a lot. His sister (Taylor Russell) is nice, but doing her own thing.

But sure enough, one thing goes wrong. And then another. And then another. And then another. And sure enough, emotions, impairments, pain, and sorrow, snowball up until actions can no longer be taken back. Can they recover? Can they move on?

Also starring Clifton Collins Jr. and Lucas Hedges.

church
Maybe Jesus has the answers? Maybe even…Satan!?

Shults is an interesting director. You can tell he wants to do more than just tell a story, but convey emotions and feelings into the audience. The first 10 or 15 minutes of this movie, I felt like a dream. Good times, music, everything is bliss. I honestly don’t know how long parts lasted, or when changes began, but the shift is powerful and he puts in all the stops to make it obvious.

The most obvious way is with the aspect ratio of the movie itself, which starts off full, and changes depending on what is going on in the movie. It might not be obvious when it happens the first time, but eventually it is front and center when the biggest disasters are occurring. And not just the ratio, but the use of sounds and music, the silence, the lighting themes, all of these work together to make a perfect movie for the audience. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are behind the music and it has been their best work since The Social Network, and probably surpass it in my eyes.

I loved, loved, loved our main family in this film. Harrison has never been better in his short career, and Russell puts a surprising amount of heart into this picture as well. The parents relationship felt real, sad, and it broke my heart watching them work through their issues. 

This felt like a real family who loved each other, despite all of the nonsense that went on in their lives.

I definitely cried about four times, just when I became overwhelmed with emotion or during heartfelt scenes, not necessarily my typical obvious cry moments. 

I still dozens of movies to see this year that are going for Best Picture and weeks before 2020, but this is damn near the top of the list for me at this point. 

4 out of 4.

Klaus

A long time ago, director Sergio Pablos set up an animation studio in Spain, in his homeland. He had worked for Disney in the 90’s, on such films like Hercules and Tarzan as an animator. He believed in 2D animation still, and didn’t want to make CGI movies, so he decided to focus his studio on just that. 2D, hand drawn, animation, but with upgrades from the technical side to make other parts easier.

And from his mad, Amish brained body came the movie Klaus.

They wanted dynamic backgrounds and characters, and not just one or the other. They wanted to capture the magic of animation again and really pour their heart and soul into the picture.

And hey, if you want to capture magic, why not start with a little bit of Santa action?

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Pictured: A little bit of Santa action.

Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is a piece of work, I tell you what. He has lived a privileged life, his father in charge of the post offices around the world, and he hasn’t had to do much. So when he is put into the postman program for training, he doesn’t take it seriously and he slacks off. Despite this, his father still decides to send him to Smeerensburg, a tiny island far, far North, away from everything.

Jesper’s goal is handle at least 6,000 letters within a year, in the city or our of the city, and get the post office up and running. It sounds bad, but it is actually worse than he imagined. In this city, very few people are out and about. In fact, they are a town known for holding grudges and fighting.

There are two ruling families, the Ellingboes and the Krums, who have been fighting for decades, and won’t be nice at all. This means they don’t go to school. They don’t do nice things. They don’t frolic down the streets. And they definitely have no need to send any letters.

Well, thanks to circumstances, a child’s picture makes its way to Jesper and the lone woodsman in his cabin (J.K. Simmons), who decides that the picture needs a gift. So he demands that Jesper deliver the child a toy that he has created.

This spreads throughout the village kids, and they also want to make letters for toys. This is a good idea, thinks Jesper, this will get him back home to his luxury.

Also featuring the voices of Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, Will Sasso, and Norm MacDonald.

panic
Pictured: Not home in his luxury. 

Klaus blew me away on so many levels.

The first, worthy of talking about, is the animation style. It was a breath of fresh air! Much like how Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse changed the animation game last year, from American movie releases, Klaus is doing the same thing. The traditional 2D animation is so gosh darn full of visual pleasure that every frame feels more than a painting. The backgrounds, the characters, the details, everything is so full.

The story, a re-imagining of the story of Santa, is also a lot more unique. It isn’t a guy just trying to bring toys to kids who banned fun, or whatever those older stop motion cartoons said. It is creative, so despite hearing about Santa all my life, it was refreshing to see a new take on it. A legit, new take.

The voice acting was really well, although Schwartzman sounded liked David Spade at parts of the film (probably just because of MacDonald’s voice to get me in that 90’s SNL mood).

This film had a lot of darker moments early on, and so the transition from dark to gushy Christmas spirit was a nice and welcome one, instead of starting high and Christmas and leaving us sick of it. This feels like a new holiday classic to me. Something that can pair nicely with A Nightmare Before Christmas.

The only way it could be better is if it was a musical as well. Or maybe not. I’ll take it the way it is.

4 out of 4.