Booksmart

What’s not to love about the hype around Booksmart? Well, the lateness of this review is one.

This movie I think had three screenings available for me to go to to see it early, and I just could not make any of them. One of them was a night I planned on going, but got bombarded with work and had to stay home. It sucked.

I wanted to see the first film directed by Olivia Wilde, who has had some great comedy moments in her career. I wanted the film that was described as the female equivalent of Superbad, but better and more PC.

locker
More PC but just as raunchy.

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are top of the line students at their high school. High grades, internships, activities, they want to go to a great college, get great careers, and have great lives.

They didn’t have time for getting high, or drinking, or partying. Very little socializing besides each other. They had crushes and never went after them. They are friends with their teachers, and Miss Fine (Jessica Williams) is their hero.

But it turns out that most of their school associates also have gotten into great schools. The ones who slacked, who partied who had fun. These two sacrificed for years for…nothing. Now it is time to change it. The night before graduation, they are going to experience parties and go for their crushes and lay it all out there, before Amy has to go to Africa for the summer. They need to go through the whole high school experience in just one night. Easy.

Also starring Skyler Gisondo, Victoria Ruesga, Billie Lourd, Molly Gorgon, Mason Gooding, Will Forte and Lisa Kudrow as parents, and Jason Sudeikis as a vice principal.

pole
Okay, how can straddling a giant phallic object be more PC?

Booksmart was a breath of fresh air. Just like Long Shot felt like a breath of fresh air earlier in the year. Except Booksmart I have strong feelings will stay at my top of the year list the whole year. I can’t imagine seeing a funnier film this year, and that means a lot with so many months to go.

It is just hard to find good comedy films in general that can change the game and offer something new. That give believable reasons for vulgarity and strangeness. That have a plot and growth in the characters. That aren’t just goddamn slapstick.

Out leads have flaws, have arguments, and are people worth cheering for. They are very different and relatable, but more importantly, so are the other “bad” students in their eyes. It isn’t just two heroes here, there are a lot of characters that matter and have their moments of triumph for us to shout for. Not everyone is the bad guy.

I am talking a lot of hype about a movie that technically is a high school party movie, of which the genre is packed. But damn, does this not feel like it fits the current generation so well, without dumbing itself down to whatever-ist level jokes.

Clearly, women are just funnier than men.

4 out of 4.

Midsommar

When Midsommar was announced, it became one of my top anticipated films of 2019.

Sure sure, a big part of that has to do with the theme. A horror movie, set mostly in daylight, and in Sweden? That is unique in itself, even if the plot ends up being weak. Location can mean everything.

The other big reason is that the director, Ari Aster, was ready to follow up his smashing success of Hereditary. Not only was it on my top of the year list, but it was the best horror of last year and had some best acting performances in my book. Clearly I would run towards any second movie he had to offer after that glorious first picture.

And also, Swedish people!

vacation
None of these people are Swedish. Well, one is. But can you tell he is Swedish?

Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Raynor) are having some problems with their relationship. They have been dating for awhile now, but they might be drifting. Dani’s family has been having a lot of personal drama, so Christian feels like it is never a good time for a breakup. And then, a bigger tragedy occurs, and sure, guess they need to keep this romance going.

Unrelated to their romance, Christian was invited to go to Sweden for a few weeks. Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), a Swedish friend at their University, has invited his new friends to come see a festival in the commune where he grew up. They have yearly festivals around the middle of the summer, but this is the most special one that occurs only every 90 years. Also coming along are Josh (William Jackson Harper), who is working on a thesis about various cultures summer celebrations, Mark (Will Poulter), who is looking to score with some hot Swedish babes, and of course Dani, because she just needs something to distract her.

Now of course, this middle of nowhere, super northern, Swedish village far away from the main roads is going to be a bit weirder. And, given the time of year and location, they barely even have darkness. What a fun time to celebrate and frolic with the flowers. With this culture, their customs may seem strange to visitors. But they have done them for hundreds of years, so who is to say they are wrong?

Also starring a lot of Swedish people, including Liv Mjönes and Anna Åström.

scream
Ah yes, frolicking with the flowers.

Midsommar is definitely a movie, and one that took me awhile to be able to write about. Not weeks, just a few days. I wrote parts of the review right away, but I knew I needed to sit on my analysis.

First important note to point out is the film’s length. Very few horror films ever break 2 hours, and the ones that do end up being extremely successful or reach cult status. Midsommar is 2 hours and 20 minutes, almost unheard of for a horror (but not unheard of in terms of average movie length that seems to keep creeping upwards). Despite the length, I never once felt bored throughout the film, and mostly sat in awe of the beautiful cinematography, long shots, and colors.

In comparison to Hereditary, this is not as scary as his first film. It is definitely still unnerving/creepy, but for pure horror it lacks. It builds up its shocks and goes to an expected place by the end, but it is still satisfying and makes sense to get to that point.

Above all else, this is a film about a couple going through hard times and eventually going to have a break up. We know it, they know it, their friends know it. It just so happens that this break up is done in a unique and gory way.

Aster’s second major film is another win for him in terms of creativity, gorgeousness, and great acting performances. I cannot confirm yet if this is the case for sure, but you get to see a lot of Jack Raynor’s penis for those who have a check off list. It is probably actually him and not some CGI dick.

4 out of 4.

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal

I want my youngest daughter to go into gymnastics soon in her life. One reason? It looks fun. Who doesn’t want to be able to do flips like a goddamn wizard? And two, I wanted to be in gymnastics when I was a kid and didn’t get to, so you know, living through your kids and all not.

And knowing all of this, I definitely was aware of the USA Gymnastics scandal by the end of the trial. The ending moments (which if you didn’t hear, I won’t spoil and tell you right now) made really big news. It felt just, it felt like closure for dozens of women, and it was a powerful moment.

But for this documentary, At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, it goes over the whole story. From the beginning in the 80’s and 90’s, to how many people must have turned a blind eye. Into how Larry Nassar even got to a point where he could be around kids.

Evidence
Yeah, tell him he is a fuckface!
Unfortunately for the world, Nassar was apparently good at his job as a sports scientist/doctor. He did know stretches and ways to prevent injuries. He was always seen as the good cop at practice. The main coach would yell at the players, make them try harder, fight through the pain. Nassar would be the savior, who would take the kids into the room to fix their bruises, sprains, and pride.

He got so sure of himself and his methods, he was able to sexually assualt girls in his medical room with parents also in the room. Sure this would be behind a sheet or cloth or something, but this helped normalize it for his victims and make them less likely to speak out.

It is fantastic that eventually he got what he deserved, although he probably deserved a lot more. I am happy that over 200 people were able to speak out against him, and that hopefully those who heard reports and did nothing can also be looked at. I am happy he had to sit there and hear the stories against him.

What I am not happy at is how goddamn long it took to happen. How many reports he was able to skip by, meaning dozens and dozens more girls had to have their lives ruined and innocence destroyed.

I still want my youngest daughter to go to gymnastics. This sort of documentary should be a light of hope. “They got the bad guy!” while also unfortunately making me weary of the fact that predators exist in the most and least likely of places. This is a story of good eventually winning, but at such a cost it should make even a regular law abiding citizen question if they are doing what they can to protect those around them.

4 out of 4.

Leaving Neverland

It is hard to change your mind on a topic despite years of support. Recently I promised to stop listening to R. Kelly music, and it is been hard because I think Trapped in the Closet is amazing and quoted it regularly enough in regular conversation.

Michael Jackson though? That is a much bigger name, a much bigger icon and someone who impacted, psha, probably everyone born in the between 1970-1999 at least? Sure, we had the stories about his closeness to children. I remember that being a stigma that we all just accepted, but at the same time, the court cases did not prove he did anything, he walked away from it all. Some of the people who accused him of crime has been in get rich quick schemes and other fake lawsuits.

CLEARLY all of this was a smear campaign against him! Jealous of his talent, fame. Dude had a rough childhood, leave Michael Jackson and Brittney Spears alone!

But this documentary came out. Could I be wrong? You know, technically no one in the grand scheme of things who can only know info based on what media has reported to me about these events that mostly occurred when I was only a few years old? 

Evidence
Everything I know is a lie!
Anyways, yes, I can be wrong. People can wrong about things and when new evidence comes forward, we should be willing to change our thoughts and not feel like we can’t be a flip flopper. Never changing despite evidence makes someone an asshole.

Now what evidence does Leaving Neverland actually offer? Good question.

Just stories, only stories. Mainly, two stories by two now men who have claimed to have been in a sexual relationship with Jackson when they were in their pre-teens to teenage years. But these aren’t simple claims. They are detailed, elaborate, and fresh. They have other people (siblings, parents, friends) talking about their relationship, and their stories matched with the victims. These relationships from even a regular point of view changed their families lives and broke one of them up.

And the hardest part of the story. Why now? Why waiting so long? Why, when asked in the 90’s, would they lie then and protect Jackson. And the answers given make sense. Age, a sense of love, and all of that.

I feel terrible that people went through this, the two boys and whoever knows how many more. And it sucks that we live in a climate that is so willing to protect those with influence versus regular members of societies.

In conclusion, Michael Jackson had a rough life, pretty famously, growing up. This led him to success, and a completely messed up life view. This also led to bad and illegal things, ruining many lives and affecting the world even long after his death. Shit’s fucked up.

4 out of 4.

Long Shot

After the decade plus of revitalization, comic book movies have finally given me what I have always wanted.

A live action film over the best mutant super hero ever in existence, Longshot. Longshot is an alien/cyborg futuristic dude, who deals with M.O.D.A.K. What is his mutant power? He is lucky. Things go his way. As long as he has pure motives, the hard to fathom things will just work. What a fun power!

Wait. Shit. No. This is a RomCom from the creators of Superbad. And it is Long Shot, two words, meant to show the likiehood of this couple working out. Ah damn it. If this film stays popular over time, we might never get a self titled Longshot movie now!


They say couples will start to dress like each other. Just a guess on which way it goes.

Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is a goddamn supernatural being. She is smart, beautiful, well liked, and currently Secretary of State behind an actor president. She isn’t super funny though, and she isn’t in a relationship. These are negatives on her profile, a profile she wants to improve while planning to run for president.
Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a journalist that doesn’t work for a major media company. He hates that stuff. He is funny, and edgy, and has his own unique voice. But after he quits in protest, his friend (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) uses his connections to get him into a rich party. And that is where Fred and Charlotte meet for the first time…in a few decades. Oh they were neighbors as kids, she was his babysitter, only older by about 3 years. He loved her and she was (and still is) out of his league.
But driven by nostalgia, and a lot of good vibes, she wants Fred to be his staff writer, to raise up her humor levels. Staff sees it as a bad idea, but she just sees something in him. And maybe, this run for president and bills will draw them closer together in ways no one would have guessed. Just kidding, that isn’t a maybe at all.

Also starring June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård, Randall Park, Andy Serkis, Ravi Patel, and Tristan D. Lalla.


They say couples will start to dress like each other. Just a guess on which way it goes.

Look, I know I haven’t had at on of reviews over the last few months. I rarely review those I see at WorldFest, and I haven’t been to as many screeners lately. Random documentaries or movies I find on Netflix/Hulu can sometimes be worth the watch, but can also be often times easy to ignore for reviews.

But I am really glad I have now seen Long Shot. I can’t even tell you what I was expecting. It is a RomCom after all, with a strange pair of leads. And it had me smiling so much, and laughing quite often. Maybe this isn’t actually a 4 out of 4 film! Maybe it just is given that rating because of a hole this film has seemingly filled in my heart. And hey, that can happen with reviews, as much as we would rather it not. Sometimes our real life just interferes with a movie, so we can’t see how it truly is, which leads to good and bad ratings.

And for now? This film is one of my favorite of 2019. It might just be like Love, Simon, a really enjoyable film that stood out amongst a sea of shit, but one with less appeal by the end of the year. Rogen plays something similar to his normal self, but it works. Theron plays the anti-Tully in this movie, and her range is incredible, although this role is also probably similar to her real self. Jackson Jr. is a scene stealer and has been unstoppable in his films lately by always making a great impact with smaller roles.

This movie won’t change the world, and it doesn’t really even do something profound. But I love it.

4 out of 4.

Paddleton

I am at the point where I will probably watch anything with Ray Romano in it. Anything, except for that show that made him super famous, because now its old and there is no way I can enjoy that show format. No way.

But older Romano? He has been kicking butt since he was Autistic in Parenthood.

Then he nailed it with The Big Sick. He is doing these fantastic drama/comedies that make us feel. So sure, tell me he is in a Netflix only film that is about death, drama, and comedy. I know I am going to see Paddleton as soon as I could.

Serve
Paddleton, where they use paddles a ton.

Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) are best friends. By circumstance though. You see, they are neighbors as part of a duplex home scenario. Andy lives upstairs above Michael. And despite their age difference, it turns out that they are destined to be great pals.

They both love Kung Fu, home made pizza, and playing made up versions of Racquetball. There is a nice abandoned wall outdoors they can play against each other. They have a love for the same Kung Fu movie too, that not many people appreciate.

And then Michael got a diagnosis. He’s got cancer. Terminal stomach cancer. He could do some fighting to make himself last longer, but he realizes he will be miserable. So he wants to go out on his own terms. He knows there is medication he can take that will let himself die, sort of legally. Just apparently unethical so he will have to travel to get it.

Michael just wants to have one great time with his friend, before he is too weak. He wants to play their game, eat some pizza, watch Kung Fu, and then have his friend be there with him when he drugs himself to death. A pretty swell experience for Andy, I tell you what.

Also starring Kadeem Hardison and Alexandra Billings.

Couch
When they punch together, the enemy will surely vanquish.

Paddleton wrecked me. This is just a movie about two friends, wanting to be best buds forever, and realizing they can’t. The realization of one of them dying, the younger of the two, was something they never expected, certainly not this early in their lives.

The difference between them, as one has accepted his own death while the other can’t handle the responsibility and emotion that will come with losing his best bud, while also being the arm that metaphorically pulls the trigger.

And so we get laughs, and we get tears. We get quite a few powerful scenes discussing the idea of mortality and letting go, while also still finding parts of it amusing enough to laugh at. I couldn’t look away at the end. I knew what I wanted to happen at the end, and it went in my mind, the right direction.

This is a film that will stay in my mind for many years, and also be one I can rewatch and still connect to on an emotional level after several views. Like Steve Jobs!

4 out of 4.

Best Films of 2018

I don’t need a long introduction anymore, I have done a few of these already! I don’t even have a significant list of missing films to talk about, even better!

So you know the drill, here are some honorable mentions. Honorable what?

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Like every year, I had quite a few 4 out of 4’s to choose from. Top 15 lists are more exciting and besides, 10 is an arbitrary number. But what films couldn’t make the list? Things like Love, Simon, Widows, and Isle of Dogs. Officially only three honorable mentions, keeping it little this year.

There are no foreign films in the top this year, but that is because I only saw two major ones, and neither were 4 out of 4s for me. I also will say I didn’t get to see Beautiful Boy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, A Private War, Destroyer, At Eternity’s Gate, and Mirai.

And click on the title to get the original review of the movie!


15) American Animals

I always try to make sure there are a few weirder films in my top 15, and this year was harder than most. I didn’t think we had as many strong weird films, because there were so many great films. And this year, American Animals is probably my only real surprise.

American Animals is a film I expected nothing out of, and barely even watched it to review as it was an online screener. I had some time, sat down, and was floored by the story and its presentation of facts versus the real situation. It was done so creatively, and it makes the viewer think. What more could you want?

American Animals


14) RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has grown to fame over the last few years as being someone who is unmoving in her convictions and always willing to fight for the oppressed. But it turns out, she has been doing it her whole life, coming from hard beginnings, a law school that didn’t care about women, and over a decade of being unable to even join a law firm despite wild talent and smarts.

This is a story that we should be showing our daughters when encouraging them to be anything in the face of oppression. This is a story that hits all of the right notes and gives a powerful role model still doing as much to change the world as she can in her 90s.

Although RBG is here and amazing, and a must watch (more so than On The Basis Of Sex) it is not the best documentary of 2018.

RBG


13) If Beale Street Could Talk

In the making of the list, If Beale Street Could Talk was the last film I watched before deciding on the final block of 15. It is so fresh in my mind that I still haven’t wrote a regular review about it. I just knew I had to see it from its Spirit and other awards accolade, and needed to make up my own mind before it was on DVD.

And it is a powerful movie in a year of powerful film. It is about race, love, and family. Another portrait of how the black man is never given a fair shake at things, but putting it set further back when it was more common to see these injustices. It was a story we could relate to, while also focusing firmly on the characters involved and what they were going through during the events. I loved everything about this movie, and even more notable was the soundtrack. A nice collection of jazz to fully embrace the viewer in this setting.

if beale street could talk


12) Hearts Beat Loud

Hearts Beat Loud is one of those breath of fresh air movies. I went in seeing it and I didn’t even know I was seeing it, as it was a mystery screening. This is the perfect sequel to Sing Street, despite having nothing in common creatively from Sing Street.

It is just about a father. And a daughter. Trying to make some music before they have to separate and go on with their lives, in a scary world. Change is hard. But family bonds can last forever. And the feelings I felt with Hearts Beat Loud I hope I can experience again and again with every new viewing.

Hearts beat loud


11) Avengers: Infinity War

For those that hate superheroes, might want to skip the next three entries. Avengers: Infinity War is meant to be a cross over to end all cross overs. Well, the first Avengers was that ambitious goal, the second one was more of the same, but this one? This was like times three, so many more people, from parts across the galaxies, gotta team up and go after this bad guy.

And it was beautiful. It had the action scenes, humor, real struggles, and of course, the ending. The snap.

The only thing that takes away from it is knowing that the snap itself, which can make a grown nerd cry, is temporary and thus, a little bit meaningless. Once we see who is lost, and with the movies coming out, we know that it doesn’t fully matter. Only a little. And so it does feel like a bit of an annoying cliffhanger.

But what do I know? Maybe with the new one in 2019, it will elevate the first half even more.

avengers infinity war


10) Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse

In 2017, the animated movies were mostly shit. Deal with it, it is true. In 2018, we have a lot of duds as well, from our trusted companies. Must be playing it safe.

Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse is the opposite of playing it safe. Tons of main characters, a weird stylistic approach, meta humor, comedy, and strange aspects of the Spiderman lore to devote a whole film around on the first go. When it works, it really works. When it doesn’t, well, that doesn’t exist. It always works.

From start to finish this is the best Spider-man film in some time, and was almost nearly the best Superhero movie of the year, but instead will just be the best Animated film of the year.

spiderman into the spiderverse


9) Black Panther

Black Panther was the first superhero movie of 2018, coming out in February (you know, Black History Month) and felt like a breath of fresh air in the superhero world. It told a powerful story, with a memorable non-throwaway villain, and of course, a cast of characters celebrating cultures not normally celebrated on the big screen.

It was an early favorite of mine, and it became a tent pole to judge other super hero movies by. And at the end of the year, I still think it is on the top. I have to ding Avengers a little bit for having a plot that I know won’t fully matter in a year. But Black Panther is a secluded story that is important and will be the gift that keeps on giving for Marvel in a few years.

This is the best superhero movie of 2018.

black panther


8) Searching

When Searching came out, there were only a handful of examples of films that were done in this way. Basically, some horror ones, and like, a TV episode. The ideas were sound, and cool, but never were they fully great and up to the level people were hoping for.

Searching said no, let’s do it right. Let’s use the technology correctly so that there are no (or extremely few) technical issues. Let’s make it a thriller/mystery, so that the audience is on the edge of the screen with them. And let’s let John Cho do his thing and act like a worried dad.

And acting he did. A film was created. And an amazing experience was had. Take a ticket for this ride. This is the best “computer based” movie of 2018.

searching


7) Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

And then there was Rogers. Fred Rogers. The manliest gentleman ever to be on television. He had a vision in the 60s for TV that was heartfelt and not stupid, and he carried his passion with him for decades. In hard moments, he became the person to address the youth about hard times, and he always accepted the mantle when the time was right.

It is easy to see his passion through the archival footage, and coming from someone who never watched the show in his own youth, this is a documentary that will make you cry.

They got everything right about this documentary, making it the best documentary of 2018.

wont you be my neighbor


6) The Hate U Give

What can we say about The Hate U Give that wasn’t said by most people when it came out? Powerful, modern, topical, well acted, and of course, a family film. Or as family centric as a film on this topic can get, since most of the films that would deal with racial inequalities and problems will easily earn R ratings, despite being felt by people under 10 all the time.

I cannot wait to show my family this film, and it should be really soon after the posting of this article. It is easy to see all the different perspectives, and although not based on a real event, it is clearly a combination of similar events and a buildup to the natural conclusion. Shit getting real.

Also, I think Russell Hornsby should get an award for this movie.

the hate u give


5) Bodied

It is very hard to talk about Bodied and why it deserves to be on a best of the year list. It has no A-listers in it, it is relatively strange, and it is probably the first movie I have ever seen that had its premier on YouTube Red. And last, because it has been re-branded already.

But despite its strangest, it goes hard into the political, and PC nature of our changing environment. It deals with very hard topics, like race appropriation and culture vultures, while making the viewer uncomfortable and not sure who to root for. It is a sports movie in a sense, without a clear answer or best case scenario. It is a musical, more than anything else on this list, with the how much of the film is focused on rap battles (and seriously, it is most of it).

The last half hour had me spell bound, and I didn’t want it to end, while cringing all over the place at the same time. Making something like Bodied takes a lot of passion, and a lot of courage. And it is a movie that should be seen.

Bodied is the best musical of 2018. And its the best sports film…?

Bodied


4) Hereditary

From watching the trailers, early in the year, audiences should have expected something special from Hereditary. Well, audiences who weren’t expecting jump scares.

I didn’t see any of the trailers for Hereditary, but with the title, my mind went a lot of different places, and somehow it didn’t go anywhere I could ever expect. It was dark, and it got on every last of my nerves, and it is one of those movies I just could not bring myself to rewatch before making this list. Hell, its been out forever now, but I knew it just wouldn’t be the same as my first experience, and I don’t want to think less of it due to distractions.

I do want to think more about how Toni Collette nailed her role, and how she clearly gave the best Actress performance of her life, and of the year. The next two movies on this list feature four very strong actress performances, but this one is definitely on the tops. Completely unnerving.

Hereditary is the best horror film of 2018.

hereditary


3) Ben Is Back

My theme for most of these top films is great acting, as you have seen, and will seen, and few films have a better pairing than Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges in Ben Is Back. Not to diminish the other actors in it, who are also fine, but hot damn, these two are so fine, you couldn’t seen their individual grains with a scanning electron microscope.

That was fun to write, and Ben Is Back was not fun to watch. It was downright depressing. It was great critically, and to be amazed at how the two carried themselves and these characters. How we get to learn about so much history and weight bearing down on them to get them to this point. So much that they have to go on their journey as a way of maybe, finally, getting closure.

And despite it all, Ben Is Back isn’t even the best drama of the year. Although, this is the best drama if drama’s are not allowed to have humor.

ben is back


2) The Favourite

When it comes to Yorgos Lanthimos, every year I say I need to see his earlier work, and this year I might finally mean it. The Favourite is only his third movie I have seen, and it is by far MY favourite, and almost my favorite movie of 2018.

It has everything I could love in a movie: history, witty dialogue, comedy, amazing outfits/scenes, and an excellent cinematography that is going for something special in the movie. It is also led by three terrific actresses who showcase that they can be masters of their craft.

Goodness, I better see Dogtooth this year, or else…you know, 2020. The Favourite is the best comedy of 2018.

the favourite


1) Blindspotting

I don’t want to sound too preachy or too political (just kidding, lets do it), but this has been an amazing year for showcasing black talents and cinema, accurately representing the struggles they face in America in a variety of ways. We already talked about the subtle (and not so subtle) nature of it decades ago, and we talked about it on a more family friendly level. Hell, we almost talked about it on this list with the bizarre with Sorry To Bother You, but it just didn’t make my top.

And with Blindspotting we get to talk about it in a new way. About areas changing, gentrification, and perceptions of white and black men who can be very similar, and very different, yet perceived in completely different ways.

Our two leads are amazing, even if Casal is annoying, he is played to be that way. Diggs and Casal made this passion project after years of work, and it really shows, as this is the first time Diggs has gotten to showcase his talent since he was Jefferson in Hamilton.

Blindspotting is real, uncomfortable, and tells a strong message, with not a simple answer. I loved it, and want to show it to as many people as I can. This is the best movie of the year, and the Best Drama of the year. A few more raps and it could have been musical of the year.

blindspotting

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.

Ben Is Back

Guess who’s back? Back again?

Ben is Back! And tell a friend!

Speaking of Ben, Lucas Hedges is also back, ready to rock out another amazing performance. Starring in too many Oscar nominated films last year wasn’t good enough for him. He needs more, again, now.

And for this film he has the help of other award winning actors and actresses, because he is tired of helping others win stuff.

SHRUG
He is doing his best here to look like he doesn’t care about awards.

Holly Burns (Julia Roberts) is a hardworking woman, who wants to make sure her home is safe, her community is happy, and that everyone everywhere is just happy. An extreme housewife like role, you know? Her daughter (Kathryn Newton) is almost done with high school and a great singer. Her other two kids with her new husband (Courtney B. Vance) are well behaved and free spirited, not yet ready for life to strike them down.

And then there is Ben (Lucas Hedges). He is in rehab, for not the first time in his life. When he comes home, bad things happen. Things go messing, questionable people come around, and of course we get a relapse, and when people are on drugs they are wild cards.

Will this time be different? Because surprise, Ben is back! Unexpectedly, for Christmas. Did he have permission? Is he done with the program? Has he actually gotten better this time? Or will his life spiral down, causing more destruction just like the last time. And the time before that. And the time before that.

Also starring Rachel Bay Jones, David Zaldivar, Michael Esper, and Jakari Fraser and Mia Fowler as the little brother and sister.

cAR
This is how happy people drive their cars.

Ben is Back is about two people. And Vance is really not one of those two. He is fine in the film, but very limited, just like the sister character played by Newton. This is about a mom and her addicted to drugs son. This is about Roberts and Hedges.

First of all, I finally have an answer to why Hedges is in so many amazing movies the last few years, coming out of nowhere. And no, the answer is only partially because he is an amazing actor. It is because of his dad, Peter Hedges, a writer/director, who also wrote and directed this movie. He has some Hollywood connections and probably some acting money. Hedges delivered a hell of a script, taking place basically over a single day before Christmas. There is so much tension in this family, so much past alluded to and shown on the screen, and it hard to not feel anguish for the characters. That is both Hedges and Roberts. Rarely do these films give us a fair side to the addicted person, despite it being a disease.

And holy shit, Roberts is great. She is a ticking time bomb, trying to hold so many things together, to keep a straight face, and do what she thinks is the right thing. In the face of despair she is trying to smile her way through it because that is what her character must have been told and learned growing up. She is an island and a ball of emotion. She is everything in this film.

This is a movie about two people, and it is about two amazing acting performances.

4 out of 4.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“At least the DC animated films are great!” says some internet people when it comes to the great movie comic wars.

And sure, that might have been true. I haven’t seen like any of them. Except The Killing Joke, which apparently was an exception to that rule.

But why not some Marvel animated films finally? Not Marvel Studios, but at least one of their superheroes. Sony has had a lot of terrible ideas lately on what to do with this franchise they own, and they figure, screw it, why not just throw a bunch of Spider-people in a movie and hope it works. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. People not familiar with Spider-man will probably think it is a joke.

A joke eh? Let’s get those joke people to do the movie, they do solid work. You know, The LEGO Movie guys, yeah! Well, at least Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are producers, and that might lead to a solid product.

Basically, this might be the first good move Sony has made besides teaming up with the MCU to get some of that ad money.

Woods
An idea that is maybe crazy enough to work. Like two spiderpeople.

The movie begins with an intro by our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Chris Pine), who goes over his past decade plus of success. He has a wife, has saved the day countless times, and apparently, he is the same one from the Sam Raimi films. Fun!

But this movie is only a little about him. Really, it is about Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a young man who is still in school, with a lot of emotions. He lives in the hood, but goes to a nice school. His dad is a cop, but he wants to be a graffiti artist. His uncle is really cool and helps him, but might have some law problems as well. And he is just extremely emotional and nervous, despite being a smart kid.

Needless to say, he likes Spider-Man too. Everyone does. And Miles gets bit by a different fucked up spider. Not the same one, a different one. One that grants similar, yet different abilities.

And thanks to some villains, they are making a big dimensional portal vortex thing, because they want to mess up the multi-verse. Or change the past. Either way, this brings in a lot of confusion, unwanted death, and some more power/responsibility things.

Featuring other various Spider-men from different dimensions, like SpiderGwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson)!

Also the voices of Zoë Kravitz, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Liev Schrieber, Lake Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Mahershala Ali, and Brian Tyree Henry.

Gwen
Two is not enough. We need diversity. Ladies. Cartoons. Animals. Time travel. All of it, damn it.

Hands down, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is one of the better superhero films of the last decade. I didn’t say animated films, I said Super-Hero. That is compared to all of the Marvel movies, to all the Fox, the DC, the other Sony ones. At least decade.

I am not saying it is better than The Dark Knights or the early X-Men films, but it is also better than most of the super hero ones in the 2000s.

Now, sure, that is a bold claim for animated films this year. I don’t know if I like it more than Isle of Dogs, but probably, I’d have to watch it again.

Why is this film great? It is just such a game changer and tries so much. It has emotion (I cried), wall to wall comedy, and fantastic fight scenes. Plenty of character development, especially this serves as Morales’ introduction to movies. I assume a lot of people still were unaware of him before this film, and it is a fabulous introduction.

When I say it tries so much, it is not going the safe route. The animation at first was off putting, very out there, reminding me a bit of the Spider-Man: The New Animated Series that premiered on MTV in 2003. But after a little bit, it was easy to go with the flow, and accept the weirdness of the animation. It was also a nice cross with actual comic books, and really immersed the viewer.

The voice acting was great with the large cast. They have award winning actors in roles that suit them, Cage being the best PI Spider-Man ever created, Mulaney with his regular awkward voice handling the pig, and more. Everyone completely morphs into their role. Even though Moore isn’t as young as Morales, it never felt disjointed and I hope he can voice this character for awhile (and be given more roles in more projects!).

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the gift that keeps on giving. For Spider-fans, you will be blown away. For comic fans, you will appreciate the story and craft. For animated fans, you should be stoked that there is something that isn’t another Disney/Pixar sequel. And for everyone else, well, hopefully you like to laugh.

4 out of 4.

The Favourite

At this point in my career as a movie reviewer, I can no longer say I am unfamiliar with Yorgos Lanthimos‘ work. Now, his first few things? Sure. But I have reviews of The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and now, The Favourite, so that is a clear majority of his movies. I can still suck as a person for not seeing the things that got him famous that are apparently great in their own rights, but I am familiar with his work.

Lobster was absurd and social commentary. Deer was creepy and made me panic. And The Favourite would turn out to be just as different as the last two.

The one thing I was most curious about this movie going into it is that it was listed as a “Biography” on IMDB before hand, having never seen the trailers or anything. This…this is a real story? Or at least based on one? That is certainly nothing like Lanthimos’ previous work, so it is good to see him go in strange directions.

Wait
Waiting rooms with no magazines got me like

Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is in pain and sad. She lost her husband, she has aches and hurts and she doesn’t want to rule England. She wants people to fix things and for her land to be in peace and to hang out with bunnies. Thankfully she has Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) by her side. Sarah has ambitions and smarts and wealth and is married to the main general. She wants what is best for Anne and best for England. She helps the Queen in every thing, including decision making, and is brutally honest with her. They might even be in love. That would explain all the sex stuff at least.

Things are going well enough, the two political parties disagree about things, and it is all terribly confusing, but whatever.

On the other side, there is Abigail (Emma Stone), who used to be a lady, but had some big problems with her family kind of ruining everything. But she is cousins with Sarah, so she wants to go to their castle and find protection. She is given a job as a very low level maid, not what she is used to, but it is better than nothing. However, she quickly finds that her talents can be better used and makes herself extremely valuable, with the goal of rising up the ranks.

Maybe even winning over the love of the Queen, and screwing over her cousin, who is definitely a b word.

Also starring Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn.

Bow
But we are here for the ladies ya’ll, even if Hoult has magical hair.

Going into a Lanthimos film you will never really know what to expect. This film seemed to be an experiment in camera work, from wide angled to fish. Amazing camera work at that. Given a film that will have most people talking about the costumes and acting, it is very important to realize how sexy everything felt. It wasn’t like normal impressive cinematography, it had strange side effects, and there were a lot or risks with it. It helped explain the complex feelings going on in the kingdom at the time and the complexity of these characters.

Okay, now the acting. Stone. Weiss. Colman. All extravagant and showcasing some of the best acting of the year. Apparently Stone/Weiss are both going for supporting roles and will be nominated together in a lot of shows, while they are giving Colman the top acting role and you could argue for all three that they deserve some form of main actress. The men are secondary in this film, they are schemers, they are distractions, but it is about two women who both want power and will do a lot to make sure they maintain their power.

I laughed so much throughout this film, while cringing and hiding at other parts. It really goes to extremes in all levels, never super graphic, but a few intense scenes regardless.

What surprised me was how “accurate” it was to history. Now I am willing to bet none of these conversations are close, and I don’t even think Abigail was real. But we have the same queen, bad health a lot of her life, lady Sarah, changing political allegiances, war, and it had the number of miscarriages correct (which during the movie just seemed like an absurd/uncomfortable joke). Again, I put accurate in quotation marks. It is clearly not accurate, but it is also very much inspired and not drawn out of thin air.

Basically, everything that The Favourite tries, it accomplishes with gold and blue ribbons. Even the jarring and uncomfortable ending makes a lot of sense for this movie. The Favourite came out of nowhere for me, and I could never have guessed it to be so brutal and enjoyable. One of my must see films of the year, and certainly one of the top.

4 out of 4.

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