In Which I Review Movies Part II

909

909
Staff member
Spanish, subtitles



Julieta (2016), directed by Pedro Almodovar

Most people who review films like this one from such a notable foreign director are those who have seen their entire filmography, knowing what kind of themes the director generally includes in their films. I am not one of these people and I may be unqualified to review this as a result of that. Regardless, I will push on because that's the point of my reviews, to explore things I otherwise may not have in past years. I was able to hit well over 300 films ranked and reviewed in 2018, I'm hoping to do the same this year even though it could prove difficult. It also may turn out that these reviews drastically change in size, which would mean I simply post my thoughts without talking about the story at all. For now, it's time for a long review about Julieta. I saw that this was nominated for a BAFTA award for best foreign language film, and it being nominated for a big award means I should give it a look. Julieta was also expiring on Starz. This is a film that was based on a collection of three short stories, and it was decided by the director that he should draw out a full narrative from three of the stories. Julieta is a film that could be described as overly dramatic, with a beginning that I thought was so ridiculous I nearly turned the damn thing off. However, as the film rolls on, the events become genuinely compelling, something which I wouldn't have expected with how things opened up.

The film starts with Julieta (Emma Suarez) about to move from Madrid to Portugal with her boyfriend Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti), and she seems quite happy with herself. Nearly as soon as the film begins, she runs into Beatriz (Michelle Jenner), the childhood friend of her daughter Antia. We learn that Beatriz has run into Antia recently in Switzerland, and that Antia is completely estranged from Julieta. Antia has three children, and unbeknownst to all of us how all these things happened, Julieta decides that she should stay in Spain and lease an apartment in her former building. After she breaks it off with Lorenzo, she decides to fill a journal about her life, in the hopes that someday Antia will mail a letter to her former building so she can send the journal in reply.

The journal begins with an explanation of how Antia came to be. The much younger Julieta (Adriana Ugarte) is a teacher, one who is on a train. On the train, she encounters an older man who creeps her out so much that she flees to the front cabin, where she meets Xoan (Daniel Grao). Xoan is a fisherman from the northern coast, and Julieta is from Andalusia, which is as far from the north as one can get. Xoan's wife is in a coma and has been for some time, and at some point in the near future she'll probably pass away. The train leaves one of its stops after the conversation between the two and stops abruptly, after which we learn that the creepy older man has taken his life. Julieta feels extreme guilt over this, and Xoan comforts her. Afterwards, she goes back to her job and Xoan to his life. She receives a letter some time later and decides she should visit, and upon arriving, she learns that Xoan's wife has died and he had been sleeping with one of her friends in the meantime, an artist named Ava (Imma Cuesta). Once Julieta arrives, that breaks off, and Julieta begins a romance with Xoan that culminates in the birth of Antia (Priscilla Delgado). That's all I'm going to say about the journal other than that this goes down a road I didn't quite see coming.

Julieta is a good film, but some of the cinematography and early moments feels like a thing that I'd watch on Lifetime. That isn't ringing praise, but the way the story builds into something greater than that was quite nice. I must admit I have never felt a stronger urge to shut something off inside of five minutes, which will be reflected in my overall score. This was a film with good performances, but I think its greatest strength is in the presentation of how Julieta's life was when she was much younger. We're talking 25-30 years younger and I should have clarified that much better. There are additional story points I didn't want to mention, but these make for a strong drama. I do have some other gripes, though. One is that the ending cuts off before the story is entirely resolved, another is that some of the translations of the subtitles are plain out wrong. The lack of clarity on translations can be brutal for those with no concept of what is being said.

Overall, what this is, is a straight dramatic film about someone's grief and how they came to be separated from their daughter. For whatever reason, Julieta does not understand why her life has gone this way, but it is clear to me that she was too needy and pushed her daughter away. With the exception of the beginning, this is a well crafted film. I think there are some minor issues with a lack of focus on the details, and I think this is a film that ends too quickly considering that, but overall, I liked it. The mystery of both Antia and Julieta shines through the material, but this seems like a very restrained film, one that a director so many people seem to enjoy should not be making. I could be wrong, maybe I'm not, but without that kind of back history I don't know if there's a whole lot more I can say about the movie.

7/10
 

909

909
Staff member


The Favourite (2018), directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Having not yet seen The Killing of a Sacred Deer, I'm not sure if Yorgos Lanthimos had made any thematic evolution prior to The Favourite. I would rather not assume, but I thought this would be similar to The Lobster and yet it was not. The only similarity is the way the film ends without true resolution, but that's quite alright. This is a historical movie and yet it is not, with much editorializing and speculation as to the events. Truthfully, whether this is true or not is no big deal at all, and I don't really care to find out. This is another devilish attempt from Lanthimos, a film focusing on how power is such a corrupting force. It's also more than that, it's one of the best of the year for a reason, because the filmmaker who made this is so confident in their ability to tell this story that they are completely unrestrained and full of ideas. I hope very much that Lanthimos continues to churn films out at the rate of one every year, because there are few filmmakers who can tell stories on this level. These aren't easy roles to portray, but we have a director who knows how to get performances from their actors and actresses time and time again. I also liked that this was a larger film where Lanthimos was still able to tell his story without compromising his vision, and hopefully he'll be able to have such budgets for his films going forward. He will need a decent sized international box office and/or awards for that to happen.

The Favourite is a film that takes place in the early 1700s, with Britain at war with the French. This will be a catalyst for many of the events to follow. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) has gout and otherwise bad health, and she's a bit strange. Governing the country is not her favorite thing in the world, and with her mental state being what it is, perhaps that's good. Anne had seventeen children either miscarried, stillborn, or dead in childhood, with none remaining alive. She's quite sad. Her confidant is Sarah (Rachel Weisz), the Duchess of Marlborough and called throughout the film by the name of Lady Marlborough. Lady Marlborough serves as the whisperer to the Queen, speaking to her so much that she's the one who runs the country herself, as the Queen wishes to please Lady Marlborough. The Lady is in a difficult position herself, as she has her own enemies, one being Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult), a very influential landowner and member of Parliament. The Lady's husband is off at war, so she's quite stranded at court as the Duke (Mark Gatiss) leads the charge off in France. The Prime Minister, Earl Godolphin (James Smith) and the Lady have the Queen's favor, but that may not last forever with such a costly war going on.

At the same time, Sarah has a cousin named Abigail (Emma Stone), whose father had gambled away his fortune and given away his daughter to settle his debts. Abigail's family also lost their positions, so she is now poor and a servant. She arrives at court hoping to find work, and through her cousin, she is able to secure a position doing very, very low menial work. Sarah sleeps on the floor with everyone else, and this is very difficult for her because this wasn't her life. However, Abigail does see an opportunity. As a matter of luck, she is called up to the Queen's chamber one night during a bad gout attack. Abigail takes the initiative to go out in the morning and find some herbs to make a pestle, the pestle doing quite well to solve the Queen's problem. After being saved from being whipped, Abigail has found herself a new post, and she's going to be around the Queen a lot more often. Let's not spoil anything else and go back a bit, to the thing that drives the story forward. One night, after a party, Sarah and the Queen wind up back in the Queen's chamber while Abigail is looking at books when she wasn't supposed to be. Abigail spots them in the midst of a tryst, and upon leaving, she is approached by Harley and threatened with what may happen to her because she wasn't supposed to be there. Does Abigail want to move back up in the world? If she does, she needs to win favor, and Harley wants to know what's going on so that he can do so as well.

The Favourite is a title that accurately describes this film more than any other, because the entire story revolves around who will become the Queen's favorite. The trio of actresses all do an amazing job telling this story, a story which received many more laughs than I thought it would from the other people in the theater. I did not think people were that into dark comedy. The role of Queen Anne, due to her frailties both in mind and body, require lots of different things from Colman. Surprisingly she was the standout among the three, with her role changing from scene to scene and all of those roles being given as authentically as could be expected from an actress. The story is full of twists and turns, full of surprise moments, with lots of backstabbing and wit that was what I was hoping for. There were a few belly laughs, but The Favourite is the kind of film with a lot of moments you don't want to laugh too hard at for fear of looking like an asshole. Of course, if you do laugh at them, so will a lot of other people. One notable example is the scene where Abigail is arriving at court as some guy sitting across from her is pulling his pud. I laughed and then a lot of other people did.

Abigail plotting her rise to the top is where the film really thrives, and knowing the director's material you can see it coming the whole way. The stuff that happens is fantastic, you know for a fact that Abigail is no victim regardless of what happens to her, and that she's a woman with a plan. The thing is, all three of the women in this story are at the least somewhat evil, all clutching onto whatever power they have. This makes for an excellent story, one of the best I've seen this year. All three of them will seemingly do anything in order to make themselves happy. They would play each other against one another in order to do so and not even care at all. This is a unique film in that these scenes are executed near to perfection. My only qualms with it are related to its absolutely ridiculous non-ending, one which seemed to leave me and everyone else rather dumbfounded. I can't think of anything else to compare it to, there are non-endings and then there's that one. I'm mostly referring to the way things fade out with the rabbits, for what it's worth.

This is also a great script and some recognition should be given to Tony McNamara and Deborah Davis for writing it. I'm sure they'll receive some as this was a fantastic concept that the director was able to execute very well. There are other characters I did not mention yet, most of whom either serve the needs of Sarah or Abigail in order to further themselves, all of whom are discarded as needed by our main characters. It is interesting to see a film with this dynamic from a female perspective, usually it's the men discarding women en route to power, but this is not the case. I have read that some of the costumes and set design doesn't fit the time, but I thought it felt like a royal castle should have felt. While this is a Lanthimos film and therefore it isn't accessible to everyone, I think it's a film that very appropriately deals with how horrible humans can be to one another. The jokes in this film are certainly mean-spirited as is the story as a whole, but if you aren't interested in what these characters may get up to, I don't know what your deal is. I haven't seen everything from this year yet, but for now The Favourite lands inside my top five. This will win awards.

9/10

2018 Films Ranked


1. Roma
2. A Star Is Born
3. First Reformed
4. The Favourite
5. Widows
6. First Man
7. BlacKkKlansman
8. Blindspotting
9. The Sisters Brothers
10. A Private War
11. Green Book
12. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
13. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
14. On My Skin
15. Private Life
16. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
17. Mid90s
18. Eighth Grade
19. Sorry to Bother You
20. The Old Man & the Gun
21. Suspiria
22. Vox Lux
23. Boy Erased
24. Bad Times at the El Royale
25. The Other Side of the Wind
26. Searching
27. A Simple Favor
28. The Hate U Give
29. Bumblebee
30. Mary Poppins Returns
31. Creed II
32. Hold the Dark
33. The Land of Steady Habits
34. Halloween
35. Mary Queen of Scots
36. Aquaman
37. Outlaw King
38. Overlord
39. Monsters and Men
40. The Mule
41. Bohemian Rhapsody
42. White Boy Rick
43. Papillon
44. Game Night
45. Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado
46. Instant Family
47. Alpha
48. The Front Runner
49. The Predator
50. Apostle
51. The Angel
52. The Commuter
53. Beautiful Boy
54. The Nun
55. Operation Finale
56. The Equalizer 2
57. The Spy Who Dumped Me
58. Bird Box
59. 12 Strong
60. Venom
61. Skyscraper
62. The Meg
63. Assassination Nation
64. The Girl in the Spider's Web
65. The House with a Clock in Its Walls
66. 22 July
67. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
68. The Little Stranger
69. Tomb Raider
70. Night School
71. The 15:17 To Paris
72. Peppermint
73. Mile 22
74. The First Purge
75. Hunter Killer
76. Kin
77. Hell Fest
78. Proud Mary
79. Robin Hood
80. The Happytime Murders
81. Slender Man
 

909

909
Staff member


The Bourne Supremacy (2004), directed by Paul Greengrass

I thought that the best way to ring in the new year would be by continuing one of the franchises I picked up on the first page of this topic. The Bourne Supremacy seemed like the easiest way to go about things from there. The Bourne franchise is hardly the only one that I've never finished, there are countless others at this point. I need to get on smashing through these, but I'm desperately trying to catch up on 2016-2018. So, such things are going go to go by the wayside for a few more months. I'm trying my best. In any case, I think I needed to watch a spy movie as there hasn't been any released in theaters lately. I was able to remember the events of The Bourne Identity, which was nice. No needing was required, but I thought The Bourne Supremacy was a worse film than the first one. The inevitability of franchising leads to this happening, but I think there's more to it than that. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a character who seems to be better off being chased rather than doing some of the chasing. The end of the film eventually circles back to this, but I thought the events struggled a bit when this wasn't the case. There were some cool car chases and all, but I thought the first film in this franchise had heart. If you haven't seen this, just like me, we both live (lived?) under a rock.

After the events of the first film, we move forward two years, with Jason Bourne and Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente) off living in India, hiding from the CIA or anyone else who may come after them. Bourne still has flashbacks too. Over in Berlin, there's spy shit going on. Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) is a high ranking director in the CIA, she's paying a lot of money to a Russian for some files about a theft that happened many years before that. In the process of her agents procuring those files, they are shot by Kirill (Karl Urban), a man who works for an oligarch in Russia. Kirill sets things up in a way where it could plausibly be perceived to be Jason Bourne who committed these murders, steals the files, and bails the hell on out of Berlin. His next mission is to head to India to kill Jason Bourne. After a car chase, he takes his shot, and accidentally kills Marie instead of Bourne as they'd changed seats in the vehicle. Bourne swims away underwater, and afterwards it's time for him to leave India and head to Europe in search of Marie's killer.

There's much more to the story of course, it is a spy-action film after all. Of course, Landy is going to find Bourne's planted fingerprints, not that she knows they were placed there by someone else. It's then time to revisit some events from the first film, with lots of conversations about the team that Bourne and everyone he wound up killing were all on. Deputy Director Abbott (Brian Cox) was the director of Treadstone, which was made obsolete after Abbott had decided to have Chris Cooper's character killed in The Bourne Identity. Landy makes the mistake of telling Abbott what the files contained, but unbeknownst to her, he already knows. This is a poorly hidden twist considering that we already know Abbott had a CIA agent murdered. Seeing as Landy's operation was in Berlin and it went sour, she and Abbott head there to learn more. Simultaneously, Bourne arrives in Europe and begins to have his visions as in the first movie. Where do they send him? Berlin. Of course they do.

This is a good spy movie, but it's just a spy movie without much beyond the basics. It has only a few weaknesses too and is executed very well. What I can't handle are the rapid camera cuts that remind me of what Kevin Dunn does to Monday Night Raw. There's only so much of this I can take and after a point I felt like moving on from the scenes this was happening in. There's also no intrigue between Bourne and another character as was the case in The Bourne Identity. The human touch feels like it has been removed from the film, largely because...that's what happened when it was decided for Bourne's girlfriend to be killed. The Bourne Supremacy also has problems with how slowly the film begins, it feel like it could have been an issue if seeing this in the theater, which I did not. I also find the casting a bit strange and that it's odd to be seeing Joan Allen in this sort of role. There's really nothing to it performance wise, it simply exists and all lines feel like something read straight off the page. It's difficult for any actor to pull this off, and I don't particularly blame an actor for this. It's just weird.

The film isn't all bad, like I said, it's actually good. The stuff Bourne does in order to stay one step ahead of his adversaries is always interesting, and I got a good laugh out of how he decided to enter Europe in the first place. There's also the awesome car chase in Moscow, which I believe has played host to a few over the years in these kinds of movies. The stunts in this are excellent even though they're poorly filmed in one or two cases, but I am left wishing that they weren't so poorly edited. I would have rated this quite a bit higher otherwise. I also do understand that the story is supposed to be Jason Bourne righting one of the wrongs he made and in the process dealing with something that was done to him, and the film was effective in stating that case without ever going overboard with exposition or explanations from Bourne. Bourne being a man of few words is the way it should be. The massive amount of shaky camera does sink this to some extent, but overall I see why people usually watch this movie when it's on television. My mom and dad have seen it numerous times, but I had not. I do realize I'm giving out way too many 7 ratings recently, so I'm going to shake it up a bit tomorrow. Maybe it's just an issue with the fact that most films should be that good and I'm merely just discovering that now. I don't know.

7/10
 

909

909
Staff member


Vice (2018), directed by Adam McKay

i was supposed to watch Vice earlier last week, but some life matters got in the way of that, so I pushed back this oddly critically divisive film back a little bit. I am surprised that it is so divisive, even with flaws that I am well aware of. To some, these flaws clearly matter much more and that's okay, but I'm not in that camp. Of course, what I perceive to be flaws others may think are strengths, this is a film that can best be described as narratively bonkers. It's all over the place, it's skewering, not harsh enough at times, and quirky all at the same time. This is the kind of movie you'll either love or hate. What it also is, I hate to say, is true to the facts as they happened. I hate it because I wish those things wouldn't have happened at all, and I strongly believe that the Bush Administration has set us on our current course, but that's how things are. We have the government we deserve, the one people have chosen. We continue to make these mistakes because we as a society do not learn from them. Where Vice fails is because there's a distinct inability to explain what motivates people such as these, but that's also the nature of the world. Some of these things defy explanation, there is no way to know what makes someone this power hungry and evil, it's something only the subject can explain themselves. I believe Dick Cheney never has and therefore it isn't the fault of the film for not figuring it out, but they tried their best to put the events on the table and let the viewer make their own determinations.

Vice has one of the most strange narrative structures I've seen all year, with narration sometimes being given from Kurt (Jesse Plemons), a fictious soldier who was sent off to Iraq and Afghanistan. We don't know this until much later in the film, so sorry for my spoiling. Things start off with Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) in the White House, responding to 9/11 in a very heavy-handed way, showcasing his authority. After this scene, we are jolted back to the 1960s, with Cheney working on power lines in Wyoming. Cheney was an alcoholic and dropped out of Yale as a result of it, and eventually he gets busted driving drunk. After another incident where he's retrieved from jail by his wife Lynne (Amy Adams), she makes some serious demands of him to change his bum life. The way things are going just will not stand, and she doesn't want to live like her parents did. After this scene, we flash forward a bit, with Dick Cheney finding work as a White House intern. I have never, ever heard any explanation as to how this happened. If someone could explain this, that would be great, but this is a mystery like many of the other things about Cheney's life.

Everyone here knows a lot of shit about Dick Cheney, right? I suppose I should continue to flesh out the cast of characters, which in Vice is enormous. Cheney winds up attached to Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), who we know as the Secretary of Defense, but when Cheney met him, he was Nixon's economic advisor. In the case of everyone Cheney encountered, it is easy to figure out how they got in these positions, but not Cheney. The film does attempt to explain that Cheney was a dutiful student, and that he did everything that Rumsfeld would have wanted from a lackey. Unfortunately for Dick and fortunately for the country, he was not to be in government for his entire life. We learn some things about his daughters, Mary (Alison Pill) and Liz (Lily Rabe), about what he did once Carter took office, about how he accepted George W. Bush's (Sam Rockwell) vice presidential nomination. We learn about what happened on 9/11, how we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, about Colin Powell's (Tyler Perry) speech at the UN. Almost everything that you'd want to be covered in Vice is covered in detail, if you wanted to know about how the Bush Administration came to believe their usage of executive power was appropriate, that's here too.

While the movie is highly informative, I should detail the flaws immediately in an attempt to temper expectations. There are some outright bizarre scenes, two of them immediately come to mind. One I thought was funny and the other one was not. There are also montages of real footage throughout Vice, I thought all of them were quite appropriately placed, but some seem to have taken that as obnoxious and pretentious. I don't feel that any of these roles are really played for comedy other than Rumsfeld and Bush, but it's hard to see them as anything else. I see Michael Scott playing Donald Rumsfeld and I can't shake it. I can admit that this is a movie I very much enjoyed because I agree with almost all of it. The bizarre scenes I have referenced were an attempt to make something ambitious more than anything else, and the Shakespearean one is admittedly very, very bad. One of the worst scenes of the year. Vice does make a few inferences that I'm not sure are true as well. I don't know if Lynne Cheney is the reason Dick made something of himself, and I don't know if Cheney was corrupted by the power he received in his first job. He wasn't a good person to begin with so there's no way to know. Other incidents and events also aren't given enough time because it's impossible to make the film long enough.

With what I said about time in mind, this is as comprehensive a feature film about Dick Cheney ever could have been. The film could not be longer, and there are some short scenes I would have removed, but none of them are lengthy enough to properly address Halliburton as much as it deserved, or Cheney's legislative record for that matter. However, this is a movie that makes clear how poorly misguided our invasion of Iraq was, it is also one that shows how easily people were made to go along with it. Vice is also a film that addresses the Bush Administration's disappearance of e-mails, and for that matter exactly how they came to pull it off. I haven't see The Big Short, so I don't know how smug that is or how overrated it is, I just see things here how I see them. I do think there are some expert touches. A scene about Cheney's heart transplant lingers on him for a very long time without any heart in his chest at all. Most would call this quite truthful. Another with his two daughters shows that the only religion the Cheneys believed in was that of having power. There are also good lessons about how not being an ideologue in the first place can lead to someone acquiring power and unleashing their beliefs upon everyone else.

Vice is a film that will have numerous Oscar nominations for acting, all of which are seemingly deserved. There's much more to this film that simply Christian Bale's performance, and arguably his isn't even the best one. Amy Adams makes for a great Lynne Cheney, someone who doesn't play a passive role in the events as much as I thought, she was often willing to take the driver's seat and ensure power was taken. Her scene on the campaign trail in Wyoming was great. Tyler Perry only plays Colin Powell in a few scenes, but he too was excellent. I would like to see him in a serious movie playing a role like this one, he was given nothing resembling a comedic line. Steve Carell, though, I don't know what to say about that. I was seeing Michael Scott the whole time, and I thought the portrayal was truthful to things I've read about Rumsfeld before. He didn't give a shit about anyone other than himself and saw things the same way as his protege, but his protege knew that he needed to serve the needs of others in order to get ahead. That, more than anything else, is the real lesson of Vice. In politics, the winners are often those who don't hold strong positions until they have hard power. Playing the long game and being a good soldier is a necessity. This is a good film, and with one scene removed it would have been a great film. Of course, with this film being what it is, people may have different opinions on what that one scene even is!

7.5/10

2018 Films Ranked


1. Roma
2. A Star Is Born
3. First Reformed
4. The Favourite
5. Widows
6. First Man
7. BlacKkKlansman
8. Blindspotting
9. The Sisters Brothers
10. A Private War
11. Green Book
12. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
13. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
14. On My Skin
15. Private Life
16. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
17. Mid90s
18. Eighth Grade
19. Sorry to Bother You
20. Vice
21. The Old Man & the Gun
22. Suspiria
23. Vox Lux
24. Boy Erased
25. Bad Times at the El Royale
26. The Other Side of the Wind
27. Searching
28. A Simple Favor
29. The Hate U Give
30. Bumblebee
31. Mary Poppins Returns
32. Creed II
33. Hold the Dark
34. The Land of Steady Habits
35. Halloween
36. Mary Queen of Scots
37. Aquaman
38. Outlaw King
39. Overlord
40. Monsters and Men
41. The Mule
42. Bohemian Rhapsody
43. White Boy Rick
44. Papillon
45. Game Night
46. Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado
47. Instant Family
48. Alpha
49. The Front Runner
50. The Predator
51. Apostle
52. The Angel
53. The Commuter
54. Beautiful Boy
55. The Nun
56. Operation Finale
57. The Equalizer 2
58. The Spy Who Dumped Me
59. Bird Box
60. 12 Strong
61. Venom
62. Skyscraper
63. The Meg
64. Assassination Nation
65. The Girl in the Spider's Web
66. The House with a Clock in Its Walls
67. 22 July
68. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
69. The Little Stranger
70. Tomb Raider
71. Night School
72. The 15:17 To Paris
73. Peppermint
74. Mile 22
75. The First Purge
76. Hunter Killer
77. Kin
78. Hell Fest
79. Proud Mary
80. Robin Hood
81. The Happytime Murders
82. Slender Man
 

KOAB

KOAB
I watched the Cheney Showtime documentary when it came out four or five years ago and even then I found it fascinating how there's parts that seemed skipped over like you mention in this review. From what I can remember he became a white house intern just thru his intense and tenacious nature since there were plenty of more qualified people at the time without any worries they might fall off the wagon and end up driving their vehicle thru someones living room... but those people cared about more normal things like spending a lot of time with their family or living what the politician he interned for considered a "normal life" while Cheney had much greater ambitions even though his academic records and other things didn't measure up in a traditional sense.
 

909

909
Staff member


The Wall (2017), directed by Doug Liman

I have two of Liman's movies on my list for this month, but the first one to watch is The Wall, which is not about our border with Mexico. I thought this would be a good companion piece for Vice, but it wasn't as these were completely different. There's no grand statement to be made about the Iraq War here, this is a very simple movie with a premise that I will struggle to fill out a whole review for, so I'm just not going to do that. I did see after watching this that it was decided to change the film's ending after test screenings, and without spoiling I think that's for the worse. I am also not surprised that this film didn't make good money, even though I remember it being advertised quite well. This is...well, I don't really know how to address this as literally anything I could say is a spoiler. THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO THE MOVIE OTHER THAN SPOILERS.

Similar to Phone Booth, but even more so than Phone Booth, The Wall is a movie that takes place in an extremely confined space over the course of a few hours. This is set towards the end of the Iraq War, with some of our boys sent over to investigate a pipeline construction site. Our sniper is Staff Sgt. Shane Matthews (John Cena), and his spotter is Sgt. Allen Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). These guys spend a very long time in overwatch, which isn't just a video game. Overwatch is when units support other units, and in the case of this scenario, there was a distress call put out and everyone at the site is dead. Our two soldiers need to be sure that the site is clear, and they spend 22 hours there before deciding that they need to move on. Matthews decides that he wants to investigate the site while Isaac isn't so sure, and once Matthews walks down there, he's shot by an Iraqi sniper. No surprise there. Isaac follows and tries to rescue his dying body, but he gets shot as well.

Isaac is able to take cover behind a wall, but he has major problems. Matthews got shot in the stomach and is dying, Isaac was shot in the knee and is continuing to bleed out. Isaac's radio was also damaged, and his water bottle is destroyed, so he's without rescue and will be dehydrated. I said that Isaac is hiding behind a wall, but to call this a wall is an overstatement, this is a collection of rocks. The sniper (Laith Nakli) has recovered some equipment it seems, including a radio with which he can communicate with Isaac and Matthews. Matthews says nothing, but Isaac is duped and tells the sniper far more than he should, with the sniper having done a good job of masking his accent and knowing enough lingo to bullshit his way through a conversation. Once Isaac finds out, he knows he's fucked, and it's hot and night is coming. Will he bleed out before it gets dark? Watch the movie if you want to know.

This is an outdoor film, but it's also confined to a very small space, and the camera is focused on Aaron Taylor-Johnson for practically the entire movie. He talks to the sniper for the whole movie, we all know this, and it is what it is. There are no wonders of cinematography or pretty much anything. The film only examines base motivations why Isaac and the sniper are in these positions in the first place, and the director rightfully determines that any interest comes from whether or not the sniper can be found. I don't want to spoil the movie, but this is just an above-average film and I liked it enough. That being said, I didn't realize I would hardly be able to write a single thing about this. Obviously this wasn't filmed in Iraq, but they chose a good location as a stand-in and I thought this did feel authentic. That's all I've got.

6/10

2017 Films Ranked


1. Dunkirk
2. Get Out
3. Logan
4. Wonder Woman
5. Logan Lucky
6. The Beguiled
7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
8. The Lost City of Z
9. First They Killed My Father
10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
11. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
12. Okja
13. Kong: Skull Island
14. Split
15. Personal Shopper
16. Atomic Blonde
17. Megan Leavey
18. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
19. Imperial Dreams
20. Win It All
21. The Wall
22. Breathe
23. The Man Who Invented Christmas
24. Alone in Berlin
25. Trespass Against Us
26. War Machine
27. Justice League
28. To the Bone
29. The Hitman's Bodyguard
30. Sand Castle
31. Death Note
32. Fist Fight
33. Sleepless
 

909

909
Staff member


3:10 to Yuma (2007), directed by James Mangold

I have had 3:10 to Yuma sitting on my shelf for around 10 years now, in such illustrious company as Apocalypse Now, Inglourious Basterds, Jackie Brown, Lincoln, and Full Metal Jacket. I am saying that I own these and haven't watched them yet, that's the truth and it's shameful. These are all films that I will be watching in 2019, and in the case of 3:10 to Yuma, I've now seen it. There are countless franchises I would like to wrap up as well, but I'm not so sure I'll be able to pull that off.3:10 to Yuma is a remake of a film that wasn't mega popular at the time, and we always need more Westerns. This was, of course, before Hollywood decided that they were no longer profitable. 3:10 to Yuma was one of those Westerns that proved Hollywood correct because it was not, it is part of the reason that they're no longer made, but that's crazy. I decided to watch 3:10 to Yuma now because I saw that it was leaving Amazon Prime, so I needed to get on it. I didn't exactly know what to expect because I'm unfamiliar with the story, but I have been playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and was hoping for something with a comparably interesting narrative. This Western certainly provided that, and there are so many more of these that I need to get around to watching. I don't think this is one of the absolute best films in the genre, but it was a really strong effort.

Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a rancher and Civil War veteran, and things in his life have not gone so well. His youngest son Mark has tuberculosis, and the family is impoverished as a result of this and a host of other reasons. He owes money to a local man, Glen Hollander, and the debt is such that he may lose his property entirely. Hollander has also ensured this will happen by damming up the local stream, preventing water from reaching Dan's land. He wants the land so that he can sell it to the railroad, and in their local town of Bisbee, the rail agent by the name of Butterfield (Dallas Roberts) has a pretty good handle on that stuff. One night, Evans has his barn set on fire by Hollander's men because of how much money he owes, and it's clear the next day that he's probably completely fucked. While Mark and his other son William (Logan Lerman) are out trying to find the herd that got free that night, they come across something bad. Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is a major outlaw in the area, he and his gang have decided to rob yet another stagecoach full of Pinkerton agents. As part of his plan, there's a great stroke of fortune in front of him, it's Dan's herd. He uses the herd to stop the coach, and that, as they say, is that for the stagecoach.

After stopping the coach, it's time to get inside. We learn that Wade has an excellent #2 in his gang, Charlie Prince (Ben Foster). Charlie gets shit done, that's his deal. He's able to blow things up, and in the process of that, Dan comes across the scene. He tries to get his sons to leave quietly, but they're spotted by Wade. Wade doesn't want to hurt them, but he also doesn't want to get caught, so he takes away their three horses and leaves the horses tied up on the road some ways away. After Dan tends to the lone surviving Pinkerton, a nasty sort named Byron (Peter Fonda), they make their way back to Bisbee. It so turns out that Wade has gone there as well, and after some stuff I'm going to cut way the hell off, he's captured. Now we have a situation. Charlie was in the town still and knows what happened, he decides that he's going to follow the situation seeing as he isn't wanted himself. The railroad agent I already mentioned needs some help transporting Wade to Yuma, and he's going to need a posse to go do it. Seeing as Dan is super poor and in debt, don't you think he'll join it? For $200 dollars, he'll leave his loving but wanting wife Alice (Gretchen Mol) behind, and make the journey with Butterfield and three other men to Yuma from his own ranch, where they're storing Wade for the night.

I wouldn't go so far as to call 3:10 to Yuma a triumph of anything, but I do think that this was almost a great film. For the most part, this was driven by Russell Crowe's performance, as lots of Westerns are. Most good Westerns need a great bad guy. There's Gene Hackman in Unforgiven, Josh Brolin in True Grit, and Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. These kinds of performances are needed, they all differ from one another, but this is the best bad guy performance I've seen in a Western besides Hackman's. I need to watch more of them in general before making more grand statements, so I won't go further. Crowe's role here takes all the attention away from everyone else, not that all of these characters are so great in the first place. Peter Fonda's is another excellent role, but our lead played by Christian Bale is a little bit of a passenger in the film up to a certain point. I also enjoyed the way the action just kept on coming. Unlike other films that play it slow and do it well, it was decided here to keep things coming, and all the action pieces were quite good. The big finale was nicely done, and I also enjoyed the way it was decided not to overly edit things.

This is a very male-centric Western, and I was thinking about how if I didn't force myself to watch movies of all kinds, I would probably wind up being like my forefathers in only viewing Westerns and war movies. This does feel like most of the other Westerns I've watched, but it has a little something more that separates it from films like Open Range and Appaloosa, both of which came out around the same time. This is a film that is nicely cynical, which disposes of characters faster than you'd expect. The ones that stick around for a while, right at the moment you wonder why they're still there, they go out of the film within just a few minutes of that. The way I see 3:10 to Yuma is, is that this is just another film on Mangold's resume that helps bolster the idea he's one of the best big budget filmmakers that Hollywood can use. There's some great violence here, numerous instances where the actors have an opportunity to perform, and it's definitely a crowd pleaser. Not quite as good as a film like The Sisters Brothers, which gave no fucks about pleasing the crowd, but a more pandering effort can have its own good qualities. Most of my negatives are related to how implausible the ending is, but hey. Can't have everything.

8/10
 

909

909
Staff member


Thor: Ragnarok (2017), directed by Taika Waititi

With us getting nearer and nearer to a time where Captain Marvel is coming out, I need to pound through the remaining Marvel movies I have. Two a month sounds like it'll work from here on out, and I only have three more left now. Thor: Ragnarok was a movie that almost inspired me to get back to the theater, but I couldn't get over pricing issues. Now that I don't worry about price, I'm not very concerned with that. When it comes to Thor movies, I must admit that I didn't care for the other two. In fact I hated the second one, hated it so much I can't even discuss it without talking about how much I hate it. The acting in it is terrible, the story is fucking boring, and the side characters are annoying. Thor: Ragnarok is a film that removes these problems and replaces them with something so much different than the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this point. It's different, it's great, and I also thought it was the best film of the bunch until that point. I probably won't ever make a list ranking those movies, because I have to make lists at the time I'm watching things in order to be confident in them. Movies with this many special effects simply shouldn't be so good, but in the case of Thor: Ragnarok, there's a hell of a good reason why it is. They managed to do what the other films could not and made me interested in Thor. Who would've thought?

Everyone knows the story of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), but this is a film that puts its own spin on events. After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor is imprisoned by a fire demon who says that Thor's father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is no longer on Asgard. The demon also states that a prophecy will be fulfilled, it is called Ragnarok. He says that he'll unite his crown with a flame that burns in Odin's vault, but Thor's able to free himself, defeat Surtur, and put the crown in Odin's vault away from that flame. Thor returns to Asgard afterwards and finds that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is posing as Odin, which I believe is exactly where we left the Thor story off at. Thor forces Loki to find their father, and it turns out that he needs Dr. Strange's help in order to do so. Odin is off in Norway, says he's dying, and reveals that his passing will allow Hela (Cate Blanchett) to escape from prison. Hela is Thor's sister, and she is a bringer of death, who will do all kinds of bad shit. Of course, Odin has not entirely told the truth of her origins.

Once Hela appears, I want to do everything I can to not spoil things, so I won't. Through the events of the film, we are introduced to a giant wolf, and a new planet entirely. Sakaar is a world filled with garbage, and it turns out Loki has found his way there as well. Sakaar has lots of wormholes for some unbeknownst reason, but once Thor winds up there, he is enslaved by Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson), a mysterious individual who decides to sell him to the leader of this world. The ruler here is one of my favorite comic book characters, changed entirely for this film, the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). This version of the Grandmaster is very eccentric, like much of the film, and he also holds a Contest of Champions. This is something I very much was hoping for, comic elements that previously were not thought as something to be adapted into a film. At the Contest of Champions, the last piece of our puzzle is entered, THE HULK (Mark Ruffalo). Will Thor be able to get back to stop Hela? How will he do it?

The most obvious point of praise that comes to mind for Thor: Ragnarok is that the comedy actually lands while it doesn't in so many of these movies. The early parts of the film are full of jokes while in the rest it is nowhere near that extent, which is something I also preferred. Thor has been presented as being a bland character in the vast majority of these movies, but that wasn't the case here. Obviously, the choice of director in the first two movies, as well as in both Avengers movies, plays quite a huge part in that being the case. Another reason this works is because the use of other characters, meaning not Thor, is finally done right and is entertaining without exception. The environment is also changed for once, off our own planet into an entirely made up world the likes of which we haven't seen before. It's very funny. This movie is more of the same in a lot of ways, but not that way. Some of the sets for this planet looked inauthentic, but I thought that was a tradeoff I can accept. The movie is also interesting in the way that it never deals with Goldblum's character. So, he may be able to come back in something else at some point. I hope so.

The vibrant colors of the film are something similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, but this is a film that's much better than that, and when comparing the two it's easy to see that one succeeds much more on every level. The way the villains are used is simply better, the story is much more cohesive because Thor has a distinct set of goals, and there are tons of weird moments in this film. The casting of these characters was also excellent without exception, my favorite being that of Cate Blanchett. I didn't realize she was going to be in this movie looking like this. I'm also glad that after all these movies, and it took a very long time for this to happen, but they finally had a giant character appear and completely destroy the area the film inhabited. WHY THE HELL DID IT TAKE SO LONG? I mean, really, we needed something like this to happen that would actually change the dynamic of these movies, and destroying Asgard actually feels as important as it should.

I'm usually not a fan of these CGI fests, and I do find that I've often overrated Marvel films considering how I feel about them months after watching them, but Thor: Ragnarok is going to be an exception to that. The movie goes as far over the top as these need to go, and this all feels unique even though it certainly is not. This feeling of uniqueness is what makes movies like this feel special, and it's something that not all of these films have been able to pull off. The clash between Hulk and Thor feels like something that should have been in one of these movies far sooner, but it not being there any sooner is what made it feel so special now. It's too bad that there probably won't be another Thor standalone movie, because there were lots of building blocks placed in order to do so. If not, hopefully Waititi is given another Marvel group to put his own spin on. I'm sure he will be, too.

8.5/10

2017 Films Ranked


1. Dunkirk
2. Get Out
3. Logan
4. Wonder Woman
5. Thor: Ragnarok
6. Logan Lucky
7. The Beguiled
8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
9. The Lost City of Z
10. First They Killed My Father
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
12. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
13. Okja
14. Kong: Skull Island
15. Split
16. Personal Shopper
17. Atomic Blonde
18. Megan Leavey
19. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
20. Imperial Dreams
21. Win It All
22. The Wall
23. Breathe
24. The Man Who Invented Christmas
25. Alone in Berlin
26. Trespass Against Us
27. War Machine
28. Justice League
29. To the Bone
30. The Hitman's Bodyguard
31. Sand Castle
32. Death Note
33. Fist Fight
34. Sleepless
 

cobainwasmurdered

CWM
Staff member
The use of comedy in this was really perfect. Both in how they got it right and when they used it/and when they didn't. The understanding of the big characters Thor/Hulk/Loki was also dead on, which added a lot to the interactions.
 

Aero

Integral Poster
I was blown away at how much I enjoyed this one. Probably a top 3 Marvel movie for me.

Agreed on Asgard getting destroyed feeling big, and on that note, the other part that I thought was particularly unique here is that Surtur carrying out Ragnarok is how Hela is (apparently) taken out. As enjoyable as the Immigrant song fight sequence at the end is, I'm glad Hela doesn't just fall victim to a by-the-books defeat, even after Thor's power awakens.
 

909

909
Staff member


If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), directed by Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkins' follow up to Moonlight was always going to garner a lot of interest, but in the case of If Beale Street Could Talk, surprisingly there is less interest than I expected. Finishing 14th on last weekend's box office chart is a major surprise to me, and there are no easily discernable reasons why this is the case. I simply do not understand. Perhaps the previews are not explanatory enough, but I don't understand. Now, with that in mind, If Beale Street Could Talk is a very serious film, so much so that it can be difficult to watch at times. It is more than a bit upsetting. It is inevitable that one would compare this to Moonlight, and I do think that Moonlight is a better film than If Beale Street Could Talk. However, they do share some similarities in terms of how the movies are filmed, in some of the themes they share, with how little dialogue there is at times, and in the creativity with which these films are brought to you. I understand that If Beale Street Could Talk is a book adaptation, but it's a story I did not know, one that I needed to know, and something very pertinent to this day.

If Beale Street Could Talk is a story told through two narratives, one being the on-running story and the other being told through flashbacks related to what is told in the story. I believe the film is set in the 1960's, although it could just as well be the 70's. The present narrative is only a few months to a year before the flashbacks, and it is about Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), a young black couple living in New York City. Fonny has been imprisoned, charged with doing something he clearly did not do, and the story is clear in showing that from jump. There are some issues with Fonny's imprisonment beyond the fact that he's imprisoned, and the most obvious one is that Tish is pregnant. That's the kind of hammer blow that let me know I was in for a potentially devastating movie, and if you don't want this spoiled for you, I recommend not reading this. Anything about the movie I could say beyond this point is a major spoiler of some kind. Fonny and Tish want to get married, but it turns out that Fonny was imprisoned because of a false rape accusation made by a Puerto Rican (this part does matter) woman. Now, he's locked up, and the key is basically thrown away. There is the potential of getting out, but he needs a lot of good things to happen for him. One of them is for the woman to recant her accusation, because all indications are that she has no idea who raped her and picked the first black guy she could find.

After Tish tells Fonny that she's pregnant, there's a host of other people who have to be told. She has no idea what anyone will think. There's her mother Sharon (Regina King), father Joseph (Colman Domingo), and sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris). The one Tish is worried about is obviously her father. Surprisingly to her, Joseph is extremely accepting and wants to call over Fonny's folks. Fonny's folks, on the other hand, it's clear the first moment we see them that they may react in very different ways. Mrs. Hunt (Aunjanue Ellis) is a religious nut, and her daughters Sheila and Adrienne are super uptight. They hardly say anything so I didn't list who played them. Fonny's dad Frank (Michael Beach) is one of Joe's very best friends, and his reaction is assured to be positive. Once they're told, of course Mrs. Hunt goes absolutely insane and says all kinds of bad shit. After she leaves, it's time for us to finally get to some flashbacks, to understand how it is that Tish and Fonny came to love each other. It's also time for us to understand how they've struggled in life, what her family will do in order to get Fonny out of jail, and what may become of their unborn child.

Again, I must repeat that to say anything is a spoiler because of the nature of the film and how the story is told. The ending is the most major spoiler, it is devastating, accurate, and pertinent to our times. The film accurately portrays how the justice system is stacked against the unfairly accused, particularly when they're black. Barry Jenkins does a fantastic job of showing what New York City was really like in the 1970's. We've seen it in some films made recently, like A Most Violent Year, but lots of movies prefer to show us a sanitized version of a very dirty, very raw New York City. This is a film that does not sanitize things at all. The city was a grimy place, full of corruption and lots of strange people. The family interactions, on the other hand, are warm regardless of what surrounds them. These are great without exception, this is a filmmaker who knows what they're doing and how to execute it. It appears that Jenkins may be the kind of filmmaker who is only obstructed by the constraints of the stories he takes on. It seemed like it would be very difficult to adapt this material into a feature film, there are things in If Beale Street Could Talk that feel as if they were padded out in order to fill the film. This was expertly done, of course.

As with Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk is a very vibrant film despite its subject matter, full of great colors and scenery, played out in the way that Jenkins makes his films play. In addition, this seems to carry a similar theme of people needing to find themselves in times that aren't good for them. Personally, I'm a massive fan of Jenkins after seeing these two films. It feels like the lives of his characters are more important than in the majority of projects that get made these days. There's no other way to put it. I thought this was one of the best films of the year, and if more people don't go see this, that would be quite disappointing. Regina King did win a Golden Globe last night, but I didn't think hers was the best performance in the film or the Best Supporting Actress performance I've seen this year. Instead, I thought KiKi Layne carried this and showed vulnerability I haven't often seen on screen. It's her show, she does everything to make this film special.

There are no shortage of great performances and great scenes here, the only complaints I have are with regard to story constraints. I almost never feel that way about a film, and usually there's something, but not here. I thought the film brought humor when it needed an injection of it, and I thought the seriousness of the scenes involved was appropriately done and never overboard. There are a few short appearances from Brian Tyree Henry and Dave Franco that serve to balance the events out, giving the viewer what they need when they need it. Their roles serve to drive the flashbacks forward when otherwise it may not have worked, and the efforts to clear Fonny's name are all such good scenes without exception. I'm so pleased that films like these get made now, that they're put into theaters and that I have the ability to watch them. We are living in an era where new stories are explored, and I was going to say I was down on this year as a whole, but look at the top of my list. It's full of these unique stories, things that haven't been done. While it was lacking in science-fiction and Westerns, and I suppose in good comedy films, there's no shortage of great films. It's just that there weren't a lot of good ones. If Beale Street Could Talk is a great one because it was a film specifically about black love, the kind of film there aren't very many of.

9/10

2018 Films Ranked


1. Roma
2. A Star Is Born
3. First Reformed
4. The Favourite
5. Widows
6. First Man
7. BlacKkKlansman
8. Blindspotting
9. If Beale Street Could Talk
10. The Sisters Brothers
11. A Private War
12. Green Book
13. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
14. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
15. On My Skin
16. Private Life
17. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
18. Mid90s
19. Eighth Grade
20. Sorry to Bother You
21. Vice
22. The Old Man & the Gun
23. Suspiria
24. Vox Lux
25. Boy Erased
26. Bad Times at the El Royale
27. The Other Side of the Wind
28. Searching
29. A Simple Favor
30. The Hate U Give
31. Bumblebee
32. Mary Poppins Returns
33. Creed II
34. Hold the Dark
35. The Land of Steady Habits
36. Halloween
37. Mary Queen of Scots
38. Aquaman
39. Outlaw King
40. Overlord
41. Monsters and Men
42. The Mule
43. Bohemian Rhapsody
44. White Boy Rick
45. Papillon
46. Game Night
47. Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado
48. Instant Family
49. Alpha
50. The Front Runner
51. The Predator
52. Apostle
53. The Angel
54. The Commuter
55. Beautiful Boy
56. The Nun
57. Operation Finale
58. The Equalizer 2
59. The Spy Who Dumped Me
60. Bird Box
61. 12 Strong
62. Venom
63. Skyscraper
64. The Meg
65. Assassination Nation
66. The Girl in the Spider's Web
67. The House with a Clock in Its Walls
68. 22 July
69. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
70. The Little Stranger
71. Tomb Raider
72. Night School
73. The 15:17 To Paris
74. Peppermint
75. Mile 22
76. The First Purge
77. Hunter Killer
78. Kin
79. Hell Fest
80. Proud Mary
81. Robin Hood
82. The Happytime Murders
83. Slender Man
 

909

909
Staff member


The Great Wall (2017), directed by Yimou Zhang

The Great Wall is a film that I knew was going to be stupid when I turned it on, and it definitely did not disappoint. I knew the marketing was dumb when I saw previews last year, with a white guy's face plastered all over Chinese stuff, so it was a given that this film would get some hatred from a lot of people. Sometimes, those kind of movies that receive a bad reaction for reasons such as this are unfairly judged by appearances, but this is a film that has very few merits in the first place. It is an easy target for claims of whitewashing because it definitely features that, but this was an attempt for China and Hollywood to make a fusion movie. I think that was literally the entire point, to whitewash a few of the roles in this movie for a Chinese audience. It seems to not have mattered at all in terms of getting people to go see this to the extent Chinese investors wanted, as while this did make quite a lot of money, it was nowhere enough for the studios to make any profit. Good! The film is steeped in things that should be unique to Chinese people, their culture and their history, but the film is shit even if they had cast a Chinese person in the lead role. That's just how it is.

The Great Wall begins with a chase on horseback through the desert, us not exactly understanding why this is happening. It turns out that these are mercenaries, William (Matt Damon) and Pero (Pedro Pascal). They are traveling around China in search of gunpowder, but it turns out they are not actually near a part of China where they can find it until the first few scenes are over. They're resting in a cave with some other mercenaries and are attacked, but they're able to cut the monster's leg off and bring it with them. After they reach the wall, they are taken prisoner by some Chinese soldiers, whom are led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau). It turns out that there are a few different orders of soldiers in this, and I'm going to be completely honest, this was never made clear enough at any point for me to discern them. They had different costumes, but that isn't quite good enough. The two soldiers I mentioned were part of the Nameless Order, which apparently deals with a horde of alien monsters called the Tao Tieh.

The Tao Tieh came from space on a meteor that crashed into a nearby mountain, and they're these green things that attack once every sixty years. The thing is, when William and Pero took the monster's leg, apparently this was a week earlier than the monsters were expected to attack. Here comes a battle, and during the battle, William and Pero are sprung free by Ballard (Willem Dafoe), another mercenary who had once been sent to China in search of gunpowder. He got caught and now teaches the soldiers English, which explains their use of it throughout the film. The three Europeans subsequently decide that they're going to steal gunpowder and finally make their break, with no intention of staying in captivity any longer than they have to. Then we're introduced to another military leader and you know what I'm done explaining this stuff. Let's get to why this sucks.

A movie has to be really boring and bland for me to just give up like that, and that's exactly what I thought of The Great Wall. Boring, bland, nonsensical and lacking the ability to separate characters from one another. I need more than costumes, I need some explanations. I also think that the concept is totally ridiculous, I never explained it during my synopsis because I couldn't bring myself to do it. This is a bad film. Even though it's bad, there are some positives. I thought the set design and monster design was pretty good even though I could never get interested in the monsters themselves. The Great Wall certainly has the look, make no mistake about that. It's too bad that the look was wasted on something so banal and cliched, but even in using a fake Great Wall of China, things seem to work out well. There's another scene near the end of the film that looks nicer than most anything, yet the film still stinks even with that being the case.

I'm shocked that this would even be made considering both the inevitable backlash and the quality of the story itself, which is practically nonexistent. What quality? Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe put in some of their worst performances here. Damon seems to alternate back and forth between having an accent, I don't know what the deal was there. It wasn't a good accent in the first place. The reimagining of the Great Wall of China being used to combat alien invasions is absolutely ridiculous on every level, I don't know what the point of this story was, and I can't really decipher it. I did enjoy Pascal's performance in terms of him bringing something to the film when nobody else tried, but that's about all I can possibly think of to say about this. The film was a bad idea, an attempt to make an epic film that didn't quite work out. I've seen worse recently, but not much worse!

3.5/10

2017 Films Ranked


1. Dunkirk
2. Get Out
3. Logan
4. Wonder Woman
5. Thor: Ragnarok
6. Logan Lucky
7. The Beguiled
8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
9. The Lost City of Z
10. First They Killed My Father
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
12. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
13. Okja
14. Kong: Skull Island
15. Split
16. Personal Shopper
17. Atomic Blonde
18. Megan Leavey
19. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
20. Imperial Dreams
21. Win It All
22. The Wall
23. Breathe
24. The Man Who Invented Christmas
25. Alone in Berlin
26. Trespass Against Us
27. War Machine
28. Justice League
29. To the Bone
30. The Hitman's Bodyguard
31. Sand Castle
32. Death Note
33. The Great Wall
34. Fist Fight
35. Sleepless
 

909

909
Staff member


Free Fire (2017), directed by Ben Wheatley

I was initially hesitant to watch Free Fire because I know it had some horrendous reviews around the internet, but it was still quite tempting. A movie set in 1970's Boston? Sounds like it could be fun. Something obviously ripping off Quentin Tarrantino? That's usually not fun, but who knows. I thought I'd give this a chance even if it didn't deserve one. The catch as far as this goes is that this is a picture that started filming way back in 2015. The release date was an awfully long time away, almost two years. For a film not requiring a ton of post-production, this seems as if it could be a problem. Usually when a film isn't released for such a large amount of time after the fact, it takes forever for them to find a buyer because either nobody thinks the film is good or it can't be sold. I was hoping this was good enough. This is a film that seems to be made in the sense of a filmmaker not caring what anyone else would think about the dialogue or creative decisions, or for that matter whether or not the film is even considered to be good. This isn't a great film, but it's one that goes counter to expectations and gives the viewer something different. Sometimes that's okay, and sometimes expectations need to be thrown out the window.

Our setting is an arms deal, and the film begins with two guys, Stevo (Sam Riley) and Bernie (Enzo Cilenti) driving to meet two IRA members. On the ride over, Stevo tells Bernie that he got beaten up the night before for doing bad shit. The group, including the IRA members, Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley), all meet in front of a warehouse in Boston. Now we have an intermediary, Justine (Brie Larson), and a representative, Ord (Armie Hammer). Let me be clear that the inclusion of these characters makes no real sense, because there should only be one of them. The group of IRA members (I guess the first four) wants to buy M-16's from an arms dealer, Vernon (Sharlto Copley). Vernon brings a lot of people himself, a big man named Martin (Babou Ceesay) who appears to be muscle, and I believe Harry (Jack Reynor) and Gordon (Noah Taylor) drive the weapons in. The trade is pretty simple, weapons for cash. At least it should be simple.

Now, with all these people in the room, it's never going to be simple. Case in point. There's arguments about the guns themselves, because they aren't M-16's. They're very good assault rifles, but not what the deal was supposed to be for. The money is good, but the IRA members get angry when Vernon decides that he's going to count it. Vernon had also placed ammunition in the back of the truck with the guns, but that wasn't part of the deal and he was going to include it to sweeten the deal, but that wasn't needed. Now, after the business with the guns and money, Chris wants all the boxes of guns opened to make sure that's what's there. As already stated, there's a box of ammunition there and the ammo was not supplied. Eventually, Harry notices that Stevo is the one he beat up the day before. The tensions are attempted to be defused, but Stevo winds up ruining that by bragging about what he did to Harry's cousin. In addition, I should mention that Stevo smoked crack on the way over to the deal, so he's erratic. So erratic in fact that he was swinging around a crowbar. Harry can't take this shit anymore, so he pulls out a gun and shoots Stevo in the shoulder. As you might expect, the groups split off and start shooting each other, and Martin is the first man to go down. Along with Martin, down goes the briefcase with the money in it, and of course Vernon wants the money, so we have an enormous shootout for the better part of an hour.

Is this film good? I don't know. There are many aspects of Free Fire that aren't, particularly the idea that people talk to each other during prolonged shootouts such as these. My conundrum is that I thought the lines in these discussions were sometimes quite amusing. Of course that isn't the case every single time, but sometimes. The entire situation is also implausible in the first place, in the sense that it doesn't take so long for people to die once they get shot. It's totally ridiculous, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a longer shootout in a film or TV show. The film only taking place in one scene does allow for the filmmaker to focus on the actors, but a few of them look and sound a bit too alike. I think Free Fire could have used more time than what it had, particularly as it relates to the conflict between Stevo and Harry. This is something that we should have seen the beginnings of rather than having been told about it, as the viewer would have been anticipating their conflict just a little bit more. It's also hard for a movie to sustain itself around one scene, and I'm surprised anyone would try to do that. The Wall was similar in this regard and I intend to give Free Fire the same rating, a film can only be so good when this is the case.

In terms of ensuring this film actually worked, I thought Sharlto Copley did the best job of keeping things entertaining. His South African accent and the lines he was given went together quite well, I was cracking up throughout. This being more of a comedy than anything else was a nice touch, but it leads Wheatley to keep some of these characters around for too long. I also thought that Wheatley should have done a better job laying out the warehouse prior to the shootout. There are some characters that get introduced as the story goes on, but they were weak bullet fodder, which I think cheapened the story to some extent. Overall, I liked Free Fire, but not too much. The film is overly talky like a Sorkin film, but the copious amount of dialogue works to its benefit. The film likely would have been boring otherwise. I'm not giving a ringing endorsement or anything, but I thought this was a lot funnier than it should have been.

6/10

2017 Films Ranked


1. Dunkirk
2. Get Out
3. Logan
4. Wonder Woman
5. Thor: Ragnarok
6. Logan Lucky
7. The Beguiled
8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
9. The Lost City of Z
10. First They Killed My Father
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
12. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
13. Okja
14. Kong: Skull Island
15. Split
16. Personal Shopper
17. Atomic Blonde
18. Megan Leavey
19. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
20. Imperial Dreams
21. Free Fire
22. Win It All
23. The Wall
24. Breathe
25. The Man Who Invented Christmas
26. Alone in Berlin
27. Trespass Against Us
28. War Machine
29. Justice League
30. To the Bone
31. The Hitman's Bodyguard
32. Sand Castle
33. Death Note
34. The Great Wall
35. Fist Fight
36. Sleepless
 

909

909
Staff member


It Follows (2015), directed by David Robert Mitchell

I'm seeing Escape Room tomorrow, but before doing so I thought I needed to see a real horror movie. Enter It Follows, a film I wouldn't quite call a masterpiece, but something with a unique concept. This was awfully damn good. David Robert Mitchell has another movie coming out later this year that has gotten mixed reviews, I believe it's called Under the Silver Lake. If the mixed reviews are simply because he decided to push the envelope a lot more, that would be nice. I do think there's further that a director could go from this point, but I did appreciate that there were seemingly a few unique touches. One is the style of the film, both in terms of the color palette and choice of shots. The movie isn't completely different in this way, but it's different enough. There are also some interesting themes, but the most clear thing to see is that Mitchell's films are going to be a visual feast. It's sticking with me more than anything else, nothing showcases this more than the grand setpiece of the film. It Follows is even more about the director's ability to play around with things in order to create a look and feel. It is of course not solely visual, but that Mitchell fills this with 80's synth music like an admirer of John Carpenter. Is the film on that level?

It Follows begins with a scene featuring a girl running away from some kind of invisible figure. I don't exactly understand why or the reason, at least for about twenty minutes. The girl has obviously just had sex, and she stumbles out of a house near to hers. She runs around in circles for a while, and eventually she goes in her house, gets her shit, and decides to drive very far away. While she drives far, this is apparently not far enough. After stopping at a lake for the night, she falls asleep. We come around to the next morning, and she has been brutally murdered somehow, with a compound fracture of the leg. Big time dead. Afterwards, we switch over to our story. Jay (Maika Monroe) is going to go on a date with Hugh (Jake Weary), seeing a movie. Before doing so, we are introduced to her family, which consists of her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and an unseen mother. Her friend Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and another friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist) spend a lot of time at her house. Paul is very much the incel type and has a crush on Jay, it is certainly unrequited. Paul seems to be quite jealous about hearing Jay is going on a date with someone who isn't him.

Now, once Jay and Hugh to to the movies, they're waiting in line and all that stuff. They decide to play a game about switching lives, some bullshit. Don't care. When they get inside the theater it is Hugh's turn to ask Jay about the game. He goes around looking across the theater to see what's up, and he sees a woman in a yellow dress standing by the entrance. Jay can't see her, we don't see her, conceivably there's nothing there. There's something there. Hugh demands to leave the theater and they do, nothing seems to come of this. On their next date, Hugh and Jay go to a beach. Things go well. They drive some distance away to an abandoned auto plant and get down, after which Hugh gets in his trunk. He come back, it turns out he has a rag with chloroform on it, and out Jay goes. When Jay comes to, she's tied up in a wheelchair and Hugh takes it upon himself to give some instructions. Here's how it goes. He says that the curse can only be seen by the person with the curse or by the someone who has had it. The entity can take the form of any person and will consistently walk towards her. If It catches Jay, Jay will die and go after the previous person who has had the curse. Simple way of putting it? Jay needs to go sleep with someone else to get rid of this thing. Sounds like bullshit? It isn't bullshit.

The whole thing has a distinct Lynchian feeling to it, although of course there's never anything that does Lynchian like David Lynch. Some of the appearances of this spiritual entity are insane, I don't want to spoil them, but it's a horror movie and there has to be some expectation of seeing this thing. That's part of why I take a shit on some horror movies that decide not to show the enemy. There are instances when we need to see what people are afraid of, and there are times where we do not. It's largely dependent upon whether or not the filmmaker is skilled enough to make their film interesting in the scenes that don't feature the enemy. In this case, I thought It Follows was plenty interesting and that this wasn't a problem. It Follows is also about as long as it needs to be and doesn't feel like a film that overstays its welcome. I was going to say that as far as the film being Lynchian goes, you'll know if you've seen this. I also thought it was interesting how the film explored the idea of sexual intercourse potentially bringing a curse upon someone. There are so many ways in which this is true, but I'm not entirely interested in symbolism. I look at whether or not a film accomplishes its goals and pleases me. It Follows is the kind of film that is very likely to please me for many different reasons.

I should admit that I wound up pausing It Follows for 15 minutes because some nutjob was being chased by the police. It was insane. When I came back to the film, I didn't feel any letdown as if the events here weren't worth watching after seeing some guy plow into cars and traffic lights. I'm careful not to go overboard in praise, but I thought this was very effective in what it set out to do. It was often surprising to see where the film would be going, and it was odd to see a horror movie where the friends of the lead character actually believe what their friend is telling them. I'm not so used to that, and I thought this film was properly surrealistic. Most other directors are unable to pull that off even with far more money in their pocket, and they aren't able to prevent their films from becoming boring when they do attempt that. Obviously, I liked It Follows a lot, and I didn't mention too many negatives, but I think the film did have some. The attempts to obscure the time period the film was set in did not resonate too well with me, and for that matter I wasn't a big fan of the incel character. Still, this was good.

7.5/10
 

909

909
Staff member


Escape Room (2019), directed by Adam Robitel

Escape Room was the first and so far only film released in 2019, and in some ways this is the perfect kind of film to ring in a new year. We needed a goofy horror movie to kick things off, and Escape Room is up to the task. I know that these films are similar to Saw as many people have said that already, but the thing is that I've never seen Saw. I can only assume that it's one of these kinds of puzzle movies. That seems like something that could be horribly repetitive after a while, but as it comes to Escape Room, such puzzles are seemingly sanitized and not given an R rating. That, I assume, is the difference between the two. I see that Escape Room has already made a hefty chunk of money compared to its budget, and seemingly there are a lot of reasons for that. The budget was quite low in the first place, I assume because of a lack of name actors. I only recognized one of them from True Blood. There were also just a handful of sets, some of which may or may not have been full of real things. I assume not, but even if so, this couldn't have been too expensive. One thing's for sure, this movie was designed to make money on a small budget. Sony will probably be very happy with this.

I suppose I should start things off by saying the first three or four minutes of the film spoil the rest. Show up late if you're bothered by this. I have no idea why studios allow filmmakers to use these kinds of flash-forwards prior to when they tell their story. Anyway, I don't want to say what it is, so let's go back. Six people are sent a package with a puzzle box, calling them to come to a Minos Escape Room with the chance of winning $10,000. All of them have their own unique circumstances, and I'll explain them in the most basic way possible. Zoey (Taylor Russell) is a quantum physics student who is too shy to speak in front of other people. She also seems to have anxiety problems. Ben (Logan Miller) is a guy who is trapped in a stockroom job, the owner of his store will simply not let him interact with customers. The owner says there's a good reason for this, and it isn't just because Ben's a cigarette puffing alcoholic. Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll) and Mike (Tyler Labine) are our two more mysterious ones, to tell their story is to spoil big chunks of the film, so I won't. Jason (Jay Ellis) is a young stock trader/broker, he's interested in the money and that's why he's there. Danny (Nik Dodani) is a video game enthusiast and escape room fanatic, he's really into this shit.

So, once the group comes together, they are asked to turn over their phones and proceed to a waiting room. Danny sneaks a phone in, but it's irrelevant as the enormous concrete building blocks any use of cell phones. After they introduce themselves to each other, Ben gets tired of waiting and needs to have a damn cigarette. Too bad for him, he can't. The door handle breaks off and locks everyone in the room, with all we can see being a temperature gauge. The group is subsequently tasked with figuring out the temperature gauge, and once they do that, things get crazy. The waiting room turns into an oven, and they need to find out how to get out of the room without turning on other parts of it, which are inevitable. Ultimately, the final task in this one of many complicated puzzle rooms is to find a way to place weighted coasters on a table long enough for the characters to climb through a duct. All of the marketing shows you that they do, and that they wind up in a room reminiscent of a winter landscape. How will they get out of that?

The premise, as I think it already sounds like, is quite simplistic. Most of the intrigue is based upon what the rooms will look like, at least from my perspective. I caught on pretty fast as to what was going to happen, and truthfully so should everyone else. You'd have to be kind of an idiot to be surprised by any of this stuff. Of course, that being said, it doesn't make the movie less fun. It's a decent ride while it lasts, although I do have some major gripes. The third act is beyond bad, and I was hoping for pretty much any other solution to the problem, but that was not what we were going to get. This isn't a film that deserves a lot of deep thought, it's interesting enough. The opening is bad too, though. I don't accept the prologue at all, it ruined a lot of the intrigue in terms of who lives and dies. It's too bad. Much of the premise is also rendered irrelevant by the events that come to follow, but I did think there were some good surprises with Amanda.

The characters and rooms are goofy, but I think everyone who went to the theater to see this knew that would happen. The end of the film is also blatant sequel-bait, the kind which I would expect from a January horror movie. Just look at the film calendar for the last few years and see what I mean. It would have been nice if a few of these characters stuck around longer and some of the others were disposed of more quickly, but I thought this was acceptable fun. A movie like this is near devoid of content, so it's difficult to discuss on this level. Of course, the characters have a tie to each other, and learning that is part of the reason I said the third act wasn't so good. I'm sure there will be a sequel, but it's hard to imagine a sequel being better than this. I would call it decent and the score will reflect that, but I'm trying to make sure I score the 2019 offerings better. I won't post a list until I'm a few films into this year.

5.5/10
 

909

909
Staff member


The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017), directed by Noah Baumbach

The Meyerowitz Stories is a film that came with no shortage of controversy and problems. The first was at Cannes, when it was a debate whether or not the film should be allowed to compete for awards due to its status as a streaming film. It was allowed to do so, but now Netflix films aren't allowed to be shown in theaters in France, so never again will that happen. The other, obviously, is related to Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman has either been blackballed or decided not to work after allegations were made against him. I had interest in The Meyerowitz Stories and was not going to skip the film because of something he'd done many years in the past. I did believe the allegation, by the way. I believe the second of those controversies led to a lot of people deciding that they were going to swerve this one. They're well within their rights to do so, but I said why I didn't. The film itself is a very strong portrayal of family dysfunction, I thought. There are some issues with this story, and I would have liked to see this more focused on one of the characters a bit more, but I thought this was a very amusing film.

The Meyerowitz Stories is something that sounds like it could be an anthology, but it is merely separated into chapters. Danny Meyerowitz (Adam Sandler, up in here looking like Vlade Divac) has separated from his wife, and his daughter Eliza (Grace Van Patten) came along with him to New York City before heading off to liberal arts school as a film student. The purpose of his visit is to move in with his father Harold (Dustin Hoffman), an art professor and sculptor at the school Eliza is headed off to. Harold has been married numerous times, his current wife Maureen (Emma Thompson) is an alcoholic. For some reason Harold believes she has quit drinking, obviously she has not. Danny has a sister, Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), and she's there at the house as well. They're going to have shark soup and it takes like shit. We cut forward a little while, and I'm going to skip over some stuff, but Danny and Harold are going to be spending some time alone in New York City. When Danny was a child, his father ignored him, so this should be some good time for them to catch up. Jean is in the same boat, but she lives somewhere else and will not be taking part in this father-son time.

As part of Danny and Harold's time together, Harold's friend and peer L.J. (Judd Hirsch) is having a showing at the Museum of Modern Art. It's a retrospective of some kind, and L.J. invited them during a phone call without advance warning. For some reason Danny and Harold show up overdressed, and Danny finds himself in a similar spot to some of the things I've had to do. He's lost with nobody to talk to and wonders around the place, while Harold catches up with L.J. and seems to have problems with it. When Danny finally finds someone to talk to in L.J.'s daughter Loretta (Rebecca Miller), Harold hurriedly rushes up to him and tells him he's leaving. This leaves Danny in a position where he has to chase after Harold, and after this he decides to go stay with Jean up in Rochester. In the meantime, the story continues to jump forward, where we are finally introduced to Harold's third child, Matthew (Ben Stiller). Matthew is a very successful financial advisor, he also seems to be having marital problems, and he seems to be impressing upon his father that he should sell his home in Manhattan and move to Maureen's house out in Western Massachusetts.

Here's what's up. All three of Harold's children have problems with him and believe that he neglected them to various extents, this is what the film is about. I don't want to say what happens because that's really lame and kills the enjoyment of the film, but I wanted to say that Adam Sandler has probably never been better. He can act, but he obviously doesn't want to and I don't understand this. The amount of trash he's been in is incredible, but when he wants to do something serious, he's pretty good at it. Some people were saying he should get Oscar buzz for The Meyerowitz Stories, which would be completely ludicrous, but he was really good. It isn't only that the film is serious but that his comedic instincts are restrained. I never thought I would laugh at a film where Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler trash someone's car. This sounds so ludicrous, so bad. It isn't bad. The sharp cuts are something I also found appropriate, even though it's a little jarring. While our characters are in the midst of meltdowns, perhaps it's better that we don't see the aftermath of their worst moments. These people have daddy issues and they are all explained quite well throughout the story, I thought. When Harold tells his stories twice, the reactions to them remain interesting. You never know exactly what's going to happen here, and that's great.

The film isn't without warts, and I think the most notable case of this is the lack of focus on Jean. She's not in the film enough despite being the second most interesting of Harold's children, and even though Elizabeth Marvel does well with the time she has on screen, it isn't enough. This is a huge flaw, and in my opinion, it's really one of the only ones. The end of the film also comes off as feeling really weird, lacking conclusion, life goes on. I don't know I like this or hate it, I can't decide. Numerous times throughout the film I was thinking of things that I found to be realistic and reflective of my own life experience, but a few of them, like the Meyerowitz clan hunting down a nurse who'd had to go deal with other patients, didn't quite feel right to me. The movie is also ridiculous even though that's quite alright. The way Harold bragged about a five second conversation with Sigourney Weaver, if you could even call it a conversation, was great. I didn't want to hear that two times though.

Ultimately, this is a film that thrives on its performances, but the driving force behind each individual event really works for me. There's also something with Harold that I have completely avoided referencing, but this helps bring the film together and converge all these stories into a cohesive narrative. The Meyerowitz family seemed to be quite a lonely sort, whether they had children or didn't, whether they were married or not, and even Maureen is no exception although she's married to the patriarch. This was the 1000th film I've watched, and I think it was quite the appropriate thing to place in this slot. I was going to watch something completely different, but I decided after seeing Escape Room earlier, I should go in a completely different direction. I should also give some extra credit to the cinematography in this film. This is the second time I've noticed Robbie Ryan's work like this, The Favourite was beautifully shot and this was very much the same. Judging from his filmography it appears this is someone moving up in the world over the last few years. Good for him.

8/10

2017 Films Ranked


1. Dunkirk
2. Get Out
3. Logan
4. Wonder Woman
5. Thor: Ragnarok
6. Logan Lucky
7. The Beguiled
8. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
10. The Lost City of Z
11. First They Killed My Father
12. Spider-Man: Homecoming
13. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
14. Okja
15. Kong: Skull Island
16. Split
17. Personal Shopper
18. Atomic Blonde
19. Megan Leavey
20. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
21. Imperial Dreams
22. Free Fire
23. Win It All
24. The Wall
25. Breathe
26. The Man Who Invented Christmas
27. Alone in Berlin
28. Trespass Against Us
29. War Machine
30. Justice League
31. To the Bone
32. The Hitman's Bodyguard
33. Sand Castle
34. Death Note
35. The Great Wall
36. Fist Fight
37. Sleepless
 

909

909
Staff member


On the Basis of Sex (2018), directed by Mimi Leder

Very rarely have I left a film with such a strong feeling that something not happen. In this case, it was a hope that Ruth Bader Ginsburg not die before 2021. Perhaps a hope isn't the best way to put it. It's a request, I'm begging, can this please not happen? Time will tell on this one, I hope I get my wish, and there are a lot of people depending on it. Our country is nearly entirely dependent upon whether or not she will live. With that in mind, I expected On the Basis of Sex to be a propaganda film of sorts, one that served to bolster the legacy of Ginsburg, ensuring that younger people everywhere are more aware of her. She has become a legend and this is something a lot of people feel, it certainly isn't just me. Considering what I thought the film would be, it certainly lived up to my expectations. I wasn't aware of the cases involved and had no intention of looking them up prior to viewing the movie, nor will I do so now that I've given the film a look. I don't care enough to be bothered by the veracity of this film, and I don't think that was the point of this exercise in the first place. It was so that people could have a look at how Ginsburg was as a younger woman, to see things that helped craft her reputation.

Our film begins in the 1950s, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) entering Harvard as a first year law student. Her husband Martin (Armie Hammer) is in his second year, and they have a child at home. While at school, RBG is presented with the usual problems that confronted women in that era, particularly those entering the law prefession. The Dean of Harvard Law, a bristly sort named Erwin (Sam Waterston), gathers everyone for a dinner and decides to ask the prospective female lawyers a question. Why do they deserve to be in Harvard Law instead of a man? The film also chucks in another scene with a professor, Mr. Brown (Stephen Root). He's teaching a class, refuses to call on Ginsburg, and once he does, there are lots of jokes made by everyone involved. Do you see why I said this is a propaganda film? There are lots of instances of this and that's hardly surprising. During her first year, Martin gets testicular cancer, and we are shown how determined Ruth Bader Ginsburg really is, as she attended Martin's classes for him, took notes, and typed out his papers that he would dictate to her. Talk about dedicated. This must be true considering that the film has Ginsburg's endorsement and I can't imagine her lying about something like that.

Two years later, after Martin has graduated and with his cancer in remission against the odds, he is presented with a job offer in New York City. Ruth is not finished at Harvard, but she doesn't want to separate their family. Erwin is a dick, so it turns out that they're going to have to, and she transfers to Columbia University. Once she graduates, she encounters difficulties finding work, and unfortunately her dreams are squashed. After being rejected over and over again by prestigious law firms, with her degree seeming not to matter, she decides that she'll become a professor at Rutgers. Her class centers around sex discrimination, which almost immediately becomes a point or purpose. Rather than beat around the bush, I'll get right to it. Martin is a tax lawyer and comes across a case that seems to be something Ruth can handle a whole lot better than him, it's about a man in Denver, Charles Moritz. Moritz hired a nurse to help him care for his senile mother so he could work, and he tried to claim a deduction on his tax forms. He was an unmarried male, therefore he was not eligible for the deduction. Ruth sees the opportunity to bust through gender discrimination, and nothing's going to stop her. She goes to the ACLU and meets with a man, Mel Wulf (Justin Theroux), he joins her case. Her daughter Jane (Cailee Spaeny) has grown up and is now quite the inspiring figure, she will continue to push on however long this takes.

So, I've said this is a propaganda movie, right? It is, even though it's entirely rooted in fact. There's no other way to put matters, it's a fact that Ginsburg was tasked with running through a cadre of white men in order to make things happen, and some of them had to be left demolished in her wake. This aspect of the film seems to have made a lot of people angry, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg tends to do to some people. The thing is, white people of all stripes seem to have problems with this presentation because of how ridiculous it seems, but when it's true I don't care that much about presentation. The film doesn't delve into critical analysis of Ginsburg, because that isn't the point. Everyone's made mistakes, but this isn't the time for a takedown. I thought the film was effective in presenting its message, and I thought Felicity Jones had a great performance. I only see the slightest of resemblance between her and Ginsburg, but the point of the performance is to play Ginsburg, to be like Ginsburg. I think the filmmaker would want to make sure the audience knows how stubborn Ginsburg is and was, this was accomplished quite well.

Even though Ginsburg is a hero figure to a lot of people including myself, I am capable of being critical of the film. The events seem to play out like a TV movie at times, the musical compositions do not do much to counteract this feeling. I also thought the way the events were presented diminishes how Jewish the Ginsburgs were, there's zero representation of is. Ginsburg does have a cameo at the end that can be interpreted as a tacit endorsement so maybe I should keep my mouth shut on that part, but it's something I noticed. I also found that On the Basis of Sex could have desperately used a bridge scene at Columbia between Ginsburg's time at Harvard and searching for a job. The film is also intensely obsessed with subtly making sure the audience knows exactly how far we've come in these years. That isn't a negative like the other things in this paragraph, but I think it's something viewers should be aware of before turning this on or going to the theater. On the Basis of Sex also presents this as being Ginsburg's first courtroom performance and her first lawsuit, so with that information in mind, you damn well better know what the film brings to the table.

With all that in mind, On the Basis of Sex is certainly a hagiography, but there aren't many more figures worthy of having a hagiography made about their life. So, this is totally a mom movie, even if your mom voted for Trump. Maybe your dumbass Trump voting mom would finally understand some things if they watched this, and perhaps not. I would be lying if I said this didn't feel like a Law and Order episode at times, and the casting is certainly part of that. If you cast Jack McCoy in any legal drama, that's damn well what I'm going to think about. The film is about someone's work in the face of rampant sexism, it removes religious bigotry againts Jews for some reason, but I still liked this film as a whole. Of course a large reason why that's the case is because of the film's subject, so I can overlook some of the flaws. As I believe I've said before, list placement matters more here than the score I give the film. The ending of the film was nicely touching and left me feeling good about the movie.

6.5/10

2018 Films Ranked


1. Roma
2. A Star Is Born
3. First Reformed
4. The Favourite
5. Widows
6. First Man
7. BlacKkKlansman
8. Blindspotting
9. If Beale Street Could Talk
10. The Sisters Brothers
11. A Private War
12. Green Book
13. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
14. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
15. On My Skin
16. Private Life
17. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
18. Mid90s
19. Eighth Grade
20. Sorry to Bother You
21. Vice
22. The Old Man & the Gun
23. Suspiria
24. Vox Lux
25. Boy Erased
26. Bad Times at the El Royale
27. The Other Side of the Wind
28. Searching
29. A Simple Favor
30. The Hate U Give
31. Bumblebee
32. Mary Poppins Returns
33. Creed II
34. Hold the Dark
35. The Land of Steady Habits
36. Halloween
37. Mary Queen of Scots
38. Aquaman
39. Outlaw King
40. Overlord
41. Monsters and Men
42. The Mule
43. On the Basis of Sex
44. Bohemian Rhapsody
45. White Boy Rick
46. Papillon
47. Game Night
48. Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado
49. Instant Family
50. Alpha
51. The Front Runner
52. The Predator
53. Apostle
54. The Angel
55. The Commuter
56. Beautiful Boy
57. The Nun
58. Operation Finale
59. The Equalizer 2
60. The Spy Who Dumped Me
61. Bird Box
62. 12 Strong
63. Venom
64. Skyscraper
65. The Meg
66. Assassination Nation
67. The Girl in the Spider's Web
68. The House with a Clock in Its Walls
69. 22 July
70. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
71. The Little Stranger
72. Tomb Raider
73. Night School
74. The 15:17 To Paris
75. Peppermint
76. Mile 22
77. The First Purge
78. Hunter Killer
79. Kin
80. Hell Fest
81. Proud Mary
82. Robin Hood
83. The Happytime Murders
84. Slender Man
 

909

909
Staff member


The Lego Movie (2014), directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

I wasn't sure that I was ever going to watch The Lego Movie, but while seeing another film last month, I saw a trailer for the sequel to this. At that point, I decided that I might as well, so here we have it. I believe this is the first animated movie I've reviewed that wasn't comic related or as a result of losing a bet. I am fine with this, and I'm not going to go nuts on animated movies, but maybe I should watch a few more. Don't inundate me with ideas like a lot of dorks do to people when they say something like that, please. I still have to watch The Lego Batman Movie this month, and I could see these becoming repetitive in a hurry, but I didn't mind this at all. I am shocked that this film was able to be done at a cost of $60,000,000. That's obviously a lot of money, but lots of these animated films cost a ridiculously large amount. I know this was in large part created due to the Lego video games, of which I played just a few, but kids really like those games. Obviously, adults have a soft spot for Lego's and that's why this was so successful. I guess I'll say that at least this wasn't The Emoji Movie. I have no intention of ever watching that, but one of these days...who really knows.

Obviously, The Lego Movie is set in some kind of Lego universe with moving and talking Lego pieces. No shit, right? Our scenario is that there's an evil guy, Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell). He finds a super weapon called the Kragle, which we later learn is a tube of Krazy Glue. Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) is some kind of wizard, but Business blinds him with his robots. As Business leaves, Vitruvius has a prophecy, that someone called "The Special" will find a "Piece of Resistance", which is a brick that can stop the Kragle. Some years later, in a Lego city of Bricksburg, we meet an ordinary piece, a construction worker named Emmet (Chris Pratt). Emmet goes to work and does all his stuff like a good Lego should do, he's ordinary and not unique. There are many, many of similar pieces, and they build skyscrapers and things like that at the behest of Lord Business. I had a good laugh at the workers following the instructions, I can't explain why I wasn't expecting that, but I wasn't.

As Emmet's about to leave work, he sees a woman searching for something at his site. He walks over to investigate and falls into a hole, and once reaching the bottom of this seemingly endless hole, winds up next to...the Piece of Resistance. Emmet touches it and passes out, waking up in a police station with Bad Cop and Good Cop (Liam Neeson). All of a sudden, the woman shows up again and introduces herself as Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and rescues Emmet. She believes he is a special Lego who can do all kinds of cool stuff, and we know that's not true, but she takes him to meet Vitruvius in the Old West. Here's how this thing goes. The group absolutely must find a way to put the Piece of Resistance on the tube of Krazy Glue. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it was the top for the tube. Along the way, we see some funny stuff that comes out of nowhere, and I laughed quite a lot at seeing a few of these pieces and ideas.

This being an animated movie, I will struggle very hard to complete a review. I thought that there were parts of The Lego Movie that were pieces of genius, but the live-action part destroyed my immersion. That's fair, right? I was a Lego player like everyone else as a kid, but I played with the kinds of Lego sets that other people probably didn't. I had the gas station, the space stuff, and a few other things that aren't coming to mind right at this moment. Upstairs right now, there's a bunch of stuff in this house that my brother built and left. He spent loads of money on that stuff while working at the Lego Store. He has the Kwik-E-Mart, countless Batman stuff, the Cinderella castle, Orthanc tower, the Simpsons house, and there has to be other things I can't remember. He is and was a Lego fanatic, but I don't know if he's seen this movie. I did think some of the takes at the end of the film were funny though. They were basically spreading out propaganda in terms of how it's okay to play with Lego toys. I could only laugh at this even though the messaging was sort of destroying how much I liked the film.

Overall, I still liked the film, but I don't think it was the greatest animated film ever or some shit like that. I did enjoy the numerous strange appearances from different characters in different franchises, I thought none of them were disappointing at all. The animation is fantastic on a level that it's incomprehensible how these things are even happening, and the choice of voice cast was excellent. I was sure not to look anything up beforehand, but Liam Neeson as a bad cop was a good laugh. This is the kind of film lots of people would be happy with their kids watching over and over, and the gags with things like Band-Aids were a joy. While I would have liked a complete paucity of live-action scenes, this was still enjoyable enough and the live-action scene wasn't completely horrendous. It was a good twist and something I wasn't expecting, but I must admit that without the scene, I don't see how this film could possibly have ended. I was trying not to spoil this in case anyone was on the fence, but I really didn't need to. I thought Batman's inclusion was the best part.

7.5/10
 

909

909
Staff member


American Made (2017), directed by Doug Liman

In American Made, we seem to have a film that claims to be based on a true story while stretching the limits of "true story" as much as humanly possible. I was reticent to watch the film around this time last year, knowing that this would probably be the case, but now it appears my format has changed and I don't have a choice. Besides, I think I was looking forward to it at this point. American Made is a film that deliberately intends to invoke thoughts of Narcos, Blow, Breaking Bad, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Goodfellas all at the same time. I think the quality of the film reflects that. I'm going to take some time to talk about how truthful this story is, but what I found most interesting was how cavalier this story treated the geopolitics of the time. We move through a lot of these things very quickly, and not everything that happened at the time seems to matter. The film also manipulates the plot in order to fit a narrative. I have said before that I'm okay with this, but in this instance I genuinely don't know what to think of it. On the other hand, considering how crazy the story is in the first place, is it really that bad? We're inundated with a lot of information outside of our title character's story and nearly all of it is true. Go figure.

Our story begins in 1978, with Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) flying planes for TWA. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) and a very young child, just trying to provide for his family. The first instance of this we're shown is some video of him smuggling Cuban cigars from Vancouver and Montreal to the States. A CIA case officer called "Schafer" (Domhnall Gleeson) is apparently well aware of these activities, and with Barry bent over a barrel, he'll take advantage of it as these CIA types tend to do. Schafer's plan is for Barry to start a new company, or rather for the CIA to start one for him, and through the company they'll fund his activities. Activities? His new job is going to be to fly a plane over Central America doing reconnaissance with cameras attached to the bottom of the fuselage. Barry attempts to tell Lucy of these changes, but it isn't going to work out. She just won't listen and that means he won't tell her anything unless he has to. Narrator: eventually he has to.

We move forward into the 1980s from there, with the job progressing to a point where Schafter asks Barry to start bringing money to Manuel Noriega in exchange for intelligence. Barry does that, and on one of his missions, he's picked up by the Medellin Cartel. That does not sound good. He's asked to fly cocaine to the United States, exactly as you'd expect them to ask them, and he has no real choice in the matter. Remember that he smuggled cigars in the first place to start this whole thing off? He accepts. This is quite difficult to pull off, and for whatever reason the CIA decides to ignore the drug smuggling. After all, the rest of the operation works for them and it's difficult to replace assets, much less an ace pilot. The DEA, on the other hand, they don't really give a fuck about any of that. While Barry's in Medellin meeting with Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) and Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Meija), he's captured by Colombian police. The Colombians get out, but Barry does not. Here's what he has to do now. He and Lucy have to leave Louisiana, and it's time for Barry to do something much more for the CIA. Something...Contra related. Right after this point, Tom Cruise tells you that shit gets crazy and it sure does.

This film plays loose with the facts, because it turns out that Barry didn't do anything for the CIA until he'd already encountered the Colombians and other drug smugglers south of our border. We don't see that the reason he left TWA was because he was asked to smuggle explosives to Mexico, was going to go through with it, and was arrested. He also moved to Arkansas himself and wasn't forced there by the CIA. The narrative of the film wouldn't make sense if they showed things like that, though. It's ridiculous and much too hard to believe. The film is flawed because it isn't authentic, and it's also flawed because this doesn't explain the results of Barry's actions. At times, American Made feels like a film where someone's bad decisions are excused because they did them for the CIA, but this didn't happen in reality. These things are hard to reconcile with one another. On the other hand, having been to the area of Arkansas shown in the film, I could definitely see how someone could have gotten away with having an army of planes smuggling cocaine out of there in the 1980s. To call this location a backwater does not do justice to the word. The accuracy of other things, such as Barry and other pilots smuggling drugs for the DEA and CIA, on the other hand, are completely accurate. I do appreciate a film spreading that message even though the story of the messenger is not accurately portrayed.

This is a film that I do think perfectly displays the ills of the Reagan era, but it's almost impossible for a filmmaker to not do that and get their film released. What mattered most then was green. Consequences were not something people considered. The country was prosperous and nobody cared how or why. The film is full of moments that show what someone would do to make that amount of money. The customary montage of what someone did with their money no longer interests me as a viewer, it's how they got it. In spicing that up a bit, I think American Made was a success. The scene with the overloaded plane was really nice, there are others with Barry's plane being chased by government agents, and if you need to see scumbag characters, look no further than JB (Caleb Landry Jones). Nobody plays scum better than Caleb Landry Jones and I don't ever want to see him in another role. I bet there are some and inevitably I'll get around to them, but let me have this. I also thought that Tom Cruise is...the absolute perfect person to play someone like Barry Seal. It's a natural role and he seems to revel in it. Cruise's performance is quite enjoyable. I also thought the intrigue regarding the possibility of Barry getting clipped nearly justifies the changes in the narrative. I mean, what if they changed that too?

Like Caleb Landry Jones, there's another role in this film that may have been chopped a bit, that belonging to Jesse Plemons. Plemons was playing a small town sheriff who didn't want to question the benevolent Barry Seal, but there are so few scenes with him in them and he's such a good actor that they had to have filmed things and cut them. It also seemed that Barry didn't care too much about his kids and wife, with scenes that consistently exhibit this. So, they aren't in the film too much. American Made is a movie that revolves around Tom Cruise a lot, and if you can't handle this, or the changes in Barry Seal's story, or the possibility that this may be glorifying a drug smuggler, I can't really recommend this to anyone. The only thing that I think really stinks and is indefensible is the way in which this story feels glorified. Who wouldn't want to bang their wife at zero gravity, fly planes all over the globe, make tons of money, go to insane parties, and have a whole fleet of people willing to do anything for you? Then you throw in the part of the story detailing that Barry basically got away with everything he did wrong due to what he knew about CIA programs, and yes. This is glorifying wrongdoing. It's also so blatantly far from the true story that the story needs to be judged on its own merits, which is what I'll do. I thought American Made was quite fun and I was looking to watch something like this. Sometimes I don't give a fuck about what someone did wrong, I just want to watch something where someone's doing bad things. I do think this is wrong on my part, but I can't help myself. Most people who can't admit that liking this stuff is wrong, they're the ones with a problem I think.

I've been trying to shorten my reviews as a whole, but this was easy to write and took no time.

6.5/10

2017 Films Ranked


1. Dunkirk
2. Get Out
3. Logan
4. Wonder Woman
5. Thor: Ragnarok
6. Logan Lucky
7. The Beguiled
8. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
10. The Lost City of Z
11. First They Killed My Father
12. Spider-Man: Homecoming
13. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
14. Okja
15. Kong: Skull Island
16. Split
17. Personal Shopper
18. Atomic Blonde
19. Megan Leavey
20. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
21. American Made
22. Imperial Dreams
23. Free Fire
24. Win It All
25. The Wall
26. Breathe
27. The Man Who Invented Christmas
28. Alone in Berlin
29. Trespass Against Us
30. War Machine
31. Justice League
32. To the Bone
33. The Hitman's Bodyguard
34. Sand Castle
35. Death Note
36. The Great Wall
37. Fist Fight
38. Sleepless
 

909

909
Staff member


Ben Is Back (2018), directed by Peter Hedges

I didn't realize until I walked in the door and looked at this just now, but Ben Is Back is a project where Peter Hedges directed his son. How strange is that? I know this has happened countless times, but I cannot immediately think of an example, nor do I find it very important to have an example. What I was thinking while watching Ben Is Back was that this was a very similar film to Beautiful Boy, told from the perspective of a caring mother. There are reasons why this story works better, I will have to explain them as I go, but functionally the film should be the same thing. Both films have older lead actors, here we have Julia Roberts and in Beautiful Boy we had Steve Carell. We have Lucas Hedges here and Timothee Chalamet there. We have observing spouses played by Courtney B. Vance and Maura Tierney. Kids are affected by the problems of their brother too. These movies are...basically the same goddamn thing. Then, at the same time, they aren't. I think one's enjoyment of the two films could be entirely tied to who plays the drug addicts in these respective movies. In addition to that, there seems to be some actual intrigue in Ben Is Back that is not at all present in Beautiful Boy. Let me explain.

Ben Is Back begins with Holly Burns (Julia Roberts) driving her kids home from church on Christmas Eve, it appears that they are going to have a recital. Ivy (Kathryn Newton) is the oldest, Ben's sister. Liam and Lacey are Ben and Ivy's half-siblings, which is only pertinent in the sense of explaining how similar this is to other films. While Holly's at the recital, Ben is trying to get inside their house for some reason. He cannot. Instead, Ben (Lucas Hedges) is standing in the driveway, and Holly is quite pleased to see him. Ivy, on the other hand, immediately decides to get on her phone for some reason. Obviously we will see why. After some time where Holly goes around hiding all the valuables and pills in her house, along comes Neal (Courtney B. Vance), Holly's husband and Ben's stepfather. Neal is alarmed that Ben is there as he's supposed to be in sober living, because some event happened that was pretty bad. We find out exactly what happened later on, but Ben claims that his sponsor said a trip home would be good for him. Holly and Neal subsequently come to the conclusion that Ben will be allowed to stay for one night as long as Holly's watching him, which is going to prove quite difficult.

As the day goes on, Ben decides to look for Christmas ornaments in the attic, do activities with the rest of his family, and so on and so forth. While Ben and Ivy are going to wrap Christmas presents, Ben comes to the conclusion that he should buy some presents from him to give to other people. Holly agrees, so they go out for the day and Ben has things to do. After shopping for a while, Ben encounters someone who triggers bad memories, and Holly has some bad memories of her own after meeting someone else, which leads to Ben going to a meeting. Now, after Ben tells his story at the meeting, none of this done during flashbacks, he is approached by a young girl (Alexandra Park). The girl tells him that he was her drug dealer, which he didn't remember, and she wants to get high with him as her last time before going to rehab. Now, how should I leave this paragraph off? With Ben's mom finding the drugs the girl gave to Ben and Ben claiming that she handed them to him so that she didn't take them? Or should I close it with a mention that Holly's house gets robbed after the children's recital? I decided to mention both of them because I didn't know what to do.

I should immediately address why Ben Is Back is a better film than Beautiful Boy even though there are so many similarities. First, there are no flashbacks in Ben Is Back, which serves to keep the story on the right track. There is no muddled narrative here, no grief porn like when Steve Carell is desperately trying to find his son from miles and miles away. None of that at all. The narrative is much more constrained in Ben Is Back. When Ben departs from Holly, we know why, and there's some intrigue and genuine mystery to it. Such is the benefit of this film not being a true story, but more than that, it seems as if the focus is appropriately weighted upon both lead characters in Ben Is Back. I also liked that Ben had done some truly scummy shit in order for his friends and family members to feel this way about him, it isn't only the drugs that were a problem here. Of course, the story is still very similar despite these things to a point where it cannot be ignored. I did think that Julia Roberts performed her role better than Steve Carell as well, which is odd coming from me because I like Steve a lot. I didn't think I cared much for Julia Roberts, but maybe I'm getting older. People change, after all.

Ben Is Back also does a good job in creating backstories for their characters without doing so in flashbacks, which allows us to understand the meanings of these events without having to spend endless time watching them play out. The older I get, I also wind up appreciating scenes such as these. This is simply a better script and a better story, but it also isn't entirely original and that presents some problems. I liked Hedges performance, and some inauthenticity was required of his role in order to carry it out, but it's quite difficult to believe at times. Of course, a mother loves her son and all that, but this is almost too inauthentic at times. There's also the simple matter that the police should have been called, and the fact that they weren't is simply too illogical for my tastes. This also feels like an anti-drug PSA at times, which I suppose is unavoidable in the end. Still, there are other good characters I did not mention, and this is quite a good film. I don't think it's a classic of the drug addiction-drama subgenre, but it works and carries some decent emotional weight.

7/10

2018 Films Ranked


1. Roma
2. A Star Is Born
3. First Reformed
4. The Favourite
5. Widows
6. First Man
7. BlacKkKlansman
8. Blindspotting
9. If Beale Street Could Talk
10. The Sisters Brothers
11. A Private War
12. Green Book
13. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
14. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
15. On My Skin
16. Private Life
17. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
18. Mid90s
19. Eighth Grade
20. Sorry to Bother You
21. Vice
22. The Old Man & the Gun
23. Suspiria
24. Vox Lux
25. Boy Erased
26. Bad Times at the El Royale
27. The Other Side of the Wind
28. Searching
29. A Simple Favor
30. The Hate U Give
31. Bumblebee
32. Mary Poppins Returns
33. Creed II
34. Hold the Dark
35. The Land of Steady Habits
36. Halloween
37. Mary Queen of Scots
38. Aquaman
39. Outlaw King
40. Overlord
41. Ben Is Back
42. Monsters and Men
43. The Mule
44. On the Basis of Sex
45. Bohemian Rhapsody
46. White Boy Rick
47. Papillon
48. Game Night
49. Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado
50. Instant Family
51. Alpha
52. The Front Runner
53. The Predator
54. Apostle
55. The Angel
56. The Commuter
57. Beautiful Boy
58. The Nun
59. Operation Finale
60. The Equalizer 2
61. The Spy Who Dumped Me
62. Bird Box
63. 12 Strong
64. Venom
65. Skyscraper
66. The Meg
67. Assassination Nation
68. The Girl in the Spider's Web
69. The House with a Clock in Its Walls
70. 22 July
71. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
72. The Little Stranger
73. Tomb Raider
74. Night School
75. The 15:17 To Paris
76. Peppermint
77. Mile 22
78. The First Purge
79. Hunter Killer
80. Kin
81. Hell Fest
82. Proud Mary
83. Robin Hood
84. The Happytime Murders
85. Slender Man
 

909

909
Staff member


Rogue One (2016), directed by Gareth Edwards

Ah, Star Wars. The ever frustrating, for some never satisfying, hardly ever great, yet beloved franchise that releases films that polarize fans like none other. I still haven't seen Solo and it bombed extremely hard, but I'll eventually get around to it. First, I had to watch Rogue One. This was a film that nearly got me out to the theater back in 2016, but as was customary for me at the time, I decided that I didn't really want to go. Times have changed, and while this is a film that I may have waited years to watch at some other time, that isn't the case anymore. Rogue One is a film with an inevitable result, that's something which impacts how good it can truly be. I find that this is an adage which was once again proven true, that the only way to move the Star Wars franchise forward is to create new characters or continue new stories. The Mandalorian is a case of something set in the past that has lots of creative freedom to be interesting, but a film is not likely to bring that to the table if set in the past of this universe. What I found was that Rogue One is the kind of film that brings so many things to the table that the viewer must decide what they like more. Do you like seeing your favorite actors in a Star Wars film or do you like character development? If none of these are amongst your favorite actors, then you very well may feel differently than I do. I thought Rogue One gave me what I wanted.

Rogue One begins with the creation of a new hero, as these films tend to do from time to time. Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is a weapons researcher, hiding on a planet with his wife and child. All of a sudden, Imperial weapons developer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) shows up with a proposition. He wants Galen to complete the Death Star, and everyone knows what the Death Star is. It needs to be done, he argues, and the Empire will bring Galen's family with him to complete the job. Galen does not accept this as he no longer wants to develop weapons, but he has no choice in the matter. Once his wife comes out of hiding with a blaster and shoots Krennic, she's shot and killed as well, and Galen is effectively taken prisoner. His daughter, on the other hand, she's able to escape. She runs and hides, and eventually is rescued by a rebel extremist, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). This is one of his best roles, I think.

Of course, we move well on from there. Fifteen years later, a pilot has deflected from the Empire. Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) has a transmission taken from Galen, he brings it to Gerrera himself on a desert moon. This place is quite interesting. Jedha is used for the Empire to remove kyber crystals, these allow them to power the Death Star. A rebel agent, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), discovers information about the Death Star and it is decided that something needs to happen. He encounters Galen's daughter, now a woman, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). After Cassian breaks Jyn free, he brings her to the rebels. The new mission is for Jyn to find a way to rescue Galen from the Empire so that the rebels can learn more about the Death Star. For Cassian, his mission is a little different. Once Galen is found, Cassian is to execute him as he's too dangerous to leave alive or something like that. Once they get to Jedha, we encounter the rest of our group. Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) is a blind warrior who believes in the Force, and his friend Baze (Jiang Wen) carries a very big gun. K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) is Cassian's droid, a necessary component of any good team. Then, as you may suspect, Bodhi is being held by Saw Gerrera, who is still on Jedha. The Death Star is also looming. What could come of all this?

As far as what I hoped for, the story has its limitations, yet it seemed to meet all of my expectations. A singular Star Wars film leaves little room to develop characters, considering that everyone has expectations of Star Wars. You need a big battle, this is set prior to the destruction of the Death Star, and that means there has to be some scenes with Darth Vader. I liked that the film also had real consequences, although of course this is something forced upon it by the nature of the story. I don't think this is a fantastic film, but it's suitable. The film has tons of action scenes in order to ensure that fans aren't bothered by new characters, and it's no surprise that Disney would create a prequel show so that people who wanted character development could get that from the story. I thought the droid was the best character in the film, for that matter. Even though many of the other characters are played by people I like a lot, the droid is different and quite morbid. We need more of this kind of thing. I'm sure that'll be a priority in the prequel series, there's no doubt about it. This strikes me as a character who will become a major fan favorite over time.

The story is one where a daughter knows her father has been forced to do something wrong, gathers a posse and goes to find her father, but surprisingly this film decides to take things in a different direction halfway through. Rogue One is somewhat disjointed as a result of that, but I think this decision is redeemed by having all these characters die. There is no illogical conclusion for these individuals, it is appreciated. I'm going to cut myself off before droning on, but I think Rogue One really lacks an impactful scene stealer. There isn't a great leading presence in the film, and the final scene was beyond long. Something I found interesting was the use of CGI to place Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing back in the series. I don't have the same reaction as most people, I guess. Neither moment took me out of the film, and I thought that the likeness of Cushing to...himself (?) was insane. I'm not a big fan of using CGI to bring actors back from the dead, but if it fits any series, using it here or inStar Trek is completely justifiable.

There were a few things I wanted to mention before I go, and the first was that I thought it was nice for the producers or whomever to decide to use some real, vibrant feeling locations in their film. The Death Star explosions are also excellent in this way, as it feels like these locations are folding over on top of themselves. It is a visual I never knew I needed this badly. I also wanted to mention the score, as I thought it was noticeable that John Williams didn't do the music for this film. While different, I found the score to be pretty damn good. I usually don't comment on music because it isn't that important to me, but in a film like this one, you notice it much more so than in others. Personally, I would have liked more character development myself, but we didn't get that and I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. The film was plenty long enough and nearly too long without character development, so it wasn't possible to do anything else with the film's story.

7.5/10
 

Spaceman Spiff

Integral Poster
Huge, huge fan of the space battle scenes during the climactic over Scarif. The blackness of space really lets the greens & blues of the planet below pop. Just some absolutely gorgeous shots with the camera set high looking down on the planet as the ships criss-cross the field of view and dive for the opening in the planetary shield before it closes.
 

AboveAverage484

Integral Poster
This was my favorite out of all the post-Disney Star Wars films. I saw it in iMax and the CGI still didn't look out of place, at least to me. I thought it was extremely well done.

I may even like this better than ROTJ, although it's still far behind the other two in the original trilogy.
 

Kahran Ramsus

Integral Poster
I thought Rogue One was far and away the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy. It is a throwback to films like The Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare, The Guns of Navarone, etc. Except in space.
 

Kahran Ramsus

Integral Poster
Regarding Peter Cushing, I know lots of people that aren't familiar with who Cushing was that thought Tarkin was the real thing until I told them. You might complain about the ethics of it (although I personally don't have a problem with it, provided they get approval from the family/estate), but I thought the actual effects work was remarkable.

*In Fisher's case, they generally thought it was a younger lookalike.
 

cobainwasmurdered

CWM
Staff member
Yeah I didn't mind the cushing thing tbh. It looked great and it fit into the movie pretty well and I didn't think it felt exploitative. I don't want to see it done much more but if it's kept to something like that where it makes sense and is small I don't have a big issue with it.
 

Kahran Ramsus

Integral Poster
cobainwasmurdered said:
Yeah I didn't mind the cushing thing tbh. It looked great and it fit into the movie pretty well and I didn't think it felt exploitative. I don't want to see it done much more but if it's kept to something like that where it makes sense and is small I don't have a big issue with it.
I wouldn't want it for a major character or one in an ongoing series. No CGI Hugh Jackmans when Marvel gets around to rebooting Wolverine. But for a handful of scenes in a one-off film based on a famous film like this one, I think it worked.
 
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