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BradWesley123's Movie Journal- August 2018
Movie list created by BradWesley123
Sort by: Showing 27 items
Decade: Rating: List Type:
DVD- 1hr. 40min.
Spinning Man is an unnaturally well-made Grindstone film, with solid direction and cinematography, and a cast that elevates every scene they're in (Pearce, in particular, does exceptionally well as a smug, pompous academic). Unfortunately, the story is needlessly confusing and opaque, exhibiting little storytelling finesse (blunt, abrupt). Not a horrible way to spend a lazy afternoon, but a film that never adds up to the sum of it's parts.
DVD- 1hr. 35min.
It likely won't appease every viewer, it's too melancholy to, but Tully is a lovely and truthful portrait of motherhood and aging. Another winner in for the team of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, this wistful comedy takes some unexpected turns, with an ending that'll likely divide viewers, but they never feel like cheats, each working towards the film's ultimate goal; illuminating the hardships of motherhood. Aided by another superb performance by Charlize Theron, and strong backing from Mackenzie Davis, the film primarily hits its targets, even if it can, at times, feel a bit overly familiar.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Actress- Charlize Theron
Best Supporting Actress- Mackenzie Davis
Best Original Screenplay- Diablo Cody
Final Portrait (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 30min.
It's a slight film that too frequently relies on great artist tropes, but there's enough power in both the filmmaking and acting of Final Portrait to make a, mild, recommendation. Writer/director Stanley Tucci's exceedingly relaxed pace is both a blessing and a hinderance; while it renders several scenes monotonous, it also allows viewers to dig into the characters' world, expertly capturing mood and place. This slow place really gives the actors the time they need to craft their characters, and each seizes on the opportunity, especially the maligned Geoffrey Rush. As stated though, monotony sets in at times, and that languishing often drifts into cliches. If there had been more originality, or at least some sort of re-evaluation of the tropes inherent in the "art movie" genre, then this would've been a stronger film.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Ensemble Performance
Best Production Design (Period)- James Merifield and Sara Wan
HBO Now- 4hrs. 19min.
Sure, the complete work is over four hours, but The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling rarely feels overlong. In fact, the film feels more complete than most examining, in full length, the entirety of Garry Shandling's life; from his childhood until his death. Equal parts entertaining and illuminating, The Zen Diaries is a terrific and, surprisingly, in-depth look at the man. While it does, occasionally, fall prey to the kind of hero-worship that can sink one of these films, it does so while also giving us a complete picture of Shandling; i.e. it feels earned. You'll likely have to watch it in installments, but it's well worth a viewing.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Documentary
Best Editing- Joe Beshenkovsky
Out of the Past (1948)
FilmStruck- 1hr. 37min.
Preface: I was very tired when I saw this film, so I'll forego any genuine critiques (because every movie deserves a fair shot and/or active audience), and stick with some general stuff. From what I remember, it was a fun and frothy noir with an ace cast and top-notch screenplay.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Classic Picture
Best Classic/Black and White Cinematography- Nicholas Musuraca
Best Classic Production Design- Albert S. D'Agostino & Jack Okey and Darrell Silvera & John McCarthy Jr.
Best Score- Roy Webb
FilmStruck- 1hr. 55min.
Deathtrap is an absurd film that continuously gets nuttier as it goes on, but damn is it fun. It always goes one step further; each twist having to top and/or obliterate the last. And, weirdly, they almost always work, outside of the ending, which is too cute for its own good. It's a frothy, outlandish film, featuring unsurprisingly assured direction from Sidney Lumet, and two great performances by Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, in sync with the movie's tonal and plot shifts. Likely not for everyone, but a definite recommendation to those who enjoy twisty films that allow a little fun to shine through.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Picture
Best Director- Sidney Lumet
Best Actor- Michael Caine
Best Supporting Actor- Christopher Reeve
Best Adapted Screenplay- Jay Presson Allen
Best Production Design (Contemporary)- Tony Walton and George DeTitta Sr.
Devil's Gate (2017)
Hulu- 1hr. 35min.
Devil's Gate just sorta happens, and then you'll get back to your life, and likely never thing about it again. The cast is fine, and a couple of the creature effects are effective, but it's a pretty bland, rote telling of a story that could've had some juice with better writing and/or directing.
Ready Player One (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 52min.
Overboard is a rather pointless film, failing to make anything out of the flipped gender-dynamics, nor the added racial component, that is, ultimately, a bland and forgettable film without even the benefit of the original's lead chemistry (Faris and Derbez are fine, but they never near anything close to what Hawn and Russell have). That said, there's enough warmth and humor here (not great, but a couple of solid laughs) that the film becomes, somewhat, hypnotic; it's never particularly good, but it's never bad enough to merit turning it off (unless you have something better to do).
DVD- 1hr. 41min.
The plot gets too muddled and cliched to hit its Hitchcockian aims, but In Darkness starts strongly enough to lure viewers into it's world, and features enough solid filmmaking to make it a worthwhile film. As mentioned, the film gets less interesting as it starts answering questions it poses early, as they are increasingly hard to take and implausible. This implausibility isn't a dealbreaker for a film, but these reveals aren't handled with enough wit or panache to make them worthy. The tone is monotonously glum too, all scowled faces and no smiles; even for a film as serious as this, a moment of levity can go a long way. Despite it's flaws, it's quite well-made and confidently handled, with some interesting directorial choices and strong performances (especially Dormer, who's exceptional here). If more work had been done to fine-tune the story, then this could been one of the few modern Hitchcock acolytes to succeed; as is, it's an interesting, if not completely successful, film.
The Con Is On (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 35min.
The Con is On is one of the most inexplicable, strangest viewing experiences that I've ever had. The film is a total mess of poorly implemented cliches, inept direction, and scenes consisting of, some of, the deadest-air in film history. As smooth as a rusted metal, and about as easy on the eyes, the film never comes close to reaching the classic capers that it so desperately wants to, and is so poorly assembled that it frequently doesn't even come off as a film. Presumably, the cast all had different schedules, and the editing forgot to make it look like a coherent film (characters supposedly in adjacent rooms might as well be on different planets). There are a couple of laughs, but more unintentional ones (there are some real groaners about alleged child molestation), but the cast is pretty bored, with Tim Roth looking like he may hang himself at any moment (though Alice Eve is solid). It's a bad film, but never a boring one; as technically deficient as it is, one cannot stop themselves from watching to see how much worse it gets (a lot).
Monthly Wesley AwardsWorst Picture
Best Worst Picture
Mystery Team (2009)
TubiTV- 1hr. 37min.
It's an odd little film that only works in fits and starts, but it would be a lie to say that Mystery Team isn't often hilarious. In fact, there's some brilliant material to be found sprinkled throughout the film; trouble is, it's not consistent enough to wipe away all of the bits that don't actually work, which there are a few of as well. When the film and actors keep the energy up, it works exceptionally well; when they don't, clunky material rises to the forefront. The cast is, mostly, pretty strong; Dierkes and Pierson don't make for the most natural of performers, but Glover picks up so much of the slack that it's forgivable. Had the material been more consistent, the film would probably be more that the quasi-cult film it is now.
Ninja Assassin (2009)
DVD- 1hr. 43min.
There are a few solidly-choreographed fight scenes, but most are so haphazardly and poorly edited that it doesn't much matter; Ninja Assassin is a film with ADD level storytelling that never comes close to realizing the plot's inherent potential.
Like Father (2018)
Netflix- 1hr. 43min.
Despite the litany of cliches and emotional manipulation, Like Father is an amiable film help aloft by two exceptional performances from Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer. There's enough humor and warmth on display here that movie is easily watchable, and often rather enjoyable. The storytelling is, unfortunately, the weak link here; it's routine, told in ways that don't feel genuine. Bell and Grammer give there all to it though, and find enough truth here that they enliven scenes that, on the page, would be DOA otherwise. Decent, but not completely involving.
Netflix- 1hr. 39min.
It could use a bit more genuine conflict in it's plot, but To All the Boys I've Loved Before is, nevertheless, a charmingly romantic film in an age when those are few and far between. While not the most subtle or genuine of the modern batch of John Hughes-ian films, To All the Boys come closer than most, thanks to an involving story, featuring strong work from it's young cast. Lana Condor, in particular, shines in the lead role, exuding a classically teenage wisdom/naivety as Lara Jean, anchoring the film perfectly (it also helps that she and her romantic pairing, Noah Centineo, have legitimate chemistry. There are story problems (mostly in vein of cliche) and pacing issues (again, not a lot of believable conflict), but it won't really matter when you're watching it; it's a charming enough film that it's faults don't become apparent after consideration.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Costume Design (Contemporary)- Rafaella Rabinovich
The Yellow Birds (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 35min.
Too standard and fractured a story to make much of a compelling film, The Yellow Birds is still a frequently interesting film, thanks to a couple of narrative choices and a strong cast. Despite some, mildly, interesting editing choices, layering the film in a mystery of sorts, they eventually give way to a fairly predictable war/coming home from war film. Once all of the narrative threads have been tied together, the whole really doesn't seem like it was all that worth it. Luckily, the cast is strong enough that it doesn't all feel like a waste.
Breaking In (1997)
DVD- 1hr. 28min.
Breaking In isn't revelatory to filmmaking, or even the Die Hard-aping sub-genre of action-thrillers, but it's a quite easy, and surprisingly effect take on the genre. Director James McTeigue brings more genuine filmmaking polish to this thing than the story deserves, and Gabrielle Union is respectably committed and empathetic in the lead role. The story is pure trash, but the people involved do their damnedest to make things work. Luckily, they succeed more than they ought to.
Before I Wake (2016)
Netflix- 1hr. 36min.
While I respect director Mike Flanagan's ambition, and his directorial talent, Before I Wake just never fully takes off. The ideas that the film toys with are interesting, enough so that they could've made an exceptional film. Unfortunately, the script struggles to juggle them, and underplays them to the point where portions of the film come across as lifeless. Things do get better in the last act, when the end game is revealed to be more humane and heartfelt than expected, which may present the film's greatest flaw; the tone. The majority of the film is presented as, something akin to, a subdued horror film; the last act is more of a drama about overcoming trauma. Had these tones been fully married, then I believe that this would've been a more rewarding film; as it stands, it's more respectable than enjoyable.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Makeup
Best Visual Effects
HBO Now- 2hrs.
It's occasionally fun and solidly made, but Warm Springs is a prototypical HBO Biopic. The cast does it's best, though Branagh does ham a bit too much, but it's too generic to really let any of them shine. Never outright bad, but too conventional to be good.
Bringing Down the House (2003)
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Woman Walks Ahead (2018)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 42min.
Well-made and performed, Woman Walks Ahead is a fairly dull rendering of an intriguing story and, unfortunately, another in a long line of films to supplant a minority protagonist in favor of a white one. That second criticism, while not as detrimental as many films of it's ilk (and featuring typically strong work from Jessica Chastain), robs the film of the impact and immediacy it could've had, had it positioned Sitting Bull as the film's lead. He still gets, at least, enough screentime that it doesn't feel like he's just there to illuminate a white woman's story; in fact, the movie seems much more interested in his story as it goes on. Had it started that way, centering more on the excellent performance of Michael Greyeyes, then it would've been a more complete film. As is, it's a fine, well-crafted film that never really involves you the way it should.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Modern Cinematography- Mike Eley
Best Costume Design (Period)- Stephanie Collie
Netflix- 2hrs. 3min.
It's a perfectly likable and well-made film, but The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a bit too flat to engage with the audience. That flatness is, really, the one major quibble with the film; a mark against both the screenplay for never going further than it should, and the direction that adds no real vital signs to it. Aside from that, the cast is solid, the story interesting and the filmmaking competent. It's, essentially, a bland film that you won't mind watching, but you won't really remember much about it.
FilmStruck- 1hr. 28min.
Hampered a bit by the age in which it was made, not getting the benefits of technical advancements that the series would, Westworld is, nevertheless, a solid piece of sci-fi/horror, with strong direction that slowly, but surely, ratchets up tension to queasy highs. While only about a 90-minute film, Westworld is really two films; the theoretical future/speculative sci-fi first half, and the chase thriller second. Both have their pros, though it's hard to say that they come together to craft a satisfying whole; another 10 minutes to build to the blowout, connecting the two halves more cohesively, would've aided this film immensely. Despite this narrative unevenness, the film works; Crichton gives his all to both versions, teasing an intriguing a beguiling future technology before shattering it. The cast is fine without being particularly noteworthy, except Yul Brynner's terrifying gunslinger that's deserving of singular praise. It's Crichton's film though, and he does strong work.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Costume Design (Fantasy)- Richard Bruno and Betsy Cox
Best Production Design (Fantasy)- Herman Blumenthal and John Austin
The Crush (1993)
TubiTV- 1hr. 29min.
The Crush is pure trash; so basic in concept and execution that it's almost charming, in a old-school Lifetime sort of way. There's nothing to really say about the plot, mainly because it is standard issue; rife with contrivances and stupid plot-turns. None of it is handled all that well though, with director Alan Shapiro unable to use the basic, crazy ingredients he needs to make the film. In fact, the movie comes off less over-the-top fun than outright creepy; the way the camera leers at an underage Alicia Silverstone (who is right-on in her role) makes for some cringe-laden moments. It's fun-bad, at times, but never enough to really warrant a viewing.
The Transporter (2002)
DVD- 1hr. 32min.
The Transporter could've been a legitimately cool modern B-movie. It's got the set-up and the star for it, as well as, for the most part, the shaggy energy. Trouble is, it's just so overdone; the editing hacks the shit out of some interesting action scenes, and the early-2000s soundtrack is aggressively applied (and mostly terrible). Still, it's reasonably fun at times, and I wasn't going in expecting Shakespeare, so it was enough.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Sound
Number of Movies Watched: 27
Newly Watched: 23
Time Spent: 49hrs. 18min.
Best New View: Deathtrap
Worst New View: The Con Is On
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