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BradWesley123's Movie Journal- December 2018
Movie list created by BradWesley123
Sort by: Showing 49 items
Decade: Rating: List Type:
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Home Alone (1990)
DVD- 1hr. 42min.
Despite a few late-game twists that are, unfortunately, too predictable and strained to couple with the rest of the picture, Searching is a surprisingly involving and taut mystery/thriller. It seemed like a gimmick too tough to control, but filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty understands the power of timing and minimalist storytelling; the use of computer and phone screens to tell the story actually allows the film to slowly build dread and unease, and tell a classic detective story with modern technology. This minimalist style, obviously, has a high degree of difficulty. Of course, the direction is a major reason for the film's success, but this one just doesn't work without Cho's work in the lead. Without his performance is, in a nutshell, the film itself; he's the reason for it's tension, it's queasiness, it's dread. It's his best work. It doesn't go down quite smooth though, as I had some issues with the end's twists; they seemed too convenient, at least to me, expected for a film that, despite it's style, felt semi-natural. It's not enough to leave a sour taste in the mouth though, and Searching is one of the pleasantly surprising film's I've seen in quite some time.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Director- Aneesh Chaganty
Best Editing- Nick Johnson & Will Merrick
A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)
Showtime- 1hr. 44min.
A Bad Moms Christmas is a perfect encapsulation of my grading-scale when in comes to holiday films; on it's own, it's frequently lazy, relying on the comedic skills and camaraderie of it's cast to do all of the heavy lifting, falling back on cliches that the first film already tackled, with, only a bit, more nuance. As a "holiday" film, however, it's easy-going enough, even entertaining enough, to succeed as a seasonal delight. It's an easy film to put on, and enjoy during the season; the things that make it cliched, it's reliance on the themes of family and motherhood, as well as it's obvious comedy, make it enough to pass during Christmas only. Not a good film but, viewed in the right setting and frame of mind, an entertaining one.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)
Netflix- 1hr. 44min.
Mowgli is an odd film. It's never boring, though it's often bland; involving, but not the most watchable; too dark, but weirdly tame in others. The crux of the story, breaking free of restrictions and charting your own path, is, surprisingly, articulated better than expected, but it doesn't quite land because the film is too tonally ajar to sell it (it's light in many spots, and stunningly bleak in others). The visual effects should be the film's saving grace, but the use of motion-capture here renders many of the animals looking like monsters, which makes the film both more interesting and off-putting. It does though, likely, help with the live-action actors, as Rohand Chand gives a solid performance in the title role, imbuing the character with enough pathos and presence to stay above water in this VFX-laden film. I don't think it's a particularly good film, but it's certainly one that merits a viewing.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Visual Effects
Christmas Vacation (1989)
DVD- 1hr. 39min.
A shaggy techno-thriller, Upgrade is a surprisingly sturdy film that excels thanks to some rather inventive filmmaking and black humor. The biggest mark against the film is it's story; it's solidly constructed and plotted, with some great bits of body comedy, but it gets too cliched in the last act, falling back on twists that have been telegraphed from the beginning, that are uninspired. Up to that point, however, it's a lot of fun; the action is well-staged, the acting (especially of Logan Marshall-Green) is strong, and, as mentioned, it's funnier than anyone could have expected. Destined to be a cult classic (as long as it doesn't get a bloated sequel that strips this one of it's low-key charm).
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Sound
The Happytime Murders (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 31min.
I can't say that The Happytime Murders is a good film; hell, I'd wager that it's a fairly bad one. It's stupid, juvenile, and aggressively so on both counts. And yet, I laughed more than I care to admit. It's so stupid that it'll, occasionally, stumble onto a sublimely stupid bit that works; not a whole lot, but there are a few big ones. I don't recommend the movie (it is a, traditionally, poor film), but I simply found more amusing than I expected.
DVD- 1hr. 35min.
Brimming with passion and insight, Blindspotting is the kind of film we need more of. Humorous and searing in equal measure, the film attacks social issues with gusto. It's willingness to go for broke is what gives it it's power; from it's powerful performances, especially from Diggs and Casal, to smart, lively script, to it's arresting, theatrical ending, it's a movie that follows both it's head and heart and barrels towards it's targets without fail. Sure, this can get a bit messy here and there, leading to a few tonal hiccups, but it's never less than enthralling. One of the best pieces of cinematic societal critique of modern times (certainly stronger than the ones that the industry champions).
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Picture
Best Actor- Daveed Diggs
Best Supporting Actor- Rafael Casal
Best Ensemble Performance
Best Original Screenplay- Rafael Casal & Daveed Diggs
Best Song- Ending
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
DVD- 1hr. 41min.
Christmas in Connecticut is a perfectly cozy Christmas classic. It doesn't ask much of the audience and, like many older films, the plot is way too manufactured, to the point of cheese-laden contrivance, but there's enough charm here, whether it be the story or cast or classic Hollywood filmmaking, to forgive it's flaws. It's a slight film, but quite entertaining for what it is; a breezy Christmas film.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Classic Picture
Best Classic/B&W Cinematography- Carl Guthrie
Best Classic Production Design- Stanley Fleischer and Casey Roberts
Hulu- 1hr. 22min.
How to Follow Strangers is pretty typical indie-film fare; minimalism, twentysomethings, sad backstories, relationship drama, New York, etc. It's a solidly told story though, with some genuine pathos powering it. It doesn't go quite deep enough to differentiate it much from others of it's ilk, but it's on-the-fly, semi-verite style can feel, at times, charmingly authentic. Also of note is Ilana Glazer's dramatic work, which is surprisingly strong, crafting a realistic portrait of a lonely young woman looking for connection. It's somewhat slight, but it's a film worthy of the viewers' time.
Love Actually (2003)
The Polar Express (2004)
Arthur Christmas (2011)
Operation Finale (2018)
DVD- 2hrs. 2min.
Solidly mounted, yet too restrained and flat; Operation Finale has a strong cast and interesting historical story, but it's too stolid to make much of an impact. Really, that's about all there is to say about this one. It's a solidly made film, with an exceptional cast (especially Isaac and Kingsley), but the script never pops. It feels like the film wants to be a throwback, to old-school talkies where character interactions are meant to be the meat of a thriller about ideas. Without a script that injects any emotion into those ideas, you're just left with a cast doing what they can with so-so material. Fine, but rather bland.
DVD- 1hr. 51min.
It's overly repetitive and too stylistically restrained, but Colette is a smarter, more original period biopic thanks to a refreshing viewpoint that helps differentiate it from the more bland entries in the genre. It sounds like a cliche, but the LGBT/feminist angle that the film plays at does give it an invigorating twist; while it overplays Colette's plight too often, resulting in a slight numbing towards the last trauma, her relationships with women, and how they operate in their era, is a welcome change of pace. The script too is, luckily, not bloodless, allowing for a wide array of emotions that feel genuine and earned. This is aided by the strong cast, lead by Knightley and West. Knightley's played this role before, but she seems more in control this time. Instead of dwelling on the misfortunes of her character, she's able to illustrate her passion and talent terrifically. West also finds fresher notes with his character; he's a bastard, sure, but it's a character with dimensions, not easily classifiable as a villain (he is, but there's more nuance than is to be expected for this role). Much more than your average period costume drama.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Costume Design (Period)- Andrea Flesch
Best Production Design (Period)- Michael Carlin and Lisa Chugg & Nóra Talmaier
Best Score- Thomas Adès
The Santa Clause (1994)
DVD- 1hr. 47min.
Venom is not a particularly good film; in fact, I'm not quite sure it's even "good". The script is all over the place; the tone is erratic, the plot is, charitably, a mess (you could, seriously, throw out the first 15 or so minutes of this film, and have a leaner finished product), and the characters never evolve past archetypes. I will say though; it's, surprisingly, kind of fun. So much of the film is sloppy, but in a way that harkens back to the simple days of the mid-2000, when studios didn't really get what audiences wanted out of these films; it's weirdly fascinating at times. It helps that, despite having a shoddily written arc, Tom Hardy throws himself into this role with gusto, achieving some wonderful physical comedy in the process. Hell, even his buddy-comedy interactions with himself turn out to be entertaining. With a script that understood this, cutting out all of the ephemeral world-building and needless mythology to focus on the odd couple dynamic, Venom could've, possibly, been on par with some MCU entries. As is, it's a shaggy mess with varying viewer mileage.
Shock and Awe (2018)
Starz- 1hr. 31min.
If you watch Shock and Awe, grab the Tylenol; you'll be rolling your eyes to a headache inducing degree. Exposing the ways in which the Bush White House lied and strong-armed the nation into war should guarantee a smart, sobering, compelling expose. Shock and Awe is not that; it's a hokey, 1990s TV-movie with impotent indignation. If it had the storytelling savy of a Spotlight, or even a lesser film about the fourth estate, it could get away with it's heavy-handed righteousness. It doesn't though, so it's another "we were right in hindsight!" circle-jerk, playing to the lowest common denominator of the liberal base: the performative woke. Pretty good for a laugh though (the ending is a hoot).
Monthly Wesley AwardsWorst Picture
Best Worst Picture
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
A Christmas Carol (1984)
HBO Now- 1hr. 41min.
Charles Dickens' classic has been done to death. From a storytelling standpoint, there's little that can be done to jazz it up. So, therefore, any adaptation is going to be judged, primarily, for it's soul. Sure, storytelling is a necessity, but any Carol is going to be judged by the emotion that it elicits; how much it makes the viewer feel. In this regard, 1984's A Christmas Carol is a mixed bag. While the film itself feels too rudimentary, too through-the-motions, George C. Scott's Scrooge is perfectly embodied. It's a bit stiffer than the average one, even for the legendary miser, but it makes the redemption feel more earned. If everything around him had a bit more oomph, more passion, it would've really sung. As is, it's a solid, if unexceptional, Christmastime viewing.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Production Design (Fantasy)- Roger Murray-Leach and Peter Childs & Harry Cordwell
White Christmas (1954)
Wonder Woman (2017)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
The Night Before (2015)
DVD- 1hr. 42min.
Peppermint is another, in a very long line of, mediocre revenge thrillers that are trying to be the new Taken; contrived, poorly plotted, sloppily edited and casually racist. Garner gives it her all, and is even able to wring a few grace notes out of this clunker (her Razzie nomination is another sign of that body's wrongheaded irrelevance), despite a rather hilarious wig, and a few genre cliches are fun enough to engage. Not bad enough to inspire hate, but not good enough to inspire defense or recommendation.
Starz- 1hr. 28min.
White Orchid is a film. It exists; this is a fact. It tries to emulate David Lynch's work, but does so poorly. The cast is fine, and work hard to make this thing engaging. They do not succeed. That is all I have to say about White Orchid.
DVD- 1hr. 51min.
White Boy Rick hits all it's gangster-movie marks; swirling camera, 80s fashion/music, dysfunctional families, coke, bursts of violence. Hell, it even adds some moral indignation to the ending for a searing emotional coda. Unfortunately, it all feels fairly hollow. It doesn't really invest much in the title character; we get his life story, but there's a blankness to him that's never amended. I'm inclined to think that it's the scripts' issues, as well director Yann Demange's dispassionate filmmaking, though hiring a first-time actor in the lead probably didn't help things. The film does feature an inherently compelling story though, so, even when the actual storytelling faulters, it's watchable throughout. It also get's a major boost from Matthew McConaughey's empathetic performance as the title character's father. It's his best role in a while, and he brings a warmth and humanity to his ne'er do well father that gives a, mostly, hollow film genuine pathos. It's solid, but needed more passion and soul.
The Predator (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 47min.
It's messy, sloppy, and not nearly the subversive throwback that it imagines itself to be, The Predator is, nevertheless, a reasonably fun B-movie with a strong ensemble and, occasional, patches of wit. The biggest problem that this film has is that it feels cobbled together; there's a lot of ideas on display, many of which that counteract others. This leads to some genuine tonal problems; action and comedy can go hand in hand and, with Shane Black at the helm of this one, should work here. Unfortunately, they never coalesce into a complete film; it can be funny and thrilling, but never at once. It's need to operate within modern franchise filmmaking is another problem; teases to possible sequels and more mythology fall flat. Thankfully, when the movie abandons the franchise mechanics and simply goes for a gonzo, men on a mission story, it's actually pretty fun. The cast is clearly having fun, and Black's script and direction feel most confident here. One wonders what might've been if the whole film had been this way; a goofy, lean action flick that didn't take itself too seriously, but didn't descend into parody either. The finished product is, however, a very mixed bag.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Makeup
Netflix- 1hr. 50min.
Dumplin' is, to put it plainly, amiable. It doesn't go for much beyond some cliched messages of body positivity and inclusivity, but it does so with enough down-the-middle proficiency and heart that it's hard to really dislike. The cast is strong (especially Danielle MacDonald), the soundtrack Dolly Parton-laden, and the humor suitable; it's a perfectly likable that will probably play well with younger woman coming into there own. And if it's enough for them, I suppose the whole thing's worthwhile.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Adapted Screenplay- Kristin Hahn
Best Costume Design (Contemporary)- Bina Daigeler
Hulu- 1hr. 37min.
It's hard to dislike Hearts Beat Loud. It should be simple; it's yet another indie movie about family that uses folk/pop music to imbue it with emotion. The film is just too fun to fall into that glut though; the cast is too good, the filmmaking to sturdy, and the music too damn catchy. It's not the most original film it the world, but it's an exceptionally entertaining film with a great cast and an appealing, heartfelt story.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Soundtrack
Bird Box (2018)
Netflix- 2hrs. 4min.
I might've been more lenient on Bird Box had A Quiet Place not been so fresh in my mind. When two movies with similar premises (here, horror films with an emphasis on senses) come out, one's quality doesn't dictate or influence the other. In this case, that dictum holds; I still would've found Bird Box lacking, I just may have given it a little more credit. Having seen a film with a similar premise acquit itself so well, the problems here just become to glaring to ignore. Poor plotting (the first and second acts are just one long, boring ensemble drama), bland filmmaking, over-reliance on cliches and, the worst of all horror tropes, stupid characters. Despite a loaded cast (I was surprised by the number of known faces that pop-up here), most of the characters are stuck on autopilot (or, in this case, idiotpilot), only present to say or do unnecessary/stupid/cliched things and die (or, in the case of two characters, just disappear). Only Bullock and Rhodes come close to crafting actual characters, but, again, they're hamstrung by a bad script and listless direction. Though it does improve in the last act, it's a slog to get there.
Spy Game (2001) (2001)
Hulu- 2hrs. 7min.
Solid, but uninspired; Spy Game is a well-made spy thriller that, nevertheless, loses steam as it goes along. Once the pieces start to come together, the air starts to come out of the balloon; really, the script is the film's biggest problem. The leads, especially Redford, are involving, and Tony Scott knows how to make a thriller, even if he does tend to get overly bombastic at times (the editing is a bit much here), but the script is just too convoluted, building it's foundation on bland and redundant pieces rather sturdy character and plot motivations. Fine, but bland.
Madeline's Madeline (2018)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 33min.
It's a hard movie to get into, but Madeline's Madeline is a dizzyingly ambitious experiment into the fraying mind of artistry. It get's a bit too experimental at times, too opaque; I respected it in these moments, but couldn't engage with it. A few story beats, also (if you could call them that), felt a bit off, going to far into either literal or dreamlike tone. That said, Decker's film works far more than it misses, alternating brazenly between moments of genuine beauty to uncomfortable intimacy with reckless disregard of tone. The film owes it's strength to two women; Decker's direction, distinctive and bold, and Helena Howard's performance, raw and unfettered by vanity. It's go-for-broke work that's hard to crack, but harder to shake.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Actress- Helena Howard
Best Supporting Actress- Molly Parker
Best Modern Cinematography- Ashley Connor
Best Production Design (Contemporary)- Charlotte Royer and Rocio Gimenez & Kelley Lutter
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Paddington 2 (2017)
The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)
Number of Movies Watched: 49
Newly Watched: 22
On Demand: 2
Time Spent: 85hrs. 53min.
Best New View: Blindspotting
Worst New View: Shock and Awe
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