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BradWesley123's Movie Journal- January 2018
Movie list created by BradWesley123
Sort by: Showing 33 items
Decade: Rating: List Type:
The Big Sick (2017)
A Mighty Wind (2003)
DVD- 1hr. 32min.
It's not as laugh-out-loud funny as some of Guests other films, but what A Mighty Wind lacks in laughs it makes up for with some strong, weird, even melancholy character studies. The cast is uniformly solid, with everyone seeming at home with their characters (even if several of them don't get as much time as they deserve), but the comedic material is more subdued, and surprisingly hit-or-miss (including an end joke that has aged poorly). The emotional stuff, however, is what makes the film worthwhile; while it isn't explored too much, there's a mournfulness that runs through the picture and each character. While they may be boobs, they're human, and time hasn't stopped (exemplified best in the song "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow"). It might not be that funny, but it is surprisingly genuine.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Supporting Actress- Catherine O'Hara
Best Costume Design (Contemporary)- Durinda Wood
Best Production Design (Contemporary)- Joseph T. Garrity and Dena Roth
Best Song- "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" by Michael McKean & Annette O'Toole
Best Ensemble Performance
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2004)
HBO Now- 1hr. 40min.
Girl with a Pearl Earring explores some interesting themes and issues in era rich with them (class, gender, art, etc.), but can't quite muster up enough energy to give them the emotion and weight that they deserve. The underlying desire and uncertainty at the center of the story stays, mostly, beneath the surface, and while that does wonders for the characters and actors, it leaves the story, at times, lifeless. The acting and craft are what propel this movie to it's solid heights; Johansson does some here finest work as the title character, and the film's emulation Vermeer's paintings gives the film a beautiful aesthetic that makes the film interesting even when the story slips. A solid film, but one that leaves a lot of potential on the floor.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Actress- Scarlett Johansson
Best Production Design (Period)- Ben van Os and Cecile Heideman
The Young Victoria (2009)
Netflix- 1hr. 44min.
Back-to-Back nights of deeply reserved and dignified British drama really highlight the need for some genuine blood in these things. The Young Victoria doesn't work as well as the former, unfortunately; the cast is great and the movie is superbly constructed, but it feels like the plot is just running through major events rather than giving them the full heft that they should have. Forgoing the politics and society of the time for an okay romance does the film no favors; if the cast didn't sell it as well as they do, then this would be a real slog. As is, its mostly just a prettier version of a BBC miniseries.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Costume Design (Period)- Sandy Powell
Anna Karenina (2012)
Bridge of Spies (2015)
The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
The Mask of Zorro (1998)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
War Horse (2011)
Inherent Vice (2014) (2015)
Home Again (2017)
DVD- 1hr. 37min.
Home Again features some lovely architecture porn, but, like real porn, little reality and/or romance. All films are artificial, but few wear it as openly as this one; it might even be admirable if the film was as bland as it is. While there are a few generic pleasures to be had with the film (a stray laugh here or there) and another likable performance from Reese Witherspoon, there's just not enough meat here for a proper meal. The script never actually lays out any real stakes, nor does it ever make the three male disruptions anything but plot devices (Rudnitsky is the only one to make any sort of impression, but that's only because he's allowed to show an inkling of personality). Romantic comedies only really work when the characters are strong and the situations are relatable; here, they don't even seem particularly human.
Battle of the Sexes (2017)
DVD- 2hrs. 1min.
While it's certainly well-meaning, well-made, and well-performed, Battle of the Sexes doesn't have much bounce. It's a movie that hype's its own importance, mirroring with the importance of the story, but ends up losing the characters and emotions in the shuffle. Stone is very good here, getting a rather multi-faceted character to work with, where as Carell is solid in a less than three-dimension role (he tries to give it depth, but can't quite overcome the script). If it had cut back on the caricatures (a necessity for a movie dealing with sexism and sexist characters, but they don't explore the issue with that much depth), and stuck to the human consequences of the story, then it would've had much more feeling. As is, it's a solidly amiable crowdpleaser with decent performances.
Steve Jobs (2015)
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Starz- 1hr. 48min.
I appreciated the ambition of Shadow of a Doubt more than I did the execution. The plot sets out a movie rife with chilling and unnerving moments, but the script can't quite seal the deal; it's too turgid and restrained to sell it. The characters don't quite pop either; Cotten's character comes off as bored rather than calculating or menacing, and the side characters' obliviousness strains credibility as it goes on. Still, Hitchcock's craftsmanship is unparalleled, meaning that he's able to drain a fair amount of tension from scenes that might not have otherwise popped, and he gives us several striking set-pieces. It doesn't quite reach the heights that it's going for, but it's a worthy viewing for Hitchcock fans looking for a solid psychological thriller.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Cinematography (Black & White)- Joseph Valentine
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
DVD- 1hr. 59min.
A beautifully made, heartfelt dark-fantasy; Pan's Labyrinth is not a perfect film, but it is a lovely story about the need for a little magic in the world, if only to fight away the actual monsters. It's clear from the opening scene that this is all del Toro, and that's really what makes it so special; even when the story doesn't really pop (there are instances where events move to slowly, especially in the first act), his specificity in storytelling and in filmmaking add a distinct soul to this thing. Luckily, the story is unique enough to compliment the filmmaker, and allows him to craft one of his most satisfying films.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Picture
Best Director- Guillermo del Toro
Best Original Screenplay- Guillermo del Toro
Best Score- Javier Navarrete
Best Modern Cinematography- Guillermo Navarro
Best Costume Design (Fantasy)- Lala Huete
Best Production Design (Fantasy)- Eugenio Caballero and Pilar Revuelta
Best Visual Effects
Victoria & Abdul (2017)
DVD- 1hr. 51min.
There's not a lot of bite to Victoria & Abdul, but it's a diverting pleasure with enough wit and heart to be rather fun. It helps that Stephen Frears is a veteran director, and knows how to make films like this in his sleep; genial, with strong performance and superb craft. It is, by design, a toothless film that doesn't really have much to say about the circumstances and real-life figures other than "their friendship was true and the rigidity of the monarchy tried to destroy it", but it's well-executed enough to hang the film on that.
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 55min.
The film's aims are noble, and there's an elegance to the filmmaking that is, unfortunately, rare for children's/family films, but Wonderstruck simply can't pull together it's dual timelines in an effective or satisfying way. On a technical level, this is a lovely film to observe; cinematographer Ed Lachman does some excellent work in both timelines (black and white for the 1920s; a green and yellow color pattern for the 1970s), as do the costume and production designers. The cast, too, is exceptional, especially young Millicent Simmonds, who does breakout work as the film's quasi-lead. The issue is that the story just doesn't come together in a satisfying way; the 1927 storyline is the strongest but sputters out towards the end, and the 1972 is too languid before it's emotional conclusion. There's enough curiosity in the story to hold attention, but you'll just wish it added up to more.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Adapted Screenplay- Brian Selznick
Best Breakthrough Performance- Millicent Simmonds
Happy Death Day (2017)
DVD- 1hr. 36min.
Sure, it's a ripoff of Groundhog Day that trades heavily in millennial cliches, but Happy Death Day owns up to it's flaws, helping make the film a surprisingly fun thriller. It helps that the film understands just what it is; it knows what it's aping, but does so with respect and admiration. It's also a shockingly well-made film; the editing actually has rhythm, and it looks all-right. It's not a shocking film, but it's a fun one with a solid setup, lead performance, and execution.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Editing- Gregory Plotkin
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
It's not the weightiest of Hitchcock films, or the most innovative, but his second go at The Man Who Knew Too Much is a fun thriller with beautiful craft and a number of great set pieces. Those aforementioned great scenes, as well as some appealing lead performances from James Stewart and Doris Day, are really what power the film, because the story is rather rambling; contrivances mount, and several scenes have a hit-or-miss quality that comes from their (often) needlessness. Its still a lot of fun though; there are some funny comedic bits, expert craftsmanship, and excellent set-pieces (like the classic finale at the Royal Albert Hall). Doesn't quite come together to create a complete film, bit it is a rather entertaining one.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Classic Picture
Best Classic Cinematography- Robert Burks
Best Classic Production Design- Henry Bumstead & Hal Pereira and Sam Comer & Arthur Krams
The Stranger (1946)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 34min.
There's a great idea behind The Stranger, one that could easily be made into a thrilling mystery/thriller, but this film just isn't adept enough to handle it. The cast is solid, and Welles's innovative camera work can be seen here, albeit slightly (admittedly, the cut of this film that I saw had not be cleaned or remastered at all, so it looked pretty damn rough), but the story just languishes; nothing happens for long periods of time and, when it does, the wait doesn't pay off. I'm willing to chalk it up as a product of it's time; the technology just wasn't around yet to facilitate the kind of storytelling and filmmaking that was needed to make this film flow.
Sexy Beast (2001)
Starz- 1hr. 28min.
Sexy Beast might not stray too far from the gangster playbook, but it's reliance of characters and emotion to tell it's story over "coolness" is refreshing. The characters and story feel genuine; a lived-in authenticity that can sell away any contrivance. The cast is exceptional, with Winstone and the supporting players selling the hell out of the grimier moments just as easily as they do the calmer ones, and Louis Mellis and David Scinto's script gives them a lot to work with. The film belongs to Ben Kingsley though. As Don Logue, he's a tornado of a man, ripping through every scene with an unnerving intensity that terrifies and intrigues in equal measure; it's hard to look away, and director Jonathan Glazer is smart enough to just let him attack each scene. It's a little slow when he's not there, but the film is strong enough without him, though exceptional with him.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Actor- Ray Winstone
Best Supporting Actor- Ben Kingsley
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)
Netflix- 1hr. 41min.
A Futile and Stupid Gesture might be a fun movie for comedy nerds but, for most of us who really are not, it's a jumbled collection of scenes that range from amusing to bland, with little insight into the mind at the center of the story. The cast is fine, though it is a bit surprising that the (mostly) dramatic actor Domhnall Gleeson ends up handling this material better than the majority of comedic actors, but the script just doesn't have much bite. It goes for an irreverent, playful tone that uneasily hedges between traditional biopic and parody; sometimes it leads to some solid satire, more often in undercuts potentially potent scenes. It's serviceable if you're not looking for much but, if you're looking for genuine insight into these subjects (National Lampoon, Doug Kenney, 70s' comedy), look elsewhere.
The Snowman (2017)
DVD- 1hr. 59min.
Watching The Snowman, I was reminded of 2015's Fantastic Four; while not as hacked apart as that film (at least this turd as three acts, not a first and third), this is a messy film that can't even wring the barest excitement that a serial killer mystery can. Supposedly, 10 to 15% percent of the script wasn't shot, which obviously explains several narrative issues, and the horrendous editing (whether or not that includes more of Val Kilmer's stunningly unnecessary, and heavily ADR-ed, is unknown), but it's still hard to understand why so many talented people signed-up for a third-rate, heavily cliched mystery/thriller with a terrible story and characters. There are, luckily, a few solid laughs to be had at the film's expense; the mentioned Kilmer scenes, the scenes where Fassbender is asleep in random places, Chloë Sevigny, inexplicably, playing twin sisters, and, maybe the biggest laugher of them all, the fact that nobody ever mentions that the lead character's name is "Harry Hole", as if it's normal. This thing is a fucking mess.
Monthly Wesley AwardsWorst Picture
Best Worst Picture
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Number of Movies Watched: 33
Newly Watched: 15
Time Spent: 65hrs. 16min.
Best New View: Pan's Labyrinth
Worst New View: The Snowman
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