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BradWesley123's Movie Journal- January 2019
Movie list created by BradWesley123
Sort by: Showing 35 items
Decade: Rating: List Type:
Isle of Dogs (2018)
The Cooler (2003) (2004)
HBO Now- 1hr. 43min.
Though a somewhat familiar Vegas-crime piece, The Cooler's actors and characters allow it to go deeper than that. Writer/director Wayne Kramer, wisely, keeps it simple; clear setup, realistic stakes. While his screenplay is too blunt at times, and direction not quite as subtle as it should be for the more dramatic moments (there's one scene between Baldwin and Bello that's undercut harshly by this), he's smart enough to know that this kind of film lives and dies by the people on screen, and he's assembled an exceptional cast. Macy's refined the sad-sack role to an art over there years, and that continues here, selling the conflict at the center of the film. He's aided mightily by Mario Bello, in a turn both steely and vulnerable, and Alec Baldwin, in a volatile, yet soulful, performance than often steals the picture. It use some more originality, relying less of old-school genre cliches, but it's an excellent character piece.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Production Design (Contemporary)- Toby Corbett and Alice Baker
Richard III (1995)
Vudu- 1hr. 44min.
I'll be honest; I'm in no real position to give an accurate assessment of this movie. While I did see most of it, I fell asleep a bit in the last act. With that said, here's my findings of what I did see...
It lest me a bit cold. Though expertly mounted, it was something. Maybe it's the text itself that I've got problems with; I found the non-Richard characters so absurdly naive and simplistic that the lead's rise, and the atrocities he commits, held no real moral stakes. At least McKellen's having a blast; he's so mesmerizing in the title role that, at times, I found myself rooting for him. Solid, but underwhelming.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Costume Design (Period)- Shuna Harwood
Starz- 1hr. 54min.
Despite being too writerly, or blunt, for it's own good (Schrader's obtrusive need for overly literary narration and storytelling devices occasionally threaten to overwhelm the picture), Affliction is a searing look at the ways men pass resentment and violence through generations. It's a tough watch, certainly a harrowing one; watching this level of human misery onscreen always is. That said, it's a testament to the film that it is this difficult; despite the script's overly literary allusions (Dafoe's narration is hilariously pretentious at times), it doesn't feel manufactured. It's bone-deep. This is likely the result of the marriage between the stark, snow-drenched setting, and the performances of Nick Nolte and James Coburn. Nolte looks like he's a bomb waiting to go off; even in the calmer scenes, you're just waiting for the snap. Coburn, even when the character is at his most senile, exudes a quiet malevolence that hangs over the film like a cloud. They're compelling toxic, and Schrader's directorial skill is seen in how he cedes the film to their characters. Harsh, but genuinely compelling.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Actor- Nick Nolte
Best Ensemble Performance
Hidden Figures (2017)
Netflix- 2hrs. 14min.
With Roma, Alfonso Cuarón, once again, proves himself to be a filmmaker in his own class. To say the film is well-directed would be an understatement; the compositions found here will linger in the minds of cinephiles for decades to come. It's not just aesthetically compelling; Roma is a lovely, if overly emotionally opaque, tribute to people, particularly women, and society that shape us. While it can be a bit cold at times (I was wishing for more probing of the characters emotional states), there's a simmering humanity underneath, illustrating the life of a young woman, Yalitza Aparicio (brilliant; as natural as performing gets), and her struggles in frank and realistically mundane way. The story's not the most unique in the world, but few films are willing to tell this story in this unique a way; ordinary.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Director- Alfonso Cuarón
Best Actress- Yalitza Aparicio
Best Original Screenplay- Alfonso Cuarón
Best Cinematography (B&W)/(Modern)- Alfonso Cuarón
Best Editing- Alfonso Cuarón and Adam Gough
Best Sound Mixing
Jagged Edge (1985)
Vudu- 1hr. 48min.
Despite a top-notch cast and enticing story, Jagged Edge is, seemingly, at odds with itself. It both wants to be a sturdy legal thriller, and a sensual erotic thriller. You can have it both ways if you do one thing; embrace the inherent lurid trashiness of the story (it's writer by erotic schlock extraordinaire Joe Eszterhas, for God's sake). Director Richard Marquand is either unable or unwilling to do so, because these two genres never merge into one satisfying film. The cast keeps things interesting, and the script keeps introducing absurd red herrings to keep it engaging, but the film is, ultimately, just too stiff to work completely.
Amazon Prime- 2hrs.
Despite some heartbreaking, compelling performances and nuanced filmmaking, Beautiful Boy is too emotionally distance and withdrawn to truly sell the subject matter. Instead of being right there with the characters and their pain, it feels like there's always a wall there; the characters just aren't defined enough for the audience to connect. Not quite ciphers for the effects of drug use on both addicts and their loved ones, but not full-bodied either. That said, the cast is incredible. Carell continues to show his range as a dramatic actor, using his everyman presence to lead a genuine, naturalistic presence to the film. It's Chalamet, though, that walks away with the film; as the title character, he doesn't so much embody a character as much as an affliction. While a better film would've found a way to make his struggle a personal one, giving him an internal life beyond the addiction, Chalamet can't be faulted, and fights mightily to illustrate the ramifications of his character's addiction. It's bone-deep work that should've resulted in an Oscar nod; maybe if the film had connected more. Felix Van Groeningen, also, does some strong work behind the camera. Though he doesn't really get a lot out of his script, his calm camera and filmmaking work to clash with the pain and uncertainly of his characters, again, capturing something close to naturalism. Doesn't get as deep as one would like, but still a solid, sobering film.
Married to the Mob (1988)
Starz- 1hr. 44min.
While it's often an amiable comedy, Married to the Mob is, ultimately, rather disappointing. Though there are a few strong comedic moments, thanks to an excellent cast (Pfeiffer is imminently likable in her breakout role, and Ruehl and Stockwell are a strong comedic force), the script never coheres properly, and Demme's direction never quite sustains(though it does frequently, intermittently, succeeds at achieving it) the energy that a great farce needs to sing. Likable, entertaining, but likely to leave you wanting more.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Costume Design (Contemporary)- Colleen Atwood
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 57min.
It's too cheeky for it's own good, the tone shifts, between the aforementioned humor and melodrama, will likely give whiplash, and the title number of weddings is too many, leading to repetition, but Four Weddings and a Funeral is just too damn charming to deny completely. Despite it's many problems, it's a sincere, sometimes annoyingly, and endearing romance with a witty script and superb ensemble.
Agnes of God (1985) (1985)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 38min.
Agnes of God has a problem with follow-through. It poses several unique, intriguing questions about faith and women's place in it, but often squanders them of sensationalist dullness. You can get a good mystery out of something like this, but you've got to tow the line properly; let the investigation move, but don't lose sight of the big picture, which, here, is faith. Agnes prefers the concrete, courtrooms and detective tropes, to the spiritual, and largely fails because of it. That said, the movie is certainly watchable, thanks to an absolutely powerhouse ensemble. Anne Bancroft and Meg Tilly (Fonda is fine, but in a rote role) are exceptional, every moment an acting clinic. Tilly, in particular, goes for broke in a way that is hard to fathom how she got there. If only the script was at their caliber.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Supporting Actress- Meg Tilly
Something's Gotta Give (2003)
Suicide Squad (2016)
Vudu- 1hr. 47min.
The last act's too jarring to fully connect to the mundane, slow-burn of the opening two (ending a fiction film with onscreen text is baffling odd), but Unbreakable is, for most of it's runtime, a mesmerizing vision of a working-class superhero. M. Night Shyamalan might just have crafted his best-directed film here; the mood, tone, and camerawork are as assured as filmmaking gets. It's here, though, where his screenwriting problems start to become apparent; he can't help himself, and he isn't all that willing to explore the rabbit hole once he jumps in it. His twist isn't the most unreasonable of his career; hell, it's actually pretty good. He doesn't explore it though, ending the film with screen text instead of genuine resolution. All the goodwill that he builds up - the craftsmanship and showmanship, the clear, muted storytelling, the work he gets from the cast (Willis in one of his last compelling roles; Jackson giving pathos to a complex role) - is upending, simply for the sake of surprise. If he'd followed through, placing the twist at the beginning of the last act, and exploring it, the film would've been more complete. As it stands, it's a hell of a start with a whimper of an ending.
The Time Machine (2002)
The Village (2004)
HBO Now- 2hrs. 13min.
What do we ask for out of a "true story"? A truthful approximation of events and moments, or a subjects emotional truth? Ideally, films and filmmakers would marry these topics, making a compelling, fact-based film. In the Name of the Father doesn't really do that. By all accounts, this film is highly fictionalized, taking the general framework of the actual story (false imprisonment) and filling it with invented moments to fill a conventional film plot. While that, unquestionably, makes it a dubious historical document, it does end up making the film work. No, this is not the actual story of Gerry Conlon and the Guildford Four, but director Jim Sheridan understands how to condense this story to a traditional film, doing so to heighten the drama and/or make the story more accessible to the audience; it doesn't undercut what happened, just presents it in a way that illustrates the pain and suffering experienced by the individuals. It helps that the cast is incredible, with Day-Lewis, as always, beautifully realizing his character, warts and all, and Pete Postlethwaite doing some heartbreaking work as the father that just wanted to protect his son. It's all exaggerated, but done so it a surprisingly authentic way.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Supporting Actor- Pete Postlethwaite
Best Song- "You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart"
Get Out (2017)
DVD- 2hrs. 18min.
An impeccably mounted, albeit monotonous, sea-faring adventure, Master and Commander is an exquisitely crafted film that, nevertheless, could've used more passion. Not in the filmmaking, Weir conducts some majestic moments of cinematic beauty here, but in the storytelling. While the cast is exceptional, they're given some rather dull parts to work with. Granted that does given the film a bit of a natural feel, but it doesn't give you a whole lot to invest in. Crowe and Paul Bettany get the most out of their roles, largely because they get the most material, and do fight, mightily, to craft characters befitting the expanded canvas, and they, mostly, succeed. That said, if Weir had invested more in his story than his camera, this would be a film we still talk about, instead of respectable footnote.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Production Design (Period)- William Sandell and Robert Gould
Best Sound Editing
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Brexit: The Uncivil War (2019)
HBO Now- 1hr. 38min.
While the ending is too moralistic, to "TV movie", Brexit is a reasonably fun and sturdy dramatization of Britain's current clusterfuck. It's well-acted, well-made, sharply edited; like I said before, it's sturdy. It's just not particularly searing. A movie like this can go two routes; reflective and sobering (Brexit takes this route), or abrasive and aggressive. The former gets you solid results, while the latter can go either way; i.e. this one is a bit too safe. Sure, it may have been terrible the other way, but it would've elicited more emotion, befitting such a major event like Brexit. Good, respectable movie that could've used a bit more blood.
The Firm (1993)
Starz- 1hr. 55min.
Pacing and tone. Those are the biggest issues that Thunderbolt and Lightfoot has; pacing and tone. Despite a strong story, top-notch filmmaking and a pair of exceptionally compelling leads, those two issues prevent the film from reaching the greatness in it's grasp. The pace is near-schizophrenic, with moments of great tension, follow-up by lethargy; not tension-building lethargy, no build-up, just moments that meander. While this does lead to some solid character moments, it does, more often, just stop the film cold. Tonal, it's a similar; lighthearted capers sit uneasily next to blunt moments of violence and drama. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a very good, involving film, but it could've been a great one with more consistency.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
Starz- 1hr. 43min.
It's an over-the-top, hit-or-miss, mixed-messaged affair, but Death Becomes Her is a blast, featuring cutting edge filmmaking and delightful acting. Though it may not have the most depth in the world (a smarter film would've examined the gender issues inherent), but it's satire of beauty standards is often piercing and, more importantly, hilariously absurd, often illustrated with cutting edge visual effects. That said, the movie belongs to it's leading ladies; Willis is fine, though he's never quite modulated correctly (he's often either too big or not big enough), but it's Hawn and Streep that power the film. Hitting every not perfectly, the two prove to be an exceptional comedic duo, elevating some of the film's lesser gags. The visuals would make the film intriguing, Hawn and Streep make the film sing.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Score- Alan Silvestri
Best Costume Design (Fantasy)- Joanna Johnston
Best Production Design (Fantasy)- Rick Carter and Jackie Carr
Best Visual Effects
It's just too damn staid for me. That was, while watching it and now, my major concern with the film. It's too staid for the lurid plot machinations to hit the desired spot, but it, also, too trashy to be a respectably typical costume drama. It doesn't help that the cast isn't the most well-rounded; the female half of the ensemble is terrific, with Pfeiffer perfecting a tainted, restless sense of innocence and Close nailing both the frothy bits and the harsh realities (i.e. repression, particularly gender) of her character. Malkovich, though, is truly miscast; he nails the creepy part, but none of the charm or humanity necessary to make his character compelling. It's just hard to understand why anyone would be drawn to him, which is crippling for the film because, well, that's his whole purpose. It does feature the usual outward polish that's customary of a period drama; lush costumes, beautiful sets, and garishly on-point makeup. Has it's moments, but it's misguided in the spots that it can't be to succeed.
The Mask (1994)
DVD- 1hr. 30min.
2015's Goosebumps wasn't a particularly masterful film, but it was a reasonably entertaining and mildly clever update of the bestselling children's horror franchise. Goosebumps 2 is not; it's bland, forgettable, and almost utterly devoid of charm. Slappy the Dummy, and his maniacal actions, shows the only signs of life in this one, simply by virtue of innate oddity; he's the only character, and aspect, in the film that's been allowed to embrace the absurdity. Everything else is just noise.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Vocal Performance- Mick Wingert
Most Forgettable Picture
The Old Man & the Gun (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 33min.
It's a relatively slight and, mostly, breezy film, but The Old Man & the Gun is funny and heartfelt coda this type of lead character, and to the career of it's leading man. You just can't bank on stars the way you could decades ago; those types of films and characters, indebted to the star's charisma and clout, have, for the most part, died out. Old Man is, essentially, one last goodbye to them. Director David Lowery's filmmaking is light on it's feet, but keen on little details; the way characters move and operate, the mundane details of everyday life, etc. He's made an effective '70s throwback; a charming little caper film that's a bit more melancholy and ruminative than most. This all works through an excess of craft, and an exceptional lead performance from Robert Redford. While not the most layered or interesting of the character's he's played, it's almost a perfect distillation of the many characters of his career; they may have different names and motivations but they're all, unmistakably, Redford.
First Man (2018)
Double Indemnity (1952)
Starz- 1hr. 47min.
You'll see great, innovative filmmaking, throughout cinema's golden age; movies that changed the way that films were made, and how viewers appreciated them, but nobody made movies like Billy Wilder. That mixture of intellect, cynicism and acidic wit makes his film's immanently rewatchable, and shockingly modern. Through this, he was able to transcend the filmmaking artifice of the era to create something more clear-eyed, sobering, and original (not to mention fun). Double Indemnity is no exception. While I would say that it's a bit more obvious than most of his better works (Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, Witness for the Prosecution), it's no less precisely collaborated; expert screenplay, controlled direction, and exceptional acting. The twists and turns, the lies and betrayals, they all come together to create a wonderfully involving film noir. A classic, through and through.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Picture
Best Classic Picture
Best Adapted Screenplay- Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler
Best Classic Cinematography- John Seitz
Number of Movies Watched: 35
Newly Watched: 19
Time Spent: 66hrs. 1min.
Best New View: Double Indemnity
Worst New View: Goosebumps 2
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