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BradWesley123's Movie Journal- March 2018
Movie list created by BradWesley123
Sort by: Showing 35 items
Decade: Rating: List Type:
Grand Hotel (1932)
DVD- 1hr. 52min.
Grand Hotel is, surprisingly, a classic Hollywood film that doesn't feel too terribly dated. Sure, this is a manufactured film from the 1930s (it's still a shaggy little thing), but there's something genuinely perceptive and human at this film's core; the guests come and go, but the Grand Hotel will always remain (not the most profound thought, but certainly one for a classic Hollywood film). It's exceptional in most departments; the excellent cast, the witty script, the music, costumes, production design, etc. It's first half is a bit too slow, but it really comes together in the back half, resulting in a fun and dramatically satisfying picture.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Classic Picture
Best Adapted Screenplay- William A. Drake, Béla Balázs and Edgar Allan Woolf
Best Ensemble Performance
Best Cinematography (Black & White)- William Daniels
Best Classic Production Design- Cedric Gibbons
Best Score- William Axt and Charles Maxwell
The Sting (1973)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Brigsby Bear (2017)
Starz- 1hr. 37min.
Brigsby Bear is an awkward film; most of that is by design, but a far amount of it is the result of the weird tone. It goes for dramedy with its pacing, but never really hits anything truly dramatic, making the a lot comedy come off as overly sincere and cloying. While that does make sure that the story never descends into parody, or downplays the plight of the film's culture-shocked protagonist, it often undercuts the humor. It still has some solid laughs (humor is inherent in stories about making movies), and a couple of solid insights into fan-culture (though it doesn't so much probe it than brush against it). It's fine if you can handle the style of storytelling (sincerely absurd), but it'll be a bumpy if you can't.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Production Design (Contemporary)- Brandon Tonner-Connolly and Cynthia A. Neibaur
Daddy's Home 2 (2017)
DVD- 1hr. 39min.
There are few genuinely funny moments to be found in Daddy's Home 2, but far too many are gut laughs, as opposed to anything truly inspired. The cast is fine, though some of Gibson's material seems a bit tone-deaf (considering his history), but the script is just sort of fine with being a raunchy/family hybrid; things can kid dirty, but not dirty enough to repel overworked parents from taking their kids to see it. It's an exceedingly hit-or-miss film that often settles for middling; that said, there are laughs, mostly coming through blunt force, though the thermostat gag would've been a classic with stronger writing (and located in a better film). There are much worse ways to spend your time than watching this, but there are better ones too.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
DVD- 2hrs. 1min.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a tough movie to review; it so subtly toes the line between literalism and dream-logic (or, more aptly, "nightmare-logic") that it's difficult to how much of the film is to be taken seriously, and how much is being presented figuratively. In either sense, the film is an expertly crafted exercise in increasing menace, and the film slowly builds to a disturbing crescendo that is, also disturbing, somewhat morbidly humorous as well. This is much more of directorial showcase for Lanthimos than his hyped The Lobster was, here blending his usual sensibilities with something more vaguely human, and it looks pretty good on him. It's a well crafted film that features a strong cast (especially Keoghan, whose oddity and childlike, calm menace often powers the unnerving tone), that, while featuring a few doughy spots (it takes a bit for the story to ramp up), is satisfyingly unsettling.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Supporting Actor- Barry Keoghan
Best Modern Cinematography- Thimios Bakatakis
Killing Gunther (2017)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 33min.
Killing Gunther has a strong setup and a loaded cast, but can't come together in a natural or cohesive, instead opting for forced laughter from a story that runs out of gas quick. It's found footage/parody film; i.e. you go in knowing that it's going to be pretty hit or miss. Unfortunately, the hits aren't big enough to discount the misses and, despite some funny moments, it's mostly just an awkward exercise in tepid comedy. Schwarzenegger does get to have some fun though, and his introduction (very late in the film) adds some life to the proceedings.
Night Moves (1941)
FilmStruck- 1hr. 39min.
An exceedingly well-crafted mystery/thriller; Night Moves is a wholly engaging neo-noir with a twisting plot and strong fillmaking. It's a bit of a slow-starter; things don't really pick up until we hit the Florida Keys (a bit too slow-burn to start). Once we get there, though, the plot kicks in and things start to simmer, leading to some explosive results as the film goes on. The chief word that comes to mind with this film is "smart"; it's smartly written and directed, with a genuine understanding for the genre, and how to craft a slow-burn, tension filled thriller. Sure, the ending is pretty messy, but it works in the context of the rest of the film; there's gotta be some payoff to all of this building. It also greatly benefits from yet another exceptional 70s-era Gene Hackman performance that sells this twisting story perfectly (the rest of the cast is strong, but he's the center). While it isn't a perfect film, it's a damn fine paranoid mystery/thriller.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Picture
Best Director- Arthur Penn
Best Actor- Gene Hackman
Best Original Screenplay- Alan Sharp
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 25min.
It smooths out a bit as it goes on, but November Criminals is a predominantly dull, tone-deaf mystery that feels as though it was cut together from a longer film. It's a slim 85 minutes, and it feels like a lot was left on the cutting room floor, which is pretty shocking; i.e. how could anything not have been better than what made it in? The cast isn't particularly great, though that's likely because they've been miscast (Elgort and Moretz, especially), and their characters are even worse (inexplicably, the leads lose their virginity within the first ten minutes, before we've had any time to even know these two, depriving this plot point of any impact),the writing is shockingly bad (nothing feels even semi-genuine), and the direction truly blunt (there is a, simply, terrible usage of "Life on Mars" that stops the movie dead). It is, also, tone-deaf to issues regarding race; the film's black character are, almost completely, criminals, out to get the white knight who just wants to help. The only real positive about the movie (outside of the admittedly strong cinematography) is that it is only 85 minutes long.
Thank You for Your Service (2017)
DVD- 1hr. 49min.
Though it is certainly slow and less eventful than most "war" films, Thank You for Your Service's focus on homefront battles of returning veterans gives it bit more timeliness than most, and the follow-through is, for the most part, an evocative portrait of the issues that veterans face. The script is a bit patchy in places; while a slow pace is, likely, necessary, the film can move at a glacier-like pace at times that feels more like a chore than a natural documentation. To it's credit though, the script also allows scenes to play out with a naturalism that makes it feel human. Debuting director Jason Hall's filmmaking senses are a little stronger; there's a calm and unnerving mood that often makes you fear even the most minute details of the character lives. The cast is exceptional, with Teller, Bennett and Beulah Koale, a relative newcomer that gives a naturally-muted breakout turn that grounds an otherwise messy storyline. It can be a tough watch at times, but there's a lot of strong elements here to make it a solid recommendation.
DVD- 1hr. 37min.
LBJ isn't a totally bad film, just a rather pointless one. There's plenty of fun to be had with Johnson's personality, but this film uses it as a crutch; it's not a facet of the man, it is the man. It doesn't help the the makeup work on Harrelson is thoroughly unconvincing (his performance can't help but succumb to it), and the script is more a hagiography than an actual probing story. When the film gets to LBJ's political machinations, it works quite well, otherwise, just watch HBO's All the Way (which, by the way, does that part better too).
DVD- 1hr. 44min.
There's a great film that can be produced by the story at the center of Suburbicon, but it's nowhere to be found in Suburbicon. This film is truly a case of tonal confusion; the design, performances, and script smack of a more comedic approach, and yet the film plays it almost totally straight. Make no mistake; this is a drama/thriller with little to no humor, and that clashes with the design. It also tries to juggle two storylines when it only really gets one; there's the crime one at the center of the marketing, the one it gets, and an indictment of racism (exemplified by a black family moving into a white neighborhood). The movie has a few solid moments of genre thrill, but it only really comes alive during a cameo by Oscar Isaac (had the movie followed his character, it would've been a hoot). Ambitious, but incomplete.
Darkest Hour (2017)
Collateral Beauty (2016)
HBO Now- 1hr. 36min.
The first of two Allan Loeb-penned films on this month's list, Collateral Beauty is a poorly-written, superficially profound ensemble piece with a ludicrous plot, off-putting characters, and a series of stupid twists that help make the film laughable. The cast does what it can, but everyone is outdone by the film's script, that forgoes anything grounded or human, instead relying on unbelievable plot and character machinations. It's really more akin to a self-help book; unhelpful, and devoid of nuance
The Wicker Man (2006)
DVD- 1hr. 42min.
The Wicker Man doesn't become hilariously bad as quickly as most viewers would hope. Don't get me wrong, there are some bizarre scenes throughout, but it doesn't really come together until Nic Cage starts punching ladies in the face. Once we hit the point of no-return (lady-punching; lady-punching wearing a bear costume) though, it becomes the cult classic that you hope for. Before that, it's a weird and rather boring (though moments of levity make the film worth it), but never truly unworthy of you time. It's such a bad movie that it becomes a film that you can't miss.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Costume Design (Fantasy)- Lynette Meyer
Best Production Design (Fantasy)- Phillip Barker and Shannon Murphy
Best Worst Picture
Lady Bird (2017)
Crooked House (2017)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 55min.
While it feels a bit too much like a TV movie special at times, Crooked House is an effective take on Agatha Christie's novel with strong direction and an exceptional ensemble. That "TV movie" bit isn't so much to say that those films are lesser, but pointing out the this film's and their common issue; pacing. There are great bits, but the first half, essentially, occurs with little urgency that makes the accelerated second half a bit jarring (it also hampers the impact of the ending). That said, the mystery at the center is compelling, as is the cast, who invest a lot of personality into stock characters.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Costume Design (Period)- Colleen Kelsall
Best Production Design (Period)- Simon Bowles and Rebecca Gillies
I, Tonya (2017)
There are several storytelling flaws to be found in I, Tonya, but the filmmakers are smart enough to understand that this is story powered more by emotion than story, and leans heavily on the onscreen talent to move this thing along. The script is okay; there are some smart moments peppered through out, but the scattershot observations about class in America are too generalized to hit. Script problems are, for the most part, smoothed over by some Scorsese-cribbing editing and excellent performance. Robbie is an outstanding anchor for the film, selling the numerous facets of Harding (the pain, the pettiness, the talent, etc.) astoundingly, and she's ably complimented by Sebastian Stan, revelatory as the pathetic and abusive Jeff Gillooly, and Paul Walter Hauser as one of cinema's finest morons in recent memory. Oddly, I wasn't too impressed with Janey's performance (the Oscar winner of the bunch); she's a volcanic presence, but the character is just too one-note to leave a lasting impression. While it could've been stronger, the film does leave a lasting impression thanks to a great cast and rapid-fire filmmaking.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Actress- Margot Robbie
Best Supporting Actress- Allison Janney
Best Costume Design (Contemporary)- Jennifer Johnson
Best Editing- Tatiana S. Riegel
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 28min.
If you don't look hard enough, The Only Living Boy in New York could trick you into thinking it's a smart, deeply felt coming-of-age story; it isn't those things, but its so well made that one could be lured into believing this thing is more than it actually is. What it is is an often manipulative, cliche-ridden film that is more in line with it's main character than classic coming-of-age films; not as smart or profound as it thinks it is, just rather hollow. That said, it's still a very well-made film, with director Marc Webb adding more polish to this thing than it deserves, wringing out a litany of lovely images (DP Stuart Dryburgh is the film's MVP) and strong performances (the glaring weak spot is Turner's lead, though it's hard to see anyone doing much better with such an annoying character). The script is what does the movie in; plot contrivances continually add up, character motivations don't feel remotely human, and the overall story supremely naive. It all adds up to a twist that is so brazen that upends the rest of the film, but not in a good way, adding more questions than answers.
DVD- 1hr. 43min.
With a title that long, you should just know that this thing is overcompensating. Mark Felt: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire is a solidly made and acted, but too staid and bland to make much of an impact. A boring, overly-melodramatic script that doesn't get how emphasis works, and energy-free direction make this a dull viewing experience.
The Disaster Artist (2017)
DVD- 1hr. 44min.
While The Disaster Artist is a pretty fun movie about the making of the worst movie ever, it's also a bit pedestrian, and never truly capture the allure of it's inspiration, The Room. The biggest problem with The Disaster Artist is the it's a rather blandly made film; jittery hand-held, flat lighting, etc. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but it points to one of my major issues, that it's an indistinctly made film about one of the most "original" films ever; bad, but unlike anything else. It often feels like too much of an impression, without going deep enough to understand much. It also leaves out a lot about the filming of the movie in favor of an underdog/bromance; while both Francos do a strong job (though James's work can come off too gimmicky at times), enough to sell the emotion of the film, it leaves a lot of great story on the floor. All that said, it's a still a pretty fun film, with Wiseau's eccentricities powering so many wonderful details, that illustrates the heart at the center of the best worst movie ever made.
Game Over, Man! (2018)
Netflix- 1hr. 41min.
Its clear from the very first scene that Game Over, Man! isn't going to be an original or innovative film; in fact, it proudly wears it's unoriginality as a badge of honor, a get-out-of-jail-free card (it doesn't own any of the material it retreads, so it can't be at fault for genre issues). What takes a few minutes to become evident is the fact that this "film", I use that term loosely, won't have any real jokes; I'm not just talking about traditional setup/punchline jokes, I'm talking about any real sort of constructed humor. One of the three leads says, or does something stupid or odd, and then they all beat that point into the ground; with all of this disection, there's no room for air, let alone humor. The story is a cheap Die Hard knock-off that both takes things too far, and not far enough. This is a bad "movie" that almost plays as a parody of a Netflix original movie; give some money to recognizable faces, and wait for bored viewers to pop it on. Don't take the bait.
Monthly Wesley AwardWorst Picture
The Pledge (2001)
DVD- 2hrs. 4min.
It's not a particularly fun, or even eventful, film, but The Pledge is a, mostly, engrossing story of obsession. Many viewers may be thrown by the pacing, which spans several years without much in the way of action; this is an exceedingly meditative film charting one man's hunt for a killer. Personally, I wasn't the biggest fan of it, but I understood and appreciated what it was going for; it has to be a bit dull to really sell the point. Director Sean Penn understands that much of this story rests on his star, and Nicholson gives one of his last strong performances here, never overplaying his hand, just ruminating to the point of tragedy.
The Shape of Water (2017)
68 Kill (2017) (2017)
DVD- 1hr. 36min.
As rollicking and fun as it is derivative, 68 Kill can be interminably smug in its emulation of grindhouse genre tropes, but is more frequently a fun, ultraviolent romp. The movie often works when it lets the bullets fly; the pinball-like, free-for-all violence, while not quite as taut as a higher-budgeted shoot em' up, is where the thrills come. The script, however, is sloppy; while scatterbrained approach leads to some memorable scenes, it also leads to some questionable characterizations and rote plot turns that are more annoying than anything else. Thankfully, the cast does make the most of their "all over the place" character, especially McCord, who nails the part of the alluringly manic ex-girlfriend, and Boe, who deserves much more than she gets here. It's a messy, sloppy film, but not one undeserving of 90 minutes of your time.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Sound
Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)
DVD- 1hr. 33min.
The cast seems to be having a fun time, and a few of the songs are somewhat entertaining, but Pitch Perfect 3 has an exceedingly difficult time trying to justify it's own existence. It's hard to describe the plot;, not so much because its so intricate, but because it is truly too ineffable; 2 stretched the acapella-conceit to it's breaking point, and 3 doesn't even try to real it in, weirdly becoming a semi-spy film for some reason. It's all pleasantly diverting enough, but it's very clear that this was a franchise that should've never been; one fun film is better than a middling/disappointing franchise.
DVD- 1hr. 32min.
Small Town Crime is like one of those old detective novels come to life, with the convoluted mystery and colorful characters in toe. The film's minor pleasures come from its familiarity, and the chances to watch a cadre of talented character actors play off of each other. The story really isn't much to write about, though the directors understand this genre quite well, and are able to wring some fun from it.
Band Aid (2017)
Showtime- 1hr. 33min.
While it doesn't deviate too much from the standard relationship-dramedy indie playbook, Band Aid finds a few fresh notes to play. Though it doesn't really graze the surface of gender dynamics in relationships, the fact the it touches on a few thorny topics with intellect and understanding puts it a shelf above most. It also helps that the film is genuinely well-made, with a great cast (both Lister-Jones and Pally sell the central relationship exceptionally), and some of the most fun original songs in recent cinematic history (not the most replayable, but quite clever).
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Song- "Mood" by Zoe Lister-Jones and Kyle Forester
DVD- 1hr. 48min.
There's really not much that can be said about Ferdinand; it's just a pleasant, amiable animated film that hits all of the expected beats with enough gusto to make it a, mostly, worthwhile viewing experience.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Number of Movies Watched: 35
Newly Watched: 24
Time Spent: 63hrs. 4min.
Best New View: Night Moves
Worst New View: Game Over, Man!
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