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BradWesley123's Movie Journal- March 2019
Movie list created by BradWesley123
Sort by: Showing 36 items
Decade: Rating: List Type:
Final Score (2018)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 44min.
It's a quick, cheap knock-off of a knock-off, but Final Score is a, surprisingly, solidly made action thriller with competent direction and a sturdy cast. Grindstone pictures is not known for releasing quality films; they put out cheapies on VOD with recognizable stars, either slumming or over the hill. Usually when positive things are written about their films, it's facetious; so bad it's good. Here, though, they've got a solid Sudden Death rip-off (it's a course term, but highly accurate) with a few good action sequences (there's a motorcycle chase that, mostly, works very well, and the ending is well-handled) and a solid cast. It's overly edited, like most modern action pictures are, and, again, it's exceedingly derivative, to the point of being restrictive (the movie has no use for originality), but it's fun enough to stimulate the inner action-junkie.
A Star Is Born (2018)
Robin Hood (2018)
Blu-Ray- 1hr. 56min.
The pieces are all there in Robin Hood. The cast is well-assembled, the plot (as far as prequel/revisions go) isn't too bad, and the crafts (especially the costumes) are solid. It's just excruciatingly bland, though. The script's got no signs of wit and very little intelligence (there are hints, here and there, of political machinations, but they're inarticulate and passionless), squandering a decent cast in cardboard roles. The direction is no better, with scenes anonymously filmed, then haphazardly edited. It may have never been a great film (the bar here was, really, passable), but it could've been, at the very least, enjoyable. It can't even top 2010's slack-jacked version.
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
DVD- 2hrs. 3min.
More thrilling than your average British period-drama, Mary Queen of Scots has all of the ingredients to make a dynamic film, but is done in by an uneven script and some exceedingly poor pacing. Despite being marketed as a two-hander, this is Ronan's film, to the detriment of the whole affair. Make no mistake, Ronan is, again, superb in the title role, as is Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I, but a more balanced film, observing the ways that both female monarchs gained and retained power, connecting both of their journeys with an overall them, would've made this one a must-see. Instead, it's just fine. Everything one display is strong; the cast, costumes, locations, etc. (though the cinematography is too digital, leading to an anachronistic feeling that can take the viewer out of the setting). The script just doesn't have it though; Beau Willimon doesn't plot the movie well at all, with no sense of pace or dramatic tension. Events just happen, and we go from there. There's also no real follow-through with the extended cast of characters either; characters come and go, with no purpose beyond plot. It's a okay film, but a much more frustrating one.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Supporting Actress- Margot Robbie
Best Score- Max Richter
Netflix- 1hr. 29min.
Room for Rent is a pretty typical indie comedy; a solid premise stretched too thin with hit-or-miss material, enliven by a cast trying their hardest. The biggest flaw of the film is one, unfortunately, built into the design; the lead character is an unsympathetic ass. While that could work for other films, for us to care about his plight in this story, you need to feel a bit badly for him. Instead, he's annoying, so when his character is put upon and annoyed, we're doubly so; at the intended targets, and at the lead. Gelman plays his usually character, bloviating and odd, with his usual vigor. It's too much at times, but he's more human than the lead. Miscalibrated is probably the best term here, when describing the characters and the story. The material is funny but it's not built for a whole film; the characters are mishandled; the pace is too languid. Fine, but forgettable.
Monthly Wesley AwardMost Forgettable Picture
Green Zone (2010)
HBO Now- 1hr. 55min.
There are moments here and there (the political wheeling and dealing, some of the action), but Green Zone is a bland, incoherent, and outright phony piece of Hollywood "message" films. Paul Greengrass's filmmaking can be hit-or-miss. While his Bourne films (sans 2016's misfire entry), Captain Phillips and United 93 mostly excelled with his handheld, jittery camerawork, many times it just comes across as belligerent; like he's incapable of composing a shot. That problem reaches it's apex here. The whole film is poorly shot, but the last 20 minutes are just a mess of nighttime spasming camerawork, capable of making even the hardest of fighter pilot's queasy. The story, too, is just a dull, "the government is evil" story that's been handled better (the fact that this is based on real events only makes things more disappointing. The cast is present, which is about the most generous I could be; they have no characters to work with, just varying shades of corruption and cynicism (except Damon, as the film's mensch). Spare yourself the headache and watch something else.
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Amazon Prime- 2hrs. 9min.
Despite an unnecessarily baggy first act and some exceedingly obvious story beats (make no mistake; you will know where all of this is headed), What Lies Beneath is too strongly crafted a Hitchcock homage to dismiss. Director Robert Zemeckis attempts to pack unease and tension into damn-near every scene and, though hampered by a screenplay rife with contrivances and loose threads, mostly succeeds. It's one of his most purely directorial efforts; he doesn't get that hung-up on the technology this time around, smartly focusing story and tone. As mentioned, the biggest problems here are the obviousness of the story beats and the first act, which takes way too long to introduce major plot points that will matter later; it feels too superfluous. That said, the craft is too strong and the leads are too compelling (especially Pfeiffer). It's a well-done film that should satisfy those looking for a solid supernatural mystery/thriller.
Live by Night (2017)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Crackle- 1hr. 48min.
Heist is, essentially, a perfect distillation of David Mamet's directorial efforts; the dialogue and craft elude for a while, but eventually you realize that it's just a typical genre film. An excellent cast, lead by a typically taciturn effort by Gene Hackman, chews into Mamet's verbose dialogue (Ricky Jay gets an all-timer: "My motherfucker's so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him") and give each scene a down-to-earth, lived-in weariness that adds some poignancy to the proceedings. So to does Mamet's direction; the way he focuses on the process of the con, of the heists, adds realism and texture to the world he's created. It's unfortunate, then, that his story doesn't know how to enliven the cliches that are, in essence, it's foundation. If he'd taken a few original turns here and there, and aimed to divert expectations instead of play into them, then Heist would've been a crackling picture. It's solid though, worthy of a view.
Boy Erased (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 54min.
It's too muted at times, with a story that doesn't take enough detours into the psyches of the characters, but Boy Erased is an empathetic, deeply felt film that finds the humanity, along with the horror, inside of a dehumanizing practice. This is an, often, difficult film to stomach; Edgerton's achieves an appropriate claustrophobia and oppressiveness inside of the conversion camp that it borders on a thriller. There's also a brilliant specificity to the whole film that makes the experiences feel true to life and genuine (it's based on real events, but many films botch this with manufactured caricatures). That specificity is, also, smartly extended to the characters; Hedges, again, does exceptional work, but so to do Crowe, Edgerton and Kidman, playing difficult roles that could've easily turned to Hollywood caricature (they're doing some vile things, but more so out of ignorance that hatred). It never goes quite deep enough though; it's never quite obtrusive enough, too content to present the emotion rather than demonstrate it. A strong work, but too reserved.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Supporting Actor- Russell Crowe
Best Adapted Screenplay- Joel Edgerton
Best Song- "Revelation"
DVD- 1hr. 48min.
A bit too reliant on the tropes that it's paying homage to (there's reverence, then there's straight up replication, and this film walks too fine a line at times), Overlord is still a fun and thrilling creature feature with strong style, compelling characters, and propulsive energy. I'll admit to being very skeptical about this one; Nazi experimentation was real, and not something that really fits into a wonky grindhouse flick. Luckily, the film doesn't pull punches here; it doesn't downplay the cruelty for gimmickry and, as a result, the Nazis make, as usual, perfect monsters for this type of film. The storytelling is better than usual for a film of this nature, with a real sense of pacing and character development, with a cast full of younger actors giving pathos to archetype roles. The craftsmanship, too, is solid, with Julius Avery's filmmaking keeping the mood and energy, relentlessly, and suitably, grimy. It's not the most original piece, but it's mightily effective.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Makeup
Starz- 1hr. 27min.
Frank & Lola is an okay neo-noir story with rambling plotting that renders it, mostly, forgettable. While there's an inherent mystery/reveal structure to films of this ilk, Matthew Ross's script is never able to coherently mesh these reveals, creating a sort of episodic whiplash. It doesn't help that the title leads are mismatched; Poots does exceptional work here as the mixed-up, damaged Lola, but Shannon never really gets a handle on Frank. He gets the reserved, quiet parts to his character, but not the need draw. He's a blandly sturdy guy and while that fits the character, Shannon just doesn't make that interesting. The mysteriousness of the story gives it an inherent pull though, and there are a few sections that are, surprisingly, hypnotic (mostly involving Michael Nyqvist's shady, manipulative character, which he nails), but the end is a detached whimper.
Triple Frontier (2019)
Netflix- 2hrs. 5min.
Thrilling when it dwells on the mechanics of the op but flaccid in the consequences, Triple Frontier wants to have it both ways. It wants to be a dark, gritty morality tale about the dangers of greed, and what we're willing to rationalize for the sake of, but also a story about brotherhood under fire. The second bit undercuts the first; it lets the characters get dark, but never goes all in, never willing to make these men too far gone. That's where it fails, as it builds to standoffs that never payoff, leading to the sense of two competing visions that don't reconcile. It's a well-crafted, well-acted, well-thought out film (the scenes that look at the actual mechanics of the heist, and how difficult/heavy it would be to transport millions of dollars are riveting), but one without gall to go deeper than Hoorah men-at-war platitudes.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Sound Mixing
Instant Family (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 58min.
I went in expecting a simple, cloying, amiable film with Instant Family. While it is, to some extent, each of those things, it's also a surprisingly thoughtful film; one that digs into the legitimate plights of foster families with heart and humor. Granted, that humor is rather forced at times, and too sitcom-y in others, but the story is winning and the cast radiates a sense of genuineness that carries the film over the more inelegantly plotted, saccharine stretches. Not the most truthful film on this subject, but does a strong job of presenting it with depth and humanity. A real surprise.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
National Treasure (2004)
Blu-Ray- 1hr. 40min.
Elektra is not a film, it's the world's most boring acid trip. Some shit happens, none of which is of note, then it ends. To devote anymore time to this would be to extend it basic respect, which it does not deserve. I'm ashamed that I spent three dollars on this. Please, forgive me.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Costume Design (Contemporary)- Lisa Tomczeszyn
Mortal Engines (2018)
DVD- 2hrs. 8min.
Whenever I saw ads or trailers for Mortal Engines, one question popped into my mind; "Who is this for?" Having watched the movie, I'm still not sure. The closest answer that I could come up with is "people who enjoy bland, bloated fantasy films with convoluted mythology, hacky jokes, and charisma-free characters". Fantasy-action flicks with bad plotting are a dime a dozen, though some are able to combat this with solid action. Not so here. It's like Mad Max without any of those film's craft; it's an anonymous CGI-fest with hit-or-miss effects. It's not all terrible; there's some decent sound work, and the costume/production designers are earning their paychecks. Outside of those departments (and makeup), there's nothing here to wholeheartedly, or even halfheartedly, recommend.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Costume Design (Fantasy)- Bob Buck & Kate Hawley
Best Production Design (Fantasy)- Dan Hennah and Pete Butters & Shane Vieau, Rosie Guthrie
Best Sound Editing
Best Visual Effects
At Eternity's Gate (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 50min.
Too shapeless and inelegantly plotted to truly pop, At Eternity's Gate, nevertheless, works exceptionally well as both a frenzied portrait of a fractured artist, and a canvas for one of our finest actors to crafts one of his finest performances. While some won't be too pleased with the filmmaking style (I wouldn't say I was a fan), it fits perfectly with director Julian Schnabel's vision, to lodge the viewer inside the mind of Vincent van Gogh, illustrating his mental illness with terrifying clarity. While the style does limit the film (it never feels quite complete as a film, with events happening without much narrative build), we understand van Gogh, or, at least, the film's version of him. It also helps that Willem Dafoe is outstanding here. Though's much too old to play van Gogh (Dafoe is 64; van Gogh died when he was 37), he fully immerses himself in this role, giving a sad, brilliant performance. Not for everyone's taste, but worthy of a viewing.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Actor- Willem Dafoe
Best Costume Design (Period)- Karen Muller Serreau
Best Editing- Louise Kugelberg & Julian Schnabel
Support the Girls (2018)
Hulu- 1hr. 31min.
The modern working class is a group that film and television, predominantly, don't understand. They get the workplace setting right, to a point, but rarely do they actually show the work; the long hours, the sweat, the tedium, the shit. Support the Girls is one of the few that does understand the workplace, and how it effects the workers. It's a performance piece, for the most part, with Regina Hall, in an exceptional performance, leading a great, mostly female ensemble through the average workday at a "breastaurant", warts and all. It can get a bit sitcom-y at times (there were a couple of scenes, especially the film's dramatic climax, that hued a bit too closely to something like The Office), but Andrew Bujalski's script never forgets or underplays the hardships at the films core, and the brilliant cast make this feel genuine and affecting
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Ensemble Performance
Best Original Screenplay- Andrew Bujalski
Speed Kills (2018)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 42min.
Travolta does it again. Watching Speed Kills, one yearns for the professionalism on display in, even, his last travesty Gotti. It's a cheap, shoddy film with a stupid screenplay, incompetent direction, haphazard editing, and some truly groan-worthy acting. Travolta fills the screen with several odd affectations (there's a scene where he clutches his drink while rushing to a payphone that is... well, original) and, as is customary, a hilarious wig (he gets some terrible eyebrow work here, too), but he's upstaged by Kellen Lutz, who gives a performance that would embarrass a strung-out pornstar. It's a hell of a lot of fun though, including an ending montage that'll send you cackling.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Worst Picture
My Dinner with Hervé (2019)
HBO Now- 1hr. 45min.
Sure, My Dinner with Hervé is, mostly, just another HBO biopic, with famous people playing other famous people in a rather manipulated telling of history. Luckily, this one doesn't really follow the tried and true "great man" path; it's subject is something of a sad drunk who never approached greatness. In foregoing that bland path, My Dinner allows itself to have some fun which, in turn, makes the film more affecting. I can't really speak to the accent (I'd say it was solid, but I'm sure it's hit-or-miss for most), but Dinklage makes Hervé Villechaize flesh and blood figure, humanizing a subject mostly parodied. Dornan does some solid work too, his combativeness proving a nice foil to Dinklage's larger-than-life performance. It isn't the most profound or illuminating of films, but the performances and, outright, sincerity of the project render it a cut above usually TV movies, and even a few theatrical biopics.
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 28min.
As stark and striking as it is moving, Cold War simmers with emotion (anger, love, passion) that, while occasionally too opaque, carries the viewer away and doesn't let go. As mentioned, that starkness, or outright coldness, will turn some off, but it's all surface; these are characters are unwilling or unable to allow there emotions to take over. Pawel Pawlikowski captures this stunningly, each scene a masterclass in film direction. Tomasz Kot and, especially, Joanna Kulig understand the piece precisely too, giving perfectly calibrated performances. It's not an easy film to enjoy, but almost too easy to appreciate and respect.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Picture
Best Director- Pawel Pawlikowski
Best Actress- Joanna Kulig
Best Cinematography (B&W)/(Modern)- Lukasz Zal
Best Production Design (Period)- Benoît Barouh and Marcel Slawinski & Katarzyna Sobanska-Strzalkowska
HBO Now- 1hr. 44min.
Volcano gets better as it goes. It gets off to a rather sluggish start, languishing to long in the build-up with boring/misguided characters. Once the eruptions start though, it becomes a surprisingly solid disaster film. Hell, when the film focuses on stopping the title disaster, it actually achieves a compulsively watchable status. It's just so fucking hokey though. The script is awful, filled with some of the worst dialogue I've ever heard in film. For some reason, it takes weird detours into Crash-esque race relations that are, truly, baffling.
One racist cop is vindicated because he lets an innocent black man, who he's already arrested, go, only after said black man helps save countless lives. A little boy, after seeing characters of varying races and ethnicities, points out that everyone looks the same. I gag on the shit being shoved in my face. If you can take all the cheese, it's an okay meal but... damn.
HBO Now- 2hrs. 3min.
I'll be honest; Phenomenon had me for, about, two and a half of it's three acts. It's an exceedingly hokey film, with goofy dialogue and a, out-and-out, hilariously bad soundtrack (not Thomas Newman's score), but there's a certain Capra-esque charm that carries it; good things happening to good people in a world darker than they're built for. It's ably made and performed, with Travolta proving the perfect gooberish vessel for the film's themes. It's all going reasonably well, surprisingly so... then the turn comes, and it sucks the air out of the balloon. It takes all of the magic, the fantasy, even the humanity, out of the film, all for the sake of a message that, really, feels tacked on. Cut that section out, and go for a, yes, more traditional end to this story, and the film would probably be better remember.
Starz- 1hr. 54min.
Daylight is fine. It never lives up to it's potential, more content to simply follow the disaster movie playbook than create some distinct, specific thrills, but it does what it does pretty well, at least at first. The thrills wain as it goes on, but the inciting explosion is expertly handled, and Stallone's entrance into the tunnel is claustrophobic and, surprisingly, terrifying (hell, the big-name cameo death is even pretty entertaining). Good or bad doesn't really come in here; it's predictable. Your mileage may very depending on how you feel about that. For me, it was solid until it wasn't.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Production Design (Contemporary)- Benjamin Fernandez and Alberto Tosto
The Highwaymen (2019)
Netflix- 2hrs. 12min.
Solid but unspectacular is about as accurate a blurb for The Highwaymen can get. It's exceptionally well-made; everything department at the top of their game, with the costumes, production design, makeup teams all doing above board work. Special consideration should be given to cinematographer John Schwartzman's lush, saturated work and, as usual, Thomas Newman's score. The cast is, also unsurprisingly, perfectly selected, with Costner and Harrelson fitting their roles like a glove. It's in the creative team that we get problems. John Lee Hancock's direction is sturdy; no frills or fuss, just tell a story with some solid compositions along the way. He never pushes the story anywhere that interesting though, with the script, mostly, relying on old western tropes; lawmen who've seen the horrors of men before at for one last ride. It teases some examination of the ways that Bonnie & Clyde were mythologized beyond the cold-blooded killers that they were, but isn't interested in probing it. There's nothing wrong with that per se, this is still a respectable film, but there's nothing inherently intriguing in it either.
Number of Movies Watched: 36
Newly Watched: 23
Time Spent: 73hrs. 15min.
Best New View: Cold War
Worst New View: Elektra
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