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BradWesley123's Movie Journal- September 2018
Movie list created by BradWesley123
Sort by: Showing 33 items
Decade: Rating: List Type:
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Dead Again (1991)
Amazon Prime- 1hr. 47min.
Dead Again is a mixed bag of a film; brimming with potential at every turn, but only following through infrequently. It's a great setup; a fantasy story about past lives wrapped up in a detective story. Unfortunately, director Kenneth Branagh seems more taken with the fantasy elements than the gumshoe ones, leading to a lopsided film. In the lead role, he doesn't quite bring the weary gravitas necessary for the character to sing, though the rest of the cast is right at home with this (especially Thompson, who's superb in just about everything she's in). Stars with a lot of potential, but slowly deflates before reaching a flat ending. That said, it's exceptionally well-made, and there are enough strong moments here and there to warrant a recommendation.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Score- Patrick Doyle
American Animals (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 56min.
Though it can get a bit too "important" for its own good, patching in interviews with the real people at the center of the story, American Animals is a smart, taut heist with more on it's mind than cinematic thrills. When you include the real life versions of your characters on screen, you're begging to be called out for self-importance, and Animals does fall into that at times. That said, seeing the ways perception works, differentiating between the storytellers, adds some flavor to the film; that nobody quite knows every detail of their own story adds intrigue to the proceedings, allowing the audience to question some, presumed, motivations. At it's core, though, it's a solid heist film, that works when it marries it's smaller character moments and the specificity of the theft, and it does so often. It helps that the cast is terrific, with a pair of exceptional performance for Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters. Could be more consistent with it's integration of real figures and the characters, but it's a compelling film all the same.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Supporting Actor- Evan Peters
Best Editing- Nick Fenton, Chris Gill, Julian Hart
The Rite (2011)
DVD- 1hr. 54min.
Anytime Anthony Hopkins is onscreen, The Rite becomes a, somewhat, entertaining and effective possession-horror film. Unfortunately, he doesn't get anywhere near enough screentime and the film's lead, Colin O'Donoghue, gives one of the most uncharismatic and lifeless performances that I've seen in years. The film itself is, mostly, bland and forgettable, with nothing of genuine note.
Patriot Games (1992)
Sierra Burgess Is a Loser (2018)
Netflix- 1hr. 45min.
There's potential for a fun and genuine high school dramedy at the core of Sierra Burgess is a Loser, but it get's too muddled to reach it. It wants to be something akin to a modern day John Hughes film; it succeeds in many respects, but, unfortunately, it emulates some Hughes's social blindspots. We're supposed to sympathize with the lead, despite that fact that she does some fairly terrible things to the people around her. While the film's lesson is, ostensibly, about acceptance in one's flaws, it only really extends to the lead character; supporting characters simply have to submit to the pain she inflicts, but forgive her because she just doesn't accept herself. While it could've made for a smart story, about the ways that self-pity and misunderstanding can lead us to make alienating decisions to the people around without knowing it, Sierra Burgess is content to hit the teen movie checkmarks. It does hit them, but it does so in a weird, often off-putting way.
Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Witness for the Prosecution (1958)
FilmStruck- 1hr. 56min.
An incredibly engrossing legal mystery, Billy Wilder's adaptation of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution perfectly blends his acerbic, terse wit with her mastery of plotting and suspense. Like most of Wilder's films, there's a something surprisingly modern about the film; the sheen of classic filmmaking, but with sensibilities (i.e. characterizations, dialogue) of contemporary cinema. There's not a department in this production that's lacking; it's exceptional film that is surprisingly, for it's age, entertaining.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Picture
Best Classic Picture
Best Actress- Marlene Dietrich
Best Supporting Actress- Elsa Lanchester
Best Adapted Screenplay- Billy Wilder and Harry Kurnitz
Best Classic Production Design- Alexandre Trauner and Howard Bristol
DVD- 1hr. 36min.
Adrift has a storyline, and a last act twist, that's just too familiar, but it also has a compelling performance from Shailene Woodley and strong filmmaking. It's always going to be tough to make this kind of story into a compelling film, but the screenplay takes an easy out; framing the emotional heft and significance around a late twist that most watching will have caught early on. While it's handled with less of an exploitative "gotcha", it still doesn't mitigate it all that much. Even before that, too, the story is handled too blandly to really make that twist hit all that hard. It's a good thing that the film is so solidly made, with a very strong work from, in particular, the cinematographer (multi-Oscar winner Robert Richardson) and sound team. That said, the movie doesn't work, when it does, without Woodley's work, which picks up a fair amount of the slack from the script; she sells the emotion of the film, holding your attention even as the film falters.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Sound
Johnny English Reborn (2011)
Netflix- 1hr. 41min.
Reborn could've used a rewrite. A snide pun? Sure. An inaccurate pun though? Not one bit. The film traffics in flaccid slapstick; jokes that require energy and timing that this film can rarely muster. There a couple of laughs (Atkinson trying his damnedest to enliven this things assures that), but they're nowhere near enough to make this recommendable.
Netflix- 1hr. 49min.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the film version of that one kid in class who is desperate for both your attention and admiration. It's hard to argue that there isn't wit and ingenuity on display here. Objectively, the material is brimming with creativity that is difficult not to appreciate. Unfortunately, it's also desperate; it'll won't just let something happen, it'll announce that it's happening so you'll know just how smart it is. Great material doesn't draw attention to itself, it simply tells a story. It's just too hit or miss. If it would slow down and let things play out, then it would've been a stronger, smarter, more fun film. It's certainly well made; the production design, costumes, makeup and visual effects call to mind a cult 1970s sci-fi flick, enough so that it's just fun to look at the film (I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me forget about the everything-at-once storytelling approach). The cast does what they can, but they're, essentially, being directed to play the material to a 20, when a solid seven or eight would've sufficed. It's too interesting, clever and, occasionally, entertaining to completely write off, but it's too much to really appreciate completely.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Costume Design (Fantasy)- Sammy Sheldon
Best Production Design (Fantasy)- Joel Collins and Kate Beckly
Best Visual Effects
Netflix- 1hr. 34min.
It takes the route of narrative convenience too often, especially in the last act, but The Keeping Hours is an effectively emotional and, often, heartbreaking film with strong directorial control and two excellent performances. The script doesn't really dig in the way it should; while it gets enough right, one wishes that it would strip away several of the contrivances and cliches that it uses, and goes further in illustrating the central relationships at the story's core (i.e. I wanted more time with the couple before their troubles begin). That said, director Karen Moncrieff wisely keeps everything lean, and let's Carrie Coon and Lee Pace steer the film. Both give exceptional performances (Coon is great, as always; I'm not sure Pace has ever been better) that sell the story's weight with ease. While the ending is a bit disappointing, it doesn't take away from the emotional work done before that. At it's best, the movie realistically examines the hardships of grief, letting go and moving on; luckily, it's at it's best quite frequently.
Dark Passage (1947)
FilmStruck- 1hr. 46min.
The story doesn't quite spark here, which is largely because Dark Passage concentrates more on it's filmmaking prospects than storytelling ones. It's cinematography is revolutionary in the way that it uses POV shots, putting the audience in the lead role. While this makes the film engaging in the first act, it works against the film in the second. The film has focused so much on style that it's forgot about the substance. It's solid, sure, but it's feels more like a knock on the window than a breakthrough.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Classic/Black-and-White Cinematography- Sid Hickox
The Third Man (1949)
Hulu- 1hr. 48min.
With a title like Flawless, this one was setting itself up for failure from the start. That said, though, the film isn't all that bad, it's just really bland. It's exceptionally made and solidly acted (particularly Caine), and the idea of socially-marginalized people attempting to break free from there roles is, genuinely, interesting; if only the script had been stronger. It's stately and restrained, to a fault; the script by Edward Anderson get's the overall story right, but fails to infuse it with real emotion and personality, and director Michael Radford doesn't do much to go beyond the page. Solid but, unfortunately, not very involving.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Costume Design (Period)- Dinah Collin
Best Production Design (Period)- Sophie Becher and Christina Schaffer
Netflix- 1hr. 35min.
The twist in the last act is rather nifty, and raises a litany of interesting narrative possibilities; if it come earlier in the film, it might've saved this one. Aside from the end, Extinction is a turgid film that squanders it's premise on cliched storytelling and bland filmmaking.
Wrongfully Accused (1998)
The Russia House (1990)
Amazon Prime- 2hrs. 3min.
At first, The Russia House appears to have everything going for it. Great leads, confident direction, and Le Carre source material. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to realize that all of this is really just for show; despite all of these elements, the film is a frequent bore, with little plot movement or character growth. Things just happen, and then it ends. It's impressively mounted, but hollow.
Spy Hard (1996)
Netflix- 1hr. 20min.
I had seen bits and pieces before, but never from beginning to end. And boy, I gotta tell ya, I regret the decision to amend that. I knew it would be bad; hell, I was hoping it would be. I was hoping for a quick, stupid comedy that could give me a few guilty laughs. To it's credit, I did get a few laughs out of it; unfortunately, it was usually to just how unfunny the jokes were. "What the fuck is this?" is my go to phrase for a bad movie moment; I asked it several times watching this. Even Leslie Nielsen, who's deadpan timing can usually save these things, seems bored by this. Maybe he knew it just wasn't worth the effort. At least he got paid for it. I certainly wish I was.
Murder at 1600 (1997)
HBO Now- 1hr. 47min.
It starts off with a tantalizing prospect; a murder mystery at the White House. That promise is quickly wiped away, as Murder at 1600 instead opts to be a ridiculously convoluted conspiracy thriller. If it was truly awful, it might have been entertaining but, unfortunately, it's just a bland mess that wastes a solid cast and excellent setup.
Two Weeks Notice (2002)
Justice League (2017)
Runaway Jury (2003)
First Reformed (2018)
DVD- 1hr. 53min.
The slow-burn of the descent a man's faith powers First Reformed, and writer/director Paul Schrader does a hell of a job capturing this crisis in quietly powerful ways. His calm, static direction capturing the isolation of Ernst, beautifully realizing his collapse. While Schrader's written an upper-tier script, and his direction is subtly superb, the film doesn't work without Hawke's performance; a quietly powerful collapse, or possibly an awakening, he performs every scene so genuinely that it feels deeper than acting. The fact that he, and the film, was snubbed at the Oscars was one of the greatest crimes of an already egregious awards season, but awards won't be the final say on this one. Love it or hate it, it'll be studied in film classes for years to come.
Monthly Wesley AwardsBest Director- Paul Schrader
Best Actor- Ethan Hawke
Best Original Screenplay- Paul Schrader
Best Modern Cinematography- Alexander Dyan
No Reservations (2007)
Netflix- 1hr. 44min.
It's cliched, contrived, and infinitely manipulative, but I'd be lying if I said No Reservations was a bust. It's exceptionally well-made, with a pair of well-matched leads that enliven the material at every turn. The script does little to break free of typical genre trappings, but director Scott Hicks is able to take them and, at least, try to give them, something approximating, genuine. Not much, but an okay way to pass the time.
Music and Lyrics (2007)
The Dark Tower (2017)
Nancy Drew (2007)
Netflix- 1hr. 39min.
Nancy Drew is perfectly fine. It asks nothing of you, the audience member, and it gives a few solid laughs, an okay story, and decent filmmaking. While she leans a bit too hard into teen-actor mugging, Emma Roberts does well in the title role, giving her a bubbly charm that enlivens most of the film around her. The story isn't much, but it has enough juice that it's passable, if you don't ask too much.
Monthly Wesley AwardBest Costume Design (Contemporary)- Jeffrey Kurland
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
FilmStruck- 1hr. 33min.
"SHE'S A LOOKER...!!" wails Sue Saad in the title track for Looker. I don't remember much about this film, but I'll be damned if I ever forget Saad's rallying cry. As for what I recall of the film? There were some interesting ideas, but none of them are really given room to breath, and the filmmaking ranges, inconsistently, from solid to baffling. It'll probably get a downtrodden, moody remake in a few years, one that'll make this look pristine. So, there's that, at least.
DVD- 1hr. 44min.
"An absolute stunner."
"The kind of film that restores your faith in the art of cinema."
"So fucking good; I orgasmed several times."
If you see one of these quotes in a review for Gotti, or a quote that even mildly resembles one of them, it's likely that you've clicked on a hazardous link and are having your financial information stolen. Nobody in their right mind could say anything close to positive about this film; even if you like this movie, it'll likely be with the acknowledgment that it's a turd. Stupidly written, functionally directed and hilariously acted, Gotti is a fake bad-movie trailer from another movie come to life. There's not a single moment in this movie that hasn't been done better in other, similarly-themed films, films (that includes, even, pornos). The only thing that really separates this film from other gangster films is it's soundtrack, which I, absolutely, do not mean as a compliment; Pitbull-laden (both new songs, which I only remember for endlessly stating Gotti's name in them, and old "classics"), with some real doozies peppered throughout (the "West End Girls" scene has to be seen to be believed). The worst crime this film commits, however, isn't a cinematic one, it's a storytelling on; it's assersion that John Gotti was just a good guy doing bad to protect the people he loved. He was not. He was a bad person. This is a bad film.
"Shit, but a lot of fun."
Monthly Wesley AwardsWorst Picture
Best Worst Picture
Number of Movies Watched: 33
Newly Watched: 20
Time Spent: 58hrs. 50min.
Best New View: Witness for the Prosecution
Worst New View: Gotti
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