One of the best movies I have ever seen
Phantom Thread (2017): Set in 1950's London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.
This initially started as a "Raw Thoughts" piece, which came to you from Darkness Brewing immediately after the second viewing of the film, but have since been edited after watching the movie for a third time. This is the best film of 2017, so it's too good for just a "Raw Thoughts" piece!
Phantom Thread….is a masterpiece. The great Paul Thomas Anderson is back, and this time he's paired, once more, with the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis. Their last film, There Will be Blood, is widely considered one of the best films of the 21st century, so to say there was some hype behind this one is something of an understatement. Anderson’s last film, Inherent Vice, was a rather messy endeavor that was a little too incoherent and loose with its style for my tastes. But I think P.T. Anderson realized that, too. This time, his cast is waded down to three from the enormous supporting cast of Vice. This allows Anderson to intimately focus on the intricate and dynamic relationship between the leads of this film, Reynolds and Alma.
Let's start there. These two are the reason to see this movie. Their relationship is the centerpiece, and these characters are played masterfully by Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps, both of which put in the best performance of 2017. Freaking Vicky Krieps, guys. We all know Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the greatest method actors in the history of Hollywood, and he reminds us why (again) here. That's honestly assumed at this point. He may win an Oscar for this performance, (probably not - Gary Oldman has been sweeping the awards season so far) but when Daniel Day-Lewis decides to put himself in a film an Oscar is basically the bar for him. But I can't even imagine what it must've felt like to have to play opposite of a man as intense as he is. (Apparently Daniel Day-Lewis insisted on meeting Krieps for the very first time on set filming their first scene together.) Well, Krieps more than holds her own and creates an utterly fascinating character in the process. There's so much intrigue and depth to her character, and the relationship between her and Reynolds is intoxicating. The whole film is about their back-and-forth power struggle, and Alma's transformation from shy waitress to muse on equal footing with the demanding Reynolds is simply incredible. And, of course, it's absolutely marvelous to see Daniel Day-Lewis on screen once more. He spent a year studying couture preparing for this role, and his attention to the most minute of details are ever apparent. The relationship between these characters will be analyzed for years to come, and every scene involving the pair, even down to a simple look between them, is mesmerizing. Daniel Day-Lewis has said this is his last role, but as one star rides out into the sunset in triumphant fashion, another rises to take his place. Welcome to the top of the world of A-list movie stars, Vicky Krieps. What an incredible casting choice from Paul Thomas Anderson. The sheer unknown that comes with Vicky Krieps as an actress is undoubtedly a strength of the film, but having to play opposite a man of Daniel Day-Lewis's caliber.....well, it has certainly proved to be too much for people in the past. Fortunately, though, Krieps knocked this one out of the park and rocketed herself into stardom in the process.
You know who else is really interesting in this film? Lesley Manville as Reynold's intriguing sister, Cyril. There's at least one thesis paper waiting to be written on the relationship between her and Reynolds. Despite how demanding Reynolds is, both Cyril and Alma find their own ways to have power over him, and it's simply magnificent to watch. GAH! I love this film, if you can't tell. It has this alpha male lead with Reynolds, but it's really all about the women in his life and how they find various ways (some more extreme than others) to get him to do what they want. It's amazing. On top of their incredible and dynamic relationship, you have, well, EVERYTHING else. Like the set design! Everything about this set is meticulously chosen by P.T. Anderson. The costumes are brilliant and tell their own story. The freaking food choices from Reynolds tell their own story. Everything has a purpose here. I've seen this film multiple times now and I know there are still dozens of details that I've missed! And the score. Holy Jonny Greenwood the score! Hey, Jonny: can you PLEASE wade into Hollywood films more than just in P.T. Anderson flicks? Because this is easily the best score of 2017, and it comes from Radiohead's lead guitarist. I mean, who needs John Williams, right? It's mysterious and memorable just like Alma, and demanding and intrusive like Reynolds. On the second viewing I already found myself humming along to it, too. I freaking love it! I'm going to be listening to it for months and years to come. I haven't liked a score this much since Junkie XL's haunting score for Mad Max: Fury Road.
About the only complaint I have with this otherwise perfect film is with the third act. There's something of a pointless MacGuffin thrown in as “jealousy” is seemingly introduced into Reynolds and Alma's relationship, but it doesn't really go anywhere. However, this fault is well into the third act and relatively minor overall, and I'm sure it does serve some purpose that I just haven't figured it out yet, so it's not enough to take away from this masterpiece of filmmaking. In conclusion, this film is the very definition of the (often overused) word "masterpiece." It is the best film of 2017, and is every bit worthy of the hype it has garnered. Take the opportunity to go and see this one in a theater, guys. I think 10 years from now you'll wanna be able to tell people you saw this one when it first came out.
The Critique: Featuring an intoxicating relationship between its marvelous leads, Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson at his best and is easily the best overall film of 2017.
The Recommendation: Easy. An absolute-must see for all!
The Verdict: 10/10
Some of the best world-building yet from Marvel
Black Panther (2018): T'Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.
These raw thoughts come to you from Darkness Brewing immediately after seeing the film.
I'll start this review by saying this: I can't help but be cynical with superhero movies nowadays. And in a “bottle episode” Marvel film like this, my cynicism is on full display. After all, in terms of the overarching Marvel cinematic universe, exactly one thing of note happens here. So, for those of you calling this Marvel's best and loving the film, take my feelings with a grain of salt. However, I can't deny my cynical side is conflicting mightily with the side of me that feels relieved and overjoyed to see that there is FINALLY a big budget action movie that is centered around a black protagonist and a country in Africa. I am also happy that it is going to make a bajillion dollars. That's a nice plus, and a big ol' F U to the studio heads who don't think movies with black protagonists will sell. To say this reckoning is long overdue is something of an understatement. So, I'm gonna let both sides come out here and see if I can decide what I think about this thing.
Let's be happy first. Yay happiness! FINALLY, we have a film centered in an African country, and the world-building of Wakanda is where this movie really shines. The culture of Wakanda is simply fascinating, and it allows conflicts within certain characters, like the one played by Daniel Kaluuya, to feel earned, developed, and have a great climatic conclusion. (Climatic conclusion - sounds like a marketing buzzword...) A character like his fails in most films because they're not given the screen-time and world-building to go along with their actions to validate them, but not in Black Panther. The intimacy of this film is where it shined: it's a bottle episode, but because of that it allows individual characters to be fleshed out, which make their decisions carry some weight by the end of it. This intimacy is something the Marvel franchise hasn't experienced in a while, so it does feel like a breath of fresh air for them. The action is also (mostly) enjoyable. My cynical side will remind me that the final boss fight takes place in darkness and is rather poorly shot, and it's the closets thing to the DC problem of having "two gods fighting each other," but all of the other scenes were awesome. The ritual fights around the waterfall in particular were GORGEOUS. Also, Chadwick Boseman was awesome as Black Panther. He is such a great actor, and I'm glad he is getting the recognition he deserves. Michael B. Jordan was awesome, too! He shined as the “villain” Killmonger, but the writing behind this character makes him easily the most dynamic and complex villain Marvel has ever seen. The real world ties with Killmonger make him fascinating and impossible to simply view as a cardboard villain, which is something that befalls so many Marvel villains.
Though he did fall into a few stereotypical villain tropes, which is where my cynical side takes over. It is easy to sum this film up as “just another comic book movie,” and that phrase is increasingly wearing on me. At the end of the day, in terms of the overall Marvel cinematic universe, not much happens. After literally 30 comic book films since Iron Man, it can be tough for me to swallow another “bottle episode” within the MCU. And that last boss fight....what was that? Surely director Ryan Coogler (who I LOVE, by the way. He deserves this recognition after the Academy glanced over his role directing Creed a few years back) could've found a better way to film this final sequence. Though my optimistic side will be quick to remind me that it is resolved SO beautifully. Oh, right! The score! I liked how the score had a lot of cultural influences within it, but too many times was it just like every other Marvel score: just there to be there. Why couldn't this score go all-in on its world and its African influences? Fresh off hearing the lovely and culturally influenced score from Coco, this time around I couldn't help but be sorely disappointed. Despite the fact that this is arguably the best score I've ever heard in a Marvel movie. (Low bar outside of the main theme) But I will admit this film largely avoids most of the standard comic book film tropes. Even Killmonger only felt like a cardboard villain once or twice, and the struggles some of the characters around Killmonger went through as his plot developed did do a good job to offset them.
I think this is a sign that my cynical side is losing out this round. Yes, Black Panther is a good movie buoyed by the wonderful world-building surrounding Wakanda. Chadwick Bosenan, Lupita Nyong’o, and the rest of the cast were AMAZING. I freaking love this cast! And Martin Freeman being the only white guy led to some pretty hilarious moments that we're used to the sole black guy in a film experiencing. Buuuuut I can't deny the fact that, at the end of the day, it is “just another superhero movie” and the tropes that do come out of this prevent the movie from achieving greatness. See it for the awesome world-building, just make sure to turn it into a double feature and see something like Call Me by Your Name while you're there, ya?
My Number: 7/10 Good.
The Boss Baby
Quick Reviews, End of 2017, Part 3: Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, Last Flag Flying, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Ingrid Goes West, DetroitRead Now
Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool
Last Flag Flying
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Ingrid Goes West
A Wonderfully Original Idea, Wasted
Hostiles (2017): In 1892, a legendary Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.
These Raw Thoughts come to you from Wooden Cask Brewery in Newport, KY, immediately after seeing the film.
GAH. There is a fantastic movie in here. Hostiles may be one of the most disappointing films I saw in all of 2017 because you can see the potential for not just a great story, but one of the best films of the entire year. Buuuuuuuut the movie makes some unforgivable decisions throughout its 134 minute runtime. These decisions, combined with some poor dialogue and the odd casting of Rosamund Pike, hold this back from what could have been.
And ohhhhhhhh what could have been. To start, this movie is beautiful to look at. Most Westerns are, but this film manages to have some absolutely gorgeous cinematography even by their standards, (thanks to Masanobu Takayanagi….gotta remember his name) while not being romantic in any way. And that's my favorite part! So many Westerns make their setting romantic with a bunch of charisma within, but “romance” and “charisma” are the last two words I'd use to describe Hostiles. This is a nitty gritty Western, filled with death, destruction, and despair. It features men that straight-up hate each other, and it does not shield you, the viewer, from the most graphic examples of this hatred. It's a surprising breath of fresh air in this age-old genre. I love it!
And, of course there's Christian Bale, who puts in another fantastic performance. He's quiet and reserved, which is how most of this movie is, but when he enters a room he just has this commanding presence about him. I don't know how Christian Bale manages to keep doing it after all of these years, but he was completely immersed into his role once again. There were also great performances from Ben Foster, Timothée Chalamet, Jesse Plemons, the great Wes Studi, and Rory Cochrane. The men of this movie were outstanding. (Ugh)
Unfortunately, though, this is where the movie also shows its weaknesses. Hostiles is filled with men, and its lone woman is completely miscast. I love Rosamund Pike. Her performance in Gone Girl was one of my top performances of 2014. But here she feels shoe-horned in and grossly out-of-place. Her character has to deliver some poor dialogue too, which doesn't help, but MAN. She is just…..not good. Rosamund Pike is just too British for this gritty American Western role, especially when cast alongside Christian Bale. It also doesn't help that she's the ONLY woman in this movie that's given anything of note to do, and OF COURSE she has to have a forced romance with Bale. Why??? “Hey, my husband and my entire family just died like a week ago, perfect time for me to find a new lover!” Right? GAH. This was a TERRIBLE decision from director/writer Scott Cooper. In addition, this film’s dialogue was very polarizing. One scene, it was fantastic, the next it was cringe-worthy. This script was coined by both Scott Cooper and Donald Stewart, so I wouldn't be surprised if one of these writers were to blame. But the film felt the need to “moviesplain” far too much. There's a classic rule of screenwriting that says “Show, don't tell.” that Hostiles broke on more than one occasion. And overtell it did.
In conclusion….. The core of this movie is fantastic. When Christian Bale is on screen trying to redeem himself and his preconceived biases against Native Americans, this film is incredible. But it only takes something like an hour to tell this story. The rest of this movie is spent wasting away on bad subplots and terrible dialogue. I mean, at one point we're given a scene where Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike are eating dinner with another couple in a fancy room with a fancy meal in the middle of a nitty gritty Western. Why??? Why is this scene in this movie at all? It was so useless that I decided that my need to go to the bathroom triumphed over what was happening on screen, so I took what is maybe my first bathroom break EVER at the cinemas during this useless sequence. But Christian Bale soul-searching in a Western with fantastic cinematography is SO GOOD! I just wish the other aspects of the film were up-to-par. Unfortunately, though, you should avoid this one and just go and watch your favorite Western again. Ohhhhh what could have been….
My Number: 5/10
I Love You, Daddy (2017): When a successful television writer's daughter becomes the interest of an aging filmmaker with an appalling past, he becomes worried about how to handle the situation.
WARNING: STRONG Language Below. You have been warned.
This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. If someone wanted to torture another individual with a movie, they would show them this travesty. I'm just gonna say it, because it needs to be said.....I Love You, Daddy is a real piece of s**t. It's sexist, misogynistic, and even racist at points. (Because why not add racism to everything else, right?) It's filled with gender stereotypes and mansplaining and so. Much. Projection. My GOD does Louis C.K. project his thoughts on to the poor female actresses SO MUCH here. I had to pause this.....thing so many times just to clear my head and regain my composure. I had to pause this thing more than I did for Manos The Hands of Fate. And that movie features a man who was high on LSD while it was being filmed! Even if you try and remove the disgusting ties to Louis C.K.'s sexual harassment accusations, you still have a movie that is filled with stereotypes and a character that we're supposed to sympathize with even though HE'S BASED OFF OF WOODY ALLEN. YOU KNOW, THE GUY WHO MOLESTED HIS OWN DAUGHTER. AND LUSTS AFTER YOUNG GIRLS. AND HERE HIS MOLESTATION IS CAST ASIDE AS "Oh. It's merely accusations! So it's ok, right?" WRONG. WHO THE ACTUAL FLYING F**K THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA. AT ALL. Oh, I know! Sexist pigs who think it's ok to pretend to jerk off in a public setting over a women when they're on the phone. (Which Charlie Day does, at one point.) Or someone who thinks it's ok to jerk off in front of people in real life! Wait, it's almost as if that second one may be true....
I have lost a significant amount of respect for all the people who agreed to be in this s**tshow. ESPECIALLY Charlie Day. His character is a f**king misogynist scumbag, and Day plays him FAR too convincingly. And JESUS some of the things that are said in this movie......it's disgusting. Utterly disgusting. The clear projections are the worst of it. There's a scene where Louis C.K. is talking to Rose Byrne about him being uncomfortable that his daughter is dating a child molester, and Byrne is the one telling C.K. that it's ok and trying to justify it. All I could think was "Louis C.K., you tool, you may think that the premise of your ENTIRE movie becomes ok because a woman in the movie says it's ok, but.....YOU WROTE THIS. She's saying what you told her to say! So NO. It does NOT make it ok." GAAAAAAAAAH F**K THIS MOVIE. See this pic of Pamela Adlon from this travesty? That's your RESTING face as the viewer for EVERY. FREAKING. SCENE. (Screams into the void)
Ok. Deep breath. Regain my composure. Alright. Louis C.K. bought the rights back to this film after The Orchard (rightly) decided not to release it, (A bit of sweet justice here-The Orchard did cancel the release of this thing but not before they sent out thousands of awards consideration screeners. Because of course they thought this would be Oscar-worthy! SERIOUSLY? YOU THOUGHT THIS WOULD BE WORTHY OF OSCAR CONSIDERATION? HOW STUPID DO YOU HAVE TO BE? [Screams into the void again]) but I hope we as a society never regress to a point where ANYONE finds it acceptable to release something like this. Don't you DARE try and profit off this, dude. If I was monetizing this blog I'd feel bad just talking about it and making a few pennies off my review. It's that slimy. And don't worry, I didn't spend a dime to watch this, either. No royalties are being made here by any party. It's a travesty that's not funny, and not even that good of a movie when you (try to) take away the blatant sexism. It's overlong, the ending is VERY rushed, and Chloe Grace Moretz clearly does not care. She's in it for the paycheck, and I don't blame her at all. She has no chemistry with Louis C.K., who's also bad, and John Malkovich is..... uncomfortable in every sense of the word. Rose Byrne is charming because it's impossible for her not to be, but all the projecting Louis C.K. puts on her makes her nothing more than a cheap plot device. And the black and white feels like a cheap Snapchat filter and doesn't add anything to the film at all. It has as much depth as when you're one friend who's had everything in their entire life handed to them uses the B&W filter and calls it "art." There are no redeeming qualities to be found here. None. Go watch grass grow for two hours instead of this trainwreck because it won't leave you anywhere near as FRUSTRATED THAT ANYTHING LIKE THIS WAS EVEN ALLOWED TO BE FILMED. F**k this piece of s**t movie. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and wash my eyes and ears out with soap to try and get rid of this thing's stench.
My Number: 0/10. This sorry excuse for a film does not even deserve a tenth of a point for being in focus.
A beautiful and mesmerizing love story
Call Me by Your Name (2017): In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father's research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.
I love this movie. Simply put, it is spectacular. It is gorgeous in every sense of the word: it features breathtaking cinematography and production design, wonderful dialogue, fantastic colors, and beautiful chemistry between its leads, Armie Hammer (as Oliver) and Timothée Chalamet. (As Elio) Every second of this 132 minute film had me completely entranced. I love it when a film sucks me into its world entirely, and no film has done that better than this in 2017. The hype is real, guys. Call Me by Your Name does have a few faults, but overall it is one of the strongest and most engaging films of 2017, and it's well worth your time.
There isn't much that I didn't like here, but that's where I'll start. This film reminded me of 20th Century Women in a lot of ways. I felt a similar style of dialogue between the films, as well as ties between actor Michael Stuhlbarg (who plays Elio's father) and Annette Bening's portrayal as Dorothea Fields, (the mother in 20th Century Women) and similarities in the editing. 2 of the 3 of these I don't have a problem with. (Stuhlbarg is spectacular as the father) But, like in 20th Century Women, director Luca Guadognino employees the rainbow editing style a few times, and I'm still just not a fan of that. It takes me out of the moment, and I haven't been able to fully comprehend and appreciate why it's utilized since I first saw it in 2016. Someone REALLY needs to explain this to me! It's part of a filmmaking style I think, but it's tough (for me, at least) to identify the style while it's being developed. There's also some issues with the pacing. Shots will linger for just a hair too long, and the film does choose to focus on a few things that seem, well, less-than-important. I think the length of the movie is just right, but it's about 10 minutes too long in the second act then 10 minutes too short in the third. However, the rest of the film is fan-freaking-tastic. Almost as fantastic as this gif of Armie Hammer dancing, which is applicable in literally EVERY situation. Peace in the Middle East? Well, it's funny that you should ask.....
I'll be honest with you: I could stare at that gif allllllllll day. (I even have a shirt of it which I maaaay or may not be wearing right now as I type up this review) Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, though. They are the best things about this film. I've been a huge fan of Hammer's since he played the "Winklevii" in 2010's The Social Network, but it took until 2017 for him to finally show us what he could do. Equally as impressive is (relative) newcommer Timothée Chalamet. I hadn't seen this kid in anything before 2017, but all it took was his complex performance in Lady Bird and this to convince me that he's a star. Both Hammer and Chalamet are marvelous together. They have great chemistry, and their story arc is simply beautiful. These are very demanding roles that they have to play, and honestly it looks like they could do them in their sleep. It was wonderful. The supporting cast is small, but the one member that really stands out is Michael Stuhlbarg. He plays this whimsical, pragmatic, and wise character that almost steals the show for me. His heart-wrenching monologue to his son at the end of the film may very well be my single favorite movie moment of 2017. It alone is worth the price of admission.
As if the superb acting wasn't enough, this film is also GORGEOUS to look at. Filmed on location in northern Italy, (aka one of the most romantic spots in the world) this movie utilizes its landscape, its time period, (early 80s) and its production design to a mesmerizing degree. Look at that picture at the top of this review. Look at all the colors used on the set. The color of the costumes. Every decision here from director Luca Guadagnino was meticulous and a spectacular one The cinematography was terrific too and told the story of these characters in their own right. Kudos to Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, as this is some of the best cinematography I saw in 2017. And, finally, there's the soundtrack. "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman may be getting all the Oscar buzz for original song, but if you want a FAR better song about being different and still trying to be yourself while falling in love.....look no further than this film's major original song, "Mystery of Love." Sufjan Stevens delivers not just the best song I've heard in film in 2017, but one of the best songs I've heard all year, period. He has two other original songs here, and all of them are, like the rest of this film, mesmerizing. There are a lot of other great songs used here, too. After all..... any film that makes The Psychedelic Furs an integral part of its story is going to be good. It's impossible for it to not be!
While this film does fall just short of perfection thanks to those rainbow edits and the (slightly) muddy pacing, it doesn't change the fact that this will end up being one of the best films of 2017 and well worth your time to see this intimate, heartwarming, earth-shattering love story. Put it on the list, for sure. Now, excuse me while I go stare at that gif of Armie Hammer dancing for just a little while longer....
The Critique: Full of joy and heartbreak, Call Me by Your Name is one of 2017's best films and features dynamic performances from its male leads.
The Recommendation: May not be for everyone out there but I think this is an absolute must-see
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome.
Every Sci-Fi Trope You've Ever Seen, Packed into one disappointing mess
The Cloverfield Paradox (2018): Orbiting a planet on the brink of war, scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis, and end up face-to-face with a dark alternate reality.
These raw thoughts come to you from the bedroom of my apartment immediately after seeing the film. (Netflix is a wonderful thing)
STOP IT. STOP WRECKING MY BELOVED WORLD OF CLOVERFIELD LIKE THIS. The third installment in the Cloverfield franchise lands with a thud after another wonderfully Cloverfield-esque marketing campaign. (aka shooting the entire film in secret) Announcing this film at the freaking Super Bowl was brilliant, and would make the franchise proud. (Both of the previous films had similar surprise releases.) Unfortunately.....everything else about this crapshoot is massively disappointing. There are aspects of this film that are interesting. Elizabeth Debicki's character is somewhat fascinating, (when you can move past her absolutely absurd character introduction) and the film's investigation into its "paradox" is somewhat cool. Unfortunately, these two good ideas are surrounded by a(n accidentally) HILARIOUS amount of sci-fi cliches. UGH. STOP IT!
I hate this movie. If you couldn't tell. I've only seen a few films in 2018, but this is an early heavyweight contender for biggest disappointment of the entire year. Let's travel back to 2008 for a minute. You just saw this little sci-fi movie called Cloverfield. (Which, fun fact, I've reviewed twice on this blog accidentally. First review, second review! It's a decent look into how one's feelings on a film change over time.) What made it so great? There's a lot of reasons, but I think it starts with the mystery and intrigue surrounding the monster itself. So, needless to say.... giving us an origin story for the monster is going to put this film at a disadvantage right out of the gate. But, even still.....this is bad. I mean....think back to Cloverfield. The setup before the part where "things go down" was about 15 minutes. This movie is built on setup. We don't even see the monsters of this universe until the ACTUAL last shot of the film. How can it be a good origin story when you don't see the creature your making an origin story of? Even if you remove the cloud of mystery surrounding the actual monster.....the monster is the most interesting part of this franchise! Why do we now have two feature-length films where we get basically ZERO shots of the freaking monster??? At least in 10 Cloverfield Lane you had a pretty enjoyable thriller that did not rely solely on tropes and cliches and is buoyed by a great performance from John Goodman. The least interesting part of that movie was the lore, and here that's ALL we get within this crappy origin story. It's just not interesting at all! How is this lore, with all the titanic names attached to developing it, not even remotely interesting??? COME ON, Bad Robot! Cloverfield is one of the early reasons why you're so successful today! Why can't you make lore that's even remotely interesting for this universe? And I love this diverse cast, don't get me wrong, but none of them put in a John Goodman-esque performance, so there's nothing there to keep me invested either. I like Gugu Mbatha-Raw a lot, and I LOVE that she's the lead here, but none of these performances wow'd me. Though, to be fair, they had some pretty crappy dialogue to recite, so that didn't help. Honestly.... the dialogue, effects, editing, score, and cinematography were ALL lackluster at best, and downright awful at worst. I knew we were in for a rough ride the second I didn't see Michael Giacchino's name attached to the score in the opening credits. It's not THAT big of a deal, but Giacchino did give this franchise a FANTASTIC theme in the end credits of the original, and I don't fully understand why these guys haven't reprised that theme in any way in the second or third installment of this franchise. I think that's an example of the larger problem of this franchise: no one really, actually cares about it. No one bothered to think, "Man, Michael Giacchino gave us a really great theme in the first movie. We should bring that back!" (Which they should be able to do no problem, because Paramount should own that theme) There wasn't much "source material" in the first Cloverfield. But what little "source material" there was has been tossed aside for....whatever this is.
GAH. WHY IS THIS SO BAD? This film is set inside a world that has a very interesting monster, so why is literally everything surrounding this monster uninteresting? Heck, even something like Prometheus gave us a more interesting investigation into the Alien franchise than this. At least there are a few bright spots. As I mentioned previously Elizabeth Debecki's character is somewhat interesting, and the overall sci-fi theme this film investigates is kind of cool. Here there were a few cool scenes where you didn't really know what was happening in what world, and there are a few (cheap) "Got you!s" within this feeling of unknown. But that's really about all this film has going for it. Oh! And the cast is fine. Nothing special, as I said, but fine is still fine.
I don't know. Maybe this is all part of a long-con by J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company. Maybe we'll be able to look back on this film within the context of a major saga and see its brilliance. But.....I doubt it. There's just nothing interesting here, right now. And it's not even told in an interesting way! The film hand-feeds us exposition in the most uninteresting and bland ways possible. From the texting sequences to the interviews that feed us exposition, it felt like absolutely no thought was put into how to best deliver the lore of this world to the audience. Seriously.... some of the exposition here gives Bright a run for its money. It's forgettable, filled with cliches and bad dialogue, and poorly edited. The FEW interesting qualities are massively outweighed by the negatives, and when you add the fact that this is set within the Cloverfield universe and AGAIN we only get a teaser of the actual monster???? It's unforgivable. I love the original too much to abandon this franchise just yet, but after this trainwreck (and the lackluster lore of the second film) I'm on thin ice with it. Please, please, PLEASE give us something better next time, Bad Robot.
My Number: 3/10 Bad.
The Most Culturally Relevant Film of 2017
I, Tonya (2017): Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.
This movie is freaking amazing. While it may not be the "best" all-around movie of the year, (though it is close) it is, without a doubt, the most relevant and necessary film of the year. It's also my personal favorite by far. I, Tonya tells the infamous story of the scandal between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan through interviews of Tonya herself, her husband Jeff, (played by Sebastian Stan) her mother LaVona (played by Allison Janney) and a few others. The presentation of this story is undoubtedly the highlight. Not only does director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers utilize voice-overs so well that it would make The Big Short jealous, but they even change the perspective of individual scenes in an engaging and subtle way throughout the film. More on that later. In addition to telling its crazy and over-the-top story in an amazing way, the film features phenomenal acting, a great soundtrack, and fantastic editing. So let's dive into why I, Tonya is one of the year's best films!
Let's hit that acting first. The wonderful Margot Robbie plays Tonya Harding in what is clearly a labor of love for her. She undergoes a pretty noticeable transformation to play this character, and man is she magnificent. This role solidifies Robbie (for me, at least) as a top-of-the-line A-list celebrity in Hollywood. Not to be outdone by Robbie though is Allison freaking Janney in a role that has earned her a deserving Oscar nomination. (Her first ever) Tonya's mother LaVona is a complex character with no redeeming qualities, and Janney goes ALL OUT to play her. It's hard to believe this is the same woman that played the charismatic and legendary C.J. Cregg in The West Wing, but man do I love it! She's simply incredible. Honestly it's one of the best performances of 2017, period. While these two are the highlights in the film, their male counterparts also put in stellar performances. Sebastian Stan was great playing this complex character that you almost love to hate, and Paul Walter Hauser was HILARIOUS as Shawn, Tonya's.....bodyguard. Hauser is a relative newcommer to Hollywood as this is his first major supporting role, but I can't wait to see what's next for him. He had me rolling on the floor laughing with his delivery and persona. However, while the acting is incredible, it's the style in which this story's told that is the highlight of the film.
The voice-over narration of this film is hysterical. Not only is this film told using, in its own words, "Wildly contradictory, irony free, and totally true" interviews, but it also shoots individual scenes from different points-of-view. I didn't notice this as first because it is quite subtle, but this storytelling style made the film unpredictable and that much more fun-to-watch. One scene, Tonya is clueless and naive while asking her husband if he had anything to do with "the incident" with Nancy Kerrigan, the next she's acting like she's totally in on it. One scene Jeff is beating the crap out of her, and the next scene she's teaming up with him to yell at another character (Jeff's friend Shawn, played by Hauser) for no reason whatsoever. It was utterly fascinating. I think there's a video essay to be had on the screenplay of this film and how it tells its story. It's a damn shame writer Steven Rogers didn't receive any love from the Academy in this year's Oscar nominations. Much as I loved Logan, that definitely did not deserve the nod over this. These perspective changes also sold me on the voiceover narration, which is certainly easy to screw up. In many films voiceovers are a crutch on the story, (and over-explain things) but here they add to it and help us navigate the changing perspectives. Oh! And it's funny! This film is SO freaking funny. It made me bust my gut laughing on more than one occasion, and it even managed to break the fourth wall in a hilarious and not-corny way. LaVona has a joke in this vein about halfway through and it is the freaking joke of the year for film. Also! This movie features a fantastic soundtrack with a lot of smart and savvy musical choices. While it's not Baby Driver levels of great, you will find yourself tapping your foot to the beat and listening to the on-point lyrics that were meticulously chosen for each scene. About the only negative I have with this film is in the makeup and effects departments. Gillespie's team didn't do a very good job making Margot Robbie look 15, which she has to pull off early in the film, but this by no means diminished from the overall viewing experience. They cast Margot Robbie to play the lead character, and Tonya spent most of the first half of the film in her teenage years, so they might as well just use her. And some of the effects are corny, particularly in the slow motion skating moments. But this film had a budget of $11 million, most of which was probably for the actors, so I'll forgive it for having less-than-stellar visual effects.
Finally, I REALLY love the fact that this film never really cares about whether Tonya "did it" or not. That's not the point, and THIS is what makes I, Tonya the most relevant film of the year. (You knew I had to address that statement sooner or later) It focuses more on the fallout and consequences to the incident Tonya had to face, and the adversity she experienced during her brief career because she didn't "fit the part" of a women's figure skater. Figure skating was clearly eager to crucify Tonya Harding because she didn't come from a "wholesome American family" and didn't represent "America's values," and she dealt with adversity her entire career because of it. And now, in 2017, while monsters like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are trying to plot their comeback stories, (if they are "truly sorry" of course..... :( ) I think it's about time we allow a woman to change the image that's been forced upon her. THAT'S the goal of I, Tonya, and it achieves this goal effectively and in a riveting manner. This is one of the best films of the year, and it's absolutely worth your time. ESPECIALLY if you think Tonya Harding is a monster for what she may (or may not) have done. However, if you still think Tonya is a monster after seeing this film...... that's fine. She doesn't care about you anyway. After all, as she would say...... fuck 'em.
The Critique: Featuring phenomenal performances from Margot Robbie and Allison Janney. a unique storytelling style, and an important message, I, Tonya is the most relevant and worthwhile film of 2017.
The Recommendation: You knew this one was coming: It's an absolute must-see!
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
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