Uncut Gems and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie
Good Time wasn’t one of my favorite movies of that year by a long shot, but it’s also a movie I keep thinking about even now as the filmmakers clearly made something wildly compelling even if it wasn’t exactly for me. If nothing else, I was eager to see what they did next as I really believe they can make a movie that’s not just great but one that I’d like as well, which is why when I first heard of this new movie they were making AND that it would be a dramatic turn for Adam Sandler, I knew that this had to be a top priority that I needed to see as soon as it came out! Okay fine, AFTER Star Wars, but this was locked in for second place! Do the Safdie Brothers improve on their last film and make a film that’s even better, or was all the potential I saw in Good Time actually the peak of their creative vision? Let’s find out!!
Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) runs a jewelry store out of New York City where he makes a tidy living selling exquisite trash to those looking for something Gaudy more than Elegant, but most of the money he makes is then funneled into his gambling addiction which means he gets to talk to sports stars, have nice apartments, and live a life of relative comfort, but he’s also in deep with loan sharks (Eric Bogosian, Keith Williams, and Tommy Kominik) who want nothing more than to rip his heart out right out of his chest since that’s about all they’ll get from the guy who can’t stop throwing all his money away on terrible sports bets. Still, he’s got an ace up his sleeve which is this opal he got straight from a mining company in Ethiopia which he plans to sell at an auction for up to a MILLION dollars. Seems like he’s got it all sorted out, but of course when you’re a guy whose got as much bad blood as he does, those people who want something from him could easily derail everything in an instant, and Howard himself can’t seem to keep his own behavior under control long enough to get the money and clean the slate; especially when he “loans” the opal to basketball player Kevin Garnett (playing himself) and for whatever reason he can’t be reached and his go between guy (Lakeith Stanfield) is being awfully cagey for some reason. Can Howard get the opal back in time to sell it and get his life back in order? What sorts of comeuppance will he have waiting for him the moment he gets the money and what if it comes for him sooner than that? I mean if he’s THAT deep in the red, can’t he just make Happy Gilmore 2? Nineties nostalgia is ALL the rage now; tell me that wouldn’t make a hundred million at the box office!
The Lighthouse and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Robert Eggers
The director’s last film The Witch was a PHENOMENAL film that is easily one of the best horror films in the last decade (certainly better than Hereditary), so I was excited to see what he was going to do next. Lo and behold, his next movie starts two of the best character actors working today, is presented in Black and White, and is about something relatively mundane but will no doubt lead to horror and intrigue! Jeez, you might as well have wrapped it up, put a nice bow on it, and put it on a drone to crash into my house! Does Robert Eggers’s second film exceed the high bar he set with his first outing, or is a talent as great as his still not immune to the dread Sophomore Slump? Let’s find out!!
Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattison) is the new assistant lighthouse keeper watching over a crappy little light house on a crappy little rock not too far from shore but far enough that you wouldn’t survive an attempt to swim towards it. His supervisor Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) is an old sea captain with the accent, peg leg, and pipe to back it up, and his task is to whip this young whipper snapper into ship shape if he’s to one day maintain a lighthouse of his very own. Seems simple enough, and they certainly have more than enough work to do maintaining this house and the light therein, but over time it starts to become clear that maybe Captain Wake isn’t all he claims to be and that maybe Winslow isn’t as cut out for this work as he initially thought. Oh well, it’s not like he’s gonna be there FOREVER, right? He’s only there for a month before being moved somewhere else… oh what’s that? There’s a big storm coming that’ll make it impossible for his ship to come anytime soon? Well then! That’s… unfortunate for everyone involved. So Ephraim is stuck there for a while and with each passing day it seems that little bit of his sanity has gone with it as things get weirder and weirder around here; not the least of which being Captain Wake who REALLY seems to like the light at the top of the tower. I mean… he REALLY likes that light! So much so that Ephraim hasn’t had a chance to maintain it despite that being part of his training because Wake wants to keep it all to himself… for some reason. Can Ephraim keep his head down, focus on his work, and stay out of trouble long enough for the lighthouse company to send him another boat? What is going on up there at the top of the tower, and is that just the tip of the iceberg as far as strange happenings on this unassuming island? After seeing Pattinson brood his way through this, is there anyone else who COULD be Batman!?
The Farewell and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Lulu Wang
I really haven’t seen nearly as many small release and indie films as I should have this year which is a shame because Can You Ever Forgive Me, Sorry to Bother You, and Ingrid Goes West certainly aren’t the kind of films that will be playing at my local theater which STILL has Aladdin yet no room for this film. Yes, I had to go out of town once again to see something even marginally outside the mainstream (how does an Awkwafina movie not get on every screen in the world!?) but more often than not the effort has been worth it as there are a lot of great stuff to find outside the blockbuster tent pole films, and not ALL of them have gone to Netflix yet! Does this family drama about a family member dying somehow manage to be the standout film of the summer, or are we doomed for mediocre dreck ON TOP OF such as somber premise? Let’s find out!!
Billi (Awkwafina) is your typical American millennial; in that she’s living in New York, she wants to be a writer, and she is perpetually broke. Oh well! At least she has her parents to support her (Tzi Ma and Diana Lin) and has maintained a good relationship with her paternal grandmother who she refers to as Nai nai (Zhao Shuzhen) and talks to on a regular basis. One day however, when Billi is home to do her laundry, she finds out that Nai Nai has been diagnosed with lung cancer and only has a few months left to live. The whole family including relatives in Japan will be going to see her so they can make her goodbyes which is about all Billi could hope for from this tragic situation, BUT WAIT! The family SPECIFICALLY doesn’t want her to go! Why? As it turns out NO ONE IS TELLING NAI NAI SHE’S DYING (her sister played by Lu Hong hid the medical reports) and everyone is pretending that Billi’s cousin Hao Hao (Chen Han) is getting married as an excuse for the trip. Billi being the… I don’t know, emotional and/or Westernized one is liable to spill the beans if she sees her. Billi goes anyway however despite the protests of her parents but she does manage to keep the secret for the time being. However, she’s constantly struggling with whether to tell her while going along with this wedding ruse that starts to spiral out of control; all the while just trying to deal with the fact that she’s going to lose someone so important to her as well and the (at least to her) bewildering actions her family is taking. Will Billi come clean to Nai Nai or is keeping this a secret the more humane approach? Will the family get the closure they need during this trip despite the layers of subterfuge getting in the way? What if Nai Nai has some unfinished business she needs to take care of!? How do they REALLY know what she’s up to on the weekends!?
Hereditary and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Ari Aster
You know… I’m starting to feel like the old man yelling at clouds. For whatever reason, THIS kind of horror film (mostly put out by A24) is the new hotness in horror and I just can’t understand it. I’ve sat through far too many weighty and slow paced exercises in excessive cruelty that still manage to get critical acclaim, and I just can’t understand it. Now they had to make one of these with one of my favorite actresses which means I HAVE to go see it even if it’s probably gonna be more of the same. GREAT! I LOVE sitting through things that ruin my day, don’t you!? Anyway, will this be the one that manages to be thoughtful, interesting, and GOOD instead of just provocative for the sake of pretension, or will this be yet another film I’ll want to bury in the backyard with cement so that even if it comes back as a zombie it’s not going anywhere? Let’s find out!!
Annie Graham (Toni Collette) is a mother of two who just lost her own mother and is having trouble coping with the loss; mostly by repressing her feelings, but also because her mother was a… shall we say COMPLICATED person, and whatever secrets Annie is dealing with are not something she’s ready to share with everyone else. Unfortunately her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) had a particular attachment to her and is lashing out in her own way which is only bringing more and stress onto the family. Her husband’s pretty cool with it though (Gabriel Byrne) as he’s a PEACE KEEPER who really just floats in and out of situations trying to cause as little fuss as possible, and their son Peter (Alex Wolff) is well on his way to being an emotionally repressed mess of his own, though that might just be the teenage angst talking. Anyway… let’s just say that things get PRETTY bad from there as the death of Annie’s mother turns out to be the LEAST of their problems as… things get pretty bad from there. Annie’s slowly unraveling from the stress and the guilt of… whatever happens, and it’s tearing the entire family apart; especially Peter who… let’s just say isn’t quite equipped to deal with all this. With so much chaos at home and very little support outside of it other than Annie’s friend Joan (Ann Dowd), will this family manage to get past this… very bad thing that happened, and come together as a functional family? How much hardships, horror, and emotional scarring will they have to go through for even a hope of surviving… whatever this is? Why… you know what, just why. WHY!?
Lady Bird and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Greta Gerwig
So who would have guessed the surprise hit of Oscar season 2017 would be an indie coming of age story about a young woman who’s desire to be an artist and to see the world is straining against her down to Earth family that love her unconditionally but are hard on her because they only want what’s best? Admittedly it DOES tick off quite a few check boxes in the Oscar Bait checklist, but then again a lot of movies that SUCCESSFULLY pull this kind of material off really are deserving of all the accolades they get and it’s not often that something receiving THIS much praise from such a large majority of film critics doesn’t have SOMETHING to offer… unless we’re talking about The King’s Speech. Pointless and petty jabs at old movies aside, does this manage to be the critical darling that earned its title by being a superb film, or will the sterling reputation of this film be short lived as it fades into the background like many other supposedly great films that don’t hold up under scrutiny? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) who’s about to enter her senior year of high school and is still not sure what she wants to do afterwards which is putting her in constant conflict with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). Okay, well actually she KNOWS what she wants to do and that’s to find an arts college on the East Coast willing to take her in so she can get the heck out of Sacramento and be about as far as realistically possible from the life she’s living now, but her mom doesn’t want to hear all that and is insisting she go to a much closer college. Not helping matters is the fact that her dad (Tracy Letts) just lost their job and is having trouble finding another one which makes the chances of out of state schooling that much more infeasible. For the rest of the year, Lady Bird needs to find a way to escape from her less than engaging circumstances while also just trying to survive day to day life with her friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) giving her moral support throughout. Will Lady Bird find a way to fulfill her dream of NOT living in Sacramento? Why is her mom in so hard on her all the time, and is all that Tough Love really helping her to be a better person? WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG!?
Good Time and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Ben Safdie and Josh Safdie
Oh boy! Is this another movie that I walked into with no idea what it’s about or even what kind of movie it is? IT SURE IS! It’s called Good Time, so how could it be anything but a barrel of laughs!? Then again Robert Pattinson isn’t known for his comedy work, unless we’re talking UNINTENTIONAL ones. Who knows? It’s certainly been getting a lot of praise and was even one of the big hits from Cannes this year, so maybe it’s at least worth a shot! Is this the kind of film that we’ll be talking about at the end of the year come award season, or is this yet another example of a festival darling being overhyped and underperforming once it takes a shot at mainstream audiences? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Brothers Connie and Nick (Robert Pattinson and Ben Safdie) leaving the office where Nick sees a social worker that is assisting with his situation (he has a mental disability) and going to rob a crappy bank in Queens. Sadly their skills at robbing the bank are even crappier and Nick ends up getting pinched by the cops while Connie just barely escapes with very little money to show for it. From there it’s a series of blunders as Connie tries to find a way to get Nick out of jail; either through scrounging up enough money to post bail or through more creative means. Each plan he comes up with is somehow worse than the last and the number of victims he leaves in his wake starts to build up as his methods become more and more desperate the longer he goes on without a legitimate solution to his problem. Can Connie survive this night long enough to get his brother out of the big house, and will his freedom be enough to justify the ever increasing cost Connie is paying to get it? What colorful and wacky characters will he meet along the way, and will any of them turn out to be the answer he’s been seeking? Is there a chance that he can LITERALLY run away from his problems!? Hey, when all else fails it’s worth a shot!
It Comes at Night and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Trey Edward Shults
I have to see movies ALL the time which means I see a lot of trailers over and over again, and while it doesn’t really affect my opinion of a film once I see it, it does make the movie going experience a bit more tiresome. That’s why I love it when there’s a trailer that genuinely intrigues me and does something different from everything else I have to sit through when waiting for the movie to start. That was the case with this film which was very minimal in its approach and yet EXTREMELY effective as it was mostly a long slow shot as we got closer and closer to a red door. WHAT’S BEHIND THE DOOR!? Well the day has come for us all to find out! Will this be a new benchmark for the horror genre, or was it a REALLY great trailer for a mediocre movie? Let’s find out!!
We start the movie with someone clearly dying of a horrific disease and their family surrounding them; wearing gas masks and saying their final goodbyes. The head of the household Paul (Joel Edgerton) and his teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr) take the sick man who turns out to be Travis’s grandfather (David Pendleton) out into the woods, put him out of his misery with a bullet to the head, and set the body on fire before burying it. Clearly something bad has happened to the world and this family which also includes Travi’s mother Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) is trying to survive. The modicum of stability they built up however is disrupted when a man named Will (Christopher Abbott) breaks into their house looking for food for his family, and after an intense interrogation scene Paul decides to let him and his family which includes his wife Kim and their little son Stanley (Riley Keough and a child actor known simply as Mikey with no other acting credits) stay in the house that’s been fortified to withstand… whatever it is that’s out there. Of course, this being a post-apocalyptic film, things start to go wrong rather quickly as the greatest threat is not the virus, or zombies, or whatever could possibly be happening… its MAN HIMSELF! Will everyone in this house learn to chillax and survive with one another, or are they all too paranoid to let the other’s live? What is Travis hiding from everyone else and what is the cause of these dreams he keeps having that are keeping him up at night? Is this gonna turn out to be a sequel to The Village!?
Moonlight and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Barry Jenkins
I don’t get to see a lot of independent films where I live, and the few chances that I do get to see them usually involve a long drive to a faraway theater with exorbitant prices. Such is the case with this film which has been getting a whole lot of buzz recently, especially with Hollywood’s recent push to diversify itself (and with Birth of Nation having more baggage than they expected). My knowledge of LGBTQ+ cinema is somewhat limited, though even then I’m not even sure the best way to define that. I’m pretty sure that saying John Waters or Gus Van Sant are “gay filmmakers” is right on the money as their work often centers around LGBTQ+ characters and their struggles, but what about directors like Lee Daniels or Rob Marshall? Sure, you can point to most of their movies and point out themes and messages that can be relatable to those in the LGBTQ+ community, but would you put The Butler or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides along alongside Gus Van Sant’s films? Hell, what about movies that are explicitly about LGBTQ+ issues but are directed by those who aren’t in the community such as Brokeback Mountain, To Wong Foo, or even this film which was written by a gay man (Tarell Alvin McCraney) but directed by a straight one? Look, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who can give you a better answer to that question than I can, so I’ll just stick to what I at least PRETEND to know best; namely talking about the movies while making snarky comments. Is this the film that truly lives up to the ideals that Hollywood has failed to live up to and will get all the credit it deserves, or is this a mediocre endeavor that the cynics in the Academy will glom onto just to make themselves look better? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the life of Chiron and is presented to us in three distinct segments. We see him when he’s small and is known as Little (Alex Hibbert), when he’s a teenager and the nickname has been dropped (Ashton Sanders), and as an adult when he starts using another nickname Black (Trevante Rhodes), and in each one they show a little bit more of his struggle. What struggle is that exactly? Well it doesn’t take long to figure out that he’s gay which everyone around him seems to pick up on and, for the most part, use it against him. His mother (Naomie Harris) is dealing with her own problems with addiction so this just seems like an unbearable inconvenience for her and plenty of kids in school just bully him because he seems different. Now it’s not like the whole world is against him as a local couple, Juan and Teresa (Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe), try to give him some guidance in his life, and he has a friend named Kevin (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and André Holland) who tries to keep his spirits up even though he’s got his own growing pains to work through and his own share of bad choices to make. Will Chiron ever feel accepted in a world that seems tailor made to keep him down? How will decisions that he and his family make at certain points in his life affect him later on? Most importantly, WILL YOU JUST KISS HIM ALREADY!? YOU BELONG TOGETHER!!
Swiss Army Man and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
From the guys who brought us Dogboarding and the Turn Down for What music video, we now have the feature film debut of the duo simply known as DANIELS (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert). A lot of great filmmakers started out with shorts and music videos before becoming household names, just look at Spike Jones, David Fincher, and Michel Gondry. True, that list also includes Michael Bay, but you can’t peg a winner EVERY time, and it’s not like he’s never made ANY good movies! Can these green filmmakers prove themselves to be the next big thing with their movie about a farting Daniel Radcliffe corpse? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Hank (Paul Dano) who’s been stuck on a very small island for some time and is ready to kill himself when something washes up on the shore. It’s not Wilson from Castaway, but instead is a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) who seems to have the uncanny ability to fart continuously and forcefully enough for Hank to ride his ass back to civilization! Well sort of. He hops aboard the Daniel Radcliffe express and washes up on a new shore, but there’s a forest between him and presumably other people, so he starts hiking his ass through the woods carrying the dead body with him in case he needs anything else from it. At one point though, it’s clear that this is more than a magical farting corpse, but is instead a LIVING magical farting corpse who actually has all sorts of wacky powers that are discovered along the way. Hank gives him the name Manny and they quickly become friends because… well there isn’t anyone else around, now is there? Manny by the way has a whole lot of questions about what it’s like to be human and about life itself, so Hank has to keep answering these annoying and probing inquires while he uses the body to get whatever he needs to survive. Is the body actually alive which would mean Hank isn’t as crazy as he thinks he is? What is the story behind Manny in the first place and are there memories to be uncovered? Were the filmmakers dared to see how many fart jokes they can put in a movie and STILL get it to be an indie darling?