Jojo Rabbit and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Taika Waititi
I don’t know if I’d classify this as Oscar Bait even though it’s set in World War II which is like half the criteria right there, but it’s certainly a film that’s been on everyone’s radars for months now; somewhat due to the controversial subject matter, but mostly because of the filmmaker behind it who’s really blown up in the last few years and for good reason. Thor: Ragnarok was one of the most exciting films in that Phase of the Marvel franchise, and everything we’ve seen of him since then has only increased his status in the public eye. Now we have his first directorial film since Ragnarok which is a satire of Fascism at a time that couldn’t be more relevant, so you can’t say that the guy doesn’t swing for the fences! Is this a brutal and necessary take down of the ideology that’s been infecting global politics for a few years now, or is the film just not equipped to tackle such a heavy subject matter no matter how much talent there is behind it? Let’s find out!!
Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany who wants nothing more than to become a true fighter for the cause and even has Hitler as his imaginary friend that gives him pep talks and dubious advice. He hopes that the camp he’s about to attend for the Hitler Youth will be the turning point in his life as he becomes a TRUE man and uses the skills he will learn to not only fight for the Aryan race, but become Hitler’s right hand man as they exterminate the dastardly Jews off the face of the Earth! Yeah… Jojo is kind of a messed up kid all things considered, but he’s also seemingly too sensitive to REALLY become the monster that the rest of the Nazis around him have become, and he gets the nickname Jojo Rabbit when he refuses to kill a rabbit to prove his manhood. Instead he tries to throw a grenade which goes horribly wrong and leaves him with a bunch of scars on his face and a leg that doesn’t work as well as it used to. Because of this he has to spend more time at home with his mother (Scarlett Johansson) who he suspects may not be fully on board with this whole “Nazi” thing; a suspicion confirmed when he finds out that she’s been protecting a Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) who’s been living in a secret room within the walls of the house; specifically the walls in the room of Jojo’s sister who seems to have died at some point during the war. With his own family seeming to turn against the ideology he loves and the man he believes to be a hero, will Jojo come to terms with the failings of the Nazi ideology and join his mother in resisting their influences? The allied powers seem to be advancing on his village, so will he have to fight against them at some point despite his bad leg and lack of a killer instinct? If Hitler is such a good leader, then why hasn’t he fixed all this kid’s problems and made him a true blue Nazi solider? Checkmate, ten year old kid!!
Ready or Not and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Has it been a bad year for horror films? There have certainly been quite a few misses like the Child’s Play remake, Ma, and whatever the heck Brightburn was supposed to be, but we also had fun stuff like The Intruder and even a genuinely great horror film like Us, so the year isn’t a TOTAL miss as far for these kinds of films. Still, we could always use a few more quality flicks here and there since it’s becoming one of the few reliably bankable genres now that Disney Remake has become its own ginormous slice of the pie and pretty much everything else is heading towards the streaming model to stay afloat. Wait a minute… this is a Fox Searchlight movie which means it’s STILL DISNEY! HORROR SHOCK!! Anyway! Does this grotesque spin on the children’s game of Hide and Seek end up being a new classic for the genre, or will we regret ever looking for it in the first place? Let’s find out!!
Grace (Samara Weaving), who I can only assume plays a professional Margot Robbie impersonator in this movie, is getting married to Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) who is an heir to the VAST Le Domas fortune which was made through board games and other such ventures. The family seems pleasant enough despite being a collection of old money weirdos, but things take an… interesting turn when on their wedding night at the gigantic Le Domas estate, the family requests that Grace take part in a tradition of their where the newest member of the family has to play a game at the stroke of midnight. The head of the family Tony (Henry Czerny) explains that this MYSTERIOUS box given to his great grandfather by their original benefactor will spit out a card with a game printed on it, and they will play that game which will officially bring her into the family. Will it be chess? Parcheesi? Do the Urkel? No, the game turns out to be Hide and Seek which seems a bit childish, but Grace is up for it if it means getting along with her new family who mysteriously went quiet just now. Anyway, she runs and hides, gets bored and starts wandering the halls, and then Alex brings her into a room to explain that the rest of those mo-fos are going to kill her if they find her because of reasons that… well he doesn’t quite explain there and I’m not about to spoil it here. The point is that she’s got to find a way to avoid detection and even fight back if the need arises while Alex tries to find a way for them to escape, and as the night goes on the family starts to get more and more desperate as there seems to be quite a bit at stake here. Can Grace manage to escape this house with her internal organs, as well as her marriage, intact? What is the family hiding that could possibly explain why a game of hide and seek has turned into the home version of The Most Dangerous Game? Is it just me, or do these rich jerks seem WOEFULLY unprepared for this?
Can You Ever Forgive Me? and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Marielle Heller
Have I mentioned that I really like Melissa McCarthy? Because I REALLY like Melissa McCarthy. The Ghostbusters reboot was one of the best movies the year it came out, The Happytime Murders is one of the best films of this year, and I even liked Life of the Party which may not have gotten QUITE as much negativity as the puppet cop movie, but makes up for it in just how quickly everyone seems to have forgotten about it. Now she gets to star in a nice juicy biopic that doesn’t seem to have the over the top comedic tone of her usual output and is instead a much quieter and more character driven film. Hey, it may not be what she’s known for but I have no doubt that she has the acting chops to pull off something much more serious and it’d be even MORE hilarious if she makes a movie that critics fawn over in the same year that they’ve quite harshly rejected everything else she’s done. Does this biopic capture the importance of its subject matter along with giving Melissa McCarthy an interesting role to work with, or will this be a bigger disappointment than Bohemian Rhapsody? Okay, chances are NOTHING could be as disappointing as that, but let’s find out!!
Back in the long ago time of the early nineties, biographer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) was struggling to make ends meet with whatever profits she made from her earlier books drying up completely and her bitter attitude and sardonic wit making her not very popular in office environments. This is made especially bad because she’s experiencing a rather lengthy bout of writers block and is being stonewalled by her agent (Jane Curtain), so with nothing else to fall back on a sick cat to take care of she starts to pawn off whatever memorabilia she has; including a letter she got from Katherine Hepburn. It seems that letters like this can fetch a nice price from book stores and collectors, though when she just so happens to find two more letters from someone else who is famous she learns that they need to be… spicy as it were to fetch more than a few bucks. Well hold on! She’s a writer, isn’t she? And she writes about famous people already, right? Why, it wouldn’t be THAT hard to just make up some letters in the voice of those famous individuals and use old typewriters with old paper to more or less print money! That will give her enough money to help her sick cat AND keep her drinking habit alive! So she begins her life of crime which not only keeps a roof over her head but gives her a passion for writing that she hasn’t experienced for some time; not to mention giving her a little cash to spoil herself and her friend Jack Hock (Richard E Grant) who eventually joins her to help cover her tracks. How long though can these two keep this scheme of their going before collectors and the authorities start to take a closer look? Even if they can get away with it, will it help Lee understand and maybe even resolve the issues that have been plaguing her life and her writing up to this point? Is it too early to start filling out my Award Card yet? I know we’ve got another two months and I’m NOTORIOUSLY bad at picking winners, but this time I’m feeling lucky!
The Shape of Water and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Did it REALLY have to take this long for the darn film to show up in a theater remotely close to me!? While EVERY OTHER film critic in the world got to check this out a few weeks ago, I’ve been sitting here on pins and needles; waiting for the studio to begrudgingly bring this film to the wider masses. There have been a few movies that I’ve been looking forward to quite a bit as we were heading into Award Season, and at the top of the list was this freaky looking cross between Beauty and the Beast and The Creature from the Black Lagoon from one of the best genre filmmakers out there. With only slightly waned excitement due to its slow rollout to general audiences, does this manage to live up to the high expectations set up not only by the wonderful looking trailers but by the ceaseless buzz from every other film critic on the planet BESIDES me, or was this a huge misstep that we’re all gonna look back on with less than favorable feelings once the hype has settled down? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who’s one of many janitors in a SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY that’s somewhere in Baltimore which presumably has REALLY specific NDA agreements as the place has been known to house strange and unusual specimens. The latest of said specimens turns out to be some sort of Freaky Fish Guy (Doug Jones) who was captured and dragged out of the Amazon Forest by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Said Colonel is now head of security in the SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY, at least until the government can figure out what to do with the Freaky Fish Guy, and both Eliza and her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are stuck cleaning the room that the creature is housed in. Eliza immediately takes a liking to said creature and the two of them begin an unlikely friendship as Eliza’s mastery of American Sign Language (which she learned due to her being mute) as well as her awesome record collection give the two of them a way to communicate and something to bond over. Colonel Strickland on the other hand is less inclined to get friendly with the Freaky Fish Guy, preferring to use a cattle prod to get the creature in line, and eventually is dead set on dissecting it before it gets any funny ideas. Eliza, along with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) hatch a plan to try and save him as does the mysterious Dr Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) who has his own reasons for wanting the creature to be kept alive. Will Elisa be able to protect the Freaky Fish Guy from having his internal organs removed and put into labeled jars? What is Dr Hoffstetler REALLY up to, and how will Colonel Strickland react once he finds out that his own staff is working against him? Seriously, who can look at that Freaky Fish Guy and NOT immediately fall in love with him!?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Martin McDonagh
To tell you the truth, I never really liked In Bruges. It was fine I guess, but I never found it all that compelling and the ending is just a contrived mess that’s about as bad as sixty percent of the twists Shyamalan has come up with. And yet, there are a lot of people out there that like that movie as well as McDonagh’s other work, so naturally the buzz around this film was huge right off the bat which only grew once the trailers started coming out and we got to see some of Frances McDormand’s acting. At the very least, it manages to grab your attention with its unorthodox title (A COMMA!?) and even more unorthodox premise that will hopefully take advantage of the ideas that seem baked right into this material. Does this manage to live up to the hype that its beloved director and solid marketing campaign has built up for it, or will this end up a huge stumble for everyone involved? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) driving down the same road she’s driven down for years and years; heading home after a long day at work and trying hard to deal with the grief over her daughter’s death. Not just any death too! She was raped, murdered, and burnt to a crisp, so forgetting about that is proving to be a bit difficult, especially since the cops never found the guy who did it. That’s when Mildred comes up with an idea. On this road she’s traveled many times before are three billboards that no one has used in decades, so she decides to purchase the ad space and put up signs reminding the denizens of this small town that the police still haven’t caught the murderer. Now obviously this ruffles some feathers down at the station, particularly Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) who’s about as dumb and racist of a cop that you’d expect from a story like this and to a much lesser extent Sherriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) who’s leading the stalled investigation and is the primary target of Mildred’s ire. Things begin to get much more heated around town as several people begin to question (and stupidly try to attack) Mildred and her decision to put this spotlight on something that everyone would rather not think about and leave up to the cops. Mildred is having NONE of this and starts kicking ass and taking names at everyone who looks at her sideways which only escalates tensions further in this ticking time bomb of a standoff with her on one side and the rest of the world on the other. Will Mildred finally get justice for the death of her daughter whose killer roams free while the police do nothing? Just how far will Mildred go in order to get what she wants, and will she lose touch between what can and cannot be justified in her righteous quest? Just how much saltier will Frances McDormand get in this role before she wins that Oscar gold!?
Battle of the Sexes and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Well THIS is certainly a pleasant surprise! I may not know all the details, but I’m certainly aware of the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Robbie Riggs which has always stuck with me despite only knowing about it by watching the back half of a TV documentary around fifteen years ago. I’ve always liked tennis as a sport and the build up to the phenomenal match was ridiculous and felt like a flash in the pan moment in history which did end up having a big impact on everything simply for how much confident men were that she was gonna lose and then had that whole perception shattered on live television around the world. Is there any way that a film can do justice to this once in a lifetime event and remind us all of how important this was in the first place? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about the infamous match between world renowned tennis player Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and world renowned FORMER tennis player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) which was played up in the media as THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES and the match that would once and for all prove that women have no business competing in MAN PLACES like tennis; something that wasn’t helped by Riggs’s absurdly derogatory and over the top chauvinistic stunts. Of course, there was a lot more to the story than the over the top theatrics leading up to it which includes the establishment of the Women’s Tennis Association, Billie Jean’s romantic relationship with another woman Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), and even Bobby Riggs’s financial woes that may have been the driving force for setting up this match in the first place. So much was on the line for Billie Jean to succeed, yet with so much working against her, it was quickly becoming a task that seemed impossible to overcome. Would she be able to find the strength to overcome the odds and prove herself once and for all? How will she be able to maintain a relationship with another woman in a time when that was much more frowned upon and life destroying than it is today? How can one person navigate all this nonsense being constantly thrown at them and STILL manage to keep from knocking all these jerkwads upside the head!?
Gifted and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Marc Webb
Has anyone else notice that Marc Webb now has four movies in a row with Superheroes in them? Sure the Amazing Spider-Man movie are obvious, but 500 Days of Summer had Joseph Gordon-Levitt (AKA Robin) and now he’s directing Captain America in a movie about a girl genius! Hell, if he can get back on track now that he isn’t weighed down by Sony’s super petty pet projects, maybe he’ll be the one to finally get Hugh Jackman that Oscar in some heartfelt indie drama or something! Speaking of which, the indie vibe is certainly strong with this one which I don’t particularly begrudge the guy for considering he spent the last five years on terrible films. If he needs a film to rediscover his roots and remind us all why he was such a promising up and coming director, I’m more than fine with it! Does this manage to be the movie that resuscitate his fledgling directorial career, or will this prove once and for that he’s not that strong of a director even when he doesn’t have a giant studio breathing down his neck? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins on the first day of school for Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) who’s been home schooled by her uncle Frank (Chris Evans) up until now, but he’s determined for her to have a normal childhood which includes interacting with other children instead of just grownups like him and their helpful neighbor Roberta (Octavia Spencer). Of course, Mary isn’t exactly a normal girl as she has SUPER impressive math skills which doesn’t go unnoticed by her teacher Miss Stevenson (Jenny Slate) or anyone else in the school which unfortunately leads to Mary’s grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) finally tracking the two of them down. So why is this bad thing? Well since Mary isn’t technically Frank’s daughter (her mother is his sister and Evelyn’s daughter who died some time ago), she feels she can get a court to give her full custody of Mary and make sure that her brain is put to good use; mainly studying advanced calculus every day with college professors instead of going to grade school. Fair enough I guess. I mean, it’s not like she’s getting THAT much out of the first grade curriculum. Then again, as we learn more about Evelyn and ESPECIALLY her relationship to Mary’s mother, things get a bit less clear cut and Frank is certainly not about to back down on trying to give Mary a normal life. Will Frank get to keep Mary from a sheltered academic life, or is he simply holding her back from reaching her true potential. What exactly happened that led to Frank having Mary in the first place? Does anything from this movie look familiar to anyone else?
Table 19 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Jeffrey Blitz
Table what now? Has anyone heard of this movie before like a week ago? Hell, did anyone see a trailer of this or is its target audience people who couldn’t see Beauty and the Beast because it was sold out but made the effort to get out of the damn house anyway so are going to see something else? I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty niche market to go after! Well just because no one has heard of the damn thing doesn’t mean it’s a BAD movie. Hell, Shawshank Redemption was a HUGE flop and now it’s one of the most beloved and overexposed films of all time! Okay, so this probably isn’t gonna be THAT good, but maybe it’ll still manage to be rather enjoyable. Let’s find out!!
The table in question refers to a table at the wedding reception, and the nineteenth one is the LAST table in the hierarchy of wedding guests. While all the important people are at the first few tables and all the REAL guests are in the latter ones, the ones who were invited but weren’t expected to show up were placed at the TABLE OF INFINITE SHAME!! The guest list includes the brides former babysitter (June Squibb) which seems kinda mean spirited, a couple who worked with the one of the dads of the married couple many years ago (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a family member who screwed someone out of A LOT of money (Stephen Merchant), and… some teenager (Tony Revolori). Honestly, I don’t remember why he’s even there in the first place, but his shtick is that he’s horny all the time so maybe he’s on hand to fill a cliché quota. ANYWAY! There’s still one more person at the table. The best friend of the bride (Anna Kendrick)!? SAY WHAT!? She’s ALSO the former Maid of Honor and is personally responsible for the seating arrangements!? As it turns out, there was a major falling out, particularly in regards to the brother of the bride (Wyatt Russel), and while she ultimately decided to still go, she’s stuck with the losers and rejects who probably resent being considered losers and rejects. Will shenanigans inevitably ensue now that a Molotov cocktail of resentment has landed at the table with people who pretty much have nothing to lose here? Just what exactly happened between our heroine of sorts and the happy couple’s family? WHAT ARE THEY GONNA DO TO THE WEDDING CAKE!?
The Birth of a Nation and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Nate Parker
To tell you the truth, I was not looking forward to seeing this and was up until the last minute figuring out if I wanted to take a pass on this considering the controversy surrounding the filmmaker’s past deeds. Ultimately, I am a film critic and decided that I might as well have an informed opinion on something rather than avoiding the topic. Not to say that someone choosing not to see this is making the wrong choice as it’s not anyone’s place to tell anyone else what to go see at the theater (I avoided that last Dinesh D’Souza film like the plague despite it sticking around for an embarrassingly long time at one of the theaters I frequent), rather I’m just letting you know what my reason was for deciding to review this film. Does it manage to be a great film even with the controversies surrounding it, or will this be so bad that we can easily dismiss the film and its director? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about the life of Nat Turner (Nate Parker who also writes, directs, and produces) who famously led a slave rebellion in 1831 that killed a bunch of slave owners before… well go read the Wikipedia page or watch the movie to find out what happened. But what about his life BEFORE killing white people? What drove the man to commit such acts of violence, especially considering how deeply religious he was? After all, wasn’t one of the commandments THOUGH SHALL NOT KILL? Well we get those answers as the rebellion itself is the climax to a character study of one man who faced indignity after indignity throughout his entire life and even saw it first hand when his master (Armie Hammer) had him go around to other plantations to preach the word of God to those slaves to keep them nice and complacent rather than rebellious and stabby. What other challenges did Nat have to face before turning to the sword? Well, you’ll just have to see the movie to find out!