1917 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Sam Mendes
Is it a 2019 movie or a 2020 movie? I mean I guess it’s the former as I doubt Universal wants to wait until NEXT February for it to win a bunch of Oscars, but while some critics may have gotten to see it back in December I only have the chance to see it now right alongside other sterling January releases like The Grudge and the upcoming Dolittle. Well now that they finally let the general public see this, does it live up to the hype it’s been building up over the last few weeks, or is there a reason they held it off until the dumping ground month despite the pedigree behind it? Let’s find out!!
Will Schofield and Tom Blake (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) are just two dudes in the British Army milling around France during World War I with the rest of their unit as they try to wait out the German army who are on the other side of No Man’s Land on whatever battlefield they’re on. That’s all about to change however as the general Colin Firth has given them a critical mission to deliver new battlefield orders to a company several miles away that as it turns out has Blake’s brother serving in it. It seems that recent changes in the German Army’s movements have given the impression that the company can secure victory with one final push that they’ve scheduled for the morning, but new information has confirmed this to be a trap that will no doubt lead to most if not all of the sixteen hundred men in that company to their untimely deaths. If these two can get this information to the commanding officer in time, the attack will be stooped and all those men will be saved (or at least die a much more timely death), but it is not an easy undertaking as German soldiers are still scattered across the region; not to mention the environmental hazards like traps, rain, mud, and both sunlight AND darkness coming with their own troubles as well. Can they makes it in time so that these soldiers can live to fight another day? What hardships will they encounter on this journey, and are both of them ultimately up to the task? Did Sam Mendes actually make a 007 prequel without telling us!? I mean they’re making a Kingsman prequel, so why not?
Considering how much this dude runs, maybe it’s a Mission Impossible prequel.
The Grudge and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Nicolas Pesce
In the great debate that I ASSUME exists, I was always more of a The Ring guy than a Grudge fellow; mostly because I’ve actually SEEN the Ring movies (at least the Western ones) and haven’t seen any of the Grudge movies (not even the Western ones). Things might change however as The Ring had its chance to reassert its relevance, but instead completely missed the mark with the awful Rings, and if nothing else this one looks to be trying to build a stronger and more intense atmosphere than the cheap cash in nature of Sadako’s most recent Western adventure. Is this the movie that will finally get those of us to jump on the Grudge train, or is this the perfect illustration of why we never bothered with it in the first place? Let’s find out!!
Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) has just arrived in town and is still reeling from the death of her husband, but is managing to eek out a somewhat stable life with her son Burk (John J Hansen) with her new job at the local police station. Her partner Detective Goodman (Demián Bichir) has some clear baggage from something that Muldoon hasn’t sussed out yet, but when a body shows up with an address to the nearby spooky house, it’s time for her to uncover whatever secrets are being hidden from her. It turns out that the first owners of the House, The Landers (Tara Westwood, David Lawrence, and Zoe Fish), were all murdered by the wife. The realtors who were trying to sell the house for them (John Cho and Betty Gilpin) ALSO wound up dead under similarly grim circumstances. There were other occupants who arrived after them, you can probably guess how they ended up, and now Muldoon is sniffing around the place which will no doubt attract the attention of whatever ghost, curse, or GRUDGE as it were, that is affecting the people who get near this place. Will Muldoon not only uncover the secret of all these mysterious deaths but also stop the bloodshed once and for all? What is the entity that is behind all of this, and what is after aside from endless slaughter and mayhem? Is it just me or did they seriously oversell John Cho’s presence in the trailers? I’m getting flashbacks to that Godzilla movie that had Bryan Cranston in it for like twenty minutes!
As with the good list, so must come the bad. Except… maybe not quite, this year? There’s been a lot of blow back to WORST OF THE YEAR lists and especially WORST OF THE DECADE ones that have been coming out as well, and I do understand why. These things can come off as snarky and mean spirited and there’s just not a lot of constructive criticism to be had when trying to make clickbait WORST OF lists. Personally I’m not too happy with how my list came out last year as it felt a bit performative which is not what you want if you want to be taken seriously and not just someone looking to chase down easy views. I still firmly believe there is value in recapping bad movies as I’ve already said negative things about them already in my reviews, and there are certainly films with horrible messages that are worth deriding as well as technical failures that are worth learning from. The lessons from last year have definitely been learned however and so instead I’ve narrowed it down to films REALLY worth talking about instead of just trying to round it up to ten, and I’ll avoid using overly superlative language; hence why this is a NEEDS IMPROVEMENT list instead of a WORST list. Without further ado, lets’ get started!!
Honorable Mention: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
If we’re gonna approach this as a NEEDS IMPROVEMENT list, I don’t think we could have asked for a better example than JJ Abrams’s attempt to stitch the Star Wars fan base back together which may average out to a good movie (hence why it’s only an Honorable Mention), but it’s flaws are ridiculously glaring throughout. I could sit here and list all the reasons this movie’s slapdash narrative fails to connect both in terms of the previous Disney Star Wars films as well as well as what we expect from movies in general, but you should already know by now how rushed the pacing is, how many plot points are shoved in here, and how much backtracking they did to paper over basically everything I liked about The Last Jedi. And yet, what’s most interesting to me is that for all the effort JJ Abrams and company clearly put into this Frankenstein monster of an ending, no one seems particularly happy with it! Certainly not the fans who were more or less clamoring for something more familiar than The Last Jedi provided, so what was the point? Was the vocal minority of obnoxious fans (not all people who didn’t like The Last Jedi; just the ones who wouldn’t shut up about it) loud enough to scare the most powerful entertainment company in the world into spending half a movie apologizing for it? Was JJ Abrams not able to square the circle that Rian Johnson left him and just reverted back to his original plans that no longer fit with the new paradigm? We probably won’t know for sure exactly went wrong for some time, but as far as I’m concerned the answer is clear on how this could be fixed. Do something different! It worked for The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Rouge One, The Mandalorian; heck, even Solo felt like its own thing within the Star Wars universe! By being so referential and tied to the original trilogy without properly examining it or making it feel like a modern interpretation of its core themes, we ended up going through the motions but in an utterly directionless fashion; knowing the steps but not knowing where they were gonna take us. Maybe that Rian Johnson trilogy will work out a lot better. I’m sure some fans will hate it, but I think we’re officially done giving the obnoxious subset of that group the time of day. Their moment came and went, and all they got was an okay movie that they can’t stand either.
Another year has passed and as usual we have to spend the first few days of the new year looking back at what came before; usually ranked from ten to one in some fashion! Well, let no one ever say that I’m not a part of it too as we’re here today to look at my favorite films of 2019 which turned out to be a pretty good year all things considered! I mean… for movies at least as we’re still facing the overwhelming threats of fascism, climate change, and bigotry every single day with a commander in chief that’s only bee fanning those flames even further, but at least we have these movies to provide us with a modicum of relief and escapism between trying desperately to fix it all before it’s far too late! Will YOUR favorites be reflected on here, or will this prove once and for all that I have absolutely no taste? Let’s find out!!
Honorable Mention: Dolemite Is My Name
I have no particular fondness for Rudy Ray Moore as I only know his films by reputation, but boy was this a fun little story about yet another artist yearning to get his vision out there; and make a few bucks along the way of course! I’ve always been a sucker for films that take place on a movie set and I even put The Disaster Artist on my 2017 list, but what sets this one apart is just how different its subject matter is from other films like it. A lot of times these movies about artists are essentially a reflection on the creation of art itself, but few come from the world that Rudy Ray Moore came from with the priorities that come with it. Guys like Tommy Wiseau wanted a creative outlet and the adulation of the public. Rudy Ray Moore certainly wanted that as well, but there was more at stake with the creation of this movie (namely his career and financial stability) and there’s something a bit nobler about making a movie for an underrepresented audience than making a movie out of sheer ego. I have no idea how accurate this movie is and you should take any biopic with a grain of salt, but for what it’s trying to do and the story it’s trying to tell, it succeeds with a whole lot of style and a whole lot of heart!
21 Bridges and all the images you see in this review are owned by STX Films
Directed by Brian Kirk
Look, the holiday season is a busy time and this one slipped through the cracks, alright? Besides, even if this movie hasn’t been in theaters since Disney Plus came out, it still has SOME value… at least once the blu ray comes out… right? Eh, whatever. I’ve got a To Do list for the end of the year, and we’re putting a little check next to this one right the heck now. Is this cop thriller a fun little distraction from the rest of the big movies that came out in the last two months, or is there a reason I kept pushing this one to the back burner until it was well past the point of being relevant? Let’s find out!!
Super Detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is called to the scene of a gruesome crime. A bunch of cops were found dead at the scene of a drug robbery and the two suspects have disappeared with a large amount of cocaine. Said suspects are Michael and Ray (Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch) who we learn were not expecting THAT much coaine to be there, let alone any cops, and so they have to find a way to get out of town and probably even further than that as soon as possible with the drugs they took being their best bargaining chip in the seedy underbelly of organized crime in the city. Andre however is hot on their heels along with his temporary partner Frankie (Sienna Miller) from Narcotics that seems to be particularly invested in this case along with Captain McKenna (JK Simmons) who was in charge of all the officers gunned down during this raid. Andre’s big plan to catch the crooks is to shut down the island of Manhattan (which includes it’s TWENTY-ONE BRIDGES) to any traffic in or out and hopefully root out the two bad guys before they can escape without a trace, but as Ray and Michael work their way through dealers, contacts, and Swiss bank account dudes to try and secure safe passage, they may have come across some information that puts an even bigger target on their backs than the ones they already had. Will Andre be able to find these two and uncover the mystery of wat exactly happened this night? What secrets did Ray and Michael learn, and is it their ticket to freedom or their ultimate death sentence? Most importantly, is this a role worthy of the king of Wakanda!?
“So Black Panther 2 isn’t coming out for another two years?” … “Sigh…”
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!
“Weren’t you Little Nicky? No, you’re thinking of the other guy. I think his name was SHUT UP!!”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by JJ Abrams
So here we are once again, though I guess things are a little bit different since we last got a Star Wars movie with a number at the end of it. Whatever problems you may personally have with The Last Jedi (I have my own as well!), it certainly didn’t justify whatever the Fandom Menace was and only ended up souring people on Star Wars rather than provide constructive criticism of it. Seriously, if you’ve made MULTIPLE hour long videos letting people know just how much you dislike a movie, there’s probably something else going on than just critical analysis. With all that negativity surrounding the trilogy’s middle entry (from I must stress a VERY small if VERY vocal minority of people), there was a lot of interesting energy going into this final film as Lucasfilm and Disney were either going to ignore the toxicity and continue with what Johnson started, or they were gonna thread the needled of appeasing those people while also not losing the overwhelming majority of the audience that understood and appreciated what Johnson was going for. Do they succeed in stitching this fandom back together (or better yet unambiguously denouncing and excising the toxic parts of) with one great movie to finish of the Saga of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo? Let’s find out!!
After narrowly escaping destruction in The Last Jedi, the Resistance has started to grow its ranks once again on a well-hidden planet where Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her Jedi training with Master Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is now Emperor of the First Order has been searching for Emperor Palaptine (Ian McDiarmid) ever since a mysterious broadcast from the dead guy went out across the galaxy, and he eventually succeeds in finding some sort of tracking beacon that leads him right to his mysterious and hard to reach planet. It seems that Palpatine is still somehow alive (I’ll say The Force did it) and has an unstoppable military force waiting to be unleashed on the galaxy that Kylo can control IF he brings him Rey. The Resistance learns of this overwhelming power that Palpatine has at the ready from a mission that Poe and Finn (Oscar Isaac and John Boyega) just barely manage to complete and survive so now there’s a clear ticking clock that the Resistance is working against in order to stop The First Order once and for all; get to Palpatine’s planet and destroy its fleet before it can leave port on Doom Planet. Rey, Poe, Finn, and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo)take it upon themselves to search for one of those tracking beacons that Kylo Ren used to find Palpatine’s planet and start looking into The Resistance’s past as well as the Empire’s past in order to find it and maybe a few more answers along the way. Will our quartet of space heroes find a way to stop Palpatine once and for all; a task that as it turns out Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader weren’t up to? What will Kylo Ren do to stop them from finding the beacon, and what agendas does he have of his own? Will this movie FINALLY make those angry Star Wars fans finally happy? Well of course not, but will it make the other ninety-nine percent of Star Wars fans happy!?
“I feel a great disturbance in the force. As if millions of fanboys suddenly cried out in betrayal and then never stopped doing it.”