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I, Tonya (2017)
I, Tonya (2017)
I think this film may have had the best trailer of 2017. I saw it and knew instantly how badly I wanted to see it. I've never been a fan of Margot Robbie and her previous acting efforts but this looked like her awakening and where she would be proving me wrong. I believe it, she's quite sensational in this film. Her dedication to her role shows but really everyone involved has done very well. Craig Gillespie has his first real winner with I, Tonya.
I, Tonya is a biographical picture about famed and disgraced figure skater, Tonya Harding. Tonya was pushed onto the rink by her abusive mother at a very young age and despite the abuse becomes a very talented ice skater. The cycle of abuse continues with her abusive husband but she tries to bear through and succeed. Everyone seems to be against her but her talent is hard to deny. The film also goes into the famed attack on fellow ice skater Nancy Kerrigan and the aftermath of the incident.
The film is sort of told from a mockumentary perspective as if key characters are being interviewed. The film also utilizes breaking the fourth wall where characters in a scene would talk to the audience. I thought this was interesting and separates itself from being a standard biopic and gives this film a real comedic depth. The soundtrack is catchy and literally every performance in this film makes for a very engaging time. I didn't even recognize the chameleon Bobby Cannavale until the credits rolled.
Some wonder why the film was made but it kind of helps you identify with Tonya. She suffered physical and psychological abuse from both her foul mouthed mother and her rage filled husband. Her hands may not be completely clean in what happens to Nancy Kerrigan, but she is also just a victim of circumstances. Vastly talented, but just short of reaching her pinnacle due to outside factors and her image and attitude. The film isn't perfect but its vastly entertaining and could be giving Margot Robbie and Allison Janney Oscar nominations. I'm going to let this sink in and I'm sure its going to be something I go back to.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
As soon as I heard this film receiving some award buzz, I knew that I would have to see it. Interesting film title aside, I really went into this film blind not quite knowing what to expect. Sometimes Oscar films can be a bit baity and overbearing or not worth some of the praise it receives, that is the truth. I can say, that does not apply for this film. I don't know what my favorite film of the year is just yet but I'd except Call Me By Your Name to be in the top ten of the year.
This film is about a 17 year old boy living in Italy who falls for an American assistant to his father, who comes and stays with them for a period of time. Elio (Timothée Chalamet), soon realizes that he has feelings for this older man and they begin a relationship. Elio has to come to grips with his sexual awakening and see if a relationship is possible despite being in a relationship with a local girl. There's definitely much more to the film than my horrible summary of it, that's for sure.
Its a coming of age film of sorts but feels so fresh and like it makes a point to be different. New face Chalamet is now here to stay, having appeared in both Lady Bird and this film. He is fantastic in it and this happens to be the best I've seen from Armie Hammer as well. I had to just see two minutes of this film to conclude that this was a Luca Guadagnino film, the vibrant color and the gorgeous vacation setting cinematography made it feel like A Bigger Splash, and it turns out to be a spiritual successor in a trilogy to that film.
The backdrop of the 80s works so nicely with the film because this was also a time where homosexuality was quite hidden but becoming public. The score and soundtrack for this film is fantastic. "Love My Way" hasn't sounded this good since the Grand Theft Auto Vice City days. Once you finish the film, you know that you've been treated to something special and a strong contender during awards season.
The Disaster Artist (2017)
The Disaster Artist (2017)
The Disaster Artist I saw The Room a few years back and love it, to the point of obsession. No doubt, its absolutely terrible with a ton of flaws in production, acting, and script. Yet there is something endearing about it, that makes it ridiculously entertaining. I own the damn Bluray because I love it so much. Definitely my favorite "so bad its good film." When I heard about The Disaster Artist I was so infatuated with an adaptation of Greg Sestero's book. I loved all the trailers and was anticipating this for a while. Safe to say, The Disaster Artist is actually really good. Very entertaining, funny, and well acted.
The film is an autobiographical take, focusing on the beginning of the friendship of Greg and Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau is definitely a mysterious figure and the two soon become friends because of their love for acting. Down out of luck in Hollywood, Wiseau decides to make his own film (with a mysterious fund for the film) and while the film production wasn't without turmoil, the end product turns out to be one of the worst films of all time. And yet, the film becomes a cult hit and a success despite being terrible.
I think Franco's filmography is streaky to not very good (although admittedly I've only seen stuff here and there) but this most be his best work. Franco captures most of the embodiment of Tommy Wiseau and is so magnetic with his awkward mannerisms, ideas that don't make any sense, and his foreign accent. The film is very funny, you will get the humor and enjoy yourself even if you haven't seen The Room. However if you've seen it you will really appreciate what goes on in this film.
The film has a few cameo appearances which are cool, stay tuned even after the credits. The film also boasts an incredibly catchy late 90' early 2000's soundtrack and the attention to detail of the recreation of scenes and sets of The Room is almost perfect. This film actually made me want to re-watch The Room and re-experience the wonders of unintended genius of Tommy Wiseau. Franco has done a wonderful job with this film, and even though its about the worst movie ever, the film about the making of it is rather fantastic.
The Shape of Water (2017)
The Shape of Water (2017)
Guilermo del Toro is a solid filmmaker. I'm not overly crazy about his work and don't rate him as highly as many others do, but the visual beauty of his films cannot be denied. I am not crazy about Pans Labyrinth or Pacific Rim but I do actually love Crimson Peak. I was always going to check out The Shape of Water to see if Toro could follow up Crimson Peak with an equally outstanding piece of cinema. While The Shape of Water isn't amazing its quite enjoyable.
The film takes place in the 1960's where a mute cleaning women finds a creature has been captured by a Colonel and starts bonding with this otherwordly creature. She attempts to free the creature and falls in love along the way. On the other hand, the Colonel is an aggressive man and is abusive towards the creature and then goes all out to try to figure out who helped the creature escape. The film is set with a back drop of U.S./Soviet tensions and plays a part in minor aspects of the film.
This is definitely the best Sally Hawkins performance to date. She is wonderful as a mousy mute woman and does so much terrific acting in the absence of words. Michael Shannon was just born to play a villain and pulls off a typically good Michael Shannon performance. While this film isn't as visually stunning as some of del Torro's other work, the creature design, camera work, and costume and set design is still very top notch.
I'd say one thing about Del Torro's film that could be a criticism is the writing. The film is fairly predictable. Its good, but goes down a route that we've seen in similar type of films. Its an entertaining film but its not anything jaw dropping visually or creatively. Strong performances and del Torro's imaginative creature creation keeps the film moving and he creates characters you want to root for. Its not del Torro's best but its definitely going to please his die hard fans.
Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
One minute into the film and I knew I was into something special. I really rate the work of Martin McDonagh. Both In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are excellent. When I heard about this film and read the premise I felt like this could be something that would make award season waves. The film has got a stellar cast to both and does a wonderful mix of comedy and drama to drive home a piece of film that is one of the strongest of the year thus far.
The film follows a lady who rents out three billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri, which point fingers at the local officer Chief Willoughby, for not solving the death and rape of her teenage daughter. These ads become controversial as the chief is a beloved figure of the community and people start having mixed but strong reactions to the billboards. There is a scramble to figure out the results of the case, and the main characters all have life changing consequences of being involved.
This has to be the strongest Frances McDormand performance I have ever seen. She's always great but this was a total embodiment of a determined and strong willed mother who perseveres, despite knowing most of the town can't stand her guts. Woody Harrelson is typically good and we once again get a great Sam Rockwell showing once again showing how underrated he is. You become engulfed into the film and wrapped into everything that occurs.
The film has its funny moments but it also is heavy handed and deals with a devastating loss. The film remains somewhat unpredictable and while the end is a bit open ended and brings more questions than answers, it doesn't detract from a strong written work that was satisfying to see at the tail end of the year.
Wonder Wheel (2017)
Wonder Wheel (2017)
Off the bat, not really a Woody Allen film. Seen so many of his films and for the most part do not care for most of them. His best film by far for me is Blue Jasmine; an excellent character study with a riveting performance by a great Cate Blanchett. I was going to give Wonder Wheel a go just to see if I would once again find a rare Woody Allen film worth caring about. Nope, not this time. In fact Wonder Wheel is messy and doesn't do much to satisfy its viewers.
Wonder Wheel is about 26 year old girl who returns to Coney Island to live with her dad and stepmom after becoming a "marked woman" when she becomes at odds with her mob involved boyfriend. Her stepmom is having a secret affair with a local lifeguard and the addition of her stepdaughter brings forth complications as she also falls for the lifeguard and a love triangle emerges. The story of the film is what it is and isn't exactly interesting. Even for Allen, this film is a disappointment and is low on thought and creativity.
Some positives first; fantastic cinematography. Most of Coney Island pops out at you and the scenes with neon lights shining on characters faces looks gorgeous. Another distinct positive is the performance of both Jim Belushi and Kate Winslet. Both actors remain committed to the script and give very strong performances. The fun ends there. There are stretches in the film where I was bored. Timberlake was an odd choice for the film and it showed. The film's writing is unremarkable and feels like a simple hash of something bereft of creativity. The mob hunting part of the film gets lost in the shuffle because it takes a back seat to a love triangle that you won't care for.
I definitely don't like Woody Allen as a filmmaker and like him even less as a filmmaker. However, I will give due when I see something good. This is not the case with Wonder Wheel. Apart from looking lovely and being well acted the film has nothing going for it and you feel like this is one of the worst Allen films in quite some time. Somebody needs to tell Woody Allen that he doesn't need to release a film every year and can take some time off to get some creativity going.
I still haven't seen Near Dark, but have been really wanting to do so. I will say this though, Bigelow's Strange Days is amazing. In recent years Bigelow has shifted focus to more politically-war themed films. With Detroit, Bigelow brings attention to the Algiers Motel Incident which occurred during a race riot in Detroit. Her past two Academy Award nominated efforts made it seem like Detroit would be a contender this year. Overall, I am quite disappointed with this film and I'll tell you why.
As mentioned earlier Detroit depicts the real life event at the Algiers Motel, where black men and two white women were rounded up and humiliated by cops because of gun shots fired towards police during a very heated riot. The film enlists the help of John Boyega, Will Poulter, Anthony Mackie, and an impressive Will Poulter. I did really enjoy seeing Hannah Murray in a film as well, she's a cutie. I thought Poulter was a perfect casting in this role. He impressed me, and now that I think about it his Pennywise from It may have been an interesting but successful casting if it panned out.
The film mainly suffers from being too long. The incident itself, while interesting does not need to be padded. The events of the night are portrayed for far to long, and the aftermath itself loses steam fast. The performances are good but there's a real sense of just showing the story without portraying it in an impassioned way. Obviously the events of the film still resonate today and should have really rallied a reaction but the film just falls flat.
I do like Bigelow as a filmmaker but she takes a misstep by recreating the events for this film. I don't expect this film to make any real splash awards season because its actually far from good. Poulter or maybe even Boyega may have an outside chance of a nomination but I don't see this film staying in memory for very long. Disappointed, but I know Bigelow will bounce back.
Justice League (2017)
Justice League (2017)
I was of the camp that thought Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, wasn't good but wasn't terrible either. With Wonder Woman coming out earlier this year and being a very fun time, you would have hoped the DC Extended Universe would get on track and continue to impress with Justice League. Warning signs were that the film somehow managed to look worse with every new trailer but I gave the film the benefit of the doubt. Yeah, this thing sucks.
An ancient super being named Steppenwolf is trying to collect mother boxes to destroy the Earth and its up to a group of superheroes to band and unite to contain the threat. Batman and Wonder Woman attempt to recruit a hero of the sea (Aquaman), a cybernetically reconstructed former athlete (Cyborg), and an awkward kid who is very, very fast (Flash). Oh yeah, worst keep secret ever as well they also attempt to revive the recently fallen Superman.
Here are some of the positives. I didn't have any problems with any of the casting choices. I obviously love Gadot as Wonder Woman, as she fully embodies the character. Affleck as Batman is solid. Momoa has a bad ass warrior look that works for Aquaman, and the comedic timing of Ezra Miller as Flash works. Actually Flash's fresh humor in this DCEU effort is actually the other strong point of this film. You would think that this film would be able to do a decent job of uniting DC's most popular characters but it really doesn't do a satisfying job of it.
Justice League is one of the most expensive films ever made. Its hard to believe because the graphics look choppy and messy. Its almost as if parts of the graphics look like they were taken out of a video game. The battles also look fake because they are over done with graphics and it really looks ugly. Steppenwolf is a very generic villain, looks too computerized and isn't built well at all. The dialogue is horrendous sometimes. Some of the humor (mostly from Flash) works but the other moment's fall so flat. In contrast to BVS, Ben Affleck looked like he was just going through the motions.
The film had a shorter running length than expected but it still felt too long. The exposition of some characters feels wasted at times, and other times you feel like they spend the wrong moments trying to just throw the characters in. It could have used much better writing. There were times were I was bored out of my mind. The action scenes are fairly grand but nothing epic (compare that to what we get in Thor: Ragnarok). I really back Snyder leaving the DCEU because this is a straight second misfire for him. It's unfortunate to say I have no interest in any film in this Universe aside from Wonder Woman 2.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
The Lobster definitely took my by surprise in 2015. Everything about that film appealed to me. From Colin Farrell's dead delivery, to the creative and completely absurd nature of storytelling. So when I heard about Yorgos Lanthimos making another film with Farrell involved, I was game. I went in completely blind; not knowing a single thing about the film. While not as strong as the Lobster, the film is unique in its own right and is one that still leaves an imprint.
The film is about Steven Murphy (Farrell) a surgeon who seems to be involved with a boy named Martin. Their relationship is weird and we don't really know what to think until we find out the vengeful reason for their acquaintance. Martin's father died on the operating table due to Murphy's negligence and in return he must kill one member of his family or face the consequence of the death of his wife and two kids all together. His family go through three stages; paralysis in the legs, extreme loss of appetite, and then bleeding from the eyes which results in death.
As you can tell, the plot is fairly absurd, rivaling itself with that of The Lobster. The dialogue delivery has that similar monotone, deadpan nature as that of The Lobster. The score is overbearing and jarring at times. The film is dark and yet gorgeously filmed. The dialogue and a few of the characters are idiosyncratic and thus you can find bits of humor in some of the situations.
Lanthimos brings forth another wild, weird, and creative entity. I don't think its as strong as The Lobster was but its still nice to see how things unfold in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The running time for the film is quite long which stunts some of the plot development and pads but it doesn't detract too much from the film.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
I remember enjoying Sidney Lumet's original adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel. It felt long, but was thoroughly entertaining. The remake had me slightly intrigued. Mostly because it had a really good cast to boot. I'm not the biggest fan of Kenneth Branagh's directional efforts, though I quite liked the live action Cinderella remake. With this film, we have a rather dull and uninspiring effort that does little to warrant its creation. It looks nice but feels like a wasted effort.
The film follows "the greatest detective in the world" Hercule Poirot as he is stranded on a train with other passengers. One night a murder occurs as one of the passengers is stabbed to death. It is up to Poirot to find out who committed the crime, while realizing the passengers on the train may not be as random and innocent as they seem. Branagh both directs and takes the lead role of Poirot in the film.
That's kind of where the problem lies. Branagh as Poirot takes center stage, and its a little too centered. There is a real talented cast here, that is not much more than background characters with limited material. Judi Dench is in the film and is rarely involved with screen time. I think Branagh is good as Poirot but the film kind of plods along and doesn't garner enough interest or shock as it goes along. The film feels like it just states the plot without delivering it for the audience.
The film remains quite faithful to the novel and is closely similar to Lumet's adaptation. I wanted more liberties taken to provide for a worthy and innovative adaptation but I can understand why it isn't that way. The film does not make use of its potential, and is an inferior adaptation of the novel. The visuals and picture is prim and proper but the film derails along the way which is unfortunate.