Review: 1917

It’s been just over 101 years since the First World War ended, and what became known as modern warfare was invented. The first time the whole world became embroiled in the war was terrifying and as deadly as ever. Still, somehow Hollywood is still more fascinated with the Second World War and Vietnam.

Academy Award winner Sam Mendes’s latest film gives an authentic and heart-pounding look at the beginning of trench warfare and the deadly battles faced during that First World War. His story is that of two young British soldiers who are tasked with getting a message across battlefields to avoid other troops walking into a trap attack in a battle that could swing the war. Their harrowing journey keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

One of the two soldiers has his broth as part of the troops that need to be warned of the trap they are walking into. This gives him extra incentive to make it in time and take on all aspects that attempt to hold them back, which even includes a crashing German fighter plane.

Mendes has beautifully shot and brought war life over 100 years old back to life. With the style of one continuous shot, it doesn’t give the viewer a chance to settle and catch their breath, immersing them in the same intensity as the young soldiers involved. This film is one that is experienced as much as it is viewed, if not more so.

Last year Academy Award-winning director released a documentary about WWI British soldiers entitled They Shall Not Grow Old, which I feel serves as a good companion piece that would make for a great watch after taking in Mendes’ 1917.

The way the intensity is built and conveyed in 1917, it is one of the reasons it has been so highly praised because you can’t help but feel involved and even possibly placed right in the trenches of France 102 years ago and how those confined spaces added to the tension felt among those fighting.

Mendes will find himself on the shortlist of Best Director Oscar nominees 20 years after his first and only nomination and win for the beautiful American Beauty. While many cinephiles consider that first film his most beautiful but 1917 is one film that will live on just as long and may make Mendes 2 for 2 when it comes to being nominated and winning that coveted gold statue known as Oscar.

Review: Richard Jewell

In 1996 I was 16 years old living in the city that was hosting the world for the Centennial Olympiad. This is the greatest sports spectacle the world sees only every four years. I was in the famed Centennial Park the night before the bombing took place. As much as the city was enamored with the games themselves, after the bombing the manhunt and subsequent trial by media of security guard Richard Jewell.

Clint Eastwood’s latest film looks at that fateful night and the FBI’s awful attempt to turn a hero into a villain. Richard Jewell was an awkward man who lived with his mother and desperately wanted to be a member of law enforcement. He took his desire a bit too seriously at times and tended to make those around him feel uncomfortable. Jewell soon landed a security job during the Olympic games at Centennial Park when one fateful night he noticed an unattended backpack and followed all the protocol despite those around him telling him he was being over ambitious.

On July 27, 1996 the bomb Jewell discovered detonated killing one woman and injuring 111 people. Had Jewell not done what he felt was best those numbers would have been drastically worse. For 3 days Jewell was a national hero and all over the media until a desperate FBI investigation team began looking at him as the suspect instead of the one man who did what was right. When ambitious reporter Kathy Scruggs discovers the FBI’s suspicions and writes a few scathing pieces in The Atlanta Journal Constitution the world soon sees an awkward man desperate for attention not the hero he actually was.

It took months of scrutiny and deep investigation until Jewell was exonerated by the FBI, but the damage had already been done to his reputation and all people saw was the man suspected of the bombing. Jewell died at 44 years old from complications of diabetes. Kathy Scruggs, the AJC journalist also had a tumultuous life and died very young from an addiction problem. The strange and troubling lives of these two may be the most fascinating part of the whole story but one that is only known because of one deranged man’s desire for chaos.

The film that Eastwood has made really gives you a palpable feel for the frustration of wrongfully accusing Jewell. It also shows a desperate law enforcement team looking to have a conviction regardless who it is all just to save face. It gives a man his due despite the fact it is more than 20 years overdue. The film shows that some good citizens do exist and sometimes people do the right thing simply because it is the right thing. Jewell did what he did because it was what was supposed to be done not for the notoriety that came with it.

The film is well done with very good acting by the entire cast which includes two Oscar winners and a Golden Globe winner. It may not rack up any awards and just a handful of nominations but it’s an intriguing film that will make you feel sorry for this man and bring sadness for a time when a city was on the world stage and was remembered for this tragedy and not what was one of the greatest Olympic Games ever.

The Saga Concludes. Review: The Rise Of Skywalker

It’s no secret that with the release of Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker, this is the end of the Star Wars saga that has entertained legions of fans for over 42 years. The story of Skywalker concludes without its creator George Lucas’ involvement as has been the case for the entire final trilogy. J.J. Abrams is once again the man behind the final trilogy and its final installment.

The story of Rey and her journey learning the force and battle against The First Order continues as does that of Kylo Ren, son of Leia and Han Solo and his rise to Supreme Leader of The First Order. Kylo Ren has now been contacted by Emperor Palpatine who was long thought to have been killed by Kylo Ren’s grandfather, Darth Vader. Palpatine is now out to put someone new in his place and Ren is set to kill the Emperor and take power for himself.

Poe and Finn are out searching the galaxy once again and return to help Rey fight a battle, she feels she needs to fight alone. Rey has come far in her training thanks to General (Princess) Leia, who has been added with old footage and a bit of movie magic.

While the final chapter has a somewhat muddled story line as well as some unnecessary turns it does do the purpose of closing out the saga with very little left to wonder about the future of the characters involved. Abrams attempts to have a few surprise moments, but I found myself not really surprised by any turns that the story took. I think the reason for this is because there aren’t many more things that surprise Star Wars fans at this point also because too big of a surprise could lead to too many open-ended questions when it is all over.

One thing is for certain, it was time for the story to end. While we all know this is NOT the end of Star Wars movies and shows and who knows what else? It IS the end of Skywalker’s and that universe in the Star Wars cannon and I think that is a good thing. It is time for all new creations of characters and creatures and stories. The success of The Mandalorian and the greatness of its creator Jon Favreau shows that there are plenty of people worthy of creating these stories and staying true to the galaxy far far away.

The saga is over and it’s a good thing despite the fact it may be bittersweet for some. We as fans got what we wanted for so long even if we may not all be completely pleased with what we got, this is how it ends and it has been something truly special in cinematic history.

Marriage Story: Review

As I get older as a movie fan, I have come to hope that once a year, a new movie will come out that I will like above all the others released. All I want is to be able to say “this was “the best” or “my favorite” of the year” and not be in doubt about my favorite. Last year without question I felt A Star Is Born was not only my favorite, but I strongly felt it was the best movie of the year.

While the year is not over, and there are many more films for the year to see, I feel very confident that I’ve seen what my favorite movie of the year is. At the time of this writing is the best movie of the year with Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver.

I remember thinking after my first viewing of A Star Is Born last year that it had been several years since a movie made me feel so much all at once, and yet just a year later I see a film that has undoubtedly equaled that, if not eclipsed last years’ experience.
Marriage Story takes you down the road that Nicole and Charlie’s haven chosen when they decide to divorce. They both share demanding careers as well as one son named Henry. They start out trying to be as accommodating and supportive of each other as possible by going through mediation.

The mediation process soon crumbles, and Nicole heads to L.A. with Henry to begin working on a T.V. series while Charlie continues to direct theater in NYC. Location ultimately becomes the most significant and most contentious point of the divorce. Nicole quickly finds herself in the hands of a high priced L.A. divorce attorney while Charlie is struggling to keep up with his ever-growing career that is soon moving to Broadway. Charlie continues to try and stay close to his son and be as accommodating as possible while not giving up.

The emotion and realism that is woven into the film through Baumbach’s script and the actor’s portrayals are nothing short of a perfect storm. The look and feel are truly timeless, and you could be watching Kramer Vs. Kramer or a John Cassavetes film because the story and characters are so paramount that you can’t help but fixate your attention on them.

Marriage Story takes you through the heartbreak and frustration of the ending of a marriage and how it truly is like a grieving process. Just as you feel you’ve chosen sides and defined the enemy, something shows the other side of the tale from the other party.

When it is all said and done, you are left heartbroken and just grateful that everyone made it through unscathed, and you get the genuine feeling that everyone will be ok and taken care of, which is all we can ask for in life anyway. I haven’t gotten as good at predicting awards, at least winners, as I used to be. Still, I would be genuinely dumbfounded not to see this film get nominated all over its possible destinations because its just too good not to recognize. Marriage Story is a movie that, at the end of the credits, I always will say to myself, “It’s because of movies like this, that I love movies!”

Joker: Review

I have been a vocal critic of the comic book movie genre for a few years now, but I will admit that I was highly anticipating Todd Philips and Joaquin Phoenix’s collaboration for an origin story of the most famous and to this day, most terrifying villain, The Joker.

The film simply titled, Joker, is a haunting imagining of how someone with such a demented mind could become so powerful and have such a loyal following of citizens. The incredible thing that Todd Philips was able to do was make you not only sympathize with the disturbed man, Arthur Fleck as he becomes the most notorious villain ever created but how you have almost zero sympathy for those that we have always known as the heroes and martyrs in the Batman stories.

Arthur Fleck has been raised by his single mother and has continued to develop serious and disturbing personality traits. While he desires to live a normal life and at times even fantasizes about it, he is a victim of his mother’s own delusions and a society that is quick to cast him out. It doesn’t take long for Arthur to give into his demented thoughts and feelings and almost over night he becomes a symbol for all those what been put upon by society and shunned by the privileged.

Everything about this film is set up to make you feel uneasy and even nervous. Todd Philips has painted a masterpiece within every shot of the film. The casting choice of Joaquin Phoenix could not have been more spot on either. With Phoenix we fear the character of Arthur Fleck and can feel his change come within him inside our own selves.

It has often been said that many times comedians make great dramatic actors because they tend to have such a darkness inside themselves. Todd Philips has proved that the same apparently is true for comedic screenwriters and directors. Joker is a far cry from his side-splitting comedy of films such as, Old School and The Hangover trilogy. Philips does manage to have comedic moments in the film, but they are so dark at one point I got a dirty look from someone because I laughed at a moment that was a seriously dark turning point in the movie but just one sight gag I couldn’t help be realize the comedy affect Philips was aiming for. Award season is right around the corner and while I don’t expect Joker to pile on the awards, I do expect for Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Philips to load up on nominations and take home a li

Robert De Niro’s Best Of The 1980’s

Robert-De-Niro-robert-de-niro-25487050-1493-1000

By the time 1980 hit, Robert De Niro was a true star in Hollywood, in every sense of the word. He had multiple Academy Award nominations under his belt. He had teamed up with Martin Scorsese and started a legendary partnership. Some of his greatest success was yet to come.

1294846474_once-upon-a-time-in-america-2

5. Once Upon A Time In America
De Niro was at a point in his career where working on projects he wanted to and working with anyone he wanted was no doubt his choice. De Niro was the first person cast in Sergio Leone’s final film. He had enough clout to have input on many aspects of the film, including his fellow cast members. It would receive mixed reviews, but as time went on it has become a more respected and even definitive film.

d316dbdac2f1ebfe99272de57d5c9ad3

4. The King Of Comedy
A rather dark comedy directed by, once again, Martin Scorsese, makes for another great De Niro performance. His portrayal of Rupert Pupkin is torturous and almost painful. A comedian who so desperately wants in on show business he stalks his idol, late night talk show host, played by iconic funny man Jerry Lewis. De Niro’s methods were in full swing and his ability to draw out great performances from fellow cast mates really came through.

the-untouchables

3. The Untouchables
Having made a name for himself playing mafia gangsters and gangster types lead Brian De Palma to cast him as the most notorious gangster of all time, Al Capone. Being as method of an actor as possible, he became Capone right down to the underwear. He would again receive an Oscar nomination for a spot on portrayal.

midnight-run-1988-03-g

2. Midnight Run
A more straight up comedy, Midnight Run was a popular a more of a box office success than the 3 previous film. De Niro proved he could play straight up comedy alongside other great comedic actors, including his co-star, Charles Grodin. It is unmistakable that De Niro put his whole talents in the film, adding to the character and really making it his own. It is still a popular film and often showed movie all over TV and there is no doubt in my mind that De Niro has quite a bit to do with that.

Raging-Bull-6973_1

1.Raging Bull
The Scorsese/ De Niro teaming would prove its most prolific to date when Scorsese would come out of his comfort zone with a sports film, all at the urging of De Niro. De Niro is even often credited with saving Scorsese’s life by visiting him in the hospital after a cocaine overdose. By urging him to make the film and get back to work is what brought him straight. It would prove valuable on all fronts as De Niro would win a best actor Academy Award and the film would go down in history as one of Scorsese’s best and one of the best of all time.

Linda Ronstadt Reminds Us Of Her Immense Talent

I grew up listening to all kinds of music. It’s not that anyone in my family were music snobs, they just all happen to like whatever sounded good on their ears. Because of that i still have an extremely eclectic taste in music that ranges from Billie Holliday to captain beefheart.

One of the most common voices i can recall is that of Linda Ronstadt. It would be until much later in my life that i would recognize the talent and how much she played a part in a love for several styles of music she would play.

It saddens me to say that I really didn’t begin to fully appreciate he contribution to not only rock n roll but music in general until she was inducted in the rock n roll hall of fame in 2014 when the late Glenn Frey gave one of the best and most heartfelt induction speeches in memory. Then a group of the greatest female vocalist put on a performance of her songs that could have only been outdone by Ronstadt herself.

Linda Ronstadt couldn’t attend the ceremony because of her ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease which has stripped her from her standard of singing the way she has held herself to.

This tragedy of art and of a pioneer has lead to the new documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice. This documentary spans the lifetime of one of the greatest female vocalist that modern society has ever known.

When Norah Jones came out with her first album I fell in love with it to the point that one of the songs was prominent in my wedding. My only concern was that because Norah didn’t write her own stuff at the time that her success might be short lived. Someone I worked with at the time pointed out to me that Linda Ronstadt didn’t write her songs either and it didn’t matter. It took me almost 15 years to realize that as much as he was right, he was also very wrong.

Ronstadt had a voice and ear that was unprecedented before and after. Every song she ever sang was her own because she made sure of it. She was a songwriter by simply using her one of a kind voice. While never having the confidence in herself one might think is unbelievable, she never sacrificed her want and need to sing certain songs a certain way. In my mind that makes her a true songwriter.

The sound of my voice does not focus on the tragedy of one of the greatest voices in music recording history being gone, it instead celebrates what the world was grateful to have lived through and what she was able to do for women on what is still maybe to most male dominated industries.

It is definitely hard for most documentaries to do true justice to an artists talent and ability but The Sound Of My Voice unique. It does everything you want from a film like this but when pulled together it’s a film that makes you long for a time in music when there were no boundaries and anyone with the right talent could make their way.

Linda moved the world with her voice. I have always said how much of a tragedy it is that the greatest talents in the world get cut down too early whether it is from death or illness while mediocrity carries on forever. The truth is that Linda Ronstadt left the world with so much of her love and talent of every genre of music that we will never grow tired of hearing her. It’s not just a few pop hits. She left us with a plethora of country, Mexican, Rock, POP, Ballads and American Standards that we will never find ourselves bored of her unique voice of the likes of that will most likely never be heard of again.

Tarantino Delivers His 9th Film

When it comes to the cinematic universe, its Quentin Tarantino’s world and we all are just experiencing it. No one has created his own world so parallel to our own without ever crossing over the way he has. He has managed to expand that world from pre-civil wartime right down to today.

A few years back Tarantino announced that after his 10 directed feature he was going to stop directing films. Note that I said directing, not completely quit Hollywood altogether. This weekend saw the release of what is considered his 9th feature film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. So if all holds true that means movie fans and cinephiles has just one film left that will be pure Quentin Tarantino.

With a cinematic universe like Tarantino’s the one thing I’ve found interesting and even unique is how he has never seemed to cross from his world into our reality for the most part. Never has a major plotline or set of characters that exist in our world, followed the same path or taken a foothold in his world in the same way. He is truly an original from concept to completion and it is something that we are never going to see the likes of again.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is no different and fans of the director should expect no different. That is not to say that he hasn’t changed things or attempted to tell the story he sees in his head differently than he has before. He has always tried new things and presented things in ways like he never has before.

When it was announced his next film would take place in Los Angeles in 1969 and involve the famous murder of Sharon Tate at the hands of the Manson family, speculation began to swirl. It wasn’t long until he began to tamp down the speculation that this is NOT a film about the Manson killings rather that is one major event that plays a big part in telling the story that he wants to tell.

The late 1960s were an especially volatile time in America. 1968 saw two of the most upsetting assassinations in the history of our country with Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy both being stricken down just a few months apart. Then as the decade comes to a close, some of the decade and thee centuries most defining events would happen. Woodstock would forever symbolize love and peace, the lunar landing (if you believe that moon landing happened) flexed some of the biggest Cold War muscle and the terror inflicted by Charles Manson and his followers also known as his family let everyone know that the human embodiment of evil was still alive and well.

It is in the Hollywood hills of 1969 that Tarantino has chosen to tell his next story. The ever innocent and beautiful Sharon Tate and her new husband Roman Polanski have just bought the house next door to former western TV star Rick Dalton who finds himself on the back end of a career he has no idea how to revive and has accepted the fact that he is relegated to taking guest roles on current hit shows has the bad guy to just keep his name somewhat alive.

Always at his side is his close friend and former stunt double Cliff Booth. Booth hasn’t found stunt work in quite some time and is now Dalton’s driver (due to Dalton’s many alcohol-fueled mishaps and loss of license) and general handyman.

It is within the telling of this story where Tarantino differs a little from his normal ways. All. The trademarks of classic Quentin are still there mind you. The sharp dialogue the pacing and the overall continuity that he is well. Known and loved for. The main difference I noticed is that it is difficult to see the path the film and its characters are walking down. With all that said it still keeps you engaged and interested and invested in what is going on with them.

By the time the credits begin to roll you are left satisfied in the way, fans are used to being left at the end of a Tarantino film.

Once Upon A Time marks the first time that Brad Pitt (Booth) and Leonardo Di Caprio have appeared together on the silver screen and their chemistry and ability do not disappoint. Margot Robbie makes her Tarantino debut as the immortal Sharon Tate and despite the limited dialogue for her, she is about as perfectly cast as they come.

This, however, is not the traditional Tarantino movie in a sense but when the film has had time to settle in after the initial viewing and one can dwell on it more it becomes another great masterpiece that he can proudly hang his hat on. This film is a great piece in the collection of films that will make up Tarantino’s legacy.

Movies For Insomniacs

I have a theory that every true cinephile deals with deep bouts of insomnia and anxiety. We look to enter other worlds and other lives when anxiety and the trials of life keep us up at night. All cinephiles have movies that we go to when those bouts of insomnia and anxiety take over. There are some perfect movies for insomniacs.

In a two-part series, I will break down my ten favorite movies I go to when unable to sleep or when I’m battling severe anxiety. Maybe these films will find their way into your insomnia rotation. In no particular order, here are my first five movies.

Lost In Translation

Lost In Translation makes my list for a multitude of reasons. One of which is very obvious, the main characters themselves are insomniacs due to jet lag halfway across the world. When this movie came out, it struck me in a way that I could not stop watching it, day and night. I was enthralled with the story, the performances and the humanity of it. By the time it was released on video I was working security overnights and I happened to have a portable DVD player and Lost In Translation was in regular rotation during my movie watching marathons. To this day, this movie feels best when I watch it at an awkward hour like 2 am or 7:30 am. With all that said it’s a modern classic no matter what hour you watch it.

Adventureland

Greg Mattola’s highly underrated coming of age film was the first time we got to see the great on-screen chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. One thing that is very difficult to do in cinema is capture nostalgia. Woody Allen has been a master of it when it comes to the 1940’s and 1950’s. Mattola did a masterful job capturing the 1980’s over a summer working a run-down theme park in Pittsburgh. Adventureland has a killer soundtrack and gives off that great comfort feeling you look for when in a bad mental state or in a state where you need to get comfortable when you can’t seem to fall asleep.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is one of the most mind-bending yet endearing and truthful romance films of the last 30 years or more. With a unique concept yet not one that hasn’t gone through the mind of anyone coming off a break-up, I wish I could forget you. It’s a unique storytelling style, and original narration makes it a perfect movie for an insomniac. It is as much of an experience as it is a movie. You can read my whole write up on the film here.

Fight Club

Another mark of a good movie to watch in the middle of the night is one whose majority takes place at night. With not only a dark subject it primarily takes place when the sun is set. Another mind-bending type movie, which is precisely the state of mind of the insomniac, Fight Club feeds off this and takes you on a ride and eventually knocks you out. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton were at the top of their game when they teamed up for this ultimate guy movie classic.

Magnolia

I am a firm believer that ANY Paul Thomas Anderson film could fit here, but for some reason, Magnolia sticks out to me here. It may just be because I first saw it late at night on cable after it had come out and before I knew the genius he was. It could also be the pacing that his movies tend to have. There are moments of uncomfortable silence that match the uncomfortableness of insomnia or anxiety. It contains one of my favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances. His screen time with Jason Robards is an acting class amongst itself.

Be prepared for another list of late night movies for insomniacs.

All The Money In The World Review

It is almost impossible for people to fathom how rich some people in the world, past, and present are. America is littered with these titans of business who made their way from nothing to more money than they could spend over the course of ten lifetimes. People like Commodore Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford right down to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in our time. We often hear how people like Gates and Jobs were generous with charity and how they desire for their kids to make their way in life. People trying to extract money from people of this worth is all too common, but sometimes it can be horrific. All The Money In The World shows the harrowing side of that wealth.

In 1973 in Rome Jean Paul Getty, who was One of America’s only billionaires at the time, had his sixteen-year-old grandson kidnapped and held for a ransom price of seventeen million dollars. Jean Paul Getty III was not particularly close with his grandfather or his dad who never learned how to live up to the Getty name. Paul as he was called, lived with his mother in Rome after his parents split and lived on the opposite financial spectrum than his name would suggest. When the ransom was demanded, many people expected the most senior Getty to shell out the money and put the whole thing to rest. J. Paul did no such thing and had no intention of negotiating that price at all.

Ridley Scott has put forth his second film of the year, the first being Alien: Covenant and now All The Money In The World which has generated so much buzz as of late because of the quick, massive overhaul the film went through just days before its scheduled release. Cast initially and filmed in the role of J. Paul Getty was an almost unrecognizable Kevin Spacey, but after numerous reports of severe sexual misconduct, Ridley Scott strand into action to save his movie and sever any connection to Kevin Spacey and his controversy.

With just over a month before its release, Scott recast the role of Getty with Christopher Plummer, who was initially considered for the role. With stars Michelle Williams and Mark Whalberg agreeing to reshoot all the needed scenes for no pay the crew headed back to Italy and in 10 days had a whole new set of films to be edited into the movie. All of this was an undertaking, unlike anything I have ever heard about before. After all, that was said and done, and the film was released, my first reaction was, “I can’t picture anyone else having played Getty and played him that well.”

The final product has no signs that anything had been altered or that anything had been rushed along. Aside from a superb performance by Plummer (who in the matter of a month, filmed a movie and received a golden globe nomination for it.) Michelle Williams turns in one dominant performance as Abigail Getty, the former daughter in law of the oil magnate. Williams desperation and determination in her performance is undeniable which is why she has received her fifth Golden Globe nomination and most likely her fifth Oscar nomination. Those were numbers I almost had to look at twice. Williams has quietly become one of the most talented actresses in the business today, and every bit of that is on display in this role. She gives her best performance since she played the iconic Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn.

The harrowing true story of the highly publicized kidnapping and the unbelievable ransom negotiation that went on with the worlds richest man makes for a beautiful film thanks to consummate professionals like Ridley Scott, Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer. The performances have us feeling frustrated for Abigail and yet furious at the eldest Getty for being, for lack of a better word, cheap. Christopher Plummer has the incredible ability to make us feel as though his family is the only thing that matters to him as well as feeling that he has a stone cold heart and cares purely for money and nothing else.