We can all agree its a great time to sit around and watch a film or two. With all this extra indoor time on our hands. I was planning on hiking, but we got another 8in. of snow Thursday night in Maine – so, more movies for me. Here’s what I had watched in the past couple weeks:
- The Gentleman – Guy Ritchie (2019): I am a huge fan of Guy Ritchie’s work, particularly Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Sherlock Holmes (all top 20s for me). So, naturally when I see another new film by him, I jump on the opportunity – and I finally got around to seething this. I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. In brief summary, it follows the attempts of one man, Mickey, attempting to sell his business. Mickey is an American expatriate who became rich by building a highly profitable marijuana empire in London. When word gets out that he’s looking to cash out of the business, it soon triggers an array of plots and schemes to undermine his sale. It’s different from many of his previous works, in that the plot focuses on only a few characters at a time, but it still has those wonderful elements that make a GR film great: fantastic music, quick cuts, clever transitions, outstanding dialogue, all wrapped up in an engaging and fast-paced story led by the one-and-only Matt McConaughey. Matt leads a great cast here and is as cutthroat, believable and authentic as ever in his role as the classy drug “connoisseur” – he is always such a showman and I eat it right up. Packed with an excellent supporting performances with Collin Farrel and Charlie Hunnam leading the way, this fast-paced film keeps you interested, laughing, and generally intrigued the whole way through without being at all overbearing. Its a fun, easy-viewing experience and worth your time. Certainly one of the most unique and fun directors out there. 9/10
- Grave Encounters – Colin Minahan (2011): This Canadian film was brought to my attention last week when browsing r/moviesuggestions. With a budget of 120,000 – this is not a blockbuster, and really flew very under the radar in terms of a found-footage film which was very popular around the time of its release. I was actually very engaged the entire film and I think they did a fantastic job with the cast and setting. Best horror movie setting imaginable: an abandoned insane asylum. They chose well from a setting and atmosphere perspective, because inherently Asylums are frightening (Session 9, etc.), even without the need to dress anything up. But the film does an excellent job capturing the stress, fear, uncertainty and genuine horror the crew is feeling as their planned ghost-hunting excursion goes horribly wrong. The environment is dark, frightening, and authentic. Lead characters are nobodies – but everyone, particularly the lead, does an excellent job expressing emotion and showcasing genuine fear. This is a very important element in horror films for me. The panning of the camera to shots of dark rooms, long hallways, and creepy tunnels was impressively frightening even as it continued happening again and again. All-in-all, this is a fantastic piece of found-footage horror that deserves more recognition. 8.5/10
- JoJo Rabbit – Taika Waititi (2019): I had been meaning to get along to seeing this for awhile, and I finally sat down and gave it a go last week. This is as “dark comedy” as it gets. The film follows the path of a young German boy, JoJo, who is determined to be a successful Hitler Youth in 1945 Germany on the tail end of the conflict. JoJo’s imaginary friend, Adolph Hitler, provides hilarious insight and commentary along the way. Supporting cast members Scarlet Johanssen, Rebel Wilson Sam Rockwell and Thomasin McKensie give very solid performances. Sam Rockwell in particular is my favorite character – the drunken, disgraced German general who now spends his time humoring and training Hitler Youths. The movie had me laughing all the way, but also I found myself feeling a deep sense of sadness and empathy at many points (not for Nazis – you sort of have to watch for yourself to see what I mean). It captured a great range of emotions, social issues all the while providing a great parody of Nazism and the horrible ways it treated both Germans and Jews alike. This is a unique, fun film that is worth a view for its creative outlook on life, love and death alone. 8/10
- Snowpiercer – Bong Joon Ho (2013): This is a great film, and very unique. The plot is entirely based in a post-apocalyptic world where an eternal winter has forced some of the last remaining members of the human race to inhabit a futuristic train that is constantly moving (called the “Snowpiercer”). The train is complete with low,middle, and upper-class residents who all experience varying levels of comfort. Chris Evans’ character, who leads the low-class, back-of-the-train residents in a revolt, is excellent here. He is gritty, determined and actually believable despite the particularly far-fetched plot. But that plot is very creative and fun, and a unique take on class-struggles and how the poor are subjugated at the hands of the rich. I was many times reminded of 1984 and Brave New World, train version while seeing this movie. It brought up some interesting symbolism and societal questions while exploring what a class-based community looks like when confined to a train. In a nutshell: class struggles persist. Very cool and worth seeing; a solid action flick. 8.5/10
- The Banshee Chapter – Blair Erickson (2013): This sci-fi horror is based around a secret government DMT-injection project that unleashes horrors on its users. The first half of this film built and excellent atmosphere and plot, but I think it fell off a bit in the secondd half. The repeated high pitched screams with each jump scare got old fast. I was however pleasantly surprised with performances from Kaita Winter and Ted Levine. Despite some flaws, this movie had me laughing a handful of times, and definitely had an overarching darkness that had me freaked out repeatedly. Not bad, but not great either. 6/10
- Uncut Gems – Benny Safdie (2019): Another movie from 2019 I needed to get around to watching. This was a decent film, but far too anxiety-inducing for me. The story follows a seasoned jewel salesman, Adam Sandler’s character, who is a gambling addict and generally bold person with a hilarious Brooklyn accent. His trials and tribulations are documented as he navigates the shady jewel-market underworld and tries to win out on his bets. I thought Adam’s performance was great, actually. But supporting cast members were weak at best, and it was a very, very intense film that really didn’t give you enough release. This isn’t always a bad thing (think, Midsommar) – but the plot was much too weak here to make it exciting. I didn’t feel the excitement and intrigue, just the suspense and anxiety that lingered through the whole movie. Not an enjoyable watch for me, but an interesting film nonetheless. 5/10
Seen anything good lately? Send me some suggestions – they are always much appreciated. Take care.