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Thread: Best Movies of 2019 so far

  1. #1
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    Best Movies of 2019 so far

    Best Movies of 2019 so far

    This list from the NYTimes today inspires me to begin a thread on the year's best. They give eight. I know as one who makes best lists of my own, I ought to have seen these. But three, Her Smell, Gloria Bell and The Edge of Democracy, I have not seen. I was frankly a bit put off by Alex Ross Perry's title. Didn't see the point of seeing a remake of such a great film as Gloria, even with Julianne Moore. The documentary The Edge of Democracy I haven't heard of before. I hate Booksmart. It so disappointed me as a reminder of how crude and lacking in wit today's youth comedies are.Rolling Thunder Review - yes, I enjoyed that; hardly something new, though! The Last Black Man in San Francisco didn't grab me as much as it did many, though I can see it has a fresh local flavor, which as a former San Francisco resident I am well placed to appreciate - and see the limitations of. The Souvenir is where I and Manohla and Tony come together. It seemed an amazing find, because Joanna Hogg was new to me. It bowled me over. It's my favorite movie of the year so far. As for Transit, I like Christian Petzold's films very much, though I have some reservations about [I this one. I don't think it's his best. I also saw it last year so tend not to think of it as "2019. The rest, below, is lifted directly from today's Times.
    The Best Films of 2019 (So Far) from the New York Times (June 28, 2019).
    Want to catch up on your moviegoing? Here’s what our chief critics say is worth checking out.


    THE SOUVENIR (Joanna Hogg)
    THE STORY Based on an episode in the life of its writer-director, Joanna Hogg, this drama follows a British film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her relationship with a boyfriend (Tom Burke) who may or may not work for the Foreign Office but is certainly a heroin addict.
    A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE This is “one of my favorite movies of the year so far, but I almost want to keep it a secret. Partly because it’s the kind of film — we all have a collection of these, and of similar books and records, too — that feels like a private discovery, an experience you want to protect rather than talk about.”

    THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (Joe Talbot)
    THE STORY In this quiet tale that touches on issues of race, class and gentrification in the Bay Area, Jimmie Fails (played by the actor of the same name) is determined to take possession of the Victorian house that was once his family home.
    MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE In this film from the director Joe Talbot, “the desire for home is at once existential and literal, a matter of self and safety, being and belonging. This is of course part of the story of being black in the United States, which perhaps makes the movie sound like a dirge when it’s more of a reverie. Or, rather, it’s both at once and sometimes one and then the other.”

    HER SMELL ( Alex Ross Perry).
    THE STORY Elisabeth Moss is Becky Something, a rock ’n’ roll singer who bears more than a passing resemblance to Courtney Love in this tale of art and dysfunction from the writer-director Alex Ross Perry.
    A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE “Moss is deep in Becky’s skin, and Perry is steadfastly on her side. Not that he condones or forgives. She is gleefully cruel and monstrously inconsiderate to everyone around her, daring them to fight back or flee.”

    GLORIA BELL (Director SebastiŠn Lelio's English language remak starring Julienne Moore e of his own Chilean Spanish original, GLORIA.
    THE STORY This character study follows Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore), middle-aged and divorced with grown children, as she seeks to connect and find fulfillment in Los Angeles. It’s a remake of the Chilean film “Gloria,” by the writer-director of that movie, SebastiŠn Lelio.
    MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE Working with “a transcendent Julianne Moore,” the director “is acutely sensitive to the absurdities of everyday life, including the comedy of humiliation, both petty and wounding.”

    BOOKSMART (Olivia Wilde)
    THE STORY Headed to the Ivy League in the fall, Molly and Amy are dismayed to learn that their far less studious peers are going to top colleges as well. On their last day in high school, the best friends (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) decide they need to gain a reputation for partying before they graduate.
    A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE “Infusing some familiar situations with an exuberant, generous, matter-of-factly feminist sensibility,” this comedy directed by Olivia Wilde is “sharp but not mean, warm without feeling too soft or timid.”

    ROLLING THUNDER REVUE (Martin Scorsese)
    THE STORY Subtitled “A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese,” this documentary chronicles the free-form concert tour that Dylan and assorted colleagues began in 1975 and blends scenes shot at the time with new, fictionalized episodes.
    MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE “It’s at once a celebration and a rescue mission (it draws heavily on restored film footage), as well as another chapter in Scorsese’s decades-long chronicling of Dylan.”

    THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY (Petra Costa).
    THE STORY This documentary examines Brazilian politics — two recent presidents in disgrace, the current one leaning toward authoritarianism — from the outraged point of view of the filmmaker, Petra Costa.
    A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE Costa’s take “is by turns incredulous, indignant and self-questioning.” Her film is “a chronicle of civic betrayal and the abuse of power, and also of heartbreak.”

    TRANSIT (Christian Petzold)) (In German).
    THE STORY Set in an indeterminate time when soldiers are invading Paris, a German ťmigrť (Franz Rogowski) there flees to Marseille, where he meets other refugees as he awaits the papers that will let him leave the country.
    MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE The director Christian Petzold “doesn’t over-explain the trickier plot entanglements, confident in his audience’s ability to sort through its thickets. He embraces ambiguity as a principle but also sometimes gives the movie the accelerated pulse of an action flick.”
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-28-2019 at 03:46 PM.

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    A couple days ago I see that Mike D'angelo, whose lists I like to follow, tweeted as follows:
    Mike D’Angelo
    ‏@gemko
    Jun 28
    We’ve reached the year’s actual midpoint (since nothing else will open ’til July), so here are my 5 favorite theatrical releases of 2019 thus far. Several are divisive!

    1. Under the Silver Lake
    2. Sunset
    3. High Flying Bird
    4. Too Late to Die Young
    5. They Shall Not Grow Old
    I like that he likes Under the Silver Lake, though I can't rate it quite as high, and I understand the Hungarian film Sunset being respected. But of the last three there are two I've never even heard of. And he admits a tweet or two later:
    Should note that there are a bunch of highly acclaimed films from the first half of the year that I intend to see but haven’t yet. Most notably THE SOUVENIR, THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO, BOOKSMART, and SHADOW.
    I have said I rate The Souvenir highest, respect but have reservations about Last Black Man, and simply hate Booksmart and think it overrated, while I am like him on Shadow: I know I should see it, it's probably excellent.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-30-2019 at 07:49 PM.

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    New contenders near year's end.

    The Carpetbagger (Kyle Buchanon), the Times movie columnist, published a more up-to-date list today. Featured are these six, and four more. Warning: he's interested in the Best Picture race, not the best pictures, which is what we're interested in. Aren't we?

    Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
    The Farewell
    Joker
    Jojo Rabbit
    Little Women
    Marriage Story


    Jojo Rabbit won People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

    I wonder if Johann is going to take a stand on Jokeer? It makes a strong first impression, Joaquin Phoenix provides an attention-getting performance, but critically it hasn't got as much to stand on, in my opinion.

    I don't think Little Women is out yet. It seems sure to be a crowd pleaser - for some crowds. I mean to see Jojo Rabbit, which has not gotten good reviews and which sounded silly, but has gotten good buzz lately. I realize I was wrong to avoid The Farewell just because I saw that it was not made for me. It has legs. As for the Tarantino and the Baumbach, I'm full of enthusiasm. Those two are at the top of my list

    Buchanon aso mentions:

    Bombshell
    The Irishman
    Parasite
    The Two Popes
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-16-2019 at 11:12 AM.

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    New York Film Critics' Circle announces
    2019 awards, THE IRISHMAN top film; AFI picks their ten best features of the year, led by 1917


    NYFCC
    Best Film
    The Irishman


    Best Director
    Josh and Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems

    Best First Film
    Atlantics

    Best Actor
    Antonio Banderas, Pain And Glory

    Best Actress
    Lupita Nyong’o, Us

    Best Supporting Actor
    Joe Pesci, The Irishman

    Best Supporting Actress
    Laura Dern, Marriage Story and Little Women


    Best Screenplay
    Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Best Cinematography
    Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    Best Foreign Language Film
    Parasite

    Best Non-Fiction Film
    Honeyland

    Best Animated Film
    I Lost My Body

    Special Awards
    IndieCollect
    Randy Newman
    Cole Kronman (st
    AFI
    1917
    Universal

    THE FAREWELL
    A24

    THE IRISHMAN
    Netflix

    JOJO RABBIT
    Fox Searchlight

    JOKER
    Warner Bros

    KNIVES OUT
    Lionsgate

    LITTLE WOMEN
    Sony

    MARRIAGE STORY
    Netflix

    ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
    Sony

    RICHARD JEWELL
    Warner Bros

    Special Award

    PARASITE
    Neon
    See DEADLINE
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-11-2019 at 12:21 PM.

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    FILM COMMENT end of year best lists.



    Film Comment is the publication of Film Society of Lincoln Center, now renamed Film at Lincoln Center.

    Film Comment’s Top 20 Films Released in 2019:
    1. Parasite Bong Joon Ho, South Korea
    2. The Irishman Martin Scorsese, USA
    3. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood Quentin Tarantino, USA/UK/China
    4. Transit Christian Petzold, Germany/France
    5. Atlantics Mati Diop, France/Senegal/Belgium
    6. The Souvenir Joanna Hogg, UK/USA
    7. High Life Claire Denis, Germany/France/USA/UK/Poland
    8. Ash Is Purest White Jia Zhangke, China
    9. Pain and Glory Pedro Almodůvar, Spain
    10. Uncut Gems Josh and Benny Safdie, USA
    11. Marriage Story Noah Baumbach, USA
    12. La Flor Mariano LlinŠs, Argentina
    13. An Elephant Sitting Still Hu Bo, China
    14. Long Day’s Journey Into Night Bi Gan, China/France
    15. Synonyms Nadav Lapid, France/Israel/Germany
    16. Asako I & II Ryūsuke Hamaguchi, Japan/France
    17. Us Jordan Peele, USA
    18. The Image Book Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland
    19. Portrait of a Lady on Fire Cťline Sciamma, France
    20. Ad Astra James Gray, USA
    Film Comment’s Top 20 Unreleased Films of 2019:
    1. State Funeral Sergei Loznitsa, Netherlands/Lithuania
    2. Endless Night Eloy Enciso Cachafeiro, Spain
    3. To the Ends of the Earth Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan
    4. MS Slavic 7 Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell, Canada
    5. Present.Perfect. Shengze Zhu, USA/Hong Kong
    6. Oh Mercy! Arnaud Desplechin, France
    7. Tommaso Abel Ferrara, Italy
    8. Bait Mark Jenkin, UK
    9. Belonging Burak «evik, Turkey/Canada/France
    10. Midnight in Paris James Blagden and Roni Moore, USA
    11. No Data Plan Miko Revereza, USA
    12. It Must Be Heaven Elia Suleiman, France/Qatar/Germany/Canada/Turkey/Palestine
    13. Wasp Network Olivier Assayas, France/Spain/Brazil
    14. So Pretty Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli, USA/France
    15. Just 6.5 Saeed Roustayi, Iran
    16. Bird Island Sergio da Costa and Maya Kosa, Switzerland
    17. What We Left Unfinished Mariam Ghani, Afghanistan/Qatar/USA
    18. You Will Die at 20 Amjad Abu Alala, Sudan/France/Egypt/Germany/Norway/Qatar
    19. Lina from Lima MarŪa Paz GonzŠlez, Chile/Argentina/Peru
    20. The Devil Between the Legs Arturo Ripstein, Mexico
    The complete list of films and participants can be found on FilmComment.com, on the Film Comment app, and in the January/February issue, which hits newsstands the second week of January.

    (Of the first list I've seen all but the Godard. I've seen hardly any of the second list; or maybe only Oh Mercy!
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-11-2019 at 12:37 PM.

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    My tentative 2019 ten best list


    SCARLETT JOHANSSON AND ADAM DRIVER IN MARRIAGE STORY


    1. Marriage Story
    2. The Souvenir
    3. Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
    4. Pain and Glory
    5. Ash is Purest White
    6. Honeyland
    7. Knives Out
    8. Synonyms
    9. Transit
    10. Rolling Thunder Review
    I haven't yet seen: 1917, Little Women, The Favorite, Uncut Gems, among others.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-11-2019 at 12:48 PM.

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    Barack Obama's favorite films of 2019 list;

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-30-2019 at 09:51 AM.

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    Chris Knipp’s ten best of 2019

    1 Marriage Story
    2. The Souvenir
    3. Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
    4. 1917
    5. Pain and Glory
    6. Ash is Purest White
    7. Uncut Gems
    7. Knives Out
    8. Little Women
    9. Synonyms
    10. Transit

    Coming:
    Portrait of a Lady on Fire
    Les Miserables

    Also liked:
    Under the Silver Lake (2018)

    Favorite TV:
    Fleabag (Amazon)
    High Maintenance (HBO)
    Succession (HBO
    Chernobyl (HBO))
    Dix pour cent/"Call My Agent" (Netflix)

    To Be Added:
    The Lighthouse
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-02-2020 at 02:26 PM.

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    Esquire's 50 Best Films of 2019 (Nick Schager)

    For full list go HERE

    1. The Lighthouse
    2. Marriage Sstory
    3. The Irishman
    4. Transit
    5. A Hidden Life
    6. Little Women
    7. Uncut Gems
    8.. Hagazussa
    9. Under the Silver Lake
    10. Climax
    11. The Beach Bum
    12. Gloria Bell
    13. Monos
    14. An Elephant Sitting Still
    15. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
    16. Diane
    17. Apollo 11
    18. The Souvenir
    19. Long Day's Journey into NIght
    20. In Fabric
    21. Pain and Glory
    22. Parasite
    23. Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
    24. Ash Is Purest White
    25. Birds of Passage
    26. Shadow
    27. John Wick: Chapter III - Parabellum
    28. The Edge of Democracy
    29. High Life
    30. The Mountain
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-02-2020 at 02:42 PM.

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    Best Personal Films of 2020

    I actually forgot this site existed. Been really busy with personal health issues and trying to get elected to the Utah House. Here's my mainstream movie list:

    1. Rocketman (2019). Taron Egerton (2019 Golden Globe winner) stars and sings in this biopic musical that offers up a compelling, creative, and artistic depiction of Elton Johnís life through both an absorbing storyline and a dazzling array of musical dance numbers. Reminiscent of the Oscar winning best picture Chicago (2002) in its brilliant display of innovative choreographed numbers, the multi-media display of a nominee for a Golden Globe for best musical or comedy Across the Universe (2007) and the heart throbbing excitement of the contemporaneous award-winning musical La La Land (2016). Rocketman does well in its powerful display of Eltonís many songs with its lyrics in sync with an easy to follow editing of the chronological story of Eltonís life from his terrible parents through to his sexuality and drug use and his struggle to become famous and then coping with his fame. The performances, the script, and the amazing creative endeavor all come together in a perfect fusion of sight and sound on the big screen. [Reviewed 6/2/2019]. 10/10.

    2. Judy (2019). Oscar winning Renee Zellweger (2019 Oscar and Golden Globe winner and starred in Chicago 2002) portrays Judy Garland in an amazing and so authentic performance that is also Oscar-caliber material. The director Rupert Goold is spot on in an unusual narrative that isnít really a traditional chronological story like John Eltonís Rocketman (2019). Instead Judy is a much more difficult execution that takes a slice of life Lost In Translation (2003) approach and instead of a cultural immersion into Japan, Judy immerses its audience into the very life of Judy towards the end of her life along with well executed flashbacks to enhance the present moments that Judy is presently experiencing on the screen. The naturalness and the excellent editing of everyday moments that emotional captivate makes this movie quite special in its complex but compelling delivery in both song and performance acting. [Reviewed 10/22/2019]. 10/10.

    3. Hustlers (2019). Constance Wu who shot to fame for her starring role in the American Asian breakout film Crazy Rich Asian (2018) appears to have the lead role in this movie even though Jennifer Lopez has a starring role and the possibility of her receiving an Oscar nomination that has been talked up. This female directed and written movie by Lorene Scafaria along with co-producing credits going to Lopez and interestingly enough Will Ferrell displays on screen an edgy and authentically, finely balanced mood and tone film imbued with both sharp drama and a genuine comedic humor rarely enveloped into one movie. While there are a lot of titillating suggestive scenes, this movie avoids the glamorization of the striptease unlike that overly stylized in the musical and Oscar winning Chicago (2002). Instead Hustlers focuses on a raw look at women living a life that is both hard and reflective of the struggle that every woman faces, including the responsibility of caring for one another and their children. This amazing and compelling experience of a slice of life is powerful and sensitive portrayal of the connections and the travails of the lives of what seems to amount to be essentially single women living in a high-stakes life in an effort to survive. The only weaknesses that stand out are the absence of a more descriptive understanding of Wuís interaction with her boyfriend and their evolving relationship and Lopezís apparent willingness to retain a connection with one of her more questionable hustlers. [Reviewed 9/15/2019]. 9/10.

    4. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019). Quentin Tarantinoís homage to the film (2019 Golden Globe best screenplay) industry of fifty years ago, to the brief sparkle of life of Sharon Tate, and one fictional story of an actor becoming a has been played by Leonardo Dicaprio and his stunt man sidekick played by Brad Pitt (2019 Oscar and Golden Globe winner) becomes a rather bittersweet in a good way experience so intermingled with nostalgia that any review might be inseparable from those old enough to have actually lived through the many joyous and melancholic moments displayed on the big screen. This is a rather amazing and detailed visceral production of movie making behind the scenes along with the personas writ large that evoke deeper sad and happy emotions that even perhaps goes beyond even the extravagant and powerful presentation by Dicaprio in The Revenant (2015). Quentinís is also intriguing storyline in how he blends separate character storylines in ways that avoid mainstream expectations. There is both a carefully crafted, photographed choreography by the director and a stunning, intimate display of acting, especially by Dicaprio. As almost in a fairy tale dream, this story offers up a memorable but haunting story about the life of actors and the historical outcomes of what life could be. Without having lived the sixties, it is almost impossible to really know how this movie really instills the rich, provocative history to those that never experienced it. A biased, yes biased, commendation to a movie of yesteryear brought back to rich living life in sweeping but well cared for dramatic fashion. [Reviewed 7/28/2019]. 9/10.

    5. JoJo Rabbit (2019). Taika Waititi, director and screenplay writer (2019 Best Oscar Adapted Screenplay), as well as co-star has created an artful, wily serio-comic period movie that brings Adolph Hitler as an imaginary friend to the big screen. This carefully balanced tragic-comedy boldly incorporates fabulous performances from Waititi as Adolph Hitler with some entertaining dialogue that refuses to descend to mere dumb and stupid humor. This well-paced and at times even suspenseful movie even contains some sobering scenes about Germanyís World War II and its tragic consequences. At the same time though there is an exuberance and playfulness of youth cut short and found again, the retention of hope and delight even as an adult experiencing traumatic times as displayed by Scarlett Johansson as the mother. Jo Jo, the young aspiring Nazi, played by Roman Griffin Davis brings a solid and endearing performance to the film. Without much in the way of spectacular special effects, Adolph Hitlerís antics and physical comedic behavior brings back Charlie Chaplin in style and humor. The witty and well written screenplay forms the basis of this quality and impressive experience that JoJo Rabbit gifts its audience. One of the best and most delicate of comedy-dramas in years. [Reviewed 11/3/2019]. 9/10.

    6. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019). Director Marielle Heller brings Tom Hanks to the screen as Fred Rogers in a fascinating supporting role and a personally, riveting, and compelling one-minute of silence that deeply resonates. Itís also the adapted screenplay inspired by the real life Tom Junod that is transformed by the fictional addition of a fight between son and father that somehow captures an important elemental piece of Fred Rogerís existential existence without which the movie might not have had the emotive intensity to make it sufficiently inviting to audiences. Heller also introduces a series of surrealistic scenes from Mr. Rogerís rebuilt sets that blend back and forth into the real world on screen as well as an extended scene which the primary character of Tom Junodís alter ego in the movie, Lloyd Vogel seems to enter into an intriguing Mr. Robertís neighborhood sequence. Overall, this otherwise typical movie is enhanced by efforts to bring the audience a movie with more intimate emotional depth and numerous creative cinematography and photographic design that raises this movieís qualitative ambitions and relative sociological and personal value as a film. [Reviewed 1/26/2020]. 8/10.

    7. The Upside (2019, USA release date). Drama. Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston along with Nicole Kidman in a supporting role star in this apparent drama of a rich quadriplegic needing an auxiliary helper, starkly in contrast to the deceptive trailer depicting this movie as a comedy. This movie is one of the few instances where Hartís character comes across so much of an asshole and jerk in both the immediate current time frame and the following flashback that takes up almost the entire rest of the movie in the first five or ten minutes of the movie that supposedly foretells how bad this movie is to become but actually doesnít. Instead this stunning movie with its storyline somehow evolves and merges right back onto itself by the end in such a compelling way that The Upside actually becomes one of the most stirring and dramatically powerful movie in years. There is some remote resemblance to The Blind Side (2009) in which a young homeless African American is taken in by a well to do white family. But unlike The Blind Side, The Upside somehow introduces Hartís rather unique comedic side in various funny episodes which allows him to show off a rather restrained and remarkable humorous presentation. Yet it is in the dramatically heightened performances that the icy tension and stirring and powerful relational moments become movie gems. The Upside is bold in its delivery, hard-hitting in its emotional, human dilemmas. Kudos must also go to Nicole Kidman who offers up a very restrained and surprisingly sensitively strong and feminine presence on the screen that supports and never upstages Hart nor Cranston, one of the stronger supporting roles in recent memory. There appears to be absolutely no downside to this movie, except the terrible trailer that fails to capture the nature of this movie and also includes a sliver of a spoiler much to the discredit of the marketing people behind this movie. [Reviewed 1/16/2019]. 10/10.

    8. Dumbo (2019). George Clooneyís Tomorrowland (2015) has arrived in more than one way. Firstly, the special effects technology of tomorrow has arrived today and developed sufficiently to offer the audience a seamless experience of animated animals and razzmatazz to engage with the audience without ever appearing to be obviously special effects. The audience can immerse themselves in both the live action performances, the natural setting, and the script without ever having to become distracted by technology. CGI has finally found its proper place, as an amazing background to the greatly enhance production of the story itself. Secondly, the darker themes presented to the audience makes this a wonderful family fantasy drama for young children that Tomorrowland offered its young adult audience in a science fiction format. The story is pungent with themes of loss, including references to the flu epidemic of 1919, about relationships between parents and children, about corporate greed and animal abuse, and personally begins in Sarasota, Florida where I spent several months at New College in my late teens many years ago. Perhaps the only dissonance that possibly occurs during this movie is Michael Keatonís casting as Vandavere whose personality is sublimely, elegantly rough and coarse. These universal themes resonate even today, perhaps, even more so as our current civilization has forgotten the epidemic tragedies of the past that could so easily sweep up against us again or how we can cope when something really important is torn away from us, and the importance of acknowledging the old and new connections between people and family. This emotionally infused movie is delightful, exciting, and a worthy contribution to the stable of films. [Reviewed 3/31/2019]. 9/10.

    9. Gemini Man (2019). Ang Lee has set a new bar for precision and life-like 3-D projection onto the movie screen. Itís really difficult to review this movie as to determine whether or not the amazing clarity of the photography like Avatar (2009) a decade in the past allowed the backdrop of the movie to rival the actual performance and storyline of the movie itself and to impact the rating of this film. However, Will Smithís performance along with his CGI counterpart (that foretells a revolutionary transformation in how the role of movie stars are managed in the future) do offer some very emotive and relational elements that offer this movie a distinctive and compelling storyline. The humanity of the movie comes across as well as the action thrills making this movie a well-rounded and intriguing, engrossing experience. Ang Lee has brought elements of Kurt Russellís Soldier (1998) and Hitman: Agent 47 (2015), along with an amazing visual technology into a film that becomes a distinctive action thriller. The few weaknesses remain such as the idealistic 100% virtual movie experience of which Ang Lee has almost achieved, except for a few remaining near and far away focus issues, the lack of the ideal projection system now available in most movie theaters to take advantage Ang Leeís superior camera work, and some of the not quite so convincing action sequences on the motorcycle and later in the catacombs that almost seem more like videogames than movie production scenes. Overall, Ang Lee has brought a refreshing, very entertaining and quite improved dynamic to action thrillers. [Reviewed 10/11/2019]. 9/10.

    10. Toy Story 4 (2019). There is something of the same entertaining and emotional connectivity as Incredibles 2 (2018). Thereís a point in Toy Story 4 (2019 Oscar winner) that made it appear that this sequel would be decent if not great movie, but then later on as the movie literally worn on, it became stronger and stronger until by the end the compelling and heart-felt storyline blossomed fully by the end of the movie. There is an important conceptual insight about the perceptions and assumptions about human nature that oddly enough results from an animated feature about toys themselves. This is a solid, funny, sad, and humanly amazing experience about both toys, human beings, and relationships. [Reviewed 6/23/2019]. 9/10.

    11. Ready or Not (2019). In the same style as Kate Winsletís The Dressmaker (2016) and Nicole Kidmanís Dogville (2004), this very dark comedy horror movie maintains the difficult balance between grotesque and weirdly appealing immorality of evil death. The script and director successfully maintain a difficult but nicely paced movie along with an amazing absence of overly imbued supernatural features. Instead Ready or Not holds the audience attention more for its humanness than monsterness. The lead character played by Samara Weaving is allowed to perform with a more realistic and Hitchcockian motif using scary elements of timing, audience expectation, well-deserved cinematography, and music to create a technically well-crafted scary movie. For the most part, the movie is well-tied together with a compelling sprinkle of twists and delicious sordidness. Except for perhaps a tinge of the loss of the fun balance of darkness and comedy towards the last half of the movie, it still ends with a nice sense of humor. [Reviewed 9/8/2019]. 9/10.

    Honorable Mention

    1917 (2020). Sam Mendes has put together a compelling immersive film experience by a seemingly continuous moving camera record of two soldiers assigned the job of saving a battalion of 1,600 soldiers from a German entrapment and potential bloodbath. This is the second major film to provide its audience with a one streaming shot experience, the first being Alejandro G. IŮŠrritu's Birdman (2014). There is a lot to commend here in terms of cinematography reminiscent of some of the best war and survival movies from the best directors in the business, including: Steven Spielbergís Saving Private Ryan (1998), a rescue mission set in World War II Germany and War Horse (2011), an animal story set in cruel trench warfare of World War I; Alejandro G. IŮŠrrituís The Revenant (2015) a period survival, revenge piece the wilderness; Ron Howardís The Missing (2003) a rugged and stark Western rescue story; Ridley Scottís Black Hawk Down (2001) a contemporary military rescue effort in war-torn Somalia; Francis Ford Coppolaís Apocalypse Now (1979) a horrifying, intense Vietnam War story; John Fordís, Henry Hathawayís, George Marshallís How The West Was Won (1962), an epic Western classic; John Sturgesís The Great Escape (1963) an escape attempt from a notorious World War II prison camp; and even Mel Gibsonís Apocalypto (2006), a story of survival in the perilous jungles of the declining Mayan empire. What is fascinating is the parallel to the breathtaking, pulsating science fiction thriller of Alfonso Cuarůnís Gravity (2013) a survival story in outer space. The camera work, the music, the storyline of survival and loss are intense in both these movies. What minor flaws or manipulative script devices that occur in 1917, can be somewhat forgiven: the coincidences of the terrible circumstances and friendly soldiers that may be nearby, a mouse and tripwire, an obvious overlooked advantage the protagonist had in regards to a potential duel with a silhouette who becomes an enemy soldier. Mendes comes close to transforming this movie into but somehow avoids turning it into an extended virtual amusement thrill ride experience. Whether or not this war movie will join the ranks of Black Hawk Down or Kevin Costnerís Dances with Wolves or Sam Mendesí own war movie Jar Head (2005), only time with time as the technology and cinematography continues to innovate to bring fresh and exciting visual and audio experiences to the audience. [Reviewed 1/20/2020]. 8/10.

    Ad Astra (2019). Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, and Donald Sutherland star in this sci fi, psychological thriller. This gorgeous visual extravaganza on the scale and look of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Ad Astra attempts to replicate the big screen space drama of the likes of Gravity (2013) and Interstellar (2014). The beginning space scenes are strongly reminiscent of the commercialization of space and how sharply distinctively the cinematography resembles that of Stanley Kubrickís 1968 work. What makes this movie more intriguing is the strong father-son relational aspect. However, this movie suffers from an exploitative script that both underwhelms and overwhelms the audience in various ways even as the amazing special effects literally explode on film. The audience becomes unnecessarily confused without more narrative or explanation about the geo-politics and the state of the world and Moon. The drama that takes place on the Moon is rather unconvincing and rather manipulative in its depiction more along the lines of an action movie instead of the more believable drama that occurs in Black Hawk Down (2001) or We Were Soldiers (2002). Even the moon parallel or actually different mode of travel as shown in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) makes the idea of the drama that occurs on the Moon in this movie even less convincing than it would actually have occurred in the way it did. The landing on Mars as shown in Ad Astra might also be somewhat suspect, especially considering thinness of the Marís atmosphere. The distress call scene is both overkill and yet in some ways well done for its horror-like tension, though itís hard to believe that either the Captain or Brad Pittís character would have been the ones to actually directly investigate the SOS distress call. While the special emphasis on the relational psychological impact was worthy, it still didnít seem as consistently or sufficiently developed as could be. Solaris (1972, 2002) and Moon (2009) offer a more poignant relational and psychological depiction. As for the ending, several alternative endings may have been worth considering including whether or not to follow in oneís fatherís footsteps. Even the actual conclusion of this movie could have been cut earlier and having an even better impact or the transition towards the actual ending could have been improved with better fleshed out scenes between father and son. Overall, this visually amazing movie in the company of similar such major sci fi movies doesnít completely succeed with its somewhat inconsistent and weaker storyline as it was developed. While Brad Pitt does a commendable job in this movie, it feels like he could have done much better if he hadnít been so constrained by the script as it was written. The script needed a least one more do over before it could have been made into what might have easily been the best sci fi movie of the year. [Reviewed 9/22/2019]. 8/10.

    Alita (2019). This digitally enhanced human actress sci fi action movie makes its mark as coming closer and closer to breaking the artificial animated characters barrier (as with Avatar, 2009) threatening to take the place of live actors in the near future of movie making in the years to come. This rather sophisticated movie full of derivative elements from a number of classic sci fi movies brings to the big screen a rather good emotional and cerebral manipulation of compelling human sensitivities. This movie resembles a composite of movies including: Robocop (1987) and mechanical war machines; Soldier (1998) and a garbage planet; Serenity (2005) or Hannah (2011), and Ghost in the Shell (2017) and enhanced assassins; Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and the Borg Queen; Ready One Player (2018) and futurist cities and; Elysium (2013) or Insurgent (2015) and bifurcated worlds. In many ways this populist movie caters to the appealing but stereotypical black and white emotional triggers inherent in the movie going audience. One example is the over-emphasis of mechanical replacement limbs that seem to be everywhere in the movie. Nevertheless, this movie is a contradiction in that even though really unoriginal and oozing with drama appeal to the masses over a more award-winning authenticity, the script retains credible pacing, audience interest as its supposed to, and incorporates a nicely accomplished fusion of elements from other movies. [Reviewed 2/19/2019]. 8/10.

    Anna (2019). This Luc Besson multi-twist on his classic female assassin thriller 1990s La Femme Nikita which personally was actually improved upon by John Badhamís 1993 American version entitled ďPoint of No ReturnĒ incorporates among the most twists of any thriller movie. Even more amazing, all the twists really work and the audience is able to easily comprehend each one and so can enjoy the film even more by just sitting and experiencing the delicious sensation of all the new reveals in this somewhat complex movie. Using a multitude of flashbacks which ultimately and surprisingly work, the audience is made aware of the real story behind what seems to be occurring on screen and the audience is led to relive many extended scenes from a different perspective. There are a number of parallels between Anna and La Femme Nikita/Point of No Return. Luc Besson has extended the psychic drama of the female assassin even further in this new version of the female good/bad persona. Besson doesnít spend a lot of time on specialized training as in his original work leaving a lot of room for the many interplays between Russian and American intelligence agencies in the field, with the Americanís presence actually seemingly dissipating from the movie for awhile but coming back with a vengeance later. Besson at two places in the movie appears to have fallen into the trap of the current violent mayhem fashions of the latest spy movies such as John Wick 3 (2019) or Hitman 47 (2015). Such scenes seem to be a sort of fantastic stylized Kill Bill Vol 1 (2003) and for Anna seems to be a little overkill to be taken seriously. To give credit to Besson, his choreographed fight scenes are deliciously photographed and well prepared, even standing out a bit from the many bloody shoot outs recently seen in other movies including Brian Millerís The Prince (2014) or Edward Zwicksí Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016). The plot in some ways takes from the more moody and psychological spy thriller Fred Schepisiís The Russia House (1990) adapted from the spy master novelist John le Carrť and then adds its own attempt to create an intricately plotted spy movie but with a lot more sustained action. The more convoluted relational aspects of this movie also provide a more juicy and intriguing set of humanistic circumstances. Overall, this movie is well executed and almost becomes its own classic, almost setting a new bar for espionage movies. Susha Luss as a new refreshing face and performer brings a nice vitality and picturesqueness to her role. Yet there are few shots that either she or the director miss in terms of the sustained, expected professional character of her role even though the movie is supposed to have a renewed focus on an assassin as a human being. Especially problematic is a pivotal scene where she is confronted with the possibility of a point-blank death. And the ending is solid and creative, it just doesnít quite have that amazing, huge breakthrough that would make this movie into a new class of its own. [Reviewed 6/24/2019]. 8/10.

    Avengers: Endgame (2019). More is not always better and a lot more is definitely mind-bogglingly hard to wrap oneís senses around. After a slow build that effuses with emotional and relational devastation the movie that turns towards a building resolution with multiple scenes of bravery and sometimes sacrifice. With so many super characters and subplots, itís pretty difficult to really absorb the more intimate prolonged exposure that most dramatic movies offer. There are numerous attempts of pushing the audienceís emotional buttons that abound in this superhero finale and in that effort there are a number of typical and well-execute ploys by scriptwriters to milk the scenes for all their worth. This grab bag of personas and dramatic and comedic turmoil all come together in a pretty full package that at times bulges at the seams. This is a movie that tries really hard to encompass the full panoply of the Marvel Universe which is likely too big for just one or perhaps two full length films to capture comprehensively or adequately. But nice, if impossible try. [Reviewed 4/30/2019]. 8/10.

    Captain Marvel (2019). In a rather surprising turnaround, what seemed mostly a good, but not really that great superhero movie turned on its afterburners for the last twenty minutes of the movie to make quite a show of it. Most of this movie was pretty much simplified overkill, token humor, and a lot of show off special effects, action sequences that really felt like a pretty masculine derivative. The tone of the movie also uncharacteristically wavered some during the first half of the movie. A disoriented and disjointed first half of the movie which was supposedly part of the nature of the storyline of this movie, but it wasnít effectively presented. With a little bit of Enderís Game (2013) intrigue the movie twist was pretty effective, if not stunning along with a smidgen of reverse ethnic psychology. The observable 3-D technological enhancement continues to progress helping to offer an almost awesome display of immersive reality. Not quite there yet. Overall, this movie almost didnít come through and canít really be considered a complete success owing to its rather average beginning. But the storyline and the ending performances shine resulting in of the few movies to make it out of its crash dive with a stunning and heartful conclusion that just barely earns a nine out of ten. [Reviewed 3/12/2019]. 9/10.

    Charlieís Angels (2019). This newest version has the girls more chic, more sharp, and more authentically vulnerable which makes this version somewhat better. The twists in this Charlieís Angels kept coming, some predictable, some not. Perhaps the turn of events were such that some audience members frowned on the outcome making this newest outing the worst box office performance in the franchise history. Maybe the twists became too confusing or disturbing. Or making the Angels more vulnerable might have been off-putting. One of the few weaknesses like using an over-powering 50 caliber Gatling gun that didnít seem to make any real big holes in the Angels getaway vehicle and unable to literally destroying it may have been too damaging to the credibility of the film. Maybe only having two primary Angels carrying the load instead of the three Angels that prior films used may have put a limp in the usual expected action, while a Bosley and a client took slightly different roles. However, the snappy, contemporary humor was finely balanced into a much more edgy Angel version (quite an accomplishment in itself) where deaths seemed to puncture that tonality of earlier Charlieís Angels films. Yet it is this edginess, contemporary updated vernacular, and the more plausible yet well executed action fighting scenes made for a cleaner and more appreciative theatrical experience. Ultimately there is a more human and meaningful feminine touch (even more so than In Like Flint (1967), especially towards the end that help to lift up the qualitative depth of this movie version. Less entertainment, more sophisticated humor and authentic action. [Reviewed 11/30/2019]. 8/10.

    Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019). This adaptation of the popular cartoon series brings to the big screen an upbeat and lavish story that is bubbly, optimistic with a good message in this entertaining comedic adventure. The central character of Dora is infectious and inviting with her authentic and valuable intelligent naivety. Her ability to make friends and her ability to both physically and mentally bore through obstacles instills hope and encouragement as a model to younger audiences. This is a decent and fun movie, sort of a Mr. Rogers in the wild. [Reviewed 12/29/2019]. 8/10.

    The Highwaymen (2019). Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson star in this serious crime thriller about the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde, the notorious crime couple who along with their gang robbed banks, killing police officers during The Depression of the thirties. This thriller focuses on the lives of two former Texas Rangers, Frank Hamer and B.M. "Maney" Gault who endeavor to take Bonnie and Clyde down. With amazing shots of the flat landscapes of middle America, Texas, and Louisiana and the rural poverty and dilapidation of the Depression, this relatively low-key non-action oriented and deliberately under-dramatized version of Bonnie and Clyde is somber and strangely riveting for its unorthodox portrayal of crime fighting unlike the typical, mainstream popularized crime action movie, even Costnerís own starring role in The Untouchables (1987). For those who askew constant action and violence and instead looking for a more sedate and psychological bent to a period crime movie, then The Highwaymen is a solid production. [Reviewed 4/7/2019]. 8/10.

    Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019). This sequel to the 2014 fantasy original offers up a more emotional intense and mature movie that contains more malevolent violence as well as deeper feelings of betrayal as well as binding love. The basic elements of the original are retained including the glorious musical accompaniment but many of the details and characters seem quite different. The dramatic stakes are raised to a level almost too graphic for younger audience members while at the same time evolving along with the maturity level of those children who saw and remember the original movie. The end result is a solid and meaningful contribution to the 2014 original and nicely complements it without being a mere copy nor just more of the same. [Reviewed 10/19/2019]. 8/10.

    Parasite (2019). 2019 Best Picture Oscar. This supposedly best film of 2019 South Korean venture into mystery, comedic thrills is for some hard to digest with not so likeable characters. There are grifters and then there are likeable grifters like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), The Grifters (1990), and Heartbreakers (2001). This movie in a fascinating way has similarities to an ďevilĒ version of The Pink Panther (1963) or a more frightening chilly version of The Ice Storm (1997). Over time, the movie does seem to increase in its compelling mystery including a number of well-done tense scenes and twists. Itís problematic though that such talented grifters would be living in such a disheveled, shoddy accommodations almost as if the director scripted it that way for dramatic effect and the fatherís outrageous behavior at the end seems a little over the top without real sense of consistency with the storyline, except again to adhere to some dramatic script design to impress critics or audience members. Admittedly this movie succeeds in its intensity and captivating ambiance while building a sense of off-balanced comedy psychological drama. Yet the overall impact is an unsympathetic resonance that while attractive is also quite repulsive. [Reviewed 12/28/2019]. 8/10.

    Polar (2019). Overall, this movie starts well but eventually descends into a more mundane finish with a sort of interesting twist that still felt unfinished. This Netflix production of the assassin genre presents a youthful, techno-film (with a distant resemblance initially to some of the art work from last yearís Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse) commingled with a more sedate, independent movie cinematography. By the end, the movie has lost its originality and the hoped for amazing twist just seems to be a cute afterthought that seems to go nowhere, except for the unlikely sequel. Other similar movies include The Prince (2014) especially with Bruce Willis in his antagonist role; Tokyo Tribe (2014) for its sadistic stylized Japanese gang violence; Dune (1984) for its evil Baron Harkonen. Also V for Vendetta (2005) is another nicely stylized, polished movie about revenge on a huge scale. Interestingly, this movie also has an echo of the ultimately lone hero from the sci fi movie Oblivion (2013) and Hanna (2011) about an adolescent female assassin. [Reviewed 1/30/2019; 11/23/2019 moved to Honorable Mention from Good]. Note the performance by Vanessa Hudgens in comparison to her performances in The Knight Before Christmas (2019) or Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012). 7/10.

    Terminator: Dark Fate (2019). Linda Hamilton, age 63, is to be commended for her starring performance. She really offered up a solid and smooth maturing character display on screen. The typical whoís good and bad start like earlier Terminator versions was effective, but the early going seemed to be almost too derivative except for the stark and hard-edged physical violence that the movie began with which seemed to be superior stunt action and cinematography work than the original Terminator movies. With a bit of a confusing plot outline that really should be explained in order to avoid unnecessary early mental gyrations which shouldnít be considered spoilers but plot corrections: This Terminator movie appears to start off where the original 1984 movie left off as if the rest of the series didnít happen. Some of the dialogue especially during the first half, seemed just a bit to common, almost like a kindly, older gentlemen had written the script. Some of the dialogue could have been sharper and edgier. There is also a scene where instead of blowing up a house, itís left intact so anybody could go through it for clues. Nevertheless, the action and the persistent bad Terminator is almost continuous with one action scene after another action scene and somehow most of it somehow seemed dramatically and theatrically believable. The tension between Sarah Connors (Hamilton) and later in the movie an important older character is meaningful and nicely accomplished. Overall, this Terminator version is solid, entertaining, along with a touching emotional whisper of some of the finer Terminator predecessor movies. Yet, there are just some few elements that could have been improved that would have provided a nicely shining polished finish to the movie. [Reviewed 10/31/2019]. 8/10.

    Good But Failed to Make the Grade

    Aladdin (2019). With musical elements oddly reminiscent of the most recent and compelling James Bondís melodies along with the television hyped musical series such as Glee, Aladdin presents a sort of glorified musical version of those 50s movies attempts at ethnic diversity, but with mixed results. There are several points in the movie where the editing and transition between a some of the later scenes seem rough and uneven. Wil Smith as the genie along with his accompanying dazzling special effects really maintains the energy for this movie and offers up his own Robin Williams antics that has Smithís imprint solidly established in his own right. Jasminís strong womanís character is undeniable and the musical and singing performances are decent from the original animated version, if not all memorable as could be said of the contemporaneous and memorable music from movie Rocketman (2019), the biopic of Elton John. [Reviewed 6/5/2019]. 7/10.

    Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019). This action thriller starring two of the bona fide action stars, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham starts out smart and deliciously edgy. Yet it eventually descends into a predictable, repetitive, mindless endeavor of special effects and R-rated Disney adventure rides on the big screen. Yes, the scriptwriters attempted the emotional, relational connections to try to give the movie more substance, but in the end, Hobbs & Shaw became boring in places and stale in some of its more and more staged productions. This Predator (1987) meets a less intelligent version of The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) which had Ryan Reynoldís snappy performance underused in this Fast & Furious spin-off. While the stunts were amazing, they have come of the point of being overly staged, trying to outdo all the past action movies. The scriptwriters have also pressed the envelope of logical, reasonable believability with holes developing in the plot development, such how the female lead can so easily and conveniently escape in the opening scene. A decent, but not totally convincing nor engrossing action movie. [Reviewed 8/7/2019]. 7/10.

    Hustle, The (2019). Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star in this feminine version of Michael Caine and Steve Martinís Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) comedic grifters movie. Along with Heartbreakers (2001) starring Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt, The Hustle offers up the sophisticated and the crude approaches to pilfering off the mostly unsuspecting male of the species. We have had the female Ghostbusters (2016) and the female Oceanís Eight (2018) that also co-starred Anne Hathaway. Anne is back again to bolster the female reign of comedy with an unfortunate accent to her voice that just doesnít quite ring true. But she does get to show off her usual talent for underplayed comedy and a nice diversity of character performances. Rebel Wilson gets to show off her more vulgar behavior like Melissa McCarthy undertook in the comedy crime thriller The Heat (2013) with Sandra Bullock. Somehow Chris Addison manages to keep the mixed personality comedy together where Anne and Rebel scenes come together to retain an acceptable, fluid dynamics without becoming annoyingly repugnant or overly crass. There isnít much new in this female version to Dirty Rotten Scoundrelís and even the ending of The Hustle seems somewhat diminished and derivative. Yet there are moments that shine, especially regarding the innocent mark who provides a good performance. This is an entertaining and fun summer movie that while not in any way really remarkable is competently directed, nicely performed in a risky movie genre oftentimes quite difficult to accomplish well. [Reviewed 5/24/2019]. 7/10.

    John Wick Chapter 3 (2019). There may be a point when martial art, continuous movie violence, and stunt action on film becomes almost an overdone video game instead of an artful movie. With this third iteration, Keanu Reeveís seems to have relied almost too heavily on a stunt director who is unable to maintain a consistent, reliable movie fantasy tone as better accomplished by Aleksander Bachís Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) or Quentin Tarantinoís Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003). There were several scenes where it appeared that John Wick somehow avoided being killed because the stunt action either goofed or the script attempted to be just too coy and cute allowing John to escape certain death. There were several scenes where the assassins that John encountered significantly became less adept at fighting from their earlier appearances or as in one scene with motorcycles, while John was permitted to use a gun, his opponents were oddly restricted to only using swords. In a strangely predictable twist towards the end, the movie plot outline seemed to attempt to please a larger audience incorporating both hardcore nasty shocking character denouements while also providing for a more pleasant audience experience which only seemed to result in a lazy compromise in scriptwriting. There are a number of nice tender, emotive points in the movie and a modicum of expressive qualitative moments, but overall, this action movie doesnít quite have the same depth and integrity as the previous two Wick movies. This third Wick movie had the basic outline for a really creative and powerful action movie, but it took the easier video game approach interspersed with a few human moments and overly cute inserts. [Reviewed 5/17/2019]. 7/10.

    Little Women (2019). With fresh, innocent eyes and mind that never experienced a ďLittle WomenĒ movie or novel, this apparently seventh version of the well-read book by little women themselves seems to offer a rather difficult to follow movie. Too many jumps, flashbacks, and chaos seem to reign, chaos while understandably a part of living with the March family becomes a rather unsettling blur to the uninitiated. What is strikingly and perversely amusing is that even the author of this well received movie, Louisa May Alcott agreed that even her book that so many movies were based on was not a work that she enjoyed writing, never liked girls, and that the book in fact was ďdull.Ē When compared to Jane Austinís Pride and Prejudice, especially the 1995 television mini-series, this Little Women perhaps unfairly doesnít provide the newly initiated audience with an easy flowing and immersive experience. Admittedly the performance of Saoirse Ronan stands out with her Elizabeth Bennet-like fierce character, albeit Elizabeth Bennet had an even more of cultural restrictions on women. [Reviewed 12/25/2019]. 7/10.

    Wonder Park (2019). This fanciful animated movie that interlocks a childís imagination with the creation of an imaginary but perhaps actually real wonderful, almost magical park seems to lose a bit in its lack of a compelling engaging nature of animation as depicted on the screen. Unlike Toy Story 4 which offers up an even more sharp, detailed rendition of life like characters having much more distinct line between animated real life characters and the imaginary animated characters in Wonder Park seem to distance the audience from becoming more directly involved in the movie. In Last Action Hero (1993) a fun superhero action movie has a real boy enters into the world of a fictional movie world and remains more compelling because of its reality-tinged depiction. In contrast, George Clooneyís more vivid and compelling live action sci fi Tomorrowland (2015) immerses its audience in the much more real, yet intertwining divergent future reality. There is a lot of emphasis on action to propel this movie forward with less of a direct threat to the entire planet earth than Tomorrowland. Even so, the dazzling animated Inside Out (2015) while not involving a dramatic threat to the entire world still retains its intensity of emotional connection to its characters by its very nature sustained in the movie while also introducing a continuing series of action scenes throughout the movie. My Girlfriendís Boyfriend (2010) is an amazing example of a funny romantic comedy based on the interaction of writing and how it can become real. Even Christopher Robin (2018) has a fanciful charm where storybook characters can interact well with real people on the screen that involves deeper human emotions and interesting storylines without the continued use of action. Or take the imaginative Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) or Welcome to Warwen (2018). where adult men can also have a fascinating life both real and unreal on the big screen. Perhaps the definitive live action fantasy movie might be Robin Wrightís performance as herself in an amazing fusion of live action and animation in Congress (2013 which may never be replicated or approached again in its depiction of its subject matter. Overall Wonder Park is fun, entertaining, and theme park derived, with its heart and playfulness in the right places. It just could have been better designed and portrayed. [Reviewed 7/3/2019]. 7/10.

    Yesterday (2019). Sci-Fi, Fantasy Comedy, Musical. Itís hard to classify Yesterday. It prominently uses Beatleís lyrics and song. Itís funny but with a twinge of melancholy. And mostly itís a fantasy of what ifs. Itís also predictable with a sad whimsical elemental surprise towards the end. For Beatle purists, this movie would be hard to accept and enjoy. Somehow the interplay between Beatle songs and the movie plot doesnít quite run smoothly and easily play out like Across the Universe (2007). Nor does Yesterday incorporate the creative movie magic that Across the Universe used with a compelling lavish way. This alternative reality fantasy appears to be a somewhat new take on the more oftentimes comedic or dramatized versions of reality such as John Candyís Delirious (1991) or Amazonís The Man in the High Castle series (2015) which make more of their own focused intensity in their delivery. This fusion of so many genres coming together in Yesterday ultimately changes the movie into more of an experimental film genre in progress. As a musical Yesterday doesnít sustain the intimacy of lengthy sweeping musical pieces as experienced in Rocketman (2019), La La Land (2016), Les Miserable, or Chicago (2002). Overall, the movie stands on its own, in its own way, but as a tribute to the Beatles, only the Beatles themselves can really authentically hit the original notes of emotional integrity with their own tributes. [7/16/2019]. 7/10.

    Zombieland: Double Tap (2019). This comedy horror movie comes just in time (released October 18) for Halloween offers up a light, but reasonably violent, and only a few scary pulsing moments to entertain its audience. The humor dialogue was well written, the all the characters including the undead are charming or endearingly gross. Not quite as compelling and embracing as Warm Bodies (2013), Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone offer solid performances for the genre. [Reviewed 10/20/2019]. 7/10.

    Disappointments

    The Alien Warfare (2019). This low-budget sci fi military mystery thriller attempts to exude a superior script, yet it canít manage to avoid the many clichťs and standard dialogue that traps it into an average typical sci fi movie that doesnít offer much new. There are hints and suggestions and efforts to bring to the screen that will allow this military search team ordered to check out the strange break off in communication with a secret lab operated by the United States government to be something better than the rest. But just because the President of the United States has requested specifically this supposedly amazingly brilliant special ops team of four, doesnít mean the movie will be better. In the style of Dwayne Johnsonís Doom (2005) and Ghost of Mars (2001), there is the supposedly the scary exploration into the unknown along with a relational turmoil among brothers that may resolve itself predictably. There is the female specialist who knows more than she lets on as already portrayed in one of the best of its sci fi/horror genre The Devilís Tomb (2008). Unfortunately, the creative inspiration runs dry so that the classic substantive clout of the movie is lost unlike those established already as far back as Forbidden Planet (1956) and more recently achieved in Aliens (1986) and Alien: Resurrection (1997), and Sphere (1998). Better analogous films instead of Alien Warfare would be the more passive, but nevertheless intriguing Wavelength (1983) or even Alien Hunter (2003). This movie doesnít offer the realism nor vicarious intensity of such movies as The Andromeda Strain (1971) or the more brilliantly produced Arrival (2016) or Annihilation (2018). Overall, Alien Warfare comes across as decently scripted, acceptably performed, but lacking in terms of qualitative innovations and freshness required of sci fi movies these days. [Reviewed 6/27/2019]. 6/10.

    Santa Girl (2019). There something that just doesnít work in this movie. There are cheesy performances and scenes, distracting changes in photographic techniques that donít appear to have any artistic value. The editing and shot selections sometimes seem jostled and cobbled together. Even some of the dialogue and acting seem haphazard and spontaneous but not in a good comedic way. While the story outline held promise, the script needed a lot more work. The typical triangle of one girl and two boys doesnít come across the screen in smooth way as they struggle to relate to one another, itís almost as if the actors themselves were unsure of how to play their parts. Itís not that the movie is a tangled mess, the plot somehow holds together and the effort to make this a palatable movie is more than apparent, itís just that it doesnít quite come together as a finished product. Itís not absolutely terrible and it may be worth seeing if one is really bored and there donít seem to be many other options. [Reviewed 4/19/2020]. 4/10.

    Terrible

    None.

    Havenít Seen Yet


    Bombshell (2019). About the life and fall of Roger Ailes of FOX news fame.

    The Irishman (2019, Netflix).

    Marriage Story (2019, Netflix).

    The Two Popes (2019, Netflix). Anthony Hopkins as Pope Paul XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis to be.

  11. #11
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    tabuno - first, best wishes for your health and good luck with your political campaign. This list is nothing less than two dozen reviews, so too much to read in one go, but skimming it I was impressed by your observation about PARASITE, that if they're such skilled grifters as they're made out to be in the movie, how can they be living in such a shabby, lowlife habitation? I hadn't thought of that, but you're right. I hope you see and like MARRIAGE STORY.

  12. #12
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    Voice Over Narrative

    I am in the minority of those who loved Harrison Ford's voice over narrative in Bladerunner. It seemed to fit the whole film noir of the classical 50s crime thriller. Yet we'll have to see if I can get through what I found to be a useless, lazy voice over narration at the beginning of both Marriage Story and The Irishman. I attempted to start watching both films on Netflix and I just wanted to plug my ears and somehow struggle through the beginning scenes, but I couldn't. Maybe like the Frank Herbert's Dune, I'll eventually be able to reach the point of really getting through both movies.

  13. #13
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    I too like the voiceover of BLADE RUNNER a lot. But do you like voiceovers or don't you? I guess if BLADE RUNNER is the only movie with a voiceover that you like, the answer is no. For me, voiceovers add a charming literary touch, and they are routine in French Ne Wave films, which I love.

  14. #14
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    It's About Fifty-Fifty When It Comes To Voice Overs

    Unless there is really an artistic need for a voiceover that enhances a movie scene, a lot of times, I find voiceovers just a lazy way of offering up explanations that would be much better communicated with just actors expressing themselves with nonverbal behavior or some other visual shots that convey the same message. So the use of voiceovers is a really nuanced cinematic concept that directors and scriptwriters need to have a good grounding of filmmaking if their voiceover is going to be made that's worthwhile for me to experience.

  15. #15
    Join Date
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    Yes, you are absolutely right. A voiceover has to be done by a filmmaker who knows what she is doing. But that goes for everything, doesn't it? In the French New Wave, the voiceovers are a way of establishing a mood and a style, a chatty, intimate feeling. When they're just filling in explanation ("telling" instead of "showing) that is indeed lazy and - gives voiceovers a bad name! But they can be fine, and they have seemed to be coming back lately, being used by good filmmakers. Here is a list I just found (cheating, as usual) of good narrators of films:
    Joe Gillis - SUNSET BULEVARD
    Oh Dae-su - OLDBOY
    Narrator - THE ROYAL TENEBAUMS
    The Narrator - FIGHT CLUB
    Travis Bickle - TAXI DRIVERS
    Joel Barish - ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
    In the Nouvelle Vague the "voix-off" as they call it provides an autobiographical tone sometimes, and also has a literary effect. Two notable examples: Francois Truffaut's JULES ET JIM and Jean-Luc Godard and LE PETIT SOLDAT. Other flms with voiceovers (a more random, popular list):
    A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (Kubrick)
    BARRY LYNDON (Kubrick)
    FOREST GUMP (Zemeckis)
    GOODFELLAS (Scorsese)
    CASINO (Scorsese)
    APOCALPUYSE NOW (Coppola - three narrators)
    AMELIE Jeuneet)
    AMERICAN BEAUTY (Mendes)
    Everything by Terrence Malick - you may get sick of it there, or feel he's entering into self-parody. But at his best, it's essential to the magical mood he weaves.

    And a recent French film I like a lot that consciously evokes the Nouvelle Vague is Louis Garrel's A FAITHFUL MAN (L'HOMMME FID»LE), which has three different "voix-off" narrators, Abel (Garrel), Eve (Lily-Rose Depp) and Marianne (Laetitia Casta). The more the merrier! This way the film's not dominated by a single point of view.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-20-2020 at 11:24 PM.

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