1917 Review

1917’s continuous one shot shooting style is a film-making marvel in one of the year’s best films.

Score: 5 / 5

1917 is one of the best movies I have seen. I honestly am struggling with where to begin with this one. It’s a beautiful film that well after I left the theater the emotions that it made me experience stuck with me. There are very few movies if at all that made me feel like I went on this journey with the characters on the screen, and this one I felt like I was there with them. A voyeur observer that desperately wanted to lend a hand, a shoulder, and a voice to keep going.

1917 is a war drama set during World War I. It follows two British soldiers tasked with delivering a message to the front lines to call off an attack. If they fail well over a thousand men will walk right into a trap. The problem is they must cut through enemy lines to get there and they are running out of time. Throughout the film we see the war to end all wars in painful detail, yet we also see in our two leads the different views of the war. One fighting for glory, and the other who is lost in the horrors of war itself.

I need to start somewhere with this movie so I’ll start with what has been pushed in behind the scenes marketing. This movie is shot as if it’s one continuous shot. As in, the movie doesn’t cut to different perspectives. It’s as if you are standing right there behind the soldiers, and if you want to see their faces, either the camera must move around them or the solider must turn around. There have been other movies or shows that have done scenes or moments like this, but this is the whole movie, and they don’t skip on insane action set pieces to do it. Explosions, plane crashes. It’s a technical marvel and absolute insanity that Director Sam Mendes, Cinematographer Roger Deakins, and the rest of the cast and crew were able to pull it all off.

This style of visual storytelling is much more common in video games such as Call of Duty or the masterpiece of God of War (Gaming fan? Seriously play God of War). This isn’t a negative in any stretch either this is just something that is much easier to accomplish in a game versus of a movie, and the benefits you get are immense. You don’t just feel like you are watching events playing out, you feel like you are there. I felt like I too was on this terrifying journey to save lives of so many soldiers. It’s something that is all the more amazing because you can see it on a massive theater size screen. This movie needs to be seen in a theater, so please don’t wait. When it hits your local theater make the time and get out there.

What makes this visual adventure work though is the two soldiers, Lance Corporal Blake, and Lance Corporal Schofield. Game of Thrones fans might recognize Blake who is played by Dean-Charles Chapman (King Tommen no more), while Schofield is played by George MacKay. These two take us on an emotional journey that is astonishing since they are essentially always on the move, trying to reach their destination. They give you so much in their conversations or reactions to the situations they walk into that you feel for them. You want them to make it, and you understand their emotions. You’ll be scared for them, you’ll cry with them, and you’ll feel the immense weight of what they have gone through by the end. Along the way they meet up with many excellent established actors in cameo roles, Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, and Richard Madden (another Game of Thrones alum). Everyone does a great job and really brings you into every scene.

The final piece to this movie is a beautiful yet haunting score by Thomas Newman. It sets the tone of every beat. Giving us a moment to appreciate a view, sit with a difficult scene, or feel the sands of time slipping away before it’s too late. This too feels a bit like some of the great video game scores of the last decade that elevates the journey you are going on (again God of War is a great example).

I’ve seen great war movies before, but this made me feel like I was part of it in a way that I have never experienced before in a movie. The shooting style, direction, actors, score, and a crew of wizards created something truly special. It’s a beautiful yet sorrowful piece of art that perfectly captures the stories you have read about the Great War, and is easily one of the best movies of the year.


Knives Out Review

Knives Out is a brilliantly fun whodunnit that’ll keep you entertained from the opening shot all the way to end.

Score: 5 / 5

From the minute that I read the announcement of writer/director Rian Johnson’s next film I was sold. A whoduunit murder mystery by Johnson? Count me in, then the cast was announced and I wasn’t just sold, I wished I could teleport in time and watch it right then. Sadly, time travel or speeding up time was out of my budget so instead I went about waiting. Well Knives Out is finally here and it’s one of the best movies of the year, easily.

Knives Out follow’s Daniel Craig’s private investigator Benoit Blanc as he investigates the apparent suicide of famous mystery novel writer Harlan Thrombey played by Christopher Plummer. The problem is he’s dealing with a family that is just as eccentric as the Bluth family from Arrested Development. The Thrombey’s are all pretty awful upper class human beings played by an amazing group of actors; Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, and Chris Evans. Remember when I said that casting announcement got me so excited? Yeah, you get it now. Throughout the investigation Blanc also employs the help of the home nurse / family friend Marta Cabrera played by Ana de Armas. If you haven’t heard of Armas before, this movie will make you pay attention now. And this is saying something considering the caliber of excellent actors all having a blast together.

The cast and it’s chemistry is top notch but it’s also how the story is told. Each family member giving their own narrative of the events, while Blanc and the viewers must piece together what really happened. There are twists and turns and at a specific point the story shifts in a way that makes you think this isn’t a whodunnit anymore it’s just a pure on thriller. I could say so much more about the story but I don’t want to spoil a single moment.

Amplifying the cast is a beautiful combination of set / costume design and the score. The Thrombey estate oozes with character that you’d expect out of a mystery story, and each character’s attire amplifies their very unique personalities. And then there is a score that meshes perfectly with the murder mystery genre to really ham up the fun of the plot.

What else is there to say? This movie knocked it out of the park and then into a different stadium a hundred miles away. I loved Knives Out, from top to bottom it’s one of the best movies of 2019 and a film I’m going to go back to for years and years to come.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

The Rise of Skywalker is an entertaining end to the franchise that maybe tries to do too much for one movie to handle.

Spoiler Free Review

Score: 4 / 5

And so we have arrived. The end of the Skywalker Saga, a series that has spanned generations has received its conclusion with final installment. This is a movie that not only has given itself the task of concluding the new trilogy of movies starting with The Force Awakens, but also given a larger conclusion to the six movies that came before that. It’s a tall order and one made even more challenging with a runtime of 2 hours and 21 minutes. Does it stick the landing? Were J.J. Abrams and crew able to pull it off? Yeah, I’d say so. Mostly. 

Let’s get this out of the way right now, there was always going to be a little bit of an awkward dance around how to include the only living original trilogy character Leia due to the passing of actress Carrie Fisher. The options were limited, re-purpose old deleted footage from the previous two films, try to digitally recreate her likeness? It was never going to be easy, and what they landed with by using never seen old footage works, but you can tell they had to do some delicate editing to get there. Kudos to the team and what they were able to accomplish. 

Now with that out of the way, let’s get down to the meat of this. The Rise of Skywalker is super fast paced. A movie that rarely has time to hit the breaks. What this gives you is an entertaining action adventure that leans more on action than the joy of the adventure aspect.  That runtime I mentioned before? You can feel like someone was telling them to run through moments to meet that. Why? I’m not sure, it doesn’t necessarily make the movie bad, but it almost feels like this movie could have been two movies. Like it could have taken a third of it, remixed it into the previous film The Last Jedi and given the rest of Rise of Skywalker some room to breathe. The last thing I want to mention that is more on the critical side of things is by the end of the movie, there is one particular set of moments that felt super fan service-y and not really reflective of the characters themselves. 

To the good, there’s a bunch of it. This movie finally gives us a chance to see our trio of new heroes, Rey, Fin, and Poe interact as a group for a large amount of the runtime. It’s great, the chemistry between them is strong like Rey’s connection to the Force. Another fun standout in this movie is how much humor they fire out of C-3P0. Boy oh boy does Anthony Daniels get to steal this movie in the humor department. Along the way we see some fun new characters, (Babu Frik is another gem of a character), as well as the return of more original trilogy characters such as Lando and Emperor Palpatine. Lando’s role is small but fun to see, but it’s Palpatine’s inclusion in this story that will likely make or break Rise of Skywalker for a lot of fans. I won’t say much other than I personally enjoyed the heck out of seeing the puppet master back for one more go at trying to rule the galaxy. It’s also quite interesting how much his inclusion not only brings back elements of the original trilogy but also gives us some echoes of prequels in terms of mythology. 

I’ll save talking about story details in a spoiler review but as a whole I enjoyed where it went, there is one major twist that propels the movie forward that at the beginning I wasn’t satisfied with but as the movie continued I was accepting of it. Again that’s for another talk. This movie definitely felt like one that was out to honor what came before and give a conclusion to a story that has been playing out in front of us for 42 years. 

Beyond the story, the two other major elements of Star Wars were at full display here. The visuals were absolutely breathtaking, outdoing most of what this new trilogy has had to offer. The colors ranging from bright warm smoke bombs on a desert planet to a cold icy sky filled with endless Star Destroyers. It’s a treat, and something that should be seen on a big screen to fully appreciate. Then the secret weapon of this franchise, John Williams. The master composer left no stone unturned as he weaved themes from throughout the franchise and gave us the epic finale our ears have been waiting for. It’s glorious and deserves recognition for how much he packed into it. 

Is this movie a perfect masterpiece? Does it give you the depth you’d expect out of a long-form TV show or smaller scale movie? No, but that’s not what Star Wars ever was. This was a franchise built on entertainment based around the battles of good and evil. The Rise of Skywalker delivers entertainment in spades and in the same process brings to an end to a story that began a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. 


Jojo Rabbit Review

Jojo Rabbit is a joyous comedic journey with a heart that also happens to center around a Nazi youth with an imaginary Hitler friend. It sounds insane, but it’s the insane that you have to see.

Score: 4.5/5

Right from the start of Jojo Rabbit it is very apparent that although it is set in one of the darkest periods of human history this is a positive movie looking for the bright side in terrible times. It’s heartfelt, joyful, funny, and doesn’t dwell on the negative side of things for very long. It’s not that it is trying to hide from the bad aspects of the situation, it just bravely chooses to say “that happened, but you can still be happy.”

Jojo Rabbit follows Jojo (played by the talented Roman Griffin Davis), a young lonely German who wants acceptance and friends by believing in the Nazi propaganda. It’s when he finds out that his loving mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), is hiding a Jewish girl in their house that the boy’s world is turned upside down. Throughout the movie Jojo’s brainwashing is challenged by the good qualities his mother taught him and a budding love for a girl he was being taught to hate.

It’s crazy that a movie with an imaginary best friend Hitler played by the writer/director Taika Waititi works so well. It works because of the excellent lead performances from Davis, Johansson, and Thomasin McKenzie who plays the Jewish Elsa. Yet it also works because of the rest of a great ensemble with the likes of Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, and Rebel Wilson. And I cannot forget to mention Archie Yates who plays Jojo’s not imaginary best friend Yorki. That kid is perfect in this movie and every line that comes out of his mouth is pure gold.

That’s kind of the case for everyone though because the script is just as top-notch as the cast. The word play jokes are perfect, situational gags brilliant, and the heavier moments touching. This is one of the best feel good movies of the year because it finds ways to overcome a lot of terrible things in our real human history. Leave it to Taika Waititi to find a way to make a movie with Hitler and Nazis a funny and positive joy from start to finish.


Terminator: Dark Fate Review

Terminator: Dark Fate finally gives us a passable sequel to the classic Judgement Day.

Score: 3 / 5

There hasn’t been a good Terminator movie in 28 years. In the time since the Cameron classic Terminator 2: Judgement Day, we have had two sequels and now two retcons / reboots of sorts. Out of the four movies to come out, Dark Fate is probably the best of the bunch. That doesn’t mean it’s a great movie, but it sure feels like a step in a right direction of the franchise is ever going to continue.

First let’s get this out of the way, this movie is no Judgement Day, but what is tries to do is take echoes of Judgement Day to give viewers something to latch onto. It works. The best bits of this movie are Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger coming back together for this sequel that ignores the last three misfires. Which by the way, with how loopy the time travel is of this franchise you could argue that every movie after two did happen but it a parallel reality. Having Linda Hamilton back though really does make this feel like a true sequel. It’s a shame that it doesn’t feel like true closure for Sarah Connor as that feels like the way this movie should have gone.

I digress, should is not what is, and what Dark Fate is, well it’s another in cookie cutter Terminator movie. It gives you what you’d expect from the last five Terminator movies (well maybe not Salvation that one was an odd failed experiment), a Terminator and a protector from the future come to do battle over an under-prepared human that will one day be of grave importance to the fate of humanity and machines. This is handled by the new cast of characters. Natalia Reyes is the Dani who is essentially the new Sarah/John of this movie. Mackenzie Davis is Grace, the new spin on the protector from the future. While Gabriel Luna, plays the new Terminator Rev-9 model. Each of the actors are fun to watch but this is where the biggest issue comes in for the movie.

On the action end Grace and the Rev-9 are fun to watch, but it does end up feeling too much CGI trailer action for action’s sake rather than going anywhere interesting. Yet this isn’t the problem. The problem is there is no depth to the new cast. Grace is given the best chance out of the three new characters and while it helped make her character more interesting, it made me wish that we would have been given more of her. It felt like ideas of why she went back to protect Grace where left on the cutting room floor.

Tucked into this been there done that Terminator movie is the continued threads of Sarah Connor. This is where this the movie felt at its strongest. What becomes of the Connor legacy in this sequel is interesting, and how it all plays into T-800 Arnold is what gives this movie anything meaty to chew into. It’s a shame that this movie didn’t focus solely on Sarah for the entire duration of the movie as it feels like this movie was trying to both keep the past alive while starting a new generation to lead on the franchise. By the end it’s clear that the creative team couldn’t quite cut the cord and instead we are left with a movie that leaves us no closure of the past, and a hollow future.

Terminator Dark Fate isn’t bad, but it’s not great. It’s right in the middle. It has some fun actors, while still giving us a hit of the what made the franchise great. It’s biggest fault isn’t that it is a cookie cutter Terminator movie, it’s that it had ideas that could have been something special if they were brave enough to follow through with them.


Parasite Review

All I can think about is how I need to see this again because it’s just that damn good of a movie.

Score: 5 / 5

As I left the theater after watching director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite my mind was trying to come to terms with what I just watched. It’s a masterstroke of blended comedy, and drama that by the end I was feeling like my emotions were tugged into two opposing directions at once.

Parasite follows the unemployed Kim family as they embed themselves into the extremely rich Park family, and what starts off as seemingly innocent at the start spirals down and down the morality staircase till we reach a powder-keg crescendo that makes you sit and ask, what the hell just happened? Needless to say I don’t want to spoil the story as it’s such a fun watch going in with as little as possible.

What I can say is the situations in the story create this interesting balance, where it feels like this is 100% a satire but underneath there is real depth and seriousness to the situation. A darkness lurking just under the surface. To make this all work is a stellar cast, the entire Kim family are excellent, with Kang-ho Song, the father of the Kim’s having the most range. His character’s arc is something you can’t stop watching no matter the outcomes. To play off this humorous family on the Park side, Yeo-jeong Jo plays the rich housewife character to perfection. Her interactions with the entire Kim family create endless laughs as she is a catalyst for many humorous moments.

And I can’t talk about this movie without mentioning how gorgeous it looks. Cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong’s does an amazing job of framing scenes, and using interesting techniques to really give this movie a true cinema feel. It’s one of the best looking movies of the year and paired with a great score by Jaeil Jung you get a movie that keeps the audience on their toes at all times.

Going into Parasite all I knew were two things, it was a South Korean film, and it’s getting a crazy amount of praise. Leaving Parasite, the praise was right but all I can think about is how I need to see this again because it’s just that damn good of a movie. Parasite stands as one of the best films of 2019 and not to be missed.


Zombieland: Double Tap

Zombieland: Double Tap is just as funny as the original with the scene stealing Madison (Zoey Deutch). Fans should be chomping at the bit for this return trip.

Score: 4 / 5

Ladies and gentlemen, they did it. Somehow, someway, the main creative team and talent behind a classic comedy from ten years all came back for a sequel and it doesn’t suck. It not only doesn’t suck, it’s actually really great. Zombieland: Double Tap is something special in that it has the right amount of differences mixed in with what you know that it doesn’t feel like you can just skip this and just watch the first. It has old ideas and playing on old jokes, but it also has some entertaining new ones that makes this feel like not a cover of a classic but a real part two.

Double Tap picks up ten years after the original film as the dysfunctional family of Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock are still kicking. The chemistry between the original cast is still there and even stronger than before. You can tell they are all having a great time returning to these oddball characters, but what really makes Double Tap works is the new blood, more specifically Madison played by Zoey Deutch. Madison injects new life into the group, and there wasn’t a scene she was in that wasn’t hilarious for one reason or the next. Her presence always causes a new comedic moment to bounce off of and I couldn’t get enough of what she brought to the table. That isn’t to say at all that the main cast aren’t still quite humorous in themselves. More that Deutch’s Madison amplified what was already there. Along the way there are also some great additional cameos that also add in some very funny moments.

In terms of tone, this movie feels like a perfect continuation of humor and design of the first film, which makes perfect sense when you have the same writers and director involved. You’ll get your Zombie Kill of the Week, you’ll get some ridiculous gory action, you’ll get the funny rules of Zombieland, and you’ll get a very zany attitude of what should be a very dour world in a zombie apocalypse. In fact the writing is clever enough to point out something that I was thinking about as watching the movie. There has been a LOT of zombie related content since Zombieland first came on the scene a decade ago. It had me analyzing the movie in the more Walking Dead like analysis that the show somehow programmed me into thinking. It made me realize how much I miss having a good helping of zombie comedy to go with zombie drama. This was just one of many moments where the excellent writing knows how to be self aware in the right ways.

Humor is a subjective beast, more so than most other genres. I was a really big fan of the first Zombieland, and as one of those fans I liked Double Tap just as much if not more with the addition of Zoey Deutch. So if you enjoyed the 09 original, you should definitely get to theaters and check out the really funny sequel.