Earlier in June, I posted a catch-up of reviews I’d done for the good folks at Gunaxin. Since then, not only did I get a new job at Mekanic, more reviews have been published, so are some bonus thoughts. Thanks to Phil at Gunaxin for providing me a place to rant and rave!
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – August 1, 2019
* Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson were allegedly at odds during the filming of The Fate of the Furious due to this film being greenlit. I’m hoping whatever beef remains between them gets squashed before the 9th Fast and Furious movie is released. Looking highly unlikely, though.
* The inclusion of Ryan Reynolds and Rob Delaney is, no doubt, a byproduct of director David Leitch’s involvement; Leitch, as you’ll recall, also directed them in Deadpool 2.
* Why is it that Helen Mirren is just amazing in movies like this, Red, and Red 2? (Well, she’s amazing in pretty much everything, including Caligula, which I saw a long time ago. Not gonna lie.) I’m hoping they give her more to do in the next movie featuring Deckard Shaw.
* Gotta admit, the inclusion of Eiza González as the out-of-nowhere Margarita made my head shake.
It Chapter Two – September 5, 2019
* I nominated Bill Hader for the WAFCA Award for Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the list. But if you haven’t dug on him in either “Saturday Night Live” or HBO’s “Barry,” you’re missing out on a terrific talent.
* Did you know that the actor who played Ben Hanscom as a child in the 1990 ABC-TV miniseries made a cameo opposite this film’s version of the adult Ben? Look closely at the man standing up at the architect’s presentation at the beginning of the film. I didn’t notice during our critics’ screening, but I for sure saw him while watching the Warner Bros. screener they sent us for awards voting.
* I can’t help feeling like Andy Muschietti and company dropped the ball a little bit on this one. Sure, the adult portions of “It” in either book or film formats aren’t as grabbing as the childhood portions, but there’s still something missing – maybe a little more genuine camaraderie between the actors. They look like they’re having fun, but their scripted words are stilted and not quite… there.
Joker – October 3, 2019
* There is so much about this film which scares me. Not because of Joaquin Phoenix’s expectation-defying performance, the violence, or the implications of The Dark Knight copycat murders. Simply put, the systemic breakdown of social services and how much our country relies on people doing for others. My 7-year-old daughter requires some of these services due to her disability, and I wonder what kind of world we’re leaving her – one filled with apathy or compassion?
* I’m not a comic book guy, so I don’t know the intricacies of various stories which might have influenced Joker. There’ve been books set in alternate timelines, universes, or continuities which point the finger at different people for Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murders – Joe Chill, Jack Napier, and an unnamed man in a short story called “The Wise Men of Gotham” (one of my favorite stories in “The Further Adventures of Batman”) – and this possible explanation of the Joker’s origins is stunning.
Zombieland: Double Tap – October 17, 2019
* These movies are just devilishly fun. I don’t care what CinemaSins says, voiceover narration can be used to hilarious effect.
* What’s more: Sometimes, it’s okay that a sequel doesn’t go beyond the trappings and hallmarks of the original. Sometimes, more of the same is exactly what one needs, provided it works. And Zombieland: Double Tap works.
Doctor Sleep – November 8, 2019
* Mike Flanagan’s voice as a horror director is varied and wonderful. He’s done it all – haunted houses, home invasion, spook stories – and his attempt at matching the solemn, eerily placid tones of Stanley Kubrick’s original works for me.
* Full disclosure: my wife has worked with Mike’s brother James in DC-area theater. Jimmy features in this movie as the bald member of Rose The Hat’s cult.
* The reuse of The Shining’s opening helicopter shots was fun to see. True, it’s kind of a cheat, but it’s a good cheat.
* The ending fuses both of Stephen King’s Torrance novels very well. The ending of The Shining – as written – breaks my heart every time I read it. Here, instead of Jack chasing Danny around a hedge maze, he snaps out of his possession long enough to tell him he loves him. These passages are so beautiful in their devastation.
The Irishman – November 28th, 2019
* This was the first movie I was able to see at this year’s Middleburg Film Festival. It was the closing day, and I was supposed to have been there the day before. However, I spent that whole Saturday shuttling back and forth between home and a Boy Scout campground due to my daughter having forgotten a crucial piece of equipment at home. Then I had a show in Baltimore (I live in Springfield) that night, and my tire got punctured on the way there. My wife, crafty as she always is, devised a plan to get me to the MFF, and upon entering the building, wouldn’t you know it – I met legend Willie O’Ree, the first African-American player in the National Hockey League. Sometimes, life’s funny that way.
* Can I be honest here? Well, there’s no one to tell me no, so here goes: this was only the third Martin Scorsese film I had ever seen in a theater of any kind. (Yes, the ballroom at the MFF still counts.) Gangs of New York and The Departed were the other two. Loved the latter, scratched my head at the supposed “OMG IT’S SO CLASSIC” of the former.
* For me, the film is summed up in the final shot – one of the most incredible, simple, sad, damning, and beautiful final shots in any film whatsoever. The composition, lighting, and stripped-down set decoration provide such a haunting image rivaling anything Martin Scorsese’s ever done. I don’t know why I’m so hung up on it, but I am.
* Welcome back, Joe Pesci – even if it’s only for this movie.
Knives Out – November 28th, 2019
* This was the second and final film I saw at the MFF. Same ballroom, same rainy day.
* Look. I’m not gonna lie and say Rian Johnson isn’t anything special. He is. There’s something so involving about his movies which hits me right in my “This is good cinema” button.
* It’s the little things about this movie – a subtle glance down, a stray word here or there, a knife coming into frame at a very appropriate time – which make everything bubble and pop.
* I have honestly not stopped listening to the score since I bought it. Sure, there are interlopers, but Nathan Johnson’s music is very playful, intense, prickly, moody, and everything I like about film music. There’s even a really good, enormous snare drum fill I rewind and play repeatedly in the track “Blanc’s Tale: Pt.1.”* Can’t wait ‘til my Mondo vinyl pressing comes in.
* Due to the film’s nature, it’s a lovely mix of “whodunit” and “how’dyoudoit,” and I love how Rian Johnson plays with timelines and perception.
* Daniel Craig… goddamn, he’s brilliant. He doesn’t stop in this movie, and the movie is better for it.
Star Wars – Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker – December 18, 2019
* Unfortunately for Rian Johnson, this movie straight-up disrespects him, the care he took to give us new sights and new directions, and the life he injected into the previous installment, The Last Jedi.
* In the first paragraph, I say a pointed “Thanks” to the fanboy culture that ruined any chance of us getting something original and new. Every instance of the word “Thanks” should be taken as a big “FUCK YOU.”
* There are things to like about the movie, namely the adventure and the excitement. And there’s nothing wrong – EVER – with seeing the Star Wars title recede into the distance and the opening crawl.
* John Williams’ score… very fitting. But those of you who know these scores inside and out will know that what they play close to the end of the closing credits hasn’t been done before. Much like the last shot of the movie, it’s meant as a bookend, and it was something which brought tears to my eyes.
* Daisy Ridley has owned the role of Rey since 2015, and there’s no exception here. I watch these movies for her, not for John Boyega’s Finn or Oscar Isaac’s Poe. She has become one of my favorite Star Wars heroes, and I love the way she’s written. Flawed but powerful. Willing to acknowledge her shortcomings and be a human. No character in this set of films does that except for her; everyone’s too busy trying to be a superhero or the savior. But Rey is fortitude and strength, and she doesn’t hesitate to do the right thing.
* The showcasing of frequent J.J. Abrams collaborators Keri Russell and Greg Grunberg never fails to make me smile.
* Funny story – yesterday after my screening, I tweeted at composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, saying “Nice credit there at the end of #TheRiseOfSkywalker…” (I had seen him credited with a piece of music.) He, in turn, quote-tweeted it with a pair of shifty-looking eyes. Next thing you know, my notifications went absolutely bonkers with retweets, jokes, speculation, and “WHAAAT?!”-style responses. Almost thirty minutes later, he made the official announcement that he was involved with the music. Some news articles were written, one mentioning me directly as the fan who wrote to him. I don’t put a lot of stock in being “Twitter-famous,” but I wrote this missive as a follow-up, in the vein of all of those “click on my SoundCloud” responses…
* The world needs Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Stay tuned to Gunaxin for my review of 1917, and keep it right here on your radio dial for reviews of Bombshell, Little Women, and more!
* The originally-listed track “Knives Out, Part II: The Will” was incorrect.