Hey everyone! I mean to update my reviews before I went to NYFF but it didn’t happen so here is my post catching up on all the movies I’ve been watching lately. Here goes!
This film evidently is being released under different names. It might be The Railway Children Returns. It is evidently a sequel to a popular 1970 film in UK and based on the novels by E Nesbit. I was unfamiliar with both and overall I thought the movie was just ok. It tells the story of a group of siblings that are sent to live in a small town in Yorkshire, England during WWII and the various trouble they get into with their guardian Bobbie (Jenny Agutter) and Annie (Sheridan Smith).
On one hand, The Railway Children is a sweet, harmless family film but on the other it tackles a lot for one film including war, death, racism, bombings, bullying and more. The child acting is also on a made for TV movie level not that of a feature film. I didn’t hate it but it was confused enough to not be able recommend unless you are previously invested in the series or the book.
5 out of 10
While it is definitely not going to be for everyone (a strong R rating), I enjoyed Bros. In fact, I did a whole podcast on it at Hallmarkies Podcast (see above).
7 out of 10
While my feelings on David O Russell’s Amsterdam aren’t nearly as harsh as most my critic friends I still can’t quite recommend the film and admit it’s a bit of a mess.
The aspects I like of the film is the friendship between Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington. Platonic friendship is rarely explored at the movies and there are moments where I enjoyed that dynamic here. I wish there had been more of it (the romance between Robbie and Washington falls flat. It’s so much better when it is the 3 of them as friends!) There is also some great cinematography from the always reliable Emmanuel Lubezki.
The problem is the story tries too hard to be funny without actually making the viewer laugh and the barrage of characters get little to nothing to do. Like I said, it should have just focused on the 3 friends but instead we get introduced to 2 dozen or so characters all with their own plotlines and eccentricities until it becomes too much.
5 out of 10
The Oscar season has officially started for critics like myself and one of the early frontrunners (for best actress at least) is Todd Field’s new film TAR. Starring Cate Blanchett, TAR tells the story of a composer/conductor named Lydia Tar who becomes embroiled in a ME Too-esque scandal just as she is about to lead the Berlin Symphony Orchestra in her dream concert.
Blanchett is absolutely tremendous in this film and her performance is the reason to see it. It also has terrific sound design and some engaging supporting performances from people like Julian Glover and Mark Strong.
My only issue with TAR is the script is unfocused especially the last 30 minutes where it became difficult to understand what is happening (why is she conducting in some kind of cult at the end?). It got extremely confusing and for a 158 minute film that’s a problem. Also, for a movie about a conductor I could have used more music. As the movie mostly focuses on rehearsals we only hear bits and pieces of the music and that keeps us from understanding Tar’s genius like something such as Amadeus gives us access to.
Still, it’s worth seeing for the positives even if I do think the huge praise I’m seeing is a bit much but that’s just me.
6 out of 10
The Banshees of Inisherin
I wasn’t a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s previous hit film 3 Billboards so I went into his new film The Bashees of Inisherin with some hesitation. Now that I’ve seen it I can definitely say I liked it better but it’s not really my kind of film. I respect it and recommend it for the right type of viewer but I’m just not a cynical person and this film is extremely cynical and depressing while also being quite funny. It’s an unusual mixture.
In the movie Colin Farrell plays Padraic a man who lives on a remote island in Ireland when one day his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) tells him he doesn’t want to be friends with him any more. He basically gets ghosted by his best friend but they have to see each other all over town leading to many funny instances. Colm wants to be left alone to write great fiddle music and he feels Padraic is a distraction from that work. This is devastating for Padraic as it would be for most people who value friends (also the island doesn’t seem to have many options for friends).
The war of words between the 2 men gets very bloody and mean-spirited (It’s honestly just gross!). The ending left me so depressed I wanted to cry. This is not a movie I will ever watch again or remember with any fondness but it is well done for what it is. If it sounds like your kind of thing you’ll probably like it. As for me I need some humanity and care for others in my films.
5 out of 10
Smile Worthy barely
Lyle Lyle, Crocodile
Now for the complete other side of the spectrum we have the uncynical, sweet family film Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. Based on the popular children’s book by Bernard Waber this film tells the story of a special crocodile named Lyle who communicatees with all of Manhattan by singing. He has an owner magician Hector P Valenti (Javier Bardem) and a family with one child moves in to find him in the attic ready to be their friend. Constance Wu plays the Mom with Scoot McNairy as the Dad.
I love Winslow Fegley as a child actor. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made was one of my favorite movies of 2020, and I loved 8-Bit Christmas last year. (Incidentally his brother Oakes Fegley was also great in Pete’s Dragon so I guess it runs in the family!) Winslow is lovely here and does a great job interacting with Lyle on their misadventures (especially when you think about how bad quality actors can be at acting with cgi creatures. (Need I remind you of the recent Pinocchio with Tom Hanks as an example!).
In the film Lyle is voiced by Shawn Mendes, and he wouldn’t have been my pick for the character but he does a fine job. The songs are terrific by Pasek and Paul of The Greatest Showman fame. And you all have read enough of my reviews to know how much I love musical sequences (even when sung by random animals like Lyle the crocodile).
In the end Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile doesn’t have a cynical bone in its body. Its message is about love, acceptance, kindness and family warms the heart and it shares these messages without apology. It’s a perfect film to take the whole family to, enjoy together, and then have a discussion about the way we treat people who are different. It also asks questions about how we confront new experiences when they might seem scary or difficult and it is hard to be brave. This is a sweet endearing movie I thoroughly enjoyed.
8.5 out of 10
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