Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well and are keeping busy like I am. These last few weeks have been very intense with daily screenings (sometimes more) plus everything I’m trying to keep up with at Hallmarkies Podcast. Needless to say it has been overwhelming and I have a ton of movies to catch you all up on. In an ideal world I’d be able to do longer reviews on all of these films but there just isn’t time. So here goes:
Poor Things is the latest film from Yorgos Lanthimos and like all of his films it is definitely not going to be for everyone. It’s a new take on the Frankenstein story with Emma Stone in the monster role (this time a woman brought back from the dead with the brain of a baby) and the movie follows her through each stage of her development from childhood to puberty to sexual and political awakening etc.
One thing that can’t be debated is Stone gives a fearless performance here not holding back whether she is playing a baby or a prostitute servicing clients in Paris. The rest of the performances are fine but she is this movie. The rest of the production is very impressive from the costumes to the fish-eye emphasizing cinematography. Unfortunately the movie is also self-indulgent and far too long. I wish they had cut the entire Paris section, not because it is sexually explicit but because it is very repetitive and doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already learn about Bella in the previous segment on the boat.
Still, the film was interesting enough and Stone committed enough to the role to recommend to the right moviegoer. If you are up for something ambitious and challenging maybe give this one a shot.
7 out of 10 (this film is a hard R rating so buyer beware)
I have a feeling I might end up with an unpopular opinion about Maestro. It feels like this year’s The Fabelmans that everyone loved that I didn’t connect with. Indeed my main problem with both films is the same: authenticity. Like The Fabelmans, Maestro felt phony and inauthentic most of the time.
I can understand why Bradley Cooper chose to play Leonard Bernstein as a mannered, flamboyant character in parties and he and his wife Felicia putting on airs for their associates (mostly to hide his bisexuality and their open marriage.) What I don’t understand is why that needed to continue into their private conversations and interactions. I wanted them to be real for a few seconds and they rarely were.
There are nice moments of performance, particularly a climatic one in a church and I enjoyed the way Bernstein’s music was used throughout but I left feeling frustrated with how shallow and one-note the screenplay was. No thanks
5 out of 10
Like a lot of Netflix films Leo ends up being a bit of a frustrating experience. There are some elements I really admire about it but the script is uneven at best.
First, what I like is that it shows the different it makes when parents and adults put down their judgmental caps and actually listen to children. Leo is a lizard that reveals to students he can talk when he thinks he is going to die. Each of the kids flourishes when they have someone in their lives who just listens to them.
The problem is the story really doesn’t work. Particularly when it comes to a substitute teacher that sometimes is a mean demon and other times we are expected to feel sorry for. Also the movie can’t decide whether to be a musical or not. Some songs are stopped mid-way through and we never hear the rest of the song and then other sequences are full-on from a musical.
This one is close but I can’t recommend it.
5.5 out of 10
When the first trailer for Napoleon came out some loudly complained they were painting a dictator in a heroic light. I, like many others, responded that there’s nothing wrong with making a movie about a flawed or even evil person depending on how it is done. Under the right hands a movie about Napoleon and his rise to power could be enlightening and fascinating. Unfortunately Ridley Scott was not such hands and he has given us a biopic of Napoleon that feels like 19th century propaganda rather than a serious exploration of a the impact of power on this general turned emperor.
I couldn’t believe how positive a portrayal of Napoleon this film is. The main conflict is not that his campaigns led to 3 million deaths as the ending card tells us but that he has to divorce his wife in order to produce an heir. The film spends so much time on his personal drama that you almost forget he is ruling people. Someone said ‘well he was a hero to the people.’ Unfortunately that is not a perspective demonstrated by Scott as they people are rarely heard from aside from a couple scenes with him and the soldiers.
The battle sequences are well staged although do not watch if you are sensitive to violence on horses. That scope of battle might be enough for some to enjoy Napoleon but it certainly wasn’t enough for me.
4 out of 10
TROLLS BAND TOGETHER
I have never been the biggest fan of the Trolls series. I like the aesthetic and some of the songs but the messaging always ends up feeling muddled and the characters annoying. I was hopeful the addition of NSYNC would help boost the latest entry Trolls Band Together but I think I actually liked it the least of the franchise. My main problem was Poppy and how relentlessly annoying she is. I know I’m not the target demographic for these films but oh my gosh she got on my nerves.
What is so grating about Poppy is she doesn’t listen. I’m fine with cheerful, upbeat characters but she steamrolls all around her including Branch until they give up and let her brand of music or way of doing things rule. I’ve always found it strange in these movies how freedom of expression is preached unless you do something differently than Poppy and then you need to change (Branch not wanting to dance in the first one, people liking rock music in the 2nd etc.)
I also felt the animation was strange in this one with some character designs not fitting in with the style of the movie. For example, the villains Velvet and Veneer looked like poorly rendered plastic rather than the textured characters of the Trolls worlds.
We are also promised things like Poppy’s sister and the NSYNC reunion that are delivered in an underwhelming fashion. I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.
2 out of 10
May December is the latest from director Todd Haynes who even if his films don’t work usually makes interesting works of art that give me something to think about. Such is the case with May December. It unfortunately becomes muddled and can’t decide what it is trying to say but it is an interesting misfire with everyone trying their best to make it work.
In the film Natalie Portman plays an actress who is playing a Mary Kay Letourneau type person pursued a young man when he was only 15 but they maintained a relationship with each other just like in the Letourneau situation. As Portman’s character becomes more involved with the family the line between research and obsession becomes more murky.
Like I said, the problem with this film is it becomes muddled. It at times wants to be an erotic thriller but then at other times it wants to comment on them (even with the music it seeemd to want to be a Lifetime movie but then held such exposes in disdain.) It wanted to be about sexual predators, women, victims, children raised in toxic environments, acting, etc. Sadly none of these topics get explored in a satisfying way leaving me confused with what Haynes is trying to say and what I’m supposed to get from this confused commentary on modern society. Charles Melton is very good as the victim and husband.
5 out of 10
ALL OF US STRANGERS
Going into All of Us Strangers I admit my expectations were high. I have loved all of Andrew Haigh’s films to date, particularly Lean on Pete from 2017. While I did like some things about his latest entry I left feeling disappointed with the execution and story structure.
What I did like is the chemistry between Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott. It really shines and I could have had even more scenes with them together and less of Scott visiting his parents. Jamie Bell and Claire Foy play his parents (it makes sense within the story) and mostly I found their scenes repetitive and the big reveal obvious.
It’s not a terrible film by any means but not one I will remember like I’ve remembered Lean on Pete.
5 out of 10
DOWN IN DALLAS TOWN: FROM JFK TO K2-
I love documentaries that take risks and try new things with the format. Such is the case with Down in Dallas Town a new documentary about the day JFK was assassinated and how it changed everything. What was particularly interesting is interviews with people who were there and one woman Mary Ann Moorman who took a photograph of shot that killed the president. She hadn’t been back for 50 years and her journey is moving.
Where the documentary is less effective in how it tries to bring the assassination into the current discussions on gun violence and especially homelessness. Some of the connections felt repetitive and a bit of a reach- like the filmmaker wanted to talk about the issues whether they really connected with the assassination or not.
Nevertheless, the elements with Moorman are insightful and provocatively enough to recommend.
6 out of 10
So there you have it. Watching all these films was a ton of work! Sorry I wasn’t more positive but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
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