2018 Movie Catch-Up - Part 1
Title: First Reformed
First Reformed comes from the mind of Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull among many other gems. This time around he tackled religion and the politics of climate change and wrapped it up in a man’s struggle with faith. The story centers around Reverend Toller (Hawke), and the 250th anniversary of his church. Toller strikes a relationship with Mary (Seyfried), a member of his congregation, as she asked him to counsel her husband, Michael, due to his suicidal thoughts. After an intense conversation with Micheal, Toller starts to question his faith, the true meaning of the Catholic institution, and how irrational it is that God's children do not want to protect his creation. That’s the best I can do, summary wise, without spoiling this movie as it is the type of movie you can't explain without spoiling key elements of the plot. The story draws you in and grabs you to the very end, as you go deep into the rabbit hole that is Toller's despair and depression. The best thing about this movie is by far the cinematography. The use of lighting, props, and nature is breathtaking, and the aspect ratio help deliver the visuals. Hawke's performance is brilliantly subtle, one that will surely go down as one of his best. The political tone of the movie can be a bit heavy-handed, and I can see it turning some people off, and the ending is jarring - but it will be a subject of discussion among cinephiles for years to come. This is probably one of the best movies I've seen all year, and I look forward to re-watching it in hopes of finding more things to love.
Dumplin' is the story of Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald) a plus-size teenager dealing with the death of her aunt and being in the shadow of her former beauty queen mom (Jennifer Aniston). Her mother is obsessed with every single element of pageant life, creating a tension between them. She decides the best way to get back at her mother is by entering the pageant. This movie is a fun, quiet, Netflix movie. I completely understand why it was bought by them, as you can watch it and still do other things since it goes by the numbers and you can see all the story beat come a mile away. The acting good. Macdonald proves once again she will be a force to be reckoned with and Aniston is endearing as the mother living in the past, that still loves her daughter in her way. Despite the predictable nature and some of the jokes, not landing, I had fun. Watch it.
CAM is the story of Alice (Madeline Brewer) a camgirl that has been working nonstop to reach the top 50 ranks in her website. After being locked out of her account, she discovers that she's been replaced by a replica of herself and she will stop at nothing to gain her identity back. Daniel Goldhaber wrote and directed one of the more unique phycological thrillers I've seen in a while. The use of technology and the character's obsession with fame was done very well, and the progress of the story leads to the audience being sucked into this world wanting Alice to one) gain back her identity and two) figure out what the hell is happening. Fair warning, it does deal with a lot of sexual content, so pick a safe place to watch it and enjoy the weird ride.
Title: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is Andy Serkis' retelling of Disney's The Jungle Book. Sadly, for Serkis, Jon Favreau came out with a beautiful retelling of the same story back in 2016, with far superior visuals that make this version look like a PlayStation 2 video game. However, if you can overlook the bad CGI, and believe me it is terrible, the story and the voice acting is superb only making me wish Favreau and Serkis worked on this project together, giving us the ultimate version of this story. Not a bad Netflix movie, but something that will be forgotten due to its superior (visually) counterpart.
Title: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology film from the Coen Brothers comprised of six stories, all set in different aspects of life in the Old West. This movie is everything we have come to love and at some extent hate about the Coens. The cinematography, the dialogue, the score, and the acting is superb as always. However, some stories are better than others. Some feel undercooked and unnecessarily long. I loved the first story and the juxtaposition of the happy gunslinger, enjoyed the gold prospector and his lonely quest for gold. The pacing leaves a bit to be desired, but I can see myself going back to this movie, even if I skip a couple of the stories.
Title: Instant Family
Instant Family is the story of a couple, played by Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, that finds themselves looking for something more out of their lives. While seeking to adopt a child, they fall in love with a teenager, only to realize she comes with two siblings, hence the title. What I enjoyed about this movie is how they don't shy away from the growing pains and the headaches of adopting. They don't paint the parents as angels saving these kids, and they even question the decision as they find themselves missing their old lives. The jokes don't always land, and some cheesy scenes are a bit cringy, but the weight of the message and the performances carry the movie through. I would definitely recommend you watching it.
Title: What They Had
What They Had centers around a family dealing with a parent with Alzheimer's disease. When Bridget (Swank) returns how, at her brother's (Shannon) urging, they must convince their father (Forster) to place their mother in a home (Danner), for her protection. I saw this movie at the theater, and while I had a good time, it felt like I would've enjoyed it more if I had waited for it to hit Netflix. I had fun with the banter of Swank and her family. The chemistry between her and Shannon was great, and there are some genuinely funny moments, but they aren't enough to overcome the formulaic and predictable narration. I recommend a watch on Netflix though.
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