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The Gentlemen

Can't wait for a sequel
This is the best Guy Ritchie movie since Snatch.

The classic british gangster plots of Ritchie scripts has fermented into a string of hilarious gags, fun chase scenes, and some contemporaneous jabs at societal ills.

Hugh Grant really steals this thing, and so does Colin Farrell. I look forward to a sequel.

Incredibles 2

Predictable but enjoyable
I saw the villain and the ending coming a mile away, so much so that it distracted me from the rest of the film. I kept begging them not to take the story down that road, that it's tired and unoriginal, and they did it.

And worst of all, they completely blew it when the time came to giving the villain a captivating motivation. Like when Ozymandias of The Watchmen wanted to frame Manhattan for the destruction to avoid nuclear holocaust. He gave a final speech that made you question your morality. The Screenslaver is clearly meant to be the adult messaging in the movie, a critique on society's obsession with technology and the draining effect it has on our lives. But we never really have that reckoning, and the villain is silently vanquished.

The denouement of Screenslaver was just lame. Very surface level villain stuff. Compare that to the outstanding never-meet-your-heroes betrayal plot of the first Incredibles, you see why this villain falls short.

It was also unbelievable that Bob Parr is such a terrible dad. He's been parenting for like 14 years now? But thumbs his nose at changing a diaper? Dude has three kids.

I'm so hard on this movie because the first Incredibles was one of the best Pixar movies ever and it should have lived up to its pedigree. Finding Dory was worthy, why not Incredibles 2?


Only worth it for Chris Pratt's DnD
Chris Pratt and Tom Holland can't carry this over the finish line.

It really feels like a movie with a half hour cut out of it, unfinished and partial. When I watch a Pixar movie, I am spoiled by the complexity of Finding Nemo and Toy Story and Coco... and Onward had the heart to be just like them.

The story sadly just isn't enough to develop them as lasting characters. There are a lot of fun gags and hearing Chris Pratt be a DnD nut was a joy, but there wasn't enough story here.

Maybe a sequel will flesh things out better.

Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek fans have been beaten down over the decades, as new films and shows that are decidedly NOT Star Trek have released, and it has resulted into breeding a new kind of hate-watching.

We know what we're watching is going to be bad. It's not even an assumption, it's a certainty that the thoughtful plots are no more. That solving moral quandaries with persuasion and logic have been abandoned for lasers and spectacle usually only seen in Star Wars.

But it has our characters in it. Why not see what Johnathan Frakes is up to? Oh he bakes pizzas now? Ok that's dumb but I'll keep watching. Why not see Jean-Luc Picard take one last ride? Oh he's wearing an eye patch now and a French accent? Well guess that's just how it goes. Slaves to our nature, we must watch it all.

It's like heroin addicts chasing a high. We'll never feel the true magic again, but even just a semblance of it will keep us coming back.

That said, the finale was the only true Star Trek moment I gleaned. The ability to talk it out over the comms, while a bit hamfisted, was classic Trek. I loved that.

Good Time

Ho boy
My eyes wide as hell for 90% of this movie. There is no stress like Safdie bros stress.

The Way Back

It's aight
Basically every character except the protagonist is a one-dimensional stepping stone for Ben Affleck to become a better person, which I must assume is how he lives his real life too.


Great Villain Film
There is a lot of frustration at our inability to categorize Joker, and I think that's why it is so polarizing. The arguments go, "If it's a superhero movie, where's the usual fanfare and effects and fighting," as well as "If it isn't a superhero movie and is instead a think-piece, where's the message? Why is it morally ambiguous?" The answer is that we're watching a movie about a villain. And not even an anti-villain like say Ozymandias in "Watchmen" (2009) or an anti-hero like Walt Kowalski in "Gran Torino." This Joker villain is a more human archetype than the chaotic evil Heath Ledger's was.

We aren't used to seeing a true villain main character, nor do movies typically make us sympathize with them.

This character of Arthur Fleck is instead a loner whose disconnection from love, or any meaningful social interaction, for the entirety of his life has turned him into an emotionally anarchic villain. His inexperience has left him so inept at emotionally processing the negatives in his life that his superego is gone. Nothing is there to check his id, and thus he lashes out repeatedly when someone insults him, or threatens him, or makes jokes at his expense.

This is a *great* comic book movie because it displays the inner machinations of its villain without compromising on the humanity Arthur Fleck. He is not a villain with powerful abilities deadset on taking over the Earth. He's a man who doesn't know how to navigate society or other humans, making the character unrelatable and tough to sympathize with. Arthur Fleck could appeal only to our basic human needs like those listed in Maslow's Heirarchy; love, personal security, having a job, having real friends. Beyond that, his actions are morally reprehensible and even our greatest empathies could not trick us into feeling sorry for Arthur by the riotous finale.

Okay, so the messaging is unclear and the moral of the story isn't stated at all. But one main message throughout the film is the proletariat will rise up against the bourgeoisie, and that is pretty constant from beginning to end. However, I think the truer message for the comic book character Joker is that Arthur Fleck does not care about the political revolution he started. He just wants to be heard. He wants the attention. He only cares about himself. And in that final scene where he dances on the car, I finally understood that this was a movie about experiencing what it means to be utterly alone, through the eyes of a villain that is an ordinary human.

Boku dake ga inai machi

One of the Greats
Erased is undoubtedly one of the greatest anime stories given to us in the past 10 years. As Miyazaki eases slowly into his retirement, there are few who could lift such a heavy mantle. ERASED is one of the few tales who can fill the void that is growing in his absence, and deserves to be mentioned alongside him, as well as Makoto Shinkai's YOUR NAME.

Erased's first moments show us that this will be a supernatural tale, and that delighted the everliving hell out of me , given I haven't had a new anime that dealt with the supernatural in years. The main character, Satoru, has this mysterious ability even he does not understand which will teleport him back a few minutes in time and whose only warning is a delicately floating butterfly. The ability, which seems to have a plan of its own, aims to have our Satoru change something before it happens in those few minutes. This time, however, it sends Satoru back decades. To childhood. I was hooked from the first minute of this series.

The struggle to understand how the ability works, and what Satoru is supposed to change, is a continuous force driving the story. And even when he gets it right, things can go horribly awry. The series harkens back to the time-old theme of "you can't change the past," but definitely deviates and puts its own spin on it, creating something wholly new.

I really will gush forever about this thing. Fans of Miyazaki's magical charm and Makoto Shinkai's heartrending realism should put this at the top of their list.

Kimi no na wa.

It's the most emotionally affecting movie I've ever experienced.

The first time I watched it, I cried at the end because it was so beautiful.

The second time I watched it, I cried for last half of the movie. I knew the heartrending finale was coming, and that made every action that preceded it more significant emotionally. I had try to my best to hide my tears from my gf so that she wasn't all, "why you crying? is something about to happen?" I didn't want to ruin it for her.

I'll probably watch it again in two or three years, when time has allowed my memory to forget some of the twists, and I'll cry all over again.

Dark Waters

Shaking with rage
In terms of storytelling, Dark Waters' most close associate that I've seen is The Big Short. Tonally, these two are polar opposites, but they both illustrate their convoluted and complicated stories of corporate corruption well. Well enough for any non-chemist, non-lawyer, non-doctor to understand the injustice that corporate overlords have exacted upon the public.

The film is constantly tearing down the spirit of Mark Ruffalo, followed by brief, hopeful moments that Dupont will be held accountable for poisoning tens of thousands of people. These hopeful and demoralizing notes begin small. The idea that the EPA will help Wilbur Tenant, the farmer who had his cattle herd die from poisoned drinking water, is followed by Ruffalo realizing that report was written in part by Dupont scientists who will, of course, be corrupt. And that demoralizing note is followed by bestowing the hope that Wilbur Tenant will finally get his long sought chance for a $ settlement, and that's followed by the soul crushing scene of his entire family drinking water out of the tap, still poisoning themselves with no other means to change their fate.

That was the scene that made me cry with rage. That nothing could be done to escape their death. What could they do without water? They're thirsty, and stressed, and their kids just want to come home from school and live normal lives. All I could do was cry tears of rage. Wilbur was not being served justice.

The notes continue swooping from high to low. Ruffalo is served mountains of paperwork during the lawsuit against Dupont. Like, a laughable amount that no one could ever finish reviewing. But he sets to work anyway and finds the smoking gun: Dupont has known about the poison for decades. The film makes the audience believe we have Dupont dead to rights, but they wiggle out of it with legal maneuvering. When it has been years after the public blood testing, and no answers are given as to whether Dupont is at fault, the public gets angry at Ruffalo. All this pressure builds into him having a mental breakdown/siezure, and we all feared he would quit. Then, after he recovers, the call finally comes from the science panel that he was right. Dupont absolutely poisoned these people and must pay for their health damage. This movie is like an emotionally abusive boyfriend.

Finally, we won, right? No. Dupont rips up the mediation contract (one would think this illegal) and now says anyone who health problems cannot take part in a class action lawsuit, but can do so individually.

And that's when we finally leave on the highest of high notes that makes you curse with joy and unleash primal, guttural screams of victory: Mark Ruffalo starts representing each of those West Virginians individually, wins tens of millions of dollars in the first 3 cases, and DUPONT GIVES UP. THEY PAYOUT THE BETTER PART OF A BILLION DOLLARS. WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO YEAAAH SUCK IT.

High Fidelity

A lot to say about dating
This director had a sexual awakening when he saw Say Anything and thusly developed a fetish for John Cusack being sad in the rain. Even made him get down in the dirt, like a straight male fantasy of women mud wrestling. Totally irrelevant comment I'm making right now, I know, but it was an odd amount of dramatic rain scenes for a single movie.

This is an extremely realistic story about the insecurity of significant others, and the uncertainty of the future we have with others. How fearful we are of commitment, failure at our goals, being alone, and that jumping for one slightly better thing could cause us to lose what good thing we already have.

I feel like this movie was niche relevant to the year 2000, and nothing beyond, which is manifestly fitting when you consider that every line of dialogue out of John Cusack's, or Jack Black's, mouth is about niche interests. The artists and albums and songs he references or jokes about are constantly obscure ones. I had to turn on subtitles just to know which artists etc he was saying because they were so unfamiliar. Like a foreign language. You could make the argument that this was purposeful, that Cusack's character was supposed to be elitist and therefore possessed a wealth of knowledge a layman wouldn't. However, I always felt like the viewer was supposed to be on his side for these jokes. These chastising remarks for customers who have bad taste for liking [Song/Band] was where I was should be laughing, in on the joke. It never happened.

I felt like I, the viewer, should have envied Cusack. Should have thought of him as a cool guy for owning a record store, and having a catalog of hot past girlfriends. But really I just was annoyed with him. He does redeem himself by the end, sort of. The movie at least stayed true to its themes of realism, that even in our redemptive moments, we still retain traces of our destructive tendencies.

Ghost Stories

66% great
I loved this movie up until the last, oh, maybe 15 minutes or so.

The film is an extremely interesting series of ghostly investigations that force a haughty paranormal skeptic to question his life's work. Its premise is executed perfectly, and sent chills down my spine so many times (the security guard). The special effects are mostly unreliant on CGI, and that use of what's real makes the viewer feel the fear of the characters. I was able to put myself in the characters' shoes many times, experiencing their fear.

Martin Freeman gives a unique, and wonderful, performance in here. That's always to be expected out of him. He could turn dirt scripts into gold. This script was already well written though. Andy Nyman is pretty good, never seen him before this one, and I was impressed. He's good at being full of himself.

The ending is what severely weakened this. Can't believe someone would try something that's been done so many times, and went out of style back in like 2001. The ending makes sense, yes, but like... we've seen that 87 times before man. Imagine if a writer tried to use the same twist from Sixth Sense in today's age. You just can't. Overall, still a really enjoyable movie despite this flaw, and a good addition to your list of worth-watching scary movies.

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

Has anyone ever told you the tragedy of episodes 7-9?
The Rise of Skywalker is the ultimate byproduct of two competing visions. In episode 8, Rian Johnson obliterated much of what JJ Abrams had built up in episode 7. And now in episode 9, JJ Abrams had to retcon much of what Rian destroyed in episode 8.

The emperor returns thankfully not in some idiotic way that I feared (time travel via force disturbance), but rather by the unnatural powers of the sith to control life. His existence serves as a motivation for Kylo Ren, which was sorely needed after Rian Johnson turned his character into some second rate Dick Van Dyke show. Kylo is hesitant to trust the emperor, and immediately begins plotting against him.

After that opening sequence, the movie is slow to gain momentum with the jarring Leia scenes that are clearly dialogue from Carrie Fisher meant for different purposes. And TROS doesn't really pick up speed until Kajimi, nearly an hour into the film, when we meet Zorii and Babu Frik. Though one exception is the explosive power of Rey's force lightning that gives us a taste of her dark side.

And that's the real strength of the movie: Rey's dark side, and Kylo Ren goading it out of her. This has always been their story, and the (only) genius thing Rian Johnson wrote in ep 8 was connecting them by the force. JJ employs that several times in TROS to delightful effect, and even expands on the capabilities of that force connection. Kylo and Rey receive an extremely satisfying arc by the ending moments.

There are several questionable moments, as in, "Are you sure the force can do that JJ?" The tragedy is that JJ had little else place to go. The main villain (Snoke) was quickly merked without even a single lightsaber battle in episode 8, so the emperor really had to ratchet up the sith powers. However, the reliance on the history of the sith, and the portrayal of them as a cultish religion, was extremely faithful to source material. So even the parts that made me question what I was watching still felt like Star Wars.

The Irishman

Scorsese probably thinks he made a better film than he actually has. The Irishman is excellent, but there are several superfluous scenes that shouldn't have made the cut. For example, Frank Sheeran's phone call to Jo Hoffa that was essentially two minutes of mumbling dialogue that had no consequences or importance. Scorsese just likes being complete, even if it weakens the film. Especially the last 30 minutes that proceeded the final Hoffa scene, which in itself was anticlimactic. Could have made the Hoffa house 10 minutes of tension, arguing, moral quandaries, and betrayal, but NOPE. Just a little BOOP, and we move on. But seriously, the last 30 minutes post-Hoffa could have been 8 minutes max.

Al Pacino was as good as he has ever been. He played Jimmy Hoffa with a lot of gusto and attitude that made him believable, yet surprisingly powerful in the face of major crime families. Reminded me a lot of Scarface with his energy here, though far less of a psychopath.

DeNiro was unfortunately the weakest of the three. His acting was excellent, but it was also a role we've essentially seen him play before. He plays Frank Sheeran hard and cold, but loves his friends (Hoffa and Russell) to death, which was key to getting us to connect with this mass murderer. Very good on that component. However, the major problem with his role was he wasn't in a position of power. DeNiro shines stronger than any actor when given lines that display a powerful role, but Sheeran was essentially an attack dog, following orders, asking permission for much of the film. The role didn't allow him to show the full range of his acting prowess, was kind of disappointing. Still good though.

PESCI was unreal. Incredibly, this is Pesci's best role of his life. When Russell Buffalino starts talking, you frequently forget you're watching a film. Just enthralling to watch him on screen. It feels like you're a fly on the wall watching a true mobster do business. And this role is so unique for him. Gentle, and kind, and rational, yet hardened and cruel. Seriously deserves an oscar for this one.


Frustrating, Yet Worth It
This film is a perfect example of powerhouse actors elevating a screenplay beyond its mediocre potential. The script was extremely dry with (probably) literal quotes from the real-life detectives, and comedic notes that were attempted hit offbeat. The immensely talented cast was able to make this much more than it would have been.

The plot meanders from character to character without any apparent purpose for switching the point of view. It became extremely frustrating. For a good portion of the film, the viewer isn't even certain who the main character is, due to the constant switching between RDJ, Gyllenhall, Mark Ruffalo, and even Anthony Edwards to an extent. By about the two hour mark, the viewer is left wondering if there was any reason to include the point of view of those characters at all. I am only able to attribute this weakness to an attempt to be faithful to the source material of Zodiac, Fincher making certain he hit each event in the timeline to make Robert Graysmith's case coherent.


There are two scenes that are peak fucking Fincher.

Much like the near-end of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when Mikael Blomkvist confronts (villain), Fincher creates the same pillow-clenching, breathless tension for Robert Graysmith with another suspect. I was literally on the edge of my seat holding two pillows to my chest. On top of that, the other gripping scene occurs halfway through when Mark Ruffalo and two other detectives are interviewing Arthur Leigh Allen. Fincher shot the scene of the four men from about 8 different camera angles as Allen recounts persuasive reasons for why the evidence against him can be explained away.

Lastly, the final 40 minutes of the film makes up for the shortcomings of the first two acts. Not coincidentally, this is the only portion of the film that maintains a constant point of view without switching. And it has one of the two peak-Fincher scenes.

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