12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 10)

Can you imagine that after this post, there’s only two more? It’s a little surreal. You get into the groove of doing a daily series like this, and then it’s about to end. But before that happens, we still have some shit to talk about. So let’s do it.

So what’s on the menu today? Well, I’m about to get to it, relax, you impatient person. Based on a 1997 novel by Neil Gaiman, “Stardust” is a 2007 fantasy adventure directed and co-written by Matthew Vaughn. It tells the tale of Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox), a young man infatuated with a woman living in the same town as him. One day he agrees to fetch a fallen star for her, in exchange for her hand in marriage. And this leads Tristan on a big, magical journey involving a conniving prince (Mark Strong), an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer), a pirate (Robert De Niro) and a woman who may or may not be a literal fucking star (Claire Danes). So what’s my holiday connection for this one then?

Well, compared to some of my previous ones, this is a bit more simple. No, there’s no scene involving christmas. And no, it’s not even the family squabbling between the three princes. No, it’s less contrived than that. Christmas is a holiday that’s supposed to bring joy to people, be it through presents, food, or good company. And “Stardust” is a very joyous movie, it’s a simple and fun swashbuckling adventure with a fantasy twist. And both of the times I’ve seen this movie, it has brought me great joy. It has put a gigantic dumb smile on my face. And since christmas should bring joy, then “Stardust” is clearly something one could easily slot into the holiday hangouts. Plus, that song from Take That playing during the end credits is fantastic.

Have a good one.

Movie Review: The Lost City of Z (2017)

Exploration can lead to many things. From the discovery of lost civilizations to a crazy Italian man killing natives around the Caribbean in the name of Spain. So yeah, it has both upsides and downsides.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Lost City of Z”.

Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is a former military man who has decided to embark on a quest to the Amazonian jungles to try to find a lost city that he calls Z. And quickly this expedition turns into an obsession that puts a strain on his family life and his reputation. So now we have our story… and it’ a good one. It’s not a fast-paced and fun adventure like “Indiana Jones”, but more of a slowly burning exploration of a determined man’s journey. And I think that’s quite refreshing, seeing as most jungle/treasure hunts in movies/TV/games these days tend to be fast action things. Though I will admit that the pacing feels a bit too meander-y at a couple points, bordering on getting boring. But for the most part it’s an interesting and dramatic plot that mostly kept my interest.

The characters here are quite interesting and for the most part got a good amount of development. Charlie Hunnam (aside from being a handsome man) plays Percy Fawcett, our protagonist and obsessed explorer. Seeing his exploring turn from something he gets to simply do to an obsession is fascinating and it makes him quite a layered character. And Hunnam is really good in the role, this is probably his best performance since “Sons of Anarchy”. Robert Pattinson plays Henry Costin, Fawcett’s assistant during this exploration. He can seem like doesn’t exactly want to be there, but he does learn to appreciate the journey, and he’s just overall fairly entertaining. And Pattinson is great in the role. Sienna Miller plays Nina, Fawcett’s wife. And we get to see her as she goes through her husband’s obsession and her development in hte plot is fairly emotional. And Miller is great in the role. Then we have Ian McDiarmid (that’s right, Emperor Palpatine is in the house!) as one of the men funding and encouraging Fawcett’s expedition. And McDiarmid is really good in the role. Then we have some really solid supporting performance throughout from Angus Macfadyen, Edward Ashley, Tom Holland, Clive Francis, and more.

The score for the movie was composed by Christopher Spelman, and it was great. What we have is an emotional, sweeping, tense, inspiring, and just overall great score that fits the movie very well and often elevated scenes throughout.

This movie was written and directed by James Gray and I think he did a great job. His direction is very confident and sweeping, feeling very old school in that way. It also brings out a decent sense of tension whenever it needs to, making you feat for the characters’ well-being. And I have to talk about Darius Khondji’s cinematography… because it’s fucking gorgeous. Lighting looks natural and he really makes the jungle look both eerie and beautiful. Seriously, this is gorgeous.

This movie has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 78/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,6/10.

“The Lost City of Z” isn’t perfect, but it’s still a damn good movie. It has a really good plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/cinematography. As previously mentioned, the pace can get a bit too meander-y at times, which is a bit of a problem. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Lost City of Z” is an 8,87/10. While flawed, I’d say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “The Lost City of Z” is now completed.

“Zed” makes more sense than “Zee”, silly Americans.

Movie Review: Live by Night (2016)

I’m gonna be very frank with y’all: I love Dennis Lehane’s “Live by Night”, it’s a fantastic book. So I was both skeptical and excited when I found out that Ben Affleck was directing a movie adaptation of it. Then the trailer was released and it was great, but I still held back any hype because of my love for the source material. Then the reviews started coming out and they were not merciful. So my reservations weren’t exactly lightened by that. And here we are… let’s see if the critics are right.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Live by Night”.

1920s Boston. As the son of a popular and beloved police chief, Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) has had a lot to live up to. However, Joe has found himself operating on the other side of the law. So we follow him as he rises from petty robbery to taking on the rum trade in Tampa, Florida. We also see him as he struggles with this life, trying to balance running his business with taking on competitors and other factions who want to do him harm. So now we have our gangster story. And the basic setup is interesting enough, with a few parts in the story giving us some pretty good drama and suspense. But for the most part this plot lacks a lot of the nuance needed to make it great. Especially during the middle when it starts meandering quite a bit. And while I shouldn’t compare this to the book, I do have to mention that the plot here in the movie lacks some of the flair and nuance that it had. So overall the plot here is… fine.

The characters in this are for the most part pretty interesting. While not a physical match to Joe, Ben Affleck is great in the role. He’s a smart, even-tempered, and interesting individual, and Affleck does give a great performance. Chris Messina plays Joe’s friend/partner in crime Dion Bartolo, and he’s a fun and cool guy that I thought was prety interesting. And Messina is great in the role. Sienna Miller plays Emma Gould, a woman that Joe gets involved with, and while her Irish accent if a bit off, her overall performance is pretty good. Chris Cooper plays Irving Figgis, a police chief that Joe has some interactions with throughout the movie. And Cooper is great in the role, getting some of the best dramatic moments in the movie. Elle Fanning plays Cooper’s daugher, Loretta, and she’s great in the role. Brendan Gleeson shows up for a bit in the movie, playing Joe’s father Thomas. And he’s really good in the role. Robert Glenister plays gangster Albert White, and he’s great in the role, giving quite a menacing performance. We also have Zoe Saldana as Graciela Suarez, a Cuban woman that Joe gets involved with down in Tampa, and she’s really good in the movie. Shit, this movie’s filled with solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and it was really good. It really doesn’t do anything unique, and isn’t overall something I’d find myself listening to at any time in the future. But it is overall dramatic, tense, and well composed, fitting the movie very well.

This movie was written and directed by Batman, I mean Ben Affleck. And I think he did a really good job with it. He manages to bring tension and a lot of flair to it which I really enjoyed. And the action scenes in this movie are tense, exciting, and just overall great. I also feel like I have to mention Robert Richardson’s cinematography, holy fuck it is gorgeous. Really, this movie is a visual treat. From a purely technical standpoint this movie is quite great… it’s a few other factors that slightly brings it down (you read them earlier).

This movie hasn’t been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 34% (ouch) positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 49/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,4/10.

“Live by Night” is a bit of a disappointment, but it’s still a competently put together gangster flick. It has an okay plot, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. But it (like I made clear) has some flaws. the plot gets quite meander-y near the second act, and with the plot overall feeling slightly dull. Also, Sienna Miller’s distractingly off Irish accent bugged me. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Live by Night” is an 8,21/10. So while it is quite flawed, I’d say that it’s worth a rental.

My review of “Live by Night” is now completed.

The movie kept the book’s best dialog exchange at least… kudos for that.

Movie Review: High-Rise (2015)

Dystopias. Something explored in many books and movies. Some more accurate to current society than others. Well, today’s feature presentation is a dystopian story. So let’s go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “High-Rise”.

Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a physiologist who has just moved in to a huge, high-tech high-rise. And everyone there seems to have it pretty damn good. However everyone’s perfect lives soon spin out of control and everything starts going to absolute shit. And while it’s a really interesting series of events, I feel like there’s no actual reason for it all to be happening. I am all for odd and interesting plots that dare to go to unique places, but I also want there to be some reason bhind the events that transpire. Like I said, the stuff that happens in the movie is really interesting and can even be a little disturbing at times, but there’s no reason for stuff happening. I was seriously sitting there thinking, “Alright, this is some interesting stuff… but why is it even happening?”. And I am 100% sure that I didn’t miss anything that triggered the downfall of the high-rise society… shit just happened, with no real reason for it. So to summarize my rambling: The plot features an incredibly interesting series of events that has no real reason or focus behind it.

The characters are a bit like the plot, it was interesting seeing them go through all this shit, but I never really cared about any of them. Tom Hiddleston gives a great performance as Doctor Robert Laing, going from a pretty normal and sane individual to a more… odd man. Jeremy Irons plays the owner/architect of the high-rise and he’s great. Sienna Miller is also great. Luke Evans plays a filmmaker here and he is pretty great. Elizabeth Moss is also great in the movie. James Purefoy was also really good here. So the characters are not the most compelling, but they are interesting to follow and they are also very well acted.

The score was composed by Clint Mansell and it is fantastic! It’s weird, it’s eerie, it’s dramatic, and it just pleases my ears quite a bit. I am not surprised by this though, since Clint Mansell composed the scores for “Requiem for a Dream” and “Moon”, and I love the scores in those movies… he’s just fucking great at his job. What I also thought was pretty interesting about the music was that this movie has a weird fascination with ABBA’s song “S.O.S”. Just thought it was interesting how it popped at two times in the movie in two very different styles.

This movie was directed by Ben Wheatley and I think he did a really good job. The scenes always feel a bit off, but in a good way. I really felt like this wasn’t our world, it was something much weirder and much more unpredictable. And from a visual standpoint, this movie looks fucking great. There are plenty of great shots in this movie and even when the shot isn’t awesome (in lack of a better word) this movie still looks really good. Something fun to mention is that this movie is based on the book of the same written by J.G. Ballard, released in 1975. Now, I haven’t read the book, so I can’t say if this is a faithful adaptation or not… all I can say is that the book thing was a fun little bit of trivia to add. That said, if you’ve read the book then please tell me if it’s any good and/or if this is a good adaptation of it.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 61% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,7/10.

“High-Rise” is a pretty interesting dystopian drama. It has a pretty good plot, okay characters, great performances, fantastic music, and great directing. However it is very flawed since I felt like there was no real reason for the plot to happen and I didn’t find the characters especially compelling. Time for my final score. *Clears throat*. My final score for “High-Rise” is an 8,57/10. So even though it is quite flawed I’d say that it is worth buying.

My review of “High-Rise” is now completed.

So when you’re near me, darling can’t you hear me, S.O.S…

 

We now have a trailer for “Live by Night”

Hello there, ladies and gentlemen of the internet. I am back once again to talk about a trailer. I know, it happens quite a bit nowadays, but that’s just because so many interesting trailers are coming out. So let’s talk about this one.

As the title of this post tells you, we now have a trailer for “Live by Night”, a movie based on the novel of the same name written by Dennis Lehane. Now, before we get into what this movie is about, let me tell you my specific reasons as to why I decided to talk about this one today. First off, it is a pretty cool trailer. And secondly, it’s based on a book that I have read and absolutely love. Also, that book was written by my favorite author, so I’m of course instantly interested. So I guess you could say that this is a pretty personal thing for me. Now, with all that said… what is this about. “Live by Night” is about Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck), a man who gets into some shit with mobsters and then himself starts truly becoming one. And that’s as vague as I’m gonna keep it, because the story that plays out is pretty phenomenal… in the book at least. Now, do I think this movie looks good? Yes! Ben Affleck is a great actor and director, so I am glad that he’s the one handling this movie. This looks intense, badass, dramatic, and overall good. I would also say that the cast looks pretty great. Though it is kind of weird to have Scott Eastwood as Danny Coughlin, the older brother of Joe Coughlin who’s played by Ben Affleck, who’s about 14 years older than Eastwood. Oh well, whatever. I’m not gonna lie to you guys, I am really excited about this movie. Ben Affleck did a great job directing “Gone Baby Gone”, which was also based on a Dennis Lehane novel. And he’s become better and better as both a director and an actor, so I don’t think I have much to worry about. “Live by Night” is set for a limited US release in December, and then a wide release in January.

So what are you thoughts? Are you looking forward to Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night”? And are you a fan of the original novel? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy the trailer!

Movie Review: Mississippi Grind (2015)

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Here’s a question for you: Do you have or know anyone with an addiction? Not just drugs, but any kind of addiction really. If so, maybe say yes and what that addiction may be. Okay, on to the review.

Guys and gals… “Mississippi Grind”.

Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) got a bit of a dilemma. He is overall down on his luck and he got some financial problems. Then one day he meets young and charismatic poker player Curtis (Ryan Reynolds). So they team up to go on a road trip through the south to try to change Gerry’s luck for the better and get a load of money. But it’s not only a typical “Financial hardships and poker” movie, it is also a drama about addiction (Hence the intro to this post). You see, Gerry has a bit of a gambling addiction and that is a big theme of the movie. And I have to say that I really enjoyed the story of the movie because it kind of showed the consequences of addiction while still making gambling look like fun even though you most likely might lose. I thought the plot/story was great.

The characters in this movie are consistently entertaining and they all have several layers to them. Ben Mendelsohn plays the skilled but still struggling poker player and he is absolutely terrific in the role. I don’t have much to really compare to since I have only seen him in one thing before I saw this, and that thing was “Slow West” (Sidenote: Great movie). And Ryan Reynolds as Curtis… terrific! This is the best I have ever seen from him (Sidenote: I have not seen “Buried” yet). Both actors did a great job, as did all the supporting actors.

While there was no real original score (as far as I know/have noticed) for the movie, there was still a soundtrack. It is very heavily based in southern rock & blues music and I absolutely loved it all. The songs were not only great on their own, but they also fit the tone and style of the movie really well.

This is one of those weird movies that have two directors sharing credit. So if the movie is bad, we got two people to blame. Luckily, the movie is very stylishly directed, but not in a bad way. Sure, it’s not as stylish as “Drive” or anything by Wes Anderson, but it still got a lot of style and uniqueness to it. And it’s interesting to see the different parts of the American south that our “heroes” do their trip through because the southern parts of the U.S. interest me a lot.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,4/10.

“Mississippi Grind” is a pretty damn great movie about gambling addiction. It has a great plot, great acting, a great soundtrack and great directing. Time for my final score. ALL IN! My final score for “Mississipi Grind” is a 9,88/10. It most definitely gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
Seal of Approval

My review of “Mississippi Grind” is now completed.

What’s your favorite poker/gambling movie?

Movie Review: American Sniper (2014)

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Remember what I said about my opinion on bio-pics that I shared during my review of “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”? If you don’t then let me remind you; I said that I will simply judge them as movies and not how accurate it is to the real life event. And now you will keep that in mind while I review this bio-pic.

In this movie we follow Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper). Like I just said, he is a sniper for the Navy SEALs, a pretty damn good sniper for them. And we get to follow him as he goes on tours to Iraq to take out terrorists, but we also get to see parts of his civilian life with his wife Taya (Sienna Miller). Now the plot for the movie was pretty good. I didn’t love it like a lot of other people and I will explain why. Of course it is interesting to see him go to Iraq and see him shoot the terorists over there, those parts are really interesting. And it is interesting(ish) to see how he handles family life. However I felt like the plot was kind of thin. One thing that would have made it more interesting and even the movie touched ever so slightly. And that is how Kyle gets PTSD. We get hints at it in the movie but it is nver fully explored which is a shame because it would have made the plot that much more interesting. While the plot wasn’t bad, it wasn’t that great either.

Bradley Cooper was fantastic in this movie. He gave a very nuanced and subdued performance. I have been impressed with some of his later films in recent years, he has really become a terrific actor. I honestly thought all performances in the movie were good. Sienna Miller was also really good. But… despite the performances in this movie being really good, none of the characters were interesting at all. Okay, Chris Kyle was of course really interesting and his wife was fairly interesting, but everyone else were basically like plastic lawn chairs… they filled the space but did nothing more.

One thing that was really interesting about the music in “American Sniper” is that there barely is any. To be honest, there were only really three tracks in the entire movie. And before you start thinking that said three tracks would be used to death, they weren’t. They were used at about one point each. One is Van Morrison’s “Someone Like You” that is used during Chris and Taya’s wedding. The second one is callec “Taya’s theme” and was done by Clint Eastwood. And the third one is the Ennio Morricone classic “The Funeral”. And really, I had no problems with the short and rarely used soundtrack. It gave scenes so much more than if they had music simply because the studio said “You have to have music there!”.

I know I haven’t sounded like the most positive guy so far in the review, so let’s give some praise. This movie looks fucking fantastic! But this is something that was really obvious to me since even though Clint Eastwood has made some not very good movies lately, they have still been really well-directed. Clint Eastwood is a master-class director and he shows it here with how he handles the camera work. And the action scenes in this movie are really intense. Whenever a scene that involved shooting in this movie my heart was pounding and that is not something that is easy to achieve. The scenes had intensity and they hit hard and really elevated this movie to a whole different level. Also, did you guys also notice the fake baby? It was pretty fucking weird. Just sitting there like a brick in Bradley Cooper’s arms.

This movie was really well-received among people and critics alike. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 72% positive rating with a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,4/10. The movie also won 1 Oscar in the category of Best Sound Editing. It was also nominated for an additional 5 Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing. 

“American Sniper” is a mixed bag. On one hand it features a fantastic lead performance from Bradley Cooper, good use of music, excellent and suspenseful sniping/shooting scenes and some fantastic direction from Clint Eastwood. However it is brought down a bit by a fairly thin plot and not having that many interesting characters. Time for my final score. JEFF! ENVELOPE! Thank you! *Bullet hits Jeff*. Welp, he got sniped. My final score for “American Sniper” is an 8,62/10. It is worth buying.
Worth buying

My review of “American Sniper” is completed.

It looks like Clint fuckin’ Eastwood can still make good movies.