8.31.2018

What are the best films of 2018 so far?

It's hard to believe it's the last day of August. While we still have a ways to go until the Academy Awards, 2018 has had a strong start and thrown us a few films up for award contention with Black Panther opening the year, some great Indie films sprinkled in between the summer blockbusters, and a strong mid-point with films like BlackkKlansman closing out the summer lineup.

As we enter fall awards mania, you might want to catch up on some of these films that have been released this year so far...

Isle of Dogs

While stop motion might not be everyone's cup of tea, Wes Anderson delivers an unprecedented achievement in the genre to date and an endearing story to go along with it. Despite the controversy around Anderson's handling of the Japanese culture, the imagery alone is worth the watch.

A Quiet Place



John Krasinski's directorial debut is nothing short of phenomenal. The marketing and trailers may have turned some viewers off because of the jump scares, but this film is so much more than the thriller/horror genre can contain. I can't say much more without spoiling it, but you'll just have to trust me and see the film. I promise it's not too scary :)

Mission Impossible 6: Fallout

I know, I know. It seems like six Mission Impossible movies is too many. Well, that's where you're wrong my friend. With the strongest offering to date, Fallout gives a thrill that reminds us why we go to the movies. As usual, Tom Cruise does most of his own stunts and the action sequences are phenomenal. But what makes this movie standout in the genre is the exceptional storytelling and continued development of a character we have come to know and love. Try to see this one in theaters if you can!

BlackkKlansman

SO many great conversations about the relationship between racism and our country's history have come from this film. Spike Lee handles these weighty topics with a deftness that only he can pull off and the performances, screenplay and direction all point to Oscar nominations. Go see this movie. Not just because it's an achievement in filmmaking, but because it's important.

Hearts Beat Loud


Not many people saw this movie and it's a damn shame. Whoever said Ron Swanson...ehh.. Nick Offerman couldn't lead an Indie drama was mistaken. To be fair, I'm a sucker for music movies, especially ones with a good dose of coming-of-age tropes and family drama, but hey, I think this movie has something for everyone.

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Fred Rogers inspired a generation to strive for greater kindness and humility. Why wouldn't they make a movie about him? For those of us who grew up watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, it's hard to hold back the ugly cry while learning more about him. For anyone who wants to be inspired by a life and legacy that impacted a generation, this film is a must watch.

Death of Stalin


Another film that flew under the radar, this movie, helmed by the creator of Veep is one of the best comedies of the past decade. The satirical humor might not be for everyone, but the physical comedy and performances are some of the best of the year. You don't want to miss it.

Incredibles 2

After a 14-year-break from adventures with the Parr family, the incredibles are back with an important message for our current cultural environment. The film subverts expectations and takes us on a wild ride in the process. Brad Bird delivers another animation classic for the Pixar vault.

Black Panther


To say that this film had an impact is an understatement. One of the best received stories from Marvel to date, there's hope yet for more representation and diversity in the entertainment industry. The story is helmed by the supremely talented Ryan Coogler who continues to be a director to watch.

Eighth Grade

I wasn't initially interested in seeing Bo Burnham's feature directorial debut because the trailer alone was so full of awkward moments. I wasn't sure if I could sit through two hours reliving my middle school years. After finally accepting that the hype was real, I decided to catch a showing with a Q&A live stream with Burnham and the cast afterwards. This film is affecting and deftly executes on themes that anyone can relate to, regardless of whether you've been a 13-year-old girl or not. You can read my review over at Reel World Theology.

Leave No Trace


I didn't find out until afterwards that this film is based on a true story about an actual father and daughter in Oregon. I watched this movie right before taking a trip to the area that serves as the setting for this story, which caused me to think about it long after viewing. You probably won't get to take a trip to Oregon, but Debra Granik's interpretation of the story will give you plenty to digest afterwards. 

Lean on Pete

While there weren't any major stunts or action sequences to get my heart rate up like Mission Impossible: Fallout, I still sat at the edge of my seat during this film about a young boy trying to find home. It's a beautiful story and not your typical horse movie. While the relationship between Pete and Charley is endearing, Charlie Plummer's performance ensures you'll ultimately feel invested in him and his well-being. This is a tough watch, but so worth it in the end.

5.25.2018

What to watch this holiday weekend

I've been in a theater seat quite a bit since the beginning of the year. 

Here are my recommendations for what to watch this holiday weekend and a few reviews to nudge you in that direction (don't worry, most of them are bite-size!)


In Theaters


1. Isle of Dogs




2. A Quiet Place




3. Solo: A Star Wars Story






Enjoy a cheap date night and stop by the dollar theater or catch these on Video On Demand:


4. Game Night: My review for Reel World Theo



5. Black Panther




That's right. Black Panther is still in theaters. That's over 14 weeks running. If you haven't seen it yet. It's worth it.

Streaming


6. Patti Cake$ (Netflix)




7. Faces Places (Netflix)

3.31.2018

14 classic films and the problem with a short attention span...

Last year year I set out to watch 16 iconic films so that I could learn more about the art and science of storytelling through film. It was ambitious considering my life was already busy, but then I got laid off from my job and my schedule freed up. The losing the job part sucked, but the extra free time really helped me get through that list! 

Alas, I was still only able to watch 14 on my list, (remind me to never try to blow through 16 movies and keep up with awards season at the same time ever again) but I did learn a lot and had a ton of fun doing it. The award show season just wrapped up a few weeks ago, so in honor of Oscar nominated films of the past, here are some recent classics I've watched along with my impressions and a few observations about old films in general:

Jaws - What ever happened to the art of suspense?

Awards: Best Film Editing, Best Music (Dramatic Score), Best Sound

If there's any genre that "shows its age" horror is definitely at the top of the list. The outdated special effects combined with over the top acting and clich├ęs like half-naked women wandering into barns at night with machetes hanging on the wall while a deranged man is on the lose, all point towards old horror fare. The genre has mostly evolved.

All that to say, Jaws is one of the expertly executed horror films from yesteryear about a great white shark on the prowl in a small beach town. The film is a master class in suspense. Spielberg is able to build tension without showing much of anything. Budget constraints forced Spielberg to show victims being attacked with most of the action happening underwater with pulleys and wires yanking the actors around to simulate attacks. Necessity is the mother of invention as they say.



All About Eve - Melodrama can be a good thing.

Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Writing (Screenplay), Best Costume Design (Black and White), Best Sound, Best Picture

In of her most iconic roles, Bette Davis plays an aging actress who is trying to stay relevant in this classic story about jealousy and revenge. When Jones is upstaged by an unassuming girl (played by Anne Baxter) who is an aspiring and cunning actress herself, things get shall we say, melodramatic. Clearly the melodrama worked in this film's favor with 6 Oscars under it's belt including best picture.


2001: A Space Odyssey - Why are classic films so long?


Awards: Best Effects, Special Visual Effects

Maybe it had to do with the sparse dialogue or confusing plot, but I had a hard time sitting through this film. I know that it was unprecedented for its time and I did appreciate the beautiful cinematography, but I can't help but think that in an age where people's attention spans are alarmingly short, we won't be seeing many of these types of films anymore. 




Alien Trilogy - Outdated special effects can be redeemed by great storytelling.


Awards: Best Effects, Visual Effects (Alien), Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Aliens), Best Effects, Visual Effects (Aliens) 

When you watch the first Alien film it's hard not to chuckle at the outdated special effects and awkward actions sequences, but when you put it in context of the time it was released, it was in fact a groundbreaking film for the technology that was available. When compared to the souped up action-packed movies of today, this film falls fall short, but somehow it still holds up. 

These films aren't only classics because of the innovation for their time, the writing has made it a story that can resonate with any generation. Not to mention the fact that Ridley Scott and James Cameron created a badass female protagonist (which wasn't common in that era).


Seven Samurai - Painters turned directors are a really good thing


Awards: None (which is a tragedy, really)

Legendary Akira Kurosawa was a professional artist turned filmmaker. His artistic touch is all over this beautiful film. Each shot is carefully crafted to compliment the story in a way that I've very rarely experienced. It's a shame this film didn't win any awards when it debuted in 1954.


Casablanca - Where's the political romance we've been waiting for?

Casablanca is a beautiful love story to be sure, but the fact that it is framed by such important political themes makes it all the more poignant. I love this movie and it's not hard to see why generations before me and after me will continue to love it. I wrote about the film last year and learned some fun facts about what was going on at the time historically. Revisit this film over and over again, you won't be disappointed.

Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing (Screenplay)






Lawrence of Arabia - Sweeping epics seem like a thing of the past


Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography (color), Best Art Direction - Set Decoration (color), Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Music (score)

People's time wasn't nearly as divided when this movie was released. Now a days it's a struggle to sit through 3 hour movie with our busy lives calling to us. Going to the movies used to be a communal experience, but now you can stream most anything at home. It feels as if something has been lost, but if I'm honest I could've done without SO much wandering in the dessert in this film.


The Godfather - No one does it like Marlon Brando 



That's pretty much the most important thing you need to know about this movie. Marlon Brando is a legend. That's all.

Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium)



Citizen Kane - Is it possible years of hype can inflate a film to earn the title "best of all time"?



Don't get me wrong. This film is impressive. I really enjoyed following the well-crafted narrative of the life and eventual demise of a publishing tycoon. Orson Wells has contributed a lot to the world of film. But the best film of all time? I'm just not convinced. 

Awards: Best Writing (Original Screenplay)





Psycho - Old movies can definitely give you nightmares.



Awards: None

I was expecting to watch Psycho and walk away unaffected by the outdated effects and the fact that it's black in white. "How scary can it be?" I thought. Well, I was sorely mistaken and 3 sleepless nights of me trying to get the image of Anthony Perkins' disturbing, smug face out of my head is proof. 

I can't not recommend this film. It's twisted and brilliant and Hitchcock really is a master of psychological horror.


12 Angry Men - Turns out society hasn't changed all that much 



Awards: None

I was simultaneously inspired and discouraged when I watched this film. It's amazing that during the entire hour and thirty six minutes of 12 men sitting in a room talking was so enrapturing, but as the 12 jurors debated the innocence of a young Puerto Rican man, I was reminded that over sixty years later, we're still faced with so many of the same societal problems that we did back then.

This film is excellent and I'm sad that it didn't win any awards.


Did I miss any "must see" classic films? Add to my list in the comments below!