12 Strong

I’m just gonna cut right to it. This movie is a true story of some of the first soldiers to be sent into Afganistan after 9/11. It’s pretty standard warfare stuff. The trailers tried to make a big thing about how they were riding horses to deal with the terrain, but really that’s not too big of a thing.

The way I see it, this movie is kinda the inverse of Dunkirk as far as the filmmaking goes. Dunkirk is expert filmmaking, with top effects, cinematography, sound, etc. Technical perfection. However, it lacks on the story side, particularly with the character development. 12 Strong on the other hand has nothing special on the artistic side. No fancy shots or effects or anything that makes it stand out. However, the character development (and by extension the story) is far stronger. I found myself much more into 12 Strong and therefore enjoying it more than I did Dunkirk. Riddle me that Batman?

Oh fun fact, Rob Riggle (typically known more for comedic work) play one of the officers in this film. IRL, he actually is a veteran and he served under the officer he plays during the time the events of the movie take place. Pretty cool, huh? I actually liked seeing this side of him.

The cast is otherwise prety strong. Chris Hemsworth knows how to command the screen, even if he doesn’t know how to command his dodgy American accent. And I love that his real life wife played his screen wife. Michael Pena brought the usual spunk he typically does, as did Michael Shannon and his signature intensity.

Ultimately, this isn’t a movie you’re gonna be talking about in ten years or even ten days. Still, it’s well put together and a nice tribute to the soldiers it honors.

12 Strong – \m/ \m/ \m/

Paddington 2

I can suspend disbelief enough to accept a cute little bear in a hat and trench coat wandering around London. Where I draw the line is at the universal appeal of marmalade and how it’s capable of solving all of life’s problems. I’m sorry, but that stuff is disgusting (says the girl that generally doesn’t like orange flavored things).

The previous Paddington was such a delightful surprise. While Paddington is known here, I hadn’t realized what a beloved icon he was in the UK (I saw an interview with Freddie Highmore where he said he went after a live bear bc he was so enamored with Paddington), and therefore didn’t expect the love and care that went into bringing him onto the big screen. He certainly got a far better turn than most children’s classics do.

This one is a lot more of the same as far as the bear goes. He’s still cute and sweet and gets into the same kinda trouble that is charming, but I don’t particularly find all that funny. I did like the story and the characters, even if it dragged a little for me.

I will say the one aspect of this film that I absolutely loved was Hugh Grant as the villain. Is this possibly his best role of all time? I don’t know, it might be? I don’t care about his romantic comedy crap, I love this over the top stage obsessed baddie. He chewed that scenery like it was covered in marmalade.

Right so I was less impressed than others were, but sometimes it is nice to see a sweet and positive movie for a change.

Paddington 2 – \m/ \m/ \n

Proud Mary

First off, regardless of my opinion of the movie itself or your interest in sitting thru it, please please PLEASE go and buy tickets for this movie. Bust out your Movie Passes. Even if you don’t end up actually watching it or you buy a ticket for this and go see Star Wars for the fifth time, give it some support so that Hollywood gets the message that we want more films like this starring strong and amazing women of color. We can’t let this one fail and give them an excuse to wait years until the next shot.

My next point that I need to make is that the trailer for this film very severely mis-characterizes it. Yes, the sublime Taraji P Hensen does in fact play a hitwoman, but it’s not an action movie and it’s not the sassy John Wick chick. It’s more drama with a few isolated shootouts, and it goes for some sorta watered down Godfather type thing. Not the strongest screenplay, and it could have been hard to take seriously.

HOWEVER, for me, Taraji was enough to sustain the movie. The A storyline revolved around her taking in a young boy who was caught up in their mob life, and I thought their relationship was strong, and I very much enjoyed all their interactions. But really, it was Taraji’s performance and the way she commanded the screen. No one ever questioned that a lady had these badass fighting skillz or was seen as a strong asset in their family. This is what we need more of on screen.

Oh and unexpected surprise, the movie was set in Boston. Played a lot of eye spy with the locations, and found a bunch of recognizable ones.

So yes, this film is flawed, and it’s a little contrived, but I enjoyed it. And more importantly, it deserves your support so that we can have another go at a badass leading lady in this kind of film. Then maybe one day we’ll have a variety of those films to choose from instead of having to rally around just one.

Proud Mary – \m/ \m/ \m/

The Commuter

Ah the January release. Few thoughts strike such fear in the hearts of obsessive movie goers. Enter our hero, Liam Neeson, and his special set of skillz, to save us all from the January film graveyard.

For the commuter, Neeson takes those skillz to a train, where he is an ex-cop on his long commute home. On the way he’s approached by a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) who asks him to do “one little thing”, identify a particular passenger, in exchange for a whole lotta money. Of course, it’s not that simple. His task becomes increasingly difficult as the stakes get higher and higher.

Sounds like a pretty typical low budget January thriller, yeah? Surprisingly, this one worked rather well. It opened with a really great montage highlighting the daily grind, that I thought was rather inventive. From there on the film just held me. The suspense was constant (granted, my anxiety was high this week, so I was very susceptible) and it gave the thrills I live for. I also really liked how it was shot. There were some really cool tracking shots and object close ups that were far more skillful and stylish than I thought a movie like this was capable of. Okay yes, some of the effects and such got ridiculous, but I could forgive that.

Yeah we’ve seen Neeson do this kinda thing before, but he does excel at it. I loved that Patrick Wilson was in this, even if his screentime was minimal. Ultimately, the film wasn’t perfect, but it was far better than I expected. And the important thing is that I had fun watching it, and that is really all you need.

The Commuter – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Phantom Thread

There’s always one of these each Oscar season. The prestigious pic that critics are fawning over that absolutely bores me to death. Looking at it, I didn’t think I’d care for this film. I don’t go in for period pieces, especially romances, and on paper little about it seemed interesting. Even the draw of it possibly being Daniel Day-Lewis’s final film wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, nothing but respect for the man, but I love others more. So why did I go now instead of waiting to see if any of the Awards chatter would result in major nominations? Writer director Paul Thomas Anderson. Magnolia is an all time favorite, and I’ve loved so many others of his earlier films. But Phantom Thread is kinda his third strike in a row for me.

DDL plays a dressmaker and owner of one of the most prestigious fashion houses in London. I later found out that the setting is the 1950’s but it feels older and stuffier than that. Anyways, he gets tired of yet another girlfriend and finds a young waitress Alma to be his lover and his muse. He’s seemingly all business while she’s falling head over heels. What part of this did we think I’d be into?

The film was elegant and stylish and a likely contender for costumes this awards season, but it wasn’t enough for me. Yes DDL gave a fantastic performance, but it wasn’t as flashy or impressive as his previous ones. I was actually more struck by his costar Vicky Krieps. She was the one who was captivating and interesting (relatively).

Long story short, I went to see this movie because it’s an Anderson film. But it didn’t really feel like one. The ending (no spoilers) had some of the danger I love from PTA, but it was such a slog to get there, I still didn’t feel like my time was well spent. The critical raves tell me I’m in the minority, and I totally get that. But this blog is about what I think, and I think I shoulda waited until if and when this became mandatory Oscar viewing.

Phantom Thread – \m/ \m/

The Post

Okay I’ve been lazy long enough. I think a week is as long as I can use the excuse of wanting to leave my year end recap up before working on the current year stuff. But yeah, it’s 2018 and while movie wise, 2017 went out on a whimper for me on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day started with a bang at the movies.

This is the latest masterpiece from Steven Spielberg. I’m just so used to thinking back on his films that I grew up with, that I forget that he is STILL a master filmmaker. And I love how he’s balancing the fun (Ready Player One out in two months!!!) with the prestige (um The Post). This time, he brings in Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep to bring the true story of the Washington Post and their decision to continue publishing the Pentagon Papers after the White House was trying to stop them. When this movie started pre-production, whodda thunk it woulda been so relevant and necessary by the time it was released.

When I said that it was a masterpiece, I meant it. Every aspect of this film is on point. It’s very stylish, and looks like something right outta the 70’s where it’s set. There’s some really cool cinematography going on. The screenplay is tight (okay, it takes a lil bit to get going–lots of exposition, but then it’s spot on). John Williams is doing the score because of course he is. And that cast is phenomenal.

Streep and Hanks are at their best. There were even a few moments where the audience applauded after a particularly pointed line from Meryl (although the words were as important as their delivery in those cases, but still, noteworthy for sure). Seeing two masters go toe to toe carrying an offscreen partnership on the big screen was such a treat and alone worth the price of admission.

Something else that’s great about a director like Spielberg is that he’s gonna assemble an incredible team to fill out the entire movie. So many recongizable faces in supporting roles: Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk (who is phenomenal), Allison Brie, David Cross, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Jesse Plemmons, the list goes on. I even noticed a few beloved Broadways stars (Jessie Mueller and Stark Sands) sneaking in for a couple scenes.

And then there’s all the timely political implications of the story. I won’t go into it here, but it’ll be pretty obvious once you watch. This is an important film and a well made one and it is absolutely worth your time.

The Post – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

2017 Recap

I’m watching the Golden Globes as I write this, so you may get some bonus commentary thrown in. Starting with how great it was that Seth Meyers worked in “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” with Amber and Jenny holding the mics for the minority stars in the room, and how unbelievably giddy I am for Sam Rockwell to win (but there’ll be more on him later). That’s how far we’re into the show so far.

Before I get into things, I wanna talk about something that was a huge part of my movie experience this year. Stardust. What started out as just another platform to push my blog, has become not only an obsession, but an amazing community that I am proud to be a part of. I have no words for how awesome it is to be having these huge film conversations every day with new friends all over the world. It’s been truly amazing, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next year.

Onward. Let’s start with the full list, then we’ll break it down.

Hidden Figures, 20th Century Women,A Monster CallsLive by Night,SplitThe FounderXXX: The Return of Xander Cage ,Gold, Elle, John Wick: Chapter 2, Fifty Shades Darker, The Lego Batman Movie, A Cure for Wellness ,John Wick: Chapter 2, The Great Wall, Get Out, Logan, Before I Fall, Personal Shopper, Kong: Skull IslandBeauty and the BeastThe Belko ExperimentT2 Trainspotting ChipsLife,Power Rangers,Ghost in the Shell The Zookeeper’s Wife Gifted ColossalGoing in StyleThe Fate of the FuriousFree FireThe CircleSleightGuardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2Buster’s Mal HeartThe Dinner King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Snatched Alien: Covenant Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Baywatch Wonder Woman The GodfatherThe Mummy It Comes at Night The Big Sick Wonder WomanCars 3The BeguiledRough NightTransformers: The Last KnightBaby DriverThe HouseDespicable Me 3Spider-man: HomecomingA Ghost StoryWar for the Planet of the ApesThe Little HoursDunkirkBaby DriverValerian and the City of a Thousand PlanetsAtomic BlondeDetroitThe Dark TowerLandlineThe Big Sick,KidnapThe Lion KingGirls TripThe Glass CastleGood TimeThe Hitman’s BodyguardLogan LuckyWind RiverIngrid Goes WestAnnabelle: CreationColumbusItClose Encounters of the Third KindMother!,American AssassinStrongerKingsman: The Golden CircleLego NinjagoBattle of the Sexes, FlatlinersAmerican MadeBlade Runner 2049Brawl in Cell Block 99Happy Death DayMarshallThe Florida ProjectThe ForeignerProfessor Marsten and the Wonder Women, The Snowman Tragedy GirlsVictoria and Abdul,The Killing of a Sacred Deer,Only the BraveJigsaw,SuburbiconThank You for Your Service, Beetlejuice, A Bad Mom’s Christmas, Thor: RagnarokLast Flag Flying, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Daddy’s Home 2, Murder on the Orient Express, Justice League, Call Me By Your Name, Molly’s Game, Wonder, Roman J Israel Esp, Darkest Hour, Coco, The Disaster Artist, Novitiate, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, The Shape of Water, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I, Tonya, The Disaster Artist, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Greatest Showman, Downsizing, Ferdinand, Pitch Perfect 3,
All the Money in the World.

Hmm, it doesn’t look like much all scrunched up like that, but let’s do that math. The grand total was 134 movies minus 5 specials and minus 6 repeats equals a grand total of 123 distinct new movies in 2017, beating last year’s record by one. I didn’t count how many of them were on Movie Pass, but it was a lot

And now some nerdy stats, mostly to justify me keeping track of it all on a spreadsheet all year.

Looking by star ratings (on a scale of 4) we have
4 – 38 (solid year!!)
3.5 – 27
3 – 24
2.5 – 15
2 – 13
1.5 – 5
1 – 1
Clearly I’m still very generous with my star ratings.

Location stats are
Ace Hotel – 1
AMC Century City – 9
AMC Del Amo – 8
AMC Downtown Disney – 3
AMC Marina Dine In – 2
AMC Marina Marketplace – 17
AMC Rolling Hills – 7
Arclight Beach Cities – 2
Arclight Culver City – 4
Arclight Hollywood – 4
Chinese Theatre – 1
Cinemark Howard Hughes – 10
Cinemark Playa Vista – 14
DGA – 2
El Capitan – 1
Laemelle Santa Monica – 6
Los Feliz Theater – 1
Pacific at the Grove – 13
Regal Promenade – 5
The Landmark – 12
The Nuart – 1
(Totaling 123 at 21 theaters)
AMC Boston Common – 4
Somerville Theater – 1
(Totalling 5 at 2 theaters in Boston)
AMC River East – 2
(Totaling 2 at 1 theater in Chicago)
Alamo Drafthouse – 3
Hollywood Theaters – 1
(Totaling 4 at 2 theaters in Laredo)

One last list, by date
Jan – 8
Feb – 8
Mar – 11
Apr – 8
May – 8
Jun – 11
Jul – 10
Aug – 14
Sep – 11
Oct – 16
Nov – 14
Dec – 15

Oh and two movie premiers! (?!)

Okay okay, thanks for indulging me. Let’s get to the good stuff. The ranks. Starting with the bad stuff. (Remember, links for all of these are above. I’m too lazy to link them all over.) Also a reminder that the year is determined by the date I see the movie, not the date the movie is released.

I’ll begin with a very special Dishonorable Mention. The Emoji Movie. It likely would have been at the top (bottom?) of this list if I had seen it, but I was so turned off by reports that not only was it bad (which I could handle), but it was basically a giant ad, which is not why I go to the movies.

But here’s what I did see that should make me rethink my life. Part of me feels bad about including this list since I get that there’s a lot of work that goes into these films and I want to be respectful of that. But some of the choices on this list felt disrespectful to the audience by clearly putting profits above the audience.

5-The Little Hours – It should have been hilarious, but it never quite jelled. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and a snooze, despite the epic cast.
4-Annabelle: Creation – I’m picky about my horror, and while I know that lots of people dug this, I didn’t. I saw it as all jump scares, and no substance to make it transcende the usual pitfalls of the genre
3-A Ghost Story – Possibly the most divisive film of the year, and possibly a big blow to my street cred in putting it here. I get what it was going for, and I get that as art it was beautiful, but I need more to a movie than just Casey Affleck standing around in a sheet looking at things.
2-Transformers: The Last Night – Was this movie even trying? This is the epitome of something being thrown together just to get something on the screen (and ticket money in pockets), without caring if it made any sense.
1-The Snowman – I’m still seething that this reportedly incomplete movie was released, and we were expected to buy tickets for it. I really should have skipped it on principle.
Dishonorable mentions – Roman J Israel Esq, Suburbicon, The Foreigner

Okay, here’s the good stuff, beginning with a special honorable mention. I decided to disqualify Star Wars: The Last Jedi because I can’t be objective about the Wars. It’s hard to separate the experience from the film itself, and frankly, this was such a strong year, that I wanted to be able to feature more films on this list.

10-Happy Death Day – If this wasn’t the most fun movie of the past year, it was certainly at the very least the most unexpectedly fun movie of the year.
9(tie)-Wonder Woman – I cheated and declared a tie so I could squeeze in one more movie. And these two have a shared theme of girl power. I don’t put a lot of superhero movies on these lists (esp not a DC one), but Wonder Woman was a game changer. I did not know what I was missing in my cinematic life until I felt the emotions rise when the Amazons stormed the beach.
9(tie)-Hidden Figures – Another movie about strong ladies, that I didn’t know I was missing. I don’t think I’ve connected with female characters on an intellectual level before, like I did here. Imagine the world we could live in if all little girls grew up watching this.
8-Logan Lucky – Everything I loved about Ocean’s Eleven, in a whole new setting. Top cast, funny screenplay, and the twists and turns I loved. This might even be more fun than it’s spiritual sister film.
7-The Florida Project – I’m still devastated by this movie when I think about it. I’ve just never seen anything like it before, nor heard these stories before. I have no more words.
6-Wind River – This is how you build out a thriller. The pacing is perfection, and the mystery is so satisfying. And Jeremy Renner’s best performance in years as an added bonus!
5-Stronger – I know, there’s a lot of bias going into this one. Both from having done background work and because it’s a Boston movie. But even without that, this is a solid and inspiring film, led by a never better Jake Gyllenhaal.
4-Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – My favorite screenplay of the year, and my preemptive picks for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor (I was so stoked to see Sam pick up that Globe tonight), but we’ll be talking more about that in a future post. This film is smart and real and perfect.
3-Baby Driver – This movie actually had my top spot for a good chunk of the year before slipping down, then getting beat. But that doesn’t take away from how brilliant this film is. It’s very much my kinda movie, and it’s so perfectly constructed, and fun like nothing else.
2-The Big Sick – Maybe there’s a little bias because this was my first ever movie premiere, but even without that, this movie is so quirky and unique and amazing. I love the humor, I love the real life story, I love the cast. I just feel bad by the time I finally decided that this ranked above Baby, my number one came out a few days later
1-The Disaster Artist – The fact that I was more excited about seeing this for the second time than I was for the first (which was already a considerable level of excitement), tells you that this movie is something special. A lot of the movies I talked about on the list I say are “very me movies” and this is no exception. It’s strange and funny and emotional and smart and simply my favorite this year.
Honorable Mentions: John Wick 2, Detroit, Split, Girls Trip

And that’s a wrap on 2017. Here’s to breaking more records next year!

All the Money in the World

Last movie of 2017! And we went out on a bit of a whimper. I trust by now you know the controversy surrounding this movie, and the casting switcheroo that director Ridley Scott did: replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in a pivotal role with less than a month until the previously completed film’s release. You know all that right? Cool. That’s really about the only truly remarkable thing about this movie.

This movie is the true life story of the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, grandson of J. Paul Getty (Plummer), the richest man in the history of the world at the time. Getty senior refuses to pay the ransom, leaving Mama Getty (Michelle Williams) in a rather unenviable position trying to get her son back with the help of Getty’s security guy I think (Mark Wahlberg).

The film played out as a slow burn, but a bit too slow for my tastes. I think we could have tightened up the 2+ hour run time into something a little more suspenseful and effective. I found it too drawn out, without enough narrative action to sustain the film. Michelle Williams, however, did give a damn good performance. She’s worth watching. Hard to believe that she came so far from Dawson’s Creek.

About that casting switch, which was ballsy and unprecendented, I think it was completely the right call. The film would’ve had an insurmountable shadow cast over it, and the change was necesary to preserve the integrity of the film and the hard work of the rest of the cast and crew. It came off pretty seamlessly. Had I not already known what had happened, I never would have guessed that a significant portion of the film was reshot in a short amount of time. Although, as I mused on Stardust, given what a despicable character Getty was potrayed as, maybe Spacey would not have been the most inapporpriate choice….Still, I applaud the decision and the execution.

All the Money in the World – \m/ \m/ \n

Pitch Perfect 3

I’ll start this the same way I started my Stardust reaction: The Bellas are back, baby, and eh. The things that carry the previous Pitch Perfect movies are the musical numbers and the humor. That’s plenty enough to sustain the movie with their thin plot. This time around however, I wasn’t that into the musical numbers and except for one running gag about Jessica and Ashley, I didn’t find it all that funny. That left us with the thin plot, that got weird.

I was very much in favor of this sequel happening, but it just didn’t live up to what the Bellas are capable of. They deserve better, and there really isn’t much else to say about it.

Pitch Perfect 3 – \m/ \m/ \n


I have one safe haven while in Laredo: the Alamo Drafthouse. One of my strategies is to have my Mom drop me off for a double while she runs errands. This was such a day. The crispy buffalo cauliflower made it all the better.

Ferdinand is the classic story (animated, natch) of the big strong bull who prefers flowers over fighting. And of course, celebrity voices abound, lead by John Cena as our bull. There were so many others that surprised me in the IMDB credits after.

Anyways, I’ll cut right to it. This was cute, and it had a few clever moments, but it’s fairly thin, generic kids stuff. Not too much for us bigger kids. The only redeeming quality is Kate McKinnon as the calming goat Lupe. As far as I was concerned, this was The Lupe Movie, and everything else was just noise.

Ferdinand – \m/ \m/ \n