December 2019

1917

by Alan Rapp on December 27, 2019

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: 1917
  • IMDb: link

1917 movie reviewBased on actual events that occurred during World War I, 1917 follows two British soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) sent alone across enemy territory to warn of an impending ambush by the German Army. The script from director Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns strips down to the bare essentials avoiding obvious tropes and cliches from war movies to deliver one of the most memorable entries to the genre in recent years which was based on a story Mendes’ grandfather told him as a child. Exceptionally well shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, 1917 is a movie of heroism, sacrifice, and survival that is marvelous to behold.

For a film about war, 1917 is a deceptively quiet film that builds tension between the moments of action (equally as memorable as its quite sequences) as our protagonists race to prevent more than 1,000 troops (including a brother) from walking into the enemy’s deadly trap while performing what appears to the British line as a hasty retreat. Along the way, Mendes sprinkles in supporting performances from the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Richard Madden, but the film belongs to the two soldiers on their own past the German line on a suicide mission to deliver a message in time.

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Little Women

by Alan Rapp on December 25, 2019

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Little Women (2019)
  • IMDb: link

Little Women movie reviewGreta Gerwig becomes the latest to adapt Louisa May Alcott’s popular novel (over the years it has been adapted more than a dozen times to film and television as well as both a musical and opera). The semi-autobiographical tale follows the lives of the four March sisters (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen) following the Civil War.

Saoirse Ronan gets the most screentime as the rebellious Jo, a writer with dreams and desires that don’t always fit the conventions of her time. Watson is perhaps underused as the elder and more conventional Meg, while Pugh sinks her teeth into the more complex Amy. Scanlen is put to good use as the tragic and talented Beth. And Timothée Chalamet smolders as the boy next door.

The film is divided into later years with Jo in New York and Amy in Paris with flashbacks to the family all living under the same roof. The structure allows Gerwig to highlight themes that repeat and keep coming back to the tight family unit even after tragedy and time have taken their toll on the March family.

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Uncut Gems

by Alan Rapp on December 24, 2019

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Uncut Gems
  • IMDb: link

Uncut Gems movie reviewAs in 2017’s Good Time, the Safdie brothers offer a tale of a man whose world is crashing down on him. In Uncut Gems that man is jeweler, philanderer, and addicted gambler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) whose life, in his opinion, is always just one-step away from the big score that can change everything. Howard has a dissatisfied wife (Idina Menzel) and kids, is sleeping with one of his employees (Julia Fox), owes markers all over town including to his brother-in-law (Eric Bogosian), bets any money he can get on sports, and has sunk much of his savings into an an uncut opal from Ethiopia. When his hero worship gets the best of him and he allows Kevin Garnett (playing himself) to hold onto the gem for a night, Howard’s life begins to unravel strand-by-strand.

Sandler’s Howard is the architect of his own failure. While I couldn’t find reason to root for or against his need to reach for one long shot after the other, Uncut Gems does offer an intriguing look at a man being crushed by his own bad choices. But, because I could never invest any emotion into the outcome of Howard’s various schemes, Uncut Gems effect on me was limited. Without a stake in success or failure, I simply watched events unfold with curiosity.

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The Two Popes

by Alan Rapp on December 24, 2019

in Home Video

  • Title: The Two Popes
  • IMDb: link

The Two Popes movie reviewNow stop me if you’ve heard this one, two Popes walk into the Vatican… Director Fernando Meirelles and screenwriter Anthony McCarten offer this amusing tale of the relationship that develops between two men with opposing views of Catholicism in the world. It just so happens that both of those men would become Pope. Opening with Pope Benedict XVI’s (Anthony Hopkins) election over a reluctant Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), the film moves forward seven years during a tumultous time for the Catholic Church where Benedict will look at his formal rival as the best hope for the church.

With the simple set-up, McCarten sets the stage and allows Hopkins and Pryce to play off of each other offering insights into both men struggling to find common ground. Pryce gets the better deal with the more layered Jorge who, thanks to Benedict’s prodding, would go on to become Pope Francis. Hopkins gets stuck with the more straightforward Benedict, but the set-up offers him challenges in attempting to convince a man whose views of the church he disagrees with to take a job he doesn’t desire.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

by Alan Rapp on December 23, 2019

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
  • IMDb: link

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker movie reviewWith The Rise of Skywalker J.J. Abrams returns to close-out the sequel trilogy which began with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Not content to end just this series, Abrams intends the film to work as the climax to all nine of the Star Wars films featuring mentions, Easter Eggs, and callbacks from every film (and even some of the various animated TV series). The shift also forces a change in the tone of the arc of the series as Rian Johnson‘s look to the future is replaced with a story tied very much to the past.

One of the complaints some had to The Last Jedi was the film wasn’t fan friendly enough. The Rise of Skywalker goes a bit overboard in attempting fix a problem which in my opinion didn’t exist in the first place. The result is a final entry to the franchise that feels like an attempt to placate more vocal fans by asking less of them the final time around and offering up a heaping of nostalgia and fan service instead. It’s more Return of the Jedi than Star Wars. On an emotional level, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker works. It’s a cathartic farewell to these characters. Story wise, however, it’s the weakest of the three sequel films.

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