Bright lands hot in the spotlight as, potentially, one of the worst movies released in 2017. Even with the star power of Will Smith and Joel Edgerton this movie still manages to crumble.
Director David Ayer’s (End of Watch and Suicide Squad) career is starting to become more and more of a roller coaster, sad. On paper, Bright sounded like an intriguing concept – a buddy cop story set in an alternate world where fantasy creatures live side by side with humans. Yes, it sounds goofy but there was some great potential here if done right. Sadly, director Ayer’s newest film completely missed the mark. The film is just as loud and dumb as Suicide Squad was. Bright is a two-dimensional film filled with flimsy storytelling and yawning action sequences. This bloated mess isn't worth defending, Bright is a fantasy-drama done wrong.
Will Smith is a human cop who is forced to work with an Orc (Joel Edgerton) to find a weapon everyone is prepared to kill for. Edgerton tries to muster up a good performance, but is crushed by the weight of Ayer’s sloppy direction. On the other hand, Smith hasn’t starred in a decent movie in about a decade. It's such a pity because he's really a great actor, but over the years he’s been constantly choosing lousy roles. Bright tires to accomplish the hard-hitting cop drama and social commentary mixed with fantasy, but it ultimately falls painfully short of those expectations. In the end, everything else on Netflix is an overall better watch and choice. Netflix’s $90 million big-budget film goes down the drain. “Another one bites the dust.”
Bright is NR (Not Rated).
I don’t have enough words to describe how great this movie is. In the simplest of terms, The Shape of Water is marvelous, just marvelous. It’s my favorite picture of 2017.
Everything about director Guillermo del Toro’s (Pan's Labyrinth) newest creation is exulted to the highest form of perfection. From the writing, to the direction, to the acting; it’s all wonderfully formed with a stroke of tribute to Old Hollywood. Del Toro is a visionary director, who continues to improve on each film he makes. The Shape of Water is one of his finest films to-date. Racking up the awards this season and there’s a good reason why, The Shape of Water has won 41 awards including 2 Golden Globes and 3 Critics’ Choice awards. The film has also been nominated for an astounding 13 Oscars. Plus, the American Film Institute (AFI) selected it as one of the top 10 films of the year.
The Shape of Water is a marvelous movie that will transcend us through a time of both reality and fantasy. This adult fairy tale tells the vivid story of a lonely women, Elisa (a stellar Sally Hawkins), who is mute and is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa works with her friend, Zelda (a magnificent Octavia Spencer), at a hidden high-security government laboratory in Baltimore during the Cold War in the early 1960s. Elisa and Zelda are both janitors scrubbing the facility day in and day out. But, Elisa’s life is about to change when she discovers a secret classified experiment. The ‘Asset’ was captured from a South American river by Colonel Richard Strickland (a wicked Michael Shannon). Strickland is a Bible-thumping sociopath who treats women like dirt and fantasizes about dictatorial leadership in a white man’s world.
The film starts to deepen when Elisa forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature (the outstanding Doug Jones) that is being held in captivity. Her bond is beautifully captured in this modern-day tale of Beauty and the Beast. Del Toro transcends this story into pure forms of love. His attitude for monster movies and Old Hollywood is a feast for your eyes. It’s dazzling and unforgettably romantic, The Shape of Water will engulf you with awe and by the end, sweep you away. Emotions running rapidly throughout Hawkins' nonverbal performance is profoundly absorbing, as we walk alongside her and her notion for love. Also, in the spotlight are actors Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg. Jenkins plays a closeted gay artist living next-door to Elisa; while Stuhlbarg plays Dr. Robert Hoffstetler, a laboratory scientist whose other identity I won’t give away.
Del Toro also pays tribute to The Gill-man in Creature from the Black Lagoon, who inspired the creation of his Amphibian Man. From the gorgeous music, to the green tinted lighting – production design, The Shape of Water hits all of the highlights from this Cold War era. There’s even homage to old movie theaters, as Elisa lives above one in her little apartment. We see several films being played in the background like The Story of Ruth (1960) and Mardi Gras (1958). I could go on and on about this movie because it got so much right in this fairy tale story. Del Toro’s vivid creation receives all five stars from me and is my favorite picture from 2017. The Shape of Water will open your heart and fill it with wondrous imagination. I’ll be rooting for it to win Best Picture this March. The Shape of Water is bold, beautiful and self-absorbing. What a marvel it is to have del Toro back in the movies again.
"This movie is a healing movie for me. ... For nine movies I rephrased the fears of my childhood, the dreams of my childhood, and this is the first time I speak as an adult, about something that worries me as an adult. I speak about trust, otherness, sex, love, where we're going. These are not concerns that I had when I was nine or seven." –Guillermo del Toro
The Shape of Water is rated R (Restricted). For sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language.
I, Tonya is a wild ride from start to finish in this dog-eat-dog world of ours. Plus, the superb performances from both Margot Robbie and Alison Janney helped give this film an extra kick.
Flashy like an American tabloid, I, Tonya retells the unbelievable story of former American figure skater, Tonya Harding. Like her or hate her, this is a movie that speaks volumes regarding our society, politics, gender and all of the above. Setup as a mockumentary-style, as well as breaking the fourth wall, director Craig Gillespie’s (Lars and the Real Girl and 2011's Fright Night) film takes a dramatic look at Harding’s life and the events leading up to the 1994 attack. Harding’s story still reflects how men and even the world treat women in the spotlight, regardless of whether you believe that she played a crucial role in the attack. Women, like Harding, want to be treated equally in our society and not to be viewed as passive objects as some men still see them to be.
This movie screams that through the fourth wall and in the end it’s a complete knockout. This biopic of Harding’s life is a whirlwind from her constant struggle with her aggressive mother (a crude – stellar Janney), to her abusive relationship with her ex-husband (a crazy Sebastian Stan), to the tragic events leading up to the knee bashing of fellow figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan. It’s all on the table. Robbie performs her best role to-date as the sharp mouthed skater endlessly trying to make it to the top. The film recreates interviews with the people associated around this event, minus Kerrigan. We hear from Harding (an outstanding Robbie), LaVona Fay Golden (Janney), Harding’s demon mother; Jeff Gillooly (Stan), Harding’s ex-husband; Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser), Harding’s idiot bodyguard; Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson), Harding's skating coach and Martin Maddox (Bobby Cannavale), a Hard Copy producer.
Coming out 23 years after this fiasco, I, Tonya comes to the theaters and conquers the spotlight again but in a different way. Gillespie’s movie cuts deep as it reflects on the class-conscious America and the exploitation we tend to ignore or dismiss. With a fast-paced script, sharp editing and a moving camera, you’re for an entertaining ride. At times hilarious and at other emotional, Gillespie’s turns this story into a triumph. On top of that, the film is upheld by the grand, at times often darkly comedic, performances from actresses Robbie and Janney. Like a rush of blood to your head, this unbelievable story never misses a beat. By the last frame, this film it hits you like a slap to the face. I, Tonya is 2017’s most fabulous and tragic film to come out. Finally, for better or for worse, Harding is here to stay.
I, Tonya is rated R (Restricted). For pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity.
Poverty and poetry through the eyes of children. The Florida Project is an astonishing movie.
After the announcement this morning from this year's 90th Academy Award nominations, every Sean Baker (director of The Florida Project and 2015's Tangerine) fan out there was left utterly disappointed. The Florida Project received no Oscar love and only managed to grab one nomination for actor Willem Dafoe in a Supporting Role. It’s a harsh blow to such a powerful movie that more people need to see. So, anyone out there still on the fence about seeing this film, don’t let its minimal nominations sway you away. The Florida Project is Baker’s beautiful love letter to those who struggle and are still struggling in this harsh world of ours.
This hidden gem is a feast for the eyes, as we follow the story of a precocious six-year-old, Moonee (a wonderful Brooklynn Prince), and her ragtag group of friends. Baker takes an empathetic look at an underrepresented part of the population in modern America. The color blend of visuals and personality allows The Florida Project to raise sobering questions about the fabric of our society. Childhood is full of wonders, we see this in Moonee and her friend’s summer experiences that's also fueled by their sense of adventure; while the adults around them struggle with hard times. It’s a grand character study, as we observe Moonee, Jancey and Scooty from one block to the next.
Moonee lives with her young mother Halley (an electric Bria Vinaite) in the Magic Castle, a motel in Kissimmee, Florida near Walt Disney World. Moonee and her pals spend most of their days unsupervised, as they engage in mischief, mooching from tourists, stealing, and other misbehavior. They usually get an ice cream or two by the end of it. Baker throws his audience into the eyes of children as we experience at first-hand their language and friendship with each other. Most of the film feels natural as Moonee, Jancey and Scooty travel around the motel and other places in Kissimmee. But, the biggest performance goes to actor Willem Dafoe, who gives a well-guided and heartfelt performance as Bobby the motel manager.
Dafoe’s loving performance as Bobby is one of his best to-date. On the surface, The Florida Project is a purple utopia, but below it lies a place full of conflicts and heartaches. By the end, the film will hit you like a shot to the heart. Go watch it if you have the chance, it receives all five stars from me and will definitely be in my top ten list from 2017. Like a vibrant cinematic playground, we follow these children as they discover their sense of adventure. The depiction of Moonee’s final fantasy through the magical world will bring you onto the verge of tears. “I would like to dedicate this award to all the Moonee’s out there…" “Guys, this is a real problem. You need to go out there and help. Thank you so much.” – Brooklynn Prince.
The Florida Project is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout, disturbing behavior, sexual references and some drug material.
A poetic experience, Call Me by Your Name is 2017’s hidden gem. Full of beauty, heart and the human connection this is a must-see film during awards season. Perfetto!
Director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love and A Bigger Splash) paints a powerful portrait of first love and the heartache that comes attached. Call Me by Your Name is a hidden gem full of rare beauty and desirable surprises. Leading in the spotlight are actors Armie Hammer and newcomer Timothée Chalamet, both embody their respected roles of lovers and dreamers. Hammer finally breaks through the screen and transcends the essence of a man looking for love. While, Chalamet brings to the table a fresh take on the coming-of-age teenager who is enriched in culture. The scenery alone in this movie is breathtaking. Guadagnino gracefully throws his audience into the heart of Italy, which helps blend the core of this story into the backdrop.
Based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman, it's the summer of 1983 in the north of Italy, and Elio (Chalamet), a maturing 17- year-old American-Italian, spends his days in his family's 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). Elio’s father (a wonderful Michael Stuhlbarg) is an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture and his mother Annella (Amira Casar) is a translator. Annella loves to favor both men with the fruits of high culture in a setting that overflows with natural delights. Stuhlbarg gives the father figure a new creation as he treats every guest with compassion. Elio is both sophisticated and intellectual, but also remains innocent, particularly about matters of the heart. One sunny day, Oliver (Hammer), a 24 charming American scholar working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio's father.
At first, Elio is annoyed by Oliver’s brawny wit and laid-backness in using terms like “later.” But then, a spark strikes as Elio’s feelings begin to change towards Oliver as does his. On a bike trip to the town square, they make teasing remarks toward and away from each other. When stopping at a war monument, the camera observes the two at a distance, sadly; Elio and Oliver can't yet verbalize the magnetism in their bodies without making it obvious. The yearning is all there, they just need one of them to make the first move. Call Me by Your Name is a film that draws you in from the first frame until the last. Guadagnino also seamlessly weaves Italian, French and English into the dialogue as the character’s naturally converse with each other. It’s the perfect blend of communication and affection. This is a film that one cannot miss this awards season, as we experience a summer fling blossom onscreen and the heartache that follows.
One scene that stands out in particular, is when Elio’s father confronts him about his relationship with Oliver. The scene is beautifully shot as we see Elio’s father speak to him with tenderness and grace. He is there as a father who loves his son and wants him to embrace that same love in the world. “Then let me say one more thing. It'll clear the air. I may have come close, but I never had what you two have. Something always held me back or stood in the way. How you live your life is your business, just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. And before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now, there's sorrow, pain. Don't kill it and with it the joy you've felt.” Stuhlbarg beautifully speaks these words like a true poet. Call Me by Your Name is a rare romance film that hits these kinds of cinematic heights. It receives all five stars from me. For one shining moment, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever. It's raw emotion filled with tender love.
Call Me by Your Name is rated R (Restricted). For sexual content, nudity and some language.
The Last Jedi broke new ground and soared to new heights in the Star Wars saga. This wasn’t your average sci-fi flick and for that I applaud it. Director Rian Johnson (Looper) also threw in his own creative spark. Plus, superb performances from both Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher. The Last Jedi advanced the universe and blurred the lines between good and evil.
“Time, it is. For you to look past a pile of old books.” – Yoda
A grand experience, indeed. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the popcorn flick to watch this winter season. It’s a bold look into these beloved characters and takes the saga to untouched territory like you’ve never seen before. Some fans might find these advancements polarizing to their dreams and theories, but I say job well done. The Last Jedi honor’s the originally trilogy’s rich legacy, but isn’t afraid to move on to newer material. This to me was exciting and left my head spinning by the end of the film. Striking in at a long 152 minutes, this is the longest Star Wars film to-date.
Without giving too much away, Rey (a strong Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (the master actor, Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares for battle with the First Order. Johnson weaves in three storylines throughout the film: Rey and Luke’s story, Finn (a fantastic John Boyega) and new character Rose’s (a wonderful Kelly Marie Tran) story and General Leia Organa's (the fierce Fisher) Resistance vs. the First Order story. Some might think that act two during Finn and Rose’s story dragged a bit, but it’s a slow burner and crucial puzzle piece to fill for the final act in this film. Everything comes full circle and even takes on some wild twists.
Hamill has never been better in the role as Luke, he digs down deeper into his character shocking your inner Jedi to the core. He's grumpy, sarcastic, and a blast to watch on the big screen. Actor Adam Driver also delivers another solid performance as the baddie, Kylo Ren A.K.A. Ben Solo. Coming off the murder of his father, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in The Force Awakens, Kylo is ragging with fury and greed. Johnson continues to peel away layers of Ren’s character throughout the film leaving him at his most vulnerable. The Last Jedi is a middle chapter epic and continues Disney’s reign of good fortune. Johnson does something here that I haven’t seen since The Empire Strikes Back and that’s infuse passion into the heart of the story's emotional core. This was a grand addition to the Star Wars canon and a new hope for further advancement in this new age of storytelling.
The Last Jedi is no copycat here in the way of storytelling, as we see an arousing new chapter filled with eye-popping action. The film dazzles and then some by the end of its 152 minutes run-time. Actor’s Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro also help with the chapter eight's vision and growth as they all perform to perfection. Add in some old friends (Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO) with some new ones (Rose Tico, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo and Porgs) and you get a galaxy full of nostalgia with new surprises. The Last Jedi is a triumph for any sci-fi fans out there as it blurred the lines between good and evil. It receives all five stars from me. May the Force be with this epic film. “The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.” – Luke.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
James Franco and Seth Rogen’s movie about the worst movie ever made (2003’s The Room) is possibly their best movie they’ve ever made. The Disaster Artist is a charming hit and a crowd cheering pleasure for 2017.
Where to begin? 2003’s The Room was directed, written, produced and starred Tommy Wiseau A.K.A. the mystery man of Hollywood. With all due respect, Wiseau and his feature film are an enigma. Wiseau is known for his mane of jet-black hair and unusual fashion sense — multiple belts and black sunglasses at all times. We still have yet to find out where he’s originally from, how old he is and where is fortune comes from…? “So, people ask me, ‘Where you come from?’ Right? So, what’d you wanna do? Which country do you pick? Um, you know, I pick New Orleans.” This has been his go-to city for years. Wiseau spent $6 million of his own money on The Room, blowing most of it on follies like buying film equipment instead of renting and insisting on shooting both digitally and on film.
Yes, you heard that right! He shot The Room in both digital and film. The film centers on a melodramatic love triangle between amiable banker Johnny (Wiseau), his deceptive fiancée Lisa (actor Juliette Danielle) and his conflicted best friend Mark (actor Greg Sestero). Sestero later went on to write his 2013 novel, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, which was a behind the scenes look at this troubled development and his relationship with Wiseau. Later, director James Franco would pick-up the book and decide to turn it into a full-blown film. The Room has been pinned has one of the worst films ever made, yet people keep going back and watching it. It gained a cult following and has had countless midnight showings over the last 14 years.
While Wiseau’s film is with no doubt awful, nevertheless; it questioned the very film nature of quality and routinely became a midnight guilty pleasure. For this, I cannot give The Room a star rating. It’s a piece of bad art hanging from the wall that you are constantly observing over and over again. Which leads us to 2017’s The Disaster Artist, the life of a man inspiring to make a feature length film in the industry. Now, a Golden Globe winner for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, Franco’s portrayal as Wiseau is shockingly good. He’s a knockout in the role, sunglasses and all. Behind James is his younger brother Dave Franco, who portrays the best friend Greg Sestero and his first count view from the tale. D. Franco gives us an exciting and complex look into the coming-of-age life as Sestero.
The Franco Bros. go full throttle into this juicy story of friendship and absurdity. The Disaster Artist is chop full of magical moments like unforgettable lines (“Oh, hai Mark.,” “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!, “ and “Oh hai doggy!”), the constant footballing, the creepy billboard, the terrible green screen and of course Zac Efron’s ragging performance as Chris-R. You’re going to have a blast. The Disaster Artist has found its niche and delivers one of the funniest movies of 2017 and also one of the sweetest. In the end, The Disaster Artist is a grand tribute to “the best worst movie ever.” "I realized this year that I had my own Franco Brother. I love him more than anything. Thanks to my mother for giving him to me." I am looking forward too many future films to follow these heights from the Franco Bros.
The Disaster Artist is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.
A disappointing turnout at what could have been a truly great film for 2017. The performances by Steve Carrell and Emma Stone are both solid as their respected title roles, but the letdown from the film comes from the unfocused writing and direction.
Battle of the Sexes dramatizes the events leading up to the 1973 match between Billie Jean King (Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Carell) and their personal lives. The story follows the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women's movement, the 1973 tennis-match between women's World #1 Billie Jean King and ex-men's-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs was billed as the “BATTLE OF THE SEXES” and became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world. This is some exciting material for a film and one that could reach out to our current generation. Unfortunately, as timely as the story is the writing from Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and direction from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) seemed to be unfocused.
The pacing was off and the film dragged all the way up until the prestigious match. But, Stone and Carrell’s performances were on par and deserve much attention here. Carrell was overall funny and brought an extra layer of complexity to his character; while Stone was fierce and shined in her role as Billy Jean. Both Carell and Stone earned Golden Globe nominations for their work. If anything, watch this film for the actors and their portrayal of these iconic people. 2017's Battle of the Sexes proved that just because a movie's story is timely doesn't mean that the overall product will turnout great. Due to the slow pacing and flimsy writing on a landmark story of the woman’s movement, in the end, stick to the 2013 documentary rather than this feature film.
Battle of the Sexes is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some sexual content and partial nudity.
For Your Consideration:
In Their Own League
Mashley at the Movies
Mike, Mike, and Oscar
Next Best Picture
The Movie Oracle
Untitled Cinema Gals Project