Green Book is the crowd-pleaser of 2018. A strong, yet safe, film dealing with race relations, bigotry, and acceptance towards other human beings.
Nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, Green Book is a heartfelt picture that may move some to tears. Actor’s Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen are outstanding in their title roles, while their chemistry rides smoothly together. As we drift farther South with our characters the film’s subject matter stays light, never too heavy, and keeps you focused. It’s a movie that demonstrates what real social change can do and a message that’s still relevant for our country today. Yesterday, Mortensen and Ali received Oscar nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Mortensen) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ali). Both actors are exceptional here and help uplift the film overall. Our film follows the true story of Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, who is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a world-class African-American pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South in the 1960s.
During their tour through the Deep South, Tony must rely on "The Green Book" to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Along the way, Tony and Dr. Shirley are confronted with racism and danger. This becomes an eye-opener for Tony, while this is a normal everyday occurrence for Dr. Shirley. Through their journey together, they find each other’s humanity and are uplifted by humor, establishing a lifelong bond. Writer-director Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary) wonderfully crafts this picture, yet he decided to keep the overall subject matter relatively safe. Most people will rejoice at this, but I wished that Green Book could have dug deeper into its tough source of material.
But that’s not stopping people from seeing it. Green Book had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, where it won the People's Choice Award. It won the National Board of Review (NBR) award of best film of 2018 and was also chosen as one of the Top 10 by the American Film Institute (AFI). The film also received numerous award nominations, including winning the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture (PGA) and Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. While audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare average grade of "A+" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 85% positive score and an 80% "definite recommend".
There's a scene in the film, that really struck me, where Dr. Shirley exclaims to Tony in the pouring rain: “So if I'm not *black* enough and if I'm not *white* enough, then tell me, Tony, what am I?” This emotional scene stood out from the rest and showed Dr. Shirley’s conflicting struggle with being himself. Raw and compelling, Ali delivers some powerhouse moments throughout this film. Overall, Green Book is a good movie and it is worth your time. As we ride with Tony and Dr. Shirley, the audience discovers their own vitality of being your most authentic. Green Book dwells with real social change and this is expressed through everyday kindness, at a time when our country and the world in general need it more than ever.
Green Book is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence and suggestive material.
The Favourite is a rich period piece full of captivating leads (Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone), timely subtext, and dark humor. A twisted satire that will be admired more overtime for cinema. It receives a five-star review from me.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ (The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer) rich period piece is a film that will surely get under your skin. With its cunning dialogue and wicked humor, The Favourite is an eccentric picture of madness. Lanthimos’ masterwork is full of wit, profanity, and sexual desires. In addition, the film is chop full of elegant costumes and breathtaking production designs. Along with fish-eyed camera viewpoints, The Favourite messes with your head. Oscar will most likely bow to this Queen. It’s the early 18th century and England is at war with France. A maddening Queen Anne (the wonderful Olivia Colman) sits at the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah (a cunning Rachel Weisz), helps govern the country in her stead. Colman was born to play this role, as she brings out the Queen’s inner humanity – sweet and ugly.
Queen Anne is ill at health but still has a vicious temper. While Lady Sarah’s comfort to power is about to be shaken. When a new servant Abigail (the never better Emma Stone) arrives, her noble charm takes an acquaintance to the Queen's liking. Lady Sarah and Abigail begin their own war and pursuit to see who can stay on top as the Queen’s right-hand woman. They’ll do anything for power, like sleeping with the Queen or feeding her sweets in bed or even taking care of her pet rabbits. Along with this interweaving plot, comes a British statesman played by a brilliant Nicholas Hoult. Robert Harley (Hoult) is also power hungry and is trying to make his way up the Parliament ladder. Harley and Abigail make an alliance to take control and to push out Lady Sarah from the Queen’s inner circle. This film is an artistic triumph for Lanthimos, backed by mesmerizing performances from Colman, Weisz, and Stone. Their dynamic trio will leave you jaw-dropped by the end.
The film received multiple awards and nominations, it won two awards in the Venice International Film Festival the Grand Jury Prize and the Volpi Cup for Best Actress (Colman), 10 British Independent Film Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress (Colman), Best Supporting Actress (Weisz), Best Director, and Best Screenplay. It was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture and was ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 10 films of 2018. Fingers crossed it receives a handful of Oscar nominations tomorrow. This strange tale of love, corruption, and desire showcases the ugliness of partisan politics. A drama of gnashing teeth and political insanity is an instant classic and will be more cinematically appreciated over time. The Favourite will leave you laughing in one scene and uncomfortable in the next. It stands tall like a ravishing game of chess. The sadism experienced by these Royals will stick with you from the first frame until the last. “Some wounds do not close; I have many such.” Blimey, I command you to see it.
The Favourite is rated R (Restricted). For strong sexual content, nudity and language.
An action-heist film infused with political undertones and social commentary. Director Steve Rodney McQueen’s Widows is a stellar popcorn movie with a message.
2018’s Widows is smart, sophisticated, and fiercely led by an empowering Viola Davis. Topped with stunning camerawork, an engaging storyline, and a dash of originality; Widows is one of the best films from 2018. Director Steve McQueen continues to show off his impressive film resume (Hunger, Shame, and 12 Years a Slave). Leave it to McQueen to infuse a popcorn thriller with social and political commentary. McQueen continues to showcase his directing chops, proving that he can master any genre. Widows is a smart heist film with a message, as our movie layers in a juicy narrative stuffed with character analysis. This crime drama delivers the goods and packs a punch one scene after another. Topped with an all-star cast, consisting of Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Garret Dillahunt, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson; Widows is one of the best films to hit the theaters in 2018.
Widows is co-written by bestselling author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl and Sharp Objects), as she explores the storyline involving four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, these leading ladies decide to take fate into their own hands, conspiring to forge a better future for themselves. Davis’ strong and venomous acting will knock the wind out of you. While Kaluuya is a complete knockout as the sly Chicago henchman. On top of that, Rodriguez, Debicki, and Erivo are killer in their top-notched supporting roles. There are tons of twists and turns along the way, so I won’t spoil them for you. The film juggles multiple narratives that grapple with each character’s right or wrong decision. Everything from the minor details hidden within the film is carefully constructed. There’s a scene where McQueen deals with police brutality and spread along the back frame are Barack Obama “Hope” posters.
As our scene unfolds with a young African-American man being pulled over on the side of the road, I couldn’t help but notice Obama’s solemn face looking from a distance onto the young man as he is being shot by the two police officers. There’s also another fascinating scene where we see Colin Farrell’s character get into a car and drive off. The camera stays outside the vehicle, letting us observe the neighborhood they are driving through. At the start, the neighborhood is poor and decaying, yet when Farrell’s character reaches his destination a couple of blocks away, the neighborhood is a complete 180°. Farrell’s house is rich, blissful, and privileged. Here, McQueen is representing the different levels of social classes and the hardships and injustices that come attached with them for the minority communities. This is where Widows stands tall compared to other action-heist films. McQueen’s powerhouse film-masquerade is bold storytelling, full of cinematic escapism and originality. Like a sledgehammer, Widows dips into themes of class, religion, gender, race, and injustice. With Widows, you’re in for a wild ride. Buckle up.
Widows is rated R (Restricted). For violence, language throughout, and some sexual content/nudity.
With the 91st Academy Awards right around the corner, let's take a look back at my favorite movies from the year 2012. This was a year of film's centering around intimacy, self-sacrifice, and change for the greater good. – Arnold At The Movies.
Private Life takes a microscope approach in studying one couple’s personal struggles with infertility. This affecting story descends deeper into the lives of Richard (Academy Award-nominee Paul Giamatti) and Rachel (Kathryn Hahn), as we personally connect with their pain and love binding this film together. It's one of the best from 2018.
Private Life is a portrait of reality and the burdens that come with it. Writer-director Tamara Jenkins (Juliet, Naked and The Savages) guides the audience through a rough journey, resulting in a rewardingly raw look at a husband and wife desperate for a family. Giamatti and Hahn wonderfully connect together during this heart-rending experience. With sharp writing executed by Jenkins, Private Life is a profound motion picture that goes beyond the central realms of past dramedies and produces something much more raw and real. Distributed by Netflix, our film follows Richard (a strong Paul Giamatti) and Rachel (a knockout Kathryn Hahn), a middle-aged couple in the throes of infertility as it takes a toll on their marriage.
Both high in literature, Rachel is a playwriter and Richard is a theatre director. They try artificial insemination (AI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), all which fail. At the same time, they are also attempting to adopt a child after having previously being matched with a pregnant teenager from Arkansas who was in the process of giving up her child, then stopped contacting them. Jenkins unravels an honest and painfully personal portrayal for the viewers. This is Jenkins' first film back in the director’s chair since The Savages (2007). It’s been eleven years, yet her patience in storytelling and keen filmmaking craft never ceases to still amaze me. Jenkins knows how to develop a narrative that can both have you laughing and crying all at once.
Giamatti and Hahn are a revelation on screen together as their chemistry rewardingly morphs together. After the IVF fails, Richard and Rachel decide to go a different route, by asking Richard’s step-niece, Sadie (a wonderful Kayli Carter), to become an egg donor for them. Sadie is a 25-year-old, who has recently decided to drop out of college. She agrees to donate one of her eggs and comes to stay with them in their flat on East 6th Street and Avenue A, in Lower Manhattan, NY. Private Life is a bumpy ride, but Jenkins exquisitely guides us through that trek. At the end of this painful battle, we find empathy and love with Richard and Rachel. Private Life is a bona fide movie that’s not afraid, to tell the truth, warts and all.
Private Life is rated R (Restricted). For strong sexual content, some graphic nudity, and language.
Holmes & Watson involuntarily put its name into the hat as possibly the worst movie of 2018. Yes, it’s that bad.
Holmes & Watson is so painfully unfunny that I am not sure it can even register as a comedy. This star-studded mess consisting of Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Rebecca Hall, Kelly Macdonald, Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Laurie, and Steve Coogan is incoherent and dreadful from the beginning until the end. A sad parody that violates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous work and most prized possession, Sherlock Holmes. Director Etan Cohen’s (Get Hard) mockery hinted in the trailers that it might potentially be humorous. Yet, the movie comes out almost laugh-free, filled with tasteless gags and over-the-top antics. It’s a new low for Ferrell and Reilly, who in the past have both achieved great comedic chemistry on screen together. These heights were in films like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers.
While Reilly was also having an acclaimed year being in top film’s like The Sister Brothers, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Stan & Ollie. Yet, this pile of heap seems to cast a shadow over those big achievements of his. Holmes & Watson is the lowest form of comedy if it could even be called a comedy. 2018 was a grand accomplishment for superb films hitting new heights for the industry. While this sad display of cinema gets squashed by the Hollywood Elites like a fly on the wall. With the exception of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it's been a rough year for Sony Pictures. Distributing movies like Peter Rabbit, Venom, and now this. They'd be better off getting hacked again. Holmes & Watson earns zero stars from me and has my vote for one of the worst movies produced in 2018. For the record, that’s a high honor for this godforsaken tragedy. God save the queen, but not this film.
Holmes & Watson is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For crude sexual material, some violence, language and drug references.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is another ambitious feature perfectly executed by the Coen brothers. This six-part Western anthology film explores the American frontier blended through dark drama and black humor.
The Coen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit) are at it again, delivering another satisfying picture. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is one of their most ambitious films to date. This Western anthology film dices up six personal stories into the 133-minute running time. Here, we are introduced to a variety of characters and places in the Wild West. The titles of these six stories are as followed: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Near Algodones, Meal Ticket, All Gold Canyon, The Gal Who Got Rattled, and The Mortal Remains. My personal favorite was the All Gold Canyon storyline. The actors who make-up these six stories are Time Blake Nelson, David Krumholtz, Clancy Brown, James Franco, Stephen Root, Jesse Luken, Liam Neeson, Harry Melling, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson, and Saul Rubinek.
Distributed by Netflix, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs made its way into every household showcasing Friday night vignettes. The film premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay. The National Board of Review (NBR) also named it one of the top ten best films of 2018. The stellar writing will captivate you, while displaying lushes’ landscapes filled with mad people. This character-rich picture unveils the talented craft formed by the Coen brothers. As we watch each story unfold, we are also struck by the visual treasure of the, sometimes, muted and dusty landscape of the West. Strikingly photographed, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is one of the most unique movies of 2018. A crazy concept smoothly weaved together by the Coen brothers. Funny, dark, and ghastly rewarding, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs prints its mark in cinema for years to follow.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is rated R (Restricted). For some strong violence.