Marriage Story (2019) & 1917 (2019) Reviews

As the Oscars are this weekend, I figured I better post my reviews for the Best Picture nominees this week. Below is a re-post of my review of Marriage Story & a new review for 1917. Well, a mini-review of 1917. Okay – it’s not much of a review for 1917!

Marriage Story (2019)

Directed & Written by Noah Baumbach

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever

Music by Randy Newman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a married couple (Johansson and Driver) going through a coast-to-coast divorce.

My Opinion:

I honestly don’t get the hype over this movie. And I’ve never understood the love for Adam Driver – that gross guy who had gross sex with gross Lena Dunham in gross Girls?! I just feel very out of touch with people the past several years. I see people raving about movies on Twitter so I watch those movies and end up extremely underwhelmed. Is it just me? Why do these same films fail to move me? Because I felt NOTHING while watching this. I didn’t feel that this couple had any sort of meaningful connection or any chemistry whatsoever so found it very hard to feel upset over the breakdown of a marriage that we saw so little of and didn’t get to witness developing in any way. We’re suddenly thrown in at the end of the marriage when they apparently don’t like each other anymore.

I think Driver & Johansson are okay actors (Johansson more than Driver). But they felt like actors in this movie. I felt like I was watching a play that was almost as boring as the ones directed by Driver’s “brilliant” character in this movie. And Johansson’s character was of course an actress. Despite Noah Baumbach sticking to that rule of “write what you know” and clearly writing about his own lifestyle, this movie somehow managed to make these characters feel anything but real to me. It was just odd as one of the main things I saw on Twitter was “This movie is so real!”. Seriously? Am I just dead inside? All I saw were two bland and self-absorbed people not loving OR hating each other enough to build up to that “I wish you were dead!” (or whatever he said) scene. We saw so little of their marriage anyway that I didn’t give a shit when they finally had a damn fight like normal couples do.

I don’t know. Maybe it is just me. I don’t blame either Driver or Johansson, though, as I think the writing here is the problem. This movie is just not my sort of thing. It’s the pretentious & self-indulgent side of “indie” that I can’t stand. It crosses that indie line for me (I don’t know if it fits the indie definition but, who cares, it’s still indie as hell). I either love or hate these types of films. On the right side of the line we have films such as the Richard Linklater ones with brilliant dialogue and characters who are intriguing and fun to watch. Then we cross the line into Wes Anderson movies and, based on the two films I’ve now seen, Noah Baumbach movies. Self-absorbed characters in movies that think they’re much more important & intelligent than they actually are. Marriage Story isn’t awful it just isn’t anything groundbreaking and I didn’t care about the characters. I’ve seen this story plenty of times before but with characters who were much more believable & sympathetic. And don’t even get me started on the kid in this movie! Bloody hell – he’s eight (or so I read) but written like a thoroughly annoying four-year-old. Sorry but no eight-year-old acts like this idiot kid. Was he written by someone who has never been around children? I didn’t expect to hate the poor kid in this movie. Wow. Hey, Hollywood – learn how to write child characters!

My Rating: 5.5/10

1917 (2019)

Directed by Sam Mendes

Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch

Music by Thomas Newman

Cinematography Roger Deakins

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
1917 chronicles the story of two young British soldiers during World War I who are tasked with delivering a message calling off an attack doomed to fail soon after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich in 1917. This message is especially important to one of the young soldiers as his brother is taking part in the pending attack.

My Opinion:

Shit. This was a good film & all that but it’s just not my type of thing. I struggle to force myself to watch war movies. To be fair, there are plenty I do think are great (The Bridge On The River Kwai, The Great Escape, Full Metal Jacket, etc). This one looked great & the “feels like one shot” thing was interesting but honestly a bit distracting. I can see how some probably loved it, though, as it does feel like you’re taking this same journey with these characters. But for some reason I didn’t feel much emotion during this one, though I’m not sure why. The performances were perfectly fine. Again, I may have just been too distracted by the way it was filmed. 1917 is a good film and it’s a great technical achievement but, I’m sorry, I was a bit bored. I’m sorry! I have no class. I’ll still give it a decent rating since I know it’s a good film. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins Best Picture (but I’d like to see something less predictable win).

My Rating: 7/10

Mary Poppins Returns (2018) Review

Happy New Year, everyone! I have a couple of leftover movies that I saw in the cinema in December but didn’t review: Mary Poppins Returns & Aquaman. I’ll try to review Aquaman tomorrow (enjoyed that way more than I was expecting!). Then I’ll try to post my December Roundup next week followed by my 2018 Year-End Top Ten Lists. Woohoo! I love lists! 🙂

Here’s my review of Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Directed by Rob Marshall

Based on Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in 1930s London, twenty-five years after the events of the original film, it sees Mary Poppins, the former nanny of Jane and Michael Banks, returning after a family tragedy.

My Opinion:

This was fine. Somewhat enjoyable. A bit “So what?”. Completely pointless. I’ve been getting very bored with sequels, prequels, reboots, etc etc etc. I want to see something new. We have a fantastic Mary Poppins film already with a practically perfect Julie Andrews (she’s actually perfect – Andrews IS Mary Poppins). I know reboots, etc, work occasionally and I admit that it can be fun to once again see beloved characters. I think I come across as grumpy too often on this blog! I like the continuation of stories with characters that I like sometimes. But I don’t like when they feel like cash-grabs and/or they feel pointless or just don’t work and feel like inferior copies. Mary Poppins Returns felt like an inferior copy to me.

The thing I disliked the most about this movie is what I thought I would most enjoy: I really didn’t like Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins. I normally love Blunt and thought she was the perfect choice when cast. The way she speaks in this got on my nerves (too posh – it sounded phoney) and this film actually made the character somewhat unlikeable. She seemed too stern whereas Andrews was also stern but there was a kindness and playfulness that Blunt didn’t manage to convey. To be fair, I’ve not read the books and Blunt’s version may be more faithful. But a lot of us grew up watching Andrews so I can’t help but compare Blunt to Mary Poppins in the original film. Andrews will always be the only Mary Poppins to me.

The other thing they were never going to live up to in this was the songs in the original film, which are some of the catchiest Disney songs ever. I saw this about a week ago and I can’t say I can immediately remember how any of the songs went. There were a couple that were okay but nothing very memorable, unlike things like A Spoonful Of Sugar or Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Okay – one final thing & then I’ll try to say something nice: The story in this was pretty dull as well. Not that anyone is watching this for some complex plot so this isn’t a huge complaint for me. It was just such a predictable & uninteresting story.

Now onto the good things about this movie! I thought some of the sets looked pretty great (I enjoyed the dance number with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the lamplighters as well as the lovely balloon bit at the end). The film was colorful and I loved the costumes, especially what Mary Poppins wore (I like her funky shoes). Speaking of Lin-Manuel Miranda, I liked his character. He was probably my favorite of the new main characters (I found most the others a bit dull, though, and Meryl Streep’s bit was a bit stupid and felt thrown in there just to add Meryl Streep to yet another movie). Oh, and my favorite bits of all: Dick Van Dyke and especially Angela F*^king Lansbury!

Lansbury rules! Love her so much. Have loved her since Murder, She Wrote, which is a totally awesome show (don’t you dare tell me otherwise). And she’s Mrs. Potts, people! And she sounds exactly the same now at 93 as she did in Beauty And The Beast! Lansbury is a national treasure, just like Julie Andrews. By the way – why didn’t Andrews have a cameo?? Perhaps it’s better she’s not associated with this version but giving Lansbury & Van Dyke cameos was the best thing this movie did and really added to my enjoyment. I briefly felt like a kid again thanks to them. I’ll give this movie half a point more just for the addition of Lansbury & Van Dyke…

My Rating: 6.5/10

The King’s Speech (2010) IMDB Top 250 Review

The King’s Speech (2010)

Directed by Tom Hooper

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 160 as of 01/01/13

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
The story of King George VI, his impromptu ascension to the throne of the British Empire in 1936, and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch overcome his stammer.

My Opinion:

Happy Boxing Day! I love this day. I prefer this day to Christmas Day. Far less stressful! Which is why I’ve decided to do a mega quick & lazy review of The King’s Speech, which was one of only three movies I managed to watch for my IMDb Top 250 Project in 2018. I’m seriously slacking on that! (The other two were Citizen Kane & Metropolis, which I’ll review tomorrow).

I didn’t get around to this review as I don’t have much to say about this movie. I hate that. I mean, it’s a good film but I find my reviews only get wordy when I really love or really hate a film (I ramble on for ages when I really hate something). Too many films are somewhere in between: Enjoyable enough while watching them but somewhat forgettable. The King’s Speech is like that. And it won Best Picture at the Oscars! Hmm. Here’s what it beat:

127 Hours (not seen it – there’s that arm bit – ew)
Black Swan (certainly more memorable than The King’s Speech)
The Fighter (meh)
Inception (Nolan is overrated)
The Kids Are All Right (meh)
The Social Network (decent film but also meh)
Toy Story 3 (yeah, I prefer this to The King’s Speech)
True Grit (not seen it)
Winter’s Bone (meh)

Okay – it looks like it was a weak year for films. Now I’m wondering what wasn’t nominated at all that may have been better than these (I’m too lazy to bother looking into that).

I remember that I watched this just after watching Darkest Hour so it was interesting seeing that same time period in English history. Movies are the only way I gain any knowledge of history – I have such a Hollywood version of world history in my head. Pathetic, I know. What can I say? I prefer sci-fi & fantasy. I remember thinking Timothy Spall made for a terrible Winston Churchill in this compared to Gary Oldman’s brilliant performance. Not that it matters – it was a very small part since this movie is about King George VI. Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter were all truly fantastic in their roles. That’s why it won Best Picture. Those Academy voters love historical dramas with English accents. Well, Rush isn’t English but Americans can’t tell the difference anyway…

Colin Firth won Best Actor for this, which I think was fair enough. He’s very good in this but I find him rather boring. He plays this stuffy sort of role so often (which is why I guess it was kind of fun seeing him in Kingsman: The Secret Service). I really enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter’s performance and think she deserved an Oscar as well instead of Melissa Leo in The Fighter. Hell, I don’t even remember Leo’s performance – I only remember her swearing in her acceptance speech. To be fair, Bonham Carter plays these stuffy sort of roles more often than Firth but I don’t find her boring. She’s damn good. I’ve never considered myself a fan but I think she always gives a great performance. Maybe I am a fan?? I’ve not watched her stuffiest stuff, though. Maybe I should check out some of that Merchant Ivory shit?? As for Geoffrey Rush, he’s fantastic in this too and also deserved an Oscar (instead of Christian Bale in The Fighter – I hate Bale). But I think Geoffrey Rush is the latest celeb in trouble for some sex stuff from the past so I’ll say no more. At this rate, I’ll have to delete half my blog if I have to get rid of any mention of certain actors…

I said I’d keep this short. The King’s Speech is a good film with fantastic performances. It’s one of those “one-time watch” movies, though. I’m glad I’ve seen it and I did actually enjoy it but I can’t imagine ever watching it again for any reason. It’s certainly weak compared to all the other Best Picture winners & nominees in the history of the Oscars. It’s certainly not the worst, though (I’m looking at you, The English F*%king Patient!). Since I’m a sad & pathetic list maniac, I did rank every Best Picture Oscar Winner I’ve seen HERE and I’ve now added The King’s Speech. It’s toward the bottom but I did enjoy it. I feel like I’m being too harsh on this one! It’s just not all-time classic “Best Picture” material. Or IMDb Top 250 material, which is why I think this has actually now dropped out of that list (I started this project in 2013 so I’m still working off the list from that time).

My Rating: 7/10

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) Review

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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Screenplay by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn

Based on The Secret Service by Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons

Starring:
Colin Firth
Samuel L Jackson
Mark Strong
Taron Egerton
Michael Caine
Sofia Boutella
Sophie Cookson
Mark Hamill

Running time: 129 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

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My Opinion:

I’ve gone to a bunch of Oscar nominated movies so far this year (Birdman, Foxcatcher, Whiplash…). I could have gone to The Theory Of Everything yesterday but decided I needed a break from all that worthiness and went to Kingsman: The Secret Service instead. It certainly doesn’t take itself seriously and was a lot more fun than all those Oscar nominated ones. I’d rank Whiplash above Kingsman but I certainly enjoyed it more than than Foxcatcher or Birdman. Yes! I rank everything I watch HERE. Doesn’t everyone do that?! 😉

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Kingsman is from director/writer team Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman. They also gave us the delightful Stardust (did I just use the word “delightful”?), Layer Cake & X-Men: First Class. Oh yeah, and Kick-Ass. I freaking hate Kick-Ass! So they’ve once again adapted a comic book by Mark Millar. I won’t even begin to pretend I know anything about The Secret Service comic book so this review is based only on the movie. Anyway – Vaughn & Goldman’s movies are quite varied. Which one is Kingsman the most similar to? You all probably know by now that it’s Kick-Ass crossed with James Bond (I also hate James Bond!). Yet… It works. I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the excessive violence. And, yes, this thing is violent! Wow. I’m a wuss but the gore was more “comedic” than gross and some of the deaths were fantastic (especially a finale toward the end – brilliant). Oh, Vaughn is also married to Claudia Schiffer. Schwing! She’s a babe. How did he manage that??

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They’ve done a fantastic job casting this movie. I’ve never been a huge fan of Colin Firth but he’s PERFECT in this – I loved him. Michael Caine is a pretty obvious choice for his role but it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing his character. Samuel L Jackson is his usual over-the-top self but, hey, that’s what we all love about him! I also really liked newcomer Taron Egerton as the young council estate troublemaker Colin Firth takes under his wing – I can see him being in many more films after this one. It’s also good having two decent female characters – Sophie Cookson as one of the “kingsman” recruits and Sofia Boutella as the kick ass super villain sidekick with deadly blades for lower legs. Oh! And a great cameo from Mark Hamill, who was apparently named in the comic book so I’m sure fans of the comic book liked seeing him in this.

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This movie is obviously a spoof on the James Bond/spy thriller movie but it’s a great, violently action-packed spy thriller itself with a wonderful sense of humor that doesn’t stoop to an Austin Powers level of stupid comedy (hmm – that’s the second Mike Myers reference in this review). The main villain and evil plot are ridiculously fun and I loved the training of the young new recruits in order to hire the next “kingsman”. They even almost managed to make this movie non-sexist, unlike the Bond films. That is, until the “end”. Literally. (You’ll get what I mean, Mike). 😉

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Summary:

I thought Kingsman: The Secret Service was bloody good fun. Fans of Kick-Ass and/or James Bond will love it as will, apparently, people like me who hate both of those! Just be warned that it may be more violent than you’re expecting so maybe don’t take your grandparents to it. It’s a good “buddy” flick or date movie with a girl who’s happy to watch a fun & violent action movie (I think there are more of us girls like this than you realize). Seriously – give me THIS Colin Firth over the one in those obnoxious Bridget Jones movies any day. And, yes – a guy in a tailored suit is sexy.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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**Scene After Credits?: Why do people rush out the SECOND the credits roll?? Anyway, if you do that you’ll miss the extra scene that’s only about ten seconds or so into the credits so it’s worth staying for that. You don’t have to stay until the very end, though, if you really have to pee. 🙂