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

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Review

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Based on Characters from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto

Music by Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch (Blade Runner themes composed by Vangelis)

Cinematography Roger Deakins

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.

My Opinion:

I don’t know how to go about reviewing this film plus there are loads of excellent reviews from actual writers already so I’ll try to keep this one short. Blade Runner 2049 is a brilliant film that will be (and, for many, already is) considered a classic years from now. Like the first film from 1982, it’s sadly a bit of a flop at the box office so far. And like that one, it will forever be revered by fans of serious, hardcore science fiction. If you haven’t seen or don’t like the first film, don’t bother watching this one. You won’t like it. If you’re a big fan of the first film, you’ll be very happy with this one (but I don’t need to tell you that since the hardcore fans have seen the sequel by now).

I do love serious sci-fi although I won’t admit to always understanding it. Science fiction is my favorite genre and the more it makes me think, the more I like it. Usually. Except with Primer… I don’t understand what the HELL was going on in that movie! But back to Blade Runner: The themes associated with artificial intelligence and “the Singularity” are always a favorite of mine within this genre so I do love the original. And I love Ex Machina. And I love WALL-E. And I love The Terminator. Hell, I even like stuff like Bicentennial Man. The thought of artificial intelligence developing human emotions and/or the thought of it far surpassing what the actual human brain could ever be capable of is both fascinating & scary as shit. Well, more scary as shit than fascinating – I think a Terminator future is more likely than a lovable robot WALL-E future. I just read that it’s been predicted that the Singularity will occur by 2045. Shit! That’s not that far away. I may still be alive! This was meant to be after I was long gone. I don’t want the machines to take over!

Holy shit – I’ve gotten very off track. Blade Runner isn’t even really about that. Well, sort of. Not really. God I hate reviewing thinky sci-fi. As I said, I do love the original film (Whichever of the 28 different versions I actually saw. I could do with rewatching it again but knowing which definitive version to watch sucks my will to live). But the Roy Batty “Tears in Rain” monologue is in all versions as far as I’m aware and I love it. It’s one of the all-time greatest cinematic scenes. I wouldn’t say any one scene in the sequel quite matches the emotion or intensity of the “Tears in Rain” scene but several come damn close. I still prefer the 1982 film overall but this is a fantastic sequel that poses even further questions on the issues of morality that are raised in the first film. It’s an impressive film and quite a feat to make a classic such as Blade Runner even better with the addition of a sequel. I mean, look at those Matrix sequels. I hated those & they ruined the first movie for me. Very few sequels make the first film even better so I’m very happy that Blade Runner 2049 managed to do exactly that.

I don’t want to ramble on incoherently for much longer so I’ll just finish by saying what else I loved about this movie besides its overall story & themes. First of all, it’s gorgeous. Director Denis Villeneuve & cinematographer Roger Deakins are in danger of becoming favorites of mine after this and the equally brilliant Arrival (which wasn’t Deakins) and Sicario (which was Deakins). Actually, they already are favorites of mine. Those guys kick ass! Arrival especially – that was a masterpiece in my opinion. Is Blade Runner 2049 as good as Arrival? Hmm… I wouldn’t say I loved it to the same degree and I certainly didn’t have the same emotional response that I did with Arrival but I think I’ll grow to like Blade Runner 2049 even more with time. It’s a grower. I’d like to see how I feel about it in a year but I can see it only going up in people’s estimations over time. Oh, and the effects are amazing. Amazing as in: “I didn’t notice any special effects so they must have been amazing as I’m sure there were shitloads of effects going on“. I know nothing about special effects – I just know that I find dodgy CGI really distracting and that never happened in this film, which meant I was never “thrown out” of the gorgeous world created by these filmmakers. And that sex scene was very well done. I can say that without sounding like a perv since I’m a girl. Bet guys loved that scene, though. Kinky.

Finally, the performances in Blade Runner 2049 are great & far better than I had expected. I admit I can be very fickle about actors – I went from totally loving Ryan Gosling around the time of Drive to becoming a bit bored with him & not really giving him much thought in the past few years. I think my crush is back! I loved him in this. He’s easily the best one in this film (luckily, as he’s in it far more than anyone else). His subtle sort of style works perfectly for his character in the same way I think Harrison Ford was perfectly suited to play Rick Deckard.

Speaking of Ford, he’s the best he’s been in a long time. I love Ford. He’s freaking HAN SOLO. But he’s been in some less than stellar films and, sometimes, well… He just seems bored in some of his movies. He’s very good in Blade Runner 2049. Phew. Yay for that! (He’s barely in it, though). Everyone did a very good job in this so I won’t go into each performance but the one other one that deserves a special mention is Ana de Armas as Joi. It’s an unusual role and she does an amazing job with it (I know everyone who’s going to see this probably already has but I’m still avoiding spoilers). And she’s pretty. Too pretty. Like Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina. It’s not fair.


Wait, I forgot about Jared Leto! How could I forget Leto?! He gets on my nerves sometimes and I hated him in Suicide Squad. He’s tolerable in this, I guess. Still a bit over-the-top but at least he’s not in loads of scenes. So, besides Leto being slightly annoying and the running time of 2 hours & 44 minutes admittedly being a little longer than necessary, I can’t really think of anything negative to say about Blade Runner 2049. But I still liked Arrival slightly more. If a third Blade Runner film manages to make the entire series even better as a whole in the same way that this sequel has made me even further appreciate the 1982 film, we may have a science fiction trilogy masterpiece.

My Rating: 9/10

Sicario (2015) Review

Sicario (2015)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo, Julio Cedillo, Hank Rogerson, Bernardo Saracino

Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Cinematography by Roger Deakins

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is about a principled FBI agent who is enlisted by a government task force to bring down the leader of a powerful and brutal Mexican drug cartel.

My Opinion:

Ohhh… This movie was GOOD. And to think I wasn’t even necessarily planning on ever watching it! I never really like the crime drama type of genre so, no, this will never exactly be a personal favorite film of mine whereas I LOVE Villeneuve’s Arrival (It’s my favorite genre – So glad he’s going in a sci-fi direction with his movie choices now!!!). But it’s a damn good film even if it’s not usually my sort of thing.

It wasn’t until loving Arrival that I started taking a bit more notice of Villeneuve’s work. It’s why I finally decided to watch Sicario last month (my girl crush on Emily Blunt helped too). I’d already seen a couple of his films and I thought they were pretty good and beautifully filmed but they weren’t really my type of thing either. Wait – I take that back… Enemy was totally my type of thing. I wanted to like that one more than I did. I did appreciate it and think I’d like it more on a re-watch but it was a very slow film & it took a while to get into it. I preferred it to Prisoners, however, but that’s again probably due to me not liking the crime genre. I now really want his Incendies to be one of the next films that I watch for my IMDB Top 250 Project (it’s at #146). With his current popularity I’m hoping it’ll pop up on Netflix or something.

So! Here we are with Sicario – easily my second favorite Villeneuve film I’ve seen so far. I know nothing about filmmaking but this film was beautiful. Those shots of the landscape! It’s a shame that I saw this one on a TV instead of in the cinema. The cinematography & the score created such a rich atmosphere. This combination almost gave me the same sort of feeling as I had while watching Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western epics (I liked the Dollars Trilogy & Once Upon A Time In The West WAY more than I ever expected to, especially having no prior Western movie experience).

I can definitely say that I intend to watch everything made by Villeneuve from now on. This is what I like: Movies that feel like true art. It feels like we don’t get enough “epics” nowadays. And they don’t all have to be artsy fartsy – I’d call Mad Max: Fury Road epic & it’ll still be loved & respected years from now. I blame the general public for the lack of very few all-time great films now, though, not the filmmakers. The majority of people wouldn’t have the patience for a Leone film now – they’d rather go to the next Fifty Shades movie. The next Fast & Furious film will make more money than most of the Best Picture nominees put together (Maybe. I dunno. I’m pulling that statistic out of my ass). Sicario isn’t quite up there with the Leone films but it’s getting close. Arrival is at that level (for me, at least). Both Sicario & Arrival will be seen as all-time classics 20 years from now, which can’t be said of many current films. But the Leone films didn’t really get any respect until years later, right? I think these two Villeneuve films, though respected by the filmmaking community right now, will get more recognition in the future. Arrival won’t win Best Picture and, years from now, people will be all “Why didn’t Arrival win Best Picture that year?!”. Oh well – The Academy never gets it right anymore.

I’m rambling, as usual, so I’ll wrap this up by saying a bit more than “This film is pretty & has a great mood!”. I’m one of those weirdos who cares more about a movie’s director than its stars. If the director is awesome and the story is good, the actors probably won’t f*^k up the film. I mean, I suppose a good director isn’t going to let crappy actors be in their film anyway. However, some credit has to be given to the actors in Sicario. Emily Blunt & Benicio del Toro are especially strong in bringing these characters to life.

Blunt, who kicked ass in Edge Of Tomorrow, again plays a great “tough chick” with a believable vulnerability. Her character isn’t perfect, she doesn’t make all the right decisions, she’s not a machine, she does have emotions, but she stays true to her beliefs to the very end. This is actually a very similar character, belief-wise, to the one in Edge Of Tomorrow and I think Blunt plays these “strong yet vulnerable” roles perfectly. Can we have more roles like these for women, please??? Thank you, Villeneuve, for these strong & believable female roles (Btw – I’ll say it again – Amy Adams was ROBBED of an Oscar nomination for Arrival! Grr).

Benicio del Toro also gives his best performance since the dog-faced boy in Big Top Pee-wee (he must get so sick of people saying that). Seriously, though – I’ve always known he was a good actor but I’ve not paid much attention to him. He’s fantastic in this, especially at the end. He kind of blew me away. He plays this thoroughly complex character with such chilling subtlety. Josh Brolin & Daniel Kaluuya also do brilliantly in supporting roles and I loved how the film captured the strong bonds and sense of extreme loyalty between FBI partners.

Sicario’s slow & deliberate build-up of tension and the reveal of character motivations made for one of the most intense final acts I’ve seen in a while. I admit that it took me a while to get into the film as it’s a topic I certainly can’t relate to and a genre I don’t often choose to watch but it’s so well-made with such rich characters & performances and an ending that had me on the edge of my seat (well, couch). This is damn good filmmaking. I want more of this. Please let Blade Runner 2049 be at least this good!

My Rating: 8/10

**Speaking of the lovely Emily Blunt, it’s her 34th birthday tomorrow so I’ll be posting a list of My Top Ten Emily Blunt Movies. 🙂