Category Archives: Movies

Pick a period piece: “The Favourite” or “Mary Queen of Scots”

Wondering what personal favorite Emma Stone’s been up to since “La La Land”? Continue reading

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First “Bohemian Rhapsody” trailer has finally arrived

The first trailer for “Bohemian Rhapsody” is here, and it’s here to remind you that the soundtrack of the Queen biopic is going to be dynamite. Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) will star as Freddie Mercury, the legendary frontman, a role highly-anticipated when the film was announced in 2010 and one that had already spat out one linked-up lead actor (Sacha Baron Cohen) before a trailer could ever be put together in 2013.

Malek’s performance is sure to come under a close microscope when the filmed is released in November, if not as soon as 20th Century Fox releases a fuller trailer compared to this that’s just over 90 seconds long. Until then, this trailer dials up a mashup of Queen’s greatest hits that has tempted me to overplay it too many times within the first six hours of its release, thus assuring us anxious viewers that the music, above all else, will dominate. And no wonder: band originals, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, have helped produce the film. The most dialogue we hear comes within the period Queen records the title track to this movie, which is met with some surprise and resistance. It projects as a showcase of how transcendent and legendary Queen’s music was, and that’s exciting.

Here’s the trailer:

 

I watched what you told me to; “Lady Bird” holds up

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The Winter Olympics, buying a house and celebrating my birthday really knocked me off of my publishing schedule here. But even though I was away, I was still watching everything everyone told me to (except “The Shape of Water,” which was always going to win the Oscar but never really felt like a something I had to see). Two of those things, “Get Out,” which had been billed by the general public as a life-altering kind of movie, and “Lady Bird,” which had that incredible run of a perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I watched.

This is what I thought…

“Lady Bird” holds up.

“Get Out” felt like a finite example of the hype machine over saturating my idea of a movie and why I try so hard to avoid movie reviews and other hot takes of these kinds of things before I see it for myself.

It was unavoidable because of its life span. It had a wide release long ago, sustained itself  and had a victory lap. Even before I turned to it, it felt like one of those uncomfortable situations when your friend is showing you a video on his phone that he thinks is really funny, and he watches you watch it. I’d be shamed if I didn’t experience or feel something special when I watched it. But I didn’t.

The caveat here is that horror movies have never really been my thing. Sure, I’ll watch “The Strangers” and the “Saw” series any time they’re on TV. If Michael or Jason are on, get out of my way of the big screen. I just don’t seek out horror, which is “Get Out.” It’s a good horror movie, with an original script and vision (Jordan Peele) and an actor (Daniel Kaluuya) that deserved the recognition they received, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by its underlying message about race in America — and that’s the experience I felt so pressured to have during it.

“Lady Bird,” on the other hand, is exactly the type of movie I love, a coming-of-age story I can connect with. It’s a genre I’ve seen a lot of, but what separated it, I thought, was how it told the story of a full year — senior year — in the life of Lady Bird McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) — and one of a teenager’s most complicated years, at that.

Perfectly paced and personably written is writer/director Greta Gerwig’s feature-length directorial debut. It’s an achievement to capture so much into 94 minutes and to have it resonate. Lady Bird wants more out of life, a different crowd, and she feels like she has to find a new friends group and then go to school across the country to find it. But she’s hiding her true self, that she’s more like her mom than she’d like to accept being, which she realizes as soon as she leaves the bubble of Sacramento she was so eager to get away from. I felt connected to that idea.

Prom night demonstrates what’s happening. She’s excited to be going to prom with her new boyfriend (Timothee Chalamet), who runs with the cool crowd. It’s a big night for her. It’s an exciting night for her parents. But when she starts driving away with her date and his friends, they divulge how uninterested they are in going to prom. She can’t bury the feeling of how badly she wants to attend prom, nor how important it is to her. Prom is one of those rites of passage for the end of your high school days, and you should experience it. She longs for that, and when her new friends aren’t into the idea, she leaves to look for the best friend she left behind while chasing something different. It’s almost like it’s the night she grows up and starts to realize what she values. It’s a sweet sentiment and a universal feeling about this time in a person’s life.

“Lady Bird”: ★★★ 1/2
“Get Out”: ★★ 1/2

Meryl Streep is a force in “The Post”

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The Post is either mis-marketed or a fine film outperformed by its lead actress.

In the moment, the world wants it to be the evidence it can wave around in the air while the people shout “See! Here! This is proof!” of the press’ still-pivotal role in society, especially in this current political climate. Because The Washington Post‘s publishing of the “Pentagon Papers” was just that in 1971, it’s a fine lesson from the movie and hopefully the one most people will take away from it. It’s what the filmmakers want, but it’s not what The Post is about to me. (Important: I’m a special case… more on that later.) And no, it’s not about The Washington Post forming a team of vigilantes to fight government crime, like a superhero movie with three sequels already on the books as the out of place Watergate cliffhanger ending would traditionally suggest. No, no.

To me, The Post is about the first female newspaper publisher, Kay Graham, coming into her own in her position, from her self-doubting beginnings to self-assured and prideful endings, in the bubble of the truest representation of the corporate vs. editorial power dynamic in newsrooms worldwide that’s ever been portrayed on film.

I have a Bachelor’s Degree that says I’m a journalist and several awards hanging on a wall that say I’m a good one at that. And until last year, I was a reporter working in one of those newsrooms — no, not the worldly, elite Washington Post, but at a small-town daily where those corporate vs. editorial battles are as screwed up and disconcerting as, I’d bet, anywhere else. This is a movie about journalism, but there’ve been better Hollywood portrayals of the process (Spotlight) and scandalous governmental mysteries (All the President’s Men). (Though, that the New York Times had an entire room and research team for breaking down the Papers and that Ben Bradlee’s house floor was The Washington Post‘s makeshift storyboard for reassembling all the different sections of the Papers is altogether pretty amazing.) So, instead it resonates more to see even the slightest representation of the corporate mumbo jumbo that goes on. Then, to see Kay Graham’s handling of it and her growth within that challenging position was borderline heroic; at least, to a journalist’s eye.

Supporting what I feel is the film’s central conflict — not The Washington Post‘s battle against the government but the Post‘s (publisher’s) battle within itself (herself) — is a big performance by the lead actress, Meryl Streep, driving the story.

Judging Streep’s performances has always been difficult for me, which is probably different if you were alive and writing about these kinds of things at the start of her career as opposed to being born and introduced to it in the middle like me when opinions of her in high regard had already formed. I love The Devil Wears Prada and everything Streep’s doing for it — it’s one of my favorite movies — but how would I separate her individually? It’s never been easier for me to do than in The Post, as she completely separates herself from a crowded (I mean, crowded!) pack of actors. Never have I been so amazed by her acting than I was during The Post.

She’s sharing the screen with another great, Tom Hanks who plays Bradlee, and is just wham-bam dominating scenes — scenes that are supposed to be his! And scenes with Bruce Greenwood, Bradley Whitford, John Rue? It’s not even close.

Part of it is that she’s being asked to do a lot. Bradlee is just this all-in newspaper editor. That’s one thing. For Hanks? Easy. Kay Graham is constantly pulled in several directions. When at once she must be the wealthy socialite hosting retirement parties for her friends, she must also be the caring mother and grandmother as well as the conflicted professional woman making the final call to publish the biggest breaking news story in the world knowing that she could be losing all that her family has built because of it.

That’s pressure, and this is a great Meryl Streep performance.

The Post is not the best movie about journalism I’ve ever seen, even in the last few years. If you don’t know what the heck the “Pentagon Papers” were, the film leaves the answers still somewhat confusing, if not totally shrouded in mystery. It ends the movie with a glimpse of the Watergate break-in — an inexplicable overreach that shows that it sometimes wants too badly to do the All the President’s Men thing. But it’s clearly a win for journalism. It’s good drama, especially for knowing the ending. And it’s great Streep.

“The Post”: ★★★