A Happy New Year (in movies)

Think I’ll get a jump on the New Year by letting my wife do most of the writing. This could be my attitude for 2018; let someone else do the work and pretend I put in the time. A great New Year resolution (better than my old one of ‘not making New Year resolutions’, one I’ve stuck with for many years).

But seriously, the end of 2017 had a flurry of very good to excellent films. Margaret got down to business with her mini-movie reviews on Facebook which are copied below with my comments following each. Let me know which you liked, hated or movies we missed (I’m sure there are many).  And Happy New Year!

All the Money in the World – w/Christopher Plummer (*taking over for Kevin Spacey). Great story about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III and how his grandfather/richest man in the WORLD!!!, won’t pay the ransom of $17 million – which is like $2000 to the rest of us. Old man Getty is portrayed as a true nasty/mean/miser – Mr Scrooge perhaps? Michele Williams is young Getty’s distraught and very determined mother. (give her an Academy Award!) Intrigue, violence (the movie audience wants to kill the g/father) 😂😂 and action. Grade = B+  Side note: Mark Wahlberg is so miscast in this, not sure why he’s in it.  Peter’s take: As with several excellent films this year, truth is stranger than fiction, and this story takes it to the limits of what is believable. I agree about Mark Wahlberg; his acting was fine, just not the right vehicle for his talents.

The Disaster Artist – w/Dave and James Franco A totally absurd movie plot but…..it’s based on a totally true story. A very, very rich man (where’d he get all his $$?? he has never revealed) indulges himself and makes the WORST reviewed movie in history, which is now a cult classic a la Rocky Horror Picture Show. The movie depicts his movie being made along with all his antics. Very fun and funny (and crude at times) – be sure to stay through the credits so you can be the judge of his movie. ; ) Grade = B  Side Note: you can catch the “real” movie “The Room” at midnight screenings at The Plaza theater in Midtown ATL.  Peter’s take: talking about truth being stranger than fiction?  This story is so amazing one would assume it couldn’t be real…but it is!  See it for the fun of it!

Lady Bird – Saoirse Ronan – a wonderful young actress – “Brooklyn” was one of my faves last year. A young high school girl marches to her own beat and navigates a somewhat dysfunctional family life and HS. Yikes! This is a hard movie to describe being that so much subtly goes on. It is a very well acted and thoughtful movie. Grade = B  Peter’s take: I liked this movie a lot! It’s not for everyone (no car chases or explosions plus it’s sorta touch-y feel-y but not in a soap opera-ish way)…it’s just a well written, well acted slice of life that most of us will relate to as a part of life we’ve lived through, good bad or ugly. Saoirse Ronan is excellent but the real standout is Laurie Metcalf who plays Lady Bird’s mother; an outstanding performance worthy of an Academy Award for best supporting actress. And Tracy Letts as the dad is also excellent.

The Shape of Water – if you can suspend belief and just go with it, you will enjoy this movie. Deaf mute cleaning woman working in a top secret lab discovers a hideous monster being kept for “scientific” purposes. He is continuously abused by his “keeper”. She communicates with him via sign language and hard boiled eggs. (yes, suspend disbelief) It is a lovely story and bordering on Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Usually not my genre. I did like this. And Sally Hawkins is once again, amazing. Grade = B  Peter’s take: Not my favorite genre either, but I did like this movie. I agree with Margaret’s review and would add that the set design is outstanding; depicts an era many of us lived through with highly stylized visuals. Acting was excellent all around with special attention to Michael Shannon whose performance was terrifying!

Molly’s Game – w/Jessica Chastain – based on a true story of former Olympian skier who turns a job as “put upon” secretary into a multi million dollar runner of very high stakes poker games in LA, then NY. The Feds are trying to take her down and she’s fighting back hard. If you are familiar with Aaron Sorkin productions (The West Wing, Newsroom) you know there will be a LOT of words spoken. This is an intriguing story and she and Idris Elba are outstanding – he as her lawyer who reluctantly takes on the Feds. Grade = B  Peter’s take: Agreed! I was on the edge of my seat most of the movie. Hate to repeat myself but, again, this movie proves truth is stranger than fiction. Would add that in addition to the performance by Idris Elba, Jessica Chastain was excellent. She’s in almost every scene and carries her intensity throughout.  See it!

Call Me by Your Name –  A beautiful love story that will grab you emotionally and not let go – at all. Yes, they are both young men, but watching the story unfold, you will feel the growing attraction and love between them was universal. The ending, heartbreaking. The acting from all, some of the best we’ve seen in a long time. Grade = A+  Peter’s take: This is a grown up movie for grown ups. This is my favorite of the year for many reasons; acting, skillfully written, beautifully photographed. If you’re not comfortable with gay themes don’t let the premise of this film turn you off; could easily been a story about a male and female and had the same impact. This is a difficult movie to write about as the beauty is how slowly but methodically the viewer becomes attached to the characters. Special attention to the younger man’s father played by the amazing (and chameleon like) Michael Stuhlbarg….you may not know his name but you’ve most likely seen him.

Downsizing w/Matt Damon. Is saving the environment a good reason to be shrunk to 5” (yes inches!) tall and live among many of the same? This movie started out promising as a comedy and went downhill from there. I am surprised MD signed up for this. If you want to see it, wait for video. Grade C- (I’d give it a D, but P liked it better than me)  Peter’s take: I really wanted to like this movie but it’s just so flawed. While Alexander Payne is an excellent writer and director he just tried to do too much with Downsizing. If he kept to one theme and story line it may have worked. That said, the special effects were really fun.

The Darkest Hour – Chamberlain is out Churchill is in as PM and not a minute too soon. Fascinating to watch the goings on of politics and hard decisions to be made on how to save London from the Nazis. There is a lot of talking, but history is being made – stick with it. Gary Oldman is a marvel as Churchill; and how Churchill changed the dynamics of the war is incredible. This is a great companion piece to Dunkirk. Grade = B+  Peter’s take:  We’ve read about it in books and learned about it from other movies, but one gets the feeling this is a much more ‘real’ story of the lead up to WWII from the British viewpoint. Growing up we all had great visuals of Churchill along with a couple of his famous quotes, but you feel this is a much more authentic characterization, warts and all. Life is not always cut and dry. This film along with Dunkirk made for two great historical films of 2017.

Following is a list of other favorite movies of 2017 (in no particular order):

Get Out  Disturbing but so good!

The Florida Project  The kids/actors in this film are amazing!

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Disturbing, excellent acting

Dunkirk  Great historical film with unbelievable cinematography

Wonder Woman  Just a bunch of fun

Star Wars: The Last Jedi  Just what you’d expect…fun!

Logan Lucky  Should have done better as there’s so much to like about this film

The Big Sick  Loved it for the acting, writing and true story

Okja  Can’t even begin to describe this film….just see it

We’ve seen a bunch of other films this year but these were the standouts. There are several films that have yet to make it to the Atlanta area that we’ll be seeing soon.  Hope to catch up then.