All images from IMDb
I see a lot of movies through the year. This write up covers the movies that I did not review earlier in the year. This contains a mix of shorthand thoughts on movies that I watched and never got around to writing about, as well as movies that I am catching up on at this late point in the year. This particular piece is part two of two, and spans from October through the end of the year. Those movies that are available for easy and instant streaming have been marked with the particular source where they can be found. Enjoy!
The Florida Project-October 6
Sean Baker’s Tangerine was amongst the most acclaimed indie works of 2015, and the director who made the critical darling on and iPhone was pegged for great things as his career progressed. With his next project, The Florida Project, Baker one ups himself and proves his abilities as a director through these intimate, authentic stories of people who are not often given a voice in cinema. The Florida Project follows a group of young children, and one girl in particular, who grow up in low income situations just on the outskirts of Disney World in Orlando. Baker’s cinema veritle like style allows him to capture raw, real moments between his actors, as he is able to act as if he is a fly on the wall, which makes The Florida Project much more potent. Newcomers Brooklyn Prince and Bria Vinaite are stars in the making, and Willem Dafoe is deservedly the frontrunner for the best supporting actor Oscar.
Goodbye Christopher Robin-October 13
There is a great film lost somewhere in Goodbye Christopher Robin, which tells the story of how author A.A. Milne was inspired by his son to create the iconic Winnie the Pooh, but an out of control second half undoes this movie’s beautifully inspiring first half. Goodbye Christopher Robin hits all the right emotional notes in its first half, especially for huge fans of Winnie the Pooh, providing an intimate look at Milne and his relationship with his wife and son, and how those relationship inspired the famed author to escape to the Hundred Acre Woods following his return home from the war. There is nostalgia, heart, and so much going for this movie, especially its wonderful lead performances from the father-son duo of Domnhall Gleeson and newcomer Will Tilston. Unfortunately, what starts as a love letter to Winnie the Pooh becomes a derailed story of fame and loss of identity, and Goodbye Christopher Robin really loses touch with what made it successful, ultimately resulting in a subpar final product.
The Meyerwitz Stories-October 13
Noah Baumbach’s unique style is quirky, honest, and hilarious, and with his newest project, The Meyerwitz Stories, he brings together an exceptional cast to tell his wonderfully relatable family drama. I say relatable somewhat loosely, as the story and characters are relatively particular, but Baumbach instills themes in his writing which emulate a universal message. The Meyerwitz Stories is so enjoyable, and it balances drama and humor so perfectly, it is one of my favorites of the year. Adam Sandler puts forth his best performance since Punch Drunk Love, portraying a layered and complex father, and Sandler hits each emotional beat with precision. Dustin Hoffman is also excellent as the core family’s father figure, and his eccentric style and strange personality gives Hoffman a great deal to work with. Elizabeth Marvel, Ben Stiller, and Emma Thompson are also essential in rounding out this cast, as each actor has fantastic chemistry with one another, and they perfectly embody this dysfunctional family at the center of Baumbach’s movie.
Murder on the Orient Express-November 10
Kenneth Branagh’s dynamic talent bleeds off the screen in nearly every project he does. Whether he is acting or directing, his grasp on his role is firm and it shows as he always shines. In his adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, where he directs and stars in the lead role as Hercule Poirot, Branagh assembles a stellar cast which gives the movie enough steam to be enjoyable, but beyond its beautiful production design and strong performances, it offers little to warrant its necessity. Branagh tells this smaller story in a large way, as the sets and costumes are beautiful, giving the movie enough visually to be worth seeking out. Additionally, the all-star cast, which includes like likes of Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Willem Defoe, Judie Dench, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Lucy Boynton are all great when given their moment to shine in the movie. Where this incarnation of the acclaimed Christie murder mystery stumbles in its storytelling, as it progresses with uninteresting pacing, culminating in an unsatisfying way as the mystery begins to unravel. All in all, it has all the makings of something good, but it cannot all come together.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri-November 10
Martin McDonagh is one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. His distinct voice always shines, and his ability to weave comedy and drama in a seamless way makes each of his projects exciting. Three Billboards is no different, in that it takes a massively upsetting concept and adds the needed weight to be a full fledged drama, while also spinning comedic undertones to the dialogue to give it a unique dynamic that few filmmakers outside McDonagh could handle. The movie centers on a mother who targets the local police with three large, defamatory billboards outside of town as they have yet to solve the mystery of her daughter’s murder. Three Billboards is anchored by Frances McDormand’s powerhouse performance, which balances snark and trauma perfectly. Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson are equally excellent in their supporting roles, rounding out the aggressive character that McDormand plays in a necessary way. This combination of performances and McDonagh’s subtle script is putting Three Billboards atop many individuals’ top 10 lists, and it comes as no surprise as this movie packs a serious punch.
Mudbound-November 17 (NETFLIX)
Dee Rees’s historical drama, telling a story of family, racism, and tension in Mississippi after World War II, is powerful, grand, and an acting masterclass. Rees is well respected for her indie works, and with Mudbound, she takes the next step as a formidable up and coming director, telling a harsh yet necessary story of the difficulty of living in this time period. Additional props to Rachel Morrison, who shot Mudbound, and made it one of the best looking movies of the year. Mudbound is compelling in its material, but its exceptionally rounded cast is what gives it that extra boost to be the awards contender that it is. The standouts of which are Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, and Garrett Hedlund. Additionally potent are Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, and Jonathan Banks. While it is a difficult watch, which admittedly does drag in its first half, Mudbound is a necessary tale that everyone can easily access on Netlfix.
Time and time again, Pixar puts out something that transcends animation and filmmaking, exploring themes that are far deeper than what most other cinema has to offer. They did so just a couple years ago with Inside Out, and they have done so again with Coco, crafting one of the studio’s best movies to date. While it is visually stunning, one of the most demanding facets of animation. Coco offers far more which allows it to be as good as it is. First and foremost, it shines a light on a culture that we don’t often see in cinema, and it does so with such care and precision, illuminating the most beautiful aspects of the day of the dead. What makes Coco even greater is the journey that it takes you one. One of discovery and identity, Coco continually picks up momentum as it progresses, coalescing with a final act that is as emotional and as much of a tear jerker as the opening minutes of Up. Coco is truly Pixar at their best, and it is one of the most spectacular cinematic achievements of 2017.
Darkest Hour-November 22
Gary Oldman could finally win his (long deserved) Oscar with this one. In this solid biopic, Oldman transforms into Winston Churchill, delivering a whirlwind performance, perfectly emulating the eccentricities and confidence of the English Prime Minister. While the film itself is just good, Oldman’s performance makes Darkest Hour worth the watch. And while there are many other outstanding supporting performances from Ben Mendelsoh, Lily James, and Kristin Scott Thomas, this is truly Oldman’s show. Additionally, Darkest Hour plays great as a quieter companion to Dunkirk, showing the “behind the scenes” of the war.
Call Me by Your Name-November 24
In a movie as sensitive as they come, Call Me by Your Name fully earns its place as one of the best movies of 2017. Telling the story of a summer romance between two young men, Call Me by Your Name packs an emotional wallop as it explores the discovery of one’s sexuality and identity in a raw, piercing way. Timothee Chalamet is an absolute scene stealer in this breakout role, emotionally exposing himself in one of the most moving performances ever by a young actor. Armie Hammer finally comes into his own as well here, playing opposite Chalamet as a worthy counterpart to balance their beautiful relationship. The two have incredible chemistry, and their romance is believable and potent. Michael Stuhlbarg caps the movie with a forceful monologue, putting himself in the running with Willem Defoe as Oscar frontrunners in the supporting actor category. Luca Guadagnino directs James Ivory’s incredible screenplay with intense relatability, giving the movie an emotional core that will stick with viewers for many years to come.
The Disaster Artist-December 1
Oh, hai best comedy of 2017. The Disaster Artist gives an inside look at the making of The Room, a movie many consider to be the “best worst movie of all time.” Based on the book by Greg Sestero (one of the stars of The Room), Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have adapted my personal favorite script of 2017. It is hilarious, and the comedy is major driving force in the movie, but it also has a lot of heart, and it gives the friendship at the center of the story the main stage, beautifully balancing comedy and drama. Each of the supporting actors is great, but the real star of The Disaster Artist is James Franco (who also directed the flick), starring as the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, who starred in, wrote, directed, and produced The Room. Franco is fabulously funny, and he gives Wiseau a relatiable drive and passion that makes his performance much more impactful than a simple impression. The Disaster Artist is excellent, and it puts an interesting backstory to the “disaster” that is The Room.
I, Tonya-December 8
Craig Gillespie brings one of the most iconic moments in sports history to the big screen with I, Tonya, a movie exploring the rise and fall of figure skater Tonya Harding. In this rapid fire, fourth wall breaking biopic, Steven Rogers brash, riveting, and humorous script shines bright. Where I, Tonya gathers most of its momentum, however, is from its performances. Margot Robbie transforms into Harding, and she cements herself as a top tier actress. She gives Harding a sensitivity, but is perfectly fierce when Harding lashes out. Robbie is exceptional in the movie’s third act, where she is as dynamic as she has ever been, turning in a multi-faceted performance of an elite class. Allison Janney is equally excellent as Lavona Harding, Tonya’s mother. Janney is foul mouthed and unrelenting, and she is absolutely brilliant in the role. Sebastian Stan and Paul Walter Hauser are also brilliant as Jeff Gillooly and Shawn Eckhardt.
The Greatest Showman-December 20
Hugh Jackman’s P.T. Barnum biopic/musical is odd to say the least. There is wild inconsistencies in its tone, it sends particularly odd messages to its audiences, and it glorifies a con man whose actions were questionable, but with kick ass music and a genuinely fun spirit, it is a great turn off your brain and enjoy kind of watch. Each of the performances, including Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Michelle Williams, and breakout star Keala Settle are great in their respective roles. That said, the script is especially weak, and first time director Michael Gracey shows his inexperience in handling the script (although his ability to handle this large, beautiful production does show that he has potential). That is not to say that The Greatest Showman is not bold in its approach, as it swings for the fences, and based on that passion it is a recommendable watch. And while it may feel like a series of music videos stitched together, the music is so great that you can look past the flaws in the movie and have a good time with what it gives you.
All the Money in the World-December 25
Ridley Scott is the bravest director in Hollywood. When the allegations against Kevin Spacey surfaced just months ago, Scott decided to replace the actor, who was originally cast as J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World, with seasoned vet Christopher Plummer. Scott stuck to his guns, and within months, he completely reshot all of Spacey’s scenes with Plummer and released a finished film before the end of the year. Not only does Scott deserve credit for such a bold move, but he must also be praised for creating a good movie amidst this storm. In this story about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, Scott delivers an interesting and intense story that succeeds in most regards. Plummer is seamlessly woven into the movie, and is excellent as the frugal Getty. The true star of the movie, however, is Michelle Williams, who further cements herself as my personal favorite working actress, as she is ferociously in the role of Abigail Getty. While there are some missteps, particularly with pacing and the script, Scott overcomes many hurdles to craft this impressive (in more ways than one) drama.
The Post-December 22
It is one thing to be socially and politically relevant, which The Post is in successfully telling the story of The Washington Post’s race to publish the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s while being an effective character piece, studying the rise of Katherine Graham as the respected publisher of The Post. But The Post is much more than that, it is a beautiful cinematic achievement where Stephen Spielberg showcases his abilities as a filmmaker with the help of a stellar screenplay and powerhouse cast. Spielberg continually amazes, as he shifts from family film to sci fi epic to historical drama, and once again, he expertly crafts an elegant, carefully told story of underdogs rising to the occasion. Meryl Streep is a force as Graham, as her character progresses to a place where Streep is given the material to prove why she is the most respected actress of all time. Tom Hanks embodies Ben Bradlee, and he delivers his best work in over a decade as The Post’s executive editor. Liz Hannah and Josh Singer’s script is worthy of recognition, as it gives Spielberg brilliant material to work with and adapt. The movie is timely and necessary today, as it should rouse audiences with its powerful messages and relevant themes. It is one of 2017’s bests.
Molly’s Game-December 25
Aaron Sorkin is one of the most exciting writers working today. His scripts have riveting pace and his dialogue never settles, resulting in tension and excitement built almost solely from dialogue. Now, with Molly’s Game, he makes his directorial debut with this latest script, and while some lack of directorial experience may show, his potential does as well as he brings to life another incredible script to tell the story of Molly Bloom, a professional skier who took her drive to running exclusive poker games before getting herself into trouble that would not easy to dig out of. Sorkin’s scripts rarely fall flat, but his writing in Molly’s Game, which is sometimes unconventional yet constantly riveting, joins his ever-growing list of GREAT screenplays. Jessica Chastain is a force to be reckoned with in the movie’s titular role, perfectly embodying this motivated and powerful woman who uses her intellect and drive to get what she desires. And while Molly’s Game does stumble with pacing and a couple of moments of contrived setup, it is one of this year’s most exciting and interesting watches.