Review : Lady Bird

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“In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California.”

Lady Bird is one of those few movies, where after watching it, I need to sit and think about it for a bit, and thats because there is genuinely nothing wrong with this movie, as in, it doesn’t make any mistakes, which is a strange thing. I bring that up because its always a really different kind of review when you don’t have something to point at and say ah yes they lost a point there. Its almost like this movie is in a boxing match and we’re using a 10 point must system. No problems isn’t the stand out this movie though, the stand out is the acting. The only way to accurately describe it is real or honest. Everyone in this movie feels so real and genuine, its like you’re really just seeing the life of this girl go by over time. The movie is even directed like that. It constantly starts and ends scenes in the middle of whatever it wants to show you, and it truly brings you in and makes you feel like you’ve just walked into the room while something was going on. The writing here is also totally spot on. No one ever feels like they were delivering some line they had to, it all comes across as genuinely, intimate interactions, and that takes great writing, directing and acting. So if they are all these things to praise, and like I said, no mistakes or errors to reprimand, this should be a guaranteed 10 out of 10, and yet it isn’t. I hope I can articulate this well enough, but there isn’t anything wrong with Lady Bird, but I do feel like there is something missing. I also don’t know what that is, but I do know that there is something this movie needed, to really make it unforgettable to me, and while the quality of and with which this movie is made is unforgettable, there is still some intangible missing for me. There are movies in the past that I’ve given max scores too, that definitely have things wrong with them, but I think maybe those movies have a certain kind of boldness either in their execution, or in the very story they are telling that make them feel transcendent to me, that make me feel like they will ad something to the history of cinema, and this movie for me is just missing that little it factor to joining those kinds of movies. That being said, this movie still has some of the best acting, writing and directing of the year, and even if there are movies I could like more, there will be few deserving of more plaudits, so I hope that those responsible for the quality on display here get their rewards. All in all, Lady Bird is real honest and unique kind of coming of age story. Its not your typical girl meets boy and so on kind of coming of age movie, its for those of us who want something a little more real, a little more honest, and I’m nothing if not impressed more and more with Saoirse Ronan every time I see her on screen now. You get that Oscar baby girl!

Review Score : 9.5 out of 10

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Devilman Crybaby, a deeper look.

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So to be fully clear from the start, Devilman Crybaby is 100% an R or I guess NC-17 rated anime series, that is 100% made for people 18 years and over, and as we will discuss, there is more to it than just violence and nudity, but there is a lot of that so if you can’t get past that don’t even waste your time. With all that out of the way, what exactly is Devilman Crybaby? Its a new anime series on Netflix based on the original manga “DevilMan”. It tells the story of a world invaded by ancient demons who start regaining power in the world by possessing people in an attempt to take over control of the world It follows Akira and Ryo, who devise a plot to fight back against the demons by becoming half devil and half man (a devilment) to try and fight on equal footing.

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So that all sounds standard enough about a fantasy, action type anime, where’s all the controversy? Well, like I referenced before, this is DEFINITELY made for adults. The first half of the series especially, is filled with copious amounts of nudity, sexually content, drug use, murder, violence, gore and all that stuff, and on the surface, I can see why people would have a problem with it. And if that was the only purpose of those things then maybe it would be an issue, but like a lot of anime, the purpose of many things is kept hidden till its needs to reveal itself. That in a nutshell, is probably one of the best ways to describe this series.

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It starts by hitting you over the head with loud and out there imagery and actions, but it does so to prove a point, a point though, that it proves later on in the series. And this time delay, is where the series works the best, but is also what could put people off of this show. The shock and owe of the first few episodes, only becomes apparent when you get into the real meat of the story, and then you realise you’re hooked, and when you realise you’re hooked, everything comes into to focus. What this show does, is actually trick you, and by tricking you, it can have a more profound affect on you later on, and that makes what does happen later on, so much more impactful. There is a brilliance to that, that I don’t think should go unnoticed.

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Best of all though, the true brilliance of Devilman Crybaby, is that it manages to take you on a roller coaster ride from such a seemingly vulgar beginning, to a very surprisingly beautiful and poignant ending. And to be able to take the viewer on a ride like that, makes this show really worth seeing. If you’re a fan of anime ( and you really probably have to be for this one) Devilman Crybaby is a rare combination of things. It has an interesting and unique animation style, it uses a non traditional arch of story telling, it goes from seemingly one type of show to the polar opposite, and it manages to do all of this in 10, 20 some odd minute episodes that are as compelling and fun to watch as anything recently.

Review : Call Me by Your Name

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“In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.”

I think maybe, the best way I can describe this movie, is thats it like a really fancy or expensive perfume. At first, you’re not even sure you’ve smelled anything, but slowly as it lingers around you its get to a point where you only realise how much you were smiling and enjoying it, when it moves away, and thats what Call Me by Your Name. This movie though, is a really different kind of movie. Its not structured like your typical film, its supremely slow paced (like frustratingly slow at some times), the cinematography and sound design is supremely “low rent” in appearance, but clearly done so to give it a really “real” feel. This film is also both really subtle, and yet really graphic. It portrays romance, in anyway, as the true combination of long periods of gentle warmth, wrapped around a burning fire. There are so many moments, where you really feel the gut wrench of some of the more emotional scenes, and while the directing is supremely deft in its handling of these moments, I feel like there can’t be enough credit given to the acting here. The acting here is truly phenomenal. They get to such a level of rawness and vulnerability, that I would love to have known how these characters were able to get to these places and bring such raw emotion to their characters. To be honest, there’s literally only one thing about this movie that I can consider a flaw, but I don’t even know if to call it a flaw, or simply a decision that didn’t sit well with me, and thats there are some times (not many at all) when I found the movie got to a level of being some what pretentious, and like I said that could really just be an issue I have with those moments, but its the only thing that I can really say I wish was done differently. Call Me by Your Name is one of those movies where it felt like the level of craftsmanships here is just on another level, and I feel like this movie is going to get a tonne of award nominations, and will probably later in time be one of those movies that are discussed and dissected in film making classes.

Review Score : 9.5 out of 10

Review : Pitch Perfect 3

“Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices.”

So this movie may be many things, and none of them is amazing, but what this movie does have to offer is entertainment. Now that entertainment may definitely be geared towards people who are already fans of the series, but it’s the third movie, and I can’t really blame them. This movie feels like, it was given less money, and it certainly has less talent directing wise, it has a smaller cast, and its definitely scaled back, but beneath all of that, is a lot of the same funny writing from the movies before. Trish Sie, is a fine and competent director, but she just doesn’t do anything to try and elevate this movie, and maybe there isn’t anything to elevate, but I can only go off what I saw. The singing and dancing of course is back, but this also doesn’t feel as go for broke as the movies before. The one area where I think this movie doesn’t seem pulled back, is in the comedy, and that’s really the thing that saves this movie. Like I said before, a lot of that humor might be directed at fans of the series, but I am a fan of the series, and this movie is very entertaining and has some genuinely funny moments. This movie doesn’t end the pitch perfect series on a high, but I think it does enough to remind us why the previous movies were so well received, and it’s perfect for s night out, where a laugh is the main goal. Fans of the series might like this one a bit more than neutrals, but I think there is entertainment enough here for everyone.

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Review : Molly’s Game

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“The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.”

Molly’s Game is the film adaptation of a book by the real Molly Bloom, the adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin, and also directed by Aaron Sorkin, and it shows. Like most everything he writes, the dialogue and the movie itself is really sharp and cutting in a way that really jumps off the screen and makes a lot of the dialogue very memorable. That dialogue and the sharpness of the script really does allow for the actors to deliver some really great acting here, and above all, I think thats the stand out of this film. This movie and this story is a really fascinating story, especially because its all true, and its just an amazing series of events that lead this woman down the path it did. And I think all of that being already there, allowed for the actors themselves to really focus on acting, and not trying to pull the story along or anything like that. Between Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba alone, we get some genuinely award worthy performances here, and thats not even including the laundry list of other actors who have smaller, but no less impactful roles. I don’t think this movie is anything supreme in its directing, and maybe Sorkin should still more to handing his scripts of to better directors, but he certainly doesn’t downgrade the material, and he doesn’t make the movie any less good and enjoyable.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

Review : The Greatest Showman

“Celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.”

The Greatest Showman is one of those movies, that if you let it, can really take you on a journey. Hugh Jackman has been a big component of theater and was himself a theater actor. So you know a movie like this is really near and dear to his heart, and I think it shows greatly in his performance here. He truly embodies what it takes to be the type of person it takes to do what P.T Barnum had done. That combination of child like wonder, a passion that boards on obsession, and ability to see what lies beneath. Of course being like that can lead to ups and down and Barnum is not exception as he tries to navigate the restrictive and prudish world of his time. Add to that, a star studded and talented cast, filled with many actually performers, and you have everything you need for a great and wonderful ride. This movies is really visually wonderful, and from the opening frame and number, we get the perfect example of the kind of movie we’re going to get, and the kind we can expect. This movie is a musical, which I thought was obvious, but from the reactions of some of the audience it clearly wasn’t as obvious as I assumed. That being said, this is a musical, and as a musical, it does have a number of musical and dance numbers throughout it. Some are definitely better than others, but over all there is a nice cohesion and feeling to them. They may not be the most memorable songs ever penned, but they do well to fill the scenes they are attached to, and the emotions they are meant to imbue. This movie is like a love letter to the circus and to performing, but in all the best ways (and not like Jenny Lin), and it paints a wonderful picture of the excitement and atmosphere of those shows of the past. All in all, The Greatest Showman, is a movie for people who feel as warmly about the movies subject matter, as the movie does. If you let this movie take you were it wants to take you, you will have a great ride, and a great show.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

Top 10 Movies of 2017 (Wide Release)

As always, the end of one year, means the start of another, means another top ten list. My list, like every year, is based only on the wide released movies of 2017, so you may see some movies in here that came out in 2016, but were only released widely in 2017 (some later than others based on where I live). There will be another list for person movie awards that may include some more of those Oscar baity type movies, but for now, here are the top 10 of 2017…in my opinion.

WAIT, actually first I want to give a special mention and shout out, to a movie that had its more or less wide release in 2017, but didn’t actually open where I live. I saw it none the less, and it should be on a list like this:

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Your Name (Kimi no na wa.)

This movie, I mean, WOW. I’m not gonna say much about it here other than please watch it if you can, its honestly just a great movie, animated or otherwise.

10.

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Wonder Woman

So this shouldn’t come as any surprise I don’t think. Wonder Woman to many people is the best of the DC movies already, and it deserves all the praise it gets. Wonder Woman takes the great character that we first get a glimpse of in BvS, and fully fleshes her out in her first solo movie, filled with great action, great acting, and some kick ass music.

9.

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Spider Man Homecoming

Wall crawling his way to the number 9 spot, is Spidey himself, in his triumphant return both to Marvel, and to the big screen with Spider Man Homecoming. The latest reboot of the franchise sees Tom Holland take over the reigns of Peter Parker, and give us genuinely the best interpretation of the teenage hero we’ve ever had on screen, and maybe the second best Spider Man movie we’ve ever gotten also.

8.

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Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge, is one of those movies that is undeniable in its quality, and would have been on last years list if it made it out wide in time, but alas here it is. Telling the true story of the one of bravest men to set foot in a war zone, but in a way few have done, and even less have had movies made about. A harrowing tale of what courage can look like, and that every man can make a difference.

7.

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It

I spend a lot of time actively avoiding horror movies. There are sometimes however, some movies that are just too big and too hyped to not review, and It was one of those movies…and I’m really glad i saw it. It goes beyond just being a horror, or just trying to scare you. It comes with a compelling story, greeting acting by its young cast, and some really nice directing that really makes you feel like you’re there on the ground with the kids throughout the entire ordeal. And its also really scary, so I guess its a win win.

6.

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Split

Sometimes new directors can make really big splashes with their debuts or their early projects. That success however, can come at a cost, and not many have paid that cost as highly as the twist king himself,  M. Night Shyamalan. After some real, real lows in his career, the restrictions of a production company like Blumhouse have forces him to return to what his movies great in the first place, and thats story telling. Split bring us the long awaited sequel to the movie Unbreakable, and takes us on a deep and winding journey behind a great performance by James McAvoy, and was a shining return from a director once called the “Next Spielberg”.

5.

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Logan

Its not very often that you can call a movie like Logan all the great things you can, and also still call it a comic book movie, but thats exactly what this movie is. Its every bit the comic book movie you’d imagine a movie about wolverine to be, but then it becomes so much more. Telling a dark a gritty tale, where we find many of the characters we know and love in a not so distant but not so great future, Logan shows us what it is to age, and the responsibilities that heroes never leave behind, and never out grow. Marrying great performances all around, with some truly special, special effects, and a gripping narrative, Logan is wonderfully deep and dark movie just with some people we know and have grown to love over the last 17 years.

4.

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Baby Driver

Few directors have as identifiable a style as Edgar Wright, and when he is allowed to marry that style to a story that fits it, the results are always first class. Baby Driver is a great example of that. It follows the main character of Baby, who has a very particular set of skills, that allow him to be really good at what he does. Combine that with a great cast, and really great and inventive score + soundtrack, and you have all everything you need for one fo those most fun, entertaining and all just all around quality times in the cinema in a long time.

3.

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Blade Runner 2049

For a long time I had this movie bouncing around between the number 2 and 3 spots. In the end I think only the uniqueness of the number 2 movie really put it ahead of this, but make no mistake, Blade Runner 2049 is an amazing film. Another long awaited sequel, this time directed by the visionary Denis Villeneuve, who manages to take the concepts and feelings from the first movie, bring them forward, and even add some new layers on top of what was there before, to give us a movie that is just as visionary and ground breaking as the original was so many years ago. Filled with enough of the old movie, and adding the right amount of newness, this movie takes us on a truly visually astounding ride, that matched by the score, acting, directing and everything else really. It might go down as one of the last great big “art films”, but if you’re going down, might as well be on the titanic.

2.

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Get out

As I mentioned before, sometimes directors can really knock it out of the park on their first at bat, and one of the biggest hits I’ve seen in that regard is Get Out. A truly twisted and ingenious movie, that takes us down so many twists and turns, that only on repeat viewings can we see all the clues we were ignorant off the first time around. This is one of the few films you see a year, that basically requires you to look at it multiple times, and each time you can have a different experience. Filled with so many great moments of terror, comedy, and psychological intrigue, Get Out is one of the best examples of why original ideas are so prizes in the film world, as they have the rare ability to truly surprise us, and this movie was one of the best surprises of the year.

1.

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La La Land

Honestly, I don’t care you don’t like musicals, this movie is amazing, and borderline perfect in my eyes. Its not often that a movie can so thoroughly affect not just how you feel watching the movie, but how you feel about movies in general. La La Land is a bright light in a world where we associate quality and master class film making with dark depressing stories, usually of human sacrifice and suffering. Thats not to say this movies doesn’t have it share of those themes, it just wraps it in a package thats so engaging and likeable, that you can’t help but find yourself whistling City of Stars after you’ve watched it. Add to that two of the best performances from the lead pair of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, La La Land is a truly once is while kind of great movie, that everyone should stop and appreciate.

Well there it is, I know some of these movies for some of you were end of 2016 movies, but they hit the big screen in 2017 for me, and thems the rules, I don’t make them ( I mean I do but you know what I mean), I just follow them. So what do you think of the list? Anything you saw this last year you thinks deserves to be on here (wide release keep in mind)? Comment and let me know, and look out for the up coming IMB awards later this month.

Cheers.