Category Archives: Netflix

“High Flying Bird” Movie Review

As someone who grew up in a household with sports junkies family members, I understood more of this movie than I thought I would. I’m not even sure if that’s something I’m entirely proud of, but hey it sure added to the experience. This business-centric sports drama initially premiered at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival. Although its distributor offered to give it a limited theatrical run, the director declined as he thought it wasn’t ultimately worth it. The $2 million production was instead released worldwide on the streaming service Netflix on February 8th, 2019. It garnered some of the best reviews for the filmmaker in quite a while, some even calling it a return to form. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film was originally written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the Oscar-winning playwright behind Moonlight. The screenplay was based on an actual lockout that occurred in 2011, and immense research was undertaken in the ensuing years. According to the director, principal photography went so fast that he assembled the first cut of the film on his laptop within a few hours after production wrapped. André Holland stars as Ray Burke, an extremely intelligent and resourceful sports agent who primarily handles basketball players. During an ongoing NBA lockout, neither he nor his clients, including top draft prospect Erick Scott, played by Melvin Gregg, are getting paid while the owners and Players’ Association union refuse to compromise. However, Burke comes up with a daring and risky plan to try and upend the system within a tight timeframe of 72 hours. And every now and then, we see actual NBA players Reggie Jackson, Donovan Mitchell, and Karl-Anthony Towns giving interviews, breaking down exactly how the league works for rookies. To be perfectly honest with you, Steven Soderbergh’s work as a director can be hit-or-miss for me most of the time. I absolutely love Ocean’s Eleven and some of his earlier stuff, but I’ve been iffy on his newer releases, such as Unsane. But regardless, I can definitely appreciate how he tries to approach each of his films in a brand new way, even if it isn’t entirely successful. Seeing him collaborate with the same writer behind Moonlight, a film I wholly adored back in 2016, automatically made me ecstatic with the possibilities. I was interested to see the two of them tackle the behind-the-scenes world of sports, especially since Soderbergh came so close to directing Moneyball 8 years prior. And while it feels a little too lean for its own good, High Flying Bird is still incredibly well-written and sharply acted. The best thing that I can say about this film is that it made me even more interested in the business behind sports, something I don’t usually think about that much. It’s clear that McCraney did his homework here, creating environments and scenarios with such a level of detail that it feels like he’s spent a lot of time on the court. The ideas High Flying Bird wrestles with are interesting, especially in relation to how young black athletes are frequently at the mercy of their older, white owners. Why should we put so much pressure on the public image players put out while owners like Robert Kraft get away with millions and unsettling activities? The problem is that, at just 90 minutes, it feels like some of these themes and ideas get short-shifted in favor of the protagonist’s wild plan. This being a Soderbergh film, it has the verve and personality of an Ocean’s movie that was never made, which is totally fine. But when the scenes where the central issues start kicking, it makes me wish that it was at least a half hour longer, or even a miniseries. André Holland has slowly been building an impressive resume the last few years as an actor, and he continues that here as Ray Burke. From the minute he comes on-screen, he commands your attention with his razor-edge intelligence and charisma. Meanwhile, Zazie Beetz and Bill Duke are equally good as Ray’s snappy assistant and wise mentor, respectively. Much like Ray, they’re both fully aware of the racial implications of a system like the NBA; whenever the issue of slavery is brought up, Duke’s character repeats “I love the Lord, and all His black people.” Kyle McLachlan and Glenn Fleshler are also impressive as two owners who feign concern for their players, while Sonja John is witty and shrewd as a fellow sports agent. Melvin Gregg is definitely worth mentioning as Erick Scott, one of the nation’s top draft prospects. While he may not be privy to everything that’s going on, it’s clear that he loves the game of basketball and wants nothing more than to get back on. This being a Steven Soderbergh film, the technical side of things is pretty clean and interesting. As always Soderbergh acts as his own cinematographer and editor, credited for both categories as Pete Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard, respectively. Like many of his films, each scene has a static camera placed in a specific spot in the room, only moving around when needed for the characters. It also cuts between each scene and shot with purpose, replicating the high energy of the screenplay. That being said, I’m really not that convinced that this film needed to be shot on an iPhone, like his previous film Unsane. While it worked for that particular film’s psychological aspects, here, it feels too limited and narrow for the scope of the story, only allowing two characters on-screen at a time. And while some movements are quite impressive, the lack of field depth and extremely static movements can take audiences out of the experience. Still, with enough meat on the bone to generate discussion afterward, High Flying Bird‘s kinetic screenplay and performances outshine some questionable technology choices. Although I wouldn’t consider this a return to form for the director, Steven Soderbergh still shows that he’s got it and is willing to risk failure by trying new things. Not to mention the fact that he’s supported by an incredibly dense script by Tarell Alvin McCraney and an outstandingly committed cast who fully give themselves to a surprisingly topical story. Yes, it does feel like it could be a lot more, but for what it is, it’s still a riveting game to watch.

Final 2019 Oscar Predictions

After nearly a whole year’s worth of screw-ups, terrible announcements, last-minute changes, and other controversial matters, the 91st Academy Awards are finally upon us. And as was with last year, I managed to see nearly all of the major contenders from last year in preparation for this one night. While there are more frontrunners this year than previous expected, I still have some thoughts about who I think will win in all 24 categories (Which will THANKFULLY be all aired live) as well as who I think better deserves it. Also like last year, I took the liberty of including some films I really thought deserved a nod in a category that were ultimately snubbed. And remember, regardless of how it turns out or if we even like it, the ceremony airs this Sunday, February 24th.

Best Picture

Will Win: Roma

Could Win: Green Book

Should Win: Roma

Should Have Been Nominated: If Beale Street Could Talk


Best Director

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón for Roma

Could Win: Spike Lee for BlacKKKlansman

Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón for Roma

Should Have Been Nominated: Marielle Heller for Can You Ever Forgive Me?


Best Actor

Will Win: Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody

Could Win: Christian Bale in Vice

Should Win: Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born

Should Have Been Nominated: Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here


Best Actress

Will Win: Glenn Close in The Wife

Could Win: Olivia Coleman in The Favourite

Should Win: Olivia Coleman in The Favourite

Should Have Been Nominated: Viola Davis in Widows


Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Sam Elliot in A Star is Born

Could Win: Mahershala Ali in Green Book

Should Win: Sam Elliot in A Star is Born

Should Have Been Nominated: Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther


Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Could Win: Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

Should Win: Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Should Have Been Nominated: Tilda Swinton in Suspiria


Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: The Favourite

Could Win: Green Book

Should Win: Roma

Should Have Been Nominated: Sorry to Bother You


Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: BlacKKKlansman

Could Win: A Star is Born

Should Win: BlacKKKlansman

Should Have Been Nominated: Widows


Best Animated Feature Film

Will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Could Win: Incredibles 2

Should Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Should Have Been Nominated: Teen Titans Go! to the Movies


Best Foreign-Language Film

Will Win: Roma (Mexico)

Could Win: Cold War (Poland)

Should Win: Roma (Mexico)

Should Have Been Nominated: Border (Sweden)


Best Documentary- Feature

Will Win: Free Solo

Could Win: Minding the Gap

Should Win: RBG

Should Have Been Nominated: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?


Best Documentary- Short Subject

Will Win: A Night at the Garden

Could Win: Period. End of a Sentence

Should Win: A Night at the Garden

Should Have Been Nominated: Zion


Best Live-Action Short Film

Will Win: Fauve

Could Win: Detainment

Should Win: Fauve

Should Have Been Nominated: One Cambodian Family Please For My Pleasure


Best Animated Short

Will Win: Bao

Could Win: Late Afternoon

Should Win: Bao

Should Have Been Nominated: The Ostrich Politic


Best Original Score

Will Win: Black Panther by Ludwig Göransson

Could Win: If Beale Street Could Talk by Nicholas Britell

Should Win: Black Panther by Ludwig Göransson

Should Have Been Nominated: First Man by Justin Hurwitz


Best Original Song

Will Win: “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Could Win: “All the Stars” from Black Panther

Should Win: “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Should Have Been Nominated: “Hearts Beat Loud” from Hearts Beat Loud


Best Visual Effects

Will Win: First Man

Could Win: Ready Player One

Should Win: First Man

Should Have Been Nominated: Mission: Impossible- Fallout


Best Cinematography

Will Win: Roma

Could Win: A Star is Born

Should Win: Roma

Should Have Been Nominated: Widows


Best Costume Design

Will Win: Black Panther

Could Win: The Favourite

Should Win: The Favourite

Should Have Been Nominated: Paddington 2


Best Makeup and Hairstyle

Will Win: Vice

Could Win: Border

Should Win: Vice

Should Have Been Nominated: Suspiria


Best Production Design


Will Win: The Favourite

Could Win: Black Panther

Should Win: First Man

Should Have Been Nominated: Annihilation


Best Film Editing

Will Win: Vice

Could Win: Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: BlacKKKlansman

Should Have Been Nominated: Hereditary


Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: A Star is Born

Could Win: Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: Roma

Should Have Been Nominated: Mission: Impossible- Fallout


Best Sound Editing

Will Win: Roma

Could Win: A Quiet Place

Should Win: Roma

Should Have Been Nominated: Mission: Impossible- Fallout


Do you have thoughts or predictions of your own? What films do you think will, could, or should win in each category? What are some that you feel got snubbed by the Oscars? Be sure to leave a Comment on it below, and if you like what you see here, be sure to Like this post and Follow my Blog for similar film-centric content.

“Velvet Buzzsaw” Movie Review

I’ve only been to a handful of art museums in my home state in Texas, and I can confirm that there are indeed people who act like the people in this movie. I shudder just to think how much more snobby they could be in a huge place like L.A. or New York. This satirical horror-thriller premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival to a wide range of responses from those who attended. Just 5 days later, it was released in a limited theatrical engagement as well as on the streaming service Netflix on February 1st, 2019. The $21 million production was supposedly originally going to be released back in October of last year, but got pushed back. Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, the same man behind 2014’s Nightcrawler, the project was conceived from the filmmaker’s tumultuous experience co-writing Tim Burton’s unmade version of Superman Lives. Embittered over Warner Bros. concern for the increasingly large budget over anything else, it had apparently taken him quite a while to make peace with the disaster. He has frequently described the film to be similar in themes and style to Robert Altman’s ensemble classic The Player. Set in the glitzy modern art scene of Los Angeles, the story follows quite a few characters, but it mostly focuses on well-renowned art critic Morf Vandewalt, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. His agent and lover Josephina, played by Zawe Ashton, discovers a treasure trove of never-before-seen paintings by a recently deceased artist named Vetril Dease. But when numerous people in the world of art seek to profit off of them, including Rene Russo as the cutthroat gallery owner Rhodora Haze, these paintings apparently come to life and start murdering anyone wanting to make money. 2014’s Nightcrawler is one of my absolute favorite films of the last decade, and one of the best directorial debuts I’ve ever seen. It was clear that Dan Gilroy had something to say about the ruthless world of commercial entertainment and how anything can be made into such with enough grit. Not to mention, it featured two astounding and horribly snubbed performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo as the sociopathic protagonists. The prospect of seeing these two actors reunite with Gilroy on a brand new movie, especially one as oddball as this ,was highly intriguing. After all, the modern art world has essentially become a parody of itself. And while Velvet Buzzsaw isn’t anywhere near as good or revelatory as Nightcrawler, it’s still very entertaining and engaging. Although it is a straight-up horror flick, it really isn’t all that scary or even disturbing. Rather, Velvet Buzzsaw approaches its subject matter with a surprising amount of silliness and hot air, (The characters’ names are deliberately ridiculous) while still telling its story with a lot of venom. Most of the individuals in the film are pathetic creatures who only care about how much money a piece of art may make, and not at all appreciate what Jackson Pollock or Allan Kaprow are trying to say with their art, with one character exclaiming, “What’s the point of making art if nobody sees it?” However, it ultimately falls prey to its setting, and at points it starts to feel like a pretentious critic shouting into the void. While it is poetic that the film was funded and released by Netflix, it still doesn’t feel as insightful or deep as it wants to be. Thankfully, it tries to avoid much self-seriousness with a mad capper tone, which helps save it from becoming a hollow mess. Morf Vandewalt has to be one of the weirdest names I’ve seen recently, but Gyllenhaal hams it up perfectly. He’s a sniveling, detached, and snooty critic who may not even believe his own critiques as long as the piece is a success. Gilroy’s real-life wife Rene Russo and Toni Collette are equally brilliant as Rhodora Haze and Gretchen, the icy art gallery owners who always have money on their minds before anything else. While they may be rivals in the film, their goals are very similar as they want nothing more than to be the only ones to sell Dease’s paintings. And the big ensemble cast features awesome roles from John Malkovich, Billy Magnussen, Daveed Diggs, Tom Sturridge, Natalie Dyer, but the biggest revelation has to be Zawe Ashton a Josephina, the agent who finds the art in the first place. While at first she appears decent, she gradually and deliberately gets rid of any sympathy for this character as she herself succumbs to insatiable greed. Like Morf, she slowly becomes disillusioned with reality from these works and will do anything to stay at the top of the ladder. I’d love to see what else she has in store for viewers in the future. Meanwhile, the technical aspects show that Gilroy is further developing his own style and voice. With Paul Thomas Anderson’s regular cinematographer Robert Elswit, who shot the director’s two previous films, he proves once again he has a unique talent for shooting the city of L.A. The shots and framing are as sleek and shiny as the world in which the story takes place, and frequently floats around from character to character in a scene. It also uses lighting to its advantages in many aspects, such as telegraphing when someone might be killed next. The director’s twin brother John Gilroy also edits the film, as he has for every member of his family. It knows when to cut away from a shot or let something linger on-screen. And this being a horror movie, you’d expect there to be some creative or memorable deaths. With so much art to go around in the plot, I was pretty impressed by a lot of the kills, some of which drew real laughter from me. Replacing the director’s previous collaborator Jams Newton Howard, Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders give us the film score. I’ll be perfectly honest, I can’t remember a single track or note from the whole film, so it’s not really worth it. Instead, it leans a lot on contemporary pop or electronic songs. This ultimately contributes to making the art world feel even more plastic and vapid. Knowing what it wants to do and wasting zero time lollygagging before getting to it, Velvet Buzzsaw is a gleefully trashy and scathing, if somewhat slight portrait of profit over art. It’s definitely an interesting next step for Dan Gilroy’s directorial career, if not a totally solid one. He clearly has something to say and a particular way to say it, all while trying to keep it as an entertaining horror flick. I would say more, but honestly, critique can be so limiting and emotionally draining.

“Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle” Movie Review

This is the second movie I’ve seen in less than 10 years where Benedict Cumberbatch plays a character named Khan that a protagonist shouts in anger. That is, thankfully, not the only distinguishing feature for this film. This fantasy adventure drama was originally scheduled to be released in theaters on October 19th, 2018. However, in an unexpected turn of events, the distributors were swapped and it instead received a select theatrical run for one week beginning on November 29th. It then reached a wider audience when it ultimately landed on the streaming service Netflix on December 7th of this year. The film is said to be a more faithful, straightforward adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s writings, the 9th one overall if I’m not mistaken. Warner Bros. began developing the project as early as 2012 under the title Jungle Book: Origins, intended to be the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. While most of the production occurred back in 2015, after Disney announced and ultimately released their film version first to massive success, the release date kept getting pushed back, partially to also iron out the complex visual effects. Then, the studio decided to offset the movie altogether and sold distribution rights to Netflix, who set it up for an early holiday release. It’s also notable for being the first mainstream Hollywood film to premiere in India, with a special event held in Mumbai. As with all of Kipling’s stories, we follow Mowgli, this time played by Rohan Chand, a young boy raised in the Indian jungle by a pack of wolves. As he comes of age, he is challenged by a ruthless Bengal tiger named Shere Khan, performed by Benedict Cumberbatch, who has a special hatred for mankind. Feeling isolated and unwelcome, the “man-cub” has to come to terms with who he is and face off against the tiger, all while a nearby human village seeks to hunt them all for game. I’ve been interested to see what Andy Serkis could with this story for a few years now, being an enormous fan of his motion-capture work in the Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes reboot trilogies, respectively. While I really liked Disney’s live-action revamp from 2016, it still retains the filter of childhood friendliness. Walt Disney famously told his animators to toss out Rudyard Kipling’s stories in the original animation, ultimately the last one before the mogul’s death. So I was curious to see what a more faithful adaptation would look like, even as it swapped studios at virtually the last minute. Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is definitely an interesting take on the source material, but there’s still a lot left to be desired. Let’s be clear here: This film does follow a lot of the same beats we’re familiar with at this point. What immediately makes Mowgli different from most of the other adaptations is how it’s unafraid to explore the darker, more violent aspects of the jungle. Many of the characters, including the man-cub himself, have visible scars on the bodies, sustained either from other animals or the human hunters that reside close. My issue is that I feel it didn’t go all-in for these aspects, often times struggling to figure out whose audience it is. It’s almost always at its best when dealing with the darker themes of Kipling’s stories and less so when it attempts to give out doses of family-friendly humor. Young newcomer Rohan Chand plays the titular lead role, and he’s apparently very well-suited for it. Incredibly strong-willed but never faltering in his curiosity, it’s quite fascinating to watch as he’s torn between two worlds and never really belongs anywhere. This time around, he’s not the only live-action player; Freida Pinto and Matthew Rhys play a caring village mother and a white colonial hunter, respectively. All of the iconic animals are brought to life with motion capture performance. Christian Bale is stern but soft as the panther Bagheera, Benedict Cumberbatch is a little too showy as the feared tiger Shere Khan, Cate Blanchett is both mysterious and seductive as the giant snake Kaa, and Serkis himself is joyful but off-edge as the big bear Baloo. Meanwhile, on the technical side of things, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle frequently swings from being fairly impressive to being in need of more post-production work. The cinematography by Michael Seresin employs a surprising amount of practical locations; it’s not all just in a big studio lot. He uses a lot of sweeping shots to capture the vastness of the jungle as well as dramatic push-ins or tracking shots to emphasize tension when needed. It also highlights or heightens certain colors when it’s set in the village, such as green for the surrounding jungle or red for blood or powder. The editing department is a triple duty taken on by Mark Sanger, Alex Marquez, Jeremiah O’Driscoll. While not necessarily overdone, it does feel a little rushed in certain areas or scenes. And of course, there are those motion-capture effects, the primary reason for its numerous delays. On occasion, they looked a tad cartoonish, and in others, they looked uncanny. Serkis’ passion for the project rings truest in this department, as he and his production company did their best to make the animals look as realistic as possible. The musical score is composed and conducted by Nitin Sawhney. It’s a pretty interesting and diverse soundtrack, covering a lot of unexpected ground. The vast majority of tracks are highly orchestral, incorporating swaying strings and soft percussion instrumentation to create the scope. But there are also unique elements such as wooden flutes, trippy saxophones, and discordant chimes in the background. Sawhney also wrote an original song called “Changes,” featuring the vocals of singer Kara Marni. It uses much of the same instrumentation as the rest of the soundtrack, albeit more heavily on percussion. It feels like an appropriate coda for the film, being played during the end credits, and reflects the jungle’s changing nature thanks to the actions of the titular boy. With possibly more potential than the Disney version from 2016, and some memorable imagery throughout, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is a compelling visual journey that fails to deliver on its darker promises. Andy Serkis definitely shows he has a capable hand behind the camera, and I’m interested to see what else he can come up with in later years. This was a decent start for him, although it could have been so much more.

Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2019

Welcome to to the year 2019, readers! Every year brings a new crop of movies that get my blood pumping for one reason or another. This year is no different, as there are a number of high-profile (And smaller indie) releases that have been holding my attention for months on end now. As per usual, there are so many coming out within the next 12 months that it was kind of hard to narrow down into a ranked list. I could only include 10 on this list, though, so here are several honorable mentions that are also on my watchlist for the year.

Honorable Mentions:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Shazam!, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, It Chapter Two, Artemis Fowl, The Kid Who Would Be King, Missing Link, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Captive State, Aladdin, The Lion King, Alita: Battle Angel, High Life, Velvet Buzzsaw

Let’s see what’s coming out, now.

#10: “The Irishman” (TBA 2019)

Image result for the irishman

If the last few years have proven anything, it’s that Netflix really wants to be taken seriously in the filmmaking industry. While there are still several directors and producers who are cynical about the streaming service’s merits, they have managed to attract numerous high-profile auteurs due to their emphasis on creative and artistic freedom. One of those auteurs is Martin Scorsese, whose long-gestating project The Irishman was finally given the green light once it got to Netflix. While it technically doesn’t have an official release date yet, most sources seem to indicate that it’s going to be released sometime in 2019. And with the recent theatrical success of Roma, I can easily see this as a window for them to open more of their films in theaters. If for nothing else, I just want to see Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci (In his first role in nearly a decade) work together on-screen.

#9: “Joker” (Opens October 4th)

Image result for joker 2019 joaquin phoenix

I can’t quite explain why, but Todd Phillips’ Joker movie has my interest piqued more than any other comic book adaptation coming out next year. Obviously, I’m looking forward to Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, and Shazam!, but this just seems really different from those other films in so many aspects. Based on many accounts I’ve read, Warner Bros. is gunning for a more character-driven, smaller-scale film. Rumor has it that they’ll let get an R-rating, and may even put it into a fall festival next year! Joaquin Phoenix seems like a natural fit for the titular part, reportedly having been terrified by the script he read. And if the set videos prove anything, it’s definitely going to be fast-paced.

#8: “Glass” (Opens January 18th)

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19 years it’s been since Unbreakable first came onto the scene as a brand new superhero movie, but the world was sadly not ready. Now, with a surprise twist at the end of Split, M. Night Shyamalan is officially bringing the story to a conclusion, albeit in a drastically different world than the one it was when it began. Superheroes have absolutely flooded the market in the last 10 years, and it’s both great that Glass is coming out at the genre’s peak, and sad that it took this long. Regardless, it looks like a really cool and intense showdown between the three super-powered beings we’ve come to know, all while wearing its love of comic books proudly on its sleeves. And its use of color looks genius.

#7: “Midsommar” (Opens August 9th)

Image result for midsommar ari aster

It’s honestly kind of problematic for me to say that I’m “excited” for a new movie by the same guy who made Hereditary. I honestly couldn’t blame anyone who still hasn’t recovered from that feverish nightmare, but writer-director Ari Aster already has another film coming down the pipe. This time, it involves a violent pagan cult in Amsterdam. Described as an “apocalyptic breakup movie,” A24 has reportedly constructed a 15-building village to bring his twisted vision to life, so it’s definitely worth keeping tabs on for the end of the summer.

#6: “John Wick 3: Parabellum” (Opens May 17th)

Image result for john wick 3 horse

The set photo above is easily enough to have me already pumped to the max about the supposed trilogy capper for Lionsgate’s surprise action franchise. I’ve absolutely loved these movies not just for their incredibly well-choreographed and shot action scenes but also for the unique world that has been built. John Wick 3: Parabellum seemingly promises to further blossom that world as we getting to see not only more assassins, but also introduces a society of NINJAS. Need I say more?

#5: “Us” (Opens March 15th)

It’s safe to say that after the phenomenal success of Get Out, including an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay, Jordan Peele knows exactly what he wants to do and how to do it. He’s lined up quite a few projects as a producer with power that it’s somewhat easy to forget he’s stepping behind the camera once more next year for a new horror movie. The trailer for Us looks incredibly enticing, as it sees him tackling more high-concept material with a larger budget this time around, along with some impressive casting choices. I’m curious to see what sociopolitical topic Peele will be satirizing this time, but based on the imagery shown thus far, he’s cooked up yet another original triumph.

#4: “Ad Astra” (Opens May 24th)

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Having seen We Own the Night, The Immigrant, and The Lost City of Z, I’m now convinced that James Gray is one of the most underrated filmmakers working in America. He has a certain classical touch that seems to permeate across multiple genres. I’m incredibly curious to see what he has cooked up for Ad Astra, an original sci-fi epic apparently inspired by the novel Heart of Darkness. It centers on a slightly autistic Army engineer who goes on a space voyage to find his father, who was last heard heading for Neptune about 25 years earlier. Not only does boast stars like Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones, but also Christopher Nolan’s recent muse Hoyte Van Hoytema is handling the cinematography.

#3: “Knives Out” (Opens November 27th)

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With nary a poster, trailer, first-look image, or even proper synopsis in sight, it says a lot that I’m putting Knives Out this high on the list. It has been described by several sources as writer-director Rian Johnson’s modern-day take on a classic Agatha Christie whodunit murder mystery. It’s far too rare that we can get a movie as simple as that these days. Not to mention, it has a stacked cast including Daniel Craig, Lakeith Stanfield, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, and even Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s really intriguing to see what Johnson has in store for a smaller-scale story like this after helming a huge blockbuster like The Last Jedi. Speaking of which…

#2: “Star Wars Episode IX” (Opens December 20th)

Image result for star wars episode ix

It feels super lazy for me to include a Star Wars movie on a list like this, but I just can’t help it. As per usual, any and all details of what might be going on in this sequel trilogy capper are being kept under lock and key. We do know that newcomers include Richard E. Grant and Keri Russell have joined the cast, Billy Dee Williams is reprising his role as Lando Calrissian, and the plot will take place one year after The Last Jedi, perhaps one of the most divisive films of the decade. What makes it all the more enticing is that it is planned to be the final installment of the Skywalker Saga, which has spanned decades now. Of course, Disney has more Star Wars material planned to come down the pipe, but to see the story finally reaching a real conclusion is kind of like taking one last trip to your old hometown before saying goodbye.

#1: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Opens July 26th)

Image result for once upon a time in hollywood set

You’re going to have to work extremely hard to make me not feel excited for a new movie written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. While he has gone through some pretty rough patches recently- severing ties with Harvey Weinstein, the Roman Polanski audio, Uma Thurman’s revelatory Kill Bill story -the auteur still has plans and has no intention of slowing them down. His 9th feature film- and supposedly his penultimate one, if what he says is true -legitimately sounds like a passion project he’s been working towards his whole career. It’s going to be set in Hollywood 1969 as a Western T.V. actor and his longtime stunt double struggle to make it in a changing film landscape, and also happens to involve the infamous Manson Murders. Featuring an absolutely sprawling ensemble cast packed with movie stars and said to be close in style to Pulp Fiction, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood sounds like an epic in the making.

Do you agree with my picks? What are your most anticipated films coming out later this year? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comment section, and as always, if you like what you see here, be sure to Like this post and Following my Blog for similar content. Happy New Year, everybody!

“The Other Side of the Wind” Movie Review

There is quite possibly nothing more weird and ironic than seeing the Netflix logo and the title card, “An Orson Welles Picture,” in the same movie. But alas, here we are, my friends. This satirical mockumentary dramedy officially marks the final feature-length film by writer, director, and producer Orson Welles. Although it spent the better part of over 30 years locked in a Paris vault, some loopholes allowed to be brought into the light of day, premiering out of competition at the 75th Venice International Film Festival. It was subsequently released in select theaters and on the streaming service Netflix on November 2nd, 2018. It was also released alongside a companion piece documentary by Morgan Neville called They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead. After two decades of making avant-garde pictures in Europe, Welles intended this film to be his big Hollywood comeback. Following a grueling 6-year production period, the project further became embroiled in various complex political, legal, and financial troubles that prevented its completion. Even after the director’s death in 1985, the surviving cast and crew worked furiously to bring the infamous and seemingly hopeless film to public light. It wasn’t until early 2017 that producer Frank Marshall and Netflix were finally able to get a hold of the original negative and dallies to finish the film, aided by extensive memos and notes that Welles left behind. Loosely autobiographical, the story revolves around John Huston as Jake Hannaford, an aging Hollywood filmmaker who has been in a self-imposed exile for the past several years. Inspired by a renewed confidence and seduction of the movie industry, he decides to put together his comeback film, an experimental epic called The Other Side of the Wind. The entire film is told through a mockumentary style, and we witness firsthand as Hannaford attempts to finish it in spite of fan skepticism, anticipation, and conflicts with his cast and crew. What does it say about modern technology and filmmaking that we’re able to watch a brand new Orson Welles movie in the year 2018? On a streaming service, of all places? And this being the first feature-length Orson Welles movie I’ve finished, (I know, I know, late to party) I was particularly interested in seeing the infamous production finally in my laps. Not even Terry Gilliam’s notorious The Man Who Killed Don Quixote had such a hard time getting released by distributors. While The Other Side of the Wind certainly feels disjointed and incomplete in parts, there’s certainly quite a bit of meat to chew on. However, before you click the Play button, I would highly suggest that you watch the accompanying documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead first. Not only does it do an amazing job at contextualizing the decades-long struggle at finishing and releasing the film, but is a unique retrospective into the careers of one of the most interesting filmmakers in history. The sad truth is that there are number of amazing ideas in Hollywood that ultimately never come to fruition, and even a handful that are never finished after production wraps. One character in the film mentions, “Inevitably, the need to make money creates the need for a certain kind of picture,” and the film as a whole is a scathing critique of the film industry. Welles exploits his real-life friendship with John Huston to great effect, because the late thespian is virtually perfect as Jake Hannaford. His deep, raspy voice is rather soothing to listen to, even as he does and says outrageous things to his colleagues and critics. Speaking of critics, Susan Strasberg is utterly remorseless and hard-edged as Juliette Riche, Hannaford’s biggest skeptic. Inspired by Welles’ real-life feud with film critic Pauline Kael, she is extremely cynical of the once-revered auteur’s chance of making it again. Then, there’s Peter Bogdonovich as  Hannaford’s young protégé Brooks Otterlake, a burgeoning filmmaker himself. Although there’s clearly a connection between the two of them, you can feel a hesitation in keeping it going; Otterlake sees his mentor as a waning drunkard on the verge of being lost. There are a host of other small roles, including Norman Foster, Bob Random, Lilli Palmer, Paul Stewart, and Mercedes McCambridge, as well as cameos from people like Dennis Hopper, Les Moonves, and Cameron Crowe. Oja Kodar, co-writer and star of the film-within-a-film, is mysterious and enticing as “The Red Woman.” Although she has virtually no lines in the entire movie, she leaves a major sense of intrigue as to who (Or what) she is both to Hannaford and those around him. As far as technical aspects go, The Other Side of the Wind is extremely unique, no matter what era it might have been released in. Gary Graver deserves a special award for sticking with Welles as the cinematographer throughout the whole 6-year process. His cinéma vérité approach to the story serves the mockumentary style well, creating a very naturalistic world of filmmaking. There’s some genuinely appealing imagery, such as catching a plane flying directly over a car ride with many of the characters or in a dark drive-in movie theater. The use of techniques like sudden zoom-ins and handheld roving allows for characters to talk over each other and give sage observations. Welles also did a good chunk of editing before his death, which was finished up mainly by Bob Murawski and countless other people along the way. Cutting over 100 hours of raw footage into 122 minutes must have been no easy task, especially with adding sound, but it is remarkable. It moves rapidly in scenes, adding a visceral feeling to the “crew” documenting everything. There also numerous changes between color frames and black-white frames, which is debatable as either a convenience or an artistic choice. The prolific French New Wave veteran Michel Legrand contributes the instrumental score for this film, his second for Welles after F for Fake. It’s quite an interesting soundtrack to be sure, if not a particularly Earth-shattering one. The most consistent element is that of jazz, and is as dynamic as the genre itself. Some of the fast-paced scenes feature exciting swing bands going on and on, while some of the more somber scenes are layered by a melancholic track. Quite literally 40 years in the damn making, The Other Side of the Wind is a fascinating, if necessarily incomplete peak into the creative film process. If anything, I think it does a pretty good job at introducing what to expect from some of Orson Welles’ other work, which I intend to watch in the next year. Although it isn’t quite as extraordinary as the decades-long struggle to get it finished, I still applaud Netflix for putting the money behind the project for the director’s final vision to be seen by the world.

“Roma” Movie Review

Do you ever have that one moment or two when you realize that you’re watching something really special unfold before your eyes? If you are unable to find one of them while watching this film, then I don’t know if you’ll ever experience it. This historical black-and-white drama was originally selected for competition at the 70th Cannes Film Festival but was pulled at the last minute due to a dispute with its distributor. It was instead unveiled at the 75th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the prestigious Golden Lion award. Following a very lengthy festival run over the next few months, in an unprecedented move, the film was released in a large number of theaters beginning on November 21st, 2018, before landing on the streaming service Netflix on December 14th. While Netflix never releases its official numbers, it has reportedly managed to gross over $1.4 million from various specialty theaters, although Mexico’s two largest film chains refused to screen it. Written, produced, and directed by Alfonso Cuarón,  the film has been a passion project for him for virtually his entire career and is said to be roughly 90% autobiographical. After meeting up with executive producer David Linde, the American production company Participant Media was able to pull the funding together and have it shot in the filmmaker’s home country. There was also an incident where the crew was robbed by city workers during filming after a brawl broke out, and the actors were apparently not told everything that would happen from scene to scene. Set in the early 1970s in Mexico, we follow a year in the life of a large middle-class family living in Mexico City. The entire story is told from the perspective of their indigenous live-in housekeeper Cleo, played by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, who constantly tries to find a balance between her work life and her time out of the house. However, when the mother and father’s relationship becomes increasingly strained, she has to step up and take care of the children for an extended period of time. Roma is the rare movie that is hard for me to put down into words. I had heard of Cuarón’s proposed film for quite some time, having been a very big fan of his previous directorial works such as Gravity, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Y Tu Mamá También. Hearing that he was returning to some very personal territory was extremely exciting. I had tried my hardest to see this film in a theater before it landed on Netflix because all of the reviews and reactions I read highly encouraged me to do so. However, after spending 135 minutes with this family, I can now firmly say that whichever way you watch it is totally irrelevant, as long as you just watch it. Because Roma is a genuinely beautiful masterwork and one of the best films I’ve seen in quite a while. And no, I’m not just saying this because of all of the awards season hype that it’s been garnering in the months since its premiere. Rather, the reason why I speak so highly of it is that it is one of those films that actually made me… feel something. While Roma does start off pretty slow and deliberate, it gradually takes hold of you and soon explodes into something that’s both ambitious in scope and intensely intimate in scale. There are at least three scenes, all of them occurring in the back half, that conjured up a wide range of complex emotions that I don’t ever think I’ll be able to properly articulate. It’s clear that Cuarón is coming from a deeply felt place in his life, dedicated to his real nanny Libo. Yet he still offers a universal resonance with its story and never lets nostalgia get in the way of anything. One of the best things he did was use a local cast, made up mostly of non-professionals. Yalitza Aparicio may have never acted before, but she delivers one of the best, most towering, and sincere performances from any actress this year. Previously trained as a pre-school teacher in a small village, she brings a natural empathy and radiant warmness to the children. It’s truly unique to see the film unfold through Cleo’s perspective, as she not only puts up with harsh difficulties outside the house but also observes the children’s reaction to everything. Opposite her is Marina De Tavira as Sofia, the struggling matriarch of the family. While she clearly loves her family, she constantly worries about the status of her marriage and how that could affect them. As a result, she frequently lashes out on impulse, one night drunkenly telling Cleo, “No matter what they tell you, we women are always alone.” The children, played by Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Diego Cortine Autrey, and Carlos Peralta, are surprisingly great and empathetic as well. Two other standouts are Nancy García as the other housemaid Adela, who also consulted on the Mixtec dialogue, and Jorge Antonio Guerrero as Fermín, Cleo’s problematic boyfriend. Meanwhile, from a pure filmmaking perspective, Roma is a film made completely in Alfonso Cuarón’s own original voice. When his usual collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki couldn’t come onboard due to scheduling, the director had to fill in the role as his own cinematographer. And the results are absolutely astonishing, utilizing a 6K 65 mm camera to capture 1970’s Mexico in amazing widescreen. Many of the scenes are told through extensive, fluid long-takes, often centered in the exact same spot throughout the ordeal, making it feel like we’re observers inside a vivid memory. The stark black-and-white imagery also helps to give it a sense of timelessness but still make it feel like a faded event from the past. Cuarón also continues his career-long tradition of editing his own movies, this time in collaboration with Adam Gough. Cuts are very sparse throughout the film, but the ones that are there feel extremely calculated and purposeful. It also works to let many of the actors say a lot using simply their body language or facial expressions. Interestingly, there is no musical score or soundtrack in the movie at any point. Instead, the director utilizes state-of-the-art Dolby surround sound systems to capture nearly everything in its audio. Whether it’s something like soap on a dish, an airplane flying overhead, or daily vendors in a suburban street, it makes the whole experience even more immersive. The choice of no soundtrack also helps to better plant the viewer in any environment the characters are in, whether it’s in a store during the infamous Corpus Christi Massacre or on a lovely beach in Tuxpan. As cliche as it may sound, we’re right there with Cleo wherever she goes. However, because it’s such an intensely personal film for the filmmaker, it can be relatively understandable if some audiences aren’t as taken away by the story. It’s worth questioning how many people are truly willing to sit down for a black-and-white, 2-hour and 15-minute film about a Mexican family and their housekeeper that’s subtitled almost entirely in Spanish. But if you know what you’re getting into, it’ll practically be impossible not to be blown away by everything going on. Perhaps the director’s best work yet, Roma is a beautiful, intimate, and fundamentally human masterpiece of cinema. Alfonso Cuarón is a true master of the medium, and we are so unbelievably lucky to have him be able to tell stories like this to the world. It absolutely deserves all of the awards it will inevitably be nominated for, and Yalizta Aparicio is a genuine discovery. This is a film that has left me inspired as a hopeful filmmaker, both in its immaculate craft and tough-but-tender character examination. I can only hope that I can somehow measure up to this standard, and others like me can share the same feeling.