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Dream Log

SUSPIRIA
2018 | Dir. Luca Guadagnino | 152 Minutes
3 out of 5
Luca Guadagnino takes the concept of a coven of witches disguised as a European dance school from Dario Argento's sensory feast of a cult classic and transmutes it into a grey melancholy meditation on the neglected influence of women taking on terrifying forms conflicting and contrasting against the ruin brought on by men. More frustrating than artful, nearly all exposition essential to understanding the semi-abstract supernatural elements of the story is casually delivered verbally, not visually. Despite Thom Yorke's beautiful haunting soundtrack, and copious helpings of weird violence and disturbing imagery (particularly in the picture's bloody sixth and final act), the mounting dread fails to build to anything close to emotional or visceral satisfaction. Dakota Johnson's unaffecting acting style works well enough in her portrayal of the unassuming Susie but it's regretfully unremarkable especially in comparison to Mia Goth's engaging performance as Susie's doomed friend Sara. Almost goes without saying, Tilda Swinton is the true highlight of the feature, playing three distinct roles (one of which is a bizarre open secret).

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
2018 | Dir. Bryan Singer* | 134 Minutes
2 out of 5
The laziest of biopics just barely covering the basic story of Queen and Freddy Mercury. If this were a term paper on the celebrated band and its legendary frontman, it would have "See me after class" scrawled across the top of it in red. It deserves two points and no more than that: one for the ever-talented Rami Malek's uncanny impersonation of Freddy, and one for playing Queen's greatest hits in a cinematic setting. Take it or leave it, the filmmakers threw in a Mike Myers in-joke as the actor-comedian plays a record producer who doubts that fans would rock out to Bohemian Rhapsody in their cars.
*Bryan Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher when he was fired near the end of principal photography.

THE NIGHT COMES FOR US
2018 | Dir. Timo Tjahjanto | 121 Minutes
4 out of 5
Yeesh! The action choreography, stunt work, and camera work are top notch if you can stomach the buckets of gore and viscera. It's hands down the most gruesome movie I've seen all year by sheer volume. I'm pretty desensitized to movie violence, but I had my hand over my mouth for nearly every brutal fight sequence in this one. Martial arts stars Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais are at the top of their game while Julie Estelle completely steals the show.

HALLOWEEN
2018 | Dir. David Gordon Green | 106 Minutes
3 out of 5
I wish it was better. There are glimmers, real hints of brilliance. Jamie Lee Curtis is a treasure reprising her star-making role of Laurie Strode with excellent added layers of Sarah-Connor-style defense mechanisms brought on by post-traumatic stress. The final set piece is immensely entertaining, though slasher movie traditionalists may take issue with how it defies the trappings of the genre defined by its prime progenitor. Getting to that inspired sequence is at times a chore as the film shifts between various cycles of undercooked material that doesn't pass muster or mesh together smoothly: standard modern slasher movie complete with a nonsensical twist that serves no purpose, horror satire with jokes that don't quite register, pale imitation remix-style remake with callbacks that only remind fans that the original picture did it first and/or better. Can't shake the feeling that director David Gordon Green and his writing team ambitiously tossed everything they had into this stew but didn't quite develop any of its aspects well enough. Plus, this is yet another film that criminally underutilizes Judy Greer! Diehard fans of the series are bound to hate this one for discarding decades of continuity in exchange for such an uneven, sometimes stupid ride. Without that baggage, it wavers between passable and enjoyable for horror audiences that aren't completely put off by its inconsistency.

APOSTLE
2018 | Dir. Gareth Evans | 129 Minutes
4 out of 5
An intense and gory ride that really picks up during its last third. The supernatural aspect of the story is underwhelming, the film could've done without it altogether or, conversely, would have greatly benefited if it was taken much further. A solid feature-length horror debut for director Gareth Evans, but pales in comparison to the smashing home run successes of his Raid action epics.

20180706

Ant-Man and the Wasp

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
2018 | Dir. Peyton Reed | 118 Minutes

"Maybe you just need someone watching your back, like a partner."


After violating the Sokovia Accords, Scott Lang is under house arrest while his allies Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne are forced into hiding. During the final days of his two-year sentence, Scott is begrudgingly recruited by Pym and Hope to embark on a rescue mission. Standing in their way are the FBI, a ruthless illegal tech dealer and his thugs, and a mysterious wraith-like combatant.

Director Peyton Reed delivers a brisk superhero comedy that improves on nearly every aspect of his initial Ant-Man film. Plenty of fun and laughs are to be had from Scott's scale-shifting antics courtesy of a malfunctioning "work-in-progress" suit and Paul Rudd's natural charisma. Hope suits up as the Wasp and is clearly a more capable fighter than Scott, allowing Evangeline Lilly to really shine as the de facto action star of the picture. Together with Michael Douglas' perpetually grumpy Hank Pym, their excellent chemistry carries the wholesome narrative centered on the value of family topped with several layers of humor and semi-nonsensical sci-fi jargon.

Michael Peña, Tip "T.I." Harris, and David Dastmalchian return respectively as chatterbox Luis and his associates Dave and Kurt who've since started a security company perhaps inadvisably named X-Con. While Peña is granted additional screen-time, his comedic stylings are somewhat more tiresome this time around with the notable exception of an extended truth-serum-induced rant. Also returning are Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale as Maggie and Paxton in much smaller roles. Conversely,  Abby Ryder Fortson's Cassie plays a much bigger role, sharing some of the film's most funny and touching scenes with Paul Rudd's Scott.

Though her character is slightly underdeveloped, Hannah John-Kamen does an admirable job as Ava Starr, the tormented Ghost on a desperate mission. As Bill Foster, Laurence Fishburne is underutilized as Ava's surrogate father and voice of reason. Randall Park is perfectly cast as the slightly dopey FBI Agent Jimmy Woo as is character actor Walton Goggins as the slimy Sonny Burch. Michelle Pfeiffer is absolutely radiant in her brief appearance as Janet van Dyne.

All-around, the visual effects are excellent. Ghost has a unique and inspired look as the surrounding translucent images of her waver between the immediate past and present. The prologue of the film and several flashback scenes feature Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, and Laurence Fishburne convincingly de-aged digitally. The scale-changing action is taken to an entertaining new level during the climatic chase sequence through the streets of San Francisco as Pym's modified cars shrink and grow to dodge and disable enemy vehicles in addition to the titular heroes' constant size shifts. Though brief, the deep-dive into the Quantum Realm is appropriately trippy.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a light zippy visually-exciting adventure with real heart. Its loose, fast-paced plot is elevated by a fantastic cast and inspired action. Fans of the the first Ant-Man movie, and followers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, should find this sequel to be more than a worthy continuation of the smaller and larger narrative.


MID-CREDITS STINGER
The Pyms send Scott into the Quantum Realm to collect energy particles but leave him stranded there when they unexpectedly...


POST-CREDITS STINGER
Arthropod drum solo during a state of emergency.


STAN LEE CAMEO
Stan the Man's car is destroyed as he reflects on the 60s.


FRAGMENTS
- Bill Foster mentions working on a project called "Goliath" with Hank Pym, a reference to Foster's superhero alter ego in the original Marvel Comics

- Ghost and Sonny Burch are Iron Man foes in the original Marvel Comics

20180615

Incredibles 2

INCREDIBLES 2
2018 | Dir. Brad Bird | 118 Minutes


"Done properly, parenting is a heroic act... Done properly!"


In an effort to repeal superhero prohibition, telecommunications mogul and superhero fan Winston Deavor approaches Elastigirl with an offer to improve public perception on supers. Mr. Incredible begrudgingly takes on the role of stay-at-home dad while Elastigirl tracks a mysterious mind-controlling villain. Meanwhile, Baby Jack-Jack's unpredictable powers develop at a hilariously alarming rate.

Released over a decade after The Incredibles, Brad Bird's long-awaited sequel is a serviceable superhero movie that's funny and full of heart, but it doesn't quite reach the lofty heights of its predecessor. Helen's solo adventures feature several breathtaking set pieces and action beats, most notably a high-speed chase sequence featuring a custom-built motorcycle tailored to her unique powers and a close-quarters brawl in a cage fashioned with bright mesmerizing strobe lights. However, while there are a couple of neat set-ups involving portal-hopping courtesy of the fresh-faced superhero Void, the climatic set piece aboard a massive speeding ship falls a bit flat.

Bob's character arc taking care of the children is much more captivating than the mystery at the center of Helen's story. The struggling, sleep-deprived father does everything he can to be a good dad to a temperamental teenage daughter, a hyperactive son, and a baby developing new and wild abilities - a situation that is naturally comedic. Jack-Jack's nighttime battle with a raccoon in the backyard is epic and absolutely hysterical.

Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson, and director Brad Bird reprise their roles without missing a step. Character actor Bob Odenkirk is effortlessly enthusiastic as Winston Deavor while Catherine Keener brings a natural charming and relaxed nature to the role of Deavor's tech genius sister Evelyn. Sophia Bush doesn't leave much of an impression as Void.

Incredibles 2 is a delightful action-packed sequel that works much better as family comedy than as a superhero movie. It just doesn't quite maintain the magical balance achieved by the original picture. All in all, it is a worthy continuation that should please both fans of the genre and fans of Pixar films.


JOHN RATZENBERGER AS...
- The Underminer


A113
- The movie Violet and Tony go to see is "Dementia 113" (a reference to Francis Ford Coppola's Dementia 13), the letters and numbers for A 113 on the right-facing movie theater marquee are red instead of black


PIXAR INTERCONNECTIVITY
- The ball from 1986 Pixar animated short Luxo, Jr. is painted on a piece of furniture in Jack-Jack's Room


FRAGMENTS
- Brad Bird reportedly threw out three scripts for a sequel to The Incredibles before committing to this one

- Actors Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks (who replaces the late Bud Luckey as government agent Rick Dicker) appeared together on the critically-acclaimed television series Breaking Bad and its spin-off series Better Call Saul


MCU CONNECTIONS
- Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, and on Agents of SHIELD)

20180427

Avengers: Infinity War

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
2018 | Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo | 149 Minutes

"Perfectly balanced, as all things should be."


Intergalactic warlord Thanos is determined to collect all six Infinity Stones. A defeated Thor teams up with unlikely allies to forge a new weapon to slay Thanos. Stranded in space with company he does not care for, Tony Stark formulates a desperate plan against the unstoppable enemy. To prevent Thanos' invading forces from taking the Mind Stone, Steve Rogers and Earth's mightiest heroes seek aid from King T'Challa and the warriors of Wakanda.

Immediately following the events of Thor: Ragnarok, and picking up the storythreads from all previous MCU movies, Avengers: Infinity War jumps right into the action, offering virtually nothing in the way of exposition. Its biggest flaw as a film is that it simply doesn't work as a stand alone story, but this is hardly a problem for viewers who are already deeply invested in Marvel Studio's shared-universe saga, as this latest chapter of the series was definitely crafted just for such viewers. Taking an astonishing and surprisingly compelling narrative choice, the filmmakers place the heart of the movie in Thanos and his belief that his motivations are purely altruistic, convinced that he is saving the universe in his quest to wipe out half of its population. After only briefly appearing as a vague threat to the heroes for years since the first Avengers movie, this picture is undeniably Thanos' story. While it isn't necessarily the most thought-provoking plot, there's a certain tragic quality to it even taking into consideration the cruel and violent actions taken by him and his underlings. The heaviest theme of this installment as a whole is sacrifice, a theme that is highlighted many times over.

The feature is an action-packed visual smorgasbord. Its lead character, the giant menacing CGI-rendered Thanos built around Josh Brolin's brilliant voice over and motion capture work, struggles to suppress his emotions in order to do what he believes needs to be done. Thanos shows off the unique powers of each Infinity Stone in some truly flashy ways. Though thin in characterization, Thanos' four children voiced are visually distinct and extremely exciting to watch in action as they take on the Avengers and their allies. The creepy Ebony Maw played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Proxima Midnight played by Carrie Coon are particularly notable. Traversing more worlds than any single Marvel Studios picture before, the feature truly feels like a universe-spanning story. The plentiful fight sequences throughout the movie are expertly choreographed, escalating the stakes to near-unbearable levels. The massive multi-front climactic battle, intercutting between several far-off locations, is particularly breathtaking.

Tonally, the picture demonstrates the full range of Marvel Studios' entire eclectic catalogue, occasionally shifting gears rather rapidly. From the first scene and onwards, Thor's journey in this movie is utterly heartbreaking and yet he spends much of his screen time humorously interacting with Rocket and Groot. Tony Stark's frustration in dealing with tag-along Peter Parker, the no-nonsense Doctor Strange, and the all-nonsense Peter Quill undercuts the astronomically high odds against them as they prepare to face the most powerful being in the universe. The tension remains high but the quips and one-liners seldom let up. This may possibly be jarring to some viewers, but it's perfectly consistent with the shared universe's bathos-laden storytelling.

Above all, the filmmakers impressively balance and shuffle the sizable cast of characters. Each hero not only gets their own opportunities to shine but they interact with each other in amusing and surprising ways, too. In no universe would Tony Stark and Stephen Strange ever get along. Peter Quill's intesne jealously over his crew fawning over pirate-angel Thor is priceless. When Shuri meets Bruce Banner, she immediately demonstrates that she is brighter than him and all his PhDs. Bucky teaming up with Rocket is a surefire recipe for laughs. Natasha, Okoye, and Wanda form a magnificently formidable trio. While most of the heroes aren't afforded complete character arcs - the story for this one remains focused on Thanos after all - these moments are pure magic just as they were in the first Avengers film.

Epic. There is no other word that adequately describes it. Culminating ten years of multiple shared-universe storylines, Avengers: Infinity War is Marvel Studios' biggest, most ambitious movie yet. It should prove to be an extremely rewarding experience for all longtime fans of the massive multi-picture ongoing cinematic narrative -- and absolutely confounding to everyone else.


POST-CREDITS STINGER
In a moment of desperation, a hero is paged.


STAN LEE CAMEO
Stan the Man is a school bus driver.


FRAGMENTS
- A blue Tobias Fünke from Arrested Development appears in Taneleer Tivan's collection

- Ludwig Göransson’s Black Panther theme plays when we first see Wakanda in this film


THE WIRE CONNECTIONS
- Idris Elba (Stringer Bell)

20180225

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
2017 | Dir. Martin McDonagh | 115 Minutes

"She got killed, still no arrest. How come, I wonder. Because there ain't no God, and the whole world's empty, and it doesn't matter what we do to each other? I hope not."



Furious mother Mildred Hayes buys ad space in a remote location in the small town of Ebbing, Missouri, to chastise the local sheriff for his inability to solve the case of her teenage daughter's brutal rape and murder. Public opinion quickly turns against Mildred due to the open secret of the sheriff's failing health. As the situation escalates, Mildred acts on her worst impulses, and the most unlikely person in town discovers a potential lead on the case.

Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a powerful drama about one mother's absolute refusal to let go as she lives in the unbearable aftermath of an unspeakable crime. While there are comedic moments in the film, the majority of any humor to be had is morbid, and the violence perpetrated in the narrative is sudden and shocking. While Mildred's anger is undoubtedly righteous, the story is one of displaced and misplaced rage, of the products of domestic abuse, and of people uniting under a dubious cause for dubious reasons. The film plays out like a true crime story in which events unfold in an unpredictable manner and easy solutions are nowhere to be found.

The picture's fantastic cast is led by the ever-brilliant Frances McDormand as Mildred, absolutely personifying a thirst for vengeance that severely compromises all logical judgement. Playing a racist, violent, and incompetent white trash deputy who may not be beyond redemption (the unequivocal heart of controversy for the film), Sam Rockwell gives the performance of his career. The cast also features excellent performances from a selection of some of the best character actors available including Woody Harrelson as the dying Sheriff Willoughby, Lucas Hedges as Mildred's wary son, Caleb Landry Jones as the dopey owner of the billboards, Peter Dinklage as a local with an unrequited crush on Mildred, John Hawkes as Mildred's abusive ex-husband, and Clarke Peters as the new sheriff and sole voice of reason.

Grim, funny, often upsetting, but always captivating, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a story of misguided anger and the search for justice and meaning, a search that may never end. The film is challenging, thematically rich, hopeless to a certain degree but hopeful in other ways, and hands down one of the best films of 2017.


FRAGMENTS
- Caleb Landry Jones appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and Get Out

- Lucas Hedges appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and Lady Bird

- Kathryn Newton appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and Lady Bird

- I was particularly thrilled with Clarke Peters' reassuring presence as a straight-shooting lawman, not too far removed from his iconic role as Lester Freamon on The Wire


MCU CONNECTIONS
- Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2 and Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King)

- Kerry Condon (FRIDAY in Avengers: Age of UltronCaptain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Infinity War)

- Peter Dinklage (Eitri in Avengers: Infinity War)


THE WIRE CONNECTIONS
- Clarke Peters (Lester Freamon)

20180224

The Shape of Water

THE SHAPE OF WATER
2017 | Dir. Guillermo del Toro | 123 Minutes

"When he looks at me, the way he looks at me, he does not know what I lack or how I am incomplete. He sees me, for what I am, as I am. He's happy to see me every time, every day."


In Cold War era Baltimore, Maryland, a mute woman named Elisa works as a janitor at a secret government facility. Elisa falls in love with an aquatic humanoid creature held captive in the lab, but as their romance blossoms she catches the attention of the sadistic colonel who captured the creature. With the creature's life on the line, Elisa helps the creature escape with the help of her friends.

The Shape of Water is a creature feature with a romantic heart beating at its core. Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro's fondness for monsters and old Hollywood colors every frame of the film. The audience is quickly introduced to Alisa who lives alone in a creaky apartment above an old movie theater through her day-to-day routine down to the most honest and intimate detail. As Alisa's relationship with the creature develops, rather than shy away from depicting the physical act of love, del Toro fully embraces the moment as one of romantic beauty and triumph. The supporting characters populating the relatively simple narrative are also nuanced and human to a fault, from Alisa's awkward neighbor who has a shy crush on the server at the local cafe to the villainous colonel who suffers from intense feelings of inadequacy.

As the mute heroine Elisa, Sally Hawkins is simply lovely and undeniably magnetic, carrying the film with genuine strength and grace. Doug Jones, the Boris Karloff of our time (and director Guillermo del Toro's regular ace in the hole), delivers yet another brilliant and affecting performance as the meticulously-realized fishman - here's hoping the Academy honors him with a statue some day if they're ever less stuffy about recognizing genre films. Character actor Michael Shannon at his most volatile raises the dramatic stakes considerably as the colonel, and leads a fantastic supporting cast featuring Octavia Spencer as Elisa's unhappily wed friend from work, Richard Jenkins as her kindly gay neighbor, and Michael Stuhlbarg as a conscientious soviet spy.

An artful and truly unique blend of pure romance and monster movie, The Shape of Water is a heartfelt tribute to those who feel unloved, and the fulfillment one may find in unexpected places. The film ranks among Guillermo del Toro's finest works, and it's without a doubt one of the best motion pictures of the year.


FRAGMENTS
- Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro reportedly asked for assistance from female members of his family and female friends to design the shape of the creature's butt to ensure that it was pleasing to the eye

- Doug Jones previously appeared in Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army based on Mike Mignola's comic book series as Abe Sapien, a similar amphibious humanoid creature

- Michael Stuhlbarg appears in three Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film, Call Me By Your Name, and The Post


MCU CONNECTIONS
- Michael Stuhlbarg (Nicodemus West in Doctor Strange)

20180223

The Post

THE POST
2017 | Dir. Steven Spielberg | 116 Minutes

"We can't hold them accountable if we don't have a newspaper."


In the mid 1960s, an embittered military analyst leaks classified reports documenting the extensive secret history of the ongoing Vietnam War that was hidden from the American public to various news outlets. It is a race against the clock for the reporters of the financially fragile Washington Post to obtain the documents to beat other publications to press time, but when the Nixon Administration bars the New York Times from publishing the classified information, Katharine Graham, the reluctant owner of the Washington Post, must choose between protecting the integrity of her politician friends and the stability of her business, or serving the American people by exposing the truth.

Steven Spielberg's latest film is a relatively standard, competently-constructed drama elevated by its magnificent cast. The picture's captivating narrative surrounding the Washington Post's decision to publish the Pentagon Papers unfolds in a deliberate fashion that is at times frustrating and at times exhilarating. The focus of the feature shifts between the drama surrounding Graham (and the men who both support and subvert her leadership) and the revelation of the shocking truths behind the Vietnam War. The very best sequence of the film involves the leadership of the Washington Post on multiple telephones sharing one phone line, arguing over whether or not their Pentagon Papers story should be published with press time just hours away.

While Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are at the top of their respective games, they do not deliver their very best work. Streep is perfectly regal and relatable as Katharine Graham, but while Graham faces a significant personal dilemma, the role ultimately does not require much range. The same can be said of Hanks' part as Ben Bradlee, with Hanks once again doing a fine job taking on his bread and butter role of the standard everyman, this time in the form of the impassioned newspaper editor-in-chief with little to no respect for authority. The supporting cast is packed with a variety of talent featuring Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, Zach Woods, and Michael Stuhlbarg all in key roles.

The true story of the Washington Post's decision to report on the Pentagon Papers, and subsequently provoke the wrath of the Nixon administration, already a story worth telling and retelling, is all the more relevant now considering the current presidential administration's disdain for the press. However, Spielberg's narrative unfolds in an almost painfully procedural way. The Post is without a doubt an important film, but its greatest flaw is that it is just a good movie but not a great one.


FRAGMENTS
- Bradley Whitford appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and Get Out

- Tracy Letts appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and Lady Bird

- Michael Stuhlbarg appears in three Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film, Call Me By Your Name, and The Shape of Water

- Bob Odenkirk, Jesse Plemons, Carrie Coon, and Michael Stuhlbarg were all featured in the acclaimed Fargo television series

- It's incredibly gratifying to Bob Odenkrik and his comedy partner David Cross, the creators/stars of Mr. Show, featured so prominently together on screen in a Steven Spielberg film


MCU CONNECTIONS
- Michael Stuhlbarg (Nicodemus West in Doctor Strange)

- Carrie Coon (Proxima Midnight in Avengers: Infinity War)

20180222

Phantom Thread

PHANTOM THREAD
2017 | Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson | 130 Minutes

"You're not going to die. You might wish you're going to die, but you're not going to."


Renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock is a confirmed bachelor, completely dedicated to his work, and reluctant to maintain any meaningful emotional relationships. One day, a waitress named Alma captures Woodcock's attention and quickly becomes his live-in muse and lover. The pair struggle to love and understand one another as their contrasting personalities alternate between melding and clashing. After their relationship is damaged through several difficult episodes, fearing that she would lose Woodcock, Alma makes a drastic decision.

A tale mad love in the world of 1950s London high fashion, director Paul Thomas Anderson latest film is an aesthetically-rich finely-crafted picture. While every detail in the production design of the feature is lovely, not least of which the real artistic work behind the lavish tailored gowns, Anderson juxtaposes the beauty with a quiet sense of dread. The tension between Woodcock and Alma, accentuated by Jonny Greenwood's brilliant musical score, is palpable and a feeling of discomfort permeates the entire picture.

Announced as Daniel Day-Lewis' final film performance, Phantom Thread is an appropriately fitting send-off for the accomplished method actor. Woodcock is equal parts charming, insufferable, attentive, and cruel, and Daniel Day-Lewis completely disappears into the persona once again demonstrating his ever-impressive talent. Vicky Krieps perfectly complements Daniel Day Lewis' eccentric particularity as the unapologetically headstrong Alma, revealed to be harboring a vengeful mean streak of her own. The feature is driven by the pair's excellent chemistry and by their endlessly entertaining verbal sparring matches courtesy of Anderson's razor-sharp screenplay. Lesley Manville deserves special notice as Woodcock's no-nonsense sister Cyril, effortlessly embodying the protective but wary sibling who knows and has lived with her brother's moods and eccentricities all her life.

Phantom Thread is as visually pleasing as Woodcock's dresses and as emotionally complex as a love laced with poison. Excellent performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps elevate the picture to astounding heights. While the romantic narrative leads to a dark and sinister place that may be surprising and disturbing, it is absolutely captivating.


FRAGMENTS
- Reynolds Woodcock is loosely based on British fashion designer Charles James

- To prepare for the role of Reynold Woodcock, Daniel Day-Lewis designed and crafted a Balenciaga dress from scratch

- Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson states that there is no official credit for the cinematography for the film, and that it was a "collaborative effort"

20180221

Lady Bird

LADY BIRD
2017 | Dir. Greta Gerwig | 93 Minutes

"The only thing exciting about 2002 is that it's a palindrome."


Catholic high school senior Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson and her mother Marion are at odds about Lady Bird's desire to attend college away from her hometown. Leading up to graduation, Lady Bird openly defies authority, falls for boys who are not good for her, and briefly abandons her best friend to socialize with the popular kids. Meanwhile, Lady Bird's middle class family struggles through tough financial challenges.

Greta Gerwig's directorial debut is a funny true-to-life coming-of-age story with a screenplay by Gerwig that accurately portrays the life of a high school senior without sugarcoating or over-dramatizing the very real emotions experienced by youth on the cusp of adulthood. From Lady Bird's sometimes clever, sometimes clumsy mannerisms to the questionable social decisions she makes throughout the picture, there is a captivating inevitability in the way Gerwig's narrative unfolds. The early 2000's setting is authentically captured from the haircuts to the music to the truly dumb and naive things teenagers said and believed at the time. The denouement fizzles out slightly, but I guess that's realistic, too.

Saoirse Ronan is fantastic as the titular rebellious teenager, perfectly capturing the spirit and the awkwardness without turning the role into a caricature. Laurie Metcalf matches Ronan's energy as Lady Bird's mother, playing to perfection the headstrong woman who hides her own vulnerability behind a barrier of strict, no-room-for-argument parenting. Conversely, Tracy Letts is lovable as Lady Bird's seemingly perpetually laidback father who is revealed to be struggling with depression unbeknownst to his daughter. Playing the boys Lady Bird fall for, Lucas Hedges excels in a relatively small but rich role as a closeted gay Catholic, while Timothée Chalamet is hilariously believable as the detached teen in a band who believes in wild conspiracy theories and can’t be bothered. Scene-stealer Beanie Feldstein is absolutely adorable as Lady Bird's best friend Julie, quietly playing out a heartbreaking subplot in which Julie has an inadvisable crush on her math teacher.

With nuanced natural dialogue, carried by brilliant performances from its cast, Greta Gerwig crafted an instant-classic in Lady Bird. The attention to detail paid to establish the characters and the setting is remarkable. Most importantly, the themes and ideas at the very heart of the film ring true.


FRAGMENTS
- Tracy Letts appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and The Post

- Lucas Hedges appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

- Timothée Chalamet appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and Call Me By Your Name

- Kathryn Newton appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

- To this day, I adamantly loathe the Dave Matthews Band song "Crash Into Me" but the director Greta Gerwig utilizes the song in a surprisingly funny and emotionally touching way

20180220

Get Out

GET OUT
2017 | Dir. Jordan Peele | 103 Minutes

"All I know is sometimes, when there's too many white people, I get nervous, you know?"


Chris, an African American photographer, spends the weekend at the childhood home of his Caucasian girlfriend Rose to meet her allegedly socially progressive family and their overly-enthusiastic friends. The weekend takes a sinister turn when Chris discovers the unspeakable secret that links Rose's family with several missing local African American people. When Chris goes missing, his friend Rod, a TSA Agent, investigates.

With a clever screenplay and an inspired vision, comedian Jordan Peele's directorial film debut is equal parts uncomfortable and entertaining. The narrative is rich with layers of social commentary on the very real and immediately issues surrounding race and ethnicity in modern America. The most chilling concept presented in the picture is that its monsters do not simply aim to subjugate Chris. The rich old predominately white villains (there is one Japanese man in the crowd) fetishize Chris on a purely superficial level, attempt to suppress and hollow out his personhood, and subsequently fully implant themselves into his shell.

As the emotionally reserved Chris, Daniel Kaluuya is a captivating protagonist, delivering a quiet vulnerability that constantly builds as a formative childhood trauma is drawn to the surface against his will and as he discovers the horror behind his predicament. Allison Williams plays Rose to perfection as the duplicitous bait in her family's scheme. As Rose's surgeon father, Bradley Whitford exemplifies the unnerving shallow friendliness of any racist who has ever denied their prejudice. On the other end of the spectrum, Caleb Landry Jones embodies pure white trash as Rose's brother with a proclivity for random violent outbursts. The most terrifying character of the film may be Rose's psychiatrist mother portrayed by Catherine Keener with cold precision. A close second for scariest character would Georgina, the creepy maid with a disturbing secret, played by Betty Gabriel with delightful creepiness. It is impossible not to root for Lil Rel Howery's Rod, the ineffable and hilarious voice of reason, and possibly the only TSA agent to ever perform a heroic act in film.

Get Out is smart, gripping, socially-conscious horror with a good measure of humor in the mix. The twisted, deceptive, very white antagonists are truly terrifying. Jordan Peele immediately establishes himself as a filmmaker to follow closely.


FRAGMENTS
- According to Writer/Director Jordan Peele, the Sunken Place represents the marginalization of minorities in America as "No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us."

- In the original intended ending of film, Chris incarcerated by law enforcement for killing Rose and her family, but Writer/Director Jordan Peele decided to revise the ending in light of several unjust police shootings of black people that occurred as production for the film was underway

- This film was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in the category of Musical or Comedy while it is undeniably NOT a musical or comedy

- Bradley Whitford appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and The Post

- Caleb Landry Jones appears in two Best Picture Oscar Nominees that were released in 2017: this film and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


MCU CONNECTIONS
- Bradley Whitford (Agent John Flynn in Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter)

- Daniel Kaluuya (W'Kabi in Black Panther)