Last Christmas

I figured that “Last Christmas” was going to be one of those typical Christmas romantic comedies, the kind with attractive leads meeting cute and falling in love. You know what I mean, a Hallmark of Lifetime movie, but with better production values. The female lead is Emila Clarke, from “Game of Thrones”, and she is somewhat of a train wreck of a person. She’s from an immigrant family from Croatia (Emma Thompson with a thick accent), semi-homeless in London and has a nowhere job in a Christmas ornament shop run by an Asian dragon lady. She also recently had very serious health issues. Out of the blue, this handsome stranger appears and wins her over. He helps her find her way in life, because she was pretty much drifting. The difference between this movie and other Christmas themed films is that it has a major “Sixth Sense” twist and I did not see it coming. The film itself has giant reality holes, like how does the ornament store stay in business year round and why does the lead character wear an elf costume most of the time? But I really enjoyed this film. It ends on a happy/sad/hopeful note. The two leads, Clarke and Henry Golding from “Crazy Rich Asians” have a lot of chemistry. A nice holiday diversion.

Jo Jo Rabbit

I have been reading a lot about “Jo Jo Rabbit” and its audacious plot, the type that you’ll either love or hate. It won awards at film festivals, while some audience members walked out. Jo Jo is a ten year old Nazi youth, who has an imaginary friend, Adolph Hitler. The writer and director, Taika Waititi, plays the dictator as buffoonish and simple minded and I must admit, he is very funny. Roman Griffin Davis, a newcomer, is Jo Jo and he is outstanding, believable and sympathetic while spouting Nazi rhetoric. The film turns a Hitler Youth Camp into a series of funny and ridiculous episodes. Jo Jo’s mother is played by Scarlett Johansson giving a great performance. Sam Rockwell is a clownish Nazi officer, sympathetic to Jo Jo. This film is not be for everyone. Some people may find its attempt at humor offensive. If you are not offended it is a crazy story with a lot of humor and some pathos. I liked it a lot.

Motherless Brooklyn

“Motherless Brooklyn” is a murder mystery set on 1950’s New York City. It concerns a detective, played by Edward Norton, with a tick-like disability, trying to find out who killed his boss and mentor. Norton also directed and the film is very atmospheric and shows a lot of details from the era. The supporting cast is excellent, including Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe and Bruce Willis and the plot keeps you guessing. The problem is that in trying to cover the details of the story, the film is slow. I thought it would have made a great mini series. Edward Norton once again gives a great performance and shows potential as a director. A good, but not great movie.

The Laundromat

“The Laundromat”, starring Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman, and directed by Steven Soderberg, is one of the new films on Netflix. It is billed as similar to “The Big Short” because it tells the story of how shell corporations out of Panama ruined people’s lives. Based on its pedigree this film should have been good, but that wasn’t so. Like “The Big Short” there is narration, done by Banderas and Oldman, but it is more annoying than informative. Slow and not compelling. The only thing I liked about it was a surprise at the very end. Normally when I don’t like a movie I say wait for HBO. For this movie, don’t waste your time.

Terminator: Dark Fate

I have never been a huge Terminator fan, but I liked the new “Terminator: Dark Fate”. This time around robots from the future come back to kill a young woman who is instrumental in fighting them later on, like Sarah Connor was in previous editions. This time Sarah and a bionic person from the future named Grace try to keep the young woman safe. Of course one of the evil robots is chasing them and they enlist Arnold Schwarzenegger’s help. Lots of action, but this time it’s the women who do most of the fighting. Sarah Connor, still being played by Linda Hamilton is a true bad ass, still out to avenge the death of her son. Grace is also an incredible fighter. Lots of action and it keeps moving at a brisk pace. I recommend it.

Parasite

“Parasite” is the first South Korean film to win the Palm d’Or, their highest award. It is a comedy/mystery with social overtones. It has received rave reviews since its release. It’s the story of a poor family who infiltrate a wealthy family as their servants. They way they get their jobs is devious, interesting, and funny. The rich family doesn’t have a clue. The story turns dark when the wealthy family goes on a camping trip and the servants take over the house. None of the actors are known in the United States, but they do an excellent job. The story moves, has many layers and kept my interest for most of its two hours. Plenty of twists and turns. This film will likely be prominent during awards season, not only in the Foreign Language category, but for directing and writing.

Black and Blue

“Black and Blue” is a suspenseful police chase drama. Naomi Harris, who played the mother in “Moonlight”, is excellent as a rookie New Orleans police officer. She witnesses the murder of a couple of drug dealers at the hands some corrupt fellow policemen and happens to be wearing a body camera. Her problem is that, even though she is black, residents want nothing to do with her and most of the other patrolmen want to cover up what happened, so she has no help and nowhere to hide. Suspenseful and interesting. The film captures the poor section of New Orleans realistically, with its poverty and violence. It will keep your interest for its two hours. This was the best original action movie I’ve seen in a while.