Saw three movies this Memorial Day Weekend. First up was “Fast X”, the latest in the the “Fast and Furious” series. As with past installments there are lots of car chases using special effects and lots of fighting. This time there is a super villain played by Jason Mamoa, who enlists an army of bad guys to bring down Dominic Toretto and his “family”. Charize Theron and Jason Stratham are brought in for good effect. High on action, low on plot and dialogue, You don’t go to “Fast and Furious” movies for intellectual stimulation. This film does not disappoint on the action level and leaves the viewer with an opening for the next installment. By the way, this is Vin Diesel’s second best performance this year. He was better as Groot in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Chapter 3”, mainly because he had less dialogue.
The second film was “About My Father”, written and starring Sebastian Maniscalco as the son of an Italian immigrant, played by Robert DeNiro, The first half, when they are establishing the back story, is pretty funny. Much of it is taken from Maniscalco’s stand up comedy. DeNiro is his immigrant, hair dresser father, steeped in Sicilian tradition, Sebastian’s girlfriend is from a wealthy, waspy family and father and son are invited to spend the July 4th weekend at their estate. Lots of fish-out-of-water humor. During this latter portion the movie becomes formulaic. Maniscalco’s stand up is hilarious. Had he stuck to that type of storyline this film might have been better.
The third movie was “The Machine”, which I knew nothing about when I bought my ticket. It is based on Bert Kreischer’s stand up routine where he talks about his time in college when he studied in Russia where he became a legend with the Russian mafia. As preposterous as this sounds, it really happened. The story takes place in modern times, Kreischer is kidnapped back to Russia with his father, played by Mark Hamill. Kreischer, who is called the Machine in the movie and in show business, has father issues. This film is fall down funny, but not for the easily offended. Lots of gratuitous killing and use of profanity, but in the end it is pretty hilarious.
“The Quiet Girl” is an Irish film mostly in Gaelic. It is the story of a young girl from a very poor family with five brothers and sisters and one on the way. Her parents send her to stay on a farm with cousins who have no children. The movie shows her transformation from an unhappy little girl to a more confident, content person. It also shows how she changes the adults lives. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. A small, but compelling character study, I recommend this movie.
I think that Michael B. Jordan is trying to catch up, using the Creed movies, with Sylvester Stallone and his Rocky films. “Creed III” is his latest. This time Adonis Creed is retired from boxing, but is now a promoter. Into his life enters a friend from his troubled teenage past who has a giant chip on his shoulder and is a helluva fighter. Basically he spent the last twenty years in jail while Adonis was free. The villain is played by Jonathan Majors and he is formidable. Majors is a rising star, having starred in “Devotion” and the new Antman movie recently. In the end Creed needs to fight the villain and of course he wins. A worthy successor to the previous Creed movies and the fight scenes are awesome.
In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be reviewing a film titled “Cocaine Bear”. It sounds like one of the midnight movies that was made for about $130 and is only attended by people on drugs. I believe I was the oldest person in the theater when I saw it. But let me tell you, I enjoyed “Cocaine Bear”. Directed by Elizabeth Banks it is a horror comedy about a cocaine heist that goes very wrong. When a shipment of the drug is dropped from an airplane into the wilderness a bear becomes a drug addict. You have the drug runners who are having family problems, some truant adolescents and a ranger who is hot for an environmentalist. There is a decent amount of gore but most of it is surreal. Funny and surprising, this film is surprisingly well done. I was entertained and surprised!
Continuing to the Best Actress category, I believe there are two frontrunners: Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh. Blanchett may be our greatest living actress and her performance in “Tar” is truly remarkable. She embodies the character with the same gusto that she did in “Blue Jasmin”. Cate Blanchett disappears and all you see is Lydia Tar. However, as good as she is in this film, I thoroughly disliked her. As written by Todd Fields she has very few redeeming qualities. On the other hand, Michelle Yeoh gives a different kind of performance in “Everything, Everywhere, All Around”. She is angry, perplexed, over worked and vulnerable. It is the best role from an actress who has been around. I believe she deserves the Oscar, but Blanchett is not out of the picture. I also liked Michelle Williams in “The Fabelmans”, but this isn’t her year.
Most of the awards up to now have gone to Ke Huy Quan for playing Michelle Yeoh’s husband in “Everything, Everywhere, All Around”. He gives a great performance as a man who has not lived up to his potential. In addition to his role, Quan has a comeback story. He was the kid in an Indiana Jones movie back in the 1980’s and had actually quit acting before taking on this role. Academy voters love that kind of story. This category has some very strong performances. Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan in “The Banshees of Inisherin” both were great, especially Gleeson. Bryan Tyree Henry was good in “Causeway”, but I don’t think it was an Oscar-worthy performance. Finally, for me Judd Hirsch is a sentimental favorite as Uncle Boris in “The Fabelmans”. In one or two scenes he stole the movie! I don’t think he has a chance, but I would vote for him.
Angela Basset has won a number of the awards for Best Supporting Actress so far for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”. As usual she gives a strong, commanding performance, but I do not think it is deserving of an Oscar. Kerry Condon was quite good as Colin Farrell’s sister in “The Banshees of Inisherin” and deserves her nomination. I especially liked Hong Chau in “The Whale” as a caregiver. (She was also excellent in “The Menu”). Both Stephanie Hsu as the daughter and Jamie Lee Curtis as an IRS agent are nominated for “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once”. Curtis’s role is much different than anything she’s done before and I would vote for her. She has a chance to win, but I think Angela Basset will take home the gold.
For Best Foreign Film I would say that “All Quiet on the Western Front” should win and the new “Pinocchio” will probably be named Best Animated Film. It really is a different take on a familiar story. Most of the special effects and technical awards will probably be shared by “Avatar”, “Top Gun” and “Black Panther”, three well-done sequels.
Like I said, my track record on predictions is not the greatest. Let’s see what happens.
It’s that time of the year again when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestow their awards. That means that I am going to weigh in with my thoughts. Please note that my track record is not the greatest. I have my favorites, but that doesn’t mean they will win. So here goes.
There are ten films up for the Best Picture Oscar. I am not sure that all of them deserve their nominations and a few that didn’t make it should have been on the list. For example, some people believe that “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” should have made it. In my opinion “RRR”, an Indian film, should have also been nominated. A lot of people talked about how great “Women Talking” was. I thought it was all right, but not for Best Picture. I also felt that way about “The Banshees of Inisherin”. As I said in my review, it was a well made, quirky Irish film, but not they year’s best movie. “All Quiet on the Western Front” was great, but it being a foreign film and its director not being nominated limit its chances. Some say “Top Gun: Maverick” should get it, and it was good, but again, is not a Best Picture. “Elvis” was a great film, but I don’t think it has a chance. “Triangle of Sadness” is a unique film by a new director. It’s a bit weird to get the Oscar. We will probably hear from its director/writer in the future. I did not like “Tar”. While Cate Blanchett’s performance is outstanding and the part is very well written, I was underwhelmed by the character and story. In fact I actively disliked the characters and overall movie. “Avatar: The Way of Water” was better than the original, but it didn’t get a nomination for James Cameron as director. It is probably too light for the Academy. I enjoyed “The Fabelmans”, but I don’t think it is Steven Spielberg’s best. I wouldn’t be upset if it won, but I also wouldn’t vote for it. That leaves “Everything, Everywhere All at Once” for the Oscar. It too is a quirky, unique movie that is also a mind bender and keeps its audience on its toes. Well written, well acted and it is hard to compare to anything else. I think the Academy will reward this film as I would.
Best Director will probably go to the “Two Daniels”, Daniel Scheinhart and Daniel Kwan, for “Everything, Everywhere All at Once”. Up until a few weeks ago I thought the film would win, but Steven Spielberg would receive his third Oscar for directing. That still could happen, but I think the Two Daniels will get it.
The Best Actor race is currently a three-way contest. Brendan Fraser in “The Whale” gives a mesmerizing, once-in-a-lifetime performance. His is one of those acting jobs that ranks with William Hurt in “Kiss of the Spider Woman”, Marion Cottilard in “La Vie en Rose” or Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Along with Fraser Austin Butler in “Elvis” is amazing. He transformed into one of the best known figures in modern history and made the audience believe it was him. Colin Farrell gives his best performance yet in “The Banshees of Inisherin”. Other nominations went to Bill Nighy in “Living” and Paul Mescal in “Aftersun”. I did not see the latter and Nighy is wonderfully understated in a beautiful performance. I don’t think either of them has a chance. I wish I had two votes in this category because I would give them to Fraser AND Butler, but if I have to choose, I will go for Brendan Fraser.
“Triangle of Sadness” has received stellar reviews and is nominated for a Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director. It is a story told in three parts. The first introduces us to two shallow models, one female, one male. They are lovers and feel very entitled. Part two has the models going on a cruise on a luxury yacht, filled with strange, rich people. The captain, played by Woody Harrelson, will not come out of his cabin. The yacht encounters a storm during the Captain’s Dinner and then pirates blow the ship up. The third part takes place on a deserted island where the roles of the rich and poor are reversed. This is a very interesting, but strange, movie. It keeps you guessing. I would call it unique, but I don’t know if I’d place it on the Best Picture list. Definately worth seeing because it’s not your average story.
“Living” is a British film based on an Akira Kurosawa movie. The main character is a mid-level bureaucrat, very set in his ways. His life is one predictable moment after another. He finds out that he has a terminal disease and decides that he needs to live. The problem is that he does not know how. He enlists other people to show him how to enjoy life. Finally he takes on a project at work that is stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire. His once meaningless life becomes something valued as reflected by the people who end up caring about him. I was not expecting to like this film, but I ended up really enjoying it. I cared about the character played by Bill Nighy. His understated performance was wonderful and magnetic. See this movie! You will be glad you did.
The title “Women Talking” is a great description for this movie. A group of women living in a religious farming community gather to figure out what they are going to do about the consistent abuse by the men. They can do nothing, fight back or leave. The entire film consists of their discussion on these topics, There is not much action, just dialogue. The acting is very good. I was especially impressed by Judith Ivey as one of the oldest women. There is only one male role, played by Ben Winslow. He serves as the women’s secretary since none of them were allowed to learn to read and write. The subject matter is very intense and sometimes difficult to sit through. The film is nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and is the type you can wait for streaming.
I have been reading great reviews about “RRR”, an Indian film that is currently streaming on Netflix. I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect from a plot described as the story of two friends and how they help and save each other in many situations. It is Hollywood vs. Bollywood with a bow to “Rambo” and “Crouching Tiger/Hidden Tiger”. At over three hours, it’s a major time commitment, but it is well worth it. The story is about the fight for Indian independence in the 1920’s from the British who are portrayed as terrible oppressors. It has action, some of it surreal, a compelling story with lots of twists, music and is beautifully filmed. The two leads are big Bollywood stars and are excellent. This film was a pleasant surprise because I did not expect it to be so good. In fact I would list this as one of the top movies of 2022. I strongly recommend this film.