Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort is “Richard Jewell”, based on the true story of the man who found the bomb at the 1996 Olympics. By finding it he saved countless lives, but ended up being blamed for putting it there. Jewell is a police wannabe, an overweight nerd who still lives with his mother. The supporting cast is very good with Kathy Bates as his mother, Jon Hamm as a FBI agent who doggedly pursues him, Olivia Wilde as a journalist who will do anything for a story and Sam Rockwell as Jewell’s only friend and attorney. The lead is played by Peter Walter Hauser who has had small parts in other films. He does a convincing job as Jewell. This is one of Eastwood’s better films lately. It moves and keeps us on the edge of our seats. Unfortunately it shows us how the government and the press can torment us.
“1917” is a World War I story that is told in a unique way. Two British infantry men are sent into No Man’s Land to deliver a message to the commander of troops that are about to attack the Germans that it is an ambush. The body of the film is about these soldiers’ journey and is continuous. The story is compelling and the young actors do a good job. But the thing that makes this film different is the way it is told. it is a continuous journey, told in almost real time. “1917” has been winning most of the big awards, as has its director Sam Mendes. While I think the film is one of the best of 2019, I do not know if it is THE best. Still, see this movie and if you can, see it on the big screen because it is filmed beautifully.
I am a fan of Spanish film maker Pedro Almodovar. His films are well written and not predictable. “Pain and Glory”, his latest, is no exception. It’s the story of a washed up film director, who is wallowing in self pity because he’s sickly and alone. He agrees to come out of seclusion to publicly discuss one of his films. He has to reconcile with an actor from the film who he trashed. Through flashbacks we learn of his impoverished childhood and he was a prodigy. His mother in these scenes is played by Penelope Cruz, who seems to be channeling Sophia Loren’s earthiness. Antonio Banderas, who started his career in Almodovar’s films and became estranged from him, plays the director. It’s probably his best acting job ever. As with most of the director’s films it takes a bit to get started, but one it does, it packs a wallop.
I am here to tell you that “Cats” is not as bad as everyone says. If you are looking for a movie with a linear plot that is coherent and dialogue, stay away from this one. It is surreal, but then the play was the same way. I never understood why it ran as long as it did. The music is quite good; not Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best score, but it has a few memorable songs. Based on T.S. Elliot’s poems, “Cats” is more about the individual characters than what they are doing. It’s almost like a vaudeville or talent show. Each number shows off that particular cat’s story. Some of the performances are worth noting. Judi Detch, dressed up in a Cowardly Lion costume, is regal and intimidating. Ian McKellen’s one number as Gus the Theater Cat practically steals the show. Jennifer Hudson once again stops the show singing “Memories”. (Personally I like Betty Buckley’s version in the Broadway version.) Taylor Swift’s song is a hoot. The newcomers are all spot on. Again, it’s the missing plot that people can’t come to terms with. If you like musicals, fantasy and bizarre costumes, you’ll like “Cats”. Otherwise stay away.
It seems like each generation has its own version of “Little Women”. There’s the Katherine Hepburn version from the 1930’s, the June Allyson version from the late 1940’s, the Winona Ryder version from the 1990’s, and now a new version from writer/director Greta Gerwig, of “Ladybird” fame. This latest retelling is different from the others. First, it is told in flashback. It is also very modern. Saoirse Ronan does a good job as Jo. Florence Pugh, as Amy, is a stand out and will probably be nominated for awards. The basic plot is the same, but it is told differently, which keeps your interest, even if you’ve seen other versions. Beautifully filmed, this is a movie that should be seen.
Adam Sandler tries something different in “Uncut Gems”. He plays a dramatic role and not a sympathetic one. In this film he is owns a New York jewelry store and he’s a liar, gambler and cheat. Obsessed with his gambling, he neglects his family and business, looking to make it big on the next deal. He owes money to the mob and they’re chasing him. This is not a pleasant movie, but it is compelling, well acted and shot on a minimal budget. And Sandler is outstanding in a totally different type of role.
“The Rise of Skywalker” is the last chapter of the Star Wars saga. It is the episode that is supposed to tie up all of the loose ends. A lot of questions are answered but not everything. Rey is back as the Jedi hero who is supposed to save everything. Her true identity is revealed. Interestingly Kylo Ren has the hots for her. I don’t want to give away the plot because there are many twists. As usual the special effects are phenomenal. Also, the character development is non-existent. I remember when Episode IV came out in 1977 how unusual the aliens in the bar scene seemed. Today those type of creatures are all over the movie and they are common. I still have a lot of questions about certain characters, their origins and how they developed. One of the things that bothered me was how certain ghosts came back, mostly to advance the plot. Fans will not be disappointed. The saga has come full circle. Like I did when Episode VII came out, I may go back and watch all of the movies. P.S. “The Empire Strikes Back” is still the best movie of the series.