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The Hunt (II) (2020)
6/10
Witty and Mordant Action/Horror/Comedy
31 March 2020
Tries hard to please, and succeeds in providing some fun moments throughout. Betty Gilpin carries the film over the finish line with girl-power action skills, and the competent supporting cast contribute much, making their impact before their inevitable demise takes them out of the picture.

Looks at first to be heading towards a political agenda, but soon enough moves towards satirizing such - There is thankfully no thought-provoking messaging involved - just an effort in having some fun here.

Too violent/inappropriate for children, if wondering.
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10/10
Enthralling and Gripping, Brilliantly Paced, with Inspired Performances, and Casting Perfection
3 January 2020
Paul Walter Houser absolutely deserves an Oscar nomination as does Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, and Clint Eastwood.

This could be the dark horse award winner across the board, fitting for the story of an underdog hero. Prediction: Sam is going to get his second consecutive Oscar, and there will be more statuettes going home for this film.

A must-see inspiring movie where truth triumphs in the end. This is my favorite Eastwood movie, hands down.

Bravo to all involved, with Eastwood deserving special praise for bringing out the finest level of performance from the entire cast.
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1917 (2019)
10/10
Visually Stunning Academy Award Winner for Cinematography (and 6+ more nominations likely)
1 January 2020
Director/Writer Sam Mendes and Cinematographer Roger Deakins produce the best war film of the 2010s. Truly stunning visually, the story of two soldiers' race to the front lines of WWI under direct orders to deliver the message to stop 1,600 British soldiers from entering a trap set-up by German forces to massacre them, keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, and inside the soldiers' boots, through amazing Mendes/Deakins directing/cinematography techniques. This is film art in its highest form, and is at once incredibly beautiful and horrific. A runaway certain Oscar winner for Cinematography (Deakins), and nominations (at a minimum) for Best Film, Director, Visual Effects, Screenplay (Mendes), Film Editing (Lee Smith), and Actor (George MacKay).
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10/10
"One Helluva Night" George Lucas Directs His First Feature Film - Coppola Produces
31 December 2019
One end-of-Summer night in 1962 for four 18 y.o. teenage friends in Modesta California. American Graffiti is the Godfather of Coming-Of-Age films, produced by Francis Ford Coppola who ensured the financing, and marks the first feature-length film by director George Lucas (who was writing the Star Wars screenplay at the time), the beginning of Harrison Ford's major film career, and his relationship with Lucas.

The film stands on its own merit without all the historic film footnotes and trivia, and I highly recommend this film for all ages 10+.

The fabulously integrated period soundtrack ate up the majority of this film's budget, as it was filmed almost entirely at night in just four weeks on location in the Valley.

A MUST-SEE MOVIE easily making the 100 Greatest Films list, and its immense popularity made it the highest grossing film for many years after its release.
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Judy (II) (2019)
8/10
Renee Zellweger - Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
29 October 2019
Renee immerses herself in the role of Judy Garland, locking up her 4th Oscar Nomination, and likely her second Oscar win, 15 years after Cold Mountain.

One would expect that a truly legendary and iconic actress / singer / dancer like Judy Garland would be enjoying the fruits of her long time successful career, and the accolades of her adoring fans, who would be lining up to buy tickets to see her perform. Alas, Garland's life eptomized the Hollywood cautionary tale of child stars.

Despite massive talent, and amazing work ethic, alcohol, prescription drugs, bad husband choices, despicable studio bosses, and an even worse mother, gave her little chance to bypass tragedy.

Renee clearly did her homework, nailing the nuances of Garland's personality, trooper attitude, eccentric stage mannerisms, and distinctive vocals - The buy-in to Renee as Judy was immediate and never wavered.

Brief flashbacks take us back to production of "The Wizard of Oz" whose namesake himself couldn't save Judy from the Mother from Hell or the Boss From Hell (Louis B Mayer), for just the right amount of time to give the story supporting background fill.

This is largely a spotlight film role for Renee, fitting for the part of Judy Garland whose spotlighted roles carried films.

Renee delivers to the audience a still enthusiastic, but destitute and barely "functional alcoholic" Judy Garland who still has her trade-mark trooper-attitude pragmatism, but is desperately trying to earn enough money to just have a place to sleep for her children and ends up taking the only gig she can get (In London where her fandom still burns bright and large) that gives her hope to earn enough money to right her sinking ship, and retain custody of her children back in America after her 4th divorce.

Judy's final tragic journey in her life is a roller coaster of desperation and sad realizations.

Renee hits one out of the park (and over the rainbow) putting forth what is clearly the best Lead Actress performance of the year thus far, earing 10/10, and elevating 'Judy' to an overall 8/10. Bravo
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Joker (2019)
9/10
Disturbing And Riveting Off-The-Chart Performance by Joaquin Phoenix 👏
13 October 2019
Joaquin Phoenix produces one of the most memorable performances ever captured in a feature film. Whether or not he actually takes home hardware is irrelevant, but there is no doubt he will be nominated by major film/acting awards organizations for his stunning and disturbing portayal of Joker.

Joaquin puts on a virtuoso spotlight performance, and elevates the movie to legendary status. Credit director Todd Philips for building tension throughout the film, capturing the nuances of Joker's tortured dark-side slide into deranged, violent insanity, keeping the film's pace and flow on-track without unnecessary fill, utilizing and applying various camera lenses, shot angles, lighting, colors/hues, aperture settings (e.g. bokeh), and scene framing, and allowing Joaquin to tap into his own dark corners and utilize his unique acting instincts in developing his character.

Phoenix's acting performance leaves nothing on the table - if keeping score, Phoenix tallies a perfect 10 producing a truly legendary performance, and transforming the film from God knows what it would have been with another actor to a 9/10.

A performance that one will not easily forget.
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8/10
M.J. Fox Walking On Sunshine in the Go-Go 80's
9 September 2019
Michael J. Fox walks on sunshine at the apex of his career success (1987) in this Herbert Ross produced and directed comedy.

Ross brings his prolific success from stage, opera, ballet, movies, and TV to this fun, frolicking and much-improved non-musical update of the 1960's Broadway and movie classic 'How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying'.

Herb is true Hollywood legend who over 40 years, worked with some of the greatest (Ray Stark, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Mike Nichols, Vivien Leigh, Barbara Streisand, Baryshnikov, Shirley MacLaine, Anne Bancroft, Tom Skerritt, Liz Taylor, Peter O'Toole, Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle, Steve Allen, Steve Martin, Richard Dreyfus, Kevin Bacon, Goldie Hawn, Dolly Pardon, Julia Roberts, Sally Fields, Olivia Dukakis, Sam Shephard, Michael J. Fox, and many more).

Few can compare to his Rennaisance-Man performing arts background as dancer, actor, choreographer, director and producer. Movies and/or plays he directed and/or choreographed include another 80's classic 'Footloose' as well as The Turning Point, The Goodbye Girl, Play It Again Sam, Protocol, California Suite, Nininski, The Seven Percent Solution, Funny Girl, Funny Lady, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, The Owl And The Pussycat, Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf, Inside Daisy Clover, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Sunshine Boys, Max Dugan Returns, I Ought To Be In Pictures, Pennies From Heaven, My Blue Heaven, True Colors, Steel Magnolias, Boys On The Side, and more.

But 'The Secret Of My Success' is all about Michael J. Fox, and Ross choreographs a non-stop comedy romp through the corporate take-over era of the 1980's, that showcases Michael's comedic acting style - an absolute must-see film for any MJ Fox fan.
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7/10
Action Genre Franchise For Millennials or One And Done?
22 July 2019
Better than many reviewers indicate.

American Assassin follows Author Vince Flynn's character Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) and his mentor Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) who leads a super secret CIA operative group tasked to take out the world's most threatening bad guys - A secret camp in the wooded hills near Roanoke, Virginia provides a select group of hand-picked field operatives (assassins) with elite specialized training (for assassins) that supposedly exceeds Navy Seals training in sophistication of infiltrating and blending into targeted zones, with a killing effectiveness that surpasses Bourne and Bond.

One problem here - when you take on two of the most successful action franchises in movie history, you better have your ducks in a row (including most importantly the script), and that is where this film fails.

The screenwriter needed to produce a more cohesive script in adapting Flynn's prequel book. The film looks and sounds like it was rushed to production before the script and story boards were thought through and revised.

Time is money, but not investing enough time sometimes leads to losing your entire investment, and if the desired outcome was a green light for a franchise, the "fail" here was in the script.

Michael Keaton holds this film up, and although I have a hard time seeing him in the role, he pulled it off with his trade-mark push-the -envelope edginess.

O'Brien was at first, hard to swallow in the role with his quiet vulnerable demeanor and school age hearthrob looks that have made him so popular with 12-18 year olds. But he frankly did an admirable job, and is the most promising element of the film in terms of franchising this into sequels. Not many lines of dialogue, but like Bourne, Rapp speaks loudly with his fists, feet, intelligence, wiliness, and willingness.

The make-up was amazing in portraying an ever growing number of cuts, bruises, gashes accrued by the cast - realistic, accurate and impressive - among the best ever in film.

My guess is this is a one and done film, but what a shame as there is great potential for an American Assassin franchise. The director and screenwriter(s) need to get it together though, IF there is a sequel.

For the hope of more (and better), I'm giving one additional Star bringing this 6-Star film up to 7/10.
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October Sky (1999)
10/10
FABULOUS and INSPIRING!!
30 June 2019
Direction, screenplay, editing, cinematography, music score and truly inspired performances by the actors get 10/10 marks.

October Sky sets a high bar, and is an inspiring must-see movie for ages 10 to 110.
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10/10
Greatest Film Ever Made - David Lean's Epic Masterpiece 'Lawrence Of Arabia'
29 June 2019
For years, I've waffled between The Godfather and Lawrence Of Arabia as greatest film of all-time - The spectacular cinematography of Freddie Young tips the scale in favor of Lawrence. We shall never again see authentic location shoots on this truly epic scale. The film that inspired Spielberg's career for good reason - it is a treasure.
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8/10
Nice Surprise. Well-Executed Across The Board
29 June 2019
A Well-Executed Feel-Good Film: Director Paul Weitz's Best Screenplay; Topher Grace's Break-Out in Film (his first and best film performance to date); Scarlett Johansson Continues Her Rapid Ascent (Only 19 during most of the filming); and Dennis Quad Hits A Home Run In One Of His Most Endearing Performances.

Ignore the trailer that fails to capture the subtle moments in the film.

This is a nearly perfect "little film" with a great story that draws you in with believable charecters, and first rate performances by every actor.

'In Good Company' takes one through the balancing of middle-age fatherhood and career (Quad), with heart, humor, and a positive family-first theme (without resorting to cliches or the "Hollywood" treatment). Safe for 12+ year olds, and identifiable charecters and themes for adults.

Add in the perspective of a bright mid-twenties professional's (Grace) search for happiness, love/marriage/family, life-mentor/father-figure, and a meaningful career, while navigating the good, the bad, and the indifferent of corporate personalities, and interesct the two generations, and you have a film that engages one from beginning to end.

Soundtrack is wonderfully in sync with the emotions of the film.

Co-star Johansson is flawless in building upon her breakout 'Lost In Translation' and 'Pearl Earring' performances, and this is her best of her prodigious mid-2000 acting period, when she honed her acting skills and ascended to stardom - Johansson's character is essential to drawing Quad/Grace towards their inevitable surrogate father/son relationship, and she does so perfectly, making every actor around her look good - why she didn't receive Best Performance In A Supporting Role nomination is perplexing, but probably due to her already highly-recognized performances over the previous 18 months and her already impressive resume as a teen. She deserved nominations for her performance in this film.

A must-see film and one that is just as great the second and third time around.
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8/10
Gripping, Tense, and Thought-Provoking - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
18 June 2019
One of the best films centered on the war against terrorism that integrates today's truly amazing military and intelligence technology (highlighting drones and the people who guide them to the identification and surveillance of targets, pinpoint accurate missles, and collateral damage assessments/estimating programs), and the moral, ethical, legal and political conflicts of making such decisions within the "rules of engagement" by military and political leaders (and their advisors), that are executed by military, intelligence and field personnel when there is a high-likelyhood of collateral damage.

Film succeeds without being preachy or political, amazingly leaving the film goer to both live in the shoes of each character, and decide for themselves what they would do in the situation.

It is superbly acted and directed, the movie paced well so that it thoroughly engrosses the viewer, and builds a nail-biting tension throughout the films duration.

I imagine the majority of people who see this film will be both awed at some of the technology military/intelligence used today (although those used in the film may not actually be available such as the flying camera beetle) , and will have much greater appreciation for the complexities of decision-making involved, and its impact on both military personnel, politicians, and civilians.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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3/10
Another Over-The-Top "Hot Mess" by De Palma
8 June 2019
'Mission To Mars' - Another Over-The-Top "Hot Mess" by Brian De Palma.

'The Untouchables' and 'Mission Impossible' are the only De Palma directed films that earn a good rating.

Firstly, the sound track music is just awful - Truly a De Palma movie trade-mark in all but Mission Impossible and The Untouchables (how could one go wrong using either of those iconic TV show music scores?).

As in De Palma's 'Scarface', Mission To Mars' music soundtrack is droning, intrusive and awkward. Inexplicably, the volume of this music mess is cranked up in a couple of scenes to a point that even if it was a great music sync, the high volume becomes a distration.

De Palma should just stay away from this part of film making, and outsource it to someone with the talent to get the music syncing job done with some positive effect.

'Mission To Mars' is no Untouchables nor is it a MI. Only 'Scarface' is a worse De Palma film (my pick for most overrated film of all time).

The entire Mission To Mars movie plays like a Disney theme-park ride (which the script was purportedly based upon).

One awkward acting moment after another, painfully paced by poor editing that fails to build much tension in moments where its emphasis is critical to the scene's and film's success, with a script that is sophomoric.

What we're left with are close-ups of talented actors staring off into space, while spewing out seemingly unlinked dialogue - timing is off - it is embarrassing to watch, and a huge waste of good talent.

Special effects are so-so at best, and not in sync with Sci-Fi standards when this film was shot. Granted, some of the spaceship/spacestation set designs are interesting, but it's cool-looking space that is wasted.

Some people just never learn to delegate, and/or refuse to give up "control" when they should - Music, editing, script writing, special effects, and franky directing.

Another disappointing movie by film's most over-rated living Director.
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The Maestro (I) (2018)
9/10
Wonderfully Understated And Intimate Film
21 February 2019
Modest by intent, The Maestro gives the spotlight to the true talent behind the scenes, whose passion for art and pursuit of excellence have played a key role in the history of cinematic arts, but often received little to no recognition because film credit was taken by others.

Florentine composer and legendary Hollywood music teacher Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Xander Berkeley) composed/scored over 200 films, and mentored, tutored, and influenced the biggest names in Post-WWII cinematic music composition, his list of pupils including John Williams, Henry Mancini, Andre' Previn, Nelson Riddle, Herman Stein, Marty Paich, and Jerry Goldsmith.

Most of Mario's scores in the 1940's and 1950's were credited to others as was common practice in that era.

At the center of the plot, is a paternal relationship that develops between Mario and one of his most talented but lesser known pupils Jerry Herst (Mackenzie Astin).

Director Adam Cushman and first-time screenwriter C.V. Herst provide an intimate look into career and life decisions each man makes to maintain their passion and dedication to music composition while navigating the Post-War Hollywood studio machine.

Cushman succeeds by keeping the focus completely away from the big names that would have resulted in this film being another Hollywood biopic that exploits famous names to succeed.

Instead, 'The Maestro' is a memorable, wonderfully understated and intimate film, with superb acting, and earns my highest recommendation as one of the best films of the year for 2018.
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8/10
Rob Reiner & Aaron Sorkin Channel Frank Capra
28 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Aaron Sorkin sets a snappy pace for this classic romance, utilizing the White House, the President, and his staff as the conduit for his dialogue writing prowess.

Clearly, this film helped influence the creation of The West Wing four years later, even using the same Oval Office set shown in this film.

In Sorkin's screenplays, self-confidence, keen intellect, superior communication ability, and one's ethics-compass are at the core of the protagonist's persona.

Michael Douglas portrays Democratic President Andrew Shepherd with the same believability and deft touch as he did playing Gordon Gecko in Wall Street.

Annette Benning is the ideal girlfriend of the widowed Shepherd.

A first-class supporting actor ensemble are up to the task of portraying Sorkin's crack White House staff, adding immensely to making this film a feel-good romance that is believable and fun. The plot doesn't delve deeply into the emotions or feelings of Shepard nor Benning's lobbyist charecter Sydney Ellen Wade, but highlights the witty repertoire one would expect from a US President and Capitol Hill lobbyist. The deft skill and movie-star quality each actor has developed in their respective acting careers are showcased with Sorkin's writing in telling this Whitehouse Cinderella story.

If the film went deep into emotions, it would have just gotten in the way of a story of a widowed relatively young President falling in love at first sight with Sydney, and the fun of seeing her being thrust into the White House staff and press fish bowl.

There is a definite Frank Capra influence to the film.

It all works better than it might seem on paper, and we get to enjoy another Rob Reiner classic: A director whose movie-making style and subject-matter is as diverse as anyone in the business.
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Chinatown (1974)
10/10
Polanski/Nicholson Synergy + Brilliant Towne Screenplay & Alonzo Cinematography = A Top 50 Greatest Film
19 January 2019
Chinatown is neo-noir's finest work of film art, fueled by Polanski-Nicholson synergy, anchored by one of film's greatest original screenplays (written by Los Angeles native Robert Towne), brought to movie-life via PanaVision by cinematographer John Alonzo, and produced by Robert Evans.

This is film-making in its finest art form - not "perfection" like The Godfather or Lawrence of Arabia (the two greatest films of all time imo), but a great film nontheless: one that delivers the goods and in my opinion, is both Polanski's and Nicholson's best film (Polanski's last in the USA), and one of the last opportunities to see Nicholson acting prowess before his method became, to a great degree, a caricature of himself (albeit, he does so with great effect in his later roles - better than any other "movie star").

Like many successful collaborations, there were major style differences between Evans, Polanski and Towne - Such manageable stress served as a catalyst for getting this great work of film art completed in its excellent form.

That's it...a quickie review!

For those who haven't seen the film, it's a must see. For those who haven't seen it in a while, cue it up, and enjoy - like most great films, it has aged well!
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7/10
Heart-Warming Sci-Fi Love Story
10 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Two high school outlier teens (Gardner a 16 year old boy, and Tulsa a 17 year old girl) meet online, sharing their angst and common loss of parent(s), and finding empathy, love, and answers to the quisentential questions "who am I" and "what is my purpose?"

The edgy Tulsa lives in Colorado, awaiting the three months left til she turns 18, graduates high school, emancipates herself from a life of foster care, and gets-out-of-Dodge.

Gardner tells her he is a rich kid stuck in his parent's Park Ave penthouse because of his rare immunological bone disease... Obviously contrived, but the bond and trust between Gardner and Tulsa builds anyway, both discovering their mutual experience of losing and never knowing their mother.

Gardner is of course not a boy-in-the-bubble prisoner of a rare bone disease, held captive in a Park Ave penthouse, but is REALLY held captive on Mars because his his oversized heart that developed in "zero gravity" of space, and later the low gravity of Mars...the son of the woman Commanding Astronaut leading a mission to Mars as the first humans to colonize the Red Planet, but turns out to be pregnant, and dies giving birth to Gardner before arriving at Mars.

Looking beyond time-frame issues (lack of medical testing that surely would have been conducted and would have uncovered the stow-away embryo), his mother leaving Gardner an orphan, with a surrogate replacement mother-figure assigned as the new flight commander, whilst the eccentric genius founder of the NASA backed program bows to the publicly traded Board's designated eccentric-genius-founder-advisor in keeping the entire story secret and out of the public eye so as not to tank their stock and the program.

Whew!

This movie could go so many directions...but a mini-series on FX or other network would be required to do all, so the movie focuses on the teen first-love story, their search for understanding, true love, Gardner's search for for his father's identity, the meaning and purpose of their lives, adulthood freedom to make their own decisions and choices, whilst wrapping all this in teen-drama-love-story fashion.

Well that was the right choice as The Space Between Us (against all odds) turns out to be a real heart-warmer, and no doubt tissues will be required by many.

The film wraps the love story and search for self in just enough special effects and space/rocketry scenes (well executed) to make the grade as a sci-fi film.

Asa Butterfield as Gardner is the lead and delivers a believable character, as does Britt Robertson as Tulsa. Expect to see a lot more of both these talented young actors.

Gary Oldman delivers as always, but his character is not placed in the spotlight.

Carla Gugino who plays the replacement mission commander/scientist/surrogate mother and guardian (whew2!!), did great job in her supporting role.

One has to accept a lot considering this all takes place in 2018, has several obvious plot points that don't hold water, and gets to the edge of cheesiness in spots, but it all works and the movie is refreshing in having no "bad guys" while portraying teens that would be likely to carry a lot of negative baggage from their past the rest of their lives, find instead that each special moment they have now should be cherished, and the promising possibilities of tomorrow pursued.

Cheesy...but it works, and it's "ok" to pull out all the stops when one produces (well) a feel-good sci-fi film with a positive message for all ages (10+), supported with uniformly excellent performances and realistic special effects.
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The Post (2017)
8/10
Democracy Dies In Darkness
15 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I have always been a sucker for a good newspaper film.

Living in the D.C. area since 1987, The Post has been a fixture in my life.

Being a moderate Republican married for 25 years into a family whose business is being elected every two years to the U.S. Congresss, I was privelaged to have a front row seat and sometimes a back stage pass to talk with Congressional leaders and 4 U.S. Presidents.

In addition, I sat in on occasional press conferences, interviews, and off the record discussions.

In my own business, I have been interviewed multiple times by the WP as a SME on business matters.

I haven't always agreed with the Post's political editorial opinions, and I can attest first hand that reporters attempt to get the story right, but don't always quote verbatim when the subject matter is not of national security or similar level of importance.

Newspapers still operate on a journalistic level in fact checking and verification - there are rare exceptions and those are likely discovered at some point, so imo the esssence of newspaper journalism as it's taught in school is still alive and kicking...Television and tabloid journalism on the other hand has for the most part, become an entertainment industry and is devoid of such checks and balances as two source verifications, etc. It has become an opinion editorial broadcast to a great degree. It's what brings in the advertising dollars - big bucks.

PBS News Hour with Judy Woodruff perhaps the last anchor who avoids coloring and opinionated her broadcasts, leaving the op ed to panel "opinion" discussions where it belongs.

That all being said, The Post is a throw back to the days when journalists were still driven by standards and ethics. What they taught in journalism school was to a great degree being manifested in the newspaper rooms.

Katherine Graham inherited the paper and with Ben Bradley (the "pirate") running the operation, has a decision to make on running a story on the Rand Corporation/Pentagon 20-year ongoing research program of the viability of involvement in SE Asia, and U.S. chances of winning the Vietnam War.

Top secret documents are involved and the right for newspapers to report on leaked documents showing that every President starting with Truman up through Nixon knew that it was a war we could never win.

Spielberg does a very good job of bringing the drama of this and the decision Graham must make to publish even at the risk of putting the then barely solvent paper out of business and those involved into jail.

Her place as a woman who inherited this three generation family business that operates in the men's club of newspaper journalism is obviously the back story and Streep plays it totally low key and true to Graham's sense of the moment and transformation evolving by necessity from her insider Washingtonian socialite origins to publishing power center of influence and associated required "making the tough decisions (despite the disagreement of established male influences).

As always a great performance as was Hanks and the entire cast - Spielberg's ability to communicate what he envisions and needs from the actor in each scene, backed by his intuitive directing style, clearly brings out actors' best instincts - it always has.

Was it good enough to win Oscars? Maybe, but I think there are more deserving performances out there (eg. Chastain or Robbie for Lead Actress, Oldman for Lead Actor, Plummer for Supporting Actor and Janney for Supporting Actress).

Best film? Maybe but Molly's Game (longshot) would get my vote.

Haven't screened Phantom Thread yet by the way - that could change things.

Should you see this movie? ABSOLUTELY! Of course, I LOVE newspaper movies! And this is a very good one. Not up to "Spotlight" (best ever newspaper film) or "All the President's Men," but it's a very good movie with a share of thrilling moments mixed into it's successful mission to capture the moment when a local newspaper became an influential national paper, with a then unheard of woman as it's Admiral making the toughest of business and journalistic decisions, and a pirate as its Captain to pull it off.
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7/10
Ridley Scott/Christopher Plummer's Two-Week Re-Shoot
15 January 2018
Amazing performance (as always) by Christopher Plummer - This one required doing it in just two weeks - Amazing and deserves the Oscar.

Ridley Scott is brilliant and a master of producing and delivering great art under deadline and did it ALL in time (in less than one month) for the December 22 release - as he stated, "I move like lightening - if you know what you're doing, you don't need 19 takes."

Not the best film of 2017, but I place it in Top 5 along side Molly's Game and I Tonya.

If you see Spacey cut scenes, Scott was fortunate this all happened - Spacey's aging makeup was awful and he overacts (no surprise).

Definitely a movie worthy of viewing, and an Oscar for Plummer (I've met him and he is as charming and engaging as one can imagine - and a true acting legend).
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Scarface (1983)
1/10
Most Overrated Film of All-Time - Poorly Directed Poorly Written and a Miserable Soundtrack
17 October 2017
The most overrated films of all time.

The film throws cliché after cliché at the audience, with frequent awkward over-acting moments - Responsibility for all this falls squarely on the Director...after ricocheting off the Screenwriter's desk.

Before Oliver Stone tackled the rewrite of the originally written 1932 script, he famously moved to Paris to quit his cocaine habit.

Before Brian DePalma was brought aboard to direct, Sidney Lumet was hired as the Director, inducing Stone to come in to handle screenwriting duties. However, when Lumet read Stone's work, he quit.

De Palma's Untouchables was his best film - this is his worst film. The only similarity between the two films is the soundtrack - occasionally annoying in the Untouchables, it drones through Scarface, adding to one's misery in trying to endure the film. Perhaps an attempt to fill in those frequent awkward scenes.

The script fails on every level - Oliver Stone's Wall Street released 4 years later is a work of genius - Scarface a work of an amateur. I know high school writers who can put out better work.

Add in fake looking bright red blood, and actors getting shot who fall/die like B Movie actors in the 1950s, and you have a complete mess.

Not wasting anymore time on this review - Scarface is an all-time Turkey/Bomb.
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3/10
Ugh...A Tedious Mess
17 October 2017
Two words of advice to Denis Villeneuve on directing upcoming Dune redo... Story-Boards.

There seems to be no planning involved in BR-2049. Just LONG drawn-out dreary scenes with occasional meaningless dialogue delivered in mumbled whispers by a talented, but poorly utilized (and clearly bored) cast.

Roger Deakins' cinematography is the only "bright spot" in this tedious film, and for his brilliant work, the movie goes from a 1 to a 3 rating.

Perhaps Denis' thinking was "Let Roger do his thing, and the audience will overlook the unengaging scenes and dialogue."

But even Deakins cannot save this film. which begs to be cut down by 45 minutes (another word of advice to the Director - EDIT!)

I am certain many will rave about Blade Runner 2049 - I am just not one of them, and calling it like I see it - I cannot fathom how any critic can honestly give this movie a good review.

This is pure dribble and now my "worse movie of 2017" choice. Not an easy feat as this year has been one of the worse for new production releases. I just hope there is not another release this year that ranks lower. 😑
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8/10
The Best of the Mission Impossible Franchise
16 October 2017
This MI production is well executed in every regard - A top cast of talented actors, direction and editing that earn a B+, and a plot and list of film locations that are as interesting as the best Bond films.

The only thing preventing a 9 rating are a handful of scenes that could have been cut down for the sake of keeping the overall snappy pace intact...10 minutes shorter and this film would rate a 9 (A-).

Great fun and edge of seat moments are spread throughout - if in need of a MI, Bond, or Jason Bourne fix, I highly recommend MI Ghost Protocol and a bowl of popcorn.
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American Made (2017)
8/10
One of Tom Cruise's most entertaining characters framed brilliantly by Liman's direction, Spinelli's script, and brilliant supporting cast performances headlined by Gleeson
1 October 2017
American Made is a movie that places Tom Cruise in his character wheel house to great effect. Cruise clearly enjoys playing his character, and working with this talented production team (that clearly enjoys working with him).

Applause for Doug Liman's snappy direction, a well crafted script by Gary Spinelli, and uniformly great supporting performances, most notably that of actor Domhnal Gleeson, who has a cargo plane load of talent (with his performance already garnering serious early consideration for an Oscar nomination).

American Made is a pleasant surprise in an otherwise dismal year for new releases (to date).

The film will be a strong contender for 2017 Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor in a Leading Role, and Actor in a Supporting Role.

We shall see if that holds up through the holidays.

Regardless, this politically satirical comedy/action/bio film entertains and brings hope that 2017 might be redeemed with strong 4th quarter releases.
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The Graduate (1967)
10/10
Best Comedy of the 1960s, Top 10 All-Time, and Best Soundtrack Sync of All-Time
29 September 2017
The Graduate is THE best comedy of the 1960s, easily making the top 10 all-time list.

It's a film that propelled director Mike Nichols and actor Dustin Hoffman to the top of the Hollywood A-List.

For baby-boomers, this is an iconic film - a snap-shot of mid 1960s affluent suburban post- college let-down, introspection, angst, and confusion. Baby boomers saw things vastly different than their Greatest Generation parents, and Nichols (along with screen-play writer Buck Henry) "integrated" the generation-gap in a way no film had before.

Dustin Hoffman was fortunate to get the lead part as legend has it, and Nichols was fortunate to get him - both took advantage of the opportunity, and we are all fortunate they did so.

The best soundtrack sync in movie history - Nichols had an epiphany about using the introspective and melancholy music of Simon & Garfunkel in the film, setting what was then a new standard for use of popular music as an integral part of story telling. No film has done this better.

Without that music sync, this would have been a fine film, but it would not have reached its legendary film status.

Buck Henry's original screen-play delivers some very funny scenes - the hotel scenes running from the approximate 20 to 35 minute marks in the film are hilarious and everyone pulled it off to subtle perfection. Nichols ensured those comic moments were delivered with impeccable timing by utilizing Henry as a Day Player in the role of hotel manager.

Anne Bancroft is brilliant and hot, and portrays her tragic and narcissistic character with perfection, in what has become an iconic film character.

This film achieves much with solid performances by the entire cast.

This is Mike Nichols' greatest and most important achievement in film.

What else can I add that hasn't already been stated?

See it again when the mood strikes.

First timers, you are in for a treat.

Here's to you Mrs. Robinson! 🍸
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Crash Pad (I) (2017)
5/10
Domhnall Gleeson brings this film up to a "5" despite a very poor script
26 September 2017
This would have been a disaster were it not for Domhnall Gleeson who somehow manages to work in his take on the naive nerd looking for true love, who falls for an older married woman (Applegate) only using him for sex to pay back her husband (Hayden Church) for what she perceives is his infidelity.

Gleeson's very good performance allows the audience to bear through an almost unbearable and sophomoric script.

Kudos to Thomas Hayden Church whose impeccable timing adds needed snap to the dialogue.

Editng is notable as well.

Gleeson is an impressive actor, and as he (hopefully) stretches himself into more complex roles, will no doubt discover higher ground upon which he can unfold his talent.

I'm rating Crash Pad a 5 (avoiding a 1 only because of Gleeson, Church and overall snappy editing).

The rest of the cast is wasted on this dog of a a script and 5 is generous.

2017 is going down as one of the worst years for movie releases unless the holiday season comes up big to redeem it.
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