First, a paean to Laurel & Hardy as the shining binary star of early Hollywood. I have fond memories going back to childhood of their short films, though they were much harder to come by on broadcast television than the ubiquitous Stooges. Laurel & Hardy were utter genius, and every time I think of them it still makes me smile.
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For Stan & Ollie to work, Coogan and Reilly had to nail Oliver Hardy & Stan Laurel. And — to the extent that it is knowable without consulting a scholar — they did. No easy task.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch Stan & Ollie, but I revisited the trailer and sensed that as well as providing insight into the legendary duo, the film would be touching — and it was, especially in the finish, which raised the film from a mostly-7 to 8/10. And I am happy to do so. I’m glad I went to the movies. It’s nice to watch a movie that makes you think and makes you feel. 2019 has set off on the right left foot. 8/10
UPDATE: Scratch that about 2019 setting off on the right left foot. Apparently Stan & Ollie is a 2018 film, which puts it in 5th place, behind Upgrade on the 2018 List. Never mind where and when it might have been released (see 2016 End Note).
Lots of fresh and fun ideas, not enough story, too slow. Which for this year makes it a must-see. 6/10
Comparison Notes: Dope, Wall Street, Office Space, The Matrix, Being John Malkovich, The Pursuit of Happyness, Cronenberg pictures, John Dies at the End, Get Out
Lets play a game, of sorts. A guessing game. Why does Mark have a blog? Roger Ebert.com, in no way speaking as Roger Ebert would have, and, further, very much sallying his name, is generally in agreement with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus:
…a raucously funny film that has a knack for going right up to the edge of nastiness.
WRONG! I was actually enjoying Game Night, if mildly, until the latter third or so when it bounced between implausibility and trite stupidity. Lesser critics describe it as edgy; they haven’t any idea what true edginess is.
So what started off nicely in thumbs-up territory devolved into yet another silly pseudo-crime action flick with overly contrived “plot twists” and inane action sequences involving, for instance, airplanes that never get off the ground when attempting takeoff. The best part of the film by far: Jesse Plemons (Fargo season 2) If there is any reason to see Game Night, it is the hilariously creepy Jesse Plemons. 5/10
Comparison Notes: Recommended: Due Date, Neighbors; no opinion: Date Night
Early parts of Brigsby Bear looked like a badly-executed, very narrow corollary to Room — and I was thinking it headed for contention as worst of the year. Soon enough, however, Brigsby Bear turns into a sweetly endearing and entertaining film. There’s still too much suspension of belief required, but the movie doesn’t let you dwell on it — which is the same that could be said about the missing titles.
Brigsby Bear was yet another barely-shown yet marketed film. In this case, it wasn’t a whole lot to miss — but that’s beside the point. This will be the last one before my 2017 list; the remaining two are A Cure for Wellness and The Blackcoat’s Daughter. I’ll let you know if I ever get round to watching those.
A nice surprise-bonus of Brigsby Bear: Mark Hamill is a good actor! 6/10
Comparison Notes: Recommended: The Wolfpack, The Disaster Artist, Short Term 12, Sling Blade, Superbad, Butter; Not Recommended: The Book of Henry, Captain Fantastic, Life is Beautiful
The 2017 Thor movie gets a marginal thumbs-up laden with the normal caveats. Definitely some fun moments and charged performances, especially from Cate Blanchett, who was utterly charming last time out on Ellen. Second half of that appearance below, along with her “Kneel.” clip. 6/10
I liked these very good veteran actors, especially Steve Carell. But the story was way too thin, without enough of anything else to make up the difference. Good intentions only go so far.
Titles MIA for no good reason drag on the first 30 minutes of a movie that needs all the help it can get. For this I blame Amazon. So… Another fail by Linklater, but the endearing performances keep Last Flag Flying afloat at 5/10.
Besides the fact that this guy is really old, there’s not a lot going on here. But the old guy is Harry Dean Stanton, and I like him. Seeing some other old timers was nice too. The script is too full of contrived pontificating, but there is sweetness as well. 6/10
PS The director apparently has no direct familial relation to David Lynch.
Comparison Notes (recommended): Nebraska, The Straight Story, Bagdad Cafe