It’s week 4 on my “A Movie a Day” quest and I’ve already praised (and maybe overhyped) Call Me By Your Name on a previous review. But there’s several more movies that are worth your time. Check out a few thoughts on The Disaster Artist, Molly’s Game, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri below!
- Sunday, November 19: The Ballad of Lefty Brown – Bill Pullman delivers one of his finest performances as the titular character, a loyal ranch hand whose best friend (Peter Fonda) is gunned down in cold blood. Lefty’s mission to avenge his buddy’s killing leads him to a reunion with his old riding partners (Jim Caviezal, Tommy Flanagan). I’ve seen my share of Westerns, and Lefty Brown offers up a great spin on the genre (Lefty isn’t a quick draw gunslinger or a competent protagonist), and fine performances from the ensemble. Sons of Anarchy fans should definitely check this film out as Flanagan is great in this one as well. Rating: 4 out of 5
- Monday, November 20: Call Me By Your Name: I can watch this film over and over again, and thanks to this flick I’m now a fan of composer Maurice Ravel (whose piece Ma Mère l’oye is prominent in the flick). My review of the film is here. Rating: 5 out of 5
- Tuesday, November 21: Molly’s Game – Directed and penned by Aaron Sorkin, the true story centers on Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a former skier who ends up running a high stakes poker game in Los Angeles and New York. Bloom faces jail time when her game is linked with the Russian mob, and it’s up to a principled lawyer (Idris Elba) to keep her out of the slammer. If you loved Chastain in the fast-paced, twisty and dialogue-driven Miss Sloane (a film that actually feels like a Sorkin film), then Molly’s Game should be your cup of tea. This is right in line with the tough as nails, ass kicking characters Chastain plays in Zero Dark Thirty and the aforementioned Miss Sloane, and I loved every minute of it. Michael Cera, as Player X, brings a surprising menace to the proceedings, and Elba’s verbal sparring with Chastain is excellent. Flick, co-starring Kevin Costner (as Molly’s hard driving pops), opens Christmas Day. Rating: 4 out of 5
- Wednesday, November 22: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Frances McDormand is receiving worthy praise as a mother determined to find her daughter’s killer amidst a town of seemingly incompetent lawmen (Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell). Though the movie is a biting black comedy from filmmaker Martin McDonagh, the feature also gives us a way to actually understand (even if we don’t agree) with the motivations of each of the main characters. Harrelson delivers a solid job as the officer who’s constantly butting heads with Mildred (McDormand), but it’s Sam Rockwell’s work as the hotheaded and violent Dixon that absolutely threw me for a loop. Rockwell should be an Oscar favorite and before you see this movie, a slight warning: this movie doesn’t have a predictable ending!! I loved the resolution, but the final moments may have its detractors. Rating: 4.5 out of 5
- Thursday, November 23: Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron is an elite agent sent to Berlin on a dangerous mission. This 1989 set spy thriller, co-starring James McAvoy and John Goodman, absolutely misfires as an espionage story (having most of the film told in flashback doesn’t work), but there are two action set pieces (the one with Theron dispatching mercenaries on a stairwell is one of my favorite moments, action wise, of 2017) that absolutely make this film worth watching. If you love expertly orchestrated action flicks and can actually stomach some of this flick’s limp storytelling, Atomic Blonde is a fun enough watch. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
- Friday, November 24: Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring Man on the Moon behind-the-scenes footage that was apparently unreleased by Universal Pictures, this documentary is never boring. Watching Jim Carrey going full method as Andy Kaufman, much to the detriment of the people on the set of the film, was both inspiring and infuriating. Credit to Carrey for taking a deep dive into Kaufman’s being, but this venture could also be looked as a pretentious and unnecessary exercise. I’ve always been a fan of Carrey’s work, and this documentary shows the complexities behind his and Kaufman’s artistry. What motivated him to do Mr. Popper’s Penguins would also make for an interesting doc. Rating: 3.5 out of 5
- Saturday, November 25: The Disaster Artist – Since I haven’t seen The Room or, for that matter, checked out James Franco’s last several cinematic ventures, I wasn’t too excited to see this film (which opens December 1). For me the story actually started rather slowly, as watching two seemingly untalented actors (Franco as Tommy Wiseau, Dave Franco as Greg Sestero) bond failed to hold my attention. But this complaint was due to my absolute ignorance of their shared story (the movie is based on Sestero’s book of the same name), and slowly but surely I warmed up to (and ultimately) loved the film.
Once we get to the actual making of The Room, the movie exists on an entirely different (and meta) level. The plethora of cameos (all of which thankfully never take you away from the story) are a joy to watch, but it’s the complex friendship between Wiseau and Sestero that powers The Disaster Artist’s narrative. This flick, directed by Franco, is also an wonderful look at how passion and love for your fellow friend can take you a long way in show business and in life. This flick got better as it went along, and I’ll probably love this film even more the second time I see it (movie opens December 1st). Rating: 4.5 out of 5
***Just a reminder by submitting a movie recommendation by emailing me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or commenting below, you will be automatically entered into my monthly “A Month A Day” Blu-ray giveaway. Thanks again for the support!!