Movies of the Week #5 (2020)

1917 (2019): It seems a lock by now, that 1917 is going to win big at the Oscars. I was weary about yet another war movie, but Sam Mendes’s latest proved a pleasant surprise. You’ve probably heard about the (fake) single-shot appearance the movie provides, an inspired artistic choice, that just swallows you up. Sure, there isn’t much in terms of characterization, this isn’t Saving Private Ryan, and the big-name secondary acts are…I don’t know, distracting? But 1917 has real flow, a swagger about itself that’s enticing and traumatic, real cinematic quality. Maybe not among my favourites of the year, but definitely one that stands out from the crowd. 8/10

Bad Boys for Life (2020): Whatcha gonna dooo? It’s unusual that the first fresh film in a series be the third of the bunch, but that’s the case here. I haven’t even seen the first one, but did watch the second a million years ago, which really didn’t help me understand what all the fuss was about. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence get on well in this latest installment, which has the added benefit of not being directed by Michael Bay. There’s no shortage of crashes, explosions and sexy moments in the movie though, as it runs along smoothly and offers solid entertainment value. You don’t expect Bad Boys to revolutionize cinema, all you want is to have some fun and indulge in the nostalgia factor – both can be found on the menu here. 7/10

Blow (2001): Talking of popular movies I had never seen, here’s Blow – perhaps the first flick I added onto my IMDb watchlist! Some fifteen years later, thanks to Netflix its time has finally come. Unfortunately, the whole thing felt unsurprisingly stale, with drug blockbusters a dime a dozen nowadays. The movie does a poor job in selling Johnny Depp as a teenager, trying to mask his 38 years with a disgusting hairdo and even more disgusting sunglasses. He turns into his sexy, old self midway during the movie, before growing fat and returning to his horrible hairdo of his “youth”, a lack of aesthetic consistency that really troubled me. As did the fact that his “mother”, Rachel Griffiths, is five years younger than Depp. All these nibbles aside, there just isn’t much life in Blow, which feels routine and soulless – barring a surprisingly emotional finale. 6/10

Judy (2019): It’s funny that two average, uninspired movies will provide this year’s best actor Oscars. Judy Garland’s tragic life story – her troubled youth and the last few months of her demise – gets a perfunctory treatment here, in the kind of tired biopic you dread. Renee Zellweger keeps the thing alive, but it’s a real shame that such a sad, drama-rich tale of Hollywood self-absorption and cruel, soul-crushing consumption does not amount to more. There are inklings of real tragedy in Judy, which are never allowed to blossom, stomped out by the mundane undercurrents of her life. 6/10

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019): You might recall that I was a big fan of the Fred Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which I also included on my best of 2018 list. This dramatic adaptation, coming from Marielle Heller (most recently known for the excellent Can You Ever Forgive Me) isn’t quite as exceptional as Morgan Neville’s docu, but it strings together a story that becomes compelling every time Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) is on screen. I’m not sure about the framing of the film as an episode in the Rogers format, because it doesn’t flow as well as I’d like it to, even if it makes sense as a means of reducing the heaviness of Rogers himself – something that co-star Matthew Rhys brings across well. However, there are a few moments of lingering shots and hard-hitting truths that work excellently in carving a complex side to a character that seems a bona-fide Gary Stu (no, not Tributary Stu, but the kind of wish-fulfillment male equivalent to the Mary Sue). This makes A Beautiful Day a beautiful story to boot. 8/10