Sunday, January 19, 2020

Film Babble Blog's Top 10 Movies of 2019


Usually I post these picks before the Oscar nominations are announced - which happened earlier this week – but things have been nuts lately. 2019 hasn’t been the greatest year for film, but any year that boasts two stellar Martin Scorsese movies shouldn’t be dismissed. So here’s my top 10 films with what I think are some of their crucial lines.

10. AMAZING GRACE (Dirs. Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack) 



Reverend James Cleveland: “Many of you who never had the opportunity to hear Aretha sing Gospel, you’re in tonight for a great thrill. She can sing anything!”

9. DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (Dir. Craig Brewer) 



Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy): “Dolemite is my name, and fuckin’ up motherfuckers is my game!”

8. MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN

(Dir. Edward Norton)


Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton): “Okay, listen. I got something wrong with me. That’s the first thing to know. I twitch and shout a lot. It makes me look like a damn freak show. But inside my head is an even bigger mess. I can’t stop twisting things around, words and sounds especially. I have to keep playing with them until they come out right.”

(Dir. Taika Waititi)


“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” - Rainer Maria Rilke

6. US (Dir. Jordan Peele)



Jason Wilson (Evan Alex): Theres a Family in our driveway!

5. MARRIAGE STORY (Dir. Noah Baumbach)


Charlie (Adam Driver): “You were happy, you just decided you weren’t now”

4. UNCUT GEMS (Dirs. Josh and Benny Safdie)




Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler): Thats a million-dollar opal youre holding. Straight from the Ethiopian Jewish tribe. I mean this is old-school, Middle-earth shit.

3. PARASITE (Dir. Bong Joon-ho)



Kang Ho Song (Kim Ki-taek):So, theres no need for a plan. You cant go wrong with no plans. We dont need to make a plan for anything. It doesn't matter what will happen next. Even if the country gets destroyed or sold out, nobody cares. Got it?
2. 1917 (Dir. Sam Mendes)



General Erinmore (Colin Firth):Theyre walking into a trap. Your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow mornings attack, if you fail, it will be a massacre.

1. THE IRISHMAN (Dir. Martin Scorsese)



Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro): Whenever anybody says theyre a little concerned, theyre very concerned.

Spillover:

THE LIGHTHOUSE (Dir. Robert Eggers)


ROLLING THUNDER REVUE (Dir. Martin Scorsese)

LITTLE WOMEN (Dir. Greta Gerwig)

KNIVES OUT (Dir. Rian Johnson)

THE TWO POPES (Dir. Fernando Meirelles)

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)

FORD V FERRARI (Dir. James Mangold)

THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY (Dir. Petra Costa)

More later...

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The BAD BOYS Saga Concludes. Or Does It?

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE
(Dir. Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah, 2020)


The 17-year long wait is finally over as the third and final chapter in the mighty BAD BOYS saga opens tonight. This entry has all the things you’d expect from a BAD BOYS movie: it’s too long, it has many instances of crappy comedy, it’s decorated with tons of sweeping shots of Miami (mostly in time-lapse), and it contains gunfire and explosions galore.

Now, the BAD BOYS series has always been about dumb fun as it’s delivered glossy LETHAL WEAPON-style buddy cop action hijinks once a decade since 1995, so it’s silly to be too critical of such a wannabe crowd pleaser, especially one released in January, but I’m still gonna give it a go.

This time, our heroes, Miami narcotics cops Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith), realize that it’s time to hang up their badges and guns and take it easy into old age. Well, not really. Only Lawrence’s neurotic character is leaning that way, now that he’s a grandfather, but Smith’s smooth Mike is in denial as jokes about his dying his goatee attest.

Shit gets real when Mike is gunned down by a mysterious motorcyclist, and he’s laid up for months in the hospital with Marcus waiting by his side (and helping to re-dye his goatee). When he comes to, just in time for Marcus’ daughter’s wedding, he is intent on revenge. With the help of AMMO (Advanced Miami Metro Operations), a group of heavily armed, high tech millennial cops (including Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Kate del Castillo, and possible Smith love interest Paola Nuñez), he hunts down the shooter who turns out to be the leader of a Miami drug cartel, Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio), and turns out to be something else, but no Spoilers here.

Lawrence and Smith, both in their 50s, look pretty good in this last outing – well, Lawrence looks a little pudgy, but that’s no real issue here. They still have the argumentative chemistry they had at the beginning of the franchise, though the shtick of them bickering while dodging bullets got way old in the second one back in 2003. Luckily, there are a number of good lines and laughs to help us through the predictable formula.

Directors Adil & Bilall do a good job replicating Michael Bay’s overly slick and jump cut crazy aesthetics, but they don’t bring much of their own style to the production. As big and cinematic as they want to go, these movies are really overblown TV shows, and these Belgian filmmakers are not much more than directors-for-hire here.

I did enjoy seeing returning regular Joe Pantoliano as Captain Conrad Howard have a more significant part than before, and I accepted most of the contrivances with out much eye-rolling, but just about everything else went down exactly the way I thought it would.

Maybe I’m speaking too soon that this is the concluding chapter in the trilogy as there’s a during the end credits scene (see? Even BAD BOYS movies are adapting to Marvel methods) that indicates that the game may not be up. Okay, fine – go ahead and flog this franchise. If there’s as much as a gap between entries as there’s been in the past, our beloved duo will be nearing 70 next time. Maybe Lawrence’s Marcus will finally learn the correct lyrics to Inner Circle’s Cops theme song “Bad Boys” by then.

More later...

Friday, December 20, 2019

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Says Goodbye To STAR WARS For Now

Now playing at every multiplex from here to a galaxy far, far away:

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
(Dir. J.J. Abrams, 2019)

So, here we are. The highly anticipated ninth episode of the Skywalker saga is here and it’s a chaotically overblown piece of pure spectacle. By the end of its two hour and 21 minute running time, I was too worn out to judge whether it was a satisfying conclusion to the series that started back in 1977, so I’ll try to hash that out here. 

This last time deals with the battle between the Rebels and The Empire – sorry, that’s the Resistance and The First Order. Darth Vader wannabe Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) discovers that dark lord, Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), last seen being thrown into the Death Star’s reactor by Vader in RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), is still alive and has assembled a massive fleet of Star Destroyers. 

After conferring with General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher in footage mostly cut from THE FORCE AWAKENS), our heroes Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and the droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and the roly-poly cutie BB-8, set out to find a McGuffin, a Sith Dagger to be exact, that will possibly lead them to Palpatine. There is also another McGuffin, a Sith Wayfinder – a small pyramid shaped compass that also may lead them to the former Emperor of the Galaxy. I think. 

Amid these plot points are bombastic light saber duels between Kylo Ren and Rey, who still have the Force connection going for them, as well as some sexual friction; blaster-fire aplenty, and a ginormous space battle that is like the similar finales of STAR WARS and RETURN OF THE JEDI times a hundred. 

I didn’t mind the obvious bits of fan service as it was fun to see Billy Dee Williams reprising Lando Calrissian, or Chewie cheating at holochess, Wedge, Ewoks, Jawas, and a few surprise cameos, but when it comes to Palpatine – is he really enough of a fan favorite to resurrect? I like McDiarmid, but it seems they couldn’t come up with a good enough villain and had to reach back 30 years for one. 

Director Abrams, who co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio, has fashioned a spectacle-filled behemoth that equally overwhelmed and underwhelmed me – sometimes at the same time. Just as many times as I got thrilled with how they were recreating the STAR WARS from my youth, I got bored at how they were recreating the STAR WARS of my youth. 

I grew up with the original trilogy (1977-1983), then pretended the prequels (1999-2005) didn’t exist, but came back into the fold with THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015) which captured the old vibe. I liked the followup, THE LAST JEDI (2017), more than most fans but will concede that its flaws are hard to ignore.

I enjoyed RISE OF SKYWALKER quite a bit, but I’m feeling fatigue from the whole damn series. I’ll still watch The Mandalorian (love Baby Yoda!), but after this exhausting and sometimes incoherent entry, I hope they take a long break between RISE and another STAR WARS movie. 

I feel that I, and the hoards of over-critical fans, deserve it.

More later...