Tag: review

Film Review: 1917


Back in the late 1940s and throughout the 50s, as the motion picture studios sought to fight off the advancement of the one-eyed monster called “television,” film studios experimented with gimmicks to lure their once faithful audiences out of their living rooms and back into the theaters. It saw the introductions of wide screens, curved screens, 3-D glasses, even a run at “Smell-O-Rama.” One of those early attempts to redefine the motion picture experience was Rope, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1949 attempt to replicate a “real-time” experience by shooting a single-set story in long uncut takes, the longest of which pushed it to the limits of a 10-minute film magazine (10:06).

We seem to be back in that era. Sam Mendes’ latest picture, 1917, harkens back to Hitchcock and creates a movie with a single two-hour tracking shot. Like Hitchcock, Mendes and his editor use blackouts and other distractions like a plunge underwater to hide the seams. At first, you might think it’s rather a nifty technique and it does work very well during the action sequences. But the rest of the time it becomes an annoyance, but maybe it’s me. Having directed my share of television over the course of my career and watched others much more talented than I do it even better, I believe the best direction is almost transparent and should always enhance the story and never do anything that ends up saying, “Look at what I can do!” That’s also the danger of CGI.

‘Joker’ Is Incomplete Without Batman


“What would I do without you?” The Joker asks Batman in The Dark Knight. “You complete me.” He’s right in more ways than he realizes, as the newly released Joker shows: the Joker, by his very nature, needs Batman, and, more importantly, so does the audience. Because without the Dark Knight there to serve as a ballast, the Joker’s anarchic, twisted, disturbing nature, and Joker itself, becomes unbearably difficult to watch.

Admittedly, in terms of film qua film, Joker succeeds in what it sets out to do. It’s well directed, Joaquin Phoenix turns in an incredible performance as the titular character, and the story provides creepy insight into the psyche of its psychopathic subject. And in fairness, Phoenix’s Joker is not necessarily more evil than past incarnations of the character. Heath Ledger’s turn as the Clown Prince of Crime, for example, was just as twisted, just as nihilistic. Also, Batman: The Killing Joke featured a Joker committing acts just as depraved and horrific. These Jokers, however, did not exist in a vacuum, and the stories in which they’re present also feature counters to their dangerous ideology.

Joker, in comparison, is devoid of any sort of moral challenge to its villain. Watching someone engage in truly despicable, grotesque evil on screen without anyone rising to challenge it, without any sense of hope for viewers is a truly painful experience, one that unsettled me so deeply I had to turn away from the screen on several occasions and nearly walked out at one point—and I managed to sit through the entirety of The Shape of Water, so that’s saying something. With scenes of murder that are realistically graphic and intense, it feels almost as if you’re watching artfully shot found footage of homicides. While it is unfair to say that Joker celebrates its protagonist, or even that it portrays him in a sympathetic light, the movie makes no argument against him, relying solely on the audience to pass judgement on the character.

The Last Jedi: Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice


Two years ago, the world was set alight when The Force Awakens was released. The movie was a mega-hit, in no small part because it stood astride two worlds, the old and the new. It gave us new characters, new worlds, new adventures, but it was grounded in and was respectful, even reverent, of the original trilogy. And, as the first of three movies in a new trilogy, it set up larger questions to be paid off later.

The movie still holds up two years later and I stand by what I wrote about it then.

Security: A Movie Review


I’m not a film aficionado. The fact that John Wick didn’t win an Oscar was scandalous. But last night, tired, sore, and frustrated (reasons for which will be in my next Group Writing submission, I think on November 5), I needed an excuse to drink as much as I required to be able to get some sleep. I fired up Netflix and hit whatever came up first in the “we recommend for you” category.

The movie was Security, it was outstanding. Classic scrappy, outgunned underdogs fight to keep the MacGuffin away from totally well-trained, well-equipped, thoroughly evil antagonists. A great set up for any storyline. As I’ve read and believed repeatedly, all good stories are basically conservative. So I got ready to watch a rote, pro forma guns ‘n’ explosive fireballs movie. Security was that, and much, much more.

“C’mon, it’s a shoot ’em up, how great could it be?” asks the philistine who thinks it fitting that John Wick didn’t win an Academy Award. They did three things making this movie that put it over the top.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America get a kick out of the Democratic National Committee arguing in court that it can’t be sued for fraud because everyone knew the 2016 nomination process was rigged.  They also grumble at Republicans for giving the Democrats virtually everything they wanted on the latest spending bill.  And they express frustration with the media for running breathless headlines every time Pres. Trump says he’s considering something, but they also wonder what other things they could get Trump to publicly mull over.

David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America discuss President Trump’s executive orders that scrutinize the amount of land designated as national monuments and Obama-era restrictions on offshore drilling.  They also groan as it looks like the update health care bill is also struggling to find the votes to pass.  And they take aim at the ACLU for suing a Catholic hospital for refusing surgery for a transgender patient.

Ian Tuttle of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are cautiously optimistic as an amendment to the GOP health care bill gives more power to the states and brings more conservatives on board.  They also discuss President Trump’s willingness to renegotiate NAFTA, and Ian explains why he’s concerned about Trump’s approach.  And they dive into the effort by Democrats in California to bar businesses from future state contracts if they help to build a border wall.

David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud President Trump for aggressively rolling back burdensome federal regulations.  They also wince at new Census Bureau data showing more Americans aged 18-34 live with their parents than with a spouse, a major shift from 40 years ago.  And they brace themselves for Barack Obama’s first public appearance since Inauguration Day and discuss how active Obama is likely to be in policy debates.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America discuss the pressure mounting on the Democratic National Committee to spend big on every special House election, despite long odds in most of them.  They also unload on University of California-Berkeley administrators for cancelling a speech by Ann Coulter over security concerns instead of cracking down on students and faculty threatening to disrupt the event.  And they address the latest twist in leftist conspiracy theories, as liberals contend Rep. Jason Chaffetz decided not to seek re-election because he’s being blackmailed by Russia.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America react to a new survey showing the vast majority of Trump voters are satisfied or pleasantly surprised by his performance thus far, despite news reports to the contrary.  They also roll their eyes at suggestions that today’s special House election in Georgia is somehow a national referendum on Trump or the GOP.  And they’re not at all surprised to learn that higher minimum wages in San Francisco are leading to more restaurant closures.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly for stating that he will enforce immigration laws, that criminals such as drunk drivers will be deported, and that we do need to secure the southern border.  They also sigh at reports that National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster reportedly wants tens of thousands of ground troops to finish the job in Iraq and Syria.  And they discuss the Huffington Post column urging the disenfranchisement of white men for a time in order to advance the progressive agenda, only to have HuffPost pull the piece because they weren’t sure who wrote it.

Ian Tuttle of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer the resignation of Alabama GOP Gov. Robert Bentley and a new poll showing the nation’s ten most popular governors are all Republicans.  They also get to the bottom line of what went wrong on the United Airlines flight – quick escalation of hostilities and a failure to let capitalism solve the problem.  And they get a kick out of Oregon possibly removing a ban on dueling from the state constitution.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America react to President Trump ordering missile strikes against a Syrian airfield in retaliation for Syria’s use of chemical weapons.  They also discuss another terrorist attack involving a truck, this time in Stockholm.  They’re stunned to see reports that Trump may be considering replacing his top two advisers.  And they welcome Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America discuss yet another North Korean missile test, which appears to have been a major flop.  They also try to read between the lines of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson 23-word statement in response to the North Korean missile.  And they shred Pepsi’s horrible new web ad, apparently designed to appeal to social justice warriors, that ends up as a “Dagwood sandwich of bad” and actually infuriates the Black Lives Matter crowd.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America point out that even the liberal editorial board at USA Today is telling Democrats that filibustering Neil Gorsuch is a bad idea against an obviously qualified jurist.  They also shudder as apparent terrorist attacks kill and injure metro passengers in St. Petersburg, Russia.  And they react to former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice reportedly being the one to request the “unmasking” of Trump officials incidentally caught up in government surveillance.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America enjoy watching the Washington Post get called out for false reporting on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by Matt Lee of the Associated Press.  They also wonder what Mike Flynn has to say to congressional investigators based on reports Flynn wants immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.  And they unload on liberals for sneering at the boundaries Vice President Mike Pence and his wife have established to protect their marriage.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America slam California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for filing 15 felony accounts against the pro-life activists who recorded Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the price of aborted baby body parts.  They also shake their heads as Pres. Trump tweets about fighting the House Freedom Caucus in 2018, most likely in response to their opposition to the GOP health care bill last week.  And they get a kick out of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley suggesting any 5-4 Supreme Court decision with Neil Gorsuch in the majority would be illegitimate if Republicans kill the filibuster on nominees to the high court because he says Gorsuch would be an illegitimate justice.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for doing his best to limit civilian casualties while explaining that are often unavoidable in wartime as the U.S. dramatically ramps up the military action against ISIS.  They also discuss how Democrats are boxing themselves into a corner by trying to filibuster Neil Gorsuch – a move that could lead to rule changes that make the Democrats powerless to stop anything.  And they react to Pres. Trump telling senators a deal on health care legislation will be “easy.”

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America shake their heads as infighting among congressional Republicans and even White House staffers clouds the push for a vote.  They also cast suspicion on President Trump’s vow to just let Obamacare continue if Congress failed to pass the bill.  And they have some much needed fun by examining the push to rename the airport in Las Vegas for former Sen. Harry Reid.