And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: The Last Duel

Historical epics are not my cup of tea, but I was drawn to The Last Duel by the all-star cast of Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck. They do not disappoint, nor does the female lead Jodie Comer whose character propels the 14th Century #MeToo narrative. The action is still too brutal and bloody for my taste, and the structure dictates we live through some uncomfortable scenes multiple times, but the fact that it is based on true events makes this centuries-old story a bit more accessible. It’s impossible not to view it through a modern lens and wonder how a similar scenario would play out today — you know, when duels to the death aren’t really a sanctioned thing.

Quickie Review: Annette

It’s been a couple of weeks since I watched Annette and frankly I’m still processing. I’d love to be able to recommend it because it’s got music! And Academy-Award nominee Adam Driver! And Academy-Award winner Marion Cotillard!

If only it made sense (at least to the average person). Alas, Annette is just too odd to put into words. Maybe if I broke out into song instead. Nah. My head might ‘splode. Or my cat may turn into a singing marionette. Valid concerns if you’ve seen Annette.

Mini review: Marriage Story

Both of us Chicks saw this one at the Middleburg Film Festival earlier this year where it was the opening night film. From director Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding, Frances Ha) it stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a New York couple whose marriage is coming apart. Nicole is a former TV actress married to Charlie who’s a theater director. And they have a cute little boy Henry (Azhy Robertson), whose custody becomes an issue when Mom moves home to the west coast to star in a TV show leaving Dad to commute if he wants to be a part of his son’s life. But once a couple of high powered LA divorce lawyers (Laura Dern and Ray Liotta) enter the story, what started out as an amicable split turns contentious. The film has some great performances, but sadly the story itself feels entirely too familiar.

Review: The Report

We Chicks both saw The Report at the Middleburg Film Festival last month. We were both fans of this political thriller that should be seen widely, and agreed that its audience may be limited by the subject matter. And that’s unfortunate, because it’s an important story, extremely well done, that could very well change hearts and minds about a very dark moment in our country’s all too recent past.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2019

Another super tiring weekend in the bucolic Virginia hamlet of Middleburg watching more films than I should! I predicted early on that this festival would outgrow itself and I think it has come to that point. Too many people know about it and the growing pains have become chronic overcrowding at venues without room for expansion. I’m already searching for another festival for next year. (All suggestions are appreciated.) I saw fewer films this year, too, just nine — Marriage Story, The Capote Tapes, The Aeronauts, Frankie, Waves, The Report, The Two Popes, Atlantics, and Knives Out. I only gave one of them four stars and several were surprising disappointments. For too many it was great cast and great performances in an otherwise just okay movie. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Review: The Dead Don’t Die

Anyone who’s been a fan of Jim Jarmusch’s movies over the years – Stranger Than Paradise, Down By Law, Mystery Train – knows he has an off-center view of the world and it’s events. So going into his take on a zombie flick, you don’t expect the usual Night of the Living Dead scare-fest. And you don’t get one. What you get is a deadpan Sheriff (Bill Murray) and his pessimistic Deputy (Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) dealing with their small town being overrun by hordes of their friends and family from the nearby graveyard, all watched from afar by the town’s wise Hermit Bob (Tom Waites). It’s a fairly straight zombie apocalypse story, but it’s peopled by a slew of wacky Jarmusch characters and told with a wink and a nod. All in all it’s sometimes fun, but definitely not a film for lovers of the horror genre it’s making fun of the whole time.

Review: BlackkKlansman

Spike Lee’s latest joint is about as far fetched as you could imagine. Set in the early 70s, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes Colorado Springs, Colorado’s first African-American cop. While still a rookie, he infiltrates the KKK and fools Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) into welcoming him into the fold. But it’s a true story and one that resonates all the more loudly in our current political world with David Duke and his minions then as now proclaiming “America First.” It’s a deadly serious, yet at times hilarious story, and it’s scary how much has not changed in the intervening years.

Spoiler-free review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Don’t worry Star Wars junkies. You’ll love The Last Jedi. Problem is, I’m not a Star Wars junkie – I’m just a casual fan – so (gasp!), I wasn’t as blown away by “Episode VIII” as the somewhat Comic-Con-obsessed crowd that I saw it with. Not that I didn’t enjoy most of my two-and-a-half hour visit to a galaxy far, far away. I just happened to like 2015’s nostalgia-fueled The Force Awakens a bit more. The Last Jedi picks up right where that one left off. The franchise’s young new heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds herself on a distant planet, face to face with the elusive Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). She’s there to return his light saber, get some Jedi training, and convince him to rejoin the Resistance led by his sister, Princess/General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher). You know the rest. I’m just kidding. You don’t, unless you’ve seen the film or read the spoilers. I’m not enough of an expert to know what constitutes a spoiler, so I’ll just err on the side of caution and keep it brief.

Quickie Reviews: The Hitman’s Bodyguard; Logan Lucky; Patti Cake$

The Hitman’s Bodyguard falls into the bucket of mindless summer entertainment that offers a decent-enough cinematic escape for anyone willing to accept the movie for what it is and not over-analyze its foibles. Ryan Reynolds channels his Deadpool sarcasm to play Michael Bryce, a down-on-his-luck “protection agent” (i.e. bodyguard) who is called upon to safely transport his nemesis, notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel “Snakes on a Plane” L. Jackson) to the Hague so he can testify against brutal East European dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). It’s a familiar formula: The clock is ticking. If the witness doesn’t get to the Hague before a 24-hour deadline, the evil dictator will surely walk free. Cue the overlong gun battles, myriad car and motorcycle chases, and outlandish boat escapes as Dukhovich’s cronies take aim at Bryce and Kincaid.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Oh my, such anticipation! Is it worth it? The answer is a resounding, yet somewhat surprising ‘yes’ given my lack of fandom obsession. I’m sorry, I can’t really tell you why it works. The less you know going into this movie, the better. No spoilers here, I promise! In fact, I will speak (or write) in broad generalities because if you already have your tickets, are planning to see it in the days or weeks ahead, or might be still be on the fence, here’s all you need to know as you contemplate transport back in time, to a galaxy far, far away: