April 8th, 1995. WHAT A TIME. Bill Clinton was President. OJ was on trial. Madonna’s Take A Bow was the #1 song in the country. The Ed O’Bannon-led UCLA Bruins were NCAA champions. Dylan McKay was off the wagon. And Rated Greg saw what would become his favorite movie of all time, Bad Boys, at the Beltway Plaza AMC 8 with his friend Jordan. The prefect blend of sensational action and hilariously crude banter, quite frankly this 5th grader didn’t know this style of filmmaking was allowed. I mean, how can you watch this without wanting to run through a wall?!
Fun fact. On LeBron’s HBO talk show The Shop, recent guest Will Smith tells a great story about his wardrobe in the scene above. Director Michael Bay was adamant that Smith be shirtless during the chase. Smith, understandably, thought that was absolutely ridiculous and felt it made more sense to, you know, have clothes on. After arguing about it for a while they eventually compromised with the unbuttoned shirt. That’s showbiz, baby!
1995’s Bad Boys gave Rated Greg a high that he’s been chasing at the movie theater ever since. I imagine it’s the same feeling my Mom had the first time she heard the Beatles, or Donald Trump had the first time someone retweeted him. Other great action movies have come and gone (including Bad Boys II), but the original Bad Boys will always be #1 in my heart.
Fast forward 25 years, Will and Martin are back at it in Bad Boys For Life. You might have noticed that this film was not included in my most anticipated for 2020. It wasn’t an oversight, for I have to keep my guards up for what I hold precious. Will Smith is 51 years old after all. And Martin Lawrence 54. What would this look like? Are they still running around Miami arguing over car etiquette and pulling the same shenanigans? Remember that time they stuck up the convenience store? How are they not in jail yet?
But age actually wasn’t what worried me the most. If anyone can pull a Cruise and still do viable action well into his 50’s it’s Will Smith. And Martin never had to do any of the heavy lifting in that department anyways. What worried me the most was the absence of director Michael Bay, the Phil Jackson to Will’s Michael and Martin’s Scottie. The chemistry of the two leads essentially went hand in hand with Bay’s exceptional eye for action flare (and unbuttoned shirts). The former music video director burst on the scene with his very first feature film in Bad Boys and he has remained far and away the best director of action sequences ever since. While round 3 was of course offered to him first, Bay opted to take a reported 150 million dollar deal from Netflix instead. Hard to blame him. But without Bay I just wasn’t sure if this would work nearly as well as the first two films in the franchise. It’s like seeing Aerosmith only to find out they replaced Joe Perry with a Jonas brother.
So is Bad Boys For Life, all these years later, any good? You know what? Bad Boys For Life is still pretty good! It’s not gonna blow your mind like the first two, but it’s still an above average action movie in 2020. Think a step above the most recent Fast and Furious movies, but a step below the most recent Mission Impossibles and John Wicks. What Bad Boys For Life most has going for it is the humor. This is probably the funniest version of Mike and Marcus, but it comes at the expense of diluted action that is just…. fine. Unironically “6 Underground,” the movie Michael Bay made for Netflix instead of Bad Boys 3, has absolutely STUPENDOUS, Bad Boys style action but the attempts at humor throughout the film are quite embarrassing. Bay, Will, and Martin really prove to better than the sum of their parts if you made a Venn diagram of the two films.
After seeing Bad Boys For Life, it’s pretty clear why Columbia decided to return to this saga. The third film was never meant to be swan song for Will and Martin, but rather a reboot to turn the Miami police department into it’s own Fast and Furious type franchise, with a bunch of fresh, young, dick swinging characters of eclectic cultural backgrounds (pitch – Give us a spinoff featuring Vanessa Hudgens’ character called Bad Girls). It’s undeniably calculated, but if that’s what it takes to get the original Bad Boys back on the screen bickering with each other I’m fine with it. We Ride Together, We Die Together. Bad Boys For Life. Grade: B–
PS – I say this about a lot of movies, but this one especially needs to be seen at the theater, preferably a packed theater. I typically avoid loud, enthusiastic, sold out crowds, but having companions to enjoy the many callbacks to the first two films significantly levels up the experience of Bad Boys 3.
The conversation of best working actor is up for debate. Devoted readers will already know my personal choice is Jake Gyllenhaal, however you could name ten to twelve other actors and I wouldn’t be mad at it. Leo, Denzel, Cruise, Bale, Damon, Pitt, Idris, Driver, Bernthal, and in a whisper….maybe even Shia. The point is there’s no one blowing the rest of the field out of the water like MJ in his prime.
But you know what isn’t up for debate? The best working actress, that’s who. MJ is back, people. In fact MJ has been back for awhile now, and her name is CHARLIZE THERON. Go ahead, name another actress that has her range. She’s got the comedy chops (Long Shot, Young Adult), dramatic flare (Monster, Tully, In The Valley of Elah), and is an action star to top it all off (that does her own stunts)! Her physical work in Atomic Blonde alone is just as impressive as anything in John Wick. Don’t believe me? Watch This
Let’s see your girl Meryl do that.
Theron’s most recent film Bombshell only cements her cream of the crop status. I saw it on New Year’s Day and am kicking myself for not waiting to post the 2019 year in review until after I saw it. It’s THAT GOOD. Remember the first time you saw the trailer for Vice and just being amazed that the person portraying Dick Cheney on the screen was Christian Bale? Batman as Dick Cheney? You had to do a double take, right? Well that’s the feeling I got in the first act of Bombshell. Theron as Megyn Kelly is the first person you see on the screen, however I didn’t even realize it was Theron playing her until several minutes into the movie. It’s truly uncanny.
Bombshell joins a specific thread of recent movies that are right in the wheelhouse for Rated Greg. An ensemble cast of super famous people with fast dialogue and a script based on relatively contemporary events. I’m talking The Big Short. I’m talking I, Tonya. I’m talking Molly’s Game. I’m even talking the aforementioned Vice to some extent. If you liked any of those movies, you’ll enjoy this, despite the subject matter being much darker at times. Don’t be thrown off by the fact that Bombshell was directed by Jay Roach, the man who brought you three Austin Powers movies. He’s clearly evolved as a filmmaker, much like Adam McKay when he transitioned from Step Brothers type material to The Big Short and Vice. Grade: A+
PS – Bombshell is also the best performance of Margot Robbie’s career. If she doesn’t get a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as Kayla Pospisil, the system is officially broken.
I’m rooting for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood to win ALL the awards this winter. Not because I think it’s the best movie of the year, even if it is. I personally don’t care that the dated taste of the Academy rarely lines up with Rated Greg’s exceptional palate. No, I’m rooting for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood because it came out in July. If Tarantino’s latest can win the Oscar’s highest praises, maybe, just maybe movie studios will consider releasing their Oscar hopefuls in windows outside of the last 6 weeks of the year.
On one hand, it’s AWESOME that on Christmas Day you can go to the theater and have the option of seeing Knives Out, Ford v Ferrari, Parasite, Little Women, Bombshell, Richard Jewell, Uncut Gems, or 1917, not too mention the straight to home streaming releases of The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Report. But on the other hand, why can’t we spread this out a little more? That’s eleven movies that are supposedly awards contenders released all in the same time frame whereas throughout the rest of the year it’s hard to find more than one movie for adults on the slate at the same time. It’s not like The Emmy’s care at all about when certain TV series air, same goes for the Grammy’s (sike I know nothing about that Grammy’s), so why the fuck are Academy voters so susceptible to recency bias? If this is truly their craft, shouldn’t they be able to see past that? Anyways, lets go Leo, Brad, Quentin, and Margot.
That’s Year Four of Rated Greg in the books. I had a lot less time to write about movies this year, but still plenty of time to see them. Here are the Rated Greg superlatives on the year, along with a 2019 report card at the bottom.
*Apologies to Bombshell, Honey Boy, and The Lighthouse. Three movies that I expect great things from but haven’t yet had the opportunity to see.
*Last year was an incredibly deep field for Best Actress, but in 2019 it’s the men that are gonna have to leave some very qualified players on the bench. Apologies to Robert De Niro (Irishman), Timothee Chalamet (The King), Andrew Garfield (Under The Silver Lake), Daniel Craig (Knives Out), Andre Holland (High Flying Bird), Matthew McConaughey (The Beach Bum), and most notably Joaquin Phoenix for Joker. I swear leaving him off of this list isn’t some sort of a troll. He’s incredible in Joker, I just found the top 5 performances above more interesting.
**I’m really excited to see what Kelvin does next. He was the best part of Waves and Luce this year, but he plays a high school golden boy with a dark side in both movies. One can only hope that a superhero franchise doesn’t lock him into some 7 picture deal that takes up the rest of his 20’s like Tom Holland, even though he may prefer that for his bank account.
Best Lead Actress*
Florence Pugh – Midsommer
Lupita Nyong’o – Us
Samara Weaving – Ready Or Not
Kaitlyn Dever – Booksmart
Charlize Theron – Long Shot
*The top 3 shows that the best roles available to adult women continue to be in the horror genre. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s certainly a thing.
**Hader has developed some serious acting chops. It saddens me that he won’t be recognized for IT 2, but mark my words he will get an Oscar nomination in the next 3 years.
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers*
Laura Dern – Marriage Story*
Taylor Russell – Waves
Julia Fox – Uncut Gems**
Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
*It’s going to be a heavy weight fight for the Oscar between these two. Both performances are absolutely electric and I honestly don’t know who’s going to win. I’ll give the slight nod to J-Lo due to more screen time.
**insert heart eyes emoji
The Dummies – Toy Story 4*
Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) – Doctor Sleep**
The Dauphin of France (Robert Pattinson) – The King
Todd (Jesse Plemons) – El Camino
Umbrae (Shahadi Wright Joseph) – Us
*At a Sunday afternoon viewing of Toy Story 4, there was an audible gasp of terror by the adult woman sitting behind me the moment these creepy dudes show up. And honestly, it was warranted.
** Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, is probably the most average movie of the year. But Ferguson by far is the best part about it. Love her.
Best Ridiculous Performance
Martin Lawrence (Captain Wack) – The Beach Bum*
Keanu Reaves (as himself) – Always Be My Maybe
Daniel Craig (Benoit Blanc) – Knives Out
Jake Gyllenhaal (Mysterio) – Spider-Man: Far From Home
Taika Waititi (Imaginary Hitler) – Jojo Rabbit
*You could technically put the entire cast of The Beach Bum as the top 5 in this category, but that’s against Rated Greg rules.
Mark (Will Poulter) – Midsommar
Madison (Zoey Deutch) – Zombieland: Double Tap
Amy (Florence Pugh) – Little Women
Tony Pro (Stephen Graham) – The Irishman
Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans) – Knives Out
Brandy the dog – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Mr. Mime – Detective Pikachu*
Babu Frik – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Michael J Fox Lookin’ [REDACTED] the cat – Waves
The donkey – Triple Frontier
Worst Character, Performance, or Scene
Noah Centineo (Brooks Radigan) – The Perfect Date
John Boyega (Finn) – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker***
The sex scene/protest scene mashup – Queen & Slim*
The grocer confrontation scene – The Irishman**
Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) – Avengers: Endgame
*This scene is truly BEWILDERING. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more attention, however I guess no one saw this movie.
**Now this is something that has gotten attention, the internet calling out it’s shittiness. Everyone is talking about how bad the choreography of the curb stomping is, but what I thought was even weirder is the way the grocer gets thrown through the glass. He just doesn’t get pushed with close to enough force one would think that it would take to go through glass. I noticed this immediately and felt compelled to rewind the scene 3 times while watching the movie because something looked so “off” about it.
***I just don’t give a fuck about any of these new Star Wars characters. Except for Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren rules.
Best Volume Year
Keanu Reeves (Wick 3, Toy Story 4, Between Two Ferns, Always Be My Maybe)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Ad Astra)
Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Little Women, Fighting With My Family)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story, The Report, Star Wars)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story, Jojo Rabbit, Avengers: Endgame)
Between Two Ferns
The Biggest Little Farm
The Last Black Man In San Francisco
*This award used to be Most Scares, but I’ve seen so many horror movies the past decade that it’s extremely rare for me to find something truly scary. But luckily there’s still a surplus films that came make you squirm with uneasiness.
**Jawline is a documentary that follows a 16 year old aspiring Instagram/YouTube influencer. I think it was initially meant to be hopeful and uplifting but ends up exposing the most insidious aspects of the business and is quite sad. It would make an excellent double feature with Fyre Fraud (both on Hulu).
***This really just for one scene involving a baseball boy that is fairly fucked up.
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
The Beach Bum
Best Stunt/Action Sequence
“Dog-Fu” – John Wick 3
The Le Mans – Ford v Ferrari
1917 – The whole movie
The Opening Car Chase – 6 Underground
The Lunar Chase – Ad Astra
The Knife Fight – John Wick 3
The Bruce Lee scene – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
The Fight – Marriage Story
The Hallway Henchmen – Polar
The Battle of Agincourt – The King
Best Non-Action Scene
The Cold Open – Midsommar*
Leo’s Trailer Meltdown – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Pitt’s Message – Ad Astra
Fishing – Waves
Becky Plays A Song For Her Daughter – Her Smell**
*I can’t stress enough that this isn’t something I want to experience over and over again. But the opening scene of Midsommar will put a chill down your spine unlike anything you’ve seen before. I have to give props for it.
**I wouldn’t recommend Her Smell to most people, a drama about a fictional Courtney Love type rock singer that can’t get her act together. It’s a really tough watch, but does have one scene towards the end that is undeniably sweet and made me tear up on an airplane.
Best Use of a Song
It Must Have Been Love (Roxanne) – Long Shot
Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys) – Us
I Am A God (Kanye West) – Waves
2000 Miles (The Pretenders) – Cold Pursuit
Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer) – The Inventor
Five Random Quotes
“I heard you paint houses” – The Irishman
“Wait a minute. I read a tweet about a New Yorker article about you” – Knives Out
“I’m a white man and I’m straight and I deserve it” – Between Two Ferns
“Dick me dead and bury me pregnant” – Fighting With My Family
“And away….we….go” – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Twenty Other Things That Made Me Feel Some Type of Way (in no particular order)
The piano in Under The Silver lake
Leaving rehab in The Beach Bum
Gotham City Guys in The Lego Movie 2
The drug scene in Long Shot
The pool in Booksmart
The double date in Always Be My Maybe
Bunny & Ducky’s plan in Toy Story 4
The mushrooms in Midsommar
The talk show in Joker
The ending of Ready Or Not
The opening dance sequence of Climax
The pivots of Parasite
J Lo’s pole dance in Hustlers
The vacuum cleaner store in El Camino
Arnold’s home life in Terminator: Dark Fate
The frat house in Good Boys
The inspection in Jojo Rabbit
The fish conversation in The Irishman
Dancing outside in Little Women
The very end of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
The Best Of The Decade*
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Wolf Of Wall Street
Manchester By The Sea
Everybody Wants Some
The Place Beyond The Pines
*Not having anything from 2018 or 2019 on this list isn’t a detriment to those years, I just haven’t had the chance to rewatch any of those yet. With the influx of new content by Netflix, Amazon, etc, every single week, I wonder if the rewatches of movies going forward will go way down. Every single one of these movies got better the second time I saw them.