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.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): The Mandalorian (Disney+), Watchmen (HBO), Mrs. Fletcher (HBO), I Love You Now Die (HBO), Barry (HBO), Dating Around (Netflix), Dark (Netflix), Crashing (HBO), The Loudest Voice (Showtime)
Fleabag (Amazon) – Season 2: You check out Fleabag Season 1 because Season 2 has been socially publicized with a 100% approval rating this year. You’re a little confused at first. Why is she occasionally talking directly to the camera, breaking the fourth wall ala Zack Morris? Actually not just occasionally, but seemingly once every 35 seconds? It’s a unique avenue of perspective, but isn’t that overkill? Maybe this just isn’t for you, like a lot of British shows that others love (Peaky Blinders is fucking dumb and I’ll say it to your face). But you stick it out because its only 6 episodes at 22-25 minutes a piece. The end of each chapter leaves juuuuust enough intrigue to keep going. By the end of season 1 Fleabag has grown on you, but not so much that you feel compelled to bring her up in conversation.
Then you finally throw on Episode 1 of Season 2 and it ALL MAKES SENSE. Of course people are raving about this show! The Season 1 homework was all worth it. You’re compelled to eat up the next 5 episodes consecutively but also consider savoring this masterpiece of television over the course of a week or two. Each episode becomes more and more satisfying while painting a whole new light on the fourth wall structure. Rated Greg thrives on hyperbole and he won’t disappoint here. Fleabag Season 2 is the best rom-com this decade.
Best episode: The one at the restaurant
Succession (HBO) – Season 2: Last year’s champion is sadly no longer my number one boy. I wish I had the skill to talk like these assholes. The Roy family saga is still just as good as the first season and remains the best written show on television, but Fleabag is the new, shiny thing thus gets the slight edge.
Best episode: The one on the yacht
Mindhunter (Netflix) – Season 2: After taking a year off, David Fincher’s Mindhunter made significant improvement in Season 2. Netflix billed 2017’s first season as another cops vs serial killers show from the director of Seven, but viewers quickly learned it wasn’t exactly that. There weren’t any cases to solve. Instead the premise was rather about the onset of a real life FBI program in which they psychoanalyzed already captured deviants to improve their profiling capabilities and the toll this took on the personal lives of the FBI agents involved. I still found it quite compelling but understand if it wasn’t what you were looking for.
That said, if you are looking for a show about cops investigating shit, you should really check out Season 2. It begins with a similar structure to the first season but soon a new, WILD real life case is introduced that I had never heard of before. The agents now use what they learned about criminal profiling in the first season to investigate a string of mysterious Atlanta killings in the mid 80’s. You’re still not going to see any car chases or shootouts, but it is remains thrilling filmmaking from Fincher.
Best episode: The one with the stakeout
Euphoria (HBO) – Season 1: I’ve heard secondhand that this was a really tough watch for the older generations. The pilot for Euphoria is basically, I have to assume, the worst case scenario for what it’s like to be in high school in 2019 (drug addiction, social media driven depression, sexual assault, rampant glitter eye shadow). It’s not like the 80’s and 90’s representations for high school life weren’t also angst filled, but there were definitely highs to go along with those lows. Meanwhile, each of the kids at Euphoria High are doomed from the start.
I will say that the pilot episode is without a doubt the most disturbing episode of the season and if you can make it past that you will likely find it rewarding, but if you can’t handle it I won’t blame you. Nonetheless I found Euphoria to be absolutely captivating. From a cinematography standpoint it’s the best looking show on TV, peaking with a carnival episode that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Best episode: The one with the carnival
Cobra Kai (Youtube) – Season 2: You know what’s a really fun high school show? Cobra fucking Kai. The biggest setback of watching Cobra Kai was that you needed a Youtube Red account, however the company has already dissolved their premium service and all episodes will be made available for free very soon. You can read more about my enthusiasm for this reboot of the ultimate underdog story here.
Best episode: The one with the first day of school
The Crown (Netflix) – Season 3: BY GOD THIS IS JUST GOOD SHIT. I fancy The Crown.
Best episode: The one with the moon landing
Southern Charm (Bravo) – Season 6: These idiots take the title from Vanderpump Rules as the best reality show on TV.
Best episode: The one with the ski trip
Friends From College (Netflix) – Season 2: The most underappreciated comedy since Happy Endings. Much like Happy Endings, this show about messy adult assholes was cancelled way too soon. At first I blamed misleading bad reviews from critics for the cancellation, but perhaps the cast is just too busy/expensive to all keep together (most notably Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, and Billy Eichner).
Best episode: The one with the wedding
Derry Girls (Netflix) – Season 2: This past summer the movie Booksmart was billed as “the female Superbad.” It’s a fair comparison and Booksmart is a good time. However an even better version of “the female Superbad” is Netflix’s Derry Girls, about five friends acting a fool in early 90’s Northern Ireland. You’ll likely need to watch this with subtitles because of the accents.
Best episode: The one with the concert
What We Do In The Shadows (FX) – Season 1: Based on Taiki Waititi’s movie of the same name, this comedy about vampires in modern day Staten Island seems stupid on paper, but I guarantee you will chuckle multiple times each episode. Just watch the clip below if you don’t believe me.
Best episode: The one with the trial
A Few Rated Greg Superlatives
Rated Greg’s Top 5 Lead Performances
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag)
Russell Crowe (The Loudest Voice)
Holt McCallany (Mindhunter)
Kathryn Hahn (Mrs. Fletcher)
Craig Conover (Southern Charm)*
*Never change, Craig
Rated Greg’s Top 5 Supporting Characters
Tom (Matthew Macfayden) – Succession
Hot Priest (Andrew Scott) – Fleabag
Baby Yoda (A puppeteer) – The Mandalorian
Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer) – Euphoria
Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) – What We Do In The Shadows
You don’t need me to tell you to see Once Upon A Time in Hollywood or Ford vs Ferrari or The Irishman. Big movies with bigger movie stars that were all over social media and you saw ads for constantly. They’re each 90+ on Rotten Tomatoes and are absolute shoe-ins for Best Picture nominations. I mean, all you need to see are these posters and say no more, you’re ready to rock.
But how about this poster for the movie Waves below?
Does that look like something you want to sign up for? The actors listed aren’t even in legible font. Only cinephiles have heard of the director and there aren’t any TV ads. The picture advertisement alone probably isn’t going to cut it with all the shiny movies to the left and right of it at the theater. You need to know more, right? Well have no fear, that’s what Rated Greg is here for. But before we get to that lets hop in a time machine and go back 3 years.
The movie Moonlight was released wide by A24 on November 18th, 2016. Similar to Waves it lacked a descriptive poster and I do not recall seeing any TV ads. But when did YOU first become aware of Moonlight or feel compelled to see it? According to Box Office Mojo I’m guessing it wasn’t before Thanksgiving. Despite coming out over two months prior, the highest grossing day for Moonlight was actually January 28th, 2017 with $637K. It merely floated around among only the most devoted cinema fans until the Oscar nominations gave the general public the added context they needed to purchase a ticket. Placing that much weight on the opinion of Academy is a bit silly given their track record, but I guess it’s better that Moonlight eventually got the amounts of eyes it deserved than never at all. What’s that got to do with Waves? Well, I have a feeling something similar is going to happen this year.
It’s easy to see lots of parallels between Waves and the Best Picture winner three years prior. An A24 release in mid November. Features black characters in South Florida. A stylishly shot drama that will empty out your emotional fuel tank. But that’s about it. Waves isn’t a copycat situation trying to capitalize on the fondness of another classic. It’s a one of a kind, TOUR DE FORCE that will leave you out of breath by the credits. No joke, it seems strange to portray a suburban family drama as an edge of your seat experience, but you’ll understand when you see it. The way this film is shot is just as exhilarating as any of the excellent car races in Ford vs Ferrari.
I’m not going to dive into much about the plot. This story and even the format as it is presented is far better off seen knowing nothing beforehand. One thing I did find interesting and worth mentioning is that Waves is a film about a black family that was written by a white person (writer/director Trey Edward Schultz). This is a situation otherwise known as “The Green Book conundrum” but is handled far more delicately than last year’s shitshow campaign.
Apparently Waves is a semi-autobiographical take on a tumultuous time in Schultz’s Florida upbringing and the first person he cast was Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the teenage son, thinking it didn’t make a difference to the story what race the family was. Which seems true on the surface. Most of the shit that happens in this film could be about any modern day family and Harrison simply had the best audition. However what’s cool is that once Sterling K. Brown (shoutout This Is Us) came on board to play the Dad he met with Schultz several times to alter the script and add specifically black perspectives to certain areas. Brown felt strongly that the struggles each member of this family deals with would lead to slightly different experiences if it were a black family vs a white family, no matter if they were in the same tax bracket. Schultz wisely obliged and Waves is clearly a far better movie for it. Don’t be surprised if you see this at the top of my report card come December 31st. Grade A+
Last week a friend was going on a movie date and asked me whether they should see Joker or Ad Astra. I told her neither and to go see Hustlers. My oh so stubborn friend, let’s just call her “Deesh”, disregarded my advice, chose Ad Astra, and then had THE AUDACITY to give me shit when she hated the movie. I’m sorry, what? She yelled at me for liking Ad Astra and giving it a B+, which is a grade I stand by, but I also knew two things. 1. I knew this particular friend wouldn’t like Ad Astra. It’s just not her type of movie. 2. Even if she was someone that I would recommend Ad Astra to, it is a TERRIBLE choice for a date movie! And so is Joker! Joker and Ad Astra are honestly probably tied for the second worst date movie of the year, with Midsommer for sure being number one in that category. You know what is a fun date movie though? Fucking Hustlers is, that’s what (A+ btw).
So Ad Astra. It’s not just that jerk Deesh, I wouldn’t recommend Ad Astra to the majority of my friends. Believe it or not the Brad Pitt space epic is not meant for the general public, despite the studio including two pretty cool action sequences for trailer purposes. First off this film is just much more likely to resonate with men more than women (Sure, women will enjoy looking at hot Brad Pitt, but unlike Once Upon A Time in Hollywood he does not take his shirt off). Not only that, but it will only be particularly affecting for men from a certain age that are sentimental about their fathers. Ad Astra is introspection about a man dedicating his life to a career that would make his father proud, to the detriment of developing any substantial connection with another person. It’s a mostly quiet, fairly artsy film that asks the question whether human beings might be better off living a lifestyle devoid of any real emotional capital invested in another. There is an answer to that question at the end, but obviously you can discover that for yourself.
One more thing. I didn’t know Brad Pitt had this in him. Obviously he’s great at playing weirdos (Snatch, Fight Club), great at comic roles (Burn After Reading, Inglorious Basterds), and great at being the coolest motherfucker in the room (Oceans 11, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood), but he’s never stirred up emotions quite like this in a dramatic role. He’s clearly poured himself into his craft after a tumultuous period in his personal life and it shows. Grade: B+
How many actors do you think fired their agents because they
didn’t get offered Triple Frontier? I’m
guessing there was a lot of movement among the clientele of 35 to 45 year olds
around Hollywood after Netflix released this back in March. Who do you think was most pissed off? John Krasinski? Channing Tatum? Chris Evans?
It was probably Chris Evans. The
script of Triple Frontier is a dream for anyone looking to flex some muscles
and brood on ‘em, harkening back to the action glory days of the 1980’s.
Five broke, down on their luck former marines decide to rob a South American drug lord and make all of their problems go away. What ensues is one half heist movie, one half survival movie, and two halves tough guy train. All Aboard!
The reviews that panned this Netflix original all had the same vibe. They claimed that Triple Frontier was pretty clearly constructed as content, not as “art.” I don’t disagree. If you made a bot watch every Stallone, Arnold, and Swayze movie from 20th century, then locked that bot in a room and made it write a screenplay, it would come up with Triple Frontier. This film isn’t concerned about saying something original or eliciting an academic think-piece. It’s basically an action cliché algorithm.
Even the cast of Triple Frontier appears to have been compiled not based on who fit which role, but which actors had a very precise level of a cult following. Oscar Isaac, Garret Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, and Charlie Hunnam. I promise you out of 100 tweets about any of those actors, at least 99 will be positive. Within the movie, you could switch any of the roles among the four and it wouldn’t add or subtract from the story.
Obviously this list excludes Affleck. You can find a lot of negative things said about Benjamin Geza Affleck, 2002’s Sexiest Man Alive, on the internet. Trying to log onto your homepage and NOT seeing someone talking crap about Affleck is like NOT seeing inappropriate t-shirt slogans on the Ocean City boardwalk. Everyone wants a piece of him. But here’s the thing. Fuck those people. Ben Affleck is a treasure to the film industry and is often the best ingredient in any movie he’s in, whether the movie is good or not. If Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were hanging off of a cliff Good Son style and I could only save one, I’m saving Ben every time (It’s not your fault, Matt). True to form, he’s is the best part of Triple Frontier.
Unlike the other four characters, no one else could have
played Affleck’s role as Tom ‘Redfly’ Davis.
You see, the filming of Triple Frontier took place as Affleck was going
through a divorce and on the brink of rehab in 2018 (you can tell because he
looks like shit). Typically the most
charismatic member of an ensemble, his performance of a downtrodden veteran is
quite jarring. It’s impossible to watch without
thinking about what demons must have been going on in his head, as both his
marriage and Batman franchise crashed and burned. Whatever the case, he’s REALLY good in this
and nails the part.
As for the movie on the whole, Triple Frontier is damn entertaining. Who the hell cares if it was seemingly created in a lab? So is every Marvel movie and this is exponentially more interesting than those. Plus, it’s an R Rated, stand alone action movie not affiliated with any other franchises. How often does that happen these days? Once a year maybe? Den of Thieves took that title last year. Atomic Blonde the year before. 2019 is all about Triple Frontier. Grade: A+
I’m fairly certain that no lead actor ever had more fun filming a movie than Matthew McConaughey did during the shoot of Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum. Playing a fictional poet/wild man named Moondog, all McConaughey does throughout this comedy is gallivant back and forth between Miami and Key West while drinking PBR, having sex, doing drugs, and otherwise paling around with the great hangs of Snoop Dogg, Jonah Hill, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, and Martin Lawrence. That’s the movie. There’s no real conflict, no personal growth, and no lesson other than life’s too short to sweat the bullshit. I loved every second of it. L-I-V-I-N.
It’s a good message. It’s not a remotely realistic message, but I appreciate the sentiment. Most people can’t do literally WHATEVER they want WHENEVER they want without a care in the world. But Moondog can and I’m happy for him. He’s basically the human version of a golden retriever that never got fixed. Still not sold? Watch the trailer below. I mean, doesn’t that look like a good time!
Apparently Gary Oldman was Korine’s first choice to play Moondog, but this is perfect casting with McConaughey, a man who was once arrested for playing the bongos naked in real life. Same goes for the rest of the co-stars, all one upping each other in outlandishness every ten minutes or so, especially Martin back after an 8 year big screen sabbatical. If Big Mamma’s House 3 is Tiger Woods’ DUI, this cameo is his Masters victory.
They don’t happen often, but I tend to be really drawn to movies where the majority of the runtime is just people having fun without much plot. It’s a nice break from the Chicken Little stratosphere constantly glowing from our phones. My favorite film of 2016 was Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some, which circles the low stakes of a party heavy weekend at a college baseball house. While these are stylishly two VERY different films, they left me with the same laid back chuckles. I actually have a hard time even calling The Beach Bum an actual film given the lack of cohesiveness, it’s more just a collection of really funny encounters between Moondog and the people of South Florida. But it’s my favorite THING thus far that I’ve seen this year (well….that or Jordan Peele’s Us).
Before I go, I should warn you that Korine’s movies apparently aren’t for everyone (just look at the Rotten Tomato scores). The first half of 2013’s Spring Breakers is really hard to get through and I know multiple people that turned it off during the first act, but if you stuck around until Gucci Mane shows up you realize how special that film is, not to mention the incredible Britney Spears homage toward the end. Luckily The Beach Bum doesn’t have that problem. It gets going right from the jump. Moondog’s escapades might not move you to any meaningful emotions whatsoever, but goddammit you will be entertained. Oh yes, you will be entertained.
There’s a version of a Cold Pursuit review that praises the film for its creativity within an already established business model, that of a Liam Neeson revenge thriller. Since the mightily successful Taken in 2008, Neeson has been making this movie practically on an annual basis. It’s a formula not just in terms of the “one simple man takes on a bunch of thugs” plot, but even in release date given that they all seem to come out in the time of year where competition is light. Taken came out in January 2008. Unknown (Taken but with amnesia) came out in February 2011. The Grey (Taken but against wolves) came out in January 2012*. Non-Stop (Taken but on a plane) came out in February 2014. Taken 3 (Taken but now he’s the one that has been Taken) came out in January 2015. The Commuter (Taken but on a train) came out in January 2018. This is clearly counter programming for those that don’t care about catching up with the Oscar nominated movies before the late February ceremony.
*The Grey is actually an ensemble survival masterpiece with
little in common with the others (see top 5 above), but it was marketed as
Taken against wolves so I included it here.
With Cold Pursuit (aka Taken but this time he drives a snow plow) coming out the weekend before Valentine’s Day, its easy to assume this as another seasonal Liam Neeson punch-em up. Which this film absolutely is by the way, but with one caveat. Cold Pursuit has jokes. Not corny, Fast and Furious type jokes (sit down Tyrese), but legitimate chuckle-inducing LOL’s, along with a quite clever narrative structure that pokes fun at the various tropes of crime films and gangster films collectively. Cold Pursuit is by no means a parody, but it is most certainly self aware of the type of story it is telling. It’s kind of like Boondock Saints in that manner. The 118 minutes is politically incorrect, but it knows it’s politically incorrect (please note these jokes are not for everyone). Even the main bad guy, “Viking,” who at first appeared to be a terrible actor (Why is he so forcibly talking in that asshole, whispery tenor? And why is his nickname Viking? He has no facial hair and wears a goddamn suit), I came to think he must be doing some sort of send up to the villains of a 90’s Van Damme movie like Hard Target**. Or he might still simply be a really bad actor, either way it works for the film.
**Remember Hard Target? With the greatest haircut in cinematic history?
Liam Neeson claims that Cold Pursuit will be his last action movie role and this is a fitting bookend to his tough guy decade. For one thing, Cold Pursuit is probably the best of the bunch since ‘08’s Taken and because it also hints at how ridiculous a movie like Taken or Non-Stop is, it would have been weird to nonchalantly go back to his normal bread and butter next Winter (kind of like trying to find fun in Apples to Apples after playing Cards Against Humanity). Also, it can’t go unmentioned that Neeson probably wouldn’t have been given another opportunity anyways. His recent PR disaster (google it) coupled with the fact that Cold Pursuit performed well below expectations at the box office means that there will not be any tallies added to the actor’s epic body count anytime soon.
Here’s the thing though, Cold Pursuit actually isn’t as innovative as it may seem to 99% of the American audience that sees it. They’ll likely find the conceit low key interesting for a Neeson action film without realizing that this product is directly imported from Europe. Confused? I’ll explain. Cold Pursuit is a remake of the 2014 Swedish film “Kraftidioten” starring Stellan Skarsgard. And it’s not a remake in the same fashion that A Star is Born or The Departed is a remake. Cold Pursuit is literally a frame by frame, line by line remake of the Swedish version, aside from switching a few pop culture references*** and changing the Serbian gangsters that end up caught in the middle of Neeson’s vendetta to a group of Native Americans.
***One of the references has two Denver residents debating whether John Elway or Peyton Manning was the best Denver Bronco quarterback. Seriously? Any casual football fan over the age of 25 knows that this would never be up for debate in a real life conversation. Here’s an idea, why don’t movie studios hire one sports fan to review the feasibility all such sports details in their scripts. You could save yourself a lot of embarrassment. Shit, Rated Greg would do it for free.
Admittedly I don’t see a ton of foreign films, but I had seen Kraftidioten (billed as “In Order of Disappearance” to America) when I noticed the press release about Neeson making a “vengeance snow plow film” and just knew they’d be one and the same. But I’m not gonna be one of those people that advises you to see the original instead here. This isn’t like when Vince Vaughn remade Psycho frame for frame. Unlike Psycho, Kraftidioten isn’t canon. Rather, just check out Cold Pursuit (if you like revenge thrillers that is). Neeson is much more convincing at punching people in the face than the professor from Goodwill Hunting is and also you won’t have to deal with subtitles. Grade: B+