Just like October, November also had some high profile releases. Let’s talk about them.
Widows is the latest film from Steve McQueen, the man behind great films like 12 Years a Slave, Shame, and Hunger. His latest film is a heist drama about the four widows of a group of criminals, led by a woman named Veronica (Viola Davis), planning to pull off a final heist to pay back a debt left by their dead husbands. It’s an absolutely fantastic film from start to finish. Every character is so rich and detailed, as is the way Chicago is portrayed in the film. The plot is incredibly unpredictable, and the film both subverts and reimagines the classic trope of the heist genre. One plot twist in particular made my jaw drop, and it was one those twists that I should have seen coming but didn’t. That’s the quality of writing in the film. The dialogue and script were so tight, with every little subplot and detail being used in service of deepening the characters and enhancing the story. Every performance was spot on, and no one felt forced or out of place. This is the first time I’ve seen Michelle Rodriguez show that she can really be a great actress when given the right role and proper direction. All the antagonists of the film were so fleshed out, with complex motivations and characterization, and a lot of the film was devoted to that. Daniel Kaluuya is quickly jumping towards the top of the list of my favorite actors, and his performance as a psychopathic gangster in this film was even better than his performance in Get Out. There was also a lot of political intrigue that I didn’t expect from the film. Really, there was a lot I didn’t expect, such as the fact that the heist part of the film is the shortest part. It’s also incredibly well shot, with some great long takes that are used for fantastic visual storytelling. Overall Widows is one of the best films of the year, and is one of the best heist dramas I’ve seen. I definitely recommend checking it out in theaters if you can.
This was much better than I expected it to be. It’s not as good as the first Creed, but it does come close. The biggest drawback of the film is that there is always the sense of a “been there, done that” feeling. However, not every boxing movie has to be Raging Bull, and considering this is the eighth film in the Rocky franchise, a franchise built around being inspiring boxing movies, this is almost as good as it gets. Michael B. Jordan is so perfectly cast as Adonis Creed, and seeing his relationship with Rocky is just an absolute treat. There is so much feeling infused in both performances, and I just love watching these characters, and the story itself actually has great stakes. In Rocky IV, Creed’s father, Apollo, is killed in the ring by Ivan Drago, and Adonis is going up against Drago’s son in this film. The Dragos were actually fleshed out in this film surprisingly well, and you understood the motivations and dynamics that made the family tick. So when it came down to the fight scenes, they were all really intense because there was so much care that went into giving all the characters depth. All the fights were spectacular, though nothing was quite as amazing as the long take fight in the first Creed. Sure, this film is formulaic, but it follows the formula incredibly well and has good direction, performances, and dialogue. I couldn’t ask for anything more from a Rocky film, and I would recommend checking this one out.
I want to preface this review with the fact that I enjoyed this film and that Queen is one of my top five all time favorite artists. So it was painful for me to accept that I simply did not enjoy this film as much as everyone else did. Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury is one for the ages, the music was amazing, and the Live Aid concert scene made my heart leap with joy. I enjoyed a lot of the humor, and I enjoyed watching everyone on screen play these characters. But I couldn’t overlook just how stale, uninspired, and by-the-numbers the film felt, and I definitely couldn’t overlook all the inaccuracies. The most glaring one was changing the year Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS for the sake of dramatic effect. They also portrayed Mercury as the villain in the middle part of the film, which was very off-putting. Nothing felt urgent or felt like it had any stakes. It also felt like there were three different films crammed into one film, and there was no focus at all. It’s unfortunate that despite Queen’s approval of the film, it didn’t feel like a film that really truly honored them. The entire film was a missed opportunity that I enjoyed simply because I love Queen. I will still recommend the film because I am in the minority with this opinion. I just really wish I enjoyed this film more.
The Bad Movies
First up in the bad movies list is Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which was an avada kedavra for the Harry Potter franchise. It was absolutely boring, nonsensical, and just full of empty spectacle. Check out Izzy’s amazing review of it on page B8. Next up is The Grinch, which was made by the creatively bankrupt geniuses at Illumination Animation who brought you terrible films like Minions, Sing, and The Secret Life of Pets. Their latest film is (surprise surprise) also terrible. It’s just loud and stupid, full of sound and color that signifies nothing. It’s just so boring and not creative. I did not laugh or smile a single time watching this. This is the second bad adaptation of a Dr. Seuss story from Illumination Animation, who I’m sure is now cursing them from his special spot in hell (he wasn’t a very good man back in the day). It’s baffling that the animation, the supposed bread and butter of this company, is so bad. They don’t have a good art team and they cut costs for their animation, so all the character designs are not good, and it’s a visually bland experience. I’m sure infants will be entertained, but everyone else is better off watching any other version. Finally, we have Robin Hood, the new one. I snuck into this after watching Creed 2 because there was no way I wanted to pay to see even a minute of this. Of the half an hour I saw, this is the second worst film of this year, behind Disney's A Wrinkle in Time. It’s so laughably incompetent. All the performances are shockingly awful. The action and special effects are shockingly awful. The entire production is just shockingly awful. Films like this make me question my sanity and reality. Am I really watching this? Why does this exist? Who thought this was a good idea? There are certain films that should just be cancelled before they’re released, and Robin Hood, the new one, falls into this list. There were only a few other people watching, and everyone was just bored. So don’t be like those people or me, and don’t see this movie.