Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Brian Tyree Henry, Marc Maron, Dante Pereira-Olson, Douglas Hodge, Sharon Washington, Bill Camp, Glenn Fleshler, Josh Pais, Shea Whigham, Leigh Gill, Sondra James, Murphy Guyer, Hannah Gross, Gary Gulman, Chris Redd, Bryan Callen, Greer Barnes, Ray Iannicelli, Keith Buterbaugh
Director: Todd Phillips
Synopsis: Getting to the essence of the movie, it is a brilliant character study of a poor childhood trauma victim’s attempts to survive in a callous world, where a series of events unfold that lead to his mental deterioration. Where before his energies focused on self-loathing, now they turn outward. In a sense this turn has been good for him, but in the process he has become a maniac.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson
Director: Robert Eggers
Synopsis: Two social outcasts, one an older disabled seaman and the other a young reticent drifter, find themselves on an island alone together for a number of weeks, taking care of the lighthouse and maintenance of the property. An unhealthy relationship dynamic begins almost at once, where the old man sets himself up as “boss” and the young man his browbeaten employee. Boss gives employee a never-ending chore list of back breaking labor, while his only task is to tend the light itself. Young man is brooding and unhappy, but the dynamic works in its own fashion. There is a definite “turn” in the plot, and that’s where all hell breaks loose. Dafoe as the seaman and Pattinson as the young drifter were well-chosen. The environment on the island starts out kind of dreary, but as time goes on it becomes increasingly ominous.
Etc.: Disturbing scenes of the supernatural or hallucinations (you’ll have to decide which)
Hit & Run (2012) netflix
Starring: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Rosenbaum, Jess Rowland, Carly Hatter, Joy Bryant, Kal Bennett, John Duff, David Koechner, Ryan Hansen, Beau Bridges
Director: David Palmer, Dax Shepard
Synopsis: This is my favorite kind of rom-com because there’s a cross-country trip that involves very cool and fast cars and an expertly acted cast. I’ve loved Dax Shepard since seeing him in “Let’s Go to Prison.” He’s not only very funny but he is extremely attractive! Dax plays “Charles Bronson” and has been in a berg for 4 years. He’s hooked up with cute community college teacher Kristen Bell, and the two are very happily playing house – until she gets an opportunity to head her own department in her specialty in L.A., where the bad guys Dax is being protected from live. Dax decides to tempt fate and take Kristen to L.A., and so the adventure begins. There is a lot of zaniness and laugh-out-loud antics throughout, while at the same time the conversations the two have along the way give the film a special charm. Hit & Run is both a chick flick and a guy flick. It has the best of both worlds. Highly recommended!
Etc.: Dax and Kristen are married in real life, which makes the romantic scenes all the better.
The Idiot (1951)
Starring: Setsuko Hara, Masayuki Mori, Toshirô Mifune, Yoshiko Kuga, Takashi Shimura, Chieko Higashiyama
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Synopsis: A war (WWII) veteran who narrowly escaped death, which landed him in a psychiatric unit far away, has been discharged and is headed back to the town of his only remaining relative. It is clear that something is “off” about him. He has that shell-shocked look. On the train, he meets a man who is sympathetic to his plight who is also headed to the same town to collect his inheritance after his father’s passing. As the fates would have it, both of them end up falling in love with the same woman, who has been twisted by her life circumstances. Enter other suitors, possible love connections, meddling parents and siblings. The biggest character in this film may be the snow and cold, which permeate every scene, visible or not. The stark contrast of the dark interiors, physical and psychological, against the whiteness of the relentless snow builds a tense, almost surreal atmosphere. One of Kurosawa’s darkest I’ve seen.
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Gemma-Leah Devereux, Bella Ramsey, Andy Nyman, Fenella Woolgar, John Dagleish, Phil Dunster, Tim Ahern, John MacKay, David Rubin
Director: Rupert Goold
Synopsis: Zellweger earned her Oscar for best actress in Judy. Without knowing a lot about Judy, I feel that the portrayal was a sympathetic one. The story moves mostly in a linear fashion covering the last six months of Judy Garland, but there are periodic flashbacks to the damaging aspects of Judy’s days as a child actress that followed her into adulthood. The extreme performance anxiety she suffered in was very well done, as was her biting wit that wandered into cruelty from time to time. Also impressive for Zellweger is that she sang all of the songs in the movie. The movie was a little too slow-paced for my liking.
Etc.: The movie’s flashbacks show how the entertainment industry harms child actors and actresses.
At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Mads Mikkelsen, Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Oscar Isaac, Niels Arestrup, Stella Schnabel, Patrick Chesnais
Director: Julian Schnabel
Synopsis: Sensitive and heartbreaking portrayal of artist Vincent VanGogh, whose greatest crime in this movie was being different. Society and the idiots who find different scary or menacing have visited their cruelty upon the senstive through the ages. After watching the movie, I want to learn more about Vincent. Some of the facts in the movie were unpleasant and/or shocking to me Dafoe did an excellent job portraying the tormented artistic genius. There is a low-key, but well-acted support cast surrounding Dafoe. Oscar Isaac played a good foil as Paul Gaguin, another famous painter of that time.