With the month of June having ended, 2018 is already halfway over. In terms of films, I think it has been all over the place. There have been some pretty big franchise disappointments (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and some flat-out stinkers (looking at you, Winchester). Still, I think that the strong films, while few in number, were very strong. Below, you can see my top ten films of the year so far. Some of my picks are a little predictable, being universally adored films; however, I also have some picks that might surprise you... Check it out!
Some honorable mentions include: RBG, Isle of Dogs, Tully, American Animals, and Hereditary. Overall, I have thirteen films released in 2018 so far that I have given an A or an A+ rating. On the other hand, twenty-five films have received a rating lower than a C (considered "below average"). Dishonorable mentions include: Winchester, The 15:17 to Paris, A Wrinkle in Time, Bad Samaritan, and Feral. You can see my full ranking of 2018 films, updated periodically here. With plenty of films that look really strong, like Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, Suspiria, and BlacKkKlansman, yet to come out, I'm sure this list is bound to change by year's end.
This year, I will be covering the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, FL as official press. The program this year is extremely strong, featuring many great films: some more mainstream and that you are likely to have heard of already and some that look like they may be promising indie gems.
In this post, I'm going to go through the program of the festival. I will highlight the movies I am going to see, some which I hope to be able to see, and some that I may unfortunately miss due to scheduling conflicts.
Movies I'm Going to See
RBG is a documentary about 84 year old Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, exploring her life and career which has had such a cultural impact on the country. This is one of the films that excites me most at this year's festival. Ginsberg is truly a revolutionary woman that is an icon in our world. This documentary had some great buzz out of Sundance and based on the trailers, will be a documentary that is informative and entertaining and delivers a positive message.
Best F(r)iends is written by Greg Sestero of The Room fan and stars him along with his The Room co-star and mastermind... the one... the only... Tommy Wiseau. I would see pretty much any film that would put those two together again, but this also has an intriguing premise involving a mortician and a drifter who form an unlikely friendship which begins to be tested. However, I would be remiss if I didn't say the main draw was a live Q&A with Sestero and Wiseau. It's going to get wild.
Outside In is a romance starring Mark Duplass and Edie Falco about an ex-con who has been released early and confesses love for his former high-school teacher. My main draw for this film is Jay Duplass, an actor whom I greatly admire, but it is also an entry into a genre which I generally enjoy. It has also received some rather positive buzz out of previous festivals, so it's definitely one I'm going to give a shot.
The House of Tomorrow
The House of Tomorrow is one of the smaller, more independent films which I am giving a chance. It stars Asa Butterfield and Alex Wolff and is about a teenager who lives a secluded life, but begins a friendship with a punk-obsessed teen and they set out on a journey to become punk gods. It seems like a genuinely enjoyable coming-of-age dramedy, a genre which almost always tends to work for me. I'm hoping this one will provide a lot of laughs.
The King seems like it will be an interesting documentary about the legacy of Elvis Presley. I am a fan of Presley's music, so I'm hoping that this will prove to be quite an enjoyable watch. It's also executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, so I'm hoping that represents his confidence in the film. It's gotten some good reviews so far, so I don't doubt that it will be a film that will be both a crowd-pleaser for Elvis fans wanting to hear his music and an interesting exploration of his life.
Borg McEnroe is probably one of the bigger name films that I will see at the Festival this year. It stars Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf and follows the epic 1980s rivalry between the two eponymous tennis characters. Reviews are currently mixed to slightly positive, but I still have hope because it seems like an interesting story and I usually like films about tennis.
Chappaquiddick is also one of the more well-known films that is playing at GIFF this year. It stars an ensemble cast led by Jason Clarke and follows the controversy involving the death of a campaign strategist in a car crash caused by Ted Kennedy in 1969. The story seems interesting and the trailers make it look like a fascinating drama, but I am a little apprehensive about the casting of mainly comedic actors (Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan) in supporting roles.
Brothers in Arms
The closing night film of the Gasparilla International Film Festival, Brothers in Arms, is a documentary about the making of Oliver Stone's legendary war film Platoon. I am a fan of the film which serves as the subject of the documentary, and with Charlie Sheen's involvement as executive producer and narrator, I am interested in seeing his perspective on the crafting of such a great film. I am going to try to revisit Platoon before seeing this film.
Movies I Hope to See
Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me
Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me is a documentary about the life of the legendary eponymous entertainer. I think that this will be an interesting portrait of the entertainment world and the personal life of Davis, Jr., and because of this, I think I will enjoy it greatly. The main obstacle in my way of seeing this film is scheduling, but I should be able to make it.
Love After Love
Love After Love is a drama about a mother who is dealing with the loss of her family's patriarch to disease. The main draw for this film was Chris O'Dowd, who plays one of the family's middle-aged sons. He's my favorite part of many of the movies in which he stars, so I'm hoping he delivers a similarly charming performance in this film. This is another film which I should be able to attend; I just have to work out scheduling.
Beirut is arguably the biggest film of this years GIFF. It looks like an intriguing thriller about a US diplomat undergoing terrorist negotiations in Beirut and stars Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl). I want to see it, but because it is likely this year's largest film, it is also most likely to fill up and most likely to get a wide release later. It also overlaps a little with Best F(r)iends, and I really want to see the Q&A with Sestero and Wiseau. It's possible that I take the risk, but more likely I will see...
Quest was initially off my radar until I saw that it starred Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out). At this point, I was sold, but the premise also seems very heartwarming: a troubled 12 year-old kid forms a friendship with a middle school teacher who is trying to provide guidance. It's not the most unique story, but if well-told, the film can be great, especially with a solid supporting actor in Stanfield. The film also works out better with scheduling, so I will probably end up seeing this one.
In my previous film festival experiences, I have not been able to see any shorts programs. I hope to give some shorts a chance at GIFF this year, and two programs in particular have caught my eye: "Havana, Oh-Na-Na" and "Gut Busters". Both work right into my schedule, so the chances of me seeing one or both are rather high.
Movies I May Unfortunately Miss
Stuck is the opening night film of this year's GIFF. It's a musical about a group of people who are stuck together on a New York City subway train, and it sounds really interesting, but it shows on a night on which I don't think I'll be able to make it. There's still a slight chance of me attending, but it's not likely.
First Reformed is a thriller following a pastor of a New England church whose life begins to spiral out of control. It sounds great and has received some great reviews, but it only shows once at an awkward time late at night that also overlaps with Best F(r)iends, and if it isn't obvious already, I really want to see the Q&A with Sestero and Wiseau. If I can't get into that for some reason, I may end up at this, but more likely than not, this will be something that I sadly miss.
After the showing of Best F(r)iends, Wiseau and Sestero will be going to a local venue for a showing of the cult classic film The Room. It would be a great experience to watch this film with them there, but it's just too late for me and I did get to see The Room at the Fathom Events showing earlier this year. I also fear that this event may get a little crazy with hardcore fans, so I'm going to stick to just the Q&A after Best F(r)iends.
Movies I Have Already Seen
Gemini is a new neo-noir thriller starring Lola Kirke, Zoe Kravitz, and John Cho. I was lucky enough to be able to see this film early, and I thought it was wonderful. It's probably one of my favorite neo-noir films of all time. The score and visual style are hypnotic, the story unpredictable, and the performances compelling. This is a definite must see if you are attending GIFF this year.
Itzhak is a documentary following the life, career, and religion of the eponymous violinist Itzhak Perlman. I found it to be an interesting portrait of the musician with a good blend of music and informative details, creating a documentary that is satisfying overall. It's a really good film, especially if you are a fan of music, so I recommend checking it out, but it's at a different venue than most of the other films playing at GIFF, so it may not be easy to work it into your schedule.
Well, that is the conclusion of my evaluation of the 2018 GIFF program. I'm super excited to be able to attend this year's festival. I've only scratched the surface on the films that are available to be seen, so I encourage you to check out the festival's official website to see the full schedule. Be sure to check out the Big Tuna on Film Blog over the course of the week to check out full reviews for the movies that I see under the tag "GIFF 2018"!
We are proud to announce the beginning of the first ever Berk Reviews/Big Tuna on Film Blog Take 5 Challenge, occurring during the month of February 2018. The purpose of this challenge is to bring awareness to films that may otherwise be ignored, namely independent cinema, both by bringing light to films that we feel were underappreciated or received to little exposure or by creating a greater appreciation for excellent cinema by forcing ourselves to sit through bad films.
Both Big Tuna and Jon Berk selected five films that the other person must watch during the month of February. They will write a review for each film to be posted on both sites. If one does not complete the challenge within the month, they must make a $5 minimum contribution to Enzian Forever in Orlando, Florida or sacrifice a film for which they are excited during the month of March.
The rules for the selection of films were:
Big Tuna’s selections for Jon Berk are (in no particular order):
Jon Berk’s selections for Big Tuna are (in no particular order):
We look forward to sharing this month of cinema with you. If you have any opinions of these films, be sure to comment on the reviews or tweet with the hashtags #supportindiefilm and #FebruaryTake5Challenge.
The 75th Golden Globe Awards nominees were announced early this morning. While I didn't watch the ceremony as it occurred, I have kept up with the nominees after the fact, and there certainly is an interesting batch of films recognized by the HFPA. Some are surprising, some not so much. Today, I'm going to discuss some of the snubs and surprises with this years nominations.
Surprise: The Boss Baby
Really? The Boss Baby got a nomination for Best Motion Picture - Animated. Sure, this year gave us some critically panned failures like The Emoji Movie, and I haven't seen The Boss Baby, so it might be great. Still, it didn't look very good, and its reception was lukewarm. I'm not sure how this got onto the list over the supposedly much better Mary and the Witch's Flower (which I haven't seen either, I'm just going off what I have heard). I guess this is an example of how the HFPA often recognizes some of the more mainstream successes over quality films.
Snub: The Big Sick
Arguably one of the best films to come out of this year's Sundance Film Festival, The Big Sick is still among my favorite films of the year. It's hilarious, heartwarming, and well-made, and I'm not exactly sure how it got left out of the running. I could have seen this taking the place of the (still great, but more mainstream) The Disaster Artist in the race for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and there could have been room for Holly Hunter in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture field. Maybe it's caused by a distaste for Amazon Studios having a major role in distribution of the film? Netflix got a few nods, but the only one in a major category was Mary J. Blige's nomination for Mudbound.
Surprise: Ansel Elgort, Baby Driver
Baby Driver, is (as of press time) still my favorite movie of the year so far. I think that it is wildly entertaining, witty, and extremely well-made. Still, I thought that much of its recognition would come in the below-the-line categories (Sound Mixing, Sound Editing), which aren't honored at the Golden Globes. It greatly surprised me to see Ansel Elgort nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and I'm happy that the HFPA chose to recognize this excellent film in some way.
Greta Gerwig wasn't nominated as a director for her work on Lady Bird. It was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Comedy, Best Actress (Lead and Supporting), and Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, but Gerwig still didn't get a director nod? I guess the field is tight this year, but I could have seen Gerwig taking the place of McDonagh. People are also criticizing the fact that Mudbound was shorted in most categories, but I think that is more of a statement against Netflix than the work of Dee Rees (I can't make a definitive statement because I still haven't seen it).
Surprise: The Greatest Showman
I was a little worried for The Greatest Showman. I knew that one of Pasek & Paul's songs for the soundtrack would be a lock given their wonderful music from last year's La La Land, and Hugh Jackman already proved himself in the lead role of a musical, but I was personally a little apprehensive about this film as a whole. It looked a little silly to me. Now, with three nominations total, I'm hoping that this means it is actually good and not another example of the HFPA making a weird choice like they did with The Tourist.
Snub: Phantom Thread
I have heard nothing but good things about Phantom Thread since its initial screenings. Still, there was no room for it in the Best Motion Picture - Drama or Best Director - Motion Picture races. It did get nods for Daniel Day Lewis's performance and the score, but is it representative of its Oscar hopes? I think not. I will only know for sure once I see it, but knowing P.T. Anderson, it will likely be a hit in the below-the-line categories and have a significant shot at Best Picture.
Surprise: All the Money in the World
I think that it is hilarious that Christopher Plummer got a nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. It seems to be a blatant statement in response to the ongoing sexual assault controversies. Ridley Scott's nomination also shows that he must have done a good job of rebuilding the film in less than a month. I'm excited to see it.
For the most part, I was pleased with the nominees for the 75th Golden Globe Awards. There were only a few nominations that made my scratch my head in confusion (The Boss Baby) and a few movies that were sadly left out (The Big Sick, Wind River). As the ceremony approaches and I have seen more of the nominees, I will be posting more coverage of the awards season, including my predictions for what and who will win.
I have decided to start writing a new series for the Big Tuna on Film Blog called "A Word on...", in which I will share my thoughts on a particular topic rather than a specific film. Sometimes it will take the form of a Top 5/10 list, sometimes it may be a Best/Worst of list, and sometimes it can take other forms. The topic for this entry is nepotism. While often more debated in politics, nepotism still occurs and can be an issue in Hollywood. Today, I will evaluate some of the more notable filmmakers in the industry that have considerable family influence in film.
Films Include: The Virgin Suicides, The Beguiled, Lost in Translation
Hollywood Connection: Francis Ford Coppola (father)
Sofia Coppola, daughter of film director Francis Ford Coppola of The Godfather fame, is likely one of the more established names that you are going to find on this list. She is right off of a win for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for The Beguiled, which I found to be a wonderful period piece (see my review here). Her filmography also includes such modern classics as Lost in Translation. In my opinion, she is beginning to establish herself as a contemporary auteur.
Films Include: Hearts of Darkness, Paris Can Wait
Hollywood Connection: Francis Ford Coppola (husband)
From the same family as the aforementioned Sofia, Eleanor Coppola first debuted with the documentary Hearts of Darkness, a behind-the-scenes look at one of her husband's films, Apocalypse Now. The documentary proved to be an effective chronicle of the filmmaking process that combined interviews and footage from the set (see my review here). Last year, her narrative debut Paris Can Wait toured the festival circuit before its release this summer. While some critics found it to be simple and underdeveloped, I found it to be a quite refreshing comedy (see my review here).
Films Include: Morgan
Hollywood Connection: Ridley Scott (father)
Luke Scott made his feature debut with 2016's Morgan, a film which I still have yet to see, but was met with general dislike from most. However, prior to this year's Alien: Covenant, a short film was released as a prologue to the film entitled Last Supper. I thought that this short film was quite good, but Ridley Scott's involvement is questionable. It's possible that that was more a work of his father than himself.
Films Include: Desierto
Hollywood Connection: Alfonso Cuarón (father)
Jonás Cuarón's first major film was Desierto, which was released a little under-the-radar in 2016 to mixed reviews. Still, it was submitted as Mexico's entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and I found it to be a tense, well-crafted thriller (read my review here). Apart from that, his only other major credit is co-writing Gravity with his father, which I found to be a little overrated. Time will tell what else he can do.
Films Include: The Karate Kid, After Earth
Hollywood Connection: Will Smith (father)
The only actor that I chose to include on this list, Jaden Smith is known mostly for collaborations with his father. His breakout in The Pursuit of Happiness actually wasn't bad. It's his later work that took him into meme territory. I'm not sure if it's his acting that is that bad or if it's just the fact that he hasn't been given another semi-decent role, but he is often laughable.
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I look at films as if through old red and blue 3D glasses— one lens is as art, one lens is as entertainment.
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