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The Post – January 12th – Unfortunately for movie lovers, January is a slow month for new releases. The studios typically release all of their Oscar contenders by the end of December; hopefully you made it to see some of those! This month I’m highlighting The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg, because it’s getting a ton of advertising play right now and it’s starring two of Hollywood’s most well-known actors—Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Based on a true story, Streep plays the first ever female publisher of a major American newspaper who is racing to expose a major government cover-up. It sounds exciting, doesn’t it? I’m skeptical, though. I can’t remember the last Hanks or Streep movie I really enjoyed, and the same goes for Spielberg. In fact, the last Hanks movie I attempted to watch was 2016’s Sully, which was so painful that I walked out of the film halfway through. The two actors I loved for their earlier work have been disappointing me lately. Either they’ve peaked, or they are choosing projects that are predictable and bland. I hope I’m wrong, but my gut says The Post will be underwhelming.
The Disaster Artist – Every once in a while, Hollywood likes to poke fun at itself a bit (think Tropic Thunder). In The Disaster Artist, the Franco brothers take us on a silly, yet ultimately uplifting journey about the making of The Room, which is known as one of the worst and most costly movies ever made. James Franco (also the film’s director) plays Tommy Wiseau, The Room’s producer, lead actor, director, and writer – a quirky and mysterious man who refuses to reveal his age, his origin, or where he earns his money. Dave Franco plays his younger friend who travels to Los Angeles with him to try to make it in the movie business. The bulk of the movie documents Wiseau’s antics on set and cringe-worthy acting. While it’s hilarious to watch someone so unaware of himself, I’m impressed with Franco’s ability to make the audience empathize and root for Wiseau in the end. Be sure to watch the closing credits, too, where you’ll see just how precisely the actors in The Disaster Artist nailed exact scenes from The Room.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – This film didn’t get nearly the attention or press it deserved, but it’s definitely one of my favorite films of 2017. It was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, the brilliant writer and director behind dark comedies like 2008’s In Bruges and 2012’s Seven Psychopaths. It also stars three of my favorite actors who can always be counted on to pick interesting and quirky projects – Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell. Without giving away too much, I will say that the storytelling and acting are top notch. From the mysterious opening scene to the unexpected character twist, nothing in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is predictable, but all of it is incredibly satisfying for the viewer. I especially love how none of the characters are black and white, good or evil. Just like in real life, there are shades of gray. This is a difficult feat to pull off as a writer and requires extremely nuanced acting – some of the best I’ve seen in quite a while!
Lady Bird – Perhaps it’s time we stopped relying so heavily on Rotten Tomatoes. Remember that awful film I mentioned earlier – Sully? The one in which I walked out of the theater halfway through? That got an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Lady Bird, at the time of this writing, got a 99% (but was at 100% for quite some time), and is known as the best reviewed movie of all time on that site. I’d love for someone to explain to me why there is such a frenzy surrounding this movie. It’s about an ungrateful high school student, Christine, who obnoxiously insists everyone call her Lady Bird. She lies and cheats for better grades. Halfway through the film she forgets about her best friend to be a part of the in-crowd, only to apologize to her friend at the very end when she realizes how empty her relationships are with the cool kids. At no point do I really care if Lady Bird gets into her dream East Coast college because she is so melodramatic and self-centered. Am I just a grumpy 29-year-old who forgot what it’s like to be in high school? Perhaps. But there are movies that do a much better job of portraying the high school experience – like Edge of Seventeen or 21 Jump Street – without being as contrived as Lady Bird.