Red Sparrow (Francis Lawrence – 2018) D+

Ah too bad. Except for the last 10 minutes or so this movie is a slog. A good spy movie has to either embrace the insanity and action theme (like the Mission Impossible series) or it has to be a realistic and methodical slow burn (like the great Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) for me to enjoy it. This one is trying to be both I think and fails. Worse, it makes Jennifer Lawrence, a very capable actress, seem dull boring and just clumsily making her way through 2+ hours of bad Russian accented dialogue. Not even sure I should waste time talking about her arc or that training “school” she goes to…oy was that dumb.

Diary of A Country Priest (Robert Bresson – 1951) B+

Quiet and pensive is how i would describe this film. The title pretty much sums it up. We have a new young priest in a small remote French village. He interacts with the villagers, young and old and documents his thoughts and concerns in a diary. This is not a sweet bucolic movie, it’s quiet the opposite. The villagers by and large seem indifferent and down right hostile to the young priest. He survives on misery and red wine and he is obviously in bad health. Yet, as mundane as that sounds, this is a fascinating movie that kept me interested and curious about the lives of these people and their miserable priest.

Un Flic (Jean-Pierre Melville – 1972) A-

Really awesome train heist sequence in a league -if not quiet as cool- as the jewelry store heist from Rififi. Cool as ice performances and a fun cat and mouse game between the cop (Alain Delon), the gangster (Richard Crenna) and the woman between them (Catherine Deneuve) are at the center of this film. Seems a bit less-than the other Mellville but still a very good film from that era and

First Man (Damien Chazele – 2018) A-

A nuanced and personal story of Neil Armstrong and the race to get to the moon. It is wonderfully told and acted. We all understand that getting men in a rocket, firing them into space and managing to get them on the actual moon is a difficult project. Do we really though? Do we know how much work and sacrifice that whole endeavor is? How terribly crazy and difficult? Damien Chazele manages to carefully illustrate all that centering primarily on Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) who shows us many facets of that American hero we think we know. I love well made films about human beings performing to the best of their abilities. Excelling. This delivers on that and it’s about a topic I am very much interested in.

Joker (Todd Phillips – 2019) B-

It hinges almost 100% on the performance of whoever plays Joker. Good thing that Joaquin Phoenix is an excellent actor and he carries the film. Really another less capable actor and this film would have not been nearly as compelling. As it stands it is a good portrait of an unstable character and it is a film that is well made and looks great in addition to Phoenix’s great performance. That being said, not sure why this is a “Joker” movie? Can this character of Arthur Fleck really become THE Joker…I did not believe that.

Everybody Knows (Asghar Farhadi – 2018) A-

Ah those secrets people hide. They have a knack of coming out under stressful situations. Everybody Knows is a film about such secrets. In a small town in Spain, Laura (Penelope Cruz) is there to attend her sister’s wedding. It’s her hometown, but she lives in Buenos Aires now with her wealthy husband, daughter and son. The happy event in the pretty town is interrupted by the kidnapping of Laura’s daughter for ransom. The kidnapping might seem like the main plot here but really it is a catalyst that starts peeling away the layers that time and distance have piled on Laura’s life and her secrets. Her family still lives in that small town where everybody knows everyone else. Her ex-boyfriend, Paco (Javier Bardem), and his wife are still there too. There’s a lot of history across a few generations bubbling up. The pitch perfect performances and deft direction spin an emotional and raw tale that I loved.

IT: Chapter 2 (Andy Muschietti – 2019) C-

They took out almost everything that made Chapter one a solid book adaptation and made a bloated confused big sort of mess. Even the talented cast is going through the motions here (maybe except for Bill Hader) in a movie that really looks great and has some awesome sequences. In the end though it is more concerned in moving from plot beat to plot beat than in making a movie with characters that are real and interesting. Even Bill Skarsgard is not given nearly as much non-CGI screen time to play Pennywise as well as he did in the first chapter. Too bad.