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It’s time for the December 2018 entertainment review. I love this time of year because there are so many great new books, movies and TV shows happening all at once. We’ve been on a movie binge (which, combined with the holidays) has really cut down on how many books I was able to read this month. But, it’s all good.
Be sure to share YOUR favorites in the comments.
The Favourite – Oh man, I LOVED this movie. It was surprisingly funny, at times moving and a biting commentary on the role of women. Set in the early 1700s, it tells the story of Britain’s Queen Anne and two women who are jostling for her favor. Rachel Weisz plays the Queen’s close adviser Sarah, and Emma Stone plays an ambitious servant named Abigail who has her eye on a bigger prize. It’s based loosely on true events but this article will help you separate fact from fiction.
The Mule – I’ll save you the trouble of googling it – Clint Eastwood is 88 years old. And he’s definitely still got it going on (evidenced by the TWO different three-ways he has in this film). But don’t let the sex scenes scare you off. Far from the MAGA shoot-em-up fantasy I was expecting, this movie was a poignant, funny and thrilling work of self commentary. I don’t want to give any of the plot away, but I will tell you that this is not a “typical” Clint Eastwood movie. And that was a VERY pleasant surprise. The direction and pacing will keep you on the edge of your seat, in the best possible way. In addition to Eastwood, Bradley Cooper and Diane Wiest’s performances were on point.
If Beale Street Could Talk – Set in the 1970’s and based on a James Baldwin novel, If Beale Street Could Talk is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), childhood friends who become lovers. Their bond is tested when Fonny is falsely accused of rape. As he awaits trial behind bars, Tish finds out she is pregnant and, with the help of those around her, works to try to get him released before the baby arrives. It was only playing in one theater in Denver and I’m very glad we sought it out.
Welcome to Marwen – I had really high hopes for this movie and was really looking forward to seeing it. However it was a swing and a miss. It never really grabbed me and the story was disjointed even though some of the performances were compelling.
The movie follows Mark Hogancamp (Carell), an aspiring photographer who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Hogancamp was attacked by a group of neo-Nazis who discovered his fetish for wearing women’s shoes. To cope, he builds a village for dolls called Marwen, where he photographs the dolls in highly elaborate narratives. He is also addicted to pain medication prescribed to him after the attack, and he is involved in the criminal case against his attackers.
They Shall Not Grow Old – Using state-of-the-art technology and materials from the BBC and Imperial War Museum, filmmaker Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) allows the story of World War I to be told by the men who were there. Life on the front is explored through the voices of the soldiers, who discuss their feelings about the conflict, the food they ate, the friends they made and their dreams of the future. This movie was so eye-opening and so interesting. At the end Peter Jackson shows a short feature about how he restored all of the footage and made the film. It was just fascinating.
Keep an eye out for this one. Warner Bros. will launch a theatrical release in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, on Jan. 11 and plans to expand to 25 markets on Feb. 1.
The Grinch – I’m not sure if the world needed yet another Grinch movie, but this is a very watch-worthy full-length animated theatrical release from the people behind “Despicable Me,” with Benedict Cumberbatch (using an American accent) as the Grinch. It does not surpass the original Chuck Jones cartoon version (or having the book read aloud by a parent) but it is far superior to the Jim Carrey film and should become a welcome family tradition. I loved Max (the dog) and the message that Christmas is not about presents and candy canes but about kindness and being together is always welcome. And when the Grinch gets invited to dinner with Cindy Lou’s family, you may find your heart growing a couple of sizes, too.
Vice – I really liked this movie but it made me very anxious and upset. So much corruption. So much unchecked power. And the realization that it’s even worse today. Ugh. The movie tells the story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.
Ray Donovan (Showtime) – I know that I’m way, way, way late to the party on this one, but I just started watching Ray Donovan and I’m obsessed. It reminds me a lot of the first seasons of the Soprano’s where all of the characters are despicable and there’s no real “hero” yet their still so dang compelling to watch.
Springsteen on Broadway (Netflix) – I’m gonna preface my review by saying that I’m a HUGE Springsteen fan. And, going to NYC and seeing this show in person with my oldest son was one of the highlights of my year. But damn, this is good. And even if you’re not a big Bruce fan, I think you’ll enjoy this Netflix special.
The Broadway show has been like no other in Springsteen’s six-decade career—reflective, elegiac, humorous, angry and always deeply emotional. From the first line to last bow, the film is an intensely personal reflection of Springsteen’s life, work and times—interspersed with his songs … unplugged, stripped down and played only on piano and acoustic guitar.
Calypso by David Sedaris – If you’ve ever laughed your way through David Sedaris’s cheerfully misanthropic stories, you might think you know what you’re getting with Calypso. And you’d be wrong.
With Calypso, Sedaris sets his formidable powers of observation toward middle age and mortality. Make no mistake: these stories are very funny–it’s a book that can make you laugh ’til you snort, the way only family can. But much of the comedy here is born out of that vertiginous moment when your own body betrays you and you realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future.