Posts tagged "Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2019

December 31st, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on “TOP 10 FILMS OF 2019”

The 2019 Year in Film has come to a close and while the domestic box office totals are down about 4%, that still means it was an $11.4 billion year. Of course, Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” ($357.1M) and the live-action remakes many of which pulled in more than $100M, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” ($363M), and Warner Bros. “Joker” ($1.06B), contributed mightily to the year-end total, but none of these films made my Top Ten Films of 2019 list. To me, the big box office hits aren’t necessarily my favorites. 2019 was a year of literary adaptations and films based on true stories and these are the stories that hit home. Without further ado, and starting with #1—I know you’d glance at the bottom of the list for #1 so why not start with it?—the Top Films of 2019.

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: This is a story about Lloyd Vogel, a jaded and emotionally hardened journalist whose life is touched and forever changed by the children’s television icon Fred Rogers. The story is an unusual one from an equally unlikely perspective that makes us laugh and cry, but more importantly, it reminds us of the power of kindness and the healing attributes of love. Imaginatively created, Marielle Heller takes the director’s reigns and allows Tom Hanks to bring Rogers to life while capturing this compelling and entertaining story based on the Esquire Magazine article by Tom Junod. (In theaters now) WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

THE IRISHMAN: A surprisingly emotional mobster story about right-hand man Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who looks back on life through his own rearview mirror, recalling his relationships with mob leader Russel Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Based on Charles Brandt’s true crime book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” Martin Scorsese directs this compellingly complex narrative, taking us into a lesser known world while allowing us to somehow develop a connection with Sheeran, a man with regrets and lacking a moral compass. While it is violent, it’s a part of the story and never gratuitously, but somehow it also frequently finds humor as well. (Now on Netflix)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

DARK WATERS: This isn’t the first film about how large chemical companies disregard regulations or put their bottom line before the health and safety of its workers and communities and it won’t be the last, but Rob Bilott’s (Mark Ruffalo) story in “Dark Waters” will change your life. As a film, it’s a slow-burning thriller keeping you on the edge of your seat as you watch the events unfold feeling consumed as if by a tidal wave of emotion and information. It’s a current-day “Erin Brockovich” that doesn’t effect just one area of WV, but each and every person in the U.S. Based on Nathaniel Rich’s article in the New York Times Magazine, you’ll think twice when you hear DuPont’s familiar slogan, “Better living through chemistry.” (Available on Amazon and iTunes Dec. 31)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

JOJO RABBIT: Only director Taika Waititi could take author Christine Leunens’s book “Caging Skies” about a little Nazi boy during WWII whose pretend friend is Hitler and make it into a socially relevant dark comedy that both entertains and educates. Roman Griffin Davis stars as Jojo who finds that there’s a young Jewish girl hiding in his attic. Wrestling with being a good little Nazi, Jojo grows up and opens his eyes to the reality of the world surrounding him. Thomasin McKenzie and Scarlett Johansson co-star in this utterly bold and daringly funny coming of age story. (In theaters now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

FORD v FERRARI: The mere title alone makes you think this is a car racing movie, but it is so much more than that. Based on the true story of race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), director James Mangold revs up our engines as we witness history and the true meaning of friendship and loyalty. It’s a fast-paced story allowing both Bale and Damon’s chemistry to shine and give humor and depth to this story. The stellar cinematography puts you in the passenger seat making this film a winner. (In theaters now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

PAIN AND GLORY: Like “The Irishman,” this film looks back on a life filled with uncompromising and raw honesty, but unlike the Netflix film, there is beauty and love packed into this suitcase of life and regrets. Pedro Almodovar writes and directs this film, a depiction of his own life, as Antonio Banderas has the lead role of Salvador Mallo, and it’s one of the most evocative performances of his career. This multidisciplinary approach to film with layered complexities about social acceptance, expectations, relationships and following our hearts allows us to know Salvador as we reflect on our own lives. Flashbacks develop situations that will become heartbreaking in the current day, but in the end, we see that this has made Salvador who he is today. Isn’t that all of our stories? (Available on Amazon Jan. 14, DVD Jan. 21)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

THE MUSTANG: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s prison story stars Matthias Schoenaerts as Roman, a violent criminal who is given the opportunity to participate in a horse rehabilitation program. This revelatory and gorgeously shot film reassesses humanity and our need for connection seen through the lens of the withdrawn inmate. Schoenaerts captures the dark void of hopelessness and slowly finds a connection and life through a wild mustang. Bruce Dern has one of his best performances in recent years as a horse trainer, giving heart to his gruff and jaded exterior. (Available on Amazon and on DVD now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

JUST MERCY: Attorney Brian Stephenson’s novel is adapted for film starring Michael B. Jordan as the litigator fighting for the rights of wrongly accused men on death row. Like the book, which I highly recommend, the film portrays many men’s stories, but the focal point is Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) whose story is comprised of racial bias and blatant racism. Jordan’s understated performance and Director Destin Daniel Cretton bring this true-life gripping crime story to full light, opening your eyes and your heart. (Opening in theaters Jan. 10)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

OPHELIA: Shakespeare and feminism rarely go hand in hand, but thanks to the clever adaptation of Lisa Klein’s book, Director Claire McCarthy allows Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) to tell the classic tale of “Hamlet” from a different point of view. With plausible backstories of Claudius (Clive Owen) and Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), the plight of Hamlet and Ophelia not only makes sense, but is a captivatingly tragic love story. And the ending would make Shakespeare himself proud. (Available on Amazon Prime now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

THE REPORT: Adam Driver has had quite a year, but his performance as Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones is a standout. Based on the true story of a nearly 7,000 page document called “The Torture Report,” writer and first-time director Scott Z. Burns brings this chilling tale of discovery from our not so distant past to life. With incredible relevance to today’s political world, we dig deeply into the underpinnings of our system. It’s a complicated one, but thanks to the deft writing and storytelling, we understand the truth behind what was meant to never be seen. It’s an all-star cast comprised of Jon Hamm, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll and Driver who give performances of their career. (Available on Amazon Prime now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Tied for 11th Place: “Knives Out,” “Richard Jewell,” and “Clemency.”

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is what the world needs now

November 17th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is what the world needs now”

What the world needs now is exactly what “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” provides. Starring Tom Hanks as the beloved children’s television show host Fred Rogers and Matthew Rhys as Lloyd Vogel, a talented yet jaded journalist who must interview Rogers for Esquire Magazine, much to his chagrin, for the “Hero” issue. “Neighborhood,” co-written by Micah Ritzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster and directed by Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) tells Vogel’s story and how Rogers’ impacted him in this brilliantly creative story that will change your heart and make the world a kinder place for all who see it.

WATCH THE TRAILER

Can a movie really do that? Change your heart? I challenge you to prove me wrong as the “Fred Effect” is a powerfully positive one. And if you’re thinking this is just going to be a narrative feature film based on the phenomenal 2018 documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” it’s not. We begin the tale, inspired by journalist Tom Junod’s Esquire1998 article “Can You Say… ‘Hero?’” in the Land of Make-Believe. The camera sweeps in to an incredibly elaborate design of Pittsburgh and then takes us on to the set of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred (Hanks) welcomes us as he calmly goes through his routine of taking off his shoes and putting on that red cardigan that has become synonymous with love and kindness. Just when you think the film is going to be a reenactment of the show, Mr. Rogers introduces us to our main character, Lloyd, whose beaten face is uncovered beneath Picture Board’s doors. We are then magically transported to Lloyd’s world in NYC and how he came to this angry state.

“Neighborhood” builds on these juxtaposing tones of positivity and negativity, aka real life, with deft skill. Lloyd, hearing that his new assignment is not hard-nosed investigative journalism, but a puff piece about a kids’ show host, makes him quite angry; not realizing that this will change his life forever. Reluctantly, he arranges a meeting with Rogers and each subsequent interaction Lloyd finds frustration, disbelief, igniting his long-buried internal. It’s a revelatory narrative arc of growth for Lloyd that will resonate with us al.

The story is incredibly powerful as the writers masterfully take us into both Lloyd’s and Rogers’ worlds. One moment we are laughing aloud, the next tears are streaming down our faces with joy and sometimes sadness. It completes all the emotional ranges we are capable of expressing. To describe scenes such as the subway or the dream scenes would be spoiling your fun so I will only alert you to them.

Attention to detail is evident in not only the script, but the set and sound design. Mr. Rogers thoughtfully explains the very dark topics that he addresses on his show and why. Lloyd is the devil’s advocate and bluntly states what many of us are perhaps thinking only to get a remarkable answer in return. Their chemistry is sometimes uncomfortable, but always genuine. It feels as if you are watching real-time events unfold, not a movie.

The interactions between Lloyd and his father Jerry (Chris Cooper) reveal where Lloyd’s anger stems and we get a clear picture of his past and what he must overcome. It is during these painful memories and current interactions that there is a tinnitus or high-pitched sound that bombards Lloyd, sending him into his angry and unbearable world. The emotional roller coaster then quickly jettisons us into the next scene from NYC to Pittsburgh and back using extraordinarily detailed sets imitating the Land of Make Believe. These are the small, no pun intended, but important details that accentuate the creativity of all who are involved in this film giving the intense story a way to bounce into a safer emotional state.

All of this could not be possible or believable if it wasn’t for the fact that Hanks becomes Rogers. From the moment we meet him going through the door of the set at WQED in Pittsburgh, he is Mr. Rogers. His body language, affect, mannerisms, speech pattern and cadence and most importantly, his expressive eyes all replicate the man millions of children (and now adults) have come to love and admire. To resemble another person for a film is a grand accomplishment, but to become him, making the audience believe in him, is quite another. Hanks is sublime.

Rhys performance is equally as powerful, balancing the story in a difficult way. It’s real and one with which most of us can connect. Cooper has a stand out performance as well and Enrico Colantoni’s role as Rogers’ right-hand man Bill Isler is a small role, but one that has heart and comedy as well. Every actor in this film is perfectly cast adding just the right dose of personality to make this film come to life.

Director Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is a brilliant work of art as Hanks captures the heart, soul, and essence of Fred Rogers. Make no mistake, this is Vogel’s story. Heller found a gem of a tale to retell and gives audiences a powerfully uplifting story based on reality. Her ingenious imagination and creativity keeps us grounded in Fred’s world as we walk in Lloyd’s shoes, experiencing an empathy with this character like no other and hopefully, ultimately changing us. It’s a metamorphosis of a character and maybe even of us as viewers.

4 STARS out of 4. (I’d give it more if I could!)

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