Month in Review: September ’19

I don’t really know what happened, but in September I found a bit more rhythm and motivation to put up content. Maybe I was starting to feel guilty calling myself a “blogger” by putting up nothing but empty wrap-around posts and the occasional streamed review (see August — that was dire!). I have been one drag-and-drop away from inserting a John Wick gif declaring my triumphant return but the truth is I can’t provide any assurance October will be the same, so I’ll hold off on making anything Official.

It also helped I think that September supplied some really cool new movies, including a pair of potential end-of-year favorites in The Peanut Butter Falcon and Ad Astra — two distinctly different movies that each earned really high scores (4.5/5) for different reasons. The former for its pure entertainment value and winsomeness and the latter for its bold vision, impeccable visuals and an awards-worthy performance from Brad Pitt.

Without further gas-bagging, here’s what happened on Thomas J during September:

New Posts

Theatrical Releases: Ad Astra; The Peanut Butter Falcon; Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood

Streaming: I Am Mother; Mission of Honor (Hurricane)

Alternative Content: The Marvelous Brie Larson #5

Bite Sized Reviews: Hulu vs Netflix — Fight! 

Body at Brighton Rock · April 26, 2019 · Directed by Roxanne Benjamin · Clocking in at just under the hour-and-a-half mark this disappointingly uneventful “survival” thriller with a millennial lean is one of those rare examples of a movie needing to be just a hair longer for some of the elements to come together in a more satisfying way. Roxanne Benjamin writes and directs her first stand-alone feature film and if there’s one thing distinct about it it’s her style, her unapologetic fandom for “Hitchcock Hour” — the film presented as what could pass for a weekly installment into an anthology of close calls and misadventures. Body at Brighton Rock is defined by atmosphere rather than performance, one that’s both complimented and contrived by a screeching soundtrack provided by The Gifted. Bookended by 60s-style title cards, her story follows a rookie park ranger named Wendy (Karina Fontes), an “indoor type” who wants to prove her worth by doing some actual Park Ranger-ing. Of course the map-misplacing Wendy gets more than she bargains for when she stumbles across a lifeless body away from the trail she’s supposed to be on and when, through a combination of “circumstance” and “incompetence,” her communications devices all crap out on her — the dreaded dead phone icon, no!! — she’s left to fend for herself against “the elements.” I’m using a lot of quotation marks here because a lot of the movie feels superficial, not least of which being these so-called dire circumstances. Nearly 24 hours spent lost in the woods would suck in real life, an ordeal certainly worthy of Facebook status. But 127 Hours this is not. Body at Brighton Rock is, yes, impressively atmospheric and Fontes makes beans and rice out of what little she’s given but cinematic this also is not. It’s too staid in the action department, too plodding in detail — at least to support the ridiculous proposal that is the twist ending, something that’s clearly meant to evoke the Master of Horror and Suspense but ends up evoking more laughs than anything else. **/*****

Between Two Ferns: The Movie · September 20, 2019 · Directed by Scott Aukerman · Even as a fan regularly overwhelmed by fits of the giggles by Zach Galifianakis’ tawdry and tacky roast-the-guest web series Between Two Ferns, I’m not sure we really needed it to be stretched into a feature-length movie. Predictably, the movie’s best bits are the bits themselves, with the King of Awkward hosting/”humiliating” the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Keanu Reeves, Tessa Thompson, David Letterman, Brie Larson, Awkwafina, John Legend, Adam Scott, Tiffany Haddish, Chance the Rapper, Paul Rudd, Peter Dinklage, Jon Hamm, Hailee Steinfeld and Matthew McConaughey, as he feeds on both personal and professional insecurities. The plot, as it were, finds Galifianakis and his trusted production crew road tripping across the country in an attempt to secure 10 more episodes so the show host can placate his boss (Will Ferrell) and thereby fulfill his dream of becoming a late night talk show host. In between the ruthless onslaught of just . . . absurdly personal and uncomfortable questioning the movie half-heartedly fumbles around with a search for “true friendship” and “artistic integrity.” It may have been all the beer I was imbibing during, but it’s impressive how these actors manage to keep a straight face during these interrogations. That, I feel, is the entire point of the exercise — watching actors act awkward, and the results are surprisingly homogenous: The downward glances, the lip bites, the eye-rolls. David “Santa Clause on Crack” Letterman’s words of wisdom for Zach are also fairly revealing. Beyond that, Between Two Ferns: The Movie gets a flubbed high-five just for featuring Matt Berninger (frontman of The National) in a brief scene at a bar, singing alongside Phoebe Bridgers on an original duet (“Walking on a String”). ***/*****

What’s your most anticipated movie in October? 

10 thoughts on “Month in Review: September ’19

  1. Pingback: When a Song Gets Bigger than the Movie | Thomas J

  2. I really didn’t ‘get’ Between The Ferns- I think I should have had a few of your beers, I may have enjoyed it more than I did.

    I suppose its boring to repeat it here, but like your other readers, its Joker for me this month. Indeed, I actually think it’ll be a rare trip to the cinema rather than wait for its disc release in the New Year. Its actually received some fairly damning reviews here in the UK so it’ll be interesting to see if its a case of hype getting out of hand Stateside. I hope its good but some of the gushing seems… well, maybe an over-reaction to it being such an unusual comic-book flick? I’m curious if there will be a backlash from the fans… I still remember back when The Last Jedi was being compared to The Empire Strikes Back by advance critics, and then the fans saw it and rumbled a bloody shite hackfest.


    • I think it’s all about brand recognition/loyalty with Zach Galifianakis, if people aren’t sold on him in movies Between Two Ferns really won’t do anything for them. Me, personally — I’m unashamedly a fan of his humor. He’s good at acting awkward. But if you listen to him in interviews — actual, thoughtful interviews with hosts who ask more than the typical “How excited are you that your new movie made a billion dollars this past weekend?” he comes across quite normal. Very much detached from that persona.

      And yes it seems very much like The Joker is THE movie this month. It’s going to be interesting to see how fans react. The RT critical rating for it is constantly trending downwards if that’s any indication. Maybe this public response will be the reverse of what happened with TLJ — fans all like “professional critics don’t know what to say about comic book movies” “they aren’t qualified” blah blah blah

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  3. Same, The Joker. Not sure if I’ll be inhaling the same air as the awe praising critics in Venice, but I’m extremely curious about it… Good stuff here…the movies only get better this time of year! Happy October(fest) too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🍻

      I know what you mean about the praise for that movie. It’s honestly surprising. I’ve been starting to read a few reviews that seem to want to pull it back down to Earth but there’s almost universal high praise for Phoenix. I’m looking forward to a “different” kind of comic book movie

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    • Thanks so much Cindy! Joker seems to be THE pick of the month — and for good reason. I can’t wait to see it this week! Joaquin Phoenix is one of my favorite curiosities

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        • Have you ever seen the documentary on him when he was going through a public meltdown? Think it’s called I’m Still Here. Pretty tough to watch as a fan….


          • Oh yeah. I remember it but did not watch it. I wonder about actors losing themselves. It seems like the ultimate addiction. Becoming someone else. Someone despicable and getting a by because it is “fiction”. I remember reading articles about Daniel Day Lewis who hated the detox process necessary to abandon a character. It took months to “come back”.

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