Month in Review: December ’19

Happy New Year from Thomas J! New year, new decade and a new slate of movies to take in and start complaining about immediately! 😀 Let’s do it!

I’ve come out of 2019 tripping over my own damn shoelaces. Not only did I botch the landing when it comes to finishing off the Marvelous Brie Larson actor feature within the year (that final installment is still coming by the way, it’ll just be posted in a new decade instead), I reviewed exactly none of the movies I watched in December: The Irishman; The Report; Waves; The Two Popes; Uncut Gems; Ford v Ferrari; Tennessee Walking Man.

But that’s why these monthly re-caps are handy, right? Below you’ll find a few blurbs about a select few of those titles, and while these movies absolutely deserve more expanded reviews — two of them were really best-of-year material for me — I feel like getting something out now is better than likely nothing later.

How long can you keep a movie in your head before the details start to blur? If you write reviews, are you a note-taker or a no-note-taker? 

For those who missed it, here’s what little actually did happen on Thomas J during December.

New Posts

Theatrical Releases: Jojo Rabbit

Alternative Content: When a Song Gets Bigger than the Movie: Walking on a String

Bite Sized Reviews: Three from, uhh, November 

Waves · November 15, 2019 · Directed by Trey Edward Shults · Texan-born indie director Trey Edward Shults is in the family business — all three of his films thus far have been about families in crisis. Waves is his follow-up feature to his 2017 horror/thriller It Comes at Night and in it he provides one of the most extraordinary, if not also painful film experiences of the year. Replacing the cold and lifeless backwoods of the Appalachians with the sunny and vibrant coastlines of South Florida his new film may not take place in as much literal darkness but as an exploration of guilt and grief, a testament to familial love and perseverance, it certainly goes to some deep and dark emotional places. A powerfully affecting journey that follows an African-American family through a tragedy and how they come together again in the aftermath, it’s really the authenticity of the performances you notice first. Not a single actor here registers a false note, yet it’s perhaps Kelvin Harrison Jr. (returning from It Comes at Night) who crests the highest, encapsulating both the Jekyll and the Hyde sides of his gregarious, fun-loving and athletically gifted Tyler. When he receives some medical news that’s not necessarily favorable for his plans to go to college for wrestling, he goes into a tailspin that ends up having devastating consequences for his entire family. Beyond its excruciatingly personal story Waves also has a stylistic quality that is impossible to ignore. As a movie about what’s happening on the inside, very active camerawork and the moody, evocative score — provided by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — work in concert to place you in the headspace of the main characters. It all adds up to an experience that’s felt more than just passively taken in, and by the end of it you’ll feel both rewarded and exhausted. (*****/*****)

The Report · November 15, 2019 · Directed by Scott Z. Burns · This dour-faced legal thriller (available via Amazon Prime) details the efforts of a young and ambitious White House staffer named Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) as he leads an investigation into the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The five-year process would result in a 6,700-page document called The Torture Report and, ultimately, in the McCain-Feinstein Amendment being passed in November 2015. What begins as an inquiry into the destruction of  videotapes by a high-ranking CIA official — this at the behest of California Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) — builds into the largest investigative review in Senate history, with Jones both making a name for and a nuisance of himself even after the Bush administration has left the building. Director Scott Z. Burns confidently guides us through an information-dense narrative, and Driver’s stoicism is well-matched by the gravitas provided by a very good supporting cast, which include but is not limited to the likes of Jon Hamm, Maura Tierney, Tim Blake Nelson, Jennifer Morrison, Corey Stoll and Ted Levine. Ultimately a quiet celebration of a whistleblower who’s name has already been forgotten, The Report is perfectly watchable though not exactly what I would call gripping drama. (***/*****)

Ford v Ferrari · November 15, 2019 · Directed by James Mangold · A pure joy ride from start to finish, James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari does for Le Mans what Ron Howard’s Rush (2013) did for Formula 1. It alleviates the air of elitism that tends to hang over these kinds of races with a crowd-pleasing tale of triumphing over the odds. You don’t have to be a car enthusiast to feel the thrills of these movies. Ford v Ferrari is a superior racing movie because not only does it describe multiple levels of competition, the most fascinating scenes are those that take place behind closed doors at the Ford Motor Company as a clash between blue and white collars threatens to derail the company’s grand plans of besting Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a brutal endurance race that tests the very limits of mechanical integrity and driver performance. That’s not to say the sequences along the Circuit de La Sarthe aren’t positively thrilling themselves. But Ford v Ferrari really puts its characters first, and you have to admire Mangold because there are a lot of human components and even more technical ones to juggle. Like a finely tuned engine all those parts work in harmony with one another — and Christian Bale and Matt Damon as British racer Ken Miles and acclaimed American car builder Carrol Shelby once again prove why they’re so highly paid actors. The result is a racing movie that may just be one of the year’s best movies, period. (****/*****)

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits:;


9 thoughts on “Month in Review: December ’19

    • I did! I think I wrote a little piece about it in another Month in Review round-up earlier in 2019. Summer time maybe? I thought it was fantastic. That footage is still stuck in my mind. Utterly mind-blowing edits. I love how it offered such a time capsule back to the ’60s on Earth, as much as it reminds you of the achievements in space.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Currently I’ve got films I watched almost 2 years ago that I’m still intending to review (which is madness, I know). Some of them are still pretty clear in my head. On the other hand, just today I was looking at a Zatoichi movie I watched back around August, flicking through it to take screengrabs for my review, and I didn’t recognise it at all. So I looked at the notes I made after watching it, but they barely jogged any recollections either. Funny old thing, memory…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is frustrating for me sometimes. I try not to take notes as I watch movies as I feel like that’s such a distraction. But I’ve got like 5 movies I could review right now and I could really use some notes to jog the memory, stuff that goes beyond what you can find in online reviews/wikipedia! When I used to run my Throwback Thursday feature here I often would be talking about movies I hadn’t seen, perhaps not even once, since I first saw them so I’m fairly sure those “reviews” suffered from me going on pure memory after all that time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had a similar experience when I did my 100 Favourite series. I wrote quite a few of them like you describe — no rewatch, hadn’t seen for years, going off Wikipedia and memory. A couple of years later, I rewatched one of them only to realise my plot description had been… technically kinda right, but also completely wrong! I guess this is why teachers and whatnot go on about the dangers of Wikipedia…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That whole 10 minute stretch in Waves beginning with the beat drop of Kanye West’s “I Am A God” transitioning to Kid Cudi’s “GHOST!” to THAT moment that goes down is probably the scene I’ll remember most from last year. Waves is easily my #1 movie of 2019, and I hope that somehow, someway, more Oscar love is given to it than the nonexistent presence it has from the Golden Globes. Kelvin Harrison is gonna be a force in 2020. Loved him in Luce, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Waves is up there for me man, it’s mesmerizing the way it pulls you in with style and performance. While I am surprised and a bit disappointed it didnt’ get recognized at the Globes I am not altogether bothered by movies not getting their “awards love” anymore. I find life is easier when I just don’t care lol

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.