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The edition with the review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hey all, real quick before this week's reviews: Special thanks this week to new subscriber Amy Dickin

ESJ's Movie Project

September 13 · Issue #30 · View online
I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

Hey all, real quick before this week’s reviews: Special thanks this week to new subscriber Amy Dickinson (aka Ask Amy!) for telling her followers on Twitter about this newsletter. This is a side project for which I do zero advertising, so the only way I get new subscribers is through word of mouth.
If you know someone who might enjoy my reviews, then please spread the word: Just send them to

The Peanut Butter Falcon
Pictured: IDK, my BFF Shia?
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON is an aggressively sweet buddy picture that’s easy to like, even though the plot is fairly predictable after the first 15 minutes. (Actual cannibal) Shia LaBeouf plays a broke fisherman on the run from people he wronged and (actual man with Down Syndrome) Zack Gottsagen plays a man with Down Syndrome on the run from the state nursing home where he used to live. They’re a charming pair, and LaBeouf shades the edges of his character a finely-tuned darkness. Recommended for the next time you’re on an airplane, but not necessarily something you have to rush out and see in theaters.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Pictured: When you're busy solving a cold case murder but then you remember there are snacks over there.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is, like many David Fincher movies, a study in how great directing can pull visually interesting magic out of any circumstance. This is an INTENSE detective story, and not for the faint of heart; I was perturbed on this viewing, as I was when I saw it in theaters, by the intentionally cruel depictions of sexual violence, so be warned if that sounds like something you should avoid. But if you do watch, you’ll see that this film is anchored by gorgeous cinematography and great Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig performances. I wish those two had collaborated more, but the film didn’t do well enough for them and Fincher to continue adapting the books. Fingers crossed that they will all cross paths again in the future.
Springsteen on Broadway
Pictured: Bruuuuuuuuuuuce
‪I wasn’t expecting to write a review of this, but here we are … SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY, a filmed version of his hit 2018 stage show, is worth streaming on Netflix if you’re a fan of The Boss. I didn’t know anything about that hit show beyond the title, and expected a standard concert film — instead, I got a quieter, wiser retrospective of Springsteen’s career, peppered with wry humor and his trademark secular sermons.‬ Of course, the acoustic rearrangements of some of Springsteen’s greatest hits are lovely, but I was most moved by the spoken-word stories he tells, especially his tribute to “The Big Man,” Clarence Clemons.
Pictured: When you're the second most famous person in a picture and you are Denzel Freaking Washington.
‪It had been 15 years since I last saw GLORY, which is still one of the better Civil War movies. But this time, I couldn’t ignore how it prioritizes the thoughts and feelings of its white protagonist, played by Matthew Broderick, over the black supporting characters — played by an incredible lineup that includes Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Andre Braugher. Throughout the film, I was nagged by a feeling of, “I’d like to know more about that person — oh,” and it’s not often that I would call a war movie too short. I’d love to see this remade as a miniseries, ideally by a black director and focusing more on the soldiers of the 54th, rather than their colonel.
Official Secrets
Pictured: The spy who briefly walked through the cold.
‪OFFICIAL SECRETS, a political thriller about a real leak aimed at stopping the Iraq War, was better than I expected it would be, and yet not quite as good as I believe it could have been. Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes both turn in fine performances as British spy Katharine Gun and her lawyer Ben Emmerson, and the rest of the cast is stacked with other talented Brits. However, I wish the movie had focused either more or less on Matt Smith, who plays the Observer journalist Martin Bright and doesn’t seem to have as clear a philosophy of journalistic ethics as I’m sure his real-life counterpart did. Also, if you don’t know the story of Katharine Gun (I didn’t) or don’t remember the details — don’t look it up before seeing this movie. It’s written with people who don’t know the story in mind.
The Little Mermaid
Pictured: "He looked kind of generic but his dog was so cute, I must be in love."
‪I was too young to see THE LITTLE MERMAID when it was originally in theaters, so seeing it today on the big screen was a treat. I had forgotten much of the story but the charming hand-drawn animation and earworm songs are as indelible as ever. A few stray thoughts:
  • OMG, Ursula must scare the hell out of so many kids!‬
  • The opening notes of “Under the Sea” are some sort of pan-Millennial ASMR.
  • Despite having an excellent name, Prince Eric is a mediocre to bad Disney prince. Do better, Disney!
  • Apparently, bringing The Little Mermaid back to theaters this week is just part one of a multi-week princess movie thing Disney is doing. Evil geniuses, that lot. Haven’t I given them enough of my money this summer? Apparently not, because next up is Beauty and the Beast.
Every New Movie I've Seen in 2019 (So Far), Ranked
(new additions in bold)

  1. Booksmart
  2. The Farewell
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk
  4. Us
  5. Free Solo
  6. Avengers: Endgame
  7. The Favourite
  8. Amazing Grace
  9. Long Shot
  10. The Wife
  11. The Art of Self-Defense
  12. Toy Story 4
  13. Shoplifters
  14. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
  15. Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood
  16. Apollo 11
  17. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  18. Aladdin
  19. The Peanut Butter Falcon
  20. Slut in a Good Way
  21. Green Book
  22. Cold War
  23. Official Secrets
  24. Ready or Not
  25. Always Be My Maybe
  26. Rocketman
  27. Roma
  28. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  29. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  30. On the Basis of Sex
  31. Shazam!
  32. The Lion King
  33. Fighting With My Family
  34. They Shall Not Grow Old
  35. Yesterday
  36. Mary Poppins Returns
  37. Captain Marvel
  38. Minding the Gap
  39. Tolkien
  40. The Biggest Little Farm
  41. Alita: Battle Angel
  42. The Dead Don’t Die
  43. The Great Hack
  44. Stan & Ollie
  45. Vice
  46. Bohemian Rhapsody
  47. Aquaman

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