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🎬 The Irishman, Bill and Ted, and a bunch of stuff on Disney+

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ESJ's Movie Project

November 22 · Issue #40 · View online
I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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In addition to the two older Disney movies I review below, my “watch this while falling asleep” playlist as of late has been the modern (2012-2018) Mickey Mouse shorts on Disney+. And I have to say, I’m enjoying them a lot. Sometimes, they’re just cute, while other times they’re surprisingly subversive for the world’s safest IP. A couple favorites from the first season in case you decide to check them out but don’t want to watch them all: “Croissant de Triomphe,” “Yodelberg,” and “Gasp!”
Now that we’re past the cartoons, on with the feature presentation …
🇮🇪 The Irishman
Pictured: When you order a Coke at the bar and they ask, "Is Pepsi ok?"
Pictured: When you order a Coke at the bar and they ask, "Is Pepsi ok?"
THE IRISHMAN is frequently compelling, with an Oscar-contending lead performance from Robert DeNiro, gorgeous cinematography, and some impressive de-aging CGI that still isn’t *quite* invisible, but it’s tantalizingly close. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really earn its 3.5-hour runtime. I suspect that director Martin Scorsese, especially at an eager-to-please studio like Netflix, is surrounded by too many people (correctly) telling him how talented he is, and not enough irritants reining in his fear of brevity. Especially in the second third of the film, when Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa is in almost every scene, Pacino acts his ass off but the story gets stuck in a loop. Arguments and exploding vehicles flare up so often that they start to lose their impact, while I just wanted to spend more time getting in Frank Sheeran’s head. The parts of The Irishman that are good are great, and so I’m glad I saw it — but I doubt I’ll be taking the time to revisit it anytime soon.
🎃 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Pictured: One of the many advantages of reading is sometimes books have a free pie inside.
Pictured: One of the many advantages of reading is sometimes books have a free pie inside.
THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD is only a movie inasmuch as it was released to theaters as one in 1949; it would be more accurate to call it a double feature of animated short films, one based on The Wind in the Willows and the other based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Still, however you want to label it, the animation in the “Mr. Toad” segment of the film is quite good, full of creative slapstick gags and a fun interplay between the narrator and the animated characters; for me, though, the most interesting part of it was noticing the ways it (loosely) inspired the Mr. Toad Disneyland ride, which took more than a few liberties with the source material. The second half of the show, telling the story of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman, begins as a mere container for songs by the narrator, Bing Crosby, who also plays the unlikable protagonist and his rival Brom. Things improve, however, with a well-animated Halloween party scene and a genuinely spooky finale.
🌊 Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Pictured: "Actually, I'd like to mansplain your language to you ..."
Pictured: "Actually, I'd like to mansplain your language to you ..."
ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE is better than I expected it would be, especially in its first act. Going in, I had a vague sense that people considered this one of the “lesser” Disney movies, perhaps because of the lack of songs and cute characters, as well as the confusing ending. But at least as a work of world-building, it’s a pleasant little journey, and the jokes — some of which juuuust ride the line of Disney’s willingness to be edgy in a family film — are solid throughout. If the movie were made today, I suspect it would focus more on the Atlanteans and less on the zany “explorers” who barge in uninvited, of which there are a few too many to really keep track. The only thing that really bothered me about Atlantis was the way it treats literacy and languages, which are ostensibly the protagonist’s area of expertise.
⏳ Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Pictured: "Gosh!" No, wait, that's not right. "Holy smokes!" Sorry, no. Line?
Pictured: "Gosh!" No, wait, that's not right. "Holy smokes!" Sorry, no. Line?
2019 has been a bodacious year for Keanu Reeves — John Wick 3 and Toy Story 4 were both box office smashes; Always Be My Maybe was a hit on Netflix; and new installments in the Matrix and Bill & Ted series were announced or began filming. So in honor of the Keanussaince, I decided to finally watch 1988’s BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, a very silly and very fun film about history … sort of. There’s no danger that you’ll learn anything from watching this movie, but there’s an undeniable glee in its braindead antics, which include Napoleon falling down a water slide, Joan of Arc leading an aerobics class, and of course a nonstop stoner-charm offensive from Reeves and his costar Alex Winter. I was worried their dumb same-y characters would get old, but they’re too darn likable; plus, at a brisk 89 minutes, the movie doesn’t outstay its welcome. Now I guess I have to watch the sequel to get ready for next year’s Bill & Ted Face the Music.
🎤 Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Pictured: The owl isn't the only Hedwig with wings.
Pictured: The owl isn't the only Hedwig with wings.
When I first saw HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, in 2007, I knew zero openly gay, trans, or intersex people; 12 years later, its point is much clearer to me, as the cultural discussion around gender has become more complicated — and more honest. The title character, Hedwig, is a trans punk rocker from East Berlin who uses her music to unfold her queer life story. Even though one segment literally adapts a story by Aristophanes from c. 380 BCE, the film is surprisingly easy to follow (at least until the end) and the songs are superb toe-tapping bops. There’s even a brief singalong section, in case you happen to watch this film with friends or in a theater. That’s also the ideal way to see this movie because it provides you a ready-made jury when the credits roll to discuss the film’s clever ambiguities and stylistic narrative choices. But whether there even is a definitive answer to those questions — a difference between a bridge and a wall — may be a trickier thing to resolve.
💕 Isn't It Romantic?
Pictured: When you're trying to remember the name of which Hemsworth brother is talking to you.
Pictured: When you're trying to remember the name of which Hemsworth brother is talking to you.
ISN’T IT ROMANTIC tries to do for romantic comedies what Deadpool did for superhero movies, turning the tropes of romcoms into the joke, and it sometimes succeeds. The unfailingly likable Rebel Wilson stars as a cynical romcom-hating woman who finds herself trapped, Groundhog Day-style, in an alternate universe version of New York City where everything smells like lavender and every man who once ignored her now looks at her with a smile. It’s a great premise, but unfortunately, most of the movie is more clever than funny. The biggest difference between this and the Deadpool movies is that those were released into a world oversaturated by superhero fare, while mainstream romantic comedies have become much rarer than they were in previous decades. As a result, the movie elects to show its hand by telling you upfront what tropes it will be parodying — a crucial flaw that undermines the potential for surprise later.
🏆 Every New Movie I've Seen in 2019 (So Far), Ranked
(new additions in bold)

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

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