365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Roman J. Israel Esq. (2017)

Denzel Washington (Training Day, American Gangster) vulnerable? Sure, we've seen that before. While more the exception than the rule, we have seen Washington play roles where his character doesn't always have the answers or is susceptible to outcomes behind his control. These films include Flight, Man on Fire, Out of Time, John Q, Fences, and He Got Game. But scared? Outside of John Q, I don't know if there's a movie where one of his characters has been so frantic that he is completely hidden from the confident and poised Denzel that we expect and love. All of that changes in Dan Gilroy's Roman J. Israel Esq., his follow up directorial performance after blazing onto the Hollywood landscape with 2014's Nightcrawler. When I first saw the preview for Roman J. Israel Esq., I thought this might be a throwaway film for Washington. In a year when there have been more than a few trailers that show a completely different picture than what the movie is actually about, this film might take the cake. The trailer, to me, portrays Washington's character as a cocky hotshot lawyer who gets caught up in being a power hungry monger. Heck, the trailer I just watched made it look like it was a comedy of all things. Nothing was further from the case. I may not have even seen this movie if Washington had not been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. The movie got mixed reviews and only ended up with a 52% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. His nomination over James Franco (The Disaster Artist), Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger), and Tom Hanks (The Post) surprised many, namely myself. As a result of the nomination, I was obligated to watch this movie and I'm really, really glad I did. Roman J. Israel Esq. was a movie that, in my opinion, was marketed wrongly. Also, I felt this to be an underrated movie. Furthermore, while I still believe the Academy got this year's Best Actor nominations correctly outside of this one (I would have given his nomination to Gyllenhaal ), I was remarkedly impressed with Washington's performance as a neurotic and paranoid civil activist attorney with all of the good intentions in the world who also happens to fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum. 


The Glass Castle (2017)

2017 has been a year that started out as stronng as any year in recent memory when it comes to movies. From the January and February box office smashes of Split (which I personally did not like as much as many others) and Get Out to the successful continuations or reboots of franchise movies such as Kong: Skull Island, Alien: Covenant, War of the Planet of the Apes, and Logan to the absolutely captivating Life and Wind River, we had about ten movies heading into September, whereas in a normal year, we might have half that many. Now if I asked a common moviegoer to name five non-animated movies that were released before September, the five they might mention might not include any of the ones I have just listed. They may have said Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Dunkirk, Spider-Man Homecoming, and Transformers: The Last Knight. Notice I did not list any of these films. Sure, Wonder Woman was fun and well-made, but it offered nothing that any other superhero origin movie in the last 10 years hadn't already offered. Spider-Man Homecoming I didn't even give a chance. Homecoming is the sixth Spider-Man release and third "origin" movie in the last 15 years. Eventually, you just have to throw your hands up in the air and say, "Enough is enough. Stop taking my money." The only one on this list of five that I had any real expectations for was Dunkirk and, while I didn't dislike it, it failed to overwhelm me and certainly failed to live up to the lofty expectations I had set for it. There was also the little surprise of Baby Driver, which I have so much appreciation for because of its originality, but one that ultimately fell off the tracks the deeper it got into the movie. And as we head into Oscar season, I'm worried that 2017 is going to be a forgotten year. I hope to be surprised, but I have a feeling that the movies nominated for Best Picture this year are going to disappoint. I hope to be wrong. I mention all of this because there have been some diamonds in the rough and one of those is Destin Daniel Cretton's (Short Term 12) The Glass Castle.


Dunkirk (2017)

Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception) might be the best technical director we've ever seen. His precession is perfect. His attention to detail is unmatched. His brain operates in a way that it is always a step ahead of his actors and two steps ahead of his audience. We've seen technical masterpieces throughout his, already, storied career. At 47 years of age, he already has masterpieces like Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar all underneath his belt. His "worst" movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes, is Interstellar and that still has a 71% fresh rating. That means his "worst" movie still had five out of every seven critics still gave the movie a positive rating. But for all of the positives associated with Nolan's films (and there are many), he has failed to capture the often needed emotional component with every single one of them. When I am enjoying his films for their near technical perfection, their unpredictability, their vision, etc. (and I have enjoyed every single one), I wonder why I feel nothing emotionally. I'm loving these films, but I'm not invested in any single one of them (well...maybe The Dark Knight because that's one of the ten greatest films ever made). He had the perfect opportunity to create a situation that could have drawn out feelings in the audience with Interstellar. You had the actors for it. You had the story for it. Everything was in place for a story that could have been remembered for years. And it fell flat in its attempt to draw out human emotion. Nolan had the opportunity, once again, to right himself with Dunkirk. But he fell back into his old ways, retelling one of the more inspirational war stories of our time and leaving us completely detached from its characters, many of whom we are unable to differentiate from each other anyway. It is one of nine nominated movies for Best Picture. I believe it should be there. I think it could even win. I don't think it will. And I hope that it won't. It was by no means a bad film. In fact, it was a good one and even great in some ways. It just wasn't an overly memorable movie all around. And with all of the hype associated with it, I don't know how you can't be disappointed with the end product.


Lady Bird (2017)

I think if you told someone that Saoirse Ronan (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lovely Bones), the actress who won audiences over with her innocent portrayal of a conflicted young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s New York City in 2015's fabulous Brooklyn (which earned her a Best Actress Nomination) is the same person playing the lead role two years later in Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, they'd look at you funny before looking at pictures of her from both movies, recalling scenes from each, and then of kind of nodding their heads and saying, "Yeah, I guess that is the same actress." While a movie I didn't really resonate with and definitely near the bottom of the Best Picture nominees in the lackluster 2017, I did appreciate her performance...one that was just as honest and true as the one she gave in Brooklyn. And similarly to 2015, her work in this movie is likely the third or fourth best of the year and landed Ronan her second Academy Award nomination.


The Post (2017)

I was able to preview Steven Spielberg's (Jaws, Saving Private Ryan) The Post two years before it was released to the public and even a year before it went into the production. It was called Spotlight and it won the Oscar for Best Picture. It was a fantastic movie. I wish I was more than kidding and with that, I could be more positive about my viewing of, what I hoped could be, one of the best movies of the year. That was months ago when I only knew of the movie title and that it starred Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. In my head, I envisioned a movie about an army outpost and was very intrigued. But then I saw the preview and I wished the movie would have been about a post office instead. Then, when I was halfway through the movie, I wish I had been watching a movie about a bedpost, a fence post, or any other post that would have represented something far less predictable and boring than the waste of talent and time that was being projected on the screen in front of me. It was one of those times (I've had many recently) where I have been more than grateful for having a MoviePass. The thought of actually paying for some of these 2017 movies is even more terrifying than the disappointing IT, a movie that was neither scary nor good. And, with the exception of a couple of non-Oscar nominated movies that I am still looking forward to, but have yet to see (Hostiles, The Florida Project), The Post successfully ends 2017, the worst year for movies so far this century.