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Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2019

Another super tiring weekend in the bucolic Virginia hamlet of Middleburg watching more films than I should! I predicted early on that this festival would outgrow itself and I think it has come to that point. Too many people know about it and the growing pains have become chronic overcrowding at venues without room for expansion. I’m already searching for another festival for next year. (All suggestions are appreciated.) I saw fewer films this year, too, just nine — Marriage Story, The Capote Tapes, The Aeronauts, Frankie, Waves, The Report, The Two Popes, Atlantics, and Knives Out. I only gave one of them four stars and several were surprising disappointments. For too many it was great cast and great performances in an otherwise just okay movie. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Review: Jojo Rabbit

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be a new way to tell a World War II / Nazi story on film, along comes Jojo Rabbit, to serve as both a reminder of a twisted chapter in our not-so-distant past, and a contemporary cautionary tale. In some ways, there’s more to unpack here than in the controversial Joker, though I suspect way fewer people will see it or ‘get it’. Yes, Jojo Rabbit is a strange flick. But it’s also quite thought-provoking and weirdly entertaining, thanks to the direction of Taika Waititi (who pulls triple duty as screenwriter and actor) and a first-rate cast.

Review: Isle of Dogs

What a fun movie! I don’t think Wes Anderson has made a film I didn’t like, so that’s no surprise, but the creative choices he made in this one are even more entertaining than usual. The story takes place in a town in Japan and all the humans speak untranslated Japanese, except for some public occasions where there is a simultaneous translator. Only the dogs speak English, voiced by a veritable A-list cast. (Bryan Cranston, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson, and many more) The only thing that’s clear is that Mayor Kobayashi hates dogs (cat lover!) and he’s determined to rid his town of every last one, exiling them to a garbage covered island. But human hero to the rescue! Kobayashi’s 12-year-old nephew/ward Atari goes in search of his beloved pooch and uncovers a conspiracy at the highest levels.

A Newlywed Reviews ‘Rough Night’

The Washington, DC screening of Rough Night coincided with the opening night screening and reception of the AFI Documentary Festival. Ironically, the free booze came with the latter. So while Arty Chick and I drank wine and schmoozed with documentary filmmakers at the Newseum, Guest Chick Maggie Mazzetti ventured down the road to watch Rough Night on our behalf. Maggie is a newlywed. So, really, who better to weigh in on a raucous comedy involving a bachelorette weekend than someone who recently engaged in prenuptial shenanigans (okay, hers were probably a bit more subdued and crime-free). Anyway, here’s Maggie’s take on Rough Night:

Captain America: Civil War

I’ve always considered myself an Iron Man gal in the Avengers universe, but man oh man, Captain America is growing on me! So while I understand the marketing appeal of a #TeamCap v. #TeamIronMan rivalry, I am hereby declaring myself Switzerland in this Civil War! I refuse to choose. And as any Avengers fan is sure to guess, you don’t really have to. The marketing gimmick – like the movie itself – is all in good fun. That’s not to say there isn’t a decent story at the heart of this latest entry in Marvel’s Avengers franchise. There is. And that’s why this movie deserves to crush DC Comics’ Batman vs. Superman at the box office. It’s full of action, drama, Stark snark, superhero banter, a few unexpected twists, and good old-fashioned themes about friendship, conscience, and moral ambiguity. Can you tell I kinda liked it?

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Fans of the Avengers – assemble! My guess is they’re already packing the midnight showings and putting this superhero superflick in prime position to knock those Fast and Furious folks from the top of the Box Office. And rightly so. Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers the goods. It’s not as good as the first one, but it serves the purpose of advancing the Marvel mythology and providing pure escapist entertainment by bringing together, once again, the world’s mightiest heroes, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Eye candy, sarcasm, action. What’s not to like?

Chef

Written, directed and starring Jon Favreau, Chef is the feel good foodie flick du jour. Favreau stars as Carl Casper, a formerly hot young chef who’s lost his mojo, but finds his way back by starting from scratch. It’s a fun movie with a lot of heart and a fabulous cast. Besides Favreau, it boasts Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, and a host of other top shelf talent. For audiences hungering for a change of pace from the special effects driven films out there, this is the ticket!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I’m always a bit torn when it comes to Captain America, the first Avenger. Chris Evans wears the suit extremely well, but his storylines never seem to grab – or entertain – me the way Iron Man (my favorite Avenger) does. CA: Winter Soldier is thin on plot and heavy on fight scenes, so it’s more of a means to an end for advancing Marvel’s Avengers franchise and less of a stand-alone movie. Here’s the gist of the plot as far as I could discern: Oh wait. First, a quick refresher: Captain America, aka Steve Rogers (Evans) was a scrawny kid transformed by a super serum into a super-soldier during World War Two. At some point while battling the evil HYDRA organization, Steve fell into some ice. Fast forward a couple of decades, and a newly-defrosted Captain America is struggling to reconcile his time-honored morals, sensibilities, and tastes in music with what’s evolved in the modern world. It’s classic ‘fish out of water’ stuff.

Her

Her is really all about him, him being Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his personalized operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). If this sounds a bit weird, it is, but only for a bit. In this film set in the very near future, true love is as elusive as ever, and a new technology allows people to become intimately entwined with their computers’ operating systems. Lonely Theodore is still recovering from breaking up with his wife (Rooney Mara) and isn’t having a lot of success in the dating world, so when Samantha enters his life through an earpiece and a mic, her ability to see and appreciate him is incredibly attractive.

Marvel’s The Avengers

I’m no comic book aficionado (far from it), but I really liked The Avengers. And that’s mostly because I really like watching Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man. You’ve got to love a superhero who’s cynical, sarcastic, witty and walks around in tight jeans and a “Black Sabbath” tee-shirt when he’s not suited up for battle.

The movie also features a host of other reluctant heroes from the Marvel Comic Universe, including the Shakespearean thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the recently defrosted World War Two soldier-extraordinaire, Captain America (Chris Evans), the mild-mannered doctor-turned-green-monster-when-he’s-angry The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the brooding guy who’s good with arrows, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and the psychologically damaged superspy chick in a form-fitting bodysuit, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).