Bro-Reviews: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Fargo 2.

Every year, the month of January not only bestows upon us mostly awful films studios have no confidence in, but also awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their releases after weeks of playing in limited theaters. Such an example of awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their release is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film has become a critical darling this awards season, having already won Golden Globes for “Best Motion Picture-Drama” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama” and has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, including “Best Actress” and “Best Picture.” Considering the hype machine surrounding the film and it’s timely subject matter, the film should be one that not only stands-out as one of the best films of 2017, but one that will stand the tests of time, right?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri sees Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) dismayed by the lack of resolution from the town of Ebbing, Missouri’s police department regarding the case of the murder and rape of her daughter. In order to get the police’s and the town’s attention, she rents out three billboards on a road nearby the town that read “RAPED WHILE DYING”, “AND STILL NO ARRESTS”, and “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?”. Mildred then faces backlash from the town and its police department, particularly from alcoholic racist police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the pancreatic cancer stricken police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), all in the name of seeking justice for her daughter’s rape and death.

Much of the hype surrounding the film is due to Frances McDormand’s performance as a “Rosie the Riveter” dressed, older white woman not afraid to speak her mind. This of course also includes her cursing up a storm and being unapologetic for who she is and for what she is doing. McDormand has always been a terrific performer, but because she’s not a sex symbol in any way shape or from, she is somewhat forgotten in Hollywood circles. Her performance in Three Billboards serves as a reminder she’s still a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and is definitely worthy of the awards buzz she has received this awards season that she hasn’t received since winning the “Best Actress” Oscar for her role in Fargo.

Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

The film also boasts strong supporting performances as well, most notably from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. Harrelson has always been an underappreciated actor in Hollywood, having seamlessly transitioned from his T.V. stardom in Cheers to being a leading man and character actor. Harrelson is able to sink his teeth into his role as an under fire police chief suffering from his own health issues, and churns out a performance worthy of his Oscar nomination for “Best Supporting Actor.” The man who steals the spotlight from him, however, is Sam Rockwell, another character actor who seems to have never gotten his due. His portrayal of a dim-witted, racist cop who eventually finds redemption is one of the best supporting character performances this year, and he is clearly the favorite to walk away with the Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actor” come the night of March 4th.

Despite the tremendous performances from the main actors involved, it feels like there’s something missing from the film. The film feels like it is building towards sending a message throughout, but it ultimately leaves audiences hanging. This lack of pay-off is extremely disappointing, and the ending will leave one with a sour taste in their mouth. In the wake of the “#MeToo” and “Time’s Up” movements currently taking the industry by storm, Three Billboards had the chance to make an impactful statement, but ultimately has nothing to say. Due to the lack of resolution, Three Billboards is easily the weakest film in the career of director Martin McDonagh, whose black comedies In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are much better watches than this “made for awards season” fluff.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri definitely has its strengths. It’s once again clear Martin McDonagh is an actor’s director, as Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell all give very good and awards worthy performances. However, even with its timely subject matter in the wake of all of the controversy surrounding the film industry, the film ultimately doesn’t have a message to convey. Sure, it’s a showcase in acting, but Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri had a chance to be more, and ultimately settles for awards season pandering instead of making a statement.

Rating: 2 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, and Clarke Peters.

 

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Bro-Reviews: The Shape of Water

A bizarre, touching monster tale.

Director Guillermo del Toro has made a career off of his biggest obsession: monsters. From comic book films such as the Hellboy series and Blade II, to daring fantasy films like Pan’s Labyrinth, all the way down to blockbuster spectacle Pacific Rim, Del Toro has made a career off this once staple of Hollywood and has turned it into his specialty. While Pan’s Labyrinth received critical acclaim an numerous Academy Award nominations, it was shut out of major categories such as “Best Picture”, “Best Director”, and in the acting categories due to its status as a foreign film. Guillermo del Toro decided he wanted another crack at awards contention, and his latest monster flick, The Shape of Water, has been racking up all kinds of awards attention, including a Golden Globe win for “Best Director” for del Toro and 13 Oscar nominations. Does the film live up to it’s monstrous hype?

The Shape of Water sees Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a woman rendered mute due to an accident experienced during her infancy who communicates through sign language, as a janitor working for a secret government laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland during the Cold War.  One day, the facility obtains a fish-like creature (Doug Jones) from a South American river, and it is kept there for observation and torture. Inexplicably, Elisa begins to bond with the creature, and must find a way to help the creature escape captivity with the help from her janitor friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer), her homosexual struggling advertising illustrator neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), and Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) before being caught by the power hungry Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon).

This isn’t your typical romance film as the synopsis above alludes to. If it weren’t for director Guillermo del Toro’s legendary status as a niche filmmmaker, this premise would’ve been laughed out of the building under any other circumstances. It literally features a woman, who communicates only through sign language, falling in love with a creature akin to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But therein lies the beauty of The Shape of Water, it’s so gleefully bizarre and goes from broke, and somehow manages to communicate a common message in its own unique way. That message being we as a society only look at people at face value, and do not value a person farther than that, and those people (*or creatures for that matter) are largely ignored as it pertains to love. For a film with non-typical characters and an insane central focus, The Shape of Water is unique and succeeds as an anti-quintessential romance film.

Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in “The Shape of Water.”

It helps the film features terrific performances to make it believable. Sally Hawkins is very deserving of her Oscar nomination for “Best Actress”, as she gives one of the most poignant performances of the year despite barely speaking a word. Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer have made careers off of character roles such as the ones they have here, and they too deliver and are equally deserving of their “Best Supporting Actor/ Actress” nominations. One questionable omission from the Academy’s nominations list is Michael Shannon, whose performance as a barely human colonel ranks as the best of his career. Combine these performances with the skilled and artistic direction of del Toro, and you’ve got an art-house monster romance film that stands alone in its uniqueness.

Unfortunately for the film, it does suffer from narratives that don’t quite mesh together. While the Cold War setting allows for unique locations such as the lab, the city of Baltimore, and a movie theater playing classic films such a Cleopatra (*that allows for del Toro to showcase his adoration for old movies), del Toro doesn’t quite implement the setting to its fullest potential. As a matter of fact, it’s sometimes clunky. A plot involving Russians wanting information regarding the South American river creature could’ve been left on the cutting room floor entirely, and the film wouldn’t have missed a beat. Also, while its admirable del Toro wanted to incorporate themes of racism and homosexuality, those themes add nearly nothing to the film, and come across as forced rather than seamlessly implemented as aspects indicative of the film’s setting.

Overall, The Shape of Water is a welcome breath of fresh air to the awards season circuit. While it’s setting isn’t necessarily taken full advantage of, it makes up for this shortcoming with its terrific performances, artful direction, and heartwarming main narrative. The Shape of Water ranks as one of the better films to have been released in 2017, and its daring nature to stand on its own as an unorthodox love story is nothing short of admirable and inventive of the monster film genre.

Rating 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg. It is in theaters now.

 

The Hypocrisy of the Baseball Hall of Fame

It’s time for baseball to sleep in the bed they’ve made.

The Baseball Writers Association of America announced the players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Wednesday afternoon. The 4 players elected were Atlanta Braves lifer Chipper Jones, power hitter Vladimir Guerrero, home-run hitter Jim Thome, and pitching closer stalwart Trevor Hoffman. All players were legends, and very deserving of this recognition.

Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Vladimir Guerrero were those elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s class of 2018.

Two of the most egregious snubs from the list are 7 time Cy Young winner, Roger Clemens, and baseball’s all-time home-run champion, Barry Bonds. Neither received the 75% of “yes” votes necessary to qualify for induction, with Clemens and Bonds receiving 57% and 56% of the vote respectively.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

It’s time for baseball to end the hypocrisy and let in all players who are worthy of the distinction whether or not they were linked to steroids. It’s pure hypocrisy for them to exclude such players, especially when the sport owes them for saving it.

Let’s flashback to 1994, when the owners of the MLB locked out the players, and a work stoppage ensued. The 1994 postseason was cancelled, and the strike leaked into the 1995 season with only 144 games being played. The MLB saw its attendance drop steeply by 20% during the 1995 season, and was the lowest attended season in decades. People were done with baseball. It was heading towards irrelevancy, much like the NHL and the MLS now suffer from today.

A view of the dwindling attendance in baseball during an Oakland A’s game during the 1995 season.

Then, something magical happened. The return of the home run, courtesy of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, the list goes on and on. Who could forget the home run race between McGwire and Sosa in 1998, where both players broke the long standing home runs in a season record set by Yankees great Roger Maris, with both hitting over 61 home-runs that season. McGwire ended up with 70 home runs, the all-time mark at the time, and Sosa finished with 66. Three years later, Barry Bonds broke McGwire’s record of home-runs in a single season by hitting 73 dingers. Baseball attendance skyrocketed to over 70 million in 1998 and to over 72 million in 2001, compared to the abysmal 50 million in 1995. As a popular Nike commercial once noted, chicks dig the long ball.

Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire share a playful moment at a press conference during the 1998 season.

Years later, however, the now infamous 2005 book “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big”, written by baseball slugger Jose Canseco, exposed many of the famous aforementioned players as steroid users. Later in 2005, Canseco and McGwire were among 11 baseball players and executives subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing on steroids. McGwire said he didn’t want to talk about the past that day. Rangers and Oriels power hitter Rafael Palmeiro pointed his finger at the judges overhearing the hearing and claimed he had never used steroids. Years later, more damaging books and reports, including “Game of Shadows” and the “Mitchell Report”, implicated many more baseball players of using performance enhancing drugs during what is now referred to as “The Steroid Era.” The Baseball Writers Association of America then decided to make an oath in their boys club to never allow in suspected or admitted steroid users into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite these player’s historic accomplishments, labeling them as “cheaters.”

Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Curt Schiling during the 2005 Congressional hearing on steroids.

For the record, a penalty system for using performance enhancing drugs did not exist in the MLB until 2003, after the McGwire-Sosa home-run race and Bond’s history making year. During the 1998 home-run race, a jar of androstenedione was found in McGwire’s locker, who then admitted he used steroid as a precursor and went on to hit a then record 70 home-runs that season. McGwire was not punished until now, where he isn’t even listed on the hall of fame ballot.

Is it really cheating if there’s not a policy? The man admitted he juiced, and baseball did nothing. They gladly allowed him to go on to have his historic season, while selling tickets and merchandise at historic rates because he and others revived a dying game. They allowed Bonds, a suspected steroid user involved in the BALCO scandal, to break that record with 73 home-runs. The drug testing policy he is now found “guilty” of by the MLB and the BBWAA had only been in place for four years by the time he retired with the all-time home-run mark of 762. The same goes for other admitted or suspected steroid users such as Sosa, Canseco, Palmeiro, Clemens, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, ect. Baseball looked the other way and now doesn’t acknowledge their existence, let alone their accomplishments.

Yet, some suspected steroid users, such as Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, and Mike Piazza, were all elected into the Hall of Fame within a year of each other. The commissioner of the league during “The Steroid Era”, Bud Selig, was also elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017. And let’s not get into amphetamine users, also known as “greenies”, who are in the hall. From Willie Mays all the way down to the original home run king, Hank Aaron, they were all linked as users of this performance enhancing drug. The BBWAA welcomed those players into the hall with open arms, dishonesty at its finest.

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2017 induction ceremony featured inductees linked to steroids and the commissioner who presided over the league during “The Steroid Era.”

The BBWAA is essentially picking and choosing who they want to be in their boys club of silly plaques located in an area of Ohio people barely like passing through. At the same time, they are shunning those who participated in what they now consider baseball’s darkest age (*shouldn’t that be when African-Americans weren’t allowed to play?) from their super secret society. It’s absolute hogwash. Either acknowledge all of the greatest players who played at the highest level, or don’t have a hall of fame. It’s not called the “Hall of Favorites” or the “Hall of Preferences”, it’s called the “Hall of Fame”.

The sport reaped the benefits of Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, ect. for years and turned a blind eye when suspected performance enhancing drug use was involved, just like they did during the amphetamine era. Baseball raked in the money by selling jerseys, tickets, programs, and posters during “The Steroid Era”. They saw their once dismal attendance soar through the roof and breathe new life into a dying sport. The exclusion of accomplished players, particularly admitted or suspected steroid users, was made retroactively to appease baseball “purists” in name only like Joe Morgan, whose letter to Hall of Fame voters urging them not to vote for steroid users came across as a disingenuous middle-school girl passing a note to her friend to not like Becky anymore for the clothes she was wearing. The sport hasn’t given a dime back to all of those fans who bought jerseys, tickets, or cable T.V. packages for what they now conveniently label a “fraudulent” product. Their game would not be as popular today if it weren’t for these players and their “cheating.”

The time has come to abolish the antiquated voting system of the Baseball Hall of Fame and acknowledge all the game’s greatest players and record holders, not picking and choosing favorites like the cliques in Mean Girls. Barry Bonds is acknowledged by one of this year’s inductees, Chipper Jones, as “the best baseball player I’ve ever seen put on a uniform.” Roger Clemens won 7 Cy Youngs (*the most of all-time), won 354 games, and had 4,672 strikeouts. They’re arguably two of the best to ever take the field, and for a while baseball took advantage of their talent and supposed or even admitted drug use and parlayed it into dump-trucks of money and record attendance. You reap what you sow. It’s time for the plaques and the monuments to be made for these men, and for the hypocrisy of baseball to end.

 

Bro-Reviews: Academy Award Nominations and Snubs

While you were sleeping, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominees for the best in film 2017. The most notable awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actress, and Best Actor, are always hotly debated every year. This discussion only gets more heated once we learn those who were snubbed from the list of nominations. The nominees, along with the snubs, are:

Best Picture:

The Shape of Water”

“Call Me by Your Name”

“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”

“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Post”

“The Shape of Water”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Snubs: “Wonder Woman”, “I, Tonya”

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman.”

For the most part, the academy got the nominations here right. All of the films listed above opened to rave reviews, and have had relatively healthy box office longevity. It is curious, however, in the wake of the #MeeToo and Time’s Up movements that Wonder Woman, the 3rd highest grossing film of the year, wasn’t nominated. Maybe it’s more proof the Academy isn’t ready to acknowledge super-hero movies as the best films (*see The Dark Knight and The Avengers), but considering the current times, acknowledging Wonder Woman as one of the best films of 2017 should’ve been a no-brainer. On top of that, I, Tonya has received critical acclaim due to its performances, yet didn’t crack the “Best Picture” list.

Best Actress:

Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Snubs: Michelle Williams, “All the Money in the World”, Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”

Jessica Chastain in “Molly’s Game.

All of the nominees are deserving of a nomination here, and maybe there just weren’t enough slots to go around. Michelle Williams has been a force throughout the years during awards season, but her exclusion from this category is questionable considering her great performance in All the Money in the World. Jessica Chastain has also received accolades for her powerhouse performance in Molly’s Game, but also got left off the list due to the number of great performances this year.

Best Actor:

Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.”

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”

Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel Esquire”

Snubs: Tom Hanks, “The Post”, James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

James Franco in “The Disaster Artist.”

The biggest surprise here is Washington’s nomination for a so-so movie. He’s the best thing in it, but it’s the only nomination Roman J. Israel Esquire received. Maybe it was a toss-up between Washington and Hanks, who while doesn’t give a memorable performance, has now not been nominated since 2000’s Cast Away. More egregious was the snubbing of James Franco, who won the Golden Globe for his role as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. Maybe his recent sexual assault allegations had something to do with it, but Franco was most certainly overlooked for some reason.

Best Director:

Guillermo del Toro, director of “The Shape of Water.”

Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”

Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”

Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

Snub: Steven Spielberg, “The Post”

Merly Streep, director Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks on the set of “The Post.”

Once again, not many surprises in this category.  The biggest omission, however, is Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is a stalwart in Hollywood, and his film about the importance of the news media is quite topical. Personally, I didn’t find The Post to be extraordinary, but there had to have been some way to include him in this list.

Best Supporting Actor

Sam Rockwell in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”

Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Snub: Armie Hammer, “Call Me by Your Name”

Armie Hammer in “Call Me by Your Name.”

The biggest surprise in this list is the inclusion of Woody Harrelson. His Three Billboards co-star, Sam Rockwell, is considered the favorite, and it’s a curious decision as to why both men were included in the list of nominees. This led to the exclusion of Armie Hammer, who received universal acclaim for his role as an older, same-sex lover in Call Me by Your Name. Maybe he’s still paying for the sins of The Lone Ranger, but leaving Hammer off this list seems like an error.

Best Supporting Actress:

Allsion Janney in “I, Tonya.”

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Snubs: Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”, Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

Tiffany Haddish in “Girl’s Trip.”

Most of the nominees here were expected, but you’d have to believe the nomination of Lesley Manville, who hadn’t received much attention until now, cost Holly Hunter a nomination for her career renaissance role in indie darling The Big Sick. And while she was a presenter of the nominees and comedies typically don’t get love from the Academy, one could make an argument for Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip. In a year in which diversity is at the forefront, why not recognize one of the funniest performances from a predominantly African-American film?

 

 

 

 

Bro-Reviews: I, Tonya

Sympathy for the devil.

Tanya Harding at one point was known as the greatest figure skater in the world. She was the first person to ever attempt and complete one of the most complicated moves in her sport, the triple axel, and even made it to the Olympics. Unfortunately, she was the most hated person in the world as well due to her supposed involvement in the injuring of her USA Figure Skating teammate and rival, Nancy Kerrigan. We all know Harding eventually faded into obscurity after embarrassing herself by attempting to cling onto whatever celebrity status she had left, but Harding herself feels her side of the story has never been properly conveyed. Perhaps Harding can rest easy now, with relative newcomer and sex-symbol Margot Robbie staring in and producing the story of Tonya’s life, I, Tonya.

I, Tonya follows the life of world famous figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), a red-neck born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She is forced into figure skating by her abusive mother, LaVonna Golden (Allison Janney), who also pulls Tonya out of school to focus solely on a career in the sport. Along the way, Harding meets Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), her first love and husband, who also abuses her. The film follows Tonya’s chaotic life and her connection to the attack on her arch rival, Nancy Kerrigan.

For most of her career, Margot Robbie has been relegated to being a sex-object. Nobody recognized her talent in The Wolf of Wall Street, they only noticed the amount of times she took her clothes off. The same can be said of her roles in Focus and Suicide Squad, but I, Tonya proves Robbie is more than a sex symbol. Robbie is electric as Harding, captivating us by illuminating her struggles as a talented but unwanted commodity by her family and the figure skating community. Robbie is able to make us feel sorry for Harding, who to this day retains much of her villainous status due to her involvement in the attack of Kerrigan. Her Golden Globe nomination for “Best Actress in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy” is well deserved, and she most definitely will be up for “Best Actress” at the Academy Awards later this awards season.

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya.”

Not to be outdone, however, is Allison Janney as Tonya’s vicious and crass mother. Janney won the Golden Globe for “Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture”, and for good reason. She delivers the performance of her career in the film, and should be up for a “Best Supporting Actress” Oscar. Sebastian Stan is also marvelous as Harding’s husband, and proves there’s life after the Marvel Cinematic Universe for him. One of the more underrated performers who hasn’t gotten any awards love is Paul Walter Hauser, who plays Shawn Eckhardt, Tonya Harding’s “bodyguard.” Hauser is a riot, and while the unknown actor isn’t up for “Best Supporting Actor” consideration, hopefully he’ll get more work in Hollywood sooner rather than later.

Much credit must be given to the style of the film, as it goes back and forth between interviews in mockumentary-style set in the modern day and flashbacks with fourth wall breaking. This allows the characters to be unfiltered and exposed, which lets us as an audience formulate our own opinions on these real life figures and the true story circumstances they experienced. Director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers execute this style almost perfectly, and captivates audiences even though most of us know how the story ends. The film does overstay its welcome towards the end, but one can hardly fault the film for trying to cram in every element of Harding’s tumultuous life.

I, Tonya is an unforgettable bio-pic. It takes a fascinating subject matter whom most of us have already formulated an opinion of and thought we would maintain that same opinion for the rest of time, and accomplishes the impossible task of changing our minds. With tremendous performances from Robbie and Janney that should result in more awards love come time for the Academy Awards, I, Tonya is one of the best films of 2017, and leaves us having sympathy for the devil.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

I, Tonya stars Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, and Bobby Canavale. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Phantom Thread

A spellbinding love story.

Daniel Day-Lewis is somewhat the antithesis of Hollywood. Despite his handsome looks and impeccable acting ability, the man has been very private about his personal life and is very selective as it pertains to the movies he stars in. Most of the time, however, the roles he chooses result in an Academy Award win, as 2 of his last 3 films have resulted in “Best Actor” wins at the Oscars. With the news of his retirement looming, people have wondered if he has saved his best for last in the mysterious new drama, Phantom Thread.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned dress maker in 1950s London at the top of his game working alongside his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), at the House of Woodcock. Reynolds is a bachelor, having never been married and women coming and going throughout his life. One day, he comes across Alma (Vicky Krieps), a strong-willed waitress who becomes his muse and his love, but their relationship causes disruption in Woodcock’s seemingly well threaded life.

Should this be the final performance in the illustrious career of Daniel Day-Lewis, he goes out with a bang. Lewis has perhaps his greatest role in his career as Woodcock, a calculating, creative maniac whose routine cannot be disrupted, or his life is thrown into disorder. Lewis brings so much nuance to his performance. It’s not just his delivery of the dialogue, it’s his movement, his reactions, his facial expressions, that bring life to this character. Some scenes we as an audience sympathize with this tortured artist, but the next we object to his treatment of others due to his fussiness. Lewis has worked with writer/ director Paul Thomas Anderson before in There Will Be Blood, where he won his second “Best Actor” Oscar, and Phantom Thread is yet another example of an actor and director working seamlessly together. There’s no doubt he should be the front-runner for “Best Actor” at the Academy Awards, and should close out his career with his fourth win and forever be known as one of the greatest actors to ever perform.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps in “Phantom Thread.”

That’s not to say the other performers don’t match the prowess of Lewis, however. While there hasn’t been much love for either of them in regards to awards attention, Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps are magnetic as Cyril Woodcock and Alma respectively. Manville brings a calming influence to his brother, but also isn’t afraid to stand up to him either, making her one of the most intriguing characters in the film. Vick Krieps also makes a splash as Alma, the surprisingly resolute next woman in Woodcock’s life. She too comes across as both sympathetic and as an instigator, and the audience understands her plight. It’s a shame neither woman has received much accolades for their performances, as the two very easily provide some of the best work actresses had to offer in 2017.

One must mention the skilled direction and engrossing writing of writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson has become one of the most sought after directors in Hollywood, and his writing abilities also remain top notch. Anderson is able to write characters that are fascinating and mysterious, alluring and guarded. His work captivates audiences, and leaves them begging for more even after the two hour and ten minute run time. It’s difficult to elaborate without giving away the entirety of the film, but know one is in for a fascinating experience.

Phantom Thread is one of the best films of 2017, hands down. Not only does it feature a director at the top of his game, it features fantastic performances from all supporting actors involved. Most importantly, its lead delivers a tour de force performance of a lifetime that could very well be his last. One must treasure this film if it is indeed the final performance of Daniel Day-Lewis’s career, as it is a spellbinding love story and a cautionary tale of what happens to talented artists when their craft is disrupted by a force of nature.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

Phantom Thread stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps, and Brian Gleeson. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Picks: AFC and NFC Championship Predictions

Football’s Fantastic Four.

The NFL’s conference championship weekend has arrived, and all four QBs playing this weekend have combined to make it to this round 12 times. (*Okay, all of those appearances are courtesy of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, so what?*) Other than the Patriots, we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought these teams were going to make this far as late as last week, as no one expected the Jaguars make the Steelers look like dogs in Pittsburgh, the Eagles looked like they couldn’t complete a pass to save their lives with QB Nick Foles filling in for MVP candidate Carson Wentz, and the Vikings needed the  “Minneapolis Miracle”to upend the New Orleans Saints. The NFL’s regular season might have been outright terrible, but the NFL Playoffs have been nothing short of surprising and thrilling, and the AFC and NFC Championship match-ups could provide even more of those same qualities come Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots (3:05 P.M. E.S.T.)

Let start by apologizing to the Jacksonville Jaguars. I predicted you would go 3-13 this season and remain in the basement of the AFC. I highly doubted the Jaguars would be able to go into Heinz Field and knock off a superior Steelers team despite the fact they had done it earlier this season in week 5. The “Sacksonville” defense has been nothing short of stellar this postseason, as they have sacked the opposing team’s QB 4 times, have forced 4 turnovers, and have scored a defensive touchdown. Their defense is good enough to keep them in this game. Their rushing attack, led by rookie RB Leonard Fournette, has been a steady presence for the offense, scoring 3 touchdowns thus far. Even QB Blake Bortles has silenced some of the haters, making key throw after key throw and has even made plays with his legs en route to the Jaguars improbable postseason run.

However, despite all of the ruckus surrounding New England QB Tom Brady’s hand being injured, the Patriots are going to make it to their record 10th Super Bowl. Head coach Bill Belicheck takes the Jaguars seriously, (*unlike the Pittsburgh Steelers*), and is treating this game as if the Jags are going to pulverize the Pats. He does not want to be on the losing end a third time against Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville’s Executive VP of Football Operations, in big game spots such as these. As fitting as it would be to see the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL’s forgotten franchise, make it to the Super Bowl, it’s just not going to happen. Even with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s long running feud with the Patriots in mind, the NFL cannot afford Blake Bortles making a Super Bowl over the golden boy.

Winner: Patriots

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles (6:40 P.M. E.S.T.)

Had QB Carson Wentz been playing this postseason, not only would the Eagles win this game, they’d win the Super Bowl. Sure, QB Nick Foles had one of the greatest NFL seasons ever with 27 TDs compared to just 2 interceptions back in 2013, but everyone had serious doubts he could fill in for Wentz and make it this far this postseason. Foles played mistake free football last week against the Falcons, and let his top ranked defense win the game for him. It’s true defense wins championships, and the Eagles have enough of it and the “underdog” motivation to surprise everyone by making the Super Bowl despite their crushing injuries.

It should be said, however, one of the only defenses to be better than the Eagles this season belonged to the Vikings, who were number one in total defense in 2017. The Vikings shutout Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense for a whole half last Sunday, and looked like an impenetrable wall. Sure, it took the “Minneapolis Miracle”, a 61-yard touchdown pass from QB Case Keenum to WR Stefon Diggs, to pull-out a victory, but that play precisely sums up the Vikings this season. People have doubted this team due to it’s lack of star-power, as its top-ranked defense is mostly nameless and their starting QB has been a journeyman in the NFL. The Vikings have been underdogs his entire season, and the opportunity to be the first team to ever play in their home stadium in a Super Bowl is too good of an opportunity to go to waste. Every dog has its day.

Winner: Vikings