All posts by Vince Leo

Uncut Gems (2019)



Set in 2012, Uncut Gems is a part crime drama and part character study, following the dealings of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a New York jewelry merchant doing business by appointment in his highly secure private showroom. Not all is peachy-keen in Howard’s life, as his marriage is on the rocks, his mistress has begun to make him feel insecure, his lack of work ethic beginning to sour customers, he just might have colon cancer, and his gambling addiction has gotten him into a lot of debt that he can’t pay back easily. He’s a sucker for get-rich-quick schemes to keep him out of trouble; his latest involved the procuring of a large uncut Ethiopian black opal that may be worth up to a million dollars.

Enter Boston Celtics star, Kevin Garnett, who takes an immediate interest in purchasing the rare jewel upon seeing it, but is denied a sale because Howard already has it set up to auction within a few days. Garnett ends up borrowing the opal in exchange for one of his championship rings and has one of the best games of his career on the basketball court, making it the good-luck charm he has to have at the tail-end of his career. In the meantime, Howard has ended up pawning off Garnett’s ring and used the money to bet big on Garnett’s performance.

Directed by Benny and Joshua Safdie.


1917 (2019) | Sam Mendes



1917 takes place in Northern France amid the Great War. Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) are two British soldiers commanded to carry orders from their General (Colin Firth) across No Man’s Land then behind German-occupied enemy lines. The mission-critical orders are for a battalion of 1600 British soldiers, including Blake’s brother, to stand down from their planned raid the next morning against the Germans who are setting them up for a massive ambush. Through trenches, decimated towns, and bombed-out structures, the duo traverses, cautiously but expeditiously, to save the lives of their fellow soldiers. Sam Mendes directs.


Ford v Ferrari (2019) – aka Le Mans ’66 | James Mangold



Most of the film surrounds the events leading up to France’s illustrious 24 Hours of Le Mans auto racing event, mostly glossing over Ford losses in 1964 and 1965 as roads poorly chosen. We start with Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a former elite racecar driver, the first American driver to win at Le Mans, who retires into designing racecars and coaching the next generation of elite racers after finding out he has heart disease. Considered a maverick by his contemporaries, his services are sought when the Ford Motor Company, who are attempting to brand their vehicles to younger people who want style and sex appeal in the cars they buy, planned to acquire the financially struggling Ferrari in 1963. Those plans fall through spectacularly, leaving both sides feeling insulted. Ford wants to show Ferrari, and the world, that they are more than just a company that can mass produce family vehicles. Shelby sets about building what would come to be known as the Ford GT40 model, trying to maximize power and minimize weight and drag to be the fastest racer on Earth.

Christian Bale plays British racecar driver Ken Miles, sought by Shelby to help his test out his designs to give them a chance to come out on top in the grudge match between Ford and Ferrari. He’s skilled at what he does, but Henry Ford II wants him replaced by someone less of a loose cannon and willing to tow the Ford line to the media. Ken’s wife, Mollie (Caitriona Balfe), and his son, Peter (Noah Jupe), feel ambivalence about his quest to be the best. They want him to bring home the bacon, but they’re also afraid that he’ll be another casualty in the car racing arena who doesn’t get out of his car in time. Shelby must weigh his friendship and knowledge that Miles is the best shot to win with the needs of his funders, who are only in it to promote their brand. James Mangold directs.


Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)



The Rise of Skywalker takes place sometime after the events of The Last Jedi. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been in training with General Leia (Carrie Fisher) on how to be an elite Jedi. She ends up abruptly leaving so that she and her merry gang of Resistance fighters can hop around the galaxy. They’re looking for a Wayfinder crystal that is the key to finding the planet called Exogol, where the Siths reside, led by the return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who is somehow still alive. Obstacles abound, including First Order leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Ren is ostensibly seeking to help Palpatine return to power, trying to get his hands on the Wayfinder for himself, possibly to join forces with Palpatine to enact the Final Order to bring the galaxy to its knees. J.J. Abrams directs. John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Joonas Suotamo, Billy Dee Williams, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Kelly Marie Tran also appear


The Irishman (2019) | Martin Scorsese



The Irishman is a tale spun from the vantage point of an older man in a nursing home and displayed through a series of extended confessional flashbacks. Robert De Niro takes the lead role of World War II veteran meat-delivery driver Frank Sheeran, who, beginning in the 1950s, gets involved as a hitman for the mob after meeting and providing his services to well-known crime boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). During his time working with Russell, Frank ends up meeting and becoming a close confidant of the nation’s most influential union boss, Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), known for using strongarm tactics to bring the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union to power. Organized crime had a significant influence in this era, on the unions, in business, and up to the highest levels of government, and Frank finds himself on the rise playing bodyguard and man of trust to Hoffa in his attempts to keep control of the most powerful union in the country. Martin Scorsese directs.


Bombshell (2019)



Bombshell is a somewhat loose recounting of the toxic, cultish, and highly sexist atmosphere that permeated Fox News under the tenure of their CEO, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). Most of the events that take place in the film occur in 2016, during the middle of the presidential race that would culminate in Donald Trump’s election. It’s in this period that fading Fox star Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) would find herself on the outs. She would file an explosive sexual harassment charge against Ailes, who was considered the most influential man in news, a moniker that only fed into his narcissistic notions of being special and above standard rules. Fox News gave many women breaks, but many of them were objectified, wanting them to show off a certain sex appeal to deliver the news to their viewers. Margot Robbie co-stars as a composite character based on several of Ailes’ two dozen other accusers, Kayla, who is young, ambitious, Christian, and a firm believer in the Fox News mission. Also, she is beautiful enough to catch Ailes’ eye, offering her a fast-pass to success if he can get something from the relationship in return in terms of sex, power exchange, the gratification of his ego, and unquestioning loyalty. Charlize Theron Plays Megyn Kelly, who has a checkered history with Ailes that she has kept secret in exchange for her career, but now she must come to grips with whether to come out with her story or risk finding herself on the outs in the news business. Jay Roach directs.


Dark Waters (2019) | Todd Haynes



Dark Waters is a film based on the true story of a corporate lawyer who ends up taking on DuPont Chemical. The origin of the screenplay originated from a Nathaniel Rich expose on attorney Rob Billott in The New York Times Magazine published in January of 2016 entitled, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” The story detailed a crusading corporate attorney who went back to his hometown to take on the polluters who were destroying it. Actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo read the article and thought it would make for a compelling movie, optioning the rights and serving as a producer for the project.

Ruffalo gives a deliberately dry and restrained performance as Rob Bilott, an attorney working for a successful and conservative-minded Cincinnati-based firm of corporate lawyers. Every step of the way smacks of reluctance that holds him back, but a stronger conscience that drives him forward. His skills for protecting corporations are put to the test after a cattle farmer from his small home town in West Virginia approaches him, imploring him to look into why his livestock is diseased and their offspring born with severe congenital disabilities. He and his family might be getting cancer due to their exposure as well.

Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins co-star. Todd Haynes directs.


Knives Out (2019) | Rian Johnson



Set somewhere in New England, the plot of this murder mystery involves the death of the patriarch of the Thrombey family, Harlan (Christopher Plummer). Harlan is a wildly successful mystery novelist who has amassed a small fortune running a publishing company for his and other books. While initially thought to be suicide, several guests at Harlan’s 85th birthday acted quite suspiciously before his death that leaves open the possibility of foul play. Along with the police, an unknown person hires a famous detective named Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to check into the matter beyond the standard police questioning. Our main conduit into the story, however, is Marta (Ana de Armas), Harlan’s nurse that has a strange affliction where she will toss her cookies whenever she lies, making her an instant way to vet the truth, provided that she knows it. With Marta by his side, Blanc finds there may be more to the suicide than he initially thought, though the hows and whys remain elusive. Rian Johnson writes and directs. Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, and LaKeith Stanfield also appear.


In Fabric (2019) | Peter Strickland



Executive produced by Ben Wheatley, In Fabric is a comedic horror film from Peter Strickland, who made critical splashes with prior small-scale efforts like the crafty, Giallo-homage of Berberian Sound Studio and the fetishistic tale found in The Duke of Burgundy. Strickland’s penchant for exploring unique scenarios continues with this more expansive story about a sexy “artery red” dress bought by Sheila, a lonely, recently divorced middle-aged London bank clerk, at Dentley & Soper, a bizarre department store that may be selling haunted wares during the rush of its January sales. What Sheila doesn’t know is that the cost of the dress is more than just the money she paid for it. Peter Strickland writes and directs this eerie dark comedy that explores the nature of the power of fashion.


The Lighthouse (2019) | Robert Eggers



There’s something to Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) that’s been deeply troubling him – an incident in the past that haunts him that his continued existence on the island serves as a persistent reminder. Their shift on the island in the middle of the sea was originally to be four weeks in duration.  Due to a leg injury, the boss, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), requires Ephraim to do nearly all of the physical labor on his behalf, which the younger man comes to deeply resent, feeling like a slave during the day and treated no better than an animal at night. On his end, Thomas feels like Ephraim doesn’t respect his authority, and his cooking skills, and he’s going to break the lad to fear him if he won’t at least show him the respect of his position., The wall between them is so prevalent, despite being in close proximity to one another, they don’t even learn each other’s names until well into their scheduled stay. From there, things get occasionally better, but often far worse, as Ephraim’s fear, guilt, and paranoia begin to get the better of him, combined with the toxicity of heavy drinking and feelings of overwhelming isolation. Visions come into his head of lusty mermaids, mocking seagulls, and a dead body he seems to know more about than he cares to remember. Robert Eggers directs and co-writes this unique psychological folk tale of a sort.