All posts by Vince Leo

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.


Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) | Tim Miller



As with the other Terminator films, a protagonist and antagonist are sent back to the modern-day from a dark future using a time-travel device. The protagonist (Mackenzie Davis) is a technologically augmented human super-soldier named Grace, who lands in Mexico City in order to try to act as a savior for humanity in the future (Natalia Reyes). The antagonist (Gabriel Luna) is an ultra-powerful Terminator model called a Rev-9, whose mission it is to terminate a young female autoworker living in Mexico named Dani Ramos. Lending assistance to the resistance is the return of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who sees kinship in Dani because she has been thrust into the same position as key to humans surviving the A.I. onslaught of the future. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appearance in the second half of the film as a T-800 model Terminator named “Carl” who has assimilated into human society after completing his mission of taking out John Connor. Tim Miller directs.


The Gemini Man (2019) | Ang Lee



Will Smith stars as Henry Brogan, a top-notch sniper and skilled combat fighter working for a black ops government agency named Gemini, performing one last kill before retiring from the assassin business at the ripe age of 50. He’s the best at what he does but hates the man he’s become, unable to even look at himself in the mirror without observing disappointment and pain. But just when he thinks he’s pulling out, they pull him back in, discovering that he’s been misled by his superior at Gemini, Clay (Clive Owen), in the nature of his latest assassination, making him feel betrayed. Along with fellow agent and his new ally, Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and his trusty pal Baron (Benedict Wong), Henry soon discovers they are trying to take him out as well, but with a younger, more agile, less angsty version of himself named Junior. Ang Lee directs this futuristic action-thriller.


Joker (2019)



Set in a crime-ridden Gotham City sometime in the early 1980s, Joaquin Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, a man who has been dealing with mental challenges his entire life, with little to show for all of his efforts to keep on the sane path. One of his afflictions is his uncontrollable laughter when faced with things that make him anxious, which often gets him into further trouble on its own. He’s living in a Gotham City apartment with his ailing mother, Penny (Frances Conroy), trying to make it on his own either as a clown or as a stand-up comedian, on the hope of getting on the number-one late-night talk show starring Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). Even with the several medications that he is on, his afflictions often get the better of him, but now he’s lost his job, his therapist, his meds, and his sanity, but finds there may be a new path to an audience when he gains notoriety as a Bernard Goetz-style subway shooter. Directed and co-written by Todd Phillips.