By AD Beal

Knives Out
Knives Out is not your every day, run-of-the-mill murder mystery. This film makes the normal macabre subject matter feel playful, without losing that “what will happen next” feeling you expect from the genre. At its core, this is a rich story about greed and how it destroys families and those around them. An incredible cast is brought to life in the memorable Thornbery family, with Daniel Craig and Ana De Armas as the outsiders looking in. With its balance of humor and tension, Rian Johnson made one of 2019’s most entertaining films.

The Irishman
Martin Scorsese has never been better than here. The Irishman delivers all the great traits of traditional mob films, while still managing to bring something new to the table. It delves deep into how crime can kill our family relationships, and the fear of growing old, death and simply being alone. De Niro, Pacino and Pesci are extraordinary, the latter delivering probably his most human performance ever. Scorsese still showcases his “larger than life” style, but with a new vision leaning towards a dour look in production design and cinematography. By the end, you may not like these characters, but you do feel sorry for them.

Doctor Sleep
Mike Flanagan manages to combine Stanley Kubrick’s otherworldly horror with the strangeness of Stephen King’s writing without losing his own vision. The creepy designs, camerawork, and music complement each other making this film truly Flanagan’s, while still respecting what has come before. Danny, Abra and Rose are all brought to life by amazing performances. The careful balance of gore without becoming exploitative is impressive. Most movies of this genre fall heavily to one side of the blood and guts line or the other. An interesting exploration of addiction is also very nuanced and thought-provoking. Without a doubt, Doctor Sleep is a worthy successor to an iconic film.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Let me start by saying that Tom Hanks does a great job in a role that he was obviously born to play. Unfortunately, for me, the film just does not work. Fred Rogers seems to be portrayed as a god of “nice guys.” While we all agree that his message of understanding was and is important, it’s one that has already been told. What was needed here was a dive into the real Rogers and what it took to maintain the magic that was “Mr. Rogers.” Yes, this was a film about his interaction with Vogel, but it missed so much going from point A to point B. No one does a 180 that easily. The real Rogers must have opened himself up so much more, exposing his own flaws to help Vogel – that is what we need to see today. Heroes are not born, they are made through hard work.