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Reviews for November 21st, 2018

Green Book

Directed by Peter Farrelly

      Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a.k.a Tony Lip, lives in the Bronx with his wife, Dolores (Linda Cardellini) and kids, while working as a bouncer at the Copacabana. When the Copacabana briefly closes, Tony is temporarily out of a job and desperately needs to make money to pay his bills. Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), an African-American pianist in The Don Shirley Trio, hires him as his chauffeur for a concert tour in the Deep South. He will pay him in full as long as he successfully makes it to every concert on the tour. Tony hopes to be back to the Bronx in time to spend Christmas Eve with his family.

      Based on a true story, Green Book manages to transcend its genre to become an a genuinely warm, funny and provocative experience. On the surface, it's a buddy road trip comedy/drama, but, like most truly great films, it's ultimately so much more than the sum of its parts, so it would be unfair to lump it into any particular genre. The screenplay by Nick Vallelonga, Peter Farrelly and Brian Currie brims with warmth, tenderness and wit without becoming mawkish or lethargic. It also explores the topics of friendship, social class and racism during the 1960s in a way that avoids preachiness. Moreover, Viggo Mortensen gives one of the best performances of his career that finds the emotional truth of his role. Mahershala Ali is just as superb. They both have great chemistry together as Tony and Dr. Shirley gradually develop their friendship and platonic love of one another throughout their journey. On the one hand, their journey is a physical one, but, concurrently, it's also a spiritual journey where they both have a profound affect on each other. The evolving dynamics of their relationship remains fascinating, poignant and captivating from start to finish as they exchange quips, sarcasm and other forms of witty banter while getting to know each other in the process. Their rapport is similar to the rapport of Driss and Philippe from The Intouchables. If you loved The Intouchables, chances are you'll also love Green Book just as much.

      Green Book's greatest strength comes from the way that writer/director Peter Farrelly and the co-writers deftly blend comedy, drama and tragedy in an organic way. The Intouchables achieved that feat as did Muriel's Wedding, Ghost World, the underrated Shirley Valentine and the recent Can You Ever Forgive Me?. Much like those films, Green Book takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions while also making you think and providing you with complex characters who feel lived-in and memorable. Tony curses, eats like a pig, says stupid things, isn't ashamed of stealing, has terrible writing skills, and speaks his mind even if it means being offensive, but underneath it all, he has a heart and a conscience. It's those likable and unlikable qualities of his that which makes him all the more human and compelling as a character.

      Bravo to the filmmakers for including some nuance, subtlety and quiet moments that allow the film to breathe while adding some layers of depth. They also refrain from relying on distracting flashback just for the sake of exposition and spoon-feeding the audience. For instance, when Dr. Shirley mentions to Tony about his estranged brother, there's no redundant flackback that shows Dr. Shirley interacting with his brother. It's refreshing to watch a Hollywood movie that actually trusts your intelligence, patience, imagination and emotions for a change. The running time 2 hours and 10 minutes flies by without a single scene that drags or feels unnecessary. Most importantly, the moments of crowd-pleasing uplift are well-earned. The filmmakers should also be commended for including a very witty and funny line of dialogue at the very end of the film which leaves you feeling elated. Green Book is the rare major studio film that has a palpable heart, mind and soul. It's one of the most powerful films about friendship since The Intouchables. With just the right amount of positive word-of-mouth, it could become huge hit and a new American classic that will be watched over and over. I've seen it twice and can vouch that it's even better the second time around.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Universal Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Directed by Phil Johnston and Rich Moore

      Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) helps his best friend, Vanellope (voice of Sarah Silverman), to find a replacement for the broken steering wheel from her video game, Sugar Rush. When he learns that the steering wheel can be found on Ebay, he and Vanellope travel inside the internet. They win the highest auction bid for the item, but don't have the $27,0001 needed to pay for it. Ebay gives them 24 hours to come up with the money or else Vanellope won't be able to have her much-needed steering wheel.

      Ralph Breaks the Internet is a delightful, witty and exhilarating sequel to Wreck-It Ralph. Writer/director Phil Johnston, co-director Rich Moore and co-writer Pamela Ribon combine action adventure, comedy and drama in a way that's thrilling, heartfelt and thoroughly captivating for everyone young and old. The plot is ostensibly about Ralph and Vanellope's quest to find the steering wheel, but there's so much more to it than that which won't be spoiled here. Ralph and Vanellope's have a relationship that's fundamentally grounded in realism and you can feel their chemistry together. There's even a wonderful musical number with profound, inspirational lyrics along with a surprisingly honest, funny and clever scene that addresses the stereotypes regarding Disney princesses. It might take repeat viewings to catch all of the visual gags, pop cultural references and inside jokes. To top it all off, the CGI animation looks colorful and dazzling with lots of attention to detail and eye-candy. Fortunately, Ralph Breaks the Internet more than just pleases one's eyes and ears because it also has a heart, mind and soul like some of the great Disney films. It's an animated film that's more than just the sum of its parts.

      Admittedly, Ralph Breaks the Internet takes about 10 minutes to set-up its premise with its expositional first act, but once Ralph and Vanellope travel via Wi-fi into the world of the Internet, that's when the film's momentum truly kicks into high gear. Also, the running time of 112 minutes (including a stinger after the end credits) feels a little too long, especially for little kids with low attention spans. Perhaps some of the action sequences could've been trimmed down a bit. Despite that minor flaw, Ralph Breaks the Internet joins Incredibles 2 as one of the best animated films of the year.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Walt Disney Pictures.
Opens nationwide.
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