#NativeNerd movie mini-reviews: 1917, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit and more

I'm playing catch up with several movies & series and I'm including several mini-reviews including Midway, Raising Dion, Jack Ryan and Wu Assassins

As the past few weeks have continued to unfold, I have been unable to keep up with my movie reviews, considering I wanted to do one per week. I am a ravenous movie watcher as you might have assessed thus far, so in order to play a bit of catchup I will be writing a few brief, but informative reviews on movies in the theater and on streaming platforms.

I recently watched the 1917 movie, which I enjoyed immensely as well as The Irishman starring a blue-eyed Robert De Niro. To those of you who have reached out to me via email or on social media, I’ve yet to see Tubman or Frozen 2, but they are on my shortlist, so stay tuned.

Without too much discussion, I’ll get started.

1917

#NativeNerd Movie Score: 9 out of 10

My quick quote: 1917 is a brilliantly filmed World War I movie, that showcases a wide range of atrocities of war outside of the spectrum of one-note bloody violence. This film is agonizing, believable and unapologetic in telling a real-time story.”

Film site synopsis:
Sam Mendes, the Oscar-winning director of Skyfall, Spectre and American Beauty, brings his singular vision to his thrilling new epic, 1917. At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic ’s George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones ’ Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.

1917_Tsr1Sheet_RGB[1]
1917 movie poster

Don't expect this film to pull any punches. As much as you might think it would be formulaic, it's not. 1917 is a World War I film based on the occupation of Germany in France focusing on two soldiers who must traverse hostile German-occupied territory in order to deliver a message that would save the lives of thousands of troops. One of the troops is one of the soldiers’ brother.

This film doesn't hold back on high stakes, agonizing losses and the reality of collateral damage. One of the most amazing things about this film are the long unpaused shots filled with dialogue, the beautiful cinematography, and its ability to make beauty out of something that certainly is not beautiful.

For the entire film, I was filled with anxiety and apprehension much like a soldier may experience trying to get from point A to point B without getting blown up. I was also graciously pleased as to how much of the world existed outside of this film that I never actually saw.

1917 is an amazing and beautiful film, with real human moments found when people aren't exactly acting human, but rather trying to survive. I didn't take issue with anything aside from one small moment in which a soldier puts cow's milk into his canteen, I shudder at the thought, knowing it wouldn't take long for something like that to spoil. No one has a lot of extra time to rinse out a canteen during war. But that was a small moment.

A great film - definitely check it out.

The Irishman 

#NativeNerd Movie Score: 8 out of 10

My quick quote:
“De Niro is great as the blue-eyed Irishman Frank Sheeran, Al Pacino, in his over the top obnoxiousness, wasn't annoying as Jimmy Hoffa and all said, Joe Pesci steals the show as mob boss Russell Bufalino.”

Film site synopsis:
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci star in Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN, an epic saga of organized crime in post-war America told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran, a hustler, and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime: its inner workings, rivalries, and connections to mainstream politics.

THE IRISHMAN movie poster

According to Martin Scorsese’s latest well-received film, The Irishman, the world of the Italian mafia, U.S. government politics and labor unions run extremely deep and intricately intertwined. Nothing is more so obvious based on the story of this film.

I think this is some of the best work between Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino who orchestrate a symphony-like world of spoken and unspoken nuance. I didn’t just get to go along for the ride of politics, mob, and unions, I was in on the joke so to speak.

This film is incredibly intricate in detail, yet it wasn’t hard to follow. I oftentimes get lost when you try to remember the name of every character in a film, but I didn’t do that here. Over and over again, I was surprised at how well Robert De Niro wore a pair of blue eyes, but I don’t really ever know if I thought he was Irish. But that aside, he did a great job of making me believe he was put into a situation of his own choosing — in which he would have to kill or be killed or work to please his bosses while estranging himself from his family.

Al Pacino wore the suit of Jimmy Hoffa well, it was a relief of sorts as for so long I have really disliked his approach to acting synonymous with his role in Scent of a Woman, which I really disliked. This is the one film where Pacino, as a boisterous loudmouth, actually worked in his role. I haven’t liked his approach to other roles when he did it this way. But he did work as Hoffa.

Though I liked everyone’s work, I have to give a sincere hat off to Joe Pesci who played Russell Bufalino. Pesci was incredible as the mob boss, who wore thick black-framed glasses, and paused to think before making a move, or a decision as a character, in his role. I bought it 100 percent and I thought Pesci is what brought the entire film together.

It’s now on Netflix. www.netflix.com/TheIrishman

Jojo Rabbit

#NativeNerd Movie Score: 6 out of 10

My quick quote: “As is Taika Watiti’s style, Jojo Rabbit is a strange and quirky film highlighting the deranged narrative of Adolf Hitler as seen through the eyes of German youth. The comedy lies a bit too close to the tragedy.”

Film site synopsis:
Jojo is a lonely German boy who discovers that his single mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend — Adolf Hitler— Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on. Release date: October 18, 2019 Director: Taika Waititi

Jojo Rabbit movie poster

In Jojo Rabbit, I have to admit I struggled a lot wondering whether or not I got the joke or whether it was someplace a bit above my head. I like the kids in the movie and I thought Taika Waititi’s portrayal of Adolf Hitler was pretty funny, but I have to admit I was left wanting a bit more, but I don’t really know what more I wanted.

Maybe to laugh a bit more, maybe to find a bit more to criticize. I don’t really know.

The cast of characters collectively play a part in asserting the fact the German Nazis cared little for individual needs and wants of Germany, other than creating a nationalist force banded together to get rid of all the Jewish citizens.

Some things were also just confusing such as Hitler wearing a Native headdress, or where any of the other family members were. I didn’t hate it, but I wanted the humor I saw in the vampire comedy by Waititi titled What We Do in the Shadows.

Overall I laughed a lot, but I wished there was just a little more.

Midway

#NativeNerd Movie Score: 3 out of 10

My quick quote:
“Midway overshoots with too much CGI, an emotionless war, overacting and far too much cookie-cutter 1940 film elements.”

Film site synopsis:
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces launch a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base in Hawaii. Six months later, the Battle of Midway commences on June 4, 1942, as the Japanese navy once again plans a strike against American ships in the Pacific. For the next three days, the U.S. Navy and a squad of brave fighter pilots engage the enemy in one of the most important and decisive battles of World War II.

Midway movie poster

Yikes, Midway was awful.

The CGI was way overdone, and the battles had very little emotion from anyone involved. Many of the key military officials in this film were nowhere near military, and it showed painfully. I felt bad for feeling so critical about this movie as I watched this in Virginia with many members of the military in the audience. As a former military officer myself, I stood up and actually thanked the crowd for their service before the movie began.

But then it got started, I just really felt it could’ve had so much more depth. I made a joke to a friend of mine that Wally and the Beaver would’ve likely enjoyed this movie back in the day. Dennis Quaid's continuous bellowing and scratching of his neck grew more than tiresome.

There were no ethnicities in this movie that I saw, and the cookie-cutter style just gave me a deadpan feeling. There were some interesting aspects of it historically as I didn’t realize the importance of the battle of Midway, but that’s really all it offered to me.

This movie was an unfortunate miss.

Raising Dion

#NativeNerd Movie Score: 8 out of 10

My quick quote:
“Raising Dion is a fun little treasure of a film series featuring a young superhero in training who discovers his powers the same way he is discovering his own way in the world.”

Film site synopsis:
Raising Dion follows the story of a woman named Nicole (Alisha Wainwright), who raises her son Dion (newcomer Ja’Siah Young) after the death of her husband, Mark (Michael B. Jordan). The normal dramas of raising a son as a single mom are amplified when Dion starts to manifest several mysterious, superhero-like abilities. Nicole must now keep her son’s gifts secret with the help of Mark’s best friend Pat (Jason Ritter), and protect Dion from antagonists out to exploit him while figuring out the origin of his abilities.

RaisingDion_Season1_Episode1_00_02_34_16R2C

I absolutely love this film series on Netflix titled Raising Dion. There is so much to like about this series. Young Dion is incredibly fun to watch on-screen as a young actor discovering himself in the world just as his superhero self is discovering his powers that range from controlling electricity to vanishing and reappearing, creating lights and even healing powers.

Dion’s mother Nicole is a fun character as well who is a former dancer rediscovering her love for her craft. She is a bit overprotective of her son, but in this film series, her choices make good sense. The humor is fun and light and the characters do a great job of interacting with each other using a little bit of sarcasm as well as good humor.

There is also a bit of real-life racial undertone embedded into the script and one moment brought me to tears when Nicole has to tell her son he will be judged in his life, “for the color of his skin.” It was a heartbreaking reality but added so much to the empowering nature of this series.

A lot of family fun here, and certainly worthy of binge-watching the first season’s eight episodes. No word yet on seasons to follow.

Now playing on Netflix

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan 

#NativeNerd Movie Score: 8 out of 10

My quick quote:
“John Krasinski does an exceptional job portraying Jack Ryan in a believable way. The Jack Ryan series is engaging as an espionage thriller should and must be. Absolutely binge-worthy.”

Film site synopsis:
Author Tom Clancy introduced the character of Jack Ryan in a series of books before Ryan headed to the big screen in several films. Now the former U.S. Marine is featured in an episodic series for the first time, with John Krasinski portraying Ryan in this Amazon original thriller that centers on Ryan as an up-and-coming CIA analyst. He is thrust into a dangerous field assignment for the first time and uncovers a pattern in terrorist communication. That launches him into the middle of a dangerous gambit with a new breed of terrorism that threatens destruction on a global scale.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

For any lovers of espionage or antiterrorism or any other sort of CIA spy-based thriller, make sure you swing on over to watch Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan now in its second season on Amazon Prime.

For years I don’t think there has been a Jack Ryan movie I have not enjoyed, and John Krasinski (you may know him from The Office) does an excellent job of stepping up into the role in this latest series. He has a cool outer exterior and cool demeanor, yet also appears to have quite a bit going on behind the scenes in his mind.

The stories are great and Amazon has done an excellent job of bringing together more in the series based upon the Tom Clancy novels.

In the first season, Jack Ryan is the well-known CIA analyst that uncovers a suspicious series of bank transactions that gain his attention, sending him into Europe and the Middle East, he dives back into the volatile territory of Central America in the second series.

Great stuff.

Wu Assassins

#NativeNerd Movie Score: 9 out of 10

My quick quote:
“Wu Assassins is a complete and utter blast. Admittedly I stumbled onto it and it’s one of the most fun discoveries I have ever made. An absolute thrilling mixture of martial arts and fantasy thriller storytelling”

Film site synopsis:
An unassuming San Francisco chef becomes the latest in a line of assassins chosen to keep the mystical Wu powers out of the wrong hands.

Wu Assassins

A San Francisco chef discovering he is pure of heart, then receives a sacred monk shard, is then deemed to become a Wu Assassin and can be trained by one of the ancient monks?

Sign me up to watch this show immediately.

This was a blast, every single bit of it. Truth be told I stumbled across this a few months ago right after my shoulder surgery and I was stuck in front of my laptop looking for something to pass the time. I saw Wu Assassins and thought, “What the heck?" then quickly, "Oh yes, definitely.”

Within just a few minutes I was hooked, I wanted to know all about the life of Kai Jin, the San Francisco chef working in Chinatown. He fights the Triads, a renowned Chinatown criminal organization, and continues through several episodes fighting to regain control from his Uncle Six, a leader in the Triad organization.

The different Wu Assassins have their powers based on elements such as fire, water, earth, and air, and all fight unite all of the monk shards into one. Throw in incredible martial arts choreography, amazing set design, and special effects, get ready for an extremely fun and wild ride.

It is a brilliant show on Netflix with 10 episodes available to watch now.

Native Nerd Phone

See you at the movies, fellow nerds!

Follow the #NativeNerd, Vincent Schilling, associate editor for Indian Country Today and a proud movie reviewer.

Have a film, product or another review request? Email me at vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com or reach out to me on social media. 

Twitter at @VinceSchilling and Instagram at @VinceSchilling.

Comments (6)
No. 1-3
nooksackndn
nooksackndn

Hey Vincent, great job, I look forward to reading your reviews, like the way you write, you get the plot and story lines explained so I have a good idea of the shape of the movie. We seem to have close to the same tastes in movies so this helps me to decide, go, or not.

Anni
Anni

Hi Vincent. Enjoyed your review of JoJo Rabbit. I liked it very much, and laughed too, although perhaps not as much as you did. The thing I liked best about the film was its gentle quality. Most films about Nazism are bitter and harsh, understandably, and finally tragic. This one was able to transcend bitterness, presenting the awfulness of Germany during the war years in a lighter, more hopeful manner. A delightful film.

Vincent Schilling
Vincent Schilling

Associate Editor

Thanks for responding Anni! Stay tuned for more reviews ... let me know if you want anything reviewed!



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