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Josh Reviews Uncut Gems

February 17th, 2020

In Uncut Gems, a fantastic film written and directed by Josh and Benny Safdie (the script was also co-written by Ronald Bronstein), Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner in the Diamond District in New York City.  He is buried in debts, but the fast-talking Howard has a series of plans within plans to get the better of everyone who is after him and to get a big payday.  It all revolves around an opal — a special, valuable rock — that Howard has recently acquired.  He plans to sell the opal at auction in order to score the money he needs to pay off his debts and finally hit the big time.  But it’s not going to be nearly as simple as Howard hopes…

Adam Sandler is absolutely electrifying in this film.  I have enjoyed Mr. Sandler’s previous turns in more serious films (Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish, Funny People), but his work here is head and shoulders above anything I’ve ever seen him do before.  In Howard, Mr. Sandler has created a rich, unique, instantly memorable character.  Howard is a scum-bag, but Mr. Sandler plays the role with such empathy, and a twinkle in his eye, so that I found myself rooting for Howard throughout the film, even while cringing as he made one ill-advised decision after another.

The rest of the cast was super.  Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta) is Howard’s fast-talking equal as Demany, whose job seems to be finding big spenders and convincing them to come into howard’s store to spend a lot of money.  Idina Menzel is a study in frustration as Dinah, Howard’s much put-upon wife who seems like she might finally be ready to jettison him.  It was an unexpected surprise to see the great Judd Hirsch (looking a heck of a lot like Uncle Leo from Seinfeld) as Gooey, Howard’s well-off father-in-law.  Julia Fox plays Julia, the beautiful young woman working in Howard’s shop, with whom he is having an affair.  (I loved how important Julia wound up being in the film’s climax!)  Possibly the biggest surprise in the cast for me was just how great Kevin Garnett was, playing himself!  I appreciated how well-developed all of these people caught in Howard’s orbit were.

The film is a magnificent exercise in sustained tension.  From practically the first moment until the last, the Safdie brothers skillfully ratchet the tension up and up and up.  I can’t recall another film quite like this!  (Perhaps only certain extended sequences from Quentin Tarantino films.)  It’s an incredibly stressful experience watching this movie!!  And, at the same time, so much fun!!

A lot of credit for this must go to the spectacular and unusual … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

February 3rd, 2020

I was saddened to read of the recent passing of comedy legend Terry Jones.  There are some moving tributes to him up here.

This is cool — Uncut Gems was one of my favorite films of 2019, and Adam Sandler and directors Josh & Benny Safdie have already reunited for a short film, Goldman v Silverman.  You can watch it right now:

I don’t think that short is entirely successful (it didn’t come together into any sort of real ending or resolution, in my opinion), but I love the idea (and the revelation of what the title means), and I enjoyed how strange it was…!  (If you haven’t seen Uncut Gems, I highly recommend checking it out.  My full review will be coming soon.)

I am super-excited for the return of The Clone Wars!  This new trailer looks terrific:

This is interesting — after years of controversy, Hank Azaria has said that he will no longer voice Apu on The Simpsons.  I dearly love the character of Apu, but I can also understand why many found that character unfunny and offensive.  Three decades later, the character’s time has come and gone.  Good for Mr. Azaria for stepping away.  If you want Apu, there are THREE DECADES worth of Simpsons episodes to go back and enjoy…!!

I’m excited by this announcement that Oscar Isaac will star in a film adaptation of the terrific comic book series Ex Machina!  The series, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Tony Harris, tells the story of s superhero who becomes the mayor of New York City.  I hope film this actually happens…!  Oscar Issac would be PERFECT as the main character.

It looks like one of HBO’s Game of Thrones spin-off projects is really happening, though it apparently won’t arrive until 2022

On the other hand, Amazon is apparently not going forward with their planned Dark Tower series.  They actually went and shot a pilot!!  But apparently it has been shelved.  (I’d love to see that pilot!!)  This is another blow for Dark Tower fans like me…

I’ll leave you with this: two brothers apparently spent years recreating Toy Story 3 in its entirety, using stop-motion animation (and some live-action).  This is astonishing!!  You can read more about it here, and you can watch the entire film right now:

I’ve only had a chance to watch the first twenty minutes so far, but that is amazing.  It reminds me of the kids who remade Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Astonishing.… [continued]