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Movie Nights in January with DOLITTLE, 1917 and JOJO RABBIT

Author's Note: I'm generally not a big fan of rating things, but for the purpose of the article I came up with a scale of my own. Here it goes:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ - Loved it and I'm happy to defend it!
★ ★ ★ ★ - Great, I'd be glad to rewatch soon.
★ ★ ★ - Good movie with something extra that caught my attention.
★ ★ - OK, I enjoyed it.
★ - I'm sure someone must have enjoyed it.

DOLITTLE
Author's Score: ★ ★
IMDb Score: 5.6/10
Tomatometer: 15%
I'm honestly surprised by some of the opinions I've heard about the movie, especially those coming from the critics. I certainly did enjoy it. Sure, it's not the best movie of the year, but it's an entertaining adventure and a fun experience with exceptional visual effects and talented cast. I'm not normally considered an "animal person" but I sure loved many of Dolittle's companions, especially Chee-Chee. His journey to overcome his insecurities and fear is one of my favorite parts of the movie. Poly also deserves a recognition for all the times she made a difference as Dolittle’s most trusted advisor. As for Dolittle himself, I'm always happy to see Robert Downey Jr. back on the screen. I appreciate the challenge he has embraced with this impossible accent, it definitely helped me separate him from his character early on in the movie. He didn't sound like himself after all. Dolittle's interactions with his friends, the animals were some of the funniest bits for me. There was also a place for reflection and sadness, the pain and emptiness caused by John's wife's sudden and tragic death. For a moment I did consider a possibility that she might still be alive but ultimately I think the story works better this way, especially the conversation with Ginko-Who-Soars (a dragon guarding the magical tree with the cure), without any last minute reveal. There's a lot of fun, enjoyable moments throughout the movie that make it worth seeing. I probably won't be coming back to it anytime soon but I'm still glad to have watched it.

1917
Author's Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
IMDb Score: 8.5/10
Tomatometer: 89%
This has to be one of my favorites in the recent months. Such an impressive achievement. I've seen a lot of war movies, but this one didn't really feel like any of them. The idea to have the entire thing filmed like one continuous shot is not what I expected at all. It's hard to imagine the effort that went into this camera work, the stunts and special effects. The story itself is another surprise for me. I knew the general premise from the trailer but I certainly didn't expect that one single day in the middle of a brutal war can end up being such a powerful watching experience. This one was truly emotional. I think I did pretty well in that department, that is until Richard Madden's character showed up at the end. That one really got me. Beautifully done and immensely tragic. At the beginning of the movie you're hoping that the brothers will reunite, even if Thomas shows up late to the battlefield. After Tom saves Will's life and leads their journey with knowledge and determination you don't expect him to be the one who dies, pretty early in the story. In fact there were a couple of moments when I thought William's story is sadly over, but it's a random attack from an injured pilot, that Blake was trying to save, that's what ends up killing the young man. Just another victim of a terrible, terrible war. Speaking of, the entire scene where the two men cross no man's land to reach the abandoned German trenches, is something that I can't get out of my mind. It's a genuinely scary experience, especially with the camera putting the viewer next to the soldiers. Similar feeling accompanies the audience during Schofield's time at Écoust-Saint-Mein. He is shot at, knocked out by a ricocheting bullet, later even swept over a waterfall but still he keeps going. He gets to the battlefield just a little bit too late to stop the fight before it begins, but he does manage to end it before the Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment falls. After what we've heard from the other characters I was truly worried that Colonel Mackenzie would refuse to follow the orders. Luckily I was wrong. I did enjoy all the brief moments with the stellar supporting cast, but the brightest stars of the movie have to be George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman and the crew - the director, the stunt team, the cinematographer, the camera operators. Fantastic work by the whole team. This one will definitely stay with me for a while.

JOJO RABBIT
Author's Score: ★ ★ ★
IMDb Score: 8/10
Tomatometer: 80%
This one is tricky, not quite sure where to start. More than the others this movie feels like it's made up of moments. The dark comedy, a gruesome reflection, a true tragedy. It makes you laugh, even when you feel like you really shouldn't. But it also makes you cry, deeply. Jojo's mother's death hit me harder than I expected. Scarlett Johansson was truly exceptional in this role. I knew the death was coming, especially with all the shots focused around her shoes. Still, when the moment came I was absolutely not ready and my heart broke for this lonely, confused kid. His reaction is brutal, he even goes after Elsa, stabs her in a shoulder before breaking down in tears. I'll probably remember this part the most, many years after watching the movie, but there's still a lot more to mention. The relationship between Jojo and Elsa is unlike any that I've seen lately. She helps him understand what he's been missing, find his place in the world and changes his perspective. Jojo goes through quite an incredible development throughout the movie, so much bigger than I would expect from a young boy. His imaginary friend, a version of Hitler, gives him a person to talk to about his internal struggle, a mind at war. In a way Taika Waititi's character appears to be a (dark) comedic relief of the story but also a good indication of the change happening in Jojo's thoughts and behavior. The child actors almost steal the movie for me. It's such a good cast and crew. Since there's definitely a strong comedic element of the movie I can't help but think of the very long "hello" when the Gestapo visit Jojo's house. It's a terryfing moment if you see the true meaning behind their visit but the absurdity of their introduction makes it a very unexpected, hilarious part. The same can't be said for the final act of Captain Martin Klenzendorf. Sam Rockwell is absolutely fantastic in this role throughout the movie. There's many of his scenes that I loved but the last one is what truly helped me understand his character better. He saves Jojo's life and leaves no chance for himself. It's strange to see such cruelty and cold "justice" coming from the Allies who arrive to free Germany from Nazis. It's an unforgettable image, Jojo standing in the middle of the fight and watching as the battle rages. The explosion, Fräulein Rahm arming and sacrificing children, Klenzendorf and Finkel in their unique uniforms making their last stand. It's a movie full of contradictions, one that truly makes you stop, pay attention and think about it. Much deeper than it might appear on the surface. Certainly a memorable experience, even if not one of my favorites in the end.
Movie Nights in January with DOLITTLE, 1917 and JOJO RABBIT Reviewed by Justyna on February 14, 2020 Rating: 5

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