Review: Suspiria (2018)

They're witches!

Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) leaves her small Ohio farm to travel to a dance academy in Berlin in 1977. Run by Madam Blanc, (Tilda Swinton) Susie falls into the roll of lead dancer after a series of strange events that take a few other girls out of the picture. But the teachers are planning something special for Susie.

I'm a huge fan of the original Suspiria. It's beautiful in its colorful, campy glory. I knew going in this was going to be completely different. Gone are the bright colors and the soundtrack that's almost a character in itself. In are greys and neutral tones, and no memorable score until one pivotal scene. I admire what director Luca Guadagnino did here. Instead of making a full on remake, he took the bare bones of the story (Susie goes to Berlin to dance, and it's run by witches) and imagines something completely different. 

Only it's kind of awful.

Unlike the original - which I'll stop comparing it with after this one point because they're different enough - this film is told from the perspective of the witches instead of the students. Which is jarring because we see these teachers acting creepy as fuck all the time and none of the dancers acknowledge it. Because of this, a lot of the suspense in finding out their motives is removed because they tell us slowly throughout. From the very first title card that appears, telling us there is six acts and an epilogue. You know you're going to be here a while. This film clocks in at a heft two hours and thirty two minutes and easily a good forty of them should've been cut. 

Dakota Johnson plays her role almost exactly as she did in Luca's previous film, A Bigger Splash. Which means she pauses before every line and generally acts as if she's in a trance. Mia Goth, who plays another dancer Sara acts circles around her and unlike Susie, Sara actually has a character arc. Susie has no personality and we get no insight to her thoughts making her actions towards the end of the film a massive head scratcher. Tilda Swinton also plays two other characters aside from Madam Blanc under a ton of make up for no reason other than Luca is a Tilda stan. Because of this you're kind of expecting things to be tied together differently, because it's obvious it's Tilda but nope. No purpose.

The film does do a good job when it comes to the dance numbers and it has a couple of gruesome scenes. I was a bit surprised that they didn't try to redo any of the iconic deaths from the original. No falling glass or razor wire here. And even though it doesn't have a bright color palette, it does look beautiful in its own way. And it is interesting at first, don't get me wrong. This film doesn't start boring. It's captivating, in fact. 

Ultimately, Suspiria is bogged down by its unnecessary run time and all the things it wanted to say but couldn't do so in a concise manner. It's art house for the sake of art house. Candice mentioned in a great Indie Wire piece that this film "holds you hostage because it can" That is exactly how I felt. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "That's the kind of thing Patricia would say." - Sara (Mia Goth)

Quick TV and Movie Reviews Courtesy of Netflix

I go through entertainment moods. Sometimes I'm in a reading mood, other times I'm in a watching mood. For pretty much all of October, I've been glued to my Netflix account. While I wrote a few full reviews for some of the movies I watched, such as The Kindergarten Teacher and Apostle,  the rest I decided to do in one post. Here are some movies and TV series I've been binging lately. 

DVD 
The first three reviews are from their DVD rental service. Side note, how do more people not use this? It's amazing! Do you all still have video rental stores in your neck of the woods because I sure as hell don't.

Eighth Grade
Elsie Fisher is a gem. This is a very quite movie, some would say "nothing happens" but really, everything does. I laughed pretty hard a few times and cringed at others because I could relate. Middle school was hell. I had ICQ and MSN Messenger to make mine awkward, I couldn't imagine having even more social media to add to it now.
Grade: B+

How To Talk To Girls At Parties
God damn this movie is weird. Aliens are touring Earth in 1970's London and one of them decides to check out the punk rock scene. I think this film balances being bizarre and endearing very well. The script it messy but I had fun watching it.
Grade: B-

Kinky Boots
I started watching this back when it first came out on DVD and never finished. I'm so glad I did, this movie is a joy. It drags a bit in the middle but Chiwetel Ejiofor is dynamite. 
Grade: A-

Streaming

22 July
Not that I'm an expert...but Paul Greengrass is the wrong director for this movie, right? I mean, it's awkward as hell that he's making all of these Norwegian actors speak English in a story that happened in their native land. It also feels like most of the effort was put into recreating the terror attack that happened and not much on the legal battle that followed. This film needed a lot of trimming. Though it did have two very convincing performances from Anders Danielsen Lie and Jonas Strand Gravli. I definitely hope to see more of those too.
Grade: C

The Haunting of Hill House
The male characters in this story drove me crazy and the ending tread into Hallmark movie cliche territory but this series was really well done. The actors were good, it was creepy, and the best part was they tied up ALL of their lose ends. They didn't pull a Castle Rock on their audience and they deserve all the credit in the world for that. 
Grade: B+

The Sinner (season one)
I feel some type of way about this. I really liked the murder mystery aspect of the story. Jessica Biel is great, her motives for murder were interesting, but man Bill Pullman.....he was bad. He looked like he was on the verge of laughter in every scene and the side characters were all very one dimensional. At eight episodes, this was a quick watch and I'm glad I saw it. But I felt there was something holding this series back. Maybe it was budget, maybe the network, but the writers had some great ideas and then the rest were just cut and paste from Murder Shows 101.
Grade: B-

Making A Murderer (season two)
Did this need a second season? Probably not. Did I watch it all? Of course. This case still fascinates me. I'm still in the camp of thinking Avery is innocent and that a bunch of fuckery went on with that crime scene. Zellner was a nice addition to the narrative. She brings up a few possible suspects in Teresa's murder, which they didn't get to do that last time around. I can't decide which one I think is more plausible. I don't buy getting flagged down by someone and actually pulling over for it, but that's just me. I'll continue to follow this case as it unfolds, if it ever goes anywhere.
Grade: B-

Daredevil (season three)
Since I'm watching this with my husband I haven't finished it yet. We're currently on the 8th episode. This is still the best Netflix series, the fights are so well done, but Karen Page is bothering me this season even more than I thought possible. I like Deborah Ann Wohl. She's a good actress, if you've seen True Blood you know, but she plays Karen as if she's constantly on the verge of having an anxiety attack. There's a scene where her character comes face to face with Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) and it's tragic how much he out acts her. Otherwise, so far so good. I'm not buying the Defenders not showing up though. They don't have the huge contract issue that the Avengers have when they don't show up in each others movies, and the story kind of calls for one of them to at least check in, and no one has yet. That's distracting.
Grade: TBD

Hold The Dark

Man...I was really looking forward to this and even though it got lukewarm reviews I still wanted to watch it myself. The script is kind of awful and it wastes its very talented cast. I felt like they didn't know how to end this film either. Wasted potential.
Grade: D

Thursday Movie Picks: Political Comedies

Finally a theme from Wandering Through the Shelves that actually made me get off my ass and watch In The Loop: Political comedies. It took me way too long to watch that. I realized when thinking of films for this categories that I actually haven't seen as many of these as I thought. I'm familiar with a lot of them, but haven't seen them all the way through. Here's what I came up with. These make me a lot happier than the mid term election results in my home state. (ugh...red states..)

1) In The Loop

Sati recommended this to me years ago and in 2018, I finally made it happen. I haven't seen The Thick of It, which the main character, a man who works for the prime minister was based, but it was hilarious nonetheless. I didn't feel I missed much of anything not seeing the show, and now I plan on watching that too. Hopefully it doesn't take me another few years. 

2) Dick

I loved this movie when I was a tween. Back then, a lot of the political stuff went over my head, but I was obsessed with Kirsten Dunst and this was a fun watch.

3) Black Sheep

A politician hiring a man to keep his moron brother out of trouble makes for great TV. This is another movie I loved in my tween years. I watched this back to back with Tommy Boy quite often. I miss Chris Farley and what he brought to the comedic table. 

Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Under (studio) Pressure

Bohemian Rhapsody follows Queen frontman Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) from the beginning. He meets his life long friend Mary (Lucy Boynton) his eventual Queen band mates, Brian May, (Gwilym Lee) Roger Taylor, (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon. (Joseph Mazzello) Then we see the rise and fall of Mercury's tumultuous career.

This movie is the definition of uneven. It's a shame because Queen was a great band that deserved a great movie and what they got was a script that still managed to be messy even though they were playing it as "safe" as possible. Biopics tend to follow a tight formula and few ever take risks. This followed the exact same pattern Walk The Line did to a T, but never balanced out the way they did. What is it with biopics? Why are some so great (The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything) and others so...blah?

I think the makers of Bohemian Rhapsody were more concerned with making Freddie as "big" as possible than actually being factual. Poor Rami Malek is fighting those fake teeth at various points in this film. Mercury's overbite was not THAT bad. Just like he seemed to be a lot more guarded in interviews compared to how he is here. And never mind the fact that they add drama where there wasn't and move his AIDS diagnosis up a few years to make the Live Aid gig more sentimental despite the fact that they didn't need to do that at all. 

It's all the most frustrating because when the actors are playing music, they shine. All their recording sessions and performances on stage are magnificent. The recreation of the Live Aid concert is easily one of my favorite things I've seen this year, but when they're not performing the script doesn't give them anything else to do. The band mates all have great chemistry but we learn nothing about anyone but Mercury. 

The actors are tasked with making this soar, but shoddy editing, a basic script, and poor direction make this film sink.

Recommended: Yes for the music, no for the script

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "We're all legends." - Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek)


Review: The Kindergarten Teacher

That's a poem.

Lisa Spinelli (Maggie Gyllenhaal) teachers kindergarten in New York. She takes a poetry class at night from Simon (Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal) where she doesn't really succeed. One day she notices one of her students Jimmy (Parker Sevak) composes a beautiful poem while pacing her room. She writes it down, and passes his work off as her own at poetry class. She becomes obsessed with him thinking he's a prodigy and that no one in his life is nurturing him enough.

This movie is so uncomfortable. I wanted to wake my child up when I was finished to have yet another "You know you're not supposed to get in other people's cars, right?" I think as a parent in this day and age you have to suspend a bit of disbelief in a sense to think that Lisa gets as far as she does, but this film knows what it's doing and it's here to make you squirm. 

Maggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic in this and easily gives one of the best performances I've seen all year. You can tell how frustrated Lisa is in her life and how this obsession sneaks up on her. The strongest part is when she's fully aware what she's doing is wrong. You can see the wheels spinning while she tries to remain logical. Unfortunately none of the other supporting characters get enough material to even remotely match her performance. This is Maggie's show.

I have a rather large problem with the way this film ends. It was a bold move, but I felt it could've been 5-10 minutes longer with a bit more detail. This felt like a situation where less isn't more.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Don't let her talk to you like you're a puppy." - Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal)

Thursday Movie Picks: Gangsters

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is all about gangsters. I'm not crazy about Gangster films, but some are pretty good. Here's one I absolutely love, and two that are decent.

1) Eastern Promises

If you know me, it should be no surprise I picked this. It's one of my all time favorite movies. I love this story of a nurse caught up with Russian gangsters in London. It's the gold standard for me. 

2) Black Mass

This was a nice reminder that Johnny Depp can do more than Jack Sparrow. I had almost forgotten. The entire cast in this film about Whitey Bulger (minus Dakota Johnson and whatever the fuck accent she was doing) were wonderful.

3) Legend

This film was never talked about as much as it should've been. Tom Hardy was excellent as twin gangsters Ron and Reggie Kray. 

Review: Halloween (2018)

What are we going to do, cancel Halloween?

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has never recovered from the killing spree Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle) went on back in 1978. It's ruined her relationship with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) while her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) makes more of an effort to see her. Michael has been institutionalized since then, and when he's being transferred to a new facility, his bus crashes and he returns to Haddonfield for Laurie. Only this time she's ready.

You can't really blame Michael for wanting to go back to Haddonfield. The police department is dumb as hell and don't even alert the public that he's on the lose. So he's free to kill twice as many people as he did in the first film before he finally finds someone in Laurie's family. 

I love the Halloween movies. I think it's kind of a shame they chose to retcon 4 and 5 because I actually liked Jamie but I can't complain when they made a film this solid. This is easily one of the best of the series. Sure, some disbelief must be suspended but it's creepy, the music is outstanding, and they pay homage to the older films without being in your face about it. 

Jamie Lee Curtis is amazing as always. No one goes through what Laurie does without some trauma and turning her into a reclusive badass was an interesting choice. I'm always a fan of Judy Greer and I'm glad she actually got something to do here. Matichak is also a nice addition. Jibrail Nantambu who plays Julian, a child Allyson's friend is babysitting also needs a shout out because he was hilarious during his short amount of screen time.

If you're a Halloween fan, or a horror fan, this is a must see. It's not as scary as the original was but it's great fun.  

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "No make Dave go first!" - Julian (Jibrail Nantambu)