Review: The Witches

I smell children. 


The hero of our story (Jahzir Bruno) is a young boy who after losing his parents in a car crash goes to live with his grandmother. (Octavia Spencer) Is with her that he finds out witches exist. In an attempt to run from them, they end up at a swanky hotel where the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) is hosting a convention of sorts where all witches are conspiring to turn children into mice.

Admittedly, I'm not familiar with Ronald Dahl's original story, and I didn't see the 90's version of this either. In fact, I never bothered watching the trailer either, so I went into this as blind as possible when my nine year old brought up watching it for family movie night.

So how did age nine fair with this? Well, parts scared him a little. He's too young to be distracted by bad CGI, but overall he liked it. For me, I can't imagine ever wanting to watch this again. Campy Anne Hathaway is wonderful and she's clearly having a good time. Octavia Spencer is wonderful at playing warm and loving, but I just didn't connect with the film after the mice part of the story took over. But that's okay, I know this isn't *for me*

SPOILER WARNING because I just have to bring this up - the ending is kind of morbid, right? When we find out the kids have to remain as mice. I had remarked "what's going to happen to them after the grandma dies?" To which my son replied "Well, mice can't live that long can they?" Then movie actually addresses this and the Hero kid, I shit you not, is perfectly fine with living for 9 more years and dying around the same time as his grandma. Like.....what?

Recommended: Sure, if you have HBO Max. It's already free.

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: " witch gets the same pleasure from squishing a child as you get from eating a bowl of ice cream covered in butterscotch syrup, with whipped cream, chopped nuts and a cherry on top." - Older Hero (Chris Rock)

Thursday Movie Picks: Holiday Horror

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is Holiday Horror! The only rule I gave myself was to have a different holiday for each pick. Here's what I came up with.

1) Gremlins

This is a must for me around Christmas time. I watch this every year, it's just so fun and cute and it's the perfect holiday film. It's A Wonderful Life? We don't know her..

2) Halloween 

Yes, I went the basic route and took the horror film named after the holiday, but I love Halloween. It holds up so well after all these years and the score is timeless. 

3) Valentine


Of all those slasher films that came out in the lat 90's/early 2000's, this one is probably the worst. I haven't seen it since it was in theaters, but hey, it fits. 

Review: The Trial of the Chicago 7

 The whole world is watching.


During the 1968 Democratic Convention, protests over the Vietnam War were made by several different groups and this film focuses on seven of the men (well, technically eight, but we'll get to that) charged with inciting riots. There's Tom Hayden and Rennie Sharp (Eddie Redmayne and Alex Sharpe) of the Students for a Democratic Society. Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin ( Sasha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong) of the Youth International party and David Dellinger, (John Carroll Lynch) John Froines (Danny Flaherty) and Lee Weiner. (Noah Robbins) The 8th man, is Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) a member of the Black Panther party who is being unfairly lumped in with the rest of the group, despite not having a lawyer present. Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) is unfair to say the least so the defense lead by William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) has a lot to go up against. The prosecutor on the other side is Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

And I have to stop there because half of this review would just be listing everyone in this sprawling and extraordinary cast. I love courtroom dramas, and one directed and written by Aaron Sorkin has been on my must see list all year. I'm glad Netflix picked this up so I could see it right away. While I did have some issues with it, it's one of the better films I've gotten to see in a while. 

"Sorkinisms" can be a hard pill to swallow for some, but I've always enjoyed his fast paced dialogue and editing and there's plenty of that here. I especially loved hearing it from Lynch, Strong, and Cohen, though the latter struggles with his accent at times. It's hard to pick a standout actor, but if I had to I think I'd go with Yahya, who has had an excellent year. But that leads me to one of my gripes

I know this movie is about the Chicago 7, which Bobby Seale was technically not part of, and that it's impossible to tell their story without him, but I was disappointed at how his part was sort of just dropped until the end credits. For something that is such a huge part of the first half of the film, I expected to at least check in with him sometime in the second half, and they don't. Logically I can see why that is, but Yayah was so compelling and what happened to Seale was so outrageous it felt like it needed more attention. On a another note, there's a very unnecessary attempted rape scene by three frat boys on a woman carrying a flag at a protest that's broken up by Jeremy Strong's character that I just found very triggering to me personally and that threw me out for a bit. It's brief but I wasn't expecting it. I wish I had known it was coming so I could've skipped over it. It's about an hour into the film. 

Aside from those two issues, I really enjoyed the flow of the film. I loved how the characters were introduced at the beginning and how the story is told through not only the courtroom, but through things like Abbie narrating the story to a crowd. And I'm just happy to see my favorite actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in movies again. It's been so long, and we got three this year. His character isn't nearly as showy as the others, and from my understanding he's pretty whitewashed as they make him somewhat sympathetic, but I was just happy to see him. I feel like I've been clowning on Eddie Redmayne in recent years, but he was damn good in this too. 

This election year has been very stressful, and Sorkins' film might as well be happening right now. What's the difference between 1968 and now? That we can get police brutality on camera? Everything else feels the same. This film functions both as a great movie, and a depressing reminder of where we're still at.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "This is the Academy Awards of protests and as far as I'm concerned it's an honor just to be nominated." - Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins)

Review: Inheritance

 Not the will you're looking for.


When her powerful father passes away, Lauren Monroe (Lily Collins)  a recently appointed distract attorney gets the short end of his will. Her younger brother William (Chance Crawford) is currently running for office and inherits 20 million dollars. Lauren inherits one million, and a sealed envelope with a set of keys and a flash drive apology from her father stating this burden is now hers. On her own, Lily follows his instructions and goes to an underground bunker on her family's property and finds out there's a man, Warren(Simon Pegg) who has been chained up there for the past 30 years. Thanks, dad.  

There is something about this movie that I simply cannot wrap my head around. It's not the only film to do this, plenty of others do it too and I never understand it but here most of all.....Lauren choses to tell her spouse NOTHING about what is going on. They're not written to have problems, they're seemingly in a loving relationship and have a child, yet when Lauren gets handed keys to a bunker and an ominous message from her father, she blows her husband off instead of being like "hey, this is weird, come with me." This is completely unrealistic to me. There is no way I wouldn't be telling my spouse about this. There's no way I'd be inspecting an underground bunker without him either, we would've immediately been in this together. I would understand if he was an ex or they had problems, but they don't. And she dodges him and her kid for the rest of the movie. It's so frustrating. What's the point of being married?

Rant aside, this movie is very engaging and Collins and Pegg are both good, however the script lets us down overall. In flashbacks, we learn Lauren chose to practice civil law to help those who need it instead of representing her father's friends, which causes a huge rift between them. Lauren is pointed out as being kind hearted multiple times in this film, yet she is wildly hostile to Warren immediately and never shows that she's anything other than calculating until the script makes her do something beyond stupid for the sake of plot. 

Ultimately, the 3rd act kind of throws the rest of the film out the window. Pegg, who is great for the first 2/3 of this movie goes kind of off the rails which did make me laugh a bit, but I doubt that was the filmmaker's intention. There's also the stupid thing I mentioned earlier that they make Lauren do, which I also can't get over because it makes no logical sense. 

I know in my heart this movie is bad, but I didn't have a bad time watching it. Dumb things aside, I was never bored and it was fun to guess what was going to happen next.

Recommended: Yes if you can find it for free, no if you have to pay for it.

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "A lawyer, a banker, a politician. An unholy trinity." - Warren (Simon Pegg)


Thursday Movie Picks: Winter Horror

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is winter horror. Maybe you're one of those lucky ones like me who occasionally has to deal with snow in October. I hate it, but I don't hate scary movies in the snow. Here are a few horror films that take place during the winter. 

1) Jack Frost


This one is honestly so dumb and I've only seen it once, but it immediately came to mind when I saw the theme. I had to use it. 

2) 30 Days of Night


This film's Alaskan setting fits perfectly with the theme this week. I liked this movie a lot, and also enjoyed the graphic novel it was based on.

3) Frozen


This one is actually quite terrible. After a serious of unfortunate events that require a lot of disbelief to be suspended, three friends get stranded on a ski lift over the weekend in the frigid cold. Wolves show up. On paper, it is very tense but the film overall is poorly executed. 

Review: The Glorias

 The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.


The titular Glorias refers to feminist icon and writer Gloria Steinem. We see her at four different stages of her life, played by four different actress. (Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Lulu Wilson, Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore) From childhood, to the powerhouse we know now.

After having seen a glimpse of her (played by Rose Byrne) on Hulu's wonderful Mrs. America, it's only fitting that we get a Gloria biopic in the same year. Being Directed by Julie Taymor is another plus, but unfortunately the messiness of how this story is told brings it down a few notches.

Taymor tells this story similiar to how she did Across The Universe, which I really enjoyed. But psychedelic and scattered works for The Beatles' music, it doesn't so much work here. She makes a few really interesting choices, like having all versions of the Glorias talk to each other on a bus in between scenes. I thought that was a nice touch, but other parts go full out music video and it feels very jumbled. Especially with that 2 and a half hour run time. 

I really liked the actresses playing Gloria, though Vikander struggles with the accent frequently, she and Moore get the most to do. This film jumps around a lot in time, and while it's very easy to follow I found it often cut from really interesting scenes then took us backwards in time, killing momentum. Because of that, no one gets to truly shine. It's as if we're often cut short. None of the other characters around Gloria get enough attention either. 

I always appreciate when a biopic thinks out of the box, but like another unconventional one released this year - Shirley - it just didn't resonate with me as much as I wanted it to.

Recommended: Yes, if you have Prime.

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote

Review: The Lie

 What would you do to protect your child?


We're introduced to fifteen year old Kayla (Joey King) while her mother Rebecca (Mireille Enos) sends her off with ex-husband Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) for a weekend dance retreat. We can deduce they've been separated for a while but remain civil. Rebecca is a busy lawyer and Jay is the lead singer in a band, so they have very different lifestyles. On their way, they spot Kayla's friend Britney (Devery Jacobs) at a bus stop and give her a lift. The girls dial the passive aggressiveness with each other up to eleven, and when Jay pulls over so they can have a rest break, a sudden scream sends him running into the forest after the girls, only to learn that Kayla pushed Britney off a bridge into a river, and they can't find her body. Instead of calling the police, Jay chooses to cover for his daughter and brings her back to Rebecca. While they figure out what to do with their child murderer, Britney's dad Sam (Cas Anvar) shows up looking for her, and adds plenty of stress to the situation.

I started getting ads for this on Amazon Prime and I assumed it was a new release. It wasn't until after I watched it and went to write my review, that I realize this actually played at TIFF in 2018 and has been on the shelf since. I can see why. 

I went into this film knowing I was going to have to suspend a fair amount of disbelief. I know that I personally would call the police but I was willing to accept these parents wouldn't. I was not prepared for the fact that on top of not doing the right thing, these two fools have apparently not nor read any true crime case ever. The amount of mistakes they make is staggeringly stupid. There's a subplot with law enforcement getting onto them and of course one of the cops is the type of guy that immediately questions Sam on his ethnicity (because oh no he's brown) when it is not all relevant and then eggs Jay on later about underage Britney being "hot." It's such a gross choice in a film that's already struggling.

Aside from King and Sargaard, who really do their best with what they're given, the acting is horrendous. Enos gets better as time goes on but she's very wooden at the start, as is everyone else. No one feels like an actual human being aside from Kayla and Jay. This brings me to the ending. I'm curious if the German film this is based on went the same way. There's a 3rd act twist, and it's one I considered earlier on while watching but the way it played out managed to make everything that came before it even worse. 

This was a waste of time, and in a pandemic when I have nowhere to go, that's saying something.

Recommended: No

Grade: D

Memorable Quote: "Bet they thought they were going to get away with this, huh?" - Sam (Cas Anvar)