Review: Mudbound

How's your paradise? 

What a perfect time for Dell to star his annual Girls Week. While a woman does not take center stage in front of the camera, director Dee Rees is the true powerhouse behind this film. 

We follow two families working on farms in rural Mississippi during WWII. The first family, Henry McAllen (Jason Clarke) his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) their two young daughters and Henry's father (Jonathan Banks) move out and really don't have the best grasp on things. Another family that has their own farm nearby an occasionally helps them are the Jacksons. Hap (Rob Morgan) his wife Florence (Mary J. Blige) and their children. Each family has a member coming home from WWII. Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) is Hap and Florence's oldest son whereas Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is Henry's brother. Despite all the racism of that time, those two are able to form a true friendship while they both battle the effects of the war. 

Director Dee Rees made a film a few years ago called Pariah that I absolutely loved. She's equally as confident behind the camera here. What I love most is how differently she shot the families. The Jacksons are good at what they do and have a loving household. They're shot as such, even when things get bad for them. The McAllens always have twice the mud and grit as the new farmers and genuinely worse people. That's another thing Rees doesn't shy away from. This film is hard to watch.

Watching the McAllens treat the Jacksons like absolute garbage is infuriating. I kept turning to my husband during this and saying "Can you imagine actually treating someone like this?" After watching Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul for so long, seeing him as this racist piece of shit is jarring. I also enjoyed how the film tackled post WWII PTSD. I feel like while we get films about that subject they're usually after later wars. So seeing one take place in this time frame feels fresh. 

The acting in the film was outstanding. The only one who was unremarkable was Jason Clarke, those I suppose he was effective because I kept hoping a building would fall out of the sky and land on his character. The MVP for me was Rob Morgan as Hap. I really hope he lands a Supporting Actor nomination. Everyone is talking about Mary B. Blige, who is also wonderful in her role, but Morgan needs to be in the discussion too. And of course, Mitchell and Hedlund sell their scenes beautifully. I just wish we could've had more of them. 

That brings me to my only issue, I wanted to be with Ronsel and Jamie more. They were the core of the story and not having read the book, I assumed we would see them in the war together too, which wasn't the case. I wanted to spend the majority of the time with them and the Jacksons, but we cut back to the McAllens way too often. Their racism was disgusting and exhausting. It's important to see the ugly, I know. But it's hard when the other parts of the story are just so much better. 

Mudbound is a heavy film, especially for what I normally find on Netflix, but it absolutely deserves to be seen.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "My sons are not getting down from that wagon." - Hap (Rob Morgan)

Indie Gems: Personal Shopper

It's trying to make contact.

Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is a personal shopper to a celebrity named Kyra (Nora von Waldst├Ątten) in Paris. She's also a medium, like her twin brother. After he dies of a heart defect they both share, she vows not to leave Paris until she can make contact with him. All of this is complicated when she starts receiving mysterious text messages. 

Personal Shopper is a hard movie to define. It has elements that are very horror-like, but it's not a scary movie. It's very beautiful to look at with the shots of Paris and the high fashion involved. Director Olivier Assayas really has a lovely way of working with Kristen Stewart, this being his second outing with her after her wonderful performance in The Clouds of Sils Maria.

Stewart is great and this part is perfect for her. Maureen is in a bad place but often puts up a huge front and she conveys that with ease. She's in nearly every second of this film with the supporting characters merely revolving around her in a way, but that's okay. 

The ending certainly gives you something to think about. I find this could almost be a companion piece with A Ghost Story. Both are quiet and interesting looks on the afterlife in general. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You have nothing better to do with your time than dress Kyra all day?" - Ingo (Lars Eidinger)

Thursday Movie Picks: Strong Female Characters

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is something I always crave, a strong female character. I tried to think of a theme here. I wanted to simply pick indie films but there's one character in particular I just can't help but talk about.

1) Gone Girl

Amy Dunne: The cool girl. I love Amy. I love to hate Amy. I thought she was despicable but I can't help but be blown away at all the shit she pulled off. Never call Amy Dunne weak. (No seriously, she might kill you)

2) Middle of Nowhere

I love this little film. Ruby sacrifices a lot in the name of her jailed boyfriend Her career, money, but she keeps her head up. She works hard. This was Emayatzy Corinealdi's first big role, and she owns it. 

3) In A World...

Carol is a vocal coach and voice actor who finds herself competing against her own father for a part in narrating a big movie. It's perfect for this week as so many people tell her she can't do this because she's a woman. But she CAN!

2017 Blind Spot Series: Midnight Cowboy

What I knew going in: That it's the only Best Picture winner with an X rating. And apparently John Wayne bitched about it.

Joe Buck (Jon Voight) is so cowboy even his suitcase is cow print. He naively thinks he can just move from Texas to New York City and automatically make it as a hustler based on his good looks alone. When that falls through, he forms an unlikely friendship with a different kind of hustler, Ratso. (Dustin Hoffman) They become partners in crime. 

Hoffman and Voight are excellent in this. I don't often associate Voight with stellar performances, but this one is worthy of that praise. I really liked the story and the reality checks served, but I wasn't wowed by this. While most of this film is really well done, there's one aspect of it that I found almost egregious; and that would be Joe's flashbacks to a traumatic event with a former love. I don't know if they were going for an exploitation vibe but it was just very poorly done and didn't fit with the rest of the film. It was jarring to switch between the two.

Those flashbacks aren't enough to ruin the film but overall I just felt it was okay. I can see why it was probably a big hit back - oh man, I always try to avoid saying this in my Blind Spots - in the day. It was a good enough watch for a quiet weeknight evening.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I'm falling apart here!" - Ratso (Dustin Hoffman)

Thursday Movie Picks: An Adaptation You Want To See

Wander wants to know what you WANT to see. Not what you have. She asks us what adaptations of comics, video games or novels we'd like to see. Part of me wanted a campy action packed Duke Nukem but I think we have enough of those already.

1) Black Widow


2) Girl Boy Girl

There's a lot of films and documentaries about the J.T Leroy scandal but I'd love to see one based off Savannah Knoop's memoir Girl Boy Girl. She was the one who "played" J.T during public appearances and her voice is often lost when talking about him.

3) When A Fan Hits The Shit

If you've ever been a part of a fandom or message board, you know how juicy that drama can get. Jeanine Renne was a huge Lord of the Rings fan who ended up in a scandal that not only duped a lot of people out of a lot of money, but even pulled one over on a few of the films' stars. It's a batshit crazy read. I'd watch this as a feature or as a documentary.

Review: Thor: Ragnarok

We know each other!

Two years after the events of Sokovia, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been traveling the cosmos trying to understand a reoccurring dream he has been having. After he finds out his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating their father, he doesn't have time to deal with that because the Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett) has been released from her banishment and promises to take over Asgard.

Director Taika Waititi has a very specific style that's quite the contrast to the brooding Thor the MCU has been presenting in the last few films. (And unlike the majority, I actually preferred The Dark World to the first one) But Waititi lets Thor be that goofy fuck we all knew was inside there.

I've been looking forward to this for some time, but I still had my reservations. I was afraid there would be too much comedy, that they wouldn't feel like the same characters and that there would be no stakes, and I'm happy to say that all those things didn't happen. Yes, there's a lot of laughs in this movie, and the tone does change rather drastically whenever we check back on Hela in Asgard, but I thought it worked. 

Everyone is having a blast in their roles, veterans like Hemsworth, Hiddleston, and Mark Ruffalo and newbies like Blanchett, Tessa Thompson and Jeff Goldblum. Hiddleston surprised me the most. I've always loved how he played Loki, but he's turned into such a completely insufferable person since The Dark World came out that I was afraid that would bleed into his performance. It didn't.

It's not a perfect film. While Hela is now easily one of my favorite Marvel villains, she and Karl Urban didn't get as much to do as I thought. And while I like Loki, trying to make him into a good guy is always a bit suspect to me, even though it ultimately worked overall. The most offensive thing the movie did was only allow Hemsworth to be shirtless for about two minutes. 

Ragnarok is everything I hoped it would be. It's fun and full of surprises. It also sets up next year's Avengers: Infinity War so the hype lives on.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "Sutur, Son of...a bitch, I thought you were dead." - Thor (Chris Hemsworth)

Thursday Movie Picks: A Stranger

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about strangers.  I've mentioned how Netflix makes lists of suggestions for me with names like "Dysfunctional family dramas" or "dark independent films." Two of these films would probably be on those lists. The last one though is a lovely LIGHT independent film, Netflix!

1) An Education

Jenny's life is forever changed when she meets a man twice her age and becomes his girlfriend. This is a fantastic movie with great performances by Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard. 

2) Lawn Dogs

This is a film that I first saw on Lifetime (ha!) I was about the same age as the girl in it at the time. I found it strangely fascinating and if anything, it helped me identify shady behavior a little more easily. This is a story of a 10 year old girl (Misha Barton) who strikes up a friendship with a 20 something lawn boy (Sam Rockwell) in her jaded gated community. Don't worry, he's not the creep in this film. 

3) 5 to 7

I originally had a more disturbing pick for this one but I changed it last minute as I really don't think I could ever watch that again. 5 to 7 is a film of Anton Yelchin's that I missed when he was still alive, and didn't see until after he tragically passed. I wish I had seen it sooner because now it's one of my favorite performances. Brian and Arielle meet by chance one day, and strike up an affair with the rules being they can only meet between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm .