Thursday Movie Picks: School

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about that time of life that I can't think about without The fact that school is going to look so differently this year for my child is another source of frustration. Thankfully there's a few movies that take place during that time that don't give me that feeling. Here they are.

1) Mean Girls

This is the ultimate teen movie for me. It came out when I was a junior in high school and I can still quote the entire film to this day. 

2) The Perks of Being A Wall Flower

I thought this was a really good adaptation of the book for the most part. Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller were perfectly cast and it did a great job of capturing that awkwardness and how dependent one can be on their friends. 

3) The Half Of It

This is a newer find for me but I did not expect to enjoy this Netflix film as much as I did. It's a sweet story of friendship and first love and even though it gets corny as hell at times, it works. 

Review: An American Pickle

 Time to brine.

Hershel Greenbaum (Seth Rogan) immigrates to America with his wife, Sarah (Sarah Snook) and begins to work in a pickle factory to fuel his American dream. One day he's accidentally knocked into a pickling vat, and the factory is condemned so he's left to brine for 100 years until two kids accidentally free him. He then meets his only living relative, great-grandson, Ben (also played by Rogan) and becomes a media sensation.

I absolutely love how they explain the science of how he was able to stay alive. It's hysterical. Sometimes the easiest way is the best way. When I sat down to watch this on Saturday night (pro tip: it's best to have pickles handy in your house because you will want to eat one at some point during this movie) I had pretty much forgotten the trailer I had seen months ago. Because of that, the conflict in the movie was a bit of a welcomed surprise for me.

Seth Rogan is great in this. It's easily the best performance he's ever given. Both Hershel and Ben are very different and Rogan never loses sight of that. He's never just playing "Ben with an accent" when he's playing Hershel, and vice versa. They're both fleshed out characters in their own right.

I will say structure wise, this movie does play out a bit like a shorter Judd Apatow film, meaning it has about 15 minutes or so towards the end after the main conflict has reached its crescendo where is absolutely drags while the main character ponders what he did wrong. But that aside, I laughed enough to make this worth my time.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I will create a pickle empire and prove you stupid." - Hershel (Seth Rogan)

2020 Blind Spot Series: Meet Me In St. Louis/Summer Stock

What I knew going in: The famous songs.

IMDB sums up Meet Me In St. Louis up best. "In the year leading up to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, the four Smith daughters learn lessons of life and love, even as they prepare for a reluctant move to New York." The majority of the film follows Esther Smith (Judy Garland) as she tries to get her new neighbor Jon Pruitt (Tom Drake) to notice her. Esther also has an older love sick sister Rose (Lucille Bremer) and two mischievous little sisters, Agnes and Tootie (Joan Carroll and Margaret O'Brien) 

I realized, embarrassingly that I'm not very well versed in the late, great Judy Garland's filmography. I knew plenty about the drama surrounding her life, but I had only seen two of her films. This year I decided to right that wrong and I figured Meet Me In St. Louis was a good place to start.

This movie was delightful and just what I needed after a long, depressing week of another needless killing of a black man by a police officer in America. (You're reading this in August, but I'm typing this review on May 31st. Hopefully people have started to listen to the protesters more by now) It lifted my spirits for a short while, and for that I'm very thankful.

Judy is wonderful and her voice is just something else. The films is so bright and colorful and she radiates joy throughout. The Smith family was fun to watch and it was nice to get all the context behind the musical numbers I was familiar with. I wish Joan Carroll would've gotten more to do though. She opens the movie singing the title song briefly, then she's really just background noise to Margaret O'Brien, who had the juicer role of the two younger sisters. 

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "Oh I don't hate you, I just hate basketball." - Esther (Judy Garland)

Now onto Summer Stock, in this film Judy plays Jane, a down on her luck farmer whose sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) shows up one day with about 20 actors in tow and has promised them the barn for the show. Jane beings to butt heads, then fall for the show's director and star, Joe. (Gene Kelly)

I love me some Gene Kelly but everyone in this movie aside from Jane, Joe, and Esme (Marjorie Main) is too dumb for words. That made it a little hard to watch at times, but the dance numbers were so much fun that I would forget it about briefly. I read a lot about the backstage drama surrounding this film. How Judy was at the height of her drug addiction, and performance wise you never would've guessed. She's good here too and Kelly is an absolute delight.

As you probably can tell, I liked Meet Me In St. Louis far more, but don't sleep on Summer Stock. It's enjoyable enough, plot contrivances aside.

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "We're trying to tell a story with music and song and dance." - Joe (Gene Kelly)

Thursday Movie Picks - Seven Deadly Sins: Pride

We've hit our final Deadly Sin edition from Wandering Through The Shelves! These were very challenging and fun. At this point, we all have to be proud of what we came up with on the previous weeks? So let's talk about pride. Here are three films I enjoy that have characters that need to overcome it.

1) American History X

Edward Norton's Derek is a racist. He's pride comes with being white and when he's sent to prison for murder he's forced to confront that pride head on and re-think his entire garbage existence. This film is hard to watch, but it's very well done. 

2) The Last King of Scotland

It takes a bit of pride in what you do to take the leap Nicholas does in this film. To practice medicine in a foreign country, hit on his boss' wife, then eventually become close do Idi Amin and have an affair with his wife too. I love this movie. Much like American History X, it's brutal at times, but it works so well.

3) Beauty and the Beast

Nooooooo onnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeeee
Prides like Gaston
Glorified like Gaston
Has an ego so far and wide like Gaston
As a specimen yes he's infuriating...

God I love that song. Perfect for Disney's ultimate dude bro. 

Review: My Days of Mercy

Oh, you're on the other side..

When we first meet Lucy, (Ellen Page) she and her siblings Martha (Amy Seimetz) and Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell) are on their way to protest a prisoner being put to death. They've found themselves to be anti death penalty advocates after their own father is also put on death row. On the other side of the fence is Mercy, (Kate Mara) a junior lawyer who was happy to see a prisoner put to death for his crimes. They spot each other from across the way and form a secret romance.

I've been a huge fan of Ellen Page for years and I remember her talking about this movie quite a bit, but I could never find it. Now with a feel trial of Starz, I'm finally able to watch....and it's another case of Page carrying an average film.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of My Days of Mercy is "shallow." This has quite a bit going on for it, but doesn't dig deep enough to become a better film. Lucy doesn't believe in the death penalty but at the same time, deep down, she questions her father. This isn't explored very much. Lucy and Mercy's first interaction is corny as hell, and even though their relationship becomes much more believable, it still felt like such an artificial way to get the ball rolling. The leads do make up for it chemistry wise.

Ellen Page is incredible here. The weight on Lucy is immense and you can tell everything that happened to her has stalled her life. She's unable to move on as she should be. Kate Mara may not get as many showy moments, but she's good as well. I really expected her character's motivations to go a certain way, and I also thought I could guess the exact way this film would end, and it at least surprised me there. That's what makes this on the slightly higher side of average. 

Over all, this isn't a great movie, but it's a perfectly fine way to spend an hour and a half. If you're a fan of Page or Mara, you definitely should see this for their performances alone.

Recommedned: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable quote: "That's a fucking ironic name..." - Lucy (Ellen Page)

Review: Guns Akimbo

Shoot 'em up.

Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) is a hapless programmer by day, and online troll by night. Mostly, he argues with people in the chat rooms of a popular online fight to the death style show, Skizm. After pissing off Skizm's overlord Riktor (Ned Dennehy) they break into his apartment, bolt two guns to his hands, and place him in a match against Nix (Samara Weaving) with millions of people watching.

I've always been curious to see the movie behind the popular crazy Daniel Radcliffe meme above, and it was certainly as crazy as I expected, but unfortunately it wasn't as much fun as I had hoped.

At first, this movie won points for realism. Miles quips that Rambo would be studying sign language because of how loud the guns are when they go off and it physically hurts him to shoot because they're bolted to his hands, but then, like many other things, that's thrown out the window for plot. Take Nix for example, shown to be a master shooter. She's introduced to us in a drag race, which she wins. Then her character is further explained during a coked up montage where she kills a dozen men by herself. But of course when Miles shows up, she misses him every time she shoots at him. But don't worry, when the plot needs her to be a good shot again, she is. And Miles is too and his hands miraculously don't hurt anymore either.

It's just so inconsistent. I really liked the idea of the story and Daniel Radcliffe is very good but it's like the writers stopped putting thought into it after Miles enters the game. And I could make an excuse for the ridiculous plot armor if the film was humorous enough but it just wasn't. And I know I'm about to loose a bunch of internet points here, but Samara Weaving, who I normally love was awful in this. Her character has hands down the worst dialogue out of anyone and she unfortunately cannot sell it. Nix actually gets a tragic back storybut the only scenes where Weaving can make her work is the montage sequences. Everything else falls apart when she tries to say her atrocious lines.

I applaud Radcliffe for banking his Harry Potter money and making films like this, I just wish the script backed the actors up more here because this should've been really fun.

Recommended: No

Grade: D

Memorable Quote: "You'll just end up blowing your damn face off. Then you'll still be depressed, even more depressed probably because of your fucked up face.." - Glenjamin (Rhys Darby)

What I Watched on TV In July

Still social distancing. Still consuming a lot of television.

I May Destroy You
- I'm in awe of this show and Michaela Cole, and I wish it had premiered in time for the Emmys this year so it could get even more praised heaped on it. The way they deal with the fall out of sexual assault is so real. But the show isn't all sadness, it's also very funny and the leads have excellent chemistry. Also, have we ever had a show that talked so openly about period sex like this one does? 

I'll Be Gone in The Dark - I wanted to hear more about the late Michelle McNamara and her obsession with finding the Golden State Killer but this just got a bit too triggering for me to keep up with. The survivors recount their assaults in such disturbing detail that I had to stop watching. I might circle back to it eventually, but I needed a break.

Pose - They finally put season 2 on Netflix. I love this show and the actors were even more top notch this season. There was a lot of heartbreak, but they handled it all gracefully so it didn't feel like nonstop misery porn. I can't wait for season 3.

The Sopranos - After 84 years, I'm finally starting the Sopranos. So far so good, I'm only on season 2 but it got off to a better start than the last old HBO show binged. 

The Alienist - This is off to a good start! I'm torn between liking the fact that they're airing episodes two at a time, because it's more Alienist in one night, and not liking it because it's going to be over quicker. I like that Sara is taking center stage this season.

Trial By Media- After watching the excellent Disclosure, I looked up Yance Ford to see what he had been up to lately and I saw he directed an episode of this Netflix series. I skipped the 5th episode, but watched the others. It's a semi interesting look on how media affects and reacts to crimes. The first episode, about a man who murdered his friend who embarrassed him on the Jenny Jones show was probably the most interesting because I remembered it happening. 

Unsolved Mysteries - It took longer than I expected, but I finally dove into the Unsolved Mysteries reboot and I have ~thoughts~ that I'll break down ep by ep.

Mystery on the Rooftop - This has to be a murder, right? I don't think I buy the suicide story. His friend/business partner likely had something to do with it.

13 Minutes - That husband was shady AF. He probably did it.

House of Terror - I bet this guy is still alive and it going to be found one day. It was such an awful crime.

No Ride Home - This episode has nowhere near as much information as it deserved. There are so many unanswered questions and of all the cases, this one contains the shittiest police work. I feel terrible for his family, and fuck his friends for leaving him at that party. 

Berkshires UFO - I believe these people, but I just found this episode the least engaging of all of them. It was hard to pay attention

Missing Witness - This is another infuriating one because there's very clearly a murderer walking free and raising/brainwashing the son of one of her murder victims. I hope they find a way to put this woman away one day, and not because she murders someone yet again. 

Don't F*** With Cats - This is going to sound stupid, but I avoided this for the longest time because I thought it was going to be the equivalent of an internet profile that says "I like animals better than people!" and would hyper focus on cute kittens and not the big picture. It's a stupid assumption, but one I had, and I was very wrong. This three part docuseries on Netflix about a bunch of internet sleuths who initially tried to find the identity of a guy who posted a video of himself online killing kittens, until it escalated up to him killing an actual human. It's pretty bonkers and also contains the most infuriating portrayal of a parent making excuses for her child's behavior that I've ever seen. I can't say I've ever heard of "rule zero" of the internet being "don't fuck with cats" but I'm glad I watched this.