Mini Rambling Reviews

I'm back! With my vacation and work being busy, I haven't gotten to do as much on the blog this month as I wanted. I fell behind on my Indie Gems for the first time in years, and I didn't fell asleep during my Blind Spot viewing. (which is what I get for trying to watch it at 2:00am, I suppose) Either way, thanks to airplane TVs here's a few things I watched in the past week. Hopefully it's back to business as usual around here. 

Kubo and the Two Strings

I saw this one in theaters with my husband and son. The animation was gorgeous, easily the best of the year. The story, however just didn't match other animated greats like Zootopia or Finding Dory. Plus, my son was irrationally bothered by the fact that Kubo's instrument had three strings on it for most of the film. "Why isn't it called Kubo and the THREE strings?" Symbolism, son.
Grade: B

Hello, My Name is Doris

When I first saw the trailer through this, I figured it would be ageist and piss me off. Then I read a few positive reviews on it and decided to give it a chance. Nope, terrible movie not worthy of the performance Sally Field gave. Doris is stuck in life surrounded by mostly shitty people. Of course she fucks everything up and has to come clean about it. I found myself asking "why?" so many times during this. 
Grade: D

Batman v Superman

There's a lot of complaints about BvS out there, but for me the biggest issue ended up being the acting. (Okay, and MARTHA!) It pains me I can't defend Jesse Eisenberg here. I love the guy, but what was he doing? Maybe they should've cast him as the Riddler or Joker because he was more in line with them than Lex Luthor. Not until the very end, at least. Henry Cavill still hasn't learned how to emote and why is Amy Adams stuck playing a damsel? Ben Affleck was the highlight, at least for his Bruce Wayne. He's no Christian Bale but he's good. I didn't expect to like him so much.
Grade: C-

The Night Of

This is an eight episode mini series that I've been watching on HBO. It had its finale on Sunday. Overall, I really enjoyed it. It was very tense, the pilot in particular was an amazing hour of TV. However most of the characters ended up doing incredibly stupid things. Like, forced plot stupid. One of the lawyer's actions just flat out didn't make sense. It doesn't ruin the show, I'd still recommend it, but that was hard to get around. The ending of the series was so sad because you know things like that happen often.
Grade: Overall B

Thursday Movie Picks: Scandinavian Language Films

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is another foreign language edition! This week we get quite a bit of variety to choose from, any of the Scandinavian countries. This was actually quite hard to narrow down, there's so many great ones. I chose one film from three different countries these week, with a mental note to see more Finnish and Icelandic films.  Please note this post is queued, I'm still on vacation and will check everyone else's out when I get back!

1) Troubled Water

From Norway - this story follows a man who was convicted of killing a child when he was a teenager, and after he's released from prison he has trouble starting a life without people finding out what he did.

2) The Hunt

From Denmark - The Hunt is about a teacher whose entire life is ruined due to a lie by a young student. I actually wanted to burn this fictional town to the ground by the end of it. 

3) Let The Right One In

From Sweden - One of my favorite foreign language movies of all time is about a lonely boy that befriends a girl that happens to be a vampire. Yes, I realize I've used this film at least once in the past two years I've done Thursday Movie Picks. But I just really love it. I suppose I could've picked Persona too. 

Against The Crowd Blogathon 2016

I'm a little early with this post, but I'll be going on vacation this week and likely will not have internet access for most of it. So before I wake up at a ridiculous hour to head to the airport, he's my contribution to one of my favorite blogging events. 

Wendell over at Dell on Movies is back with his yearly Against The Crowd blogathon. This year he's teaming up with KG over at KG Movie rants as well. He asks us to choose one movie we love that the majority does not, and one we dislike, that the majority loves. Here are the official rules.

1. Pick one movie that "everyone" loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have a score of at least 75% on Tell us why you hate it.

2. Pick one movie that "everyone" hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of less than 35% on Tell us why you love it.

3. Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

4. Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own.

5. Comment on this post, or on KG's Movie Rants with the two movies you intend on writing on.

6. Publish your post on any day from Monday August 22 through Friday August 26, 2016.

Here are my entries from 2014 and 2015

Inside Out

Now, I should start off by saying I don't hate this movie. It had some good parts, but I definitely don't like it. I talked about my experience seeing this in theaters. My then three year old kept telling me how sad it was and proceeded to crawl into my lap and stay there during the entire film. I was so worried he was going to cry. Fast forward a year, it's on DVD and he asks to watch it again. I watch with him, hoping that maybe it'll change my mind....nope.

This movie's plot, while straightforward is actually quite poorly executed and the middle of the film is just a jumbled mess. In fact, I think it borderlines on pretentious a bit. It's a children's film with an important lesson, yet it's almost like it forgets it's supposed to be appealing to said children. It's something Zootopia mastered gracefully. But Inside Out seems to be speaking to the parents, and if that's the case, why are you wasting the originality of your story on forced actions? Why is Bing Bong supposed to be such a big deal when he's easily one of the most annoying parts of the entire movie? Aside from the gum commercial theme song, and Riley asking for help at the end, nothing else in this movie is memorable.

 The Chumscrubber

I was staring at my DVD rack looking for the film I love that everyone dislikes. When I typed this title into Rotten Tomatoes, I was shocked that it had a rotten rating to begin with. I suppose "bored teens in suburbia" has quite a few films to its name, but this one is so unique and has such a wonderful cast. When a teenage drug dealer commits suicide, his friend Dean is the only one who knows where his stash is and refuses to tell anyone. So a few of his fellow classmates/neighbors kidnap his brother for ransom, only they grab the wrong kid.

Maybe critics don't like the fake cartoon they threw in? Or the ridiculous name? Or the fact that all these families are super weird? I loved that. It's one of my favorite films centered on teenagers and it has an amazing cast. Jamie Bell, Justin Chatwin, Lou Taylor Pucci, Camilla Belle, Ray Fiennes, Glenn Close, Jason Isaacs, Allison Janney, Carrie-Anne Moss. What's not to like about that? 2005 was a good year for independent films.

Thursday Movie Picks: Crimes Gone Wrong

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is movies about crimes gone wrong. I realized there's a lot of classic movies with this theme that I haven't seen yet. Here's three of my favorite crime fucks up:

1) Reservoir Dogs

What didn't go wrong in this movie? Botched robbery, botched shooting, botched secrets. But that ear, though....that came off with precision. 

2) Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

Two brothers that also botch a robbery of their parent's own jewelry store. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is so good in this.

3) No Country for Old Men

The makings of my favorite Coen Brothers movie - The drug deal goes wrong, the man stealing the money from said drug deal doesn't make the wisest decision, and way too many people get shot.

Review: Suicide Squad

This isn't what I signed up for. 

I'll admit it. I saw Suicide Squad for Harley Quinn. The promotions started to sell me, but I tried to stay focused.  So when all the shitty reviews started rolling in, I told myself I'd be okay, because I was only here for Harley. That worked out in my favor because this film is a damn mess.

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) wants to put together an elite team of super villains to guard the U.S in wake of Superman's "death." She plants bombs into their necks and demands they do her biding, and she'll reduce their sentences. There's Dead Shot (Will Smith, playing himself) the leader who desperately wants to get out to see his daughter. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) the crazy ex psychiatrist, who I'll talk about a bit later. El Diablo, (Jay Hernandez) a fire starter, and a bunch of other people the film doesn't care to let us get to know. They are all lead by soldier named Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) Their assignment is to stop a witch named Enchantress (Cara Delevinge) who happens to be possessing the body of Flag's girlfriend.

DC's biggest downfall is the fact that they don't take their time. They want to compete with Marvel, but aren't willing to build. Time is a huge problem in Suicide Squad. We get brief glimpses of our villains (they're bad guys, they tell us this often) in a few musical montages, which works in theory, but didn't leave me satisfied at all. Especially when it came to the best part of the movie: Harley Quinn. Harley is an amazing character and it's a joy to see her on the big screen. Margot Robbie is absolute perfection, but her story is so rushed that it doesn't feel anything like the Harley/Joker dynamic we're used to.

The Joker (Jared Leto) basically has a glorified cameo in this film. Fresh out of a vat of Hot Topic, Mister J wants nothing more than to free his precious Harley, which is extremely bizarre considering their relationship has always been pretty one sided on Harley's part. Here, she's the big dog. She's the more intimidating one, and I found it odd that he was going at such great lengths to break her out. Not that it's completely out of character, but like Sati said in her review. It's like WB wanted to turn him into a romantic hero and it just doesn't work.

But back to time, had DC taken it, I feel like these characters would've worked better had we seen them before. Batman should've already had his own movie and taken on Harley and the Joker. Aquaman could've tangled with Killer Croc. The Flash could've thrown Boomerang in jail in his own movie, and maybe one up'd dead shot too. Wonder Woman could've taken on...whatever the fuck Diablo turns into in the 3rd act. It would've made this film so much more meaningful and fleshed out had we see the heroes put these villains away in their own respective movies, only for them to break out with this one.

The biggest let down by far is Enchantress. When Cara was cast, I immediately rolled my eyes, because she isn't a strong actress. But then they showed those TV spots of her showing off her power in a crowded room full of suits, and I was sold. But wow, it was awful. First, if you have an actress that isn't very strong, the last thing you should do is give her this fake, deep evil voice. It made her look cartoony. The sexy dancing didn't help, Marvel's Scarlet Witch has the gold medal in super power dance movies. Enchantress face planted on the uneven bars. In fact, the 3rd act of the film is so messy I can't believe that was the product of reshoots. David Ayer apparently graduated valedictorian at the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Academy for Fight Scenes That are Filmed So Quickly You Can't Tell WTF is Going On™.  The editing is terrible, then it's like they tried to cover that up by having everything take place in this weird fog. It managed to be an even bigger trainwreck then the fact that these characters all somehow ended up BFFs, putting each other before the ones they've been trying to reach.

Let's talk about the acting: Margot Robbie is an absolute A+ I love everything about her Harley and I hope she's given the movie she deserves one day. I can't say the same about Jared Leto. I never liked how the Joker looked, but the film never gave me the opportunity to change my mind. He's barely in it and he always feels like he's acting. He doesn't disappear in this role, he seems to be playing up the camp. Will Smith is a fun guy, so he's always reliable. As is Viola Davis, who's completely fierce.  Jai Courtney, normally the black hole of charisma is actually pretty good here. Kinnaman and Delevinge are flat out terrible, and I cringed every time one of them opened their mouths.

I'm sorry this got so long, but I can't help but be a bit frustrated. Even if I told myself I was going for one thing, the fact is this movie could've been SO much better. It's never boring, it had interesting components, but they failed to put them together coherently. It's hard not to rant about it.

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "...pussy." - Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie)

Indie Gems: Midnight Special

He's more important

Roy (Michael Shannon) has left a cult with his son, Alden (Jaeden Lieberher) who they worshiped. Alden has special powers, ones that tell him that he needs to be at a certain place on a certain date for an unknown reason. He's aided by his childhood friend Lucas (Joel Egerton) and his assumed ex wife, Sarah. (Kirsten Dunst) But he has not only the FBI hot on their trail, but an NSA agent, Sevier (Adam Driver) who wants to know why Alden is able to figure out top secret government codes.

My road to this film has been long. It premiered at Sundance two years ago to rave reviews, I book marked it, waited for it's release date that year...then it got pushed back....then it was pushed back again. Finally, it got a limited theatrical release. My own art house theatre got it...for 6 days only. It felt like everything was preventing me to see this movie. But when I watched it, it immediately made all of that waiting work it.

Midnight Special is another spectacular work from director Jeff Nichols. It may even be my favorite of his. This is his first studio film (Warner Brothers Independent) so they gave him a bit of a budget to work with. The less you know about this film, the better it works. My husband hadn't even seen a preview of it prior, I just sold him on "Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon" and he was pleasantly surprised throughout. 

The acting in the film is wonderful, people like Shannon, Dunst, Edgerton and Driver always turn out fine performances. Though I wish Driver had been in it a bit more. Lieberher was also very good and I hope he gets more roles from this.

Midnight Special did leave me with a few questions, but they're the intriguing kind. The kind that feel okay when you wonder about a film after you've watched it. 

Grade: A

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "I believe you." - Lucas (Joel Egerton)

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies About Writing a Novel.

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is movies about writing or writers of novels. The catch is you cannot use movies based on real authors. That was tough because my mind immediately went to End of the Tour, but it doesn't qualify here. Here's what I could come up with.

1) The Shining

I thought of Misery first, but I already used it in another week. The Shining may be less about the writing process itself, but Jack writing in a cursed hotel makes for some interesting developments to say the least.

2) Ruby Sparks

This little indie starring real life couple Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan is about an author who writes his dream girl for a story, and she suddenly comes to life.

3) Stranger Than Fiction

Harold stars hearing someone narrate his life. He eventually realizes the voice belongs to an author named Karen who is famous for killing her main character at the end of every book. 

Short Film Review: The Last Day of Freedom

Doing the right thing.

This Oscar nominated documentary short is about the case of Manny Babbitt, a Vietnam vet who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia upon returning from his tour a duty. What he was not diagnosed with was post traumatic stress disorder, had he been, things may have been different. Manny, in a confused state beat a woman named Leah Schendel to death. His brother Bill, our interviewee (in animated form) found something in Manny's belongings tying him to the murder that was in the papers. Bill tells us how he turned Manny in and had the impression the trial was going to go a certain way due to his mental illness, but was proven wrong.

This is a quick watch on Netflix Instant, but the profound sadness this film generates in its 30 minute run time extends beyond that. Mental illness has such a stigma in the United States. People who have it don't get help, people who don't have it try to use it to their advantages. This case is just sad all around. Sad that Leah Schendel, a 76 year old woman died scared and alone. Sad that Manny wasn't given the medication he needed that would've likely helped him so he wouldn't have had to turn to a life of drugs and stealing.

In the title cards at the end of the film, it tells how Manny's lawyer was drunk during the trial, and how he barely tried to fight the death penalty charge. The one that even the police officers at the station didn't think they would give him. This film makes you think, even though they can't get all the information about the trial into the run time. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "He said you're already forgiven." - Bill Babbitt 

Indie Gems: Tallulah

A collection of bad decisions

Tallulah (Ellen Page) lives in her van. She's a bit of a dreamer, she has to steal to survive as she has no job. After her boyfriend, Nico (Evan Jonigkeit) leaves her, she wanders around a New York City hotel stealing food from room service plates outside doors when she runs into Carolyn. (Tammy Blanchard) She mistakes her for staff and drags her inside her hotel room where she pays her to watch her one year old daughter Maddy so she can go out and party. She's very insecure, she asks Lu several times if she looks fat and/or pretty. When she returns home and passes out drunk later, Lu makes a hasty decision to take Maddy with her while dropping in on Nico's mother, Margo. (Allison Janney)

I've been wanting to watch this film since it was at Sundance, so I was very pleased that Netflix picked up the distribution rights. It can be a hard sell, Tallulah, Carolyn, and to an extent, Margo are all very unlikable characters. Especially Lu and Carolyn. It's almost downright cringeworthy watching them navigate the beginning of the film, but you strangely end up rooting for both of them to do the right thing later. Margo, I liked throughout even though she was very closed off. 

The acting is amazing. Ellen Page and Alison Janney always are. Blanchard surprised me as I'm not as familiar with her. She was outstanding as this completely hot mess. If Beasts of No Nation taught us anything, it's that the Oscars ignore Netflix movies, and that's a shame because the acting in this film is so good, they could easily be contenders.

Grade: A

Watched on: Netflix Instant

Memorable Quote: "You should've grabbed his cock." - Tallulah (Ellen Page)

Thursday Movie Picks: Gambling

I'm in for another tough one. This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is movies about Gambling. I find gambling movies to be mediocre at best. Here's 3 gambling movies that aren't too shabby....I guess..okay fine, I'm phoning it in this week. (As opposed to last week where I only phoned in Flyboys)

1) Rain Man

This is probably going to be on a lot of lists. It's likely responsible for every card counting joke out there. Out of my three picks, this is the only one I can actually say I liked. 

2) 21

The last half of this movie is kind of terrible, but the first half isn't so bad. 

3) Ocean's Eleven

I don't care for the Ocean's movies, but the cast is very charismatic. I suppose this is more of a heist movie, but I'm stretching it this week, obviously.

DVD Review: Hail, Caesar!

Studio lot life.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a Hollywood fixer who we follow around a studio lot as he tries to handle problems on various sets. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is a huge star who has been kidnapped. Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is a new star being shuffled around pictures. Plus many more things Mannix has to give his attention to.

I'm not the biggest Coen Brothers fan. They've made some great films, and some not so great ones. My favorite of theirs is actually the least Coensy of them, No Country for Old Men. Hail, Caear! is very much a Coen film, and unfortunately it's a very boring one. 

It's not a good thing when you want to dose off the minute the leading man is on the screen. Brolin's character nearly put me to sleep. As we jump around between sets and see sometimes too long sequences of the films they're shooting, we get glimpses of greatness. Like Ehrenreich's character, who is the true star of the show. Or Scarlett Jonhansson as a very perturbed star who isn't fond of her costume. These bits work for fleeting seconds, but then we're back to the main story of Baird's kidnapping and Mannix's fixing and it just isn't interesting.

The sets are beautiful, and the idea of studio lot life is really interesting, but unfortunately the film fails to capitalize on that, and we're instead left with a bunch of nonsense.

Recommended: No

Grade: D+

Memorable Quote: "Bring me my ass back." - DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson)