Thursday Movie Picks: TV Edition - The Workplace

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about those people that are up all night, trying to get that rich working hard. I'm really excited about this theme because three of my favorite shows qualify for it. Here are three TV shows I love about work places.

1) The Newsroom

I hate that Aaron Sorkin let his ego go out of control and this only went three seasons. (The rumor is he walked away because it was not getting the same ratings/recognition his previous shows got on HBO) It's an excellent fast paced show about life in the newsroom at a major TV station. The characters were right, the dialogue smart, I loved all of it. 

2) Rescue Me

Denis Leary and his crew made me fall in love with these fire fighters we followed in post 9/11 New York City. Sure, this show had its issues. Most of the female characters were awful and they were under huge scrutiny for the way they handled serious topics at times, but overall, I really liked this series. It was the first time I ever cried watching a TV show.

3) Breaking Bad

The gold standard of TV in my opinion. Walt and Jesse's various meth labs were their work place. I can't recommend this show enough. It's absolutely incredible. Every single moment of it. 

Review: Lady Bird

The Midwest of California

Christine aka Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) wants to leave her home town of Sacramento to go to college on the East Coast, but her practical mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) doesn't think it's reasonable. They clash frequently as Lady Bird comes into her own. 

Saoirse Ronan is one of my favorite working actresses right now, but despite that I wasn't initially sold on Lady Bird. Director/Writer Greta Gerwig has a type and I was worried I'd just see Ronan trying to play, well....Greta Gerwig. Luckily that's not the case at all and what I ended up with has been my favorite movie of the year so far. 

Lady Bird is all of us at one point or another during our teens. She's moody, insecure, confident, angry, awkward, in love, a dreamer, a downer, and has two very different relationships with her parents. Her passive father (Tracy Letts) encourages her as best he can but its the relationship with her mother that takes center stage. I felt like I was almost watching my own relationship with my mother as a teenager at times. Particularly the part where Lady Bird asks why her mother doesn't like her, and she gets the response "of course I love you" instead. Like and love are not mutually exclusive. And Lady Bird's mother doesn't like her. Maybe because they're too much alike. Maybe Marion wants her daughter to be exactly like her. There could be a lot of reasons.

I love the cast, everyone plays their parts perfectly but this is Ronan's show. Her American accent is perfection and she makes Lady Bird feel like a real person. Likewise with Metcalf and Marion. Gerwig may often play herself but her writing when someone else takes the lead is exceptional, as is her direction. I wasn't expecting this film to resonate with me like it did, and I absolutely bawled at the end of it. It was perfect.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A+

Memorable Quote: "Some of us just aren't made happy." - Julie (Beanie Feldstein)

Review: Justice League

All in.

In the wake of Superman's (Henry Cavill) death, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) has to form a team of gifted individuals alongside Diana (Gal Gadot) when a creature from another planet, Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) returns to Earth looking for "mother boxes" and plans to destroy everything. They call in The Flash,(Ezra Miller) Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) for help, but of course it's not simple.

It's a shame this film is currently getting Tomb Raider'd at the box office, but maybe this is what Warner Bros needs to push the DCEU in the right direction. Yes, Justice League is a far better film than its official predecessor; Batman v Superman.  But knowing all this box office drama in advance did change the way I looked at this film. I'll get to that in a second.

I went in expecting to have a bit of fun, and I did. When Justice League is good, it's very good. Its strength of course is our core heroes. I loved their chemistry together. Affleck and Gadot proved again they play their characters well, even if you could tell Affleck didn't want to be there. But I never want to see a male director handle Wonder Woman again. Just look at the way the camera lingers on her in this compared to when Patty Jenkins shot her. Here we get almost an up the skirt shot and a character landing on her boobs. Thanks, dudes. Superman was also leagues better here than he was in his other two outings, even with the terrible dialogue they gave him and Lois together. Let's talk about our newbies. As some of you probably saw on Twitter, I'm nowhere near being on the "Jason Momoa is hot" train. He still isn't, but I actually ended up liking him in this role quite a bit. It turns out, drunk Aquabro is a good way for this character to go. Ezra Miller stole every scene he was in, and he didn't disappoint. I was the most excited to see him as I'm a big fan of his work. I was pleasantly surprised with the way they handled Cyborg. I expected them to mostly ignore him and this film actually worked really well as an origin story for him, which can't be said about Flash and Aquaman

And that brings me to looking at this film differently. Full disclosure, I do not buy that reviewers are bias towards Marvel movies. I don't think there's any type of conspiracy out there and I realize some fans come up with a new one every week, but I can't help but look at this film and feel cheated. Flash and Aquaman needed their own films first. I felt like there were more questions than answers there. And now seeing the box office results, I'm not sure if we'll even get a Flash solo movie. There's no way in hell we get a Cyborg one. Aquaman is already in the can and I can only hope that they improve on the atrocious Atlantis CGI and give Amber Heard some better direction.  I know it's a tired thing to bitch about DCEU not taking their time to build their universe, but it's a valid complaint. 

Ultimately, I ended up feeling the same way I felt about Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I loved parts of the film but it's too messy overall to soar. Steppenwolf is a lame villain. And to be honest, that's usually fine with me. Not every comic book movie has a good villain, but if the story around them is strong, it's easy to accept. The coolest thing about Steppenwolf is a flashback sequence that involves a Green Lantern. Otherwise he's just a pile of CGI that you would never know is played by Hinds. The film also falls into Transformers CGI Hell. It's just a bunch of gloomy shit that is moving too quickly. CGI is easier to accept when you can tell what's happening on screen. The entire third act looked awful and was rushed. Then to top that all of, they didn't even give us a money shot of the entire League fighting together. 

WB, for the love of God just let Matt Reeves do what he wants with The Batman. Let Patty Jenkins do what she wants with Wonder Woman 2. Regroup and get your shit together. Your characters work. You don't need to re-cast anybody, you just need to find a good story and keep Zack Snyder away from it.

Recommeded: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I hope this way is East." - The Flash (Ezra Miller)

Indie Gems: Wadjda

Praise she.

I can't think of a better indie gem to wrap up my posts for Dell's Girls Week  

In Saudi Arabi, a young girl named Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) wants to buy a bicycle so she can race her neighbor boy, Abdullah. (Abdullrahman Al Gohani) But she's continuously told that girls cannot have bikes. After she's caught in various schemes at school to earn money, she enters a Quran reading competition in order to raise her remaining funds.

Sometimes you just need to watch a PG movie where you know how the end is going to go, and Wadjda is that. It's predictable, but that's okay. You're immediately drawn to her and you want her to have that bike. I wanted to reach through the screen and buy it for her. It's hard watching a child being told they cannot have something that seems to trivial to you if you grew up in a different culture. 

The film handles the religious aspect of this well. It could easily only show you the ugly side that doesn't let a girl have a bicycle, but I found the scenes where they were reading the Quran very moving and lovely. It doesn't erase the annoyance of her being denied something for being female. But it at least provides some balance. I hope Waad Mohammed has a bright future in acting if that's what she chooses. She carries this film and absolutely deserves it. Same with director Haifaa Al-Mansour (who according to IMDb had to give some of her direction via walkie talkie due to the strict gender laws in Saudi) I can't wait to see what she makes next. 

Grade: A

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "I want you to be the happiest you can be." - Mother (Reem Abdullah)

Thursday Movie Picks: Origin Movies

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves wants us to go back to the beginning. I wanted to alter this post to go along with Girls Week but I kind of screwed myself over by already using Wonder Woman, Alien, and Star Wars. Aside from the Hunger Games I couldn't think of any other female led origin movies I really loved. So in rebellion, I'm going to vent in a completely mature and appropriate talking some shit on my blog. So here are three origin movies that completely failed. 

1) Halloween (2007)

You know who should never be allowed to write a screenplay? Rob Zombie. As a horror director, I have no problem with him. He has a eye for gore, but did we really need Michael Myer's trailer trash origin story? No. We didn't. The only good thing to come out of this was Scout Taylor Compton. She's great.

2) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

This one is so bad it's offensive. I have to admit I was somewhat curious about Leatherface's origins but this film quickly made me realize I'm better off without them. I should've walked out of this movie. The only thing it wanted to do is "shock." The gore needs to shock, the rape needs to shock, and fuck logic. Did you know babies can crawl out of their mothers during childbirth? Baby Leatherface practically did that. 

3) Green Lantern

None of you knew me back then, but I was thirsty for this movie. The Green Lantern is legitimately a cool super hero and this was absolute D level trash. It's also proof that Ryan Reynolds clearly has the best agent in Hollywood. This guy's career should've been destroyed by this point and somehow he got lucky and was given Deadpool. It's unbelievable. 

Review: The Florida Project

What daycare?

It's summer in Florida, and six year old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) runs around the shady motel that she and her mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite) currently reside. Halley loves her, but she doesn't have a steady job nor does she put much of an effort in looking after her. Moonee spends her days playing with her friends, destroying things and occasionally bothering the hotel manager Bobby (Willem DaFoe)

It's almost impossible to watch this movie and not get judgy if you're a parent. My child is also six, and the thought of letting him run around the way Moonee and her friends do with zero supervision is baffling to me. Watching Halley not putting in a huge effort to have a steady job is hard to watch too. That aside, seeing everything through Moonee's eyes is a perspective we don't get very often in film. When you first see her, she looks like a precious child. Then she goes off to spit on someone's car window and call the owner a "ratchet bitch." She's definitely a product of her environment and that's what makes her so interesting to watch.

Brooklyn Prince is magnificent is Moonee. Watching her is like watching a home video. She's so natural in this role that there's no sense at all that she's acting. Sometimes with child actors you can tell when they're just saying lines they were reminded of a few minutes prior and that's never the case with her. She has a scene towards the end of this movie that absolutely broke me. Bria Vinaite is also great as her foul mouthed mother. She dials the "trash" factor up to eleven. (a side note, those are the actress' real tattoos and they are gorgeous) And finally there's Willem DaFoe, the manager who's mostly 100% done with everything. You can tell even through his hard exterior that he cares, especially about Moonee and the other kids that are just left to wander. 

The Florida Project does suffer from some pacing issues. About half way through the film I started to wonder if there was going to be a point or climax to all of this. A lot of it is small scenes of Moonee just doing her day to day, but it does eventually have one. 

I'm glad I watched this film during Dell's Girl Week. Hopefully we see a lot of little Brooklyn Prince in the future.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "We gotta come back here again." - Moonee (Brooklynn Prince)

2018 Independent Spirit Nominations

The Spirit Award nominations were released today! A lot of these movies haven't been released near me yet but I have been fortunate enough to see a few. Here's a list of the nominations, followed by my thoughts. 

Best Feature
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Florida Project”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“The Rider”
I've only see Get Out and The Florida Project, and both are worthy noms. The Rider is the only film I'm unfamiliar with. I was hoping to see Ingrid Goes West here. I figured that, Three Billboards, or I,Tonya would be here.

Best Director
Jonas Carpignano, “A Ciambra” 
Luca Gudagnino, “Call Me By Your Name”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Benny and Josh Safdie, “Good Time"
Chloé Zhao, “The Rider”
No Greta Gerwig is surprising with how popular Lady Bird is. I was hoping to see Dee Rees for Mudbound (assuming it qualified?)

Best First Feature:
“Ingrid Goes West”
“Oh Lucy”
“Patti Cake$”
There's Ingrid Goes West!

Best Female Lead
Salma Hayek, “Beatriz at Dinner”
Francis McDormand, “Three Billboards”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saiorse Ronin, “Lady Bird”
Shinobu Terajima, “Oh Lucy”
Regina Williams, “Life And Nothing More”
Nearly every review I've read for Beatriz at Dinner has been lukewarm at best so I'm kind of surprised to see it here. It's too bad Aubrey Plaza couldn't make it in for Ingrid. Or Brooklynn Prince for her fantastic performance in The Florida Project. I haven't seen any of the these, but aside from Beatriz I'll try to seek out all of them.

Best Male Lead
Timothee Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”
Harris Dicksinon, “Beach Rats”
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”
I'm so happy for Kaluuya and it's nice to see Franco in there for one of my most anticipated films. 

Best Supporting Female:
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I Tonya”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Louis Smith, “Marjorie Prime”
Taliah Lennice Webster, “Good Time”
Hunter was great in The Big Sick, that's the only one of these I've seen. I'l definitely check out the others. 

Best Supporting Male
Nnamdi Asomugha, “Crown Heights” 
Armie Hammer, “Call Me By Your Name”
Barry Keoghan, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards”
Bennie Safdie, “Good Time”
My theater just got The Killing of a Sacred Deer so I'll have that to check out soon. 

Best Screenplay
“Lady Bird”
“The Lovers”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
“Get Out”
“Beatriz at Dinner”

Best First Screenplay
“Donald Cried”
“The Big Sick”
“Woman Who Kill”
“Ingrid Goes West”

Best Cinematography
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
“Beach Rats”
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Rider

Best Editing
“Good Time”
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Rider”
“Get Out”
“I, Tonya”

John Cassavetes Award
“A Ghost Story”
“Life and Nothing”
“Most Beautiful Island”

Robert Altman Award

Best Documentary
“The Departure”
“Faces Places”
“Last Men in Aleppo”

Best International Film
“A Fantastic Woman”
“Lady Macbeth”
“I Am Not a Witch”
Lady Macbeth is in my Netflix queue, so I should see this soon. 

Annual Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award
Amman Abassi, “Dayveon”
Justin Chon, “Gook”

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 Waldstätten) 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 .