Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: The Entertainment Business

It's another TV week from Wandering Through the Shelves. This week we're talking about the entertainment business. This one was a bit tough for me. (Seriously, I almost chose Hannah Montana) but I managed to find three shows that I enjoyed.

1) Feud: Bette and Joan

This was such a fantastic mini series. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were already larger than life and Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange were the perfect powerhouses to play them.

2) American Dreams

This show wasn't on very long, but it was about American Bandstand and they frequently had singers like Kelly Clarkson guest star in roles. Most of those performances can be found on Youtube.

3) 30 Rock 

I didn't watch all of 30 Rock, this is one of those shows that I would sit down and watch if it was on, but never followed it all the way through. Even so, every episode I saw was hilarious. 

Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Never tell me the odds.

Because he became the smuggler/war general we all know and love, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) was just another scrapper trying to get off of a nowhere planet with his girl, Qi'ra. (Emila Clarke) He meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and joins him and his team on a mission that changes everything.

Despite Han Solo being one of my favorite Star Wars characters, I can't say I was hoping for an origin story for him. I love Harrison Ford as Han and seeing someone else fill his shoes was never high on my priority list. After watching this film, fun as it is. It's easily the most mediocre of the new batch of Star Wars films.

The thing I loved the most about this movie ended up being Chewbacca. After seeing the previews, Lando stood out to me. I was interested in seeing Donald Glover's take the character but he still came in second to Chewy. I knew I was supposed to feel some type of way about Han stepping foot in the Falcon for the first time, but Ehrenreich wasn't selling me. The minute Chewy got in the copilot seat though? I felt that.  For the most part I really enjoyed the script. Especially the dialogue, everything Han and Lando said felt like something we would've heard the original counterparts say, and I appreciated that. Even if they threw in a pun or two at our expense. ("I hate you/I know")

Where the film didn't work for me was the rest of the characters. Ehrenreich didn't sell me as Han. He came off as someone who was concentrating really hard on doing a Han impression. At times it's like he was trying to scrunch up his face to make it stick, and he left me incredibly underwhelmed. On top of that, he had no chemistry with Clarke and their romance felt so empty. The new characters also didn't resonate with me the way Rogue One's did. The one that did was killed off after about 15 minutes of screen time. The ending of this film teases a sequel and I cannot imagine spending any more time with these newbies again. 

That said, the good outweighs the bad here, but it's still nothing spectacular. Especially following something as rewarding as The Last Jedi. I had fun, but I can't see myself purchasing this like I have the other Star Wars films, or even wanting to watch it again in the near future. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I don't think you know her well enough." - Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson)

Review: Fahrenheit 451

I want to burn.

In the future, books are illegal and burned on sight. Firefighters no longer put out fires, they find books to burn. Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) was content with being a firefighter and looking up to his superior, Captain Beatty. (Michael Shannon) But then he starts remembering things, and an encounter with Clarisse (Sofia Boutella) changes everything he knows.

I never read the book this is based on. I understand there were some big changes, like the technology in the future. For someone that didn't have that preset expectation, I thought it looked really cool and made sense. If they've taken over the internet and wanted to maintain control over everyone 24/7, why wouldn't the buildings look like they do here? 

The Michaels have had a great year. This is the second of two strong performances Michael Shannon gave on TV this year, though I think he was better in the brilliant mini series Waco. Michael B. Jordan, of course brought us one of the best Marvel villains we've ever seen in Killmonger gets to show us his softer side. I thought he was wonderful. Guy seems cocky to us at first but Jordan plays him with a beautiful vulnerability. There's a scene in the film where the camera just lingers on his face that I think is outstanding. 

It did feel like it dragged a bit for me, but I also didn't start watching this until around 10:00pm at night. I could've just been tired, but overall I thought it was a good TV movie. I haven't read other reviews, but I've heard book fans are mad. If you read the book, let me know why.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote "Did Benjamin Franklin really start the first fire department?" - Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan)

Thursday Movie Picks: Friendships

We're getting friendly this week for Thursday Movie Picks. Wanderer wants us to pick movies about friendships. This is another topic with plenty of movies to choose from, so I decided to dive into my Indie Gems for picks.

1) Water Lilies

This lovely little French film follows three girls who meet at the pool over summer break and the semi-love triangle that forms. There's lots of angst but lots of beauty as well.

2) All The Days Before Tomorrow

Wes and Alison are best friends who probably could've been a couple had the timing been right. Before Alison leaves to move to Japan she and Wes take a trip down memory lane. 

3) Driving Lessons

This is a bit of a quirky/dumb comedy but it reunites Rupert Grint and Julie Walters. Ben forms a friendship with Evie when he goes to work for her. 

2018 Blind Spot Series: Sex, Lies, and Videotape

What I knew going in: As weird as this sounds, I thought I had seen this when I was a teenager and just forgotten most of it, but as I watched it in full now, I'm fairly sure I was confusing it with something else. 

Ann (Andie MacDowell) is pretty indifferent to sex at this point in her life. Her husband, John (Peter Gallagher) has started an affair with Ann's sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo) in the meantime. When John's old college friend Graham (James Spader) comes back to town after a long absence, he changes the lives of everyone involved. 

You would think with a title like this there would be a ton of nudity and sex scenes, but there isn't, and that's the beauty of it. This film makes its dialogue about sex. It's discussed, described, implied off screen, but never gratuitously shown. 

Director Steven Soderbergh is an interesting filmmaker. When I view several films from one director, I'm always trying to find their style. What makes them this great auteur. I'm not sure I can nail down his. Everything he does is so different from the film he directors before. 

I loved the cast here. Gallagher is great at playing smarmy fucks, but it's MacDowell and Spader that are the standouts to me. She was perfect as Ann, especially during her therapy sessions. She felt like a real person. Spader (side note: he was pretty hot back in the day. You go, Ultron.) had excellent chemistry with everyone he shared the screen with. That really shows you how great of an actor he is. I missed him when he wasn't in a scene.

I like it when I have a certain expectation for a film, and it gives me something completely different and better than what I was expecting. That's what this did.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "I've got a lot of problems, but they belong to me." - Graham (James Spader)

DVD Review: Downsizing

Get small.

When scientists figure out a way to shrink humans to about 5 inches tall in order to save the planet, Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) think it will be for them. They're struggling with money but what they do have saved will translate into millions once they shrink. When Audrey bails on Paul after his procedure, he finds he can't live like the king he wanted, and is forced to get another meaningless job there. It's only through his easy going Serbian neighbor Dusan (Christoph Waltz) that he meets Ngoc (Hong Chau) and finally starts to see the bright side of things again.

I wasn't so sure about this film when it was in theaters. Matt Damon is kind of on my shit list at the moment, and the trailer showed so much of Kristen Wiig whom I can't stand. Thankfully, she completely disappears after the first 15 minutes and Damon, personal life aside is actually very good in this role. 

They don't spend a lot of time with the science of things, but they give it enough detail that you know this didn't come to be something "because fuck you that's why." It's Chau and Waltz that bring this film to life, especially Chau. Her character isn't someone who chose to be shrunk, it was done to her against her will so that offers a different perspective and she was excellent in this role. 

The film does tend to drag a little towards the end, but it's balanced very well with humor and its more emotional moments. The film was much better than the trailers let on.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable quote: "It was a love fuck!" - Paul (Matt Damon)

Thursday Movie Picks: Twisty Thrillers

Plot twist.........actually not really, but this week at Wandering Through the Shelves we're talking about twisty thrillers. This is such a broad topic and there are so many great films that fall into it. I have a little theme within a theme here. These are thrillers that I saw quite some time after they were actually released. 

1) Frailty 

I was so late in seeing this film. I didn't see it until 2013 and I happened to catch it on IFC one afternoon. I was blown away by it, and my husband couldn't believe I had never seen it before. 

2) Fight Club

My friends and I put this in one night at their house, and the first words out of someone's mouth were "can you believe...*spoils ending*" Followed by several apologies because I was the only one that hadn't seen it. Even knowing the ending ahead of time, I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. 

3) Mulholland Drive

This was on one of my Blind Spot lists and I'm so glad I watched it. Don't ask me what happened in the last 30 minutes, I still don't get it, but I liked everything else. 

Review: Tully

I'm here to help you too.

Surprise! I actually saw something new instead of going to see Infinity War again.

Marlo (Charlize Theron) is about to have her third child. It wasn't planned, she already has her hands full with two other children, one with special needs and her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is utterly useless. Her rich brother, Craig (Mark Duplass) gifts her a night nanny in the form of Tully (Mackenzie Davis) who is there to make Marlo's life easier. 

There's been a lot of think pieces written about this film, which I will address after I give my rating because I can't do so without spoilers. The review itself is spoiler free.

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody make a good team. Bringing back Theron after working with her in Young Adult was a great move on their part as well. Unlike her character in that film, I found Marlo to be believable and I understood her struggle. Marlo needs Tully because she has no support system anywhere.

Theron is excellent and really dedicated herself to this role. Davis is a breath of fresh air herself. Sometimes with Cody's scripts, I find that I can't imagine real people talking the way she writes them, but I didn't have that problem here. There are a few things I don't think this film handles particularly well, and I'll get into that in the spoiler talk, but it's a very honestly portrayal of the harsh realities of postpartum mental illness and those who can't afford to treat it. I'm glad this film brings that conversation to light.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorbale quote: "I'm just here to bridge a gap." - Tully (Mackenzie Davis)

You may have saw me complaining about this briefly on Twitter, but the backlash surrounding this movie by those who haven't even seen it is kind of outrageous and reminds me of similar complaints about a film that came out a few years ago, Obvious Child. See, Tully comes with a twist ending, and that twist involves Margo suffering from postpartum psychosis. The only problem is no one actually calls it that in the film. Drew tells a nurse she once suffered from "some depression" and it's left at that. Do I think that aspect is poorly handled? A little. I think a scene of the nurse actually explaining her condition to Drew would've been helpful, but do I think that ruins the movie and what it was trying to say? No way. It's not even the most poorly handled part of it.

That part is when Marlo and Tully have a conversation about how she and Drew no longer have sex. It's written very carefully to show that both parties are interested and it's Margo's insecurities that lead to her not wanting it at the end of the night, but Tully's response is essentially "You need light that fire" or something of the sort, and I find it extremely uncomfortable when someone has to be talked into sex. The dialogue used was a poor choice. This scene ends with Marlo having Tully dress up and fuck Drew in a way he's fantasized about and I just couldn't help but feel gross about the entire thing. This got way too close to to the suggestion of martial rape for me. I know that's now how Cody was writing it, but it was barely above "Well, you as the woman are responsible for pleasing your husband no matter how you feel" that I was really just put off. That to me was handled worse than not naming her medical condition. It's a personal opinion and I don't expect many to view that scene as I did, but like I said. It just got too close to "wtf territory" for me. 

So there you have it. No, the medical condition wasn't handled perfectly, but maybe that was Diablo Cody's point. She already said this film is for people that don't get help. Maybe not having someone explain exactly what's wrong is part of that too. Marlo already dealt with no diagnosis for her son, maybe she's not meant to get one either.

Thursday Movie Picks: Cannes Favorites

I consider the Cannes film festival somewhat of a frenemy. Many times I've been tricked into watching a film because of a reaction it got at Cannes, and only half the time do I love them. Cannes introduced me to one of my least favorite filmmakers, Lars Von Trier when I watched a film solely because people lost their shit over it at Cannes. But this week, Wanderer wants us to talk about Cannes favorites. So don't worry, no AntiChrist or Melancholia rants from me. 

1) The Piano

This Palme d’Or winner is a beautiful film. It features one of my favorite piano pieces - The Heart Asks Pleasure First, and of course some wonderful performances. 

2) Drive

Drive was so good and so well liked at Cannes that it almost made me blindly accept anything Nicholas Winding Refn made. Coming back down to Earth after seeing Only God Forgives was tough. 

3) Raw

This made my Top 10 list last year. This French cannibal feature doesn't sound like it would be a huge hit for the Cannes crowd, but it was. 

Indie Gems: Patti Cake$

Bow down

Patti (Danielle Macdonald) is an aspiring rapper who is seemingly stuck in her hometown in New Jersey. She's not taken seriously, especially when her mother is a fairly well known local singer herself. She's also ridiculed for things like her weight and social status. At a show, Patti and her best friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) meet a performer/producer named Basterd the AntiChrist (Mamoudou Athie) and the unlikely trio comes together to form a group and chase their dreams. 

I first heard of this film when it was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, but I hadn't seen many reviews of it. So when it was an option for an in flight movie, I wanted to give it a chance. 

I absolutely love the three leads in this. Macdonald, Dhananjay and Athie have fantastic chemistry together and are completely immersed in their roles. Even if the film follows a pretty typical formula these three are so different from what I'm used to seeing that I didn't care. Macdonald impressed me back when I saw her in Every Secret Thing, but she blows it out of the water here. 

For as much as the aspiring musician thing has been done, this film excels when it deals with the relationships between the characters. They're very complex and never feel like caricatures. It makes for an inspiring watch.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You got this. You're a boss bitch." - Patti (Danielle Macdonald)

Thursday Movie Picks: A New Start

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is all about a new start. Everyone dreams of those at least once, right? Here are a few of my favorite films that are trying to make that new start a reality

1) Ingrid Goes West

After a stint in a mental institution Ingrid takes her inheritance money and goes off to California to stalk her newest Instagram obsession and to give herself that perfect social media life she craves. This was one of my favorites from last year. 

2) Silver Linings Playbook

Pat, like Ingrid in my first pick is also fresh out of a stint in a mental institution for beating up his ex-wife's lover. He's on a good set of meds and he's ready to be a changed man. I think this film gets a lot of flack nowadays but I still really love it. 

3) For A Good Time, Call...
Lauren gets dumped by her boyfriend and let go from her job at the same time. Her new start comes in the form of getting a new room mate who moonlights as a phone sex operator. Together, they turn it into a successful business.