Thursday Movie Picks: TV Edition - Adapted From Non English TV Series

Wanderer is making it difficult for me this week. We're talking about shows that are adapted from Non-English series. I watch exactly one TV show (Attack on Titan) that didn't originate in the English language. Only one other thing came to mind right away, and the rest I had to dig for.

1) American Ninja Warrior

Ninja Warrior, or as it is known in Japan as Sasuke came to mind because I used to watch the Japanese version all the time on G4 (remember that channel?) It was great, The American remake has cool courses but makes us sit through every single competitor's back story which really brings the watchability down. 

2) Iron Chef America

Based off a Japanese cooking show, I watched one season of this, and it was only because I recognized a bunch of the competitors from Chopped. I liked it, but I'm still confused on what purpose Mark Dacascos serves? It's just awkward. 

3) Fear Factor

Apparently this was based off a Dutch show called Now or Neverland. I found this show incredibly boring for the most part so I was never a regular viewer.

Review: Boy Erased

Why do I have to be angry?

Jared (Lucas Hedges) thinks about men, but keeps it a secret. He's the son of very conservative parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) and on top of that his father is a pastor. When he's forcibly outed by a man who rapes him in college, he's shipped off to a two week course in gay conversion therapy run by Victor Sykes. (Joel Edgerton)

Joel Edgerton, who also directed the film and wrote the screenplay said he ultimately wanted this film to be about fear. How fear is what motivates some families to go route when their children come out. How that fear is felt in therapy itself. He drives that home by having the one and only scene featuring men in a sexual situation being a disturbing rape scene. Because of this, the overall feeling of the film is very cold.

That is a different approach with this subject matter but the film itself ends up being just fine. I think had he dug a little deeper, it could've been truly extraordinary. Jared is a pretty introverted guy and when he goes to this camp, he's not mad at this parents. He loves his parents and doesn't pretend to hate them even when Sykes is screaming at him to. That struggle is interesting because it's one that so many deal with. How can you love someone when they fundamentally hate a big part of who you are? But aside from his relationship with his mother, the one with his father never goes further than that.

The film takes a small bit of time to introduce us to some of the other people forced into this situation. Joe (Xavier Dolan) legitimately wants this to work and won't even touch anyone while he's there. Sarah (Jesse LaTourette) begs for forgiveness only to be put in the program longer. Gary (Troye Sivan) is telling everyone what they want to hear just so he can leave, and Cameron (Britton Sear) unfortunately gets made the biggest example of. What's frustrating is that I wanted to know more about all of these kids and how their stories ended, but there was no room for it.

The biggest sell is the performances, which are wonderfully measured. Hedges continues to prove he's one of the strongest young actors out there. Nicole Kidman is very nurturing as a mother who truly just wants to do right by her son and ultimately ends up doing a lot of soul searching herself. Russell Crowe plays this evangelical pastor so well it's almost scary. I've met so many men like him in my lifetime and it's just spot on. 

A lot of reviews I've read have been comparing this to Sundance hit The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I haven't seen it yet, but I will as soon as it comes out. At the end of the day, like I said this movie is fine. It's very well acted and made but I just wanted more from it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "He can fall in line with me for a change" - Nancy (Nicole Kidman)

2018 Blind Spot Series: Akira


What I knew going in: That many people consider this either their favorite anime or what got them into anime in the first place. 

Kaneda is a leader of a biker gang into Neo-Tokyo. After witnessing a strange event, one of his friends and fellow gang members, Tetsuo gets kidnapped and put into a secret government test program that leaves him with telekinesis and a raging temper. Kaneda happens upon a group of activists who help him try to save his friend. 

This ended up being one of my alternates. My original Blind Spot pick was Suddenly, Last Summer, then suddenly, someone decided to hoard the Netflix DVD and my local library didn't have a copy for back up. I've been watching a lot of Attack on Titan lately, so I figured Akira would make for a decent watch. 

About that...

To start off, I realize I'm quite sensitive when it comes to sexual assault in movies. I'm not going to lie, if I'm not prepared for it happening and it makes zero sense in the story's context it can easily ruin an entire experience for me. (Hello, The Killing Joke) Which brings us to this film, which is very violent, but of course it's only a woman getting forcibly stripped and punched in the face here. That scene, which happens early on was so sexist that it put me in a mood  and it never got better. Especially when that same character ends up dying for the male she got punched over. 

There are some things I think Akira does well. The premise itself is very intriguing but I didn't feel it did a good job of explaining it. It's over two hours long and it's really running on its last leg by the time it gets there. The characters get little to no development which makes the fact that none of them are likable or remotely interesting even worse.

I wonder if I had walked away from my TV momentarily and missed that early scene if I would've viewed the rest of it with less annoyance? I guess I'll never know.

Recommended: No

Grade: D

Memorable Quote: "This has got to be a trap." - Kaneda

Underrated Gems For Girl Week


You know I love my indies, and so my last contribution to Dell's wonderful Girl Week is going through my catalog of reviews and sharing some of my favorite female led favorites. Click the titles if you wish to read the old reviews



Afternoon Delight
Kathryn Hahn and Juno Temple give wonderful performances as a bored housewife who attempts to "save" a woman who doesn't need it. 

Wadjda
I only reviewed this last year but I can't help but love this little lady. I think this is one of the best movies out there that incorporates religion into its plot, if not the best. 

52 Tuesdays
This follows a young girl who deals with her mother's transition.Director Sophie Hyde actually shot this movie on each Tuesday for an entire year with no professional actors and it's remarkable how it turned out.

I Used To Be Darker
This title sums me up, I tend to gravitate towards stuff like this. Taryn is a teenager who runs away to live with her aunt and uncle only to arrive at the worst possible time. 

Child's Pose
Luminita Gheorghiu gave an Oscar worthy performance as a mother who's feeling the sting of her son leaving the nest...and then some. 

Water Lilies
I feel like I talk about this French coming of age film all the time but SEE IT

Violet and Daisy
What better way to celebrate Girl Week then a female led assassin comedy? This one is for you. 

Hello I Must Be Going
Another one I've mentioned frequently, but Melanie Lynskey gives a career best performance here. 

Wicked Little Things
I can't make a list without adding a little horror. I fully admit that this isn't great, but it's creepy and focuses on a mom and her two daughters dealing with ghosts. 

Factory Girl
Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick is not talked about enough. She absolutely shines in this movie.

Notes on a Scandal
This is one of my favorite movies from the year it came out. You can't go wrong with Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett

Dreamland
This film was the first indie gem I shared on my blog. I could relate so easily to lonely Audrey and her relationship with her friend Calista

Thank you for hosting Girl Week, Dell!

Thursday Movie Picks: Non-Linear Timelines

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is non-linear timelines. There's probably a joke somewhere in here to make. I could've started with the end of my sentence first, but instead let's talk about some of my favorite films that use this gimmick.

1) Sin City

This film is easily one of my favorite comic adaptations and his pretty high on my all time favorites list as well. The three 1/2 stories they tell are intertwined, but they're not told in the correct order. When we catch a glimpse of another character in a story we've already seen, but hasn't played out yet in current time, it feels like a nice easter egg. 

2) Paranoid Park

Gus Van Sant's quiet skater drama lets us know from the very beginning that Alex has seen or done something pretty horrible and it doesn't show us until later on. It's mostly linear except for the beginning, but no one ever mentions this movie anymore, so I felt like I should use it here. 

3) The Driftless Area

I will freely admit, this film's use of a non-linear timeline does get a little confusing. Like, to the point where you're questioning whether or not you're watching past or present, but it really is a lovely film with nice performances from Anton Yelchin and Zooey Deschanel

I hope everyone who celebrates has a lovely Thanksgiving today. Shout out to Sirius Radio for the free preview this weekend. Nothing makes a five hour night drive across the frozen tundra go by faster than arguing with your spouse over what station to listen to.

Review: Wildlife

In Montana....who knew?

Fourteen year old Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is put in a tight spot when his father, Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job, then goes out to fight wildfires in rural  Montana against the wishes of his mother, Jeannette. (Carey Mulligan)

I have been waiting for this film since it premiered at Sundance. It's directed by one of my favorite actors, Paul Dano, and it's his first time behind the camera. And I'm always down for Mulligan and Gyllenhaal. To say I had high expectations for this would be and understatement. 

And I'm happy to say all those expectations were fulfilled. This isn't the most exciting film out there, and because of that I know it won't be for everyone, but I can't find a thing wrong with it for what it is. 

Oxenbould is definitely one to watch. I wish the Oscars didn't hate men under the age of 20 in the Lead Actor so much because if there's any justice, he'd be there. Unlike a lot of films told from a teen boy's perspective, he never has that moment where he completely loses it and lashes out. Instead he quietly wears the weight of his mother's decisions all over his face. It affects everything he does. 

Dano shoots this 1960's setting wonderfully. He doesn't attempt to copy someone else's style, or go for those over saturated "art house" shots that are oh so tempting. He just lets his camera be, and he catches his actor's expressions in a way that's very intimate. 

And this brings me to Carey Mulligan, who is the undisputed star of this film, and I wanted to discuss her character as part of Dell's awesome Girl Week. Mulligan gives the best performance I've seen all year from any actress. But her character is not "traditionally likable". She was called out during a Q&A earlier this year where a (male) critic said he had a hard time with her character because of how she behaves. Mulligan of course had a beautifully eloquent remark about people not being used to seeing this messy side, and I can't agree with her more.

What Jeannette does in this film is very irresponsible, but I never hated her for it. I judged the hell out of her parenting for sure, as a mother of a young boy myself, how could I not? But I loved how unapologetic the film was about. Jeannette got dealt a shitty hand. By her own admission, she has no friends, she isn't doing the job she loves, and now her husband went off to possibly die for $1.00 an hour. She's essentially going through a mid life crisis a few decades early. She dresses how she did when she was young, she slacks off on her homemaking duties. Maybe she never loved doing that to begin with, but I found her depression very believable. Like her son, she holds a lot of it in. There's no huge breakdown moment. She's almost professional in her anger and that's something I feel like we don't see often enough.

As it stands now, Carey Mulligan should be winning that Best Actress Oscar.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A+

Memorable Quote: "He fought in two wars and never learned to swim...imagine that." - Jeannette (Carey Mulligan)

Review: Widows

Dell has perfect timing with his annual Girl Week blogathon. I saw two wonderful female led films last week and saved them for this, so let's jump into the first one...Widows!



When Veronica's (Viola Davis) husband Harry (Liam Neeson) is murdered during a robbery, she finds herself on the receiving end of his debts when she's paid a visit by Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) demanding the 2 million dollars Harry stole from him. She rounds up the other widows from the job gone bad, Alice, (Elizabeth Debicki) Linda, (Michelle Rodriguez) and another woman, Belle (Cynthia Erivo) to do their husbands' final job.

Does Steve McQueen make bad movies? I don't think he does. Widows is amazing. He and his co-writer Gillian Flynn are a great match. The story is rich, but quite vast. It definitely feels like it could be a novel. We not only spend time with our four main ladies but with several other side characters too. In a way, it's nice to properly build the "world" and develop each character, but the ladies are the stars here and sometimes it's hard to part with them, even for a few minutes of screen time.

Speaking of the characters, the entire cast right down to Olivia the Dog is amazing, but the two stand outs are easily Davis and Debicki. Their characters are the most complex and they both played them brilliantly. Debicki gave another strong performance earlier this year in The Tale, so it was nice to see her shine here (and play much less of a creeper) Davis, as always is extraordinary. 

I should point out, the editing at the very beginning is so jarring that it almost comes off as a jump scare. It's not bad, but kind of amusing in retrospect. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "You need to watch the way you speak to me." - Belle (Cynthia Erivo)

2019 Independent Spirit Award Nominations

Awards season is in full swing and as always we start with lovely independent cinema. I've actually seen a fair amount of these ahead of time! The rest I hope to catch. My watch list is building. Here are a few quick thoughts on the nominees. 

Best Feature
EIGHTH GRADE
FIRST REFORMED
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
LEAVE NO TRACE
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
The only one I haven't seen is If Beale Street Could Talk, which I'm looking forward to quite a bit. The rest are all solid films, Leave No Trace being my favorite. 


Best Director
Debra Granik, LEAVE NO TRACE
Barry Jenkins, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Tamara Jenkins, PRIVATE LIFE
Lynne Ramsay, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Paul Schrader, FIRST REFORMED
Look at all those ladies! I added Private Life to my Netflix queue the other day, so I'll probably give it a watch this weekend. 

Best First Feature
HEREDITARY
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
THE TALE
WE THE ANIMALS
WILDLIFE
Wildlife has been on my must see list since it premiered at Sundance so I'm happy to see it get some love here. I'm hoping to catch this on Sunday or Monday. We the Animals is a new one to me, I added it to my Netflix DVD queue after reading the synopsis. The other three films I really enjoyed. 


Best Male Lead
John Cho, SEARCHING
Daveed Diggs, BLINDSPOTTING
Ethan Hawke, FIRST REFORMED
Christian Malheiros, SÓCRATES
Joaquin Phoenix, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
I love that John Cho got nominated. Searching was fantastic. Phoenix and Hawke both gave Oscar worthy performances in their respective films. Blindspotting I have in my Netflix queue as well, but it doesn't look like Socrates is available in the U.S yet. 


Best Female Lead
Glenn Close, THE WIFE
Toni Collette, HEREDITARY
Elsie Fisher, EIGHTH GRADE
Regina Hall, SUPPORT THE GIRLS
Helena Howard, MADELINE’S MADELINE
Carey Mulligan, WILDLIFE
I'm so glad Carey got a nomination because IFC is not allowed to drop the fucking ball when it comes to promoting Wildlife. I won't have it. Collette and Fisher I'm super happy about too. I dropped Madline's Madeline in my DVD queue the other day. Support The Girls I have never heard of, it seems like it could be a sweet little comedy. 

Best Supporting Female Actor
Kayli Carter, PRIVATE LIFE
Tyne Daly, A BREAD FACTORY
Regina King, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, LEAVE NO TRACE
J. Smith-Cameron, NANCY
Thomasin being here is everything because she was fantastic in this movie, even though I think she was more of a lead. But I won't argue if it's getting her some attention. I can't wait to see King in Beale Street. Nancy intrigues me. I immediately dropped that in my DVD queue. Andrea Riseborough is always an instant sell. (mental note to re-watch her Black Mirror episode)

Best Supporting Male Actor
Raúl Castillo, WE THE ANIMALS
Adam Driver, BLACKKKLANSMAN
Richard E. Grant, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Josh Hamilton, EIGHTH GRADE
John David Washington, MONSTERS AND MEN
ALL I CARE ABOUT IS ADAM DRIVER! I hate that John David Washington didn't get a nomination in the lead category though. 


Best Cinematography
Ashley Connor, MADELINE’S MADELINE
Diego Garcia, WILDLIFE
Benjamin Loeb, MANDY
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, SUSPIRIA
Zak Mulligan, WE THE ANIMALS
This is one thing Suspiria got right, at least. 


Best Screenplay
Richard Glatzer (Writer/Story By), Rebecca Lenkiewicz & Wash Westmoreland, COLETTE
Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Tamara Jenkins, PRIVATE LIFE
Boots Riley, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Paul Schrader FIRST REFORMED

Best First Screenplay
Bo Burnham, EIGHTH GRADE
Christina Choe, NANCY
Cory Finley, THOROUGHBREDS
Jennifer Fox, THE TALE
Quinn Shephard (Writer/Story By) and Laurie Shephard (Story By), BLAME
So happy Thoroughbreds got some love. That movie is still on my favorites list so far. 


Best Editing
Joe Bini, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Keiko Deguchi, Brian A. Kates & Jeremiah Zagar, WE THE ANIMALS
Luke Dunkley, Nick Fenton, Chris Gill & Julian Hart, AMERICAN ANIMALS
Anne Fabini, Alex Hall and Gary Levy, THE TALE
Nick Houy, MID90S

Best Documentary
HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING
MINDING THE GAP
OF FATHERS AND SONS
ON HER SHOULDERS
SHIRKERS
WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
I've only seen Won't You Be My Neighbor. This is going to sweep everything, right?

Best international film
BURNING (South Korea)
THE FAVOURITE (United Kingdom)
HAPPY AS LAZZARO (Italy)
ROMA (Mexico)
SHOPLIFTERS (Japan)
I really want to see Burning, The Favourite, and Roma here. The other two I have not heard of until now.

The Truer Than Fiction Award
Alexandria Bombach, ON HER SHOULDERS
Bing Liu, MINDING THE GAP
RaMell Ross, HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING

Producers Award
Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams
Gabrielle Nadig
Shrihari Sathe


The Someone to Watch Award
Alex Moratto, SÓCRATES
Ioana Uricaru, LEMONADE
Jeremiah Zagar, WE THE ANIMALS

The Bonnie Award
Debra Granik
Tamara Jenkins
Karyn Kusama

Robert Altman Award
SUSPIRIA
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Casting Directors: Avy Kaufman, Stella Savino
Ensemble Cast: Malgosia Bela, Ingrid Caven, Lutz Ebersdorf, Elena Fokina, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Dakota Johnson, Gala Moody, Chloë Grace Moretz, Renée Soutendijk, Tilda Swinton, Sylvie Testud, Angela Winkler

Thursday Movie Picks: Museums

Are you ready to learn? This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is all about museums. I love them, personally. Whenever I travel I always try to visit at least a few of them. A few favorites are the Victoria and Albert's museum in London, The Dulles Air and Space museum in Washington D.C, and the Louvre in Paris. (which is a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but still beautiful) Now for a few favorite movies where museums play a part. Unfortunately they're not as memorable for me as some of the places I've visited.

1) Bringing Up Baby

The main plot here is David (Cary Grant) securing a donation for a museum while meeting a very peculiar Susan (Katharine Hepburn) This was one of my Blind Spots, and I liked it enough, though it's not very memorable for me.

2) House of Wax

I will defend the 2005 remake of this film to my grave. It's just fun and gory. And to be honest, I had a better time watching this then I did seeing an actual wax museum in Las Vegas. 

3) The Squid and the Whale

While this film isn't technically about a museum, one of the most memorable scenes takes place in one when Jesse Eisenberg's character goes back to the Museum of Natural History to confront the big Squid and the Whale display. Of my three picks, this is my favorite though it has some extremely uncomfortable scenes. 

Review: Beautiful Boy (2018)

What happens next?

David Sheff (Steve Carell) is determined to help his oldest son, Nic (Timothee Chalamet) overcome his crystal meth addiction. But like with any addiction, nothing comes easy.

Not to be confused with the other Beautiful Boy - I've never read the pair of memoirs this film is based on, so I can't speak to its accuracy or if Hollywood came in and romanticized anything. (Hello, The Glass Castle) One thing that sticks out is that it seems like everyone involved did their research when it comes to addiction. It helps having both books as guidelines, on top of one of the writers being a former addict himself. 

This film feels very sincere. It is quite by the books as far as these dramas go but it never once fell into cliche or Hallmark movie territory. It helps that the cast all around is fantastic, right down to the young actors portraying the Sheff's younger children and the scenes of young Nic. Everyone looks natural.

Carell and Chalamet both give tremendous performances. You can tell David wants to be a good dad but he's hurting and his determination to help his son is commendable. Chalamet is never over the top playing Nic. He could've easily gone the overboard tweaker route and he never does. He's really an extraordinary young actor. 

Ultimately, I think Beautiful Boy may be a bit forgettable as time goes on, but it's a well made film with an excellent ensemble cast. Come to think of it, this is the strongest group effort I've seen so far. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I'm done." - David Sheff (Steve Carell)

Review: Suspiria (2018)

They're witches!

Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) leaves her small Ohio farm to travel to a dance academy in Berlin in 1977. Run by Madam Blanc, (Tilda Swinton) Susie falls into the roll of lead dancer after a series of strange events that take a few other girls out of the picture. But the teachers are planning something special for Susie.

I'm a huge fan of the original Suspiria. It's beautiful in its colorful, campy glory. I knew going in this was going to be completely different. Gone are the bright colors and the soundtrack that's almost a character in itself. In are greys and neutral tones, and no memorable score until one pivotal scene. I admire what director Luca Guadagnino did here. Instead of making a full on remake, he took the bare bones of the story (Susie goes to Berlin to dance, and it's run by witches) and imagines something completely different. 

Only it's kind of awful.

Unlike the original - which I'll stop comparing it with after this one point because they're different enough - this film is told from the perspective of the witches instead of the students. Which is jarring because we see these teachers acting creepy as fuck all the time and none of the dancers acknowledge it. Because of this, a lot of the suspense in finding out their motives is removed because they tell us slowly throughout. From the very first title card that appears, telling us there is six acts and an epilogue. You know you're going to be here a while. This film clocks in at a heft two hours and thirty two minutes and easily a good forty of them should've been cut. 

Dakota Johnson plays her role almost exactly as she did in Luca's previous film, A Bigger Splash. Which means she pauses before every line and generally acts as if she's in a trance. Mia Goth, who plays another dancer Sara acts circles around her and unlike Susie, Sara actually has a character arc. Susie has no personality and we get no insight to her thoughts making her actions towards the end of the film a massive head scratcher. Tilda Swinton also plays two other characters aside from Madam Blanc under a ton of make up for no reason other than Luca is a Tilda stan. Because of this you're kind of expecting things to be tied together differently, because it's obvious it's Tilda but nope. No purpose.

The film does do a good job when it comes to the dance numbers and it has a couple of gruesome scenes. I was a bit surprised that they didn't try to redo any of the iconic deaths from the original. No falling glass or razor wire here. And even though it doesn't have a bright color palette, it does look beautiful in its own way. And it is interesting at first, don't get me wrong. This film doesn't start boring. It's captivating, in fact. 

Ultimately, Suspiria is bogged down by its unnecessary run time and all the things it wanted to say but couldn't do so in a concise manner. It's art house for the sake of art house. Candice mentioned in a great Indie Wire piece that this film "holds you hostage because it can" That is exactly how I felt. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "That's the kind of thing Patricia would say." - Sara (Mia Goth)

Quick TV and Movie Reviews Courtesy of Netflix

I go through entertainment moods. Sometimes I'm in a reading mood, other times I'm in a watching mood. For pretty much all of October, I've been glued to my Netflix account. While I wrote a few full reviews for some of the movies I watched, such as The Kindergarten Teacher and Apostle,  the rest I decided to do in one post. Here are some movies and TV series I've been binging lately. 

DVD 
The first three reviews are from their DVD rental service. Side note, how do more people not use this? It's amazing! Do you all still have video rental stores in your neck of the woods because I sure as hell don't.

Eighth Grade
Elsie Fisher is a gem. This is a very quite movie, some would say "nothing happens" but really, everything does. I laughed pretty hard a few times and cringed at others because I could relate. Middle school was hell. I had ICQ and MSN Messenger to make mine awkward, I couldn't imagine having even more social media to add to it now.
Grade: B+

How To Talk To Girls At Parties
God damn this movie is weird. Aliens are touring Earth in 1970's London and one of them decides to check out the punk rock scene. I think this film balances being bizarre and endearing very well. The script it messy but I had fun watching it.
Grade: B-

Kinky Boots
I started watching this back when it first came out on DVD and never finished. I'm so glad I did, this movie is a joy. It drags a bit in the middle but Chiwetel Ejiofor is dynamite. 
Grade: A-

Streaming

22 July
Not that I'm an expert...but Paul Greengrass is the wrong director for this movie, right? I mean, it's awkward as hell that he's making all of these Norwegian actors speak English in a story that happened in their native land. It also feels like most of the effort was put into recreating the terror attack that happened and not much on the legal battle that followed. This film needed a lot of trimming. Though it did have two very convincing performances from Anders Danielsen Lie and Jonas Strand Gravli. I definitely hope to see more of those too.
Grade: C

The Haunting of Hill House
The male characters in this story drove me crazy and the ending tread into Hallmark movie cliche territory but this series was really well done. The actors were good, it was creepy, and the best part was they tied up ALL of their lose ends. They didn't pull a Castle Rock on their audience and they deserve all the credit in the world for that. 
Grade: B+

The Sinner (season one)
I feel some type of way about this. I really liked the murder mystery aspect of the story. Jessica Biel is great, her motives for murder were interesting, but man Bill Pullman.....he was bad. He looked like he was on the verge of laughter in every scene and the side characters were all very one dimensional. At eight episodes, this was a quick watch and I'm glad I saw it. But I felt there was something holding this series back. Maybe it was budget, maybe the network, but the writers had some great ideas and then the rest were just cut and paste from Murder Shows 101.
Grade: B-

Making A Murderer (season two)
Did this need a second season? Probably not. Did I watch it all? Of course. This case still fascinates me. I'm still in the camp of thinking Avery is innocent and that a bunch of fuckery went on with that crime scene. Zellner was a nice addition to the narrative. She brings up a few possible suspects in Teresa's murder, which they didn't get to do that last time around. I can't decide which one I think is more plausible. I don't buy getting flagged down by someone and actually pulling over for it, but that's just me. I'll continue to follow this case as it unfolds, if it ever goes anywhere.
Grade: B-

Daredevil (season three)
Since I'm watching this with my husband I haven't finished it yet. We're currently on the 8th episode. This is still the best Netflix series, the fights are so well done, but Karen Page is bothering me this season even more than I thought possible. I like Deborah Ann Wohl. She's a good actress, if you've seen True Blood you know, but she plays Karen as if she's constantly on the verge of having an anxiety attack. There's a scene where her character comes face to face with Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) and it's tragic how much he out acts her. Otherwise, so far so good. I'm not buying the Defenders not showing up though. They don't have the huge contract issue that the Avengers have when they don't show up in each others movies, and the story kind of calls for one of them to at least check in, and no one has yet. That's distracting.
Grade: TBD

Hold The Dark

Man...I was really looking forward to this and even though it got lukewarm reviews I still wanted to watch it myself. The script is kind of awful and it wastes its very talented cast. I felt like they didn't know how to end this film either. Wasted potential.
Grade: D

Thursday Movie Picks: Political Comedies

Finally a theme from Wandering Through the Shelves that actually made me get off my ass and watch In The Loop: Political comedies. It took me way too long to watch that. I realized when thinking of films for this categories that I actually haven't seen as many of these as I thought. I'm familiar with a lot of them, but haven't seen them all the way through. Here's what I came up with. These make me a lot happier than the mid term election results in my home state. (ugh...red states..)

1) In The Loop

Sati recommended this to me years ago and in 2018, I finally made it happen. I haven't seen The Thick of It, which the main character, a man who works for the prime minister was based, but it was hilarious nonetheless. I didn't feel I missed much of anything not seeing the show, and now I plan on watching that too. Hopefully it doesn't take me another few years. 

2) Dick

I loved this movie when I was a tween. Back then, a lot of the political stuff went over my head, but I was obsessed with Kirsten Dunst and this was a fun watch.

3) Black Sheep

A politician hiring a man to keep his moron brother out of trouble makes for great TV. This is another movie I loved in my tween years. I watched this back to back with Tommy Boy quite often. I miss Chris Farley and what he brought to the comedic table. 

Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Under (studio) Pressure

Bohemian Rhapsody follows Queen frontman Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) from the beginning. He meets his life long friend Mary (Lucy Boynton) his eventual Queen band mates, Brian May, (Gwilym Lee) Roger Taylor, (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon. (Joseph Mazzello) Then we see the rise and fall of Mercury's tumultuous career.

This movie is the definition of uneven. It's a shame because Queen was a great band that deserved a great movie and what they got was a script that still managed to be messy even though they were playing it as "safe" as possible. Biopics tend to follow a tight formula and few ever take risks. This followed the exact same pattern Walk The Line did to a T, but never balanced out the way they did. What is it with biopics? Why are some so great (The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything) and others so...blah?

I think the makers of Bohemian Rhapsody were more concerned with making Freddie as "big" as possible than actually being factual. Poor Rami Malek is fighting those fake teeth at various points in this film. Mercury's overbite was not THAT bad. Just like he seemed to be a lot more guarded in interviews compared to how he is here. And never mind the fact that they add drama where there wasn't and move his AIDS diagnosis up a few years to make the Live Aid gig more sentimental despite the fact that they didn't need to do that at all. 

It's all the most frustrating because when the actors are playing music, they shine. All their recording sessions and performances on stage are magnificent. The recreation of the Live Aid concert is easily one of my favorite things I've seen this year, but when they're not performing the script doesn't give them anything else to do. The band mates all have great chemistry but we learn nothing about anyone but Mercury. 

The actors are tasked with making this soar, but shoddy editing, a basic script, and poor direction make this film sink.

Recommended: Yes for the music, no for the script

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "We're all legends." - Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek)


Review: The Kindergarten Teacher

That's a poem.

Lisa Spinelli (Maggie Gyllenhaal) teachers kindergarten in New York. She takes a poetry class at night from Simon (Gael García Bernal) where she doesn't really succeed. One day she notices one of her students Jimmy (Parker Sevak) composes a beautiful poem while pacing her room. She writes it down, and passes his work off as her own at poetry class. She becomes obsessed with him thinking he's a prodigy and that no one in his life is nurturing him enough.

This movie is so uncomfortable. I wanted to wake my child up when I was finished to have yet another "You know you're not supposed to get in other people's cars, right?" I think as a parent in this day and age you have to suspend a bit of disbelief in a sense to think that Lisa gets as far as she does, but this film knows what it's doing and it's here to make you squirm. 

Maggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic in this and easily gives one of the best performances I've seen all year. You can tell how frustrated Lisa is in her life and how this obsession sneaks up on her. The strongest part is when she's fully aware what she's doing is wrong. You can see the wheels spinning while she tries to remain logical. Unfortunately none of the other supporting characters get enough material to even remotely match her performance. This is Maggie's show.

I have a rather large problem with the way this film ends. It was a bold move, but I felt it could've been 5-10 minutes longer with a bit more detail. This felt like a situation where less isn't more.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Don't let her talk to you like you're a puppy." - Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal)

Thursday Movie Picks: Gangsters

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is all about gangsters. I'm not crazy about Gangster films, but some are pretty good. Here's one I absolutely love, and two that are decent.

1) Eastern Promises

If you know me, it should be no surprise I picked this. It's one of my all time favorite movies. I love this story of a nurse caught up with Russian gangsters in London. It's the gold standard for me. 

2) Black Mass

This was a nice reminder that Johnny Depp can do more than Jack Sparrow. I had almost forgotten. The entire cast in this film about Whitey Bulger (minus Dakota Johnson and whatever the fuck accent she was doing) were wonderful.

3) Legend

This film was never talked about as much as it should've been. Tom Hardy was excellent as twin gangsters Ron and Reggie Kray.