Indie Gems: Never Look Away

Work of the author.

Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling) is an artist in West Germany. He's often haunted by growing up during WWII, and how his beloved Aunt Elizabeth (Saskia Rosendahl) who fed his creative spirit was sent to her death by the Nazis because of her mental illness. He meets and marries Ellie (Paula Beer) whose father, Professor Seeband (Sebastian Koch) doesn't approve of Kurt and unbeknownst to him is the same doctor that is directly responsible for his aunt's death. 

I saved this movie into my Netflix queue after this year's Oscar nominations came out. Never Look Away was not only a Foreign Film nominee, but was also a surprise entry into the Cinematography category. What I didn't notice until I opened the DVD Netflix sent me is that this movie was over three hours long. It's probably for the best I didn't pay attention to that before because I'm not sure if I would've put in the effort otherwise. 

Is every bit of its hefty run time warranted? Of course not. There's a point in this film where Kurt and Ellie move to Dusseldorf and the film absolutely stalls. The first hour flies by and is very engrossing but I checked my watch once I was rounding out two hours it's like the film is moving slower on purpose. I almost wonder if you'd still get the jist of everything if you put the last hour on fast forward. Another thing that I think works against the film is the outcome. You know Seeband is going to figure out that he killed Kurt's aunt. But because Kurt wasn't there to see him give the order, there's really no satisfactory resolution from Kurt's end. It's only semi satisfying to the audience but it still left me wanting more to come from that.

Schilling, Koch, and Rosendahl are all German actors that I enjoy and have seen before. Koch of course was in director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's last German film, the wonderful The Lives of Others. They're all fantastic here and von Donnersmarck's direction is excellent. And yes, it absolutely deserved that cinematography nomination. There's not a single frame of this movie that isn't beautifully shot.

I thought a lot about Toni Erdmann after watching this, another long German film, and for comparison, I would say I preferred Never Look Away. If I'm honest I prefer this to the foreign film winner, Roma as well. It's too long, but it says enough to make me happy I spent the time on it. 

Grade: B-

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "All that is true is beautiful" - Elizabeth (Saskia Rosendahl)

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Gangsters

This week's TV theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is gangsters. This is yet another reminder for me that I need to start Peaky Blinders. Here are my favorite shows featuring a gangster or two.

1) Boardwalk Empire

"You can't be half a gangster" is something Jimmy tells Nucky in Boardwalk Empire's first season, and he eventually accepts his fate. While BE wasn't perfect I think it has one of the best casts ever assembled on television. 

2) Breaking Bad

I could count the wonderful Gus Fring as the ultimate gangster, but let's go with Jesse Pinkman's friends like Badger, trying their hand at the wannabe gangster game.

3) The Wire

Indeed, The Wire had its fair share of gang members and drug lords. This was a show that lived up to every expectation I had, which was rare.  I also have a funny memory of binging this with my husband. I put our then two year old to bed one night and joked "Mommy and Daddy need to watch The Wire" only for him to respond in a perfect sentence - "But I want to watch The Wire!" Sorry, little one. 

Behold My Netflix Queue Black Hole

One of my goals for 2019 was to finally watch all the films I've had saved in my Netflix streaming queue for what seems like an eternity. I estimate that all of the titles below have been in my queue for at least a year. 41 total, and I did it! I'd like to thank the horrid winter we had this year that made a lot of this possible.

Here are my very quick thoughts on all the titles in my black hole of a queue. Now only a few films + a bunch of TV shows are left in it. Time to binge all that TV, I guess. 

The Life and Death of of Marsha P. Johnson - I had never heard of Marsha and was happy to learn about her but I think this doc tried to take on a bit too much at once. It was good, but could've been better - B

The White Helmets - After watching the full length Last Men In Aleppo I never did get around to watching the short film following the same brave men helping save people in their war torn cities in Syria. This was very good and I'm glad more has been expanded on it - A

In This Corner Of The World - Overall I liked this story, but I think they went way overboard with Suzu being "naive" and a "dreamer" I get what they were going for but they made her almost seem like she had some type of mental disability that wasn't addressed and in turn it made her situation even more uncomfortable. It could've just been the dub I was watching, but I couldn't shake that thought. B-

The Fundamentals of Caring - Parts of this are touching but I swear they check off every generic indie film trope out there. C+

Adore - Is this supposed to be a parody? D

Hot Fuzz - This had some funny moments. I didn't enjoy it as much as Shaun of the Dead but more so than World's End. B

City of God - This movie really reminded me of Guy Ritchie's older work. I had seen bits and pieces of it before, but never all at once so I'm happy I finally sat down and watched. It's a solid film. B

Advantageous - This took a while to get going but was ultimately a pretty interesting little sci fi film. I think this has been in my queue the longest so I'm happy to finally get to it. B

People Places Things - I liked this and it's by the same writer that did The Incredible Jessica James. Jemaine Clement is always reliable. B

Trash - This was shot beautifully, kind of like a City of God/Slumdog Millionaire mashup but about half way through I realized I had forgotten the original motivations of some of these characters. A compelling story was in here somewhere. C

Moonwalkers - This actually had a lot of potential to be a good parody but it's honestly just too dumb for words. Too many of their jokes rely on the characters being stoned. What happened to Rupert Grint? He should have Taron Edgerton's career post Potter and instead he's doing this? D

Lucky Them - Toni Collette is great but Thomas Hayden Church is not. No one other than Toni has a personality in this. It's not bad, but it's definitely not memorable. I wonder if I'll even remember this movie when this post goes up? C

Kelly & Cal - This started off fine until they pointed out that Cal is actually 17 and when you cast an actor that is closer to 30 to play a high school student, all my suspension of disbelief goes out the window. I think this would've been a better film if Cal had been a college student in his 20's. I would've had a slightly easier time buying that.  B-

White Girl - I think this is a great portrayal of white privilege and how it can affect bother the girl in question and the POC around her, but I started to lose interest when the sex scenes felt like they started to be about titillation and less about the plot. Then tossing in a rape towards the end just rubbed me the wrong way. Morgan Saylor was great though. C+

Under The Shadow - This was a solid ghost/entity story. Although when I hit "play" Netflix immediately started with the dub and when I switched it to subs and heard the actual voices....lord I hope no one watches the dub. B-

Blind Date - I realized when watching this that I don't see enough goofy French movies. This was cute. It's completely nonsensical but it had a lot of funny moments and quite possibly one of the best placed headbutts in cinema history. B

Other People - I cried. Full review here. A-

Imperial Dreams - This was pretty heavy. John Boyega gives a good performance as a father trying to do the best for his young son but I just didn't buy him in the gang-type scenes. That threw me out of this a bit. B-

Love Song - I love Jena Malone and Riley Keough is proving to be wonderful as well, but I got kind of annoyed with the story occasionally. It was a nice film overall. B

It's Only The End of the World - Wow, this was so cold and detached. Dolan should've focused less on his close ups and camera tricks and more on the story which had a ton of subtext but was severely lacking in expanding on any of it. C-

The Incredible Jessica James - LOVE! Full review here. A

Desierto - Neither myself or my husband recall adding this and I can only deduce that it's some type of mistake because why would I ever want to watch trash like this? I can't believe I did. I kept thinking maybe something would jog my memory. F

A War - I sometimes forget Pilou Asbæk can do more than play absolute douchebags, but he's excellent in this Danish film about a soldier in Afghanistan who is put on trial for a war crime. They spend a good amount of time building up both parts of this story. It was slow in parts but very satisfying overall. B

Catfight - This was so ridiculous but I had a lot of fun watching it. I suppose you can't go wrong when a lesson in "not being a dick" interludes Sandra Oh and Anne Heche beating the shit out of each other while classical music plays. B

The Void - I was enjoying this until I saw the conclusion of the female characters' stories. It really just rubbed me the wrong way. B- 

God's Pocket- What a waste of an excellent cast. Tonally this movie was all over the place. C-

Girlfriend's Day - What the fuck is this movie? Was this avant garde? Honestly how do you make 70 minutes feel so long? D

Girl Asleep - THIS is how you do a weird 70 minute movie. Full review here. A-

Dark Night - This seems like it tried to do what Little Athens did so much better in 2005. Telling the story of the mundane ordinary before tragedy strikes, only this doesn't have anything interesting to say until it suggests a recreation of the Aurora, CO movie theater massacre. Don't worry, they at least spare us seeing that unfold. F

Hurricane Bianca - The entire premise of this is so unbelievable and stupid but it's worth the watch for sassy Queens. C+

Shimmer Lake - I had the laziest reaction ever to this movie. It's told backwards but it's not interesting enough for me to make an effort to try to follow things more closely. Benjamin Walker is in it and now I want to rewatch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter instead. C

Super Dark Times - I really liked this but it's also a text book example of a rushed ending. Full review here. B+

The Wound - I know nothing about the Xhosa culture so this was a fascinating and beautifully shot film that does a lot in its short run time. That ending though...not sure how I feel about it. That was unexpected. B+

Planetarium - This was so dull the only thing I can say about it is that Lily-Rose Depp surprised me and did a pretty good job. - D

6 Years - As someone in a long term relationship that started when I was in college,  6 years, which follows a young couple who have to decide what to do with their relationship when one of them gets a job offer appealed to me. The leads had wonderful chemistry and while the film itself was pretty basic, I enjoyed it. I felt it ended a bit too soon though. It could've used 5 more minutes. - B

The Ritual - Four twats in a forest! This is one of the better horror movies I've seen on Netflix. It builds tension very well and the ending is actually satisfying. I was expecting something far more open ended. B

God's Own Country - I'll do a full review on this eventually as it was the last film I watched but man was this beautiful. The chemistry between the leads was outstanding and I loved the ending. Side note: Alec Secareanu is soooooooo hot. A

Faces Places - This worked for me in a way that Stories We Tell didn't. A documentary about ordinary stories, but this set in France with beautiful artwork as their backdrops and of course the glorious Agnes Varda. A-

Miss Stevens - With a lesser writer this could've ended up in "teacher messing around with student" territory but it never did. I thought this was a great look at how a teacher and student can relate in depression and unhappiness. Great performances too. B

The Endless - I dug it. Full review here. - B+

Quiz Show - It's been years, but I finally watched all of Quiz Show in one sitting! It still holds up. B

Indie Gems: The Wedding Guest


Jay (Dev Patel) is headed to a wedding in Pakistan, only it's not your typical affair. He's armed with several passports, a few guns, and a plan to kidnap a bride, Samira (Radhika Apte) instead of watching her nuptials.

I knew nothing about this movie before I selected it while browsing through my in flight selection. Let's be honest, Dev Patel with his beard is enough to get me to watch anything.

The thing The Wedding Guest does very well is it keeps you guessing on what the characters' motivations are. Jay is our eyes to this world, but he's obviously not a good person. Samira is dealt several shitty hands throughout but it's never certain where she's going to land by the end of it. Do you want them to trust each other? Fight? Run? There's plenty of possibilities and the film doesn't take the most obvious choices either.

I think Patel and Apte are both good here. Neither role is really requiring a lot from them in terms of emotions but the commentary is interesting, especially when it comes to Samira and her marriage. I think there will be plenty who want more from this film, and that would be a valid critique, but I was fine with how it played out. It's not the most amazing watch out there, but I'm glad I did watch it. 

Grade: B-

Watched on: Delta Studios 

Memorable Quote: "I don't want to be married." - Samira (Radhika Apte)

Thursday Movie Picks: Period Dramas

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is either something you love or hate; Period Dramas. I admit that sometimes they get old but I don't avoid movies because of the time frame. Here are three that definitely stick out.

1) The Favourite

This film has the perfect title considering it was one of my favorites from last year. If you're iffy on period pieces, this gloriously petty story about Queen Anne and two women vying for her attention is a good place to start.

2) Lady Macbeth

While I didn't love this film I admire it. Following completely unlikable characters is a tough sell but this did it and Florence Pugh was amazing as a young woman sold off into marriage that makes questionable choices.

3) The Edge of Love

This one doesn't go quite as far back as the others but no one ever talks about this film staring Keria Knightley, Sienna Miller and Cillian Murphy in the 1940's. The most famous thing about it is probably the fact that Lindsay Lohan was a trainwreck and dropped out of it (and was replaced by Miller) but it was a fine film. 

2019 Blind Spot Series: A Woman Under the Influence

What I knew going in: Not much, other than what it was about.

Mabel (Gena Rowlands) is a housewife who lives to please her husband, Nick. (Peter Falk) However she suffers from a mental illness that neither Nick, nor anyone else in their family is equipped to help her with.

When putting together my Blind Spot list, this was a recommendation I got on Twitter and it was a film I was familiar with due to all the praise for Gena Rowlands' performance.

That aspect of the film was no hyperbole. Rowlands is fantastic. It's sad to watch Mabel who with a less shitty husband and more supportive social circle could've gotten the help she needed and thrived. There are parts of this movie that are so deeply uncomfortable that it kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to follow.

Speaking of Mabel's husband, Nick really is the worst, right? This is nothing against Falk who's great, but Nick is so unlikable that the film, which is already far too long at 2 hours and 35 minutes drags even more when Mabel is sent to an institution and we're left to watch him parent his children. I wish the film would've stayed with her instead because it's not interesting enough when she's not around.

Thankfully the majority of this works well, I think it's a bit overlong. The story is interesting and the actors deliver, it just needed a bit of trimming. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Oh you poor thing. You can't name someone Harold." - Mabel (Gena Rowlands)

Review: Late Night

Dream big.

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is a long running late night talk show host whose ratings have been declining. When she's accused of hating women by her colleague, Brad (Denis O'Hare) she immediately orders him to hire a woman. Enter Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) an essay winner with no comedy experience who happens to be in the right place in the right time, and now she's the only non white male on Katherine's writing staff. 

I've been looking forward to this since it was announced at Sundance, but when the first trailer came out I put the brakes on my hype a little because it was kind of awful. I'm happy to say that the trailer did not do this film justice at all. 

Mindy Kaling is a great writer and even though the script plays it pretty safe, I love what she did here. There's plenty of laughs and the characters were easy to warm up to. Molly is instantly likable and Katherine is fairly complex. The privilege drenched writing staff, lead by Reid Scott, Max Casella, and Paul Walter Hauser among others are all very amusing themselves and are responsible for some really great jokes. They're a bit typecast, but it works.

The star is Emma Thompson. I assumed it would be Molly that carries the story but it really is Katherine. We see glimpses of who she was before she stopped caring about the quality of her show and we feel her desperation at not wanting to let go. It's a great performance.

As I said, the script does play it really safe but it makes for a fun matinee. You'll certainly enjoy yourselves.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I like it. The glitter, the ponies. Are you super excited about getting your first period?" 

Indie Gems: Little Woods

You can start over.

Ollie (Tessa Thompson) is trying to lead a straight(er) life after getting caught running drugs over the North Dakota/Canadian boarder. When her sister Deb (Lily James) falls pregnant and knows she can't afford to have the baby, Ollie turns to dealing again for hopefully the last time. 

First off, thank you all for leaving comments on the two posts I had scheduled while I was on vacation. I'm currently typing up a bit of content, then I'm off to read your lovely blogs. Even when I travel I normally set aside time each night to check out my blog roll, but I was EXHAUSTED at the end of each day. I'm happy to be back in the swing of things.

I had to laugh when I started watching this movie and realized it was set around the area I grew up in. (Though they choose a fictional name for the town) They certainly capture the despair and general bleakness of Western North Dakota well, especially now that oil drilling is so common there. The desperate need of affordable health care is prevalent and I found the way the film addressed that to be very believable. 

Tessa Thompson gives a very understated performance here that I just adored. Ollie is a good person trying to make the best out of hard times, for herself and her mess of a sister. I enjoyed Lily James in this role too. I felt like it was fairly different for both of them.

I give this major props for not going with the ending that I was sure they choose. It's a very quiet film, there's not a lot of action nor excitement but something like this is rare. We have so many films about trafficking drugs through the Mexican boarder but barely any that address the desperate need for pain killers and how some attempt to get fake Canadian ID cards just so they can afford basic health care. 

Grade: B

Watched on: Delta Studios In Flight Movies

Memorable Quote: "How do you always manage to fuck things up?" - Ollie (Tessa Thompson)

Thursday Movie Picks: Undercover

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about characters that are undercover. There's a lot to choose from, so I went with a theme within a theme. All of these movies are about law enforcement agents going undercover. Two sets of cops and one FBI agent. All with varying degrees of comedy involved.

1) 21 Jump Street

I didn't have the highest expectations for this but my husband and I got a rare date night away from our then baby so we went to this on opening night and laughed our asses off. Comedies are the only times I like big crowds in theaters, all that laughter is contagious. 

2) Kindergarten Cop

I watched this movie so much as a kid and sadly, I still quote it frequently.

3) Big Momma's House

Yes, I'm aware this movie is dumb as hell and full of stereotypes but I laughed.

Review: Brightburn

You came here for a reason.

Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman) have been struggling with infertility when a space ship crash lands in their yard carrying an infant, they raise their son - Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) and all goes well until he turns 12 and starts acting strangely. Now they must confront the fact that they haven't told him where he really came from.

Taking heroes and turning them into bad guys is fairly common in comics but not so much on screen, so I was looking forward to this take on "Superman, but evil." 

Most horror movies require at least one character to fall victim to plot and make poor decisions. In this one it's Tori, who protects her son and makes excuses for him despite the increasingly weird shit that happens around him. I know it's realistic and I made my peace with it, but it's still slightly annoying.

There's some serious gore in here from time to time, you will certainly cringe but it's not a nonstop blood bath. The film builds tension really well but I felt like the ending was really lacking. I didn't care for the 3rd act at all after Brandon has a confrontation with his father. The film doesn't give us any insight into what Brandon's thinking, other than he hears voices and because of that it leaves me with the feeling that this could've been so much more. 

I still think it's worth a watch, but it's obvious a better film is in there, and something, perhaps budget and more polished writing prevented this from being what it could've been.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "Don't worry, I'm going to take care of that." - Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn)

Thursday Movie Picks: Nannies/Babysitters

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about those unsung heroes (or your worst nightmare, depending) babysitters. I don't think I ever had a babysitter that wasn't a family member. I never babysat either when I was a kid, I'd only occasionally help a friend who was tasked with it. So even though I cannot relate at all, here are some films about babysitters.

1) Halloween

Laurie Strode is the queen of all babysitters. Look at what she had to go through?

2) Adventures in Babysitting

This was on TV last year and was a nice refresher because even though I know I watched this when I was a kid, I couldn't remember much of it. 

3) Mrs. Doubtfire

And now for our lone Nanny, I still adore this movie. It's one of my favorite family films. 

Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Let them fight.

It's been five years since Godzilla has last been seen and the Monarch corporation is on the verge of being taken over by the U.S Military. When Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) decides to go full Thanos on earth, her ex husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) must work together with other Monarch scientists, like the returning Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Wantanabe) to gain control of the newly released titans, especially the powerful Ghidorah.

I really liked 2014's Godzilla and at first I was disappointed Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson weren't returning with the others, but turns out they saved themselves from probably having to do something stupid. There is no shortage of stupid in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Most of the humans exist to make terrible decisions. 

You have to decide for yourself what you're wanting from this film before seeing it. If you want to see monsters fight each other, you won't be disappointed. If you want a coherent story to go along with it, you will.. Me? I was here for the monsters so I wasn't too bothered by the human's decisions, but I still left wanting more fights. Ken Wantanabe is the only returning character that gets something to do, and he has the best arc of the film. Unfortunately for most of it we're following Kyle Chandler who is just not an actor I'm interested in. I found myself wishing we could spend more time with Bradley Whitford, O'Shea Jackson Jr. and and Aisha Hinds instead.

There were a lot of things that still bothered me about this film, but the fight scenes were awesome. Sure, they used darkness and rain to cover up their CGI, and that got annoying, but the effects along with the music complimented each other well. I just wish there was more of that, and less of the film trying to explain, then contradict itself.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "If I had you two for parents, I'd run away from home too."  - Chief Warrant Officer Barnes (O'Shea Jackson Jr.)

Review: Booksmart

Work hard, play hard.

Amy (Katilyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have spent their entire school years studying to get into good colleges and never going out and partying like their classmates. On the last day of school, they find out that plenty of their classmates that did party all got into good schools or got good jobs right out of college anyways. Determined to make up for lost time, they decide to party hard on their last night as high schoolers. 

When I first started seeing advertising for this movie I didn't like how it kept getting compared to Superbad. Sure, it's about kids partying towards the end of school but it seemed different enough. After watching, it actually takes a few things beat for beat from Superbad so the comparisons are warranted. Thankfully it doesn't make it any less enjoyable. 

The strongest thing in Booksmart is the friendship between Molly and Amy. Of course like any teen movie, they will momentarily have some trouble but it's nice seeing a female friendship like this on screen. Dever and Feldstein have excellent chemistry too. Director Olivia Wilde shows a lot of promise behind the camera too as we follow them on their adventures.

Where the film isn't at its best for me are the supporting characters. The one teacher we get to know, Ms. Fine (Jessica Williams) gets completely wasted on a dumb arrested development type arc and while I liked a lot of the supporting students, like Billie Lourd's Gigi, the two over the top theater kids felt like massive stereotypes.   

Overall Booksmart is a fun film that's currently being buried by tentpoles at the box office, but that I think will have a huge following eventually. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable quote: "I'm incredible at hand-jobs but I also got a 1560 on the SATs." - Annabelle (Molly Gordon)