Indie Gems: Fast Color

Can you see the colors?

Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) has seizures that cause earthquakes and finds herself on the run from scientists who want to experiment on her. She's forced to go back home to her mother, Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and the daughter she left behind, Lila (Saniyya Sidney) and hide out. But they have super powers themselves that manifest differently than Ruth's.

Fast Color came on my radar because it's one of the few sci fi movies directed by a woman. It turns out, I had seen and enjoyed one of director Julia Hart's previous features - Miss Stevens - earlier this year. 

For a film about super powers, this is very understated. I read that Hart plans on making this universe into a TV series and that makes sense given you get the feeling that there's a lot more that needs to be said when the film really doesn't have time for it.

Mbatha-Raw always gives amazing performances as does Toussaint. I loved the cast in this, and even though we don't know a lot about these characters, we know enough to make everything meaningful.

I hope Hart gets to expand on this because I'd love to know more, and even with that in mind, Fast Color is definitely worth your time.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "Don't be in such a rush to leave." - Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Revivals and Reboots

There's no shortage of TV revivals and reboots lately, which is wonderful because that's what we're talking about this week at Wandering Through The Shelves. I feel like opinions over revivals are all over the place, at least that's how it is for me. Sometimes I'm deeply embarrassed, sometimes I'm surprised. Here's what I came up with.

1) The X-Files

This is the only TV revival that I was actually excited about and while some of the episodes were good it was mostly a disappointment. The weirdest part was me coming to terms with the fact that I may have had a crush on Walter Skinner this entire time. I swear it was that episode where he fucked that hooker and I had to ask someone what that was all about when it first aired because I didn't get it. You're welcome to leave me contact info for therapists in the comment section.

2) DuckTales

This is something I watch with my son, it was really hard to get into the voice actors, because old school Duck Tales they are so young, and here they talk like teenagers. I love Beck Bennett's Launchpad. This turned out a lot better than I thought.

3) The Clone Wars

So this one hasn't happened yet, we have to wait for Disney+, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm the first to admit that I shit all over The Clone Wars when it first aired, but it got so much better in the later seasons. I grew to appreciate it even more after watching Star Wars Rebels and seeing what Ahsoka, the character that drove me insane at first grew into. 

Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

What do you want for his life?

Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is a 22 year old man with down syndrome leaving in a retirement home because that's the only place the state can put him. He's looked after by friendly employee Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) but he dreams of running away to a wrestling school to learn to become a professional wrestler. He escapes and crosses paths with Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) a man on the run from people he has wronged. They form a bond and Tyler promises to get Zak to that school.

This feels like a family film geared towards indie loving crowds. There's an inherent sweetness about it, despite the fact that its littered with stereotypes. The biggest sell is the chemistry between Zak and Tyler and Gottsagen and LaBeouf have plenty of that to go around. Tyler is dealing with some serious trauma and even though he's reluctant to let Zak tag along at first, he genuinely warms up to him and you can tell it's something they both need. 

Shia might be more known lately for the weird shit he does off screen, but this guy has always been a hell of an actor and he shows it again here. I only wish the 3rd lead, Dakota Johnson would've been putting as much heart into it as the other two. She just doesn't have the range to keep up. 

Now this might just be me personally, aside from not liking some of the stereotypes and Johnson's abysmal acting, I was enjoying myself quite a bit until the film attempts the most manipulative and stupid fake out that I have seen in a long time. It bothered me so much that I swear this film dropped an entire letter grade. I'm still trying to wrap my ahead around what the filmmakers were thinking. I can only deduce that it was "because symbolism."

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+ 

Memorable Quote: "Tyler, you can have all the wishes at my birthday party." - Zak (Zack Gottsagen)

2019 Against The Crowd Blogathon


Summer is almost over and that means it's time for another Against The Crowd blogathon from Dell! I love everything about his blog, but especially this feature because it's so fun to write every year. It's a great feeling to champion a film you think is under appreciated, then bitch about another. It's my 6th time participating. Below are the rules:

1) Pick one movie “everyone” loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have score of 75% or more on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you hate it.
2)Pick one movie that “everyone” hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of 35% or less on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you love it.
3) Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.
4)Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own (just include all the pertinent details).
5)Let us know what two movies you intend on writing about in one of the following ways: Comment on this or any ACB 2019 post on this site, Tweet me @w_ott3, E-mail me: dellott@yahoo.com.
6) Publish your post on any day from Friday, August 23 through Sunday, August 25, 2019 (tighter schedule this year), and include a link to this announcement. If you’re a podcaster or YouTuber that is interested in participating just talk about your chosen movies during your closest podcast and/or video to those dates and mention that you are taking part in this blogathon. You could also just tweet about it!

The funny thing about this year's Against the Crowd blogathon is that I actually started thinking about it back in February. I was watching another movie with Benjamin Walker and immediately thought of my "worst" pick. So let's start with the better of the two.


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I'm sneaking by Dell's 35% mark, but y'all...this movie is hysterical. Why do more people not appreciate one of the most influential presidents in the history of the United States being re-written as a vampire hunter? It's brilliant. The cast of Walker, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmie Simpson, Dominic Cooper and Rufus Sewell is more than solid. It's actually shot very well. (Sure, they use slow motion a lot but it looks cool here) It's just a fun movie to watch with friends, or even alone when you need a good laugh. I know the actual Lincoln (2012) movie got all the love, but don't sleep on this one. It should be a cult classic.

But speaking of an actual cult classic that I just didn't love...


Akira
I know, I know. This is the film that made Americans love anime but I think it's garbage. Even more so because it legitimately has an intriguing concept and wastes it with a convoluted plot, ridiculous pacing, sexism, and it breaks the cardinal-rule of having a movie that follows unlikable characters by not making them or their goals the least bit interesting. I can't do it. I can't like this.



As always, thanks for another opportunity for me to gush and bitch about something, Dell! 

2019 Blind Spot Series: Dr. Strangelove of How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb


What I knew going in: The basic premise


General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) orders an attack on the Soviets while a room full of politicians attempt to stop him.

There's one thing I never wanted my blog to feel like and that's a job. I always want to write for fun and I genuinely feel that way 99.9% of the time. However last Monday when I sat down to watch my Blind Spot pick, which I was running late on, I was having a terrible day. This was that .1% of the time where this felt like an assignment I needed to complete. Going into this with that mindset, I was expecting to view this feel very negatively whether it deserved it or not. 

But it turns out a satire was a nice way to block everything else out for an hour and a half because I legitimately enjoyed this. Even with my son, who was reading in the same room kept pointing out "all they're doing is talking." The war room scenes were the best because of that. Peter Sellers, who plays multiple roles - the titular Dr. Strangelove, the president, Captain Mandrake really stole the show. George C. Scott was another treasure in those scenes. 

Frankly, the film is just stupid and that makes it enjoyable. I don't think it's perfect. The lone female in this film is there for no reason at all other than to look hot and while I was excited to see James Earl Jones, he had nothing to do, but for a film I felt so determined to dislike going in, I'm glad I came out the way I did.


Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I know Dmitri, can you imagine how I feel?" - President Muffley (Peter Sellers)

Thursday Movie Picks: Actors in Multiple Roles

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is working overtime. It's all about actors in multiple roles. I feel like there are more bad movies with actors in multiple roles then good ones. Here's what I came up with.

1) Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Mike Myers plays a handful of roles in this objectively bad, yet hilarious film. I have no idea how this holds up but I laughed my ass off when I saw this in theaters. That dick joke at the end had my entire theater rolling. 

2) Suspira (2019)

The remake, aka Tilda Swinton's vanity project because why is she playing all these people?

3) Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Everyone in this film is playing everyone else. I enjoyed this, and I'm going to eventually watch more of their work. 

DVD Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

It's a passion project.

Toby (Adam Driver) is a very disillusioned director on set of his new film. He comes across a cobbler (Jonathon Pryce) who he cast as Don Quixote in his first film 10 years prior, but now that man really believes he's Don Quixote, and mistakes Toby for Sancho Panza. Now Toby goes on somewhat of a dreamlike journey with him.

Director Terry Gilliam has been trying to make this movie for 30 years. If you've seen any of Gilliam's previous works, you know you're in for something bizarre. But despite that, I actually enjoyed myself. 

I'm a simple person, I see Adam Driver, I watch. What's great about that is this movie is shot like like the director wanted to fuck Adam Driver. He spends the entire movie with an open shirt, in a few occasional almost sex scenes and the camera just LOVES him. It makes me wonder at what point in Gilliam's vision did he realize he needed this. 

Driver plays his incredulous character well and Jonathon Pryce is a riot. You can tell he's having a lot of fun in this role.  Stellan Skarsgard also shows up to be an asshole briefly and I can't argue that.

I think if you're in the mood for something weird one evening, or you dig Gilliam's films, you will probably enjoy this. As strange as it is, I never once found myself getting frustrated with it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "What plot?" - Toby (Adam Driver)

Review: Toy Story 4

More nostalgia toys.

Several years after that perfect ending to this trilogy from my childhood we're back with the toys again. This time, their new child Molly is ignoring Woody (Tom Hanks) but still playing with everyone else. When he sneaks into her bookbag and goes to her first day of Kindergarten and watches her make Forky (Tony Hale) he becomes determined to force him to stay even after he escapes several times.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you probably already know that I'm not a fan of the Toy Story franchise. Like most 90's kids, I loved the first one but unlike everyone else I flat out disliked the second and third. Now we're at a fourth installment, which story wise is better than 2 and 3 but still just isn't very compelling.

I'm glad the writers finally decided to do something different and not just repeat the same villain this time around. The idea of "lost toys" and seeing Bo Peep again was nice but the cat and mouse game that Woody and Forky play throughout really drags and makes this film feel a lot longer than it really is. I also found myself getting annoyed with Molly and Forky which probably wasn't the desired reaction. Unlike the other installments, I laughed a few times which was a nice change.

I'm quite torn on this. I hated Toy Story 3, but thought the ending worked really well for the overall series. This film feels unnecessary, yet it's better than the two that came before it.  It's kind of a shame that this film will probably win the animated Oscar just because it's Toy Story, when another animated franchise - How To Train Your Dragon - also bowed out this year with a much better final film. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "....you got a kid?" - Ducky (Keegan Michael Key)


Thursday Movie Picks: Witnesses


This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves saw something. Did you? I'm bringing it way back this week. 

1) Rear Window

Okay, so I just saw this for the first time last year, but from what I've seen of Hitchcock so far, this is by far my favorite.

2) Sister Act

A singer who witnesses a crime gets sent to a convent to hide out. I've lost count of how many times my BFF and I would break out with "Oh Happy Day" because of this film. This and the sequel were a staple for young me. 

3) Our Lips are Sealed

Remember when the Olsen Twins were in witness protection? Objectively, this movie is terrible but I was obsessed with the Olsens when I was a kid. My hair cut and style were always inspired by them. I'm kind of surprised this film popped into my mind when I saw this theme. I had to roll with it. 

Review: The Farewell

You're just too sad.

Billi (Awkwafina) is a Chinese-American who finds her her grandmother (Shuzhen Zhao) is dying of cancer and her family has decided to keep her in the dark per tradition. Not wanting her to travel to China with them and give it away, Billi surprises everyone by making the trip she cannot afford to discreetly say her final goodbyes.

Awkwafina described this movie as an "empathy orgy" in an interview and she's not too far off. While there's some awkward laughs here and there it's cloaked in depression, but not the kind that turns the film into misery porn. Director Lulu Wang based this story on a lie her family truly told her grandmother and you can tell. It feels very personal.

The cast is very good. There's nothing showy about these performances but they're very understated and you believe each character really loves their Nai Nai and are internally processing a lot about the situation. Billi in particular is very introspective with her grief. The strangest thing for me, however, was the fact that they all travel back to China under the guise of Billi's cousins' wedding, yet they never say a word to each other. With one being raised in Japan and on in America, there could be somewhat of a language barrier, but it seemed strange to me that the two grandchildren never had a conversation on what their parents were doing.

I surprisingly wasn't in a puddle of tears by the end of this. I think that was because I kept expecting it to end a certain way and it never did. But I did leave feeling incredibly moved by what I just saw.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable quote: "He's my only cousin, don't you think I should be there?" - Billi (Awkwafina)

Indie Gems: The Hummingbird Project

All for Wall Street.

Cousins, and high frequency traders, Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and Anton (Alexander Skarsgard) leave their job and their over the top boss Evas (Salma Hayek) to secretly build a fiber-optic cable from Kansas to New Jersey in order to get the stocks faster than her company. With the help of contractor Mark (Michael Mando) they are determined to make their extremely difficult plan work.

The plot of this film really didn't entice me but I wanted to see this for the cast. It gets off to a bit of a rocky start, but I ended up liking this a lot more than I expected. What they're doing is so outlandish that you almost expect it to say "based on a true story" but it never does. 

Eisenberg finally plays out of his comfort zone in this, which was the best part for me. He too often goes for the awkward neurotic thing and this finally felt like he was getting back to his Social Network form. Skarsgard is excellent as well, even though he's in the worst bald cap ever throughout the entire film. Hayke's character is a huge schemer that I thought would get on my nerves but even though she looms in the background of what Vincent and Anton are doing, it's never too much. It's nice to see Michael Mando in something outside of Better Call Saul as well.

The Hummingbird Project is pretty serious but has some deeply funny moments throughout. It makes for a nice watch at home.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "That's an entire millisecond!" - Vincent (Alexander Skarsgard)

Thursday Movie Picks: Mrs. Robinsons

I hope you're ready to rob some cradles because this week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is all about those older women who like younger men. I've actually never seen The Graduate, every time I see the term "Mrs. Robinson" I make a mental note to watch it and never do. I'm not crazy about the term to be honest, but here are some films with older women and younger men.

1) The Reader

I've been thinking about this movie a lot lately, I think I'm do for a re-watch for this film about a teenage boy who has an affair with an older women, only to encounter her again later in life as a law student while she's on trial. 

2) Florence Foster Jenkins

The wanna be Opera singer has a husband who is about two decades younger (in the film, in real life the age cap is only about 12 years) I expected to dislike this movie but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

3) The Good Girl

This is still my favorite Jennifer Aniston performance. It's about a bored woman who hooks up with her younger co-worker. I like this film quite a bit.

DVD Review: A Kid Like Jake

What happens now?

Alex (Claire Danes) and Greg (Jim Parsons) are parents to a young boy named Jake (Leo James Davis) and with kindergarten coming up, they are looking for the best school for him. While applying for many private schools, his preschool director Judy (Octavia Spencer) points out that Jake's love of all things princess may be a bit more than a phase, and both parents deal in different ways.

Not too long ago I watched Girl on Netflix. That film was about a transgender ballerina and it received a lot of well earned criticism for the way it portrayed that story.Going into this knowing a transgender director, Silas Howard was at the helm at least told me that it would be handled with care.

And it is. A Kid Like Jake isn't really about Jake at all, it's about how Alex and Greg navigate parenthood after acknowledging that maybe Jake doesn't really feel like a boy. Both of them are progressive people and I felt like their fears and acknowledgements rang true. Greg is more open to the idea than Alex who goes through a denial phase. My only wish is that the film would've felt more cohesive. 

Writer Daniel Pearle adapted this story based on his own play, and you can tell that's how it originated because sometimes the performances are way too theatrical to fit the tone of the movie. Danes and Parsons often feel like they're talking at each other instead of to each other. Danes being the most over the top of the two. I think both are reliable actors and it's nice to see Parsons play someone that isn't Sheldon Cooper, but I felt Danes needed to be toned down a bit, and they could've completely dropped the subplot with one of Greg's patients that ate up a decent chunk of the film and went nowhere. I think we could've spent that time getting to know Jake, the title character instead.

This is one of those movies that I think I appreciate more than I like. I appreciate the care taken by all involved, but I'm not a huge fan of the finished product for the reasons mentioned. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "Are you saying he's done this before?" - Greg (Jim Parsons)

What I watched on TV in July

Here's my TV roundup for the month of July!

Big Little Lies

This season may have been an editing disaster but I enjoyed it overall. Meryl Streep's Mary Louise is easily the most annoying villain I've seen on TV in a long time and I apologize to any of my Twitter followers who had to listen to me bitch about it. But the acting was outstanding this season. Kravitz, Kidman, and Dern particularly were amazing. I hated Renata last season but grew to love her (earned) tantrums she threw this season. The ending was kind of a cop out, but I hope there's no season 3 to expand on it because I'm not sure if I can handle the possibilities. 

Euphoria

I was not expecting to like this show as much as I do. Zendaya gives a career best performance and they made all of the character's stories very interesting. I see some comparisons to Thirteen Reasons Why, and to be honest I didn't think of that show once when watching Euphoria. They're very different.

Legion

We finally saw Charles Xavier which is cool but I'm so confused about the time line this is set in. Everything has that 70's aesthetic but I swear they've mentioned the internet before. I'm basically watching this for Dan Steven's performance at this point. It's a mess. 

The Act

Joey King is fantastic in this, wow. I watched the documentary this is based on; Mommy Dead and Dearest on HBO and was fascinated by this absolute train wreck of a story. I normally don't care for Patricia Arquette in anything but she's very good here as well. I can't recommend this enough. 


When They See Us

This limited series was an absolute gut punch. The actors were very good and at four episodes it's a quick binge. I recommend watching something light after this considering it's so depressing.

Stranger Things

It was weird at first not to have ST come back during Halloween but it fit right in over 4th of July weekend. Over all, I really enjoyed this season. They played into a lot of fan service but I think most of it paid off. I'm glad Eleven got to do other things besides cry all season, I liked that they fleshed out her relationship with Max. Poor Will got sidelined a bit this season. The highlights were with Dustin and Steve, and my least favorite parts (aside from Billy who I still don't give a fuck about) where Joyce and Hopper. They were both a bit *too much.* The ending was super trope-y which I think took a lot of the emotion out of it, even if the letter was a nice touch. Here's hoping Season 4 comes swiftly. 

I Love You, Now Die

This was a two part HBO documentary about the Commonwealth v Michelle Carter. A 17 year old girl who was charged with involuntary manslaughter when she encouraged her boyfriend via text to kill himself, which he ultimately did. I have to say I feel differently about this case now then when I did when I originally heard about it. The media really painted it in a certain light. Part one is told from the prosecution's side, and part two from the defense. This was a bizarre case for sure. I don't think Carter should be serving jail time for this, but I think she needs serious psychiatric help.

Can I bitch about The Walking Dead for a minute

Of course I can, this is my blog! I have a long documented journey with my abusive relationship with this show, that I ultimately dropped after they killed Carl because I deduced that no satisfying ending could come from without him. The long running comic just ended, and it ended on a note that was worthy of the story and I just want to say for the millionth time, that I still CANNOT believe Scott Gimple botched the writing of this show so badly that they will never have an ending like they do in the comics. Judith Cosplaying Grimes isn't Carl and it will never work in the same way. At least book Carl got to grow up, become a man, get married and start his own family while being able to look back proudly on what Rick accomplished.

*heavy sigh*

Thursday Movie Picks: The Great Outdoors

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is the great outdoors. I love being outdoors in the summer, but today I'm going to celebrate some films where people are absolutely not living their best lives outside at the moment.

1) Leave No Trace

Ben Foster plays a father that forces his daughter, played by Thomasin Mackenzie to live off grid. She's fine with this, until she gets a taste of normal living and it causes tension between the two. The acting in this film is extraordinary

2) 127 Hours

James Franco plays Aron Rolston, a real life hiker who had to literally cut his own arm off to escape a crevice he fell into. I think this film is wonderful, it's amazingly directed by Danny Boyle, the soundtrack is perfect, and yes, Franco is a real life creep, but he is SO good here.

3) The River Wild

Nostalgia pick! I've been in a David Strathairn mood lately so this film has been on my mind. I haven't seen it for years, but being held hostage whilst rafting is intense.