Review: The Irishman

I heard you paint houses.

Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is a former union worker who becomes a hitman for Russell Bufalino. (Joe Pesci) He also forms a friendship with Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and reluctantly has a hand in his death.

I was only familiar with Jimmy Hoffa's name before watching this. I didn't know anything about the Teamsters and since I knew I was going to be sitting through nearly four hours of this film, I didn't bother researching because I assumed Scorcese would tell me everything I needed to know. And he did, this film is very thorough. 

De Niro, Pesci and Pacino are very good. Pesci was probably my favorite, all three give wonderful performances and I imagine we'll be seeing all of them throughout Oscar season. As someone who watched The Godfather Parts I and II about 10 times this year, seeing Pacino screaming at people was a nice call back to that. The film is also littered with great actors, mostly from Boardwalk Empire and it was nice to see them pop up here and there. Even though it often left me wishing we'd see more of them. This is clearly the trio's movie. No one else comes close to mattering as much as they do.

I liked the film overall. I think the time period was captured so well and I loved seeing who was going to cameo next. I felt I learned something from the story and I can see why Scorcese really wanted to make this film. I really only had two issues with it.

The biggest struggle for me in this film was the pacing, which I usually never take issue with in Scorcese's films. The first hour flies by then the middle of the film comes to a screeching halt. I understand why its so long, but I was never unaware that I was watching a 3 and a half hour movie. It doesn't start picking up again until the end and was just very inconsistent. I didn't hate any part of it, plenty of movies have little slumps, they just don't last an hour and a half.

Much has been made about the digital de-aging process and I don't think they were nearly as successful as those "theme park" movies Scorcese hates so much. No matter what age we're watching Frank, Russell, or Jimmy, they all still move like 70 year old men and their eyes are constantly watering, which draws a lot of attention to the fact that you're watching VFX. You get used to it, but I don't think it's as good as many people were saying.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Why haven't you called Jo?" - Peggy Sheeran (Anna Paquin)


Review: Frozen II

Don't let it go, come back.
A few years have passed since we last left Elsa, (Idina Menzel) Anna, (Kristen Bell) Kristof, (Jonathon Groff) and Olaf. (Josh Gad) While everything is running smoothly in Arendelle and Anna is determined to make up for lost time with her sister, Elsa is hearing voices that are calling her far away to an enchanted forest their parents told them about when they were children.

I chose the Captain Marvel banner for Dell's Girl Week to talk about the ladies in this film because Elsa is a super hero at this point. She's permafrosted Olaf and she can form ice into anything she wants now. I found Elsa's journey in this film to be far more interesting this time around. Instead of running, she's looking for her purpose. Anna is the one the fairs a little worse, she's obsessed with her sister to the point where it's kind of annoying, but it does lead up to her best song - Next Right Thing - so all is forgiven at the end. 

In true Frozen fashion, some of the plot points are horrendously stupid. It's easy to overlook them with the music. You can tell the new songs were written so that the vocalists could show off more. I really liked Into The Unknown and Show Yourself. While they feel a bit derivative of Let It Go, the music is gorgeous and they are extremely catch. Evan Rachel Wood is a nice addition as Anna and Elsa's mother in a flashback. I've always enjoyed her singing voice so I was happy to hear her again. 

The most surprising thing for me personally was that I actually liked Olaf's song When I Grow Up. I normally cannot stand him, and I still haven't recovered from that horror story of a short that was in front of Coco, but that song was pretty funny.

I wasn't the biggest fan of the original so I ended up preferring this one. When I asked my son what he thought, he also said he liked this one better because there were more subplots. (Though that was a word I had to teach him, he described it as "like when you play a video game and you get a bonus level")

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "This is fine." - Olaf (Josh Gad)

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Dystopian/Apocalyptic

Happy Awkward Family Dinner Day, my American friends! I hope everyone behaves themselves today. If you're here reading instead - this week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is about those TV series that take place after the world has gone to shit. I already used most of the shows that came to mind first for this theme so this is what I have left over. I had to cheat a little.

1) Fear The Walking Dead

This show started off by showing civilization during the outbreak and had fairly interesting characters. Then TWD poison Scott Gimple got involved, the best characters are dead and now the show is basically The Walking Dead in a different location.

2) The Last Man On Earth

I haven't seen the entire series in full but it was an amusing take on a small group of people after a virus wipes out most of the humans on Earth. 

3) Watchmen

So this isn't technically dystopian but it's an alternate version of our reality and things are pretty rough. That counts, right?

Girl Week 2019: Wonderful Women of the Decade


Dell over at Dell on Movies is celebrating another Girl Week! It's where we highlight the wonderful woman in films. This time around, I figured I would look at the past decade and highlight the women that are behind the camera in various capacities instead of in front. Here are some women I feel made a huge difference these past 10 Years. I'll be listing the credentials of their work that I have seen, or plan to if it's a 2019 release.


Dee Rees - Director: Pariah (2011) Bessie (2015) Mudbound (2017)
I think Dee Rees is one of the most interesting directors out there right now. She came out strong with a lovely film representing the LGBTQ+ community, then brought her talents to TV, then only a few years ago gave us the wonderful Mudbound. Carey Mulligan mentioned once that if Dee Rees were a man, she'd be directing Star Wars. Here's hoping studios toss as much money at her as possible because she deserves every penny of it. 


Mindy Kaling - Writer: The Mindy Project (2012-2017) Late Night (2019) and published author.
I adore Mindy Kaling. I think she's so sweet and funny. I read both of her books and I always keep an eye out for her new projects. I haven't seen her current project, Four Weddings and Funeral on Hulu, but when I re-sign up for that service, I'll definitely check it out. She's always reliably funny. 


Greta Gerwig - Writer/Director: Frances Ha (2012) Mistress America (2015) Lady Bird (2017) Little Women (2019)
Gerwig has been an indie darling over the past few years but she's rightfully earned it. Lady Bird especially proved that not only is she a solid writer, but an excellent director to. I'm looking forward to see what she does with Little Women next month.


Rachel Morrison - Cinematographer: Sound of my Voice (2011) Fruitvale Station (2013) Cake (2014) Dope (2015) Mudbound (2017) Black Panther (2018) Seberg (2019)
Morrison was someone I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't know of until Mudbound came out. She earned her first Oscar nomination for Cinematography and became the first woman to do so. That's amazing, and I realized just how much of her work I had seen and enjoyed. If anything, she made me more mindful of looking at all the credits for those behind the scenes.


Lynne Ramsay - Director: We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Lynne Ramsay is directing films that get her thiiiiis close to the Oscars but they have yet to nominate her. She was robbed of an Oscar nom for Kevin and she directed Joaquin Phoenix in a way Todd Phillips could never dream of. I always pay attention to what she has coming up.


Haifaa Al-Mansour - Director: Wadjda (2012)
I haven't seen nearly enough of her work but I loved Wadjda and reading what she had to go through to make that movie in her native Saudi Arabia - including sometimes having to give said directions over walkie talkie is unbelievable. She's directing an episode of a mini series - The Good Lord Bird coming out next year that I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for.


Ava DuVernay - Director: Middle of Nowhere (2012) Selma (2014) 13th (2016) A Wrinkle in Time (2019) When They See Us (2019)
13th is one of the best docs of the decade. I also loved Middle of Nowhere when I was FINALLY able to see it after years of waiting for it after the festival circuit. DuVernay's voice is always one I want to listen to.


Mica Levi - Composer: Under The Skin (2013) Jackie (2016) Marjorie Prime (2017)
There are several spots where films are sorely missing women but composers is certainly at the top. Levi composed one of the best scores of the decade in Jackie and her music also elevated the other two films of hers I've seen


Jenji Kohan - Showrunner/Producer: Orange is the New Black (2013-2019)
Jenji has produced plenty of other things aside from OITNB, but that is the show I specifically want to talk about. She created a show with the most diverse cast of women on television and I'm so happy she did.



There are so many more to list. Who are your favorites?

Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Won't you be my neighbor?

Journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a cynic. His estranged father Jerry (Chris Cooper) has just re-entered his life and his boss at Esquire Magazine takes him away from the investigative pieces he normally writes and has him profile Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) instead. That interview changes his life.

I've always been aware of Mister Rogers but I never grew up watching him religiously. I'd catch an occasional episode here and there but it was never an after school thing for me like it was for many. Because of that, I was surprised at how much this film effected me. I cried like a baby consistently throughout.

Director Marielle Heller crafts this film like it's an extended episode of Mister. Rogers' Neighborhood. We open with him, the scene transitions are of toys traveling from one place to another, and Lloyd is profiled just as Mister Rogers would do for any of his guests. This isn't a Fred Rogers biopic, it's very much about Vogel and his struggles. His relationship with his wife, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) and their newborn baby and how Vogel confronts his father. It's his relationship with his father that Fred Rogers takes such an interest in.

Matthew Rhys is very good. I found Vogel to be very frustrating at times but he played that well. I like that the film was told from his perspective. Hanks doesn't look or sound a thing like Fred Rogers but he's such a well known nice guy himself that it works. He 100% captures the spirit of what he was like. 

I really liked Heller's direction and I hope her name doesn't stray too far from awards conversation when it comes to Best Director. Even though myself and everyone else in the theater was sobbing (it feel so reassuring to hear other people sniffling) I was left with such a happy feeling.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "Thank you for giving me that perspective." - Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks)


And because this film is directed by a lovely woman, it makes a nice entry into Dell's Girl Week!


2019 Blind Spot Series: Casablanca


What I knew going in: The basic story and the two famous lines.

Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a cynical American man living in Casablanca, Morocco during the early stages of WWII. He runs a popular night club which also doubles as a place where people can secretly buy exit papers to flee. When his ex-girlfriend, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) shows up with her husband looking for papers herself, things get complicated.

I was putting this off because for some reason I thought this film was three hours long. Turns out it's not even 90 minutes. A very brisk one at that. 

I ended up liking this far more than I expected to, it's a really solid film Strangely enough, it wasn't Rick and Isla together I loved so much, it was Rick and his friendship with the police captain Louis Renault. (Claude Rains) Rains and Bogart have excellent chemistry together. I loved that the setting was mostly in the club as well. It gives the film an upbeat vibe even though it's dealing with some very serious issues.

The cinematography also stood out. I think the scenes of Isla with tears glistening in her eyes are some of the best shots ever put on film. She looked so beautiful. I wish we had gotten a bit more of Isla's story. We hear most of it from Rick other than her explanation of why they parted and I just wanted to know more.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship." - Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart)

Aside: This is my 2000th post on my blog! Wow! I felt like I was just talking about hitting 1000.

Quick Reviews Courtesy of Netflix

These last few months have been....something. Thankfully, Netflix has been there for me on both the streaming and DVD side.



Deep Red - For someone who counts Suspiria as one of their all time favorite movies, I haven't seen any other Dario Argento movie. I decided to fix that starting with Deep Red. I really liked it. I liked the aesthetic and enjoyed the "whodunit" part of the mystery, even if the killer ended up being a bit of a stretch at the end. B


Eli - For a Netflix horror film, this was actually pretty decent. It's very basic but it didn't end the way most horror films telling that story would have. I appreciated that. C+


High Life - This is easily one of the worst films I've seen this year. It's less of a science fiction film and more about a study on sex. Robert Pattinson is not a compelling lead. I know the internet is obsessed with him right now but I find him to be pretty mediocre. The only decent thing is Mia Goth and Juliette Binoche. They try. D


Porto- What a waste of Anton Yelchin. It's so obvious a dude made this movie. The sex scene was all about lingering on the woman and only showed Yelchin's back. C-


Izzy Gets The Fuck Across Town - This was enjoyable enough until the ending. Izzy is such a trainwreck, she treats everyone like shit, and I kept hoping the end of this film would be her getting her much needed reality check but it essentially justifies her bad behavior in a way. Ultimately even a few days later, this film is very forgettable. C-

2020 Independent Spirit Award Nominations


Awards season is kicking off with the beloved Spirit Nominations. I love independent films and my favorite thing about these is getting more recommendations. But I have to say....this year's nominations are weird. NO Jojo Rabbit, barely any Marriage Story and way too much Lighthouse and Hustlers for me personally. Plus a few big snubs, but hey, there's nothing wrong with being unpredictable. Here are the nominees + my thoughts. 

BEST DIRECTOR
Alma Har’el, Honey Boy
Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers
Julius Onah, Luce
Robert Eggers, The Lighthouse
Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, Uncut Gems
Honey Boy and Uncut Gems are the only two I haven't. Out of the ones I did see, Luce was my favorite. Otherwise these were pretty surprising aside from Eggers and Har'el. I expected Baumbach and possibly Taika if Jojo Rabbit qualified here.

BEST SCREENPLAY
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder, To Dust
Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, Uncut Gems
Chinonye Chukwu, Clemency
Tarell Alvin McCraney, High Flying Bird
I haven't seen these. Marriage Story is one of my must sees of the year and Clemency is in my DVD queue. I see High Flying Bird is available to stream on Netflix, so I'll likely check that out soon.

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Fredrica Bailey & Stefon Bristol, See You Yesterday
Hannah Bos & Paul Thureen, Driveways
Bridget Savage Cole & Danielle Krudy, Blow the Man Down
Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe, Greener Grass
James Montague & Craig W. Sanger, The Vast of Night
Unfortunately I haven't seen any of these. Have you? Do you have a recommendation?

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Todd Banhazl, Hustlers
Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse
Natasha Braier, Honey Boy
Chananun Chotrungroj, The Third Wife
Pawel Pogorzelski, Midsommar
I'm happy to see Midsommar here. Lighthouse was a given. Hustlers is a surprise. I think The Last Black Man in San Francisco or Them That Follow should've been here personally.

BEST EDITING
Julie Béziau, The Third Wife
Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems
Tyler L. Cook, Sword of Trust
Louise Ford, The Lighthouse
Kirill Mikhanovsky, Give Me Liberty

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Karen Allen, Colewell
Hong Chau, Driveways
Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell
Mary Kay Place, Diane
Alfre Woodard, Clemency
Renée Zellweger, Judy 
This is disappointing as I really wanted Florence Pugh to be here for Midsommar and Awkwafina for The Farewell. Elizabeth Moss getting in is a bit of a surprise as Her Smell came out so early in the year. 

BEST MALE LEAD
Chris Galust, Give Me Liberty
Kelvin Harrison Jr., Luce
Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse
Matthias Schoenaerts, The Mustang
Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
Adam Driver apparently wasn't eliglble because Marriage Story got the Cast Award so that's a huge lose for this category. Kelvin Harrison Jr. getting in for Luce is wonderful though. I wish Roman Griffin Davis were here for Jojo Rabbit.

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Taylor Russell, Waves
Lauren “LoLo” Spencer, Give Me Liberty
Octavia Spencer, Luce
Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell
I guess JLo really is going after that Oscar. I'm happy for Shuzhen and Spencer. The other films I plan on seeing as soon as I get the chance.

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse
Noah Jupe, Honey Boy
Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy
Jonathan Majors, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Wendell Pierce, Burning Cane 
FINALLY LBMISF gets some love. Burning Cane is on Netflix so I'll give that a watch. DaFoe was great in The Lighthouse and I'm looking forward to Honey Boy.

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast
Marriage Story
Director: Noah Baumbach
Casting Directors: Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler
Ensemble Cast: Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever

BEST DOCUMENTARY 
American Factory
Apollo 11
For Sama
Honeyland
Island of the Hungry Ghosts


BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM 
Invisible Life - Brazil
Les Misérables - France
Parasite-South Korea
Portrait of a Lady on Fire - France
Retablo - Peru
The Souvenir - United Kingdom
I've only seen Parasite which was wonderful. I really want to see Portrait of a Lady on Fire as well.


BONNIE AWARD – Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo joined American Airlines in 1973 at age 24, becoming the first female pilot to fly for a major U.S. airline. In her honor, the third Bonnie Award will recognize a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant, sponsored by American Airlines.

Marielle Heller
Kelly Reichardt
Lulu Wang

PRODUCERS AWARD – The 23rd annual Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

Mollye Asher
Krista Parris
Ryan Zacarias

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The 26th annual Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

Rashaad Ernesto Green, Director of Premature
Ash Mayfair, Director of The Third Wife
Joe Talbot, Director of The Last Black Man in San Francisco

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 25th annual Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

Khalik Allah, Director of Black Mother
Davy Rothbart, Director of 17 Blocks
Nadia Shihab , Director of Jaddoland
Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside, Director of América

Thursday Movie Picks: Over A Meal

This week's theme from Wandering Through Shelves is memorable scenes that take place over a meal. When I saw this topic, these three films came to my mind immediately:

1) Jurassic Park

Lex and her Jello shaking when she hears the dinosaurs approaching is absolutely iconic. Honestly, Lex herself is iconic. She's the most underrated character in all of Jurassic Park. They should dump Chris Pratt and just bring her back. Then maybe the new films wouldn't be so awful.

2) Inglorious Basterds

Hans Landa ordering cream for Shoshanna's strudel had me on the edge of my seat. And this is a film that already opened with a very tense scene involving her family hiding from the nazis. Shoshanna kept it together while he was there, but the viewers were a wreck for her. 

3) Lady and the Tramp

Is there a more iconic scene involving spaghetti? I still have zero interest in the live action remake though. This was fine.

Review: Ford v Ferarri

Two or Three hundred years?

Former driver and current car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is tasked with designing a car to beat Ferarri at the 24 hour Le Mons race in the late 60's. He wants the best driver for the job, the volatile Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to drive it, but mustache twirling villain and Ford VP Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) does just about everything possible to stand in Ken's way.

I don't care about racing. I never have, but I was pleasantly surprised with Rush a few years ago so despite my indifference I decided to see this one for the actors. 

This is yet another instance of a movie being two and half hours when it really doesn't need to be. The length makes the film wildly uneven. The racing is thrilling, but other parts are frustrating. Especially Josh Lucas.

There's a difference between an effective antagonist and an annoying one. Leo Beebe is the latter. He was so over the top smug and goes through the entire movie completely unchecked, even though Jon Bernthal's character was clearly in a position to do so. Maybe all of this did go down exactly this way in real life, but it undercuts the powerful scene Shelby and Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) have in the second act because Beebe's motives take that all away. I couldn't enjoy Lucas being a dick because I could not wait for him to just fuck off. He wasn't enjoyable or interesting to watch at all.

Bale was the standout for me, and Damon was good as well. Letts has a single great moment in the film and Caitriona Balfe is also solid, even though her character is kind of all over the place in the beginning.

I didn't read anything about Shelby or Miles in real life, perhaps if I did I would've skipped this entirely, because If I'm sitting through a movie that's already too long, I'd like to at least have a satisfying ending and this doesn't. That's a personal gripe and it shouldn't stop you from seeing it if you want to, but it ultimately was just not enjoyable, no matter how well made it was and how great the two leading men were.

Recommended: No

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "This is an ugly fucking car." - Ken Miles (Christian Bale)

Review: Parasite

If only Oxford has a counter-fitting course..

Kim Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi) lives with his parents, Ki-taek and Chung-sook (Kang-ho Song and Hye-jin Jang) and sister Ki-jung (So-dam Park) in a basic apartment doing odd jobs to make ends meet. By luck, one of his friends offers him a tutoring position for a rich family. Ki-woo decides to scheme his family members into jobs within the rich household, but they all pretend not to know each other. 

If you've spent any amount of time on Film Twitter since Cannes, Parasite has been all the buzz. One consistent thing I heard was to know as little as possible before going in. So I did. I only saw the trailer for this film for the first time last week when I went to see Jojo Rabbit. The hype was impossible to escape. I had high expectations until I saw a tweet calling it a mash up between Burning and Roma. That brought my expectations down substantially considering I think both of those movies are awful. Thankfully, this film is nowhere near as boring as those two.

It's true about going in blind so I won't speak to anything specifically, but ultimately this film is about classism and the large divide between the very rich and the very poor. These two families could not be bigger opposites. The rich will never worry like the poor, and the poor will never feel the stability of the rich. 

I really liked all of the actors involved. Kang-ho Song is a regular in director Bong Joon Ho's films and I always enjoy seeing him. I especially liked the actors playing the kids, and the rich wife.  I really enjoy what I've seen on Bong Joon's films and I hope to see more of his older filmography. I really hope Parasite gets him into the Best Director field at the Oscars this year because he deserves it. 

Without going into details, my only gripes were a few minor things that I thought we would get more context on, but this is a rare film that lived up to all the long term festival hype.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "Do you think I fit in here?" - Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi)

Review: Doctor Sleep

I used to call it the shining...

About forty years after his run in at the Overlook Hotel Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) now goes by Dan and is a recovering alcoholic laying low in New Hampshire. He has telepathic conversations with another person like him, Abra.(Kyliegh Curran) When Abra witnesses Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her group of shine stealing cultists known as the True Knot murder a young boy (Jacob Tremblay) she begs Dan to help her. 

I'm not sure if many people would venture into Doctor Sleep without having seen The Shining, but just in case you haven't, you really need to have seen The Shining to make sense of this film. I've never read the book this is based off of myself, but with how much information is in this film, they must have done a decent job adapting it.

I really liked Ewan and Kyliegh in these roles. It's sad to see Dan grow up to be so troubled, but I'm glad we also got to see him getting his life back together. Abra was also a nice addition. I also really liked Zahn McClarnon, who plays Crow, one of Rose's fellow True Knot members. The cinematography is gorgeous and the film is very creepy. Especially when Tremblay's character comes in for his short scene. Holy shit does he make you uncomfortable. I had a legitimately hard time watching him.

My biggest complaint about this film is its length. You really feel the 2 and a half hour run time. I felt like it could've been edited down quite a bit. It gets especially annoying when we get to the final act and are taken on a Shining greatest hits journey. I just wish they had trimmed it down because it did not need to feel this long, but again, maybe if you've read the book, you will enjoy all the things they kept.

Overall, I think this is a fine sequel and a very well done horror thriller. Even though it's long, it's not unbearable.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Alright, bitch child. Alright." - Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson)

Indie Gems: Luce

Don't put him in a box.

Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) was adopted from war torn Eritrea as a child by the affluent family Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter. (Tim Roth) They've worked hard to make sure he reaches his full potential, and so far, they've succeeded. Luce is a kind boy, he's good in school and in sports, but when he writes a troubling essay in Mrs. Wilson's (Octavia Spence) class, Amy in particular is forced to consider the idea that maybe he isn't perfect.

Luce makes a comment about the harmful nature of tokenism and stereotypes early in the film. Why is it okay that the school makes it clear how much they want Luce, a boy with a tragic past to succeed and not another black student who gets kicked off the track team for weed in his locker and loses his only shot of college because of it? Why does Mrs. Wilson project onto some students and not the others? Why can't Amy see any grey area at all in her son's life? These are all valid questions and they are what make Luce such an interesting watch. 

Harrison puts on a very sincere facade. He does want to succeed, he's capable of shitty things, but he's aware how much he is being projected on. One of his classmates, Stephanie (Andrea Bang) has a powerful scene where she recounts a sexual assault at a party and it's one of the best acted moments I've seen this year. Naomi Watts is also very good, even though Amy's decisions were frustrating. 

I like the conversation this film brings to the table and I'm surprised it's not being talked about more. It never came to a theater near me, so I'm happy I got to watch it on DVD now.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "I just don't believe you, Amy." - Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.)

Thursday Movie Picks: Politics

The world is on fire and today Wanderer is having us find political films. It's fitting The Report comes out tomorrow, a political film I've been looking forward to seeing. But my theater isn't getting it so until I get to feast my eyes on more Adam Driver, here are a few other films I enjoy.

1) Milk

This was one of my favorites movies of that year. Despite not really caring for Sean Penn, he was excellent as Harvey Milk and the supporting cast was fantastic.

2) All The President's Men

You all know how much I love journalism movies and this one about the Watergate scandal is still one of my favorite films I've seen on my Blind Spot journey.

3) Recount

With Jay Roach's Bombshell out soon, maybe more people will go back and find this TV movie he did about the 2000 presidential election. I really enjoyed it. It got a lot of Emmy and Globe love, but I still feel like it doesn't get talked about that much. Denis Leary and Laura Dern were the standouts for me. 

Review: The King

Hail King Henry

When his father and brother die, the reluctant Hal (Timothee Chalamet) finds himself crowned the King of England and his pacifist ways tested. 

I had no idea this movie was even in the works until about a month ago. I liked the trailer, I thought Timothee's English accent sounded good and Joel Edgerton is always a pleasant surprise, but what really sold me was hearing about Robert Pattinson's bat shit crazy performance as a French prince. 

And ridiculous it is, so much so that Pattinson feels out of place. Like everyone else is taking this film seriously except him. But it works in its own strange way. It's levity for the heavy burden we watch Hal carry. 

Speaking of Hal, Timothee Chalamet is outstanding here. It's a shame the film isn't better. It feels like a mature progression to his career. He starts out without many cares and then when the crown is thrust upon them he adapts the best way he can. 

The King is about as basic as they come. We've seen this several times before but what sets it apart is Chalamet's performance. It's worth seeing if you're a fan of him.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I am I. Who are you?" - Falstaff (Joel Edgerton)

Review: Jojo Rabbit

Run, little rabbit.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a 10 year old fanatic joining a Hitler Youth camp in Germany. He tries to be devout, but he's awkward and scared. He also sees Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) as an imaginary friend. His world views are challenged when he finds out his mother, (Scarlett Johnasson) is hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin Mackenzie) in their home.

This has been one of my most anticipated films of the year. I love Taika Waititi, everything he does is so much fun but making a satire about Nazis was a risky move. Thankfully, it paid off as this is easily one of the best films I've seen all year. 

Roman Griffin Davis is an extraordinary young actor. Jojo is such a vulnerable character and even though he's spouting off some terrible nonsense, you realize he's a product of his environment. His mother tries to change that, and I loved their scenes together. They were so warm and sweet and of course being a mother to a son myself made me even more sappy about it. 

The comedy was wonderful, this film keeps you laughing then absolutely punches you in the gut. Then after you've sat with the harsh reality for a bit, it gives you a few more chuckles and ends on a lovely note. It also has probably one of the best uses of a PG-13 "fuck" ever in film.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A+

Memorable Quote: "I need a cuddle." - Yorki (Archie Yates)

Review: Motherless Brooklyn

He'd do it for me.

Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is a private eye whose mentor, Frank (Bruce Willis) is gunned down before his eyes while working a case. He attempts to solve Frank's murder and seeks out the woman Frank was following, Laura. (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) He doesn't have all the pieces, but he does have a brilliant mind...that occasionally causes outbursts as he suffers from Tourette's Syndrome.

I save that for last because Norton mostly uses Tourette's as comedy relief aside from a very sweet scene in a night club (with the lovely Michael Kenneth Williams on the trumpet) and a few interrogations.Perhaps the book this film is based on plays it differently.

I'm finding myself at a bit of a crossroads with this movie too. (and like The Lighthouse, Willem DaFoe makes an appearance here too) I left it thinking I probably would've enjoyed the book more as I love mysteries. One of the reasons is because you can sit with a few chapters before starting the next. With this film and its 2 1/2 hour run time, it throws so much information at you that I found myself getting confused at times. When the film started to drag, I started to over think what I had just saw. Then the pay off doesn't feel very satisfactory for all the hoops we just watched Lionel jump through. 

But the story IS interesting. I just wish they had trimmed it up a bit. I felt like too many things went nowhere. The actors did a good job. I'm always here for Gugu who was the standout. Norton carries the film well and he's a fine director. There's some truly beautiful shots here. 

After reading some pretty terrible reviews of this, I did end up liking it more than I was expecting to, so that was a plus, but it still had plenty of problems.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "You don't know what you're getting into." - Paul (Willem DaFoe)

Indie Gems: Them That Follow

Pray on it

Somewhere secluded in Appalachia, Mara (Alice Englert) is secretly pregnant out of wedlock and cannot tell anyone. Her father, Lemuel (Walton Goggins) is a pastor of their small church, where they hold venomous snakes and speak in tongues. When Sister Hope (Olivia Colman) finds out, she and her lover, Augie (Thomas Mann) are forced to confront their sins and go through a dangerous tradition at their church.

I've been waiting to see this film since it premiered at Sundance earlier this year. It had plenty of positive reviews then promptly dropped off the face of the Earth until now. In a way, I get it. Movies dealing with religion, mainly one that paints it in a very bad light can be fairly niche. But it still disappointed me that this film wasn't talked about more considering the setting alone gives Ozark and Winter's Bone vibes, and those are still fairly popular. 

I'm happy to say it was worth the wait. It's a deliberately paced film that will have you wishing you could reach through your TV and slap several characters at times. The actors are wonderful. Colman couldn't be less glamorous and different from when I saw her last in The Favourite. Goggins is such a reliable actor, especially when he's playing a creep. He's very believable as a religious nut. Mann and Kaitlyn Deaver, who plays Mara's friend Dilly are both welcome additions in their small parts. Englert carries the movie well. I feel like it has been ages since I've seen her last, but I loved how she played Mara. She didn't come off as the typical person questioning her faith. She truly wants to believe, but the way her community does things is backwards and wrong and she doesn't need that to have faith.

Aside from the editing being really choppy, the one thing I wish this film had was a bit more context. It could've used another 15 minutes or so on its run time to flesh out the characters further. I wish we could've seen more of Augie and Mara together. I also wish we learned more about Dilly, who seems to almost be a bit of a pariah in the community. We're told her mother left her there, but she's so easily dismissed by everyone else except Mara that I felt like there had to be more story there.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "We respect the serpent but do not cower to it." - Lemuel (Walton Goggins)

Thursday Movie Picks: Scientists

This week's theme from Wandering Through Yourselves is about those smart individuals in the world of science. Allow me to SuBvErT yOuR eXpEcTaTiOnS here and bring you terrible movies with bad scientists instead. 

1) Evolution

Unlike the other films on this list, I like this but it's not great. In this film, scientists are tasked with handling alien organisms that are starting to evolve. Hilarity ensues. I saw this in theaters with my dad when it first came out and I really liked it then, but when I watched it again as an adult I was faced with the reality that it wasn't as funny as my 13 year old self remembered. 

2) Alien: Covenant

This group of scientists are not dumb enough to divert from their mission to check out some random planet that appeared out of nowhere, right? Nope. Good thing they got some Michael Fassbender erotica on the way. 

3) Alone in the Dark 

You know Tara Reid is a scientist because she's got glasses on! All smart people have glasses. Unlike all the other Uwe Bowl garbage fires I've watched, this one doesn't even have memorable garbage in it. Unless you count that massive wall of text at the beginning that attempts to explain the film because what follows is a disaster.