Thursday Movie Picks: School

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about that time of life that I can't think about without The fact that school is going to look so differently this year for my child is another source of frustration. Thankfully there's a few movies that take place during that time that don't give me that feeling. Here they are.

1) Mean Girls

This is the ultimate teen movie for me. It came out when I was a junior in high school and I can still quote the entire film to this day. 

2) The Perks of Being A Wall Flower

I thought this was a really good adaptation of the book for the most part. Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller were perfectly cast and it did a great job of capturing that awkwardness and how dependent one can be on their friends. 

3) The Half Of It

This is a newer find for me but I did not expect to enjoy this Netflix film as much as I did. It's a sweet story of friendship and first love and even though it gets corny as hell at times, it works. 

Review: An American Pickle

 Time to brine.

Hershel Greenbaum (Seth Rogan) immigrates to America with his wife, Sarah (Sarah Snook) and begins to work in a pickle factory to fuel his American dream. One day he's accidentally knocked into a pickling vat, and the factory is condemned so he's left to brine for 100 years until two kids accidentally free him. He then meets his only living relative, great-grandson, Ben (also played by Rogan) and becomes a media sensation.

I absolutely love how they explain the science of how he was able to stay alive. It's hysterical. Sometimes the easiest way is the best way. When I sat down to watch this on Saturday night (pro tip: it's best to have pickles handy in your house because you will want to eat one at some point during this movie) I had pretty much forgotten the trailer I had seen months ago. Because of that, the conflict in the movie was a bit of a welcomed surprise for me.

Seth Rogan is great in this. It's easily the best performance he's ever given. Both Hershel and Ben are very different and Rogan never loses sight of that. He's never just playing "Ben with an accent" when he's playing Hershel, and vice versa. They're both fleshed out characters in their own right.

I will say structure wise, this movie does play out a bit like a shorter Judd Apatow film, meaning it has about 15 minutes or so towards the end after the main conflict has reached its crescendo where is absolutely drags while the main character ponders what he did wrong. But that aside, I laughed enough to make this worth my time.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I will create a pickle empire and prove you stupid." - Hershel (Seth Rogan)

2020 Blind Spot Series: Meet Me In St. Louis/Summer Stock

What I knew going in: The famous songs.

IMDB sums up Meet Me In St. Louis up best. "In the year leading up to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, the four Smith daughters learn lessons of life and love, even as they prepare for a reluctant move to New York." The majority of the film follows Esther Smith (Judy Garland) as she tries to get her new neighbor Jon Pruitt (Tom Drake) to notice her. Esther also has an older love sick sister Rose (Lucille Bremer) and two mischievous little sisters, Agnes and Tootie (Joan Carroll and Margaret O'Brien) 

I realized, embarrassingly that I'm not very well versed in the late, great Judy Garland's filmography. I knew plenty about the drama surrounding her life, but I had only seen two of her films. This year I decided to right that wrong and I figured Meet Me In St. Louis was a good place to start.

This movie was delightful and just what I needed after a long, depressing week of another needless killing of a black man by a police officer in America. (You're reading this in August, but I'm typing this review on May 31st. Hopefully people have started to listen to the protesters more by now) It lifted my spirits for a short while, and for that I'm very thankful.

Judy is wonderful and her voice is just something else. The films is so bright and colorful and she radiates joy throughout. The Smith family was fun to watch and it was nice to get all the context behind the musical numbers I was familiar with. I wish Joan Carroll would've gotten more to do though. She opens the movie singing the title song briefly, then she's really just background noise to Margaret O'Brien, who had the juicer role of the two younger sisters. 

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "Oh I don't hate you, I just hate basketball." - Esther (Judy Garland)

Now onto Summer Stock, in this film Judy plays Jane, a down on her luck farmer whose sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) shows up one day with about 20 actors in tow and has promised them the barn for the show. Jane beings to butt heads, then fall for the show's director and star, Joe. (Gene Kelly)

I love me some Gene Kelly but everyone in this movie aside from Jane, Joe, and Esme (Marjorie Main) is too dumb for words. That made it a little hard to watch at times, but the dance numbers were so much fun that I would forget it about briefly. I read a lot about the backstage drama surrounding this film. How Judy was at the height of her drug addiction, and performance wise you never would've guessed. She's good here too and Kelly is an absolute delight.

As you probably can tell, I liked Meet Me In St. Louis far more, but don't sleep on Summer Stock. It's enjoyable enough, plot contrivances aside.

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "We're trying to tell a story with music and song and dance." - Joe (Gene Kelly)

Thursday Movie Picks - Seven Deadly Sins: Pride

We've hit our final Deadly Sin edition from Wandering Through The Shelves! These were very challenging and fun. At this point, we all have to be proud of what we came up with on the previous weeks? So let's talk about pride. Here are three films I enjoy that have characters that need to overcome it.

1) American History X

Edward Norton's Derek is a racist. He's pride comes with being white and when he's sent to prison for murder he's forced to confront that pride head on and re-think his entire garbage existence. This film is hard to watch, but it's very well done. 

2) The Last King of Scotland

It takes a bit of pride in what you do to take the leap Nicholas does in this film. To practice medicine in a foreign country, hit on his boss' wife, then eventually become close do Idi Amin and have an affair with his wife too. I love this movie. Much like American History X, it's brutal at times, but it works so well.

3) Beauty and the Beast

Nooooooo onnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeeee
Prides like Gaston
Glorified like Gaston
Has an ego so far and wide like Gaston
As a specimen yes he's infuriating...

God I love that song. Perfect for Disney's ultimate dude bro. 

Review: My Days of Mercy

Oh, you're on the other side..

When we first meet Lucy, (Ellen Page) she and her siblings Martha (Amy Seimetz) and Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell) are on their way to protest a prisoner being put to death. They've found themselves to be anti death penalty advocates after their own father is also put on death row. On the other side of the fence is Mercy, (Kate Mara) a junior lawyer who was happy to see a prisoner put to death for his crimes. They spot each other from across the way and form a secret romance.

I've been a huge fan of Ellen Page for years and I remember her talking about this movie quite a bit, but I could never find it. Now with a feel trial of Starz, I'm finally able to watch....and it's another case of Page carrying an average film.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of My Days of Mercy is "shallow." This has quite a bit going on for it, but doesn't dig deep enough to become a better film. Lucy doesn't believe in the death penalty but at the same time, deep down, she questions her father. This isn't explored very much. Lucy and Mercy's first interaction is corny as hell, and even though their relationship becomes much more believable, it still felt like such an artificial way to get the ball rolling. The leads do make up for it chemistry wise.

Ellen Page is incredible here. The weight on Lucy is immense and you can tell everything that happened to her has stalled her life. She's unable to move on as she should be. Kate Mara may not get as many showy moments, but she's good as well. I really expected her character's motivations to go a certain way, and I also thought I could guess the exact way this film would end, and it at least surprised me there. That's what makes this on the slightly higher side of average. 

Over all, this isn't a great movie, but it's a perfectly fine way to spend an hour and a half. If you're a fan of Page or Mara, you definitely should see this for their performances alone.

Recommedned: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable quote: "That's a fucking ironic name..." - Lucy (Ellen Page)

Review: Guns Akimbo

Shoot 'em up.

Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) is a hapless programmer by day, and online troll by night. Mostly, he argues with people in the chat rooms of a popular online fight to the death style show, Skizm. After pissing off Skizm's overlord Riktor (Ned Dennehy) they break into his apartment, bolt two guns to his hands, and place him in a match against Nix (Samara Weaving) with millions of people watching.

I've always been curious to see the movie behind the popular crazy Daniel Radcliffe meme above, and it was certainly as crazy as I expected, but unfortunately it wasn't as much fun as I had hoped.

At first, this movie won points for realism. Miles quips that Rambo would be studying sign language because of how loud the guns are when they go off and it physically hurts him to shoot because they're bolted to his hands, but then, like many other things, that's thrown out the window for plot. Take Nix for example, shown to be a master shooter. She's introduced to us in a drag race, which she wins. Then her character is further explained during a coked up montage where she kills a dozen men by herself. But of course when Miles shows up, she misses him every time she shoots at him. But don't worry, when the plot needs her to be a good shot again, she is. And Miles is too and his hands miraculously don't hurt anymore either.

It's just so inconsistent. I really liked the idea of the story and Daniel Radcliffe is very good but it's like the writers stopped putting thought into it after Miles enters the game. And I could make an excuse for the ridiculous plot armor if the film was humorous enough but it just wasn't. And I know I'm about to loose a bunch of internet points here, but Samara Weaving, who I normally love was awful in this. Her character has hands down the worst dialogue out of anyone and she unfortunately cannot sell it. Nix actually gets a tragic back storybut the only scenes where Weaving can make her work is the montage sequences. Everything else falls apart when she tries to say her atrocious lines.

I applaud Radcliffe for banking his Harry Potter money and making films like this, I just wish the script backed the actors up more here because this should've been really fun.

Recommended: No

Grade: D

Memorable Quote: "You'll just end up blowing your damn face off. Then you'll still be depressed, even more depressed probably because of your fucked up face.." - Glenjamin (Rhys Darby)

What I Watched on TV In July

Still social distancing. Still consuming a lot of television.

I May Destroy You
- I'm in awe of this show and Michaela Cole, and I wish it had premiered in time for the Emmys this year so it could get even more praised heaped on it. The way they deal with the fall out of sexual assault is so real. But the show isn't all sadness, it's also very funny and the leads have excellent chemistry. Also, have we ever had a show that talked so openly about period sex like this one does? 

I'll Be Gone in The Dark - I wanted to hear more about the late Michelle McNamara and her obsession with finding the Golden State Killer but this just got a bit too triggering for me to keep up with. The survivors recount their assaults in such disturbing detail that I had to stop watching. I might circle back to it eventually, but I needed a break.

Pose - They finally put season 2 on Netflix. I love this show and the actors were even more top notch this season. There was a lot of heartbreak, but they handled it all gracefully so it didn't feel like nonstop misery porn. I can't wait for season 3.

The Sopranos - After 84 years, I'm finally starting the Sopranos. So far so good, I'm only on season 2 but it got off to a better start than the last old HBO show binged. 

The Alienist - This is off to a good start! I'm torn between liking the fact that they're airing episodes two at a time, because it's more Alienist in one night, and not liking it because it's going to be over quicker. I like that Sara is taking center stage this season.

Trial By Media- After watching the excellent Disclosure, I looked up Yance Ford to see what he had been up to lately and I saw he directed an episode of this Netflix series. I skipped the 5th episode, but watched the others. It's a semi interesting look on how media affects and reacts to crimes. The first episode, about a man who murdered his friend who embarrassed him on the Jenny Jones show was probably the most interesting because I remembered it happening. 

Unsolved Mysteries - It took longer than I expected, but I finally dove into the Unsolved Mysteries reboot and I have ~thoughts~ that I'll break down ep by ep.

Mystery on the Rooftop - This has to be a murder, right? I don't think I buy the suicide story. His friend/business partner likely had something to do with it.

13 Minutes - That husband was shady AF. He probably did it.

House of Terror - I bet this guy is still alive and it going to be found one day. It was such an awful crime.

No Ride Home - This episode has nowhere near as much information as it deserved. There are so many unanswered questions and of all the cases, this one contains the shittiest police work. I feel terrible for his family, and fuck his friends for leaving him at that party. 

Berkshires UFO - I believe these people, but I just found this episode the least engaging of all of them. It was hard to pay attention

Missing Witness - This is another infuriating one because there's very clearly a murderer walking free and raising/brainwashing the son of one of her murder victims. I hope they find a way to put this woman away one day, and not because she murders someone yet again. 

Don't F*** With Cats - This is going to sound stupid, but I avoided this for the longest time because I thought it was going to be the equivalent of an internet profile that says "I like animals better than people!" and would hyper focus on cute kittens and not the big picture. It's a stupid assumption, but one I had, and I was very wrong. This three part docuseries on Netflix about a bunch of internet sleuths who initially tried to find the identity of a guy who posted a video of himself online killing kittens, until it escalated up to him killing an actual human. It's pretty bonkers and also contains the most infuriating portrayal of a parent making excuses for her child's behavior that I've ever seen. I can't say I've ever heard of "rule zero" of the internet being "don't fuck with cats" but I'm glad I watched this. 

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: TV Shows Based on Movies

This week's TV theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is all about those movies that were so popular they spawned TV shows. There's an alarming amount of animated options that fit this week, which is where I decided to take this theme.

1) Aladdin
Did you know there was an Aladdin TV series that came out a few years after the movie? I did. I used to watch it. It was goofy and took place after The Return of Jafar, and that's about all I remember from it.

2) How To Train Your Dragon: Race To The Edge
The popular film franchise also spawned a Netflix show that had 6 seasons. I'm not sure I saw all of this, but I'd watch occasionally with my son and while the animation wasn't the sharpest and it didn't have the music the movies did, it was still a pretty decent companion piece for the films that let you get to know the characters a bit better.

3) The Lion Guard
I had to talk about this show because I rejoiced when my son grew out of it. It's The Lion King, only Simba also has a son named Kion as well as Kiara, who already had her own movie in The Lion King 2. This show is remarkably stupid and it's almost amusing watching them try to tell this story and acknowledge the existing canon. The most egregious thing is Rob uber douche Lowe voices Simba. 

2020 Emmy Nominations

The film industry may be at a standstill during the pandemic but TV was flourishing and we're finally in official Emmy season! I have so much to talk about with these nominations. There's a LOT i love, a few things I'm sad about and some surprising snubs. Below is a list of the acting nominations + my thoughts.

Outstanding Drama Series
Better Call Saul
The Crown
Killing Eve
The Mandalorian
The Handmaid’s Tale
Stranger Things
The biggest shocker here is The Mandalorian! I'm psyched for the show and never in a million years thought they'd actually be nominated. The snub in this category is Pose though. They had an excellent second season and not getting anything here stings.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Olivia Colman, The Crown
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Laura Linney, Ozark
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Zendaya, Euphoria
Zendaya got in! She was a dark horse so I'm happy for her. Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon getting snubbed shocked me. Reese was eligible for three different shows in two different categories. I thought she'd hit somewhere. I'm also bummed none of the ladies from Pose got in. As much as I love Colman, I think MJ Rodriguez is stronger. 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Steve Carell, The Morning Show
Brian Cox, Succession
Billy Porter, Pose
Jeremy Strong, Succession
There's a Pose nomination! The most exciting one for me was Jeremy Strong getting in for Succession. I love that. Emmy favorite Bob Odenkirk didn't make it in, and even though he was great in this season of Better Call Saul, I'm okay with that if it made room for Strong. I wish we had room for Ben Mendelsohn in The Outsider here.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Kieran Culkin, Succession
Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul
Nicholas Braun, Succession
Matthew MacFayden, Succession
Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale
Billy Crudup, The Morning Show
Mark Duplass, The Morning Show
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld
More Succession! I'm glad Kieran finally got an Emmy nomination after getting 2 Globe noms and even Cousin Greg gets in there. Happy to see Bradley Whitford too.  I don' watch The Morning Show so I can't speak to that. Jeffrey Wright had so little to do during this season of Westworld I'm surprised it's him and not Aaron Paul here. 

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve
Julia Garner, Ozark
Sarah Snook, Succession
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale
Thandie Newton, Westworld
So they DID remember Big Little Lies. Not surprised by those two nominations because they were easily the showiest performances of the second season. I love reigning champ Julia returning and Sarah Snook getting in for Succession is wonderful. But I can't ignore the more egregious snub in Rhea Seehorn for Better Call Saul. How are they not voting for her? When you look at one shows are nominated and past nominees, and think about Yvonne and Anne for THT, Millie for Stranger Things, any of the other Big Little Lies actresses, you know Rhea can't be anywhere near any voters top 10. That's insane. 

Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Good Place
Dead To Me
The Kominsky Method
Schitt’s Creek
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
What We Do In the Shadows
You all know how much I love Insecure and Mrs. Maisel! I don't personally watch What We Do In The Shadows but I always mean to start it and it getting in is huge. 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Christina Applegate, Dead to Me
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Linda Cardellini, Dead to Me
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
Issa Rae, Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
I'm bad about watching comedies but the two leads from the two I do watch got in, so that's all I care about. 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Don Cheadle, Black Monday
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek
Ramy Youssef, Ramy
I have the least to say about this category other than good for reigning Globe winner Ramy, and cool, Don Cheadle has a new show. I do like Ted Danson in The Good Place too.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Mahershala Ali, Ramy
Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Sterling K. Brown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
William Jackson Harper, The Good Place
This is only the second time in his SNL tenure that Kenan has been nominated.I LOVE William Jackson Harper being nominated. I haven't seen the most recent season of The Good Place because I watch on Netflix, but I love him in the previous seasons. I'm not surprised at all Sterling got in for Mrs. Maisel. He was great in that too, even though I'm surprised he was in it enough to be supporting and not guest. I think Michael Zegan would've been a better choice.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
Yvonne Orji, Insecure
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live
Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek
D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
I really need to watch GLOW because Emmys LOVE them some Betty Gilpin. I'm mostly excited for Yvonne Orji and Cecily Strong's first nomination each!

Outstanding Limited Series
Little Fires Everywhere
Mrs. America
I thought this would be a category that would benefit from expanding as well to include I Know This Much Is True, but nope. I watched all 5 of these mini series and they were wonderful, so I'm happy for all. 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Jeremy Irons, Watchmen
Hugh Jackman, Bad Education
Paul Mescal, Normal People
Jeremy Pope, Hollywood
Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True
Did the Emmys forget about El Camino? They used to LOVE Aaron Paul. I can't believe they missed the chance to nominate him for playing Jesse Pinkman again. Either way, this has to go to Mark Ruffalo. I can't imagine anyone else taking it. 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America
Shira Haas, Unorthodox
Regina King, Watchmen
Octavia Spencer, Self Made
Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere
I was so nervous for Shira Haas getting snubbed and I am SO happy to see her here. Same with Regina King and Kerry Washington. Cate Blanchett is excellent in Mrs. America so I'm happy she's in too. I'm disappointed for Kaitlyn Deaver in Unbelievable though. I thought for sure she would get in. No Merrit Weaver either, though Run was so bad maybe some voters got petty? Another snub that saddens me is Zoe Kazan in The Plot Against America. I'm shocked that show was completely shut out.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series
Holland Taylor, Hollywood
Uzo Aduba, Mrs. America
Margo Martindale, Mrs. America
Tracey Ullman, Mrs. America
Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Jean Smart, Watchmen
I was expecting this to be an even bigger Mrs. America bloodbath. I'm bummed for Ari Graynor and Sarah Paulson who were also wonderful in Mrs. America, but you can only have so many. I'm happy to see Toni Collette here since her co-stars missed out.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series
Dylan McDermott, Hollywood
Jim Parsons, Hollywood
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Louis Gossett Jr., Watchmen
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen
Jovan Adepo, Watchmen
This category confuses me the most. I love Yahya and I expected him and his big dick to be nominated, but Adepo and Gossett were both huge surprises. The confusing part is Hollywood, which I felt like was universally panned by critics? I don't think I read anything positive about that show, so seeing it randomly come up in the actor categories was a bit odd. I think Philip Ettinger deserved a nomination for I Know This Much is True, and I would've liked to have seen Jesse Plemmons sneak in for El Camino as well, but we know the Emmys kind of forgot that. 

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Andrew Scott, Black Mirror
James Cromwell, Succession
Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian
Martin Short, The Morning Show
Jason Bateman, The Outsider
Ron Cephas Jones, This is Us
Black Mirror, I love you but you need to gtfo of this category jumping and just stay in Limited Series where you should have been the whole time. I'm happy for Andrew Scott because I love him but Black Mirror not being treated as a mini series has been annoying me for years. The Emmys sure love Giancarlo giving him a nom for The Mandalorian. Personally it's the women in the show that have left the biggest impression acting wise. Aside from Baby Yoda, of course. Nice to see Bateman for The Outsider too. That show was really good until the finale. 

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Cicely Tyson, How to Get Away with Murder
Laverne Cox, Orange is the New Black
Cherry Jones, Succession
Harriet Walter, Succession
Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale
Phylicia Rashad, This is Us
I had forgotten Orange is the New Black was even eligible this year, it feels like it's been more than one year since the finale. Sophia was such an underused character, but it's nice to see some trans representation since Emmys are severely lacking with it in regards to Pose. 

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Fred Willard, Modern Family
Dev Patel, Modern Love
Brad Pitt, Saturday Night Live
Adam Driver, Saturday Night Live
Eddie Murphy, Saturday Night Live
Luke Kirby, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
I LOVE Dev Patel and Adam Driver both getting nominated. Patel was great in that episode of Modern Love and I'm glad he's not being forgotten for it. SNL hosting is always hit or miss but I'm bias for anything Adam Driver so I'm here for it. 

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Maya Rudolph, The Good Place
Angela Bassett, A Black Lady Sketch Show
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Saturday Night Live
Maya Rudolph, Saturday Night Live
Wanda Sykes, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Bette Midler, The Politician
I like Maya as God on The Good Place and Wanda was a nice, quick addition to Mrs. Maisel. I'm struggling with remembering much of the SNL episodes here though.

Outstanding TV Movie
American Son
Bad Education
Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend
Oh so they didn't forget about El Camino...just the actors in it. I've only seen that and Bad Education which were both very good.

Outstanding Variety Talk Series
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Sign me up for another John Oliver win, please. 

Review: Vivarium

It's a forever home.

Gemma (Imogen Poots) and her boyfriend Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) are looking at purchasing a house. They go to a property management office and meet a very strange man named Martin (Jonathan Aris) who takes them to view a development full of identical houses...then they find out they can't leave. They're stuck eating tasteless food, no matter where they run, they end up back at house # 9 and on top of that ,they receive a mysterious package with a live baby in it and the note "raise the child, and you can leave."

When I first saw the trailer for this, I was immediately sold on the creepy premise. And the film keeps that suspense up throughout. So much so that I wish they had expanded on it a bit more. Don't get me wrong, it's not completely ambiguous. It reminds me a bit of Ghost Story or Mother! These films do come full circle like this one does, but it still does leave some questions up in the air.

Imogen Poots really acts her ass off in this. I've always been a fan but she is doing the absolute most here. She has great chemistry with Jessen Eisenberg. He gets a bit less to do, and his character makes some puzzling choices, but I enjoyed him here too.

At 97 minutes, this film breezes by, even with the repetitive scenery, which looks fake in the best way possible. I know, we're used to heavily critiquing bad CGI or production design, but the artificial look this film has over all is absolutely perfect for the story.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "If they want it to live they'll come get it." - Tom (Jesse Eisenberg)

Quick Docs Reviews: Showbiz Kids, At The Heart of Gold, and Athlete A

I was in a documentary mood last week and every free moment I got went towards that. I have a few other posts, my monthly Rambling TV and another I'm doing specifically about things I've streamed on Hulu that will have more docs in them, but these are three that don't fit in either of those categories.

Showbiz Kids - HBO's newest offering from Alex Winter. I thought this was fascinating, yet lacking. There were a variety of emotions from the actors. One of my favorite actresses, Evan Rachel Wood was very matter of fact about her long career and what she loved about it and the harsh reality it can become. (Though now I *really* need to find out which pedophile won a Golden Globe in 2017...that comment was striking) Mara Wilson was another striking speaker. I had read her book a few years ago so I knew a lot of her stories but I think she's just an interesting person, it was nice to hear from her again. Wil Wheaton comes off as very bitter about his time as a child actor whereas the late Cameron Boyce came off as a ray of sunshine. It's an interesting contrast. I think this should've been longer, or even a docuseries. There was so much more information I felt they could've included. The other thing that works against this is the decision to follow a mother and her young son through the audition process during pilot season. That added absolutely nothing and was kind of unbearable to watch. B+

At The Heart Of Gold - I watched both documentaries of the USAG and Larry Nassar scandal back to back, and there's definitely enough information in both that make them excellent companion pieces. They take a different approach. This one, is more about the widespread issue as a whole. It focuses a lot on the University of Michigan where Nassar also worked and we spoke with a variety of athletes that came in contact with him. They aren't as "high profile" as the ones in Athlete A, but it doesn't make them any less valid or brave. Their stories were truly heartbreaking. Some talked about how they struggled with defending their abuser because they had been so brainwashed at that point, and that was so tough to watch but something I think gets glossed over a lot in these cases. I also like that they interviewed the judge for his trial, that added another layer of interest. B

Athlete A - While also about the scandal, this focuses mainly on athlete Maggie Nichols and the reporting at the Indy Star that kicked all of this off. It's not as far reaching as the other doc, but it doesn't make it any less interesting. The only thing that bothered me a bit about this one was the narrative they tried to push that Maggie wasn't put on the 2016 Olympic team because she reported, and not because she was coming off an injury and not the strongest in the events they needed alternates for. I felt like they were making the women who did earn a spot feel like less than. It was suspect and felt cheap. B-

Thursday Movie Picks: Secret Doorways/Worlds

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is movies that have secret doorways and/or worlds. I had two picks come to mind fairly quickly and both are very obvious choices. The other I had to think about for a while. Here are three films I love with secret doors

1) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Of course I had to go with the Wardrobe, that's the ultimate secret door, right? I actually didn't know anything about Narnia before this movie came out but my then boyfriend was a huge fan of the books. I really liked the first two movies. The third was a bit of a dud, but it's still a shame they couldn't continue with the story for the fans. 

2) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
There's quite a few secret doors in Harry Potter but I'm going with the film that introduces the Room of Requirements that only appears when a person really needs something. Also, it's the only one of the HP movies not written by that troll Steven Kloves so 10 points to this movie. 

3) Coraline
In this stop motion film, Coraline movies into a new house and finds a small locked door that takes her into another reality with her (at first) much nicer "button" parents. This is one of my son's favorite movies so I've seen it way too many times, but it's a good one.

Review: Beanpole

I want to be the master of her.

Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) is a young woman working in a hosptiral in a post war Leningrad. It's 1945, the fighting has stopped but the recovery will take agees. Iya fought herself, and now suffers from seizures that make her zone out for minutes at a time. This and her tall stature earn her the nickname "Beanpole." When we're first introduced to her, she has a young son, Pashka. (Timofey Glazkov) When tragedy strikes, we find out that it's not her child, but her friend Masha's. (Vasilisa Perelygina) Masha also fought in the war, and wound has left her infertile. Now Iya's owes her another child, and we follow the strange relationship between these two women. 

The first thing I noticed was how warm it looks. For a film about something so dreary, the greens, yellows, and reds practically burn through the screen. The cinematography is gorgeous.

Initially when Masha first comes on screen, I was wondering how I was going to buy her relationship with Iya. Especially after what she asks of her, but they were completely convincing. Iya is very passive and Masha very manipulative, but it's never in a way that you think Iya has nothing at stake in this relationship. She does. Both actresses  are wonderful and I never would've guessed it was both of their first performances.

My one complaint about this film was its pacing. I honestly think they could've cut about 20 minutes of it. I felt like so many scenes were just empty space. Yes, it's nice to linger at times, but this indulges a bit too much.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "He's dead, isn't he?" - Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina)

Review: Shirley

What happens to all lost girls?

A young couple, Rose (Odessa Young) and Fred (Logan Lerman) are temporarily living with Fred's mentor/professor Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his reclusive wife, author Shirley Jackson. (Elisabeth Moss) Rose is a fan of her work, but Shirley is agoraphobic and isn't happy with her new guests. Her stance towards Rose changes when she becomes obsessed with a missing girl's story while working on her newest novel. 

This is very highly praised on Film Twitter. I expected my biggest struggle was going to be whether or not I can ignore Elisabeth Moss's Scientology background (why is such a good actress in such an awful cult?) but as fate would have it, I'd struggle with all of this.

I'll give this film credit where its due, it's definitely not like a traditional biopic. You don't necessarily learn a lot about Jackson and it's certainly not filmed like one, which gives it the edge of not being more of the same. I didn't care for director Josephine Decker's last feature Madeline's Madeline. Which I still to this day do not understand. This one narratively is easier to follow but its whimsical, claustrophobic approach wasn't that much better for me personally.

While Moss is good, I think it's Odessa Young who is the true standout here. Rose puts up with so much during the course of this film. Her husband sucks. Stanley is a creep, Shirley is passive aggressive. This is more her story than Jackson's.

I hate being *that* person who hates a film everyone else loves, but just did not work for me. It's convoluted and I'm so sick of the shooting style of having the camera constantly inches away from the actor's faces. I know it's a personal preference but I find it more distracting than effective.

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "I read your story, it made me feel thrillingly horrible." - Rose (Odessa Young)

Thursday Movie Picks: Male Buddy Movies

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is male buddy movies. A popular troupe that occasionally pays off. Here a few I enjoy.

1) The Other Guys

I know not everyone enjoys Will Ferrell's comedy but I love this movie. He and Mark Wahlberg had awesome chemistry and the over the top intro with The Rock and Samuel L Jackson aiming for the bushes was hysterical. 

2) Rush Hour

I loved these movies growing up. My dad and I watched them together over and over. 

3) Bad Boys

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are great together. For some reason, I tend to think of Bad Boys II before the original, maybe because I was a little older when I saw it. 

Review: And Then We Danced

It suits him more.

Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) is a young dancer in Tbilisi, Georgia. He has been paired with his partner and friend, Mary (Ana Javakishvili) since they were children and is vying for a spot in a traveling company. Then another dancer, Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) shows up and tests Merab with his natural talent. They begin to form a friendship, then a hidden romance that can under no circumstances be known about in their conservative country.

I think the only other Georgian film I've seen was the wonderful joint Estonian feature, Tangerines. This one had a fair bit of buzz this winter, so I was happy to see Netflix had it available to rent on DVD.

In terms of plot, aside from the setting this forbidden love type of story has been done countless times. But director Levan Akin gets such honest performances from his actors and it's the smaller choices that make this stand out. For instance, despite this being a movie about dancers, there's no flashy dance sequence. Most of what we see are their rehearsals. The majority of the homophobia is also thankfully off screen, though the implications of it are clear.

Levan Gelbakhiani is one hell of a performer. He plays Merab with so much earnest. He's hard working and curious and I was able to connect with him instantly. On the other side of it, Bachi Valishvili is immediately enthralling. You don't have to wonder for a second why anyone will be drawn to him. Ana Javakishvili has a smaller role, but I liked her as the friend for Merab to lean on. She may not have a lot to do, but that doesn't make her character any less important.

This is a bit of a slow burn, but ultimately it's very much worth the watch.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "It's like placebo..." - Mary (Ana Javakishvili)

Review: Palm Springs

You may have heard of this.

Seemingly carefree Nyles (Andy Samberg) is at a wedding in Palm Springs. He helps get a flustered Sarah,(Cristin Milioti) out of her maid of honor speech and they strike up a conversation. At the end of the night, strange things begin to happen and when Sarah wakes up the next morning she realizes she's living the same day again. Nyles (get it, he's a bit nihilistic) lets her know that she's stuck in the same infinite time loop he's been in for quite some time.

Even though the trailer looked amusing, I was a tad reluctant to watch this because I'm not big on time travel movies, or movies where they keep repeating the same thing over and over. (like Vantage Point)  But seeing as it was on Hulu and what else am I going to do during a pandemic, I gave it a go.

To the film's credit, it's a very fresh take. Sure, Sarah and Nyles are stuck in the same day, but they spend those days doing a variety of different things so it never feels too repetitive or clunky. I liked where they took this. The characters may not be deep or original but the film doesn't really require them to be. They just have to be enough for us to want to watch them navigate the time loop.

And they are. Milioti especially was my favorite. Meredith Hagner who plays Misty, Nyle's awful girlfriend provided the only legitimate laugh for me. I really loved how she played Misty. That does bring me to the biggest fault - and it's that I just didn't laugh at a lot of this. There were plenty of amusing things happening, but the only time I actually laughed was when Misty and Nyles had a pretty ridiculous altercation. 

Overall, for a film that you can catch on streaming, I liked this. It doesn't fall victim to the tropes I expected it too and the actors are engaging.

Recommedned: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "At least you have each other, nothing is worse than going through this shit alone." - Roy (JK Simmons)

2020 Blind Spot Series - Top Hat/Swing Time

What I knew going in - I've seen clips of all of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' dances together.

I went for something a little ambitious. I knew I wanted to watched some of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' films, but couldn't decide which one to pick, so I went with both.

For Top Hat, Jerry Travers (Astaire) is an American actor who goes to England and falls in love with a woman Dale Tremont (Rogers) that he initially annoyed. In turn, she mistakes him for a famous producer.

The funny thing about Top Hat is how much I felt like I didn't miss once I saw this film in its full context. I had only ever seen the dance numbers, and to be honest I didn't feel like I missed much at all. The film was funny at times, but it  has a solid 20 minutes or so that are insanely boring and I'm surprised a film this sprightly came to a screeching halt like that. Over all, I enjoyed it. Petty side note: I read that Astaire didn't want Rogers to wear that fluffy gown she wore during one of their dances so seeing all those feathers fly off her made me laugh)

Now let's talk about Swing Time. In this one, Astaire plays a performer and gambler named Lucky who goes to New York to earn $25,000 in order to marry his fiance. Her father adds that stipulation when Lucky arrives late to his own wedding. There he meets Penny (Rogers) a dance instructor who - much like Top Hat - he initially annoys, but when he saves her job they start to fall in love with each other. 

The chemistry between them was even better, the dances more elaborate. I loved the snowy scenes they incorporated in there, this was all going so well....and then Fred Astaire ends up in black face. I immediately went online after the fact because surely I'm not the only idiot who didn't know this was coming, and it turns out there's a fair amount of discourse on how this was "okay" because it was a tribute to arguably the greatest tap dancer ever - Bill Robinson. I started thinking about that part in Sicario where Alejandro tells Kate "nothing will make sense to your American ears." This doesn't make sense to my modern eyes either, it's racist. "Good intentions" don't make it right and I'm cringing into oblivion. Imagine dancing that same dance without black face. You could still honor his style. What a concept.

I realize it's my fault for not knowing about that scene to begin with but it really drops the quality of the movie over all. Removing that scene all together, that movie would've been an easy A.

So where did we end up with grades?

Top Hat - B-

Swing Time - C+ 

Memorable Quote: "This was made in the 30's? And you expected what now?" - My husband, who never mustered up a fuck about my tap dancing movies to begin with. 

Thursday Movie Picks: Globetrotting Films

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves are those films that shoot in multiple locations across the world. This has to be an actor's dream right? Getting to work AND see the world? This is what I came up with .

1) Inception

Inception takes us to France, Australia, and several dreams in between. This film is very high up on my favorites list. 

2) Skyfall

Fun fact about me; I don't like James Bond films. Skyfall remains the only one I've watched from start to finish in one sitting...but I did like it. The cinematography was wonderful and of course Bond globe trots in this. 

3) The Rundown

I got a little stuck on my third pick but after browsing through my letterboxd, I landed on this 2003 film starring The Rock and Seann William Scott. I remember appreciating it as a teen for SWS's gratuitous shirtless shot while swimming in an underground river* but I also remember they jumped around a bit in this film too. Starting in the U.S and moving on to the Amazon.  

*I'm not kidding, look at this. Why was this in the film? because the studio said "Teenage girls in the early 2000's, tonight you feast."