Indie Gems: Love, Antosha

A look into a life cut short.

Through plenty of home footage and interviews with both his parents, his friends, and several co-stars. This documentary explores the short life of the extraordinary actor, Anton Yelchin. It follows his start in the business, his private battle with cystic fibrosis, and his many hobbies including photography and music. The title of the film comes from how he would sign most of the letters he wrote to his mother. 

Anton Yelchin has always been an actor I loved to watch. And when I read about his death in 2016 I was shocked. It was so random and cruel, but one thing this documentary made very clear was the love for him radiating off of everyone who participated.

His parents especially showed a lot of courage here. It can't be easy talking about the loss of your only child, and it was very clear how much Anton loved and admired his parents too. I loved the little stories some of his co-stars like Chris Pine and Jennifer Lawrence told. Anton seemed like a very deep individual who had some very interesting side hobbies. It's impossible to leave this film with only one emotion. I was mixed with sadness, amusement, and even more interest in catching a few of his films I haven't seen. 

If there's one thing I didn't like about this, it was the overuse of home video from when he was a child. I find home movies in general so awkward to watch, no matter who they are of. It just feels so awkward and I was grateful when we moved past that part of it.

Anton fans out there, this one is for you. It's available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I'll always dance with my mother." - Anton Yelchin

Kid Shows I'm Being Forced To Watch

How's social distancing going for everyone? How are my fellow non-teachers adjusting to now being official homeschooling parents? It's been an interesting couple of weeks. While I've been fortunate enough to work from home, my 8 year old has been watching a plethora of garbage while I'm doing my job. I thought I'd share my observations for the shows he's choosing to watch right now.

1) Boss Baby: Back In Business - Yes, there's a Boss Baby series on Netflix and my kid has watched all three seasons more than once. He loves it. He says it's "funny" and I cannot for the life of me understand why. I will say the voice actors are pretty good at sounding like the ones they got for the movie, and I suppose I should credit this show with helping him understand the concept of "seasons" but this is unbearable every time it's playing when I'm in the room.

2) We Bare Bears - I'm not going to lie, this show is pretty amusing. It's on Cartoon Network but all the past seasons are also available to watch on Netflix. This is one of those cartoons like the Amazing World of Gumball where you can tell the creators were children in the 80's/90's. It just feels more balanced on being good for kids, while not driving adults my age insane. I appreciate this.

3) Teen Titans Go! - I hate to admit it but this show is growing on me. I feel compelled to hate it because the Teen Titans cartoon that aired in the early aughts was really good but I'd be lying if I said this show didn't make me laugh out loud several times.

4) The Angry Birds Movie 2 - They must pay these actors well because I cannot believe they're all in something as painfully unfunny as this movie.

5) Trolls: The Beat Goes On - Yes, Netflix also has a Trolls series that has gone on for EIGHT SEASONS. My son had a big ol' crush on Poppy when the movie came out and even though he insists that's not the case now, I'm sure that's why he watches it. 

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Docu-series

It's another TV week at Wandering Through The Shelves and this theme is one of my favorites - docu-series. This is my favorite way to consume true crime in media. I know plenty prefer podcasts but I like this format. Here are three docu-series that I highly recommend

1) The Staircase

I believe this one is available on Netflix now, but when I watched it years back, someone had uploaded it to Daily Motion. It follows Michael Peterson who is accused of killing his wife. This case is so bizarre, on the face of it, you think he has to be guilty but after watching this doc go look up the "owl theory." It's either the greatest reach of all time or the answer to everything depending on where you land.

2) The Keepers

Making a Murderer is probably the most popular true crime series Netflix has to offer but I always suggest giving this one a watch. The frustrating thing about it is that I feel like this case will never get solved and that's awful because Sister Cathy deserves more than that. 

3) I Love You, Now Die

This is a fairly new one from HBO but I chose it because it actually changed my mind on the case. It follows one you've probably read about, a girl who was tried for manslaughter for egging her boyfriend on via text message during his suicide. I'll admit, based off the articles I read I judged this girl but the case is so much more nuanced than that. 

Review: Miss Americana

You're the only one of you.

This documentary follows singer/songwriter Taylor Swift over the past handful of years, particularly through the writing process of her album Lover.

I suppose if I had to put a label on myself regarding Swift, I'd classify myself as a former fan. I really enjoyed her first three albums. I'm not a fan of country music, but I liked her poppy-country sound. When she went full pop, I just wasn't as into it and chalked it up to me just getting older. I'd like a single or two - like 22 from Red, but otherwise I'd say my opinion of Swift for the past few years has been lukewarm at best. The phony squad thing, the Kimye drama (and boy that took an interesting turn last week, didn't it?) Because of all that I wanted to see how someone like me would take this documentary.

I actually enjoyed it overall. One thing I'd never take away from Swift, even if I'm not into her music anymore is the fact that she writes her own songs. They might sound repetitive at times but she still puts in the work and plays her guitar and piano and that's far more than a lot of other singers can say. I liked seeing her songwriting process. Though I felt a bit strange that she would say she has "no one to share this with" when she won her second album of the year Grammy after they had just showed us a decent amount of footage of her working with a sound mixer who helped build her lyrics into a fully realized song. If anything, the only negative thing I could say about this is how privileged Taylor is, but she grew up rich. Rich and wanting to be the "good girl." It's probably normal of her expecting to get nominated for Grammys at this point, then being disappointed when she found out Reputation got none.

I had sort of expected this to be about Taylor the victim but it was really honest and was just about her trying to find her voice in the industry, understanding that she doesn't always have to beg for that approval and stand up for her beliefs. I really liked the parts where she talked about being afraid to tweet about politics but feeling as if she couldn't stay silent anymore. It's nice to see someone with a platform realize they should use it for good. I walked away from this documentary not thinking she's a massive wolf in sheep's clothing, but just that she's a complicated person like the rest of us, only in a massively different situation than most.

And what I've heard from Lover is far better than anything I heard from Reputation so hopefully she's proud about writing a better record.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I'll just write a better record." - Taylor Swift

The Worst Films of 2019



I went back and forth on whether or not I was going to make a post on the worst movies I saw last year. I normally include them as an aside in my Top 10 posts, but at the time, I knew I was missing a handful of films that were way more worthy of the title "worst" than the ones I had saved.  Seeing as we're now in the midst of a global pandemic, what better time than to get rid of the trash?

Now remember, my worsts are always films I went into expecting to at least like a little bit. Cats isn't here for that very reason. 


10)Yesterday - I was really looking forward to this and I still can't believe a Danny Boyle movie could be this bad. What was this supporting cast? Stop putting Ed Sheran in things..

9) Glass - Why do we keep giving M. Night Shaymalan chances? Why did I give him another chance? What a waste.

8) The Lion King - Animated Lion King all day every day. This was souless garbage.

7) Last Christmas - I underestimate just how bad this movie was going to be. Sure, the trailer gave it ALL away but I was not prepared for just how much they wink wink nudged nudged the "twist" throughout. The actors in this film deserve better because this could've been a cute holiday movie.

6) The Laundromat - If there was an award for "worst narrators" this film would win it.

5) Brightburn - A cool concept that went completely wasted and ended atrociously. 

4) Light of my Life - I technically didn't mean to get this DVD from Netflix, but I did and I watched and a survival movie in a world where women are dying lead by Casey Affleck is not for me.

3) High Life - I thought this was going to be an interesting sci fi movie, but it was really a study on sex and a dumb exercise in misery. I know the internet loves Robert Pattinson right now, but he just does not do it for me. He's not bad, he's just dull.

2) Joker - I know you're not shocked at Joker's inclusion but you probably are shocked that it isn't my number one. 

1) Under the Silver Lake - What the fuck was this movie about?!

Thursday Movie Picks: Bad Boys

Ah, those irresistible men that we're not supposed to be attracted to, but are. This week Wanderer wants us to take a look at films where bad boys play a big role. Here's what I came up with

1) 10 Things I Hate About You

Patrick Verona is THE bad boy, at least for someone my age. Heath Ledger played him perfectly in what is still one of my favorite rom coms of all times.

2) The Last Jedi

Ahh Kylo Ren. This second film in the new trilogy is really what gave this bad boy all the layers we needed to see that made him one of the most interesting characters in all of Star Wars canon. I'm still upset about how TROS ruined everything, but at least I'll always have TLJ.

3) A Streetcare Named Desire  

Stanley Kowalski is a "bad boy" but as much as I like this movie, I have no idea why Stella is with him. He was a raging douchebag. 

The Best Shots of 2019

And we're done! Back in December I started posting my favorite shots of the decade, but I had to wait for all the 2019 releases to start hitting DVD before completing my list. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment on all of my other posts. Here are my favorites from this past year. Don't forget to tell me yours. 



Parasite

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Jojo Rabbit

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Avengers: Endgame

Midsommar

The Farewell

Knives Out

Rocketman


Us


Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Have you known love?

Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is a painter sent to an island to paint a portrait of Héloïse. (Adèle Haenel) The painting is for her soon to be husband, who will marry her if he likes the painting. Héloïse's mother ( Valeria Golino) tells Marianne she must paint in secret and that she's only there to accompany her on walks, but soon they form a bond and Marianne can't help but come clean.

Was there a non- Oscar movie more hyped on Film Twitter this year than Portrait of a Lady on Fire? I went in with impossibly high expectations and thankfully I didn't leave disappointed. 

I really enjoy director Céline Sciamma's work. While I still prefer Water Lilies on a technical level this film is probably her best. It's beautifully shot and acted. The interesting thing is that there's no score, apart from two scenes where music plays. It's an interesting choice considering one of the first conversations these two women have is about loving music. The silence is deafening and I thought it worked so well.

Haenel was the only actress I was familiar with and I thought she did a wonderful job here. It's easy to understand Héloïse's anger. I would be in her situation to. Merlant is also wonderful as Marianne. I liked seeing this world from her eyes. In a way she's incredibly naive but the love she feels for Héloïse feels so pure. You leave this movie wanting only the best for those two. The other main player is the maid, Sophie. (Luàna Bajrami) I actually wouldn't have minded seeing more of her. The scenes of the three of them together going about their days, smiling were some of the film's best.

But speaking of Sophie, The most questionable part of the film was from her side story. I know there's some classism going on here but I felt like maybe the other two weren't taking her predicament as seriously as they should be? It's hard to discuss without going into spoiler territory but I'd love to hear what others who saw the film thought.

If this makes it to cinemas near you (impending cornavirus doom aside) This film definitely deserves your theater money.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "I liked being equal." - Héloïse (Adèle Haenel)

2020 Blind Spot Series: Raging Bull


What I knew going in: The main plot

Jake La Matta (Robert De Niro) is a famous boxer whose temper gets the best out of him outside of the ring. That's an understatement, he beats his wife, Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) and frequently gets into it with his brother, Joey. (Joe Pesci) He wants a nice family life, but he can't control himself enough to actually make that happen.

I haven't seen a lot of Martin Scorcese's early works. I had Taxi Driver on a Blind Spot a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely so I figured Raging Bull would be a good place to go net. Unfortunately I didn't like this one nearly as much.

For me, the only thing this film really had going for it was the way it shot the fighting scenes and the acting. De Niro is great and I'm not surprised he won an Oscar for this, not only for looking so toned while fighting but for gaining so much weight to play La Matta at the end of his story, but he nailed the part emotionally as well. The problem was I never found La Matta to be interesting.

When you base your movie around someone so unlikable, you need to make their decisions intriguing or their persona entertaining. You need to give us something other than their biggest flaw. Lester Burnham in American Beauty was a sleaze, but he had some genuinely interesting commentary on his midlife crisis. Jordan Belfort in Scorcese's own The Wolf of Wall Street was corrupt, but he was very charismatic. Jake La Matta is just a boring asshole. He had no layers until the very end hinted at a few.

I don't think this film is terrible, I think there's a lot of good things about it, it just didn't work for me personally.

Recommended: No

Grade: C


Memorable Quote: "Your mother sucks big fucking elephant dicks." - Joey (Joe Pesci)



Thursday Movie Picks: Spoofs, Satires, and Mockumentaries

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves lets us choose between spoofs, satires, or mockumentaries. There was once a time where spoofs were everywhere but achieving greatness with either of these three topics is very hard to pull off. I decided to take one film from each category to talk about.

1) Scary Movie

For my spoof, I go with this. Granted, these movies got terrible after the first two but it will never take away how hysterical the first Scary Movie was. This is how you do a great spoof. You can tell once they hit the 3rd one and had to start pulling from non horror films that they were seriously running out of ideas. 

2) Jojo Rabbit

For my satire one of the best movies from 2019 is an easy pick. Jojo Rabbit is my favorite satire of all time (It was Tropic Thunder before this) I love everything about this movie. 

3) 7 Days in Hell

Mockumentaries aren't as popular as the other two but this short one that Andy Samberg and Kit Harington did for HBO about a tennis rivalry is amazingly absurd. 

Review: The Invisible Man

He can hear us.

Cecelia (Elisabeth Moss) escapes from her abusive boyfriend in the middle of the night, only to find he's committed suicide two weeks later. She's then plagued by un-explainable things and comes to the conclusion that he's not really dead and that he's just found a way to be invisible. Now she has to get everyone else to believe her.

When trailers for this first came out, I honestly didn't even think of the H.G Wells classic this is apparently re-imagined from. Aside from a man learning to be invisible, there's not much overlap. But if you're disappointed that you won't be getting a Dark Universe one with Johnny Depp, Leigh Whannell's film is here to give you what you didn't even know you wanted. 

We as the audience never doubt Cecelia. We know straight away she's telling the truth and our suspense is what Adrian will do next. And this film IS tense. I was surprised to see the run time exceeded 2 hours because it certainly didn't feel like that. There's not much room to breathe.

Elisabeth Moss gives a very memorable performance and it's nice to see her in a film where they're not shoving the camera right up in her face constantly (Hi, Handmaid's Tale) I also really enjoyed Aldis Hodge as her friend James, who takes her in after she runs and his daughter Sydney. (Storm Reid) The few light moments this film does offer surrounds those three and I thought they had wonderful chemistry together.

There's a few distracting elements to this movie that brought it down a bit for me. Like how that restaurant where you know what happens HAD to have cameras and who the hell is feeding that dog? But over all, this is a nice tense thriller. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "who are you going to spray with that?" - James (Aldis Hodge(

Review: The Last Thing He Wanted

But is it the last thing SHE wanted?

Elena McMahon (Anne Hathaway) is a reporter who used to spend most of her time in Central America cracking stories with her fellow journalist, Alma Guerrero (Rosie Perez) but now her desk has been frozen and she's regulated to the campaign trail for Ronald Regan's second run as president. Her sketchy father (Willem DaFoe) falls ill and begs her to complete a job for him. Bored with the assignment she's been given, she helps her father as it puts her right back into the place that she wanted to be. 

Or something.

Honestly, I need someone to explain this movie to me like I'm five because I had a hard time following it. I'm not quite sure why either, this movie should've been very straightforward. But with every new bit of information, I kept questioning how Elena got to where she was or why she was doing it in the first place. Which is funny, because she asks herself these very same questions in the opening voice over. There are several times she has these epiphanies, and you can tell by the score that you too are supposed to be having an "aha" moment along with her, but at that point I had been given so much new information that I completely forgot what she was doing 15 minutes ago.

This bums me out to write because I love director Dee Rees. I've never disliked a film of hers and even though this is getting terrible reviews, I wanted to watch it and I hoped I would come out on the other side but that wasn't the case. The constant info dumps, the choppy editing. There's a scene with Ben Affleck's character where the camera cuts to so many different angles within the span of about 1 minute that I almost wonder if it's an allegory to the film as a whole. It's just a mess.


The actors are good. Anne Hathaway carries the film well. I wish Rosie Perez was in it more. Ben Affleck's character perplexes me but I suppose he was solid as the man he played. I liked the sets and how it really looked and felt like it was in the 80's. I hope this isn't a road bump on Ree's career, and that she moves on to the next best thing. We all stumble sometimes.

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "We were young. I was young." - Elena McMahon (Anne Hathaway)

Thursday Movie Picks: Seven Deadly Sins - Gluttony

It's another Seven Deadly Sins edition at Wandering Through The Shelves and this week we're tackling Gluttony. This one was hard for me and one of my picks is SO obvious but I couldn't help it. Here are three films I enjoy that are on topic this week.

1) Se7en

Yes, I chose the film where some gluttonous dude is literally murdered and has GLUTTONY carved into his wall. But damn it, IT WORKS. This movie has slowly crept up my favorites list for years and has made its way into my top 5. I never get sick of watching it. 

2) Spirited Away

Chihiro's parents fall into a very gluttonous trap in my favorite anime of all time. I love this movie and cannot recommend it enough. Even if you're not into anime or animation at all, this is worth the watch.

3) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Believe it or not, I actually like this one better than Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It's not great, but the acting from the children is leagues better and therefore makes it easier to watch even with the weird ass direction they took the Oompa Loompas and the lack of Gene Wilder. This film makes my list because of good ol' Augustus Gloop.

Review: Seberg

How can I help?

Actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) meets Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) on a plane to Los Angeles. At this point, she was already an activist but after witnessing an example of racial injustice, she takes a photo with Hakim, becomes a donor to the Black Panthers, and they start an affair. At the same time, FBI agent Jack Solomon (Jack O'Connell) and his partner Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn) start bugging her phones and that eventually turns into a smear campaign that Jack increasingly becomes uncomfortable with it.

Admittedly, I don't know a lot about Jean Seberg, but I really like the cast. Margaret Qualley, Stephen Root and Zazie Beetz also have small roles. Plus the wonderful Rachel Morrison is the cinematographer so of course it's shot beautifully.

I liked the three different sides this film shows. It's most definitely Seberg's story and how she felt during all of this, but I liked seeing Hakim's wife Dorothy (Beetz) challenge Seberg about her privilege and for Solomon to come to the realization that what he's doing is beyond harmful. If only it didn't take him so long. Director Benedict Andrews (who did another film I liked, Una) marries all of these pieces together well.

Kristen Stewart is so good in this. I think it may be in her Top 3 for me personally. I don't know how well she got Seberg's mannerisms or accent but for the part she was playing, I thought she was wonderful. O'Connell gets the second most to do after Stewart and he does a great job as well.

It's a shame that I was the only person in the theater watching this. If it's playing near you, definitely go out and give it some of your theater money. It deserves it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+ (it loses a point for dog death. At least it's off screen)

Memorable Quote: "This is sick." - Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart)

What I watched on TV in February

That month flew by, didn't it? I feel like I made more of an effort with TV this month than I did last. Here's what I was watching.

The Outsider

This show is still going strong. I've managed to not give in and read spoilers so that's a huge accomplishment in itself. Mendelsohn and Erivo continue to be wonderful and with only two episodes left, I'm looking forward to seeing how it ends.

McMillions


I'm not sure this docuseries really *needs* to be this many episodes, but it's been interesting more than dull. I think there's a lot of filler but as someone who never bothered to read into the Monopoly fraud, it's been informative.

Modern Love

This is a anthology series on Amazon Prime and I only bothered to watch two episodes with actors I like. The first was about Dev Patel and the woman he let get away. I loved it. Dev's gorgeous and Catherine Keener was in there too and her character was lovely. The second episode (because I'm in hot priest mode) was about Andrew Scott and Brandon Kyle Goodman who play a married couple adopting a child from Olivia Cooke. This episode wasn't as good and Ed Sheeran shows up for yet another cringey cameo but Scott was very good in it. He and Goodman had wonderful chemistry together. 

End of the F***ing World

Did we need a second season of this show? No, but I wasn't mad at it. I think Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden are great together. I saw a lot of people online hated the ending but I actually liked it. For a show that is so bleak, the thought of ending on a higher note is nice. I also like that this season didn't sugarcoat any of the PTSD that came from the first. 

The Boys

I started watching this on Amazon and it is so different than what I was expecting. I remember everyone raving about it a while back, but I either avoiding in depth reviews or forgot all of them because the tone was surprising. It's an interesting watch so far. I never thought I'd be into a Karl Urban sex scene either but there it was and I'm not complaining. 

Better Call Saul

Season 5 is back! I'm a bit surprised there's going to be another season after this, I feel we're really close to the end but the opening episode where Jimmy is in full Saul mode was fun and Michael Mando is doing good work as Nacho so far. I'm not crazy about Mike in these first two episodes, but we'll see how that goes.