Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Prequels



This week's TV theme from Wandering Through Shelves is prequels. I'm actually a bit excited this week because I get to gush about one of my favorite animated shows. The other is a popular show airing now, and the 3rd is something from my childhood that I probably should've left there.

1) Star Wars Rebels

The first season of this show is a little rough because it is geared towards younger kids, which I obviously am not, but this show gets SO good. Hera and Kanan in particular are some of my favorite characters in the Star Wars canon. (and they are also the best ship...sorry Han/Leia) I've been re-watching random episodes of this lately and it's just so good. Highly recommend. 

2) Better Call Saul

As much as I love Breaking Bad, I was always iffy on this as a prequel idea but it turned out to be wonderful. I'm excited for its final season. Excited and scared..Kim has been so dumb lately and I hate seeing it happen.

3) Muppet Babies

I randomly get this theme song stuck in my head to this day. This show was so dumb, but it was always on Nick Junior so I watched it. I don't even want to attempt to pull up an old episode on youtube. I'll probably cringe into oblivion. 

Against The Crowd Blogathon 2020

 

The wonderful Dell over at Dell on Movies is back with his annual summer Against The Crowd Blogathon! I've participated in this every year, and it's always a fun post to write. This year it snuck up on me though. Where did August go? It's not like I've been doing anything.

As always, here are the rules:

Pick one movie “everyone” loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have score of 75% or more on rottentomatoes.com (or at least 7.5 on imdb.com). Tell us why you hate it.

Pick one movie that “everyone” hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of 35% or less on rottentomatoes.com (or 4.0 or less on imdb.com). Tell us why you love it.

Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own (just include all the pertinent details), or just mention this blogathon if using an audio or visual medium.

Let us know what two movies you intend on writing, vlogging, posting, or podcasting about in one of the following ways: Comment on this or any ACB 2020 post on this site, tweet me @w_ott3, or e-mail me at dellott@yahoo.com.

Publish your post on any day from Friday, August 21 through Sunday, August 23, 2020, and include a link to this announcement. If you’re a podcaster or YouTuber that is interested in participating just talk about your chosen movies during your closest podcast and/or video to those dates and mention that you are taking part in this blogathon.

If posting on social media, use the hashtag #AgainstTheCrowd2020


If there's one thing I've over-achieved on during this pandemic, it's watching my entire 2020 Blind Spot list early, I've even cracked into my prelim 2021, so the oldies have been on my mind. Then it came to my attention that the one I hated the most this year, and who currently has the worst letter grade out of any Blind Spot I watched has a whopping 93% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.. Now I must ask myself why...


Folks, this movie is hot misogynistic garbage. And that's saying something for 80's horror when the prerequisite was apparently "boobs." No, instead of some random teenage sex scenes like all the rest, we're treated to a main character who hates women to a distractingly obtuse level (She's looking for her cat I killed? That BITCH) and an extremely graphic and unnecessary rape scene involving the only woman in the movie with more than three lines. I had an epiphany watching this. It makes TOTAL sense that the sleaziest character in American Beauty would describe a rape scene so flippantly. I hate it. I wanted camp and body horror, I did not sign up for the rest of this bullshit. On top of that, the pacing is awful so when I wasn't completely hating it, I was bored. 

I'm not even sorry I hate this. Why is it so high? What did I miss? 




Since we're on the subject of women in horror. Let's talk about a film where women are the main focus...


I know Silent Hill starts off pretty questionably with young Jodelle Ferland screaming "SILENT HIIILLL" like she's going down a roller coaster instead of waking up from a bad dream, BUT this movie is legitimately creepy. I'd argue it's one of the best movies based on a video game out there. Even with a run time of over two hours, it builds the mood enough where you're constantly on edge as you watch Rose and Cybil walk through hell knowing all the dangers lurking. While this film also references a sexual assault, it's done off screen in a flashback and we see how Alessa has chosen the perpetrator's punishment. It's not reveled in the way Re-animator chooses to show theirs. Silent Hill may not be perfect but it does all the things we ask a horror film to do. It makes us squirm, builds a scary atmosphere and gives us leads that we can truly root for. 


Thank you as always, Dell for hosting! Tell me what you think of my picks? Are you with the crowd or with me against them?

Quick Ramblings: Mini Hulu Reviews

I re-subscribed to Hulu for a short time to watch a few TV shows, and while I was there I cranked out a few movie watches as well. Here's a few quick reviews of movies available on the platform.

Hail Satan? - This documentary about the Satanic Temple was very enlightening When it comes to religion, I'm at a place where I just....I don't care to hear about it. I consider myself spiritual, but I view religion as a private thing and it irks me to no end when people try to force their religion on others, which is a big part of what the Satanic Temple works against. If you're going to put up a statue of the 10 Commandments, then all other religions should be allowed to have their beliefs showcased as well. They don't actually worship Satan, but instead recognize him as a symbol for someone who was ousted from society for not following the status quo, and now fights back at injustices. As one of them puts it: w"hen Abraham is told to kill his son, Satan didn't just sit on his ass, he tried to do something about it." I liked this a lot. For the first time in a while I didn't mind hearing about someone's religious beliefs and it also includes some delicious schadenfreude when they chose to fuck with the scum of the Earth Westboro Baptist church. A

Diane - This was heavily praised when Mary Kay Place nabbed an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress, and rightfully so. She was great, but the film itself I found kind of dull and unfortunately did not keep my attention. The subplot with her son felt like it was from two separate movies. Overall, I loved Place's performance, but not the film itself. C

The Day Shall Come - This film starts off telling us its based on 100 true stories. It follows a preacher played by Marchant Davis that unwillingly becomes the target of the FBI while they try to create a home grown terrorist. The film calls itself a political satire but it doesn't really accomplish that. Aside from some excellent performances by Davis and Danielle Brooks, it doesn't land. It's surprising how little of this film works. I did love how Moses ended each sermon with "In the name of Allah, Melchizedek, Jesus, Black Santa, Muhammad, and General Toussaint" though. C

Minding The Gap - This was on my watch list for so long that I had forgotten what initially drew me to this documentary, and it's that this is less about skateboarding and more about how domestic abuse can shape a young person. Two of the subjects are very fun to follow, the third not so much, but overall this was really well done and I hope director/star Bing Liu continues making movies.  B

The Host - I had seen all of Bong Joon Ho's feature films aside from this and Barking Dogs Never Bite. I initially tried renting this through Netflix's DVD service, then they had the audacity to send a DVD of the dub only so I immediately sent it back. I'm happy Hulu had this in a subbed version. I thought it was fin. It's definitely not as great as some of his more serious work, but I enjoyed this. B-


Thursday Movie Picks: Female Buddy Films



This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is something we don't have enough of....female "buddy" movies. I imagine movies like Thelma and Louise and Booksmart will be popular this week so I'm using one recent pick, then going back to my tween years for the others.

1) Tangerine

Sin-Dee drags her best friend all over town trying to find the ex boyfriend who wronged her. This film features two very charismatic leads and was shot entirely on an iphone yet still manages to look good.

2) Sugar & Spice

A group of cheerleaders decide to rob a bank to get money for their friend who has gotten pregnant. This was the "edgy" Bring it On but I remember laughing my ass off at a few of the jokes in theaters when I saw it. 

3) All I Wanna Do

A group of girls going to an elite boarding school decide to sabotage their school's plans to let boys in. As long time Kirsten Dunst stan, of course I watched this one too. It came to mind recently because someone on Twitter was talking about bad TV spots and the trailer for this film is hilariously bad.  

Review: Project Power

 Results may vary.


A new pill is being sold around New Orleans that gives each person very unpredictable super powers...or sometimes they just explode. Detective Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has been tracking it low key for a while, and works with a teenage dealer, Robin (Dominique Fishback) to help get it off the streets. Meanwhile, Art (Jamie Foxx) known as "Major" is also after the source of the pill for very personal reasons, and when he kidnaps Robin looking for a lead, the three begin working together.

I ended up liking this a lot more than I was expecting - mostly because when I see "Netflix action movie" I immediately think garbage. But while this film is far from perfect, I found most of it pretty enjoyable. It definitely takes the easy way out with the villains, who might as well be blurred out suits that speak in Charlie Brown Adult voices because they're all exactly the same and have zero depth to them. Thankfully our three leads have the chemistry to make the rest of the movie bearable.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is my favorite actor, so of course I enjoyed him here. His character has some pretty cringey "This is my city!" dialogue I didn't care for but it was fun to see him kicking ass and cracking a few jokes here and there. Dominique Fishback was the star. She was wonderful and I liked how realistically she got herself out of tough situations. They could've turned her into a random super genius kid a few different times, but they didn't. Jamie Foxx doesn't play anything too out of the ordinary for him but he's always a solid actor. He had a bit of a "women in Michael Bay movie" thing going on here. When he should be realistically sweaty, dirty, and gross but instead is framed like he is the hottest thing you've ever seen. No complaints.

Overall, I liked the set up, but when it came to meet the conflict head on, I felt they dropped the ball a bit. They explain why the pill is a thing, and the nameless suits try to stop them. It's a bit boring, but overall I preferred this to say, Extraction. It's a fine streaming watch.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Want to know what animal I got?" - Art (Jamie Foxx)

Review: Corpus Christi

They won't take you.
Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) is fresh out of juvie for committing a violent crime. While in the pen, he found God, and now he wants to be a priest, only that's not possible for a criminal. When he arrives to a new town, a little white lie he tells Eliza (Eliza Rycembel) ends up with everyone believing he's an actual priest, so he decides to take up their parish. 

While Poland is currently giving us 365 Days on Netflix - which I still haven't watched - this was their Oscar nominated submission to the Academy Awards last year. I can see why. It's a quiet little drama that is anchored by an incredibly moving performance.

Bielenia reminds me a lot of a young Cillian Murphy. I'm sure the similarity initially came to mind because of his bright blue eyes, which always seem to be staring at you right through the screen, but he carries so much weight. We know Daniel committed a crime and still struggles with sobriety. He's 20, after all and hasn't gotten to live any of his adult life outside of prison. But there's also something very sincere about him finding religion, and it's easy to be on his side when he decides to practice anyways even when he's not allowed. 

The small town he ends up in suffered a great tragedy the year before that Daniel works to bring peace and he's absolutely the one in the right. It's an interesting portrait to paint. He, the convict having the most sense about the situation.

It's inevitable that Daniel will eventually be found out, and the film does tread into eye-rolling territory when that begins to happen but overall I'm really glad I watched this. While nothing was ever going to unseat the magnificent Parasite at the Oscars, this is a worthy runner up.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Yeah? And I'm a nun." - Eliza (Eliza Rycembel)


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 cringing....school. 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.