Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition - Non English Shows

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is another Non English TV week. We all know I struggle this with, so I thought I'd check in on my picks from last year that I said I was going to watch. Let's see how I did.

1) Death Note

I expected to like this quite a bit, but this was like watching a TV version of Chutes and Ladders. One step forward, another step back. It doesn't help that Light, the lead character is a beyond insufferable Gary Stu and then we're introduced to Misa who felt like the author was like "Oh yeah I need hot chicks in this" and she automatically becomes Light's fangirl. Then they kill the one character that was actually given a ton of development and replace him with someone else who is basically just the boring version of said character. Ugh. 

2) Attack on Titan

I started this last year, not long after I made my original post and I've been absolutely loving it. I haven't been this into an anime in quite some time. Since there is such a long wait between seasons I also started to read the Manga, now I'm all caught up with that and get to impatiently wait for the next volume every month like everyone else. 

3) Dark

I didn't like this one as much as I thought it would either. The time travel aspect of it really took it down in my opinion. It ended up being really jumbled and disappointing. I was ready to adore this German show.

Review: Us

Watch yourself.

Adelaide, (Lupita Nyong'o) her husband Gabe, (Winston Duke) and their two children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) are off to their summer home. After Adelaide reluctantly gets dragged to the beach and asks Gabe if they can leave in the morning, they start being terrorized by people who show up to their home and look exactly like them.

You've probably already read to go into Us knowing as little as possible and I agree with that. The less the better, even though the trailer truly does spoil a lot of things. I had good time watching this. It was tense, yet still had moments of amazingly subtle humor. As someone who frequently jokes when I feel uncomfortable, I liked that Zora and Gabe did that occasionally. It makes this family feel like real people and not just characters. 

The actors are all fantastic, especially Nyong'o who carries the majority of the film. She had good chemistry with Duke. She was the serious parent and he the goofy one, I thought they played off each other well. The supporting cast of Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker aren't in it for very long, but I liked what they did as well.)

But there's one thing that needs to be said about Us. While it's very enjoyable throughout, and it's something I'd certainly watch again. It's one of those films where the more you think about it, the more the story kind of falls apart.  I'm going to put a few questions I had in white text below for those who have seen the movie to let me know what you think too. If you are one of those people who don't take movies home with you, I don't think this will be an issue, but if you like to sit with them for a while you may find yourself picking this story apart. Still, I don't think you should avoid watching this for that reason. It's a very good film with an amazing cast, an interesting concept, beautiful little details, and an amazing score. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Dad, nobody wants your boat." - Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph)

Spoilers! Highlight over the white text below to read
1) Why didn't the real Adelaide try to escape the tethered since she was aware of the outside world? Was Red only allowed to get to the entrance because her doppleganger was there? Is that why Adelaide never tries to leave?
2) Was there only on facility? If they're trying to form a chain across the world, there had to be more, right? If so, how were they communicating to know Red's plan?
3) Were they only cloning people at the fair? Or are we to deduce that EVERYONE is cloned?
4) How did they survive after it was abandoned? 

Indie Gems: Super Dark Times

We shouldn't tell anybody about this..

Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) are best friends growing up somewhere in America during the 90's. They end up in a devastating situation and the resulting cover up puts a strain on their should be unbreakable friendship. 

At first, I was worried I was going to end up in a Summer of 84 scenario where we followed around kids I could not care less about. One of Zach and Josh's friends, Daryl (Charlie Tahan) is one of the first people we're introduced to and he's so over the top and irritating I was prepared for the worst, but the film rightly sticks with Zach and Josh, and eventually Zach's crush, Allison. (Elizabeth Cappuccino)

I was familiar with both Campbell and Tahan from some of their other work and they are both wonderful here. Especially Campbell who ultimately anchors this film. It's his POV we follow. They feel like real friends. The chemistry they have together, and that Zach also has with Allison never has an un-genuine moment. 

The film does a good job of building to the accident that kicks things off, and again when they try to navigate the aftermath. For a film with a run time of 1 hr 43 minutes, it doesn't have time to drag. However, there is one huge fault to this...

They completely rush the ending. So much so that the resolution is in no way satisfying. I wouldn't even call it ambiguous because they don't even leave us with enough to think about after the credits rolled. For a film that was doing everything right, it shocks me how hard they dropped the ball here. This is almost right up there with The Butterfly Effect when it comes to films that are doing so well until the ending comes along and brings all that fine story to a screeching halt. 

I don't think everyone will be as annoyed with the ending as I was, and for that reason alone, I still recommend it, because aside from that it's very well done and the rushed nature doesn't ruin the film, only disappoints me that there wasn't more.

Grade: B+

Watched on: Netflix Instant

Memorable Quote: "We're friends.." - Zach (Owen Campbell)

Thursday Movie Picks: Private Eyes

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about those detectives that work on their own. I don't know about you, but this stumped me a bit. Every time I thought of a private eye movie I realized they didn't technically qualify as private. They were always part of a police force. This is what I came up with.

1) The Nice Guys

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are a match made in private eye heaven. This movie was so much funnier than I expected it to be. It still gets quoted a lot in my house.

2) Harriet The Spy

I loved this movie when I was a kid and my friend and I used to pretend to be her and spy on our neighbors. Classy.

3) V/H/S/2

This is a cop out, but like I said. This was tough, but V/H/S/2 does start out with private detectives uncovering the tapes. One of the shorts in this film is really good and the rest range from meh to bad. But it was better than the first V/H/S

2019 Blind Spot Series: Enter The Dragon

What I knew going in: That there would be excellent fighting scenes. 

Growing up, I had family members in Karate, I would play Mortal Combat with friends on their Nintendos. I would watch movies like 3 Ninjas, Karate Kid and anything with Jackie Chan, but of course I didn't see a damn thing with the famed Bruce Lee. I'm not sure how that was possible. I even saw The Crow with his son but yet I had seen nothing but clips of Lee's work. Now here I am in my 30's trying to make up for that oversight.

Enter The Dragon is actually kind of a mess. It's not only about Lee (Bruce Lee), who plays a secret agent infiltrating a crime lord Han's ( Kien Shih) tournament. His henchmen are also responsible for the death of Lee's sister. But it also features two Americans, Roper (John Saxon) and Williams (Jim Kelly) who are also there dealing with their own things.

It's a bit distracting, but I was drawn to Williams, not only because Kelly is insanely hot but he was escaping racist cops so I was immediately on his side..and he's the first to die of the bunch. It just had weird pacing and I found myself getting annoyed whenever Roper was on screen because I didn't care for him the way I did Lee and Williams. Lee's character weirdly gets treated like an afterthought at times despite this being his movie. 

The martial arts however was fantastic and did not disappoint. Lee is a joy to watch. Over all, I was expecting this to be a bit faster pace but I still had a good time watching it. I think my expectations were just slightly too high.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "A board can't hit back." - Lee (Bruce Lee)

Indie Gems: Other People

I thought this happened to other people. 

David (Jesse Plemmons) is a writer living in New York who flies home to Sacramento to be with his dying mother, Joanne (Molly Shannon) as she quits chemo. His relationship with his family is strained since he came out 10 years prior and they did not take it well, especially his father. (Bradley Whitford) Now the current situation forces everyone to rethink what family means to them.

This fell into my Netflix black hole after reading Jay's review on Assholes Watching Movies and while I thought it sounded like something I'd like, I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. What I've found during this Netflix clean out is I tend to drift towards my cell phone while watching some of these films, I never did once here.

Cancer dramas can be very cliche, but writer/director Chris Kelly (Who apparently wrote this based off his own experiences) litters his film with genuine humor and skips all the platitudes. David and Joanne, as our main focus feel like mother and son. You can tell just by listening to Joanne where David gets his knack for comedy from, even though he's at a point in his life where he's not successful. 

Molly Shannon is absolutely amazing here. For me, when I see her I think of Superstar, even though I know she's done a ton of more dramatic work since then. I didn't get a single second of Mary Katherine Gallagher here. I stayed strong with her at the beginning and wept for her at the end. Plemmons also puts in great work. David isn't the most likable character, but he's never so bad to where I don't care about him. All of this is just happening at the worst possible time.

If you need a film to amuse you for a while, then make you cry it all out at the end. (or maybe I'm a wuss and you'll power through it) This one is for you.

Grade: A-

Watched on: Netflix

Memorable quote: "When you miss me, come visit your sisters." - Joanne (Molly Shannon)

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies You Thought You'd Hate, But Ended Up Enjoying

This week Wanderer was kind enough to take one of my suggestions. We've all been there, right? Gone into a movie with the lowest of low expectations and them come out pleasantly surprised? Or in some cases loving what you saw? That's what we're talking about this week. Here are some films that surpassed my expectations. 

1) Nebraska

I put off seeing this until the very last second the year it was nominated for an Oscar because what would a black and white film set in the Midwest have that could possibly interest me? Turns out a decent amount. This was far better than I expected.

2) Aquaman

I wasn't a fan of the character, I wasn't a fan of Momoa, and The DCEU's track record sucks, but I had a ton of fun watching this. It surpassed every expectation I had. 

3) Red Eye

I remember the night I saw this very clearly. I worked at a movie theater, and we were opening this and The 40 Year Old Virgin. We stayed after work the night before, and everyone wanted to watch the latter, but our boss was like "Come on, this is like 90 minutes, we can watch both." And we did, and this ended up being amazing for what it was. 

What Movie Sparked Your Love for Cinema?

I saw this question on Twitter as part of a "get to know me" game and when I tried to think of the answer for myself, what I came up with kind of surprised me.

I've mentioned before that working at a movie theater as a teenager is what broadened my horizon for films, but what was the movie that got me to look at cinema beyond the comedic and horror films that I normally stuck with?

At first I thought of American Beauty. It's my all time favorite movie which I saw for the first time at age 13. While it's very important to me because it was the first time I considered dysfunctional families and stopped feeling alone about it, I never really got into anything like it until years later. 

I thought of all the Shirley Temple movies I would record off of AMC when I was little just so I could watch her tap. I loved those too, but I never watched other classic films. 

I loved big franchises like Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, but back then I was just enjoying the ride and not thinking about the process. At least not right away. 

Weirdly enough, I think the movie that changed cinema for me was a small, tough to watch indie called Mysterious Skin. You see, when I worked at that theater we'd get magazines showing all the upcoming films. And because I lived in a small town it means we rarely, almost never got independent films. When I read about Mysterious Skin, it intrigued me. And it starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who I was familiar with. 

The funny thing about this is that there was a decent amount of time between me learning about the film and it actually coming out on DVD to rent. But just reading about it changed something. I remember finding IMDb, getting recommendations, saving titles, learning about the Sundance Film Festival and going on a movie watching spree. When I'd actually see it in the fall of 2005, it was heavy. It deals with child abuse and plenty of things that make me uncomfortable to think about but I was in awe of how well it was made and how good JGL was in it. How director Gregg Araki shot around those uncomfortable scenes made me appreciate the film making aspect that I had rarely considered before. All I had to compare it to at the time were those shitty Lifetime movies my mom would try to scare me with. This was in another league. 

That same fall, my boyfriend and I drove to the nearest big city and spent a few days doing nothing but watching all the movies in theaters that our local one would never get. We ended up seeing a lot of the eventual Oscar nominees for that year, and that started my tradition of religiously watching it. 

Because of Mysterious Skin, I looked for more independent films. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stopped being the kid from 3rd Rock and 10 Things and became my favorite actor. Because of Mysterious Skin, I'd look up Brady Corbet's filmography and find Thirteen, a film that remains in my Top 5 today. That led to me seeing Evan Rachel Wood, and her becoming one of my favorite actresses too.  It's probably because of Mysterious Skin that I tend to gravitate towards all this dark and dysfunctional story telling. (Actually, maybe I can blame that one on American Beauty. Or all those slashers my parents somehow allowed me to watch.) 

Regardless, while I always liked watching movies, I don't think I truly loved everything about them until I was 18, reading that theater magazine in between stringing up projectors and having an obscure title catch my eye. 

What movie did that for you? 

Also thank you for making it to the end of this rambling. 

Review: Captain Marvel

What makes her a hero.

Vers (Brie Larson) is a Kree warrior whose life is dedicated to fighting Skrulls. She has no memories of anything else. During a mission, she is captured by a Skrull named Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) who unearths fragments buried deep in her subconscience. After she escapes, she crash lands on Planet C-53 also known as Earth, and meets up with a young S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to fight the infiltrating Skrulls and figure out her past.

After all this time, finally Marvel has given us a female led super hero movie and if you've spent any considerable amount of time on the internet, you know incels are pissed about it. So every time this movie flat out showed a man trying to talk down to a woman, harass a woman, or expected to be owed something from her, I smiled, because I knew somewhere there was a man-baby getting all bent out of shape about it.

Shitty people aside, Captain Marvel was a blast. It gets off to a rough start with a dark battle and mostly uninteresting characters but as soon as Vers lands on Earth and meets up with Nick Fury, this movie comes alive. I didn't realize how much I missed consistently seeing Fury in these movies. Jackson has excellent chemistry with Larson and Vers and Fury together are very similar personality wise. The heart of the story is when Vers finds out she is Carol Danvers and meets up with her old friend, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch)

I liked how they tied things together with the other MCU movies. We see a few familiar faces from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and our favorite traveling infinity stone also makes another appearance. I think Carol is going to fit in nicely with the other Avengers too. I especially want her to have scenes with Wanda because she's my current favorite.

If there was one thing I was worried about when Captain Marvel was announced, it was how they handle her power. She's been hyped as the most powerful being in the universe so I was afraid they would introduce her as this deus ex machina and that she would run over all the other Avengers. But, I should've just trusted The Russos. Even though they had nothing to do with this movie, they seem to be taking those fears seriously and they have proven to write weaknesses in the already OP characters like Thor, Scarlet Witch, and Hulk. 

Another aside, what they do with the Marvel logo at the beginning of this film might make you cry.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "Your ass." - Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) simultaneously 

Indie Gems: The Incredible Jessica James

I'm dope.

Jessica (Jessica Williams) is an aspiring playwright  who still pines for her ex-boyfriend. (Lakeith Stanfield) Her friend, Tasha (Noel Wells) sets her up with an acquaintance, Boone (Chris O'Dowd) who is also fresh out of a relationship and they strike up a friendship.

I have no excuse for how long it took me to watch this film. I think Jessica Williams and Chris O'Dowd are hilarious, and this got great reviews when it came out. It just fell into the Netflix black hole. I'm happy to say this did not disappoint.

If you're familiar with Williams from her stint on The Daily Show, her humor is all over this. I'm guessing she was given a lot of leeway to improvise and it all works in her favor. Same with O'Dowd, only he can sell himself with "Also, I'm good at cunnilingus" so nonchalantly. 

There's not a lot in terms of plot here but that's okay. Jessica is interesting and it was so easy to root for her throughout. I liked how they handled all of her relationships too, between her and Boone, Tasha, Damon, and everyone else around her. It felt very organic and funny. I really wish I would've seen this sooner, because it's something I can easily see myself watching again and again.

Grade: A

Watched on: Netflix

Memorable Quote: " probably I mean she's good with dick." - Boone (Chris O'Dowd)

Thursday Movie Picks: The Cold War

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves are movies that take place during the Cold War. I quickly realized that I don't have a lot of films I like with this theme, or even ones that I've seen. I'm sure I'll be kicking myself for not thinking of several movies once I read everyone else's but for now I'm stuck. Here are some Cold War movies that are on my watch list that I haven't gotten to yet. 

1) Charlie Wilson's War

Julia Roberts initially put me off from seeing this, which is crazy because it stars Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman and they are two of my favorite actors. 

2) Good Night and Good Luck

Another one that has been in my Netflix queue for ages. I've seen parts of this movie just never in one sitting. Admittedly, I was bored with what I saw, but I'd like to give this film a fair shot eventually.

3) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I have no desire to see this to be honest but my husband really liked it so I feel I should watch it for him. 

Review: Greta

I'll be right back!

Frankie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a young woman in NYC who finds a lost purse on the subway. She returns it to its owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert) and the two form a friendship. Frankie's roommate Erica (Maika Monroe) points out how strange the relationship is and soon after Frankie finds a bunch of fake purses and realizes this friendship isn't an innocent as it seems, and Greta is not going to let her go so easily.

If you're looking at this movie from a camp perspective, it's great. You get to watch Isabelle Huppert play piano, dance around, drug people and act crazy. That alone is worth the price of admission. But if you're going in looking for a serious thriller you're going to be disappointed because all the characters here are remarkably stupid. The plot needs them to be. It's mostly easy to ignore until the final 15 minutes or so.

Huppert is great, Moretz acting wise was good too but I think she was slightly miscast in the fact that physically, she looks like she could hold off Huppert if she wanted to. While I can buy the meek attitude the movie goes to great lengths to get around that fact. They also ask you to believe that the NYPD are pretty incompetent, and that even though a woman could be arrested for an altercation with a victim in front of many people that could identify her, that they would still need to hire a private investigator to find her, and that the police wouldn't immediately go to her door. It's The Walking Dead level plot devices. 

It's dumb fun, go into this movie looking for dumb fun and you'll enjoy it. 

Recommended: Yes (for that reason)

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "You've practically adopted this woman." - Eric (Maika Monroe)

Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

Unbow your head, sister.

Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) have been best friends since they were children, and are now a loving couple looking to move forward in their lives together. The Fonny gets arrested for something he didn't do, and Tish finds herself pregnant and trying her hardest to get Fonny out of prison. Their love for each other and their baby on the way remains strong, but there's no faith in the "justice system."

This has been one of my most anticipated movies of the year and my theater JUST opened it this weekend. Luckily it was worth the wait. If Beale Street Could Talk is a stunningly beautiful film from the way it's shot, to the lovely score, to the actors who really feel like a family on screen. 

Layne and James have excellent chemistry together. The supporting player are also very strong, particularly Tish's family. Her mother, Sharon (Regina King) her father, Joseph, (Coleman Domingo) and her sister Ernestine. (Teyonah Parris) They are an excellent family unite and Ernestine provides some much needed comic relief. I loved the fact that she was making "No one would fuck you" jokes at Fonny's sisters because that is probably the immature shit I would do in her place. 

This movie is very bleak, but there's so much love between all of the characters that it doesn't turn this into one big misery tour. They're being strong, so the audience stays strong along with them. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "I'm hip." - Frank Hunt (Michael Beach)

Review: Fighting With My Family

It was my dream too.

Saraya (Florence Pugh) and Zak Knight(Jack Lowden) are amateur wrestlers in Norwich, England. Their parents (Nick Frost and Lena Headey) are wrestlers too and when Saraya and Zak get the opportunity to try out for the WWE, Saraya makes the cut as Paige and goes on to become the youngest ever Diva's Champion.

I've been watching wrestling on and off my entire life. Most recently, however feels like the longest spell I've gone without watching it week to week. I still try to read my favorite wrestling blogs to keep up with everything, but truthfully I haven't watched consistently since 2016 or so. Paige does have an interesting story and Florence Pugh has been on a roll lately with everything she touches, so when my theater opened this, I knew I had to see it.

Though plenty of liberties and changes were made, I loved how this film captured what life is like in WWE's developmental territory. Just seeing the work outs and how things go in the ring and on the indie circuit was a joy and made me miss going to live shows. Unfortunately a lot of theatrical cliches come along with all this authenticity. Your musical work out montages, family drama, mean girl drama, Paige changing her look to try to fit in, only to switch it back to being herself.  Those bits bring the film down and had I not been a fan of wrestling beforehand, this may have been a deal breaker for me.

The actors are all fantastic, especially Pugh and Lowden. Their sibling rivalry feels natural. Unfortunately it's only the Knight family that gets real development. Her coaches and fellow wrestlers in NXT do not get anything close to it. 

If you're a wrestling fan, I definitely recommend checking this out, and if you're just looking for something feel good, this should work for you too.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B- 

Memorable Quote: "What are you dickheads after?" - Young Saraya (Tori Ellen Ross)