Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Secret Agents/Spies

It's another TV theme from Wandering Through The Shelves and this week we're talking about shows with spies/secret agents. That was an easy one for me, here's what I came up with. (And yes, one day I will watch The Americans)

1) Agent Carter

For me, this is the gold standard of spy shows and it was wrongly cancelled way too early. ABC didn't give this a chance. They pump money into Agents of SHIELD when this was far better. I'm forever bitter about it. 

2) Agents of SHIELD

I have a love/hate relationship with this show. The fact that it now mostly revolves around Daisy has made it pretty unwatchable for me. She is a textbook Mary Sue. (and if you ever try to say Rey from Star Wars is one, watch Daisy then apologize for your mistake) This is a shame because it has some amazing characters aside from her, and did Ghost Rider super well. I wish they had focused more on just being SHIELD and left out the Inhuman bullshit. 

3) Archer

I don't watch this consistently but whenever I turn it on it always makes me laugh.

What I Watched on TV in May

There's still a few days left in May but my TV watch for the month has ended. Here's a quick recap of what I've been watching last month.  

Game of Thrones

Wow. Wooooooooooooooow. GoT has consistently been one of my favorite shows on television but they flopped hard at ending this. These past few seasons were just way too rushed and they completely ruined one of my favorite characters, Jaime Lannister, by having him regress back to the character he was in the first few episodes. That's the most egregious thing to me. I'm pretending the season ended after Jaime and Brienne fucked. I'll save you all the long winded rant. 

Veep


Another wonderful show that ended this year is Veep. This season hasn't been the best, but they ended it in the same spirit they've had all season..which is mean as hell. I was so sure they'd end with Jonah being president and the fact that they didn't do that was nice. It hits too close to home.

Chernobyl


This HBO mini series is outstanding. Before I started watching it had been a long time since I had a refresher on everything that happened after the Chernobyl disaster and seeing just how incompetently some things were handled is so hard to watch. The actors are amazing. Sure, it's awkward that they are all speaking English but if you can get past that this is really worth the watch

Attack on Titan


The second half of season 3 debuted on Crunchroll late last month and I've been loving it so far. I read ahead in the manga this winter so seeing some of these amazing scenes animated has been a treat. Even if you're not into anime, I higly recommend this.

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Adapted From A Different Language


Wanderer loves having us explore foreign cinema and this week we're talking movies that were adapted from a different language. No rules on which ones so there's plenty to choose from. The only rule I gave myself was to not choose my go to's like The Ring or the Departed, or any horror remake really. Here's what I came up with.

1) Brothers

This is a remake of Susanne Bier's Danish film and I really enjoyed it. I feel like no one talks about it anymore, but Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal were great. 

2) Some Like It Hot

Did you know this was a remake of a German film called Fanfaren der Liebe? I didn't when I originally watched it. I haven't seen a lot of Marilyn Monroe's work despite her being so iconic but I love this film. 

3) The Kindergarten Teacher

This is a remake of an Israeli film of the same name and Maggie Gyllenhaal is brilliant in it. It's a frustrating watch at times, but certainly worth it. I can't believe she didn't get any love during awards season. 


Review: Detective Pikachu

Gotta catch 'em all.

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is an insurance salesman who is called to Ryme City because of the mysterious death of his detective father. They've been estranged for some time, so Tim isn't thrilled with the prospect of collecting his things. Then he finds his father's Pokemon Partner, Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) who was supposed to have been dead alongside him. Even more curious, Tim can understand what he says. Now they are forced to try to solve this case together. 

I wasn't a fan of Pokemon growing up, but I was familiar enough with it. They're currently my son's newest obsession so of course we found ourselves in this. The nice thing about it is that you don't need to know the ins and outs of Pokemon to enjoy this movie. There's surprisingly very little fan service. I was expecting far more references to the obvious things. Maybe there were more subtle ones I didn't catch.

Ryme City is a city where humans and Pokemon live side by side, vs everywhere else were they are still in the wild and that's the coolest part of the movie. I like how easily the Pokemon were integrated into society there. When the film starts moving away from that, that's where they start losing steam.

Justice Smith is good, and while I wasn't thrilled with Reynold's voice as Pikachu I did eventually get use to it, but the acting everywhere else was really inconsistent. Poor Ken Wantanbe is here to stare off into the distance again, and everyone else is over acting their parts. 

I wasn't expecting a strong story so I still had fun with this. The second half gives Crimes of Grindlewald a run for its money in the exposition department but it's not enough to stop myself from enjoying this. It makes for a fun matinee at the movies.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I'm actually pretty good at being alone at night." - Tim (Justice Smith)

Review: The Wandering Earth

Goodbye, solar system.

The sun is expanding, and soon Earth will be engulfed. Scientists formulate a plan to launch Earth out of our solar system into a new one by installing massive engines all over one side of the globe. In 2500 years, the Earth will reach a new solar system. Liu Peiqiang (Jing Wu) leaves behind his four year old son with his grandfather, (Man-Tat Ng) to go aboard the international space station that is monitoring Earth's move. The remaining inhabitants of Earth move into underground cities. 19 years later, his son Liu Qi (Chuxiao Qu) has grown into a rebellious young man and takes adopted younger sister Han Duoduo (Jin Mai Jaho) on the service as Liu Peiqiang is getting ready to make his return to Earth. But Earth is moving too close to Jupiter and is going to collide. Now all of these people are getting caught up in a last ditch effort to save humanity. 

This is based on a short story by popular Chinese author Cixin Liu. I read a translation of one of his books, The Three-Body Problem and enjoyed the premise but was ultimately underwhelmed as a whole. My husband loved the book and bought the entire trilogy. This movie was a massive hit in China and when Netflix picked up the U.S distribution, I knew we were going to see it.

Here's the thing about Cixin, I love his ideas but I'm not a huge fan of how they are executed. The premise of this movie is fascinating, the characters aren't the richest, but they give us enough to feel invested. But while it starts out strong the second half flops into a convoluted mess that simultaneously drags, yet doesn't explain itself enough. And like The Three-Body Problem, the ending didn't work for me. It's not going full Ghost Ship like TBP did but Liu Peiqiang does something towards the end that is so serious and risky and he does it with zero input from anyone else that it rubbed me the wrong way. 

Despite not caring for the end, this film is just way too interesting to write off completely. There really isn't another sci fi story like it. If China is making more movies like this, I hope international markets take note and give them a wider release. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-


Memorable Quote: "I'm sorry." - Liu Peiqiang (Jing Wu) 

Thursday Movie Picks: Letters

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is movies that have letters as a plot point. Nicholas Sparks basically has an entire filmography on this so here we go.

1) The Color Purple

I've written many times over the weeping mess Celie and Nettie make me in this film, and when Mister pulls them apart and Celie yells "write"...honestly I think I may cry all over again.

2) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Willoughby's letter to Mildred about how he paid for another month on her billboard was amusing, but the letter he writes to his wife before taking his own life is downright heartbreaking. 

3) The Notebook

As much as I make fun of Spark's work, I actually really did like this. It's a nice sappy romance. And Noah wrote a letter every day for a year. That's commitment. 

2019 Blind Spot Series: Kramer vs Kramer


What I knew going in: The plot, but nothing else.

I'm not really sure what pushed me to add Kramer vs Kramer to my Blind Spot list. It might have been a recommendation from a friend, it might have been just wanting to cross more best picture winners off my list, I'm not sure. But what I can be sure about is that I'm happy it got there.

Ted (Dustin Hoffman) and Joanna (Meryl Streep) are getting a divorce. Joanna is fed up and leaves Ted with their seven year old son, Billy (Justin Henry) convinced she's not a good mother and he'll be better off with there. Ted has always been a workaholic and has no idea what to do with his son. 

From reading the trivia on imdb, it seems Meryl Streep did a lot of saving of this script from Joanna's perspective. It's hard to favor one parent over the other. Sure, Joanna leaves, but she has her reasons. Ted's not a great father, but he gets there. Ultimately, I just felt bad for their relationship crumbling, especially in the court room scenes towards the end of the film. 

Hoffman and Streep are both wonderful in their Oscar winning roles, but the star of this film for me was Justin Henry. Amazing child performances are not hard to find and this kid felt so authentic. Every time he cried or got angry over his mom leaving him felt so real. I knew he had been nominated before watching and assumed it was going to be an Abigail Breslin/Little Miss Sunshine situation where any kid would've gotten in for that part but no. He really blew me away. 

My only complaint about this film is that I really just wanted more depth. I wanted more information on Ted and Joanna and I wanted to see more of what happened after their court case. (by the way, both of those lawyers were mega-assholes. Jesus) Though I can see why the film chose not to give us that. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: *whispers* "No" - Ted (Dustin Hoffman)

Review: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Extremely long title.

Notorious murderer Ted Bundy's (Zac Efron) story is told through the eyes of his one time girlfriend, Liz. (Lily Collins) 

I'll never forget the first time I read about Ted Bundy. His crimes were so horrific I don't even want to think about them. Making a movie about someone this disgusting isn't easy, but director Joe Berlinger goes about it in the most restrained way possible.

We're spared the gory recreations of his crimes, thank God. Most of this film focuses on his time in various courts, and his time with Liz, who dated him for years.

Lily Collins is incredible here. She was strong in To The Bone but this might actually top that, and it's easily the best performance Zac Efron has ever given. It was nice to see him step out of his comfort zone, but it also presents one very large problem.

Ted Bundy would fucking love that Zac Efron is playing him because Efron is arguably very good looking. See, the narrative around Bundy during his trial was that he was "hot" and had all these crazy women swooning over him in court when the reality is that Bundy was average. That's why he got away with these murders for so long. Because he was completely unremarkable. So having someone like Efron, who gets a moment in the film to show off how sculpted his body is rubbed me the wrong way because it's buying into glorifying Bundy.

I was wary about this movie going in but it was very well done despite it's problems with portraying Bundy. I appreciate that it wasn't gratuitous and I love most of the cast. Especially Collins and Efron getting to spread their wings a bit.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "What happened to her head?" - Liz (Lily Collins)


Thursday Movie Picks: Movies You Have A Different Opinion Of After Rewatching

This week we have Steven of The Void to thank for topic. Over at Wandering Through The Shelves it's all about those movies that you felt one way or another at first, then changed after watching it a second time. The one that instantly came to for me was Fargo but I already used it this year. I kind of struggled a bit with this, I know there's so many films that make me feel this way but I've never kept track of them in any way. I literally went through my watched films on Letterboxd waiting for a title to jump out at me and here's what I came up with.

1) The Exorcist

This movie absolutely terrified me as a child but when I re-watched it again, it wasn't so scary. Actually, it was quite brilliant. While hiding my face behind my hands I swore I'd never watch it again and I'm very glad I put on my big girl panties and got over it. 

2) Up

It's almost comical how much I hated Up when it first came out. I looked back at a few of my old posts about it and MAN I was harsh. But then I had a baby and he grew into a little boy who adores this movie and now I have a newfound love for it as well. It's actually high on my Pixar list. Oh what motherhood did to my cold black heart. 

3) Thor

Can you believe me, proud holder of the Marvel Bitch card actually didn't like Thor when it first came out? I thought it was so dull and I had a massive headache afterwards because I had to see it in 3D. It wasn't until after Avengers came out that I went back to Thor and enjoyed it more. It's still nowhere near the top of my list but I wasn't bored the second time around. 

Review: Long Shot

Writing for someone real.

Fred is a journalist who quits his job when a huge media conglomerate buys out the magazine he writes for. By change he ends up at a part with the Secretary of State, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) who used to be his few years older babysitter. She hires him to be her speech writer as she takes on a presidential run.

While pulling up IMDb to reference as I started writing this review, I just realized that the character of Parker Wembley, the sleazy dude that buys the magazine Fred worked for and routinely tries to corner Charlotte was played by Andy fucking Serkis. I had no idea. I could not figure out where I recognized the actor from while I was watching this and had no clue it was just Serkis under a bunch of makeup. Wow. 

Now that my mind is done being blown, Long Shot is a pretty solid comedy. Theron and Rogen are both good in their roles and have great chemistry together. This is being sold as sort of a reverse Pretty Woman scenario but when you meet the characters it's pretty easy to see why they'd end up together. 

Not every joke lands, but there's one that is easily one of the funniest things I've seen all year and it's probably the hardest I've laughed in a theater this year as well. There's a lot of points where cliches come into play, but the film never dwells on them long enough to get annoying. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Oh boy!" - Fred (Seth Rogen)

Rambling TV: What I watched in April

Veep

This show continues to be one of the funniest comedies I've ever seen. Everything they are doing this season, particularly with Jonah marrying his former step sister is just comedy gold. I'm happy to see so many guest actors like Hugh Laurie return as well.

Game of Thrones

The final season is here! We're three episodes in and have three left of the entire series. It's been somewhat surprising so far. I've like all three episodes that have aired, but 802 was truly masterful in its character moments. I've rewatched that one alone at least 5 times. I can't wait to see where the rest of this goes. 

The Disappearance of Madeline McCann

Netflix usually has some of the most interesting true crime docs I've ever seen but this one was incredibly boring. Nothing new is revealed and you can spend less time reading it online. Huge bust for me. 

Fosse/Verdon

I was so excited for this because it's Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams and while it's fine, the way they chose to tell the story brings it down so much in quality. They constantly jump all over in the time line and the camera work doesn't focus on the dancing nearly as much as it should. I'll finish this, but I wanted more. 


Thursday Movie Picks: True Crime

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is True Crime. This is something that's always interested me. When Crime Library used to be a thing, I always seemed to end up on that site reading articles for hours. There's plenty to choose from this week. I usually stick with three picks per week, but I decided to pick three features and three true crime documentaries since I couldn't decide which direction I wanted to go.

Features

1) Bully 

So, Larry Clark is a massive perv, let's get that out of the way. But creeper shots aside, he really managed to capture that Florida white trash feel in this film about a group of kids that murder a fellow friend for constantly berating them. 

2) True Story

This little seen indie is about a man who murdered his wife and kids, disappeared and was caught using the name of a New York Times reporter who then interviews him in prison. James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Felicity Jones all give strong performances. 

3) Zodiac

There aren't many 2.5+ hour films I can watch over and over but Fincher's brilliant film about the Zodiac killer is one of them. It's so well done.

Documentaries 

1) Capturing The Freidmans

Director Andrew Jarecki gained a ton of acclaim for his HBO doc The Jinx, where he caught a killer confessing to his crime, but before that he had this documentary about a man and his sons accused of child molestation. It's an interesting film, but I think it's very bias. Jarecki clearly thought the subjects of his film were innocent and I felt he framed certain interviews with alleged victims in a way to accentuate it. I don't think I share the same feelings as he does. 

2) Mommy Dead and Dearest

This is probably the first time I've ever agreed with a second degree murder charge in a documentary. This entire story is just batshit crazy. It's about a mother with Munchausen by Proxy who convinces her daughter she is sick and makes her lie to the public about it. It's available on HBO Go

3) Strong Island

This film follows the murder of director Yance Ford's brother and how he got zero justice. It's a very uniquely shot doc that I felt should've taken the Oscar home over last year's winner, Icarus.