Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Space/Aliens

 

Well folks, 2020 is finally almost over and we're now at the final theme of Wandering Through The Shelves' TMP. This week we're talking about aliens and space on the small screen. Here's what I came up with.

1) The X-Files

My go to aliens. This is a show that will always have a special place in my heart. 

2) Space Force

This on the other hand, was terrible. I really hope they completely revamp the show for the second season because the first one just did not work.

3) The Mandalorian

My current favorite space fix. After what The Rise of Skywalker did last year, it just feels nice to be excited about Star Wars again. Bless this show.

Review: The Forty-Year-Old Version


Radha (Radha Blank) is a playwright in New York City who hasn't had a play produced in a while. She's been teaching high school theatre, but it doesn't fullfil her. She decides to reinvent herself as a rapper, rapping about what it's like to be a woman approaching 40.

I've heard nothing about good things about this since it's released on Netflix and I'm happy to say it lives up to the hype. Radha is so funny and you can tell she put a lot of love into this film. I can't wait to see what she does next, because this was wonderful.

There isn't a relationship Radha has in this film that doesn't work. Her scenes with best friend/manager Archie (Peter Kim) are funny and manic. Her students are a riot. While one of them calls her out on her stagnant career, others rally to her defense and it's cute to see her students support her like that. When she meets D (Oswin Benjamin) the producer making her beats, what starts off as a cold introduction blooms into something very heartwarming.

As I said in my Mank review, I don't care for contemporary black and white. I didn't feel like it really added to anything, but I respect that it's the way Blank wanted this shot. One plot point made me cringe, but at the same time it needed to happen for the rest of the story to move the way it did.

If you're put off by the familiarity of the title, don't be. This is definitely something worth seeing.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "Oh, that's a young tongue." - Radha (Radha Blank)

Review: Soul


Joe (Jamie Foxx) is a middle school band teacher who has dreamed of being a jazz musician all his life. When he finally gets the gig of his life, he falls through a sewer hole and comes to on his way to the great beyond. Not ready to meet his fate, he ends up in the "great before" where he becomes a mentor to a new soul, 22 (Tina Fey) while trying to get back to Earth.

It's impossible for me not to compare this to Inside Out. Thematically, they feel very similar. I strongly disliked Inside Out. I thought it failed on so many different levels, but my main gripes were that the middle of the film was meandering and boring, and that they struggled with trying to gear it towards children when they clearly wanted to be talking to the adults. Soul doesn't even bother with the kids. They throw in a couple of butt jokes but they are very clearly talking to the grown ups here, and because they don't have that weird, condescending disconnect, it works.

Soul for me succeeded in every way Inside Out failed. The story was engaging through out, when they had to cut away from the main story to include the side characters, it was brief and to the point. I liked the various styles of animation they used as well.

Jamie Foxx is great, as was Tina Fey. I felt for their characters. They balanced the comedy and the heaviness of this film well. Of course it made me bawl like a baby at the end.

While it doesn't unseat Wolfwalkers as my favorite animated film of the year, Soul is definitely worth seeing.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I was born to play. It's my reason for living." - Joe (Jamie Foxx)

Review: Wonder Woman 1984

In 1984, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is working at the Smithsonian. She leads somewhat of a lonely night, and meets a new colleague Barbara (Kristen Wiig) on her first day. Barbara is asked to identify some artifacts stolen during a robbery, and one of them happens to be a stone that grants wishes. But it falls into the hands of a smarmy business man, Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Diana once again needs to save humanity.

When it comes to the 80's on film/TV right now, I think the market is completely oversaturated and I'm over watching content featuring it aside from Stranger Things, but Wonder Woman 1984 absolutely commits to being an 80's action movie and I admire Patty Jenkins for that. Plenty of other filmmakers sprinkle it in to scream "look at me!" but she goes all in. Even the annoying tropes, like a woman removing her glasses and instantly becoming hot work here.

I get it, the premise *is* silly. It's a bit of a stretch to bring Steve (Chris Pine) back but he's the character that makes the movie aside from Gadot herself. I'd even argue that their chemistry is even better this time around, and Steve reacting to the new world was so precious and hilarious. When they inevitably have to say goodbye again (I don't think that's a spoiler, we all know where Diana is currently in the DCEU) I almost cried. They're perfect together.

Pedro Pascal is great as Max Lord. I was expecting him to be over the top and goofy, and he is at times but he ended up being a lot more layered than that. Less successful is Kristen Wiig as Barbara/Cheetah. She started out fine, but when the film needed her to be more edgy, she failed. I'm not a fan of Wiig's, so likely that's some of me projecting, but I didn't care for her character at all. I'm also really bothered by one facet of her story, where they treat her getting revenge on someone who tries to sexually assault her earlier in the film as her big move from good to evil. That was an awful choice. That offended me more than the terrible CGI when she becomes full Cheetah. (which they thankfully use a lot of quick cuts so we don't have time to focus on it.)

Of course, the stare is Gadot as Diana. I just adore her in this role. I was never someone who was interested in Wonder Woman growing up but I have been since meeting this version. I like that Diana isn't perfect, that she deals with being lonely even though she's so powerful and has so much. She really flourished once she got away from Snyder's direction.

While Wonder Woman 1984 might not have a groundbreaking No Man's Land type sequence like it's predecessor, it's more consistent tone wise throughout and I enjoyed it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Well shit, Diana!" - Steve (Chris Pine)

Review: Sylvie's Love


 In 1950's Harlem, Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) aspires to work in TV and spends time helping out her father (Lance Reddick) at his record store so she can watch more of it. There, she meets Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) a saxophone player on his way to making it big. They fall in love, but will their individual dreams make room for it?

I can't say I gravitate towards romantic movies often but something about this trailer made me want to see this. Tessa Thompson is great and I've loved her work so far, and I adore what she did with Sylvie. She's the sweetest thing, but it's not her entire personality. A lesser writer would've left it at that and kept her one dimensional but writer/director Eugene Ashe doesn't do that. Same with Robert, they're both fully fleshed out characters with hopes and dreams, and they work together. Since it's told from Sylvie's point of view, I kept wishing she could just have it all.

While this film does fall on some very typical romantic tropes, it doesn't dwell on them and it makes for a nice at home watch. The costumes and set designs are gorgeous. Sylvie's Love is available to stream if you're an Amazon Prime member. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Favorite song for this moment?" - Sylvie (Tessa Thompson)

Review: Blackbird

 


Lily's (Susan Surandon) body is deteriorating. She's dying, but she wants to be the one to choose when that happens before her body no longer responds to her commands. She and her husband Paul (Sam Neill) have invited their family over for one last weekend before Lily drinks a cocktail of drugs that will relieve her of her suffering and let her die peacefully. Her oldest daughter Jennifer (Kate Winslet) is a control freak who is having issues not being able to control this. Her younger sister, Anna (Mia Wasikowska) is aloof and isn't ready to see her mother go before they mend their issues. Over all, it's quite the family weekend.

This is a remake of a Danish film that I haven't seen, so I was shocked when this film didn't head right into melodrama and get overly sappy. All of these characters felt like real, flawed people. Anna and Jennifer are both reacting to this situation in dramatically different ways, none of which are good, but can you blame them? Lily is the only one with a handle on things. Paul is on her side, but his silent suffering was heartbreaking.

For a film about death, there was plenty of amusing moments throughout. Not laugh out loud comedy but real jokes you'd expect to be cracked at family gatherings. I honestly liked this far more than I expected.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I could die happy right now." - Chris (Bex Taylor-Klaus)

Review: The Prom

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope you're all relaxing and are safe and healthy. With holiday decorations being so extra and sparkly, it's fitting to review a film today that is also very extra and sparkly.

Fizzling Broadway stars Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden) want to rehab their image after being called out for being narcissists. They team up with forever chorus girl Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman) to look for a cause and on Twitter they see a PTA in small town Indiana canceled prom because a lesbian student, Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) wanted to take her girlfriend. They decide to go to Indiana to insert themselves into the situation and bring a little acceptance to the bigoted town.

I want you to imagine having access to every single man on Broadway then still choosing to cast James Corden. I thought Hugh Grant in The Gentleman was the biggest example of an actor trying to sabotage a movie this year, but Corden is unbearably bad and so miscast. This was impossible for me to ignore and every time he was on screen it brought the film down.

As a musical, I liked when Emma was on screen. Pellman is a wonderful singer and the most emotional bits of the film were her and her girlfriend, Alyssa. (Ariana DeBose) They made me tear up a little. I also enjoyed Kegan Michael Key as the understanding principle the song about cherry picking the bible was amusing. 

Wonderful message aside, parts of the film did feel a bit phony and Corden just brings the film crashing down every time he's on screen. I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye on what Pellman and DeBose do next.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "Note to self, don't be gay in Indiana." - Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman)

 

Thursday Movie Picks: Holiday Action Movies

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is holiday action movies! I'm going to be honest, the only thing I could think of is Die Hard. I actually had to search for the rest of my picks and even they're a bit of a reach. Low effort from me today. If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you're having a Merry Christmas Eve! And if you don't, I hope your Thursday is going splendid anyways! 

1) Die Hard

The go to Christmas action flick. 

2) Jarhead

Jake Gyllenhaal dances around naked in a Santa hat while deployed so we're counting it.

3) Prometheus 

Idris Elba decorates a Christmas tree and this is mostly an action movie...right?




Review: Tenet

This is how IMDb describes this film: "Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist (John David Washington) journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time."

I used IMDb's description because even a solid week after watching, I don't think I could tell what this film is exactly about. I have no problem admitting when something goes over my head, and I felt a bit dumber after leaving this.

Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite working directors and I've been hyped all year long to see this. I debated multiple times about venturing out during a global pandemic to see this the way Nolan intended on the big screen. Ultimately I chose to stay home and that's probably for the better. Risking my health in exchange of utter confusion wouldn't be the best deal.

Here's the weird part. There's a lot about this movie I enjoyed. John David Washington was a good lead. Ludwig Gorranson's score was awesome (and so, so loud) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson showed up for 10 minutes. Kenneth Branagh was legitimately scary and when I was following the plot, I was interested.

At one point, Clemonce Posey's character tells our Protagonist not to try to understand it, and apparently that's the best way to watch this movie. At various points throughout my two and a half hours with Tenet, I lost track of who the protagonist was working for, who they were actually fighting during the big ending sequence, and what "tenet" was supposed to be in the first place. I don't even think I have the energy at this point to look up those answers on the internet because I just feel mentally exhausted. Because I feel the need to defend myself after just admitting how lost I was - this film had more than my full attention. Especially because I was constantly changing the volume of my TV because the score was so loud, and the dialogue so quiet. Both my surround sound set up and the volume button on the remote got a lot of work.

This is one of those movies I think I'll need to tuck away for a few years and revisit because right now my verdict is just confused amusement. I don't think it's Nolan's worst, and I admire a lot about it technically. It's got the best visual effects of anything released this year. It was just very ambitious and I don't think that paid off.

Recommended: Yes so you can come back and explain it to me.

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "Don't try to understand it." - Barbara (Clemence Posey)


Review: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Chicago, 1927. A band consisting of Cutler, (Coleman Domingo) Slow Drag, (Michael Potts) and Toledo (Glynn Turman) assemble in a drab practice room to record a record for the famous blues singer, Ma Rainey. (Viola Davis) New to their operation is the very spirited Levee (Chadwick Boseman) a talented horn player and aspiring song writer who Ma clashes with when the studio execs prefer his version of her music. 

Producer Denzel Washington is seeing to it that all of August Wilson's plays make it to the big screen, and his last offering, Fences was wonderful. Here Viola Davis gives us yet another amazing performance, though this one is much more restrained. I was a bit surprised that she was more of a supporting player here. This movie truly belongs to Levee.

It's impossible for me to watch Chadwick Boseman's final performance and not feel incredibly sad. He's so good, probably the best he's ever been and it just hurts that there won't be any more of him (aside from his voice work in the up coming What If) The praise for his performance isn't just hyperbole. He takes us through Levee at his highest and lowest. He's such a ball of energy and I was immediately drawn to him. All of the principle actors in this are great, but it really is Chadwick's show.

I wasn't familiar with August Wilson's play before watching this. I hadn't read nor seen any versions, so the ending caught me off guard. I strongly dislike how this ends. I won't spoil it, but I wonder if part of it is me projecting because of Chadwick's passing. I felt like I just left this film with the worst taste in my mouth possible story wise when I was enjoying it so much beforehand. I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts on this.

Overall, it's easily accessible on Netflix and I hope everyone gets the chance to see it. Ending aside, it's very good. It's extremely stagey, so if that's not your thing keep that in mind, but I didn't think it hurt the film in any way.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "Let me handle them my way." - Levee (Chadwick Boseman)


Review: The Rental

Charlie, (Dan Stevens) and his wife Michelle, (Allison Brie) decide to rent an Air BnB for a weekend getaway with his brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White) and Josh's girlfriend/Charlie's co-worker Mina. (Sheila Vand) It starts off with a bad run in with the racist home owner and only gets worse from there.

Despite being called a horror/thriller, the first hour or so of this movie is merely a relationship drama. The horror element doesn't really kick into gear until the third act. While it's quite obvious what's going to eventually happen between these couples, the actors are all very good so it's never tedious.

But that third act....I'm perplexed. I don't know if I could give film major props for going this route with the killer, or if it feels like a giant cop out. In theory it's creepy but it feels rushed. This film is only 1 hour 28 minutes long and with so much spent on the relationship building it really feels like the main conflict happens way too fast. But at the same time, I don't think they could've dragged it out much longer either. Even days after watching this, I still don't know how I feel about the ending.

Dave Franco looks to be a promising director. You can tell he films his real life wife Allison Brie with a lot of love. They could've so easily made her character frumpy to contrast with Mina but they didn't. I really just liked all of the main four.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "My reservation was declined but you accepted his an hour later." - Mina (Sheila Vand)

2021 Blind Spot Series + 2020 Wrap Up


It's been another successful year of Blind Spots! Here's a round up of my 2020 films and grades. Aside from the dud that was Reanimator I had a pretty good year. A bit of mediocrity, but I loved Meet Me in St. Louis so much that I can overlook a lot of that.

1) Belle du Jour (B)
2) Reanimator (F)
3) Maclolm X(B)
4) Dial M for Murder (B-)
5) On The Waterfront (B)
6) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (B)
7) Raging Bull (C)
8) Top Hat/Swing Time (B/C+)
9) Jules and Jim (C)
10) Nosferatu (B-)
11) Meet Me In St. Louis/Summer Stock (A/B)
12) Mildred Pierce (A)

Here's what I have going on for 2021. I'm getting a little ambitious again with trying to do more than one movie a month. Truthfully with quarantine the way it is, I've actually already watched a few of these and have reviews in my drafts. Hopefully this time around I'll actually be able to find Suddenly, Last Summer. I've been trying to watch this movie for years and someone at Netflix either hoards the DVD, or no one has it on streaming. Thankfully HBO Max seems to be making my life a bit easier nowadays with the classics. Have you seen any of these? What do you think?

1) Seven Samurai
2) Jungle Fever
3) Life of Brian
4) Velvet Goldmine
5) The Graduate
6) Suddenly, Last Summer
7) Roman Holiday
8) It Happened One Night
9) Of Human Bondage/Now, Voyager
10) Mean Streets
11) A Hard Day's Night
12) It's A Wonderful Life (I know)

Alternates: Come and See.

Review: The New Mutants

 


Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) survives a mysterious attack on her Reservation and and wakes up in a strange institution to learn that she is a Mutant and is being treated by Dr. Reyes. (Alice Braga) They don't know exactly what her mutant power is, and she's not alone at this facility. She has four other young Mutants with her. Friendly Rahne, (Maisie Williams) awkward Sam, (Charlie Heaton) good looking jock Roberto (Henry Zaga) and mean girl Illyana. (Anya-Taylor Joy) It doesn't take long for Dani to realize that she's not in a hospital, but a prison. Then strange things begin to happen.

You'll notice that I gave really generic descriptions of each of these kids, and that's because the film never really bothers to explore them beyond those things. We get glimpses of their pasts and why they got there, which would make for a far more interesting movie, but they're just that. Glimpses.

When the trailer for this came out 100 years ago, I was interested, which is the most I've been able to say about an X-men film in years. Then it ran into production problems, someone who worked closely on the film leaked a bunch of backstage drama with the director on the internet, and it was set for reshoots that never came. Now after seeing the finished product, I can see why the studio wanted to re-do nearly all of it.

When you have a film that only has six principle actors, you need to flesh them out and the actors need to be strong, these ones aren't. Even the ones who are normally reliable. Anya Taylor-Joy has been mesmerizing in everything I've seen her in, but hear she leans so hard into Illyana's inner Regina George that it removes almost all of the nuance her character deserves. And Magik is a damn cool mutant, they could've done so much more with her. Heaton's Kentucky accent was awful, and Hunt and Zaga were just...not good. I feel bad for typing that. The only emotional thing that hit in this story was Rahne and Dani's love story. That was cute, and it was the only time Hunt wasn't overacting.

The CGI is very hit and miss. You can tell they had budget constraints because of the way the big fight scene at the end was shot. We never get a good shot of Magik fighting because all the CGI budget went to the giant demon bear. (Though that bear's intro was hilarious. It wasn't supposed to be, but it was)

I don't think it's awful. Definitely not as bad as some of the early reviews had been saying, but I just saw so much potential here that was wasted. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "I killed 18 men. One by one." - Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy)

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Directed By Women

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is another suggestion by yours truly. This week we're talking about films directed by women. And really, why aren't we talking about this all the time? I wanted to talk specifically about all of the women who should've been nominated for Best Director at this year's Oscars instead of Martin Scorcese, Quinten Tarantino, and that goblin Todd Phillips. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

1) Honey Boy

Alma Har'el helped bring Shia Labeouf's semi autobiographical story to life and it's an amazing movie. She makes it feel so real and gets wonderful performances from her actors.

2) A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood



Marielle Heller had me buying Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers despite looking nothing like him. And the scene transitions in this movie with the toys? Genius. Her snub hurts the most.

3) The Farewell

Lulu Wang's The Farewell was so heartfelt and lovely. It should've had so much more attention.

Review: Mulan (2020)

 Be a man.

When her ailing father is called to war in China to fight invaders, Mulan (Yifei Liu) disguises herself as a man to fight in his place in the Imperial Army. Lucky for Mulan, her Chi has always been strong, but she's also been told to hide it because she is a woman.

Mulan is the only Disney live action movie I was looking forward to. I even welcomed the change in story from the Disney cartoon. I knew they were going to stick closer to the true story, and when Disney+ announced that you could buy Mulan for $30.00 to stream at home, I *almost* did it. I would've paid more for my family of three to go to the theater anyways. Then the reviews came out so I held off. Now, it's available for free on the platform, and I can say with 100% certainty that I am glad I didn't pay that fee to watch.

I wanted to like this so badly, and there are parts that I do. The costumes are beautiful, there's something wonderful about seeing a young woman be so badass, but I felt like this movie had no heart. Mulan (1998) I'd argue is one of the best Disney movies ever made. She works hard, she has a group of friends that learn to respect her and in a moment of truly poetic cinema, they disguise themselves as women to infiltrate the Emperor's castle like Mulan had to disguise herself to join the army. I loved that. But Mulan 2020 has none of those moments.

OP Chi Mulan is a strange choice. It removes half of the struggles she had joining the army, and really became more about her hiding her identity, and deciding when to show her comrades that she is in fact a super hero. Another baffling choice is a witch (Li Gong) who fights in the enemy camp. Because of her extraordinary powers, which include doing nearly all the hard work, she's shunned. She at one point tells the main villain, Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee) she could kill him instantly, then when she's given the opportunity and motive to do so, she sacrifices herself instead. I know the answer to all of these "why's" is "the patriarchy" but it makes for slightly frustrating storytelling.

I don't think this is a terrible movie by any means, I think my expectations were just too high considering how much I loved the animated version. 

Recommended: Only if you already have Disney+

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "I believe Hua Mulan" - Honghui (Yoson An)

Review: Wolfwalkers

 

Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) and her father Bill (Sean Bean) have recently moved from England to Ireland. Bill is tasked with helping kill the large amount of wolves in the surrounding forest. Robyn doesn't want to be kept behind the village walls and wishes to help her father. When she escapes into the woods, she meets Mebh (Eva Whittaker) a free spirited girl who is also a Wolfwalker, meaning she turns into a wolf when she sleeps.

Cartoon Saloon has been putting out out beautiful, hand drawn animated films for a while but they came to my attention with their 2014 feature Song of the Sea. That became an instant favorite in my household so when I saw they had another film coming out, I knew it would be perfect for a family movie night. This is currently streaming on Apple TV, and I believe it's also available to rent on demand.

The animation is stunning. I loved the visuals, the forest is so beautiful, as was the transformation from human to wolf. One of my favorite sights was how they showed Mebh running when she's human, she looks like this giant ball of fiery red hair and I loved that. The score is also lovely and fits to well. I liked the story as well, especially when they focus on Mebh and Robyn's friendship which is the strongest point. I did start to get frustrated with Bill as a character though. They lean very heavily on the parent not listening to the child trope, which is fine, but when him shutting up for two seconds would've solved several different problems, it gets a bit tedious. 

While I still prefer Song of the Sea overall, Wolfwalkers is a must see and is my favorite animated film I've seen of the year so far.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "Something's happened to me." - Robyn (Honor Kneafsey)

2020 Blind Spot Series: Dial M for Murder



What I knew going in: Not much at all, really.

Tony (Ray Milland) is a tennis star who finds out his wife, Margot (Grace Kelly) is having an affair with Mark (Robert Cummings) while he's been out on tour. He retires from tennis, and Margot gives their relationship an honest try the second go around. Only instead of confronting her like a normal human, he decides to blackmail someone into murdering her instead.

Long ago when I started this blogging challenge I had a list of Hitchock films I planned to see, and I believe I was taking a vote between this and Rope, and Dial M for Murder is what won. And this turned out to be a solid choice. 

For a movie that so obviously is going to end a certain way, the suspense really does stay with you throughout the run time, thought maybe not for the reason you expect. While I normally love a good courtroom drama, I like that this film jumps in time a bit after it's "intermission" (which is kind of funny considering this film isn't even 2 hours)

Grace Kelly is wonderful and so beautiful and she stands out even more against the rest of the cast which is a bunch of dudes that arguably all look the same. That's the biggest hurdle this film has in my opinion. Milland, Cummings, and co are fine, but they're kind of boring to watch. Their dialogue isn't, but acting wise it's nothing special. Kelly is carrying the acting department.

This didn't knock Rear Window off the top of my Hitchock list, but I'm glad I watched it. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I don't seem to be able to feel anything." - Margot (Grace Kelly)  

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies About The Elderly

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about films that focus on characters of a certain age. *EDIT* I realize now after reading a few other posts that this topic was supposed to be about movies FOR the elderly and not necessarily about them but I'm not re-writing this. I think they work.

1) Nebraska

Woody (Bruce Dern) drags his son on a roadtrip from Montana to Nebraska. This is one of the few instances where I like a modern film in black and white. I was pleasantly surprised by it. 

2) Beginners

While this movie is from Ewan McGregor's point of view, I'm using it here because of Christopher Plummer's wonderful (and Oscar winning) performance. He's so sweet.

3) Up

The elderly couple that made all the unsuspecting Pixar fans bawl in the first 10 minutes of the movie. I really adore UP and Carl as a character.

Review: Resistance

 Saving lives in silence.

Marcel Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg) will eventually go on to be a famous mime, but when we meet him he's clowning in cabarets in France during the start of the second world war. At the start of the film, a young girl named Elsbeth (Bella Ramsay) watches her family being murdered by Nazi's before she escapes. She comes into Marcel's life along with many other Jewish children that the French Resistance plans to sneak into neutral Switzerland. While Marcel isn't keen on taking part in this at first, his brother Alain (Félix Moati) and friend Emma (Clemence Posey) convince him. 

I didn't know anything about Marceau before watching this film but you're not required to. This isn't so much a bio pic on him, but a story about the horrors of war and how he brought hope to these children during the worst time of their lives. I thought it balanced out well. They don't go over the top with the violence, although one scene is particularly terrifying with the implications, and you still feel very tense during the back half of the film when they group sets out for Switzerland. 

Jesse Eisenberg is an actor that I enjoy, but I struggled with buying him as a French mime. I think in the quieter more dramatic scenes he's very good. Especially when playing off of Posey who gives the best performance in the film. But he occasionally struggles with the accent and his clowning scenes didn't feel very natural. It's not a bad performance, just a bit uneven.

I think I'm getting to the point where I don't need to see another WWII for a while, but this one, while I don't think you need to rush out to see is a decent enough watch for a evening. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "What can I do to make sure my daughter is interested in the arts?" - Barbie (Matthias Schweighöfer)


Review: Mank

 An Ode to old Hollywood

Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) is an alcoholic screenwriter holed up in a remote cabin trying to finish the script for Citizen Kane. At the same time, we're told his decade earlier story through flashbacks.

David Fincher is one of my favorite directors and it's been six years since his last film. I had high hopes for this, I was willing to look past my dislike for contemporary black and white and how dull and washed out it often looks, but in the end. I felt the same way about Mank as I do about Citizen Kane

I made it through this entire movie only really caring about one character, which was Amanda Seyfried's Marion Davies. I could've cared about Lily Collins' Rita Alexander, but she's barely in it. Seyfried on the other hand lit up the screen. She's the fun in a film that has none anywhere else. I had heard going in that she also had a small part, so she ended up being in the film more than I expected, and that was very welcomed. I was also pretty impressed with Tom Pelphrey playing Herman's brother Joseph. I thought he was abysmal in The Iron Fist so it's nice to see that he is capable of giving a good performance. 

Like Citizen Kane, I feel this movie excels on a technical level, but lacks story wise. Mank doesn't really have a story while he's writing, it's all about the decade prior, and I started to get amused at how every scene change was clearly labeled "(flashback)" It's helpful, they didn't make any effort to make Oldman look younger than he does in the current timeline. Fincher manages to make the film sound like it was an older film. My husband hated this, I thought it was an interesting gimmick and I appreciate his attention to detail. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score sounds like generic 30's music, which I think the Academy will love but I found it kind of uninspired considering how beautiful some of their other work is. 

Overall, Fincher clearly has a lot of love for old school filmmaking and he shows it well. This film is for those who love that, but the story isn't strong, the characters are very thin (How is Oldman in Oscar consideration for this? Can we please not do Darkest Hour again?) and I think I just expected too much from Fincher, especially coming after something like Gone Girl. It's not a bad movie by any means, and it's definitely not Fincher's worst, but it's just here.

Recommended: Yes, parts are will worth seeing, even though I likely sound very negative in this review.

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "And I hope if it doesn't, you'll forgive me." - Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried)

What I watched on TV in November

I'm still going strong in the TV department over here. Aside from Mando and His Dark Materials, none of the other shows I watched are going to carry over into December so maybe now I'll have time to get to Small Axe, The Queen's Gambit and Ratched like I want to. Here's what I watched in November. 

The Crown - Can I just gush about how good this season was? I STRUGGLED to get through season three and I would've happily watched all of this in one day if I had the time. It was so much more engaging, I loved how even the worst characters had these small moments where I almost felt bad for them. Like Thatcher wearing her dinner clothes too early, or Charles telling Camilla she's the love of his life. All the actors were fantastic. Gillian Anderson was excellent as Thatcher, I'm going to miss Erin Doherty as Princess Anne and Josh O'Connor as Charles the most. Emma Corrin really nailed it as Diana. Olivia Colman grew on me much more this season. I still prefer Claire Foy, but Colman was good. The only one who I felt got the shaft this season was Helena Bonham-Carter. She didn't have a lot to do. 

The Mandalorian- This season is SO GOOD! Seeing Bo Katan and Ahsoka Tano brought into the live action world was wonderful and I'm really just loving these episodes so far. It shows no sign of slowing down. Even Grogu (RIP Baby Yoda moniker) essentially committing genocide can't diminish my love for this. And name dropping Thrawn? The possibilities...

Fargo - Lord almighty, I wish I had just stopped watching this. What a waste of time. Easily the worst season that Fargo has put out so far, and honestly it was so bad I don't even care if there's a new season. Between this, the final few seasons of Legion and Lucy in the Sky, I've lost pretty much all the faith I had in Noah Hawley. 

The Undoing - This went by so quickly! I didn't realize when I started watching that it was only 6 episodes but wow was it good. I loved how the show continued to keep you guessing about the information you may be missing. The finale was really strong.

Trial 4 - This was a case I wasn't familiar with until this Netflix documentary showed up in my suggestions, and I feel like I say this about so many run ins with black men and the police...but wow. Woooooooow. The corruption in the Boston Police department as shown in this doc is staggering. I highly recommend watching this. It's very well balanced. It's pro Ellis for obvious reasons but they let the other side say their peace and spent a fair amount of time explaining the trial(s) process which I found really helpful considering it took 3 trials to actually convict Ellis of this crime. 

His Dark Materials - Season 2 is off to a great start so far. I still fee a little lost when they start explaining the inner workings of the Magesterium since I did not read the books, but overall I'm enjoying it so far and I really like Lyra and Will together. They make a good pair. 

Thursday Movie Picks: Adaptations

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is adaptations. This is pretty broad so I thought I'd narrow this down to book to movie adaptations that came out in 2020

1) Emma.

Try as I might to get through this book, I couldn't. But thankfully 2020's version of Emma was fun enough to watch.

2) The Devil All The Time

This is one of the better films Netflix released. While the extensive cast all didn't get enough screen time, Tom Holland is the best he's ever been here.

3) Artemis Fowl

Now for the trash! This movie is honestly so bad and all I can do at this point is laugh when I think about it. 

Review: You Should Have Left

 Beware AirBnB


Theo (Kevin Bacon) convinces his young actress wife, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) to go away together before her upcoming shoot in London. They, along with their young daughter Ella (Every Tiiu Essex) find a house to rent in Wales and it doesn't take long to realize something is not quite right about it.

I was going to pay to watch this on PVOD when it first came out, but the reviews put me off of it. Now it's available on Netflix's DVD service and I have to say I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected it to.

This film is excellent at building tension. As Theo makes his way through this maze of a house, I was consistently feeling on edge. For once it's not the dark that makes you uneasy either, it's the light. There are so many lights.

The actors all did a great job, especially Essex who behaved like an actual child. In horror films I sometimes feel like young kids can come off a bit to "wise beyond their years" but she acted like I would expect an 8 year old to react to everything happening there. 

You can probably guess how this film is going to end, but it doesn't make it any less tense and it's a solid rental.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Okay, I guess that one stays on." - Theo (Kevin Bacon)

Review: Hillbilly Elegy

 Not like other Yale students

J.D Vance (Owen Aszataols as a child, and Gabriel Basso as an adult) grew up in rural Ohio/Kentucky with a recovering addict mother,(Amy Adams) his older sister Lindsay (Haley Bennett) and his no nonsense grandmother, Mamaw. (Glenn Close) J.D had a hard life, as many lower income rural people do, but he was able to somehow rise above it all and get to Yale, and boy does he want you to know how much of an anomaly he is.

Everyone is either dumber than J.D, or snootier than him. There's no happy medium, unless we count the underused Frieda Pinto as his girlfriend. We're introduced to to J.D saving a turtle from the middle of the street, and the first person he interacts with is a mouth breathing kid whose only contributions are "let's break open its shell! Let's see how far we can throw it!" Director Ron Howard in his infinite mediocrity really drives home how "less than" everyone is here.

To be fair, this movie isn't the massive trainwreck I thought it would be. It's not good, but it's also not unintentionally funny in the way that Capone was earlier this year. It's dull, insincere, and the acting makes it wildly uneven. I love Amy Adams and she's swinging for the fences here, as is Glenn Close, but this movie is not swinging with them. While she and Close are over the top in moments that seem pre-made for Oscar clips, Basso is completely wooden and feels like he's reading lines from a cue card. The only happy medium is Haley Bennett, and I ended up feeling the worst for her character because of the way she's painted. I constantly asked myself while watching this is "people really behave this way" and the short answer is  yes, but in melodramas. I haven't read the book on which this is based but it felt so phony. I don't mean to take away from what J.D accomplished. Getting into Yale is a big deal but this felt like the most basic rags to riches story. No one felt real.

This is another miss from Ron Howard, and while it's not the worst movie I've seen this year, I have no desire to ever watch it again. I did get a laugh out of Glenn Close a few times, so I guess there's that.

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "Get out before I cancel your birth certificate." - Mamaw (Glenn Close)

Girl Week: Underseen Films of the Decade

 

Remember 50 years ago when I was putting together underseen movies of the past decade and had to break it into several parts because I had too many? Well, that's still a work in progress but Dell's Girl Week has given me the motivation to keep on going. Here are a few of my favorite films from the past decade where it centers around a female character


Afternoon Delight - Kathryn Hahn plays a woman who heads to a strip club to spice up her marriage and ends up bringing home Mckenna (Juno Temple) to help nanny for her children after befriending her. Hahn and Temple are great and I thought it tackled that sexual slump that people can sometimes go through really honestly. 

Breathe (Respire) - Mélanie Laurent may be famous for what she does in front of the camera, but here she steps behind the camera and tells a story about two Parisian teenagers who become friends, then something more. It may not be the most original story but I thought it was a great film.


Columbus
- Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is more of a co-lead in this movie. While John Cho's story is what drives the film, it's Casey who changes everything. She plays an all too familiar young woman stuck in her home town and wanting something more. I really felt like I could relate with Casey and overall this is such a beautiful little film.


Christine
- This may not be underrated on Twitter, or in the blogosphere where we talk about Rebecca Hall being robbed of that Oscar nomination for this BUT if you haven't you should really see Christine. Based on a true story this is a very important film about mental health and how one woman unfortunately lost her battle with it. It's expertly acted and never feels exploitative of its real life subject.


We Are What We Are
- This follows two sisters who live out in the middle of nowhere with their father and younger brother. From the start, we know something is off. Are they super religious? What's their deal? This film reminds me a bit of Audition in execution. A very slow burn that eventually builds into something crazy.


White Bird in a Blizzard
- Shailene Woodley was that IT girl for a while, and this is one of my favorite performances of hers. She plays a girl whose life changes after her mother disappears. She didn't feel comfortable in her own home prior to this event, but afterwards she's forced to really take a good look at how she feels, and I felt this was a great way to showcase that inner turmoil and how traumatic events can cause you to reflect on everything that happened prior.