Ranking Netflix Series

In continuation with my ranking TV shows by network series, let's talk about the next streaming behemoth that gets a lot of my views. I'm only ranking shows that I have at least seen an entire season of (the Marvel shows kind of forced me to make this adjustment from my previous HBO post, where I only shared shows where I saw every single episode) Not all of these shows are Netflix originals, some are just distributed by them, but since this is my source of watching they are included to. I also decided to exclude docuseries because those could be its own post all together and the animated shows I watch with my kid. And before you ask about Ozark, I know. I never got past the first season.

Space Force - This show is painfully unfunny and I'm shocked it was renewed for a season season. 

Jessica Jones - I know, worst than The Iron Fist? Let me explain. I had HUGE expectations for Jessica Jones because on paper and in the trailers it looked great. I give this show endless props for the way it addressed sexual assault and the ramifications of it, but I can't ignore the wooden acting, the awful fight choreography, and how bland the supporting cast was. I never expected to like Jessica Jones the least and it hurts. I never bothered with the second season after watching all of the first.

The Iron Fist - This show got trashed for its white savior complex far before it even premiered, so when I started watching it with rock bottom expectations, I ended up not hating it nearly as much as I thought I would. Danny and Colleen actually had great chemistry and the fight scenes were well done. It wasn't good, and I didn't bother with the second season, but it wasn't the heaping dumpster fire I expected.

The Defendors - I liked this but the reason it ranks so low, despite finally getting this group together is because it still managed to drag when it only had 8 episodes. The biggest hurdle Marvel Netflix shows have is they are all too long, and even though it was nice seeing them all together, it still suffered from pacing issues. 

Luke Cage - The first half of season one is SO GOOD, then they switch the main villain and the show never recovers, even into season two. There's a lot I do like about this show but Mahershala Ali was such a great bad guy and I loved that part of the story with Luke. 

The Haunting of Hill House/Bly Manor - Both solid ghost stories. I prefer Hill House to Bly Manor but I figured I would group them together for simplicity sake.

When They See Us - This was a very powerful four episode series and I still think about it fairly often. The actors were fantastic.

Daredevil - My favorite of the Marvel Netflix shows, I loved Charlie Cox, Loved Vincent D'Onofrino as Fisk, and I loved that they brought in Jon Bernthal as The Punisher. The fight scenes were great, music is excellent, but I have one petty complaint about this show, and it's Karen. I like Deborah Ann Wohl as an actress, I thought she was great in True Blood but the weird quirks she gave Karen started to grate me. Then there was the fact that she's just handed these very high level jobs with no training or experience that felt so distracting. She had no chemistry with Cox, and she alone is the reason I didn't watch The Punisher series because I just didn't want any more of her character. I do hope Marvel incorporates Daredevil into the MCU, but I really don't care if I never see Karen again.

Orange is the New Black - This was a show that I started off loving, then hated for a few seasons, but then the final season wrapped everything up in the best way they could, and I appreciated them for that. I still hate that some of my favorites characters, like Poussey and Taystee got such awful endings, but you could tell the actors loved this show and I'm glad I stuck with it, even during the seasons I had issues with.

Peaky Blinders - After years of saying I was going to watch this I finally did and I think it's wonderful. Cillian Murphy is excellent, the 5th season wasn't as a good as the others, but I'm looking forward to season 6.

Unorthodox - At four episodes, this is also a very quick watch about a girl escaping an Orthodox Jewish community but it is so moving. Shira Haas is extraordinary.

The Queen's Gambit - This is one of the best mini series Netflix has ever done. It had an insane amount of hype and lived up to all of it.

The Crown - I feel like I've been raving nonstop about The Crown since season 4 ended. Claire Foy in seasons 1 and 2 is still the best thing ever, but even with the uneventful 3rd season, season 4 came in swinging. I adore this and plan on re-watching it all again once I catch up with everything else.

Stranger Things - I worry sometimes how long this show can sustain itself but I love these kids. They found a really talented bunch of young actors and I can't wait for the next season.

Black Mirror - I could (and probably will) do an entire post dedicated to Black Mirror. It's one of my favorite shows of all time. While I don't love every single episode, the good far outweighs the bad and I go back and re-watch it often. I could talk about this endlessly and if you haven't seen it, you need to. My recommendation is probably to start with Season 1 episode 2 first, then go back to episode one later. The reason being is that is VERY graphic and honestly the rest of the show isn't like that at all, and I know that puts a lot of people off from continuing. When I first started watching this, I had watched  all of season 3 first before going back, so that episode to me was more amusing then horrifying and shocking, but I can see how it puts people off immediately. 

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Freshman Series

 

The first TV week of 2021 at Wandering Through The Shelves is as always, the shows that are also starting their first season. Here are three that I've started within the past year.


1) WandaVision -
I know this is a one off series and there's only been a few episodes but it's Wanda, my favorite MCU character. I have no choice but to stan. I'm also aware this is a 2021 release but I have just about every 2020 show I watched saved for one category or another this year. 


2) I May Destroy You -
There's still no word if Michael Coel is going to write a second season for this, but I hope she does. I fell in love with the characters and I'd love to see where they go from here.


3) The Morning Show -
I really wish this show wasn't on Apple TV as it's not a service I plan on keeping (I have a year free trial) but this show is excellent. It reminds me a lot of The Newsroom, which I adored. 

2021 Independent Spirit Award Nominations


Finally we have nominations to talk about! The extended Oscar dates are killing me this year. It's weird not to already be talking about this, but thankfully the Indie Spirits are here to give us something. They even expanded their categories to include scripted series this year. Below are a list of the nominations, followed by my thoughts.

Best Feature

First Cow

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Minari

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Nomadland

Of these, I haven't seen Minari or Nomadland yet. They haven't been released here, but I look forward to both. I figured NRSA would get a lot of love here, so I'm happy to see that and Ma Rainey. First Cow was fine. 


Best Director

Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”

Eliza Hittman,” Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow”

Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”

WOMEN! Can you imagine the Oscars picking 4 female nominees? I can't. I love the Spirit Wards for this.


Best First Feature

“I Carry You With Me”

“The 40 Year Old Version”

“The Sound of Metal”

“Miss Juneteenth”

“Nine Days”

The ones I'm most excited for here are The 40 year Old Version and The Sound of Metal. I liked Miss Juneteenth as well, though not as much as the other two. I still need to see i Carry You With Me and Nine Days. 


Best Female Lead

Nicole Beharie, “Miss Juneteenth”

Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Julia Garner, “The Assistant”

Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”

Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

I'm glad Julia Garner wasn't forgotten in The Assistant. Apparently Pieces of a Woman wasn't eligible, so that explains why Vanessa Kirby isn't here. That surprised me at first. I'm disappointed Radha Blank isn't here though. She absolutely deserved it for The Forty-Year-Old Version. 


Best Male Lead

Riz Ahmed, “The Sound of Metal”

Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Rob Morgan, “Bull”

Steven Yeun, “Minari”

Adarsh Gourav, “The White Tiger”

I haven't seen Minari, Bull and White Tiger but I'm always here for Rob Morgan and Steven Yeun love. I plan on watching The White Tiger soon. I love that Riz and Chadwick are here, those are easily two of my favorite performances of the year.


Best Supporting Female

Alexis Chikaeze, Miss Juneteenth

Yeri Han, Minari

Valerie Mahaffey, French Exit

Talia Ryder, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

I'm really exicited about Alexis getting in for Miss Juneteenth, that was her first role and she was so good. Same with Talia Ryder for NRSA.


Best Supporting Male

Coleman Domingo, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Orion Lee, “First Cow”

Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”

Glynn Turmann, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Benedict Wong, “Nine Days”

I haven't seen Nine Days, though I love me some Benedict Wong. This category is awesome. I love this nominations as well.


Best Screenplay

“Bad Education”

“Minari”

“The Half of It”

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

“Promising Young Woman”

Seeing The Half of It here is a surprise. That was a sweet little film and it's nice to see it get some praise. 


Best First Screenplay

Kitty Green, The Assistant

Noah Hutton, Lapsis

Channing Godfrey Peoples, Miss Juneteenth

Andy Siara, Palm Springs

James Sweeney, Straight Up

Again, I'm happy The Assistant isn't forgotten. It's nice to see Palm Springs get a nod as well.


Best Cinematography

Jay Keitel, She Dies Tomorrow

Shabier Kirchner, Bull

Michael Latham, The Assistant

Hélène Louvart, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Joshua James Richards, Nomadland


Best Editing

“I Carry You With Me”

“The Invisible Man”

“Residue”

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

“Nomadland”


Robert Altman Award

“One Night in Miami”


Best Documentary

“Collective”

“Crip Camp”

“Dick Johnson Is Dead”

“Time”

“The Mole Agent”


Best International Film

Bacurau

The Disciple

Night of the Kings

Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time

Quo Vadis, Aida?

I'm not sure if Another Round qualified here, but if it didn't that's a ridiculous miss


Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series

Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children

City So Real

Immigration Nation

Love Fraud

We’re Here


Best Scripted Series

I May Destroy You

Little America

Small Axe

A Teacher

Unorthodox

These categories are new this year. I haven't seen Little America or A Teacher but I May Destroy You and Unorthodox were some of the best things I've watched on television this/last year. Small Axe was good too.


Best Female Performance in a Scripted Series

Elle Fanning, The Great

Shira Haas, Unorthodox

Abby McEnany, Work in Progress

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Never Have I Ever

Jordan Kristine Seamón, We Are Who We Are

Shira Haas is magnificent in Unorthodox and I hope she wins, I'm assuming Michael Coel didn't qualify because the entire I May Destroy You team got the Ensemble award. 


Best Male Performance in a Scripted Series

Conphidance, Little America

Adam Ali, Little America

Nicco Annan, P-Valley

Amit Rahav, Unorthodox

Harold Torres, Zero, Zero, Zero


Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series

I May Destroy You

Ensemble Cast: Michaela Coel, Paapa Essiedu, Wruche Opia,


Review: Miss Juneteenth

 

Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie) is a former beauty queen in the Miss Juneteenth pageant. Her life didn't go the way she planned, so now she wants her young daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) to follow in her footsteps. Kai of course, has other aspirations. 

I was very hyped for this film. I saw nothing but praise for it online and especially for Nicole Beharie's performance so I had high hopes. I have to say, I really loved the relationship between Turquoise and Kai. Obviously they have their differences, but there's a lot of love there, and I'm glad they never took it into a place that felt too over the top. Keeping the majority of the POV to Turquoise and her struggles as a single mother who was told she was destined for greatness after winning only for things to not go that route was a good choice. 

This is a good film, but it's not very engaging and I think my expectations were slightly too high. It loses a bit of steam in the middle, even though the final pageant scene really knocks it out of the park. It has one of my favorite shots of 2020 to be honest.

Even though it fell a bit short for me personally, I still think Miss Juneteeth is a film worth seeing. Beharie and Chikaeze give wonderful performances, the latter being her first film, which is a surprise because she feels like such a natural. Not to mention, we could all do with more stories celebrating Juneteenth in general since it is so egregiously left out of so many history books.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I beat her." - Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie)

Review: Color Out of Space


Based on the short story by HP Lovecraft, The Gardner family - Parents Nathan and Theresa (Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson) and their three children Lavinia, Benny, and Jack (Madeleine Arthur, Brenden Mayer and Julian Hillard) live on a secluded farm. One day, a meteorite lands on their property and strange things begin to happen afterwards.

This film feels part Annihilation part Mandy. There's a bit of sci fi, a lot of neon pink, and some body horror thrown in. There's so truly gruesome imagery going on at times. I think at times the film has issues marrying all of these things together, but for a DVD watch, this is perfectly fine.

Madeleine Arthur gives my favorite performance in the film. Lavinia is our main point of view so it's easy to be on her side. Arthur throws everything into the performance. My other favorite character was Ward (Elliot Knight) a scientist that the Gardner family encounter and the one with the most sense in the entire film. Nic Cage is wildly uneven in this. Half the time he's trying to play it straight, the other half he's trying to go into full crazy Nic Cage mode, and it comes off as very phony and theatrical. You either go full crazy or none at all. There's no in between.

I was very impressed with the special effects and makeup in this. You can tell they didn't have a huge budget but they made it work and it never felt cheap. Plus, I'm a sucker for bright neon colors on film.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Don't drink the water." - Ward (Elliot Knight)

Thursday Movie Picks: Police Detectives

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about police detectives. There's plenty of films to choose from, so here are a few of my favorites. 


1) Se7en -
I couldn't let the Detective theme go without picking one of my favorite movies of all time. Despite its creepy and uncomfortable subject matter I could watch this over and over.


2) Memories of Murder -
Speaking of creepy and uncomfortable, this film by Bong Joon Ho is so good. If you're keen to check out more of his work after Parasite, definitely find this. 


3) The Nice Guys-
And so we're not all glooming and dooming here, this film still makes me laugh just thinking about it. I never expected to like this as much as I do.

My Top 10 Films of 2020

I spent an unnecessary amount of time trying to decide what I was going to do with my Top 10 list for this year. With the Oscars pushing their eligibility window to March, it means movies I really want to see like Minari and Nomadland don't come out until February. That's going to get confusing. Then I thought to myself, Brittani, 10 people read your blog and no one cares where you draw your line. So here I am with my Top 10 of 2020. I'll probably make a Top 15 list next year if I end up loving a bunch of the Oscar holdovers. 

Honorable Mentions: The Assistant, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Birds of Prey, Bad Education, Babyteeth, Sylvie's Love, Disclosure, The Vast of Night

Another honorable mention but this scene was too perfect not to gif

My Top 10 Films of 2020

Riz Ahmed is amazing in this and I loved how much of the deaf community it showed.

I know. A contemporary black and white film on my best list? Well The Forty-Year-Old Version is funny, honest, and a must see.

One of the most beautifully shot films of the year is about a girl who swallows random objects. This was such a unique story.

I love the hand drawn animation and the Irish folklore. I can't wait to see what Cartoon Saloon produces next.

It's rare that a documentary makes my best list, but this year made me realize that the majority of the docs I watch are kind of sad or about true crime and while this one does include sad stories, it's absolutely fucking wild.

Hamilton made me SO HAPPY when it first came out. It's exactly what we needed during this pandemic and I'm still listening to the soundtrack all the time.

A quirky film from Miranda July with a wonderful performance from Evan Rachel Wood. This film is really the definition of an indie darling.

This film has a wonderful ensemble cast and feels very relevant in the world today. We've learned nothing.

A film about a teenager girl seeking an abortion that doesn't follow any of the typical roadblocks you'd expect this movie to run into.

Denmark is apparently the drinking capital of the world and Mads Mikkelson is an absolute delight.




Review: One Night in Miami


One Night in Miami
is a fictional account of a night in 1964 where icons Cassius Clay, (Eli Goree) Malcolm X, (Kingsley Ben-Adir) Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) meet in a Miami hotel room. Some expecting a party, some expecting a lengthy discussion. 

Regina King directing this immediately got my attention and she does a wonderful job. A lot of this film stays in one location, but she makes great use of that space. I especially liked how she shot the boxing ring after Cassius won.

The acting in this film is phenomenal. Odom Jr. was one of my favorite performers in Hamilton and he's excellent here too. The song he sings at the end of the film is gorgeous as well. Ben-Adir was a wonderful Malcolm X. Since I just watched Denzel's version so recently I was afraid of comparing them throughout but I never did. I liked his solemn spin on this. Hodge was the actor I was most familiar with as I've seen him give many good performances in the past. (see Clemency) Jimmy is probably the most understated character but his introduction in the film and the blatant racism shown to him is heartbreaking. The look on his face at the end of that scene sticks with me. And finally we have Goree, who gives the most energetic performance. He looks the part and you can't help but be excited for him as he celebrates his win. 

A movie like this lives and dies with its actors and we're lucky to have such a talented cast to go through this with. Admittedly, it may not be the most "exciting" movie out there. Talk heavy movies are an acquired taste, but I enjoyed this and I can't wait to see what everyone involved does next.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "This is one strange fucking night." - Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge)

My Favorite Movie Youtube Channels

Starting around 2018, I started watching Youtube for more than just movie trailers or music videos whenever a new one dropped. Now I'm in full blown subscription mode and don't bat an eyelash at watching a Youtube video that's over an hour long. I watch Youtube for a few different categories of content, but one of them that I love most is movie/TV essays and commentary, and that's what I'm going to talk about today. Below is a list of my favorite movie related Youtube channels. Let me know if you're familiar with them too, or if you have any you'd like to recommend to me. 

Double Toasted - I'm honestly surprised this channel isn't bigger. I first came across Korey and Martin when they reviewed War for the Planet of the Apes a few months before it hit theaters and I thought they were hysterical. While their full length videos stream on Twitch, they often upload their movie reviews and commentary on youtube and they're always hilarious. They've had a few line up changes, I preferred when they were a group of four with Goodwin and Girts, but I like the other people they use too. They're always entertaining.

Be Kind Rewind - This is a channel that focuses mainly on Actresses and Oscars. BKR has a lovely voice that I could listen to for hours and I've learned a lot of interesting tidbits on classic films and actresses from watching this channel. It's also caused my classic watch list to surge because I'm always adding something new she's talking about to it. 

Jaime French - Jaime is mostly a makeup channel, but she has a series called "Makeup and Movie Mondays" where she reviews a (usually bad) movie while getting ready and it's hilarious. She puts an insane amount of effort into these, including editing herself into the movie at times. I think it's a newer thing for her, because she doesn't have a lot of them. but when her Crossroads review came up as a recommendation for me I immediately subscribed and look forward to more.

Sarah Z - Sarah's channel focuses a bit more on TV and fandom tropes, but what I love the most about her are her Tumblr related deep dives. That's a platform I've used since probably around 2013 primarily to look at gifs, so while I didn't actively participate in a lot of the things she talks about, I was aware of their existence and getting more context on these things was wild. Because of Sarah, I have watched two hour and a half long videos on Johnlock and Destial ships (despite having never watched a single episode of The Supernatural) and I am okay with this.

Lindsay Ellis - I love Lindsay Ellis, the algorithm recommended her live action Beauty and the Beast video to me, and I agreed with everything she said in it and became an instant fan. I don't always agree with her takes on certain movies, but she's always interesting to watch and she's easily one of my favorite people on the platform. She also works for PBS on their webshow It's Lit and talks about books with another creator I'll talk about here.

Jenny Nicholson - I'm fairly sure I came across Jenny on Twitter first as she's a big Star Wars fan and that is what landed me on her channel. She's another one that I just enjoy listening to. She tends to favor numbered lists when going through her points about media and I enjoy that format. Plus she watched every Land Before Time movie while in quarantine and that's pretty impressive. 

MelindaPendulum - Princess Weekes is someone I found through Lindsay Ellis' channel. She's her It's Lit co-host and he content is mostly about the fantasy genre across books, anime, TV and film. I enjoy a lot of her takes, especially on race and feminism. I think the first video of hers I watched was her Gone With The Wind one, which I thought highlighted a lot of very valid complaints people have about the film.

Sideways - This account is technically about the music, but he breaks down film scores in a really interesting way that I never considered until landing on his channel. I believe his video on the music in live action Disney remakes is what brought me to his channel initially, but I'm glad I stayed.

Amanda the Jedi - This is the newest film channel I subscribed to. To be honest, she came up on my recommendations a lot but I never clicked her videos because she added the word "Explained" in all her titles and I kind of hate that. I think it sounds pretentious, a lot of content creators do that and none of it ever makes me want to watch their videos, but I finally gave her a go and she's a good channel to watch if you want to listen to a rant about a bad movie. She's funny and consumes a ton of terrible content so you don't have to.

Quinn Curio - She doesn't post a lot of youtube videos. At the time of me writing this, she only has 5 but I really enjoyed all of them. I found her in a moment of butthurt when I just wanted someone to affirm my feelings of Ron being treated poorly in the Harry Potter films, and I found her video on just that. I needed that, and I'm glad it lead me to her content.

Kennie JD - This is another new one for me. Like Jaime French, she's primarily a beauty channel but she has a series called "Bad Movies and a Beat" and she is so funny. I appreciate the detail she goes in to so much curiosity will never get the best of me because she's already painted the full picture.


Review: The Midnight Sky


Augustine (George Clooney) is a terminally ill scientist who stays behind at a base in the Artic Circle after everyone else flees due to a catastrophic event on Earth. He realizes he's not alone, when Iris (Caoilinn Springall) a mute child finds him on the base. At the same time, he's trying to stop Sully (Felicty Jones) and her crew aboard the Ether from returning to Earth after their mission to find another planet that can sustaine human life.

With the way some people were talking about The Midnight Sky, more specifically the ending, I was really expecting this to turn into a Cloverfield movie or something. It doesn't, although that would've been kind of cool. I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would given the low expectations I set for myself.

This film reminds me a lot of Baz Luhrmann's Australia, where instead of feeling like one cohesive story it feels like two movies stitched together. Unlike the former, there isn't a clear winner of which of these movies is better, one is certainly more exciting, but they don't blend as well as they should.

Clooney is in the director's chair again and he's....fine. Everyone's motivations are clear, the main action sequence was very thrilling, though I didn't care for the outcome. There is a twist that becomes pretty apparent early on, but it's not distracting. As for that ending? Sure, it's lame, but I was expecting Sunshine levels of fuckery. 

Overall, with the right expectations I think this is a perfectly fine watch. Especially for a Netflix movie. What else are you going to do during a pandemic?

Recommended: Sure

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "Ask me a question." - Augustine (George Clooney)

Thursday Movie Picks: 2020 Releases


 This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is looking back at the 2020 releases...that are still technically coming out because of the Oscar submissions but I digress. I wanted to talk about some 2020 releases that I enjoyed that I feel like no one talks about anymore


1) Horse Girl
- The script admittedly isn't perfect but Allison Brie gives a great performance. This was one of the better Netflix releases of 2020, in my opinion.


2) Disclosure -
This documentary about trans representation in media was so interesting. Docs are rarely widely discussed and in 2020 especially I felt like I was only hearing about docuseries on TV vs features, but it still surprises me that this one isn't brought up more.


3) Bad Education
- Hugh Jackman was going to win an Emmy for this until Mark Ruffalo came out swinging with I Know This Much is True. This was such a great movie.

The Worst Movies of 2020

2019 was the first year I made a separate "worst" list. I usually just leave them as a footnote on my Best list, but since 2020 was a dumpster fire, I felt I should continue on with separating them. These are my least favorite films I watched last year. I'm sure there are plenty of "worse" movies out there, but these are the ones I had the misfortune of seeing.

Dishonorable mentions: The New Mutants, Trolls: World Tour

The Last Thing He Wanted - This one hurts, because I love Dee Rees but this movie was such a mess. I'm sure the next thing Rees does will be wonderful and we can just pretend this never happened. I imagine most people already forgot about this.

We Can be Heroes- I had Trolls: World Tour here until I watched this with my son recently. The lack of effort put into EVERYTHING in this movie is just astounding. The only thing that saves it from Artemis Fowl levels of bad is all the unintentional comedy. 

Come To Daddy - I wanted this to be campy, gorey fun and it was just dumb. It could've been so much better.

The Lodge - This is a movie that is pretty good until the "catch" comes along, then you realize that you really have just witnessed some of the dumbest characters in the universe's domestic issues play out. 

Artemis Fowl - I didn't put this list in order, but this one IS the worst. The ways this movie fails is just extraordinary. Film students should study this for centuries as an example of what not to do with a franchise starter. 

Capone - I think this was supposed to save Josh Trank's career but the best part of it ended up being Tom Hardy running around in an adult diaper. 

Hillbilly Elegy - Overdramatic poverty porn.

The Gentlemen - IMDb calls this a 2019 release, but it didn't come out in the US until January 2020. Hugh Grant single handedly tries to ruin this movie, it threatens its only female character with rape, and it was ultimately a dud. It had a lot of potential that was squandered.

Unpregnant- Two charming leads can't save this uninspired film that looks even worse coming out in the same year as Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things - I know this will be divisive, but I just didn't love this. I wanted to, it started off so well, then it just continued to annoy me as it went on. 

Review: Pieces of a Woman


Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are first time parents whose homebirth with midwife Eva (Molly Parker) goes terribly wrong. Now they're forced to weather the storm that is the aftermath of something so tragic.

Much has been made of this film's 30 minute one take birth scene at the beginning, and for good reason. It's a wonderful piece of filmmaking and makes the scene feel so authentic. We as the audience know something is wrong by the look on Eva's face, but we can also see how it's something Martha and Sean don't notice right away. We're in it with them. While the rest of the film is still good, it doesn't match the brilliance of that scene. 

The script doesn't do Martha any favors when it comes to fleshing her out. We don't know what she does for a living, how she feels going into this pregnancy, whereas the first few minutes we spend with Sean we get all of those answers for his side of things. Martha is understandably depressed and withdrawn. She rarely verbalizes her inner thoughts. It makes for a great performance from Kirby but a slightly frustrating one from an audience perspective because I wanted to hear what she had to say. Aside from a few small arguments, and the big scene at the end, there's not a lot of that.

I thought more of the movie would be focused on the court case that's in the background throughout, but it's really only the last 15 minutes or so of the film. It does get a bit melodramatic, but I think it's what the film needed. Ellen Burstyn, who plays Martha's mother also gives a great supporting performance. Shia LaBeouf, given the accusations in his personal life right now feels very awkward to watch. He's always been an actor I enjoyed but I'm having to reevaluate now given all this new information. Sean feels like Shia himself. 

Overall, even with that issue I had with the script, I still think this film is very well done. The score is absolutely beautiful and Kirby is as great as everyone says she is, I just think we should've known a bit more about Martha.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "She smelled like an apple." - Martha (Vanessa Kirby)


2021 Blind Spot Series: The Graduate


What I knew going in: The basic premise, and classic clips I've seen over the years.

Ben (Dustin Hoffman) is home from college and disillusioned with life in general. His parents (William Daniels and Elizabeth Wilson) are obnoxious and prodding. Once night at a party, long time family friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) seduces Ben. At first he refuses then goes along with it. He also becomes smitten with Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine. (Katharine Ross)

I've had several chances to watch this film over the years and I've just never felt compelled to. I knew the "Mrs. Robinson trope" without having to watch this, but then I started getting more into Anne Bancroft's work, so I finally bit the bullet.

This film is at its best when Anne is on screen. When she isn't, it's not that its bad, but it's sort of uninteresting. Ben and Mrs. Robinson have the best dynamic on screen, and when Elaine comes around, I struggled with understanding why they are eventually drawn to each other after their disastrous first date. They just didn't have the chemistry.

Another thing I noticed, it's not really a criticism but something that stuck out as I was wishing Mrs. Robinson would come back. This movie LOVES a musical montage. I swear all of them combined have to equal like 20 minutes of this runtime. Maybe it stuck out more because they were using popular songs, but it was very noticable.

Over all, I liked this. Hoffman, Bancroft, and Ross all gave great performances and even though I found it uneven at times, the lower end of that scale was never "bad."

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "It's very comfortable just to drift here." - Ben (Dustin Hoffman)

Thursday Movie Picks: Oscar Winners - Best Picture Edition

 

Wandering Through The Shelves is at it with Thursday Movie Picks again! I love that she keeps going with all these themes, it's no easy task. To kick off 2021, we're talking about Best Picture winners. I've been watching the Oscars yearly since the 2003 ceremony and started treating it like my personal Super Bowl in 2009, the year my blog was born. I decided to talk about 3 years where the winner legitimately surprised me in a good way. And it happened to be three years in a row.

1) Birdman

I was so sure Boyhood, a film I despised was going to take home the top price, and when Birdman's name was announced I was overjoyed. I'm pretty sure someone called me an asshole on Twitter for making fun of Boyhood as well.

2) Spotlight

In retrospect, I don't know why this surprised me so much. Mad Max was the biggest winner up until the final category but I knew that wasn't going to win. But Spotlight is such a good movie. I often hear people call it mediocre when it comes to BP wins but it's high on my list of favorites.

3) Moonlight

I was so drunk by the time that we got to BP this year that I screamed when the mistake happened and Moonlight was crowned the winner. Don't get me wrong, I liked La La Land a lot, but I wanted Moonlight to win so badly and I didn't think it would.

Review: I'm Your Woman



Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) is a 1970's housewife. In a voice over, she tells us that she and her husband, Eddie (Bill Heck) can't have children. One day, he shows up with a baby and tells her its theirs. Not so long after, Jean awakes to one of Eddie's colleagues telling her that she has to go on the run with Cal, (Arinzé Kene) someone she's never met before.

With all the mob movies out there, I can't think of another that comes from the point of view of the mob wife. That's essentially what this is. The film chooses to stay with Jean and not get into the detail's of Eddie's operation. The focus on her is what makes it interesting and it goes in a direction that feels very fresh.

Rachel Brosnahan is someone I love in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel so I'm not surprised Amazon chose to use here here again. She spends the majority of this movie exhausted and utterly confused and she plays that well. My favorite performance is Arinzé Kene. This guy is so talented. Cal is a quiet guy that tries his best to do his business and help Jean with what she's going through. Without spoiling anything, we learn more about him later and I just loved him in this.

This isn't going to make my best list, but if you have Amazon Prime this is certainly worth the watch.

Recomended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Let's just both do the best we can." - Cal (Arinzé Kene)

Review: Another Round


Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is stuck in a rut. He's a high school history teacher who is at the point where he's disinterested in everything. Then he and his friends/fellow teachers, Nikolaj, (Magnus Millang) Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Peter (Lars Ranthe) decide to conduct an experiment. They attempt to keep a constant blood alcohol level of .05% to take the edge off and make them feel alive again. And it gets off to a very good start.

Mads Mikkelsen is one of my favorite working actors at the moment and this is yet another Danish gem. I'm glad they're submitting this to the Oscars. A film like this could so easily go off the deep end and this film never does.

I find in a lot of movies where a character consumes drugs and/or alcohol when you know they shouldn't, they end up doing something cringe-worthy that immediately cements the fact that they made a mistake And it can be annoying, because it's an obvious road block for the character to get to their goal. This doesn't do that. Despite the experiment in general being a horrible idea, we're spared that awkwardness. Things improve immediately until they don't. And the film handles the eventual downfall with grace and never gets overly melodramatic. 

Mikkelson of course is great. He captures Martin at his highs and lows well and there's a very impression show of his athleticism at one point too which was an absolute joy. Larsen and Ranthe are actors I've seen in a few other Danish films before and they were also good in their respective roles, but it's Millang who surprised me the most. He was hilarious. 

This is available to rent on VOD at the moment and it's easily one of my favorites of the year. Also is it just me, or are Danish graduation ceremonies better than...just about everyone else's?

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "I think Tommy's rooting for us." - Martin (Mads Mikkelsen)

What I Watched on TV in December

Here's what's kept me busy on the small screen for the month of December. This month I definitely put more focus on movies vs TV, but I still managed to see a few things.  


The Mandalorian -
What an excellent season, though I have some ~thoughts~ on the ending. *spoilers* I was really hoping it would be Ezra that would show up and that could open the door for Thrawn to be on the show. I still hope they do something like that, though now that Ahsoka Tano is getting her own show, that's probably where the bulk of that story could go. It was nice to see Luke in his ROTJ gear and his green saber but the CGI was way too uncanny valley for me. I wish they would've just cast a younger actor. Hopefully they go that route if they continue to use him. I hope this isn't the last of Grogu either. He's such an integral part of the show now, it would be sad to see him go. 


Euphoria -
Since the pandemic halted the filming of season two, the creators gave us this one bottle episode of Rue and Ali having dinner together after the events of season one's finale. It's an absolute acting showcase for Colman Domingo and Zendaya. I'm glad we have this to tide us over.


The Queen's Gambit -
This was excellent. It's very hyped up for a reason. Anya Taylor-Joy was wonderful, the costumes and set designs beautiful and it made me kind of want to get back into playing chess, which I am terrible at. I really liked the entire cast, there wasn't a weak link in the bunch. I have to say one thing really bothered me though, and it was Beth never getting to talk to Mr. Shaibel after she leaves the orphanage. And she didn't give him his $10.00 back. All of that just made me sad. It made for a great acting scene for Anya at the end, but I don't think it's unreasonable for me to want things tied up with a pretty little bow every now and then.


His Dark Materials -
This season flew by since they lost an episode due to the pandemic. I haven't read the books, so I can't compare them, but I enjoyed this season very much. Will and Lyra make a good team, and I felt those deaths that happened. I'm looking forward to the 3rd and finale season.


Yashahime -
The more I watch this show, the more I just wish it was focused on Kohaku and Rin as adults rather than...everything else. I don't know why I'm still doing this.


Small Axe -
So let's talk about Small Axe. I spent way too much time thinking about how I was going to review this because while it is an anthology series, director Steve McQueen considers them five stand alone movies. Apparently Amazon is sending it to the Emmys, so I'm including it as part of my TV coverage, but I'll break it down movie by movie as McQueen intended.  

Mangrove - Mangrove tells this true story of The Mangrove Nine, who clashed with London police in 1970. The trial that followed was the first judicial acknowledgment of behavior motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police.

Mangrove is very, very hard to watch. This film starts off so disgustingly racist. Like to the point where I wonder if Sam Spruell is ever going to get an acting job as a non villain again. He was scary. When we get to the trial part of it, it becomes more engaging and feels like a reprieve because it's less time we have to spend with the police force. The main three, Shaun Parkes, Letitia Wright, and Malachi Kirby, all give outstanding performances. Parkes was a new to me actor, but as Frank, the restaurant owner who finds his establishment under attack for no reason other than the color of his skin, he's heartbreaking to watch. You can feel his frustration. The ending feels very uplifting, though the title card reminds us that what happened to Frank was far form over. B+

Lovers Rock - A single evening at a house party in 1980s West London sets the scene, developing intertwined relationships against a background of violence, romance and music.

I forgot I was watching a movie during this. After how heavy Mangrove was, I was just sitting here have a good time watching these people have a good time. I was so into it that when the plot conflict finally came up, it legitimately made me mad. Fucking men, I'm just trying to enjoy the music! This one is really an experience and I was so surprised with it. B+

Red, White, and Blue - Spotlights the true story of Leroy Logan, who at a young age saw his father assaulted by two policemen, motivating him to join the Metropolitan Police and change their racist attitudes from within.

This features John Boyega's best performance to date but I thought it had some serious pacing issues. At one hour 20 minutes, it's not as if it was a long film, but there were sections of this that were just very dull and it's a shame because other parts were quite compelling. B-

Alex Wheadle - Alex Wheatle follows the true story of award-winning writer, Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole), from a young boy through his early adult years. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and ability to grow his passion for music and DJing. When he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and sees a path to healing.

Whereas the previous entry dragged a bit, this one had far too much packed into its hour run time. Alex Wheadle's life warrants it's own 5 episode mini series, to be honest. They tried to cover a lot of ground here and the result was that it felt a bit messy. But like every entry in this series, the acting is outstanding. B-

Education - Education is the coming of age story of 12-year-old Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy), who has a fascination for astronauts and rockets. When Kingsley is pulled to the headmaster's office for being disruptive in class, he discovers he's being sent to a school for those with "special needs." Distracted by working two jobs, his parents (Sharlene Whyte, Daniel Francis) are unaware of the unofficial segregation policy at play, preventing many Black children from receiving the education they deserve, until a group of West Indian women take matters into their own hands.

Small Axe ends on a high note with this entry. It works both as a family drama with Kingsley and a commentary on the education system as a whole. However again, the run time works against it as it could've used more time. I feel like the only two entries that really fit their respected run times were Mangrove and Lover's Rock. The rest were too short and RW&B was too long. B