Thursday Movie Picks: Sundance Favorites

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is all about the hits of one of my favorite film festivals: Sundance. As an indie lover, this is a festival I'd love to attend some day. Hopefully I can make that happen. Until then, here are a few of my Sundance favorites.

1) Brick

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is my favorite actor and Rian Johnson's film is #2 on my all time favorites list. I never get sick of watching it. 

2) Little Miss Sunshine

This film was just so sweet and I love the cast. Toni Collette is always reliable, Paul Dano is one of my favorites and this was the first time for me to see Steve Carrell in a more serious role. 

3) Whiplash

One of the more recent Sundance hits but another film that ranks high on my best of all time. I think I forced my entire family into watching this at one point or another. 

Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

What year is it?

Four teenagers serving detention find an old video game console with a mysterious game called "Jumanji" that they've never heard of. They decide to give it a go, and find themselves transported into the game as the characters they've chosen. Now they have to complete a quest to free themselves.

How did the board game we remember from the 1995 film turn into a video game? Because it fucking felt like it. Seriously, the game overhears a kid bitching about how no one plays board games so it morphed into a video game. Then we're moving right along. 

As for our four stereotypical teens, the nerd (Alex Wolf) transforms into The Rock. The jock(Ser'Darius Blain..and ps this dude is THIRTY) becomes Kevin Hart, the angry girl (Morgan Turner) turns into Karen Gillan, and the self obsessed popular girl (Madison Iseman) ends up as Jack Black. Thankfully, these actors have excellent chemistry together even though they're playing caricatures. 

I give this film credit in a few places. There are about three legitimately funny things that happen. Nearly all of the video game related humor lands. (The characters that only have stock phrases, weaknesses, smoldering, etc) A well placed dick joke, and a perfectly timed use of the word "bitch." Everything else ranges from basic to bad.

Remember when I said the leads had great chemistry? Thank God for that because the next two billed actors, Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale are awful. I'm not sure which is worse. How the camera lingers on Jonas when we first see him like we're supposed to be impressed by a former boy bander's casting or whatever the hell Cannavale was trying to do with that accent. I've never seen him be bad in a film before.

I think I got my hopes up. I thought this film was going to be awful when I first saw the trailer, then it started doing well, and I thought I had misjudged it, but it's essentially mediocre on every level. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "Oh my God, Martha! Come look at my penis." - Bethany (Jack Black)

Book Reviews 2017

Here is a list of bookings I've read in 2017 followed by a few quick thoughts. 

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
This is a post apocalyptic-ish book about a traveling theater company going through the upper midwest after a flu wipes out the majority of the population. It also checks in with other people outside of the theater company who are all connected by the people they know. It's absolutely fascinating and it touches up on things a lot of shows like The Walking Dead ignore - that eventually gasoline goes bad and you can't use cars anymore. - A

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Man, the story is so interesting but so poorly executed. Literally half of this book is an 80's pop culture circle jerk. I'm not sure who the target audience for this book was supposed to be, but damn, I get what you're talking about. I don't need 10 pages explaining it. For what it's worth, this will probably make a decent movie because they can eliminate all the tedious pop culture knowledge. D

It - Stephen King

I decided that it was kind of ridiculous that I've read two Joe Hill books but never read anything from Stephen King. I now realize that Hill does not have his own voice and he took a lot of inspiration for Nos4ra2 from this novel. Overall, I liked It. It's not perfect, I didn't like the catalyst to ending the children's story and there's way too much filler. (The book clocks in at over 1100 pages) but the story is good. 

The Circle - Dave Eggers
This book was fascinating. I couldn't relate to the lead character, Mae at all because nearly everything she does is so ridiculous but it makes you think. It's a shame that Emma Watson was cast as the lead in the film adaption. She'll probably ruin it.

The Color Purple - Alice Walker
This movie was one of my favorites when I was young. I haven't seen it in years, but while browsing the shelves I came across it and decided it was time to read it. I'm glad I did. The book is very frank. It's written in letter form, much like We Need To Talk About Kevin. From my memories of the movie, it was adapted fairly well. I enjoyed reading it.

Dolores Claiborne - Stephen King
This book is only 300 pages yet it felt like the longest 300 pages I've ever read. It takes 100 pages for you to find out why Dolores killed her husband, 100 more to explain why she did it, then I expected some grand twist with the last pages and nothing happened. To be fair, It wasn't a terrible book, and I bet the movie version is really good, but it's not something I'd ever read again.

The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
Having watched a trainwreck of a family (that I won't name because they don't need attention) who spectacularly fail at homesteading and unschooling, I took a suggestion to better understand how a child would view this type of lifestyle and picked up this book. I was completely fascinated and horrified by all that Jeannette went through. I'm legitimately surprised she still talks to her parents. I wouldn't.

The Handmaind's Tale - Margaret Atwood
After all the buzz surrounding the mini series, I picked up this book until I could binge this with a friend that has HULU. I liked the book well enough, but the series was so much better as it expanded on more. Atwood's book, while beautifully written and interesting has a habit of being quite vague. I appreciated more insight.

11/22/63 - Stephen King
Man, I love Stephen King's stories but his writing style drives me crazy. There's so much junk. This book is 800 pages long (or in my case, over 1000 because my library only had large print available) and it didn't need to be. Ultimately, having to dig for interesting plot points wasn't worth it.

The Vagina Monolouges - Eve Ensler
I finally got around to reading this book and I was long overdue. The stories in here are all so unique. They're funny, sad, inspiring, I can't recommend this enough.

Thrawn - Timothy Zahn
After watching Star Wars Rebels I was curious to know why everyone was so hyped for him. This did a good job of showing his backstory but it was a bit long. I hate to say it, but a Wikipedia page would've sufficed. 

The Snowman - Jo Nesbø
I love mysteries but this one took m forever to get into then once I did, I just didn't care. I just wanted this to be better than it actually was. I read it because I wanted to see the film, and after this, I ended up skipping that to.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life - Samantha Irby
This is hands down my favorite thing I read in 2017. I am a full on Samantha Irby stan after this. This book is a collection of essays and she's so funny and sincere and I could relate so much. I plan on reading this over and over again.

War for the Planet of the Apes - Reveations - Gregory Keyes
You all know how much I love the Planet of the Ape reboots. After enjoying the prequel novel that came before this, Firestorm, I picked this one up as well. It offered a lot of insight to characters we don't normally hear from, like Blue Eyes, Cornelia, and Rocket. (Making the film all the more tragic) Like the other novel, the chapters from the human point of views weren't very interesting, but I loved reading what the apes had to say.

Persepolis- Marjane Satrapi
When I went to check this out at the library, someone had misplaced it. I spent a good 20 minutes searching for it before I eventually found it and it was worth the effort. This graphic novel was fascinating, and I'd love to see the documentary on it as well. 

2018 SAG Predictions: Who will win, who should win.

Time to predict the Screen Actors Guild Awards! The Globes gave me a pretty good indication of who's winning. Here's who I think is going to win, and in some cases, who should win. 

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who will win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
Who should win: Any.
I love all of these movies and would be pleased with any of these winning.  

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Who will win: Gary Oldman
Who should win: James Franco or Daniel Kaluuya. 
I've only seen their performances and I'm 100% behind both. 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Who will win: Frances McDormand
Who should win: Saoirse Ronan
I think it's still a tight race between the two, but I think Frances has a bit of an edge. Which is a shame because I love Saoirse's performance and she would look wonderful with an Oscar. Frances already has one. lol

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who will and should win: Sam Rockwell. He's a lock for this season. 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Who will win: Allison Janney
Who should win: Laurie Metcalf. 
To be fair, I haven't seen I, Tonya so maybe Janney is better but I loved Metcalf in Lady Bird. 

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
The Crown
Game of Thrones
The Handmaid’s Tale
Stranger Things
This Is Us
Who will win: The Handmaid's Tale
Who should win, any aside from This Is Us. 
Don't get me wrong, but Sterling K. Brown is the only one that blows me out of the water on that show. The rest have strong ensembles and I'd be happy with any of them winning. 

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Orange is the New Black
Who will win: Orange is the New Black
Who should win: Veep. 
OITNB, which isn't a comedy has won this three years in a row and with their diverse cast I don't see that stopping. Veep is the funniest show on television and this year is its final season. I wish it would get a win for it's insanely talented cast. 

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Who will win: Sterling K. Brown
Who should win: Brown, Harbour or Odenkirk
I'm still annoyed that Noah Schnapp isn't the Stranger Things nominee but these award shows will continue to pretend like Millie Bobby Brown is the only child cast member that matters. There's a lot of talent in this category, really I wouldn't be upset with any of them winning. I just have my favorites.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things
Claire Foy, The Crown
Laura Linney, Ozark
Elisabeth Moss, the Handmaid’s Tale
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Who will win: Elisabeth Moss
Who should win: Claire Foy.
Elisabeth is excellent in the Handmaid's Tale but after watching season two of The Crown, man I'm going to miss Claire Foy so much.  She is SO good.  

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
William H. Macy, Shameless
Marc Maron, GLOW
Who will and should win: Aziz Ansari
I think Larry David could win too, but with Aziz taking the Globe I think he has the edge. 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Alison Brie, GLOW
Jane Fonda, Grace and Frankie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
Who will and should win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Uzo has a chance too, but I think since Veep won't win ensemble Julia will take one for the team here. 

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock
Jeff Daniels, Godless
Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies
Geoffrey Rush, Genius
Alexander Skarsgard, Big Little Lies
Who will and should win: Alexander Skarsgard
Nothing can stop the well deserved Big Little Lies love. Alexander will take this too. 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan
Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies
Who will and should win: Nicole Kidman
There's so much talent in this category. Sometimes I wish Feud didn't premiere in the same year as BLL so I could watch Lange and Sarandon duke it out but Nicole will continue her winning streak here. But every woman in this category was wonderful in her role. 

Indie Gems: The Show

Reality TV you would die for. 

Adam Rogers (Josh Duhamel) is a reality TV host for a show called Marrying a Millionaire. When the contestant that loses gets angry, she shoots the man she was supposed to marry, then turns the gun on herself. Rogers, in the aftermath goes on a rant about how reality TV effects people on national television. His producer Ilana (Famke Janssen) sees an opportunity, and crafts a show called This Is Your Death, with contestants offing themselves for a purpose. Something Rogers initially struggles with, but then goes along because he believes he's helping. Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Mainly his sister, Karina (Sarah Wayne Callies) In a side story, we also follow down on his luck family man Mason (Giancarlo Esposito) who loses his job and is so far in debt that he's running out of options. 

This hit the festival circuit earlier this year under the title This Is Your Death. A wise name change helps. No one will mistake it for a B horror movie now. Giancarlo Esposito also directs and produces. I found the production and dialogue to be very basic. There's nothing terribly clever here, but in terms of story I could not take my eyes off it.

I'm not going to get on my high horse and talk about how obsessed today's world is with reality TV. I'm guilty of watching some of it myself but The Show has some very interesting commentary on it without coming off as overly preachy. 

Giancarlo is wonderful in this film. So much so that I actually cried during one point. Duhamel makes a good host. He's not a very strong actor at all, but when he's not doing an emotional scene he works very well. 

I can forgive a few cringeworthy plot points and set ups for a film that is this enthralling. I wasn't expecting to feel anything while watching this, yet there I was, rooting for some characters and being appalled by others. 

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "This isn't going to be a circus act." - Adam Rogers (Josh Duhamel)

Thursday Movie Picks: Once Was Enough

We've all been there. Sat through a film from time to time and thought "Okay....never again" That's what Wanderer wants to talk about this week. I could easily go the route with movies I hated this week, but I decided to pick movies that I enjoyed, but I'm good with never seeing them again. 

1) Tyrannosaur

This film is heavy and I felt like I walked around with it on my shoulders for weeks afterwords. It's a great film, don't get me wrong. I gave it an A when I reviewed it, but it will take its toll on you. I still recommend it.

2) Requiem for a Dream

Another great film that is just so disturbing that I don't think I could sit through it again. 

3) Toni Erdmann 

This film was really interesting but it was just way too long. I loved the story but it's not something I'd dedicate another near 3 hours to. 

Review: Molly's Game

Want a seat at the table?

After having her Olympic dreams shattered, Molly (Jessica Chastain) moves to Los Angeles and starts working as a cocktail waitress. Eventually, Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong) approaches her to work as his secretary, and eventually to help run his underground poker ring. After making $3000 in tips in one night, Molly knows exactly what she wants to do, and eventually takes the game from Dean and makes it her own.

I was a bit skeptical of this film at first. I don't care about poker and from what I read about Molly, I didn't see Chastain in the role. I was wrong on all fronts, thankfully. Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut goes off wonderfully and makes a subject that didn't interest me before fascinating.

I love Sorkin's fast paced dialogue. I know it's very divisive among film fans but it's always worked for me. This film clocks in at two hours and twenty minutes and you don't feel a minute of that with the fast pacing.

Chastain was great, I don't know why I questioned her in the beginning. Idris Elba is the standout for me as her lawyer. He has some intense scenes where he defends her and some softer scenes with his daughter. I wish he was in the Oscar conversation more, because I loved him here. The person who really surprised me the most was Michael Cera. He plays "Player X" a celebrity that attends Molly's LA poker games and he's an absolute weasel. It's nice to see Cera do something different, and he was awesome here. It's quite obvious which real life actor he was supposed to be.

Sorkin proves he can handle himself behind the director's chair. This film is the biggest surprise of the year for me.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "They didn't believe I was a cocktail waitress? Aww...was it because I wasn't?" - Molly Boom (Jessica Chastain)