Review: The Florida Project

What daycare?

It's summer in Florida, and six year old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) runs around the shady motel that she and her mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite) currently reside. Halley loves her, but she doesn't have a steady job nor does she put much of an effort in looking after her. Moonee spends her days playing with her friends, destroying things and occasionally bothering the hotel manager Bobby (Willem DaFoe)

It's almost impossible to watch this movie and not get judgy if you're a parent. My child is also six, and the thought of letting him run around the way Moonee and her friends do with zero supervision is baffling to me. Watching Halley not putting in a huge effort to have a steady job is hard to watch too. That aside, seeing everything through Moonee's eyes is a perspective we don't get very often in film. When you first see her, she looks like a precious child. Then she goes off to spit on someone's car window and call the owner a "ratchet bitch." She's definitely a product of her environment and that's what makes her so interesting to watch.

Brooklyn Prince is magnificent is Moonee. Watching her is like watching a home video. She's so natural in this role that there's no sense at all that she's acting. Sometimes with child actors you can tell when they're just saying lines they were reminded of a few minutes prior and that's never the case with her. She has a scene towards the end of this movie that absolutely broke me. Bria Vinaite is also great as her foul mouthed mother. She dials the "trash" factor up to eleven. (a side note, those are the actress' real tattoos and they are gorgeous) And finally there's Willem DaFoe, the manager who's mostly 100% done with everything. You can tell even through his hard exterior that he cares, especially about Moonee and the other kids that are just left to wander. 

The Florida Project does suffer from some pacing issues. About half way through the film I started to wonder if there was going to be a point or climax to all of this. A lot of it is small scenes of Moonee just doing her day to day, but it does eventually have one. 

I'm glad I watched this film during Dell's Girl Week. Hopefully we see a lot of little Brooklyn Prince in the future.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "We gotta come back here again." - Moonee (Brooklynn Prince)




2018 Independent Spirit Nominations


The Spirit Award nominations were released today! A lot of these movies haven't been released near me yet but I have been fortunate enough to see a few. Here's a list of the nominations, followed by my thoughts. 

Best Feature
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Florida Project”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“The Rider”
I've only see Get Out and The Florida Project, and both are worthy noms. The Rider is the only film I'm unfamiliar with. I was hoping to see Ingrid Goes West here. I figured that, Three Billboards, or I,Tonya would be here.

Best Director
Jonas Carpignano, “A Ciambra” 
Luca Gudagnino, “Call Me By Your Name”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Benny and Josh Safdie, “Good Time"
Chlo√© Zhao, “The Rider”
No Greta Gerwig is surprising with how popular Lady Bird is. I was hoping to see Dee Rees for Mudbound (assuming it qualified?)

Best First Feature:
“Columbus”
“Ingrid Goes West”
Manahse”
“Oh Lucy”
“Patti Cake$”
There's Ingrid Goes West!

Best Female Lead
Salma Hayek, “Beatriz at Dinner”
Francis McDormand, “Three Billboards”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saiorse Ronin, “Lady Bird”
Shinobu Terajima, “Oh Lucy”
Regina Williams, “Life And Nothing More”
Nearly every review I've read for Beatriz at Dinner has been lukewarm at best so I'm kind of surprised to see it here. It's too bad Aubrey Plaza couldn't make it in for Ingrid. Or Brooklynn Prince for her fantastic performance in The Florida Project. I haven't seen any of the these, but aside from Beatriz I'll try to seek out all of them.

Best Male Lead
Timothee Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”
Harris Dicksinon, “Beach Rats”
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”
I'm so happy for Kaluuya and it's nice to see Franco in there for one of my most anticipated films. 

Best Supporting Female:
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I Tonya”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Louis Smith, “Marjorie Prime”
Taliah Lennice Webster, “Good Time”
Hunter was great in The Big Sick, that's the only one of these I've seen. I'l definitely check out the others. 

Best Supporting Male
Nnamdi Asomugha, “Crown Heights” 
Armie Hammer, “Call Me By Your Name”
Barry Keoghan, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards”
Bennie Safdie, “Good Time”
My theater just got The Killing of a Sacred Deer so I'll have that to check out soon. 

Best Screenplay
“Lady Bird”
“The Lovers”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
“Get Out”
“Beatriz at Dinner”

Best First Screenplay
“Donald Cried”
“The Big Sick”
“Woman Who Kill”
“Columbus”
“Ingrid Goes West”

Best Cinematography
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
“Colombus”
“Beach Rats”
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Rider

Best Editing
“Good Time”
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Rider”
“Get Out”
“I, Tonya”

John Cassavetes Award
“A Ghost Story”
“Dayveon”
“Life and Nothing”
“Most Beautiful Island”
“Transfiguration”

Robert Altman Award
“Mudbound”

Best Documentary
“The Departure”
“Faces Places”
“Last Men in Aleppo”
“Motherland”
“Quest”

Best International Film
“A Fantastic Woman”
“BPM”
“Lady Macbeth”
“I Am Not a Witch”
“Loveless”
Lady Macbeth is in my Netflix queue, so I should see this soon. 

Annual Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award
Amman Abassi, “Dayveon”
Justin Chon, “Gook”



Review: Mudbound

How's your paradise? 

What a perfect time for Dell to star his annual Girls Week. While a woman does not take center stage in front of the camera, director Dee Rees is the true powerhouse behind this film. 

We follow two families working on farms in rural Mississippi during WWII. The first family, Henry McAllen (Jason Clarke) his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) their two young daughters and Henry's father (Jonathan Banks) move out and really don't have the best grasp on things. Another family that has their own farm nearby an occasionally helps them are the Jacksons. Hap (Rob Morgan) his wife Florence (Mary J. Blige) and their children. Each family has a member coming home from WWII. Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) is Hap and Florence's oldest son whereas Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is Henry's brother. Despite all the racism of that time, those two are able to form a true friendship while they both battle the effects of the war. 

Director Dee Rees made a film a few years ago called Pariah that I absolutely loved. She's equally as confident behind the camera here. What I love most is how differently she shot the families. The Jacksons are good at what they do and have a loving household. They're shot as such, even when things get bad for them. The McAllens always have twice the mud and grit as the new farmers and genuinely worse people. That's another thing Rees doesn't shy away from. This film is hard to watch.

Watching the McAllens treat the Jacksons like absolute garbage is infuriating. I kept turning to my husband during this and saying "Can you imagine actually treating someone like this?" After watching Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul for so long, seeing him as this racist piece of shit is jarring. I also enjoyed how the film tackled post WWII PTSD. I feel like while we get films about that subject they're usually after later wars. So seeing one take place in this time frame feels fresh. 

The acting in the film was outstanding. The only one who was unremarkable was Jason Clarke, those I suppose he was effective because I kept hoping a building would fall out of the sky and land on his character. The MVP for me was Rob Morgan as Hap. I really hope he lands a Supporting Actor nomination. Everyone is talking about Mary B. Blige, who is also wonderful in her role, but Morgan needs to be in the discussion too. And of course, Mitchell and Hedlund sell their scenes beautifully. I just wish we could've had more of them. 

That brings me to my only issue, I wanted to be with Ronsel and Jamie more. They were the core of the story and not having read the book, I assumed we would see them in the war together too, which wasn't the case. I wanted to spend the majority of the time with them and the Jacksons, but we cut back to the McAllens way too often. Their racism was disgusting and exhausting. It's important to see the ugly, I know. But it's hard when the other parts of the story are just so much better. 

Mudbound is a heavy film, especially for what I normally find on Netflix, but it absolutely deserves to be seen.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "My sons are not getting down from that wagon." - Hap (Rob Morgan)


Indie Gems: Personal Shopper

It's trying to make contact.

Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is a personal shopper to a celebrity named Kyra (Nora von Waldst√§tten) in Paris. She's also a medium, like her twin brother. After he dies of a heart defect they both share, she vows not to leave Paris until she can make contact with him. All of this is complicated when she starts receiving mysterious text messages. 

Personal Shopper is a hard movie to define. It has elements that are very horror-like, but it's not a scary movie. It's very beautiful to look at with the shots of Paris and the high fashion involved. Director Olivier Assayas really has a lovely way of working with Kristen Stewart, this being his second outing with her after her wonderful performance in The Clouds of Sils Maria.

Stewart is great and this part is perfect for her. Maureen is in a bad place but often puts up a huge front and she conveys that with ease. She's in nearly every second of this film with the supporting characters merely revolving around her in a way, but that's okay. 

The ending certainly gives you something to think about. I find this could almost be a companion piece with A Ghost Story. Both are quiet and interesting looks on the afterlife in general. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You have nothing better to do with your time than dress Kyra all day?" - Ingo (Lars Eidinger)

Thursday Movie Picks: Strong Female Characters

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is something I always crave, a strong female character. I tried to think of a theme here. I wanted to simply pick indie films but there's one character in particular I just can't help but talk about.

1) Gone Girl

Amy Dunne: The cool girl. I love Amy. I love to hate Amy. I thought she was despicable but I can't help but be blown away at all the shit she pulled off. Never call Amy Dunne weak. (No seriously, she might kill you)

2) Middle of Nowhere

I love this little film. Ruby sacrifices a lot in the name of her jailed boyfriend Her career, money, but she keeps her head up. She works hard. This was Emayatzy Corinealdi's first big role, and she owns it. 

3) In A World...

Carol is a vocal coach and voice actor who finds herself competing against her own father for a part in narrating a big movie. It's perfect for this week as so many people tell her she can't do this because she's a woman. But she CAN!

2017 Blind Spot Series: Midnight Cowboy


What I knew going in: That it's the only Best Picture winner with an X rating. And apparently John Wayne bitched about it.

Joe Buck (Jon Voight) is so cowboy even his suitcase is cow print. He naively thinks he can just move from Texas to New York City and automatically make it as a hustler based on his good looks alone. When that falls through, he forms an unlikely friendship with a different kind of hustler, Ratso. (Dustin Hoffman) They become partners in crime. 

Hoffman and Voight are excellent in this. I don't often associate Voight with stellar performances, but this one is worthy of that praise. I really liked the story and the reality checks served, but I wasn't wowed by this. While most of this film is really well done, there's one aspect of it that I found almost egregious; and that would be Joe's flashbacks to a traumatic event with a former love. I don't know if they were going for an exploitation vibe but it was just very poorly done and didn't fit with the rest of the film. It was jarring to switch between the two.

Those flashbacks aren't enough to ruin the film but overall I just felt it was okay. I can see why it was probably a big hit back - oh man, I always try to avoid saying this in my Blind Spots - in the day. It was a good enough watch for a quiet weeknight evening.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I'm falling apart here!" - Ratso (Dustin Hoffman)


Thursday Movie Picks: An Adaptation You Want To See

Wander wants to know what you WANT to see. Not what you have. She asks us what adaptations of comics, video games or novels we'd like to see. Part of me wanted a campy action packed Duke Nukem but I think we have enough of those already.

1) Black Widow

GIVE ME MY FUCKING BLACK WIDOW SOLO MOVIE MARVEL!!!!!!

2) Girl Boy Girl

There's a lot of films and documentaries about the J.T Leroy scandal but I'd love to see one based off Savannah Knoop's memoir Girl Boy Girl. She was the one who "played" J.T during public appearances and her voice is often lost when talking about him.

3) When A Fan Hits The Shit

If you've ever been a part of a fandom or message board, you know how juicy that drama can get. Jeanine Renne was a huge Lord of the Rings fan who ended up in a scandal that not only duped a lot of people out of a lot of money, but even pulled one over on a few of the films' stars. It's a batshit crazy read. I'd watch this as a feature or as a documentary.

Review: Thor: Ragnarok

We know each other!

Two years after the events of Sokovia, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been traveling the cosmos trying to understand a reoccurring dream he has been having. After he finds out his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating their father, he doesn't have time to deal with that because the Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett) has been released from her banishment and promises to take over Asgard.

Director Taika Waititi has a very specific style that's quite the contrast to the brooding Thor the MCU has been presenting in the last few films. (And unlike the majority, I actually preferred The Dark World to the first one) But Waititi lets Thor be that goofy fuck we all knew was inside there.

I've been looking forward to this for some time, but I still had my reservations. I was afraid there would be too much comedy, that they wouldn't feel like the same characters and that there would be no stakes, and I'm happy to say that all those things didn't happen. Yes, there's a lot of laughs in this movie, and the tone does change rather drastically whenever we check back on Hela in Asgard, but I thought it worked. 

Everyone is having a blast in their roles, veterans like Hemsworth, Hiddleston, and Mark Ruffalo and newbies like Blanchett, Tessa Thompson and Jeff Goldblum. Hiddleston surprised me the most. I've always loved how he played Loki, but he's turned into such a completely insufferable person since The Dark World came out that I was afraid that would bleed into his performance. It didn't.

It's not a perfect film. While Hela is now easily one of my favorite Marvel villains, she and Karl Urban didn't get as much to do as I thought. And while I like Loki, trying to make him into a good guy is always a bit suspect to me, even though it ultimately worked overall. The most offensive thing the movie did was only allow Hemsworth to be shirtless for about two minutes. 

Ragnarok is everything I hoped it would be. It's fun and full of surprises. It also sets up next year's Avengers: Infinity War so the hype lives on.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "Sutur, Son of...a bitch, I thought you were dead." - Thor (Chris Hemsworth)

Thursday Movie Picks: A Stranger

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about strangers.  I've mentioned how Netflix makes lists of suggestions for me with names like "Dysfunctional family dramas" or "dark independent films." Two of these films would probably be on those lists. The last one though is a lovely LIGHT independent film, Netflix!

1) An Education

Jenny's life is forever changed when she meets a man twice her age and becomes his girlfriend. This is a fantastic movie with great performances by Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard. 

2) Lawn Dogs

This is a film that I first saw on Lifetime (ha!) I was about the same age as the girl in it at the time. I found it strangely fascinating and if anything, it helped me identify shady behavior a little more easily. This is a story of a 10 year old girl (Misha Barton) who strikes up a friendship with a 20 something lawn boy (Sam Rockwell) in her jaded gated community. Don't worry, he's not the creep in this film. 

3) 5 to 7

I originally had a more disturbing pick for this one but I changed it last minute as I really don't think I could ever watch that again. 5 to 7 is a film of Anton Yelchin's that I missed when he was still alive, and didn't see until after he tragically passed. I wish I had seen it sooner because now it's one of my favorite performances. Brian and Arielle meet by chance one day, and strike up an affair with the rules being they can only meet between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm . 

DVD Review: Certain Women

Lonely.

Director Kelly Reichardt tells three different stories about women living in Montana. Laura (Laura Dern) is a lawyer trying to assist a client (Jared Harris) who has been screwed over by his employer after an accident. Gina (Michelle Williams) is building a new home but struggles with her moody teenager daughter along the way* And a Rancher (Lily Gladstone) wanders into a class being taught by Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) and becomes fascinated with her.  

The * is because even after thinking about this film for a while, I still don't understand the point of Michelle William's segment. Which brings me to how I felt about this movie as a whole. I felt like I was watching two good ideas that were never elaborated on, and one afterthought. Gina's story being the afterthought. Laura's had the potential for a lot of drama. Her client holds someone hostage at one point and she diffuses the situation. But The Rancher (no really, that's how she's credited) and Elizabeth's story was the most intriguing. Theirs was the one I didn't want to end. Yet, all of these vignettes went out with a whimper. 

It's a similar problem I have with Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff. It had a great cast but I felt like the story went nowhere. I didn't have that problem with her last feature, Night Moves, which I enjoyed immensely. Certain Women is ultimately a commentary on loneliness in every day life. It brings up the long debate on whether or not movies need some sort of climax that changes its trajectory. I know I made that complaint about Manchester by the Sea last year, but comparing the two, it was a flawed statement on my part. Manchester was far more interesting than this, even if "nothing" happened in the end on that one either. 
I guess I'm just disappointed. I wanted this story about women directed by a woman to have a bit more. There were good bones here, but I was left unsatisfied. I like to take my movies home with me most of the time. I like to think about how characters would move forward after the credits roll. But this film didn't give me enough to go off of, even in my imagination. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "Do you know anyone around here that could teach this class? - Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) 

Thursday Movie Picks: TV Edition - Horror

We end our Halloween month over at Wandering Through The Shelves with TV shows. I haven't watched a lot of TV shows in the horror genre but here are a my three favorites.

1) True Blood

Seasons 1-3 were spectacular. Season 4 was great, but with a few issues. Seasons 5-7 was a clusterfuck. To this day, I have yet to see a show that started out as strong as True Blood did fall on its face so hard. (Though The Walking Dead is close) I recommend watching only the first four seasons then pretending Eric and Sookie ran off together. 

2) The Fades

This was a British show that was cancelled after one season, but starred the supremely talented Iain De Caestecker, Daniel Kaluuya, Natalie Dormer and Joe Dempise. It was about a teen who saw spirits of dead people, and the strange way they have to go. I wish it would've lasted longer

3) Tales From The Crypt

I loved watching this with my big sister when I was a kid. Most of the episodes went far over my head at the time, but I would definitely re-watch this show today. 

Review: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

All in the family.

Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) is an artist in New York City. He didn't treat his first two children, Danny (Adam Sandler) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) very well. He saved all his affection for his youngest child, Matthew. (Ben Stiller) Now they're all reunited in New York and things are awkward to say the least.

I can't describe director Noah Baumbach's style. I mostly enjoy his work, but I rarely feel like revisiting any of them. This is another I likely won't go back to any time soon but I did enjoy watching it for what it was.

Adam Sandler, man that guy has been starved of good work. He's trying so hard here that he falls into the "over the top" category a bit, but you can see there's a good actor under there. As much as I joke about Adam Sandler movies, the guy does have talent and it was nice seeing him get to flex his chops a bit, even if it didn't always stick. Elizabeth Marvel, and Grace Van Patten (Playing Eliza, Danny's daughter) were the most interesting ones to me. I wanted to know more about Jean, even though her entire purpose was to be the forgotten one. A late reveal in her story brings on one of the strongest moments in the entire film. 

The editing was really choppy and I found that distracting. The level of dysfunction is almost too uncomfortable at times. I cringed during entire conversations between Harold and his children but I can't help but see how effective it really was.  For a film streaming on Netflix, this is a good enough watch.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I can smash every car in this parking lot and it wouldn't un-fuck me up." - Jean (Elizabeth Marvel)




Review: 1922

Should've just gotten that divorce.

Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) is a farmin' man, damn it! He ain't moving to know city like his wife, Arlette (Molly Parker) wants. All the land they own is in her name, and she proposes selling it, splitting the difference and getting a divorce. The only problem is she wants their teenage son, Henry (Dylan Schmid) to live with her and Wilfred's fragile ego can't handle that. So he starts pitting Henry against his mother, and soon comes up with the genius plan to murder his wife instead. That karma though...

I never read the novella by Stephen King, but the trailer immediately intrigued me. Netflix must have spent all of $1922.00 on this because it looked cheap. And that's not a dig at films made on microbudget,.You can do amazing things with that, but compared to other films Netflix has put out, this is jarringly different. It's like they spent the bulk of it on all the rats they had to use. Which brings me to my next point, can animals be bad actors? These rats did not look like they were anywhere "naturally." A handler clearly placed them there and turned the camera on quickly. These rats looks straight up confused the entire time. 

Please let me know in the comments below if that complaint is too petty.

Thomas Jane's acting basically consists of using the most over the top old time farmer accent on the planet and not unclenching his teeth. (Seriously, watch him talk) Molly Parker is the most interesting actor here and she obviously doesn't get a ton of screen time.

As mediocre as this was, I wasn't bored at all. I was legitimately interested in seeing what happened next. I basked in the schadenfreude of bad things happening to Wilfred's dumbass. I just expected more.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "Money fixes everything." - Henry (Dylan Schmid)

Thursday Movie Picks: Halloween Edition - Body Horror

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves will kill your appetite: Body Horror. I'm mostly nice with the gifs so it's okay if you're reading this while eating breakfast.

1) Starry Eyes

This is about an actress that will do anything to make it big. Even selling her soul to a casting agency for a dangerous price. This was a great little film, but hard to find a non spoilery gif for.

2) Videodrome


This movie..... It was my Blind Spot for the month and it certainly lives up to its reputation as being weird as fuck and pretty gross. It's hard to describe.

3) Raw

This French film about a vegetarian who after getting forced to eat meat during a hazing finds out she's got more than just a little taste for meat. With all the snacking on human flesh that goes on in this flick, I think it qualifies as body horror. 


Honorable Mention: Tusk

Before I saw Raw, Tusk had my 3rd spot. I'm leaving it in as an honorable mention. A film about someone who is literally turned into a walrus deserves that. 

2017 Blind Spot Series: Videodrome



What I knew going in: That it was a popular body horror film. 

Max Renn (James Woods) runs a sleazy TV channel and is always on the look out for new material. He discovers a pirated tape called Videodrome which shows nonstop snuff. Max's girlfriend Nicki (Debbie Harry) wants to audition for it, and soon he's drawn into Videodrome's bigger picture.

Damn, this movie is weird. 

Director David Cronenberg was put on my radar with A History of Violence. Then he made Eastern Promises which is one of my favorite movies of all time. I've been meaning to go backwards in his filmography for a while and Videodrome is the one that gets mentioned the most. I can definitely see where some of his ideas for History of Violence at least came from. 

James Woods is naturally a creepy fucker so his casting is spot on. I really appreciate that Cronenberg didn't show a bunch of sexual violence. So many other horror directors would've taken the opportunity to go over the top with it and he didn't. With it's reputation with body horror, I was expecting a bit more of that, but what was in there did not disappoint.

I'm glad I finally watched this. It was a perfect way to start my October.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Long live the new flesh." - Max Renn (James Woods)


DVD Review: It Comes At Night

My nightmares have nightmares.

In a secluded cabin in the woods, Paul (Joel Edgerton) his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) are isolating themselves from a mysterious illness that has apparently spread over the world. It's never explained, so don't expect answers. One day, a man named Will (Christopher Abbott) tries to break into their home thinking it's abandoned. He also has a wife and son he's trying to protect. They decide it's the right thing to do to live together.

First things first, not a damn thing comes at night. (Except Travis' nightmares..I guess, if we're going to reach for something) The way this film was advertised after seeing the final product is baffling. When I saw the teaser of the door in the hall way and the families talking about who opened it. I thought it was going to be a possession type movie. When I learned about the illness, I wondered if we would get something like 28 Days Later's rage virus. Nope. It's just a suspenseful drama.

It's not bad for what it actually is. It builds tension well and the actors, particularly Harrison Jr who carries the film are very good. It's just not what I wanted it to be. This is even with expectations in place. I knew the title was misleading from other reviews I read. I will give the film extra points for the absolutely brutal ending. It really upped the fucked up factor.

Recommended: Yes if you know it's not going to be a horror movie, no if that's what you want it to be.

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "That could be how he found us." - Sarah (Carmen Ejogo)

Thursday Movie Picks: Halloween Edition - Dolls

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is a nightmare....dolls.

My grandmother was a doll maker. She's very good at it, but she's made her fair share of creepy ones. My older sister used to terrorize me with one we swear looked like a brown haired version of Chucky. Speaking of that little bastard, here are three dolls I'd love to avoid:

1) Child's Play 2

My parents let me watch the Child's Play movies when I was a kid because I explained to them that I understood they were fake. They were good about that with some horror movies. Child's Play 2 is my favorite of this ridiculous franchise. 

2) Puppet Master

Now this one, even though I knew it was fake scared the shit out of me for some reason. I could handle Chucky, but these dolls and puppets were too much.

3) May

Poor, lonely May. She just wanted friends. Now she's forced to make one herself..

Review: Blade Runner 2049

You bought yourself a war.

K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner hunting down old Replicant models. He unearths a mind blowing secret during a job. When his boss (Robin Wright) sends him to investigate further, he realizes he's also connected to it. 

This movie has been quite the hot topic over the weekend. It didn't make nearly what was expected of it at the box office, and that's a shame because this film is really good. I get it, general audiences don't like long movies if they're not from huge franchises. But don't let the hefty run time scare you off. Yes, you'll feel it. That's natural, but every bit of it is interesting. I compare it to something like Blue is the Warmest Color. That's a long film, but I wouldn't cut a thing. I liked taking all of it in. 

I'd say this is Ryan Gosling's show, but it's almost cinematographer Roger Deakins'. This world, while dark and depressing. (almost too dark at times, which is my biggest fault of the film) is stunningly beautiful. He combines practical shots with CGI so effortlessly. He's so overdue for an Oscar it's almost offensive. I hope he gets one for this. 

Gosling is very good. He's a very straightforward guy, he doesn't have a lot of emotional moments but he balances it so well and I felt for him. Sylvia Hoeks, who plays Luv, another Replicant hunting him is another standout. One thing you should not expect going in is a lot of Harrison Ford. He doesn't show up until the two hour mark and he doesn't have many scenes with Gosling. I expected them to be together more, but Ford does not disappoint.

My only critiques is that the film does get too dark at times. It fits the mood but I'd rather be able to see the actors more clearly. The supporting cast left me wanting to see more. Many of these actors we only spend a short amount of time with. 

I haven't seen the original Blade Runner in many years. I remember it well enough but the film is still very enjoyable even if it's not fresh in your memory.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I knew you were special." - Joi (Ana de Amas)

Thursday Movie Picks: Halloween Edition - Masks

It's one of my favorite times of the year! We're back for a month full of Halloween Editions from Wandering Through The Shelves. This week we're talking about masks. Serial killers love those things so I've got plenty to choose from. The only rule I gave myself was to not use one of "The Greats" ie: Jason Voorhees, Michael Meyers, Leatherface or Ghostface.

1) Hush

This is one of the best horror movies I've seen recently. A man terrorizes a deaf woman in her home. Normally I'm not for home invasion flicks but this one loses a lot of those tropes and does something fresh. This guy actually has the balls to remove his mask early on to go "Welp. Now you've seen me, I'm still killing you."

2) Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

This movie is more hilarious than scary, but serial killer Leslie Vernon gives a documentary film crew a behind the scenes look at some innocent folks he's about to terrorize. Look at that goofy mask. It would be scary if it was coming for you in the dark. 

3) Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask

Like any kid that grew up in the 90's. I loved me some Goosebumps. Of the books that were adapted into films, The Haunted Mask was always my favorite. I loved Carly-Beth and was afraid for her when this mask wouldn't come off. 


Indie Gems: Raw

That's one hell of an allergy.

Justine (Garance Marillier) is a young vegetarian who is attending her first year of vet school. Her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) already studies there as well. During a hazing, she's forced to eat raw rabbit kidneys, and Justine learns the hard way that her appetite for raw meat is not easily satiated.

Man, I could never try to be a part of anything that involves hazing. I would've lasted approximately 30 seconds at this school. The minute someone threw my mattress out a window I would've punched somebody in the dick and left. Justine is more determined than me though, so she sticks it out. What she thinks is a severe allergy to the kidneys she's forced to eat ends up being so much worse.

There's something fun about being grossed out during body horror films. That's not a label I expected to use going in but after the gore seen in this it's very fitting. It's not for you if you have a weak stomach. The part that made me squirm the most didn't even have to do with blood. You'll know when you see it.

Mariellier was perfect as this naive bookworm of a girl with Rumpf being her foil as the outgoing sister. I waited a long time to watch this, and it was worth the wait.

Grade: A

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable quote: "I can't. I'm a vegetarian." - Justine (Garance Marillier) 

DVD Review: All Eyez On Me

California Love

We follow the life of one of the greatest rappers in history, Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) from when he was a child being raised by his former Black Panter mother, Afeni (Danai Gurira) to moving to California and getting into the rap game. A good film about the life of Pac has been a long time coming.

And it turns out we're still waiting for that.

This movie should not have failed the way it did. Shipp really resembles Tupac. He has the mannerisms down perfectly. Danai Gurira is amazing as Afeni, she gets to show the emotions I wish Scott Gimple would allow her to show more often on The Walking Dead. But the direction of this movie just rained down too much negativity for this cast to salvage it all.

The biggest thing is this movie feels cheap. It's edited like a Lifetime movie. The characters often feel like they're speechifying instead of having actual conversations and while Pac truly witnessed some awful things, it's shot in a way that makes it almost too melodramatic. There's only so many times the camera can linger on him looking defeated while terrible shit happens a few yards away. 

On the supporting side the film does a few things right, like bringing in Jamal Woolard to play Biggie again, like he did in his own bio pic Notorious (which isn't perfect but is far better than this) But that one good thing doesn't erase what they attempted to do with Snoop Dogg (Jarrett Ellis), which is casting an actor that looks nothing like him and having his voice dubbed by the actual Snoop Dogg. Earlier in the film, I noticed that Shipp's lip syncing wasn't very believable, I almost take it back after seeing the disaster that was Snoop. 

I can see now why Joel Singleton walked away from this. I'd like to see him make a Tupac movie. Hell, they can use this same cast (minus Ellis) I have no issue with them. A strong script and a more skilled director would do wonders for this movie. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "Use that platform to make a change." - Tupac Skatur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.)

Indie Gems: The Big Sick

2 day rule.

Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in the real life story on how he met his wife, Emily. (here played by Zoe Kazan) Kumail is originally from Pakistan and his parents want him to follow the traditional arranged marriage. While still going to "interviews" with women at his parent's dinner table, he meets grad student Emily and they begin a relationship. When she falls ill and is put into a medically induced coma, Kumail sticks by her side.

My indie theater only had this film for a week so I missed it. Nanjiani is hilarious on Silicon Valley so I love seeing him get more and more roles. Especially this one, which he wrote himself with his wife. It's not exactly how everything went down, but that's not our business. It's a fascinating look on how a 2nd generation immigrant can want something different from the traditional upbringing his parents had. And on top of that, it's got some laugh out loud hysterical moments. 

Because Nanjiani got his start in stand up, there's a lot of that in this film and it works. You can tell he isn't used to carrying emotional moments like some that are required in this film but he has so much heart you can excuse it. The supporting cast of Kazan, Zenobia Shroff, Anupam Kher, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano are perfect in their roles as well.

Even with the serious subject matter, the film is not short on laughs and even knowing that Kumail and Emily are married in real life, you still root for them along the way and worry when things look like they're not working out. 

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "That all happened when I was asleep." - Emily (Zoe Kazan)


Thursday Movie Pick: TV Edition - Families

It's the last Thursday of the month, so that means it's another TV Edition. Wanderer wants it to be all in the family this week. There's plenty of prolific TV families out there. Here are my favorites:

1) Game of Thrones
Families are one of the most important things in Game of Thrones. This is easily one of my favorite shows of all times. Even when they occasionally misstep it doesn't stop me from loving nearly everything they've done with the series.

2) The Brady Bunch

This was a show I loved watching on Nick at Nite. It's corny, but fun. I actually caught the Brady Bunch 90's movies on TV the other day and I never realized just how many of those innuendos went over my head. Obviously the TV show wasn't like that...or was it?

3) The Simpsons

Is there a more popular TV family than the Simpsons? I don't think so. The Simpsons first aired when I was two. I've literally had them as long as I can remember and while I'm not a weekly watcher any more, they're always a go to if nothing else is on.