Current Mini Reviews

So I must admit I have been on a bit of a role lately! I not only have been making podcasts I love on both of my channels (Hallmarkies and Rachel’s Reviews) but I have been able to see a lot of movies (I’ve done several double-headers). Some I have reviewed on my channel (and some on this blog) but others I haven’t gotten around to covering. So that means it’s time for my Current Mini Reviews update! I will let give my brief thoughts, whether it is smile/frown worthy and where it lists in my 2018 Releases Ranking. Enjoy!

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Life of the Party

I seem to be one of the few who hasn’t grown tired of Melissa McCarthy’s shtick (I even enjoyed Ghostbusters!).  Now we have Life of the Party and it wasn’t the greatest comedy but it was serviceable. I laughed enough to enjoy myself and the supporting cast is strong including Maya Rudolph, Gillian Jacobs and Molly Gordon who plays McCarthy’s daughter. Luke Benward is very hunky as McCarthy’s boy-fling.

Smile Worthy (barely)

51 out of 71

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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

This franchise has produced 3 entertaining if a bit unmemorable films and that includes Hotel Transylvania 3. It was an enjoyable sit with some nice animation and good laughs. It doesn’t have the emotional punch of Pixar but it had a sweet message to it.  I think this is an improvement over HT2 which didn’t use its ensemble cast very well.

Smile Worthy

19 out of 71

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Gotti

With a 0% on rottentomatoes and moviepass making it basically free I couldn’t resist watching this trainwreck. And trainwreck it is. Pretty much everything is off in this biopic but the most absurd part is they try to paint the mafia as a persecuted minority that the cops are hounding unfairly. There’s even a title card at the end explaining the efforts the FBI went to take them down and the FBI is the villain!

Frown Worthy

69 out of 71

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Hearts Beat Loud

I think this might have been oversold to me as ‘the next Sing Street‘. Hearts Beat Loud isn’t a bad movie but I left feeling underwhelmed. The performances are nice and a couple of the songs decent but I was never emotionally engaged with the main relationship between the father and the daughter. Both my friend and I agreed that it felt cursory when they could have dove deeper and asked more questions. The only emotion I felt was between the daughter and her girlfriend. Sing Street it is not. I honestly found it kind of boring…

Frown Worthy (barely)

52 out of 71

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Set It Up

Since everyone knows I love romcoms I was told by many to check out this Netflix entry in the genre. My response was it was ok. I liked the lead couple Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell and they had decent chemistry. Lucy Liu is also good as an ice queen boss that gets more character development than the trope typically allows. However, I found the movie to be a bit too cynical for my taste. I like my romances to be a little more light and fluffy.

Smile Worthy (barely)

50 out of 71

Maquia

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

Very sweet fantasy anime that is about an immortal woman’s struggles to be a mother and watch her mortal child grow up and suffer. The animation was stunning, and I got very wrapped up in it. It has some pacing issues but over all I definitely recommend it. Director Mari Okada has made a fantasy film that is ambitious in its world building and lovely in its emotional depth. Fantasy fans, not just anime fans will really enjoy it.

Smile Worthy

12 out of 71

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Whitney

I love Whitney Houston and was so sad to see her life spiral out of control leading to her eventual death. So naturally I was interested in this documentary and it’s mostly satisfactory. Director Kevin Macdonald does a good job showing all sides to the singer and her impact on music and pop culture. However, there are a few things that felt a little exploitative to me and his attempts to tie Whitney’s life into broader world events felt a little heavy handed. Still worth checking out. Bring tissues.

Smile Worthy

39 out of 71

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Ant-Man and the Wasp-

I really enjoyed the first Ant-Man. I think more than most, so I was excited for this sequel and I left thinking it was just ok. The action is a lot of fun and the cast knocks it out of the park but it wasn’t as funny as the first one and several plot threads got a little boring for me. Still, it’s a decent superhero movie with some fun moments.

Smile Worthy

23 out of 71

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Skyscraper-

This was more entertaining than I expected it to be. There are some entertaining action set pieces like a fight that happens in a room with mirrors. Also I liked that Nev Campbell’s character wasn’t a cliched warrior woman or damsel in distress but just a smart Mom. I’m not sure why they needed him to have an artificial leg except for one kind of gimmicky scene.
The villain characters were very snoozeworthy with lame motivation. Still, if looking for summer entertainment that doesn’t take itself too seriously you could do worse.

Smile Worthy

35 out of 71

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Fireworks-

With the marketing heavily leaning on the ‘producer of Your Name’ I wondered if this would be a disappointment. It didn’t seem to have much to sell of itself but just its similarities to a beloved film. Sadly my worries were correct. Fireworks does have some good things but for each good aspect there was a negative. Some of the animation was beautiful and then others used CG in really terrible ways. Some character moments were sweet and others felt really cheesy. Some parts of the story worked and other parts felt very muddled and confusing. There’s a sexuality in the character design and story that was strange.

Frown Worthy

61 out of 71

 

 

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2018 Mid-Year Rachies

Hello friends!  So we have recently passed the half way point of the year in movie-going and I thought it would be fun to give you my picks for the best of 2018 so far. Around the Oscars I do something called The Rachies so you might just consider this a mid-year Rachies. Let me know what your favorites areBest Picture Live Action-

Paddington 2- As far as I’m concerned this film is perfectly executed. Funny, sweet, heart-warming and delightful.

Best Picture Animation

Incredibles 2– A delightful Pixar sequel that is both a well done superhero movie and a treatise on how hard it is to be a parent

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Charlie Plummer for Lean on Pete– This is a film that has really stuck with me and Charlie Plummer is phenomenal as a homeless teenage orphan who is traveling America trying to save a special horse. There are scenes in this film that broke me and I haven’t been able to shake from my brain. Devastating but emotionally true and a lot of that goes to Charlie Plummer. He’s going to be a huge star.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Thomasin McKenzie for Leave No Trace– Teenagers are giving the best performances of the year (I could have also picked Elsie Fisher for Eighth Grade). I debated about picking Leave No Trace as my best of the year because it is a film I saw at Sundance and has stayed with me all these months later. I love everything about it and Thomasin is incredible in her role. It’s amazing to see her begin to lovingly question her father and make some very tough choices.

Best Supporting Actor-

Hugh Grant for Paddington 2- I was trying to think of another film I could showcase but there really was nobody else close as a supporting performance to Hugh Grant in Paddington 2. He is so funny and obviously willing to make fun of his own reputation as a bit of a foppish actor. In a near-perfect movie he was the stand out.

Best Supporting Actress-

Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place- this might be considered a lead by some but I’d say she is supporting to John Krasiniski’s lead. What she manages to do without making a sound is so impressive and when she is trying to birth that baby it is so tense my nails were digging into the arm rests. It was the most invested I’ve been in a horror performance in a long time.

Best Cinematography-

Joshua James Richards for The Rider- I didn’t emotionally connect with this film the way I hoped I would but I still greatly admired it and thought it was stunning to look at. Richards and director Chloe Zhao have made the American prairie look both gorgeous and achingly lonely at the same time.

Best Production Design-

Adam Stockhausen for Isle of Dogs- I thoroughly enjoyed Wes Anderson’s quirky stop motion film but I loved the production design. The attention to detail was outstanding and I can’t wait to get the art book and find out how everything from the wall of glass to the Japanese political rallies were staged.

Hidden Gem-

Sgt Stubby: An American Hero- This sweet little indie animated film about a dog in World War 1 I will continue to champion and try to get everyone I know to see it. It did so many things right that so many animated films fail to do. It doesn’t have the dog talk. It gets the tone just about perfectly down. It shows enough war to be meaningful without traumatizing children. It is not a ra ra America film nor is it shaming the troops in any way. It was so sweet and inspirational without being maudlin. I LOVED it!

Best Documentary-

Won’t You Be My Neighbor- In many ways the documentary about Fred Rogers doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It has talking heads who reminisce about the subjects life and his impact on the world like many have done before. However, in a world of Me Too where every famous man seems to disappoint finding out Fred Rogers was just about as great as you thought he was meant a lot. Watching this movie was a reminder to be a little kinder. To love a little bit more easily and to accept people for who they are. It was so well executed and just what I needed (I’ve seen it twice!)

Best Comedy-

Game Night- Maybe it is just coming from a competitive family that likes to play games but I thought this movie was hilarious. I loved all of the performances and thought the cast had great chemistry together. I loved Kyle Chandler playing this near-do-well but slick brother (I’m so used to him in dramas like Manchester By the Sea). I loved scenes like when Jason Bateman is trying to clean blood off a dog. It was so funny

(Game Night is rated R so it won’t be for everyone

Best Visual Effects-

Ready Player One- the best visual effects for my money go to the Steven Spielberg and the team behind Ready Player One. They made a lot of changes from the book (which I LOVE) but one thing they got right was the look and feel of the Oasis. It was so immersive and stunning. The kind of place I would like to go if I could with details filling up the screen. Each set piece contained surprises (and not just call outs but visually interesting and beautiful things). The segment at the Shining was incredible but the whole movie looked great

Some Other Quick Awards-

Most Overrated- Annihilation- looks pretty but is basically a creature scares movie pretending to be a pretentious treatise on life. It has no idea what it is trying to say as it lays one message down after another. Stupidity wrapped in smart clothing

(I also didn’t like Peter Rabbit, Upgrade, Set it Up, or The Party as much as most)

Most Underrated- I Feel Pretty- a throwback to Penny Marshall movies from the 90s that everyone took WAY too seriously. It had its heart in the right place, and I appreciated what it was trying to say. I laughed and thought it was overall very sweet.

(I also liked Adrift, Book Club, I Can Only Imagine, Solo, and The Commuter more than most)

Biggest End of Movie Letdown- Avengers: Infinity War. Most of this movie was pretty entertaining and well done but then they had the ending that tries to get me to believe that a major studio is actually killing off their brightest and newest talents. Give me a break. Most people were crying and it kind of ticked me off. I HATE when directors think I am stupid and I’m not stupid enough to believe that Marvel is killing off Black Panther. Ugh

(The last 30 minutes of Tully was also extremely disappointing and frustrating!).

Biggest Disappointment- Wrinkle in Time- I love the novel and Ava DuVernay had all the pieces to make something great but instead made something that was muddled, confusing and full of speechifying. All the spirituality of the novel is taken away in favor of sermons that looked like part of a yoga retreat video and Meg was told she was a warrior instead of figuring that out for herself and saving Charles Wallace from IT because she knew how important he was to God. What a waste!

(I was also disappointed in Early Man and Ocean’s 8 was just Ok when I was hoping it would be great)

Worst Movies So Far-

Lu Over the Wall- Made me physically nauseated. Spastic and all over the place. The parts that do work are a copycat of Ponyo.

White Fang- Exploitative animal violence in a film aimed at children was jarring and went on for way too long. Also the animation and voice acting was hit and miss.

Gotti- Terribly made in every way but also wants you to believe the mafia are the true victims of authorities who won’t stop hounding them!

Pacific Rim: Uprising- I hated every inch of this nauseating blockbuster full of stupid and irritating characters that would not shut up

Ophelia- the most ridiculous attempt to turn Hamlet into a feminist mantra you could imagine. I was dying trying to hold my laughter in.

For more of my thoughts on some indie films check out the podcast I did with my friend Orla Smith

Pixar 42: Incredibles 2

For years whenever a superhero movie sequel came out I wondered to myself ‘will they ever make The Incredibles 2?” The 2004 film is not only one of my favorite animated films but is my favorite superhero movie along with Wonder Woman. It so brilliantly weaves together traditional superhero themes with a message of the mundane nature of modern work and the toxicity of pretending to be something you are not. Now in this sequel Brad Bird and his team have managed to combine classic superhero fun with a reminder that when “done properly, parenting is a heroic act.”

Incredibles 2 starts off where the first movie leaves us. Unfortunately, the people have not immediately welcomed back Supers like you might expect. They see carnage and suffering left by Syndrome and look for someone to blame in the Supers. This leaves the Parr family in a tricky dynamic of having a newfound confidence in their powers but living out of a hotel without a way to support each other.

One day a businessman named Winston Deavor approaches them with a seemingly perfect solution. He wants to use Elastigirl as a spokesperson for a movement to bring the supers back out of hiding. This requires Helen to go away from the family but it provides housing, employment and a way to help their family and others be their super selves.

Helen Parr: [to Bob] You know it’s crazy, right? To help my family, I gotta leave it to fix the law, I gotta break it.

Bob Parr: You’ve got to, so our kids can have that choice. (They are both being the best parents to their kids. One has to leave to find work and the other has to deal with the day to day problems).

This is where we get to the real cream of Incredibles 2. Bob must figure out how to solo parent for not only his 3 children but 3 special children including baby Jack Jack who has over 17 powers he can’t control. The scenes with Bob and his kids brilliantly show the exhaustion of parenting especially with an infant. It oddly made me think of the movie Tully and how exhausted Charlize Theron’s character is when carrying for her new baby.

What separates Bob, however, from a lot of movie Dads is he both struggles and succeeds. For example, Dash has the new math (which is totally a thing), and Bob is overwhelmed but eventually they figure it out. Violet is angry with her Dad and he messes up but then they have a really sweet moment where she tells him he’s doing a super job and let’s him sleep for 17 hours. This made Bob’s story feel human and relatable instead of just mindless slapstick.

The highlight of the film is when Bob takes Jack Jack to meet Edna Mode and she turns out to be a better parent than we might expect. After all it takes a village to raise a child and that is certainly true with Jack Jack!

I also appreciated how Incredibles 2 allowed the kids to be empowered without turning them into mini-adults like other franchises do. Violet and Dash use their powers to help save their parents but only when they have to. They still need their parents for love, guidance and protection. It was very well done.

Some of the elements in Incredibles 2 are pedestrian like the predictable villain but it is surrounded by such engaging fast-paced action, quippy dialogue and striking animation that I didn’t care. Not every part of every movie needs to reinvent the wheel for things to work. Plus, the standard superhero segments still gives us a ton of new characters with fun super powers like Voyd and Brick. Frozone (Lucius) also gets much more screen time and dialogue, which was a delight.

There are other messages hidden inside of Incredibles 2 like our dependence on technology and the way we are pitched glossy showcases of progress without real change being made but my main takeaway was a reminder at how difficult parenting is. How it takes the best out of even superheroes but in the end it is worth it. Loving families and children growing up to be the best version of themselves is worth it. I’m not even a parent but I think that is a fantastic message and something we need to see more in film. So many parents are either shown to be demanding jerks or idiots that this is not as common in film as you might think.  Most parents are trying as hard as they can and if they get frustrated by new math or a baby that won’t sleep let’s all try and help them out as much as we can. They are the true superheroes!

Overall Grade- A-

Uncle Drew Review

Over the years, there have been many humorous sports movies. I’ve laughed at everything from Dodgeball to Caddyshack to Major League. I even love Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon. Whether it is focusing on the players or the fans, there is something about the intensity of sports that can provide great fodder for laughs. Unfortunately for Uncle Drew, the writing fails to live up to this tradition of funny sports movies and it failed to make me laugh more than a passing chuckle. The film is based on a series of Pepsi ads and that’s where it should have stayed.

Uncle Drew stars Lil Rel Howery as Dax, a man who grew up in an orphanage with nothing to inspire him but the NBA. Unfortunately, as a teen, he has an embarrassing defeat on the basketball court at the hands of rival Mookie, played by Nick Kroll. As revenge, Dax becomes a coach and decides to enter a team in the streetball  tournament called The Rucker Classic.

After a long introduction, Dax ends up without a team and he begrudgingly recruits a local legend, Uncle Drew, to join his roster. Drew, played by Kyrie Irving (just like in the Pepsi ads), then gathers his senior citizen friends including Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie to join the team. The first hour of the film is Dax being introduced to the characters who have a variety of old people problems – one is blind, one is in a wheelchair, one has a grudge against Drew, etc. None of this was interesting and it certainly wasn’t funny. There is even an especially egregious scene where Preacher (Chris Webber) is baptizing an infant and it is swapped out for a doll and then close-ups of the baby in the most awkward ways. I was cringing during the entire scene.

Eventually we get to the big game and it plays out fairly predictably. As I was leaving the theater, a woman was saying, “it was a love letter to basketball,” so clearly the sentiment paid off for her but, as only a marginal basketball fan, I wasn’t moved by the story.

However, the biggest strength to Uncle Drew is the makeup. They do a very good job making Kyrie Irving and company look old. It doesn’t look like prosthetics and feels convincing.

Other than that. Uncle Drew is not for me. The biggest problem is none of the jokes landed. I laughed one time at a joke about the Chris Webber character. That’s it. I realize humor is subjective but my theater had nothing but a few courtesy chuckles. So I wasn’t the only one not laughing.

Also a few characters meant to be funny came across as very irritating. I realize, for example, Nick Kroll is meant to be an antagonist but he was extremely grating as Dax’s rival. More annoying was that ‘humor,’ often in supposed comedies, when characters complaining about each other is supposed to be funny. All that does is make your characters shrill and unlikable. You see this a lot with the nagging female trope; it’s not funny and usually comes across as more than a little sexist. Tiffany Haddish is billed as a lead character but she’s really not in the film much and was an overbearing harpy the entire time. It certainly didn’t make me laugh. 

In fairness, the basketball stars all do a serviceable job with what is given to them. There is a particularly nice moment of reconciliation between Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal that is well done and sweet.

Despite some positives, Uncle Drew just wasn’t funny. It was always an uphill climb to transform a 30 second Super Bowl ad into a feature film but with a good script this could have worked. Sadly, it was a bit of a chore to sit through and one of the worst studio films I’ve seen this year. As they say, “funny solves all” and this was depressingly lacking in funny.

How to Save Jurassic Park

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One of the most impactful moments of my movie-going life occurred when I was 12 years old and saw a little movie called Jurassic Park. I loved it so much I saw it again, and again until I had seen it 7 times in the theater. My young brain was completely caught up in the magic of the great storytelling. I had never seen images like the dinosaurs on the screen. I had never felt such fear, awe, majesty and excitement. It was exhilarating! Even now years later, Jurassic Park still holds up as quite possibly the greatest blockbuster entertainment ever made.

Having loved the first one so much you can imagine my excitement when they announced a sequel and Steven Spielberg would be directing again! This was thrilling! And then I went to the theater and had my first real disappointment. It was cluttered, boring and thoroughly lame.

The rest of the sequels have continued the trend of the Lost World and been very disappointing. The most recent example is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I liked it a little bit better than Jurassic World because the director J.A. Bayona is talented enough to put together some engaging set pieces. However, some plot choices were idiotic and much of the movie the dinosaurs are in cages because that makes sense…

So it begs the question- what would I do to make a better Jurassic movie or is it just a hopeless endeavor? Do you have to get so convoluted trying to get people back to the dinosaurs that it just doesn’t work any more? Well, like I have saved Superman, Alice in Wonderland and Tim Burton I have a proposal to what I think would fix Jurassic Park (BTW the hints at Jurassic World 3 left in Fallen Kingdom sound completely awful so this is strictly a fantasy pitch).

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The group could be kind of similar to the diverse collection of people on the show Lost

My main premise is to take the idea of the Jurassic Park 3 but actually execute it well. You start out with a cruise ship that is shipwrecked onto the Isla Nublar. They have no way of reaching anyone and nothing to do but to try and survive until another ship comes.

Do not have any of the original characters but create new characters that have compelling backstories about why they came on the cruise. You could have a mixture of workers, elites, young singles looking for love etc. You can cast charismatic actors that are fun together and of course you need to have some people who are jerks that can be eaten by the dinosaurs LOL.

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Naturally you are going to want to have lots of dinosaur action and antics but don’t forget to have moments of awe and wonder as well. One big mistake in Jurassic World was killing off all the herbivores so there was no moments to stop and breathe. In Jurassic Park we get a lovely little break where Lexi, Tim and Dr Grant get to pet a brachiosaurus. As an audience we need this moment both as a breather for the characters but to make the dangerous dinosaur moments more chilling and real.

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I would also make it a priority in my movie to create real characters that have meaningful conversations. Sure the dinosaurs are great in Jurassic Park but so are the characters. One of the best moments in the film is when Dr Sattler and John Hammond are eating ice cream and Ellie calls Hammond out on his BS. He is waxing on about his dreams (letting us get to know him) and she basically dope slaps him and says “all that matters is the people that we love”. We learn so much about these characters in one quick scene of dialogue and so we care about them when they face all the action and tension.

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The thing I like about this shipwreck idea is that it wouldn’t require some convoluted reason for them going back to the island and it wouldn’t necessitate some ridiculous excuse for mutant or militarized dinosaurs. It’s just people on an island with dinosaurs trying to survive. That’s enough. That’s all you need. These other sequels have just gotten too stupid for my liking and I can’t deal with it. Jurassic Park was smart! It can be done.

Of course some of the characters would fall to the dinosaurs but eventually a ship would come or they would find some way to signal from the old Park headquarters and be rescued. And as they are being rescued the T-rex would be coming towards them but they zoom away just in time. This would be exciting and a thrilling moment for all involved. Don’t worry about setting things up for a sequel or starting a cinematic universe. Just make a fun monster movie with a good script and it will make tons of money. I know I would LOVE it!

So there you have it. That’s my idea for a Jurassic Park movie. I think almost anyone will agree my idea is at least better than whatever ridiculous nonsense they have planned for Jurassic World 3.

Sigh…What could have been.

How would you save Jurassic Park? And what do you think of my idea? Let me know in the comments section

Blind Spot 30: The Green Mile

When I was trying to think of movies to see for this year’s blind spot picks I remembered a conversation I had with a friend who was shocked I hadn’t seen the 1999 film The Green Mile. It just never appealed to me and came out at a time I wasn’t watching rated R movies. So, the blind spot series was the perfect spot to finally cover this well regarded flick. Unfortunately this is one of those classics that didn’t work for me. I can see why it would work for others but I didn’t care for it.

There is a trope in literature and film called the “magical negro”. This is defined as ” a supporting black stock character in American cinema who is portrayed as coming to the aid of a film’s white protagonists and who often possess mystical powers” Director Spike Lee went on to describe The Green Mile as the “super-duper magical negro” and I certainly agree with him.

The Green Mile is based on a novel by Stephen King and tells the story of a prison warden named Paul Edgecomb played by Tom Hanks who gets a new prisoner named John Coffey played by Michael Clark Duncan. John is on death row for the rape and murder of 2 little girls. He is joined by other prisoners played by Sam Rockwell, Michael Jeter and more.

However, John is no ordinary criminal. He has special powers that can heal and make things last forever (and the lights go out). Paul is even cured of a bladder infection and the wife of one of the prison wardens of a brain tumor.

The strength of The Green Mile definitely lies with its performances. Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan are the particular standouts and Duncan was nominated for an Oscar for his work.

Unfortunately the movie can never shake the uncomfortable and trope-filled premise. I do not understand why they didn’t have the prison block more diverse. This would make it feel more like a person with powers instead of the magic black person sent to be a literal savior for the white people (and of course he doesn’t get saved by them at any time). It’s unfortunate.

Adding to all of this The Green Mile is over 3 hours long and very tedious to watch. Not a whole lot happens and the characters are very unpleasant. At about the 30 minute mark I was ready for this uncomfortable experience to be over. I am sure it is a film made with the best of intentions but it’s just not for me.

Ocean’s 8 Review

In my Most Anticipated Films of 2018 I had the heist film Oceans 8 at my 6th spot. I loved the trailers and felt the gender swap concept made the most sense for a heist film, as many women have all female friends. So, suffice it to say I went into this film with very high expectations, hoping I would love it. Now that I have seen it, it’s a decent film but didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The biggest strength of Oceans 8 is the cast led by Sandra Bullock as the sister to the original film series lead Danny Ocean. She has just been let out of prison and is ready to implement a heist that she has been planning during her incarceration. She recruits Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter and Awkwafina to make her plan work. These women have chemistry and do a good job working effortlessly together.

I also thought once Ocean’s 8 got going with the heist it became fun and enjoyable. The plan could have had a few more hitches the team would need to deal with but it was breezy and sold with class. The fashion and costumes are also top notch and really sell the whole Met Gala heist angle.

Unfortunately there are problems with Oceans 8. Mostly the set up for the heist did not interest me. They had so many scenes with characters huddled together looking at screens. This never works in movies and is a great way to guarantee I will be super bored.  In the original Oceans 11 remake they did a better job setting up for the heist and building up the characters or at least explaining their character archetype within the group.

The other problem I had with Oceans 8 is I hated the score by the usually reliable Daniel Pemberton. It had a lot of organ music, which I felt was extremely strange for this hip modern movie and it was loud, overbearing and distracting. It didn’t fit at all with the film.

So, Oceans 8 ends up being a mixed review for me. There is entertainment to be had, especially once the heist gets going,  and the cast is amazing. However, the setup is a bit of a slog and the score doesn’t work. I’d say it is worth a watch but I was hoping it would be better. Oh well.

Overall Grade B

Pixar 41: Bao

Watching the latest Pixar movie is always a treat but sometimes we get a special bonus of a new Pixar short. I loved the latest Incredibles 2 film and will post my review of that sometime this week, but I thought I would talk about the short that played before it: the delightful Bao.

Much has been talked about Bao being the first Pixar short directed by a woman, Domee Shi. While I think that is great, I worry that it may give the appearance of praise based on the sex of the director rather than the actual quality of the short. Shi is not only a trailblazer but did a tremendous job creating a short that is sweet and heartfelt that any parent (or child for that matter) will be able to relate with.

Bao is an allegorical tale about a woman who struggles with her son growing up and misses the love he used to show her. One day she is making dumplings and to her shock one of the dumplings smiles at her and becomes a type of child to her that grows and makes friends. This dumpling boy is adorable.

As Boa Boy grows the Mother must deal with her own feelings of loneliness and ultimate rejection. Of course, this story is an allegory of her struggles with her actual son (who looks hilariously like Bao Boy). But I don’t think you have to be a parent to relate to her feelings. What person hasn’t struggled with change or felt rejected by a loved one? Everyone goes through tough times and the ending with her and her son was pitch-perfect and very truthful.

Plus, if I was Disney I would have a whole Bao themed restaurant in Disneyland because all of the food looked so delicious. I love bao buns with roasted pork and vegetables in them. Yum! I also love the sweet rolls that become a symbol of forgiveness at the end of the short. They are so good!

I don’t think Bao is one of my all time favorite Pixar shorts but it was definitely in the higher portion. I really enjoyed the watercolor-influenced backgrounds, the adorable character design and the score by Toby Chu.

Bao was sweet and lovely short and in many ways reminded me of Sanjay’s Super Team with its focus on a parent and child relationship. Both are great, and I hope Disney puts a new volume of Pixar shorts out soon so we can watch all of these more recent entries together.

What did you think of Bao? How does it rank for you amongst all the Pixar shorts?

Current Mini Reviews

Hi everyone! I know I’m woefully behind on writing reviews for all of you on what I have been seeing at the cinemas. Honestly all of my free time lately has been taken up with both of my podcasts- Rachel’s Reviews (we just posted our 6th episode of Talking Disney on Big Hero 6) and Hallmarkies (we have been keeping up 3 podcasts a week including amazing interviews like this one I did with film critic William Bibbiani). I am super proud of every last podcast I do and am working hard to continually improve.

I also had the incredible opportunity to interview Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Gromit for rotoscopers.com. You can read the interview here. It was one of those moments where I pinch myself to see if this is actually my life! I actually got Nick Park to say “I’m a clay man myself.” How cool is that?

Anyway all of this is to explain why I am doing one of my classic ‘Current Mini Reviews’ posts. Not because I don’t love some of these movies because I do but I am just running out of time.

Lean on Pete-

Director Andrew Haigh is rapidly becoming one of my favorite current working directors. I loved his film 45 Years from 2015 and I loved his recent film Lean on Pete. It’s a simple movie that some will call boring but I found it to be pure truth. As we see Charley struggle to survive and save a race horse named Pete it is full of devastating moments and great character work. It reminded me of Hell of Highwater and I may even like this better. It’s a movie that has stayed with me and I just keep thinking about it. Charlie Plummer is tremendous in the lead role. If you can find it near you see it. It’s very special.

Smile Worthy

Overboard-

The idea of remaking Overboard is a very suspect one because it is a film that lives and falls on the chemistry and comedic chops of its leads- Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. It starts off a little awkwardly but it becomes a very sweet and funny film about family and unexpected romance. Now they have gender swapped it with Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris and it is not the trainwreck I thought it would be. Derbez, in particular, gets as much as he can out of the material. However, they took out all the funny and replaced it with sincerity which didn’t work. It made it kind of boring and sitcomy. If you are dying to see it then rent it but it’s mostly a skip.

Frown Worthy

Tully-

Tully is kind of a frustrating experience. We actually had the movie crash in the middle of the 2nd act and I was so energetic about the film up until that point. The acting by Charlize Theron and the rest of the cast was phenomenal and the struggles of taking care of an infant very lovingly portrayed. The script by Diablo Cody felt emotionally true and Jason Reitman did a great job with the direction. Unfortunately, they got the movie working again and the last act was a major letdown. Instead of just telling a slice of life, honest story, they have to Hollywoodify it up with a twist that did not work at all for me. I don’t know what is more frustrating a terrible film or a film that gets so close and then skunks it? Darn!

Still it’s worth a watch especially if you are a Mom for the performances alone

A Reluctant Smile Worthy

Won’t You Be My Neighbor-

I actually got to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor for a second time last week. I saw it first at Sundance and then at a special event for the Utah Film Center and the local PBS affiliate KUED’s 60th Birthday! It was a super fun event to be a part of but watching the movie again reminded me how much I love it. I used to watch Mr Rogers Neighborhood growing up and loved it. In the world of Metoo where every famous person seems to have a skeevy dark side to them how great to learn about how genuinely good Fred Rogers was. His crusade to make people feel loved and included is just what we all need right now. Even if you didn’t watch his show I think you will be moved by Fred’s story and the impact of his message.

Smile Worthy

The Rider-

The Rider is an impressive indie directed by Chloé Zhao starring untrained actor Brady Jandreau and his family telling a raw and intimate story loosely based on his life. You feel like a fly on the wall as Brady tries to put his life together after a devastating injury on the rodeo circuit. His real life father and sister try to give him advice as he debates going back to riding or trying to find a new passion where his life won’t be at risk. The cinematography and lighting is superb and Zhao does a great job getting performances out of her cast; however, there was something that kept me from emotionally connecting with the film. Unlike Lean on Pete, I never really cried in The Rider and I’m not sure why. So in the end I admired it more than I liked it but I still would recommend watching it if you get the chance.

Smile Worthy

Upgrade-

I saw Upgrade because I had some time to kill before a free screening and I’d heard good things. It was definitely out of my comfort zone with the violence causing me to close my eyes on several occasions but I think it is good to push outside our comfort zones every now and then. Upgrade has a lot of interesting ideas with a mixture of Ex-Machina and Jason Bourne but the script felt amateurish and didn’t really work for me. It’s the kind of movie where it seems like if it had just one more rewrite it would be great. Still if you love scifi action than you will probably enjoy it.

Meh Worthy (if I have to pick Frown Worthy)

RBG-

I love a good documentary and RBG about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a good one. I disagree with many of her positions personally but it doesn’t mean I can’t admire her tenacity and spirit. I especially loved learning about her long and supportive marriage.

Smile Worthy

TAG-

TAG is an R rated comedy based on a true story about a group of men that have been playing tag for 30 years! Jeremy Renner is the friend who has never been tagged and the men go to try and tag him at his wedding. The trailers for this looked really dumb but I heard good things and it was pretty funny. It is not in the same league as Game Night but it will make you laugh enough to have a good time. It definitely earns its R rating and can be very over-the-top but the men had pretty good chemistry, which helps sell some of the shenanigans. I enjoyed it.

Smile Worthy