Pixar 40: Coco

I know I can hear you guys yelling at your screen ‘finally! She posts her review of Coco!’. It is long overdue, but I wanted to do it right because it is a movie that I loved. In fact, Coco was my favorite movie of 2017, and I saw nearly 150 new releases!

One of the great things that Disney has always done for little kids is help them understand the tough things of life. They have never been a studio that is satisfied to just make kids laugh. They took on themes of death, despair, frustration and anger in movies like Bambi, Dumbo, Lilo and Stitch and more. Pixar has also carried this torch with moving films like Up, Toy Story 3 Inside Out and Finding Nemo. Coco continues this proud tradition by being an important film about forgiveness, family and death. It is honest with children about the struggles of family life while still telling an engaging story with a likable protagonist.

Coco tells the story of a boy named Miguel who wishes to sing more than any thing else. Unfortunately his family is against singing and forbids him from entering a local talent show. On the Dia de los Muertos, Miguel decides to take the guitar from his grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz’s mausoleum to use in the show. This act of theft takes him into the World of the Dead where only his dead relatives can see him. He must get a blessing from a relative in order to return to the living and this is where the majority of our story lies. His dead relatives also hate music and want him to disavow it as part of their blessing. Then Miguel meets a man named Hector who is about to lose his spot in the Land of the Remembered unless his picture is placed on the offrenda.

In some ways Coco is predictable. We know that certain story beats are coming, but I thought they were executed really well and so they still worked for me. For example, when Ernesto proves to not be the person he is praised to be on earth it isn’t surprising but it still works because it feels surprising to Miguel. His response feels so genuine and sweet that it involves you into the story and his journey. I also love the way his relationship with Hector grows in a sweet and authentic way.

One of the things that has always bothered me about Bambi is we have this gut-wrenching scene of Bambi‘s Mother getting shot and then she is never talked about again. This is not a problem with Coco. The whole point of the movie is memories and how memories keep those we love alive in a tangible way. The song Remember Me tells us as much:

Though I have to say goodbye
Remember me
Don’t let it make you cry
For even if I’m far away I hold you in my heart
I sing a secret song to you each night we are apart

Remember me
Though I have to travel far
Remember me
Each time you hear a sad guitar
Know that I’m with you the only way that I can be
Until you’re in my arms again
Remember me

My Grandfather died in 2001 and to this day when I think of him I start to cry. I miss him now as much as I did those many years ago. There was never a person like him in my life and there will never another. When I remember it helps me feel him close by and that our love has power to make my life better.

Honoring and finding out more about our ancestry is something that is also a very important part of my religion so the themes of Coco really rang true for me. Miguel begins to understand this importance as he grows increasingly desperate to save himself and Hector. When he is pleading before Grandma Coco it is one of the most emotional moments I’ve had watching a film in a long time. Please Grandma Coco! Don’t forget!

The artistry in Coco is also phenomenal and I love that they introduced me to a whole new culture. Yes, I have seen The Book of Life but that didn’t feel as immersive in Mexican culture as Coco (partly because it is narrated by a white tour guide…). Everything from the marigold petals to the offrendas was moving, beautiful and interesting.

Fortunately, Coco is also very funny with wonderful skeleton gags that will definitely make you smile along Coco’s cute dog Dante getting into trouble. For people that thought The Good Dinosaur was too drab and Cars 2 was too silly, Coco gets the tone just right making it a joy to watch.

Some of Miguel’s family can be a bit off-putting but I think it is similar to the families in movies like Footloose or Dirty Dancing where they don’t want the children in their lives to grow up and make mistakes. They think they are protecting them when they are actually limiting their joy. This is why Miguel’s victory in the end has added meaning and power. He has come to know for himself who he is and what really matters in life- family, tradition, music and love.

In some ways Coco reminds me of Coraline. Both movies are about young children who must learn to love and forgive their imperfect families and go into a magical world that tempts them to throw off that family. They both must fight for who and what is right (and they are both visually stunning films to boot!). Miguel just like Coraline learns the value of a single human soul and once he understands that he will do anything to save Hector. It’s the connection with the Other that separates us from the animals and this connection continues after death with our memories. This is the message of Coco.

Coco is a triumph in every possible way. The message is beautiful. The animation is stunning. The music is touching. The look at Mexican culture is immersive and wonderful. It’s the last original film we will have from Pixar for a little while, and I am going to treasure it.

Overall Grade- A+

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Current Mini Reviews

I haven’t done one of these mini reviews posts since the end of December so I have a lot of catching up to do. Make sure you are subscribed to my youtube channel because sometimes I review films on there that I don’t talk about on this blog (and vice versa).

The Shape of Water

I finally decided to see The Shape of Water, which I had been reticent to see because of the content, which is pretty strong. In the end, it is a good movie that felt like a fairy tale for men. It has most of the beats of a classic fairy tale but there is a masculine energy to it that was very interesting. Sally Hawkins is fantastic as the lead girl who cannot speak but grows an attachment with a fish creature. Some of the other characters were a bit one note but if you think of them as fairy tale archetypes they make sense.

Overall Grade- B+ 63/147 for 2017 releases

Smile Worthy

Peter Rabbit-

I went into this movie dreading it as the trailers made it look like an assault on my childhood. Going out of it I was pretty neutral. It’s fine and has some marginal entertainment value for kids but it felt very random to me. The characters are inconsistent and go from hero to antagonist and then back again. The jokes are hit and miss. The animation is sometimes impressive and sometimes awful. The music is all over the place like the story. Some parents were upset about an allergy joke, which is understandable but probably blown a bit out of proportion.

Overall Grade- C 18/25  for 2018 releases

Frown worthy barely

Forever My Girl-

I love a good or even silly romantic movie. I have a podcast with my friend Amber where we review all the Hallmark movies and other content each week and it has really taken off. As a bonus I reviewed Forever My Girl for that channel and it’s not a movie I can recommend but I’ve seen worse. Jessica Rothe is a star in the making and shines as the lead girl but the boy played by Alex Roe is too unlikable for too long. He also could use a shower. He didn’t look very attractive for most of the movie which takes away some of the fun of a silly movie like this.

Overall Grade- C 20/25 for 2018 releases

Frown worthy

Phantom Thread-

A very well made movie by Paul Thomas Anderson with good performances; however, I didn’t connect with it. The characters, especially the girl played by Vicky Krieps, were inconsistently written. Sometimes they were loyal and soft-spoken and then other times they were erratic, cruel and boisterous. The music and costumes are superb. I wish the Dressmaker had gotten the attention this got last year because that movie was way more fun with equally amazing fashion.

Overall Grade- C+ 69/147 for 2017 releases

Smile Worthy for performances and style

Faces Places-

Such an adorable documentary that follows an installation artist JR and veteran actress Agnes Varda around France setting up art. I loved the two of them and you learn a lot about Agnes’ life and get little pictures into the people they are doing the art for. I also really liked the art. It was a joy to watch. My only flaw is we don’t learn much about JR which might have been nice to know.

Overall Grade- A 18/147 for 2017 releases

Smile Worthy!

Annihilation-

I walked out of Alex Garland’s film Annihilation very frustrated. It was pretty but kind of a grueling experience and for what? I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was trying to teach me. As Natalie Portman and a group of female scientists go into a mysterious area called ‘the shimmer’ they encounter a lot of pretty lifeforms and horrible life forms. At times it seemed to be commenting on female sexuality. At other times it was about evolution (especially the ending) and how lifeforms mutate. At other times it was about loneliness and the isolation of modern life. All of those things are paid homage to but not explored in a satisfying way. It becomes a creature horror movie but to long and drawn out to be enjoyed on that level. Even if movies like Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival were a little bit obtuse and boring I still had a handle on what the movies were trying to say. Not here. Unfortunately Alex Garland has made a self-indulgent scifi film that is muddled, empty and a bit of a slog.

Overall Grade- C- 16/25 for ranking 2018 releases

Frown worthy

Winchester-

The premise for Winchester has potential and could have made for a creepy haunted house movie but instead it is bland in the extreme. Helen Mirren isn’t even in the movie that much like the poster would make you believe. It’s really boring and not scary in the slightest.

Overall Grade- D- 22/25 for 2018 releases

Frown Worthy

Game Night-

Game Night is a very silly movie but in all the right ways. It’s a very simple comedy about a game night for adults that gets out of hand. With movies like this I have a very simple criteria- did it make me laugh? That’s a comedy’s job, to make me laugh and this did in spades. There is a scene where Jason Bateman tries to clean blood off a dog that had me in stitches. The cast has great chemistry and if you grew up in a competitive family you will be able to relate to it like I did.

Overall Grade- A- 7/25 for 2018 releases

Smile Worthy

The Post-

I was honestly kind of dreading this movie as it looked like it would be super preachy but Steven Spielberg manages to put entertainment value ahead of message to make a fun film. Streep and Hanks are great but the supporting actors are also great and it builds tension well and you really feel for all the characters involved. It perhaps feels a little forgettable but especially compared to the hugely overrated Bridge of Spies The Post is a fun time at the movies. However, it does not hold a candle to the film Spotlight.

Overall Grade- A- 17/147 for 2017 releases

Smile Worthy

Paddington 2-

Anyone who knows me knows how much I adored the first Paddington film and so it is with great joy that I tell you the sequel, Paddington 2, is as good if not better. Both Paddington movies may be the perfect family films.  They are warm, funny, sweet, and extremely warm-hearted. I really can’t imagine disliking Paddington 2. No wonder it has a 100% on Rottentomatoes. I loved Hugh Grant as the villain and all the scenes in the prison with Brendan Gleason. I swear they could screen Paddington 2 as cures for depression. It just makes you feel good about the world.

Overall Grade- A+ 1/25 for 2018 releases (US releases that is)

Smile Worthy

The Commuter

I’m not sure if it is just I haven’t seen a lot of these Liam Neeson action movies but I felt way more positive about this than the general consensus. The Commuter is a tightly edited, engaging thriller. It was well shot and clipped along quite nicely. Neeson is great in the role and it never got too silly. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Overall Grade- B+ 6/25 for 2018 releases

Smile Worthy

Have a Nice Day-

I reviewed this film for rotoscopers.com and it is a visually inventive animated film. Director Liu Jian brings a comic book sensibility to a crime movie with mixed results. There are creative moments but the characters are thin and the story is cliched. Also crime movies just aren’t my cup of tea. However, if you like crime movies than you might enjoy this because it is different and unique.

Overall Grade- C+ 105/146 for 2017 releases

Personally Frown Worthy but if you like the genre give it a shot

Moomins and the Winter Wonderland-

I reviewed this for rotoscopers.com. An adorable animated film out of Scandanavia about the Moomins fixing things to get ready for Christmas. They used old stop motion animation and created a new story in a very clever way. I love the vintage style and the vocal performances all are sweet. It’s probably best for small kids who like Winnie the Pooh and characters like that. Very innocent and sweet.

Overall Grade- B+ 61/147 for 2017 releases

Smile Worthy

So there you have it! Follow me on the Stardust app at smilingldsgirl and on letterboxd to get more small reviews right after I see films.

What did you guys think of these films? Let me know in the comments section.

2018 Oscars Who Will and Should Win

The big night for movie lovers is coming up this Sunday with the Academy Awards announcing their Oscar winners. I honestly find it a pretty underwhelming group with a bunch of movies I like but don’t love and won’t likely to remember long.

I am notoriously terrible at predicting the Oscars but it’s always fun to give it a try. Last year I tried to research and see what was trending and almost every time I went against my gut it failed. So this year I thought I would try a different strategy and not over-think it too much.

That said I will still give you what I think should and will win in each category.

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

Shape of Water

3 Billboards

What will win- 3 Billboards unfortunately…

What should win- Get Out (it’s only one of these nominees that I love)

Best Director

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Jordan Peele for Get Out

Greta Gerwig forLady Bird Review Lady Bird

Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread

Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

What will win- Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

What should win- Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Best Lead Actor

Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name

Daniel Day Lewis for Phantom Thread

Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out

Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington for Roman J Israel Esq (haven’t seen)

What will win- Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour

What should win- Daniel Day Lewis for Phantom Thread

Best Lead Actress

Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand for 3 Billboards

Margot Robbie for I Tonya

Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird

Meryl Streep for The Post

What will win- Frances McDormand for 3 Billboards

What should win- Sally Hawkins for Shape of Water

Best Supporting Actor

William Defoe for The Florida Project (haven’t seen)

Woody Harrelson for 3 Billboards

Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water

Christopher Plummer for All the Money in the World

Sam Rockwell for 3 Billboards

I’m honestly not a huge fan of any of these performances but…

What will win- Sam Rockwell for 3 Billboards

What should win- Richard Jenkins for Shape of Water

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J Blige for Mudbound (haven’t seen)

Allison Janney for I Tonya

Lesley Manville for Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer for Shape of Water

What will win- Allison Janney for I Tonya

What should win- Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird

Animated Feature

The Boss Baby

The Breadwinner

Coco

Ferdinand

Loving Vincent

What will win- Coco

What should win- Coco or The Breadwinner

Animated Short

Dear Basketball

Garden Party

Lou

Negative Space

Revolting Rhymes

What will win- Dear Basketball

What should win- Lou

Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name

The Disaster Artist

Logan (haven’t seen)

Molly’s Game (haven’t seen)

Mudbound (haven’t seen)

What will win- Call Me By You Name

What should win- Disaster Artist

Original Screenplay

The Big Sick

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Shape of Water

3 Billboards

What will win- Get Out

What should win- The Big Sick

Best Documentary

I’ve only seen one of these films Faces Places

Abacus

Faces Places

Icarus

Last Man in Aleppo

Strong Island

What will win- Faces Places

What should win- Faces Places

Sound Editing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

What will win- Dunkirk

What should win- Baby Driver

Sound Mixing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: the Last Jedi

What will win- Dunkirk

What should win- Dunkirk

Production Design

Beauty and the Beast

Blade Runner 2049

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

What will win- Blade Runner 2049

What should win- Blade Runner 2049

Best Score

Dunkirk by Hans Zimmer

Phantom Thread by Jonny Greenwood

The Shape of Water by Alexandre Desplat

Star Wars: the Last Jedi by John Williams

3 Billboards by Carter Burwell

What will win- The Shape of Water by Alexandre Desplat

What should win- Phantom Thread by Jonny Greenwood

Original Song

Mighty River from Mudbound

Mystery of Love from Call Me By Your Name

Remember Me from Coco

Stand Up for Something from Marshall

This is Me from The Greatest Showman

What will win- This is Me from the Greatest Showman

What should win- Remember Me from Coco

Make Up and Hair

Darkest Hour

Victoria and Abdul

Wonder

What will win- Darkest Hour

What should win- Darkest Hour

Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast

Darkest Hour

Mark Bridges

The Shape of Water

Victoria and Abdul

What will win- Phantom Thread

What should win- Phantom Thread

Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

Kong: Skull Island

Star Wars: the Last Jedi

War for the Planet of the Apes

Who will win- War for the Planet of the Apes

Who should win- War for the Planet of the Apes

Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049 for Roger Deakins

Darkest Hours for Bruno Delbonnel

Dunkirk for Hoyt van Hoytema

Mudbound for Rachel Morrison

The Shape of Water for Dan Laustsen

Who will win- Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049

Who should win- Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Documentary Short

I haven’t seen the nominees but I will go with Heroin(e) for my guess for winner.

Best Live Action Short

I haven’t seen the nominees but I will go with The Silent Child for my guess for winner

 

Best Foreign Language Film

I haven’t seen the nominees but I will go with A Fantastic Woman for my guess for winner

 

So there you have it! That is my Oscar ballot. We will see how things shake out but I really don’t care that much because very few of the films I liked in 2017 are being celebrated. It’s a pretty boring, bland group of nominees if you ask me.

My friend Conrado and I did a podcast on the nominees you might find interesting

Best and Worst Movies of 2017

Happy New Year!  I was going to wait until I saw The Post to do my best of the year movie list but I had time tonight and decided I will post my current list here on the blog and then do my list on my youtube channel later in the month. I have already done my worst of the year list over on my channel so I will include that below.

I saw an amazing 141 releases in 2017. The Moviepass has a lot to do with this as I could see a movie every single day for a very small cost per month. I highly recommend checking it out. (I get nothing for this. Just a shout out because it has been so great in my life).

As great as all these movies were the thing I am most grateful for is the people they have brought into my life. Whether it is all you lovely readers, or people I have collaborated with on my podcast, or dear friends I have made going to see films it has been amazing. I sincerely feel like I have a network of friends both in Utah and across the world and it is all because of a shared love of film. That is pretty special and I am so grateful.

Cheers to 2018 and thank you for being a part of my life and reading my nonsense.

So here goes my best of 2017:

1. Coco- I loved everything about this film. The animation was stunning. The story swept me up and I emotionally connected with Miguel and Hector. The ending destroyed me but in the best kind of way. I loved the songs and being introduced to a new culture. It was stunning.  By the way, I promise I will post an in-depth analysis of Coco like I have done with all Pixar films. I have not had the time to see it a second time and do it in the way it deserves. Here is my youtube review2. STEP– I saw STEP in January at Sundance on my birthday and it blew me away then and it continues to do so now. It’s the very best of what movies can do.  Not just a documentary but a profile of hope for the future. It’s about these girls of Baltimore and the leaders who won’t give up on them. It’s not about dance. It’s about the goodness of real people, and I just love it.

3. Wonder Woman- Every time I see this movie it makes me weep. Not just cry. Full on weeping. I will be the first to admit it has flaws but none that matter. To me it is the story of a God who becomes acquainted with the frailty of mankind and how quickly we are to be cruel to each other. That realization is devastating and yet Diana does not lose hope. I love Steve Trevor and Diana. I love the side characters. I love the music. No Man’s Land is amazing. It’s my favorite superhero movie with the exception of maybe The Incredibles and it is very dear to me.

4. Personal Shopper- I admit Personal Shopper is an odd pick for me because it does have strong nudity but in a clinical more than a sensual nature. However, it blew me away with its character development and storytelling. It is part thriller, part mystery, part spiritual journey, and a million other things. Director Olivier Assayas has created a masterwork with perfect sound design, editing and a story that keeps you guessing. Kristen Stewart is heart breaking in the role of Maureen and you felt her grieving for her twin brother as the world spins around her in a way she can’t grasp on to. It’s by far the best acting I’ve seen all year and a movie I could watch 100 times and still see something new from.

5. A Silent Voice– I admit A Silent Voice is a tough sell for non-anime fans. It’s long and very steeped in Japanese mannerisms and conversation. But this is my list, and I loved it. Director Naoko Yamada has made a stunning film about a bully and his victim that connect years later and find an unexpected bond. The music is by far the best of the year. The animation is beautiful and the humanity she finds in both characters is so moving. There is one sequence in particular where Shouya rescues Nishimiya that takes my breath away.

My friend Christine and I did a podcast on this film that you should check out.

6. The Big Sick– The script for The Big Sick is without a doubt the best of the year. You can feel the closeness to the story that Kumail and Emily had in writing it. It’s heartfelt without being cloying. It’s funny without being annoying, and it’s a romantic comedy that isn’t crass or mean-spirited. Imagine that! Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are two of the best supporting performances of the year in roles that could easily be shrill and unlikable. I loved what the film had to say about religion and those who decide to stray. It honestly helped me understand people I love better and that is when movies have power.

7. The Girl Without Hands- Isn’t it amazing we still live in a world where one man can produce an animated film basically by himself? Sebastian Laudenbach did just that with The Girl Without Hands, and he created something stunning. It’s a piece of poetry at the cinemas with the words, images and music flowing along until you can’t help but be swept up.  His take on this Brothers Grimm fairytale is dark, romantic, and yet still hopeful. It was a stunning experience at the movies.

8. Ingrid Goes West- I love movies that have layers- that I see and its meaning and value keep growing as I think about them. Ingrid Goes West is such a film. On one level it is a satisfying film about social media addiction but that’s just the surface. When you dig deeper it’s about the loneliness of modern life and how poorly we are at providing resources for those facing a mental health crisis. All the acting is superb and the script feels authentic to its characters.

9. Get Out- Another movie with layers that I kept thinking about for days after I saw it. I initially gave it a B+ but would be higher now as it has really stuck with me. It can be enjoyed on a surface level as a horror comedy but it is also a commentary on those who think we are a post-racist society. As a conservative I thoroughly enjoyed smug liberals being finally put to the fire and called out on their nonsense. I also thought the alternate reality that African-Americans are forced to live in was beautifully displayed. The auction scene alone I could think about for weeks!

10. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion- For a long time I had Baahubali 2 as 12th on my list, but as I was finalizing the order it didn’t sit right. What other movie introduced me to a whole new world of cinema? (The debate was between this and Brigsby Bear which I connected strongly with). None opened my mind more than the madness of Baahubali 2! Sure it is exorbitantly long and silly but that’s part of the charm. It’s is over the top and bombastic in ways that US corporate planned blockbusters never are these days, and I loved every minute of it. I love the music, insane violence, and torrid romance. It’s a spectacle like none other.

Honorable Mentions:

11. Brigsby Bear- such heart and a lovely story it pains me to not be in the top 10. All about the magic of the creative process to save us

12. Dunkirk- probably the best experience I’ve had at the theater in 2017. A chance to get immersed in a moment of history. More of a reenactment than a narrative, and I was ok with that.

13. The Man Who Invented Christmas- destined to have a spot in my annual holiday viewing. It checked off so many of my boxes I had to mention it. A joy to watch!

14. The Breadwinner- beautiful animated film that combined a relevant story with stunning fantasy sequences. Heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. Over at Rotoscopers.com I led a group of writers to do a 5 part series on this film from all different angles I’m very proud of. My friend Conrado and I did a podcast on it that was a lot of fun.

15. Thor Ragnarok- This is probably the most rewatchable of any on this list. It was a blast and so funny!

16. The Greatest Showman- an old fashioned family musical that I love the more I think about it. I do not care in the slightest that it isn’t historically accurate. It’s a joyful experience that I have seen twice and am itching to see again.

My worst of the year you can find here:

  1. The Glass Castle
  2. Spark a Space Tail
  3. The Emoji Movie
  4. Pottersville
  5. The Dark Tower
  6. Pitch Perfect 3
  7. Transformers: The Last Knight
  8. The Book of Henry
  9. The Circle
  10. Beatriz at Dinner
  11. Gifted
  12. Lady Macbeth
  13. King Arthur and the Legend of the Sword

(Not all are badly made but all irritated me or were terrible to me in one way or another)

Current Mini Reviews

I, Tonya

The performances are very strong from Margot Robbie and Allison Janney and deserve nominations, but I had mixed feelings on I, Tonya. On one hand it is interesting to hear another side of such a famous story but the style of the movie felt a little too silly for the narrative it was telling. It was unique but felt unfair and superficial to all involved especially Nancy. You can’t humanize a somewhat notorious character by making her struggles a joke.

Grade- B-

Smile Worthy for the Performances

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

I don’t have much nostalgia for the original Jumanji film, so I was able to go into this sequel with an open mind. In the end, I was entertained by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The movie gets a lot of material by mixing up the genders of the characters in the movie and it is pretty funny. The special effects are great and it was overall a fun family film. The middle dragged a bit for me and I got a little sleepy is my only complaint. It does have a few inappropriate jokes involving the gender swapping parents should be aware of.

Grade B+

Smile Worthy

Batman and Harley Quinn

This is an absolutely appalling movie where a man is raped as a joke and Harley Quinn proves to be one of the most annoying characters in recent memory. It is awful

Grade- F

Frown Worthy

Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

Very sweet animated shorts that will make the entire family laugh. The animation is a sketchy style but very pleasant and it stays strictly G rated fun. I particularly liked the final short which is holiday themed

Grade- B+

Smile Worthy

Call Me By Your Name

This film has gotten a lot of Oscar buzz with good cause as it is very beautifully filmed. The Italian countryside never looked better! Call Me By Your Name tells the story of a young man who falls in love with an older man played by Armie Hammer. I think this movie suffered a bit for me in comparison to Moonlight, which I think was a lot stronger. Moonlight has something anyone can relate to in the different parts of Chiron’s life. Here I struggled to relate to the lifestyle of these rather pedantic expats living in Italy. However, Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer are great and have wonderful chemistry together. I enjoyed the leisurely pace and the great writing by James Ivory. It’s a good movie. Just not as good as Moonlight.

The sensuality is very strong in here so you’ve been warned.

Grade- B+

 

Smile WorthyBattle of the Sexes

I don’t have many complaints about Battle of the Sexes. It’s a perfectly fine true story sports movie with some good performances. It tells the story of Billie Jean King and Bobby Rigg’s iconic tennis match in a satisfying but by the numbers way. Nothing really stood out to me and I had the feeling I will quickly forget it, but it’s fine.

Some strong sensuality in here also

Grade- B-

Smile Worthy

Sword Art Online: The Movie

As someone who has never seen the anime show it was a little confusing at times but Sword Art Online was pretty entertaining. I really like the set up and the world-building. The animation was great and the action was awesome. The female characters were a little weak. The pacing in between action scenes could drag but it was a worthwhile anime to watch

Grade- B

Smile Worthy

Ferdinand

This latest offering from Blue Sky is a harmless sweet animated film. It is certainly worlds better than the trailers demonstrated. I liked Ferdinand and how there really was no villain just characters with different points of view. The humor, especially the calming goat, was mostly good and overall it is enjoyable. The main problem is it feeling very played out and generic. I loved the music by John Powell with songs by Nick Jonas

GRADE B-

Smile Worthy 

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children-

I reviewed this for rotoscopers.com and it was a challenging film to review. It’s worth seeing for the visuals but it is a very strange movie. The characters are uber-cute but the settings and events are very violent and disturbing. It was intriguing but the lack of narrative was challenging. I admire it more than I like it but I’m glad I saw it

Grade- C+

Barely Smile Worthy for the Artistry

Disaster Artist

A very heartfelt and sweet movie about the making of the worst movie ever made- The Room. James Franco becomes Tommy Wiseau in every way and Dave Franco is also good as Greg Sestero. It’s a funny and engaging look at the power of creating something even if it is terrible. It’s no Ed Wood as far as filmmaking but I was entertained.

There is some nudity and language in this film

Grade- A-

Smile Worthy

The Mountains Between Us

This is a very dopey romantic survival story. Good thing for this movie is I like dopey romantic survival stories. It was just silly and fun enough to be entertaining. It’s not a good movie but I enjoyed watching it. It does make you wonder how 2 such quality actors got stuck in this film?

Grade- C+

Smile Worthy but I admit it isn’t a great film

Man Who Invented Christmas-

This checked off a lot of boxes for me. I love Christmas Carol. I love Dickens. I love British stories. I love this whole cast. I love Christmas movies. So it didn’t have to do much to win me over so it succeeded in doing just that. I loved the performances of Dan Stevens as Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Scrouge. I loved seeing the process behind the writing of Christmas Carol with them diving into his past and father at points. This is totally a  film I plan on buying and watching each year for the holidays.

Grade- A

Smile Worthy

So overall a pretty successful month of movie going! What have you seen? How would you rank these films? Put in the comments section. If I have time I will do longer reviews for these and will definitely be reviewing Greatest Showman and Coco eventually on this blog. Some like Ferdinand and The Disaster Artist I’ve reviewed on my youtube channel. Check those reviews out and make sure you are subscribed to this blog and the channel.

Merry late Christmas!

Pottersville Review

There are some movies that defy description. That you watch and then sit in stunned silence after wondering what you have just witnessed. This year’s Pottersville is such a film. As someone who watched 35 Hallmark original Christmas movies this year as well as films on Ion, Up and other questionable networks, Pottersville is the worst holiday film of the year and one of the worst I’ve ever seen. There is some argument to be made for ‘so bad it’s good’ entertainment but right now I’m just baffled by it and even more baffled that so many great people cosigned to be in it. It’s a festive train-wreck that must be seen to be believed.

Let’s start off with the fact that one of the great actors working today, Michael Shannon, leads this film. He stars as Maynard Greiger a simple general store manager who goes home one day to find out his wife has become a furry because country life is boring. Let that sentence sink in…

I have no problem with furries to be honest. Whatever people like to do in their free time is fine with me but the way this movie uses them is so weird and mocking in tone but then sincere is perplexing to say the least. They somehow got Christina Hendricks and Ron Perlman to play the furries! What on earth?

The devastated Maynard then decides to spice up his life by dressing up and becoming Bigfoot, which sends the town into a flutter. I repeat- what on earth? (And he drinks from a pee fountain at one point).

Then Thomas Lennon shows up as Brock Masterson, host of a Bigfoot hunting reality show and it is so bizarre. He flails about the forest with a bad Australian accent and it seems like he should be a crazy person but he’s not. He’s just in this movie. There is one scene with him defecating outside while talking to one of his producers that goes on forever. The attempts at physical, mad-cap comedy are so bad it defies description. I just couldn’t believe this is a thing that was made by top tier talent?

There is also the Christmas aspects to the film, which are bizarre. Like how about the many references to It’s a Wonderful Life? Because that’s the first movie I think of when making a list of silly holiday comedies. Also the ever-present strange holiday soundtrack that is surprisingly traditional for such an anarchist movie. And I’ve seen about 10 ‘save the ____’ Christmas movies this year but this expects you to feel warm and fuzzy about this ‘Bigfoot’ sighting literally saving the town when its dilapidated town mill becomes a tourist attraction. What on earth?

Pottersville is one of those movies that is very difficult to rank because it is so bad it is fascinating and must be seen by all. Do I rank this over a mediocre bad movie like The Emoji Movie? Pottersville is worse than Emoji Movie but it is worse in more interesting ways. People were trying to make a holiday classic and it failed spectacularly where nobody was really trying to make a great movie with Emoji.

The only thing I can think to compare it with is last year’s 9 Lives but this is even stranger narratively. I just don’t know what to say or how to adequately describe this film.

It is available on Netflix so watch it for yourself and see what epically bad movies can achieve.

By the way check out my podcast on Hallmark movies I’ve been doing with my friend Amber. I’m super proud of it.

Pitch Perfect 3 Review (Some Spoilers)

Let me start by saying to most people Pitch Perfect 3 is just a lame comedy but to me it hurt my heart quite a bit. I don’t have many live action comedies I like these days. Most are so vulgar and obscene that I don’t even bother seeing them let alone loving them. However, the original Pitch Perfect was an exception to this rule. It was funny, empowering and had some great music, and I loved it so much.

I went to a college where acapella music was kind of a big deal, so that music will always be nostalgic for me, but even beyond that nostalgia these girls were good singers, and the arrangements were creative. I also loved the characters particularly Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy who wasn’t just a fat joke but owned who she was and was hilariously self-confident. Anyway, I loved the first movie and it will always be special to me.

And then there was the second movie, which I probably gave more of a pass to than I should have. It had just enough funny parts but it was a decent step down in quality. Of course, it made a ton of money so we all knew there would be a Pitch Perfect 3 . Honestly, the resulting film is not a pretty scene you guys.

Pitch Perfect 3 kind of sucks and it makes me really sad.

The cast of the Bellas are all back and they are all trying. There is chemistry there and some of the singing is good (but a little boring this time). The problem is the plot is super weak and it’s not funny at all. I don’t know what they were thinking with this story. I felt embarrassed for these actors especially John Lithgow who should be banned from Australia with the accent he tries to pull off.

Basically the Bellas reunite and go on a USO tour which is also a competition for some rapper. Most of that is very boring with terrible jokes sprinkled in usually about how fat Amy is. Fat Amy has gone from empowering to a complete joke. Then in a completely baffling second act the girls get abducted and Fat Amy becomes an action hero taking out bad guys with karate chops. I just sat there thinking ‘what have you done with my sweet little comedy?”

All of the relationships from the previous films are abandoned except for the Bellas and Becca (Anna Kendrick) immediately abandons her dreams of producing music because pop stars are difficult to work with- what the heck? There was never any sense of her wanting to be a solo singer or that being a dream of hers in the previous films. Literally she doesn’t even want to join the bellas because it will detract from her producing work.

But all of that wouldn’t matter if it was funny but the humor was insultingly bad. They don’t even get any laughs from Gail and John commentating. It just sucks. My advice is to buy the album and listen to a few songs and watch the first movie again. Pitch Perfect 3 deserves to be pitched in the trash. To use a pun from the movie- it is acaterrible.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review (Some Spoilers)

So I’m told a little movie came out this week? You might have heard of it- Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This latest edition in the Star Wars saga has pleased most people and critics while disappointing a small, yet always with the internet, vocal minority. So, what do I think you ask? Well, I think it is the first Star Wars movie to 100% embrace its fantasy origins, and I liked it fine. I guess I’m somewhere in between masterpiece and worst movie ever- as most films are. Let’s put it this way- it’s no Force Awakens, but I was entertained enough (ps. I love the Force Awakens. I think outside of Wonder Woman it is one of the most rousing, fun blockbusters in recent memory).

I guess the problems with the Last Jedi didn’t bother me like some people because I have already dealt with a disappointing film in Rogue One and came out of it still loving the franchise. I think Last Jedi is a step up from Rogue One in pretty much every way but it does have some of its problems (and some new ones all its own).

Let’s talk about it:

In Force Awakens we left Rey meeting Luke on the island of Ahch-To, and that’s where things pick up for her in Last Jedi. She wants to be trained by Luke and recruit him to help the rebellion but he is not interested. Luke is a confusing character in this film. Much like Saw Gerrera in Rogue One I felt the screenplay couldn’t quite decide if he was a monster or a hero. It swung a lot, which was more frustrating than intriguing.  Mark Hammil is up for the challenge of the role and does a great job but it was confusing. I hope repeated viewings will clarify that character arc for me.

The best part of The Last Jedi by far is the performance of Daisy Ridley as Rey and her interactions with Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. I was nervous about this from the trailer but it completely worked for me. I never would have thought those characters would have had such chemistry, but I was honestly rooting for both of them. The energy and connection between them was palpable and really worked.  We also learn things about Rey that I have no doubt disappointed fanboys with their elaborate theories, but I thought it was cool. It’s very impressive that director Rian Johnson was able to move me from hating the killer of Han Solo to rooting for the guy!

At the same time Rey is having her adventure several other plotlines are going on. We get more information about Poe Dameron and find out that he operates on gut instinct, which can be both admirable and reckless. General Leia is concerned about his behavior and even demotes him. This is great because we see both the strength of Leia and the loyal, fearsome nature of Poe. Oscar Isaac has charisma in spades and is so great as Poe. I could have watched him all day.

Finn is back from Force Awakens and is joined by a new character named Rose who challenges his lack of loyalty to the Resistance (at times the modern resist messaging felt a little heavy handed). The two of them are sent to a planet by Maz Kanata to try and find a code breaker who can help them disable a First Order tracking device. I liked these characters but it is probably the weakest part of the film. I didn’t hate it as much as some but it was weak. I loved scenes in this section of children playing with dolls and telling each other the story of the Rebellion. This is the true essence of Star Wars- inspiring young kids to be better and dream more.

There is also action in Last Jedi that should make any Star Wars fan happy. A couple of light saber battles in particular are exhilarating. Rey and Kylo face off against Supreme Leader Snoke and my jaw was on the floor. It was awesome (I’m telling you anything with those two was amazing. Note to Lucasfilm- don’t abandon that pairing!).

BB8 returned and was completely adorable once again. Some may call it fan service but I don’t care. I thought it was delightful. Also C-3PO and R2D2 were used more effectively in this film than in The Force Awakens.

The last act of Last Jedi has some problems and makes confusing choices but it still entertained me. I didn’t care for Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo and felt her dialogue was very clunky. It reminded me of the prequels to be honest. I also felt that she took away moments of strength that Leia should have had. I also felt the way things finish for Luke should have been the ending for Leia. It was emotional to say goodbye to Leia for sure, but I don’t know if the movie really allowed me to say goodbye the way I hoped.

The biggest issue for me with Last Jedi is like I said the full embrace of fantasy over science fiction. There is literally a scene where a character uses the force to stay alive in space and float/fly back to a ship remaining alive. I used to see the force as more of a priesthood than a super power. It was the kind of strength the prophets of the Bible had which allowed them to part seas and destroy evil idols. However, it did not allow them to fly or go unharmed into blaster fire or combat. In Rogue One we saw the force being used as a super power and this has continued in abundance in Last Jedi.

In the end, with Last Jedi it comes down to what you like from Star Wars. My favorite was always the original Star Wars (now coined ‘A New Hope’) because it was a rousing space adventure that made you cheer at the end.  This is why I loved Force Awakens so much. It was tightly paced and edited with a true heroes journey that inspired me.

However, if you love Star Wars for the world building, mythos and lore than Last Jedi will be more up your ally. I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing it again but it was a more challenging watch than I anticipated. It’s messy and long but if I was a big fantasy person I would probably love it, flaws and all. I will keep pondering particularly Luke’s journey and my grade may rise over time but for now I give the Last Jedi:

Overall Grade- B-

PS- I am more grateful than ever before we have JJ Abrams coming back for the final episode of this trilogy to end it off on a rousing fun note!

Most Disappointing Films of 2017

Hey guys! So before a whole bunch of busy holiday releases I thought I would share with all of you my first 2017 end of the year list. I plan on doing a bunch of videos/posts to end of the year, so let me know what topics you would like to see. Today’s topic is My Top 10 Biggest Disappointments in 2017.

My Most Biggest Disappointments of 2017 (have to watch to find out why!)

Honorable Mentions- The Beguiled, The Mummy, The Zookeeper’s Wife

10. Dark Tower

9. Victoria and Abdul

8. Murder on the Orient Express

7. Home Again

6. Lego Ninjago

5. Kong Skull Island

4. Loving Vincent

3. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

2. Sherlock

  1. Anne with an E