Current Mini Reviews

As many of you know I have been hard at work watching every Christmas movie of 2018 (over 50 new releases already!) for my Hallmarkies Podcast. However, that does not mean I am slacking off on the regular releases. I’m doing the best I can to fit them in as well. I am also still doing monthly obscure animation and Talking Disney over on my other podcast Rachel’s Reviews. We just posted one talking all about Mary Poppins I think you will enjoy.

Anyway, I thought it was about time for another one of my Current Mini Reviews post where I catch you up on the quick thoughts on recent films I’ve seen. Obviously this will not include films like Ralph Breaks the Internet where I have a full written review. Let me know your thoughts on these in the comments section.

widows

Widows

With such an amazing cast and a great director like Steve McQueen it is difficult to go into Widows without very high expectations and maybe that is part of my problem. While I certainly didn’t hate Widows, I found it kind of frustrating. The writing for the characters isn’t deep enough to be a compelling drama and the heist isn’t fun enough to be an engaging heist movie. Instead it is some pretty camera work and good acting that doesn’t have much to say and was a little plodding. I also thought the lighting on the women didn’t do them any favors. It seemed to me it was being shot to take away their femininity and make them look pasty and ugly which is a very strange choice for these stunning women. Even the love scenes felt very masculine and strange. I guess that could be interesting but it didn’t work for me.

Frown Worthy but other people love it so I guess decide for yourself

93 out of 135

christmas chronicles

The Christmas Chronicles-

Netflix has stepped up their Christmas game this year and Christmas Chronicles is a really fun entry from them. Starring Kurt Russell as a kick butt, cool Santa who ends up taking care of 2 kids who have lost their father. It was funny and had a nostalgic charm to it. Some of the bits go on a little too long and the thugs are a bit too violent for my liking but it’s a lot of fun. I also thought the elves were adorable.

Smile Worthy

43 out of 135

creed2

Creed 2

While not as fancy as the first Creed film I really enjoyed Creed 2. I enjoyed all the storylines between Adonis and his fiance and him and Rocky. The match-up with the Dragos really worked and I honestly didn’t know who was going to win the final boxing match (and I would have been happy with either winning which is tough to do in a boxing movie). I guess it doesn’t reinvent the boxing genre but what it does it executes very well. I think it’s a little underrated for this year.

Smile Worthy

19 out of 135

mirai

Mirai-

2018 hasn’t had as many indies and anime films as some years but Mirai is certainly one of the standouts. It’s a very simple movie from Mamoru Hosoda about a little boy struggling to adapt to a new sister in the house. Through a series of magical realism events he learns about his family and that he is loved and it is thoroughly adorable. The animation is so fun and the message sweet it really works. It reminded me a little bit of Takahata’s Only Yesterday, which I love.

Smile Worthy

16 out of 135

power of usPokemon: The Power of Us-

Last year we got a reboot of the Pokemon series with Pokemon: I Choose You and this year we get The Power of Us and fortunately both are solid entries in the series. I Choose You has more stunning animation but the plot in The Power of Us is less convoluted. Either way, I enjoyed both. If you are a fan you have to see it!

Smile Worthy

68 out of 135

green book

Green Book-

I love stories about friendship and Green Book is a great example of how to do it right. Both men obviously have racial differences but they have many other differences including class, sexuality, tastes and everything else. I thought it was great seeing the 2 overcome their differences and become friends through their road trip. Some people are mad at this movie for not starting a movement or telling the entire black experience. That’s not what it was trying to do. It was just portraying this one friendship and it did a great job. I love both lead performances and the script is excellent. Loved it.

Smile Worthy

9 out of 135

everyday

Every Day-

Every Day has an intriguing premise that probably works better as a book than a movie but I still enjoyed this YA film. The idea is our young girl meets a boy who wakes up each day in the body of another person for just that day. Naturally this makes having a relationship difficult but the overall message about loving who a person is rather than their outward appearance is a good one and all the acting is sincere and sweet. In the world of dopey YA films, this is a solid entry.

Smile Worthy

56 out of 135

instant family

Instant Family-

In Instant Family director Sean Anders tells his own story about when he and his wife adopted 3 siblings and the challenges/blessings that went along with that. This film is easy to disregard if you are only paying attention to the trailers with pratfalls and cheap humor but I loved it. It doesn’t shy away from how hard adoption and foster care can be but the emotional sections really worked for me. I was balling when I left the theater. I mean ugly, got to compose myself, kind of tears. These kids are out there and they need to be loved but they can be so hard to love. I liked all the performances and when the credits showed the Anders family and all the other adoption and foster care families involved in the film I lost it. It’s really good.

Smile Worthy

12 out of 135

the grinch

The Grinch-

Illumination Studios is the junk food of animation. They provide commercially appealing, brightly colored films that make a lot of money and are instantly forgotten. Such is the case with The Grinch. It’s not awful like their previous attempt with Seuss, The Lorax, but it’s just super bland and lacking in creativity. None of the jokes landed for me and they change the message from Christmas doesn’t come from a store into loneliness is bad, which is a definite downgrade. It has some nice traditional carols in the soundtrack and there’s nothing offensive about it. It’s just super mediocre and bland.

Frown Worthy

90 out of 135

 

tea with the dames

Tea with the Dames-

If you are an anglophile like myself you have to check out the documentary Tea with the Dames. It’s very simple. They just gather Dame Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith together to talk about their careers and lives. They have some naughty language and can be very catty but it’s all delightful. It will make you want to call your old friends and catch up.

Smile Worthy

30 out of 135

butterflies

Butterflies-

I actually saw this Turkish film at Sundance but I thought I would give you my thoughts really quick. Butterflies is about 3 estranged siblings who have to journey to bury their recently deceased father. What follows is a bit of a dark comedy with some poignant moments between the very good lead actors and some hilarious bits. I particularly died laughing every time a set of chickens meets their maker (I won’t spoil it for you but it was LOL).

Smile Worthy

24 out of 135

robin hood

Robin Hood-

I was hoping this would be a silly action movie but I don’t know what they were thinking with this disastrous adaptation of the classic story. Almost every choice from the accents, to the action, to the special effects are terrible. I knew it was going to be really bad when the opening sequence is a long Medieval take on American Sniper...Every performance is either bland or way over the top and the story is so dumb. It’s violent and yet the script expects you to care about these ridiculous characters….

Frown Worthy

128 out of 135

Robin Hood is the worst of this grouping and Green Book is the best! Some fun times at the movies. Let me know what you think!

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Movie 57: Ralph Breaks the Internet (Spoilers)

(This is the podcast Stanford and I did on the film and we were on the same page with it)

Anyone who has followed this blog since its start knows I am not as high on Wreck-It Ralph as most of the Disney fandom is. I think it is a harmless movie but not one of the greats as I often hear claimed. It gets stuck in Sugar Rush too long and the plot becomes fairly pedestrian. Naturally I was very worried when I heard they were making a rare canon sequel (only 2nd non-package film sequel) and even more concerned when it was all going to be online.

One of my issues with the original is it doesn’t fulfill the promise it makes to explore the arcade and see lots of worlds. Now for the sequel, they would be leaving the arcade all together for the internet? This seemed like a terrible idea and my worries grew stronger when I saw the Princess clip at D23 in 2017. I was also worried that the humor would be too Shrekian and based on parody as opposed to satire and story-based.

However, I always go into any film with an open mind, hoping to be dazzled, and fortunately my worries were relieved. I can confidently say that Ralph Breaks the Internet is a complete delight and better than its predecessor in nearly every way.

In the  original film you have a story of a bad guy wanting to be good, which is fun, but it gets kind of lost in the shenanigans of Sugar Rush. Vanellope’s underdog story becomes more of the focus with a villain reveal that is very predictable (especially now when we’ve seen that trope so many times by Disney and Pixar).

The story in Ralph Breaks the Internet is a lot more subtle and nuanced. Ralph and Vanellope are friends and they love each other but that doesn’t mean they are the same. Vanellope yearns for newness and a chance to get out of Sugar Rush. On the other hand, Ralph likes things to stay the same, day in and day out. This is a conflict I can easily relate to as I am a same stuff  kind of girl. I could eat the same things, wear the same clothes, do the same activities each day and be perfectly fine. I guess this is why I’m fine watching 95 Hallmark movies a year or reviewing 35 versions of A Christmas Carol. It’s just how my brain works. I related to this division between Vanellope and Ralph. You still love each other but you process the world differently.

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As is easy to do, Vanellope and Ralph deny these differences for a long time not wanting to hurt the others feelings. Then a crisis happens in Vanellope’s game that forces them to go online to try and buy a steering wheel on Ebay. This pushes them to acknowledge their differences and learn to love each other in a new way. I found this much more moving and nuanced than the lesson of the original film. It’s easy to love someone who is the same as you. It takes a lot more work to love someone differences and all (in fact love them more because of those differences).

ralph breaks

As is always the case with comedy, I suspect the humor will be the most divisive part of the Ralph Breaks the Internet. I actually ended up loving it. My worry was that the jokes would be parody and not part of the story but to my pleasure almost every joke is story-based. Whether it is Spamly or KnowsMore giving them directions or the Princesses helping Vanellope with her conflict with Ralph the humor was all part of moving the characters forward as opposed to just throw-away parody jokes.

While I still don’t love the kidnapped and enslaved joke in the princess scene, most of the other humor worked for me. I was particularly happy to see Ariel be lovingly showcased. She is kind of the leader of the girls and got most of the best laughs. There is even an Alan Menken song towards the end, which was a real treat! If you like the humor in Enchanted or Elf you will really enjoy this.

ralph breaks4

I also really enjoyed the scenes in Slaughter Race. The racing sequences were incredibly animated. The only ones better I can think of is from Cars 3. Gal Gadot does a good job playing the leader Shank and her bond with Vanellope is really sweet. They reminded me of the roughians and thugs from Tangled– rough on the outside but sweet on the inside. As she experiences this freer style of racing Vanellope realizes this is where she belongs, but she knows it will hurt Ralph to admit this. This is conflict I can relate to and that most people have experienced as they try and navigate long-term friendships.

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While Vanellope is in Slaughter Race, Ralph gets an education on youtube. I loved the way they animated the users of the internet. It wasn’t cynical like The Emoji Movie. Most of the time the users were having a nice time and enjoying their time in whatever website was being portrayed. As things broke down they were upset but not as cynical as The Emoji Movie where the kids couldn’t communicate at all without their phones. ralph breaks 6Ralph meets a woman named Yesss who is an algorithm for determining trending videos. I related to all of this youtube (buzztube in the movie) as I am a youtuber. It showcased the highs and lows the medium offers. Ralph gets very excited as his gimmicky but harmless videos make enough money to purchase the steering wheel but then is hurt when he reads the comments and realizes he is a joke. Yesss tells him to never read the comments. While I am small and most of my comments are friendly, I can certainly relate to the toxic side. No matter how strong you are it can still sometimes sting. I appreciate the nuanced and balanced look at the internet Ralph Breaks the Internet showed.

ralph breaks3

I am hearing the ending is divisive but it worked great for me. Ralph is a character very resistant to change. He is giving into his fears and the virus he purchases magnifies those fears. As someone who is also resistant to change, I related to it. These are flawed characters who grow and learn. Isn’t that what we want in scripts? Plus, the tension and conflict was broken up by lots of humor, so it all worked for me. When Ralph and Vanellope learn to accept each other for who they are and come to a new deeper friendship I found it moving and a lovely growth arc for both characters.

It almost goes without saying that the animation is phenomenal. Unlike the original film where we spend 45 minutes in Sugar Rush, here we are zipped around to many different worlds and sites. I loved all of the world building and like I said the racing sequences were amazing! The voice work was also delightful. John C Reilly does a great job with Ralph. Sarah Silverman still isn’t my favorite but she’s servicable in this. I loved Gal Gadot and supporting voice work was all great including all the living princess actors (even Paige O’hara who had aged out of her role was brought back!).

Some may wish for more time with Felix and Calhoun but what we got from them was hilarious so I was satisfied. I even liked the post credits scene which played up on audience expectations and was very funny. I loved Ralph Breaks the Internet. It spoke to me more than the original. It had a more nuanced and powerful message. It was a lot funnier and the animation was better. (It even had a princess song!). I am seeing some mixed reactions from fans of the original, which is to be expected but I can only speak for myself and I thought it was a complete delight!

I never thought I would be saying this but I’d even be up for a 3rd installment!

smile worthy

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald Review

 

This week I had the chance to see the latest film in the Harry Potter universe- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and I immediately put up my review on youtube (please subscribe). I was pretty harsh in my initial thoughts but as I have had 2 days to think about it, I don’t think I was harsh enough. I walked out of the theater exhausted and completely baffled. My assumption at the time is this movie must be made for people more aware of the lore than I am, so they will like it. However, I have talked with many hard core fans who are bitterly disappointed, which makes me come to the conclusion that it is just a colossal misfire.

I was not a big fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film but it had some positive traits. I liked Queenie and Jacob’s relationship and story, and some of the setting/new lore was fun and whimsical. My main problems with it was Newt as a protagonist (would have made a better side character), Newt’s mumbling was hard to understand, the tone was all over the place and the final reveal was very underwhelming. That said, this new film makes the first film seem like a masterpiece! (Also I remember being so bored watching Harry Potter Deathly Hallows pt 1. Little did I know how good I had it. I at least understood that one)
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It’s hard for me to tell you all that is wrong with the movie because I was so confused the entire time that my brain hurt. There are so many characters each with their own plots making the story impossible to follow. It kind of reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, which left me with a similar sense of exhaustion.

The original Harry Potter book and movies were  mysteries in the world of magic. Harry was presented with a problem that they had to follow the clues and find the solution for. As they searched their characters grew and the many side characters made the experience rewarding. Despite them being in a series each entry had a sense of of its own story and identity. Not so here.

To begin with, the good parts of the original film are immediately done away with. All 4 of the main characters are divided up and what they do with Queenie and Jacob doesn’t make sense and is underserved at best. Instead of being charming, Queenie was nonsensical and Jacob was just watching stuff happen. They also immediately leave America so what was the point of setting up all that lore and unique identity for American wizardry?

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Then we get to meet Jude Law as Dumbledore, and he does a good job but it didn’t feel like the Hogwarts we know and love. Why is Dumbledore wearing muggles clothing? What is going on? The advertising would have you believe this Dumbledore is a major part of the movie but they cut away from him so much it is at best an ensemble role.

Zoe Kravitz plays Leta Lestrange and we jump around from seeing her as a child and then an adult and back again. Maybe we will get some reveal in the next movie that will clarify things, but I was completely lost by her character. Then we had Tina, Nagini (which don’t get me started on her weird undercooked storyline), Krall, Nagel, Professor McGonagall shows up for no reason, Nicolas Flamel, Newt’s brother is a major character, Credence is a major character that made no sense. The list goes on and on. I haven’t been this baffled by a fantasy film since Warcraft. It’s true…

grindelwald

And then we have Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. I was nervous about his performance because him in white face in fantasy films has gotten so boring. In fairness, he is fine with what is given him but what on earth is he talking about all the time? They are obviously trying to set him up as some kind of Hitler type character but they show scenes from the muggles, which they never do in Harry Potter. His speeches were incoherent gibberish and then I was never clear is he using magic to control people or are they acting under their own agency when drawn to him?

The ads keep telling fans to #ProtecttheSecrets. I legitimately have NO IDEA what secrets we are supposed to be keeping. There is a reveal at the end that I guess is a big deal but it made no sense and the more I thought about it the more it irritated me. I guess it is a secret but it’s a nonsensical secret so no loss there?

In recent years JK Rowling has begun to George Lucas herself. She finished her saga on just the right note and then she started Pottermore and it was all downhill from there. Instead of leaving her world for her readers to imagine and play with she made an alteration here or there. She caved to fans and answered questions that didn’t need to be answered. With each reveal some of the mystery was taken away and the magic lost.

Then the first film came out and she didn’t have a screenwriter to edit her down and it was a bit of a mess. Then she gave her permission to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be included as canon and it was very messy. Finally we get this and the universe is seriously damaged. My Potterhead friend was very upset about it, and I feel for her. It’s something we Star Wars fans have dealt with twice now and it is very disappointing.

I know it is technically the creators right to add to their creation as much as they want, but I so wish they wouldn’t. I don’t know if it is greed or a perfectionism that pushes them to make changes but it really hurts the wonder and appeal of the world they have so carefully created. They might think they are helping their fans by providing new content but they are truly breaking their hearts. I know they won’t stop but they should. Sigh…

Some may like spending 2 hours and 13 minutes in this mass of confusion and plotlines and that’s fine. For me, I’m struggling to find a reason to not include Crimes of Grindelwald in my worst of the year list. I still find Newt hard to understand so I don’t even have that to pluck it up like I do with other franchises (Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom or The Meg for example).

It’s just terrible and I’m sad. The end.

Also this is not a movie for children. Take the PG-13 seriously.

frown

 

Current Mini Reviews

So it is time again for one of my current mini reviews wrap up! As per usual this won’t include any films I did a full review for but I only  have so much time so mini reviews will have to do for some films!

Make sure you check out my podcast where me and my friends dive into all kinds of content including television like Doctor Who, monthly Talking Disney and Obscure Animation, animated news and movie previews and wrap-ups.

So let’s talk about the movies I’ve seen!

superhero girls atlantis

DC Super Hero Girls: Legend of Atlantis-

I’ve  really enjoyed the previous 2 DCSHG films and while this wasn’t as strong it was still an enjoyable outing for our girls. This film is about a Book of Legends being stolen from Super Hero High so the girls go under water to Atlantis where they meet Mira and Siren and fight the thief. The animation is very bright and colorful. The voice work is great. It’s empowering and has a nice message. If you have kids, they will love it.

Smile Worthy

71 out of 119

goosebumps2

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween-

I actually enjoyed the first Goosebumps film more than most (but I have no attachment to the original books) and while this was not as bad as the trailers made it look it wasn’t particularly strong. It particularly suffered from the comparison to the recent House with a Clock in Its Walls, which I greatly enjoyed. If you find it on cable it’s harmless but a little of the ventriloquist dummy Snappy goes a long way. I’d say there is about 45 minutes of the movie where Snappy is the only villain. Jack Black is hardly in the movie. It just wasn’t very creative or fun scary.

Frown Worthy

80 out of 119

liz and the blue bird

Liz and the Blue Bird-

One of my favorite films of 2017 is Naoka Yamada’s A Silent Voice. It was a beautiful, emotional movie about the relationship between an ex-bully and the deaf girl he seeks forgiveness from. Naturally, I was very excited for Yamada’s next effort Liz and the Blue Bird and it’s a good movie but it didn’t wow me like I hoped it would. It’s about 2 girls who are part of a band (part of an anime series called Sound Emporium). It was a little unclear what their relationship is but there were touching moments and the fairytale (told alongside the main story) of Liz and a mystical blue bird is lovely. As I said in my longer review for rotoscopers.com “while it is not in the same league as A Silent Voice, it is as sweet and pleasant film that’s worth a watch”

Smile Worthy

55 out of 119

mfkz

MFKZ-

Now I admit I didn’t really do my homework on this movie. I knew it was an R rated film but I didn’t know what MFKZ met and I think the advertising was a little deceptive (it means something NSFW). If I had done the research I usually do I wouldn’t have seen it; however, I did, and I hated it! It’s not that the movie has adult themes. I’m fine with that. The problem is the story is complete chaos. Nothing makes sense. Everything is flying at you and assaulting your eyes (and ears). It was exhausting. I know some people think chaos is creative but it usually is just chaos to me. This year I really enjoyed a movie called The Night is Short Walk on Girl which is bonkers crazy but there is still enough consistency with the characters, character design and tone that it worked for me. This was just miserable.

Frown Worthy

111 out of 119

tito-and-the-birds

Tito and the Birds

I actually got the chance to interview the director and producer of this beautiful animated film over on rotoscopers. It is a dystopian story about a world where fear is a disease. This fear spreads quickly through the town and the children are left to try and find the antidote.  The animation style has an oil painting aesthetic that is unique and beautiful. The message can get a little heavy handed at times, but I still enjoyed it. Wouldn’t be surprised if it comes up as an indie animated film nod for this year’s Oscars.

Smile Worthy

27 out of 119

nightschool

Night School-

I’m one of the few people who thought the trailer for Night School looked funny. I enjoy Kevin Hart on occasion and it seemed like a cute premise. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the film. Tiffany Haddish continues to not impress me (I realize I haven’t seen Girls Trip). Her character is shrill and overbearing (and worst of all not funy). It was rough!

Frown Worthy

107 out of 119

nutcracker and the 4 realms

The Nutcracker and the 4 Realms-

I was really pulling for this movie for a couple of reasons. First, if it was good it might encourage Disney to make more creative films over their remakes. Second, there has never been a good Nutcracker movie and as a huge Christmas movie fan that’s a problem. Honestly the best Nutcracker movie is Barbie as Nutcracker (for real). This movie had almost no conflict and the visuals were not unique or fun enough to save it on their own. There are long segments where Clara is just watching things happening (literally on stage). Then she is told what to do in long scenes of exposition. It just couldn’t escape from the weight of its own boredom.

Frown Worthy

98 out of 119

Freddie Mercury

Bohemian Rhapsody-

I know the production history of this film was rocky but my love for Queen and their music still had me hopeful a serviceable biopic would come out of all that mess. Unfortunately the songs and a good lead performance are the only things to recommend this pedestrian effort. The script was terrible especially the dialogue. It reminded me of one of those music biopic movies they used to have on VH1. Some might argue they had to keep it predictable because they were dealing with true events but they didn’t even stick to the true events so that’s no excuse. I refuse to believe that an icon like Freddie Mercury was this bland and by the numbers rockstar we’ve seen a million times. I was very frustrated while watching this film. Save your money or watch A Star is Born again. It may be fictional but it reads way more real and nuanced than this film

Frown Worthy

101 out of 119

holiday calendar

The Holiday Calendar-

You guys know I love Christmas movies and The Holiday Calendar is one of Netflix’s holiday offerings this year. It’s about a woman who gets a magical advent calendar that predicts good things happening in her life. This is very predictable, but I thought it was sweet. I particularly liked the lead guy Quincy Brown. They keep the lead girl, Kat Graham, a little too unlikable for too long, but I still overall enjoyed it.

Smile Worthy

67 out of 119

jane and emma2

Jane and Emma-

This is a faith-based film about the relationship between Emma Smith (Prophet Joseph Smith’s wife) and a black convert named Jane Manning. It zips around all over their relationship while remaining grounded on the night before Joseph’s funeral as they were caring and protecting the body. I think non-Latter-day Saints might found some elements strange but it is written by Melissa Leilani, who I have interviewed, and she did a good job developing the characters. The acting is also solid and affecting. It’s well made and something I think all of my faith should see. Emma deserves her moment of vindication this film gives her. Many of my church have long vilified her for not going West and that’s not fair. Plus, Jane’s story is fascinating as she faces  some persecution for being black from Saints who were at the same time being persecuted.

Smile Worthy

38 out of 119

So there you have it! The latest slate of mini reviews. Let me know what you think of them and my rankings. How would you rank them? Is there anything I haven’t seen which you would recommend (I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with Hallmark stuff as of late). I would love to have your recommendations!

The Hate U Give Review (Spoilers)

Adapting YA novels can be a bit of a tricky high-wire act to walk. You have to satisfy your fervent teen fanbase while elevating the material to wider audience. The novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was particularly difficult because of its very sensitive and timely subject matter of police violence on African-Americans. Fortunately director George Tillman Jr and his team have done an excellent job with their film The Hate U Give and made one of the best films of the year.

First of all, let me set fans of the novel, like my niece’s fears to rest by saying that they changed very little in the adaptation. At least by my memory, almost everything in the book is in the movie, so yay!

hate u give2 - Copy - Copy

The Hate U Give is about a teenage girl named Starr (Amanda Stenberg) who lives in a tough part of town called Garden Heights. Her father (Russell Hornsby) works as the owner of a small grocery/convenience store and her mother (Regina Hall) is a nurse. To give their children a better life they send them to a richer private school called Williamson High. Here Starr has to put on a face, even for her white boyfriend, so that she is not seen as ghetto.

Unfortunately one Saturday after leaving a party with her friend Khalil (Algee Smith) a tragedy occurs and he is killed by a police officer. This starts Starr on a journey to figure out her place in the world and how she can best use her voice.

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What makes this script work so well is it is so well-rounded. We hear from so many different perspectives on the situation including Starr’s Uncle Carlos (Common) who happens to be a cop. Anthony Mackie also plays King a local drug dealer who threatens Starr and her family as she gets ready to share her truth.

At Sundance I saw a similarly themed movie called Monster and it was so heavy-handed and full of distracting visual choices from the director. It’s almost like the director didn’t trust the truth of his material. Not the case here. Director George Tilman Jr has faith in his script, and he let’s it tell its story.

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The cast of The Hate U Give also really feels like a family. They have chemistry together and they all had unique voices and spirits that meshed well together. I never felt like the teenagers were being one note rebellious or the parents were being bossy. These are people who happen to be related and happen to love each other. It was honestly one of the most believable family groupings I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.

The only part I didn’t love in the movie was some of the school dynamics- particularly with a white girl friend of hers. It didn’t have the nuance of the rest of the movie but to be fair I didn’t like those scenes in the book either.

Obviously with such material there are tense moments and some violence but I would take my family if I had one. It’s not too graphic and the message of family and standing up for who you are is positive and important. The Hate U Give is the kind of movie I would take my family to and then have a family home evening and discuss why injustices happen and what we can do to make our world a better place. I like that it doesn’t sugarcoat the hard truths of life but it also never loses the sense of hope and faith.

It’s great. You should all see it.

Ranked 15 out of 114 Releases for 2018

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First Man Review

If you have been following this blog you know my relationship with director Damien Chazelle has been a bit rocky. I always want to love his movies like everyone else but usually leave thinking they are just ok. There is always something in his portrayal of dreamers leaving me wanting more. Wanting more understanding of what drives them to put up with a mad man in Whiplash or leaving their true love to chase their movie dreams in La La Land. So this year with his film First Man, about Neil Armstrong, I was hopeful it would be the first film of Chazelle’s repertoire to move me into the love camp. Unfortunately the opposite has occurred and it is definitely my least favorite of his movies.

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There are some impressive things about First Man. While relying way too much on close-ups (a trend I hate!), the cinematography and space set pieces were very striking. Also the performances by Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy and Kyle Chandler were all excellent with what they were given to do. Unfortunately, those impressive visuals were shot with a handheld camera style and were very shaky. For someone with a weak stomach it was almost too much. However, if you don’t have those problems they are impressive sequences.

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My problem with the film was the script. Aside from a few glimpses of emotion at the death of his daughter, I never got any sense of feeling or personality from Neil Armstrong. I guess they were trying to portray him as being on the spectrum but that doesn’t mean he needs to have the same flat expression at all times. I didn’t feel like I got to know him as a person- his idiosyncrasies, his passions. I don’t even know why he wanted to go to the moon? In Apollo 13 we have the scene where Tom Hanks puts his thumb over the moon and he talks about his dreams. We needed something like that here.

Film Title: First Man

Because I wasn’t invested in Neil Armstrong’s journey it made the movie kind of boring and flat. They didn’t do a good job of building up the characters at NASA like in Apollo 13 and aside from his wife getting upset a couple of times it was all flat and business-like.

I guess when it comes down to it I like my inspirational stories to be inspirational (go figure right?). Some may balk at a movie like Hidden Figures or October Sky and call them pedestrian but I left those movies inspired and wanting to do great things. Surely a movie about Neil Armstrong should give me such a feeling? Are we so elevated these days that we don’t need heroes but they all have to be whittled down to ordinary people who show up for work every day? Even a minor character in Apollo 13 like Gary Sinise’s astronaut who got bumped from the shuttle had an arc and an emotional journey I could relate to. Here I just didn’t get that.

So good job Neil Armstrong. You’re our hero. This movie however didn’t do you justice

(Also the flag controversy was mostly caused because of a dumb interview Gosling gave but it does show an overall scorning of heroic moments by Chazelle, which did not work for me)

Frown Worthy

Ranked 72 out of 114 of 2018 Films

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Current Mini Reviews

So I haven’t done one of these mini-review posts since August. Honestly I have been so busy with both of my podcasts I haven’t had much room to breathe lately! My Hallmarkies Podcast just keeps growing each week and I am so primed for the massive Countdown to Christmas season (starting in October!).

I have also done some really interesting things on my personal podcast Rachel’s Reviews including monthly Talking Disney podcasts and Obscure Animation with my friend Stanford, Animated News posts, previews and wrap ups with my friend David and various podcasts with another friend Conrado.

I am so proud of both and think you will enjoy them so please subscribe.

I have also done some reviews on the blog such as Life Itself and Juliet Naked so I won’t be repeating those thoughts here.

So here we go!

the meg

The Meg-

Talk about false advertising! I’m someone who really enjoyed 47 Meters Down so I like a silly shark movie but this was just boring and bland with hardly any of the fun moments promised in the trailer. It made the fatal mistake of taking itself seriously which made the terrible dialogue stand out because I couldn’t laugh it off as silly fun. What a disappointment!

Frown Worthy

97 out of 106 Ranking

blackklansman

Blackkklansman-

Very entertaining film with strong performances especially by Adam Driver who has to play the racist as a Jewish man. Some of the choices feel self-indulgent and are a bit distracting but overall a really interesting/thought provoking (and even funny) movie.

Smile Worthy

15 out of 106 Ranking

miseducation-of-cameron-post

Miseducation of Cameron Post-

A good movie about the sobering reality of gay conversion schools and camps. There are definitely a lot of chilling scenes but I felt the Chloe Grace Moretz character was a bit too stoic for a teen in her situation. I have a feeling the book for this is way better but it was still worth a watch

Smile Worthy

45 out of 106 Ranking

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before-

Lana Condor is super charming as the lead character Lara Jean in this perfectly pleasant teen romance. However, is it one of the best high school movies ever made as some have said? HECK NO! If we think about the truly great high school movies more than just the lead grows and changes. The boys in this movie are just there to do LJ’s bidding. Someone like Josh in Clueless had dreams, ideas, thoughts of his own. Not so much here. That said it’s perfectly harmless.

Smile Worthy

60 out of 106 Ranking

night is short

The Night is Short Walk on Girl-

I did not like director Masaaki Yuasa’s film Lu Over the Wall from earlier this year. It made me nauseated watching it and the cute moments felt very derivative of Miyazaki’s Ponyo. Fortunately, I felt the opposite about this film. It is completely bonkers so it won’t be for everyone but I enjoyed it. It’s basically about a female college student who goes on a giant bender and the crazy things that happen to her. Along the way the animation is so bright, colorful and inventive and the story is random but very fun. It even evolves into a musical at one point and you know I love that.

Smile Worthy

20 out of 106 Ranking

kissing booth

The Kissing Booth-

This movie is pretty terrible. The director seemed to have a strange fascination with the lead taking off her shirt and wearing super short skirts, and the camera lingered on her in ways that made me uncomfortable (she’s supposed to be underage for goodness sakes). Also, her ‘friend’ was the worst. He was completely selfish and even claims ownership of her at a point and the screenplay never calls him out on that.

Frown Worthy

103 out of 106 Ranking

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The Year of Spectacular Men-

This Deutch/Thompson family collaboration had moments, and I’d be very interested to see what they do next as I feel there is a lot of potential (obviously they all have chemistry). Unfortunately, the script was just too uneven for me to recommend. Most of the humor falls flat and it didn’t go anywhere interesting or charming.

Frown Worthy

81 out of 106 Ranking

summer of 842

Summer of 84

Some people will describe this as a Stranger Things copycat and they would be right but I think it is a pretty well executed copycat. It definitely has nostalgic elements so if that isn’t your thing than you won’t like it but I enjoyed it. The boys all have chemistry and the mystery was fun. It definitely gets a little gory by the end but I thought it was a good little horror movie with some genuine scares.

Smile Worthy

52 out of 106 Ranking

alpha

Alpha-

This movie is about a billion times better than it has any right to be. I joked that it is like The Revenant for teens but about a nice person. Kodi Smit-McPhee is practically a one man show and he is does a fantastic job. The cinematography and music are tremendous. I really enjoyed it and would watch it again if given the opportunity.

Smile Worthy

32 out of 106 Rankingdestination-wedding

Destination Wedding-

I had high hopes for this movie, but I think I got greedy after Crazy Rich Asians was so fantastic. What a terrible film. Winona and Keanu have surprisingly little chemistry but it’s not really their fault. The script is awful. It’s just them bickering the entire time with some of the worst sex scenes I’ve ever seen on film. What a miserable experience

Frown Worthy

104 out of 106 Ranking

God Bless the Broken Road/Unbroken: Path to Redemption

I reviewed both of these for Hallmarkies Podcast:

Unbroken- Smile Worthy 61 out of 106 Ranking

God Bless- Frown Worthy 71 out of 106 Ranking

The House with the Clock in its Walls-

I really enjoyed this haunted house movie and found it to be scary but in the right way that a lot of kids get a kick out of. Here is my review for youtube:

Smile Worthy

35 out of 106 Ranking

littleitaly1

Little Italy-

As a Hallmark movie fan you’d think I would love a movie like this but I did not! The leads are very charming but the script was vulgar and unpleasant from start to finish. These kind of movies work because they are light and fluffy entertainment. You don’t want unending sex jokes and cynicism in a movie like this! Because I wasn’t enjoying the romance, the stereotypes were tough to ignore especially a gay character that felt right out of 1995.

Frown Worthy

102 out of 106 Ranking

A STAR IS BORN

A Star is Born-

I will try to find time to write a legit review about this soon but for now this 4th attempt at telling this story is surprisingly decent. The chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is fantastic and the singing is amazing! For once a modern musical has good singing and great songs! All the supporting work, particularly Sam Elliott, is tremendous and I was invested despite it being a story I’ve seen many times (not just in the previous iterations but in movies like Walk the Line). Still it is proof a formula story isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it is executed well and this is.

Smile Worthy

14 out of 106 Ranking

Smallfoot-

This movie was really strange. Everything from the messaging, to the story, to the weird musical choices, to the bloated voice cast was odd. It was kind of interestingly odd but I don’t think I’d ever want to watch it again despite it having some nice animation.

Frown Worthy

65 out of 106 Ranking

my hero academia

My Hero Academia: The Movie-

I have never seen the anime show but this was actually surprisingly great. They do a good job catching us newbies up with the premise at the beginning and then it is a good superhero movie about a team of teens that have to use their various ‘quirks’ or powers to fight an evil man who has kidnapped a scientist that has invented a power multiplier. It was funny with likable characters, dazzling animation and a good score. I really enjoyed it

Smile Worthy

34 out of 106 Ranking

venom-2

Venom-

Whoever said this is as bad as Catwoman probably hasn’t seen Catwoman in a long time. It definitely is a big mixed bag but not one of the worst superhero movies ever. The main problems is all the supplementary characters to Venom/Eddie are lame and it’s 30 minutes too long so a lot of it drags. However, there are fun parts with some inventive action and humor that worked for me. Tom Hardy is pretty good and I’d be open to seeing a sequel where they could iron out the bugs. I can’t really recommend it but it’s not awful.

(I did realize I was too hard on Upgrade which is exactly the same story but executed MUCH better)

Frown Worthy (Maybe rent it)

70 out of 106 Ranking

(Also I saw Searching at Sundance but haven’t had a chance to see it again. 30 out of 106 Ranking)

That’s it folks! Phew! Let me know if you have seen any of these and what you thought.

I also watched the Netflix animated series Hilda (yes I watched a television series!) and it was soooooo good! You all have to watch it:

Little Women (2018) Review (Mild Spoilers)

One fact about me that might surprise you is I was actually a late reader. My strabismus in my eyes makes it hard for me to focus; thereby making reading difficult. I would say I was 7 or 8 when I really learned to read, which isn’t unheard of, but a little late (especially because my kindergarten teachers were ‘you must read at 5’ gestapo).

Once I caught on to reading I loved it and dove in and the first book I remember being proud of finishing was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It was emotional and I could relate to each of the girls in special ways especially Jo. Her and Anne of Green Gables were the heroes of my childhood!

Over the years there have been many film versions of Little Women including a classic from 1933 with Kathryn Hepburn, wonderful version from 1994 starring Winona Ryder and a ridiculous 1949 take with a grown Elizabeth Taylor playing a blonde little girl Amy. Now we have a supposedly “modern telling” of the story from director and writer Clare Niederpruem and it, unfortunately, was very disappointing.

I honestly had high hopes for this adaptation because Niederpruem did a lovely little film in 2015 called Once I Was a Beehive. It handled themes and messaging much better than many faith-based films and was well made and acted. I was also hopeful I would love it because I did not care for the recent PBS version of Little Women. Evidently it’s just not my year for Little Women in film!

little women

Let me start off with some strengths. I like the idea of modernizing Little Women and telling the 4 sister’s stories with a modern sensibility (one of my favorite movies is Clueless which does that brilliantly with updating Jane Austen’s Emma). There are also some nice moments between the girls and overall the movie looked nice.

I also enjoyed Lea Thompson as Marmee (even though it is a little strange that the Lawrences and everyone calls her Marmee instead of Mrs March). She wasn’t in the movie that much (I’m guessing they only had her on site for a few days) but when she appears there is a warmth that is required for Marmee (who is basically the perfect Mother of fiction).

I also thought Allie Jennings did a good job with Beth and Ian Bohen was pretty dishy as our Professor Bhaer (just called Freddy here).

My problem mostly lies with the script. The choices they made to ‘modernize’ the characters were frustrating. Jo (Sarah Davenport) isn’t the free spirit I know and love. In here she’s a bully who is mean, entitled and insulting to everyone around her. This is the only version I’ve seen where I felt like Jo deserved to have her journal burned by Amy. All Amy had done is ask to go to a movie with them and Jo proceeds to insult Amy’s art and call her names. She does that repeatedly throughout the film, and I honestly wanted someone to slap her and get her off screen! To say she is insufferable is being kind.

And then the choices they made for Meg (Melanie Stone) were baffling. For some reason they have all the girls being homeschooled and it’s never really explained why? I’m a huge homeschool advocate so that normally wouldn’t be a problem but here they use it as a reason for why Meg is socially awkward. Instead of just wanting to fit in with the cool kids she dresses in a skanky dress, gets drunk and is nearly assaulted by a boy at a school dance. I guess this could be a way to update the Sally Moffatt party but it was executed in a clunky way that did not fit the movie at all.

The debates between Meg, over her domestic dreams, and Jo, over her feminist ideals, were also hard to get through. Feminism done right is about embracing all forms of womanhood and empowering girls to lead whatever life they want. We needed Marmee in these scenes explaining this to Jo and being warm and loving. Instead it was a strange shouting match.

Laurie played by Lucas Grabeel was also a miss. There was no chemistry between him and Jo and the relationship with Amy (Elise Jones and Taylor Murphy) was rushed. Also for various reasons, I thought they were going to make him gay, which would have been an interesting take on the character, but they didn’t so that felt strange. little women3

I also hated the non-linear structure of the movie. Similar to movies like Man of Steel it flashes back and forth to different times in the girls lives. This hurt momentum and didn’t allow the scenes to build off of each other. They also made the choice to go with 2 different Amys (which many do) but if you are going to do that, a flashback structure is awkward (also they use the younger Amy in scenes that don’t make sense if they are using 2).

In the end, I’m sad I didn’t like Little Women. I wanted to like it. I wanted to champion a sweet locally filmed movie and tell you all to hunt it down. Sadly I cannot. Jo was just too much of a jerk for me to recommend.

If any of you see it let me know what you think and what is your favorite version of Little Women?

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Life Itself Review

life itself

As someone who watches 95 Hallmark movies a year I enjoy a sentimental tearjerker. I’m a notoriously easy cry and can put up with a lot of cheese if the cast is charismatic and can sell the emotion. So I was hoping I would enjoy the new film Life Itself more than most critics. Unfortunately, even for me, this attempt at showing multiple generations of love and tragedy didn’t work for me.

In the interest of full disclosure I must confess I fell asleep for a decent chunk of the beginning of this movie. That is partly due to the movie being sluggishly paced but also because I am sick and fighting a post- comicon cold. So take this review with a grain of salt as I may have missed some parts of the film.

What surprised me the most about Life Itself is how cynical it was. I recently enjoyed the multi-narrative film Dog Days which was a sweet movie about people and their dogs. Where that film worked in being warm-hearted, Life Itself left me feeling cold. Nearly every character either dies, gives up or settles for convenient love.

I think director Dan Fogelman was trying to talk about the unpredictability of life and how we all react to trauma differently but all the characters made the same choices so it just ends up feeling unpleasant. In a movie like Love Actually there are all kinds of reactions to love and so it works. Here it was basically the same which made it feel boring and unpleasant.

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I’ve never seen Fogelman’s hit show This is Us but the promos make it look optimistic and inspiring. Not the case here. This miscalculation is hammered home by the terrible narration throughout telling you how to feel; thereby exposing the plots poor job at bringing forth authentic emotion.

The main plus with Life Itself is the incredible cast. People like Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, and Olivia Cooke all try and elevate the material but it just falls so flat.

I saw nothing encouraging or insightful about life in Life Itself. Instead I recommend watching the Roger Ebert documentary with the same title. Now there is an inspiring movie about life!

As far as content there is a lot of profanity which adds nothing to the story and is completely unnecessary. Some characters get hit by cars and there is mild sensuality but it’s mostly R for language

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