Blind Spot 65: Bonnie and Clyde

Part of the purpose of the Blind Spot series is to challenge myself to watch classic films outside of my comfort zone. These are usually films I’ve heard great things about but have been hesitant to watch for one reason or another. 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde definitely fall into that description. A landmark of its time Bonnie and Clyde is a film that changed cinema with its grounded feel and shocking violence and sensuality.

Of course, Bonnie and Clyde tells the story of the outlaw couple in Depression Era America. Bonnie is played by Faye Dunaway and Clyde by Warren Beatty. Gene Hackman and Estelle Parson also play notable supporting roles (Parson won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress). Burnett Guffey also won an Oscar for the incredible cinematography.

The best thing about Bonnie and Clyde is its realism. Even though I know it plays fast and loose with the real story of the couple, when you are watching it feels real. It feels like what it might actually have been like stealing and scrounging for food and lodging- learning to dodge bullets along the way. Nothing feels clean or glossed up for the movies.

As you are watching you feel the exhaustion from the actors as if they were actually experiencing the events of the film. And by the time you get to its very graphic ending it is a relief for the chase is finally be over. I can see why critics like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert were so drawn to such a visceral piece of work.

All that said, the film could do a better job in helping us to get to know Bonnie and Clyde as characters better. They are always kept at a distance and that’s a weakness in the script. Also, this type of violence just isn’t my cup of tea so I don’t picture myself ever watching Bonnie and Clyde ever again.

Still, I’m glad I saw it once to see a turning point in film and to broaden the scope of the films I have seen.

Have you seen Bonnie and Clyde? What did you think of this classic?

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘My True Fairytale’

Making movies is difficult and some films are enjoyable despite having a lot of problems. Sometimes you can dig deep and see what the director is going for and have a good experience in spite of or maybe even because of the flaws. This was my experience with director Dmitry Geland’s new film My True Fairytale.

Inspired by the tragic death of his teenage daughter in an accident, Geland tells a story about a young girl named Angie (Emma Kennedy) who is killed in a car crash and then becomes a superhero who helps her friends connect with their parents (and vice versa).

Some of Angie’s rescue attempts work better than others and at only 85 minutes all the stories feel a little rushed. My favorite is Angie helping her father (Darri Ingolfsson) connect with his girlfriend played by Taylor Cole. This was fun for me because I have interviewed Taylor and it was neat to see her in a more dramatic role away from Hallmark. I thought she did a good job in her scenes and I kind of wish the whole movie had been about them.

Speaking of Hallmark, I would not be surprised at all if this film gets picked up by the channel’s competitors either Lifetime or Uptv because the length is more of a TV movie length rather than a feature film. Plus, the themes and messages have the melodrama that works in a TV movie.

If you are looking for something with a big heart that comes from a true place I recommend My True Fairytale. It’s not perfect but especially teens and their families will relate to it and be inspired to improve their relationships. We can certainly all use a little magic in our lives to help us get along with our loved ones!

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Blind Spot 64: Two for the Road

I always like to have a variety in this blind spot series, so for April I decided to watch the 1967 romantic comedy Two for the Road. As a huge Audrey Hepburn fan this is one I had heard about but never seen and was excited to check off my list.

It’s interesting because this film was made 2 years after Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou which we just reviewed for The Criterion Project (my podcast with my friend Conrado about films on The Criterion Channel. We had guest artist Esther Ko on and it’s a fun listen!). I mention it because both films feel very similar. They are both about couples going on road trips in France and their relative tumultuous relationships. I don’t know which one I like better but they are both unusual romances to say the least.

Two for the Road is about a couple (Hepburn and Albert Finney) and their relationship over 12 years all told with their road trips in France over the years. It’s an experimental film like Pierrot le Fou and goes in and out of non-linear storytelling without any notice of a changing time (you have to tell by what car they are suddenly driving). It’s all very creative and the script is well done.

All that said, this is one of those movies I admire more than I like. I found both of them to be very unlikable and cynical takes on romance just aren’t my thing. I can see it is well done and understand why it was given an Oscar nomination for best screenplay.

However, I like my romances more on the fluffy-side (big shocker coming from the Queen of Hallmark movies). Even when they were supposed to be young and in love it still felt cynical and I wasn’t feeling the chemistry between Hepburn and Finney.

Two for the Road is directed by Stanley Donen with style and I can see why Roger Ebert said it was a ‘romance for grown ups’. Like I said, it’s well done but just not for me. This makes giving it a grade difficult (these are the hardest reviews to write) but I will go with…

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy barely

[REVIEW] ‘Mortal Kombat’: Is Effective Action Enough?

Faithful readers on this site know I am not a video gamer in any way. It’s not that I’m against them but I have a lazy eye (strabismus) making anything with hand eye coordination very difficult. My brother Sam loves video games but I never got into them outside of maybe tetris!

This makes reviewing movies like the new Mortal Kombat a little difficult. I know nothing about the game and when I say nothing I mean nothing.

The only thing I know about the franchise is from watching the 2 previous films with my friend Patrick this month for 2 reviews.

What I can say is this new film is definitely better than Mortal Kombat Annihilation but that’s not saying much. Is it better than the first one? That’s a tough question. Paul W.S. Anderson is a pretty bad director, but he had more fun with his version than this new version.

Lately it seems like the answer to modernizing franchises is to make them dark and gritty. This can be done well but often you lose the humanity and the stories become drab and dull in their self-seriousness.

In this new Mortal Kombat the action has energy and is well done but is that enough for a movie? Are we supposed to ignore characters, story, dialogue, acting because the action is good? Maybe some can but I struggled. I particularly disliked the character Kano played by Josh Lawson. He is an incredibly annoying character that shouts and swears a lot and I couldn’t stand.

Mortal Kombat (2021 Film) Review - Bloody Ripper | PowerUp!

The rest of the cast is not the strongest acting. They were obviously selected for their action prowess, which is effective. The script is clearly full of nods to the game but I wish they had crafted a better story around that action. I’m not expecting Shakespeare. I enjoyed the recent Tomb Raider which had the exciting action with a serviceable plot if you ask me.

If you only care about action than you will probably enjoy Mortal Kombat, but I want more. Maybe watch it on HBO Max? But if you want gritty over-the-top action I would watch last year’s Extraction instead. That was a lot better done and more entertaining.

The action is also extremely bloody and R Rated so take that into consideration when you decide if it is right for you.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Nomadland vs Minari: Outsider Stories with Hope

Each year when the Oscars come up I try to write a little bit about what the nominated films mean to me. Some years it is easier than others. Last year was a joy because I could promote Parasite which I loved that actually went on to win! That never happens!

This year we are all grateful we are having an Oscar season at all even if it is late. It’s remarkable in a year where theaters were mostly closed that we came away with as strong a slate as we got in the 8 nominated films. The only one I gave a negative review to is Mank and it’s more self-indulgent than outright bad. It’s really the only one of the 8 I’d be sad to see win. The rest I enjoyed for a variety of reasons.However, today I want to focus on the 2 frontrunners for Best Picture- Minari and Nomadland. On the surface the 2 films seem quite different. One telling the story of a young Korean immigrant family in Arkansas in Minari, and  a widow living out of her van after her husband passes away in Nomadland. And yet the 2 movies share a lot in common.

Nomadland has the best odds for winning Best Picture but if it was up to me I’d give the award to Minari. Nomadland felt a little more scrubbed clean and polished than it needed to be. Despite a wonderful performance from Frances McDormand, Fern never felt threatened as a single woman living a nomadic lifestyle might feel. She faces challenges but never anything that can’t be solved by a fire or a song with friends.

I must admit when I watched Nomadland a second time these issues bothered me less but you do have to go with what the film is telling you about Fern’s life in order to enjoy it (and for the most part I did).

Minari' Review: Growing Up Korean Outside Little Rock, Arkansas - Variety

Minari, on the other hand, forces its characters to go through a lot more pain and anguish than Fern does in Nomadland. Steven Yeun is fantastic as Jacob the father of the family and little Alan S Kim is adorable as Yeun’s young son David. Youn Yuh-jung will probably win the Oscar as the matriarch grandma of the family.

Both Fern and Jacob are characters who stand on the outside of the American dream and ask ‘why is it not working for us?’ and yet the dream is working. That’s the irony of it all. It comes down to hope. No matter how bad things get there is always hope. Whether it is hope from the next harvest or pit stop, or hope from the freedom to gather with each other and try again that is what makes an American story different than what can come from any other country in the world. It’s the unique combination of community and the individual spirit, which we foster here and both of these films showcase in their stories.

It shouldn’t be a surprise in a year of isolation these 2 films have resonated with so many. They are about never giving up and that’s what we’ve all had to do this year. Fern doesn’t give up. Neither do her nomad friends. Jacob comes close but will get through it with his family by his side. The minari plant doesn’t stop growing and neither will he. That’s an inspiring story and one we need now more than ever.

Minari” is what we need right now in these trying times | The Peak

If you haven’t seen Minari and Nomadland I highly recommend it as well as checking out the rest of the nominees. I think you will really enjoy the chance to see some great American stories!

[REVIEW] ‘The Mitchells vs the Machines’ Vacation Meets the End of the World

It’s funny to think not that long ago Sony Pictures Animation was the bottom of the animation totem pole. With the release of The Emoji Movie in 2017 they hit their proverbial low point and since then it’s been all uphill from there! The smartest choice they made was to hitch their wagon to producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who had worked with them previously in the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films.

Then just a year later they produced (and Phil Lord wrote) the groundbreaking film Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse which blew me away and won the Academy Award for Best Best Animated Feature of 2018! What a turnaround!

Now Lord and Miller are back producing with Sony a film that was supposed to go to theaters in 2020 the family dramedy adventure The Mitchells vs the Machines and even though it is going to Netflix it is a gem and you don’t want to miss it.

I loved this film so much that I immediately bought the art book (ad) after watching it. It is such a special movie the whole family will love, and I will be shocked if it isn’t in my top 10 of 2021.

The Mitchells vs the Machines (formerly titled Connected) tells the story of the Mitchell family who are struggling to accept change as the oldest daughter Katie (Abbie Jacobson) is going off to college. She has always dreamed of going to film school and after getting into the school she most wanted to attend she is ready to ditch her family and move on. This is particularly tough for her Dad (Danny McBride) who decides to make a family trip of the event so he can spend a few more weeks with his daughter (much to her chagrin). The only problem is the cell phones revolt and the robots turn on the humans. All mayhem results.

On the surface family shenanigans can dip into sitcom territory rather quickly. However, here the characters are so charming including Mom (Maya Rudolph) and brother Aaron (Mike Rianda) who I loved so much. Even the dog Monchi is hilarious along with the 2 adopted robot Mitchell family members. The script is so good. It’s funny, sweet, heartfelt and surprising. Obviously we know the Mitchells will win but the journey is such a fun ride (forgive the pun).

One of my favorite parts of the script is the whole family learns and grows and forgives each other. I finished watching the movie thinking ‘who couldn’t relate to this film?’. I certainly could. I especially related to Katie because there was nothing I wanted more than to get out of my house when I was 17 and ready to go to college. My Mother had just had a baby and I wanted out of there!

I could also relate to all the trips we used to take with my Dad getting so excited about rocks and the rest of us thinking he was nuts LOL. That’s the dynamic here in The Mitchells vs the Machines. Again, who can’t relate to that?

The script isn’t the only strength to The Mitchells vs the Machines. The animation is absolutely spectacular. If you liked the hybrid CGI/2D feel of Spider-verse you’ll love the animation here. It’s obviously a little more grounded in style but the way it uses color and movement is brilliant. Like I said, I bought the art book after seeing it and I’m dying to learn more about how they created the stunning animation.

Most importantly The Mitchells vs the Machines is charming. The characters are great. The story is great. The music and animation are great. I loved it and I hope you will too. It’s funny and about the American family. I hope we get a whole series with the next film a story from Aaron’s perspective. Please more from the Mitchells!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] Arlo the Alligator Boy

One of the great things happening over at Netflix is the fostering of new and innovative animated talent. Whether it is I Lost My Body, Klaus or Over the Moon creative men and women are being given a place to explore and make beautiful films. The latest entry is basically a pilot for a new animated TV series called Arlo the Alligator Boy made by first time director and animator Ryan Crego. Honestly story and pacing-wise the film is a mixed bag but as a pilot for a 20-episode series it establishes the characters enough to make me want to tune in; therefore, it does its job.

In this film we are introduced to an alligator that is anthropomorphic and talks like a human boy (hence the title). Much like in the movie Elf, Arlo finds out he has a father in New York City and decides to go there in order to find his father and figure out who he is.

Along the way Arlo meets up with a rag-tag group of friends who help him on his journey. There’s a tiger, a pom-pom girl, a dinosaur and more. The further Arlo goes the more wisdom he adds to his team much in the same way that Dorothy adds to her team in The Wizard of Oz.

The animation in Arlo is also a lot of fun with whimsical details and beautiful watercolor-inspired backgrounds. It reminded me style-wise of something like Steven Universe or even Hilda.

The music by Alex Geringas and Crego doesn’t always fit the vibe of the scenes but it is still good music and some of the musical sequences especially at the beginning are catchy. It feels like a show that could have quality songs like Elena of Avalor.

Where the movie loses me is when Arlo gets to NYC and there is a back and forth between him and his Dad. It felt really long, and I struggled to stay invested. The ending is very predictable and it just wasn’t engaging me the way I wanted it to.

However, despite some script problems, Arlo the Alligator Boy has a big heart, enchanting animation and is a good start to a 20 episode series. The whole family will love it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEWS] Oscar Nominated Shorts

Hello friends! Here’s something you may not know but I love watching shorts- especially groups of shorts. There’s something satisfying about watching a little morsel of storytelling whether it be animated, live action or documentary. The only problem is sometimes the Oscar nominated shorts can be tough to get a-hold of but this year they are available to stream from your neighborhood arthouse theater. For $30 you can watch all 3 slates of shorts and support your local theater, which is an awesome thing to do. Click here to find out more.

Anyway, let me give you my quick thoughts on all of the shorts and what I think should win the Oscar:

Documentary

The documentary branch was my favorite group of nominees. This is much different than the normal feature film documentary branch which is almost always disappointing (including this year with no nomination for Dick Johnson is Dead! Outrageous!).

Nevertheless, I liked all 5 of these documentary shorts and they were all so different it is difficult to rank them.

2021 Oscars Best Documentary Short Subject Predictions - Variety

  1. Hunger Ward- this follows 2 women- a doctor and a nurse- inside a hunger ward in famine stricken Yemen. What I liked about this one is how authentic it felt. There’s no sense of the director manipulating the viewer. They are following the subjects around watching things happen. There’s a particularly devastating scene where an infant dies and the doctor has to go into another room to cry. It’s devastating but very real and moving.
  2. Do Not Split– This 36 minute documentary puts you on the ground with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2019-2020. This is another documentary where you feel like a fly on the wall watching what is happening. They don’t try and tell you what to feel but just show the events and leave it at that.
  3. A Love Song for Latasha– a very sweet documentary about the family and friends looking back on the life of Latasha Harlins who’s killing set off what became the LA riots in 1991. I think this one will win and it’s not undeserving.
  4. Colette- this follows a student who is looking to learn more about the Holocaust and meets Colette Catherine a 90 year old Holocaust survivor. Their friendship is very sweet and it’s overall a moving story about a time we can’t forget
  5. A Concerto is a Conversation– Probably the most conventional of the group, this is still a sweet short about composer Kris Bowers as he looks into the history of his Grandfather and his dry cleaning business in Florida.

My favorite is Hunger Ward because it felt the most authentic and moving of the 5 but they are all good. Definitely the strongest grouping of the 3 categories.

Live Action

The live action category of Oscar nominated shorts are the most forgettable of the group. It’s only been a few days since I watched them and they have mostly left my memory but here goes:

  1. The Present– it’s a simple concept. A Palestinian man is trying to buy his wife a birthday present of a fridge but in order to do so he must cross an Israeli security crossing. He does so with his daughter and unfortunately things get tense and uncomfortable.
  2. Two Distant Strangers– with its timely topic I predict this short will win even if I prefer The Present. It tells a time loop story where a Black man is living the same 24 hours where he gets killed by a cop every day. It is a gimmick but it works as a little morality play in a short
  3. Feeling Through– a sweet short about a man who ends up helping a deafblind man to get home off the bus. This is the first film to cast a deafblind actor and the unlikely friendship between the 2 men is endearing and authentic.
  4. White Eye– this follows a man who thinks he has found his stolen bicycle and what happens when he tries to retrieve it from the immigrant who stole it to help his daughter. It was fine but I wasn’t very invested in the story or the 2 unlikable lead characters.
  5. The Letter Room- I’m afraid this short feels like one which received a nomination for its celebrity casting more than the story quality. Oscar Isaac plays a cop in a federal death row penitentiary who is charge of reading letters to the inmates. Despite being warned against it he becomes too invested in the letters and tries to get involved. This one was honestly very dull and I didn’t care about the story or what was happening.

Animated

When you purchase the animated shorts they include 3 bonus shorts with the package and honestly I preferred all 3 of those bonus shorts over any of the 5 nominated shorts. I guess that says something. I would love to ask them why they picked these 5 shorts because there were some exemplary shorts not nominated like Pixar’s Loop and Out.

Who knows? But here’s my thoughts on the nominees:

  1. Burrow– in what looks like a Beatrix Potteresque illustration Burrow tells a very cute story of rabbit who wants to find her own burrow with a bathroom disco and all. On the way she runs into many different burrows and gets offers to live in many places but it is not home.
  2. Yes People– this is a short about 6 people living in an apartment and all you get is the grunts of the highs and lows of their life. I know some of my friends hated the animation but I thought it had a charm to it. It had an every-day living quality to it that I enjoyed.
  3. If Anything Happens I Love You– I love the simple 2D pencil animation of this short and it has a touching message but it is also a bit heavy-handed for 12 minutes. The topic is a school shooting and the grief the parents feel at their great loss. I do think this short will probably win but it wasn’t my favorite even though I appreciate the style and message.
  4. Opera– If all you care about is style than this one might suffice. It takes you into a miniature world with workers making the lights go on and the water run. It was fine but just didn’t do much for me. No real story.
  5. Genius Loci– this is the short I had the most trouble remembering days later. It made no impression on me either visually or message-wise. It’s about mental illness and a young Black woman, her memories and her dog.

So there you have it for the shorts. Did you get to see any of the shorts? What did you think of them? What were your favorites and what do you think will win? Let me know in the comments sections

[REVIEW] Godzilla vs Kong: 4th Times the Charm for this Franchise

I have to be honest I was not looking forward to the latest Monsterverse film Godzilla vs Kong. While the idea of getting back in theaters and watching a spectacle film excited me, this franchise hasn’t delivered a single film I could recommend so far. Could they nail it on this 4th and possibly last entry in the series? Surprisingly I am here to tell you: yes. Chalk it up to low expectations, but I had a great time with this battle of the titans- Godzilla vs Kong!

Godzilla Vs Kong' Roars To $123M Offshore Bow, Sets Covid-Era Record –  Deadline

Let me start off my praise by saying this movie looks great. I hated Godzilla: King of the Monsters mostly because the spectacle (the main draw of such a film) was ruined by choppy editing and constantly obfuscated visuals. What’s the point of going to such a film if you can’t see what is happening on screen? So frustrating.

Well here they get it right. The visuals are crisp and clear including an amazing final act in Hong Kong with the city’s beautiful fluorescent lights framing our 2 big monsters.

Godzilla vs Kong's human storyline was the "biggest challenge"

I hate the phrase ‘turn your brain off’ but let’s say Godzilla vs Kong isn’t exactly a thinking man’s movie. It’s not trying to be an allegory or say anything particularly profound. The closest we get is a little girl named Jia played by newcomer Kaylee Hottle who forms a bond with Kong and see’s him as the prisoner he is. Her performance reminded me of the best in King Kong action movies where Kong is made human through his bond with a woman or child. (BTW I am definitely #teamKong and especially love the 1933 King Kong with animation by Willis O’Brien).

Godzilla vs. Kong Details On Brian Tyree Henry's Character

There is also Brian Tyree Henry as a podcaster who follows the conspiracy theories to help break down the Apex  Corporation that runs the Monarch program (thankfully the story is a little more grounded this time around unlike the insane plan of Vera Farmiga’s character in Godzilla: King of the Monsters). I feel like I almost have to enjoy a movie who’s hero is a podcaster LOL! Henry, Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison’s characters become a trio that have a nice chemistry together and are fun to watch on screen.

And that’s the admittedly over-used word to describe Godzilla vs Kong: fun. It has enough story to facilitate Kong and Godzilla fighting it out and when that fight happens it delivers. Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) helps things along with an energetic score and it all makes for a classic spectacle time at the movies and that’s not something I have been able to say with this franchise so far.

Godzilla vs Kong will be available on HBO Max and in theaters but if you can go safely I encourage you to support your local theater because that’s where this movie deserves to be seen. Either way I think you will have a good time with it. I certainly did!

8 out of 10