Why I Hated Silence

silence2One of the myths I hear from time to time is that only a certain kind of movie can be a terrible film. That only the Norm of the Norths or Nut Jobs of the world can be awful. No, my friends. Glossy, well made movies can still be garbage. And at least for me Martin Scorsese’s passion project Silence was that kind of film. I hated Silence more than almost any film in recent memory. I was so close to walking out and I probably should have. Let me try and explain why…Spoilers ahead.

missionIt is perhaps helpful to give a little bit of my personal life experience in giving this review. After all, we can not completely separate our experiences from how we interpret a film. I served a mission for my church from 2003-2005 in Indianapolis, Indiana. While certainly nothing like what the fathers face in Silence it was intense in its own way. Separation of family and friends was challenging but what carried me through it was a love of the people I was serving and the message.

This is the biggest problem with Silence. Never once did I get a feeling from the priests that they loved the people or even the message that much. The Adam Driver character gives us a little bit of that and he dies for the people but this is such a small part of the movie. The scene that really made me the most angry was when Christian Japanese are tortured and even crucified the two priests literally watch from a distance and do nothing for 4 days!!! There is no way anyone of that kind of religious mission would do that. It felt totally cold and inauthentic to me. Even if staring is the wiser thing to do they wouldn’t do it. There’s just no way.

I never felt that Andrew Garfield’s character loved the people he was serving and that brings me to my next biggest problem. The main point of the film seemed to be that missionary work and faith is mostly ego. This is helped by the fact that no love is shown for the people and so the reason he doesn’t apostatize is all about him. His pride is more important than anything else. This is not like A Man for All Seasons where a man of faith refuses to deny what he knows is right.  We understood a communion between God and Thomas Moore in that film. He was doing that for the people. I never felt that here. Silence seemed like a real condemnation of those who have the ego to share their witness with others.

silenceAnd maybe that was what Scorsese was going for? As an active Catholic I don’t understand why he would want to send that message but whatever (I am completely baffled at why he would make this movie as his passion project). A cynical message is fine but does he have to ram it into our heads with a sledge hammer? This brings me to my next complaint. In my eyes the film is torture porn. We get scene after scene of brutal extended torture of Christians and for what? The priest doesn’t love these people so why do we need to see this repeatedly? Each time we see these scenes it only added to the condemnation of the priest for his selfish choices and ego.

If you look at a movie like The Mission they feel similar on its surface but that film was full of hope. The priests in that story loved and suffered with the people. This was just unending torture of Christians because a Western visitor wouldn’t let go of his pride. There was no hope. No sense of a communion with God to give strength or peace.  As the title would suggest, God is in fact silent throughout the film. Even if you don’t believe in God it defies credulity to accept that such a man would not hear God’s message and be strengthened by Him. There are moments where he talks to God but the silence is all the more damning.

Again if Scorsese was trying to make a film condemning religion and God that is one thing but he doesn’t even do that well. It’s just a repetitive slog that gets some kind of pleasure out of the torture of innocent people. This movie is almost 3 hours and for the life of me I will never understand what we are supposed to gain from these torture scenes. Exhaustion doesn’t begin to describe how I felt at them. I wanted to scream out at the screen- WHAT IS THIS ALL FOR!!!!

Who are these people? We don’t even know them.  All we know is they believed but why and what does it matter if our lead character doesn’t have a relationship with them? It’s literally just torture porn and where is the enlightenment there?

Did I mention the movie is almost 3 hours long? I LOVE long movies. I recently saw Lawrence of Arabia and was completely engrossed with the amazing characters and story. I love Ben Hur, Boyhood, 10 Commandments and many other long films. But there is long and there are movies that feel long. Like I said this is just a repetitive slog that wallows in the worst of human nature.

The movie does  look nice but the whole time I kept feeling like saying ‘we get it. You like Kurosawa. Move on…” It was so obviously aping the films of the Japanese master that it became annoying. Kurosawa made long films but his characters were deep with a clear focus to why they needed to be in the film. For example, Katsushirō in Seven Samurai has layers to his character we never see in Father Rodrigues. Not even close.

When he does finally apostatize he immediately becomes an agent against the Christians, which is not surprising since he never seemed to love them to begin with. Again, it was all about his pride not his faith, which with the torture shown makes him a completely awful person. He is told apostatizing is just a formality but clearly it is not because I never got the sense that he got much hope or peace from God to begin with. Yes, I understand he is buried with a cross but that doesn’t mean he was a believer or someone who showed his belief by LOVING THE PEOPLE! Faith should be love. Faith should be hope.

You could make the claim that Father Rodrigues is a martyr for the faith but like I said with the Thomas Moore example I never felt he had an conviction or testimony beyond the mere reciting of scripture from time to time. If he believes through the end of his life than show some degree of hope or peace or something from that belief. It’s not enough to just have a cross in your hand. FAITH WITHOUT HOPE IS NOTHING!!!  How can Scorsese fail to realize this? If faith can’t give you light in dark times than what good is it?

It was at best about a man abandoned by God, which could be a compelling narrative but not one I need to see combined with the torture of Christians for 3 hours…

As I watched the movie my anger grew bit by bit but I kept hoping there would be some kind of redemption for the characters and movie. Alas, it never did and I was just left having a miserable experience. I just can’t overstate how much I hated it. It was manipulative, unfeeling, exploitative junk.

If you liked it than more power to you. This is my blog and I did not.

Overall Grade- F

Also it has some of the worst bald caps I’ve ever seen. The cinematography is nice but very repetitive and derivative of other films. Nothing too spectacular. Ugh..this movie!

Blind Spot 13: Moonrise Kingdom

moonrise-kingdomrJanuary has proven to be a very busy month with my birthday, finishing up my Disney Canon series, end of the year lists and Sundance Film Festival (half way through. Update to come).  However, I wanted to keep my commitment to the Blind Spot series and watch the January pick, so I squeezed it on Saturday.  The film is Moonrise Kingdom and I’m glad I did because it is a charming little movie.

Directed by Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom, shares all of his hipster cuteness but in ways that feel appropriate to the story. It’s about two 12 year old kids that run away together causing their community to madly search for them. They believe they are in love and share a sweet chemistry together. moonrise-kingdom6The town is eccentric like most Wes Anderson films characters are but there is a brightness here that sometimes his films miss. I know everyone is in love with Rushmore but I much prefer this. I found Rushmore to be a little mean spirited and harsh in tone where this is light and joyful. Edward Norton is particularly good as Scout Master Ward.  It made me laugh because my father is the world’s most diligent scout master.

moonrise-kingdom7The rest of the cast is fantastic including Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and more. I also liked the two 12 year old actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.

The cinematography by Robert Yeoman was done in 16mm film and it almost has a sepia quality to it. It feels old fashioned and comforting. The production design was excellent as well as the costumes.

moonrise-kingdom5But the main reason to watch Moonrise Kingdom is the writing. I can see why Wes Anderson was nominated for an Oscar for original screenplay because it is delightful while having moments of emotional truth hidden inside. It has a dry sarcastic sense of humor without becoming harsh or judgemental. It was really entertaining to watch.

I suppose the pacing may be a little slow for some and others may find it the hipster style a little grating but I didn’t mind it.  Moonrise Kingdom is a real winner from Wes Anderson and I’m glad to get to start 2017 on a high note!

Overall Grade- A-

Oscar Nomination Reactions

86th Annual Academy Awards - Red CarpetSo the Oscar nominations are in and for the most part I am pleased. Here is my quick response to the various categories:

Best Picture-Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

I’ve seen all of the nominees and think they are all deserving of recognition. Probably biggest surprise is Fences as it doesn’t have the feel of a typical Oscar movie. I’m very happy to see Hidden Figures and Lion get recognized. I thought they might get snubbed. I guess in my dream world an animated film would sneak in there for best picture. It was such a strong animation year. Oh well!

Best Director- Damien Chazelle for La La Land, Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge, Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea and Denis Villeneuve for Arrival

No real problem with any of these nominees. All good films. I am surprised that Hollywood nominated Mel Gibson. I mean I loved the Hacksaw Ridge but didn’t think the Academy was ready to embrace Mel again

Actor- Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea, Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge, Ryan Gosling in La La Land, Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic, Denzel Washington in Fences

Haven’t seen Captain Fantastic but no problem with these nominees.

Actress- Isabelle Huppert in Elle, Ruth Negga in Loving, Natalie Portman in Jackie, Emma Stone in La La Land and Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins

I haven’t seen Elle but I loved Isabelle Huppert so much in Things to Come that I am happy she was nominated. I hope she wins. I do think Meryl got nominated because of her golden globe speech but she is fantastic in Florence Foster Jenkins. A lot of people criticizing that nomination probably haven’t seen the movie. I do think Amy Adams deserved to be nominated for her fine work in 2016

Supporting Actor- Mahershala Ali in Moonlight, Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water, Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea, Dev Patel in Lion, Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals.

I kind of wish Kyle Chandler had been nominated for Manchester over Lucas Hedges but he is good (Frozen chicken scene alone deserved that nom). I’m thrilled to see Dev Patel for Lion even though the kid actor was probably better. He was great in Lion. Jeff Bridges was fantastic in Hell or High Water. Mahershala Ali great in Moonlight and Michael Shannon was best thing in Nocturnal Animals.

Supporting Actress- Viola Davis in Fences, Naomie Harris in Moonlight, Nicole Kidman in Lion, Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures, Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea

A very strong category. I loved all of these performances. Viola for the win!

Original Screenplay- 20th Century Women, Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea

I liked La La Land but I can probably think of 30 movies that had better screenplays than it in 2016. I have not seen 20th Century Women and don’t plan to until I can rent it because of their planned parenthood donation marketing. No thank you!

Adapted Screenplay- Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight

Only real loss to me is Love and Friendship. It actually improved upon a Jane Austen novel. How many movies can say that? I mean of all the things to praise Arrival for the screenplay wouldn’t be one of them…

Animated Film- Kubo and the 2 Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, Red Turtle, Zootopia.

This is of course the big one for this blog! If I had it my way I would take out Zucchini and put in Your Name but these are all good films deserving of recognition.

Sound Editing- Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Sully.

All deserving but I think I would swap out La La Land and put in Patriot’s Day or Rogue One.

Visual Effects- Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, Jungle Book, Kubo and the 2 Strings, Rogue One

A little surprised Deepwater Horizon got a nomination as I don’t remember the visual effects being that great. I think they were better in Arrival or even Batman v Superman (yes I know but visually it was cool).  But Kubo and the 2 Strings getting visual effects nomination is huge!!!

Film Editing- Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Moonlight.

This one should go to Hacksaw Ridge if there is any justice but they are all worthy nominees and were edited well.

Short Film Animated- Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl and Piper

I’ve only seen Borrowed Time and Piper but excited to see the rest! I love this category. I sort of wish Inner Workings had been nominated as I loved that short and its message.

Original Score- Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Passengers

Surprised to see Passengers get in there but I enjoyed that score (but is it better than Moana?). I did not like the score in Jackie. In fact, I found it overbearing and annoying, so I don’t get that one…

Original Song- Audition from La La Land, Can’t Stop the Feeling from Trolls, City of Stars from La La Land, The Empty Chair from Jim: the James Foley Story, How Far I’ll Go from Moana

This is the category of heartbreak. No nomination for Drive it Like You Stole it from Sing Street. 🙁  That Empty Chairs song better be amazing…I hope the La La Land songs divide the vote and Lin Manuel wins for Moana giving him the EGOT. Plus, How Far I’ll Go is by far best song out of these nominees.

Production Design- Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail, Caesar!, La La Land, Passengers

No problem with any of these nominees. All fantastic production design.

Cinematography- Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence

Happy to see Lion included with its amazing cinematography. I haven’t seen Silence yet but it looks like great cinematography.

Costumes- Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land.

The real crime here is no nomination for The Dressmaker, which had costumes that were works of art. Literally they had a traveling museum exhibit of the costumes they were so beautiful.  These were all good but nowhere near The Dressmaker. Also Love and Friendship had fantastic costumes.

Makeup- A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad

This category is always very weird. Haven’t seen Ove but I can think of a ton of movies that had better makeup than Suicide Squad. I mean I hated it but Miss Peregrine’s was better than Suicide Squad in that department…Could Star Trek Beyond win an Oscar? Seems clear choice

Documentary- 13th, Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life, Animated, OJ: Made in America

I think it is a stretch that the 8 hour OJ series is deemed as a movie but whatever. It’s good and so is 13th. I haven’t seen two of the nominees but am thrilled Life, Animated got nominated. Well deserved! I’m a little surprised Weiner didn’t get nominated.

Sound Mixing- La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, Rogue One, Arrival, 13 Hours

I’m actually happy to see 13 Hours get nominated for this category. I think that was an underrated film in 2016 and glad to see it get nominated for something. These are all good sound mixing films. No problem here.

So there you have it. Biggest snubs for me are Love and Friendship and Sing Street getting nothing and The Dressmaker not getting best costumes. Biggest surprise is Kubo and the Two Strings for visual effects and all the love for Lion. Yay!

La La Land is now tied with All About Eve and Titanic for Oscar nominations which it’s a fun film but nowhere near All About Eve in my opinion. Oh well. It’s good film so whatever.

What did you think of the Oscar nominations? What did you think was snubbed? What surprised you?

Ranking Animation 2016

Hey guys! So on Saturday I finally got to see My Life as a Zucchini which means I have seen pretty much every animated film of 2016 except for Sausage Party (couldn’t stomach content on that one). This means it is time for me to do my ranking of these animated films. I made the video above which is long but I hope you all enjoy it. This was such a strong year for animation that nearly 30 films got a B grade or higher. Pretty great!

So here is my ranking of the animated films from 2016-

  1. Your Name- stunning anime film that starts out being light and funny but then turns into a powerful scifi story
  2. Moana- classic Disney magic with an Odyssey story and a wonderful lead character with great songs
  3. The Red Turtle- dialogue free but beautiful film about a man who shipwrecks and finds that nature has plans for him.  Amazing music
  4. Zootopia- a return of Disney fables with a wonderful lead character, world building and stirring message
  5. Tower- amazing animated documentary about a sniper attack in 1966. Relevant, moving and different than I’ve seen before
  6. Kubo and the Two Strings- stunning animation and a wonderful lead character that made me smile whenever I saw him
  7. Only Yesterday- this 1991 film finally got released in US. Beautiful animation and I love the kid parts so much to make up for the preachy adult parts
  8. Kung fu Panda 3- my favorite of the series. Beautiful animation and loved adoption message and Po learning to become a teacher
  9. April and the Extraordinary World- stunning steampunk film with a new and surprising story
  10. Ethel and Ernest- lovely portrait of a couple and their marriage and life. Great vocal performances and sweet animation.
  11. Finding Dory- tons of heart as we see Dory find her parents. They did some unique things and it made me laugh more than most Pixar films
  12. My Life as a Zucchini- one I am still pondering. A very unusual film but great animation with powerful moments
  13. Phantom Boy- a refreshingly small superhero story with beautiful cubist inspired animation
  14. Jungle Book- amazing realistic visuals and an improved ending/Mowgli character over original. The songs didn’t really work for me and Louie was too mean but still enjoyed it
  15. Miss Hokusai- beautiful film about a painter in ancient Japan. Enjoyed all the vignettes and stunning animation. A few things, however, I needed more cultural context on
  16. Long Way North- loved the animation without lines and simple color blocking. Great lead character in somewhat predictable story
  17. The Boy and the Beast- charming Karate Kid like story with stunning animation but some of plot points don’t really work especially ending
  18. Harmony- very smart dystopian set up where we are all judging each other for our kindness. Hurt by weak melodramatic ending
  19. Sing- very predictable story helped by good songs and characters I liked
  20. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders- a refreshing comedic take on Batman
  21. Storks- fairly forgettable but entertaining animated film. Loved message and comedy mostly worked
  22. Trolls- very uneven yet enjoyable film. Message on conformity a little unnerving but overall pleasant to watch
  23. Secret Life of Pets- story has problems and Kevin Hart bunny gets old fast but great animation and I liked Gidget and Chloe. A harmless animated film.
  24. Snowtime- some will find elements a little traumatic but they handle it well. I like the animation and big heart to it if a little bit manipulative at times
  25. The Angry Birds Movie- a decent animated film for kids with pretty good animation but some stretches bored me and the messaging of embracing anger was weird
  26. Ratchet and Clank- a fun Saturday morning space cartoon. Pretty good animation and overall was entertained by it
  27. Little Prince- I didn’t like this film. I felt it was boring and preachy. It got interesting at the end when it went all weird and dystopian but didn’t engage me. Pretty animation.
  28. The Wild Life- not as bad as most are saying. Some good animation and I was entertained except for the cats. The cats are so awful.
  29. Ice Age: Collision Course- most of the jokes are characters complaining. Decent animation but also has strange message about youth and beauty
  30. Blinky Bill: the Movie- a harmless animated adventure for kids but animation is bad and I was pretty bored by it
  31. Space Dogs 2- a horribly dubbed and animated film I didn’t hate watching. It’s very weird and makes weird choices but it is not good
  32. Bling- animation isn’t that bad but the message of consumerism and buying love and affection are off putting. Plus a horrible minions copycat.
  33. Batman: the Killing Joke- offensive, poorly animated morally repugnant film that doesn’t do the graphic novel justice at all
  34. Norm of the North- terrible animation, writing, characters, story, humor and everything else. Just awful.

So there you have it!  What do you think of my ranking?

My Life as a Zucchini (or Courgette) Review

my life as a zucchini posterI think I could have subtitled this review- Grown Ups Suck! In fairness there are some lovely adults in My Life as a Zucchini but boy the one’s that suck, REALLY SUCK! This is such a hard review to write but I just wanted to state that out-front and get it out of the way.

So let’s talk about the Oscar hopeful My Life as a Zucchini.  This is a stop motion animated film out of Switzerland that could receive 2 nominations come Tuesday (it is up for best foreign and animated film). On the whole I’d say those nominations will be deserved if they come.  This is a challenging, but rewarding film with amazing animation that draws you into the experience.

It’s very hard to talk about this film without giving out spoilers but I will do my best. Basically it is about a little boy nicknamed Zucchini who’s Mother dies in a shocking way to start out the movie. He then goes to live in a group home for troubled orphans. There he meets a mostly friendly group including a girl named Camille and a rebellious boy named Simon.

zucchini-main-imageThe plot is fairly simple from there. It’s about these kids and how they become a family and help each other overcome their traumatic upbringings.

Just as an example, one of the girls has a hideous aunt who wants to remove her so she can get the foster care money for caring for her. The kids must then figure out a way to protect their friend when the adults fail.

In a way, My Life as a Zucchini is kind of like Annie but there’s not just one Miss Hannigan. Each child seems to have their own Miss Hannigan nightmare, which is probably fairly accurate for the type of child in a group home like this.

That may sound like a real downer and it can be but the film also interjects comedic segments into the story that really work. It can be a quite joyous film and in a way the brutal sequences make the joy more sweet and precious for the kids.

There is also a nice chemistry between the kids.  They feel real and genuine with a terrific English dub cast. These are not the typecast kids you might get in a film like Hook where there is the rebel, fat kid, sweet kid etc. These children are unique and are all pretty well portrayed. The script takes time for small moments of character development  like when one orphan finds a pair of ski goggles on holiday. The owner accuses him of stealing them but he is so happy with them that her daughter gives them to the orphan in a lovely gesture. This isn’t even our lead character and yet it is such a touching moment of human empathy. courgette02When I got out of the theater I tweeted that My Life as a Zucchini was an unusual mixture of the brutal and adorable and that’s really true. It’s like  if Sesame Street had a ‘life kind of sucks’ episode. One of the ladies outside of the theater compared it to Bambi but I don’t agree with that. Bambi has a sad event take place where My Life as a Zucchini is more about pushing through when all of life seems to be out to get you. It’s about finding family, hope and joy in the midst of everyday struggles.

One character in particular, Simon, is particularly well written. Again, he could easily be the rebel kid we’ve seen in a million of these stories but he’s not. There’s a point where he is very envious of Zucchini and Camille but he still gives a loving response. He still tells them that they have to do what is best for them despite him wishing he could be so lucky. It was a beautifully written scene. zucchini-statueIt was really cool after the screening they showed us one of the puppets of Zucchini and told us about the making of the film. Stop motion always blows me away and this is no exception. They did a tremendous job making the characters come alive. The eyes were particularly expressive. It is a tremendous accomplishment and they deserve all the praise they are getting in the animation department.

courgette31There were some children in attendance at my screening but I have to say if I was a parent I would be a little reticent about showing them My Life as a Zucchini. Not that I think children should be sheltered but it’s a lot of bad behavior for a kid to absorb in just one movie. We would certainly have to do some major talking after about addiction, selfishness, wrong choices, poor parenting and the reality of evil. We would also have to talk about the power of friendship, family and love that does pull through in the end for the characters.

It’s a movie of contrasts I suppose, but in my opinion it’s not really a movie for small children, which is fine but perhaps the animation style would lead you to believe otherwise.

I feel like this review is a bit all over the place and that is because I kind of feel that way about this film. It’s shocking, sweet, beautiful, funny, upsetting and adorable all at the same time. A side of me wonders if on rewatch this could become one of my favorite animated films of the year. The writing and animation is strong enough but it’s just so different I’m not there yet.

I certainly recommend seeing it and participating in this unique experience on film. In a way it is kind of like the 400 Blows in animated form! It’s not every day you can use that in a review! If you do see it let me know what you think. I will definitely do a spoiler review in the future and dive into the plot in more detail than I can here, so keep an eye out for that.

For now I give My Life as a Zucchini…

Overall Grade- B+

My Sundance 2017 Preview

It might seem crazy but this year is my first time attending in mass the Sundance Film Festival! Last year I went as a guest of rotoscopers.com to review the film Snowtime and interview the creators but I didn’t really attend the festival. This will be my first time really attending every day and I’m very excited!

The reason I have been reticent to attend in the past is the lack of ratings for the films. Sundance films are more artistic in nature and so I worried I would be wasting my money on films I wouldn’t want to see content-wise. Well, this year I figured I’d give it a shot and if a film is super bad I can always leave. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right? 🙂

Make sure you follow me on snapcat @smilingldsgirl and on other social media because I will update throughout the days on how my experience is going and what I think about the films I see. But I thought it would be fun to give you a preview of what I am seeing.

My Life as a Zucchini-

The first and probably most highly anticipated is the animated film My Life as a Zucchini. This is a stop motion animated Swiss film about a little boy who deals with his grief while becoming a part of a new group home.

Lady Macbeth-

I’m a little nervous about this one because it looks pretty steamy but I love Macbeth so much and I thought it looked like a good film. The tagline is “Alfred Hitchcock meets Wuthering Heights” caught my interest. I would share the trailer but it is very spoilery and so I’d rather you not see it. The movie is about a shut in in 1865 who is basically kept inside by her husband. She meets and falls in love with a servant and the story goes from there.


This is a documentary about a group of high school seniors from Baltimore who are part of a step dance team and their struggles to get into college and compete.


Billed as a docuseries, RISE is 3 episodes about the struggle of Native Americans and indigenous citizens.  There is a Q and A after so I hope it is good! I see both RISE and Step on my birthday so another reason to hope they are good.

riseAnimation Spotlight-

Of course I had to see this. It is 10 shorts in a variety of styles and subject matter. I think they will be pretty great!


The Good Postman-

A documentary about a Bulgarian man who helps the Syrian refugees who are coming into his town.

Band Aid-

This has an engaging cast and it looks like it could be a fun dramedy. It is described as about “a couple who can’t stop fighting embark on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band”. I hope it will be good! Could it be 2017’s Sing Street?

Band Aid - Still 1The Hero-

This film is about an aging western movie star played by Sam Eliot who gets a cancer diagnosis and has to face his life. It looks like it could be very sweet.

heroThe Yellow Birds-

This Iraq war story was mostly sold to me on the people behind it. It is written by David Lowery who did Pete’s Dragon, which I loved and stars Alden Ehrenreich and Tye Sheridan who I also love. Jennifer Aniston plays Sheridan’s Mom which I can’t really imagine but I’m looking forward to it.

yellow-birdsRebel in the Rye-

I don’t know much about this one but it stars Nicholas Holt and is about JD Salinger before he wrote Catcher in the Rye.

rebel-in-the-rye-movieI had a ticket for Wilson staring Woody Harrelson but after seeing the trailer it really doesn’t look like my thing, so I think I will try and exchange it.

So there you have it! Do any of my selections intrigue you? I wanted to see A Ghost Story which is directed by David Lowery but it is at the same time as Yellow Birds so I picked the latter.

I’m definitely the most excited for My Life as a Zucchini and the animation spotlight! I hope they are great!

Cheers to Indy filmmakers!

Sherlock Season 4 Sucked

sherlockWell, we have reached my Batman v Superman. You know how last year Batman fans were so disappointed with Zack Snyder’s latest film? Well, I’ve never been that big on Batman so I wasn’t that disappointed that it sucked. What I have always been is a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and as such I was eagerly anticipating season 4 of the BBC show Sherlock. Boy was I let down. Actually that’s not strong enough. Sherlock Season 4 sucked so bad I can hardly believe I sat through it.

I have been a big fan of Sherlock since way back in 2011 when it first aired in the US. I wrote about it on my other blog- https://smilingldsgirl.com/2011/01/14/sherlock/. I normally don’t like modern retellings of classic stories but this managed to keep true to the spirit of the Conan Doyle books and characters and so I fell in love with it. Plus, it introduced me to Benedict Cumberbatch who we have all grown to love as one of the great actors working today.

Since then we have gotten 2 more seasons that were solid but season 3 started to feel a little bit gimmicky with Sherlock escaping death and them never explaining it. I should have known because season 4 took that path and went off the deep end.

Spoilers ahead!

So why does season 4 suck so much? Let me count the ways.

Episode 1

Episode 1 started out with some promise as it was focused on an actual case involving the disappearance and death of a young man. There are busts of Margaret Thatcher being destroyed at homes across town, which totally seems like classic Sherlock Holmes style storyline.

Then they have to tie it back into Mary and her being a super spy, a plotline I hated from season 3. I really could care less about Mary as some secret spy and then the melodrama keeps getting piled on.

And worst of all THEY MAKE JOHN A CHEATER!!!  John Watson who is the moral center of the series cheats on his wife and daughter for no discernible reason at all (not that there is ever a good reason to cheat). It seriously goes nowhere the cheating plot. Urgh!!!

And then Mary dies and we are supposed to feel bad about this but I so didn’t care. Plus, knowing this show I felt it wasn’t a real death so it didn’t really move me the way it should have.

Episode 2

So I was very annoyed by Episode 1 but little did I know that episode 2 was going to be even worse.

In this episode they abandon the simple case all together and have it be focused on a murderer named Culverton Smith played annoyingly by Toby Jones (and his teeth are so gross!). Then the episode becomes a cat and mouse game between the two of them with one cheap reveal after another.

We get tons of fan service in this episode with lines like ‘The game’s afoot’ designed to appease hard core Sherlock fans- which I thought I was. In between you have groan inducing gimmicks that are supposed to shock the viewer but just made me angry instead.

There is nothing smart about what Sherlock does to solve the problems. He kind of just survives the melodrama. And of course we have more Mary sentiment thrown in to annoy me.

Episode 2 was also shot poorly and felt like a cheap M. Night Shyamalan knock-off.

Episode 3-

How could it get worse than episode 2? Well, step right up to episode 3 my friends.  Oh my gosh. I just can’t believe how awful it was.

This episode leans on every tired and boring horror movie cliche. The last hour I felt like I was watching a Saw movie not an episode of Sherlock. Again, they dilute Sherlock down so that everyone is smarter than him and they spend the entire time in a room basically getting tortured.

The fact the torturer is his secret sister is just more annoying than anything else. And we see people shot and kill themselves and tortured with nothing interesting to say about anything and no character development for anybody. It was horrible. Occasionally they would show Moriarty laughing to titillate fans I guess but it was just annoying. I didn’t feel fear or tension or anything but mindless gore.

There’s some gay baiting that is lame. It’s just all lame.

We also get this lovely bit of special effects…

sherlock2I just can’t believe how bad it was. The dialogue was horrible. The stories were plodding, melodramatic garbage and the episodes weren’t even well made.  It was first class junk!

I can’t overstate how much I disliked Sherlock Season 4 and what a complete disappointment it was. If I wanted to see a lame gimmicky horror movie I could go see The Bye Bye Man in theaters this week. Not watch Sherlock. They manage to ruin all of the characters especially John Watson and focus on Mary, a character I could care less about.

I’m very annoyed and very upset right now. Garbage. Total junk.

My Top 15 Films of 2016

It’s finally here my friends! The moment you have all been waiting for. My top 15 best movies of 2016 list!

Here is the youtube version:

You guys have no idea how much thought I have put into this list. I have moved films around and thought weighed the pros and cons countless times. It’s so hard because I like all of these movies for different reasons and how do I decide which reason is better than another? Well, I did the best I could. I must admit I am kind of proud of my list. I think it is thoroughly unique and represents me very well.

So let’s get started!

hidden-figures215. Hidden Figures- I love movies that make me want to cheer and this movie did that in droves. I loved how it chose to forgo the evil redneck violent racist and instead took on institutional racism which I think can be just as virulent and much harder to strike down. I loved all the performances and that it is PG so kids all over the world will know about these amazing women.

hell-or-high-water14. Hell or High Water- Basically a perfectly executed film about two brothers pushed to the edge and the officers who are following them. It has such a sense of place and feels very relevant to many issues we face today. I felt for the characters and was engrossed the entire time. Not my typical genre but it won me over any way.

10_cloverfield_lane13. 10 Cloverfield Lane- I don’t see that many thrillers/horror movies but this one blew me away. I loved how it kept surprising me. I really didn’t know where it was going or what was going to happen. I loved Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman in the leads and even the ending that others didn’t like I kind of dug. It’s one of the only times in recent years I had genuine fun at a horror movie.

presenting-princess-shaw-poster12. Presenting Princess Shaw- 2016 was an amazing year for documentaries and this was one of my favorites. As a youtuber, this story of Samantha from Atlanta who ends up as part of a video for an Israeli man named Kutiman meant a lot to me. It reminded me that this sometimes toxic medium can be a powerful tool to serve others and bond with strangers.

pete's dragon 811. Pete’s Dragon- Yes, I’m kind of ashamed of myself that this didn’t make my top 10 because I loved it so much. This is the kind of movie I want Disney to make. It was small, intimate with humongous heart. I can’t believe they pulled off the dragon on such a small budget. I loved the cast especially Oaks Begley as Pete. Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford were completely lovely. It reminded me of live action movies we used to get from Disney that weren’t afraid to be real and deep with kids. Now we get the next warmed over bland remake…

tower410. Tower- This documentary was new and fresh and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It profiles a sniper standout at the University of Texas in 1966 but it uses animation to make the experience more rich and textured. The different characters were compelling with a variety of reactions and getting to see them in the real and animated forms was very absorbing. It amazed me how some had never really dealt with the incident after all these years making the documentary very raw.

zootopia poster29. Zootopia- I admit some of the criticisms of Zootopia had started to get to me and then I rewatched it and remembered how much I love it. Sure the metaphor has holes if you overthink it but it’s still powerful for children and the movie isn’t only the metaphor. There are lessons about never giving up, facing bullies, forgiveness and friendship. Mostly it is about not letting our fears dictate our behaviors. I love Judy as a character and the friendship between her and Nick is very heartfelt. The world building is amazing and it is so funny.

things-to-come8. Things to Come- This film has 100% on rotten tomatoes and there is a reason why- it’s amazing! Isabelle Huppert is incredible in this role of a woman who’s life goes completely upside down in every way possible. She’s devastated of course but it actually becomes this empowering experience for her. It’s a very fly on the wall kind of film without a strong plot but I loved it. Huppert is so great in the lead role and the writing is honest and powerful. It’s the only time I have felt moved to tears by the speech of an agnostic explaining her views on life.

red-turtle107. The Red Turtle- A combined project between director Michael Dudok De Wit and Studio Ghibli is one of the most stunning films I saw all year. With no dialogue, The Red Turtle manages to tell a stirring story about fate, love and how nature sometimes knows best. The animation is awe inspiring and the music is the best of 2016.

lion6. Lion- This is how you do a true story right. I loved everything about this movie. The child actor is incredible and I felt his chaos, joy and fears as he carries the first hour of the movie. Then Dev Patel comes in and does a great job showing the highs and challenges of adoption. Nicole Kidman was fantastic as his mother and the cinematography and music were so well done.

love and friendship35. Love and Friendship- This movie gave me a new Jane Austen book. How can I not love it for that reason alone but it’s not just that. It’s super funny and has an energy and pizazz to it the other Austen adaptations (as much as I love them) don’t. Lady Susan is kind of an anti-hero who’s self-interest ends up being to everyone’s benefit in the end. The dialogue is hilarious as well as the costume, product design and everything else. I love it more each time I watch it.

moana144. Moana- I can hear the shocks now. I am sure most thought this would be my top pick. I really do love it so much. I love Moana as a character. I love how unselfish her quest is. I love the animation, music, humor, and characters. I love that it focuses on Polynesia, which has my heart. I really don’t have any big flaws with it. I just felt my top 3 were a little more unique than this but I LOVE Moana!

hacksaw_ridge_poster3. Hacksaw Ridge- Moana entertained me. Hacksaw Ridge made me want to be a better person. Yes it is super violent but it’s a rare case where the violence actually made it a better movie. I love that Desmond’s abstaining from war is not dictated by his faith but is a personal covenant between him and God. It reminded me of Daniel and the Lions Den. Sure he could pretend and play along, just hold the gun, but that wouldn’t be true to his promise to God. So, when he cashes in that faith with his pleas for ‘One more Lord’ it blew my mind. It made me want to go out and be more faithful and serve others more.

sing-street2. Sing Street- This movie is like joy in movie form. I watch it over and over again. I love everything about it. I love the relationship between the brothers and their dialogue. I love the romance and how they make each other better. I love the music and the payoff concert. It’s a movie I could watch 100 times and never tire of.

your-name31. Your Name- I thought long and hard about it and I believe Your Name is the best movie I saw in 2016. It’s so original, stunning and emotional. It starts off as a fun body swap movie and then a friendship grows which is challenged when a complication is introduced. Then it takes on a sci-fi element that was surprising and I had no idea what was going to happen without being too twist dependent. I loved the characters and what they learn from each other. The animation is stunning and the music (both score and songs) are perfect. It’s a movie that each time I watch I see layers I had missed the first time. It’s stunning and my favorite movie of 2016!

So there you have it! What did you think of my list? How does it match up with your list and what are your favorites of 2016?

And if you were wondering my 16-20 are

16. Kubo and the Two Strings

17. Queen of Katwe

18. Midnight Special

19. Kung fu Panda 3

20. Manchester by the Sea

If you are wondering I will see My Life as a Zucchini next week at Sundance and then I will do my 2016 animation ranking.

Now on to 2017!

Best Movie Moments of 2016

Hey guys! I’m still working on seeing a few more movies before I unveil my top 15 movies of 2016. In the meantime I made this video of my top 15 movie moments of 2016. Some of my top 15 won’t make this list because they are more great all around but not for a particular moment. Other movies that I liked but didn’t love or were even disappointed in still had a memorable moment that made the list.

Here is the countdown!


15. Family Montage- Storks-

This ending montage of families of all types getting babies ended the film on just the right note. On my blog review some readers mentioned how much being included, even for just a moment in an animated film meant to them. I also love the Lumineers song to accompany it.

14  Ending- Jungle Book-

I enjoyed this more realistic take on Jungle Book and probably my favorite part is the ending. I like it because I hate the ending of the original animated classic. I don’t like the girl singing about being an indentured servant her whole life and then hypnotizing Mowgli with her beauty to leave his friends.  In this new version we have an empowered Mowgli who figures out a way to defeat Shere Khan by himself.  That was awesome!

13. La La Land Opening-

la-la-land5The hyperbole on this film has started to grate on me but it is an entertaining movie. The beginning steals the show for me with its energy and innovative ideas. If only traffic was always this fun.

12. Dory finds her Parents Again- Finding Dory-

We’ve been following Dory through 2 films and to see her reunite with her parents was truly touching. The film’s message on disabilities is wonderful highlighted by Dory’s parents reassuring her how proud they were of her.

11. Finding Internet Success- Presenting Princes Shaw

I loved this documentary about a small time youtuber who gets found by a musician who uses one of her songs for his compilations. The two meet and it was heartwarming and lovely. This scene is when she first hears her song on youtube. It’s powerful stuff!

10. The Flood- Queen of Katwe

I don’t really have a great picture or video for this one but Queen of Katwe moved me emotionally and I wish more people had been to see it. One moment I was particularly struck by was when a flood comes and destroys everything. It is devastating and intense.

9. Captain America: Civil War

I love the way Marvel combines action with witty banter, and the airport scene in Civil War is one of the best examples of this. It was so freakin entertaining!

8. Agnostic Eulogy- Things to Come

This wonderful movie starring Isabelle Huppert features the only speech on agnosticism to ever make me tear up. The film is about the world of Huppert’s character falling apart and so this eulogy was so heartfelt for the character.

7. Darth Vader Throw-down- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I was disappointed in Rogue One for the most part but I did enjoy this awesome thrown down with Vader showing his strength more than we have seen before. It was awesome

6. Standing on the Ground- Fences

Viola Davis could give acting class based on this movie. It is such a compelling performance and  made me feel angry right along with her.

5. Brown Shoes- Sing Street

After being picked on by the principal for wearing brown shoes the concert at the end of Sing Street is so engaging. I was cheering and had a smile on my face for days.  It also doesn’t hurt that the songs are super good.

4. Acid Scene- 10 Cloverfield Lane

I’ve seen this movie a number of times and my jaw still is on the floor when this scene happens. It is intense and scary and a particular moment completely shocked me.

3. Frozen Chicken Scene- Manchester By the Sea-

There are a number of moments I could have picked from this film but the breakdown the teenager character had I could highly relate too.  He is troubled by his father not being able to be buried  and seeing the chicken reminds him of that.  It was very powerful.

2. How Far I’ll Go- Moana

Everything about this scene is Disney magic. I love the voice actor and the songs and builds momentum very well. I was cheering for Moana!

1 One More- Hacksaw Ridge

Seeing our lead character go back into horrific battle time and again to rescue his fellow soldiers was incredible to watch. The violence makes his action all the more inspiring and significant to our posterity.

Just thinking of these moments makes me happy! Have you seen any of these films and if so what did you think of my picks?