Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I have been busy as usual. The fun thing about doing my podcasts is there is always something new and fresh to talk about. Lately I’ve been covering a lot of television at Hallmarkies Podcast which has been demanding but exciting.
Anyway, I have some reviews to update you on. What have you been watching? There is so much it’s impossible to keep up with everything, so I would love your suggestions!
Sanditon Season 2
Anyone who knows me knows I was not a fan of Sanditon season 1. Based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel the creators decided it was more important to be edgy than to provide a satisfying love story. I particularly disliked anything to do with Esther and her relationship with her “brother” Edward.
What’s so surprising is it is created by Andrew Davies who has given us great period piece projects like the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. With Sanditon it’s like he has completely forgotten what makes for a satisfying romance.
Why did I watch season 2 you ask? Well, there was such an outcry at the terrible ending of season 1 I assumed season 2 would fix it all. Unfortunately that was not the case. Almost every love affair ends badly. Esther’s plotline is still awful, and we get another befuddling ending for Charlotte. What on earth! Jane Austen would not approve!
I hate this show!
3 out of 10
I always enjoy a good historical fiction. It’s fun to go back in time and wonder what might have happened or what people might have been like? Such is the case with the new indie 18 1/2. In this movie we get a fictionalized portrayal of what it might have been like for a White House transcriber and her associate who find the 18 1/2 minutes missing from the Watergate tapes.
I liked Willa Fitzgerald and John Magaro in the lead roles and the simulated tapes with Bruce Campbell as Nixon and Jon Cryer as Bob Haldeman feel very convincing. Richard Kind also appears as a supporting role as a man who owns an inn where the transcribers are staying (it had the feel of It Happened One Night in those sequences, although not as much a romance).
The film does drag in the middle when Connie and Paul are trying to schmooze fellow guests (Sullivan Jones, Marija Juliette Abney) at the inn who also want the tapes. But overall this is an exciting and engaging time at the movies!
7 out of 10
I admit I tend to be easier on faith-based films than a lot of my fellow critics. This comes partly because I recognize the audience they are creating content for and that often they are made on small budgets with good intentions. Nevertheless, I recognize the genre could do a lot better in making nuanced and engaging films certainly to appeal to more than just the hard core believers (which I am not a traditional Christian so I include myself in that group).
This is why I get excited about a film like Father Stu. It is far from perfect but it takes risks in the genre that excite me and I hope it is successful enough to encourage others to make similar attempts. The first reason Father Stu stands out is it’s strong R rating. This is not a one or two curse words R. It uses the f word frequently as well as other profanities. This is really surprising given the target market.
That alone wouldn’t make the movie worth seeing (of course) but I appreciate the film has flawed characters that aren’t paragons of virtue. The title character, Father Stu, played by Mark Wahlberg is kind of a mess and he remains a mess even when he gets an ASL-like condition and his body starts deteriorating. His relationship with God is also refreshingly simple and free from theatrics.
Unfortunately I wish the movie was made better. The directing is very clunky with strange photo choices and odd pacing. There are also some weird side-plots that don’t work like Father Stu’s girlfriend who he seems infatuated with until all the sudden he’s not and wants to be a priest. Also his priest roommate was maybe closeted gay man but it was handled strangely?
Nevertheless, flaws and all I think Father Stu is worth a watch and if someone were to ask me this is the way I would like faith-based films to go.
6 out of 10
I have never been a big fan of director Michael Bay particularly his overbearing and annoying Transformers films. I did like his movie 13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi which perhaps was too politically charged to get the credit it deserves as an engaging action film but for the most part his style of directing isn’t my favorite.
Now we have AmbuLAnce and it is definitely the best movie Bay has made in a long time and while I had some issues it’s a fun action thriller.
The story centers around 2 brothers Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who plan the perfect bank heist only to end up in a high speed chase around LA in an ambulance (hence the captialized LA in AmbuLAnce). This seems to be the year for movies set in LA and I think anyone who has visited or lived there will recognize the ridiculous nature of most of the chases in this film. Never has LA traffic been so free during a whole business day!
Gyllenhaal and Mateen do a great job playing off each other and Bay builds tension well as the day gets crazier with each decision Gyllenhaal makes. Eiza González is less convincing as an EMT trying to keep a cop alive in the ambulance but it works.
My problem with AmbuLAnce is the way Bay filmed the movie. The constant swirling drone shots and shaky cam made me nauseated. Honestly I’d recommend skipping this film in the theaters and watching it at home where you won’t be as sick. I know I’m more sensitive than most but it’s a long movie and all that movement was too much.
The movie also gets more ridiculous as it goes along with Gyllenhaal’s character getting more insane by the minute, which is fun, but also hurts the tension when its so unbelievable. It also vacillates greatly on how we are to value human life. People are mowed over, cars are flipped, cops and thugs are killed and we are to be entertained where other deaths are treated with great solemnity.
There is fun to be had in AmbuLAnce but in the end the shaky filmmaking and questionable character/plot choices were enough to make it not enjoyable for me. Maybe watch it when it comes on streaming at home. Otherwise it’s a skip
5 out of 10
Colma: The Musical
This last review isn’t a ‘current’ film but one we are covering for The Criterion Project podcast I host that covers films on the Criterion Channel streaming service. It’s a micro-budget musical called Colma: The Musical and I loved it!
Made on a budget of only 15k in 2006 this labor of love from director Richard Wong and writer HP Mendoza (and lead actor) is a total delight. It tells the story of 3 friends graduating high school in Colma, California and trying to decide what to do next. The songs are the real highlight and it is full of bop after bop.
Naturally some of the production feels hyper-indie but it’s all done with such love and energy I didn’t care. If you have the Criterion Channel I highly recommend Colma: the Musical and look for our review to come on the podcast next week. It is a fantastic hidden gem more people should be talking about.
8.5 out of 10
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