Current Mini Reviews

Today I am back with a small edition of my mini reviews post. Mostly the end of January was taken up by the Sundance Film Festival but I was able to squeeze in a few other viewings which included both new and 2018 releases.

So here goes!

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS CR: NETFLIX

At the risk of losing some of my film snob credibility with #filmtwitter I must own I have not enjoyed most of the Coen Brothers recent comedies. They seem to rely so much on setting that they forget to tell a good joke. Films like Hail Caesar didn’t work because instead of being funny they decided to be boring and repetitive. Their early work like Raising Arizona focused on script first, setting and set-pieces second and this is what made it so funny.

Now we get a western themed anthology from them and it has much of the same problems of Hail Caesar. Lately the Coen Brothers seem content to simply pay homage to classic storytelling (in this case the western) instead of crafting compelling scripts within said genre.

For starters, I didn’t think that any of the shorts were funny. A couple were sweet and tender like The Gal Who Got Rattled, but even it, is not something I am going to remember. In contrast, their films like Fargo or Oh Brother! Where Art Thou I will never forget (memorable characters, script and setting!).

The shorts in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs are well made and acted but aren’t memorable nor did they inspire any large emotion from me. Pretty bland I’d say.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE

mowgli

Another missed opportunity came with Andy Serkis and his version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Of course we all know that Disney hit a real homerun with their 2016 version directed by Jon Favreau. I wasn’t as in love with that version as some moviegoers but it was certainly better than this new version that went straight to Netflix for a reason.

To put it quite bluntly Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is unmemorable and boring in every way. The child performer Rohan Chand who plays Mowgli is pretty good (perhaps better than the kid in the Favreau version tbh) but the story was not interesting. They go a darker angle which will be too traumatizing for kids but it isn’t compelling enough to entertain adults so it’s just really bland.

Also the cgi, which was so memorable in Favreau’s version, is very hit and miss here. The voice cast is all good but the characters don’t do anything interesting and Mowgli is a jungle boy who stays the same through the movie. I immediately forgot about the movie as soon as I finished watching it, which is a real shame.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

FREE SOLO

FreeSolo

This Oscar nominated documentary follows climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to ‘free solo’ climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The directors do a good job creating stakes for the danger of the climb and helping us get to know the free-spirited Alex. This helps his climb during the last third of the film feel wracked with tension!

I couldn’t help but ask myself while watching what all this risk was for? What was the point of going solo? I guess just to prove you can but is that something to be applauded? It’s similar to Evil Knievel jumping over 20 cars through a ring of fire for our entertainment or Philippe Petit walking across the World Trade Towers in 1974. Man always wants to entertain us via risking their own lives and more often than not such stunts are compelling and hard to not watch and applaud.

They had a lot of challenges while making the movie because they couldn’t disrupt his dangerous climb in any way to get either sound or images, so what they accomplish is really quite impressive. If they win best documentary I won’t complain (knowing the documentary branch it will probably go to something more pedestrian like RBG). Regardless you should check out Free Solo while you have the chance.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

I WANT TO EAT YOUR PANCREAS

I want to eat your pancreas

I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is definitely the strangest title of the year but fear not! It is not a cannibalism movie after all. In fact, it is a sticky sweet coming of age love story in the vein of A Fault in Our Stars or a Nicholas Sparks film like A Walk to Remember.

It tells the story of Sakura, a teenage girl suffering from pancreatic disease who becomes friends with a sullen teen boy who wants no part in her dreaming and life. Sakura is very much a manic pixie dream girl who exists mostly to inspire this boy (who we don’t even get a name of for most the movie) to live a full and exciting life. She also has a best friend who is very suspect of this new boy in her friends life.

Despite the somewhat tired setup, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is actually quite sweet with nice moments between the 2 characters that teens will relate with and enjoy. The animation is beautiful throughout using light and a watercolor aesthetic to make Sakura seem all the more angelic and hopeful. I also enjoyed the music and the character designs while fairly generic were pleasant to watch.

Overall, if you like these kinds of coming of age weepies than you’ll enjoy I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and I’d recommend checking it out.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

WHAT MEN WANT

what men want

If you are new to my blog you might not know that I hate the original What Women Want with a passion. I think it is such a putrid terrible lazy excuse for a comedy. Especially with the Marisa Tomei character’s plot I find it quite morally repugnant to be honest. So you can imagine I was horrified to see it was being remade with a gender swap with Taraji P Henson in the Mel Gibson role. Unfortunately the filmmakers couldn’t swap my feelings for the film into enjoying this new version

The positives for What Men Want is it has a funny poker scene where Shaquille O’Neal and other NBA stars get some good laughs. Also Wendi McLendon-Covey is funny in the 3 or 4 scenes she is in.

The rest of the movie is awful. The stereotyping is embarrassing. The laughs are few and far between (and extremely repetitive). The movie is way too long at nearly 2 hours and the lead character is an insufferable, entitled jerk for way too long. Also her skill of reading men’s minds seems to come in and out very conveniently. I know a lot of people hated I Feel Pretty last year but I thought that had way more heart and a way better message than this mess.

Worst of all it wasn’t funny (except for the poker scene). There’s tons of R rated humor and that did nothing for me. (I’m not sure why people think saying the f word a lot is funny. It’s just using a word. You have to do funny things with it). Anyway, What Men Want is trash. Don’t watch it or the original. There’s way better comedies out there to watch. Put on Game Night or even TAG instead.

Please let’s move on from this lazy gender stereotyping movie concept!

1 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Have you gotten to see any of these releases? Let me know in the comments section. Thanks!

Exciting News and Almost Best Movies of 2018

So if you follow me on twitter or youtube you already know my big exciting news! Last week I was contacted by a representative from the website rottentomatoes.com asking me if I was interested in becoming an approved critic for their site. At first I thought this couldn’t be real and was some kind of scam but I looked into and sure enough it was real!

I am still in shock about this development because I don’t know how I was selected out of the many talented podcasters and bloggers. I hadn’t applied because my numbers are far under what they say you need to apply. I am guessing they were trying to recruit female critics and somehow I got on their radar but I really have no clue. Maybe they just liked my writing? Who knows?

Anyway, it is a super exciting development for me as it should help me get on press lists I have been dying to get on. It has already got me on the local Disney/Marvel press list which is a dream come true and I’m hoping to get approved for another big local list. It also gives my content more exposure which is a great thing! I just can’t believe it! Dreams do come true!

You can see my profile with a few uploaded reviews

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/rachel-wagner/movies

Then I also posted my ALMOST Best Movies of 2018 List today. These are 15 movies I really loved that I couldn’t fit on my top 15 Best of List. I’d love for you to check out the video (or listen to the podcast) but here are the picks:

16. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society– great performances by Lily James, Michel Huisman, Penelope Wilton and more. Lovely story with heart and touching moments. Loved the ending and the proposal.

17. Won’t You Be My Neighbor- a documentary that manages to draw you in just telling a man’s simple story. There’s a moment at Congress that had me on the edge of my seat. Inspiring and heartwarming. I also got to attend the premiere at Sundance and another exclusive screening to celebrate our local PBS station KUED. Good memories

18. Mirai– sweet and intimate little anime film from Mamoru Hosoda about a little boy learning to appreciate his new baby sister. He is visited by guests from the future and past to teach him to be kind. Lovely with beautiful animation.

19. Green Book– I love stories of unlikely friendship and this was a great one. Wonderful performances between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Some want this movie to be more than it is, a protest film but that’s not it at all. It’s just about 2 friends and it is full of comedy, tender moments and learning to accept and value someone you never thought you could get along with when you first met.

20. Minding the Gap– Stunning documentary where director Bing Li follows his friends from an early age and weaves in skateboarding into themes of growing up, change, and most importantly how the domestic violence put upon their mothers changes them.

21. The Night is Short Walk on Girl– surrealist, bright and bubbly anime about a girl who goes on a giant drinking bender on a break from college. There are musical sequences, wacky artwork and a sweet love story. A trippy experience but one I thoroughly enjoyed. Very different than any other anime I’ve seen.

22. Game Night– hilarious film about a bunch of friends trying to have a secret game night. The whole cast is hilarious. I especially loved Kyle Chandler in an unusual comedic role. Anyone who has a competitive family with games will relate and it shows well the slight desperation we can feel to socialize as grown ups in our 30s. It’s hard!

23. Three Identical Strangers– A documentary that completely blew me away. I stayed spoiler free so when certain things happen I was shocked! I could never have guessed such twists and turns. It was funny, heartwarming, scary, everything all rolled up into one crazy story.

24. Eighth Grade– I’m usually not a big fan of sullen teenager coming of age stories but this one had just enough humor and heart to work for me. Elsie Fisher was wonderful and her experience youtubing felt totally authentic (I know of what I speak!).

25. Bumblebee– A completely charming film that is the Transfomers movie I have been hoping for all along. I loved the nostalgic feel and the heart with the relationship between Bumblebee and Hailee Steinfeld’s character. The use of music was also brilliant. It’s how to do a great blockbuster/reboot.

26. A Quiet Place- I don’t know how rewatchable this film is but it belongs on this list because of the great performances and what a memorable theater experience I had. The tension of the story and atmosphere they created really worked for me. I was so wound up when I left the theater I kept getting startled by everything around me! Such fun! (It’s also a story at its heart about a family that loves each other).

27. Maquia: Where the Promised Flower Blooms– an extremely ambitious anime fantasy from director Mari Okada. It has all you could want in a fantasy with battles, elves and dragons but at its core is a touching story about a girl becoming a mother and changing as a person in the process. Beautiful animation and music and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

28. Creed II- one of the more underrated films of the year. I really thought it was great. I liked all the performances and thought the story built tension and excitement well. I honestly would have been fine with either Adonis or the Dragos winning the final fight which is hard to do in a boxing movie. If it’s the end of the series it is a good way to go out.

29. The Hate U Give– The greatest thing about this movie is how well it portrays a family. These actors really felt like family and had incredible chemistry together. They did a great job building tension and showing a nuanced and layered view of the situation. I didn’t feel preached at but invested in her story and the family. The school stuff doesn’t work as well for me but I didn’t love that in the book so not especially surprised. Still very good YA adaptation.

30. Isle of Dogs– stunning animation from Wes Anderson and a story with the dogs that was adorable. I loved the attention to detail especially in the backgrounds. Amazing! Some of the human stuff doesn’t work as well but I still thoroughly enjoyed this unique animated tale.

So there you have it: My ALMOST Best Movies of 2018 List. What do you think? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for all your support! Sure love ya!

2018 in Animation

Today I wanted to share with you all a podcast I did with 3 of my friends on the year of animation in 2018. It’s a long one but we covered every release we could from the small to the large.

If you get to listen I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. What did you think about animation in 2018? Any disappointments or surprises?

My ranking of 2018 animation:

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

2. Ralph Breaks the Internet

3. Incredibles 2

4. Sgt Stubby: An American Hero

5. The Night is Short Walk on Girl

6. Mirai

7. Maquia: When the Last Flower Blooms

8. Isle of Dogs

9. My Hero Academia: The Movie

10. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

11. Tito and the Birds

12. Hotel Transylvania 3

13. Pokemon: the Power of Us

14. Liz and the Blue Bird

15. Next Gen

16. Smallfoot

17. The Grinch

18. Maya the Bee 2: the Honey Games

19. DC Superhero Girls: Legends of Atlantis

20. Early Man

21. Gnome Alone

22. Fireworks

23. Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies

24. Sherlock Gnomes

25. Lu Over the Wall

26. White Fang

27. MFKZ

28. Duck Duck Goose

 

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.

first man4

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.

first man2

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

frown

Why I Liked Ready Player One But Prefer the Book (Spoilers)

“The book is better…” is an oft hurled accusation thrown at the world of cinema. I have no doubt those that love movies over literature tire of being told their medium of choice is always a second class substitute. Normally I stay clear of this conversation and try to appreciate both endeavors on their own merit; however, in the case of Ready Player One the book has been so unfairly maligned by many who have often read mere pages I decided it was worth an entry in my blog. I enjoyed Ready Player One as a fun adventure mystery movie but it is a step down from the book, and the more I thought about it the more changes bothered me. So, here goes…

There are two huge differences between the book and movie Ready Player One. The first is the time spent in the real world. The first third of the book is spent mostly in the real world of the Columbus Ohio stacks. This allows you to get to know Wade as a character in a way that the movie doesn’t. Wade is your classic nerd and in the movie he is much more of a cool, confident character. This helps make his bond and admiration for Halliday feel more understandable in the book. He knows there is something Halliday has to teach him through this quest and that’s what makes him continue when others have long since given up.

The search for the first key is all done in the real world in the book. He puts together all the pieces from the different parts of Halliday’s life and tries to find what is special or memorable about them. This is a lot more interesting to me than a race. In the book there is a book called “Anorak’s Almanac’ which lists all of the things that Halliday enjoyed (something that has been very criticized but never bothered me… It’s all part of the story of Wade researching to figure out the clues). In the movie they have “Halliday’s Journals” and the process of the research there feels easy and so you see less growth from Wade as a person. This makes his end takeaway when he meets Halliday not as impactful as the book’s ending. Wade comes to understand Halliday in the novel as a full person, and even a reflection of himself in many ways

In the book, Wade struggles with the fame he achieves when he gets the key which is interesting for a person who is literally surrounded by pop culture and knows so much trivia (which isn’t really trivia in the Oasis but survival knowledge). Wade is a character I loved in the book and was rooting for where in the movie he is a standard cocky teen male lead.

The other big difference is the changes to all the side characters. In the movie Art3mis is a standard avatar that doesn’t stand out much from the other avatars aside from her telling Perzival that he would be disappointed by her. One of my favorite things about the book is the reason Art3mis stands out to Perzival in the game is she is so confident and real. She is one of the few characters in the Oasis who has a realistic avatar. She doesn’t go with the sexed up version of herself and Wade finds that very attractive. I wish they had worked this into the movie more. She’s a positive yet still kick-butt character and in the YA literature world where every woman has to be a warrior I really appreciated her.

Much has been made about the pop culture ‘nostalgia porn’ of the movie and book. I personally think this criticism is a very surface-level analysis and misses the point. It’s like criticizing a Western for having too many horses. The pop culture is just the setting which the mystery takes place in. It’s not the story but where the story lives. That’s why in the book setting up the Oasis and all of the parameters of Halliday’s quest makes so much sense. We are in the real world and see all the research that Wade has to do so when we see the cornucopia of images in the Oasis it’s not just fun visual candy but clues Wade is ingesting and processing.

For example, in the book the jade key requires Wade to figure out he needs to recite the movie War Games, play a text game Zork (to get the key), unlock a Voight-Kampff machine from Blade Runner and play a game of Black Tiger (to unlock the gate) and more. This was exciting to read because we knew what Wade had been studying and it was unpredictable what would be asked of him next. Thus making the pop culture part of the puzzle/mystery more so than in the movie.

The other thing that wasn’t nearly as effective in the movie as the book is the villain. In the movie they make Sorrento a former intern who is generally resentful of Halliday and the Oasis. In the book it is more the world as a whole that is against Wade with them being envious and trying to stop him from winning. Sorrento is in the book but not as cartoonishly bad as he is in the movie.

Halliday and Morrow’s friendship is a lot more developed in the book and so their separation is more profoundly felt. It’s one thing to fall out of favor with a business associate as shown in the movie. It’s another to lose your best friend from childhood who you played Dungeon and Dragons with (making the first challenge being playing DandD all the more meaningful). Halliday’s clues are about his life not just nostalgia porn IMO.

The book also treats Aech very differently than the movie. He/she is more of a nerd who builds things and has a chat room as opposed to a warehouse. In the book none of the High 5 meet until very late in the story but it’s just all more layered, with harder clues, and characters than the movie. Aside from Art3mis giving herself to the loyalty center in the movie nobody else does much to find the clues or beat Sorrento like in the book. You even get a whole sublot with Daito and Shoto being hunted down by Japanese authorities in the book that adds to their story.

The last line of the novel is “It occurred to me then that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the Oasis.” This makes sense because Wade was only in the Oasis because of his connection with Halliday. Now that he has finished his quest he’s done. The mystery is solved. All the research, study, thought is done. That is the fun part of the novel and what makes Wade a great character. The movie ends with him as a moderate user of the Oasis and says that real life is important as well. That’s fine but not as satisfying as the ending of the book.

It might seem like I hate the movie Ready Player One but I don’t. I liked it quite a bit; although, it was not as satisfying on the second watch as the first but still good. Unfortunately, they changed a lot from the book and it makes the movie less special as a result. I enjoyed it and will defend it but probably won’t remember it like I remembered the book.

The reason I loved the book is it was finally a YA novel that felt positive and hopeful. Most of these novels are cynical and depressing but here we had Wade trying to make his life better and trying to understand another human being in Halliday. We had him seeing the beauty in Art3mis and she being confident in her own unique identity. All of these things were hopeful and positive. You had fun characters and a mystery that was fresh and new. Yes, there was the nostalgia but that was just the unique setting like the maze in Labyrinth or Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. It was an imaginative, inventive narrative where good won over evil, and that is hard to find these days. Most YA novels have characters limping towards the finish line having sacrificed all that was important to them at the beginning (cough Hunger Games cough). Not Ready Player One and I loved the novel for it!

So in the end, my opinion on Ready Player One– the movie was good, fun ride that especially kids will love (although The Shining sequence may be over their heads)

But the book was great. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it

Current Mini Reviews

Normally I try to equally divide my time between my youtube channel and this blog. Well, my apologies because I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted on here since my Blind Spot review of The Seventh Seal on March 16th. I’m not sure how I let that happen, but I do have a bunch of reviews over on my channel so make sure you are subscribed over there.

Anyway, it is time to play catch up with one of my mini review posts. I should have a full review for Isle of Dogs on here this week so you will not be abandoned forever :).

Love Simon-

This proved to be a sweet coming of age story about a boy who is afraid to come out and admit he is gay to his family and friends. He ends up getting manipulated by a fellow classmate over an online relationship he has developed with a penpal from school. This bully classmate was the obvious villain of the film but he got on my nerves and was very irritating as well as being horrible (and in the movie a lot). Aside from that, it is a well acted, well written film that will help a lot of young people so I’m a fan.

Smile Worthy B+

I Can Only Imagine-

Anyone who is Mainstream Christian (or Mormon) knows the song I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me. It is a great song that transcended the Christian music charts to become a pop hit. This film tells the story of the writer of the song Bart Millard. Dennis Quaid is very good as the father who is a beast of a man that finds God. Trace Adkins is really good as a manager. The music is great. Overall, it’s an enjoyable and moving faith based film. Only flaw is the same actor, J Michael Finley, plays Bart in high school and he looks ridiculous. He looks like a 40 year old man in high school. Other than that, it’s a good inspirational story with good music

Smile Worthy B

Sherlock Gnomes-

I’m not a fan of the original Gnomeo and Juliet but at least it didn’t annoy me like this film did. Every character was grating and annoying especially the villain. There were a few sections of 2D animation that go into the mind of Sherlock that were fun but that’s about it. It wasn’t funny and the music was less fun than in the original and there are some scenes in an Asian toy market that were kind of culturally insensitive. However, the villain was the biggest problem and was super shrill and annoying. Nut Job 2 was way better in my opinion.

D Frown Worthy

Off the Menu-

A very sweet romcom that I thoroughly enjoyed. It stars Santino Fontana from Frozen fame as an heir to a fast food chain that goes to find new recipes and meets fiery Dania Ramirez. They had great chemistry and it was filmed nicely. Just a pleasant romantic movie that I think you should check out. They even get Santino to sing a little bit which is the best!

A- Smile Worthy

Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies-

This animated film reminded me a lot of the Living Scriptures films we used to watch on Sundays growing up. It is for a Christian Evangelical audience although it never mentions Christ. Just the style of the music and the way the morals are taught are very audience-specific. If you are in the audience you might enjoy it. It has a few scary moments but it should be fine for little kids. The songs are very Christian pop rock but were fine. I can’t say that it is good but I think it has it’s audience that will like it.

C Smile Worthy for its audience

Ready Player One-

Anyone who follows me on twitter knows I loved the book Ready Player One and it irritates me how much hate it has gotten. It’s a positive absorbing mystery when most YA fiction is cynical and depressing. Now it has been made into a movie by Steven Spielberg and I loved it. They changed a lot from the book but I had a great time. I loved following all the clues and seeing Wade learn from Halliday’s mistakes. The world-building is amazing and I liked all the performances. See it on the big screen if you can. It has a big heart and a lot more laughs than is in the book. Not every change from the book worked but I enjoyed it!

A- Smile Worthy

7 Days in Entebbe-

I must admit before seeing this film I didn’t know anything about this hostage crisis and I think the movie did a good job informing me and it makes some unusual choices I admire. First of all, the film is told from the perspective of the hostage takers and they try to help you feel sympathy for them. They also tell the story of the hostages and there’s a lot of good stuff in there. However, it can seriously drag and a choice to involve interpretative dance did not work at all. Mixed bag for me.

C Smile Worthy barely

Journey’s End-

I always feel bad disliking a war film because I do not mean any disrespect to the heroes who died or fought in the conflict. Such is the case with Journey’s End. It’s a WW1 film with good performances and one intense battle scene. Unfortunately for most of it the movie was super dull. I couldn’t believe how much time was spent debating eating military rations. They have a whole debate over the fact that canned pineapple is actually canned apricots. Multiple scenes are spent on this. They talk forever about what the mysterious ‘cutlets’ are in their meals. It was very boring.

C- Frown Worthy

So there you have it. Let me know if you have seen any of these movies and what you thought of them. Thanks!

Current Mini Reviews

So I have been very behind in reviews for the blog lately. Make sure you are following my letterboxd account where I will at least post my star rating for a film I’ve seen. Also I do a weekly show on my youtube channel where I rank the new films I’ve seen that week and share some thoughts.

But let me catch you all up with some 2017 films I’ve seen in some Current Mini Reviews!

Beatriz at Dinner-

I thought it was awful. It’s basically a chance for liberals to have a pissing session over Donald Trump. The Lithgow character is a rich, white, racist capitalist who owns hotels and Beatriz throws his phone at him and envisions murdering him. If that is your jam than this movie is for you.
Basically this movie is the liberal equivalent of Christian movies that just tell the viewers what they want to hear and how much better they are than those evil atheists.

Frown Worthy

The Guardian Brothers-

This is a Chinese animated film that is now available to watch on Netflix. I’m not as hard on these Chinese animated films as most. In fact, I enjoyed this year’s Rock Dog when many didn’t like it. However, I did not enjoy The Guardian Brothers. I found it very boring. There is some nice animation but I honestly kept falling asleep because nothing engaged me about the story.

Frown Worthy

Megan Leavey-

I haven’t been a big fan of most of the post-Iraq war movies portraying the life of soldiers. I can’t explain why but most of them don’t really work; however, Megan Leavey is an exception. It’s very heart-felt without being preachy or overbearing. Kate Marra is great in the lead role and I really felt for her and her dog. Some may call it sentimental but I think it was moving and beautiful.

Smile Worthy

Louise By the Shore-

This is a french animated film about an old woman who gets left behind on an resort island and must figure out how to survive on her own. As she lives she is reborn in a way and gets a new energy for life.

I loved this film! The animation is beautiful with a whimsical quality and I loved Louise as a character. It might have too little plot for some people but I really thought it was charming. It’s worth hunting down if you can find it. The music and sound design were perfect also.

Smile Worthy

Wind River

It’s only major flaw is perhaps that it is not as good as Hell or High Water– writer Taylor Sheridan’s previous film. This is his first time directing and he does a great job creating atmosphere and tone. I had a few issues with the way the female characters were portrayed but it was still an engaging mystery.

Smile Worthy

Napping Princess-

2017 has been such a great year for anime that I wanted to love this but I couldn’t get on board. The visuals and world building are impressive and it will entertain small kids but I found it repetitive, exposition heavy and boring.

I reviewed it for Rotoscopers.com here.

Frown Worthy

 Home Again-

I was actually excited for Home Again as I love a good romantic comedy and we get way too few of them these days. Unfortunately Home Again wasn’t a romantic comedy. It wasn’t a romance. It was a sitcom about 3 guys trying to get a screenplay made in LA and an older woman helping them out. I hope we get better romances in the future but until then I will enjoy Hallmark movies and my Hallmark podcast I’ve started which you can find here.

Frown Worthy

Window Horses-

I absolutely loved this indie animated film about a Chinese/Iranian girl who gets invited to a poetry festival in Iran. While there she learns much about her father, family, identity, life and poetry. It was funny, emotional, sweet and very well written. I loved the unique artistic style and music. If you can find it see it!

I reviewed it on rotoscopers.com here

Smile Worthy

Viceroy’s House-

This seems to be the year for lots of films that satisfy the Anglophile in me and all of the British films have been worth a watch. So is the case with Viceroy’s House. It tells the story of the last Viceroy in India and the events that happened to split India and Pakistan. Director Gurinder Chadha has a personal connection to this story and it comes through. The cast is good and it is handsomely produced. There are definitely sentimental and predictable moments but it is enjoyable

Smile Worthy

Person to Person-

I recently became aware of the term ‘mumblecore’. This is an indie film that follows characters around and shows their everyday life and Person to Person is such a film. I don’t require a strong plot for my movies. I love Richard Linklater movies and enjoyed a film like Maggie’s Plan from last year. However, this one didn’t really do it for me. The people didn’t feel real enough and so it felt like following around a bunch of New York caricatures instead of people. There are some nice moments but over all it didn’t work

Frown Worthy

Lego Ninjago-

I have been a big fan of both the previous Lego movies but must own to feeling underwhelmed by Lego Ninjago. My main problem was it felt very derivative. It’s not just derivative of the previous Lego movies but of Kung fu Panda, Star Wars and a myriad of other films. This made it feel very repetitive and boring. The animation isn’t as good as the original Lego Movie (neither was Lego Batman tbh) and the live action elements didn’t have the emotion of the original film. There is some fun action and the scenes with the cat were hilarious but I can’t recommend Lego Ninjago.

Frown Worthy

Leap

Known in other countries as Ballerina, Leap is a European animated film that will satisfy its target demographic of little girls dreaming of being a ballerina. It’s got decent animation and is a perfectly harmless animated film. However, I did have a major issue with it. The message of the movie is to be a dreamer, which is great. The problem is these dreams come pretty easily to our young heroine. She gets parts in ballets that others have worked for years to get when she is just learning the basic positions because she has the heart! I don’t think this is a great message for girls. Dreaming is wonderful but it must also be accompanied by the requisite hard work.

Frown Worthy (but it is very close. Smile worthy if you are an 8 year old girl who loves to dance)

So there you have it! Let me know if you have seen any of these films and what you thought of them. Thanks tons and happy movie watching!

Tim Timmerman, Hope of America Review

One of the concerns I often have with seeing as many movies as I do is becoming overly critical. I never want to be someone that nitpicks and insists everything be perfect to enjoy a film. I say this because today’s review- Tim Timmerman, Hope of America is a flawed film but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is a locally made  film by Cameron Sawyer about a Ferris Bueller knock off, know it all, high schooler named Tim Timmerman played by Eddie Perino. Tim has life figured out or so he thinks. He’s going to rule the school as student body president and then head off to Yale. But of course, events happen that start to mess up his plans!

Tim meets a deaf girl named Sydney played by the lovely Chelsea Maidhof. He starts off wanting to use her to improve his chances with her senator father in getting the Hope for America award. Of course, they end up falling for each other like you would expect. He also has a jealous student body co-chair who reminded me of the Jennifer Grey character in Ferris Beuller. There is a principal who is tired of putting up with Tim and an array of geeks, weirdos and stoners who Tim befriends and helps with their problems. They also play a game called Assassins which reminded me of the $2 gag in Better Off Dead. A movie like Tim Timmerman, Hope for America is very easy to criticize. It is derivative, predictable and none of the cast look like they are in high school but it won me over with its charm and positive energy. I was impressed with all the music they got rights too. It’s not a bad 90s soundtrack. It also never becomes mean spirited or judgemental as some high school comedies can be. Being a teen of the 90s it was also very nostalgic for me as it captured the feel and energy of that era.

Cameron Sawyer made this film on a micro-budget with help from kickstarter and it shows, but I didn’t mind that. It’s kind of like Napoleon Dynamite in many ways. Sure it’s a small film but it’s done with such likable characters that it leaves a smile on your face. It won’t be the mammoth hit that Napoleon Dynamite was but that only happens once in a blue moon. Still, hopefully some people will seek it out and support it. It’s a cheerful throwback to the 90s with a very engaging cast. Can’t go wrong with that! It’s also probably the cleanest PG-13 movie I’ve seen in a long time. Definitely family friendly.

Overall Grade- B

Here is the trailer:

They have a form on the website you can request this film in your city. If not look for it on streaming and other services in the next few months and let me know what you think.

 

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.

lady-macbethSTEP-

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.

stepRISE-

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!

animation-spotlight

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!