Anna and the Apocalypse

Every year I have a most anticipated movie of that year, and I try to make it pretty obvious when I first hear about it. For example, last year my most anticipated film was The Greatest Showman, and I was excited for around 18 months until I finally got to see it.

For 2018, my most anticipated movie was Anna and the Apocalypse. I first heard about it in 2017, as a movie screened at Fantastic Fest. So it was an already complete product, it just needed a distributor, and it needed to find a time to release.

Apparently that time was a whole year later. I don’t usually have a theme of my most anticipated movies coming out in December, it just happened to be true these last two years. They aren’t always musicals either, but again, it can happen.

But this film just had everything for me to get hyped on. Accents, comedy, music, and zombies. What else is missing?

Ignore
This is me ignoring the people who hate this movie on the premise alone.

Another day, another pile of classes, and another set of dicks to deal with. That is what most high school students think. Anna (Ella Hunt) wants to get out of her small town in Scotland, and see the world. More notably, Australia, that would be cool. She lives alone with her dad (Mark Benton) who is also the head custodian at the school, which isn’t as awkward as it sounds. It is totally cool in Scotland. He knows she has ambitions, but he doesn’t know she is already buying the tickets to leave.

Life is relatively normal for her though otherwise. She has an ex (Ben Wiggins) who disgusts her and is now a school bully, she has a best friend (Malcolm Cumming) who likes her, but not too mutual. She has some friends who are madly in love (Marli Siu, Christopher Leveaux ) despite weirdly paired, and an American friend (Sarah Swire) and she is from America! Hell, we even have an assistant principal (I don’t remember what they call that spot in Scotland) character (Paul Kaye) who wants to ruin kids lives and rule the school! A smorgasbord of fun.

And even though they are alone in Scotland, it is not far enough for the Zombie plague to reach them. That’s right, zombies!

Getting away is a good idea, but when friends and family are separated, the first goal is to find them, then figure out a way off. And yes, these zombies are pretty typical. And as far as I remember, none of them end up singing. You need to have a warm body to sing.

Head
Working lungs are good too. And a head. Yeah, definitely a head.

Alright, going into a movie that is my most anticipated of the year AND a musical? Well, that means I will have some biases. Thankfully these biases I am aware of and only have a small effect on the film. Because darn it, this film is not a 4 out of 4, no matter how much I want it to be. It has issues, it has plot problems, it could be better. But it is still really dosh garn entertaining.

Now, most of the songs in retrospect sound very similar. Just in their poppy, very fine tuned comb way. That bugged me when watching it. There are some clear standouts from the movie. Hollywood Ending is fantastic, it is their favorite too given their push to get people to hear it and made the lyric video. I enjoy Break Away, Turning My Life Around, and Human Voice. Other songs like the Chrstmas/Fish Rap aren’t as good with repeated listens, and I never really enjoyed the songs with Kaye singing. That included the ending songs. They just didn’t mesh well. The song with Wiggins is downright terrible, and another one they are trying to push, but it left a sour taste and never felt like it would end.

And I listened to the soundtrack a lot, it can easily get in your head, and I want to see the movie again thanks to the music and the way the songs occurred.

It is really easy to get attached as well. I did cry twice in the movie, because you know what? People are going to die. Despite the claims of not a Hollywood Ending, we still get a drive off into the horizon, with not the cast of characters I would have predicted. Zombies are used only when needed as plot devices to further a script, and that does include killing characters. And unfortunately, the ending is a big mess. I mean the entire time they are at the (final place, is this a spoiler?) school, just didn’t go well.

It is still enjoyable, a tow tapper, and a film I will add to my collection of stranger zombie comedies to watch when the mood hits me.

3 out of 4.

Mary Poppins Returns

54 years has to be some sort of record when it comes to having a sequel for your movie. I am talking about movies that have never been rebooted, or turned into an animated series, or given sequels decades ago but here is another one to ignore the rest, or a prequel in a different format. And you know, a sequel, done by the same company who has always owned those rights.

When they first announced Mary Poppins Returns, with the main leads, I was actually excited. Blunt killed it in Into The Woods, and her look could clearly pull off the same character. And of course Miranda is amazing in everything and could handle the goofy singing and dancing sidekick.

But I did quickly forget about it, and haven’t really cared about it coming out since the announcement. The idea seems swell, but maybe the real world is too annoying and dark for me to really escape for two hours and watch British kids learn to use their imagination or whatever.

KIDADUlts
And British adults learn their imagination never really left.

Many years ago, Mary Poppins magically appeared and fixed a family, then flew off, never to be seen again.

Until now. Decades later. Same neighborhood, house, and…family? Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now older. Ben is living in the same house, with his three kids (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson) and Jane has her own flat, but she is around frequently to help out. Michael was married, but she died, and this has put a big strain on their house. Finances are bad for that reason, but also because the whole neighborhood is in a financial crisis, of which it is hard to even find work.

So things are kind of shitty, and you know what, the bank is going to reposess their home probably. That means bye bye childhood, hello sadness and stress. They need help. And the kids aren’t being kids, they are just acting like tiny adults. Boo!

We need Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) to return! And with the help of her new compadre, a fast talking lamp lighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), they will get the damn job done.

Also starring Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Noma Dumezweni, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Jim Norton, and David Warner.

JUMP
Jumping into the pits of hell is a unique twist in this film.

Mary Poppins Returns is an unrelentingly optimistic look at life, sorrow, and pulling yourself up by the goddamn bootstraps to make yourself smile.

Something sad? Fuck your sadness, let’s get happy!

This movie felt a bit weirder, as there is a notable “villain” character, while the problems of the first film seemed to just deal more with priorities and not being family enough. This is a fine family in terms of love, just they have lost their way, and also, someone is out to get them. I don’t think it needed to be so mean spirited for a Poppins movie.

For the songs, there is only one song I really loved, which was A Cover Is Not The Book. And it is definitely a song I like more with the video, and not just the song. Most of the other ones just feel adequate, or extra. A fair number of reprises for the songs is a good use of their time at least. I absolutely hated the Streep song and the whole scene. It was a one off just to get her in there and act silly, and clearly it is a reference to the first film, but also, it did nothing for me.

This film relies heavily on nostalgia to sell. We have various versions/scenes that are clearly just throwbacks to the first film, to have similar antics, and that is more lazy than exciting. Because of better special effects, everything is a lot more polished, and thus feels a bit more fake when it comes to the more spectacular dance scenes. When we have the lamp lighter army doing their song and dance (because the last film did it with chimney sweeps), it just felt too cut heavy and small, like you could see the size of the set and didn’t pull me in.

It should be noted, that Blunt and Miranda still knocked it out of the park, and they are reason enough to see it. This is the film you want if you just need to smile and have a pick me up in these times of misery. It isn’t the best film, it won’t probably change any lives, but it can be a good escape, despite its issues.

3 out of 4.

Ben Is Back

Guess who’s back? Back again?

Ben is Back! And tell a friend!

Speaking of Ben, Lucas Hedges is also back, ready to rock out another amazing performance. Starring in too many Oscar nominated films last year wasn’t good enough for him. He needs more, again, now.

And for this film he has the help of other award winning actors and actresses, because he is tired of helping others win stuff.

SHRUG
He is doing his best here to look like he doesn’t care about awards.

Holly Burns (Julia Roberts) is a hardworking woman, who wants to make sure her home is safe, her community is happy, and that everyone everywhere is just happy. An extreme housewife like role, you know? Her daughter (Kathryn Newton) is almost done with high school and a great singer. Her other two kids with her new husband (Courtney B. Vance) are well behaved and free spirited, not yet ready for life to strike them down.

And then there is Ben (Lucas Hedges). He is in rehab, for not the first time in his life. When he comes home, bad things happen. Things go messing, questionable people come around, and of course we get a relapse, and when people are on drugs they are wild cards.

Will this time be different? Because surprise, Ben is back! Unexpectedly, for Christmas. Did he have permission? Is he done with the program? Has he actually gotten better this time? Or will his life spiral down, causing more destruction just like the last time. And the time before that. And the time before that.

Also starring Rachel Bay Jones, David Zaldivar, Michael Esper, and Jakari Fraser and Mia Fowler as the little brother and sister.

cAR
This is how happy people drive their cars.

Ben is Back is about two people. And Vance is really not one of those two. He is fine in the film, but very limited, just like the sister character played by Newton. This is about a mom and her addicted to drugs son. This is about Roberts and Hedges.

First of all, I finally have an answer to why Hedges is in so many amazing movies the last few years, coming out of nowhere. And no, the answer is only partially because he is an amazing actor. It is because of his dad, Peter Hedges, a writer/director, who also wrote and directed this movie. He has some Hollywood connections and probably some acting money. Hedges delivered a hell of a script, taking place basically over a single day before Christmas. There is so much tension in this family, so much past alluded to and shown on the screen, and it hard to not feel anguish for the characters. That is both Hedges and Roberts. Rarely do these films give us a fair side to the addicted person, despite it being a disease.

And holy shit, Roberts is great. She is a ticking time bomb, trying to hold so many things together, to keep a straight face, and do what she thinks is the right thing. In the face of despair she is trying to smile her way through it because that is what her character must have been told and learned growing up. She is an island and a ball of emotion. She is everything in this film.

This is a movie about two people, and it is about two amazing acting performances.

4 out of 4.

Mortal Engines

Peter Jackson‘s name is super attached to the project Mortal Engines, despite it not seeming like a project up his ally.

Okay, it is based on a book, and he has done quite a few movies based on books or other sources.

But it also looked like a CGI hellscape of a movie. Practical effects were Jackson’s bread and butter in the early 2000’s, outside of some monkey business. Sure, he Hobbited it that aspect up in the future, but there was some attempts to not make it one big green screen, right? Right?

Well, needless to say, this movie isn’t actually Peter Jackson’s baby. He isn’t the director. He is one producer and one writer of the screenplay. He is just a big name and probably involved himself very little in the project. Whew. That was a close one. Can’t have too many duds in a row, or else no one cares about your past.

Spyglass
This is our main character trying to find Robert De Niro‘s dignity for similar reasons.

Mortal Engines takes place some 200-300 years in the future. Instead of sleek future design, we had to go a bit dystopian, and a bit steam punk. Of course some resource concerns exist, and apparently that lead to bigger and badder weapons, which wiped out a lot of technology. Now that is a thing of the past. And instead of resorting back to a feudal farming society, they realized that having a farm is lame, and they needed to be more nomadic. And when you are a nomad but the Earth is too big to wander, you just gotta take your whole house with you. And city.

And uhh, we have cities with giant wheels now, moving across the landscape, in search of places to temporarily settle, to get more resources and then, move, or whatever. And the bigger the city, the more resources they need, so they can’t just like, sit still and gather up enough to move. So instead, they invest in bigger stronger wheels and straight up try to “Eat” smaller community city/town/buildings. They can convert the people into new workers and citizens, and tear up the building material to burn into fuel.

Okay, so this is terribly inefficient. These predator cities can’t possibly survive like this unless they are munching up settlements all of the time. And these settlements are sparse. There are some settlements that don’t move, but they are behind a large wall in a pass, separating let’s say Europe and Asia, with big boom makers, so they can’t get close. Or can they…

Anyways, most of this plot is world building, because that is really the most important aspect, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

In terms of plot, we have Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) trying to kill famed London Energy Guru Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). Why? Revenge. Sweet. Sexy. Revenge.

Also starring Colin Salmon, Jihae, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Robert Sheehan, Ronan Raftery, and Stephen Lang.

Terminator
“Excuse me, did you forget to drop me off in the 1960’s on your way to the future?”

Absolute garbage. That is a nice way of putting Mortal Engines. A CGI slugfest of nonsense.

Mortal Engines is what happens when you take all of the good to excellent parts of the last decade of teenage dystopian films, then throw them out the window, filling the gaps with terrible B- or C-movie plot, bad acting lines, no worries about making sense, and even more terrible plot lines. It is like the creators of Sharknado saw a book, bought its rights, and then realized Sharknado might be actually more plausible so didn’t try to make sure this movie made sense. It is what happens when you live in a green life, with a green house, green car, green girlfriend too, and then it is totally a good idea to have probably no real sets at all in your movie. It is what happens when you assume to be a success, you just need some ridiculous premise and it will make people thing you are edgy, fun, and new.

I can’t talk enough about how much of a dread this movie ended up being. At over two hours in length, it certainly had a never ending feeling and my mind certainly believed it was three hours plus. It had the nerve to both feel not fully fleshed out/rushed, and yet too long. At no point can people derive an emotional connection with these characters, as so much of the plot needs to be told in needlessly polished flashbacks from our main character. Thousands of people die in this movie, and there is barely ever a thought about them. Characters only show up at the perfect time because of poor writing, without any chance of appearing natural.

Mortal Engines has no redeeming qualities, and when you try to analyze aspects of the plot or story, it will either break apart or just completely get even more confusing. I assume this is a series, and more books/movies will maybe clear some things up. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work well with a standalone movie (Which had no sign of a sequel set up either).

And what in the flying fuck is up with the Shrike robot? I barely understand how they even exist, and just have to accept their near god level power. And it mostly implies it is a bad guy, despite clearly doing a good thing, until the very end when we are supposed to suddenly flip our switches and feel sad? The graphics and voice behind him were also, seemingly, left behind somewhere.

I spent most of the time with this movie trying to fight off sleep, and writing down lines that were delivered extra terrible/cheesy. That, and counting down the minutes until I could get out of the theater and try to put this movie behind me.

0 out of 4.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“At least the DC animated films are great!” says some internet people when it comes to the great movie comic wars.

And sure, that might have been true. I haven’t seen like any of them. Except The Killing Joke, which apparently was an exception to that rule.

But why not some Marvel animated films finally? Not Marvel Studios, but at least one of their superheroes. Sony has had a lot of terrible ideas lately on what to do with this franchise they own, and they figure, screw it, why not just throw a bunch of Spider-people in a movie and hope it works. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. People not familiar with Spider-man will probably think it is a joke.

A joke eh? Let’s get those joke people to do the movie, they do solid work. You know, The LEGO Movie guys, yeah! Well, at least Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are producers, and that might lead to a solid product.

Basically, this might be the first good move Sony has made besides teaming up with the MCU to get some of that ad money.

Woods
An idea that is maybe crazy enough to work. Like two spiderpeople.

The movie begins with an intro by our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Chris Pine), who goes over his past decade plus of success. He has a wife, has saved the day countless times, and apparently, he is the same one from the Sam Raimi films. Fun!

But this movie is only a little about him. Really, it is about Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a young man who is still in school, with a lot of emotions. He lives in the hood, but goes to a nice school. His dad is a cop, but he wants to be a graffiti artist. His uncle is really cool and helps him, but might have some law problems as well. And he is just extremely emotional and nervous, despite being a smart kid.

Needless to say, he likes Spider-Man too. Everyone does. And Miles gets bit by a different fucked up spider. Not the same one, a different one. One that grants similar, yet different abilities.

And thanks to some villains, they are making a big dimensional portal vortex thing, because they want to mess up the multi-verse. Or change the past. Either way, this brings in a lot of confusion, unwanted death, and some more power/responsibility things.

Featuring other various Spider-men from different dimensions, like SpiderGwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson)!

Also the voices of Zoƫ Kravitz, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Liev Schrieber, Lake Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Mahershala Ali, and Brian Tyree Henry.

Gwen
Two is not enough. We need diversity. Ladies. Cartoons. Animals. Time travel. All of it, damn it.

Hands down, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is one of the better superhero films of the last decade. I didn’t say animated films, I said Super-Hero. That is compared to all of the Marvel movies, to all the Fox, the DC, the other Sony ones. At least decade.

I am not saying it is better than The Dark Knights or the early X-Men films, but it is also better than most of the super hero ones in the 2000s.

Now, sure, that is a bold claim for animated films this year. I don’t know if I like it more than Isle of Dogs, but probably, I’d have to watch it again.

Why is this film great? It is just such a game changer and tries so much. It has emotion (I cried), wall to wall comedy, and fantastic fight scenes. Plenty of character development, especially this serves as Morales’ introduction to movies. I assume a lot of people still were unaware of him before this film, and it is a fabulous introduction.

When I say it tries so much, it is not going the safe route. The animation at first was off putting, very out there, reminding me a bit of the Spider-Man: The New Animated Series that premiered on MTV in 2003. But after a little bit, it was easy to go with the flow, and accept the weirdness of the animation. It was also a nice cross with actual comic books, and really immersed the viewer.

The voice acting was great with the large cast. They have award winning actors in roles that suit them, Cage being the best PI Spider-Man ever created, Mulaney with his regular awkward voice handling the pig, and more. Everyone completely morphs into their role. Even though Moore isn’t as young as Morales, it never felt disjointed and I hope he can voice this character for awhile (and be given more roles in more projects!).

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the gift that keeps on giving. For Spider-fans, you will be blown away. For comic fans, you will appreciate the story and craft. For animated fans, you should be stoked that there is something that isn’t another Disney/Pixar sequel. And for everyone else, well, hopefully you like to laugh.

4 out of 4.

The Favourite

At this point in my career as a movie reviewer, I can no longer say I am unfamiliar with Yorgos Lanthimos‘ work. Now, his first few things? Sure. But I have reviews of The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and now, The Favourite, so that is a clear majority of his movies. I can still suck as a person for not seeing the things that got him famous that are apparently great in their own rights, but I am familiar with his work.

Lobster was absurd and social commentary. Deer was creepy and made me panic. And The Favourite would turn out to be just as different as the last two.

The one thing I was most curious about this movie going into it is that it was listed as a “Biography” on IMDB before hand, having never seen the trailers or anything. This…this is a real story? Or at least based on one? That is certainly nothing like Lanthimos’ previous work, so it is good to see him go in strange directions.

Wait
Waiting rooms with no magazines got me like

Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is in pain and sad. She lost her husband, she has aches and hurts and she doesn’t want to rule England. She wants people to fix things and for her land to be in peace and to hang out with bunnies. Thankfully she has Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) by her side. Sarah has ambitions and smarts and wealth and is married to the main general. She wants what is best for Anne and best for England. She helps the Queen in every thing, including decision making, and is brutally honest with her. They might even be in love. That would explain all the sex stuff at least.

Things are going well enough, the two political parties disagree about things, and it is all terribly confusing, but whatever.

On the other side, there is Abigail (Emma Stone), who used to be a lady, but had some big problems with her family kind of ruining everything. But she is cousins with Sarah, so she wants to go to their castle and find protection. She is given a job as a very low level maid, not what she is used to, but it is better than nothing. However, she quickly finds that her talents can be better used and makes herself extremely valuable, with the goal of rising up the ranks.

Maybe even winning over the love of the Queen, and screwing over her cousin, who is definitely a b word.

Also starring Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn.

Bow
But we are here for the ladies ya’ll, even if Hoult has magical hair.

Going into a Lanthimos film you will never really know what to expect. This film seemed to be an experiment in camera work, from wide angled to fish. Amazing camera work at that. Given a film that will have most people talking about the costumes and acting, it is very important to realize how sexy everything felt. It wasn’t like normal impressive cinematography, it had strange side effects, and there were a lot or risks with it. It helped explain the complex feelings going on in the kingdom at the time and the complexity of these characters.

Okay, now the acting. Stone. Weiss. Colman. All extravagant and showcasing some of the best acting of the year. Apparently Stone/Weiss are both going for supporting roles and will be nominated together in a lot of shows, while they are giving Colman the top acting role and you could argue for all three that they deserve some form of main actress. The men are secondary in this film, they are schemers, they are distractions, but it is about two women who both want power and will do a lot to make sure they maintain their power.

I laughed so much throughout this film, while cringing and hiding at other parts. It really goes to extremes in all levels, never super graphic, but a few intense scenes regardless.

What surprised me was how “accurate” it was to history. Now I am willing to bet none of these conversations are close, and I don’t even think Abigail was real. But we have the same queen, bad health a lot of her life, lady Sarah, changing political allegiances, war, and it had the number of miscarriages correct (which during the movie just seemed like an absurd/uncomfortable joke). Again, I put accurate in quotation marks. It is clearly not accurate, but it is also very much inspired and not drawn out of thin air.

Basically, everything that The Favourite tries, it accomplishes with gold and blue ribbons. Even the jarring and uncomfortable ending makes a lot of sense for this movie. The Favourite came out of nowhere for me, and I could never have guessed it to be so brutal and enjoyable. One of my must see films of the year, and certainly one of the top.

4 out of 4.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

A few years ago, The Jungle Book remake came out, and people were confused or impressed or didn’t see it. One of the first “live action” remakes (whereas everything is still animated but one character basically) from Disney and it was a good way to test the waters with their technology and realism.

The problem is, there was another Jungle Book movie trying to come out before that one. It was to be directed by Andy Serkis, and yes, also mostly CGI, but also a lot of mocap technology, the same stuff that made Serkis famous. HE wanted to see those famous actors pretending to be animals, really getting into those characters.

And because of the Disney release, they decided to delay this one. Wait a couple of years, and release it fresh with new eyes. But The Jungle Book announced a sequel, which means there will never really be a time when there isn’t a Jungle Book movie coming out, so they just needed to get it out at some point. People rushed things, advertising potential was low, so they instead sold it to Netflix, so that it can hopefully just be successful there.

Poor Serkis, there is no way he wanted his movie to premiere on Netflix. And at some point they changed the title to be Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, because Mowgli apparently wasn’t good enough on its own.

Race
Mowgli and the four realms wolves.

Look, I know and you know, that you are not here for the plot. We know that a boy has his parents get all murdered by a mean tiger (Benedict Cumberbatch), so some wolves take him in and raise him. He is also watched over by a panther (Christian Bale), who is soft or something, and really wants the baby to not die, while also being pretty darn afraid of a tiger.

And occasionally, a bear (Andy Serkis) is around to give advice/teach/protect. The snake? Well the snake (Cate Blanchett) is less evil and more godlike, with a bit of an oracle-sense, she is there to be unnerving, not just looking for a bite to eat.

Anyways, the boy (Rohan Chand) tries to be a good wolf, not realizing he is actually a human, and you know, not die to tigers.

Also starring the voices of Naomie Harris, Jack Reynor, Peter Mullan, and Eddie Marsan. If you want other real people, Matthew Rhys and Freida Pinto are also notable characters who have more than just a voice.

Bath
When bathing, make sure you focus on your bare niceties.

Really, to have two movies based on the same source book around the same time, those movies better be really different. They need a reason to exist and not just because they wanted to see who can do it better.

And regardless of who had the idea first, or how pitch meetings went, this just feels like a competition to try and see who can do it better. I would like to do a big list of comparisons of the two and argue which is better, but I saw The Jungle Book years ago and don’t really want to make that sort of review. This film has more zoomed in looks at the animals faces, probably for mocap reasons as they created animals around acing faces. None of them looked like people creepily, but the mouth movements felt a bit more natural to have human words coming out of them.

But that doesn’t make the graphics better. I am having a hard time to really figure out which one counts as better, so just put the movies as good enough graphics. They are telling the same basic story too, except this one is a bit darker at times. The monkey scene in particular is really frightening, as are some of the chase scenes. The snake scene is more confusing than anything.

However, this film has problems. Namely, when Mowgli gets to the village. That isn’t the end of the movie, but maybe two-thirds of the way through it. Once that happens all momentum is dropped. The movie seemingly comes to a stop and just takes forever to move the hell on. It loses its steam and can never really gain it back, as most people then decide at that time to start checking their watches waiting for it to end.

Voices are fine, graphics are suitable, darkness is less appropriate for a family movie, and holy shit does it take awhile to just end. Easy pass, but since it is on Netflix, you will see it large and around for weeks, and sure, it will probably frighten your kids.

2 out of 4.

Burning

I have been really behind on my foreign films this year. I can’t even think of what I have seen with mostly subtitles this year. Not including the beginning of the year when I was hitting up last years Oscar nominees. Basically, it would have been during WorldFest, when I was in a theater with them, and that was in April. I legit haven’t watched a foreign film since April, and that kind of blows my mind.

I know there has been opportunities, but a lot of it comes from my inability to cross stitch while watching a foreign film, lest I don’t really get anything out of it. But I took an exception to Burning for a few reasons. One, a lot of people were talking about it and I wanted to talk about it. Two, it seemed like one of those foregone conclusions of definitely an award winning film. And three, Steven Yeun.

Yes, don’t let star power be a bad factor. Yeun was on The Walking Dead, I liked him on that show, and now I want to see him in a purely non American film. What’s the harm in that?

Field
Burning is a metaphor for his feelings. Inside.

Lee Jong-su (Ah-In Yoo) is a young man, trying to just live his life. He works odd jobs mostly, and would like to be a writer, he is just having a hard time writing. His dad is in prison and could get out if he was nicer and apologized, but he is holding firm. So Jong-su has to watch over the farm, their one animal, and just make sure life doesn’t fall to pieces, while trying to get his own life back on track.

And then he meets Shin Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jeon). Well, re-meets technically. Apparently Hae-mi knew him when he was a child, but he mostly ignored her. They have a past that Jong-su just doesn’t remember a lot of, and if Hae-mi’s story is true, then it totally makes sense. He ignored her, he might have been mean, and she got some plastic surgery.

Needless to say, they hit it off! And she is about to go away and needs someone to feed her cat. Oh. Sure. Because she is attractive, likes him(?), and he has only the other major things going on in his life. When she gets back, they might start a relationship.

Except she comes back…with him. His name is Ben (Steven Yeun), he is rich, mysterious, totally cool. A “Great gatsby” character in South Korea. And she has fallen for him. But Ben has secrets, secrets that Jong-su is going to investigate, or else bad things might happen. Maybe even Burning things might happen.

Group
I don’t know, they just kind of look like best friends here.

Burning is a (heh) slow burn of a film, coming in at about 2.5 hours. It is very slow moving, and its direction can seem to be all over the place. But if you focus the film on just Jong’su’s point of view and trying to understand the strange world around him, the mysteries and suspense add up.

It is a gorgeous movie with very notable camera work. It isn’t displaying the sexy parts of South Korea, but regular fields and cities, but it has extreme attention to detail and really draws the viewer into the movie.

The ending very much ends at a climax, a climax that people will feel like might never come. Because unfortunately, some mysteries remain mysteries by the films end. And that is likely to trouble some viewers, given what we saw from Lost backlash some time ago. No actual spoilers though here.

Ah-In Yoo is a great lead, while still keeping that passive unsure nature. Yeun was fine in this movie, but I don’t think it required a lot of hard work on his part. This is Jeon’s only movie, and she plays the free spirited and weird quite well, and hopefully gains an acting feature after this film.

Overall, Burning won’t be for everyone. You have to want subtitles and be okay with not everything spelled out for you. It will likely make waves from the foreign film market, and will still likely lose to Roma for Oscars.

3 out of 4.

Chef Flynn

Being a prodigy can be a blessing and a curse. Being a prodigy means that sure, you have talent in something, something that is notable enough for people to care about. And they have to be really good at it, earlier than most other people are doing those same talents.

Being a prodigy means you can get fame from just being good at an early age, even if you are never the best. Because you are young, you are special, and people will take note. This can lead to later opportunities in your life as well, just from publicity and inherent fame.

And then there are the bad sides. By being a prodigy, people will talk about privilege. They will talk about being a gimmick and maybe even attack you for not being the best. “Sure, they can tap dance at one, but I’ve seen better!” And then there is the aspect of not living up to your own name. If you are seen as a wunderkind and eventually struggle or don’t reach the next step, you will be seen as a failure, a false prophet, and everything may leave you. There is a ton of pressure to keep going strong and they can get burned out. And if they don’t reach the levels people said they would, they can become depressed and lead into a tailspin.

That’s why I can take solace in my own mediocrity.

And the documentary Chef Flynn is about a kid who just really wanted to be a fancy chef, and put his whole young life into it.

Flynn
You can tell he is a chef from his outfit.

Flynn grew up like a lot of kids, with separated parents, some siblings, and generally enough food to eat. His mom was a small time director/actress and so she spent a lot of time with cameras and filming her own family. And what she didn’t spend a lot of time doing is cooking varied meals. A lot of ordering in, and a lot of easy meals for dinner, and she was struggling. So Flynn at a young age knew he needed to help and wanted to work on the food aspects.

And work he did. He started getting really fancy with his food making, going into huge specialties, trying and experimenting and caring about plating. This grew into his own kitchen at home, to his small in home restaurant for friends and family, to bigger and bigger opportunities. And as already discussed, with bigger opportunities comes bigger scorn. For every magazine article or cover, comes anger and meanie butt heads.

This documentary is a lot more on that. On a young man dealing with the stresses of the worlds placed on him, and his attempts to overcome it, while maintaining some good relationship with his family.

Sure, it shows how he got to this point, and at the time of the end of the documentary, he was an adult. Living on his own, trying to start a restaurant and doing it now without his mom’s help.

Chef Flynn is an interesting tale about a cool kid and his mom, but it isn’t going to be a life changing documentary. It could maybe inspire someone to go out and chase their own dreams, but this didn’t seem to be the point. This documentary is overall just a fluff piece. And yes, it is interesting, but probably best watched by people who enjoy cooking or young people being successful. Or you know, a nice documentary to potentially cheer you up.

2 out of 4.

Green Book

There were quite a few Green Book screenings in the Houston area leading to this films release. The first one was still in October, I just didn’t feel like going to see it then because it would have been my third film in three nights, and I knew there were more. The second screening was at a location I disliked, so I passed on it. The third one ended up being during the day on a Monday, and that is silly. So screening number four? Well, I almost missed that one too.

You see, that was the same night for screening Creed II and Ralph Breaks The Internet. Both of those films are the kind that draw in clicks to your website, but I didn’t love Creed so it didn’t bother me, and I really didn’t think Ralph 2 looks swell.

And in my past, skipping a film four or more times usually comes up to bite me in the ass. Like I would have loved it, or award nominations and I am sitting around like an asshole who hasn’t seen an obvious award favorite. I don’t need to be an asshole, I just need to see this movie finally!

Eating1
I also need to learn how to look good in yellow.

Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is one of your typical Italian Americans living in NYC in the 1960’s. He has a loving family, a very big extended loving family, and he knows everyone around town. He also has a bit of an anger problem, and a fighting problem, so he uses his skills to make sure that people don’t ruin events. He works at a fancy club and makes sure that other customers don’t have a bad time. Thankfully, he is not involved in the mob.

But he has to find work for a few months as the club closes down for renovations. The mob wants him, but he doesn’t want to get involved in that stuff. He gets a job opportunity to be a driver for some doctor. It turns out this doctor is a musician, a black musician. Dr.Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) has multiple PhD’s, is a classically trained pianist, and has made several records. He lives in Carnegie Hall, that is how seeped in the musical world he is. But Shirley wants to branch out, he wants to go on a tour around America, for less money, but to help change the world. He wants to go down south, to the racist epicenters and showcase his own talents.

Dr. Shirley is not a dumbass, and that is why he needs a driver who can handle specific situations. A driver who can guarantee him access between venues, to deal with the racist whites, and to help out along the way. And I guess Tony Lip is that guy.

Also starring Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D. Marinov, Iqbal Theba, and Mike Hatton.

Eating2
Are you sure they drove around? All I see is them eating.

Green Book is destined to be a favorite film amongst movie goers this season. Coming out in Thanksgiving is definitely a good call. It might not be a family favorite, given the R rating from language throughout it, but people will enjoy the story. It is a different sort of heartwarming tale.

You know. Racist white guy getting over himself to realize this black boss is a good person as well, and he can learn from him, and teach him, and they can grow old and happy together. Even if he is black!

And that is really where my issues from this movie come from. It almost treads into the white savior problem of these films. First of all, yes this is a true story, and yes, these people were friends for the rest of their lives until they both died. That is totally fine! What seems odd though is that despite all of the recent trends, they decided to make this movie from Tony’s point of view. Tony is white and an American people can relate to, in order to see the film. But this could have been a very different film about a musician, who has all of these skills and degrees, still having to deal with a very racist world in the 1960’s (versus our regular racist world now).

We could have saw him have the decision to do the tour, and then put out the ads for a driver, do the research and let the white guy be mysterious. Let the white guy be off putting and odd. There is no real reason why it couldn’t be like that, given that it is just about these two individuals. They just had to make the black man the mystery and the strange thing here, when both individuals could have been the case.

Telling a story about an individual getting over racism is fine, sure, but it is one we have seen over and over again. The filmmakers have still not gotten over their ability to tell stories in ways that actual resonate with people of color to tell their story, but instead, piggy backing off of the white narrative.

Overall it was just disappointing to see it like that. A film that could have taken some risks and chose not to take any. In terms of acting, Ali and Mortensen are both phenomenal. They are worth the price of admission. I just can’t help but imagine how much better it could have been if it worked to address the social concerns in a more proactive way.

2 out of 4.

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