Fighting With My Family

Fighting With My Family is a topic that combines a few things: real life story, wrestling, and British people doing silly things. We haven’t had a title like this in awhile.

Directed by Stephen Merchant, who I had the pleasure of interviewing after the movie and you can read the interview here, it is the story of wrestler Paige. How she grew up in bumfuck England and somehow made it to the WWE, despite not being their typical female wrestler.

I can’t imagine if we had any actual bio films actually based on wrestlers. Documentaries, sure, but like a young Hulk Hogan movie? A young Rock? A young Macho Man Randy Savage? It is relatively interesting that the first one to get one is a woman wrestler named Paige, who is probably only big in the wrestling circuits.

Dreams
This is what dreams are made of.

Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) did not have dreams of growing up to be a wrestling super star, she was indifferent to it. Sure she trained for it like every regular kid. Wait, what?

Oh, her parents are “professional” wrestlers. Her dad (Nick Frost) and mom (Lena Headey) run a very small wrestling company in their small community. Helps them stay clean off of drugs and violence. They train people, they put on shows, they have a good time. Saraya’s older brother, Zak (Jack Lowden), did have the dream his whole life. And thanks to a video, they both are going to have a chance to audition for the WWE!

And then they are going to have to deal with the fact that Saraya, who is going by Paige, made it to the next round of training, and Zak is still stuck at home. She took his dream. And the dream and training in America is going to be tough, lonely and destroy their whole dynamic.

But can she make it? (she can, we know that). And if she can make it, can she be a star? (also yes.) But what does she have to accomplish first? (okay good question).

Also starring Dwayne Johnson and Vince Vaughn.

ring
“First we kick each others ass, then we kick all of the other asses.”

Fighting With The Family is an enjoyable film but very much by the numbers. A long shot trains, gets betters, and does the unthinkable, and people love her. Along the way were hardships, that made her want to change, quit, and more, but she conquered them. Hooray!

So you aren’t getting anything new from the plot, just the setting. Wrestlers, British trailer trash, and Vince Vaughn playing himself as a talent coordinator.

However, it is clear the actors are really going all in for it. No one is trying to half ass this movie, there is high energy, especially from Headey/Frost. It is great to see The Rock be the Rock again and go all Rocky with it.

Pugh carries a lot of the film as well, and does a really good job for a young actress.

I think this film suffers a bit from trying to put too much story into a short amount of time. Things are rushed, and her struggles don’t seem super apparent. A lot of problems are more obvious communication issues so the audience just has to struggle until she gets her shit together.

But overall, not the worst movie about a WWE star that I have never heard about before.

2 out of 4.

Interview with Stephen Merchant – Fighting With My Family

Merchant

Stephen Merchant did not grow up watching wrestling. He didn’t start watching wrestling in his adult life either. In fact, his interests in wrestling were close to none. So how did he come about directing what seems one of the first biography wrestling movies?

Well, we can blame the Tooth Fairy for that.

That is where Merchant met Dwayne Johnson, formerly The Rock, a man larger than life it seems. Johnson first heard about Paige’s upbringing in a documentary about her household, The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family. He loved it, wanted it to be a feature film.

According to Merchant, he was contacted by Johnson with the idea to make the film. Merchant believes because he is potentially one of the few British directors/writers he knows. Below are some exerpts from our talk, including how he got into writing and directing at all, how that developed into directing Fighting With My Family, and various aspects of nerd culture in film.

Family

Stephen Merchant is SM, Gorgon Reviews is GR, and Other Interviewer is OI.

GR: “You said before you got your start writing reviews at a local paper, and they sent you to the movies that they didn’t know about or didn’t care. And that after you saw the movie Swingers, it sort of changed for you and inspired you to get into writing yourself, can you speak upon that?”

SM: “I don’t know if you’ve seen Swingers but it is Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, just like a real gang of friends. That was a movie about handsome guys dating in LA, trying to inspire to be actors, and I’m this geeky kid in Bristol, in England, and yet that felt like it could have been my friends. It was so specific, to LA, the way they spoke, all that stuff. And yet it felt completely relatable. The observations felt authentic and true and they rang true. And I just thought that it was really inspirational to me, ‘Oh maybe I can do this.’ So I did some student films at the university, and then got into comedy and the radio, always with that thought that if we got the right gang together we can do this ourselves.”

“And in a way that’s how The Office was made. ”

GR: “You got Ricky,”

SM: “Yeah we had a similar sensibility, just hunkered down, did it ourselves, BBC left us alone, they didn’t know what we were up to and away we went.”

OI: “I love that they hired you and let you both do it alone.”

SM:“That was the thing about having Ricky, because Ricky was…14 years older than me. He was in his mid-30’s and I was in my early 20s when we did The Office, so I had all this sort of youthful excitement, enthusiasm, and ambition, he had the kind of [attitude] like, ‘I don’t care, I’m not going to do a dance for these people,’ he had that confidence! Just to walk out of a meeting and go, “Alright guys, no no no, if you don’t want to do it this way, it’s fine, we will just go elsewhere,” and I’m like ‘what are you fucking doing, idiot!’ ”

“But at the same time I got this weird, sort of youthful arrogance, where I remember at a meeting where they said, ‘Why should we let you and Ricky direct it?’ and I said, ‘We might be the next Orson Welles!’” And in my mind it didn’t even sound crazy, none of us know! Well maybe, we’ve never done it! We might be! Who knows?”

merchant

OI:“How did you go about directing these bigger stars on what to say, and deliver the level of intensity needed?”

SM: “Well I first of all really encouraged improvisation and I wanted that going on. Vince is the master of that, it goes back to the fact for Swingers, (which was an amazing thrill for me) and I wanted that character to have humor because the guys she trained with for real are really tough, they put you through the mill, because wrestling fans are abusive. If they don’t like you, they will tear you to shreds. You have to be made of iron to survive. It seems to me that Vince needed to be someone that trash talked all the time, as a way of testing your metal. ”

“When Florence [Pugh] went out in front of the real wrestling fans to recreate that match-up, they were giving her shit. She said she was on the mat at one point, and there was like an eight year old boy just shouting, ‘You suck!’ to her and shes an actress, not even a real wrestler. And what do you do? You use it as fuel I guess.”

GR: “On that note, you’ve been to cons before due to some of your past work, you’re aware of certain people’s intensity in these subjects and video games. How do you think those type of fans compare to wrestling fans in terms of their passions?”

SM: “I think if the internet and twitter existed when I was 17 or 18 I’d have been one of those people. I remember being so angry when the original Tim Burton Batman came out because they made the Joker the person who killed Batman’s parents, like ‘No, that was Joe Chill, what are you talking about?’ And I was FURIOUS! Like If I could have tweeted Tim Burton, I would have been all, ‘Oh you asshole, how dare you!’ I would have been one of those guys. ”

“And as times have gone on, and I made movies and TV myself I understand that passion but I also understand that when you’re on this side of the fence, there’s no malice. I’ve had to make choices in this movie. The real story took place over four years, I can’t press even half of all that into a movie. They changed the WWE logo in the middle of her story, they changed the name of the NXT…like, I can’t put that in the movie. No one’s going to be able to follow what’s going on. So you know, you have to make choices, but I am sure there will some fans like, ‘Well that doesn’t make sense! That logo was different in 2010…’ Well okay you guys, you’re right, you got me. I’m going to fan jail. ”

“If you’re making a Batman movie, you’ve got what is it, 60 years of that character now? You can’t get every factor of him the same, you’ve just got to make choices, and that’s what I did.”

————-

Fighting With My Family is getting a wide release on February, November 22, and my review of the film can be read here.

Donnybrook

I was initially intrigued by Donnybrook a few months ago, solely on the title alone. It is a rarely used term for a brawl, and at this point, most used occasionally in a hockey game when the announcers are feeling frisky.

Now, in retrospect, this could just be a sequel/reboot of the movie Fighting, since its title isn’t really different. A movie about kicking the crap out of people, is that what I need to look forward to nowadays?

I know parts of the cast, I didn’t know the director, and I wasn’t sure where it might go. But theoretically, it could surprise me and go the way of Warrior, a film I probably watch at least once a year. Only time will tell!

kid punch
Teach a kid to punch, and he will never be hungry for life.

Out there in the woods, somewhere, there is a yearly brawl. One that people come from all over to watch, to bet on, and to compete in. It is of course popular. Why? Well one, you get to watch people beat the crap out of each other in a cage. No boxing gloves, not many rules (outside of no killing), and a lot of people getting the shit knocked out of them. Oh and there is a $100,000 prize.

That’s life changing money, but not any fool can enter. It also has a significant entry fee, that way only people are serious about probably just getting wrecked.

People come for various reasons, revenge, to save their family, debt, whatever. A few people are going to make there way to the fight, some leaving destruction in their path, some relatively easily. Who wins? Who dies? Who just comes close and falters? We shall see.

Starring Frank Grillo, Margaret Qualley, Jamie Bell, James Badge Dale, Chris Browning, and Pat Healy.

grillmaster
Barbed wire adds a little more of an unnecessary danger. Yay!

Donnybrook is an action movie, but it is also a drama. In fact, it is more drama than action. A lot slower of a movie than one would expect with the title, with bouts of extreme violence to shock you along the way.

And I just didn’t get it. It never drew me in. I didn’t care about the characters. I didn’t care who won, or even if there would be a final fight, to be honest. It dragged and felt too violent without the payoff.

I guess it is sort of like life. It sucks, bad things can happen, unexplainable bad things, and people can get hurt along the way, their dreams crushed. But it didn’t feel like a message that I needed that hadn’t been given before.

Those who want to see the violence and some extremes might enjoy it, but I think this movie would have a hard time finding an audience.

1 out of 4.

Velvet Buzzsaw

Before Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy has directed only two movies, and he is the writer of both of those films. The first one was Nightcrawler, a genius film and clearly one of the best of the year. It is haunting, and Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances of his life.

The second one was Roman J. Israel, Esq., which people like to ignore. I mean, Denzel Washington was nominated for acting from it, but it didn’t have Gyleenhaal so no one cared. It was not was well received as his first film.

This brings us back to Velvet Buzzsaw, which Gilroy again wrote and directed on his own. And because it is more horror based and has Gyllenhaal in it, people were notably excited and declared it would be just as good as Nightcrawler! Being released on Netflix isn’t an issue, because Netflix movies can be good!

People like to hype, I guess I am saying.

Art
Nothing scarier than hearing I would have to analyze and judge pieces of art.

It is really hard to pick a main character to really talk about in this movie, but they want us to focus on Gyllenhaal with advertising, so I will. Morf Vandewalt (Gyllenhaal), probably a fake name, is an art critic in LA, one of the most famous and prestigious. He does fine work, people like him, he knows how to describe things like any elitist art man.

One of the galleries he tends to review at has a young fledgling art dealer, Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who is having a stressful time in life. To top it all off, some man dies in her apartment, she finds the body, it makes her late for work and she is demoted. After finding out that all of his items are to be destroyed per his wishes, she checks on his cat and finds hundreds to thousands of pieces of art, all originals, all haunting and powerful.

This? This could be her chance. You know, to deceive some people, act like it is her client, sell his art, get big in the community. Everyone is instantly amazed by the art, including her boss (Rene Russo), they want in on the action, want a piece of that huge jackpot of money they are about to create.

But as soon as more research goes into the now deceased artist, they find he had a troubled past, and has a good reason to have wanted all of the artwork to be destroyed.

Also starring Billy Magnussen, Daveed Diggs, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Natalia Dyer, and Tom Sturridge.

STare
Everyone uses the same Gyllenhaal staring picture in their reviews,
I WANT A DIFFERENT ONE OKAY?

Velvet Buzzsaw, both the title, and the premise, is one that is able to draw you in slowly. It is set in a world that most of us are not a part of, dealing, making, selling art and making it a focal point of their lives. The rich, the elite. And that makes it a good film to have people die in.

Too many horror films are killing off our teenagers at record numbers. What about these rich people? The snobby elites? Why not watch them die in creative art fueled ways?

The concept is fine, but it definitely lacks the creep factor. It doesn’t seem to fully embrace the thoughts of horrors, and instead we get a strange drama/horror hybrid, where enough people definitely die, but never in ways that really seem exciting to talk about. The final death was a bit wicked, but other than that, it is mostly generic crazy death things.

It would be more memorable if it just went harder in the genre, but this movie plays it safe. We don’t have enough horrors set in museums, which are clearly some of the creepiest places to be. This adds to the list, but doesn’t top that list.

2 out of 4.

High Flying Bird

It has been a good long while since I received a Netflix movie early for a screening, not including the Mowgli one, as they played that in theaters for us. When I got a notification about it, I was excited, but I admit, I assumed it would have been Velvet Buzzsaw.

Instead it was for High Flying Bird, which I admit I would have probably ignored on description alone, if not for two reasons. First, obviously, I need to review it if they ask, so they can ask me to review more (makes sense!). And two, it was directed by Steven Soderbergh! As a general rule of thumb, I should watch everything that this man creates, as I will like or love them more often than not.

Now I do recall that he said before after doing Unsane that he will film all of his future movies with iPhones, or something to that regard, which did give me hesitation. It gives it a unique feel, that sort of fit with Unsane, but might not work for everything.

Fist
We will get to the issue of him doing a movie about race politics as a white dude, later.

Ray (André Holland), not Ray Ray, is sports manager/agent/pr man for namely basketball players, at a hard time to be an agent. Because there is an NBA lockout going on, and if most of their clients aren’t getting paid, then they aren’t getting paid. This isn’t great for job security, morale, or anything, and the lockout has been going on for months.

Ray’s newest client is Erick (Melvin Gregg), who was recently drafted number one overall! However, being drafted doesn’t mean shit. HE hasn’t received a paycheck yet, despite needing to move and figure out how to pay for bills and promises he didn’t expect to worry about. He is getting into trouble, and is in a weird spot with his own job. He has signed a contract, but it hasn’t been able to get processed. He has a team, but he really doesn’t have a team. Grey area can suck.

Ray wants to end the lock out, and decides on a strange plan, involving his unsigned yet signed talent. It is something that can put his own job, his player’s job, and a lot of people out of business. But is it crazy enough to work and get these men back to playing ball?

Also starring Zazie Beetz, Zachary Quinto, Sonja Sohn, Bill Duke, and Kyle MacLachlan.

dinner
This restaurant is so fancy, they even look whiter just by being in here.

Some of the topics in this movie deal with slavery, and how modern things can be attributed to past slavery notions in the USA. It also has a majority black cast, all done by a white director. It is however written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote Moonlight, and is clearly not white. It sounds to me like the idea for a story was met, and they just brought in a director who wanted to just do all of his filming with phones, let him do his directing/cinematography thing, while giving pretty important input that he couldn’t possibly fully understand.

And that is probably fine. A team of white people didn’t put this movie together. It is a story that is set in a realistic setting, with realistic people, circumstances, and realistic conclusions. It is sort of a fantasy in terms of how quickly it all concludes at the end, I honestly thought there would be at least 15 more minutes.

Overall, the film is under 90 minutes if we don’t include the credits, and has a lot more set up than the conclusion really deserves. It is rushed, and despite all of the set up, we still don’t get a set up to fully explain Ray’s idea, or elaborate on how things will go down. The ending plays off like we were watching a heist movie, and we have to see how Ray did it, but of course on a much smaller scale than a heist.

Not enough gets to actually happen in the film for me to love it, but the ideas are there. The acting is believable. The camera work is unnecessarily weird and I never really get fully immersed in that choice. High Flying Bird as a movie just is unable to reach as high as its title would imply.

2 out of 4.

Worst Films of 2018

Blah blah blah, worst movies! boo bad movies!

So you know the drill, here are some honorable mentions. Honorable what?

(dis)HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Some of the worst movies of the year that did not make the list include the animated films Peter Rabbit and Sherlock Gnomes. Another documentary that did not make the list was Deadly Deception, Exposing The Dangers Of Vaccine, which only didn’t make it because under 100 people even saw it probably. Also films like The Nun and A-X-L as I haven’t even felt like writing them yet, as they are bad, but not bottom 15 bad.


15) Samson

How bad is Samson? Well, first off, it is the regular amount of bad. That is important to note. Second off, after seeing it, I wanted to make a whole theme week of Christian related films that I had missed. But that felt like torture, and I only ended up having 2 of the 5 films ready.

Then, I forgot to review it. I probably won’t. Let this stand as a review. This is a long film, made to look darker with filters for gritty realism or something, but it is one of the most boring films to try and get through. It is basically torture, similar to the torture that goes through the main character, except this torture is real.

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14) Slenderman

A rushed film, with a lot edited out, and surprise, it makes the list! Trying to make horror films out of extremely modern things, memes, games, whatever always tends to turn out poorly. But why did this one turn out more poorly? It has no real scares and is just a mess.

Because of Joey King. If she is in a movie, that movie is going to be terrible. That has to be the rule at this point. Another of her recent horror films, Wish Upon, also made my worst of the year list. Coincidence? Or Joey King?

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13) Show Dogs

Ah yes, a film with controversy. I saw the trailer for this film a long time ago, months before coming out as part of a market research group, and talked about how much shit this movie would be. And guess what, it was shit.

Grooming kids for sexual abuse aside, even the edited version doesn’t change a whole lot from the movie. We got all the fart jokes, all the poop jokes, all the things that make this seem like a 90’s TV movie and nothing else.

Every part of this film is bad, it has no redeeming qualities, and somehow ended up being the worst movie about dogs this year.

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12) The Darkest Minds

Oh no, Amanda Stenberg, what are you doing? This is a film that came out in August, like a strange wannabe X-men, with terrible plot twists and a ridiculous explanation for…most things. And just a few months later, she came out as the lead in The Hate U Give, which made my best of the year list, and relatively high up.

Such a year of extremes for her. But for this movie, acting wasn’t the problem, just everything about the plot and ending and whatever we want to call between those things.

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11) Fifty Shades Freed

Oh for goodness sake. It is finally over, done with, kaput! Donezo! Outta here!

The trilogy is done, and it ended out how the first few began. Poorly, without plot, with bad acting, and gratuitousness amounts of cuts in montages about boats.

What’s the next terrible franchise to fill this hole? I can only cry and stay up late at night wondering. Of course, they could always make spinoffs or more, probably takes about an hour to throw up one of these scripts.

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10) The Nutcracker And the Four Realms

Ah good, with the final 10, I can include Disney films and feel like a badass.

I honestly can’t imagine how this film even made it out. It must have cost a bundle to make, with the effects, costumes, some high named actors. There are probably some ballet rights it had to afford too. They probably needed to release it assuming it would take a hit at the beginning, but get some nice streaming/tv rights in the future around Christmas time from TBS or something.

This is a film that is hard to follow, because it has a shit plot, and it should really feel bad about its effort.

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9) Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

This movie is legitamately the only one I was mostly shocked to make it on the list. If you showed me posters/trailers whatever for the rest of these, I would have nodded my head “Yeah, I can see that sucking,” and not be shocked.

But a modern animated movie, made by a big studio, about a tv show? Worst of the year? You betcha.

This movie is basically the worst parts of the internet. This is the memes of movies, going for some ultra-meta thing, which really comes off as annoying, over, and over, and over again. Constantly reminding me you aren’t that original, with some fart jokes, is in no way a movie I will ever want to see again.

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8) Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare

I believe this movie was one of the first 0 out of 4’s of the year for 2018. Besides having the unnecessary title, it does a lot wrong with its horror concept. Changing the rules randomly in the movie? That’s lazy. Not explaining why some people can have their turn skipped and it still messes with other people? That’s bad writing.

This film wanted to be the next Final Destination, but the scenarios are so stupid, and it is extremely hard for us to really care about the truths, it just is. They might make people mad, but certainly the viewers too, mad at the screen.

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7) The Kissing Booth

Oh what’s this? A Netflix original film? That’s like picking on the runts of the litter, right? Like the kid with crutches who decided to play dodgeball.

But this film is important to bash and important to bring up. It has terrible relationship goals and highlights them in a positive life. Shit, that man is abusive in training, preventing others from talking to her, solving everything with violence.

Oh, wait, what’s that? The lead is…Joey King?! Twice in one year? Damn, in 2019 are you going for the Turkey?

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6) The Misandrists

How the hell am I going to write about The Misandrists? How the hell did I already write about The Misandrists?

I rarely try to put titles up here that most people would have never heard about, but holy shit, this film is something else. I tried to go in with an open mind, I tried to see it as some cool feminist message. But this is a strange movie, that I could recommend to only one person and that is it.

I mean, the idea is original? That’s a plus?

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5) Hotel Transylvania 3

A lot of animated films have hit trilogy status lately, and most of them are terrible. Cars 3, Despicable Me 3, This one, maybe some more this year, who knows. And this one is really bad.

It didn’t have a good idea for a plot, and spent most of the time…well, being bad. It is just a vehicle for all these actors to act silly, and introduce nothing important to the franchise, and bog us down with the Macarena.

This is the worst animated movie of 2018.

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4) Mortal Engines

Possibly the most ambitious movie on this list, Mortal Engines had Peter Jackson involved! Okay, not really, but his name was attached a bit and some of his money!

Trying to be the next big teenage dystopian film franchise, this went for a story that could only be made by shredding up dollars at actors and CGI artists until something close to competent appeared on the film strip. And even though they shred a lot of money, what we got was still an ugly mess and what should be one of the biggest horror stories when it comes to box office bombs this year.

Not every book needs a movie, nor can every book be a movie. This should have been left entirely on the cutting room floor.

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3) The 15:17 to Paris

Hey, you know what people like? Real stories! You know what else people like? Heroes!

So let’s make a real story about heroes! And since people like heroes, let’s let them play themselves! Save money on actors, get those true accounts, and it will feel authentic.

And that is how The 15:17 to Paris was made. And that is how in a movie that is about a scene that only takes a few minutes to happen, we get to see non-actors pretending they are traveling around Europe and seeing the sights for the first time. Most of this movie is them traveling and getting to the train. What kind of trash do they think we want to watch? Holy shit, just make a documentary, but this is not something that should be okay to produce.

The worst biography, drama, action film of the year.

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2) The Happytime Murders

Speaking of movies that should have never been made (most of this list), we have a movie that COULD have actually been good based on the initial idea, but the execution made it one of the worst. They said they wanted to make an adult movie with muppets. Apparently adult just means have some sex and violence, with a weak plot, and extremely weak jokes.

Adult movies could have had a comedy with some nuance. It could have had a wide variety of humor levels, it could have deal with real issues still. Instead, this adult movie was made for no one except the pre-teens who want to watch things like this to feel edgy. A very small fraction of the Deadpool fan club.

In any normal year, it would have been the worst film of the year, easy, hands down. Instead, it is just the worst comedy, and worst mystery. And worst use of muppets.

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1) Death of a Nation

Okay, okay, if using a Netflix movie was cheating, then this sort of film to end the list is most definitely cheating. If Dinesh D’Souza makes a documentary in a year (which at this point has been every other year), then of course, of course his documentary will probably be the worst thing put together in that year. I think generally he has made this list, and usually near the top if not the top.

But just because something always happens, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t happen again if it deserves it. There is a joke about Tom Brady in there somewhere.

The documentary is trash, lies, and worst of all, it is repetitive from his previous work. It isn’t even full of new lies, its the same boring old ones and stories that don’t matter in the slightest.

Get this trash out of our universe.

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Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site!

And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.

Miss Bala

January being known as a dumping ground for films, so does that include February 1st? I mean, that is barely out of the month, most of the previous week is there!

Miss Bala is actually not an original film, but a remake of a 2011 film of the same name from Mexico. It looks like from casting and rough plot that they aren’t trying to change much, given the lead. This is what I would say is potentially a good example of a time to remake a foreign film. Why? Because I had not heard of the original.

Not that I, Gorgon Reviews, is the final say of what can be made in movies, but remaking something that was met with a lot of critical acclaim and famous is silly. If it is already great and well known, why bother? The things we should be remaking are the films that didn’t do well, or didn’t have a strong word of mouth. Because that means something may have actually gone wrong, and it could be improved on with a new version.

It is a smart way to not worry about comparisons. But for some reason, companies rarely do this, as they’d rather just rely on name recognition to make that money, good or bad. Oh well.

Also, the original Miss Bala did actually reach critical acclaim, but it just wasn’t seen by most of the world.

Pose
This doesn’t look like its in the middle of action, it looks incredibly posed.

This is not a movie about a girl named Bala, but instead a girl named Gloria (Gina Rodriguez), just like that other movie, Gloria. She works in LA as a make up artist, for models and sometimes celebrities, so she is pretty good. And she uses her talents for her friends, like her friend Suzu ( Cristina Rodlo). Suzu lives in Tijuana, which Gloria used to live in for a bit, but always feels a bit weird there. Judged for being an American and not perfect at Spanish.

Suzu is going into a pageant show for Miss Baja California (I have to assume Mexico pronounces it as Bala… and that is where the title comes from. Or its a Spanish pun that doesn’t translate to this film, who the hell knows), and Gloria is going to make her look good.

Unfortunately, the night before auditions really begin, they go to a nightclub to try to get an in with the owner and some dudes with guns bust in looking to kill. Gloria loses sight of her friend when running to safety, and has to spend the night worrying about her safety, since she cant seem to find her any hospitals. And when Gloria goes for help, she ends up getting kidnapped by the gun men who did the shooting, putting her life, her body, and her friend potentially at risk. But…are they really the bad guys?

Also starring Damián Alcázar, Ricardo Abarca, Ismael Cruz Cordova, and Anthony Mackie.

Money
They are trying to sell this movie on sex and dollars, yo.

Miss Bala is a film with a lot of twists and decisions for the main character. Sometimes too many twists can make a film feel annoying, because at a certain point, you don’t believe the twists any more and you just want it to get to the end to be done. One way to combat the twist fatigue is to have only two outcomes overall, so each twist just makes the viewer change sides. That way you cannot get overwhelmed, which seems to be the strategy with this movie. However, the twists feel extra pointless, because with only two sides, the stakes are low and it is still relatively easy to guess how the whole thing ends up.

If I had to say something nice, I liked that it featured a setting not traditionally given to women led films. It was definitely HER movie and her making a lot of decisions. Now, from these decisions, the audience can get quite annoyed with them and maybe even think they are poor, but they do seem to match the character and make sense for her. For the most part. It also didn’t solve all of its problems with violence. There was some smart moves in there, and a lot of panicked thinking. But this is not a gun toting heroine who is going to rid Tijuana of the cartel influence.

Despite all of that, this film doesn’t go too many new places. All of the side characters are still cardboard cutouts for the eventual resolution of the plot to unfold.

The ending itself is pretty silly and seemingly tries to set up something that no one would want, in a situation that would not happen. Overall, Miss Bala will probably easily find an American audience that loves it, but it still feels rather January.

2 out of 4.

Movie Roundup – Indies 2018 Part 1

Welcome to a Movie Roundup! A movie roundup features a few films that I didn’t feel like making full reviews for, but needed to get basic reviews out there for completionist reasons. It also helps me deal with my backlog. It may have a theme, and today’s theme is Indies 2018 (Part 1)! Basically, the indie movies I had missed, and need to really review, or else. Are these all really indie movies? Heck if I know. Some certainly are. Go with it.

Being on a movie round up doesn’t mean a movie is inherently bad, or good, or meh. I can feature any rating on here! So don’t assume the worst! I will also just post the reviews in alphabetical order.


Indies 2018 Part 1

Arizona

Arizona is a weird movie to talk about, because it is a dark comedy. A lot of dark comedies go into just such strange corners of the room. And you know, are funny, but usually involve death, or extreme “edgy” jokes. It could easily just go into some crude territory that is a poor taste and lose its viewers. Arizona is a lot more grounded in reality and about one person who is clearly losing his marbles, and using his size and gun skills to try and fix things.

I was shocked by Arizona, surprised, and I couldn’t believe no on was talking about. Dark comedies are almost always a hard sell, but this one was a great one compared to other similar movies in recent years. Our leads were believable, the setting was something easily relatable (an empty residential community after the 2008 housing collapse), that is also a bit unsettling. Yes, some aspects of this are a bit terrifying. And hilarious.

Arizona I think really works and it is a shame that it had almost no push for visibility.

3 out of 4.

Arizona

Bad Samaritan

Bad Samaritan is an example of a film that I really liked the idea about, but did not execute great.

We have a thief breaking in to steal and while there, they found someone clearly held captive. What do they do? A similar plot line was used in Don’t Breathe and used a bit better in that film. Instead, a majority of the movie takes place after the initial find and is more of a cat and mouse battle between our thief and the evil guy, played by David Tennant.

And the cat and mouse game is lame. The villain doesn’t seem smart, it seems ridiculous. He is flawed with a god complex without showing us why he even warrants a god complex. It goes completely ridiculous, moves away from a more grounded in reality movie, and doesn’t really give us the moral quandaries that the plot line suggests.

Forgettable film on every level, unfortunately.

1 out of 4.

bad

Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade is an example of a pretty well known film, and one you’d be more surprised to see that I did not have a full review upon. It was an immediate success, and had all the praise, and has spirit award nominations!

And yet, that’s why I have the round up. Things happen.

Eighth Grade is a pretty great and uncomfortable film. I cannot say that this is an accurate portrayal of what middle school girls are thinking and go through, because I am not one of them. It seems very accurate, and our lead does a wonderful job of riding that awkwardness and navigating through her school life. Bo Burnham‘s transition from comedy musician to director/writer seems to go flawlessly, and I wonder if he just had a lot of smart people on his side to make this work.

Eighth Grade is uncomfortable, awwkard, completely modern and set in the now, and probably something that a lot of people will want to read.

3 out of 4.

8th grade

Izzy Gets The Fuck Across Town

What drew me to Izzy Gets The Fuck Across Town is the title. Of course. I mean if you are going to be bold and swear at me, I think you need to bring it. It made me think of older films like Igby Goes Down, about these run down people with strange I names.

And hey, it had Mackenzie Davis, an actress who I think hasn’t gotten her fair shake yet. Haven’t you seen Tully? She is great! And despite how great she may be, this movie felt like a chore to get through. We have have movies about miserable people and they can be great movies, but this is one where I just wanted it to hurry and get to the final point. And once it did, it was lackluster.

I don’t remember much about this movie, but I do remember that it had no hype for a reason. The fuck did not give it notoriety.

1 out of 4.

Izzy

Summer of 84

Finally, we are going to talk about a movie that I think we average, for most of the film. Set in the ’80s with a group of kids, trying to solve a mystery of missing kids. They think it could be the local, single middle aged cop. Maybe he is taking kids and killing them? No, that can’t be.

Well, I won’t say if it was, or was not, of course. But the story the story is not unique. However…the ending was pretty damn good. It amped up the intensity, it went places I didn’t expect, and it left me with a little bit of dread. It is not a common way to end a film, and leaves it open ended in a good way. It turned a middling film into a film that I wanted to talk to people about, just to see if they saw it for the ending.

3 out of 4.

Summer

Overall, this is a really good list of indie films to check with. At least three of them I rated highly, and two of them I did not. Indie seem to have a better chance of giving me quality, you just have to take a dive and go into them knowing that they have a lot less hype around them on average.

Movie Roundup – Documentaries 2018 Part 1

Welcome to a Movie Roundup! A movie roundup features a few films that I didn’t feel like making full reviews for, but needed to get basic reviews out there for completionist reasons. It also helps me deal with my backlog. It may have a theme, and today’s theme is Documentaries 2018 (Part 1)! Basically, the documentaries I watched and didn’t yet write about, and need to really review, or else.

Being on a movie round up doesn’t mean a movie is inherently bad, or good, or meh. I can feature any rating on here! So don’t assume the worst! I will also just post the reviews in alphabetical order.


Documentaries 2018 Part 1

The Bleeding Edge

The Bleeding Edge is a Netflix medical documentary, and one I assumed was targeted towards Women. You know, because of bleeding.

And sure it isn’t about periods, but it is definitely geared towards women in some aspect, as two of the three technologies would only go into women. Long story short, there are a lot of “cutting edge” technologies out there that can save lives, be put into people, to solve problems. You know, like the pacemaker. However, the medical technology field is the least overseen of the official fields, unlike food and drugs. Anyone can get their device approved, especially if you just say its the same as a previously approved device, but one change. You can daisy chain approvals, and get to a point where what you are claiming was approved, was only approved from something else now discontinued for not working.

That is scary, people can get hurt, watch what you put in your body, and check the testing. That is what this documentary teaches, which is fine, but I can’t fully explain its science. I will assume dozens of real people testimony about other side effects should be heard, and this documentary gives them a voice, it is just a bit boring.

2 out of 4.

Bleeding

Death of a Nation

Look who it is. Dinesh D’Souza, this fucker. This guy who breaks the law, gets pardoned by Trump, and keeps making these documentaries.

I wanted to watch this one in the theaters and review right away, but still, I knew how it would be, and knew how angry I would be, and didn’t want to give it any more money. So I yes, waited, until I could see it for free, and then blast it, and here is the blasting.

A lot of this documentary is saying the same things he has said in past documentaries. No one gives a shit about Thomas Jefferson and it isn’t relevant to now. The past is not now, and right now Republicans are racist and shitty. Very simple. He badly tries to tear down Democrats and there is nothing new in this documentary at all. He isn’t even trying, he just needs his documentary every 2 years to take from Republicans, to give it back to Republicans. Hard pass.

0 out of 4.

Dinesh

Fahrenheit 11/9

Speaking of political documentaries, we have Fahrenheit 11/9, a sequel or sort. I will say the title is very clever, since it is about the election, and that happened on 11/9. Fantastic work on titles, Michael Moore.

A lot of people don’t like him and that is fair. He is brash and in your face and annoying. But this is not just an inverse of the previous documentary. Like one that only Liberals will like or anything. It is definitely in its sort of own path, and plenty of liberals won’t like it, either. Moore does a better job of shitting on current Democratic leadership and practices over the last decade than D’Souza has in his last few movies. There are real truths here and they are important and useful for us to move forward.

Overall again, not a great piece of work, but it is better, and highlights some interesting aspects of the Flint water crisis as well.

2 out of 4.

Fahrenheit

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

I think that this is one of the first movies I watched that started my giant backlog of things to review. I saw it, couldn’t figure out how to write about it, and it just sat there on my list, forever, waiting and waiting, and then other films joined it, and here we are today.

Robin Williams is fucking amazing. Everyone knows it, or should know it, and if they like him they should see it. It gives a nice life arc, the darkest times, the better times, his family, and so on. And it goes over his passing, the aftermath, and some of the reasons why it occurred. It made me realize some of the friendships he had with some other big names that I never knew, and they tell some touching anecdotes. I watched it, I loved it, and surprisingly it didn’t make me cry.

It still feels odd as a documentary, and was never close to being as impactful as something like RBG and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. Which is odd, because as a viewer, I would say I actually had a relationship with Williams unlike the other two, but still couldn’t get as engrossed in this documentary on his life.

3 out of 4.

Robwilliams

Shirkers

There are documentaries, and then there is Shirkers. Shirkers is weird, and haunting. It draws you in, while seemingly being about nothing.

I had no idea why it hypnotized me when it seemed that it was about the making of an independent movie far away, like, how could it be good? Why should I care? And at the end, it is still hard to answer that question, even when you find out who the documentary actually ends up being about. The amount of footage of the film is incredible, and it seems like the type of movie I definitely would not have enjoyed.

And yet, I could not look away. The only suggestion for a documentary like Shirkers is to just watch the documentary. Give it a try. See it. If it doesn’t look good after about 10 minutes, then bail, but really any information on it outside of what I gave is just something to be discovered.

3 out of 4.

Shirkers

Overall, there are lots of documentaries out there that I have seen this year, and more that I have (because this is just part 1). But I put some of the bigger names in this one, because I am ashamed they didn’t have reviews already. Not that part 2, or 3 will be bad, but hey, they will come out soon enough.

Best Films of 2018

I don’t need a long introduction anymore, I have done a few of these already! I don’t even have a significant list of missing films to talk about, even better!

So you know the drill, here are some honorable mentions. Honorable what?

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Like every year, I had quite a few 4 out of 4’s to choose from. Top 15 lists are more exciting and besides, 10 is an arbitrary number. But what films couldn’t make the list? Things like Love, Simon, Widows, and Isle of Dogs. Officially only three honorable mentions, keeping it little this year.

There are no foreign films in the top this year, but that is because I only saw two major ones, and neither were 4 out of 4s for me. I also will say I didn’t get to see Beautiful Boy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, A Private War, Destroyer, At Eternity’s Gate, and Mirai.

And click on the title to get the original review of the movie!


15) American Animals

I always try to make sure there are a few weirder films in my top 15, and this year was harder than most. I didn’t think we had as many strong weird films, because there were so many great films. And this year, American Animals is probably my only real surprise.

American Animals is a film I expected nothing out of, and barely even watched it to review as it was an online screener. I had some time, sat down, and was floored by the story and its presentation of facts versus the real situation. It was done so creatively, and it makes the viewer think. What more could you want?

American Animals


14) RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has grown to fame over the last few years as being someone who is unmoving in her convictions and always willing to fight for the oppressed. But it turns out, she has been doing it her whole life, coming from hard beginnings, a law school that didn’t care about women, and over a decade of being unable to even join a law firm despite wild talent and smarts.

This is a story that we should be showing our daughters when encouraging them to be anything in the face of oppression. This is a story that hits all of the right notes and gives a powerful role model still doing as much to change the world as she can in her 90s.

Although RBG is here and amazing, and a must watch (more so than On The Basis Of Sex) it is not the best documentary of 2018.

RBG


13) If Beale Street Could Talk

In the making of the list, If Beale Street Could Talk was the last film I watched before deciding on the final block of 15. It is so fresh in my mind that I still haven’t wrote a regular review about it. I just knew I had to see it from its Spirit and other awards accolade, and needed to make up my own mind before it was on DVD.

And it is a powerful movie in a year of powerful film. It is about race, love, and family. Another portrait of how the black man is never given a fair shake at things, but putting it set further back when it was more common to see these injustices. It was a story we could relate to, while also focusing firmly on the characters involved and what they were going through during the events. I loved everything about this movie, and even more notable was the soundtrack. A nice collection of jazz to fully embrace the viewer in this setting.

if beale street could talk


12) Hearts Beat Loud

Hearts Beat Loud is one of those breath of fresh air movies. I went in seeing it and I didn’t even know I was seeing it, as it was a mystery screening. This is the perfect sequel to Sing Street, despite having nothing in common creatively from Sing Street.

It is just about a father. And a daughter. Trying to make some music before they have to separate and go on with their lives, in a scary world. Change is hard. But family bonds can last forever. And the feelings I felt with Hearts Beat Loud I hope I can experience again and again with every new viewing.

Hearts beat loud


11) Avengers: Infinity War

For those that hate superheroes, might want to skip the next three entries. Avengers: Infinity War is meant to be a cross over to end all cross overs. Well, the first Avengers was that ambitious goal, the second one was more of the same, but this one? This was like times three, so many more people, from parts across the galaxies, gotta team up and go after this bad guy.

And it was beautiful. It had the action scenes, humor, real struggles, and of course, the ending. The snap.

The only thing that takes away from it is knowing that the snap itself, which can make a grown nerd cry, is temporary and thus, a little bit meaningless. Once we see who is lost, and with the movies coming out, we know that it doesn’t fully matter. Only a little. And so it does feel like a bit of an annoying cliffhanger.

But what do I know? Maybe with the new one in 2019, it will elevate the first half even more.

avengers infinity war


10) Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse

In 2017, the animated movies were mostly shit. Deal with it, it is true. In 2018, we have a lot of duds as well, from our trusted companies. Must be playing it safe.

Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse is the opposite of playing it safe. Tons of main characters, a weird stylistic approach, meta humor, comedy, and strange aspects of the Spiderman lore to devote a whole film around on the first go. When it works, it really works. When it doesn’t, well, that doesn’t exist. It always works.

From start to finish this is the best Spider-man film in some time, and was almost nearly the best Superhero movie of the year, but instead will just be the best Animated film of the year.

spiderman into the spiderverse


9) Black Panther

Black Panther was the first superhero movie of 2018, coming out in February (you know, Black History Month) and felt like a breath of fresh air in the superhero world. It told a powerful story, with a memorable non-throwaway villain, and of course, a cast of characters celebrating cultures not normally celebrated on the big screen.

It was an early favorite of mine, and it became a tent pole to judge other super hero movies by. And at the end of the year, I still think it is on the top. I have to ding Avengers a little bit for having a plot that I know won’t fully matter in a year. But Black Panther is a secluded story that is important and will be the gift that keeps on giving for Marvel in a few years.

This is the best superhero movie of 2018.

black panther


8) Searching

When Searching came out, there were only a handful of examples of films that were done in this way. Basically, some horror ones, and like, a TV episode. The ideas were sound, and cool, but never were they fully great and up to the level people were hoping for.

Searching said no, let’s do it right. Let’s use the technology correctly so that there are no (or extremely few) technical issues. Let’s make it a thriller/mystery, so that the audience is on the edge of the screen with them. And let’s let John Cho do his thing and act like a worried dad.

And acting he did. A film was created. And an amazing experience was had. Take a ticket for this ride. This is the best “computer based” movie of 2018.

searching


7) Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

And then there was Rogers. Fred Rogers. The manliest gentleman ever to be on television. He had a vision in the 60s for TV that was heartfelt and not stupid, and he carried his passion with him for decades. In hard moments, he became the person to address the youth about hard times, and he always accepted the mantle when the time was right.

It is easy to see his passion through the archival footage, and coming from someone who never watched the show in his own youth, this is a documentary that will make you cry.

They got everything right about this documentary, making it the best documentary of 2018.

wont you be my neighbor


6) The Hate U Give

What can we say about The Hate U Give that wasn’t said by most people when it came out? Powerful, modern, topical, well acted, and of course, a family film. Or as family centric as a film on this topic can get, since most of the films that would deal with racial inequalities and problems will easily earn R ratings, despite being felt by people under 10 all the time.

I cannot wait to show my family this film, and it should be really soon after the posting of this article. It is easy to see all the different perspectives, and although not based on a real event, it is clearly a combination of similar events and a buildup to the natural conclusion. Shit getting real.

Also, I think Russell Hornsby should get an award for this movie.

the hate u give


5) Bodied

It is very hard to talk about Bodied and why it deserves to be on a best of the year list. It has no A-listers in it, it is relatively strange, and it is probably the first movie I have ever seen that had its premier on YouTube Red. And last, because it has been re-branded already.

But despite its strangest, it goes hard into the political, and PC nature of our changing environment. It deals with very hard topics, like race appropriation and culture vultures, while making the viewer uncomfortable and not sure who to root for. It is a sports movie in a sense, without a clear answer or best case scenario. It is a musical, more than anything else on this list, with the how much of the film is focused on rap battles (and seriously, it is most of it).

The last half hour had me spell bound, and I didn’t want it to end, while cringing all over the place at the same time. Making something like Bodied takes a lot of passion, and a lot of courage. And it is a movie that should be seen.

Bodied is the best musical of 2018. And its the best sports film…?

Bodied


4) Hereditary

From watching the trailers, early in the year, audiences should have expected something special from Hereditary. Well, audiences who weren’t expecting jump scares.

I didn’t see any of the trailers for Hereditary, but with the title, my mind went a lot of different places, and somehow it didn’t go anywhere I could ever expect. It was dark, and it got on every last of my nerves, and it is one of those movies I just could not bring myself to rewatch before making this list. Hell, its been out forever now, but I knew it just wouldn’t be the same as my first experience, and I don’t want to think less of it due to distractions.

I do want to think more about how Toni Collette nailed her role, and how she clearly gave the best Actress performance of her life, and of the year. The next two movies on this list feature four very strong actress performances, but this one is definitely on the tops. Completely unnerving.

Hereditary is the best horror film of 2018.

hereditary


3) Ben Is Back

My theme for most of these top films is great acting, as you have seen, and will seen, and few films have a better pairing than Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges in Ben Is Back. Not to diminish the other actors in it, who are also fine, but hot damn, these two are so fine, you couldn’t seen their individual grains with a scanning electron microscope.

That was fun to write, and Ben Is Back was not fun to watch. It was downright depressing. It was great critically, and to be amazed at how the two carried themselves and these characters. How we get to learn about so much history and weight bearing down on them to get them to this point. So much that they have to go on their journey as a way of maybe, finally, getting closure.

And despite it all, Ben Is Back isn’t even the best drama of the year. Although, this is the best drama if drama’s are not allowed to have humor.

ben is back


2) The Favourite

When it comes to Yorgos Lanthimos, every year I say I need to see his earlier work, and this year I might finally mean it. The Favourite is only his third movie I have seen, and it is by far MY favourite, and almost my favorite movie of 2018.

It has everything I could love in a movie: history, witty dialogue, comedy, amazing outfits/scenes, and an excellent cinematography that is going for something special in the movie. It is also led by three terrific actresses who showcase that they can be masters of their craft.

Goodness, I better see Dogtooth this year, or else…you know, 2020. The Favourite is the best comedy of 2018.

the favourite


1) Blindspotting

I don’t want to sound too preachy or too political (just kidding, lets do it), but this has been an amazing year for showcasing black talents and cinema, accurately representing the struggles they face in America in a variety of ways. We already talked about the subtle (and not so subtle) nature of it decades ago, and we talked about it on a more family friendly level. Hell, we almost talked about it on this list with the bizarre with Sorry To Bother You, but it just didn’t make my top.

And with Blindspotting we get to talk about it in a new way. About areas changing, gentrification, and perceptions of white and black men who can be very similar, and very different, yet perceived in completely different ways.

Our two leads are amazing, even if Casal is annoying, he is played to be that way. Diggs and Casal made this passion project after years of work, and it really shows, as this is the first time Diggs has gotten to showcase his talent since he was Jefferson in Hamilton.

Blindspotting is real, uncomfortable, and tells a strong message, with not a simple answer. I loved it, and want to show it to as many people as I can. This is the best movie of the year, and the Best Drama of the year. A few more raps and it could have been musical of the year.

blindspotting

Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site!

And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.

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