The Lion King

It’s the circle of life, and fifteen years after The Lion King graced our screens, we are now given a new The Lion King. But there is so much different between the two! You see, the one twenty-five years ago was animated, while this one is…animated differently!

Only one scene had some live action components, and that was in the opening montage of animals, some of the backgrounds were real. That is it. Everything else you couldn’t even call a green screen, because it is 100% made on computers.

We just really want you to make sure you don’t call this the Live Action version, like a lot of their recent remakes. It is not, it is still animated, and nothing is real anymore anyways.

hakuna my tatas
Hakuna my tatas, life is a lie.

Ah good. Simba (Donald Glover) exists. Maybe this time his Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wont trick him into thinking that he killed his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Oh… Think again!

No, but this time it is different. We have more animals! Like, we got this spiritual one, Rafiki (John Kani) who likes to wait around and draw on his walls. We got Nala (Beyoncé) who likes to wrestle, we got super mad Zazu (John Oliver) just trying to give advice, we got Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), mad that her husband had to go and get dead. Okay a lot of that is the same.

Uhhhh, we got Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), and they like to relax, but this time more animals in the oasis have words too!

Oh, oh, oh, the real difference. None of our hyenas are unable to speak! Yeah that’s it. Nailed it.

Also featuring the voices of Chance the Rapper, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, JD McCray, Keegan-Michael Key, Penny Johnson Jerald, and Shahadi Wright Joseph.

circle of life
“Shit, I was brought into this world just for this?” – Simba, probably.

Let’s take something people like, bring it back again, and make it worse, while also technically improving it. Because sure, the animals looked very realistic, which is what they were going for. Technology sure is wonderful.

And the realistic animals is also the cause of all of the other problems in this movie.

Because they are so realistic, having them talk looks awkward. And more awkward than talking animal films like Homeward Bound, because in Homeward Bound, they didn’t try to match words to their mouth movement, they just put voice overs. Watching the animals talk is distracting and downright wrong. The animals don’t have emotions on their faces either, so when the voice actors ATTEMPT to give emotion, then it is seemingly lost and wasted.

I do say attempt, because honestly, most of the voice acting was phoned in. People coming from the movie usually talk about Eichner and Rogen being the stars, because at least they are funny. Everyone else is super serious all the time. Sure, there are dark moments, but many characters provide laughs in the original.

However, even Rogen falls short for me, because his singing is terrible. I can’t enjoy Hakuna Matata when Rogen is bringing it down. Poor Eichner, actually singing well. Speaking of songs, whatever they did to Be Prepared will forever be seen as one of the biggest mistakes int his films history.

Now, what I am most disappointed about is this movie added almost 30 minutes of material, so I figured we’d get expanded characters. All we really got expanded was Sarabi, and that is barely. We still have a whole trove of lionesses that are just background, and still only three hyenas. No new animals to speak of and introduce as characters.

The only little bit of reprieve we get is in the oasis, where finally some random animals are also talking and adding in words, especially during the grub scene. How do we not have more of that?! It is so easy to do, and plus, more goddamn toys to sell.

Instead we got a movie with worse music, worse voice acting, technically better animation, but a lot less heart.

1 out of 4.

Last Christmas

After the (lame) success of Bohemian Rhapsody, and then Rocketman, I figured that we might get a George Michael movie also at some point. I mean, he is also British and famous from the 80’s and 90’s.

I just didn’t think it would be like…this.

Last Christmas is a RomCom that is inspired by a George Michael song and also other George Michael things? So it is not a story about George Michael. But I do find it sad that a gay man’s song has been turned into a heterosexual romance movie. But that is what happens when you die. People do whatever they want with your legacy.

kiss
Ew, kissing. 
Life is not going well for Kate (Emilia Clarke). She is technically homeless, in that she crashes on the couches of her friends until they get sick of her. Which is often, as she is klutzy, she likes getting drunk, and she brings strange men to their apartments without permission.

She could live with her mother (Emma Thompson) and father (Boris Isakovic), but since they moved to London from Yugoslavia during the war, they have been too extra. Distant and worrisome. Overbearing. And her sister (Lydia Leonard) hates her as well.

So Kate lives her life couch to couch, working full time at a Christmas store for Santa (Michelle Yeoh), and badly auditioning for musicals with her heart not being fully into it. She loves singing, she wants it as a career, but she can’t get her life together.

And then she meets a man, a Tom man (Henry Golding) who is incredibly weird. He wants her to see the world around her and take things…slow? What the hell is this?

group
Santa’s made up, so Santa can be an Asian old lady too.

Last Christmas has some positives! Like Thompson, who is incredibly delightful as an older Eastern European worrisome mother. She is fantastic and completely wasted in this role for the movie. She is one of the main saviors from making this a 0.

I also enjoyed Golding, another one of the leads. I have seen him in a few roles, but in this one he really struck for me. He was a really good ideal dream hunk.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie exists, and what we got on the screen is not worth watching unless you are on the Hallmark channel working on a Christmas movie marathon. We all know that is where this one is destined to be.

Clarke is playing the lead in an anime with her level of klutz, and her transformation doesn’t stick in my eyes. As I thought the movie was building up to be something more endearing, the ending happened and it totally ruined my evening. I won’t go into more details there, but it literally went too dumb.

Also, it clearly didn’t go enough into George Michael. Kate is obsessed with him, and sings like, one of his songs? They went out of their way to say this took place in London, 2017, so we had a setting. You’d think they’d also go out of their way to talk about his death in that same location the year prior. Just seems weird.

1 out of 4.

Abominable

I was not looking forward to Abominable. We all know about Doppelganger films, and it can feel very awkward, but usually the films involved at least come out a few months apart.

Instead this time we got three, and it took almost a whole year. I mean that literally. Smallfoot came out Sept 28, 2018. We had Missing Link come out April 9, 2019, about a very similar topic, but different, sure. And now we have Abominable, coming out Sept 27, 2019. That is literally a year later on the same Friday as Smallfoot!

How many large humanoid animated films do we actually want? Because I assure you, when Smallfoot came out I did not care to see it at all, but despite that ended up liking it. When Missing Link was announced, it felt like such a lame film compared to their last one, Kubo and the Two Strings.

Given this, to me, Abominable just feels dead on arrival, and I can’t even tell you if they tried to advertise this one.


Hopefully they aren’t dead on arrival on this train. That’d be graphic.

Yi (voiced by the very white Chloe Bennet), lives in what I assume is Hong Kong and has her own tragic story. Her father passed away at some point recently, living her to just live with her mom (Michelle Wong) and Nai Nai (Tsai Chin). She has decided to keep busy this summer, working odd jobs all day for money to save up. She has plans to travel around China, to the sites her dad promised to take her.

And nearby, in some crazy secure facility, a yeti escapes! It was owned by Burnish (Eddie Izzard), a rich man who wants to prove to the world that yetis exist, and has spent his life trying to catch one to prove. He has a head zoologist, Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson), who wants to just protect these endangered animals.

Either way! Yeti escapes, finds itself on Yi’s roof, and they bond! Yi is determined to help get him out of the city from the scary helicopters. And maybe she will just join him along the way.

Also starring the voices of Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, and Joseph Izzo.


How many kids could that thing fit in its mouth?

Abominable is not giving us a story we haven’t already seen before. And no, I am not talking about yetis this time.

Youth finds magical creature and has to hide it from those looking to kill it/capture it. Somehow with gumption, luck, and magic, they are able to save the creature and get it home. Ho hum. A lack of originality is not the problem with this movie. Its the lazy writing.

In this movie, the yeti has nature magic. What does that mean? Well, it starts with just can grow things fast. And then becomes whatever the hell they want it to be. It gets “stronger” the closer he is to home, and basically, if they are ever in danger, he can use the magic and the creators write some way to advance the plot. Over and over and over. That’s really shit.

And you know what? I won’t even get into the Chinese propaganda in this movie. There are enough articles online and I am not an expert enough to bring it up and explain it, so it has no effect on the review, but it sounds really shitty.

Definitely a skippable movie.

1 out of 4.

The Angry Birds Movie 2

When The Angry Birds Movie came out a few years ago, I expected to hate it and to trash it and talk more about how many animated movies were crap.

And then I liked it surprisingly enough. Yeah, I don’t get it either. My current theater is that I just like things with Jason Sudeikis attached far more than other people.

So now it is time for a sequel! A great title of The Angry Birds Movie 2, and technically I am not dreading watching it? I now have higher hopes for the sequel instead of zero hopes the first time around, and that will probably change my entire outlook. I still don’t play the game anymore, and thought the sequel game series was terrible.

group think
Ah look, a cast and crew of ragamuffins ready to overcome the odds.

At the end of the first film, Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and friends helped lead an assault on Piggy Island. The pigs, led by Leonard (Bill Hader) had stolen all of their eggs and were gonna eat them. Despite being flightless birds, they were able to use slingshots to fling themselves to the island and destroy the hell out of that place.

This led to modern day. Red is now a hero! He is loved finally and not hated. There is a big prank war going between the two islands but Red is always on the lookout keeping things safe. Until Leonard wants…a truce?

It turns out they are now sacred over a third island, an Icy cold island further away named Eagle island. There, a strange purple bird named Zeta (Leslie Jones) is somehow able to send giant ice balls to their island, with the intent of destroying them so they can move in an rebuild. Once they realize this threat is real, both sides do have to come together and expand their teams in order to infiltrate the base and stop that cannon.

But they need someone smarter, and Chuck has an engineering sister named Silver (Rachel Bloom), who is super smart. Smart enough to be the leader. And being a leader is the only thing that is keeping Red in the limelight, so that will lead to conflict.

Can they save the day before every little piggy and birdy is wiped out by ice fire balls?

Ahem, also starring the wonderful voice work of Awkwafina, Sterling K. Brown, Eugenio Derbez, Tiffany Haddish, Peter Dinklage, Pete Davidson, Zach Woods, Maya Rudolph, Dove Cameron, JoJo Siwa, Tony Hale, Nicki Minaj, Brooklynn Prince, Lil Rel Howery, Beck Bennett, and Gaten Matarazzo,

ice ice fishy
Fish. Fish is sad.

Again, I fully know that I liked the first film more than others, but this sequel drops so far in quality. If you hate the first film, this one is likely to be one of the worst films of the year for you. Easy. And as someone who liked the first film, I am incredibly disappointed with the sequel.

A large portion of the jokes are just based on current pop culture, which is not a good indicator of comedy. It will date the movie, firmly place it weirdly in 2019, and not age well. A really good joke actually occurred in the movie with Bomb about “taking out the guards” for their mission. It was clever and unexpected. And then the scene went on too long and they added Baby Shark to the mix, completely making it cringey.

Ferdinand was a bad animated movie and the worst part was an extended dance scene in that movie between the heroes and others, and that almost happened in this film as well. A dance off occurred, it just wasn’t as long, and still completely pointless.

The jokes aren’t as funny. The plot doesn’t naturally follow the first film. The entire point of the ice/eagle island is strange. I could ask 20 questions they didn’t explain, and its all just…pointless. The villain is not good, and the mission is not good, and they way the day is saved in the day is really weak. It sure does try to bring back women characters to the 1960’s.

But let’s make one really big irritation clear. At the end of the first film we got to see three tiny blue birds hatch. Those birds are in the game, and are used to help destroy ice structures. Oh hey, this movie involves an island full of ice structures. Clearly they would…NOPE. Those birds aren’t in this movie at all.

THEY TEASED US WITH THE ICE DESTROYING BIRDS, GAVE US A SEQUEL WITH ICE, AND THEY NEVER APPEARED IN THE SEQUEL. What is wrong with the creators? Are they Satan? How could they fall so low??

1 out of 4.

Guest Review: The Lion King (Chris Smith)

1994’s The Lion King is one of my favorite movies of all time. Anyone who knew me as a child will tell you I watched it constantly. I remember having to buy a second VHS copy due to wearing the first one out. Because of this, I of course had high expectations for Disney’s remake.

These “live-action” remakes Disney has been making recently have varied wildly in quality. Some have been quite good (The Jungle Book). Some have been awful (Beauty and the Beast or Alice in Wonderland). Some have been bizarre (Maleficent). I regret to say that The Lion King is unfortunately one of the bad ones.


Simba can restore the pride lands, but he cannot restore this dumpster fire.

First let’s start with the positives, because there are a few. Timon and Pumbaa are delightful, maybe even more entertaining than in the original. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen nearly break their backs carrying the film from the minute they come on screen. Some of the other supporting characters are also fun. John Oliver is great as Zazu, while Alfre Woodard does a lot with little to work with as Sarabi. The hyena characters were expanded upon and given a truly sinister edge that I liked a lot.

The music (with some glaring exceptions) is also very good, capturing the same spirit of the original film, but with a cool spin. “Hakuna Matata” and the new expanded version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” were especially good.

Scar was also a highlight. He carries the appropriate amount of menace and I enjoyed the added bits of backstory give to him. Chiwetel Ejiofor is clearly going for a more Shakespearean bent to the character and I think it works well.

Lastly, the effects are gorgeous. The vast majority of the film is photorealistic and looks as if they just took a film crew to Sub-Saharan Africa to film. However, this is a double edged sword, and leads me to the negatives.

circleoflife
Clearly the best moment and all down hill after this.

Hoo boy where to begin? So let’s start with some nitpicks and go from there. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” is set during the day. That might not sound like a big deal, but it took me completely out of the movie. The whole time the song was playing (and the recording itself is great) I couldn’t stop saying to myself “But it’s broad daylight…” It’s the title of the song! One of the most famous love songs in Disney history! How do you make that decision?

Be Prepared” is just completely butchered. It’s very clear that when people heard it was being left out and people complained, they hastily put it in last minute. The tune is bad. The rendition is bad. The whole sequence is really bad and is the exact point in the film where I started to turn on the film completely.

There is also an original song here from Beyonce. I like Beyonce as an artist, but this song just completely sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s also not that good, especially by her standards.

I won’t get completely into plot details, but some changes made here and there are very odd and take some emotional power away in key scenes.

Lastly, but most importantly, the truly fatal flaw of this movie is also one of its strengths: the effects. Somewhere in pre-production, a decision was made by someone to make this movie truly photorealistic in every way, including the animal faces, so that at times it appears you’re looking at a nature documentary. For some scenes, such as the iconic (and still great) “Circle of Life” scene, this works amazingly well. However, the minute any dialogue scene occurs, especially ones requiring a lot of emotion, this decision literally kills the movie dead. Now I know it’s possible to animate realistic animal faces to show emotion. Disney themselves did it in their Jungle Book remake a few years ago. Here, the lack of expressiveness, especially with the lion characters, is definitely a purposeful decision.

The problem is that because the lions aren’t shown being that emotional, the voice actors are clearly having to tone down their performances to match. This is most clearly heard with James Earl Jones, where the difference in emotion between this film and the 1994 film is just staggering. Some of the actors still manage ok. Jones is still Jones so he’s not bad. Ejiofor manages a lot with subtle voice inflection. Donald Glover does a decent job. But for the most part, the lion characters fail to properly convey the weight of what we’re watching. The big test for me is the film’s ending. The original Lion King’s ending never fails to give me goosebumps. With this one, I felt nothing. That is nothing short of failure.

In short, go rewatch the original film this weekend instead. You’ll have a far better time.

2 out of 5.

Stuber

I imagine that if you want people to enjoy your movie, if you think you have made a fine piece of art, that you realize you need to convince them to spend money and go to see it. So you need posters, advertisements, interviews, screeners, whatever.

And part of the equation just has to be a good movie name. Something long an exciting, something that is visually appealing, just anything, right?

Stuber does nothing for me as a title. Nothing positive.

It screams like a movie I’d want to actively avoid, if I was a normal consumer. Only reason this review exists is because I was invited to watch it. If it was up to me, I would have probably avoided it forever, just on the title alone. Clever joke potential or anything aside, I just hate hate hate this title.

drive
Sitting up front? That means they feel DTT. Down To Talk.
Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is an Uber driver and a clerk at a sporting goods store. Yeah, big player. He isn’t even a great Uber driver, which is just his side gig to make more money. He is going to start a woman’s only spin cycle class with his BFF, Becky (Betty Gilpin), whom he is of course in love with.

Vic (Dave Bautista) has spent many months, years even, trying to bring down a drug kingpin named Teijo (Iko Uwais) in LA, bringing in the hard stuff, that heroin. After tragic events, he escapes and he still has to spend all of his waking moments thinking about Teijo. This puts a strain on his relationship with his daughter (Natalie Morales), and everyone in his life really.

Also he is getting old, and losing his eyesight. So he wants to get LASIK, which is great, minus the being blind-ish a few hours after the surgery. And that is of course when Teijo is finally able to get caught again, doing a big drug bust. Aw shucks. Good thing his daughter just taught him about Uber to get to her art show.

Also starring Karen Gillan, Mira Sorvino, Jimmy Tatro, Scott Lawrence, and Steve Howey.

sex
I often contemplate teaching my driver sex moves because I assume their lifestyle.
Now that I have seen the movie and I am past the title, I have to admit, the movie itself also does nothing for me.

Excessive violence can be okay, but the amount of excessive violence in this film never felt believable. It could be partially because of the cop’s blindness for most of the film, but he never feels like he is a great cop, detective, anything. He is a big body that can look intimidating, but Bautista never seems to really match the role given.

On the other side of the coin, Nanjiani is also goddamn terrible. It’d be one thing if he was some sort of perfectionist character who needs that 5 star rating to keep it perfect. But holy shit, he is a bad uber driver and it makes the whole thing uncomfortable. Since he is playing such a passive character, it is hard to root for him throughout the film, just so he can show some growth by the end. But the character is just insufferable for most of it.

In Stuber, the twists are lazy, the violence is easy, and the message is missing. Don’t be a bitch? Go excessively towards your goals at all costs? I have no idea. I just know it was a waste.

1 out of 4.

Uglydolls

When I first heard about the Uglydolls movie, it was…when I got an invite to see the movie. I honestly had no idea this movie was coming out. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the coming soon community, especially animated films, because I am looking always for the next big thing that will dethrone a Disney or a Pixar. And yeah, this one I knew nothing about.

Sure, it is based on a line of toy dolls I have seen mostly in comic book shops for a decade or so. The actual theme of them is “reject” dolls that would normally be trashed and sold anyways, despite obviously being made that way. Like a fake level of being unique. Okay, that leads to a pretty easy plot to anticipate and follow.

And I also figured out it had to be a musical of some sort, because over half of the main voice cast appears to be a singer. Even some I have never heard of before in my life, but singers nonetheless. A lot more B-talent in terms of voice acting singers, people you don’t see in the biggest movies, so maybe it is their chance to shine?

Really, what I figured from all these glances is that Uglydolls wants to be the next Trolls. Toy line, weird looks, bright colors, and of course, songs to entertain. But honey, this ain’t up to the Trolls level, and Trolls was only average.

Not trolls
Hello group of Not Trolls, whats up? Eating? Cool!
Deep in a toy factory, many dolls are created and sent off to be loved by kids everywhere. Except, sometimes a doll is not molded correctly, for one reason or another. There is a mistake! And that doll is sent away down a series of tunnels to Uglyville. A happy small place with strange looking homes, citizens, and a party every night. Mayor Ox (Blake Shelton) makes sure everyone is having a swell time and living it up.

Now Moxy (Kelly Clarkson)? She is an extreme optimist. She believes that one day, every doll is sent into the big world to be with a “child” when the moment is perfect and right. Destiny will find them together. And every new day is the day where she will be picked!

Everyone else knows it is nonsense, until she finally goes exploring with her band of friends. And sure enough, she finds a bigger area, with a lot of dolls that look like people. They have to go through training before they can hit the real world. They need to be perfect. They need training before they can hit that child’s arms. And hey, are these the dolls to do it?

Also starring the voices of Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe, Leehom Wang, Jane Lynch, Emma Roberts, Gabriel Iglesias, Wanda Sykes, Ice-T, Pitbull, Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha, and Lizzo. The last few I have confirmed are real people.

judgement
Totally getting judged right now.
Judging really early on in the movie, it was already starting off on the wrong foot. The animation style was a bit safe, nothing to top of the line. It started basically with a song, that also needed to get some exposition and character introduction in, and seemed to go on just a bit too long.

Overall, none of the songs really stood out to me as being great. I didn’t want to go find the soundtrack afterward to hear something again, and that is a real shame. They are all mostly generic.

The plot is really easy to guess/understand for the most part. It is something that a kid will probably follow along and enjoy, but the older folks will be quite bored. It also moves along too quickly. We aren’t able to dwell on anything for too long before it is quickly resolved and moving on to the next moment. One scene similar to the ending of Toy Story 3 was fixed almost instantly and allowed no time for potential sadness to creep in.

Also, let’s be clear. There are dumb components. In the intro, we see all these animals being made for dolls, and then obvious messed up versions being sent away. And so we’d expect diversity when they climb up the tunnels. And instead we get only people looking dolls, perfect and the same, with just different skin tones and hair. How do these dolls accidentally create any of the Uglydolls? They weren’t even trying to make sense.

Uglydolls is a forgettable film, that is safe, and full of generic pop. The message is simple. Ugliness is on the inside. Next.

1 out of 4.

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.

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 – Online Releases 2018

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 Online Releases 2018! Basically, things that started out on the internet, ideally a streaming website, because it is a loose theme, and I will take 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.


Online Releases 2018

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Can we go wrong with the Coen brothers? Yes, we totally can. But I can’t help but feel something wonderful when they continually try to do something different, or make the normal a lot more eccentric. This time, they went back to the former, while also going back to some of those old timey western roots, which are arguably their best movies. Except this time, it is straight to Netflix, and an Anthology movie with six short films instead. The only connection? Western.

This ends up working really well, even if I can say I didn’t love every part of the anthology. Unfortunately, the best and most fun was the first of the stories, and probably me least favorite was number two. I really enjoyed the one about the prospectors and the woman with her not dog too. When it works, it really works, and when it doesn’t work, it is still well made and a bit beautiful, if not full of fuckery. This is not a happy movie, and it can easily be watched in parts, and deserves praise for its individual shorts that work out amazingly well.

3 out of 4.

Ballad
None of these people share a scene with the others.

The Kissing Booth

On the other hand, Netflix has made it clear its strategy isn’t to appeal to just the best movie ever, but to instead go for all the demographics so that they all have something to watch, which is fair. Netflix having a shit movie doesn’t mean that Netflix is bad, I just don’t have to watch it…if I am a normal movie goer.

But this movie is something else, and it has crawled out of the pits of hell thanks to some teenage girl. Yeah, it is based on a book, written by a teenage girl, on some website, and now its a movie. An uninspired romance movie, that seems to rely on the kissing booth as a feature, despite not being featured too heavily in the grand scope. It features a love interest who is super controlling, threatening, and uses his fists to solve problems. Ah, what good values to instill in our youth.

0 out of 4.

Kissing
Help, help, I’m trapped in a 90s movie.

My Dinner with Hervé

Over on HBO, they also like to do movies, and shows, and documentaries. In this one, we have dudes as the stars, with one of them being one of their biggest stars of their biggest show. Makes sense. Peter Dinklage playing a biographical role, of possibly the most famous little person in history (before Peter Dinklage and Verne Troyer), Hervé Villechaize. Made famous for being in Fantasy Island and The Man With The Golden Gun.

Now, this is all according to a journalist, but it is based on the night out on the town with Hervé, where he also recounts his whole life story leading up to the point, his rises, and his many many downfalls. Dinklage does an amazing job of transforming himself, or what I know about himself, and this is an extremely touching tale of a childhood of abuse and sadness, while still trying to make something about it. It never seems to go deep enough into the sadder parts though, and probably skirts around important details. I just knew that it started off way better than it eventually ended.

2 out of 4.

DINNer
And that is also true about life, I suppose.

Slice

Slice might not technically fit this theme, because it came out on VOD, but hey, my themes are loose, and I want it in this post. Slice is the type of movie that is just so out there, it is hard to believe that it even exists. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, murder mystery, pizza store, witches, and such a strange plot and concept. It is the type of movie that when describing it you know will have a cult following and probably LARPing in the future.

But in all honestly, it just doesn’t work out well. The only redeeming factor is that it definitely feels original. It just is a weird mash of ideas that aren’t fully explained because it isn’t fully thought through. It is cool, it is weird, but it is definitely not good.

1 out of 4.

sLIce
Although, it made me want pizza, so good job there.

The Tale

Finally, another HBO movie (sorry Hulu), that I didn’t even know came out this last summer. I would have never known it existed if it didn’t get nominated for a Spirit award. I mean, it has a big name in it, and it is about sexual abuse when someone was a child. Sure, a fictional tale, but a tale that resonates due to how often similar “tales” have been told by other girls in relation to their coaches while growing up. Hell, the gymnastics scandal was in 2018, maybe even going on after this movie. It is very relevant.

Dern plays someone very vulnerable and stubborn at the same time. It doesn’t end with fireworks, but plays it in a more realistic way. More importantly, the girl who plays the younger version is amazing at her role. Her acting, in normal kid way, amplifies the creepiness of everything. It puts the viewer in a dark place and really helps bring the hate towards these sexual predators.

3 out of 4.

tale
These two adults are now on my despise list, well done!

Overall, steaming platforms put out a lot of duds, and some successes. And especially Netflix, because I will never catch up on on their new releases. Or, maybe I will, if I just keep the review format like this and not larger. But these ones caught my eye for some reason or another and I chose them to watch to review, and never got around to actually writing.

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