Beatriz At Dinner

People really love dinners. I wish I watched The Dinner to go along with this as a mini-theme, but The Dinner never really fell on my radar.

At the very least, by now I should have watched My Dinner With Andre. One day.

With Beatriz At Dinner, I know we can expect a few things. We can expect some food, we can expect the food being at someplace unexpected, and we can expect at least one person named Beatriz. Maybe two, if we are lucky.

Oh hey! There she is! Beatriz at the Dinner!

Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is having a hard time. She is a spiritual healer, and massage therapist, trying to help people through medical issues and emotional issues. But she is lonely and depressed. She lives alone with her animals, but her goat was recently killed by a neighbor for being annoying. That is pretty messed up. Her goddamn goat!

She still has a job to do and she heads to one of her client’s houses. She is late to Kathy (Connie Britton) thanks to traffic, but she gets in a quick session before Kathy has to get ready for a dinner party. When Beatriz tries to leave, her car will not start. Her only real option is to call on her friend to come and fix it, but he won’t be there until he gets out of work.

Kathy is kind and loves Beatriz though. So she invites her to stay for the dinner, she insists (with her husbands (David Warshofsky) permission). She isn’t dressed up fancy, but it is okay, because Beatriz is like family.

Beatriz quickly realizes that these people are not living in the same world she is living in. This is especially true about Doug (John Lithgow), a real estate mogul, and the person this whole dinner party is celebrating.

Also featuring Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, Chloë Sevigny, John Early, and Enrique Castillo.

And this is Beatriz as the After Dinner entertainment.

I expected a lot of subtlety in this film. Or a lot of under the table insults. Metaphorically, not literally. You know, backhanded compliments. Maybe some political debates. Maybe just…anything.

But what I got felt like a whole lot of nothing. Sure, Beatriz is a tragic character. We will feel sorry for her and we know she is in the right. And all of the rich people suck, some more than others, with the reasons varying. And yet it still feels like not a lot happens.

Beatriz never really gets a mic drop type statement. We get a lot of almost situations that never seem to go far enough. The commentary they are making based on how things play out is obvious, but it is bleak and totally unnecessary. And the ending is just downright dreadful, all aspects of it. I just feel like I was teased and then pooped on. Would certainly never want to see this again. Although sure, Hayek and Lithgow carried the film in their own ways, they just felt wasted on the script and the plot.

1 out of 4.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

This year was a big year for Wonder Woman. She had her DC film debut, as the first solo female superhero film in some time (Never forget, Catwoman and Elektra). She broke some records in terms of profit, and easily, she is the best of the current DCEU films.

By a long shot. The ending was still poor and CGI crazy, but for the most part it was still a great film.

But this year we are also getting Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, a film about Wonder Woman, however not a film anyone would expect. We get to learn about how Wonder Woman came to be, her eccentric creator and his interesting lifestyle with the women he dubbed to be wonderful.

And this is when he takes those wonderful woman off to see the wonderful wizard of oz!

William Marston (Luke Evans), as you may have guessed from the title, was a professor! He taught psychology and even taught classes to just women. It was very progressive for the 1920’s and 30’s. He had a DISC theory about humans, which stood for Dominance, Influence, Submissive, and Compliance, but I won’t get into all of that.

His wife, Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall) should have been a professor, but was having issues with her PhD, so she worked closely with her husband in their laboratory. They enjoyed studying the human condition and what makes them tick. On that note, they also hired one of their students to be an office aide, who would work with them over long hours, an Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). She was pretty, young, influential, and William wanted to sex her.

But Elizabeth might have also wanted to sex her.

This is not a love triangle of chasing emotions, this is three consenting adults eventually deciding to enter into free and open relationship with each other, in a world that wouldn’t look too kindly with their situation. And this is just the beginning, because at some point, Wonder Woman gets created out of this. And also the lie detector. Yes, they invent the lie detector.

Also starring Connie Britton, JJ Feild, Oliver Platt, and Chris Conroy.

Oohh, shiny.

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women is a story that happened many decades ago, but could not have been told until very recently. At this point, the world has somewhat caught up to what these three people discovered years ago and can find what they did accepting without a lot of shame.

I am NOT saying that everyone who watches this movie will be comfortable with what occurs, but it treats the subject matter in a fair light, noting the pros and cons of what occurred, along with the fallout. To modify an overused line, this is a better love story than Fifty Shades of Grey (and Twilight, yes).

The acting from the three leads was incredible and believable. This is the best thing Evans has ever done. I previously said that this year with Beauty and the Beast, which was true at the time, but this is Evans finally in a role that shows actual dramatics, without relying on song and CGI. For Heathcote, I don’t know most of her work, but it definitely stands out from some of the shitty movies I have seen her in. Hall is a very accomplished actress, but I would put this near the top of her work as well, definitely showcasing a different sort of range for her.

This movie will make people uncomfortable, but it really feels like a story that needs to be told. It could have gotten to Wonder Woman aspects quicker, to help draw in some of the less patient viewers, but it is a story about unconventional love and how it has changed the world.

4 out of 4.

American Ultra

I don’t know a lot about American Ultra. I do know that it has some nice buzz words to get more butts in the seats though.

A lot of big movies have American in the title now. American Sniper destroyed the box office, so people really love American shit. Then we have American Beauty, American Psycho, American Pie, you name it! American to start off your movie is like a golden ticket.

And then of course whe have Ultra. That puts it at the top tier, and it sounds a lot like Ultron. Maybe they want people who love America and love the Avengers to see their film. If they can bring in those two demographics, they would be walking their way over to the billionaire club.

Again, knowing nothing about the movie, this has to be their plan right?

“And bring in an established couple from other movies! Like those kids from Adventureland!” – Movie Exec

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) is a small town, do nothing, stoner. He has never left his West Virginian town and any time he attempts to leave he ends up having a panic idea. The thought of going places just freaks him the fuck out.

Thankfully he has weed. And the love of his life, Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart). She is basically perfect and deserves someone way better than him, as he is a constant screw up. But for whatever reason, she loves him back. Even when he kills two men outside of the convenience store that he works.

Shit. Shit shit fuck. He didn’t even know he could kill a man, and technically they attacked him first. He already has enough trouble with the law, weed smoker and all. It has something to do with the strange lady (Connie Britton) who came to his shop and basically said just gibberish. Next thing Mike knows, other strangers are trying to assassinate him and wouldn’t you know it? He can fight back! Magical Stoner Powers activate! Sometimes it can be good to be a government sleeper agent.

Also starring Tony Hale as a CIA employee, Topher Grace as a mean CIA dude, Walton Goggins as a hitman, John Leguizamo as a dealer, Stuart Greer as a sheriff and Bill Pullman as “mysterious CIA man.”

To John Leguizamo, Thanks For The Drugs, Jesse Eisenberg.

One exciting fact about American Ultra is that it written by Max Landis, who also wrote Chronicle. Huh. Chronicle. The great movie that was directed by Josh Trank, who recently directed a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Fantastic Four movie as his next main project. So weird that two guys who worked on an indie movie both got much bigger movies that were released in the same month three years later.

One thing I hate as a movie watcher is hearing other people echo commonly held complaints that they just regurgitate from the internet, without realizing they never gave it any thought. For example, a very popular “opinion” is that Stewart is terrible and cannot show emotion. People of course got confused with her real self and playing a hated character. For those that think that, they will be happy to know that Stewart shows a lot of emotion in this film: fear, sadness, extreme happiness. She is all over the place. And she also does a fine job.

As for the rest of the movie, American Ultra is a very strange film. Not fully comedy, not fully action, and not really a normal action comedy. And don’t even think it, because it is definitely not a stoner action comedy either, like Pineapple Express. It is a strange mash of all of these genres, and not in a normal or bad way. It reminds me of Red State. Red State was a hard movie to describe, clashing together different genres and keeping you on your toes. This film is of course nothing like the actual Red State, but I think you get my meaning.

American Ultra almost perfectly embodies the 2 out of 4 rating on this website. It is an enjoyable movie yes. Sometimes the jokes work really really well, thanks in a lot to the chaotic nature of a few scenes. And sometimes the movie feels like it drags and you just want to get to the next scene. We call that pacing issues in the biz, and it can make or break or apparently average out a film. But it did have some nice acting from our leads and some pretty slick shots at the same time. It can be worth a watch eventually. I think the people who love it are going to just really love it.

2 out of 4.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

My first introduction to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was described as “Like, The Fault In Our Stars, but better!”

Well, shit. Because I liked The Fault In Our Stars. It felt realistic, well acted, was surprising, and of course I cried. So I guessed this one was another teenage romance about dying kid(s). Or at least, this time the girl is the sick one. And judging by the actress, I can guess her fate since she seems to be type casted.

Regardless, this movie has an excellent title. It has a nice flow to it. So that gets my loins revved up regardless of any other factors. BRING ON THE DEAD TEENAGERS.

I meant literally dead. Not bored brain dead.

The titular character here is Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) and he is a senior in high school. He is your typical high school movie loaner. You know, under the radar, tries to please everyone yet stay invisible. His best “friend” is Earl (RJ Cyler). Very similar despite their different upbringings. They like old classic films, are generally weird/antisocial, and have secret parody films of classics that they make together.

Nerd alertttttttttt.

And then there is Rachel (Olivia Cooke), the dying girl. She has leukemia now, and leukemia generally sucks. Greg and Rachel were never really friends, but their moms are, and Greg’s mom has DEMANDED that he hang out with Rachel and make her feel better.

Kind of awkward. Making someone hang out with a person just because they have got the cancer. But he has to do it. And this is the story of Greg, Earl, and a Dying Girl.

Don’t worry! There are more than just those three characters. After all, Greg has TWO parents (Nick Offerman, Connie Britton), and DyingGirl has a mom (Molly Shannon). There are other school kids, like Ill Phil the Drug Dealer (Masam Holden), Scott Mayhew (Matt Bennett) leader of the Emo kids, and Madison (Katherine C. Hughes) a hot girl whom Greg tends to get nervous over.

And everyone’s most hated actor from The Walking Dead, Jon Bernthal, plays the history teacher that everybody loves.

Dead Girl
Fuck, that kid can’t smile in anything.

I guess the easiest way to describe this movie, after seeing it, is like The Fault In Our Stars, but better.

I kid. They are pretty different. They might fall under the same overall genre, but The Fault In Our Stars is clearly heavily romance based and this one is definitely closer to the discovery of friendship.

I cant even begin to describe all the things I liked about this movie, but I will attempt anyways because this is a review and that is the point of a review. Mann gives a great performance as the lead, his best yet. Cooke hasn’t been in a lot of films/shows, but she is usually decent and she gives a very raw performance here. This is the first real thing for Cyler and he was hilarious in this as well. But literally everyone is great in this movie. Every single person. Well acted all around, good unique characters, and a touching story.

But that’s not all! The cinematography in this film is great. So many well shot scenes, conveying emotion through just the character spacing alone. Because the two males love old movies, the parody films themselves are brilliant as well. It is clearly a movie that loves movies, and as a movie lover, your experience will be even more gratifying. And of course, my personal favorite, some long, one shot scenes with some intense arguments throughout.

At the end of everything, I think I am mostly surprised at how funny the whole thing ended up being. I laughed throughout, even just a bit during the very sad points. I love a good comedy. This is actually Mann’s second comedy/drama film dealing with intense subjects. I also suggest giving It’s Kind Of A Funny Story a chance.

4 out of 4.

This Is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You is one of those movies that I really didn’t care about seeing right away. I knew I could wait for it, despite liking quite a few members of the cast.

What was my beef? I call it Jason Bateman fatigue. A lot of people in this movie, but his character gets to be the main character, and for the most part, his last several years of roles have been very very similar. The Switch, The Change-Up, Identity Thief, Bad Words, Horrible Bosses. He is generally an asshole character who likes to make fun of others and has bad things happen to him. Sure he is a dick, but people are usually bigger dicks, so his dick-ness is justified.

Either way, I am super tired of him because he always gets lead guy status, thanks to Arrested Development I guess (which is also the same character).

I am tired of what feels like him lazily acting on the screen. It was fine the first few times, but now I really don’t know why I expected anything other than the dead dove.

But we have female on male violence, so I guess it can’t be too bad.

Can we look at that image closer? I think I got a stunt double in here or something, because man, that looks nothing like Tina Fey or what I would imagine Tina Fey looks like mid punch.

Mort Altman is dead. He is survived by his wife (Jane Fonda) and four kids. He was an athiest, but apparently he wanted a Jewish ceremony at his death and have his family sit shiva. That is an older tradition where the family literally sits for a week (outside of food/sleep/etc) to talk and honor the dead. People are meant to visit them throughout the week as well, to allow the stories to be said in a more natural way and to pass on the legacy of the individual. I learned about it at first from Weeds.

So we have Judd (Bateman) who is about to get separated from his wife (Abigail Spencer) because he found her in bed with his boss (Dax Shepard). Wendy (Tina Fey) is upset over her husband (Aaron Lazar) for being too busy with work, not able to stay, but also having to deal with kids and former lovers. Paul (Corey Stoll), the oldest, who wants to take over the family business cannot seem to get his wife (Kathryn Hahn) pregnant. And Phillip (Adam Driver) is younger, reckless, and dating a much older woman, a psychiatrist (Connie Britton), who actually was inspired by their family to go into her field.

What? Oh yeah, their family was written about by their mother in a book, so people know all about their lives. In a way, this makes it very similar to Peep World, but no one watched Peep World.

And yeah. Shenanigans. Also with Ben Schwartz, Debra Monk, Rose Byrne and Timothy Olyphant.

Shenanigans I say!

Overall, This Is Where I Leave You is a typical dysfunctional family comedy film. Maybe with more physical punches between and from siblings, but nonetheless, a lot of this is pretty typical.

TIWILY does attempt to do some things differently. With Bateman’s story line, there are unexpected elements behind it and they were a bit refreshing. But Driver’s plot was incredibly standard, Fey’s seemed like filler, and Stoll’s was underdeveloped.

The best part of the film is actually Jane Fonda! Her character is hilarious and really helps mesh the whole movie together. If you needed a reason to check this movie out at some point, Jane would be your reason.

A lot of it is predictable, a lot of it is okay. Overall, it just feels like too much. None of it feels realistic, to have so many things happen this way in a week, so it is hard to relate to any of the characters, at least from my point of view.

Shh. Go away. Review is over~.

2 out of 4.

The To-Do List

In the end, The To-Do List will just be known for Aubrey Plaza‘s first lead role in a film, and nothing more.

Huh, that sentence would have made more sense at the end of the review, but I think it is too late now. Now the bias is set. Now you know where I am going with it. Oh well.

But I guess you already knew the movie might suck.

Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is your typical Boise, Idaho native. Her parents are pretty strict (Clark Gregg, Connie Britton), because her dad is a judge, so she was raised correctly. It is 1993, no internet to corrupt her, so she became Valedictorian of her graduating class. But she never really learned anything about sex or the human body. Only what she was told by her “slutty” friends (Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele).

But after being forced into a college party, she sees someone. Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), an older guy, playing guitar. Oh em gee, so dreamy!

In fact, he almost has sex with her on accident. Oh snap! But he still doesn’t. She thinks it is because she isn’t an expert at sex, despite being an expert at everything else she does. So she makes a list of things to do over the summer, to elevate herself to sexual maturity, so that one day she can have sex with Rusty Waters. No matter who gets in the way.

Like her friend Cameron (Johnny Simmons) who clearly likes her. Also in the movie is Bill Hader as the pool owner, Rachel Bilson as the older more experienced sister, Donald Glover as a token black guy, and Andy Samberg as some local band guy.

Play? Kid?
See, there he is. At a House Party. Looking like Kid.

Really, just really, I got the feeling that no one really tried in this movie. Let me take a step back.

Aubrey Plaza does not act the same way she does in Parks and Rec, and other live interviews. That is presumably how she is. No, this character isn’t brooding, or sarcastic. It is just a overachieving girl, who wants a boy. So there is definitely acting in this movie.

It was definitely going for comedy, because it had a few amusing moments and a lot of shenanigans ended up happening. But nothing really struck a chord with me. IMDB tells me everyone is over 25 playing teens as part of the joke, but it isn’t a good joke. Why? Because that happens all the time. If they wanted to make that real joke, they should have gone even older. Make it super awkward.

Some situations were “Sex-awkward” which I guess is the main selling point. Virgins doing stuff! A nice girl being “slutty!” Oh the humanity. I will admit they were the most amusing part of the film, but even they fell short to me. But hey, Clark Gregg is in this movie. As a Conservative Judge! That sure is nifty.

In the end, The To-Do List will just be known for Aubrey Plaza’s first lead role in a film, and nothing more.

1 out of 4.