Tag: Mystery

Secret Magic Control Agency

When I first found out about Secret Magic Control Agency, I figured I was definitely not going to watch that movie. Its poster/images just screamed a straight to DVD, low effort, low budget, animated film. I loathe those types. They always make me so angry. They are extremely basic on story, and hide behind the fact that they are a kids film in order to say they don’t have to stand up to the quality expectations of an adult.

Fuck that noise. Kids deserve quality too. Should we only ever feed our kids hot dogs, and never let them try pork roasts, or steaks, or turkey? No. Kids can know good stuff exists too, even if it means coming to terms with the fact that a lot of basic stuff out there is, in fact, basic, and not worth their time.

So why did I watch it? Because it actually released on Netflix. A much bigger platform than expected, so I need to check it out quick to see if it is worth time before people get stuck wasting their own time potentially. Or you know. maybe it was great and I needed to spread the word.

kids
Corgis, by definition, are low effort as well. 

In this magical kingdom based on (checks notes), ugh, fairy tales, we have kings and queens and magic users and all of that. But because of shenanigans in the past, magic is now regulated by the Secret Magic Control Agency. I guess they are like the CIA force of this world. I don’t know what they actually do most of the time (make sure people doing magic have the appropriate bureaucratic paperwork? Capture people using magic like a villain?) but right now they have a very important job. The king was kidnapped!

Led astray by some mysterious food. Oh no. So the agency is going to get one of their top up and coming agents on it. Gretel (Courtney Shaw)! Why just one person? No, the powers that be think they need to get a thief as well to join her, someone who knows how to lie (something that the agency should be able to handle given their normal job functions…?) and they specifically search out Hansel (Nicholas Corda / Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld). Yes. Siblings.

But they are grown up, one is a charlatan, the other a law enforcer. And they want them to work together to get the king back before everyone realizes he is gone. So they have to put away their differences and you know, do that.

Also featuring the voice work of Erica Schroeder, Johanna Elmina Moise, Marc Thompson, Mike Pollock, and Tyler Bunch.

steal
Captured but unlimited dessert? There are worse places to be. 

Low. Effort. Films. That could be enough of my analysis and end, but I guess I will be specific.

This could have been a generic fantasy film about completely new entities. But they decided no, we NEED this to be Hansel and Gretel. Why? WHY? The fact that they are these characters doesn’t do really anything for this story. They make a bread crumb way back home reference. There is one line about the Grimm Brothers writing up their shenangians, but in charge of changing the details to make it sound like a story instead to…hide the truth? From who? Is this set in the past in this world? This has a lot of advanced stuff in here, and wouldn’t make sense to be set in our own world, let alone the past. That is a bad joke and they should feel bad.

The only thing they needed for the plot would be to have a brother and sister. Almost all of this is new material. Just because something is on the public domain, doesn’t mean it has to be used. No child is going to be picking movies and be iffy about this film, but see that it has H&G and go “Oh shit, hold on momma, this got my favorites in it lets get it!”. No one cares and it just makes an already lazy movie feel more lazy.

Honestly, if this was an original story that wasn’t relying on name recognition of aspects in order to tell a story, it would fall easily in the 1 out of 4 territory, because at least there was effort. But the lack of effort just pisses me off, especially when the makers would probably acknowledge that this film isn’t great themselves. They would just mark it off as a kids movie and say it works for that level, and that is unacceptable.

0 out of 4.

Happily

Happy is a fun word. Most words with 2 ‘p’s in a row in them end up being fun, I think. Well not disappointment. Or apprehension. Or inappropriate. Or whippersnapper, which has two sets of 2 ‘p’s. 

Okay, I am not sure where I was going with this, except that my initial understanding of a concept (2 ‘p’s’ means fun) was wrong in closer expectation.

You know. Sort of like the movie Happily. Whereas with a lot of inspection, my ideas about it have changed after my initial thoughts of it. I thought this would be a happy film. Or maybe the title would be sarcastic, and it would be a terrifying film. But we definitely got something well in between both of those extremes. 

love
Red Light Sexy Time, a new cologne, for very specific occasions. 

Tom (Joel McHale) and Janet (Kerri Bishé) have a secret. They are in love. Love? Is this a bad secret? Are they married to other people? Is this a crush? Did they just meet? No. They have been married for 14 years, and they are still going through that extreme lust phase, where they want to bone everywhere and go out of there way for big acts. All of their friends find it weird and uncomfortable and they hate it, they literally have told them this. They got kicked out of a couples weekend because everyone is sick of them.

The next day, a mysterious stranger (Stephen Root) who works for the city shows up to discuss something important with them. He says that every once in awhile, someone has a defect, and they aren’t built like others. It doesn’t matter most of the time. But both of our main characters have the same defect. They never lose that desire, that happiness. They don’t have diminishing returns. So he is here to fix it, just has to give them both a nice shot and they will wake up the next day fixed.

Well, one dead body later, they are certainly not going to let whatever this is happen. 

Awkward awkward, dead body, ahh. Good thing they don’t fight and can work together to deal with this situation! However, after this, they get re-invited to the couples weekend. Weird. I guess the couples don’t care anymore. But also. Wait. Fuck. What if they sent the guy as a prank? What if there is no actual shot? Or what if it was a real thing that they all knew about except for Tom and Janet, and they are only inviting them because they are normal now? Shit, now this weekend is going to be suspicious. 

Also starring Breckin Meyer, Charlyne Yi, Jon Daly, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Natalie Morales, Natalie Zea, Paul Scheer, and Shannon Woodward

roots
I hope all mysterious strangers are played by Stephen Root in the future.

One of my friends uttered that they would never watch Happily again, and to this, I tend to agree. If anything, I could watch it to find out if I missed something during the movie, but I wouldn’t watch the whole movie to find that out. I would watch just a few scenes and the ending again. I don’t think I missed anything, yet I find myself still confused and underwhelmed by the end.

I guess the message of the film is that people aren’t perfect, everyone has secrets, and life moves on? I don’t know.

I honestly don’t fully understand all the intrigue that happened by the end, and I don’t know if the makers of the film did either? As far as I know, multiple aspects weren’t explained (and I am not talking about Root’s character, which makes since to be more mysterious). It had good ideas, but the execution was lacking.

It felt like most of the movie was just an introduction, but when the plot finally got going, it rushed through it and left us longing. I don’t want to be left longing if I also feel unfulfilled.

I am keeping it at an average rating, because it did raise some interesting questions with some interesting scenarios, but it never felt properly together in one piece to really do much else. 

2 out of 4.

Synchronic

Synchronic has probably one of the best movie posters I have seen of this year. Check it out. I don’t know anything about this movie going into it, but it captivates a lot of imagery. Is it about time travel? It is probably about time travel. Maybe.

The film is directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, who have worked together before, but got relatively famous in the indie community for directing The Endless a couple of years ago. That was a film I wanted more out of, and probably need to give a second chance viewing.

But they love dealing with the mysterious, and the drama, and the fantasy, so I am sure, sure…that this movie is about time travel. Probably.

OH ALSO! The directors care about safety, and don’t actually want you to go to theaters if it isn’t safe enough. That is pretty awesome and will hurt their line and maybe their status in the business, but hey, they have morals damn it.

night
Well, there’s no proof of time travel in this picture. Unless they time travel to night time of the same day.

Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) are paramedics down in New Orleans, and this movie has nothing to do with Katrina (yay!). It is just a setting. A lot of their job unfortunately is working with people hurt and dying of drug overdoses, given the location of their city. Nothing against people with addictions, it is just a same to see so many young lives lost and stuck.

Steve has his own worries going on, about his future career, and about his life, after being a bachelor for so long. His partner has a wife (Katie Aselton) and kids, the oldest Brianna (Ally Ioannides) is turning 18 and wants to move away for college. What the hell is Steve doing with his life?

Well, at the same time, a new designer drug hits their area, named Synchronic. Nice name. It gets a real unique feeling but has side effects, of course. Shit starts getting wild around them, like, their world changes. Sometimes people feel like they are going to a completely different part of the world in a different time. Like…time travel. But sometimes, young people don’t return for some reason.

And sure enough, Brianna goes missing. Did she take the drug? Is it time for experiment drug taking to save a life?

day
Okay, this also isn’t time travel. This is just normal day time, booo.

As I already stated, I did see their first film The Endless. And despite not getting fully entrenched in that film, I can say visually it is obvious these are the same directors. A lot of it stylistically feels the same, despite having a higher budget this time around for better equipment (and the low equipment was likely part of the appeal of The Endless). It still contains that ominous air of mystery and music around the situation, asking us to wonder how much of it is real and where is the story going?

Mackie absolutely slays in the lead of this film. He feels so emotional and real. We get all about his business and this entire film feels personal to him. I don’t remember if we have ever seen this side of him before, but Mackie does have a lot of smaller films to his name, they aren’t all just Avengers an cop movies, so I can’t say I’ve seen them all.

The drug is relatively unique and I love, LOVE, the rules associated with it and the methodology put into it by the characters to discover just how things worked. It didn’t answer all the questions, but enough to get the job done.

This is a film about finding your purpose in life, whether you are read for it or not. Accepting a destiny that is hard to fathom until the moment really shows itself. How can you better yourself or your surroundings when so much shit is falling apart in front of your eyes?

Synchronic has some great visuals that are limited in nature, you have to wait for them and earn them (outside of the opening scene). It doesn’t overwhelm you with special effects constantly, it is a lot more grounded in reality. It is a fresh and unique film and one that is worth at least one gander, if not two.

3 out of 4.

Knives Out

As a critic of film, I try to not let hype over take me, but for a film like Knives Out it has been quite hard to ignore the praise.

Best murder mystery in decades? Stellar cast where everyone brings their best? Laughs and shocks galore?

It was hard to not get swept up in the rush, so much that just getting ready to watch Knives Out made me appreciate the movie I saw before it a bit less due to wondering if I’d even get a good seat.

Also, it’s probably best to even skip my middle section, because generally the less you know about a mystery, the better!

cop
Unless you a detective, in which case, you want to know as much as possible.

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) was found in his attic with his throat cut, blood everywhere. By all accounts, a suicide.

But now, a week later, it looks like there are still questions. Officially led by two local officers (LaKeith Stanfield, Noah Segan), but the main questions are coming from Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a southern detective of notoriety who is being backed by a mysterious patron to find the truth of the matter.

Harlan’s Nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas), is going to be his main go to in order to get the inside scoop on the family, full of people with secrets. So many people, let’s just call them the family (Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Jaeden Martell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Katherine Langford, Michael Shannon, Riki Lindhome, Toni Collette).

But of course, nothing is as it seems, and blah blah blah, til the very end!

Also starring Edi Patterson as the house keeper.

stare
J’Accuse…!

Yes, Knives Out was very creative with its reveals and its pacing. Yes, Craig was magnificent in his role as eccentric detective, with a lot of funny lines. Yes, de Armas carried a lot of weight on her shoulders as well, and was a great leading lady. Yes, a lot of the twist and turns were very much on point and unexpected.

And yet, it still didn’t do everything perfect.

With a large cast, I felt like only three~ people ended up being important. A lot of big names are in there, have a moment or two, but are really wasted. The script does not allow for the large amount of people to shine and it is a bit disappointing in that regard. Hell, I am pretty sure Lindhome didn’t have an actual line of dialogue in this movie, outside of gasps, facial expressions, and argument background noise when everyone is talking at once.

And even if the ending technically works, and the reveals are all laid out, it is so god damn convoluted that it will not only be impossible to guess, it takes a lot of mental work to follow through.

This could be very well be a movie that is best tasted after 2-3 tries, and is still a very enjoyable experience. But if certainly did not dethrone Clue as the best murder mystery movie, in terms of humor, wit, or reveals.

3 out of 4.

Fractured

When Netflix released its line up for Netflix and Chills for October, I ignored it. Hell, I assumed most people ignored it. It featured a lot of titles that were original releases, so really, I had no reason to hype them as they were unknown to me.

What am I going to do, watch a trailer? For a NETFLIX movie? Psha.

The only reason I gave Fractured a chance (because it didn’t even make the front page of my Netflix feed) is thanks to positive word of mouth, and frankly, I am just here to pass it on.

waiting room
Waiting for a reason to watch a trailer for a Netflix film.

Ray (Sam Worthington) and his family are driving up to the extended family for Thanksgiving holiday. They are heading up to Minnesota and a bit late, so they are not enjoying the long flatness of the Midwest en route. A lot of anger and minor arguments between him and his wife (Lily Rabe). Thankfully their young daughter (Lucy Capri) seems to be mostly ambivalent.

However, when stopping at a rest stop for normal reasons, and to clean a mess, a dog scares their little one. Ray tries to get the dog away, but she still falls into a construction pit and she is hurt. Ray is a little bit shaken up, but his wife snaps him out of it, and they decide to drive her to a local hospital for a check up.

Things go slow, his wife is nagging, so Ray has to bug the staff over and over again to get things moving, but they finally look at her, see nothing wrong, and bring her in for a cat scan to check the rest of her body.

Ray can’t go downstairs with his family during this time, so he waits in the waiting room. And he waits. And he waits. And he waits. But they do not return. And now the staff has changed, and no one says there is any proof of there being his family there.

This sounds like the hospital has stolen his wife and child for not being from there and no insurance, to do what…steal their organs maybe? This is not what Ray wanted when he stopped by, but he has to figure out how to get his family back, when the whole system seems to be against him.

Also starring Chad Bruce, Erik Athavale, Stephanie Sy, Shane Dean, Lauren Cochrane, Adjoa Andoh, and Stephen Tobolowsky.

fall
Me falling forward in anticipation of more Stephen Tobolowsky.

Fractured was way better than anticipated, and the anticipation was low for many reasons, including Sam Worthington as the lead role. And yet it doesn’t take long to draw the viewer in. The fall happens very early on, after enough naggy wife to get us all on edge.

And from then on, we are in hospital mode, and shit just seems to get stranger and more bizarre the further we get into the movie. Who is telling the truth, our lead, or the hospital? Is this a man getting screwed, or is he delusional?

Unreliable narrators can lead to quite the thrill, especially if the film teeters on the fence until the final two minutes.

Fractured featured okay writing, but the twists and turns were enough to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout the movie. Definitely would recommend and worthy of viewing in your living room.

3 out of 4.

Tell Me Who I Am

Alex Lewis was in a motorcycle accident went he turned 18 years old. A bad one, but it didn’t kill him. It did fuck with his brain real good though, giving him that amnesia.

Yes, most of the time amnesia is a dumb plot device in shows who don’t know what to write about, because it is super, super rare. But this happened for Alex. When he woke up in the hospital, he didn’t know anyone who sat beside his bed, except for Marcus. Who was Marcus?

Marcus was his twin brother. That is good, because if anyone can help Alex with his life, it would be someone who spent most days with him growing up, and someone who knows everything about him. Marcus’ job is literally to tell Alex who he is, which is why we got the fun title, Tell Me Who I Am.

And that is a big job for anyone, especially if you have something to hide.

bros
Well, if they turn the lights off, I guess they are mostly hiding from each other.

You see, when Alex asked Marcus about their home and their past, he gave answers and Alex had no reason to question them. He told them about their home layout, their previous vacations, their routine, their parents, their friends and all of that.

Eventually questions got more detailed and less basic, and Alex had answers for them too. Why were his parents like whatever, why did they do blank in their house, why as their dad a jerk. You know, advanced questions.

And it wasn’t until after both parents had passed, when they were cleaning out the house together, when Alex found something incomprehensible from what he knew about his own past, and his brother confirmed it when asked. But he refused to give details, and they started to drift further apart.

In this documentary, we hear Alex’s side of the story after waking up from the accident, we then hear Marcus’ side of the story and why he did what he felt necessary, and we find out what they’ve been dealing with for the last 20 years apart. But finally? They get to meet in person and just get the truth out there. Alex needs to know for closure, and Marcus has to tell him and relive his own worst nightmares.

This documentary is so goddamn compelling. For basically just being two guys talking separately, than to each other, there is so much to unwrap and follow. It breaks your goddamn heart, especially when you realize that at this point, there is nothing that can be done. The bad people are gone, the lies were told, and now they just have to live out the rest of their lives.

Bless these men for not only going through these terrifying experiences, but by also choosing to tell their story in a compelling and unique way. If it wasn’t for Marcus’ cowardice, we would have never had something to fucked up to even follow. It is heartbreaking, I never want to see it again.

Thanks, I hate it.

4 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.

Glass

Surprise, its M. Night Shyamalan! He has been on a bit of an upswing lately. After he did The Visit, which was better than expected. And after he did Split, which was really great thanks to acting performances and of course, a surprise sequel.

Now, with Glass, we find ourselves with a trilogy no one would have expected a few years ago. Split works really well as a sequel to Unbreakable, maybe more so because no one expected it to be a sequel.

Unbreakable still holds up today, as a slow origin story and realizing that one might be something greater than everyone else around him. With Glass he has quite a task. Can he fully combine these two films, and bring about some sort of resolution? Because I don’t think anyone is expecting it to continue after Glass, into some just Shyamalan franchise of supers. An update is what we want, not a never ending story.

But hey, I am willing to change my mind should this be awesome.

Door
“Yo lady. Check that door. It’s glass, isn’t it?”

It turns out, that the more I talk about really what goes on in this movie, the more I might accidentally give away in terms of it its plot. As of now, Kevin Crumb and company (James McAvoy) have created the Beast and are causing havok, doing their own thing. Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) is returning to her regular life, and is in a better home situation.

Dunn (Bruce Willis) runs his own security business, while also spending time looking for people to help, and right now, The Beast. His son (Spencer Treat Clark) is now grown up, but still on his side and his “tech base guy”.

Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) has been in a mental hospital for some time, and his mom (Charlayne Woodard) is still alive! And we also have Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) as a psychiatrist, who has a very specific niche.

Also starring Luke Kirby and Adam David Thompson as workers.

Ceiling
What a climatic battle of super people! Wait

First of all, I think general audiences are going to HATE Glass. We have the potential ending of a franchise, two superhuman forces coming to collide. Is it going to be an epic game of cat and mouse? Is it going to be a huge brawl after huge brawl? How is he going to make it feel realistic like Unbreakable?

No, nothing like that. Instead, most of what I imagine people will suspect is going to happen really quickly, and the other 85% of the movie will be something you did not expect. I know I didn’t, but I didn’t see a trailer and so went in with my own regular expectations.

Now I am not saying where it went was bad, it was just extremely weird and unexpected. Specifically, Paulson’s character I really hated, and yet, we were supposed to hate her. There was just other things off with it. The situation she was in, her conversations, they didn’t feel natural so it took me out of the realism they were going for.

This is a lot more than anyone bargained for. And for a lot of the film, I was still sort of digging it. I didn’t think the direction was bad. But the ending. The ending is a mess of “twists” and what felt like a never ending movie. This movie at 129 minutes feels like its three hours. It is very slow paced, and feels like there are multiple regular ending spots.

McAvoy is still fan-fucking-tastic. What we wanted was to see more of his sides, and I lost count, but I think we get to see the rest of his many faces. We get a lot of long shots of him going between his voices, and it is great to see the many transformations.

Samuel L. Jackson is not utilized enough, Bruce Willis looks great (and old) but is too quiet and also under utilized. We need more updates, damn it. It was great to see Clark and Woodward back after so long, replacing them would have been lame.

And finally, I am pretty sure the timing is really off in the movie. It sounds like they said it took place only 3 weeks after Split. Did it? No idea. But if so, then all this talk of 19 years is bullshit, unless Split took place in the future compared to when it came out. And if Glass is only 3 weeks later, from a few years ago, some of the references made don’t make sense. Damn it, I hate it when timelines are confusing and characters can reference songs that aren’t out yet.

Let’s end the review on this note. Again, Glass is weird, it tries to do something different. It succeeded at being different. And I don’t think people will be happy with that difference.

2 out of 4.

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.

Burning

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

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

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

Field
Burning is a metaphor for his feelings. Inside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 out of 4.