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.

The Big Sick

Earlier this summer, if you have friends in the 20’s, you probably know of someone who was talking about The Big Sick. They would have recommended that you see it RIGHT AWAY in theaters, because hey, it is an indie movie and they need to make their money back to produce more good films!

I know I was hounded, but that is because people know I watch movies and made sure I went out and saw this one.

And then I decided to wait a few months before dropping this review, just to see how many more times would people tell me to watch and review The Big Sick. The total count was 7, quite a large number, larger than any other film that has ever been requested. You know, because most of the times I just go and review the movie and not wait on it.

I just think it is interesting that basically everyone who saw it, made sure other people would go and see it too. It is like it was a guerrilla marketing ad campaign or something.

Store
“Oh you are buying pasta? Will you eat it after you go see The Big Sick?”

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, yes playing himself), is a stand up comic living in the Windy City and generally he is poor and happy. His best friends are all stand up comics (Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant), and he lives with another one (Kurt Braunohler), but he isn’t as funny. Kumail is also an Uber driver! Good times for mad cash.

At some point after a show, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) in the bar. He tries to flirt with her, it goes okay, and they have a one night fling. But it is nothing serious. Won’t continue. Until it does! It keeps happening, despite her busy graduate school schedule, they just cannot stop doing the sexy and the dating.

Kumail has commitment issues though. You see, his parents (Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff) are traditional, and want to set him up with a traditional Pakistani arranged marriage. He doesn’t want it, but he plays along, because he loves his family, and if he dates a white woman he will be ostracized. So he is afraid of getting too close to Emily. So he doesn’t want to even meet her parents (Ray Romano, Holly Hunter) when they are in town!

This leads to issues. This leads to fights! But most importantly is the title of this movie. The Big Sick. Because throughout all of this, Emily gets sick. Really sick. A sickness that no one understands and is life threatening. The type of thing that can really bring people closer together. Well, not the sick person, but everyone around the sick person.

Also starring Adeel Akhtar!

Table
If I had to have celebrities play my parents, this would be an ideal pairing.

This is a very personal story for Nanjiani, which shows. He clearly has passion in this movie and he wants people to know about the struggles that his wife went through and what began their relationship. After all, the best comedians drawn upon their own lives to help relate their work to other people, building a connection and having a good old laugh about it all. Even though it can be scary, even though it can be intense.

Romano and Hunter were FANTASTIC as the parents of Emily. They, too, felt wonderfully real and open about everything. I imagined them as a real couple quite easily, wearing the fear of concern on their face, while dealing with the awkward situation of a pseudo-boyfriend. It was great acting from those three.

What I really didn’t connect with at all was Kazan as Emily. After the fact, I realized that I recognized Kazan from other films (like the wonderful Ruby Sparks!) but forgot about them all in this movie. I just naturally assumed that maybe she wasn’t an actress and was also playing herself, as the love interest of Nanjiani. That makes sense. If he casts himself, he would cast the other main character of the story.

But it wasn’t. And the only reason I assumed this is because I did not think she did a great job in the first half of the film at all. It seemed like someone uncomfortable with acting. It is hard to explain, but she just didn’t work for me at all.

The movie is charming, it feels realistic, and it is overall wonderful. But at times it really did just feel like a regular RomCom and not something that elevated the genre. It was definitely a good entry in the genre, just not one I loved a lot. Although the 9/11 joke had me rolling, which is why I was sad to see it as part of the main advertising after the fact.

3 out of 4.

What If

What if I told you that sometimes movies are called different things in different countries. That wouldn’t surprise you in the slightest. You knew that.

After all, it is Gojira in Japan, and Godzilla in America. “Hey that doesn’t count, that is just another different language!”

Alright fucker. How about Frozen? We got the clever/unique title, while countries in Europe got stuck with the generic The Snow Queen, which the movie is “based upon” (aka, both have a woman with ice powers and…?). “Well, that one changed its name to appeal to different cultures where The Snow Queen story originated, to get more money!” Okay. Well, I don’t blame them for that I guess. I do blame them for saying it has anything to do with The Snow Queen, but I digress.

That leaves us with the movie for the day, What If. No question mark. It’s original title in Ireland/Canada was The F Word, and for whatever reason that title was found to be too risque or something for American audiences, so we get a much more romantic comedy-esque name to maybe get the ladies in? I don’t know. It is fucking stupid. If I hear it was the MPAA’s fault for alluding to maybe the word Fuck, I will be angry though.

Relationship
See, there isn’t even any fucking in this scene. That would be impossible for them in their positions.

Relationships are hard. Just ask Wallace (Daniel Radcliff), who is finally getting over his ex girlfriend Megan after like, 3 years. So he is going to Allan’s (Adam Driver) party, his best friend. That is where he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan), Allan’s cousin. They have some intense conversations, both of them a bit awkward, but it is nice.

Also, Chantry has a long term boyfriend of course, Ben (Rafe Spall), which throws Wallace off guard. Normally that information is given earlier in a conversation. But he is fine with being friends. She believes a man and a woman can be friends with no hidden motives. And you know what? Wallace is fine with that too. Fuck it.

Basically, this is a retelling of The Wedding Singer. Chantry even has a sister (Megan Park) interested in Wallace. Wallace is heartbroken after a long relationship ended. Chantry things she is in a relationship forever, but one that might start having issues. And there is at least one wedding occurring, when Allan hits it off hard with Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis).

It just has a lot less music and singing and no Broadway musical adaption yet. I say yet, because we all know Mr. Radcliffe loves Broadway.

Diner
He also loves diners, if you look at every poster for this movie.

This isn’t your grandmothers romantic comedy. This is a a romantic comedy for a more realistic newly mature movie watching crowd. Wait. It is only PG-13? Hmm. I figured it was R, but now looking back, I guess no real cursing or other adult stuff happened.

I say realistic, but in the end, this is similar to a lot of other romantic comedies, just with slightly different approaches. After all, the F word in questions ends up either being “Friendship” or “Friendzone” depending on how you look at the movie. Friendzone is a rather ugly word now, because it is pretty sexist in most cases, and used by people who think that being nice to the sex they are attracted to should eventually lead to a relationship and of course sex. Because not every relationship starts with friendship, a lot start romantically first. Unless its the movies.

So should I punish the movie for going the technically same cliche route of friendship with the intention of friendship leading to something more? Or should I ignore it and enjoy the acting, the chemistry, the comedy, and the ridiculousness of it all?

I like the ridiculousness route. Woo romcoms! Woo What If! A bit of it seemed forced, but I loved how uncomfortable everyone acted when they were forced into slightly romantic situations. I literally live off of awkwardness, and this movie may have extended my life at least 4 days.

3 out of 4.

Ruby Sparks

I often find that when all you do is talk about movies, people tend to suggest them. Of course I will watch a movie if someone suggests it to me, but with Ruby Sparks something even stranger happened. TWO people recommended this movie to me, potentially within a few weeks apart. Well, of course I have to see it now.

I also realized why I didn’t watch it right away. Sparks? That title is too close to the title Sparkle. I hated that movie.

Typewriter
I could write a better movie than Sparkle for sure. It would be about some sort of mythical creature that Sparkled under strange circumstances. I am sure that’s an original concept.

Calvin (Paul Dano) is a genius. Alright, he doesn’t like that word. But he dropped out of high school once he wrote what many consider to be the next great American novel, and he quickly rose to fame and success. But now, almost ten years later, he is in his late 20s and he still has one novel under his belt. He has released a few short stories and novellas, but nothing of any real length or magnitude.

Some genius indeed. It must all be getting to his head. In fact, he has to see a psychiatrist now just to sort through his feelings of loneliness.

But then one magical night, he has a dream. A dream of a girl, with red hair, and a quirky attitude. She is perfect to him. So he writes about his dreams and turns it into its own new story. Yes, this is the one, his next great novel! Who cares if his brother (Chris Messina) thinks the story is dumb.

Calvin really is a genius. His brain is so powerful, that one morning he woke up and found the literal girl of his dreams in his kitchen. Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). In the flesh. Based on everything he wrote about. How can that be? People can’t just be created! Or can they? Truly only a genius (or geniuses, in some cases) could create a person without even trying. It gets weirder when he realizes it is not in his head. It gets creepier when he realizes that whatever he types comes true. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas play his mom and step-dad, while Steve Coogan has a small role as “other older writer dude.”

Water bath
Anyone else find it funny how Ruby is always wearing red? And how she and Superman are never in the same room?

Yeah, so I really fucking love strange quirky movies like this. Pretty easy to learn that given my rating record. Watching this movie made me want to watch Stranger Than Fiction right after it. Another well acted quirky movie about the truth being determined by what someone rights. Who knew there was a whole drama about this!?

I found myself flailing while I watched this movie. My mind raced ahead of itself, so once I was given new information, I always assumed the worse. Having complete and utter power over someone? That can lead to many dark dark places, and I assumed each one would be touched upon. Thankfully, each one wasn’t touched upon, because I didn’t feel like crying that night. But the scene where the power finally got to the head? Shit scared me, and it did it in away without having to go the hard R rating that most of us are probably imagining. Which is great, when I rewatch this movie, I can not flip out as much and STILL enjoy the process they go through.

Besides, this type of stuff is every (male?) fantasy. Since Frankenstein, the idea of creating a person has always been intriguing. So why not?

I think this film is excellent on all cylinders, and exactly the type of thing I’d watch again and again.

4 out of 4.