Dune

Ah, is it happening now? Finally? The Dune movie?

Oh okay. Well, I got two Dune related stories to tell then!

The first is when I first heard about the book when I was in early High School. I was working that summer as a camp counselor, and one of my friends talked so fondly of the book Dune and wanted us all to read it. He never relented and eventually wanted to read it out loud to us one night to show how good it was. I was definitely asleep by the second page, woken up, and then again by page three. Nice.

Story two? Oh yeah, I actually saw the other Dune movie, in theaters, a few years ago, knowing nothing about the plot. It was a very strange experience, a weird film, but probably worth it on some level for pop culture history.

I have not been waiting on my knees for this version to come out, but I do like Denis Villeneuve films for the most part. The only one I didn’t love was Blade Runner 2049, which was visually pleasing, but a story I didn’t care about at all. Hmm, that was a sequel to a film from the 1980’s. This one is a movie remake that was first done in the 1980’s. I hope there is no more similarities.

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Definitely more sand in this movie than Blade Runner 2049. 

We are still dealing with humans in this movie, don’t worry, it is just set like 8,000 years in the future.

House Atreides is our heroes? Well, at least our main family of character. They are some level of nobility and GREAT NEWS. They have been granted mining rights of the Spices from Arrakis. The Spices are the key to faster than light travel and longer life, and they can be rich from doing this.

The prince (?) Paul (Timothée Chalamet) has been having interesting dreams that seem to come from that planet, featuring a girl (Zendaya) that he can’t get out of his thoughts. Paul can also do mental suggestive thought things to make people obey him, which is cool. His dad (Oscar Isaac) is leading the convoy to Arrakis and his mother (Rebecca Ferguson) is mostly just trying to make sure Paul is ready to take over some day.

Needless to say, once they get to the planet, there are more shenanigans than they imagined. Stuff happens, people fight, people die, and sand worms.

Starring a whole lot of other people too, and even with 2.5 hours of screen time, a lot of them still don’t get a lot of screen time but might get more later? Well, if they didn’t die. We have Babs Olusanmokun, Benjamin Clémentine, Charlotte Rampling, Chen Chang, Dave Bautista, David Dastmalchian, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Stellan Skarsgård, and Stephen McKinley Henderson.

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This book invented sand worms right? Not Beetlejuice?

Ah yes, Dune, clocking in at 2 hours and 35 minutes. Is that enough time to tell some epic story that was 412 pages long? [Editor’s note: Wait, 412 pages long only? That is it? The audiobook is only around 21 hours?] Well, if you ask Villeneuve then that answer is heck no. Apparently he only agreed to do it if he could do two full movies and not cram it into one. Oh okay.

But…but…They didn’t really make this into a two part film? If they did, they would have likely filmed them at the same time. They would have officially made this movie called Dune: Part 1. [Editor’s Note: This movie is called Dune: Part 1 only on the film itself near the start, but not on any advertisements, or posters, or just…officially]. And you know what? A regular film going customer shouldn’t have to look for interviews with the director and others to see that this movie is only just half of a story. I think I saw one where someone involved said it feels like a complete story still, but I have determined that to be a lie.

This movie definitely just ends in what feels like half of a story. And part of that is extremely frustrating given how long it feels like it takes to just get to the planet itself. It is not like I had a watch to look at the whole time, but it is a significantly large percentage before our characters go to the desert land to start learning and doing desert stuff. So to me, this film feels dragged out. You know, like The Hobbit films.

Just a quick note. I am okay with the concept of two part films. Sure. But the parts should still feature complete arcs and feel like storyline elements were resolved and natural enough and not just cliffhangers or, worse, plateaus that gradually decrease over time. Lord of the Rings film feel like three complete films despite one overarching story. Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2 and Hunger Games Mockingbird Part 1 and Part 2 both feel like one film’s worth of plot badly stretched over two.

I am now worried Dune will feel like that, IF the second part gets made. I certainly don’t feel appreciative that the film producers are using such guilt riddled tactics to ensure they make enough money so that their story could be finished, when they could have also just trusted their product enough to make the films and release them when appropriate. If they don’t ever release another one, then we won’t get a full film. If they do release another one, then we likely get one full film over two movies with arguably a lot of filler.

But yeah, sure, it is pretty.

2 out of 4.

Dear Evan Hansen

Have you ever wanted a musical to come to film?
Have you waited for a casting and a release date to announce?
Have you ever jumped so much you could shout?
Like you could sing, and everyone would hear?

Okay, to leave the lyric land. Maybe you also found yourself super pumped because Dear Evan Hansen was being directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also directed Rent, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and more. And you were excited that Ben Platt was reprising the role!

And then you saw the trailer and were like, wait, what, no.

That is a big thing going on for this musical. People really hated the trailer because of how much Ben Platt stuck out in it. He looked so old and uncomfortable. He played a high school senior just two years ago in The Politician and it didn’t look that terrible. Why is it so uncomfortable?

Ehhh, most people would probably blame it on the hair. The very awkward curls to make him seem, I don’t know, younger? But in reality, well, it is definitely the hair and it does not work. But something else seemed amiss too, and it was hard to tell, I had to see it to believe it.

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I already planned on being uncomfortable the whole time

For those who don’t know why this musical, is really awkward, then hold on to your butts. Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), he has a lot of anxiety and depression issues. It is hard for him to talk to anyone. His mom (Julianne Moore) is a nurse working extra hard so they can live an okay life, still kind of poor, and his dad is away and out of the life. His therapist wants him to start writing letters to himself, from himself, about his life so they can help with strategies during sessions.

Well, Evan prints it out in the library and is waiting to get it, when another student, Connor (Colton Ryan) who is addicted to drugs and a little off, signs his cast as an apology for yelling at him earlier. But when Connor sees the letter, and it mentions Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever), Connor’s sister and a girl Evan likes, he takes the note and storms out, assuming Evan was just another student trying to mess with him.

Evan’s big worry is that the note will be posted on the social medias and he will be made fun of. But Connor doesn’t come back to school. Later, Evan is brought to the principal to talk to Connor’s parents (Amy Adams, Danny Pino), where they tell him that Connor killed himself. And the only note he seemed to leave behind was a note to Evan, since it began Dear Evan Hansen and was signed by “Me”.

He originally tries to deny it, but they also see CONNOR written on his cast, and its big and the only name. They must have been friends. He is uncomfortable, but doesn’t want to disappoint these nice people, so he tells some lies about their friendship to help their grieving. But these lies also make Evan feel like he is gaining a family in their grief. And these lies begin to snowball, until eventually, the truth has to come out.

Also starring Amandla Stenberg and Nik Dodani.

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Signing casts are bigger deals than promposals I have heard.

Will you be found enjoying this musical? Maybe. It might depend on your experiences and love of the Broadway version. At least five songs are cut from the musical and reprises of others. And if you ever listened to the musical, you will find it feeling a bit sparse on music already. Or maybe it is just me, since it came out the year after Hamilton which is to the brim with music so it is hard to really compare it. But this movie at 2 hours and 17 minutes feels musical-lite. Most of the songs are slow and sad ones too.

We open with a famous song (different than Broadway) and then it takes almost another 20 minutes before we get another song. Musicals not having enough songs is a big issue. Its the sort of issue some Disney musicals have where they have only like five or six songs and most of them are in the first half. If you are a musical, commit to it, and give more songs, you know? Two of the songs in here are also original, trying to get that Oscar nomination. I appreciate them actually including them instead of just stamping them on the credits at least. But neither might secure a nom either, unfortunately.

Did I cry? Surprisingly only once. It was with Moore singing So Big / So Small, and I honestly figured that would be cut too, since they cut her other song that would have been a duet with Amy Adams.

I knew going into this movie that the plot was all sorts of fucked up, and just like I thought with the musical (Which I hadn’t seen, just heard the songs from and read outlines), I don’t think it really dealt with the consequences enough. It just filters out near the end. Life moves on, that is fair point, but this is a movie and I would like some better closure.

I appreciate the movie/story dealing with some really awkward and uncomfortable circumstances. Usually if things are uncomfortable, there is a clear solution and way to handle it all, but after the ball was rolling it was hard to find both what should be done and what should happen when it starts to fix. And complications in life and film can be a good thing.

Ben Platt was a good idea to still be the lead, but I don’t know why short haired one from the musical and The Politician wouldn’t have seemed to fit in better. Or maybe just casting a lot of other older high schoolers, confuse us that way you know? Halfway through it, I did forget the weirdness of the look, I will say and let the story better consume me. I think it gets better.

And on that note, a better Dear Evan Hansen musical should have existed, and now won’t.

2 out of 4.

Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes

Sometimes I don’t even know how I get screeners. I have a few sources, they are usually the same as the ones that invite me to the theater to see movies ahead of time. But I can get on other press lists accidentally, from lesser known companies, and hey, I appreciate it. Sure, let me see your movies I might have never heard of without this email.

And I do try to watch most of these movies, because they asked me to, but I will say sometimes these foreign movies I ignore if it doesn’t pique my interest.

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is a Japanese movie that DEFINITELY piqued my interest. A one-shot take film that involves time travel? Fuuuuuuuuuuucking sign me up right goddamn now.

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The future is wild and it has answers, damn it!

Kato (Kazunari Tosa) is a café owner/worker in Japan, who also happens to live in an apartment right over the shop. It is very convenient, and I believe this is common in Japan. To have various businesses/shops on the ground level, and apartment/homes on the floors above it. Not everyone gets to work and live in the same exact building though, so he is lucky.

Speaking of luck, while he is in his room looking for his guitar pick, he looks on his TV and sees something strange. It is himself, but it is not a reflection, as it has the inside of the café as the background. What?

The man on the TV, you know, himself, has a message for Kato. There is a time delay between the monitors, and he is two minutes in the future. They have a quick back and forth before Kato urges himself to quickly get downstairs so he can do the same conversation, but now with his past self. And that is just the start of these strange two minute delay messages. Talking to yourself from the future, and then talking to yourself from the past. When more people get involved, they wonder if there is a way to make money off of this, and if they can go even further into the future.

Also starring Masashi Suwa, Yoshifumi Sakai, Takashi Sumita, Haruki Nakagawa, Munenori Nagano, Chikara Honda, Gôta Ishida, Riko Fujitani, and Aki Asakura.

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Two minutes. What can be done in two minutes?!
Goddamn it, this movie is an experience and a wonder. How? And how? are some of the questions I had while watching. I didn’t have to ask “What is going on?” because they did a fantastic job of explaining the set up, and showing the set up, and building it up gradually in order for the viewers to understand it along with the characters experiencing this phenomenon.

The first similar film from recent years that came to mind was One Cut of the Dead, and while looking up more information for this movie, I saw a lot of other reviewers making the same comparison, so I know it is a universal comparison amongst those who have seen both and that is a good film to be compared to. I would say Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is a film with the most ingenuity and audacity to attempt something so amazing.

Look. It is a one-take film. But also, it has to have the actors talking to themselves. That means they did pre-record scenes to play on monitors, but they had to pre-record both sides of the scenes, and then make sure the one-shot version didn’t have any mess ups in the conversation. Because if the dialogue or the delivery is different, we would be able to notice that in the film, as we already saw the dialogue once. In other one-shot take films, they can have some improv or mistakes, but this didn’t really allow that.

And to keep the time consistent? Such a short window to pick, it made this film feel very tense as the characters themselves also feel trapped and predetermined to take certain actions. It has a good run time, around 70 minutes, just enough to tell the interesting story, have it grow, and give us some amazing moments. The final confrontation and walk up to it was so great and again, unbelievable in terms of how they planned this whole thing.

I can’t talk enough about just how wonderfully this film was crafted, how much planning went into it, and how I cannot fathom how they got the idea or even pulled the damn thing. It is mind blowing and it will remain mind blowing.

I don’t know when this movie would be released in America, or how. But whenever that happens, do yourself a favor and set aside a time for your mind to be blown.

4 out of 4.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Sometimes the name of a movie is the name of a book as well, especially if it is based on it. That makes sense.

Sometimes the name of the movie is the name of another movie as well, especially if it is a remake. It makes sense. (Or it could just be a popular /generic phrase that has multiple very different movies).

But what if your name is the same as a documentary, about the same subject? That might be notable if it is again, a very specific name, like of a person, or a group. But for The Eyes of Tammy Faye? It was a documentary that came out in 2000 about Tammy Faye Bakker, about her life and what she is up to then dealing with scandals. This movie, of the same name, is just about her and her husbands life. So they are both about Tammy Faye, but it is so weird to specifically name this film the exact same name as the documentary, when the phrase, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, isn’t inherently a specific phrase or meaning.

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Oh heck oh golly oh don’t cha know.  

Growing up, Tammy Faye sought religion in her life, because her family went to church and she was banned because her mom (Cherry Jones) was divorced! Oh no. But she was a theatrical little kid, and she went full in, talking in tongues, so she was welcomed as a child of God and given meaning in her little life.

Later on, Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) was going to a bible college in Minnesota where she met Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). They had so much passion for Jesus, and wanted everyone to praise him so much, that they found each other, got hitched, and then got kicked out of college. That is okay. They are going to take their show on the road, touring the country, praising the Lord, using puppets, whatever. They had big dreams though, dreams of being on television one day, with their own proper Christian talk show, for adults, shows for kids, and more.

Hell. Maybe their own Christian network and satellite. That will show those non-believers!

They want to be rich and famous for Jesus. But where does the money come from? And where is it going? That is the realest question. Oh shit, is that the law coming? Shenanigans!

Also starring a lot of people in various levels of famous roles. People like Fredric Lehne, Gabriel Olds, Louis Cancelmi, Mark Wystrach, Randy Havens, Sam Jaeger, and Vincent D’Onofrio.

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We almost never get a transformation like this for actresses. 

Let’s talk Chastain. I think most people would put her into the great actress category. She has been nominated twice for Academy awards (although one of them is from a very ehhh movie), and generally if she stars in flops, it isn’t her fault. But like my joke above says, Chastain has never had to transform her body or looks into a role. Most actresses don’t have to do it. Arguably, neither should actors, but they do happen to do that a lot of the time. Lose or gain weight. Bulk up, whatever.

But Chastain looks nothing like Chastain for 80% of this movie. Her gradual transformation, with more and more makeup and change in hair style just feel so natural and yet so sudden. Outside of the college scene and right at the start of their marriage, this was clearly just a different person. It is a phenomenal change and acting on her part, it is clear she will end up being nominated for this role as well. I can’t say it will be a win, so early still in the year, but the change felt like the level of commitment that Gary Oldman did for Darkest Hour.

In terms of the rest of the movie, it is fine. Garfield plays a second charismatic person in front of camera for the second time this year (and maybe will a third time?). D’Onofrio played Jerry Falwell Sr. very strongly, and felt like a bad guy in a movie where most people are bad guys. Wystrach was only in a couple of scenes, but it felt good seeing him play a country Keanu Reeves.

I really enjoyed the focus on how manipulated Tammy Faye was through big sections of her life. Manipulated by people manipulating religion, or just outright gaslighting, and it was tough to watch and experience. It was interesting to see this point of view of one of the biggest scandals of the 1980’s. You can tell it definitely is one sided on most parts, and there is likely other pieces of the story missing.

This movie is entertaining and well acted, but I did find myself wanting more. It didn’t give me enough. I went out of my way to watch the original documentary on the same day, just to see what else it could have been or focused on. I wonder if the real Tammy Faye is actually a huge part of this scandal and we will never know. WE WILL NEVER KNOW.

See this movie for the acting and the interesting story. Even if some details are muddy and rushed.

3 out of 4.

Everybody’s Talking About Jaime

In 2011, a short documentary came out of Great Britain. It was called Jaime: Drag Queen at 16. It was about a boy, who by 16, knew he wanted to be a drag queen and went for it, despite living in a conservative place, and not even being an adult yet. He had a mom who helped encouraged him to follow his dreams, and follow his dreams he did, damn it.

And so then they made a British stage musical about it. It has the same name, Everybody’s Talking About Jaime. That one came out in 2017, and I guess it was loved enough, so that only three years later, here we are with a movie version of the stage musical.

A very quick turn around. Great if you love the musical, but also a little bit suspicious. Most musicals put it off as long as they can, because it usually signifies their show is almost over on its long stand, and it will help boost sales or give them an alternative revenue. For a turn around like this, I don’t know what to expect, except I am happy it came out this year. 2021 is the year of musicals, so let’s just pile them on all over me.

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Pictured: Me smothered in musicals (each light is one musical this year). 

Jaime (Max Harwood) is turning 16, and is gay, and everyone knows it. Jaime is proud of himself and isn’t trying to hide it, despite the risk of bullies that exists. But what they don’t know about Jaime is that he also dreams of being famous. Not too surprising a dream for a kid, but Jaime wants to be a famous drag queen. He love’s typical women’s fashion, wants to put on a dress, wear a wig, and lip sync to some diva hit on stage.

But he keeps that a secret. His mom (Sarah Lancashire) knows that about him, and encourages him to go for his interests. His dad (Ralph Ineson) knows he is gay, and honestly, doesn’t like that. He is basically out the door and with another woman this whole time, doesn’t care about his son. Jamie’s best friend, Pritti (Lauren Patel), also knows his dreams, while she herself wants to be a doctor.

But screw it. The year is almost over, Jamie is turning 16, he wants to start being an actual drag queen, full outfit, and he wants to come out as a drag queen at the end of the year prom! While shopping, he finds a mentor (Richard E. Grant) to help guide him on his journey, while he battles bullies (Samuel Bottomley), teachers (Sharon Horgan), and more to live life the way he has always wanted.

Also featuring Shobna Gulati.

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Face it kid, you’re gonna be a drag star.

I will say the same thing I say in a lot of these movies. Representation matters. There aren’t really many movies coming out, even in our modern world, about becoming a drag queen and why that is a perfectly valid lifestyle choice. Shit. In the 1990’s in a two year span, we somehow got both The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.  I can’t think of many other examples outside of them, but I am sure they exist, they just haven’t reached any level of popularity. So it is fantastic that we have a movie on this topic coming out in a popular-ish way. 

Now on this note, I am definitely saying, this movie isn’t really that great. It should be a 1 out of 4 purely on its own, but I gave bonus points for being about a topic not talked about much.

After the musical, none of the songs were stuck in my head. They have a song called Everybody’s Talking About Jaime, which might be there go to hit I guess, and the only reason it stuck with me more is because they played a different cover of it for the credits. 

Acting is average, but it felt like it could have been a made for TV movie on Freeform at the same time. The “villains” of this film started out reasonable and just turned into strange cartoon characters by the end. The math teacher really made no sense (and I am not just saying this as a math teacher myself). Outside of an art teacher once, and the principal once, she is the only teacher ever shown, and it is over and over, and apparently whatever she says is the main authority of the building.

The final scenes in front of the prom were ridiculous. Why is literally their whole class standing outside of the building instead of going in it. How many times does the teacher have to say “Everybody go inside” before it means everybody? I was confused each time she said it and the students argued with her about Jaime getting to go too, because she literally just said everyone, which should include Jaime. but apparently it doesn’t? And again, why is she this literal gatekeeper to the building and no one else? 

The film can have a great message about accepting yourself and others, but it just feels so dumb at the same time. 

For a year full of musicals, this one is not rising to the top, and it is important to point that out. It presumably couldn’t hack it on Broadway either, and that is why we have the movie now. I assume songs were cut from the musical for the movie, but it feels like it had less than ten songs overall still. Give me more musical in my musicals, damn it. 

2 out of 4.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

And now, presenting, the 25th film in the MCU series, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Of course, definitely the hero you imagined would be in this chain of movies eventually.

For fans of Marvel movies, they should be stoked. We get more representation, a richer group of deep cut heroes, and of course, potentially a fix for the “The Mandarin” plot of Iron Man 3. Fix is a weird word, and I still find it hard to talk about Iron Man 3. The Mandarin twist was terrible for people who like the comics, but it was a great twist from a regular movie going point of view. But still, despite the problematic nature of that villain, it was disappointing that he wouldn’t ever make it into the MCU.

You know, until now, but fixed in the best way they could.

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Do movies come out in 3D anymore? Did the Pandemic kill that?

For over a thousand year, the ten-rings have been around at least, giving one man (Tony Leung) immortality and great power in China. He used it for the quest for more power, and building up an organization, and a life without worry. But he wanted more. He wanted to discover the location of a mystical lost city, supposedly blessed by the gods, named Ta Lo. There he met Li (Fala Chen), whom defeated him for the first time, and they fell in love.

The village abandoned, they had two kids, and now, decades later, Shaun (Simu Liu) is living his best life alone in San Francisco, being a parking attendant with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). Their high school friends are confused by their relationship, or lack there of, and why they are seemingly wasting their life away. But hey, they are having fun, and that is important.

But what is that? Assassins? After his jade necklace his mom gave him a long time ago? Turns out, much to Katy’s surprise, that Shaun can really fight like an ultimate badass, and he has been hiding it from her. Looks like Shaun is getting dragged back into a past he wanted to escape from and forget.

Also starring Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Wah Yuen, Florian Munteanu, Andy Le, Ben Kingsley, Tim Roth (maybe?), and Benedict Wong.

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Orange and blue colors for an action film shot? How original!

Can Marvel still make me care about more and more superheroes? The answer is a resounding yes!

To answer my inquiry above, this is an interesting movie to arguably be a direct sequel to Iron Man 3, but it closes off some of the open stories from that film in an exciting and worthwhile way. By having an artifact for over a thousand years helping shape parts of human history, it had the potential to feel ret-conn-y but it made its limited use seem overall plausible. If the villain gets to be the dad of this story, it feels like it is earned and respected their relationship, and the waves that it has gone through over the decades. That’s right. Another strong Marvel villain.

Liu is a wonderful lead, both in terms of his acting and his physicality that he brings to the role. Awkwafina works extremely well here as well, although just about her character, whereas the sister, played by Zhang, brings a different interesting angle for a powerful woman fighter into this universe.

One minor bug I had, and this is true about every movie that does it, is when they have very specific flashbacks (in this case, 1996), and then come back to present and literally tell us it is the present day. Normally, that is already annoying, because in a few years that makes less and less sense. If it is supposed to be 20 years ago, say it, don’t let it mesh over time. However, this film has to take place in like, 2023 I imagine? Based on everything, it is after Thanos’ snap had been reversed, so it isn’t even present day now.

A bigger complaint is a trope that this film did, that I don’t know the right name for. But if 90% of the film is spent towards trying to prevent this one irreversible bad thing from being happened (door open, something summoned, spell cast, etc), and then it actually happens at the end? Well, it gets resolved very quickly and then we wonder if it actually was worth all this effort this whole time. At least with Infinity War, the bad thing happened, and then it wasn’t fixed for a long time.

This doesn’t take away from the incredible choreography, effects, fighting, and new characters for us to swoon and simp for. I am excited for what he can actually bring to the future of these franchises, and I want more. Give me that diversity. (Also me, I don’t know if Eternals will be my type of film, but that is a later story).

3 out of 4.

Cinderella (2021)

Cinderella, Cinderella, there are so many movies about Cinderella. And books. And plays, I bet. Sometimes I wish things never made it to the public domain so we wouldn’t have to get new versions of the same thing a thousand times.

At the start of Disney’s “let’s make all of our old stuff into live action” phase, Cinderella was one of the first ones. It was pretty, but it was pointless.

So why now? Why another one? Well, this one isn’t Disney, so that is probably a plus. Maybe it will be more edgy. (Checks rating, it is PG). Nope, not that.

Oh, this one is a musical. And not just a musical, but a jukebox musical. It is really easy to make a jukebox musical on the most basic level, but it is pretty hard to make a GOOD jukebox musical. For every Moulin Rouge! there are ten Strange Magics.

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And frankly, at this point, this is a toss up.

Plot wise, you know the basics. Ella (Camila Cabello) is living with her step-mother (Idina Menzel) and two step-sisters (Maddie Baillio, Charlotte Spencer), and isn’t having a good time. They aren’t related, they are just in a house of convenience, so she has to do a lot more chores and takes a lot more scorn. She does make dresses though. She wants to have her own dress shop one day, but women can’t own businesses due to the laws of the land. That is horsefuckery.

Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) is a prince who doesn’t really want to be a prince. Fuck the responsibilities and expectations. He wants to just hang with his bros. Have fun. Live his life. He doesn’t want to be forced to be marry, and doesn’t look forward to taking over from his folks (Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver) in the future. His younger sister, Gwen (Tallulah Greive) definitely does want to lead, but she is, you know, a ~~woman~~ so she has no seat at the table. That’s a theme, damn it.

Anyways, step mother is going to be mean, there is going to be a ball, there is going to be a fabulous godmother (Billy Porter) and a clock is going to strike midnight. But does Ella or the Prince actually care about love and the old version of a happily ever after?

Also starring Romesh Ranganathan, James Acaster, James Corden, Fra Fee, Doc Brown, Rob Beckett, and Jenet Le Lacheur.

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Yes they say godmother damn it, and I am all here for that.

And here we are, shocked as all I can imagine, that I didn’t hate this version of Cinderella. Honestly, random themed jukebox musicals can bug the piss out of me. Even themed ones are usually disappointing. I feel like I hear a lot of the same songs in these musicals over and over again. How many times has Material Girl probably been used in other jukebox musicals? You can tell what songs have cheaper rights than others a lot of the time through this.

Another issue with these things is that the songs usually sound…the same as the originals. You can’t hear the artists actual voice, there is nothing new to it, no tempo, just here is a cover that sounds like the original. Boring. Yawn.

And yet, for Cinderella, for the most part, it seems like they definitely tried to avoid that. I would say at least half of the songs felt relatively unique, whether it be in the sound or the way it was presented. Opening up the musical with a Rhythm Nation / You Gotta Be mash up I would have never expected (but you can tell the makers loved that era of music). I was expecting to roll my eyes at Somebody to Love (I mean, we already had a medieval fantasy film use that, come on!) and then really enjoyed it in the film context for the story. Damn.

Honestly, my biggest issue with the music is unfortunately Cabello at the lead. I don’t know anything about her as a pop artist, I don’t know if I have heard of a song by her before. But a lot of her songs come across as a generic pop sound that was overly produced and autotuned. And that is unfortunate, because other moments seem to let her actual voice come out more (slower numbers with less music behind it) and it detracts from it. Similar to the problems that came across in Beauty and the Beast.

In terms of actual story, Cinderella does attempt to fix some of the problems with the Cinderella story. We don’t have a love at first sight situation between the two anymore. Ella doesn’t just work and be submissive until magic saves her. The step-sisters aren’t bad they just are more afraid of their own mother. The step-mother isn’t the worst (until she does dress stuff) and at least give us a reason for why she is that way (doesn’t redeem her, but hey, a reason). It gives us a happily ever after that came from work, and from years of effort, and not because of getting married.

Brosnan is in this film as the king, and seemingly was picked to be in this musical just because of the backlash to Mamma Mia! singing, just to have a joke about his singing. But as old angry king he is good. Porter as the godmother worked well and gave a decent enough statement to the idea of magic and its existence in this movie. And according Jenet le Lacheur, who plays a court friend of the prince, is likely the first openly trans actor to have been cast in a Hollywood musical film, which is worth noting and celebrating. A lot of these are things Disney wouldn’t have the gall to do.

Overall, I was excited with Cinderella by the time I was done with it. I went in expecting the worst, but a lot of the soundtrack worked, and the cast of characters made it a more enjoyable and worthwhile experience. I am just annoyed more that I can’t listen to the soundtrack until the films actually release date. 2021 is the year of movie musicals.

3 out of 4.

The Kissing Booth 3

Here we go, here we go, here we go.

First of all, I apologize for never writing out my review of The Kissing Booth 2. I had a lot to rant about and did it live in person a few times, but never got it all down on a review, and that made it worse since it made my worst film of the year last year.

So I knew with the final (better be) film I would make sure to jot it all down. The Kissing Booth 3, a movie that seemingly exists just to make it a trilogy, because they damn well could have finished the storylines established at the end of the 2nd film, but left it with a cliffhanger because they think resolving any aspect of a movie is pointless, I guess.

I am mostly fine with cliffhanger endings in general, in a planned series, but I also would demand that the film tells a complete story. Avengers: Infinity War ends with a sour note, kind of a cliffhanger (because the bad guy wins?) but it also tells a complete story and no one should leave unfulfilled. The second movie ended with a single decision to make and just suddenly decides to not do it.

Fuck that.

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Fuck this.
As you know, of course, the last time we left off, Elle (Joey King) not knowing where to go college. Harvard, or Berkeley. Because of course if she goes to Berkeley, which she has talked to going for years with her best friend Lee (Joel Courtney) and was their dream. But her boyfriend, Lee’s older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi) is a year older and in Harvard. If she chooses to go there, she will pick her love life, her future, and you know, it is Harvard. Should she care about a promise to a best friend? Well, she is already lying to both of them saying she is wait listed on both, so she can take her time.

After a few weeks of travel with them and Lee’s girlfriend (Meganne Young), they still have a lot of summer left, and decide to go to Lee and Noah’s family beach house. But oh no! Their parents (Molly Ringwald, Morné Visser ) are going to sell the place after this summer! The kids somehow convince the parents to just let them live there the rest of the summer then, and they promise to clean it up and get it ready for the market. This is where Elle finds an old Beach Bucket list that she made with Lee. They decide to make it the best summer ever, especially since Elle has decided to go to Harvard.

But that isn’t all the plot! For example, her dad (Stephen Jennings) is maybe finding love after all these years, someone to help raise the much younger son (Carson White). And Elle hates it.

But that isn’t all the plot! Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez) is still around, making Lee jealous. And Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) is still around, not making Elle jealous. Also Lee has to deal with the fact that he will be in a long term relationship with a girl he already has problems remembering, because he is a goddamn man-child. And Elle has to come to terms with the fact that she is in a relationship with Noah, who keeps having emotional bursts of jealousy (usually for good reasons), but also because he is a goddamn man-child. And Elle has to come to terms with her own shiftiness, because she is a goddamn womanchild.

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Wow, good pristine condition after 8-10 years. 

How does one start to talk about a movie, nay, a franchise, like The Kissing Booth. Something written by a teenager, and every aspect of that fact is obvious through every scene, decision, and dialogue choice.

The fact that it is called The Kissing Booth isn’t even an issue. It is, for all intents and purposes, a minor part of the first film and still fine to be a dialogue. The dialogue choices from the narrator to overhype the minor part, and constantly try to bring it back through relevance, is really what hurts. Because in the second movie, it has even less of a point on the plot, and of course, in the last movie, is just once again unnecessarily brought back up in the epilogue, six years in the future, because apparently that is where several characters need to meet up at and pretend they never really stayed in communication the times before that.  This aspect of the movie makes more sense if the movie was set in the 1920’s, where maybe there was never a kissing booth beside it, because then we could all understand the strange hype and obsession with it.

The main character Elle is a terrible person. And role model, in case anyone looks up to her for that. You can have movies about bad people, but usually those people have some sort of consequence for their action, or a really hard choice that they will live with for regret to get to their power. Important things to show that those who hurt are hurt in return. But Elle? The girl who actively cheated on her boyfriend while he was away at college, both physically and mentally, and kissed another boy publicly. The one who demanded all the free time of her best friend so much that he literally forgot about her girlfriend who for some reason stuck it with him.

So what does she do this movie? Well, she is more trusting of her boyfriend that he won’t cheat on her, which is great, because he never did. And she decides that means she can hang out and plan things with someone she did cheat on him with, who made it obvious he wants to still win her over? She also decides to get upset with her best friend who wants to do so many things with her, when it was both her idea to make him feel better for it (after lying for over a month) and she did the same thing last year with no care for repercussions?

Let’s be clear on the things that happen to Elle negatively this film. One, her dad is dating a woman and Elle gets mad at her, and lashes out cause of her other shit, over one of the worst board games ever made (Monopoly), and still doesn’t care, until her dad calls her out on her bullshit and makes her feel bad. Second bad thing that happens to her is her boyfriend broke up with her over her bullshit.

Wow. Well let us make it obvious. She has a lot of bullshit and keeps making mistakes and never learning from them. He should have never been with her over the events of The Kissing Booth 2.  But even more importantly, SHE SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN WITH HIM DUE TO THE EVENTS OF THE MOVIE THE KISSING BOOTH. Where he was shown to be emotionally abusive, and threatened other guys to leave her alone for years while he was on his own path of getting experience before trying out her. He is shown to not handle any really conversation or argument well time and time again, which is why he runs off and does dumb shit all the time. And so does she. They are both really bad people, which doesn’t make it a good fit for them. Nor does it warrant spending three movies to talk about this relationship.

The problem with this movie is the impressions it leaves on people. Since there is almost no real consequences for any of the characters being terrible, it just helps reinforce that being terrible is a great thing for people to be. After all, look at all the fun they are having. Did you see those costumes? [Editor’s Important Note: Why the fuck does the go-kart track at a water park have stands for people to watch. Do people just sit there all day and look for exciting basic races? It was more than just a parent sitting area.]

I could talk so much about the other technical problems with the movie. Like how all over the place it is in time. When was it set? When did they make the beach bucket list? Why is going to Berkeley on a beach bucket list? Why would they hide it in a hidden time box if the goal was to actually complete it, and they went to the beach every summer? Why does the box have a Super Nintendo Mario Kart design, as if it was set in the 90’s? That goes with my earlier question about time. Because things on the list don’t make sense for various age groups they would have written it.

This is a trilogy that trivializes high school, relationships, proper communication, and the ability to fucking apologize.

0 out of 4.

CODA

I’ve had a wonderful musical summer, how bout you? As of this moment, only two movie musicals have come out this summer. We had of course In The Heights, that has all my praise, and Vivo a cartoon film, both with the Lin-Manuel Miranda effect attached to them. We have a lot more musicals to come out this year too, so I’ve been watching a lot of old classical films I haven’t seen yet in my life.

But now I got to finally see CODA. A new musical, one that took forever to come out, after being on a festival circuit earlier in the year. Based on the description alone, I knew I wanted to see it, and almost counted down the days it would release on Apple TV.

This is also one of those perfect movie title situations, and I am big fan of perfect movie titles.

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And is this the perfect family? We will see.

Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) is mostly your normal high school senior girl. She has a friend, she has interests in music, she has a job. What makes her abnormal is several things. She usually has to get up pretty early to help her father (Troy Kotsur) and her older brother (Daniel Durant) on a fishing boat. They finish their job early enough for her to then go to school, but it can take time to change and she could smell. Oh yeah, both of them and her mom (Marlee Matlin) are all deaf. Ruby was born with the ability to hear sound normally, so she is a Child of Deaf Adults, or, you know, a CODA. Boom. Perfect. (Coda is also a music term if you are less familiar with that).

So it turns out that Ruby has a pretty damn good voice, but she clearly has repressed it for the most part, given her upbringing and the fact that she used to “talk weird” based on her upbringing. But she finally decides to take choir despite her best friend (Amy Forsyth) judging her. Their teacher, Mr. Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez), really sees something in her and wants to work with her on developing her sound and maybe even going to college for singing reasons.

Ruby didn’t imagine much of a future for herself. She has been a translator for her family her whole life, and sees her role as being on the ship after high school, even with them trying to expand their business venture because of the local market screwing them over.

Can she be a successful singer? Can she go into a hobby or career that literally her family have no good way of ever being able to appreciate or understand? Can she leave strand them of the lifeline she gives to the community? Can they survive without her?

Also starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, who you will remember as the lead from Sing Street.

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No jazz hands here. Just pure, unadulterated, choir hands.

CODA was marvelous and if you think otherwise you are the worst.

Sorry, that came out strong. What I meant to say was…

CODA is clearly one of the best movies of the year and if you don’t see that you are Britta and here is why I know this to be true.

First, of course, diversity and representation matters. Having more actual deaf people play deaf people in movies is the best, and should be a pretty good standard there. The family are all actual deaf, the issues they face on the film are real issues those in the deaf community face, and they are hilarious too. We get some R rated signs for sure. But you know what else is represented? The fishing community as a hole, as it was filmed on location in Massachusetts. The issues that they are facing with the independent fisherman getting screwed over due to market prices, and ways to help get out of their predicaments.

Jones was a very strong lead and I was surprised to find that she didn’t do vocal lessons or ASL lessons until after being cast. I figured one of those would have been their goal in casting, at least, but she felt like a natural to me (as someone who is not in anyway an ASL knowledgeable person).

I cried a couple of times in the movie. The scene of the concert was heart breaking and brilliant what the director, Sian Heder, decided to do with that scene. I didn’t expect at all, but it really hit hard. I had a pretty good prediction on how the final scene would play out as we got close, and it went for the obvious route, but it was also quite beautiful despite expecting it. Mostly because during the earlier performance, I might have been yelling at my TV “Why aren’t you doing…!?”, no spoilers.

This is definitely in the top tier roles of Derbez as well, who I didn’t know was in this movie until a week ago. (I first heard about this film in the spring of 2021). I know recently he hasn’t been in a lot of things worth noting (although, I thought he worked well in Dora and the Lost City of Gold). Instructions Not Included was the first saw him in and I fell in love with it, so I have been hoping to have great moments in his career, but I have also been told to watch Under The Same Moon for him. Although a supporting character, he is such a great and different character than what he normally plays (okay, it is just a different sort of eccentric really) and he knocks it out of the park.

CODA is great, maybe the best. It is going to stick with me for a long time, and it will stick with you once you finally get around to see it. Do it. Right now.

4 out of 4.

Joe Bell

Movies that are just the name of someone need to carry some sort of weight. Are they someone famous, like the movie Gandhi? Are they interesting sounding names, like Erin Brockovich? Or are they basic as fuck, like Joe Bell?

Joe Bell, as a film name, holds absolutely no weight. If it is a real person, you likely don’t know his name enough to remember him. If it is a made up person, then why does his name warrant the title of the film and not something more creative?

Well, it turns out the movie has this terrible title because Joe Bell is a real dude. He was a dad who decided he would walk across America, ending at NYC, to speak up and out against bullying. Because his own son committed suicide in high school due to bullying and other factors.

dadson
The other factors being things like Joe Goddamn Randy Macho Man Savage Bell.

Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg) is a bearded man who likes the sports and the ladies and working hard. He is married (Connie Britton) and has two kids (Reid Miller, Maxwell Jenkins) so he is doing alright. But then his oldest, Jadin, had to come out as gay. Joe said he accepted him and loved him, but you can tell he was still probably annoyed by this news.

After all, they are in a small town, people have their thoughts and opinions, and now Joe Bell might be judged on his own masculinity due to his son. His son being a cheerleader? Oh heck naww.

So Joe ain’t the best, but he is doing that walk thing yeah? Yeah, I guess. But he isn’t the best, and it doesn’t start out too great. He really has to fucking grow up if he is going to make this thing worth his time. Can’t just walk off your guilts.

Also starring Gary Sinise and Morgan Lily.

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You can’t walk off past due speeding tickets either.

I will be honest here, I may have spoiled part of the story. The way it is described to me when I heard about this movie, is that it is that guy who walked across the US due to his son’s suicide. But films need things like that to be a secret I guess. It takes a whole third of the way through the film before they let out the knowledge that his son wasn’t alive anymore, to get a timed and prepared emotional reaction because it was haven’t trouble getting them at other points in the movie.

I am starting off really harsh there, but things like this bug me. The story is due to his son’s suicide, not just because of bullying. And as the movie let’s us know, his home life wasn’t necessarily great at all, and the movie about Joe Bell goes to great lengths to show that Joe Bell the person kind of really sucked.

It turns out there are more secrets and surprises to this story too. I wasn’t prepared for the ending, and it made me tear up as well. The film itself is broken down into flashbacks of home life, including the eventual suicide of the son. I did find the parts about the walk a bit more interesting, as it was dealing with grief, and Joe Bell was so bad at doing these talks and still figuring out how to do the right thing.

Wahlberg’s acting was fine. Britton was once reduced to a role of “wife of main character” and didn’t have a lot to work with there. Miller, as the boy in question was okay, but he was also limited on his screen time.

Honestly, this is one of those situations where you have to wonder where the priorities are at. They want to tell Joe Bell’s story, the dad’s? Not the son’s story? I mean, it gets told here as well, by telling the dad’s, but it still is just another example of making things through a straight white male hetero lens that is pretty damn frustrating for people who want more for their stories.

Joe Bell will leave you sad, aggravated, and not really loving the person Joe Bell.

2 out of 4.