Tag: 3 out of 4

Men

Alex Garland has been around for awhile in the movie business, but at this point with Men, he has only directed three films. The first two are Ex Machina and Annihilation. But he was a writer before that, writing all of his own movies, but also classics like 28 Days Later… and Never Let Me Go (which was based on a book already).

And yeah, people love him. I was a decent fan of his first movie, and Annihilation didn’t win me over as much as others, but it was definitely creepy. With Men, this will be my first time seeing one of his movies in actual theaters, before I can already hear the hype (or anti-hype as it may be) from others. A fresh new experience! I love it.

As someone who identifies as a man, I am excited that this writer/director has decided to make a movie honoring and praising the life of people like me. Finally. It has been so long since we had any film cater to men, am I right fellas?

panic
Is this the titular Man? No, there has to be more of them.

Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley) just needs to get away. She used to live in the city, and used to be married. But things sure did go south with her husband, James (Paapa Essiedu), and she needed a huge change of scenery.

So she rented a fancy, fancy, old school cottage in the middle of nowhere. I am not sure if it is an Air BNB type deal, or just some British thing, but she has this wonderfully large house with a lot of land, so she can unwind and chill.

The owner Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear) lives a little bit away, and he can head over if there is any issues, but he expects it to be quiet and lovely time for her. And it is! She goes on a walk, frolics through the fields, and even finds a cool tunnel that has some sweet echo capabilities. And while she is having a grand old British time, a figure appears at the very end of the tunnel. And it starts to come after her.

Now, some people might think a naked grime covered man in your yard is a good time, some may not. Harper was definitely not okay with this, and it was just the start of her very bad experience in the country.

Also starring Gayle Rankin as friend on the phone!

forest
Who decided to make walks in the woods a scary deal? Assholes, probably. 

If there is something Alex has been able to for sure do in his recent films, it is to make a wooded area pretty darn unsettling. It isn’t even a giant part of the film, because hey, the church, the village, the people, they are all unsettling as well in different ways. Just an unsettling small village with a lot of maybe evil in store for our poor heroine.

Buckley is a strong lead here. The entire movie’s weight and emotional turns are on her shoulders, and a lot of that is while she is alone and dealing with the unknown. I do love Kinnear as well, and I love him a lot more after the fact because I realized how dense I was. Kinnear actually plays every man in the village who is important to the plot. All of them. I didn’t realize that the whole movie, it is technically probably obvious in it, but I am a dense motherfucker. I just honestly didn’t realize it, so his performance is even more impressive, and it totally works for the themes of the movie.

Men deals with abuse — abuse that is often performed by men against women. Both physically and mentally/emotionally. At some points it is subtle, and sometimes it is right there on the nose. Once again, it really fits strongly with the themes of the movie.

The ending is a different matter. It goes balls to the wall, wild stuff there. Horror tropes and just weird shit. It was glorious and ugly (or even Filthy Gorgeous). It is a very creative film, and one that tells me I shouldn’t go out and rent a country side mansion by myself for a few weeks if I am a woman in Great Britain. Yep.

3 out of 4.
T

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the 49th film in the MCU. I mean, maybe, it is hard to say at this point. I ain’t keeping track anymore, and I don’t know how many Sony or Fox films get to count either.

I do know this is another one of those films with some spicy drama behind the stage. You may have forgot this by now, but Scott Derrickson, famous relatively new director of horror film classics like Sinister, was signed on to direct this movie. A horror guy! To do a marvel film! People got real excited over that concept. Is this gonna be scary as fuck?

No, because Derrickson left. And one of the writers. Over creative differences. Damn, he must wanted it more scary and Marvel said nope.

So what did they do? They confused us all and brought in Sam Raimi. Raimi is known for two things. His horror films (especially The Evil Dead trilogy), and for the original Spider-Man trilogy. This guy knows superheroes and horror! So what kind of film is this going to be? Regular superhero stuff? Horror superhero? Some wild ass shit Raimi dreamed in Michigan one cold morning? Who the fuck knows! It’s a mystery. Just like the Multiverse of Madness.

panic
Run, don’t walk, to the nearest bad joke store for more zingers! 

This film assumes you have seen two things by now, so I am going to as well. WandaVision and Spider-Man: No Way Home. The former is far more important too, so get your 9 half hour episodes on.

This film also takes place in some generic time frame, because they fucked up the years of these things being released. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has now been invited to Christine’s (Rachel McAdams) wedding! And it definitely isn’t to him. He fucked that shit up. Oh well.

But in the life of a hero, there is always danger, and sure enough, some shit starts flying around. That is where Strange meets America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), being attacked by a giant tentacled eye monster! No name for this film, I think it is copywriter. Eventually Strange and Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) find out that Chavez is from another universe, and get more information about the multiverse. She can travel between them, it is her power, and there is a demon or something after her hoping to steal that gift for their own personal gain.

Shit. What’s a former Sorcerer Supreme to do? Especially when there is evidence of a different Stephen Strange and knowledge that he wasn’t fully on the up and up. Guess it is to enlist the help of some strong entities, and protect her before some universes collide.

Also starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Elizabeth Olsen, and Michael Stuhlbarg. Also more people, but shhh.

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Is this a horror screen shot? Is this fantasy? Is this porn? 

It was very hard to go into this movie without comparing it to Everything Everywhere All At Once. An indie film that could, it is chugging along and everyone is loving it. I loved it! It came out before Doctor Strange 2, and dealt with multiverses, even though a lot of people knew about this one years ago, it still snuck out ahead. Is there room for two multiverse based movies?

Well, Everything Everywhere All At Once had a lot of work to do. It was DENSE as all can be, it had to pack a lot in to tell a complete story while dealing with other universes and going fully bananas. This MCU film has the benefit of dozens of films and TV shows ahead of it to carry various amounts of emotional investiture, to tell its multiverse movie, and it really shows.

Surprisingly, TMoM doesn’t go as bananas as one would expect. I thought it would go through a lot of weird places, and we’d see cameos every few minutes. Fan service sells right now. Which random former Fox properties could show up?! But it didn’t do that, outside of a quick trippy fast montage, similar to experiences in the first Doctor Strange. In reality, this film sticks to only three universes for the most part, which is a bit surprising. It is like in Wreck-It Ralph, when you thought he would get to go to so many different fun video games, then just went to one for a little bit and then spent a lot more time in a candy world than you thought he should. The number of multiverses visited does NOT approach banana levels.

But the ones we do get deliver a lot of fun and interesting concepts. The implications for the future are all there in the film, which are sort of standard now, and a little bit infuriating. For example, the first credit scene is interesting, but how it is shown right after the last scene of the film makes it a bit jarring. Is it minutes later? Is it not? Who knows. The second credit scene is worth every penny though.

HOW ABOUT THE HORROR? IS THERE HORROR?

Yes, I am happy to say, Raimi was able to get some creepy horror things into this. Dark hallways, enemies that won’t stop. Body horror in various levels. We got death in this movie, and some of them are quite shocking and gruesome. We got death which also means dead bodies. Raimi loves to use dead bodies. Some of the dynamic angles he used for just zoom ins to faces and doors felt very Evil Dead-ish as well. You can tell he was behind the film overall, and I love it when there is obvious director influences. Especially in the mega corporations of Disney.

I will say that I thought Scarlett Witch was underdeveloped, but Olsen did a lot with the little she had to work with. There is stark stark difference here between Wanda now and Wanda in WandaVision. I know we had the credits scene of the TV show, but we still have to fill in some gaps on our own to get Wanda to the level she is in this movie. I think she has powerful scenes, but I also know, they could have been better.

At this point, I don’t even know what the next MCU film is. But I do know I am gonna watch it, and statistically, I will find it okay or better, so go on, keep the churn coming. I am not full yet.

3 out of 4.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Nicolas Cage. Is he a man, or an aberration? Is he a great actor or a bad actor? Many people have struggled with this question for decades, and it is a question that has brought Abed down to his knees in humility.

Regardless of what you think about Cage, you have certainly heard of him. A lot of people have strong opinions about his acting and his choices, especially recently. He has been in some straight to DVD nonsense, but that is also generally known to be due how one of his financial advisors screwed him out of money and he was stuck paying the bill with his wallet missing. But in the last few years, the bad choices have seemed to drift into weird and interesting choices. Wally’s Wonderland, where he plays a literal silent protagonist and speaks not a single word of dialogue. Mandy, and all of the fucked up movie that is. Pig, a surprisingly amazing drama that looks like a John Wick rip-off that does so much more.

And then I heard about The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. The first description blew me away with what it wanted to do. I knew I had to see it. I went out of my way to watch what I felt were the most essential Cage films I hadn’t yet seen before in my life, leading up to this movie. Just to catch more references and have a better frame of mind for this NickCage-fest. Give me your weird ass films. I need them.

I. Need. Them.

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The different people seeing this film. One who knows and likes Cage movies, the other very confused at who Nick Cage is.

What does a magnificent actor need to do when he finds himself under appreciated and maybe even mocked by friends and fans alike? When your debts are piling up, when your family won’t talk to you, and you see a big film break coming up that will revitalize your career as a major player? After all, maybe the big break will you get you bigger roles, and more clout, (not that you went anywhere), and you can go into the tail end of your career flying high.

That is what is going though Nick Cage’s (Nicolas Cage) head. He has bills to pay, debts, and he can’t land the lead of a new film that he thinks will be a box office and critical success. But his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) had another gig for him, although embarrassing. He just needs to go to another country and go to some super fan’s birthday party. Make an appearance, talk to guests, and easy million dollars. Cage feels desperate, so he takes the gig, but he feels like he is going to also have to retire from acting, that he can’t keep up with the charade.

Of course when Cage gets down there, he makes things awkward. Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) is not just a super-fan, but he also wrote a script and wants Cage to star in a movie. Cage doesn’t know about that, and thinks that Gutierrez is a worker at the mansion. Not to mention that Cage gets intercepted by the CIA (Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz) because they believe Gutierrez recently kidnapped the mayor’s daughter, in order to threaten him before an upcoming election. Gutierrez is awkward, but is he a bad guy? Now Cage has to stay longer than expected, to check the compound, and become a spy, which is basically just acting anyways. Cage is probably the perfect person for this job. Sometimes it is easier to hide with a beacon on your face.

Also starring Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Lily Mo Sheen, Paco León, and Sharon Horgan.

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But really, I just want to watch Cage watch real movies with his fictional family. 

Surprisingly, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is not the zaniest film I have seen this year. Not even the weirdest. It didn’t even make me cry. All of those titles, at this point, would go to Everything Everywhere All At Once.

But this movie is still incredibly fun! I don’t know how to talk about it as someone who doesn’t know much about Cage, so I do apologize in that regard. But if you are familiar with his work and generally receptive to a lot of his films, I can’t imagine now appreciating this fictional version of his life. He pokes fun at his perceptions, while also playing hard into them. It is just so silly, it is infectious. Despite being a film that is a love letter to Cage, it doesn’t completely hog the spotlight, while giving shout outs to other great films in cinema history from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Paddington 2.

Sure, the plot is pretty weak. It is going for meta humor so hard that it doesn’t always land. The CIA plotline, although necessary for the story, feels detracting by taking us away from the funnier moments, which is when Cage and Pascal share the screen.

This is one of those movies for people who love going to the movies. A movie that is mindless fun that doesn’t need you to turn off your brain in order to enjoy it. Cage is living his best life, and we are all just people in the world getting to witness this rebirth of his movie choices (not that he went anywhere), and this is a film about just having to learn to accept it. While not being one of the best movies ever made, it is an enjoyable one, and definitely a film we need in our lives during this time of weary and stress.

3 out of 4.

X

A movie called X? I don’t know how my website will handle that. I know it hates when reviews are just numbers, it hates that a lot. But I don’t think I have reviewed a regular letter yet.

(Checks). Oh I did! The movie W. Don’t read that review, it is terrible, it was in the beginning. So X shouldn’t be a problem.

I am guessing that this film would have been called xXx if that one action franchise hadn’t happened. You know. Because of the pornographic content. Soon, people from Texas will be protesting this film even being in theaters I bet. Not like they have anything better to do I guess.

 

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I am running this official photo purely to increase clicks. Can I be protested now?

 

Let’s head back to the late 1970’s in rural Texas, somewhere outside of Houston. A local strip club owner (Martin Henderson) has decided he should be financing a porno film! Debbie Does Dallas was recently released, and porn might not just be for perverts anymore? So he gets some of his dancers and friends together, to put up a script and film this bad boy right. 

He is bringing along his girlfriend and dancer, Maxine (Mia Goth), who wants to be a star, and another dancer, Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow). He has a friend of his to be the main dick (Kid Cudi), and he hired a real director (Owen Campbell) and his girlfriend (Jenna Ortega) to make this shoot look good and professional.  As producer, he just needed to find a place for them to film, which with the economy as it is, was easy. He was able to rent a whole other house on a farm, and maybe the barn too. Sure, he didn’t tell them the why he was renting, but that was on a need to know basis. 

The farmer (Stephen Ure) and his wife (also Mia Goth), are very old, and a bit out there, and certainly conservative. But what is the worst that can happen if they find out the truth? Time to fill the next porno classic, The Farmer’s Daughters. 

Also starring Simon Prast

 

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The crew set to change cinema forever.

 

I mentioned recently that I have only seen two Texas Chainsaw movies in my life (unfortunately, just the last two), and even I found the recent one dreadful. But, this is probably the best sequel to a Texas Chainsaw movie ever, without being an actual Texas Chainsaw movie. Sure, technically, this one doesn’t have any chainsaws. But it does feature Texas and a Massacre. I haven’t seen the original, but I have to imagine the tone of that film seems to match this one pretty well, based on pop culture osmosis. 

For the actors, everyone seemed to really be giving it their all. Henderson seemed to be channeling everything from Matthew McConaughey that he could muster. I don’t know how I will see Snow in Hairspray again after this movie (don’t worry, she still sings in this movie). Cudi was hilarious as the male actor for the porno shoot, and was a real strong presence.  Ortega has the freak out face on lock after this and Scream. Campbell felt like a more Texan Martin Starr with movie filming knowledge, and was a fun cast member as a result.

As for the main lead, Goth, who played two roles. Well, first, I didn’t realize she was the old lady until writing this review. It makes sense, given what happens in the film. And the old lady certainly looked like someone in old makeup, so it is an interesting decision to just reuse her. I think she played her main role really well at least, and have a few complaints about the old lady, but not enough to fully detract from the film.

Apparently the director, Ti West, also filmed a prequel film to this one already, with the old lady, younger, during a war? I don’t think I care about that film idea at all. What story relevance would that have? I am happy to be surprised, I guess. 

X is campy when it needs to be, erotic at points, and still at its heart, guts, and insides, a horror film. Some of the deaths are obvious to track, but that isn’t a big issue. It is still entertaining, unique, and scary at points. A very proud, unofficial, sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

 

3 out of 4.

 

Nightmare Alley

The last time we got a Guillermo del Toro film is when he directed the one about fucking a fish.

Will someone fuck a different creature in Nightmare Alley? Hard to say based on the title alone. I did not know until a little bit before hand that Nightmare Alley was an older book, and also an older movie from 1947. So we are getting a remake. And honestly, this is the exact reason for remakes in my mind. Often remakes are made for successful film that they just want to try again because people liked the first one. They should do more remakes either based on films that failed, or at least just more unknown work to give them a new fresh light.

Not to insult those of you who know and love the original Nightmare Alley film, but honestly, it isn’t super well known now, regardless of how big it may have been in the past.

This new version promised to be closer to the book. Alright, whatever, I am just hear for the movies. Specifically, Guillermo del Toro movies.

carnyNo, this isn’t a screengrab from the next Indiana Jones flick…
Who is that mysterious stranger, Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper)? The one with the smooth outfit, the clean face, the twinkle in his eyes, the hat? The one who burned down that house for some reason and is willing to just…drift.

Stan finds himself at a traveling show, a carnival, full of lies and deceit. But he sees a geek show, and agrees to help load up for the night for a small payment. And then he gets offered a job to stay along more, because he looks like someone who just needs to be there.

So he stays, he listens, and he learns. Quickly. He learns the tools of the trade. He has plans and ambitions. He has been kept quiet and hidden for so long, he thinks he can take some of these skills and become famous. A celebrity. But if he becomes a man who deals with deceit, eventually, he will be deceited right in the ass.

Also starring Cate Blanchett, Clifton Collins Jr., David Strathairn, Holt McCallany, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Rooney Mara, Tim Blake Nelson, Toni Collette, and Willem Dafoe.

blindI bet his eyes aren’t even closed under there. He is using those eyes and his blindfold eye. He is a phony!

Nightmare Alley is so damn aesthetically pleasing to look at. It is polished (some would even say, polished as fuck). I know it is getting harder and harder to really tell how much of a movie is made in front of green screens, but it feels as if this film was mostly main in real places and scenes, using fine cameras to make everything pop. That is what I truly hope and believe, especially since I know del Toro is a fan of using as many practical effects as possible, generally. But maybe most of it is CGI’d, who knows. It looks wonderful.

The big cast works really together. Some in much smaller roles than expected, but still bringing in their all to tell this strange story. It was good to see Perlman get some work in a non straight to video film. Blanchett is in particular quite a force, basically stealing the movie away from Cooper’s character after she walks into it. She is given a really strong role and one that is hard to top. Cooper also does a wonderful job. It takes awhile before his character starts to talk. I wondered if he would be a silent protagonist for the whole film (like Cage was recently in Wally’s Wonderland) but once he started to actual talk, getting him to stop was the harder part.

The actual story for the film is also a pretty good one, if not slightly familiar in some ways. The ending is the type of thing you can see miles away, because they foreshadow everything really hard. However, it is okay knowing how it ends up, because finding out the lengths someone can fall and also rise is often the most exciting part of a film.

Nightmare Alley, shockingly, has no puppet animals, or strange creatures, or any non humans getting fucked. Is this growth? Nah. That was a one time thing for del Toro. Until it isn’t.

3 out of 4.

National Champions

College Athletes should be paid for their game times and their practice times.

That is it. People who do work should get benefits and protections from said work. That shouldn’t be controversial.

But every time this conversation comes up, people will talk about how they get a scholarship at a nice college during that time, and that is their payment. Bullshit. Plenty of people get scholarships to college. But they don’t have to give up most of their time to do it. They can still accept gifts from people. They can still get a job to earn money. Athletes get fucked over, and bring in money for their schools, all so they can just exist there for free? It is nice when the slave master provides a place to sleep, I guess.

Ahem. I am passionate about this subject. I have seen a few documentaries on it. And still very little changes. It really sucks for those involved. Most of them don’t become elite players in their sport to make money. Most get used up and spit out and hopefully can get a job somewhere, assuming their body hasn’t betrayed them by then.

All of this to say, I am excited to see National Champions. A film that is going to tackle that very subject, in a fictional manner.

qb
Pictured: Me glaring at the “BuT tHeIr ScHoLaRsHiP” crowd.

Here we are, the NCAA College Football championship game. The best two college football teams playing for all the marbles. None of those silly Bowls, this is the top spot, where anyone would want to be. This is the biggest stage a lot of these students will reach, given how few people actually make it into the NFL. But who knows, a great show here might mean getting drafted, or even, the highest draft position.

So let’s talk about LeMarcus James (Stephan James). He is the elite quarterback who helped lead his team to an undefeated season. He has a great enough relationship with his coach (J.K. Simmons) and people seem to like him. And now he is planning on boycotting the final game in just three days. He refuses to play, until his demands are met. What demands? Honestly, he wants important ones. He wants all NCAA athletes to be considered employees, so they can earn money from their schools. He wants them to get cuts of pay from their ticket sales and things with their image or name attached. He wants insurance protection for players during college, that ensure their scholarship won’t go away and they will have the best care even after the season is over.

You know, he doesn’t want student athletes to be treated as slaves as the conference owners and coaches get richer and richer. And James is likely going number 1 overall in the draft, he already has a big day coming his way. He is trying to protect all the other athletes.

This causes quite a hubbub. A lot of people pick sides. A lot of drama will happen. And a lot of secrets will come out, or maybe come out.

Also starring Alexander Ludwig, Andrew Bachelor, David Koechner, Jeffrey Donovan, Kristin Chenoweth, Lil Rel Howery, Tim Blake Nelson, Timothy Olyphant, and Uzo Aduba.

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I think we can all make inferences about what this looks like. 

Hey! A movie about a topic I am invested in! And honestly, my main points of detraction are that it didn’t stay as invested in that story as I would like, and filled it with fictional stuff. Which makes sense, because it is fictional…

Obviously if these people are playing these characters they have things in their past, and that makes the escalation of events by the end build up due to all of the secrets. But like…what if there wasn’t a big build up of secrets? What if there was nothing worth blackmailing, like I assume a majority of people out there would have? That is the fictional film I would like to see technically. But yeah, we need drama or whatever in these movies. And the secrets, some of them are quite juicy. In terms of entertainment and the stakes, they do get really high, so we have some good tense boardroom level scenes with high power dealers.

But damn, my interest in this topic just wishes it played it straight. But then it would be a documentary, and fuck, we already have like 50 of them on this topic.

Okay, so aside from that, I did like the movie. It had a little confusion early on though. It took me a bit of time to really understand what the hell was going on with Ludwig’s character, as in, his characters role in the movie and with the star quarterback. Was he a player? Was he some buff political person controlling him? It was a bit odd. I thought James and Simmons gave exceptional performances in their roles, although the finish for both of them with the plot was a bit of a unexceptional ending.

Clearly I wanted just a movie where the players on both sides agreed, and everyone got what they wanted from the strike, and we all moved on as a country, but that is less believable than magic. It is important to recognize my own biases in where I wanted the plot to go, versus what happened. In terms of escalation, it was nice, and tense. It had some wonderful speeches. It still got important information out there. And I think it can be a nice fictional sports movie not about sports. Like Draft Day. A tense movie about a fake draft so sure, it can be made really damn tense.

3 out of 4.

Belfast

Belfast, not just a city in Northern Ireland anymore.

Well, it still is a city in Northern Ireland, and I am sure it is the name of cities in other places too. But now it is also a movie.

And what would a movie about Ireland be about? Certainly not the making and maiden voyage of the Titanic ship, nah, that is too boring. We need to talk about some of that Catholic/Protestant fighting that happened throughout the 1900’s. That way we can get car bombs and actual religious persecution.

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And of course loving happy times with families. Of course!

In 1969, man walked on the moon, and there was unrest in Northern Ireland. Although Catholics and Protestants had been living together mostly fine over the last few decades (After some 1920’s stuff), it looks like anger is back on the menu. Citizens of Northern Ireland want to expel those Catholics from their country, back to the other Ireland, where they are mostly at already. And they are willing to expel them by force, and go to war with their own government, being mad about a whole lot of issues. We get street riots, car bombs, death, and of course vandalism.

Buddy (Jude Hill) is just a kid during all of this, and the violence is quite scary. He knows that the Catholic families are a little bit different from their religion, but not enough for him to care. He wants to marry a girl at his school, he wants to get better at school work just to be close to her, he wants to hang out with his grandparents (Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds), and his cousins, and all of that. He definitely doesn’t want to be a bad kid.

But he is unsupervised a lot. His daddy (Jamie Dornan) had to find work in London, so he is back for a weekend every two weeks, to pay for survival and missing back taxes. His mom (Caitriona Balfe) is struggling to keep them all together in an unsafe city, but it is the only city she knows so she does not want to leave it.

This is getting harder and harder with the increase in violence, decrease in morals, and even a leader of the local gang wants payment from the family, or their dad to join them in patrols, or else they might be targeted. Damn.

Life in Belfast kind of sucks in 1969.

Also starring Colin Morgan, Lara McDonnell, and Lewis McAskie.

movie
I am always going to be a fan of people going to the movies in a movie.

I went into Belfast film knowing nothing about it. The poster I saw, a kid training to be a gladiator, and jumping over a lot of heads, in black and white. So I figured it would mostly be in black and white, which was certainly correct. But definitely not training to be a gladiator, that just references the first scene of the film.

I honestly think the choice to film it as a black and white film with the occasional splashes of color was a mistake. I think the film was shot gorgeously, with a lot of unconventional shots during regular conversations, or shots framed through literal windows and doorways, and more. It was all very pleasant to look at, but the unnecessary “old timey” feel didn’t contribute to the film for me. If the occasional splashes of color felt more apparent, I probably would have cared less, but overall, its an artistic choice I can’t fully get behind here.

I think all of the actors did a lovely job, especially shout outs to the parents/grandparents of the film. They felt like a family going through a rough time. The advice felt real. The conversations felt real. The love felt real. I especially liked the chemistry between Dornan and Balfe. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to their relationship, and the only part I teared up at was during the “Everlasting Love” scene. It was powerful and gave me hope.

I am a bit surprised that the movie takes place during a period where civil unrest was rekindling across the religious communities, the start of decades of domestic terrorism.  You know, since I went in blind. However, even though it started out as the plot, it really featured very little violence and terrorism. It is mostly the first scene, and a scene much closer to the ending where there are rioters out and looting. Most of it is just a regular family trying to get by. It places a huge importance on that specific street, which does confuse me a little bit. Was it really just the one main street with conflict and barricades and an army hanging out? At least camera wise, that is what I am overall led to believe.

Belfast is a strong movie and a sad movie about living in unruly times. But really it is about a family who has no idea what to do to protect their own. Whether it means to stay and fix their community that they know, or to leave and run to safety elsewhere that is unknown.

3 out of 4.

The French Dispatch

Seven years, Wes? SEVEN YEARS?

No. Don’t blame this on the Pandemic. The French Dispatch is your first live action movie in 7 years. Honestly, I thought The Grand Budapest Hotel came out earlier than that, so 7 years is a little shocking, because it certainly feels like a decade. Yes, I know we had Isle of Dogs, but that was stop motion.

Come on Wes. You used to churn out these films like buttah.

And it took a long time for this quirky little number to get made and released. This should not have been a 7 year wait. Did you have to wait for Timothée Chalamet‘s schedule to clear up?!

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That Timothee, so hot right now.

The French Dispatch is sort of about a newspaper insert from a small town in France, that tells news of the world and Europe in their periodical, specifically for the people in Kansas, due to very specific plot reasons. You know. Quirkiness.

The writers for the paper are great though, and the main editor, Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray), has been running it for 50 years. He wants his writers to not be unlimited in their potential and will not try to limit their word count or cut sections out if it ruins their vision. As long as their articles sound like they wrote it that way on purpose and they don’t cry in his office, he will be fine.

This movie is actually about its final issue, because with Arthur’s death, in his will was to dismantle the paper and cease operations completely. This movie is about the final three main stories of the paper, a smaller city piece, and of course, an obituary.

Starring literally ever actor ever a Wes Anderson movie and more, a whole lot of people are involved in these three stories. Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Steve Park, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, Henry Winkler, Lois Smith, Tony Revolori, Denis Ménochet, Larry Pine, Christoph Waltz, Cécile de France, Liev Schreiber, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, Fisher Stevens, Griffin Dunne, and Anjelica Huston.

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A lot of people close together staring towards the camera. Classic Wes shot.
Alright, so was the wait worth it? Or did I overhype it?

I probably overhyped it. I went in not knowing anything about the film, and honestly, a few smaller stories is not usually what I hope for in a film. A bigger plot with subplots, sure.

Technically there is one bigger plot, but it is also relatively minor compared to the three main stories. So why do I care if it is three main stories? Well, if two of the stories are great, and the other is okay, then the whole film doesn’t feel really great anymore.

I definitely feel the stories weren’t even in quality or whimsy. The middle story in particular left a lot to be desired for me, despite elements I liked. My favorite would be the first one, in the prison, although narratively, I don’t know how this person became a normal writer for the paper, and why they are telling this story in their issue that is so far in the past. The third story was fine, but confusing for a bit and that is…less fine.

Overall, this might be the most Wes-Andersy film ever that he has made, and it is incredibly weird. Probably his most black and white and just…strange. He did try a lot with this film, and I guess wanted to tell stories he didn’t think were strong enough for a solo film.

The cinematography, colors, and dialogue are superb of course, but that was to be expected.

3 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.

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.