Tag: Drama

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.

coach
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.

Being the Ricardos

Daa-daa-daa dadaDAH-dahdaahhhhh.

I Love Lucy is an iconic show in TV and American Pop Culture History. When there were barely any channels, it was basically the most watched thing ever. Around the world, people (non-kids) can recognize Lucy Ricardo and Ricky Ricardo, and maybe they can recognize her wail as well.

Now of course, for me, this is where I get to say I have never seen a full episode of the show. I have just seen clips. Never searching them out either. They just love showing clips of the show in documentaries, in movies, in other shows. How else will you know what decade it is without an I Love Lucy on the TV set in the background?

I do love Aaron Sorkin though. And I know that his fictional behind the scenes look at the making of an episode of I Love Lucy combines some of my favorite Aaron Sorkin based moments. People will argue about scripts and the writing. People will make last second changes. And people will have a lot of things going on in their heads at the same time, often switching between them on a moment’s notice in their dialogue so we have to keep up.

So let’s go Sorkin. Teach me about the show from a fictional perspective based on reality.

Lucy
You don’t have to be a real red head to play Lucille Ball. She wasn’t a real red head! D:

Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) runs her show with an iron fist and an attention to detail. She won’t let sloppy writing affect her show, because she wants her shows jokes to be believable, and not just playing dumb to the camera. Lucille Ball is quite smart and clever, damn it, even if she plays a bit of a silly simple potato. 

Her Husband, Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) also helps run the show, running different aspects. He keeps the money coming in, he deals with the press stories that affect them, he warms up the audience, he keeps it a smooth sailing ship. They are the perfect couple, fictional or otherwise. Or are they?

In this week on I Love Lucy, we have to deal with a lot behind the scenes. A sudden pregnancy and how it will affect the show. Reports of Desi cheating on Lucille. A bit of the sketch that just won’t work. Side characters feeling inadequate. And oh yeah, reports that Lucille is a communist. 

Hopefully they can tackle these issues while also putting on a good show for the audience, and hopefully they can stay on air this early into their second season. 

Also starring J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, Tony Hale, Clark Gregg, and Nelson Franklin

lucygrapes
Is this the real life? Or is this just grape smashing? 

I am old enough, and have seen enough movies, that I know what to expect when going in to an Aaron Sorkin movies, and this is basically what I expected going into an Aaron Sorkin movie. But this is only his third movie where he has both written and directed it. The first one, Molly’s Game, didn’t remind me a lot of his previous work, outside of the dialogue. The Trial of the Chicago 7 did remind me a bit of his past work, since it was a courtroom drama, but it still wasn’t fully there. 

Being the Ricardo’s reminds me of older Sorkin. It reminds me of his TV shows specifically, basically all of them. Yes, even Sports Night. And Steve Jobs. It has a hectic feel, despite being over the span of a week. It has layers to it, we also get a lot of flashbacks of the couple as they met, and their careers before the show. It feels like the classic Sorkin, the one who only wrote and didn’t direct. He was able to capture the style that his writing dictated in all of those works, and I am all here for it.

I don’t have any real basis for who should have been cast in these roles or who should not have, because I don’t know the old show. But I did learn a whole lot, and while going back to look things up, I was shocked how much wasn’t made up. Just the timing of things are really what was changed. 

Kidman and Bardem are wonderful together. I want them to be different people and be in a real chaotic relationship together. The rest of the cast was good too, and I was surprised at how much it highlighted other people who worked on the show and the producers. 

Being the Ricardos feels like a movie that should be made for fans of the show, but it made me a fan of the show. Will I go and watch it? Hell no, let’s be honest. I ain’t got time for that. I got enough of it from clips. But I will say I appreciate the real Lucy, Lucille Ball, a lot more than I just assumed before. 

4 out of 4.

Encounter

How the heck did the poor assistant from Nightcrawler become such an acting force?

Well, Nightcrawler was a great movie, so it makes sense that every person involved has some greatness, even if the character is weak in comparison to the lead.

Riz Ahmed is a great actor, and putting on a show for us these last few years. We had Sound of Metal, and now we have Encounter, where Ahmed is at the lead, and putting a whole lot of himself into these projects. I am all here for it, let Ahmed be the next, well, Jake Gyllenhaal. Always excellence in every movie, no matter how silly or weird the character. Looks like he really was his apprentice in Nightcrawler after all…

pecks
But getting those muscles was probably on his own.

Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) is a father and a military man. He has two kids (Aditya Geddada, Lucian-River Chauhan) and they mean the world to him. Maybe?

Speaking of the world, thanks to his top clearance and years of service, Malik has information that the Earth is undergoing an alien invasion, right now! But instead of big space ships, lasers, and humanoids, these aliens are tiny, bug like parasites. They can enter your body, and go into your brain, taking control of your life, feeding off of you. They want to take over the human race! You can tell if someone has an alien parasite by looking at their eyes, very clearly.

Well, Malik really doesn’t want his kids to get taken over, and he wants to protect them at all costs. So he leaves his home to find his kids and take them on a surprise road trip, in order to bring them to safety in the middle of nowhere. The less they are around possibly infected individuals, the better. There he can teach them survival skills that he learned through the military, and maybe they can survive this thing.

Unless. Of course. He is making this all up. Is he? Did he just kidnap his kids, or is he saving them from a very real threat? Guess that is the question here.

Also starring Octavia Spencer, Janina Gavankar, and Rory Cochrane.

kids
“How do I teach these keeeeds…how to survive an apocalypse?”

You all know me, Gorgon Reviews, and know that movies where a parent tries to do anything to protect their kids really get to me. They tear at my heart strings so easily, it is like taking candy from a baby not being protected by an adult in their life. So of course I am invested in a story about a man trying to react during the opening part of an alien invasion, with classified information not many people would know about.

And yes, I also put that maybe this whole thing was a lie and there are other big issues going on. That is not some sort of spoiler, that is honestly really apparent that it is a potential direction this movie might take. Because if it is early on in an invasion, with parasitic sized creatures invading human host and taking over their lives, anyone making that claim would be seen as crazy and ignored, that is a fact.

This is not a movie that keeps it vague enough the entire time that you will get to the credits and not know if the invasion is happening or not, they make it pretty straightforward certainly by the halfway point. And none of the mystery going away deters from the simple plot though. Of a man, trying to protect his kids. A man who has gone through a lot, knows a lot, and is doing what he thinks is the best thing he can do.

I loved the emotion between Ahmed and the two sons. The younger one was appropriately annoying and acted exactly like I imagined a kid would of his age. The older kid made some surprising decisions, but they were very strange circumstances so I don’t think I could relate. I was surprised at some of the action pieces in the second half, especially with the “other brothers” in the small group of abandoned homes. It was a tense scene that helped show us that our main character was very gifted at what he trained to do and also cared about other people and didn’t want anyone to get too hurt.

Encounter is unconventional in the story it is telling, but still one worth seeing at least once. And once again, featuring very strong acting from Ahmed in the lead.

4 out of 4.

Wolf

I heard a lot about Wolf before going into it. No, nothing about the plot, unfortunately. Or barely anything about the plot.

I mostly just heard negative reviews from my friends who already saw it. One of the worst films of the year? I knew I had to watch it to be sure.

Unfortunately, the IMDB description for this one is really terrible.  “A high-concept arthouse drama about a boy who believes he is a wolf.” That is it? That is the plot summary? The plot summary is literally the last 7 words, “boy who believes he is a wolf” and no other details. What the hell. The first half is completely unnecessary in a plot-description. A “high-concept arthouse drama?” Okay. It is a drama, fine. But the other words? That is a way to shoot it and a reason to shoot it, not at all what the film is about. I will see if I can do better.

whiskers
What’s new?

Jacob (George MacKay): Is he a man, or is he a wolf? Well, clearly, he looks like a man. But on the inside, he feels as if he is a wolf trapped in a man’s body. He wants to run through the forest on all fours. He wants to do it at nighttime. He wants to howl at the moon. He wants to shed his clothes, he wants to hunt.

He has species dysphoria, or thinks he is an Otherkin, whichever language deems to be the most appropriate in the next decade. Jacob is actually taken to a clinic that specializes in clients who have species dysphoria, after his parents bring him in, so that he can be taught to shed that feeling and go back to being a productive member of society.

Things feel okay, at first. He has to keep a journal. They awkwardly have areas where they allow the patients to do what they want, including act like animals, with no problem. But for those who are further along, or who don’t find the light therapy useful, they have to deal with The Zookeeper (Paddy Considine), who uses more and more extreme methods to make those people realize they aren’t animals, they are human. You know, by treating them inhumanely.

Jacob also meets (Lily-Rose Depp), who maybe works there, maybe thinks she is a cat, and they begin a strange relationship, meeting at night when the moon is out, and exploring each other’s past and pondering their futures.

Also starring Darragh Shannon, Eileen Walsh, Elsa Fionir, Fionn O’Shea, Karise Yansen, Lola Petticrew, and Senan Jennings.

growl
Rawr means “I love you.”

Wolf is going to be a very easy film to hate. and it is going to be a very easy film to make fun of and laugh at the awkwardness of it all. I know in my own screening, despite going in knowing it was a serious drama, it had some people laughing in the beginning, because they thought it was going for a silly absurd thing. And I can really see that happening in plenty of theaters, and then laughing through out, but it is an awkward laugh because they would be mocking those characters, not laughing at intentional humor.

You see, because this is a “high-concept arthouse drama” it knows it is showing things that could be labeled as ridiculous and amusing, but it is taking the whole thing seriously. No one is acting to be a joke. No character is breaking the fourth wall and winking at the audience. We are to treat this as serious as the film does. And I think that is the only way this works, a little bit.

Because the acting is quite good. MacKay must have been working on his wolf prowl for awhile, because he was putting his whole body into that. The way he moved his shoulders and glared. He likely had to lose weight just to make it more visually uncomfortable. Same with all of the actors. Special shoutout to Considine, who got more and more frightening as the Zookeeper. Doing more and more rough, maybe effective but probably not, methods to make his clients accept their reality. The ending he was downright frightening as he put down a “riot” in the clinic. I have never seem him so scary or great.

Now, in terms of what this movie is all about? I don’t know. It could be considered a metaphor for gay or trans conversion therapy camps. Places where we know abuse and torture occur to the poor kids who are forced to attend, until they are “cured” where the cures don’t really last, they are just delayed and hidden. This has parallels to that, but I honestly don’t think the filmmaker wants this story to be a metaphor. We definitely see The Zookeeper as a villain in this story, and this clinic as a bad place, but it is left morally gray as to whether the clients actions really matter. Should they just live their life how they want? YOLO is what I say.

However, if someone can get through it all and just be impressed by the seriousness of the whole thing, they will probably still be upset at the abrupt and unfulfilling ending. It can happen to anyone. Go if you want to see some interesting/unique acting. Ideally don’t go if you are going to mock people. And wonder with me if it still could have been a lot better.

2 out of 4.

tick, tick…BOOM!

2021 has been a year of musicals for me. A front to bottom, left to right, back in time to now, year of goddamn musical joy. I have seen so many movies I haven’t seen before, in anticipation of all of the musicals that were coming out this year, and tick, tick…BOOM! is one of the lasts to go.

I think from this year, out of the 11 or so new musicals that came out, I have two more to go after tick, tick…BOOM!, the end is in sight, and I am sad to see it go. I also had a goal to watch at least 100 musicals throughout the decades, focusing on many musicals that were strange or famous that I never saw before.

tick, tick…BOOM! is the type of musical that one has heard of before, and never gotten a good chance of seeing or hearing before, due to the situations around that musical. And our bae Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired in his own life by the musical for people who create musicals, decided he needed to dust off the old director’s hat and give us a theatrical version of this musical as his first go around. Musical theater nerds rejoice, everyone else? Well, hopefully they also rejoice, because rejoicing is fun.

stage
“You love me, you really love me!”

Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) is a real person! A real guy. Who really wanted to write musicals. In fact, he did write some musicals. In this movie, we are going to see a few things. One, him living his life. Two, him putting on a musical he has created called Superbia, similar to 1984 the book, and set in the future, but different. Three, the actual musical of tick, tick…BOOM!, which is one he made about his life at the time, his feelings dealing with his failures and successes around the making of Superbia. And then his eventual death. Spoilers. But yeah, his last musical he made was RENT and he died suddenly the morning that it was to premier off-Broadway.

Why does he write like he is running out of time?

Narratively, the plot isn’t too hard to follow, but we have musical songs both in his regular life, and in the musical he is trying to make, and the one that this movie is technically about. And we have a lot of people. Like his girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp) and a former roommate (Robin de Jesus) who wanted to be an actor, but sold out to make that cash.

We also get Bradley Whitford as Stephen Sondheim, who was someone who gave Larson a lot of inspiration early in his life, believed in his work. Sondheim also left a voicemail on Larson’s real life voice mail, and he used it in his original show and it is used in this movie as well.

This is a musical of emotions, of youth, of dreams, and with the knowledge that tragedy can happen at any moment, and you should live your life like it is the only life you got.

Also starring Ben Ross, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Joshua Henry, MJ Rodriguez, Richard Kind, and Vanessa Hudgens.

diner
Although the song and lyrics of a musical don’t pop out of his head there, you can still imagine it. 

As it is hard to describe in my plot outline, tick, tick…BOOM! is clearly a very unique and different experience. The musical itself had a few name changes, and met with various amounts of success, and had a revival decades later that was nominated for awards. Larson is such a unique and clever individual, that it makes sense a movie musical about his life needed to do it in a clever and unique way.

Garfield as the lead is absolutely wonderful. So full of energy, positive and negative. You feel his angst, sorry, and happiness the rare time he gets to experience it. His face wears his expressions so wildly, that you forget that he is imitating a real person (and those who know him say it was spot on). Because you know, biopic films, how close they were to the real person matter greatly and it is harder for people to know about this being great if not many people know about Larson.

For the movie itself, it does feel like both a performance and a musical. Sometimes people break out into songs, and it feels like it is a natural sometimes for the characters to do it, and other times, hey, a musical. We get songs, sometimes across timeline scenes. We get music, and I hope you came here for music, because there is a good chunk of it, and a lot of Broadway cameos, namely in one specific song, but also sprinkled throughout.

The angst behind our film can be applied to more than just musical writing, but any sort of creative process that is purely up to the maker and the struggles they have to overcome, even if the talent is clearly there. A lot of people can relate to these struggles, and the feelings that come with it.

I didn’t know this musical was coming out at all until I saw the first trailer release. And I am happy to say, that the trailer doesn’t oversell the film.

4 out of 4.

Encanto

Welcome to Encanto, or what I also call it, the second Disney Animated film this year. Disney has been doing an every other thing in regards to their films. One a musical and one that is not. We are at the musical one which meant I went in pretty excited despite being a bit weary about the overall plot.

But…Lin-Manuel Miranda helped make the plot of the film, and the music behind it. And I can’t not get behind a project he is involved in. Hell, watching Vivo was a surprise for me because I didn’t know he was involved with that.

If you look back at my review of Raya, you would have seen that Disney has been kicking Pixar’s ass the last few years overall. And not surprisingly that was still true. Luca was okay, Encanto was amazing. Pixar can just disband now. Before we get Cars 4.

panic
Don’t tell any kids I said there could be a Cars 4. They might start acting up. 

Years ago, Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero) was on the run with her husband and three kids, with members of her community, in the Columbia mountains. They were being chased out by invaders. And in that time, she lost her husband in order for the rest of her family to be saved. She prayed and wished for help, and her magical home was born, protected in the mountains, to grow a wonderful community that looked out for each other. And her three kids were given magical powers once they hit a certain age, to help protect the community. And their kids as well.

That is, until we got to Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). The door didn’t work. No powers were granted. Something was wrong. But she is upbeat nonetheless. Who needs /powers/ in a family of superpowered individuals in a magical house to have a good time?

But her younger brother is now up for his. The first since she was denied. If his power doesn’t manifest, was it her fault? And if there starts to be visions of her breaking their magical house and tearing their family apart, will it be her fault? And should she just, like, leave, you know?

Also starring the voices of Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Adassa, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Maluma, Mauro Castillo, Alan Tudyk, the singing voice of Olga Merediz, and of course, John Leguizamo.

mirror
You see, the house is a metaphor…for family.

A lot of these recent animated Pixar/Disney movies have had a mostly predictable plot. Frozen would end with her in control of her powers. Moana would return the heart of Te Fiti. And in Luca they would be gay, do crimes. But I found myself constantly guessing at where it would go in this movie and being wrong, and I really enjoyed that. I mean, I knew it would involve the house breaking, or not. Powers being gained, or not. But the how? The why? That was exciting and unique in the movie.

I loved the music in Encanto so much, I wished I could listen to it on my way home from the theater. But alas, at that time it wasn’t available yet. I even waited to write this review until I had a chance to re-listen to the songs. So many of them feel great, with layers and multiple voices, and different harmonies. I was surprised to find that Beatriz also sang all her own parts. She was very limited in In The Heights, so I just assumed she couldn’t sing, but she did great.

Encanto is just a beautiful movie. I think it is interesting that the main character is clearly interested in embroidery, given her clothes and what’s in her drawers, but it was never actually talked about at any point in a significant way. It is just a fact about her character. I especially liked the animation when they did the Bruno, Luisa, and Isabela songs. It was just constant visual explosion on the screen, and it left me in down right awe.

I am happy that Disney made a somewhat simple and small movie about people with gifts. I am glad they didn’t go against what they were preaching the entire film like they did in so many other classic Disney tales. And I am glad that Miranda’s genius keeps growing, and I hate him, and I love him, for it.

4 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.

family
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 Electrical Life of Louis Wain

If you are like me, a humble movie critic, you also have never heard of the name Louis Wain in your life. Are they a fashion designer? That was my first bet. But the movie does use the word electric. So maybe he was an inventor? Maybe he is someone made up because movies are allowed to tell fiction stories if they feel like it. It could be a new super hero, Electricity Man.

It turns out The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is about an artist. Did he use electricity in his art? No, not really. But he did love to draw portraits of cats. And cats doing things. And cats being silly. A cats doing cats stuff.

Alright, sounds like a good enough reason for a movie to me. Deal? Deal.

family
Ah yes, the perfect family.

Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch), is a typical “eccentric artist” who can barely function being a person, but does good art so people like his quirks. He is from a big family, with a lot of sisters, and supposed to be making that money, but finding a job is hard for him. You know. Because he is out there, or whatever.

But he does get a job a local newspaper finally, to do quick sketches, and they like that his stuff is on time, quality and that he doesn’t really make a fuss or gossip. But the paper owner (Toby Jones) wants to put a two page spread in a special insert of cat drawings, and that? Well that really gets popular.

Wain’s name becomes as do his original cat paintings and sketches. But that doesn’t get him out of the poor house, or out of the gossip columns, as someone who married the teacher (Claire Foy) for his sisters, what a scandal. He just wanted to do his art thing and hang out with cats though, so a kindred spirit with a lot of us now. I guess, according to the movie, his artwork helped people like cats more and start keeping them actively as pets and bringing them in the house? I don’t know anything about cat history, so sure, why not.

Also starring Phoebe Nicholls, Andrea Riseborough, Richard Ayoade, and Taika Waititi.

cat-piks
Why send dick pics when you could send cat pics instead?

Louis Wain was a troubled artist in some amount, that much we know. But do we need another troubled artist film? Not really. And definitely not if the focus of the film barely goes into it.

To me, the filmmakers treated Wain’s “quirks” as something amusing or even, quaint, and the fact that any sort of real psychological problems that someone had was ignored or made to seem terrifying. Later in life he was in a mental institution for schizophrenia, and critics could “see it in his artwork” whereas in the last twenty years there have been claims that clearly he was just Autistic and society sucked. And I don’t think this film dealt with that in any meaningful way at all. It did make sure we knew that people gossiped though, and that he had a hard time dealing with people.

Maybe it is just me, but the “quirks” he had seem like the closest thing to an antagonist in this film, because they are what prevented him from being an ultra successful painter that everyone knew, who was rich, versus a famous person who lived in squalor because of society. Case in point, they called this film “The Electrical Life of” to note his love/obsession with electricity, which I assume isn’t made up for a movie. But his life itself didn’t feel electrical at all in the movie that had this title.

Cumberbatch was fine in this movie, Foy was barely in it, and none of the other characters mattered enough to me to warrant speaking about.

I actually think the art itself though is pretty damn cool. And again, not sure if it warrants its own movie given how poorly they treat his life just to tell his story. There isn’t anything I can really take away from this movie except his name as the guy who drew cat pictures in the 1800’s/1900’s that I probably have seen at some point in my life.

1 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?!

panic
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.

mirror
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.