Tag: Drama

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.

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.

friend
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.

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.

director
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.

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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.

Zola

Do you want to hear the story about how Zola fell out with this white bitch?

Well, good news, you have multiple options now. The first, is the twitter thread from October, 2015. A whole lot of tweets tells the entire story. 148 of them in fact. All in a row, it went viral, I believe they were deleted, but this is the internet and nothing can leave the internet. Here, go for it. This is a compilation on Imgur, you can read the entire screenplay here.

Just kidding, but also not really. As told here is basically the story we get in the movie, the second way to hear the story about Zola and that bitch fell out. A story of sex work, coercion, and a wild ride to Florida between strangers who became besties and anti-besties in a short amount of time.

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Is this the beginning of a new franchise stripper battles?

Depending on who you heard the story from first might cloud your judgement, but lets take it from Zola (Taylour Paige) since she started this whole story off. Zola was a dancer and a waitress at Hooters. She also had a boyfriend (Ari’el Stachel) and was generally okay with life. She knew she looked good, so she made money using her body while she good, just stripping, none of that sex stuff.

Well, while at her waitressing job, she meets Stefani (Riley Keough) and her friend (Colman Domingo). Zola hits it off with Stefani, they do a lot of talking given how they want the waitresses to act at Hooters, and they find out they are both dancers and more and exchange numbers. And then like the next day, Stefani asks if Zola is down to a road trip to Florida to do some dancing. Zola has made good money in Florida dancing in the past, and well, fuck it. Sure let’s go.

Unfortunately, Florida doesn’t feel like a land of sunshine and rainbows on their visit. Zola finds herself in situations where she is expected to sleep with people instead, and with her life and home being threatened by this friend (well, pimp). This is not what she signed up for, and she really doesn’t know who to trust, but Zola is gonna make sure she gets out of this as untouched as possible.

Also starring Nicholas Braun, Nasir Rashim, and Jason Mitchell.

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If there was ever a “bitch you crazy” screenshot, here it is.

Have you read the original tweet thread? Why not, it is worth it, it is interesting, and it is full of emotion. I certainly would recommend it and it is pretty obvious why it took off like it did. And did you know, that the other girl in the story, also posted her own account of this same trip? Here it is on Reddit. They are very, very, very, very different stories. Freakishly differently. Almost nothing is similar, so who is lying?!

I guess we will believe Zola, this is her story, and I think some comment sleuthing on that reddit thread is able to find some arrest records in relation to that story, so it makes Zola the more believable person here. Which is good, because her story is more fantastic.

Like I said earlier, the movie itself is very similar to the tweet thread. We have a few less characters in the film, some names are changed, and not all of the events are used, but most of them to tell the same story. And technically, yes, I would say the tweet thread is better. I know, I have fallen into one of those traps that I try to avoid as a reviewer, not comparing something to the “book” it is based on. The story of Zola is fine as a movie, but based on the hype of the thread and the advertising, I did expect a lot more to happen in that weekend.

The leads do a wonderful job with their characters and the predicament they find themselves in, I will give that to Paige and Keough. The cinematography makes some interesting choices throughout it, which is a surprise given the type of story this tells. And, fun fact, you can see a whole lot of penises in this movie. I think at least five unique dicks, and some butts. This is good news for those who are clamoring more for more dicks in movies.

Zola as a film will serve as a good story to get people invested in what is now a six year old twitter thread with very little updates to worry about. It is a little bit of escapism and a strange funny yet dark tale. It is certainly not a film meant for everyone, however, so clearly watch at your own risk.

2 out of 4.

Cruella

I often talk about bias and my attempts to avoid it completely, by avoiding the source material, or you know, letting you know if I have a bias. Like my hatred towards Luc Besson.

With Cruella, ever since it was announced it met me with confusion. But why? Why would anyone want to make a story about the origins of Cruella? The dog killer? I understand they did this same bullshit with Maleficent, someone in the original cartoon who was said to be the biggest evil thing ever, but in Sleeping Beauty, she didn’t do that many bad things. She never attempted to kill puppies. (And, author’s opinion of course, Maleficent was a bad movie, and the sequel was worse, so not worth going down that path too many times).

But in 101 Dalmatians, we can see why she is the bad guy. She wanted to kill dalmatians to make fashion. How the fuck are you gonna redeem that? The only way that could be redeemed would be if you decide to just ignore it…or just say it was a misunderstand and a lie. Neither feel like really strong arguments to run with because there wasn’t really any grey area in 101 Dalmatians for us to see a misunderstanding.

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Based on this hair in the photo, we could have had 101 Cliffords.

Just as a heads up, this shouldn’t be considered a spoiler, as it happens very early on, but this next paragraph has someone people might want to see happen and not know why.

Because this is an origin story, we are going to start with  Cruella’s birth, except her name is Estella and she has that black/white hair out of the womb for some reason. Growing up, she was interested in fashion, and getting revenge on bullies. She got into trouble, all of that. Her mom (Emily Beecham) tried to help her out and encourage her dreams, but they were poor. Then one day, at a fancy party which they weren’t invited too, Estella snuck in to find her mom and the host. Some dalmations were chasing her, and sure enough, they actually ended up pushing her mom off a cliff and she died. Oh boy. See. There you have it. There is an angle. Instead of becoming Dalmatian Lady, she set off to kill them all right? Wrong.

Now Estella is an orphan, but she meets two other orphan pick pockets and they end up living together to run the streets. Now years later, Estella (Emma Stone), Jasper (Joel Fry), and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), do a lot of criming. They steal, they plan crime, they dress up in outfits, and they get by. What fun, what fun. But Estella wants something more. Jasper sees that, and lies on a resume for her to get her an in job at a fashion store!

And well, a lot more happens. But Estella is going to have a rise to power eventually, change her name, and have reasons to take down the head fashionista (Emma Thompson) in London, with a few balls, robberies, and shenanigans along the way.

Also starring Mark Strong, Kayvan Novak, and John McCrea.

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“There’s no way that could be the same woman with the red hair. There is different hair!”

I really wanted to get it out of my head, but the nagging feeling remained throughout. This lady wants to kill dogs eventually. They didn’t try to paint Cruella as the nicest woman around. She obviously still is a criminal, who steals, vandalizes, and is some punkrock incarnation of fashion in London in the 1970’s. Will they get to the dalmatian part at all? Because Maleficent did deal with Aurora growing up and the curse. The answer is no. This film ends before 101 Dalmatians begins, but it introduces us to those characters, which will at least mean in the future, when they inevitably make a sequel, maybe that one will be the film that will explain why Cruella isn’t all that bad and is misunderstood.

But for this film, it doesn’t get there. There is a reference to killing dogs for their fur, but it doesn’t happen in this movie, and again, it all takes place before the one we know about her. This is a bit of a cop out. I would assume most people are going into this movie to see how they can see how trying to kill puppies is redeemable, but we never get that far into the story, and we just get some strange fashion based Oliver Twist story of revenge.

This tale has twists, music, shenanigans, and more, but I continually wanted it to get to the point, and frankly, I feel like it never reached it. Now, it is not like the movie makers said they would explain why Cruella wants to kill puppies for fashion, just her background, so we got a background, and now I have nothing to do with this information. Again, there will likely be a sequel, and the sequel will be the story I am most curious about given the reference information we were all given over the last 50 years of living in a world with 101 Dalmatians.

The film itself is pretty standard. The look and feel is exactly what I would expect based on recent Disney productions. I put this film down as a drama, but I guess it is labeled as a comedy. Honestly, it is all over the place in terms of tone and plot. It was hard figuring out exactly what I was meant to write about in that section. Cruella I am sure will have an audience somewhere, and although not inherently bad, it is still very messy.

And you know. How they gonna try and redeem a would-be puppy killer?

2 out of 4.

Percy vs. Goliath

Percy vs. Goliath came out some time ago, and it is only called this title in America. In Canada, where the film takes place, and other parts of the world, it is just called Percy.

I don’t pretend to know anything about market research, but I guess that vs. Goliath tagline is to appeal to those fundamental Christians to get them to watch this movie. They might think Percy, in America, is like Percy Jackson, and those people are heretics!

Yep, that is the only reason I can come up with for why there needs to be a different movie title. 

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Walken Hard: The Christopher Walken Cowboy Story. 

Percy Schmeiser (Christopher Walken) surely does sound like a made up name, but this one is a true story. Set in Canada! So you know it is true in spirit and true in heart.

Ahem. Percy is a farmer. He is really old. He has been farming for a long time, with his wife (Roberta Maxwell), and he thinks he does a good job. He has used his own seeds the whole time, never going into that corporate stuff that claim to have better growing seeds for a price. And he does what every farmer does. He saves his strongest and best crops to harvest those seeds so that he can plant them the next year, so his crops can be as strong as possible.

However, things aren’t as they seem. A company who makes GMO seeds claims he has been using their seeds illegally for years for profit, without paying them ever, so they are bringing the lawsuits. And they have proof. Proof on the DNA level, where their patents on their modified strains show up in his crops.

Percy has never bought from them, and the likely story is that they were planted in his farm thanks to the wind from neighbor farms in the past. But is that enough for them to claim royalties, when he is using a product through no fault of his own? Looks like he is going to have to take this battle to court, even though the corporations have money and technically the law on their side. And now Percy is like a folk hero for all of these individual farmers, trying to stand up to the corporate man. That’s a lot of pressure.

Also starring Adam Beach, Christina Ricci, Luke Kirby, Martin Donovan, and Zach Braff.

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Braff, if you lose this case, you will feel really, really, really, sorry

Walken hasn’t had a good acting job since he was in the music video for Weapon of Choice, by Fatboy Slim. That is a fact. He is in movies I like over the last two decades, but he is often one of the worst parts. Like Hairspray, I like it, but by far Walken drags it down. He drags them all down, and some of these films he seems to be playing just a strange parody of himself with his word choice. I blame the cowbells skit. 

And for this movie? Well, it is more of the same. I can’t possibly say it is well acted, because Walken seems lost the whole film. He is playing a man over his head, sure, but it doesn’t help if he is seemingly acting like his normal self the whole time as well. That isn’t acting. That is just reading lines. 

This film is weak on a lot of fronts. The acting is a big one. The plot is another. The courtroom drama is pretty tame, and only a small portion of it. I came for kick ass legal case courtroom proceedings, like I would for most films that deal with trials, and it just treated it like it was no big deal, despite being a very big deal. Maybe it had the chill Canadian energy going on throughout it. None of the fun theatrics. 

Percy wins, by the way, as you would expect based on the title and it is history. He wins, at a cost, but he wins. And corporations learned their lesson and never messed with the poor little farmers again. Right? Well…

1 out of 4.

Things Heard & Seen

When I see things and when I hear things, I tend to believe them. They are some strong senses. I use those two more than the rest of the basic five senses. Smell, Touch, Taste? Not stuff that matters for the most part when it comes to believing.

Sure, we do have a lot more senses, like a sense of time, or sense of balance. But we are lead to believe if we can see and hear something, we should trust it and believe it.

So for Things Heard & Seen, I imagine, there are going to be unbelievable things that get heard and seen, and the characters in it will have to believe it, even if they too find it unbelievable.

Fuck yeah, I really broke down that title there.

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Fuck yeah, the sun really did get partially in both of their eyes.

It is 1979 and Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and her husband, George (James Norton), are finally ready to move on to the next stage of their life. Is it children? Nope. They already have a daughter (Ana Sophia Heger), and she is a regular kid. No. George got a job!

More importantly, he finished his PhD in Art History (Woo), really exciting stuff, but it took him awhile. So now they can leave New York City and go to small town New York for him to be an exciting professor of Art History.

And of course, their house has history, but George didn’t want to tell Catherine about it. Catherine gets superstitious, about ghosts, gods, and the dead. He doesn’t need that. Turns out the whole community is mostly religious. Well, it is the 1970’s, so nonbelievers are less out open.

But sure enough, George kind of sucks. Immediately flirts with some students, spends a lot of time away from Catherine. Catherine’s only reprieve is some neighbor kids who help watch their daughter and are helping fix up aspects of the house.

As time continues on, George gets work, more secrets come out for Catherine, and you know, dark stuff.

Also starring Alex Neustaedter, F. Murray Abraham, Jack Gore, Natalia Dyer, and Rhea Seehorn.

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Candles mean Séance which means WHAT IS BEHIND THAT GUY?

Things Heard & Seen definitely kept my attention…in the beginning of the film. I was really excited to get to know these characters, honestly. The husband turning out to be a sleazeball wasn’t surprising and happened really early on. I expected that.

And then large swaths of time after that were just showing that he is actually worse than we thought and a sleazeball in many other elements too, not just relationship wise. A liar, and a cheat, and an adulterer he is I tell you.

This movie ended up providing zero excitement the more things were being revealed. The sort of thing that classifies as twists happened, but they made the film actually seem duller the further it went along. And this is just the mans story! Our main character’s story barely moves at all, outside of an increase in her own paranoia.

The ending itself would be considered a huge let down if I didn’t already lose most interest before that point. (It can’t be a huge let down if it isn’t a big drop, so just a regular let down). It takes more that nice cameras to make a nice movie. Things Heard & Seen should remain unheard and unseen. Clever joke, I know.

1 out of 4.

Beast Beast

One beast is hard enough to deal with, but two beasts?

For the movie Beast Beast, you will be happy to know that it doesn’t actually have anything to do with a literal beast creature, let alone two of them. It is taken from a brief chant in the movie, that has some context, but has nothing to do with scary, gnawing, creatures on all fours.

Well, the story does involve some scary mammals overall, but they are the ones that stand on two legs and can speak Human languages.

Maybe the beast beast was the friends we made along the way?

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No, the beast beast are the people who put their feet on chairs. >:o 

Beast Beast is a story of three individuals, in high school, and recently graduated. Krista (Shirley Chen) is a drama student, who has a flair for the…well, dramatics. She puts her whole heart into their improv activities and cares about acting. She is fine with the rest of the school, but she knows she wants to act in her life.

There is Nito (Jose Angeles), a new senior to the school, who isn’t great at the school thing. He is good at skateboarding, and making videos of himself skateboarding to put on YouTube. His first set of friends also encourage him to skip school and hang out and party, so that is what his life is now like.

And we also have Adam (Will Madden), who has graduated last year, but is going to just live at home with his parents. He is not looking for a job, or college, but he is also getting into YouTube, namely, a channel that is about proper gun use and safety over a large variety of weapons (that his dad has owned and encouraged him to learn about). No zany effects, just the facts.

Beast Beast is all about them navigating a year, trying to live their best life, until these lives all start to intersect, and somehow, bad things happen as a result.

Also starring Courtney Dietz, Daniel Rashid, Anissa Matlock, and Stephen Ruffin.

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How does one act? What does one do with one’s hands?

Beast Beast is certainly one of those lower budget, indie movies that you hear about rarely, and then forget about if you never saw it. But these are the ones that can end up being pretty powerful.

I don’t think this will end up being a spoiler, but yes, this movie will deal with some gun violence. It will deal with the castle doctrine/stand your ground. It will deal with some racism and a current culture obsessed with fame on YouTube.

I think it goes over some of these really well. The ending is strong, the whole last act. There are two bigger moment scenes that make sense based on the events before it, and by the end, feels like a justified ending for those who are in that situation.

It does take a long time to get going. I will give it that. And from the three characters, it is unfortunate to say, but Nito’s was the least appealing for me to see what it was going. It was hardest for me to connect with him personally, and his scenes that lead up to the confrontations were the ones I had to wait to get through.

Overall, the movie is still quite powerful in its own way, and a great effort from Danny Madden, who has mostly done short films before and sound editing.

3 out of 4.