Reviews

Clue

Release date: December 13th, 1985

I know I’m a little late to the party, but this movie was hilarious.

So funny that I’m currently watching it for a second time in the same week.

The DVD features the option to watch the film with one of three alternate endings chosen at random or with all three played back to back.

I thought the story would be better served with just one ending at a time. So I choose the first option.

In hindsight, all three at once would have been the best option. Because really only one is the “real” ending. I don’t like movies with alternate ending. It can be confusing and disrupts the reality of the picture.

All I knew about this film going into it is that it is based on the board game. With only the characters, the weapons, and the rooms to go on I knew very little of what to expect of the storyline.

But I did also know it was funny. When I purchased this movie on a whim at the grocery store last week the cashier upon checking me out got so excited and exclaimed she loved this movie. She even made reference to a funny part in the movie, not that I knew what she was talking about at the time. Anyways her excitement reaffirmed my choice to purchase this movie.

All of these characters are hilarious, but my favorites are Mrs Peacock (she shouts everything), Colonel Mustard (dry and cynical, my favorite combination) and of course Wadsworth, played brilliantly by Tim Curry.

He was the real star. Watching him dart back and forth around the mansion was so funny. Every time I thought he was dead I was heartbroken for a split second. Only to be laughing again the next.

The writing in this film is brilliant. It is clever and almost makes fun of itself at times, but not in a pretentious way.

While the dialogue was great already, it was enhanced by the music, physical comedy, and perfect overacting to make Clue the ridiculous murder mystery that it is.

I will say that the amount of murders got to be a little ridiculous, but I think that’s the point.

Well to make a long story short. (Too late.) This will now be one of my go to funny movies when I’m in a dark mood. It in the same category with The Burbs, Fargo to me.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite lines:

“Your first husband also disappeared… Well that was his job, he was an illusionist… But he never reappeared…. He wasn’t a very good illusionist.”

“Two corpses. Everything’s fine.”

“How would you know? You weren’t in that men’s room!”

“How can you make jokes at a time like this? …it’s my defense mechanism.”

“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Every cook will tell you that….well look what happened to the cook!”

“6 murders altogether…Things are getting serious.”

“Well a lot of our airmen died because their radios didn’t work.”

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Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Release Date: January 26,2018

Maze Runner: The Death Cure. What can I say? This movie was WCKD.

…I’m so sorry.

First, let me add a disclaimer. This is the third film in the Maze Runner trilogy so for the sake of spoilers and this review making any sense, maybe only read on if you’ve seen the first two films.

I actually really enjoyed Dylan O’Brien…. I-I mean watching this movie.

Let’s be real…he’s a hottie…I mean I audibly said “He soooo cute” on more than one occasion while watching him this film in the theater.

Anyways, the third installment of the Maze Runner trilogy picks up a few months after Teresa stabs her “friends” in the back. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien ❤ ) and the rest of the Gladers are teamed up with the Right Arm. The driving force in this film is getting Minho and the other kids, but mostly Minho, back from WCKD’s headquarters in the Last City.

As far as movies-based-on-young-adult-dystopian-fiction go this one was pretty good. Of course there were more than a few incredulous moments and decent amount of predictability, but overall this was an enjoyable film that still made sense without prior knowledge from the book. (Personal Disclaimer: People that like to compare books and movies drive me crazy, they are two different things!!) I will admit, though, there were a few times where I could have used some more explanation.

Like:

  • What exactly is the Flare virus and it’s side effects?
  • Why was Thomas employed at WCKD? He’s like 12. (Not really, he’s 26. My crush on him is perfectly normal.)
  • What horrible parents turned all their kids over to a lab?

These questions could have been because I haven’t watched the prequels recently. It also could have been that there needed to be more explanation in the film….or at least a summary before. “Previously on Maze Runner…” Anyone?

Even though it had been a while since watching the previous films I still found myself invested in this story and the characters. Granted at first I couldn’t remember their names, but I felt the film did have a great way of evoking the proper emotion from the audience. You still knew who to care for and who not too. Looking at you, Teresa. You knew who to cry for. *SPOILER ALERT* Looking at you Newt 😦

Back to the incredulous moments. There were a few, but there was one where I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.

About halfway through the film *SPOILER ALERT* Thomas, Newt, and Minho find themselves trapped in a room on the twenty-somethingth floor of WCKD’s headquarters. The only way out is through the glass window. Right before the bad guys get in they break the window and jump….and land in a pool, probably no more than 4 feet deep. I mean…I’m no physics expert, but I don’t think you would swim away from that scot-free.

This was an action heavy movie and the stunts/effects were very well done even if they were a little ridiculous. The film’s cast is made up of a lot of children, which almost make you feel uncomfortable watching such a violent film, but that’s probably on purpose.

The filmmakers want you to feel uncomfortable. After all the movie is about people who sacrifice children to try to find a cure to the Flare virus that is destroying their world.

What I like about this story is that our protagonist, Thomas, along with the Gladers and the Right Arm are more so the pacifists. Yes, they fight to get their friends back, but their mission is never *SPOILER ALERT* to take down WCKD. Gally (who isn’t dead anymore?) and the group he is with do that job in the end.

Most of this movie is pretty predictable…like you can see what’s coming from a mile ahead. That is until the end. I appreciated that this story wrapped up in a place I didn’t expect. I think The Death Cure serves as a satisfying conclusion to the Maze Runner franchise.

Overall, I enjoyed this film! The visuals were great, the acting was mostly good, and it was entertaining.

With the added benefit of Dylan O’Brien. #swoon

 

 

 

 

 

Lady Bird

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Release Date: November 3, 2017

Lady Bird reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite. But only if Napoleon Dynamite was set in Sacramento and focused more of the future of its titular character.

I have been meaning to see this film for a few months, but the showings have been geographically inconvenient and at weird times. Since the Oscar nominations came out last Tuesday the nominated films are back in theaters and more widely so. Anyways, that’s more than you needed to know…to sum up I finally watched Lady Bird.

This is my favorite genre of movie. “Boring dramas” as I call them. Movies where there isn’t a defined bad guy, the story isn’t driven by action or adventure, but more-so by character development and driving the story logically ahead. I enjoy these movies…the ones that develop such a relatable reality you can get lost in them.

Back to Lady Bird. This picture is set in 2002 and is a coming of age story about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn, The Lovely Bones). She is a senior in a Catholic high school in Sacramento dealing with her lower-middle class family issues, relationships, and what the next step in her life looks like. The story covers this tumultuous time in her life during which she re-names herself Lady Bird.

Over the course of her senior year she struggles with *SPOILER ALERT* her first boyfriend (he’s gay) and her next “boyfriend” (he’s a douche), choosing between her childhood best friend and want to be part of the cool crowd, and her family relationships especially with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf.

From the start we see their particular mother/daughter dynamic. One moment they are crying to The Grapes of Wrath on audio book and in a split second they are arguing about Lady Bird’s future. The two women are clearly a lot alike. They are both stubborn, passionate, and have strong view’s about Lady Bird’s/Christine’s future. Lady Bird wants to go to college on the east coast and her mother tells her quite bluntly that she shouldn’t leave Sacramento. At the end of the film *SPOILER ALERT* Lady Bird gets into a college in New York and her mother and father drop her off at the airport. Her father gets out with her to walk her to security, but her mother opts to stay in the car “so they don’t have to pay for parking”, but mostly because she disagrees at Lady Bird’s choice. Although, a sad moment for their relationship it is realistic.

The cinematography, style, costume design, and editing are all used to make this film as believable as possible. The director, Greta Gerwig, presents a film that feels almost gritty and unfiltered… just like real life. No ones hair and makeup are perfect, the music fits the time period, and the story is full of the little moments all of us experience, both bad and good, that make up our lives.

What was most special to me about this film is its message about mental health. None of the characters in the film are particularly happy. Some have temporary moments of happiness, but they are all dealing with something. Towards the middle of the film, *SPOILER ALERT* Lady Bird finds out from her mother (and that bottle of pills in the medicine cabinet) that her father has been struggling with depression for a lot of his life. This disillusions what she thought of her father, but it also presents the idea to the audience that depression is common and not necessarily a death sentence.

There is another point in the film where Lady Bird *SPOILER ALERT* makes up with her best friend, Julie. It’s the night of their senior prom and Lady Bird goes to Julie’s house and finds her crying on the couch. She asks her what’s wrong and Julie says:

 “Some people aren’t built happy.” A few moments later they are laughing and eating cheese & crackers. Not only was I affected by this line, but I think it was pretty pivotal to the film.

In the end, Lady Bird *SPOILER ALERT*, now living on her own in New York, is able to see her mother in a clearer light. She understands her mother loves her and wants the best for her in her own way. When she calls her to thank her she does so, but once again as Christine.

As I started saying, this movie reminded me a lot of Napoleon Dynamite. It was definitely not as eccentric, but still a slow burn. It’s also didn’t have the typical clean, refined style I expect out of a Oscar nominee. While Lady Bird never muttered “freaking idiot” or anything about a Liger, this film is also about nothing… except a person and their life and relationships.

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Oscar Buzz: It’s nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), and Best Original Screenplay. Saoirse was really great in this film and so was Laurie but I don’t know if it’s enough to beat the other ladies in her category… looking at you Frances McDormand and Allison Janey. I am hopeful in the screenplay department.

I, Tonya

Release date: December 8, 2017

I shall dub this a mixed media film. This picture used “interviews”, voiceover, along with being a dramatic biopic.

I, Tonya is a retelling of Tonya Harding’s (played by Margot Robbie) life. It starts when she is 4 and starts training in figure skating. The movie paints a very colorful picture of Tonya and her life as it shows her various abusive relationships and the events leading up to and immediately following the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

I knew very little of the whole Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident going into the film… which is probably helpful in my perception of the film. Anyways, I kinda actually thought Tonya hit Nancy herself with a wrench…turns out that’s not quite right. But back to that point later.

As a film, this was very good. The acting was phenomenal. Margot did an excellent job of not only of hiding her Australian accent, but of portraying someone so “colorful” all while managing to figure skating to some degree (CGI anyone?)  Tonya’s abusive and sometimes loving, but mostly insane husband was played by Sebastian Stan who I just realized plays Bucky in Captain America (What!? #mindblown). He’s a very transformative actor. Lastly, LaVona Golden, Tonya’s vulgar, angry, and eccentric mother was played by Allison Janney. She did suuuuuuch a great job.

All of these characters had such a great depth to them. At different points in the movie you empathized with each one of them. But at the end of the day, the movie is called I, Tonya for a reason.

The director, Craig Gillespie, did a great job of making her life seem tragic and making you feel sorry for her. We witness *SPOILER ALERT* her mother literally throw a knife at her, her husband beat her up so many times, and the countless competitions where she is unfairly judged. She never graduated from high school, so in the end, when she is forced to resign from figure skating forever, we feel the weight of her losing the only thing she ever knew how to do.

There is a point at the end of the movie where during one of her “interviews” she takes aim at the audience. She’s talking about the abuse she experienced, but then talks of the continued abuse in connection to what happened with her and Nancy Kerrigan, “but this time by you.” How we, the world, can’t stop talking about her part in it. And ultimately, how it ruined her life.

It is interesting how this movie depicted a Tonya where nothing is ever her fault. *SPOILER ALERT* She didn’t win because the judges think she’s a redneck, she didn’t know anything about the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, and her laces broke…none of it her fault.

I loved the style of this picture. It uses interview style shots with various characters talking directly to the camera. “Found footage” type scenes as if we are watching news interviews that have been recorded on a VHS. Mostly, the film is the style of a biopic. It’s during these parts where the characters on a few occasions break the 4th wall. Typically, I HATE that, but it works in this movie, due to its mockumentary nature.

The problem I have with this movie is its directness to the audience that what we are seeing is the truth.

I left the theater stuck on the question of how they know that is exactly what happened. If I look at the film as just a movie and story it was great, but if I’m supposed to believe Margot Robbie’s Tonya Harding and her statement at the end, “It’s the truth,” then I’m conflicted.

As with most “based on a true story” type movie’s they have short summaries about each character at the end of the movie. This was also accompanied by real life clips of the people portrayed as well as the infamous triple axle at the 1991 US Figure Skating Championships. These clips are extremely accurate compared to the casting and style of this film. Was this done to provide the audience with a sense of validity to what we just watched?

I don’t know.

 

Oscar Buzz: I hope for some acting nominations! Allison Janney, please! I can see an adapted screenplay nom, but that confuses me. Maybe costume design??

 

Pitch Perfect 3

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Release Date: December 21, 2017

One word: Aca-ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong…I love Pitch Perfect. I want to camp out in their aca-beautiful fantasy world where young college students professional adults can miss work/quit their jobs and take off on a USO tour they pretty much invited themselves on.

Pitch Perfect 3 picks up a few year after the original Bellas have graduated college. They are in the “disillusionment phase”…at least that’s what I call it. You know when you graduate college and you start to realize you can’t actually do whatever you set your mind too and sometimes what you always wanted to be doesn’t pan out. Too cynical…my bad.

Anyways, they are somehow all living in the New York City area even though they all went to school in rural Indiana or wherever Barden University is supposed to be. We see they are all not-quite enjoying their adult lives/jobs or lack there off. Naturally, after mistaking a current Bella’s performance as a reunion, they decide they are all in a perfect spot in life to take a few months off and join the USO tour overseas.

This movie is a lot like it’s predecessors. It was funny in that kinda trashy way, the plot was a little far-fetched and we got to watch them sing acapella. But I found it to be lacking too.

The plot line was pretty flat and rather fast paced. The other two movies thrived on the competition nature of acapella singing in college, but this one had to create something from nothing. The film also lacked singing oddly enough. All we got was *SPOILER ALERT* the new Barden Bellas performance in an aquarium, a weird sort-of riff off, one long montage to sum up the middle of the movie, and a solo-ish performance at the end. But where were the mash-ups?!?! I love when they layer different songs together…you know the “Bella sound”, but this movie really had none of that.

Some other questions I had while watching: When do they practice? Did they order those cute costumes before they left or did the Army provide them? Where are the Treblemakers? How do they have money?

Back to it being ridiculous. Fat Amy has a *SPOILER ALERT* father? All the sudden she gets this back story that her father is an evil drug lord? Still not clear on what evil her dad, played by John Lithgow with an Australian accent, was into, but he did want all her money and kidnapped the Bellas who in turn blew up his yahct…what did I just say? See…ridiculous.

Of course by the end they all seem to have magically gotten their shit together. Somehow taking a month off from reality gave them great clarity about what they really wanted in life and even helped some of them accomplish career goals. Especially Beca 😉 with some assistance from the ever weirdo, DJ Khaled. Did he produce this movie?

I still laughed and enjoyed it! And I’d see Pitch Perfect 4 if they made it…which I doubt they will. They tied things up pretty well in this one.

But at the end of the day nobody burns down a hotel room and knocks over an apiary full of bees quite like the Bellas.

Patriots Day

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Release date: January 13, 2016

This movie falls into a weird genre I like to call “Disaster Porn”. In that genre are many categories. Examples include: Natural Disaster, Sci-fi World Event, Large Scale Super Villain, Event Specific War Movie and this one Based on a True Story.

I enjoy this genre for reasons that will probably label me an oblivious millennial, but oh well. I find that I’ve heard about incidents, especially the recent ones, but I don’t really know any of the details. The movie helps to make me aware of the gravity of these real life events and makes me more aware. They naturally have a sense of drama knowing they actually happened, but when the movie version is well acted and well made it adds to the impact that story leaves on me.

Patriots Day follows the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, from the day before to the capture of the second bomber from the boat in a Watertown backyard.

Patriots Day had a good balance of focusing on the people (the victims and the first responders), on the actions, and on the facts and chronology.  They did a great job of blending those three together. The character development created a depth that movies like this sometimes lack. From the start we are introduced to a variety of characters that we don’t know the significance of exactly. As the events play out on-screen those characters enter the story line. The film makers made a smart choice to introduce them all at the beginning of the picture because when we do meet them, we care about them.

*SPOILER ALERT* For example we meet a young MIT cop in the beginning. We see him flirt with a girl, hanging out with his buddies and we care about him. We know his name. Then later, when the bombers are attempting to leave Boston for New York they see this cop sitting in his car on campus and try to steal his gun. He puts up a fights and ends up getting shot and dying. Sad. *END SPOILER ALERT* If the filmmakers had just told this story chronologically, just for the facts, the audience wouldn’t have reacted the way they did.

I do think this picture has some timely significance as well. It is a very pro-cop movie. Not in a way as to put down any other part of society, but to show the risk and impact of a job like that. It also shows the sense of community in Boston and how that bond can make all the difference. Possibly even more timely was its statement about Muslims.

This is just what I inferred from the movie, I’m not trying to state any opinions. If you’ve heard about this tragedy at all you know the bombers were Muslim, but what the writers really emphasized was that Tamerlan Tsarnev’s wife was a privileged white girl who grew up in America and converted to Islam after meeting her husband. Then they both radicalized. Perhaps to say it’s not just the people who come into this country, but anybody.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It has entertainment value and it was well made, nothing critically astounding, but compelling to watch. Good acting throughout, especially to Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff who play Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, respectively. Those types of roles can be career defining, and I’m not sure in a good way. I hope for them that their talent shines through. Some of the smaller roles were played by some pretty big names (i.e. Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, JK Simmons)……they kinda felt like fancy cameos.

Oh and Mark Wahlberg is at his Mark Wahlberg-iest.

 

Silence

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Release date: January 13, 2017

I should learn to expect Martin Scorsese films to be long, but boy was this long.

It clocked in a 2 hours and 41 minutes, which isn’t quite an extended cut of Lord of the Rings, but man it felt like an eternity.

The problem, I find, with Scorsese is he likes a good drawn out plot line with multiple arcs. I’ve seen 5 of his films. Of those I found 1 to be of a reasonable length. The others all dragged on and on with Silence being one of those. (I’m not counting Taxi Driver in that group because I only saw part of it. I liked what I saw probably because it was the last hour and in my head I feel like I saw most of the movie, but probably not.)

This film is set in the 1600’s and is about two Catholic priests, Rodrigues and Garupe (played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver respectively), who go to Japan to look for their former mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) and evangelize to the Japanese people. At that point in history Japan was a very dangerous place for Christians, but they go anyways.

The film focuses mainly on Rodrigue’s faith, him holding onto it and *SPOILER ALERT* eventually trampling on it in the end. It’s not an action heavy movie at all, which makes it feel longer. Focusing on character development is fine in a movie and very important, but it needs to not feel repetitive. A lot of the action happens in conversations between Rodrigues and different members of the Japanese government in their attempts to break him down. Garfield’s acting is phenomenal and you really get a sense of the torment he must be feeling internally. Christians are being tormented and killed around him because of their faith and in a way because of the Jesuit priests involvement in Japan.

This movie also suffers due to the language barrier. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they used Asian actors who spoke historically accurate broken english and Japanese, but it made the storyline hard to comprehend. Case in point, the couple in the theater behind me whispering to each other about what was going on for the whole film. “‘Scuse me Mr. Scorsese, how bought some more captions?”

What was most frustrating to me though is investing 2.5 hours of my life in this movie and exactly what I don’t want to happen does. This is common problem for me and other Scorsese movies (i.e. The Departed, Gangs of New York). *SPOILER ALERT* During most of the movie we watch as Japan tries to break Rodrigues and make him step on his faith, which he refuses. He is strong in prayer even though he feels that God is being silent to him he hold strong in his faith. Yet, in the final act of the movie he does trample on the image of Christ to end the suffering of those around him, ironically egged on by his former mentor Ferreira, and he lives the rest of his life under the watchful eye of the Japanese government and appears to have renounced his faith entirely. Not so feel good.

But the title Silence is fitting. Silence describes his relationship with God, his relationship with Japan and how he lives the remainder of his life after his apostasy.

The most annoying character in this movie is the Inquisitor. There are a few moments where it seemed like the filmmakers were going for a laugh, but it just didn’t feel right to do so. Runner up for most annoying is Kichijiro. I think he is meant to be the opposite of Rodrigues. *SPOILER ALERT* Threats on his life don’t force Rodrigues to apostate, but Kichijiro is very self-preserving. Yet in the end, Kichijiro remains faithful… flawed, but faithful.

Overall, the cinematography is beautiful (that shot on the steps in the beginning was cool, but maybe a little too Battleship Potemkin for my taste). The acting is great, especially Andrew Garfield and all the crying. Just cut out an hour and it wouldn’t be so bad.

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Oscar buzz:

Gosh, I don’t know here. I predict a couple nominations, but I don’t anticipate any wins. It will probably pick up a nom for Best Picture. I think Andrew Garfield could see a nod for Best Actor and I’m sure Scorsese will get a nod for Best Directing mostly because it’s Martin.