Tag Archives: reviews

MP#12-13: Family Style

First, I want to talk about Movie Pass. There’s been a lot of complaining about the lack of movies, the restricted times, the new three per month rule, etc. And I get that. It’s frustrating to get used to seeing a movie a day ~ any movie ~ for ten bucks a month, and now you can’t. Wah! But seriously. You didn’t really believe this was a sustainable business model, did you? Since May, I’ve seen 13 movies for $20, and that’s fab. (My first month was a freebie.)

Even if I saw three matinees a month at the lowest price around here, which is $6, that would still cost more than Movie Pass at $10. Please forgive me for not jumping on the bashwagon, okay? I hope MP lives on; I won’t be shocked if it goes under though. It’s still bleeding a lot of cash.

I’m lucky because I live about a mile and a half from an E-ticket theater. MP prefers those and gives a wider selection of movies at the full range of showings. I saw Mission Impossible when other MP holders were having problems. Last weekend I saw Christopher Robin and this weekend I saw Dog Days. Apparently everyone else is being forced to see Slender Man or The Meg. 😛

Okay then, a bit of spoilery reviews. Click away now if you don’t want to read them.

1. Christopher Robin. Good family movie with some adult themes of death, war, etc. I was surprised at the uneven pacing, but yet I enjoyed it. Excellent cast and acting. My main criticism is that I wanted the magic to make more “sense” ~ I don’t know how I feel about Pooh & Co. being randomly alive for humans other than CR and outside of the wood. Something about it bothers me.

2. Dog Days. Cute, super predictable flick. Romantic and heart-tuggy. Lots of cute doggies and cute children. Hilarious dog therapist who was the best part of the movie imo. Liked the trailer for Alpha, another dog movie, shown before this.

I’m ready for some adult films now: The Wife, A Simple Favor, The Old Man and the Gun, etc.

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MP#10-11: Still Not Dead

I wish people would quit burying MoviePass while it’s still breathing, ffs. I just read yet another article about how well yeah of course MP was destined to fail yada because it only appeals to people in cities or whatever.

Sunday I saw The King in Long Beach at an independent theater I’ve never been to before. It was a bazillion degrees out, but the theater was cool and comfy. My friend and I both enjoyed the film. It was a pretty sobering look at the US, not a typical docu. Afterward, we had nommy Mexican food across the street at Lola’s.

Yesterday, while everyone was tweeting how they couldn’t see Mission Impossible: Fallout all weekend, I checked my local theater, Triangle Square, saw it was available, and snagged a great seat for myself at the 7pm showing. Normally I don’t go to movies on work nights, but I can make an exception for Tom Cruise. Fun flick! Plot more incomprehensible than a Bond film! But fun! Much chase, very shooting.

This was my first MP, believe it or not. I’m a Cruise fan, but I prefer him in other stuff. I’ve liked him since Risky Business, which I ducked out of a computer class to see back in Chicago. You should have heard that audience cheer when he put on those shades and said, “Looks like… University of Illinois!”

Anyway. My MoviePass app is just fine, thanks for asking. Just got an email from Mitch himself apologizing for the outages and saying things will be improving, etc. So put that on your popcorn and smoke it.

MP9: Mamma Mia 2

Here we go again! I loved the original Mamma Mia and I adored this sequel/prequel just as much if not more. What a fun flick!

[tiny bit spoilery]

It also made me cry a few times because at heart it was about the relationship between Donna and her daughter Sophie, and there were several very poignant moments.

But let’s be honest: this was a campy, crazy, cheesy, over-the-top, wild spree! Most of the scenes were completely wackadoo, waaay out of control, with spangles, bell-bottoms, impulsive romantic encounters, etc. The scenery was beyond beautiful and the choreography was super-creative. It was fantastic!

I loved the cast. Lily James was terrific as young Donna. The three dads were as funny as last time, if not more, and their younger selves were spot-on. Passport guy was hilarious. The best-known ABBA songs were used in MM1, so we were treated to some I wasn’t familiar with in MM2, but that was fine with me. We still had several old faithfuls throughout the film.

Cher and Andy Garcia doing Fernando… omg, what a crack-up! Waterloo with young Donna and young Harry would be my fave overall, except the grand finale of Super Trooper with all hands was so spectacular that nothing can come close to touching that number.

It was so great to see an upbeat movie ~ I really needed that. Puzzle opens this week, which I’d like to see if it’s playing nearby. If not, dunno which movie I’ll see next.

MP7&8: Two for Tuesday

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No, that’s not the name of the movie! I saw two flicks last weekend and I’m gonna tell you about them in this poast. No spoilers, relax.

1. The Cakemaker. Saturday I saw this film alone because none of my friends were interested, boo hoo. Actually, I don’t mind seeing movies alone, so no biggie. This is an Israeli movie, and the credits are in Hebrew, plus some subtitles. So, if this bugs you, be aware. It also has some gay lurve scenes, not super graphic, but even so ~ this might bother some sqeamish types. Though idk why they’d be reading my blog. Anyway. I liked this movie a lot. It was a very well-crafted relationship drama, involving multiple relationships. To really grok what’s going on in the second half, it’s helpful to understand Kosher rules. You don’t have to though. Ultimately, it’s a sad movie, exploring grief and loss. Simple really, yet layered, like a cake. And there are cakes. Cookies too.

2. Three Identical Strangers. Saw this on Sunday with two friends. It’s hard to say much about this film without giving away any of the suspense, but I will say that it was extremely disturbing. My friends agree. It doesn’t seem like it would be upsetting from the brief ads, or even from the first third of the film itself, but it takes one twist and then another and another and bam! You’re left a bit shocked and definitely sad. Oh, and it’s not really a movie as much as a documentary, which I didn’t know and might not have gone if I had. Remember, I like movies to entertain me, not Wikipedia me. But I must admit I found TIS fascinating, so maybe I should be more open-minded toward docus going forward. My friends and I concur that TIS could have been cut in length ~ too much irrelevant and repetitive jabber.

Alrighty then. After these two good but downer flicks, I am ready for a fun movie! Where’s Mamma Mia playing?!

My Independence Day

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I celebrated this July 4th by flinging off my self-imposed yoke of fiction writing tyranny. Hurrah! Instead of dumping tea into Boston Harbor, I spilled it all over my laptop and destroyed my keyboard, thereby depriving myself of the means to gaze at the screen wondering why a best-selling novel authored by me doesn’t materialize while I screw around reading the news. Tuesday I had a meltdown while visiting my daughters because I’m so frustrated and stressed over my lack of writing progress and success, so I suspect the tea spill was a subconscious rebellion.

Of course I could buy a new laptop, but I don’t want to. My hard drive is fine and safe, if anyone cares, and most of my stuff is backed up, but I can’t write fiction on my phone. I feel relieved. I spent the day watching movies and doing NOTHING. I’m tired of telling myself that the minute I get home from the office, after typing on a computer all day, I have to start working on a novel or else I’m failing at life. Most nights I don’t even write ~ I just sit there, tired and miserable, staring at the screen, until I crash into sleep.

Maybe my subconscious was also at work when I titled my last book of poetry All She Wrote. At the time, I meant it about a specific situation… or so I thought. In any case, I don’t intend to stop blogging or tweeting, or even writing the occasional pome, all of which are phone-friendly. I’m only talking about giving up the agony of fiction writing and the hopelessness of self-promo. These nowhere goals have been adding to my depression. (I probably shouldn’t use the word depression, but since I allow people with regular bad headaches to call them migraines, I figure I can haz a pass.)

These are the movies I watched yesterday:

1. Spaceballs! So freaking funny. I can’t believe I never saw it before. Loved it. Just what I needed to cheer me up. And whatever happened to Daphne Zuniga? So pretty! She was in a sweet romcom with my honey John Cusack back in the day. What was that? Be my google.

2. Winter’s Bone. Yikes, what an intense movie. I can see the appeal of Jennifer Lawrence now. She is incredible in this utterly bleak yet fantastic film.

3. The Age of Innocence. Generally I don’t like narrated movies, but there are exceptions to every rule, and this is one. What a lovely film. Everyone was superb. Daniel Day-Lewis is such a gifted actor ~ what a shame he retired.

I plan to feast madly on movies and books from now on. Other people have created delicious art and I’m simply going to nom up theirs and shoot down any idea that I need to write a novel, should such a crazy notion ever raise its nasty serpentine head again out of the tangled jungle of my mind. Begone, slithery, sanity-stealing, ego constrictor of doom.

Freedom!

MP6: On Chesil Beach

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Saw this gem yesterday with a friend and absolutely adored it! It’s the best movie I’ve seen so far on MoviePass and I was definitely jonesing for a serious drama. I loved The Seagull, also starring Saoirse Ronan, but enjoyed OCB even more. The Book Club was great fun, but it was not a serious movie. This one resonated with me. If OCB is playing anywhere near you, I highly recommend it. Don’t expect gunfights and car chases ~ this is a movie that explores the small, intricate moments that connect and break our lives.

I also watched some good previews for The King, The Cakemaker, and The Wife, which have now all moved to the top of my wanna-see list. I know I said I changed my mind about The King, but now I’ve changed it back again. Of course, I need to see Mamma Mia 2, Puzzle, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Three Identical Strangers, and A Simple FavorWhew! I hope MP stays in biz for the next couple months. It seems that if I have a little patience I can find most of the movies I want to see in Irvine.

Patience? What’s that? 😀

Earning the Ending

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I think most of us like to feel that an ending is deserved in a book or a movie and that applies across the spectrum of genres. I’m only going to discuss romances however. The other night I watched Set It Up on Netflix after reading a glowing review from Vox. Meh. While the office humor was cute, the romance aspect was basically all snark and zero chemistry. The ending basically consisted of the protags going hey we might as well get together now since we’re both free and sarcastic. But there was no real epiphany or character arc or anything interesting wrt either one of them. What’s sort of ironic is that this is how we often behave in real life, since people don’t like to work for things (work? waaah!), which utterly sucks ~ and idk about you, but I want my fiction to be better than real life!

Compare this to one of the best romcoms of all time When Harry Met Sally. The protags change during the film and make the audience feel an anxious longing for them to work through the obstacles preventing them from being together. When Harry runs through the streets of New York City on New Year’s Eve to find Sally, we’re right there with him, feeling his desperation. Harry and Sally both grow as characters during the film (which takes place over a decade) and do more than just snark at each other to create sparks. Think about your favorite romcom ~ you’ll likely agree that the protags have to change and overcome character traits or fears in order to be with their soul mate. This doesn’t just happen via lazy banter and geographical convenience. Love should be earned and fought for, not handed out in the last scene like a party favor.

The same goes for romance novels, which are heavier on the romance and lighter on the comedy (though the best ones are witty too). I recently read two that seemed similar cuz they both were about fictional dukes in England around the same time period, but one had an earned happily ever after ending and one did not. They were both enjoyable, for different reasons, but I gave one 3 stars and the other 4, because of the earned aspect.

In How to Forget a Duke, neither protag changes significantly during the novel other than falling in love. The main issue that keeps them apart is resolved by someone else fixing it, not by either the hero or heroine figuring out a way around the issue or deciding it is not as important as their lurve. That gave me the sads. But in From Duke Till Dawn, both protags change during the novel (and more than once) and have various epiphanies about each other, themselves, and life in general. It’s a really good book and the ending is earned. I didn’t give it 5 stars because I simply can’t bear ridiculous coinkydinks, and if a duke with his massive resources can find people anywhere, why couldn’t he have found Cassandra when she disappeared the first time? Anyway…

I’m glad I stumbled across that Vox article I linked in the first para because it referenced The Daily Beast’s 2014 essay declaring that the romcom is dead, which I hadn’t heard before. Is that true? TDB makes a good argument for it ~ and I haven’t seen many (any?) decent new romcoms in the last 5 years or so. I loved The Big Sick, if that counts as one, but even if… that’s just one. Can you think of any other recent big-screen romcoms?

Oh well, there are still are romantic books to read. Remember books? 🙂

Anything, Everything

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Anything is not possible; everything is not possible. We can begin there. If you disagree with those premises, I think you would be part of another conversation, Childhood Myths 101. Just down the hall.

I’ve always enjoyed fantasy though. It doesn’t seem incompatible to me, to disbelieve in the supernatural and also to entertain the possibility of impossible things. Maybe once, a long time ago, more things seemed possible to me. I think that must be true.

Fiction has to be more “believable” now to me in some ways however for me to escape into it. Forex, I’ll go along with time travel, but I won’t accept a character with a posh apartment overlooking Central Park on a waiter’s salary and no other means of support. Nope. I’m hyper-aware of economics in movies now. It really irritates me when writers give their characters homes and cars way out of their apparent budget sans explanation. But it’s fine if they stick a ghost in that same house. No problem.

It’s very trendy now, ever since Gone Girl perhaps, to give us unreliable narrator/s. One of the first times I can recall digging into such a story was as a teenager with Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing. It didn’t hold up as well on a much later re-read, but regardless it set the concept for me that an unreliably told story was something I enjoyed. The reader has to do more work and I don’t mind that at all. A friend mentioned that Hereditary could be viewed in this light, as a story told completely through the eyes of the schizophrenic son with no supernatural elements involved at all. Interesting idea!

One of the criticisms of romance novels is that they’re “formulaic,” but to the romance reader that’s not a bug but a feature. We want to know going in that no matter how bad the odds look for the future of this couple, no matter how much they appear to “hate” each other when they first meet, and no matter how many miles separate them, they will end up together at the end. The pleasure is in watching them navigate all the obstacles set in their path, knowing they will overcome them because they love each other, simple as that (as opposed to real life where people break up over the dumbest things). I don’t enjoy romances when the protags aren’t struggling to be with each other and it’s only a twist of fate which throws them together at the last mo. Unsatisfying!

I think the Jennifer Crusie romance novel Faking It about art forgery/fraud would make a good movie. Someone should get on that.

I sometimes enjoy an action/adventure movie where the protag (or anti-hero) takes crazy risks when I know he’ll prevail. It’s funny how these films aren’t usually dismissed as “formulaic” while romcoms are, maybe because they’re marketed more to men. It’s fine to be formulaic if we’re talking car chases and gunfights! I never hear 007 flicks disparaged like that. Anyway, I like these on occasion, even though we never get to see the ones where a hero takes a risk, fails, and ends up on disability for the rest of his life. There’s a lot of various suspension of disbeliefs necessary in many of the action movies too, such as why the hero never misses with one shot while managing to dodge a hail of bullets from professional assassins, etc.

I’m ready for some good dramas ~ I was telling peeps this last night. The Seagull was good and I want to see a few more on that level or better. Complex, character-driven stories that stick with me for a while. But I don’t know if any of those are coming up in my area. On my list now: Distorted, The Cakemaker, Mamma Mia, Puzzle, The Spy Who Dumped Me. Assuming any of these end up playing conveniently near me, that is. So tired of seeing my local theaters all overloaded with blockbusters on every screen. BORING. Do not want to see dinos, migraine triggery cartoons, or Star Wars #857. Changed my mind on The King, since it’s not actually about him but the 2016 election. Gahhhhhhhh! Talk about a horror movie.

I go to the movies to ESCAPE from that.

MP5: The Seagull

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I wouldn’t have even known about this movie, except for a couple of my eagle-eyed friends having spotted it playing in Irvine earlier and chirping excitedly about it. All of us love Saoirse Ronan ~ the first time I saw her was in Lady Bird, which I thought was fab, but my peeps didn’t get into that flick so much. Anyway, a different friend and I winged our way to Westpark 8 yesterday to check out The Seagull.

First, the acting was incredible. What a cast! Annette Bening. Love her. She was superb as the aging, jealous, petty yet complex matriarch. Saoirse was wonderful. Elizabeth Moss was great. And Brian freaking Dennehy! Everyone else was amazing as well.

Second, the first third of the movie was boring AF. My friends disagree and it’s true I am not known for my patience. But I was literally tapping my foot and yawning. It dragged on and on setting up these characters. This would have worked better in writing. I could totally imagine reading The Seagull as a romance novel and becoming engaged after skimming through the beginning. Country house, games, clothing, flirtations, play within a play, yada, etc.

Third, once things began to happen, the movie fully enchanted me. It was the age-old story, perfectly summarized by the J. Geils Band in “Love Stinks” (“you love her, but she loves him, and he loves somebody else; you just can’t win”), but there are no new stories, so everything depends on how you tell the ones we have. The Seagull is a great one, which we would expect, given that it’s based on the play by Anton Chekhov.

I got confused at the end and thought they messed up the movie, but that was just my brainfog. In my defense, that’s actually happened to me in a movie and the audience began yelling that the film was all screwed up. I took migraine meds yesterday and started taking allergy meds too because I’m tired of being itchy and stuffy along with suffering stabby pain. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to sleep, since that sometimes happens with allergy meds, but my sleep was “normal.”

After I got things sorted out in my mind, all was excellent again. I recommend this movie, as long as you’re chill with a slow start.

Not sure which movie I’ll see next. Not everything plays conveniently to my location.

MP4: Hereditary

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A little bit spoilery, not a lot. 

Welp, I ended up seeing this movie after all. It received loads of rave reviews, but also the critics warned that it was insanely terrifying, so I was torn. Generally, I avoid horror films, but I have seen a few great ones. A group of friends decided to go last night and I impulsively joined in. One of them is a medical doctor, so I felt relatively safe.

As I drove over to Huntington Beach, “Thriller” played on the radio. Geesh! I haven’t heard that song for ages. I wondered if it was an “omen.” When Vincent Price’s scary laugh reverberated at the end I almost turned around. But no, I bravely (foolishly?) soldiered on and met my peeps. MoviePass asked me for a photo of my ticket this time ~ even they couldn’t believe I was actually seeing Hereditary after the first three “fun” movies I watched on their dime. Well, there you go then. Don’t presume to know me. I am mysterious and unpredictable. Nyah!

I worried the previews would be for terribly scary films, but my fears were unfounded. Just Tom Cruise adventure type stuff. Then the feature began. I made sure to have my hands ready to cover my eyes just in case, but that mostly was not necessary. The movie kept prepping for big drama with ridiculous music, but then nothing would happen. There were no outrageously frightening scenes for a long time. Yes, some yucky stuff occurred, but that’s all. It did give foreshadowing though, so if you see it, pay very close attention. (I missed some.)

I’d like to make a general comment about supernatural evil in fiction. This is an ongoing issue with powerful forces that seem to be able to do all sorts of wackadoo things, make stuff move at will without regard to physical laws, have mysterious signs appear and disappear, kill peeps randomly, etc., and yet… AND YET… these forces need something from humans so badly, just one particular thing from one particular mortal person will suffice and nothing else, and an entire plot hinges precariously on this powerful force subduing said human because complicated. Yah okay, let’s go with that. No prob.

I enjoyed the movie. It was fun trying to figure out what, exactly, was happening. Was it all in someone’s head, or “real?” Which character was sympathetic ~ the mom, the dad, the son? Hmm. It did get scary, of course, but not as scary as I had expected from all the reviews. It wasn’t as scary as, say, The Shining. Neither was it as good. I’m not sure what prompted all the rave reviews, but in my opinion the story simply didn’t hang together and make enough sense to warrant all the fawning. I figured it was just me, so I looked up some explanations this morning to see… and am still unconvinced Hereditary is a great movie.

Good, not great. Scary, not horrifying. You’ve definitely seen better, and scarier.