Category Archives: The Movies

True Story

Yes or No_ (30)

More based on a true story action in the form of this murder mystery starring a man I want to cuddle and a man I want to slap the shit out of.

Let’s see if you can tell which is which from my words.

“I just called…”

True Story (2015)

When disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel meets accused killer Christian Longo – who has taken on Finkel’s identity – his investigation morphs into a game of cat-and-mouse.

Starring: James Franco • Jonah Hill • Felicity Jones

Michael Finkel (my boo Jonah Hill) is a promising NY Times journalist with ten cover stories to his name. He’s riding high and expecting a Politzer nom when he’s called into his boss’ office to discuss his last story – an expose on modern slavery.

Unfortunately, rather than picking up a prize, he’s soon clearing his desk when it becomes obvious he may have embellished quite a lot of the story. Claiming he must have got mixed up, his bosses believe he’s used a composite character as the focus of the article. Breaking the rules of Journalism 101, you naughty boy.

Returned from NYC back to his wife (Felicity Jones) and home in Montana, Finkel is finding it predictably difficult to find work, given the accusations leveled at him. But things pick up when he receives a call from the editor of The Oregonian, asking for a quote on the Christian Longo story. Longo (eternal douche pony James Franco) stands accused of murdering his wife and three children – and is in clink awaiting trial.

Franco was not a fan of Christa Bass’ NY Times article, “Ten Things I Hate About James Franco”.

Well, Finkel apparently doesn’t keep up with news these days as he has no idea about the case. When he asks the caller why he should have a view on the story, he is told that when arrested, Longo was pretending to be Michael Finkel. Of the New York Times.

Oooooh!

What follows is a bizarre friendship blossoming between the two men, who figure they have more in common that they could ever have imagined. And Finkel’s career looks set to take an upturn when he decides to make Longo’s story into a book – one that the pair will write together.

The main question throughout True Story is – did Longo do it though?

Well, I won’t reveal the ending but I will say that the relationship between the men is complex and it puts a strain on Finkel’s marriage to Jill. Jill obviously can’t get her head around the need to understand the inner workings of a(n alleged) killer’s mind.

“No way is Franco coming over for tea…”

Finkel wants to believe in his new friend but Longo isn’t always frank and there are some curve balls thrown on the way to uncovering the ultimate truth…

Well. This is kind of dull really, though the story itself if quite explosive. What a shame. Jonah can’t be blamed for this one as he puts in a solid turn as disgraced journo Finkel who looks super cute in his glasses.

I am biased towards Franco, I can’t deny it but he really phones in this performance. I get as a character he’s quite closed off to the truth but he just looks smug the whole way through. I guess in some ways this does work for the character, who shows little remorse or feeling throughout, but a little bit of nuance would have been nice.

The women in this film are just side pieces – supporters and victims – and that’s quite annoying. The result, without proper padding of the relationships of the men, is rather flat.

There are flashbacks to happier times for Longo and his wife MJ (Maria Dizzia), with devoted father montages threaded throughout but these are just aftershocks and don’t fully paint a picture or a motive. Therefore you never really give a damn about either of the men but Longo even less.

It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have the oomph I would have liked.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my girl Jill think of True Story? Would she lie to it or write a book about its innocence? Find out here.

Us

Us (2019)

A family’s serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.

Starring: Lupita Nyong’o • Winston Duke • Elisabeth Moss 

*Spoiler free, I promise*

I’ve seen Us twice in the cinema so far and it is hands down the most interesting film I’ve seen all year.  I understand that it might not be everybody’s cup of tea but it really is mine.

Reviewing it is not going to be easy because I could never do it justice but I’m going to try.

In 1986, young Adelaide Thomas is momentarily separated from her parents at a Santa Cruz fairground. Drawn to a hall of mirrors, Adelaide encounters a doppelgänger of herself and is scarred by the experience. Her parents try everything to get her to speak (she has been rendered mute), including dance and art therapy.

In present-day, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) have two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). We meet them as they head back to her families beach house in Santa Cruz on vacay.

While Ade is apprehensive given her connection to the beach, she allows Gabe to take the family anyway, where they meet up with their friends, Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and Josh Tyler (Tim Heidecker) – and their teenage twin daughters. Gabe is eager to impress the couple, who are rich AF but clearly despise one another.

All is well until Jason disappears for a moment – and Ade panics. While temporarily missing, Jason sees a man in a red jumpsuit with blood dripping off his hands. He chooses not to tell the others, given Ade’s current mood.

ABBA had started to do PAs in people’s homes

Later, back at the holiday home, the family are stalked by a family in their drive way. It is here that things become frigging sinister and I don’t want to give the game away. I can say that the ‘visitors’ are the Untethered (as well as doppelgängers of the entire family) and they do not come in peace.

What follows is a story of fairy tale proportions, of parallel worlds and of mystery. Adelaide and family must fight to protect each other at all costs – and in the process Ade must face up to the trauma of her childhood, which is finally starting to make sense.

Cutting crew

This film is stunning with incredible double performances by a solid cast. Lupita in particular is mesmerising as Adelaide and her doppelgänger Red. Support in the form of Moss is also satisfying – while Duke brings a welcome comic relief. The kids are outstanding – the bickering siblings really come into their own when they’re required to fight their own doubles – and I love their scenes.

The imagery, the music, the story – in the hands of the mighty Jordan Peele it just works brilliantly. On second viewing I noticed far more foreshadowing and clues to what is going on, and I genuinely love this movie. It’s frightening and beautiful in equal measure with an insane final sequence between Adelaide and Red. The dance/fight choreography is pure perfection.

Art Attack’s new presenter was proving really popular

I cannot wait to see what Peele does next. And with new Twilight Zone episodes and a writing credit for the 2020 Candyman remake, I don’t think we’ll have to wait too long.

⭐⭐⭐⭐  out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Shazam!

Shazam! (2019)

We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word – SHAZAM! – this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult superhero Shazam.

Starring: Zachary Levi • Djimon Hounsou • Mark Strong

*Minor spoilers*

Sure, Shazam! is a little less dark than your average comic book movie but it has its moments. We went with Beau at the weekend and we all left with a smile on our faces – so yes, good clean family fun all round.

Billy (Asher Angel) is a fourteen-year-old tearaway with one objective – to find his birth mother. Running away from every foster home he’s ever had, all he cares about is reuniting with the woman who lost him when he was a little boy.

It’s all about faaaaaaamily

When Billy takes this quest one step too far, he’s placed by his exasperated social worker into a new home with foster parents Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa Vasquez (Marta Milans). This is his last chance saloon but to say he’s thrilled by the arrangement would be a damn lie.

His eye is still on the prize and he’s not there to make friends, despite the efforts of his new foster siblings; Freddy, Mary, Darla, Eugene and Pedro.

When he accidentally meets The Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) – there’s a whole convoluted intro to the wizard which I’m leaving to you, the viewer – he inherits crazy powers and begins his journey toward hero-dom.

For, when Billy says the magic word – it escapes me now – he becomes the very adult Shazam (Zachary Levi).

Capes are out, didn’t anyone tell you?

With the help of new friend/bro Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy begins to figure out his new super skills. But with bitter super-villain Dr. Thaddeus Silvana (Mark Strong) on his tail and after the powers for himself – he’s going to need more than just lightning fingers to keep the city safe.

The message here is a sweet enough and it’s actually quite upsetting when Billy (as himself) finally meets his mum. I know I cry at everything but I did get a lump in my throat. Billy just wants what we all want: love and acceptance.

One of these things is not like the others

The Vasquez’s are heavenly with a wholesome but firm parenting style – and the kids aren’t annoying at all, not even once. The more I think of this silly film the more I realise I really enjoyed it. I’m glad I went and I definitely would have avoided it had my step-son not wanted to go.

The effects are great – the seven deadly sins are brilliant – the ‘training’ montages are a scream and Mark Strong makes a fine villain.

I’m looking forward to the sequel which is rumoured to be starring Dwayne Johnson. Bring it.

Just kiss already

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Unicorn Store

Unicorn Store (2017)

A woman named Kit receives a mysterious invitation that would fulfill her childhood dreams.

Starring: Brie Larson • Samuel L. Jackson • Joan Cusack

*Minor spoilers*

A real quickie on Brie Larson‘s directorial debut, which appeared on Netflix this weekend. Reuniting Samuel. L with his Captain Marvel co-star, Unicorn Store is as whimsical and abstract as they come.

Kit (Larson) is a woman-child not doing so great. Failing at art school (at least in the eyes of her beloved professor), she finds herself back home, living in her parents’ basement. Her parents are well-meaning enough (played by blog favourite Joan Cusack, and Bradley Whitford) but are distracted by their new pet project and employee, Kevin (Karan Soni).

Adopt me please, Joan

Channel-hopping one day, Kit stumbles across an ad for a temp agency and decides to join the rat race as a new and improved version of herself. One who dresses appropriately for the office and drinks coffee.

Kit does pretty okay at her new assignment, particularly when her quirky nature catches the attention of her (creepy) boss – but her focus soon shifts onto more magical things when she receives a series of mysterious invitations to a secret location.

Someone didn’t get the memo about Wednesdays

At The Store, Kit meets The Salesman (Jackson) who puts her through a series of tasks to prove she’s ready for the ultimate challenge – to care for a real life unicorn. Yep, I told you it was whimsical.

Kit, you see, has been dreaming of this since she was a child and there’s practically nobody else more qualified for the role. Still she has to prove she can keep it fed and surrounded by all the love she can, which means making sure her relationship with her family is in tip top condition.

When she hires Virgil (Mamoudou Athie) to help her build a unicorn stable, it seems like she might be opening herself up for a different kind of connection but how’s he going to take news of the unicorn?

Virg(il)ing on the ridiculous

While this is sweet enough and I did appreciate it, it’s perhaps just a little bit too cutesy for me. I stan Brie Larson so I was on board with the character of Kit – and I do appreciate a surrealist indie. I really enjoyed Virgil too, a somewhat reluctant partner-in-crime who soon gives himself over to the concept of adventure.

Larson’s increasingly flamboyant wardrobe definitely deserves a mention as does Kit’s assistant Sabrina (Martha MacIsaac), who harbors her own dream – to open an Etsy store selling jewellery shaped like miniature food.

Will Kit get her unicorn – or is all an elaborate con?

US is abstract but really it’s about putting away childish things and accepting adulthood – while still keeping just a little bit of magic back. Which is a cool message and one I personally endorse.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

The Polka King

Jill and I feel we didn’t cover douche-y men enough last week. God knows those middle-aged white boys need as much attention as possible or else they’ll just fade away – and we can’t have that.

So here we are in True Story land, learning what we can about the real life Polka King and his nefarious ways.

Keeping is saxxy

The Polka King (2017)

Local Pennsylvania polka legend Jan Lewan develops a plan to get rich that shocks his fans and lands him in jail.

Starring: Jack Black • Jenny Slate • Jason Schwartzman

*Minor spoilers*

Jan Lewan (Jack Black) fronts a popular local Polka band in Pennsylvania. Happily married to former-beauty queen Marla (Jenny Slate), he is something of an entrepreneur who also runs his own gift shop.

Things are looking good for the band, so much so that when Jan decides to add a dancing bear (not a real one) to the act, his clarinetist Mickey (Jason Schwartzman) decides to quit. Jan, ever the charmer, is able to talk Mickey round and promises there are good times on the horizon.

Sadly, he’s not quite as skillful in sweet-talking his mother-in-law Barb (Jacki Weaver), who’s constantly gunning for him and his life choices. (And is the best character in the film).

*Clink clink* bitches

When Jan is approached by an elderly couple who wish to invest in the band’s future, he takes their money without much persuasion. He then accepts thousands in further deposits, promising mammoth returns to his investors. Alas, the state authorities soon get wind of this scheme and tell him in no uncertain terms that what he’s doing is highly illegal. He’s given three days to pay back the cash and forget the whole crazy idea.

Which of course he does immediately and the film ends there.

NOT.

Instead he tells the state investigator that he’s quit – and promptly sets up a new scam. Meanwhile, business just keeps getting better and better for the Lewans as Jan starts a travel business giving European tours.

He manages to secure a private audience for his vacationers with the Pope – much to his own surprise – but Mickey begins to see the strings when he realises quite a lot of what Jan says is made up. Jan again keeps him on side by agreeing to let him change his name to “Mickey Pizzazz”.

You better WERK, Marla

Jan then gets the idea that getting Marla back on the pageant scene will be great for business – and even though she does a mediocre job, surprisingly she walks away with the trophy.

When it becomes clear that something about her success is amiss, the whole operation comes tumbling down around Jan’s ears. His investors no longer trust him and don’t want to be part of the ensuing scandal surrounding the couple.

Then the truth about his criminal activity gets out and there’s only one place for Jan to go now… and it’s not back to the Vatican.

“What did you just say about my braces?”

I found this film really boring. I didn’t care about Jan or even about the people he was conning. Jan has no remorse about what he’s done and even though I think for the most part his victims are just highly naive, his pride in being a part of the American Dream is irritating. We could all be as successful if we were willing to rip off old ladies. Still I guess you could argue it’s his charisma, nerve and talent that got him there in the first place. Hmm.

Jenny Slate is someone who never fails to impress in my eyes but she’s not given much to work with. Only Barb really does it for me as she focuses on proving that Jan is the wrong ‘un she’s always thought he was.

There’s nothing wrong with the performances or the story, it just failed to get me interested. Still, at least it’s not Peppermint (which is 2019’s Blog Collab mantra).

⭐⭐out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my girl think of this one? Would she give it all her savings or report it to the law? Find out here.

The Dirt

April is now officially Biopics (or Based on a True Story) month, which I admit I only suggested so I could shoehorn in this movie this weekend. It’s been getting mixed reviews all over the shop so Lord knows what to expect. If nothing else at least it will be debauchery central up in here.

The Dirt (2019)

The story of how Mötley Crüe came to be one of the most notorious rock ‘n roll groups in history.

Starring: Douglas Booth • Iwan Rheon • Daniel Webber • Machine Gun Kelly

*Minor spoilers*

When a movie more or less begins with a female ejaculation scene (not portrayed nearly enough outside porn), you know you’re in for a ride. Whether it’s a good one or not is for you to decide for yourself though.

This is the rags-to-riches tale of how Mötley Crüe came to be pretty much the most rock n’ roll band ever to have lived (after S Club, obviously).

We begin with the metaphorical birth of Nicky Sixx (played as an adult by pretty boy Douglas Booth) – born into the world as Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna, Jr. Barely a teenager, sick of his mother and done with an endless parade of deadbeat step-dads, he frames her for assault and takes off on his own, stopping in only to officially change his name forever and burn Frank’s ID.

Sofa-hopping and just about getting by with his current band Sister, one night he meets a fan in the form of drummer Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly). The pair soon form a new band (and friendship) – and recruit surly lead-guitarist Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) and lead-singer Vince Neil (played superbly by Daniel Webber).

Beetlejuice’s new look was pretty well received

Tommy Lee – in contrast to Nicky – comes from a harmonious home, supported in his creative endeavours by happily married parents. This leads him on a quest to recreate their whirlwind magic for himself, which explains the multiple marriages in his history (no shade).

Mick meanwhile, is hiding a secret health condition which is slowing him down big time, while Vince is the charismatic front-man with the world (and all its babes) at his feet. As the band sign to a label and begin to take the world seriously by storm, their trouble really begins – and I can’t imagine being able to resist half the temptations afforded to them myself.

This scene is pants

In short drugs, booze and broads are the order of the day but at what cost? AT WHAT COST?!

You can kind of imagine most of it but key moments include the 1984 vehicular manslaughter of Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle (Max Milner) at the hands of a drunk driving Vince (and subsequent super lenient jail time), touring with Ozzy Osbourne (Tony Cavalero) and the near-death of Nicky Sixx by heroine overdose.

Tommy loses the love of his life Heather Locklear (Rebekah Graf) because he can’t keep his T-bone in the pantry – and Mick finally has hip surgery. There’s rehab, there are arguments and relapse – and there’s a life-altering event in Vince’s life that is even more prolific than the car accident.

The question is, after everything they’ve been through can our rockers pull it together and see it through to the end – or will they burn out like the brightest star?

That shit is bandanas

The Dirt is entertaining, I’ll give it that. I liked the brief time we spent with Ozzy who I think was cast really well. I know for a fact I was here for those infamous rock n’ roll shenanigans and watching him licking up his own piss and snorting ants was fucking disgusting but also the kind of wildness I expected.

However, while there are loads of sex and drug scenes, it didn’t go quite as far as I wanted. I *think* in some ways it’s because of the casting of the band. While Machine Gun Kelly is a pretty solid Tommy Lee, he makes the character seem almost wholesome. And Nicky is positively baby faced. I don’t buy them as seedy adults, I’m sorry.

I hardly know anything about the band apart from Tommy & Pammy’s sex tape – and the fact my horrible ex really fucking liked them – so maybe I’m wrong about that. There’s a chance they’re perfectly cast and I just don’t know it but honestly, I don’t think so.

Women do not get a good deal in this movie. They play either mothers or whores (sometimes both simultaneously) and that says a lot about the mindset of the group at the time. I suppose, even though I don’t like this one bit, it’s to be expected.

Always time for a cheeky Nando’s, even when you’re uber famous

I would have liked to know more about the crash if I’m honest and seen more evidence that it played on Vince Neil’s mind at all. From this portrayal it isn’t clear. However, I think he was played beautifully and I felt a lot when bad things happen to his family (even though wife and daughter are incredibly 2D).

I HATE the breaking of the fourth wall though, it’s so overused these days. The interruption every now and again to correct a so-called storyline fact is supposed to be cute but it’s just grating. So yeah, I had fun but that’s about it. It’s quite average really and that’s a shame considering the collection of true characters in the band.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my rock star think of this one? Is she ready to follow it around the globe in a halter neck or would she rather drop it from the label? Find out here, fuckers.

Fighting With My Family

Fighting With My Family (2019)

A former wrestler and his family make a living performing at small venues around the country while his kids dream of joining World Wrestling Entertainment.

Starring: Florence Pugh • Dwayne Johnson • Lena Headey • Vince Vaughn • Nick Frost

*Minor spoilers*

I love an underdog movie and the true story of Paige the WWE diva is a really satisfying watch. Sure, there aren’t many surprises and the narrative is pretty formulaic – but there’s a comfort in that.

If I’m honest I didn’t expect to love it as much and I think that’s mostly down to the casting. Saraya Knight AKA Britani Knight AKA Paige is played by the lovely Florence Pugh – an actress who first blew me away in Lady Macbeth.

Hands up if you love Florence Pugh!

As Saraya – or Ray to her family – tackles minor success and then the absolute brutality of what fame and fortune really requires from her, Pugh takes her through every emotion. Elation, guilt, despair – determination. She is an absolute joy to watch.

Ray’s family are a dream too – in the form of Mum Julia (Lena Headey) and Dad Ricky (Nick Frost) – and brother Zak (Jack Lowden), her wrestling partner-in-crime. The unit live and breathe the sport and run their own, barely surviving wrestling gym. Both Ray and Zak teach the community kids and generally keep them out of trouble and off the streets.

The kids and all the side characters peppered around the gym are really fun, as are the appearances of Hugh (director Stephen Merchant) and Daphne (Julia Davis) – straight-laced parents of Zak’s baby mama. The dinner party scene really made me chuckle a lot.

Adopt me, please.

When the siblings finally get the opportunity of a lifetime to audition in front of WWE trainer (Vince Vaughn), it has massive consequences for the family and Ray – and more so for the relationship between brother and sister. In both good and bad ways.

Ray travels to Florida to try out with the big boys and girls – and the standard could not be more different. Can she embrace who she really is and find her own place in this world?

There are some really interesting themes explored here – not least the devastation of being left behind felt by Zak. As his sister lives out their shared dream, he has to come to terms with focusing on a new one and it takes him a while.

In happier times…

Ray has to decide how much she really wants to be part of the WWE’s main roster and – who knew – the girl also has a lot of growing up to do. Well, she is only EIGHTEEN.

She (now going by Paige) struggles with the other girls, making lofty assumptions about them because they’re mostly models and dancers. Her illusion that they deserve their places in try-outs less than she does her no favours. Can she claw it back with these women and make a couple of much-needed friends along the way?

“Think we’re gonna need some Girl Power in this joint ASAP…”

Well, thankfully there’s a shift in both perspective and fortune for Paige – and I loved it. As soon as the girls start working together, it gets better for all of them. They’re even there are the end when Paige inevitably overcomes all her self-doubt, her guilt and her demons to absolutely smash it.

FWMF is funny, sweet, touching and very good. I’m a fan of the feel-good and now I want to know everything there is to know about the real Paige.

I definitely recommend catching this while it’s still in the theater.

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?