Tag Archives: Film

Greta

Everyone Needs a Friend.

Greta (2018)

A young woman befriends a lonely widow who’s harboring a dark and deadly agenda toward her.

Starring: Isabelle Huppert • Chloë Grace Moretz • Maika Monroe 

*Minor spoilers*

Bags of fun

Huh. Knowing this is directed by The Crying Game’s Neil Jordan, you would naturally go in expecting a high quality thriller. What you actually get is an enjoyable, yet ultimately empty and forgettable movie with questionable central performances. Which I’m gutted to type, honestly because ever since I saw the trailer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release date.

The premise alone is so intriguing. When nice girl Frances McCullen (Chloe Moretz) finds a handbag on the subway, there’s no question of what she will do. She returns it to its rightful owner, Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert). Greta invites her in for coffee and learning that she is widowed and missing her daughter, who lives in Paris, Frances takes pity on the woman – and a friendship is born.

Grieving for her own mother, who has passed away the previous year, Frances finds a natural connection with Greta. Frances’ BFF Erica (It Follows’ Maika Monroe) warns her that the whole scene is a little bit icky – and moreover, that Frances’ wholesome goodness will result in her being eaten alive by NYC. Frances doesn’t see it like that… until she discovers some new (and sinister) information about her new friend.

What on earth is Greta’s game and what does she want from Frances?

Chink chink motherfucker

Needless to say this is an intense stalker story that culminates in a nasty situation. But why? This is my issue with the story. We learn via a secondary source (played by Zawe Ashton), that things aren’t as they seem, particularly regarding the relationship between Greta and her daughter. There’s a vague hint at what G might be hiding but there’s no exploration of why she is what she is. And the climax is cool and all but it’s also shaky and predictable.

I was expecting so much more. I thought I’d be blown away by a motive I’d never even considered, with twists and turns I couldn’t imagine. Instead I got several shoddy false starts and a lot of head scratching time. That said, I still enjoyed myself – and while she’s not given that much to do, I liked Erica (when will MM get the consistently great roles she deserves?).

“I loved you in It Follows.”

About those central performances. I mean, c’mon! Huppert is a dream of an actress with a sting in her tail. Her turn in 2016’s Elle was wonderful – I expected more of the same, if not even more unhinged and delicious. Yet her Greta never really gets going in the way I hoped. It’s not a bad performance, it just doesn’t ever gain the momentum you’d expect. She is chic AF though, which is a given.

In turn, lovely Miss Moretz seems to phone her part in. I do find her acting hit or miss at times (even though I like her) but it’s as if she turned up to filming without really reading the script first. However, I can’t really blame the actresses for this, the film just doesn’t pack a punch and they can only do so much.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Mid90s

Fall. Get back up.

Mid90s (2018)

Follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in 1990s-era Los Angeles who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.

Starring: Sunny Suljic • Katherine Waterston • Lucas Hedges

*Minor spoilers*

Mid90s-movie

You literally take the hardest hits out of anybody I’d ever seen in my life. You know you don’t have to do that, right? ~ Ray

Oh slow burning indie movies, how I love thee. Jonah Hill‘s directorial debut is beautiful and sweet there’s no denying it. However, I don’t know how long I will think about it now I’ve seen it.

Stevie (Sunny Suljic) comes from a single-parent home with a bully for a big brother. His mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) is still young and gorgeous (having had her first child at 18) – and is dipping into the dating pool again. I would tell you more about her but apart from a couple of minor scenes, we know very little of her.

It is suggested that she’s had ‘a past’ that has included a revolving door of suitors – and this might be why older son Ian (Lucas Hedges) is so tormented (read: such a dick).

Stevie is yearning for something clearly, for when he stumbles across a group of skateboarders outside a local skate shop, he wants in – and makes it his mission to join them. Which is no mean feat when you’re just a kid.

Summer-summer-summertime…

Eventually he makes it into the crew and the new friends become the centre of his new world. The gang are: Ray, Fuckshit, Fourth Grade and Ruben – and they are all dealing with their own issues. Stevie rubs Reuben up the wrong way by quickly becoming the new golden boy – and this leads to an inevitable showdown between them.

The gang in general might not be as solid as they once were. Leader of the group Ray (played by the really fucking good Na-kel Smith) is drifting away from his BFF Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt), determined to leave the hood for something better. Can their friendship survive when Fuckshit is determined to just keep partying? Meanwhile, Dabney isn’t very pleased about her son’s behaviour now he’s part of something she can’t control – can she put a stop to it before it goes too far?

A mood

All in all, this is a lovely debut. There is a sex scene involving Stevie and an older girl which made me feel really icky though – so I am very glad it stopped where it did. Honestly, I get that this happens but he’s a literal child and I do not want to see him sexualised!

The female characters aren’t given much to do either. In fact the only women we actually see are Dabney and the skate groupies on the sidelines. That’s not great, Mr Hill. Come to my room and let’s discuss this further.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Pet Sematary

Sometimes Dead Is Better.

Pet Sematary (2019)

Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.

Starring: Jason Clarke • Amy Seimetz • John Lithgow

*Minor spoilers*

Which way to certain doom?

She won’t come back the same ~ Jud

Hmmm. I waited a long time for this updated adaptation and now it’s here, I’m not sure.

I mean, it looks good – let’s start there. There are a couple of really sweet SK nods that I appreciate. The house and the setting of the cemetery itself is spot on. I love the Wicker Man aesthetic of the local children in masks (even though they aren’t used at all, which is a shame).

John Lithgow‘s Jud is magnificent – but there’s a lot of character development missing for me. While they go in quite hard on the Zelda/Rachel story arc (which pays tribute subtly to another SK classic), they don’t pad out the family enough for me to give much of a damn.

Louis: loving life

Jason Clarke (good-looking Piers Morgan) is Louis, the tormented father with the power to bring his dead child back from the dead. He’s alright but I do feel the character could have been played by any slightly hot dude of a similar age. Rachel (Amy Seimetz) is actually quite good at times as she deals with the PTSD of her sister’s illness – but as with a lot of female characters in King’s stories, she isn’t given that much to do beyond look stressed out. A modern adaptation could of had her kicking more arse? (Just me?).

I also have issue with how easily Louis resurrects his daughter, Ellie (played by Jeté Laurence). In the book there’s much more examination of his moral quandary – and how much the decision plays on him. The film is only 101 minutes so we don’t have the luxury of spending too much time with the to and fro but still. I think perhaps having the book so clearly in my mind (I read it in the last year and loved it) hasn’t helped but slightly hindered my enjoyment.

There he is

I have to mention the trailer too! It gives so much of the film away that it really damaged things for me. Yes, I get that this is a story that most people know, either from the book or from the 1989 film but this version offers a different take on the story (sort of) by choosing to kill off a different kid. Had we not known that this was the case then ‘the scene’ would have packed quite the punch. While keeping our eye on Gage, we would have completely dropped the ball on Ellie.

I suppose the ending is different and it deserves a nod for that. It’s pretty dark and maybe I would have liked a bit more time to sit with that rather than just have it end. I can’t help think how good this might have been had they made it into a series instead.

All of the above said, Glynn and Matt enjoyed it much more and for some of the reasons I didn’t – so it really is down to a matter of taste. My verdict is: not terrible but ultimately, what was the point?

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

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?

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.

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?