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Also, I saw the user Amyth47 do this, and it's a great idea, but I haven't seen nearly as many movies as he has. So instead of 100 favorite movies, I'm just going to list my 20 favorites.
1. La La Land
3. Florence Foster Jenkins
5. Suspiria (2018)
6. The Devil Wears Prada
8. The Favourite
9. Mulholland Drive
10. Your Name
11. Up in the Air
13. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
14. The Silence of the Lambs
16. All That Jazz
18. The Addams Family Values
20. Molly's Game
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Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
Has no business being as fantastic as it is
Today is the 5th anniversary of the release of Florence Foster Jenkins, and in honor of it I'm writing this review.
Florence Foster Jenkins is a tragically overlooked film featuring one of Meryl Streep's finest performances to date. It brings tears to my eyes like few films have, and also manages to be gut-bustingly hilarious. It is not merely a film about a rich, terrible singer who happens to be delusional: it's also a meditation on the nature of criticism, honesty, and happiness.
With the wrong actress, the entire movie could've fallen apart. Florence could've come off as vain and selfish, and the audience wouldn't have rooted for her. Obviously, this would've made the film intensely frustrating, as the whole thing is people pulling strings to keep the false veneer that she's a great singer intact. But with Streep, Foster Jenkins becomes a kind, considerate, and oh so saddening person. Her life has been full of struggle after struggle and because of that you really want her to be happy. Of course, this makes it all the more challenging when you hear her (amazingly awful) singing for the first time, and you laugh at her. You're laughing at her along with the hordes of crowds that mock her and cause her sorrow. In short, the greatest pet of the film is Streep's performance.
Another great part of the film is the writing. One of the standout moments from the film doesn't even have Foster Jenkins in it: one of the main characters goes on a long diatribe about how ambition is a prison that keeps you from being happy. Instead of feeling cheap and studio-driven, the speech actually comes across as really insightful. Moments like these are peppered throughout the film and they only add to the experience.
This film is not perfect. The editing is a bit choppy in places and the actor for Cosme McMoone is a bit lacking. But despite all its flaws, this movie is deeply touching. You'll laugh at Streep's singing, you'll cry at the heartbreaking ending, and you'll be great full for the emotional roller coaster this film sent you on. It's perfect for everybody: you can watch it with a partner, niece, nephew, son, daughter, parent, or even by yourself. Hopefully, one day, this movie will get the recognition it deserves.
Final Score: 92/100.
Smooth Talk (1985)
Insanely relatable and realistic
The really remarkable thing about Smooth Talk is just how true to life it is. Whilst I haven't been a teenage girls in the 1980s, I am currently a teenager. And let me just say that this is EXACTLY how it feels to be one. I can't count all the times that I've seen movies like High School Musical or Sixteen Candles, where the insights into teeage life are about as deep as a kiddie pool. Smooth Talk, on the other hand, paints a realistic portrait of how it feels to chase after people because it feels like the most important thing to have a partner. It gives insight into teenager's troubled relationships with their parents, and (very intelligently) doesn't entirely put the blame on either party. Everything from the acting to the writing to the directing just screams "this is what it's like to be a teenager." And frankly, it earns the right to do so.
That's how the first two thirds of the film are, with stakes about as high as any other teen movie. But then the last act changes things up a bit. It sneaks up on you, and without realizing it you were lured into a false sense of security. But Smooth Talk's goal isn't to be a fun teen film: it's to show you what it's really like to be a teenage girl. So the dark side of reality sets in during the last half hour, and you are left with more empathy for women than you came in with. This is the power of films: they can put you in the shoes of someone like no other medium. And Smooth Talk takes full advantage of that.
Overall, Smooth Talk is smarter than most teen movies, but no less interesting. I'd recommend it to anyone: kids wanting to see what it's like to be a teenager, adults wanting to revisit the past, and teens who just want to see themselves on screen.
Final Score: 84/100.
Creative Nonfiction (2009)
Not the worst by any means, but not good
Lena Dunham's Creative Nonfiction should've never seen the light of day. It's a film made by college students with a production budget that is probably as much as the amount of money you currently have in your wallet. If you look at it like a film made to get a hold as to what on earth this wild thing called "filmmaking" is, it's fine. But by most other metrics, it doesn't work.
Firstly, it's extremely poorly made. Obviously, considering the nonexistent production budget, it's kind of hard to count this against the film. But there are some points where the quality of the film is not so much because of the money behind the film, but the apparent laziness of the filmmakers. For example, in a party scene early in the film, the shadow of a boom mic is so blatantly visible it's hard not to notice it. Even worse is that a dialogue exchange later in the scene is rendered almost entirely incoherent thanks to the loud talking of background characters. Moments like these are present throughout the movie, and it's more than a little obnoxious.
Second, the acting isn't horrible, but a few of the actors/actresses do deliver extremely lackluster performances. Take Ella's (Dunham's character) friend in the film: every word that comes out of her mouth is incredibly unnatural, especially during a laundry scene. Once again, it's kind of hard to entirely blame the film for this (I mean, there can't be that many college actresses available), but it still detracts from the movie.
Finally, and most egregiously, there is next to no plot. The film sort of shifts around aimlessly with no real point or goal. I guess the idea is to create a movie to reflect the real experience of a college student, but the film also tries to incorporate elements that only add to the film thematically (at least in theory). The film dawdles and dawdles and can never really decide on where or what it wants to do. Should it be about a college student's increasing fascination with her roommate, ultimately leading to her screenplay becoming pretty much just about him? According to the IMDB plot description, that's what it's about, but nothing in the film itself actually even remotely resembles that. If anything, the exact opposite happens: Ella writes about a woman losing her virginity to a nice guy but having to leave him, and a similar occurence happens later in the movie to Ella. Well is it about a college student's screenplay overtaking her life so much that it bleeds into her real life? Again, a cool concept, but aside from the virginity thing nothing in the film is related to that. In practice, Creative Nonfiction follows a college film student trying to get with her roommate, and then it's about her friendship with a random lady, and then it's about her losing her virgnity. Oh, and there's righting a screenplay about a sexual abuse victim in there, too. To an extent, I can forgive some production laziness and some poor acting. But I can't forgive the entire lack of a coherent plot.
There is good present in Creative Nonfiction, though. Some of the dialogue is quite clever: I'll admit that a line where a teenage girl talks about how a college guy talks unrealistically about sex before casually throwing out that she's a virgin gave me quite a chuckle. Also, Lena Dunham's acting is kinda okay. She's not Oscar-worthy by any means, but she still does pretty well, especially when compared to her costars. Thirdly, the ending, though rather plucked out of a hat, was quite poignant, and made me wish the film had earned it.
Overall, Creative Nonfiction isn't the worst film I've seen in my life. There are definitely positives to be found within it. However, the obvious production errors, the bad acting, and especially the nonexistent plot make the film not worth watching. If you're a huge Lena Dunham fan or curious to see what a student film looks like, I guess it may be interesting to watch, but for anyone else I wouldn't recommend it.
Final Score: 42/100.
Outrighteous is the kind of film whose very existence is miraculous. How did anyone agree to sign on to this when the budget is smaller than a first grader's lunch money? Why does the script shoehorn in Christianity whilst barely integrating it into the story? Why do half the characters have obnoxious Southern accents when the movie ostensibly takes place in Los Angeles? Truly, Outrighteous is a sight to see in the worst way possible.
The characters are pretty bland, with Angela's only trait being "sassy,' and Simone's only trait is "righteous," I guess. Calvin is such a blank slate it's a little funny, but his only defining characteristic (also "righteous") directly contradicts the plot of the film. I don't know what sect these people are, but I'm pretty sure that in all branches dating multiple women who don't know of each other's existence is a no-no. What's even stranger is that Simone later does something similar, but her actions are put in a much harsher light than Calvin's. Frankly, it adds a completely unasked for layer of misogyny to the film that's more than a little troubling.
The movie itself is shot so poorly, you start to wonder if the cinematographer was even out of grade school. Perhaps the worst shot in the film is when two characters shake hands, but the camera is positioned several yards away and partially behind a table. Whose idea was this?! But even if the cinemtography rivaled that of 2016 Christine, the sheer lack of a production budget would still leave the camerwork and general production in shambles. Granted, low-grade materials aren't inherently a problem; one of entries on my list of best films ever literally was filmed on a Camcorder. The problem is that the low quality of everything actively works against the film. They don't try to have a diagetic explanation for it (eg found footage), nor does it add to the atmosphere of the movie. Sometimes, the audio recording is so bad, you can barely tell what the characters are saying, since they're drowned out by the background noise. Why couldn't they of just cut the audio and dubbed it over in post? Did they even care enough to do so? I don't know the answers to any of the questions I've brought up, but I suspect nobody (including the filmmakers themselves) does either.
Overall, Outrighteous is a disaster. The film is poorly made, the acting is unrealistic, and the dialogue is laughably absurd. The film does provide a ot of unintentional hilarity, though, which saves it from the bottom of the barrel. If you aren't looking for a so-bad-it's-good movie, stay far, far away from Outrighteous.
Final Score: 27/100.
Chinjeolhan geumjassi (2005)
Fast-paced, entertaining, morally complex, and brilliant
Lady Vengeance is a film that further convinced me that South Korean cinema is the best cinema. All three of the Korean films I've seen (Parasite, A Tale of Two Sisters, and this) were all fantastic. Be warned that if you start watching Korean films, you may not want to watch anything else.
Lady Vengeance starts as a seemingly basic revenge movie, elevated by stylistic flair. The story starts out like Promising Young Woman, albeit more violent and a tad confusing in places. Visually, the film is fascinating in these first two acts. Some scene transitions are incredibly creative, and a Dream sequence looks like it was designed by Salvador Dali. The film is candy-colored, which is quite ironic given it's messed-up subject matter. Overall, the first two acts have very impressive production design, and an interesting story that draws you in.
But as the third acts nears, things get darker and darker, and you start to wonder about if you should cheer the characters on, or boo them. What's most brilliant is that the film never gives a definitive answer: it is entirely left up to the viewer to determine the morality of their actions. Most films that dive into moral ambiguity (The Ring, for example) mostly do so by making the protagonist's questionable actions seem justified given the circumstances. Lady Vengeance does not take this route, and instead goes into questions about the ethicality of torture. And unlike other films that deal with morally gray actions (eg I Spit on Your Grave), the film doesn't use these questions as an excuse for ultra-intense violence. So when you hear that it deals with torture, know that it does so much more tastefully than most films.
Overall, Lady Vengeance is a rare movie that successfully switched genres and tones without it being jarring. The acting is great, the plot is great, the production design is great, everything is great. I sincerely recommend that if you're tired of the onslaught of remakes and sequels coming out of Hollywood, watch the original, dark, and thought-provoking Lady Vengeance.
Final Score: 93/100.
Midori: Shojo tsubaki is widely considered to be the scariest anime of all time, and one of the most disturbing j-horror movies as well. My curiosity piqued: how bad could an anime get?
In case the film is actually horrifying, I've decided to do something I've never done before: take notes whilst watching the moviem and publish the notes as a review. I'm currently writing this before seeing the movie to give context to the notes to follow. Without further ado, here are my notes.
-Already it starts with super disturbing imagery... I'm scared.
-Title cards? Okay...
-Mother's death is... really messed up, but not THAT disturbing.
-song number one?!
-Run for it girl!!
-Awww the puppies are adorable!
-Bad stuff happened to the puppies... I don't want to go into it.
-There's literally zero attempt at lip syncing. Their mouths are completely static and unmoving.
-Horrible things are happening to the main character, who is a little girl. It isn't pleasant.
-Of course the trans character is a horrible person. Why am I not surprised...
-Is the plot gonna start soon?
-I have no words for the dream sequence. No words.
-We're on song number two now.
-The little girl's hands are the size of a grown man's.
-Not again... stop taking advantage of the fact that your little girl is animated and not real...
-Why is this illegal and disgusting romance portrayed positively?! Or is it supposed to be messed up?!
-It's just turned from a disturbing horror movie into an anime romance.
-Is this gonna stay like this? Because it was way more interesting as a horror movie.
-Back to horror movie now.
-It's gotten significantly less disturbing now, and it's turned more into a dark fantasy drama.
-Spoke too soon... now we've hone into exploding humans. Yay.
-To this movie's credit, the animation is really well-done in the disturbing scenes.
-We're on the final song now, folks. Brace for impact.
-Really stylized fantasy sequence. It's done in a very minimalistic way, but it works to the film's advantage.
-Human slug>human centipede
-She's left the circus, but there's still eight minutes left. I'm not gonna lie, I want to know what happens next.
-Get them girl!
-And our protagonist was sucked into an infinite white void.
To be honest, Shojo Tsubaki was less intense than I initially thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, there were some parts that were disturbing, but it was way more focused on characters than reviews had led me to believe. The animations was pretty choppy most of the time, but it got way better in the disturbing parts. The magician's revenge scene, in particular, was very disturbing.
This films could have been a lot more exploitative than it was. I'm glad the scenes of sexual assault weren't depicted in detail, and whilst the animal violence was pretty horrific, the scenes in question only lasted a few seconds each. Even when the magician disfigured a bunch of people, it was made clear afterwards that everyone was turned back to normal.
Overall, Midori: Shojo Tsubaki is not perfect, but is a somehwat interesting ride. The plot is inconsistent and unfocused, and the thematic content within the movie seems thin at best. However, the medium of the film really works for it, taking away a lot of the Ick factor that would be present if it was live-action. It makes the film weirdly tasteful, especially compared to the likes of Antropophagus and other such movies. If you want a straightforward anime that's fun for the whole family, look elsewhere. But if you want a disturbing movie that has a surprising amount of characterization (and perhaps some deep themes if you're willing to look hard enough), then check out Shojo Tsubaki.
Final Score: 57/100.
Harmless, but also thoughtless
I'm getting so sick of the whole day-keeps-repeating-over-and-over plot line. No movies that I know of have really done anything new with the concept, but they at least manage some sense of charm and intrigue. Unfortunately, the painfully generic Map of Tiny Perfect Things flounders in that department.
The story is pretty much exactly what you'd expect. It's so predictable, that it's entirely unnecessary to put it in this review. Just read the basic premise and title, and you've already got a pretty good idea as to where it's going.
Now, that on its own wouldn't be a problem. The similarly predictable Palm Springs managed to be incredibly enjoyable, thanks to great performances, some funny lines, and solid writing. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is just... meh in every department. The performances are serviceable, but they aren't exceptional. The writing does okay, but there's really nothing memorable. And there is but one funny line in the entire movie, which inexplicably is said in the middle of what I assume was supposed to be an emotional scene.
Additionally, the whole film has an aggressive Indie vibe, as if every frame is screaming "WE WEREN'T MADE BY A BIG MOVIE STUDIO." This is especially strange, considering that it was made by Amazon, one of the largest companies in the world. Because of this, the whole film has this underlying sense of corporate control that was almost a little eerie. For example, it feels like the love interest has a sad backstory not so that the audience can empathize with her, but rather because the studio heads say it'll make people cry. Honestly, this strange tone persisted throughout the movie, and I was more than a little uncomfortable with it.
Overall, the Map of Tiny Perfect Things is harmless and doesn't really have anything horrible in it. Items just so cookie-cutter and bland, taking an overdone premise and doing nothing new with it. I suppose it will make for a serviceable movie-watching experience, but frankly there are much better time travel movies out there (Safety Not Guaranteed on Netflix, Palm Springs on Hulu, and Donnie Darko come to mind). The Map of Tiny Perfect Things isn't a horrible way to spend 90 minutes, but I'm sure most people will have much better things to do with their time.
Final Score: 57/100.
Daphne & Velma (2018)
Actually kind of good!?
I went in to this movie expecting it to be full of toilet humor and not much else. Instead, I found myself actually enjoying myself whilst watching. A few of the jokes were really funny (particularly an exchange between jocks at a lunch table that is extremely suggestive), and the performances were quite good. Daphne finally gets more of a personality than just "stupid but pretty," and she's played by a person of color, which is always welcome. Velma is quite entertaining as well, delivering a hilariously deadpan performance. And the actual mystery itself isn't super predicable, and in a weird way kind of kept me guessing.
However, the film is far from perfect. Whilst I appreciate trying to do something different with Daphne, the character arc they give her is... strange. It is so completely removed from reality that it's impossible to have any empathy for her. As for Velma, she doesn't really have a defined character arc. I get that they were trying to give her one about how she's strong, but it just wasn't explored enough to really work. Finally, although some of the jokes were funny, just as many were extremely poorly done and (although I hate using this word) cringy. For a movie about technology written by middle-aged people, it could've been a lot worse, but a lot of the jokes still fall fantastically flat.
Overall, Daphne and Velma isn't an Oscar contender, and you shouldn't seek out to watch it if you're above the age of twelve. But for those forced into watching it by a younger sibling or child, they'll have a decent amount of fun.
Final Score: 61/100.
Love Story (1970)
Today is the 50th anniversary of Love Story, and in honor of it I'm writing this review.
For a film as ubiquitous as Love Story, I expected something a bit more... well, good. Don't get me wrong, it certainly isn't bad, but it's just so conventional and underwhelming. It's basically just a slightly altered retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps a straightforward story is what the film was aiming for, in order to make the characters easy to relate to and understand. But the problem is, the characters aren't very well-developed, and the actors do a very poor job of selling it. Let's take Jenny, for example. What are her likes? Well, she likes music, teaching, Oliver... oh wait, that's it. What are her hobbies? Literally nothing. The only thing we see her doing aside from loving Oliver is her job, which is teaching kids in a music camp. She doesn't have any hobbies at all. Even stranger, we never see her once with any friends. Why does her personality have to revolve entirely around music and Oliver?
More than likely, Jenny's lack of real interest in much else aside from Oliver can be attributed to 70s misogyny, but that doesn't make it any less bad. Even Oliver seems to be a generic jock character, who's only in Harvard because of his rich dad. Apparently he graduated by doing law stuff, but we never see him learning anything, or struggling with law, or anything really. His entire personality seems to revolve around sports and Jenny. For a movie that got seven Oscar nominations, I expect better developed characters.
The characters' shallowness wouldn't be as big a problem if the acting could sell it. Unfortunately, it really doesn't. Both Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal over-emphasize every one of their lines, as if they expect every single one of them to be on a list of greatest quotes ever. Luckily, they're weird and unnatural in the very same way, so they do actually have great chemistry. Additionally, their performances did get better as the movie went on. But still, the acting is mediocre at best. Because of this, Jenny's death leaves little to no emotional impact. When the death of a main character leaves me only slightly pitying the other main character, there's a problem.
There are a few more technical elements that stuck out to me. For one, the score is quite beautiful, perfectly capturing the mystery and intrigue of young love, whilst still sounding hauntingly melancholy. The camerawork is generally made up of long takes, which are always quite impressive. I'm not a fan of shaky-cam and it is present here, but it is used sparingly and always makes sense in context. Finally- and this is really minor- the driving scenes are really well done, and the characters actually look like they're driving in a car.
I haven't even mentioned the underdeveloped commentary on social class, but it's there, and fittingly it is rather under-explored. I would've much preferred this film had it not been a random disease that comes and kills Jenny, but rather societal and socio-economic pressures drive them apart gradually. That way, the film could better utilize its half developed themes, and their love story would be all the more tragic.
Overall, Love Story is just okay. The acting is mediocre and the characters themselves aren't very compelling, but the two leads do have chemistry and a certain amount of charisma to keep the film afloat. If you want a better romance film, check out 1960's The Apartment. It features fantastic acting, a solid story, and excellent commentary on corporate overlords and love. But, all things considered, Love Story isn't an awful way to spend 100 minutes. It'll just be a rather weak and uninspired 100 minutes.
Final Score: 55/100.
A Chorus Line (1985)
Tonight is the 35th anniversary of A Chorus Line, and in honor of it I'm writing this review.
I first discovered A Chorus Line on a list of the worst movie musicals ever. Looking back on it, I haven't the faintest idea why it was on there, but I digress. I looked at the Amazon page to see if it was available to stream for free. No luck. I turn off the television and go off to do other things. When I turn it on later something incredible happened: apparently of its own accord, the television had rented A Chorus Line! I assure you that I did not press the rent button, and even if I did the television couldn't have rented it whilst it was off. So, with nothing better to do, I watched it.
I tell you this anecdote to help you understand the circumstances I watched A Chorus Line in. I was fully expecting it to be bad, and even the renting incident worthy of the Three Colors trilogy didn't affect my bias against the film. But as I watched it, something incredible happened. I was enjoying it. Quite a lot, actually. Despite the extreme bias I had against the film due to the circumstances I found it in, I still had a great time.
A Chorus Line is one of the greatest movie musicals ever put to screen. Whilst its costumes might be called dated, its message and themes are timeless. The movie is a complex look at many issues, include misogyny, homophobia, identity, relationships, and more. And yet throughout all of it, the movie makes it clear that these people aren't special. They aren't THE Chorus Line. They're just A chorus line. There are thousands of people who've been in chorus lines, but at the end of the day they're all there to do the same thing: dance.
The director tries to change this. He wants to recognize these people AS people, instead of just objects to direct. So he conducts this rather unorthodox audition process, asking each dancer about their personal lives as well as testing their dancing ability. His efforts are in vain. By the end of the film, it's easy to see that he still regards them as little more than chorus boys and girls, almost like how an audience would regard them in a performance.
The one exception to this is Cassie, his former lover who he clearly hasn't gotten over. She's looking to audition, which immediately arouses the Director's suspicions. He constantly tells her that she's special, and she's better than all of them. As she points out, she really isn't: she's by far the best dancer there, yes, but that's just because she's had more experience than everyone else. The only one who's comparable to her in age is Sheila, who seems so tired with the whole Broadway thing one must question if she simply auditioned out of habit rather than a desire to perform. Cassie may be good at dancing, but that's all she's good at. With a little more practice, any number of the other characters in the movie could reach her level. The only reason the Director sees her as special is because he's in love with her. She's more than just a dancer to him, unlike every other one of the characters.
This movie is a musical, so I assume you're wondering about the songs. Honestly, they're all very excellent. There all either catchy, emotional, or both. Not to mention, the choreography is equally fantastic, some of the greatest I've seen put to film. Some of the actors and actresses aren't great singers, but I think this was intentional. Nobody watching a chorus line cares how good an individual singer is. All their voices blend together into one audio mass. Contrast this with dancing in a chorus line, where synochronicity is key. That's why everyone is a great dancer, but only some are great singers. To summarize, when it comes to singing and dancing, A Chorus Line shines.
In conclusion, A Chorus Line really needs to be reevaluated by the general public. It's songs are great, the acting's great (particularly Sheila, Cassie and the Director), but above all the themes are great. We got a movie about these dancers, but every dancer has their own story. Even the ending reinforces this: the protagonists' faces get lost in the crowd of dancers, as if on a macro-level they're interchangeable. Each one of the people in the finale has their own personality, history, preferences, etc, but to us they are simply dancers. I don't know about you, but there next time I see a movie, television show, or any other form of entertainment, I'm going to think to myself about how behind each one of those characters is a person.
Final Score: 83/100.
The Prom (2020)
Not good, not bad, just average
My feeling towards this movie are quite mixed. It doesn't suffer from the same problems many other movie musicals face (overly long, really boring, etc.), but it still has problems.
Firstly, I'll start with the things I liked. Most of the performances were very good. The lesbian lead was especially well-acted, especially because this is the actress's first movie. Her emotions felt genuine, and she was always able to evoke a lot of sympathy from me. I also really liked Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. Both had some funny lines and a few good songs. Additionally, the initial premise of the movie is quite clever and topical. Mainstream LGBT+ films are always welcome, and especially one that deals with performative activism and homophobia. I wish the film had explored its theme of homophobia more (such as seeing how it effects the main character's day-to-day life), but it's still a good starting place.
Now let's get into the bad stuff. To start with, next to Corden, Streep, and Kidman, there's a fourth character in the movie who doesn't undergo any transformation as a character. I get that he was supposed to change the town instead of changing himself, but that doesn't excuse him being a two-dimensional character. Another thing: Nicole Kidman is very under-utilized. She has no arc as a character, and only has a handful of lines. Considering that she's my favourite of the four main characters, this was really disappointing, especially considering that her number is one of the best in the film. Speaking of the songs, most of them don't feel memorable or distinct whatsoever. The only two exceptions to this are the catchy gospel number "Love thy neighbor" that's also a a good critique of certain Christians' hypocrisy, and the aforementioned Kidman number "Give it some Zazz," which is a nice reference to the song numbers of Bob Fosse. But other than them, most of the songs sound weirdly similar, as if they're all part of one, ginormous song. Even the obligatory song that's only added to be eligible for an Oscar nomination leaves no impact at all.
Now, let's get to the problem that everyone's been talking about: James Corden's performance. I'll say that it isn't the worst gay man performance I've seen (Betty's ridiculously stereotypical friend on Riverdale still takes the cake), but it's still pretty appalling. When your only gay man is saying lines like "I'm as gay as a bucket of wigs," you should completely rewrite him. Corden's subplot where he comes to terms with his past doesn't work, because his character is so cliche I can't empathize with him at all. It never feels like I'm watching a gay man reckon with his troubled past, it feels like I'm watching James Corden perform every harmful stereotype in the book. When films like A Chorus Line and My Own Private Idaho (both 25+ years old) have more realistic gay men than you, then there's a very big problem.
What's especially baffling is that there's a very simple fix to the problems with the film's leads: why not just have Love thy Neighbor guy be gay and undergo the transformations that happen to Corden's character? That way, Kidman can take Corden's place as the lesbian lead's friend and have her arc be about being appreciated by someone. Traces of this are present in the film: there's a scene where Kidman and the teen are talking and it's explained that they're friends. Kidman even expresses how happy she is that someone is noticing her, as normally seems just thought of as a chorus girl. So have her help the teenage girl with getting ready for the prom and encouraging her instead of James Corden, and use that extra screen time to expand on her issues with being ignored. As for how the solution would work for Corden and Love thy Neighbor guy, it hits two birds with one stone. It gives Love thy Neighbor guy a character arc (accepting his past), and it gets rid of Corden's offensive caraciture of a gay man. The movie would be vastly improved if they implemented this change, and my rating would go up at least a number.
Overall, The Prom is an average movie. The acting was mostly good, and the story was relevant, but the songs are mediocre and there were many missed opportunities and two too many underdeveloped characters, made worse because they're ostensibly the protagonists. Additionally, Corden's performance was ridiculous in its offensiveness. Whilst The Prom may make for a fun evening for some, I think it should've just stayed on the stage.
Final Score: 48/100.
The Devil All the Time (2020)
A movie as blatantly offensive, mind-numbingly boring, and downright ugly belongs in the darkest corner of 70s slasher movies, not anywhere near Netflix. The Devil All the Time is a cruel and nihilistic film that only exists to give the appearance of saying something, as opposed to actually saying something, which is a truly awful combination. Take, for instance, the movie's seething hatred for Catholics. All of the Catholics in the movie are either horrible people, or have multiple ridiculously depressing things happen to them. It's almost a bit comical: Catholic father? Crucifies dog for some reason (we'll delve into this one more later). Catholic couple? Serial killers. Elderly Catholic couple? One of their children dies, the other becomes a serial killer. Catholic teenage girl? Gets impregnated with the rape baby of a Catholic priest, and commits suicide. I could go on and on about the movie's clear hatred of religion, but I only have so much time. Instead, let's go back to the father mentioned before.
In the movie, a man serves in World War II and is traumatized by a crucified corpse he sees in the war zone. He eventually returns home, starts a family, and becomes a faithful Catholic. When his wife contracts cancer, despite it making very little sense at all, he decides to... crucify the family dog, of all things. Now, a good movie would've clearly shown him have some sort of mental illness that led him to commit something so bizarre and disturbing. But not the Devil all the Time. All we get is that he loves his wife, he got PTSD from a crucified guy, and he's Catholic. Do I really need to say how disgusting the implication is that religious war veterans can't live a normal life? Because it absolutely is. When you handle with touchy subject matter lIke religion and PTSD, you have to be very clear about the message you're trying to send. Unless this film is trying to send the message that Catholics are inherently evil, then the movie has failed miserably.
Moving on, let's address the thing that most people will be watching the Devil All the Time for: the performances. Whilst none of them are atrocious, none of them, save for the serial killer wife, are particularly good. Tom Holland is very miscast as a morally ambiguous youth that I believe was supposed to be the main character. I'm not inherently against actors being cast against type. In the film Melancholia, Kirsten Dunst plays the exact opposite character she normally does, and I thought that her performance in that film was the best of the decade, if not the century. But Tom Holland? A British twentysomething playing a Southern murderer? It's very distracting and strange, to the point where I had to suppress laughs whilst watching him beat up some people with a crowbar. And what's even weirder is that the makeup department doesn't make any attempt to make him look remotely believable. Not a fleck of dirt touches his face in the entire movie, as if he's somehow impervious to uncleanliness. Y'know, like real people! But in terms of acting, he does... okay, I guess. He just really wasn't right for the role. The rest of the cast are filled with people overreacting to high heaven, particularly the priests. I get that they're priests and supposed to be loud, but they are taking it WAY too far, to the point where they're teetering precariously on the edge of comedy half of the time. Have I made it clear that I don't like this movie yet?
I suppose I shall finish with a particularly offensive line. Basically, the innocent girl character is planning to kill herself because of the aforementioned priest. But right as she's about to hang herself, she decides that she can make it. But it doesn't matter, because she slips and accidentally hangs herself anyways. The family finds her, and as they weep over her dead body, the narrator chides in with the statement "they didn't know she was alright with her maker", implying that suicide would've made her not okay with God. Again, do I really need to spell out how offensive this is to people? How harmful the ideology that depression is not okay in the eyes of God is? Moments like this are riddled throughout the film, but the two that I've highlighted here particularly irk me.
Films like the Devil All the Time are incredibly hard to get through, because once you realize that this is the sort of movie that purely exists for the sake of shock value, the film has nothing left to offer. So you sit there, bored out of your mind, the movie only occasionally piquing your interest when the narrator comes in with his hilariously unnecessary narration as a substitute for good storytelling, or when the mildly interesting serial killer couple is on screen. I have not read the book this film was based on, but if it is anything like this train wreck, then I shall avoid it like the plague.
Final Score: 19/100.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Good, but very disappointing
Today is the 15th anniversary of Brokeback Mountain, and in honor of it I'm writing this review.
I wanted to love this movie, but I just couldn't. I personally think it's, at best, a 7/10. I liked Gyllenhaal's performance a lot, as well as the two leading ladies'. But I honestly wasn't the biggest fan of Ledger's performance, and it was hard to understand him a lot of the time.
Additionally, their relationship from friends to lovers had almost no sense of progression, which wouldn't be a problem if there was some sense of sexual tension between them pre-lovers. But there isn't, and so we get them acting like friends, and then spontaneously jumping into bed with each other.
Another thing: while I liked Michelle William's performance, her character seemed very underdeveloped. We never see how she was brought up to treat LGBT people, and so I really didn't understand her motivations for a lot of the film. Did she think Ledger was a horrible sinner? Or was she simply never told about homosexuality in the first place? It's never shown, and so I had a hard time understanding her mindset.
I was also very unsure of who we're supposed to root for. Are we supposed to feel sympathy for Michelle Williams? Well we have all the scenes with Gyllenhaal and Ledger that are obviously supposed to be heartwarming, so that can't be the case. Are we supposed to be rooting for the two men, then? Well no, because we have all these scenes of Michelle Williams being sad that her husband is cheating on her. And also, Michelle Williams' character is a really nice lady, and we have no reason to root against her other than she's in the way of Gyllenhaal and Ledger, which is in no way exclusive to her. So are we supposed to feel sympathy for both? If that's the case, the movie is too tonally confusing. Gyllenhaal and Ledger reuniting is played as a triumphant moment, but seconds later we cut to Williams being sad. So if we're supposed to feel happy for Ledger then sad for Michelle, what emotion are we supposed to take away from any of this? I don't have a problem with a movie that evokes a lot of emotions. One of my favourite movies ever, Florence Foster Jenkins, leaves me laughing on the ground one second, and crying my eyes out the next. But Brokeback Mountain, if it is trying to make us feel for both Williams and our cowboy couple, comes across as emotionally confused instead of complex, mainly due to the jarring juxtaposition of emotional scenes between the two parties.
Finally, I'm really confused why everyone was weirdly okay with Ledger and Gyllenhaal's relationship. The cowboy who gave them their job together finds out they're together, but doesn't tell anybody and only cares because it led them to do a terrible job of sheep-caring. Wouldn't it make more sense for them to do a good job, and he fired them purely because of their sexuality? Because in the movie, his reasoning is perfectly legitimate: they did a very bad job taking care of the sheep, and so he does not want them to do it again. Michelle Williams doesn't tell anyone about her husband's adultery, not even asking advice from a gal pal of a priest or something. The only time we actually see any homophobia is in Ledger's childhood, and arguably when he finds out Gyllenhaal's died (although the latter is ambiguous as to whether or not he actually was the victim of a hate crime). The strange lack of almost all homophobia almost makes the time frame completely unnecessary. You could set it in the 90s-2010s and almost nothing would change. Why couldn't the movie further explore the prejudice and hate that LGBT+ people endured?
Brokeback Mountain one of the first mainstream films about LGBT+ people, and it deserves a lot of credit for that, but I really think it is still very flawed. It gives me the impression of a fantastic 3 hour movie that was cut to pieces by the studio, and the movie suffered because of it. If that is the case, then I hope one day a director's cut will finally be released. Until then, I unfortunately do not think as highly of Brokeback Mountain as everyone else.
Final Score: 65/100.
The Day the Cows Died...
It was warm, at least to her. Everyone else was too busy sleeping. "You have no idea how to write a review, you know that?" She said to no one. "I'm talking to you, you dolt! I get a chance to star in a review, and it's wasted by a completely incompetent author." The cow had suffered delusions for as long as she could remember. After her young calf was taken away to the slaughterhouse, she swore that she saw him grazing about a particular patch of grass. "Oh, that's a really cheap shot!" She cried to the voices in her head. "Don't bring Moomoo the seventeenth into this!" She sighed exasperatedly. "Just because you're human doen't mean you get to treat me like garbage." Suddenly, a nearby sleeping cow died. "Wait, one did? Which one?! Was it Bessie? You better not have killed Bessie!" Little did the cow know that Bessie, indeed, had suddenly passed away. "Nooo!!!!!! You monster!!!!!!" She screamed in anguish. Luckily, she was unaware that Bessie's last moments were filled with pain and agony. She burst into tears. "You really are a piece of work, you know that?" The other cows began waking up, and noticed her shouting to no one. "Wow, she's crazy" they whispered amongst each other. "Y-you've taken everything from me," She sniffled. "My friend, my dignity, and my one shot at stardom. I despise you." Then, she fell over, dead. Dead from the same illness that suddenly afflicted Bessie. All the other cows cheered with glee, as the two most hated cows in the herd had passed away. It would usher in a new age of prosperity, as the last aware cows had died.
P. S. The movie is trash
Final Score: Cow/100.
Black Moon (1975)
A strange, yet engaging Alice in Wonderland-inspired film
This was the first film that I've seen in a long time that chooses not go for a very conventional story structure. Rather, increasingly strange events happen to a twenty-something woman in an old mansion, where she seeks refuge from a literal battle of the sexes. When it comes to weirdness, Black Moon does not disappoint. Without spoiling too much, let's just say that there's some feral children, an inordinate amount of clocks, and perhaps the best unicorn ever put to celluloid within this movie. And yet, it all works.
Part of the reason why the movie is so successful is because of the performance of all the actors and actresses, particularly Cathryn Harrison as Lily. She serves as the anchor of normality in the world of madness being displayed. Of course, this is also with the help of the writing. It's actually quite impressive how spot-on the writers' ability to voice the audience's thoughts is. For example, my favorite scene in the whole movie is when Lily is conversing with the unicorn. As soon as she clopped off, I thought to myself "Aw, but I like when they talk with each other." Seconds later, what does Lily exclaim? "Wait, but I liked talking with you!" Honestly, it makes the whole experience much more enjoyable to have so a great audience surrogate.
Another thing I really liked about Black Moon was how it wasn't all just pointless nonsense with no meaning. I don't know about the common interpretation of it, but I found the film to be a metaphor for growing up. For instance, it seems to me that Lily likes talking with the unicorn more than doing anything else is a representation of how adults typically love solace in nostalgia as opposed to facing their present world. Again, I haven't worked out where every little thing fits under this, but for the most part I think it fits.
Ultimately, if you're looking for a straightforward plot, I urge you to look elsewhere. But, if you're up for a bizarre and uniquely surreal trip down the rabbit hole, then Black Moon is the movie for you.
Final Score: 80/100.
The Kissing Booth 2 (2020)
Better than the first one, but far from perfect
I'll be honest; I went into The Kissing Booth 2 expecting it to be terrible. Instead, I got a movie that was better than the original, although that isn't saying much. It is the rare sequel that is stronger than the original, and I was pretty interested in it throughout. Elle makes some smart decisions in this movie, and each one of them is really satisfying to watch (especially tricking Marco into playing that dance game). The Elle in the original Kissing Booth wouldn't have done that, and it's nice to see how she's grown as a character. Additionally, it was hard to see where the plot was going. I never really could predict what would happen between Elle and Marco, or Elle and Noah for that matter. These are some of the things for this movie that I liked.
My biggest problem with the film is that it has a terrible message for young women. Basically, Elle learns to... live for others instead of herself. Excuse me? Are you really trying to posit that a women should not' be herself, and be whatever other people want from her? It was honestly kind of disgusting. Secondly, the fact that pretty much all the people of color in this movie are disliked by the main character throughout most of the movie is also worrisome. Like yeah, eventually she warms up to them, but we still have to sit through two hours of her being suspicious of Chloe, and being annoyed with Marco. Thirdly, the characters did make some pretty stupid decisions often. For example. There's a really tiny subplot involving a guy who secretly likes another guy, but he doesn't know how to tell him. I knew from the first moment I saw them that he was romantically interested in him. However, it takes Elle way too long to figure this out, even though it was extremely obvious. These aren't all my problems with the movie, but these are just some of my biggest ones.
Overall, I enjoyed the Kissing Booth 2. It was really, really flawed, but at the end of the day it's still fun. If you are feeling down, watch this movie to bring you back up.
Final Score: 45/100.
Monster a Go-Go (1965)
Perhaps the most substanceless movie ever
It's hard to critique Monsters a-Go Go, because it is barely a movie at all. It doesn't have a plot, or characters, or themes, or really anything. It's about as much of a movie as the videos on my Tracfone. The film is so devoid of substance that it's hard to talk about. All that really happens is that this astronaut comes down from space, and terrorizes people. Actually, no, "terrorize" is too strong, I would say that he more walks around with people. The monster himself doesn't even look evil, he just has bad acne. How was this supposed to be "scary" again? It really has nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, to offer, not even as ironic enjoyment since it's so boring. Well, the twist is enjoyably stupid, but it's so far into the movie that it isn't even worth it. Nobody should see this movie, ever.
Final Score: 2/100.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Sixth Sense is considered one of the greatest horror films ever, and quite honestly it doesn't stand the test of time. It was one of my first horror movies, so it should've had more of an impact than it did. I'm not going to pull out the "I guessed the twist in the first five minutes", even though I did and was quite underwhelmed by the ending. However, I came in knowing that there was some big twist at the end, so I'm not sure if I would've guessed it so quickly if I didn't. And besides, basically everyone else who doesn't care for this movie has already said that. My main problem with this film is that it is not scary... like at all. As someone who has seen real horror on their television screen (The Blair Witch Project, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, both Suspirias), I am thoroughly disappointed when a movie confuses "scary" with "constant jumpscares". Sorry Sixth Sense, but you can't try to frighten me with loud noises and sudden visuals and expect me to call you good. However, I do think that the acting and plot itself until the ending were very good, interesting, and engaging. It's definitely not a bad film, just a very overrated one in my personal opinion. If you're looking for a compelling supernatural drama, I would go for this. But if you want an actually scary movie, please look elsewhere.
Final Score: 60/100.
The Kissing Booth (2018)
About what you'd expect from a movie based on a Wattpad story
The Kissing Booth is perhaps the most horrific movie of all time, because someone, somewhere, thought that it was so good it would become successful. This sexist, abysmal, and oh so dumb movie is about as fun as having your eyes gouged out with a rusty nail. I could actually feel my will to live slowly decreasing at every mind-numbing line that is borderline offensive in its laziness. Take, for example, a scene in which male lead Lee is driving the star Elle to school, and bumps into the curb. She complains about his driving, only for him to ask her why she doesn't just get her own driving license. "Well, why would I need a driver's license when I have my own personal chauffeur?" She replies. An he just says "True, true." Apparently, I need to point out how you would need a driver's license to not have to deal with Lee's clumsy driving as you literally just pointed out. It's moments like these that make me wonder if the writers even read over their script. It's the kind of error that can usually only be found in a fourth-grader's self-insert fan fiction. And it cost me around 20% of my brain cells. Yay.
That was only a small sampling of the stupidity on display in The Kissing Booth. I almost never take notes during movie, but within the first few minutes I knew that I had to document all the horror on full display. You know how many pages were filled with criticisms of this movie? EIGHT. Eight full pages outlining all my concerns for the sanity of the writers, comments on the utter lack of care anyone involved in making this had, and questions that I know will never, ever be answered.
The only reason I gave this two stars instead of one is because this movie features a rare platonic relationship between a male and a female, which I did appreciate. But other than that, it's hard to call The Kissing Booth a movie, as much as a fiasco of epic proportions. Please, please, I beg of you, watch a better rom-com, such as Florence Foster Jenkins, The Devil Wears Prada, or really anything but this.
Final Score: 18/100.
The Bye Bye Man (2017)
The Bye Bye Man is quite possibly one of the stupidest horror movies I've ever seen. Everything about it is just plain bad, from the acting, to the plot, to the effects, and especially the scariness. But what truly launches it into so-bad-it's-good territory is how weirdly pretentious it all is.
Here are a few standout scenes that really showcase the awfulness of this movie.
One of the first scenes in the film is of our incredibly boring main character, Elliot, discovering the words "don't think it, don't say it" carved onto a nightstand. When he turns it over, he sees the name of the titular villain. Now, one of the most important plot points in the movie is that after reporting on a case of a teenager killing his family (allegedly because the Bye Bye Man told him to do so), the previous owner of the protagonist's house did everything in his power to erase the Bye Bye Man from existence. He literally committed mass murder on a bunch of his neighbors just for this purpose. But, apparently, he was so lazy he couldn't even be bothered to check around his house to see if he left the name anywhere. Honestly, it's all so entirely contrived that it is quite hilarious.
Later, Elliot investigates the Bye Bye Man further, and eventually comes upon a dossier about him in his local library. Again, I must point out how incredibly, impossibly stupid this reporter was. Honestly, you didn't even bother to get rid of all copies of your article before going on a bloody rampage? Really?
And we come to one of the final scenes in the movie, which is also hands down the most ridiculous. As you might expect, the Bye Bye Man comes to kill Elliot, but just before he does so, Elliot proclaims his love for the Bye Bye Man. I mean, do I even need to explain the problem with this? The film has suffocated itself with its own self-importance so much, that it barely makes sense anymore. Forget Elliot; the film itself has lost its mind.
Oh, but that's not the end of the stupidity, as the film manages to pack in one final, dumb punch. Basically, the house is burned to the ground, but one of Elliot's roommates who was witness to a bunch of Bye Bye Man stuff lives. As he's being taken out of the building on a stretcher, the investigator working on the case asks him the name of the person that caused all of this. And the roommate just... tells her. Again, the dumbness of this should speak for itself, but I'll spell it out anyway. Despite all the murders he's witnessed, the chaos he's endured, the madness he's experienced, he still gives up the name to the investigator for literally no reason. What's the matter with these people? Erasing a name from existence in the laziest way possible? Falling in love with a supernatural murderer? Purposefully condemning at least one more person to death for no reason?
The Bye Bye Man is a stain on the careers of all involved. I don't know how Trinity from the Matrix and Faye Dunaway got roped into this catastrophe, but they certainly couldn't have appeared in anything worse than this. Unless you're looking for a hilarious comedy, avoid this film.
Final Score: 20/100.
Baby's First Non-Chronological Film is Incredibly Strange
"Shorts" is quite possibly my most watched film of all time. I saw it dozens and dozens of times as a kid, which I think is a testament to how great this film is to young audiences. Immediately after watching the completely abysmal Artemis Fowl, a film based on a book series I was obsessed with as a child, I decided to go down memory lane further by re-watching this movie for the first time in almost a decade. And I ended up having mixed feelings about the final product, but overall I enjoyed the movie.
The acting in this film is surprisingly good, especially compared to Artemis Fowl and especially for child actors. The best performance in the movie is Jolie Vanier as Helvetica Black, who is so awesome she gets her own theme song. Secondly the creativity the film is really interesting. At times, it can be obnoxious, but a lot of the time it can be very fun. Its told in non-chronological order, which is pretty gimmicky but makes the film more interesting to watch. The best of these shorts is definitely the dinner party one, which turns the film's creativity into a myriad of madness. Extra points for Helvetica basically being the star of this one, too.
Overall, Shorts may be a bit tiresome for older audiences, but it still have a few good moments and performances to at least be interesting to them. For kids, though, this film is a really good way to introduce a non-linear narrative story structure.
Final Score: 56/100.
Artemis Fowl (2020)
How to ruin a great book series in just six easy steps!
1. Find a very beloved and popular YA novel that is at least a decade old, and by extension very outdated. Make sure not to update anything whatsoever from the original book.
2. Suck out all of the personality traits of the original characters from the book, and replace them with nothing.
3. Make the most obnoxious character from the book series the movie's narrator, in addition to giving him a lot of extra screen time.
4. Purposely change aspects of the book's story to now make zero sense, in addition to adding in plot elements that are equally nonsensical.
5. Make sure that all of the actors involved give the worst performances of their careers and/or do an atrocious Irish accent, even if they live in the center of the Earth and not anywhere near Ireland.
6. Give the film a budget that's over $120 million, but make the special effects look like they're from the early 90s.
And... congratulations, you've done it! Now watch as your film gets absolutely ravaged by everyone and gets added to the giant pile of failed YA book-to-film adaptations.
"Disaster" is too kind a word for this film. It takes everything great about the books and either weakens them or gets rid of them entirely. And for newcomers to the series, it will be incredibly confusing, generic, and convoluted. Avoid this movie at all costs.
Final Score: 15/100.
Completely insane and I love it
After losing all their drugs to sell, childhood friends Petula and Tilda must embark on a reality warping, dangerous quest to rob the house of their mentally unstable third friend, Daphne. But to do so, they must take part in Daphne's bizarre make-believe game that eventually blurs the lines between fantasy and reality.
At first, "Braid" might seem like a conventional, albeit low budget heist thriller movie. But as the film goes on, things get crazier and crazier. Every ten mintue, you will say to yourself, "well, it can't possibly get any weirder." And it does. It really, really does. "Braid" is the rare film that doesn't follow a three-act structure. Instead, the structure of it is more along the lines of the film itself slowly descending into the depths of its own insanity. And if you are ready for that, you will enjoy it quite a bit. This isn't the sort of film where everything is laid out for you. The movie raises a lot of questions, but the answers are not handed to you on a silver platter. They're there, but you must work to find them.
As of writing this, I've only seen "Braid" once. And given the great performances, deliciously dark soundtrack, and above all the atmosphere of it, I cannot wait for my second viewing.
Final Score: 85/100.
The Lovebirds (2020)
At first, I was reluctant to watch "The Lovebirds". I thought it would be just another rom-com that clogs up Netflix to no end. What I got instead was a humorous, enjoyable, and relatively witty movie. The two leads had great chemistry, and whilst they were annoying at times, their funny lines compensated. I would recommend this movie to anyone, but especially couples looking for a date night movie.
Final Score: 67/100.
Kimi no na wa. (2016)
Phenomenal except for two things
I love this movie, it's fantastic. Your Name is definitely my favorite animated movie of all time, and it's almost perfect. If you want an idea of how good this film is, then just look at some of the other reviews.
I only have two small nitpicks to complain about in the whole film. The first one is that the fan service in Your Name is quite annoying. I get that this is a film that (successfully) appeals to all kinds of anime fans, so this was necessary to add in. But it isn't for me.
Secondly some of the plot elements needed to be fleshed out more. The whole thing of how they are able to see each other during one part of the movie felt very arbitrary. And it wasn't clear at all why their memories of each other would fade away when they stop body switching. Some of it could use a little cleaning up is what I'm saying.
Other than that, all of the good things about Your Name are true, and I would definitely reccomend this movie to anyone who likes animated movies. Go watch it.
Final Score: 95/100.