The Hustle

I’m all for this wave of gender flipped remakes. Why should the boys get to have all the fun? So I revisited Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as homework for this lady friendly redo (I have since learned there have been earlier versions, but for the purposes of this blog, we’re considering DRS the original) and didn’t care for it. Michael Caine and Steve Martin are legends whom I adore very very much. However, I didn’t find it very funny. I actually found it rather cringey and I was a bit uncomfortable watching it. I hoped that the gender flip would alleviate some of the issues I had problems with. And it did help some, but not quite enough.

Caine and Martin pass on the con to Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. If you’ve seen DRS, then you know the ENTIRE PLOT. I can’t remember the last time a remake truly did stick so closely to its source material. Sure, some details are changed and the jokes are different, but it’s the exact same structure.

Was it a worthy upgrade? Well, it was a bit more feminist, so that fixed some of the issues. Yet it was still pretty cringey in its humor. I just wasn’t finding it very funny. Plus since I already knew where the story was going, I didn’t even get the fun of the twists and turns because it turned into the exact same twists as before.

I will say tho that I do absolutely adore these leading ladies. They were certainly bringing their A game, but unfortunately the material didn’t provide a worthy playing field. I really would love to watch them work together again in a better film.

The Hustle – \m/ \m/ \n

Detective Pikachu

I never got into Pokemon. I was maybe a year or so too old when they first hit the scene (junior high is NOT when you wanna start picking up new kids’ trends), and I just never hopped on that bandwagon. Nearly gave in to play Pokemon Go a few years ago, but concerns about battery and data usage kept me away. Obviously I’m plugged into pop culture enough to know a few basics, but I’ve got so many other fandoms going that I never felt the need to catch ’em all. My interest in seeing this was solely rooted in my love of Ryan Reynolds (who was voicing Pikachu) and the humor I hoped he’d bring.

Okay so we covered Ryan Reynolds if voicing Pikachu, who normally would only say “Pika pika” but for some reason this one kid can hear him. Pikachu and the kid are trying to solve a few mysteries such as why Pikachu has no memory and whether or not the kid’s dad is actually dead from a car crash or alive in hiding somewhere. And there’s some Poke-politics going on in this world as well.

As a n00b, I found it rather easy to slip into the Poke-world. There were elements that were clearly thrown in to explain things that gave just the right amount of info without sidetracking the film. I appreciated it. I also appreciated the humor (as hoped) and goshdarn it those little pocket monsters are so goshdarn cute.

Partway thru tho, I kinda lost interest. I will blame part of it on me being rather tired that day, and I will blame even more on the unnecessary 3D at my screening. It was making my eyes hurt to look at the screen (so much movement, they couldn’t rest and focus) and giving me a headache. However, I did also just stop caring about the story. Clearly, tho, I was never meant to be the target audience for this. And that’s okay. I have it on good authority that those who were did enjoy the film, which is how it should be.

Detective Pikachu – \m/ \m/ \n

Tolkien

Lord of the Rings is my favorite book. I’ve read it at least half a dozen times or so, and we won’t talk about how many times I’ve seen each of the films. As much as I know that story inside and out, I knew little of the author, JRR Tolkien. Hell, I had to rack my brain to remember that JRR stands for John Ronald Reuel, so I was very excited to dive into this story about the man behind all the myths.

Tolkien follows the early life of the author, from his childhood as an orphan, to the friendships he formed in school, to his wartime experiences and the love of his life Edith (Lily Collins). There are a few creative licenses taken, but it shows how the forces in his life influenced the characters and stories he would one day be famous for. I adored every second of it, but not for the reason I expected.

I expected a lot of Middle Earth magic and references to that world that I am so enamored with. It was there, of course, but it was subtly laced into the beautiful period piece. Now I typically don’t care for period pieces, but this didn’t feel so weighty as they often are. It was light and magical. The vibe I was getting specifically reminded me of that version of The Secret Garden with Maggie Smith. The setting was rich and the sense of wonder in the atmosphere was palpable. I can’t remember when I last saw a film that had that balance so beautifully done.

This film also appealed to the literary nerd in me. Again, not specifically the LOTR tie ins, but the overall love of arts and language made me feel like I was curled up with a good classic book, perhaps diving into Little Women for the 4th time. It’s been so long since that side of me was stimulated, just that feeling nearly brought me to tears. There were moments in the film that did that as well, and some that made me smile so brightly.

What also made me smile? I went to an early screening that was followed by a live stream Q&A between Stephen Colbert, the stars, and the director. Colbert is known as the world’s biggest Tolkien fan, and more than anything I just wanted to hear what he thought about the film and see him geek out over it. The interview did not disappoint. I hope the internet makes it available sometime because watching it was such a treat. The perfect dessert to the lovely film I’d just experienced

Tolkien – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Long Shot

I was in NYC this past weekend! I primarily went because I absolutely NEEDED to see Beetlejuice on Broadway, but I made sure to be there for as much of the weekend as possible (about 36 hours) so I could hang with the BFFF and maybe catch other shows. Except I didn’t wanna spend money on other shows, so I just entered a couple ticket lotteries that I did not win. So I spent about 34 of those 36 hours with the bestie. After spending a few hours at a board game cafe, we wanted to get in another activity before the big show. It was too late for a too long Avengers round 3, but really I wanted to see Long Shot. I mean c’mon, the two of us aren’t often on the same side of the country, and if there’s a new Seth Rogen movie, we gotta see it together. It’s because of a Seth Rogen movie that we say we’re BFFF’s (with that extra F). Luckily there wa showing in Times Square that we could get to after one last game and have enough time to grab a quick slice before the ‘Juice.

Charlize Theron is the current secretary of state, and she’s just earned the sitting president’s endorsement to run in 2020. Seth Rogen, is a journalist with such a strong sense of morals and ideals that he’s lost his job over it. Turns out, he and Charlize knew each other as young’uns and they reconnect under typical romcom meet cute circumstances. He takes a job as a speechwriter for her campaign, and like I said, romcom, so they fall for each other. Much hilarity ensues.

And I really do mean MUCH hilarity. The two of us were laughing nonstop at this very smartly written screenplay. For the rest of the weekend, we were exchanging quotes, but it wasn’t just the comedy that was smart. Earlier in the day we’d been talking about the very positive shift in tv and film towards showing healthy dating, and this very much continues in that movement. Okay so it’s a bit problematic that she’s his boss, but otherwise it’s a step in the right direction towards depicting a good communicative relationship. It did lean just a tad too hard into the romcom tropes, so I gotta knock off half a point, but that’s my own personal preference and general aversion to the genre.

Charlize and Seth may seem like quite the odd couple, but they worked so well. She hasn’t really been given the chance to do comedy, and she excelled at it. Each knew how to play up the other’s strengths and it gave them a genuine and unexpected chemistry. I also wanna give a shout out to O’Shea Jackson Jr, who had a small but important supporting role. He’s had the charisma to steal his scenes in the films I’ve seen him in so far, and he’s def gonna be one to watch out for going forward. Anyways yeah that’s all to say this was just another awesome part of an awesome weekend

Long Shot – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Hail Satan?

I found an article about this film that caught my eye. It was praising this documentary for being very unique and funny. It explained about how the Satanic Temple is a primarily political organization–one full of more trolls than demons. Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the group that opposed installing a Ten Commandments statue on government property and insisted equal representation with a statue of Baphomet? That’s these guys. I watched the trailer and agreed that it looked like a rather fun film. I didn’t expect how much this would be sticking in my thoughts. This is the blog post I kinda hope my Mom never reads, but also kinda hope she does (but never brings up to me).

Contrary to public perception, the Satanic Temple is, as I just mentioned, a political activist group. Among their many endeavors, one of their primary focuses is on the separation of church and state. Remember, this country was initially founded on freedom of religion, but over time it’s become more and more Christian. The Temple hopes to bring us back to a true country of plurality that can accommodate many viewpoints and beliefs all at once, and especially leave those beliefs out of government.

I’ve talked about this before, but I was raised in a pretty hardcore Christian household. So much of our daily life revolved around God. We were in Church almost every Sunday, plus additional activities throughout the week, so I was raised with certain beliefs. In the past few years, I’ve been having an internal struggle with a lot of those beliefs because there are some things I was taught that I cannot agree with and some attitudes that I just can’t claim as my own. In particular, I’ve come to the realization that I was always TOLD what I believe instead of coming to my own conclusions and truly believing on my own. There’s some basics I’m on board with, but past that it’s all up in the air.

I know for a fact that if anyone from my home Church heard anything about this movie, they’d immediately shut it down, condemn these people as evil devil worshipers, say a prayer, and move on without giving it a second thought. The thing is, they’d be completely incorrect on so many levels. For starters, these guys are not evil or devil worshipers. There were so many scenes of Christians yelling at them or threatening or generally being hurtful, and it cut right through me because I’ve been on that side. I’ve been told that’s right, but there’s no attempt to understand each other. If they were open to hearing what the temple stands for and what its about, they’d find that they’re not a threat or an attack, simply marginalized people asking for the same rights to exist.

There were so many ideas in this documentary that I agreed with, and I identified with a lot of the people in it. I too was often told that things I enjoyed were unequivocally bad when they were in fact harmless. I too was outcast and misunderstood. I too can’t believe that there is only one way to be spiritual and that any one side can be truly right. My soul searching journey is not over and likely never will be, but this is a perspective I’m truly grateful to have seen. It challenged all the same ideas that I’ve struggled with while offering some new ideas. Plus it really was funny as hell

Hail Satan? – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Her Smell

Surprise last minute movie! With Avengers dominating the larger theaters, it was time to look to the little ones for something else to spend my Saturday on. I’d made a plan to go to my favorite indie down in Santa Monica, with the option to stop by the used bookstore for cheap DVD’s. Then I woke up earlier than expected and decided to go to the first yoga class instead of my usual one, and saw that meant that I’d be able to get in two movies. I’d hafta pay way too much for parking, but maybe I could get MoviePass to work and save me a few bucks (and it actually did work!) I think it was all worth it, but I’m kinda of two minds about this movie.

Elizabeth Moss stars as Becky Something, lead singer of punk girl group Something She. The film shows five different eventful days (or nights) throughout her career from being at the top of the world to hitting rock bottom with the usual addiction issues that come from being a rock star. It’s pretty intense and in your face, with some shaky cinematography that’s reminiscent of Blair Witch.

I was totally digging the first few sections. I saw a couple of older people in the tiny little indie theater walk out (overhearing one say “I don’t care for this”) but as someone who identifies as punk, I was living for the punk rock vibe. The music, the outfits, the color, the rebellion, everything I love about the scene.

What, or I suppose I should say who, I was really blown away by was Elizabeth Moss. Her electric performance felt almost Shakespearean as she’d dive into these seemingly non-stop monologues. Any one of them was worth watching, and they just kept on coming one after another.

Then we got to the fourth section of the film and everything slowed down. I tried to stay with it, but was quickly lulled to sleep. I completely understand why the pace came down, and it made sense for the story to take those turns, I just missed the energy and vibrancy of the earlier bits of the film. I woke up in time for the grand finale, but was still left lacking, without the buzz I felt for the earlier parts of the film.

Her Smell – \m/ \m/ \m/

Avengers: Endgame

My mind is all over the place about whether I want to write this now and what I want to write. It’s next on my chronological viewing queue,, but I also kinda wanna wait until I get in a second viewing tomorrow so I’ve got a more solid handle on all the feels I’m still processing. It’d also be good to wait to post this in a couple days, not that I’m gonna spoil anything, but I don’t wanna contribute too much information, but timing wise it makes sense to do one of my three tonight. Then how much do I talk about? I saw this on Thur (duh) and all day Friday if anyone would ask me anything, I’d just give a big doofy grin and a cheery “Uh huh” I took pride in how tightlipped I was, going so far as to run into a conference room to have a spoilery talk with someone else who had seen it. Buuuuut this blog is for talking about movies, and odds are not many people are gonna stumble on this anyway. So if you’re here, you’ve been warned.

After 11 years and 22 movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has created its largest event film, looking to be a send off of some original stories and a launching pad for some new ones. I was thinking about this the othe rday, and I think I am more attached to the MCU than to Star Wars or the Wizarding World or any other major franchise that immediately came to mind. I have seen every single one of these in theaters and watched them do something more and more impossible at every turn. I love these characters, I love their stories, I love the actors, I love everything about them, even the lesser films. When one of these movies comes out, it’s an event, often an emotional rollercoaster. And this was gonna be the biggest of them all.

I wanted to walk into the theater knowing as little as possible. I’d seen the first trailer a couple of times because it was shown in theaters, but I refused to watch any others. I didn’t read any articles, especially as we came closer to the release date and critic types had seen the movie. For about 48 hours before the film, anytime I’d be online and saw a word that remotely looked like “Avengers” I’d quickly scroll or close the window. I wanted to fully experience the film in the moment. Sidebar: there was also a lot of bladder training in the weeks leading up. I wasn’t gonna risk missing a second of it.

Up until about three hours before the movie, I had two tickets at different theaters across town. I’d initially inteded to get an AMC ticket, preferably a fancy screen if possible. However, as many of you may know, the internet blew up on ticket sale day and AMC’s site was down. After much fighting with Fandango at home, I got into the office and was able to quickly get a Cinemark ticket. I later learned I coulda used my A-List on Fandango, but by that point the fancy screens were mostly sold out and I preferred to pay for a good seat (like I currently had) than A-List a bad seat (like my current options). A couple days later an additional screen was added to the AMC near work and I grabbed a good seat. I still didn’t wanna release the Cinemark ticket just in case something went wrong along the way.

So anyways, the movie. I absolutely LOVED it. I mean, I was absolutely gonna love it no matter what, yeah? I knew nothing of what to expect, barely let myself even speculate (and much of the little I’d speculated was wrong anyway) and just lived with these beloved characters for 3 hours and 2 minutes. Yes I even stayed thru the end credits even though I knew nothing was there. It felt disrespectful not to, after I’d done it for 21 other movies. It just had everything. Great character moments, an engaging story, fantastic action, smart humor, EVERYTHING. I don’t know how many times I screamed “YESSSS!!!!” or just screamed. I prolly annoyed the rando next to me, but he was annoying me with his leg shaking so we’re cosmically even.

I’d initially meant to wait a bit to go back for round 2. I wanted the crowds to die down so I could heard the lines of dialog I’d been cheering thru. Plus I wanted to keep this weekend chill with an NYC weekend coming up. I caved at about 10 AM on Fri and got another ticket for tomorrow. I just need to be back in the Endgame with my people

Avengers: Endgame – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

High Life

Artsy movies are such a crap shoot for me. I love some of them, but others are just slow and weird. This kinda looked like it could be the later, but I was still drawn to it, especially because Robert Pattinson has rather proven himself as a legit actor post-Twilight. As I often do, I decided to rest its fate on A-List. If it came to an AMC theater, I’d go. I even passed on a chance to see it at a different theater with a q&A with Pattinson. But it came to the dine in, and I doubled it with La Llorona (even had the same waitor at both, which was a lil awkward). It might have been better if it didn’t end up there.

It’s actually an artsy scifi, where we find ourselves looking in on a lone man in a distance space craft caring for a baby. Those first few scenes of them are so captivating, and it raises so many questions. Who/what/when/where/why/huh? All the usuals. But as it went on, the answers didn’t really satisfy. We got some flashbacks that show how they got there, but they were hard to understand. It also felt like a lot of ideas were thrown out, but there were so many plotholes. I can forgive plotholes if the story is moving, but the story wasn’t moving. And I can forgive a stagnant story if I know what it’s trying to say, but I didn’t know what it was trying to say. Sooooo, I was bored.

I did some research after and found out some of the ideas that writer/director Claire Denis was trying to convey. It became a little clearer, but still felt like she was just throwing them out there without much purpose or conclusion.

I think there’s potentially a good movie in the concept. I just think that it needs to focus less on the concept and more on the characters.

High Life – \m/ \n

The Curse of La Llorona

You’ve heard me rant enough about the type of horror movies that I like that I prolly don’t hafta get into it again now. Cutting to the chase, this is the type that I’d normally just skip and not think twice about. HOWEVER, this one had a special circumstances exception. La Llorona is a Mexican folktale, meaning that I’d heard her story here and there as a kid. She’s not as ingrained in me as La Chupacabra, so I did need a quick wikipedia refresher, but this film is definitely not the first I’d heard of her. I did still have minimal expectations going in, but thought she was worth a try. I shoulda held out for that Chupacabra movie.

Who is La Llorona? According to the legend, she’s a woman who drowned her kids in a blind and jealous rage when her husband was leaving her for another woman. From then on, in tears she’s searched the riverbank for her children, capturing any other children that cross her path, drowning them thinking they’re her kids.

The film takes her character and makes her into your typical horror movie ghostly beastie, attacking people and making weird stuff happen. She’s going after a single mom (the lovely Linda Cardellini) and her children, a social worker who was unable to save one of her charges’ children from the same ghost lady. It made for a pretty generic horror film. Not very scary, not at all insightful. It’s very poorly written, yet still mostly watchable.

I do absolutely love the Hispanic representation and the idea of bringing some of that culture to life is very exciting. I just feel like we deserve better (we as in the audience, and we as in Hispanics with whom I identify).

The Curse of La Llorona – \m/ \m/

Hotel Mumbai

Part of my personal resolve to watch less movies and only choose those I really want to see (don’t worry, that’s still way too many) means that if I don’t see the trailer in theaters, unless it’s got a filmmaker I love and trust, it’s not gonna make my watch list by default. The info’s gotta come to me and tell me why I need to see it. If the studio doesn’t care enough to put in the minimum effort (really, it doesn’t take much for me to hear about it), it suggests they may not have faith in the film. Such was the case with Hotel Mumbai. I vaguely knew about it, but except for catching Armie Hammer doing a show or two on the late night circuit, I had seen zero press for it. But then I saw nothing but positive reviews on Stardust and a coworker sold me on it pretty hard when I said I hadn’t seen it yet. Turns out this one deserved way more publicity and attention.

This movie is the true story of a multi pronged attack in Mumbai India in 2008. A group of terrorists attacked various public areas before converging on a large glamorous hotel. We follow a few guests in the hotel (that’s where Armie Hammer comes in) as well as some of the staff (oh hi Dev Patel) as they fight for their lives on that harrowing night.

This is easily the most suspenseful story I’ve seen this year. The first act in particular didn’t let up. Any time someone even thought about moving, bang! DEAD! I almost wish I didn’t see this though. Remember, I’m an actual movie girl and I eat up any sorta shoot ’em up with explosions and blood and gore and kill counts. This is different. This is very real and graphic and terrifying in a this-actually-happened sort of way. I really didn’t want to know that people were capable of such horrors, and I feared the nightmares that would come.

The nightmares didn’t come tho, thankfully. Mr Rogers says to look for the helpers and there were some wonderful ones here. The staff of the hotel in particular were so selfless and wonderful. I focused on them.

Hotel Mumbai – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/