Chappaquiddick

Generation gaps. Mention the names Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick to a Boomer and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. This millennial sees posters for Chappaquiddick and says huh? I only even know the name Ted Kennedy from having lived in Massachusetts, but this story was completely foreign to me.

To catch up the rest of us young’uns, Chappaquiddick is an island in Massachusetts. Not long after the death of Bobby Kennedy, Ted Kennedy was at a gathering on this island with some friends and family. Long story short, he ends up driving off a bridge with one of Bobby’s young secretaries, resulting in her death. Let’s just say he doesn’t handle it too well.

The actual events of that night are still a mystery, and the controversy has clouded his legacy. The film depicts an interpretation of the story, then shows Kennedy stumbling to establish exactly what his version of the story is. For me, I found the majority of his actions deplorable and it made it difficult to get into this movie.

Actually, from the beginning of the film, I didn’t like him. He came off as selfish and arrogant and elitist. Those unfortunate prosthetics weren’t doing actor Jason Clarke any favors either. From there, even decision he made caused me to like him even less. Then bring in the lawyers and fixers that work for his dad, and I was completely lost (as far as support, not attention, tho that was dwindling too).

What made it even harder for me to get behind him was that Ed Helms played a supporting character that I was behind. For one, I always love seeing comedic actors play dramatic, and he did it rather well. His character was the one I did have sympathy for, and the way he was treated by Kennedy created a further rift for me with this film.

I think the story was ultimately an interesting one, I just didn’t enjoy watching it. I guess it also didn’t help that I’d left my crock pot running at home and started worrying that I’d maybe put it on the high setting by mistake. Crisis averted. My chicken was fine. The movie, less so.

Chappaquiddick – \m/ \m/

A Cry in the Dark

I feel bad now that Dingoes At My Baby is my favorite fictitious band. I had no idea there was a basis of truth to that phrase.

Meryl heads down under and puts on an Aussie accent to play the real life Lindy Chamberlain. While on a camping trip with her family, her infant is carried away by a dingo and killed. Except, not everyone is buying that story, and Lindy finds herself on trial for murder.

What I found interesting about the film is that it’s done from a perspective that Lindy truly is innocent. That’s never called into question. IRL, there’s still a lot of controversy over that, and many who still believe that she’s guilty. I think it would have made an more intriguing and engaging story with some ambiguity.

Of course, Meryl is fantastic. Lots of emotion and depth, with an accent thrown on top. Storywise, this is one that’s more up my alley than we’ve seen on this journey and I’m thankful I have Meryl to take me there.

Beirut

How does one forget they have a screenplay lying around? Something like that happened with this, not entirely sure what the exact story is. Tony Gilroy, who wrote Michael Clayton and the better Bourne movies, wrote this back in the early 90’s and for some reason just now stumbled on it.

Jon Hamm (doing his best work since Mad Men) is an American who lived in Beirut in the 70’s. After a terrorist attack kills his wife and throws his life in shambles, he retreats back to the States and desperately tries to forget about his past. Fast forward ten years, and he’s lured back to Beirut under false pretenses. Come to find out, his closest friend from his previous time in this city is being held hostage and has specifically requested him to negotiate his release.

The movie was a little inconsistent for me. There’s some amazing and intense sequences (the first 20 min or so, for example). Those are what make the movie. However, stringing those sequences together are a lot of slower and less interesting scenes. The space between the highs and lows is pretty wide.

Hamm is fantastic tho. Everything you loved about him as Don Draper is channeled into this role: the arrogance and stubbornness and total command of the screen. To me, no one else in this movie mattered. It was all his and he owned it.

Beirut – \m/ \m/ \m/

Blockers

Ah, the classic teenage sex comedy. Told from the perspective of the parents?! Okay, that’s a new twist.

John Cena, Leslie Mann, and Ike Barinholtz are parents who are having trouble letting go of three teenage BFF daughters. When they find out that the gals are planning to have sex on prom night, the ‘rents go into full overprotective mode and try to and block them (oh I just figured out why they always put a rooster in front of the name on posters).

I do love a good raunchy R rated comedy, if it’s clever enough, and for me this was just shy of the mark. There were some solid funny moments, but not as much as I was hoping for. Our parental trio was great (they’ve been comedic favorites of mine), and I do particularly love seeing Cena do comedy. I just expected a bit more of the funny.

What made up for it tho was the characters. I liked the girls and the strong friendship they had, and their strong relationship with their parents made it all the better. I may not have been laughing my head off at these people, but I cared about them. In some ways, that’s more important. In others, I expected to laugh my butt off and didn’t quite get that.

Ultimately, the film had some positive themes and solid performances that made it enjoyable. The genre has had better moments, but this will still be a standout.

Blockers – \m/ \m/ \m/

A Quiet Place

Wow. This movie was an experience. The premise is simple. There’s big creatures that will hunt you if you make noise. So STFU and you’ll survive.

I’ve said before that for me, the best horror movies are about something other than the scares. At its heart, this film is about family. How far would you go to protect them? Take the creatures away, and you’ve got a compelling familial story, anchored by real life spouses Emily Blunt and John Krasinski (who also directed). They are what make the movie work.

And then it’s scary as #*$^ on top of that. Silence can be such an effective tool. I’ve heard stories of people walking out of the theater and freaking out at the first noise they hear. I for one had to stifle a couple of sneezes during the movie. But the thrills are so much more intense because you’re so completely invested in the characters. This is horror well done!

Another point, I love that the deaf daughter is played by a deaf actress. Apparently this point was non-negotiable, and I love that. Watching this made me wanna get back into my ASL classes. I was even inspired to do my Stardust reaction in sign language. I had to look up almost every word and I likely got some of it wrong, but I tried.

This is easily making my top ten of the year, and I’m so excited to see how well it’s doing.

A Quiet Place – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Out of Africa

Meryl ventures from middle America to the wilds of Africa. This movie had been on my watch list for a very long time, but I gotta be real with you guys (all 5? of you). I wasn’t really paying too much attention. So let’s just take the summary straight off IMDB.

“In 20th-century colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness/plantation owner has a passionate love affair with a free-spirited big-game hunter.”

I don’t know, I just couldn’t do it. I was more of a period piece than I expected, and it wasn’t the story I thought. I guess I thought it’d be more safari less stuffy (it wasn’t really stuffy, but again, unexpected).

Yeah I wish I had more substance to bring to this post, but sometimes, I just don’t have it. Thankfully Meryl does have it, so we’ll have more to talk about soon!

Ironweed

And she does it again! Meryl pulls out something completely different we haven’t seen from her, and the Academy has no choice but to award her with her fifth lead nomination, seventh total.

Her role here is a lead in that it’s substantial, but the story is really about Jack Nicholson’s Francis. Francis is a drifter who has just returned to his hometown of Albany. He hasn’t been back since he left decades earlier after a mistake that tore his family apart. Meryl comes in because she’s his kind of girlfriend on the street. They pal around together, both supporting each other and allowing each other to avoid their problems.

This is some major character work from Meryl. An accent and an attitude that is unlike anything we’ve seen, because she is inhuman. Nay, she is a goddess! She has this amazing scene early on where she performs a lounge number, and if you watch no other part of this film, watch those five minutes. They’re extraordinary.

Rampage

Guess who got to go to an early screening thanks to the wonderful awesome that is Stardust?! It wasn’t even so much about getting to see the movie early. It was about the 90 minutes of schmooze time pre-movie and the excited commentary post-movie with a bunch of other film afficionados, geeking out over every movie that came to mind, and excitedly chattering away on my favorite subject with others who also never get a chance to talk movies so intensely. I’ve never felt so comfortable in a crowd of people I hafta interact with, and I’m starting to really love these friends I’m seeing again and again.

But this wasn’t purely a social hour, there was a movie to see! Very loosely based on a video game (which they had set up to play before the movie, which was key to getting an extra bit of context), Dwayne Johnson is the caretaker of an albino gorilla at a primate sanctuary. Big boy gorilla George comes in contact with something science-y and starts getting bigger and angrier. Come to find, he’s not the only creature to start getting big and bad, and soon three creatures are converging on Chicago with an eye for destruction.

Look, with a movie like this, you know what you’re getting and what you’re coming for. You’re not going for the plot, which was pretty thin and thrown together. Oh and their concept of science? Totally laughable. There was no need for all the exposition because we just cared about big monsters, not why there’s big monsters, esp when your reasoning isn’t very plausible. You’re also not going for the acting, which was mostly cheesy and over the top. The baddies were particularly bad offenders there. The Rock was fine, but it felt like his charisma was wasted on this film. I loved the early scenes of him interacting with George in the facility, and would have gladly watched an entire movie of just them interacting as such. But even big guys gotta step aside when bigger creatures are on screen.

What you do go see this movie for is the fun factor. There were so many surprises in this movie that caught me off guard: unexpected jokes or jumps in action. My Stardust friend next to me said she even felt me flinch and recoil during one of those. There were whoops and cheers and gasps in the crowd. It’s def one you’re gonna wanna see with friends (maybe after a couple drinks) because it won’t be the same level of amusement on your own.

The other reason you go see this is the effects. Those monsters did indeed look pretty dope, and the destruction was well done. I’m typically not into that sort of thing, but when it’s the forefront of hte movie, it had dang well better be good (and it was).

Look, you know what you’re getting with a movie like this. If you think you can make a good time of it, then you most certainly will. Otherwise, maybe just find a barcade somewhere and play the game instead.

Rampage – \m/ \m/ \n

Sherlock Gnomes

I was strangely excited to see this. Gnomeo and Juliet had been surprisingly enjoyable–well thought out and clever with a great soundtrack. I expected more of the same, including the lovely music from Elton John. My God was there a huge drop off in quality

Our previously feuding gnome clans have now combined families and moved into a new garden. Soon after they begin to settle in to their new home, the gnomes are kidnapped. It’s up to Gnomeo and Juliet and their new friends Sherlock Gnomes and Watson to find the missing miniatures. Sounds a little thin, but not too bad, yeah? If only they put some effort in.

The whole thing just felt so dang lazy. We started strong with great jokes and that kicking soundtrack, but as the film dragged on, the quality continued to drop. There was nothing to distinguish it from the generic kids fare that otherwise fills the theater. It even seemed as though they forgot about Elton partway thru because I don’t remember any of his songs in the later half.

The whole thing was just predictable and dumb and boring, in no way worthy of its predecessor or its music.

Sherlock Gnomes – \m/ \n

Silkwood

Now we’re getting into a large block of first time watches. What’s surprising me (and it really shouldn’t) is how different each role I’m discovering is from the one before. I personally like to see actors get Oscar nominations when they do something completely different for them, so just allow me to point out these string of nods she got in the 80’s. Silkwood scored her third consecutive lead nomination.

This time, in a screenplay by Nora Ephron, Meryl plays the real life Karen Silkwood. She worked in a nuclear processing plant, and becomes very active with their union after realizing how unsafe the working conditions really are. Of course, the big bosses in charge aren’t having that, and she’s attacked and abused and ultimately dies under mysterious circumstances.

So Madame Meryl is coming off of Sophie’s Choice and takes a total 180 to play a small town middle America woman. She’s not just some morally driven activist. She’s a complicated character, dealing with a life of making mistakes and being looked over who has just had it. She’s finally standing up for herself (as well as her friends and family) and is brought under attack. Not exactly what she was hoping for, but at this point, she has nothing left to lose.