Florence Foster Jenkins

“It is a rare occurrence that I don’t see a trailer for a major release before it’s out. No matter, Florence Foster Jenkins had me at Meryl Streep. Is there a limit to how many times on this blog I can say that I adore that woman, because I really do.

The real life Mrs Jenkins was a New York socialite back during the 40s (I think) who loved music more than anything in the world. She especially loved singing, but unfortunately wasn’t very good at it. That didn’t stop her from performing at large concerts in front of her supportive and adoring friends and community.

It’s actually probably a good thing that I didn’t see the trailer, so that I could experience Meryl’s “”singing”” for the first time in the movie for full effect. It’s truly something special. I don’t want to bust out with the usual gushing over her, so suffice it to say that this film is as worthy of praise as any other of her performances. This one just happens to be on the comedic side, which I always find to be such a treat to watch her in.

It’s not all about Meryl though. Well, it is, but she’s got some strong supports. Her devoted husband is played by a previously semi-retired Hugh Grant, in what should rank among his career best. I’ll admit, I never really cared for him before, combination of him always doing rom-comms and coming off as too arrogant, but here he was divine. I finally understood that British charm he’s typically loved for.

We’ve also got Simon Helberg as the very un-Wolowitz like accompanist for Mrs Jenkins. His character is the new one in this world, so we experience much of the absurdity from his perspective. Helberg is quite an excellent character actor, so it’s great to finally see him stretch those acting muscles in a high profile film. Seriously, good for him.

Yeah, so just a fun and upbeat comedy that was thoroughly enjoyable. Sometimes you just need that. Sometimes you didn’t even realize you did.

Florence Foster Jenkins – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Hell or High Water

“I’ve been on somewhat of a Chris Pine kick lately. I guess it must have been seeing him on the publicity circuit for Star Trek. Stands to reason that I was pretty psyched to see he had an under the radar indie offering sneaking into theaters. Add in it’s stellar reviews and it shot up to the top of my priority list for what turned out to be a pretty stuffed weekend.

Pine stars in a modern day western as a desperate Texan who enlists his brother (played by the illustrious Ben Foster) to help him hold up a couple banks in the area, for what turns out to be a fairly noble purpose. As smartly thought out as their plan may be, they still have a Texas ranger (Jeff Bridges) hot on their trail.

This turned out to be such a well crafted drama on all fronts, and a refreshing change of pace to our hectic spectacle of a summer. This is being heralded as possibly Pine’s career best role, and it is certainly among the meatiest he’s had to sink his teeth into. In a rare turn, he’s neither the charming leading man he’s currently known for playing, nor is he the quirky side character where he started his career. It’s certainly a must for all Pine Nuts to watch.

Foster may not have strayed far from his comfort zone as the misunderstood good guy who does bad, but he provided a solid anchor. He keeps on getting these roles because he’s good at them, and he continually finds ways to make them fresh. And as far as Jeff Bridges, I could never have a bad word to say about the Dude. In anyone else’s hands, his ranger could have been a boring and generic antagonist, but you add that child-like joy Bridges naturally exudes and the maturity and stature that comes with his wealth of experience, and you’ve got a rather formidable foe.

The film also got me thinking a lot of wealth and privilege and how so many people are just stuck in their poverty cycles. The views of sleepy little west Texas towns looked bleak, with little hope for escape for anyone caught up in it (like any of our main characters). It made me evaluate and appreciate the blessing I’ve had in that I’m not stuck in that situation. Just seeing it was frustrating and humbling, and it heightened the tone of desperation that was prevalent throughout the film.

Hell or High Water – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Sausage Party

“One time when I was little, I was riding in the car with my mom. There was a commercial for some Chippendale type show. “”It’s gonna be a sausage buffet!”” the announcer exclaimed. “”Ew, sausage buffet? That doesn’t sound very appetizing”” replied my sweet innocent and conservative mother. That’s one of the things that comes to mind whenever I see the Sausage Party poster. The other is that my brain insists on singing “”It’s gonna be a sausage party”” to the tune of Eminem’s WTP.

None of that really has anything to do with the movie, where Seth Rogen (who also cowrote) voices a sausage named Frank that lives in a local grocery store. All he dreams of is being taken out of the store by the “”gods”” where he can live out his days in happiness and hopefully form a hot dog with his bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristin Wiig). However, Frank learns some unfortunate truths about what exactly goes on in that great beyond he’s been waiting for.

It’s hella traumatizing. Like really really messed up. And I loved it. A major part of the premise is the food discovering that they’ll be eaten, which is disturbing (and hilarious) enough. But we go to some other pretty dark places that I wouldn’t dream of beginning to spoil. Throughout the film I kept on uttering things like “”WTF am I watching?!”” or “”I can’t believe this is happening”” or various other exclamations of disbelief.

But I’ll tell you why I was happy to be traumatized, nearly to the point of nightmares. I like being shocked by a movie. Between how half-assed most recent releases have been and how jaded I am from seeing way too many films, it’s hard to shock me. So first off, points for pulling that off. And for the creativity in general. This continues the trend of having some of the most unique and bizarre films I’ve ever seen being buried between all the sequels and superheroes. But yeah, traumatizing is good. It’s memorable and effective. Whodda thunk that a talking sausage would bring me one of the best movie experiences of the year so far?

Oh side note, look (listen) out for Edward Norton as Sammy Bagel Jr. Yeah, that Edward Norton. I’m guessing that the appeal in the film was similar to most of the animators who wanted the chance to do an adult animated film. Either way, his nearly unrecognizable voice (if it wasn’t for his Brian voice in The Score, I’d have never caught on) is a definite highlight, and further elevates the status of the film. Because somehow this movie has an elevated status. Which it totally deserves!

Sausage Party – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Suicide Squad

“Is it possible to be simultaneously excited and apprehensive of a movie? Because that’s pretty much how I felt going in. These characters excite me. This cast excites me. The idea of an antihero premise excites me. Director David Ayer excites me. The current state of the DC comics universe worries me to no end. The panic the studio went into after the epic fail of BvS worries me. The idea that said panicked studio would go in and alter the film in attempts to course correct their mistakes worries me.

The buzz going in was that this was an even hotter mess than what we saw earlier this year. Personally, I don’t think it was that bad. Suicide Squad had some potential and even some flickers of potential greatness, which BvS had none of. However, we still ended up with a rather incoherent jumble.

Let’s start with the good, because there was some good, and it was exactly where I expected it to be: in the cast and characters. Can I first and foremost declare my absolute love and adoration of Harley Quinn. Is it bad if I said that I really wish I could be her? Well in some respects at least. But yes yes OMG yes, Margot Robbie nailed it and gave us an instantly iconic and forever memorable portrayal, stealing every scene she was in. Could we maybe give her a standalone movie next time?

Also a win, Will Smith as Deadshot. Smith has said that working with Ayer was the reason he took on the very against type role, but what I saw is an actor having more fun than I’ve seen from him in a very long time. I liked this look on him, and I could tell that it felt right to him too. He was able to bring some more gravitas to anchor things and far more depth and dimension than you’d expect from a hitman type baddie.

I also wanna give a shout out to Jay Hernandez as Diablo. We just saw him a couple weeks ago in a breakout role in Bad Moms, so I hope this one-two combo punch of summer movies cements him in Hollywood. I’ve been following him since he played basketball with Anthony Anderson (oh maybe they never shared seasons) on TNBC’s Hang Time. He also had a very interesting character with a dark backstory.

Oh and of course, Viola Davis as the mysteriously motivation Amanda Waller. Really, I shouldn’t need to say more than Viola Davis.

But that’s about where the good ended. When you start diving into the story, it makes no sense. You never really know who the big bad they’re all fighting is, there’s minimal character development, and we’re overstuffed with people of various levels of interest. Oh and the Joker is there because he’s the Joker, even though his B storyline with Harley really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with anything else. There’s a reason Marvel released The Avengers after most of our mains got introduced with their own films, which would have been a wise strategy here. We took so long learning about where our flashier peeps came from, we never got to learn much about the others. The plot kinda meandered between showcasing something cool about one guy and then something cool about another, but wasn’t really held together with anything really cohesive. Sorry, try again?

I think there’s some real potential here though. Imagine how much better BvS woulda been against pretty much any of these guys instead of Lex. How much more energy would it have had? The Skwad at least has an idea of how to have fun in a film, and if the DC Universe is to continue, I hope that they use some of these guys to breathe life into the duller parts of the franchise. I know that either way, the studio is laughing all the way to the bank, but it’d be nice if they at least had a quality product to celebrate for once. That is what we need to make this cinematic world a much better place.

Suicide Squad – \m/ \m/ \n”

Ghostbusters

“Has any movie in recent memory had so much pressure to succeed? If this female led reboot of a beloved classic failed, it would set women in film back decades. Women’s suffrage was possibly on the line too. Critical reception may have been mixed, but as a woman in technology who loves movies, I walked out of there thinking that I absolutely cannot wait to show this film to my hypothetical one day future daughter.

By the time I’ve finally gotten around to writing this, let alone by the time this posts, most of this conversation has already occurred across the internet. But I still need to add my voice to the chorus, because for me, this is a very important movie.

I’m grateful that I’ve never seen being a girl as a problem when it comes to my interest in science. Being the child of two teachers, my parents were always completely encouraging when it came to my educational endeavors, and while I’ve felt my Daddy’s pride all my life, it was never so strong as when I graduated from MIT. However, the unfortunate this is that all of this support puts me firmly in the minority. There are many girls out there who are told they can’t be scientists. They can’t be comedians. They can’t be ghostbusters. This movie is here to tell them they can be all those things and more. They can be anything they damn well wanna be.

It was partway through the movie when I noticed Kristin Wiig wearing a brass rat. I was so giddy, I couldn’t concentrate on the scene. In case there was any doubt that’s what she bore on her finger, the next scene had her in an MIT sweatshirt. The rat stayed on most of the film. That to me was everything. It’s not hard to find something to identify with with an onscreen character, but to have such a strong connection to such a strong character in such an important franchise is big.

But it was more than just the rat. Our four leading ladies were under extreme scrutiny and pressure to be funny. Not only were they all hilarious (without crying into their ice cream over a boy), they were incredibly smart and incredibly strong. They each had ways to stand out and earn our affection, without being sexualized in any way. In short, they weren’t being specially treated as women, but instead were portrayed as fully three dimensional realistic characters, just like most men in most movies. I’m sure you’ve heard by now about a scene where Kate McKinnon (who ran away with the entire movie, btw) has about 30 seconds of pure bad-assitude. It rivals anything we’ve seen from James Bond, Jason Bourne, or Jack Bauer, and has to be one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen on screen simply by showing off her strength and skills and attitude. Now that is a girl I wanna be like.

Girl power aside, so much of the debate was over whether or not this movie even needed to exist. God knows I’ve called that into question over and over this year on countless other movies. As far as a movie itself (female politics aside), yes, this movie deserves to be here. I found that it very much kept the spirit of the original alive while putting it’s own stamp on things. There were just the right amount of throwbacks and cameos to honor the first without hindering this new incarnation. Simply put, it was some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year at least. For the love of movies, and for the love of all the wonderful women in your life, go see Ghostbusters. The world would be a much better place with more movies like this in existence.

Ghostbusters – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Jason Bourne

“I really don’t know what to do with this movie. I mean, of course I was excited to see Matt Damon back in action as Jason Bourne. I love Jason Bourne. But you gotta admin the films all kinda blur together. I knew exactly what to expect, and that’s exactly what I got, and so I can’t help feel underwhelmed by it all.

There was a pretty great climactic action sequence through Las Vegas at the end that was very fun and exciting. The rest of it, we’ve pretty much all seen before. Jason wandering around through some foreign locale, trying not to be seen, trying to subvert the authorities tracking him, trying to find out something about his past. Lather, rinse, repeat, even so many years later.

Among the few new elements, we’ve got recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and veteran Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones. They of course gave us some fresh energy and weight, but are they really all that different from Joan Allen or Edward Norton last time?

Yeah so anyways, there wasn’t anything wrong with it per say, except maybe the typical slow burn pace, but there wasn’t anything to excite me. And maybe (definitely) I’m jaded from going to the movies too often, especially during a very in your face summer, but if you’re gonna revisit a beloved franchise so many years later, you can’t just bank on the excitement of the return being enough. You gotta give me more, and I don’t think Jason Bourne really did that. And that makes me a sad panda.

Jason Bourne – \m/ \m/ \n”

Nerve

“Two (of the many) things I’m a total sucker for movie wise: a good and suspenseful thriller, and a dangerous psychological game scenario. Nerve checks both boxes. Awesome.

Emma Roberts, who is really rising up in the Hollywood ranks lately, plays the shy and conservative Vee. In an effort to break out of her shell and prove herself to her more adventurous friends, she signs up to participate in Nerve, an online game of truth or dare, minus the truth. People around the world pay to be watchers, tuning in to the live streams of the dares, and the watchers select the dares for the contestants to participate in. Complete your dare, earn some money. Fail and you’re out of the game. She teams up with Dave Franco’s Ian, and before they know it, the two are in far deeper than they planned on. And exactly who are these watchers, anyways?

It may not be a big and flashy blockbuster, but it absolutely worked for me. Again, being a sucker for games in the plot (see also Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire or the first Hunger Games), I think I was just most interested to see what the escalating dares were. Add on top of that the fast paced suspense and it was a total rush. I think the intensity of the film helped me finally let go of some of the anxiety from my upcoming move. One of the biggest pieces had fallen into place for me that day, and the ultimate release in tension at the films conclusion sorta took all of that with it. Okay, I’ll quit being introspective.

But yeah, just a fun smaller film hidden among the summer mega movies. And dare I say, it’s far more effective than a lot of those cookie cutter tentpoles. At least I liked it better.

Nerve – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Bad Moms

“Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell. I literally did not need to know anything else about this movie to know that I wanted in. That trio of funny ladies tells me everything needed to put this on my must list.

Oh what, you still need more info? Okay fine. This trio are all mothers falling into different mother archetypes, and they are fed up with trying to be perfect mothers. So they decide, to hell with it, they’re gonna be bad moms. It starts off as a raunchy comedy with these repressed mommies cutting loose, but then it gets very heartfelt as they start to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect mom. As long as they are giving their all to their kids, who cares what judgey moms like Christina Applegate’s villainous PTA president have to say about it.

It did feel like they were holding back a bit and could have gone a little more extreme with the extreme behavior, or at least that’s how it felt at first. I wasn’t expecting such an emotional impact with the later parts of the film, and in retrospect, I think the two aspects were balanced pretty well. I went in wanting to laugh like crazy and left wanting to call my Mommy. I did almost text her, but I didn’t think there was a way to say “”I saw Bad Moms and thought of you”” that didn’t sound mean out of context.

Bottom line, after the awesome of Ghostbusters, it looks like women in cinema got another boost of girl power. Let’s hope the trend continues

Bad Moms – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

I Heart Huckabees

“This may be my last attempt at the movie wall pre-move. All the DVD’s are boxed up, but I left out a couple specifically for this purpose. And then I really didn’t feel like watching any of them. Way too much of my todo list rattling around in my brain, and still so much stuff to pack. But before settling in last week to get some of that done, I gave myself a couple hours for Warcraft and a movie.

I’ve found that this movie is pretty polarizing. Most people don’t particularly care for it, but there are some who truly heart I Heart Huckabees. Me, I just have a hard time believing it’s David O Russell. It’s so much fluffier than this harder hitting dramedies that I love (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, etc). And it’s weird. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Also very much against type as I understand it.

I don’t even know how to describe it, so I’ll give you IMDB’s summary: A husband-and-wife team play detective, but not in the traditional sense. Instead, the happy duo helps others solve their existential issues, the kind that keep you up at night, wondering what it all means.

Did that make sense to you? Yeah me neither, and I’ve watched it a couple times now. We do have a pretty sweet cast with Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Naomi Watts, and Jason Schwartzman. Actually now that I think about it, maybe it’s just the presence of Schwartzman, but this feels far more Wes Anderson than Russell. Which also explains the polarization and my general “”meh”” feeling.”

Lights Out

“I initially meant to just skip this since the trailer didn’t give me any indication that it’d be anything special. But then some friends were talking about it, excitedly making plans, and it caught my attention. There wasn’t anything else I was dying to double with Star Trek (I’d mostly gotten caught up while I was in LA) and RT had a pretty decent (since certified fresh) score, so I figured what the hell. I’m still waiting for this year’s really good horror movie. It’s gotta be here somewhere. Lights Out actually makes a decent go at it, but I’m not sure it’s quite there yet.

So we’ve got the rebellious Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) who has been living on her own to escape her mother’s drama, only to get sucked back in when her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) starts getting caught up in it. Turns out Mom’s childhood best friend from the mental institution (there’s always a mental institution, isn’t there) Diana is somehow supernaturally back from the dead, but only capable of surviving in the darkness. Mom (Maria Bello) thinks they’re still besties. Rebecca and Martin think Diana’s out to get them. Oh and bonus points for Rebecca’s hot yet sensitive and loyal non-offical-BF Bret (Alexander DiPersia).

Given that I don’t really scare easily, I’d categorize the feel as more thriller than horror. Yes the supernatural element firmly places it in the later, but the vibe was more the former. It was simple, but solid. Fairly clean story lines (some muddle details, but not enough to drag down the pacing), full characters, strong cast. Still, it’s just missing that big wow factor that would have made it amazing. Not sure what exactly what missing piece is, but we’re at least further along than most other recent offerings in the genre.

Lights Out – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”