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Set it Off – This movie is from 1996, but it feels like it was shot yesterday. Four black women rage against the system that’s held them down. They’ve had family shot by police for no reason, lost jobs just because of who lives in their neighborhood, had children taken away under BS pretenses. Their answer? Rob some banks and watch the city burn. Loved Queen Latifah’s performance and just simply love Jada always. As a heist movie it’s okay, but as cultural commentary, it’s incendiary. And infuriating that we’re still in the exact same place today.

Whatever it Takes – This a mediocre at best teen comedy that gets lost in the shuffle of many from its era that are infinitely better. But what I hadn’t realized (mostly cause I’d forgotten everything about this movie) was that it was also part of the trend of modernized adaptations of classics. This one is Cyrano de Bergerac. With that context, it’s kinda cool, even if it’s otherwise not too exciting as written. What is kinda exciting is the cast. I bought it cause of James Franco. I didn’t realize that this was the film debut of Aaron Paul. If you ever saw that Juice Fruit commercial, it’s like that character got written into a movie. Sort of a long precursor to Jesse Pinkman without the nuance. Colin Hanks is here too!

Mirage – As of writing, I’ve only seen half of this movie. I was really tired and didn’t wanna fall asleep watching it. But this movie is so cool. It’s one of the ones on my poster and I found it on Netflix. It’s a Spanish film that plays out similar to Frequency. A lady in the present is communicating with a child in the 80s due to some technological phenomenon. She’s trying to save him from a horrible death, but in doing so upends her entire life. So now she’s gotta try to put it all back together. I’m digging it

Whip It – This movie always makes me wanna join the roller derby. I actually had sort of an opportunity a couple years ago. I knew someone in it, who tried recruiting me. She even offered to teach me when I told her I couldn’t skate. I chickened out thinking about how breakable I am, but I’d thought that if she brought it up again I might check it out. She never did. This movie is just such a fun display of girl power. I LOVE the attitude that everyone of them bring to the film (oh hi Zoe Bell!) that I just want to be them. And I really think I could be. Except I don’t skate

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I Am Sam – I think we found a movie that is too sweet for even a Disney kid. This movie is just drowning in saccharine, pushing you to root for a certain outcome that may not actually be the best one. One top of that, it was unnecessarily frenetic rivaling Uncut Gems with how anxiety inducing it was having people loudly talking over each other. I should love this movie. It’s a really good story with a fantastic cast, it just isn’t coherent.

Run Lola Run – On the flip side, here’s a movie where its frenetic pace was its greatest strength. This movie is so cool and stylish. Absolutely gorgeous to watch while it gets the blood pumping. I’d also recommend this as a gateway foreign film. I know that subtitles can be a struggle for some, but the dialog here is minimal. The visuals are what carry the story and what incredible visuals they are.

The Haunted Mansion – I only liked it because I’m a Disney kid and I’ve been on the haunted mansion ride countless times. I spent the whole movie looking for Easter eggs (or hidden Mickeys), identifying references to bits of the Disneyland attraction. Take that element out, and it’s kinda dull. To be fair, there aren’t a lot of kiddie horror movies, so it absolutely gets points for trying, but it’s not worth your time without the Disney knowledge

Seabiscuit – This is one that’d I’d put off for a long time because what do I care about horse racing? But it’s on the poster and it was two bucks at BookMonster. So I watched it, and enjoyed it in the moment, because everyone loves a good underdog sports movies. However, I’m sure I’ll quickly forget about it because, what do I care about horse racing?

Mr and Mrs Smith – This has to be one of the sexiest movies ever made. Palpable chemistry between two of the most gorgeous humans on the planet. But for me, the sexiness goes deeper than that. It’s in the playfulness of it all. The movie isn’t lewd or overtly talking about sex (for the most part). It’s the way they tease each other, stimulating each other’s minds more than each other’s, well you know. That’s what’s truly sexy to me.

Little Giants – This was a childhood favorite, and it explains so much about some of my screwier outlooks on life. I’ve always been a tomboy, but watching Icebox hit it off with itty bitty Devon Sawa made me really lean into that identity as a tween. Surely every pretty boy wants a girl who’s just one of the guys, yeah? That might not have quite worked out for me, but maybe it’s better that I was myself instead of trying to be one of the hottie type girls. Lord knows that would not have worked out well for me either.

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An American Pickle – This film has been polarizing. Mostly, Seth Rogen fans (of which I am adamantly one) loved it. I must be an anomaly because I didn’t really care for it. Mostly I found it a bit too surrealist for my taste and not funny enough. I think they took so many risks with the story (for better or worse) and not enough with the humor. Full marks for originality, but I just wanted more.

Bad Education – Allison Janney and Hugh Jackman are phenomenal, but they have much worthier showcases than this. The story is super interesting, but there’s not a lot of depth to it. It’s just more and more details piling on the same base. I wanted either more twists and turns or more interesting characters for them.

Sunshine Cleaning – Here’s a gem I hadn’t seen in a long time, and it might be one of Amy Adams’ strongest performances. Or at least one of the strongest that still leans into some of her Disney princess qualities (as much as I love her roles that don’t). I’m mostly just highlighting it because it was a sweet 90 minute distraction if that’s something you’re in the mood for.

Don’t Say a Word – I have a very specific memory associated with this film. This was one of the first DVD’s I ever owned, bought second hand at Blockbuster (it’s not even in a real case), and I was watching it on my laptop on the way to start college. My Daddy was sitting on the plane next to me, watching it over my shoulder via the subtitles. I offered to split my headphones, but he was perfectly content. As one of my first DVD’s I watched it many times back then, but it’s been ages since the last watch. What most struct me this time was Brittany Murphy. She is so phenomenal in this, and it made me so sad to watch and wonder what her career could have been. I learned right after watching that the actress who played the daughter also died young under tragic circumstances. Such a bummer that there’s a dark cloud over this movie because I still very much enjoy it. I don’t know that it’d hold its own in today’s cinema world, but I’m a sucker for the psychological mystery of it. And Brittany

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Rubber – My Reddit Secret Santa knocked it out of the park for Arbitrary Day this year. Among the gifts included were a poster checklist meticulously categorizing films and a copy of Rubber that I could then check off said list. This is a weird movie about a tire that starts killing people. Yes a tire. The film is wonderfully meta, which I love. Hell, it started with a whole monologue about how things happen in films for no good reason all the time. Except I think it leaned in too much on the meta, which slowed the pace of the story way down. I wanted more gore and more story. Just more really.

My Dinner with Herve – I will watch Peter Dinklage in anything, so watching this was a tragic delight. He stuck to a very distinct and recognizable character, while maintaining the emotional depth to keep from falling into caricature. It was a really interesting look at the life of Herve Villachaize, and the deep dive tribute he deserves.

Gaslight – We’ve all prolly heard the term “gaslight” recently, to mean a form of psychological abuse or control where a person insists that a lie is the truth leaving their victim questioning their sanity and reality. The term actually comes from this movie, where that’s the basic plot. Hubby tries to convince wife she’s going crazy, but he’s actually trying to keep her under his control. I was very much creeped out watching this. Even before he really escalated his behavior, I could see where he was taking it, and it’s a very real fear. I actually zoned out a good chunk of the movie because I couldn’t handle what was unfolding. It made me very uncomfortable, but in a good way.

Lady Snowblood – Unfortunately, I was very tired when I watched this, so I wasn’t awake for much of it. However, I didn’t need more than a few minutes to recognize what this was: the source of inspiration for Kill Bill. Tarantino practically stole the whole movie. The look and feel, the music style, the basic plot, various bits of imagery. I know KB well enough that I could identify everything that it took. Minimal internet research afterwards confirmed that this was the primary inspiration, to the point where QT would make the cast and crew watch this while working on KB. Kinda cool getting all that background on it, but IDK if it makes me think less of KB now that I see how much of it was borrowed (I don’t wanna say ripped off bc QT def put his own spin on it)

The Tale – Queue the Laura Dern song from this year’s spirit awards. She is a goddess and I adore her, and therefore I soaked in every single word and action of hers in this film with rapt attention. It’s an intense story and she tells it so well. Normally when I’m watching something at home, I’ll start scrolling IMDB trivia before the film is even over. I made a point not to do that because as desperately as I wanted to know what would happen, I wanted Laura to tell me the story her way. It’s difficult subject matter that may not be suitable for everyone, but it’s worth the discomfort if you can stomach it.

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I thought I had it in me to expand a few of these to full posts, but I’m feeling lazy. Not sure if I mentioned it yet, but I’m now back to a normal 5 day workweek, 2 day weekend schedule. I’m already freaking out on how I”ll get all my chill time, exercise, and chores into two days once movie trips and Disney are back in play, but that’s a problem for future Dawn (much much future Dawn by the looks of it ). Anyways, I thought I had it in me to make full posts outta some of these, but this morning I’m feeling lazy. I’m allowed to be lazy in a pandemic right?

A Man Apart – I’d brought this one up when talking about The Grinch. For the most part, it’s a pretty unremarkable and bland crime “thriller”. I was already struggling to get thru it. Then we get to the end bit, and Vin Diesel is supposta be somewhere in Latin America I think. Except, he was actually at Universal Studios. There’s a part on the tour where you stop in this Latin looking area (I forget its actual name) and they tell you about using water effects to create weather. Sprinklers turn on (I’ve been unfortunately positioned for that before) and then a flash flood rages out alongside you. Then they show you a clip from Big Fat Liar that uses that flood and we move on to The Good Place sets. That’s the exact spot where this was shot. Vin was walking down the flash flood path. Normally, I think it’s kinda cool when I recognize the Universal backlot in a film, but this time it was too much. The final strike against a terrible film.

Somewhere – I think this is the only Sophia Coppola film I really connect to, despite sincerely trying very very hard. I’d been contemplating putting this in the watch pile because I remembered enjoying it and little else, but I also seemed to recall it being rather simple. That simplicity serves it well. Elle Fanning, who I typically don’t care much for, is so sweet and engaging. Stephen Dorff turns a character who could be very unlikeable into someone you truly root for. It’s just a happy place of a movie, even if not all the characters are in a happy place.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – I prolly could stretch this into an entire post, but again laziness wins. I just wanted to give this film (we’re talking the 2005 Tim Burton) a quick defense. Yes, the first movie is the definitive one, but I like this because it’s overall more true to the book (except for the Wonka family backstory and the ending). There’s no fizzy lifting drink controversy, the Oompa Loompas have their original lyrics, squirrels not geese, and my favorite scene (the kids leaving the factory) is included. We’ll skip over the creepy Johnny Depp Wonka for now.

Big Fish – Speaking of book adaptations, this is one of two films where I can easily say that the movie is far superior (Forrest Gump being the other). All of the magic of the film comes from Tim Burton. The book is bland an dry and very boring, with none of the fantasy elements. While other Burton films are more quintessentially him, this one is the clearest showcase for how he can improve on a subject with his signature flair.

Housesitter – I was watching Father of the Bride the other day, which is a total comfort movie for me, and I realized that I didn’t have too much more from Steve Martin on the wall. I corrected that by getting a DVD 4 pack and this was the first I started with. I absolutely adore him and Goldie Hawn, but the movie didn’t work for me. Similar to my criticism of The Money Pit recently, it was just too implausible how deeper and deeper they kept digging themselves. I don’t like this kinda elaborate deception story because I just don’t buy it. Happy to see those two leads share the screen tho

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This past week was the most stressful and anxiety inducing I’ve had in this post-Covid world. There were a lot of unknowns and variables (a general source of anxiety for me), but by the end of the week everything fell into place. I physically felt relief (like literally, felt my chest loosen up and my body relax like it hadn’t in months) once it was all over. Still, not much mental capacity left for blogging this weekend. I wanted to just take the time to recharge before resuming my normal schedule (no more three day weekends) and finding out what my new normal is. Long story short, still speaking in vague terms, everything is looking okay and stable for now.

Arkansas – Last week’s rental from Alamo. Kinda unremarkable crime thriller. Vince Vaughn and Liam Hemsworth were great (I do love Vaughn’s turn towards dark and serious). Clark Duke looks too much like an ex I don’t wanna be reminded up, so that was offputting. Just predictable enough that the fresher storylines weren’t very impressive, but still engaging to watch. I think I’m gonna slow down on the rentals going forward tho. I’ve pretty much seen all the MUST movies, and the technology is still a little lacking. I still wanna support the theater tho, so I’ll try to figure out some alternatives.

But I’m a Cheerleader – Very long overdue first time watch, and I didn’t care for it. I recognize why it’s a cult classic, and I absolutely support that this film exists, especially when it was released during such a dearth of queer films (not that we’re doing all that much better). It was just too absurdist and ridiculous for my taste. Partly because that humor is not my style and partly because so much of the absurdity was rooted in truth, it was a little unnerving for me. Still, props for LGBTQ+ stories being told.

Birdman – You ever watch a movie and the only thought running thru your head is “This is AMAZING” on loop, over and over. I’ve seen this before (hell, three times in theaters), but it had been long enough that it was almost a new experience. The acting, the writing, the symbolism, the cinematography, the directing, all of it is truly truly a masterpiece.

The Crying Game – I wrote the other day about the documentary Disclosure, which focused on the portrayal of the transgender community in film, and I talked at length about how The Crying Game fit into that. I rewatched it the other day, with that new context, and it’s like a whole different movie from me. On previous views, I was just so excited to see LGBTQ+ represenation, I didn’t think about the bigger picture. Jaye Davidson gives such a moving performance, but this time it was even more heartbreaking. I was paying more attention to Dil’s story, and the way that she accepts so much abuse because she thinks it’s all she can get is devastating. Plus knowing the affect that this film had on Davidson and his reception and ultimate rejection in Hollywood, it hurts so much more watching him give everything to this role. He deserved better.

Airheads – I’ve been in need of really good laughs lately, and this movie provided. It’s one of those dumb comedies that’s actually much smarter than you’d expect. And I don’t even know which of our trio I love most. Fraser, Buscemi, and Sandler give such endearing performances, all a bit against type, I just can’t get enough.

Boiler Room – TIL (actually yesterday) that this is based on the same source material as Wolf of Wall Street. It just takes a different approach to it, sees it from a different angle. It has a little less bite tho, more like the stray dog of wall street. Ben Affleck steals the film, Giovanni Ribisi is fantastic, and I’m still undecided on if I either really like Vin Diesel or just can’t buy him. It’s worth checking out the alternate ending on the DVD extras too. The theatrical ending feels like proper closure, but the alternate is far less expected (albeit maybe too subtle in its execution). Still, a good choice for when I was in the mood for a talky and dark drama since my pile had way too much light fare in it (I’d taken the positivity rule so far, I was getting numb)

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Oh man, now I’m really wishing I had started this at the beginning of quarantine. So much easier to write and I’ve been watching upwards of 15 movies a week. Despite all that content, I’m still struggling to bring myself to post regularly. Anyways, what are some highlights from this week?

Jack Goes Boating – I was on a bit of a Philip Seymour Hoffman kick, grabbing any of his films that I didn’t know well. This one is his only directorial credit. It’s a sweet story of two relationships, one beginning and one ending. He and Amy Ryan are absolutely adorable, and this movie will make you fall in love with PSH like never before.

My Friend Dahmer – Last week’s Alamo rental. It’d been on my watchlist for a while (we know I love my serial killers, all the better if they’re IRL). I found it kinda bland. He did come off slightly better adjusted than you would expect given where his life would turn, by which I mostly mean he actually had friends. But there wasn’t anything particularly exciting. We Need To Talk About Kevin does the teenage psychopath thing much better, esp since this leaves off right as Dahmer goes in for his first kill

Happiness – I wouldn’t say that I like this movie. I very much like that it exists. It deals with some heavy subject matter, but in a way that’s not heavy and difficult to watch. Uncomfortable yes, but you’re not left wondering if it’s even worth living in a world where these things happen. I’ve said this before, but given how many movies I watch, I want something that ‘s different, that goes places other movies don’t. On that front, this movie wins.

Friday – I was having a socially distanced picnic with a couple friends last week, and one was giving the other shit for not having seen this movie. I sat there quietly because I hadn’t either. I picked up the 3 film set for 7 bucks. And watching it confirmed why I hadn’t seen it yet, but also why I’m absolutely supportive that this movie exists: it’s just not for me. But that’s cool, because it is for the Black community (who love and embrace this movie) and we need more of those. Not every movie should be for me. Diversity in film gives everyone a chance to be represented.

Love and Basketball – Continuing to catch up on classic Black films. This one I did very much enjoy. I’d avoided it before because I don’t do romances, and having “Love” in the title is a big stop sign for me. But I liked it because while the romance was the central storyline, it wasn’t what most drove the characters. No one was sitting around waiting for the love of their life. They were living for their passion (in this case basketball) and trying to see how the love fits in with it. I can dig it. I also just really like basketball. And I enjoyed watching Omar Epps in something other than House (which I’ve been rewatching lately).

All That Jazz – Mixed feelings. It’s Bob Fosse, so I should love it. And the musical numbers were fantastic (I particularly loved the mother/daughter one). The storyline from the theater’s perspective was interesting to me, getting to see behind the scenes of how producer types think. My problem was our lead character, the lothario director who was supposta be a stand in for Fosse. He was too much of a sleazy womanizer for my tastes, I could not get behind him. And I think that’s why I couldn’t maintain much interest in the film outside a few dance sequences.

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Just figured out I should have taken this quick post approach to lockdown. At least it’s worth trying. I’m watching LOTS of movies (around 15 a week) but only a handful warrant a full post. But there’s still lots of thoughts I have on the others. So let’s give this a go?

St Elmo’s Fire – The least loved of all the 80s brat pack movies, and for good reason. It’s just not as interesting. I for one have a really hard time buying these characters. You’ve got 3 Breakfast Club actors in a film that was released the same year, but they’re meant to be about ten years older. Sure, they’re acting their real age, but their high school characters are so iconic, I can’t help but see them as babies. Babies doing adult things, because adulting as a twenty something was different then than it is now. Hell, I still haven’t done half of what they attempt (and fail at).

Pump Up the Volume – I saw someone tweet in defense of physical media the other day, saying that this movie wasn’t on streaming anywhere and the scarce DVD’s were pretty limited. This had been on my watch list for a while, so in a panic I quickly ordered it off Ebay. I didn’t notice that it was an import copy, so all the text on the box was in Korean. All good though, it still played. In English. I very much enjoyed it, but I get how it can get lost in the shuffle of all the great 80’s and early 90’s teen comedies. Still, I love me some Christian Slater. Between this and Heathers and Interview, I think I’m officially declaring him my favorite heartthrob of the era. Throw in today’s Mr Robot for good measure too

Real Genius – If MIT had a favorite movie, it would be Sneakers. But Real Genius is pretty high on the list too. A DVD permanently sat by the tv in my hall’s lounge, although I don’t know that I saw it used that often. The early scenes where the new kid is touring the dorm brought back so many feels. That craziness of smart kids running around building things and experimenting and having fun is exactly the vibe of my undergrad, at least at East Campus, my dorm which was known for its free spirited craziness. I was talking with another friend recently about dorm things, and his frat boy self was shaking his head at my stories. So maybe it wasn’t all of MIT, but it was my home.

Scarface – I only made it about forty minutes into this movie. Actually, I was ready to turn it off after less than ten, but this is one of those movies that I SHOULD know. I fell asleep at that 40 mark, snuggling with my cat, and was awakened by a phone call a little later. I opted not to continue the movie. Why was I so quick to turn it off? The whole thing was just glorifying toxic masculinity. It shouldn’t have come as quite a shock, but Tony Montana’s machismo was unbearable. And then I started thinking about how many IRL guys idolize him and aspire to be him, and I literally started to feel sick. It was so uncomfortable to watch thru that lens, I just couldn’t take it. I had to reinstate the positivity rule for the rest of the night