White Boy Rick

I did it again. I went to see a movie just because I felt like I had to, not because I really wanted to see it. There mighta been something good I missed! And I wanted to get lunch at the Dine-In, but that ended up being just as mediocre.

White Boy Rick tells the true story of Ricky Wershe Jr, a teenage boy who gets caught up in his father’s hustles, and gets coerced into informing for the FBI, and basically destroys his entire life in the process. Matthew McConaughey plays his father.

This movie was just as “meh” as they can come. The story was mildly interesting, but didn’t have anything to make it feel truly special. McConaughey had a few great scenes, and there was a little kid who stole a scene or two, but otherwise the whole film was flat. The story itself isn’t uninteresting, it’s just tough to stretch into two hours.

Instead of going to the Dine In to watch this with a medicore (and overpriced) lunch, this is more a movie you watch on Netflix while you’re cleaning the apt. At least the trailer will stop playing before every damn movie I go see. That was fun.

White Boy Rick – \m/ \m/

The Predator

Get to the theata!!! Eh, maybe not so fast? Well, it depends on who you talk to. I rather enjoyed myself (and the excuse to watch a movie in Dolby), but everyone else has been ripping it apart.

Is there ever a plot to one of these movies? They come out every couple of years. Big scary aliens land on earth for some unknown reasons. All of humanity is doomed or something, except we’ve got a ragtag gang of outcasts taking it on.

I actually had some fun watching this. I’m not saying it was great, you’re not likely to see it on any of the year’s top ten lists or winning major awards, but it was a decent time at the movies. Totally watchable, even fun at times. Lots of blood (how I like ’em) and some very funny moments. I still get the sense the studio neutered writer/director Shane Black from bringing in too much of his signature humor, but what was there worked. And I did like the cast, particularly Olivia Munn (I wanna be her when I grow up), Sterling K Brown, and Keegan-Michael Key.

If you’re jonesing for an action fix, this is a fine choice. But seeing as how most people aren’t being as kind to the film as I am, approach with caution.

The Predator – \m/ \m/ \m/

Lizzie

I love my psychopaths, but I don’t like them declawed. Unfortunately, that was sort of the point of Lizzie.

The film follows Lizzie Borden in the time leading up to and after the day she allegedly took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41. Except the point of the film is to not make her seem so unhinged, but rather to humanize her and try to find rational reasons why she could have killed her parents. It’s an interesting idea, but the whole thing just devolved into a dull period piece.

Personally, I prefer to think of Lizzie Borden as a spontaneous crazy, with no rhyme or reason to her actions. That’s much more interesting to me. An uneasy socialite and victim of verbal abuse is less interesting, even when you add in the queer romantic storyline. Great performances from Chloe Sevigny (as Lizzie) and Kristen Stewart, but I was still bored. Such a bummer

Lizzie – \m/ \n

A Simple Favor

Praise Jebus for the rare good movie in early September that broke thru the crap. Super mommy Anna Kendrick befriends total opposite power mommy Blake Lively over copious amounts of martinis when their boys become besties. Then Blake goes missing. And it gets real. And weird.

That’s really all I can say about this movie without giving everything away. This story has got more twists than a peppermint stick, and I was absolutely absorbed in all of it. Just when I thought I’d figured something out, something else would happen that would blow that theory out of the water. It’s just absolutely bonkers.

What I loved most though was that the sense of humor was rather twisted, this is director Paul Feig after all. I think the one liners were the only thing that were more unexpected than the plot zigzags.

And the ladies were incredible. I knew I’d love Anna Kendrick (I always do), but I actually liked Blake Lively too (that’s a first). These are strong complicated women, and I loved seeing them play dirty. Can we get more movies like this please?

A Simple Favor – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Three Identical Strangers

What? Dawn saw another documentary this year?! Oh my, this world is changing.

Here’s the deal, I’d been hearing how good this movie was for months now. I knew I wanted to see it, but wasn’t sure it was something that needed to be seen on the big screen. I’d held off for so long, surely I could hold off until Netflix. I’d even spoiled myself for some of the twists because I didn’t expect to see it for a while. But the September crap was getting to me. I’d just seen 4 movies in a row that ranged from boring to mediocre. I craved a good movie.

This doc tells the story of Bobby, Eddie, and David: triplets separated and infancy and unexpectedly reunited at 19. The whole thing is so stranger than fiction, you prolly wouldn’t believe it if it were told in any format other than documentary. But where it really starts to get wild is in trying to find out exactly why they were separated. I’ll admit, the shock was a little worn down for me because I’d already looked it up, but I was still absolutely captivated.

I’ve mostly been turned off from docs because I’m used to thinking about them as this try and informative thing. I like being told stories, and traditional films typically deliver on that better. However, this year has been all about changing how I think about the genre. This film is so dynamic and bright and engaging. Given that there’s a good chance it’ll be up for Oscar (as will Won’t You Be My Neighbor), I think I’m gonna make a point, for the first time ever, to try and watch all of this year’s nominated docs. I’ve definitely learned that I should no longer dismiss the genre as a whole. So if you’re like me, this might be one for you to check out. Could be a game changer.

Three Identical Strangers – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Nun

More of the September crap. I really tried to find a way out of this one. The only Conjuring movie I’d see was last year’s Annabelle: Creation and I hated it. Reviews coming in for this weren’t good. But there were literally no other movie options at the time I wanted to go. It ended up being the best movie of the week thus far (but if you’ve been keeping track, you’ll know how low of a bar that was).

Okay so a nun in a hidden and cloistered abbey hangs herself and is found by a local villager. A priest and a postulant are sent to investigate. Freaky sh–stuff happens.

Now that’s not usually enough for me to love a horror movie. The most I can really expect, and all I was really hoping for was to see some really cool visuals. On that, I felt like The Nun really delivered. To be fair, a lot of it felt like typical horror tropes with a new skin, but I’m a total sucker for subersive religious imagery, so I was already predisposed to liking a lot of what I saw on screen.

The film was basically a lot of jump scares and weird looking stuff. But the set up and the weird stuff kept my attention fairly well. It’s like junk food in a way. You know it’s not good, but it can be moderately tasty and satisfy a specific craving.

The Nun – \m/ \m/ \n

Peppermint

Have I talked about the September crap yet? The dumping ground of movies that the studio doesn’t know what to do with, so they release them in September. Why September? Most people are busy with back to school, and ain’t got time for the movies. The only people watching are those of us who’ll see anything and everything, so the studios don’t even try to put out anything good. Peppermint was just another in the trend.

Srsly, what’s a good gotta do to get a good ultraviolent action movie? I’m grateful that a girl finally got one of those movies, but it wasn’t good. Jennifer Garner stars (sidebar: why is this movie called Peppermint?) was a mother seeking revenge for her murdered daughter and husband. I’ll cut right to it, this is a total mess.

There’s timeline issues. I can forgive the blurry intro timelines. How long was she in the hospital? How long did the trial take? Where/how did she do her training. All could be forgiven if the rest of the pieces were in place, but they weren’t. Even the timing within the film, the third act was expanded to be way too long. We skipped over smaller baddie murders in order to focus on the big bad. I woulda been more interested with those proportions reversed.

The setup itself is problematic. Why does a woman need to go thru the unspeakable in order to be made strong? Again, I could forgive that if we got a truly badass ass kicking mama bear, but her fights felt very tame. No breathtaking choreo or personality in her attitude. You coulda switched out the character and/or actress partway thru and I’d have never noticed.

The execution was cheesy. Cheesy is one way to go, and you can work with it with some intention. This was not intended so it drastically reduced the impact of the film.

The story was so cliche. Underworld, dirty cops, blah blah blah. We’ve seen this a thousand times, why do we hafta focus there?

Now the reason I can tear this apart so easily is because I really do love this genre. And I was really excited to see a leading lady take it over. But utlimately it felt like the powers that be felt that a lady was enough of a differentiator that they didn’t need to put much more creative force into the film. It was such a waste of potential (and we know Garner has a lot of action potential) and frankly a waste of everyone’s time.

Pepperming – \m/ \m/

The Little Stranger

How many games of Candy Crush can I play to keep putting off writing this post, but still have enough time to write up all of this week’s movies before pizza brunch? Oh crap, out of lives. Okay, here we go.

I wish I could tell you what this movie was about, but I’m really not sure. The trailer billed this as a straight up horror, but it actually gives away all the freaky stuff that is in fact spread out over two excruciatingly long hours. This is more gothic horror, but even then, it felt more like a period piece that didn’t know what it wanted to say. So Domnhall Gleeson (love him, just pick better movies pls) is a doctor who is called to an old house that he was obsessed with as a kid. He befriends the woman who lives there with her brother and mom. And I really don’t know what else to say about where the story goes, because it was so dang boring.

I’ll admit, with better marketing and better expectations, I may have been more into it. But there’s only so much to be done about a pace and tone that puts you to sleep. You’re better off napping.

The Little Stranger – \m/ \n

Papillon

Literally the only reason I went to see this was because I love Rami Malek. So while my MoviePass is still functional at Landmark, there was no reason not to go see it. Turns out, there was more reason not to see it than reason to go see it.

This remake of the Steve McQueen/Dustin Hoffman drama, stars Charlie Hunnam/Rami Malek as prisoners on a particularly viscous penal colony. From day 1, Hunnam’s Papillon has his sights set on escape, and he enlists Malek’s Degas as an accomplice. Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done.

A lot duller said than done too. I was bored throughout most of the movie. It looked great, and the performances were good, but the story was way too simplistic for me. I’m sure there are some subtle complexities I was missing, but they were lost on me at the time. All I could focus on was the straightforward story that wasn’t going anywhere exciting. For a 2+ hour movie, that’s so not enough for me. I don’t know why this movie needed to be remade.

Papillon – \m/ \n

The Happytime Murders

I was so excited about this movie. I love the concept of foul mouthed puppets living side by side in a human world. I mean hello, I did direct a production of Avenue Q a few years back. And Lord only knows how many times I’ve binged Greg the Bunny. And let’s not forget my favorite episode of Angel, Smile Time. So then what went wrong here?

The Happytime Murders follows a puppet PI who gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time when an adult store full of puppets are murdered. He reluctantly teams up with his old partner on the police force, Melissa McCarthy, to investigate as more plush people are killed. The link is the old tv show The Happytime Gang, now heading into syndication and financial security for the cast. Sounds good enough right?

The problem is the filmmakers seemed to settle for good enough. This is one of the laziest screenplays of the year. The mystery is cliche and predictable. The humor is mostly non-existent. Most jokes are built around “hey look at the puppet be lewd and disgusting”. That can only take you so far, and the filmmakers seemed content to just stay there. Again, I’m all for lewd puppets, but I want them to be clever little pervs. Again, Avenue Q.

There were a few moments that worked (I think Maya Rudolph can take credit for at least half of those), and the puppetry was really good. It’s just painfully apparent that all the effort went into the puppetry and they forgot that the script needed to be good too. Bummer.

The Happytime Murders – \m/ \m/