Love, Simon

Why did it take so long for Simon to get here? By which I mean, why has it taken so long for there to be a mainstream LGBTQ teen romcom? If there’s any kids who need to feel represented and heard, it’s this community. I’m glad that Simon has finally arrived to tell his story, and I hope he’s the first of many.

Can I also just say that I love the ad campaign in LA for this movie? Specifically I mean the giant billboards that say “Dear LA, which way to WEHO? Asking for a friend” Genius.

Simon is your typical high school student who seems to have everything going for him: friends, family, community. Except he’s hiding a pretty big secret about himself–he’s gay. He connects with an anonymous gay student in his school, and the two begin a rather intimate and supportive correspondence. He realizes he’s falling in love with his penpal, and that he’s at a point where he needs to live his truth and let people know who he really is.

First off, this idea breaks my heart, that we’re still at a place where someone that is gay needs to come out. It’s my dream that if one of my hypothetical one day future kids is gay, that they’ll never need to actually come out. They’ll just talk about someone they’re attracted to as casually as if they were straight. Still though, displaying this story is important because it unfortunately is a huge part of journey for an LGBTQ person, and I’m glad that it’s depicted in such a positive way.

I loved the film so much. Everything about it just made me so happy. Simon is a great character, and I want him to be my best friend. Nick Robinson played him beautifully. He’s just such a deep soul and far more three dimensional than you usually get from LGBTQ characters in comedies. I cared about him, and I cried with him, and I laughed with him.

The film was heartfelt and funny, and the crowd was so into it. I heard crying, I heard squealing, I heard a full rollercoaster (or ferris wheel?) of emotions. Again, I love that this film has finally happened, and I want more.

Love, Simon – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Ready Player One

This is so incredibly exciting. I actually got to see this movie two weeks early, thanks to Stardust. First off, let’s talk about how excited I’ve been for this movie. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited!!! I’ve read this book three times, and it’s top five for me. It’s one of the books I most recommend to people. I love the story, I love the references, and every time I inhabit that world, it’s never enough. I need more geeky goodness.

We’ll get into the details of what all that means, but let’s talk about the event. It happened so fast, I didn’t even have time to freak out about it in advance. On Wed, I was told it could happen. It wasn’t confirmed until early Friday. Friday evening, I was there. A lot of other local Stardusters and YouTube stars were invited, so the early schmoozing was all about the meet and greet. That was almost more fun than the movie itself (for a mediocre film, it would have been the most fun part, but this film wasn’t mediocre). We were given free snacks and drinks and ushered into the RealD private screening room. Author Ernest Cline walked up and introed the movie. I realize I don’t sound too hyped typing this out, but catch me in person you’ll totally get my excitement.

So what’s this movie about? First off, lemme say if you’ve seen any of the marketing materials, they’re not conveying the awesome at all. I feel like the people in charge had no idea what this material is that they’re dealing with, and were just going for a generic mass appeal. But here’s the deal, this is a story for geeks, afficionados of film, games, music, and everything 80s.

It’s the future. The world is in shambles and people are poorer than ever. Their ultimate form of escapism comes from the OASIS: a virtual reality world where you can do anything or be anything. When the inventor of the OASIS, James Halliday, dies, he leaves control of his virtual empire to whoever can find an Easter egg he’s hidden deep inside his creation. To find the egg, you must solve riddles to find the keys to unlock the gate. To solve the riddles, you must know everything that Halliday knew and loved: every movie, every song, every game, everything. Be prepared to geek out.

I don’t even know what aspect to talk about first. Let’s start from the top. Director. Steven Spielberg. Yeah huh. I cannot begin to describe how excited I was when that was announced. So much of his filmography is referenced in the book. But most importantly, he GETS it. He gets the intention of the story and the nostalgic feels it inspires and the significance of every frame. Lately Spielberg has been doing prestige pictures (The Post, anyone?), but this feels like the grand adventures we first loved him for. It’s an experience I’d forgotten how much I missed.

Staying broad for a bit, let’s talk screenplay. If you’ve read the book, here’s a warning. It’s very different. However, I mean that in the best possible way. As I stated earlier, whenever I read the book, I’m bummed that it’s over because I want more. I want the story to continue. I want new challenges. This is that more. The beats of the story are the same, but the details are different. The games are different. The references are different. We always think of that as such a bad thing, but for me, those changes made the film surpass any expectations I had. I’ll admit to being hesitant when the first challenge was revealed and it was drastically different, but once I realized how and why that was, I was so stoked. I took in every second with fresh eyes and the same can’t-put-it-down (or look away in this case) excitement from my first read.

What’s next? Cast and characters. I love Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke and was so excited at their casting. They were perfect as Parzival and Art3miss. But the ones I walked away loving were Lena Waithe and surprisingly Mark Rylance. I haven’t been too sold on the idea of Rylance as a master actor yet. I think I’m still bitter he stole the Oscar from Sly Stallone. Here, I finally got it. Mostly because he really got Halliday. The way he portrayed him felt very real, and I loved his subdued and quiet approach. But it was Lena Waithe who stole the show for me. I loved her both as her avatar and in the real world. I wanna see her in every movie. Can we team her up with Tiffany Haddish in something?

Something else to talk about is the visuals. I’m gonna say a sentence that I rarely ever utter: See this in 3D!! I’m the first one to complain about unnecessary extra dimensions, but it’s essential this time around. It’s gorgoues and every frame is so rich. The first time we plug into the OASIS, you know you’re in for something next level. Also essential is gonna be multiple screenings to catch every Easter egg, so plan to see this on the best screens you possibly can.

When the credits rolled, I was so amped. It had been an amazing film, and the audience experience was out of this world. People were hollering and whooping and screaming and simply reacting loudly throughout the whole thing. Schmoozing afterwards, I was jittery. Everyone else was too. We were all practically shouting our enthusiasm and comparing what treats we found in the far corners of each scene.

As I’m standing around chatting, author (and co-screenwriter) Ernest Cline walks by. My buddy grabs him for a selfie, and the rest of us in the group follow suit. After I got my pic, I told him that I was a huge fan of the book and that I’d read it 3 times. He changes his stance from let’s-get-this-done-quickly-so-I-can-keep-going to let’s-pause-bc-I-genuinely-wanna-talk-to-you. He asks me how I liked it. I tell him I loved it. He says this is the second time he’s gotten to see it with an audience and the response has been incredible. I tell him how much I loved that it was so different, because (as I’ve stated twice already in this post), it was a way to get more of a story that I’ve wanted more of for a long time. I get a sincere thank you from him that conveys that he’s truly touched to hear something like that from a die hard fan of the book. I’m shaking as he walks off. I realize I may have been a bit overbearingly excited. I also realize this exchange took place in front of my boss’s boss (who was also part of the drive by selfie line), so I think that was a good thing.

I already had my opening night tickets to see this movie, and I can’t wait to revisit the OASIS. I may already be planning to see it at least one more time after that. Once again, lemme stress, if you’re a fan of gaming, film, pop culture, the 80s, go go go to this movie. Get to the first 3D screening you can find on opening day. It’s so worth it

Ready Player One – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

A Wrinkle in Time

Fairly sure I never actually read this book as a kid. There were so many I did read though! And I’m familiar with the title, but I have no recollection of anything other than title and author. It mighta really helped the movie watching experience if I had tho.

Directed by Ava Duvernay, A Wrinkle in Time tells the story of a young girl Meg who travels across space and time to find her scientist father (Chris Pine) who disappeared four years ago. She’s able to do so with the help of the three Mrs. (Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey), celestial beings charged with upholding the good in the universe.

There are some MAJOR positives in this film. Duvernay, a longtime champion of inclusion, has a very racially diverse cast. That’s huge. I was prolly most excited to see Mindy Kaling as one of the Mrs. You don’t often see an Indian actress in such a glorious role, and I adore Mindy but have seen little of her work (read her books, but never saw her tv shows).

The other positive was just the message of the film, that you can do anything or be anything, but being yourself is the most important thing. Especially seeing this message received by an African American girl. HUGE. So beautiful.

Unfortunately, the film itself turned out to be somewhat of a mess. Again, not having read the book, I feel this might’ve been one of those “unfilmable” stories. That word gets thrown around every so often about works (The Lovely Bones, The Watchmen) that are so nuanced and imaginative and layered, that they wouldn’t translate well and would lose much of their meaning. I feel that might’ve been the case here.

Traveling thru space and time in this way isn’t the easiest to put on screen (we can’t all be The Doctor), and I really didn’t get what was happening plot wise. Maybe you need to be a kid to get it, but I really think the context of the book is essential.

I could see this being the kind of movie that I woulda rented from Blockbuster on a sick day as a kid and watched over and over in bed. I hope that kids out there do discover this film and its message. I just think that the adults aren’t gonna know what to make of it.

A Wrinkle in Time – \m/ \m/

Thoroughbreds

I love Dexter, the all American psycho from the Showtime series based off a set of books. I never imagined I’d be thinking about what he’d be like if he were a teenage girl in high school. Now I feel like I have a sense of what he’d have been like.

The film follows two girls (Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy) who have formed a rather strange friendship. One confesses to be psychopathic (not in so many words, but again, I’ve read Dexter, I recognize it). The other is hiding some pretty serious details about her life, including her utter hatred for her stepdad. Long story short, the girls plan to kill said stepdad, and rope in a local drug dealer (Anton Yelchin *tear*) to pull it off.

I often complain about weird tones in movies, but this is one of those cases where the weird tone served the film. It’s supposta be unsettling, and there’s a strange humor in that. Our three leads were great, although I generally prefer nice guy Anton over bad boy Anton. I’m just gonna choose to believe he went out on Green Room instead of this one.

It felt as though the film was building at a slow and steady pace and then abruptly got to its conclusion. I would have liked to see it savor the final act a bit more. Still, this is likely your best bet at this current weekend of mediocre wide releases.

Thoroughbreds – \m/ \m/ \m/

Gringo

Streaming is starting to become a real destination for films. Hopefully soon, studios will start to see this as a viable distribution option because there are some films that just don’t have a lot to offer on the big screen. Thank God we’ve at least got MoviePass.

Let’s see if I can rundown this crazy plot. David Oyellowo is middle management at a pharmaceutical company. His bosses Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron are working to create a marijuana pill, and send Oyellowo down to Mexico to oversee production. After a string bad luck causes him to realize that he doesn’t have much going for him anymore, he tries to fake his kidnapping in order to receive ransom money. Except it turns out, his company doesn’t really care about him enough to pay out. Oh and Amanda Seyfried has a storyline that doesn’t really seem to fit in with anything.

Here’s the thing, all the pieces are there. Fantastic cast (you saw those names), I did really like the premise, and cleverly written jokes. About those jokes though, here’s what baffles me. I’d hear them and think “yeah that’s a funny joke” but I wasn’t actually laughing. Something just went wrong, and I don’t know if I have ever experienced that before. I think the tone of the film was very offputting, and some of the characters were too unlikable. I just couldn’t get into it.

This might find an audience on Netflix one day, but it’s not a worthy movie going experience.

Gringo – \m/ \n

Red Sparrow

On Colbert the other day, Jennifer Lawrence said that all the haters with blogs were uninvited from seeing the movie. I just want to clarify this with the interwebs. I went into this film with the best of intentions. I adore J-Law and this looked like a fun spy thriller, somewhere between Jason Bourne as a ballerina and Black Swan as a spy. I really really wanted this to work. It’s not my fault the movie turned into such a mess.

Okay so J-Law is a ballerina whose career-ending injury drives her in desperation to join an elite group of Russian operatives. She undergoes intense training, mostly around sexual manipulation, before going on missions. When the ballet sequence went on to long (and I say this as a lover of ballet) I should have known something was off.

The film as a whole was way too long and dragged out. Individual scenes went on too long and there were plenty of sequences could have been cut or at least shortened. Despite having all this excess time, I still have no idea what was going on. I honestly have no idea what they were trying to do.

Jen was great, carrying on the role (and accent) with elegance and grace and strength. I just wish she woulda had a better film to showcase it

Red Sparrow – \m/ \n

Death Wish

I was excited for this one. I know it looked like crap, a remake of a classic (that admittedly, I’ve never seen) that no one asked for starring a once bankable star who has become less reliable, helmed by a director with a questionable reputation. Oh right, that’s why I’m excited. That director is Eli Roth. This marks the first time he strays from horror and the first time he isn’t working with original material. I was really stoked to see what he’d do with it.

Let’s back up. Bruce Willis is a family man who seemingly has it all. Until some baddies break into his house, kill his wife, and leave his daughter in a coma. When it looks like the cops aren’t gonna be able to do anything to help, he takes matters into his own hands, roaming the city of Chicago as a vigilante seeking justice.

Again, it’s not an Eli Roth original, so it didn’t entirely feel like one of his films–unless you knew what to look for. There was some gore (not up to his usual levels) and a jarring soundtrack and an overall subversive vibe to it. I could practically hear him laughing maniacally during some scenes.

This is a movie I would have loved to watch with my Daddy. He loved gritty shoot ’em ups, and I often feel like he’s with me when I see them. Then add in Eli Roth, whom I love, and you’ve created a combo that works for both of us. Lord knows the movie had so many flaws, but I was digging it.

Bruce actually did pretty well here. He’s kinda phoned it in a few times lately, but he seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself. I could also see his character’s arc play out clearly in his mannerisms and expressions. Felt like Bruce was getting his groove back.

Look, haters gonna hate, and I totally get why. For me, this film was a jolt of adrenaline and I very much enjoyed myself. But if you’re not the type that’s into ultraviolent films, this ain’t the one to draw you to the dark side. I’m just there already

Death Wish – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Game Night

I was very much looking forward to Game Night because it was very much looking like my kinda movie: a clever and dark comedy with a unique premise and a great cast. And oh yes did it deliver.

Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman are a couple whose relationship is based on competition, both with each other and with other people, which has led them to host a weekly game night with some friends. When Bateman’s brother (Kyle Chandler) is in town, he offers to step things up a notch by hosting a murder mystery game night. But it all goes south when some bad guys that are really after him show up at the time the game’s scheduled. That leaves this crew of game enthusits believing that the crime they’ve just witnessed is all part of an ellaborate role play.

While we’ve seen some variations of this premise before, it felt wholly unique, and I found it hysterically funny. Just a really smart screenplay with some smart dialog and great twists and turns along the way. It’s really admirable how many moving pieces came together in the writing because it was certainly a ride.

But that cast, oh my that cast. First off, so excited to see Regina George, I mean Rachel McAdams doing comedy again. It had been way too long. It was also the first time for me to see comedy from Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemmons. I’d call Plemmons the MVP of the film, because he stole every scene he was in with this completely deadpan and awkwardly oblivious delivery. Who knew that weird sadistic kid from Breaking Bad had a future in comedy?

I’m hearing talk of sequels. I’m on board. No that was not meant to be a board game pun.

Game Night – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Annihilation

I had just gotten on top of my game, and then I fell way way way behind on posting. Between bday festivities, more responsibility at work, and a ski trip even though I don’t ski, the blog has fallen by the wayside. So let’s catch up while I (hopefully) watch the repeat of the Oscars bc said ski trip got me back halfway thru the ceremony.

I was very much surprised by Annihilation. It blew me away actually. It was suspenseful and scary and dramatic and smart and beautiful and grotesque and so much of what I love in a movie. And possibly most importantly, it was a female led cast. Srsly, how many times do you watch these into-the-unknown scifi’s and it’s all dudes? Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodgriguez (my fave in the movie), Tessa Thompson, so so good.

Okay so they didn’t replay the Oscars and I’m watching highlights on YouTube and getting distracted.

My one issue with this film is that the third act gets really weird. But I think I’m okay with that. It’s a weird that made sense in a way, in that it’s fitting for the genre. And it didn’t completely fall apart like I felt happened with Ex Machina. I still don’t understand what happened at all, but I was satisfied enough with the journey to accept it.

Annihilation – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Samson

Once again, stealing from myself and reusing the opening I did for my Stardust reaction. Even though I’m a Christian, I avoid faith based movies like the plagues of Egypt. There are two main reasons for that. One is that they’re usually such poor quality (acting, screenplay, everything, ugh). Two, I don’t wanna be preached at or hit over the head with a message, regardless of whether or not I agree with it. That’s not why I go to the movies. The sad reality of this genre is that studio moguls have realized that if you make a movie with a message, there’s an audience that will pay for it, regardless of the effort (or lack thereof) put into it.

So why did I go see Samson? Because this was my favorite Bible story as a kid. I even had a dog I named Samson (aww, he was a good puppy). This is a good story, and in the hands of the right filmmakers it could be something truly epic. Of course, these weren’t the right filmmakers, but that’s not a surprise.

The movie was fine, mostly watchable, but very simple and cheesy. Honestly, it didn’t feel too different from the types of stuff we’d see in school or children’s church, and not like the experience that I want from going to the movies.

Also, I really didn’t care for the dude that played Samson. And then they put a fake beard on him late in the movie and it really just pulled me out. I did like our villain played by Jackson Rathbone, but he was almost trying too hard to make it all work. Honey, it wasn’t ever gonna work.

Again, it’s just so frustrating because there is so much potential in this story. Is it too much to ask for someone to give it a real shot with a legit budget and experienced actors? Samson is a legend and he deserves better

Samson – \m/ \m/