On the Basis of Sex

First movie of 2019! And oh boy did it start out with a bang.

The film follows Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the Notorious RBG and then future supreme court justice, as she gets her start. Beginning with law school, then her first big case hoping to tear down the patriarchy and outlaw gender discrimination, it’s a film that many are comparing to a superhero origin story. And rightly so.

For me, this film felt as riveting as any action movie. It’s funny, cause the day before I saw Vice, and was so disgusted by what I saw. It made me hate politics and the corruption and greed in our country. Then the next day I see On the Basis of Sex, and I’m wishing I was a lawyer. I’m wanting to be in the thick of this fight with RBG (No, I don’t actually wanna be a lawyer, but for two hours I thought I did). The pacing was so quick and our lead Felicity Jones was full of so much fire, that it was impossible not to cheer her on and feel a rush of adrenaline.

The movie even came close to getting real tears out of me with its final shot. A couple days later I’m talking to someone about this, and their first comment was how it made them cry. Guess I’m not the only one.

I also really loved Armie Hammer in this, as RBG’s husband Marty. He was so loving and supportive and smart. In one of his best roles, he highlighted how important an equal partnership can be. Especially in this world that’s weighted in favor of the men folk, having one of them in your corner can make all the difference.

But of course, the real superstar here was RBG. Jones captured her well, but it was more RBG’s actions than Jones’ performance that riveted me. I’ve known she was a political hero and a feminist icon, but it was mind blowing to see on screen exactly what all she did to get there’. And she’s brilliant too. I think what most impressed me were the early scenes where she was in school AND helping Marty thru his classes, while taking care of a little one. How long until she gets a spot in the MCU?

On the Basis of Sex – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Holmes and Watson

I had been warned how bad Will Ferrell and John C Reilly’s take on Sherlock Holmes and John Watson would be, but I am loyal to both (either together or apart). Surely the duo behind Talladega Nights could pull something together, right?

Nope. This film truly was awful. I had precisely one audible chuckle come out of me, and that was due to a quick cameo at the end of the film. There were a couple of kinda smart anachronistic jokes sprinkled in or hidden in the background, but not enough to pull the film thru all of the rest of the crap layered in. Honestly, it felt like I was watching a college theater production (and I say this having participated in many). Often times when doing a show that’s on the farce side of things, you end up bringing in random props or adding in stupid jokes that seem hilarious to you in your head at the moment. However, once you bring that in front of an audience, it simply doesn’t land and looks kinda dumb. That’s how the majority of the movie felt.

And look, it pains me to say all of that so bluntly. I do adore Ferrell and Reilly, and putting their spin on this classic seemed like a good idea. I just didn’t feel the same quality as their previous work. It felt lazy and rushed.

Don’t believe me, take a look at some of the editing. Poor Kelly Macdonald in particular got the short end of that stick. That Scottish treasure has a pretty thick accent, so naturally some voice over work was needed to rerecord some of her lines. They didn’t even bother to match up her words with her mouth in a few places. It was so unacceptably sloppy and this wonderful actress deserves much better.

All that said, there is one bit that I appreciated. Hugh Laurie had a scene as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. Laurie’s House MD is my absolute favorite interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, and will be a tough one to ever beat. The scene wasn’t particularly great, but I liked seeing his connection to the material celebrated. But you’re prolly much better off watching a couple episodes of House than this film. What a way to end 2018 at the movies

Holmes and Watson – \m/

Vice

I had a couple of failed attempts to see this in Texas. There was the day I spent waiting around to do something with Mom that never happened, when I’d had it in the back of my mind that I’d run off to see this. There was the slim chance of seeing it on Christmas day. Then there was my last day in town where I went to see it and it wasn’t available on the kiosk and I wasn’t about to stand in line to possibly only find it sold out so I saw Marwen instead. As soon as that last fiasco happened, I got on my AMC app and used A list to reserve the very first possible show the day after I got back in to LA.

Christian Bale pulls off yet another physical transformation, this time to play US VP Dick Cheney for writer/director Adam McKay. We follow Cheney’s rise thru Washington and how he ultimately gamed the system to become one of the post powerful and surreptitiously influential Vice’s in US history.

I absolutely love McKay’s quirky style (which we previously saw in The Big Short). I don’t even know how to describe it for someone who hasn’t experienced it. There’s an almost out of place comedic element, with seemingly random stock footage, and unexpected celebrity cameos, all used brilliantly to further the story and keep you on your toes. It did feel more effortless in The Big Short than here, almost like he was forcing it in because it was expected of him, but it still makes for some fascinating storytelling. I would have been completely relishing in the sinister undertone if I wasn’t completely enraged by the events going on. What can I say, I’m very much a liberal, driven by my empathy for others, and seeing people act out of their own interest in a way that has no regard for how others are affected is appalling.

While on paper, Christian Bale may have been a puzzling choice to play Cheney, this may in fact be one of his best ever performances (of which there are many to choose from). He had the physicality and mannerisms down and just commanded every frame of the screen. There were a couple scenes where I saw some hints of Patrick Bateman slip thru (which I’m fairly sure were unintentional) which just heightened my interest and my disgust all at once.

This is also one of Amy Adams’ best, and there’s a very good shot at this finally being her long overdue Oscar glory. She too takes on different visual characteristics than we’ve seen before, and brings a power to a supporting role. So much power, that at times I wondered what this story would have been if it was told from her perspective. She made it perfectly clear that her husband would never have gotten as far as he did without her handywork involved.

In another signature McKay move, there were so many great actors popping up throughout. Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Allison Pill, Tyler Perry. Sometimes I think half the fun of his films is waiting to see who’ll pop up next.

Oh and I know I called the hair and makeup Oscar race for Mary Queen of Scots, but now I’m not so sure. Mary wins on hair def, but Vice has a strong makeup game. Again, the gorgeous Christian Bale ends up looking exactly like the dumpy Dick Cheney. Amy Adams is aged beautifully as Lynne. Hell, even Sam Rockwell ended up looking strikingly like George W Bush, a statement I never would have expected.

Vice – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Welcome to Marwen

I had considered this for Christmas Eve with Mom. It looked rather whimsical and hopeful, and the first couple reviews I saw were positive. Then the positivity dropped, and most critics panned it. I don’t mind seeing a bad movie, but I’d hate to subject someone else to one, esp when they’re solely trusting my judgement. As it was, I was gonna wait on this one until I got back home to LA (where I’m writing this now), but my attempt to see Vice on the last day was foiled (sold out , I think) so split second decision I bought a ticket to Marwen instead.

Directed by the legendary Robert Zemeckis, Steve Carrell plays Mark Hogencamp. Hogencamp is the victim of a hate crime, having been brutally beaten outside a bar three years earlier for making a comment about how he loves to wear high heels. He barely escaped with his life, but the same can’t be said for his memories. Everything pre-attack is wiped. As a form of art therapy, the former illustrator (who can now barely write his name) has turned to photography, taking photos of the dolls and sets he’s constructed in his back yard. These items form the town of Marwen, a fictional German city during WWII, and the dolls that inhabit Marwen are based on the people in his life–primarily the women who have given Mark strength in his own life.

This is kind of a tricky one to talk about. There’s so much about it that I loved and so much that fell short. I loved Mark’s art. The photographs were stunning, and the world he created was so beautiful. The dolls looked exquisite and the way they came to life in his mind was so moving. I also felt tremendous empathy towards Mark, which is what kept me most connected to the movie. Here was a broken man that the rest of the world may have forgotten about, but he’s found a way to pick his life up and try to move forward.

I also loved the ladies alongside him, although some of them were criminally underused. While we see them in doll form throughout, there’s very little real life Janelle Monae or Gwendolyn Christie. But the ladies who are more prominent, Leslie Mann and Merrit Weaver are absolutely delightful.

So if all of that was great, why don’t I think the film ultimately worked? The storytelling was off. Even knowing most of the premise, it still took me some time to piece together what was going on. I feel like if I had gone in completely cold, I would have been completely lost for at least half of the movie. The plot itself was moving forward, but it felt stunted, like it was holding back from moving as forward as I could. I suppose that could be a statement about Mark’s state of mind, but you still expect a film to be watchable and exciting.

Ultimately, I think it was missing the level of whimsical Zemeckis charm that I’ve come to expect and love. I had hoped that this would have a Forrest Gump sorta vibe, but it was nowhere near that level of heart and feeling, making the whole thing kinda frustrating.

Welcome to Marwen – \m/ \m/ \n

Bumblebee

I broke my little corner of the internet. Specifically the one that revolves around Stardust. I found out one of my virtual besties on the app lives close to my hometown, so of couse that meant that we had to meet up and catch a movie together. And we had to do so at the Alamo Drafthouse where we split a few apps and saw the weirdest funniest preshow of obscure Transformers clips.

Wait, but I thought the Transformers franchise was dead, or at least worthy of dying a horrible fiery death? Well kinda, but this one is different. I realized while watching this what most of the Transformers films were missing was the heart. Luckily, Bumblebee is ALL heart. In this prequel, sorta origin story, we get a film that’s sweet and endearing and really funny. Plus, it’s set in the 80’s so there’s a good dose of nostalgia and a great retro soundtrack.

I still felt like there was something missing. Hailee Steinfeld was a great lead. John Cena felt like a bit of a waste (he really didn’t do anything special, for which I blame the writing). The third act dragged on. But it was fun, and certainly more enjoyable than the last couple movies in the franchise put together (sorry Mahky Mahk). I read something comparing this film to ET, and I can kinda see it. The feels are similar, but don’t make me chose which alien friend I love more

Bumblebee – \m/ \m/ \m/

Aquaman

I waited a lil while after this was released so I could watch this back home with a couple of little sea monkeys (by which I mean, the little cousins). Afterwards, they told me that while they enjoyed it, I shoulda taken them to see Spider-verse instead. Whoops. Big cousin fail.

My disdain for the DCEU has been no secret. Although I have come to realize that most of hte problem lies with Zack Snyder. Wonder Woman, which he had no involvement in was a stunning film. Justice League which he had some involvement in was fine. His movies are crap. So I had some cautious expectations about Aquaman, being helmed by James Wan.

I also had the utmost faith in star Jason Momoa. Aquaman has been the butt of many jokes throughout the the life of DC Comics (and the whole Entourage thing did not help matters at all). But here you’ve got Momoa, Khal effing Drogo, one of the toughest and most bad ass men to have walked the earth. He’s pratically daring you to make fun of him. But the thing is, he’s not a dumb meathead. He’s a big goofball. He knows that Aquaman is silly and he tackles the role with a gleam of mischief in his eye. That humor and willingness to make fun of himself (because lets face it, this is cheesy) first carries the film. Wan carries that tone throughout the film, making it much more fun than anything else in this otherwise unnecessarily dark comic universe has seen.

The film itself mostly played out like typical superhero stuff. I’ll admit, I was actually rather proud of the little cousins for pointing out plotholes afterwards, tho I was surprisingly more forgiving during the film. What makes a superhero film special is the way it differentiates itself from the others. This one does so in two ways, the humor which we’ve talked about, and the visuals of fighting underwater. I thought it looked pretty cool. It also helped that the film color palate of blues and sea greens basically hovered around my absolute favorite end of the rainbow.

So maybe we would have been a bit better off with Spider-verse. I still like the direction this one is taking the mega franchise, showing that there is still some potential to save this universe. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun watching.

Aquaman – \m/ \m/ \m/

Mary Poppins Returns

Mom usually takes me to the movies on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. She doesn’t care for it too much, but she knows it’s my happy place and the rest of the week is spent with her dragging me around to various family events I usually don’t wanna go to. If there’s a musical, that’s usually what I pick for us. Last year, she fought me so hard on The Greatest Showman because she “doesn’t like the circus” but loved it so much, it’s all she talked about for the next three days. This year, the most obvious choice, even if it wasn’t an enthusiastic one, was Mary Poppins Returns.

I’ve never quite gotten the appeal of Mary Poppins. I know some people adore her (I was dragged to the Broadway show by a close friend in Boston, tho it was kinda worth it to see Bert tap dance on the ceiling), I just don’t get it. The original does have some great songs (again, love the chimney sweeps) but it’s on the lower end of Disney for me. I realized, how you feel about “Feed the Birds” determines your love of the film overall. I know people who cry hearing that song, and that’s cool, they LOVE her. I would always fast forward or take a snack break during it.

Anyways, now she’s back some 20 years later or so, still taking care of the Banks children. Although this time, they’ve got their own children to take care of. Jane has moved in with her brother Michael after his wife passed, to help watch his three children. He’s fallen on hard financial times and is days away from losing their home. Mary arrives to help the kids who have grown up too much in the past year to be children and play, while still providing order to the house.

The whole thing was rather delightful. Yes, very juvenile, but still delightful. I found myself chuckling throughout the film, and heard similar reactions coming from mom. I loved the whimsy of it, especially as that extended to the costumes and the set design.

Emily Blunt was simply divine as Mary. She provided her own spin while still making it believable that she was the same person Julie Andrews portrayed. Although to be honest, I was mostly excited to see Lin-Manuel Miranda up on the big screen post-Hamilton. He was all heart and wonder (just like Lin IRL).

There were some fun cameos as well. Meryl Streep chewed scenery in an over the top(sy turvy) silly song. Dick van Dyke appeared and tap danced on a desk. And in a spot that was originally meant for Andrews (who declined, not wanting to upstage Blunt), Angela Lansbury had a moment.

As I’m writing this, Mom calls out to me across the room “I liked the first Mary Poppins better. Did you?” “Yeah, the first one has better music, but this one looked AMAZING, and I love the cast” “Yeah it was good, but still I like the first one”

Mary Poppins Returns – \m/ \m/ \m/

Mortal Engines

This movie literally made me sick. Okay, it was more likely the seafood I had before the movie, but I’m sure the beer shake I had during didn’t help matters. Nor did watching this piece of crap.

I don’t even know how to explain what this is about. It’s a post apocalyptic waaaay future (our time is referred to as the screen age, over 1000 years in the past). Cities are these giant mobile steampunk robot things that people live on. A girl with a scar tries to kill Hugo Weaving, and he kicks her off the city along with a nice guy who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Weaving is trying to destroy the world for some reason, and they’re trying to stop him.

There’s a couple things this movie gets right. The world building is incredible. I really like the idea of the traveling cities and the visuals and effects look really really good. The mythology of it all is interesting and I’d love to learn more about “the 60 minute war” and everything that led the world to this place. Unfortunately, what happens afterwards isn’t so interesting.

It was such a slog. The plot that should have driven the film didn’t. The dialog was terrible, both in what was written and how it was said. And there were a couple of terrible jokes that did not fit the tone of the rest of the film at all.

All of the cast looked just enough like someone well known, but weren’t actually known or that good (except Weaving, but hes’ had much better to work with).

And the whole thing felt like they were trying really too dang hard to make something EPIC and it felt that much more cheap and half assed. Just don’t bother

Mortal Engines – \m/ \m/

Second Act

It’s opening night of the big Christmas movies and this is what I choose to see? Well, I was hoping to save the good ones to see with family. Take the little cousins to Aquaman and Bumblebee and leave a couple Christmas options for mom. Turns out, I shoulda saved this one for mom.

Jennifer Lopez has spent 15 years working her way up at a local grocery store. The problem is, without a college degree, there’s only so far up she can work ,and she sees a promotion he was eyeing given away to someone who has had more opportunities than she has. A friend (Leah Remini)’s son creates a fake resume and online persona for her and submits a job application at a big name cosmetics firm. JLo is offered a big shot job that she may not actually be qualified for on paper, but she thinks she has the street smarts to pull it off. So she’s gonna try and hope it doesn’t all blow up in her face.

I read something criticizing this movie for trying to be three films in one. It’s not untrue, there are several major storylines. But you know what I say to that criticism? Women are complicated. And we should be presented in films that are more complex than simple rom coms. Yes, one of the subplots was a romantic one, but that was not the primary story. And even then, it was more about her learning to accept herself so that she could let someone else in than trying to define herself by him.

Speaking of that romantic storyline, her love interest was played by Milo Ventimiglia, who JLo personally requested after he stole her heart (as he did everyone else’s) on This Is Us.

I very much enjoyed this one. Yes, it was super implausible and cheesy, but it was uplifting and funny. I’m ashamed to say that I’d forgotten how great JLo is (besides Selena, I’d never forget that), but she reminded me that she is one of the best. And she had some great women surrounding her. We already mentioned Leah Remini, but I was surprised to also see Annaleigh Ashford and Charlene Yi. This is the girl power movie that I’ve been living for lately. I think Mom woulda liked it too

Second Act – \m/ \m/ \m/

The Mule

I went to Universal a couple of weeks ago to hit up all their Christmas stuff, but I didn’t feel like staying late enough to see the Hogwarts snowfall thing. I was kinda bummed about missing it, but needed my chill time on the couch at home. Then an idea hit me. I could race to Universal after work on day, see the snowfall, then catch a movie at the City Walk. mission accomplished

The movie was The Mule, the latest offering from actor/director legend Clint Eastwood. He’s a regretful old man who time after time chose his work over his family, to where he now finds himself with neither. Out of desperation, he takes a job “just driving”, which he later finds has him transporting drugs across state lines. Turns out, he’s really really good at it, and earns more and more favor and bigger and bigger payoffs from the druglords. But earning back his family will be more difficult, especially as the DEA are on his trail.

The film felt a little light, like it was missing something to give it some power. Still, I really enjoyed it. What drew me in was the character relationships. He started out very fish out of water when he’d be dealing with the gangbangers, but they found a way to relate to each other. To be clear, this is not meant to be a beautiful story of friendship across races ( that was Gran Torino). Watching this in LA, which has a large

Hispanic population, there were a lot of us who could understand some of the nuances that weren’t translated in the subtitles. Lots of giggles throughout the auditorium for the insults they’d trade.

Hispanic population, there were a lot of us who could understand some of the nuances that weren’t translated in the subtitles. Lots of giggles throughout the auditorium for the insults they’d trade.

The other relationship that I loved seeing play out was in the scant scenes that Client Eastwood shared with Bradley Cooper. This is their second collab after American Sniper, but this follows Cooper’s powerful debut as a director with A Star is Born. You could see the passing of the torch on screen from one legend on both sides of the camera to the next one. There was certainly a beauty to it.

The Mule – \m/ \m/ \m/