Julie & Julia

Soooo fun fact, this is the movie that inspired me to start ExpeltiveDleted way back in the day. Up til that point, I’d write an occasional movie review in my LiveJournal (remember when that was a thing?), but seeing Julie go on her blogging journey made me think that I should do the same. Except my first project was AFI’s 100 Years 100 Movies. I may not have gone on to the recognition that Julie did, but it’s been a fun (nearly) nine years.

This movie is a lot cheesier than I remember. Despite having been inspired by Julie 9 years ago, I just found her annoying now. But that’s okay because we’re talking about Meryl who was Julia. As in Julia Child.

Oh yeah, so to catch you up, modern day Julie has decided to blog her way thru Julia Child’s classic cookbook. We get parallel stories of Julie’s journey to write thru the cookbook and Julia’s journey to write the cookbook.

The Julia storyline is pure joy, mostly because of Meryl’s performance and her chemistry with onscreen husband Stanley Tucci (building off their screen chemistry in The Devil Wears Prada). It’s only one of many iconic real life figures that Meryl will get awards recognition for, but it’s easily the most fun of the bunch

First Reformed

I’ve said many times before that I was basically raised in Church. However, I struggle with my faith, and it’s a constant logic battle in my head. I hear someone like my mom talk about what she feels and experiences in a church service, and I just don’t feel that. For me, a good thought provoking film can be a religious experience that rivals what she describes. As a result, I’m particuarly attracted to (secular) films about a crisis of faith because they’re so thought provoking for me. Throw in what seemed like it’d be a career high performance from Ethan Hawke, and I was sold.

Hawke plays the reverend at a small historic church that’s affiliated with a mega church down the street. While dealing with his own doubts and inability to connect with God, he meets a young couple from his congregation. The husband is an activist for environmental issues, and the hopelessness of our planet’s situation coupled with his wife’s pregnancy has sent him into a deep despair. His crisis fuels the doubts and fears that Hawke is experiencing, throwing him into an even deeper spiral.

This film was incredibly absorbing, and yes thought provoking as I expected. Hawke certainly delivers one of the best performances of his career, between being in practically every frame (often in tight closeup) plus the verse dense dialog he’s dealt. Right around when we were reaching the third act, it did get a lil weird and start dragging. However the ending left me shook. I’m still trying to process what it was that happened and what it all means for the film. That are the moments I watch movies for.

First Reformed – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Star Wars fatigue? What are you talking about? Bring on the far reaches of the galaxy far far away! If I had to pick a fave character from the franchise it’d be between Chewie, Leia, and Han. So you’re telling me we’re getting a film focused entirely on two of those? No really, bring it on!!

Alden Ehrenreich (that kid who completely stole Hail Caesar! out from under about a dozen A list stars) stars as that smug smuggler and scruffy looking nerf herder that Harrison Ford made us fall in love with. It’s approx ten years before he’d ever meet a Jedi and in order to rescue his first love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) from her life of servitude, he’s gotta make the famed Kessel run in 12 parsecs. Along the way he teams up with a handful of characters varying in range on the shady scale: Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), Beckett (Woody Harrselson) and of course, Chewbaca the Wookie (Joonas Suotamo).

I actually love the idea of these spin off films. The Star Wars galaxy is so vast and rich, it’s nice to hear some stories from its far corners. It’s especially refreshing to have a film that’s pure fun without the weight of the saga-the fate of the galaxy isn’t in their hands. It’s just some scrappy little nobody trying to survive, in a classic heist film that just so happens to star some of the most iconic characters to ever hit the big screen.

I had such a blast watching it (all three times). So many little moments made me smile. So many subtle throwbacks to the films we love, while still feeling entirely like its own thing. But the true brilliance I feel was in the casting. Ehrenreich truly is Han Solo: the mischief in his eye, the smirk, the attitude, the arrogance and swagger. It’s all there. Speaking of swagger? Donald Glover as Lando. Also perfection, with a more classy and refined style. Bonus points for Woody Harrelson while playing the typical character he always plays but having him seamlessly integrated to the Star Wars universe. Add in Paul Bettany calling in a favor from director Ron Howard to play a truly devious villain and yeah absolute perfection in casting all around.

You know, haters gonna hate, but if you can just let go and sit back and have fun, this movie can be everything you want it to be. It certainly was for this gal.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Devil Wears Prada

Another one I’ve talked about before, so for this go round we’ll just focus on Meryl.

It’s interesting that she was up for a lead nomination for this film. Yes, she’s the title character, but the story is really about Anne Hathaway’s Andie. But of course, she’s Meryl, so naturally she’s gonna be up for the top spot.

This is one of her most iconic characters. So many of her performances are known for their emotional heft, but this one is more defined by her mannerisms and personality. And it’s brilliant, of course. Yet another case though where any other actress would not have gotten the same recognition, even for a comparable performance.

That’s all.

Deadpool 2

A dilemma. How was I supposed to watch Deadpool 2 with Mom in town? I can get her to the movies sometimes, but I had no intention of making this one of those movies. She’d be praying thru the whole blasphemous film. Then a solution came to me, that also solved another problem. We wanted to make sure to have dinner with a friend of mine, so I scheduled it for Deadpool night. We’d do dinner, then put mom in an uber while we went off to the movie. I ran this plan by Mom. “Well, what movie is it? I could go with you guys” “Not this one; it’s all bad language and violence, and–” “Ay no, I’ll go home”

But yes, the Merc wit the Mouth is back!! And I was so excited for his triumphant return, to the point of stopping at every 7-11 I pass, trying to get the full set of Slurpee cups. I think I may have been too excited though, because I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed throughout. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. I laughed louder and harder and more often than I ever do at films, yet something still felt like it was missing. I’m hoping that my possible second viewing next week evens the playing field.

There were moments I loved beyond any doubt. First off, so many throwbacks to the first film, many of them small and subtle. I had just rewatched the previous movie a few days before (I put it on when Mom went to church), so it was fresh. But really, I found the best part were the newbies. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople kid was a perfect addition to the film; the way he could play off Ryan and challenge him was right on point.

However, the real scene stealer for me was Domino (Zazie Beetz). I loved every damn thing about her, starting with her power of luck. I’ve found that with a lot of supers, no matter what their power, their fights look very similar. Hers is different. Much like why I love Doctor Strange, her style is more thought out and unexpected. Maybe she’s not doing as much of the thinking like Strange is, but the writers sure had to get those brains working to lay out her sequences, and it’s incredible. Plus mega bonus points for being a strong fierce woman (even more bonus points for diversity casting) who can more than hold her own against one of the largest personalities the silver screen has ever seen.

Ultimately I did really enjoy this movie, I just didn’t leave with the same level of excitement as I went in with. Still excited to see it again tho

Deadpool 2 – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Terminal

Mom’s been in town, which really puts a damper on my movie plans. However, my therapist has been on me to join some MeetUp groups (apparently meeting people is a way to deal with social anxiety, whodda thunk), and when I found one nearby going to the movies, that felt like a good escape.

Terminal stars Margot Robbie as, um, uh, I actually don’t know how to describe this. That’s as far as I knew going in, and it took a while for the story to come together enough to figure out what was happening. She’s an assassin or something? Some role that fits well for psycopaths, and she’s trying to turn her competition against each other. Basically picture her Harley Quinn, and now imagine if Harley were more calculating that chaotic. Also, Mike Myers and Simon Pegg are somehow involved.

Some of the film really worked. The cinematography was absolutely gorgeous, with incredible colors and images that really popped. The performances, also incredible. Pegg and Robbie had some great back and forth banter (which is apparently what drew Pegg to the role) and it was wonderful seeing Myers on screen for the first time in a while. Oh and whoever did Robbie’s hair and makeup needs to be my best friend, because damn.

So then why didn’t it work? It was all style and trying-to-hard-to-be-capable-of-any-real-substance. It brought me back to John Dies at the End or Cosmopolis, two other films that are exquisite in their style, but offer nothing substantive other than confusion. Terminal at least did eventually tie things together into something that made some sense, but it took so long to get there, it wasn’t worth the journey. Better to just view some stills and maybe a few short clips than sit thru the whole thing.

Terminal – \m/ \m/

Adaptation

This one seems an anomaly to be included. It’s all about Nicholas Cage. I mean hell, he plays too characters. Yet somehow it’s Chris Cooper who pulled off a win that year (in supporting) to represent the film. Meryl had her supporting nod and Cage his lead nod.

Confession, I wasn’t paying the most attention. I had just started on this 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Now Music of the Heart was appropriate background entertainment for that, but Adaptation required more rapt focus. It took a while to figure it out.

Actually, it’s not about Nicholas Cage. It’s about Charlie Kauffman, the screenwriter. Kauffman was struggling to a adapt a novel into a screenplay, and instead came up with this screenplay about that struggle. Cage plays Kauffman and a fictional twin brother.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense watching it, but reflecting on it, it does all come together in a genius way. I don’t even know where to describe it, you have to experience it. Thankfully, we’re just focusing on Meryl for this blog so I don’t need to dig in too deep.

I think it’s another nominated-because-she’s-Meryl role. That and there’s a fun twist around her character that would have made her more memorable. I don’t know that performance wise there was anything other than the usual exciting skill she brings.

Music of the Heart

How did I completely forget about N Sync’s song from this movie?! As it played during the end credits, images of the music video and the boys in a school hallway with Gloria Estefan came flooding back.

But we’re not talking about N Sync, we’re talking about Meryl. Had this film come out a few years earlier, I’d have been all over it. I was raised on inspirational family films of the 90s. Except I was a freshman or soph in high school when this was released, so I was too cool for that (despite the N Sync connection).

This movie is def one of those where Meryl got nominated bc she’s Meryl. No other actress would have gotten this kinda attention. But of course she knocked it outta the park.

I actually rather enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t quite as sugary as I expected. Her character had some bite and some arc to her. We saw her establish her program and then fight to save it years later. That finale was so moving, watching the big performance play out. Teachers looking for a film to watch in class on your hangover days, consider this!

One True Thing

Wow this movie is so 90s. Normally, if I would say a statement like that it’d be drenched in nostalgia, but I’m not sure how much the 90s vibe is a good thing here. It’s making it difficult to take this seriously as an Oscar contender or a Meryl Streep film. It was the year where Shakespeare in Love beat out Saving Private Ryan and Roberto Benigni stole it from Edward Norton, so I guess the Academy was on crack that year.

Srsly tho, the costumes, the score, the cinematography, the title, the Renee Zellwegger. So so 90s.

Renee is a young professional who moves back home when Mama Meryl is diagnosed with cancer. I’m struggling to watch this, and I think it’s because of how demanding and calloused the dad (William Hurt) was about insisting that she do this. Something my parents were always so so good about is allowing me to live my life, and not allowing any of their issues to get in the way. Daddy never let on how sick he was at the end so that I wouldn’t worry. Mom has gotten as many of her affairs in order so she won’t be a burden later, and under no circumstances would want me to have to take sole care of her. This is something I appreciate more than I could possibly articulate, and seeing parents in this film that are doing the exact opposite breaks my heart.

I really don’t get this as a nominee. First off, Meryl is up for lead, but this is really Renee’s film. Second, this is not an Oscar caliber film. But Meryl is playing a sickly mother, which is often an awards bait-y type of role. We hadn’t seen her do that yet, and of course, the Academy recognizes her every time she does something different.

Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, this movie is set in the 80s? Did anyone tell the production design? Or the costumer? Did I mention I’m live blogging this entry (with a delayed posting).

Okay Meryl just had an epic monologue (even if the dialog is cliche) and the nomination is making more sense. Still surprises me though that they took this movie that seriously.

Bad Samaritan

Some movies need to be seen in a theater. Others are better suited for Netflix. This was more the latter, but seen in the format of the former.

An artsy Irish kid runs a scam with a friend of his where they valet cars and rush off to rob the car owner’s house while they are enjoying their dinner. Until one day when he robs the wrong dude’s house (the wrong dude played by David Tenant), and he finds a girl chained up in the office. Unable to help her in the moment, he flees the scene and calls the cops on the house. It then becomes a game of cat and mouse between him and the rich psycho a-hole.

The first act of the film was fantastic, exactly the kind of dark and disturbing story that I like and dripping with tension. Simultaneously not the best choice and the absolute best choice for someone with anxiety. But then, it just got really dumb. The FBI storyline was rushed and cheesy, the mindgames our serial dude was playing were just trying too hard to be intense, it just didn’t work. Had I been at home watching on Netflix, this is the point where I woulda started playing Rollercoaster Tycoon and zoning out.

I do love seeing Tenant play bad, but this role isn’t nearly as satisfying as his Kilgrave. This dude is not gonna be remembered among the greats like my boys Patrick, Norman, and Dexter.

Bad Samaritan – \m/ \m/ \n