Tag Archives: movie review

An American Pickle – Double Seth Rogen Kills It In this Funny Satire.

An American Pickle; Dir. – Brandon Trost

Rating – //stream it once it’s free//

An American Pickle | Official Trailer | HBO Max

“An American Pickle,” a time-travel farce directed by Brandon Trost and adapted from a New Yorker story by Simon Rich, marinates crisp almost-timeliness in the mild brine of nostalgia. It’s not too salty or too sour, and it’s neither self-consciously artisanal nor aggressively, weirdly authentic. The subject, more or less, is what it means to be Jewish, and given how contentious that topic can become — can I get an oy vey? — the movie finds an agreeable, occasionally touching vein of humor.

The setup for most of the jokes is that, in 1919, an impoverished immigrant named Herschel Greenbaum, recently arrived in Brooklyn from a fictitious, Cossack-ridden anti-Anatevka called Schlupsk, falls into a vat of saltwater and cucumbers. He leaves behind a pregnant wife, Sarah (Sarah Snook). She has a son, who has a son, whose son, in 2019, is a sad-sack tech guy named Ben. When Herschel is fished out of his century-long bath, alive and perfectly preserved, he goes to live with Ben, his only known relative, setting up a cross-generational odd-couple situation brimming with comic potential.

All the more so because both Herschel and Ben are played by Seth Rogen, who does the bewhiskered Yiddish thing and the diffident millennial thing with equal craftiness. While the characters are recognizable types — from popular culture if nowhere else — Rogen brings more than mere shtick to the performances. Herschel is neither a sentimental schlemiel nor a twinkly old-world grandpa, but rather an impatient, sometimes intolerant striver with a violent streak. His pre-pickling experience of the world was hard and bitter, leavened only by the hope that future generations of Greenbaums would be better off.

Which is just what happened, of course. Herschel once confessed to Sarah that he hoped to taste seltzer water before he died, and Ben has a gizmo in his apartment that makes it on demand. He’s even less of a caricature than his great-grandpa — not a hipster or a nerd so much as a smart guy with a deep streak of melancholy. It turns out that what connects him to Herschel isn’t just genetics: it’s also grief. Ben’s parents are dead, and Herschel’s accident robbed him of the pleasures and consolations of family.


That’s some pretty heavy stuff, but “An American Pickle” is swift and nimble enough to avoid weighing itself down with schmaltz. It’s almost too thin to sustain its premise for the running time — a scant 90 minutes — and sometimes feels more like a stretched-out sketch than a fully developed feature.

The century that separates Herschel from Ben allows the story to leapfrog over quite a lot of history, including the Holocaust, Israel, socialism, and the complicated process of upward mobility, acculturation and self-preservation that is the movie’s very condition of possibility. The drama of Jewish male selfhood that preoccupied so many in the middle generations — the whole Philip Roth-Woody Allen megillah — is all but erased. Herschel had his beloved Sarah. Ben has no apparent sexual or romantic interests, or even any friends that we know about. There’s no room for women in this pickle jar.

But the flimsiness of the movie’s conceit also works to its benefit. At its best, it’s a brisk, silly plucking of some low-hanging contemporary fruit. Food trends. Social media. Unpaid internships. The inevitable conflict between Herschel and Ben turns a family squabble into a culture-war skirmish, a conflict played out in a way that feels both satirically sharp and oddly comforting.

And pickles can be comfort food. Not too filling, good for the digestion, noisy and a little sloppy rather than artful or exquisite or challenging. This one, as I’ve said, isn’t bad, and even allows a soupcon of profundity into its formula. The tough, pious ancestor and his sensitive, secular descendant have almost nothing in common, and the imaginative challenge is to find an identity that can include them both more or less as they are. What makes them both Jews? The answer turns out to be simple and, at least for this conflicted 21st-century Jew, persuasive: the shared obligation to mourn the dead.

Yes, God, Yes – a Smart And Funny Exploration Of Teenage Sexuality.

Yes, God, Yes; Dir. -Karen Maine

Rating –  “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.

Yes, God, Yes is the directorial debut Karen Maine, and stars Natalia Dyer from Stranger Things, in the lead role. Developed from a short film that Maine planned on directing but later adapted it to feature-length, this is an extremely small film, in terms of budget, story, and even the run-time. Clocking at only about one hour and fifteen minutes, the film is an almost semi-autobiographical retelling of Maine’s first-hand experience of spending four days at a Catholic retreat.

Alice, played by Natalia Dyer, has been brought up in a very small town by her conservative religious parents and attends Catholic school, where sex-ed classes are taken by a priest. Not only is sex before marriage a sin, but also masturbation, and Alice is made to believe that she will go to hell if she even gets turned on by sex scenes in movies or hot boys in the class. Alice, like most girls her age, is pretty gullible and believes that she is actually committing sins by feeling emotions normal to any teenager. Set in the early 2000s, Alice experiences her sexual interaction over an online AOL chatroom, where she responds to a random dude’s creepy messages just because of curiosity and discovers masturbation. But then she is ashamed of herself and never talks about it to anyone.

At school, someone has spread a rumor about how she performed a very particular sexual activity with a guy from her class at a party, a sexual activity she that she doesn’t even know the meaning of. She asks her friend, but she has no clue either, and Alice spends a chunk of the film trying to find out what people are talking about her. But whatever it is, in order o get these accusations of her and compensate for her supposed dirty mind, she goes to a Christian retreat for four days. And this place is a straight-up horror mansion imo. Right from the beginning, with the overly friendly and enthusiastic attitude of everyone, something is definitely off about this place. Maybe it’s just my socially awkward self, but everything in the retreat is almost Get Out level creepy.

Yes, God, Yes, is a movie about masturbation and sexual awakening, but what separates it from other films of this genre is its female protagonist and conservative setting. It is not a raunchy comedy about horny guys trying to lose virginity, it is just a realistic portrayal of a girl coming to terms with her own sexuality. Maine sure finds funny moments throughout the story, but she never loses sight of realism in the central story, she rather uses the comedic moments to further develop Alice’s character and illustrate her struggles.

The teachers and elders in the story are used for jokes, but they are not the butt of jokes, they are all very misguided people themselves. If anything is joke it is religion and a society that expects young to suppress all their sexual urges, even though they know it is unrealistic. The guilt of always feeling like she’s committed a sin fills Alice with self-doubt that almost drives her crazy as she slowly starts to find out that people are doing those same things in hiding. She feels conflicted and doesn’t understand what she wants to do anymore and then she meets an old lesbian biker lady in a pub, who was once in a Catholic school too, which gives Alice a new perspective on the world. She understands that human beings are complex creatures, and it makes no sense to define them entirely by the supposed “sins” they commit. She understands that High School isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t matter what people are talking about behind your back, because those same people are doing equally fucked up shit when nobody is watching. She learns to give herself a chance – to finally figure out who she is.

Natalia Dyer gives the best performance of her career as Alice. So much of the movie depends on her, and she sells every moment she’s in. The rest of the cast is equally good. Wolfgang Novogratz as the lovable hunk is very charming and Timothy Simon is perfect as the strict father, a role very similar to his role from Looking for Alaska on Hulu. Karen Maine does an amazing job directing the movie. It’s hard to believe this is her first movie and she almost pulls off a Greta Gerwig, ala Lady Bird. Yes, God, Yes, is a beautiful little film about growing up and one of the best films to release this quarantine. So, if you have an hour and an hour to spare, check out the movie, you might end up reliving some your worst High School memories.

Now available in virtual cinemas and select drive-ins; available on digital and VOD from July 28.

Movie Review: Artemis Fowl – Disney Takes A Giant Shit On Beloved Book Franchise

Artemis Fowl; Dir. – Kenneth Branagh

Rating – Horrendous. Piece. Of. Shit.

Disney’s Artemis Fowl | Official Trailer

Artemis fowl feels like some parent gave an infant a brand new toy set featuring random action figures to play with, but the kid pooped his pants before he could finish the story, so now we are just left with whatever game the toddler designed in the limited time before he pooped his pants. But no, this isn’t some fantasy a 9-year-old cooked up in his bedroom, this 125 million dollar budget Disney production starring big names and directed by a well experienced director, who has made good movies in the past – how this movie turned out to be such an epic disaster, is a total mystery to me.

To call Artemis Fowl a movie would be giving it too much praise, it doesn’t qualify as a movie. It’s a series of random footage stitched together to form something that barely emulates a feature-length movie. It doesn’t even have a story, it’s the type of movie where nothing really happens. A bunch of characters are introduced, they get together in the third act, some random shit happens I guess and the movie just ends there. There are no character arcs, no plot, no journey, no adventure – basically anything that has something to do with a story is lacking from this movie.

Sitting through the one and half hours of which movie (which definitely felt much much longer) was a torture to say the least, the movie was so boring I dozed off twice. I would not be able to tell you anything about the plot of this movie, even if I were to try, because it is fucking nonexistent. In the first few minutes we are like told how smart Artemis Fowl, and then his whole backstory and family background is explained in very exposition heavy dialogues by a counselor of sorts. It is like if in Batman Begins, Batman just straight up showed up in the first act and Alfred explained to him how his parents died and then about all the ninja training he did, in a single monologue, so that the audience gets to know who Bruce Wayne is. What’s worse is, none of those details matter, because the character of Artemis Fowl himself doesn’t matter and I really don’t know why they had to make such a big point about him being smart, it’s not like they use it in the story, because he barely does anything. Yeah, the titular character of the movie doesn’t do anything in story except just existing in the frame.

I know this an adaptation, so maybe the character is just boring even in the books. But no, I know that’s not true because I have some friends who are real fans of the book and really love Artemis Fowl. From what I’ve heard, Artemis is supposed to be this grey character who’s a criminal mastermind and he’s supposed to have this big redemptive arc over the course of the books. It’s as if the writers of the movie didn’t even read the books , they just heard what the books were about – a smart kid, fairies, dwarfs,trolls, etc, and then sort of build a plot around it that they thought would print money. But then the script supervisor came in and told the writers that he was supposed to be a criminal mastermind, so they just randomly add line at the end of the movie where Artemis says, “I’m Artemis Fowl, the criminal mastermind.”They took all the elements from the books and stripped them of anything that makes it interesting, even down to it’s protagonist. Also, I don’t really wanna be too harsh on kid, but the guy (Fardia Shaw) they cast as Artemis Fowl sucked so bad. He was s such an un-charismatic and dull presence, that even in this awful movie, he stood out as wooden.

Now, if we are talking about acting, let’s get to the two biggest names in the cast. Josh Gad plays this giant dwarf character, who also narrates the entire movie from a prison cell. He looks like someone trying to pull off a cheap Hagrid cosplay in comic-con while putting on a Batman. And yes, the whole movie is narrated in a Batman voice, and I honestly don’t get the point of the narration, it’s not like anything happens in the money. Josh Gad is not that bad technically, but his costume, voice and CGI face make it tough for me to say he was good. Also putting on a Batman voice, is Dame Judi Dench who sort of plays the fairy version of M from the Bond movies. She also has her own centaur version of Q in the movie named Foaly, which I know because he’s introduced like this – “Hi there, this is Foaly!”. Between this and Cats, Judi Dench really needs to fire her agent, or maybe she’s just gotten to the point in her career where she doesn’t care anymore, and is just building some bank for her kids.

There are also other characters introduced in the story but none of them matters in the end. There’s a side quest with this fairy who’s father is believed to be a traitor, so she wants to clear his name. She’s like supposed be the best friend that Artemis Fowl makes in this misadventure, and they try to have these friendship moments between them but it all just comes off as so cheesy and cory that you don’t even take it seriously for one second. But Artemis Fowl is supposed have this great relationship with his Butler and his niece, but don’t give two shits about them cause neither does the movie, they just exist in the background somewhere.

This definitely feels like a movie that was botched in the edit room. I mean, I don’t believe there’s a cut of this movie that’s any good, but the editing seems so sloppy and the plot doesn’t really flow from one place to another, which makes me wonder who’s fault is this that this movie tuned out so bad. Everything about this movie is bad, from writing to acting and visual effects, it’s almost as if everyone working on this movie wanted it to fail. Disney surely did, because they didn’t try to do any re-shoots, get any good editors involved or pay any money for post production and good visual effects. Instead they took this opportunity to quietly dump the movie on their own streaming, but I’m not sure what it says about their brand. It feels like Disney is saying Disney Plus is the place where we’re gonna dump all our bad movies and the good ones will be coming in theaters, and I don’t think that’s the look they want. I don’t think this movie is gonna bring any new subscribers to Disney Plus, and in case you are already subscribed, I’d suggest you skip it.

So, did you watch Artemis Fowl (if so, why?) and what did you think of it?

Do let me know in the comments!

Movie Review: Da 5 Bloods – The Topical Spike Lee Joint That The World Needs Right Now.

Da 5 Bloods; Dir. – Spike Lee

Rating – “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.

Da 5 Bloods | Official Trailer | Netflix

Amidst all the crazy shit happening around the world, with Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee has officially announced that the Oscar race for 2021 has just began. Yes, it’s that good. This is without a doubt the most high quality film to be released during the lockdown, and it’s steal that you can just watch it for free at the comfort of your home right now.

The film opens with Muhammad Ali and closes with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., two legends who are inextricably tied to the Civil Rights movement and Black pride. Lee uses them to highlight another commonality: their strenuous opposition to the Vietnam War. For Ali, the objection cost him several productive years of his career and his heavyweight title; for Dr. King, this new focus was quite possibly the final straw that led to his assassination. The first words we hear are Ali’s famous explanation of why he refused to enlist. The last words we hear are from a speech King gave on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his murder, where he quotes poet Lagston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again.”

On the surface, Da 5 Bloods is a treasure hunt story, modelled on the template of “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” and of course, as he’s confessed, Spike Lee’s favorite film “Apocalypse Now”. There’s even a nighclub themed after Apocalypse Now in modern day Vietnam, andfilm fan will be able to catch the scene homages Spike Lee pays to Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece.

The movie tells the story of four war veterans who are back in Vietnam in recover their friend/leader’s remains from the jungle, but actually they have a hidden agenda underneath that the film reveals slowly. The men, who dub themselves as Bloods, have all got something going on with them – there’s the joker, Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), the level-headed medic, Otis (Clarke Peters) and the one who achieved the most post-war success, Eddie (Norm Lewis). Rounding out the quartet is the forceful, hot-headed leader, Paul, played by Delroy Lindo in one of the best performances to come out of a Spike Lee joint. The fifth blood of the title is not Paul’s son, David (Jonathan Majors), who unexpectedly shows up to join his elders’ crew. Delroy Lindo is just so good in the movie that if he’s not nominated whenever the Oscars are held next year, there’s seriously something wrong with the Academy. He has monologue towards the end of the movie, that was so good that it makes the movie for me.

Lindo’s character Paul, is the most affected by the events of the Vietnam war, the ghosts of the past are literally haunting him. He was one closest to their leader Norm nad looked up to him like a God, so in a way he feels the guilt of surviving while Norm did not. A deep thinker and a shrewd tactician, Norman has taken on almost mythical grandeur in his comrades’ memories. They refer to him as “our Malcolm and our Martin.” When the borders of the frame narrow and the color balance shifts to signify that we are back in the war, Norman is played by Chadwick Boseman , a perfect casting choice that underlines the heroism of the character, who is stamped with the likeness of Jackie Robinson and Black Panther himself from Wakanda. Boseman’s charisma can make feel even the most simple scenes heroic and inspiring.

A strong choice made by Spike Lee in the film is that the older actors also play their younger selves in the flashbacks, he doesn’t cast younger actors or de-age the actors like Martin Scorsese in The Irishman. It’s a choice that might through some people off, but it really pays off in my opinion. It goes on to show how the characters never left Vietnam and have been stuck in time ever since, and also the fact that Chadwick Boseman is the only young and charismatic presence, show how he never got to grow old like his contemporaries, and his ghost really lingers on in the present timeline.

Also another strong creative decision in the film that really pays off, is the decision to shoot the movie in different aspect ratio and and different type to film to give a sense of time and place. The flashbacks are all shot in 16 mm film with an aspect ratio of 4:3 which gives it a documentary-esque feel and the present-day jungle scenes appear to be like 35 mm IMAX film, but there’s no way to feel for me since we unfortunately can never watch the film in a theatre. The cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel (who also shot Extraction for Netflix this year) is gorgeous and beautifully captures the rich landscapes of Vietnam and Thailand.

From left, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters and Jonathan Majors in ‘Da 5 Bloods.

But Spike Lee being Spike Lee, this film has a lot to say and it says it effectively. In addition to the verbal commentary about present events vs. past ones, Lee also employs some sly visual representations of his points. David wears a Morehouse shirt throughout his jungle trek and it’s more than just a shout-out to the director’s alma mater. It’s a reminder that the college kids didn’t wind up in this location. “They put our poor Black asses out here on the front line,” says Melvin, “killing us like flies.” With the occasional jump to graphic documentary footage, we’re also reminded that the Vietnam War was beamed into the homes of millions of Americans via the nightly news, forcing them to see the atrocities in such an effective way that later wartime presidents forced a moratorium on images of war, as if out of sight meant out of mind.

You can really just dig into any scene from this movie and decipher meaning social commentary out of it. And which the amount of twists and turns in the script, it sure warrants repeat viewing. It talks about the turbulent times and complex issues Black soldiers faced in Vietnam, commentary on US’s current president, Race issues worldwide in general and so much much more. There’s scene in particular involving Hanna Hanoi and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. that sent chills down my spine.

Simply, Spike Lee has done it again – he’s went on and made a very entertaining movie with deeply rooted ideologies that feel relevant even today. I mean, the movie almost correlates to whatever has been going through in the US over past couple weeks with all the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests going on. It’s a very timely movie and at the same time very timeless, so don’t make the mistake of skipping this one.

Da 5 Bloods is now available to stream on Netflix worldwide.

So what did you think of the movie if you have watched it, and what’s your favorite Spike Lee joint?

Do let me know in the comments!

Movie Review:The King Of Staten Island – Pete Davidson shines in Apatow’s Charming Coming-of-age Dramedy.

The King of Staten Island; Dir. – Judd Apatow

Rating – “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.

The King of Staten Island – Official Trailer

Judd Apatow is known for making one type of film over and over – overlong stoner comedies about overgrown man-children, and helping commercially unproven comedians become huge stars by making films in which they embody lightly fictionalized versions of themselves. He’s made stars out of the likes of Seth Rogen and Steve Carell in the past, with films like Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin. This time it is Pete Davidson’s turn, and he fits perfectly in Apatow’s universe of slice of life light-hearted dramas. The SNL star’s brand of ‘I don’t give a fuck’ dark humor is a perfect fit for the coming-of-age tale of a man-child trying to figure his shit out.

This is not the type of comedy where you burst into laughter every five seconds at a penis joke, this movie takes it’s time, (like all Judd Apatow movies) but in doing so it beautifully flutters between scenes that genuinely bring a smile to your face and scenes that will genuinely touch your heart. I walked into this movie completely blind, I didn’t even see a single trailer for it, so the emotional story of the movie is what surprised me the most – this is the most heartwarming Judd Apatow movie I have ever seen. It reminds me a lot of Apatow’s cult TV show freaks & geeks, another charming coming-of-age dramedy, which still remains one of my favorite seasons of television. Maybe it’s because I’m in a similar phase of my life where I’m trying to figure my shit out, but as soon as Pete Davidson’s character walked into the screen, I immediately felt that connection with him. I need to give the movie props for making me care too – I was genuinely invested in the lives of these character and gave a damn about what happened to them, which is a hard thing to achieve.

Pete Davidson and Bel Powley in The King of Staten Island

Based on a script co-written by Davison and Apatow, The King of Staten Island tells the story of Scott Carlin who lost his fire-fighter father in a tragic accident when he was seven years old and has never been able grow up since, which is weird because Pete Davidson also lost his fire-fighter dad who died killed trying to rescue people from the Marriott World Trade Center on 9/11, so in a sense this a semi auto-biographical vehicle for Davidson. But while Davidson uses humor and comedy to deal with the tragedy in his life, Scott is a tattoo artist who dreams of opening a tattoo parlor cum restaurant, which he titles “Ruby Tattuesdays”.

Scott still lives with his mom (Merissa Tomei), while his ambitious little sister (Maude Apatow) goes off to college following her dreams. Both of them are worried about Scott’s life as he refuses to grow up or change. He hangs with his toner friends who are all a likable presence (especially Moisés Arias and Ricky Velez) and you will want to hang out with them. The exchanges between the friends is very realistic and funny in a true Judd Apatow fashion, and it sounds like what a bunch of dudes will be talking about as they smoke some weed. He’s also secretly fucking his childhood friend Kelsey (a brilliant Bel Powley) but Scoot is left so insecure by his father’s death that he is afraid to form any new relationship.

It’s a cozy environment that Scott has built for himself, until one day he tattoos kid in the wood and the kid’s dad (Bill Burr) starts dating Scott’s mom. Okay, Bill Burr is amazing in this movie, he is the perfect balance to Pete Davidson’s dry humor. Bill Burr also plays a fireman in the movie, a detail that doesn’t fit well with Scott as he starts making plans to break up his mom’s relationship, which sets him on a journey that ultimately helps him grow up.

This a masterfully shot movie, with great cinematography and production design, that truly captures the essence of Staten Island. All the performances are great and the chemistry among the cast is perfect and everyone has great lines in the movie. But it is Pete Davidson who ultimately carries this movie with his star-making performance. He maybe playing himself, but his sincerity and charm brings much gravitas to the character that makes you feel for him throughout the story, even when he’s making some pretty shitty decisions. Also the soundtrack of the movie is really unique, and helps set the mood for the story it’s trying to tell.

Is the movie longer than it needs to be? Absolutely. At a run-time of two hours and seventeen minutes, you do feel the length as the script meanders and the actors stretch scenes with improv. But it is also what grounds this movie and trust me, if you sit with it, the movie really pays off in the end. Judd Apatow loves making films about about middle aged men stuck in adolescence, and it is definitely funny to watch the misguided fools do stupid shit. But with The King of Staten Island, Apatow rises above his own storytelling techniques – you are not laughing at Pete Davidson in this movie for not being able to grow up, you rather feel bad for the dude. This movie gives you a sense of why certain people are the way they are – why some people do recreational drugs, why some people have their bodies covered in tattoos, why some people take pride in the comrade of firemen, and ultimately, why certain people come of age at different points in their lifetime, some much later than most.

Alright, so what did you think of The King of Staten Island, and what’s your favorite Judd Apatow movie?

Do let me know in the comments!

Why Bill And Ted Returning Has Me Excited.

BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC Official Trailer #1 (2020)

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and it’s sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, is that rare piece of film memorabilia from the 90’s that somehow has still survived in the general consciousness of moviegoers. But I wasn’t alive when the first movie came out and I never got to see the movie in theatres. But thanks to the popularity of Keanu Reeves, (I just love that guy) I wanted to see some of his early work, and thus stumbled upon Bill and Ted. I saw Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure right after I saw John Wick 3 in the theatres, and the experience was most excellent. It shows Keanu’s range dude – from a hard-boiled mass murderer to one of the most lovable idiots in movie history.

ALex Winter and Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted Face the Music

Bill and Ted is a movie that can only exist in the ’90s, simply because it just won’t be made today. It’s a completely silly idea, filled with cheesy lines and a plot that doesn’t really go anywhere, and any studio today, will reject the film in the pitch itself. But thankfully, there was a time when movies like this were made, because they are just so darn fun. Like Bill and Ted themselves, these are most chill movies to watch and just forget about all your problems for the time being. And I swear it has some of the most quotable dialogues of all time – I haven’t been able to stop using Bill and Ted references in between conservations since I watched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Finally, after like almost 2 decades the third movie in the Bill and Ted franchise is coming out, with both Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves returning to their iconic roles. It is so refreshing to see a movie that’s just so chill, playing in the theaters. And to be honest, that’s all I need right now, with the stressful stuff happening around the world. Do I have the same amount of memories and nostalgia attached to property like most fans? No, but surely wanna see where they take these characters now that they have grown up and have families. But I’m cautiously excited though because, in the past, most of these sequels made after decades of the original film, have been completely shit (looking at you, Dumb and Dumber To). But the first trailer of Bill and Ted Face the Music launched today, and from the looks of it, it looks just as excellent as the previous ventures. It doesn’t spoil anything about the movie, but gives us a basic idea of what to expect from the movie – a crazy adventure with some crazy comedy. And who doesn’t want to see Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves go on an excellent adventure? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this really is one of my most anticipated movies of the year now. Bill and Ted might just be what we to ease ourselves in these times of global catastrophe.

So are you excited for Bill and Ted Face the Music, and what’s your favorite oddball 90’s comedic duo? Do let me know in the comments.

And till next time, be excellent to each other, and Party on dudes!

Movie Review: Scoob! – It’s a shame that this childish delight has to skip THEATERS.

Scoob!; Dir – Tony Cervone

Rating – //stream it once it’s free// (Or you know, purchase on VOD for your kids!)

Scoob! is set on it’s way to create history one way or another. It is the first movie set for a theatrical release, to completely skip theaters and release on digital VOD due too the current corona-virus pandemic. What kinda business it does is yet to be seen, but either ways it’s going to shift some gears in the Hollywood release model. Anyways we’re not here to talk about that, let’s discuss if the movie is any good. Is it? Well, it’s a both yes and a no.

While Scoob is a nice fun pastime for the family, it no ‘The Lego Movie’ which both kids and adults can appreciate together The jokes here are mostly written for kids and read as if it’s some middle aged man trying to write what he thinks kids these days find funny. Yes the Scooby Dooby franchise has been adapted to modern times and all characters are now millennials (Or GenZ, I’m not sure. Also the plot and the messaging in the film is not nearly as smart or innovative as the LEGO movies, which the scooby doo mystery mystery formula being revamped to fit into the superhero genre. Because again, what do kids love these days? Superhero movies.

The gang reuniting in the middle a third-act superhero fight scene in Scoob!

But I’m not gonna be too harsh on it for that, after all this movie IS made for kids. And honestly I think kids will love this movie – with all the bright colors, funny gags and entertaining action. That’s why I couldn’t help but think of how much better it all would be on the big screen. Kids out of school, going to the theaters and having a blast with Scooby and gang, as they slurp on cola and much on popcorn. This movie really had the potential be some like a minions. But alas, that not the kind of time we live in right now.

Also if you’re a genuine Scooby fan, I think there’s enough in Scoob! to please you too. Shaggy and Scooby are the stars of the film and I think the voice actors did a good job here. But the real show stealers in the voice acting department are Zac Efron as Fred and Mark Wahlberg as The Blue Falcon. What you don’t get much of is – enough time with the gang together as they are separated right at the beginning. But to compensate for that, you get a slew of Hanna-Barbera characters in the movie. There are a ton of references in this movie! This is essentially an origin story for a planned hanna-barbera universe by the Warner Brothers. So if you’re like me and spent your childhood watching hanna-barbera cartoons on Cartoon Network, that’s plenty reason to get excited.

How good Scoob! would’ve done if it were released in the theaters? I can’t possibly tell that, but the last act of this movie would definitely have been a blast to watch on the big screen. So, I would recommended you to watch this film – kids will love it, and chances are you will too.

Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma in a scene from Scoob!

Click on the link below to watch Scoob! online right now –
https://www.amazon.com/SCOOB-John-DiMaggio/dp/B087L5HNCR

How The Half of It defies Its Genre CONVENTIONS

Ellie Chu tells the audience right up in the opening sequence of the film – “This is not a love story”, à la the narrator in ‘500 Days of Summer’. And just like ‘500 Days of Summer’, ‘The Half of it’ subverts all genre conventions and tropes that people have come to expect, while still being a part of it and playing by its rules. It takes the very familiar story (one that’s been told over and over again, especially in the recent string of teen movies from Netflix), and just decides give the story realistic conclusions. And in doing so, it becomes something more than the genre sets it out to be, and the movies breaks free to greatness just like it’s protagonist.

The Half of It Official Trailer from Netflix.

I’m gonna be honest here, I’m not a fan of these Teen/High School movies from Netflix; most times they are just too cliched and suck real bad. And while ‘The Half of It’ has a really cliched plot, the executions and certain choices made in the production help it rise above it’s peers. The story begins with our lead protagonist Ellie Chu, an immigrant from China living alone with her father since her mom’s demise, as she explains us the concept soulmates to us using Greek mythology. “According to Greek mythologyhumans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.” she says, showing her search for that fairy tale concept of love. But Ellie isn’t bothered much about that, she spends her time learning and writing papers for other students in exchange of money, so she can go to college even if it’s not her dream school. To spice up her boring life, one day High school jock Paul approaches her to write letters popular high school beauty Aster, so that he can woo. You have seen any movie in this genre over the last few decades, you know what’s gonna happen next. Naturally Ellie falls for Aster as they exchange letters and feels like she has finally found her other half who understands hers.

The friendship between Ellie and Paul is without a doubt the best aspect of The Half of It.

But here the film decides to take things a little different and turns itself into a complex and nuanced tale. First of all, yes it’s a story of a lesbian Chinese immigrant and that is a huge thing in itself. But just having a progressive character in your film doesn’t make it groundbreaking or good for that matter, it’s what you do with those characters that matters. This story could easily turn into the ‘gay best-friend’ trope popular in so many rom-coms, but instead what develops is really nuanced and probably one of movie friendships in recent memory. The chemistry between Leah Lewis and Daniel Diemer is off the charts and the cute moments they share together were the highlights in film for me. And while Ellie is falling hard for Aster, Paul starts developing feelings for Ellie being unaware of the situation. Now this is the part of the story that could really go wrong by becoming very awkward or cheesy. But not The Half of it, rather it gives the decisions of it’s character real world repercussions which help them grow. Like Ellie Ellie says in another of her voice-overs, “no one will get what they want in the ensuing story. But they will get what they need.

The Half Of It – Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Collin Chou – Photo Credit: Netflix / KC Bailey Movie Review

That is not say that The Half of it does a perfect job of rising above it’s genre, it gives up to it in certain places, like in a “standing up and shouting out their feelings” scene in the third act. And while it doesn’t resolve in the conventional way, it still uses those devices to tell the story. It definitely breaks out and stand above others in the genre, but still it ain’t no 500 days of Summer. But hey, saying that it is not as good as one of the best movies of this century is not really a criticism. And considering how many rules this movies breaks, from story telling plot devices to real life issues like teenage sexuality, Asian culture and even a subtle dab at religion. But again, I have seen a lot of articles praise the movie just for being progressive and said how it criticized religious people, but reading was quite different, I didn’t feel like it was undermining religious people at all, if anything it made understand why they believe what they believe in. And that’s the thing, this movie takes each of its characters seriously and gives them layer – saying that this movie is trying to show down upon any community only undermines the things it tries to speak for.

Ellie kissing goodbye to Aster in The Half of It.

Alice Wu does an excellent job in directing the movies, she adds just enough quirk and innovative techniques to make it all seem special. This is only her sophomore film and her last film was fifteen years back. I don’t know if it’s for any personal reason, but if it is because she wasn’t getting any work, that’d be a huge bummer because boy does she direct this film. Leah Lewis nails the lead role and surely expecting to see more for from her. The overall cast is really good too, not much bad stuff to say here. And yeah, the score – it is just beautiful and a lot more emotion to the story. I’m definitely gonna listen to that score over and over.

 “Love is messy, and horrible, and selfish, and … bold.”

So overall The Half of It is one of the rare teenage dramas on Netflix that’s funny and heart touching forever. Scenes like when Ellie’s dad speak about his wife’s demise for the first time or when Paul runs after Ellie on the train are gonna stay with you for a long time. And just like Tom in 500 days of Summer, when Ellie learns what love really means and we reach the heartbreak point in the story, you feel like you grow up with her. And then when she leaves her home for a successful career, you feel that change in you as you see Paul and Ellie struggle saying goodbye to each other. So, while it isn’t a love story, it is definitely one of the sweetest friendship, and that should be enough reason for you to give it a watch,

Paul running after Ellie’s train in the Half of it.

The Half of it is now streaming on Netflix. Big recommendation.

The Lighthouse – How to build and release tension in a single scene?

Anatomy of a Scene – The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is one of my favorite films from last year, if not my favorite. So, today I wanna look at a scene from The Lighthouse that in my opinion, is the perfect example of how to build and release tension in a single scene without any dialogue.

The particular scene that I’m talking about, happens around twelve minutes into the film where Robert Pattinson’s character is taking a smoke break after completing his chores at the lighthouse. Prior to this scene the movie sets up the two lighthouse keepers who have come to stay in this hostile environment completely isolated. Just in the scene before, we see Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe argue over dinner, on who should be doing the light duty as Pattinson thinks he’s ready for it. Now it might look like a very petty issue, but it creates one of the fundamental conflicts in the story. Dafoe completely rejects Pattinson’s proposition and in turn says, “The light is mine!” But this only increases Pattinson’s curiosity about the light, as now it has been told that it is forbidden to him. He imagines his master to derive some kind of divine pleasure, which he doesn’t want to share with his assistant. After all, Dafoe clearly says, “There’s enchantment in the light.” However futile this sounds to you, this scene actually lays foundation for the Prometheus allegory that runs as one of the main themes of the story. And that is the beauty of The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers takes these really simple scenes where nothing really happens on the surface, but he adds so much meaning to them through subtext,

Robert Pattinson staring at the Lighthouse with his lustful eyes.

The scene begins as we find Robert Pattinson smoking on the rock, staring up at the lighthouse with desire filled eyes. If you didn’t catch it earlier, the light here represents Zeus’s fire and Pattinson’s desire for it is deliberately showcased because it becomes one his character’s biggest motives later on in the film. But as a viewer watching the movie for the first time, you are not aware of what the light means, so you’re left wondering of its meaning and there’s an immediate tension and mystery attached to Pattinson’s actions.

The first shot is a tracking shot from behind, as the camera follows Robert Pattinson walking towards the mysterious pitch black sea, lit faintly by the moonlight. In the sea, we see a few wooden logs floating away like an illusion and it immediately grabs our attention. DOP Jarin Blaschke deserves special praise here, his cinematography makes even the most mundane visuals haunting, while being so pretty at the same time. And like us, the sight sucks in Pattinson too, as he in drawn towards it. He gets into the water and starts pacing towards the logs with his lustful eyes right on it, as the camera cuts between the enchanting waters and Robert Pattinson’s bewildered face which only increases the tension. We want to know what’s in the and we want to know what’s attracting Pattinson, so we have ourselves more unanswered questions.

Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse.

But that’s not where it stops, as Eggers adds even more tension to the scene by placing a person in between the logs which is eventually revealed as the logs move away, and upon inspection anybody can tell that he dead. Suddenly you have a whole new set of unanswered questions – Who is person? How did he get here? What caused his death? And as the camera cuts back to Robert Pattinson, you see all the same uncertainty and tension in his face. And my God, does Pattinson act in this scene! This is by far some of the best acting by him, and he sells everything in movie that on paper might seem really crazy. And as for the last piece to building tension – Pattinson walks straight into his death. He starts to drown in the ocean and now, not only are you uncertain of what is happening or what Pattinson is doing, now you’re also uncertain of whether he’ll survive.

A scene from The Lighthouse where a dead body is found in the ocean by Robert Pattinson.

So now that all the tension is built, how does Robert Eggers decide to release it? There are mainly two ways to do this, either provide the audience with some kind of answer or jump cut to a more peaceful scene so that the audience is left wondering what the fuck happened. Eggers decides to do both, but only partially. He gives us an answer but it only complicates the plot even more, he slows us a mermaid. It is important to note here that, this is first supernatural occurrence in the story, and it remains to be the only one for a longtime. So as the story develops you’re always reminded of the mermaid and her chilling cries underwater, so the tension remains intact throughout. Even though, Robert Pattinson’s character never talks about it later, you can tell that it’s bothering him since it was earlier revealed that the last keeper died after talking of the mer-folk.

The mermaid in The Lighthouse

So what does the mermaid represent in The Lighthouse? For that we’ll need to what’s the role of mermaids in mythology. While some western cultures do represent the mermaid as friendly beings, most mythical stories portray them as vicious creatures. In popular stories mermaids are found to lure seamen out of their ships into the and seduce them to death. And while being seduced to death doesn’t sound so unpleasant, it is really one of the worst ways to die as they feed off your soul for years.So, again what does the mermaid represent in The Lighthouse? It represents desire – the very thing that leads Pattinson’s character to his doom.

Valeriia Karaman as the beautiful mermaid in The Lighthouse

The mermaid comes back in several scenes throughout the movie as a recurring theme. And because of this first scene, we’re always scared that something bad might happen to Robert Pattinson like the previous lighthouse keeper, whenever she appears. So not only does she act as a motif throughout the film, she also becomes a source of suspense and tension. With each appearance of the mermaid, Pattinson’s desire only increases and it comes out of in the last act of movie – first as a rage-filled masturbation scene where he imagines having sex with the mermaid, and second as a vengeful act against his master.

Robert Pattinson having sex with a mermaid in The Lighthouse (2019).

Now, some people think that all the scenes with the mermaid are actually dream sequences, but in my opinion that doesn’t matter. You can think whatever you want to think that happened, it’s the symbolism behind the scene that matters. It is the story of Prometheus trying to steal what the gods denied him as an act of revolt, and in turn being punished for it for eternity. But what Eggers cleverly does in his take of the story is he doesn’t choose a hero, instead he paints both sides in dark nuanced tones, and what happens in result, turns The Lighthouse into an age old story of men going too far to fulfill their desires.