Having just completed a twelve year sentence in prison, Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) returns home. Trying to put his life back together, the former football star needs to find a job and check in with his parole officer every two weeks.

What Palmer doesn’t bargain for is meeting a young boy name Sam (Ryder Allen). Sam often spends time with Palmer’s grandmother Vivian (June Squibb) when his drug addict mother Shelly (Juno Temple) skips town. At first, Palmer doesn’t know what to make of Sam – the boy is unlike others his age. He loves playing with dolls and wants to be a princess. As the two spend more time together, Palmer’s feelings change and he learns that caring for Sam is what he is meant to do. It’s just unfortunate that his past keeps getting in the way.

I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to watch this at first. The story didn’t initially appeal to me, but I am very glad that I gave it a chance. There were so many things that I liked about it!

Justin Timberlake as an ex-con was a little hard to believe at times. Overall I did enjoy his performance though I have to admit that I am still on the fence if I prefer him as an actor or a singer. All I know is he is lovely to look at. Ryder Allen, on the other hand, was a revelation. I could not get over how precious that little boy was. For his first ever role, he really knocked it out of the park.

Palmer is a story about second chances and starting over. It hit me in all the right feels and I highly recommend it.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

The White Tiger

A rags to riches story is one of my favorite tropes. The White Tiger, a film by based on the 2008 book by Aravind Adiga, sparked my interest because it was executively produced by Ava DuVernay. I am convinced that everything she touches turns to gold. Together with director Ramin Bahrani, I knew that checking out this film was a no brainer. I just didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did!

Balram (Adarsh Gourav) knows that he is destined for greatness. When he gets a job as a driver for a wealthy Indian family, his life begins to change. But then Balram starts to see flaws in the system. He thought that working for Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra) would be good for him, that they actually care about him and his wellbeing. Realizing that that couldn’t be further from the truth, Balram must use his wits to break free even if it means losing himself in the process.

This is not a light-hearted tale. It may start off on a hopeful note, complete with colorful visuals and lively music, however it slowly turns more dark as the film goes on. I thought this was also perfectly conveyed through the acting of the leads. The performances were all off the charts and I am excited to see what Adarsh Gourav does in the future. He put so many different emotions into his role and I was rooting for him the entire time.

I loved how the movie gave me major Parasite vibes in that the main character knows they are better than what society says they are. The caste system in India is just as thriving today than it was in the past and in some ways, it seems almost backwards for the 21st century. I appreciated how we as the audience had the opportunity to see this depicted because it helped make the movie more realistic.

The White Tiger was a joy to watch and I know it will stick with me for years to come. I’m sure it will have the same effect on you too.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

One Night in Miami

The hype leading up to One Night in Miami’s release was real. The directorial debut from Regina King was not one to be missed! Knowing that it would be added to my list, I chose to watch it on Inauguration Day. That choice was rather fitting, though I didn’t realize just how much until after it had finished. While the story was foreign to me going in, I did know the names of the four main characters and that was enough to gauge my interest.

On the night of February 25, 1964, four men gathered together in a room at the Hampton House. In this room, minister and activist Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), professional boxer Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay Jr. (Eli Goree), football player James Brown (Aldis Hodge) and singer songwriter Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) discussed various civil rights movements as well as what it is like to be a Black man in America. While the actual conversation these men had is not known, this seemed to be a pretty realistic account of what could have happened.

The movie which was based on the play of the same name written by Kemp Powers in 2013, was interesting to see unfold. While there were some other sets throughout, the room at Hampton House was integral to the story and most of the events took place there. It definitely had the feel of a play and I liked the more intimate feel that it brought. In fact, I think it would be rather interesting to see the play adaption so that I can compare the two.

The casting for One Night in Miami was flawlessly done. Kingsley Ben-Adair, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. were brilliant as these men who we have all come to know in one way or another. Despite the fictitious depiction of their conversation, I would like to think that there was some truth to these discussions as well as the chemistry that we saw on screen.

Overall, I really appreciated the story and I feel like I learned a lot while watching. I liked hearing each man’s beliefs that they not only shared with one another, but that they wanted to share with the world too. Black Lives Matter is not only something that happened back in the 60s. If the last year taught us anything, it’s that this is still a hot topic that needs to be addressed.

Rating: ♥♥♥.5

Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman is a film that I have been (impatiently) waiting for for almost a year now. As soon as I heard about it, I knew it was something I was going to enjoy. I guess I just didn’t expect it to have such an impact on me afterwards or for it to have become one of my favorite films of all time! It really was that good and I already can’t wait to watch it all over again.

Cassandra ‘Cassie’ Thomas (Carey Mulligan) is a med school dropout who still lives at home with her parents Stanley (Clancy Brown) and Susan (Jennifer Coolidge) at the age of thirty. She has had the same coffee shop gig for ages where she has a great relationship with her boss Gail (Laverne Cox). On the outside, Cassie seems like a normal girl living a normal life.

But what nobody knows is that she is actually living a double life – at night, Cassie goes out to bars and clubs, pretends to get drunk so that guys will take her home all so she can snap out of it and give them a taste of their own medicine. It’s all part of her revenge tour against those who were responsible for the sexual assault and eventual suicide of her best friend Nina. These men must pay for what they have done and Cassie will stop at nothing until that happens.

At first glance, this movie may seem like a comedy and that is partially true. There are some funny moments and the writing is incredibly witty and sharp. It also seems like there is some romance thrown in complete with a falling in love montage to Paris Hilton’s iconic song Stars Are Blind. Underneath all that, however, is the depiction of a heavy subject.

The cast were absolutely flawless in this. Carey Mulligan should get all the awards for her portrayal as Cassie. I have never seen such a convincing performance before and it blew me away. I liked the other well known faces that popped up throughout including Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Max Greenfield, Bo Burnham, Molly Shannon, Alfred Molina and Chris Lowell.

Promising Young Woman was truly phenomenal. I really do believe this is because of how important the topic is and how instances like this happen all the time. Sexual assault is not okay and it is always overlooked. I loved how Cassie took matters into her own hands. She was determined and really wanted vengeance for what had happened to her friend. She was inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time.

If you don’t go and watch Promising Young Woman now, you are missing out. This is not a movie to be missed! I know it is one that will stick with me for a long time.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Locked Down

Not going to lie, I wasn’t sure I was going to be up for watching a movie about a pandemic especially when we are knee deep in one. Movies, to me, are for escaping, not to be reminded of what is is I am already dealing with every single day. That being said, Locked Down looked fun and it starred some really well known actors so I decided to give it a shot.

When London goes into lockdown to help curve COVID-19, Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) had just made the decision to separate after many years together. With no other choice but to cohabit during this time, they try to make the best out of an inconvenient situation. Then, a chance of a lifetime opportunity presents itself. Linda and Paxton must work together one last time if they want to change their lives forever.

If I’m being honest, I was both highly amused and kind of taken aback at how realistic this was. It perfectly embodied what life is like today complete with zoom calls, social distanced meet ups and the wearing of masks (though there wasn’t nearly enough of that). To be fair, it seems as though this had been filmed at the beginning of the pandemic and a lot has changed since then.

I did like the premise of the film, but I expected more. I had gone into it thinking I was about to watch a comedy and while I did laugh out loud, there were a lot more serious moments than I had bargained for. I also felt like some parts were slow and while I appreciate the need to set up the story, not much happened until the end.

There were some fun cameos by some very famous people which I thoroughly enjoyed. Ben Stiller, Lucy Boynton, Mindy Kaling and Ben Kingsley rounded out the cast and made for great side characters. I loved it whenever one of them would pop up.

If you are looking for a different sort of heist movie, I’d say give Locked Down a go. Just prepared that it hits very close to home these days.

Rating: ♥♥♥

Pieces of a Woman

My first review of the new year and I feel like I chose the right movie to kick things off! Pieces of a Woman has been getting a lot of praise since its premiere at the Venice International Film Festival back in September. Despite the heavier nature, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. I am pleased to say that it really did live up to the hype.

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are expecting their first child. They couldn’t be more excited and have been waiting for this day for ages. Unfortunately, during the home birth, complications arise and it all ends in an unthinkable tragedy.

What follows is a year of Martha attempting to deal with the aftermath of her loss. Not only will her relationships change, but she must learn how to live with what happened to her so that she can move on.

Though the story was hard to watch at times, I do think it was eye opening. The first half hour alone was heartbreaking and I was holding my breath throughout. I hadn’t seen anything like it before! The performance by Vanessa Kirby was outstanding. I understand why so many are saying that she’ll be nominated for all the awards.

Similarly, Shia LaBeouf as Sean was a pleasant surprise. It had been awhile since I had seen him act in anything, but I do think that he is talented. The side characters including Martha’s mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), her sister Anita (Iliza Shlesinger), brother in law Chris (Benny Safdie) and cousin Suzanne (Sarah Snook) only helped enrich the story. And who could forget the midwife Eva (Molly Parker) who tried her best to save the baby’s life?

Pieces of a Woman is a raw story of loss, but it is also about finding yourself in the wake of it. I highly recommend the movie!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥