Living

Set in 1950s London and based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s film Ikiru, Living is about civil servant Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) who finds out that he doesn’t have long left to live. Instead of carrying on with the mundane routine, he decides to take a time out to really experience all that life has to offer before his time runs out.

One might think that such a grim sounding story would put a person off, but that wasn’t the case here. I think I can credit Nighy’s impeccable performance as to why. Not only did he have my heart breaking for him, especially when he received his diagnosis and then felt he had nobody he could share the news with, he also had my heart swell in contrast because all he wanted to do before he passed was something positive for those who would be left behind.

The movie did start off slowly, however, the pacing improved as the plot moved forward. As Mr. Williams developed a friendship with his former employee Margaret Harris (Aimee Lou Wood), I felt like the scenes just kept speeding by. Although their closeness seemed strange at first, I have to say that it grew on me. Wood, in her first big role outside of Sex Education, delivered a wonderful performance. Full of optimism and quirkiness that was certainly needed amongst the otherwise somber atmosphere, she was a joy to watch.

Living took me by surprise. What started as me being interested in it for its cast changed as I felt so many different things while leaving the cinema. It is often said that we should live each day to the fullest and as if it is our last. While this may be easier said than done, it is still an important lesson that was beautifully portrayed throughout the movie. Overall a beautiful and poignant experience that I am so happy I got to witness.

Rating: ♥️♥️♥️♥️

Shotgun Wedding

Darcy (Jennifer Lopez) and Tom (Josh Duhamel) are all set to get married in a lavish wedding in The Philippines. The walk down the aisle won’t be an easy feat, however, with their ever clashing families and Darcy’s ex Sean (Lenny Kravitz) showing up unexpectedly. As the cold feet start to slowly seep in, the unbelievable happens just hours before they’re set to say I do – the entire wedding party is taken hostage by a group of pirates and it is up to Darcy and Tom to save them before its too late.

I’d been looking forward to checking out Shotgun Wedding. Lopez, hot off her success from last year’s Marry Me is back in another action adventure romantic comedy romp, though I should mention that I preferred the former. Still, this one wasn’t awful. Her chemistry with Duhamel worked surprisingly well (I can’t help but wonder how it would have been seeing Armie Hammer in that role instead) and they certainly got themselves into some crazy predicaments. Just when things would calm down, they would ramp right back up again.

The supporting cast had some standouts too. We had Cheech Marin as Darcy’s dad Robert and D’Arcy Carden as his girlfriend Harriet, both who made for some fun moments. But it was obviously the always charming Jennifer Coolidge who stole every scene she was in. She’s been having such a brilliant year and she one hundred percent deserves it.

With the beautiful and exotic beach location backdrop, Shotgun Wedding was the perfect escapism movie. It wasn’t amazing by any means, but there were some laughs here and there and a couple twists along the way that did actually pack a punch. Easy viewing at its finest.

Rating: ♥️♥️.5

The Fabelmans

Loosely based on the life of reclaimed director Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans follows the story of Sammy (Mateo Zoryan and Gabriel LaBelle) as he grows up in a post Second World War era with his parents Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano), as well as his sisters. From witnessing a train crashing into a car on his first visit to the cinema, Sammy couldn’t help but wonder why this was and wanted to take control of the situation. After learning to use a camera, the films he creates enables him to understand not only his upbringing, but also the family secrets he never realized were there before.

I wanted to enjoy The Fabelmans so much more than I actually did. Where I will say it excelled in was its performances. Williams was the star here. If she doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for this, then I don’t know anything anymore. Her portrayal of Mitzi Fabelman was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I was also impressed with Dano as the family patriarch. He complimented Williams nicely and it was awesome to see him in something different. The surprise for me, however, was with Seth Rogen. I’m used to him playing the goofy, comical character, so I appreciated this more serious tone.

Although it was interesting to see how Spielberg got his start in making movies, I have to admit that I found the whole idea to be kind of self indulgent. This may be an unpopular opinion and while I understand that it wasn’t an exact retelling of what happened, the fact that he felt the need to tell it at all, especially now, didn’t feel necessary to me. Perhaps later in the future would have fared better. That seems to work well with most biopics.

Another reason why The Fabelmans did not entirely land for me was in its pacing. It was incredibly slow and struggled to go anywhere. The fact that the film was more character driven than anything else definitely played a part in that, but I wasn’t a fan of it this time around. It’s as if I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never really did. I’m still glad that I took the time to check this out since it has been sweeping at various awards ceremonies. I guess it just wasn’t for me.

Rating: ♥️♥️♥️

Babylon

From director Damien Chazelle comes a vibrant and absolutely bonkers ode to cinema. Set in the 1920s, it follows a handful of Hollywood hopefuls as the industry transitions from silent films to talkies. As we see their rises, their falls and everything in between, one thing is for certain: you must always make a scene.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Babylon when I first heard about it. Aside from its boastful cast, it seemed like one giant spectacular that seemed too good to be true. I knew I had to see it for myself though, especially considering how polarizing the critics have been about it. And I think because I went into it with low expectations, I ended up absolutely loving it.

Starting off with a bang and not letting up a moment too soon, this really worked for me. Was it completely and totally batshit crazy? Yes! Was it full of debauchery and sometimes unsettling sequences? Also yes! But it was also very funny, smart and it managed to charm the socks off me.

Margot Robbie was the star – just like her character Nellie LaRoy, she gave the performance of a lifetime. Brad Pitt also knocked it out of the park as Jack Conrad, while Diego Calva brought a much needed air of naivety to the story. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all ended up getting nominations of some sort for their hard work. I also enjoyed the additions of Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Tobey Maguire and Li Jun Li.

My only complaint about Babylon is that it was a smidge too long. At around the two hour and thirty minute mark, my body started to feel it. I think they definitely could have trimmed some scenes here and there to tighten it up. Aside from that, this film was truly epic. The way it gripped me early on and never let go was something I hadn’t felt in a long time. The cast sucked me into their characters’ stories and the love letter to movies resonated with me one hundred per cent. I highly recommend checking this one out.

Rating: ♥️♥️♥️♥️.5

The Estate

When news breaks that Aunt Hilda (Kathleen Turner), who has been terminally ill for awhile, is dying, everyone wonders who she will leave her impressive estate to.

Will it be sisters Macey (Toni Collette) and Savanna (Anna Faris) who are willing to do whatever it takes to save their fathers’ cafe? Or maybe cousin Beatrice (Rosemarie DeWitt) and her husband James (Ron Livingston) who try with all their might with freshly baked goods and other delicious meals? Perhaps it may even be the odd one of the bunch, Richard (David Duchovny), who wants a new Porsche? One thing is certain: they will do whatever it takes to get what they want.

The main reason for checking out a movie such as The Estate is for its star studded cast. While Collette and Faris didn’t quite sell me on the fact that they were sisters, they still worked well off each other. Collette is great in everything she does and Faris has always been sort of under appreciated and yet great at comedy. It was Duchovny, however, who really sold his performance for me. A million parts sleazy with a dash of creepy, he completely made it work and was the best character to me.

Attempting to suck up to a dying family member for their fortune is kinda awful and so it’s hard to root for these characters. But I have to admit that a few of the situations they found themselves in were funny. Some moments had me laughing out loud, but others just fell flat. It’s as if they were trying to jam too much into a short run time and it got a little out of control. Just when you thought you could breathe a sigh of relief, the next obstacle was introduced.

Overall, The Estate had all the ingredients to work, but I think there was some confusion along the way. I can’t help but wonder if it knew what kind of film wanted to be – do these characters feel bad for what they are doing and can they redeem themselves, or are they straight up awful human beings who deserve nothing? Had this question been answered, I believe there would have been a better flow to the story and that would have given me more satisfaction at the end.

Rating: ♥️♥️.5

Till

In Mississippi in 1955, Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall) was brutally murdered while visiting his cousins for the summer. He was only fourteen years old. His mother Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler), completely beside herself in her loss, vowed to do whatever she can in order to expose this racist attack and to also bring the people involved to justice.

Knowing that the film was based on true events made for a harrowing experience. Part of me couldn’t believe what was unfolding on screen though the other, more logical part, knew that this only one horrible story amongst many others that African Americans had to and continue to endure. While the film did take some liberties here and there, it didn’t take way from its importance.

Deadwyler, in the role of Mamie Till-Mobley, was outstanding. If she doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for her performance then I’ll be baffled. The pure, raw emotion that she injected really gave me all the feels and brought me to tears on several occasions. She carried the movie on her back; without her it would not have had the same overall effect. I wish we could have seen more of Hall as Emmett though I obviously understand why that wasn’t possible. In addition, Whoopi Goldberg as Emmett’s grandmother and Haley Bennett as Carolyn Bryant were unrecognizable, albeit great choices.

Though parts of the movie were on the slower side, it did not deter me from being completely entranced with what was unfolding on screen. My interest snapped to attention when news broke of Emmett’s murder and it did not let up for a moment after. I will never forget the scenes of Mamie having to identify her son for the first time afterwards or them having an open casket at the funeral.

Overall, watching Till was an experience that I won’t soon forget. It was horrifying to witness, but I couldn’t turn my face away. I didn’t want to. The fact that this actually happened and that it took so long to do something about it is everything that is wrong with the world. Even more so, it’s horrible to acknowledge that these things continue to happen even today.

Rating: ♥️♥️♥️♥️


M3GAN

Creepy dolls are given a whole new meaning in Blumhouse Production’s new horror flick M3GAN. Gemma (Allison Williams), a robot engineer, is caught off guard when she is suddenly given custody of her nine year old niece Cady (Violet McGraw). Hoping it will solve all their problems, Gemma decides to pair up her prototype with Cady. But when M3GAN begins taking on a life of her own, the situation takes a concerning turn for all involved.

Truth time: before today I had never seen a horror movie in the cinema. Having only recently gotten into the genre and by that I mean to a certain extent, I always thought it would be a struggle for me to watch something like this on the big screen. I’m used to hiding behind a pillow, or closing my eyes and blocking my ears when a jump scare occurs and I didn’t think I could do that in public. However, there was something about M3GAN that peaked my interest since the trailer was released last fall and I’m so damn happy that I bit the bullet and went to see it.

I can’t even begin to pinpoint exactly why I enjoyed this movie so much. A large part of it had to do with how camp it all was. The over the top theatrics are something that probably shouldn’t have worked, but totally did. Because of that, I didn’t feel scared at all while watching and instead embraced the entire experience even more. There were some moments throughout where everyone in the audience giggled at some of the one liners and also the scenarios that were unfolding.

The way in which M3GAN herself was designed was jaw dropping. She looked and seemed so real, which okay, was definitely the point, but even I was entranced by her. I thought it was brilliant to have two different young ladies (Amie Donald and Jenna Davis respectively) portray this killer robot. They completely brought her to life. The rest of the cast did great jobs too. Williams was perfect as engineer Gemma and I thought that McGraw gave it her all as Cady. I also liked the additions of Gemma’s work team in Tess (Jen Van Epps) and Cole (Brian Jordan Alvarez) as well as her boss David (Ronny Chieng).

When I woke up this morning, there was no way I thought that M3GAN could possibly get such a high rating from me, but I can’t ignore that impression it left me with. One week into the new year and we are off to a great start!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

2022 Wrap Up

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I feel like the years go by faster as I get older.

2022 was another great year of movies. With some memorable visits to the theatre where my auditorium cheered during a viewing on opening day of Top Gun: Maverick to seeing Triangle of Sadness in Cannes, steps away from where the famous film festival takes place, this year will go down in the history books for me.

Moving back to Europe did change the way in which I ran this blog. Usually due to where I was at a certain point in time or the fact that certain films were released on different days was something I needed to adjust to. At least I was always able to fall back on my streaming platforms! All that being said, I look forward to what 2023 will have in store.

Without further ado, here are my top five best and worst films of the year:

Best:

  1. The Menu
  2. Triangle of Sadness
  3. Top Gun: Maverick
  4. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
  5. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Worst:

  1. Deep Water
  2. Pinocchio
  3. The Weekend Away
  4. Disenchanted
  5. Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical

Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical

Based on the stage musical of the same name, Matilda (Alisha Weir) is an updated version of the classic 90s version. The story of an incredibly smart girl with a wild imagination, she’s misunderstood by her parents (Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough) and sticks to her books. It isn’t until she starts attending Crunchem Hall that she meets Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) who can see her full potential.

I’d been debating checking this out for some time now. Having actually seen the musical in London, I more or less knew what to expect going into it. I remember feeling letdown and wondered how I would fare with the movie version of it. While there were some strong points, it mostly fell flat for me.

The first bright spot in the film was it’s casting. Weir made the role of Matilda her own. I found myself rooting for her throughout and actually really enjoying her performance. I liked the fact that Lynch was for Miss Honey. The only aspect that I wish had been fleshed out some more was her relationship with Matilda. I kept comparing theses scenes to the ones that the two characters shared before. At the end of the day, however, it was Emma Thompson as Ms. Trunchbull who shined the brightest. Had she not been in the film, I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching it.

In true musical fashion, the songs and choreography scenes were well done. Matilda’s opening song of Naughty was one of my favorites, as was the Revolting Children group number at the end. The rest, unfortunately, were not very memorable. On top of that, the set locations, particularly in the scenes where Matilda would tell her stories, were aesthetically pleasing to look at.

I think my problem with the film, aside from the fact that I was already hesitant because of my prior experience with it, was the fact that I simply love the original too much. I understand that this version is closer to the source material being more on the darker side, but I grew up with the other and couldn’t see past it.

Rating: ♥♥.5

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

When tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) invites his mismatched group of friends to a private island in Greece for the weekend, he’s surprised to see that detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has come along for the ride. Perhaps it’s for the better when somebody turns up dead.

To say that Glass Onion was my most anticipated film of the year is an understatement. Ever since I heard the news that Netflix bought the rights to two sequels, my excitement sky rocketed – 2019’s Knives Out is one of the best films I have ever seen. I cannot sing its praises enough, so Glass Onion had big shoes to fill. And when it was released in cinemas for a limited time in November and I couldn’t see it on the big screen, I swear it almost killed me.

Luckily the wait was worth it. This instalment was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I didn’t know how it was going to compare to its predecessor and I was scared I would be let down. But I was proven wrong. The mystery this time around was much more intricate, with many details scattered throughout as well as red herrings to throw us off course. The script was tight and full of fun jokes that worked perfectly.

Where the film really shines is in its cast. Edward Norton as Bron was a shoo in as the leader of the pack. Kate Hudson as Birdie Jay was brilliant and one of the best roles I have seen her in. Dave Bautista embodied Duke Cody to a T while Kathryn Hahn as politician Claire Debella and Leslie Odom Jr. as Lionel Toussaint were great additions. Then there was Jessica Henwick as Birdie’s assistant Peg and Madelyn Cline as Duke’s girlfriend Whiskey. Seeing Cline in something aside from Outer Banks was so exciting. Janelle Monáe was mesmerizing as Bron’s partner Andi Brand; it was clear she was hiding something and I just wanted to know what!

But it was Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc who stole the show for me. I love everything about this character that director Rian Johnson created and I will never, ever get tired of him. The accent, the outfits (and we saw plenty of them this time around) and the fact that we learn more about him as these films go on, he is rapidly becoming one of my favorites ever.

As if you couldn’t tell, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery completely rocked my world. It may have taken some time to get going, but once it did, it did not stop for one second. I already can’t wait to rewatch it again and again.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥