Tag Archives: film review

GLORIA BELL: Is it time for Generation X to get its groove back?!

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria Bell, a remake of his Chilean film Gloria from six years ago, follows the broad outline of a light dramedy about a middle-aged woman getting, as the Terry McMillan phrase goes, her groove back. Gloria (Julianne Moore) is fiftysomething, gainfully employed, outwardly cheerful and maybe a little bit lonely. Her children are grown, her divorce long since finalized, and she even has a cute-movie-ready hobby: We first see her out at a dance club, populated by other middle-aged folks, eyes searching and hopeful. She likes to dance, though a lot of her moves are tentative.

Early in the movie, Gloria meets Arnold (John Turturro). They dance together, and soon they’re in a bona fide relationship–passionate, but seemingly with potential that extends beyond a sexy post-club fling. Re-energized sex life… romantic restaurants… her groove! Is it back?! But with the basic framework of a middle-age-revitalization story in place, Lelio feels free to dance around it. Stories like this, especially when they’re focused on providing some degree of fantastical wish-fulfillment, are often belabored with exposition about the protagonist’s normal, perhaps humdrum life. In Gloria Bell, we learn a lot of details about Gloria’s life with a quickness and a clarity that recalls Greta Gerwig or Noah Baumbach (he even captures Moore singing along in her car, alone, in a few shots that recall the intimacy of Gerwig’s earliest moments in Baumbach’s Greenberg). She works for some kind of insurance firm, mostly on the phones. Her young-ish son (Michael Cera) is a single parent to an infant. Gloria does not own a cat, but a hairless one keeps slipping into her apartment somehow. All of this plays out in concise and well-observed micro-scenes, with a near pathological avoidance of overstaying their welcome.
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Is Neil Jordan’s GRETA deliciously bonkers, or just kind of bad?

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Neil Jordan’s new movie Greta is a thriller in which a just-graduated young woman (Chloe Grace Moretz), still grieving from the death of her mother, finds herself bedeviled by Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an older woman who initially appears to be a sweet surrogate mom figure but turns out to be a dangerous obsessive. It’s the stuff early-’90s stalker movies were made of, and the throwback angle combined with access to new technology and Jordan’s considerable talent, not to mention a plum role for Huppert, give the movie a buzz of anticipation as it starts to unfold.

That buzz grows dimmer and more erratic as the movie explores the life of Frances (Moretz), who has moved to New York (played mostly by Canada and Ireland) to share a fancy Tribeca apartment with her spoiled best friend Erica (Maika Monroe). The two women speak mostly in awkward exposition, like, well, a couple of middle-aged guys making their best guess at what 22-year-olds sound like. Restless and unsure of herself in the big city, Frances finds a purse abandoned on the 6 train. She tracks down the owner, Huppert’s Greta, who invites her into her charming little house (of undetermined location) for tea. Soon Frances is going to dinner with Greta and helping her adopt a dog, as Erica rolls her eyes over her friend’s weird social engagements.
Continue reading Is Neil Jordan’s GRETA deliciously bonkers, or just kind of bad?

How to Train Your Dragon 3, Lego Movie 2, and kid movies that won’t grow up

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Given the logistical undertaking of making a movie franchise out of big-studio animation, it must be a blessed relief not to have to include live-action performers in the mix. Voice actors can often fit their performances into packed schedules, they can change their appearance without affecting production, they can let natural aging take its course—and if the studio’s hand is forced, they can be replaced with minimal fuss.

It’s notable, then, that the sequels to the 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon have decided not to take advantage of the medium’s potential for eternal youth. The first movie is about a Viking teenager’s bond with the dragon he’s supposed to be hunting; in the sequels, released in 2014 and now in 2019, the boy ages more or less in parallel with the passage of real-world time. He’s taller and more assured in How to Train Your Dragon 2, and in The Hidden World he’s old enough to lead his tribe and think about getting married. Another recent (mostly) animated sequel aimed at kids, The Lego Movie 2, also works the passage of five years into its storyline. The walking, talking Lego minifigs who populate the movie don’t suffer much wear and tear, but in the movie’s parallel live-action storyline, the boy from the first movie is now approaching teen-hood—and his shifting interests are an engine of the sequel’s plot.
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The SportsAlcohol.com MiniPodcast: Second Act

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Typically, the SportsAlcohol.com podcast does overviews: of directors, of stars, of full TV seasons, of a year or decade’s worth of pop culture. But as part of our miniseries look at business movies, Jesse and Ben decided to rush into the studio right after watching a screening of the new Jennifer Lopez movie Second Act and discuss it, just like we discussed Pretty Woman and The Secret of My Success, among others. Only this time, there’s no science fiction… except that which this Jennifer Lopez vehicle provides.

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

Widows cooks like a heist picture and sprawls like an epic drama

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

In the Saturday Night Live-based comedy MacGruber, Will Forte’s would-be action her assembles a kickass team of he-men during a stirring montage, packs them into a truck for a mission, and accidentally blows them all to hell. That’s not exactly what happens at the opening of Steve McQueen’s Widows, and probably drawing the comparison is a little bit insulting. But hear me out: McQueen dispatches an entire B-movie’s worth of tough guys with similar (if non-comic) efficiency, and precision-cut style. He toggles between a man and wife nuzzling in bed together and a brutal robbery turned car chase turned armed showdown. Back and forth it goes, quiet and loud, until the crew (including Liam Neeson and Jon Bernthal) is consumed in an explosion and, in the final pre-title image, the pillow next to Veronica (Viola Davis) lingers, empty. Her husband Harry (Neeson) isn’t coming back.
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Labor Day Surprise: Destination Wedding and The Little Stranger do their genres proud

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

It’s received wisdom that people don’t go to the movies en masse over Labor Day weekend, especially not the way they flock to theaters over Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Maybe it’s true that back-to-school concerns eclipse interest in going out to movie theaters (although looming classroom time doesn’t seem like it has much effect on any other weekend), but it’s more true that studios and distributors lean right in to the notion that no one wants to see anything but last month’s leftovers, sometimes opting not to properly release movies even when they have movies to release. This year sees the release of two modest but satisfying genre-based pleasures that their respective studios aren’t just keeping audiences from seeing (through limited releases); they’re also keeping them from hearing much about them through press embargos that don’t lift until the movies are practically in theaters.
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The Happytime Murders: Kid Stuff for Adults

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

An early pilot for The Muppet Show was subtitled Sex & Violence. This title was not included when Jim Henson’s puppet variety show became a star-studded five-season sensation in international syndication, and in general The Muppet Show proceeded as something families could watch together. A toddler could comfortably watch most of the show’s segments; many have, and will. But the reason toddlers might still watch The Muppet Show is because it has long appealed to adults, both now (when those adults may have nostalgic memories of watching it as children) and when it aired (when a show would need more than just some children’s eyeballs to become a five-season international-syndication sensation).

At the risk of sounding like that guy, the notion of affable and adorable puppets doing comedy for adults is not counter to the Muppets; in a large part, it is the Muppets. Granted, the Muppets never indulged in salty language or explicit sex scenes. But if the supposed incongruity of those actions constitute a cheap laugh, what kind of laugh is a puppet pig karate-chopping a puppet frog? Isn’t funny in part because the pig puppet is acting like an angry human? And isn’t there an enormous cult of appreciation around Team America: World Police in part because it does feature puppets doing things we don’t expect puppets to do?
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Crazy Rich Asians would have been a hell of a musical

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

A major reason that Crazy Rich Asians is a landmark is right up there on screen – it’s a big studio production made almost entirely with Asian and Asian-American performers, and before you even get to the many individual charms of those actors, there’s real distinction in watching an American movie without any white people in it, something that hopefully can become less rare in the coming years. But the movie is a big deal for representation behind the camera, too: It’s a dip into the romantic comedy and family drama genres from the talented and versatile Jon M. Chu, an Asian-American director whose career has so far included an unusual number of sequel jobs, as he was sent in to continue Step Up (with parts 2 and 3), G.I. Joe (part 2), and Now You See Me (part 2, and he’s attached to part 3). More often than not, he leaves a franchise in better shape than he found it; here he has the chance to start his own.
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The Odyssey: Damsel and Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

About halfway through Damsel, maybe a little earlier, maybe much earlier if you’re looking for it, Robert Pattinson, who has been playing the lead role, turns out to be less heroic than you might have assumed, and certainly less heroic than his character has made himself out to be so far. This might constitute a spoiler if I was more specific, or if Robert Pattinson had played any actual heroic roles since his work as the ultimate Hero Who’s Not, Really as the lead in the Twilight series. This isn’t a criticism so much as a fact: Robert Pattinson has played creeps, fuck-ups, and/or blunderers so many times that it’s his moments seeming like a sweet naïf that subvert expectations, not any undermining of his matinee-idol image (besides, five Twilight movies arguably did that already, albeit unintentionally).

That’s about right for Damsel, which makes a sharp point much later and more frequently than is, perhaps, necessary. The cue is right there in the title; obviously when Samuel (Pattinson) recruits a supposed parson (co-writer/co-director David Zellner) to help rescue his beloved Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) in a movie called Damsel, there’s probably going to be more going on than, you know, rescuing the damsel and going home. The movie’s twist, of sorts, is less notable for its ribbing of Old West tropes than its commitment to the bit: Once Wasikowska’s character gains some dimension in the back half of the movie, it doesn’t let up its pokes at very male complexes.
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Ocean’s 8, like all Ocean’s movies, is about acting

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

“I’d like to play a more central role this time,” says Linus (Matt Damon) in Ocean’s 12. He’s nominally talking about his participation in a coordinated group heist, but the language is unmistakable and the self-referential tone unavoidable: Linus, played by a very famous actor who is nonetheless slightly less famous than his biggest co-stars, sounds very much like an actor, asking for a bigger role in the ensemble for the sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11. Like a lot of actors, Linus—a pickpocket, a bit younger than Danny Ocean (George Clooney) or his right-hand man Rusty (Brad Pitt), and certainly less experienced—takes his job very seriously. In Ocean’s 13, Linus goes into full con-man mode, not just planning or thieving, but playing a character in order to deceive a casino boss’s right-hand lady (Ellen Barkin). He insists on wearing an exaggerated false nose to complete the illusion, as his colleagues look on with indifference. “The nose plays!” is his forceful refrain.

Ocean’s 13 doesn’t go as far through the looking glass as Ocean’s 12, but taken together, Soderbergh’s trilogy does resemble a hall of mirrors, both for its illusive tricks and its funhouse consideration of star vanity. To this hall, the new female-driven Ocean’s 8 adds a few more mirrors, though mostly not engineered by Soderbergh himself. He’s on hand as producer, but has handed the directorial reins to his friend Gary Ross. In the run-up to his sort-of retirement, Soderbergh did some second-unit directing on The Hunger Games; here, Ross returns the favor by directing all of Ocean’s 8 as if on second-unit. This probably isn’t a fair criticism—few directors have the command of the heist-movie form that consummate problem-solver Soderbergh seems to summon with the snap of his fingers—but the over-the-top quasi-professionalism of an Ocean gang has the unfortunate side effect of exposing journeymen. In Soderbergh’s trilogy, he keeps all of the intricate, ridiculous prep-work moving at a clip, punctuating the most amusing moments with sharp cuts. Ross directs scenes that appear to be wandering around in search of their punchline before hustling away empty-handed.

Yet Ocean’s 8 can’t help but follow in the tradition of its predecessors, even when Ross seems unable of keeping up, nevermind setting a pace. Some of it is that all-lady ensemble. Instead of George Clooney leading a mixture of Hollywood royalty and game character actors, Sandra Bullock heads up a starry crew that includes Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, and YouTube star Awkafina. Anne Hathaway is there too, although her character Daphne Kluger isn’t recruited as part of the gang; rather, she’s a vain yet needy actress who Debbie Ocean (Bullock) and company must manipulate into wearing an extremely valuable necklace at the Met Ball, so they can switch it with a fake and rob its owners blind (and maybe frame someone else for the job).
Continue reading Ocean’s 8, like all Ocean’s movies, is about acting