Category Archives: Movie Review

The United States vs. Billie Holiday Review

There is something about the power of music. A beloved song has a way of making it’s way into the listeners brain, conscious, and perhaps helping to change things for the better.

Billie Holiday is one of the most beloved singers of the 20th century. Though it has been six decades since her physical form left this Earth, her performances and songs continue to leave a mark on fans. The new biopic about her life, The United States vs. Billie Holiday dropped yesterday on Hulu.

The film stars singer/actress Andra Day as Holiday, Garrett Hedlund as Harry J. Anslinger, and Trevante Rhodes as Jimmy Fletcher. The audience follows Holiday as she battles drug addiction, racism, and gets involved with FBI agent Jimmy Fletcher. Woven into the narrative is the iconic and dark song Strange Fruit, which sadly is as potent today as it was during Holiday’s life time.

I really wanted to like this film. Day’s performance is worthy of the accolades she is receiving. Unfortunately, that is where I have to draw the line. Frankly, I was bored. I wanted to be hooked, but I was not. Whatever tension and drama I anticipated was sadly lacking. Especially with Anslinger’s obsession and persecution of Billie Holiday. That should have been more exciting that it was actually was.

Do I recommend it? No.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Hulu, Movie Review, Movies, Music

Radium Girls Review

Change does not happen from nothing. It requires the will to see it happen and the bravery to stand up against those who would prevent such change.

Radium Girls premiered in 2018. Based on a true story, it takes place in the 1920’s. Sisters Bessie (Joey King) and Josephine (Abby Quinn) are employed by American Radium (based on the real company U.S. Radium Corp). Their job is to paint watches and military dials with radium. In order to paint within the miniscule lines, they had to wet the brushes with their lips. When Josephine starts to get sick, Bessie starts to put two and two together. But when the company starts to push back, she realizes that getting justice is easier said than done.

The narrative is the classic underdog/working class vs. the big bad men who keep them down. Though the story is in the same genre as Iron Jawed Angels, Norma Rae, and Suffragette, I didn’t getting the same “yes I can” rush that I usually get with these kind of films.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Radium Girls is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Framing Britney Spears Review

Twenty years ago, Britney Spears was one of the biggest acts not just in music, but in the entertainment industry as a whole. She was everywhere. These days, its a different story.

The new Hulu documentary, Framing Britney Spears, premiered on Friday. The movie follows her life, career, and the #FreeBritney movement. Their claim is that that Spears no longer needs to be under the control of the conservatorship, currently held by her father. After her mental health issues became public in 2008, it was enacted for her safety. The claim of those interviewed is that Spears is perfectly capable of making her own decisions, and that the conservatorship is no longer needed.

I loved this movie. It shines a new light on how disgustingly she was treated both by the press and those who benefited from her time at the top of the pop culture food chain. The issue at the heart of this film is mental health, and how those who suffer (women especially) usually get the short end of the stick. If there was one sticking point, it was that if Spears was male, none of this would have ever been considered. But because she is a woman, she must be taken care of because it would be impossible that she is capable of making her own decisions.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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The Dig Movie Review

From the outside looking it, archeology may appear to be akin to an Indiana Jones movie. But anyone with any amount of knowledge of this subject will tell you otherwise.

The Dig premiered yesterday on Netflix. As World War II rumbles in the distance in 1939, Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) is a self trained and unorthodox archeologist. He has been hired by Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) to excavate her land and see if he can find buried historical treasure. What he discovers will be known as Sutton Hoo, an Anglo-Saxon burial ship rich in previously unknown artefacts. But with war on the horizon and Basil’s expertise questioned, it looks as if the ship and her objects will remain buried.

I wanted to like this movie. The premise seemed interesting and the cast is stellar. It is a BPD (British Period Drama) with a narrative that is unusual for the genre. The problem is that I was bored, whatever promises that were made in the trailer did not come to fruition.

Do I recommend it? No.

The Dig is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Elizabeth is Missing Review

Living with Alzheimer’s is not easy for both the person is who is suffering and their loved ones.

The TV movie, Elizabeth is Missing, premiered last night on PBS. Maude Horsham (Glenda Jackson) is a woman in her later years who has been diagnosed with with early onset Alzheimer’s. When her friend and neighbor, Elizabeth (Maggie Steed) disappears, Maud is convinced that something sinister has happened to her. While she doggedly tries to put the pieces together, everyone around her thinks that Maud has lost her marbles. There is also the question of what happened to Maude’s older sister, Sukey (Sophie Rundle), who went missing decades ago.

What I liked about this TV movie is that is that we see the world through Maud’s eyes. When it comes to narratives where one of the characters has Alzheimer’s, the perspective is usually on the family members, not the person who is living with the disease. As a viewer, it made me sympathetic to Maud because I saw and heard what she saw and heard.

The problem is, however, is that the drama is not as high stakes as it is made out to be. Granted, in terms of mystery dramas, it is low key. But I wish that there was just a little more meat on the narrative bones.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Elizabeth is Missing is available for streaming on the PBS website.

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Best Movies of 2020

  1. Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
  2. Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
  3. Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
  6. Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
  7. The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
  8. I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
  9. Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
  10. #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.

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Filed under Books, DisneyPlus, Emma, Fairy Tales, Feminism, History, Hulu, Jane Austen, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, Politics

Throwback Thursday: San Andreas (2015)

Every film genre has its own basic narrative structure. The question is, does the screenplay blindly follow that narrative structure or is it used as merely the bones of the story?

The disaster film, San Andreas, was released in 2015. Raymond Gaines (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is a helicopter rescue pilot living in Los Angeles. When the biggest earthquake in history hits California, his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario) is in San Francisco. Ray’s ex-wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) reluctantly asked her former husband to find their daughter. Putting their history aside, Ray and Emma have to work together to locate Blake.

As disaster films go, the plot is paint by numbers. But there is something about this particular film that rises above what is expected. It is not the best movie I’ve ever seen. But if I was looking for a popcorn film that gives me the chance to step away from my reality for a few hours, this movie is it.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Soul Movie Review

We all know that at some point, we will exit this life. The question is, will we live to the fullest while we can?

The new Disney Plus movie, Soul, premiered yesterday. Joe Gardiner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) is a junior high school band teacher with a passion for playing music. At this point in his adult life, his dream of being a professional jazz musician has yet to be achieved. Then he gets an opportunity to play at a local jazz club.

But before he can play, he falls into a manhole. Discovering that he is in the Great Beyond, Joe tries everything he can to get back to his body. His ticket back to Earth is 22, (Tina Fey) an infant soul who is disinterested in being born. Together, they will learn about what true passion is and how to live life to the fullest.

What I like about this movie is while it is obviously a kids movie, there are themes that are well over the heads of younger audience members. The message of appreciating being alive and knowing what is truly important radiates through the narratives, reaching the viewer as only a touching and funny film can.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Soul is available for streaming on Disney Plus.

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The Social Dilemma Review

When social media was created, the purpose of the new medium was innocent enough. It was to serve as a tool to bring people and ideas together in an open forum. But something changed along the way, and not for the better.

The docu-drama, The Social Dilemma premiered earlier this year on Netflix. The movie explores how social media, in spite of its innocuous surface presentation, has a dark underbelly. Combining interviews with experts, former tech employees, and a fictional story about one family, the film explores how social media has had an impact on our mental health, politics, and other aspects of our collective world.

Watching this film was a wakeup call. Social media is such a part of our everyday life that we don’t think twice about the side effects. What impressed me was the choice to interview people who had been at the forefront of the companies who created and own the social media platforms. Having an insiders perspective created a gut punch that would not have otherwise existed.

If there was one thing I enjoyed about this film was the solution to all of these problems. It would have been easy for the filmmakers to act as a nagging parent or teacher, telling us to get immediately close our social media accounts. Instead, they present a plan that allows for these companies to stay open while preventing future damage to our culture and our world.

I can’t say that this movie has convinced me to stop using social media. But it made me think twice about how I use my accounts.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Social Dilemma is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Mental Health, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, Politics

Flashback Friday: Look Who’s Talking Now

On the surface, Christmas (or any holiday) is about family, food, and being with your loved ones. But, as we all know, this simple message is not always clear.

The final film in the Look Who’s Talking trilogy is Look Who’s Talking Now (1993). Taking place several years after Look Who’s Talking (1989) and Look Who’s Talking Too (1990), the family has grown. But so has their troubles. Mollie (Kirstie Alley) has lost her job due to the recession. James (John Travolta) has achieved his professional dream of becoming a pilot. Their children, Mikey (David Gallagher) and Julie (Tabitha Lupien) are now school aged.

The narrative kicks off with the arrival of James’s new boss, Samantha (Lysette Anthony). Samantha has eyes for James that go beyond the professional realm. Meanwhile, the family reluctantly adopts Rocks (voiced by Danny DeVito) and is forced to temporarily take care of Samantha’s dog Daphne (voiced by Diane Keaton). With Christmas coming, will they be together or will circumstances pull them apart?

I personally think that this movie is adorable. Though it fits neatly in the Christmas movie genre, it is neither too cutesy, schmaltzy, or over the top. There is just enough comedy and the message of being together for this time of year that makes it a pretty good watch in my book.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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