Category Archives: Movies

The Farewell Movie Review

The best stories are universal. Regardless of the time it is set in, the place it is set in or the culture that it is set in, these stories are timeless and speak to all of us.

Writer/director Lulu Wang’s new semi-autobiographical film, The Farewell, is set in China and New York City. Billi (Awkwafina) was born in China and raised in New York City. When her beloved grandmother, known as Nai Nai, is diagnosed with cancer with only months to live, the family decides to keep it from her. Under the pretense of a fake wedding, the family comes together in China.

But Billi is troubled by the lie. She must decide if she will be the one to spill the beans or go along with the scheme.

This movie is one of the best films of 2019. Up to this point, Awkwafina has built her career on comedic roles in films such as Ocean’s Eight and Crazy Rich Asians. In this film, she plays a young woman who is dealing with an emotionally tough decision. The humor comes from the narrative, not from broad jokes or an outrageous character. In playing this toned down character, Awkwafina proves that her acting abilities go way beyond comedy.

The thing that stood out to me about The Farewell is that anyone can relate to these characters and their story. At some point, our parents and grandparents reach that point in their lives when their health is not what it was. It is then up to the younger generations to make decisions, which are frequently never easy and rife with challenges.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Farewell is presently in theaters.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Movie Review, Movies, New York City

The Lion King Movie Review

Twenty five years ago, The Lion King hit theaters. To say that it was a hit was an understatement. It is a masterpiece that to this day is loved, treasured and referenced.

Yesterday, the reboot was released. Directed by Jon Favreau, the new film follows the narrative of it’s animated predecessor. Simba (voiced by Donald Glover as an adult and JD McCrary as a child) is the son and heir to Pride Rock. His parents, Mufasa (James Earl Jones, the only holdover from the original film) and Sarabi (Afre Woodard) are King and Queen, respectively.

As a young cub, as many young are, Simba is energetic, curious and doesn’t exactly follow his parent’s instructions. Unfortunately, he gets his best friend Nala (voiced by Beyonce as an adult and Shahadi Wright Joseph as a child) in trouble as well.

Neither knows that Simba’s Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has a chip on shoulder. Scar’s plan to remove all obstacles to the throne nearly succeeds as Simba runs from fear and shame. He is befriended by Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), a couple of misfits who only know freedom and a boundary-less life.

Then Simba is reminded of who he is. Can he step and be King or will he continue to run from his past?

If I had to rank all of the live action reboots that Disney has released over the past few years, this film would easily rank as #1. Favreau and his creative team had a herculean task on their hands: create a new film while showing deference to the 1994 animated film.

In my opinion, they succeeded. I felt a chill down my back as the opening number started. The animation, if it can be described as that, looked more like a documentary on the National Geographic channel than a film with a fictional narrative. I loved the cast, who, like the creative team, were able to put their own spin on their characters while showing deference to the actors who lent their voices to the 1994 film.

If I had to choose my favorite things about this film, I would choose two. The first is Nala and Sarabi. In the 1994 film, Sarabi is a glorified background character. In this film, Sarabi is more prominent and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Nala is the power behind the throne and a warrior in her own right.

The second is Timon and Pumbaa. These characters bring a lightness and a comedic element to a narrative is full of psychological symbolism and heavy with the ideas of fate and responsibility.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Lion King is presently in theaters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Feminism, Movie Review, Movies

Thoughts On the 30th Anniversary of When Harry Met Sally

There are romantic comedies and then there are romantic comedies. The first type of romantic comedy is semi-memorable, but when it comes down to it, the audience does not think of the film after they have the left the theater. The second second type of romantic comedy has legs long after the film has left the theater. It remains a favorite of audiences and critics and is celebrated as a hallmark of the genre.

When Harry Met Sally is one of these films. This month is the 30th anniversary of the film’s release.

Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) meet just after they both graduate from the University of Chicago. She offers him a ride from Chicago to New York. They become friends, but come together and drift apart as life changes. After a series of failed relationships on both their parts, Harry and Sally reconnect. The question that defines their relationship is as follows: can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way?

Directed Rob Reiner, this film is an out and out classics. It has all of the hallmarks of the romantic comedy genre without stretching the patience of the audience. Ryan and Crystal have amazing chemistry and just work as the friends who might or might be something more.

It has one of the iconic scenes and one of the most iconic lines in movie history set in one of the best restaurants in New York City, the 2nd Ave Deli.

Happy Anniversary When Harry Met Sally.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, New York City, Thoughts On....

This Is Why You’re Not Happy is Not the Perfect Solution to Mental Health Issues, But It Comes Pretty Close

From the eyes of the general public, when one is a celebrity, life is nothing short of perfection. Everything (and everyone) that we ever wanted or needed just appears in our lives. Our problems melt away like ice off a cold beverage that has just been removed from an ice filled cooler.

The truth is that celebrities are human beings just like the rest of u, who by some twist of fate, became famous and earn more money in a year than most of us earn in our entire lifetimes.

Back at the end of May, the YouTube channel Absolute Motivation released a video entitled “Matthew McConaughey – This Is Why You’re Not Happy | One Of The Most Eye Opening Speeches“.

What I love about this video is that Mr. McConaughey speaks to all of us. He challenges the viewer to consider their definition of happiness and joy. It’s not the perfect solution to making our mental health issues disappear. But it’s practical and given the complicated world that we live in, it might be the answer we are looking for.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mental Health, Movies

Thoughts On the Mulan Teaser Trailer

In 1998, Disney broke ground with the release of Mulan. Based on the myth of Hua Mulan, the movie told the story of the eponymous character who dresses as a boy and takes her elderly father’s place during wartime.

The teaser trailer for the live action reboot was released today.

Back then, Mulan (Ming Na-Wen) was a revolutionary character, especially among the Disney Princesses. Unlike other Disney Princesses, her main goal was not men, marriage and eventual children, in spite of the message that was shoved at her in every form possible. Her journey was that of a warrior who was defending her country while trying to figure out who she was.

It is that message, that I think, then and now still resonates with audiences.

This new live adaptation is directed by Niki Caro, whose previous films have featured strong women making tough decisions. Three of the four screenwriters are female. The cast is made up of Asian actors, properly reflecting the world that the characters live in. And yes, there will be some musical elements, but those details are being kept under wrap for now.

As expected, Disney is keeping certain information under wraps until the film is released in March of next year. These live action adaptations straddle a fine line. They have to honor their animated predecessor (and the original fairy tale, if there is one), while reflecting the cultural changes that have occurred since the original film was released.

We can only wait and see when the film is released next year.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fairy Tales, Feminism, Movies, Thoughts On....

Yesterday Movie Review

Many movies start off with the premise of “what if” and go on from there. It is up to the screenwriter(s) to make the “what if” narrative feel new and alive instead of boring and predictable.

In the new film, Yesterday, Jack (Himesh Patel) is a singer-songwriter who just can’t get a break. One of his only fans is his long time bestie and manager Ellie (Lily James). Though he yearns to be a professional musician, he earns his bread by working at a local big box store. Then there is blackout all over the world and Jack is hit by a bus.

When he wakes up, he discovers that The Beatles have been erased from music history. Taking advantage of his knowledge, Jack starts to see his music career become a reality. But at what cost to his conscious and his relationship with Ellie?

Yesterday is charming, engaging and insightful. The music is obviously catchy. Jack’s arc over the course of the film is both cinematic and down to earth. I also appreciated the color blind casting of Patel in the lead role. As both actor and singer, Patel brings a level of reality to this performance in this otherwise out there world that his character inhabits.

I absolutely recommend it.

Yesterday is presently in theaters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie Review, Movies, Music

Wild Rose Movie Review

We all have dreams. But often times, dreams clash with the real world, especially when our responsibilities come knocking.

In the new movie, Wild Rose, Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) has just been released from prison. Her dream is to become a country music star. But the bubble of the dream is quickly burst. Her mother, Marion (Julie Walters) has been taking care of her grandchildren during her daughter’s incarceration and insists that Rose-Lynn be the parent her kids need her to be.

To bring in income, Rose-Lynn is hired by Susannah (Sophie Okonedo) as a cleaning lady. Susannah discover’s Rose-Lynn’s talent and encourages her to go for the dream. But while Rose-Lynn is chasing her dream, she must also take care of her kids.

Can she do both or must her dream be sacrificed for her children?

This movie is brilliant. The narrative speaks to all us who have dreams, but must also face the reality of our responsibilities. As the title character, Buckley is flawed, human, but also very real. As her mother, Walters just wants what is best for her daughter and grandchildren, even if that means putting aside the dream for reality. As Susannah, Okonedo is the character who encourages Rose-Lynn to go for it. If only those of us with dreams had someone like that in our corner.

In addition to acting, Buckley is doing her own singing, adding another level of reality to her performance. I knew her from her previous roles as a good actress, but it was her singing that blew me away.

I recommend it.

Wild Rose is presently in theaters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie Review, Movies, Music

Toy Story 4 Movie Review

When a sequel or a prequel to a beloved franchise is released, the hope is that not only will it live up to the original work, but it will expand the story.

In 1995, the original Toy Story was released. It was an instant success and revolutionized animated films. 24 years later, Toy Story 4 was released.

The 4th film in the series picks up just after the 3rd film ended. Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), the young girl who inherited the toys is starting Kindergarten and is not feeling it. During orientation, she creates Forky (Tony Hale) and immediately adopts him as one of her toys. But Forky is not immediately convinced that he is a toy.

When Bonnie’s parents take her on a road trip before school starts, Woody (Tom Hanks), makes it his business to ensure that Forky does not escape. But inevitably, he does, separating Woody from Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the toys. Before reuniting with the rest of the crew, Woody meets up with Bo Peep (Annie Potts), his unrequited crush who has become a bad-ass. They have to rescue Forky from the hands of potentially psychopathic Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) with the help of Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves).

Upon release of the trailer, some may have asked why this film was necessary. The previous film tied up the narrative strings so perfectly that this film may seem like an easy cash grab by Disney.

It’s not. It expands the narrative in new and different ways. I loved the expansion of Bo Peep as a character and the message that it sends to women and girls of any age. I also loved the narrative of coming to the realization that things and relationships change. When we come to that point, we can either stay where we are or have the courage to step into the unknown for an adventure that is not yet revealed to us.

This film has humor, has heart and speaks to both children and adults.

I absolutely recommend it.

Toy Story 4 is presently in theaters.

P.S. Stay past the initial credits. The post credit scenes are worth the wait.

Leave a comment

Filed under Feminism, Movie Review, Movies

Thoughts On the Casting of Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid

I am a natural redhead. When I was growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was hard to find on screen characters who looked like me. Among the handful who I could look to as inspiration was Ariel (Jodi Benson) in the 1989 film, The Little Mermaid.

Over the last few years, Disney has rebooted their beloved animated films into live action films. The newest addition to this trend is the live reboot of The Little Mermaid with Halle Bailey stepping into the fins of Disney’s first modern Princess.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this casting. While I applaud Disney for choosing an actress of color to play the role, my heart is still wedded to the idea that Ariel is a redhead. When your growing up and you look different from your peers, you look to film and television characters who look like you. When I was a kid, that was Ariel. As an adult, I don’t agree with her narrative, but her image and the impression she made back then are still with me to this day.

Readers, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the casting?

Leave a comment

Filed under Fairy Tales, Movies, Thoughts On....

Booksmart Movie Review

Coming of age movies have been around for decades. Most of these movies are centered around young men. Female characters in these films are usually limited in both the number of characters and their ability to grow beyond a basic character type.

In the new movie, Booksmart, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are best friends who are about to graduate high school. The last four years have been all work and no play for the girls. Operating with the belief that their classmates are more interested in the social aspects of high school than the academic aspects of high school, Molly and Amy are shocked to hear that they are not the only ones who prioritize school work.

Wanting to make up for the last four years in one night, the girls decide to make the night a memorable one.

Directed by actor Olivia Wilde (making her directing debut) and written by four female writers, this film takes the basic buddy comedy/coming of age film and elevates it to a new level. Taking the place of traditional male leads, Molly and Amy are intelligent, determined and political without hitting the audience over the head. They are also honest and have a bit of a potty mouth, which works perfectly for these characters and their narrative.

The film also speaks to the oh sh*t moment that most, if not all us realize the night before we are to graduate high school. Our lives are about to change, the four years that we thought would last forever went by in a flash. It is a reminder (though we may not be cognizant at the time), that life goes by fast. Stopping to smell the roses wouldn’t hurt every once in a while.

I recommend it.

Booksmart is presently in theaters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Feminism, Movie Review, Movies