Green Book, Instant Family, Can You Ever Forgive Me? & Eighth Grade Movie Reviews

I managed to see four 2019 UK cinema releases while on planes to and from America in August (I realize they were 2018 releases in the US). I’d not flown anywhere for years – When did the movie selection get so good & recent?? I figured I’d give these quickie reviews since I try to review all UK film releases each year. I’ll start with the best and end with the worst…

Green Book (2018)

Directed by Peter Farrelly

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in 1962, the film is inspired by the true story of a tour of the Deep South by African American classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and Italian American bouncer Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) who served as Shirley’s driver and bodyguard.

My Opinion:

I’m glad I managed to catch up on seeing this controversial Best Picture Oscar winner. I enjoyed it. I know there’s a lot of hate for this one but I thought the performances were strong and I always like stories involving an unlikely friendship between two very different personalities. I thought Mahershala Ali was great in Moonlight and, at the time, was hoping he’d get more roles so I’m happy that’s happening (and that he keeps winning Oscars). I thought his character & Viggo Mortensen’s worked well together and it felt realistic in that the friendship was often awkward and grew very slowly as they were so different.

Is it true to their real life story? I think some of the controversy comes from Don Shirley’s family saying the two weren’t friends at all (the film was co-written by Frank Vallelonga’s son) but interviews with Shirley himself say differently. Who knows? That’s just what I read at Wikipedia to try to find out what caused the controversy surrounding this movie but I’ve read no more than that. I love movies for their escapism so don’t often go for the “true story” films anyway. I like to think it’s all true but know that movies always play up the feelgood factor. As long as it doesn’t feel too over the top & phony, I’m happy enough with a little bit of feelgood cheese.

At least Green Book keeps it fairly real as things are far from perfect during their journey but I’d have liked a tiny bit more focus on the history of the actual Green Book itself (but that would easily make for another whole separate movie). The focus here is on the friendship between the two men and, as far as roadtrip friendship movies go, I found Green Book enjoyable despite any issues surrounding it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Instant Family (2018)

Directed by Sean Anders

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Tig Notaro, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Octavia Spencer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A couple find themselves in over their heads when they foster three children.

My Opinion:

This movie was fine. It actually had a great IMDb rating when it came out in the U.K. and I’d really wanted to see it but the feelgood cheese (as I mentioned in my Green Book review) was a little too much at times in this one.

To be fair, though, this movie was marketed as a comedy drama so it kept things fairly light instead of being a hard-hitting drama at all times (which isn’t my thing anyway – real life is depressing enough!). I just think that this situation in real life would probably be far more challenging than depicted and, for whatever reason, I never felt a strong connection between the couple and the foster kids although the actors all did a perfectly fine job.

The strongest performance was from Isabela Moner as the headstrong and challenging teenager. She was tough but not totally hateful, which is often a danger with teenage characters. The relationship between her character & Rose Byrne’s felt the most realistic and it was nice seeing those two grow closer. Overall, Instant Family was a nice and somewhat safe film that was at times a tiny bit contrived but, oh well – A feelgood film never killed anyone.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Directed by Marielle Heller

Based on Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a biographical film based on the confessional memoir of the same name by Lee Israel. Melissa McCarthy stars as Israel, and the story follows her attempts to revitalize her failing writing career by forging letters from deceased authors and playwrights.

My Opinion:

This was a pretty typical movie with Oscar nominations for acting: The acting was fantastic but the movie was just okay. The true story is actually pretty interesting but I guess it didn’t translate well to film as I was a bit bored throughout the movie. However, Melissa McCarthy & Richard E. Grant were so great and such entertaining characters that this one was still well worth a watch to see their Oscar-nominated performances. I think both of them haven’t gotten enough credit over the years (Yes, even McCarthy, whose brand of humor isn’t my thing for the most part but I can see why she has fans). It’s great that they got recognition for their parts in this film as they’re what made it enjoyable and they had really good chemistry. I’ll keep this short, though, as I honestly have nothing else to say about this movie. Good story, a little slow & boring at times, but fantastic performances and interesting characters.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Eighth Grade (2018)

Directed & Written by Bo Burnham

Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Fred Hechinger

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The coming-of-age story follows the life and struggles of an eighth-grader, played by Elsie Fisher, during her last week of classes before graduating to high school. She struggles with social anxiety but produces vlogs giving life advice.

My Opinion:

This came out aaaaages ago in America but was only finally released in the UK in April this year. It got brilliant reviews from “Film Twitter” people and, even though I’m an old lady, I’m still always up for a really good coming of age film ever since falling in love with Stand By Me during my own coming of age years. Plus, I can relate to the whole socially awkward thing since I’m still awkward as shit.

Well, damn – This movie was very disappointing. I’ll say that the actress, Elsie Fisher, did a good job and felt very real (she seems sweet – I have nothing bad to say about the actress). She also did the socially awkward thing extremely well so, in that regard, I identified with her (even though she was actually far more awkward than I ever was!). However, I couldn’t relate to the character in any other way whatsoever. I know that pre & early teens can be annoying as hell but her character really was a bit too hateful for me to care at all what would happen to her. And her dad just put up with her whiny bullshit and her being a bitch to him and he didn’t monitor her time spent online AT ALL.

Yeah, yeah – I know I’m sounding old. But, seriously – keep your kids away from all forms of social media as long as fucking possible! It’s dangerous. And if you can’t do that for some reason, monitor what the hell they’re doing! FYI – the girl is a vlogger and this movie is NOT about the dangers of living a phony online existence – It’s just about not fitting in during the most awkward time of life. I’m simply having my own personal rant because seeing young girls living out their lives online and pretending to be something they’re not breaks my damn heart. Do we seriously need a whole generation of superficial KardashiJenners?! I can’t stand that fake bullshit and don’t want real-life girls like this character committing suicide when they can’t live up to the impossible standards set by “influencers” and people with an unlimited supply of money.

No, this movie isn’t about suicide or depression or anything like that – It’s a “comedy” drama, supposedly. Maybe I just AM too old for teen movies now as I found Booksmart disappointing as well. However, I thought The Edge Of Seventeen was very good and a more realistic portrayal of being a teen. I don’t know – I just think Eighth Grade would’ve been better with a more likeable and therefore more sympathetic main character. And possibly with “comedy” that was actually funny – I had to double check to see if this was actually considered a comedy. It also felt like it dragged on forever, despite being a short film. It has one of those typical meandering indie movie storylines that doesn’t go anywhere – I don’t know how I managed to stay awake watching this one on the plane. I suppose that reading all the hype for this one while waiting at least a year for it to come out in the UK didn’t help either as my expectations were probably way too high. What a massive disappointment.

My Rating: 5/10

It Chapter Two (2019) Review

It Chapter Two (2019)

Directed by Andy Muschietti

Based on It by Stephen King

Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

My Opinion:

First of all, I’ll say that I’m a huge Stephen King fan. I love all his books. I love all the movie adaptations of his books (even the really really BAD adaptations, of which there have been plenty). I adored 2017’s Chapter 1 of It. It Chapter Two was my most anticipated film of 2019. And I liked it a lot, as I fully expected that I would despite some bad early reviews. So bear in mind that I’m a massive fan so, of course, I’m likely to have enjoyed it far more than anyone who isn’t a King fan.


I will have also enjoyed this movie far more than any full-on horror fans will have. Let’s face it – It is closer to Stand By Me than The Shining. It’s a great coming of age story with fantastic characters and strong characters are what really sell a story to me. Honestly, I don’t find either this or the 1990 adaptation at all scary. Skarsgård and Curry clearly had fun as Pennywise but I don’t care about Pennywise as a “character”. The story isn’t about Pennywise – It’s about the Losers Club and the strength of their friendship. This new adaptation is especially strong when it comes to the Losers Club. Each one of them is extremely well-developed, especially for a “horror” movie. And the casting was absolutely perfect when it came to the kid actors and almost perfect when it came to their adult counterparts. Is Chapter 1 better? Hell yeah! Of course it is, which I fully expected. A “coming of age” story works better when focused on the kids who are actually that age. It’s far more fun than watching them all grown up (which I’m sure the director & writers realized, which is why the kids ended up being in Chapter 2 a hell of a lot). By the way – They de-aged the kids which, apparently, some people found very distracting. I guess I’m just completely unobservant since I didn’t even notice that.

It Chapter Two is far from perfect, though, which I’m fully willing to admit. I’m just very forgiving of the faults as I like the characters so much. The horror elements are far too cheesy for me personally. I prefer a creepy atmosphere and “not seeing too much”. A little mystery is more scary to me than an actor in a clown suit. I also hate silly CGI in horror and there’s a lot of very dodgy effects in this film that had the audience laughing, especially at the end. Again, it didn’t really bother me too much as I cared more about the characters than the “scary” horror moments but I’m sure there will be plenty of horror fans who don’t like this movie thanks to the cheesy effects. I wasn’t a fan of director Andy Muschietti’s film Mama because of the cheesy CGI and, dammit, It Chapter Two looks very similar when it comes to the “monsters”.


Luckily, as I said, the characters are so good that it made up for the unsatisfying scares for me. James McAvoy was a bit “so what”, which was disappointing after he gave his all in Glass. Jessica Chastain was fine but I felt like anyone could’ve played that role and I actually had hoped beforehand that unknowns would be cast. But if going with big names, why not Amy Adams?! Adams looks exactly like Sophia Lillis! Chastain doesn’t. Oh well – Chastain was fine and actually better than I’d hoped (I find her overrated). No one did a bad job – Every adult actor felt like they truly did study the child actors’ performances to make it believable that these are the adults they became. As many have already said, though, it was James Ransone as Eddie & especially Bill Hader as Richie who really stole the show. Loved them! Their characters added so much emotion to this film; From laughter to heartbreak. It was nice to see the “lesser” characters shine instead of all focus being mainly on just Beverly (Chastain) and Bill (McAvoy).

Well, I enjoyed It Chapter Two. Yes, the first part with just the kids is definitely better and has a little more heart. But Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was better than Kill Bill: Vol. 2 in my opinion. It doesn’t matter – I see Kill Bill as one movie now and will see the two chapters of It as one movie from now on too. And it’s a great movie overall and a worthy Stephen King adaptation. Plus, it’s quite epic in scale… Five hours! No wonder we know the characters so well by the end. Now bring on Doctor Sleep! The trailer for that was shown before It Chapter Two and I’m now very excited for that one.

My Rating: 7.5/10