These 2023 films were fine. Okay. Meh. Nothing to write home about. Blah. I’m so bored with “fine”. Liked The Mother the most out of these.
The Mother (2023)
Directed by Niki Caro
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Joseph Fiennes, Lucy Paez, Omari Hardwick, Paul Raci, Gael García Bernal
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) While fleeing from dangerous assailants, an assassin comes out of hiding to protect her daughter she left earlier in life.
This was fine. Love “protective kick-ass mother” movies so watched this to see the mother/daughter scenes more than the action. The story & the action were okay but preferred watching Lopez with the daughter & having to make heartbreaking decisions to do whatever it takes to protect her.
I think Lopez deserves more credit, as she’s proven she can easily do something like this just as well as comedy & romance. She’s been in some decent films but let’s get her into even better ones. Have really liked her in all her recent straight-to-streaming films (this, Shotgun Wedding & Marry Me). She was the best thing about all of them and made them worth watching.
Oh, I should add that I liked the music used in this movie: Massive Attack, Kate Bush & Grimes (yes I like Grimes).
My Rating: 6/10
Peter Pan & Wendy (2023)
Directed by David Lowery
Based on Walt Disney’s Peter Pan Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie
Starring: Jude Law, Alexander Molony, Ever Anderson, Yara Shahidi, Alyssa Wapanatâhk, Joshua Pickering, Jacobi Jupe, Molly Parker, Alan Tudyk, Jim Gaffigan
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The story follows Peter Pan and Wendy, who go to the magical world of Neverland with Wendy’s brothers and Peter’s best friend Tinker Bell. Along the way, Wendy embarks on the adventure that will change her life and encounters Peter’s archenemy Captain Hook.
This was also… Fine?
There’s nothing really wrong with this adaptation so I don’t see why it’s getting such bad reviews. There have been far worse live action Disney films (Hello, Tom Hanks Pinocchio?!). But, meh. This has never been one of my favorite stories anyway. Are we supposed to grow up or not?! The acting from the kids was a little dodgy but I liked Tinker Bell not being a total bitch.
My Rating: 6/10
Rye Lane (2023)
Directed by Raine Allen-Miller
Starring: David Jonsson, Vivian Oparah
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) It stars David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah as two strangers who have a chance encounter, after having both been through recent breakups, and spend the day getting to know each other.
Liked the couple, enjoyed the London setting, love A Tribe Called Quest, was a little bored by the story. A pleasant enough film – I think I’m just finding it difficult to relate to twentysomethings these days. Fun cameo.
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.
Was glad to finally see this on Amazon Prime U.K. as I’ve been wanting to see it ever since I saw Shane Carruth’s other & even more confusing film Primer. Ah, Primer. I… think I liked Primer? I’m not going to pretend that I could at all follow along with the complex time travel involved but, hey, I like a smart film & apparently things were quite accurate in that film according to smart science-y people (or so I read). Gotta love a movie where you have to go online afterwards to try to figure it out. I found a complicated diagram online trying to explain it all (it’s in my Primer review I’ve linked if you want to see it).
So, onto Upstream Color. Again, it’s a bit weird and very “what the fuck is going on?”. I’d say it’s more strange than Primer since that was, really, just a time travel story even though it was complicated but I couldn’t quite figure out the meaning in Upstream Color (if there is one). What is this movie trying to tell us? What was up with the pigs?! What was the purpose of the pig farmer guy? Why was he doing that re-implanting (I’m trying to stay spoiler-free)? What was with the sound stuff he was doing? What was up with those flowers? What the hell was the point of any of this?!? Is this a circle of life type thing? This movie gave me vibes of what I’ve always assumed Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life movie is probably like (but I can’t say for sure since I never watched that since it sounds totally pretentious). But I probably will watch that someday since I’m always drawn to these sort of movies despite not being smart enough to understand them.
Well, I won’t ramble on forever talking about this movie since I have no explanations. There are okay articles you can find online if you want to go looking up “Upstream Color explained!” but what I read online didn’t help much either. To be honest, the people writing those articles didn’t seem to know what the point of the movie was either. Even what Shane Carruth himself has said about this movie doesn’t offer all that much insight. For example, this is something Carruth said that’s on Wikipedia under Themes & is spoiler-free (you can read a little more at the link if you want):
“In April 2013, io9.com asked director Shane Carruth if the film’s point regarded a return to nature. Carruth replied that the film explored breaking cycles:
It’s more about what those pigs are now embodying. I mean, there is a break of the cycle. These people that have been affected by this are now taking back ownership of the thing that they’re connected to…I don’t believe that narrative works when it’s trying to teach a lesson, or speak a factual truth. What it’s good for is, an exploration of something that’s commonplace and universal — maybe that’s where the truth comes from.”
Yeah… Okay…. Well, I liked this movie just fine as I do like weird films (Hello, Butt Boy & Rubber!). I think this is a smarter film than those, though, even if the explanations of it sound like a load of bollocks (I’ve put that word in here for Film Miasma). I do prefer Primer as that is shockingly now seeming like the much simpler film but I enjoyed the bizarre ride with this one. Especially the weird shit with the pigs! Amy Seimetz (from Pet Sematary and the director & writer of the equally weird She Dies Tomorrow) was good in the main role. And Shane Carruth seems very talented. He did everything with this movie! Directed, produced, wrote & starred in as well as doing the editing, cinematography & music. I’ve liked enough of what I’ve seen of his work so far to watch anything else he might make.
Three more quickie horror reviews. Well, none of them are actually “horror” films. Two thrillers & one pretentious bore…
A Ghost Story (2017)
Directed & Written by David Lowery
Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Affleck plays a man who becomes a ghost and remains in the house he shares with his wife (Mara).
My Brief Opinion:
What a load of pretentious twaddle. I was all prepared to like this, too, since I like Rooney Mara for some reason (even though she displays zero emotion in everything I’ve ever seen her in). To be fair, I can appreciate what this story was trying to achieve (does life have meaning or will we all just die and fade away and be forgotten blah blah blah). It’s actually quite a depressing film but do we really need to be reminded that life sucks, especially with the current state of the world?? Here’s my Twitter “tweet review” of this movie: Well. That was tedious. #AGhostStory ✨🏠👫🎹🎧🚗 💢 💀👻🙍🏻♀️🥧👩👧👦👻🍽💢😱🏚🏗🏙👩🏼🌾👻💀💀💀🏠👫👻👻📜🕳✨
My Rating: 6/10
Berlin Syndrome (2017)
Directed by Cate Shortland
Based on Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten
Starring: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film tells about a young photographer Clare, going to Germany, where she meets an attractive guy Andi. Waking up after a stormy night of passion, Clare realizes that Andi locked her in the apartment and is not going to let her go.
My Brief Opinion:
I actually thought this was a decent psychological thriller. Starring Teresa Palmer & Max Riemelt, this is the IMDb synopsis: A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave. I’m always interested to see how a character will behave in this sort of situation (Teresa Palmer is the one being kept locked up in the apartment belonging to a stranger she’s slept with while on holiday). It’s strange to see him go about his daily life as normal each day while keeping her imprisoned and to see the “relationship” develop between them (he sees her as his girlfriend, of sorts, in his messed up mind). And she of course depends on him for food, etc, to survive. It’s based on a book so I’d be interested to know more about the characters’ feelings & motivations as I think the movie doesn’t explore this well enough. Maybe I’ll read the novel sometime.
My Rating: 6.5/10
The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)
Directed by Nicolas Gessner
Based on The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane by Laird Koenig
Starring: Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman, Scott Jacoby
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The plot focuses on 13-year-old Rynn Jacobs (Foster), a child whose absent poet father and secretive behaviours prod the suspicions of her conservative small-town Maine neighbours.
My Brief Opinion:
I watched this odd 1976 Jodie Foster film partly because I was sick of seeing it in my Netflix Watchlist (it’s been on there for years). I think I was under the impression that it was a straightforward horror but it’s more of a drama that almost feels like a play. Actually, the story would work quite well as a play (maybe it was a play – I’m too lazy to look into it). It drags & I found it a bit underwhelming but the young Foster did a good job as the mysterious 13-year-old who seems to live in a house all on her own.
My Rating: 5.5/10
I far preferred the Jodie Foster film Bugsy Malone, which I watched for the first time last year but never got around to reviewing. Seems to be a bit of a cult classic in the U.K. but barely even known in the U.S.
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Robert Redford
Production company: Walt Disney Pictures
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.
I’m not going to ramble on & on with some long review of this. I thoroughly enjoyed this version of Pete’s Dragon. My 7-year-old didn’t like it all that much. My hubby pretty much hated it. I was so disappointed in him spoiling my enjoyment! 😉 Grumpy turd. Yeah, I get to go to movies with a hubby who says things in disgust like “sometimes his (Elliot’s) fur blows in the wind & sometimes it doesn’t” and “this is so hipster” and “this movie is draining” and “I haven’t felt so cold on a movie in a long time”. He’ll be annoyed when he reads this tomorrow & he’ll probably moan that I’ve misquoted him… Anyway, I feel like I must have watched a completely different film from the one my husband & daughter saw while sat next to me. I really liked it.
I’m not gonna lie – this movie is vanilla ice cream on wholesome white bread. This movie is golden retriever puppies sliding down rainbows into cotton candy clouds. I think that may be one of the hubby’s biggest problems with it. I can’t say that a film being too wholesome bothers me all that much, as long as I don’t feel like it’s preaching to me or trying to shove its values down my throat (like I felt while watching Zootopia/Zootropolis). I just thought this was a lovely family film with its heart in the right place. It doesn’t exactly cover any groundbreaking territory in terms of its lessons but it’s not preachy & I cared about the characters. What more do you want from a Disney movie?
The boy playing Pete (Oakes Fegley) was very good as was the young girl (Oona Laurence). How are kids such good actors these days? The acting from kids used to be pretty dodgy in old movies. I far preferred Bryce Dallas Howard’s character in this to the thoroughly unlikable one in Jurassic World. Her relationships with Pete and with her father (an underused Robert Redford) were believable. Sappy, yes, but you seriously want everyone to live happily ever after in this. For some reason, though, I felt like Wes Bentley & Karl Urban should have been in each other’s roles. Don’t know why, but I pictured Urban as Howard’s boyfriend for some reason.
Then, of course, there’s Elliot. I loved him. I think they did very well with his look. He’s just scary enough when need be but also believable as a gentle creature who could be a boy’s best friend. I want an Elliot! Oh, this movie was directed by David Lowery, who hasn’t directed many big films other than Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (which I reviewed HERE). These are obviously two very different films storywise but do have a similar lovely look & mood that I especially appreciated in Saints. Pete’s Dragon is luckily more of a re-imagining than an actual remake & doesn’t harm the (admittedly dated) original, which I can’t quite say of this year’s The Jungle Book. Of these two modern “remakes”, I definitely prefer Pete’s Dragon. I haven’t read other reviews of this yet so don’t know if people agree more with me or with my husband so I’d love to hear your opinions if you’ve seen the movie. I really liked it.
I figured it was time to catch up on reviewing the movies I’ve watched by doing another quickie review trio. All three of these films were quite good (although one of them was a little on the boring side…). Let’s discuss! 🙂
The Kings Of Summer (2013)
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Nick Robinson, Moisés Arias, Gabriel Basso, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) Three teenage friends, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.
I kept seeing movie bloggers on here compare The Kings Of Summer to Stand By Me and, since Stand By Me is one of the best movies EVER, I knew I had to watch it. Well, it’s certainly no Stand By Me (but what is??). However, it’s still a good modern day coming-of-age film and I can see some current young teenagers connecting to this one in the same way I connected to Stand By Me.
I have to say this was off to an excellent start when the the first song in the film was Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song. Yes! It was the perfect fit & had me all excited to keep watching this. But then I remembered that the film wasn’t set in the Seventies even though they were using an old song. Damn! You know what? I think this film would’ve been awesome if it had been set in 1976 or so. But maybe part of the point is that these boys choose to “live in the wild” and away from today’s modern conveniences, giving the film a somewhat timeless feel that’s pretty cool.
What I didn’t expect was the amount of humor in this as I thought it was going to be more of a coming-of-age drama. I found it kind of jarring at first but got used to it and, by the end, I enjoyed the humor. The humor is of the “Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, etc” variety. They’re a part of that group of people who mean absolutely nothing to me as I don’t watch whatever American TV show(s) they’re all in together and I think that movies that rely on these types of actors don’t always translate so well overseas. I found the film fairly funny overall but preferred when the boys were on their own & away from their crazy American TV parents. In fact, I could understand why they wanted to get the hell away from their annoying parents & go live in the woods. I did really like the token “crazy friend” who says & does some pretty bizarre things – he probably made me chuckle the most (in my head – I’m not a laugh-out-loud person):
I enjoyed this movie but was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t just a little more serious or heartfelt. It reminded me of Mud, which was another recent coming-of-age film with “boys in the wild”. I’d have to say that I actually enjoyed The Kings Of Summer more and would be more likely to watch it again but that Mud is the superior film with better performances.
The Kings Of Summer is at its best when the boys are on their own building their house in the woods as these parts of the film feel timeless in a way that will still make it relevant years from now. The film is unfortunately let down somewhat by quirky adult characters whose humor won’t work for everyone, although I personally didn’t mind it. I sound disappointed but the comparisons to Stand By Me didn’t help, I suppose. The Kings Of Summer is a very enjoyable film and is definitely worth a watch if you like coming-of-age stories as much as I do. Just don’t expect anything too deep – it’s mostly just light-hearted fun.
My Rating: 7.5/10
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)
Directed by David Lowery
Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Rami Malek, Keith Carradine, Charles Baker, Nate Parker
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is the one that’s “a little on the boring side” of these three movies. I don’t have a lot to say about it so I’m going to attempt to not ramble on & to write only two paragraphs (not counting this one!). I watched this for two reasons: I liked the odd title and I have a bit of a girl crush on Rooney Mara.
As for the title, I found this in IMDB trivia: “The title is director David Lowery’s “mondegreen” – a mishearing of a song lyric – and has no actual meaning”. Interesting! But a little disappointing as I was hoping the title was meaningful in some way. As for Mara, she’s her usual type of character in this: A tiny, quiet waif with beautiful eyes and zero personality. I don’t mean that in a bitchy way – I haven’t seen some of her biggest roles yet but she’s always this exact same sort of character in what I have seen. I’d like to see her play something very different but, for this film, she was perfect for the role as the “Bonnie” type character in a very laidback & extremely slooooooooow version of the typical outlaw couple story made famous by the brilliant Bonnie And Clyde film.
This movie is worth a look if you like outlaw couple stories, a very slow pace, and some lovely cinematography that clearly takes its inspiration from Terrence Malick’s films. Actually, I suppose this movie is much more similar to Badlands than to Bonnie And Clyde. It’s hard to know whether or not to recommend it as I think you’ll either love it or be bored out of your mind. I’d say that you should make sure to watch the classics Bonnie And Clyde and Badlands first but then you’d find that this one most definitely pales in comparison. It’s a very pretty movie with shallow characters and not a lot of story but I think some film lovers have bought into its look and style. I did appreciate Ain’t Them Bodies Saints as I sometimes go for style over substance but I feel like this same sort of film has been done much better by other filmmakers in the past. Based on this movie, I’ll be interested in seeing what the director (David Lowery) does with the Pete’s Dragon remake as I adored that movie as a kid but, as much as I hate remakes, it’s one that I’ll admit could do with being updated as it’s badly dated now.
My Rating: 6/10
X+Y (2014) (aka A Brilliant Young Mind in the U.S.)
Directed by Morgan Matthews
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) A socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.
Although The Kings Of Summer was my favorite of these three movies, I’d have to say that this was actually the best film of the three. By the way, this is called A Brilliant Young Mind in America. X+Y was inspired by a documentary the director (Morgan Matthews) did called Beautiful Young Minds, which was about the British team in the 2006 International Mathematical Olympiad and how many of these young mathematics geniuses have some form of autism as does Asa Butterfield’s character in X+Y.
I don’t know how to say this without sounding rude but this movie is SO very British. Well, I have to admit that the British do the “life is hard & everyone is damaged in some way” movies best. At least it’s honest & much more realistic than Hollywood movies filled with the beautiful & the perfect but I’ve always turned to movies more for escapism from the realities of life & have to be in the mood for a drama before I watch one. Don’t get me wrong, though – I far prefer a movie like this, which is filled with rich characters & good performances, to some of the shallow crap that Hollywood churns out.
The quirky British comic relief in this film is provided by Rafe Spall’s character and I liked him a lot. He deals with his own serious issue through humor and his relationship with Butterfield’s character & Butterfield’s mother (Sally Hawkins) work really well in the film. I also really enjoyed the scenes showing the British team in China. Most of all, though, the story is about an autistic boy and the difficulties faced by those who love him (specifically, his mother in this movie – the mother/son relationship is the key to this film).
X+Y is a tad too formulaic & clichéd at times but, ultimately, that doesn’t usually bother me too much as long as a movie is done well and has characters that I care about (I felt the same way about a great little obscure romance recently called In Your Eyes). This movie admittedly deserves a slightly higher rating than I’m giving it as movies with a little too much tragedy & drama aren’t really my thing but don’t be discouraged by my slight negativity if you think you’d like this. X+Y is a good film.
My Rating: 7/10
**You know I need to end this with Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song, as heard in The Kings Of Summer… 🙂