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

Ma (2019) Review

Ma (2019)

Directed by Tate Taylor

Starring: Octavia Spencer, Kyanna Simone Simpson, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, Skyler Joy, Luke Evans, Andrew Matthew Welch, McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, Gianni Paolo, Dante Brown, Missi Pyle, Nicole Carpenter, Tanyell Waivers, Allison Janney, Dominic Burgess, Heather Marie Pate, Tate Taylor, Victor Turpin, Margaret Fegan

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Ma follows a group of teenagers who befriend a lonely middle-aged woman who allows them to party in her basement, and find themselves being terrorized by her.

My Opinion:

Hey! The main teen girl in this (Diana Silvers) was in Booksmart. I reviewed that yesterday and was probably very unfairly harsh on that film. It’s a better film than Ma. However, I weirdly got far more enjoyment out of Ma. So, while I recognize that Ma is an odd film that some will hate, I’m going to review it positively. I liked it. When it comes to horror, I always lower my expectations. Is it a good film? Meh. Is it a fun horror with a fairly unique idea compared to the so many predictable horror movies that get made? Yes. That’s all you can really ask for from this type of movie. It’s not trying to be Suspiria or Rosemary’s Baby or some horror classic like those.

First of all, I always moan about unlikeable characters in horror movies. How are we supposed to care what happens to them if they’re assholes? I’ve noticed that horror characters are getting better these days and, luckily, Ma does quite well with its characters (as far as the horror genre goes). The teenagers, while not the most developed characters ever, are likeable enough and certainly not at all deserving of what this woman puts them through. Octavia Spencer’s role is also very good in that she’s actually a somewhat sympathetic villain. At least at first… I’ll stay spoiler-free but you will (I should hope) sympathize with her a bit. While I love a good full-on “crazy lady” (give me Piper Laurie in Carrie!), there’s more to Spencer’s character in this so she doesn’t get to let loose and go as completely mental as I was kind of hoping to see from her. However, once you know the story, it makes more sense for her character to not turn into Kathy Bates in Misery (although, don’t worry – she still goes pretty psycho if you’re wanting to see that!).

Another element I knew nothing about but was a nice surprise is that there’s a bit of time spent on the parents of the teenagers. Not nearly as much time as I’d have liked, though. They mostly focus on the main girl’s mother (played by Juliette Lewis) but she also deserved much more development. All the parents really should’ve had more time spent on their character development to further round out this story and I think this could’ve easily been achieved by taking just a little bit of time away from the teenagers. Yes, I’m the age of the parents (oh my god, when did that happen?!?!) and I understand the annoying need to market everything to a young audience these days but, in the context of this storyline, we needed a little more time spent on the boring, old fart parents as well. What’s weird is that I seriously hated Juliette Lewis when I was a teenager but now kind of love seeing her in stuff? Maybe I just appreciate seeing people my age in movies now. I think it started with Whip It. I love that movie. She almost made me want to be a kick ass middle-aged roller derby chick.

Well, I enjoyed Ma and appreciated the fact that the characters were a bit better than we normally get in this sort of horror movie. As with most horror movies, though, I thought the ending was weak. To be honest, I’m not sure how I’d have wanted it to end but it was kind of a letdown after a fairly strong start. I did also appreciate the storyline and the fact that this idea felt more original than in a lot of modern horrors. I’m not going to pretend that it’s a good film, though, and it’s one I’d only recommend to people if I knew their movie tastes well and thought they’d like it. You might hate it but I liked it enough to give it a much higher rating than I know it actually deserves. Fuck it, I rate on my level of enjoyment just as much as on a movie’s worthiness. I’ve been too harsh on movies recently anyway.

My Rating: 7/10

The Shape Of Water (2017) Review

The Shape Of Water (2017)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in Baltimore in 1962, the plot follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who falls in love with a captured humanoid-amphibian creature.

My Opinion:

It felt like the longest wait EVER to finally see The Shape Of Water in the UK. It came out on Valentine’s Day with that Fifty Shades Shit. Give me the fish man over that crap any day! I was really excited as this is my type of thing & I think Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth is fantastic. I probably hyped this one up too much in my mind after months of anticipation. I did really like it but Pan’s Labyrinth is still by far del Toro’s best. This is my second favorite he’s directed that I’ve seen, though.

Where do I start?! It’s pretty bad when you can believe in a love story involving a fish man more than one in some sappy romcom bullshit starring Kate Hudson (or whoever has replaced her nowadays – I’m not a big romcom chick). Doug Jones does well giving life to… Umm… Fish Man! Do I have to keep calling him that??? Okay – he’s officially credited as Amphibian Man / The Asset. The whole point of most of del Toro’s work seems to be that the true monsters are those who appear normal on the outside and, as expected, that’s the theme here. You’ll feel for Amphibian Man and understand why the character played by Sally Hawkins wants to protect him. You may not want to have sex with him, though. Who knows. Maybe you will! That’s just not for me, but I’m sure I’d have a lovely platonic friendship with Amphibian Man.

The overall story was more predictable & straightforward than I was expecting. Michael Shannon made for a good baddie as usual but his performance also felt a bit phoned in. That’s probably because he does this type of role so often. He’s quite a one-dimensional baddie, which was a little disappointing. But I do love to truly hate the bad guy in a movie and he certainly manages to achieve that here.

Besides Amphibian Man, we have four main human characters who help him out. Sally Hawkins is of course the cleaner who falls in love with him, Octavia Spencer is her friend & co-worker, Richard Jenkins is her friend & neighbor, and Michael Stuhlbarg is a scientist who doesn’t approve of the treatment of Amphibian Man. Hawkins, Spencer & Jenkins are all up for acting Oscars and I’m happy with that. I loved that Hawkins was mute, making her connection with Amphibian Man even stronger. Hawkins & Jones do a great job expressing their emotions without words. I especially liked Jenkins as her neighbor and Spencer was once again a very likeable friend of our main character, though it would be nice to see her as more than just the friendly sidekick (I’ve not yet seen Hidden Figures).

The characters are what make this movie and I really enjoyed them. The story is simple as are its themes but I still like its theme of love & acceptance, which is still relevant today. Set in 1962, all our characters have to deal with intolerance (the mute Hawkins as well as Jenkins & Spencer due to sexual orientation and race). While I despise anything too overtly political in movies, The Shape Of Water remains subtle and this group of people and the parallels with the treatment of Amphibian Man work really well. There are some beautiful scenes & cinematography as well as a lovely score (it’s also nominated for cinematography, production design & score).

I hope The Shape Of Water does well at the Oscars but I keep flipping back & forth on if I prefer this or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This one is more “me” but I think Three Billboards may be slightly ahead for me. I’d be interested to see if my opinion changes in a year. The Shape Of Water feels more timeless & cinematic and may be the more highly acclaimed film in the future. Oh, and as one last thing, I have to add that I love where Hawkins lived in this film. Guillermo del Toro knows how to please cinephiles!

My Rating: 8/10

**By the way – Sally Hawkins is a serial masturbator in this. I may have to add to My Top Five Movie Scenes Of Self-Pleasure

Gifted (2017) Review

Gifted (2017)

Directed by Marc Webb

Starring: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.

My Opinion:

Quickie review! Saw this a good few weeks ago & realized I never reviewed it. Not because I didn’t like it – I’ve just been too busy. I actually quite liked it, as far as family films go. I doubt it’s still in cinemas now but it’s worth a watch at home if you like the sound of it.

I went to Gifted with the hubby and the eight-year-old. I’m enjoying the fact that she’s of the age now where we’re getting to go to more non-animated “family” films. I wish there were more of them! We saw this not long after A Dog’s Purpose (which we all really liked). We all enjoyed this one as well but I think the kid & I slightly preferred A Dog’s Purpose because: Cute dogs. Although Gifted has: Cute Chris Evans. So, they kind of even out.

Chris Evans & Mckenna Grace are the true stars of this and what make the movie work as they’re believable as a single uncle & the niece he has to raise after his sister commits suicide (warning for if you do take a kid, although I don’t remember the topic of suicide exactly being dwelled on & my kid didn’t ask any questions about it). They were great together & my kid really liked Grace & the cheekiness of her character, who is extremely clever beyond her years. Octavia Spencer is also good as the neighbor & friend of Evans & Grace but also very wasted in this small role. Lindsay Duncan plays the mother of Evans, who fights him for custody of her granddaughter once she realizes she has inherited her daughter’s mathematical genius.


What else can I say? There’s not a lot more to this story but the characters were pretty strong and the custody battle was interesting. Evans wants to raise his child prodigy niece as a normal kid in a normal school with a normal life. The grandmother wants to raise her as the child genius that she is, with all the best schooling & training that money can buy (and which the working class Chris Evans can’t afford). So it comes down to which values you believe in (although the majority will be on the uncle’s side because the grandmother is a bitch). I’ll say that the movie has an interesting turn of events & it’s not often that I can’t guess the ending to a pretty simple family film so bonus points for that. I enjoyed the film. All three of us did. Give it a watch with your family on… whatever streaming service(s) to which you subscribe (it was so much easier when you could just say “watch it on home video”). 😉

My Rating: 7/10

The Help (2011) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Natasha of Life Of This City Girl. Thanks for the review, Natasha! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of The Help, IMDB rank 234 out of 250…

There are another 15 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Movie Review: The Help (2011)

Plot: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

Rating: 8.5/10

Hey, T9M readers! I’m reviewing The Help here today, because when I saw it was on T9M’s remaining movies to review for her IMDb Top 250 challenge I greedily claimed it as my own, seeing my chance to finally watch it.

I was surprised. Not only is The Help a really good film, it is also right up my alley and has stayed with me since I saw it.

What works well for this film first and foremost is a fantastic cast. To name a few, but certainly not limited to, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Allison Janney to Anna Camp all came to life as some form of a Southern Belle working to adjust to changing times.

The Help focuses on a time in America when things were changing. Women were entering the workforce, they were suddenly allowed to have bigger dreams than being barefoot and pregnant, and alongside that liberation came a movement where people realized that black people also had rights. Shocking, I know. Idiots. That’s where Skeeter Phelan comes in – she’s recently graduated and in look of making a name for herself. She moves back to Jacksonville, her home town that has not progressed with racial equality at all, and starts working a dead end job writing housekeeping tips for the local newspaper. Skeeter seeks to find the nanny who raised her, a woman whose disappearance makes her very worried – this is the woman that truly raised her, not her scatterbrained and often mean spirited mother. This leads her to embark on a project that records the tales of the black women who raise white children while their own sit at home.

In a very idealistic fashion, The Help isn’t particularly violent. I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence at all. There is a time and place for it and only in certain films, and I get upset especially when it involves minorities being beaten down. Django Unchained is pretty much the threshold for me, and let me tell you, as much as I love Tarantino, that film was almost too much to watch. The Help tells and accurately depicts inequality without making it an unnecessary blood fest nor a pity party, and yet you walk away feeling definitely disgusted with white ancestry. I saw that a lot of people did feel that the movie fancily glosses over the atrocities that happened and I do agree on that point though.

I liked the most that there were some genuinely sweet white people that offset the heinous racists that were also depicted. Jessica Chastain plays the particularly kind Cecilia Foote, who has been shunned because she’s just a bit too attractive and fun loving for Hilly Holbrook, excellently brought to life by Bryce Dallas Howard. Hilly is racist and underhanded, using her status in town to control everything– social events, treatment of staff and generally just getting her way in everything. The good tries to offset the bad, but it is still so obvious about how unjust the system was – I recently saw that it was a time period where it was finally acknowledged that black people deserved rights, just not quite as many as white people. I’m not going to go all swearing about this, because I am guest blogging here, but you can please include a number of profanities to gather my opinion about this.

Most of all, the end impressed me – things do not end perfectly for Phelan. After successfully publishing her novel, Phelan is shunned by many in town, including her boyfriend, but since he was a pompous, primitive prick from the very start I’m not feeling that she’s missing out on something special. It shows that actions have consequences, even when the action was required and did something good.

If you are looking for a film that accurately portrays inequality in the 1950’s, this probably isn’t for you. The Help is mostly feel good with some bad moments between, a very well-produced and acted out film for this. Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for this and it is well deserved – her sassy attitude is a scene stealer every single time. I’m likely to watch it again at some point, and am pretty glad that I took the time to watch this.

Thanks for having me lady!

Zootropolis (2016) Review

Zootropolis (2016) (aka Zootopia)

Directed by Byron Howard & Rich Moore

Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Shakira

Music by: Michael Giacchino

Production company: Walt Disney Pictures

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

My Opinion:

I’d seen very positive reviews for this but I made sure to read very little about it & only really looked at the ratings to get the overall vibe that people really liked this one. I mean, this has an 8.4 IMDB rating & is currently ranked at #150 out of the supposed Top 250 of all time. Sorry, but…. No. I still haven’t actually read any of the reviews for this so I’m not sure what people see in it that I clearly missed but I was very disappointed with this outing from Disney. And I’m, for the most part, a big fan of Disney. Sure, it has a lovely message and all that but it’s a shame that Disney let the message get in the way of actually making a good film…

Where do I start? I honestly don’t want this to turn into some long rant (plus I’m a little worried about getting a negative reaction from people). I don’t have the energy to now go & read all the reviews of this here on WordPress plus it’s been out for a few weeks in America and people always just want to move onto the next brand new release. I’ll happily read any comments from anyone who disagrees with me, though. We’ll discuss it & maybe you can talk me into liking this one a little more!

I admit that when a movie has the Disney or Pixar name attached to it, I have much higher standards for it so I know I’m probably being a little too harsh on this movie. It’s not a “bad” kids’ movie. Yes, I’m aware that Zootropolis is first & foremost for kids but it’s still hard to not compare it to something like Wreck-It Ralph, which is a thoroughly enjoyable movie for the entire family. Or The Lego Movie! That wasn’t Disney or Pixar but it was a great, funny film AND it even had a rather deep & meaningful message in the same way Zootropolis does. But the difference is that it felt like The Lego Movie first focused on having an excellent script & characters & making a really fun family film and then concentrated on the film’s fantastic message. With Zootropolis, it feels like the filmmakers came up with the message they wanted to convey first and then tried to write a story around it, resulting in a rather convoluted and far too grown-up plot that I don’t think many kids will have enjoyed that much anyway.

In the end, I think the extremely forced nature of the storyline takes away from the message they’re trying to shove down our kids’ throats. No, wait… To be honest, I think it’s the parents who are having the message shoved down their throats this time. And it’s a message I most certainly agree with but, sorry Disney, you aren’t going to change the ways of the world with a mediocre kids’ film and messy story. I think your message will have been lost on the kids, will have completely gone over the heads of the adults you’re targeting, and will have simply annoyed the adults who do agree with your message and don’t need you to preach to them.

I’ve not yet fully discussed Zootropolis with my kid but I know she understood the message behind The Lego Movie whereas, as I said, I don’t think this one managed to at all get its point across to her and to its young target audience (and she’s very bright, if I do say so myself). 😉 Here’s my attempt to discuss the movie with her: Me: “What was your favorite part of the movie?” My kid: “I don’t know….” *pause* “I don’t think Zootropolis was very good”. Well, I think that kind of says it all.

My Rating: 6/10

P.S. – Disney, please don’t stick pop stars, crappy songs, and current trends such as stupid phone apps into your movies. You’ve instantly dated your film. Stick with Pixar, who know how to make a timeless classic. The worst thing I can say about Zootropolis is that I walked out of it feeling like I’d just watched a DreamWorks movie. That’s a step in very much the wrong direction.