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

Ralph Breaks The Internet, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms & The Grinch Movie Reviews

Three more quickies today as I try to catch up on reviewing the 2018 films I’ve seen. Two of these were okay (just okay) and one was pretty dreadful…

Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)

Directed by Rich Moore & Phil Johnston

Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph,” Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.

My Opinion:

I love the first Wreck-It Ralph. I think it’s easily one of the better Disney films of recent years and I appreciated that it felt like such an original idea. Hell, it’s almost as good as Pixar’s films! (Almost). And being a lover of the Eighties, I of course loved the classic video game element. Therefore, it was likely that I wouldn’t enjoy this sequel as much. It doesn’t have the magic of the first film (as is often the case with sequels). And it also loses the simple video game innocence of the first film by making the Internet the focus of this one (and having all the brand names in your face constantly). I hate the Internet. Okay… I’m on it all the damn time… (like now). But I’d still rather be living in the pre-Internet Eighties again.

I’ll start with the best thing about this sequel: Ralph & Vanellope. I love these characters and they’re just as loveable in the sequel as in the first film. Actually, Vanellope is even better in this one – she’s much sweeter since becoming friends with Ralph. They make this movie worth watching and I did really enjoy seeing them again even though I didn’t like the story itself all that much. I also enjoyed the “Oh My Disney” bit. It kind of goes against saying I wasn’t crazy about all the commercialism but I admit that I love Disney. I’m a Disney whore! I love going into the damn Disney Store. I’m such a child. So, I did really like seeing Vanellope with all the Disney princesses. Those bits were a lot of fun and I liked spotting so many other Disney characters & references. Oh and I loved that one cameo (don’t want to spoil it)! Screw it – This is a Disney film. They’re allowed to Disney-fy the crap out of it! I liked those bits just fine.

Where it fails is when it talks about eBay & memes & viral videos & etc etc etc. And the end gets a bit bizarre and didn’t really work for me at all. I really missed the innocence of the first film. This was okay but where can they go from here? It was just a little disappointing but my expectations weren’t too high anyway since Disney sequels are rarely all that great. Oh, but the end credits scenes were brilliant! There are two: one partway through the credits and one at the very end. I highly recommend staying for them as they’re pretty much better than the entire movie itself.

My Rating: 7/10

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (2018)

Directed by Lasse Hallström & Joe Johnston

Based on The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann & The Nutcracker by Marius Petipa

Starring: Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
This is a retelling of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and Marius Petipa’s The Nutcracker, about a young girl who is gifted a locked egg from her deceased mother and sets out in a magical land to retrieve the key.

My Opinion:

Wow – this has very negative reviews & ratings on IMDb. I don’t fully understand why. I think people were definitely too harsh on this one. No, it’s certainly not great and is quite weak for a Disney film but it was lovely to look at and had a fun story. Hell, I enjoyed it more than that live-action and completely pointless Beauty And The Beast. At least this is a story I didn’t already know and isn’t a re-hash of a far superior film.

Maybe the story was a little too weird for audiences these days? People don’t really go for anything slightly bizarre anymore. As I said, it’s quite a lovely looking film and I liked that it felt a bit like Narnia at first. It makes for a good winter movie in the lead up to Christmas. I also thought the main girl was very good, just as she was in Interstellar (she was the only good thing about that overblown Nolan film).

And Morgan Freeman is in this. Yay! (Am I allowed to admit to loving him again yet? Are people over the “oh my god, he said flirty things to women!” bullshit?). And Helen Mirren – I like that saucy minx too. Unfortunately, Keira Knightley is in this as well. Have I mentioned that she annoys me? (Yes, I have. Many times). Speaking of her and how I said in my previous review that I’m a Disney whore: Knightley recently got on her high horse again and said she doesn’t let her kid(s?) watch Disney movies because they’re a bad influence and blah blah blah. Screw that. How about you talk to them & teach them the difference between reality & fantasy and then let them watch what every other kid watches and enjoys? Are they not allowed to watch this movie, then???

Anyway. This movie was okay but it was also missing something. I can’t quite figure out what it was missing, though. It has the right elements to make it a family classic but it’s already fading from my mind only a few weeks after seeing it. Maybe it’s Knightley’s fault! Her role is too big. She got on my nerves, especially with that stupid voice she put on. Yeah, let’s blame her. Otherwise, this is a decent enough family Disney movie that doesn’t quite deserve the horrible reviews it has had.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Grinch (2018)

Directed by Scott Mosier & Yarrow Cheney

Based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Cameron Seely, Angela Lansbury

Narrated by Pharrell Williams

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia)
The plot follows the Grinch as he plans to ruin Whoville’s Christmas celebration by stealing all the town’s decorations and gifts.

My Opinion:

Ugh. No. Okay – I’m a big fan of the 1966 American TV classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Who isn’t?! That show has been a yearly American tradition for ages now. It’s one of the most beloved holiday TV specials. That’s why they shouldn’t have done this film. They were never going to live up to something that is, quite frankly, almost complete perfection.

Speaking of movies fading from my mind only a few weeks after seeing them, I can barely remember a thing about The Grinch now. I remember liking his adorable and long-suffering dog Max, but the same goes for the 1966 version anyway. I think the biggest problem with this version is this: The Grinch isn’t enough of an asshole. TV Grinch was gloriously mean. Then, to make it even worse, this movie added a bullshit backstory to help explain why The Grinch is a bit of an asshole. We don’t need a stupid backstory! Can’t someone just be an asshole for the hell of it? I mean, I’m a bit of an asshole for no good reason. This is probably why I’ve always slightly preferred The Grinch before his heart grows. He’s damn funny at the beginning of the 1966 version. He’s boring as shit in this lifeless adaptation.

Oh well – I guess it’s still not as bad as that Jim Carrey monstrosity, which is one of my most-hated movies of all time. Just leave The Grinch the fuck alone, Hollywood. That’s what he wants anyway! Oh, and why the hell did they have Pharrell Williams only narrate this movie and not do the music as well? His music is one of the things that makes Despicable Me so great. Illumination is clearly never going to live up to that film ever again.

My Rating: 4.5/10

Logan (2017) Review

Logan (2017)

Directed by James Mangold

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a past-his-prime Logan embarking on a “road trip” across a dystopian future version of America for one final mission.

My Opinion:

I’m not going to say yet again how superheroed-out I am and that I skipped watching all superhero movies last year other than Deadpool & Captain America: Civil War. Oops – I guess I did just say it again? Anyway, I’m not a big superhero geek & don’t read any comics (well, I read Watchmen & Tank Girl so I’m lying a little) but I enjoy these movies when they’re halfway decent. The X-Men movie series has probably actually been my favorite. At least, character-wise, it’s the group of “superheroes” (okay, mutants) that I’ve been drawn to the most. The movies started out pretty good (although a little cheesy) but have ended up so disappointing in recent years. Hell, I didn’t even watch X-Men: Apocalypse or The Wolverine. That’s pretty bad considering how much I loved these characters after the first couple of films.

Then Logan came along, which looked a bit different and had a great trailer (plus a young girl kicking ass!) so I was finally once again excited to watch an X-Men movie. I suppose it helps that two of the absolute best X-Men characters are the stars of this one (Professor X is my personal favorite. Yay, Patrick Stewart!). I honestly didn’t miss having loads of other mutants in this. I find it overkill sometimes when you have too many characters, like in Civil War. Sometimes less is more and I liked so much focus being on Logan, Charles & Laura.

I really enjoyed Logan. It’s a very good film for this genre. I think the more violent, more grown-up thing worked very well for the character of Wolverine but wouldn’t necessarily work for all other comic book characters. It was the perfect “end(?)” to this character’s story (for me). And, I’m not gonna lie – I loved seeing a young girl kicking ass. Plus I love a good father/daughter-like relationship in a movie. Dafne Keen did a great job and I was a sucker for the relationship she developed with Logan as well as with Charles. And of course the further development of the existing relationship between Logan & Charles. I love that kind of shit. A fucked-up, crazy, loving mutant family! Good character development & angst & feelings. I like that! Good stuff.

I admit that I didn’t care too much about the actual story itself. The story was decent enough. I can’t say I ever take these comic book storylines too seriously anyway. With these kind of movies, I always care more about really good characters & just enough action to keep things moving along and Logan delivers as far as these two things are concerned. Did I like it more than the very first two X-Men movies? I don’t know. In some ways, yes. I think it’s the better film but certainly not as much “fun”. But it’s not meant to be – I guess it depends what you want from a comic book movie. I like either fun or serious depending on my mood and I enjoyed Logan as much as the first couple of X-Men films, just in a different sort of way. Other than that, I don’t have much more to say. I’m no expert on these movies as I haven’t read any of the comics so can’t compare. I like the films. I love the characters. I thought Logan was a great final film for Wolverine. For now. Until another sequel or prequel or evil twin or clone or time travel or some alternate reality bullshit comes along…

My Rating: 7.5/10