Watched, Read, Reviewed: March 2022

I watched way too many movies in March. Most were Oscar nominees I wanted to watch before the Oscars. Not that anyone is talking about any of the winners now… It’s a shame that CODA isn’t getting as much attention as it would have if not for someone’s stupid antics.

Well, I somehow managed to already do full reviews of most of those below so I’ll include the links to those & briefly discuss the ones I haven’t talked about at all yet.

MOVIES WATCHED IN MARCH (ranked best to worst):

CODA – Reviewed this just before the Oscars. Really enjoyed it & am happy it won Best Picture. A great feelgood film with likeable characters & a good sense of humor. Also glad Troy Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor & Sian Heder won Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s nice to see a Best Picture that’s actually watchable. Really thought The Power Of The Dog was going to win, which I found a struggle to get through. Watching a movie shouldn’t feel like a damn chore. Far too many Best Picture nominees are like that in recent years so I loved actually really enjoying one for a change. – 8/10

A Quiet Place Part II – Reviewed this in full already at the link. Was a big fan of the first film & thought it was a very effective monster horror with a fantastic original idea. I’m happy to say that the sequel was also really good. Like these films a lot & can’t wait for Part III. – 7.5/10

Columbus – Loved this movie! Also already reviewed in full at the link. I should really have ranked it above A Quiet Place II & I think it’s one of the best films I’ve watched this year but I just really enjoyed A Quiet Place II. Here’s the quick Wikipedia synopsis: “The film follows the son of a renowned architecture scholar (John Cho) who gets stranded in Columbus, Indiana and strikes up a friendship with a young architecture enthusiast (Haley Lu Richardson) who works at the local library“.

Richardson & Cho are very good together and Richardson especially shines as a bright young woman going nowhere in life while stuck in the town of Columbus. It’s a beautiful looking film with great characters & seems like the kind of thing the Oscars would go for so I don’t know why it had no recognition that year & why I’d heard nothing about it. Well, I said a lot more about it in my full review. It’s one I’d recommend but only to certain people as it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. – 8/10

The General (1926) – Finally got around to watching this Buster Keaton film for my IMDb Top 250 Project. I have very little experience when it comes to old silent films so would feel weird saying too much with so little knowledge. I’ll just say that one of my biggest “discoveries” when starting the Top 250 Project was Charlie Chaplin. I absolutely fell in love with the three films of his that I’ve watched so far & think he was brilliant so was eager to see how Keaton compared.

I enjoyed The General & the dangerous stunts they pulled off for this film in 1926 were bloody amazing. How did he not get killed?! Very impressive. Far more impressive than all of today’s CGI bullshit! Keaton was good & I also found him oddly attractive. Like, when you like the weird, lanky, quirky guy? I always like the weird ones but I think I mainly just have a thing for any guy wearing eyeliner (like in the below photo).

However, this film didn’t connect with me the way the Chaplin films immediately did. It didn’t have the heart that those do plus I prefer Chaplin’s great physical comedy and facial expressions. City Lights especially is one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen & gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling that only the very best cinematic masterpieces can achieve. But The General’s technical achievements (is that the right word for 1926?!) are admittedly extremely impressive for the time so I have to recognize that although the Chaplin films are more my type of thing.

I’d certainly give another Buster Keaton film a try, though. But I first want to check out Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! as that’s also one I’ve not yet seen. Anyone have any other silent classics to recommend? (Yes, I’ve seen & love Metropolis & The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari). – 8/10

West Side Story (2021) – Reviewed this already. I’ll just say it’s a gorgeous film, Ariana DeBose & Rita Moreno are great, Ansel Elgort & Rachel Zegler sadly have zero chemistry, and I can’t say we necessarily needed a new adaptation when we already had a very good adaptation in 1961. But I still enjoyed seeing Spielberg’s vision of this & it’s good if it has brought this musical to the attention of a new generation. – 8/10

Fresh – Liked this quirky dark-comedy horror. And am finally starting to like Sebastian Stan after this and Pam & Tommy. He just seems to be having a lot of fun in these roles. I like him unhinged! Daisy Edgar-Jones was also perfect for this role & the two of them worked really well together. Good fun but a slightly weird film, which I guess is a satire of the horrors women face on the dating scene, that won’t be for everyone. – 7.5/10

MassMass is a good film but obviously a very heavy topic. It’s about two sets of parents who meet to discuss a tragic school shooting six years after the event. One I’d recommend but you obviously need to be in the right frame of mind to watch it. Although Mass is fiction it’s a very real and sadly far too common occurrence & one I find very upsetting. – 7.5/10

Malignant – Still trying to decide how I feel about this one. I think it’s grown on me (haha). A bit better & more original than some of James Wan’s work. I appreciated the Giallo influence but it could have used much more of that. I also liked how bonkers it got at the end, raising my score. It could have used much more of that too. – 7/10

Lionheart(also released internationally under several names including A.W.O.L: Absent Without Leave, Wrong Bet, and Leon) – Wow, those other names SUCK! What’s wrong with Lionheart?! By far the best name! Anyway. I’m an old lady so of course obsessed with ’80s & early ’90s movies but for some reason completely avoided watching any Jean-Claude Van Damme films because, well, they looked dumb. Plus he had a mullet in a lot of them. But then I watched Bloodsport last year and kind of Bloodyloved it so now I watch his movies when I notice one on a service (Lionheart is on a free one – either Plex or Pluto, can’t remember). Bloodsport is still the best by far, then Timecop, then this one. This was still good fun, though. Van Damme is in a war or something but then some gangsters set his brother on fire back in America so he goes AWOL & comes back to help his brother’s poor widow & cute kid and he somehow ends up fighting people for big money to help them pay the bills. Or some shit. I dunno. Does the plot really matter?! Oh, and he’s also on the run as he’s AWOL!

I decided at some point after watching Bloodsport that Van Damme was kind of a hottie so that may be why I keep watching his movies now. Okay, okay – it’s that amazing BUTT. Unfortunately, he doesn’t go around doing the splits all over the place in this one. What?! Why?!?! What a waste of that amazingly sexy talent. At least he had no mullet in this one. What else can I say? This film is pure 1990 cheese. But it’s fun cheese. And, hell, it has more likeable characters than a lot of movies. I liked it! Okay? I like Van Damme movies now! (But you still won’t catch me starting to watch Steven Seagal films). – 6.5/10

Old – I do like Shyamalan’s films although they’re admittedly cheesy. But I always like a good story idea & think he comes up with some fun ones plus I’m always a sucker for a twist. I enjoyed Old although, as with most of his stuff, it could have been better. – 6.5/10

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It – This was fine. As far as The Conjuring Universe films go, this is one of the slightly better ones. At least it’s better than most of the Annabelle movies. I also like it when the Warrens are in the film plus I like a good “devil movie”. Overall, though, the film is a bit forgettable. – 6/10

Turning Red – Damn. Another very disappointing Pixar film. Remember when Pixar could do no wrong?? The story was okay and the red panda was cute. The girl was fairly likeable too but, ugh, her mother was too over-the-top & annoying. Maybe I’ll give it another chance someday but I’m longing for the Pixar masterpieces we used to get from them. – 6/10

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye – I had zero interest in watching this one but stuck it on before the Oscars since Jessica Chastain was nominated. Am glad I checked it out. I knew pretty much nothing about Tammy Faye Bakker & her husband. It’s an interesting story of a lifestyle that’s very bizarre to me. Bakker comes across quite well in the movie as a woman who cared about everyone from all walks of life, thereby demonstrating some true “Christian” values much more so than the sexist & racist men in power at the time. I think it was a worthy Oscar win for Chastain. – 6.5/10

The Forever Purge – Meh. The Purge films are a guilty pleasure of mine. I LOVE the concept. But they have yet to make a truly good film from that idea, which is disappointing as there’s so much they could explore. These last two films have been the worst of the series but they were still okay. I’ve been a bit generous with my score & should probably drop it half a point but I’ll leave it as is for now. – 6.5/10

Nightmare Alley – My god, I can’t believe how utterly boring this Guillermo del Toro film was. It’s not a bad film and it looks great & I liked the setting of the carnival (although that’s only at the start – I wanted that to be the whole film). Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara are very good but Bradley Cooper is dull and the film drags on for far too long. Disappointing. – 6.5/10

No Exit – Watched this as it’s a 2022 movie release on Disney Plus. Here’s the short Wikipedia synopsis: “It stars Havana Rose Liu as a recovering drug addict who discovers a kidnapping in progress while stranded at a rest stop during a blizzard.” At the rest stop, there are four other adults who become the suspects when the main character discovers the girl in the van & doesn’t know whose van it is. So there was a bit of suspense there at first, which was fine. This is one of those movies where all the characters aren’t very likeable, though. Meh. The movie was okay, I guess. It passed the time. – 6/10

The Stand-In – First of all, I have to say that I love Drew Barrymore. She’s my same sort of age so I grew up with her. She seems so likeable & down-to-Earth (but who knows with celebs, right?! most seem like assholes). So I’ll always watch a movie with Drew. Damn – this one isn’t great, though. I still enjoyed it as it’s Drew but it’s possibly the worst of all her films that I’ve seen. I’d say it’s through no fault of her own, though. She’s fine in this dual role. She plays an actress as well as her lookalike stand-in who later becomes a part of the actress’s (is that right with the letter S together three times?!) life when that actress wants to hide away from society after her bad behavior ruins her career. The actress character was fine but the stand-in was annoying. Disappointing but, again, I’ll watch anything with Drew so didn’t feel like it was time wasted. – 5.5/10

Spencer – Holy hell I hated this godawful movie. But I had a rant about it in my full review so I don’t need to moan again here. I’ll just say thank god Stewart didn’t win Best Actress. Everything about this film was dreadful. – 4.5/10

Documentaries, Shorts & Miscellaneous:

I binged a lot of the Oscar nominated shorts (and one full-length documentary) before the Oscars. I lucked out on seeing all of the ones that ended up winning. Not that they matter since the stupid Academy decided they weren’t important enough to award live during the ceremony. Twats! What a disaster that whole thing was. Well, here’s all I watched…

Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)Winner of Best Documentary – I really enjoyed this Questlove documentary about this absolutely amazing 1969 music festival that I knew nothing about. The music was fantastic & it was great seeing so much live footage from the concert. Check out some of the performers that we see (from Wikipedia): Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mavis Staples, Blinky Williams, Sly and the Family Stone and The Chambers Brothers. What a line-up! A deserving win for Questlove. Too bad it was completely overshadowed by Will Smith being a total dickhead immediately before this award. In fact, the feed in the U.K. cut out for a while after that plus the shorter replay of the Oscars didn’t show this win (why?!) so I had to find this acceptance speech online to even see it. Ridiculous. Smith really ruined that night for everyone & took all the focus away from people who worked so hard. Ass. Anyway, we’ve all heard enough about that goddamn story! Am glad this won the Oscar & I highly recommend it to music lovers.

The Queen of BasketballWinner of Best Short Documentary – Here’s the IMDb synopsis for this one: “Queen of Basketball is an electrifying portrait of Lucy Harris, who scored the first basket in women’s Olympic history and was the first and only woman officially drafted into the N.B.A.” A fascinating story & Lucy came across as such a lovely person. Was sad to see she just passed away in January when I looked this up just now. Think I saw this on YouTube or Vimeo (as well as most of these shorts) if you want to check it out.

The Long GoodbyeWinner of Live Action Short – Not a fan of this Riz Ahmed film. Watch it on YouTube if you want to see yet more hate.

The Windshield WiperWinner of Animated Short – This animated short had lovely animation. However, the story was nothing that intriguing & dragged on for too long (for a short!). Can’t say I’ll remember anything about it in a year. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “Inside a cafe while smoking a whole pack of cigarettes, a man poses an ambitious question: “What is Love?”. A collection of vignettes and situations will lead the man to the desired conclusion.

Audible – A good short documentary on Netflix following the students of The Maryland School for the Deaf. Thought it might win the Oscar.

Lead Me Home – Another short doc on Netflix, this one following the lives of several homeless people in West Coast America.

Please Hold – I liked this live-action short the most. Very Black Mirror inspired story about a not-too-distant prison system. Here’s the YouTube link if you want to check it out.

Boxballet – A Russian animated short film about a ballerina & a boxer who grow close despite being so different. Not too bad.

Robin Robin – This stop-motion short produced by Aardman Animations is also on Netflix but, not gonna lie, I played on my phone through the whole thing so it clearly didn’t grab my attention. I’ll try to watch it again sometime.

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Community: S2 & S3 – I f*%king LOVE this show! How on Earth did I miss out on this when it was on?! I mean, I was very busy with a baby when it started in 2009 but I’m still very late to this one. So glad I just stuck it on at random one day with the family. We’re all addicted.

Last month I ranked my favorite characters (so far). My ranking probably hasn’t changed. I now currently have three favorite episodes as well. My favorite was Remedial Chaos Theory, which the above image is from. Don’t you love when you finally find out what a popular meme is from?! I’d seen that above meme sooo many times. Thanks to that episode my daughter & I now go around saying “Me so hungie! Me so hungie!” & doing the Britta dance. Because I’m a mature adult. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is a very close & brilliant second. Then Digital Estate Planning, in which I was like “That’s me!” when Pierce’s video game character was stuck behind the potted plant not knowing how to use the controller. And Troy jumping around constantly was SO my daughter.

The hubby & I were saying that’s part of why we’re so taken with this show. I think everyone who watches it would probably see parts of themselves in at least one of these misfit characters. I’m mostly a combination of Abed, Britta & Shirley with a dash of Troy (especially as Troy thought all dogs were boys & all cats were girls like I did as a kid. Ha!). I think these characters are just fantastic & work so well together. I’m already heartbroken knowing we’re right now also almost finished with Season 4, which was short, and only have two more (also short) seasons to go. What am I going to do when finished?!? Daughter said she wants to just rewatch it all again from the start. Not loved a sitcom like this for years. 🙂

Safe: – We quite enjoyed Harlan Coben’s murder mystery limited series Stay Close on Netflix so decided to check this one of his out as well. Also really enjoyed this one but preferred Stay Close. And now my daughter seems obsessed with murder mystery thrillers so am sure we’ll be watching plenty more shows like this! And I’d happily check out Coben’s books now based on these two shows. I like how many twists & turns his stories take. Any recommendations of similar shows or his best books?

Pam & Tommy: S1 E7-8 – I said plenty about this last month so I’ll just say again that I thought Sebastian Stan & especially Lily James were really good in this. Not sure the point of the show or if it needed to be made but it was interesting to see this, mainly from Pamela’s side, as she was treated horribly over the whole thing. Lightweight entertainment but, yeah, it was entertaining.

Moon Knight: S1 E1 – Only one episode so far so I don’t have much to say about it other than it didn’t grab me for whatever reason. And Oscar Isaac’s accent sounded weird as hell to me. But I’ll still continue. Maybe it’ll get better. Can’t be worse than The Falcon & The Winter Soldier!

Severance: S1 E1 – Loved the sound of this & still think it’s a great story idea but the first episode really dragged. Will give one more episode a chance to see if it picks up a bit…

Inventing Anna: S1 E1 – Found the first episode boring plus the girl’s accent or whatever the hell that was annoyed the hell out of me. But I liked seeing My Girl girl all grown up! Does the show get better?? Not sure if I’m bothered…

Punky Brewster (2021): S1 E1 – Hey, I’m an ’80s kid so I loved Punky Brewster. Very weird seeing her grown up in a new show. A bit cheesy & SO American but I’ll totally continue with it at some point.

Fleabag: S1 E1 & half of E2 – I fell asleep during episode 2. I think this one just isn’t for me. The character was funny a few times but also too much of the sort of asshole I can’t stand or relate to in any way whatsoever. No thanks.

BOOKS READ

A Song Of Ice And Fire: Book One – A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin – I FINISHED IT!!!!! Crap, do I have to review it now?! I don’t have the energy! This literally took me months to finish. Not that it’s bad or something – I’m just kind of a slow reader plus it’s long. I enjoyed it, though. I really like that it’s a book where each chapter focuses on a specific character. Was always happy to get to a chapter focusing on one of my favorites (Number 1 favorite is still easily Tyrion, followed by Daenerys & Arya). Oh! One thing I’ll say is that Jon Snow is much better in the book. I always wondered why everyone liked him in the show as I found him a bit dull. Oh! Also… they upped the ages of the “younger” generation for the show. In the first book they’re: Bran 7, Arya 9, Sansa 11. Robb Stark & Jon Snow are both 14. Daenerys is 13. And that prick Joffrey is 12 (still hate his guts).

I’d like to say I got to know the characters even more now but, surprisingly, the show was really quite faithful to this first book! Is it later that they start changing stuff more? Because as much as I HATE when adaptations aren’t faithful to a book, it also meant I didn’t exactly get any surprises while reading this after watching the show. Damn. Well, I still enjoyed this & will continue with the series. I need a break first, though. Going to read some more lightweight stuff I got from the library instead for now. – 4/5

Currently reading The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

I went movie & review crazy last month so will probably take it easier this month. Although I keep wanting to do a week of posts counting down my Top 100 bands & singers. Should I do that? Sounds like too much effort. But would be kind of fun. I miss making lists…

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

I honestly don’t know anymore what’s in cinemas but services have a terrible selection at the moment. Have Apple TV for a month so gonna try to watch Finch & binge Ted Lasso. Also want to watch Freaky, Another Round, In The Heights & The Suicide Squad on another service I have temporarily.

I end these posts with a music clip but can’t find the great Summer Of Soul full performances to share (so go watch the doc!). So here’s a song I’ve always liked from Fresh: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll:

Turning Red (2022) Review

Turning Red (2022)

Directed by Domee Shi

Starring: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, James Hong

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A 13-year-old girl named Meilin turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited.

My Opinion:

First of all, here’s my updated ranking of all the Pixar movies (other than Cars 3, which I never saw):

24. Luca
23. Cars 2
22. The Good Dinosaur
21. Onward
20. Turning Red
19. Cars
18. Incredibles 2
17. Finding Dory
16. Monsters University
15. Soul
14. Toy Story 4
13. Coco
12. Ratatouille
11. A Bug’s Life
10. Brave
9. The Incredibles
8. Up
7. Toy Story 3
6. Toy Story 2
5. Inside Out
4. Finding Nemo
3. Toy Story
2. Monsters, Inc.
1. WALL-E

At least Turning Red was slightly better than Luca, I guess?

I adore Pixar. For many years, they could do no wrong. I still can’t exactly say anything too bad since, come on – those top five films I’ve listed are amazing. Damn near masterpieces & better than most non-animated films from recent years. So they were going to have some not so great ones eventually. It’s just too bad that 3 out of the last 4 releases were duds (in my opinion). And the other one was just meh. And the two before those were okay but just sequels yet again. I guess the best most current AND original film they did was Coco, although it’s not a personal favorite. Last one I loved was Inside Out in 2015 (also a coming of age film like Turning Red but a far better example of that genre). So I’m ready for another new Pixar masterpiece to blow me away! I wonder if we’ll ever get another one like that.

Anyway. Turning Red. Hmm. I see there’s controversy online as some dude said he couldn’t relate to this movie or something like that. Or that it didn’t represent him? I don’t know. I didn’t read what he wrote so can’t comment beyond saying that I, as a female, couldn’t fully relate to it either so I hope I’m okay to say that (but that was mostly due to the awful character of the mother in this, which I’ll get to later). I’d say that this movie is much more aimed at girls so I wouldn’t expect most adult males to “relate” to it fully anyway. But they should still be able to appreciate art not aimed directly at them, especially if they’re film critics? With every movie, I like seeing different perspectives and stories and like loads of films where I don’t see myself represented on screen at all so it was kind of a stupid statement. I mean, come on – my favorite coming of age film happens to have no girls in it! And my favorite Pixar movie is about a lonely little post-apocalyptic robot. I love it despite not being a robot. Although things do feel a little post-apocalyptic these days…

I think the issue with Turning Red is that it’s just not that great. At least, it’s not up to all of our probably far too high Pixar standards. To be fair, it’s as good as anything put out by the likes of most other animation studios, such as DreamWorks. It’s not an awful film but, with that Pixar label, it unfortunately has a lot to live up to. I just feel like no one is allowed to say a movie isn’t all that great now. I’m very happy that Domee Shi got to make this film as I of course want to see more women getting equal opportunities in filmmaking. Also, I’m a very big fan of her short Bao. It probably helps that my daughter was completely obsessed with Bao for quite a while, so I’ve seen it many times. I think it’s a fantastic (and bold) short & I could really relate to the whole overprotective mother thing in it. So I was really looking forward to seeing what she’d do with a full-length film.

I think what I found most disappointing in this film was the mother, especially after finding I could relate to the mother in Bao. Believe me, I think I have many flaws as a parent but this character made me look amazing. It may have been a very long time ago but I remember my early teens like yesterday & just how easily you could end up devastatingly embarrassed by some minor thing and oh my god just want to DIE from the embarrassment. Don’t embarrass a teen girl! It’s traumatic. They’ll remember it for life. So, honestly, I don’t think any mother in her right mind would show up at her daughter’s co-ed school waving sanitary products around (sorry, small spoiler!). Good Lord – I could almost die of embarrassment just imagining that happening to me at 13. Ugh! So with that & one other incident with the mother, I found her far too over-the-top. Does anyone have a mother like that?? Maybe. Maybe I was just lucky to have a good relationship with my mom so that’s why I didn’t relate to that relationship in this film.

I feel like I’m going to end up rambling too much as I’m still trying to sort my thoughts out on this film. I think I’m wanting to talk myself into liking it more than I did. There were some things I liked. The main girl was fairly likeable. I think it’s unfortunately too easy to make girls of this age too annoying in movies, which isn’t really fair or realistic. She had a lot of emotions in this without being overly obnoxious. I also liked her group of nerdy, quirky friends. It’s always good to see a nice group of female friends in movies as I wanted that SO bad at that age (my girl friends at that age were back-stabbing bitches so I didn’t luck out in that department). Also, I liked the red panda. Who doesn’t like a red panda?? So those scenes were fun. Oh, and the animation was good. As to be expected with Pixar.

I think the point of the story was just too muddled. The girls in this family turn into red pandas when they come of age & get too emotional? Why didn’t the mother prepare her daughter for that? Oh! I just realised she’s almost as bad as Carrie White’s mother in Carrie! Well, look how THAT ended up. This movie needed some telekinetic carnage! You should prepare your daughters for the trauma of puberty. I won’t go too into the plot & how this ends but I just found it messy & didn’t fully see the point it was trying to make. To just accept what you can’t control? To be yourself? Embrace your period, maybe! Speaking of which, I suppose I should add this film to My Top Ten Period Dramas (yes, that kind of period and, yes, Carrie is number one on the list). And this is a small complaint but the obsession with the boy band was boring but, hey, I admit that I’ve never liked boy bands & can’t relate to girls who get all weird over them & their boring songs. I suppose some girls can relate to that, though. Most of all, I’ll say this: I’m old. No, this isn’t aimed at my age. But neither was Inside Out & I loved it & thought it was brilliant. My daughter, though, is the exact age of the girl in Turning Red & she really disliked the movie (maybe it’s because she hates boy bands too?!). 😉 But she adores Inside Out. And Bao. The person who liked this movie the most in our family was actually my hubby. So much for that one dude’s opinion that got trashed on Twitter! So I guess this movie just doesn’t work for some people & it has nothing to do with being “represented”. (FYI: Hubby even said this was much better than Encanto to which my daughter & I said NO WAY).

But I always say I prefer a divisive film to a boring one, so Turning Red fits that category and I do appreciate Domee Shi letting the story go pretty crazy at the end. Maybe I can talk myself into liking this but I have no desire to rewatch it again anytime soon.

My Rating: 6/10