Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (PG-13)

Directed by Tim Burton, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an odd little movie with odd characters involving a lot of imagination, including the animation and reanimation of objects (animate and inanimate) and time travel. I must say this action/adventure genre is really not my cup of tea, so it is no surprise that I was not crazy about this movie.  I went in with an open mind, ready to judge it as it played, and it didn’t play well with me.

Burton offers more of the same that he has been giving us for the length of his career. Never really been a great fan of his work outside of Beetlejuice (1988) and Edward Scissorhands (1990).  So, if you’re into this genre and Burton’s work, you will certainly enjoy Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children more than I did – and I still do not believe you will think it is anything great that you’ll want to watch again and again.  I thought his big battle scene was tired, because we have seen it before quite a few times.  There was really nothing new about it.  And his monsters look pretty much just as they did 23 years ago in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).  I saw it in 3D and there is absolutely no reason to spend the extra money, whatsoever.

One thing is for sure, everything is better with Samuel Jackson in it. The man is like bacon!  He is the only part of this movie that I truly enjoyed as he made me feel as though someone had some sort of fun making this movie.  Asa Butterfield as Jake wasn’t a good fit for the lead role in my opinion and thereby set this flat, off, tone for the entire movie.  Eva Green as Miss Peregrine didn’t do it for me either.  She was just okay.  She needed to channel Helena Bonham Carter for this.  This miscasting, along with the fact that the movie seemed to try too hard to be “strange,” made it a chore to watch at times.  I was even bored at some points, and with this material I surely should not have been.  I should have been totally consumed and into the fantasy of it all.

Another part of the problem with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the time it took to explain what was going on in the story. I suppose in the interest of time (the movie is already 2 hours 7 minutes long) the characters had to relay the information by telling pertinent details of the story instead of showing them in flashbacks and scenes.  It played like someone reading an audiobook in the middle of a movie and it was distracting and made the movie feel “choppy.”  It took an hour for the action to begin, which was tiresome, but when it did begin it was non-stop.  That’s not to say it was completely entertaining, but it was non-stop.  There was some level of suspense at times, but for me the payoff just wasn’t worth the wait.

The ending was pat, and flat, and felt rushed. I don’t know how closely they stuck to the content of the book, but I’m willing to guess there were changes made given the way the end was treated.  There was no care taken with it, like they were running out of money, or someone had to move on and shoot another movie or something.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children earned 6 bloops out of 10. It’s not a bad movie, but it could have been much better.  As stated earlier, if you’re a fan of this genre, or Burton’s work you may like it more than I did.  Kids may like it more than I did.  I’m not certain how those who read the book will receive it, but if this is how I feel about it having not read the book, I am glad I didn’t read it, because I probably would have liked it even less.

Queen of Katwe (PG)

Summer is over and we now turn to the time of year when strong Oscar contenders are released.  Queen of Katwe is an Oscar nomination-worthy film that captures you from the first note and transports you along with these characters on their journey until they drop you back off in the theater 2 hours and four minutes later.  Shoot…  I felt like I just got back from Africa when it was over.  The small (less than 25 people) but diverse adult audience I watched with cheered and applauded at the end.

Simply put, Queen of Katwe is an instant, feel-good, Disney Classic.  Lupita Nyongo slays with a performance reminiscent of Cicely Tyson and David Oyelowo brings Sidney Portier to mind again and again (he did for me at least twice).  The Queen of Katwe herself, a/k/a Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi is thoughtfully played by Madina Nalwanga, in her debut acting role.

Queen of Katwe was shot in Uganda and South Africa. The scenery becomes a character on its own as it is used over and over again to depict the humility, the poverty and the beauty of Katwe, a slum outside Kampala – the capitol of Uganda.  The scenery, lighting and camerawork are thoughtfully utilized to highlight the stark contrast between the perception of poverty and the perception of wealth and to show the difference between all other places and the small, impoverished Ugandan village of Katwe.  These elements helped the movie play like an animated Disney tale.  I would love, love, love to see this movie adapted into an animated Disney movie where the heroine is not the traditional “princess.”  I think the time to move girls’ psyches away from that mythical way of thinking is long overdue.  But that is just one woman’s opinion.

This coming-of-age tale hit all the right emotional notes for me, never becoming too melodramatic as it tells the story of a poor Ugandan girl who, along with her entire family, has to learn to cope with her ascension out of poverty, out of the life that has been a family cycle probably for generations, and out of her comfort zone.

Queen of Katwe contains valuable life lessons for children presented in a way that will resonate with them. It is okay for a girl to be brilliant and allow that brilliance to shine.  Girls can be better at things than boys sometimes, without boys taking it personally or feeling like it makes them any less brilliant.  It teaches children not to judge “books” by “covers”; not to label people and put them into the ridiculous boxes we are taught to build in our heads.  It teaches the importance of mentorship, community and family.  It teaches and/or reminds adults of the same things, as well as what a profound impact we could have on our communities if we are willing to be an example for and dedicate some time to our children.  It reminds adults that regardless of culture or ethnicity, we all want the same things for our children: for them to be safe; for them be healthy; and for them to be happy.

Queen of Katwe is an important movie for all cultures, all ethnicities, and all ages to see. It is a movie that boys will enjoy just as much as girls.  It is the story of a young girl exploring and accepting her gift and learning about the difference between confidence and arrogance – about her mother learning how to trust and allow her children to flourish and fly – and about the young girl’s chess coach who learns what his true, higher calling is.

Most importantly, Queen of Katwe is a story of empowerment for gifted children (particularly girls) who come from poverty and break free of the expectations that are placed on their lives. It is the journey of a girl unfamiliar with the business of pursuing dreams in a world where dreams really do not exist; a world where the only thing people believe in is back breaking work and hustling – and if a girl is lucky, maybe she will find a man to care for her.

I loved it, and I related to it as the mother of a gifted child who is now a gifted woman.  Fortunately, I had no trouble letting my child fly, but I can certainly understand how other mothers might.  I believe you will love this movie too if you give it a chance.  Please don’t let your children and grandchildren miss this gem.

Queen of Katwe earned 9.5 out of 10 bloops.  My only problem with it was it could have been a tad shorter.  Perhaps 15 minutes.  Other than that, I have no complaints.  The story is heart-warming and unique, features strong acting, strong female characters, evolving characters and provides plenty of conversation points for children and adults.  It is fresh material from a true life story that deserves to be told.  It made me cry sad tears and happy tears (in other words I was sniveling and wiping tears then laughing out loud the next minute).  It is thought provoking.  It helps you to appreciate the struggle of others, as well as your own as these beautiful, poor, African children who do not have a roof over their head or food to eat at times maintain smiles on their faces.  It helps you appreciate how good you’ve got it.  And it is a movie you and your children will want to watch again and again.  At least I know I will.  THIS is how you set off Oscar season!  Go Disney!

The Magnificent Seven (PG-13)

Directed by Antione Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and a host of others, The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the 1960 remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954).  Yes.  It is yet another remake of a movie that is considered a classic.

Let’s get straight to it, shall we? It is my humble opinion that the best thing about this movie is that it modernizes the 1960 version by diversifying the cast.  Many cultures and ethnicities are brought together and represented here in a way that doesn’t seem so unlikely.  This is a perfect vehicle for a diversified cast, and that diversification was excellently done.

This remake is a reminder of why Americans love westerns; lots of action, room for jokes, gun fights, camaraderie among men (some of them pretty damn good looking, by the way), suspense, fun and adventure. Even when some of the good guys are sort of bad, there is still a clear hero to root for and a villain to root against.

The slight blurring of the lines between good and evil among the “good” characters is what makes the movie interesting, along with each character’s personal motive for joining the Seven. Some of the Magnificent Seven are not people you would want to have a run-in with outside of this particular set of circumstances, but no matter their motivation you respect their noble efforts to protect this little town.

There is a not-so-subtle theme of faith that runs throughout this movie. The church is represented as the center of the community, the townspeople gather there, they pray together outside of church and many of the Seven pray or quote scripture throughout the movie.  This theme of faith helps to balance out the violence that is going on around these people who have a lot of troubles to pray on.  And this faith-based aspect adds depth to many of the characters, including the townspeople, collectively.

Vincent D’Onofrio and Ethan Hawke did some of the best acting I have seen out of them in years. You will fall in love with D’Onofrio’s wild character.  All of the Magnificent Seven were multifaceted with a brutal side and a sweet side.

I enjoyed the interactions among the Seven. The conflicts between members of the Seven were interesting to watch; sometimes tough, sometimes funny, but never too sentimental or sappy.  Until…  Well, if you watch it you will see.  This is a movie that was remade (referring to the 1960 version) at a time when “men were men” on screen.  They didn’t “do” sentiment really.  I appreciate that there were no “tender” moments among the men, except… that one…

Alas. When you see it you will know.

Problem number two (aside from that extremely annoying sentimental moment) that I had with this movie is that it never quite captures that “YEAH!!!” you want to exclaim when the good guys are winning. Of course, the victory is bittersweet for a number of reasons, but this is the type of movie where you should have to stop yourself from cheering out loud, or you don’t get upset because someone else in the theater cheered because the good guys are winning!  Aw, screw it!  I want to cheer!  “YEAH!!!”  I never quite got to that moment of being invested and really rooting for the good guys.  I was just a woman in a theater watching a pretty good movie.  I mean, the shooting was entertaining.  Don’t get me wrong.  But this is the type of movie where the audience should be clapping at the end!  That feeling of triumph never came for me.  Now, when the good guys got hurt – THAT I felt.

Somebody has got to say it, so it might as well be me.  Denzel Washington should have lost about 20 pounds for this role. He would have fit the character so much better.  No one believes this fat rich looking dude did the stunt he does – not as soft-around-the-middle as he looks here.  I understand he is getting older, and that’s fine, but this character is an active, bad-ass who rides around the country collecting bounties.  Make me believe it!  At least put on a girdle man!  Just because his character is quick with a gun doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be in shape.  And yeah, I’m gonna go there – Yule Brynner didn’t have a paunch!

And again with the whitened teeth where they do not belong! Whitened teeth and the old West do not go together.  Ever.  I can see I’m going to need to send an email to makeup artists and directors across the industry and remind them of this.  Seriously.  It has become a real problem that makes Hollywood productions that attempt to capture a certain period look quite inauthentic and it needs to stop!

So, there it is. The Magnificent Seven, not a terrible remake, but neither a masterpiece earned 7.5 out of 10 bloops.  It could have been better, but it is a good movie worth seeing.  The prolonged final gun battle makes it screen worthy, and it goes along quite well until…  Well…

Hell or High Water (R)

Every once in a while I come across a movie that I do not realize I like as much as I do until I begin to write about it, like The Lobster, which I wound up giving 10 out of 10 bloops.  Something about the process of writing allows me to examine the movie more closely; to think about the movie and all of its moving parts and how well those parts fit together.  It usually happens when I really like a film that is thoughtfully made and has a lot of subtext, strong characters and an intricate story line, and this is what happened, unexpectedly, with Hell or High Water.

In Hell or High Water, Toby, a divorced dad of two (played by Chris Pine) and his recently released from prison brother Tanner (played by Ben Foster) resort to robbing banks in order to save their West Texas family ranch.  The banks they rob are branches of the bank that issued the mortgage loan on the ranch.  They must have all the money owed to the bank, “come hell or high water,” by Thursday to avoid foreclosure.  That means an entire week of bank robbing will be taking place on a very tight schedule so they can meet their goal.  And so the adventure begins.

Hell or High Water is billed as a criminal drama but plays like a western, set in dusty, open carry state Texas with rangers, cowboys and even “Indians.” It is a super bro movie with the two brothers as bros, being pursued by bros/Texas Rangers Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Parker (Gil Birmingham).  Then, as the two law enforcement bros pursue the outlaw bros, more bros join in, and it becomes a regular “bro-fest.”

Chris Pine does a solid job as the nicer, smarter, seemingly more level-headed of the two villains. He is the alleged “brains” behind the operation and provides a good contrast to his wild brother.  Ben Foster is outstanding and steals the show as this misunderstood, impulsive, ne’er do well ex-con who is willing to do anything for his family and to save the family ranch.  Jeff Bridges does a great job playing a sometimes comedic, crusty but smart Texas Ranger slated for retirement within a month, pursuing these two during their bank robbing spree.  And Gil Birmingham plays a great counterpart to Bridges character as the butt of his insults and the man who knows him best.

Hell or High Water is smart, funny, suspenseful, and adventurous. It is a movie that does not appear to take itself too seriously and provides a true sense of fun to the audience while also demonstrating a lot of conflict between and among nearly every character; the two brothers, the two law men, the lawmen and their waitress, the lawmen and their witnesses, the wild brother and a Native American at a casino, the wild brother and a prostitute at the casino, the brothers and the bank, the townspeople and the bank – the list goes on and on.  It is these conflicts that give the film its depth, without making the subject matter feel too “heavy.”  The movie strikes a fine balance between humor, adventure, conflict and violence.  All the moving parts fit together extremely well.  It is well written with rich dialogue that is intricately woven among these multifaceted characters, making it more interesting than your run-of-the-mill, tough guy western.  Even the bank becomes its own character along the way.

Hell or High Water isn’t without problems, but the problems are small.  Just the cut of two super short scenes and one line would have made this movie even stronger and more enjoyable, but that is just my opinion, and it is certainly subjective.  I don’t do spoilers, so I can’t really go into the scenes or the line, but lets just say, sometimes less is more and with a script and acting this strong, extras become quite unnecessary.

Hell or High Water earned 9 out of 10 bloops. It has been out for about six weeks.  I wish I could have gotten to it earlier because it is a mostly light-feeling, perfect-for-summer movie that is well acted, written and directed and not too long.  If you enjoy movies with bank robberies, gun battles, explosions and car chases, you might want to check this one out.  I think you’ll enjoy it.  Even if “shoot ‘em up” movies are not your thing, I think you will enjoy this one because it is so thoughtfully made.  At the very least, when it comes to cable or streaming be sure not to miss it.

Bloops:

1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

My Welcome Message

Oscar reviews:

Hidden Figures
Fences
Moonlight
Loving
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Nocturnal Animals
Captain Fantastic
Elle
Jackie
Florence Foster Jenkins
I Am Not Your Negro

When the Bough Breaks (PG-13)

When the Bough Breaks, starring Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall and Jaz Sinclair, is billed as a drama/horror/mystery. None of these words come close to describing what this movie really is… A mess. It is the story of a couple with fertility issues who engage a beautiful, young, crazy, unvetted surrogate who turns their seemingly idyllic life into a nightmare of sorts.

Written by Jack Olsen, When the Bough Breaks borrows from a number of established, successful movies in this genre, including but not limited to, Jagged Edge (1985), Fatal Attraction (1987) and Sleeping with the Enemy (1991). If you notice the years on these films, you will realize that the market is full with a slew of films that have attempted to imitate their success, and failed. They fail by borrowing the positive elements of these films and leaving those elements to stand on their own – as if that is all a film needs to be good. These movies were full of great acting, engaging stories and believable plot twists that made sense – making anything “crazy” that happened or that may have seemed a bit unlikely, forgivable. They were full of mystery and suspense. Imitations fail by not using the elements of these movies in a cohesive, logical way and not supporting the elements with good writing.

More was needed to make When the Bough Breaks seem like something that could really happen to anyone in real life. It is lazy movie making at its worst (which I hate to see and hate to write about even more), with the plot relying on characters doing ridiculous things to move the story along. Ridiculous things like hiring a surrogate with no background check who just happened into the surrogate agency office that day, inviting strangers into their home, failing to set boundaries when some heifer “borrows” your dress and beats you at a game of “who wore it best,” disclosing far too much personal information to strangers in the context of a business relationship, having guns at your beach house but none at your primary residence – which is a glass structure worth millions that has no apparent security system. Even strapping a baby into a car seat somehow manages to land on the “stupid things to do” list in this movie. Twice.  The list of ridiculous acts goes on and on.

I suspect that black people, generally speaking (I’ll go out on a limb here and assume we will most likely make up the majority of the audience, and I’m speaking for myself right now – so don’t go getting all up in arms), will be particularly ticked off at this movie as I repeatedly heard “We would never do that” or “This must be written by some white people.” Surely, whoever wrote it (Jack Olsen), regardless of whatever ethnicity he may claim, needs to go back and try again. The plot is full of holes and the story becomes more and more implausible as we go along. I enjoy seeing diversity in film making and I feel like it should always be a positive thing for studios to do, and I love when it is done correctly. I believe there are many rich, original, diverse stories to be told by people of all ethnicities. But inserting black people into a stale movie and a somewhat stale genre, will not make anything fresh or new again – particularly when the movie has a soggy plot line to begin with and is very poorly written.

Nothing is all bad, and witnessing Jaz Sinclair’s decent into madness during her pregnancy was a pleasure. Also, the imperfections in this marriage that seemed so perfect from the outside were interesting points.

When the Bough Breaks earned 4 out of 10 bloops. I can’t even describe in words how poor I thought this movie was. It could have been good, but fails at every single turn. A waste of film and a waste of my time, except I went with my beautiful family and had a chance to create a memory of 7 people agreeing they did NOT care for the film selection. But if you want to see some black people looking quite lovely and doing pretty solid acting while doing some really stupid things, then this might be your movie.

Sully (PG-13)

Seeing a movie which features engine failure and the emergency water landing of a commercial passenger jet is admittedly not the smartest thing I have ever done the night before flying out to Las Vegas from New York on vacation, and I may regret it tomorrow; but one thing you will not regret is going to see Sully, starring Tom Hanks (as Chelsley “Sully” Sullenberger) and Aaron Eckhart (as co-pilot Jeff Skiles).  Say what one will about crazy ass, empty chair-talking-to, closeted racist, republican zealot Clint Eastwood, but the man is a cinematic legend who knows how to direct the heck out a movie.  My take on Clint is that the dude has seen a lot.  He’s a senior citizen who’s paid his dues and he can say and do whatever he wants.

Anywayz…

Tom Hanks is back, doing what he does best; embodying a character. Tom has had a long and prestigious career playing fictional and real life characters well, but I believe Sully may be one of the best publicly “known” characters he has portrayed, if not one of the most beloved.  We know what Sully looks like and how he speaks.  All of Sully is still fresh in our minds.  Hanks does a great job of capturing Sully’s demeanor – his humility, his grace and his strength.  You will fall in love with Sully all over again.  And if you didn’t adore him the first time around, you will now.

It makes me question myself and examine my thoughts and feelings more deeply every time a man captures the essence of a real life character without necessarily looking like the man he is portraying, where a woman is under so much pressure to have the physical characteristics of the woman she is portraying. If she does not pass “the resemblance test,” one can hardly get past the criticism of her looks to tell whether her acting is any good.  I suppose it comes from some sort of systemic brainwashing and is something about myself I will have to work on, but Hanks doesn’t look like Sully here.  He merely lost a bit of weight and dyed his hair silver so that he resembled him, and that was good enough for me.  I didn’t mind a bit.

It feels as though this water landing happened just yesterday to those of us who witnessed it or learned about it that day on the news, so what can be told of the story that we do not already know? This movie offers a fresh take by capturing the events of January 15, 2009 from multiple perspectives: the perspective of the plane – US Airways flight 1549 – itself (brilliantly); the flight crew and passengers; the rescue workers; the media; witnesses to the low flying plane over the Hudson River and the landing; the greater public who found out about it later on the news; the National Transportation Safety Board; and eventually, Sully and Jeff.  We are also allowed an in-depth look at the investigation that followed the incident.

The supporting cast was very strong, and it was refreshing to see a movie filled with characters played by veteran actors who we don’t get an opportunity to see working together often.  It was nice to see a movie about experienced, adult professionals acting like adults, doing adult things and having adult reactions.  It was also interesting to see how something so big happening to someone who is so humble can be extremely challenging, and not the great ride one would think it might have been.

Something about Sully has the feel of an old fashioned disaster movie such as The Towering Inferno (1974) or the Poseidon Adventure (1972), in a good way.  I think that like those films, Sully is a perfect film to watch in a theater.  I imagine that the experience of it in a theater is so much more impactful than it would be on a television at home – although today’s televisions are much larger and vivid than they were back then.  Sully was suspenseful, even though you know how it ends and nobody dies.  And it is still interesting material because it is not simply a retelling of a story we already know.

This movie is playing with Dolby sound and in 3D. I saw it in 2D, and skipped the added, extra loud sound, and the movie was able to stand on its own without all the bells and whistles.  I was curious about what the flight scenes would look like in 3D as I was watching them, but I wasn’t paying $21 for a ticket to find out.  The version I saw was just fine in the format in which it was shown.

Sully earned 8 bloops out of 10. It’s a great movie you shouldn’t miss.  It is a movie which was made to been seen in the theatre so you can feel the impact of the water and experience the suspense and the landing on the big screen.  I think you will agree it’s worth it.

Morgan (R)

Morgan, starring Kate Mara (as corporate risk-management consultant, Lee Weathers) and Anya Taylor-Joy (as government artificial intelligence experiment, Morgan), is the story of a top-secret government attempt at perfecting AI, gone wrong.  Several scientists have been sequestered for years with an AI project intended to improve upon earlier prototypes.  After a violent incident, Lee is sent to assess the situation and decide what the next steps should be for Morgan.

If you think it would be difficult to eat an animal, such as a chicken, or a pig, after naming it and treating it as a pet, imagine having to possibly exterminate a science project that is so lifelike you haven’t bothered using its code name for years. It is just Morgan.  This is what these scientists who have lived with Morgan since its creation must decide.  Do we protect Morgan at all cost, or allow its fate to be left in the hands of a stranger?  We learn in research ethics 101 that this “closeness” these scientist have with Morgan is an absolute no-no.  How can objective data be gathered when the scientists are so close to the subject?  It cannot.

I enjoyed this movie, not only because it emphasized how human emotion can be a hindrance as it relates to science and the emphasis on these scientists and their various reactions to this crisis, but also because it reminded me of how people now humanize pets/animals. When I was growing up, a pet was a pet.  The fish died, you flushed it down the toilet; cat acted up, kid allergic to it, you took it somewhere and “lost” it; dog or cat sick, you put it down; dog died, you bury it in the back yard.  There was no medication, insurance or funerals for cats and dogs like there is now.  There was no veterinarian reptile specialist (oh yes they do exist!) to treat your sick or injured turtle.  Pets had no clothes or strollers or boots or hats.  Pets were no less loved by their families then, but there was a much clearer demarcation between humans and the pets they kept.  This is just my personal observation and opinion, and it is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, a right thing or a wrong thing, it just is – but the human/pet relationship seemed to consist of much less dependence on the human end back then.  Your pet was your pet.  Period.

Maybe those were simpler, more ignorant times. Most people now believe that animals have souls where this was not even a question that was thought about then in regard to a pet.  We have always known animals have thoughts and feelings and can express love, gratitude, grief, etc.  Some even believe that animals are eligible to enter animal or even human heaven – yet another question that wasn’t generally pondered in the past.  There has been so much “enlightenment” about pets and animals in recent years (if only we could be so enlightened regarding one another).  But no matter how enlightened we become, pets are not, nor will they ever be, human.  And whether you are a pet owner of the past or a modern day “pet parent,” none of this negates how attached a human can become to their dog or cat or bird, or whatever type of pet they choose.  This is what reminded me of Morgan – or rather – what Morgan brought to mind for me.  Morgan is like the dog that attacked you and took several huge chunks out, but you cannot put it down because you love it too much, and you believe “she really is a good dog.”  Similarly to how many people would feel about their pets, Morgan is “humanoid” or almost like a human, but she is not human, and she never will be.

This movie is better than it appears at first look. The subject matter is interesting and somewhat original as it deals thoroughly with the many complex human emotions surrounding a man-made, artificially human science project.  It shows how human emotions can put one at a disadvantage vs. the advantages a lack of emotion can give one in the ability to make “cold” but calculated decision.  The acting is solid with not one complaint.  The tone of the movie feels “flat” at times, but that, I believe, is purposeful. And it works mostly, because Morgan’s affect is flat, as she has the capacity to mimic human emotion, but lacks the capacity to really “feel.”  Or does she?

Morgan earned 7.5 out of 10 bloops. It is a good movie, worth seeing if you are at all interested in sci-fi and/or AI.  It also contains some well-choreographed action scenes.  There is some graphic violence which is why the movie is rated R, but it is not “overly gory” in my opinion.  They could have gone much further on the gore but did not and I appreciate that.  No need in turning something interesting into a bloody gore-fest.  It would have been unnecessary.

White Girl (?)

Starring Morgan Saylor and Brian Marc, White Girl (a reference to the main character, as well as a cocaine reference) is the work of first-time feature length film director and writer, Elizabeth Wood.

If you notice, this movie has no rating and I could not find one anywhere.  So, let me start off by saying, I have no problem with sex scenes – not even graphic sex scenes – particularly if within the context of the movie these scenes are relevant and/or necessary to evoke emotion or make some point. But to have sex scene after sex scene, after sex scene – boy/girl, girls/girl, threesomes, on rooftops, in cars, in clubs…  We get it!  The girl is wild.  She likes drugs and lots of them so she does a lot of drugs, she likes sex and a lot of it so she has a lot of sex.  Her friends like drugs and sex, they do drugs and have sex.  By the time the fifth or sixth sex scene occurred, I had already clearly gotten the point that this is a naïve, wild child who uses extremely poor judgment and puts herself in harm’s way nearly every day of her manufactured life.  Oh yes.  And she likes to do drugs and have sex.  The unfortunate thing is that this fifth or sixth sex scene was an important scene, but by the time it happened, I was over it.  The final sex scene (number “I lost friggin’ count” at this point) was important as well, but I had been through so many sex scenes by then, it just didn’t even matter anymore.  Maybe that was the point.  I can’t really say.  But if there were fewer sex scenes, these two scenes would have stood out more and been much more powerful and meaningful when they occurred.  This is a time where less would have been more.

While the emphasis on drugs and sex as a lifestyle was indelibly impressed, the message of inequality in the justice system was glossed over like some minor detail. Almost as if it were just thrown in as an afterthought to make the movie even more hip and current than it already attempts to be, since it is solely mentioned in one line by one character, and stated very matter-of-factly with no follow up dialogue about it.  Otherwise, it need not have been mentioned at all.

Speaking of current, one of the film’s stars, Justin Bartha states in an article with Vanity Fair that this film is “current and irreverent.” Irreverant it surely is, but aside from the mention of the disparity in sentences meted out between white and non-white, rich and poor, this film examines a lot of the things that have been going on since the beginning of time, including but not limited to, drugs, sex, “interracial” dating, class systems, prejudice, privilege, etc.  The film is also reminiscent of many coming of age movies where drugs, wild behavior and naiveté are combined.  One positive thing this film does demonstrate is how girls who are on a path to something positive can get caught up with a boy, lose focus, lose themselves, lose sight of their goals, and lose everything.  Another message I took away is that because this girl is white and comes from what appears to be a middle class family, when she walks within a world of drugs with poor, non-whites she can do things they cannot because she is not perceived the way they are, despite the fact that she is the most obvious, unruly and reckless one of the bunch. Finally, the last message seemed to be white people beware of sending your white daughters to the big city to go to college.  As if this girl wasn’t wild enough on her own when she arrived.

This is a film that attempts to be “bold,” “daring,” and “cutting edge,” that simply is not. It almost devolves into just a junkie, skanky, slut-fest where you can barely feel any sympathy for the main character because she makes the most foolish decisions again and again and again and again, until she just seems stupid and annoying.

Morgan Saylor offers up some solid acting as this oblivious, super-naïve, “white girl,” who has no idea of the danger she regularly places herself in while in her haze.  I understand what it is like to be young and wild, and young and stupid, but to be young, wild and stupid is a disastrous combination – regardless of one’s ethnicity.  Ms. Saylor pulls it off well here.  She is just stumbling through life by the grace of God, just as all proverbial fools and babies do.  Acting like a grownup doing what she believes to be “grown-up things,” but with the mind-set of a child, as so many young adults do when we are trying to find ourselves.  Brian Marc as the sensitive drug dealer was less convincing in his role.  In his defense, I believe he may have done the best he could with a very complex character that wasn’t very well written.  Judgmental anti-drug taking drug dealer, romantic, cry baby (according to his peers), living with grandma, been locked up a couple of times before, no goals, no dreams, no prospects.  He had to attempt to navigate between being a tough, street-wise drug dealer and this sensitive, sometimes romantic, throwaway kid who was living a life that was chosen for him, rather than one he chose.  He was not very convincing at pretending to be a tough guy – unless that was intentional as well.  I’m not even sure and don’t think I really care.  The rest of the cast did a decent job with the material they had to work with.

Anyway, White Girl earned 5 out of 10 bloops. I would consider it worth a watch if you don’t have to pay (thank goodness I did not have to).  Younger people may like it better because it features younger people, but I don’t believe a pair of younger eyes will make this movie any better than it is.

Revision: White Girl earned 6 bloops out of 10. After sleeping on it, I did see how an attempt to show the inequality between whites and non-whites in the justice system was further emphasized. It just wasn’t shown clearly enough, and the message was still overshadowed by the mostly unnecessarily gratuitous sex scenes. Still would not advise paying to see it, because the message is delivered tepidly. One thing one does not want in what could have been a much more powerful movie, is a tepid approach to the subject matter.