Bitter Harvest (R)

Starring Samantha Barks and Max Irons, Bitter Harvest is the story of a romance interrupted by war which takes place during the 1932-1933 Holdomor famine genocide (yeah… I didn’t know what Holdomor was either before I saw this movie quite honestly and if you knew, good for you!), where it is estimated that between 2.5 and 7.5 million Ukrainians were murdered by government enforced starvation. The Soviet government, under Joseph Stalin, took increasing amounts of grain grown by Ukrainian farmers until the percentage being taken was 100%, and the Ukranian people were literally left to starve and die as part of their punishment for their protest to having the Soviet Union take over their farmland and their country.  I hope I made that clear enough.  If not, just google it.

I must say upfront that the most notable aspect of this movie is how good looking these actors are. They are going through these hardships and everyone just looks beautiful while they are doing it.  Even the older actors are quite attractive.  And not only are they good looking, they can actually act.  Overall, they put in a collectively strong performance.  I would go to see Tamer Hassan in any movie he shows up in after this.  That’s how well he performed.  He was a bad guy, I believed him wholeheartedly, and I wanted to see somebody hurt him.  That’s how convincing he was at being rotten.

The cinematography, camerawork, costumes, makeup and set design, were all well done. Bitter Harvest does a fine job at relaying the horrors, savagery, and inhumanity of war, the dangers of blindly following authority and orders, and the danger in resistance and protesting “the powers that be.”  You will be completely sympathetic toward the oppressed and hate the oppressors as yet another shameful piece of history is recounted.

Bitter Harvest is creatively written as this love story within a war story or this war story within a love story, depending on how you look at it.  It leaves it up to the viewer to decide which way they see it as these stories run simultaneously and sort of compete for your attention.

The problem with Bitter Harvest is the way in which the story is told. The parts of the picture were based on true events, but one can tell, or at least I could, that the love story is most likely not based on a true story.  The love story becomes outlandish at some point because the main characters face and escape certain death too many times to be credible.  Not that miraculous stories do not exist, but this was a bit too fantastic.  I won’t say whether either of them live or die in the end (if you even care one way or another), but they certainly live a lot longer than anyone would believe they could have in the real world under their unique set of circumstances.

Because the love story and the war story seem to compete you are pulled into and out of the movie depending on which element of the story you prefer.  (Unless of course you enjoy both elements; in which case, you won’t have the same problem with the story that I had, naturally.)  I preferred the part of the movie that was geared toward the war and the resistance over the love story, so during the war I was absorbed into this movie. There were times I forgot all about the love story until the movie came back to it and I was less interested, less excited, less invested and kind of just hanging out and waiting to get back to the war.

Holdomor is shown from the perspective of a couple from two small families in what seemed like a very small but tight knit village, so one would never guess from watching this movie that an estimated 28,000 people starved to death daily at the height of this famine without doing further research.  The way the starvation was shown in Bitter Harvest, and since I had no frame of reference for the scope or the scale of the deaths, it didn’t strike me from looking at this movie that the famine was that severe.

Bitter Harvest earned 8 out of 10 bloops. It is definitely better than good, and even though the love story becomes too miraculous and the Holdomor is too scaled down, it manages to pull off an “epic” feel despite being one hour and 43 minutes, which makes it kind of great.  I will not say, “don’t miss it” because despite it’s interesting aspects, I fully understand that it is definitely not the type of story that everyone will enjoy.  The historical aspect of the story makes it worth watching.  I am truly getting tired of finding out about how many things the New York City public school system failed to teach me in these movies, but I am thankful the stories are being told now.  If you knew about Holdomor before watching this movie, or you are from Eastern Europe or are an Eastern European history buff, or are just a hopeless romantic who is a sucker for a love story, you will most likely enjoy Bitter Harvest even more than I did.

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!

Welcome message

Notes:

  • Congratulations to Moonlight, one of my favorites and one of only three movies out of 90 that I gave 10 bloops last year (the other 2 were The Lobster and Miss Sharon Jones), for winning Best Picture at the Oscars!  A well deserved accolade.   I would have posted predictions, but  chose not too because I was just too emotionally attached to Moonlight to be objective about anything else.

What I’m Watching this Week

Oscar reviews:

Hidden Figures

Fences

Moonlight

Hell or High Water

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

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The Girl with All the Gifts (R)

Starring 12 year old Sennia Nanua, The Girl With all the Gifts is a next level drama/horror/thriller zombie flick with a couple of fresh zombie plot twist.  Going in, I knew nothing about the story.  I have not read the novel by Mike Carey, who wrote the screenplay as well.  (Hell, I just found out it was adapted from a book for the first time today, quite honestly.)  I had not seen a trailer.  Nothing.  But I was pleasantly surprised by this zombie movie with a message.

The thing about zombie movies is that they’re all very similar and follow a tried and true formula. There are usually some sort of post-apocalyptic-type conditions.  A group of people are fighting for their survival.  The group searches for shelter.  The group searches for supplies.  The group searches for food.  The group searches for safety.  There’s always some conflict within the group.  Some of the group lives, some of the group dies.  They search for a cure or an antidote, blah, blah, blah.  In recent years, what has set these movies apart is mostly the advancement of special effects and increased gore.  So, all one really has to do is write a script (because it’s just so easy…) so that it stands out from the rest of the zombie movies in the smallest way, and it makes all the difference somehow; to people who enjoy zombie movies, at any rate.  That is what The Girl with All the Gifts achieves.  It stands out from other zombie movies that have come before by approaching the human/zombie relationship in a new way.  It is smartly written so that you begin to look at a young zombie as nothing more than a child (who will literally eat your face if given the chance) with special needs.  You even grow to like the zombie and not in a comedic sense.  But, ‘would you or could you ever trust the zombie?’ becomes the question.  This is where the suspense of this movie lies and it is definitely a welcome departure, an upgrade even, from your typical zombie movie.

The Girl with All the Gifts has plenty of action. It has a bit of humor to it.  It never gets silly.  You become invested in the story because of its unique twists.  The acting is great.  Sennia Nanua does an amazing job of just being a regular, smart, inquisitive, sometimes too talkative, smart alecky, 12 year old kid with a very unique problem.  The set design, cinematography, wardrobe, makeup and effects, are all quite good. Although, unfortunately, there is one glaring problem with the plot that makes absolutely no sense; and it happens twice.  If you see it, I believe that you will recognize what I’m talking about immediately.  But hey, you gotta make a movie somehow, right?  Sometimes every little thing just cannot be made to make sense.  But this problem diminished the quality of what could have been a stronger movie.

At any rate, The Girl with All the Gifts earned 8.5 out of 10 bloops. If you like a good zombie movie, you should enjoy this one.  Two people I know who have read the book do not care for the adaptation.  At all.  You may feel differently.  Who knows?  It is showing at only one theater in New York City, The Village East Cinema, if you want to see it on the big screen and I believe you can also catch it On Demand today.

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!

Welcome message

Notes:

  • Fist Fight – I won’t be reviewing Fist Fight.  Couldn’t find myself motivated to write about it in the week since I’ve seen it, so I’m going to let it go.  It was alright.  Nothing to write home about.  Maybe even cute.  7 out of 10 bloops. 
  • The “Upcoming” section is now renamed “What I’m Watching this Upcoming Week” since I am learning that just because I watch it doesn’t mean it will inspire a review.

What I’m Watching this Upcoming Week

Oscar reviews:

Hidden Figures
Fences
Moonlight
Hell or High Water
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

A Cure for Wellness (R)

Starring Dale DeHaan (Lockhart), Mia Goth (Hannah) and Jason Isaacs (Volmer), A Cure for Wellness is the story of an ambitious young executive sent to retrieve one of his company’s board members from a serene but extremely mysterious wellness center in the remote Swiss Alps. Lockhart soon begins to suspect that this spa’s miraculous “treatments” may not be what they seem. Terrifying secrets and his sanity unravel simultaneously as he attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Billed as a drama/fantasy/horror film, unfortunately even in its description, A Cure for Wellness is a film that wants to do and be too many things at once. Mark 8:36 states: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”  This is the theme that runs throughout this movie as it thumbs its nose at the greedy elite, but the message gets sort of muddled because simultaneously another part of the story revolves around the mystery behind a legend involving the land the wellness center is built upon, another part is about this wellness center and what really goes on there, and yet another part of the movie features a bazaar love triangle of sorts.

Dale DeHaan does a great job and is such a perfect fit as this young man trying to navigate his way to success in the corporate world at any cost. His life isn’t great, his heart is hardened and he is bitter and unlikeable.  Mia Goth makes a perfectly creepy ethereal muse.  Jason Isaacs is pretty brilliant as a mysterious sort of mad scientist.

The cinematography is sometimes breathtaking. It is indeed a beautiful movie to watch.  The effects, makeup, costume design, set design, are all well done.  A Cure for Wellness, unfortunately, has much trouble with its writing.  The story is messy with multiple stories all playing out at once.  The result is a movie that lacks focus.  At one point the movie seems to become stagnant, and it just takes too long to move along (the risk which is run when a movie is 2 hours and 26 minutes long).  Also, like so many horror movies these days, the end devolves into ridiculousness and what could have been packaged as a somewhat solid story, at the very least, winds up being a waste of time because the end is just so deeply unsatisfying.

Even with the messy story, A Cure for Wellness earned 7 out of 10 bloops.  The acting is fine, but the story goes stagnant and drags at one long point, with a poorly executed resolution.  Even though it may be worth a watch for the beautiful cinematography, the movie is simply too long, and the story is lacking, or has too much crammed into it, depending on how you look at it.  Stream it when it becomes available.  There are worse things you could do with 2 hours and 26 of your life, I suppose.

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!

Welcome message

Upcoming:

  • Fistfight
  • The Great Wall
  • The Girl with All the Gifts

Oscar reviews:

Hidden Figures
Fences
Moonlight
Hell or High Water
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

Get Out (R)

Get Out is Jordan Peele’s feature length solo writing and directorial debut starring Daniel Kaluuya (as Chris) and Allison Williams (as Rose).  It is touted as a “social thriller,” and oh what a social thriller it is.  Get Out tackles some of the problems with America’s “race relations” from a black man’s perspective who is dating a white woman and meeting her family for the first time.

The comedy here comes from two main sources. Rose’s white family and their odd social circle who are super polite toward Chris, but manage to also be quite offensive quite often.  They are not openly crude and/or blatantly racist, but every subtle, offensive comment shows they do not look at this black man as their equal.  It is not only funny, but at times it may feel a bit uncomfortable to watch – which I enjoyed.  Chris’ friend (played by LilRel Howery from The Charmichael Show) acts as his sounding board and “voice of reason” – but in the most hilarious way.

Now the social part. To be clear, from the perspective of a black person living in 2017 America, the “problem,” or should I say a large part of the problem, is that “America” seems to love black people for our gifts, our talents and the swag of or culture, but dooooooesn’t necessarily love black people.  It’s akin to being in an abusive relationship.  All the good stuff is great.  But we (and I use the word “we” loosely because I certainly cannot speak for every black person) don’t feel the love.  We don’t feel celebrated as equals.  We feel disregarded at times.  We feel unsafe. We feel like America loves, values and even covets our gifts, but America doesn’t quite know how to “love” “us.”

As for the horror, Get Out is well written, as Peele draws from many classic horror films (Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The People Under the Stairs (1991), The Stepford Wives (1975), The Shining (1980), and many more), then fuses them with the horrors of Guess Whose Coming to Dinner (1967) in a way that makes it all feel fresh.  Even though he is drawing inspiration from many places, he manages to create something original and unique.  There is not another movie quite like it that I can think of.

The energy of the film lasts all the way through to the end, which is rare in horror these days because many times the last 15 to 20 minutes feel like a throwaway and have ruined many films. There are scares, jumps, suspense and mystery that will keep you guessing about one thing or another as it allows your imagination to roam where you begin to imagine what is next.  Sometimes you’re right.  Sometimes you’re wrong.

The acting is infected by all these little notes of inspiration from these classic movies, in an excellent way. Many scenes, gestures and inflections will bring those movies to mind upon reflection, but somehow in the moment the actors make these homages their own.  The entire cast committed to their roles and also seemed to have had some creative fun with this fresh-feeling material.

I take my hat off to Jordan Peele.  He wrote a meaningful script that is so deep you could examine it for days, but at the same time, it is fun, funny, suspenseful, and something about it rings so true that it is absolutely terrifying to think about.  The tightrope that is walked to create a homogenous blend of real life, horror and humor is nothing short of brilliant.  It is so thoughtfully written, you have to pay constant attention to get the gist of it all; so please do.  And even after paying close and constant attention, you will have a question or two.  And I have to say — BINGO is amazing.

Get Out earned 9 out of 10 bloops.  The deft fusing of classic films without feeling like the movie ripped anything off directly and taking on race as a theme for a horror movie makes Get Out a must-see movie. I would see it again (and I want to because there is just one small thing I didn’t quite understand or I missed that is bothering the heck out of me).  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a horror movie you have to put some thought into.  Get Out has everything you want in a scary movie and then some.  When I say go see it, you will enjoy it, I’m not kidding.  Go see it.  I really think you will enjoy it.

Thank you for reading. You can scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, enter your email address, follow me and never miss a review!

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!

Notes:

  • Good Ole Boy – Left the box office so fast I missed it.  I’ll review it when it streams if it’s worth it.  I do my best to get to these movies I say I will review, but it doesn’t always work out as planned.

Upcoming:

  • A Cure for Wellness
  • Fistfight
  • The Great Wall

Welcome message

Other reviews:

It
Good Time
Dunkirk
Girls Trip
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Big Sick
Baby Driver
All Eyez on Me 
It Comes at Night 
The Wedding Plan 
Wonder Woman
Everything, everything
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Raw

Kong: Skull Island
Logan
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Hidden Figures
Fences
Moonlight
Hell or High Water
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

A United Kingdom (PG-13)

Based on a true story, A United Kingdom centers on the international stir created when African Prince/soon to be King Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) of Botswana married Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London, in the late 1940s.  By marrying Williams, Khama went against hundreds of years of tribal tradition and South African (influential neighbor to Botswana under British rule) and British laws and norms. There many political legal hurdles to jump, as Apartheid was just emerging as the law of the land in neighboring South Africa.  This is the story of how Khama and Williams worked and sacrificed to overcome intercontinental prejudice.

This story has great historic value. I had never heard of these people before and it was interesting to learn about them.  Their story was unique because there were so many layers to the single issue that one of them was African and the other Caucasian.  There was enough prejudice to go around in this movie.  The white people were prejudiced against the African.  The prince’s own family rejected him and did anything but support him because he married this white woman.  The human and political elements of their situation makes the movie really quite riveting and adds a lot of drama and suspense to the story.  The way the political interests interfered you would have thought they each had committed bloody murder, rather than gotten married.  Thank goodness some things have changed, although we all also know, there is too much that remains the same.

This movie contains many lessons and morals about prejudice, bigotry and hate, judging people by their character, not the color of their skin or their gender or their nationality, etc. The most important thing I enjoyed seeing touched upon in this movie is that loving a person outside of one’s ethnicity does not automatically indicate some lack of self-love or love for one’s “own people.”  This man loved his wife, his tribe and his country and he worked extremely hard and made many serious sacrifices to protect and care for all three.

Oyelowo and Pike do a good job here, although I can’t say I felt any real chemistry between them, which is never a good thing when two people are playing husband and wife. I would have to watch it again to confirm this, but that will take a while.  I’ve got too many movies to see to do repeats (with the exception of Moonlight which I’ve seen 3 times, and I’ll go see it again. Any time.)  There is nothing wrong with any of the acting, or cinematography or costumes, or set design.  It’s all fine.  But, maybe because the last time I saw Oyelowo he was playing a Ugandan chess coach in Queen of Katwe (Which I enjoyed much more than this movie by the way – not to compare apples and oranges.  I’m just saying…  Click the link for my review.), combined with seeing the better-known American interracial love story Loving so recently, A United Kingdom just didn’t move me the way I thought it might have.

The movie may have had some problem with directing or writing. It’s hard to nail down which or both because another aspect of this movie I didn’t care for was that Ruth didn’t really have to “do” anything to ingratiate herself to the women of Seretse’s tribe.  The women of the tribe accepted her quite easily with the help of her sister-in-law and given a bit of time.  I understand the smaller gestures she made were things that the women of the tribe had never experienced with a white woman among them (Like! Wow!  This white woman thinks I’m good enough to sit next to!  She’s great! – or so I suppose is the sentiment. And I must say, as a black woman in America, this probably makes me feel some kind of way that I am too tired to examine or explain in detail at this very moment.  So I won’t.) and so there was something special about those smaller gestures and something significant about those moments; but in a scene where she is helping with a community project that is supposed to be such hard work, you don’t really get the feeling that she’s working very hard or very cooperatively with the women at all because there are many shots where she’s separate from them and she’s got a smile on her face throughout the entire process.  It just did not read right or translate well to me.  At one point she is shown trying to learn the language, but never speaks it with an African that I saw.  Maybe I missed it.  So, while she was making gestures to include herself in the tribe, I didn’t see her doing much to embrace them and I didn’t get the feeling that she was working especially hard or having a hard time being embraced.  I understand it’s based on a true story and if that’s what the lady did, hey, that’s what the lady did – but I thought her efforts felt lackluster, or the way they were written or depicted made them feel that way.  There was no real feeling of conflict or struggle, so I felt no feeling of triumph when she allegedly won over the women.  It seemed as if she was just doing things and things were happening.  Nothing special.

A United Kingdom earned 7 out of 10 bloops. It’s a good movie worth seeing for the historical content and it made me curious to know more.  If not for the historical content I would have given it 6 bloops because I feel like this movie could have been much better.  Maybe if I give it some time and watch it again some months from now I’ll think more highly of it.  Catch it streaming if you care to.  Given the release date timing, the studio probably had a pretty good idea that’s what would happen with it anyway.

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!

Upcoming:

  • Good Ol’ Boy – A family comedy starring absolutely no one whose name you would know. But it looks promising so I’m willing to give it a try.
  • A Cure for Wellness – More horror.       We’ll see what happens.
  • Fist Fight – On the last day of the year, mild-mannered high school English teacher Andy Campbell (Day) when he accidentally crosses his much tougher and deeply feared colleague, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), who challenges Campbell to an old-fashioned throw down after school.

My Welcome Message

More Recent Posts:

https://bloopbymimi.com/2017/02/06/i-am-not-your-negro/

https://bloopbymimi.com/2017/02/02/a-dogs-purpose-pg/

https://bloopbymimi.com/2017/01/26/split-r/

https://bloopbymimi.com/2017/01/25/the-founder-pg-13/

https://bloopbymimi.com/2017/01/03/the-autopsy-of-jane-doe-r/

The LEGO Batman Movie (PG)

Featuring the voices of Will Arnett (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Michael Cera (Robin/Dick Grayson), Rosario Dawson (Batgirl/Barbara Gordon), Ralph Fiennes (Alfred Pennyworth) and a host of other celebs, animated action adventure The LEGO Batman Movie is quite an enjoyable tale.  The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) plans a hostile takeover of Gotham City and Batman is forced to put his supersized superhero ego aside and learn to work with others to stop him.

Seth Grahame-Smith (along with 5 others credited) did a great job writing an interesting screenplay for a movie that would be impossible to produce as a live action film.  It would be one big muddled mess and the exorbitant cost would kill it in its tracks.  In LEGO form, it is perfect.  LEGOs give the story the freedom to go all out with a genuine spirit of fun. You allow it to be super silly at times, because, “Hey!  It’s LEGOs!” Additionally, with LEGOs the concern over showing kids too much blood and gore, and pushing the rating up past PG doesn’t exist.

This is why this movie works. It’s as if you get more action and a more imagination for your dollar.  The movie has entertaining action sequences, and is peppered with lots of Batman trivia and references from Batman movies past, all the villains Batman has encountered throughout his illustrious 78 year career, and more.  This should please Batman lovers from all generations.

My largest complaint about this movie is that some of the music in the movie gave the movie too much of a “pop” feel. The movie was on one level creatively, and then switched gears with music that didn’t really fit in, in my opinion. It is understandable that Robin/Dick Grayson is at least one generation younger than Batman /Bruce Wayne and their musical tastes might differ, but I just didn’t care for the songs chosen to make the distinction.  In this way, it seems like the film was needlessly pandering to youth with this unnecessary infusion of popular culture that made The LEGO Batman Movie feel too much like any other of a number of animated films we’ve already seen.

The LEGO Batman Movie earned 7.5 out of 10 bloops. It’s a good movie worth seeing and certainly does no damage to the franchise.  It may be better than a couple of the live action movies.  Even if you’re not a fan, (who isn’t a fan of Batman – or silly animated cartoons – or LEGOs?!), you can sit through it with your children without wanting to hurt anyone, at the very least.  The LEGO Batman Movie is enjoyable, cute, funny, light and contains enough action to hold your interest. It is generally appropriate for the kiddies (although there was a “ninja” = “n word” reference that could have been left out that I didn’t care for.  At.  All.) and contains old school Batman references the older crowd will enjoy.  I watched it in 3D and I can’t say that the 3D added anything special to the movie, but I wasn’t with a child who is accustomed to all the bells and whistles either, so pay that extra money at your own discretion. The LEGO Batman Movie cost $80 million to make and is playing in 27 New York City theaters.  The box office of the movie will be just fine if you skip the 3D, I’m sure.

 

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!

Upcoming:

  • A United Kindom – Based on a true story about the forbidden love between King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London, which caused an international uproar when they decided to marry in the late 1940s just as apartheid was being introduced into South Africa. It was a decision that altered the course of African history.
  • Good Ole Boy – A family comedy starring absolutely no one whose name you would know. But it looks promising so I’m willing to give it a try.

I Am Not Your Negro

Narrated by Samuel Jackson (who does a fantastic job, by the way) and featuring American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic, James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary built around Baldwin’s books, essays, letters, notes, interviews, photographs and an unfinished manuscript he was writing at the time of his death in 1987. Remember This House is a 30 page incomplete memoir which reflects on Baldwin’s personal recollections of and relationships with civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr, and it also serves as the foundation for this documentary. Framed by a thought provoking 1968 interview Baldwin gave Dick Cavett on The Dick Cavett Show, I Am Not Your Negro also tells some of Baldwin’s personal story as it relates to race in America based on his own experiences.

There are a few impactful aspects of this work. Baldwin was a thinking man with a great ability to articulate his thoughts quite clearly and in a way that persuades you to agree with him, or at least consider the validity of his statements and his way of thinking.  He had a unique gift; an ability to allow people to see things from his perspective – from the African American perspective.  That’s no easy feat; particularly when the historically tense issue of race relations in America is the topic of discussion; and I’d imagine it was especially difficult during those times when Baldwin was the only person of color present as he addressed a room full of white men.

Secondly, the continued significance of Baldwin’s words is sad, profound and astounding. His 50 year old interview could be spoken nearly verbatim today, as, unfortunately, Baldwin’s points are still applicable.  I Am Not Your Negro demonstrates this fact with strong supporting evidence that is hard to argue with.

The way director/writer/producer Raoul Peck and this team built a documentary around these 30 pages of words and crammed it full of history from slavery to very near the present day is brilliant and beautiful and ugly and powerful.  Some of the footage is painful but all of it is valuable and all of it is important.

More than anything, what made me sad while watching this documentary was the realization that many of the people who need to see I Am Not Your Negro the most, will probably never bother. I’m sure the racists, the bigots, the hate mongers, the small minded trolls who hide snugly behind their keyboards, will have plenty of disgusting things to say about this movie, Baldwin and black people, like they always do.  And I am willing to bet you none of the aforementioned would dare sit down and seriously watch it and listen to it, considering the cowards that they are deep down.  I’m talking about those who are afraid they may have to do some independent thinking and some work on themselves and make some changes in their lives and to their thoughts and in their hearts, and dare I say… admit they might be mistaken in their beliefs.

I feel as though I’ve written something similar to this in a previous review. I’ve done quite a few now, so I don’t remember every one in detail, but we have been ducking and dodging the subject of racism in this country for far too long and it is glaringly obvious that this approach is getting us absolutely nowhere.  It needs to somehow be addressed head on, as it is here, if anything is ever expected to change for the better, as we are currently living witnesses to too many changes for the worse.  It remains the elephant in the room that comes up at every single opportunity, and there’s a reason why it comes up and why it will continue to do so.  It will exist until we all face it, admit we have a damn problem here, figure out how to deal with it and at least try to work it out.

I Am Not Your Negro earned 9.75 out of 10 bloops. It is an excellent, must-see documentary for all.  My one small complaint is that for what may be the very first time, I wish a film were longer.  This is a documentary that is chock full of information and I, for one, would have appreciated if a bit more time had been taken to relay it all.  I mean, the energy of the piece is absolutely amazing, so maybe it’s me who is a bit slow.  It just seemed very jam-packed with information and visuals at times as you must keep up with which event is being highlighted, because there is so very much to see and listen to and take in and process here.  If you see it once, you might want to see it again to catch the things you might have missed the first time.  And you wouldn’t mind one bit.

This documentary lends evidence to the fact that as far as we would like to believe we have come as a nation we have been lazy and complacent, we have been doing just enough to make ourselves feel better about ourselves and our bullshit – but it’s not enough – and we still have a lot of work to do and much, much further to go when it comes to what we call “race” in America.  I Am Not Your Negro digs into the gaping, unhealed wound of racism, prejudice and oppression unapologetically and forces us to take one hard, blunt, hour and thirty five minute look at ourselves, what we’ve done to one another, and as a result, what we have become. Go see it now!

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!

Note:  I know, I know.  I was supposed to take one for the team and see Gold last week.  But you know what?  I just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for that movie.  I tried, but I figured it would be a standard 7-8 blooper.  And then I would be upset I wasted my time.  I’ll get around to it I suppose, but I’m truly in no great rush to see it or review it. 

Upcoming:

  • Good Ole Boy – A family comedy starring absolutely no one whose name you would know. But it looks promising so I’m willing to give it a try.
  • The Dark Night – A horror movie about a movie theater massacre that could turn out to be really, really good, or really effin terrible.  We shall see…  If I wind up loving it or walking out, I will surely let you know.
  • The Lego Batman Movie – It’s kind of sad when this is the only movie coming out this week that a grown woman with no small children can look forward to.  But I can’t wait!

My Welcome Message

A Dog’s Purpose (PG)

Let me state for the record that although it may not always seem true, I am an animal lover; but I love animals from a distance.  This means, I do not want one in my home.  The smells, the hair, the walking, the cleaning of the bowl, tank, cage, etc., the feeding, the litter box, poop bags – not to mention the high cost of veterinarian bills and pet medicine… It’s just not something I’m interested in committing to at this point in my life.  I’ve already raised a child.  That’s enough of that for me personally.

Growing up, I had every pet a city kid could want.  Most dear to me was my black Labrador Retriever, Chiffon.  She was a beautiful midnight black dog with the shiniest coat ever, who I followed everywhere from the time I learned to crawl.  She disappeared one rainy night and everyone in our apartment building went out looking for her.  Chiffon was so black and her coat so shiny, she had been hit by a car and was lying in the middle of the rain-slicked street right in front of the building unnoticed the entire time.  After she was found, my mom flagged down a police car.  Upon being told they do not take dogs to the hospital, my mom informed them they would be taking THIS dog to the hospital!  The cops drove Chiffon and my mom to the hospital (I don’t remember which hospital just now) where Chiffon’s life was saved.  When Chiffon passed away some time later, my Mom said, “No more dogs.”  She couldn’t take the heartache.  And there were no more dogs.

Based on the 2001 novel written by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose (starring Bryce Gheisar (8 year old Ethan), K.J. Apa (teen Ethan), Dennis Quaid (adult Ethan), and at least 4 dogs of different breeds) is the story of one dog’s conscious journey through several reincarnations as different breeds of dog to different owners.  This dog, Bailey, goes through these reincarnations with some memories from his past life/lives as he (and/or she, depending on which incarnation is being referring to) is trying to determine his and/or her “purpose” in life.

This movie is sweet. If you like Marley & Me, you’ll probably like this.  There are many philosophical themes that make it deeper than a movie about a boy and his dog, without it being too deep.  I was feeling kind of weepy today before I even saw it and was expecting to be sitting in a puddle of tears by the end.  You see, my mom just passed away on January 7 of this year, and that memory of her making the cops take that dog to the hospital (which I wrote yesterday in anticipation of this review) is very dear to me.  But I was okay, with no more than a sniffle or a wipe of the eye here and there.  Others viewers were not okay.  When the movie ended I was the only one who moved from my seat in this all adult audience for some time.  Everyone else just sat there in silence, as if they had to pull themselves together a bit before proceeding to the door.

The plot is so original; following this dog through his conscious reincarnations was interesting. I was drawn into the movie and invested in this dog.  I wanted to see what he or she would go through or which breed or gender the dog would come back as next, who his or her owner(s) would be and what his or her life would be like.  I’ve never read the book (and I can honestly state that I never will), so I had no idea what I was in for here.  I was pleasantly surprised.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you’ve learned a bit about my parenting style. I don’t believe in children being too young to discuss any subject, so, in my opinion, this is a good movie to see with children if you want to gently introduce them to the concept of death and dying, euthanasia, grief, the importance of having a plan for your life and having a back-up plan, and the ability to adapt when those plans change for whatever reason.  Learn to be happy with whatever you have because things could be much better, but they could also be much worse.  This movie contains many life lessons and brings up issues that encourage critical thinking for kids and parents and/or guardians to build meaningful discussions around.

Unfortunately, A Dog’s Purpose, as sweet as it is, is not without problems. The story did get a bit cheesy at times, particularly during Bailey’s “first life” with Ethan.  The editing left something to be desired.  There will be reincarnations that you’ll enjoy more than others, but hang in there.  It gets better in the end.

A Dog’s Purpose earned 7 out of 10 bloops. It’s a good movie worth seeing, particularly if you have children and enjoyable even if you do not – particularly if you are a dog lover.  Did I mention Peggy Lipton is in it and she looks amazing?  Well she is and she does!  It is also a movie that, if you have children, you won’t mind them watching or watching with them again and again.  It is a great conversation starter on a number of real life subjects.  The dogs are cute and, at times, comical.  The story is quite original.  If your children are smaller or not the “sitting still” type, you might want to catch it streaming because it is 2 hours long.  I would say reasonably, (depending on the child of course) there’s quite a bit to enjoy in this movie for children 7 and up.

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!

Upcoming:

  • Gold, starring Matthew McConaughey; I’m going to watch unsexy, balding, pot-bellied Matthew McConaughey just for you guys. I hope you appreciate that.

My Welcome Message