Documentary Review – Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl (2020)

Directed By: Amy Goldstein
Running time: 89 minutes

If you already love Kate Nash, you don’t need to read this review. Ignore what I think and immediately go stream “Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl” because it was made for you. The documentary is partly a digital year-book covering the first half of Nash’s career and partly an explanation of the creative and logistical battles that she fought as an artist. There are also some very fun lyric videos interspersed throughout the film, which I am certain you will love. Like I said, this movie was made for you, you will love it, go watch it.

If, on the other hand, you do not love Kate Nash or know who she is, I’d say you have a 50/50 chance of liking this movie. There is very little narrative direction in the first half of the film and the second half is a decade’s worth of Nash’s frustrations with the music industry. A large majority of the narration is done with video clips of Nash over the last decade, which makes the movie feel more like a journal than a documentary. Which, again, is great if you are already a fan.

Photo credit: Carolina Faruolo

For the unfamiliar, Kate Nash is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and actress. She rocketed into the limelight around 2008 when her single Foundations hit number two on the charts. Her first album was a solid pop album, but when she tried to shift her sound to punk rock she ran into issues with her record label and they eventually dropped her. Nash has put out four albums and toured consistently. She is not a Beyoncé (I mean, there can only be one), but she is successful: she has built a loyal following, tours consistently, and is currently a part of the core ensemble for the Netflix series GLOW.

With all that in mind, this documentary is going to ask you to consider Nash an underdog, which is its fatal flaw. The first half of the movie loosely describes Nash’s early career. She dealt with terrible hate mail, was exhausted by her grueling debut tour, but came out of the experience determined to empower girls and young women to pursue their mutual love: making music. However, rather than focusing on any of this, the movie instead introduces its recurring theme: Nash cannot make the music that she wants to because her record label cannot handle it. “Record labels don’t like shouting,” she explains at one point, “I think it sounds cool. I’m into, like, punk music and rock music.”

Photo credit: Anouchka Van Riel

Halfway through the documentary we find the other chip on Nash’s shoulder, which is arguably the worse of the two. Her manager stole enough money from her that she is in danger of bankruptcy. Nash sues him and, while she is trying to get that money back, she hits a personal rock bottom. This is where the movie really lost me. For Nash “rock bottom” means moving to a smaller (but still nice) house, selling several garbage bags full of her clothes, and wondering if she’ll need to get a real job. “I don’t know how to make money outside of being on tour or making a record,” she says.

Spoilers: she does not have to get a real job.

To be clear, it is terrible that Nash almost went bankrupt. Her manager’s theft is a disgusting breach of trust and it makes sense that Nash was traumatized by the experience. She almost won me over when she admits of her situation: “It’s not that bad. I’m healthy. I’m alive. I’m on this planet,” sarcasm tinged her voice for a moment, but she finishes sincerely enough, “I have a dog. I have good friends. I have music. So. What more do you need than that, really? There’s a million other people out there that have it worse than I do.”

The problem is that even if she knows that that is true, she never acts like she thinks that is true. She worries about getting a job in a café and being recognized and shortly thereafter accepts a job hosting a geeky shopping show. Even though this gig is career-adjacent to her then-stated goal of becoming an actress, her misery is scrawled so clearly over her face that the scene is painful to watch.

Photo credit: Kelsey Hart

This documentary could have been great if we had heard from more voices and if it had stuck a different overall tone (just a little less “Woe is I”). I mean, come on. There is theft, there is feminism, there is a singer so idealistic that she spent her own money to support the programs for the girls she was coaxing into the music industry, there were so. many. amazing. outfits. And, aside from a couple weird choices (why would you do a rack focus between an empty foreground and the subject of your interview? why did we listen to her drummer read a benign text from her mother after a show?), the movie is beautifully put together.

But the takeaway from this movie is that life has thrown Nash a couple curveballs and she prevailed. The movie closes with Nash, now a multimillionaire, telling us that when she moved to LA she wanted to make a lot of money, but after losing everything (she leaves out the that she recently released a new album and landed a recurring role on a lucrative television show) she has realized that it’s not about the money: it’s about the art.

Again, If you are a hardcore Kate Nash fan, I think you will enjoy this film in spite of everything I’ve said here, but as someone who went into the documentary without a base-level fondness for her, I found it tone deaf, self-indulgent, and tedious.


This film is now available on Alamo On Demand
with apps for iOS and Android coming very soon.


Have you seen this Kate Nash documentary? Well, what did you think? 

Music Break: 10 Patriotic Film Scores To Honor Memorial Day 2020

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! It’s certainly an unusually quiet Memorial Weekend for most of us. Instead of kicking off the ‘official’ Summer travel season here in the US, the Covid-19 pandemic has basically ground everyone as stay-at-home order are still in place in many areas.

But one thing remain the same… in that we ought to still feel grateful for those who have sacrificed their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Freedom is definitely NOT free and the people serving in the various U.S. military branches – Navy, Army, Air Force and the Marines – risk their lives to protect their country and its citizens. This year, we also should extend our gratitude beyond fallen soldiers, but also first responders and healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the un-seen enemy all over the country.

A few years ago, I did a pictorial tribute for Memorial weekend, so this could be its companion post. Even if the film itself is subpar (I’m looking at you Pearl Harbor), doesn’t mean one can’t appreciate the scores. Not all of these are from war-themed films either, as heroes made sacrifices on and off the battlefield. So here you go…

10 patriotic film scores to honor all the heroes on this day of remembrance:

BONUS:

I had to include one more from the Captain America franchise. Not only are the scores patriotic-sounding, but they’re just fantastic to listen over and over.


Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Stay safe and well.


Now, which other patriotic film scores would YOU add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Trailer Spotlight: Netflix’s The Old Guard (2020)

Happy Thursday!! It’s rather gloomy here where I live, so it’s nice to see something that gets the juices flowing. Definitely something to look forward to July 10 as that’s the date it’ll drop on Netflix, yay!

A covert team of immortal mercenaries are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered.

I’m not always excited for Netflix Original Movies, I mean I haven’t seen Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction, and probably never will. But there’s SO much going for it here that makes me yell ‘yeah!!’ even as I’m watching the trailer 😀

I do love Charlize Theron in action movies. She’s great as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road and also in Atomic Blonde, she looks believable here too as Andy (is that a nickname??) the leader of immortal mercenaries who’ve been fighting to protect the mortal world for centuries. As if they weren’t bad-ass enough by the looks of it, they’re also very hard to kill! Dayum, I certainly don’t want to be on their wrong side!

I LOVE the director too, Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights), glad to see her doing an action genre! It’s apparently based on a 5-part graphic novel of the same name by Greg Rucka. Now, as for the rest of the cast, we’ve got Kiki Layne who’s lovely in If Beale Street Could Talk, and three of my fave Euro actors who are all verrry easy on the eyes: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthias Schoenaerts and Marwan Kenzari.

I’m intrigued by the concept that they’re immortals. Who are The Old Guard and why they sent ancient warrior Andy to recruit the team? How do they get the immortal ability? Why are they protecting the mortals? And why they seemingly always in hiding/on the run? There’s a quick blurb about the group could potentially be weaponized, and looks like Ejiofor is their enemy here, it’s not clear exactly who his character is. One thing for sure, looks like even he’s shaking in his boots when the Old Guard are near!

Well, based on the trailer, I really can’t wait to see this!


What do you think of this trailer?

FlixChatter Review: DEERSKIN (2020)

If you look at the review quotes all over this poster, calling it ‘demented,’ ‘bat-shit crazy’ ‘unhinged’ … well in many ways this French film lives up to those descriptions. I was curious to see this because I had heard of Quentin Dupieux‘s 2010 film Rubber, which is about a homicidal car tire. This time, it’s another inanimate object that seemingly has supernatural power to wreak havoc on those who came into contact with it.

This horror comedy stars Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin, who most people know in The Artist, as a middle-aged, recently-divorced man. Right from the start when he frantically got rid of his corduroy jacket at a gas station–in a wholly stupid & irresponsible manner–we know Georges is suffering from a mental breakdown. He then visits a friend where he impulsively buys a vintage fringed deerskin jacket, and after paying a huge sum of money (too much I’d say for a used jacket that isn’t even in style anymore), he was given a digital video recorder as a bonus. He then drove to a sleepy French alpine village and took residence in a motel.

And so it begins… Georges’ descend into madness. He starts talking to the jacket, taking endless videos of it, and displaying all kinds of weird, obsessive behavior. It made me think of how actors often say that once they put on a costume for a role, that’s when they feel like can inhabit their character fully, and perhaps they’d even feel invincible, like they found a new purpose in life. In the case of Georges, this aimless man is possessed by the jacket in a truly bizarre way. There’s definitely a streak of toxic masculinity, as he walks around feeling like he’s the bee’s knees with his new killer style. He came up with with a crazy mission that he wants to be the only person in the world to wear a jacket, which gets more and more extreme as the film progresses.

I’ve seen Dujardin only in half a dozen projects, and he usually portrayed a slick, charming gentleman with a gregarious personality. Interesting to see him in a much more subdued, even deadpan performance, barely flashing his mega-toothed smile. The film didn’t really kicked into gear until he meets Denise, played Adèle Haenel (recently seen in Portrait of a Lady on Fire), a waitress with great aspiration as an editor. Somehow Georges managed to convince Denise that he’s an indie filmmaker who’s being abandoned by his producers in Siberia. Not only that, he even got to make her feel sorry for him that she’s willing to fund his film AND also edit it!

The whole filmmaking aspect of the story is quite amusing and surreal. There’s one memorable scene where Denise grills Georges about his film and what it’s about. He can’t come up with a real concrete idea (naturally, as he just makes stuff up as he goes along), and it’s Denise who plants a brilliant idea in his head.

Amidst all the absurdities however, the performances of the two leads, managed to hold my attention. Their relationship surprisingly isn’t salacious, but it’s definitely unsettling. I find it intriguing to see a constant shift between them as to who is actually in control. At first I thought Denise has fallen prey to Georges, but as she continues to remain committed to his film project, I wonder if she knows more than she let on. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but trying to figure out her character and whether she has her own agenda proves to be increasingly more suspenseful to me as Georges’ deranged behavior gets more and more gruesome.

I’m not a horror movie fan, but I’m sure fans of the genre notice some nods to serial killer movies like Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the way some of the violent scenes were filmed. Yet there’s an alarming nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude that Georges displays that makes it absurdly comical. He might as well has his whole face covered up like those famous horror characters as he barely displays any emotion.

Deerskin is certainly a weird movie, but reading about some of Dupieux’s previous work, this one seems to be the most accessible. The ending still manages to surprise me, despite the fact that it followed a horror genre trope. I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend this movie to casual moviegoers, I feel like Dupieux’s movies are an acquired taste. I’m glad I saw this one and it was entertaining enough for reasons I’ve mentioned above, yet I don’t know that I’d be clamoring to see his other movies.


DEERSKIN OFFICIAL WEBSITE


Have you seen DEERSKIN or Dupieux’s other films? I’d love to hear what you think!

Thursday Movie Picks #305: Girls’ Trip

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… GIRLS’ TRIP.

For this topic, the ones I pick isn’t necessarily about girls taking a trip together, but more about female friendships. Honestly I actually haven’t seen too many of movies about women taking a trip together, though I know there are a bunch of them. So I picked three that really resonated with me even from decades ago.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Five years after the events of Mamma Mia!, Sophie prepares for the grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna as she learns more about her mother’s past.

I have to admit I have a soft spot for these Mamma Mia! movies. I almost didn’t even want to see it, but when I visited my best friend in San Diego, she had this DVD and we decided to watch it together. Well, I ended up really enjoying it! I like the second movie even more as it traced back Donna’s past and how the relationships she forged in the past affects her, as well as her daughter Sophie’s, present. The three of them went on a trip to the Greek island and of course Donna ended up staying and built a hotel there. I love how in the sequel you see their friendship is still as strong as ever, and passed through generations.

I adore Lily James as young Donna (and this girl could sing!) and the other two actresses who played her two besties Rosie (Alexa Davies) and Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn). It helps a ton if you enjoy ABBA’s songs (which I do), and it also shows the friendships of Donna’s men (aka Sophie’s three dads) which is quite amusing also. Of course the island scenery (filmed in Croatia) is to die for!


Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Based on Terry McMillan’s novel, this film follows four very different African-American women and their relationships with the male gender.

I can’t remember when exactly I saw this movie but I still remember it fondly to this day. Even specific scenes still feels fresh in my mind, I mean who can forget Angela Bassett burning her husband’s car?

Based on Terry McMillan’s best-selling novel, it has such an amazing cast, Loretta Devine, Lela Rochon, Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston, that work amazingly together. I’m actually a fan of Whitney as an actress, and she seems more comfortable here than in The Bodyguard.

As these women go through struggles in men, careers, and families that took them to different directions, it’s the bond and friendship that sustain them. Even the song Count On Me became an anthem for strong friendships… “When you are weak, I will be strong…Helping you to carry on.” 


Thelma & Louise (1991)

Two best friends set out on an adventure, but it soon turns around to a terrifying escape from being hunted by the police, as these two girls escape for the crimes they committed.

This movie has become an icon and perhaps still one of the most famous roles Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, and likely the most celebrated. I often forget it’s directed by Ridley Scott, where he’s nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

The story of two friends who initially embarked on an adventure and ended up being on the run from police after an unexpected incident is certainly juicy. But it also features authentic and loyal friendship, as tragic and misguided they may be. I thought the ‘morning after’ scene when they both realized Thelma had been swindled by the seductive JD (still one of Brad Pitt‘s most memorable roles) was priceless! Many men think this movie is anti-men, well obviously that speaks more about themselves than about the filmmakers.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

Musings on Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind documentary

I’ve subscribed to HBO for a month so I could watch season 3 of Westworld. Well, I finished on Friday night and this documentary’s key art on the HBO’s interface and decided to watch it.

The film began with the narration of Natalie Wood‘s own daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, who was only 11 years old when her mother died, saying that so much has been written about her mother’s mysterious death that it practically overshadowed who she was as a person. I think that’s a real tragedy because as I was watching the film, I learned just how accomplished she was as an actress.

Now, I personally wasn’t at all familiar with the legendary performer. I’ve only seen one of her films, Rebel Without A Cause, but news about her death surely hasn’t let up for decades. Even though I haven’t read up much about it, I did remember reading about her case being reopened as late as 2018!

Wood’s husband at the time of her death, Robert Wagner (known as RJ to those close to him), was never charged but was still a ‘person of interest’ in the case. But before we got to that case, the first two acts pretty much focused on Natalie’s story since childhood, born to Russian immigrants, and how she got discovered. She was one of the most accomplished child actors who’ve made a successful transition as a formidable Hollywood star. She began acting at the age of 4, got her first starring role at the age of 9 in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and received three Oscar nominations before she was 25.

It was really fascinating and moving to see all the archival footage and photos of Wood in various productions, from the not-so-well-known films to the iconic ones such as ‘Rebel’ and West Side Story. Interesting that one of the people interviewed said if she were alive today, she would’ve never gotten the role that made her famous as she played a Puerto Rican character in the famous musical. One thing for sure, Natalie Wood is much more than just a pretty face. Though she was definitely one of the most beautiful Hollywood stars, in her home life she’s shown as down to earth and a dotting mom. She was also intelligent and ambitious, and wanted to take charge of her career. One photo that strikes me the most is this one of her in a film board meeting sitting confidently at a table surrounded by all-male studio honchos. It’s definitely not the kind of photo I often associated with Natalie Wood, who’s often painted as a victim. So it’s good for her daughter to show the world a different side of her late mother.

Now, the third act did address her mysterious death. It’s the huge elephant in the room that everyone expects to be covered in the film. The one-on-one interview between Natasha and her stepfather RJ is no doubt the most emotional moments of the film, both of them looked quite emotional talking about her death. Robert himself was quite candid when talking about their careers. Though he was more famous when they first met, soon her career far outpaced Robert’s, which became a strain to her marriage. Even Robert himself admitted to being so jealous when, after their first marriage ended, she started dating her Splendor in the Grass‘ co-star Warren Beatty. But never did the film ever paint Robert as the guilty party in her death. If anything, it showed how much Natalie loved him and vice versa. I learned that she ended up marrying him twice after both had remarried after their divorce.

It’s clear that from Natasha’s and the doc’s director Laurent Bouzereau‘s perspective, Wood’s death was a tragic accident. Natasha and her younger sister Courtney even said that it’s hurtful to them that the media, and Natalie’s sister Lana Wood, constantly pointed their finger at their stepdad RJ. That fateful night started with RJ having an argument with Natalie’s co-star in her last film Brainstorm, Christopher Walken, but then RJ couldn’t find her, which led to him instigating a search involving the coast guards, etc. But even with the film covering some of the details about that fateful night, we’re still left in the dark about what happened to Natalie. We probably will never know the real truth, only Natalie would know… as Walken himself said at the end.

It’s definitely an intriguing documentary for film fans, especially if you’re a fan of her work. Given it’s produced by her own daughter, it feels personal and full of heart. I’m never bored in the entire 99-minute running time as the film seamlessly combines archival footage and talking heads featuring the who’s who of classic cinema: Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, George Hamilton, Elliot Gould, etc. There are also a myriad of photos and clips from her family, as well as those of her famous parties featuring famous Hollywood guests. I mean, according to IMDb, the pallbearers at her funeral were Rock Hudson, Frank Sinatra, Laurence Olivier, Elia Kazan, Gregory Peck, David Niven and Fred Astaire.

I’m glad I watched this beautiful tribute to a legend that’s equally fascinating and heart-wrenching. I can’t help feeling sad as I’m watching it… Natalie Wood was such a stunning bright star who left us far too soon. I’m glad I got to see just how much she meant to her family as well as her legacy in the film world.

4/5 stars


Have you seen this documentary? What are some of your favorite film(s) of Natalie Wood?

FlixChatter Review – ARKANSAS (2020)

Directed by: Clark Duke
Written by:
Clark Duke and Andrew Boonkrong 
Cast:
Liam Hemsworth, Clark Duke, Michael Kenneth Williams,
Vivica A. Fox, John Malkovich, Vince Vaughn

Crime thriller is one of my favorite genres and I’ve seen countless films and TV shows based on the Italian mobs and drug cartels in South America. But there aren’t many films about the crime lords in the Southern States of America. Arkansas is a new film that tells the story of low-level crime syndicate in the deep south. It has the same spirit as some of Quentin Tarantino’s and The Coen Brothers’ crime films.

Just like Tarantino’s films, Arkansas breaks its story into chapters. In chapter 1, we meet two low level drug dealers named Kyle (Liam Hemsworth) and Swin (Clark Duke). They’ve been assigned by their boss named Frog (Vince Vaughn) to move drugs into a new location. On their way to their destination, they ran into a park ranger named Bright (John Malkovich) who ordered them to follow him to his home. Bright tells them that he’s actually their new boss, this is the order from their big boss Frog. Under Bright’s orders, the Kyle and Swin must do the drug dealings in the southern state areas such as Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. While out to do their business one day, Swin met a pretty young nurse named Johanna (Eden Brolin). Kyle warns Swin to not get involved with anyone who might disrupt their rise to power in the syndicate but Swin fell for Johanna and the two became an item. After a drug deal with one of their contacts went wrong, Kyle and Swin must figure out ways to stay alive and keep Frog happy. In the next chapter, we get to see how Frog rose to become one of the biggest crime lords in the south. As anyone who’ve seen Tarantino’s films, you’ll eventually see how things will tie together and culminate in a violent ending.

Based on John Brandon‘s best-selling book of the same name, the screenplay was written by Andrew Boonkrong and Clark Duke, the latter also directed the picture. I’ve never read the novel but this is a well written screenplay and I really enjoyed the dialog from each of the characters, but I wish they didn’t try to copy too much from Tarantino’s films. There’s so much good material to be told in a new way but Boonkrong and Duke decided to structure the story that’s been done too many times before. Maybe another round of rewrite by an experienced writer could’ve made the script even better. Some of the characters needs to flesh out a bit more.

This is Duke’s debut film and I was surprised that the producers actually let him direct it. He didn’t do a bad job of directing this film, he just copied style from other more experienced and talented directors. Maybe Duke’s skills will grow as a director with more experience, but I think this one should’ve been directed by someone else. I believe that with a script this good, a more polished and experienced director could’ve elevated it to an excellent picture. This is a material meant for talented directors like David Fincher, Chan-wook Park or Bong Joon Ho.

Clark Duke with Liam Hemsworth

Performances by the actors were pretty good, I’m still not sold on Liam Hemsworth as a leading man material and unfortunately, he didn’t convince me in this film. It’s probably not fault since his character needs to be flesh out a bit more. For a lead character, we don’t really know much about him. Also, his southern accent wasn’t convincing at all. Duke wrote himself a better role and he’s more of the comic relief character and kind of sympathetic one too. Even though he has smaller screen time, Malkovich was a hoot as the small time crime boss. The most well thought out character in the film is Vaughn’s Frog, heck he’s actually the main character of the story. Vaughn gave one of his best performances here, but his southern accent needed a little work. Unfortunately, the two female characters in the film didn’t really have much to do. Johanna is an interesting character and I wanted to know more about her, but she ended up just being the love interest. Same with Vivica A. Fox’s Her, she has history with Frog and the script should’ve expanded on their relationship.

Despite by quibbles, I still think it’s a good crime thriller. If you’re a fan of QT’s or The Coen Brothers’ thrillers, then you’ll enjoy this one. I just think it could’ve been an excellent film with a more polished script and talented director behind the cameras.

3/5 stars

TedS_post


So have you seen ARKANSAS? Well, what did you think?