Thursday Movie Picks #23: Love in the Tech Age

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I can’t believe it’s been five years since I participated in this weekly Thursday Movie Picks blogathon that’s 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… Love in the Tech Age.

For this particular post, I’m going to keep it brief and share some of my fave scenes from the film:

HER

In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.

This film just breaks my heart!! This is one my top 10 films of 2013 (check out my review) and I still think it’s one of the greatest Joaquin Phoenix’s performances of all time, in fact, I would even say it’s one of Scarlett Johansson‘s best performances despite not appearing physically on screen. Hey, voice acting is still acting, folks. It’s a deeply emotional film that’s exquisitely beautiful and heartbreaking, perhaps much more so than many romantic films between two real humans. These two scenes are my favorites, though the entire movie is filled w/ memorable moments.


WALL*E

In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

Clearly humans aren’t always necessary for memorable cinematic romances. Wall*E and Eve are the cutest non-humanoid couple ever put on screen, complete with its own adorable meet-cute! Rivaling the marriage scene in Up, this could be the most romantic Pixar movie ever, while still delivering a potent environmental-conscious message.


You’ve Got Mail

Two business rivals who despise each other in real life unwittingly fall in love over the Internet.

Oh how I miss Nora Ephron! This rom-com staple is no doubt one of the best films directed by women. Though the technology might be totally dated, the story is still so timeless. I love rewatching this and feeling nostalgic about using modem [ha! just kidding!] I guess Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have mastered building chemistry without actually meeting in person, though I’m glad there are more scenes of them together here than in Sleepless in Seattle. Bonus points for having Jane Austen’s reference here as the characters were discussing Pride & Prejudice in the cafe scene.


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

BEST OF THE DECADE LIST: 10 Best TV Shows of 2010s

I’ve seen a lot of people on the internet list their favorite films from the 2010s, but I don’t see many lists their favorite TV shows from the last decade. With the popularity of comic books-based films at the beginning of 2000s, Hollywood has decided to abandon any original ideas for films. They also decided to reboot or remake their past popular franchises, heck they’ll willing to start a franchise on any film that they deemed “profitable”, no one asked to see a sequel to Sicario, but it happened anyway. So, anyone who wants to see anything that resembles original ideas, television is the place to go.

The last decade were full of great shows that it’s hard to just pick ten but here are my 10 favorite/best shows from the 2010s:

10. BALLERS, aired from 2015-2019

A show about an ex-football player (Dwayne Johnson) hustling his way to the top of the NFL world. It’s kind of similar to ENTOURANGE but it’s about football players and coaches in the NFL instead of actors and filmmakers in Hollywood. With him being such a high in-demand actor for big studio films, I don’t know how Dwayne Johnson was able to squeeze in his time to star in this show for 5 seasons but he’s great in each season and never looked like he just phoned in like other actors when they appeared in TV shows. The show introduced me to John David Washington who played a diva wide receiver.

9. HARRY’S LAW, aired from 2011-2012

The only show from a major network, NBC, that’s on my list here. It’s a short-lived show that lasted only 2 seasons, I was not happy when NBC decided to cancel it. The show’s about a once highly paid patent lawyer, played by the great Kathy Bates, who lost drives in her career and got fired from her firm. She then decided to start her own firm and hired a bunch of misfits. Their goal is to help the little people in the worst part of the city of Cincinnati. The show was created by TV power producer and writer David E. Kelley but it never found its audience and I was hoping Netflix, Amazon or Hulu would pick it up, but it never happened. I’m not surprised the show never found success in the ratings since it’s kind of unusual TV drama and doesn’t have the usual happy ending in each episode.

8. SILICON VALLEY, aired from 2014-2019

A hilarious show about a bunch of tech nerds trying to start the next big tech company in Silicon Valley. Created by Mike Judge, who worked in tech world himself, it’s well-written and very accurate look at the super rich and powerful community that for a long time not too many people knew about. Having worked in the tech start-up companies for most of my career, I can concur that a lot of things happened in the show also happened in real life. The show recently ended its run and I wish they would continue for at least two more seasons. But it’s one of the few shows that I thought its last episode was quite good.

7. BILLIONS, airing 2016-Current

A show about two powerful figures in NYC who’s trying to take down one another and will do anything to accomplish their goals. It’s full of great twists and the performances by the two leads, Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis are spectacular. My only wish is that the show ends on a high note and I think the upcoming season should be its last.

6. BLACK MIRROR, airing 2011-Current

While not every episode worked but this modern-day Twilight Zone show about how our current technology can ruin our lives is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It’s cleverly written and full of great performances well known actors. I thought many of the episodes looked like a mini movie since they were well shot and directed. White Christmas is definitely my favorite episode. The latest season episodes were quite disappointing but at least they tried to come up with something clever. Hopefully the next season will be better.

5. STRANGER THINGS, airing 2016-Current

A love letter show to the sci-fi thriller films of the 80s and it’s Netflix biggest show. While I wouldn’t call it the most original show, the combination of great performances and well written story lines really makes it one of the best shows in TV right now.

4. THE AMERICANS, aired 2013-2018

Set in the cold war era of 1980s, two Russian spies pose as the average American family in the suburbs of Washington DC. They have two kids who doesn’t know that they’re Russian spies. It’s full of great twists and turns and great performances by the two leads Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhys. It’s one of the shows that ended with a very good last episode.

3. GAME OF THRONES, aired 2011-2019

Yes, the last season of this show was disappointing, but I don’t think that should taint the previous seasons of great story and performances. A mix of fantasy and our current political climate, it’s full of great twists and unexpected deaths of main characters. It’s one of the few shows that kept me on the edge of my seat every time I watched it.

2. BREAKING BAD, aired 2008-2013

This show actually started in the late 2000s, but it didn’t end until 2013, so I think it’s safe to put it on my list here. There’s not much to say about this show because it won several awards during its run and I think many people have seen it, so I assume you’d agree with me that it definitely belongs in the best shows of the 2010s list.

1. JUSTIFIED, aired 2010-2015

Probably the most underrated show of the decade and I was surprised that it lasted for more than one season. But I’m glad it did because I really love this show and I hope to see it on the big screen someday. I’ve seen Timothy Olyphant in films where he’s the side character and I was a never a fan of him. But then I started watching this show and his performance as U.S. Marshal Raylan Given became one of my favorite fictional heroes. This was a well written and executed show that got better in each season. I also loved the last episode, a well-constructed conclusion to a great show.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

WESTWORLD, airing 2016-Current 

I probably would’ve put this show on the list but currently it only has two seasons, but I think it’s one of best thing currently on TV.

 

 

THE WALKING DEAD, airing 2010-Current

The first 5 seasons of this show was one of the best on TV, but I stopped watching it about 3 years ago. The writing has gone downhill and they killed off so many of the characters that I cared about, it’s hard for me to keep watching it.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


Those are the shows I thought were the best from the last decade. I know that I left out some other well-known shows.

What are some your own favorite shows of the past decade?

FlixChatter Review – OLYMPIC DREAMS (2020)

After its World Premiere at the 2019 SXSW, Jeremy Teicher’s movie Olympic Dreams made its Minnesota premiere at TCFF. The movie stars Nick Kroll as Ezra, a dentist who’s come to volunteer his dentistry skills at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. It also stars Alexi Pappas as Penelope, an American cross-country skier who has qualified to complete at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games but doesn’t know any of the other athletes in the athlete village and also feels awkward around most of them anyways. Penelope is disappointed after a less than desirable finish in her competition and meets Ezra in the cafeteria of the athletes village and a friendship starts to develop between the athlete and dentist, who is more than ten years her elder.

Alexi Pappas + Nick Kroll

When Penelope tries to pursue Ezra as something more than a friend at first, Ezra rejects her pursuit, telling her that he has a sort-of girlfriend at home. This leads Penelope and Ezra down a rocky path, filled with spending some time apart, and Penelope meeting another athlete — real life free style skier Gus Kenworthy, who makes sure to quickly inform Penelope that he is not interested in being more than friends with her since he is gay. Gus helps Penelope and Ezra reconnect and they end up going outside the Olympic Village on a tour of the local culture, sights and restaurants of PyeongChang. But will they ever become anything more than friends? To find out, you’ll have to catch the movie from IFC Films when it come out early next year.

Pappas + Gus Kenworthy

Olympic Dreams is the first narrative film ever shot in a real Olympic Athlete Village — the entire film was shot on location during the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The director, Jeremy Teicher, also acted as the movie’s cinematographer, and sound recorder in addition to directing the movie, according to his website. It is charming, funny at time and beautifully-shot. It reminded me of why I love the Olympics and makes me think that anything is possible when attending the Olympic Games, including starting a physical relationship with someone. Gus Kenworthy shares in the movie (*unclear if this was real or not) that one of his buddies lost his virginity at the last Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. I had a blast watching this movie and came out of it with a huge smile.

The movie was written by the trio of Alexi Pappas, Jeremy Teicher, and Nick Kroll; and mostly succeeded in guiding this gentle love story in the backdrop of one of the most well know world-wide sporting events we have in the history of sports.

– Review by Vitali Gueron


Have you seen OLYMPIC DREAMS? Well, what did you think? 

New Teaser + Poster Spotlight: A24’s The Green Knight

It’s not every week I do a post about an upcoming movie. But hey, after Oscars wrapped this past weekend, I’m just looking forward what’s in store this year. I had never even heard of this movie before, but when I saw this provocative poster came across my Insta, courtesy of A24, I knew I had to post about it!

It’s funny that I actually just talked about Dev Patel w/ a fellow blogger Brittany from Rambling Film blog and that we’re both crushing on him right now 😉 How awesome to see that he’s actually the leading man of this movie, in a Medieval fantasy no less!

Here’s the premise, thanks to Paste Magazine:

An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger. From visionary filmmaker David Lowery comes a fresh and bold spin on a classic tale from the knights of the round table.

Behold the new trailer!

Glad I read a little bit about the story of the poem it’s based on, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, whose original writer is unknown. Sir Gawain is a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table, and of course King Arthur is an extremely popular literary subject that’s been adapted countless times on film and other forms of media. Right away it gives me a bit of Game of Thrones meets Tarsem’s Immortals vibe. The fact that it’s A24 developing it makes me extra excited for it… it looks ominous + mysterious, and a foreboding score. Not sure if it’s going to get an R rating, but looks like it’s likely pretty violent. Now, if only we can have Sean Harris play a mute for once? Sorry but I can’t stand his hoarse voice, ugh!


As I mentioned, I love Dev Patel’s casting, who over the years has proven himself to be a versatile actor who can play virtually any role. He isn’t the first actor I’d imagine to play a heroic Medieval knight, but why shouldn’t he be? I love how many theaters in the Twin Cities have incorporated many actors of colors in many literary classic adaptations of Shakespeare and Jane Austen, so why can’t they do the same in films and tv works? The important part is the actor captures the ‘essence’ of the character. Most recently Patel also played a famous literary character by Charles Dickens in The Personal History of David Copperfield.

The rest of the cast includes Alicia Vikander (Lady Bertilak) and Joel Edgerton (Lord Bertilak), as well as Barry Keoghan, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, and Ralph Ineson. As for the filmmaker, I’ve only seen Pete’s Dragon (which I love) by David Lowery, but his most recent film The Old Man & the Gun starring Robert Redford is highly acclaimed by critics.

I’m glad I’ll be seeing more of Patel this Spring. The the David Copperfield movie is to be released on May 8 and per IMDb, The Green Knight is released on May 29.


What do you think of THE GREEN KNIGHT?

New Trailer + Poster Spotlight: Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch

Something super fun just arrived in my inbox today! I was in the middle of a rather long, tedious training for my new job, but upon opening this email, a huge smile formed on my face!

Ooooh!! I absolutely adore this poster, I wish I could have it to hang on my wall right now! Wes Anderson‘s upcoming movie has The Adventures of Tintin vibe to it, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé that I grew up reading religiously as a kid.

Here’s the premise…

THE FRENCH DISPATCH brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th-century French city. It stars Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson.

What a cast!! I know lots of [thirsty] people are going nuts over ‘it boy’ Timothée Chalamet writing naked in a bath tub 🤣 – I didn’t even notice him until an article specifically mentioned about it in the headline! In any case, I wonder if he’ll actually be speaking French in the movie? The internet would probably spontaneously combust!

Upon further reading, the Tintin vibe seems intentional given Tintin is a globe-trotting reporter. Per Wiki, the film has been described as “a love letter to journalists set at an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city”, centering on three storylines.

When speaking to French publication Charente Libre last year, Anderson noted: “The story is not easy to explain, [It’s about an] American journalist based in France [who] creates his magazine. It is more a portrait of this man, of this journalist who fights to write what he wants to write. It’s not a movie about freedom of the press, but when you talk about reporters you also talk about what’s going on in the real world.”

Per tradition of Wes Anderson’s movies, it’s another awesome ensemble cast, many of whom have worked with the Texas-born filmmaker. The screenplay was written by Anderson, Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness, and Jason Schwartzman.

Now here’s the trailer! 

It’s classic Wes w/ his usual visual flair, distinct camera work and quirks! I love it!! It looks so much like Grand Budapest Hotel and I saw some of the cast are back as well. I can’t wait to step into this world of global journalism filled w/ intrigue and idiosyncrasies.

It’s scheduled to be released on July 24.


What do you think of The French Dispatch?

Musings on 2020 Oscars – The Good, the bad + the WTF

Per tradition, I don’t really watch red carpet show, I just sort of let it play on my iPad while I was making dinner.

If I had to make one comment about fashion though, it’d have to be Natalie Portman‘s … what a statement she made with her outfit she wore to the Oscars!

Here are the snubbed female directors embroidered on Natalie Portman’s cape:

  • Scarfaria (Hustlers)
  • Wang (The Farewell)
  • Gerwig (Little Women)
  • Diop (Atlantics)
  • Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
  • Matsoukas (Queen & Slim)
  • Har’el (Honey Boy)
  • Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire)

Now, I’m glad I’ve properly sat down by the time the opening song/dance started with the Janelle Monáe celebrating some of 2019 biggest hits… many of which weren’t nominated (Midsommar, Dolemite Is My Name). Miss Monáe almost had a wardrobe malfunction of sort, but she recovered well and delivered a fantastic rousing performance!

First Oscar is oh-so-predictable… I have no issue w/ Brad Pitt but honestly, I don’t really get all the fuss about his performance in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood [shrug] I suppose Brad’s done plenty of great things as a producer and championing diverse storytelling, so I’m not totally upset by his win.

So here are some of the highlights…

THE GOOD

Both screenplay winners go to filmmakers of color. Woo wee!!! So happy for Bong Joon Ho and Taika Waititi!

///

 …

Now, I haven’t even seen 1917, but still that doesn’t mean I can’t be rooting for Roger Deakins! I saw this featurette and a few other BTS videos of 1917 and just amazed at that man’s creativity!


It’s fitting that these three amazing women introduced the first ever female composer to conduct the 42-piece orchestra… Eímear Noone, the Irish conductor and composer behind the World of Warcraft scores, made history tonight. Then THIS happens…

Now, I thought initially Joaquin Phoenix was hight and he’d go all Brando on us… but I thought towards the end his speech was quite moving… he also gave tribute to his late brother River who introduced him to acting.


THE BAD

I’m gonna keep it positive and not dwell too much on the bad, but I have to mention a couple…

  • I’m not gonna bother embedding the video in order to spare you the agony… honestly, I’m glad I haven’t seen FROZEN II but what is with that horrendous song?? And am I the only person who can’t stand Idina Menzel’s voice? I appreciate inviting many singers performing the song in different languages, but they all sound off-key to me.
  • What is with the horribly redundant and unnecessary introduction of every single nominees, on top of the 3-min montage!! I honestly would rather see winners getting an extra 30 seconds for their speech than dragging the winner announcement this way, ugh!

THE WTF

  • Ok we’re all swooning for Keanu Reeves… and rightly so, the dude is all kinds of awesome. But what’s up w/ Diane Keaton walking down memory lane?? A little tipsy perhaps?
  • Now this is a WTF but not necessarily in a bad way… apparently Eminem’s Lose Yourself won Oscar in Best Original Song in 2003. He didn’t attend the ceremony but now, 17 years later, he got to finally perform it! The reactions from some celebrities in the audience is pretty fun to watch too.

  • Now THIS is the best WTF ever!!! PARASITE made history!!!

And I LOVE the wonderfully real and moving speeches by its female producers giving tribute to the supporting Korean community. This film has been unanimously embraced by the world, and it absolutely deserved ALL the kudos!

What an ending to a largely uneventful Oscar telecast!! Such a refreshing surprise after the highly predictable acting winners. I was flabbergasted when I heard Jane Fonda said the word PARASITE… I’m convinced that 1917 would’ve won since it’s rare to see a Best Foreign Language winner also winning Best Picture!! But hey, if there was gonna be a big upset of the night, I’m glad it’s THIS one!

Go party, Bong Joon Ho and Parasite team!


SO what are your thoughts on Oscars 2020 winners (and losers for that matter)?

FlixChatter Review – BIRDS OF PREY (2020)

After Margot Robbie pitched the idea of a Harley Quinn film featuring the Birds of Prey team to Warner Bros. Studios in 2015, she spent three years developing the project under her production company. Directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, the Harley Quinn film would end up being called Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and co-produced by Robbie, who would reprise her role as Harley Quinn after the 2016 DC Extended Universe film Suicide Squad. Speaking of Suicide Squad – which ended up being the tenth highest-grossing film of 2016 – it received mixed to negative reviews (including this blog’s founder) from critics. What was generally praised from Suicide Squad was Robbie’s performance and her makeup as Harley Quinn. So, in Birds of Prey, Harley Quinn is the one who takes center stage and everyone hates after her break up with Joker, whom she affectionately calls “Mr. J.”

In Birds of Prey, Harley is still a mess after her breakup, but gets her own apartment, and goes out clubbing where she spends the night at a club owned by Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). Sionis likes to masquerades as a bubbly nightclub owner, while he is actually a sadistic gangster with cruel tendencies and the movie’s main antagonist – Black Mask. While at the club, Harley meets Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a burlesque singer who works for Sionis. She ends up saving Harley’s life after some of Sionis’ thugs drag Harley outside and beat her up as a consequence of her drunken and disorderly behavior. Sionis sees Dinah’s skills as a fighter and appoints her as his new driver, after Harley broke the previous driver’s legs, back inside the club.

We spend some more time with Harley as she goes to adopt a hyena from an exotic pet shop and names Bruce (after Bruce Wayne/Batman). Harley also destroys Ace Chemicals, the place where she had pledged herself to Joker before truly becoming Harley Quinn. The movie turns to Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) who is investigating the aftermath of the Ace Chemicals explosion and is after Harley Quinn for previous criminal acts. Meanwhile, we are back with Dinah and Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), a henchman of Sionis and deranged serial killer who carves a tally mark on his skin for each victim he claims. Sionis sends them to pick up a diamond which has very important information to him, but while they’re on their way back to the car, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a young orphan and pickpocket steals the diamond from Zsasz and ends up swallowing it to keep it safe, before being arrested by the GCPD.

Harley is captured by Sionis’ men and brought to his club, while Zsasz and Dinah tell him about Cassandra’s status in prison. Sionis forces Harley to get Cassandra and the diamond so Harley disguises herself and breaks into the GCPD to retrieve the diamond thief. Sionis, not trusting Harley to bring Cassandra back puts out a large bounty for her head, and this bounty also attracts Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a vigilante known as the “crossbow killer” who calls herself Huntress. After Harley decides that she actually wants to save Cassandra, she finds out about the bounty Sionis put on her head. She plots revenge and calls him and agrees to turn the girl over in exchange for protection from the bounty. Cut to the chase, Sionis sends his henchmen after Harley Quinn and Cassandra, who are also joined by Dinah Lance, Renee Montoya and Huntress. The climactic finale involves a major fight scene and car chase by Harley Quinn and Sionis, only to end up at a nearby Gotham City a pier.

Spoiler Alert (highlight to read): Once Harley catches up with them, Cassandra puts a grenade in Roman’s suit, killing him. In the aftermath of destroying Roman’s empire, Montoya, Dinah and Helena start the Birds of Prey with the money from the accounts of the diamond while Harley and Cassandra pawn it and start their own business together. We end with Harley and Cassandra driving in a car and enjoying a previously mentioned breakfast sandwich, while Bruce, Harley’s hyena, rides in the back seat.

I think that the cast of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is stellar with Margot Robbie successfully helming this eighth film in the DC Extended Universe. Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez and Ella Jay Basco are all wonderful as part of the Birds of Prey squad. It’s a refreshing change from those forgettable characters in Suicide Squad (minus Harley Quinn and The Joker). Where the movie does run amuck is when it tries to over-tell the story of Harley Quinn. Robbie is seen breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience in several scenes, just as Deadpool does in the Marvel Comics Universe movies. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t for Harley Quinn. Perhaps the biggest misstep of the film is that it doesn’t really answer the question whether Harley is truly and really emancipated from Joker.

Overall, the film is quite the ride as Birds of Prey goes at 100+ miles per hour, with Robbie as Harley Quinn at the helm of a swerving/speeding car. The movie moves from scene to scene with little explanation, albeit some narration by Harley, and sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. The new characters add a great deal to the movie and do wonders for the DC Extended Universe, focusing on women’s right and female empowerment. There is so much color in this film that I often felt like I was inside a glitter bomb explosion. However, I did enjoy Harley’s humor, and fashion sense and abilities to beat up the bad guys while holding her own. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed McGregor’s character – the antagonist Black Mask – and think that it was one of best decisions made for the film. The success of Birds of Prey will ultimately propel Margot Robbie and the rest of the cast to a possible sequel, but how that factors into the DC Extended Universe remains to be seen.

– Review by Vitali Gueron


Have you seen BIRDS OF PREY? Well, what did you think?