FlixChatter Review: SOUL (2020)

It’s been a while since I actually reviewed a Pixar movie. I haven’t seen COCO and while I did see Onward last Spring, I didn’t get a chance to review it. I’ve always liked movies about music and there is something so fun about SOUL that I watched it a day after its release on Disney+.

I love that Disney’s animated opening logo montage uses the music played by Joe Gardner’s (Jamie Foxx) middle-school students in his music class. It’s a fun and clever way to introduce the character in his environments. Now, it’s a special day for Joe as he’s been hired full time by the school as a music teacher. Instead of being ecstatic however, Joe actually feels down as his dream has always been to be a jazz musician. His tailor-shop-owner mother Libba (Phylicia Rashad) pressures him to accept the job as she wants him to be financially secure. As luck would have it, thanks to his former student, Joe suddenly got a chance to play in one of his favorite jazz quartet. He’s got oh-so-close to finally living his lifelong dream that night when poof! he falls into a manhole.

Pixar has always been great at defining its characters and in SOUL it’s no different. Joe is all about music… it’s in his blood, body and soul… as he says, ‘music is all I think about, from the moment I wake up in the morning until I fall asleep at night.’ So when I saw his dream slipped away from him just as he came SO close to realizing it, I couldn’t help but gasped (even though that scene is right there in the trailer).  Most of the movie happens in the afterlife, starting with Joe’s soul protesting the fact that he’s one of the poor souls heading towards the Great Beyond. Leave it to Pixar to make something quite traumatizing like death and make it cute and mirthful as Joe’s soul tries to escape the long lineup. He ends up in the Great Before, as in the pre-mortal existence before the soul enters a body. It’s classic Pixar that the visuals in each world is just spectacular to behold… gritty New York City, the dark, ominous-looking steps going to the afterlife (complete with the accountant counting every single soul), then the colorful, fluffy world of the Great Before, each one is so imaginative and wonderfully-constructed.

But the beauty of Pixar Studios isn’t just the amazing, awe-inspiring animation techniques, but the genius is in the brilliantly-witty writing, thanks to Pete Docter who co-wrote the script with Mike Jones and Kemp Powers. Somehow they could just get into the psyche of what it is to be human and can create such a family-friendly movie that actually gives you a lot of food for thought for adults. It’s when Joe meets 22 (Tina Fey), a cynical soul who has remained in the Great Before universe for a very long time and feels she’s not worthy to live on earth that most of the philosophical discussions happen. But of course, all the deep, meaningful existential conversations are delivered via one hilarious moment after another.

The soul-body switcheroo involving a therapy cat creates plenty of slapstick humor, and at times perhaps I fear that it’d get to be too much. Thankfully the writers never loses sight of what the movie is about and all the humor fits into the narrative they’re telling. There are so many great moments in this movie but I think the bit when both Joe + 22 are on earth might be my favorites. I love the bit at the barber shop… even the hilarity in that scene consist of deep moments where Joe realizes that perhaps he’s become too self-absorbed and not interested in other people’s lives. It’s these poignant scenes that Pixar is so good at making, filled with life-lessons and wisdom without getting too heavy-handed.

Of course all the characters are delightful. I love all the soul counselors, all named Jerry, voiced by Richard Ayoade, Alice Braga, Wes Studi; and the droll accountant is voiced by Rachel House (whom I love in Taika Waititi movies like Hunt of the Wilderpeople and Thor Ragnarok). As I watch Graham Norton show frequently, it’s fun to hear his voice here which I recognize right away. It’s inspired casting to have him play the character Moonwind who helps lost souls get over their obsessions. Lovely to hear Angela Bassett‘s smooth voice as the sassy Dorothea Williams and that metaphor she told Joe in the end is memorable. Hey I’d love to see a spinoff of her character as a Jazz musician/sax player.

Of course, the fact that the protagonist loves Jazz, the music is absolutely fantastic. I love that the fingers playing the piano actually play the keys correctly, courtesy of real-life musician, Jon Batiste, who composed and also performed some of the songs. The movie also included musicians Herbie Hancock, Daveed Diggs and Ahmir-Khalib Thompson aka Questlove. I actually wish Jamie Foxx would actually sing in this movie as he too has a wonderful voice!

Per IMDb, Docter revealed that once the filmmakers settled on the main character being a jazz musician, they chose to make the character African-American. So Joe is the first black main protagonist of a Pixar movie that serves as a fitting tribute to Jazz music as well. What a brilliant title too, a soulful film both thematically and in terms of the music genre. I’m glad Pixar once again comes up with a fresh concept. This one is perhaps most similar to Inside Out which also gives an imaginative insight into humanity in the most delightful way. It’s fitting that it’s released on Christmas day, as it celebrates the humanity of us all and what a gift life truly is, even in a year like 2020.

4.5/5 stars


Have you seen SOUL? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: WANDER DARKLY (2020)

The story of Wander Darkly centers on new parents Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna), who are suddenly forced to deal with a traumatic incident amidst their troubled relationship. In fact, the characters are in right in the middle of an argument when an accident happens. It wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that the film deals heavily with themes of death and existence, as it’s been revealed the trailer and the promos.

It’s never clear though if the characters walk among the living or the dead, particularly in regards to Adrienne. Is she dead or isn’t she? The film weaves in and out of ‘cinematic consciousness’ if you will, as you’re not quite sure what’s real and what’s in the character’s head. Adrienne is seemingly stuck in purgatory as she sees her physical body in the hospital gurney. But then Matteo ‘joins’ her and he’s hellbent in convincing her she is still alive.

The film shows various montages of the couple revisiting memories of their past. Again, I don’t know if these are memories or actual flashback of their lives together, from the time the first met, that is their ‘honeymoon’ state even though they’re not married. In fact, the fact that they’re not married is one of the point of constant argument and it’s clear Adrienne is quite resentful of the fact that Matteo never proposed.

Miller and Luna have a wonderful chemistry and the two talented actors gave their all to their respective roles. They are believable as mis-matched couple who struggle to make things work, taking us on their emotional roller-coaster. Though the couple seems in love, but they constantly bicker and at times their arguments get pretty heated as they lash out at each other. There’s a certain distrust between them that’s played out in a pretty realistic way, given how chummy Matteo is with a sexy female ‘friend’ of his. Matteo is not exactly portrayed like a Don Juan type, but he doesn’t exactly assures his girlfriend and mother of his child of his fidelity.

Glad to see Luna portray a non-stereotypical Mexican man (at least not the kind that’s often portrayed in Hollywood) and this is the first time I see him in a dramatic role. I also appreciate that the filmmakers honor his heritage, as there are scenes during the Day of the Dead, which is a Mexican holiday. I haven’t seen Miller in too many dramatic leading roles either, but she’s quite convincing here in a deeply-emotional performance. You could say Adrienne is the heart and soul of the movie and her heartbreak is quite heart-wrenching. Adrienne becomes almost lifeless at times, perhaps the filmmaker’s trying to illustrate that she’s been ‘dead inside’ the whole time, I’m not sure. The bit of her watching a zombie movie is a bit on the nose, but it’s one of those rare droll moments in this film.

I read that writer/director Tara Miele had suffered a car crash that became the inspiration for the film. Interestingly, and perhaps that’s how these talents end up working together, Luna’s mother died when he was only two in a car accident, so this story is clearly a personal one for the two of them. The car crash itself, and the moment leading up to it is quite nightmarish to watch, even though you knew it’s going to happen.

This is pretty heavy movie told in a non-linear way from start to finish, which made the relatively brisk 1.5 hour running time feels much longer. We spend practically the entire film with just two characters who aren’t exactly likable, filled with constant bickering between them, as well as the resentments towards Adrienne’s mother (Beth Grant). Now, I don’t mind slower movies, and I think the non-conventional storytelling style gives this movie an edge. I just wish there’s a bit of levity or sense of humor to give us a break from the constant dread and somber tones. It doesn’t help that the cinematography also looks too dark at times. I guess it’s possible that the filmmakers are trying purposely making things feel disoriented as that’s how the characters are feeling, but it doesn’t exactly make it a pleasant viewing.

At times the film felt experimental, which is fine in and of itself but it doesn’t always work well here. The visual transitions between the two worlds Adrienne is seemingly trapped in gets confusing at times, which adds to the frustration. There’s also one particular scene towards the end that feels like an unnecessary jump scare, which feels at odds with the rest of the film.

That said, I always appreciate seeing a film about love, especially a character-driven one that’s poignant and heartfelt. I commend Miele for taking such a harrowing personal experience of her car crash into an art form. I’m not familiar with her work, but this is her fourth feature film and she’s also done directing work for TV series (Hawaii Five-O, Arrow). She’s definitely a talented filmmaker who can bring out fantastic performances out of her cast. I’d love to see more of her work in the future.

Have you seen WANDER DARKLY? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Wonder Woman 1984

There are few 2020 movies that are as anticipated as WW1984. No wonder, it’s apparently got seven release dates, as far back as last December 2019, then it got moved around several times mostly due to Covid, then Warner Bros shifted its entire upcoming movie schedule until it’s got its dual premiere in theater and HBO Max. Well, I live in a state where there’s a state mandate to close movie theaters, so I saw it on streaming.

The opening sequence on Diana Prince’s paradise island Themyscira is quite a visual spectacle displaying the prowess of the Amazons as young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competes in an olympic-like athletic competition against those who are much older than her. It’s a cool sequence that harken back to the amazing Amazons vs German army battle in the first movie. Now, unlike the first one, I’m not sure this sequence actually fits in this movie this time around. More on that later.

After that competitive scene ends, we’re then transported to an entirely different world – 1980s Washington D.C. We’re suddenly hit with all kinds of 80s throwbacks – leg-warmers, bat wing tops, 80s sport cars, etc. It’s actually quite fun to reminisce on 80s nostalgia, especially in the shopping mall sequence where we see places/stores that no longer exist, particularly Waldenbooks as I always made a stop in that store (or B. Dalton) before Amazon (as in the retail giant, ha!) blew its competition out of the water. I think the period world building is pretty convincing, albeit not as immersive as the WWI period that Diana was thrown into in the first film.

Our heroine now works as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian, and she exudes elegance amongst the more campily-dressed rest of the world, but then again, only Gal Gadot would look lithe and graceful in loose-fitting pleated pants. There she meets her colleague, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a bumbling nerd who’s a bit outcast. Barbara is quite star-struck by Diana, even as the two forms a tentative friendship over a new project brought by the FBI to identify some ancient gems. As it turns out, there’s something about one mysterious stone that ties both of them with an aspiring businessman (focus on the aspiring part) named Maxwell Lord (perfectly slimy Pedro Pascal) who sells his brand of Gordon-Gekko greed with aplomb–”Life is good! But it can be better!”–even when his empire is crumbling in a mountain of debt.

The 80s is all about being loud, blatant and showy, but it seems that the movie has adopted the ‘go-big-or-go-home’ mantra from that era as well, where subtlety and nuanced seems to be deemed a bad thing. The conversations between all the characters, Diana & Barbara during lunch, and all the scenes involving Lord is campy to the max, which at times is comical. I have to say that the action scenes post the opening sequence are all big, bombastic, but largely uninspired. In fact, it’s was like a big clanging cymbal that feels empty and repetitive, which you could also say the same about the film.

The entire plot is built upon this Dreamstone that can grant wishes to anyone. Unlike Aladdin’s magic lamp, it not clear how this stone actually works but we’re supposed to just go along with it. When someone in the museum office wishes for coffee in front of the thing, then voila! it magically appears. Apparently Lord’s been searching for this magical stone for a while and naturally he sees it as the solution to his economic problems, that is to get all his investors to believe in his oil investment schemes. Interestingly, the stone would grant any wish, big or small, no matter how incredulous it might be.

Thanks to this mysterious Dreamstone, everyone’s life changes in an instant. Director Patty Jenkins, who also co-wrote the script with Geoff Johns & Dave Callaham uses the moments post wish-granted as comic relief. From Barbara at the gym being all hot, sexy and super strong (channeling Jane Fonda in her leotards, rawr!) to ALL the scenes when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is all bewildered by everything in the 80s. As to those asking why in the world is Trevor back from the dead? Well, trust me, that’s not the only thing that’ll get your suspension of disbelief stretched to its snapping point, at least he was amusing in the 80s getup. Plus, Pine and Gadot have an effortlessly-playful chemistry that’s fun to watch.

I try to make most of my reviews spoiler free, but from time to time I simply have to talk about it. One of my biggest beef about Diana’s character here is the irritating inconsistency of who she’s supposed to represent. She’s supposed to be one the most powerful woman person in the world, but yet she’s shown as lonely and reclusive, unable/unwilling to make friends. SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read)Despite initially not believing that the stone has magical powers, she made a wish anyway and that is she wants her lover back. Diana/Steve love story was beautifully-realized in the 2017 movie, but in this timeline, that was more than six decades ago, and she hasn’t moved on in all that time?? Now, I’m not against romance or anything, but bringing Steve back in this way is problematic. Somehow the movie makes Diana comes across like a lovelorn woman, which is disappointingly at odds with the message of female-empowerment.

Thus, I feel like Jenkins just want to work with Pine in the sequel and she ended up sacrificing story integrity, or worse, the integrity of the character we’ve come to love in the first film. I’m all for bringing Pine back, I just feel like his character should’ve been written in a different way. It’s also odd that the biggest action spectacles involving Wonder Woman is at the most dynamic when Steve was around as her side-kick. I’m not saying that Steve becomes Robin to Diana’s Batman necessarily, but it feels as if he was more instrumental to her ‘saving the day’ than he needed to be. He also becomes her voice of reason, which again is a re-tread to what we’ve already seen in the first film.

Which brings me to the two villains in the movie, which is definitely not created equal. With his inherent campiness and absurdity, Lord is an entertaining character to watch. Pascal is having a moment right now and I’m glad because he’s a terrific actor who finally gets his due. His character is clearly modeled after Donald Trump (“I’m not a con man but a respected television personality” ha!) but with much, much better hair. You can almost visualize Lord twirling his invisible mustache. I think the fact that Pascal is without any facial hair makes him look unsettling, like something is off, which I guess is the point.

At the same time, Pascal is still able to make the character grounded instead of making him a full-blown caricature of a modern genie. He hits the emotional moments required that makes you still sympathize with him despite the massive chaos he’s caused all over the world. I do have to mention though, I was a bit distracted by the fact that the boy who plays his son looks more Asian (like Thai or Filipino) than Latino, but perhaps I was a bit more distracted by his unconvincing acting. His nefarious plans are so grandiose and incredulous, i.e. inadvertently starting a nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union, seem to play out like SNL skits that they’re unintentionally hilarious.

Barbara, aka Cheetah, on the other hand, suffers not only from poor character development, but also from horrible special effects. I was still scratching my head as to how she suddenly became Cheetah when suddenly she’s dressed in the furry cheetah getup, slinging and taunting Diana who’s now donning the legendary Amazon warrior Asteria’s all-gold armor that she’s kept in her home. Despite being almost as powerful as Wonder Woman, Cheetah is barely menacing nor even the least bit threatening, partly because of bad CGI, but also largely because of the shaky character motivation. Barbara is more of an ugly-duckling-turned-swan run amok as she’s consumed by her own beauty and power. I like Kristen Wiig generally, but I have to say her character makes me cringe from start to finish. Her giggling and crushing over Maxwell Lord is as hard to watch as all the Cheetah action sequences.

To be fair, none of the action sequences is all that great apart from the opening sequence. That’s why I said it doesn’t fit this movie as it feels tonally different and doesn’t really advance the story forward as we have already seen how bad-ass young Diana was in the first film. It would’ve worked better as a special feature in the blu-ray instead, as it’s still spectacular to watch. To make matters worse, the music by Hans Zimmer is too loud, boisterous and irritating… I can’t even remember any of its motif/melody at all, just the fact that I wish it could be toned down (hello Dreamstone/Maxwell Lord? Were you not listening to my wish?)

At an overlong 2 hours and 31 minutes, WW84 feels derivative and preachy, which is made worse as it’s a rehash of the same virtues that’s been delivered in the first movie. So she’s basically ‘preaching to the choir’ over and over again with her lasso of truth, adding a clichéd ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage on top of that.  I guess the one improvement that can be said over the first movie is the villain is far more memorable this time around (anyone even remember Ares God of War?). Unlike The Dark Knight where the villain upstages the hero, that is in fact part of the plan and fits the Batman story as a whole. It’s quite ironic that despite showing an extended flying sequence here, Wonder Woman fails to soar.

It pains me to write this review… though I had a bad feeling after watching all the trailers, I was hoping the movie would prove me wrong. Alas, that did not happen. I still like the character and Gal Gadot’s performance as Diana though, so I’m hoping this is just a singular misstep and we’d see the character rising to greatness again in its inevitable third installment.


Have you seen Wonder Woman 1984? Well, what did YOU think?

Guest Post: MINARI (2020)


Editor (Ruth)’s note: This is a guest review from my friend and fellow movie lover Jessie Zumeta, who saw this at Sundance Film Festival last January. 


A charming exploration of what holds people together, Minari is a semi autobiographical story of a Korean American family trying to sustain their farm in rural Arkansas. Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, the film is set during the 1980’s during the heyday of agricultural subsidies. Like many Asian American films it follows a family in search of the American dream. The parents, Monica (Yeri Han) and Jacob (Steven Yeun) immigrate many years previously and their children have been raised stateside however they are still working hard to create the life they envisioned for themselves.

The set design was lovingly and painstakingly created from memory and the way the film is shot and lit creates a nostalgic and dream-like quality. The cast did a lot of preparation in order to create realistic and natural kind of dynamics between each family member. This care to the smallest of details elevates this film from a cutesy film about an individual family to a deeply moving, nuanced portrait of people finding their place in the world.

In a clever and charming juxtaposition, the young son David (Alan S. Kim) and his maternal grandmother Soonja (Yuh-jung Youn) form an unlikely bond. Their playful and prank-fueled relationship serves as a bridge between what the parents (particularly Monica) left in their homeland and what they were able to create in their new life. This intergenerational relationship serves as a fusion of their biculturalism. As grandma shows David minari, an herb used in Korean cooking, David shares his Mountain Dew. It is these interpersonal moments that sets this film apart.

Throughout the film each member of the Yi family is negotiating who they are in their new home, balancing aspects of their Korean identity with new traits they acquired while living and working in the United States. Chung explores this beautifully with kindness but also an unfiltered rawness of someone with personal knowledge of this experience. The one constant through everything is their constant love and care for one another.

This film, named for a hearty vegetable common in Korean cooking. This veggie is well known for growing back stronger the second season. Like the plant that can easily be transplanted and grows without too much difficulty, the Yi family uproot themselves to America and through determination are able to create a new life. This shows with careful tending, people and relationships like minari have the capacity to grow anywhere.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Per Wikipedia, the film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2020, winning both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. It began a limited release in the US on December 11, prior to its wide release on February 12, 2021, by A24.


Have you seen MINARI? Well, what did you think? 

Music Break – The fabulous songs from Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Happy mid December, everyone! It’s less than two weeks until Christmas so I’ve been watching more holiday-themed movies than usual… naturally.

So this weekend I decided to watch one new Christmas movie and my hubby + I debated whether to watch The Christmas Chronicles or Jingle Jangle on Netflix. We decided on the latter because of the great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Well, it did not disappoint! Though my hubby isn’t a huge fan of musicals (and I could sense a slight ‘oh no’ expression when the characters suddenly burst into song in its opening number), he ended up enjoying the movie, yay!

I have to say I really enjoyed the movie! The story has a Dickens-an vibe to it, one can’t help but think this is A Christmas Carol with an all-black cast. Writer/director David E. Talbert has created a new sumptuous holiday classic that’s perfect for the whole family. I was ooh-aahing at the spectacular set pieces, beautiful costumes (by Michael Wilkinson, natch!) and simply magical look of the movie.

The songs by EGOT-winner John Legend are fused with fun and sweet holiday spirit, while some of the songs are emotionally-tinged as the characters deal with loss and betrayal. The score itself is by John Debney, who’s no stranger to working on musical/animated features (The Greatest Showman, The Jungle Book), though I also admire his work for The Passion of the Christ.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t watched it already:

Well, in lieu of a full review, I thought I’d do a Music Break post instead, since I haven’t done one in months! I think we could all use a huge dose of holiday cheer these days, and these songs certainly did that for me. 

I LOVE this opening number sung by young Jeronicus Jangle (what a fabulous name!) played by Justin Cornwell. The set design of the Jangles & Things store that seemed to have been meticulously designed. The choreography is astounding! It’s no surprise that Ashley Wallen is the same choreographer behind The Greatest Showman.

Can I just say I adore Mrs ooops, Miss Johnston (played wonderfully by Lisa Davina Phillip). Her crushing on Mr. Jangle is such a hoot, she’s such a delightful comic relief and more! I wish she had more scenes in the movie but I’m glad she ended up having a bit more to do towards the end. The trio singers add even more whimsy to an already merry musical number!

I’m glad that Jingle Jangle isn’t just all about pretty visuals and phenomenal set design. The movie is filled with memorable characters of all ages. Madalen Mills is such a joy to watch, a bundle of sunshine everywhere she goes. Though the film is set in the Winter, there’s not a drab mood in sight! What an inspiration to young girls everywhere that Journey is a brilliant kid inventor and she’s singing a song about math. Her enthusiasm and jubilant spirit is infectious, and this song is definitely her calling card that this amazingly-talented young performer is ready to be a star!

I should’ve known Forest Whitaker could sing… somehow I always see him as a serious actor, and he did direct one of my favorite dramas starring one of the greatest singers of all time, Whitney Houston in Waiting To Exhale. But according to IMDb, Mr. Whitaker went to USC where he majored in music and earned two more scholarships training as an operatic tenor. In any case, this one is such a sad but beautiful song.

Last but definitely NOT least, Tony-award winner Anika Noni Rose absolutely killed this powerful song that’s truly the heart of soul of the movie. The loss and redemption theme is wonderfully realized here… Make It Work Again might as well be an anthem for 2020 as we all hope we can make things work again after this pandemic!

I’m not including Borrow Indefinitely song by the Don Juan toy – I initially thought was voiced by Antonio Banderas, but turns out it’s Ricky Martin. Though at first I thought he was a hoot, the character actually gives me the creeps and I find it quite irritating (sorry Ricky!).

Now, who else saw this movie and thought, man this could totally be a Broadway musical! Well, when we can finally go see live theater again, I could totally see this one become a musical hit. I mean, the set pieces would work nicely on stage and the musical numbers already have a theatrical-feel to it. It would be a fun alternative to White Christmas, Scrooge, Elf, etc. while giving performers of color a chance to star in a new + fabulous Christmas classic.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. If you’ve seen Jingle Jangle, which song(s) is your favorite?

FlixChatter Review: RADIOACTIVE (2019)

Ever since her breakout role in Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike has become an even more compelling performer who often portrays brilliant real-life heroines. A couple of years ago, I thought her performance in A Private War as fearless war-correspondence Marie Colvin. Well, she plays yet another Marie in this film, Marie Curie, the Polish-born Nobel Prize-winning scientist whose inventions changed the world.

Directed by Iranian-born French filmmaker Marjane Satrapi, the biographical drama focuses on Marie’s struggle to work as a scientist, largely due to her gender, and how she eventually prevailed to win the Nobel prize. The story is told in flashback from the time Marie was in her mid 60s (Pike in heavy makeup) and she collapsed in her Paris laboratory. Most of the story takes place in Paris when Marie was studying at University of Paris and having trouble securing the proper resources and funding for her work, that is until she meets Pierre Curie (Sam Riley). Pierre takes an immediately liking to her and offers her a partnership.

Marie and Pierre worked together and eventually they did fall in love, got married and had two children together. The film showed their relationship was a happy one initially, though of course there was always something wanting. Despite the fact that the two collaborated on their scientific research and discovery–of polonium and radium–Marie’s continually discredited for her work. Pierre was nominated for Légion d’honneur, the highest French order of merit, that he rejected for not nominating Marie. Later on, Marie was basically left out of the Nobel Prize in Physics, but Pierre insisted the two jointly share that prestigious award.

Now, while the film’s subject matter is a fascinating one, the film’s narrative style almost feels a bit stifling and lacking in energy at times. I’m not sure the surrealistic elements work in the film’s favor, though I do give the filmmaker’s points for creativity. I just  wish there’s a bit more dynamic energy and sparks that would make the film more lively, though Pike’s performance remain captivating throughout. The cinematography also often appear too grim and gloomy which adds an unnecessarily bleak atmosphere.

Though I had obviously heard of Marie Curie, I did not know anything about her life What I come away from watching this biopic is just how tough and heart-wrenching her life was. Both she and Pierre were heavily exposed to toxic elements in their years of research, which naturally affected their health. Marie initially dismissed such concerns, even after more and more people die from health complications after exposure to radium.

The gender discrimination is to be expected and the film captured those moments well, as well as the times Marie was harassed by xenophobic mobs because of her Polish origins in her later years. I have to say that the scenes in third act during World War I is quite a memorable one. Marie’s daughter Irene (Anya Taylor-Joy) has become a scientist in her own right at this point, and the two of them developed a mobile radiology units that they themselves took to the field near the front lines. Apparently back then, many soldiers’ limbs were unnecessarily amputated and this x-ray machines helped save the limbs if they in fact could be saved. Apparently Marie sacrificed her own Nobel prize winning to fund this humanitarian effort to the French, though she was again, never formally recognized for her work.

Marie Curie’s story of bravery, intellect and resilience certainly deserve cinematic treatment and Pike portrays her beautifully. Despite its flaws, I’d still regard this film as a remarkable and heartfelt tribute to a singular heroine and her scientific legacy.


Have you seen RADIOACTIVE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Museum Town (2020)

Directed by Jennifer Trainer
Narrated by Meryl Streep

Museum Town is the first feature documentary from award-winning journalist Jennifer Trainer. It chronicles the history of Mass MoCA, the world’s largest contemporary art museum in the world and North Adams, the struggling Massachusetts town it resides in. Trainer herself is one of the co-founders of Mass MoCA. Narrated by Meryl Streep, it mainly focuses on Missouri-born artist Nick Cave (not the of the Bad Seeds) and his epic installation titled Until which involved large scale pieces of found and recycled art and contemporary objects. There are also brief cameos from other artists/musicians like David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) and Laurie Anderson.

In the early 80s as well as decades before, North Adams was a thriving factory town most well-known for housing Sprague Electric who manufactured electronic components such as conductors, semi-conductors, resistors/capacitors and ICs (integrated circuits). The factory was mostly a women’s workforce because of what was perceived as delicate detail work fitting small hands.

With a sprawling campus that encompassed 2 or more football fields, Sprague was a city unto itself and helped sustain the city’s economic growth into the 1980s. However, as component manufacturing gradually moved overseas, Sprague decided to cut costs and eventually closed its North Adams facility which put thousands of locals out of work. The connecting highway was also built on the town’s outskirts further debilitating its economic recovery.

Then in the mid 80s, Thomas Krens, an experienced museum director from Williamstown convinced the city’s leadership to convert Sprague’s abandoned buildings into what would become the largest contemporary museum in the world. The vastness of it gave some established and upcoming installation artists the opportunity to exhibit their work in a unique space. Mass MoCA as it was christened, partly rejuvenated North Adams and helped establish itself as a “Museum Town”.

As the film unfolds, we see the progression of North Adams’ history as thriving factory town to depressed city and Mass MoCA’s rise from conception to existence. While the museum continues to tread water in pursuit of financing, the town continues to be conflicted of its identity among the locals. While some have adapted to the museum’s high-brow reputation in the art world (some locals work for the museum) many more struggle to find their place as poverty and homelessness to continue to be problematic.

Though the film is honest about Mass MoCA’s relationship with North Adams, it’s unfortunate that the chasm between the museum and the townsfolk remain deep and wide. Being an artist, I personally feel there should be a common ground between art and audience. But in Museum Town, that seems to be a road less travelled. It’s a reality and perhaps the challenge of Mass MoCA – to reach a common appreciation, understanding and reflection of the people and the town of North Adams.

Museum Town is pleasant to watch but mostly feels like it’s confined within museum walls. And I can’t help feeling a certain detachment from the people of North Adams as if they are still being left behind. They need their voices heard too.

Vince_review


So did you see MUSEUM TOWN? Let us know what you think!