Thursday Movie Picks #296: Spoofs /Satires/ Mockumentaries

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… Spoofs / Satires / Mockumentaries.

For this particular post, I’m going to select one movie each from each category:

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

A spoof of Robin Hood in general, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) in particular.

It’s been ages since I saw this movie but I remember laughing SO hard in the theater watching this with my brother that my tummy hurt! Mel Brooks is obviously a comedic genius, he must saw the unintentionally-hilarious Prince of Thieves and knew he had to spoof it! Cary Elwes is absolutely perfect for the role of Robin, plus a fabulous ensemble including Patrick Stewart, Tracey Ullman, and Richard Lewis. Apparently Elwes based his performance in Princes Bride after Errol Flynn, and here he’s channeling him as Robin as well.

The musical numbers are a lot of fun as well, though some of the actors didn’t actually do their own singing. Relentlessly irreverent and consistently hysterical, it’s definitely a comedic classic that can be watched over and over. To this day, it’s still hard not to laugh watching the oh-so-serious and grim Robin Hood (*cough* Ridley Scott *cough*) after watching this one.


Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a War Room full of politicians and generals frantically tries to stop.

I actually saw this movie in a film class in college and at the time I didn’t really get the significance of this movie. Upon rewatch, I realized just the brilliance of this cold war satire, and I read how Stanley Kubrick originally set out to make a serous drama before he realized the misguided patriotism of the characters. Filled with many quotable lines, especially “this is the War Room” line delivered with deadpan by the great Peter Sellers. Satire, when done well, can deliver the most potent social commentary, and this is definitely one of the best. No wonder it was shown in a film class as it’s a text-book example of how to do this genre brilliantly. It certainly takes guts, skill and enormous amount of wit to be able to do one, as Taika Waititi recently did with JoJo Rabbit.


What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

Viago, Deacon and Vladislav are vampires who are finding that modern life has them struggling with the mundane – like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs and overcoming flatmate conflicts.

The tagline of this movie is ‘some interviews with some vampires’ I LOVE that!! It’s the quintessential mockumentary that takes a brilliant concept and executed it smashingly (check out my full review). Written by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, this movie is SO freaking witty, hilarious and fun! It’s the first time I discovered Taika (as I knew Jemaine already from Flight of the Conchords) and he’s such a gifted writer/filmmaker so I’m glad he’s found success in Hollywood now.

Every single one of the cast is hilarious, even Stu who had never acted before and thought he was hired to help with computer work as he’s actually a business analyst, but he ended up playing himself in the movie which was simply genius!! This is perhaps one of the most quotable movies I’ve ever seen, I still quote a bunch of the lines like ‘Wakey, wakey,’ ‘We’re Werewolves, not Swear-Wolves’ and my personal favorite ‘I go for a look which I call dead but delicious’ 😀 I own the Bluray and I cannot wait for the sequel (with the original cast). I watched season one of the series, which was funny, but still can’t hold a candle to this movie!


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

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!

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 …

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)?

TCFF19 Review: JOJO RABBIT (2019)

JoJo Rabbit is one of those films that I’d call deceptively-flippant. If you’ve seen at least one trailer or promo clip, you’d automatically assume this would be a bizarre comedy. Well you wouldn’t be wrong either, but there is so much more in this than meets the eye. That’s the beauty of Taika Waititi‘s work, who’s quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood (though it has been a long journey for him as a New Zealand filmmaker). This work is perhaps more akin to Hunt For The Wilderpeople a comedy/drama with a young boy at the center of the story.

Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis

The movie started out as rather bizarre… I mean seeing Taika playing a pudgy, halfwitted version of Adolf Hitler takes a while to get used to even after seeing all the promo photos of him in that role. I also think some of the comedic bits of the Nazi soldiers in the Hitler’s youth camp are deliberately fantastical, as is the nature of a satire. Young Johannes aka JoJo (Roman Griffin Davis) is bullied at camp, but kids are more resilient than one thinks. His imaginary friend Adolf somehow helps him cope. The story is contrasted with the kind of resiliency young Jewish girl Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) has to endure, the girl JoJo’s own mother (Scarlett Johansson) hides in her attic. Now, I feel like the less you know going in the better you’d enjoy this film, so I’m not going to reveal anything else other than what’s shown in the trailer.

Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa

Taika sure has a gift in casting. In his debut role, Roman is perfect as the innocent JoJo who’s brain-washed to hate something he doesn’t even comprehend. He has a certain natural charm about him, not as riotous as Julian Dennison was in Hunt For the Wilderpeople, but just as affecting. I love seeing Thomasin here as a smart, defiant survivor after her amazing performance in Leave No Trace, I hope she continues to get more prominent work.  The tentative bond between JoJo and Elsa is truly the heart and soul of the film. There is real pathos in the conversations between them, and also between JoJo and his mother. And so it’s wise for Taika to keep the screen time of famous actors like Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell relatively small, but with compelling and unexpected character arc. SPOILER ALERT [highlight text to read] I think by making Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf who runs a Hitler Youth camp as a closeted gay man is perhaps a way to humanize some of the Nazi soldiers, who might have been trapped in a society who also don’t welcome them. The only one actor who I think is rather wasted here in a deliberately role is Rebel Wilson, but she is so hilarious that she’s still fun to watch. Oh can I just say I absolutely adore fellow newbie young actor Archie Yates who plays Yorki, JoJo’s bespectacled BFF. He’s such a fantastic comic relief a la Taika’s Korg in Thor: Ragnarok.

Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates

I thoroughly enjoy this film and I will champion it come award season. The story is adapted from Caging Skies novel by Christine Leunens, Taika said it was given to him by his mother. I think it’s tricky to make a satire and it’s definitely not for everyone. I think some of the earlier scenes that seemingly make light of the Holocaust and how horrible the Nazis were (set in a famous Beatles’ song no less) might ruffle some feathers, and I wouldn’t blame them. But if people could get through 15-20 minutes and finally get to the heart of the story, it’s so well worth the journey. Naturally some scenes are tough to watch, even the comical ‘interrogation’ scene with the Gestapo secret police (led by Stephen Merchant) made my skin crawl. SPOILER ALERT [highlight text to read]: JoJo compiles a journal about the Jewish people that are filled with the terrible lies and brainwashing stuff the youth camp are teaching him, and he’d often hurl insulting stuff at Elsa.

JoJo and his imaginary pal, Adolf

Now as for Taika himself. Well, to say he’s the perfect Hitler would likely NOT what he’d like to hear. He’s said in interviews that he had to play the role given most actors would shy away from playing such an audacious character. But yet, even despite how flashy the role is, the filmmaker is able to make us focus on what matters–JoJo’s journey in overcoming hatred and bigotry… and better yet, learn to love someone who’s different from himself. That alone I think is quite a feat. A brilliant balancing act of tragedy and comedy in a bizarre yet poignant style… that’s definitely Taika’s unique gift of storytelling. I sure hope he gets to create more original films in addition to all his work for Disney/Marvel.


Have you seen JOJO RABBIT? If so, I’d love to hear what you think!

Trailers Spotlight: HARRIET and JOJO RABBIT

Happy [almost] Friday, folks! Today we have a set of trailers I think are worth checking out, and per tradition, I always like to mix the tone/genre/style when posting trailers. Both of these films deal with the horrifying injustices befallen our humanity, slavery and the holocaust, but done in two very different ways. One is a biopic drama and the other an anti-hate satire, both to be released this Fall.

HARRIET

Based on the story of iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, her escape from slavery and subsequent missions to free dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad in the face of growing pre-Civil War adversity.

I first saw Cynthia Erivo in Steve McQueen’s extremely-underrated thriller WIDOWS (one of my top 10 of 2018). I was so impressed with her performance, her feature film debut no less, that I’m thrilled to see her leading this overdue biopic. I’m surprised there hasn’t been any film made about Harriet Tubman, a real-life hero who’s become an icon of courage and freedom.

Glad to see a black, female director at the helm of this important film. This is Kasi Lemmons‘ fifth feature film, the last one she directed was Black Nativity (2013). Looks like we can expect a thrilling, intense and gut-wrenching biopic, I’m already tearing up watching the trailer. Of course some people surely have issues with Erivo’s casting, given that she’s British. Originally her Widows‘ co-star Viola Davis was supposed to play Tubman for HBO but not sure what happened to that project. But then again, a bunch of other Brits have played iconic American heroes, i.e. Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln and David Oyelowo portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. Erivo may not be an American, but she does have African heritage (Nigerian) and who’s to say she won’t be able to do Harriet Tubman justice if she wasn’t born in the US? Apparently there are calls for boycotts which I think is just sad.

Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr. and Joe Alwyn also star in this film, and it’ll have its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival in September and opens in theaters on November 1st. Fingers crossed it will also make the TCFF lineup this year!


A young boy whose imaginary friend is Hitler finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.

Anything by visionistical (apparently he coined a new term) filmmaker Taika Waititi always intrigues me. Described as an anti-hate satire by the filmmaker, it’s based on a book called Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, a US-born novelist who lives in New Zealand. It’s worthy of note not only because Waititi is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today, but here he also plays the imaginary friend, that is Hitler himself. Per IMDb, when Taika who is Jewish, was asked about why he chose to play the role of [a plumb] Adolf Hitler he said “The answer’s simple, what better f***you to the guy” Ha! You gotta love his zany brand of humor.

I’m thrilled to see Thomasin McKenzie amongst the cast, the NZ breakout star of Leave No Trace, another movie on my Top 10 list of last year. She plays the young Jewish girl hiding in the German boy’s (Roman Griffin Davis) attic. Scarlett Johansson plays his mother and the rest of the star-studded cast include Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, and Sam Rockwell. 

This has that dark comedy whimsy that’s quintessentially Taika’s… it’s wacky and irreverent yet with a touch of earnestness. What We Do In The Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Thor: Ragnarok are all immensely watchable and highly-quotable, I have a feeling this one would be as well.

Jojo Rabbit will also have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and opens in theaters on October 18th. Man, I’m officially excited for Fall movies now, though no, I’m not ready for summer to be over yet.

 


Thoughts on these trailers, folks?

FlixChatter Review – THOR: Ragnarok (2017)

It’s been almost two weeks since I saw Thor: Ragnarok and I’m still giddy thinking about it. In fact, I had just seen Justice League two nights ago and honestly I’d rather write about the latest Thor movie, and this is one I’d readily watch again.

Let me preface this review with the fact that I’m a huge fan of its director, New Zealander Taika Waititi, ever since I saw What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople a year later. Those two rank as one of my favorite films of all time. In fact, even with an all star cast that includes my personal cinematic heroine Cate Blanchett, I’m most excited about Thor: Ragnarok because of Waititi. And boy did he deliver!!

It opens with our Asgardian hero, sans his Mjölnir hammer, being chained by a creature named Surtur who plans to destroy Thor’s planet by fulfilling the propechy of Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth is definitely much more comfortable in the role, having played Thor half a dozen times by now. But here he gets to show off his comic chops as well. He manages to escape, gets his Mjölnir and fighting mojo back and he returns to Asgard. It’s always a hoot seeing Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (I actually like him more than Thor from the previous films). I’m not going to spoil it for you but what he discovers there is one of the most comical bits of the movie. Let’s just say Taika made a great use of a famous A-lister that could’ve played like an SNL skit if it wasn’t handled properly. Love seeing Sam Neill making a quick appearance too.

The following scenes takes Thor and his half brother Loki to earth, trying to figure out the wherebouts of his father. The scenes involving them and Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is funny stuff as well, peppered with Taika’s brand of quirky humor. As it turns out, it itsn’t just Loki who wants to take over the rule of Asgard, and this time she wouldn’t stop at that. With a name like Hela, of course she wants to rule the entire universe and unleash hell! Miss Blanchett relish on the opportunity to be a sexy, leather-clad, rockstar-ish goddess from hell, with another easy-on-the-eyes actor from Down Under Karl Urban as her lackey. Yes she seems to be purposely chewing the scenery but it works, and it’s fun to watch.

It’s clear the two brothers are no match for Hela and so Thor gets banished to a planet of scraps where his next crazy adventure begins! The new characters Taika introduced here, Valkyrie (bad-ass Tessa Thompson), the Grandmaster (the eternally amusing Jeff Goldblum), a rock creature Korg (voiced in a hilarious high-pitched voice by Taika himself) are all memorable! Even Rachel House (who was hilarious in Hunt for the Wilderpeople) got some hilarious one liners in the movie. I LOVE Valkyrie and Korg I wouldn’t mind seeing more of both of those characters in future Thor movies or even a spin-off! I also love seeing Idris Elba back as Heimdall, who became the loyal guardians for Asgardians. This is perhaps my favorite ensemble cast of all superhero movies.

I read that Taika has always wanted to make the latest Thor movie more comedic, whilst making some creative updates the character and its universe. Well he certainly’s done the job smashingly well! Yep, the term ‘Hulk Smash’ would apply to this movie and all the scenes with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), both as Bruce Banner and the big green creature, are massively entertaining. Everyone seems to be having a blast making this and it shows. But just because it’s chock full of hilarious bits, it doesn’t mean there’s no plot here. The story actually holds up and there’s even some nice moments between Thor and Valkyrie that points to her past as Asgard’s defender. There’s a hint there might be something less-than-platonic between these two and you know what, I’d welcome it! It’s certainly more interesting than Thor and Natalie Portman’s Jane.

I’m glad that Marvel once again took a chance on an indie director (following the success of the Russo brothers with the Captain America movies) and Taika Waititi is one of recent filmmakers I discovered who I REALLY want to see making it big. I love that he pushed for more Indigenous representation in his films. Apparently he hired many Aboriginal crew members and the film was shot in Australia. There are quite a few in-jokes for Kiwis and Australians, like the Aboriginal flag colors and the spaceships named after types of Holden, Australian-made cars. My relative actually owned one of those when I was growing up in Indonesia!

SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read) I don’t know if anyone else noticed this but the plot has a bit of social commentary about how the White people conquered a lot of the Indigenous land. When they’re inside the Asgardian palace, Hela said something about the dark history of Asgard… how Odin used to conquer different planets and wanting to rule the universe, with her by her side. But then Odin gained a conscience and became a benevolent ruler, thus banishing Hela because she didn’t share his vision. She said ‘where do you think we got all of this gold from?’ When I heard that, it sounded like a commentary about colonial privilege, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being the ‘stolen generation’ and white Australians living on someone else’s land. Even the Grandmaster’s line ‘slaves is such a harsh word, I prefer “prisoners with benefits”’ sounds like a sarcastic jab against people calling an awful thing differently as if that would actually lessen its awfulness.

Well, I’m curious if people notice those things or not. One thing for sure, this has become one of my all time favorite movie, not just my favorite Marvel movie. The actions scenes are definitely fun to watch. There are bombastic fight scenes but they don’t feel overlong or overdone like in some other superhero movies. There’s even an entertaining spaceship chase and of course the Thor vs Hulk battle promised in the trailer is still epic and fun! That ‘friend from work’ line is one of the many quotable quips from Taika Waititi’s movies I’d use again and again.

You would think it’d be tough to live up to the super fun trailer w/the rousing Led Zepellin’s Immigrant Song, but the movie manages to do just that… and then some! So yeah, Thor doesn’t just get a spunky new haircut but Taika gives him a whole new attitude and refreshing new take on his franchise. The funniest bits in the trailer is still hilarious in the movie, there’s so much joy and laughter in the whole theater. Like a joyful, thrilling amusement park ride, you can’t wait to get on it again as soon as it’s over!


Well, what did you think of ‘THOR: RAGNAROK’? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

Rental Pick: Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016)

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As I’ve mentioned in this post, I absolutely LOVE the vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows. It’s also written and directed by Taika Waititi, who’s been quite a force to be reckoned with as a filmmaker, so I’m glad he’s getting noticed by Hollywood!

Right from the opening scene when the 13-year-old Ricky is dropped off by child welfare services at his new foster home in a remote farm, the movie immediately grabbed me. Though his foster mom Bella (Rima Te Wiata) welcomes him with open arms, her cantankerous husband Hec makes sure he wants to be left alone. Julian Dennison is quite a revelation as Ricky, a juvenile delinquent I actually wish I could adopt! He makes quite an unlikely duo with Sam Neill‘s Hec, and their journey through NZ wilderness is a hilarious yet poignant adventure I could watch over and over.
wilderpeople_neill_dennisonwilderpeople_juliandennison

I absolutely enjoy the banter between ‘uncle’ Hec and Ricky throughout, as they went on the run from police who thought Ricky had been kidnapped. One of the funniest bits was when they encountered some hunters and somehow Ricky made it sound like he’s been molested. It’s truly a lot of fun to witness the duo’s journey, both physically and emotionally, as they grow to enjoy each other’s company. Waititi, who made a wacky cameo as a minister, has a real gift for storytelling and witty dialog. I love these types of comedies. It’s uproariously funny but also has a huge heart, not relying on crude gags masquerading as *comedy* Hollywood churn out these days.

wilderpeople_paula_andy

The supporting cast is quite a hoot as well. The ruthless child welfare officer Paula (Rachel House) and her rather useless policeman partner Andy (Oscar Kightley) are hot on Hec and Ricky’s tail. There’s a hilarious moment when Paula and Ricky faced off each other in the woods…

Paula: Yeah, and I’ll never stop chasing you – I’m relentless, I’m like the Terminator.

Ricky Baker: I’m more like the Terminator than you!

Paula: I said it first, you’re more like Sarah Connor, and in the first movie too, before she could do chin-ups.

I love the pop culture joke and it doesn’t feel stale. There’s also that bit about The Lord of the Rings that made me laugh so hard. I was hoping Waititi would include LOTR given that it was also shot primarily in New Zealand. Though perhaps not as quotable as What We Do In The Shadows that Waititi co-wrote, there are plenty of great, funny lines here that still made me chuckle every time I remember them. Dennison is definitely one of my favorite talent discoveries of the year and I hope this kid gets other prominent roles in the future. Neill is a talented veteran actor, and his character here reminds me of Dr. Grant in Jurassic Park as kids somehow flock to him despite his grumpy demeanor.

wilderpeople_newzealand

The amazing scenery would certainly make you want to book your next trip to NZ pronto! This movie could practically doubles as a NZ tourism video. The third act gets over the top a bit, especially when the manhunt became a full-on ‘war.’ Fortunately it never got off the rails even as the action escalated to a rather bombastic finale. The ending is a sweet one, albeit a tad predictable. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and it made me anticipate THOR: Ragnarok a whole lot more because Waititi is directing it!

I rarely give a full score in my reviews, but this movie is pretty much perfect. As I mentioned in my Golden Globes post, it’s ridiculous this movie wasn’t nominated for Best Comedy! It’s not just the funniest film of the year, but it ranks as one of the best comedies of all time.

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Have you seen this movie? I’d love to hear what you think!

Week In Review: Hunt For the Wilderpeople + Loving + The Little Prince

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How’s your weekend everyone? It’s been a while since I did a roundup post, but I figure it’s a good way for me to ease my way into blogging again. It’s been a particularly gratifying week as I saw two of my highly-anticipated films, Loving and Hunt For the Wilderpeople. As Winter has officially arrived, we pretty much hibernated this weekend so my hubby and I saw The Little Prince on Netflix Saturday night.

Below is my mini reviews of two of the films I saw this past week, plus quick thoughts on the New Zealander adventure comedy…

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

huntwilderpeople

I became a huge fan of Taika Waititi‘s work since the hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows. Well, he’s come up with yet another riotously-funny movie that could practically double as a travel video for New Zealand!

I will do a full review of this later in December, but right now all I can say is… RUN, don’t walk to rent this movie!! I’m gutted that I missed this on the big screen, not sure that it even had a theatrical release here in MN. In any case, I enjoyed the heck out of this one. LOVE the unlikely duo of veteran actor Sam Neill with newcomer Julian Dennison, a riotous 14-year-old NZ child actor with an amazing comic timing and screen presence. He’s inspired me to do a top 10 list of great 2016 performances by kid actors, so stay tuned for that!


Loving

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Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.

This film couldn’t have come at a better time, as America is surely in tumultuous times right now. It seems appalling that interracial marriage was still illegal in some states fifty some years ago, but have we really come that far since? The latest film from Jeff Nichols is beautifully-told, graceful and affecting as the filmmaker focused on the couple themselves instead of making a political statement. Yes of course the film has a major political and social implication, as the Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia put an end to all miscegenation laws in 1967. But at the end of the day, the story is about two human beings who loved each other and wanted to raise a family together.

loving_still1

Both Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton portrayed Mildred and Richard with such quiet grace and sincerity. It’s an understated performance that speaks volumes and conveys the tension as well as poignancy of what they went through. For someone withe the name Loving, Richard surely lives up to that and it’s truly a beautiful marriage built on not just love, but mutual respect. Michael Shannon has a small–but–memorable cameo as a LIFE magazine photographer who took the iconic shots of the couple as they simply hang out in their home, watching tv, playing with their kids, etc. There’s also Marton Csokas as the ‘villain’ of the story, the Virginia sheriff who arrested them.

loving_still2

The script, direction and performance all work beautifully to bring the Lovings’ story to life. The cinematography and music are beautiful and evocative, it works in transporting us to a certain period of Americana. But it’s the journey of the Lovings that I shall never forget. By making the film about the couple, forgoing court drama theatrics, Nichols made a deeply moving film that connected with me in a refreshingly real way.

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The Little Prince (2015)

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A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.

Truth be told, I’m not that familiar with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, despite it being the fourth most translated book in the world. This is the first animated feature film adaptation of the book, directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), boasting a terrific cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Ricky Gervais, etc.

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I have a penchant for these kinds of imaginative stories, one that blends in reality and fantasy set in striking visuals. The little girl’s relationship with her overly-ambitious mother is an interesting commentary about the overly-structured life of an adult vs the wide-eyed openness of a child exploring the world. I have to admit it took me a while to get into this one at first, even after the girl (Mackenzie Foy, who was in Interstellar) meets the narrator, an elderly man (Jeff Bridges) who told her the tale about the aviator and the little prince. I’m often lost in the beauty of the visuals, especially the stop-motion scenes in the desert created using paper. It’s absolutely gorgeous with a dreamy quality, but yet for some reason I couldn’t connect to the story nor the characters as much as I wanted to. I wonder if at times there’s a case of ‘lost in translation’ here from the original story.

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There are philosophical quotes that resonated with me however, such as “One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye.” I also enjoyed the music by Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey, which nicely complements the ethereal, watercolor look of the film. It certainly is worth a watch, for sure it’s a technical/visual marvel, even if the film overall isn’t as breathtaking as I had hoped.

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More reviews coming your way…

I’ve written up my full review of Doctor Strange coming later this week. My hubby and I saw Arrival last weekend, right after we’re back from our Zion/Vegas trip, which was truly one of the best, most affecting sci-fi film I’ve seen in a good while.  I plan on writing my review of Arrival and Moonlight (one of the two October Movies of the Month!) later this week. I’ll be seeing the new Brad Pitt/Marion Cotillard spy drama Allied tonight, and if the snow storm doesn’t wreck havoc on traffic, hopefully I’ll be seeing Hidden Figures tomorrow night! Oh and my new blog contributor Laura S. also gave me a review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so stay tuned for a slew of new reviews in the next few weeks!

#SlowlyGettingMyBloggingMojoBack 😉


So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen any of these movies, I’m curious to hear what YOU think.