APRIL Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

April Recap

How in the world that May is here already? Honestly April feels like a blur to me. Weather-wise it’s also super weird. We’ve got Spring, Summer and Winter all in the same month, but hey at least there was no major blizzard! In fact, it was nice enough to walk around the lake a few times and I look forward to more of those in May.

Oh, I did get my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday, so hoping that I can actually travel again this Summer after I got my full dose later this month! Anyway, here are what I watched in April.

NEW TO ME MOVIES

Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

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This dueling monsters flick was the first movie I watched in April. You know what, I didn’t hate it. I mean, I knew going into it that the movie wasn’t going to be about the humans, so can’t complain that the non Godzilla/Kong characters would be under-developed 😀

3/5;

The Truffle Hunters (2020)

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It’s a fascinating subject about a handful of 70-80 year-old Italian men hunting for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle. I had no idea there’s even these types of truffles but they’re huge! I found the film itself a bit too slow and not as exciting as I had thought, but I’m still glad I saw it.

3/5

Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (2021)

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Another fascinating documentary about a subject I’m not familiar with, and what a perfect title! This crime doc focuses on the largest art fraud in American history set in NYC. It’s interesting that the filmmaker was able to get Ann Freeman (AND her attorney), the Knoedler gallery director at the center of the fraud scandal, as one of the talking peoples.

 3/5

Kodachrome (2017)

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Read my full review

Limbo (2021)

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I LOVE this indie film, so I highly recommend this one. Stay tuned for my full review coming soon!

Orlando (1992)

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I wanted to see more female-directed films and this Sally Potter period drama starring Tilda Swinton has been on my to-watch list for ages! Loosely based on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando: A Biography, it’s a strange, surreal film about a man who live through several centuries, even becoming a woman! Billy Zane seems miscast here though, in fact, it’s perhaps one of the most bizarre thing about this already-peculiar film.

4/5

Betty White – Documentary

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I came across this doc on Netflix and of course I had to watch it. I’ve been curious about this legendary performer with a career spanning eight decades!! What a fascinating life, it just makes me love Betty White even more after watching this.

4/5

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

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I finally got around to watching this just before Oscars so I can see Viola Davis’ and Chadwick Boseman’s Oscar-nominated performances. Well, both are truly Oscar-worthy! Oh man, if only Viola won this year, she was incredible! I’m not overly fond of the film itself overall, but that last 10 minutes of Chadwick’s performance was absolutely heartbreaking to watch.

3.5/5 Reels

My Octopus Teacher

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My hubby and I actually watched this the next day to cleanse the palette after the heavy subject matter of Ma Rainey. What a lovely story featuring one of the most amazing underwater cinematography ever… it made me wish I knew how to snorkel!

4.5/5 stars

Another Round

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I literally saw this the night before the Oscar and it’s perhaps my favorite film from Thomas Vinterberg. His longtime collaborator Mads Mikkelsen is outstanding in the film, which proves how versatile this Danish actor is, able to juggle huge blockbuster franchises and small indie films. I do hope he continue to star in smaller films like this one in the future!

4/5

Wild Mountain Thyme (2021)

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Ok, I know I’ve been warned via Rotten Tomatoes and Twitter just how weird this rom-com is, but man, nothing prepared me for how bizarre it was! Written/directed by John Patrick Shanley who won an Oscar for writing Moonstruck (and nominated for Doubt), I was scratching my head by the end. The horrible Irish accents by most of the cast (esp. Christopher Walken) wasn’t even the worst thing about it. Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan barely had any chemistry, though I quite like Dornan as a bumbling farmer and I think it suits his persona more than the billionaire Christian Grey (well based on the trailers anyway, as there is no way I’d watch those stinkers, ha!)

2.5/5

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (2021)

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I actually been looking forward to this as I like a few action movies based on Tom Clancy’s books, most recently the Jack Ryan series with John Krasinski. Well unfortunately this one proved to be utterly disappointing despite having the great Michael B. Jordan and other talented actors (Jamie Bell, Guy Pearce). I’m not sure I’ll give a full review yet but this humorless affair’s got a cheesy B-movie vibe all around. Such a total waste of a talented cast!

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TV SERIES

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier 

The Nevers

Death Comes To Pemberley – Miniseries


REWATCHES

I re-watched quite a few animated movies this past month. Not sure why but I guess it just happens. One of our friends spent the night in early April and he had never seen a Daniel Craig Bond movie, so of course we had to put on Casino Royale. It still holds us really well though the ball-busting scene is still hilarious and cringe-inducing, ahah.

Vicar of Dibley: Christmas Special

Casino Royale

Roman Holiday 

Tangled

Paddington 2

How To Train Your Dragon


APRIL MOVIE OF THE MONTH

MyOctopusTeacher-MVP

MY OCTOPUS TEACHER

If there is one documentary I wouldn’t mind watching again, it would be this one. It’s not only gorgeous and soothing to watch but also inspiring to see the unlikely bond between a human with an elusive underwater creature like an octopus. Craig Foster is such a wonderful storyteller and perhaps one of the best documentary subject I’ve ever seen. Most talking heads are so boring but he shows such passion for his friend/teacher, that is the young octopus, that one can’t help but also get swept off my feet by the creature. I wish he named the octopus! Bravo to Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed for their Best Documentary Oscar win, it’s absolutely well-deserved!!


Well, what did you watch this past month and what’s YOUR favorite film you saw in APRIL?

March Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

march watching recap

HAPPY SPRING!! We already hit 70 degrees earlier this week, 20 degrees warmer than what it’s supposed to be in late March in Minnesota. Of course we went back to the 30s immediately, but a 30-40 degree swing is pretty common here, but hey I’ll take even the occasional 60-70 degree early Spring day and today we almost hit 70 again, woot!!

Well, March turns out to be a pretty busy month work-wise that I managed to only watch 10 new-to-me movies! Partly because I had been invited to be one of the jury for an intercollegiate shorts film festival for a local university, Augsburg College. My short film HEARTS WANT had been shown at an Augsburg event a couple of years ago, and since it’s partnering with Twin Cities Film Fest which is near + dear to me, I just had to take part. In additional to this list below, I watched about 18 or so short films this month.

In any case, so here’s what I watched in MARCH:

NEW TO ME MOVIES

French Exit (2020)

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French Exit is a 2020 surreal comedy film starring Michelle Pfeiffer as a Manhattan heiress who moves to Paris with her son (Lucas Hedges) with the little money they have left. It’s a bizarre film and at times I have no idea where the filmmaker was going w/ it, but still worth a watch for La Pfeiffer’s elegantly-quirky performance.

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Where Hands Touch (2018)

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A rites of passage story of a bi-racial teen struggling for survival in Nazi Germany. I had missed this back in 2018 and given I loved Amma Asante’s work (especially Belle), I decided to finally watch it. The performance of Amandla Stenberg as Leyna is terrific, but the forbidden romance story between Leyna and Lutz (George MacKay), a member of Hitler Youth, isn’t as compelling as Asante’s previous work. It does highlight the history of Afro-Germans, but I think that story deserved a better film.

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The Courier (2021)

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Cold War spy Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his Russian source try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Stay tuned for my full review coming up next week!

Sentinelle

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Some people on Twitter were calling this female John Wick, but it’s nowhere near as fun. Olga Kurylenko plays a trained French soldier suffering PTSD after a combat mission and uses her lethal skills to hunt down the man who hurt her sister. Started out promising and it tries hard to be edgy, but falls flat and overall a pretty boring, predictable movie with a weak ending.

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Crisis (2021)

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Check out my full review AND interview with writer/director Nicholas Jarecki.

Waking Ned Devine (1998)

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I watched this as part of my St. Patrick’s Day post and it’s such a delightful, funny and quirky movie!

 4=

Justice League – The Snyder Cut (2021)

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I only watched this as my hubby was curious about it. I really tried to be neutral about this, though I absolutely abhorred the original Justice League. Can’t say this one is much of an improvement other than the fact that they improved Cyborg’s character development. But seriously, the darn thing is 4 hours long, if they can’t flesh out at least a single character in that time frame, then what the heck is the point?? Visually it’s just not a beautiful movie either, garish and overly morose.

Honestly I don’t see much artistic merit in this movie, I’m just mourning that $70 mil wasted to do another version of this. I mean, it could’ve made like a dozen indie films that are much more compelling story-wise.

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One Night in Miami (2020)

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I’m so glad I finally saw this! I’ve been too swamped to write a proper review of this but props to Regina King (in her directing debut no less) and screenwriter Kemp Powers for adapting his own play into a solid film. It tells this fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the Civil Rights Movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s. All the actors portraying those historical figures did a terrific job here.

4/5 stars

Arsène Lupin (2004)

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I came across this title on Amazon Prime and given how much I enjoyed Netflix’s LUPIN series, I decided to give it a shot. Romain Duris played the charming gentleman thief, involving a love triangle between a seductive sorceress (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the lovely girl from his childhood (Eva Green). Just the cast alone is intriguing, but the movie is pretty weird and borderline bizarre at times, but the French scenery and costumes are wonderful!

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AUDREY (documentary – 2021)

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I grew up watching Audrey Hepburn and still am in awe of her beauty. It’s fascinating watching this documentary told by those close to her, including her own son Sean Hepburn Ferrer. The ballet scenes are beautiful, evoking her past life as a ballerina, but I think it’s a bit overused. Overall I feel like the documentary feels a bit style-over-substance, which I can see why they did it given Audrey was such a style icon. Still I think the film was made with love and I’m glad it also highlights her remarkable life off-screen as a passionate humanitarian.

 3.5=

 


TV SERIES

Ted Lasso

I just LOVE this series!! I’m going to dedicate a post for it one of these days! It’s rare to see such a defiantly positive show that actually celebrates a good guy and being good to others, there are so many shows that are way too dark + violent these days, so Ted Lasso is just so refreshing!


The Falcon & The Winter Soldier

It’s only two episodes and I’m enjoying the series thus far! I actually reviewed the premiere episode here if you care to check it out. The third episode is the best so far, with familiar faces from MCU.


REWATCHES

MI: Fallout

Greatest Showman

Moulin Rogue!

Civil War

Endgame

The African Doctor


March MOVIE OF THE MONTH

one-night-in-miami

Yet another film based on a play that ends up being my favorite of the month (last month’s fave was The Father). I’m hoping a local theater would stage the play of this one, given how the commentary on Civil Rights Movement is so timely these days.


Well, what did you watch this past month and what’s YOUR favorite film you saw in March?

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 1 Review

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It’s a great week for superhero fans. I know that today DC fans are rejoicing for the #SnyderCut of Justice League. Well, even though I have enjoyed some DC superhero movies in the past, I’m not clamoring to see the 4-hour slog elongated version of what I think I saw back in 2017 that I could barely remember, ahah. I did rejoice when I saw an email from Disney saying I had a screener of episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TFATWS) earlier this week! Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite film of the MCU, and also the best of my favorite MCU trilogy. The Captain America movies are all solid but I dare say The Winter Soldier, where Falcon (Sam Wilson) and Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes) first met, is more than a fantastic superhero movie, it’s a phenomenal movie period.

Ever since Disney+ launched in November 2019 in the US (boy that seemed like lightyears ago!), THIS is the series I couldn’t wait to see. Of course the pandemic delayed everything, including this one. Well, let’s just say it’s so worth the wait!! I rewatched Captain America: Civil War in anticipation for this miniseries, and even THIS scene alone made me wish there’s a movie dedicated to these two. So getting an equivalent of 3 movies but on TV is awesome!!

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This is only one of six episodes where, like WandaVision, will not have a follow-up season. I think it’s brilliant that Marvel Studio president Kevin Feige set up these miniseries so filmmakers can dive more deeper into intriguing MCU characters that don’t have their own dedicated movies. And when you’ve got terrific actors like Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, there’s plenty of opportunities to see them flex their dramatic muscles. It’s also cool to see a female director at the helm. Kari Skogland is no stranger to directing high-profile series, such as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Punisher, Walking Dead, The Americans, etc. though TFATWS’s $150 mil budget (for just 6 episodes!!) is no doubt the highest she’s been involved in.

TFATWS opens with a bang! A high-octane action in the vein of the opening sequence of Winter Soldier, but focusing on Falcon instead. The fight choreography is just as good as what you saw in the opening sequence, plus we see a familiar face of the antagonist Falcon is fighting against. If you love Falcon’s flying sequences (and who doesn’t?), well you’re gonna enjoy the spectacular high-flying action scene, the best Falcon flying-action I’ve seen so far! So glad to hear composer Henry Jackman back composing his kinetic score, which perfectly complements the dynamic action Even from the trailers, you can tell the production values is top notch. There’s a cinematic feel to it, which means Marvel isn’t treating these streaming-version content like a step-child amongst the MCU.

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But what I also appreciate is the slower, reflective moments for each character. Per Disney’s production brief, Skogland promises “…an epic, character-driven story. We get to go inside these characters and their world in a much more intimate way.” Timeline-wise, this one takes place six months since the events of Avengers: Endgame known as the Blip, where half of all life across the universe returned after the 5-year period where Thanos snapped them out of existence. So obviously things aren’t exactly back to normal yet for everyone, including these two Avengers. After five years in oblivion, they’re trying to find their place in a world that is no longer the same. The miniseries addresses some of those Blip ramifications in a personal way, displaying their personal baggage and inner struggles.

In terms of his home life, we get to meet Sam’s sister Sarah Wilson (Adepero Oduye) and his nephews who runs the Wilson Family Seafood business Louisiana. It’s a real and relatable moment seeing Sam trying to help Sarah save the struggling family business, even so far as helping her secure a loan from a bank. It humanizes the hero and show that they’re not perfect humans who are immune from ‘ordinary’ problems many of us face.

Meanwhile, Bucky’s struggles is more rooted in his identity. I mean, he’s the only Avenger who has done really heinous things such as murdering a fellow Avenger’s parents. Even though he wasn’t really himself when he did it, that is still an impossibly hard thing for anyone to reconcile with. We saw him being ravaged with guilt in Civil War even when Steve still stood by him, here we see his struggles haven’t gone away for the hero-turned-baddie-turned-hero-again. No wonder he’s in therapy, he’s been through SO much trauma! This episode explores Bucky trying to atone for his past sins, with flashback scenes of him on a mission when he was still brainwashed as the assassin Winter Soldier.

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Though Steve Rogers is no longer around in this MCU timeline, Captain America’s spirit permeates through the entire episode. There is a solemn moment where Sam paid homage to his personal friend and fellow Avenger, and we get to reflect on that memorable passing-of-the-shield moment scene in Endgame and what it means to Sam personally. Obviously it’s a huge responsibility to take on that mantle… and this interview with the miniseries’ creator Malcolm Spellman talks about how he “…saw the show as an opportunity to be frank about race in America” In regards to the shield with the American flag symbol, “…being as a Black man, is it even appropriate to have that symbol? That symbol means something very different in Sam’s hands than it does in Steve’s.” It’s certainly timely to have this conversation and I’m glad they didn’t shy away from it.

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Though the tone of trailers are more comedic filled with witty, even silly banters between the two, the start of the miniseries is more serious before Sam and Bucky meet up. I actually don’t mind it as the story is still engaging and it makes me anticipate the action-packed adventure in store for these two! I’m also curious to see how the journey of some familiar characters in this miniseries, particularly Daniel Brühl‘s Zemo, the Sokovian special forces whose vengeful tactic was to get the Avengers to fight each other. Unlike Red Skull, Zemo isn’t one of those sociopath villain hellbent on controlling the world, his evil scheme was motivated by grief when he lost his family in Sokovia. Last we saw him in Civil War, he’s confined in a German prison, so I wonder what the story is with him and why/how he’s out in the world again.

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There’s also Emily VanCamp as Agent Sharon Carter returning, and the one major new character is John Walker played by Wyatt Russell (yep, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn’s son). In the comics, Walker a.k.a. U.S. Agent is actually a baddie called Super-Patriot. But in this miniseries, he supposedly will partner with Sam and Bucky to protect the world from a new threat. There are scenes of Falcon with a mysterious character who’s a US soldier, played by Danny Ramirez (who’s curiously missing from the IMDb page). He seems to play a prominent role but we’ll see what his story arc will be.

So yeah, so far so good! I think this episode is a strong start that ticks all the boxes for MCU fans and get us even more excited for Phase Four. I certainly appreciate that it’s not all action + explosions, it’s got a nice blend of drama, suspense and action that allow these two characters to shine. I’m also curious to see which Avenger cameo(s) we will see. The cinematography is fantastic, which I expect given the huge budget. I only wish they’d go easy on the extreme close-ups though, it’s fine if used sparingly but I really don’t need to see every strand of Bucky’s eyelash for an uncomfortably long period of time.

In any case, I won’t be reviewing every single episode, but might do a recap once the entire miniseries wraps.

4/5 stars

Here’s a sneak peek that just dropped today at the Virtual Launch:


Anyone else excited for this series? If you have seen ep. 1, well what did YOU think?