Monster Monday: Yoga Hosers

Yoga Hosers tells the tale of two Canadian Millennials (both named Colleen) who work at the local Eh-2-Zed Convenience Store, frequent strip mall yoga classes, and also have to defend their town from an army of Nazi monsters. Yes. You read that correctly, Canadian Nazi monsters.

From the always-crazy mind of Kevin Smith, Yoga Hosers is the second installment of a potential Canadian trilogy series that started with the also insane Tusk, which is vaguely referenced in this film too. I didn’t know this was a Kevin Smith movie when I started it, but the first thing I noticed was the cast. Literally everyone is in this movie. It’s insane. Johnny Depp (who is pretty much doing a French Bartok impression from Anastasia), Natasha Lyonne, Justin Long, Tony Hale, Kevin Smith, Haley Joel Osment, Tyler Posey, Austin Butler, Lily-Rose Depp, and Harley Quinn Smith (the last two happen to be the daughters of Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp). They even got a Stan Lee cameo. How the hell did they get Stan Lee to be in a movie about mini-Nazi monsters? I was clearly impressed.

On that note, this movie is stupid, but I think it knows it’s dumb and it really loves it. Tusk is also ridiculous, but it was more cringe-worthy as a horror flick. This one had a few cool moments; the final monster is kind of cool, even though the girls fight it with…yoga. There are a few bits that really work. Tony Hale is hilarious. Justin Long as the yogi made me laugh. Still, there is a lot that feels just dumb. The girls have a band, and their vocal numbers (one of which starts the movie) are pretty terrible. It ends up feeling like the girls are trying to set up a music reel to start their eventual pop careers. They aren’t good. And they sing for a while. Including an entire Styx number. It’s just a lot.

Overall, it’s a pretty stupid movie, and the dialogue is rough at times. Like really bad. Sometimes it felt like Lily-Rose and Harley Quinn wrote their own dialogue, and not in a good natural way, but a weird stilted dialogue way. It’s a enjoyable hour and a half, but its so crazy and off the rails that eventually you kind of go with it. Is this Oscar-bait? No. But it’s a perfectly good way to (probably get stoned) and spend 90 minutes of your time. That’s what this movie is all aboot, eh. (If you don’t like fake Canadian accents, this is not the movie for you).

Amy’s Recommendation: 4/10

HBO Spotlight: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The last review of the HBO Spotlight, is fittingly an HBO Original. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the tragic and heartbreaking story of Henrietta Lacks (the woman who’s responsible for HELA cells, everlasting cells that can take any form and grow outside the human body) and her children who desperately want their mother’s story told honestly. It focuses on a medical writer turned freelancer, Rebecca Skloot, who becomes closely involved with the family, especially the unstable Deborah Lacks, who is mentally fragile and desperately wants to honor her mother’s humanity not just her benefits to the world of science.

The story of Henrietta runs parallel to the story of her children, often flashing back and forth between the past and the present. Hamilton’s Renee Elise Goldsberry plays Henrietta brilliantly in her moments of screen time. However, the star of this movie is Oprah Winfrey in her most honest and captivating role since The Color Purple. She is emotionally heartbreaking as she spirals from extreme paranoia and anxiety to normality and back rapidly throughout the film. Her brothers serve as her protectors, but the writer played by Rose Bryne, becomes very close with her as well as the rest of the family.

I will say, the ending especially involving Oprah’s character, Deborah, is so heartbreaking I teared up in the library while writing this. It was emotionally devastating.

The overall film is okay. There some moments that feel a little dragged out and some that seem misplaced, but overall it is a decent biopic. I wish we had more of Henrietta Lacks, her flashbacks simply don’t capture her story as much as other people talking about her constantly. I wish we could see some more of her life besides a few scattered scenes and an emotional sign off. Still, the highlight of the whole film is Oprah’s performance. It’s raw and unflinching and she doesn’t fear going as far as she needs to go to convey emotional honestly. It’s a truly heartbreaking performance.

Still, this is a very important story in American science. It highlights a lot of different problems in science including race and gender and how Henrietta has been pushed aside in history as her cells are still used this day to cure an unfathomable amount of diseases. As her cells live on, so should her story, and so I think the decision to adapt her life and the creation of her biography into film is an important decision.

Amy’s Recommendation: 7/10

 

 

 

 

 

HBO Spotlight: Eddie the Eagle

I didn’t want to do two biopics in a week, but stay tuned because I ended up doing three. Sorry folks. Second in my line of three is Eddie the Eagle. This is also my second Taron Egerton movie this week, and I’m sorry but I am very excited for the second Kingsman movie and you all should be too.

Anyways, Eddie the Eagle, tells the true story of Eddie Edwards, a British boy from a working class family who dreams of becoming an Olympian despite overwhelming odds.

Taron Egerton, adorable Brit he is, is unrecognizable as Eddie. He plays the darkish charm of Edwards in expert fashion. With his coke-bottle frames, his awkward smile, and bad knees he is clearly an underdog, but he has such charm and adorability that you just can’t help but hope he accomplishes everything he ever wants. Still the stakes to be an Olympian ski jumper is much higher than just accomplishing your goal. If you mess up the 90m jump, you could die.

Hugh Jackman as his coach is equally captivating as a drunken ex-jumper for America. He plays opposite to Egerton fantastically, and they form an unlikely and yet charming team.

I must say, I would never assume I could build such tension and anxiety out of a movie about white people leaping from a ski slope for no other reason besides it is an Olympic sport somehow, but let me tell you I did. It creates real tension and makes you care for this loveable little dork so much. This movie, although based on a real person, creates such a dynamic underdog character that you genuinely care about what happens to him. This Olympic game in particular was before my birth, hence why I wouldn’t know the outcome from history. A movie’s primary goal is to create characters that you care about and this movie succeeds on both fronts with Eddie and his coach, Bronson. Bronson is a character not based in historical context, he is a complete fabrication and he is just an interesting and dynamic character.

It’s a fairly straightforward story, but it feels fresh by showcasing an unknown sport and a genuinely likeable character. I really enjoyed this little movie and I thought it was an interesting story that deserved to be told. Eddie the Eagle is a charming, funny, and sweet story about a man who was constantly told he would be nothing, who pushed himself to be the best he could possibly be.

Amy’s Recommendation: 8.5/10

 

HBO Spotlight: Legend

So to preface, I love biopics. I don’t know what it is, I could just watch documentaries, but there is something about a good biopic that just gets me. I also love British movies and the 1960s so this movie should be a home run for me. I also appreciate the technical skill required to pull off a dual role, so a round of applause must go to Tom Hardy and the director for having the guts to use the same actor as twins.

It is an interesting story overall, as gangster culture (at least to my overall geographically ignorant American mind) is a overwhelming American dominated market. Gangsters and the mafia seem like a very Italian and American kind of deal, and I never thought of the English gangster culture before. The Krays are an interesting crime family, even if it was the just the two of them, and their story is decently entertaining. It’s a bit slow for a gangster movie, and has a lot more bare-knuckle (or on the off chance, brass knuckle) boxing than I expected. I also watched this movie with subtitles, even though they were all speaking English. The accents can get so thick at points that without the help I don’t think I would have figured out what they were saying half the time.

I will say if there is anything that really distinguishes this movie than a typical run of the mill biopic its Tom Hardy. He’s the real Legend here, as he plays the two brothers as completely opposite and intriguing characters. One smart, suave businessman and one brutish potentially schizophrenic muscle man. They really overplay the gay thing with Ron, which sometimes comes off a little clunky, but his character is so socially blunt that it somehow fits within the realm of his personality.

There is one scene where the brothers fight each other that is filmed exceptionally well, utilizing camera angle to make it possible for the same actor to fight each other. It’s interesting to watch, even if it is quite a brutal fight. It was a smart way to make it possible for the same person to just wail on another version of himself.

Still, this movie didn’t have to be 2 hours and 12 minutes long. Boys bonded by blood in the same business as one another. Business troubles almost break them apart. Then one falls in love, almost ruining the brother’s dynamic. It’ s really not a complicated story at the root of it, but they really drag it out.  Then its mostly about Reggie for a while, then its mostly about Ron. It’s just a little too much for a pretty basic story. It’s a good story, but they stretched it out, slowed it down, and made what could be a very stylized but intense gangster story seem boring. I want to know more about them together, but too often it chooses one road or the other and focuses too much on the different routes the two took the business.

Both are sometimes likeable and sometimes detestable, but Tom Hardy has the acting capability to create these two incredibly different characters and make them feel like separate people. Too often directors go for this dual character same actor shtick and it becomes the same person with a minor aesthetic difference that doesn’t create a whole new persona. This one is different. Hardy completely embodies the madness in both men, one subdued under the surface and one exploding forth, uncontrollable and violent. In the end they both reach their breaking points as the two become the same, with uncontrolled anger and ambition that sunk them both.

Amy’s Recommendation: 6/10

HBO Spotlight: Be Kind Rewind

A surprisingly honest tale about connecting to the past, Be Kind Rewind tells the tale of Jerry (Jack Black) and Mike (Mos Def) who work under Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) and have to scramble to keep their store alive while simultaneously fighting off gentrification.

This movie takes place back in that distant past when Jack Black was an enjoyable on-screen presence. His over the top personality provided a perfect foil to his quiet-talking friend played by Mos Def. The movie is it’s own brand of quirky, but it’s a really fun time. Sometimes it gets carried away with it’s goofiness, and sometimes that can distract from the real heart of the film. The only problem I really had with the film is that the catalyst for the primary problem in the story comes from impossible circumstances. You just have to accept the situation they present and then revel in their creative way the boys try to make amends for their error. Or more specifically make up for Jerry, the lovable idiot’s error.

It’s a goofy and outlandish movie with some more ridiculous moments, but all the scenes where the team is making the new movies is incredibly entertaining. It’s comical, but at its heart it’s a movie about trying to preserve a town’s history while competing against chains that threaten family businesses. They work at a VHS thrift store, while competing with the upcoming technology of DVDs and global chains, in the film it is specifically West Coast Video. Ironic, because West Coast Video went out of business a year after the film was released. Unfortunately, this is a common narrative among little video rental stores as Netflix and video streaming became the new technology.

Throughout the movie they hatch a scheme to remake a bunch of their VHS tapes. As they gain popularity, the town gets more and more involved with their business, uniting the community. Whereas Mr. Fletcher united the two boys with an oral history of the town, the younger generation united the town with their own version of recorded history: in both VHS and DVD. In another interesting twist, both versions of history were wrong. The movies and the myth were just copies, distorted over time as nostalgia always inevitably is.

There is a tender relationship between Mr. Fletcher and Mike where he looks to him as a father and in doing so all of his motivation stems out of a desire to make him proud. The most honest parts of the film come at the end, when the town unites to make an original film to honor the myth and stories that connect them together. It’s a salute to the forgotten crevices of America, and the stories that connect that town to history, regardless if they are true or not. We need myths to survive, and this film is a really poignant look at the stories a town surrounds itself around. It’s a silly movie that has a ton of heart and I won’t lie, I cried at the end.

Amy’s Recommendation: 8/10

HBO Spotlight: Deadpool

So given my penchant for the comic genre, especially Marvel and the X-Men franchise, it is honestly shocking that I hadn’t seen Deadpool yet. I am so happy that HBO still had this movie up, because it may be one of my favorite Marvel movies to date. I don’t think anything could top Guardians of the Galaxy, but honestly this one was close.

Ryan Reynolds brilliantly redeemed his Green Lantern travesty AND his weird prior Deadpool cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine by offering a pitch-perfect performance that provided plenty of self-deprecating and meta-humor on these past lesser performances. Reynolds’ fast-talking, snarky Wade Wilson allows for a sheer barrage of meta-humor on the X-Men comics, on the film industry, and on Ryan Reynolds as a real person. The amount of “wink-wink” references seem endless but are so funny and well-placed that it never feels like they are pandering to their audiences at all. Deadpool constantly breaks the fourth wall, sometimes breaking the fourth wall while breaking the fourth wall, as he puts it, like breaking sixteen walls. Deadpool is a hilarious commentary on it’s own genre and the other films that comprise Marvel’s other franchises.

Deadpool serves as the perfect anti-hero. His backstory establishes his motivations and explains his attitudes and so his natural character arc feels possible. He is an anti-hero who is literally against the attitudes of superheroes. He isn’t a villain, per say, but a foil to the great chivalry that heroes like Superman and the X-Men eventually came to represent, making him incredibly more human. Ryan Reynolds’ performance allows Wade Wilson to become the crude, sarcastic, rude jerk of a character that we simply can’t help but love.

I never knew how badly I wanted an R-rated comic movie, until I got one and saw how much better it can elevate some storylines. So many fight scenes shy away from gore or graphic violence in the stereotypical PG-13 comic movie and it makes these fights seem less authentic. This movie is incredibly violent, but in the best way. The fight scenes aren’t shaky and don’t rely on quick editing, because it’s rating lets it linger and really play up the gore-factor. It feels more visceral and realistic, and I loved it.

Deadpool wasn’t afraid of testing how far a comic book storyline can be pushed. The story is the perfect combination of silly, gritty, and smart. In a move that in itself went against the normative culture of comic summer blockbusters by slapping an R-rating on it and pushing the boundaries of what a comic book movie can be. This move alone established the counter-normative structure that this movie embraces, constantly poking fun at the similar movies within its genre. It is both a satirical boundary-pushing Marvel movie as well as a genre-establishing film that has the potential to recreate the way we think about films based on popular comic books. With this move, Marvel has the potential to explore some of it’s grittier story lines and after the financial and commercial success of this film, I truly hope they keep exploring.

Amy’s Recommendation: 10/10

Favorite Film Friday: Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris follows Gil and his fiancé, Inez, as he tries to write his first novel while also appeasing Inez and her parents. Obsessed with the past, he is transported to 1920s Paris and gallivants with his idols (the Fitzgeralds, Dali, Picasso…) and through his explorations of the past, finds clarity in his present.

Woody Allen is one of my favorite directors, and this was one of the first modern Allen films I watched. At first, seeing Owen Wilson cast in a serious Woody Allen role made me nervous, but he was expertly cast. He brings such an everyday-guy nature to the character that makes him inherently likeable while surrounded with over the top characters like his materialistic wife, her Republican parents, and her pseudo-intellectual friends. He plays the bewildered time travel with a resigned awe that makes him the perfect lens to see these iconic figures through.

The concept alone is a brilliant idea for a film, but it needed an expert director to bring the gravitas and beauty to it, and Allen comes through. Each scene is shot to look like a painting and so the inclusion of famous past artists like Picasso and Dali makes the whole thing feel like a moving art piece. The cast is loaded with A-list talent including Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Tom Hiddleston, and Marion Cotillard. What could have become a simple ensemble comedy weaves each character so perfectly into the narrative that it feels natural.

This film is a beautiful reflection on artistry and creativity as well as the very notion of nostalgia and how relative it is to each generation. Each era longs for the magic of the past, as is the power of hindsight. Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald weren’t classics until they were dead, and so their nostalgia would lie with Shakespeare and Chaucer’s time of great literary works just as Gil idolizes and wishes to return their present and his distant past. It is a brilliant reflection on the important things in life and the importance of making the present the best it can be instead of living in the past.

A reflection on life, time, and love Midnight in Paris provides a film both visually stunning to look at but also one that makes you ready to seize the day and not waste time living a life that doesn’t captivate you. This is one of my favorite films from possibly my favorite director of all time, and Woody Allen does not disappoint bringing his signature witty dialogue, quirky character depictions, and thought-provoking story to another modern classic.

Throwback Thursday: Blazing Saddles

Blazing Saddles is a hilarious satire on old-school Western classics and asks what would happen if a racist Western town got an African-American sheriff in 1874.

This is one of those ridiculous premises that only Mel Brooks could ever deliver. It has meta-humor that is timelessly hilarious. The moment the Western hooligans go crashing through all the other film sets is insanely funny and just pokes fun at the film industry as a whole. It also plays with the invisibility of non-diegetic sound and even has scenes of characters watching their own movie.

It primarily calls attention to the inherent racism of Western films in the most over the top way. Do some jokes seem a bit too racist and don’t age so well…well yeah some of them, but it was 1974 so we’ll give it a pass. Some jokes really don’t hold up as well as other jokes like I can almost bet none of today’s audiences will understand a Hedy Lamarr or a Douglas Fairbanks joke. And to be honest, I had to Google the second one, so I’m not a totally hypocrite.
Still, it plays up all the Western tropes and completely flips them on their head. Mel Brooks loved to be bold and crazy and like my other favorite Brooks film Young Frankenstein the best jokes carry over the 40 plus years it took for me to watch them. This is another film that makes you really miss the comedic mind that was Gene Wilder, and I’m kind of sad I never knew who Cleavon Little was until this movie because he was also a great talent.

I also liked that this film wasn’t afraid to push envelopes. Weirdly enough this is first time farting was displayed onscreen, which I find hilarious because executives freaked out about that and not all the rampant n-word dropping apparently. Still this movie approaches racism for the ridiculous belief that it is, and by being so excessive with it they should how pointless it really is. At least in my opinion I don’t really see this film as being a racist or homophobic movie because it makes fun of everything and shows you how ridiculous these ideals are. I really like the way Mel Brooks has the ability to take genre tropes and show how silly and clichéd they can become, especially in cookie cutter genres like horror and westerns can often be.

Amy’s Recommendation: 9/10

PS
I still demand how they train horses to just fall over. And I need to know how they got away with black penis jokes in 1974, because that is impressive.

Wildcard Wednesday: In The Loop

In the Loop is a political satire about British and United States government officials squabbling over the potential invasion of the Middle East.

I had only known this movie as the swearing Peter Capadli movie and that was about it, but what I got was so much more. British comedy is a really special kind of comedy and either you love it or you really don’t enjoy it at all. I personally love it, so this film was right up my alley. It’s dry and witty and approaches satire often in a new and interesting way. My best description for this film would be if the British version of The Office met with the American version of The Office but now they work in government instead of a paper company. It’s the same time of film technique and comedy style. It doesn’t hurt that literally Gabe from the American version of The Office is also cast in this film as pretty much the exact same character. With a face like Zach Woods (Gabe) its pretty easy to be type-casted as the awkward weird guy.

After seeing this film, I will always wonder who thought letting Peter Capaldi later be cast in a children’s show (Doctor Who) was a good idea. The amount of insults and swears this guy gets out in an hour and forty-five minutes may be legendary. He made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions, and you just relish when he shows up to steal every scene he’s in.

The film as whole is a hilarious. It is a new approach to satire that I think really paid off. The characters are loveably insane and the clash between British and American politics makes for already funny situations. It does feel like a really long pilot for a TV show, so I Googled it, and turns out it is based on the British TV show The Thick of It and shares some of its characters including Malcolm Tucker, Peter Capaldi’s foul-mouthed Brit which explains why its shot to feel like a TV show. Still I would argue that it is fine as a stand-alone film and the characters feel fresh enough that you don’t feel your missing crucial expository information.

Pretty much, if you ever wondered what would happen if The Office weirdly merged with House of Cards in the best and most British way possible, this is what you get.

Amy’s Recommendation: 9/10

PS:
I’ll save you the Google, the girl who plays Liza, is in fact the little girl from My Girl. That is why she looks so familiar, because she looks exactly the same as when she was 11.

Tearjerker Tuesday: Safe Haven

 

Safe Haven tells the story of Katie who while running from her past falls in love with small-town Alex and his two children. As she tries to start her life over, she must keep her secret while also trying not to hurt the man she fell for.

When you go into a Nicholas Sparks movie you can guarantee a pretty dramatic plotline with some kind of forbidden live involving two outrageously hot (probably white) people. This is no exception. I’m not going to lie, The Notebook is the only Nicholas Sparks book adaptation I have ever liked, but I actually enjoyed this one for the most part. Until the second half where everything pretty much went to shit.

I really don’t think Julianne Hough isn’t a terrible actress (she’s obviously a much better dancer, but still), even if she is so ridiculously good looking that its impossible that she just blended in anywhere. Which might explain why a man falls completely in love with her in like a day and half. He gets over that dead wife thing pretty quick once she goes to the beach with him one time.

The first half of the film isn’t horrible and the first twist is actually a good one I didn’t really see coming. Then we get the train wreck ending that just completely ruins the entire story. I won’t spoil it, but I assure you, it is dumb. It’s mind-numbingly dumb. The only thing stupider than the reveal is Julianne Hough’s character, Katie’s, reaction to the reveal (which for the reaction is just looking around in shock for a while). I honestly would argue that the best part of the film is the town of Southport, North Carolina. Scenically it looks so beautiful and provides some really great shots. And you know it can’t be good if my favorite part of your film is the small town its set in. Still Southport, you are gorgeous, congrats.

Also, this is nitpicking but I could not tell for the life of me if Colbie Smulders (aka Robin from How I Met Your Mother) is doing a southern accent or at least trying some of the time. I truly didn’t know, which makes it a terrible accent. Accents are a huge nitpick with me. Like why none of these people from Boston have even a little bit of a Massachusetts accent and why only one person in all of Southport has a southern accent. No I will not count Colbie’s character because I still don’t know if she had one, I demand answers!

I wanted to like this movie. I generally think Nicholas Spark’s books and films are pretty generic. The Notebook was easily the best, maybe because it was just the first, but ever since that they just go downhill. They just refuse to veer too far from their safe pattern, and it just feels boring now. This one I really thought was going to be a little better than the rest but I was so wrong. It had potential but it’s resolution wasted a potentially decent story.

Amy’s Recommendation: 5/10