Nos Llaman Guerreras (2018)

I am currently attending the 26th annual San Diego Latino Film Festival this week and have had the opportunity to see a lot of great movies that I probably would not have had the chance to see. Here is a review of a sports documentary that almost brought me to tears. If you get the chance to watch it, you must check it out.

The documentary film Nos Llaman Guerreras (They Call Us Warriors) directed by Jennifer Socorro, Edwin Corona and the late David Alonso, centers on the Venezuelan women’s soccer team and their fight to win the first World Cup for their country. What makes these women different from all other female soccer players is that not only do they face the adversity of being in a male dominated sport, they had to fight against their country’s political and economic strife to get there. Their coach explains that when he first started with these women, some were so poor that they could not afford toothpaste or deodorant, let alone have the funds to travel and compete with a soccer team. Against all odds, these women battle poverty and their livelihoods just to join the team. The film showcases the personal lives of many of these women, taking us deep into their rural communities and homes. Yerliane Moreno’s town was so badly flooded that she thought she would never be able to leave her family to play soccer, but regardless she sacrificed everything to be on the team and play with all of her heart.

In this film, we also get to see how playing soccer enables them to be lifted out of poverty into having a better life. The star and key player of the team, Deyna Castellanos, got recruited to play at Florida State University and was given a full scholarship. We see Deyna leave Florida and come back to play at the World Cup with her team. Despite being gone for so long, she picks up the rhythm and plays to her best with her team as if no time has lapsed between them. When the women make it to the World Cup in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, they are faced with the best teams in the world. We see them fight and push through every adversity and in doing so, they become national heroes for their country. Their story was so inspirational that female soccer players in Venezuela increased by 97% after the World Cup, only further establishing them as role models to future generations of players. This film’s story was beautifully crafted and told, and by the end of the film you cannot help, but become a fan of these women.

Check out the trailer

Beautiful Boy (2018)

What does the face of drug addiction look like in the United States? Is it the young white person who lives in an affluent neighborhood or the minority who lives off welfare and in the projects? The truth is that drug addiction has no barriers; it can affect anyone who is susceptible to the lures of euphoria and escape. It doesn’t necessarily mean only depressed and lonely people use; no, it affects happy people who seem to have idyllic lives as well. Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet) had it all, he grew up in Marin County (an affluent area north of San Francisco), someone who was seemingly content, had a normal upbringing with loving parents and siblings, and all the opportunities that the world could offer were waiting at his fingertips. In the film Beautiful Boy, directed by Felix Van Groeningen, we experience a realistic journey of drug addiction and a father’s relentless fight to save his son’s life.

Set in the early 2000’s, David Sheff (Steve Carell), a prominent magazine writer, tries to help his son Nic conquer his addiction. He is constantly glued to his phone, waiting for that phone call from Nic or from someone who knows his whereabouts. He frantically searches on the internet for some shred of knowledge about methamphetamine addiction. He wants to understand how meth is affecting his son’s brain, how he can help restore his son’s failing nerve endings; he wants some information that will tell him what to do to help his son. We even see that he is willing to shell out thousands of dollars, at one point he is quoted forty-thousand dollars for a drug rehab stay, and Sheff doesn’t blink an eye.

This movie does not portray drug addiction like Requiem for a Dream or Trainspotting, we do not see Nic downward spiral to that extent or take a joy ride through what drugs can feel like through the lens of Hollywood. You know when they show a person’s eyeballs dilate, all while psychedelic music plays in the background, none of that happens here.

Instead this film is the journey of what drug addiction really looks like; it’s one where a person gets clean, and they seem to be riding the high that is sobriety, and the person’s family believes wholeheartedly that the person will stay clean, but then they relapse. They get clean again, and they relapse again, the cycle continues ad nauseum to the point where the family who is trying to help the junkie feels defeated and crushed. Will they ever get better? Is my son, daughter, mom, dad (insert anyone), still inside there? And when the family sees a glimmer of their old self come through, that is what keeps them going to save that person.

I have seen it first hand in my family, I have seen people try to jump out of windows to fight the detox, festering heroin wounds, and loving people turn into mean and monstrous people on drugs. I will never forget some of these memories, but I have also seen people come out on the other side. I have seen them stay clean and I have also seen others who relapse again and again to this day and fall back into old patterns. This is one of the few movies I have ever seen that has really shown that side of drug addiction. It isn’t cool, it isn’t funny, or hip, it takes a person’s soul day by day, but as a family we also hope for the best for our loved ones. We hope that they will get better and deep down inside, we know that they can. David embodied that sentiment and Nic personified the charming addict.

Chalamet was extraordinary, we felt compassion for him, and could see the moments when he was clean and probably thinking about drugs. You could seem him coming out of his skin, without doing it so literally. His acting showed layers of emotion and depth. One I haven’t seen in a long time, in fact I kept thinking throughout the film, that Nic Sheff would have been the role that young Leonardo DiCaprio would have wanted to play. But now we have Chamalet, a new guard of young actors is coming through, and he will be at the forefront for years to come.

Carell was phenomenal, and as an actor we see a different side of him. No longer the quirky Michael Scott persona that many people remember him as, here we see him as a multi-dimensional character. One minute he is fighting for his son’s life, another he makes a bold choice to tell him that he cannot enable him anymore. A father lost in his head, constantly thinking of his son, Carrell was able to portray that emotion with ease. At his younger child’s play, we see him look at their faces, relish their innocence, and know that he has lost a part of his son.

Both Chamalet and Carrell gave Oscar-worthy performances and will be in the running for this year’s Oscars race. This is a movie you cannot miss, and one that will leave indelible mark on your psyche and make you appreciate your loved ones even more.

Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)

The charming character of Winnie-the-Pooh gives way to warm, childhood memories, but the reality is the children’s classic was wrought with the lifeblood of the author. The film Goodbye Christopher Robin, directed by Simon Curtis, tells the true story of how the character and book by A.A. Milne came to fruition. What appears to be a heartfelt and loving story on the outside is a quite depressing and sad tale of post-traumatic stress syndrome and childhood abandonment.

Milne (Domnhall Gleeson) also known as Blue by friends and family, has just returned from World War I trench warfare and is trying to assimilate back into London’s high society. He was a playwright and essayist who wrote humorous stories and comedies before the war. Once back at home, the sounds of the world plague him with frightful memories of dead soldiers and machine guns. His wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), a socialite who is ripe for the fanfare of the 1920’s, just wants him to get over it and go back to his work.

To cheer him up, she has a baby boy who she hopes will occupy his mind. Christopher Robin is born and his birth doesn’t seem to change their life too much. They hire a nanny Olive (Kelly MacDonald), who tends to him and becomes almost a second mother to the boy. The Milnes continue to live their social lives, while the boy stays with the nanny. Christopher is known by Billy Moon (Will Tilston), in a sense it is his alter ego, the Milne’s enjoyed that strange escapism of calling each other by a different name. 

With his PTSD in full force, Milne decides to move the family to the countryside to Sussex, so he can write a novel about war and get it out of “his system,” as his wife likes to refer to it. The problem is Milne can’t seem to get anything out. When Daphne leaves to the city, and the nanny goes to tend to her dying mother, Milne is left alone to care for his child. The little boy just wants his father’s attention.

Milne finally gives in to Billy Moon and begins to play along with him and his adventures with his stuffed animals. His favorite being a cuddly bear named Edward. When Milne takes a step back and sees how much joy these stuffed animals bring his son, he brings his illustrator friend Ernest H. Shepard (Stephen Campbell) to help him make the images for his children’s book. The two follow the boy around the forest, Ernest sketching away furiously, while Milne takes mental notes for reference. Edward the bear turns into Winnie-The-Pooh (another alter-ego) because as he says all great leaders have a “the” in their name.

The book becomes a sensation, the world needed some happiness after World War I, and they could not get enough of Christopher Robin and his bear. His son becomes immortalized in the book and an instant star. The Milne’s in a sense sell out and exploit their son. They put him on a booked schedule of interviews, photo ops, and parties. His mother is cold and doesn’t care and Milne remains just as reserved and distant as ever. The only person who seems to care about his well being is the nanny.

We later see Billy Moon (Alex Lawther) as a young adult who wants to serve his country in World War II. He is constantly belittled and taunted because he was Christopher Robin, and feels that becoming a soldier could allow him to lose his book character identity. The film twists and turns with sad and minor uplifting moments.

I enjoyed the backstory of how Winnie-The-Pooh came to be and to find out who Christopher Robin and A.A. Milne really were, versus the Disney version I imagined. The Milne’s had no emotion and didn’t know how to care for their child, it was sad to see the way they treated their son. Were they just products of the Victorian era, or had WWI swallowed them up?  

Gleeson and Robbie gave good performances, and MacDonald gave the film a sense of light and airiness that it needed. Newcomer Tilston delivered his lines with cheekiness and sass and made you fall in love with him.

The film was endearing and sad, yet I felt that it was missing a cohesive story arc. It flopped around with time, and it felt like some of the emotion that came from Billy Moon as an adult felt a bit off. We see him go from a child to adult in a minute, with nothing in the middle, same for the parents.

This was a good movie overall; the actors were good. and the story was interesting. Is it an Oscar contender? Not at all. Regardless, I would still recommend seeing the film as it delivered a thought-provoking look at how a simple toy changed the mind and hearts of the author and the world around him.

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird is a thoughtful and engaging coming of age story that depicts the true melodrama that occurs in every teenager’s life. It shows a time when adolescents are completely self-absorbed, yet still dependent on their relationships with their parents. As much as they think they have it figured out; they don’t at all. The film Lady Bird is actor and screenwriter Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, and from what I saw this is certainly an entrance into what will one day be a well-versed filmography to look back upon.

The story is told from 2002-2003 a time that felt much different than today’s social media driven world. Considering it was post-9/11, when fears were being inbred into society, people were still not yet tied to capturing every moment of the news, nor were teenagers tied to their cellphones. An absurdity today. Lady Bird is the name that high school senior Christine McPherson (Saorise Ronan) gave to herself because her given name just didn’t feel like her. She is filled with bravado, yet completely vulnerable to the realities of adolescence like heartbreak, rejection, and trying to fit in.

The film is set in Sacramento, CA, an agricultural sleepy city, where Lady Bird feels like nothing happens, she wants to move to New York City, “where the culture is,” as she tells her mom when she tries to convince her to let her apply to colleges on the East Coast. Her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) wants her to stay in California, where in-state tuition will be cheaper and where she can stay close to the family. Marion is one of the most passive-aggressive mother’s I have ever seen on screen. She loves Lady Bird, we can feel it, but she never tells her she looks pretty or that is she doing great with her life. Instead it is a constant barrage of comments that she is not smart enough to get into a good school, an unappreciative brat, and lacks any grasp on the realities of the world.

One of the best scenes in the film is when Marion tells Lady Bird to fold her catholic school uniform and to take care of it because they cannot afford to buy more clothes because her father just got laid off. Who would want to hire a man with a family who looks disheveled, she tells her. Lady Bird says to her that wouldn’t it be great to have a mom who wouldn’t always make you fold your clothes, to which her mother retorts with “well my mother was an abusive alcoholic,” and walks away. In that moment we see the whole reason perhaps why her mother behaves the way she does and in a sense Lady Bird feels, but doesn’t really get it yet because she is too young. It is a defining moment in understanding the paradigm in her relationship with her mother.

The film takes us through Lady Bird’s senior year, coupled with laugh out loud moments with her best friend, tenuous talks with school counselors, priests, and the head nun, and romantic possibilities and heartbreak. Gerwig gives us some teenage movie clichés, but she finds a way to mix them into feeling much more real and visceral, than other ones we have seen before. 

Ronan carries the film differently than she did last year with Brooklyn, where with that character she was innocent and longing, here she is completely vulnerable and somewhat extreme. She pushes the envelope because her character demands it, to have held back too much, or in the hands of another actress, the character could have been unlikeable and maybe even a bit annoying. Instead Ronan infuses her as the girl we have sometimes felt like, the one who says awkward things and tries too hard, yet also the girl who knows how to say just the right thing. 

Metcalf was brilliant and the rest of the supporting cast played beautifully against the two women. Tracy Letts as the father, compassionate and soft against two forceful women, and Lucas Hedges as Danny, and Timothee Chalamet as Kyle, her two pseudo-love interests. There was also her best-friend Beanie Feldstein as Julie, the shy and quirky best-friend who shone much brighter than she did as the ditzy sorority girl in Neighbors 2. I enjoyed the fact that not once did the movie make any note of Julie’s weight, it was never an issue brought to light as it so many times is in movies. Instead it was never even a point of distraction or mention, which lent to the way the story was told.

By the end we see that Lady Bird can fly, she just needs to learn how to navigate her wings properly along the way. I would recommend this film to viewers and believe that it is worth seeing, definitely one to watch in my book.

Sisters Brothers (2018)

The Sisters Brothers film gives us a western movie with a masculine heart. It has many of the familiar western movie tropes such as, gunslinging, whiskey drinking, and saloon entrance making men, but what sets this movie apart from others is that it shows us that there is more to these men, then just their wild ways.

Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli (John C. Reilly) Sister are bounty hunting men who do the bidding and killing for a powerful man they call the Commodore. He dispatches orders and they comply; no questions asked and do whatever it takes to get paid. He orders them to find and bring him a gold-hunting chemist by the name of Hermann Kermit Worme (Riz Ahmed). Also, under the direction of the Commodore is John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is tasked with finding Worme and bringing him to the Sisters brothers.

Worme befriends Morris and he finds out that he has a formula for finding gold. He created a chemical that when poured into the water, dissolves and illuminates where the gold is hiding. Morris is intrigued not only by his idea, but by who he is as a person. He exudes generosity and intelligence, something that we see is lacking in the outposts that are filled with crude and insolent men, whose only mission is to find a piece of gold. Which undoubtedly, they will probably turn in and use to buy more booze to get them drunk. Worme and Morris join forces and have a vision of collecting gold and using the funds to start their own utopia in Texas.

French director Jacques Audiard makes his first English film debut and adds his French aesthetic to the western motif. He suffices audiences with the gratuitous bloodshed, albeit only slightly, in no way shape or form can we even compare it to the blood count in Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. Nonetheless it delivers the western artistic vision of beautiful and lush landscapes, untouched yet by the industrialization that would soon come and take over. The horses stand in the foreground, and we understand that they vital to these men.

The Sisters brothers continue their mission to find Worme and Morris and stop at nothing to find these men. Along the way, we learn that Eli is the more sensitive of the two, every night before he goes to bed, he folds up a red scarf and puts it to his face. Who it belonged to, we don’t really know, but we see that he is sensitive to the world and yearning for something more. Charlie is lude and typically drinks himself to the point of sickness and vomiting, but Eli is used to his shenanigans and knows how to deal with him. After all it is his brother and he will stand by him through thick and thin.

By the end of the movie, we realize that it is Reilly who carries the film. I was not expecting that from him, but he executed it brilliantly. Although he was a brash man, and a sharp shooter, we see that he has a tender side. He makes sure his horses are safe and tends to them as if they were his children. When he encounters a prostitute, he talks to her, instead of doing anything else. I am sure unheard of in any western town of that era.

We don’t ever see a feminine perspective throughout the film, but it was not intended to deliver on that premise, instead we get a deeper interpretation into a male point of view. I thought the movie was well done, but the plot was somewhat lacking. Regardless, the actors gave good performances and it is worth a watch.

Mid 90s (2018)

I must have been 17 or 18 at the time, and my younger cousin was about 13. I gave him my World Industries Wet Willy skateboard because to be totally honest, I sucked at skateboarding. From there he ran with it and fell in love with the sport. We would watch Shorty’s, Zero, Toy Machine, and Birdhouse videos on loop, to name a few. I would take him to our local community college, by trolley of course, to try to land some tricks, he failed most of the time, but still it was fun just to go and mess around. He was trying to find a niche or a tribe for himself, unfortunately he ended up giving up skateboarding and fell in with some other people and at 18 he was tragically killed. I will never forget those years we spent together, riding skateboards and having fun. Being young and free, we bonded over skateboarding and became super close. Skateboarding is a rite of passage for a lot of people who can’t seem to fit in anywhere else. The film Mid90s accurately captured the adolescent sentiment that many people grow up with, the feeling that parents don’t understand our feelings, and the undeniable urge to seek out fun and excitement on our own terms.

Jonah Hill makes his directorial debut and spent years working on making this film historically accurate in every way. He went straight to skateboard companies like Chocolate and Girl for old school 90’s gear and decks, and it worked. I felt nostalgic watching it the whole time. It also helps that the film was shot on Super 16 mm, which adds to the grittiness and gives it texture. The digital photoshopped feeling of recent movies isn’t felt here.

The film centers around Stevie (Sunny Suljic) or “Sunburn” as they call him, who is a regular lower-class kid living in Los Angeles with his single mom (Katherine Waterson) and older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). He happens into a skate shop and ends up bonding with all the guys, they give him a skateboard and he becomes part of their crew. There is an instant bond there for him and he is eager to fit in.

He drinks forties with ease and takes puffs of marijuana like a seasoned pro, but the reality is that he is not an expert, he is just pretending to be one. I guess like most young people are, when they are trying to fit in and be accepted by their peers. It would be mortifying to ever admit that you never smoked weed or cigarettes, or that you never even tasted beer. Stuff like that could get you ousted from a group, so Stevie does what every normal kid does, he just pretends he knows what he’s doing and feels like he is part of something. He smiles shyly when he knows he got it right with them.

New actor and real life professional Supreme skater, Na-Kel Smith plays Ray, who appears to be the voice of reason in the group. He wants more to life than just smoking and drinking, he wants to be a professional skater. He watches over Stevie and we can feel that he wants to make good decisions, but doesn’t always know how. He is the soul of the film, and one to watch.

Mid90s is reminiscent of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s 1995 classic Kids, and I am sure Hill took cues from it. The rawness that we felt in Kids, can be seen in this film as well, except it is not at the same level, where the camera was in the faces of teenagers making out and bashing other guys heads into the pavement and hearing the skull crush. I used to have to turn my head every time that scene came on. But a similar sentiment is felt in this film.  

The skaters are chased by cops, disrespected by their parents, and even each other. When one of the other kids Ruben (Gio Galicia), starts to notice that Sunburn is being favored by the older skaters, he picks a fight with him, and Stevie gives him back equal hard punches.

At home Stevie must contend with his older brother, who is the opposite of a skater, but also a figure of the 90’s. Dressed in Polo and baggy jeans and stud earrings to match, he was most likely someone influenced by the rap culture of the time. He seems angry and pissed off, they are two boys without a father figure in their life, and Ian proceeds to constantly beat the living hell out of his younger brother. Hedges is impressive in this role of the bitter older brother, the one who had to watch guys go in and out of his mother’s bedroom growing up, while Stevie did not. I think we might be seeing a possible Oscar nomination for him in this role.

Hill stepped it up and did a remarkable job at directing his first movie. I think people will be impressed that he didn’t imbue his film with Superbad raunchy teenage jokes or his sarcastic humor. Instead this movie felt real and I think it will strike a chord with a lot of people. Especially those like myself who grew up in the era where iPhones and Google didn’t exist. We figured things out on our own and we didn’t stare at phone screens, and these kids do the same with their life. They are just trying to make sense of it all and find their place in the world. All while hanging out with friends and listening to good music; and isn’t that what ever teenager is always trying to do.

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

When the original Mary Poppins film came out in 1964, it was a refreshing and light-hearted story that audiences ate up with a spoonful of sugar. The playful nanny and her chimney sweeper sidekick, provided the perfect distraction from the chaos and violence that was ripping through the outside world at the time, think the Vietnam war, race riots, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Disney catered to baby boomers, who were just children then, the opportunity to escape the news and dreadful events, and just focus on feeling good. I wondered, why revive a movie that is now over 50 years old and start anew? It is clear that what the world needs now, everyone from baby boomers to kids today, is an escape from the negative airwaves that are polluting our minds. The truth is we need a break, and who better to fly in through a gust of wind and help us, then the magical woman herself, Mary Poppins.

In the new film, Mary Poppins Returns, directed by Rob Marshall, Mary’s (Emily Blunt) former charges, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now grown-up and live together with Michael’s three children. His wife just passed away and Michael is learning how to care for them with the help of his sister. He is still grief-stricken and trying to cope with the loss. On top of this, the bank has come to repossess their home, as Michael took out a large loan against the house and forgot to make the payments in his state of grief. The issue is he did not read the fine print and now the loan is due back in full. Michael’s father had shares in the bank and he learns that if he can find that certificate, then he can save the house. The problem is, he has no idea where that certificate was kept.

This creates the perfect storm for Mary to step in and just as she did before, she comes through out of nowhere literally and steps in as their nanny. The older children remember her and the magic, but scoff, as they believe it was all in their imagination. She takes the children, who are in desperate need of some parental direction, and brings back their child-like wonder. The children had been so set on trying to put on the food table and take care of their father, that they forgot how to laugh and be free.

She takes them on wild adventures through bath tub, and into another world inside of their mother’s prized vase. Inside the vase, the children are transformed and enjoy a musical moment that is intertwined with animation on the screen. The animation was like that of the original film and was not revived to look like the Disney and Pixar movies that we know today. I enjoyed the fact that they kept it classical in nature and a throwback to a simpler time in movies.

Mary’s sidekick this time around is the scruffy and chummy lamplighter Jack, (Lin Manuel Miranda), who gives us most of the musical moments in the film. They redo the infamous chimney musical scene, but replace it with his lamplighter buddies and it turns out to be one of the most infectious displays of fun and dance in the film. Miranda stuns in the film, he imparts the child-like feeling of delight and joy in every scene that he is in and his musical numbers, especially the “A Cover is Not a Book” number.

The cast is rounded out by Colin Firth, who plays the evil bank-owner, and we get wonderful cameos by Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury. The absolute best part of the film was seeing Van Dyke, I will not ruin the fun and tell you what happened but let me he does not disappoint. You could feel the entire audience clamor and clap like children when he arrived on the screen. A testament to the power that the original film had on people, it made us happy; and seeing him on screen again will make you smile.

Blunt was the best part of the entire film, she imparted on to the iconic role a subtle sense of charm and wit, and always delivered every line with a sly smile on her face. She does not try to act like Julie Andrews, but instead it infuses the role with her own no nonsense type of flair. She will leave an indelible memory on those who watch and will most likely garner an Oscar nomination for her role.

The colors used in the film were beautiful and saturated, and only added to giving this revival the jolt that it needed to have in order to succeed. The costumes were stunning and again this movie will get numerous Oscar nominations in many different categories, that is a fact. 

I have to say the children in the movie, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson, were the most delightful actors I have seen in a long time. Acting alongside such heavy-hitters they performed with ease and stole many of the scenes. I am sure they will be ones to watch.

I highly recommend this movie for both adults and children. This might just be the most supercalifragilistic movie of the year.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

There are certain people who come into this world, this galaxy, and shine so bright that they were meant to be stars. These people they’re not like most of us, there is something so unique, so shiny, so different, that we can’t help, but stare. It’s an explicable touch of feeling, but they have that special something that we cannot take our eyes off them and we sit there like addicts wanting more. Freddie Mercury or Farrokh Bulsara, was one of those people. He gave music fans around the world something special and just like that in 45 years he was gone. The biopic film Bohemian Rhapsody directed by Brian Singer, tells the story of not only Mercury, but of the band. How they came into existence and how they were catapulted into fame with their iconic hit songs.

Mercury (Rami Malek) was a baggage handler at Heathrow airport who happens upon the band Smile. While he sips his pint, he looks around at the audience and is enthralled by the buzz of the concert. On his way to meet the band, he meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), and from there springs a love story that will last his entire lifetime. Call it kismet or good luck, the band’s lead singer ditches them, and they need a front man. When Mercury approaches them, he tells them he can sing. With his overbite and shaggy hair, he doesn’t appear to the singer of their dreams, but when he belts out a tune they immediately hire him on.

From there it happens fast, he goes from the shy Parsi boy from Zanzibar to the lead singer of one of the most iconic and enthralling bands of time. The film showcases his gift for song writing and how the band’s different energies made the songs unique. Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), the drummer, was the staunch critic who always put up a fight against a lyric or riff, then there is guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), who has a knack and flair for knowing how to fit the melodies together (oh and he came up with the infamous clap-back idea for We Are The Champions), and the pacifist of the group bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) who came up with many of the ingenious lyrics and chords of their songs.

I don’t have to tell you what happened to the Titanic, everyone knows the story, same for the band Queen. Everyone knows the songs, the lyrics, and what happened to Mercury. The film glosses over much of Mercury’s life as a gay man and as someone who contracted and died of AIDS, instead we get hazy scenes of gay clubs and truck stops, and the audience can seemingly understand what was going on in his life. This is not Dallas Buyers Club, you will not see Mercury go through a harrowing collapse or whittle down to 100 pounds. This is not that type of movie.

The focus instead is on his relationship with Austin, whom he loved from the day he met, and eventually married and begged to never take off her wedding ring. She was there from the start till the day he died. After he confesses to her that he is bisexual, she tells him that he is gay, and she knew it all along. That is their relationship, she supports him through thick and thin and is always there to pick him back up.

The movie showcases the band’s rise to stardom, how Mercury is thrown off base by manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), the dubious villain of the film, and how they come back together as a band. Just like any biopic, the film can only highlight so much, and under the tutelage of executive producers, Roger Taylor and Brian May, it is obvious that they had some input into how the movie was put together. This is their vision of the band, we don’t see a lot of down in the dumps moments, or Mercury on his deathbed, instead we see a story about a group of men bonded together for life by an experience that only they will ever understand.

What struck me the most about the film was Malek. He will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Mercury. He wears a set of teeth to mimic the singer’s and we see him as shy one minute and flamboyant and wild the next. The whole time we are watching it, we almost forget that it is not Mercury on stage, but Malek himself. This is the role he was meant to play and one that will be sealed in his acting repertoire forever.

I also couldn’t keep my eyes off of Lee, who portrayed May exactly as we have always envisioned him to be in real life. Calm, cool, and collected, yet able to wail on a guitar like no other. Also keep your eye out for Mike Meyers who funnily enough makes a cameo as music producer Ray Foster, who rejected Bohemian Rhapsody for being too long.

You will see a lot of mixed reviews about this movie. First, you need to understand that this was made for mainstream audiences, and they will love it. They will eat it up with a spoon and want to lick every edge of it off. The film delivers with the highlight reel of their most spectacular arena performances, but the true shining star of the film is Malek’s performance as the legendary singer.

Table 19 (2017)

Table 19
Directed by Jeffrey Blitz
Written by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass

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As a guest, one of the most important details of a wedding is the seating chart. The closer the bride and groom are to the guest, the closer their table is to the action. That is where all the fun activities happening, where everyone looks to always be having the most fun. Now what happens with guests who sort of know the bride or groom and are not part of the inner circle? Those folks get relegated to the back of the room, where no one would really notice if they even went missing, let alone know if they were having a good time. The film Table 19, is about those forgotten guests and their experiences at the wedding.

First off, any movie that comes around Oscar time, is pretty much a studio’s throw away film. It’s not a summer blockbuster or a holiday hit, it is none of these things, instead it is just that; a movie that is lucky to have made it to theaters instead of the straight-to-DVD bin. I went into this with that mind frame, zero expectations, and found it to be comical and a decent film.

The dreaded Table 19 consists of a rag-tag group of nobodies. Eloise (Anna Kendrick) just got dumped by the bride’s brother Teddy (Wyatt Russell) over text, and dropped out as her maid of honor because of this, yet still musters the courage to show up. When she arrives, no one seems to pay any attention to her and she soon realizes that she is at Table 19. The table she refers to as, “the people who should have known better not to come.”

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Seated at the table are Bina (Lisa Kudrow) and Jerry Kepp (Craig Robinson), a couple who own a diner the bride of the father frequents, Walter (Stephen Merchant), a cousin of the bride who lives in a halfway house, Jo (June Squibb) the bride’s childhood nanny, Renzo (Tony Revolori), a friend of the family who got randomly invited and was forced to go alone by his mother so that he could meet someone and lose his virginity. To say that this table is random and odd is an understatement. Eloise immediately knows who everyone at the table is because she helped the bride put together the seating chart. Together the group bands around Eloise’s constant misfortunes and try to cheer her up.

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At the wedding, Eloise does meet a handsome mysterious wedding crasher named Huck (James Cocquerel) and sparks fly, she manages to even dance with him and make Teddy a little bit jealous. By the way, that actor totally looked like a Hemsworth, who is this guy, he needs to be famous?!

What happened from here is a bit of a disjointed mess, where nothing makes sense. I thought it would be a predictable rom-com, but it turned out to have some depressing undertones to it. I did find it funny though, and found myself laughing throughout the whole film. I think it was the sheer craziness of the movie that I found so entertaining.

Kendrick plays that bumbling, kooky, cute girl persona she seems to do in every movie, and it works for this type of genre. Merchant was probably the funniest character, I loved his dry pan attitude and way of delivering lines.  Squibb is a great actress and this role left her playing almost a caricature of herself. I felt that Robinson was underused, he is a comical and he barely had any funny scenes in the film. His scenes tended to be rather glib and sad.

I felt that this movie took every wedding movie cliché in the book and threw it in for good measure. I found it irritating that it used 80’s songs, literally the same exact ones from The Wedding Singer. I mean come on, they could have gotten a little more inventive, I thought Adam Sandler might appear at any moment in his 80’s blazer and sing Love Stinks. Heck, the chicken dance song could have been more fresh.

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This is the kind of movie that you could watch at home in your pajamas, when there is nothing else to watch on TV. I have to admit though that despite many of its’ flaws, I found it silly and funny to watch. If you find yourself looking for something to stream, check it out on HBO.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad is the movie everyone has been waiting for and what has been on the minds of comic book fans for years. It features some of the most notable and iconic characters of the DC Comics universe and for those who are not big comic book readers, it introduces to the world a new set of anti-heroes. Ones that inspire both fear and a sense of lovableness, a rare combination of expression to feel for a group of villains and sociopaths.

Directed by David Ayer, who is most notably known for writing hard hitting cop and detective dramas like Training Day and End of Watch, he brings his sensibility of understanding the dynamic between “good guy” and “bad guy” to a film that is a literal depiction of that genre and turns it upside its’ head. Suicide Squad was a thrill ride of a movie to watch and a great movie-going experience in it of itself, but the story was somewhat wobbly and lacked a consistent narrative. Some of the characters were interesting and some just lacked depth.

The film centers around Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a tough hard-nosed woman who leads a secret government agency, and has the idea to ban together a group of the most horrible and despicable villains the world has ever seen to fight an enemy that is not part of this earthly realm. The Enchantress (Cara Delavigne), a magical sorceress that has possessed the body of Dr. June Moon, has been unleashed and wants to ruin mankind, she believes the only people who can stop her are these super villains.

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We get a glimpse of each villain and their life of imprisonment and how they ended up there. Literally it’s a glimpse, I couldn’t tell you much about the characters because many of them were not properly explained. There is Deadshot (Will Smith), who is the best assassin that has ever lived and has a soft spot for his young daughter. Caught years ago by the mighty Batman, he harbors an intense hate for him and longs to bring him down. Then there is everyone’s favorite lunatic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), she was once an esteemed psychiatrist, and then reverted to a life of crime when she fell in love with the craziest of her patients, the Joker (Jared Leto). Quinn loves to hang from her cell like a trapeze artist and relishes the chance to get out and kill again.

The rest of the ensemble is composed of Digger (Jai Courtney), the Aussie who can destroy anything and anyone with his boomerang. Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) a man whose skin resembles a crocodile and rages at anything in front of him. Chato Santana (Jay Hernandez) the ex-gang banger who can retract fire from his fingertips and cause mass destruction. He makes it a point to try to hold back his rage, because the angrier he gets, the more powerful and deadly the fire can escape his body. Then there is Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a Japanese woman who can mutilate a man and take his soul with her powerful sword.

The person in charge of this mission is Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), an experienced soldier and Waller’s right hand man. Just like everyone else, he despises these villains and holds it over their heads that Waller can kill them anytime she pleases. She fitted each super villain with a chip that she can detonate from her phone anytime someone gets out of line. The villains have nothing to lose and only their freedom to gain if they successfully complete the mission. I really like Kinnaman as an actor, he is literally awesome in The Killing, but I felt for this role, he just didn’t pop out of the screen. I wanted more from his character who in the end turned out to be a leading actor in the film, from the trailers you would have never guessed that fact.

What really made this movie fun to watch were the characters of Deadshot and Quinn. Their banter and lines were probably the funniest, but everyone else sort of fell flat. I hate to say that because I really like a lot of the actors in the movie. Where Guardians of the Galaxy was able to have a solid storyline with likeable characters that you could grab a hold of, that is where Suicide Squad flubbed up. I mean Groot, had one line and he was the most likeable character of them all.

Smith and Robbie literally saved this movie. They were tremendous and I found myself really engaging with their characters. Smith reminded me of how cool of an actor he used to be, something I feel like he has lost throughout the years. He stole so many scenes and could have his own spinoff movie. Robbie was also great, she delivered the zaniest of lines with spunk and sass and you could not help, but root for her. I wanted more of her storyline though, her relationship with the Joker and her past, but all I was given was snippets in flashbacks. Another standout was Davis; she was probably the most bad-ass of all the characters and as an actress she carried much of the film.

The storyline was a bit confusing and felt rushed. The effects and the visuals were great, but they seemed a bit much at times. The blob people that they fight were weird and it just didn’t always make sense. I envisioned them fighting something more interesting than those blob creatures. The songs in the film were fun to hear, but it was again too much, a “cool” song was interspersed with every interesting moment in the film.

My biggest gripe was that Leto was completely underused. Leto is one of my favorite actors and his performance as the Joker, was thrilling and scary. The lunacy of the Joker could be felt, as he oozed craziness from every pore of his body, yet he was only in the movie for maybe 20 minutes, each shown in small increments. I was truly disappointed to see one of the biggest hyped up roles to be just a mere speck in the whole movie.

Regardless of the mishaps, I would still suggest anyone who is a fan of movie-going to see it. The film was definitely fun to watch and provided some mindless entertainment. If anything, see it for Smith and Robbie, they do not disappoint.