Winter Review: M3gan

My Spoiler Policy: If the media is old or based on a book it is fair game but I will still warn you of spoilers. M3gan is a new release that is currently in theaters so I will give my review with sparse details as to not spoiling the plot.

I saw M3gan over the weekend. I recommend the film and I enjoyed it more than I expected I would. M3gan is about a nine year old girl named Cady who moves in with her career oriented Aunt Gemma who lives along and is a designer at a toy company. Aunt Gemma gave Cady a robot named M3gan (Model 3 Generative Android) as a companion. M3gan is Gemma’s creation and a prototype for a mass production of M3gans at her toy company.

The underlying theme of M3gan is that technology undermines parental authority in modern times. Institutions also challenge parental influence. A child and her toy are the center of this movie but adults can see themselves in Cady and ponder how much they are attached to technology and influenced by it.

Social media facetiously debated who is better between Chucky and M3gan. I think the better comparison is between M3gan and T-1000 from T2. M3gan is not a result of paranormal activity, demonic possession or witchcraft. She is a piece of technology with a purpose. M3gan is an action film and an old fashioned slasher movie.

Violet McGraw does great work playing Cady. Ronny Chieng did a nice job playing David, Gemma’s terrible boss at the toy company. He gave Mr. Spacely vibes throughout the film. Two actresses play M3gan. They are very talented as well. I was surprised to find out humans brought the android to life. I kind of thought it was a robot or CGI technology.

https://people.com/movies/who-plays-m3gan-in-m3gan-movie/

M3gan is an entertaining and thoughtful film with relevant commentary on modern society. It’s well acted and a good action and slasher film. I think you’ll be entertained by it. It’s worth your time and money if you’re looking for something to see at the theater.

Fall Movie Review: The Laureate

This weekend I watched “The Laureate”. It was a little dry at times because I don’t care for films in this setting but it was an interesting story. “The Laureate” is about an English writer named Robert Graves who suffered from PTSD after fighting in WWI. At the start of the film he was a married man with a young daughter. His career and family life was respectable but he wasn’t satisfied.

Robert and his wife Nancy allow an American poet named Laura to move into their home and act as a tutor for their daughter. Laura is manipulative and a user. She also has mental delusions. Laura says she likes to challenge societal conventions but she is really just a selfish social climber. Her ambitions are more important than morals or family.

Laura thought she could position herself near Robert in order to achieve greater success for herself. Robert was in the flop era of his career. Nancy use to be cool but now she was a mousy housewife with a young daughter.

Nancy is a sucker who wants to be edgy so she opened her home and slowly her marriage to Laura who wreaked havoc on her life and ultimately destroyed her family. However, Laura was an effective muse and Robert’s career took off after meeting Laura. He is a writer of influential works from the WWI era.

The draw back of ” The Laureate” is that I don’t care for stories that take place in England around the 1920’s. Shows and movies like “Downton Abbey” and “Atonement” are very boring dark, quiet and dry to me. “The King’s Speech” would be an exception.

There was a point in this film that remind me of “The Color Purple” due to the exotic and exciting woman that moves into a married couples house. Both films take place around the same time period but the parallels end there. “The Laureate” is a good film. It’s interesting and it could start some good conversations. I recommend it.

Fall Movie Review: “Umma”

I watched “Umma” starring Sandra Oh over the weekend. This is a great movie and I highly recommend it. “Umma” is a psychological thriller with many layers. This film touches on matters of family dynamics, particularly the mother/daughter relationship, ethnic identity, spirituality and paranormal activity. It would be a great film to watch with a friend or group because it could initiate interesting conversations.

SPOILER ALERT

Amanda and her daughter Chris live in isolation in what seems to be rural California. They raise bees for a living on a farm. Chris grows up believing her mother is allergic to electricity. This is a great setting and set of circumstance for an eerie film.

Chris grew up without modern conveniences and technology which makes her a social outcast among her peers. She is home schooled and her only companion is her mother. Chris later finds out with the help of a visitor to the town she befriends that her mother’s allergy is a lie. It’s unclear if the lie is deliberate or a figment of Amanda’s imagination.

Amanda had a tense relationship with her domineering Korean mother. In an effort to be different from her she distanced herself from her mother, extended family. In the process she rejects society as a whole. Amanda never married. She had her daughter with a White man who played little to no part in Amanda and Chris’ lives. She didn’t teach her daughter anything about her Korean heritage.

Amanda’s attempts to not be like her mother failed. She was similar to her mother in some ways and had a complicated and controlling relationship with Chris. She also had old world expectations of her daughter who was born and raised in California.

I hadn’t heard of this film at all before running across it at the library. This is a great film that I think you will enjoy. It is creepy and has scary moments so it’s suitable for this time of year. It’s also an interesting commentary about family relationships especially the ones we have with our mothers. I highly recommend it.

Fall Review: The Northman

This will be short. This movie is terrible. I don’t have much to say because I can’t really tell you what happened in the movie. It was about Vikings doing Viking stuff but I don’t know why they were doing it.

I thought I would enjoy this film because I enjoyed the TV series “Vikings” but this isn’t that. The movie had an impressive cast with well known actors. They couldn’t help. It was terrible and a waste of time.

Summer Movie Review: American Gospel

I watched the film “American Gospel” over the weekend. I would recommend the film but wouldn’t describe it as good or enjoyable. The film is sad and disappointing but it is informative and eye opening. “American Gospel” is worth the watch.

“American Gospel” does a good job of presenting the gospel. Then it goes into the way the gospel is shared by well known American pastors. There are sharp differences. America’s most well known pastors are sharing a false gospel and their message gets shared around the world.

This movie shows clips from celebrity preacher sermons. The sermons can be described as blasphemous. They can also be described as scams. There are testimonials from people that have followed the teachings of mega church pastors and their regrets. A nephew of so called faith healer, Benny Hinn, who worked in his uncle’s ministry also tells his story in hindsight.

I don’t follow the ministries of celebrity pastors but for the most part I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt and hope that some good comes from their ministry. The exception is Benny Hinn who is obviously a long time charlatan. The revelations by his nephew are worse than I imagined. They are heart breaking.

There were people in “American Gospel” who shared their experiences following mega church teachings. One woman ruined her career and financial standing. I don’t think she worked for the church but she followed the teachings of a popular preacher and quit her job believing she would be miraculously provided for. She wasn’t.

The bottom line of the film is that the popular American Gospel isn’t following scripture at all. They preach a message that is designed to sell books, get clicks and views and garnish donations, not teach the Bible and save souls.

The film also includes the testimony of a family where the wife is terminally ill and their faith and studies of the Bible. Their story isn’t miraculous and wouldn’t make anyone feel like a special snow flake. But they share what God’s word did for them and their family.

I would recommend watching “American Gospel”. It’s well researched and presented. I think it is fair. I think that viewers can learn a lot about the gospel and the difference between what the Bible says and the message being shared by popular preachers.

Summer Movie Review: Spencer

COURTESY SPOILER ALERT

One of my rules for spoiler are that if a book or film is based on a historical event there is no spoiler. This is a courtesy spoiler alert if you don’t want your expectations of “Spencer” influenced by my opinion.

“Spencer” is the 2021 film about Diana (Spencer), Princess of Wales. The film takes place during Christmas season 1991. The film illustrates the burden Diana carried as the wife and mother of the future kings of England. The movie takes some patience but I enjoyed it overall.

Spencer was a bit slow moving in parts. It used symbolism which I don’t enjoy in books and movies. The musical score was also very dramatic and kind of loud. It was a symphony and it was overbearing in some scenes. The director was very artsy fartsy and indulgent at times. It made the story move like molasses.

You will be rewarded if you stick with it. The story comes together and begins to make sense midway through. “Spencer” is filmed like it’s a psychological thriller. The look is similar to that of “The Shining”, “Get Out” or even the “Friday the 13th Series”. It’s dark and hazy.

The film makes the claim that Diana was on the verge of or perhaps already having a nervous breakdown in late 1991. She had been in her royal position for over a decade. She was lonely and isolated. Diana was constantly surveilled and controlled.

At thirty years old all of her choices were made for her including where she lived and her clothes. She had little control over parenting her boys. Diana was treated well and respectfully but it was a matter of protocol. Everyone around her was loyal to tradition, patriotism and The Crown. There wasn’t much interest in Diana as a person.

Her only genuine interactions were with her sons. The scenes with the young mother and her two boys were charming and gave the film warmth. Her older son William was also loyal to royal protocol and tried to keep his mother on the straight and narrow. The boys were protective and seemed to see their mom as mentally fragile.

Diana’s relationship with her husband Charles was a matter of royal business. In one scene Charles justified his affair with Camilla by saying he needed two women because there were two of him; one public and one private. Charles was basically Diana’s boss and she was his employee.

The people around her including the queen played subtle psychological tricks on her. The queen made decisions to quietly let Diana know she was in charge and Diana was a political prisoner of sorts. Diana was the focus of intense media attention and she was not protected or sympathized with by her husband or anyone else except her sons. They were the only people who saw her humanity. It’s easy to believe that someone would lose their mind in that situation.

Kristen Stewart did a nice job as the princess. The casting was great and all the actors performed well. The 80s and 90s costumes were great. Diana was known for her short hairdo so the wig Kristen wore could have been better. It didn’t look bad but I could tell it was a wig. The stylist probably should have tried a weave cut into a short style so the hair would have more movement.

Overall, I recommend the movie despite it moving slowly in some parts. I don’t know if the movies claims are verifiable but they are believable. I like that the film maker was on Diana’s side and told her story.

Summer Movie Review: The Batman

I recently watched “The Batman”. It’s the newest installment from the Batman movie series that was released earlier this year. I’ve seen all of the Batman movies including “The Joker”. I wanted to like the movie but I didn’t.

The movie is very long and had about four or five different undeveloped plots and an undeveloped. The director was indulgent and threw in action sequences that are unnecessary and and others that are unrealistic. I understand that it’s a super hero movie but within suspended reality things need to make sense. There were gun fights in pitch darkness and an entire police precinct shooting upward on a flight of steps at Batman but no officers got shot. The writers and director probably just thought it was cool so they just threw it in.

This film had about four different underdeveloped plots. The movie just kind of meandered along. There was a kidnapping and a hostage taken, there were shootings, there were explosions and at the end there was a flood. It didn’t tie together very well.

Zoe Kravitz played Catwoman. I’m not sure she was even referred to as Catwoman in “The Batman”. I think she went by Selina Kyle throughout the story. She wasn’t very cat like and her depiction of the character was kind of flat in comparison to other actresses who played that role. Catwoman is usually over the top.

There was also an underdeveloped love story between Batman and Selina. There was a point where she kissed him and it seemed to come out of the blue. Zoe Kravitz and Robert Pattinson didn’t have a lot of chemistry as a couple.

Paul Dano is a great actor but his talents went to waste in “The Batman”. That’s the most I can say about that. Paul played The Riddler but there really isn’t much to say about that role or Paul’s performance. His face was covered during a lot of his screen time and it was hard to understand what he was even saying.

I kind of liked Robert Pattinson as Batman. The best way to describe his performance is Emo and it works out of the bat costume. However, his vehicles and tools weren’t as cool in this movie and this version of Batman isn’t as macho as others. I think he needed more machismo in the Batman outfit. But then again I’m old and kids are different these days.

If you’re a fan of the movies or comics it may be worth it for you to watch “The Batman” but it’s not a very good movie.

Film Review: White Hot, the Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch

White Hot, the Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch is a documentary running on Netflix that tells the story about the retailer whose popularity peaked in the early 2000s. I would recommend this film if you are interested in fashion, marketing, pop culture, labor and civil rights or late nineties and early 2000s nostalgia. It covers all of that. It’s fairly short and I thought it was an interesting movie.

A & F was a very successful retailer that was a staple in every American shopping mall in the 2000s. I was aware of A & F but I was never impressed by their style. If my memory serves correctly they sold jeans, tees and button downs. Nothing special. I also recall that they were known for the clothes running very small. A & F didn’t really pull my trigger.

The company was notorious for being racist so there was no love loss between me and Abercrombie and Fitch. I’ve been in an A & F store one time. I browsed around one of their stores in the Kansas City area that has closed. I bought a pair of skinny jeans on clearance for about $10. There was nothing noteworthy or memorable about the experience.

White Hot discusses the marketing strategy of the company that made them very successful. The ads featured young, White, fit, natural looking men and women. Youth culture of today criticize A & F for promoting a specific beauty standard.

A & F was sued by some of their former store employees and some of them were interviewed for the documentary. I have worked several retail jobs. The practices described in the documentary are typical of retail companies. Retail is a very racist industry. The discrimination is evident if you’re familiar with the retail industry.

The difference between Abercrombie and other retailers is that they were very direct and brazen about their practices. A & F had manuals about who they saw fit to hire. They didn’t hire and recruit based on experience. They based on looks and were not customer service oriented at all.

They didn’t say they only wanted to hire White people but they discriminated against employees that didn’t fit their standard of attractiveness which is clearly White. Non White employees were written off the schedule or only allowed to work in the stock room if they were hired at all. Abercrombie and Fitch settled with former employees that sued them but the company never admitted wrong doing.

White Hot, the Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch is OK. You might enjoy it if you’re interested in the subject matter it covered. The film follows in the Netflix tradition of making documentaries of pop culture trends of the early 2000s. They have the benefit of hindsight and people who were directly involved have the opportunity to tell their story. I think they’re pretty fun but it’s not ground breaking film making.

Winter Review: West Side Story

I recently saw Steven Spielberg’s retelling of the classic musical “West Side Story”. I enjoyed the love story a great deal. Spielberg and his cast and crew did a great job in this remake. I saw “West Side Story” with Natalie Wood many years ago on one of the cable classic movie channels and loved it. I expected to enjoy “West Side Story” and I wasn’t disappointed.

After watching “West Side Story” in the theater I found my CD of the music from the 1961 Natalie Wood version of the film. The new release of “West Side Story” follows the older one closely. “West Side Story” debuted on stage in 1957. It became a Hollywood film in 1961. Gentrification, economic stress, immigration and racial tension are all plot points in the film. All of these matters appear in current news.

The character of Anita which was played by Rita Moreno in 1961 was played by Ariana DeBose in 2021. Ariana has visible, significant African ancestry which gave the cast diversity without seeming forced. Many remakes these days cast a Black person in a part formerly played by a White person and it can come across contrived and forced. This casting choice worked well.

The role of Anybodys was memorable in the 1961 version of WSS. In the 1961 version Anybodys was just thought of as a tomboy. In the 2021 version her gender identity and sexuality was more well defined. Anybodys played an important role in the film. She badly wanted to be accepted by the Jets as one of the boys. She was largely ignored because she was a woman who was not traditionally attractive and feminine. Since she moved about in relative anonymity she was able to act as a spy for the Jets. The representation of this openly gender fluid character was a nice modern touch to this classic musical.

This film is solid. The singing and visuals was were great. The acting was first rate. It’s a great love story. The film award’s season is around the corner and I expect “West Side Story” to receive a great deal of recognition. I recommend it.

Film Review: King Richard

I watched the Will Smith film “King Richard” over the weekend. The film is the autobiography of Richard Williams, father or tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. The movie depicts the Williams family origins in South Central LA and builds to Venus Williams’ first professional match at fourteen years old. “King Richard” is an inspirational American dream story. I would recommend “King Richard” to anyone. It’s a wholesome and the entire family can enjoy it together.

Will Smith is going to be a (I am) legend before it’s all over. He is working towards being Denzel level and I think Will Smith isn’t really getting the credit he deserves. Will Smith has starred in some great movies. “The Pursuit of Happyness” is one of my favorite films. Smith was great in “Ali”. “Independence Day” was a sensation when it debuted in theaters. He has had box office success with “Bad Boys” and “MIB”. Will is fifty three years old. He hasn’t come near his Morgan Freeman years yet. In time he’ll be one of the greats.

“King Richard” isn’t my favorite Will Smith performance but he did a good job. Richard Williams is from Shreveport, LA and speaks with a southern drawl. Hollywood never does a good job with southern accents and this film was no exception. At times it felt like Smith was depicting Richard as a person with intellectual and physical disabilities. However, that’s not the case because Richard Williams is a sharp business man. His business sense was depicted in the film. Smith’s accent and gestures just weren’t very convincing.

Smith’s depiction of Richard was that of a nice, kind and doting dad. I’m sure that’s the case but he had to have been a stage dad. I’m not sure his daughters would have had their success without it. I think the film wanted to make Richard likeable so he was portrayed as strict and driven but never harsh or overbearing. I’m a person that think stage parents get a bad rap. They’re effective. The Jacksons, Mozart and numerous child stars and pro athletes are the result of stage parenting. I doubt that Richard Williams is as laid back as he was portrayed in this film.

Mrs. Williams was played by Aunjanue Ellis. She was great and I think she deserves an Oscar. Aunjanue Ellis can best be described as an actor you recognize but you don’t know their name. Throughout the film I was trying to figure out where I’ve seen her. It could be anywhere. She has a long career and many credits behind her. Here is her IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0254712/. The character of Mrs. Williams gave Richard Williams more depth. She helped the film delve into the family dynamics of the Williams family and Richard’s short comings.

John McEnroe was briefly depicted in the film. The actor who played him nailed it. He was instantly recognizable as the tennis pro.

I recommend “King Richard”. It’s an inspirational family and exciting sports movie. It was a clean film and anyone can watch it without offense. You don’t need to be a tennis fan to appreciate this movie. The performances were solid especially from Aunjanue Ellis. I think you’ll enjoy “King Richard” if you are looking for a current release to watch.