Category Archives: No Spoiler Reviews

SUZI Q (2019): The Thing I Liked…

Suzi Q (2019), Suzi Quatro, Madman Films
Suzi Q (2019), Suzi Quatro, Madman Films

Suzi Q, a documentary about Suzi Quatro; an American rock singer-songwriter who helped redefine the role of women in rock ‘n’ roll in the early 70s is a film I was drawn to because I like stories about pioneers and strong courageous people.

From director Liam Firmager; we get to hear from Quatro herself; while also learning about her from family, friends and peers – including Joan Jett, Henry Winkler, Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry and KT Tunstall.

I hadn’t heard of Quatro until this documentary. Now that I’m more familiar, rather than being a fan of Quatro’s music, I’m more a fan of what she represents. The fact that she’s the first female bass player to become a major rockstar is a notable achievement. Especially around fifty years ago during an even more sexist period in the music industry.

I’m certainly glad to have learned about Quatro, even though there are periods during Suzi Q when I found myself not as engaged as I wanted to be.

Overall, I can’t say that Suzi Q is close to the best music documentary I’ve seen. Nevertheless, If you’re curious about Quatro’s journey, and especially if you’re a fan of her music, then give Suzi Q a chance.

Happy Film Loving

G

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST – THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA (2020): The Things I Liked…

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST-  The Story Of Fire Saga (2020), Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Netflix
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST- The Story Of Fire Saga (2020), Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Netflix

Director David Dobkin’s comedy/music film, Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga is quite the pleasant surprise.

I’m certainly not saying that the story about two aspiring Icelandic musicians trying to get into the world’s biggest song contest is perfect, because I did struggle to stay engaged just over a third into it. However, I think the film captures well the essence of Eurovision. From the amusement the contest offers it’s audiences – thanks to the various characters who take part; to the sense of togetherness it inspires plus the catchy, moving and often fun music featured.

I found myself more impressed with the film’s music than I expected to be. Whether it was the upbeat musical score, or the songs performed by the competitors; I think everyone who enjoys a good catchy and or moving song will have fun. And the ‘song-along‘ is a key highlight. As is the all-important final number sang by Rachel McAdams’s character towards the end.

On the subject of the Icelandic accents of Pierce Brosnan, Will Ferrell and McAdams, I think they did a good job. Plus, I have no complaints about any of the acting. I was happy to be moved and amused. The latter in particular whenever Iceland’s hopes of winning were the subject matter.

My favourite line in the whole film is probably: ‘And I could argue that this town is near death.’

There’s also Dan Stevens’s Russian character who had my attention every time he was on screen.

Watch Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga if you’re curious.

Happy Film Loving

G

THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND (2020): The Things I Liked…

The King of Staten Island (2020), Pete Davidson, Universal Pictures
The King of Staten Island (2020), Pete Davidson, Universal Pictures

The King of Staten Island is a good film; as is the case with all Judd Apatow directed comedy/drama movies I’ve seen. To name just three: The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007) and This is 40 (2012),

Starring Pete Davidson, Bill Burr, Marisa Tomei and Bell Powley, Apatow’s movie is about a young man named Scott (Davidson). Particularly his coming of age story after years of arrested development after losing his father in a hotel fire.

Based largely on Davidson’s personal story, The King of Staten Island is both moving and funny in all the right places. Scott’s emotional journey and personal growth is well drawn – making for a believable story. I enjoyed the jokes, even in the moments when Scott wasn’t especially likeable.

Everyone performed well but I was especially impressed by one of my favourite comedians Bill Burr’s dramatic turn as Ray.

As for some highlights, I particularly enjoyed all the jokes at the expense of Staten Island. And one of the most moving scenes is when Scott goes to pick up Rays children for the first time.

Overall, The King of Staten Island is worth watching for moving story about a young man who finally decides to live life on purpose.

If you’re a Judd Apatow and or a Pete Davidson fan, then definitely watch it if you haven’t already.

Happy Film Loving

G

DA 5 BLOODS (2020): The Things I Liked…

Da 5 Bloods (2020), Chadwick Boseman, Netflix
Da 5 Bloods (2020), Chadwick Boseman, Netflix

Da 5 Bloods, the Spike Lee-directed story of four African American veterans who return to Vietnam for two specific reasons, years after the war ended is a good film. One that really ought to qualify Delroy Lindo for at least an award nomination because his performance is powerful, heartbreaking and hard to forget.

Also starring Chadwick Boseman, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock Jr., the men are there to find the remains of their fallen squad leader, and to locate the gold fortune he helped them hide many years earlier.

I enjoyed much of the way the story unfolded; including the use of flashbacks. There’s also the way important black leaders were highlighted in the movie at key points. Especially the leaders/freedom fighters who impacted the lives of the veterans around the time they were American soldiers in Vietnam. These moments helped me to better understand the characters and what was happening in the world at the time. I found Da 5 Bloods to be a moving, timely, engaging and certainly heartbreaking story that delves into the relationship between four veterans, their shared experience as black Americans and how that contributed to their lives during important times in American history.

Da 5 Bloods (2020), Delroy Lindo, Johnny Nguyen, Jonathan Majors, Netflix
Da 5 Bloods (2020), Delroy Lindo, Johnny Nguyen, Jonathan Majors, Netflix

One of the most delightful parts of Lee’s movie is at the very beginning when we get to see the comradery and brotherhood between the four men. Tensions do eventually follow, as expected. But those few minutes at the start had Da 5 Bloods feeling a little bit like the male version of Girls Trip (2017); a truth I have zero complaints about.

In terms of what I didn’t love about Da 5 Bloods, there are two main things in particular. Firstly, some of what I hoped would be surprise happenings/events were set up in a way that made it easy to guess precisely what was about to take place, especially if you’d been fully paying attention. For example, there’s one particular moment that involves a character walking in a very specific way during a disagreement between the four men – but seemingly for no apparent reason before a key distressing event takes place.

Second, who, while stealing, chooses to be extremely loud as they do it, unless they’re a bank robber wielding guns? That I’d understand. I think the four veterans were far too loud while retrieving the gold, even if they did think no one was around. It annoyed me that they weren’t more careful when it made perfect sense for them to be just that. I’m not saying that the story would have turned out differently if they had just lowered their voices and not let the bright shiny gold catch the light. But doing all they did certainly didn’t help, let alone make sense to me.

Da 5 Bloods reminds us of why Lee is a notable filmmaker. Generally, the story is well structured and engaging. So, watch it for a good Spike Lee movie experience, and because performance-wise, everyone did great, especially Lindo.

Happy Film Loving

G

THE GREAT (2020): The Things I liked…

The Great (2019), Elle Fanning, Hulu
The Great (2019), Elle Fanning, Hulu

There is much that’s quite ridiculous in The Great, the latest comedy miniseries starring Elle Fanning as Catherine, a royal woman from rural Austria who marries a Russian Emperor named Peter (Nicholas Hoult). 

The ridiculousness is largely a positive because from it comes some of the most amusing moments. From Catherines initial naiveté about married life, to Peter’s ruthlessness, the manifestation of his insecurities and lack of education; there’s some amusing moments to enjoy in this satirical drama/comedy.

Yet, the reason why I had to stop watching around the halfway point is because all the antics became a tad tedious. Especially since I felt that I’d seen similar and often more cleverly executed versions in a past show or two. Nevertheless, deciding to stop wasn’t an easy decision. Particularly since I wanted to see how Catherine’s plans to make Russia great would really turn out. It’s just unfortunate that the journey towards that goal started to feel long winded and inadequately engaging around the midway point.

The performances weren’t the worst. I simply lost interest in the story. The thing that will stay with me besides the amusing turns by Hoult and Fanning? That would be the seeming madness of the statement: ‘People do underestimate the joy in suffering.’ Perhaps I simply don’t get it. Either that or I haven’t tried hard enough to understand.

I know there are many who really had a great time with this ten part series. Maybe I’ll pick up where I left off in the future. Maybe.

If you’re curious, give The Great a chance. You may find it far more enjoyable than I did. It appears that many did.

Happy Film Loving 

G

THE DEPARTED (2006): The Things I Liked…

The Departed (2006), Leonardo DiCaprio, Warner Bros. Entertainment
The Departed (2006), Leonardo DiCaprio, Warner Bros. Entertainment

I remember watching Martin Scorsese’s The Departed when it was released in 2006. A film I just had to see because of Scorsese, but also thanks to the triple A-list acting talents of Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon. 

It’s been more than 10 years since then, and Scorsese’s highly rated crime/thriller about an undercover cop and a mole in the police who are trying to identify each other, while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston remains a notable film.

As good as it is, I’m not sure if The Departed is the kind of movie that loses a portion of its shine over time. Or, myself being caught up in ‘Leo Mania‘ in 2006 made me rate it a little more highly than it may have deserved, because I did rate it VERY highly indeed. It could also just be that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen the film; therefore, chances are, I won’t feel it’s as great as it was at first viewing. Either way, today I’d say that the first half of the movie is good, but it’s really in the second act that things get most thrilling.

Can I continue to call The Departed my favourite Scorsese movie? Maybe not. Even though I still think it’s one of his best. And besides the example of what a good crime/thriller can look like, I’ll also remember The Departed for being the first time I heard a croissant referred to as ‘a French doughnut.’ 

For anyone who’s never watched The Departed, part of what makes the movie notable, besides the great story and cast is it doesn’t end the way you expect. Thank goodness that ten-plus years was enough for me to forget the ending, almost entirely. I mean, I did remember the rat on the window sill, but that’s it.

Watch it because it’s good and it is definitely a classic after all.

Happy Film Loving

G

THE HIGH NOTE (2020): The Things I Liked…

The High Note (2020), Dakota Johnson, Focus Features
The High Note (2020), Dakota Johnson, Focus Features

The High Note is the story of Maggie, an overworked personal assistant (Dakota Johnson) who has a decision to make. A choice about what she wants her future to look like, and her vision involves her superstar singer boss, Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross).

Directed by Nisha Ganatra; The High Note is for me, at best an OK film that I found more enjoyable from around the one hour point. Before then, though still watchable, Ganatra’s movie seemed to have a missing piece. It certainly didn’t help that I wasn’t overly enthused by the songs featured as the ones that made Davis successful. A truth that unfortunately made me buy into the whole ‘Grace Davis as a singing superstar’ premise that little bit less. 

Luckily, as is often the case with non biographical music films, the best songs were saved for towards the end. Songs that in my opinion fit Ellis Ross’s singing voice and or my music tastes that much more than the earlier ones.

Unexpectedly, the singing I ended up enjoyed the most in The High Note comes courtesy of Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s character, David. Assuming it’s Harrison Jr. who’s actually singing, let’s just say I’m ready to hear his voice on a full album and you just might too.

All the music aside, I enjoyed the performances in Ganatra’s film. Though it’s not perfect and it all seemed to end a tad abruptly, I don’t regret watching the story of young Maggie’s challenging journey to her ideal job; one that includes a sprinkling of romance, some funny moments and an unexpected friendship.

One last very random thing, The High Note happens to be the second movie I’ve now seen where Johnson is sporting a beautiful brown suede jacket. The first was Bad Times at the El Royale (2018). I guess it’s safe to say that I have a thing for brown fringed suede jackets. Especially the one in the latter film.

Watch it if you’re curious.

Happy Film Loving 

G

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE (2020): The Things I Liked…

Little Fires Everywhere (2020), Reese Witherspoon
Little Fires Everywhere (2020), Reese Witherspoon

Set in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 90s, Little Fires Everywhere is about two families whose lives become intertwined because of their children.

Starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, the ten-episode series is based on Celeste Ng’s best-selling novel of the same name – and it’s very well acted by all involved.

As a drama about families, the weight of secrets, motherhood and identity; Little Fires Everywhere tackles each topic in powerful and moving ways. One of my favourite moments/lines of dialogue ends with the words: ‘You won’t have to swim forever.’ I also liked the beginning when the families seemed to be getting along. The quiet before the storm.

Little Fires Everywhere (2020), Kerry Washington
Little Fires Everywhere (2020), Kerry Washington

The complexity of the characters is another highlight. You may not find one to fully identify with or completely like, but chances are you’ll see their humanity and get some understanding of their struggle, because the writing is so good.

Besides the strong focus on identity, the absence of humour as a key element and the fact that no one gets murdered, Little Fires Everywhere has a few things in common with hit series Desperate Housewives. There’s the suburban setting, the secrets and the different experiences of motherhood to name just three.

Outside of a moment in an earlier episode when I wanted things to move along a little faster, Little Fires Everywhere is worth watching for all the above reasons. So give it a chance if you’re curious.

Happy Film Loving

G