I definitely enjoyed the new Stephen Fry narrated Netflix documentary Dancing With The Birds. Though mainly for the stunning images of the beautiful birds of paradise. I couldn’t help but appreciate the moments the film made me realise just how much humans and birds actually have in common, especially when trying to attract a mate.
The only downside of Dancing With The Birds for me is how the whole experience felt oddly unfinished. Perhaps because I’m used to a more thorough telling of an animal / bird / nature story – as per the works of Sir David Attenborough. Whereas Dancing With The Birds focuses purely on the mating rituals / dance routines of some of planet Earth’s most stunning birds of paradise.
Don’t get me wrong, the dance rituals are definitely something to see. So much so that they had me thinking that I really could probably do with sharpening my own dance skills. Probably.
Watch Dancing With The Birds for the truly stunning images and for the similarities between us and those with feathers, wings and the gift of flight.
Amusement and being moved emotionally; these were my hopes for Greg Kinnear’s directorial debut Phil. A drama / comedy about a depressed dentist who’s in the midst of a mid life crisis when his happiest patient suddenly commits suicide. After learning of this tragic news, Phil dedicates himself – in a far from reasonable way to finding out why his favourite patient ended things.
Also starring Bradley Whitford, Taylor Schilling and Emily Mortimer, the phrase ‘this is surprisingly good’ is unfortunately not where my mind went as Kinnear’s movie played. Instead, my mind was busy saying ‘Phil… Phil… Phil, Phil, Phil’.
The reason for all the Phils is this, there’s a certain simplicity to Kinnear’s script and general execution that meant pretty early on in the movie, I was barely engaged. Even though I didn’t hate Bradley Whitford’s performance, liked Jay Duplass’s character and I believed Kinnear’s Phil to be truly miserable, what I didn’t believe is several of the decisions made by certain people in the story. And perhaps even more crucially, I didn’t believe that anyone should have been convinced of Phil as a native of Greece. The fact that several key characters appeared to be convinced is a truth that only made the whole experience of Phil feel even more ludicrous.
I’m clearly not going to recommend watching this one, except of course, if you really, definitely, absolutely, life depends on it must must.
Starring Allison Williams, Logan Browning and Steven Weber, The Perfectionis a ‘darker than you expect’ drama / horror / thriller. Directed by Richard Shepard, the story follows a musical prodigy who sets upon a sinister path that begins with her seeking out the current star pupil of her former school.
I kind of already knew based on the trailer that Shepard’s movie wouldn’t be the most comfortable of viewings. I just didn’t know that within ten minutes into the film, a thought that crossed my mind would be ‘Am I ready for this darkness?’
The darkness that made me uneasy wasn’t anything to do with physical violence, though there is some of that here. It was about the negative energy / vibe that seemed so easy for the audience to see, yet the person the ill-intent was aimed toward appeared completely oblivious.
As far from comfortable as this movie made me feel for a number of reasons, I also found it quite engaging – even though something about its execution felt a tad rough around the edges. Another way to say it would be… ‘The Perfection is not like Green Book (2018)’. By this I mean, in The Perfection, every single scene didn’t flow perfectly without me having to pause and question any of the story, dialogue or general happenings. Additionally, the acting was OK but I did not get completely lost in the world of the story.
I say give Shepard’s movie a chance because it’s not quite what you think it’s going to be. You’ll definitely go on a ride that won’t be the most comfortable but everything kind of pays off in the most unexpected way.
There are also one or two – perhaps more moments of stunning imagery. My favourite of which is at the top of this very post.
Always Be My Maybe, a comedy about childhood sweethearts who reconnect after they fell out fifteen years ago is quite funny and features a handful of moving but not too overly sentimental scenes.
As was the case with the trailer, Keanu Reeves entering the frame is one of the best moments for me because, well, it’s Keanu Reeves – but also because his character is funny and the music that plays as he enters the room could not have been more perfect.
The entire cast led by Ali Wong and Randall Park all perform well and the second most memorable moment for me is the lovely speech delivered at the red carpet event near the end.
There are just two things in director Nahnatchka Khan’s film that had me wanting. Firstly, with the exception of the great music that plays when we first meet Reeve’s character, I found a noticeable absence of music in most scenes when compared to other comedy / romance movies. It’s a thing I wished I didn’t notice because it would probably mean I was too busy being fully engrossed in everything happening on screen with the characters. Secondly, this is just my preference when it comes to comedy / romances but, I missed the rhythm, attitude / atmosphere and music that I often enjoy in a J.Lo movie of the same genre.
Even with all the above said, give Always Be My Maybe a chance because Reeves is fun and you may just like it more than you expect.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debutBooksmart is a comedy set in high school, and one that focuses on two A students who spent so much time working hard that they forgot to party. Now that it’s the last night before graduation, they set about making up for precious lost time.
Starring Kaitlyn Devers, Beanie Feldstein, Jason Sudeikis and Noah Galvin, I think everyone generally performed well and Booksmart is a movie with some parts I really enjoyed. To my surprise though, more so than the comedy focused scenes between Feldstein and Dever, the moments that really commanded my attention were actually the more emotional / dramatic scenes. Scenes like the argument towards the end and the very last scene in the movie.
The funny moments that stood out most include all the ones that featured Sudeikis – even though he’s hardly in it. I especially appreciated the moment the Cardi B. reference happened. There’s also Galvin’s generally great comic timing, delivery and his potentially nightmare inducing rendition of Alanis Morrisette’s classic ‘You Oughtta Know.’
The music, cool shooting and editing style, particularly the way the high school experience is captured is certainly memorable.
As for what I loved less about Booksmart, that would be the unfortunate slight cringe factor that stemmed from some scenes between Feldstein and Dever going on too long or coming across as too high energy and overdone.
I say see it for yourself if you’re curious. It’s certainly highly hyped but there is some cleverness within.
My expectations weren’t exactly the highest, as one might imagine. So picture my surprise when I found myself having a good time almost immediately.
In trying to understand what had changed, it became clear that , the story is simply much better this time round. I found it more interesting. I definitely enjoyed the surprises within the script as well as the elaboration on the backstory of several of the main characters. I’m also quite sure that there weren’t any sentimental moments or attempts at humour that felt hugely forced. I imagine that everything was that little bit better because the actors were more comfortable in their roles.
I still stand by the truth that I didn’t enjoy Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), but I’m also sure that my appreciation of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. isn’t a result of me learning to ignore any of the humour that doesn’t quite land or ignore any general corniness within the script. I really did like the new characters, find the story more fun, and appreciated the special effects that little bit extra.
With all that said I now say, watch it because it’s good and especially if you’re sure I’m not completely mad.
Ted Bundy, one of America’s most infamous serial killers is very much at the centre of director Joe Berlinger’s film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Yet the story is really told from the perspective of Bundy’s longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer. As such, like Kloepfer, we don’t get to be there with Bundy as he commits his shockingly evil crimes (thank goodness!) We also don’t get to know any real shocking details about the crimes until the trial towards the end. What we do get is a front row seat to watch Bundy some time after he commits a crime and pretends to be as normal and decent as the next guy. It’s sad but like a true psychopath, he succeeded at it. A lot.
Starring Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Jim Parsons and John Malkovich, I watched Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile because of the very interesting subject matter and the new perspective. Another reason is to see Efron succeed in a more serious role than he’s taken on in recent years. I’m happy to say that he does well. I was particularly impressed during the moments he gave the audience a glimpse into the true darkness within his character’s soul. His time at the dog’s home is one such example.
I don’t believe there was a single dull moment during this movie and contrary to what the trailer made many feel, I don’t consider Berlinger’s film to be one that glorifies or celebrates Bundy. It’s instead a movie that portrays Bundy as he was known to be and part of that is that he was sadly almost as charming as he was wicked, evil and vile.
I say watch Berlinger’s movie, Just don’t watch it expecting explanations and / or deep dives into Bundy’s past that highlight what could have led him to such darkness. For this is a film about Bundy but the focus is on Kloepfer’s experience.
Parsons and Malkovich’s characters are memorable. Overall though, it’s really Collins by whom I was most impressed. She may be an actor with a forever youthful face, but the lady has great instincts. Her telling of Kloepfer’s story will have you mad at Kloepfer, sad for Kloepfer and by the very end,a little surprised in general but definitely extremely relieved for Kloepfer.
Greta, a Neil Jordan directed drama / thriller about Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman who befriends a lonely widow, and lives to regret it is a film I’d really hoped to enjoy. Also starring Isabelle Huppert and Maika Monroe, the experience of watching Jordan’s movie left me wanting for a more thrilling, even, clever, better-written and structured film.
It’s odd but I think that the idea of Greta’s lunacy along with the idea of the nature of the scary things that were happening actually proved more terrifying than the result of what the acting and the way the story is told really made me feel.
Performance-wise, I unfortunately still find Moretz’s acting to be generally quite awkward. Huppert didn’t perform terribly but I don’t think the surface level feel of the script helped her much either. The few glimmers of hope in this otherwise mostly disappointingly executed film include the clever set-up that leads to the syringe scene and the dancing that immediately followed. Reason being, this is when we get a little glimpse into the extent of Greta’s ‘crazy’, even though it’s never properly explained. The other kind of highlight is the moments in the film that ‘play on Frances’s reality.’
Overall, besides reminding me of ‘stranger danger’, especially in a big city like New York, Greta confirmed that everyone really ought to be aware of their own vulnerabilities. Especially if people close to you haven’t helped to lovingly point them out.