Film Review: Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound is an intense historical film set in the deep south of the United States after WWII. The central characters are members of two families, the McAllens and the Jacksons. It’s also based on a book.

The opening scene is very striking. It begins with Henry and Jamie, two brothers in Mississippi digging a grave for their father. They realise it’s a slave’s grave halfway through, but a storm presses them on even as Henry protests. Jamie, who doesn’t care, continues. The rain worsens and Jamie gets stuck in the grave and begins to panic, screaming for his brother. It’s very clear from the get go that Jamie suffers from PTSD. Henry returns and pulls his brother out, with Jamie, hysterical, telling him he thought Henry would leave. To which Henry promises that he’d never do that, they’re brothers. It’s a moment that really underscores the relationship between the two. The fear, the doubt, the love that binds them together.

The scene then shifts to the following morning and the brothers are joined by Henry’s wife Laura and the children, but between them, the brothers can’t carry their father’s coffin alone, and Henry flags down a family leaving the property. Henry asks them to help, but Hap, the head of the family, doesn’t speak. Beside him, his wife Florence looks furious. Bearing in mind that this is the Jim Crow South in the 1940s, and the family are African American, the immediate tension between the two families hints at something terrible.

The film then goes back to 1939, where Henry’s wife Laura begins telling the story of how the family came to the Mississippi farm, her relationship with the brothers, and the arrival of their virulently racist father, Pappy. (He’s the worst. The worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrst.)

From there, the perspective shifts to Hap’s family, and the dynamics between the McAllens and the Jacksons is striking. Where the McAllens are tense and bicker a lot amongst themselves, all unhappy in their own way, the Jacksons are close and loving, working together despite how horribly their neighbours and society treats them. Hap’s son Ronsel is heading off to fight on the frontlines of WWII and the family are saving up to buy property of their own. There’s a sense of hope.

When he returns from WWII, however, Ronsel is disappointed with what he finds. Abroad, he had a relationship and he was treated as a hero. Back home, he finds that nothing in Mississippi has changed. What’s more, the arrival of the McAllens make the Jacksons worry, and tensions begin to mount when Pappy’s racism drives a wedge between the families.

Shortly there after, Jamie, also a WWII vet, moves in with the rest of his family. He quickly bonds with Ronsel, and both reminisce about how different things were abroad whilst struggling to cope their with PTSD and the racism of the society they find themselves in. Their growing friendship is judged problematic by bigots, and whenever Ronsel and Jamie spend time together, Ronsel is forced to hide from passing cars in case someone sees Jamie giving him a lift. It’s utterly heartbreaking and the sense of injustice carries throughout the film. Eventually, the tensions come to a head between the families, and things go from bad to worse.

Do be aware that Mudbound is really difficult to watch in places, very gritty, and there are numerous racist characters. Ronsel and Jamie were by far my favourite characters, but I adored Hap and Florence, too. Laura was a tough one, but I did really sympathise with her. Above all, this film is an important addition to historical movies and features a wonderful cast. The acting is top notch, the cinematography is gorgeous and the directing is fantastic. I definitely recommend watching it.

3 Mini Film Reviews

Reality Bites [2003 | indie, romance, drama] This quiet, understated indie movie is one I wish I’d watched sooner! It stars Winona Ryder, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Stiller and Ethan Hawke. I was really surprised I’d never seen it before! The film follows a group of friends after they graduate from college (or don’t, in some cases) and try to figure out their lives in the adult world. Main character Lelaina moves in with her best friend Vickie, and then their two friends Troy and Sammy also move in. Lelaina works on a television show writing notes for a misogynistic boss that she barely tolerates, Vickie gets a job in sales, and for a while they manage to make it work. On the side, Lelaina is filming her documentary on the side, capturing more quiet, intimate moments of the group and their arrival into adulthood. After Lelaina tosses her cigarette into Michael’s (Ben Stiller) car and causes him to crash, the pair begin to date, much to Troy’s displeasure.

I was surprised to learn that Ben Stiller directed this one! I had no idea! I’m surprised it took me so long, because I adore the cast and have always liked Ben Stiller’s and Winona Ryder’s movies. If you like romantic indie movies à la Before Sunrise, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or 10 Things I Hate About You, give this a go!

Lady Bird [2017| drama, indie, coming of age] This film follows a young girl getting ready for college and her struggling relationship with her mother. It’s set in Sacramento where Lady Bird, the main girl, is about to graduate from her strict Catholic high school and is dealing with the complicated road ahead of her. Her mother wants her to stay in California, she wants to go to New York. She’s at odds with her mother’s standards and views, but it’s clear that they love each other. Every time they fight, they make up. The dramatics are contrasted by the sweet moments, and I’d say it’s more of a mother-daughter movie than a romance, although there is a love interest in the form of Kyle (Timothée Chalamet).

I really loved Lady Bird (real name Christine) as a character. Saoirse Ronan is a wonderful actress and was at her absolute best in this role. I love the dynamics between Lady Bird and her mother, and Lady Bird and her father, as well as her friendship with Julie. It’s a touching independent movie and has that ‘real feel’ to it.

Accepted [2006 | comedy, new adult] is one of my favourite silly comedies. It stars Justin Long, Columbus Short, Maria Thayer, Blake Lively and Jonah Hill. The movie centres upon Bartleby Gaines after he’s rejected from every college he applies to. In a desperate attempt to get his father off his back, Bartleby fakes a college acceptance letter and website with the help of his friends who also struggled to get into school. The website accidentally accepts everyone who tries to apply, however, and dozens of kids show up on the ‘first day of school’. Once he realises how much it means to everyone there, Bartleby decides to continue with it and very soon the students are running the asylum-turned-faux-college. It’s not a particularly plausible movie, but I really do adore the lightness of it. The movie has a good message about being true to yourself and the main characters are all likeable. If you’re looking for something feel good and fun, I totally recommend this one!

What’s everyone else watching this week?

Films, Poems and Currently Reading Roundup and Review Post [02/06]

JONAS (2018) | lgbt+, french, drama

Jonas [aka I Am Jonas] is a gut-punching, haunting addition to lgbt+ films. The film follows the eponymous main character Jonas after he’s arrested on night out at a club, Boys. One of the police officers knows him from school and they reminisce for a little while in the back of the car. The film then begins flashing from the past to the present and we learn how Jonas ended up so angry and adrift. We see Jonas as a teenager meeting Nathan, a new boy in school. They quickly fall in love and, despite homophobic peers, start a relationship that’s kind, sweet and supported by Nathan’s mother, who also welcomes Jonas into her home.

Back in the present, Jonas follows a man around the city, keeping his distance until he goes into a hotel where the man works. They talk a little. The man doesn’t know him, but it’s clear Jonas knows the man. After setting off the smoke alarm in his room and getting kicked out, the pair start to talk in the lobby. When Jonas is invited to go drinking, he accepts, and we slowly start to learn more.

The story moves along with slow determination. There’s clearly some mystery to be unfolded. This is definitely a heavy kind of drama. Prepare for tears. I do recommend it, though. Félix Maritaud is an incredible actor and I really want to see him in more films! A very well done film over all.

Mr. Right (2015) | action, comedy, romance

Okay, I honestly really liked this one. It’s silly and over the top and implausible and ridiculously good fun, and it is totally worth a watch! The movie follows Martha (played by Anna Kendrick), a risk-seeking woman who’s allergic to good advice and wise decisions, and Francis (played by Sam Rockwell), a notorious killer for hire, apparently (?) and former spy, allegedly (?). Basically, you’re not sure what’s up with Francis for most of the movie, or whether he’s good or bad, but he’s clearly had a lot of training and is good at dancing and has enemies coming out of his ears. Oh, and he wears a clown nose. You’re just not told why for a good bit. You only know that he’s kind to Martha and completely honest with her. (She thinks he’s joking when he talks about his job and how he got his scar.)

I think what I liked so much about this one was how honest and straight to the point all the characters were. There was no side-stepping around topics or slow, predictable build up. It’s kind of like when you’re watching a movie about someone first learning about magic and they keep denying it and you’re like, c’mon, just believe in it already. This movie isn’t fantasy, it’s action, but it’s great that the characters just jump straight to the point.

Martha and Francis are clearly made for each other (and clearly on a frequency that no one in their lives finds normal), but they suit each other. And their chemistry is fantastic. If you like fun, romance and action, I recommend giving this one a shot!

POEMS POEMS POEMS (/◕ヮ◕)/ Seriously, why don’t I read poetry more often? I’ve read so many poems this weekend and I have missed poetry. *chef’s kiss* These poems are all from Uncanny Magazine Issue 21.

‘Found Discarded: A Love Poem, Questionably Addressed’ by Cassandra Khaw was absolutely breath-taking.

The Greeks believed
that a human being
is one entity unseamed at the spine,
opened at the breastbone, parted at
the lips, which is why we spend all our lives pressing
together at the hips, at the fingertips

RIGHT?! How lush. I’m in awe. Read it here.

‘The Fairies in the Crawlspace’ by Beth Cato is so dark and twisted and really, really well done. If you like Grimm’s faerie tales, this one is for you.

the fairies needed no web
to snare the girl

Read it here.

די ירושה by Sonya Taaffe is short and poignant. I really liked it!

History drops a hot potato in your hands,
tells you to walk uphill with it, both ways.

Read it here.

I also quite liked ‘The Sea Never Says It Loves You’ by Fran Wilde. Poems about the sea are some of my favourites.

But the water is warm and the salt spray tastes your lips
And you say yes.

Read it here.

I hope everyone has a lovely week. Stay safe out there, my friends.

Film Review: The Lovebirds (2020)

Oh my gosh, The Lovebirds is so funny. I haven’t laughed so hard at a film in a long time. It’s a simple enough story, following Jibran (played by Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (played by Issa Rae), a couple on the verge of breaking up. They can’t agree on anything and are fighting all the time. When a man takes their car, claiming to be a cop, he kills a biker and flees the scene, leaving Jibran and Leilani at the scene of the crime. A random pair tries to perform a citizens’ arrest, and fearing that they’ll be blamed, Jibran and Leilani also flee the scene.

The plot is simple enough, it’s just them trying to figure out what happened and getting into increasingly complicated and hilarious scenes. Anna Camp’s cameo was so funny. I’ve really missed her on my screen (True Blood shout out!), and she brought the comedy as ever. I have to say, though, Kumail Nanjiani definitely stole the show. I was laughing so hard at his jokes that I almost got a headache. I’m definitely going to be looking for more of his movies! SO. BLOODY. FUNNY. I’ve just learned he’s going to be in The Eternals with Richard Madden, who’s one of my favourite actors. COUNT. ME. IN.

It’s a fast paced comedy movie that’s a perfect escape for those in the mood for something light!

Film Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

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love the Tomb Raider remake. I adored the Angelina Jolie ones back in the day and was quite attached to them, but I think the new version is probably my favourite. And Alicia Vikander is such perfect casting!

The film reboots the franchise and follows Lara who has spent years refusing to believe her missing father, played by Dominic West, to be dead. She works as a bike courier and has no interest in taking over his estate, but she’s finally convinced to return to her childhood home and, in her father’s would-be tomb, she finds his old files. Her father’s left her a message instructing her to destroy his research, but instead she delves deeper into the mystery of his disappearance. She follows his research to Hong Kong and seeks out the son of a man who helped her father, Lu Ren, played by Daniel Wu. Lu Ren’s father also went missing and he agrees to help her.

The pair take a boat to distant island called Yamatai. There they encounter Mathias Vogel, who’s following the same clues as Lara’s father, hoping to find the long lost tomb of Himiko. Vogel is funded by a secret organisation who are holding him hostage, and in turn he takes Lara and Lu Ren hostage. Managing to escape, Lara finds herself in one dangerous situation after another, and unearths the secrets she’s been seeking her whole life.

Lara and Lu Ren were definitely my favourites, but I loved Vogel’s casting. He’s a good villain, and Walton Goggins plays him perfectly. WALTON GOGGINS FOR ALL THE ROLES ALWAYS. (Seriously, he’s brilliant.) Dominic West is great, too. Kristin Scott Thomas also has a background role! The casting for this film is just perfect.

My favourite things other than the casting: the action scenes are so badass (!!!); the lack of a stupid romance that makes no sense; the scenery and camera work are brilliant; and the backstory and legends and clue-hunting. As a child raised on Indiana Jones, this is just fantastic! Watching it feels very immersive and honestly so much like a video game, but in a really good way. It’s edge-of-your-seat intensity from start to finish and I can’t wait for the sequel, which I think is coming out next year. Can’t wait!

Recommended for fans of Indiana Jones, for sure, but also just general action lovers. Alicia Vikander is wonderful from start to finish!

**gifs found online, not mine

Film Review: What Happened to Monday (2017)

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What Happened to Monday, or Seven Sisters, was far from what I was expecting. Noomi Rapace is a treasure. It fits in well with Gattaca, Children of Men and V for Vendetta, my favourite dystopian films. This one is set in 2073 when the world population has grown to such a degree that there’s little food, little space and a lot of problems. To counter this, the Child Allocation Bureau is created to ensure that only one child is born to every couple. No siblings allowed. The leader of the organisation totes the idea that any additional children will be taken into custody and put into cyrosleep until the time comes that there’s more space, more food and fewer problems.

Creeped out yet?

When Terrence Settman’s daughter dies giving birth to seven identical daughters, he takes the extraordinary step of keeping them all in secret. He names them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each girl is allowed out of the house on their name-day under the singular identity of Karen Settman, their mother. For decades, the girls exist as one person in public, but flourish as unique individuals in private. Until Monday goes missing.

Very quickly, the sisters ban together to track down their missing sibling and figure out what happened.

The other characters are Nicolette Cayman, played by Glenn Close, and Adrian Knowles, played by Marwan Kenzari. Both work for the CAB, but have wildly different amounts of power and opinions on what they’re doing.

Let me just say that Noomi Rapace blew my mind in this. She played each of the seven sisters uniquely and it’s done so well. Marwan Kenzari was another standout and I really hope to see him in more things. He and Rapace had great chemistry. Glenn Close and Willem Dafoe are fabulous as ever and steal their scenes as much as Rapace and Kenzari. Honestly, these four really brought believability to their scenes.

There were some aspects of the film that I didn’t quite love, although they’re minor complaints: I feel like one character got away with a lot; I’m not sure how I felt about the ending, although I didn’t hate it; and Zaquia, a CAB agent portrayed by Cassie Clare, was somehow in dozens of scenes but rarely spoke, whilst her partner spoke quite a bit. It’s great that Rapace and Close got so much screen time, but I felt like Clare got left out a bit.

Overall, however, I think the film fits well into the dark dystopian genre and rivals Children of Men for gritty futuristic societies that deal with overpopulation as a plotline.

Recommended for fans of dystopian films.

 

**gifs found online, not mine

Film Review: All the Bright Places (2020)

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All the Bright Places (2020)

‘Even the ugliest of places can be beautiful as long as you take the time to look.’ 

 

Netflix’s new movie, All the Bright Places, is the story of Theodore Finch (played by Justice Smith) and Violet Markey (played by Elle Fanning).

One morning, Theodore’s out for a run when he happens upon Violet, standing alone on a bridge ledge. He quietly intervenes and refuses to leave when she tells him to go, and talks her down. Theodore’s quickly drawn to Violet, determined to help her and bring her out of the darkness that’s consumed her since her sister died. But Theodore’s got his own problems and in addition to his internal struggles, is dealing with a variety of problems at school and at home. When the pair are tasked with a school project, they slowly grow closer, but both are dealing with a lot and things quickly become intense.

I had no idea this was based on a book going in, so the plot took me completely by surprise. One of my favourite moments in the movie is when Theodore and Violet start communicating in Virginia Woolf quotes. I just found it so adorable. That said, the bulk of their interactions are cute and/or touching. But the storyline’s going to tug at your heart-strings, so fair warning.

All the Bright Places kind of reminds me of Before I Fall, another Netflix favourite of mine. (Netflix is such a gift to us introverts so that we can get good movies without having to leave the house.) I like quiet stories that feel genuine and I can usually only find them in indie films, so I’m loving these new releases on Netflix. ^_^ Elle Fanning is as lovely as ever and I was really surprised by Justice Smith. They are the heart and soul of the movie and played well off each other.

I definitely recommend this one!

Film Review: Paul (2011)

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One of my absolute favourite movies of all time is Paul. I was introduced to it by my partner just after we started dating and now it’s a frequent rewatch. It’s one of those films that’s just genuinely feel-good. It’s fun. It’s light-hearted. Honestly, you finish the movie in such a good mood and I think we’ve rewatched it 10+ times at this point. I mean, you really can’t go wrong when your film has Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogan, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Blythe Danner, Joe Lo Truglio, Jane Lynch, Jesse Plemons and Sigourney Weaver. I MEAN C’MON, THIS CAST IS AMAZING.

So Paul follows two best friends, Graeme and Clive, on holiday from England to New Mexico. The movie begins as the pair embark on road trip throughout the southern United States after going to Comic-Con. When the con ends, they start a road trip through the New Mexican countryside, taking pictures of famous alien locations and encountering some locals who really don’t like them. The first night of the trip, they’re almost run off the road by a car that turns out to be driven by an alien named Paul. Immediately, the pair agree to help Paul get to the ship that’s going to take him back to his home planet before the agents chasing him catch up and arrest him. What ensues is honestly just one laugh after another. I don’t want to say more because the movie is best with little knowledge of what’s to come, but I absolutely adore this film. If you’re having a bad day, it’s one to watch! 

If you’re a fan of movies with aliens, friendship, road trips or anything to do with Roswell*, definitely check this one out!

 

 

*You should also of course check out the new ‘it’s a real bisexual alien blast out here’ Roswell, New Mexico television show. Trust me. The rep and story lines are fantastic. Get into it before season two starts! ^_^

Mini Reviews: The Possession (2012) & It (2017)

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I’ve been on something of an Exorcist themed kick after watching the television show. I’m currently reading the book for the first time, which I’m really enjoying so far, but I’m also checking out movies of the like. The Possession was pretty good!

The Possession tells the story of Clyde and Stephanie, who are recently divorced and sharing custody of their kids, Emily and Hannah. When Clyde brings their daughters to a yard sale, Emily picks up an old wooden box with Hebrew writing on it. Little does she know the box is haunted by a dybbuk. Emily begins to act stranger and stranger — moths gather in her room, raw meat is consumed, she gets more and more withdrawn. Clyde realises something isn’t right with his daughter and sets out to help her.

What I really appreciated about this movie was that the characters turned to a Hasidic Jew for help with the exorcism, which is something I haven’t come across much in exorcism plots before. Instead of Latin, there’s Hebrew. It was really nice to see and I liked the different take on an exorcism. Apparently it’s based on a true story as well. CREEPY.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan was, as usual, wonderful in this. Really, the whole cast was great. The actress who played Emily (Natasha Calis) did an especially brilliant job!

I’d definitely recommend this to fans of horror!

It_(2017)_poster

I followed my watch of The Possession with It. I don’t even think I could attempt to review It with anything coherent because Pennywise is going to be haunting my dreams for eternity. But it was definitely all levels of YIKES. Really well acted, though. Very impressed! I really did forget the entire plot outside of evil clown. The only thing I did remember was the sink scene and the new version is the stuff of nightmares.

Thanks, Stephen King, I won’t be sleeping for a month.

Review: Handsome Devil (2016)

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‘I never knew I’d been lonely until I found a friend.’

I’d liken this movie to a modern day LGBT Dead Poets Society (but with a happy ending, fear not!)

*review contains spoilers*

The story follows Ned, who doesn’t like his school or any of the boys at his school. He really doesn’t like his roommate, Conor, the new star of the rugby team. It’s a school obsessed with rugby and fitting in, which is something Ned decidedly doesn’t do. He’s bullied for being gay and after a confrontation with the rugby players in his bedroom, he makes a ‘Berlin Wall’ out of his bookshelves between his half of the room and Conor’s half. The sign changes from ←Ned | Him → to ← Ned | Press Ups → before their friendship solidifies and the wall comes down.

Other than Ned and Conor, there’s Mr Sherry, played by Andrew Scott. He’s a frustrated teacher, funny and kind and acerbic in equal measure. His rants are truly epic and wonderful, and Andrew Scott does a brilliant job. Hands down my favourite character, although I loved all three of the mains.

‘You spend your whole life being someone else, who’s going to be you?’

One night, Ned follows Conor to a gay pub only to be turned away for being too young. Inside, Conor sees Sherry with his boyfriend. Sherry sees him, too, and both panic. On the train back to the school, Conor and Sherry agree not to say anything about seeing each other in the pub and carry on. But when they are seen coming back to the school together by the rugby coach Pascal, he tells one of his players to look into the reason Conor was expelled from his previous school. The school bully learns that Conor’s gay and blackmails him into ignoring Ned, who is still hated by everyone else for being unapologetically gay. This leads to a confrontation between Sherry and Pascal (i.e. Sherry is the BEST and Pascal is the WORST).

When the bullying gets worse for Ned, he confronts the whole school and Conor gets outed. Conor goes to Sherry for advice and Sherry assures him that things do get better after secondary school. And while Ned faces the consequences of his actions, Conor runs away, leaving Sherry deeply concerned. He then gets into a confrontation with the headmaster, who’s more concerned with the outcome of the rugby match than with Conor’s whereabouts.

‘Some boys don’t play rugby, Walter! What about those boys?’

Ned’s suspended from school and learns that Conor’s missing. He jumps out of the car while his father’s driving him home and goes to find Conor. After apologising profusely, Ned manages to convince him to come back and play the match.

‘It’s my team if you’re playing on it.’

Unfortunately, Pascal is still determined to be the absolute worst and tells Conor there is no place for him on the team. The following scene where the players quit the team one by one in protest of the coach’s homophobia is fucking awesome.

The movie ends with Conor and Ned as best friends, and Sherry introducing the headmaster to his boyfriend at the match.

Overall, this movie was truly lovely. There is no romance, only friendship and solidarity amidst all the shite thrown at the main characters and the ending is utterly wonderful and feel-good.

The soundtrack is also absolutely fantastic. This one in particular is great.

Recommended for everyone!