Lady Bird

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Lady Bird  (B+).  Indie actress Greta Gerwig (Mistress America) wrote and directed this indie dramedy about a high-spirited girl’s tumultuous senior year in a Sacramento Catholic school and her rocky relationship with her mother.  I enjoyed it, and it moved along with a brisk 94-minute run time.  Saoirse Ronan (The Way Back) shines as the title character (she’s named Christine McPherson, but she insists on being called Lady Bird), and we follow the ups and downs of her experience in Drama Club, her crushes, her relationship with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein, Neighbor 2: Sorority Rising), her college aspirations, and most of all her relationship with her mother, a hard-working and long-suffering psychiatric nurse (Laurie Metcalf, TV’s Roseanne).  Based on Ms. Gerwig’s IMDB biography, I’d say this movie has a strong autobiographical component.  It also has a 94 score over on Metacritic.com, so what are you waiting for?

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Thor: Ragnarok

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Thor: Ragnarok  (B-).  Of the making of comic-book movies, there is no end.  But, if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill, you could do worse than seeing the third movie focused on second-tier Marvel hero Thor of Asgard (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman).  The story is the usual fare—a rising supervillain threatens massive destruction unless the heroic guy and his sidekicks can somehow save the day.  And the fight scenes, spaceships, and explosions are also the usual dull, video-game-looking affairs.

So what’s to like?  In a nutshell, it’s the comedy.  I laughed out loud more times during this movie than in any number of straight-up “comedies” I could name.  Fanboys may not appreciate the meta-jokes that poke fun at the silliness of the whole enterprise (like an offhanded joke about Loki’s goofy headgear), but I laughed every time.  Weaselly Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Kong: Skull Island) is back and always fun to watch.  Jeff Goldblum (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) is a hoot as the flamboyant impresario of a planet that looks like a giant garbage dump.  As the villainous Hela, Cate Blanchett—a two-time Oscar®-winning actress for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator, don’t you know—chews the CGI with a vengeance and sprouts some mighty impressive antlers whenever she gets ready to kill a bunch of people.  Plus there are fun cameos to watch for, and some other Avengers put in small or not-so-small appearances.  This movie was directed by Taika Waititi, a New Zealander who also directed and starred in the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.  This movie was even funnier.

Brad’s Status

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Brad’s Status  (B-).  Hm, Ben Stiller plays a guy facing a midlife crisis.  Didn’t he just do this a few years ago in While We’re Young?  Well, he’s at it again in this new dramedy, with fair to middling results.  Here it’s not just middle age that’s getting to Brad Sloan (Stiller), but also Facebook.  Brad, you see, has a perfectly decent middle-class life in Sacramento with a cute, loving wife (Jenna Fischer, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) and a musically talented teenage son (Austin Abrams, Paper Towns).  But his best friends from college (played by guys like Luke Wilson, The Skeleton Twins, and Michael Sheen, Passengers) are all (according to Facebook) wildly successful in various ways, and some 25 years after college they’re starting to leave Brad out of their get-togethers.  This eats away at Brad something fierce, and we hear his neurotic thoughts in frequent voiceovers.  And his unhappy thoughts provoke some awkward and embarrassing behavior when he and his son go tour some colleges in the northeast.  I didn’t think it was bad, and I particularly enjoyed a scene in which a perceptive Harvard student calls Brad out on his very First World problems.  Worth a look if Blade Runner 2049 is sold out.

Ingrid Goes West

The Movie Snob sounds off.

Ingrid Goes West  (F).

I rarely give a movie an F unless it actually makes me angry.  This one did.

Producer and star Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed) plays Ingrid, a sad, lonely, and mentally ill young woman.  She’s an internet stalker, and the movie opens with Ingrid behaving badly and ending up in a mental institution.  When she gets out of the institution, she finds a new social-media darling to stalk — Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen, Liberal Arts), a West Coaster who’s always posting stuff about her fabulous life.  So Ingrid takes the small inheritance her recently deceased mother left her and moves to L.A., where she first stalks, then ingratiates herself with, Taylor and her husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell, 22 Jump Street).  Despite Ingrid’s odd behavior, her friendly landlord Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Straight Outta Compton) takes a shine to her.  Because Ingrid is a mentally ill pathological liar, none of this can end well.  Although IMDB lists this movie as both a drama and a comedy, it is not very dramatic and not at all funny.  And my tolerance for movies about mental illness that are anything but tragic is low and getting lower all the time.

*** SPOILER ALERT *** READ NO FURTHER TO AVOID SPOILERS ***

I probably would have given this movie a D, but the ending made me angry.  After Ingrid’s stalking of Taylor has ended in disaster, and she has spent all of her inheritance, she video-records herself confessing to being a weird, lonely loser and then downing a bunch of pills.  Naturally the video “goes viral,” and good-hearted Dan somehow tracks her down and gets her emergency medical attention that saves her life.  (Even though by this point she has nearly gotten him killed in a harebrained scheme to keep her stalking of Taylor from being exposed.)  She wakes up in a hospital room filled with balloons and has a phone filled with uplifting messages from complete strangers.  And she smiles.  End movie.  Isn’t this a strong “triggering” message for sad, lonely, and mentally ill people out there who can’t go more than 5 minutes without checking their smartphones?  Try to commit suicide in front of the whole world and everyone will love you?  I haven’t exhaustively researched this film online, but the few reviews I’ve read don’t mention this at all, so maybe I’m overreacting.  But I thought it sent a terrible message.  And, by the way, it defied belief that Dan would come to her hospital room at the end and be all smiles instead of wanting to strangle her himself.

The Big Sick

New from The Movie Snob.

The Big Sick  (B).  This is a pleasant and affable little romantic comedy with a couple of twists.  First, it’s apparently based on the star’s real life romancing of his wife.  And second, the main plot point is that the female lead (Zoe Kazan, What If) gets a mysterious illness that puts her into a coma halfway through the movie.  After that, it’s mostly about the fellow, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, Life as We Know It) having to deal with the girl’s parents (well-played by Ray Romano, TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond, and Holly Hunter, Thirteen) while their daughter is in potentially mortal danger.  Also, he’s juggling his would-be career as a stand-up comedian and his overbearing Pakistani parents’ attempts to push him into an arranged marriage.  Not everything totally worked for me, but there were enough chuckles, and the leads were likable enough, that I enjoyed it.

Rifftrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Rifftrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party  (B).  Last night Fathom Events delivered another live show by the Rifftrax usuals (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) and a slew of guest stars (Mary Jo Pehl, Bridget Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, and a fellow who was new to me named Paul F. Tompkins).  I assume that by now you know what these shows are–comedians who specialize in riffing on bad movies and other video material.  This time around they aren’t riffing a full-length movie, but rather a bunch of “educational” shorts from I don’t know when–roughly the 50s through the 70s.  Although this wasn’t one of the riffers’ greatest performances ever, I did think it was a solid outing with plenty of decent laughs.  I would say the funniest shorts were (i) an old black-and-white number about a woman who graduates from secretarial school and works her way up in some bland office job, (ii) another black-and-white film about a surly high-school boy whose conscience is trying to get him to stop griping about everything, and (iii) a p.e. film featuring a bunch of dejected elementary-school kids being forced to roll and bounce big rubber balls around for no apparent reason.  I know they sound terrible, but they’re pretty funny when the riffers make wisecracks about them throughout!  The show will be rebroadcast on June 20, so head on over to fathomevents.com if you want more information.

Their Finest

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Their Finest  (B+).  It doesn’t have the grabbiest title, but this picture by Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education) is my favorite of the year so far.  The year is 1940, and Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace) has moved from Wales to London with her artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  But his dour art isn’t selling, so Catrin gets a job as a screenwriter on a propaganda film about the evacuation of Dunkirk.  She clashes with the obnoxious head screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), learns to massage the bruised ego of past-his-prime movie star Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy, I Capture the Castle), and generally gets a crash course in the trials and tribulations of moviemaking.  Jeremy Irons (Appaloosa) pops up unexpectedly as a pompous war minister.  The sexism of the era is conveyed effectively without being overdone.  On the whole, I quite enjoyed the movie.