Thursday, December 31, 2020

Now Streaming: WW84

Let us end the year with one of the most anticipated movies of 2020. It is an incredible time to be alive. This movie is not the first to come out streaming because of the virus, but based on the box office just in the past 5 days, I am sure it will not be the last. I am going to get into it, but beware that this review is full of spoilers!

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) comes accross an ancient relic that was left behind by a trickster god. With it, she is able to make one wish, any wish, come true, but there is always a price. Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) wishes to use the power of the stone to become the man that he promised his son he will be, but its power might be too strong for anyone to handle, even Diana.

First of all, this was a worthy sequel. I f*cking loved it. I was waiting for the obvious reshoot scenes - could not spot them. I thought the ending might be rushed - like in ALL DC movies - it was not. I cried, I laughed, I was there with Diana. I loved the casting, the music, the story, the villains! OH MY GOD. I just loved the facial expressions on Pedro Pascal's Max, and how, with every single scene Kristen Wiig's Barbara showcased a new side of her newly found personality. I liked that she too took the time to discover her new powers, as she slowly lost her old self. I was scared of the make up, but Cheetah looked badass. I appreciated how Diana always took a defensive approach and only attacked her when she had absolutely no other chance. Even at her last she did not see the enemy in her. Coming back to Max Lord: I loved that we did not get to see the God who made the stone, there was absolutely no need to end it in another fight scene. This villain was just like many others in the sense that they had a troubled childhood, a sad beginning that drove them to madness - as power often does - but he deserved punishment and not death. Wonder Woman is a fair hero, and as the movie highlighted, the truth is all that matters. As a matter of fact, the truth is that we cannot have all we want, because it might lead to chaos. Pascal had a stunning performance, like Barbara, he gradually became someone completely different, who learned in the end that what mattered was what he already had. He was different from most villains and it was a welcome change, honestly. This movie is very different from DC movies too, it had colors for once... and just like the first Wonder Woman movie, there was a beginning, middle and an end. 
And first point, part B: I am very critical when it comes to comic book accuracy, however, that is because the fact that some movies take bits from the comics and do not actually look at how they adapted other things - time, heroes, villains, cities, etc. - it leaves HUGE plotholes. I have never once commented on a different interpretation / adaptation if within the scope of the movie it makes sense. Here, both Max Lord and Barbara Minerva have very different backstories when it comes to the comics, but they made sense here and they were "adapted" to this story. Second, I do not know why someone would not like this movie, but I decided not to watch a single review. You might read this one, which can make it sound like I am a hypocrit, but really, I feel that this movie was set up to fail in many ways. Had it gone to the theaters in May, it would have had a difference reception in my opinion. With each week that it was delayed, the hype for it just grew and grew. I personally decided to sit down and let the story take me with it and it did. I loved every minute of it. Right now, I just cannot start arguments with haters, honestly. When I encounter a good argument I will have a conversation about it, but after the shit that DC has been trying to push down our throats... nobody can convince me that this is not a good movie.
Third, the love. Diana and Steve were always set up to be the perfect couple, who cannot be. I loved that when Steve was shown what the world is like now, it wasn't a quick funny montage, but a slow paced walk, an adventure that they took us, the two of them, a beautiful date, and I too felt that was introduced to the world again. The colors, the music, the atmosphere and everyone who enjoys living in it. However, there is the heartbreak of them not being able to be together, and when Diana renounces her wish, my heart broke into a million pieces. After having lost everything she still believed in the good of people, and she is just the strongest superhero out there. Fourth, the music. I have watched this movie twice now in 72 hours and I got to pay more attention to it, and there were moments when you do not notice how well the music helps you be part of the movie. When Diana gives her final speech, that piano accompanying her made my bones shiver. This original score is definitely going among my favorites. 

So watch it? I might seem completely biased, but if you got this far I can tell you that I was very worried. When I heard that they were doing reshoots and knowing DC movies in general and the horrible decision Warner has been making... I decided to be sceptical. But when I sat down to watch it, any and all of my worries quickly faded and I let the story take me with it. I am so happy this movie exists and I heard that the third has been greenlit with the director Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot returning, and I trust these too. 

Until the next item--- wait. 

This wild and painful year is finally over. I don't want to push some happy positive thought on you, because I do not know what the next year brings. However, I am hopeful, and despite everything, I still believe in the good of people, like Diana did. So do have a happy New Year, and if you find some kindness in your heart, make sure to pass it on! Take care, see you next year!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Now Streaming: Happiest Season

I have a segment called "Fresh from the Theatre", but seeing that more and more things are getting released online on streaming services, and I might actually view them at home myself, I will talk about those movies in this new segment "Now Streaming". These will also be listed in a separate group on the "Reviews" page. Just click Ctrl+F and type in the movies you might be looking for, or click through the archive on the right hand side!

_ _ _ 

Well, this year was a shitshow. However, a lot of firsts occured as well, one of them was having the token gay couple finally becoming main characters in Christmas movies instead of having them be in the background to meet quotas as far as casting and screenwriting decisions are concerned. To me, this is the best time to be alive. Thinking of all the movie and TV shows that had protagonists that I looked up to... and to know that my kids will already have stories that show inclusion and tolerance and acceptance makes me very happy. To have this movie this Christmas season is a blessing. So let's just jump into it.

Happiest Season (2020)

Harper (Mackenzie Davis) takes her girlfriend Abby (Kristen Stewart) home for the holidays, however, turns out that she has not come out to her parents yet. With her dad, Ted (Victor Garber) running for office, and his wife Tipper (Mary Steenburgen) trying to convey the image of the perfect family, there is a lot on the line for Harper. In the end, Abby needs the help of her best friend John (Daniel Levy) to endure the holiday season.

Before we head into the movie review, let me just say: this movie HAS to exist. It does not matter if it is good or bad, as many people have to see it as possible because we need more. First, there is no perfect movie out there. Second, there is no perfect Christmas movie out there. Three, like how many shitty Christmas movies have you actually seen? Like really... I mean REALLY. You have no excuses here, so even if this isn't perfectly your cup of tea, we all know you want more Kristen Stewart in your life, so come on, give it a go! Fourth, show people that we do want more LGBTQ+ content and that love really is all around us, even in a 2020/pandemic/nightmare/quarantine situation at Christmas time. 

That having been said, I do have to say some small things about the story, that I do have to review as if it was any other movie. I watched this with my sister, and we agreed that the last 20 minutes of the movie made up for the anxiety filled stomachache that we felt through the first and the second act of it. However, important to note, I would not have felt that anxiety had it not been for the wonderful acting on the part of Stewart. Her body language was spot on, and actually, it was spot on for all the actors. I could tell when they were uncomfortable, they were anxious, they were happy, excited, scared... I could go on. But the strength of this movie was not in the actual dialogue but in the body language and that is very hard to convey through camera, and for that reason, hats off to all of the cast and the direction.
At this point I do have to admit that there is a bit of actual criticism that has to be said. I had some issues with the sisters, but I decided to chose between the two biggest issues, and I decided to leave the sisters alone. My criticism would come from how I think people in a family actually act, but I have really great siblings, so it would be quite biased. So let us instead focus on the main characters. The issue stems from Abby and Riley (Aubrey Plaza): they were perfect as far as characters go. Maybe too perfect. And there has to be a contrast, as this is mostly about how Harper came to terms with her sexuality and was able to be honest to herself as well as her family. But instead of it being a character reaching the goal, the same way Abby and Riley did, it ended up in antagonizing her whilst the other two were on a pedestal. I still think it was logical the way she behaved with her parents, because of who they were and the other pedestal on which they put their oldest and middle daughter. But she had friends (as superficial as they might have seen in their hometown), an actually nice ex-boyfriend that seemed understanding and caring; she had and ex-girlfriend that clearly would have reconnected with her, had she apologized; and also a young sister that struggled her whole life to have a relationship with her siblings. Harper had every chance possible to have a confidant and she never took it. She put herself in the difficult position and I know that it is hard to find someone to confide in, but it is even harder when you don't try. The movie started with a series of pictures of the great year that Harper and Abby had, but it forgot to show us any reason why Abby would actually love Harper so much. They just shared with us how off-putting her behavior is and how undeserving she is of Abby. And this is something that I watch out for in any book/movie/TV show: give me reasons to care. When I would rather have the main character hook up with someone else, that is an issue. We watch romantic comedies because we want the main characters to end up together, and here, I would have been fine with a break up as well, and because of that I was not sold on the love part of the movie. I will not blame pre-come out Harper, because we have all been there, and the fear of not being accepted weighs on you heavily. On the bright side, the fact that Abby did not forgive Harper right away, (after being outed by her sister, the worst this possible that could happen to someone, and yet it remained unaddressed), but Harper had to go the extra mile and run after her and convince her made up for a big portion of the issues with Harper's character, and with getting me back to care. 

What worked? John's character was a ten out of ten. First of all, he had the best lines. He was funny, witty, honest, sometimes crushingly honest, and he was the most loyal friend I have ever seen. Despite having moments when he might have seen distant, he always came through, and ended up helping more people in this family than just Abby. I also love that he was a gay men who was best friends with a lesbian: this whole stupid cliché of gays and lesbians not getting along has to stop. They had a wonderful relationship, and I wanted to highlight this because in movies best friends are very much the "support" cast, and they do not really have an arch of their own. The difference comes when the story is about the friendship. This movie was about romance, after all, and family, but there was still place for most characters to grow and John was one of them. I have seen very few stories of this kind. Really, since Abby was perfect in most ways, it was the rest of the cast that had to evolve, and it's hard to keep track of so many characters, but the movie did a great job. 

Watch it? Yes. The reason I could nitpick and criticize small things is because there was good material to work with. If you have read my blog, you know, that I either get super detailed when I want to improve something good, or when I want to take apart something horrible. This is definitely the former, as at the end of the day, I would love to re-watch this movie any Christmas, so that in my book makes for a good movie. Honestly, instead of a light hearted romantic comedy / Christmas movie, I would categorize it with the more serious ones, like Love Actually (2003). And I am putting that out there because if you do want to watch it and you are expecting laugh out loud moments, then know that that is not what the movie was going for. The holidays are a difficult season for a lot of people, and this movie reflects it quite well. 

Until the next item on my list, and until then:

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

My Top 10 Movie Soundtracks

This is a difficult topic, but I decided to talk about music a little bit because it has been a while since I made a list of any kind. I find that a good soundtrack can elevate any movie, but putting this list together was actually quite easy for me: I only listed the soundtracks that I have been listening to ever since I have seen that given movie. I still have many of them on actual CDs (that's right kids, I am old), and sometimes I pop them into my Xbox and listen to them loud enough to make sure that my neighbors know what WE are listening to. 

Before we head into the list, allow me to add a couple of honorable mentions:

  • The Greatest Showman (2017): This has an original score, but it is a musical movie, and not a score or a collection of songs from various artists. And since it is a good musical (read my review here!), I am sure that someone will try and bring it to the big stage, in which case it is no longer a movide soundtrack. Finally, as I do admit that it was a very well made score, I personally only love a couple of the songs. 
  • Mamma Mia (2008) & Here We Go Again (2018): This would be a cheat, as it is not only rewritten for a musical, but they are all ABBA songs. ABBA is outstanding, years later, they built a legacy that will live on for ages past even my time, I am sure. But it is not so much a soundtrack, but a big cover CD with great actors doing them, but cannot be considered original.
  • Across the Universe (2007): This has the same problem, as the one before it, as it is a musical movie, but The Beatles have built a legacy. I would not be surprised if more people got inspired to use their songs to write stories, as they did with Yesterday (2019)
  • Hamlet 2 (2008): One my favorite comedy movies, it has a mix of original songs and various artists as well. I do not listen to every song, but some of them have been on repeat and the original score here is fantastic and funny. Highly recommended to musical lovers!
  • Billy Elliot (2000): Of all the movies I have seen in my time, this one uses the soundtrack better than any to position the viewer in the time period in which the story is set. This is quite a sad movie, and the soundtrack too sometimes takes me with it, so I do not listen to it as much, but I learned about The Clash and T. Rex and for that I am extremely grateful. 
  • Teen Titans GO! To the Movies (2008): I did not include any cartoons on this list, because they are a whole other category. Disney likes to go for a musical interpretation while all the other cartoons and animations like to mimic them. However, there is one movie out there that only has only a couple of songs, but they are just out of this world, and that is Teen Titans GO!. I have had those couple of songs on repeat every since I first heard them. 

I will now dissect that top 10 list into two separate lists, one containing original music score, and the other, the soundtracks with a selection of songs. I had to do this, because I did not really have 10 for each... also, I find that when it comes to the quality of music they complete each other. The collection of songs sometimes is indeed as good as the original score, and the original score makes me want to listen to it the same way I consume pop music. However, to help you reader when you are looking for music to listen to, it was easier to collect them into two groups. So enjoy!

Original Music Score

Music by Tom Howe. I remember waiting for this movie to come out and I was going insane, as they decided not to have in the theaters here in Hungary. So as I was *coughs* looking at pirating websites, I came across the soundtrack, which was also available on Youtube already. I put it in after watching the trailer for the 100th time and I just loved it. It took me on an emotional adventure that I was enjoying very much. When I did see the movie, it felt familiar to me, it felt like a piece of my heart already, because of that beautiful score. (Read my review of the movie here!)

Music by Daft Punk. This is just one of those soundtracks that I like to put on when I am working. It gets my blood going and pumping just at the right speed. It is a shame I did not see this movie on the big screen, but if they ever bring it back, I gonna be among the first to by a ticket because I want to hear it the way it was meant to be heard. 

Hanna (2011)
Original motion picture soundtrack music by The Chemical Brothers. Not a lot of things stayed with me from this movie, but what did was the score that I went and got the minute the movie was over. It is my number one background music when I am reading any academic texts for university. It hits a variety of notes and I think that is why I love it so much. It is one of those that is hard to talk about unless you check it out yourself. (Read my review of the movie here!) 

Music by Hans Zimmer. I do not think I need to introduce this fantastic composer to you. It goes without saying that its hard to choose one original score by Zimmer, but looking at my playlists this is number one. What I love about it is that it has that holiday season undertone that I need when it is Christmas season and I need to work/read and cannot have songs with lyrics. However, it is not just christmassy, actually, I have found myself listening to this at different times during the year too. It is just a delightful soundtrack to any time of the day and it adds a nice strength to anything you are doing, and reminding you of this great movie too.

Chocolat (2000)
Music by Rachel Portman. This is a peculiar little movie, that has a music that enhances its fantastic and magical tale. This is my spring score, I love to clean and be productive around the house while imagining Vianne next to me setting up shop. I even got tracks from this album to my dad, and he is a complete different generation and these soundtracks always bring us together. A lot of times original score goes unnoticed in the background of the movie -- this is also a testament to the fact that they do work perfectly. But in my opinion, the best soundtrack is the type that not only goes noticed but elevates the scene/moment/movie to a whole other level. The original score of Chocolat is a perfect example of how music can make everything better, even sweets!
 

Movie Soundtrack

Sister Act (1992)
Original Music and Adaptations by Marc Shaiman. Of all the movies that I have ever seen, I do believe that this is the one that stuck with me the most. It has original score, pop songs as well as gospel covers. The music is an essential part of the story and as a result it sticks with you. Of all the movie soundtracks I ever wanted to know (pre-youtube era) this was definitely number one. I recommend it highly!

Music by Miles Goodman
. For years, me and my brother, looked for tapes, recordings, the original album of this movie's music because there was one particular song that we just needed to get our hands on. When everyone goes to the dance, Scott goes onto the dancefloor and there was a song playing in the background and he and Boof start dancing too. This, of course, turned out ot be the first track on the album, but it took us years, literally after Youtube came into the picture that we finally found it. It was "Flesh On Fire" by James House, and if there is any song I can think of that defines my childhood (and the 80s) it is definitely this one. Every song, and the original score is a knockout on this one. (Read my review of the movie here!)

Music by Blake NeelyTears For Fears, The Cure, The Smiths, The Psychedelic Furs, Buzzcocks and Echo & The Bunnymen... do I need to say more? This soundtrack is every hipsters wet dream. Not to mention, that if you did not know any of these bands and musicians, you are in for a treat. All my life, aside from the time when I still listened to the radio, my playlist was composed of artists I learned about from movies and TV shows. Of course, these big names needed to introduction to me, but these bands have a LOT of songs, and it is very fun to see which make the cut to be in the movie. Even if you do not watch this movie -- although you should -- the soundtrack should definitely be on your Spotify list. (Read my review of the movie here!)

Music by James Newton Howard. The movie has a beautiful original score too, but as you can see, that is not where I listed this album. The songs are not in the movie, but where either written for it or chosen for it. There are a lot of albums like this, and I remember listening to it for months before the movie finally came out. It perfectly encompassed the sadness and excitement of Catching Fire, and I even reread a couple of chapters in the book while listening to the tracks. Just looking at the list of artists... Coldplay, Of Monsters and Men, Sia, Christina Aguilera, Lorde, Imagine Dragons, The Weeknd... not to mention Ellie Goulding's "Mirror" which is just the most beautiful song I have ever heard on a soundtrack album. This is just a wet dream when it comes to contemporary artists. However, this is not my number one album simply because it evokes very specific feelings in me. The dread, scare and hopelessness of the movie comes with it for me, and although I sometimes do feel that way, it is not one of those albums that I can just pop in whenever. (Read my review of the movie here!)

Music by John Frizzell. A lot of the songs are covers, but it does not matter. The story is about a small band that wants to make it big and they are abused by a larger company and are elevated to fame very quickly and things fall apart once up there. Now, being a small time band, they do have a lot of cover songs, but oh-my-god... they are the best covers. I have mentioned this at the very beginning, when I talked about musical movies, that covers can help you learn about famous bands (because, in a way, a cover is a tribute); but what really makes the movie great is the original songs, and from the point of view of the story, the difference between the two is highlighted perfectly. I loved the covers and discovering the originals too. This album is a number one for me, because I can literally listen to it anytime, anywhere, and whenever. (Read my review of the movie here!)

What are some of your favorite soundtracks? I am always looking to expand my list. Funnily enough I only listen to ones after I have seen the movie, and when it comes to video games, I usually check out the scores even before playing the games. I am a big music lover, so I am always looking for more: if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments section below!

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

What's Next On My List? Baby Driver

Very important note, before we talk about the movie.
Not one, but two people have now been charged with sexual allegations and misconduct. I do not condone people abusing their positions in society or in a workplace. I wish that they did not make an example out of just one famous person (like one of the actors in this very movie), but making sure that everyone gets their proper punishment if they are proven guilty. I watched this movie before the accusations came about, and I decided to write about it specifically so I could address this. I am still upset that people get away with horrible behavior and I hope that the world is headed into a better place, where no one in power abuses of others. But before that happens, we need to address these issues, not shame anyone for speaking out. Exactly that, showcasing that people will not be put onto a "blacklist" for speaking out against predatory behavior is the first step. 
So, be strong, stand up, speak up, and know that you are not alone!

I will now say a few words about this movie, and that introduction was made to ensure that anybody who comes across this years from now will know that there are cases when you cannot take the artist away from their art. And sometimes you might just be able to appreciate the art for what it is. 

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the gettaway driver for a man named Doc (Kevin Spacey), who organizes heists. One time Baby tried to take something from him, as a punishment he has to be available for any job that he is given. However, even after his debt is repayed, he cannot seem to shake this life without consequences. 

I heard great things about this movie and I was very curious to see if it does live up to the hype. What I found was very interesting indeed: I have seen this movie before. I have seen the pacing, the intricacy, the bad guy getting up and getting up again, the bad guy, who is actually good, the love that sparks between the main characters (basically after they share a trauma) ... I have seen all of this in movies made in the 90s. What this film did was take narrative elements and the pacing of a 90s movie and just put it into next gear, along with casting people who are big names now. What I also found, that amazed me, is that all of my friends, my generation, never really went back to see those movies that they see scenes from on TV when they were young. I am a big fan of the 80s and the 90s, and I went back to a bunch of action movies and I did get the distinct feeling that this is something old. Funnily enough, others, found it innovative at a time when superhero movies are dictating action movie rules.
That having been established, did it not live up to its hype? Oh well, it was a great movie. I was intrigued and entertained, despite feeling like I know exactly where it would go. The reason I had fun in a strange way is that I found myself scared during several scenes. I had this feeling of anxiety in my stomach where I did worry about the health and life of the main characters. The movie got me to care in a way that was beyond me, because it did not use the good old fashioned methods (like focus group approved sad stories that pull on your heartstrings). The screenwriter gave me just enough backstory that I felt close to these characters and I was worried about my own safety. I cannot remember a movie that drew me in as much as this did in a long time. I do believe they had an outstanding cast and a very unique soundtrack, and that combination made this seemingly straightforward story very intriguing.

Watch it? Sure. It is unique for its time period for sure. But if you are an old schooler you will see that you have seen movies like it before. But it is an intriguing action movie with great character development. 

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

My Top 10 Underrated CD Tracks

I have been meaning to write about music in the past couple of weeks because one of the things that the pandemic made me forget, was to just blast really good music into my ears. I have been closed at home for months now, and music is my companion, my soundtrack, and seeing that I am not going anywhere, I just forgot to sometimes plug in my ears and stop the noise from coming in. At home, the noise is the news, so most definitely I needed a break. In an attempt to stop staring at the screen and just be with my thoughts and with my favorite artists, instead of discovering new things, I went back to my old favorite CDs. 

Some of these did have music videos, but they were still fell into the background instead of being picked up by the masses. However, if they do not have a music video, they barely reach anyone but the super fans, and that is why I really wanted to make this list. This time, instead of composing long descriptions as to why I love these songs, I will let them just speak for themselves. I hope you will check out the albums they are from, as well as more great hidden tracks among these wonderful and famous artists. Trust me, sometimes it is not the ones that are picked up by the masses that are the actual hits, and I think it is important that we help out our musicians in these hard times. 

We wouldn't be here and be able to combat insanity, was it not for these artists. So thank you for these songs and your never ending commitment to this art! Have a great time listening to my selection!

10) "Spiralling" by Keane
Album: Perfect Symmetry, Released: 2008

9) "Under the Sheets" by Ellie Goulding
Album: Lights, Released: 2010

8) "Running If You Call My Name" by HAIM
Album: Days Are Gone, Released: 2013

7) "Unspoken" by Hurts
Album: Happiness, Released: 2010

6) "Landscape" by Florence and The Machine
Album: Ceremonials, Released: 2011

5) "In Your Pocket" by Maroon 5
Album: V, Released: 2014


4) "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet" by Fall Out Boy
Album: Folie à Deux, Released: 2008

3) "Physical" by St. Lucia
Album: Matter, Released: 2016


2) "Colourless Colour" by La Roux
Album: La Roux, Released: 2009


1) "She Way Out" by The 1975
Album: The 1975, Released: 2013


Sharing music with people is one of the hardest things in life. We do all take it as a personal failure when someone does not like the songs that we do. And we also wait for the other to discover things that have shaped us in an attempt to show them the "real" us. I remember back in high school I hid the songs I listened to because I thought I wasn't "cool enough". Now I date someone who just likes music and has no particular preferences and it allowed me to grow into the person I am, someone who loves to have a soundtrack to their life, and I love to sing and play my ukulele and not give a f*&k anymore what anyone thinks. 

In a blog post about The 1975 over a year ago I wrote about the song you can see here in the first place, but I want to quote myself because what I wrote can be said about any of the songs here: "Do you have a song, that reminds you of someone and every time you hear it you just cannot shake that time machine that takes you back? ... did you ever have a song that survived that person? [...] And even today, the song lives on for me, and I no longer think of everyone when I listen to it, that is how powerful their music is to me. Each line of the lyrics created the details of someone's face in my head, and they faded, as I grew and my heart evolved and the song came with me." Indeed, sometimes we do not revisit old songs because of the memories they bring with them. Here I would like to challenge you to go back just the same, to 2003, 2010 or 2014, because there are treasures there to be discovered. And these 10 are just the beginning!

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

What"s Next On My List? Soapdish

 This year there was not much to see at the movies, as everything has been closed since February. I was looking forward to some things coming out, but instead I want back to some that deserve another look. Either because they are good or because they did not age well at all... let's see where this one falls, shall we?

Soapdish (1991)


Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarty) wants to become the main star of the soap opera that she was a role in, so she teams up with producer David Barnes (Robert Downey Jr.) to make the life of the leading actress Celeste Talbert (Sally Field) a living hell. They cast her former partner Jeffrey Anderson (Kevin Kline) as well as her niece Lori (Elisabeth Shue), both of whom she did not want on the show. As events unfold, turns out that real life is juicier than the plot of the soap...

I saw this movie a long time ago, on TV, and already then I was shocked by all the famous people they got in this cast, with young Teri Hatcher and Paul Johansson, followed by veteran successful actresses like Whoopi Goldberg and Carrie Fisher, to mention a few, aside from the leads I wrote about in the summary. I have a tendency to be scared about movies that collect big names, because they always end up in a plot-less disaster. Thankfully, not everyone was as famous as they are now in this movie, but looking at it now, it is an all-star cast. That said, story-wise I loved the twists and turns and how, really, it was all just a big soap opera. It was funny and ridiculous, a perfectly fine 90s comedy. In terms of aging... I think this movie deserves a second watch, because it did age well. The story is unique in its exection and in the world in tries to portray. It is both a parody of telenovela soap operas, as well as a parody of the life of big stars. Just because someone has money and awards, it does not make them happy. And the movie also has a silly moral lesson of teaching everyone to stop lying and be honest to one another. 

Watch it? Yes, because you are bound to beat everyone the next time you play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, as he stared with Elisabeth Shue, and you can now link her to the Avengers as well as the Star Wars universe.  It is a harmless entertaining movie with a great cast, fun story and a couple of twists. It aged well and it is definitely going to stay a favorite of mine, as each time I watch it I discover something new.

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

What's Next On My List? The Karate Kid

This year there was not much to see at the movies, as everything has been closed since February. I was looking forward to some things coming out, but instead I want back to some that deserve another look. Either because they are good or because they did not age well at all... let's see where this one falls, shall we?

Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) moves with his mom and little brother move to Reseda, Los Angeles, to start a whole new life. But Daniel has a hard time fitting into his new school and ends up making enemies out of a group of boys who practice karate after school. As he himself discover karate, thanks to the help of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), he decides to enter the local karate championship and ends up defeating his bully, Johnny (William Zabka).

I grew up with this movie but had not seen the whole thing for a very long time. Me and my sister decided to watch it and well... it's not a good movie :D I am sorry, but it is two hours that has at best a 30 minute finale worth watching. The movie felt like it had one big scene that was repeated over and over again, with some drunk PTSD from Mr. Miyagi: Daniel has an argument with Johnny, they try to fight, then Ali (Elizabeth Shue) tells them to stop and calls Johnny names and we start all over again until the tournament. Sometimes Cobra Kai beats up Daniel, sometimes it is Mr. Miyagi who beats up Cobra Kai for Daniel. Really, other than the sadness of Mr. Miyagi's past, the whole movie got lost... and I can tell you that I understand more about it after watching the first two seasons of the show Cobra Kai (2018) that actually helped me understand what this movie was probably about... I am going to guess that the lesson to be learned is proper balance within one's life, however, the movie was about the underdog and you want to root for him. But it is very hard, because Daniel shows very little personality. If he stood out as the Jersey boy, maybe, but as funny as it was that the new show wanted to show us that maybe there are two sides to every story, I already felt that way just watching the movie. 

Watch it? Well, no. If you are here you probably searched for anything to do with season 3 of Cobra Kai, and I can tell you that if there is anything you need from the movies is presented in flashbacks in the show. Yes, these movies laid the groundwork for the show, which very smartly keeps putting the two sides of the same coin in front of each other, but it lacks Elizabeth Shue! GET ALI BACK FOR THE NEXT SEASONS!!!

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

What's Next On My List? (Games) Among Us

 I do not think this game needs to be presented to anyone. It is now the source of an endless wave os memes and hundreds of people have downloaded it or bought it over the course of summer. I am among those who have watched endless hours of stream of my favorite youtubers playing this delightful game, which was followed by me and my partner buying the game on steam and having played for over 10 hours now.

Among Us (2018)

The Gameplay: "The goal of the Crewmates is to identify the Impostors, eliminate them, and complete tasks around the map; the Impostors' goal is to covertly sabotage and kill the Crewmates before they complete all of their tasks. Players suspected to be Impostors may be eliminated via a plurality vote, which any player may initiate at any time. Crewmates win if all Impostors are eliminated or all tasks are completed; Imposters win if there is an equal number of Impostors and Crewmates, or if a critical sabotage goes unresolved." [Source: wikipedia, because I cannot phrase it better.]

As I have said, this game needs no introduction, so why am I writing about it now? Because I really want to recommend it. If you feel that maybe this game is overrated, it is not. There are two main ways you can play, in a public or a private room. When it comes to the public one, it is hard sometimes to find a good group, most people quit a room after they get killed, but I would advise for you to find harder levels, the bigger maps, as the people there are usually in for a longer game. You do need to practice a lot for those, but you can discover them in freeplay. Coming back to the game, just another note, it is better to have one killer unless there are 8-10 people playing. With seven the game ends way too fast. (Also, if you up the cooldown for the kill, it makes it a longer game and harder for the impostors). But the chat function is fun with strangers as you don't know them well enough to detect lies anyways. And that leads us to the second way you could play, with your friends with open discussion (like through discord or a facebook call). I love to play this game with both versions, as I like to mess with my friends as much as feeling that bit of fear over whether or not these strangers in hazmat suits are gonna come for me. I could actually talk about the game for hours, the adorable characters, the colors, the fun maps, the easy but entertaining tasks, along with the fun features for the impostor... there is so much goodness in this very wholesome game - aside from the murder part - that instead of detailing it I would just recommend you all check it out and trust the buzz online!

This year had a lot of downsides and I find that people are looking for continuous good news out there, and I think this game was re-discovered at the right time. The game came out in 2018, and there was a plan to make a second one, but the team issued a letter saying they will work on improving this one, and I think that was the perfect choice on their part. 

So go and get it, play, have fun, enjoy one of the few gems of 2020.

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

What's Next On My List? (Games) Assassin's Creed Unity

As you might have seen from the games I covered so far, I am a huge fan of this series and I wanted to quickly talk about this game in particular, as I have only played it this year (you know, the pandemic and quarantine and all) and I am glad I waited this long. I think a lot more games need a second review, once it is remastered, simply because a lot of people worked on giving you a fantastic experience (and just because executives jump the process and want to ship games early to cash in on various seasons and gaming conventions), they should not be forgotten. Aside from a good time away from reality, I do want to write about this game to thank all the people behind it because this is a great game out there that deserved a second look, and as far as I could tell from comments under the original score on youtube, a lot more people agree with me. 

Assassin's Creed Unity (2014)

The story: From the first minute of the game, you as a gamer are destroyed to your core, you minute you realize that the assassin you killed at the end of AC Rogue, was the father of the main character of this game. Knowing then the weight of your actions, you head in to deal with the trauma you cause our young hero. I wanted to point out the beginning because I found it genius. We then meet young-adult Arno Dorian, who was brought up by the father of his childhood best friend, Elise. In his story, he decides to seek out the people who set him up for the murder of the man who raised him. The latter was a Templar, while in Arno boils the blood of the Assassins. They take him in and give him the tools to stop a larger plot by the Templars, which included finding the murderer he was seeking, however, his revenge comes at a much larger cost. 

Mini-Bosses: There were some twists and turns, and overall I feel that the mini boss fights actually got me more intrigued in the game than the final boss. But I did like that the game messed with me and surprised me. I also loved how Elise came into the story as Arno was investigating. Best thing about it was that Paris had several very different districts, and you could feel you were entering a new place, and each enemy acted according to their social status in each district. Thus, it never felt repetitive, and that was the best thing about it. Let alone the side missions, the fact that every sequence had its one beginning-middle-end really added to the depth of the overall story.
The Boss Fight: After being tricked it was really satisfying to get this bad guy and destroy his legacy. The only thing that made me mad was that he was using the sword we saw at the very beginning of the game, but time wise, the opening was soooo far from the rest of the story, that I needed a minute to remember why that sword (a piece of Eden) was important to begin with. And once you get it... well, there were better weapons in the game. Nonetheless, the stage is constructed perfectly for you to succeed at killing the main bad guy, so it was more of a puzzle that needed solving rather than a big fight. But with the pace of the game, I did not mind that at all. 
DLC "Dead King": This was the chapter that was most reminiscent of the AC storyline, as it included the motherf*ckin' Apple of Eden. I'll be honest here, I liked that it was not forced into the main story, but it was not forgotten. The reason the Templars need you to play with the assassins through the Helix is to find the Apple, so it is fitting that it was added, but the DLC was really its own chapter and it was a beautifully done chapter. The misty felling of the Franciade with the ruins of the cathedral and the windmill on a slight hill... pure beauty. I did shit my pants in the catacombs because once you are down there it is very hard to get out, so you need to make sure you use your collectibles very smartly. I did find myself going through a lot of dead bodies to make sure that I get through the catacombs alright. But I really loved the hidden items, not to mention that since it was Sequence 13, you already have the skills to make it through successfully through the stage. 
Side missions: This game came with a lot of extra content, it was the first of its kind within the franchise, I also like that each AC game had something different (from boats, to renovations, to assassin missions and so on). So I appreciated a bit of nuance, especially because the murder investigations were not only made with a lot of historical accuracy (my favorite thing about the game), but it also fit with Arno's persona. You are, on the one hand, from the beginning, just a good guy stranded between a family that showed him love and compassion, but were Templars. On the other hand, the assassin's took him in no question, simply because his father belonged to the brotherhood. Arno, despite losing father figures, was accepted with open arms into any of the two orders, but forged his own path. As a result, the story allowed for the investigations, for assassin missions and also helping people on the street (which was really my favorite thing!). And then finally we have you Player, the one controlling Arno through the Helix from the comfort of your own home. Abstergo has now managed to get literally anyone to get them information, but a group of assassin's are guiding you. Well... the Helix side missions were one of the best things in this game. You can tell that the makers of the game asked themselves: What do you think of when you think of Paris? Notre Dame, Eiffel tower? OK, but how to include both if the story is set at the time of the French Revolution? Well, through mistakes in the Helix. I think it was genius and running from Nazis on the Eiffel tower was the biggest excitement I had all year. 

What didn't work? This game, when it first came out. But the remastered version is just beautiful, it took my breathe away and I did not want to stop playing it. And that is why I am writing this review. I can tell you in advance that those who never played it because of initial reviews missed out on a fantastic game. 
What worked? First, the story. I wanted to get the killer, I wanted to clear my name, I wanted to become a better assassin. I liked that there were outfits you could collect, but putting together your own assassin hood, hidden blade, chest and boots was a very smart idea. Especially the belt had a bunch of functions that came in handy at different stages of the game. And then the collectibles: I wanted to get all the chests (I liked that there were a lot of items that were hidden to me) and I had to really go looking and exploring Paris, not just go to a certain place on the map. I loved the different difficulties in the districts (which up until now only defined the Templar bases you had to get back). I also loved that Arno was a separate story, just like Shay. They can't all be Desmond's ancestors, and there is no need for it either. I was thinking about what else I could bring up, but I don't want to talk about it more, I want people to play it! Of course, this was also the first to offer a real co-op option that adds to the story, without it the game can reach a maximum of 55% completion. It is hard to find people who still play this, but not impossible, so let's help each other complete the game!

Make sure you check it out, because it is terribly underrated. And if you like playing co-op games, you will not be disappointed.

Until the next item on my list!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

What's Next On My List? Hubie Halloween

This is a special occasion! We are celebrating the 600th entry on the blog and for that occasion I have decided to do an entire review solely out of questions! Nothing but questions in the review section, and I timed it for Halloween (two birds one stone) because this deserves celebration. I am so proud to have gone the distance with my blog, I did not think that nine years later I would still be doing it, but I glad I am. Having this page to come to when I am happy, and count on it to wait for me when I said, has helped me evolve as a writer over the years. I really love my blog, even if it is for me and I would like to thank everyone that allowed me to share it with them. And now for the review... as this movie left me nothing but questions... 

Hubie Halloween (2020)

Hubie (Adam Sandler) decides to once again monitor the Halloween festivities in his hometown of Salem, just as people start going missing, and they all seem to have some form of connection to him. 

Why did this get movie made? Is the main character suffering from any kind of mental disorder? Is that supposed to be funny? Are we openly laughing at someone who has social issues? Isn't that what we have been trying to avoid for years now? Or is it excusable because at the end of the movie the "bad guys" learned their lesson? What is the moral of this story? That it's OK to laugh at someone for 80 minutes if you learn that you should not have done that the last 10 minutes of the film? What exactly are we laughing at? That he lives at home? That he is scared? That he loves Halloween? Why does he love halloween? Isn't he scared of everything? Why is he exposing himself? Don't you just feel weird in your stomach? Would a laugh track have helped me to know what the joke is? Maybe? Is the African-American couple supposed to be funny? Is a husband hating his wife still ha-ha? Are they supposed to be "simpletons" because they have a farm?  Who the f*ck thought that thermos would make sense? How did this movie manage to make soup disgusting? Why are there so many pee jokes? Who is the target audience for this movie? Is the sign that he cannot see that he was not able to wash his sheet another jab at his mental abilities? If we are prasing his heart at the end of the story, are we implying that he is too simple to be a bad person? Why give Maya Rudolph such a lousy character? Is David Spade only available for movies made in Hawaii? How is Ray Liotta's career otherwise? How much did these actors get paid? Was Hubie's mom a real witch? Was the Cleopatra costumed girl a teacher? Or a university student? Why did she keep losing her dog? Or surprised that he was around? Did she not take him to the hauted house? Who let the dog out? Why is the priest a dick to someone from his town? Why is the police so incompetent? Why reveal that somebody called the chief of police a muppet if he won't change his haircut in his follow-up scene a year later? Who voted for him? Was that also a joke? Are we supposed to be excited he finally found someone who cares? Why was Julie Bowen bad-ass in her first scene and then weird and needy in all the others? Why did he get up the courage to talk to her now? What was he doing all these years? Why didn't she approach him after her divorce? If she had been in love with him for so long, why not tell him in school? Why date a jock? Was she ashamed of him? Isn't that sad? How am I supposed to care when everyone seems like a total idiot here? Shouldn't the fact that he has to live with his mom despite being an all-time job be a comment on society? Rather than a joke at the expense of someone who clearly suffers several forms of social anxiety and is forced to live at home because of it? Can you remind me when I was supposed to laugh? Was any of it funny? Was it just a paycheck? Was there a point? 

Watch it? No. This movie had the most beautiful Halloween set of any movie I have ever seen and lacked any other trait that is enjoyable in a movie. The old ladies had these cheap shirts that had sex innuendos on them and I had found myself laughing out at those incontrollably. I don't know who did that shirts but that person should have written the movie. Also, everyone dressed as Harley Quinn was a good touch. Nothing else of value that I could mention, which is just sad for such a cast and such a long movie.

Thank you everyone, anyone, reading this right now. Know, that you mean a lot to me! I do not know when I will reach another milestone like this, but I wanted to make sure I enjoyed this one, because very few things were worth celebrating in 2020, but for me, this tiny thing, is definitely one of them!

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

What's Next On My List? Baby

I need to have a special mindset to be able to watch something that was made in Italy. I have a connection to it, being raised in Rome and having visited the country almost every single year before the pandemic hit. There is something about the culture, the city... something I do not believe I will ever be able to explain in words, but maybe this show can help me. There is a feeling throughout the whole show, the colors, the music, the fast or slow paced scenes, the characters and the setting... all of it brought me back there and it will bring everyone else there too.
Be careful, this review is full of spoilers!

Baby (Season 1-3, 2018-2020)

Chiara (Benedetta Porcaroli) and Ludovica (Alice Pagani) become friends and out of a wish to break out of the everyday monotonous routine of high school. After a night of partying they make influental friends, who introduce them to a life of money and corrupt morals. In the second season both Chiara and Ludovica decide to sleep with men for money, many of whom have no idea that they are underage. Their friends at the school start to suspect that something isn't right, and Chiara's boyfriend at the time, Damiano (Riccardo Mandolini) gets involved with the same shady people, and becomes a direct cause for their secret to be blown. What is left is for them to face the authorities, but the events that unfolded until that point left its mark on everyone involved.

My best friend showed me the trailer for this show and I had no idea what it was going to be about, but there was something about the colors and the music that I just knew had to see it. And I am so thankful to him, did because I was blown aways by this show. Before I head into anything about the story, let me just say that I was astonished by this cast of young actors. I know there are good young actors out there, but they are truly like hidden gems in the rough. I want to applaud the casting director, and then the creator of the show for the decisions they took. That said, let us first talk about the first protagonist we see in episode one of season one: Chiara. From the beginning of the show she feels empty inside, and even when she finds Damiano and falls in love with him, he is not enough. For Chiara, nothing will be enough. I really liked her character development, because at the end she did not blame others for the decisions she made, and she did not even ask others to take a bullet for her. She had faults and she had committed several mistakes, but even if admitting that her circumstances might have lead to what she did, she was still the one to step over those lines. Same with Ludovica, our second protagonist, who might have been punished by society more than she deserved. In a heartwarming scene she tells her mom that she was told that she is a little slut so she ended up believing that there is nothing else out there for her. Slowly she fills the emptiness in her with self-love. She and Chiara find each other because they both crave to feel something other than what life has been giving them, but they come from a different place and their roads lead to different paths as well.
One of the best things about the show is that you cannot help but just love these two girls. Despite whatever they do, I care for them and I want them to be OK. There was a fine line in the show, where they could have easily fallen to the other side of difficult moral issues and be no longer likable, but they never did cross it. There are so many things I could say about this brilliant brilliant show, but the greatest thing that I can bring up is that the whole series followed its own pace and they wanted to tell a story in 18 episodes and they did. They did not rush, they did not throw in unnecessary cliffhangers or unexpected changes to the characters that would make the ending enraging. The great thing about this show is that it is logical how the show will end, but you still cannot predict it in the beginning. And I find that those are the best kind of stories. I could go on for hours now about why this was just the highlight of 2020 for me, but I do believe I have said enough already, and I hope it will inspire others to see it as well. 

Watch it? It was an incredibly deep story, that was actually based on real events. I did not mention them, because altough inspired from it, it did not bare a lot of resemblance to it, aside from a couple of things. I do advice you to look up the real story, but only after you have seen the show. I think it is better in that order. Not to mention that the moral lessons learned in this show need to be experienced in person. And I haven't even mentioned the soundtrack... just mind blowing. I am very lucky to have found this show and I will surely re-watch it in the near future simply because the writing is that good!

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

What's Next On My List? Tootsie

For this summer season, I am going to go back to old movies. The quarantine left many looking for new content, I, on the other hand, went back and wanted to re-watch some movies that I was fond of but never got around to seeing again. A story can be very different if you grow up, if you experience life, if you are no longer just looking for a "happy ending" but for the story that leads there. I decided to talk a bit about all those movies that I re-watched during the quarantine, and will keep on watching this summer. Yes, it is good to have new content to watch, but certain films really merit another look.

Tootsie (1982)

In an attempt to revive his career Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) decides to dress up as a woman and he gets a job in a medical soap opera. As time passes, he starts to care for people around him, and it gets harder and harder to pretend. As his character is not known for blending into the background, he decides to come out in similar loud fashion. 

This is another family favorite. I do believe that the main issue I had never found a problem with man being in drag, or actors doing all kinds of characters is thank to this movie. I always think of the influences that popular culture has had on me and well, it is a great deal, but I am fairly certain that it is the reason I grew up to be patient with others and be more accepting with whatever nightmare people are going through in their life. Michael was in a difficult situation, but he did believe in himself long enough to try whatever he can to make it. At the same time, he did live a lie, and instead of running away from the consequences he faced them head on. I think that is a really good lesson to be learned from this story. There are plenty of jokes in the story too, not to mention the disgusting male gaze and how men think of themselves as above the women in Hollywood. It is almost sad how this movie portrayed this toxic behaviour back in 82... hopefully finally some things will change with #metoo movements and people speaking out. Yet, another reason to see this movie, to use it as an example.

Watch it? I can tell you that there are a great deal of movies that people my generation - and the ones after - have absolutely no idea about. There is something to be learned from the movies made in the 80s. First, they say stories that are still very much relevant. Second, the remakes add a sort of political correctedness to is, that, even if appreciated, also end in forgetting the main message of the story. We need to see old movies especially because of the lack of censorship on certain topics, and the white-wash casting. Make sure you add this to your list of movies to discuss in your book club!

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

What's Next On My List? You've Got Mail

A story can be very different if you grow up and you are no longer just looking for a "happy ending" but for the story that leads there. I decided to talk a bit about all those movies that I re-watched during the quarantine, and will keep on watching this past summer. Yes, it is good to have new content to watch, but certain films really merit another look. An example would be this adorable romantic comedy that I like to re-watch every year around October, as it begins with fall in New York.

You've Got Mail (1998)

Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is the owner of a big bookstore that ends up bankrupting several small businesses, like the one owned by Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan). The two, however, know each other from a chat room, and have been emailing back and forth and getting to know each other well enough to want to meet. However, their rivalry in real life might jeopardize the future of their relationship. 

"Don't you love New York in the Fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."

This movie was written and directed by the wonderful Nora Ephron, who has been one of my absolutely favorite authors of all time. She has written some of my favorite movies, and in general I have not been disappointed by one single script that came out of her hand (and her sister's Delia Ephron). I am right now reading I Feel Bad About My Neck, a book by Ephron from 2006 that I want to recommend to everyone, and right after the book I wanted to make sure to put in my DVD and just get lost in New York again.
Coming back to our actual review: I just love this movie.
Is it perfect? No, especially because the male lead decided to somewhat manipulate the female lead into giving him another chance... but I do believe that this movie comes from the period in the 90s where man making any kind of effort was considered to be incredibly romantic. I personally have not thought about how Joe decided to deal with the situation until I showed it to my partner, a strong feminist, who highlighted how some of the decision in the story could have been done differently. That said, I do still enjoy the story of how first impressions are not everything. When we talk to someone online we open up in a different way and we also show a side of ours that will never be obvious upon first meeting. I cannot imagine caring for my enemy the way the movie brought these two together, but because they had those interactions through mail, I understand also how they connected. Even today I love exchanging written messages with people, there is something therapeutic about facing your thoughts on a blank page. And this movie got me wanting to walk around New York, to get a coffee at Starbucks, to go to small shops, or a book store specifically and smell the books. It is one of those stories that you want to be a part of and that is what makes it unique.

Watch it? I definitely recommend it in October and November, as it also has Christmas and it ends with Spring. I have friends who would argue that you could watch it anytime, but the feeling of those freshly sharpened pencils got me hooked from the first song to the last one. I cannot count how many times I have seen this movie, but I will definitely watch it countless more times. 

Until the next item on my list!