Monday, December 30, 2019

MD Top 10: Scene Stealers of 2019

Movie Dearest's 10 (okay 12) favorite scene stealing characters of the year:

1. D'Urville Martin, Dolemite Is My Name

Billed as Eddie Murphy's comeback, this comedic biopic was even more so a triumphant return for Wesley Snipes. He is laugh out loud hilarious as the prima donna actor continuously perplexed and consistently revolted at finding himself the director of a low budget, low class blaxploitation flick.

2. Bunny and Ducky, Toy Story 4

Forky who? These two streetwise carnival plushes, voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, are the ones who really should have their own Disney+ series (co-starring Keanu Reeves' Duke Caboom of course).

3.  Yorki, Jojo Rabbit

In a movie that features its own director as an imaginary friend version of Adolf Hitler, Archie Yates' intrepid prepubescent soldier was the one everyone was talking about after the Third Reich fell. Hail Yorki!

4. Miss Luckmoore, In Fabric

If this "Killer Dress Movie" becomes the camp classic it is destined to be it will be largely due to the unfathomable talents of Fatma Mohamed as the garrulous saleslady who sets its bonkers plot in motion.

5. Trudi Fraser, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

Dropped into the middle of Quentin Tarantino's show biz epic, Julia Butters' precocious child actress captured our attentions and efficiently upstages Leonardo DiCaprio during her brief but brilliant screen time.

6. Greasy and Emma, The Biggest Little Farm

This oddest of couples — a ragamuffin rooster and perpetually pregnant pig — were the breakout stars of this eco friendly documentary hit. #Justice4Greasy

7. Mr. Dashwood, Little Women

With both Ford v Ferrari and Little Women, Tracy Letts is the 2019 MVP of Scene Stealing. And although his Henry Ford II stole the former starting with the trailer, his jaded publisher stole the latter with just two scenes, and while mostly sitting down.

8. Márgu, Klaus

This adorable little moppet (voiced by Neda Margrethe Labba), a Sámi girl who befriends the new postman Jesper, is this Netflix Christmas movie's version of Baby Yoda: you can't help but smile every time she comes on screen.

9. Gigi, Booksmart

Billie Lourd plays this campus queen not as a know-it-all diva but as an all-knowing guru of the high school set. Popping in and out of the plot, she randomly/hysterically appears in the most unlikeliest of places but always at the most opportune of times.

10. Goose, Captain Marvel

No less than four felines (named Reggie, Archie, Rizzo and Gonzo) were tasked with bringing Carol Danvers' pet cat (or is that pet Flerken?) to life, and we were as sweet on him as a pre-eye patch Nick Fury was.

Honorable Mentions: Lili Reinhart as Annabelle in Hustlers, Noah Segan as Trooper Wagner in Knives Out and (spoiler) as Elena in The Laundromat.

And finally, one dishonorable mention, for the worst scene stealer of 2019: Fat Thor, Avengers: Endgame

When Chris Hemsworth's God of Thunder first appeared in this finale to the ultimate super-saga, we laughed too at how he'd let himself go post-snap. But instead of giving him a quick training montage to slim him back down to his old beefcake self, he stayed fat. For. The. Entire. Movie. Hemsworth may be okay with turning his career into one more goofy hunk role after another, but he shouldn't drag down the character that A) made him a star, and B) is supposed to be one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Universe. The Mighty Thor deserves better than to be a walking (and kinda offensive) sight gag.

By Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

2019, A Film Odyssey: American Idols

And you thought Cats was creepy...

This year's hits you may have missed, flops that you should avoid, hidden gems to discover and more, plus where to watch 'em...

Real American heroes:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (in theaters now):
This not-really-a-Mr.-Rogers-biopic focuses instead on angry journalist with daddy issues Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) who has the (for him) undesirable task of interviewing beloved children's television host Fred Rogers for Esquire magazine. Tom Hanks is charged here with the unenviable task of embodying said TV icon and (like his similar role of Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks) what seems like an ideal match of actor to part falls short of expectations. As Disney Hanks didn't try hard enough, but as Rogers he tries too hard; it's like Hanks wandered out off a SNL sketch and into a dull estranged father/son reconciliation melodrama. (5/10)

Apollo 11 (now streaming on Hulu):
The titular mission, which saw astronaut superstars Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to walk on the moon, is brought vividly to life in this accomplished compilation of archival footage, including some previously unseen 70 mm sequences. Director Todd Douglas Miller presents it all sans narration, interviews or reenactments, which is commendable but at times renders it all a bit dry. And one can't help feeling some déjà vu seeing this just a year after the Oscar winning effects team recreated most of it in the Armstrong biopic First Man. (7/10)

Harriet (available on Blu-ray and DVD January 28):
A theatrical feature based on the life of Harriet Tubman, the former slave who saved many of her people via the Underground Railroad in pre-Civil War era America, has been long overdue. So it's perplexing that the end result goes well beyond the usual Hollywood hagiographic approach and turns her into, well, a superhero. Yes, an actual superhero, complete with her own "Spidey sense" (which is actually, wow, based on fact) and a sneering supervillain thirsting for revenge. Gratefully, Cynthia Erivo's powerful, raw performance as Tubman grounds the film through its many indulgences. (6/10)

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

2019, A Film Odyssey: Super Girls

"Let it go... I mean snow"

This year's hits you may have missed, flops that you should avoid, hidden gems to discover and more, plus where to watch 'em...

From the royals of Arendelle to the March sisters, these young women are all superb:

Frozen II (in theaters now):
Elsa, Anna and all your Frozen friends are back in a sequel whose themes of maturity and self-acceptance are reflected in its mature tone and sophisticated songs. This time out, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) finally gets a real solo number ("Lost in the Woods", bizarrely/brilliantly visualized as an 80s power ballad music video) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) belts out not one but two showstoppers ("Into the Unknown" and "Show Yourself"), both faring admirably in trying to out-"Let It Go" that Oscar-winning earworm "Let It Go". The harsh winter landscape of the original has been replaced with lush, gorgeous Autumnal tones, making this a striking visual feast. (8/10)

Alita: Battle Angel (now available on Blu-ray and DVD):
What at first looked like just another video game movie is actually a stunningly exhilarating post-apocalyptic cyberpunk thrill ride starring a kick-ass heroine, a scrappy cyborg girl named Alita, wondrously brought to life via a combination of actress Rosa Salazar and state of the art digital effects. Even so, Salazar more than holds her own opposite a trio of veterans with five Academy Awards between them (Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connolly and Mahershala Ali). Director Robert Rodriguez turns out his best work in over a decade with this adaptation of the popular Japanese manga series, which will hopefully become a series on the big screen as well. (8/10)

Little Women (in theaters now):
The American literary classic Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is over 150 years old and there has seemingly been almost as many adaptations of it, from stage to TV to, of course, film. So why make another one in 2019? Well thank the cinematic gods Greta Gerwig did for this is one marvelous movie, beautifully made on all levels and impeccably acted by a cast that includes Lady Bird alumni Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, this year's "it" girl Florence Pugh and every year's "MVP" Laura Dern. Gerwig's screenplay "remixes" the timeline of the March family of Massachusetts, vibrantly refreshing this oft-told tale while also allowing the three non-Jo sisters to be more-fully fleshed out. Treat yourself this holiday/award season and revisit some old friends in a new way; you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll fall in love all over again with Little Women. (9/10)

Little Women in the Dunes

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

2019, A Film Odyssey: A. Driver Runs Through It

Divorce, American style

This year's hits you may have missed, flops that you should avoid, hidden gems to discover and more, plus where to watch 'em...

It's been a busy year for Adam Driver:

Marriage Story (now streaming on Netflix):

Driver and Scarlett Johansson are both at the top of their game in this self-proclaimed "love story about divorce". Semi-autobiographically written and directed by Noah Baumbach (it is based on his real life split from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh), this Story shrewdly doesn't make you choose sides as in, say, Baumbach's own The Squid and the Whale or Kramer vs. Kramer (although the son here is just as trying as Justin Henry). Scenes are allowed to play out naturally, veering from the mundane to the fervent and back again. Plus: Laura Dern's brilliantly bitchy divorce attorney, not one but two Sondheim songs and a (somewhat) happy ending. (9/10)

The Report (now streaming on Amazon Prime):
Don't let the cinematically crowded year end make you miss out on Driver's other Oscar-worthy 2019 performance here as Daniel Jones, the US Senate investigator who uncovered the CIA's use of torture tactics following 9/11. Writer/director Scott Z. Burns (who also wrote the similarly scandal-ized The Laundromat earlier this year) takes what is essentially guys in business attire shuffling paperwork and weaves a tense thriller in the mold of All the President's Men. A sharp Annette Bening also shines as a no-nonsense Senator Dianne Feinstein. (8/10)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (in theaters now):

This grand finale of the protracted, newly-christened "Skywalker Saga" has turned out to be even more divisive than its immediate predecessor, 2017's The Last Jedi, a film I nevertheless consider one of the best of the series. Rise doesn't, well, rise to the heights of Shakespearean space saga that the Last chapter did; even as it barrels toward its inevitable conclusion it feels drawn out, tripping over a deus ex machina here, some fan service there. And coming on the heels of Disney+'s mostly "Force"-free The Mandalorian, all the magical mumbo-jumbo is even more cornier than usual. And yet, as someone who has been through all the highs and lows of Star Wars for the past forty-plus years, "episode IX" still gave me a good ride, almost as good as a 9-year-old me took back in the summer of '77. (7/10)

Black-clad man

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

2019, A Film Odyssey: The Recycle of Life

King of the Bungle

This year's hits you may have missed, flops that you should avoid, hidden gems to discover and more, plus where to watch 'em...

Disney remakes, reimaginings and sequels, oh my:

The Lion King (now available on DVD and Blu-ray, available to stream on Disney+ on January 28):
Jon Favreau’s “photorealistic” update to the 1994 classic leans hard into the realistic part, blindly missing the fact that these characters have to express emotions and, you know, belt out show tunes on the African savanna. The magic is literally erased, i.e.: “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is stripped of its colorful stylization, while the ghost of Mufasa filling the heavens is replaced with… an empty sky? The overly star-studded voice cast is filled with actors who can’t sing (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and singers who can’t act (Beyoncé), and every funny line from the original is excised for some lame meta ad-lib from Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan. The pioneering virtual reality filming techniques and state of the art computer animation do create some stunning imagery, but this Lion King feels too much like an experimental technological stunt than a worthy heir to the throne. (4/10)

Lady and the Tramp (now streaming on Disney+):
Surprisingly faring better than all of this year’s previous Disney “live action” remakes is this lower stakes streaming offering that puts a fresh spin on the beloved 1955 original, albeit with a few somewhat jarring encroachments from our modern age. A pair of lovable, real dogs (with mouths animated for the speaking voices of Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux) take on this canine Romeo and Juliet tale that all but the most jaded will find a charming, family-friendly outing (granted, on a Disney Channel budget). Alas, this is 2019, so the infamous Siamese cats have been axed, yet in their place is a far more disturbing pair of computer generated felines. But don’t worry, the iconic moonlit spaghetti dinner remains, meatballs and all. (6/10)

Toy Story 4 (now available on DVD and Blu-ray, available to stream on Disney+ February 5):
With friends both old — the terrific Annie Potts as Bo Peep, reimagined as an action heroine — and new — Forky (Tony Hale), a spork with a serious identity crisis; the Evel Knievel-ish Duke Caboom (a perfectly cast Keanu Reeves); and Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), two carnival toys with attitude — join Buzz and Woody and the gang when a family road trip — and a vengeful second-hand store baby doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) — threaten to separate them all for good. You would not be alone if you thought that the adventures of Andy’s toys ended just fine with Pixar’s Oscar-winning Toy Story 3 nine years ago. However, amazingly, this fourth outing justifies its existence as a bittersweet epilogue to that sublime swan song. (8/10)

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

2019, A Film Odyssey: Bleak Christmas

Noelle, coward

This year's hits you may have missed, flops that you should avoid, hidden gems to discover and more, plus where to watch 'em...

Two big streamers deliver a couple of pieces of coal this holiday season:

Noelle (now streaming on Disney+):
This Anna Kendrick vehicle was originally earmarked as a theatrical release before it was decided to go straight to streaming (the 21st century version of direct to video) and, judging by their "how did I get here?" expressions, nobody told Bill Hader and Shirley MacLaine until they showed up for filming. With its cheap effects, schmaltzy sentiment and questionable acting, Noelle has all the hallmarks of, well, a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. Bless her heart, Anna tries her darnedest to elevate the material but even her many merry yuletide ensembles (leggings, lots and lots of leggings) can't save it from landing on the naughty list. (4/10)

Klaus (now streaming on Netflix):
There have been several versions of the origins of good ol' Saint Nick before, from the beloved Santa Claus is Coming to Town to the campy Santa Claus: The Movie, but none of them involved a town filled with feuding families and a selfish, spoiled protagonist that is even more unlikable than the Grinch. And no, that's not the title character (voiced by J.K. Simmons because it's about time), who is oddly relegated to supporting player in his own origin story. Credit is due for going the hand-drawn animation route, but the character designs are nothing you haven't seen before and, save for a surprising, emotionally effective ending, so is most of Klaus. Blah humbug. (5/10)

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Monday, December 9, 2019

2019, A Film Odyssey: Super! Fly!

Battle of the Franchise Stars

This year's hits you may have missed, flops that you should avoid, hidden gems to discover and more, plus where to watch 'em...

Heroes take to the skies:

Avengers: Endgame (now streaming on Disney+):
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a thrilling/frustrating superhero saga that climaxes in this epic denouement that actually perfectly represents the best and worst of this imperfect series. Good: there are so many crowd-pleasing moments ("Avengers assemble!" Steve and Peggy!) that it might as well be titled Fan Service: The Movie. Bad: the addition of time travel, confounding the MCU's already plot hole-heavy narrative. Oh, and Fat Thor. It's been a fun roller coaster through 11 years and 22 movies; you just can't think too deeply about it now that the ride is over. (7/10)

Spider-Man: Far from Home (now available on Blu-ray and DVD)
Positioned as a coda to Endgame, this latest adventure of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is much more than that. Set in a post-"blip" world, Peter Parker (the continuously delightful Tom Holland) teams up with the mysterious, uh, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal, himself a would-be Spidey back in the day) to thwart a multidimensional menace that may have ties to a certain multimillionaire mentor. A twist-filled plot, mind-bending special effects and a fist-pumpingly awesome last minute reveal make this the best comic book flick of recent memory. (8/10)

The Aeronauts (in theaters now; streaming on Amazon Prime starting December 20):
Based loosely on real 19th century treks up into the wild blue yonder via hot air balloon, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones (the erstwhile Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Hawking of The Theory of Everything fame) star in this period adventure as the pioneering title characters. Saddled with a hackneyed "will they or won't they" romance and a distracting nonlinear structure, the film only takes off (literally) during its aerial action sequences that are thrillingly visceral, particularly a nerve-wracking climb up the ice-covered outside of the balloon. (6/10)

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Reverend's Reviews: ‘Tis the Season… for Movie Awards


As December rolls around, most people are focused on seasonal gift shopping, home decorating and party throwing or attending. However, film critics like myself (plus Hollywood industry guild members) are under the gun to anoint the best (and sometimes trash the worst) movies of 2019. It makes for a fun but even more stressful time of year.

Studios are currently busy sending out DVDs and online screening links of what they consider to be their most promising films to award voters including the members of my group, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics. A number of these contenders have LGBTQ content or other relevance to our community.

Currently, what I’ve dubbed “the four J's” are dominating awards season chatter: Joker, Judy, Jojo Rabbit and Jennifer Lopez. The first two films detail the tragic results of lifelong abuse, a timely and important subject. They also boast awards-worthy performances by their leading man and lady, respectively. Joaquin Phoenix is undeniably powerful in Joker as Arthur Fleck, a downtrodden resident of decrepit, pre-Batman Gotham City. Long convinced by his mother that his role in life is to bring happiness to others, Fleck works as a clown-for-hire by local businesses, hospitals and other organizations. Sadly, he endures near-constant physical and/or emotional abuse from street hoodlums, co-workers, employers and passersby. One day he is pushed too far and ends up shooting three employees of the storied Wayne Enterprises to death after they attack him on a subway train. The general kudos that Fleck’s unanticipated action receives from his fellow poor citizens of Gotham, as well as more personal revelations, spark his evolution into Batman's eventual arch-nemesis.

Although Joker became a huge international hit, it has received wildly divergent reactions from critics and viewers alike. Drawing too obviously at times from the early works of director Martin Scorsese (whose The Irishman is a virtually-guaranteed awards nominee this year), it is a morally troubling movie when it comes to its "kill the rich" denouement/endorsement. Despite this, Phoenix is currently the front runner for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. I suspect Best Picture will be more of a long shot.

Judy, meanwhile, is the latest dramatization of Judy Garland's life. The late, great singer-actress and enduring gay icon endured systematic abuse beginning at the age of two from managers, studio heads and her own mother. Most significantly, they got her addicted to drugs as a child starlet so she could perform on demand. As an adult, her ongoing addictions to drugs, alcohol and manipulative men ruined her career and led to her early death at the age of 47.

This biopic was adapted from, and is actually an improvement on, Peter Quilter's more sensationalistic play End of the Rainbow. Actress Renée Zellweger is sensational in a good way as Garland. While she is subtle more often than not in her channeling of Garland, the musical numbers remind viewers simultaneously of both women's artistry and endearing vulnerability. Zellweger previously won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for 2003’s Cold Mountain, but her performance in Judy may well garner her this year’s Best Actress Oscar. She would definitely get my vote if I had to vote now for GALECA’s Dorian Awards.

The third “J” stands for Jojo, i.e. Jojo Rabbit. This World War II satire, directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking as it follows the exploits of the title, 10-year old German boy. He is such a devoted little Nazi that he even envisions Adolf Hitler (goofily personified by Waititi himself) as his imaginary friend. Jojo must confront his blind nationalism when he discovers that his beloved mother (played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic.

Jojo Rabbit is a definite crowd pleaser that won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and has done well at the US box office since its release in October. Essentially The Diary of Anne Frank if remade by Mel Brooks, I expect it to receive major awards attention. Johansson could be a contender for her lovely performance as Jojo’s compassionate mother, as could Sam Rockwell’s funny yet warm turn as a gay but necessarily-closeted Nazi superior.

Last but not least of “the four J’s” is J.Lo, a.k.a. actress-singer Jennifer Lopez. Although she has previously given strong performances in such movies as Out of Sight and Selena, Lopez is aiming for her first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress in Hustlers. She played Ramona, the fierce leader of a gang of exotic dancers who turn the tables on wealthy men who took advantage of them. Lopez is indeed a showstopper as she pole-dances, connives, whips up knock-out drugs in her kitchen and sports flashy fur coats.

Every awards season features a worthy underdog and this year’s is The Peanut Butter Falcon. The lovable tale of a young man with Down Syndrome who dreams of becoming a professional wrestler could win nominations and/or awards for its bromantic leads, Shia LaBeouf and newcomer Zack Gottsagen. Of note, Gottsagen would become the industry’s first honoree who actually has Down Syndrome. This might provide some additional incentive to nominators/voters.

Keep watching entertainment news for what will no doubt be an exciting, potentially historic awards season. In the meantime, happy holidays!

Chris’ Picks for the Best and Worst of 2019:

A few end-of-year releases have yet to be screened, notably Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the controversial adaptation of the stage musical Cats (two words have people concerned: digital fur). I feel confident, though, with my choices of 2019’s best movies below. As I have done in the past, I’ve included some additional films beyond a strict top 10 that I consider equally accomplished and that share similar genres, themes or attributes.

1) The Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24). Young writer-director Joe Talbot makes a very impressive debut with this heartfelt exploration of friendship between two African-American men trying to claim a Victorian home for themselves. Inspired by a true story, it’s an unforgettable, queer-friendly tale.

2) Ask Dr. Ruth (Hulu) and Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story (Self-produced). Inspiring documentaries about two strong, LGBTQ-supportive women who have been to hell and back and lived to tell about it. One is a long-lived master of sexual education who survived a Nazi concentration camp. The other is a tell-all comedienne who drew the ire of President Trump and was subsequently blackballed. Love the subjects or hate them, these movies are must-sees.

3) Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight). Speaking of surviving the Nazis, no one has had so much fun sending them up since Mel Brooks did in his heyday. Taika Waititi’s awards season favorite is deeply moving in addition to being very funny.

4) The Farewell (A24). Awkwafina shines in writer-director Lulu Wang’s autobiographical film about a Chinese woman living in the US who returns home when she learns her beloved grandmother is dying. Don’t be turned off by the sad story if you haven’t seen it, as there is a great payoff.

5) Unicorn Store (Netflix) and Captain Marvel (Disney). Brie Larson may have swept Best Actress awards for 2015’s Room, but her films this year made her a star. She played the most powerful hero in the comic book universe in the exciting, well-crafted and unpredictable Captain Marvel (with a very cool cat as co-star). Then she starred in and made a smashing directorial debut with the delightfully whimsical Unicorn Store.

6) Us (Universal), Midsommar (A24) and Doctor Sleep (Warner Bros). A trio of intelligent, beautifully made and, of course, creepy-as-hell horror movies. Made by some of the genre’s finest filmmakers (Jordan Peele, Ari Aster and Mike Flanagan, respectively), these gave viewers something to think about as well as the requisite goosebumps.

7) Kanarie (Breaking Glass). Made in 2018 but not released in the US until this year, I was very impressed by this South African coming-of-age war musical (you read that right). It also includes a gay romance and a lead character who channels such 1980’s pop stars as Madonna, Boy George and my personal favorite, Kate Bush.

8) By the Grace of God (Music Box Films). Gay filmmaker François Ozon’s galvanizing expose of France’s crisis of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests. Similar to the American, 2015 Oscar winner Spotlight but more admirably from the victims’ perspective.

9) Rocketman (Paramount) and Judy (Roadside Attractions). A pair of terrific musical biographies. I discussed Judy above but Rocketman is an equally great and definitely more fun look at the life of out singer Elton John. I would love to see Taron Egerton nominated as Best Actor for his impersonation of Sir Elton.

10) The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions) and The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (Epic Pictures). Two quirky but thoroughly enjoyable and even touching movies graced by fine performances. As previously mentioned, Shia LaBeouf and newcomer Zack Gottsagen make a memorable duo in the first. Sam Elliott, a first-time Oscar nominee last year for his turn in A Star is Born, is perfectly laconic as the title character of the second, decidedly fantastical tale.

My worst picks are (in no particular order of dishonor): The Skin of the Teeth, Joker, Annabelle Comes Home, Groupers and High Life.

Reviews by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

Monday, December 2, 2019

2019, A Film Odyssey: Girls Trip

Sorry to Mother You

This year's hits you may have missed, flops that you should avoid, hidden gems to discover and more, plus where to watch 'em...

When ladies lose it:

Greta (now streaming on HBO):
If you ever wanted to see Isabelle Huppert as a slightly sapphic, borderline campy, full-on nutjob, then this Neil Jordan thriller is the movie for you. As the title shut-in, she uses designer handbags to lure young women with mommy issues to her and then proceeds to mother them... to death. As her latest obsession, Chloë Grace Moretz can barely keep up with Huppert, making it (intentionally?) easy to root for the crazy lady. (7/10)

Piercing (now available on DVD and Blu-ray):
A man (Christopher Abbott) checks into a hotel with a plan to murder a random prostitute (Mia Wasikowska), but his intended victim, even more twisted than he is, has other ideas. With a compelling plot like that and directed by Nicolas Pesce, whose debut film The Eyes of My Mother was a gritty, Gothic nightmare, my hopes were high. Yet this is just a nightmare, mostly thanks to an in-over-her-head Wasikowska as a manic pixie dream girl from hell. (4/10)

The Perfection (now streaming on Netflix):
Sexy lesbians! Body horror! Cello playing!! Set in the alarmingly cutthroat world of professional cellists, Allison Williams and Logan Browning are two rival students of a Machiavellian music teacher (played by... Steven Weber?) who, after hitting the sheets, experience all sorts of nastiness, from projectile vomiting to self-amputation to, well, Steven Weber. There are a lot of disparate parts here that somehow all come together into a wild and wacky revenge tale à la EC Comics. (7/10)

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.