Review: Words on Bathroom Walls

Words on Bathroom Walls (2020)

Director: Thor Freudenthal

Writer: Nick Naveda

Starring: Charlie Plummer, Andy Garcia, Taylor Russell, AnnaSophia Robb, Beth Grant, Molly Parker, and Walton Goggins

Plot: After a schizophrenic episode, a high school senior is transferred to a new school where he strikes up a romance with the valedictorian.

Review: I think I’ve discovered a very specific genre of movie that I’m always going to be pulled into. It’s called the “sick teen romance” movie. It’s an easy sub-genre to classify. There’s a teenage. They have a disease. They don’t let the illness stop them from falling in love. And, there’s usually crying. Sounds too specific, right? Well, The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars, Warm Bodies (to a certain degree) and, of course, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl beg to differ. And, I fell for it every single time. I love each of those movies. There’s just something about that formula that hits home with me. Enter Words on Bathroom Walls. It fits right into this genre and hit me directly in the feels. Awful title. Great movie.

Before we get too deep into this review, I have to admit something. I know next to nothing about schizophrenia. My knowledge is surface level at best. Thus, I have no idea how accurate this movie’s portrayal of the illness is. However, I can say that I really enjoyed the way it was represented here. Our main character, Adam, essentially sees and hears four characters that don’t actually exist. One is a manic pixie dream girl played by AnnaSophia Robb. She’s constantly cheering him on. The next is your typical horny frat boy. He, of course, is basically the lead’s sex drive. Then, there’s a bodyguard who wants to protect him. And, finally, the dark foreboding voice who’s constantly trying to make everything worse. He’s the guy who tells him everyone hates him. He’s the negative voice everyone has in their heads. But, in this case, he’s very much real to Adam. I really like the dynamic these guys had. I like that they each had their own distinct personalities and interacted with him in different ways. It kind of felt a bit like Inside Out. And, it was a really fun way of showing the effects of the illness without poking fun at it. There are times that you laugh, but you’re laughing with Adam and not at him. I felt like that was very important.

But, it’s not just the imaginary characters that shine brightly in Words on Bathroom Walls. For a movie that features almost no huge names, it sure is packed with incredible performances. Plummer kills it as Adam. You really feel the turmoil this kid is going through. There are quite a few scenes of him struggling that absolutely broke my heart. Likewise, his parents are terrific. Grant does such a great job playing the heartbroken mother who is just trying her best. It’s a very real and touching performance. And, of course, there’s his girlfriend played by Taylor Russell. She was another breakout star here for me. I’ve never seen any of her work but was drawn into her magnetic performance right away. Her character could’ve easily been the throw-away “straight” character but Russell and the writers turned it into so much more. But, honestly, my favorite performance in the whole movie has to be that of Walton Goggins. I can’t get into it too much without getting spoilery, but his character definitely made me cry the most. Oh, yeah, did I mention it’s a crying movie? I did? Good. Because this is definitely a crying movie.

As you can probably tell, I really, really enjoyed Words on Bathroom Walls. It managed to walk the line between heartbreaking and uplifting perfectly. Plus, there’s a ton of memorable characters and performances. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s into this sort of movie.

That title really, really sucks though, doesn’t it? I’m never going to remember it…

TL;DR: Words on Bathroom Walls is a heartbreaking, real look at mental illness that also features a fun, lighthearted cast of characters.

Score: 8/10 (Great)

Review: Unhinged

Unhinged (2020)

Director: Derrick Borte

Writer: Carl Ellsworth

Starring: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, and Austin P. McKenzie

Plot: A woman directs her road rage at the wrong person and he vows to get revenge by making her have the worst day ever by killing many of her loved ones.

Review: You ever watch a movie and kinda just feel dirty after watching it? That’s how I feel about Unhinged. I’m all for pulpy films. I love a good horror flick. And, most of the time, I find myself reveling in the torment that’s being displayed on the big screen. This one though felt… different. I left the theater in a really, really bummed out mood. Then, I saw another movie that improved it, until I came home and looked up the google images for this one. That put me right back down in the dumps.

Honestly, I don’t know what it is that made Unhinged not work for me. I was having a good time up until the first really serious death occurred. Then, I just started feeling uncomfortable. As we got further into the movie, that gut bad feeling just got worse too. Honestly, I was a bit weirded out. I’m a horror guy. I can stomach a lot. So, it wasn’t the violence. I’m ok with that. And, the killer’s motives aren’t any darker or more sinister than other villains I find myself rooting for. In fact, a lot of his lines could’ve been transferred over to Joker or Tyler Durden and they wouldn’t seem out of place. However, this character doesn’t have the same charisma. There’s nothing fun about him. There’s no swag. No exciting backstory. Crowe doesn’t do a thing to make this guy likable. He just seems like an asshole who is pushing things too far. You never once go “Oh, I can kind of see where he’s coming from.” He’s a psychopath who is completely in the wrong. And, I just ended up feeling really, really bad for our protagonists. Was this purposeful? Maybe. But, I, for one, like to have a little bit of fun in my horror flicks. That’s what I’m there for. I want things to be big and over the top. I’m not looking to be bummed out by some asshole actually ruining a woman’s life.

As much as I didn’t enjoy it, I can’t completely throw Unhinged under the bus either. Or, should I say under Russell Crowe’s truck? (Sorry.) The script is actually really, really well put together. There are small lines of dialogue in the first act that just seem like they’re filler that end up paying off in big ways in the third. I was constantly surprised with how well this dumb movie foreshadowed.

It also does a really good job at creating tension and legitimate terror for our main character. Like I said, I’m not used to feeling this bad for the leads in horror flicks. Most of the time they’re just there to move the plot along or grow into the hero. I was legitimately scared for this woman and her child though. I think a lot of that is from the writing, but I’d also give massive credit to the actors. They really sold the tension.

Overall, I can’t recommend Unhinged. I wish I could. The script is actually pretty decent and some of the scares are pretty good. Crowe just doesn’t have the charisma to pull off this part. What should’ve been a calculating, yet chaotic sadist ended up being just this unrelenting brutish dick. I think the movie would’ve been improved ten times over with someone like John Malkovich or Steve Buscemi or even Sam Rockwell in the lead. As it stands now, it’s just a cynical, brutal, not very fun horror flick. That’s not to say it’s bad. It’s just definitely not what I was looking for with a plot like this.

TL;DR: Unhinged should’ve been fun, but the villain wasn’t nearly charismatic enough for that.

Score: 5/10 (Meh)

Review: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl (2020)

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writers: Kenneth Branagh and Hamish McColl

Starring: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart, Nonso Anozie, Colin Farrell, and Judi Dench

Plot: Artemis Fowl is thrown into a world of fantasy as he tries to track down his missing father.

Review: Oof.

Artemis Fowl is bad. It’s real bad. It’s like catastrophic levels of bad. I have not seen a movie fail this hard at just being a movie since 2015’s Fantastic Four. I just finished watching it not even 15 minutes ago and I could not tell you a single thing about the plot, the characters, or the world. It’s just an absolute disaster on every single level.

To be fair, I haven’t read the books. But, from what I’ve read online, it wouldn’t matter if I had anyways. Apparently, this adaptation just threw everything out the window. That’s not necessarily the reason the movie sucked though. There are a lot of bad adaptations that make good movies. This isn’t one of them by any stretch of the imagination. I paid attention the whole time and still can’t tell you what happened in this movie. I know that his dad went missing and they had to find some kind of device. I don’t have any idea what that device does. I just know that it was important to get back. I couldn’t tell you why the elves were upset with him. I couldn’t tell you who the bad guys are. There’s a lot I just couldn’t keep track of. And, you know what? I don’t care enough to try, because the movie didn’t care enough to explain properly the first time. There’s a lot of exposition here (half the movie is narration) and still nothing is clear. It’s ridiculous.

Speaking of ridiculous, every single actor that was in this movie looks bad by association. First of all, the kid who plays Artemis is stiff as a board. I’ve seen better performances from high school freshman reading the lines of Romeo and Juliet in their English class. It’s like he memorized the script without knowing what anything means and therefore found it impossible to put any emotion into it. The girl who plays the fairy lead doesn’t come across much better either. I mean… I can’t blame them. Who would ever be able to make sense of this baffling script? It had to have been especially hard for a child… which is weird because Artemis Fowl is a kids’ book, correct?

It’s really disappointing that Artemis Fowl doesn’t at least meet the “so bad its good” category, because there are a couple of cringe worthy things that are almost worth seeing. Both Josh Gad and Judi Dench decided that they’re just going to talk in Batman grumbles, even though it doesn’t really make sense for either character. Dench in particular got a massive, unintentional laugh out of me when she landed in a jet and dropped the line “Top of the mornin’ to ya” in that voice. I’m sure someone thought that’d be a hilarious or badass moment, but it fell extremely flat. It’s one of the worse things I’ve seen. And, the CGI on Gad’s dwarf character was just painful. He looked worse than scenes from The Mask, which were purposely cartoony and came out over 25 years ago. Actually, Gad’s whole character is just a miss. He narrates 90% of the movie in that annoying voice, mysteriously jumping back and forth from talking to us to talking to a law enforcement agency. It’s like they had two cuts and forgot what dialogue went with each movie. Either that or they thought no one would notice. I did. It was painful. Oh, and he poops out dirt. So, that’s a thing. Then, there’s this ludicrous Centaur character. He looks bad and acts even worse. There’s just something so utterly cringey about a CIA-type character neighing and prancing away. I’m pretty sure they weren’t trying to play it for laughs either.

I don’t think there’s anyone on this planet that’ll enjoy Artemis Fowl. Apparently, they changed too much for the book fans. Others won’t be able to get into it due to the lacking narrative. The characters aren’t likeable. The acting isn’t good. The CGI sucks. And, it’s not even a “so bad its good” contender. It’s just an overall bad time. My experience with it seemed to drag on for hours even though it wasn’t that long. It’s probably the worst thing Disney has put out in decades. They’re lucky that they had to drop it on Disney+ because, otherwise, it would’ve bombed hard. Just a complete and utter disaster.

I’m going to be in a bad mood about this one for a while…

TL;DR: Artemis Fowl sucks. Like really, really bad.

Score: 1/10 (Unbearable)

Review: The King of Staten Island

The King of Staten Island (2020)

Director: Judd Apatow

Writers: Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, and Dave Sirus

Starring: Pete Davidson, Mohammad Tiregar, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, and Steve Buscemi

Plot: When his widowed mom starts dating again, a 23-year-old burnout is forced to start getting his life together.

Review: I freaking loved The King of Staten Island. I was putting it off forever because of the rather steep pricetag, but I’m glad I finally took the plunge. And, I’m actually pleased with the fact that it was a purchase, because this honestly is one of those movies that there’s like a 95% chance of me revisiting. It was that good. I just loved being part of that world for a little bit. The two hours flew by for me.

If you’ve seen any Judd Apatow movies, you kind of know what to expect with The King of Staten Island. He’s very good at working with extremely funny comedians and giving them the opportunity to create really engaging, likeable characters. And, lately, he’s been kind of giving these comedians an outlet to tell their story. The results are always entertaining. By the end of these movies, you feel like you actually got to know these characters. They’re almost like you’re friends. It’s really impressive. The King of Staten Island is no different. Pete Davison’s character is great. His friends are all lovable. His girlfriend is super sympathetic. You like his family. And, even his coworkers are people you want to be around. I feel like it’s the mark of a truly great writer to have even the 15-20th billed person in your movie be this fleshed out. And Apatow does it every. single. time. I can’t help but be a massive fan of the guy.

Speaking of which, holy crap, Pete Davidson. I remember seeing him on SNL for the first time and instantly taking note. This guy is funny. However, then the tabloids and the gossip columns started jumping all over him and I wasn’t sure whether he was the real deal. The King of Staten Island should put any arguments to bed on that one. He is extremely good in this. I knew he could be funny. I’ve seen it first hand. I just didn’t know he had this kind of range. He really sells a lot of the more emotional scenes in this movie. And, like I said, with it being semi-autobiographical, I really feel like I know him now. This turned me into quite the fan. I can’t wait to see what the rest of his career looks like.

The rest of the cast is amazing as well, of course. Bill Burr crushed it as Pete’s new father figure. Marisa Tomei was, as always, topnotch. Maude Apatow proved that she’s not just some kid that Judd throws into his movies. She’s actually a very good actress. This is the first time I’ve seen Bel Powley in anything, but she impressed the hell out of me. I wouldn’t be surprised if she becomes a massive star. And, this movie features Steve Buscemi! Who doesn’t love Steve Buscemi? The guy’s a legend. And he’s fantastic here.

Lastly, I was super impressed with how serious this movie was able to get. There’s some actually relatively intense dramatic moments. Davidson’s character is still reeling over the death of his dad and is borderline suicidal. It’s really not something I was expecting from a movie like this. There’s kind of this overall sad tone over everything. But, it doesn’t detract from the comedy either. You don’t leave the experience depressed at all. It’s just sad because life can be sad sometimes. It’s a really honest, yet uplifting look at depression. And, there’s a really important lesson on idolizing people. Everyone has faults. It’s our job to move past them, especially if they’re yours. I really love that message. And I love this movie.

So, yeah, I thought The King of Staten Island was crazy good. I might even rank it as my favorite movie of the year thus far. It’s just a really good, funny movie with excellent characters and a lot of touching moments. I’d definitely recommend it to just about everyone, but especially if you’re already a Judd Apatow or Pete Davidson fan. I think you’re really going to like it. I am and I definitely did.

TL;DR: The King of Staten Island is a really funny, touching comedy with an amazing cast led by a fantastic Pete Davidson performance.

Score: 9/10 (Awesome)

Review: Scoob!

Scoob! (2020)

Director: Tony Cervone

Writers: Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott, Matt Lieberman, Eyal Podell, and Jonathan E. Stewart

Starring: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Simon Cowell, and Frank Welker

Plot: Scooby-Doo and the rest of Mystery Inc team up to take down the mischievous Dick Dastardly.

Review: You know what doesn’t come up all that often? That Scooby-Doo is one of my favorite IPs. I absolutely love the world of Mystery Inc. I used to watch the original cartoon on repeat. I saw both live-action movies in theaters. And, a good portion of my childhood bedroom was covered in Scooby’s face. That all having been said, the trailers for this movie did absolutely nothing to get me excited. I thought the first trailer was cute, but it didn’t have anything that stood out too much. Then, as the movie started to reveal itself, I became less interested with each addition of another Hanna-Barbera character. I was worried that we’d veer too far from the formula, not giving adequate time for our characters or the world they’ve inhabited. Well, I was half right.

First of all, let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed this version of Mystery Inc. I think all of the human characters had their personalities transferred over to the modern day really well. The only real problem I had with the team was that Scooby was a bit too vocal and that Shaggy wasn’t a vegetarian. That’s it. Otherwise, it was a pretty fair translation. When we got to see them as a team, actually solving spooky mysteries, that was the good stuff. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time spent on the classic Scooby formula. We get to see them meet up as kids, fight one monster, put together an absolutely perfectly remade version of the theme song, and… that’s it. From that point on, they’re in a Hanna-Barbera crossover movie. And, again, there’s nothing wrong with how those characters are portrayed either. It’s just that their meeting feels so forced that I can’t help but think that we’re skipping over a lot of potential great animated movies. It’s like how Justice League felt rushed, but even worse because at least those characters always have existed in the same universe. Make a great animated Scooby-Doo movie. Actually, make a couple. Then, do Dynomutt. Then, Captain Caveman. Throw in a Wacky Races movie. And, if they all work, which they should, and it makes sense, which it could, throw them all together. It would feel much better than this did.

Honestly, I don’t really have a lot to complain about otherwise. Like I said, the characters were really good. The voice acting is top notch. The animation is gorgeous. The story is.. meh. It was serviceable. The jokes weren’t all hits, but some landed pretty well. If this was an original movie, I’d probably like it a lot better. Likewise, if it was the tenth movie in the HBCU (Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe), I’d probably be more into it. This just felt like a forced hodgepodge (and there’s hints that a potential sequel would throw even more cartoons into it). I enjoyed myself while watching, but I just knew it could be so much more.

I don’t know. I guess I liked Scoob. There’s not really an massive problems with the movie they presented. It’s just not what I was looking for. It’s a fun enough animated movie though and I’m sure kids have been enjoying it. I just wish it was it’s own thing and not another victim of everyone trying to have massive universe. Curse you, Marvel. (I didn’t mean that. I love you. Please don’t go away.)

TL;DR: Scoob! is a fun, animated flick that unfortunately just doesn’t feel all that much like a Scooby-Doo movie.

Score: 6/10 (OK)

Review: Capone

Capone (2020)

Director: Josh Trank

Writer: Josh Trank

Starring: Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Jack Lowden, Noel Fisher, Kyle MacLachlan, Matt Dillon, and Al Sapienza

Plot: After he’s released from prison, Al Capone’s body and mind deteriorate in the last year of his life.

Review: Al Capone lived a very interesting life. He’s one of the most prolific gangsters of all time. He was alive for 48 years. Of those, I’m sure at least 40 of them would make a good movie. The final one, as his mind and body rotted away, probably isn’t one of those. Actually, I know it isn’t. Because I’ve seen Capone.

If I had to describe Capone in one word it would almost definitely be boring. I get that we’re supposed to compare what we’re seeing to the legends we’ve heard. It’s supposed to blow our mind that such a powerful, scary figure went out in such a pathetic, human way. And, in a way, that is kind of poetic. I get where Trank was coming from. However, it’s not enough to focus a whole movie on. Martin Scorsese just told this same kind of story with The Irishman and even he knew to show some restraint. I wasn’t huge on The Irishman, but I’d watch that three hour movie twice again before sitting through this once more. At least that had some pop to it.

I wish I could say that Tom Hardy somewhat redeemed the movie, but he didn’t really. 90% of this movie is just him sitting in a chair, mumbling incoherently. Seriously, go to Google images and that’s about all you’ll find. And, unfortunately, a lot of the moments that are supposed to be tragic could be played for laughs with just a slight tweak of the soundtrack. It’s such a delicate line to balance, but Hardy’s performance gets dangerously close to campy at times. It’s a shame too, because I bet Hardy could’ve played a really good Al Capone in a movie focused on the earlier portions of his life.

And then there’s the dream sequences… Man, those just did not work. In order to create some kind of excitement in the story, Josh Trank wrote in a couple of dream sequences. Actually, not even a couple. They were a pretty good portion of the runtime. I think they were supposed to be read as deep and thought provoking. It was Al Capone’s regret bubbling towards the surface in the last stages of his life. Again, I can see where the thought process came from. However, they are just vague, confusing and often laughable. It’s even worse when you know that our tour guide through these “nightmarish” visions is the Looney Tunes character that is Tom Hardy’s Al Capone. There wasn’t a single time where I felt any sort of emotion from them. I was mostly just perplexed. I’m down for a movie with far out imagery that’s packed with symbolism when it works. But this just felt forced and meaningless.

Capone isn’t awful, overall. It’s no Fan4stic. You can tell that Josh Trank had a vision for this movie. Something that he thought could work. It just… doesn’t. I think it comes down to the subject matter. This really isn’t as interesting of a topic as he seems to think it is

TL;DR: Capone is as dull as you’d think watching someone slowly die would be.

Score: 4/10 (Bad)

Review: Trolls World Tour

Trolls World Tour (2020)

Director: Walt Dohrn

Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Elizabeth Tippet, Maya Forbes, and Wallace Wolodarsky

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom, James Corden, Ron Funches, Kelly Clarkson, Anderson Paak, Sam Rockwell, George Clinton, and Mary J. Blige

Plot: As the pop trolls learn that there are others like them for each musical genre, the leader of the Rock group plans to eliminate everyone else.

Review: I’m going to start this review off rather bluntly. I’ve avoided the Trolls franchise, very purposely, for four years now. It just looked like a collection of tropes that I hate in modern animation. Don’t give me pop songs just because I might recognize them and it worked in Shrek. Don’t talk down to your audience just because it’s mostly children. Don’t detract from your story just to make a “funny” poop or fat joke. Just make a legitimately compelling story with fun characters and have faith that what you’re doing will hit with kids (and, maybe, even adults if you’re lucky). And, now that I’ve finally witnessed them first hand, I’ve got to say… I wasn’t far off. I really, really wanted to like Trolls and Trolls World Tour. I did. I could feel myself being sucked in. But, they were just afraid to commit and I felt pushed away just as quickly.

I honestly do think Trolls World Tour could’ve been something special. There’s a lot of fun to be had here. Jumping from genre to genre and seeing how they visually represented and personified each type of music was really entertaining. I loved the opening sequence where Rock and Techno collided. I thought the characters were fun, the visuals were neat, and the music was really, really good. The deeper we got into the different lands, the more delighted I was. Who doesn’t want to see an Ozzy troll or Sam Rockwell as a cowboy centaur? Then, they got surprisingly political. I wasn’t expecting morals like how just because we’re different doesn’t mean we can’t get along, the importance of embracing culture, and not whitewashing our past. Somehow the sequel to Trolls ended up being one of the more political movies of 2020. Not that it’s a bad thing. In fact, if it had kept the tone relatively serious, I’d probably be praising World Tour right now.

But, as in the first one, every deep meaningful quote about needing to listen to all voices to make the world a better place is quickly followed by a llama pooping out a birthday cake, candles, and flames to light those candles. Come on, Dreamworks. Way to kill a vibe. Have a little dignity. Kids can follow some surprisingly complex stuff. Look at movies like Zootopia and Inside Out. Those deal with super important, complicated issues and don’t feel like they pull any punches. Sure. There’s comedic elements in both, but there’s never anything that detracts from the morals or emotional stakes. Is it unfair that I eventually compare every animated flick to Pixar? Probably. Am I going to stop? Probably not.

The only other complaint I have about Trolls World Tour actually relates to the lead characters. They were, without a doubt, my least favorite part of this ensemble. By “leads” I’m referring to almost everyone from the first movie. The Pop trolls. Like I said earlier, I really enjoyed seeing the different visual styles of all he different tribes. Rock was all badass. Country was western. The classical guys looked like Beethoven. However, the pop… well, they just looked like generic trolls, not unlike the type you’d see on Lisa Frank merchandise in the 90s. Now, I’m not saying that’s bad. That aesthetic worked in the first movie. But, it doesn’t really represent a certain genre of music. It’s just happiness. Not necessarily pop. In fact, it’s almost like they were never created to represent a genre of music but just music in general. And then had to be retrofitted into something they weren’t intended to be in order to force out a sequel. Weird, right? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a minor gripe. But, it definitely bugged me. I think it would’ve been more believable if they just made this it’s own thing and not a sequel to Trolls. But, then, you’re missing out on that sweet, sweet IP, so who am I to say.

Overall, I’d put World Tour about on par with the first one. It has a better story for sure, but that just makes it falling flat even more disappointing. I don’t know if I’d remember anything about this franchise other than the Justin Timberlake song if Universal wasn’t constantly shoving it down our throats to make another buck off of the younlings entertained by the bright colors. Out of all of the properties that Dreamworks has franchised, I definitely think Trolls is the least special. The movies aren’t bad. But, I wouldn’t say they’re good either. They’re inoffensive, kid stuff. And, that’s alright I guess. It’s just disappointing to the rest of us.

Also, this movie maybe killed theaters forever, so that’s definitely a demerit.

TL;DR: Trolls World Tour has a really good, interesting premise, but buries it in poop jokes and glitter.

Review: 6/10 (Ok)

Review: Swallow

Swallow (2020)

Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis

Writer: Carlo Mirabella-Davis

Starring: Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche, and Denis O’Hare

Plot: An underappreciated housewife starts swallowing random objects as an act of rebellion against her controlling family. 

Review: Honestly, this review is going to be kind of short on purpose. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say about this movie. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. I really, really enjoyed Swallow. However, I also went in completely blind. I didn’t watch the trailers. I didn’t read any reviews. Actually, I didn’t even really know what genre this movie fell under. I just knew it was about a wife who swallows things. That’s it. And, that’s exactly how I’d like everyone else to experience it. Just trust me. It’s actually really good. That having been said, I will try my best to tiptoe around everything to give more specifics. 

Ok. First thing’s first, the plot in this movie is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Obviously, we’re already in a weird place at the beginning. A pregnant woman swallowing random everyday objects like marbles, tacks, and batteries? Yeah. It’s a little strange. But, they do such a good job of making her sympathetic that you can’t help but want her to do whatever makes her happy. Her family are such huge assholes. They’re the type that smile and say that they love you, but constantly make backhanded compliments and treat you like you’re crazy. And, through the process of treating her like she’s insane, they, of course, seek treatment. Things tend to come up in therapy sessions… and that’s where I’m going to stop. Let’s just say that the plot unfolds in all kinds of crazy ways from there. Like I said, I’ve never really seen a movie like this. It’s pretty insane. 

I’ve got to give major props to the director too. Everywhere I look, this movie is listed as a thriller. But, honestly, if you were just to read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia, that genre tag would probably confuse you quite a bit. Storywise, this is definitely a family drama. There really isn’t all that much going on. However, Mirabella-Davis directs it with so much intensity that you’re constantly on the edge of your seat. It feels more like Strangers on a Train or Gone Girl than Little Women. Plus, he’s got a really unique visual style. The cinematography is beautiful. I was super impressed, especially when I learned this was his first movie. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for what he does next. 

And, of course, I can’t review Swallow without mentioning the incredible lead performance by Haley Bennett. She really captures the soul of this character in a fascinating way. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen depression portrayed so realistically. She constantly looks like she’s about to break out into tears, even when she’s pretending to be happy. That felt real. The only time she honestly looked 100% happy was when she was partaking in her dangerous addiction. This definitely made her a sympathetic character. Like, you definitely knew that what she was doing was unhealthy but you couldn’t blame her since it was the only thing that made her happy. If the year ends up being as slow movie-wise as I think it’s going to be, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bennett managed to grab an Oscar nomination. It’s definitely one of my five favorite performances of the year so far. 

As you can tell, I really enjoyed Swallow. It’s unlike any movie I’ve ever seen. I wish I could dive deeper. I would love to have a conversation about certain later scenes, but this isn’t really the place for it. I’m just here to steer you towards the good movies and away from the bad. Swallow is definitely a good one. I’d check it out. And, when you do, hit me up. I’d love to talk about it some more. 

TL;DR: Swallow is unlike any movie I’ve seen with a crazy plot, great direction, and a killer lead performance. 

Score: 8/10 (Great)

Review: Greyhound

Greyhound (2020)

Director: Aaron Schneider 

Writer: Tom Hanks

Starring: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, and Elisabeth Shue

Plot: In the early days of WII, a first-time captain must lead a convoy across the Atlantic ocean, while being attacked by German submarines. 

Review: When I wrote up a post recently about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I mentioned that it was a movie that felt like it was made specifically with me in mind. Greyhound is kind of the opposite. This doesn’t feel like a movie made for me at all. It feels like it was made for someone’s dad. Someone’s dad who spends most of his free time reading books about military generals of old. Basically, it was a movie that feels like it was made by Tom Hanks for Tom Hanks. It’s not necessarily bad. It just never really managed to get me wrapped up in the story either. 

In order to explain my mostly apathetic feelings towards Greyhound properly, I feel like you have to know something about me. I am not a military strategy guy. It’s just not something that interests me. I love history and I love learning about wars. But, the moment you start to explain to me a specific battleplan, I tune out. I’m more interested in the before and after. I want to know how that war affected the world. I don’t really care for specifics on how we won. Likewise, I enjoy war movies. But, I’m not really there for the military aspects. I want a good, human story and wars feature a plethora of those. Give me a good character arc and I’m on board. Go through a step by step explanation of the real-life chess game the superiors are playing and my interest will start to fade. Unfortunately, Greyhound is all about the strategy of war. The excitement comes from watching these two sides outmaneuver each other as both try to come out victories.  It very much is like watching two characters play chess (or I guess maybe Battleship in this case). I’m sure it was all thrilling stuff if you’re into that sort of thing. I can appreciate that it was well done. I just couldn’t really get invested. 

It’s a shame too, because, when Greyhound did decide to spend a couple of seconds on character moments, they were actually really well done. For example, I love the little ongoing storyline that the main character refuses to take a break. I loved seeing the legitimate concern of those around him as he refuses to eat or sleep throughout the entire journey. Likewise, there were a couple of really good moments where the characters got to dwell on the death around them. They weren’t long. This is a very fast-paced movie, but they were impactful. Then, without getting into spoilers, I really enjoyed the ending where we got to see the respect the men had for their captain. And, of course, our lead is Tom Hanks, who is an expert at portraying emotions in even the smallest of moments. Altogether these scenes probably only took up about three minutes of the runtime, but they were what’s going to stick with me. Those tiny moments saved the movie a bit. Because otherwise, I’d be willing to call this a complete snooze fest for me. 

My other big problem with Greyhound is a little less subjective. I hated the special effects in this movie. It all felt like it was filmed in front of a giant green screen. Nothing felt real. I never, for a moment, felt like Tom Hanks was actually in the middle of the ocean. Everything just looked too fake. They filmed all of the internal stuff on an actual WWII boat, which means that those scenes look fantastic. I’ve heard a rumor that the movie originally was supposed to be even more limited than it already is and was supposed to take place exclusively in the boat. But, then, it didn’t really work so they had to add a lot of additional footage. Again, that’s just a rumor that’s floating around but it makes sense. It’s kind of a beautifully shot movie when they’re inside. However, as soon as they step outside, I felt like I might as well be watching someone play Call of Duty, to be honest. I guess that can be expected if everything else was an afterthought. This is also a pretty low budgeted movie (at least half of Dunkirk), so that may have something to do with it too. 

Overall, I’m not really sure whether I could’ve like Greyhound in its current form. I’m just not super into this type of movie. But, with the exception of the special effects, I don’t really think this is a poorly made movie either. It’s just not for me. Someone out there will definitely enjoy it. I’m just not that person. 

TL;DR: Greyhound was way too over-reliant on military jargon and CGI for me to be interested, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a bad movie. 

Score: 5/10 (Meh)

Review: The Old Guard

The Old Guard (2020)

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Writer: Greg Rucka

Starring: Charlize Theron, Kiki Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Veronica Ngo, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Plot: A group of immortal mercenaries is hunted down by a pharmaceutical company looking to forcibly take advantage of their healing abilities. 

Review: If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll notice that I’m a little hard on Netflix films. While they’re shows often feel fresh and exciting, their original movie catalogue often feels like what used to be direct to video fluff. One or two good movies might make their way through, but for the most part I don’t get excited for Netflix originals. Even their most popular works like Bird Box, Extraction, and The Irishman leave me kind of mixed at best. So, I was skeptical when everyone started hyping up The Old Guard. The trailer didn’t sell me either, as it gave me intense Bloodshot vibes. But, I’m here today to tell you all that I was wrong. The Old Guard is freaking amazing. I really, really enjoyed it. 

The most surprising element of The Old Guard to me was how strong the script was. Of course, once I looked into it a bit more I was no longer shocked. It was written by the same guy who wrote the comic book series this was based on. And, say what you will about comic books, but they often have time to pause and take a moment to really focus on character moments and the morality of what they are doing. As much as I like the big, flashy comic book movies, they often don’t have enough time to really get into that. The Old Guard does. We have several scenes of our heroes sitting down and contemplating what it means to be immortal, how lonely it is, and whether or not what they are doing is right. Those moments are always super important and super touching. It feels natural that a comic book writer would understand that and try to bring it to the adaptation. Oh, and the world-building is fantastic. This is only one movie, but, by the end, we understand who these characters are and, more or less, their whole backstories. It’s really impressive. 

The other biggest positive take away from The Old Guard isn’t nearly as surprising. The action scenes are really, really good. Charlize Theron is a genuine asskicker. She’s proved it time and time again, in movies like Atomic Blonde and Mad Max: Fury Road. Well, she does it here again. (The fact that she’s also an Academy Award winning actress makes her OP as hell.) This time, though, she uses melee weapons, which, as I probably don’t have to tell you, are super cool. The fight scenes were so well choreographed and beautiful that I legitimately got excited whenever a new sequence started. It’s also noteworthy to point out that this is the action coordinator from Avengers: Endgame and Birds of Prey. Both of those movies had really cool fight scenes too, so, obviously, he knows what he’s doing. So, badass actress and a talented stunt team? Yeah. It’s not surprising that the action sequences work so well here. That doesn’t make them any less fun though. 

As you can tell, I really enjoyed The Old Guard a lot more than I thought I would. It’s a really fun superhero-esque movie that isn’t afraid to take a break for deeper, emotional moments. It’s kind of the perfect balance between drama and action, to be honest. Plus, the world is a lot of fun. Think of it as a Wolverine movie, but with only the healing powers and not the adamantium skeleton. It definitely blew my expectations out of the water. I had a lot of fun watching it. Apparently, there’s already a sequel being made, which excites me because I definitely wouldn’t mind spending more time in this universe. Actually, I wouldn’t mind a series of five or six movies, if they’re all this good. Bring it on, Netflix. 

TL;DR: The Old Guard mixes well choreographed action sequences with deep, emotional conversations to create a really strong, unique entry in the comic book movie genre. 

Score: 8/10 (Great)