Movie Review: LADY BIRD

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lady birdA24
2017
R

“I hate California, I want to go to the east coast. I want to go where culture is like, New York, or Connecticut, or New Hampshire.”

When it comes to pop culture, I’ve always said it’s okay to have a preference. It doesn’t mean that you can’t branch out and try new things; it just means that, in the whole scheme of things, you know what you like, and you’re comfortable with that. For instance, it’s no big secret that I’m a fan of horror movies. But, I do have close friends that like normal movies. Or, as some of them like to put it, “good movies”. That’s debatable. The point is, if the buzz is good surrounding a movie that normally wouldn’t be within my particular demographic, let’s just say, I’m not averse to check it out to see what the noise is all about.

Such was the situation with the movie Lady Bird. This was a movie that you couldn’t get away from the buzz it was making. It was praised left and right, being touted as thee movie to see in 2017. I don’t know if it won any kind of award, as I don’t keep abreast with those thing. But, the praise for Lady Bird was strong enough that, despite it being described as a kind of coming-of-age movie, I decided to check out the moment it became available for free streaming with my Prime membership. Hey, I was interested, but I still didn’t want to pay much for something I’m probably going to watch once, bang out a review of, and then probably forget about later in the week. Or month. Or, whatever.

So, after watching it, I have to come out and say it: Lady Bird is vastly overrated. Keep in mind, I went into this kinda wanting to like it. I have no problem with coming of age movies, and this one seemed interesting, with its premise of a Catholic high school girl’s senior year and all the stuff that goes with these kind of things in movies. We come in with the titular character and her mother driving back from a college visit, then beginning her senior year, where, in the course of the entire school year, she worries about trying to get into a college that’s not in California — preferably a romanticized New York college that her favorite authors went to — while her family struggles to make ends meet; she joins a school musical production, falls in love with her first boyfriend who turns out to be gay and kind of using her as a coverup, she hooks up with another boy who is in a band and ditches her best friend for one of the rich girls as her totes BFF, loses her virginity and breaks up with the current BF in one fell swoop, makes up with her original BFF and talks about cheese and other stuff with her instead of going to prom, discovers that she has, indeed, been accepted into one of the New York colleges against her mother’s wishes, then flies out to said college, only to promptly get alcohol poisoning at a party, then calling and leaving a message on her parents’ answering machine that she loves her mom. Then the movie ends abruptly. Throughout this movie, it’s interspersed with her arguing and fighting with her mother over various things, and shopping at thrift stores. Oh, and she starts going by her real name at the end. Because that signifies maturity, I guess.

Lady Bird, for me at least, was kind of the movie watching equivalent to driving west-bound on I-80 through Nebraska; there are some interesting things to look at, and once in a while you find yourself enjoying a bit or two, but when it comes down to it, the beats are recognizable and over half-way through you begin wondering how much longer until you finally reach the end destination. With, of course, the occasional pause to hit a rest stop on the way.

There was a lot to like about this movie, though: the acting was great, especially the dynamic between Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf as her mother. And yes, because of Laurie Metcalf, I began to pretend that this was a spin-off of the original run of Rosanne, which made things a bit more fun.

But anyway, no, I concede that Lady Bird isn’t a bad movie. It is rather good, yes…but it’s not my cup of black-as-my-heart coffee. I’m really more of a Wes Anderson type when it comes to “normal” movies. And that is really all I have to say about that.

Movie Review: The CLEANSE

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the cleanseVertical Entertainment
2016
R

Hey, do you remember Darlene’s boyfriend/husband from the original run of the television series Rosanne? You know, the kind-of whiny, passive-aggressive guy with the weird hair? Yeah, I may be dating myself somewhat. Let me try that again: Hey, do you know that guy from the Big Bang Theory? I don’t know if he’s dating or married to anyone on the show, as I don’t watch it. But, the guy with the hair? And used to be on Rosanne? The actor’s name is Johnny Galecki, if that helps. Yeah, that guy. He happens to star in this movie here, The Cleanse.

Like a lot of horror-esque movies that are not exactly on the beaten path, I learned of The Cleanse by way of the Who Goes There? podcast (one of the few horror podcasts worth your attention, you should check them out), which recently featured an episode talking about this movie. It piqued my interest enough to check it out myself. Also, I used the phrase “horror-esque” earlier, because this is really more of a comedy fantasy drama that has a bit of horror in it. Meaning, it’s a gender-bending movie that is essentially the first full-length movie made by writer/director Bobby Miller.

So, what we have with The Cleanse is a story about a man (Galecki) who can’t seem to get out of a downward spiral his life took after getting stood up at the altar and losing his job. He comes across a late-night television ad for a retreat that promises to help those who are chosen to participate. After being chosen (of course he would, otherwise this would be a very short, very pointless movie), he arrives at the resort, along with the other three that were picked, where they all drink four jars each of some kind of cleansing liquid tailor-made just for them. After drinking these, three of the four vomit up odd slug-like critters that remind me of that catapiller-dog thing from House 2, which manage to be both horrible and adorably cute at the same time. They’re told that the creatures are the physical manifestations of all the toxic emotions and anxiety that has built up over the course of their lives, and part of the cleanse is putting the creatures to death by their own hands. The problem is, it seems that everyone who had–for lack of a better word–given birth to these things have bonded with them, so going through with the final phase of the cleanse is a bit harder than it sounds. Which, considering these things are growing and developing a kind of nasty bitey-bitey thing, might be a problem very soon.

Overall, I found The Cleanse to be an interesting mish-mash of sorts, blending together the aforementioned genres into something that works more as a dramady if collaborated with David Cronenberg. The movie isn’t bad, but then again you don’t get a lot of reason to care about the characters enough to really get invested in the story. Galecki seems to have one defining character trait in his acting: milquetoast, and his character in this movie does nothing to change that. The boyfriend/girlfriend couple are totally wasted, two-dimensional characters that seemed superfluous to the overall story. They could have been cut all together, and it would have taken nothing away from the story. As you can probably guess, the two big names on this — Anjelica Huston and Oliver Platt — are underutilized, but great when they get their miniscule screentime.

The Cleanse, when all is said and done, is just meh. It feels half-baked, but it does have its moments. The critter effects were just darned cute. But, if you’re wanting a less cerebral, less graphic type of horror blend like The Cure For Wellness, The Cleanse may be just for you.

Movie Review: The EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

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edge of seventeenSTX Entertainment
2016
R

“I don’t wanna take up a ton of your time, but I’m gonna kill myself. I just thought an adult should know.”

Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine, who is already at peek awkwardness, when her all-star older brother Darian starts dating her best friend Krista. All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until the unexpected friendship of a thoughtful boy gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all.

To answer your unasked question: yes, I’m feeling okay. I’m fine, really. I understand your concern, because I’m reviewing what’s essentially a coming-of-age teen dramady, and an Oscar nominated film at that. To be fair, I am just as shocked as you are. But, to reiterate, I’m fine. No, really.

There’s a perfectly good reason why I decided to watch The Edge Of Seventheen. Well, two good reasons, actually: Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson.

Hailee Steinfeld, who plays the lead of the movie, blew me away with her performance in the True Grit remake in 2010. And she was only 14 then, with that movie being her first. Now, she’s a bit older, with some more experience, which brought a rather nuanced and delightfully complex take to the character of Nadine. Woody Harrelson plays a grizzled teacher that at first seem to be a mere curmudgeon, but then there’s more underneath the crusty outer shell through all this.

It’s the interaction between these two characters that is this movie’s best feature. Watching these two trade some smartly written barbs between each other was fantastic. Harrelson’s reaction to Nadine’s opening suicide threat proclamation is especially dry and hilarious.

Beyond that, though, The Edge Of Seventeen is just another teen dramady where something otherwise benign makes said teen’s world begin to crumble around them, teen does stupid things as reactionary something-something, then teen has epiphany and everything is all sunshine, rainbows and unicorn farts. And puppies. Let’s not forget the puppies. End on an up-tempo indie rock tune for the credits, and you get the idea.

Yeah, had it not been for the the presence of Steinfeld and Harrelson, chances are good I never would have given The Edge Of Seventeen a second thought. And, unfortunately for those of you hoping I would give up my particular taste in movie genres and embrace “good” movies..nope. Whole lotta nope. Sorry, but this did nothing of the sort. It’s a very good movie, don’t get me wrong. It’s just not my cinematic poison.