Posted in Movies

“Wonder Woman” Kicked Ass

We all saw Gal Gadot onscreen as Diana, princess of Themyscira, demigoddess and Amazonian warrior, in Man of Steel 2: Batman vs. Superman last year, but she didn’t really get to shine until she got her own movie this summer. The box office revenue speaks for itself, Wonder Woman is set to be the highest grossing film of the summer, it’s breaking records like gangbusters, and it’s still in theaters. Still, the impact of Wonder Woman is possibly as of yet unknowable- it’s pretty amazing seeing a Jewish woman playing the warrior princess of legend, and a woman taking center stage in any superhero movie.
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The beginning of the movie is just beautiful, Themyscira is an untouched island of pure magic, populated by strong, powerful Amazons. This picturesque setting provides a perfect contrast to the smog-filled London streets and western front, which show the difference between the morally black-and-white world of Diana’s origin and the world of men and women, where there are gray areas. Diana’s character arc is partially based in her acquiring the understanding of a moral spectrum, and of the complications inherent in humanity. She sees Steve Trevor, and she sees an unquestionably good man, but his decisions confuse her, his choices seem out of character to her. She sees the gang of misfits they employ, and she sees that they contain their share of good, and does not understand how they can be so dissolute. In getting to know them as a proxy for all of humanity, she sees that they are morally complex, existing on a continuum of good and evil, not a binary. Selling goods at the war front, acting, and shooting people from behind are at first inscrutable to Diana, but she grows to understand. Her ability to empathize with others is her greatest asset, and she grows so much during the course of the film, as she takes on the world.
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The supporting actors are no less extraordinary than Gadot or Pine, both of whom are obviously wonderful in their roles, Robin Wright in particular being a standout. She conveys the love and concern of an aunt, while mentoring her young charge with the necessary pragmatism. Sacrificing her own life to save Diana is entirely within character, and her loss is a moving moment in the film. The inclusion of actors and characters of color is clearly deliberate, and it works. I have almost no complaints about the film, though it seems as though it could have easily been written by a female, rather than a male screenwriter. I know seeing the movie with my mom was an amazing experience, and I don’t doubt thousands of little girls out there had the same awe-filled reaction as I did.

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Posted in TV

Sam B’s Badass “Not the White House Correspondence Dinner”

I’m an outspoken fan of Samantha Bee, who has been best known as an outstanding correspondent on The Daily Show back when our dear Jon Stewart was at the helm. However, she embarked on her own television journey in early 2016, and has been our feminist crush of the month for the last fourteen consecutive months that the show has been airing. Bee is brilliant in Full Frontal, which is in its second unapologetically awesome season, and last night Sam and her staff (along with some special guests) put on what they call The Not the White House Correspondence Dinner, an hour-long event broadcasted on TBS at the same time as the White House Correspondence Dinner.

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The cold open with Alison Janney was perfect, she owns any room she enters and we all love her. The main goal of the evening was to draw attention to the plight of journalists in the post-facts society we appear to be inhabiting, and Bee certainly put the press on blast while raising money to protect journalists. All of the profits of the event went to the Committee to Protect Journalists, so that attacks on journalists can remain online where they belong.

Special guest Will Ferrel as former president George W. Bush certainly brought some star power to the event, but his impression was a tad rusty and he appeared for around five minutes. His appearance wasn’t the strength of the show, it’s the amazing Full Frontal staff who provide the backbone. I wish we could have seen a bit more of the wonderful Ashley Nicole Black, but I guarantee a few of those zingers were hers, as was a good deal of the applause. Steve Buscemi’s cameo was adorable, he almost never gets a chance to be the funny guy these days, but he nails it. A few other notable guests were the comedians who got all of fifteen seconds each to speak. They’re all wonderful and talented, but they didn’t even get three minutes total between them. I’m a huge Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher fan, Kumail Nanjiani is brilliant, and Patton Oswalt is a treasure. They all got their little digs in, but you have to wonder what they could have done with a bit more airtime.

While the show’s timing was certainly flawed, overal, the biting tone of Full Frontal shined through in the way we love to see. Let’s just hope that Sam can stay on the air long enough to cover a president on her intellectual level.   

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Posted in Movies

Netflix Gems: Rom Coms

We all love Netflix. It’s a service a lot of people use, which provides an excellent product and allows us to binge on television and movies in an easy and fun way. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find things to watch that you haven’t seen a million times, so I thought I would make a few lists of great things to watch on Netflix. So, without further ado, here are the best romantic comedies you can watch on Netflix.

  1. The Decoy Bride: This is a great movie, starring David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald. It’s set on a small Scottish island, where the beautiful Alice Eve portrays an actress trying to get married in secret, and the whole island gets totally turned upside down. Kelly Macdonald is lovely and sympathetic as the protagonist Katie, and the music is awesome.Image result for the decoy bride
  2. The Switch: Jennifer Aniston has her time and place, but the real strength of this movie is the cuteness between the father, Jason Bateman, and their son. This movie is not super profound, but it is a cute love story about falling in love with family.
  3. Practical Magic: Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are both always a win, but as witches they are fun and sweet. The movie is about love, but also about sisterhood, Image result for bridget jones diaryand family. 100% would watch again.
  4. Bridget Jones’ Diary: The whole Bridget Jones cannon is brilliant, but the first film is always fun to come back to. You may have even forgotten some of the funniest bits.
  5. The Last Five Years: The songs are a bit hit or miss, but this movie-musical is beautifully romantic and terribly sad. Anna Kendrick continues to be a promising talent, and Jeremy Jordan is a great leading man. Don’t watch this if you want to be reassured of the reality of love, because it doesn’t end well.
  6. While You Were Sleeping: Wow, two Sandra Bullock movies in one list! This movie is just some sweet ’90s fun.
  7. After the Ball: A young woman gets kicked out of her family’s clothing company. What else is there to do but dress as a man and prove herself? She also happens to fall in love along the way. Very sweet, very Canadian.
  8. 10 Things I Hate About You: Another classic ’90s movie with a cast of some future famous people and some future nobodies. Funny, sweet, sex-positive and full of poetry.

That’s eight to get you started, comment your favorite rom-coms, specifically ones you can stream.

Posted in Movies

“Bridget Jones Baby” A Labor of Love

We haven’t had a new Bridget Jones in more than ten years, so it’s about time Renée Zellweger got back to charming the pants of me. The original is a classic, the sequel is hilarious, and this film, released in 2016, is a riot. A very worthy finale to a tremendous franchise, and one with a female star over forty! What a win.

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Bridget Jones is perpetually single, and having her back in the metaphorical saddle is just the best part of 2016. Her delivery continues to be perfect, and her two co-stars are the best pairing in a rom-com I’ve seen in a while. Patrick Dempsey wears so many cable knit sweaters. He’s great as the lonely billionaire our Bridge falls into bed with and yet not in love with. As a possible father, he is supportive, kind, and accommodating. By far his best moments are pretending to be Mark’s husband, and him being way too nice and kinda new age-y. The math guy wants a family, and one appears to him. His longing for a family makes sense, and his being a nice guy makes him do the right thing. He was a perfect replacement for Hugh Grant, whom all of us loved to hate as Daniel Cleaver.

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Emma Thompson is another pedigreed actress, and she brings the movie some much-appreciated brilliance. You probably need a sense of humor like that to be an OB-GYN, but she bounces off of the other characters with her good sense in a way that is both charming and ridiculous. I love her in everything, but she’s lovely in this, marrying her usual dry wit with kind sensibility.
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Colin Firth is his usual brilliant self, and I couldn’t get enough of him. He so desperately wants to be with Bridget, but he respects her and her choices and wants to do what it takes to make her happy. When he thinks that Jack is what will make her happy, he steps back. Mark loves Bridget enough to commit himself to another man’s son, while Jack isn’t quite that selfless. Also, Colin Firth breaking a window calmly is all I needed from life. I’m not sure if getting bitten or punched directly in the face is worse, but we all knew it was going to be Mark. It has always been Mark for Bridget. The film was excellent, made even better by a stellar soundtrack. It’s a fitting end to a great series, and it gives the first two films a great resolution. Also, Bridget bouncing her son on her hip one-armed is a move all moms have had to master. Good on you, Bridge.   Bridget Jones hot fabulous renee zellweger milf GIF

Posted in TV

“Big Little Lies” Finale

We all knew the end was nigh, but the end of this series still brought me sadness- this show has been a dramatic and intense journey, and I know it had a finite life, but it still makes me melancholy. The ending was everything I expected.

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Just to start at the beginning, Celeste lying on the ground as Perry beats her, her in her underwear and him fully clothed, is a powerful image. Her going to her therapist shows that in the beginning of this episode, Celeste knows that she is going to leave her husband. Her finding out that her son is the bully that has been turning the school upside down is just another slap in the face, but it makes the most sense  Max observed abuse in his home, by his male role model. Jane and Ziggy being vindicated is just a side effect, and Renata’s redemption is easy to swallow she apologizes to Jane and accepts the truth with grace.

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Jane gets closure in this episode, she discovers the identity of her rapist, and defends Celeste from him before he is pushed to his death by Bonnie. All of the women trying to protect Celeste is also important we see these different women, all moms but fundamentally so different, banding together to guard one of their number from a force of evil because Perry is evil in the end. He isn’t a good father, or husband, or a provider, he is, unequivocally, a monster. And he gets the end he deserves.

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The singing was one of my favorite bits, because (aside from the great voices- wow!) it does remind us that the posturing doesn’t end with the women on this show- the guys are just as much drama. In fact, I would argue that the physical threat the husbands present to each other is more worrying than the social threats the women actually carry out. The aggression the husbands, specifically Ed, Nathan, and Gordon, display toward the women and each other, is alarming. Leaving out entirely the central conflict between Perry and Celeste, Gordon threatens Jane and Madeline, Ed and Nathan threaten each other on multiple occasions. Ed and Nathan are openly hostile, which is understandable, they are both insecure. Ed feels insecure in his relationship with Madeline, and Nathan feels inadequate as a father to his oldest daughter. It makes sense that they display animosity to each other, but the violent aspect of their quarreling is disquieting.

Overall, Big Little Lies has been a triumph. The leading ladies are all established actresses, but I think the kids and Kathryn Newton (Abigale) just made a great resumé builder, and can definitely write their own tickets for the next few years. Alexander Skarsgård was incredible, although I don’t know that he will ever be able to play a sympathetic role again. I see some awards in the future, and at least one of them better be for the music, because oh my god was it amazing.

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Side note: I just realized that Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley last worked together playing mother and daughter in The Fault in Our Stars in 2014. Woodley, at 25, is playing a very challenging role at a young age. I’d assume, as with Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, that Woodley is playing Jane as slightly older than she is in reality. Assuming Jane was 21 when she was raped by Perry, as she met him in a bar, she’d be twenty-seven in the show, which is only two years older than Woodley. I’m going to let myself believe this, since the alternative is that Jane was raped at nineteen and became a mother at twenty, which feels somehow worse. The rest of the actresses in the show play slightly older mothers, all but Kravitz are over forty, and having Woodley, who has played primarily teen roles, work alongside them only emphasizes her youth and vulnerability. That is to say, it works.
Posted in Movies

“Lego Batman” is Better

The commercial success of The Lego Movie was almost certainly going to be followed by a sequel, but The Lego Batman Movie was unanticipated, by me at least. Will Arnett is hilarious, and his part in The Lego Movie was highly entertaining, and it seems like intellectual property should prevent this, but nope. And now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m actually pretty floored.

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Unpopular opinion: I dislike Batman. He’s kind of bad at being a superhero, and the guy is in serious need of therapy. I have a lot of other reasons, but the bottom line is that Batman is mostly uninteresting to me. More popular opinion: I hated Man of Steel 2. I tried to watch Batman Begins but it bored me so much that I had to give up on it. I’m usually a completist, but it was genuinely so long and so dull that I just turned it off. Batman in general doesn’t interest me much, but I was such a fan of The Lego Movie that I decided I needed to see it, and it was a riot. Batman is funniest at his most self-aware, and this movie is remarkably good at poking fun at itself.

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The Lego Batman Movie makes Batman just as angsty and and as much of a loner as he’s been previously, but it’s just so funny to watch him do his own thing while his companions try to make him understand how insane he is. As the audience, we see Batman’s irrationality- but it’s funny, not frustrating. The supporting cast is a triumph- as previously stated, Rosario Dawson is always a win. Ralph Fiennes as Alfred is just gold, and Michael Cera performs an extremely Michael Cera role while being way more sympathetic than Batman is. The rest of the voice talent is first-class, and there are some real stars who you might not have recognized, including Conan O’Brien, Mariah Carrey, Jonah Hill and Ellie Kemper. Zach Galifianakis as the Joker is obviously the movie’s best character, frankly better than Jared Leto’s Joker in the epic failure Suicide Squad. The chemistry with the villains is flawless, and ultimately, I’d like to see more movies like this one.   lego lego batman the lego batman movie GIF

Posted in TV

“Big Little Lies” Episode 6

Things keep chugging along in Monterey, where our three favorite moms (and Laura Dern) are confronting their problems in spectacular fashion. Episode six does not disappoint, bringing us some more revelations and an awkward dinner party that ends in vomit. Let’s dive in!

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Maddie and Ed finally are addressing their marital problems, which mostly are within the context of their lack of passion, or Maddie’s lack of passion, to be specific. Ed does the good-guy thing, which makes me like him more. The dudes on this show (at least the ones who aren’t adorable six year-olds) are pretty lousy, but out of the lot Ed is the decent one. He cares about the needs of his partner, and is devoted to her. Ed doesn’t confront issues well, but that’s a two way street: Maddie confronts the problems of everyone but herself. I think it’s pretty clear that they’re going to stay together, and Maddie isn’t going to tell him about her affair. The conversation between Maddie and her daughter is metaphorically resonant, because it takes place outside, not in her room at her dad’s. I think it’s important that Maddie tells someone. In telling Abigale about something she’s not proud of, Maddie makes herself vulnerable. Watching, we as the audience see that, despite all of her prickliness, Maddie is all soft spots. The relationship between Maddie, her ex, and their respective spouses has only soured with their reconciliation dinner, but the drama of the final episode will hopefully make them forget their squabbling. Abigale’s behavior is a misguided teen’s cry for attention, and it works. I think that by the conclusion of episode seven, Abigale will be moved back in with her mother.

Shailene does herself proud in this episode. The sex talk with Ziggy is a great moment of parenting, where Jane was clearly caught off guard but explained everything in a way Ziggy could understand. Jane’s tension with Maddie this episode was a bit rough, but it served its purpose. Being honest with Maddie is a big part of Jane’s journey, she’s learning to be honest with herself and her friends. Saxon turning out not to be Ziggy’s father and Jane’s rapist tightens things a bit- we’re going to learn his identity, the identity of the murderer, and the murdered, in one episode. That’s gonna be one packed hour. I thought her trying to make things good with Renata made sense, but Renata is still just a blindingly unsympathetic character.

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She’s worried about her kid, but she has no concern for anyone else. True, Jane does attack her, but Renata has been provoking Jane and socially humiliating her son. Jane is the one we feel for, because she’s by herself, she’s doing her best, and she apologizes when she’s wrong. Renata also says she’s sorry, albeit gracelessly.

Big Little Lies hbo shailene woodley adam scott reese witherspoon GIFOf course, this is really another Celeste episode. Nicole Kidman got the meatiest part on this show, despite the intensity and complexity of the other characters. The scenes with the therapist continue to be pitch-perfect, and you can slowly see Celeste understanding the true nature of her marriage. When she looks around that new apartment, you can see her placing twin beds for her twin sons, boxes of Legos and toy guns and dinosaurs. Celeste only truly accepts that her marriage is a hostage situation when Perry threatens her life, and that’s when she knows she has to do what her therapist is telling her.

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The music in this episode is maybe even better than it’s been- the production on this show is really fantastic, some of HBO’s best. I’m sad that it’ll be over next episode, but I anticipate a very satisfying finale.