Cinebites #13

Welcome to my mini movie review series. I watch a lot of movies and I thought it’d be fun to share a few thoughts on some of the things I’ve watched.

These are all SPOILER FREE reviews so you can enjoy these films at your leisure.

The Farewell (2019)

This movie completely side swiped me. I thought Uncut Gems was snubbed at the Oscars (and it was, it absolutely was) but after watching this I feel I would have been okay with Uncut Gems not getting its day in the sun if only The Farewell had. The movie was so complex and compelling that calling it a comedy or a drama both seem unfair. The movies central pillar is the absolutely charming Lu Hong playing a pitch perfect matriarch being lied to by her entire family. Family relations, language, tradition, connection, love, grief, loss, and so much more are explored in this brief but impactful movie to a degree that was so heavy and so yet so light. I ended up sitting through the entire credits just because I was busy collecting my thoughts after it was over. I just really enjoyed watching characters with different relationships and different cultural backgrounds despite being in the same family negotiate each other while dealing with the central conflict. Honestly, I loved it.

Final Verdict: Easily one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. This doesn’t rewrite the book on film making but it impressively juggles themes, visual motifs, and human connections. The acting in this is top notch even if the script veers between too lifelike and too stilted. I think this might have been billed to a lot of people as a comedy because it stars Awkwafina but it is not. This is not Crazy Rich Asians, this is more like a non-gross, Lost in Translation if that makes sense to anyone but me. It’s as much a love letter to tradition and family as it is to the friction that is caused to those systems by modern ways and changing relationships within families. It’s equal parts about fish out of water and returning to a place we once felt comfortable in only to find that the place has changed as much as we have. Gosh, I just really loved this movie so much. I hope you’ll take two hours and go see it already so I can stop gushing so much.

Mega Time Squad (2018)

My husband loves movie posters. This quirky movie was picked because of its poster which hasn’t really worked out for us yet but one day could yield good results. This is a low brow New Zealand time travel movie about crime, mafia, and idiots. On the positive side of things the movie is short, pretty well done on a shoe string budget, and surprisingly keeps track of its time travel perfectly (unlike a certain 300 million blockbuster that shall not be named). On the negative side, if you make your main character an absolute moron they’re not appealing to me at all. Silly but never laugh out loud funny. A bit on the racist side and basically all edges, this movie offers up a heap of things that just do not appeal to me. Slow and plodding with a weird side of racism and sexism makes this a big slog in the end despite a few quippy moments and an idea that looks pretty good on paper.

Final Verdict: Just skip this one. Not only is there nothing new under the sun but it offers very little in the way of entertainment and very little in the way of acting…or movie. The movies best gag is a dumb editing trick pulled straight from the pages of Edgar Wright so just watch any of Wright’s movies which are all infinitely better.

Us (2019)

I wanted to like this so much. Get Out was such a good movie but I got to end of Us and I was left with a lot of fundamental questions that either can’t be answered or can’t be answered well. The thing is all the elements are here: great premise, amazing acting (seriously everyone is just doing so much acting in this movie and I love it), fantastic imagery, and yet…this ends up middling for me because at the end of the day the themes and metaphors are all mixed up. This isn’t even a slight against the film though, I don’t ask that all my horror be as thematically coherent as Hereditary or Annihilation. I really liked the movie anyway but it felt a lot less…thought out. Considering how hard it was pushed as a ‘political movie’ in all my conversations with people the film had some trouble there. This film felt political to the level of Nightmare on Elm Street (broad strokes and even then, some mixed ideas about those broad strokes). There’s nothing wrong with that but I wish people had prepared me for that because I just can’t get over my sense of disappointment.

Final Verdict: It is basically impossible to view this movie and not compare it to Get Out. And it is nowhere near the realm of Get Out. It’s a great movie and if you missed it, absolutely see it. Easily one of the better horror movies of the last few years but on the theme and thoughtful political discourse edge, well, not so much. I will also say that I didn’t actually have any moment in this movie where I felt scared or even on edge. I don’t know if that’s me and my nature but it’s worth noting. The best part of this film is the acting and the visual language of it. Some of the shots are really just lovely little worlds on to themselves. Worth a view if you missed it in theaters.

Queen & Slim

I have some notes for this film. This film feels sprawling in a way that might have actually worked better as a television series than a movie. I liked parts of the film but the script is…not great and since it definitely wanted to tackle very serious issues it needed a few more passes and maybe to cut a couple of things to do that. This film is like if you only have one movie but you want to talk about 400 issues. This film is if you think you have something to say but you just end up repeating everything everyone else is saying less good.

There’s a lot to love about the visuals and some of the acting, but at other times this ends up working against the movie. Not every shot is supposed to be a music video high definition slow mo shot. Not every line is the most important line. Also this movie has weird ADR (lines overlaid over shots with no connecting meaning) and bizzare ideas about editing (including some story lines cut back in at strange moments). The film seems to be at odds with itself which was kind of disappointing since it has a few really nice moments.

Final Verdict: I wouldn’t recommend this film. I have a pet peeve that I don’t like voice overs generally. Voice overs should be used sparingly to either give a brief internal look into the character or to explain from a position outside of the movie. This movie is GRATUITOUS with voice overs doing neither of those things. Honestly, they’re never used for any real reason in this movie and they appear to be because they wanted more talking but hadn’t shot those lines. They’re confusing and misplaced and they break up really introspective moments and make them loud and strange. That’s kind of a microcosm of this film. It’s a lot of things that aren’t in the movie trying to jam themselves into it and it makes for a pretty unpleasant overall picture.

Also Jodie Turner-Smith is unable to keep up with Daniel Kaluuya which wouldn’t be a problem in most movies but they’re basically the only people on screen for two hours. It’s extremely distracting because they appear to be on different planes of existence. Normally I wouldn’t comment but it’s a big part of the movie.

Velocipastor (2018)

Who am I to tell you that the existence of a half-pastor, half-Velociraptor is wrong? This is a delightful little gem of a B movie. Its tongue is so firmly wedged in its cheek you’ll be amazed that anything can be said about this at all. Blissfully aware of what it is at all times the script is straight and to the point never trying to really justify its absurdity and instead letting you simply enjoy the sight of something that you didn’t know you wanted. Like the original Sharknado it runs out of steam at times because its plot was probably conceived in the same way as its title: high people saying words at the same time. Overall it’s a fun little romp with not a lot holding the pieces together. Sometimes literally.

Where it excels: great music, never takes itself too seriously, absolutely bonkers dialogue, breakneck speed, very aware of stereotypes and harmful tropes against sex workers and Asians and works to subvert those

Where it falls flat: costume department really dropped the ball, dinosaur bad, it doesn’t wholly work at trope subversion, it’s a B movie, it cost no money and it looks like it cost no money which is sometimes literally distracting in ways that are more confusing than the film was hoping for, mixed bag acting

Final Verdict: Get a few drinks and a few friends (on Zoom) and this is a perfect 75 minutes of enjoyment. There’s not a lot here but since it all together cost $35k it’s hard to really fault what morsels are there. At the end of the day this is easily 1000x more watchable than The Room or Iron Skies to me because it’s honestly just silly.

That’s all for this time! See you soon (hopefully) with 5 more films!

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