Review: My Life as a Zucchini

Life is hard.

Courgette (Erick Abbate) is a 9 year old boy who lives with his alcoholic mother. She calls him "Zucchini" which he insists on being called after he's taken away from her and sent to live at a group home by a policeman named Raymond (Nick Offerman) At first he has trouble fitting in, but when a new girl Camille (Ness Krell) comes to live at the home, he develops a crush that causes him to open up a bit more.

I didn't realize at first that I was going to see the English dub of this Oscar nominated cartoon from Switzerland. At first, it bothered me a bit, not getting to hear it in French, but the moment Offerman started speaking that all went away. His voice, like many of the others is perfect.

An animated movie about a foster home is a hard sell, but My Life as a Zucchini manages to explore some very heavy themes all while keeping it somewhat light. The children are beautifully naive at times, and at others so sad and fragile. It reminded me at times of Short Term 12, only told from the child's perspective. I can't help but feel so much affection for this film. It doesn't have any missteps.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A+

Memorable Quote: "There's no one left to love us." - Simon (Romy Beckman)

2017 Blind Spot Series: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?

What I knew going in: I knew of the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Also stupid trivia fact: This was the movie playing at the theater in the House of Wax remake.

Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) was once a child star. At some point, her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) became a better actress and took all the limelight. Not wanting to be a brat like Jane, Blanche wrote it in her contract that Jane must get a movie every time she does. Years later, Blanche is confined to a wheelchair and relies on her sister, now a serious drunk for help. 

I wanted to see this one before Feud started airing on FX.(I watched this in February) I'm so glad I rushed because it was amazing. Davis is absolutely marvelous as the washed up Jane. Crawford's Blanche gets to be very kind and pleasant, so it's Davis that gets to have all the fun.

The way the film is shot is very dated. It tries hard to avoid any type of gore that could stem from the story, but the atmosphere is perfect. The ending came as a shock to me, and I found it morbidly fascinating in the same way I enjoyed Sunset Boulevard. If the film has one fault, it's a subplot surrounding a piano player (Victor Buono) who comes in to help Jane with her come back. The story itself makes sense, but Buono is so terrible that I'm shocked he was given an Oscar nomination for this. Luckily, it's such a small part it's easy to ignore his acting and focus on the real stars of the show.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A+

Memorable Quote: "Oh Blanche, you know we have rats in the cellar?" - Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis)

Thursday Movie Picks: Underdogs

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is one you probably won't see coming. It's the underdogs. The ones we either don't see or root for despite not being the obvious choice. There's a lot to choose from this week, here are some that I enjoy.

1) Zootopia

I actually had a different pick here at first, then I realized I wanted to use it later. Luckily, Allie accidentally posted her Underdog picks a few months ago and I was so inspired by one of her choices that I stole it. lol Judy is the perfect underdog.  

2) Dodgeball

This is one of my all time favorite comedies. It's completely ridiculous but how can you not love this thrown together dodgeball team?

3) The Replacements

This one is more for the nostalgia factor. My friend and I used to watch this DVD quite a bit in high school when we couldn't decide on something else. It's not the greatest, but it brings back good memories. 

Review: The Belko Experiment

These benefits are not worth it.

In Bogota, Columbia there is an office building on the outskirts of of the city belonging to Belko Industries. It seems just like any other day for their employees, until they notice the heightened security. They assume it's just a threat and push on. There's Mike ( John Gallagher Jr.) who's in a relationship with Leandra (Adria Arjona) Leandra has to put up with the unwanted advances of Wendell.(John C. McGinley) There's Dany (Melonie Diaz) who is just starting her first day. And then there's COO Barry (Tony Goldwyn) trying to take charge. In total, 80 people are in the Belko building today. Suddenly, a loud speaker goes off and an unknown voice informs the employees that if they don't kill a certain number of their colleagues, these people will double that.

It's impossible to ignore the political undertones of this movie. I don't think it was intentional. James Gunn wrote this film a while ago, but I couldn't help but think of Trump's America when watching it. There's the rich white guys, who literally line up people over 60 and shoot them in the head. Then there's the group of other men, women, minorities that are trying to find some other way to get out of this without killing each other. It's easy to see which group you're rooting for.

What The Belko Experiment manages to do in its less than 90 minute run time is pretty grand. It got me to care about enough of these characters even though there wasn't time to completely flesh everyone out. Nice security guard? Fuck yeah, I like him. The group of employees who welcome Dany with open arms and jokes? Please live. And of course John Gallagher Jr. I love this guy, he's great here. The acting is good all around.

It borrows heavily from others like Battle Royale and The Cabin in The Woods but it's gory fun. I'm sure you won't see another film where someone epically beats someone else to death with a tape dispenser. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You think the government is doing this?" - Leandra (Adria Arjona)

A few thoughts on 37...

Or how not to make a "day in the life of a historical event" film.

*Spoilers ahead for 37, Bobby, and Orange is the New Black*

I decided to forego my traditional review format for a little film I watched on Netflix recently called 37. (As I'm sure you'll be able to tell from this post, I would've given it an F)

37 is a fictional account about the large group of bystanders that either saw or heard Kitty Genovese being murdered and did nothing about it. Kitty was a real person, as anyone who has ever taken an American criminal justice class would know and what happened to her was awful. What drew me to select this film? Well, to be honest, I started thinking of Orange is the New Black again, and how upset I was that they killed off Poussey. So when I saw Samira Wiley's face on it, I thought "why not?"

The film tries to make us care. Wiley and Michael Potts play a black couple moving into a white neighborhood in the 60's. Maria Dizzia and Jamie Harrold are absentee parents who punish their kids way too often. Sophia Lillis plays a girl (who clearly has OCD and isn't getting help for it) that lives with her grandparents after her mother did something bad that is never addressed. Kind of interesting, right? Sophia's character is the only one that interacts with Kitty for more than 2 seconds, and only once. 

I've sat on this for a while before writing it. I thought "Am I being too hard on these characters because they ignored a crime?" I don't think so. They're really just terribly written. I need to compare this to another film that was about fictional characters that centered around another real life crime, and that's Bobby, The 2006 film about Bobby Kennedy's murder. I know it wasn't hit with critics. Rotten Tomatoes has the critics score of 46% vs the audience's 72% but I really liked it and compared to 37, it's a masterpiece.

The main thing Bobby did better than 37 was how it tied its characters to RFK. In Bobby we meet people working with his campaign, others who are inspired by him, ones who are dreading the work that comes along with his visit. While RFK is only seen in archived footage, he actually feels like a character. Kitty is a footnote. They didn't need to use her name at all, they could've used her case as inspiration and created someone new, but nope. They dragged her name into this mess.

Another thing is the characters themselves. On paper, their conflicts sound interesting, but the script gives them no weight. The dialogue is stilted, the arguments eventually feel repetitive and forced. It presents far more questions than answers.

Then there's the climax, Kitty's murder, which happens within the last 10 minutes of the film. They at least tried to get the accuracy of how the attack went down, but they take it a step further and make their characters look even dumber than their real life counterparts for ignoring it. (Many thought it was a domestic dispute) Here, a kid who yells outside his window for her murderer to leave her alone is told by his dad to shine his flashlight towards the sink so he can fix 3:00am. Another bystander who sees Kitty bleeding out in the hallway is taken a step further to actually witness her rape as well. And even though it's shot mostly in shadows it feels exploitative. They make little Debbie's grandparents look inept as she runs from their apartment, skipping down the halls at 3:00 am. Then the film tries to absolve all of this by using an "arty" shot of the police lights shining on the apartment building.

The timing of this movie is strange enough, with a documentary from Kitty's brother about trying to find the truth of these claims, The Witness also being released last year. That one is also on Netflix, and if you're going to choose one, go with that. 

I think I'm ranting because I don't have a new Indie Gem to post this week. The last few indie films I've watched haven't been gem worthy. I suppose I could've re-posted the last few since no one read them, but hey, ranting can be therapeutic, right? 

Did you watch this film? What are your thoughts?

Thursday Movie Picks: The Ancient World

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is movies set in the ancient world. To be honest, I hate most movies that fall into this theme. I have no idea why, I have nothing against the theme itself. I just feel like this is a pretty easy one to fuck up. Here are a few that I enjoy

1) Troy

I swear I don't like this movie just because Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom are super hot....okay, that's most of it. 

2) 300

This one I actually do like, it was different and those slow motion shots were great.

3) Hercules

I was tempted to use the Rock version just for the line "fucking centaurs" but I legitimately love this cartoon. The Muses' for life. 

DVD Review: Denial

Really, British legal system?

Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is a professor and historian living in Atlanta, GA. She publishes a book about Holocaust denial and in it, she calls a spade a spade and refers to a man named David Irving (Timothy Spall) as a denier. He in turn, sues her for libel in England where she's forced to prove that SHE is the correct one because that's how the legal system works. Luckily for her, she has two very competent lawyers, Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) and Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) to guide her along the way.

This is based on a true story and immediately grabbed my interest. I wrote a lengthy paper on Holocaust deniers in high school after encountering one and being baffled that these people actually exist. I wish I could remember the books I referenced in that paper. I almost wonder if Lipstadt's was one of them. 

The film's strongest moments are in the courtroom. Before the trial happens, I found the dialogue to be kind of stilted. It was like the plot fumbles along until it finds its purpose in court. That's where the movie sticks, but not enough to make it extraordinary.

The acting is great. Weisz plays Deborah very well (and apparently nails her accent if you've met her) Timothy Spall was perfectly punchable as Irving. I just wish the film overall was better. It lacked something that I can't quite put my finger on.

Recommended: Sure, it's a decent DVD rental.

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "Is it the Diana thing?" - Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott)