Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! Even though there was a brief hiatus in there when Covid first began steamrolling and new movies weren’t available from the library, but episode # today says that it is the second anniversary of this weekly feature. What I hope to do in the next few months is develop a searchable database of all of the movies I’ve reviewed so far so you can find them easily if there’s a movie you’re considering watching or have just seen and want to see what I thought of it.
Lovecraft Country (2021) HBO limited series (now available from the library)
Starring: Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Aunjanue Ellis, Wunmi Mosaku, Abbey Lee, Jamie Chung, Jada Harris, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jordan Patrick Smith, Jamie Neumann, Mac Brandt, Alex Collins, Joaquina Kalukango, Jon Hudson Odom, Erica Tazel, Jonathon Pawlowski, Courtney B. Vance, Deron J. Powell, Erin Z. Young, Regina Taylor, and many more.
Director: each directed one episode, except for Daniel Sackheim (who directed 2), Yann Demange, Cheryl Dunye, Misha Green, Victoria Mahoney, Nelson McCormick, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, Helen Shaver, and Charlotte Sieling
Genres: horror/occult, mystery, drama, critical race history of U.S.
Synopsis: Atticus (aka Tic) (Majors) is a veteran back from the Korean War. As the story opens, we learn from Tic’s Uncle George (Vance) and Aunt Hippolyta (Ellis) that his father, Montrose (Williams) went on a search for pieces to a mysterious family puzzle and has disappeared. So begins this mind-blowing, heart-stopping, hero’s journey. Drawn along with Tic is Letitia (aka Leti) (Smollett) and Leti’s sister, Ruby (Mosaku.) They, in turn, are drawn into a frightening world of magic, power-wielding, monsters, and other unsavory things like the malicious racists who are relentless in their attempts at interfering, blocking, and otherwise trying to disrupt the heroes’ actions.
Impressions: Amazing 10-episode series that is a riveting combination of Black History of White Oppression and primer on magic via ideas from author Lovecraft. I’m not one to watch shows with magic symbols, incantations, etc., but the story line was compelling enough to keep me watching (I sang loudly while spells recited.) Lots and lots of bizarre and graphic violence that is not suitable for children to see AT ALL. This is an adult series targeted to adults. The cast is *excellent.* Did I mention the cast is *excellent*? The nitty gritty way the pervasive and malicious institutional racism that permeated 1940s (as well as before and after that decade) America is portrayed can’t help but bring some sense of validation of its sharing on the big screen to those of color and a minimum of a twinge of sorrow, empathy, and shocked awareness to those with white skin. The actors in here bring it to life. The sets, the special effects, costuming, cinematography, music, and plot twists are superior. I see this series as an instant classic. Warning: It is pretty scary.
Etc.: The series is based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel, but its title refers to its reframing of the bizarre pulp fiction work of writer H.P. Lovecraft who died in poverty in 1937.
Awards: 20 wins and 88 nominations
Worth (2020) (original title What is Life Worth?) Netflix
Starring: Michael Keaton, Amy Ryan, Stanley Tucci, Tate Donovan, Shunori Ramanathan, Talia Balsam, Laura Benanti, Chris Tardio, Ato Blankson Wood, Carolyn Mignini, and many more.
Director: Sara Colangelo
Genres: biography, drama
Synopsis: After 9/11/2001 and the attack in New York City and the Pentagon, airline companies were terrified they would be sued. The US Treasury Department created a fund and gave it the resources it needed and a deadline to approach the family members of those who died in the attack as well as the surviving members of the emergency personnel who died while trying to save people and get them to sign agreements that they wouldn’t sue. A law firm head Feinberg (Keaton) is appointed to organize his law office to complete the task. He develops a rubric that he thinks he’ll be able to plug info into to decide how much each individual’s lost life is worth. The impracticality of that notion soon becomes apparent.
Impressions: The release of this was timed just right, as it was about a week before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11/01 attacks. It was triggering for me to watch it, as I have purposely avoided much of the aftermath in pictures, study reports, etc. of them. Seeing the images and the anguish of those whose loved ones were killed in various ways from it left an ache in my heart for them and brought deep sorrow. Keaton and the rest of the cast give dignified and powerful performances that do justice to the historical reality the story is based on. It’s not perfect, but it gets the message out.
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie, Sylvia Sidney, Paul Winfield, Pam Grier, Jack Black, Janice Rivera, Ray J, Brandon Hammond, Joe Don Baker, and many others.
Director: Tim Burton
Genres: Comedy, sci-fi, horror
Synopsis: When aliens that look funny but have a malicious sense of humor land on earth and make it clear they want to exterminate humans, dim-witted leaders take some convincing before they believe we are in danger. Those who do realize the menace are trying to stay alive in the meantime.
Impressions: The sheer size of this star-studded cast is impressive. The humor is wicked and delicious. Because of the comedy element, the horror of it is buffered. What’s funniest is how each person sees – or doesn’t see – the menace of these monstrous ET. Jack Nicholson as the POTUS is the perfect choice, as is Glenn Close as the first lady. Hero Richie (Haas) and his granny (Sydney) are priceless in their ordinary hero roles and in the bonded relationship they share with each other. “Mars Attacks!” is hilarious and full of very clever dialogue and whimsical special effects. It’s ambitious as well because they are also able to manage to include touching family connections like Richie and his granny, Byron (Brown) who works in Las Vegas trying to get home to his family of Louise (Grier) and their two sons, and the budding romance between scientist, Professor Kessler (Brosnan) and newscaster, Nathalie (Parker.)
Etc.: There is a wealth of trivia available at imdb.
Awards: 3 wins and 19 nominations
Starred Up (2013)
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Gilly Gilchrist, Frederick Schmidt, Edna Caskey, Darren Hart, Raphael Sowole, Duncan Airlie James, Anthony Welsh, David Ajala, Jerome Bailey, Basil Abdul-Latif, Matt Faris, Aisha Bywaters, and many more.
Director: David Mackenzie
Genres: prison, drama
Synopsis: Intense film set in an Irish prison where a father and son find themselves in the same cell block. The son hates his father because he was placed in foster care by the system as a kid which messed him all up. The dad, who is a real piece of ultra-violent work, tries his best to keep his son safe. The prison staff are mostly desensitized brutes who almost seem to enjoy brutalizing the prisoners. The one person on staff that seems to care, a mental health professional who runs a group for the most violent prisoners — and gets results! — is scoffed at by the rest of the staff for “coddling” them. It’s an excellent film for showing how effed up prisons are and what “the system” that is supposed to help protect kids and rehabilitate adults actively does to harm them. There are no happy endings in this story. Powerful to watch with a first-class combo of actors at the helm, O’Connell and Mendelsohn.
Impressions: Thank you to Gia at The Movie My Life for recommending this movie to me. Having never been to an Irish prison, I can only guess that this is an accurate depiction of the horrible conditions and treatment in one. There is an admirable recognizing that those who end up incarcerated have origin stories that can help explain how they ended up there. I appreciate them trying to show how little resources are given to prisons for actual therapy and/or rehabilitation for those who desperately need it.
Etc.: filmed in Northern Ireland; warning: scenes of extreme violence may trigger some people.
Awards: 17 wins and 22 nominations