Author Archives: Jay

Forever My Girl

It’s the best day ever: not many people can say their wedding day coincides with their first hit single hitting the radio, but Liam is just that lucky, and Josie is his beautiful bride. Almost the whole of their small Louisiana town has shown up to see these pretty young things get married – all but one very important person: the groom. Josie is left at the altar because Liam’s star is shooting upward, and I guess marrying your high school sweetheart just doesn’t jibe with his country heartthrob image.

MV5BNTY1N2I5MjEtZDNkZS00OTgxLWFhM2MtNTM0NGY0MzBmNjRhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1497,1000_AL_Cut to: 10 years later, a mutual friend dies, and Liam, a mega star, leaves his world tour to go back to that small town, which he’s never really escaped. And wouldn’t you know it – Josie is the first person he runs into. Well, Josie and her kid.

Like all country music, lots of the sound track is incredibly on the nose. But there’s lots of it, so if obvious country music is your jam (and let’s be honest – is there any other kind?), then you might be in hog heaven. Or at least in pig purgatory.

Alex Roe is definitely a guy who can play a country singer – you know, a multi-millionaire who still wears a beat up ball cap and a pair of work boots even though the feet inside them are manicured, to manipulate you into thinking he’s a working guy with a broken heart, just like you, when really his stubble is carefully curated by half a dozen stylists and his heart doesn’t even get involved between the groupies and the blow. But his lyrics are all about pick up trucks and the love of his country. He strictly drives Mercedes of course,  and his flags are just accessories he trots out for music videos.

But Liam? Oh, Liam’s good people. I mean, yes, he abandoned the love of his life on their wedding day and then didn’t return her call for eight years, but he was young! And he wrote songs about it! Jessica Rothe plays the jilted girlfriend, and she’s as wallflowery as the character. The kid, however, is a bright spot. Precocious children usually drive me bananas, but Abby Ryder Fortson pulled it off. Too bad the grown-ups weren’t half as charming.

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Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

I did not think the world needed another Jungle Book movie. I felt the same about Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book. I am too young to have any warm feelings toward the Disney cartoon – that movie felt old-fashioned to me as a kid, and I couldn’t watch it. We never read the books, and I was never a boy scout. And don’t get me started on this “live action” nonsense – this may be more sophisticated animation, a less cartoony cartoon, but this stuff is 95% computer-generated.

Anyway, as you may have gleaned: a “mean” tiger named Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) eats some humans in the jungle. He’s the menacing villain of the story, even though the tiger was only doing as tigers do. But white people think they own MV5BOWNjOGFlNTAtZDlmMS00ODdjLWFiMjQtYjMxNTUwYjY1OWMwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,732_AL_everything they see and touch and feel, and are surprised not be welcomed with open arms whenever they attempt to colonize new lands. The jungle was never meant for humans, and almost everything about the jungle makes that abundantly clear. Anyway, the dead humans leave behind a baby, Mowgli, who is accepted by and raised by a  literal pack of wolves. Mowgli is mentored by a black panther named Bagheera (Christian Bale), and a bear named Baloo (Andy Serkis). They try to teach him the ways of the jungle, but they also know the strange animal called man is edging in on their territory, and it can only be an asset to have one of them among them.

At PG-13, this is a darker, less family-friendly version of the Jungle Book. Mowgli’s story has always had something to say about fitting in, and whether how we look has ever been the best way to judge who is one of us, and who is not. But, we’ve obviously been told this story several times before, and Serkis’ version gives us nothing new, just some special effects and his trademark motion capture that actually brings nothing to the table. There’s no charm, there’s no heart. Andy Serkis may have donned the green suit to give life to Baloo, but he’s never seemed more cold and aloof. He’s not the same Baloo that people have loved for generations. This isn’t the same Jungle Book. It’s dark and it’s bloody – so, for the rare person who wishes beloved children’s books played more like war movies, I guess this is pay dirt – but for the rest of us, this is a miss.

 

The Little Mermaid (2018)

A young reporter, Cam, and his sickly niece Elle take a night off from closely monitoring her health (a persistent cough that causes her to fall to the floor ahem), to take in the circus that’s just come to town. Among the elephant and fortuneteller lurks an even greater mysery: a real live mermaid, Elizabeth.

She’s kept in a tank and it looks pretty real, but it must be some trick, right? Wrong. This mermaid is being kept in slavery by the evil carnival barker, and it’s up to Elle, who idolizes her, and Cam, who’d like to, um, romance her, to save her.

You might have been excited to know that a live-action version of The Little MermaidMV5BYzA5ODc3MTctNmQwNC00YjdhLTgxNTEtZTczYTQyMTQ4N2RlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ3NTcyNzQ@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,745_AL_ was hitting Netflix, but that would make you a fool. It’s an abomination. The plot is as poor as the production values. Seriously, the special effects were short-bus special, and the effect was that I hated it, and felt embarrassed on its behalf.

Pointless, absolutely, but also completely boring. Kids won’t have the patience for it, and parents won’t have the forgiveness. The rest of us are just chumps for watching. If I had a mermaid tail, I’d flip it dismissively as I swam decisively away. If I’d lost my voice in exchange for legs, I’d flip it the bird. If I suddenly used a fork as a comb, well, I’d get on the short bus because mermaids are the least of my trouble.

Dumplin’

Willowdean, aka Dumplin (Danielle Macdonald), feels like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Her aunt Lucy always had a knack for making her feel at home and helping her to navigate life greasier spots, but aunt Lucy is gone now. Thank goodness for her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush), a fellow lover of all things Dolly Parton. Willowdean’s mother, Rosie (Jennifer Aniston), is practically a celebrity in their small Texan town. She was Miss Teen Bluebonnet 1991, and is the pageant’s current director. Their house looks like Miss America barfed all over it, except in aunt Lucy’s old room, still not empty of her belongings, but that won’t be true for long, if Rosie has her way.

MV5BNTIwODk1MjYzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQxMzU3NjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1301,1000_AL_Dumplin’ is based on a novel by Julie Murphy, and it’s kind of like a Love, Simon for fat girls (we deserve love too!). Willowdean doesn’t have the perfect figure, a fact all the more noticeable standing next to her mother, a literal beauty queen, and the town’s image of perfection. So it’s a mystery to her when Bo, the heartthrob that works with her in the local diner, seems to be interested in her. That can’t be right, can it?

Overweight women struggle to find acceptance in the world, and remain almost invisible, undepicted, in Hollywood. Weight will be the last taboo, clearly. So when Willowdean enters the pageant, it’s an act of rebellion. Her mother isn’t thrilled and the pageant institution wants to preserve its ‘sanctity’, but when Willowdean shows up, she’s like the Joan of Arc of fat girls, inspiriting several other ‘unsuitable’ girls to sign up.

It’s interesting to watch Willowdean struggle, to know in her head that people’s judgement about her weight is complete bullshit, but also to have internalized it, to use that bit of self-loathing as as a defense mechanism. It takes a lot of strength to confront these stereotypes, and to have Willowdean do it as a high school student, so young and vulnerable, keeps our compassion levels high – as well as our concern. It makes us watch with a critical eye. Who is complicit? Store that sell a minimum of (small) sizes? Magazines that wrongfully equate weight with health? Movies that would have you believe that a boy who likes a fat girl is a hero? The pageant system itself, which celebrates a very narrow definition of beauty and weighs intellect and swim suit wearing equally?

There’s nothing in the rules that says “big girls need not apply” but all too often, fat girls see barriers everywhere. Sometimes they’re just barriers we just mentally put there ourselves after being conditioned by society to feel somehow inferior or unworthy. Dumplin’ is asking us not to buy into that – not of each other, and not of ourselves. A number on a scale is incapable of determining beauty, and it’s not even close to measuring a person’s worth. The film doesn’t follow the book’s exact plot, and it wisely edits a lot of the romantic drama, because this story is most of all about self-acceptance, as every story should be.

Nona

Nona is a young mortician in Honduras. She lives alone: her father was gunned down on his way home from buying a bag of chips, her brother was stabbed to death during a home invasion, and her mother has fled to the U.S., too poor to pay for her daughter’s passage over to join her.

So you might say Nona is ripe for escape when she meets Hecho, a bad boy on a Vespa. He’s a traveler, a laid-back, rootless guy as evidenced by his ubiquitous nona2bowler hat. They have a fun, flirty road trip, ambling toward their destination, taking their time, getting to know each other. And we’re treated to these beautiful countrysides and colourful images that make us feel like we’re on vacation with them. Nona is fleeing a very hard and dangerous life, but once she’s on the road, it’s clear she feels free. She’s a different person.

Until they near the border, and it turns out that Hecho traffics in humans, and this whole transaction has not been what Nona thought. Yeah. It’s a bit of a blow. The last third of the film takes an abrupt turn, as I’m sure it feels to Nona, who clearly doesn’t see it coming. Is she that naive, and is Hecho that villainous?

The shift is harsh, I’m not gonna lie. But how can I complain when a woman goes from romance to brothel in about ten seconds flat? You’re going to have to watch this one for yourself, if only to commiserate.

Magical Christmas Ornaments

Marie is feeling sad and kind of Grinchy after a bad recent breakup. So her mother is sending her gifts in the mail – ornaments that were special to her in childhood. Yes, not coincidentally, these are Hallmark keepsake ornaments, visibly branded. This is an 87 minute commercial.

Marie is not your typical Hallmark heroine. They usually cast from a very narrow set of cookie-cutter qualities. They all look like the girl next door – attractive, but not glamourous, not intimidating. Approachable. Not high maintenance. Marie, however, looks like she might have some adult films under her belt. So it’s a littleMagical-Christmas-Ornaments-hallmark-movies-40840833-450-325 unbelievable when the wholesome, blandly hunky nurse next door Nate starts to fall for her. Of course, she tries to scare him off. Her reasons are sound, and many: if they got together and it didn’t work out, it would be awkward in elevators. And the mail room! Okay I lied, those were all the reasons. And keep in mind the fact that they lived next door to each other for 6 months before they “met” because she’s always so phone- and self-absorbed. The woman’s best acting is not falling down the stairs in heels.

Anyway, you guys are super smart, so you’ve noticed from the title that these aren’t any ordinary ornaments. They’re magic! Marie’s mother is sending ornaments that put ju-ju out into the universe. Are they predicting events or are they making them happen? No, it is not simply coincidence, god, I can’t believe you even brought that up, where the heck is your Christmas spirit?  How rude! Get your head out of the snowbank and pay attention! These are magical ornaments. They look like shitty, dusty Hallmark remnants from the 1980s, but trust me, they have special powers.

Do your ornaments pulse with magic? Probably not. They probably have little metal hooks, or else a ribbon, and some will have glitter. Are some of them special? Are all of them special? Tell me about them as a palette cleanser so I can pretend I never watched this movie.

Funny Tweets

So, Twitter.

This platform has changed the way we communicate. Originally you had only 140 characters to send out your thoughts, and today we’re up to 280, which is a boone to us long-winded folks. Something in the neighbourhood of 6000 tweets are sent every second. Nearly half of all Twitter users never send a single tweet, they’re just there to read. And man is there stuff to read. Read for days!

In Twitter’s early days, it was like the wild west: anything goes. And one of the things that really proliferated was comedy. There’s a special knack to writing jokes for Twitter, there’s a special pace, a special formula.

This documentary talks to a bunch of hella funny Twitter comedians, many of whom had their careers explode because of Twitter. Breaking into the writing world used to be hard, but now you can gain attention from your dead end job in Bumfuck, Nowhere. And it’s happened over and over! How cool is that?

Twitter also puts you in touch with tonnes of strangers who share the things you’re passionate about. Some of them hate you and what you’re saying, and they let you know, often more loudly than the people who love it.

And then there’s the celebrity content! You can follow whomever you please, including Ryan Reynolds, David Lynch, Patton Oswalt, and Conan O’Brien (all recommended).  And disturbingly, the current president of the United States is also a prolific tweeter. He likes creating evidence of his lack of intellect and filter, and posting it to the internet forever and ever. Because he’s an idiot. Danny Zuker, a writer for Family Guy, interacted with Trump frequently – his slams were popular and effective, but he likens it to “dunking on a toddler.”

This is an entertaining documentary and a great crash-course on the ins and outs of Twitter. Director Laurie McGuinness covers thinks like plagiarism on social media, how women are treated differently (meaning poorly), internet outrage, and the unintended consequences of thoughtlessly posting your basest instincts. Twitter can get you hired and it can get you fired. It’s a risk, it’s a connection, it’s a new way of thinking. It can open up your world, if you let it.

p.s. my super awesome Twitter can be found at @AssholeMovies – won’t you be my follower?