Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Our reviews and thoughts on the latest releases, classics, and nostalgic favourites. Things we loved, things we hated, and worst of all, things we were ambivalent about.

Support The Girls

Lisa (Regina Hall) is the hard-working manager of a tittie bar. She’s a little defensive about it; you might hear her call it a family sports bar “with curves,” but the uniforms leave little room for debate.

On this one day in particular, Lisa is dealing with a thief stuck in the vents after a robbery goes wrong, an undocumented worker in her kitchen, TVs that aren’t working minutes before a big game, an employee who’s dating a customer, a revolt over a missing pool table, and a half dozen new girls who show up for interviews and training. Plus there’s the impromptu car wash she’s organizing to raise money for another employee dealing with a DUI, which she has to hide from her boss, who’s an asshole. Oh, and her marriage is falling apart.

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Support The Girls is a workplace comedy, but it tackles bigger themes than that. You just might not notice because writer-director Andrew Bujalski has such an impressively light touch. He manages to keep everything witty and bright. His biggest asset is of course Regina Hall, who never stops shining her light. Lisa is doing her best to sell the American Dream, even though it’s not her dream and she’ll never see the profits. Bujalski clearly has compassion for Lisa though Lisa never asks for any. Hall makes sure that her unending kindness is seen as strength, not weakness. These are perhaps tough to pull off amid a cacophony of T&A, but that’s why you buy them. Because integrity is not what you expect to find at your local Hooters, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The smartest thing Bujalski does is that he never, ever underestimates the women in his film.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

In John Wick’s world, assassins follow the rules, or they pay the price. John Wick broke a lot of rules in Chapters 1 and 2, and now he’s on the run, banned from the assassins’ hotel/safehouse, with a $14 million bounty on his head. With no clear escape route, Wick travels deep into the New York City underworld, doing whatever he can to survive. Meanwhile, the underworld’s hidden rulers are after Wick and anyone who helps him, hellbent on keeping them all in line.

It’s probably unavoidable that the story is getting more convoluted as more chapters are added to John Wick’s story. What started as a simple revenge tale about a man and his dog is now a globe-spanning power struggle between the mysterious High Table and those who’ve fallen out of its favour. Fortunately, the ins and outs of the conflict can safely be ignored if, like me, you came to see John Wick do what he does best.

The fight sequences in John Wick 3 range from a little repetitive to spectacularly innovative, and sometimes a mix of both. But for me, I got my money’s worth early on in the film when Wick takes on a gang of bounty hunters in a weapon shop and lets knives fly as if they were bullets. It’s brutal, intense, and hilarious all at once. And while it’s the clear standout, there are other great moments to be found as Wick fights his way through whoever is dumb enough to stand in his way, with some help from Wick’s friends and his friends’ dogs.

John Wick 3 is a solid addition to this franchise, one that seems to be gaining momentum with each successive chapter. This franchise is powered by effort and willpower, and as long as Keanu Reeves continues to bring both to his role, John Wick’s adventures will be worth watching, regardless of how muddled the plot may get.

See You Yesterday

CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Chrichlow) are the smartest kids in their Bronx high school, and they’ve got the perfect experiment to win a pair of scholarships to M.I.T.: a time machine.

Any time travel movie that makes a bold reference to Back To The Future is all right in my book, but this one’s got an even twistier twist. It’s a time travel movie with a social conscience.

CJ’s brother Calvin (Astro) is one of the dozens of unarmed young black men who get murdered by the police every year. If you were a teenage girl with both a dead brother and the ability to move through time and space, wouldn’t you go back to save him?

But like their high school teacher tries to warn them, time travel has moral and ethical MV5BMmU4ZDYxZTUtMmI0My00MGVmLWE2NGYtZDQ2NmE5ZjQ0ZWE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDM2NDM2MQ@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_implications that are not just beyond their understanding, but beyond ours. Even the tiniest unintentional change can have unpredictable consequences.

Despite its science fiction premise, See You Yesterday feels very grounded thanks to its social relevance, its community in mourning, and the anger that simmers just below the surface. I really enjoyed this genre mashup, the in-your-faceness of reality interfacing with the fantasy. The world feels believable too – sure there are a surprising number of nawt nerds in one high school, but CJ and Sebastian are experimenting in grandpa’s garage, with grandma’s cheese and cracker snacks. The cast is uniformly strong, but Duncan-Smith is the inevitable stand-out.

It’s the grieving, though, that makes this film exceptional. I had no idea what I was in for when I put this movie on. I didn’t expect to be moved. I didn’t expect such powerful imagery. Plenty of sci-fi has a social agenda, but most have to be set in the dystopian future to make their point. This one is set today. Without ever saying it, the message is clear: if you’re poor, if you’re a minority, today IS your dystopia. But director Stefon Bristol leaves us with a shard of hope: the future is female. The future is black. The future may be a young kid working away in the garage next door. Please don’t shoot her.

The Lion King (1994)

Disney is releasing a whole slew of “live action” remakes of its most beloved classics, so Sean and I are taking a stroll through the Disney vault to revisit movies we haven’t seen since childhood. So far, the only one of these that I’ve genuinely enjoyed is Cinderella; the others – like Beauty & The Beast, Mary Poppins, and Dumbo – have missed the mark, and I downright disliked The Jungle Book. And unfortunately, I’ve tended to assume that I’ll feel the same about The Lion King, mostly because I don’t approve of calling this “live action” when it’s clearly also animated, just animated in a more realistic, CGI-style. But it’s still just computers. In real life, lions don’t sing and dance and cuddle up to warthogs in a strictly platonic, non-hungry way. BUT it does have an AMAZING voice cast that I admit intrigues me. More on that later.

The Lion King (1994) doesn’t need improving upon. It’s quite a lovely film. The animation holds up. The songs are part of our cultural lexicon. We all know the story: Simba is a young lion prince who will won day rule the pride lands when his father Mufasa passes. But Mufasa’s death is hastened by evil uncle Scar, who wants the seat of power for himself. Scar murders his brother and exiles his nephew. He giphyallows his pals the hyenas to share hunting grounds with the lion tribe, which totally fucks with the circle of life, and pretty soon they’re all starving. Meanwhile, Simba has grown up with a sweet gay couple, Timon and Pumbaa, who adopt him despite their initial misgivings about him being a meat eater and all. Their worry-free existence is pretty sweet until Simba’s past shows up to shame him into returning. And once he knows how bad things are, he can’t help but engage. He returns, but he’ll have to face his uncle Scar if he wants to take his rightful place as King.

As a kid I didn’t pick up on the Shakespearean undertones of this film because I was just a dumb, Sesame Street watching baby. It’s definitely Hamlet-adjacent. But as an adult, I have so many more experiences that are informing my viewing.

Like any good Canadian who often escapes the winter by going down south, I first saw The Lion King musical experience at an all-inclusive resort where they pirate 1Vzuthe heck out of anything they can and squeeze it until the lawsuits come. The first time I saw it, it was an excellent production (I think I was in Mexico). It made me want to see the real Broadway version, so when it came to my city, I saw it with my in-laws, and it was even better than I’d imagined. Then I saw several low-rent versions at less ambitious resorts – my favourite at a Cuban hotel where my friends got married and their young daughter was cast as the baby Simba.

Hakuna Matata (such a wonderful phrase!) was a full-on craze in the 90s. People cross-stitched it onto pillows. Nothing trendier than that! It means “no worries for the rest of your days” and was lampooned by Matt Stone and Trey Parker in The Book of Mormon. In that Broadway musical, which Sean and I were lucky enough to see with its original cast, Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells), the phrase they pick up is Hasa Diga Eebowai. It inspires its own musical number which is every bit as perky and upbeat as Hakuna Matata – only imagine the little Mormons’ consternation when they find out it means Fuck You, God. Oops.

Last month Sean and I took the niece and nephews to see Disney on Ice, and they  had quite the generous Lion King portion, no doubt to generate interest for a movie hitting theatres later this year. But the original film is also celebrating its 25th anniversary, and sure, you could figure that out with simple math, but we found it out at Disney World, where they’d outfitted Animal Kingdom with photo ops celebrating it. We also frolicked at the animation hotel, where an entire branch of the resort is dedicated to the film, its rooms are movie-inspired and the grounds are full of scenes from the movie. I turned to Sean and said: “Hey, remember when YOU played in an elephant graveyard?” and I kid you not, he responded “At the hotel?” Now, like most (all) men, Sean is an idiot. But he’s also the King of Stupid Questions. Now let me ask you, perfect stranger: how many times do you think Sean has played in an elephant graveyard? We’re CANADIAN. I think the fact that he’s done it once is remarkable. Why, then, the clarifying question, as if he’s done it so many times he’s not even sure to which one I’m referring. Hasa Diga Sean.

When Scar undertakes to kill his brother, he orchestrates the murder so that it looks like an accident. He plants Simba in a gorge and then sparks a wildebeest stampede. It’s a frantic, pulse-pounding scene that took 3 years and the invention of new software to animate the thing. Musafa of course saves his son, but Scar pushes him to his death. In the aftermath, little Simba finds his father’s body and curls up next to it, wrapping his father’s dead paws around him. It’s a very tender scene of course, but it reminds me of my nephew and something he once said. This kid loves his family and insists he’ll never marry and never move out – he simply can’t imagine a time when he won’t be vitally attached to his parents. He’s even insisted that when he dies, he wants to be buried in his father’s arms. These are soul-destroying words to his sensitive aunt’s heart. I wept over it then, and I wept over it again when Simba all but reenacts the scene.

So there’s no doubt, really, that Scar must be among Disney’s very worst villains. But there’s a secret (or not so secret) side to Scar that I never considered as a kid. The LGBTQ community has adopted him as a coded-gay character. Of course it’s problematic as hell because he’s a reprehensible guy, but when you were gay in the giphy (1)90s, you didn’t exactly have a lot of choice. Scar IS slightly effeminate, I suppose. And he’s camp. He’s snide. He slinks around. He has a goatee! He’s scrupulously correct and he’s British for christ’s sake. Is he a mean old Queen? Possibly. He’s definitely the bachelor uncle who, while inheriting his brother’s kingdom, has absolutely no interest in the pride’s lionesses. He spends his time with a singing parrot. So when people saw the trailer for the “live action” Lion King, fans of Scar were dismayed. In the cartoon he comes off as very vain and very feline, but in the trailer for the new one, he just looks emaciated. Anyway. I think we can do better than Scar for gay icons, but so far Disney really hasn’t. There’s a void there, and a gaunt, bedraggled Scar isn’t going to fill it.

Anyway. Jon Favreau’s The Lion King will hit theatres in July, with James Earl Jones providing continuity as the voice of Mufasa but Jeremy Irons has been replaced as Scar – and so has everyone else.

Simba: Donald Glover

Nala: Beyonce

Scar: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Pumbaa: Seth Rogen

Timon: Billy Eichner

Zazu: John Oliver

So it’s not The Lion King of your childhood. But might it still be good?

Sunshine Cleaning

Rose is a single mother who has a son who’s just a little weird. A complete genius according to grandpa Joe, but his school doesn’t want him back. So Rose (Amy Adams) needs to make some serious cash in a hurry, to pay tuition fees at a private school where weird kids can thrive, and cleaning houses just doesn’t cut it.

So she assembles a crack team consisting of herself and her flaky sister Norah (Emily Blunt) and together they start cleaning crime scenes. Blood and guts equal serious hazard pay. Of course, there are also serious hazards. And I’m not just talking decomposition smells and bodily fluid leaks and brains on the ceiling. I’m talking about emotional hazards, like bereft widows who don’t know how to deal with Film Title: Sunshine Cleaninghusbands of 50 years being reduced to a blood stain in the living room. Not to mention the fact that Rose and Norah’s mother committed suicide when they were young girls. So, you know, this is potentially triggering work, and Rose and Norah aren’t hardened enough yet to have strict professional boundaries.

As the title suggests, director Christine Jeffs puts a sunny spin on a macabre subject. Well, sunny-ish. Overcast anyway,  which is pretty amazing considering the long shadows cast by tragedy. Sunshine Cleaning is a low-key movie. It’s intimate, with a light touch. Amy Adams is the sun at the centre of its universe. Everyone orbits around her, basking in her glow. Although I’m sure her character would not describe herself thusly, Rose is a fighter, a quiet fighter maybe, but she doesn’t give up. She persists. She’s seen hardship but you rarely see the cracks, which she deftly caulks with hard work and optimism. She’s the kind of character you root for even though she doesn’t ask for your sympathy – still, you feel she’s earned a break or two, and you hope to see her get them. Is that how life works? Not really. But it’s nice to dream.

Peel

When Peel is just 5 years old, his father abandons him, taking Peel’s 2 older brothers with him, but leaving Peel alone with his emotionally unstable mother. It is implied that his father just can’t deal with her hippie ways, her alternative views on parenthood (ie, she is still breastfeeding her 5 year old). But in leaving Peel alone with her, he dooms his son to be raised in near-isolation with a loving but overbearing, overburdening mother. And I’m talking real isolation: they have a house in the suburbs, but they don’t even leave it to do groceries. Peel mixes her drinks and lights and her cigarettes and soothes her when she’s coming apart at the seams. And then she dies.

Well, she dies when Peel is 30 and basically still a toddler. He has not been socialized at all. He’s not exactly dumb, but he’s naive as hell, and he’s just been unleashed on a world he hasn’t met. His lawyer is likely crooked; the house is immediately in peril of being lost, so Peel takes on roommates who of course take advantage of him. Just as he’s losing faith in humanity, he gets the bright idea to go in search of the father and brothers who disappeared 25 years ago and haven’t been heard from since.

It’s a delayed coming of age, I suppose. Peel is so without cynicism he just feels so vulnerable out in the big bad world. But I think we should feel more protective of him than we do. There isn’t that much behind his character, in the end. The whole thing just feels too inconsequential, but it’s not as if it doesn’t introduce some heavy topics. It wades into the consequences of broken families but treats the whole thing with such sweetness and sentimentality, it’s actually tough to swallow.

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John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky

John Lennon died before I was born, but that hardly means he’s failed to have an impact on my life. He casts such a long cultural shadow, his musical catalogue has such depth, and his ideas and philosophies linger still, in even the simplest line drawing of his face.

John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky focuses on the 1971 recording of his album, Imagine, at Tittenhurst park, where he and his family had retreated from his swollen, frantic lifestyle as the world’s most recognizable pop star. Imagine stands apart from the work he did with The Beatles, and is in fact very much a collaboration with his wife, Yoko, and the ideas she tested out in her written work – especially 1964’s Grapefruit.

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Imagine surpasses musical status and has become a cultural touchstone. John & Yoko brings the album back to earth, back to its humble beginnings as bits and pieces inside John’s head. We see the songs mature from ideas to sometimes orchestral pieces, the musicians alive with an excited motivation they’ve probably never reproduced. Still, my favourite moments of this documentary are the domestic ones. It’s thinking about little Julian, who gets to crawl around a legendary recording studio but is bored out of his gourd listening to the same song over and over again. To him it’s just dad’s work. I also really loved watching John record a dis track against Paul – with George! Of course we didn’t know to call them dis tracks yet in 1971, but that’s exactly what it was, and it’s a delicious part of history, and John himself addresses the tension between himself and fellow Beatle Paul McCartney. They were brothers to the end, I think, often fighting because they were simply too close.

This documentary has lots of juicy little moments, literally something for every fan. But it’s also a tribute not just to John and Yoko’s love story, but to their partnership, their meeting of the minds. Because it’s clear that John is not just infatuated – he admires and respects her. She clearly influences his thinking, solidifies his philosophies. They’re changing each other at a cellular level and you can almost see it happening. John & Yoko is definitely worth a watch as it breathes new life into an album that’s hard to picture the world without.