Tag Archives: Emma Roberts

UglyDolls

Uglyville is home to some fairly upbeat if misshapen dolls – they’re missing eyes or teeth or limbs – but most seem content. All but one doll, Moxy (Kelly Clarkson), who dreams of going to the “big world” and living with a child who will love her. She gets together a band of misfits (truly the only kind of band that CAN be assembled on this island of misfit toys by any other name), including Lucky Bat (Leehom Wang), Wage (Wanda Sykes), Babo (Gabriel Iglesias) and Uglydog (Pitbull), and together they stumble upon the Institute of Perfection, the last stop between the best dolls and their forever homes.

The Institute of Perfection is run by Lou (Nick Jonas), an alarmingly blonde-haired, blue eyed bastion of excellence. He gets all the beautiful dolls ready to run the gauntlet, the final hurdle to be cleared before being placed in a home. Moxy and gang find these perfect dolls to be outwardly pretty but inwardly ugly – they soundly and definitively and in many cases quite cruelly reject Moxy and friends for looking different.

From the very first frame, you know where this film is headed. We’re teaching kids to embrace differences and to accept imperfections. Sounds nice. But this movie takes an uncomfortably long time getting there and goes through too many catchy songs about the importance of beauty on the way. It makes you really start to sweat all the Hitler references.

In the end, the Uglydolls meet a perfect doll named Mandy (Janelle Monae) who (you may want to sit down for this) wears glasses. And through that hideous physical defect they’re able to bond and together they realize that not only is being weird okay, maybe it’s even possible for a kid to love you that way, in all your freaky glory.

UglyDolls plays like a watered down Toy Story, appealing to only the very youngest of children (my 5 year old and 7 year old nephews preferred to pick up live-action Dumbo over this for a recent car trip, but it was Sean’s recommendation of Shazam that really impressed, which meant we just spent 10 days sequestered in a cottage with kids who couldn’t go more than 5 minutes without singing “Lightning with my hands! Lightning with my hands!” and requesting this new band they’ve just been introduced to through the movie – Queen). Its fuzzy feltness and bouquet of primary colours should serve as a warning that this movie is nothing but saccharine and if you have any other requirements from a film then this one is not for you.

 

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The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Enjoying a triumphant festival circuit, critics called this one “slow-building and atmospheric”; I call it long and boring.

Two Catholic schoolgirls (ugh), Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton), get left behind at their boarding school over winter break.  The nuns, rumored to be satanists, and to be naked and hairless (unnecessary details, perhaps?) under their ugly habits, feed them and watch them, but they’re not the ones we’re worried about.

MV5BZDliZTA3ZDYtOTI3Yi00MzAyLTgzODItN2NhNTQ2YzVhYWM4L2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjEwNTM2Mzc@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1500,1000_AL_Upping the creep factor is a third young girl some distance away, perhaps an escaped mental patient named Joan (Emma Roberts) who gets picked up by an older couple who just want to help. Her destination: the very same boarding school where the first two reside…

Then there’s some very slow, deliberate attempts to send chills up your spine, via demonic possession, gory beheadings, and fabulously, a teenage girl calling a nun a cunt. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to be funny, but it’s terrifically funny (though the nun would not agree).

I’m not sure if I was watching a different movie from anyone else, but this just didn’t make one tiny speck of sense to me. Plus the characters were so thinly drawn it took me a while to figure out there was a third, and then I was like: where did SHE come from (and not in a scary, haunting way, just a super confused but not really caring all that much way) (also, this movie so under-lit that it’s really not my fault and I bet not that uncommon). Now, the exorcisms and the buckets of blood demand that this film be classified as a horror and I don’t dispute it. I just didn’t find it scary. Like at all. And I’m a big, bawking chicken. Bawk, bawk, bawk. But I breezed right through this, not even a flinch.

It was filmed in Canada, sometimes pretty close to my own home, and for that I will apologize to Ms. Roberts. We were having the coldest winter on record when she was filming outdoor scenes. The foggy breath clouds are well earned. Which is why I felt compelled to watch a movie I would never normally sit through, but you know what? I’d rather take another 5 months of winter than snooze my way through this thing ever again, and I’m not just saying that because I’m currently sipping a daiquiri from the inflatable unicorn in my pool. Well, mostly not.

 

I Am Michael

Based on a true story, Michael Glatze (James Franco) is a gay activist, a writer for a popular queer men’s magazine, and one half of a couple passionately in love. Yet in ten years’ time, Michael will have publicly denounced the LGBTQ community, “turned” straight, and married a woman. How on earth did this happen?

Zachary Quinto is just as baffled as you are. Well, okay, Quinto plays Bennett, 201507682_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Franco’s other half in this film. And Bennett gets left for another man, who happens to be God. Michael starts out curious about religion because some of the queer youth he advocates for have been spurned by parents and schools in the name of religious belief. But the more he studies, the more susceptible he becomes to some very old, out of date, uncompassionate teachings. And things twist around in his mind so much that he makes the decision to “stop” being gay. He becomes a pastor himself, the kind who will sit down in front of a vulnerable kid and tell him “gay doesn’t exist” and he’ll have to “choose heterosexuality in order to be with God.”

I Am Michael attempts to tackle this surprise conversion with as much fairness and balance as possible, but it’s still stifling and sad to watch a man learn to loathe himself. Franco slides from determined advocacy, to, well, madness. He convinces himself that the voice he hears is God giving directions, but I sure as hell wasn’t convinced. I thought he was clearly troubled and had mounts of unresolved grief, both parents having died when he was quite young. And while it’s natural to want to be reunited with one’s mother, the lengths he goes to in order to guarantee his ascension into heaven is really tragic. And it made me angry all over again, this presumption of the church to tell people that they are mistakes, and those mistakes are bad and sinful and that God can’t possibly love them or accept them as they are (as He Himself made them???).

But the truth is, the fire that I feel for this subject wasn’t enough to sustain me through this movie. I thought it blandly and boringly told. It felt more like a powerpoint presentation than a movie. Michael’s struggle is largely internal, so the drama just doesn’t manifest. And because we don’t see or understand what must be a torturous process, the film feels slight, inconsequential.

I Am Michael is a fascinating premise that didn’t really work for me as a film. The director works so hard at being fair that the movie never really has a point of view. For all the talk of spirituality, there’s no real fire. It’s an interesting story uninterestingly told.

Nerve

No one’s more surprised than I am that I liked this movie. It received mixed reviews and I’m normally allergic to anything young adult, but for some reason, I enjoyed this movie. I’m assuming it’s because I’m much younger and hipper than my driver’s license would have you believe. Sure I don’t take selfies or speak emoji or know what “on fleek” means. I don’t constantly change my Instagram picture because I don’t have Instagram on my “new” (a year old) phone and I forgot my password anyway. I don’t bicycle ironically or wear nonprescription glasses or use a “lip kit.” I’m not saying I’m 17. But maybe a mature 21?

roberts-franco-a-scene-for-movie-nerve-05Nerve is about cool young kids who no doubt do all of the above. Emma Roberts plays Vee, the wallflower of her group of friends until she’s suddenly motivated to be bold, and signs up to play a new online game called Nerve.

The movie seems a little prescient now that Pokemon Go has swept the world off its feet. Nerve, however, is a little more intense than chasing Pikachu around a park. It basically consists of players and watchers. Players are fed increasingly difficult dares by popular vote of the watchers. The dares are good for cash, but ultimately it’s the number of watchers you attract, and your willingness\ability to hang in the game in the face of ever-escalating dares. Every dare has to be recorded live on your phone, and people anonymously peep. Vee’s first dare is to kiss a stranger for 5 seconds, and she does. It’s heart-pounding fun, exhilarating for a normally shy young woman. She’s proven her point: she’s not so boring after all. She’s ready to go home except the stranger she kissed is Ian (Dave Franco) and it turns out he’s playing too. Attracted and intrigued, they stick together long enough for the watchers to think of them as a couple and to start doubling up on their dares.

As you might have guessed, Nerve gets out of hand. How could daring teenagers to do stupid shit for money ever go wrong? And the movie takes some wrong turns too. The themes quickly become a little too on-the-nose. Teenagers are sheep. People do cruel things while hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. Culturally we have become accustomed to witnessing the world through the filter of our phones. When shit goes down, half the bystanders will be taping, but how many will intervene?

Stylistically though, this movie is kind of beautiful. It looks sharp. And the pacing is excellent. hqdefaultThe directors do a good job of pulling us into the action and the thrills are in fact thrilling, doled out at decent intervals. And I quite liked the soundtrack, although I have no idea who any of the artists are.  The characters, unfortunately, are not quite on fleek. They’re pretty reliant on some very broad stereotypes: nerd\slut\dreamboat\jock\hacker\ wallflower.

The movie also suffers when it asks us to take one giant suspension of disbelief. The game is played on your phone. Players are constantly recording. BUT NOBODY’S PHONE EVER DIES. I call bullshit. I also don’t want to be around the morning after when everybody’s parents are hit with INSANE roaming bills.

But Nerve is a cool concept for a film and well-executed. It’s meant for a younger demographic but I think you fuddy-duddies will manage to decode its youth-speak. Just remember that by the time you finish reading this post, “on fleek” will be old news. “Snatched” is the new “fleek.” As in: SnatchedDave Franco, your short-sleeved dress shirt and skinny tie combo is SNATCHED. And if you really mean it, you add “boots” to the end, for emphasis. As in: Emma Roberts, your Wu-Tang rap skillz is dope BOOTS. And if you super duper admire something, you say “Goals AF” (AF = as fuck). As in: Dave Franco hanging over New York City on one arm? GOALS AF. “Stan” is the new word for superfan. I’m assuming it comes from Eminem’s song Stan about his crazed letter-writing fan, but since that song is roughly the same age as the characters in this movie, I could be wrong. You could call me a Stan if I’m geeking out about how much I love Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins, or you could say I’m stanning on her. And finally, you need to know about OTP. OTP is One True Pairing, as in, the couple you’re super emotionally invested in and would be devastated to learn they broke up. Like Jim & Pam. Or Pacey & Joey. Monica & Chandler. Luke & Lorelai. Zack & Kelly. Goddamn I’m old AF.

Anyway. The take away here is that this is not a terrible movie. It’s superficial but fun, a perfect Netflix and chill opportunity (technically I think if a guy asks you to Netflix and chill, he’s not planning on watching any movie, but let’s take this one at face value for now). And also feel you should remember that I am young and cool and snatched or something. You can take notes, but do not get caught reading them by anyone born 1990 or later. You’ll thank me someday. Boots.

 

 

 

Let us know who you’re stanning on these days, and who your OTP is.