Tag Archives: Netflix and chill


Emily (Diane Keaton) is a widow living a life she cannot afford. She’s angry with her dead husband, as after he died she discovered he had been cheating in her. She’s alone in an apartment she’s going to have to give up, having regular meetings/lunch dates with an accountant who’s helping sort out her tax problems. Then, one day while hiding from her problems in her apartment building’s attic, she lays eyes on Donald (Brendan Gleeson), the hermit of her dreams who lives just acrMV5BMjdmM2RjMjItZGZmZC00YTAxLTg3MmItMjdlOGVkZWY0MWFmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTc5MDI5NjE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_oss the way on the grounds of a derilict hospital. Before you can say “squatter’s rights”, Emily and Donald are spending romantic nights together in the attic, but what will happen when the accountant and Emily’s neighbours find out?

Part romantic comedy, part self-discovery tale, and part real-life legal drama, Hampstead is kind of a mess. It claims to be based on the real life of Harry Hallowes, who became a landowner because of an arcane legal concept called adverse possession, but clearly many liberties have been taken with Hallowes’ story in this retelling. In fact, one might ask why this claims to be based on his life at all, other than as a cheap way to cash in on the press his lawsuit attracted.  For his part, Hallowes made clear that he wanted nothing to do with the film, so it seems unlikely there is any truth to this romantic tale other than what was publicly reported about his case (with no mention whatsoever in the papers of Hallowes striking up a romantic relationship with a neighbouring widow who happened to be leading on her sleazy accountant, and you know the British tabloids would have been ALL OVER those sordid details if even rumoured).

Incidentally, I knew none of this “real-life” stuff until after having watched the film, and I still didn’t care for the movie. I found it tedious, chichéd, and nonsensical, and now I have even less goodwill toward it.

Blue Iguana

If you’re going to make a movie about seedy undergrounds, small-time criminals, and scary mob bosses, you need to pick the right tone. Make it funny like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Make it clever like Pulp Fiction. Make it suspenseful like The Town. But don’t you dare try to make your movie all of those things, because odds are you’ll end up with a mess like Blue Iguana.

Two ex-cons, Eddie (Sam Rockwell) and Paul (Ben Schwartz), are working in a diner trying to turn their lives around when Katherine (Phoebe Fox) offers them a job too tempting to turn down. Of course, it’s not a legal task, and of course, it goes sideways immediately as the target of their snatch and grab operation falls off a balcony face-first. Do they try to disappear after mucking things up? Of course not. They double down and go after the Blue Iguana, a giant diamond that they’re going to steal from mob boss Arkady (Peter Polycarpou), after he steals it first.

0818-stills-bi-day16-010816There’s just no one to root for in this film, which is surprising considering Sam Rockwell has made a nice career for himself playing various charming idiots (winning an Oscar as an amazingly bad cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).  And when someone like Rockwell can’t make us care about his loutish dirtbag, no one else has a chance. These characters just have nothing to offer.

No matter how many quick cuts were taken, no matter how many slow motion shootouts were paired with carefully selected songs, no matter how many montages contained colourful disguises, Blue Iguana never felt comfortable in its own skin. In trying to be lots of other things that writer/director Hadi Hajaig clearly admires and aspires to match, it just tries way, way too hard, to a painful degree.

At no point does Blue Iguana ever get close to being great, and worst of all, in trying so damn hard to emulate greatness, the result ends up being less than mediocre.

Avicii: True Stories

Tim Bergling, you may know, was a world-famous DJ known as Avicii who first became famous when he was just 21. He toured the world, and every night was a party. But wall-to-wall parties and drinks by the trough soon take their toll. Struck down by pancreatitis in part due to excessive drinking, Avicii was crippled with pain and constant health scares. But it wasn’t just his physical health that impaired him. Performing at shows created huge anxiety on a daily basis that just became intolerable. Even after a nice long break, Avicii isn’t any better prepared to keep up the grueling pace. So he makes a decision that takes the world by surprise: he retires from touring. He’s 26, and he’s retiring.

The documentary, by Levan Tsikurishvili, gets very intimate with Avicii. It follows him mv5bzmqwzwnkzjytmgu4zi00ogy5lwi5ztytm2yxyzrjnwvlmtzlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntqznzyyoty@._v1_sx1777_cr0,0,1777,999_al_extensively. The camera knows him well, and Avicii is fairly open with this struggles, although he, and the documentary, like the world, tend to emphasize physical health over mental health. Watching this, it really strikes me how many of these documentaries we’ve seen lately – the overwhelming fame that leads to tragedy. Except this documentary, curiously, doesn’t hint at the tragedy. It ends on a positive, optimistic note – that having retired from touring, Avicii is free to continue making music, which clearly does make him happy, on his own time, at his own pace, without the crippling anxiety. We saw goodbye to him on a tropical island, enjoying a sun-filled vacation.

But Avicii doesn’t get this happy ending. He died 8 months ago, of wounds self-inflicted with a broken wine bottle. So it breaks my heart because he hoped and believed that retirement was the answer, and it turned out not to be. And now he’s just another illustration of depression having such far-reaching fingers that even the rich and famous are not immune. And though this documentary came out after his death and had every opportunity to speak towards mental health, it mostly chooses not to, not even acknowledging its subject’s death. It’s a weird, unsettling choice that casts a shadow over the documentary’s authenticity.





Hope Springs Eternal

Hope is a high school student dying of cancer. She’s got a Make-A-Wish boyfriend, an F-average, and a social media presence that’s based solely on her disease. None of that matters because she’s terminal. But being terminal gets her attention, and flowers, and cupcakes. It means the popular girls at school know her name. So when she suddenly goes into remission, can you really blame her if she’s reluctant to tell people? She’s been Cancer Girl since she was 12; Hope doesn’t know how to navigate the world as a normal person. She wasn’t supposed to need to.

It turns out, things get kind of murky when you allow people to believe that you’re dying hope3-e1532546746939when actually, you aren’t. And things are already a little slippery because Hope attended school like she never had to worry about graduating, and now suddenly, she does. And her boyfriend committed to her like it was a very short-term commitment and now that it’s open-ended, the passion has pretty much fizzled out.

The thing about all these movies about young, cancer patients is, they tend to make heroes out of the dying. But cancer doesn’t make you a good person, or smarter than your peers, and it doesn’t magically bypass those awkward teenage years. Hope Springs Eternal gets this right. It’s not trying to fuck you up with forced tears and emotional manipulation. Hope is a nice enough kid, but cancer has made her selfish. She is not a saint, and that’s a powerful cinematic temptation. Cancer has also become her only real identity, so I don’t blame her for being disoriented when that’s taken away. Although remission is usually a positive thing, for Hope it’s a little more complicated. High school is such a vulnerable time, especially for young girls, and there isn’t exactly a manual on how to survive surviving.

Mia Rose Frampton, daughter of Peter Frampton, is luminous and very watchable. The rest of the cast is a little more hit and miss, but oh the whole it’s a sweet little movie, a touch of Eighth Grade and a touch of The Fault In Our Stars, a smidge of Mean Girls, but mostly its own little thing, post-cancer, full-life.

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.

Social Animals

Austin, Texas, where every hipster thinks they should be able to open and run their own business. They’re all failing of course. Zoe’s is failing. Apparently her big dream was to wax women’s pussies, but the pussies aren’t coming. Across the street from her, Paul’s video store is failing too. Only the food trucks that circle these going out of business sales seem to be proliferating, business owners that have fled their lease agreements and work on wheels instead.

Of course, business is not Zoe’s only concern. All her friends are getting married and having babies, but she’s chronically single and collecting polaroids and hopefully first names of all the men she brings home to her trailer; if it’s a-rockin, you know MV5BYTJjNjdhZWItY2U3ZC00YjVjLTlkN2ItMTE0OWEzOTA3ZWU5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjExODQwODM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_the rest. But her friends are getting tired of Zoe’s (Noel Wells) bullshit and she’s not much fun to be around now that her life is fully falling apart. The only person who seems to understand is Paul (Josh Radnor), the unhappily married man across the street. His wife has given him permission to have an affair, and Zoe is undeniably cute in a damaged way, but he’s still a bit shy to ask for what he wants.

Social Animals is a clever if inconsistent script. Watching Millennials attempt to “adult” is at turns entertaining and depressing. My sister was telling me recently about the very young, very new woman at her work who uses “adult” as a verb, as in “I was adulting this weekend; I made soup.” She was very proud at this stab at adulthood, but when my sister asked her what kind, she replied “Campbell’s.” Which, okay, makes sense, because I literally just heard on the radio this morning that the sale of canned tuna is way down because Millennials don’t know how to use a can opener. So perhaps successfully opening and microwaving a can of Campbell’s is something to celebrate if you’re young and dumb. Although I was once upon a time chronologically her age, I was never that young. At her age I was married, running my own household, and managing to cook impressive multi-course meals. Of course, I don’t really believe that Millennials are idiots. I believe their parents have ruined them by doing everything and teaching them nothing, and especially not independence. Millennials aren’t the problem. Their parents are.

Of course, Zoe’s parents are dead, so I probably shouldn’t speak ill of them. But even cold and in the ground she moans about getting a raw deal from them. Even the bank seems to imply that the reason her business is failing is because her parents aren’t giving her cash injections (so now we know why the American economy tanked). But I kind of enjoyed this movie about young people groping around, trying to figure shit out, and dramatically burning polaroids under a bridge. It didn’t make me feel superior, but it did make me feel secure. I may not always love getting older but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be that young again. Sometimes Sean and I still feel like a couple of kids, but we have non-Ikea furniture, and RRSPs, and a fairly casual relationship with avocados. We’ve got our shit together. And even when making roasted red pepper soup from scratch, I never use “adult” as a verb. I just am.


Dirty 30

Kate is reflecting on her life, as one tends to do on or around milestone birthdays. A string of no-good, very bad, choose-celibacy dates has left her a little dismayed.  Good thing she’s got two reliable best friends, Evie and Charlie, to walk her back from the ledge – particularly when her high school teacher mails her a letter she once wrote to her future 30 year old self. The letter brims with a conviction that rankles; 15 year old Kate never doubted that she’d have love and babies and professional success. She’s going to need both friends and about a gallon of wine to come back from those bounteous predictions. But it’s a chance encounter with an old high school rival that pushes Kate from sad to mad. And mad can be solved with tequila shots and a blowout party.

The party goes off the rails, as you knew it would. It’s peopled with old flames, new flames, current high school students, current high school teachers, and of course, eventually, the cops. It includes antics such as yoga-enabled keg stands, bubble baths, TPing, unhygienic body shots, dentistry, and juicy secrets. It’s got grossly misspelled tshirts and banners, and a cake that’s about 8 sizes too small. Mostly, though, this is a movie about Kate (Mamrie Hart) and her two besties, Evie (Grace Helbig) and Charlie (Hannah Hart). Their chemistry is good enough to make you miss your own best friends.And while you’ll understandably want to skip the rager, and the white russians (does anyone seriously drink those?), a couple of bottles of wine are always appropriate.

For my 30th, I was in New York City. I saw Wicked on Broadway, drank a couple of bottles of wine at a terrific Italian place, and had a carriage ride around Central Park. What did you do – or can you even remember?



Certain Women

Laura (Laura Dern) is a lawyer in smalltown America. She has a client who got a raw deal from his work after an injury. But since he took their initial offer of compensation, there’s not much she can do. Of course, for months he’s refused to believe her, and only hearing the same words from a man seems to do the trick. That is, until she gets a call  in the middle of the night that he’s taken someone hostage and thanks to an ineffectual crime response in Montana, it falls to her to defuse the situation.

Gina (Michelle Williams) and her husband are trying to build their dream home. AMV5BMjE4MDE3NzA3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzA5OTA1NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_ conversation with an elderly gentleman who may or may not have some soapstone to sell exposes some cracks in the foundation of her marriage. Are they even on the same page?

Fresh out of law school,  Elizabeth couldn’t bed certain she’d land a good job so she started taking anything she could get. That’s why, despite landing a position with a law firm, she’s also driving 4 hours each way twice a week to teach an adult education class where the students don’t seem to quite appreciate what they’re doing there. Her only real connection is with an unenrolled student, a ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) who’s just wandered in off the street, curious. Curious about people, not the subject. The rancher and the teacher will converse over greasy spoon fries after class.

These three stories only intersect in the vaguest, merest of ways. Certain Women is more about the female experience in this tiny town, and what it’s like to be breaking new ground, literally and figuratively. Director Kelly Reichardt gives us these stories like she’d give a gift. She has uncommon skill at finding compassion and nuance in the smallest of everyday stories. We feel like we know her characters. There aren’t a lot of big, bold happenings, but the attempts at connection, and in fact, the missed opportunities left me bereft. Certain Women tugs so subtly at your heart. It’s full of tiny moments that you can hoard and love in whatever capacity you feel best.

Ronnie Coleman: The King

Ronnie Coleman ripped the bodybuilding world in two in 1999 when he appeared on the already crowded scene. A former cop and powerlifter, he ties the record for most Mr. Olympia wins with 8, count em – 8, victories. That’s how you get a nickname like The King.

But since his retirement, he’s been plagued with injury as a result. He’s had numerous back surgeries, and both hips replaced. He needs crutches just to walk. The documentary catches up with him on the eve of his 8th (count em – 8) surgery, and he’s crippled with pain. It’s awful to watch him walk.

His accomplishments are enormous (bodybuilding pun!) and veiny, but told through the MV5BN2M0YmFmM2MtNGIyZS00NjY4LTk1MjgtNGRmNjdjMjE1MDk5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDMxNTQ3MTk@._V1_SY1000_SX675_AL_prism of his disability, they’re not exactly dimmed, but the context is clearly costly. Too costly, some, in fact most, would say. But as Ronnie pulls up to the supplement store, he parks in the handicap accessibility parking – and even then he barely makes it in. But what is he even doing there? Well, despite the fact that he’s popping the max dosage in pain pills, Ronnie is still drinking his protein shakes because Ronnie is still training. It’s killing him, but he can’t stop.

It’s really interesting to watch someone attain the absolute top in his field, and it’s interesting in a different, guilt-laced way to watch him fall. But Ronnie Coleman with a broken body proves there are different kinds of strength. It’s a mental fortitude he’ll need to cope with his loss. His smile and positive attitude go a long way.

This documentary has everything – the highs and lows, tragedy and comedy. Well, this documentary has almost everything. You don’t achieve 300lbs of lean muscle, go down in history as the greatest bodybuilder of all time, without a little help. But director Vlad Yudin does not so much as whisper the word steroids. So no, there is not complete transparency here, perhaps an effort not to tarnish the king’s image. The picture is incomplete but on the whole it’s still an enjoyable, heartbreaking, uplifting (bodybuilder pun!) watch.



Gnome Alone

Chloe and her mother have just moved – again. She’s desperate the fit in with the popular crowd, and she almost (so close!) does it too. There’s just one little problem. The garden gnomes infesting her new house have a purpose. They’re guarding a portal to another dimension. Every night, a few monsters break through, and if left to their own devices, they’d eat humanity out of house and home in a minute and a half. On the other side of the portal, an even bigger monster awaits. Can they keep the monsters at bay while keeping Chloe’s street cred high? And how does the helpful nerd next door fit in?

This is a B-list animated movie with a C-list voice cast: George Lopez is the most MV5BOTdhZThjOTQtYzVhNy00NGZlLWEwZjQtZTI0NDczMGQyNDZjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzQ3MTA4MDk@._V1_recognizable, following in steeply descending order by Becky G, Josh Peck, and Tara Strong, if those names mean anything to you. The animation is okay, but let’s just point out the elephant in the room: there’s already an animated franchise wherein garden gnomes come to life. Not only does this stink of plagiarism, it’s just annoyingly unoriginal. This is animation, people. You can draw anything. You could have made a retro Tupperware set come to life, or some grubby fridge magnets, or discarded winter parkas.

But, okay, this is a kids movie, for kids, and possibly by kids, judging by the quality. Your 4 year old will probably love it if they don’t find it too scary or notice that there’s very little structure to the story. Nor do we get to know our characters at all. I’m sure there’s a reason why Chloe and her mother move so much, and why her dad’s not around, and why her mother feels comfortable flying to another city, leaving Chloe home utterly alone, not yet knowing a single other soul in the city. What does that matter when the movie is basically a commercial for super soakers, only these Nerf-like guns are filled with green ooze that can banish (never say kill in a kids’ movie!) the monsters on the spot.

And let’s not even crack open the good old trope that tween girls are vapid and self-absorbed. It’s 2018: not every school is filled with mean girls. Not every protagonist has to change herself in order to fit in. And not every nerd needs a pretty girl to popularize him. This may float with kids but it will sink with most parents. And don’t we owe it to the gnomes to strive for better?