Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Movie Review: Dolemite Is My Name (R – 117 minutes)

I first learned of Dolemite when Rudy Ray Moore brought the character to a Big Daddy Kane song in 1990. I eventually saw the movie, but it has been years and I think I may need to give it a rewatch.  Rudy Ray Moore was an entertainer who created the character of Dolemite in his stand up routines and then rolled him into a few blaxploitation films in the 1970s.  The genre had already been established with Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song by Melvin Van Peebles in 1971 and went on to includes Shaft, Super Fly, Hammer, Trouble Man, Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, Foxy Brown, and Black Belt Jones.  
Eddie Murphy had met Rudy Ray Moore several times prior to his death in 2008 and had mentioned wanting to make a biopic about his life.  Here, Murphy has worked with writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski to bring a piece of Moore’s life to screen during the years he developed Dolemite and brought him to the screen.

Rudy Ray Moore is working in a record store in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, trying to get the in-store radio station to play his songs while working as a stand-up comedian introducing bands in the evening.  Disappointed at his lack of progress, he develops the character Dolemite based on the rhymes of Rico, a bum who comes into the store one day. He spends time with Rico and his homeless friends, collecting their stories and jokes.  Moore gets a wig, an outfit, and a pimp cane to bring Dolemite to the stage as a rhyming over-the-top bragging pimp character.  Audiences love it, so Moore and his friends work together to release an album of his raunchy comedy.  And I mean raunchy.  It becomes a hit and he tours to support it.  To celebrate, they go to see a movie, but are befuddled by the ‘comedy’ the majority white audience is laughing at.  Moore decides its time to make a Dolemite movie to bring the character to the world.

After meeting with a studio head that has made other blaxploitation movies and being turned down, Moore accepts funding from a company that agrees to start him, but warns him he will be in debt for the rest of his life if he fails.  He and his friends convert an abandoned hotel in L.A. to a makeshift soundstage, get help from some film school students, and work to bring Dolemite to life.
Craig Brewer directed Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan, and multiple episodes of Empire. He is currently working on Coming 2 America and brings a lighthearted touch to this biopic.  It is fast-paced and hilarious while managing to have some truly touching moments as well.  The costumes and music are fantastic but the true genius of this movie is the cast.

  • Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore as a dreamer with the will to work to achieve those dreams. The movie perfectly illustrates the message that you can accomplish anything if you are willing to put in the work and believe in yourself.  Murphy’s performance is nothing short of excellent and absolutely should be Oscar nominated this coming spring.  He gives Moore the self confidence to lead a group of friends towards a goal with the well-honed comedy chops I sometimes forget he has, while adding just a touch of doubt when things begin to fail around him. It’s wonderful on every level.

  • Keegan-Michael Key plays Jerry Jones, the writer that Moore finds in a local playhouse and recruits to write the Dolemite movie. Key gives Jones just the right since of artistic integrity as he is swiftly won over by Moore’s enthusiasm to provide something entertaining for the people.

  • Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, and Tituss Burgess play Jimmy, Ben, and Toney, Moore’s main crew, who help get the movie off the ground and support Moore’s dreams while also having an absolute blast making a movie.

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph plays Lady Reed, who Moore meets while touring the south. He brings her on board to sing with him and help provide fashion sense for the movie.  She has a brilliant moment when Moore confesses to her that he’s worried about the sex scene in the movie because he knows he not as handsome as other movie stars. She reminds him it doesn’t have to be sexy, it can be funny, and that’s his strong suit.  I loved the true friendship depicted between the two of them.

  • Kodi Smit-McPhee shows up not blue as Nick, one of the film school students who comes in to be the director of photography for the movie.
  • Snoop Dogg plays the record store DJ and Tip T.I. Harris plays the studio head who turns down Dolemite at first.  Chris Rock plays an Indiana radio DJ who helps Moore get the movie to theaters.  They’re all basically cameos, but they are really fun and you can tell they had a good time being there – especially T.I., who seems to love his office, costume, and his lines.

  • Luenell plays Moore’s Aunt who funds some of his early projects and gives him the motivation to keep going.
  • Wesley Snipes plays D’Urville Martin and steals every single scene he is in.  Martin had done several movies prior to 1975.  Moore and his crew spot him in a strip club and talk him into acting in and directing their movie. He’s never convinced of the project, and leaves it in epic fashion when completed.  Snipes gives D’Urville a pompous-jerk with piles of eye-rolling attitude.  It’s horrifically campy and absolutely perfection in this movie.

Overall, I loved it – watch this movie.  It’s currently playing on Netflix and because it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, should be Oscar-eligible. I really hope that it gets some nominations, it’s beautifully done.

9 out of 10 – Side note, while the main theme is believing in yourself and working for your dreams, despite your naysayers – there is a side theme I was even more drawn to, perhaps due to the comments recently from certain directors that certain mainstream movies aren’t true cinema.  The part I loved most about Dolemite Is My Name is the idea of making a movie that people want to see - the core goal is entertaining the audience.  Moore literally runs down a list of things people love and wants them in the movie.  Once they finish the movie, the remind each other that they love it, and critics opinions don’t matter.   They make a movie for the joy of making movies, for an audience that loves movies. I love that message, and wholeheartedly support it.  Moore would have loved it. 
"Was it as good as Shaft?"  Hell yes it was. 

Original Trailer so you can see how accurate this version is!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Movie Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (PG – 118 minutes)

The live-action reimagining of the Disney Sleeping Beauty story from Maleficent’s point of view was released in 2014.  It explained Maleficent as a fairy queen of the Moors who loved then battled with King Stefan of the local kingdom.  She cursed his daughter to prick her finger on a spinning wheel when she turned 16 after he had betrayed her and cut off her wings.  As Maleficient watched the child grow up, she grew to care for her as a daughter and after finally defeating her terrible father, named her Queen of the Moors and all the fairy-folk that lived there. 

This sequel picks up five years after, Aurora is still Queen of the Moors and Maleficient their fairy protector.  Some poachers stealing fairy folk are killed in the Moors and Prince Phillip’s father and mother, the King and Queen of Ulstead name Maleficent a villain.  Despite that, Phillip proposes to Aurora, and The Queen tells him to invite Aurora and Maleficent to dinner.  That goes about as well as you would expect as the Queen reveals herself to be the villain in this version, constantly belittling Maleficent and her kind.  The King seems to want peace between the two kingdoms and knows that the wedding is the key.  After being verbal assaulted for most of the meal, Maleficent gets all angrily-glowy and the King mysteriously passes out.  The Queen accuses Maleficent and she leaves, demanding Aurora come with her.  Aurora, of course, decides to stay with her ‘new’ family.  As Maleficent flies away, she is shot with an iron weapon the Queen has been designing.  Fairies are basically allergic to iron.  She plunges into the river, but just before drowning, she is rescued. 

Spoiler alert from here down, only because I didn’t see any of this bit in the trailers…

She’s rescued by another dark fairy, just like her with wings and horns, who takes her to a special cave where their people are living.  There’s a whole bunch of them who have been chased away from their lands by the encroachments of humans and the one who rescued her, Conall, wants her help brokering a peace.  Their second in command, Borra, is thinking it would be better to wipe out the humans.  Plots, battles, a wedding, and an attempted genocide ensue.

The movie is directed by Joachim Ronning and is absolutely stunning visually.  The world of the moors and the fairy life in them is just gorgeous and well worth a look in 3D.  The costumes are amazing, and the action sequences are pretty fantastic too.  The story is fine, but gets a little more complicated than necessary. There’s a lot of people with grudges that are huge and barely explained.  The cast is wonderful and seems to really enjoy playing in this world.

  • Angelina Jolie really embodies Maleficent perfectly.  She seems to completely revel in this character.  The look is incredible, the horns and wings are perfect, and the irritation with humans is just perfection.  She’s even better when pushed towards the hatred and evil that Maleficent is remembered for in the animated classic.  Also, she turns into a giant dark phoenix in this movie for…reasons?  To symbolize transformation? 

  • Elle Fanning returns as Aurora and gets a little more to do here. She’s blindly suckered into the Queens machinations, even though she’s dripping evil villain vibes at dinner.  Once she realizes she’s been had, Aurora does her best to help remedy the situation and Fanning gives her a sense of justice.

  • Harris Dickinson is now Prince Phillip as opposed to Brenton Thwaites who is filming Titans.  He’s a little boring, but that’s what he’s given. His whole motivation is his love for Aurora, which does put him at odds with his mother. By the end he’s found a way to unite the two kingdoms.

  • Sam Riley returns as Diaval, Maleficent’s right hand raven.  He’s there to provide exposition and request to be turned into a bear instead of a raven at some point. 

  • Jenn Murray plays Gerda, the Queen’s right hand woman who is viciously cold and cruel – and surprising passionate about playing the organ, especially when it’s filled with fairy-killing powder.

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Connall. I had no idea he was in this and was shocked when he showed up.  He seems to be leading the fairies in their cave and is concerned they will go extinct without forming peace with the humans so that they can co-habit. 

  • Ed Skrein plays Borra, who spends his time flexing, growing vines as a weapon, and telling everybody that the fairies will go extinct if they don’t go to war with the humans and eliminate them.  Also, he spends a lot of time looking at Maleficent all sexy, which she seemed to be into.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer plays Queen Ingrith, and steals most of the scenes that she is in. She hate the fairy-folk, and I mean, hates them.  She has developed a weapon that will wipe them all out and then develops a plan to lock them all in the church and simply kill them.  She’s evil on a whole new level and the scene between she and Jolie are just fantastic.

Overall, the movie is very enjoyable and lovely to look at.  I feel like inside it there is the possibility for an R-rated version where Maleficient discovers this hidden cave of other sexy fairies and ends up in a love triangle with Borra and Conell.  Or maybe that’s just what Ed Skrein was selling – I was buying it. As I mentioned, the story is a little weak.  It is too complicated in some places and also too simple in others, but the visuals really save the movie.  I will say that for something aimed at kids, the scene with all the fairy folk trapped in the church and slowly being killed with the red powder the Queen had created is a bit much. It is a little scary and more than a little disturbing, so be forewarned if you’re planning on taking little ones. Eventually they get rescued, but it took way too long.

6 out of 10 – would have been higher if it had been the movie Skrein seemed to think he was in.