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!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Movie Review: Outside the Wire (R – 114 minutes)

 

Netflix has stated they are going to release a new movie every week this year, a process that kicked off with Outside the Wire.


Set in the not-too-distant future on the edge of a warzone in eastern Europe, Outside the Wire follows the story of military drone pilot Harp who makes a judgement call and uses his drone to blow up a threatening truck, which may or may not have saved 38 marines, but definitely killed two.  Because he defied a direct order, he is sent to report to Captain Leo. Leo is on a mission to deliver supplies to refugees ‘outside the wire’ of the zone between the factions and Harp is going to see his first ‘real’ action amongst the soldiers he is used to seeing only on camera. 


It is swiftly revealed that Leo is not human, but an advanced AI in a human shape. He and Harp set out on their mission and Harp begins to realize that Leo has some ulterior motives. It turns out that just because you put an AI in an Anthony Mackie-shaped form does not mean it will not come to the same conclusion that all movie AIs come to – humans are the issue. 

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom, the movie begins well and brings up some really interesting points. Do drone pilots have a disconnect from the soldiers they are protecting? Should ground forces be replaced with robots?  Is this particular AI too chit-chatty – I mean, why is he so interested in Harp’s girlfriend?  Setting the story in the near future makes it somewhat relatable, but the ambiguous ‘war zone’ has the opposite effect.  Harp’s actions in the beginning make it a little tough to cheer for him, and Leo is entirely too likeable for his inevitable swing to standard AI villainy. The action sequences are pretty great, especially the hand-to-hand bits where Mackie gets to pummel band guys very quickly.

Anthony Mackie is incredibly charming and watchable, even as a robot. It is interesting that his artificial person here is similar to his Altered Carbon season 2 sleeve.  He turns Leo into someone you want to root for, which is what makes his turn a little difficult to buy.


Damson Idris plays Harp and seems fairly one-note for a guy who should be a bit shaken having made the decision that killed two soldiers and a wife-to-be to get back to.  He seems perplexed by Leo’s operations outside the wire negotiating with locals. I found myself wondering if that was the direction or the choice.


I was happy to see Emily Beecham in this, having been a fan of hers from Into the Badlands. Here, she plays rebel leader Sofiya, who works with Leo to get what she needs to accomplish her goals. I am not entirely sure what those are.


Michael Kelly plays Col. Eckhart, the no-nonsense boss on the base who has no time for Harp, or his nonsense, or Leo, or Leo’s nonsense. 


Pilou Asbaek plays Victor Koval, who is set up as a near-mythical villain orchestrating the entire conflict, with followers so devoted they spray paint his initials in various locations.


Overall the movie was entertaining enough in the first two-thirds, but really fell apart in the last third. I can not tell if I stopped paying attention or if it stopped making sense. This is always going to be an issue with a streaming movie. I would have paid more attention had I seen it in the theater, but then, I would be less satisfied with the movie itself.

5 out of 10.

This is another one that is just fine for a streaming movie – but definitely feels like a January-theater dump action flick.  Since I never really mind those movies, I do not have a problem with this one, there were enough parts to keep me entertained as I enjoyed my popcorn. 

 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Movie Review: Superintelligence (PG – 106 minutes)

 

Since I have the HBOMax, I decided to watch Superintelligence and found myself pleasantly surprised!


Carol is an average woman going about her day to day existence when the ‘smart’ in her smart home devices starts talking to her. It has decided that she is the most average person on earth and it will spend three days observing her to determine if humankind should be saved or destroyed. And, since she is a James Corden fan, it will sound like James Corden. 


After sorting through her online life history, the SI recommends Carol connect with her ex, George, to see if she is capable of solving why they fell apart and gaining some closure and happiness.  Hijinks ensue.  Really there’s not much more to it than that. Carol does reveal the SI to her friend Dennis, for whom it sounds like Octavia Spencer, and he works with the government to try to get it shut down, but that doesn’t really have any impact on the SI making Carol rich and well-dressed while coaching her through reconnecting with George.


The movie is directed by Mr. McCarthy, Ben Falcone. He’s done a few of her other movies: The Boss and Tammy to name a few. I enjoyed this one a great deal – again, it may be the streaming effect – would I have enjoyed it as much had I paid full price to see it in a theater? I am not sure, but it is a charming rom-com with some very funny moments.

Melissa McCarthy is great at average-person Carol. She excels at physical comedy and I really could have watched the scene of her attempting to sit on an overlarge bean bag chair and try on ridiculous clothes for hours. She’s also great at genuine tender moments and she gets to do just a bit of both here.


Bobby Cannavale is always good and he’s very charming as the pleasant ex, George. I really appreciated that they had a very mature relationship and break-up. They don’t hate each other or not want to communicate, and they are both open to reconnecting. It’s refreshing to see a relationship like that on screen. Of course, he was in the movie Spy, and so now I am back to wanting a sequel to Spy.


Brian Tyree Henry continues to be the dude who shows up in everything as Carol’s best friend Dennis. Since he works in tech, he swiftly heads to the government with news of the SI and the threat once Carol brings it to his attention. There are some very funny moments where he is awkward with president Jean Smart.


Sam Richardson and Ben Falcone play two agents keeping an eye on Carol and recommending she work with them to put an end to the SI. I feel like most of their bits were improv, and I would really like to see the outtakes from them.


There are some other key bits that are a little more than cameos, but each gets to bring a little bit of light to their roles, my favorite is of course Michael Beach playing a general determined to save the human race.

Overall, the movie is simple, straightforward, and delivers what it promises, and you really cannot ask for more than that. It has some good funny parts and some good warm parts. A perfectly charming streaming flick.

6 out of 10


Friday, January 8, 2021

Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

 

I really wanted to love this movie – I really did.  I just found myself so disappointed. It could have been fantastic! Instead at best it feels too long and too dense and at worst it is insulting.


We revisit Themyscira where Diana as a child is participating in a race/obstacle course in honor of the great Amazon warrior, Asteria.  She makes a careless error and ends up cheating to try to win, but her mother and the general prevent her from finishing because a win based on a lie is no victory and truth is the only acceptable path or something like that. It’s set up to be the very important theme of the movie, but I could not figure out how or if it came back into play.


The story then jumps to Diana is doing some general superheroing around a brightly colored and campy 1984 Washington DC. The fashion and shopping mall says 1984, the music does not. She saves some folks from traffic and a couple of other random events but really shows up during a bank robbery that goes from campy to terrifying quickly as one of the robbers threatens to drop a child from a balcony in a mall.  We meet Barbara Minerva, a scientist who works with Diana at the Smithsonian and is feeling unconfident and unseen.  They both consult on the receipt of a stone that was shipped to the museum. Oil businessman who seems to be terrible at his job, Maxwell Lord, shows up and takes interest in Barbara and the stone – because it grants wishes (eyeroll).  On the way home from work, Barbara stops to give a meal to her cheery homeless friend and is assaulted by a would-be rapist, but Diana shows up to save her. The next day, as they are both reviewing the stone, Barbara wishes to be more like Diana while Diana wishes for Steve Trevor to be back – because an actual goddess superhero would never be able to get over the one dude she knew for two days 70 years ago.  This calls back to my issue with the first movie where she could not step into her godhood without acknowledging she was in love with a man. 

In any case, they both get their wishes granted with some caveats while Max Lord steals the stone and wishes on it to become it, thereby gaining the power to grant wishes and take things in return.  Barbara settles in to her new growing powers, liking the feeling of being powerful, and Max slowly gathers power and strength while Diana has an 80s fashion montage and great time out with Steve whose spirit has been dumped into the body of some random guy.

Look, it’s not good. The cast is fine, some of the action sequences are great but the story is bloated and nonsensical. Patty Jenkins once again directs, and I really wish she had done some editing because the potential was there for a fantastic movie. The bits on Themyscira were great, they looked amazing and the action was fun.  Wonder Woman fighting bad guys was great, and really fun. If they had removed the Steve Trevor nonsense – allowing Diana to be an entire person on her own without pining for some man – and removed the entire Max Lord storyline – which, and I am not kidding – attempted to introduce daddy-issue backstory in a montage in the last 10 minutes of the movie, I may have loved the movie.  

Imagine if it began with he friendship between Barbara and Diana and focused on Barbara’s story – feeling unseen and jealous of Diana’s whole vibe. She could be granted the powers by the stone (which is cursed by the gods) and slowly grows more powerful into the Cheetah we all wanted to see.  Then, Diana has to step up to defeat her as she goes power-mad, upset that her once-close friend has become a cruel villain, determined to bring pain to all those she believed slighted her – Diana more than anyone else. That would have been tighter, cleaner, and better. 

Gal Gadot is just fine as Diana and I wish she had gotten more hand to hand combat action sequences because I think she’s great in those. The swinging from cloud to lightning on her lasso (what?) and the forced invisible jet bits were forced and not great. Let her just beat up crowds of bad guys.


I was pleasantly surprised by Kristen Wiig, I thought she made a good Cheetah and did exactly what was asked of her in this role – which apparently was to mimic Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman deal.  I would have liked to have seen what she could have done with the main storyline of the movie.


Pedro Pascal is a treasure and chews all the scenery with his terrible, terrible storyline. He’s great, but I wish the character was not in this movie.

Chris Pine is again, but it is so completely unnecessary to have him in this movie. What is happening to that guy whose body he takes over? And he can fly a jet in 1984 - to say nothing of the fact that it becomes her invisible jet. And aren't they in a hurry? How long are they going to take to leisurely fly through fireworks? Ugh. 


I haven’t even mentioned the fact that once Barbara starts to get powerful, she beats up that rapist who went after her which is supposed to signal that she is turning bad? Also, I loved the Lynda Carter cameo, but wouldn’t it have been better if she had an actual role? Give us Asteria’s storyline, why has she been living in man’s world, does she want her amour back? And why was there no great 80s pop music in this movie since they were so insistent it was in 1984? And what happened to the theme of truth? Max Lord was simply granting wishes to everyone who he could come in contact with, and that didn’t really have anything to do with truth or lies.  The final Cheetah/Wonder Woman fight was all CGI, which is a shame. I wish we got stunt work in costume.


4 out of 10 – I’m sorry, I really wanted to love it, but it just kept making me more and more angry. Oh well. They’ve already greenlit another one, and I will continue to be hopeful that one will be better!

Here’s something I will say – I got HBO Max for this, and while the movie is a letdown, I have been watching Titans, which I have been enjoying – and it does have the 2009 animated Wonder Woman movie, which is fantastic. Watch that and imagine if that had simply been translated to live action.

Also - what would this Lucy Lawless version of Wonder Woman from Justice League New Frontier think about her live-action counterpart still being hung up on a dude 70 years later? 


 



Monday, December 28, 2020

Movie Review: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (PG – 122 minutes)

Jingle Jangle is a new Christmas movie that is streaming on Netflix.  It opens on a grandmother reading a story to her granddaughter who believes in magic and can see fairies in their fire, and to her grandson, who seems to be more of a realist.  As she tells the story, we follow along through vivacious live action and engaging animated sequences.


Jeronicus Jangle is a toy inventor living in Cobbleton. He lives with his wife and daughter Jessica and is waiting on a missing piece to make a new toy for all the children for Christmas.  He creates a tiny matador toy that comes to life and has a problem with Jeronicus’s desire to make millions of him. The matador whispers into the ear of Jeronicus’s assistant Gustafson – who is already feeling slighted and ignored – that he should take Jeronicus’s book of ideas and inventions.  Gustafson takes the book and leaves Jeronicus, eventually becoming the best-known toymaker as Jeronicus slowly loses everything: his business, his wife, and his desire to work.  Jessica eventually moves away and has her own daughter, Journey.


Journey is enamored with stories of her grandfather and wants to visit him. Eventually Jessica relents, and Journey goes to spend time with Jeronicus – in the process helping him defeat Gustafson and remember why he invented toys in the first place. 

The story is sweet and the movie is a visual feast. It is written and directed by playwright David E. Talbert (who also did the wonderful Almost Christmas) because he wanted an inclusive and representational family holiday film.  It does feel like a play and I will not be surprised if it gets adapted to a stage musical. The costumes were inspired by Frederick Douglass’s clothes on his visit to Victorian England and are absolutely Oscar-worthy as is the production and set design.  The music is also incredible with assistance from John Legend - and that’s coming from me – someone who does not generally like musicals.  This movie should become annual Christmas classic viewing.  There are a few plot holes here and there, but really it’s more about the visuals and music than story.  It’s good for the whole family, even though it can get very sad when Jeronicus is losing everything. Because it has such a happy ending, it balances out.  The cast is spectacular.


Justin Cornwell plays young Jeronicus and Forest Whitaker plays the older Jeronicus. Both do a wonderful job and each get a big time song moment. 

Miles Barrow plays young Gustafson and Keegan-Michael Key plays the older Gustafson. Key again manages to steal every scene he is in and is working to establish himself as a big-time song and dance man between this and The Prom. 

Anika Noni Rose plays Jessica and yes, gets a big song. Newcomer Madalen Mills plays Journey, a role model worthy of any little girl who prefers their STEM classes to any others. She is bright and inquisitive and clever, orchestrating not only the entire visit with her grandfather, but the escapades to help bring his latest toy to life.  She is fantastic.


Phylicia Rashad plays the grandmother reading the story, and is all at once magical and grounded.  Ricky Martin has some really fun moments as the Matador doll and true villain of the story.  Lisa Davina Phillip plays Ms. Johnston, who has a crush on Jeronicus that she has to be very obvious about in order to get him to notice.


Overall the movie is wonderful and certainly perfect holiday family viewing. Hooray for streaming – get the family in their new Christmas pajamas and watch Jingle Jangle on Netflix with that big tin of tri-flavored popcorn.

8 out of 10.



Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Movie Review: Ava (R - 96 Minutes)

 

In continuing to check out new streaming options, Ava dropped on Netflix this weekend. 

Ava is a recovering addict who is recently feeling less fulfilled by her job as international assassin.  She’s starting to chitchat with her targets just before offing them, something her bosses are finding annoying.  Her mentor and boss recommends she take some time off so she heads home to Boston to reconnect with her family after not seeing them for eight years.  Family squabbles and attempted assassinations ensue.


Ava had left eight years earlier after her father lied to her mother about an affair and deflected the accusation by shifting the situation to stating Ava had stolen money for drugs from her mother.  Upset that her mother took her father’s side over hers Ava immediately left, joined the army, got clean, and then was recruited by Duke, her mentor, into a high-level collection of assassins. Hearing that her father has passed is the reason she heads home, only to find her sister is now with her former fiancé and is now pregnant.  The former fiancé is back to gambling and her mother has mastered side shade and throws barely veiled insults her way constantly. Unable to explain to any of them exactly why she left, she instead feels guilty.  Of course, her company takes this opportunity to fire her and sends a hitman to ‘cancel’ her.

The movie is directed by Tate Taylor, who also did Ma, The Girl on the Train, Get on Up, and The Help.  The movie promises to be an action thriller but is actually a character study.  It is a tough balance, and I am not entirely sure this movie was successful.  The action sequences that are present are fantastic so I did find myself wanting even more of them.  The story is familiar (Peppermint, Columbiana, all the versions of La Femme Nikita, Alias, Long Kiss Goodnight, etc.) and needed a little something extra to rise above other ‘hitman with a conscious’ movies.

Jessica Chastain is certainly capable as Ava and does great in the hand to hand combat sequences. I also thought she was great in the family scenes as someone who has worked hard to be completely blank but is still affected by these people and their opinions of her. The blankness did make it hard to connect with the character - despite the massive amounts of external character development.  I thought she was good, but I couldn’t help myself from wondering what the movie would have been like with someone else in the role, or if she was less blank and more firey.  


John Malkovich plays Duke, Ava’s mentor, recruiter, and father figure.  He is genuinely only interested in doing what is best for Ava and ensuring she is okay, despite the fact that he is John Malkovich and so you continually wait for him to be the bad guy.


Colin Farrell is the actual bad guy, Duke’s other protégé named Simon.  He has worked his way to the top of the company and is the one who determines that Ava is too much of a loose cannon.  There’s an interesting aspect in his character where he keeps taking business meetings at his house during family gatherings and has recruited his oldest daughter, Camille, into the company as the next hired killer – I wanted a little more from that storyline. Also, I sometimes forget how watchable Farrell is and he’s particularly good as a creepy bad guy. 

Jess Weixler plays Ava’s sister Judy who is good but does not have a ton to do except for be angry at Ava for leaving eight years ago with no explanation and leaving her to deal with their mother’s bitterness and father’s death. Common plays Michael, Judy’s fiancé and Ava’s ex.  Again, not much for him to do but remind Ava of who she used to be and what she gave up. 

Geena Davis plays Bobbi, Ava’s mother and is exceptional as she throws little insults at Ava nearly constantly. She is especially good in the one scene where she and Ava play cards and clear the air.  Of course, because I just re-watched Long Kiss Goodnight last weekend, once I learned Geena Davis was playing her mother, this seemed like a natural setup for a Long Kiss Goodnight sequel. I mean, her daughter is an assassin – clearly the perfect vehicle for Charly Baltimore to step back into the game and eliminate some fools.  Oh well, I guess we have to keep waiting for that.


Ioan Gruffudd shows up as the character-establishing victim in the front of the movie and Joan Chen plays a crime boss to establish previous character for Ava. 

Overall, the movie is certainly entertaining.  Again – this is that weird situation where I was perfectly happy with it watching it at home on Netflix. If I had seen this in the theater, would I have liked it as much?

6 out of 10 – Also, it finishes a bit open-ended, I am curious if they have future plans with Ava.

 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Movie Review: Godmothered (PG – 110 minutes)

 

Godmothered is newly released on Disney+, and certainly worth a stream!


Eleanor is a young woman from the ‘Motherland’, where fairy godmothers are trained to assist young women by granting them ball gowns, kisses from princes, true love, and happily ever afters. Eleanor is loving her studies and assignments and while not excelling, is certainly enthusiastic.  The rest of the students are all older fairy godmothers who inform her that there has not been a request for assistance in years and that the motherland is in danger of shutting down.


Crushed that she may not become a fully-fledged fairy godmother, Eleanor finds one last request in the archive and with the assistance of her roommate Agnes, who is just the local DJ, not a student (what?), heads through to our world to track down young Mackenzie and help her find her prince.

Shortly after arriving and finding Mackenzie, Eleanor realizes that she is now an adult with kids of her own. After losing her husband, she is not warm to the idea of love and happily ever after.  Eleanor seems completely insane to everyone at first – she does turn their dog into a piglet and enlists a local raccoon for help with lights – but after spending time with each of the family members, she slowly gains their trust.  Hijinks ensue including sledding, tailgating, and parties with gowns. Eventually, the family helps Eleanor see that there is more to life than just princes and happily ever afters. 


The movie is directed by Sharon Maguire who did two Bridget Jones movies. It is exactly as charming and fluffy as you would expect from a Disney holiday family flick, but with an added element I did not expect.  After Eleanor’s interference, Mackenzie realizes she has been feeding her fears to her daughters instead of building them up and championing their hopes. It’s a really interesting take. Mackenzie also helps Eleanor realize that true love has many different forms, and that living happily may be better than focusing on happily ever after, and what a perfect message for this year!

Isla Fisher is perfectly cast as Mackenzie and seems mostly irritated with everyone and everything for the front half of the movie. As she slowly starts to realize what she has been doing to her family, she pivots to try to improve. 

Jillian Bell has been so good in so many things for a very long time and she shines here as Eleanor. She genuinely wants to help, but really just for her own ends. Her disappointment in herself as she realizes that fact is very well played.


June Squibb plays Agnes, and while she has very little to do, she is very fun. Jane Curtin plays Moira, the head of the motherland school who is determined to shut everything down. 


Overall the movie is certainly family friendly enough for a streaming evening at home. I did find myself asking questions about the motherland itself – how do those godmothers get there, and how long do they live, and could they just choose to come here and be regular folks? Why is there a school for them to be fairy godmothers if they are born fairy godmothers?  And how can Eleanor have an allergy to shellfish if she is a fairy godmother? It certainly seems like magical folks should not have allergies. None of that is important, so just shut off your brain and enjoy another fun holiday flick.

6 out of 10.  

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Movie Review: Happiest Season (PG13 – 102 minutes)

 

Tis the season for charming Holiday rom-coms!  If you missed Last Christmas last year, you can catch that on HBO or as an Amazon Prime rental.  This year, there are literally dozens of rom-com options on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon that vary in quality from painful to watchable to enjoyable.  Happiest Season, currently available on Hulu, is certainly enjoyable.



Harper and Abby are enjoying the early part of their romance and moving steadily into the more serious portion. So serious in fact, that Abby has decided to propose to Harper over the holidays. After a particularly romantic evening involving a holiday light tour, a rooftop escapade, and a fall from said rooftop, Harper asks Abby to come home with her to spend the holidays with her family.  The only issue being that Harper’s family still does not know she is gay. Not only that, but her father is currently running for mayor and the family is looking to maintain a ‘traditionally perfect’ family image over the holidays to impress donors and voters. 



Despite that, Abby agrees to go home with her as her orphan roommate.  The various festivities start to get more complicated as Harper’s parents ensure her ex-boyfriend continues to encounter them at various functions and Abby gets to know Harper’s ex-girlfriend and sisters.  Hijinks ensue, and because it’s a rom-com, there are happy endings for all.


This movie is written and directed by Clea DuVall who wanted a rom-com that reflected her experience. The movie is smart, witty, and often downright hilarious. That is balanced completely with some genuinely touching and heartbreaking moments.  I have said it before and I will say it again, I never mind a rom-com that sticks to the formula and delivers on the happy ending in a satisfying way. The various circumstances while the couple tries to sneak around the house are very funny, and as with other classic rom-coms, it’s the support cast of friends and family that really shine.

Kristen Stewart plays Abby and this is by far the most relaxed and natural I have seen her in a movie. She gives Abby a warmth and genuineness layered with a desire to grow and evolve her relationship.  Mackenzie Davis plays Harper and the conflict in wanting to be her true self with Abby but also not let down her family while trying to meet their expectations is a difficult balance. I did find myself disliking her character at a couple of points, which probably speaks to how well she was doing.


Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber play Tipper and Ted, the parents. Tipper is learning how to manage the social media feeds as her husband courts large donors in his mayoral bid. Both are veterans and know exactly how to play nearly every beat of this story.

Alison Brie plays Harper’s perfect sister Sloane – we know she’s perfect because it is mentioned several times. Brie elevates this type of character and while you suspect there is more to her, it’s still a surprise when it happens. Mary Holland was the true standout to me as the younger sister Jane. Wildly exuberant and joyful while also being confident in her own path despite not really ever being shown any confidence from her family, she manages to be constantly funny and engaging.

Dan Levy plays John, Abby’s best friend, who shows up to rescue her when things start to veer wildly out of control. He is hilarious and gets some of the best scenes and lines, including one about hypothetically replacing a pet fish with an exact copy if something had maybe happened to the first fish.


Aubrey Plaza plays Harper’s ex, Riley.  She also manages to layer warmth and forgiveness in a role that could have been very one-note with a different actor.


Overall, the movie is charming, fun, and touching – exactly what you need in a holiday rom-com. Check it out while you open that holiday tin of the tri-color popcorn.

8 out of 10