Thursday, April 23, 2020

Every Day: Teens, Love, and the Moving Target

Movie Review: Every Day (2018)
Version: EPIX on Demand

Interesting concept in the film, Every Day: A teenager trying to move through the edgy reality of high school life meets a spirit who wakes up in the body of a different person every morning but lasts only a day -- and falls in love with it. She doesn't realize it's happening at first, but finally the spirit, who calls itself "A", confides in Rhiannon (Angoruie Rice) and they try to find each other in A's new body each day.

Rhiannon first realizes something is off when her self-centered boyfriend Justin (Justice Smith) finally shows an interest in her. The next day a new girl in school asks to shadow her and is kind of clingy, but it's A in the body of Nathan (Lucas Jade Zumann) who finally sets off alarms in her and then A begins a cascade of connections and explanations each new day in new persons, while Rhiannon tries to decide whether to believe the stories she is hearing. Finally, things come together in A's possession of Alexander (Owen Teague), as A realizes he can prolong inhabiting a subject's body. But in doing so, he threatens to upend the subject's life and future, which A realizes is wrong. And so A and Rhiannon must decide whether they have a future as lovers.

As I said, this is an interesting concept. The movie fully explores its feasibility and its implications. What you need to decide is if you can take all the teen angst and wrangling around social taboos. It's a pretty well done production and the plot lines work pretty well. Nowhere do they bore you with technicalities or detailed exposition, it's mostly character and plot development. You learn to care about everyone and whether they succeed or fail and whether they're doing the right thing. So the filmmakers got that part right. There are about a dozen kids whose bodies and souls are swapped out, and everyone is believable, a risk in such an technique.

For me, the question comes down to whether you buy enough into the concept to keep watching. I watched all the way to the end. I wanted to see the two kids keep it together and find love in an impossible situation. Yet I also wanted them to be "together" enough morally to do the right thing. I'll let you watch the film to see if they got there.

Every Day is probably most fitting to a teen audience, with its references to high school life and social issues. But adults can "get" the references, too, and may enjoy watching the film with their own teens while spending time with them in these days of social distancing and being forced closer together as families and farther away from friends. It may provide an opportunity to discuss life and love and what's most meaningful to each of us.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Dan in Real Life: A Great Getaway Film

Movie Review: Dan in Real Life (2007)
Version: Showtime on Demand

Amazing how many movies there are from a few years ago I haven't seen, and there are tons of them out there that are really great. One of them is Dan in Real Life from 2007, with a fine cast and a decent script. I would say probably perfect for ages teen and older; in a pinch, older kids might sit still for it, too.

Dan is a single father raising three girls. He lost his wife to illness four years earlier and still hasn't learned how to let go of the loss, so he's holding on to a very young one, a teen, and one approaching adulthood. Every year the whole extended family meets at the family's lodge in Rhode Island for bonding time, and Dan (Steve Carell) drags Jane (Alison Pill), Cara (Britt Robertson), and Lilly (Marlene Lawston) along for the week away from their everyday lives to play nice with the relatives. He really should be out finding a new girl friend and letting them live their own lives. Well, surprise everyone, Dan meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) after his mother Nana (Dianne Wiest) sends him away to the bookstore, and he falls head-over-heels in love with her. When he gets back to the lodge, he tells his brothers about her only to discover his brother Matt (Dane Cook) has brought her as his girlfriend to meet the family, and now not only can Dan not tell anyone who he has fallen in love with, he can't pursue her has she has invited him to do while leaving the bookstore. And from here, all manner of awkward situations develop and ensue and create conflicts for Dan and Marie only a well-written rom com can resolve. I should add, John Mahoney appears as the family patriarch, Poppy, with his usual warmth and depth of character.

There are lots of plot twists and fun moments in a screenplay written as breezily and effortlessly as an episode of Frazier or Friends. Subplots and subtexts abound to make this story as rich and interesting as a Woody Allen comedy, although without the irony or sardonic wit, of course. You will feel at home in the coziness of this oceanside family compound and its rounds of games and meals and offside chats. Stop by for a spell and feel part of the family.

Dan in Real Life was one of our better movie picks in this time of pandemic lockdowns. We really escaped the worry and the bad news for a couple of hours of fun. I think you might enjoy it, too.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Abominable: A Fun Family-Friendly Film Everyone Can Feel Good About

Movie Review: Abominable (2019)
Version: Hulu

My daughter loves animated movies, but when Abominable came out in theaters she was meh about the concept. So now in the time of coronavirus we've watched all the other animated movies, we decided to give Abominable a try -- and she loves it! It's a fun family-friendly film everyone can feel good about.

Here's the concept: Everest (voice of Joseph Izzo) is a yeti who escapes from a top secret private research facility. He sees a sign in the city promoting trips to Mount Everest and recognizes it as his home and heads for it as a means of escape but is scared off by helicopters pursuing him, running to the secluded hideaway set up at the top of the apartment building where troubled teen Yi (voice of Chloe Bennet) and her family live. She discovers him and with troublesome neighbor Peng (voice of Albert Tsai) and heartthrob Jin (voice of Tenzing Norgay Trainor) set out to help Everest get home. Hot on their trail are scientist Dr. Zara (voice of Sarah Paulson) and her billionaire boss Mr. Burnish (voice of Eddie Izzard), who has spent his life trying to prove yeti exist after being made a fool of during his youth. He is driven by pride, but Dr. Zara has hidden motives that drive her.

The story moves along briskly with the rush to get Everest to the sea port to sneak onto a voyage to Nepal. Once there, they must face the long trip to the mountain, great obstacles, and the undaunted spirit of their foes who refuse to give up the search to recapture Everest. Throughout, the kids discover his amazing magical powers and their own courage and resilience in the face of danger.

Abominable is one of DreamWorks's best animated films. It's full of spirit and imagination. The color is vivid and the creativity is off the charts. The pay-off message for families at the end is heartwarming. Kids, teens, adults can all love this film.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Parasite: A Complex Comedy That Will Leave You Spellbound at the End

Movie Review: Parasite (2019)
Version: Hulu

What can I say about the multiple-award winning Parasite but WOW! It's a complex drama-comedy that works on so many levels that it leaves you spellbound at the end, forcing you to dwell on it for days. Be prepared to savor it once you've seen it.

Now I understand why it won so many awards.

Parasite is a South Korean film about a poor family that lucks into a job tutoring a rich family's daughter for her university English classes. Once son Ki Woo (Woo-sik Choi) has secured his position inside the wealthy Park family's home, he maneuvers a job for his sister Ki Jung (So-dam Park) to act as an art psychologist for the Park's misunderstood son Da Song (Hyun-jun Jung). She arranges for the firing of the Park's private driver and to recommend another driver, who is her father Ki Taek (Kang-ho Song). And he manipulates the firing of the long-time Park housekeeper (Jeong-eun Lee as Moon Gwang), recommending his wife Chung Sook (Hye-jin Jang). All their lives, the Kim family has gotten along by scheming and cheating and this is their ultimate con.

Nothing could be a greater contrast between the lives of the Kims and the Parks. The Kims live in a squalid half-basement apartment in a dead-end urban industrial ghetto. The Parks live in a luxurious modern gated home with gardens and lawns on multiple levels including a full basement just for storing all their food. The Park kitchen is fully stocked -- the Kim's kitchen is lucky to have food. We discover later there is even a secret compartment where the previous housekeeper has kept her husband living! And that's when everything starts going wrong for the Kims.

Milking the Park's lifestyle for their own benefit becomes part of the motiff of Parasite. The Kims are very careful about it, taking advantage of their situation without taking over-advantage of it. But they realize discovery would end in their ouster. So they benefit without really rising above it. Finally, however, the Parks take off for a long camping weekend for Da Song's birthday and the Kims decide to camp out as a family in the Park's home. And former housekeeper Moon Gwang returns to rescue her husband locked in the secret room in the basement, igniting a desperate war with the Kims.

There is a lot of humor in this film, much of it surrounding the the Kims' dismissive attitudes about the fortunes of others, including the ironic seclusion of the wealthy Parks in their well-guarded tower and then the misfortune of the former housekeeper and her husband at their mercy while they themselves are at their own mercy of discovery. It all comes to a comedic head as the Park family returns early from the camping trip and the two misanthrope families scurry not to be discovered leaving a mess in the house.

The biggest surprise is the ending sequence. I won't spoil it here, but suffice it to say, you won't see it coming and it certainly ties up all the loose ends! Believe me when I say, stay for end if you're tempted to bail early.

This film isn't without its flaws. Its impossible plot points, it's ridiculous ploys. But if you let them pass to enjoy the quirky characters and amazing setting, and frankly the funny script, I think you will agree that Parasite is a pretty good film and maybe all those awards were spot on.

Ford v Ferrari: Big on Conflict, High on Drama, Tons of Action -- What's Not to Like?

Movie Review: Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Version: Library Blu-Ray

Strap in for tons of action in Ford v Ferrari as Carrol Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) take on the corporate titans at Ford and the Italian kings at Ferrari to win the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, pretty much on their own. This real-life story is full of life and character and passion, and it has enough drama and conflict for several films.

The back drop to the story is that Ford tried to buy Ferrari to tap into its race engineering talent. But Ferrari looked down its nose at the second generation of Ford's corporate ownership. So Ford decided to challenge Ferrari at its premier racing event the coming year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and it tapped the talents and skills of American car designer (and schlock salesman) Carroll Shelby and his team. Shelby wanted crack driving phenom Ken Miles. Miles was a winning driver, but all he had to show for it were the trophies -- little money and, with a difficult personality, few friends. Always the winning salesman, Shelby talked Ford into employing Miles, but there was always tension with the top brass, whose goals always favored marketing the Ford brand at the expense of racing goals.

As the film plays out, you are treated to a panoply of fast and furious scenes featuring speed and conflict, execs versus mechanics trying to ramp up the Ford image and the Ford engine, all to win the biggest race in the world. Who really wins in the end is less up to the cars and more up to the egos. And that's the fun of watching this play out on screen, besides the heavy thrum of engines and tire squeals. Character plays a huge role in this film, and it comes out in aces with Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles, both strong personalities in real life. Josh Lucas also plays a strong role as the heavy Ford executive Leo Beebe, which becomes more critical later in the film.

Everything in this movie comes together to make great viewing. Big on conflict, high on drama, tons of action, great character development, suspense, thrills, and fine acting. What's not to like? Enjoy!