Disrespected (Movie Thoughts: Respect)

I had such high hopes for Liesl Tommy’s ‘Respect.’ I mean, Aretha Franklin played by Jennifer Hudson – a wet dream for me if there ever was one. I had been looking so forward to the film, and was disappointed when it was delayed from last year’s Oscar bait season. So now that it is finally here, is it worth my wait? Unfortunately, no. It’s a sad, sad picture. And I don’t mean sad in the melancholy sense. It’s a joyless story of a great talent.

First of all, I don’t think there is any lack in the source material. Franklin sure led a very interesting (and dramatic) life but the film felt very by-the-numbers. Worse, it tells the story so blandly without taking any kind of stands. We know that she got impregnated at an early age, but the film just skims through that. I mean, I don’t want the story to be salacious, but a little juice would have kept the film interesting. And the screenplay turns every storytelling trope there is – there i no drama or surprise to anything.

And while Hudson sings the bejesus out of the songs, the character isn’t provided any kind of depth and sorry to say she just doesn’t have the actor’s instinct that gives the role more gravitas. She was Aretha’s choice for the role and I never believed for a second that she wasn’t Jennifer Hudson playing Aretha. Skip this.

I Hear You (Film Thoughts: Coda)

I was looking on Letterboxd of films I have watched this year, and realized that I loved Sian Heder’s ‘Coda’ so much that it’s one of my top two films of the year. I rate films based on my emotional connection to them, and ‘Coda’ made me feel a lot of different emotions: happy, enthusiastic, I mean, even the music in it gave me joy. I know it is now streaming on Apple+ and I just hope people are able to find it.

‘Coda’ is a coming of age film about a young woman, Ruby, who is the only hearing member of her family. The film is a story of her growing up and realizing that her world could be much larger than what she thought it could be. The film is centered around a wonderful performance of Emilia Jones as Ruby. She displays warmth and vulnerability in her character, and has a great singing voice to boot. And most of the supporting actors are great as well – probably Marlee Matlin’s best performance since she won her Oscar, and Troy Kotsur nearly steals the movie playing Ruby’s father. It’s one of those movies that is making you laugh so hard you haven’t realized you are already crying.

Don’t Kiss Me (Movie Thoughts: The Kissing Booth 3)

Look, I wasn’t expecting ‘The Kissing Booth 3’ to be Citizen Kane, but I wanted at least something sensical. Talk about outstaying a welcome. I liked teh first two installments well enough for me to look for this on Netflix as soon as it became available, but I just have to be honest, I have a huge crush on Jacob Elordi. His presence here is worthwhile, but the film is a chore to get through. Yes, we get the usual teen problems, but the cast seem to have. checked out and I feel like everyone is just counting the hours until check out time. They all look bored, and I felt it.

The Water Is Still (Film Thoughts: Stillwater)

Tom McCarthy’s ‘Stillwater’ is a lot of things, and at times it may be too much, but the one thing it isn’t is boring. Running at two and a half hours, the film is on the long side, but for me, it never felt long winded. It tells the story of a redneck, Bill, played by Matt Damon, who flies to Marseille to visit his daughter, who is incarcerated there and accused of murdering her lover. (It is supposed to be base on the Amanda Knox saga) and the film is sort of a drama/mystery akin to a procedural. But it’s also kind of an ugly American story, and a little bit of a love story as well. I feel that its last quarter a bit problematic, as if McCarthy ran out of ideas and the story became less believable. Still, it is well anchored by a great Damon performance, and I think it’s his best oen in a while (I keep forgetting how good he can sometimes be) And as I said, it’s mostly riveting and will probably be worth your while.

Almost Precious (Film Thoughts: Joe Bell)

So here’s the conundrum. There are so many good things going for ‘Joe Bell’ that I can’t help but root for it – it has a screenplay by the tandem of Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry (they did this little thing called ‘Brokeback Mountain’) and film is expertly directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. And I have to admit, I weeped a couple of times during the film, and I was especially moved by Reid Miller’s performance as Jadin, the gay teenager who took his life because he was bullied by his classmates. And the message, of course, resonates, and will always be timely and important. I mean, all these elements should add up to something special.

But… the stench of Mark Wahlberg permeates. This is a star vehicle for him, designed to elicit sympathy, a redemption vehicle seemingly from his racist past. And I may have been able to get past that if he were good, but he isn’t. He tries subtlety but I did not see any depth there. As a matter of fact, I did not feel anything from him, and I found it such a waste of effort. This could have been any actor’s piece, and it would have worked infinitely better.

So – did I like the film? Yes, in a lot of ways I did. I am begrudgingly recommending it despite its bad central performance, and just wish for what might have been.

Love Letters Straight From The Heart (Film Thooughts: The Last Letter From Your Lover)

I will always be in the mood for soapy melodramatic romance pieces, and on a Summer Saturday night, Augustine Frizell’s ‘The Last Letter From Your Lover’ is exactly what I am looking for. It has everything I want: glamorous period piece sets, fashionable wardrobe, fab women and cute guys, and a swoony love story that will make you fall in love It will make you yearn for something while munching on pop corn. It’s a modern day Douglas Sirk extravaganza, and you don’t have to think too much about it. And it is very well acted, so even if things are a little on the ‘can you believe it’ side – there’s an abundance of issues here, like amnesia, car accidents, missed messages – you can just shrug and believe. And Callum Turner’s smoldering turn makes me warm on the collar, if I have to be honest. So what are you waiting for ? This is the perfect Netflix and Chill flick.

An Actor’s Life (Film Thoughts: Val)

‘Val,’ a documentary about Val Kilmer is quite an interesting watch, and I had no idea it would be. It celebrates the actor’s life of Val Kilmer, and it benefits from a lot of video footage taken by Kilmer himself. As an actor who became popular during the 80s and 90s, Kilmer also had thousands of hours of footage from his experiences, so he had ample material to present from his varied filmography. I of course know him as Iceman from ‘Top Gun’ and he says that’s his most popular role, with people calling him that characters’a name everywhere. But I did not know that he was a Juilliard-trained actor. As a natter of fact, he still is its younger enrollee in its history. Kilmer is also a little bit of a method actor, and you can sense how his roles envelope his life as he shoots them. The film is bittersweet – he now suffers from a medical condition that makes him unable to speak clearly – his voice is compromised so he has son do a lot of the film’s narration. It has a little bit of a sense of what might have been – as an actor he has accomplished a lot but makes you think if there will be more.

Where’s The Bacon (Film Thoughts: Pig)

I can say with extreme confidence that Michael Sarnoski’s ‘Pig’ isn’t the movie that you thought it would be – whatever it is that movie in your mind. I had misgivings about it before I knew anything about it, because I thought it was one of those action revenge films (akin to ‘John Wick,’ which I never saw by the way) but what we have here is a unique drama of loss, of rumination of life, and what might have been. It’s a film that is difficult to describe, and how you react to it will probably vary as well. But I bet it will move you in ways you will mot realize. It is one of those films that I frankly did not know how to fully comprehend, but the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated its many layers. There’s a lot of subtlety here – in fact, there is too much subtlety and that is where its beauty lies, and in the center is a nuanced performance by Nicolas Cage. He will break your heart.

Human Chef (Film Thoughts: Roadrunner)

I know Anthony Bourdain was one of the more popular ‘celebrity chefs’ (he hated that term) but really the only think that kind of interested me about him is that he is a big fan of Jollibee and of teh halo-halo desert – so he holds a certain cache for some Filipinos (that’s probably the same reason why I ignore him) For sure, I have his CNN show in passing, but I was never really a devoted follower. But I have to say that Morgan Neville has captured his essence in his documentary about him, ‘Roadrunner’ and after watching him, I most certainly have a different appreciation for Bourdain the person. I even empathize with him.

And he is not an easy character to love. He is flawed – an addict, but he possesses a lot of charisma that made everyone love him instantly, and you felt right away that he might and could be your best friend. It’s a tragic story, of course, but the film manages to celebrate most of what makes him tick by focusing on a lot of what makes him very human.

The Visits (Film Thoughts: The Woman Who Ran)

Happy Fourth. So on this very American holiday, I am choosing to write about.. a Korean film, specifically Hong Sang-soo’s ‘The Woman Who Ran.’ This is a very interesting film, a scant one with a running time of 77 minutes. It’s a document fo a woman and her three visits to different friends. We are left to piece together something from the three episodes. What happens could be something – is she running away from a relationship? But it could also mean nothing – these can be just random scenes of a a slice of a woman’s life. What one gets from it depends on how one views life, but then again, this can be jst one pretentious masturbatory fantasy.