In Love Again (Movie Thoughts: Love, Simon)

luvsimI remember reading the Becky Albertalli book ‘Simon Vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda’ years ago when it was first popular. I even think it was the very first gay YA book I read, and introduced me to the explosion of great YA novels. When I started seeing the trailers for ‘Love Simon,” I did not connect until later that this movie is an adaptation of that book. I should have, because I loved the book. I don’t remember too much about the minor details of the book, but the film stands on its own, and I think will connect with the younger generation. This is a movie that Mike Pence will not want you to see, and I hope it drives everyone to go see it.

It’s the movie I have most connected with since seeing ‘Call Me By Your Name’ late last year. This film has been perfectly described as a John Hughes kind of movie for this generation, and it’s apt. Greg Berlanti has directed a great film, written by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (who write for ‘This Is Us.’) It’s topical, it’s hilarious, it’s tender and touching, and even though it is a movie with a gay angle, it has universal appeal. i think a lot of people will be able to relate to the lead character, Simon, who otherwise leads a normal, well-adjusted perfect life – aside from having a big secret, and that he is gay. When a young man from his school anonymously confesses on the school blog that he is gay, this gives Simon an opportunity to communicate with him, and tell him that, he too, has the same secret.

Nick Robinson is swoon-worthy in the title role – and he is a great young actor, possessing just the right amount of vulnerability for the character. I suspect this will catapult him to stardom – boys and girls will fall in love with him. And they have cast the perfect people to be his parents – Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel, although it really makes me feel old that these age contemporaries of mine are playing parents of teenagers.

In the sneak preview screening I went to, the mostly young crowd screamed and applauded at all the right places, and it warmed my heart that everyone started applauding when the two male characters kissed for the first time. Of course, this is in Los Angeles, but I suspect people will react similarly everywhere. I cannot recommend this more highly.

Bred and Buttered (Movie Thoughts: Thoroughbreds)

thrTalk about chatty. I have always been an advocate for films when there is more talk than ‘action,’ but I do think certain movies need the latter more. ‘Thoroughbreds’ is more talk than action, and this time, I thought it wasn’t a fit. Writer/Director Cory Finley relied more words here, and even though he has two good young actors (Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor Joy) recite those words well, and make you believe in them, the plot of the film was just asking for something big, bold, and bombastic and it just fizzled there. The best thing about the film, for me, though, is an inspired performance from the late Anton Yelchin in one of his last film roles. I had a crush on him when he was younger, and here he shows the acting chops a lot of people will miss. Not much of a takeaway, but one nonetheless.

Day In Day Out (Movie Thoughts: Every Day)

DTNi_V2VwAA2Ez_I dragged a friend to see ‘Every Day,’ and after seeing the movie, he tells me ‘you owe me one.’  Yikes, this means our next movie will be his choice, and I am dreading it already, because I know it will be some horror or sci-fi movie, or even worse, a superhero one. Was ‘Every Day’ that bad?

It is. And the movie held such promise because it is based on the book by David Levithan, which I enjoyed immensely, and has a premise which I thought was very interesting – a teenager falls in love with someone who takes over a different body everyday. I remember the book was quite engaging, but the film translation, unfortunately, just did not work.

And it’s not from lack of trying. Angouri Rice as Rhiannon is an appealing young actress, and tries hard to give the character some heart and soul, but as written, it’s dead on arrival. And visualized on-screen, the whole premise just seems creepy. But the worst part is that the film dis not seem to have the breadth and depth of the novel – things almost seem flippant here. As my friend said afterwards, “you made me watch a Lifetime movie.”

One For The Stars (Film Thoughts: Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool)

SDC_1401148_2018-11-1--15-28-32It’s Valentine’s Day and I am continuing my streak of desperately trying to find some romantic mood in my movie-viewing. I saved ‘Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool’ because, based on the trailer anyway, I thought it would be closest to a love story. It’s not, if I want to be real strict about it. But it’s a fairly good movie experience, thanks to great acting by Annette Bening and especially Jamie Bell.

I think I have mentioned before that I have been underwhelmed by the Best Actress front runners this year so I am quite dismayed that Annette Bening has not been in the conversation for her performance here. While she has been better, she gives a pretty solid performance here as Gloria Grahame, the aging silent-film actress who goes to London to do some stage work there. She is effective, and seems to have gotten the actress’ spirit here. I totally loved the earlier scenes when she first meets Peter, played by Jamie Bell. They have great chemistry together, and gave the film light and shine. And speaking of Bell, he is a bonafide leading man here- attractive and charming, and he gives his character huge depth. I know some critics have mentioned his performance here as very noteworthy and I do agree.

fstThe film, directed by Paul McGuigan, is just a bit too somber, though. I wish they showed more about Grahame, the actress, because, well, I don’t really know much about her and/or her career, aside from the fact that she won an Oscar in 1952 for ‘The Bad and The Beautiful.’

As for a Valentine’s Day movie choice, it’s good enough. The movie has a beating heart, and love is celebrated here in some kind of form. I could do worse.

Opening Up Love (Movie Thoughts: Permission)

permiMaybe because Valentine’s Day is coming up that I have been watching relationship-centric films.  I guess ‘Permission’ falls under that category, although I think it’s anti-romantic. This film, directed by Brian Crano is about two people in a relationship, Anna (Rebecca Hall) and Glen (Dan Stevens) and they decide to ‘open’ this relationship because they sort of feel that they have missed out on dating other people – or so they thought as well. It’s kind of a terrible set up, and you just know things will just end in tears. But before we get anywhere, we get to see both of them date other people.

I thought the premise was kind of uninteresting, to be honest, and I wasn’t too interested, and as a matter of fact, had to start and stop watching the film a couple of times. But I got into the groove fairly shortly, mostly thanks to the great acting of both Hall and Stevens here. They both add layers to things that are unspoken here, whether those are intentional or not, and they make the characters more dimensional. They share equal time with a gay couple who are also evaluating their relationship when one of them hints at wanting to have children. There are a couple of surprises here that I mostly did not expect, but I do kind of wonder if I should really watch a kind-of cynical film before Hearts Day. Perhaps I needed it.

Set Me Free (Movie Thoughts: Fifty Shades Freed)

7fiftyshadesfreed00_450Whenever I try to explain to people why I completed watching all three Fifty Shades movies, I answer with two words: Jamie Dornan. I mean, I am on Moviepass so the movie is basically free, so I don’t think it is such a major waste of time to spend two hours with Jamie Dornan almost completely naked. Right? Right? I mean, I can justify that, right?

Because I really feel like I need to. This third installment, ‘Fifty Shades Freed,’ isn’t the worst of the lost (that would be ‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ which was dull and boring) I still contend that the first one was surprisingly entertaining. This third one is just fine, as long as you do not take it too seriously. There is no plot here, so don’t even search for one. The film opens with Christian and Anastasia getting married, and then we get some nebulous things like stalkers and imaginary danger. And the two engage in a lot of sex. They are still mostly tame, and maybe that’s from me being very jaded, although there is a butt plug involved in one of them (off-camera) so there’s some deviation.

But other than that, the only thing for me here is Dornan, who is cute. He seems to be bored and rolling his eyes while acting, but then again most probably in the cast, and the audience are in on the same joke at this point. Hopefully next Valentine’s Day the world gets a movie release that’s a real love story.

Cute Expectations (Movie Thoughts: This Is Not What I Expected)

90f23b0c51e4c9b448a6763b428d75a9Set in Shanghai, ‘This Is Not What I Expected’ tries to fill the rom-com dearth in my life. Unfortunately, though, it comes up short.

This Chinese movie, set in Shanghai, isn’t bad. It’s just a little bit too by-the-numbers. I always say that these kinds of movies are deep set on formula, but what will set them apart will be chemistry and charisma.

Takeshi Kaneshiro plays Lu Jin, your serious straight-laced businessman who keeps on encountering Gu Shengnan, played by Zhou Dongyu. They meet cute, sure, but they keep on meeting and Derek Hui just tries so hard to keep them cuter and cuter until you become so annoyed with them. And he makes Gu quirly with a capital Q, and it just seems so ‘manufactured’ to me that after a while I did not believe it anymore.

But the two actors do have chemistry, though. Even as they saddle through a cliched script, they almost pull it off by instilling a beating heart into the story. Plus, I have to admit it felt a little long to me – some situations could have benefited from a little editing. Still, the initial cuteness is appealing enough, like a Hello Kitty Doll that outstays its welcome.