Good On Paper Review

Good On Paper movie posterSynopsis
While on the flight back home from an audition, stand-up comedian Andrea (Iliza Shlesinger) meets Dennis (Ryan Hansen), a man who seemed perfect for her. As their relationship grows, Dennis doesn’t appear to be as good as Andrea first thought.

Review
I’ve been on a bit of an Iliza Shlesinger binge lately, so when I found out she wrote and starred in a movie based on one of her real life experiences, I knew I had to watch it right away. Good On Paper follows similar story beats as typical romantic comedy and may at first seem like typical fare for the genre, but as the movie progresses, you realize it finds its own voice, which feels refreshing and allows it to stand out among other romantic comedies. On top of that, Shlesinger brings a warm and authentic atmosphere to the story. Her timing from her stand-up routines translates well to film, generating tons of laughs throughout the entire run time. Supporting actors Ryan Hansen and Margaret Cho also deserve heaps of praise. Cho’s delivery and timing is on par with Shlesinger’s and together they are a powerful comedic duo.

I thought Good On Paper was GOOD πŸ™‚ The story was enjoyable and the cast was even better. I don’t know how I missed this last year but I’m glad I finally got around to watching it.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Kimmy Gatewood – Director
Iliza Shlesinger – Writer
Johnathan Sanford – Composer

Iliza Shlesinger – Andrea
Ryan Hansen – Dennis
Margaret Cho – Margot
Rebecca Rittenhouse – Serrena
Kimia Behpoornia – Maggie
Beth Dover – Leslia
Matt McGorry – Brett
Rebecca Delgado Smith – Alli


This years Ultimate Decades Blogathon was announced yesterday! If you’re interested in participating, check out this announcement post.

Duel Review

Duel movie posterSynopsis
Businessman David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is on his way to meet a client. On the way he is pursued and terrorized by a truck driver.

Review
After my successful Alfred Hitchcock project in 2021, I decided to undertake a similar project in 2022. Unlike my Hitchcock project, this time I’m focusing a director I am already familiar with: Steven Spielberg, one of my all-time favorite directors. I debated on starting with Duel, his first feature-length film, or Sugarland Express, his first theatrical film. In the end, I chose to start at the very beginning with Duel. I am delighted that I started with Duel because it was well worth my time.

The premise of the film is extremely straight forward: a businessman is harassed by a truck driver on the way to a client. Despite this simplicity, Steven Spielberg manages to create a suspenseful ride from start to finish. The camera angles, the pacing, the editing, Dennis Weaver’s fantastic acting, all of it created an experience reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock himself. Taking a page from Hitchcock’s playbook, the antagonist is never actually seen throughout the movie. Going off the idea that the unknown is scarier than the known, the truck driver’s arm or the driver’s boots may be seen but that’s as much of the character as we see. This adds to the tension and the suspense because neither the audience nor David Mann (Weaver) knows the madman trying to kill a fellow driver. To make up for the lack of visibility of the truck’s driver, the truck itself is just as much of a character as David. There is a lot of character in the truck’s appearance; it’s all grimy and dirty, and covered in plates from other cars where the driver had successfully performed similar menacing acts in the past, and has a distinct and memorable silhouette. My only knock against Duel is it might be a little long for such a simple plot. However, seeing as how this was originally a made-for-television movie and had extra scenes added to extend the run time to receive an international theatrical release, this is a minor gripe.

I thought Duel was GOOD πŸ™‚ It’s very high quality for a television movie, which usually pale in comparison to their theatrical counterparts. Spielberg weaves a story that is suspenseful and exciting, creating a monster movie reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. If you want to see where Spielberg’s film career began, be sure to check this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Trivia
Duel marked Steven Spielberg’s feature-length directorial debut. It originally aired as a television film as part of the ABC Movie of the Week series on November 13, 1971, later receiving an international theatrical release with an extended version featuring scenes shot after the films original broadcast. (via Wikipedia).

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Richard Matheson – Writer
Billy Goldenberg – Composer

Dennis Weaver – David Mann
Jacqueline Scott – Mrs. Mann
Eddie Firestone – Cafe Owner
Lou Frizzell – Bus Driver
Gene Dynarski – Man in Cafe
Lucille Benson – Lady at Snakerama
Tim Herbert – Gas Station Attendant
Charles Seel – Old Man
Shirley O’Hara – Waitress
Alexander Lockwood – Old Man in Car
Amy Douglass – Old Woman in Car
Dick Whittington – Radio Interviewer (voice)
Carey Loftin – The Truck Driver
Dale Van Sickel – Car Driver

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie posterSynopsis
Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is heir to the villainous Ten Rings organization, an inheritance he does not want. After escaping and hiding for several years, Shang-Chi faces the Ten Rings again to stop his father (Tony Leung), the leader of the ancient organization, from unleashing an evil that could destroy the world.

Review
After the epic scale of Avengers: Endgame, it is a nice change of pace to come back to stories that are smaller and more personal. Black Widow might have been the first film released in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but chronologically, it was before Avengers: Infinity War. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first film in the future proper of the MCU. And in the same vein of Phase One’s Iron Man, it takes place on a small scale and very personal level but opens the door for a much larger future.

Not too long ago, I went through the entire series of Kim’s Convenience, where Simu Liu plays the character of Jung Kim. It’s jarring to see him transition from a comedy role to an action role; I imagine it is the same feeling fans of The Office felt when they saw John Krasinski first play Jack Ryan. Anyway, Liu performed the action parts just as well as he did the comedy parts. His star power is quickly on the rise and I can’t wait to see more of him in the MCU.

As much as I like comedy, one thing that MCU films have had difficulty with is finding a good balance between humor and seriousness. Thor: Ragnarok is one example of an offender of this. However, Shang-Chi was able to balance these aspects much better than many of its predecessors. It helped that rather than have every character be the comedy relief, that role mostly fell on the shoulders of Awkwafina. Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend (not love interest) Katy helped balance the film well. She had her comedic moments but they weren’t overbearing and never took away from the more sincere or somber moments. I hope future MCU films take note of this character and how to handle comedy in superhero films going forward.

Many comic fans did not like the Mandarin’s portrayl in Iron Man 3. I’m not a die-hard fan of the character of Iron Man so I enjoyed the character twist in that film. I especially like the follow up one-shot, Long Live the King, which follows Trevor Slattery after the events of Iron Man 3, which teased the appearance of the real Mandarin. Slattery, played by Ben Kingsley, is an entertaining character that Kingsley completely morphs into and always gets a laugh out of me. I was ecstatic to see him incorporated into the story in this film, especially after the previously mentioned tease at the end of Long Live the King. Kingsley once again plays the character to perfection and created some of the best laughs of the movie.

Way back in my State of the MCU Address, I stated that I wanted Shang-Chi to embrace its character’s roots and fully embrace the martial arts action side of things. And in that regard, this film did not disappoint. Every set piece was exciting and packed with exhilarating action sequences. It really channeled the Kung Fu roots of the character and let loose.

Like I said before, I’m not overly attached to the Mandarin character, and that also applies to his iconic ten rings. However, one thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the way the titular objects were portrayed in this movie. In the comics, I like to equate the rings to the infinity stones, albeit much less powerful, where each ring grants the wearer a unique ability. When combined and used together, the user is granted enormous power. But in this film, they became more physical in nature, not granting any special powers, other than not aging and physical power. I can understand the change, it might have taken up too much extra time explaining the rings’ powers or trying to find ways to incorporate the rings’ powers into the story, so the change might be benefial to the story, but it is disappointing to see the potential of the rings overlooked.

I thought Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was GOOD πŸ™‚ Phase 4 of the MCU has provided a fresh start while building inside what came before and this film has taken full advantage of that. It’s self-contained but offers a path into something greater going forward. The action is top-notch and the comedy is one of the best in the franchise in a long time. While it doesn’t quite make it to the top echelons of the MCU, it is an adventure that is well worth the time.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Destin Daniel Cretton – Director / Screenplay / Story
Dave Callaham – Screenplay / Story
Andrew Lanham – Screenplay

Simu Liu – Shaun / Shang-Chi
Awkwafina – Katy
Tony Leung – Xu Wenwu
Meng’er Zhang – Xialing
Ben Kingsley – Trevor Slattery
Fala Chen – Li
Michelle Yeoh – Ying Nan
Yuen Wah – Master Guang Bo
Florian Munteanu – Razor Fist
Jayden Zhang – Young Shang-Chi
Elodie Fong – Young Xialing
Arnold Sun – Teen Shang-Chi

Last Night in Soho Review

Last Night in Soho movie posterSynopsis
Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a fashion design student in London, begins experiencing visions of a 1960s aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Eloise soon learns that these visions are a dark truth from the past.

Review
Edgar Wright has slowly risen on my list of notable directors. While I haven’t seen a lot of his filmography, everything that I have seen has been enjoyable and full of substance and emotion. Last Night in Soho has several great and unexpected twists towards the end. On top of that, the lead up to those twists and reveals is full of excitement and had me on the edge of my seat (even getting a few jumps out of me). The two lead actresses, Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, absolutely carry this film and they have both marked themselves as rising stars.

I thought Last Night in Soho was GOOD πŸ™‚ While not explicitly a Halloween film, Last Night in Soho is a perfect movie to watch when you need something to give you thrills during the spooky season.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Edgar Wright – Director / Story / Screenplay
Kyrsty Wilson-Cairns – Screenplay
Steven Price – Composer

Thomasin McKenzie – Eloise
Anya Taylor-Joy – Sandie
Matt Smith – Jack
Michael Ajao – John
Synnove Karlsen – Jocasta
Jessie Mei Li – Lara
Kassius Nelson – Cami
Rebecca Harrod – Ashley
Terence Stamp – Silver Haired Gentleman
Diana Rigg – Ms. Collins

Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon ReviewSynopsis
When the Transformers learn that an ancient Cybertonian ship is on the moon, the Autobots must race to discover its secrets before the Decepticons do.

Review
After the disappointment of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I went into the third live-action Transformers film with caution. Thankfully, Transformers: Dark of the Moon seems to have learned after Revenge of the Fallen and treats the audience with more respect. The humor isn’t as immature as before. In fact, there is not as much humor as there was previous films in the franchise. Whereas the last two films had jokes coming from multiple sources, this movie primarily relies on Shia LeBeouf to carry that aspect of it. Instead, it takes itself much more seriously, which ends up helping overall because the story is much bigger and epic than before. Like Revenge of the Fallen, it goes bigger than the films before in a true sequel fashion. This focus on the story and characters rather than the childish humor creates a much more engaging and exciting experience.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the definition of a β€œblockbuster” movie. It’s big, it’s loud, and it takes you on an adventure. It isn’t as glob-spanning as Revenge of the Fallen but that’s okay. While the world trotting grandeur isn’t there, the action is much bigger, which is saying something considering the last film. The best part is that this movie does a much better job of framing the action scenes around the robots than the previous films. There are still multiple close-ups during the fights making it tricky to see everything but for the most part, the camera stays further back, giving a better view of the fight, especially against the backdrop of Chicago during the final act.

I thought Transformers: Dark of the Moon was GOOD πŸ™‚ Just like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen went bigger than Transformers, Dark of the Moon goes bigger than Revenge of the Fallen. Even though the film is longer, the story is much more focused and the humor is much better, being toned back severely and being more serious in general. Overall, it is a vast improvement on all counts than the let down of its immediate predecessor in the franchise.

Trivia
According to ILM, the company employed its entire rendering machinery to use on the film. This added up to using more than 200,000 rendering hours per day, the equivalent of 22.8 years of render time in 24 hours. (via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Ehren Kruger – Writer
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Shia LeBeouf – Sam Witwicky
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley – Carly
Josh Duhamel – Lennox
John Turturro – Simmons
Alan Tudyk – Dutch
Tyrese Gibson – Epps
Patrick Dempsey – Dylan
Frances McDormand – Mearing
Kevin Dunn – Ron Witwicky
Julie White – Judy Witwicky
John Malkovich – Bruce Brazos
Ken Jeong – Jerry Wang
Glenn Marshower – General Marshower
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
Jess Harnell – Iron Hide (voice)
Robert Foxworth – Ratchet (voice)
James Remar – Sideswipe (voice)
Francesco Quinn – Dino (voice)
George Coe – Wheeljack (voice)
Tom Kenny – Que / Wheelie (voice)
Reno Wilson – Brains (voice)
Leonard Nimoy – Sentinel Prime (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Megatron (voice)
Charlie Adler – Starscream (voice)
Frank Welker – Soundwave / Shockwave (voice)
Keith Szarabajka – Laserbeak (voice)

Jingle All the Way: Christmas in July Blogathon 2021

Hello, friends!

It’s the moment I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: my entry in the 2021 Christmas in July Blogathon! As usual, I am wrapping up the blogathon and this year. For the closing entry, I am reviewing a guilty pleasure Christmas film of mine: Jingle All the Way.


Jingle All the Way movie posterSynopsis
Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sets out to buy his son the popular, and nearly impossible to find, Turbo Man action figure for Christmas.

Review
Do you have a film that you really enjoyed when you were younger, then when you watch it when you’re older you recognize all the flaws in the film but you still enjoy it anyway? That’s Jingle All the Way for me. I’d be lying if I said my enjoyment from this these days didn’t stem from my nostalgia of watching this in my younger years. Watching it now, I can see why it isn’t always regarded in high esteem. But you know what, I don’t care because I have a blast. An action star like Arnold Schwarzenegger going through hell just to buy a toy for his son (Jake Lloyd, aka young Anakin Skywalker) is a recipe for absurd entertainment. The underground Santa Claus counterfeit ring stands out in particular to me. I know it makes no sense but the visuals of the the different statures of the Santas always makes me laugh. Of course, it helps that Schwarzenegger is great here. He is having fun and his scenes with Sinbad are particularly memorable.

In a way, this reminds me of Christmas Vacation. Now before I lose you, I’m not saying this is as good as Christmas Vacation, far from it, but both films take some part of the holiday season and exaggerates it for comedic effect. Christmas Vacation views the extended family coming to visit for the holidays and amps it up. Here, forgetting to buy a specific Christmas present for someone and having to do last minute shopping to find it is something many of us can relate to I’m sure. While what we go through is not as extreme as what Howard (Schwarzenegger) goes through, we can relate to his struggle. And really, relatability is what makes a film enjoyable.

I thought Jingle All the Way was GOOD πŸ™‚ Is it the perfect film? Absolutely not. Is it a guilty pleasure of mine? Absolutely. A nice, healthy guilty pleasure is what we all need and I can always count on Jingle All the Way to scratch that itch

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Brian Levant – Director
Randy Kornfield – Writer
David Newman – Composer

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Howard Langston
Rita Wilson – Liz Langston
Jake Lloyd – Jamie Langston
Sinbad – Myron Larabee
Phil Hartman – Ted Maltin
Justin Chapman – Billy
Robert Conrad – Officer Hummell
Jim Belushi – Mall Santa
Martin Mull – DJ


My guest to the holiday party is known more for her television roles than her film roles. She was also featured on my list of five favorite redheaded actresses. Jane Levy is my plus one.

Levy was in two fantastic television series, Suburgatory and most recently Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, both of which ended too soon.

And that’s the final entry of the eighth annual Christmas in July Blogathon! Stop by tomorrow for the wrap up post, where I’ll share the full list of entries and final guest list to our imaginary holiday party.

Until next time, cheers!