Drew’s Movie Reviews Turns 8! My Fave Five New Movies I Watched in Year 8

Hello, friends!

Today is a very special day of the year because today is Drew’s Movie Reviews blogiversary! That’s right, today this little site turns 8. I’ll be honest, the last year hasn’t been exactly what I expected for this blog. My activity isn’t as high as past years and I haven’t posted many non-review posts, which are some of my favorite posts to write. However, I’ve posted when I can and have kept up with my weekly Trailer Round-Up series. At the beginning of 2021, I set a goal for myself of watching at least one Alfred Hitchcock film a month and so far I’ve kept that goal. It’s also proved to be a fantastic endeavor in regards to this list as you’ll see. But before I get into the list, as part of my blogiversary celebration, I watched and reviewed the first three live-action Transformers films. If you missed any of those reviews, here are the links to all of them:

Transformers
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

And with that out of the way, there are my five favorite films I saw during my eighth year of blogging:

Rope movie posterHonorable Mention) Rope

I know that this is a “Fave Five” list but I wanted to throw an honorable mention towards the third Alfred Hitchcock in my top three Hitchcock films (so far). The first of many collaborations between James Stewart and Hitchcock, Rope was one the first film ever to accomplish the “one continuous shot” approach to the story and Hitchcock pulls it off spectacularly. This film is based on a stage play of the same name so that approach fits. Also, the leading trio of John Dall, Farley Granger, and James Stewart play off each other well and help elevate the tension. Although I have watched several Hitchcock film since watching this one, Rope remains one of the most suspenseful Hitchcock films I’ve seen so far.

Bridesmaids movie poster5) Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids is one of those films that I heard great things about but never really got around to watching. This year’s Ultimate Decades Blogathon proved to be the perfect time for me to finally sit down and watch it, showing me what I’ve been missing the last decade since its release. Every scene is filled to the brim with laughs and Kristen Wiig has amazing chemistry with every co-star around her. The script is raunchy, something unexpected from female-led comedies at the time, and shows off the talent of all of its stars. Paul Feig knew he had something great on his hands and proved it to the rest of us.

Rear Window movie poster4) Rear Window

At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect when going into a film that takes place solely in a man’s apartment but Hitchcock proved that even that can be suspenseful. A lot of the suspense in Rear Window comes from the fact that the audience is only in Stewart’s character’s apartment, not knowing exactly what is happening in the other apartments around him, which are characters all their own. James Stewart is great as an “every man” character and this film puts his talents to good use. And of course, Grace Kelly, one of the most beautiful actresses of the era, is always pleasant to watch in any movie. With Rear Window, Hitchcock proved you don’t need a lot to accomplish so much.

Soul movie poster3) Soul

I am amazed at the leaps and bounds modern film animation continues to make. Soul offers up a very simple story and yet is one of the most beautiful animated movies I have ever seen. Don’t let the film’s beauty distract you, Soul is one of Pixar’s more mature films in their library. I can see younger audiences not being as drawn to this movie like they could be to other Pixar films but there are some valuable lessons to be learned for any viewer, regardless of their age. Led by the talented Jamie Foxx, Soul takes you on a journey that will change you once you’re on the other side.

Palm Springs movie poster2) Palm Springs

I almost forgot about this film because I watched it right in the beginning of my eighth year and never wrote a review for it. The concept of characters being stuck in a time loop has been done many times throughout cinematic history but Palm Springs manages to take a tired formula and make it unique. The comedy duo of Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are a perfect match, whose senses of humor complement each other. Add in the always great JK Simmons and you have one hell of a cast. With it being released exclusively on Hulu, I’m not sure how popular it was but if you haven’t seen Palm Springs and have access to Hulu, I definitely recommend you give this one a watch.

Shadow of a Doubt movie poster1) Shadow of a Doubt

Shadow of a Doubt was the second film in my journey through Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography and it remains my favorite six months later. The idea of a potential murderer coming to a small town and sowing seeds of uncertainty among his family seems simple but Hitchcock keeps you on the edge of your seat. Joseph Cotton adds the perfect amount of affection and menace to his character that you’re never exactly sure what to make of him. As the film progresses, there is a change in several characters that only adds to the tension. I didn’t expect to find a clear favorite so early in my journey and I’m afraid that Shadow of a Doubt is going to be hard to beat as I continue to progress through my collection of Hitchcock’s films.


And that’s Year 8 in the books! Thank you so much for everyone who has been sticking with me, even as my activity has fluctuated. Your support means so much to me. Your continued views, likes, and comments have kept me going. I’m excited to see what in store for the next 365 days and I couldn’t ask for any better support than you by my side. 🙂

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay positive. Stay weird.

Until next time, cheers!

Soul Review

Soul movie posterSynopsis
Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a middle school band teacher and an aspiring musician looking for his big break. When he gets the opportunity he has been waiting for, he has an accident and finds his soul heading towards the Great Beyond. Not ready to move on, he escapes to the Great Before, where he meets the young soul 22 (Tina Fey) and together they try to return Joe’s soul to his body.

Review
Over the years, Pixar has told a variety of stories that have all been unique in their own way. Keeping with that trend, Soul is unlike any film Pixar has made before; the studio continues to find new and original stories to tell. This movie manages to stand out among Pixar’s other films as a masterful study of one’s perception of their purpose in life. It might not be the most kid-accessible plot but it is approached in a way that is meaningful to all ages.

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a musician who never quite got his big break. In between going to various auditions, Joe became a middle school band teacher. He enjoys being a teacher but nonetheless feels unfulfilled and still chases his aspirations of becoming a musician. When a former student, Curley (Questlove), calls Joe and invites him to audition for his quartet, Joe feels could finally be the break he has been looking for. At the audition, Joe gets lost in the music and makes a good impression on the quartets leader, Dorothea (Angela Bassett), who asks him to return later that night for the show.

The strength of these first few scenes is they expertly set up several characters and threads that will be important throughout the rest of the film. Just before going to the audition, we see the dynamic between Joe and his mother, Libba (Phylicia Rashad), who wants her son to find a stable job and not a career with the uncertainty that comes with being a full-time musician. It is clear that they have a strained relationship. It is also clear that Joe has respect for his mother and wants to make her happy but at the same time, wants to be allowed to follow his dreams and do what makes him happy. We see Joe’s passion for music as well when he zones out while playing the piano during his audition. His passion is seen, not just heard. We, as the audience, are pulled into his love of music and can feel how much Joe enjoys playing piano; we understand how important this opportunity is to Joe.

Excited to be offered the job he has been waiting for, Joe hurries home but in his rush, he becomes distracted and falls into an open manhole. He wakes up as a soul going towards a giant light in the Great Beyond. Not ready to pass on before getting his big break, he tries to escape from the Great Beyond and finds himself in the Great Before, the place where young souls reside before going to Earth. As Joe travels between the Great Beyond and the Great Before, we get the first glimpse at how varied the animation of this film his. The sequence of Joe falling was very Kubrick-esque to me, being both entrancing and intriguing at the same time. Once in the Great Before, the style of animation is much more fluid and abstract that the realism seen in the New York City sequences. It’s very similar to Inside Out, where there are no clear edges and the environment is very flamboyant and runs together. The appearance of Terry and the multiple Jerry’s is probably the most unique character design in all of Pixar, which is saying something.

In the Great Before, Joe meets Counselor Jerry (Alice Braga), who informs him that souls in the Great Before can reach Earth using the Earth portal. However, every time he goes through the portal, Joe is returned to the Great Before. Thinking Joe is a lost soul mentor, Terry takes him to the other mentors, who assist young souls in finding their “spark” to complete their personalities, displayed as a badge on the soul, before being allowed to Earth. Seeing a completed Earth Pass as his ticket through the portal back to Earth, he impersonates another soul mentor. In the mentoring program, he meets soul 22 (Tina Fey), a soul who refuses to go to Earth. The pair agree to complete 22’s Earth Pass so Joe can use it to return to Earth and 22 can stay in the Great Before forever.

Unable to find 22’s spark in the Hall of Everything, Joe and 22 go see Moonwind (Graham Norton) and the Mystics without Borders, a group who help “the lost souls of Earth find their way.” When the mystics locate Joe’s body on Earth, Joe rushes to get back. In his haste, Joe accidentally brings 22 with him. When Joe wakes up, he realizes that he is in the body of a therapy cat and 22 is inside his body. Together, 22 and Joe set out to find Moonwind on Earth to help them return to their proper selves.

What follows is a extraordinarily crafted story of friendship and passion. Joe and 22’s journey throughout the course of the film sees the two discovering that there is more to life than either expected. The themes are geared more towards an older audience who might have more appreciation for the movie’s message, but I feel they are also laid out in a way that a younger viewer can understand as well. It might not be as exciting or adventurous as some of Pixar’s other films, but the characters and their journeys make the experience well worth your while.

I mentioned it previously but I can’t review an animated film and not talk about the animation. New York City is a city full of movement and excitement. Soul captures that with such realism that if the characters themselves were not caricatures, it would be hard to tell this is animation. The opening scenes provide a look at the beautiful animation to come in the film but when Joe and 22 set off in New York City together is when the animation of the bustling city becomes truly breathtaking. The sights, the sounds, the colors, the energy, everything is authentic and gorgeously rendered. Pixar continues pushing the boundaries of what is possible in animation.

I thought Soul was GREAT 😀 The story provides a fantastic and emotional study of inspiration and purpose. As we get older, we forget that there is beauty in life around us. Soul serves as a reminder that no matter how mundane things become, never lose sight of what makes life truly beautiful and worthwhile.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Pete Doctor – Director / Writer
Kemp Powers – Co-Director / Writer
Mike Jones – Writer
Jonathan Batiste – Jazz Compositions and Arrangements
Trent Reznor – Composer
Atticus Ross – Composer

Jamie Foxx – Joe (voice)
Tina Fey – 22 (voice)
Graham Norton – Moonwind (voice)
Rachel House – Terry (voice)
Alice Braga – Counselor Jerry A (voice)
Richard Ayoade – Counselor Jerry B (voice)
Phylicia Rashad – Libba (voice)
Questlove – Curley (voice)
Angela Bassett – Dorothea (voice)
Cora Champommier – Connie (voice)
Donnell Rawlings – Dez (voice)
Margo Hall – Melba (voice)
Rhodessa Jones – Lulu (voice)
Daveed Diggs – Paul (voice)