Ultimate 2010s Blogathon Kick-Off: Eighth Grade (2018) Review

Hello, friends!

Welcome to part 2 of the fifth Ultimate Decades Blogathon! Since it is the start of the new decade, this year the blogathon is looking back at the one that just wrapped up: the 2010s. My co-host Kim from Tranquil Dreams shared her kick-off post and her review of The Wandering Earth and discusses the impact streaming services like Netflix have had on international and indie films.  Head over there an check that out if you haven’t already. Now it is time for my kick-off post and review of the coming-of-age film Eighth Grade.


Eighth Grade movie poster

Synopsis
Kayla (Elsie Fisher) prepares for her final week of eighth grade.

Review
Before getting into my review, I wanted to highlight some ways that Eighth Grade is an incredible snapshot of the 2010 decade:

  1. Instagram and Snapchat. Maybe these app will still be very popular in the coming decade, but as of early 2020, seeing the characters in this film use Instagram so much is such a 2010s thing. Same with Snapchat, a popular messaging app. Instagram was released in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011, so having them be such a prominent part of the movie instantly places the movie in the 2010 decade.
  2. Every kid has a smart phone. I remember when I received my first cell phone. In high school. Back when all they did was make calls and play the game Snake. In this film, every kid has a cell phone. And not just any cell phone, a smart phone .
  3. BuzzFeed quizzes. How many BuzzFeed quizzes have you seen and/or taken about what kind of pizza topping are you or what character from a specific movie or TV show? The site didn’t begin offering these quizzes until the early- to mid-2010s.
  4. Language and behavior. Every decade has their own slang and behavior quirks. For instance, during a sex education video, the speaker used the phrase “it’s gonna be lit,” which was even out of date by the time this was released in 2018. At one point the principal dabbed, a move made popular by professional football player Cam Newton in 2015. Several teens can be seen doing the floss, a dance move popular among children and teens, which has been seen as early as 2010 but gained popularity in 2017 thanks to “the backpack kid” performing the move on Saturday Night Live.
  5. Strong message about self-image. Numerous coming-of-age films over the decades have dealt with being yourself and being confident in who you are. However, I feel it wasn’t until the 2010s that this genre really dealt with self-love and being positive with your self-image, especially with young women. It’s great to see such an important topic getting the attention it deserves and Eighth Grade is the best of them.

Now bear in mind, some of these items might continue to be popular in the 2020s. So if you’re reading this in the future and are thinking to yourself, “those things are still around,” the reasons I listed above are through the lens of looking at this film in February of 2020, pretty much immediately after the closing of the 2010s. If I’ve learned anything from doing these decade retrospectives for the Ultimate Decades Blogathons, it’s that no two decades are alike and each have their own defining traits.

Every generation has their coming-of-age films. This generation is lucky enough to have Eighth Grade, which honestly probably has the rest of ours beat. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of great coming-of-age films over the years but none have felt as authentic or genuine as Eight Grade. The young Elsie Fisher is the heart and soul of this movie. Under director Bo Burnham’s hand, Fisher gives a performance unexpected from someone of her age. She is awkward, she is funny, and her performance is both unflinchingly pure and awe-inspiring hopeful. I can’t compliment her enough for her acting in this film.

Outside of Fisher, the rest of the cast is there to be either a foil or support for Kayla, Fisher’s character. Every interaction Kayla has with the other characters are there to grow her in some way. Mark, Kayla’s father played by Josh Hamilton, acts as Kayla’s biggest supporter, even if she might not appreciate it at the time. Together, Hamilton and Fisher have one of the most emotionally charged scenes towards the end of the film. Kayla has two antagonists, for a lack of a better term, in Kennedy and Steph, played by Catherine Oliviere and Nora Mullins respectively. They are there to challenge her self-confidence and her image. Later on in the movie, Kayla befriends several high schoolers who become an example of the type of person she could be in just a few years. It is during one scene with one of these high schoolers that was one of the most gut-wrenching and impactful of the entire film for me. Again, it only proved what a capable actress Fisher is. Lastly, there are a couple of Kayla’s crushes thrown in for good measure. By the end of the film Kayla has grown tremendously, even for a film that takes place within the span of a week.

Score can play a big part in creating the emotion. In Eighth Grade, the score behaves rather uniquely. When it’s just Kayla or Kayla is moving or doing something, there is music accompanying it. However, whenever she begins conversing with someone, the score stops. This is a powerful technique because it puts the audience’s full attention on the characters. It is up to the characters alone to carry the movie. With a lesser lead, this could have failed dramatically. Instead, the fantastic performances from Fisher and the rest of the cast are only highlighted, especially during the more intimate moments.

I thought Eighth Grade was GREAT 😀 Bo Burnham’s script and direction is one of the purest explorations of being a teenager I have ever seen in cinema. Elsie Fisher carries the film with her sincere portrayal of Kayla. My only minor gripe is that a couple of the early storylines are dropped part way through as more come up. However, since this this story takes place within a couple of days and not everything in life gets closure quickly, it’s a small annoyance I can overlook. Coming-of-age movies can feel like a dime a dozen but one like Eighth Grade only comes about once a generation and is not worth missing.

Trivia
Filming began one week after actress Elsie Fisher graduated eighth grade (via IMDb).

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bo Burnham – Director / Writer
Anna Meredith – Composer

Elsie Fisher – Kayla Day
Josh Hamilton – Mark Day
Emily Robinson – Olivia
Jake Ryan – Gabe
Daniel Zolghardri – Riley
Fred Hechinger – Trevor
Imani Lewis – Aniyah
Luke Prael – Aiden
Catherine Oliviere – Kennedy
Nora Mullins – Steph
Missy Yagger – Mrs. Graves


Stop by our blogs daily to see who shows up next and what they consider to be the ultimate 2010s film. Use the tag #Ultimate2010s to share your comments or entries for the blogathon on twitter. If you miss any of the entries, Kim is keeping an aggregated list on her site, which you can check out here.

Ultimate 2000s Blogathon Kick-Off: EuroTrip (2004)

Hello, friends! Welcome to the fourth annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon! This year’s spotlight decade is the 2000s. Over the next few weeks, my wonderful co-host Kim from Tranquil Dreams and I will be posting reviews from our fellow bloggers highlighting their favorite films from the decade. Kim kicked off the blogathon on her site with her review of SPL: Kill Zone, which you should definitely go check out. Now it’s my turn to get things started! Here is my review of EuroTrip.


Synopsis
After Scott (Scott Mechlowicz) is dumped by his girlfriend at high school graduation, he decides to take a trip to Europe, accompanied by his best friend, Cooper (Jacob Pitts), to meet his pen pal, Mieke (Jessica Boehrs).

Review
As per usual for my opening entry of an Ultimate Decades Blogathon, here are several reasons why I think EuroTrip is an excellent snapshot of the first decade of the millennium:

  1. The technology. Early in the new century, everything was getting smaller and thinner. Cell phones were becoming more common and more pocket-sized even if still a little blocky compared to today’s smart phones. Also, computers were getting thinner, whether it was the monitors or laptops.
  2. The hairstyles. Many girls had shoulder-length hair and it wasn’t uncommon to see some highlights, especially in the bangs. Also at the time, it was popular for guys to use product to spike their hair or style it into a faux-hawk.
  3. The fashion. Throughout the film, you’ll find Jenny in many popular clothing choices of the time. She wears belly shirts, tube tops, capris, and boot-cut jeans. In terms of makeup, she also uses lip gloss pretty heavily.
  4. Meeting someone online. With more and more households getting access to the internet in the early 2000s, meeting someone online was becoming more widespread. Like today, there are many warnings about who the person is on the other side of the screen (as Cooper eloquently illustrated to Scott). While meeting someone online today is pretty common, given the popularity of dating apps and online video games, it was more of a novelty during the late 90s early 2000s. Because of the freshness of online communication during this time, many films that have this as a central part of the plot (You’ve Got Mail, EuroTrip, Sex Drive), can be found around this time period.

While EuroTrip was released in the height of films such as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story or Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, it stands out by not utilizing the extreme slapstick humor popular at the time. It is most certainly irreverent, raunchy, and immature but what else would you expect from a movie about teens going on a road trip to get laid? As you might have guessed from the title, this movie is a road trip movie and the writers make excellent use of this format. Each scene is unique and filled with different gags and jokes. Different characters come and go, leaving their mark with what little time they have. Regardless of what extra characters are in the scene, Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Travis Wester are absolutely hilarious. Their chemistry is what elevates this movie to pure comedy greatness, filling every scene to the brim with laughs. This film never takes itself too seriously, always letting the craziness and absurdity of the script flow. It knows it’s crude, it knows it’s vulgar. Why pretend otherwise?

I thought EuroTrip was GREAT 😀 It is exactly what you would anticipate from a teen sex comedy, so don’t expect anything groundbreaking. However, the cast elevate a great, even if predictable, script. If you’re like me and enjoy similar movies, such as Old School or Accepted, you’ll enjoy EuroTrip.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jeff Schaffer – Director / Writer
Alec Berg – Co-Director / Writer
David Mandel – Co-Director / Writer
James L. Venable – Composer

Scott Mechlowicz – Scott Thomas
Jacob Pitts – Cooper Harris
Michelle Trachtenberg – Jenny
Travis Wester – Jamie
Jeffery Tambor – Scott’s Dad
Cathy Meils – Mrs. Thomas
Mial Iskhakov – Bert
Kristen Kreuk – Fiona
Matt Damon – Donny
Jessica Boehrs – Mieke
Vinnie Jones – Mad Maynard
JP Manoux – Robot Man
Patrick Rapold – Christoph
Fred Armisen – Creepy Italian Guy
Lucy Lawless – Madame Vandersexxx
Rade Serbedzija – Tibor


Stop by our blogs daily to see who shows up next and what they consider to be the ultimate 2000s film. Use the tag #ultimate00sblogathon to share your comments or entries for the blogathon on twitter. If you miss any of the entries, Kim is keeping an aggregated list on her site, which you can check out here.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

This movie was recommend by Curt from The Hypersonic55’s Realm of Reviews and Other Stuff as part of my Anniversary Celebration 5.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie posterSynopsis
The introverted Charlie (Logan Lerman) chronicles his freshman year of high school.

Review
Many high school films follow a similar formula or character arc for the protagonist. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is no different. Main character Charlie (Logan Lerman) is not one of the popular kids and keeps to himself, he finds friends, has good times with those friends, has bad times with those friends, and has clear character growth and learns life lessons by the end of the film. While this may sounds like every coming-of-age movie, the cast and script make it stand out from the crowd. I’m a huge fan of Emma Watson so I’m always excited to see her in a film. Lerman perfectly captures the essence of what it is to be a high schooler and feeling like an outcast. I have only been recently been introduced to Ezra Miller, starring in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Justice League but he is my favorite performance of the film; His chemistry with both Watson and Lerman is fantastic. He is quickly becoming an actor to look out for. Director and writer Stephen Chbosky was also the author of the 1999 novel of the same name that this film is adapting. While I can’t say how it compares to the source material, I can say that it is clear a lot of love and dedication went into translating the book onto the big screen.

I thought The Perks of Being a Wallflower was GOOD 🙂 While on paper in may sound generic, the script and cast make this film a memorable one, particularly Ezra Miller. This has found itself onto my list of quintessential teen movies.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Stephen Chbosky – Director / Writer
Michael Brook – Composer

Logan Lerman – Charlie
Emma Watson – Sam
Ezra Miller – Patrick
Mae Whitman – Mary Elizabeth
Erin Wilhelmi – Alice
Paul Rudd – Mr. Anderson
Kate Walsh – Mrs. Kelmeckis
Dylan McDermott – Mr. Kelmeckis
Nina Dobrev – Alice
Zane Holtz – Chris
Nicholas Braun – Ponytail Derek
Melanie Lynskey – Aunt Helen
Johnny Simmons – Brad
Joan Cusack – Dr. Burton

Ultimate 70s Kickoff: Saturday Night Fever (1977)

It’s finally here! The Ultimate 70s Blogathon has begun! For the next several weeks, my co-host Kim, I, and many of our fellow film bloggers will be looking at some of our favorite films from the far out 70s. Check back regularly to see some of the great picks people have made. Earlier today, Kim reviewed the science-fiction horror classic, and one of my personal favorites, Alien, as part of the blogathon’s kickoff. Now it is my turn! Let’s get started, shall we?


Saturday Night Fever movie poster

Synopsis
A Brooklyn teenager feels his only chance to succeed is as the king of the disco floor. His carefree youth and weekend dancing help him to forget the reality of his bleak life. (From IMDb)

Review
Since I both open and close the Ultimate Decades Blogathons that I co-host, my opening entry isn’t necessarily my favorite film from the theme decade, but rather a film that is a snapshot of the decade. For me, the Ultimate 70s film is Saturday Night Fever and here’s why:

  1. The music. Every decade seems to have a distinct sound. In the 60s it was the rock pioneers like Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, in the 80s it was hair bands and heavy metal, and in the decade in between, disco music was all the rage. Bands like the Bee Gees, ABBA, and Chic defined the sounds of the dance floor in 70s. The Bee Gees, having great success and falling into a bit of a funk before this film’s release, created the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, cementing the movie’s place as essential 70s.
  2. The dancing. To go with the music, disco clubs were popular places to hang out, dance, and hang out with others. Moves like the Hustle, the Bus Stop, and the aptly named Disco Finger could be seen all over the dance floor. John Travolta’s Tony Manero makes use of these quintessential 70s dance moves and more.
  3. The fashion. Like music, every decade can almost be determined by looking at the clothes and hairstyle of the time. Bellbottom pants, large-collared shirts, and uniquely patterned shirts all but scream 70s. Tony Manero and his friends are constantly wearing outfits that instantly remind you of Saturday Night Fever‘s setting.
  4. A young John Travolta. John Travolta was popular in the mid-1970s thanks to his role in the television series Welcome Back, Kotter. By the late 70s, he stared in the decade-defining films Saturday Night Fever and Grease before having a lackluster career in the 80s. So if you see a film with a young John Travolta, chances are you’re watching a 70s movie.
  5. Tony Manero’s room. Several scenes throughout the film take place within Tony Manero’s bedroom. On his walls are several posters of popular movies and actors of the time, including Rocky, Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon, and Farrah Fawcett of the television series Charlie’s Angels. His walls are covered in that hideous wallpaper that was popular at the time and his drapes are that unique 70s floral and shade of pink.

Now, as for what I actually think of Saturday Night Fever, not too much, honestly. I wasn’t really sure what the central plot of the film was supposed to be. Was it the dance competition? Was it Tony trying to win the girl? Or one of the many other plots running through the film? I feel like it was supposed to be the dance competition but it didn’t have the dominance to make it the main focus. There were a bunch of interconnected plots that no single one seemed to specifically be what the film was supposed to be about. I guess my takeaway is that it’s an examination of what it meant to be a teenager during that time period.

It that’s its focus, then I would say it did it well. And perhaps that’s why I didn’t connect with it. I couldn’t find much to connect with Tony Manero and his friends. I didn’t agree with several of Tony’s choices or actions. Maybe I’m just too far removed from being a 70s teen.

However, I didn’t completely dislike it. I did really enjoy how the music was incorporated into the movie. In the opening scene, “Stayin’ Alive” was integrated in such a way that Tony was moving along with the beat of the song. It reminded me of the opening scene of Baby Driver, which I loved as well.

I thought Saturday Night Fever was OK 😐 I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be watching the movie for. It might just be a simple examination of teenage life in the 1970s. If that is the case, then I can’t personally find much to connect with. I appreciate that there is an audience out there for this film. Unfortunately, it’s not me.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
John Badham – Director
Norman Wexler – Screenplay
The Bee Gees – Composers

John Travolta – Tony Manero
Karen Lynn Gorney – Stephanie
Barry Miller – Bobby C.
Joseph Cali – Joey
Paul Pape – Double J.
Donna Pescow – Annette
Bruce Ornstein – Gus
Julie Bovasso – Flo
Sam Coppola – Dan Fusco
Martin Shakar – Frank Jr.
Val Bisoglio – Frank Sr.
Lisa Peluso – Linda

Ultimate 90s Blogathon Kickoff: Encino Man

banner2

Welcome! Welcome, one and all to the Ultimate 90s Blogathon! For the next several weeks my co-host Kim, the mastermind behind Tranquil Dreams, and I will celebrate films of the rad 90s with our fellow bloggers.  There is quite a mix of movies reviewed so I’m excited for you to see what is in store.  Kim kicked off the blogathon on her site as well with reviews of several of her favorite Robin Williams movies. She is also keeping a page of all the blogathon entries, which you can see here, that way you can get them all at one easy-to-find location.  Now let’s get this party started!


Encino Man movie poster

Synopsis
Dave (Sean Astin) just wants him and his best friend Stoney (Pauly Shore) to be one of the cool kids at high school. When they find a frozen caveman (Brendan Fraser) in Dave’s backyard, Dave tries to use their discovery to get in with the popular crowd.

Review
For this blogathon, all the entrants looked at “Ultimate 90s” as their favorite film from the 1990s. Well I’m going to look at it from a different point-of-view. I’m interpreting it as what movie I think best encapsulates the 1990s. Before I get to my review, here are a few reasons why I picked Encino Man as my Ultimate 90s movie:

  1. The Vocabulary. A good way to figure out what era a given movie is from is by listening to what slang is used. The 90s were littered with terms like “dope,” an excessive use of the word “babe,” and creating custom words by adding “-age” to the end of words. Let’s not forget the ever popular “as if.” Encino Man has all of the above and then some, which very easily lets the viewer know it very clearly takes place during the 90s.
  2. The Fashion. 90s fashion was defined by bright colors and crazy patterns. Oh, and jean jackets and leftover 80s aerobics outfits. All three of the main characters check these fashion crazes. Plus the girls’ hairstyles are exactly what you remember from the 90s.
    encinoman-hair
  3. Pauly Shore. Pauly Shore hit his heyday with his MTV show Totally Pauly. After Encino Man, he began to work on more movies, which lasted through most of the 90s then slowed down significantly in the early 2000s. So really, the Pauly Shore era is primarily the 90s.
  4. MTV. Speaking of MTV, believe it or not, this TV station actually PLAYED MUSIC at one time in history. Unlike today where it is filled with reality shows. I know this isn’t exactly a great way to tell that a movie takes place in the 90s but at one point in the movie, there is a glimpse of MTV playing music with the MTV logo from the 90s.
    mtv-90s-logo
  5. Freeze frame before credits. It was very common for movies and even television series in the 90s to do a freeze freeze before fading to credits. Encino Man is no exception.

Encino Man is far from the best film of the 90s, and it hasn’t aged extraordinarily well because it is so very clearly 90s but that is why I still enjoy it. This film is a snapshot of the 90s. As a child of the 90s, it takes me back in time. The lighthearted story keeps the movie from becoming too serious but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like there is much of a conflict either. Although I guess that isn’t the worst thing for a comedy. The plot is not the most original, an unpopular kid want to be popular and try to win the girl of his dreams, and filled to the brim with cliches but Sean Astin, Pauly Shore, Brandan Fraser bring an undeniable charm to the film. All members of the cast feel like they are enjoying themselves, which comes across and makes a better experience for the audience. It is very easy to turn this film on, sit back, relax and have an enjoyable ninety minutes.

I thought Encino Man was GOOD 🙂 It may not be the most exciting or the most genre-defining teen movie but it still has a certain appeal to it. This could have easily been a terrible film to try to ride the rising popularity of Pauly Shore. Instead, Shore’s trademark personality and Fraser’s antics create a fairly pleasant experience that acts as a time capsule of being a teenager in the 90s.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Les Mayfield – Director
Shawn Schepps – Story / Screenplay
George Zaloom – Screenplay
J. Peter Robinson – Composer

Sean Astin – Dave Morgan
Pauly Shore – Stoney Brown
Brendan Fraser – Link
Megan Ward – Robyn Sweeney
Robin Tunney – Ella
Michael DeLuise – Matt Wilson
Patrick Van Horn – Phil
Dalton James – Will
Rick DuCommun – Mr. Brush
Mariette Hartley – Mrs. Morgan
Richard Masur – Mr. Morgan
Ellen Blain – Teena Morgan