Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Octavia Spencer

September has been a strange month for movie watching, and I hate to say I lost my passion for blogging a little too, but I’ve come so far in this challenge that there’s just no way I’m going to give up now. I’m blaming the lack of new movies at the cinema right now which hopefully is going to pick up again in October. If you aren’t familiar with Hidden Gems, it’s a challenge created by Mettel Ray, where you pick an actor or actress for each month of the year, pick 3 movies of theirs you haven’t seen yet and give them a watch in the hopes of finding a gem. This month is dedicated to Octavia Spencer!

Why Octavia Spencer?

I feel like Octavia Spencer was my underdog choice for the challenge. Without checking I think I’ve seen quite a few movies that she’s starred in, but almost always in a minor role. She lights up the screen in whatever movie she’s in though and has such a comforting presence, I’m always glad to see her. And that’s why I chose her, I wanted to find out if there were movies out there I didn’t know of where she played a bigger role.

Statistics

It’s definitely easier using IMDB for the numbers, Letterboxd is great for tracking what I’ve watched but the filmographies contain too many limited series, unreleased movies and shorts that are difficult to sift through. So, IMDB has 76 feature-length movies listed under Octavia Spencer’s name. Of those, I’ve seen 20, which I guess isn’t so bad. Some of my favourites include Hidden Figures, The Help, Ma and Fruitvale Station (the latter is one I watched for another Hidden Gems pick!)

I’ve also seen The Shape of Water, Zootopia, Snowpiercer, Spider-Man, Onward, Gifted, Instant Family, The Witches, Dolittle, Bad Santa, Dinner for Schmucks, Thunder Force, Miss Congeniality 2, Bad Santa 2, Superintelligence and The Nines.

This was the moment I realised I’d seen most movies where Octavia played a lead role, and so my 3 choices ended up being Smashed (2012), Luce (2019) and Paradise (2013).

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Smashed (2012)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul are the leads in this drama about alcoholism and becoming sober. Octavia Spencer plays a small role as Jenny, a woman Winstead’s character meets at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It’s a minor role for Spencer but she’s the perfect woman for the job, being both sympathetic but stern.

I enjoyed this movie about as much as one can enjoy watching alcohol ruin a life. Smashed has a lot of heart, an interesting story and some stellar acting, but it was missing the spark needed to elevate it to a higher level. It’s very generic as far as movies about addiction go. I’m glad I watched it, though!

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Luce (2019)

Now here we have a movie with a bigger role for Octavia Spencer. There are arguably two leads in Luce. Kelvin Harrison Jr. who plays Luce, born in war-torn Eritrea and adopted in the USA, an all-star school athlete and accomplished speaker, who has animosity towards one his teachers. That teacher is Harriet Wilson, played by Octavia Spencer, who got Luce’s friend kicked off the running team and has multiple concerns about Luce which she shares with Luce’s parents.

This movie has so many layers, I think it takes two viewings to really wrap your head around it. It’s a complete mind game between Luce and Harriet and I kept swapping my mind back and forth between who’s side I was on. To begin with, I was completely on Luce’s side. Then we got to learn more about Harriet and her situation at home and I fully empathised with her. By the end of it I didn’t have a clue who to root for.

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Paradise (2013)

What, and I repeat WHAT, is this movie? I had to triple check I had the right year for it because everything about Paradise screams early 00’s. It’s about a young girl raised in an extremely religious town who suffered horrific burns over her entire body as a result of a plane crash, and has lost her faith in God as a result. That sounds like it’s going to be a powerful drama, doesn’t it? That’s where you’re wrong, because what happens next is she uses her settlement money to run away and party in Las Vegas with Octavia Spencer and Russell Brand.

If anything, this movie toes that line of ‘so bad it’s good’. The first half at least is a barrel of laughs, if you can see past the racism that wouldn’t be tolerated in movies nowadays (or in 2013 I would have thought?!). The second half eases on the humour and tries to be a more serious movie and that’s where it really fails. It’s hard to believe Paradise is directed by the same person as Juno!

Final Thoughts

No gem this month, although once I started to look through Octavia Spencer’s filmography I could almost guess that would be the case, I think I’ve seen her greatest movies already, unless there’s something still hidden you can recommend me? Next month is Emily Blunt, and I’m feeling quietly optimistic there’s a gem to be found there.

Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Paul Rudd

Phew, I’m back to being more organised with my blog posts, for this week at least. I don’t like writing things at the last minute! That’s probably because the heatwave is over for now though, and I’m feeling fairly caught up with the latest movie releases. Let’s talk Hidden Gems though, shall we? It’s a challenge created by the wonderful Mettel Ray in which you choose an actor or actress for each month, and watch 3 movies of theirs you’ve never seen before in the hopes of finding a gem. Her pick for this month is Rachel Weisz and I’m really hoping she found a gem this month because I’d love to see more of Weisz’s movies! My choice for this month? Paul Rudd.

Why Paul Rudd?

Paul Rudd is just so wholesome. My introduction to him was Mike in Friends and he was instantly one of my favourite characters in the whole show. Since then I’ve seen a lot of his comedy movies and he’s now of course a huge part of the MCU as Ant-Man, a character I didn’t think I would like much – but Paul Rudd’s charm won me over. I thought I’d seen most of his best work but if there was any way to test the theory, the Hidden Gems was it.

Statistics

Letterboxd has a whopping 92 projects listed under Paul Rudd, I took out 31 (a lot of shorts and some unreleased movies), leaving 62. Of those 62 movies I’d already seen 20. A fair amount but not a huge percentage. Some of my favourites include Avengers: Endgame, Ant-Man and the Wasp, This Is the End, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

I’ve also seen Captain America: Civil War, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Ant-Man, Clueless, Night at the Museum, Romeo + Juliet, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Sausage Party, Knocked Up, The Fundamentals of Caring, Wet Hot American Summer, I Love You, Man, Role Models, This is 40, They Came Together, and Admission.

It was really tough to choose just 3 movies from the enormous selection of ones I haven’t seen yet, but in the end the three I chose were Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), How Do You Know (2010) and Dinner for Schmucks (2010).

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

When I watched the first Anchorman movie many years ago, I’m sure I enjoyed it, so I don’t know what’s been stopping me from watching the sequel for all this time. I’ve been sat on my thoughts for this movie for so long now that I’m risking the rest of this post being late but I can’t quite work out my feelings. I think I should have re-watched the original first because one side of me is thinking that the plot was just too silly and that it can’t be classed as a gem. The other side of me knows that the silliness is the whole point and thinks the jokes themselves were hilarious!

At the time of watching my critic head was giving it a 3.5/5 but then the final showdown in the park happened. All those cameos? Absolutely brilliant! And now I’ve made up my mind. Anchorman 2 is definitely a gem!

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How Do You Know (2010)

I totally watched these in the wrong order. Imagine for a second that This Means War (2012) is one of your favourite romcoms, featuring a love triangle between Reese Witherspoon and 2 other men, and realising another Witherspoon love triangle movie was already in existence? I was so excited! In How Do You Know it’s Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson fighting for her love. A hopeless battle because, let’s face it, we would all pick Paul Rudd but still? It could have been a funny movie at least?

No. Not only was it boring and unfunny (with the exception of a drunk Paul Rudd singing to his lamp) but Owen Wilson plays one of the most unlikeable douche bags I’ve ever witnessed in film. Boo!

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Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Weirdly, when I started watching Dinner for Schmucks I had a feeling of dejavu, and realised I’d already part-watched this movie, but clearly never finished it. That should have been the warning signal but no, I continued. And then it took me 2 days to finish it. I think I stopped at the same point as last time. The problem with this movie isn’t the actors or the characters. In fact, I could watch Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell have a blossoming friendship all day long, but they themselves were 100 times better than the plot and the script.

Final Thoughts

I think that the fact my other 2 picks downright sucked is spoiling what should be clear – I DID find a gem this month. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is just as funny as the original, although it’s been too long for me to compare the storyline of the two. Paul Rudd seems to be another actor of whom I’ve already seen their best movies. What’s your favourite Paul Rudd movie, maybe there’s something huge that I’ve missed? Either way, tomorrow brings a new month, and July is going to be Nicole Kidman’s time to shine!

Lists · Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Michael B. Jordan

With the outdoors opening up and a week’s holiday to the coast, I haven’t watched as many movies as I usually do which led to a Michael B. Jordan crammed week in order to get my hidden gems post in this month! If you aren’t familiar with the Hidden Gems Challenge, it was started by Mettel Ray and you can find her original post here. Her pick for April is Keira Knightley and I can’t wait to see what she watched! Ii think Keira Knightley is a really underrated actress but there’s definitely a lot of her movies that I haven’t seen yet. But enough about Keira – let’s talk Michael B. Jordan!

Why Michael B. Jordan?

Well, he was voted People Magazine’s Sexiest Man in 2020, a title I’m certainly not going to argue about! But also, I can’t think of a single movie of his that I haven’t enjoyed (with the exception of Fantastic Four, but we can’t blame Jordan for that), and so there’s bound to be even more out there just waiting for me to watch! Jordan has a host of smaller awards already, but I definitely feel like an Oscar-worthy role is right around the corner for him.

Statistics

Letterboxd has 34 movies listed under Michael B. Jordan’s name. I took out shorts, documentaries, and unreleased projects which left me with 20. Before the challenge I’d seen 7 of those, not a lot but a decent percentage! Out of the ones I’d already seen some of my favourites include Hardball, Black Panther and Creed.

I’ve also seen Chronicle, Just Mercy, Fantastic Four, and That Awkward Moment.

As before, I tried to pick 3 movies where Michael B. Jordan played a main role, and so my choices ended up being Fahrenheit 451, Fruitvale Station and Creed II.

Fahrenheit 451 (2018)

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Based on a novel by Ray Bradbury, published in the 1950’s, Fahrenheit 451 is set in a dystopian world where books are illegal and firefighters start fires rather than putting them out. I’d heard that the book is great but the modern movie adaptation was terrible. Buuut the combo of Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon was too intriguing to pass up, so this was my first stop.

It’s not a great movie, but it wasn’t the train wreck I was expecting, that’s for sure. I loved the use of future technology that I imagine is one step further than the source material, and although it left me with a ton of unanswered questions, it didn’t put me off, and as a result I’m actually currently reading the novel in the hopes of getting the answers I’m looking for. Like, if the firefighters aren’t putting out fires, who is?!

Fruitvale Station (2013)

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Fruitvale Station is based on a true story – the event that took place in the early hours of New Year’s Day at Fruitvale Station in Oakland, California, where young Afro-American Oscar Grant was shot by a cop and later died in hospital. I knew this wouldn’t be an easy watch but it’s with regret that I admit I knew nothing about the event, and so it seemed the perfect opportunity to educate myself on this tragic event and also explore one of Michael B. Jordan’s more serious roles. It also stars Octavia Spencer, who just so happens to be another of my choices for the Hidden Gems challenge!

This is a powerful and deeply emotional movie. It opens with real life footage captured by passengers on the train at the station, then goes back in time to explore Oscar’s life, before ending at that tragic night. Oscar isn’t portrayed as a perfect person – he was a real guy who made some bad decisions in his past but was a fantastic father, a loving son and a caring individual. The climatic scene is brutal, unflinching and upsetting to watch, and I don’t know what’s worse – the fact that it’s a movie based on a real event, or the fact that 12 years later murders like this are still a regular occurrence. What is it going to take for this to end?!

Creed II (2018)

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I don’t know what stopped me from watching Creed II, I really enjoyed the first one. I think it was released not long after I became a Mum and stopped going to the cinema for a few months, and it just slipped off my radar. Anyway – Creed II follows on from the events of the first movie, but this time, the son of the boxer that caused Adonis Creed’s father’s death is on the scene and challenging the recently crowned world champion to a match. Rocky urges Adonis to turn him down, but this is personal.

I really need to make an effort to watch the other Rocky movies (I’ve only seen the first) because there’s something about these characters that I just adore. I’m not a boxing fan in the least but from what I’ve seen so far, these movies are so much more than the sport. I thought Creed II lacked some of the personal relationships that the first one did so well, but that final fight was so dramatic I could feel myself tense up and actually stop breathing. I’ll be in the cinema for Creed III – that’s a promise!

Final Thoughts

April has been a great month! Or perhaps I should say, the final week in April has been great! As that’s when I squeezed all three of my picks in. Fruitvale Station is without a doubt a hidden gem, and Creed II is very close to being one. Also, I already mentioned that I was so interested in Mettel Ray‘s challenge because I’d tried and failed to do the Blind Spot challenge at least 3 times. Well, I’ve stuck out this challenge for longer than my other attempts and I’m seeing no signs of stopping before the year is out! Next month is dedicated to Margot Robbie, so wish me luck in my picks!

Lists

Thursday Movie Picks: Female Buddy Movies

Happy Thursday everyone! I can’t sleep after watching Host (2020) for a second time, so whilst fearing for my life I thought it was about time I got involved again in Wandering Through the Shelves’ Thursday Movie Picks. If you haven’t seen this type of post before, Wanderer gives us a theme every week and we pick 3 of our favourite movies that fit!

This week’s theme is Female Buddy Movies which I love. The secret to a good buddy movie is chemistry between the leads, I find this either makes or breaks the movie. In no particular order, my favourite female buddy movies are…

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The Heat (2013)

I can’t even believe this movie is 7 years old, it feels like only yesterday that I watched it for the first time. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy together is a match made in heaven. It’s a buddy cop movie where Sandra Bullock plays an uptight FBI agent and Melissa McCarthy plays a foul-mouthed cop. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do!

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Bad Moms (2016)

I definitely talk about this movie too much but it deserves all the praise I give it. It was hilarious before I was even a Mum myself and even more so now. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn all play Mums with their own different struggles, but end up becoming the best of friends. There was a Christmas sequel that was just as good, if not better.

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Pitch Perfect (2012)

This movie is right at the front of my memory as I re-watched it very recently (my Husband loved it, no matter what he might tell you). Anna Kendrick plays a freshman who gets roped into joining the school’s all-girls singing group. It’s a movie full of catchy tunes and female friendship at it’s finest, and a movie I find myself watching at least once a year!

Lists

Thursday Movie Picks: Break-Ups

There’s something about the changing seasons, days getting shorter and the weather getting colder that makes curling up on the sofa with a hot drink and a sappy movie so appealing to me. So I guess it’s great timing that this week’s Wandering Through the Shelves Thursday Movie Picks theme is break-ups!

When I started scouring my Letterboxd account for possible choices, I very nearly created a theme within a theme of Ryan Gosling break-up movies, but changed my mind at the last minute! It was a good reminder that there are still far too many of his movies I haven’t seen yet, though…

But without further ado, here are my 3 picks for the week:

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The Break-Up (2006)

I know this seems like the laziest choice ever, but I actually really love this movie! Back in the day when I didn’t watch many movies at all, The Break-Up was the first rom-com I watched with an ending that surprised me, it totally bummed me out and I’ve never forgotten about it! Plus, it has my favourite funny argument between a couple ever. “I don’t want you to do the dishes, I want you to WANT to do the dishes!” “Why would I WANT to do the dishes?!”

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Begin Again (2013)

Excuse me John Carney, it’s been 3 years since your last movie, we’re due another! You can always count on a John Carney movie to be beautiful and have the best soundtrack ever. I loved Begin Again so much. Keira Knightly plays a talented musician who finds herself single after her long-time boyfriend makes it big in the music industry and leaves her behind. It’s just stunning in all aspects!

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La La Land (2016)

I will never, ever, get over the sadness that the ending to La La Land caused me. It’s just not fair. I thought I was over it, and then on holiday we were stuck in some Los Angeles traffic and I found myself singing ‘Another Day of Sun’ and it brought the pain back to me. I do like that the embarrassment at the Oscars where La La Land was announced as Best Picture just to have it corrected a few minutes later was kind of a parallel to what the audience to this movie ends up going through, though. The irony isn’t lost on me!