Ashes and Snow (2005)

When I became interested in documentaries about a year ago, I read many lists on IMDb and other similar websites about great documentaries and that's when I stumbled upon Ashes and Snow. It was described as a documentary about nature and since I love nature, I added it on my watchlist and, so much time later, I finally watched it. 

Ashes and Snow is a documentary by Gregory Colbert, a Canadian photographer and filmmaker who travelled to many countries --India, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and many more-- to capture the interactions between humans and animals. And that's exactly what this documentary is about. An hour of the relationship between humans and animals, but most of all, an hour of humans trying to control nature and use it for their purposes. 

Young Adult (2011)

Having loved both Juno and Up in the Air, and having read/heard some pretty good stuff about Young Adult, especially about Charlize Theron, I finally checked it out only to be disappointed. While it's not a terrible film, it's not as good as Jason Reitman's previous movies. 

Once the high school It Girl, Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a now a thirty-seven-year-old alcoholic divorcée who writes a young adult fiction series. The series once was a success but now it's been cancelled due to low sales. She is trying to write the last book of the series but she has a block so she decides to return to her childhood city and is determined to win back her high school sweetheart, Buddy (Patrick Wilson). Not even the fact that Buddy is married and has a baby will dissuade her. 

The Return of Jafar (1994)

When I was a kid, I hated my mother because she never let me watch the sequels to Disney classic movies. She always said that sequels are usually terrible and it's not worth wasting money on them. Now that I've seen The Return of Jafar, I totally get her. 

After the events of the first film, Aladdin (voiced by Scott Weinger) and Abu (voiced by Frank Welker) have settled in the palace with Princess Jasmine (voiced by Linda Larkin) and her father, the Sultan (Val Bettin). But he still goes around stealing, his victim this time being a thief named Abis Mal (voiced by Jason Alexander) who eventually retreats to the desert and accidentally releases genie Jafar (voiced by Jonathan Freeman), who seeks revenge on Aladdin and, with the help of the thief, plots his revenge. 

Mary Poppins (1964)

I never cared for Mary Poppins as a kid, which is why I never watched the film before. I loved Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music though and I'm kind of interested in seeing Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel starring Emily Blunt, so I checked this one out. 

Set in Edwardian London, the film tells the story of the Banks family. The parents, George (David Tomlison) and Winifred (Glynis Johns), advertise for a new nanny for their rowdy, neglected children, Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber). The children, not happy with the previous nannies, write their own advertisement for a kind and sweet nanny. All of a sudden, Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) arrives and, with the help of Bert (Dick Van Dyke), a chimney sweep and performer, uses music and adventure to improve the family's dynamic.

12 Strong (2018)

I'm not the biggest fan of war movies and I usually avoid them, especially when I haven't heard much about them, whether it's good or bad things. 12 Strong stars Chris Hemsworth though and there's also Michael Shannon in it so I gave it a chance. 

The film tells the true story of a US Special Forces team, led by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), who, weeks after 9/11, was sent into Afghanistan to retaliate. There they form an alliance with an Afgan warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban), in order to fight a common enemy, the Taliban, and secure the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif. And they have to face off tanks and rockets on horseback.

Thursday Movie Picks: Television Edition: Spies

As last Thursday of the month (I can't believe it's August already!), today's Thursday Movie Picks, the weekly series hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves, does not revolve around movies but around TV series, the theme being spy TV shows. And the struggle was real! 

Battle Royale (2000)

I don't remember who told me or where I read it, but quite some time ago I found out that Battle Royale (Japanese: バトル・ロワイヤル Batoru Rowaiaru) is one of Quentin Tarantino's favourite films so I decided to check it out. 

At the beginning of the 21st Century, Japan is in chaos as unemployment is an all-time high, and kids are boycotting school and becoming more and more violent. For this reason, the government decides to introduce a new measure, the Battle Royale Act, overseen by former teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano), which consists in randomly picking a school class to be taken to a deserted island where the students will be forced to fight each other to death until only one remains. If they refuse to follow the rules or participate, the special collar they were forced to wear will explode and kill them.

Spaceballs (1987)

I've heard of Spaceballs many times over the years but I always avoided it because I thought it'd be some dumb, demential movie. But when Sid suggested it to me when I asked for a movie to cheer me up, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and I'm glad I did because Spaceballs was more enjoyable than I would have ever thought. 

The planet of Spaceball is running out of air and the ruler, President Skroob (Mel Brooks), is planning on stealing the air from the atmosphere of the peaceful planet Druidia, only the planet is surrounded by a shield. Luck has it that Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), the daughter of the Kind of Druidia (Dick Van Patten), runs away right before getting married, and Skroob orders the evil Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to abduct the princess. But the princess calls her father for help and a mercenary, Lone Starr (Bill Pullman), and his trusty sidekick, the mog Barf (John Candy), come to the rescue.

13th (2016)

A couple of years after the brilliant Selma, director Ava DuVernay directed another socially and politically relevant film related to black history, 13th, a documentary that explores the prison system in the United States, a topic I was not familiar with and therefore was really looking forward to learning about. 

The film begins with an audio recording of former President Barack Obama stating that the US has 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's prisoners, which was kind of a shock to me, but it was nothing compared to what was yet to come. 

Road to Paloma (2014)

I discovered Road to Paloma months ago thanks to Margaret from Cinematic Corner and her obsession with/love for Jason Momoa (and who can blame her, I mean, have you seen him? He is a freaking god), and since I'm an awesome human being, I checked it out. 

The film, directed, produced, co-written by and starring Jason Momoa (apparently, he is no one trick pony), follows Wolf (Jason Momoa), a Native American on the run after murdering his mother's murder. As he flees across the desolate American West on his motorcycle, he crosses paths with Cash (Robert Mollohan), a down on his luck musician who is coping with the end of his marriage, and an unlikely friendship develops as they ride together towards the Teton mountain range so that Wolf can spread his mother's ashes.

TMNT (2007)

After watching the not so terrible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from the 1990s, I decided to check out this animated version as well (mainly because one of the characters is voiced by Chris Evans and I really wanted to see/hear if he could do voice work). 

TMNT picks up after the Turtles defeated their old arch nemesis, The Shredder, and grow apart --Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) is training in South America, Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) works in an IT support center, Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley) has become a kids attraction and Raphael (Nolan North) is a vigilante. When a new evil force comes to New York, the Turtles must reunite and overcome their differences to save the world. 

Yentl (1983)

I added Yentl on my watchlist ages ago when I decided to watch more musicals but I kept putting it off because of its length. Also, the title didn't really appeal to me and make the film sound kind of boring (does that even make sense?). And I was right. 

Set in 1940 Eastern Europe, the film follows a young Jewish woman, Yentl (Barbra Streisand), who lives with her widowed father, Reb Mendel (Nehemiah Persoff). Rather than becoming a devoted wife, Yentl would like to study but it is prohibited by her religion. When her father dies, she leaves her village disguised as a young man so that she could gain admission to a Jewish religious school. Her life gets even more complicated when she falls in love with Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin), one of her colleagues, who in turn is engaged to a devoted young woman, Hadass (Amy Irving). 

211 (2018)

I've seen enough Nicolas Cage movies to know to expect absolutely nothing from them but I watched 211 anyway as it was advertised as a heist movie and I love heist movies.

A mercenary unit led by Tre (Ori Pfeffer) goes back to the United States to mastermind a bank robbery. Police officer Mike Chandler (Nicolas Cage) is on patrol with his partner and son-in-law, Steve MacAvoy (Dwayne Cameron), and a high school kid (Michael Rainey Jr.) forced to go on a police ride-along from his principal because of an altercation he had with some bullies. He happens to drive near the bank the mercenaries decided to rob and mayhem happens. 

The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (1952)

I am a huge fan of tea, especially green tea, so when I stumbled upon Yasujirō Ozu's The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (Japanese: お茶漬けの味 Ochazuke no aji), I knew I had to watch it (and try green tea over rice as soon as I feel better). 

The film tells the story of Takeo (Michiyo Kogure), a capricious wife from Tokyo high-society who is bored by her dull husband, Mokichi (Shin Saburi), an executive at an engineering company. While she doesn't bother to hide her contempt for his dullness and stupidity, he is unhappy but never argues back. 

At the same time, the film also tells the story of Setsuko (Keiko Tsushima), Takeo's niece, who uses the couple's marital problems as an excuse for not attending arranged marriage interviews as she is terrified that she will end up in an unhappy marriage and become cruel like her aunt. 

Thursday Movie Picks: Bad Parents

I don't talk from experience as I don't have kids and I plan on keeping it that way but parenting is not easy. You can read books, you can ask people, but the truth is you'll never be prepared enough to be a good parent. But at least most try. For this week's Thursday Movie Picks, the weekly series hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves, we are looking at parents who do not try or if they do try, they fail miserably. 

Carrie (1976)

Stephen King's Carrie has been on the shelf, waiting for somebody to read it, for decades (my mother bought it in the 80s and never read it). It was February when I finally decided to read it and, being a King fan, I found it rather disappointing. It wasn't terrible but it sure wasn't great either. I still decided to check out this movie because Brian De Palma directed it and Sissy Spacek plays Carrie, and, like just the book, it was disappointing. 

Brought up by her religious fanatic mother (Piper Laurie) almost in isolation, Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a shy 17-year-old whose classmates constantly makes fun of. When she gets her first period, she is teased by the girls more than before and the gym teacher (Betty Buckley) disciplines the girls severely. One of them, Sue Snell (Amy Irving), feels sorry for her so she asks her boyfriend (William Katt) to take Carrie to prom instead of her. Christ Hargenson (Nancy Allen), on the other hand, is determined to have revenge and, with the help of her boyfriend (John Travolta), starts plotting against Carrie. But Carrie has telekinetic powers and messing with her won't be a smart move.

Catfish (2010)

"The final forty minutes of the film will take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride that you won't be able to shake for days.", "A bizarre and completely unpredictable mystery.", these are a couple of the very misleading reviews used in Catfish's trailer.

Presented as some sort of real-life thriller, Catfish is actually a pretty boring and bland documentary by two bored young filmmakers, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, who, in late 2007, decided to document the life of Ariel's brother, Nev. Why? Simply because Nev met a girl, Megan, on Facebook and started a relationship with her. 

Daphne & Velma (2018)

As I mentioned multiple times in the past, I'm quite a fan of Scooby-Doo and as such, I'd watch anything Scooby-Doo related, even direct-to-DVD movies that nobody has ever heard of, like Daphne & Velma

As you probably guess from the title, the film follows teenage Daphne Blake (Sarah Jeffery) and Velma Dinkley (Sarah Gilman) before they teamed-up with Scooby-Doo and the gang. Daphne is a popular kid with a web-show where she discusses aliens and supernatural stuff, Velma is her (internet) best friend. When Daphne moves to Ridge Valley and starts going at Velma's high school, Velma doesn't even speak to her, but, as something weird starts to happen to the school's brightest kids, Daphne and Velma investigate the mystery.

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Although I'm yet to see all of his films, I love Wes Anderson's work which is why Isle of Dogs was one of my most anticipated films of the year and I couldn't wait to see it. Unfortunately, I live in a city and country where most people don't care for his movies so I had to wait months to see it. 

In a dystopian near-future Japan, in the city of Megasaki, Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) banishes all the dogs to Trash Island after a canine flu has spread through the city. Six months later, a young boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin), the Mayor's nephew, steals a plane and flies to Trash Island and, with the help of five other dogs, Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum), he sets out to find his lost dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber). 

Grandma (2015)

Grandma was suggested to me by Ken from LazySundayMovies, and since I'm such an amazing human being, I checked it out. Knowing absolutely nothing other than it being a dark comedy by American Pie director Paul Weitz. 

The film follows Elle (Lily Tomlin), an ageing lesbian poet who has just broken up with her younger girlfriend (Judy Greer). When she was younger, before she knew she was a lesbian, she got married and had a daughter, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), which in turn had a daughter, Elle's granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner), who unexpectedly shows up one day needing six hundred dollars for an abortion. As Elle is broke, the two spend the day together searching around town trying to get the money as Elle meet people from her past.

A Kid Like Jake (2018)

A while back, Jim Parsons, Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, posted a trailer of A Kid Like Jake on Instagram. It looked interesting and the cast --the film also stars Claire Danes and Octavia Spencer-- really intrigued me so I checked it out.

It follows a Brooklyn couple, Alex Wheeler (Claire Danes) and her husband Greg (Jim Parsons), as they try to find the right primary school for their son, Jake (Leo James Davis). Finding the right school though will be the least of their problems as they realize that their son might be transgender and they are forced to rethink their roles as parents and spouses. 

Thursday Movie Picks: Characters Magically Ageing Up or Down

As you can tell from the title, the theme for this week's Thursday Movie Picks, the series hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves, is characters either getting older or younger. It was tougher than I thought but I was able to find 3 films to fit the theme so here they are:

Aligarh (2015)

When it comes to Indian film, I trust Sid and watch anything he suggests me. And I do it with quite high expectations as he has a pretty good taste in movies which has occasionally left me disappointed. Aligarh doesn't fall into that category as it is a pretty good and powerful drama. 

The story revolves around Dr. Shrinivas Ramschandra Siras (Manoj Bajpayee), a professor of Marathi (it is one of the many languages spoken in India) at Aligarh Muslim Univerisity who was suspended from his job and harassed because of his sexual orientation, and follows Deepu (Rajkummar Rao), a young and ambitious journalist who takes interest in Siras's case, as he tries to bring out to light the real story. 

7 Days in Hell (2015)

I watched Tour de Pharmacy about a month ago and it was hilarious. Cycling will never get as compelling and entertaining as it is in Szymanski's mockumentary. Which is the reason I decided to watch 7 Days in Hell, the previous mockumentary by Szymanski. 

As you probably guessed from the poster, 7 Days in Hell is about tennis, and more specifically about the rivalry between an American tennis player, Aaron Williams (Andy Samberg), and an English tennis player, Charles Poole (Kit Harrington). The main focus of this mockumentary is the 2001 Wimbledon match between the two of them that lasted seven days. 

The Last Laugh (2016)

At the airport, bored and falling asleep during a 5+ hours wait for my connection flight, I started looking for something interesting on Netflix and I stumbled upon The Last Laugh. It sounded like an interesting documentary so I watched it. It turned out to be a nice film but it was not the film I thought it'd be.

Described as a documentary about jokes, bad taste and boundaries of comedy, it is actually a documentary that explores the relationship between humour and tragedy, heavily focusing on the Holocaust, and tackles the issues of what you can and cannot joke about.

Meet the Blacks (2016)

Having watched some pretty heavy films in the past couple of days, I needed something light and dumb to switch off the brain a little and I watched Meet the Blacks. Though there's not Marlon Wayans in it as I was expecting (don't ask me why I thought that because I don't even know it), it wasn't neither as awful as I was expecting. Maybe because, knowing nothing about it, I was expecting a Meet the Fockers kind of plot. And yes, I was wrong again because Meet the Blacks is kinda like a parody of The Purge

After getting his hands a lot of unexpected money, Carl Black (Mike Epps) leaves his hustling lifestyle behind and moves from Chicago to Beverly Hills with his family, new wife Lorena (Zulay Henao), daughter Allie (Bresha Webb), son Carl Jr. (Alex Henderson) and cousin Cronut (Lil Duval), in hope for a better life. He picked a terrible time to move, that day of the year known as the annual purge, where all crime is legal for twelve hours. 

Sherlock Gnomes (2018)

As if Gnomeo & Juliet wasn't terrible enough, and the trailer wasn't enough of a warning to the horrible movie this would be, I decided to entertain myself with Sherlock Gnomes, the sequel of the above-mentioned. 

The formerly star-crossed lover Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) are now married and live in London. But it's not all roses so when their gnome friends start disappearing from homes all over London, they team up with Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and his partner Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as Moriarty is believed to be behind the disappearings to save their friends. 

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

As I was feeling ashamed for having seen that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie with Johnny Depp (I saw it only once, by the way, I was a kid and I wasn't crazy about it) but not Gene Wilder's classic (I've only seen bits and pieces on TV), I decided to watch Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Chocolate and candy maker Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) announces that 5 golden tickets can be found in his chocolate bras granting a tour of his factory and, only for one of the five lucky people, a lifetime supply of Wonka chocolate. Nobody wants to find the golden ticket more than Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), but he is poor and can't afford to buy a lot of chocolate. His grandpa, Joe (Jack Albertson), however, encourages him to keep a positive attitude and right when he thinks his dream will never come true, he finds a dollar on the street and buys the bar that happens to have the last remaining ticket, and gets to take a tour of the mysterious factory along with other four kids from around the world.

Dude (2018)

Though I'm not a fan of hers or anything like that, I decided to check out Dude to see Lucy Hale, Aria from Pretty Little Liars, do something different. Well, she does play a different character, but Netflix's film is like most of that show, a waste of time.

So, Dude follows four best girlfriends, Lily (Lucy Hale), Chloe (Kathryn Prescott), Amelia (Alexandra Shipp) and Rebecca (Awkwafina), in the last few weeks of their senior year of high school as they prepare to the deal with life after high school. 

Thursday Movie Picks: Long Awaited Sequels

It's kind of a trend nowadays making sequels to old(er) movies because what lures someone to the movies better than nostalgia? Nothing, that's what. And sequels, those people have been waiting for a very long time, is the theme of this week's Thursday Movie Picks, the weekly series hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves

The Most Beautiful Day (2016)

I never get homesick. If anything, I miss the place I've been to when I go back home. Which is exactly what happened when I came home from an only four-day vacation in Germany. I missed Germany so much that I decided to watch a German film and picked The Most Beautiful Day (In German: Der Geilste Tag) as it has Matthias Schweighöfer (I love this guy). 

The film follows two young terminally-ill guys, Andi (Matthias Schweighöffer), a quirky and ambitious pianist, and Benno (Florian David Fitz), a laid-back loafer. Since they are both dying, Benno proposes to pull off a scam and get the money they need to do the stuff regular non-dying people never get to do, and they take off to Africa where they plan to kill themselves after experiencing the greatest day. 

In the Loop (2009)

In the Loop has been on my watchlist for ages and if it wasn't for Margaret suggesting it to me, it would probably still be there. I really wanted to like this film because it's from the same director of The Death of Stalin (which I haven't seen yet but I've only heard great things about) but I just didn't find it that amusing. 

British Secretary of State for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) says in an interview that a war in the Middle East is unforeseeable. This sets off people from both the UK and the US to bring out their political strategies, both pro- and anti-war.

Heroin(e) (2017)

Award season is the best way for me to discover potentially interesting documentaries and, as I've watched all of this year feature-length nominees, I've moved over the short subject category and picked Netflix's Heroin(e) as it really intrigued me. 

As you probably guessed from the title, the documentary centers on drugs, specifically on heroin, focusing on the town of Huntington, West Virginia, which used to be a bustling industrial town but now it's now known for having the overdose rate 10 times the United States average. 

Don Verdean (2015)

As a fan of Sam Rockwell, I decided to check out Don Verdean. The fact that I hadn't heard of the film before seeing it on Rockwell's filmography and that it is considerably new had me thinking that I'd grant myself one and a half hour of suffering. And I was right. 

The film follows Don Verdean (Sam Rockwell), a self-proclaimed Biblical Archaeologist that hunts down religious artefacts to prove that the stories from the Bible are true. When he is hired by a pastor, Lazarus (Danny McBride), to find sacred relics in order to bring more people to his church, Verdean is forced to get creative.

Robin Hood (1973)

Robin Hood is another of those Disney movies I never cared much about as a kid. Why I can't say since I love animals --all the characters here are portrayed as animals-- and Robin Hood is pretty much doing the right thing by doing what he does.

Just like the classic tale, Disney's film follows Robin Hood (voiced by Brian Bedford) and his companion Little John (voiced by Phil Harris) as they steal from the rich and give to the poor. The riches happen to be the immature and greedy Prince John (voiced by Peter Ustinov) who has the corrupt Sherif of Nottingham (voiced by Pat Buttram) collect crushing taxes from poor citizens. Which is why the Sherif of Nottingham is out to catch them. Being wanted by Prince John, however, won't stop Robin Hood from entering an archery contest to win the hand of Maid Marion (voiced by Monica Evans).