Netflix’s Locke and Key

There’s been lots of hype lately about “Locke and Key,” one of Netflix’s newest thriller series. Especially given Netflix’s new Top 10 feature, it seems like lots of people are watching it.

At first, I understood the hype. The first episode is creepy, and introduces a seemingly-complex story that is sure to be exciting and thrilling. It opens with a man setting himself on fire with a key, and goes on to introduce the main family moving into a (haunted?) house, a woman living at the bottom of a well, and a murder in said family. I had high hopes after episode one. It was giving me Supernatural vibes, which few shows have been able to match.

However, after the first two episodes, I was greatly disappointed. It all of a sudden took a turn and became very Vampire Diaries-esqe. Lots of high school drama, charming magic, and a lot less jump scares. Given that it is indeed based on a Young Adult series of books, I should not have been surprised, but here we are.

It took me nearly a month to watch episodes 3 – 8. They were that bad. The final two episodes brought me back to why I began watching it in the first place. The creepy scenes and genuinely good plot writing were back. It leaves off wrapping everything up well enough, but leaves enough open that there very well could be a second season. The ending, while decent, did not make it worth it to have watched the whole entire season. . . at least to me.

If you are a fan of Young Adult fiction, Stranger Things and Vampire Diaries, high school drama, and cheesy magic, then this show may be for you! If you don’t like at least three of the aforementioned things, then you need to pass on this one.

One great thing that did come out of this show, however, is the soundtrack. Usually the songs in shows blend in well enough that they add to the story without really drawing your attention, but nearly every song that played I found surprisingly good. You can find it on Spotify.

The Lodge

If you are a horror fan, you NEED to catch “The Lodge” while it’s still in theaters. It’s still on at Regal Opry and Regal Green Hills for the remainder of the week if you’re in Nashville.

“The Lodge” is the same raw, haunting style that you see in “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” and I’d rank it in between the two. If you’ve seen “Goodnight, Mommy,” you will likely recognize that this movie is the same style; the same director worked on both. If you haven’t seen “Goodnight, Mommy,” look it up now you will not be disappointed.

Anyway, back to “The Lodge”. . . The story deals with a recently separated family trying to deal with their new home life. The father finds a new girlfriend a little too fast for the liking of the children, but he tries to force a bond between them all anyway. For Christmas, he brings the children and his girlfriend to his lodge in the middle of nowhere to celebrate all together. However, he gets called back into work and leaves the children in the care of his girlfriend.

The father is a professor dealing with the history and effects of cults. His son and daughter quickly figure out that the new girlfriend actually has a past in a cult. As the viewer, you are trying to figure out exactly what’s happening: Is it a haunted house? Is it a crazy cult ritual? Is it a simple accident that has left them dead?

This movie is full of terror tension, as well as a few jump scares. There is one jump scare in the first ten minutes that I still think about from time to time, two weeks later. It definitely has a shock factor. The movie ends while the terror tension is at a high, and you breathe a sigh of relief as you see credits roll as it spares you one final shot of violence. It will haunt you anyway, though, as one of the main characters sings a song in the final minutes of the movie, which will definitely get stuck in your head.

If you do get a chance to catch it in theaters, then bring a blanket or a coat; all the snow in the background will make you cold, and *BONUS* you can hide your eyes if you need to. If you don’t get a chance to see it in theaters, watch for a streaming release, because this is one film you do not want to miss!

Onward

This preview just did not really speak to me, but I couldn’t figure out why…. I’m not a huge fan of mythological adventure, the characters aren’t as cute as Pixar’s normal characters, maybe something else, I wasn’t too sure.  But when I got the chance to attend an advance screening of the film, I took it and I’m so glad I went.

This movie has a phenomenal story.  You NEED to see it, whether you have kids or not.

              The plot line is pretty simple:  Two boys who lost their father to cancer long ago try to bring him back, but they mess up the magic spell and only end up bringing his bottom half back.  So they have to trek around their city to try and get one last piece to perform the magic spell again to bring the rest of him back. The first half of the movie was cute as they were adventuring around, but the back half of the movie delved deeper into the characters’ emotions, which is what really made me a fan of the film.   But the plot line isn’t even the greatest part of the movie.

               The setting of the movie is brilliant—lots of punny similarities between the magic world and our world. Feral unicorns eating the trash instead of raccoons.  A mom in the living room doing a workout tape, while their pet dragon sleeps in its bed by the door.  There were many audible chuckles from the adults in the room as it panned to a new scene and the next pun was revealed. 

               The relationships and emotions built in the story were the best part.  This movie deals with grief, loss of a parent, and brotherly love.  My fiancé has since dubbed it “Frozen, but with Boys,” (with less singing, I might add…). Since the father died while the boys were at such a young age (the younger brother doesn’t even remember him at all), the boys had to rely on each other a whole lot more and an unbreakable bond is formed.  While I know all Pixar movies tug at your heartstrings, this one is just so fiercely emotional in nature, even some of the children in the audience were weeping with empathy towards the characters.

               You’ll leave this movie (probably) crying, but with so much love toward your own family, as well as for Pixar, for telling such a beautiful story.  

               Sidenote:  I don’t go see movies often with such a huge kid audience, and the amount of times children have to get up during a movie was so distracting (personal problem, I know).  But if you don’t like people getting up during the movie, you may want to wait a week or two before the crowds die down to go see it. 

Downhill

               I’m not sure you can find this movie in theaters anymore, but that’s okay.  You aren’t missing anything.  With Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as lead characters, I (at first) thought it was very strange that this movie did not get much press.  Quirky preview, (pretty) big names, why aren’t they advertising this as a new winter hit comedy?

               Well, after seeing it I definitely understand why.

               I can see why production companies created it in the first place; the gist of the movie seemed like it’d be good.  A 90-minute film featuring two 21st century comedy greats, with a quirky plot line, what could go wrong?  After the movie was created, I think they realized the answer to their question, which led to its pretty hushed release.

               In case you haven’t seen the preview (and if you haven’t, don’t bother), this movie is about a family on a skiing trip who goes through an avalanche; the husband grabs his phone and runs, while the wife is left huddled with the two kids, hoping to survive.  The rest of the movie is him dealing with the aftermath of his decision.

               This movie is NOT a comedy, despite its cast.  It is an awkward, uncomfortable family drama, with some (bad) comedic characters added in to (attempt) to break up the dramatic parts.  In reality, this is a 89 minute fight between a married couple on vacation, with a 1 minute semi-resolution at the end of the film. 

               After watching the movie, I thought that Will Ferrell was trying to pull an Adam Sandler and do a complete 180 with a drama film.  Unfortunately, he was unable to pull it off.  He and Julia had some very realistic fights, but it was a very unsettling movie to watch.  Giving you an inside glimpse at someone’s struggling marriage, it will make you feel like you shouldn’t be there watching it. 

The seasoned cast nor the comedy from the minor characters were not enough to save this movie, or even enough to make it watchable.  It definitely deserves its 13% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t bother.

This Month in Review: February 2020

Below are all of the movies I have watched throughout the month, along with the rating I would give each one.

Now in Theaters

“The Rhythm Section” – 3.5/10

“Just Mercy” – 9.5/10

“The Photograph” – 7/10

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire “ – 8.5/10

“Birds of Prey:  The Emancipation of Harley Quinn” – 9/10

“Downhill” – 3/10

“The Lodge” – 8.5/10

“Brahms:  The Boy 2” – 5.5/10

“Onward” – 9/10

Streaming and Home Release

“Farmaggedon” – 7.5/10

“The Boy” – 7/10

“Mr. Right” – 6.5/10

One Movie I Loved:  “Birds of Prey:  The Emancipation of Harley Quinn,”  Such a great girl power movie!!

One Movie I Hated:  “Downhill”. . . Don’t bother.

One Movie I’m Looking Forward to: RESPECT (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzurCMTvDcc)

Yearly Movie Total:  35

Meet Me in St. Louis

If you’re looking for a nice weekend getaway from Nashville, St. Louis is a great place to go!  If you’re looking for more mainstream touristy options, the Arch, any sporting event, the Budweiser factory, or one of the countless (free!) museums are great options– even the zoo is free!  But, if you’re looking to get more of a glimpse into local life, you’ve got some great options as well.

Eat.

          St. Louis has some fabulous culinary offerings, both vegan and traditional.  Here’s a few options, nearby other exciting things to do.

Fuzzy’s

          Fuzzy’s is a fast-casual Tex-Mex restaurant, in between Chipotle style food and typical Mexican restaurant food.  They’ve got burrito bowls, tacos, burritos, and more.  Their guacamole is great, and they’ve got a special seasoning on their tortilla chips. All this food leaves you with lots of options; you’ve also got at least three dozen delicious drink options to choose from, too.  You can add any beer or even a test tube serving of hard liquor to any frozen drink, for around $10.

Seedz Café

          This café is a vegan paradise!  They’ve got a delicious vegan brunch, including “eggs” benedict, breakfast sandwiches, and French toast. Rather than any French fries as sides, they serve spring mix salad with one of the best dressings I’ve ever had.  They even have a small bakery case, with some pretty phenomenal donuts, as you can see. They change their menu for dinner and offer even more amazing dishes.  They’re also great in regards to sustainability—all glass cups, compostable to go boxes, and more.  If you’re interested in sampling some vegan fare, grab a sprinkle donut and see how amazing it can be!

Clementine’s

          This is one of my favorite places in STL!  I go at least once every time I’m in town, sometimes more than once.  Clementine’s is known for “Naughty and Nice” ice cream, and has close to 40 flavors at any given time.  The “Naughty” flavors are alcoholic, and you’ve got to be 21+ to order them.  Flavors include Chocolate Cabernet, Pink Champagne Sorbet, and at least three other alcoholic ones.  Nice flavors are all ages, and can include flavors like S’mores, Cereal Milk, and Poppyseed.  They’ve even got vegan flavors made out of coconut milk!

Drink.

Westport Social

          Super cool bar with all kinds of entertainment!  Show up early and catch a meal, or play basketball, foosball, shuffleboard, ping pong, and more!  Similar to Clyde’s in Nashville in regards to the set up, it’s definitely a happening place on a Saturday night.  If you wanna save a little money, go get a giant frozen margarita next door at Fuzzy’s before you head to the bar.

Bailey’s Chocolate Bar

          A bar entirely dedicated to chocolate!  This is a drink and dessert bar where everything includes chocolate.  Beautiful décor with a simple menu, great for a date night or a girls’ night out.

Play.

Union Station

          A newly-renovated structure downtown, Union Station is home to many different activities to keep you busy for hours.  And it’s so new, many locals are still checking it out!  There’s a giant Ferris wheel that gives a great view of the city; it even has a drink stand outside with Budweiser and hot chocolate (boozy or not!). At $15 a ticket, it is definitely worth the price if you go at night to see all the lights.

          Union Station is also home to the new St. Louis Aquarium.  Opened less than a year, the building itself is beautiful. However, the aquarium leaves something to be desired.  Since STL is located right on the Mississippi River, many of the animals throughout the aquarium are river animals, so it’s not as exciting as other aquariums that have a majority saltwater animals.  I assume as the years go by they will add more animals, but right now there are very few things to look at; you can get through the whole aquarium in about 30 minutes, if you don’t intentionally take your time at each exhibit.  One cool thing on display though is a blue crab, donated by a Boston seafood restaurant after the Blues beat the Bruins for the Stanley Cup.  Unless you just love river fish, or you have children, the aquarium just isn’t worth the price tag. I’ll save you some money; here’s the one shark tank they have on exhibit:

          While at Union Station, stick around for the fire show!  Similar to other place’s dancing fountains, the water feature here does a fire show, with bursts of flames rising out of the water synchronized to music.  It’s very cool, and free!  There are also several restaurants, a carousel, and mini golf here too.

Downtown St. Charles

          Take a step back in time as you walk along the stone streets looking at historical houses.  You can easily spend 3-5 hours walking along this street, popping into restaurants, stores, and boutiques.  You can find just about everything on this street, from gourmet food, to homegood stores, to cookie and ice cream shops to antiques and cutesy clothing boutiques.  All the homes are over 200 years old, but if you get tired of admiring them you can walk across the street and walk along the river’s edge. “

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

With the impressive showing of the South Korean film Parasite at the Oscars and other various awards shows this season, I want to speak this into existence for 2020: Foreign films need to be more mainstream.

We are blessed in Nashville to have several theaters that show foreign films on a regular basis, so they are always pretty accessible. Did you know that the 100 Oaks Regal theater always has at least three Bollywood films showing on any given day?

After your first couple foreign films, “reading” the story becomes second nature and you can focus on the movie as a whole. Deep, meaningful plots, experimental styles, all while learning a few new phrases in another language– what’s not to love?

One film that garnered the attention of many audiences during festival season is releasing next Friday, February 20th at the Belcourt Theater in Hillsboro Village (and many other locations worldwide, of course). Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a French film portraying the story of star-crossed lovers, sure to tug on your heart strings.

Set in 1770 France, an artist and a young woman betrothed to another form a friendship that eventually leads to more. The movie portrays their relationship from beginning to end, and is sure to remind you of your own fleeting romances.

The two leading ladies are absolutely captivating. Their seemingly delicate personalities give way to passion and humor as the story progresses. While the beginning of the movie is quite slow, from the 30 minute mark on, it is hard to look away. Their chemistry together is perfect, balancing their desire for one another with their circumstances. One even remarks, “Do lovers always feel as if they’re inventing something new?”

There are several breathtaking scenes during the course of the movie, including the scene from with the title is taken. The ending is spectacular as well, although hopeless romantics will likely be disappointed.

If you’re looking to try out a foreign film sometime in the near future, this may be the one for you IF: you’re a fan of romance dramas, not offended by nudity, and prefer artsy movie styles rather than blockbuster hits. If that doesn’t sound like you (and that’s okay!), I have plenty of Bollywood recommendations for you that would fit your style.

Watch the preview here: https://vimeo.com/385126235.

The Rhythm Section

A vague, catchy title, a trio of A (minus) list actors, and an action-filled trailer: what could go wrong? Well, it turns out, a lot. . .

Blake Lively plays a struggling twenty-something who is trying to accept her new reality. Three years prior to the opening scene, her entire family died in a plane crash, and she is on a mission for revenge.

I could have slept through the first 75 minutes of the movie and not missed anything. . . I’d say it was a slow burn of a beginning, but there was nothing burning about it. There was only one mildly interesting scene in this time frame, and that was when Jude Law showed up an hour into the film.

The writer tried to throw in a few twists towards the end, however they were completely predictable. I know I watch a lot of movies, so I know what to expect, but if I saw it coming twenty minutes before it happened, then I’m sure you will be able to guess them too.

The ending was satisfying, as it showed Lively’s character finally growing into her skin, but it was too little too late. I realized as the credits rolled that something was missing the entire time, but I couldn’t quite place it. The main actors don’t spend enough time with each other on-screen for me to fairly say they have no chemistry– they didn’t have the opportunity to show any. The few action scenes that were in the movie were infuriating. Lively’s character, a DIY spy trained by an ex-MI6 agent, realistically should have died in every mission she embarked upon. She was inexperienced and careless, yet she somehow managed to avoid any major injuries when tracking and attacking professional terrorists.

The cinematography was blah, the plot was less than thrilling, and the acting was average. If I were you, I’d skip this one.

This Month in Review: January 2020

Below are all of the movies I have watched throughout the month, along with the rating I would give each one.

Now in Theaters

“Prati Roju Pandage” – 5/10
“Dark Waters” – 8/10
“Little Women” – 8/10
“1917” – 9.5/10
“Underwater” – 5/10
“Dolittle” – 2.5/10
“The Gentlemen” – 4.5/10
“Jojo Rabbit” – 10/10
Oscar Shorts Nominations: Animation and Live Action – 9.5/10

Streaming and Home Release

“Catch Me if You Can” – 9/10
“The Two Popes” – 9/10
“A Vigilante” – 5.5/10
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” – 9/10
“Kingsman: Gold Circle” – 9/10
“The Sun is Also a Star” – 1.5/10
“Imagine That!” – 5/10
“Gulliver’s Travels” – 5/10
“Pretty Woman” – 8/10
“Unknown” – 7/10
“Judy” – 6/10
“Tell Me Who I Am” – 4.5/10
“Pain and Glory” – 5.5/10
“For Sama” – 7.5/10

One Movie I loved: “The Two Popes,” Stream it on Netflix!
One Movie I hated: “The Sun is Also a Star”…. DON’T stream it on HBO
One Movie I’m looking forward to: Wendy
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKktQFFcXL0)


Yearly Movie Total: 23


Oscar Predictions 2020

My favorite night of the year is quickly approaching, and it’s time for me to make my Oscar predictions!  Below is my list of winners, both who I want to win, and who I think will win.  Tune in February 9th on ABC to see who wins!

Find the full list of 2020 Oscar nominations here: https://oscar.go.com/nominees

Best Picture:

Who I want to win: “Jojo Rabbit

Who I think will win: 1917

Additional thoughts:

            This year’s best picture is a tight race.  1917 has been campaigning hard, and with its success at other award shows this season, it is definitely possible it will take the big prize.  At its heels is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s penultimate film.  With a star-studded cast and a brilliant script, it’s possible OUATIH could take the win, especially since its one of Tarantino’s final chances for the prize.  A fierce (VERY deserving underdog) is Jojo Rabbit.  Given the Academy’s penchant for choosing quirky, meaningful films like Shape of Water and Birdman, this lesser-known film could surprise everyone and take home the night’s biggest prize.  While there is lots of press and popularity surrounding Joker, I do not think it holds up to its competition in this category.

Lead Actor:

Who I want to win: Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Who I think will win: Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker

Lead Actress:

Who I want to win: Renee Zellweger, “Judy”

Who I think will win: Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”

Additional Thoughts

            This category is a complete toss up, however I think it’s between Saoirse Ronan or Renee Zellweger.  Harriet was a beautiful movie and Cynthia Erivo did a superb job in her role, I do not think the Academy will select her over the more well-known names.

Supporting Actor:

Who I want to win: Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” OR Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”

Who I think will win: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Supporting Actress:

Who I want to win: Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”

Who I think will win: Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”

Director:

Who I want to win: Sam Mendes, “1917”

Who I think will win: Sam Mendes, “1917”

Animated Feature:

Who I want to win: “Toy Story 4,”  Josh Cooley

Who I think will win: “Toy Story 4,”  Josh Cooley

Animated Short:

Who I want to win: “Memorable,” Bruno Collet

Who I think will win: “Hair Love,” Matthew A. Cherry

Additional Thoughts:  All the nominees are absolutely stunning, I had a hard time choosing between Dcera and Memorable, and Sister’s animation style is beautiful.  Since they’re all short, you should give them all a try!  (*The best I could do on the foreign ones is the trailer…)

“Dcera,” Daria Kashcheeva https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K4iTXElx4E
“Hair Love,” Matthew A. Cherry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNw8V_Fkw28
“Kitbull,” Rosana Sullivan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZS5cgybKcI
“Memorable,” Bruno Collet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heKo4wLYIAg
“Sister,” Siqi Song  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvkonayXWHw

Adapted Screenplay:

Who I want to win: “Jojo Rabbit,” Taika Waititi

Who I think will win: “The Irishman,” Steven Zaillian

Original Screenplay:

Who I want to win: “Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han

Who I think will win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino

Cinematography:

Who I want to win: “1917,” Roger Deakins

Who I think will win: “1917,” Roger Deakins

Best Documentary Feature:

Who I want to win: “For Sama,” Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts

Who I think will win: “The Cave,” Feras Fayyad

Best Documentary Short Subject:

Who I want to win: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone,” Carol Dysinger

Who I think will win: “St. Louis Superman,” Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan

Best Live Action Short Film:

Who I want to win: “Nefta Football Club,” Yves Piat OR “A Sister,” Delphine Girard

Who I think will win: “The Neighbors’ Window,” Marshall Curry

Additional Thoughts:  All the nominees in this category are also absolutely stunning.  You may want to watch them all separately; some of the subject matter is pretty heavy, and watching them all back to back is overwhelming.  If you do want to try them all in one sitting, save NEFTA for last, it’s the most lighthearted. (Unfortunately, only the previews are available online for the final two nominations).

“Brotherhood,” Meryam Joobeu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN67UI7psYo r
“Nefta Football Club,” Yves Piat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP30vp2mCeg
“The Neighbors’ Window,” Marshall Curry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1vCrsZ80M4
“Saria,” Bryan Buckley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xRl_nhESIE
“A Sister,” Delphine Girard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJw9UrewSAA

Best International Feature Film:

Who I want to win: “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho

Who I think will win: “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho

Film Editing:

Who I want to win: “Parasite,” Jinmo Yang

Who I think will win: “The Irishman,” Thelma Schoonmaker

Sound Editing:

Who I want to win: “Ford v Ferrari,” Don Sylvester

Who I think will win: “1917,” Oliver Tarney, Rachel Tate


Sound Mixing:

Who I want to win: “Ford v Ferrari”

Who I think will win: “1917”

Production Design:

Who I want to win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh

Who I think will win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh

Original Score:

Who I want to win: “Little Women,” Alexandre Desplat

Who I think will win: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” John Williams

Original Song:

Who I want to win:  “I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”

Who I think will win: “Into the Unknown,” “Frozen 2”

Makeup and Hair:

Who I want to win: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”

Who I think will win: “Joker”

Costume Design:

Who I want to win: “Little Women,” Jacqueline Durran

Who I think will win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Arianne Phillips

Visual Effects:

Who I want to win: “Avengers Endgame”

Who I think will win: “The Irishman”