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Minari: One of the Best Films of 2020

January 3, 2021

Grade – A – Minari is an excellent film that hopefully will connect with a larger audience during awards season. I’d love to see it get a Best Picture nod at the Academy Awards.

Directed and written by Lee Isaac Chung, Minari is one of the best films released in 2020, and it totally deserves its 100% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes. The semi-autobiographical film set in the 1980s, focuses on a family moving from San Francisco to Arkansas (it has great dirt), so they can own land, own a double-wide trailer, and achieve their own “American Dream.” In San Francisco, Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Han Ye-ri) worked as chicken sexers (they sort them by their gender), which provided a steady income, but wasn’t enough for them to save or improve their living situation or give their kids David (Alan S. Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho) a chance at going to a college without accruing maximum debt. So, they pack up, and move to Arkansas in hopes of starting a farm. After a rough start, Monica’s mother Soonja (an excellent Youn Yuh-jung) moves in, and things start to get super interesting as relationships strain and strengthen as the family gets used to living in the Arkansas country. 

Problems arise as the thrifty Jacob refuses to pay money to dig a proper well, which forces him to dig speculative holes that leave him unable to lift his arms high enough to take off his shirt. Since these holes can’t be relied upon to keep water running, he starts watering his crops by illegally using city water in the late-hours of the night. Refreshingly, he’s never caught, and the drama comes from the marital strain between Jacob and Monica, who are at justifiable odds over the move. What’s nice is how their troubles feel relatable, and neither one is villainized as they struggle to connect in their new surroundings. Another welcome element is how Chung draws from his experiences living in Arkansas, and doesn’t villainize the locals who are occasionally ignorant, but never outright malicious towards the newest town residents. 

The highlight of the film is the relationship between grandma Soonja and young David. David doesn’t like Soonja because she smells Korean (even though he’s never been there), and doesn’t act like a traditional grandma who should be coddling her grandson. Instead, she loves watching wrestling, drinking Mountain Dew, and planting minari crops alongside a local creek. Eventually, the two bond and form a nice duo that give us some of the best moments of 2020. One of the highlights revolves around Soonja warning David about throwing rocks at snakes while they’re working the minari crop by the stream. She tells him that it’s better to see the snakes, instead of being surprised by them, which is pretty great advice. 

What follows is a lovely film that is patient, memorable and very likable. The performances by the cast are all around excellent, and the standouts are Youn Yuh-jung and Will Patton, who plays Paul, the local farm hand. It’s neat watching them break free from boring stereotypes (stock Grandma, strict christain), and provide welcome humanity to characters who are 100% unique and likable. 

Minari is an excellent film, and I totally recommend you check it out whenever you get a chance.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast -Episode #336: The 2020 Random Awards

January 1, 2021

You can download or stream the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re celebrating 2020 cinema by handing out 16 Random Awards to movies such as Minari, Tenet, Get Duked!, Sh!thouse, and Never Rarely Sometimes Always. The Random Awards are an institution here at MFF, and we went big (and very random) for its 10th anniversary. In this episode, we discuss monster explosions, turtle expeditions, hungry henchmen, and out of control vans.

Watch Minari!

If you are a fan of the podcast, make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening, and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast – Episode 26: Shark Communication, Floating Bread, and Stuffed Crust Pizza

December 31, 2020

You can listen to Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpreakerSpotify, Tunein, Podcast Addict, Amazon, Google Podcasts, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts. Also, make sure to like our Facebook page!

Please make sure to rate, review, share, and subscribe!

Jay and Mark are joined by Paige (@gaytaylorswift on Twitter) to discuss “Deep-Fried,” the 26th chapter on the Deep Blue Sea DVD. This might be the most infamous moment in the film, as Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) strips down (very gratuitously) so she can electrocute a shark that wants her, and her research destroyed. In this episode, they discuss shark communication, James Remar, Komodo, and 2 Fast 2 Furious. Enjoy!

Please make sure to rate, review, share and subscribe!

The 2020 MFF Random Awards: Celebrating the Randomness of 2020.

December 31, 2020

The Movies, Films and Flix random awards are back, and this time they’re celebrating the randomness of 2020 cinema. It was a weird year for movies, with the pandemic pushing many major releases back to 2021, but this year still saw the releases of some excellent films that will be featured below. This year’s Random Awards will celebrate movies like Minari, Fatman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Love and Monsters and Lovers Rock. Also, make sure to check out the mid-year Random Awards for more 2020 goodness.

The 2020 Random Awards 

Best Hitman and Hamster Duo Award

Fatman is a wildly violent film involving a hitman hunting Santa Claus. That’s why I enjoy the relationship between Walton Goggins (The Hitman) and his pet hamster. 

Best Moments Involving Lots of Questions Award

Never Rarely Sometimes Always features a harrowing scene that centers around dozens of questions being answered by Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), the main character of the film.

Best Runaway Van Award

Get Duked! is a wonderfully bonkers film that features juvenile delinquents battling masked murderers in the Scottish highlands. There is a recurring van gag that is most excellent.

Best Grandma Award

Minari is another excellent A24 film, and Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung) is my favorite character. She is an “anti-Grandma” who loves wrestling, mountain dew, and arguing with her grandson David. You’ll love her.

Best Usage of a Selfie Stick Award

I love zombie movies, and I especially love Korean zombie movies. #Alive features some truly suspenseful moments involving cell phone signals and selfie sticks. You’ll love it. 

Best Married Couple Award

Kevin Costner and Diane Lane (AKA the parents of Superman) are excellent together in Let Him Go. I’d pay to watch them drive around in circles because their chemistry is so good. 

Best Magical Raccoon Award

Gary the magical raccoon is the MVP of Godmothered. I’d love to have a magical raccoon who does minor house chores (watch out for power cables though). 

Best Sequel Involving three Vanessa Hudgens Award

The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again features another very fun performance by Vanessa Hudgens. She puts in some work. 

Best Grenade Being Used on a Monster Moment Award

Love and Monsters is one of my favorite 2020 films. I loved watching Joel (Dylan O’Brien) make his 80-mile trek for love, and I really enjoyed all the various monsters he encountered. 

Best Party Award

Lovers Rock director Steve McQueen, and cinematographer Shabier Kirchner do an excellent job creating a vibrant and exhilarating house party. 

Best Day Drinking Award

Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) do some excellent day drinking in Palm Springs. Being stuck in a time loop would be terrible, but day drinking without consequences for a few weeks would be nice. 

Best Movie Written by an Extra from Deep Blue Sea Award

Aya Podel, boy #1 (AKA guy who has a shirt with sleeves) in Deep Blue Sea, wrote Scoob!

Best Thermos in a Halloween Movie Award

I really want Hubie’s thermos in Hubie Halloween. It’s a swiss army knife thermos that is home to a blender, grappling hook, telescope, and about 45 other things. Love it.

Best Slide Drumming Award 

Sound of Metal is one of my favorite films of 2020, and I love the moment when Riz Ahmed and a young kid keep a beat on a metal slide. It’s nice. 

Best Drunk Correction of a Director Award

 Aubrey Plaza is so good in Black Bear, and you’ll love the moment when she drunkenly corrects a director.

Best Backwards Walking Award

On The Rocks is one of my favorite films of 2020, and I really enjoy the dynamic between Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. 

Best 2020 Character Award

Crystal Creasy (Betty Gilpin) is a badass enigma in The Hunt. Gilpin turned in an excellent performance. 

Best Alien Monster That Lives Inside of a Cosmonaut Award

I really enjoy Sputnik, and think it features the most interesting monster of 2020.

Movie I Wished Was Around When I Was In College Award

Shithouse is about a sensitive kid learning to live on his own during college. It’s a nice film that explores some neat territory.

Best 2020 Fanny Pack Award

I really enjoyed Wonder Woman 1984, and think it features the best fanny pack of 2020. Chris Pine was born to wear a fanny pack.

Best Candy Man Reference in a Movie About Body Swapping Award

I really enjoyed Freaky, and think the idea is super creative. Also, I like how it went out of its way to reference Candy Man. Makes me happy.

Best Protagonist Who Dresses Really Well Award

I love Tenet. It’s big, bold, brash and bonkers. Also, the protagonists wear some killer suits.

Best Usage of Lamorne Morris Award

Bloodshot is a blast. Watch it, and embrace the Morris. Make sure to listen our Bloodshot podcast episode too!

Best Photocopying Award

The Assistant is an excellent film, and it features some quality photocopying.

News of the World (2020) – Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass Deliver the Goods Again

December 30, 2020

After working magic together in 2013, with their film Captain Phillips, it was no surprise when it was announced that Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, The Bourne Supremacy) were teaming up again for News of the World. It makes total sense that they would reunite, as Captain Phillips, was nominated for six Academy Awards and features one of Tom Hanks finest onscreen moments.

Watch this clip.

As expected, News of the World is another successful production for Hanks and Greengrass, and it makes me happy that Gold Derby is predicting that it will be nominated for Best Picture.

News of the World focuses on traveling newsreader Captain Kidd (Hanks), a former soldier who makes his money in post-Civil War Texas by reading the news of the world to the denizens of small towns. He reads his newspapers word-for-word to packed audiences who either can’t read, or have no time (or energy) to read the incredibly small font that the newspapers used to pack in as many words as possible. His nomadic existence is interrupted when he tasks himself to take a young girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel) to her aunt and uncle after her carriage is ambushed, and its driver is lynched by a group of racist Texans. The problem is, Johanna was taken from her family when she was little, by the Kiowa people, and now she only speaks their language, and has no plans of being returned to her German aunt and uncle who are living deep in the wilderness of Texas. What follows can best be described as an “Action Western Drama” that features gunfights, news reading, and deadly money.

As expected, Tom Hanks is excellent in the role, as he comes across as a likable man who can defeat bandits in gunfights, and become a father figure to a traumatized child whose parents AND adoptive parents were killed. After Saving Private Ryan, Road to Perdition, Cast Away, Forrest Gump, and Captain Phillips, Hanks has proven himself to be an excellent physical performer, who is as comfortable in gun fights and horse chases, as he is in moments involving him being super nice. Also, since it’s a Paul Greengrass film, he’s placed in highly stressful situations that require creative thinking, nerves of steel, and assistance from young kids who know what happens when you place coins in a shotgun barrel.

The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski (Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Prometheus, Dark City, The Crow, Crimson Tide) captures the beauty of the Texas expanse, while also letting us know that it’s a dangerous place full of dark corners, and murderous rogues. His cinematography during the hill-top gun fight is wonderful, as the battle for high-ground proves itself to have the utmost importance. Also, kudos to editor (Greengrass loves good editors) William Goldenberg (Argo, The Long Kiss Goodnight, National Treasure) for allowing the action scenes room to breathe, which allows Hanks to showcase his “Action Hanks” skills.

The major surprise of the film is the performance by Helena Zengel, who is tasked with acting alongside Hanks, and being a three-dimensional child who is slightly feral, and super industrious. I loved watching the evolution of her character, and the relationship she forms with Captain Kidd feels lived-in and real.

News of the World is a solid western thriller that features confident direction, nerve-wracking action and another excellent performance from Tom Hanks. Watch it!

The MFF Podcast #335: The Long Kiss Goodnight, Renny Harlin, and Ice Skating

December 29, 2020

You can download or stream the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the 1996 action film The Long Kiss Goodnight. Directed by Renny Harlin (Listen to Deep Blue Sea – The Podcast), and starring Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson, this underappreciated film focuses on what happens when a badass assassin regains her memory (lots of people are killed). We’re big fans of Renny Harlin, and couldn’t wait to talk about this movie so we could promote the glorious action and witty Shane Black script. In this episode, we discuss ice skating, kitchen fights, and the excellence of Geena Davis. Enjoy!

Excellent house fight.

If you are a fan of the podcast, make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening, and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

John’s Horror Corner: Demonia (1990), Lucio Fulci’s clunky Italian nunsploitation is sort of an “unshiny” blood-stained hidden gem.

December 28, 2020

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MY CALL: Another clunky Italian horror boasting enough chunky gore to earn its hidden gem status despite being otherwise nearly incomprehensible (which is par for the Fulcian course). A fun a watch for gorehounds, and a gem for a legendary “splitting” death scene. MORE MOVIES LIKE Demonia: Fans of Fulcian gore may continue with City of the Living Dead (1980; aka Paura nella città dei morti viventi, The Gates of Hell), The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981), which form Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy; and then Zombie (1979). Despite featuring more nuns behaving badly, I’d skip The Other Hell (1981).

We open in 1486 Italy, as a gaggle of struggling manhandled nuns are dragged into a monastery basement to be crucified. Then we skip to 1980 Canada when a séance connects a young woman (Liza) to the horrid execution of the nuns, which happened to transpire precisely where she will soon be on an archeological expedition on a team led by Professor Evans (Brett Halsey; The Black Cat, The Devil’s Honey). During this trip, Liza stumbles upon the actual site of the crucifixion with the nuns’ remains still affixed to the crosses.

For about thirty minutes I was pleasantly surprised and even relieved at how surprisingly coherent this Fulci film was unfolding. But then, of course, something off-the-wall random pulls the rug out from under me as a completely out of place laughing topless ghost shoots an archaeologist with a spear gun on a boat. Then some drunk guys fall into a pit of spikes… because apparently there are Indiana Jones booby traps in this monastery.

The random Fulciness now blossoms with sweaty nun sex scenes complete with mid-coital murder and bastard babies of lecherous nuns being burned alive in braziers. But you know you’ve gone “Full Fulci” when the cat attack happens. Not since Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980) do I recall such a silly cat scene. And it comes complete with fake cats being literally shaken in front of the camera and a chunky gored eyeball being pulled from its socket. Good stuff.

Of course, the major gorehound selling point of this film is the from-the-crotch body-splitting death scene. Fans of this scene would no doubt also appreciate Bone Tomahawk (2015) and Terrifier (2016), to name some others capitalizing on the same exploitatively entrail-rich gag. We see the abdomen rupture with robust intestines as the body is pulled asunder. Truly, I sought this movie just for that scene! Was it worth it…? Yeah, probably so.

In the end, writer and director Lucio Fulci (Manhattan Baby, Aenigma) finished this film as incomprehensibly as so many others. You’ll surely scratch your head at the narrative decisions being made. But truly, fans of zany clunky Italian horror may find this to be more a gem than a lump of coal for Fulci’s relentless appreciation of wincingly palpable gory death scenes.

John’s Horror Corner: All the Creatures were Stirring (2018), a Christmas horror-comedy anthology that is not worth your time.

December 26, 2020

MY CALL: I recommend a hard pass even you if love Christmas horror or anthology horror. Very boring. This film fails to deliver… everything. MOVIES LIKE All the Creatures were Stirring: For more (and much better) Christmas horror try Black Christmas (1974, 2006 remake, 2019), Await Further Instructions (2018), Holidays (2016; Christmas), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), Krampus (2015), Better Watch Out (2016), Tales from the Crypt Season 1 (1989; And All Through the House), Silent Night Deadly Night (1984), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) Gremlins (1984), and Tales from the Crypt (1972; And All Through the House). Skip The Oracle (1985).

In this particularly dry horror anthology, Jenna (Ashley Clements; Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party) and Max meet up on a Christmas Eve date for an awkward theatrical performance that serves as our wraparound anthology tale. The quality of this opening segment sets the bumpy, uneventfully phoned-in pace for this collection of stories.

At her “mandatory” office Christmas party Alissa (Jocelin Donahue; Doctor Sleep, Insidious: Chapter 2, The House of the Devil), Scott (Matt Mercer; Contracted, Bliss, Beyond the Gates) and colleagues find a surprise while opening their perfunctory Secret Santa gift exchange when someone is literally killed by their gift. It seems that a poor man’s Jigsaw has rigged a holiday game of death for these office workers. It doesn’t lead to anything interesting or fun or shocking… and you should be prepared for more of the same if you continue watching this movie.

Our second story finds a man locked out of his car in a mall parking lot after gift shopping on Christmas Eve and a helpful but weird stranger (Katie Parker; Absentia, The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor) lends him her phone. Cursed and bound to a bloodthirsty evil, they find themselves in a strange conundrum. This was a very dumb segment and, as previously warned, get ready for some more. The stories don’t get any better as we suffer an awful Christmas Carol Scrooge experience that makes me hate this movie. Then a motorist kills a reindeer on the road and is hunted for his crime.

Finally came the short that led me to watch this in the first place by virtue of its star. Not wanting her boyfriend to spend Christmas alone, Gabby (Constance Wu; Hustlers, Crazy Rich Asians) surprises Steve but finds a very strange surprise of her own. This is very Twilight Zone-ish and darkly funny. Probably the best segment of the movie… but still very bad.

The writing, visuals and delivery was just plain weak. The acting and editing range from rough to proficient (at times), but well shy of anything polished in experience. And the clearly ultra-low budget special effects are nothing special. This movie felt like it was made by people who didn’t even want to make it.

Wonder Woman 1984: A Worthy Sequel That Isn’t Afraid to Change Things Up

December 24, 2020
Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

After the critical and financial success of Wonder Woman in 2017, Writer/director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot had their work cut out for them as they had to make a sequel that satisfied impossible expectations, while being visually and stylistically different. After watching Wonder Woman 1984, it’s safe to say that they succeeded in their goal, as they’ve made a film that allows Diana Prince to grow as a superhero, while placing her in the neon-drenched and brightly-lit world of the1980s, which differs greatly from the first movie.

In the decades following her exploits during World War I, Diana has kept up a low-key existence that involves occasionally beating up thieves in shopping malls and working as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.. Her quiet life is interrupted when she meets archaeologist Barbara Minever (Kristen Wiig), the newest member of the Smithsonian team, who is tasked with researching a relic that recently arrived. The relic is actually called the Dreamstone, and it grants people one wish – with a hidden cost (there’s always a cost with magic). Barbara wishes to become more like Diana, and Diane wishes that Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) return from the dead (he does, it’s fun). Things get more exciting when shadier-than-shady TV personality Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) shows up and steals the Dreamstone, so he can pay off his debts AND inadvertently threaten the entire world with destruction. 

The neat thing about Wonder Woman 1984 is how it largely avoids being a retread of its predecessor. The tone is more comedic as Steve adjusts to the 1980s and discovers the joy of fanny packs. Also, since every wish has a price, Diana powers wane, which becomes a liability during the various car chases and fist fights. This stands in a neat contrast to the first film where Diana learns how to become Wonder Woman by fully realizing her powers. It’s refreshing to see a sequel that isn’t afraid of changing things up, and not simply repeating the greatest hits that made it so popular. An added bonus is that since it’s directed by Patty Jenkins, the characters are treated respectfully and not exploited like Gadot was in Justice League. The treatment of women is refreshing as the camera doesn’t have a lingering eye that takes the agency away from the characters. 

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

There have been complaints about the lack of action (the final CGI fight is not good), but Wonder Woman 1984 is packed with crowd pleasing moments that build upon Wonder Woman’s lore, and give fans something to cheer for. Also, it’s packed with humanity as Gadot brings a welcome warmth and likability to her character who is trying to stop the end of the world by making very personal choices that will deeply affect her. 

Wonder Woman 1984 is a much different film from its predecessor, and I love that. Watch it!

The MFF Podcast #334: Die Hard, Hans Gruber and Candy Bars

December 24, 2020

You can download or stream the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the Christmas classic Die Hard. We love this film, and despite it being covered by every other movie podcast (ever), we found some unique aspects to tackle to make sure you’re hearing something new. In this episode, we discuss candy selection, gun fights and dangerous rose bushes. We also draft our favorite action films, cast a Con Air sequel, and discuss our favorite moments.

If you are a fan of the podcast, make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening, and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

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