Showing posts with label Smile. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smile. Show all posts

Thursday, January 26, 2023

"Everything Everywhere All At Once" and Some Movies You Might Not Know About

[I review the movies "Everything Everywhere All At Once," "Ummi" and "Smile." The Book of the Week is "Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director" by Joel Thurm ]

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

A middle-aged Chinese woman must save human existance by doing some universe hopping. 

Trying to summarize this film in one sentence is practically impossible. Trying to explain it is just as difficult. Having no idea it was going to become the darling of Awards Season, I wasn't going to review this film, but then it started to win awards (it won the Critics' Choice Award for Best Picture), and then it was not only nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, but it received the most Oscar nominations of all of the other films (11), so I thought I needed to weigh in. 

I was not going to review it because I did not like it. 

In fact, I very much did not like it. I would say I hated it, but my mother taught me not to say hate.

Anyway, the story revolves around middle-aged Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), who runs a laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). They have been married for 20 years and have a daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu).  They are being audited by the IRS, Waymond is about to serve Evelyn with divorce papers, daughter, Joy, is gay and depressed that she has disappointed her mother, and Evelyn's difficult and judgmental Dad, Gong Gong (James Hong) has been staying with them. Life is not happy in the Wang household and Evelyn's life is not going the way Evelyn thought it would.

Okay, I get that.  Our lives don't always turn out as we expected. Life is hard. I can totally identify.  But then the film lost me.

Enter the "Alphaverse," a set of parallel universes that exist because of the various life choices one has made. The "Alphaverse" includes "verse-jumping," which enables people to access skills, memories, and even bodies from their parallel-universe selves.  Turns out this "multiverse" is threatened by Evelyn's own daughter, Joy, AKA Jobu Tupaki, and in her misery, she has created a black-hole into oblivion called Everything Bagel that threatens the multiverse. Evelyn is called in to save the universe.

Turns out Evelyn had the possibility of many other lives -  as a professional singer, a novelist, a chef, a teacher, and a rock? She also could have been a kung fu master/movie star and all of those particular skills come in handy when she verse-jumps and lives those other lives in order to fight Jobu and the forces of evil and save reality.  And if you understood any of that, you are much smarter than I am. 

Written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (AKA The Daniels), that's the story in a nutshell and it does have some fun, even poignant, moments - I liked the theme of the mother/daughter relationship - and if you are a fan of martial arts films, there is lots of that too. Jamie Lee Curtis is quite funny as the IRS agent and everyone loves Ke Huy Quan who plays Waymond because he hasn't worked much since he was a child star and starred in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Goonies" and is now very much enjoying his fame and subsequent awards. Everyone loves a comeback story, I guess. I also can begrudgingly give this film props for originality.  

BUT - and notice I put that BUT all in caps - all the jumping around from one universe to another became annoying and the film was just too much chaos for me. I consider myself a fairly sophisticated movie-goer.  I mean, "Citizen Kane" is my favorite movie, for god's sake, but this? I just didn't get it. I tried.  I really tried.

But then, I'm old. I guess I am feeling my age.  I did not get this movie and did not like it, but it appears to be the darling of the younger generation which is ironic because it stars a 60-year-old woman and it's about an older woman dealing with life.  I don't begrudge Michelle Yoeh her Best Actress nomination because she is a wonderful actress, and I don't even begrudge Jamie Lee Curtis her Best Supporting Actress nomination (her first ever nomination), despite the fact that I don't generally like her.  

The acting was not my problem with this film. It was the film!  It definitely was "everywhere all at once," and I found it annoying.  In fact, when I first watched it, I couldn't finish it.  It drove me nuts.  But then when it started to receive awards, I thought I would give it another try.  Still didn't like it, even with the mother/daughter angle and the poignant ending which almost saved the film for me, but after two hours of not getting it, it wasn't enough.  So there you go. It just wasn't an enjoyable film experience for me.

I have to add that I also ha..., I mean totally disliked "Tar," too, which was also nominated for Best Picture, but, thank god, "Babylon" didn't make the cut.  "Everything" and those two were the last three films I saw, and I very much disliked all three. So I guess it's three strikes I'm out.  Maybe I have lost my movie mojo and Rosy the Reviewer should pack up her broomstick and ride off into the sunset, because I just don't seem to like much of anything I am seeing lately.  But I won't because movies matter, and I can't help myself.  I have opinions. I won't be happy if "Everything" wins Best Picture, but if "Tar" wins, I might just have to get that broomstick out after all.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are over 55 and not a big fan of martial arts movies, I am thinking you won't like this film.  But I am not going to dissuade you, because it seems my opinion is in the minority. With Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Kwan favorites for winning Oscars, you should probably see it for yourself. (in theatres and on Showtime)

Umma (2022)

It's all about mothers.

Amanda (Sandra Oh) is a Korean immigrant living on a farm with her homeschooled daughter, Chrissy (Fivel Stewart).  They raise bees and live without technology because Amanda is "allergic" to electronics and electricity. The two are living completely off the grid.  They have a good, loving relationship and Amanda is happy with her life until Chrissy tells her she wants to leave the farm and go to college.  

Things get worse when Amanda's uncle arrives to tell her that her mother, her Umma (Korean for mother,) has recently died and he gives her Umma's ashes in a suitcase. Strange things start happening as memories of Amanda's abusive childhood come back and she is haunted by the ghost of her mother, literally. She must fight of that evil spirit that threatens to turn her into her mother. And we eventually discover why Amanda is "allergic" to all things electrical.

This is Sandra Oh as you have never seen her. The film, written and directed by Iris K. Shim, is a bit over the top and kind of slow moving and doesn't totally work, but it's atmospheric, moody and the best part?  It's only one hour and 23 minutes!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a supernatural film that deals with our own worst fears - turning into our mothers! (Netflix)

Smile (2022)

After witnessing a traumatic event, a doctor starts having hallucinations and feels she is being threatened by a deadly entity.

As a young child, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon, the daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick) witnessed her mother's death by suicide.  Now she is a therapist in a psychiatric ward.  Laura (Caitlin Stasey), a Ph.D. student, is brought in after witnessing the suicide of her art history professor.  She claims that ever since the suicide an entity with a crazy smile has been stalking her and telling her she is going to die.  Then she falls to the floor, screaming, overturning a table and breaking a vase.  Rose calls for help and when she returns to the room the girl is standing with a crazy smile on her face and proceeds to slit her own throat with a broken shard from the vase.

And that, my friends, is how this horror pic begins. 

After witnessing this suicide, Rose is given some much-needed time off, but then she starts having hallucinations, seeing people looking at her with crazy smiles and telling her she is going to die. She starts to exhibit odd behavior. What is happening?  Is this all in her mind? When she learns that Laura's professor was grinning at her when he killed himself, Rose interviews the professor's wife and discovers that someone killed himself in front of him.  She goes on a mission to try to understand what is happening and to find a way to elude her own possible death, and after doing more research Rose, discovers that there is a pattern of people who killed themselves after witnessing suicides.  It's as if an evil entity is being passed from one person to another.  Is that what is happening?

This is your classic "B" horror movie starring unknowns (except for Kal Penn, who plays Rose's boss), featuring menacing music and lots of "gotcha" moments - you know those close-ups of a face, quiet moments where nothing seems to be happening, and then GOTCHA!  You jump out of your seat.  Lots of those here. 

There is nothing like a scary movie to get the blood pumping and take you on a wild ride, and this one, written and directed by Parker Finn, will do that. Though I am not a big fan of blood and gore, I sometimes like scary films, because what people in horror films have to go through somehow makes our own worries seem small.  I mean, if I was being followed by an evil entity, I don't think I would worry so much about whether the house was clean or if Oprah would discover my blog.  So I indulge from time to time, though I have to watch alone because Hubby gets too scared. And speaking of blood and gore, a warning: there is lots of it here.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like scary, this is scary as hell. It will make you nervous the next time someone smiles at you! (On DVD, Fubo, Paramount+ and for rent on various platforms)

***The Book of the Week***

Sex, Drugs and Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director by Joel Thurm (2022).

Behind the scenes at some of your favorite TV shows and movies!

Joel Thurm may not be a name you recognize, but he was a starmaker, one of the most powerful casting directors in Hollywood, responsible for casting such films as "Grease," "Airplane!" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," as well as the TV shows "Cheers," "Taxi," "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," "Starsky & Hutch," "Charlie's Angels," "The Golden Girls," "Knight Rider," "The Cosby Show," and more. His first big moment was recognizing John Travolta's potential and casting him in the TV movie "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," which took him from being a teen idol to a major movie star. Thurm also played a role in the careers of River and Joaquin Phoenix

So Thurm has insider tales to tell and he doesn’t hold back, though he is adamant there was no proverbial casting couch shenanigans on his watch.  However, he has no problem weighing in on other production bigwigs who indulged. He also details just what it is that a casting director does and reveals how casting decisions were made and those who almost made the cut. Can you imagine James Mason as Mr. Roarke on “Fantasy Island" instead of Ricardo Montalban?  Or Elaine Stritch as Dorothy on “The Golden Girls" instead of Bea Arthur? Those were early thoughts until Thurm worked his magic.

Thurm asserts that 90% of the success of a TV show or film is good casting, and he laments that casting directors don't get the respect they deservie, hence this book about show business from a casting director’s viewpoint, one that as far as he knows has never been written. The book ends with a list of every pilot that made it to series at NBC when he was there with his trenchant opinions about each.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like show biz behind-the-scenes tell-alls, this is for you!

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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