Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Moonlight

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Moonlight (A24)

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Written & Directed by Barry Jenkins

Starring Trevante RhodesAndré HollandJanelle MonáeAshton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris & Mahershala Ali

Wow. I did not see that coming. That was not even close to what I expected it to be. I was thinking this movie, Moonlight. This academy award-winning motion picture was about some hood type shit. Thug life update. Boyz n tha Hood meets Dope. But Moonlight is a straight up love story. Surprised the hell out of me. It’s very good though. The direction is amazing. The cinematography is unbelievably gorgeous. And the performances are fantastic. But the story. The story is this surprising epic love story. That just took me by surprise. Amazing. Fucking amazing.

Verdict: SPARED

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Moonlight wins best picture over the marginally over-rated La La Land because it is a better love story than La La Land. Much more believable and real. With pain and pathos and grit and gravitas. It is truly an amazing film. But it’s one of those dramas that you know is going to win all the awards because it’s painful to watch. And that’s because of all the emotional power and this movie packs some emotional power. Moonlight is a powerful film.

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Moonlight is about a fragile little boy from the hood who doesn’t want to go home because his mother is spiraling out of control with drugs. Doesn’t want to go to school because his peers already know what he hasn’t admitted to himself. A boy who, frankly, doesn’t feel comfortable in his own skin.

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The movie is in three parts (that’s why the poster has that three-part face on it). 1.Little. when he is little. Called Little by his friends (faggot and gay boy by his enemies) 2.Chiron. When he’s in High School. Called Chiron (his real name) by his friends now “Little” by his tormentors and lastly 3.Black. When he has grown into a black man. This division allows us to see the kid’s growth as a human being and his mother’s descent into addiction. Again, it’s powerful and painful to watch while at the same time an absolute joy to watch. It’s fucking gorgeous.

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His friendship with a local drug kingpin and his relationship with his drug addicted mother are pivotal plot point (with some beautiful and poetic irony and two insanely good performances), but they take a back seat to his sexual identity. Which the movie doesn’t hit us over the head with. Instead it bubbles underneath. Becoming a subtle but powerful (there’s that word again) underlying theme through all three parts.

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Moonlight hits very close to home for me as the boy tries to come to grips with his confusing sexuality and his (even more confusing) relationship with his mother. And at times it was almost too uncomfortable to watch (I had to cover my eyes more than once). A little too familiar, too triggering, too disturbing, for reasons that are too personal to get into on the blog (that’s right there’s shit I don’t talk about).

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Moonlight is refreshingly original, well-written and expertly directed with some of the best performances of last year. This is one of those movies that you carry with you for a while. Genuine and lovely and powerful. I know I keep saying how powerful it is but that’s probably the best word to describe it. Moonlight is a powerful film. Perfect in every way. Not average in any way. Unexpected. Genuine. Gorgeous. Powerful.

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When I pressed play on the DVD, Moonlight had already won best picture but I had no idea what I was getting into. What seemed like it was going to be a gangster’s coming of age tale of addiction and family and Black American neighborhood drama, turns out to be an epic LGBT love story.

And I did not see that one coming.

– Mel

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Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: The Girl With All The Gifts

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

The Girl With All The Gifts (Warner Bros. Pictures [UK] Saban Films [United States])

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Directed by Colm McCarthy

Written by M.R. Carey  Based on The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Starring Gemma ArtertonPaddy ConsidineGlenn Close & Sennia Nanua

This movie was annoying. The Girl With All The Gifts is one of those movies that I couldn’t help but yell at all the way through. It’s tense and it’s got some cool bits and some good performances and a clever twist on the zombie apocalypse. But as with all zombie stories there are big holes in logic. Especially when it comes to how to make zombie children. However, before you think I didn’t like the movie, I actually liked The Girl With All The Gifts in between the annoying parts, because it was cute and silly, even while it was being gross and scary. And that was a very clever combination.

Verdict: SPARED

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The Girl With All The Gifts is a zombie children’s story. A nightmare told from the point of view of a zombie little girl. The girl is awesome and she is sweet and she is scary. And yes, she is hungry. Zombies in the movie aren’t called Zombies. The Z word is never spoken. No one wants to use the word anymore. Because all the Zombie comedies from the last couple of decades have ruined the moniker for more serious films.

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The Girl With All The Gifts is a serious film. Sure, it’s entirely from the child’s POV (just like the wonderful film Room) but this is a child that was raised in an institution that fears her and treats her like she’s a cross between a monster and a lab rat. It’s awful how they treat her. But that didn’t change the fact that every time someone turns their back on her, I thought she was going to try to eat them. I kind of hoped she would eat them actually. Like holding a bloody steak in front of the cutest little rabid dog and hoping for the best.

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The children in the lab are the offspring of turned women. The babies turn en utero and eat their way out. This is the biggest plot hole of the bunch and again I liked the movie. I really liked the movie. So I’m not going to go into how this is monumentally stupid and an awful premise. I have only one word for you. And that word is teeth. But that’s not the only hole in this awful premise. The one about the rending of uncooked flesh from the inside by a fetus without canine incisors… you know what. I just said that I wasn’t going to get into that.

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Pay no attention to that plot hole behind the curtain. The Girl With All The Gifts is an enjoyable fairy-tale of a zombie nightmare with some excellent performances from the four lead actors. Glenn Close is outstanding as the scientist in charge of the experiments to find a cure using these Zombie-hybrid children. Gemma Atherton is sufficiently annoying as the school teacher who keeps forgetting that her charges are human eating machines (and by human eating machines I mean they eat humans). Paddy Considine is fantastic as the sergeant who gradually learns to trust the young monster with his life. And “the girl” (played by Sennia Nanua) is amazing and she carries the entire movie (she’s in every scene) with astonishingly broad shoulders for such a little frame.

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The Girl With All The Gifts is a great film idea and story with a few major glitches here and there along the way. More than a few yell at the screen moments of stupidity and some clever, if maddeningly sloppy, film-making. I don’t know if you can tell that I liked it from this review. But I liked it. Even though it annoyed me, I liked it a lot. Go watch it. (though you may hate it, so for god’s sake don’t buy it without watching it first… that would be recklessly putting too much faith in my opinion)

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The Girl With All The Gifts is the sweetest little horror of a nightmarish monster of a zombie movie fairy-tale that you really shouldn’t turn your back on.

Watch it with the lights out.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Kubo and the Two Strings

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features)

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Directed by Travis Knight

Written by Marc Haimes, Chris Butler and Shannon Tindle

Starring Charlize TheronArt ParkinsonRalph FiennesRooney MaraGeorge Takei & Matthew McConaughey

What a fantastic movie. Kubo and the Two Strings is the tale of a young guitar player & storyteller and his epic adventure to find the end of his own heroic story. I loved this movie so much. It is lyrical like an epic poem and melancholic like an ancient sonnet. And although sometimes its need for comedy can hamper the melody, it’s not enough to ruin the music. And this movie, good god, this movie has everything. A kid with a huge chip on his shoulder, who likes to tell stories and play his guitar for passing strangers, while dreaming of one day being a god. Throw in a mentally ill mom and a tall-tale about his father, and it makes me have to ask, Who the hell’s been reading my diary? But I’ll say it again, this is a fantastic movie.

Verdict: SPARED

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Kubo wears that guitar like a Katana across his back. Kubo is Japanese for bad-ass.

Kubo & the Two Strings is a tale about family & honor. It’s a fable about love & courage. It’s a story about memory & redemption. But at its core, it’s a meditation about loss and about vision. It is wonderful.

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Paper Samurai is gonna give you a nasty paper cut. You will respect.

Kubo is a young busker, blind in one eye but skilled at the art of story-telling. And blessed with an origami magic he inherited from his mentally disturbed mother. He collects coins he earns from playing his guitar and spinning his stories at the marketplace by day. While at night he hides in his mountain cave… from the moon.

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Kubo’s mom wailing out. (voiced by Charlize Theron)

This is just the beginning of what turns out to be an epic tale full of heroes and villains and love and adventure and sacrifice and discovery and I would surely throw the kid a few coins because this boy can tell a story. Kubo and the Two Strings is well-worth the price of admission.

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Villainous twin sisters (voiced by Rooney Mara)

The animation is a gorgeous combination of stop-motion and conventional artwork. The music is amazing. A beautiful, sparse, traditional Japanese music that creates a reverence for its morality tale. Even the end credits song, a Regina Spektor version of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, is fucking incredible in its instrumentation and that same traditional Japanese lyrical beauty. The movie is gorgeous to watch and gorgeous to hear.

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Kubo, he’s a born showman. (voiced by Art Parkinson)

Kubo is perfect. The story. The voice acting. The music. The animation. An amazing movie from top to bottom. With a lovely moral center. Not too sweet. Not too childish. A work of fine art to be displayed in the museum of animation. Is there a museum of animation? If not, somebody please build one so we can put this damn movie in it.

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Beetle (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) has taken offense at something I said. Whatever it was, I take it back.

Kubo is definitely the best animated film I have seen from last year. But granted, I haven’t seen them all yet. However, Kubo and the Two Strings (…and oh my god, the title is so powerful. So perfect. So bad-ass.) Kubo and those mother fucking Two Strings will be a hard one to beat.

– Mel