20 Second Reviews
I've been writing film reviews for a loooong time, ever since my own film criticism column in the university newspaper.
Now, I share which movies and TV shows are worth your precious time, because if you're like me, you know that life's too short to watch garbage and lose hours of your life you'll never get back.
Most times, Netflix and Chill is more appealing than a cramped, germ-infested movie theatre—so here are some fantastic "in case you missed 'em" shows, all deserving of binge-worthy marathons in their own right.
For a deeper understanding of Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome, whereby a mother abuses her own child to seek personal sympathy and attention, this documentary is it. For almost 20 years, Dee Dee Blancharde fed daughter Gypsy Rose numerous drugs which induced horrible medical symptoms. Meanwhile, her massive fraud resulted in free trips, housing, and gifts and money from the surrounding community. In the incredulity of it all, you feel utter hatred toward Dee Dee, but are at least hopeful for Gypsy, who is now healthy and likely to receive her father’s support when she's up for parole in 2024.
Thumbs Up 👍
Directed by Ridley Scott. Story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green. Screenplay by John Logan, and Dante Harper
Scary? Check. Badass heroine? Check. Campy, predictable, moments that just don’t make sense? Check. I can’t figure out if the Alien “sci-fi” franchise has morphed into every other horror movie franchise (but with spaceships). Truth is, I left wholly entertained in all of its IMAX glory, and that’s enough to keep me interested ‘til the last film in this trilogy of the series.
Thumbs Up 👍
Aziz Ansari’s creative license takes on many forms this season: an ode to Fellini, long uninterrupted long film takes, character-mixing and disjointed storylines, and a shift in the second half of the season toward a focused, single plotline. Well-acted, Dev (Ansari) is convincing as a man torn between doing the right thing, versus what he feels he wants. Worth the marathon.
Thumbs Up 👍
'Pudding' the fun back into baking from scratch. I have no idea why I got addicted to this show. Perhaps it was all the leavening, proving, and drama of the timed technical challenges, and brilliant showstopper desserts. Witty hosts, tons of fun, plenty of Baked Alaska drama—and how could anyone not love Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (real names).
Thumbs Up 👍
2016. Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
I can’t recommend this movie at all; it was so utterly stupid and unbelievable, and a shame because I really wanted to like this director’s latest.
Thumbs Down 👎
2016. Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. Written by Kelly Fremon Craig.
Coming-of-age movies are always fun ('80s = Breakfast Club/Pretty in Pink/Heathers, '90s = Clueless, '00s = Mean Girls) and in 2017, I really loved the Edge of 17. Today's darn kids have just as much neurosis, as many parental and adult relationship issues. There are hilarious lol moments, awkward moments, and the moments when you realize who's really worth loving. Hailee Steinfeld is a joy to watch.
Thumbs Up 👍
2016. Directed by Meera Menon. Written by Amy Fox, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner and Amy Fox.
For any woman who’s climbed the corporate ladder, this film, led by an all-woman production team, provides an interesting study of the sexism that exists in male-dominated industries such as technology and finance, but also the competition among women themselves for the top spots they seldom hold. Anna Gunn’s character shines, and the film arc is steadily-paced with an interesting plot-line (and amusing subplots) that are just complex enough to keep us pleasantly entertained to the end.
Thumbs up 👍
2016. Directed by Barry Jenkins. Written by Barry Jenkins (adapted from story by Tarrell Alvin McCraney)
This poignant film is a masterpiece in the “less is more” film school of thought. The colors, imagery, usage of sound (music vs. silence), and basic slow motion techniques all combine to beautifully and delicately tell the story of the main character, Chiron, at three transformative stages in his life. Despite coping with an unkind upbringing, and following the path of the only role model and father figure he’s ever known (played by Mahershala Ali) he confronts his ultimate challenge yet: self-discovery.
Thumbs up 👍
2016. Directed and written by Damien Chazelle.
My “Best Picture” vote; not because it's the easy or obvious choice but because it was the most impressive in music, scale, and originality. Yes, it’s a musical, but don't be deterred—this is no fairytale but an "Everyman" story about going for your dreams and the struggle and sacrifices that come with that pursuit.
Thumbs Up 👍
2016. Directed by Garth Davis. Written by Saroo Brierley and Luke Davies, adapted from Saroo's book "A Long Way Home."
Saroo (played by Dev Patel) is pretty frustrating in his hemming and hawing and in his alienation of others, but once he gets decisive about his journey the pace picks up and the movie becomes tolerable. Pure cinema gold for a solid 30 minutes in the latter part of the film; everything else is filler; keep tissues on hand. First half: Meh 😐 , Last half: Thumbs up 👍
2016, Directed and written by Kenneth Lonergen.
The poster is misleading and doesn’t feature the characters at the heart of the film, who are the uncle (Casey Affleck) and nephew (Lucas Hedges). Despite the story’s tragedy, there is dry humor that sheds light on the tough fabric of the people in Manchester—the town itself being the third main character in the film.
Thumbs up 👍
2016. Directed by Theordore Melfi, Written by Alison Schroder, Theodore Melfi (adapted from the book by Margot Lee Shetterly).
A feel-good predictable yawn. The story is pleasant and uplifting, but the film isn’t anything spectacular, aside from exposing the details about the American space program that up until now, were largely omitted from history’s retelling. Meh 😐
2016. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Written by Eric Heisserer & Ted Chiang (adapted from Chiang’s book “The Story of Your Life”).
A gorgeous sci-fi movie that explores more the depths of humanity, and less the extra-terrestrial beings with which linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) seeks to communicate. And for the first time, aliens aren’t just beings with human features, but of an entirely different kind. Villenueve’s smartly-sequenced storytelling is full of twists and turns to the very end. Thumbs up 👍
The Light Between Oceans, 2016. Directed by Derek Cianfrance. Written by Derek Cianfrance, adapted from the novel by M.L. Stedman.
The best “worst” movie; yes it’s beautiful and yes Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender fell in love while shooting the film, but dammit if in every scene after the first 15 minutes there’s not something terribly awful happening that makes you just want to wince or start bawling. Bring tissues. Thumbs Up 👍
Sometimes a film buckles under the weight of the story, and as a Cary Fukunaga fan, I really wanted to like Beasts of No Nation, but it was slow, about 45 minutes too long, and lacked the “gripping” scenes it was touted to have. Amid the Terrence Malick-like auteurism, It's worth watching for awareness, as it tells of a rising rebel faction in an unnamed war-torn African country, so there’s that. Otherwise, Idris Elba saves the film as a lecherous and militaristic leader, but overall it just fails to absorb. Meh 😐
This docudrama debunks what we've been sold about Kurt Cobain’s suicide, suggesting instead that homicide was the cause of death, with fingers pointed at Courtney Love. For any Gen X’er, Cobain was a music icon and Nirvana the catalyst of mid ‘90s grunge rock. Interviews with friends, and private and crime scene investigators, assert that the Seattle Police Department bungled the entire case. We learn Cobain was of a happy disposition leading up to his death, and was planning on leaving Love and removing her from his will; their pre-nup would have left her with very little. Instead, Cobain died, and Love continues to benefit from his estate—to this day valued at up to a billion dollars in ongoing royalty payments. Thumbs Up 👍
The incredible story of identical twin sisters separated at birth, adopted by two different families across the world, only to learn of each other by a chance sighting in a YouTube video. More astounding is the twins' intrinsic similarity, despite their cross-cultural backgrounds; a zero-ing in on the concept of "nature vs nurture." A beautiful, emotional ride and a top documentary of the year. Thumbs Up 👍
Laugh-out-loud moments, a killer soundtrack, millennial plight and the first-generation American experience make this series pure binge-worthy joy. We join Dev Shah (Aziz Ansari) and his best friends in their tech-enabled lifestyles, hip New York haunts, pop culture musings, romantic escapades, and discussions on the uncertainties of independent, modern love. We also get a taste of what it's like for "brown dudes" trying to make it in mainstream entertainment. Thumbs Up 👍
Don’t let the opening credits fool you; Narcos isn’t as salacious as implied. Instead, Season 1 presents early political and familial influences on Pablo Escobar (Brazilian actor Wagner Moura) and the rise of the Medellín drug cartel. Scenes can be dialogue-heavy and slow, with a diverse cast of dubious accents. The story, costumes, set-design, and lush backdrop of Escobar-era Medellin hold you just enough to keep watching. Meh 😐
2012. Directed by Ridley Scott. Written by John Spaihts, Damon Lindelof.
In this “Alien” prequel, a group of naïve humans and a humanoid robot (Michael Fassbender) have hurtled through space for two years in search of mankind’s “maker.” What ensues is a sci-fi jaunt encapsulating phallus-like alien snakes, enormous ghostly man-creatures, and as expected, Ridley Scott's female protagonist Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). Suspense, good pace, and disturbing, bordering on campy yet interesting enough to keep you in suspense scenes. Incredible in 3-D.
Thumbs Up 👍