The first two months of 2021 were really good for entertainment. So many great releases. So I decided to put together a few films and series that I enjoyed in January and February.
Malcolm & Marie
Malcolm & Marie is a romantic drama film written and directed by Sam Levinson. The film stars John David Washington and Zendaya (as the title characters). The project was the first feature to be entirely written, financed, and produced during the Covid-19 pandemic, with filming taking place in June and July 2020. The film was self-financed by Levison and his wife, Ashley Levinson, and had a production budget of only $2.5 million. And it was bought by Netflix for $30 million.
The film is about a filmmaker and his girlfriend returning home after a celebratory movie premiere as he awaits what's sure to be an imminent critical and financial success. The evening suddenly takes a turn as revelations about their relationships begin to surface, testing the strength of their love. This premise was based on Levison's own experience where he forgot to thank his wife, at the premiere of his film, Assassination Nation.
So I have mixed feelings about Malcolm & Marie. It was brilliantly directed by Sam Levinson. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and it was shot on black-and-white 35 mm film, which is a plus for me. Zendaya and John David Washington are outstanding and have great chemistry together. But Levinson's script is not good enough. I thought it was a bit self-indulgent and messy. Also, the film is very difficult to watch at times. The constant fighting between the characters is exhausting. But it was a great reminder of why I will never be in a relationship ever again.
Overall, if you are interested in a relationship drama or are simply a fan of Zendaya (I know there are many of you out there) and John David Washington or if you are like me, a sucker for black and white cinematography. I would totally recommend it. But if none of these are your things, skip it.
Saint Maud is a 2020 horror psychological thriller directed by Rose Glass. It follows Maud a reclusive young nurse that has recently found God. She arrives at a plush home to care for Amanda, a hedonistic dancer left frail from a chronic illness. Maud's fervent faith quickly inspires an obsessive conviction that she must save her ward's soul from eternal damnation, whatever the cost.
This is really well crafted. One could call it an arthouse horror. The director Rose Glass created a very viscerally uncomfortable but also very sad film. Technically the film is also amazing. Gorgeous cinematography, editing, and sound design. Acting is. really good too. Morfydd Clark is incredible in her role.
Saint Maud is very short, only 84 minutes, but easily one of the best horror films I've seen since Midsommar. My advice for this film is, go in as blind as you can. Avoid any kind of spoilers. I had a really good time watching it and I think most of you will as well.
One night in Miami
One Night In Miami is a fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s. The film was directed by the great Regina King and premiered at TIFF 2020 but had a wide release in January.
Regina King’s directorial debut is such an amazing film. Seriously, this woman can do no wrong. Based on Kemp Powers’ play, One Night In Miami is a fascinating watch. The first hour alone has some great and provocative conversations that fit really well with everything that happened in 2020.
The production design, costumes, and cinematography are all great and the film also has brilliant performances all around.
Although the film is pretty much set in one location and has a lot of dialogue, it will still keep you engaged until the very end. One Night In Miami is available on Amazon Prime.
Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. The film features real nomads Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.
I watched this film at TIFF last year. And I have to say, Chloe Zhao really knows how to tells stories about people on the margins of society. She did that with The Rider and she does it again with this film. Here she introduces us to modern-day nomads. The film is moving, intimate, and has a lot of raw emotion. Nomadland has a documentary style of filmmaking that worked perfectly.
On the technical level, the film is flawless. The cinematography is stunning. With beautiful landscapes with a natural look that will make you feel like you are there. Zhao’s decision to include actual nomads to play supporting characters worked very well. It is awesome to hear their stories get to know how life on the road really is.
Francis McCormack fits in perfectly with the non-actors. She really looks like she belongs and works as a guide to this world. You never feel that she is acting. But as if, you're on a journey with a non-fictional character. She may be about to get her third Oscar.
Chloé Zhao is without a doubt one of the most interesting directors right now. And if she is killing it directing low-budget movies like this one, I can’t wait to see what she will do on the upcoming Marvel blockbuster Eternals.
I care a lot
Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) is a professional, court-appointed guardian for dozens of elderly patients whose assets she seizes and defrauds through dubious but legal means. Marla and her business partner and lover Fran (Eiza González) run a well-oiled scammy company. They try to use this brutal efficiency on their latest “cherry,” Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) — a wealthy retiree with no living heirs or family. But Miss Peterson turns out to have an equally shady secret of her own and connections to a volatile gangster (Peter Dinklage). Marla then is forced to level up in a game only predators can play.
This is another film that I had a chance to watch at TIFF last year. I thought this would be a very predictable and cheesy film. But boy, I was wrong. I Care A Lot is an exciting and fun thriller. It offers some unexpected twists and turns, and it totally took a direction that I did not see coming. The premise of someone exploring America’s messed-up elder-care system did not impress me at first. But, the good writing and the amazing cast make the film work. And I loved the cat and mouse game that the main characters play. Eiza González, Dianne Wiest, and Peter Dinklage are all great but Rosamund Pike really steals the show. That's her best role since Gone Girl. Her character is absolute ruthlessness and she plays it so well.
I Care A Lot is twisty and deliciously evil. And I totally recommend it.
WandaVision is TV miniseries developed by Jac Schaeffer. It's set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and shares continuity with the film's franchise. The series, which premiered on January 15 on Disney+, was the first Marvel project to be released in a year and a half and is a stand-out from the rest of the MCU. It has a hefty budget that can compete with any major studio production. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are reprising the roles of Wanda and Vision with spot-on performances and Kathryn Hahn is absolutely amazing as the "nosy neighbor" Agnes.
The series’ premise is very unique. It started almost as a tribute to past sitcoms in which Wanda and Vision live in a made-up reality that takes them through decades and TV tropes. Part of the show was even filmed in front of a live studio audience. But after the first 3 episodes, some viewers were restless and claiming that not enough was happening. These complaints stopped after the 4th episode aired. That was when the show broke the Fourth Wall established and started shifting between inside the ‘Hex’ (made up reality) and the real-life outside. It also introduced newcomer characters like Monica Rambeau and Tyler Hayward.
WandaVision feels very fresh. It shakes things up in the MCU giving it a brand new lease of life. The show has a long, rich, and satisfying journey. The attention to detail is outstanding and it offers a balanced mix of action and characterization that all fans of the MCU should enjoy.
Search party (Season 4)
Search Party is a dark comedy thriller. Created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter. The show is primarily set in New York City and follows a group of millennial friends who become involved in the search for a missing young woman. But, what started out as basically the stories of some hipsters dealing with their boring and meaningless life, quickly spiraled into a very dark, drama/thriller, but also super funny show.
I'm very surprised how this show isn't being talked about at all. It is so good! Probably one of the best on TV right now. I think what makes Search Party so good is the amazing characters that the writers created and the amazing actors that brought them to life. I will literally watch anything with these characters. They’re all so entertaining.
Season 4 was another really great one. It had a bit of a sluggish first half but it was still pretty good. However, the second half episodes were absolutely amazing. They ranged from hilarious to absurd, to downright depressing. I mean, when "the Gang" was talking about how they feel lost in life, it hit really close to home. The final episode was an emotional rollercoaster. I loved how it ended. I’m very happy to know that HBO Max already greenlit a fifth season and we will have more of these amazingly funny characters. I totally recommend you guys to check this show out. You won’t regret it.