Review: The Glass Castle

I'm not like you.

The true story of Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson, Elle Anderson, and Chandler Head at different stages) and how she grew up in poverty with her nomadic parents (Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts) before becoming a journalist in New York City.

Before I knew there was a movie in production, I read Jeannette's memoir of the same name after reading about another family forcing their children to live in poverty. I couldn't put it down, I finished it in one day. Jeannette Walls is a better person than I am, because I don't think I would've spoken to my parents ever again after leaving them. Once I learned a film was coming out, I was excited about the cast, but I had one fear: That the movie would somehow romanticize her experience.

And they did.

The Glass Castle gets the melodrama treatment that the memoir didn't have. Everything has been made to look "neater." When Jeannette was three, she severely burned herself cooking hot dogs, here she's about six or seven. When her father "teaches" her to swim (this time in a public pool, not a pond like her memoir) she's a pre-teen, where in real life she was around seven or eight. The children look cleaner, their house less severe, and the film omits the fact that they actually were in school most of the time. Their mother even teaches at a school they went too at one point, but that's left out so the film can have a big "we're in this together!" moment where the children make the decision to go to school themselves. 

Don't get me wrong, the movie does capture how awful that family had it when they didn't need to, but it's polished for moviegoers. It's not as ugly as reading it. They left out and changed so much of what made it compelling. 

That being said, the cast is really good. Harrelson and Watts are perfectly cast. Watts especially shows little spurts of Rose Mary's selfishness that the film didn't really go into, but was prominent in the book. 

Skip the film and read the book. It's far better.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "I couldn't find a good one for you, so you'll have to write one yourself." - Rose Mary (Naomi Watts)

Ranking Don Bluth's Films


As I was writing my post on little seen 90's shows, I couldn't help but think of Don Bluth. He is a legendary animator who walked away from Disney and made his own films with varying results. I've seen all of his feature films with the exception of Bartok the Magnificent, a straight to DVD spin off of Anastasia he did. He didn't write all of these films, but he directed them. Here are my rankings of his films from worst to best.


10) A Troll in Central Park

I used to love this movie when I was a kid, but when I happened to catch it again when I was older it just did not hold up. One thing I always appreciated about Bluth's films growing up is they were a little creepy, and I liked that. But the animation in this one is creepy for all the wrong reasons. 

9) Titan AE

It may seem strange that this one is so low, but honestly it's not memorable to me at all. I think I actually remember more from A Troll in Central Park even though it's ranked lower. This one probably did what it was supposed to do, but it completely left my brain after watching. 

8)The Pebble and the Penguin

I'll give this movie one thing, it made the killer whales and leopard seals look terrifying. I find most penguin cartoons make them looks too cutesy even though they're the enemy, but this didn't even try to go for that. But the main character is annoying and it definitely shouldn't have been a musical. Those songs left just about everything to be desired. 


7)Thumbelina

Like I talked about in my 90's post. I'm sure this would not hold up if I watched it again now, but I bet it's unintentionally hilarious.

6)Rock-A-Doodle

I like this one. People call it a hot mess but it's so different and the songs are catchy. I still feel the same way watching it now. You'll be hearing a bit more about this one in a separate post. 

5) An American Tail

My husband have gotten into a few debates about this one. It came out in 1986, so he was barely one and I wasn't born yet. The sequel, Fievel Goes West came out in the early 90's, so both of us saw that one before going back to this. He prefers the sequel, where I always liked this one better. We have the same debate about The Rescuers vs The Rescuers Down Under, and again, I like the older one better. There's just something more beautiful about it.

4) The Land Before Time

Ahh, the original. Done before its million sequels besmirched its name. This really was a masterpiece to me as a kid. I was so bummed when my own child couldn't get into it at all. I remember Little Foot always getting on my nerves, even more so with the sequels (Yes, I watched about 5 of those before I grew out of them) but that never distracted me from how much I liked this one.
Though it's sad to me now for reasons I'll elaborate on when I get to #2.

3) Anastasia

This was Bluth's "Disney Princess" Anastasia was a beautifully animated film with a scary villain, an animal side kick, and just about everything else you could ask for. "Once Upon A December" is still one of my favorite songs to come from an animated movie.  

2) All Dogs Go To Heaven

You'd think I wouldn't be able to handle a movie about dogs literally going to heaven with how sensitive I am about puppy death in films, but I love this movie so much. But the thing that makes this and Land Before Time sad to me now is the voice actress Judith Barsi, who was tragically murdered at the age of 10, along with her mother by her father. She voiced Anne-Marie here, and Ducky in Land Before Time. I can't help but think of her. She didn't live to see either of those movies released.

1) The Secret of NIMH

The undisputed champ for me. I like the film far better than the book. There is something about this cartoon that still makes me gravitate towards it. It's probably because it's so dark, and I tend to like those types of things. But I liked how Mrs. Brisby didn't think she was brave enough to do anything, but ends up saving her family and many other's lives. Plus, the villain in this was freaky, and I appreciated that even more after finding out that entire part of the book didn't exist.  

Thursday Movie Picks: Summer Blockbusters

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves celebrates everyone's favorite popcorn flicks: Summer blockbusters. There's so many to choose from, so I'm going to pick the ones that had memorable theater experiences for me. 

1) The Dark Knight

One of my all time favorite movies, I'll never forget the reaction of the audience when The Joker did his pencil trick. Gasps, "oooohhhhhs" then everyone clapped. I love moments like those, even if I barely heard the dialogue that followed.

2) The Avengers

I consider May a "summer" month. I'm in the super small minority that actually likes Age of Ultron better, even with its flaws. But I had so much fun seeing this in theaters, the audience about died when Hulk punched Thor out of frame during the big battle of New York. 

3) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I love the Planet of the Apes prequels, and I went with this one specifically because of the above gif. Everyone in my theater sounded like they were laughing nervously at this. Like okay, there's an ape, riding a horse shooting machine guns. That's awesome, but kind of terrifying, right? I think Koba may be one of my favorite villains ever. 

Bonus: Iron Man, not for my theater's reaction during the film, but during the mid credits scene when Nick Fury showed up. Someone in a perfect Sam Jackson/Dave Chapelle impression yelled out "A MOTHERFUCKING SHARK ATE ME" 

Review: Detroit

They're kids...

The Detroit riots of 1967 are the focus of this film. Mainly, the incident at the Algiers Motel is the focal point of the story. We follow a security guard, Dismukes (John Boyega) who is just trying to do the right thing and is caught in the fray. There's Larry (Algee Smith) and Fred, (Jacob Latimore) the former an aspiring singer who grab a room at the motel after being told they cannot go on stage during the riots. Julie (Hannah Murray) and Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) are the lone two white females that are stopped at the hotel. Greene (Anthony Mackie) a returning army vet trying to find work is also stopped among others at the hotel. Police Krauss, (Will Poulter) Demens, (Jack Raynor) and Flynn (Ben O'Toole) make their night a living hell. 

I always appreciate movies that teach me something new about a time in history. I learned about the Detroit riots, but never specifically what happened at the Algiers Motel. It's cruel and sadly still a possibility today.

History lesson aside, the film is quite messy. It's never bad. It's actually a very good film, however it feels like you're watching three different ones. A history lesson, a triller, and a rushed courtroom drama. The three pieces don't blend well together. It also has the strange feeling of dragging, yet also feeling rushed. At a 2 1/2 hour run time, this film his hefty and could've used some trimming. Yet the trial, the 3rd part of the film is wrapped up so quickly I can't decide if that was a bad move because I knew nothing of the lawyers or a good one because I didn't want to sit there for another half hour. 

Acting wise the film is amazing. The two stand outs are Algee Smith and Will Poulter, the former, an amazing singer (though it teeters on melodrama in a few scenes) who's entire outlook on life and his career are trashed by this one night. Poulter I'm so used to seeing as a goofy innocent dude that it was almost jarring to watch him as this racist piece of shit. It's nice to see Game of Thrones alum Hannah Murray get to flex her chops a bit too, and Anthony Mackie is always a welcomed presence. Boyega is also very strong, though sometimes I wonder what exactly he was doing there. (Yes, he's a real person but I was constantly wondering why the police and national guard allowed him to remain at the motel)

Regardless of the film's missteps, it's certainly worth a watch and features outstanding performances from a very talented cast.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I'm just looking for work." - Greene (Anthony Mackie)

Thursday Movie Picks: Crime Families

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is all in the family. And these families all commit crimes together. There's a lot of really obvious picks here like the Godfather that I haven't watched in ages so I avoided going that route. Here's three I like.

1) Eastern Promises

This is one of my all time favorite movies and is firmly in my top 5. Semyon's family deals in a lot of shady things, mainly forced prostitution. 

2) Animal Kingdom

These Aussies are, you guessed it, also doing shady things down under. And they're lead by the wonderful Jacki Weaver as the matriarch. 

3) Oliver & Company

And to go a little lighter - a family of stray dogs that steal things. But they're adorable and one of them is voiced by Billy Joel so of course we don't hold it against them. 

Little Remembered 90's Shows

Putting together my three picks for the Non English TV Show edition of Thursday Movie Picks got me all nostalgic. Now I'm remembering all these shows/movies I used to watch and I felt like making a list out of them.

I'm not going to include the big ones like Doug, Rugrats, Rocko's Modern Life, Hey Arnold, All That, Clarissa Explains it All, Alex Mack etc. Those are very popular with my fellow 90's kids and are easily memorable. These are the ones I had to dig a bit for in my brain. I'm going to start with the shows that I remember the earliest, and go from there. Most of these are TV shows, with a few movies thrown in.

1) Eureeka's Castle

This can best be described as a derpy puppet show. They had a bat that constantly flew into things, but you bet your ass my 2 to 3 year old self was watching this every morning. 

2) David The Gnome

Like I said during TMP, this was a show I never realized was a dub until I found IMDb. It was originally a Spanish show and it's one of the first cartoons I ever remember watching. I still remember seeing an advertisement for an episode that never aired (or at least I never saw it) It bothered me. 

3) The Litt'l Bits

My other TMP pick that was a dub. This one was originally from Japan, and like I said there I was beginning to think I imagined this cartoon. When my friends and I got on the topic of old shows, no one every remembered this. I was starting to think I imagined the whole thing. Luckily, IMDb was right there a decade later to reassure me I didn't go full Tommy Westphall with a Saturday morning cartoon. 

3) Scamper the Penguin

We learned a lot about penguins in my first grade class and my teacher had happened to tape this movie when she caught it on TV and showed it to us. I loved it. It had a cringey theme song but it was so cute, I didn't care. I wanted nothing more than to own this film and my parents couldn't find it anywhere. It's not like we could hope on Amazon in 1994. I thought I was going to be stuck with The Pebble and the Penquin as my go to Penguin movie, then we happened to find a VHS combo pack with this movie and my next pick. Turns out, Scamper wasn't originally Scamper, but "The Adventures of Lolo The Penguin" and it was a Russian mini series that was dubbed into English.

4) Samson and Sally

The VHS buddy to Scamper was this cartoon about two Sperm Whales that I really dug because none of my other friends had it. Turns out, this was another dub, only from Denmark. 

5) Gullah Gullah Island

Now, this wasn't a show I really watched regularly. I was a little old for it, and it was one of those things I remember only watching when I was home sick or bored during the summer. The thing I remember best is the theme song, but the reason I'm including it is because this is the first time I ever noticed re-casting. One of the kids was played by one actress in the early episodes, then replaced with a new girl in the later ones, and damn it I NOTICED! 

6) Welcome Freshman

Everyone I knew loved Saved by the Bell, but I always preferred this little seen show. The one episode I remember is when the kids eat yogurt at school and it turns the skin around their mouths blue and they end up quarantined at the school. That sounds kind of messed up typing it up. Oh well. 

7) Scruffy

This is hands down the most depressing dog cartoon in existence, and I can't believe my parents taped this for me. Basically this dog mother's dies, then she gets taken in by a homeless man who had a heart attack in front of her and dies. Then she goes to live with some other dogs in a junk yard, one of whom had a puppy that died so she carries around a sock and pretends that's her baby. Then people from the pound are trying to catch them and put them to sleep. What the actual fuck? 

8) The Adventures of Pete and Pete

I feel like this show doesn't get talked about enough when it comes to 90's nostalgia. It made Danny Tamberelli and Michelle Trachtenberg into big Nick stars. One of the kids' fake tattoos had it's own name in the opening credits. That's classic. 

9) Thumbelina 

To be fair, I bet this movie is massively stupid and I'd probably cringe if my kid watched it now, but I loved Don Bluth's movies. The Secret of NIMH was my favorite, and another I will talk about in an upcoming post. This one though, I have a memory of going running through the sprinklers with my neighbor, then watching this movie for the first time in the living room while our parents probably got drunk out on the patio. 

10) The Black Cauldron 

Disney's bastard child of a movie they like to pretend never happened. For what it's worth, I thought this was really cool. I remember watching it with my sister after I stepped on a nail and had to get a tetanus shot. I'd like to see it again. 




Horable Mention: Salute Your Shorts

Slightly breaking my popularity but for some reason people always talk about Hey Dude and not this. Salute Your Shorts was SO MUCH BETTER than Hey Dude. I just needed to say it.
Do you remember any of these? What did you think?

DVD Review: 3 Generations

OMFG

Ray (Elle Fanning) wants to transition to the boy she was always meant to be. Her mother, Maggie (Naomi Watts) is understanding but reluctant to sign over the papers to make the big decision. She's getting pressure from her mother (Susan Surandon) and then faces another hurtle when she needs to get Ray's father, who's not in the picture's signature on the forms.

This movie was originally titled About Ray and was supposed to be released two years ago. It was pulled a mere days before it's scheduled release. That's the first indicator that something is wrong, but that didn't stop me from watching.

Holy shit, it's like I turned on Lifetime.

There is so much damn melodrama in this film that I sat there incredulously wondering how this happened. This movie has good bones and a talented cast, who approved these writing choices? When Ray decides to scream at the top of her lungs to diffuse a fight going on between her parents I basically just checked out. 

The cast tries hard with the material they're given and with a few changes, I think this could've been a really well done film about the struggles trans people face. I'd suggest another film I watched a while back, 52 Tuesdays for families and how they handle transitioning. 

Recommended: No

Grade: D

Memorable Quote: "I'm a lot of things because of you. This isn't one of them." - Ray (Elle Fanning)