Shows 'N Tunes: Movie, Music, and Game Reviews

Midsommar

Stricken with grief after a tragic family loss, Dani Ardor goes on a spontaneous trip to Sweden with her boyfriend and his classmates.  Classmate Pelle is from Sweden and has invited his friends to join his family for their annual Midsommar festival to celebrate the changing of the seasons and give back to mother nature.  Unbeknownst to Dani and the rest of the group, the festival follows many sinister traditions that leave them questioning whether they should leave or stay.

Director Ari Aster has proven his place in the world of contemporary horror with his latest masterpiece.  Midsommar (2019, rated R) is at once a very unnerving and beautiful film, set in a very believable Swedish community with traditions and beliefs that feel just as real as they are unsettling.  The film features gorgeous cinematography, showcasing the beautiful landscape and transcendental music that lifts the viewer into another world full of wonder and intrigue.

While Midsommar is classified as a horror film, horror is more so the tool through which the movie's message is communicated: out with the old, in with the new.


What We Do in the Shadows

Living with roommates is hard.  Living for hundreds of years with immature, dirty, narcissistic vampire roommates is even worse.  What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious mockumentary (think The Office) focusing on the lives of four vampire housemates living in Staten Island as they try to deal with the changing world and fighting over who has to do the dishes.  Things become more complicated when one of their meals is turned into a vampire and brings the modern world even closer.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014, R) is one of my all-time favorite movies, never failing to make me laugh.  Each character is more outrageous than the last and the situations they find themselves in, even more so.  Director Taika Waititi, who is also a main character, brings a comedic quirk that is hard to explain but irresistible once you experience it.

If you enjoy the movie, check out the new TV show on Hulu by the same name.  Arguably even better than the movie, it's not to be missed. You can check out a Roku from our tech takeout for access to Hulu.


Sinking City

This game will hit all the marks for fans of horror and H. P. Lovecraft.  In the game, you play Charles Reed, an ex-navy man and current hardboiled detective, who just arrived in the city of Oakmont.  The town flooded a decade ago and ever since strange events have been happening in the lives of the people who live in the town.  Life in Oakmont is even stranger as you discover that creatures lurk in almost every home.

Sinking City (2019, rated M for mature) is story-driven with half of your time spent in action and the other half spent hunting down clues and doing research through public records at places like the old newspaper offices and the library.  The other dynamic of the game that lends well to the Lovecraft theme is that of the sanity meter.  As your character looks upon the horrors that lurk in the shadows, he must be careful not to go insane himself.

Sinking City is available for checkout for PS4 and Xbox One systems.

Booksmart

In this hilarious and relatable coming-of-age comedy, two academically gifted best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) find themselves at the end of their high school career without having ever partied.  After realizing that their peers managed to get into good schools and still enjoy themselves, they set out to prove that they could get down with the best of them. In an attempt to make up for missed time, they try to cram four years of experiences into one chaotic night.  Not surprisingly, they are soon in over their heads.

I was impressed with Booksmart It was much more than the buddy comedy I expected.  The cinematography is amazing, the comedy witty, and the characters well rounded and believably flawed.  The friendship between the two leads is tangible and made me want to hang out with them, wear fanny packs, and watch documentaries.  In today's age where everyone is pressured to constantly do their best, it preaches an idea of balance and self-care.  This 2019 film (rated R) is Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, and I'm excited to see what her career will bring.

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A Few Good Men

When I think of A Few Good Men, the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic scene of Jack Nicholson shouting, "You can't handle the truth!"  But since that was about all I could remember, I decided it was time to re-watch the classic 1992 film.  

Tom Cruise is Lt. Daniel Kaffee, a young and cocky Navy lawyer assigned to defend two Marines accused of murder while on duty at Guantanamo Bay. The film includes conspiracies, political machinations, and many shades of gray.

Featuring that signature Aaron Sorkin dialogue (it's his first movie screenplay), A Few Good Men was directed by Rob Reiner (rated R). Costarring Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Pollak.  You'll also spot a young Kiefer Sutherland, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Noah Wyle.

If you enjoy films featuring lawyers, check out Great Movies: Lawyers in the Movies and Great Movies: More Lawyers in the Movies to discover what to watch next.  A Few Good Men is also on the American Film Institute's list of top courtroom dramas.

Green Book

This Oscar-winning film is based on the true story of musician Dr. Donald Shirley's tour of the south in 1962.  He hired New York bouncer, Tony Vallelonga as a chauffeur/bodyguard.   The relationship started out as an awkward business arrangement between the two men.  No men could be more different in demeanor, background, and speech, yet they set off on a two-month trip together.  Through the trials and tribulations of the journey, they see each other at their best and at their worst.  They quickly develop mutual respect for the other's talents.  The mutual respect evolves into a lifelong friendship.

The title of the movie refers to The Negro Motorist Green Book which was an indispensable companion for African Americans on road trips through southern states during the 1950s and 60s.  Green Book won Best Picture, Original Screenplay, and Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) at the 2019 Academy Awards. The film is not without controversy.  Read the Time article to learn more.


Released as a motion picture in 2018, rated PG-13


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If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

A charming tour guide (Ian McShane) takes a busload of American tourists on a nine countries in eighteen days European tour.  The bus is full of comical personalities, including Samantha Perkins (Suzanne Pleshette) who is seriously trying to find herself on this vacation.  The tour guide tries to romance her and change her mind about a number of things.  Mix-ups ensue, including one person who gets on the wrong bus.

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium is a throwback to how films were made. Joan Collins, John Cassavetes, Elsa Martinelli, Ben Gazzara, and Norman Fell also appear in the film. It's really a delightfully funny movie.

Long Shot

Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogan) is a goofy yet gifted journalist devoted to exposing the truth.  After losing his job when his company is bought out, he finds himself down on his luck with no plan.  By chance, he runs into his former babysitter and crush, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who is now Secretary of State with her sights set on the presidency.  She's elegant, smart, and professional…everything Fred is not.  After learning of his predicament, she hires him to be her speechwriter, despite the objections of everyone on her staff.  Although a determinate to her campaign, Fred is helping Charlotte take a step back and enjoy life again.

Long Shot is a twist on the classic rom-com, switching up gender roles and ignoring the classic tropes.  While it resembles a classic Seth Rogan film, awkward moments and drugs included, he managed to go beyond his regular cult comedy.  Hilarious and heartwarming, Long Shot it a great movie to add to the rom-com rotation.

Released as a motion picture in 2019, rated R

A Farmer’s Road (2015)

This documentary follows a couple who own and operate Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign, Illinois.  The couple were both academics in the field of soil science and decided to put all their knowledge to the test.  They bought a plot of land surrounded by cash crop farmers' land and transformed it by way of practicing a more sustainable type of farming.

Throughout the film, they share with us their setbacks and successes as they plant an orchard, kitchen garden, and start raising goats. The main product of their farm and creamery is the variety of goat cheeses they produce, which have found a loyal following at the local farmer's market and at various Chicago restaurants.  They have also started a tradition of summer farm to table dinners showcasing local produce.

It was educational and heartwarming to watch A Farmer's Road about a local business where they are promoting sustainable agriculture and small scale diversified farming.

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Pitch Perfect Trilogy

For lighthearted movies featuring a charming mix of comedy, music, and girl power, try Pitch Perfect (2012) and its sequels Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and Pitch Perfect 3 (2017).  In the first film, freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly joins a collegiate acapella group.  Heartwarming hilarity ensues. The performances feature catchy music, a range of voices, and a variety of styles.

Each sequel gets more ridiculous, but it is worth going along for the ride.  Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson star in all three with Hailee Steinfeld added in the second film.  The first two films also feature a pre-Dear Evan Hansen Ben Platt.

If you enjoy the music featured in the films, check out the soundtracks on Hoopla.


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The Office. The Complete Series (2005-2013) TV-PG

Are you looking for some cringe-binge?  Finished Parks and Recreation and have a gaping hole in your life?  Already seen The Office?  If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then watching The Office may be right for you!

While the first season starts off a little slow and awkward, it really comes into its own by the end of the season.  It's funny, irreverent, and strangely heartwarming.  You will laugh, cry, and facepalm along with the characters as each of their stories unfold over its nine seasons.

Check it out today!

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) PG

Miles Morales, a New York teen just starting out at a new school finds himself bitten by (yes) a radioactive spider...but this isn't your typical Spider-Man origin story.  From there the Spider-verses collide and an eclectic cast of characters comes together from multiple realities.  Readers of the comics will definitely appreciate this merge, but all can enjoy the superhero action and sparks of humor we are used to throughout most of the Marvel Universe.  So join Miles as he learns to have confidence in himself and figures out his Spidey senses to save not only his dimension but also everyone else's!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.  Did you miss Jez's review of this Oscar winner? Check it out!

Resident Evil 2 (2019) M

Raccoon City is under attack. A mysterious outbreak has transformed the population into ravenous zombies.  The story begins a week into the outbreak, most of the police are already dead, and supplies are few and far between.  Play as rookie police officer Leon Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield as they try to survive the night.

Each character has their own gameplay and storyline that unfolds as you explore the game.  The zombies are relentless, clever, and never as dead as they seem.  The majority of the game takes place in the Raccoon City police department and despite the relatively small map; it never feels repetitive or cramped.

Like many, I'm suffering from zombie fatigue, but this game reignited my fascination with the undead.  Originally released in 1998 for PlayStation, Resident Evil 2 is a staple in survival-horror video games.  Now remade, it is even better than before.  The graphics elevate the suspense and the updated mechanics allow for more control and realism. The puzzles are as tricky as ever and just as satisfying to solve as the first time around. Unfortunately, it still takes a ridiculous amount of ammo to take down zombies, so make sure to use it wisely!  Resident Evil 2 is available for checkout for PS4 and Xbox One.

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Pick of the Litter (2018)

In Pick of the Litter, follow a litter of five adorable Labrador puppies from birth through two years old on their incredible journey to become guide dogs for the blind.  The whole family will delight in seeing the lively puppies, each with their unique personalities, go through their rigorous training.  "Only the best will make the cut."

Experience the joy and sadness of the dedicated first time and experienced puppy raisers and trainers.  Meet the blind individuals who hope to be matched with a guide dog companion.

If you enjoy Pick of the Litter, you might also be interested in the Japanese film, Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog.  Here is additional information on the organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind, featured in the film.

The Vienna Berlin Music Club by Philharmonix (2018)

I recently had the chance to see Philharmonix live—and what an experience!  Listening to the album is the next best thing—and you can do so via Hoopla.  The Vienna Berlin Music Club is an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, and pop music.

The ensemble features two violins, a viola, a cello, a double bass, a clarinet, and a piano (from the Vienna and Berlin philharmonics).  Primarily instrumental, the album also features a singing violinist (in German).  Songs I particularly enjoyed include "Russian Overture," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "A New Satisfaction."  Watch the YouTube video to get a behind the scenes look from the group (and samples of their music).