Tag (2018)

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  • Directed by Jeff Tomsic
  • Starring Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress
  • Written by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen
  • Comedy
  • Rated R
  • 1hr 40min
  • 15 June 2018

Synopsis

Every May, a group of friends spend the entire month playing a game of extreme tag, an event that has lasted for the past 30 years. This year, Jerry (Jeremy Renner) has decided he will retire from the game with a perfect record of never being tagged. His friends are determined to keep that from happening by using Jerry’s wedding as the perfect chance to finally tag him.

How’s the Story?

I honestly didn’t know this was based on a true story going in, but I thought all along that this was a great idea. The point of the game is that this way, they stay ‘young’ and remain friends from childhood all the way to their middle-aged years. It’s such a nice sentiment that the concept alone had me interested. Once I watched it and got the full story, oh wow. I really, really liked the story for this movie.

How’s the Acting?

For a comedy that’s mainly slapstick, there’s some good performances in this movie. Ed Helms is surprisingly fantastic here. I’ve never really liked him that much but finally in this movie, he’s really fun.  Also, when is Isla Fisher not hilarious? I love her so much. She’s so funny and she’s extra hilarious here. Also, I’ve never actually seen Annabelle Wallis in a comedy, and though she wasn’t really FUNNY here, I still enjoyed her character and the way she played her.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

Though there are some lines that don’t really land amazingly, but I really do enjoy the way this one is written. A lot of the story is told in spurts of action, which is enjoyable.

Speaking of Spurts of Action, I love how this is told very “Sherlock Holmes” style with the predictions of what’s going on in voice-over. I think it’s freaking hilarious to use that in a comedy manner. The slow-motion and voice-over combination works so effectively in this film and it never stops being funny.

How’s the Cinematography?

This movie is visually nothing special until you pay attention to just all the details in every scene. There’s so much information told with the camera, which sounds very ‘well duh, Chelsea, that’s how it works’ but in comedy, camera work is usually very straight forward, lots of shot-reverse-shot, not a lot of adaptive camera work like is in this one. It’s shot like an action movie, which makes sense because there’s a lot of action in it, it’s a very slapstick movie as well, so it works really well.

Is It Worth Watching?

Listen, if you don’t like comedy, you probably won’t like this movie. But if you are a fan of comedy, such as myself, you will love it! It’s not just funny, and it’s not stupid funny, it’s silly-but-smart funny and has so much heart. It’s clever in its comedy and in tricking your expectations. The story is as heartwarming as it is hilarious. The fact this movie is based on a real story and the end of the movie shows clips of the real life guys and their fun adventures together only seals the deal on that warm, sappy feeling of ‘awwww’ that this movie will give you.

Tag is a movie about adults finding a way to keep their childhood friendships alive in a creative, funny, and very FUN way. What more can you want from a comedy than tons of laughs, silly action moments, and a whole lot of heart?

I loved this movie. One of the best comedies I’ve seen in a WHILE.

My Rating: 9/10

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Black Panther (2018)

***Turns out this was in drafts, not posted. I am sorry!!! I can’t believe I never bothered checking back to see if it was actually posted!***

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  • Directed by Ryan Coogler
  • Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira
  • Written by Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
  • Superhero, Action
  • Rated PG-13
  • 2hr 14mins
  • 16 February 2018

Synopsis

King T’Challa is set to be crowned officially as the ruler of Wakanda when an interloper threatens his kingdom and his crown.

How’s the Story?

I’ve wanted more of Wakanda ever since T’Challa was introduced to the MCU and the not-uncommon story of a new king being threatened by a villain who is the product of his father’s folly is rehashed into something very unique and interesting here. Killmonger is a really, really good MCU villain that keeps what could have been the same-old-same-old fresh and interesting.

How’s the Acting?

I said when I watched Civil War that T’Challa is one of the best performed characters in the MCU. Chadwick Boseman did not disappoint at all. The performances by Boseman, Jordan, and Danai Gurira. She and Lupita Nyong’o together killed it, but I would say the superior performance of the two was Gurira. Either way, both ladies and both men delivered performances of a lifetime and I was so impressed.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This movie achieves things that few other MCU movies have managed and I really think it’s down to the writing and directing. There are issues in almost every MCU film with women being plot devices more than people (not to a ‘this is a problem’ level, but in an underlying ‘this is annoying’ way), but in this film that really isn’t the case. Yes, we’re introduced to Lupita Nyong’o’s character as a love interest for T’Challa, but there really isn’t much focus on her as that. She’s there as her own character with relationships to most of the other main characters. Nakia is more the Queen and Shuri’s protector and Okoye’s fighting partner than she is T’Challa’s love interest. And don’t even get me started on Shuri. Oh my God, she’s just a delight in every single way.

Killmonger works so well as a villain because viewers either identify with him or understand those who identify with him, and it’s hard to argue with his reasoning. Though he isn’t as likeable as my favorite MCU villain, he’s actually probably the one you most sympathize with, which is really impressive seeing as he’s hard, vicious, and you don’t like him at all. He achieves Magneto levels of sympathetic villain while still garnering as much distaste for him as that weasely senator from IM2 and Winter Soldier. That is just so impressive.

How’s the Cinematography?

This movie is gorgeous, there’s no two ways about it. Marvel movies generally are impressively cinematic and extraordinary. I don’t feel like I need to go on and on about how beautifully done the colors and the fight scenes are. However, I will say, there’s this one shot where the camera turns a full 180 from upside down to right-side up that just thrilled me in the cinema. It was just so cool and fit the mood so well.

Is It Worth Watching?

Black Panther is a truly impressive movie. It was so highly anticipated I feared that it might disappoint, but it really didn’t. This movie has so much heart and characters you really get invested in. This is the movie we all needed and one that was so popular that it took me two weeks to get to a showing that wasn’t sold out. I have MoviePass so I didn’t want to spend my money on a pre-order when I already pay for MoviePass, but I almost gave in because it was taking so long to get to a showing at a time convenient for me that wasn’t sold out.

I’ve literally never seen a movie sell out for anything other than the first Friday night of release at the local cinema. This still had showings selling out the third Saturday after it was released. That says all you need to know about the box office hit that this movie is.

So is it worth watching? YES!

My Rating: 8/10

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Love, Simon (2018)

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  • Directed by Greg Berlanti
  • Starring Nick Robinson, Logan Miller, Katherine Langsford, Alexandra Shipp
  • Written by Elizabeth Berger, Isaac Aptaker
  • Romance, Comedy, Queer
  • Rated PG-13
  • 1hr 50mins.
  • 16 March 2018

Synopsis

Simon Spier has a perfectly normal life. He has a great family, great friends, and a totally normal high school experience… except he’s secretly gay. When another gay kid in school anonymously posts his confession on the local teen website, Simon starts an online friendship with the mysterious Blue, the only person he can (under the pseudonym Jaques) share his secret with. His senior year goes from perfectly average and normal to being a test of friendships, secrets, and learning to be his true self without fear.

How’s the Story?

The story is fantastic. There are a dozen movies about coming out and thousands of coming-of-age films, but none of them are funny, sincere, heartfelt teen romantic comedies about a gay boy learning to be himself and live the life he deserves to live without fear. It’s just something so unique and so fitting for the Centennial generation’s attitude towards being gay and coming out. My siblings are all Centinnials and the attitudes in this film are spot on for how their high school experience is. The homophobes are hated by the general population, there are a few brave queer kids who are able to be themselves and face the burden of the minority of the student body who are assholes, and there are adults who are willing to stand up for the queer kids, and yet for all of that, there’s still the struggle of letting the world truly see who you are.

It’s just very well-told and perfect for teens these days.

How’s the Acting?

The acting is good. I don’t really foresee any Oscar nominations for any of these performances, but Nick Robinson does a great job bringing Simon to life, and all of his friends are very well done. On a normal movie spectrum, this is a solidly acted film with no real surprises.

As a queer film, however, anything better than cheesy soap-opera level acting is FANTASTIC! So as a queer film that isn’t tragic Oscar-bait, this is one of the best acted films I’ve ever seen in my life.

(Side note: Ms. Albright is the best side character possibly ever created. Just saying.)

How’s the Writing/Directing?

As I said, this film feels genuine. It feels like a real teen experience. I’m twenty-seven, but I have a brother and sister who will be seventeen soon and are juniors in high school and a baby sister who is fourteen and will be a freshman next year, and these kids feel real. They feel like actual teenagers the way I observe my siblings and their friends together.

The dialogue is great, as well. There are a few lines that are just beyond incredible. One in particular that will stick with me forever is Jennifer Garner’s line about “You can finally exhale.” That line made my heart clench in the most beautiful way. There’s just something special about the way people speak to each other in this film so that it feels genuine.

My ONLY gripe is that it’s so unrealistic, in the experience of me and every other queer person I know, that his friends don’t also end up coming out as some form of queer. Maybe it’s the age of the creators, but trust me: you all start out straight, and by the time everybody’s done coming out, there’s like 1 token hetero amongst your 8 person friend group.

How’s the Cinematography?

While nothing is mind-blowing, there are some beautiful shots in this movie. I love the way colors are used in various places, and I love the choice for Blue to be shown as the various suspects for Blue’s identity with a blue/gray tinge. I love the scenes in cars, too. It’s just a great visual way to keep the film feeling ‘young’.

Is It Worth Watching?

What makes Love, Simon so groundbreaking isn’t masterpiece film making or Oscar-worthy acting, rather it’s the fact that it’s a teen rom-com about a gay boy. It’s Cinderella Story meets Never Been Kissed meets 10 Things I Hate About You meets a dozen other famous rom-coms that all differ from this one solely in the fact that those movies are about a girl and a boy and this is about a boy and a boy. And that one simple fact is life changing.

This is a movie for the kids out there who want to see a movie where there’s no gay-bashing, no suicide, no AIDS death, a movie where the homophobic kids are treated like disgusting assholes by everybody else in it, a movie where there’s no threat of being disowned by family or friends for being gay, a movie about what it’s like to not have to be terrified of anything other than things changing when you don’t want them to change, all because you’re queer. Yes, it has drama and angst and life-lessons, but it’s the same drama/angst/life-lessons that other teen movies have shown about choosing to be who you are and not hide something important just because you’re afraid of change.

We don’t need another tragedy filled Oscar-movie in the queer community. We need a boy meeting another boy online who he feels a connection with and trying to come into himself so that he can get his big, romantic, public fairy-tale kiss while the rest of the kids cheer for a happy ending.

Do you know how often we get happy endings in queer films? Especially ones that aren’t straight-to-Netflix and not very good? Widely available, highly talked about queer films are usually about tragedy and death and violence and sad endings where the lovers don’t end up together. Freaking Moonlight is probably the happiest queer movie to get talked about that I can think of, and that movie is a big bundle of terrible pills to swallow.

When you feed queer kids nothing but media that assumes they will live tragic, often short, pain-filled lives, it fucks with their heads. Straight kids get a thousand movies about the guy gets the girl and they share a romantic kiss and live happily ever after, they grow up from childhood on this notion that love is just a given in their future. Queer kids see straight people falling in love and queer people being murdered for who they are or dying of AIDS.

Love, Simon gives queer kids the chance to feel the same thing straight kids get to feel for possibly the first time in their lives. That kind of hope? That’s indescribable.

So do I think Love, Simon is worth watching? What the hell do you think?!

My Rating: 10/10

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Get Out (2017)

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  • Directed by Jordan Peele
  • Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Marcus Henderson
  • Written by Jordan Peele
  • Horror, Suspense
  • Rated R
  • 1hr 44 mins.
  • 24 February 2017

Synopsis

Chris, a black man, is invited to spend the weekend with his white girlfriend, Rose, and her family up in the country. Almost as soon as he arrives, things begin to seem very strange until he finally discovers a horrifying secret about the other black people in the neighborhood.

How’s the Story?

This story is fucking terrifying. The worst part is, I truly expected a different ending than this one. No spoilers, but let’s say I expected far worse than what did happen. Why? Because this shit is reality. No, maybe the ultimate Evil Scheme isn’t very realistic, but as far as the general ‘scary white people and the lone, scared black guy’ story goes, that shit’s totally realistic. Which makes it terrifying.

How’s the Acting?

Oh maaaannnnnn. Holy shit Daniel Kaluuya was amazing! I’ve never heard of him before this, but he was incredible. The whole ensemble was good, but he knocked it out of the park. I really, really want to see him in about fifty things. There is just so much good in the performances here. It’s amazing.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

Listen, I’m white and this movie is viscerally terrifying, that’s how incredibly written and directed this is. I’ve lived my whole life being on the safe side of the situation’s in this movie that sent off alarm bells, and yet I still kept covering my face and going, “RUN, BITCH!” as if I knew exactly what that felt like from his perspective.

That’s a mark if incredible writing. Jordan Peel managed to write something that puts any viewer into this guys perspective to make you terrified for this guy’s life. I had the same feeling watching this movie as I do when I see a lone woman in an isolated place with a lot of men: the pit-of-your-stomach terror that screams, ‘Dear God, run for your life’. There wasn’t a beat of this movie that wasn’t absolutely perfect.

How’s the Cinematography?

It’s pretty good. I won’t say it’s the best ever, but I do appreciate how it’s shot in certain moments. The lighting in particular is very well done. I’ve always been a fan of good lighting. Overall, it’s good. It’s nothing special, but it’s all perfectly good enough.

Is It Worth Watching?

Yes! I’m sad I didn’t see this movie until this week! If I had seen it in 2017, it would’ve been top 5 of the year. This movie is terrifying in the best way. It’s horror without blood and guts. It’s psychological horror on par with something like Psycho. Yes, I just said on part with Psycho. This movie does the same thing as that one in how it keeps you feeling uneasy all along. You know something is coming. There isn’t a moment where you feel comfortable. You just know something bad is going to happen.

I think the only thing that’s a little weak for me is the performance of the girlfriend. She’s just kind of there. Also, I never really understood the deer motif. It didn’t distract from the story, but I didn’t really understand why that was chosen. I’ve seen it twice now and I still don’t understand.

That said, this movie is a solid winner for me. By far the best of the Best Picture Nominees I caught this week. I didn’t see them all, but this is the best of the four I have seen by a MILE.

My Rating: 9/10

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The Shape of Water (2017)

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  • Directed by Guillermo del Toro
  • Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer
  • Written by Guillermo del Toro
  • Fantasy, Romance
  • Rated R
  • 2hr 3 mins
  • 22 December 2017

Synopsis

Set in the 1960s, a lonely janitor, Elisa, meets a creature just as lonely as she is. When she falls in love with the fish man being tortured in the lab of the secret research facility she works at, it’s up to her and her friends to save his life.

How’s the Story?

Okay, so, I knew this was going to be weird. I knew that to start with. I knew going in that this movie would be <i>out there</i>… and yet it still was just SO MUCH weirder than I ever thought was possible. I liked it, I think? I honestly don’t even know. This movie went beyond weird and into ‘what the fuck did I just watch?’ so I don’t really know how well I liked the story.

It was very Guillermo del Toro, let’s just put it that way.

How’s the Acting?

The performances in this movie are magnificent. Sally Hawkins is incredible. I’ve never seen her act before, but that was just fantastic. Also, Richard Jenkins was amazing, too! Honestly, there wasn’t a bad performance in the movie, right down to our old pal Doug Jones, the master of monster makeup!

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This movie was so creative and so well done that I cannot give enough credit to the writing and the direction. There wasn’t a scene that stood out as ‘off’ for me in the whole movie. I saw this in a near-empty auditorium and was free to gasp and clutch at my seat as dramatically as I wanted and I did, oh man I did.

Guillermo del Toro is just a legend. That’s it.

How’s the Cinematography?

There are sequences in this movie that I think will be studied in schools one day. This movie uses color and light in a way that is so incredibly awesome that I can’t put into words how much I love it. I love the use of water. That sounds silly, it’s the title of the movie, but the way water is used in even small ways is just so beautifully shot, because filming with water is not easy. It’s a tricky thing to get what you want on the camera when it comes to water, and this movie does it well.

Is It Worth Watching?

Everyone should see this movie. It’s weird beyond measure, but it’s just so beautifully told and I cannot praise the acting and storytelling enough. The only reason this movie isn’t getting a higher rating from me is the way that I think it was almost <i>too</i> weird for me. I didn’t <i>feel</i> it. I know the writing was there, the acting was there, the direction was there… I just still didn’t feel it. I think it was too weird to me to connect to properly.

The basic story, however, is one that is magical and beautiful: a person who feels lost discovers her purpose in life and that purpose is to love someone that nobody else does. It’s just so beautiful of a story. It takes skill for Guillermo del Toro to turn a simple story into something so outlandishly strange that even I can’t get too incredibly attached. It’s a great movie, even if I can’t love it as much as some do.

My Rating: 7/10

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Call Me By Your Name (2018)

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  • Directed by Luca Guadagnino
  • Starring Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer
  • Written by James Ivory
  • Drama, Romance
  • Rated R
  • 2hr 12mins
  • 19 January 2018

Synopsis

Based on a book by the same name, Call Me By Your Name tells the story of a mid-80s summer in which a college student guest, Oliver, comes to stay with a family in the Italian countryside where Elio, a seventeen year old boy, discovers some things about himself all because of Oliver.

How’s the Story?

Not to be ‘that person’, but it’s pretty dull. I got crazy excited by the prospect of a gay romance making waves, but I then read the book before the movie came out (a big mistake; it was the worst book I’ve ever read) so I knew going in that the best hope I could get is that it doesn’t include the weird stuff in the book. Thankfully, the weirdest things were left out of the movie, and the overall story of a teen boy coming to terms with his sexuality takes the front seat. However, the way the story is told is beyond boring and I think that comes down to flaws in the following places.

How’s the Acting?

I do not, for the life of me, understand the praise for the acting in this movie. No, it isn’t terrible, but when the actors seem ‘acty’, that’s a sign of bad acting. There is no Oscar-worthy performance in this. I’m just saying. The best performance in this movie is the father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg. He’s by far the shining light in the mediocre array of performances in this movie, in my opinion.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

There are moments in this movie where it sounds so pretentiously unnatural that I cringed. There are lines of dialogue that is just so unavoidably awkward and don’t fit the character and the story at all. There are, as I said, entire scenes that are highly ‘acty’, which is something a good director should be able to fix, but for some reason the director didn’t do that, and I don’t understand.

That said, once again, Michael Stuhlbarg’s monologue is money. It seems like all the writing attention went into that one monologue and I loved it. It’s really what saved this movie, for the most part.

How’s the Cinematography?

Yet again, I don’t understand what went wrong. The editing is abruptly choppy at times, and while that isn’t cinematography, the awkward cuts in scenes from one strange framing to another, where there are very unnatural shot compositions on the screen, is just absurd. Was there some theme or metaphor I just am missing?

Full disclosure: I got a screener of this, so perhaps it was pre-final-editing-sweep? It just blows my mind how oddly bad the choices in composition were in some spots in this movie.

Is It Worth Watching?

I guess? If your tastes align with me often, then no. Don’t waste these hours of your life. But for some reason, everybody else I’ve spoken to sees something I don’t see, and maybe it’s best you see it for yourself to decide.

Above all of these issues, which I admit, are issues of taste, there is one major, glaring issue with this movie that I address in a recording that has yet to be published, and that is the way that this film being touted as positive queer representation is confusingly tone deaf to me as a queer person who has grown up in a homophobic world. While tons of queer people seem to not agree, I find it absolutely maddening that in 2017, we would praise a movie that reinforces a hurtful and disgusting homophobic stereotype.

All my life people have said gay men shouldn’t have children or be teachers because they’re perverts who are going to prey on your little boys. Call Me By Your Name is a story about an adult man whose age isn’t stated but who looks about thirty having a sexual relationship with a seventeen year old boy. No, he didn’t prey on the kid, the kid went after him, but that doesn’t make it okay. In real life, when a man in his mid-twenties dates a seventeen year old girl, we call him a pervert who preys on little girls, and rightly so. Why is it that we have a movie that shows us the same thing – only in some ways worse, since that stereotype has hurt so many people in so many ways – and we are all over how it is a tragic romance?

Most of us agree that the problem with transgender women being played by male actors is that it reinforces the stereotype to transphobic people that a trans woman is just a man in a dress. This is a movie that reinforces the stereotype that a gay man is going to come for your teenage boys in that very same way. It is so far from a POSITIVE representation of queerness when I’ve seen teachers get fired because they’re gay and parents don’t want them around their sons, or when fathers lose custody of their children when they divorce their wife and meet another man, all because of this stereotype that we’re celebrating as a tragic romance in this movie.

Not to say there isn’t anything positive. The parents being so loving and accepting is amazing! I loved them! The set design and costuming were incredible! So much of this movie had a great amount of potential, but there were flaws I can’t overlook, and most of all, there was the issue of that stereotype being reinforced and celebrated. I can’t help but feel like even if I loved this movie, that issue would leave a bitter taste I just couldn’t get around.

My Rating: 3/10

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I, Tonya (2017)

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  • Directed by Craig Gillespie
  • Starring Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney
  • Written by Steven Rogers
  • Comedy, Biopic
  • Rated R
  • 2hr
  • 10 December 2017

Synopsis

Told in a mockumentary style, I, Tonya tells the story of infamous figure skater, Tonya Harding, known best for her involvement in the scandalous events preceding the 1994 Olympics, following her entire skating career from childhood to her lifetime banning in 1994.

How’s the Story?

I think that, since I’m a figure skating fan all my life, I went into this with a negative predisposition that made it difficult for me to really enjoy this story as well as I think it deserves. It’s a good story. And I’m always the first person to say that a movie doesn’t have to be accurate to be a good movie, yet I found myself struggling to connect with the story since it’s told from a perspective to inspire sympathy for Tonya Harding, which just isn’t possible for me really. The parts about all of the abuses she suffered were something I could sympathize with, but I kept this undercurrent of the less-dramatic version of “Cool story, still murder” that villains often get.

NOT to say she’s a villain or that anything was close to like a super villain murdering people, but that feeling, the ‘wow that’s so sad… but you still did a terrible thing’ feeling, it stuck with me so I struggled to sympathize the way I think most viewers might when they see this without being too well versed in the real story this is based off of.

However, IGNORING my bias, I have to say that overall, this is a very creative way to tell this story and I think it’s probably better than I like it.

How’s the Acting?

Margot Robbie is amazing in this movie. She’s just fantastic. Sebastian Stan was also really great in this one. I have to say that the performances in this movie were definitely, to me, the highlight of the whole thing.

That said, I’ve heard nothing but people being super into Allison Janney’s performance here, calling it worthy of a best supporting actress nomination, and I really can’t say I agree. Is she good? She’s okay. But this characters is very one-note and her performance doesn’t elevate that at all. I’m not sure if I can blame here for that, however, so more on that in the next section!

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This movie is very well written and directed except for how weirdly one-note Allison Janney’s character is. I don’t understand why it fell flat there, but it really did. I would say that it almost has to be a writing and direction element that made that happen, because she’s a good actor.

Overall, it’s a solid film with really smart dark humor that’s really hard to get right and this movie definitely does.

How’s the Cinematography?

The skating sequences in this film are fantastic! I was worried about that, because it’s so hard to get figure skating on film done right, but this one definitely pulls off some believable shots done super well. This is a particularly beautiful film in several other ways as well. There are so many scenes where the lighting is so spot on that I was sucked in by it. I am always a sucker for well-done lighting and this really, really nails it in so many places.

Is It Worth Watching?

While I struggled to love this movie, I have to say I did like it. It’s very entertaining and has a lot of great dark humor, but at times the violence is over the top – though this is the point – and it takes me out of the story a bit, and I’m naturally disinclined to like this particular telling of an event because it is told in a way that aims to make the viewer sympathize with someone I can only see as a terrible cheater who deserved her lifetime ban.

I’m almost certain that if you aren’t as familiar with Tonya Harding you’ll love this movie, but I just couldn’t put that aside while viewing this one. I’m going to try to watch this one again once it’s available on streaming, because I want to like it better than I do, but currently, I would say I like it alright.

My Rating: 6/10

 

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