Living (2022)

June 9, 2023

Day: 9, Movie: 9

The June Swoon 2 this morning features a movie that was utterly beautiful.

Bill Nighy gave an Academy Award nominated performance as Mr. Williams, a grim and humorless bureaucrat whose life changed after receiving a diagnosis giving him just a few months to live.

Mr. Williams decided to do something worthwhile will the few months he had remaining and he took up the fight for a local playground.

Bill Nighy is absolutely transcendent in this role. He is subtle and powerful with every glance and every slight word. He is never over-the-top, even though the situation could call for it. He was reserved yet determined to not fail in his final effort.

He had become withdrawn and callous within his job before the diagnosis altered his thinking. He spent some time with a former co-worker, Margaret Harris (Aimee Lou Wood), whose energy and willingness to embrace life attracted the old man. He wanted to remember how to engage in the daily joy of being alive while he still had the opportunity.

The film started off making it seem as if the leading protagonist would be Mr. Williams’s newest co-worker, Mr. Peter Wakeling (Alex Sharp), but he ended up as a supporting player in the story. Through his eyes, we get the chance to see the results of what Mr. Williams was able to accomplish.

Living was directed by Oliver Hermanus and the film is an adaption of a 1952 Japanese movie Ikiru which had been directed by EYG Hall of Famer Akira Kurosawa.

I have not seen the original film from Kurosawa, but this new adaptation is lovely, life-affirming and filled with a zest for life that is too easily lost. Bill Nighy is spectacular in his reserved and measured performance that will no doubt break your heart while inspiring you to do better. Living was a wonderful experience.

Sr. (2022)

June 8, 2023

Day: 8, Movie: 8

A Netflix documentary featuring Robert Downey Jr and his father Robert Downey Sr. has been on the streamer for awhile now, existing on My List since it came out. The June Swoon 2 allows me the chance to actually watch this.

Robert Downey Jr. is clearly one of the most charismatic actors we have today and this documentary shows that. It also spends a lot of time with Sr. and we get a good idea where a lot of RDJ’s personality came from.

The best parts of the doc were when we saw Jr. and Sr. interacting, especially when they included RDJ’s son Exton.

The documentary was shot in black and white and it added that gravitas to the film. It was a feel of something special and you get some truly amazing moments between father and son.

One of my favorite moments in the doc was when RDJ was singing a German folk song, “Fischerweise” with Sean Hayes on the piano. It was a request from Sr. and it is apparently something young 15-year old RDJ did in a contest. This section of the doc was hilarious.

Thinking back, I probably should have saved this film for Father’s Day in the June Swoon 2, but it fit today better, time wise. This is a beautiful love letter to a father from a son and from a couple of classic filmmakers.

Glorious (2022)

June 7, 2023

Day: 7, Movie: 7

The June Swoon 2 gets really gross today with the horror/comedy film that can be found on Shudder called Glorious. The film was directed by Rebekah McKendry and featured one basic location, a rest stop bathroom.

Wes (Ryan Kwanten) is traveling with all of his stuff in his car. He was depressed and sad and stopped at a rest stop where he promptly begins to drink and burn items from the car. He could not bring himself to burn the photo of Brenda (Sylvia Grace Crim), the woman he had just lost.

Passed out, Wes laid on the ground all night. In the morning, Wes rushed into the bathroom to throw up. When in there, he was engaged in conversation by a voice form the next stall. Not really wanting to start a conversation, Wes tried to get away, but he realized that the bathroom door could not be opened and that the voice had something to do with it.

The voice told Wes his name was Ghatanothoa (J.K. Simmons), a demigod who was trying to hide from his father, a primordial who had accidentally formed the universe, and Ghatanothoa needed a favor from Wes to avoid its father’s detection and, thus, the destruction of the entire universe.

Glorious was bloody, grimy and darkly funny. The dialogue between Wes and the demigod was both ridiculous and informative. Wes’s constant desperate attempts to escape kept turning out to be failures and he kept flashing back to memories of Brenda.

JK Simmons is, as always, great. His voice was the perfect catalyst for the craziness that was going on in this bathroom. The tale was insane, yet you believed what was happening.

There was a hilarious situation involving a glory hole that has to be seen to be believed. Then, the unexpected twist at the end of the film was shocking and completely out of nowhere, challenging everything that we had known up until that point, and yet, made total sense.

Glorious has a down ad dirty feel to it, much like the setting of a rest stop bathroom, and it keeps you off-balance. The end had that Twilight Zone type feel to it. It is a short film (only 79 minutes) but it uses every second well.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

June 6, 2023

Day: 6, Movie: 6

It is amazing to think that this is the same actor who played Ms. Trunchbull in last year’s Matilda the Musical.

Emma Thompson is an unbelievable actor and the range that she can show in a calendar year of performances is astounding.

In Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Thompson played a retired teacher who had recently lost her longtime husband and she wanted to experience some sexual experiences that she never had with him. So she hired a young male sex worker to make those experiences come true.

Thompson, whose character was named Helen, got more than she was expecting. She showed such an amazing amount of nervous energy and uncertainty over what she was planning that everyone could relate to the feelings that this was stirring up.

Daryl McCormack played Leo Grande, the sex worker who is much more than a hired prostitute. He ran his own company and provided services to his clientele that they required. Well-spoken and intelligent, his very nature confounded Helen as she was not expecting someone like Leo Grande.

The dialogue between the two actors was impeccable. The dialogue gave us glimpses into who these two individuals were as people and was sexy and uncomfortable at the same time. There was an undeniable chemistry between Thompson and McCormack that pulled you into the connection between them. The movie becomes much more than just a sexual encounter. It is a character piece between two people who are able to bring the best out in each other.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is currently on Hulu and it is a film that gives two outstanding performances in a sexual coming-of-age story for any age.

Candy Land (2022)

June 5, 2022

Day: 5, Movie: 5

The next June Swoon 2 movie is Candy Land, and it is not a happy-go-luck children’s saccharine sweet game adaptation. There is nothing for children in this film.

The movie dives into the world of truck stop sex workers and the inherent dangers that these workers face as there is a slasher in their midst. The likable group of sex workers who formed a bond between them are faced with the brutal slaying of several individuals.

I don’t want to go into too many specifics here to avoid spoilers, but the film does not shy away from any of the graphic imagery that one would see in a slasher movie. There is a lot of blood here. It also does not leave out the sexual section of this environment either.

The film does take some time to introduce us to these characters and understand why many of them are living the life that they are living. They are not portrayed as victims here, but it does not ignore the ugliness that can come with this lifestyle.

It is a movie that can be extremely uncomfortable to watch at times, and it is unapologetic for its choices. I expect that there would be plenty of people who will not like this film because it deals with several scenes that are tough to watch.

This is a movie that I am glad I saw, but not one that I will revisit any time soon. Candy land was directed by John Swab and is currently available for rental on Vudu.

All Eyes (2022)

June 4, 2023

Day: 4, Movie: 4

I have a low budget horror/drama for the June Swoon 2 today. I found it on Amazon Prime awhile ago and had placed it in “My Stuff” at the streamer. The premise of the film intrigued me so I added it to the list, intended for the June Swoon.

A disgraced podcast host Allen (Jasper Hammer) received a letter from a man named Don (Ben Hall), a widower who claimed that there was a monster in the woods behind his home. Allen, hoping to use this story for redemption, took Don’s offer to come and help him kill it. However, Allen soon realized that he had gotten himself into a situation that he had simply not expected.

First of all, it was clear that this movie was very low budget, so some of the things that it has in it do not look the greatest. Some of the booby-traps set up at Don’s home were silly and should not have worked the way they did. Having said that, the look of the film is not a criticism. I am sure they did the best they could with the budget that they were afforded.

The key to this movie is the interactions between Allen and Don. Both men were broken, from different reasons and both men were filled with pain. Finding this unlikely connection between them was the heart of the film. Some of the best scenes were the ones where these two men spoke to each other. Don was clearly an unhinged individual who set up a series of bobby-traps around his house that put anyone around him in jeopardy.

The stories of Don’s late wife really helped to humanize him and definitely touched Allen.

The monster involved in this story is an enigma. We know practically nothing about it, though there are some mysterious people as part of this story who obviously have some connection to it. The monster was used very well in the film and actually did look pretty decent when we finally get a look at it. Mind you, that scene was pretty much an apparent green screen, but, again, I appreciated the effort. In the end of the film, the film has some almost mega commentary about the monster that works for the whole film.

The performances of Jasper Hammer and Ben Hall stole the show. Ben Hall especially filled what could have been a cliched character into something rich and multidimensional.

This was a quick watch and was much better than I thought it would be, better than it had any right to be. Good performances and a surprisingly effective monster story blended together into a solid movie.

Grimcutty (2022)

June 3, 2023

The first film of the June Swoon 2 that is not very good is Hulu’s Grimcutty.

An internet meme comes to life to attack kids, forcing them to cut themselves, and drive parents into a frenzy. Asha (Sara Wolfkind) begins to see the creature and she desperately looks for ways to save herself and her family. Meanwhile, her parents (Usman Ally, Shannyn Sossamon) are becoming panicky and more strict with social media.

I will say off the top that I think there is something in this premise that could have led to a decent film. Unfortunately, the execution of the film itself is severely lacking. There are some gapping holes in the story, the acting is average at best, and, probably the most unforgivable, the creature of Grimcutty is silly looking.

The message of this movie is worthwhile though. Grimcutty is a creepypasta (which, according to Wikipedia, is a “horror-related legend which has been shared around the Internet“), and is based upon real life events (such as the Momo Challenge Hoax). The film deals with the concept of addiction to social media and how if can affect your life in a negative manner. That is a viable story beat, but the themes just do not carry through this movie.

This feels like a film that could have benefited from a series of re-writes and going back over to tighten up ideas. I do think there could be a very effective and interesting film somewhere within Grimcutty. Sadly, this just is not it.

Facing Nolan (2022)

June 2, 2023

I love baseball. Although he never pitched for my favorite baseball team (that’s the Dodgers), I was always a fan of the intimidating Nolan Ryan. There was just something about the Ryan Express that was awesome. He pitched in a day where pitch count was not used. I can’t imagine how many pitches Nolan Ryan would throw in a game. But he had an attitude that if he had anything left in his arm, he wanted to go back out there.

So this Netflix documentary of Nolan’s massive 27-year baseball career, starting with the New York Mets, heading through the California Angels, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers, is a fascinating watch.

You know you are something when a former president of the United States is a talking head in your documentary. George W. Bush was a former owner of the Texas Rangers so he had several insider points of view.

Nolan Ryan struck out over 5000 batters in his career. He threw a remarkable 7 no hitters (shattering Sandy Koufax’s record of 4). He won over 300 games. He was inducted as a first ballot Hall of famer. An argument could be made that Nolan Ryan is one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the sport that thrives upon its records and history unlike any other sport.

Listening to Nolan Ryan himself speak about the highlights and challenges of his storied career was thrilling. The film spoke to his wife Ruth Ryan and to several of his children to get the inside of the pitcher.

It was also cool to see so many of Nolan’s contemporaries speak about him too. We saw George Brett, Dave Winfield, Bobby Valentine, Enos Cabell, Roger Clemens, Jose Cruz Sr., Craig Biggio, Rod Carew, Art Howe, Randy Johnson, Cal Ripken, Pete Rose, Ivan Rodriguez, Craig Reynolds, Mike Maddux, and Steve Buechele among others.

Mike MacRae was the narrator, bringing a Texas feel to the documentary. He did a nice job of setting up some of the key moments in Nolan’s career and building anticipation.

Nolan Ryan was a pitcher unlike any other that stepped on a major league mound. He was dominant, but, playing for some bad teams, really held back his overall reputation. After watching this, I appreciate Nolan Ryan all the more.

Brian and Charles (2022)

June 1, 2023

The second annual June Swoon gets underway today with the first film from 2022 that I had not seen. Some of these film I have been anxious to watch, but I have pushed it off until June came around. This film, which wound up on critic Dan Murrell’s top ten best list of 2022, was the comedy film, Brian and Charles.

Brian (David Earl) was a lonely and isolated inventor who was struggling after a particularly harsh winter in Wales. To combat the loneliness, Brian created a robot named Charles (Chris Hayward). Amazingly, Charles worked and the twosome became close friends.

However, Charles began to feel the need to expand his horizons and travel outside of Brian’s house, which made Brian nervous, afraid of what people would think and of the reprisals of a local bully, Eddie (Jamie Michie).

Brian and Charles was a funny, heart-warming story of two friends, one of which happens to be a robot with his torso made out of a washing machine. It is a weird, eccentric movie that was a lot of fun to watch. The center of it, of course, was the relationship between Brian and Charles. Charles was like a child, hard headed at times and other times filled with wonder for the world. Brian tried to keep Charles isolated, but it was clear that things were about to change.

It was also strange as several times Brian turned to the camera and spoke to it, breaking the fourth wall. It wasn’t just Brian either as Charles addressed the audience, and even Eddie looked toward the camera at a certain point of the story. There was even a moment when Brian was rushing out of his house that he told someone (a cameraman, perhaps?) to get out of the way. It was a quirky and odd trait of this movie that kept it feeling like a documentary of some sort.

Brian was given a love interest in Hazel (Louise Brealey) who added a human feel to Brian. Their relationship was sweet and felt very sincere, considering the movie included a giant robot that liked to dance and wanted to go to Honalulu.

I found myself laughing quite a bit and the film was very wholesome and smart. We are kicking of the June Swoon 2 with a definite winner. I watched Brian and Charles on Prime.

National Champions (2021)

June 30th, Movies 31

The June Swoon comes to a close today with the final film in the binge. The choice I made was a football movie featuring J.K. Simmons and Stephan James called National Champions. Truth is the film is less about football and more about the system of college football and how the NCAA makes billions of dollars while the student-athletes get nothing.

In National Champions, two football teams are preparing for the college championship game when the star quarterback LeMarcus James (Stephan James) and his friend, another player Emmett Sunday (Alexander Ludwig) announced that they were going to boycott the game unless the NCAA changed their system and began paying and providing benefits to the players that the NCAA was building their brand upon.

LeMarcus and Emmett went around to players on the team trying to build up support, others to join in on the boycott. Meanwhile, Coach James Lazor (J.K. Simmons) was trying to hold his team together before the big game and met up with the officials of the NCAA trying to break down the boycott.

The fact that the NCAA is a billion dollar business that absolutely takes advantage of the young men to make that money, and then the athletes are not allowed to benefit for it. The small percentage that go on to the NFL may benefit from their college games, but the vast majority of the players will not play any more. Many of them find themselves back in poverty or in financial difficulties and facing injuries or pain from their playing days.

The film really did a great job of building tension as they approached the game and what the individuals involved would do in order to get the game played. JK Simmons was fantastic as always, but so was Stephan James. These performances were what this film depended on.

I do believe that the storyline involving Coach Lazor’s wife Baily (Kristin Chenoweth) and a professor at the college Elliott Schmidt (Timothy Olyphant) was too far, and, in the end, was a strange twist. This actually hurt the story and distracted from the overall story. It is a shame because I do love Timothy Olyphant.

The film’s message is one that is absolutely a problem that needs to be addressed and the movie does a great job of showing the troubles with the NCAA and college football. It is able to present the message while still being entertaining.

Beckett (2021)

June 29th, Movie 30

The penultimate day of the June Swoon was filled with the Netflix film Beckett, starring John David Washington.

According to IMDB: “While vacationing in Greece, American tourist Beckett (John David Washington) becomes the target of a manhunt after a devastating accident. Forced to run for his life and desperate to get across the country to the American embassy to clear his name, tensions escalate as the authorities close in, political unrest mounts, and Beckett falls even deeper into a dangerous web of conspiracy

Washington was solid in this man-on-the-run story. He made a good every man struggling to do whatever he has to do to survive. Are there things that Beckett does that he probably should not be able to do. Still, most of the action works well.

The story was convoluted. I liked the mystery of what was happening, but it never really felt like it came together well and some of the twists were hard to buy. Still, I liked the way it worked itself out and ended up.

Beckett may not be the greatest film ever but it is a fairly fun time and has an enjoyable lead character who battled to survive against the villains. It is not a deep film, but I liked watching it.

Best Sellers (2021)

June 28th, Movie 29

As the June Swoon moves into its final few days, I have been having some troubles finding movies from 2021 that I wanted to watch. I have a list of films still, but a lot of them are films that just do not appeal for me. The DailyView was easier considering the number of years available, but, even then, I had stretches that it was tough to find what I was in the mood for.

Yesterday, I watched the Billy Crystal film Here Today which has been on my Amazon Prime for quite awhile and now I am getting to another longtime film on the “My Stuff” queue, Michael Caine’s Best Sellers.

Harris Shaw (Michael Caine) was a ill-manner, cranky retired author who was approached by Lucy (Aubrey Plaza) the daughter of his friend and editor. She was now in charge of her father’s publishing company and she wanted him to fulfill a contract he had signed years ago for another book.

Harris was anything but helpful and Lucy was nearing her breaking point. She had an offer to purchase the publishing company, but when Harris arrived with a new manuscript, she was ecstatic. She wanted him to go on a book tour, but he was unhappy with that idea. He eventually agreed but his bad behavior was not helping the book sales.

Michael Caine was his typically excellent self and he and Aubrey Plaza made a strong team. Much like Crystal and Tiffany Haddish in Here Today, Caine and Plaza were the best part of this movie.

The story was filled with clichés though: the alcoholic author, the lost wife, the sentimental home. The film does take a few of the clichés in a different direction, including the shocking moment near the end of the film in a book store.

A lot of what happened required some suspension of disbelief. I am not sure that social media would work the way this film indicated that it worked, but all of that could be dismissed if you connect to the two main characters.

Best Sellers had some good moments and a strong pair of leads. Again, it is not perfect, but it is interesting enough.

Here Today (2021)

June 27th, Movie 28

Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish starred in a film called Here Today, a story about a successful long time comedy writer who was suffering though the onset of dementia and who met a much younger singer who helped him face the troubles of his life.

The film’s strength was easily the pair of Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish. They had an easy chemistry and a platonic charm that carried most of the film. The intimacies that they shared was much greater than sexual and they worked extremely well.

There are some definite laughs in the film, much through the dialogue and banter with Crystal. Crystal, who played Charlie, worked on a SNL-type sketch show as a comedy writer, and a mentor to some of the others on the writing staff. Though this was a secondary plotline, I really enjoyed this piece of the movie. It brought the strength of Billy Crystal to the forefront.

However, the film is too sentimental and emotionally manipulative through much of the dementia storyline. Parts of it worked very well, but other parts of it felt as if it was being included to pull on the heart strings. I think some of the dementia sections of the film needed some tightening up.

These sections were intertwined with the story of Charlie’s wife, who had died in a car wreck. These were mostly well done and the flashbacks were used effectively.

Here Today had been on my list at Amazon Prime for quite awhile and I am happy that I finally got around to watching it. It is not a perfect movie, but it has enough entertainment value to watch.

Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)

June 26th, Movie 27

This is garbage. I don’t know why they are trying to remake the classics. They’re never as good as the originals.” — Jeff McKenzie (Rob Delaney), Home Sweet Home Alone.

You know, this is never a good sign when a movie makes a meta reference about how bad films that try to remake classics are, when that is exactly what your film is trying to do.

I did not watch this last year when Home Sweet Home Alone came out on Disney +, but, if I had, this atrocious film would have been atop the Top 30 Worst Films of the Year, over taking Tom and Jerry.

We know the general story. Little kid, this time named Max (Archie Yates), gets left behind by his family who are on their way for vacation over seas (this time to Japan) and he has to defend his house against two intruders.

Now, most of the time we have seen this concept, the intruders are criminals looking to rob the house, or to get revenge on the kid. This time however is a little different.

The intruders are a married couple Jeff and Pam McKenzie (Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper) who are trying to retrieve a rare doll they think Max has stolen. Instead of being reasonable and, I don’t know, calling the police, they decide to break into the house to find the doll. This leads to a series of non-creative yet violent assaults on the McKenzies.

It is completely full of crap and a horrendous movie.

I do want to say that I do not blame the kid, Archie Yates. Archie was great in Jo Jo Rabbit and he has plenty of upsides to his career. He just should fire those people who got him this script and had him star in this movie. They do not have your back.

Home Sweet Home Alone is a mess. If you have some kind of morbid curiosity about it, it is on Disney + but otherwise, stay away.

House of Gucci (2021)

June 25th, Movie 26

House of Gucci was one of the films that I did not get to in the theater, that was nominated for Oscars but one that I planned on doing during the June Swoon.

I have now watched House of Gucci, and I have to say that I did not get into it at all. I found it uninteresting and dull and I just could not get into it.

There are some positive things. I did like the soundtrack. There were some great songs included. Both Lady Gaga and Adam Driver play their characters well and deserved the praise that they received.

There was an impressive cast of actors in the film including such notables as Al Pacino, Selma Hayek, Jeremey Irons, Jack Huston, Camille Cottin and Florence Andrews.

Jared Leto is here too, but the less spoken about his performance, the better.

I thought it was too long and meandered through Lady Gaga and Adam Driver’s relationship.

It was just not a movie for me.