Sunday, November 29, 2020

Girl Week 2020: The Quick and Dirties

    Welcome to Day 7, the final day, of Girl Week 2020. Before I get to what I'm going to do for the occasion, I just want to say thank you to everyone who decided to join the blogathon. I'll be a little more elaborate with my gratitude tomorrow, but I still wanted you all to know your participation is much appreciated.

For my grand finale, I'm just going to give some quick thoughts on a number of movies I've recently watched that fit the theme.


Injects original with wuxia & Star Wars to make a fun, if derivative concoction. Strong visuals except some dodgy wire-fu. There are issues with the story. Mulan (Yifei Liu) never struggles and never really makes us think she could pass for a boy, as the plot dictates. It's not a world-beater, but not worthy of the hatred its getting unless you think it has to be a carbon copy of the animated version. I say that as someone not as in tune with some of the things it's being faulted for. Namely, its portrayal of Chinese culture has been labeled atrocious by more than one person who should know. Therefore, I enjoyed it on the surface, but realize it has serious problems underneath.

Over the Moon

Enjoyable film with a good message about loss. Borrows liberally from Disney/Pixar playbook, but most of the songs are a bit too literal. Wastes a lot of voice talent by giving them nothing to do. Luckily, those who are given things to do shine. Cathy Ang shines in the lead role, Fei Fei, bringing a ton of energy. Robert G. Chiu does the same as Chin. Phillipa Soo steals the show as Chang'e, the moon goddess. The film also owes quite the debt to Georges Méliès's 1902 classic A Trip to the Moon. Despite it's inspirations being clearly evident, especially the Pixarified story, excellent animation and good pacing keeps us engaged.

Enola Holmes

More or less an origin story for the little sister of Sherlock Holmes. The story and themes work well enough to create a fun, family friendly detective story. Occasionally, the film is too clever by half, but nothing that's a deal-breaker. Millie Bobby Brown excels in the lead role with lots of charm and wit helped along by lots of Disney-esque fourth wall breaks. Henry Cavill is an odd choice for Sherlock, but he makes the role work for this particular version of the character. The scene stealer is Helena Bonham Carter as the Holmes family matriarch. She has very limited screen time, but absolutely kills it. For adults, it's a cute movie that's a fun way to pass a couple hours. For kids, it's probably more important and better than that. 


Companion doc for Michelle Obama's book of the same name. This is definitely a puff piece, but she elevates it to greater heights because she is a compelling figure with a wonderful story of her own and genuine interest in the story of others. And we get to experience a few of those stories. Mrs. Obama herself gives us lots of insight into all the scrutiny she was under during her years as First Lady and just how different her life in the White House was from her life prior to going in, and from everyone else she's ever known. 

Black is King

This is a string of Beyonce music videos that plays as performance art thanks to the theme that runs throughout. It's a visual treat that gives us lots to digest. The songs are not as catchy as most Beyonce hits, but fit the imagery perfectly. She has been up front about this being inspired by the live-action version of The Lion King. This is fine, but the film takes things too far by forcing in narrated quotes from the movie along the way. Every time I hear one, I'm taken out of the experience and thinking back to that film instead of being fully immersed in this one. It's still an excellent piece of work, however, it could've been even better by removing the narration.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

It's kinda fun and funny, but can't decide what it wants to be. It tries to do its own thing, but awkwardly shoehorns in a bunch of fan service for those who grew up watching the show. The fish-out-of-water first half is far better than the action filled second half. The biggest issue might be the shoddy cgi. It's a cool time-passer for kids, but nothing more.

Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker

Feel-good doc about academy run by dance icon Debbie Allen as they prep for their annual performance of Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, an updated version of the classic ballet. The feel-good stuff mostly comes when we focus on the kids in the program. We get to know a few of them and their stories. It also dives into Debbie Allen's life and career, but this is where it falls short. She's had such a lengthy and impactful career that shoving it into about a third of a documentary is doing her an injustice. This doesn't make it a bad watch. Like I said, it's a feel-good exercise and does the job. I just wish there were more about Allen, herself.


When she thinks she's being ghosted by her new boyfriend, Wesley (Nasim Pedrad) fires off an e-mail to him about how terrible he is. Realizing he's actually been in an accident, she gathers up her friends and goes to Mexico, where he is, to delete it from his laptop without him knowing. Sigh. This contrived plot requires further contrivances to keep going. Almost none of them are funny and come together to form a predictable rom-com. Good chemistry from the cast make it somewhat watchable, but never threatens to make it good.

Charlie's Angels

Tries to recreate feel of early 2000s version but totally ignores character development & the storytelling is both generic & messy. Actually, it doesn't so much ignore character development as it does just plain botches it. Every angel is great at everything, rendering none of them memorable. The training montage that plays during the end credits should've been expanded and used in the actual story. There are lots of jokes, but only a few land. There is also plenty of action, but none of it is particularly exciting. It's cool if you just want to see women kicking ass, but generic story-telling that takes every opportunity to be goofy without actually being funny makes the whole thing a loud and bombastic, but still boring.

The Hustle

This flick about a couple of con artists is a gender-swapped version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It's not as funny as it needs to be. This is compounded by the fact that the chemistry between stars Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson is lacking. The film clearly thinks it will get by on movie magic created by the two, but because they don't make a compelling team, it never gets off the ground. A few clever bits save it from being a total waste.

The Courier

This is a very Transporter-like movie that's light on plot, heavy on brutal action. Olga Kurylenko does a great job in the titular role making her way through one knock down drag out fight after another. The film only lets up for cuts to Gary Oldman doing Gary Oldman things. Honestly, it's not a good movie, but without the pretenses of Charlie's Angels it manages to be a fun time when you're looking for mindless entertainment.

Elizabeth Harvest

Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) is a young woman who has just married an older, wealthy and brilliant man (Ciaran Hinds). She soon finds out some very odd things about him. The twisty plot keeps us engaged while great pacing helps the storytelling. The always great Carla Gugino gives the film's best performance, but Abbey Lee is certainly very good in the lead. By the end, it becomes a wonderfully warped version of the already twisted Ex Machina playing on the theme of women being forced to fit the ideals of men.

A Girl Like Grace 

Tries to say so much, but it winds up saying nothing. The problem is it lacks focus and strains it through 'all (Black) men are bad' filter. Having a bunch of 30somethings as high schoolers doesn't help. I mean, Raven Symone is no longer "So Raven," and we can tell. The fact it's visibly clear she's not even close to the only one is just distracting. Two strong performances drag us along, though. First, Ryan Destiny is fantastic in the lead and will help tons with relatability. As her mother, and essentially the villain, Garcelle Beauvais does the best work of her career.

Sweet Charity

Bob Fosse's directorial debut is a musical about a dancehall hostess trying to find love. There is loads of goofy charm from star Shirley MacLaine which keeps us invested. It also helps that we get an unexpected ending. Unfortunately, the musical numbers are excruciatingly long and push the runtime to an unnecessary two and a half hours. Trimming the fat from them and getting this down to about two hours (maybe less) would do wonders. As is, it's still a fun movie, just runs too long for what it's giving us.

Click below for yesterday's entries in Girl Week 2020.

Rambling Film

A Film A Day by Sonia

Dell on Movies


  1. I actually liked this recent version of Charlie's Angels than I did with early 2000s versions. I think it's because it doesn't take itself too seriously as well as the fact that Kristen Stewart was just so goddamn funny in that film. I also liked Sweet Charity which I think is a stylish and fun remake of Nights of Cabiria by Federico Fellini. If you haven't seen that film, I highly recommend it. Notably for Giulietta Massina who I think is one of the greatest actresses that ever lived.

    My nephew just discovered the animated version of Mulan which he liked though I'm not sure he saw the new live action version which I'm not interested in because of how they wasted Gong Li and that is a sin.

    1. Yeah, the new Charlie's Angels just didn't do it for me. I have not seen Nights of Cabiria yet. It's been on my watch list forever, though. As for the live action version of Mulan, it also wasted Jet Li, sadly.

    2. BTW, here is my contribution to Girl Week which is also my Blind Spot for the month in Betty Blue.

  2. The only ones I've seen of these is Becoming, which I liked as a companion piece to her wonderful book and Black is King, which was great too. I'll have to look into Elizabeth Harvest, I haven't heard of that.

    1. Please seek out Elizabeth Harvest. I was pleasantly surprised by that one.

  3. I've only seen one of these though there are several I'll try tracking down.

    Dance Dreams sounds interesting, though I'm glad they keep the focus on Debbie Allen to a minimum. She's very talented but she strikes me as very full of herself.

    Enola Holmes has a fun idea and HBC in anything will pull me in, even if her role is smallish.

    I LOVE Michelle Obama so Becoming was already on my to see list.

    From what you said about the new Charlie's Angels the other day it sounds supremely missable.

    The one I've seen is Sweet Charity. It was interminable! Now I love Shirley MacLaine, especially young Shirley MacLaine and she is winsome here but EGODS this dinosaur is peppered throughout with techniques, photos that stop the action dead, freeze frames in numbers that are hopelessly outdated and were even then. There are some great songs in it-Where Am I Going?, Hey Big Spender, If They Could See Me Now but they are terribly staged. All very surprising since Fosse was such a talented guy and had been a dancer in film for years before this. My main takeaway from it was the chance to see Chita Rivera in a rare screen role. It was an enormous flop, costing 20 million it took in 8, how he ever got the chance a few years later to directed Cabaret is a miracle. Though I'm not a huge fan of that film either it is a massive improvement over this.

    I have seen Nights in Cabiria. It was a much better film.

    1. Sounds like you might like Dance Dreams a tad better than I because I'm a fan of hers and wanted more.

      Enola Holmes is certainly worth a watch.

      You should enjoy Becoming.

      Yes, Charlie's Angels is "supremely missable."

      I didn't hate Sweet Charity, but yeah, it's way too long for its own good. I think Fosse was just trying to do too much with his first shot.

  4. I love Michelle Obama and would like to see this film. This Charlie Angels flick looks like a hard pass and I have seen Sweet Charity which is ok but some scenes I just want it sped up.

    1. That was pretty much my experience with Sweet Charity. The musical numbers drag so badly.

  5. Enola Holmes is such a charming flick. Millie Bobby Brown really is a brilliant actress.

  6. Your review makes me want to see Enola Holmes despite the fact that I'm not a fan of Millie Bobby Brown. The Hustle was more compelling than I thought it'd be, but the ending kind of ruined the film. I mean, the entire story is about women outsmarting men and then here comes a man tricking them and kind of showing women aren't that smart. Or that they will never be as smart as a man.