Week in Review 12/20 – 12/26 (part 1)

This past week was a bit crazy with Christmas. I watched movies, of course, but I procrastinated writing my blog and getting emails out. Now it’s crunch time. I usually write a little every day while the movie is still fresh…Here are the movies I watched this past week 🙂 Part 1 focuses on films released in 2019. Part 2 focuses on older films I watched this week. (2 Christmas movies and 2 Westerns!)

photo imdb.com

Co-written by Matthew Cirulnick and Sylvester Stallone and directed by Adrian Grunberg, Rambo Last Blood sways from the usual Rambo military story as well as level of graphic violence. In this final installment of the Rambo series, Rambo is living a content life with a woman, Maria, and her niece, Gabrielle, on his ranch near the Mexican border. Everything is fine until Gabrielle decides she wants to go to Mexico to confront her dead beat dad. John Rambo advises her against going but like any stubborn young girl, she goes against his advice, and finds herself in the middle of a Mexican sex-trafficking ring run by the Mexican Cartel. Of course, Rambo must rescue her and get revenge on the cartel.

As the movie began and the initial story unfolded, I turned to my husband and said, “This isn’t a Rambo movie. Where’s the plot dragging him back into a military mission gone awry?” But, we kept with it because we LOVE John Rambo. I’m so glad we did. Once John Rambo infiltrates the Mexican Cartel, with a HAMMER, and gets the ball rolling enticing the Mexican Cartel to come to his ranch, the real John Rambo comes out of retirement. His ranch has extensive tunnels running under his property which he booby traps like crazy. Of course, the cartel takes the bait and shows up only to be decimated one by one with explosions, Deliverance-style booby traps, and hand to hand combat proving age is just a number when you’re pissed and want revenge. The odds were always in Rambo’s favor.

I won’t give too much away, in case you haven’t seen it yet. But I will say, the violence is graphic and cringe-worthy. Plot points are predictable but you won’t care. The acting is well done and knowing the sex-trafficking is a real world problem is gross because the way it’s portrayed is gross. No matter how hard John Rambo tries, he loses people he loves one way or another. No wonder he’s angry and alone. We rented it from Redbox. Watch the trailer below:

photo imdb.com

Based on an article written by Jessica Pressler, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers is a story of a bunch of strippers who drug Wall Street guys and max out their corporate cards justifying the acts by saying if they didn’t do it, someone else would. They get caught, of course, because they got greedy and their marks started talking to the cops. Inspired by a true story.

Hustlers was written and directed by a woman and stars women as the main characters going against “evil” corporate bad guys. Even the men working at the club are portrayed as predators. Hm, okay. This movie earned Jennifer Lopez a Best Supporting Actress nomination. I didn’t think she was THAT good, but I’m not on the committee so… Hustlers is pretty to watch. The strip club is dark and glowey with neon and glittering lights, stripper costumes which show just enough but not too much, and lots of dollar bills floating around. Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) is always dressed to the hilt with furs and upscale clothes and her apartment is gorgeous. It’s like a bunch of girls sat around and brainstormed if they owned a strip club, what would it look like, who would work there, and blah, blah, blah and then decided to make a movie about it. Constance Wu, Destiny, is really the one people should focus on here. She has the most complete character arc, struggles and triumphs from beginning to end, and has the most emotional and moral range in the story. Of course, she is overshadowed by the over the top, Jennifer Lopez, so no one bothers to nominate Wu.

I have problems with Hustlers. I know it’s “inspired” by a true story but I have problems. First, the movie portrays stripper clubs as being like a sorority with a female club owner who bakes cakes and a mom-like older stripper who teaches the new girl and takes her under her wing. It isn’t like that. It probably wasn’t really like that in the real story either. First, Destiny supposedly worked at a previous strip club and she still doesn’t know how to dance or give lap dances? Second, I understand the story is centered on the relationship and scheme with Ramona and Destiny; however, Diamond (Cardi B) and Mercedes (Keke Palmer) were WAY under used. Both of these women were interesting to watch but most of the scenes they were in, we already saw in the trailer. I expected more screen time for them. Third, Ramona is a pretty smart and cut-throat chick. She doesn’t have a back up plan or savings account? She talks about a fashion line and both her and Destiny talk about not having to rely on people, yet when Wall Street tanks, no one has any money saved and they end up working at Old Navy. Forth, these women chose to be strippers. There are other jobs. Yeah, they make more money sometimes being a stripper, but it’s still a choice. They’re fully aware of the transaction and the better they are, the more money they earn from these guys who frequent the club. I feel like the money wanted me to feel sorry for the women and yell, “go girl!” but I didn’t. I thought the initial scheme getting the guys into the club was pretty smart but once they added the drugs and extra greed, I lost respect for them. Fifth, I wish no one was nominated for this movie. This movie plays right into the stereotypical man’s world of what women are worth being nominated for. Also, if want a female empowerment movie made by women, I don’t want the female lead stooping to this level of crime against men or anyone. These women are just as bad as the corporate guys they were going after. We rented from Redbox. Watch the trailer below:

photo imdb.com

Co-written by James Gray and Ethan Gross, directed by James Gray, Ad Astra tells the story of Astronaut Roy McBride who is sent on a mission to find his Astronaut father and uncover the truth about a space mission from 30 years ago.

Brad Pitt plays decorated Astronaut Roy McBride, son of also decorated Astronaut Clifford McBride, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Clifford McBride, sent on a mission to Jupiter to find life among other things, goes missing 30 years ago. Roy decides to follow in his dad’s footsteps and becomes an astronaut, too. Ad Astra is set “in the near future” where we have regular flights to the moon, a colony on Mars, and continued life on Earth. (People seem to travel back and forth to all these places without any real jet lag or space lag?) Power surges coming from space are interrupting things on Earth, the moon, and Mars so Roy is sent to find out if his long lost father’s mission has anything to do with it. Thinking his father died decades ago, he agrees to the mission. What he finds changes his life in many ways. I won’t go into too many details here in case you haven’t seen it yet. 🙂

I love space and astronaut movies. The visuals amaze me and the thought of space travel intrigues me. Mostly because I think the people who do it are incredibly brave. My anxiety prevents me from flying over two-three hours in a plane. I cannot not even consider going to space… Ad Astra answers a question I have thought for so many years about astronauts and space travel so beautifully and heart-breaking, I felt like Brad Pitt was the only one capable of doing it convincingly. He’s so lonely, yet longs for closeness. Roy chronicles his heart rate and emotional state throughout the film. He speaks about choosing to be emotionally distant and disconnected to not only save himself from heart break but those around him as well. As an astronaut, you may or may not come back from a mission, so having a wife and children is a selfish choice. Having a relationship isn’t fair to the one you leave behind every time you go to space. It’s painful for him and the resignation in his face and body language was sad. Pitt has a contentment about him the last few movies I’ve seen him in. Like he’s finally settling into being the character instead of acting. The subtle nuances in his expressions brought so much in this film. The way his eyes always looked a bit teary.

Tommy Lee Jones, as Roy’s father, does an amazing job as someone who has been lost in space and lost in an alternate reality for years. He looks physically transformed and disheveled. His character is harsh in many ways but expected if you pay attention to everything leading up to this point. It felt like Jones was back on track being the actor he once was before “cashing in as ‘Tommy Lee Jones'” in recent roles. Ad Astra is beautiful to watch, the story is probably in many ways, and the acting is superb. I would add this to my collection and watch again. We rented from Redbox. Watch the trailer below:

photo imdb.com

Written and directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, One Child Nation documents and reveals the truth about China’s one child policy and what following the policy meant to those living in China. One Child Nation is a heartfelt story told by Nanfu Wang after she becomes a mother herself and memories of growing up in China under the one child policy begin floating to the surface.

The one child policy was enacted by the Chinese government in 1979 to control population growth as China was headed toward mass starvation. Mass propaganda in the form of signs, packaging, songs, theater, opera, and any other method saturated all villages, towns, and cities in China reminding residents of the one child policy and the punishment for resistance. Nanfu Wang visits her old village in China to ask her relatives, village members, and those associated with enforcing the policy what it was like living under the policy. While many believed it was the right thing to do to prevent mass starvation, the methods used to enforce the policy were harsh, strict, and left a psychological mark which will never go away. Babies were either left out in the cold to die, aborted, killed shortly after birth, or given to child traffickers to leave at orphanages to be later adopted by American families. Those who resisted the policy were fined, their home literally destroyed, and their possessions taken. Some children were abducted (or stolen) from their families before the families were fined. One midwife admits she cannot remember how many children she helped birth before the policy but she kept track of how many she aborted or killed which was ~50,000 or more. She knew she would be held accountable for her “sins” and has since devoted her life to helping families with infertility to become pregnant and have babies. She has rooms filled with flags of those families and children. She believes for every child she helps bring into the world, it atones for every 500 children she aborted or killed. It’s heart breaking. Everyone in the film says and feels the same. The policy was strict and they had no choice. Those who were in charge of enforcing the policy did so under great difficulty and sorrow for what they had to do. Women were sterilized by force and the midwife interviewed claimed she performed about 20 of them per day. Awful. The heartache seen in these people’s faces is gut-wrenching.

The policy ended in 2016, with brand new propaganda saying Chinese families can now have two children. One to keep the other company and one to take care of elders. How nice. Nanfu Wang has been living in the US for the last 6-7 years and had her first child here. She compares abortion policies between China and the US stating how extreme the outcome for each policy is but how at the core, abortion policies are really about the government controlling women’s rights to their bodies. As we approach a new Presidential election in 2020 with many Democratic hopefuls running, we must be aware and careful of the slippery slope of government and glamorous disguise of socialism propaganda being the answer to all problems. This documentary should act as a warning. If you aren’t worried America is capable of repeating this here, you aren’t paying attention. Available on Amazon. Watch the trailer below:

Thanks for hanging out with me the past few months, reading my reviews, and watching and sharing you thoughts on the movies I’ve covered in 2019. Here’s to a great year in 2020!!! Jeannette

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