Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Deal: Get $30 of Fandango Credit for $15

Beat the heat this summer and stay in doors!  Right now you can get $30 of Fandango credit for $15 through a summer promotion.  Use the code SUMMER2020 to get a free $15 FandangoNOW promotional code (must be used by 8/31/2020) with any Fandango gift card purchase.  The best deal is to get the $15 gift card, which nets you $30 total credit.  Be warned that the promo code might need to be used all on one transaction, so you don't want to use it for a $3.99 rental.  But it could be good to use if you wanted to rent or buy any of the home on demand movies, or a new digital release! 

Steps to get the deal:

  • Go to this link to purchase a giftcard.
  • Add any Fandango gift card to your cart.  I recommend the $15 to get the most bonus credit.
  • After adding the gift card to your cart, make sure to add promo code: SUMMER2020
  • The $15 bonus credit should appear in your cart as well.  
  • Check out and wait for promo email and gift card.

Review: Spelling the Dream

Release date: June 3, 2020
Running time: 83 minutes

Spelling the Dream follows the phenomenan of Indian-American dominance at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  An Indian-American competitor has won the competition for the past 12 years straight, making the trend one of the longest in sports history.  The documentary follows the ups and downs of four Indian-American students as they compete to realize their dream of winning the tournament.  It also contains great perspectives from prominent Indian Americans, including CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Fareed Zakaria, comedian Hari Kondabolu, ESPN's Kevin Negandhi, 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee winner, Nupur Lala, and others, as the film explores the reasons behind this incredible winning streak and what it means for the community. 

The bulk of the film highlights the four students who are hoping to take home the top spot.  The documentary does a great job selecting four very different students with a common goal.  The kids are not what you would expect as your typical bookworms.  One is a precocious, extroverted sixth grader.  Another is a sports fan who also plays tennis and loves his lucky Nike sweatshirt.  It is a good selection and one that should help with any sort of "tiger mom" style stereotypes about these kids.  They have natural talent at spelling and are driven to succeed, but they also have other interests and pursuits.  But that is not to take away from their dedication to winning the spelling bee.  The film gives you a sense of the dedication that these students go through to get to this level.  The amount that they prepare is astonishing, as is their mastery of spelling and languages in general.  

But although the film is focused on the spelling bee hopefuls, it is so much more than that.  The film looks into the Indian immigrant experience and tries to provide some explanation for why Indian kids have been so dominant in the spelling bee.  For this, the film uses explanations from the student's parents, and the insights from prominent Indian American figures to piece together some reasons for this.  It looks at the immigrant experience and also what drove these talented speller's parents to come to America.  It also touches on issues of racism and of belonging for these kids, highlighted by their journey to, and participation in, this competition.  Some of the interviews with early Indian-American entrants shows how far these kids and the culture have come.  And finally, as with any good competitive documentary, the film has highlights, heartbreak, and the thrill of competition.  You will be rooting just as hard for these competitors as you would at any sporting event, and experience their joy and pain!

Spelling the Dream looks into the Indian-American dominance at the spelling bee and tells a tale of competitors, the immigrant experience, and of belonging along the way. 

Watch it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Deal: Rent Just Mercy for Free or Own for $4

The phenomenal film Just Mercy is available for free to rent today, or for $4 or 5 to own!  Choose where you want to rent it, and if you want to buy it, I would suggest the Microsoft Store.  It is only $3.99 for 4K, and because this movie is Movies Anywhere, it will port to your linked accounts.  It is a powerful drama that details the life of Bryan Stevenson and the fight for justice for one man.  It is an inspiring, timely, and sadly appropriate movie for our times.  It has Oscar-worthy acting, amazing cinematography, and tells an important story that that doesn't leave a heart untouched or an eye dry at its conclusion.  It is also Movies Anywhere compatible, so it will port to your linked accounts.

Free to Rent
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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Review: The S.S. Swenson

Release date: January 28, 2019 (Digital Release: May 11, 2020)
Running time: 89 minutes
Starring:  Jono Robertson, Alex Gainer, Olga Elliot, Cole Selby

The S.S. Swenson follows three degenerates as they battle the demons of grief in a fantasy world they've built around themselves.  After their father dies, the three siblings Swan (Gainer), Ricky (Robertson), and Bonnie (Elliot) come together to grieve but dull the pain in booze and drugs.  Although their antics are mostly harmless, they do resort to petty theft to fuel their habits.  However, when Ricky accidentally tries to break into a house, only to get a job as a nanny, their whole lives (and the lives of the family he is nannying for) change forever. 

The S.S. Swenson is filled with quirky characters. The Swenson kids themselves are a unique group of people; each sibling's very different personality blend together into a chaotic family whole.  Swan has the most gregarious personality, as the captain of the three rag tag bunch, but his character is also one that did not resonate with me.  He does a good job and puts forth an effort, but I just didn't love the fake captain persona.  Bonnie is sweet but does not have enough personality between the three. Ricky is a good character, and one that you root for.  He keeps trying to do the right thing but keeps getting dragged down by his siblings.  And Cookie (Selby), the young boy that Ricky nannies, is fun to watch and relatable if you have ever been a slightly awkward kid.  The rest of the characters are quirky but I didn't like them, including the antagonist character.

The S.S. Swenson has some good, imaginative moments, but a lot of the film seems odd for the sake of being odd.  Characters make some pretty bad decisions, but the destructive moments aren't destructive enough and everything gets resolved too easily.  As I mentioned, the family does a lot of petty crime to make ends meet, but they're all fixed with a jolly laugh and no consequences.  And when there is a big consequential decision, that decision and the consequences after do not have the gravity that it should.  The emotional scenes themselves don't hit as well, and some of the stranger scenes, such as anything with the antagonist, just seem like they're trying too hard.  And finally, the siblings make some pretty terrible decisions but also change a little too quickly.  

In the end, the S.S. Swenson has a cast of quirky characters and a ton of heart, but the voyage suffers from poor navigation and a lack of wind behind its sails.

Rent it.
For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
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Friday, May 29, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: May 29, 2020

Home Rental: The High Note
The High Note is a phenomenal feel good musical drama with fantastic characters, a story with plenty of surprises, and a soulful, wonderful soundtrack that will stay in your head long after the credits roll.  For more information, check out our review!

Redbox: The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man is a new take on the classic film, with great, minimalist effects, wonderful tension, and an amazing performance by Elisabeth Moss.  For more information, check out our review!

Digital: Raising Buchanan
Raising Buchanan's dry sense of humor, wonderful cast, and quirky premise will steal your heart as you enjoy this presidential crime caper.  For more information, check out our review!

Digital: I Will Make You Mine
I Will Make You Mine is a beautiful blend of art and music with a bold style, great characters, and an authentic realism to its music that must be heard to believe!  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): Space Force
Space Force has Steve Carell returning to his comedic roots, along with a fantastic cast and plenty of humor in this high flying, hilarious series.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): Betaal
Betaal is a Hindi zombie series with the production values you expect from Blumhouse, featuring good horror effects, a palatable sense of suspense, and a fantastic cast!  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): Uncut Gems
Adam Sandler's fantastic return to serious roles is a diamond in the rough!  Uncut Gems is complex, with enough facets to allow its fantastic characters to sparkle brightly.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Amazon): After We Leave
After We Leave is a fresh first effort from writer / director Aleem Hossain, with a minimalist style, fresh perspective, and amazing score that elevates this film.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (HBO): Happy Death Day 2U
The sequel to the surprisingly good horror / comedy original, Happy Death Day 2U follows the events of the first movie with another killer loop that gets even more ridiculous than the first.  Tree is forced to make some very difficult choices as she tries to stay alive long enough to solve yet another groundhog day death trap.

Streaming (HBO): Ready or Not
Ready or Not tells a twisted tale with plenty of dark humor.  The setting is fantastic, the imagery feels authentic, and the performances give this deadly game a unique charm that will make you want to play again.  For more information, check out our review!

Review: Raising Buchanan

Release date: April 12, 2019 (U.S. Digital May 5, 2020)
Running time: 96 minutes
Starring: Rene Auberjonois, Amanda Melby, Cathy Shim

Ruth (Melby) has fallen on hard times.  Her dad is sick, she is behind in her payments, and she has to do community service that she hates.  However, when the body of a former president falls into her lap, she decides that the way out of her troubles is to steal the corpse of former US president James Buchanan, hoping to net a large ransom.  However, complications with her plan arise when it seems that no one is particularly interested in getting him back.

Raising Buchanan has a quirky style that it uses to full effect.  Melby is fantastic as Ruth, with a dry sense of humor and a charm that is evident throughout the film.  The movie has a strange premise, but it is one that is very entertaining once it gets going.  Ruth and her best friend Meg (Shim), attempt to ransom off the former President's body, but their ineptitude is evident throughout this endeavor.  It is fun to see them make the most basic of mistakes and the level of incompetence on their part forms a part of the humor of this movie.  And one of the fun surprises of this film is that after Ruth steals Buchanan's body, his ghost follows her around and discusses the finer points of his life and her current predicament.  Buchanan (Auberjonois) is very enjoyable, with funny insights into Ruth's actions as well as tidbits of knowledge about the president's life.  The whole premise is ludicrous but it works surprisingly well

Raising Buchanan's story is surprisingly entertaining.  The amount of ire that the world has for Buchanan is a constant point of humor.  In fact, the film itself has a wonderful, dry, light-hearted comedy that will have you laughing out loud at times.  Despite the theoretical gravity of what they are doing (stealing a body and auctioning it off), the film never strays into too serious a territory.  And the story, although ridiculous, has enough twists and turns as the inept criminals attempt to ransom off a corpse that no one wants that it keeps the film entertaining.  And another surprising side effect of this movie is that you will learn a little history along the way!

Raising Buchanan's dry sense of humor, wonderful cast, and quirky premise will steal your heart as you enjoy this presidential crime caper.

Watch it.

For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
This site contains affiliate links. //Commerce or this site may be compensated when you click through links on our site.

Review: Space Force

Release date: May 29, 2020 
Running time: 30 minute episodes (10 episodes)
Starring:  Steve Carell, Diana Silvers, Tawny Newsome

By the duo who brought you The Office, Greg Daniels and Steve Carell are back with Space Force. Space Force follows a four-star general Mark Naird (Carell), one of the most decorated pilots of his time, whose dream is to command the Air Force. But his clear career trajectory has to take evasive maneuvers when he is surprised to be given the "promotion" to head of the newly formed sixth branch of the Armed Services, the Space Force.  And even with tons of skepticism he remains dedicated to the country and moves his family to a remote base in Colorado.  Working alongside a very charismatic team of scientists and "Spacemen," Naird works tirelessly to fulfill POTUS's tweet and have "boots on the moon" by 2024 to achieve total space dominance. 

Lets be honest, as soon as you heard the announcement of this original series you knew it was going to be silly.  And thankfully, you are not wrong.  The creative duo of Greg Daniels and Steve Carell bring you a certain confidence in comedic expectations based on their history of work. And besides with Space Force being a real thing, I think there is a visual curiosity of exactly what it is going to be and what they will do. But I am here to say that this was as foolish as you thought it would be.

I had a good time with this series for a number of factors. Steve Carell is a star and his return to his comedy roots after a few more serious roles is a positive thing.  His mannerisms and dialogue alone will have you cracking up.  Carell brings a high level of intensity and energy that just brightens every scene he is in.  Creator Greg Daniels tends to stick with his usual cast of actors and Space Force is no different.  You will see a ton of characters that you are familiar with.  Tawny Newsome who plays Angela Ali, a "Spaceman" helicopter pilot is easily one of my favorite characters in this series with a very different dynamic than other characters. This provides hilarious interactions due to this imbalance. Also a highlight is growing star Diana Silvers who plays Erin Naird the daughter of Mark Naird.  As she has progressed she is taking more diverse roles and Space Force shows that she is becoming her own star.

None of us truly knows what Space Force is and will be but if its anything like this series, well we're in for some wild times.  But all jokes aside, this series was very funny with tons of great scene and unforgettable moments.  Even with the added special effects to make some scenes come together, they do a good job to keep the constant tone of fun and lack of seriousness so at no point do you think you are watching a serious military show.  But there is plenty of comedy for those who know the military or have experience there.  If shows like Parks and Recreation & The Office are your comedy niche, this will be right up your alley. And if its not and you're just curious as to whats this is all about, you will certainly have fun with this series.  

Space Force has Steve Carell returning to his comedic roots, along with a fantastic cast and plenty of humor in this high flying, hilarious series.  

Watch it.