Movie Review: Netflix’s Tall Girl

Jodi is a 16-year-old who is 6 feet and 1 inch tall. As she is constantly critiqued, she learns to love who she is. Tall Girl is a hilarious movie for all.

This week on my movie blog I am focusing on a new Netflix original film: Tall Girl (2019).

I just recently watched this film with my roommates late on a Thursday night. If you like satirical romantic comedies and drama, this is a perfect movie for you. 

Tall Girl is a story based on the journey of a 16-year-old girl, Jodi (Ava Michelle). Jodi is 6 feet and 1 inch tall. She learns how to overcome her insecurities as she is constantly criticized by everyone around her for her height.

In the film Jodi meets Stig (Luke Eisner), who is a handsome Swedish foreign exchange student who is even taller than she is. He becomes her love interest, but she gets placed in a love triangle. Jodi’s sister Harper (Sabrina Carpenter), who loves beauty pageants, as well as her two best friends  (Griffin Gluck, Anjelika Washington) help Jodi realize that she is more than what everyone portrays her to be. Director Nzingha Stewart and writer Sam Wolfson depict through this film that each person is beautiful in their own way regardless of any insecurities they may have.

“When you don’t fit in, stand tall.”

– Tall Girl

What I also thought was interesting about this film was its cinematography. I enjoyed how the camera angles reflected Jodi’s point of view from super high up aiming downward. It also showed other’s points of views as the camera was angled from below to look upward at her. It made the movie funnier and more relatable to the focus of the story, that Jodi was extremely tall. I thought that the film aspects and screenwriting was very well made.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding this film when it first came out. People made negative comments to Netflix saying that a tall, white girl is the least targeted when it comes to every day problems. However, I believe that this movie is meant to reach out to people of all color, race, and ethnicity. The main message of this film is that everyone is beautiful and should be happy with tho they are, despite other’s critiques. 

Rate: 7/10

This movie was hilariously dumb, but also deep and heartfelt. I rate this movie a 7/10. It’s not the first movie I would choose to watch, but it was entertaining. It was definitely something to laugh to, and I liked the message it was trying to make. It is more of a fun film to watch with family or friends. 

Written By: Alexandra Gex

The State of the Movies: Ad Astra – A Beautiful, Slow, and Strange Masterpiece

An intergalactic film that explores themes of the imminent future and the search for truth, Ad Astra is an engaging and visually spectacular movie standout.

Ad Astra is one of the most fascinating movies I’ve seen in a while. Directed by James Gray of The Lost City of Z, it’s a film I can safely say is one of my favorite movies of the year. It’s been getting a lot of mixed reviews though as critics and audiences seem to either love or hate this movie. It’s purposely methodical and slow which is bound to frustrate the average moviegoer, but also beautifully shot and extremely complex in its themes despite a simple narrative.

I have seen the movie twice now and both times were very different experiences for me. I was shocked the first time I saw it by its amazing cinematography and visual effects, but more invested in its narrative the second time. This is a very lonely and even at times depressing movie as Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt, searches for his father who is likely up to no good billions of miles away. This is a film that I feel deserves to be discussed in detail. In order to do so, I will need to discuss SPOILERS for the film for the rest of this article. My recommendation to you all is if you’re at least curious about it, try to see it once in the theater and give it a chance, but if you don’t like these types of slow space odyssey like films and were never interested in this film to begin with, you may not find much to win you over. With that being said, let’s discuss this movie in detail from the visual aspects to its themes and ideas.

Check out the trailer released by IMAX here:

One of its strongest themes is the effect space travel can have on a human being and how this can damage someone psychologically. *****SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE REST OF THE ARTICLE*****

The film starts off in the near future where mankind now has the resources to be able to dedicate more time to discovering space. Some countries, particularly the United States, now have stations set up on the moon and in Mars where research is conducted and where space travel commences. It is revealed that Clifford McBride, played by Tommy Lee Jones, began a mission known as the Lima Project many years ago in an effort to discover intelligent alien life to hopefully help humans in the continued discovery of our universe. That mission had since seemingly ended but power surges are now being emitted from the capsule which is destroying bases in space and killing innocent civilians both on Earth and in space. One of these power surges directly affects Roy, Clifford’s son, who, while repairing a satellite in the sky, experiences one of these power surges which propels him off the structure towards Earth. He then is ordered on a mission to Mars to attempt to make communication with his father to see if they can grab his attention so they can track his location and hopefully figure out a way stop these surges.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie is this film’s depiction of the future and the society that surrounds it. As Roy departs for his journey, he must first travel to the moon to reach the base and meet his team that will take him to Mars. They order Roy to travel “commercially”, which this film introduces as a concept, in order to keep a low profile. We also find once Roy has gotten to the moon that there seems to be a little society which has formed there as there is now an airport with restaurant locations like Applebee’s, Yoshinoya, and Subway. This film’s depiction of the future and settlement of intergalactic territories almost reminded me of Rick and Morty in its realism and attention to detail. It was interesting too to find that nations are still fighting over territory on the moon as a Virgin Atlantic PSA warns its passengers to stay in safe spaces as they could be caught in the middle of a war zone if they go outside the safe lines. I can’t help but wonder how many years it will be until humanity has colonized the moon and it becomes widely accepted for passengers to travel to the moon commercially.

One criticism many people had with this movie is that some scenes felt “pointless”.

A scene involving Roy traveling through a war zone in order to get to the military base and a scene in which Roy’s crew responds to a mayday call on the way to Mars some critics determined were exciting but ultimately pointless to the main story. I would argue that these scenes are important as they either develop the environment or the characters in question. The rover scene provides proof to the audience that the moon is essentially a huge war zone. The mayday call scene, however, involves Roy’s crew finding an abandoned craft in which a couple of space primates have broken loose and killed everyone on board. Roy and his crew are able to destroy the chimps but it still seems to have a negative effect on Roy. It is mentioned earlier in the film that Roy’s pulse is never above 80 bpm which means that his anxiety levels remain consistently low. He is forced to take seemingly daily psychological evaluations in order to ensure that it is safe for him to continue on the mission and it is events like this that test him as a competent astronaut. Some have criticized Roy’s character to be dull because Brad Pitt is forced to give an emotionless and calm performance, but it did not bother me as I acknowledge that Roy’s emotionless expressions make up his character. Other actors would have tried to go big in their performance, but Pitt always keeps his performance laid back and subdued which I think is extremely fitting for a character who is forced to remain calm in order to go deeper into space.

One of the most marketed scenes in the trailers that critics found exciting but pointless. See the clip here:

Once Roy gets to Mars he finds that his father is still in his capsule in Neptune, likely still searching for intelligent life. The people in charge of the base at Mars, Space Command, refuse to let Roy travel on the mission to Neptune. It isn’t until later when we find out that the reason is that Roy’s father actually murdered his crew after they hesitated to go beyond the solar system to keep finding alien life. Since it would ruin the reputation of Space Command given that they’ve been able to spread the narrative that his father was a hero for so long, they refuse to let him continue on this journey to find his father. He is able to stow away on the rocket to Mars, but he is forced to kill everyone on board as they try to attack him once he gets on. He must now travel from Mars to Neptune all by himself, a journey which theoretically would take him over 10 years. This is one of the issues I do have with the movie. Although we feel the effects time has on the character psychologically, it never really is shown physically. Roy’s hair never turns grey, his skin doesn’t begin to wrinkle, he looks as if he was the same age by the time he gets to Neptune and by the time he gets home (which again could span over 20 years).

Once Roy reaches Neptune he finds his father still alive as well as the malfunctioning antimatter causing the surges throughout the solar system. Clifford refuses to go home with his son and at this moment admits that he never cared about him or his well being and only really cares to successfully complete his mission. Even though Roy is able to get his father to leave the capsule with him so he can blow it up, Clifford refuses to go home with Roy and forces him to let go. Roy, likely acknowledging the hurt Clifford has caused him, unhooks him from the tether they both are connected to, ultimately killing his own father in the process. The audience at this point now knows that this is the most challenging moment Roy has ever faced as he’s forced to confront the harsh reality that his father is not who he thought he was and further act upon this realization. And even through this, Roy still doesn’t lose his temper or have a mental breakdown as an average audience member may expect him to. I originally did not like the ending of this movie as I thought it was a somewhat disappointing conclusion to a largely built-up story, but upon second viewing I found I liked the ending given that Roy was able to finally gain closure in his life and accept his father for who he truly is.

Ad Astra is the type of movie any serious lover of film needs to see at least once

Ad Astra is a movie I love to death and I think any fan of movies should check out as soon as they can. This is not your average movie-going experience and is definitely not something you watch on a date maybe for fun. James Gray has created a deep, complex, and lonely tale of a man who must accept the reality his father is not the man he thought he was through an interstellar journey. Many people are also going to call this a rip off of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I too noticed the similarity between the two movies. But what kept this movie consistently engaging for me though was the main character and the journey he took. Gray’s direction and the cinematography as done excellently by Hoyte Van Hoytema is just icing on the cake to this intergalactic masterpiece. See this on the biggest screen you can, and I hope you all enjoy!

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

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A Wildly Inaccurate Summary of Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame

The final film in Marvel’s Avengers series was highly anticipated and beloved by many – but not everyone in the theater felt this way.

In my almost 25 years on this planet (yikes), I have seen a total of two superhero movies. The first was Spider-Man (2002), which I remember seeing in the movie theater in my hometown at the age of 7. The second was Deadpool in 2016, also at that same theater with yellow shag carpet on the walls and a crystal chandelier in the “big theater” (the place only has two screens, which we would refer to as the “big theater” or the “small theater”). So as you might expect, I was counting down the days until Avengers: Endgame hit theaters where I would see it on opening night.

Just kidding. I didn’t even know this movie existed until April 24th, when it was discussed on KCR’s own Brett & Mackee in the Morning. But you already knew that, because you undoubtedly listen to San Diego’s Best Morning Radio Show, as voted by the San Diego Union Tribune’s 2018 Reader’s Poll, every Wednesday morning from 10 to 12. As explained above, I’ve never seen any of the other Avengers movies. In fact, I’m not even sure how many there are. I’m going to go ahead and guess that there are twelve movies in the series. (Editor’s note: Andrea, how the heck are you so behind?)

When a fellow KCR member asked me, over Plant Power Fast Food, if I wanted to go to the 1:45 AM 3D showing of Avengers: Endgame that night, I agreed. Maybe it was just the vegan chicken nuggets altering my perception, but this sounded like a great idea to me. A three hour movie, a three hour SUPERHERO movie, at nearly 2 AM on a Thursday night/Friday morning. In the end, we decided on the 11:45 PM showing at AMC Fashion Valley. One sour beer and two hard kombuchas later, and we found ourselves in butter-soaked seats with plastic 3D glasses on our faces. “So it won’t be blurry,” the ticket-taker had informed us.

So here you go: my critical, sleep-deprived review of Avengers: Endgame. This is all surely inaccurate and likely offensive to fans of the series. I’m sorry. “I love you three thousand”.

A “Summary” of the Film

Avengers: Endgame opens with a scene of a family enjoying a nice lakeside picnic and some archery. I’ve already forgotten which character was the dad in this scene. Eventually the dad looks around and his family has disappeared. I think that if I had seen the other eleven Avengers movies I might have understood why this was happening. Instead, I figured aliens were involved somehow. As in, the antagonists in the other Avengers movies were aliens. (Editors note: At least you got that mostly right.)

So then I was introduced to the titular Avengers, I think. To me, the Avengers are Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo/The Hulk, Miley Cyrus’s husband’s brother, Chris Evans, a raccoon, Paul Rudd, and Brett Michel’s father Robert Downey Jr. If I’m being honest, it seems like Robert Downey Jr. carried the team in this movie, particularly by figuring out how to time travel. RDJ is a family man, though, and at first doesn’t want to get involved with this alien-fighting business. However, he relents and agrees to go to space with them despite having a young daughter. I bet you can guess what’s going to happen to his character at the end of the movie.

Why was time travel necessary for the Avengers? I’m not really sure. Paul Rudd spent five years of his life in another dimension, or something, while people in the real world kept living their lives. So I guess the Avengers needed to travel back in time to save Paul Rudd from this other dimension. In order to save Paul Rudd, the Avengers had to retrieve some magic stones from the past.

The Avengers split off into teams and travel into the past to retrieve the magic stones. Paul Rudd becomes tiny, there are two Captain Americas that fight each other (?), Tilda Swinton is on a rooftop. Obviously, this quest for the magic stones was the crux of the whole movie, so I apologize for reducing it to a two-sentence summary.

There’s a scene where RDJ and Chris Evans go back in time to a very All-American looking army base, and RDJ talks to a man who’s expecting a child with his wife. RDJ is very emotional when talking to this man, and hugs him goodbye despite having only just met him. I deduced that this man was actually RDJ’s father and his unborn child would grow up to be none other than Robert Downey Jr. Wikipedia tells me that my conclusion was correct. This, my friends, is what I like to call critical thinking and inference. Yes, I have taken a first-year TFM class.

Okay, what else? Scarlett Johannson dies. Another guy was maybe going to die but Scarlett sacrifices herself instead. I can’t even remember why she had to die – midway through the movie my eyes were definitely starting to close. There was a scary Grim Reaper-looking thing that gave these two a message. The robot woman was a double agent and helped the Big Evil Guy (not an alien) try to take over the world. Some other things happened.

Then there was a big battle scene! “Avengers, assemble!” That’s a direct quote from the film. A lot of other Marvel characters returned for the battle and everyone else in the theater made sounds of excitement and recognition as the camera panned over these characters. I nodded along as if I too understood the significance of this scene.

So the battle seems to be going okay and no one of importance has died yet (except Scarlett Johansson). Baby Spider-Man retrieves the Magic Glove and everything is looking great, but then Big Evil Guy gets the Magic Glove. RDJ confronts him about it (really carrying the team again) and Big Evil Guy tries to flex that he has the Magic Glove. Lo and behold, the Magic Glove is missing its magic stones, rendering it useless! Turns out, RDJ took the magic stones and now has his OWN Magic Glove. He then proclaims that he is Iron Man. This was a big reveal for me. Then he activates the stones or whatever and the bad guys turn to dust.  

All of this was so overwhelming for me that I didn’t realize RDJ was dying. I’m not sure why he had to die, but I think it’s because he was a family man making the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of the world and this is a movie. Sniffles could be heard throughout the theater as, presumably, we said goodbye to a beloved character. There was a funeral scene, and then some more time travel. Everyone was very solemn, and Samuel L. Jackson was there. Fin.

The Verdict

You’re probably thinking I hated this movie, or was bored to death by it. Surprisingly, I actually had a pretty enjoyable experience. For a three hour movie where I really didn’t understand much of what was happening, I felt engaged with it for almost the entire duration. I was shocked by how quickly those three hours passed. I will admit that it’s a bit of a struggle to follow a movie like this when it’s after midnight and there’s no recap of the previous eleven movies beforehand. So I guess the question is, would I recommend seeing Avengers: Endgame without seeing the other Avengers movies first? No, absolutely not. But if you find yourself in the same situation as me, please do not use my summary of the film as a way to prepare.

Written By: Andrea Renney

Us: Analysis, Themes, and Theories

Us is a pretty great sci-fi/horror film that’s worthy of the recent buzz.

Us is directed and written by Jordan Peele who wrote and directed 2017’s Get Out and stars Lupita N’yongo, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker. It tells the story of a family that goes on vacation to Santa Cruz, only to have their vacation cut short when they find a strange doppelganger family in their backyard, attempting to terrorize them and murder them. The film then turns into a story of survival as the family must escape Santa Cruz alive, while also stopping the doppelganger family from following them. I chose not to do a regular review for this one. My short recommendation for this movie is that you should at least see it at some point if you are interested. I think this film is super weird, fun, and suspenseful and it’s a great time at the movies. I will say, however, that I after I had the chance to view this film again, there were many issues I found throughout this film that seemed to negatively affect my experience the second time watching it. It wasn’t any issues with the film making really, I just found some plot holes and other inconsistencies with the film that didn’t make sense for me. In order to really discuss this film in full detail, I need to do an analysis instead. Not only because I wanted to talk about the themes of what this film has to offer, which does intrigue me, but also because I want to talk about the elements of this film that frustrated me and caused me to not enjoy it nearly as much the second time around.

SPOILERS AHEAD! DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU DO NOT WANT THE FILM SPOILED FOR YOU!

The film starts off as we see Lupita N’yongo’s character, Adelaide, as a young child at a fair at Santa Cruz in 1986. She is with her mother and father, and the father seems to be drunk and playing many carnival games. This clearly frustrates the mother as he is paying little to no attention to the daughter. But when the mother leaves to go to the bathroom and the father plays another carnival game, neglecting to keep an eye on his daughter, she wanders off to the beach below where she finds a hall of mirrors in which she comes across a version of herself who seemingly “traumatizes” her leaving her unable to speak. Years later, she’s grown up, had a family, and they suggest that they take a vacation to Santa Cruz every summer. In the film, we see she is nervous the entire time while there because she seems to remember an incident that scarred her for life at the beach. The film then cuts as the family is outside trying to get in so they can murder them. The version of Adelaide, Red, that seemed to traumatize her is now in front of her face again as she had predicted would happen.

Luckily, the family is able to escape their home, but when they try to go to their friends’ house for help, a family with a father played by Tim Heidecker and a mother played by Elizabeth Moss, they find that the doppelganger of their family has already murdered them, which leads them to more danger. They are able to escape but are stopped when Red captures Jason, their son, and takes him into the underground where they all reside. It is at this moment that we find out that Red explains that there is a whole society of people like her down below who mimic their actions from up above, but never get to go up there. In retaliation, she plans on killing everyone and starting their own society above ground. They also re-create the Hands Across America protest from the 1980’s to symbolize their new dominance over the country. If you don’t know, the Hands Across America event was one in which people all across the country joined hands with each other to make one big line across the entire country from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to support the end of hunger in Africa. After Adelaide and Red fight each other, with Adelaide stabbing Red winning the fight, she leaves the underground with her son. We then see a flashback in which it turns out at the beach the day young Adelaide came across her young look a like self at the hall of mirrors, the doppelganger chokes Adelaide, damaging her vocal chords and forcing her underground. In other words, the Adelaide we have been following the whole time is actually the former doppelganger from below all along.

I love this film as it’s a fun, suspenseful horror flick with some great themes and satire.

This is a film that has so much strange elements to it that I cannot help but love and further recommend you check out. I’m really happy that we are able to get original ideas like this still out in theaters, and I’m glad that many people are actually coming out to support these flicks. I love the creativity that this film has to offer and I love that this film can create a concept and a universe that feels like it would be potentially terrifying to inhabit. I would personally be horrified if I found a doppelganger version of myself was trying to murder me. Since it is assumed they are a version of me, they think like me. Because of this, they know what traps I’ll fall for, what scares me, and what especially hurts me. A doppelganger of myself would truly f— me up! It’s a very strange yet brilliant concept that I’m surprised no other filmmaker has ever been able to put up on screen until this point, but I’m glad that this exists now. If you were to analyze its themes that is is clearly going for, it seems to be an allegory for class society and the way we treat and see others because of it. It can also be seen as an allegory for guilt and regret as Adelaide regrets having done what she did to her other self. If you need another interpretation, this could also be seen as an allegory for race relations in the US. Perhaps the people above are the elite race and the ones below are the minorities. This would make sense as Jordan Peele’s last film Get Out dealt with race relations and mocked individuals who would claim to fight for social justice rights for African Americans and Black Americans, but actually end up exploiting them for their victim-hood instead. Jordan Peele does a really great job with creating these horror stories with really great satire implemented into it.

I do have to admit that upon a second viewing, I found many inconsistencies within this movie, which is unfortunate.

There’s a ton of plot holes that come up when you decide to watch this movie again. It’s unfortunate to me to see these because there are instances that I know I shouldn’t be thinking about or acknowledging, but I just can’t help but ask these questions when I see these moments. There’s only going to be a few highlight ones that I acknowledged when watching this movie, but I know for a fact there’s plenty more if you want to examine the film even further. The first question I have with this movie comes at the beginning when Adelaide is nervous about being in Santa Cruz and going to the beach. This is apparently a vacation that they go on every year, as hinted several times throughout the film, so my question is did Adelaide ever get this way in previous years going on this trip? If that’s the case why do they keep coming back. They never acknowledge that she might have gotten this way in year’s past, it’s just a new thing that they realized now. And okay, even if she doesn’t get nervous while at Santa Cruz, do any of them know that she had a traumatic experience at Santa Cruz when she was younger? She doesn’t have to explain it in full detail, but did she ever suggest that she went through a troubling event growing up? And I know a potential defense for that is “she just gets that way when she hears they’re going to the beach” which is fine, but what else do they do there then? I know this seems really nitpicky, but I can’t help but think that they would stop taking this trip by now if it made her as upset as it clearly seems to in this instance. I don’t know, I feel like she would have eventually brought it up at some point that she went through such an experience.

My next questions involve the underground itself. What they suggest is that for every action that takes place above ground, there is a duplicate action taking place underground. Now there’s many actions that the characters below are seen doing that are identical to the ones up above. For example, some will be riding a roller coaster, others will be playing a carnival game, and others will be walking around the carnival. The people riding the roller coaster aren’t moving locations, they are only moving in their seats like it’s a simulator ride at Universal Studios (roasted). This would perhaps make sense because they end up in the same location as before. But what if someone up above is driving a car. They don’t end up in the same location like a roller coaster would. What about if someone up above goes in a direction and the person below is blocked by a wall? Do they go around the wall and catch up with the people above later? Now what about if someone decides to go swimming in an ocean, lake, or river? Are there tunnels below for at least a potential several miles away from the shores of these bodies of water? What about travelling internationally? They suggested that the tunnels are only in the United States, but if someone travels to Europe or Asia, do the doppelgangers still follow them across the seas? How would they get there at the same amount of time as the people above? If the people above take a 12 hour flight to China, perhaps, would the doppelganger follow the person all the way to China. A person cannot physically travel over 600 miles/hour across oceans without vehicular assistance such as an airplane. And if they did find a way to travel 600 miles/hour across oceans underground, those tunnels that lead to areas beyond the United States must be really deep below the ocean. That could almost be potentially tens of thousands of feet below water. This given that the tunnels themselves are already likely around 100-250 ft. below the surface already. Explorers haven’t even been to the lowest depths of many of these oceans. The truth is we have no idea what’s going on down there. Did someone build those tunnels then that are over 35,000-40,000 feet below the ocean? And finally, when Adelaide goes to confront Red and Red explains to her the world that exists underground, it makes sense from a narrative stand point as we as the audience do not understand what is going on, but given the end of the film, Adelaide already knows how this universe works. She’s lived there for much of her childhood, she probably remembers it pretty well.

Honestly I could go on all day listing off the various things that don’t make sense about this universe. I will defend Peele, however, in that he probably did not have much time to explain this universe or set up the rules of it properly. If they ever choose to do a follow up to this movie (which seems unlikely) they would certainly answer these questions. This could potentially lead to really fun discussions and debates to have with your friends. Even though these plot holes slightly take me out of the movie, I do look forward to showing this movie to friends maybe who haven’t seen it or to watching it again with friends who are already fans of it like I am. And I think that is what makes this movie special. For all its plot holes, this movie seems to understand how to keep the audience engaged and entertained. It’s weird and different and definitely a very different film from Get Out. I wouldn’t say it’s so much scary as it is suspenseful. It is creepy, from the perspective of the children, to see your dad being dragged out of your house by a man that looks exactly like him, and it’s also creepy thinking about coming across your own killer doppelganger. Again, they know how you think, and they know how to instill the most painful and horrific death upon you. Overall, this is a really fun movie to converse with your friends about. I think it now makes sense why I wanted to get into spoilers with this one. I don’t know. I will probably keep doing more of these spoiler filled reviews as I tend to find they are much more fun then the traditional non spoiler review. I did a very similar thing with the film Climax and that was a ton of fun, so we’ll see. Expect that with Avengers: Endgame I’ll do the same style of review so I can just get into every little nook and cranny with that one.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo