Thursday Movie Picks: TV Edition - Legal Dramas

It's another TV week over at Wandering Through The Shelves and this time we're talking about legal dramas. Please allow me to take the stand and confess. Despite really loving legal dramas in film form, I actually don't watch any on TV. I thought about stretching the rules a bit and picking shows that just feature lawyers, but I'll play it straight. So below is one I watched and loved, one I've caught a few episodes of, and one I tried to watch and hated.

1) American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson

The OJ verdict is the first big news story I can remember. I was seven. (Which makes me wonder what my own child will remember news wise? Hopefully it's Trump's impeachment.) Anywho - Aside from the verdict and everyone saying he was guilty, I actually didn't know much about the case to begin with. This show was pretty eye opening for me because I never researched it thoroughly and I was on the edge of my seat even though I knew the outcome. This mini series was fantastic. 

2) Law and Order

I've watched a few episodes of this, usually when an actor I like is starring in it. The most recent episode I've seen is the one where they took inspiration from the trainwreck of a family that is the Duggars. It's probably more about cops than lawyers, but I'm stretching it this week. 

3) Suits

I don't know why I turned this on but it just reiterated that (aside from Mr. Robot) every single show on the USA Network looks alike. They might as well be one shared universe. Everything I saw on Suits I probably saw on Burn Notice or any of their20 polished and brightly colored other shows. 

DVD Review: Logan Lucky

It's a curse.

When his ex wife decides to move their daughter further away, Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) talks his brother, Clyde (Adam Driver) and their sister Millie (Riley Keough) into robbing the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a Nascar race. They need the help of an incarcerated thief, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to pull this off, so they find a way to temporarily break him out of prison to assist.

This film is a textbook example of actors elevating the material because script wise there were a lot of issues here. I felt like there were a lot of plot holes in their plan that they never properly filled in, and there were all these extra side characters played by Seth McFarlane, Hillary Swank, and Sebastian Stan that served little to no purpose. But there's something charming about Logan Lucky that makes it possible to look past these things. 

Adam Driver was the standout for me. He's tremendous and while it has nothing to do with the film, I'm still baffled on why everyone is drooling all over Channing Tatum and not him. Daniel Craig does a great job finally playing someone different and Riley Keough is always solid. 

I can see why this film wouldn't work for everyone. With a different cast, I don't think it would've worked for me. But it has some great laughs and an excellent cast. I think it makes it worth seeing.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Did you just say cauliflower at me?" - Clyde Logan (Adam Driver)

Review: Black Panther

The King has arrived.

After the events of Captain America: Civil War, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is heading back to his home country of Wakanda to officially become their King. When an old enemy Klaue (Andy Serkis) is spotted about to make an illegal vibrainium deal, T'Challa along with his general of his Dora Milage guard, Okoye, (Danai Guriria) his ex girlfriend and War Dog spy, Nakia, (Lupita Nyong'o) and some virtual help from his tech genius sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) They stumble upon Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who has a very compelling reason to hate everything Wakanda stands for.

Black Panther was a stand out in Civil War and now he comes to us with one of the most nuanced stories Marvel has every done. This is more than just a comic book movie. It's that, it sets up Infinity War subtly and nicely, but it's also a Bond film. A social commentary on privilege. A film showcasing female empowerment. It's so much and director Ryan Coogler balances it beautifully. This guy is a powerhouse. 

The funny thing about T'Challa, while he's wonderful and amusing, he's not the most interesting character here. The stand out to me was Shuri. Wright was fantastic as this genius teenager who can't help but to mouth off every now and then. She's my new favorite Disney Princess. Of course you all know the abusive relationship I have with The Walking Dead, so you know I'm a huge fan of Danai Gurira and she shines here. If only the TWD writers could give her something this good. Other supporting characters played by Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Basset, Forest Whitaker, and Wintson Duke all have amazing moments as well. But there's a lot to be said about Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger.

A lot of people say Marvel has a villain problem, which is true. It's not specific to Marvel in my opinion but really only Loki and Ultron stand out as memorable villains. But now there's Killmonger. He's easily the most layered villain out there. He's extreme and dangerous, but I understood where he was coming from 100%. His environment made him the way he was and in a way I sympathized in a way I haven't with the other villains. His last line in this film is one of the most powerful things ever said in any comic book movie.

The film does fall victim to a few tropes, but I don't care. I had too much fun. If I have one complaint it's weirdly with Andy Serkis. He was really over the top. His character was a tad goofy in Age of Ultron but he dialed it to 11 and it just didn't work as well as it could've. I'm saying this now, even though it's early, this film needs an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design. I will accept nothing less.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable (non spoiler) Quote: "WHAT ARE THOSE!?! - Shuri (Letitia Wright)

2018 Blind Spot Series: Philadelphia


What I knew going in: The story

Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is a lawyer who is wrongfully fired by his partners after they find out he has AIDS. He hires another lawyer, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to defend him during his trial. Joe has to grapple with his own homophobia as he gets to know Andrew and fights for justice. 

I love courtroom dramas. I haven't came across many that I didn't like and thankfully this didn't go that route either. I do think it played it rather safe. There are better films out there that address the AIDS crisis within the gay community. I feel like the filmmakers really wanted to touch on it, but were too afraid of how the public would take it.

Tom Hanks is wonderful in this. You can see the pain in his eyes throughout. Denzel also brings his A game. Sometimes I wanted to laugh with Joe, and others I wanted to scream at him. He could've easily been completely unlikable but Denzel never lets it get to that. 

This film however has some pretty major faults. The first is that Andy and Joe are really the only fleshed out characters. Everyone else feels like a caricature. Scowling lawyer, asshole boss, sexy lover. No one else felt like they had a personality. I also found the constant close ups of the actors' faces to be completely distracting. Everyone made fun of Tom Hooper for doing that in Les Miserables but this one felt way more excessive. Still, aside from that I enjoyed this film and as always, I'm glad I got around to it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Explain this to me like I'm a four year old." - Joe Miller (Denzel Washington)

Thursday Movie Picks: Break Into Song (non musicals)

Would the world be a better place if we all spontaneously broke into song? Maybe. This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is all about that, but with a twist - they can't be from musicals. Here's what I came up with.

1) (500) Days of Summer

Okay, they technically break into dance in this film as the lead isn't singing, but I absolutely loved the little number they did to "You Make My Dreams" in this movie. 

2) 10 Things I Hate About You

Heath Ledger singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" will never not be sexy. 

3) Step Brothers 

I almost went with another one of my favorite comedies - Anchorman when they sang "Afternoon Delight", but then I remembered how hard I laughed in the theater when Derek's family sings "Sweet Child O' Mine" in the car. The kids are hamming it up, the wife is phoning it in, and the husband is annoyed.

Quick Ramblings - Oscar Docs and Foreign Language Films

Like most Oscar Seasons, the foreign language and documentary features I rarely get to see before the ceremony. Thanks to Netflix, I was able to catch a few of them before the Oscars. Here are some quick reviews of the ones I saw.


The Square - I liked the idea of this movie far more than I liked the execution. It's about an art curator who has an idea for a new exhibit, but it really ends up being about an hour too long. With its avant garde style filming, having this film at 2 and a half hours just wasn't a good choice. It left too much room for dragging. C


Last Men in Aleppo  - This film was incredibly heavy and I was heartbroken while watching it. It follows a group of White Helmets who stay in Aleppo helping their fellow Syrians during the on going civil war. It's atrocious what's happening there and how normal it has become. There's literally a scene where they have just pulled a dead baby out of the rubble, and someone mentions he has to leave at 6:00 to attend a wedding. That's how frequent this is. It's devastating and I don't think this doc will be leaving me for a while. A


Strong Island - I think this may be the most intimate documentary I've ever watched. Yance Ford details the murder of his brother, William back in 1992. He was shot dead by a white auto shop worker after an argument, and it never even went to trial. But this doc isn't about getting the bottom of this case. William's murder isn't given any platform here. No photo, no interview, nothing. This is more of an examination of grief and racial discrimination. I keep thinking back to a conversation I had recently with someone who didn't understand why I was a supporter of Black Lives Matter (because like many, they were uneducated on what the movement was actually about and just believed the shit they hear on Fox News) This is why. You can't look at something like this (or any of the million other examples) and say that the police force doesn't discriminate against black people. You just can't. Strong Island really did something different here, and the visuals and camera work are stunning. A


Icarus - This was a very well researched documentary, but I simply don't care enough about doping in sports to be completely enthralled by this. I like to watch all kinds of documentaries, even ones that I don't suspect will interest me. I give them all an equal chance and for me this one just didn't capture my attention. Even if it's not for me, it's very thorough and you can tell the filmmakers put a lot of work into it. C+


On Body and Soul - Hungary's foreign language nominee follows two employees in a slaughter house who find out they share the same dreams. They dream that they are deer together in the forest, but with social anxieties in real life they have trouble connecting outside of their dreams. I liked this far better than the The Square. It too is a bit of a slow burn but it never once drags. I really enjoyed the two leads. I'd say this film wouldn't be for you if you're easily offended over meat consumption. While they're not overly graphic with animal death they do show them (off screen) putting down a cow before it is carved up. I also like how much anxiety played into this. I seem to gravitate towards movies were someone feels uncomfortable and I like how they addressed it head on instead of just making it a quirk. B

DVD Review: Good Time

5 star idea.

Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) robs a bank with his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (Benny Safdie) in an attempt to make life better for them. Great idea, right? Of course it goes horribly wrong and now Nikas has to spend the rest of the night breaking his brother out of jail. Things get complicated in ways he never imagined.

When I first saw previews for this film I thought it looked terrible. And to a degree, it does. It looks like it was shot by the actual characters in the film. The editing is jerky, some shots that were seemingly meant to be artistic are out of focus and "Good Time" is weirdly trademarked in the title cards (that practically go on for 20 minutes) But this film did something that I never expected, and it threw a curve ball I did not see coming. 

I love when films surprise me. Maybe others saw the big wrench in the plan coming but I did not and I practically gawked at my TV when it happened. Robert Pattinson also gives an excellent performance. I think he falls victim to the same syndrome everyone else that starred in a Twilight movies does, and we forget that some of them actually have talent. Pattinson does, and I'm glad he got to show it off here. Safdie, who also directed with his brother is good too. Jennifer Jason Leigh also shows up for a minute playing a hot mess, so there's that. My favorite performance however belongs to Taliah Webster who plays a kind girl caught up in Connie's mess. 

Like I said, the film isn't the most sharply made, but I liked the story they were telling and that makes everything worth it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "Don't be confused, it's just going to make it worse for me" - Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson)