Shows 'N Tunes: Movie, Music, and Game Reviews

Mimi

The Big Lebowski

The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is a professional slacker who spends his days bowling and drinking white Russians.  He lives his life avoiding responsibility and conflict until one day conflict shows up on his doorstep and pees on his rug.  After being mistaken for a millionaire with the same name, The Dude sets out to find the other Jeff Lebowski and get him to replace his rug.  Millionaire Jeff "The Big Lebowski" is in considerable debt.  Soon after The Dude visits his new wife Bunny is kidnapped for ransom.  Lebowski manages to convince The Dude to deliver the money in exchange for a large sum of cash that would let him continue his go with the flow lifestyle.  It only takes 10 minutes of watching The Dude and his friends to know that it all goes terribly wrong.

The Big Lebowski (1998, rated R) is a cult classic and considered one of the best Joel and Ethan Coen's films.  Filled with hilarious situations and quotable lines, it's a go to for a movie night with friends.


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Emily

Booksmart

In this hilarious and relatable coming-of-age comedy, two academically gifted best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) find themselves at the end of their high school career without having ever partied.  After realizing that their peers managed to get into good schools and still enjoy themselves, they set out to prove that they could get down with the best of them. In an attempt to make up for missed time, they try to cram four years of experiences into one chaotic night.  Not surprisingly, they are soon in over their heads.

I was impressed with Booksmart It was much more than the buddy comedy I expected.  The cinematography is amazing, the comedy witty, and the characters well rounded and believably flawed.  The friendship between the two leads is tangible and made me want to hang out with them, wear fanny packs, and watch documentaries.  In today's age where everyone is pressured to constantly do their best, it preaches an idea of balance and self-care.  This 2019 film (rated R) is Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, and I'm excited to see what her career will bring.

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Jennifer

A Few Good Men

When I think of A Few Good Men, the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic scene of Jack Nicholson shouting, "You can't handle the truth!"  But since that was about all I could remember, I decided it was time to re-watch the classic 1992 film.  

Tom Cruise is Lt. Daniel Kaffee, a young and cocky Navy lawyer assigned to defend two Marines accused of murder while on duty at Guantanamo Bay. The film includes conspiracies, political machinations, and many shades of gray.

Featuring that signature Aaron Sorkin dialogue (it's his first movie screenplay), A Few Good Men was directed by Rob Reiner (rated R). Costarring Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Pollak.  You'll also spot a young Kiefer Sutherland, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Noah Wyle.

If you enjoy films featuring lawyers, check out Great Movies: Lawyers in the Movies and Great Movies: More Lawyers in the Movies to discover what to watch next.  A Few Good Men is also on the American Film Institute's list of top courtroom dramas.

Jez

Lover

Taylor Swift is back with her seventh album: Lover!  If Reputation was Taylor changing her style and going more in a pop direction, Lover is a bit of a course correction.  The new album feels like a combination of her upbeat pop anthems from 1989 and Reputation, but with the beautifully written, emotionally honest ballads from Red and her earlier work.

Some of my favorites are "Paper Rings" and "The Archer."  "The Man" is incredibly enjoyable and a refreshing push back against the media's portrayal of Taylor and her music, pointing out that what she is vilified for is exactly what earns her male contemporaries praise.  Some songs, such as "I Forgot That You Existed" are good, but grow on you with each consecutive listen. Overall, there's something enjoyable for everyone here and at least for the next couple of weeks, Lover (2019) will be on constant rotation in my home.

Listen immediately by borrowing the album on Hoopla!

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Joan

Green Book

This Oscar-winning film is based on the true story of musician Dr. Donald Shirley's tour of the south in 1962.  He hired New York bouncer, Tony Vallelonga as a chauffeur/bodyguard.   The relationship started out as an awkward business arrangement between the two men.  No men could be more different in demeanor, background, and speech, yet they set off on a two-month trip together.  Through the trials and tribulations of the journey, they see each other at their best and at their worst.  They quickly develop mutual respect for the other's talents.  The mutual respect evolves into a lifelong friendship.

The title of the movie refers to The Negro Motorist Green Book which was an indispensable companion for African Americans on road trips through southern states during the 1950s and 60s.  Green Book won Best Picture, Original Screenplay, and Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) at the 2019 Academy Awards. The film is not without controversy.  Read the Time article to learn more.


Released as a motion picture in 2018, rated PG-13


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Mimi

If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

A charming tour guide (Ian McShane) takes a busload of American tourists on a nine countries in eighteen days European tour.  The bus is full of comical personalities, including Samantha Perkins (Suzanne Pleshette) who is seriously trying to find herself on this vacation.  The tour guide tries to romance her and change her mind about a number of things.  Mix-ups ensue, including one person who gets on the wrong bus.

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium is a throwback to how films were made. Joan Collins, John Cassavetes, Elsa Martinelli, Ben Gazzara, and Norman Fell also appear in the film. It's really a delightfully funny movie.

Emily

Long Shot

Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogan) is a goofy yet gifted journalist devoted to exposing the truth.  After losing his job when his company is bought out, he finds himself down on his luck with no plan.  By chance, he runs into his former babysitter and crush, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who is now Secretary of State with her sights set on the presidency.  She's elegant, smart, and professional…everything Fred is not.  After learning of his predicament, she hires him to be her speechwriter, despite the objections of everyone on her staff.  Although a determinate to her campaign, Fred is helping Charlotte take a step back and enjoy life again.

Long Shot is a twist on the classic rom-com, switching up gender roles and ignoring the classic tropes.  While it resembles a classic Seth Rogan film, awkward moments and drugs included, he managed to go beyond his regular cult comedy.  Hilarious and heartwarming, Long Shot it a great movie to add to the rom-com rotation.

Released as a motion picture in 2019, rated R

Catherine T.

A Farmer’s Road (2015)

This documentary follows a couple who own and operate Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign, Illinois.  The couple were both academics in the field of soil science and decided to put all their knowledge to the test.  They bought a plot of land surrounded by cash crop farmers' land and transformed it by way of practicing a more sustainable type of farming.

Throughout the film, they share with us their setbacks and successes as they plant an orchard, kitchen garden, and start raising goats. The main product of their farm and creamery is the variety of goat cheeses they produce, which have found a loyal following at the local farmer's market and at various Chicago restaurants.  They have also started a tradition of summer farm to table dinners showcasing local produce.

It was educational and heartwarming to watch A Farmer's Road about a local business where they are promoting sustainable agriculture and small scale diversified farming.

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Jennifer

Pitch Perfect Trilogy

For lighthearted movies featuring a charming mix of comedy, music, and girl power, try Pitch Perfect (2012) and its sequels Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and Pitch Perfect 3 (2017).  In the first film, freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly joins a collegiate acapella group.  Heartwarming hilarity ensues. The performances feature catchy music, a range of voices, and a variety of styles.

Each sequel gets more ridiculous, but it is worth going along for the ride.  Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson star in all three with Hailee Steinfeld added in the second film.  The first two films also feature a pre-Dear Evan Hansen Ben Platt.

If you enjoy the music featured in the films, check out the soundtracks on Hoopla.


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Ashe

The Office. The Complete Series (2005-2013) TV-PG

Are you looking for some cringe-binge?  Finished Parks and Recreation and have a gaping hole in your life?  Already seen The Office?  If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then watching The Office may be right for you!

While the first season starts off a little slow and awkward, it really comes into its own by the end of the season.  It's funny, irreverent, and strangely heartwarming.  You will laugh, cry, and facepalm along with the characters as each of their stories unfold over its nine seasons.

Check it out today!

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Heather

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) PG

Miles Morales, a New York teen just starting out at a new school finds himself bitten by (yes) a radioactive spider...but this isn't your typical Spider-Man origin story.  From there the Spider-verses collide and an eclectic cast of characters comes together from multiple realities.  Readers of the comics will definitely appreciate this merge, but all can enjoy the superhero action and sparks of humor we are used to throughout most of the Marvel Universe.  So join Miles as he learns to have confidence in himself and figures out his Spidey senses to save not only his dimension but also everyone else's!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.  Did you miss Jez's review of this Oscar winner? Check it out!

Emily

Resident Evil 2 (2019) M

Raccoon City is under attack. A mysterious outbreak has transformed the population into ravenous zombies.  The story begins a week into the outbreak, most of the police are already dead, and supplies are few and far between.  Play as rookie police officer Leon Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield as they try to survive the night.

Each character has their own gameplay and storyline that unfolds as you explore the game.  The zombies are relentless, clever, and never as dead as they seem.  The majority of the game takes place in the Raccoon City police department and despite the relatively small map; it never feels repetitive or cramped.

Like many, I'm suffering from zombie fatigue, but this game reignited my fascination with the undead.  Originally released in 1998 for PlayStation, Resident Evil 2 is a staple in survival-horror video games.  Now remade, it is even better than before.  The graphics elevate the suspense and the updated mechanics allow for more control and realism. The puzzles are as tricky as ever and just as satisfying to solve as the first time around. Unfortunately, it still takes a ridiculous amount of ammo to take down zombies, so make sure to use it wisely!  Resident Evil 2 is available for checkout for PS4 and Xbox One.

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Jez

Good Omens (2019) TV-MA

Ever since humans were cast out of the Garden of Eden, the demon Crowley (David Tennant) and the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) have been ordered by their head offices to occasionally nudge humanity towards one side or the other.  Over the last six thousand years, they have made an agreement to handle the other's duties from time to time, realizing their efforts were canceling each other out.  Over time, they have grown quite fond of humanity and Earth and when the antichrist shows up (in the form of an 11-year-old boy), they try to save the world and put off the impending war between Heaven and Hell.

Meanwhile, there are parallel narratives with the antichrist Adam (Sam Taylor Buck) and his friends, a new recruit to the witchfinder army, and a woman whose family has been led by entirely accurate prophesies from an ancestor.

The stories of Good Omens cross paths multiple times to form a well-woven narrative web that is emotional and dramatic, but most of all, amusing. Bolstered by a phenomenal cast and written by literary genius Neil Gaiman, based on his book of the same title co-written with the late Terry Pratchett, this unusual love story is one you will immediately want to rewatch.

Don't have access to Amazon Prime?  Check out one of our roku devices for a week.

Already a fan of Good Omens?  Discover your next great book with these readalikes.


Mary S.

Pick of the Litter (2018)

In Pick of the Litter, follow a litter of five adorable Labrador puppies from birth through two years old on their incredible journey to become guide dogs for the blind.  The whole family will delight in seeing the lively puppies, each with their unique personalities, go through their rigorous training.  "Only the best will make the cut."

Experience the joy and sadness of the dedicated first time and experienced puppy raisers and trainers.  Meet the blind individuals who hope to be matched with a guide dog companion.

If you enjoy Pick of the Litter, you might also be interested in the Japanese film, Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog.  Here is additional information on the organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind, featured in the film.

Jennifer

The Vienna Berlin Music Club by Philharmonix (2018)

I recently had the chance to see Philharmonix live—and what an experience!  Listening to the album is the next best thing—and you can do so via Hoopla.  The Vienna Berlin Music Club is an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, and pop music.

The ensemble features two violins, a viola, a cello, a double bass, a clarinet, and a piano (from the Vienna and Berlin philharmonics).  Primarily instrumental, the album also features a singing violinist (in German).  Songs I particularly enjoyed include "Russian Overture," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "A New Satisfaction."  Watch the YouTube video to get a behind the scenes look from the group (and samples of their music).