REVIEW: “HOW TO BUILD A GIRL” (2020) IFC Films

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Teenage girl Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein) is a talented copywriter and not popular at all in her school. At home, Johanna has a “Wall of Gods” featuring photographs of her literary and historical heroes, including: Sylvia Plath (Lucy Punch), Elizabeth Taylor (Lily Allen), The Bronte sisters, Sigmund Freud (Michael Sheen), and Maria von Trapp (Gemma Arterton). Johanna speaks to these photos, and the fact that they answer her makes for some early fun. Johanna’s family hustles to stay just above poverty. Her dad, Pat Morrigan (Paddy Considine), still has dreams of rock stardom even though they have long passed, and now he breeds black market Border Collies. Her mother Angie (Sarah Solemani) suffers from post-partem depression after giving birth to unexpected and unprepared for twins.

 

After winning a local TV spot as student poet (in a quick turn as a show host is Chris O’Dowd) turns mortifying, Johanna’s brother Krissi (Laurie Kynaston) suggests she audition for a London magazine’s opening as music critic. She unironically writes up a piece on the soundtrack to Broadway’s “Annie”—which nabs her an interview, but only as a joke. Undeterred, she overwhelms the smarmy hipster editor (Frank Dillane) into an assignment and gets the full fledged opportunity to work for a rock magazine.  They however are less than impressed when she writes what is essentially a teenage love crush fluff piece on her first big interview piece about musician John Kite (Alfie Allen) and she gets the hatchet.

With that Johanna decides to sharpen her claws and it’s here where, low and behold, she does a complete reinvention of herself and evolves into persona ‘Dolly Wilde’. It’s no surprise that Dolly’s hatchet jobs become a cause-celebre’ hit. Celebrating the idea of “A nice girl gets nowhere, but a bitch… A bitch can make a comeback,” she gradually rises to become the most hated person in the industry including winning ‘Asshole of the Year’ journalism award.

Performance wise, sometimes it’s left to ponder who Considine’s representation is as he can be fantastic actor, but at times picks roles where he fails to bring any expectation to the character he’s playing. Feldstein, being American, has a somewhat thick British accent here and aside from a few struggles with said accent, commands your attention at all angles. There are times when even though you don’t really believe she is fully pulling the character off – you still root for her – follow her – even if her figure character becomes almost unbearable in between. Nevertheless, Johanna has her heart in the right place and so this comedy is quite a decent affair – and not only for girls. That’ll help you miss some of the weaker elements. Minor characters are allowed little opportunity to develop and the story feels boiled down to the most obvious plot points. There is nothing superficial about Johanna, but the film itself fails to dive far enough beneath the surface to do her justice.

While the film doesn’t work perfectly Director Coky Giedroyc does a perfectly acceptable job of making it a fine watch. I do hope to see Feldstein break out of this typecasting of roles and move towards ones that she can really sink her teeth into. All in all “How to Build a Girl” is more of a cutsey, fun watch than maybe the book by Caitlin Moran was meant to be as Moran’s audacious humor sometimes feels muted. There is also something quite fun as well in a film that decides it is up to every girl to build and/or rebuild herself in any images she so chooses.

Grade: C+
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Media Review link courtesy of IFC Films

“HOW TO BUILD A GIRL” hits select drive-in theaters and VOD on Friday, May 8, 2020

REVIEW ~ “JOHN WICK” (2014) Lionsgate

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john wick

It’s been quite sometime since I sat at a movie and completely & totally rooted for a character so much so as I did John Wick. Even though you know he’s really not a ‘good guy’ per se’ you really truly can’t help doing so in this movie. But before you even head into this movie you know it’s going to be in-your-face non-stop, kick-ass, kill ’em, violent. And it is..I mean the trailer tells you this..what it doesn’t tell you is how much fun it’s all going to be. Not funny ha-ha..but just plain fun – entertaining -go for it – good time action packed movie. Betcha ya didn’t expect all that now did you?!!  Because I didn’t, but I really enjoyed myself at this movie and coming from a someone like me who loves movies, but can be super picky..this film was a nice surprise for me.

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First of all can we talk about Keanu Reeves for just a quick moment.  No one ever said he’s the best actor, but damn this is his movie..no if’s, and’s or but’s..it’s all him and his wooden acting style fits this movie like a glove, as let’s face it,  it’s always best when Keanu doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and the amount here is just perfect for him to carry out and boy does he do it well, in probably his best performance in a decade or so. He performs so well as the cool, calm demeanoured “John Wick” a retired assassin code named “The Bogeyman” and moves with such ease during this super fast-paced, heavy stunt-fest so smoothly, that you will never even realize that hey..Keanu is now FIFTY yrs. old, no way..not a chance.

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So to set it up, in his hey-day the now retired, Wick/Bogeyman was the ‘go to’ guy if you…well..needed someone assassinated. And within minutes of the start of the film, the stage is set for what exactly John Wick can do, when the son “Iosef Tarasov” (Alfie Allen) of Russian mob boss “Viggo Tarasov” (Michael Nyquist), runs into Wick as he’s just randomly pumping gas in his badass Mustang and Iosef likes the Mustang, offers to buy the muscle car, which John politely refuses. Next thing you know, the Russian thugs break into his home to steal the car and take the one thing that he could share his grief with, a dog his wife “Helen” (Bridget Moynahan) gave him before she passed, AND then kick the crapola out of him to boot. Well that’s all it takes to reeaally piss Wick off as we ALL know..you don’t hurt an assassins dog for chrissakes, so off he goes to his basement with a sledge hammer and breaks up the floor and unearths a clearly long forgotten stash of weapons and some odd gold coins. Then things get ugly – for the mob that is.. Word gets back to his former boss, Viggo, from chop shop car owner “Aureilo” (John Leguizamo), who’s recognized his friend Wick’s Mustang.  Viggo informs his son in no uncertain terms that he’s royally screwed up, then sends in in a dozen or so guys to meet the threat head on. But you’re gonna need a lot more than that against John Wick!! And that my friends is when the non-stop action and fun really start.  This is pure high-energy, in your face, revenge flick and ladies and gentlemen, hold onto your hats as you’re in for a rollercoaster of a damn good time. john wick 4

Along with Keanu’s great action spin, there are many fun supporting roles here and one of my favs is the hit-mans hotel of choice, Continental’s manager “Charon” (Lance Reddick) This is a ‘special’ hotel where you can check in only with those ‘special’ gold coins Wick had in that cache he dug up. You’re not supposed to do ‘business’ at this hotel but Viggo entices our one female hit’man’ “Ms. Perkins” (Adrianne Palicki) to do just that and go after Wick for an extra payday. There is also the wonderful Willem Dafoe as “Marcus” a former colleague who is taking names and kicking some ass for a short time here with Wick, the always fun Ian McShane as the Continental owner, “Winston”, Dean Winters as “Avi” the wimpy-ish inept sideman to Viggo who can’t understand a word of Russian and there entails a few funny moments with his lack of ‘understanding’, and Clarke Peters as “Harry” the old-school assassin. All of them add loads of flavour to this movie, but again, make no mistake..this is Keanu’s movie and he kills it..john wick 3

This film rocks and this film rolls..all in the right ways and it’s truly loads of fun!  Of course there are plot holes, like how is Wick even functioning after what he goes through, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re too busy cheering for John Wick!! There were times I wanted to just scream out a big WHOOOO HOOOO! And you will too. I take ’em as I see them and I had a great time watching this movie. Enjoy people..enjoy!!!

Grade:  B-

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Grading Scale:  A = Oscar-worthy;  B = Above average – must see;  C = Average – should see;  D = Don’t waste time or money, VOD or cable at best; F = yeah, don’t see the movie under any circumstances  (+ or – gives it an edge up or down)