• Strictly Films

Weekly Roundup Episode 42: Merry Christmas!

Welcome to another edition of Weekly Roundup! Well Merry Christmas everyone! This honestly is my favorite holiday believe it or not, especially the gift giving process. I always get hyped when it comes to searching for the perfect gift, as gift giving is one of my biggest strengths. Whether it be for a friend, family member, or significant other... The satisfactory rate is literally flawless. Best part of all is I never ask anyone what they would like for Christmas, I just go by to what I know from the person I’m giving a gift for... All about the vibes. The best gift giver I’ve ever come across with: My Friend Taylor Elhami. She did the exact same thing regarding my gift giving process and the two Christmas’ we spent together... These gifts have lasted a life time, like I still use the things she got me. God Bless Taylor and the Ruano family this holiday season, miss them everyday. Favorite Christmas album is easily The Dean Martin Christmas Album, Favorite Christmas movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The only consistent Christmas tradition other than giving the perfect gift, is actually going to Church for Christmas service. I used to go to The Crossing every year in Vegas. When The Crossing was starting out, their Christmas service was out of this world, as they put on a show... Like an actual play. But then they switch to a more traditional Church service, as we all light a candle, as we all rejoice in togetherness. I still wish The Crossing went back to to performing a play, but the simple heart warming candle light service is still sweet. I plan on going to a local Church service out here in Fort Myers on Christmas Day, the tradition still going strong!

I extremely enjoy Movie Theater trips on Christmas Day, although oddly enough I don’t go every year. Probably because I enjoy spending time with my family or friends, as I can just go to the movies the following day. A delightful movie theater experience on Christmas Day happen to come in 2013, as I was anticipating to go with my friend Taylor and see the Believe Movie together. Unfortunately we couldn’t go as her mother wouldn’t let her go. So after spending Christmas at Taylor’s house, I was in the car with my sister and our friend Jennifer as I said, “You guys want to see The Believe Movie? I’m buying.” They were extremely excited as we all headed to the theater, bumping Bieber music on the way there... Awesome time.

Fun Fact: I’ve spent Christmas every single year with my sister, dating back to 1997 when she was born... Like there has never been a Christmas Day, where it wasn’t spent with my sister. I’ve shared many delightful Christmas memories with my sister, including singing along side with her near a Christmas tree, where our grandmother sat on a chair as she was in awe in how adorable we were. This will be the first Christmas in my entire life that I will not be spending with my sister, as she is roughly 2,500 miles away. Truly miss her dearly, as this holiday will not be the same without her. God Bless my Sister, her husband Paul, Chance the Labrador, Noli the Snaggle-Puss, and my favorite dog Olive Stu.

There’s always that one question: What would you like for Christmas?! The answer always is the same: A Significant Other to Love. Though my life has been extremely blessed, even in these dark times I’m still managing extremely well and achieving grand accomplishments... I still always feel incomplete, as I’m not giving my love and affection to somebody. My whole purpose in existence is suppose to be the foundation of love, as when I’m not doing it... I tend to become a little weak here and there, but I always pick myself up and still spread jot to others. Of course life is extremely long believe it or not, as this day will come in due time again, until then it’ll always be top of my list.

The meaning behind Christmas regarding The Nativity Story, the joyous spirit, the countless acts of giving, as it’s always been a time for healing and for togetherness. Christmas sometimes is a reminder to me, that there can be hope in a world in which I never truly belong or can’t seem to much find much joy being apart of it. I think as a society especially now: We come to remain extremely close to the constant negativity, hatred, selfishness, and greed as that has been the cultural we’ve been influencing on others. We forget that we’re all still human beings, with feelings and have problems of our own. Christmas brings out the best in others, as they remember that they are human beings as they break out of their bad habits, as they spread kindness, positivity, joy, love, unselfishness, and want to be in togetherness. I hope one day: People will treat every single day, as it’s Christmas spirit.

This holiday never fails to lift my spirits up, even when I’m at a state where I’m struggling to comprehend my reality as it’s a reality that troubles me... I still have this holiday to keep me going. Merry Christmas to everyone, my readers/supporters, my acquaintances, my family, my friends, and of course Julia B... Love you all, God Bless, time to talk about movies!

Hillbilly Elegy Grade: C

Audience enjoys, while the critics dislike this new film from Ron Howard, based off a memoir. Well I kind understand both sides.

I thought Glenn Close gave a pretty good performance, as J.D. Vance’s grandmother. I don’t quite understand the Razzie talks at all, I think she nails the Southern accent and t’was strong in some scenes. I will say far as criticism that’s not criticism for Close’s performance... Those Facial Expressions... I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off seeing all those goofy facial expressions. I honestly think there is an actual good movie in here somewhere, if the narrative was constructed correctly. I mean this an inspiring tale about a young man, who grew up an extremely rough childhood, had a mother that’s a troubled drug addict and a grandmother that’s extremely strict... Kid went through some shit. But the kid managed to work his ass off, as the toxic nature inspired him to rise above to not becoming like his mother or grandmother. Just because you grow up in a toxic environment, doesn’t mean you’ll become exactly like them. Your life, morals, and values are your responsibility so at least this film brought a valuable message.

Hillbilly Elegy encounters many problems with the narrative, as it felt like a mess. I think the biggest problem is it’s repetitive nature, as I feel like I’m rewatching the same scenes over and over again, as the build up towards the finale feels extremely wasted. When we get to the finale... It honestly felt extremely rushed, as I’m questioning just why we had sit through a series of repetitive scenes, when it could’ve been developed or constructed much better, so we aren’t encountering a constant loop?! Seriously when the film ended, I’m like, “Oh that’s it?” Sure the message stated at the end is powerful, but everything leading up to it isn’t justified at all. It also doesn’t help that I didn’t like the main character J.D. Vance young (Owen Asztalos) or older (Gabriel Basso)... The kid really irritated the living hell out of me.

There has been also talks of Amy Adams possibly getting a Razzie for her performance as Bev and you know... This I can get behind, this is honestly Amy Adams’ worst performance in awhile. Very inconsistent with her accent, I also found her drug addict moments to be laughably bad too, Howard couldn’t elevate Adams at all with this performance. I’m sure the memoir is pretty good, but as a feature film... Eh.

Overall, Hillbilly Elegy was just ok. I don’t recommend this film and would just check out the memoir instead... Sometimes reading is better than movies, which is rare for me to say.

Sputnik Grade: B

Sputnik has been getting a fair amount of praise from science fiction and horror fans. There was this one film called Life back in 2017, where it was compared to Alien, and for some reason... Sputnik felt reminiscent to Life, as it felt like the continuation of that film as the astronaut landed on Earth with this entity.

I enjoyed Sputnik for it’s originality, it is a science fiction film that can be compared to the likes of those two films, however it stands on it’s own being it’s own thing. I enjoyed the story as a whole, t’was tense, exciting, and surprising enough has a fair amount of emotion behind our lead character Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov), as how he felt he deserved having this entity inside him, due to what has encountered in his past. The creature design was... Odd, but at least it was cool whether discovering this entity for the first time or the gruesome violent sequences.

I honestly didn’t care for the music in this film, found it rather similar to other films plus was just not digging it at all. The antagonist of this film didn’t make much sense, as he was for taking our bad people with this entity which made me want to be on his side, but then he kills a trusted doctor because he disobey his orders... Well then.

Overall, Sputnik was a good film. I recommend checking this one out on HULU.

Charm City Kings Grade: B-

Charm City Kings originally was supposed to be in theaters, but due to Covid he got bought out by HBO Max.

Charm City Kings does most certainly have a fair amount of Charm, as you can clearly tell whomever wrote this film was truly inspired on their own admiration for dirt motor bikes. I haven’t been much acquainted to these vehicles, I know Meek Mill likes to ride em as that’s my only knowledge on them. It’s a weird admiration to have, however... It’s nice to see something completely different to the table, that can not be influence by anywhere. The story on the other hand... T’was cool. Some elements of the story here and there can be compared to other films, however I still found a fair amount of enjoyment partaking it. I also really enjoyed Jahi Di’Allo Winston playing the lead Mouse, I thought his performance was great. You can tell Jahi really worked his ass off nailing this accent, as he totally fit in the scene with this crowd.

A major flaw I want to point out is Mouse notices her mother is struggling with payments, as this inspired Mouse to start trapping in the streets. However Mouse doesn’t help his mother with the payments, in fact he just helps himself... I thought the whole point in trapping was to help his mother out? Why didn’t he do that? Meek Mill didn’t have a bad performance, however in moments where he has to express emotion... Meek Mill failed immensely, as he stood by his one and only facial expression the entire film. I’m not a fan of the ending, could’ve played out differently but it rather sad.

Overall, Charm City Kings was enjoyably decent. I recommend checking this one out, it’s a cool movie.

Alone Grade: B

If you liked Unhinged, you’re gonna love Alone because it’s almost the same movie again... Only it’s more tame and it moves many different places.

Alone may not be as insane as Unhinged or entertaining, however Alone is actually not enjoyable for the wrong reasons, as it’s enjoyable for the right reasons. The story at hand t’was simple and effective, as I’m surprised this story took on many places and many different situations. Where I thought I was heading for just being on the road, as this mysterious man seems to have encountered road rage... Surprisingly we were treated to a house, the woods, the river, and much more! It’s an effective thriller that does have you on the edge of your seat. I also enjoyed Jules Willcox performance as Jessica and also liked the character for a couple reasons. There’s actual character development in this film, as you understand why she’s moving and why she’s emotional while looking at a video of her husband. Also she’s not a complete idiot... She makes choices that have logic, that aren’t entirely stupid.

Alone does have some pacing issues here and there. I liked the antagonist played by Marc Menchaca, however his scene influencing Jessica to pick up the gun t’was very weak, as Marc had poor line delivery. There comes a logic issue regarding a stranger that Jessica has encountered, that was clearly a dumb choice. You can honestly recommend a double feature with this and Unhinged and totally have differently experiences, despite them sharing the same concept.

Overall, Alone t’was good. I recommend checking this one out.

Love and Monsters Grade: B

When I saw the poster of Love and Monsters, I thought “What the heck is this?” Love and Monsters surprisingly got great reviews from critics, as I was looking forward into seeing it.

Love and Monsters has been compared to Zombieland as though scenery is different, as one is encountering Zombies as the other is encountering monsters... They are almost identical regarding tone and even a little bit in narrative in a way.

The story of Love and Monsters t’was rock solid, what’s surprising is the fact this film worked way better as a light hearted drama/action adventure than it did comedy. I honestly felt something while watching Joel (Dylan O’Brien) go on his journey, to reunite with his love whom is from a distance of a week away. Even in the oddest moment, where Joel expresses his feelings with the coolest robot of all time... Why am I feeling things?! In a way this film does play off as a cool dog movie too, as Joel gets a cool four legged side kick. The monster sequences were abnormal but fun and exciting. I also enjoyed the message of this film, as it’s extremely inspiring to how we should be operating life as of now. Though the world may not be safe, it’s best to live life to the fullest, and not be stuck in a damn bunker the rest of your life, there is still a beautiful world to live and explore... Wow movie, you sure know how to preach.

Love and Monsters is underwhelming in the comedic field, as the comedy material is so-so. I don’t think the jokes they use were bad at all, I just didn’t care for the jokes in this film at all, but thankfully wasn’t annoyed and got a few chuckles out of me. There was a dubbing issue in the third act. I also did not enjoy what a character does to another character, won’t spoil it... But you selfish punk HOW DARE YOU! This was a delightful surprise of a film.

Overall, Love and Monsters t’was solid. I recommend checking this one out, you’ll be surprised by how enjoyable it is. -Mitch Smietana

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