Sleeper Hits: June 3rd-9th, 2019 and MDFF Part 1

Second one and I'm already behind schedule lmao

My goal was to shoot for a new newsletter every Monday and I have already failed, so clearly the lesson here is Never Try Anything.

This past weekend was Weddingpalooza (congrats Emily and Alex/Steph and Rob!), so we only had time for one movie this week and I was awake (perhaps unfortunately) for the whole thing. Therefore, I’ll be including roughly half of the films I saw at this year’s Maryland Film Festival and will do the other half next week along with anything else I saw.

If you’re fairly local and haven’t been to MDFF, you really should. The recently renovated SNF Parkway theater is beyond cool — a fascinating mix of the original architecture and modernity. The lineup is great, the staff and volunteers are exceptional, and surely you deserve to treat yourself to a weekend (or all four/five days if you’re bourgeois filth and can afford the tickets/time off) of great indie films? Plus, you might even spot John Waters! It’s great. I love Baltimore and I love the festival.


THE MOVIE I ACTUALLY SAW IN THEATERS: DARK PHOENIX (dir. Simon Kinberg, written by Simon Kinberg; John Byrne, Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum [The Dark Phoenix Saga]; Stan Lee and Jack Kirby [X-Men comics], starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner)

Jessica Chastain in Dark Phoenix (2019)

(Pictured: Jessica Chastain in half-baked Yolandi Vi$$er cosplay)

I swear…the things I do for Michael Fassbender.

I am not super duper invested in comic books, or comic book adaptations in general. I like Marvel/DC movies to the extent that they’re fun to watch and nice to look at most of the time and even if they’re not it doesn’t matter because I promptly forget about them as soon as I leave the theater (with some exceptions).

That said, few movies are as instantly forgettable as DARK PHOENIX.

Something about X-Men in general just doesn’t resonate with me. I think the over-arching theme dealing with mutants and humans clashing and then coexisting and then clashing again is fascinating. I just don’t really care about any of the characters or storylines. I’ve seen all the First Class X-Men movies and couldn’t tell you what happens in any of them except for X-MEN: APOCALYPSE when En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) touches a television and growls “LEEEEEARNINGGGGG” because when that happened Sean and I couldn’t stop laughing for twenty minutes. Even so, I’d seen all of them and I am a completionist, so the time has come to finish the set.

I don’t even know how much more space I want to spend on this because I’ve never seen an end to a franchise (or at least a phase of a franchise) as lackluster as this. There is one (1) cool sequence on a train and that’s it. Michael Fassbender isn’t in it nearly enough (though I grant that this is purely personal taste, but c’mon). Nobody really gives a stand-out performance. None of the characters really go through any sort of meaningful growth or change. Jean Grey certainly goes through the most change, but it’s not really clear to me why that matters in the context of the entire phase of X-Men movies…and I guess it doesn’t because she’s only also in APOCALYPSE. So it’s baffling to me that this story, this character, is where the story ends. But at least it’s under two hours, eh?

Anyway, LOGAN is the true ending of the story, I don’t make the rules, don’t @ me.


BEING IMPOSSIBLE/YO, IMPOSIBLE (dir. Patricia Ortega, written by Enmanuel Chávez and Patricia Ortega, starring: Lucía Bedoya, Belkis Avilladares, María Elena Duque)

Yo Imposible (2018)

Quick synopsis: Born intersex, the protagonist was raised as a woman and eventually discovers that she had undergone several corrective surgeries and now must grapple with this information as she tries to find her true identity outside gender binaries.

It’s hard to be critical towards this film because I want more of these kinds of stories, but the way this particular story was told just wasn’t for me. It’s only 97 minutes long, but the pacing of the story makes it feel twice as long to me. I FOR SURE fell asleep and I feel REALLY BAD about it. I hope you’ll check this out wherever you can (not sure when/where it’ll be available) because there is a dearth of stories about intersex folx and they deserve to be seen. Just because this movie wasn’t for me doesn’t mean it won’t be for you, and that’s really the spirit of this newsletter and art in general.

TITO (written and dir. Grace Glowicki, starring Grace Glowicki and Ben Petrie)

Quick synopsis: Inseparable from his red whistle and his house, the paranoid Tito’s world is turned upside down one day by a friendly neighborhood stranger breaking into his house, cooking breakfast and offering tokes of weed — but when the affable fellow overstays his welcome, it may turn our that his motives may not all be good.

This movie is weird. It’s not the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen, but goodness gracious it is just incredibly strange. Even now, nearly a month later, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. The plot is extremely thin and much like Tito’s neighbor (played Ben Petrie, who may be the most Canadian man I’ve ever seen), the premise wears out pretty quickly. I think this would have worked much better as a short film. The soundtrack kicks ass, though.

MIKE WALLACE IS HERE (dir. Avi Belkin, starring Mike Wallace)

Quick synopsis: a look over the storied career and rocky past of Mike Wallace, the influential journalist and original host of 60 Minutes.

60 Minutes is one of those programs where the magnitude of what it did and where it went never really registered with me. When I was younger, I watched a lot of programs on CBS with my mom, but 60 Minutes wasn’t one of them. As influential as it was and continues to be, it never registered with me except for the short bumpers that would come on during commercial breaks, always ending with the iconic ticking sound of the stopwatch and the 60 Minutes logo.

One of the reasons I bought a ticket for this screening is because I knew Mike Wallace existed on some level, but never knew how much of a powerhouse he was in investigative journalism and I felt like that was a serious misstep in my cultural education. This documentary works very hard to correct that and ultimately succeeds. Created almost entirely with archival footage, MWIH interrogates the master interrogator, taking us through his rich career and troubled personal life. It also serves as a commentary on investigative journalism today and how we’ve reached our current tipping point. Definitely one of the highlights of the festival for me.

THE HOTTEST AUGUST (dir. Brett Story) (no relation)

Quick synopsis: explores the hopes and lives of citizens in NYC during one of the hottest summers on record.

If Mike Wallace Is Here was the highlight of the documentaries I saw at MDFF, this was…not that. I honestly couldn’t wait for it to be over. The idea was that these ordinary people would share their hopes and dreams and fears for the present and future and it would serve as a parallel for climate change, late-stage capitalism, etc. It doesn’t. The film is an incoherent mess and the subjects range from possessing a modicum of sophistication in their responses to being opaquely racist (the film opens with two men talking about how “illegals” have ruined wages because they’ll work for less…you know, the typical “they terk er jerbs” bullshit that places no blame or even mild scrutiny on the higher-ups that are willing to hire undocumented citizens because they’re willing to work for less pay), so it’s hard to invest in some of the subjects.

If THE HOTTEST AUGUST succeeds at anything, it’s creating a watching experience equivalent to a hot August day: slow, frustrating, and lasting far too long.

THE MOUNTAIN (dir. Rick Alverson, written by Rick Alverson and Dustin Guy Defa, starring Tye Anderson, Jeff Goldblum, Hannah Gross)

Jeff Goldblum and Tye Sheridan in The Mountain (2018)

Quick synopsis: Set in the 1960s, a young man working at an ice rink is now orphaned after the sudden death of his father (his mother died before the events of the film) and connects with a doctor who specializes in lobotomies.

Oh, boy. Ohhhhhhhhh, boy. The things I do for Jeff Goldblum.

I fucking hated this movie. When I wasn’t falling asleep, I was practicing eye exercises so that next time I wouldn’t pull a muscle from rolling them so hard, so many times. It is SO slow, it is SUCH a downer, and the incredibly bizarre Q&A with the nauseatingly pretentious director did absolutely nothing to improve my opinion on the film. Spoiler alert: the viewing experience is a metaphor for what it’s like to be a post-op lobotomy patient! That is an actual thing the director actually said. I hate this movie and I hate him.

I wanted to try at some constructive criticism and not just spew hate vomit everywhere, but I don’t know if I can really give any and the director made it pretty clear during the Q&A that it wouldn’t matter anyway. Even if I liked this film, I would be EXTREMELY hesitant to recommend it to anyone that wasn’t already familiar with the director’s body of work.

I also think at one point during the Q&A he said something to the effect that people who like mainstream films lack the ability to really feel and understand films of this caliber and I really almost walked out lmao. Apparently I’m just a big dumb idiot who likes coherent, interesting storylines and pretty colors so that’s fine. I’m okay with that! Feel free to continue depriving yourself of nice things and die mad about it.

That’s that on that! Again, sorry this one is such a bummer, but I refuse to be the only person suffering from the consequences of my own actions. Expect a much more positive set of reviews next week, and hopefully on Monday proper!

In the meantime, please enjoy another devastating photo of the resident big dumb dork of my heart, Richard Madden. God, how I loathe him.

Image result for richard madden

Yours in snoozing angrily,
Amanda K. Storey

Sleeper Hits: May 23rd-June 2nd, 2019

Welcome to my inaugural newsletter! I did not actually fall asleep during any of these screenings, so I am already a charlatan!

Oh boy. The first one. I’m writing this as I keep getting email notifications about new sign-ups and trying not to scream with glee but also fear as I resist the urge to tell everyone to temper all expectations. Faugh! Here we go.

(jk a quick note first: These reviews may contain spoilers. Obvious ones are marked with (SPOILER) (END SPOILER) before and after each one, which I hope is helpful unless/until I can figure out a better way. But just a heads-up because I love you.)

(okay now here we go for real!)

Summer isn’t for another couple of weeks, but tell that to the movie world. One Memorial Day weekend rolls around, it’s the end of the post-Oscar slump at the movies and the beginning of me getting heartily sick of the ridiculous Dolby Sound bumpers at the AMC in Columbia. “Yes, the projector is still on” haha get bent.

First up: BOOKSMART (dir. Olivia Wilde, written by Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Katie Silberman; starring Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jason Sudeikis)

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart (2019)

Please, please, please, please, PLEASE go see this in theaters if you can. It’s so good. I will be very surprised if it doesn’t make my top 10 for this year. It’s smart, it’s wickedly funny, Beanie Feldstein is my new girlfriend, and I just really need it to pull weight at the box office. This belongs with THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN and LADY BIRD as a trifecta of modern high school movies about misfit teen girls doing their best. I have no opinion on Olivia Wilde as an actress, but I am v, v excited to see what she will do next behind the camera. Billie Lourd should get an Oscar for her performance that I will tell you nothing about because you just have to see it in all its glory. Absolutely loved it. Jason, please get a haircut.

Numbah 2: ROCKETMAN (dir. Dexter Fletcher, screenplay by Lee Hall, starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden)

Richard Madden and Taron Egerton in Rocketman (2019)

If you follow me on Twitter at all, you’ll know that I am the thirstiest bitch alive for Richard Madden. It’s real bad, y’all. I would become fully Kinsey-0 straight for him if he asked. I saw his for-your-consideration Bond photo and had a stroke. His off-the-charts handsomeness, ramrod-straight hairline, singing ability and status as a possible bisexual king (still unconfirmed but looking hella promising) are in defiance of every major or minor deity that may exist.

However, this is not a Richard Madden Appreciation Newsletter (though I haven’t ruled it out entirely yet), so let’s move on.

Simply put, ROCKETMAN is everything BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY wanted to be. Both Queen (and specifically Freddie Mercury) and Elton John are larger-than-life performers with backstories and history to match anything we saw of them on stage during their heyday. When it comes to honoring the legacy of the performer(s) they’ve chosen to showcase, ROCKETMAN is infinitesimally more successful.

I only know Taron Egerton from his twice-turn as Eggsy Unwin in the KINGSMAN movies, but even just within that franchise he’s shown range: from the chavviest chav who ever chavved to a sleek and polished Bond boy though just a little less refined. Taking on Elton John though? I just didn’t know. But honestly, he nailed it. He really did.

What I love the most about this movie is that it does NOT shy away from Elton’s sexuality. I will not go into my exact feelings about (SPOILER) Taron and Richard’s initial sex scene (END SPOILER) on this good Christian Minecraft server, but it’s great. They’re both great. Richard Madden is extra great because I said so. Anyway.

All in all this movie is a delight and I have had all the Elton John songs stuck in my head ever since. Since his music is such an essential part of my childhood, I had mostly taken it for granted. But holy hell can he do things with those 88 keys. I am very grateful to ROCKETMAN for giving me a new appreciation for his talent and for letting me see Richard Madden nearly 100% nude. Chef’s kisses all around.

THREEEEEEE: GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (dir. Michael Dougherty, screenplay by Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields; starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

First of all lmao Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance if we insist on using Christian names) is in this. The only problem is that he’s playing a character that is 1000% less interesting than Tywin Lannister, which is actually the case for all the human characters in this movie! Fun!

I actually didn’t realize until afterward that it had been five (5) entire trips around the sun since the last Godzilla movie, which shouldn’t have really surprised me because I don’t really care that much about Godzilla? Also (SPOILER) Bryan Cranston died in the previous film (END SPOILER) so why even bother? But I’m always down to see monsters battle as one of many who grew up playing Pokemon Game Boy cartridges to death, so let’s go!

The monster battles are cool and fun, just as long as the shot is a wide-angle or just not a close-up. Shaky dark close-up bad, wide-angle less dark good. All of the monsters were well-designed, I thought, and Godzilla is…kind of…cute? In a weird way? I can’t really explain it; I know he’s the King Of The Monsters at all that, but I just saw this glowing chonky boi doing a heckin’ tussle. Ah, that’s how I can explain it: the Internet has ruined me.

Anyway, none of the humans really mattered and I would have gladly cut some of the people scenes for more of the monster scenes and also cut it by about 20 minutes because every movie over two hours is dumb and bad to my lizard brain. Unless it’s THE CONJURING.

FOOOOOOORE(th): MA (dir. Tate Taylor, written by Scotty Landes, starring Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, Diana Silvers)

Octavia Spencer in Ma (2019)

Some movies you just end up spending far longer than the actual run time wondering how the fuck it exists. MA is one of them. I mean, look at this screenshot. I crack up every time. It’s incredible. Plus the cast is insane: Octavia Spencer (!!!) Juliette Lewis (!!!!!!!!) and (I honestly want to SPOILER tag this person because it’s so ridiculous) ALLISON JANNEY (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) (and also ????????????????) like can you believe???? Dear reader, I could not had I not seen it with mine own eyes.

I love Octavia Spencer. She will do anything, including a $5 million dollar Blumhouse horror movie. We don’t deserve her. She managed to make me forgive her for producing GREEN BOOK and I truly didn’t think that was possible.

There’s really not much to be said for the plot except that it goes BUCK WILD in the last 30 minutes. All the teens are surprisingly not annoying shitheads, which is hard to do in horror movies, so kudos to them.

That’s about it, honestly. It’s a fun 90 minutes if you’re bored and have MoviePass or some equivalent. I am a complete horror apologist and probably would have paid actual Earth dollars to see it regardless. Seriously though, the third act is pretty bananas and actually entertaining. And if you’re not entertained, it’s still only 90 minutes, or approximately four and a half episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants (the only acceptable way to measure time tbh).

(P.S. Happy birthday, Tate Taylor!)

FIFTH AND FINAL: BRIGHTBURN (dir. David Yarovesky, written by David Gunn and Mark Gunn, starring Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn)

David Denman, David Yarovesky, and Jackson A. Dunn in Brightburn (2019)

Okay, this isn’t an actual screenshot of the movie like all the other ones have been, but the actual scene they’re shooting is of Roy from The Office giving the anti-Superman kid The Talk and it’s actually kind of funny in the cringe-y way you’d expect but also look at the director’s rose gold Beats and his multiple eyebrow rings. Those are some choices. This is a look. You could tell me he’s the lead singer of any post-grunge band from the early to mid-2000s and I would absolutely believe you.

So, BRIGHTBURN! Hoo boy, this movie is something else. To start, it is much more gruesome than I thought it would be. I mean, they really went in. Multiple jaws get severely damaged. It’s not pretty.

I did enjoy watching this, to an extent, and I would be mildly interested in a sequel. I certainly appreciate its originality. I think my main issue is that the characters do dumb things, which is not a great complaint to have with a horror movie. Of course characters do dumb things. It’s what drives the story along! Plus, naturally you’re going to have a more measured, thought-out response to what’s happening when you’re safely in a movie theater seat observing the action, as opposed to trying to kill your evil child whose bones are made of titanium and can move faster than me to my DoorDash app when I get a notification that Chipotle is doing free delivery. But still. The climax of the film could have played out very differently with a few small changes that would lend themselves to assuming that Elizabeth Banks’s character isn’t a total dum-dum. Buuuut then how does sequel babby form? We just don’t know.

BRIGHTBURN falls into the same camp as MA where I think you’ll be entertained during the reasonable run time, but you’re not likely itching to revisit it again anytime soon.

That’s it for this week! Thanks SO much to you lovelies who’ve already signed up! Please know that you’re all included in my will.

I don’t know that EVERY post will be this long — I imagine it’ll vary by 1. how often I update, which will determine 2. how many movies are included in each post and also 3. how I feel about them and 4. how many of them feature Richard Madden.

Speaking of which: here’s the aforementioned Richard Madden Is Totally James Bond shot I mentioned:

UGH. Just seeing it again makes me angry, knowing his IDIOT PERFECT SILVER HAIR STREAK, though not visible here, is there anyway on his DISGUSTING PERFECT HEAD. I hate him. I would die for him. All hail (but also RIP) the King in the North.


sleepily yours,
Amanda K. Storey

Short and wily reviews and opinions on movies where I probably fell asleep at some point.

Welcome to Sleeper Hits by me, Amanda K. Storey.

A Sleeper hit is a term used in the entertainment industry for a film that plays successfully for a long period and becomes a big success, despite having relatively little promotion or lacking a successful opening. In my case, a sleeper hit is a movie where I fell asleep but can still manage to form an opinion on it. Embrace the fluidity of language evolution or be with the peons who still wheedle about how the word “literally” has lost all meaning.

(It hasn’t. We’re fine. It’s all fine.)

In all seriousness, though, I fall asleep during movie screenings constantly. I should probably get checked out, but instead prefer to address it like I do with all my other issues, which is to acknowledge it a few times and promptly do nothing about it since it hasn’t killed me yet so obviously everything is fine.

As far as issues go, falling asleep in a warm, dark room with seats ranging in comfort from “rickety boards about to collapse from under me” (which actually happened during a lively screening of The Conjuring) to “are we sure this isn’t a Sleep Number bed in disguise?” ranks pretty lowly. 9 times out of 10, I can pick up where we (okay, I) left off without outside intervention. And if I do need clarification, I generally don’t bother.

But why a newsletter? A few reasons.

The first one, admittedly, is out of pure narcissism. I like seeing my words out there and at least two people have asked me fairly recently if I still review movies. I honestly haven’t written much of anything in the past few years, so I’m hoping this will jump-start that again.

The second is because while I do want to pick up writing again, I don’t have the attention span for long, professional-ish posts with my limited knowledge of SEO sprinkled in anymore. Chances are, most of us don’t anymore (thanks, smartphones!) and would love to have some short, easily digestible content in their inbox once a week or biweekly. Or they won’t. This is, after all, an experiment.

Shouldn’t I at least try for long-form post writing again? Perhaps. But today is not that day.

Do I need a third reason? I guess because I truly love movies — whether it’s praising some gorgeous cinematography or mercilessly making fun of bad dialogue, I’m just pleased as punch to live in a world where they exist and people try to make something worthwhile…even if it doesn’t always turn out that way, at least to me.

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you’ll subscribe — it’s totally free! And if it turns out that this newsletter isn’t for you and you unsubscribe, no hard feelings. Just know that it will keep me up at night for at least several weeks and I’ll have to continue catching zzzz’s at the movies to make up for it.

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