Dumb Money

Dumb Money is based on the true story of the GameStop surge in January 2021 and how an online community rallied together to help make it happen.

It’s an ensemble cast of well-known names that bring to life the real billionaire fund managers as well as underdog amateur investors. The movie opens during the height of GameStop’s stock rise with Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogan) realizing he is losing billions. (Fun Fact: Plotkin just bought our local NBA team, so I think he’s doing ok). We get our first look at an especially stoic Nick Offerman as Ken Griffin, along with Vincent D’Onofrio as Steve Cohen. Their ridiculous net worth shows up on screen as they watch the shorted stock skyrocket. But how did they get here?

We travel back six months and meet Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a member of an online reddit group called r/wallstreetbets. I think they want Gill to be the heart of the story, but he’s kind of just this ordinary guy. He believes GameStop is undervalued and he’s willing to bet on it. Encouraged by his way-too-supportive wife (Shaeline Woodley), he shares his thoughts in live videos posted under his online alias Roaring Kitty and people start to notice. His posts gain momentum and other followers join forces to rage against the machine of Wall Street. Thousands of amateur investors help send GameStop’s price up with no/low cost trading apps like RobinHood (which we learn more about too).

To try and add some depth to the story, director Craig Gillespie brings in additional characters who catch on to Roaring Kitty’s posts. There’s Marcus, the “essential” GameStop employee played by Anthony Ramos (with a fantastic Savage dance routine for TikTok). America Ferrara plays Jenny, a hopeful single mom and truly essential nurse just keeping her head above water. And then there’s college friends Harmony (Talia Ryder) and Riri (Myha’la Herrold) with mounds of student debt and some over-the-top drinking games. It’s a welcomed glimpse of the different kinds of real people who got on this ride ‘to the moon,’ but fails to be meaningful.

Pete Davidson plays Gill’s brother Kevin and is one of my favorite characters. His dialogue is witty and often feels unscripted, reflective of great casting. There are even some touching family moments where Davidson shines, and it seems to come easy for him.

The story is fun, interesting, and enviable-but it feels like it rushes through to the ending. There is a bit of satisfaction in reliving the congressional hearings, especially with Gill’s testimony, but I wanted more. The soundtrack is lively and reminiscent of lockdown days scrolling through (and dancing to) TikTok. However, on the way home from the theater the song “Raise Your Glass” by Pink came on and it fit PERFECTLY as an end credit song for this film. Gill raises a glass during his live feeds, his wife refers to him as gangster, AND they are all underdogs. Kind of serendipitous.

Gran Turismo

I know about Gran Turismo – the video game. I think we had one of the first editions when it came out, even with the plastic steering wheel for the Playstation. However, we certainly didn’t take it to the simulation levels that the game’s creator Kazunori Yamauchi intended. And, I had no idea that this movie was loosely based on an amazing true story. As a former motorsports marketing girl, I’m mad that I missed this when it happened in real life!

Gran Turismo shares the story of Jann Mardenborough, (Archie Madekwe) an avid gamer living in Cardiff, Wales (holla to my sister!) with his family. At 19, he believes he is destined for greater things than what his father, a retired footballer played by Djmon Hounsoua, has planned. Jann qualifies for the virtual-to-reality Nissan/Sony Playstation GT Academy based on his video game performance. In the film, GT Academy is an idea from an enthusiastic Nissan motorsports executive named Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom). Of course, some of this is Hollywood, but the marketing partnership and GT Academy are very real, and so is Mardenborough’s success on the track.

At first, the character development is very stiff and wants us to make stereotypical assumptions. The manic marketing exec, the despondent father, the dreaming gamer, the pretty boy competition – all feel a little flat. For me, the real fun starts when Chief Engineer Jack Salter (David Harbour) joins the team to train the GT Academy qualifiers. He brings in saltiness and pessimism and mixes in his own experience that creates an equally beneficial and inspirational relationship with Jann. His energy as a father figure and friend had me in both tears and cheering on the sidelines. Yes, I cried – twice!

Thankfully the film doesn’t get overly technical with racing stuff. They do have some strategic headlines that make the sport more interesting if you’re not familiar with it. There are also some precision graphics that pair the gamer with the vehicle and vice versa. A couple of times, we get to see the deconstruction of a car and its parts much like the video game. The visual effects are stunning during the adrenaline-pumping racing, complete with thrilling curves, head to head straightaways, and inevitable crashes. The soundtrack is particularly entertaining – with some old school surprises and a dynamic score that fuels the action on the track.

Gran Turismo is a very fun and exhilarating cinema experience with some positive emotional energy. Bonus points for it being based on a crazy true story and having compelling leads that deliver great performances.


I think I liked Oppenheimer in the weeks leading up to the release date more than that day. It was the idea of it. Oppenheimer offered the promise of this epic historical film – so big and profound it had to be seen on IMAX. A story full of guilt and science and how they made it happen both in real life and in film. Add in a fantastic marketing spin alongside Barbie and I was completely sold.

So what happened? Well, I was bored. And distracted. And waiting to find a character I liked. The story itself is interesting. A physicist working on a top secret defense weapon and how it weighed on his private and professional life and ultimately altered history. But I couldn’t grasp on to one meaningful feeling (for three long hours). There’s supposed to be some sort of intense pivotal relationship with Jean (Florence Pugh), but it was muddied with shocking visuals that made me cringe. It did nothing to expound on his shame, rather it pronounced his lack of focus. Obviously, the idea of being principled or having any empathy was out the window. The intention felt artistic, but its landing was too abrupt for me.

Technically, there are a lot of good things to say about the sound, the lighting, and the cinematography. The scope of director Christopher Nolan feels experienced, yet brave and takes some creative risks. The intimate blocking of the characters with verbal tensions and shadowy contexts reminded me of some aspects of film noir. The setting and the costumes were flawless (loved Oppenheimer’s hat), and the postures of the different characters felt well researched and performed.

The score. I am so conflicted about this. It felt constant and harrowing and every time I noticed it I was like “shhh… listen.” There was so much dialogue to pay attention to, but somehow the music would interrupt like an entirely separate character or narrator trying to move the story forward. It was at times beautiful and immersive, adding to the pacing. But then it felt like someone uninvited walked in to displace the entire tone of the scene and it was aggravating. The sound and its ambitious role is probably my biggest takeaway from the movie.

I can’t comment on the historical accuracy as this story is all new to me. I only know the headline: Oppenheimer was father of the atomic bomb. Blame my high school curriculum and lack of learning about history. Robert Downey Jr. (Lewis Strauss) stood out as well as Emily Blunt (Kitty Oppenheimer) in their supporting roles. I was happy to see Rami Malek (David L. Hill) chime in with the ethical notes.

The most disappointing thing is that I saw this on opening day and I forgot about it by the time the weekend was over. And everyone else seems to love it, so I feel kind of like I’ve missed something.


Lucky to see Barbie with my #1 sparkle (my daughter). -Come to think of it, after seeing this I believe Barbie and Sparkle are synonymous.

Campy, pink, fun with girl power as the headline and ultimately a way of life. Lots of memories of playing Barbie with my two neighbors, dressing them up, giving them jobs that weren’t even on the packaging. We even had a few Kens in the mix and somehow evolved their stories into driving around town in the pink convertible on dates as we grew older. He is as stiff as he appears. And yes, we all (well the cool kids) had the Weird Barbie.

What director Greta Gerwig did here is nothing short of amazing, insightful and intimately precious. She dipped into our nostalgic love for a toy, blew it up, and gave it a modern feminist twist. Mix in thoughts of self doubt, awareness, and hopeful promise. She showed us a mirror and had Barbie staring right back at us.

Margot Robbie is the quintessential Barbie, and grows into the role as her real human attributes to take over. Ryan Gosling as Ken- come on, hysterical. He is Kenough. Way wittier then I expected he could be. And don’t forget Allan (Michael Cera) with just the right amount of discontent and Simu Lu as (also) Ken – the perfect bro dance partner.

One of the best scenes is Gloria’s (America Ferrera) monologue that starts with “It’s literally impossible to be a woman..” At first it feels – over the top. However, as her words sink in, it’s like little word bubbles that float over the audience and *pop* as their meanings take hold. Love knowing Gerwig wrote this, especially as this movie brings in more audiences, more money – you go girl.

Did I need all of the patriarchy shoved in my face? Don’t be silly. But for Ken to lead the charge, it poked enough fun at it that it felt like living memes rather than scripture. I also didn’t need the whole inventor of the Barbie dream scene but she brings it back around at the end.

Shout out for the song “Closer to Fine,” reminding us how important our individual journeys are. Love that this song is still relevant today – years after I had it as my license plate when I lived in Chicago: CLSR2FN.

Funny thing is that I just thought this was going to be entertaining – whacky and even a little bit ridiculous. And it was. But there was more to it somehow and the genius marketing and promotion cannot be overlooked. I’m more of a fan of Barbie today than I was when I was 9, so there’s that.

Past Lives

When I picked Past Lives out of the many unseen movies now playing, it was mostly because I read a note from the director Celine Song in an A24 email blast. She wrote of her love for this film: “…everything that it is, flaws and rookie mistakes and limitations and all.” It was like a personal invitation to the vulnerability and joy of her creation.

The film opens on our three main characters in a bar, with a sort of curious narration that is focusing on the body language to uncover the relationship we’re seeing. A fun game if you’re a people watcher. We journey back in time to South Korea to see Na Young and Hae Sung as childhood friends. Their tender connection is amplified with eye contact and innocent smiles. They notice each other more, and even their mothers take note. They are on the cusp of young love right before Na Young and her family immigrate to Canada.

We jump forward twelve years and Na Young (Greta Lee) is now called Nora, working as a playwright in NYC. Nora discovers that Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) is looking for her, and they reconnect via social media and video calls. Their continued exchange is exciting, with careful dialogue and heavy with the reality of distance. This weight pulls Nora away from her life and goals too much, so she asks that they stop talking. Reluctantly, Hae Sung agrees and goes on to pursue his engineering career while Nora continues working and meets like-minded Arthur (John Magaro) at an artists’ retreat.

Another 12 years pass and we get to where we were at the beginning of the film. The two are reuniting, with the adoring support of Nora’s now husband Arthur. The strength of his character is powerful and without feeling scripted, he says exactly the right thing. There is an organic intensity in his role, Magaro’s presence is substantial even when he is saying nothing. He might be my favorite.

I have to briefly mention the awful direction of the background actors. The scene by the carousel is riddled with couples. There are some that disappear and reappear into the scene together and there are TOO many kissing couples. It is completely awkward and unnatural, and I lost focus of our main characters.

Letting that go, the feeling this film brings out is the real magic here. I am remembering the places I’ve been, the connections I’ve made. It’s like people are woven into the places we shared together The film touches on the story of “inyun” and the ties we might share from past lives. Maybe our relationships play a role in the trajectory of the different paths we take. And maybe they’ve been near before.

The end sunk me. Hard. Perfectly and intimately delivered.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

The Guardians are back! This time they are focused on saving one of their own, Rocket. In fact, I think Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) says “let’s go save our friend” about five times. So there’s no missing the storyline here.

But first, director James Gunn takes us back to Rocket’s origin as a scientific lab raccoon “89P13” caged under the maniacal High Evolutionary who is trying to create the perfect species. 89P13 finds himself among other animal experiments that appear as talking oddities reminiscent of Toy Story’s mutated collection. There’s a friendly otter type thing, a huge walrus and a very scary looking white bunny with red eyes. The foursome get each other through their violent imprisonment, laughing and connecting as friends while dreaming of their release. There are touching moments in their evolution that demonstrate their individuality, especially when they pick their own names. Now the name Rocket means so much more.

Once you get through all of this sentimentality, you bounce back to the present to watch Quill and the other Guardians plot to save Rocket who needs a passcode to be able to heal. I love all of the Guardians characters, especially Drax (Dave Bautista) and Groot (Vin Diesel), but expected more laughs. I took note that it was an hour into the film before I laughed out loud, and it was just at a comedic face plant. Most of the attempts at humor disappointingly fell flat. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) suddenly talks a LOT, and she’s very shouty. Nebula (Karen Gillan) is too. In fact, the entire crew seems to shout their lines at one another, everyone seems so angry. I mean, I guess they’re on an urgent quest, but where is the love? It might be a set up for the team going their separate ways.

Of course, the music is outstanding. Guardians of the Galaxy is known for its energetic soundtracks along with Quill’s iconic walkman. My favorite fight scene blasts a Beastie Boys No Sleep Til Brooklyn track that hits every blaster and stunt sequence perfectly. The editing is on point, slowing down hero moves and technical pivots providing a blood-pumping orchestrated display of CGI action. This is when the movie is at its highest peak of fun and feels and looks like a Marvel movie.

The visual effects are impressive, from the meticulous character animation to the realistic environments that our heroes inhabit. Just considering the technicality of it all it is overwhelming, down to the perfect tiny details of debris in Rocket’s fur that react along with his movements. In concert with the overall misfit/maverick vibe, the costumes and the prosthetics of the background characters are full of outrageous curiosity and disturbing details. Gunn has certainly created a wild and entertaining world here, but still it dangles far away from the collaborative feel of the MCU’s Endgame.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

I remember reading the Judy Blume book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret when I was in the fourth grade. As I was making my way through the agonizing and embarrassing stages of adolescence, this book reached my friends and I like a giant hug, assuring us that we were not alone. It allowed us to talk about what we were going through, but in a less personal and revealing way. We could laugh about it and kind of blame it on the characters (that mean girl, the cute boy) in the book. Director Kelly Fremon Craig does a fantastic job bringing this iconic coming-of-age story to the big screen.

Abby Ryder Forston plays 11 year old Margaret, navigating her way through all the awkwardness of that age. When her parents announce a sudden move to the suburbs, Abby sparks a dialogue with God. She asks innocent and often relatable questions, and her performance is magnetic, funny, and charming.

Margaret’s move brings on struggles with relationships with new friends, her family, and her faith. Having a Christian mother and a Jewish father, religion was kind of ignored except to say Margaret could make her own choice when the time came. Guided by a kind new teacher, Margaret begins to explore different beliefs to figure out what religion means to her, and who she is becoming.

One of the most heartwarming relationships is with her outspoken Grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates). It’s clear the two have a special bond where they can share more than just your typical handing down of recipes stuff. Also side note -isn’t Kathy Bates just wonderful in everything she does?

The stand out performances come from the young actors. This was a time before cell phones and social media influencers. These kids relied on their parents and one another for status, acceptance, and definition. Elle Graham is extraordinary as Nancy, the imperious girl to first befriend Margaret. She gives her a sort of suburban christening, running through sprinklers together. Margaret becomes part of Nancy’s “secret club” with two other fantastic actresses Amai Alexis Price as Janie and Katherine Mallen Kupferer as Gretchen. Together they traverse training bras, fashionable parties, getting their periods, and of course, boys.

Rachel McAdams is a natural as Margaret’s mom Barbara. She is also struggling with the new move and reinventing/rediscovering herself. All the while, she remains connected to Margaret in a way that only mothers can. There is a scene – remembering it now, I’m tearing up again – when Margaret is yelling at her family and stomps out of the room (as pre-teens do). Barbara looks at her husband and owns the behavior, blaming herself, under her breath saying something like “this is on me,” gripping her chest. I lost it.

Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is a heartwarming, realistic journey of self discovery that touches on so many relatable moments in one young girl’s life. Of course, being a young girl of the seventies, (and a mom now), it really hit home for me. You can tell Judy Blume was a part of this as it respectfully reflects the emotions and tenderness of the original book. This was filmed locally here in Charlotte, and it was fun to see many friends in the background again!


There’s a lot to unpack after watching Babylon. The first fifteen minutes is utter chaos. I’ll be honest, I rolled my eyes and winced at the sight of all the unprovoked debauchery, shaking my head and all that. Pretty much thought – oh, this is gonna suck. This does suck. And when that happens, I always feel bad; like for the producers, the actors, the extras, the crew – all of them. And I start looking for someone to blame.

But then something happened. And honestly, it wasn’t Brad Pitt. It wasn’t Margot Robbie entirely either, although it was fun to watch her step into what she dreamed about becoming. What I really started to enjoy was the grasping of the plot – of the transition from moving pictures to talking pictures. There’s a scene when they move from on location to a sound stage set and the sound engineer is out of his mind. The pressure, the changes, the need to conform to the needs of this “box” is heavy. At its core, this change and evolution is interesting to me and I was keyed in. Unfortunately the progress was continually clouded with outrageous egos, dirty money, parties filled with drugs and ugly power shifts.

Thank goodness for Diego Calva, who plays Manny Torres – a nobody who moved from an elephant curator to an elevated production assistant to what is essentially a sedative for both main characters while carving his own way through the sinful landscape of Hollywood. It is through him that I decide to care, even if it’s just a little bit. Because Manny has a vision. A vision of what Hollywood can be, should be, and what his place in it will be. He’s a dreamer. And isn’t that what this is all about? Of course he is also victim to love at first sight with Nellie (Margot Robbie) and his love hasn’t wavered, even as she spins out of control. I guess it is pretty much an allegory for Hollywood. And the powers that be are there telling them who to be and what people want to see.

While this movie is far too long, the last 15 minutes of Babylon is a beautiful and poignant homage to talking pictures and all the places they’ve taken us. Poetic and striking as familiar images document the timeline through sound and color, it’s very moving. Like it’s explaining the movie while reveling in film. This is all I needed. The stuff behind the curtain doesn’t always need a stage.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

I wasn’t planning on a movie this week, but had a genuine movie theater popcorn craving. The trailer for Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was entertaining, with a lot of familiar actors, and it fit my obscenely early time slot. I didn’t have high expectations – but it was sooo fun!

If you haven’t played D&D, you probably know someone who has. Stranger Things helped make it cool to spend endless hours in a basement role-playing and world building, creating extraordinary heroes out of ordinary friends. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor of Thieves takes the idea of game play and story-bending to a whole new fantasy level, and invites you to laugh along.

Chris Pine stars as Edgan (brilliant casting) and sets the campy tone for the upcoming adventures. Michelle Rodriguez is his partner in crime, Holga, a brutish warrior with a soft side that nurtures a true friendship. We first meet them in their prison cell and we quickly take their side, rooting for their escape.

The pair are trying to plot and plan how to reunite with Edgan’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman). They recruit a team of old friends to battle their way to victory against Forge (Hugh Grant). The team includes Simon, (Justice Smith), an amateur sorcerer with imposter syndrome and a shape-shifting faery named Sofina (Daisy Head). Let’s not forget Regé-Jean Page who swoops in as Xenk with the same sultry heroics he sweated to in Bridgerton. And he does it hiliarously, without excuse.

This is exactly the kind of movie to see when you’re craving popcorn! Lots of fun, laughs, and action. There is even a heartwarming story underneath it all. The graphics are fantastic, the comedy hits at perfect pacing, and the collaborative team of (first-name only) misfits will have you cheering. A great escape


AIR brings Ben Affleck and Matt Damon back together to tell the story of how Michael Jordan and Nike became synonymous and changed sports marketing forever.

Affleck plays Nike’s passionate CEO Phil Knight, and he directs this character-driven story brilliantly. Damon is Sonny Vaccaro, a sort of basketball savant who scouts athletes for partnerships with Nike. The two have a unique relationship, almost too casual for a business, but it allows Sonny to bring his biggest gamble to the table when he believes he sees something beyond special in Michael Jordan.

It’s a classic story, taking a risk that no one thinks is possible, being the underdog (vs. Converse and Adidas at the time), and betting on a dream. What makes it work, especially when we already know the outcome? I think it’s a combination of things. The fast-paced writing (Alex Convery) and the delivery of this script by an A+ cast is up front. Characters are fully developed. Add to that Affleck’s directing and creating tension, awe, and heart in just the right places.

There are especially notable performances from Chris Tucker (Howard White) and Chris Messina (David Falk). White offers some interesting groundwork on the business while Sonny struggles with a kind of “what are we doing here” discussion. He is conversational and animated. Falk plays Jordan’s agent and he goes OFF on a phone tirade with Sonny with some spectacular colorful language. I would love to see the outtakes of that scene, and I’d gamble that it was a lot of improv. Also important, Marlon Wayans (George Raveling) has a pivotal yet small scene that kind of sits with you as you leave the theater.

Jason Bateman plays the client marketing guru Strasser, and fits in naturally with his perfect comedic timing. It allowed me to forgive a particularly uncomfortable bathroom scene. Do guys talk shit when they shit? I don’t know, nor do I care to see it. Matthew Maher is exciting to watch as Nike Creative Director Peter Moore. I can imagine the warm glow of his light board has stories to tell.

Viola Davis as Michael Jordan’s mother Deloris is stunning, smart, astute, and just takes your breath away while you watch her perform. She is a queen with so much reserved strength in her eyes. She becomes Deloris. Full respect.

Steeped heavily in pop culture and 80’s nostalgia with a ridiculous amount of needle drops, AIR is like a mixtape I’d give my kids to share a soundtrack to my teen years. I counted 13 songs, and that was after I realized I should start counting them. They aren’t subtle or creative, the lyrics often trying to explain the scene. Having so many of them just makes them feel flat and meaningless.

I worked in sports marketing in the nineties, so this brought back a lot of memories for me. However, I honestly had no idea that this relationship was the one that changed everything. I mean it’s obvious that it has been lucrative to partner with athletes, but learning that the structure of offers and deals is really owed to this AIR Jordan moment in time is pretty cool.