SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
Coming to theatres this Friday with break-neck speed from director Jeff Fowler and Paramount Pictures comes a new meaning to the word fast provided by SONIC THE HEDGEHOG.
Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) is the local law in their small town where nothing really happens. When a letter arrives offering him a job in San Francisco, wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) believes he will finally be happy with the life change. When she goes off to San Fran to look for a place to live, Tom is back on duty trying to figure out how to tell everyone.
In the surrounding forest lives Sonic (Ben Schwartz), a blue alien who knows everything about Tom and pretty much everyone else. Trying to stay under the radar, imagine the surprise when a disturbing town power outage brings Sonic face-to-face with Tom! The rather unusual event also catches the attention of Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) who isn’t about to let anything stop him from discovering the truth.
Using his uber technology, Robotnik finds himself at Tom’s doorstep and the two make it plain what their intentions are. Robotnik wants the fast-blue alien and Tom wants to protect Sonic from anyone getting their hands on hurting him. Making a run for it, it becomes clear that Sonic has to leave Earth but the only way to do that is by the pouch of rings that accidentally got sent to the top of a building in San Francisco.
It’s time for them to take a road trip and what happens along the way brings about learning for them both including a little fun. But they are always looking behind them to see how close the relentless Dr. Robotnik is because he isn’t at all about having fun – he’s about being in control.
Tom and Sonic have a few tricks up their sleeve to give their nemesis something to think about!
Marsden as Tom is a small-town sheriff who doesn’t realize what kind of life that truly is. Meeting Sonic isn’t just about protecting an alien, their time together really gives him an opportunity to see the world in a different way – through Sonic’s eyes. Marsden is charming, sweet and patient (not sure I could be THAT patient) and doesn’t scare easily. Watching Marsden take on Robotnik is entertaining but then again, his whole character is.
Schwartz as the voice of Sonic is fast talking and fast on his feet. Most of us know the character of Sonic but don’t hear him in the video games (yes, I play video games!) so finally hearing him speak in the film is fun, silly (as my granddaughter says) and full of spunk and excitement.
Carrey as Dr. Robotnik is nothing short of stunning, hilarious and everything my family and I wanted to see. Having seen a sneak peek last year presented by Carrey himself, no one was going to tell me if the film was good, bad or indifferent – I was going to see it! This is a comic who has always made me and daughter Jenise laugh and that is saying something. From the very first we knew there was something unique about his humor and special about his ability to use facial expressions and timing. As Robotnik I laughed at his cutting (and admittedly sometimes adult humor) and now can’t imagine anybody else playing Robotnik (or Egg-man as the granddaughter prefers to call him).
Sumpter as wife Maddie is the calm in the middle of the Sonic Storm. She supports whatever Tom wants to do but when she sees Sonic, the extra calm kicks in because she isn’t going to move from her spot until her questions are answered. Melody Niemann as JoJo is absolutely adorable and the reason behind one of Sonics iconic accessories. Shout out to Natasha Rothwell as Maddie’s sister Rachel because she is hilarious. Not exactly thrilled that her sister is married to Tom, she doesn’t miss an opportunity to throw her two cents in which is thrown back when Sonic is near!
Other cast include Tom Butler as Commander Walters, Frank Turner as Crazy Carl, Elfina Luk as Secretary of Homeland Security, Adam Pally as Billy Robb, Lee Majdoub as Agent Stone and Neal McDonough as Major Bennington.
Let me get this out of the way and move on, I am thrilled that they made the changes to Sonic as now he feels and looks more like the character as I thought he should look. He is edgy, really blue and, well, fast! Also, this is going to be a strictly liking the film or it not being on your film radar, it’s a simple as that.
Now, I taught my granddaughter to play the original Sega Sonic the Hedgehog and she picked up on it quick and learned all the characters without me saying a word! Now, she has her sonic pajamas, socks, stuffed doll and the most awesome sunglasses. It is hard to believe that my first experience with Sonic was a game played back in in 1991 taught to me by my sons. The following Christmas they got me a Sega system to play the games and – are you ready for this? – I still have it and it still works (are you reading this Sega?).
So, to go see the film with my family was beyond fun, it was a great day at the theatre. Look, this isn’t rocket science, it is just an escape to the movies for families that want to do something fun together. The adults are going to be brought back to a pretty cool time in their then young lives and the kids are going to giggle at all the antics Sonic provides.
It is the reason we go to the movies as a family, there is something for everyone and with a run time of 99 minutes there isn’t a second of non-stop action. There are just silly laughs and a good time with the family.
In the end – when the world needs a hero…think fast!
THE ASSISTANT Opens the Door of Secrets
In theatres from writer/director Kitty Green and Bleeker Street comes a story of the grind and secrets of being nothing more than THE ASSISTANT.
Jane (Julia Garner) is a young graduate who finds a position as an assistant in a film company. Daily her life is a series of motions from the darkness of morning until the darkness of night. Doing everything that is asked of her, Jane continually finds herself on the edge as the other assistants try to throw her a lifeline.
Her biggest problem is noticing the little things that go on in the office including the behaviors of the executives regarding women. Keeping her head down and taking on some of the more disgusting tasks, Jane takes the initiative to speak to Wilcock (Matthew Macfadyen) in HR about what is happening. Almost immediately she is belittled and all but told to do her job and mind her place.
When another young woman is brought into the office, Jane doesn’t need anyone to tell her that she isn’t there for the same reasons Jane is. That’s when she must decide if this is the life she wants for a career producing or is it time to walk away.
This is not the Hollywood she thought.
Garner as Jane is a mild young woman who sees her future in the torment of her job. Coming in early mornings and going home late with the madness in between is the only way she sees moving forward. This actress gives it all she has and yet her face manages to present itself in such a way as to not show any emotion to her credit. I couldn’t have done the role because I’d be screaming to much!
Macfadyen as Wilcock (aptly named if you ask me) is nothing short of every woman’s nightmare in that he patiently listens to Jane, repeats back to her what she says and then managed to shred every concern she has without ever raising his voice. The whole time this character has a look of someone you’d trust while sharpening his claws under the desk where you can’t see it coming.
The other roles are small to be sure but powerful nonetheless as it points to everyone knowing a thing but pretending it doesn’t matter in the everyone-for-themselves mentality.
Other cast include Makenzie Leigh as Ruby, Kristine Froseth as Sienna, Juliana Canfield as Sasha, Alexander Chaplin as Max, Dagmara Dominczyk as Elle, Lou Martini Jr. as John and Liz Wisan as Edwina.
THE ASSISTANT reminds me of the film SWIMMING WITH SHARKS but a woman. The cut-throat, turning away of the business brings out the shady attitude of everyone concerned. Even Jane’s co-workers are all about the apology emails and letting the boss know ‘it will never happen again’.
I have to admit that I was disgusted that she had to even write the e-mails, but I think the scene in the office with her scrubbing the furniture was my breaking point. We all, whether we admit it or not, have done things in our jobs that no one would believe but in Jane’s case it is all much to much which is the purpose of the film. Bringing out such a reaction from me is saying something as I found myself talking to the screen and Jane a lot during the film.
The film doesn’t hide behind the glitz and glamor of Hollywood but instead portrays the raw underbelly of secrets and deceptions and those who pay. I watched this character follow her dreams only to discover that it’s a nightmare to get there.
THE ASSISTANT won the Truly Moving Picture Award from Heartland Film this year for writer/director Green and Bleecker Street Media. It was also nominated for Best Film by the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
In the end – its what is not said that says everything!
RICHARD JEWELL is a Lesson in Being a Hero
Coming soon to theatres from director Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. is the story of a man who sees the world better than he is treated and his name is RICHARD JEWELL.
Richard (Paul Walter Hauser) is a very polite southerner who meets lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) working for a firm delivering mail. Preparing to move on to a security job, Richard makes sure to say goodbye to Watson. As a university security, it doesn't go well and once again he has to move on to another job. The one person standing by him is mom Bobi (Kathy Bates) knowing her son believes in law enforcement.
The opportunity comes for Richard to work security at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia's Centennial Park. Taking his job serious, he is polite to everyone and even makes himself indispensable to on-sight law enforcement. His job also has its perks taking Mom to a concert in the park. Someone who isn't happy about the Olympics assignment is FBI Agent Tom Shaw (John Hamm) and partner Dan Bennet (Ian Gomez).
Each day Richard is ready and stays alert to everything around him. One evening he has to stop a group of young kids from throwing bottles against a media tower and notices a backpack. Alerting authorities they at first don't seem worried, but after closer inspection everyone leaps into action to get people away - including Richard.
When the bomb explodes, the contents flies into the crowd and people fall everywhere. A stunned Richard tries to do what he can to help those who are hurt. The mayhem is emotional for everyone and when Richard returns home to a grateful Mom, he can't believe what has happened. Quickly the media hails him a hero and the attention makes Richard a tad uncomfortable but still very polite.
The FBI immediately jump on the case and start investigating everyone who was at Centennial Park and one name that pops up is Richard Jewell. Trying to get a scoop on the story if Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who turns to Shaw for information and runs with it. Immediately Richard goes from being hailed as a hero to a villain.
Richard calls Watson Bryant at first to look over a contract but quickly needs much more help. Watson's secretary Nadya (Nina Arianda) informs him that Richard is being looked at as a suspect in the bombing. Both Richard and mom Bobi are being emotionally torn apart with the things being said, the constant attack by the media and the life altering harassing by the FBI.
Yet Richard remains respectful until Watson reminds him that standing up for himself is just as respectful.
Hauser as Jewell is just that - a jewel! His portrayal of Richard is a combination of so many things from a very caring person who notices people to being a little over zealous wanting to be part of the law enforcement community to a son who will not tolerate anyone making his mother cry. From the moment of the bombing all he wants to do is help find the person responsible and in that lies Hauser's stunning performance. Raised to be respectful, he knows that he is not everyone's cup of tea but it doesn't change how he treats them and Hauser portrayal gives Richard a depth that just tore at my heart.
Rockwell as Bryant is the loud to Richard's soft feelings about what is happening around them. Not understanding how Richard can continue to be loyal to law enforcement that are trying to sacrifice him is stunning to Rockwell's character. Keeping his client under control proves to be a challenge as well but one that has moments of smiles and even, dare I say, giggles. Knowing Richard to be an acquired taste, Rockwell's Bryant can't help but see what we as the audience sees. I am confessing here and now that I adore Rockwell and even more so in this film.
Bates as Mom Bobi is a simple woman who keeps her life tidy and believes one hundred percent in her son. So proud of him for saving lives after the bombing, she doesn't understand how and why the vilification of her son can possibly be happening. What I love about Bates in this role is that at no time does her portrayal of Bobi fail to believe in her son and she is everything believable.
Wilde as Scruggs is just a reporter who from the moment she steps on screen is someone I wanted to just shake because of the tactics used to get her story. She is a very outward character in her mannerisms and behavior to the point that the audience in the theatre had, and I quote from the woman next to me, "just about enough of that woman!". I can't remember the last time I heard that from someone in the audience. Hamm as Shaw has issues of his own and the grumblings of being at the Olympics turns bad quickly. Seeing the result of the bombing puts him on an all-out idea that he will capture the bomber. The problem is his tactics along with those he works with at the FBI letting everything get out of hand. Hamm makes an awesome good guy and an equally awesome not so good guy.
Gomez as Bennet is just as guilty for the tactics against Richard as Shaw and what was so irritating is that neither of these men seen to have any guilt for it all. You know you've done a good job in your role when everyone wants to scream at you so well done. Arianda as Nadya is such a good person seeing exactly what Bobi, Bryant and the audience sees about Richard Jewell and she is a no nonsense character as well.
RICHARD JEWELL is absolutely one hundred percent a Clint Eastwood film. This actor/director takes stories of everyday people and put them on screen in such a way that we become a cheering squad by the end of the story. There is certainly nothing wrong with that to my way of thinking. What I truly enjoyed about this film is that Hauser's portrayal of Jewell is so uncanny and so endearing. It would be easy to just play up the stereotypical southern boy instead of a man who was raised to believe in the good of people and the respect of those who know might know more, including law enforcement.
The film also forces us all to realize that, as Rockwell's character says, we are confronted by the two most powerful forces in the world - the U.S. government and the media. That was said in 1996 without even realizing that statement would predict the future in many ways. Ruining a life in 1996 with print is one thing, if the same thing happened to Jewell today it would have been incredible worse and more dangerous than even I want to think about.
The last half hour of the film is one for a box of Kleenex as the story finally confronts all of what happened that evening in 1996 and how two men became even closer friends and a mom never stopped believing in her son.
In the end - the world will know his name and the truth!
THE LAST FULL MEASURE is Stunning
Coming to theatres from director writer/director Todd Robinson and Roadside Attractions comes a film that answers the question of 'is it ever to late to do the right thing?' with the story that takes THE LAST FULL MEASURE.
Now, here is where I usually tell the story and the actors who portray them but this time I'm going to do something a little different. On April 11, 1966, a very young Air Force Pararescuer A1C William H. Pitsenbarger was sent to retrieve Army soldiers wounded in an ongoing ambush.
Needing help loading the wounded men on the ground, Pitsenbarger volunteered to go down to help the men who he did not even know. Under intense fire, the helicopter needed to leave and Pitsenbarger stayed. For almost two hours he tended to the wounded and even helped with munitions for the soldiers still in the fight.
There were men that day who survived the battle of Abilene witnessing all of what Pitsenbarger did to save as many as he could.
Now, here we are, in January of 2020, fifty-four years later hearing the story of Pitsenbarger because there were men that day who believed this young man deserved a Medal of Honor and was denied and why?
That is what the film THE LAST FULL MEASURE is about. Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan) is a young politician who needs to find another position with a new administration coming in. Politician Whit Peters (Linus Roache) and handler Carlton Stanton (Bradley Whitford) present Huffman with letters about how A1C Pitsenbarger was supposed to get the Medal of Honor but instead only received a Air Force Cross.
Wanting answers is Tulley (William Hurt) a palliative care worker who knows the family including father Frank (Christopher Plummer) and mother Alice (Diane Ladd). Irritated that he has to be bothered with this when he's trying to find another White House position, Huffman begrudgingly starts looking for witnesses that include Ray Mott (Ed Harris), Jimmy Burr (Peter Fonda), Takoda (Samuel L. Jackson) and Kepper (John Savage).
Each of these men are suffering from different forms and severity of PTSD are suffering from different forms and severity of PT and bringing up what happened on April 11, 1966 is physically and mentally painful. These men had a story to tell but trusting all the information to Huffman proves to be his challenge.
Finally, the truth is uncovered and it becomes time to bring it all to the forefront so that A1C William H. Pitsenbarger is not only honored for what he did, but for those who fought for that recognition and the lives he touched from one act of valor.
Stan as Huffman couldn't have found a better role to play because it is nothing like I've ever seen him play. He gets a chance to show what he can do (without a suit) in bringing this character to fruition. Thinking only of his possibilities in the White House, it slowly becomes clear that his priorities might be a little skewed.
Hurt as Tulley is the first force to be reckoned with as it becomes clear that he feels a sense of something about that day. He wants to bring honor to Pitsenbarger for the sake of his lovely parents. Jackson as Takoda is a man of few useless words and he don't take kindly to outsiders invading his personal space but does explain that he had been trying for years to make the medal happen.
Fonda as Billy (and it is a loving moment to see him on the screen) is a man tortured beyond reason because of his Vietnam experience. His wife Donna played by stellar actress Amy Madigan, explains to Huffman that the night holds nothing but fear for her husband.
Harris as Mott is a man who carries his own guilt about what happened and the aftermath. Like his Army buddies, he is not happy to be talking to Huffman but if it gets Pitsenbarger what he deserves then perhaps it’s time.
Whitford as Stanton gets a chance to be back in the White House and douchey at the same time. The one thing you can say about Whitford, he is good at being good and seriously bad at being seriously bad. Hurt as Keppel is a man who lives in Vietnam and tries to help his fellow servicemen. When Huffman visits him there are so many moments of pain and joy it is a scene you have you experience for yourself.
Finally, to Jeremy Irvine who portrays Pitsenbarger - you sir gave a performance that choked me. Every time he was on screen, I just saw such a young man doing the extraordinary. Please don't get me wrong, I know all soldiers do the extraordinary because I know I couldn't. I'm giving Irvine a backslap for giving us the feel for this soldier at this era.
Other cast include Alison Sudol as Tara Huffman, Cody Walker as Young Kepper, Ser'Darius Blain as Young Takoda, James Jagger as Young Jimmy Burr, Travis Wade as Lt. Tom Allison.
Is this a vague description of the film? Absolutely. I wasn't sure what I would be seeing when presented with the opportunity to see THE LAST FULL MEASURE, but I can tell you this, my heart ached the entire film.
We live in a world that still doesn't seem to understand what war does to the men and women who fight in them. Vietnam was the first opportunity that family and friends experienced the effects when loved ones returned totally different. Psychological help wasn't a priority then so as the years passed, so did the concern for the soldiers.
Hollywood scratched at it a few times with such films as FULL MENTAL JACKET, DEERHUNTER, PLATOON, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, and FULL METAL JACKET but didn't seem to pierce the wall to those who could make change.
Here we are with Afghanistan and Iraq with soldiers returning to the same mess created by war. Sending perfectly capable individuals on to be returned people in physical and mental pain. So THE LAST FULL MEASURE doesn't hide the PTSD that these men continue to suffer and the character of Huffman can't run from it any longer either.
This is our history folks, one that is repeated time and time again with every war started. Am I saying we should protect ourselves, absolutely not - but we need to be sure that it is a last resort not a first stone cast.
Now, to Pitsenberger's story - it is the mixture of men agonizing over decisions made and people not being held accountable for their actions. The film doesn't let any of it slide away into oblivion but instead faces it, just as the soldier’s family and friends have faced it every day since. The soldiers that were there that day come face to face with it and this film gives us the chance to embrace them even if we can't' break through the screen and hug them.
The cast is absolutely amazing and there is no one that takes the screen away from another. They, well, meld together to support one another's character because they want to bring the message to us - never be afraid to do what's right just as Pitsenbarger did.
Please let that be the very thing everyone takes away from seeing THE LAST FULL MEASURE.
I truly believe it is important that each person that sees the film remembers exactly what the citation reads, so, it you will indulge me. The citation reads, "The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1963 has awarded in the name of the Congress the Medal of Honor posthumously to: A1C William H. Pitsenbarger, United States Air Force for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty near Cam My, April 11, 1966".
In the end - he gave the very last full measure.
DOLITTLE Brings Charm to the Big Screen
Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Stephen Gaghan and Universal Pictures is the story of animals who live with none other than DOLITTLE.
Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey, Jr.) began as a doctor who has the unique ability to speak with animals. Known far and wide, even the Queen called upon him to help with her animals. In gratitude Dolittle is given an estate to continue his work with animals and given them shelter.
When tragedy strikes the good doctor, he closes the gates to everyone and becomes secluded from the world. That is until meeting the young Tommy (Harry Collett) who discovers a squirrel that needs a doctor! It is the flying parrot Polly (voiced by Emma Thompson) who leads the lad to Dolittle's door.
At the same time, the young Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) is sent to Dolittle on behest of Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) to come to the palace and help the monarch. Quickly is snapped back to his self by all the animals who know that he needs to do what's right. Visiting the Queen he is met by Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent) and the nefarious Dr. Blair Mudfly.
It seems a plot is in the works against the Queen and only Dolittle knows how to stop it. The mysterious illness that has taken the Queen has a cure and Dolittle knows where it can be found.
Taking along Tommy, their journey begins with a ship full of animals and a mission - to save the Queen.
Downey, Jr. as Dolittle is perfect casting with his unique ability to be quirky and humorous in his own way. It could also be that I'm happy to see him on the big screen again taking on a role that is lighthearted and warm in character. Downey, Jr. has a flair to entertain an audience, so much so that I can easy overlook the mushiness of his accent.
Collett as Tommy is a young man unlike the rest of his hunting family. He sees the grace in loving animals and once meeting Dolittle, knows his path in life. The adventure is just a bonus! Collett is charming and fun to watch alongside Downey, Jr. and that makes for wonderful storytelling.
Sheen as Mudfly has become good at being bad. This time he is able to add a little slap stick comedy to his role but never go against Downey, Jr.! Broadbent as Badgley is supposed to be taking care of the Queen but is he?
Laniado as Lady Rose is sweet, elegant and wants to protect her Queen. A strong young woman who isn't afraid of much and that serves her well against both man and animal. The spark between herself and Tommy is very sweet as well.
The animal cast include: Rami Malek as Chee-Chee, John Cena as Yoshi, Kumail Nanjiani as Plimpton, Octavia Spencer as Dab-Dab, Tom Holland as Jip, Craig Robinson as Kevin, Ralph Fiennes as Barry, Selena Gomez as Betsy, Marion Cotillard as Tutu, Frances de la Tour as the Dragon and Jason Mantzoukas as James the Dragonfly.
Other cast include Kasia Smutniak as Lily Dolittle, Oliver Chris as Sir Gareth, Clive Francis, and Antonio Banderas as King Rassouli.
DOLITTLE is a charming fun adventure for the entire family. This is an introduction to Dolittle like we have not seen before and it does leave the door open in case Downey, Jr. wants to return. The audience was taken with the bounty of talking animals and all their own personalities and it did bring lots of laughs with side jokes.
The human cast is fun and ready to take on the journey which is unexpected and full of twists and turns. DOLITTLE is the reason families come to the movies together on a Saturday and escape into a magical world for a time and still talk about it after.
So, gather the entire family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - everybody!) and enjoy time together with the animals.
In the end - he's not just a people person!
1917 Brings the Realities of War
Coming to theatres from writer/director Sam Mendes and Universal Pictures comes the story of two young men who try and stop a fatal mistake of war in 1917.
In northern France, Lance Corporals Blake (Dean Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) are given one of the most dangerous missions. Learning that the Germans have retreated, the British 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment is preparing to attack. When it is discovered to be a trap, a message needs to be delivered to call it off.
Among the 1,600 men preparing is Blake’s brother so he volunteers to take a message to commander of the Battalion to stop. Schofield isn’t very happy about being a part of the mission but goes with his friend Blake.
Through trenches, explosions, dogfights, rigged bunkers and snipers in a destroyed village, the mission becomes even more crucial with ever step to save the soldiers who don’t know what is coming.
Bravery has no limits.
Chapman as Corp. Blake knows only one thing – he needs to stop the attack. Yes, it could be said his volunteering seemed motivated by family, but Chapman’s portrayal made me believe he would have done it no matter what or who.
Mackay as Schofield doesn’t start off with the same quality. Feeling forced to take on the mission, we as the viewing audience experience his change. He is still afraid but determined to finish what was started.
These two actors carry the weight of the story squarely on their shoulders. A difficult task in a film set to a harsh time in history and yet these two actors swoop us up for the experience without any fight from us.
1917 is a time of young men going to war with the basics of everything. Yes, there were weapons and crude by todays technological standards, so it is stunning people survived at all. Mendes makes sure we are fully aware of it in every frame from start to finish.
In telling this story, Mendes enlists the like of Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Daniel Mays, Billy Postlewaite, Andy Apollo and Mark Strong to complete the road this film takes us down.
1917 is a start to the senses with a continual tension line to the very end. It works beautifully and the proof is in the two Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director for Sam Mendes. That is all before the wide release this Friday. 1917 has won 48 awards with 154 nominations and all this before Oscar nominations have been announced.
Mendes edited the film to be one continual shot. “You don’t want an audience thinking how you shot the film, it’s a constant dance between character and landscape and you have to allow for constant movement and create a real experience.” The story is inspired by Mendez grandfather’s experience with “The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes: 1897-1991.”
1917 is heartfelt and heart stopping wrapped up in an intense story of sacrifice, bravery and the ugly reality that is war. It has everything that an epic war film should but add serious intensity and it will have viewers leaving the theatre talking about Oscars.
In the end – time is the enemy!
STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker Brings an End to an Era
Coming to theatres from director J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilms and Walt Disney Pictures Is the conclusion of a saga that began over 40 years ago with STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker.
It was 1977 At the Valley Circle theatre in San Diego with my bff and life sister Ellen that STAR WARS came into my life. The first time I saw the film I was transported into a world that I have embraced through the years. My summer was filled with weekly visits to the theatre so I could watch the storyline again and again.
Thus began my crush on Luke (Mark Hamill) that continues today in my much older and less cuter form. The early scene of the original STAR WARS where Luke is on the hill lamenting as the two suns of Tatooine are setting and the rise of emotion from John Williams music begins moved me. It moved me because I knew that look, I understood wanting to know what was out in the world waiting for me. I also saw the suns radiating on his face with a look that was the most handsomest I'd ever seen. Hey, I was 16!
Then, the buddy 'friendship' with Han (Harrison Ford) that always made me laugh with his antics or feeling protective anytime no one understood him. He was rough and tough yet I knew that he would never leave the two people that had become his friends by not judging to harshly the way he handled things. These two guys also showed me how pensive friendships can be brought together with the glue of a very tall and very hairy Wookie and to Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) I say a humble and grateful thank you.
My lesson to be a stronger person came from Princess Leia to whom I continue to be eternally grateful on a daily basis. She was my first female role model who showed me courage, loyalty and laid the foundation of fighting for what is right no matter what is thrown at you. Fisher may not have known what she was accomplishing early on taking the role of Leia but I hope through the years she came to know there were thousands of girls who learned the same lessons I did.
Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) became the voice of reason for those of us watching Star Wars again and again in 1977. He kept us all level headed when we wanted to jump into the battle with Luke, Han and Leia. The calm explainer of the force and how it works, he introduced us all to 'use the force' as it became an iconic phrase that you'd have to be locked in a cave somewhere to not know. Trust me, tears fell when he allowed Vadar to swing that saber helping Luke and the gang to escape, something I never got over.
So here we are, in 2019 and I couldn't sleep Monday night knowing that I was hours away from seeing how this would all end. Don't expect spoilers because I would be furious if anyone told me anything before seeing the film (Remember Han Solo?) so I'm keeping it light and reminiscent.
On a remote planet, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is working with General Organa (Carrie Fisher) on earning Luke Skywalkers light saber but there seems to be a feeling stopping her. Resistance friends Poe (Oscar Isaac. Finn (John Boyega) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) are struggling to get back to Rey after retrieving what are the next step plans for the First Order. Also out in the galaxy is Supreme Leader of the First Order Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is knocking down anyone who gets in his way.
Now called the Final Order, it is Rey, Finn, Poe and all those who follow that must pull out all the stops to bring balance back to the force. Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant) knows how this is going to play out. There is one fiercely evil entity who is going to do his diabolical best to stop them all as secrets are revealed and choices are made!
There are others along the way who decide that it might be time to help and that includes Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell). There are those who have come before that let it be known they are with them all.
Yes, that's all you are going to get in the plot department! So let's move on to the characters who make their appearance in this final installment.
Ridley as Rey is still dealing with the unknown of her past. It is hard to let the force flow through you when there are those mushed up memories and a Supreme Leader who is constantly cutting into your thought process. Ridley has done everything asked of her in the three installments of the Star Wars saga she has been in. At times I wasn't always sure where she was taking this characters but clearly, now, it was on a path that I didn't even see coming.
Driver as Ben/Kylo Ren has been on quite a journey! He has pretty cool parents but chooses to follow the destructive path of grandpa Vadar. Even with that there is something that connects him to Rey as she tries to convince him to put down his very angry saber and be true to himself. That's hard to do when rage seems to be the only thing that motivates Ren. Driver has put every bit of that on the screen and when the moments where Ben shows through, this actor melts and takes everyone along with him.
Boyega as Finn has always seemed to be Rey's protector whether that was his intention or not. Being a former storm trooper, he has truly embraced his role as being part of the Resistance and constantly surprised where it has led him. Although his relationship with Poe hasn't always been the best, it is reminiscent of another galaxy duo who didn't start out on the best of terms.
Isaac as Poe continues to be reckless but there comes a moment where he has to decide what his place is in the Resistance. It turns out to be the most difficult decision he has ever made (and you will know when that hits him the hardest). Isaac's Poe is the comedy of the trio because of his casual nature and finding humor when he should be panicking.
Williams as Lando gets the chance to once again fly the Millennium Falcon with Chewy at his side. He knows that the new trio faces the same tribulations and he has one last chance to do right by Leia and help in any way he can. Lando was a wild card before and trust me when I say he doesn't disappoint now either.
This is where I get a little choked up - when Carrie Fisher as Leia comes up on the screen I am overcome with a wave of intense emotion. There couldn't have been a finale without her and I am happy to take it in any form. It is even more difficult to watch Gen. Organa make a motherly choice which is something her character didn't have a chance to do before. Yes, more quiet tears dropped but Princess Leia will always be a part of this writers life.
Other cast include everyone who could get in the film with Philicia Saunders as Tabala Zo, Simon Day as General Engell, Amir El-Masry as Commander Trach, Denis Lawson as Wedge Antiles, Naomi Ackie as Jannah, Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kannan Jarus, Dominic Monaghan as Beaumont Kin, Billie Lourd as Lieutenant Connix and Domnhall Gleeson as General Hux.
Also Jimmy Vee as R2-D2 who always had my heart as well as a humor of squeaks and blips that have always been totally understandable, and the amazing Anthony Daniels as C-3PO who always managed to be properly annoying but in such a way that I personally would never want to be without him.
Look, I'm just going to throw it out there. Not everyone will be happy with how Abrams brings this 9 film saga to its conclusion and personally - I don't care about the not-happy people and here's why. STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker is being seen by me in a way that is part of my being. I don't think all the Star Wars films were successful and I don't hide my feelings about it but I still embrace it as part of the storyline that began in 1977.
Not everything in life is going to be wrapped up neatly to please every person (I mean seriously, the Game of Thrones finale almost threw people into fits!) and that's okay. Not being neat means we all have something to talk about and share after seeing the film. We get to reminisce about more than one film, about more than one theory and about more than one character. That's what Star Wars has done for us, it has kept the conversation going longer than any other films (maybe Harry Potter gets to be part of the club in its own way).
I hope that everyone who goes remembers that the experience is yours, each unique, each with its own memories and each with its own chance to say the words - goodbye friends! Yes there are already stories like The Mandalorian (big fan by the way) giving us a new world but I'm speaking of the story that began with Luke, Leia, Chewy, C3PO, R2D2 and Obi-Wan.
It is time to say good-bye to seeing them on the big screen again, good-bye to the excitement of waiting for the first showing and good-bye to that part of my life that I've always held so cherished. Oh I won't be removing Yoda and Darth from my desk any time soon, but instead of giggling with anticipation for the next story installment, I will smile at them for sharing the last forty two years of my life in such an impactful way. I saw these characters through 16 year-old eyes from 1977 to 2019 and that is pretty cool to my way of thinking.
So prepare yourself and just enjoy the ride - there isn't a tub of popcorn big enough for what's to come and look for me in the seat next to you because I'll be there again and again and again because that's how I started and that's how it's going to finish.
In the end - it started in a galaxy far, far away!
UNDERWATER Brings Tension in the Ocean’s Depths
Coming to theatres this Friday from director William Eubank and 20th Century Fox comes the depths of the Mariana Trench and what is truly UNDERWATER.
Deep below the depths is a research laboratory platform that in a minute becomes a potential watery grave. Mechanical Engineer Norah (Kristen Stewart) is the first to notice the leaking vessel as the walls begin to close in and wetter rushes in. Trying to alert the crew, she finds Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie) as they look for the safest place to be.
Making their way they find crew mate Paul (T.J. Miller), Emily (Jessica Henwick), Smith (John Gallagher Jr.) and Lee (Gunner Wright) as well as the Captain (Vincent Cassel). Knowing they have no choice but to leave the platform, the Captain decides the best route is to another platform and to go by walking!
Almost immediately there is a sense that something is down in the depths with them. The shadows come closer and closer until the creatures reveal themselves. Their goal is to take out the humans and the human’s goal is to get to the other platform alive.
Norah knows how to work the mechanics to try and keep their oxygen packs working and as the group is taken down one by one, she is more determined than ever to get to the surface!
What is down in the depths with them is nothing anyone has ever seen before.
Stewart as Norah doesn’t waste a moment jumping into action. Practically from the beginning of the film the action kicks in and so does Stewart. She thinks fast on her feet (considering what is under her feet is quickly turning to water) and is doing everything to keep her wits. This isn’t a role that will make or break Stewart, but it is a role that is pretty strong, and I don’t mind that.
Cassel as the Captain knows the only way out is through the murky waters and doing it walking in very heavy suits. Having the chance to get out while the getting was good, the Captain wants everyone to get out. I love Cassel because he is so diverse in every role he has played and can get flamboyant or subtle, but his presence is palpable.
Henwick as Emily is a young woman who isn’t having an easy time accepting what is happening and what is going to happen. She has a nervous talk and covers a wide range of subjects in a short period of time one minute and can hold a conversation with herself the next. Then again, I’m not sure how any of us would react in that situation!
Miller is the winner of the film and he is hilarious which is the tension breaker in a film loaded with it. His one-liners and need for a bunny gave us all the chance to laugh off the intensity of the story. I just love any time he’s on screen because I never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. Gallagher Jr. and Wright get a chance to run for their lives as well and once the creature is exposed, its just run or be food.
UNDERWATER is a mixture of genre films like ALIENS, THE ABYSS and the like but you know what – I’m good with that. I understand that January isn’t the month for big time releases which might play well for the film. UNDERWATER is an intense, humorous (thanks to Miller) and seat jumping story that doesn’t require a lot from the audience. I know that sounds a bit snarky but I don’t mean it that way at all.
There is something awesome about the holidays being over and needing a film that just lets you sit back with a tub of popcorn and have a good time. I don’t know anyone that didn’t have a jump for five or six thanks to a creature that is just too creepy to be on land. Instead, there is a right amount of everything in UNDERWATER.
So load up family and friends to hit the theatre for an experience of thrills and watery chills because it’s a great way to start the new year!
In the end – seven miles below the ocean surface something has awakened!
Nothing Prepared Them for the BOMBSHELL
Coming to theatres from director Jay Roach and Lionsgate comes an explosive story about women and a power they fought against when preparing for the BOMBSHELL.
On the Fox News channel, women like Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Megan Kelly (Charlize Theron) are making a name for themselves. Seeing it for herself is incoming wanna-be Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) who is one of the producers for Carlson's show and wants more. So much so that Kayla takes a position with Bill O'Reilly which infuriates Carlson.
Luring above all the newsrooms is Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) who made Fox News a sensation and runs a tight ship with the okay from Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell). No one dare challenge Ailes as he made is very clear that he could make or break a career. That is what Carlson faced when she begins to suspect that her news days on air are numbered. Seeing legal counsel before that happens, she is told that going directly for Ailes instead of the company would be her best option.
At Kayla's new position she meets producer Jess Carr (Kate McKinnon) and the two quickly become friends. One day Kayla takes it upon herself to make her way up to Ailes office to introduce herself. Accepting the meeting, Ailes begins calming talking to her about what it is she wants. Once the politeness is done, Ailes claims he needs to get a closer look at Kayla since television is a "visual medium". She leaves his office knowing what transpired was frightening.
Once out and the Carlson sexual harassment lawsuit filed, Kelly must come to terms with what she knows, but she isn't the only one. One woman after another comes forward while Kelly remains silent. Telling her husband what is happening doesn't help her decision on what to do next easier. Kayla also keeps her head down and avoids Ailes office as much as she can but Carr notices something is wrong.
Trying to coax people to help, Ailes wife Beth (Connie Britton) wonders why Kelly isn't coming out in support of the man who gave her a career. Ailes vehemently denies the accusations against him and cannot fathom why the women would say such things. The bigger the story gets, people begin to take sides and finally Murdoch knows that a decision must be made to safe what is left of Fox News.
Standing together the women realize there is safety in numbers.
Theron as Kelly is ridiculously scary because after a minute of watching her on screen I forgot that I was watching Theron. Her movements and speech are spectacular to the point of being brought into the story with ease. Theron has always been a consummate actress in my book and I have never really found fault in anything she has done but let me say in this film just absolutely blew me away. From start to finish I was riveted by her performance and, although not a huge fan of Kelly herself, do have a healthy dose of respect for her. She can thank Theron for that anytime.
Kidman as Carlson is a woman who sees the writing on the wall knowing it comes directly from Ailes and his eyes ever watching his news kingdom. The smartest thing for me was her knowing it was coming and did whatever she could to make sure things were 'documented'. I mean really, did Ailes truly believe he was untouchable? I don't comprehend that thinking except to chalk it up to an old school mentality where it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Kidman gives Carlson stealth and determination in a world that Ailes seem to feel was a gift he gave her with a stipulation of silence.
Robbie as Kayla is a young woman on the move and doesn't think too much before changing lanes. It seemed that all this character wanted to do was get to the top fast and try not to leave to many high heel marks on the backs of others. Idolizing Carlson and even Kelly, the character of Kayla doesn't seem to have the maturity to handle what is about to happen to her.
McKinnon as Carr is a woman who is hiding who she is because she wants to keep her job. Knowing the environment around her isn't kind to everyone, McKinnon brings her own hurting brevity to this character and it makes a hard point. Britton as Beth holds fast to her husband innocence even though I have a gut feeling she knows he's not so innocent trusting in the 'that's just who he is' line of defense.
Now let's talk about Lithgow as Ailes because his performance is just so disturbing. Thinking that he should get an award for his portrayal it set my mind ablaze thinking 'how do you give an award to someone for doing a stellar job without once again giving Ailes airtime'. I know, it's making a mountain out of a mole hill but - is it? Anyway, Lithgow is riveting, yucky and portraying a man who used his powers in the most unspeakable of ways. This performance is just…wow!
Shout out to Allison Janney as Susan Estrich because she deserves a shout out. McDowell as Murdoch waltz's into a room and shows Ailes how it's done.
Other cast include Liv Hewson as Lily Balin, Brigette Lundy-Paine as Julia Clarke, Rob Delaney as Gil Norman, Stephen Root as Neil Mullen, Robin Weigert as Nancy Smith, Amy Landecker as Dianne Brandi and Mark Duplass as Doug Brunt.
BOMBSHELL is a film that gives a look inside the fall from Fox News grace of Roger Ailes definitely but more importantly, what it took for Carlson to take a stand. The film isn't shy about putting it right out there that Ailes had power of such magnitude that he managed to shut down these women for years and years while up in his tower.
I was impressed with Kidman, Theron and Robbie as the film addresses their story's individually and I think that's important. Ailes abuses started early and as he got bolder, so did his 'requests' of these women and he talk about them later. As what usually happens when a powerful man is confronted with his misdeeds (by almost everyone's standards), Ailes thinks he is above it all. That he barks and everyone cowers - well, Carlson decided to cower no more in 2016.
BOMBSHELL is definitely a film that needs to be seen and then discussed. Whether it all happened the way its portrayed on screen or not, it is a conversation that can stop even a hint of something like this from ever happening again. I don't care if these women were on Fox News and I'm not a fan of Fox News - no one and I mean no one deserves to live their lives with fear - in family or at a job.
In the end - based on a scandal that shook a new empire!
JUMANJI: The Next Level
Brings Another Adventure
Coming to theatres this week from writer/director Jake Kasdan and Columbia Pictures is the return for another adventure with JUMANJI: The Next Level.
It's the holidays and the gang makes plans to return to Nora's Diner for a bit of catching up. Bethany (Madison Iseman), Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) and Spencer (Alex Wolff). Actually, Spencer is finding any way to avoid getting together at home with Mom (Marin Hinkle) and Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) who is recovering from hip surgery.
The reason for seclusion is that Spencer and Martha have taken a break from their relationship and he's having a hard time. So much so that he goes into the basement and finds a certain video game and does the unthinkable. Grandpa Eddie is dealing with his own grumpiness when friend Milo (Danny Glover) comes to visit but Eddie isn't exactly having it.
When the gang can't reach Spencer, they head over to his house and meet Eddie and Milo and then hear a sound that stops them in their tracks. Running down to the basement, they realize that Spencer has jumped back into the game. The only thing to do is to go in after him, except this time there are a few changes they don't see coming.
In the game the basic rules are the same but the game has changed! It is more challenging and the players are a tad different. Martha (Karen Gillan) keeps her character but Eddie (Dwayne Johnson) has a much bigger stature, Bethany (Jack Black) is back and Milo is Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart). Confused yet? Well it gets better!
They begin searching for Spencer who is now Ming (Awkwafina) who is looking for a stone that will save the world but is being stopped by Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann). Getting it requires the help of Alex (Nick Jonas) who is happy to see everyone.
Now that all the players on in place, it's time to put Jurgen in his place and return the beloved and precious stone before dinner time!
Johnson as Eddie gets a chance to be even more comedic than before. It is even more hilarious when you realize he is doing his best Danny DeVito Eddie. His flexing, jumping and stare into the abyss is full on fun and we'd pretty much expect nothing less from him. DeVito as the grumpy Eddie isn't really into life and can't seem to find a moment to be happy about. Becoming the player Eddie is the most fun he's had in, well, forever.
Wolff as Spencer is having an early 20's crisis and the only thing he can think to do is go somewhere where he felt special. This is a young man who didn't think things through to well and when he shows up in the game as Ming, it’s a new character with new abilities. Awkwafina as Ming is hilarious as always and since her introduction to people in the film CRAZY RICH ASIANS, she has made a name for herself doing comedy but also can pull off true emotions when needed.
Hart as Milo doesn't understand what is happening except that he seems much more knowledgeable about language and animals. Hart doing Glover is probably the best I've seen and it just kept cracking me up. Glover as Milo wants to fix the friendship he has with Eddie and it's not as if the grumpy guy is going to make it easy.
Black as Fridge isn't happy about his less than perfect body and doesn't understand why he can't be the same character he was before. Black jumps into his role and I can see him playing any of them with ease. There is a scene with Martha that is pretty funny in the pool of change. Blain as Fridge is happy to see his friends but not so much when they have no choice but to return to the game to find Spencer.
Gillan as Martha is back in her shorts and a tank top making sure that she gets a chance to jump off things and flip around tree branches with ease. The comedy for her comes when trying to explain to Eddie and Milo that they are in a game and what the rules are. Iseman as Bethany is the monkey in the works and she has to turn to Alex (Colin Hanks) for help in a very brave way. Hanks as Alex has a small role but I'm always happy to see him.
Shout out to McCann as Jurgen the Brutal and I don't want to say that it’s a bit of type casting but lets through it out there and see if it sticks. As the Hound in Game of Thrones he was loud, had no problem swinging a sword and was a tad frightening, hmmmm…sounds like Jurgen the Brutal. Who cares! It's good to see him.
Other cast include Ashley Scott as Ashley, Rhys Darby as Nigel, Deobia Oparei as Gromm, Sarah Bennani as Andi Tow, Massi Furlan as Switchblade, Jared Hasmuk as Dagfin and Sal Longobardo as Tony.
JUMANJI: The Next Level is family fun and especially for those who love the idea of these actors in a video game. There is fun, humor, adventure and it's all wrapped up in the story of family, friendship, loyalty, acceptance and fighting off bad guys with your best friends. Of course I am a fan of the Robin Williams version of JUMANJI and will always see that as the standard but at the same time it is easy to see why this generation is having such fun at the theatre.
This version of the film has more characters than the 1995 JUMANJI and the comedy is sillier with Johnson and Hart at the helm. These two clearly share the same humor and their off screen friendship and Twitter 'war' adds to the charm of their film.
If you want to take a break from the crowds at the mall or the crowds pretty much anyway for the holidays and be taken away on a fun adventure, then JUMANI: The Next Level is the right film to see with the whole family. Make sure that bucket of popcorn is extra large!
In the end - it's the very next level!
CATS Sings and Dances onto the Big Screen
Coming to theatres for Christmas from director Tom Hooper and Warner Bros. is the Broadway hit story coming to screen with CATS.
Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is a cat who has been dumped by her owner into a dark alley where Jellicle cats are waiting to see what it wiggling in the bag. She meets magician Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) Who introduces her to a wide range of cats and informs her that she has come on a special night.
The oldest cat Deuteronomy (Dame Judy Dench) arrives to see cats perform for the honor of being chosen to rise up to Heaviside Layer and come back with a new life. In the running is Bustopher Jones (James Corden), Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo), Jennyandots (Rebel Wilson), Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild) and Gus the Theatre Cat (Ian McKellen) but it is Macavity (Idris Elba) who will do anything to be chosen. He also has help in the form of Bombalurina (Taylor Swift).
Watching all the events in the shadows is Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson) a once beautiful feline now trying to find her place in the world that hisses where they use to cheer. Victoria sees the world differently because she was abandoned but it is the cats she has met that show her another way of life.
Hayward As Victoria is very sweet and has serious dance moves but spends most of her time on screen with wide-eyed long pull away shots and cat lounging watching every other cat perform. She is a very beautiful cat and, as a cat owner, I'd be the first to scoop her up but in the film is basically a cat for other cats to spin around.
Dench as Old Deuteronomy Is a wise ole cat who is keenly aware of everything going on in the alley of cats. Watching each of the candidates perform is entertaining enough as she stretches in her sparkly cat-bed of honor. McKellen is very cute as a cat and his moment on stage was something I've never seen him do before so now I can check that off his list.
Elba as Mccavity gets a chance to be a bad guy in a cat suit but we already knew he could be a bad guy aka THE FAST AND FURIOUS: HOBBS & SHAW but now we know he can do it with fur and purr. Swift as Bombalurina Is an odd choice for a cat who likes spreading catnip like a fairy granting wishes. I have to say that her costume was odd because it seem to constantly change - please watch and tell me I'm seeing things.
Wilson as Jennyandots does what she usually does and that's pratfall and humor her way through a role but this time in a cat suit. The same can be said of Corden as fat cat Bustopher who seems more interested in digging through garbage than anything else.
Davidson as Mr. Mistofolees is everything and charming all wrapped up in an awesome hat. I truly enjoyed watching his character grow on screen. Derulo as Rum Tum is a confident cat who doesn't seem to mind letting everyone know what a cool-cat he is! Fairchild as Munkustrap has the fastest tapping paws while keeping time on the tracks.
Other cats include: Mette Towley as Cassandra, Larry Bourgeois as Plato, Daniela Norman as Demeter, Yasmin Harrison as Ensemble, Zizi Strallen as Tantomile, Melissa Madden-Gray as Griddlebone, Naoimh Morgan as Rumpleteazer, Laurent Bourgeois as Socrates, and Ray Winstone as Growltiger.
CATS did not thrill me and mainly because I just couldn't get into it. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of CATS but this version is a bit wonky at best. Let's just say some people shouldn't sing and others who I know can - seemed not to.
Now, the lesser known cast knocked it out of the park with their ensemble cat-ing, dancing and singing. I was more interested in their performances than the 'stars'. The set is dull and flat and didn't draw me in at all. In fact it was smaller things that kept my attention like the mice and the dancing roaches.
I didn't get that in this movie theatre with CATS. Instead, looking around the theatre I see people uncomfortable and not really happy with what was on the screen. There were people talking during the film (which always isn't a good sign) because I think the expectation was much higher than the film could provide.
In the end - only one can be chosen!
THE AERONAUTS Fly High
Coming to theatres from writer/director Tom Harper and Amazon Studios is a look at two people who are ready to take to the skies with THE AERONAUTS.
It is l862 and James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) is an obsessed meteorologist and has a theory about weather along with friend John Trew (Himesh Patel). Wanting to go up in a balloon to test out his theories, he needs to find a pilot. Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) is a widow after losing her husband in a balloon. Locking herself away from everyone, it is her sister Antonia (Phoebe Fox) that gets her back into life where she meets Glaisher.
He tells her of his ideas and she is the show-woman who can make the ride news worthy and a spectacle keeping everyone interested. Loading his instruments on the balloon basket, he waits for Amelia to show up and when she does the entertainment begins. Glaisher isn't the loud and shouting type and just wants to get off the ground secretly wanting to prove to his father that it can be done.
Almost immediately the two begin butting heads but it’s a long business ahead. With each mile they go up, they begin to learn something about one another. Glaisher almost immediately begins to make weather observations and sends messages to Trew by carrier pigeon. The caution to this is that the higher they go, the more danger awaits them.
Life and death decisions are being made as both try to hang on to the reason the journey was made in the first place. The struggle begins with not knowing what happens if you go just a bit higher, and then a bit more!
They are about to find out!
Redmayne as Glaisher is a scientist definetly stuck in his ways. He sees things very analytically and with a no nonsense approach. Trying to maintain his standards proves to be a challenge when he asks Wren to be his balloon pilot. Trying to focus on the journey, he is more often sidetracked in not truly understanding what he is undertaking but at least his notes are meticulous. Redmayne continues his streak of worthy roles and plays his part with believability.
Jones as Amelia is a woman who is hiding so much pain. An entertainer with a flair for show-womanship, she makes sure this flight is worthy of all eyes. Daring and, in Glaisher's eyes careless, she knows what the balloon can do and how to navigate the air. Of course all of this is covering up something horrible that has happened in her life and being 36,000 miles plus up in the air, she has no choice but to face it.
Patel as Trew sees what Glaisher is trying to do, he just isn't sure why he needs to jump in a balloon to do it. Happy to keep his feet firmly on the ground, Patel gives his character a little bit of grounded sense (because we all know not many of us would do it!). Fox as Antonia may not understand what it is her sister does, but she certainly supports it and her.
Other cast include: Tim McInnerny as Airy, Rebecca Front as Aunt Frances, Anne Reid as Ethel Glaisher, Lewin Lloyd as Charlie, Vincent Perez as Pierre Rennes, Robert Glenister as Ned Chambers, Thomas Arnold as Charles Green and Tom Courtenay as Arthur Glaisher.
THE AERONAUTS is a delightful and suspenseful ride of a film. This isn't the first time Redmayne and Jones have worked together so well. They starred together in the 2014 film THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING about physicist Stephen Hawking life. Redmayne played Hawking and Jones played wife Jane. Redmayne won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role and Jones was nominated for Best Actress.
All the more reason to put these two actors together again for this film. There is a distinct chemistry between them that absolutely works. They carry the storyline of two people in a balloon doing what most would consider impossible at the time and Glaisher's fellow scientists said just that.
The cinematography and special effects are stunning and definitely a third character in the film. The colors are vibrant and exceptional to watch as the story and balloon go further and further into detail and into the stratosphere.
Director Harper gives the film such intensity that it's easy to feel like we are all on the balloon as a silent witness to these characters journey. One particular scene where Glaisher and Wren are in a battle for the balloon to go no further had me holding the sides of my seat. As crazy as it might be to say during the film 'oh no don't do that', it is the daring and hating the word impossible that makes people take leaps of faith. These two couldn't have taken a larger leap if they tried.
In the end - in the air might be where you find yourself.
In theatres in time for the holidays from writer/director Rain Johnson and Lionsgate is a murder mystery that has more twists than a red vine with KNIVES OUT.
Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a very rich man who made his fortune writing crime novels. Having an 85th birthday party he invites friends and family over to celebrate. The next morning, Harlan is in his upstairs den when Fran (Edi Patterson) the housekeeper finds him dead! The family is brought together after his funeral as police officers Lt. Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield), Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) and the mysterious Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) have more questions.
The questioning begins with Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), Thrombey's oldest daughter, her husband Richard (Don Johnson), Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon), wife Donna (Riki Lindhome) and son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), daughter-in-law Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette) and daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), Greatnana Wanetta (K Callan) and finally Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) who was Harlan's nurse. The one person taking his time getting there is the Drysdale's son Ransom (Chris Evans).
As each of them are questioned, a story emerges once you get past the 'oh we all loved him' speeches. At the party, each of the family members had a conversation with Harlan that puts them in the category of suspect. While the police go on with their work, Blanc begins to ask more questions and start putting pieces together that, on the outside, seem to fit very well.
Blanc finds Marta to be the person who knows a lot about the family having spent so much time with Harlan. Since she also has a condition that makes her unable to lie, Marta is Blanc's best hope for finding more clues. When Harlan's attorney comes to read the will, chaos ensues when the family doesn't get what they are hoping for. Fingers begin to point and tongues begin to wag in a way that Blanc just sits back and listens.
But not everything is as it seems and not everyone is telling the truth - including who the mystery person is that hired Blanc from the beginning. When it comes time to reveal everything, the family is going to have to rethink their lives.
Then again, that's what happens when the knives are out!
Craig as Blanc is, what Ransom calls the 'CSI KFC'. He is a sleuth with a southern accent who has the uncanny ability to be patient. When the family is in the room together, he is the one just listening to the insults, the accusations and the mayhem because, as we all know, that's when truth has a tendency to show itself. I just love Craig's character from beginning to end. He has an opinion but doesn't always share it and when it comes time for the who-dun-it, his piecing together is fast, furious and hilarious.
De Armas as Marta knows just about everything there is to know about Harlan's family. She isn't just his nurse but became a friend because she believed he needed one. Watching the family all lose their minds, Marta tries to steer clear until it becomes impossible for her to do so. De Armas is such a strong character in the film filled with strong characters. Besides Blanc, Marta is the most likeable character in the film - well done young lady!
Curtis as Linda just drives me happy being on the screen. She is witty, quick and a smartass all rolled in one which is what I was hoping for. Don't let the manicured nails fool you, she has her own problems and Daddy is just one of them. Johnson as hubby Richard goes along to get along. Marrying into a rich family doesn't give him a lot of wiggle room but when cornered, he just throws a wad of money and hopes it goes away. Evans as son Ransom is a spoiled rotten little smart mouth who hasn't done a day's work in his life relying only on the good graces and large bank account of grandfather Hanlan. Ransom is handsome, charming and good looking which is okay every everybody in the audience!
Shannon as Walt is the nervously tall son who is frustrated with his father over their publishing business. His frustration grows when he doesn't know exactly where he stands or if he's out of a job! Then again his nervousness could be making him shaky just being in the room with his nutty family! Lindhome as Donna is a wife finding solace in a very large glass of something alcoholic! Martell as Jacob is a young man stuck in the world of technology and truly disinterested in the ravings of the adults around him.
Collette as Joni Thrombey only married into the family yet enjoys the financial benefits, especially with daughter Meg going to college on Grandpa's many dimes. Like Curtis, Collette is smart (well, sort of) and doesn't hesitate to throw sarcasm around with ease. There are looks she gives that just had me breaking out in laughter. Langford as daughter Meg is opinionated and has no fear of the family and their antics. When it comes time to take sides, she does slip a bit and has a moment of weakness.
Stanfield as Lt. Elliott is investigating Harlan's death believing it to be a suicide and just trying to wrap things up. When Blanc enters the picture, that wrapping up isn't exactly going to plan. Segan as Wagner is so infatuated with the case having to so with his favorite crime writer that he's just happy to be there!
Okay, kudos, hats off and cheers to Callan as Greatnana. She doesn't have a lot to say but her presence in the film is just icing on the mysterious cake.
Other cast include: Marlene Forte as Marta's mother, M. Emmet Walsh as Mr. Proofroc, Frank Oz as Alan Stevens.
DEATHTRAP (1982) and CLUE (1985) are two of my favorite sleuthing films and I will stop what I'm doing anytime I see them on cable and watch. To this day I still laugh as hard now as I did the very first time I saw each of them. I can finally add KNIVES OUT to that small list of who-dun-it's and I couldn't be happier about it.
The film just has absolutely everything and yet it's kept very simple in its telling. The wit that flies around the film at break neck speed is sheer perfection for someone like me who would have the same responses if a sleuthing thing with a family like the Thrombey's ever happened in my life. The film is wrapped in cleverness that is just twisted as the storyline itself.
From the very first frame it seemed that the cast was having too good of a time with their roles because each of them made it look all too easy. The flow was spectacular and even when I thought the film had given everything away in the first half, I was in for so much more than I could have bargained for. Even the audience had a moment where they were a little concerned that it wasn't going to go anywhere fast but the laughter kept coming.
Catching the flittering of jabs being thrown to falling for Greatnana, KNIVES OUT is just a good time in the theatre with a bucket of popcorn and good friends. The emotional ups and downs is a rollercoaster ride of a tale in seats that don't come with a harness. Throw your hands up and enjoy the ride because I suspect there won't be another like it for another thirty-seven years.
In the end - everyone has a motive and no one has a clue!
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is from the Heart
Coming to theatres to delight and remind us all of our potential from director Marielle Heller and Sony Pictures with A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.
Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a writer who is making a name for himself and it's not a good one. As no one else will work with him, Esquire editor Ellen (Christine Lahti) gives him the only assignment left which is interviewing Mr. Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). Unhappy with it, wife Andrea (Susan Watson) reminds him that Mr. Rogers is an icon and to "please don't ruin my childhood".
Grumpy about all of it, he meets with Mr. Rogers at the studio where he makes his children's television show. Watching his interaction with others makes Lloyd uncomfortable but for more reasons than he is ready to grasp. When it only lasts a few moments, Lloyd packs up his wife and young newborn son and its off to sister Lorraine's (Tammy Blanchard) wedding. Also at the wedding his Jerry Vogel (Chris Cooper), Lloyd's estranged father.
An outburst at the wedding leaves both Lloyd and Jerry roughed up and at the next interview with Mr. Rogers, he notices. Talking it out makes Lloyd even more uncomfortable and can't seem to get away fast enough. That's when Lloyd realizes that things from his past are interfering with his present life. When Jerry tries to reach out but he just can't get past his anger.
Throwing himself into the article, Lloyd watches Mr. Rogers and how he speaks to people, the life topics he covers and his outlook on life. Trying to grasp it all, a family issue means that Lloyd might have the opportunity to see firsthand what Mr. Rogers has been trying to tell and show him about kindness and forgiveness.
Sometimes we all just need one person to believe in us!
Hanks as Mr. Rogers is completely stunning and leaves an imprint in the heart. Because I come from a generation that knew about Mr. Rogers, I cannot think of one actor besides Hanks that could have done this film. I believe so much in what Lloyd's wife says about not ruining our childhood and that could have easily happened. Instead, Hanks reminds us so much of why we embraced Mr. Rogers and why we hold his and our memories so dear. The calmness in the midst of so much sadness in Lloyd's life allows us to open our hearts even further to the story we see on the screen. But do we really expect anything different from Hanks? He gives us all something to think about through his performances and in being Mr. Rogers, we owe him that much.
Rhys as Lloyd is a man who is just living life one moment at a time and it all comes from a childhood anger that he carries like a bag of bricks. Everyone seems to give him a pass with the anger he carries for his father but, as with anyone who lives for anger, the pass is about to expire. He can't fathom how Mr. Rogers can keep his heart so open to others and feels that "Mr. Rogers" is a television persona. It's when he puts the bag of bricks down does Lloyd have a chance to truly connect with those who continue, through it all, to love him. Of course, Mr. Rogers isn't about to leave Lloyd to do all of it on his own.
Watson as wife Andrea accepts Lloyd for the emotional roller coaster he always seems to be on. With a new baby to tend to, she wants more for her family in the way of connection and love. It is easy to believe Watson's performance since it is very similar to Beth from the television drama series This Is Us. Blanchard as sister Lorraine understands Lloyds anger but in her own life is trying to make different choices. She may have made her own mistakes (such as marriages) but Blanchard shows a forgiving nature in the midst of it all.
Cooper as dad Jerry is rough around the edges and not very good at showing remorse or affection. Lloyd can't even look at him without remembering pain and Cooper plays a man who is not only dealing with issues but trying to find a way of saying 'I'm sorry'. Cooper has the amazing ability of playing roles that have so much depth to them once you get past the gruffness as with Jerry.
Other cast include: Maryann Plunkett as Joanne Rogers, Enrico Colantoni as Bill Isler, Wendy Makkena as Dorothy, Noah Harpster as Todd, Carmen Cusack as Margy, Maddie Corman as Lady Aberlin and Daniel Krell as Mr. McFeely.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is not exactly what I expected. Yes, it's about Mr. Rogers and yet it isn't. It is Lloyd Vogel's story about Mr. Rogers and how spending time with him changes everything. Then again most of us already know that it can happen because, as with my own experiences, it has before.
Mr. Rogers embraces Lloyd, whether he likes it or not, to try and show that we need one another. Being patient isn't something Lloyd seems to have but it is something Mr. Rogers seems to have in abundance. The two most unlikely people to come together happens slowly throughout the film - and mainly due to the persistence and belief from Mr. Rogers.
Watching Rhy's Lloyd go through his struggle is at times heartbreaking and Hanks as Mr. Rogers almost encourages us to feel that heartbreak. There is acceptance and forgiveness in each frame of the film and, to be honest, it also felt as if we didn't we would let down Mr. Rogers!
It is the perfect time of year for A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD and for reasons that are plain but I'll go ahead and mention them anyway. This is a film about listening to one another, offering help in any way that would ease pain, be there for those we love, forgive just as easily as we hold grudges and always embrace a couple of seconds longer just so the people we care about know that they are not alone.
In the end - we could all use a little kindness!
THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF JHANSI
Coming to theatres from director Swati Bhise and Roadside Attractions is a tale of battle and the unexpected warriors who fight it with THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF JHANSI.
Rani Lakshmibai (Devika Bhise) is a young woman married into the royal family becoming Queen of Jhansi. Happy in her marriage, the only unhappiness is the loss of a child yet the adoption of a nephew means a prince and the royal line to continue. Witnessing the adoption is Major Robert Ellis (Ben Lamb) and Sir Robert Hamilton (Nathaniel Parker). Not long after that, husband Gangadhar Rao passes as well.
As the years move on, the East India Company attempts to crush Indian provinces and Lakshmibal is a Queen in their way. Queen Victoria (Jodhi May) understands and makes it clear that she doesn't want the people hurt. The one person who doesn't care about that is Sir Hamilton. He considers all the people of India savages and wants to crush them under his boots.
Major Ellis has been a friend to Lakshmibai for years and tries to explain to Major General Sir Hugh Rose (Rupert Everett) that the Queen only wants what is best for her people. Attack after attack, Lakshmibai reaches out to the Indian people to come together because the British soldiers no longer have respect for their friendship.
Bhise as Lakshmibai is stunning in her portrayal of the Jhansi Queen. Learning from the men around her, there comes a time when she must say out loud 'I am capable' and when she does they listen. Bhise gives her character a fearlessness wrapped in the beauty of a sari that is belted with a sword. I see it as saying 'never forget that I may be the woman but can fight like a man'. Remember a certain red-headed Queen who believed that about herself?
Lamb as Ellis watches the Queen grow into her responsibilities. He may have feelings for and want to protect her but he also understands what she is doing. There is a conflict for him in being an officer and a man. He tries his best to be on both sides but in this case it may just be too much to ask.
Parker as Hamilton is just a plain out and out cruel, savage human being. He doesn't want there to be a peace, he wants to kill every last person who gets in his way. He lies, manipulates and lay in wait when no one is around to do his dirty deeds. The character of Parker is just a reflection of others in that time who felt the exact same way. Parker really does this character evil.
Everett as Maj. Gen. Rose hears both sides but has his orders. The only problem is I'm never really sure what his side is? He says one thing and yet does another knowing that Hamilton is just an instigator. He trusts Ellis but yet doesn't show it. He is truly a confusing character but I'm happy to see Everett on the screen once again.
May as Queen Victoria is a monarch who doesn't want to choose sides but it is her friendship with Saleem Khan that helps her see the sadness of it all. The orders she gives are not followed and there fall out (but not enough for my liking). Omar Malik as Saleem makes certain that Queen Victoria understands the struggle and isn't afraid of any Englishman.
Other cast include R. Bhakti Klein as Walrus Moustache, Glenn Webster as Lord, Nagesh Bhonsie as Bakshish Ali and Derek Jacobi as Lord Palmerston.
This film once again speaks about the era where one group of people feel that another group are savages because they have their own culture, beliefs, traditions and spirit to hold onto their country.
Under the leadership of Lakshmibai, the fight didn't start because of her and it certainly didn't stop because of her. She instilled a sense of right for her people and it carried on to others even when The East India Company was abolished much to the hostility of Sir Hamilton.
India is a country filled with a history that is absolutely stunning and majestic and THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF JHANSI shows just that. The richness of tradition is equal to the costuming and music that is so haunting but hits the soul. The cast brings this story full circle with all of these elements combined.
This film is a history lesson yes but more than that. It is a story of a people who understand that it is their duty to fight to keep who they are. They continually make it clear that no one has the right to take away what they hold dear and I couldn't appreciate that more.
In the end - she fought and died for the freedom of her people.
BY THE GRACE OF GOD is a Story Praying to be Told
In theatres this week from writer/director Francois Ozon and Music Box Films comes a true story of a continual fight BY THE GRACE OF GOD.
Alexandre Guerin (Melvil Poupaud) is a married father of five who is a devout Catholic. Enjoying his family holds only one part of life in secret. When Alexandre was a child, Father Bernard Preynat took away part of his childhood in a series of unspeakable acts. When he is confronted with the information that Father Preynat is still working with children, Alexandre is forced to make a decision about what to do next.
Understanding that there is a statute of limitations legally, he goes directly to Cardinal Barbarin (Francois Marthouret) with his story. Listening patiently, the Cardinal sends him to speak with Regine Marie (Martine Erhel) who sets up a meeting with Father Preynat (Bernard Verley). Worried how he is going to handle the situation, wife Marie (Aurelia Petit) is supportive knowing it's also time to tell his older sons.
During the meeting with Regine Maire and Father Preynat, Alexandre feels every panic emotion possible as the priest admits he has a problem and that he suffers. It is the "he suffers" that sends Alexandre into a tailspin and more emails to the Cardinal. Both Alexandre and Marie are starting to feel as if they are being placated instead of serious action being taken, especially when Father Preynat shows up in their church.
That is when Alexandre decides to file charges which does something he could not have expected. As he looks for more victims (and finds them), he also comes to meet Francois Debord (Denis Menochet). Francois is a man who has always had the support of his parents as they tried to do everything they could informing the church of Father Preynat which came to nothing.
At first Francois isn't interested in being part of anything to do with it, but when he and wife Odile (Helene Vincent) research they discover that Preynat has been working with children ever since. Finding the emotional strength, his righteous anger leads him to staying silent no longer.
Filing his own charges, Francois also begins looking for victims and helps to creates the Lift the Burden of Silence. Believing that the police and the church aren't going to much in the way of helping, the newly formed group take it step by step to get the word out through a media campaign. Hearing about it is Emmanuel (Eric Caravaca), a young man who is tormented by what happened and feels there has been nothing in his life. Encouraged by mother Irene (Josiane Balasko), he meets with Francois and learns that he now can speak out and have the emotional support to do so.
Continuing together to fight with whatever means possible, they create a website for other survivors to reach out and get the justice they deserve for a childhood taken by someone who is so trusted by families.
Poupaud as Alexandre is such a calm man considering the hurt he has carried since childhood. Looking for guidance still in the church, it becomes a daily struggle when the unresolved past comes back. He is a man who isn't looking for money, fame or to bring down the church - just to make it safe for children and the child still inside him. There are such strong moments that Poupaud is clearly angered but he doesn't let it control every step he takes after realizing that the church isn't going to make it right. Poupaud's performance actually kept my own anger in check and shared his hope until the very end of the film.
Menochet as Francois begins his story not wanting to bring up the past. Feeling he put his parents through enough when he was a child, just tries to wave it away. That is until he discovers that the man who left a scar on his soul is still being allowed to be around children. That's when his anger begins to find its way out and he takes a strong stand against those who claim to care but don't, those who claim to want to tell the story but don't and a religious system that will try to stonewall them all. Menochet gives it to us straight and without apology and there isn't a moment where his character should ever think to apologize. If Alexandre is the calm then Francois is the fierce storm.
Caravaca as Emmanuel is the openly tortured soul of the trio the film tackles. He has been unable to find his place in the world because of the constant internal struggle. His ability to hold relationships is shaky at best and the only thing stable in life is the support of his mother. Once he speaks with Francois and realizes there is a way out of the hole they've all been put in, he reaches for the light totally. He begins to see the world as it can be for him and that is everything for Emmanuel.
Verley as Father Preynat has the most difficult job of not caring that by the end of the film we despise his character. Throughout the film I became so engrained in the story I found myself shouting at him. Of course I realize he is the actor portraying Father Preynat but he is brilliant in getting the desired emotional effect. Marthouret as Cardinal Barbarin is another actor who had my total disgust by the films end. Barbarin should receive the same punishment as anyone else who covers their rear end with a cardinals robes and Marthouret gave us the performance needed to make that emotion come to the surface.
Erhel as Regine Maire is another character that just about send me over the edge. Her surface demeanor is one of care and concern, but each time she is on the screen I am less and less a believer that Regine Maire is someone I'd ever trust. Well done Erhel!
Other cast include Eric Caravaca as Gilles Perret, Helene Vincent as Odile Debord, Frederic Pierrot as Captain Courteau, Jeanne Rosa as Dominique Perret, and Amelie Daure as Jennifer.
BY THE GRACE OF GOD is a difficult film from beginning to end for several reasons. One, beause of the mere fact that it has taken so long for these men to receive some peace (and not at the hands of the church) by taking control. Seeing their stories of faith being tested, memories difficult to bear and the anguish of families who also are struggling with what happened to their children is heartbreaking. It is also a look at the children of these men who learn that their fathers have experienced something they can't even imagine just to make sure they never have to.
These men live in a world where it became necessary to jump out of their childhood fears and feel worthy of standing up to say 'this can no longer happen to any other child…ever again!' Their road could not have been an easy one and every time they were slapped down by the powers that be, the rose up even stronger and in more numbers. Finding that strength in each other and accepting that the process could take a while, they still didn't give up.
There was nothing in these men that sought fame or money and that's what kept me watching the film. How do you tell someone that has never experienced anything like they have that fighting for what is right takes as much strength as the will to live with what comes after. It is time for the Vatican to stand with victims such as the Lift the Burden of Silence group and do what is morally, spiritually and criminally right. To accept anything less from the Vatican is unacceptable.
Director Ozon says of his film, "My starting point for this film came from a desire to explore masculine fragility and sensitivity. My films are often about strong women. This time, I wanted to show men suffering and expressing deep emotions. As a matter of fact, my working title for the project was The Crying Man."
He explains that, "In 2018, I discovered La Parole Liberee (Lift the Burden of Silence), a website created by men who had been abused as children by a Catholic priest in Lyon [France]. I was particularly touched by Alexandre, a fervent Catholic who was finally able to tell his story at the age of forty. The website was full of powerful personal accounts, interviews, articles and email exchanges with local Catholic authorities. I'd found my subject. I would tell the story of three men and how each of them decides to lift the burden of silence: one within the church, one through the media and one in the justice system."
In the end - they battle faith, hope and peace to find justice!
DOCTOR SLEEP Will Allow you Anything but Sleep!
Coming to theatres this week from director Mike Flanagan and Warner Bros. Pictures based on the novel by Stephen King is DOCTOR SLEEP.
Danny Torrance and mother Wendy escaped the nightmare in 1980 to living in Florida. He has managed to learn from Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly) how to lock up the horror of the Overlook Hotel. Now in 2011, Dan (Ewan McGregor) deals with past trauma by bathing in any bottle of alcohol he can get his hands on. After an incident with a one night stand, Dan hops a bus landing in a small town greeted by Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis).
Not only does Billy help get Dan settled but helps find him a job at a hospice. Not expecting to stay long he finds that after sobriety and a feeling of peace, he can stay a while. He also earns the name Doctor Sleep for the ability to comfort patients into their time to pass. In his room on the wall he starts receiving friendly message of greetings from young Abra (Kyliegh Curran)who also has The Shining.
A group called True Knot is led by Rosie the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) but they are not friendly. What they are is a group of feeders who take those who shine and steal the steam they produce in their dying moments of fear. Finding it harder and harder to get kids that produce the steam they need to stay ageless, their supply grows slim. When the group led by lover Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon) kidnaps a young boy, Abra connects to him and sees everything as it happens.
Reaching out to Dan, he tells her to stay away from the group and close herself off to them. But Abra isn't about to let Rosie get away with it. Connecting in a way she never has, Rosie realizes that this young girl produces an unprecedented amount of steam. In a second attempt to connect, Abra gives Rosie something to remember but sets off an anger that will not be tamed.
Now Danny knows he has to help Abra to stay alive at all costs. He knows there is one place that Rosie won't see coming. He has to take the young Abra as well so that they can work together to stop what Rosie has planned for them both. Of course it also means that Dan must come face to face with the very ghosts who took his father and tried to end his life.
The Overlook isn't finished quite yet!
McGregor as the older Danny Torrance does an excellent job of showing the trauma caused by what happened at the now defunct and dilapidated hotel. Drinking and engaging in behaviors that could kill him just as easily as the woman in the bathtub, he manages to dry out and find another way to deal with his past. Being a comfort to those in the last stages of life give him a place in the world. Even his chalkboard friendship with Agra gives him a smile or two every day. When everything starts to take an insane turn that he clearly recognizes, he could easily walk away but there is something inside him that now refuses to let any creature win. I appreciated his performance.
Curran as Abra is such an amazing young lady. Her first experience with True Knot is traumatic and beyond belief to see on the screen (yes, that's my warning), but while trying to track down the group she discovers powers she never knew she had. I love the scenes where she gets in the face of those trying to do her harm and stands up for herself several times. The scenes between Curran and McGregor are also intense and endearing at the same time.
Ferguson as Rosie the Hat is completely and utterly terrifying. It is not just in what she is capable of doing but the sly smile why she says and does things. Personally I was captivated by her performance and can honestly say that how her character ends up is equally as utterly terrifying. It is an ingenious performance and I can honestly say that maybe King should consider writing a story just based on Rosie because she talks about living through the ages (very vampirish) and what has been seen. That could make for another frightful tale!
Lumbly as Hallorann is a face that brings comfort in the mix of all the terror. He knows how to help Danny and you can feel the connection between the characters even in adulthood. Curtis as Billy is a man who sees something in Dan that says 'help me' and doesn't hesitate to do just that. Even when Dan comes to him with a story that most would consider insane, he is by Dan's side.
McClarnon as Crow Daddy believes in everything Rosie does and usually does not question her. But when the problem of having steam arises, he lets her know that the group is suffering. He will do whatever she asks but best be sure he has just as much of an evil side as Rosie does.
Couple of shout outs - Jacob Tremblay as Bradley Trevor is a young actor who does a scene that will stay in my head for longer than I'd ever like it to. Also Danny Lloyd as a spectator at the ball game, just study that face and see if you recognize who he is.
Other cast include Emily Alyn Lind as Snakebite Andi, Carel Struycken as Grandpa Flick, Robert Longstreet as Barry the Chunk, Catherine Parker as Silent Sarey, Met Clark as Short Eddie, Selena Anduze as Apron Annie, Jocelin Donahue as Lucy Stone, Alex Essoe as Wendy, Zackary Momoh as Dave Stone, Henry Thomas as Lloyd the Bartender, Bruce Greenwood as Dr. John Dalton.
DOCTOR SLEEP is going to be a complicated review because there is so much I liked and a few things that disappointed me and I'll do my best to make sure I don't give anything away. I like the storyline about where Dan is now in his life because most of us would have thought that what happened at the Overlook Hotel would screw up anyone's head. The torture of what he can't get away from is clear and when he discovers a way to deal with it, it's like a wave of hope washes over McGregor's portrayal of him, at least for a while.
There is so much darkness in the film coming from the True Knot but it leads Dan and Abra to working together and that's something the young Danny didn't have. Abra is so powerful but she doesn't hide from it as Danny did by using Tony. The young girl jumps in and makes her presence known and although it puts her life in danger, she walk away.
Once in the Overlook I felt like I was 'home' if you know what I mean. The layout is insanely (wow, that's a word to describe it right?) memorable down to the 60s patterned orange carpet. The bathtub room, the bar, the room where Jack Torrance typed 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy', the elevators - it's all there and tattered. That's when I immersed myself in the story because I wanted one - thing - to - happen. It sort of did. Now, if I may, there is a scene between Ewan McGregor and Bruce Greenwood, look for it and jaw drop!
Now, for a few questions I have, with all of the technology and all of the CGI available, why wasn't it used? It isn't as if the director needed to recreate the wheel, just upgrade the wheels that are already there! I know, I know I'm being so vague but trust me when I say you'll ask yourself the same questions within the first five minutes. I wanted a bit of the original.
All of that vaguely being said I don't think THE SHINING fans will be hugely disappointed, in fact it don't think it will take long before Dan and Abra are embraced as much as Danny and Wendy once were. The terror these two characters must endure had to eventually happen because even Dan and Abra know that they can't live their lives hiding from ever supernatural entity that wants them for their gifts and it's time to fight back.
In the end - the world will shine again!
MIDWAY Launches for Veterans Day
Coming to theatres from director Roland Emmerich and Lionsgate comes the story of one of the biggest battles against Japan on MIDWAY.
On December 7, 1942, Japan surprise attacked Pearl Harbor and the one person not surprised is Lt. Commander Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) who had been trying to tell anyone who would listen of an impending attack. Lt. Dick Best (Ed Skrein) returns home to learn of the death of his friends with wife Anne (Mandy Moore) helping him to grieve.
On ship is Vice Admiral Bull Halsey (Dennis Quaid) waiting for orders to stop the Japanese. His aviation crew include Lt. Commander Wade McClusky (Luke Evans). Put in charge of a plan along with Lt. Cmdr. Layton is Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) who looks to a group of code breakers led by Commander Rochefort (Brennan Brown).
The first strike is for Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) and his men to fly to Tokyo and carpet bomb the city. The Japanese are caught by surprise not ever believing it was possible for the United States military to strike back so quickly.
Leading the Japanese fleet is Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi (Tadanobu Asano), Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo (Jun Kunimura) and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa). Pearl Harbor isn't their only target as the plan now includes Midway. Gathering all their forces, they are confident that no one sees them coming and victory is sure.
With so much ship loss at Pearl Harbor, the ships that are left have to come together as well as planes and pilots to make the plan work. Lt. Best and Lt. Cmdr. McClusky go to their men with confidence to let them know that they must give it their all and remember their fallen friends. As the battle for Midway approaches, Nimitz and Layton trust the information given to them by the code breakers to stay ahead of the plan, Best and McClusky fly for their lives as everyone does their part.
It is the history of taking one step at a time to win.
Skrein as Best is a man who is a little dangerous in the sky but he wants to be prepared for any eventuality. With each battle, he only wants to go home to his wife and daughter. Using every bit of his flying experience and a little bit of his grit, Skrein gives his character bravery and the will to fight. Moore as wife Anne is a lady I'd call a spit-fire. She knows that what her husband does is dangerous and holds her breath with each bit of news that all the wives are allowed to know.
Harrelson as Nimitz is brought into the fight at the time of Pearl Harbor. He has to trust those around him for the information knowing that more American soldiers will die and that's a hard job to have. Wilson as Layton tried to warn his superiors about what Japan was capable of and they didn't listen. When given the opportunity to show what he knows and how he knows it, Wilson gives his character strength and determination to stand by Rochefort.
Quaid as Halsey shows his character as a gritty leader who, like everyone else, wants to stop the Japanese fleet from destroying anything else or getting to the west coast of the United States. He may be gruff but he knows what is necessary to win. Evans as McClusky thinks Best is a reckless pilot but since Pearl Harbor realizes that perhaps reckless, in this case, is a brave thing that is needed in the fight.
Kunimura, Toyokawa and Asano have the difficult roles of the Admirals (Rear and Vice) who feel strong that they can win. Pearl Harbor gives these characters a feeling of invincibility and feel Midway is the next reasonable step in their plan. What they do not expect is that the United States military forces have banned together with a plan of their own and they will stop at nothing to punish the Japanese fleet.
Other cast include Alexander Ludwig as Lt. Roy Pearce, Keean Johnson as Chief Aviation Radioman James Murray, Luke Kleintank as Lt. Clarence Earle Dickinson, Brandon Sklenar as Ensign George Gay, Jake Manley as Ensign Willie West, Darren Criss as Lt. Commander Eugene Lindsey, Jake Weber as Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance, James Carpinello as Captain Brockman, Geoffrey Blake as John Ford, Greg Hovanessian as Lieutenant Arizona, David Hewlett as Admiral Kimmel, Mark Rolston as Admiral King and Nick Jonas as Aviation Machinist Mate Bruno Gaido.
MIDWAY is exactly, first of all, what you'd expect from director Roland Emmerich coming in at 127 minutes long. A master of special effect and the big bangs, the battle scenes on the screen are epic (as I suspect they were in real life). Beginning with the Pearl Harbor attack until the final battle for Midway, the film gives the feeling of all the films Hollywood put out in the 50's and 60's that I watched growing up. My father was a Gunner's Mate on many of Navy ships from aircraft carriers to destroyers like the Hornet, Boxer, Constellation and Kitty Hawk.
So I watched many, many films IN HARMS WAY (1965), THE LONGEST DAY (1962), SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949), FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953), TORA! TORA! TORA! (1973) and the list is endless. I am well versed in war films so I expect a lot. Emmerich spends very little time depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor because it has been done so many times before. He gets in, makes it clear and moves on because the goal in the storytelling is what happened next and next and next.
A few problems that I have are such things as the story about Lt. Col. Doolittle and his men. It seemed one minute they were there and the next gone. Things like this happened a few times in the film which if you are attempting to keep me in the story - then keep me there, don't take me on little side ventures.
Here's a touchy problem - writer Wes Tooke sort of muddled the lines between Japan and the United States. It seemed as if there was an attempt to make us feel sorry for the Admirals of the Japanese fleet and that's a little difficult when they were the aggressors. I kept thinking, 'pick a side and tell that story' but then again that's been done as well.
The actors themselves did well with what they were given. There were a few moments where I felt nostalgic with lines being delivered in such a way that I felt I was watching a 50's/60's war film instead of 2019. The characters were righteously angry because, let's face it, no one who saw, was part of and survived Pearl Harbor could ever be the same again.
Skrein, Evans and the rest of the actors portraying the pilots were amazing to my way of thinking. The pilots job back then was to focus on a target and get the job done, that's how Skrein and Evans made it look and feel which is totally successful in my eyes. Harrelson and Wilson together made a dynamic duo doing something totally different than their predecessors in the job. Harrelson gave his Nimitz portrayal an opportunity to trust when there was really nothing else left and Wilson's portrayal of Layton jumps in as if to say 'we can't do it the old ways anymore'.
Is there anything here that says epic? Not really and that's a shame. Personally I would have loved to see this film in black and white. What the film lacks in dialogue it makes up for in Emmerich battles but just barely. I have a feeling that MIDWAY is going to have a love-hate relationship with viewers. This is a target movies for an audience that wants to see a war film but going up against an old hotel, a romantic comedy and an Irish tale, MIDWAY might not be able to hold its own.
In the end - they awoke a sleeping giant!
Gumshoe Noir is Wrapped in MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
Coming to theatres from writer/director Edward Norton and Warner Bros. is the tale of secrets, lies and a man who embraces MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN.
Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) works for Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) who owns a detective agency and car service. Caring for Lionel since he was young, Minna saw something special and not just the speech condition he has no control over.
On a case, Minna asks Lionel to signal him if things go wrong at a meeting. Watching every move, he is upset seeing boss and mentor Minna getting into a car with a couple of shady types. Following the best he can, it all falls apart and Lionel must now deal with the most heartbreaking thing he can imagine.
Back at the office, Tony (Bobby Cannavale) has taken over to keep the business afloat along with Gilbert (Ethan Suplee) and Danny (Dallas Roberts). Lionel cannot shake what has happened and isn't about to let it go. Digging into what Minna was working on, he comes across activist Laura (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who lives next to the nightclub The King Rooster. It is when he follows Laura to a community meeting and Gabby Horowitz (Cherry Jones) does he meet Paul Randolph (Willem DaFoe) who seems to have a lot to say about brother Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin).
Putting the scattered pieces together, Laura tells Lionel that Moses Randolph is buying up all the property from poorer families to get them out and reclaim the land in favor of the rich. Wrapped up in the confusion, Lionel must discover what it was Minna tried to tell him, what Laura has to do with it all, what is wrong with Paul Randolph and what it will take to get the truth out of Moses Randolph to solve his friends murder!
Norton as Lionel is exquisite from start to finish. Losing someone who cared for him and that he cared for meant he wasn't going to let sleeping dogs lie. Donning the man's coat and hat, you can sense the determination and although at times the film seemed to slow a little, it certainly pays off as the pieces of this crazy puzzle slowly come together. It may have taken Norton all these years to write the script but you can be sure I'd rather him have taken his time to create MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN than make a shoddy detective film. I just loved this character and how his mind worked even with some considered his disability.
Raw as Laura is a woman after justice for the city she loves. Always on the move to find answers to stopping Randolph, she has no problem laying it out plainly for Lionel. She also finds herself feeling warmly towards him without actually knowing why. Raw is such a soft actress but in that softness is strength of conviction in the characters that she plays - brava! Jones as Gabby is a force just as powerful as Laura and isn't worried about what will happen to her as she is what is happening to the people of New York.
Baldwin as Moses Randolph is a grade A ass of a man that some people might easily recognize in a weird way. It is clear that this man feels he owes no one an explanation for the wiping out of whole neighborhood blocks. Over the years we have seen Baldwin play so many different roles but one thing is for certain, he has the amazing ability to portray douchebags in such a way that everything that falls from his character may seem awful but you can't help but watch! This role is no exception to that as Randolph feels justified in everything he does and makes no apologies.
DaFoe as Paul is a character that was hard to keep up with but in a good way. His mind worked even faster than Lionel's and it seemed so scattered and absurd but that's the brilliance of DaFoe's portrayal, the truth is in the madness created by family. Lionel is never really sure what is happening with Paul and I certainly went with him on that. I think DaFoe is such a treasure and that Norton choose wisely!
Cannavale, Suplee and Roberts provide support as the men behind the agency door. Trying to support Lionel in finding who killed Minna, they are also realistic in knowing that their skills might not be needed any longer. Cannavale has the ability to steal a scene and his choice of roles always surprises me.
Other cast include Josh Pais as William Lieberman, Leslie Mann as Mrs. Minna and Bruce Willis as Frank Minna (and I oh so wished he was in it far more than he was).
The story is based on the 1999 novel by Jonathan Lethem as Norton took to tasks writing the screenplay. At the Toronto Film Festival, Norton says, "Lethem wrote this incredible character of 50s gumshoes living in the modern world. It made sense to set it in the 50s and once that decision was made, we got very interested into opening it up to the deep corruption and history of New York."
I am a fan of detective films, especially the black and white films of 'old' (so to speak). Norton has captured the essence of those beloved films with the look and feel that is fantastic. The added music track of the film with the amazing jazz club scenes just made me completely giddy. The music is actually created by Grammy Award-winning artist Thom Yorke, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and nine-time Grammy winner Wynton Marsalis.
MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN is a film that will fall easily in line with other classics such as L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, CHINA TOWN, and ROAD TO PERDITION. There is something drawing to Norton's performance at Lionel that is deliberate and powerful and with the cast he is working with, there is nothing out of place in a story that is completely out of place. Watching several interviews with the cast, it is clear that they are just as pleased with the outcome of the film.
If you are a fan of what I call gumshoe noir then MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN should entice you, if a fan of gorgeous cinematography, music and costuming then MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN should have you buying a ticket and if you are a fan of a film that takes its time to tell a marvelous story - then MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN is absolutely for you. I have no doubt there will be nominations coming from every direction very soon.
In the end - he will leave no stone unturned to find the answer!
The Band is Back Together with
ZOMBIELAND: Double Tap
Just in time for the spooky and creepy season from director Ruben Fleischer and Columbia Pictures is the continuation of rules to survival with ZOMBIELAND: Double Tap.
So a few years have gone by since we last checked in with the apocalypse survivors as Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are taking a zombie break living in a big white house. Columbus and Wichita have settled into being a couple, Tallahassee is working on a new vehicle and Little Rock is getting itchy feet.
Thinking that Wichita might need something to look forward to, Columbus does his best to clear a path for their life. Spooked by his suggestion, both the girls pack up and hit the road. A month later, Columbus is heartbroken and Tallahassee is about to lose his mind with his whining so hitting up the local mall the two get more than they bargained for. Cute and fluffy Madison (Zoey Deutch) has survived in a mall and is happy to see others.
So happy that she latches onto Columbus which doesn't work out really well when Witchita resurfaces with the news that Little Rock has taken up with a non-gun-toting-pacifist named Berkeley (Avan Jogia). On their way to Graceland perks Tallahassee up and all four jump into a vehicle to make their way to see the King - oh yea, and to get Little Rock Back.
Finding a hotel, the gang (minus one and plus one) meet Nevada (Rosario Dawson), Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch). In a scuffle to end all scuffles, the gang (minus one with no plus one) heads off for a place called Babylon where Little Rock is supposed to be.
Well, to make a long story short (I know, too late!), Babylon is a perfect place for Berkeley with their non-gun-pacifist-giving-post-apocalyptic-peace-a-chance. All that would be wonderful except for one thing, a new breed of zombies affectionately called T-800's are headed toward the drum circle and the only people that know how to stop them are going to do just that!
Eisenberg as Columbus is sticking to his rules (well, except for Madison) and knows that since they've been laying low for a bit their zombie skills might be a little rusty. Once Wichita comes back the tension is full of well-deserved shade. Eisenberg doesn't miss a Columbus step. Stone as Wichita is still a strong lady who doesn't know what she wants relationship wise and her protective sister instincts are strong. She is just fun all the way around.
Breslin as Little Rock has itchy feet because she's tired of hanging out with people not her age. It isn't easy and when she meets Berkeley, Little Rock sees a chance to do something different while paying homage to Cheech & Chong with a little road trip. Jogia as Berkeley reminds me of every cliché about guitar playing pacifists to the point that agreeing with Tallahassee is hilarious.
Speaking of Harrelson as Tallahassee, he has become the father figure to the group whether he likes it or not. When Little Rock runs off you can see his 'dad' side come out with wanting to do only one thing - end Berkeley. I love that Harrelson finally got a chance to ham it up with some Elvis impersonating.
Shout out to Deutch as Madison because her character is just everything we never thought we wanted for Zombieland. She is hilarious, speaks her mind even if it doesn't make sense, isn't judgmental towards the situation the world finds itself in, is just the happiest survivor I think I've ever seen. Plus she looks absolutely fabulous through the entire film!
Dawson as Nevada is a nice addition to the storyline, Wilson as Albuquerque has a truck bigger than Tallahassee's and Middleditch as Flagstaff knows his Terminator movies and quotes. That's all I'm saying about that because you should have all the giggles I did with the new additions to the Zombieland universe.
First, what I love best about ZOMBIELAND: Double Tap is that the storyline doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it picks up a few years later without missing a sarcastic beat. The characters have become a little lazy behind the walls of their big ole house so adventures in zombieland are inevitable. What hasn't changed is their idiosyncrasies, their need to not admit that they are feeling anything out of the ordinary like commitment, or the fact that they treat each other exactly as they did in 2009.
Think about that for a minute, it's been 10 years since we were introduced to ZOMBIELAND and the only one that has aged is Abigail Breslin. Harrelson, Eisenberg and Stone look fantastic and I can't express enough how glad I am that they all came back to make this sequel. Let's be honest, sequels don't always work out well and it is mainly because the expectations are really high. In ZOMBIELAND: Double Tap, the only thing I expected is that the humor be at the same level as before and I wasn't disappointed in any way.
I had a fun time, enjoyed getting reacquainted with old friends and understanding that the rules that Columbus introduced us to in 2009 are what kept these characters alive. In their world all bets are off because the only thing they need to do is remember they are a family - oh and stay alive!
That's right folks, no spoilers here because there is oh so much more to see and make sure you don't run out of the theatre just because you see credits!
In the end - it's their world and we just get to enjoy it.
A Deeper Look at JOKER
Coming to theatres from director Todd Phillips and Warner Bros. is a dark look at an iconic villain from his beginning to becoming JOKER.
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a meek clown who is the target of everyone who sees him as weak. It's not just the bullies on the street that take aim at him but also the other clowns he works with. Taking care of his mother Penny (Frances Conroy), they live in the downtrodden part of Gotham City.
On his way home in full clown regalia, Arthur comes face to face with more humiliation when he fights back. Unfazed by it, he returns home again to his mother who believes that her previous employer will help their plight.
In the meantime, Arthur works on his comedy act and hopes that one day he will be on Live with Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). Practicing his skills he hopes to impress lovely neighbor Sophie (Zazie Beetz) and invites her to watch his performance. Returning home late, he discovers Penny is ill and there are detectives wanting to talk to him.
While she recovers, Arthur sees a recording of his performance airing on Live with Murray Franklin and finally has his chance to make a comedic impact, but not before he lets people around him know that things are about to change.
Say hello to Joker!
Phoenix as Arthur takes this iconic villain deeper than ever before. His story is complex, dark, and heart breaking to watch. Coming in at 121 minutes, the story slowly makes its way to a climax that is as hauntingly beautiful (there is no other way to describe it) as is his portrayal. The physicality of Arthur is one thing but in those eyes lives everything that is Arthur Fleck. The pain, confusion, delusion and the desire to be something more than most can imagine. That is why the critics have just become mesmerized by what Phoenix has done with the Joker.
Conroy as Penny is a woman fixated on finding a way for them both to struggle less. Conroy has always found roles that are complex and as the mother of Joker she truly has placed herself in an arc in his storyline. Beetz as Sophie lives close to Arthur and he finds her intriguing with a chance to offer a bit of solace from the real world.
De Niro as Murray Franklin dons his caricature of Johnny Carson in bad suits and snide comments yet Arthur and his mother shared nightly television time. His part is pivotal in the evolution of Arthur Fleck into Joker.
Other cast include Shea Whigham as Detective Burke, Bill Camp as Detective Garrity, Glenn Fleshler as Randall, Leigh Gill as Gary, Josh Pais as Hoyt, Rocco Luna as GiGi, Marc Maron as Gene, Sondra James as Dr. Sally, Murphy Guyer as Barry, Douglas Hodge as Alfred and Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne.
I know it is easy to jump to the comparison between Phoenix's portrayal of the JOKER and Heath Ledger's (or Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero for that matter) take on the iconic character. I will admit to having the same reservations but I'm here to tell you to put those thoughts at rest. THIS is not THAT Joker. Phoenix gives us an deeper and disturbing look at what brought about the growth of Arthur Fleck. I feel there is a melding of these Joker portrayals and they call can co-exist quite happily.
In JOKER, Gotham is a dark place filled with struggling citizens and it could easily be said that it is a statement of what is going on in the world today. The film could be picked apart for a political view about the rich versus the poor and lack of law and the double talk of elections but, I will save that for others who want to look for that. I wanted to invest myself in the character of Arthur Fleck and his story.
Joker wasn't born Joker, he was born a child who became Arthur Fleck who became the Joker. That is what this film addresses and it is a nightmare in a city full of nightmares. Gotham has given birth to villainy but it's not only Arthur Fleck. There is Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, Edward Nigma, Dr. Pamela Isley, Harleen Quinzel just to name a few of those who turned to a life of crime.
What Phoenix and Todd have managed to do is tell the story of a future arch enemy making it possible to tell more of those stories. Personally I hope it doesn't become a habit because there is something about not knowing every little thing about every nemesis of Gotham. At the same time I am curious if Phoenix could take his portrayal of the Joker and take it one step further.
I believe that die-hard fans of the comic will be thrilled because it does take in the dark side and less of a comic side. That doesn't mean there aren't chuckles but they are uncomfortable in a way that is hard to describe. Phoenix takes us into Arthur/Joker's dark place and we stay there the entire time because, to be honest, we can't look away.
In the end - put on a happy face!
CYRANO, MY LOVE Brings the Story of Love and Theatre
Coming to theatres from writer/director Alexis Michalik and Roadshow Attractions is the story of a writer desperate for inspiration with CYRANO, MY LOVE.
Edmond Rostand (Thomas Soliveres) opened and closed a play that just doesn't seem to reach the masses. Two years later in December of 1897 in Paris, Edmond has two children and no prospects of money or ideas to write about. Wife Rosemonde (Alice de Lencquesaing) remains supportive while managing to raise two small children.
Someone else who believes in him is actress Sarah Bernhardt (Clementine Celarie) who tells Edmond that actor and theatre owner Jean Coquelin (Igor Gotesman) wants to know what he has written lately. Edmond goes to the theatre to meet and presents vague ideas that excites Coquelin. A little confused, he learns that the theatre is in trouble and the actor is looking for a hit.
Edmond's friend George (Benjamin Bellecour) wants help to woo the heart of theatre dresser and actress Jeanne (Lucie Boujenah). Being his mouthpiece of verbal love, she is taken with 'George' and wants them to continue to write while she is away. While in the local eatery, Edmond speaks with proprietor Monsieur Honore (Jean-Michel Martial) and is helped even more toward an idea.
It is a story of Cyrano, a man with a large nose who is in love with a woman he feels he can't have. When a friend falls for the lovely Roxanne, Cyrano helps them get closer by providing the words needed. Edmond feels he is onto something and Coquelin couldn't be happier. There are two weeks before opening and Edmond is writing the play as real life unfolds.
What he doesn't expect are even more twists that turn into a stage production the likes of which none of them have ever experienced - actor or audience.
Soliveres as Edmond is a man who just wants to write something meaningful and that his wife and family would be proud of. Feeling defeated from his previous play, it is his friendship with Bernhardt that is the stepping stone to success. I love that Soliveres plays this role with heart, soul and wit so that falling into the story is so graceful and easy for the viewer. He is naïve, charming and tortured as all playwrights are and no more so than a 1900's French playwright.
Lencquesaing as Rosemond is a wife that should be given sainthood. She believes in her husband and the talent he has with the written word. Even when others might not understand what he is trying to do - she does. Managing a household and children with little money, Rosemond is a heroine to be applauded. On the other side she is also a woman that doesn't take kindly to the prospect of someone else interfering with her family.
Gotesman as Coquelin is an actors actor stuffing inside the suit of a theatre owner. It is clear he loves being on stage but is now ready to take on a role that is written by the skin of Edmond's teeth and Coquelin believes in it! I adore that about his character. He rolls with the punches and develops the character of Cyrano based on faith in Edmond and belief that anything on the stage is possible. He's also pretty funny.
Bellecour as George is a ladies man for sure but there is something about Jeanne that he can't get away from. He's a good friend to Edmond which isn't repaid very well. Boujenah as Jeanne is taken with George already but when Edmond becomes his voice, she is woo'd right off her feet and out of her knickers! Celarie as Bernhardt is a force to be reckoned with both on and off the stage. She see something in Edmond that he just can't manage to see in himself. She is bold and has a flare that I really would liked to have seen more of.
Martial as Monsieur Honore hold the hope of everyone in the film. He sees Edmond as a man on the verge of becoming everything he wanted to be, he doesn't suffer fools lightly and his eyes always shine with a joy we could all learn from. I just wanted to give him a shout out because, and I'll be honest, he looks like Dennis Haysbert but speaks like a warrior poet.
CYRANO, MY LOVE is such a joy for anyone who loves stage plays and period pieces. It has everything! There is love, suffering, adventure, family, twists, plots, friendship and even a sword fight scene that Conquelin wants so badly. There are personal stumbles, professional confusion, mishaps, misunderstandings, muses and joy that can only be found in the characters.
The cinematography is amazing, the costuming is one for the books and the cast give the film such depth and richness that I absolutely will see it again. There have been incarnations of the story of Cyrano de Bergerac including musicals, ballet and a spin with the 1987 Steve Martin version of Roxanne that I thoroughly still enjoy.
The real Cyrano is none other than Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac who was a novelist and playwright. A playwright who inspired another playwright, Cyrano was an educated man who also spent time in the military, did fall in love with a beautiful woman and died under mysterious circumstances. Edmond Rostand took things from his life and brought a play to the stage by reaching into our hearts, but seeing how he did all that is just as much an experience as the play itself.
This film is such a joy!
In the end - he had three weeks to write a masterpiece!
THE PARTS YOU LOSE
Coming to theatres from director Christopher Cantwell and Samuel Goldwyn Films comes the story of a boy and a stranger with THE PARTS YOU LOSE.
Wesley (Danny Murphy) is a young deaf boy who is living in a rugged town filled with equally rugged people. His mother Gail (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) tries her best to help Wesley but his father Mitch (Scoot McNairy) doesn't try to relate with is son, or anyone else for that matter.
Waking about in the snow one morning, Wesley finds a man lying near the edge of a frozen lake and tries to get help. By the time he returns with his father, no one is there. Continuing to look, the boy finds a man and drags him to a large barn.
Feeling as if he has found a new friend, Wesley does what he can to help him. His parents see on the news that there was a robbery and shooting in Carson and the police are looking for the criminals on the loose. Helicopters are out in full force looking but that doesn't stop him from helping the man in the barn including reaching out to someone else for help.
Wesley also deals with the pressures of those from school who make his life difficult. The Man discovers what his parents clearly don't see and tries to teach him how to protect himself from those who would do him harm. As the police close in Wesley feels the pressure to help the Man in the barn and begins to see a darker side of the caged tiger he has befriended!
Murphy as Wesley is a young man in a world that those around him can't understand. That is what makes his friendship with Paul's character so important to him. Here is someone that he can be himself with and there isn't any judgement. Murphy is angelic looking with a sense of how things are in his life. He has more of an understanding than the adults around him truly understand. Playing along-side Paul, Murphy is amazing to watch in a role that requires pure acting ability and makes it look effortless.
Paul as the Man Is a dangerous man even if he befriends Wesley. Waiting in a barn to be captured is nerve wracking and waiting for help from a buddy just makes the emotional edges jagged! There are moments in the film that it's easy to forget the Man is dangerous because of the relationship he comes to have with the young boy treating him better than his own father. Paul can be charming one minute and frightening the next and, like a caged tiger, one is never sure when the tiger will bite.
McNairy as Mitch is a man who has so many issues I don’t know where to begin. Unhappiness with his life and with a son he doesn't understand, he can't control the disappointment in either and it begins to wear on the family - and a certain criminal in the barn. As the tables turn between Mitch, Wesley and the Man in the barn, it becomes heartbreaking with a reality that is certain for them all.
Winstead as Gail is a woman caught in so many ways. First being in a rural town where the jobs are scarce and the family lives day to day, a son with special needs and a husband who clearly is walking a tight rope.
Launched in 2017, The H Collective is a global film company that is producing a diversified slate of high-quality films. Films such as BRIGHTBURN with Elizabeth Banks and THE PARTS YOU LOSE with Aaron Paul lead off the next slate of films such as Aaron W. Sala's THE BEAST and the fourth installment of the xXx franchise starring Vin Diesel. For more information please visit www.thecollectivefilms.com.
THE PARTS YOU LOSE is a film about a young boy discovering who exactly can he trust. Living with parents that are dealing with their own issues, Wesley is a young man just trying to find his place. Meeting the Man is a respite from the real world and allows him to teach, laugh and learn. The problem is he is teaching, laughing and learning with the wrong person.
The adults around him clearly can't handle their own reality so it's easy to see why the young boy detaches from those around him. How can he expect to be understood when the adults around him are so engrossed in their own adult problems. The film brings in the gray and snowy winter as a back drop that adds a unpredictable dimension to the story.
THE PARTS YOU LOSE isn't hiding behind a music score or special effects but instead allows the actors to bring us into a tale that has all the elements of a story we want to see to the very end.
In the end - danger hides in plain sight!
GEMINI MAN Pits Smith Against Smith
In theatres this Friday from Oscar winning director Ang Lee, Skydance Media and Paramount Pictures bring a twist of DNA to Gemini Man.
Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is a hired gun and the absolute best in his field. After a mission comes close to going wrong, Brogan decides it is time to retire. Making sure it is what he truly wants, Del (Ralph Brown) pays him a visit to find out why. Brogan makes his feelings clear and loads up to head out fishing.
Gassing up on the dock he meets Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and heads out to meet Jack (Douglas Hodge) who tells him that his last hit was a set up by his own government. Not wanting to believe that it could be possible, Brogan is about to find out.
Back at the dock he figures out who Danny really is and lets it be known that she can go on her way. What he doesn't know is that agency director Janet Lassiter (Linda Emond) is working with someone Brogan knows from the past - Clay Verris (Clive Owen). Putting the pieces together proves to be difficult as everyone around him is dealt with.
He reaches out to his friend Baron who also knows Verris and tells Danny that he isn't someone to be trifled with. Now they are off to Budapest to meet with someone who knows why Brogan's life is in danger but there is someone following them.
Seemingly out of nowhere, an assassin takes on the chase with Brogan through the streets. Brogan and the assassin are a perfect fighting match and this doesn't go unnoticed by Danny. The young killer is sent by Verris to take out Brogan because of what he might know, but it's what the assassin doesn't know that will shock them all.
Smith as Brogan and Junior, oh wow I can't believe I'm going to say this, but they are boring, predictable and pretty much like watching I, ROBOT. Only in this film Junior is Sonny and Brogan is mixture of Del and Dr. Lanning. If you haven't seen I, ROBOT then you can stop here and go on your blissful way. I suppose I'm not suppose too criticize Smith in this way seeing as he is an icon action film star but then again to those thinking it I say 'so what?'. The truth is maybe he needs some criticism, dude, don't do a movie that looks like another movie you've done and call it original. It drives me nuts!
Winstead as Danny is pretty much there to pick up the pieces and be Brogan's excuse for a hostage to make deals with the dark side of the government. Of course she doesn't want to go because in her heart she knows Brogan's a good guy and is going to stick with him to the very end. Danny, you don't need a man to feel as if you're doing good for humanity girl, well, you did get a trip to Budapest and all you got was a lousy assassin chasing you - not even a t-shirt!
Owen as Verris gets to be the psycho scientist bad guy who just wants to watch the world burn his way although he attempts to justify his experiments which sounds like babble. He seems to have everybody in government right in his very handsome pocket which makes being evil even easier. Not sure what the story really was between Verris and Brogan but somebody got their little feelings hurt, you decide which one.
Kudos to Wong for taking the time to be the cool dude in the film. We can never have enough good distractions. Brown as Del is just a dude ruining a friendship and Emond was, well, I'm not sure what her purpose was other than to be subservient to Verris' character.
Other cast include Theodora Miranne as Kitty, Ilia Volok as Yuri Kovacs, E.J. Bonilla as Mario.
The story is fast giving no time to understand the misunderstood loner assassin character but then again I guess because it's Will Smith we should already understand? Look, if I'm shifting in my seat more than once an hour then I'm not impressed by what's on the screen and I shifted so much that the person behind me was getting irritated.
Is the Smith vs. Smith thing cool? Sure, but not to the point that I am thinking it’s the most awesome thing ever. Although, during the fight scene all I could think of was Jim Carrey in the 1997 film LIAR LIAR when he's in the bathroom wailing on himself and the guy asks what he is doing getting the reply 'I'm kickin' my ass do you mind!'. That's exactly what went on in my head which caused a sudden outburst of laughter. Hey, I'm old I can get away with stuff like that.
The young Junior is a purse-lipped scowler who seems to spend more time on the screen with tears in his eyes which doesn't read assassin to me. He clearly has daddy issues and it doesn't help when these issues surface while he's holding a very large semi-automatic weapon. DNA adjustments may make for a perfect killer but it doesn't make up for having a conscience, sorry Clive Owen. The good news is that the clone looks like Smith back in the day but the bad news is that it looks like a clone of Smith back in the day with photoshop.
Look, it's an action adventure film from start to finish and I think that's the wow factor. Lee decided to make a film that has cool special effects and let the story go where ever it wanted to. The cloning thing is great but once the cat is out of the bag so are the fun and games and let's face it, no one is going to get rid of Will Smith unless it’s a tub full of exotic jelly fish and Smith wants it that way (reference to the 2008 film SEVEN POUNDS…keep up people!). I don't know, maybe I'm still blue shocked from his screen time in ALADDIN - probably need therapy now.
In the end - who will save me from both of them!
SEMPER FI Brings Loyalty and Brotherhood
Coming to theatres, On Demand and digital from writer/director Henry-Alex Rubin, co-writer Sean Mullin and Lionsgate is the story of brothers and brotherhood with SEMPER FI.
Callahan (Jai Courtney) is a police officer in a small town but also a reservist in the Marine Corps along with his friends and brother Oyster (Nat Wolff). Hanging out with Jaeger (Finn Wittrock), Milk (Beau Knapp), Snowball (Arturo Castro), they enjoy their time together just have a bit of fun.
Cal has been keeping an eye on his younger brother Oyster since their mother died and it is a job big brother takes seriously. Helping him stay out of trouble has also brought tension to the brothers that occasionally come to the surface. As the gang goes out for a night of drinks, they all know that going to Iraq is very close. Cal warns Oyster to stay out of trouble but gets a snarky reply.
Later in the evening, Cal gets a telephone call that his brother is wanted for beating up a man at the bar. Having no choice, he goes to look for his brother wanting to be the one to arrest him before anything else happens. It doesn't go well and Oyster is sent to prison while Cal is sent to Iraq. The brother each fight to stay alive but in different ways. Cal is faced with his own decisions in war when his platoon is attacked. Oyster is fighting corruption from those that should be protecting him.
Returning home Cal visits his brother in jail and is met with disdain and hostility but it is clear that something bad is happening to Oyster. Cal reaches out to anyone that he things can help but all he is told is that there is a possibility the younger brother can be transferred. He tries to discover why Oyster is out of legal options only to find out there is something nefarious happening.
That's when he decides the only recourse is to be a law man who is about to break that law and with help!
Courtney as Callahan is a complex character being that he is a big brother put in a position of responsibility at a young age to be a father figure. As he gets older, he sees the path Oyster is on and will do anything to help him avoid the painful effects of bad decisions. Courtney has made a career portraying a stern faced and by the book leader roles and it's because he makes it work beautifully. This is an intense role because of the truths behind it with war and a sense of brotherhood that has brotherhood attached to it as well.
Wolff as Oyster clearly has issues that he has not dealt with and a history that is filled with pain and fear. Instead of the brothers dealing with that history, Wolff holds anger towards his brother that is taken to the stratosphere when Cal is the one who arrests him. Wrapped up in himself, he can't see past that anger and blames everyone else for his own bad choices. Wolff is that little brother many of us can relate to and that brings the viewer deeper into the relationships with Cal.
Knapp, Castro and Wittrock are Cal and Oyster's military brothers who see what is happening between them and tries to keep the peace. When they all go to Iraq without Oyster, these men follow their leader Cal because that's what brothers do, watch out for each other and trust that their leader will get them home. Once home, they all understand the pain Cal is going through when he sees Oyster in prison and will follow both brothers into another kind of battle.
Other cast include Leighton Meester as Clara, Rachel Hendrix as Rachel, Wayne Pere as Tom Nichols, Ashton Leigh as Val, Sylvia Crim as Carrie, Rob Mello as Tony, Lance Nichols as Balfour, Jared Bankens as DJ Dwyer, Mehdi Merali as Jalal and William Harris as Dr. Stall.
SEMPER FI is a story with many layers beginning with the brothers and ending with brotherhood. It shares within the story the struggles of those returning from war to try and find their way yet never forgetting who got them home in the first place. Another layer is that of a brotherhood that happens for soldiers in the military. In this instance it is a brotherhood that supports one another and even though it is an unusual situation, it is still not farfetched.
Films like SEMPER FI are important in that they address such serious issues that soldiers face when they return from war. In the case of Cal he is fighting what happened after the attack and how to deal with it once home. Trying to be strong for his brother and 'brothers' is difficult and the strain becomes too much at one point. When it comes to Oyster, it is his brothers who let him know that nothing is impossible together.
Sean Mullin is an award-winning screenwriter and film director but previous to that was a Captain in the New York Amy National Guard and a first responder after the September 11th attacks. He spent his time working as the Officer in Charge of the soldiers stationed at Ground Zero. His critically-acclaimed debut - AMIRA & SAM won at numerous film festivals and was distributed by Drafthouse Films. He is the co-writer and co-producer of SEMPER FI along with Academy Award Nominated director Henry-Alex Rubin. Also involved is Academy Award nominated producer of WHIPLASH David Lancaster.
In the end - honor your brother!
The Thrill Returns us to DOWNTON ABBEY
Coming to theatre this Friday from director Michael Engler and Focus Features from the characters created by Julian Fellowes is the return to DOWNTON ABBEY.
The Crawley family continues normal life at Downton Abbey until Robert (Hugh Bonneville), the Earl of Grantham, receives word that the King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) are about to make a visit. Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) is thrilled but Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) goes into immediate panic especially with husband Henry (Matthew Goode) off on business. Barrows (Robert James-Collier) is now the head of the staff but Lady Mary feels as if things aren't getting done properly.
Bringing her concerns to Lord Grantham there is only one choice, ask a retired Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) to resume his duties as Downton Abbey until the visit is over and Barrows isn't happy. Mr. Carson gets the staff in order with Andy (Michael Fox) and the return of Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle). Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) also has her hands full as every nook and cranny must be cleaned and there isn't a lot of time. Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) begin creating a menu fit for royalty.
Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) doesn't seem as nervous about the King and Queen's visit but is concerned about seeing relative Maud Bagshaw (Imedla Staunton). The Dowager believes that Maud is trying to cut Robert out of any inheritance since being seen about with her companion Lucy (Tuppence Middleton). Isobel (Penelope Wilton) agrees to help Violet discover the true story behind Maud's decision as husband Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) stays out of it.
Tom Branson (Allen Leech) is happy to be back at Downton Abbey and with his car business. When he learns about the King and Queen's visit, some think that perhaps he wouldn't be pleased out it. So much so that Mary senses something is wrong and isn't sure what to do. Up for the festivities is Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and husband Bertie Hexham (Harry Hadden-Paton) as they make their way home.
With everything buzzing and plans being made, there is a damper on the happiness when the staff are told that they will not be handling the royal visit. Enter the very stuffy Kings manservant Mr. Wilson (David Haig), Queen's dresser Mrs. Webb (Richenda Carey) and royal chef Monsieur Courbet (Philippe Spall). Hardly ready to relinquishing their pride in Downton Abbey, Mrs. Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) come up with a plan that is brilliant and wonderful. Barrows is also being watched by Captain Chetwode (Stephen Moore) as being upset with Mr. Carson leads him down a bad road.
When the King and Queen finally arrive, the household is in high gear as the royal family is treated to dinner with a party to follow the next evening. That is when secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and everyone who lives and works at Downton Abbey once again remembers how they have all come together for so long and can't imagine anything else.
Bonneville as the Earl of Grantham returns to his role as the leader of a family who go their own way no matter what he might say about it. This character has grown to understand that things change and if he doesn't then the Downton Abbey could fall at his feet. I adore Bonneville in this role because he has the facial expressions that say everything even if he says nothing. He clearly loves his family and what's more is he respects those who keep his household running. McGovern as Cora is the American who has embraced the world she married into. When she is stern, it comes with a smile most often and when she is giddy her face lights up. Her character is the opposite of Robert which is why these two actors make such an awesome pairing.
Dockery as Lady Mary is such an unusual character because she gives off an air of superiority but when she lets her humanity and frailty show it is a sight for the heart to see. Carmichael as Lady Edith has finally found her niche in the world along with daughter Marigold. Now she needs to find the order of it all. Staunton as Bagshaw is a relative full of secrets and some in the family are going to make sure they know every little juicy detail. Middleton as Lucy has her own secrets but a certain Irishman only sees a lovely young girl.
Leech as Branson has become a character that was once on the outside looking in and now on the inside looking out. Finding the middle ground has always been such a difficult process for this character but now he seems to have found it. Happy with his business and equally happy at Downton Abbey, he carries himself with such grace and still finds humor in his adopted family. Goode as Henry just goes along to get along and is happy in his marriage to Lady Mary, I wish there would have been more of him but I'm thinking it will happen. Hadden-Patton as Hexam is being pulled away by a King who has taken a liking to him and Edith finds herself being meek about it once again. I kept thinking 'come on Edith, stand your ground!'. Reith as Lord Merton has found happiness in his life and plans to keep it that way by staying out of any family drama.
Jones and James as the King and Queen are lovely and bring their own personal baggage to Downton Abbey. They prove that even royals have family issues and through it all a sense of humor as well. Moore as Chetwode protects the royal family but has a few secrets of his own. Haig as Mr. Wilson is a man I'd throw out on his ear if it wouldn't get me put in the Tower! Carey as Mrs. Webb would be in the pig mud right night to Mr. Wilson and to complete the threesome would be Spall as the royal chef. Those three brought enough aggravation and did it extremely well - kudos!
The return of Carter as Mr. Carson brought joy to every moment he is on screen. His presence, even when he is a bit frazzled, lets you know that everything will be alright. Right by his side is Logan as Mrs. Hughes. Never let it be said that this very elegant lady doesn't know how to take care of her position and life with Mr. Carson. Nicol as Mrs. Patmore is a character I see as the fire that is always keeping everyone warm. Food is one thing but the obvious caring she has for those around her comes through the screen. McShera as Daisy once again puts her foot in it and manages to not be concerned with how some people love traditions and pageantry.
James-Collier as Barrows has been in Mr. Carson's shoes for some time and isn't all that thrilled when he returns. So instead of dealing with it, which he never does very well, he once again finds destructive ways of handling things. Nothing he does surprises me! Doyle as Mr. Molesley is over excited and willing to put his teaching position on hold just to be in the same room as the King and Queen. Of course with this excitement comes the usual missteps that had me responding with a slap to my forehead. Fox returns as Andy who is in love with Daisy and discovers he might have a bit of a jealous streak in him.
My favorite couple ever in the entire series is Froggartt as lovely Mrs. Bates and Coyle as Mr. Bates. If there was ever a couple that went through everything horribly imaginable and came out the other side the same honorable people it is the Bates'. Froggartt is beautiful, sweet, gentle yet has a sarcastic side I love. Being the dresser for Lady Mary for years, she still wants to be at Downton Abbey and in the film gets her chance to show a side that is epic. Coyle as Mr. Bates has gone through the gambit if I do say so myself. Through it all his life has changed dramatically and yet he never once looked for an excuse for anything. That being said, planning what is planned for the staff at Downton Abbey, this husband and wife duo show they will fight for what they believe in and do it as they always have done it - together.
Now let's talk Maggie Smith as Violet - can it be said that she is the cherry on top of a very large and very ostentatious Downton Abbey cake? Well, she is on the one in my mind. Smith is sharp, witty, and doesn't take anything lightly. One moment she is watching everything and the next jumping in the fray to mix it up. Of course she wouldn't be able to do some of it with her partner-in-sort-of-crime Isobel. Wilton in her supporting friendship with Violet is the yin to her yang. When these two ladies get together you can be sure it will be hilarious and the repartee a feast for the mind.
Other cast include Raquel Cassidy as Miss Baxter, Kate Phillips as Princess Mary, Max Brown as Richard Ellis, Mark Addy as Mr. Bakewell, Michael Fox as Andy Parker, Susan Lynch as Miss Lawton, James Cartwright as Tony Sellick, Fifi Hart as Sybbie, Oliver & Zac Barker as George, Alice McCarthy as Nanny Harewood, Marina Balbara as Baroness Valerenay, Andrew Havill as Henry Lascelles, Eva & Karina Samms as Marigold, Diane Halling as Countess of Harrowby, and Perry Fitzpatrick as Chris Webster.
I discovered the series DOWNTON ABBEY completely by accident as it was on KPBS the same night as my other favorite The Great British Baking Show. It didn't take long before I became completely engrossed in the story of the families both upstairs and downstairs. I hated when the seasons ended and I broke out the tea set when the next season came around. Little did I know that the series was exploding all over the United States.
Created by writer Julian Fellowes, it aired in 2011 telling the story of Downton Abbey in the mid-1900s of a Yorkshire estate and the Crawley family but it also told the story of the servants. There was everything imaginable happening and the cast made every bit of it magical to watch for those of us who watched week after week. Downton Abbey is actually Highclere Castle in north Hampshire and although there was filming in Ealing Studios, most of it is Highclere Castle both inside and out.
Fellowes himself has had an amazing career as an actor, to launching his own series on BBC and writing a miniseries about the Titanic. He won an Oscar for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen in 2002 for the script GOSFORD PARK and won Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review for SEPARATE LIES. His credit also include VANITY FAIR, THE TOURIST, FROM TIME TO TIME and one of my absolute favorite Emily Blunt films THE YOUNG VICTORIA.
DOWNTON ABBEY has become and I believe will continue to be an iconic series and now film for years to come. There is nothing that can hold a candle to it. In the four years since fans cried their eyes out at the television show finale, the film will not only make us forgive everything but thrill us once again. The story, the character, opulence, splendor, feistiness, heart, gumption, and so much more wrapped in a castle most of us know from a mere glance.
How does one thank Julian Fellowes for giving us just a little more of what we crave and an even bigger thank you to every original cast member that came back and made us feel like they didn't miss a beat. DOWNTON ABBEY is such a beautiful film in every way and I love period pieces of all kinds but this film has a special place in my heart because the characters.
This is not just a reunion of characters, but a reunion of us along with the characters we embraced back in 2011. We want to know they are all fine in the world of Downton Abbey and that it is possible (please let it be possible) that there might be another film to continue their story.
In the end - they've been expecting us!
IT Chapter Two Brings on the Jumps
This Friday from director Andy Muschietti, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. is the closing saga of kids and clowns with IT Chapter Two.
It has been twenty-seven years since 'The Losers' took out the thing they call 'it'. Still in town is Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) and he sees a familiar pattern happening in town. People are missing and he sees the all too familiar red balloon.
His only recourse is to call the gang one by one starting with Bill (James McAvoy) who is a writer, Richie (Bill Hader) who has become a stand-up comedian, Ben (Jay Ryan) who is a real estate mogul, Eddie (James Ransone) who is assessment analyst, Beverly (Jessica Chastain) who is repeating her childhood and Stanley (Andy Bean).
With hardly a memory of the incident years ago, they all come because of a promise made. Meeting up they begin to remember the good times hanging out together and the not so good times because of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard).
When they learn that one of them won't be joining them, it becomes all to real. Mike has a plan and has spent all his time trying to find a way to destroy It. Their first response is to run but as they remember more and reconnect their friendships, it becomes clear that they can't escape.
Each of them journey's back to what happened that summer and what is the one memory they need to defeat Pennywise. Once they all come to terms with that, there is only one thing left to do - head for the gutters and a showdown with the thing that has haunted their lives.
Pennywise has other plans!
McAvoy as Bill knows that he must go to Derry no matter how much his brain says 'run!'. Seeing the friends of his youth is wonderful, until it isn't. He still grieves the death of his brother Georgie and once Mike explains things, Bill knows he must see it through. McAvoy stands out in everything he does but here, as part of an ensemble cast, he melds in beautifully into the second part of the story.
Chastain as Beverly comes to terms with her childhood because she is forced too, especially with the life she has set up for herself since the last time she met Pennywise. Chastain is solid with her "all-guy" club as a kid but even more so as an adult. Ransone as Eddie is a man who is almost frozen by fear in all things, including his marriage. As each discussion with the group happens, he becomes the voice of 'lets get OUT of here!'.
Ryan as Ben is the kid with his own secrets and not all of them have to do with Pennywise. He is a totally different adult and only wants to get away for a second until he also realizes that Bill is right, they'd only be back at 70!
Two outstanding performances here are Hader as Richie because his character, even though holding his own secret, was the comedy of the entire film. Yes, this is a scary movie and Hader's character makes sure that there are moments to break the tension. Of course Skarsgard as Pennywise is just to damn creepy for words. He is frightening, horrific and the very reason some people absolutely don't like clowns! Tim Curry may be my youth Pennywise but Skarsgard has given it a different face in a different way that works.
Other cast includes Jaeden Martel as young Ben, Wyatt Oleff as young Stan, Finn Wolfhard as young Richie, Sophia Lillis as young Beverly, Chosen Jacobs as young Mike and Jeremy Taylor as young Ben.
IT Chapter Two is a long movie because there is so much more here than the story of a scary clown. There are answers to questions I didn't even know I had! The story is intense at times and sad in other frames. In between that is intensity, jumps, yells, frights, a few disgusting characters that I hope to never see again and an audience that joined in every single second of it.
I have to give it two jumps up because I usually don't yell or jump but I'll give the special effects their props because I caught myself. What I loved about the 'horror' of this horror film is that there isn't gore for the sake of gore but part of the story and, in a weird way, placed appropriately. In simpler terms it means I was so all in that the one scene where there was a lot of blood made sense to me (I know, I know…weird right?).
From the moment I heard they were remaking IT I wasn't happy because I'm a fan of originals and believe their day in the sun isn't over. This retelling puts people in theatre seats to see it on the big screen and it works. Especially since we all love to be scared and if it can be done well then kudos.
The pair of the young characters to their adult counter parts will always remain high on my list. It is very easy to see who is who and that's because of careful and meticulous casting. I enjoyed the kid version of course because I can relate to that time period when all fun was with friends on bikes riding through town from dawn to dusk in the summertime.
In the matter of Pennywise, well, we all have one don't we. That's what I always took from the crazy clown in that he forced the gang to face what made them afraid and in their stories, those fears are relatable for some of us.
There are a few things that I wasn't sure were necessary (including the time of two hours and 49 minutes) and one door chain goose egg but I'll save those for a face to face conversation. I truly want everyone to enjoy every scare, jump, sadness and humor that IT Chapter Two has to offer.
So grab a group of friends and spend some time getting closure as well because Pennywise and The Losers Club are going to provide it.
In the end - you'll float again!
THE NIGHTINGALE Sings the Saddest Song
Coming to theatres from writer/director Jennifer Kent and IFC Films comes a story that will have everyone talking about THE NIGHTINGALE.
It is 1825 Australia where Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a 21-year-old Irish woman who served a seven year prison sentence. Freed by Lt. Hawkins (Sam Claflin), she has basically exchanged one prison sentence for another. He is infatuated with Clare and although he allows her to marry Aidan (Michael Sheasby), Lt. Hawkins controls everything she does.
Lt. Hawkins himself is an unhappy man, unhappy with his post, life and that Clare continues to request that she be set free. Once again she is denied and Aidan doesn’t understand his hold. Deciding to speak with Lt. Hawkins himself, it becomes an evening of unspeakable horror.
The next morning Clare attempts to find justice for her family and discovers that Lt. Hawkins and his men have packed up and left for a post in the north. That is when she decides to go after them all to hold them accountable. Needing a guide she is directed toward Aboriginal tracker Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) who really wants nothing to do with her.
Given no choice, Clare holds Billy at gunpoint as they see each other without much care. Clare sees a black man who should do as he is told and Billy sees a white woman who comes from a group of people who have killed his.
As they come closer to finding Lt. Hawkins and company, a bond begins to form as their lives are in danger. They both have stories of their lives and finally share with one another. In those stories they discover that pain knows no color or geography.
Finally coming face to face with Lt. Hawkins, both must make a decision on how to handle their pain.
Franciosi as Clare is stunning, emotional, frightening and absolutely stellar in her role. I have to be quite honest and say I’m not sure how any woman given that time period would have handled what this character went through. That being said, Franciosi portrayal of Clare is riveting and feels very honest. She had me tense and holding my breath every scene of the film. Brilliant!
Ganambarr as Billy plays his character straight forward as an aboriginal who has been denied his country, heritage, family and sense of self. He is angry and has every right to be but once he learns Clare’s story, there is a change that happens with an understanding that is clear and powerful. I was taken with Ganambarr’s performance and it is one I am not likely to ever forget.
Claflin as Lt. Hawkins is just plain evil from start to finish and that is so surprising for me. I am so use to Claflin playing roles like THE HUNGER GAMES, THE HUNTSMAN, ME BEFORE YOU and ADRIFT that this role out and out shocks me in its brutality. These all had to be a difficult role and Claflin as the heavy plays a character that knows his wrongs but continues to do them anyway.
Other cast include Damon Herriman as Ruse, Harry Greenwood as Jago, Ewen Leslie as Goodwin, Charlie Shotwell as Eddie, Matthew Sunderland as Davey, Magnolia Maymuru as Lowanna, Christopher Stollery as Major Bexley, Nathaniel Dean as Stoakes, Claire Jones as Harriet, Luke Carroll as Archie and Charlie Jampijinpa Brown as Uncle Charlie.
THE NIGHTINGALE has won at Venice for Special Jury Prize, Best New York Performer, winner at the Miami International Film Festival, Rene Rodriguez Critics Award as well as the Official Selection at the Sundance Film Festival – Spotlight Section and Official Selection at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
This film is brutal, even savage, in its telling and in the mix is colonialism, an attempt to extinguish a race, disgusting treatment of women and the insanity of it all on a person. I can’t recall the last time I had my hand over my mouth so many times during a film to keep in the yell that wanted to escape.
It is a story of Clare and Billy and the clear truth that they do not know their worth until their worth is made clear. Unfortunately the knowledge comes by way of pain and hardship. Franciosi and Ganambarr give their characters humanity in the midst of madness.
The writer/director Jennifer Kent has told a tale that wears down the viewer with a cast that brings everything to the screen. I am in awe of everyone who took part in this film. This won’t be an easy film for anyone to watch but that shouldn’t stop it from being seen and I believe that!
In the end – her song won’t be silenced!
ANGEL HAS FALLEN
Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Ric Roman Waugh and Lionsgate is the return of an agent who is set up with ANGEL HAS FALLEN.
Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is once again guarding a President, this time its President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). Now a family man, he begins to think it may be time to take a higher position in the agency that affords him less danger. Even military friend Danny Huston (Wade Jennings) offers him a position with his company.
On a fishing trip with President Trumbull, Banning briefly discussed his options and is told to think about what he wants to do. Changing shifts with another agent, Banning heads towards shore but notices something odd coming their way. That’s when all hell breaks loose and he must turn around to save the President.
Waking up in the hospital he is told the President’s condition is serious and that he is considered the prime suspect in an assassination attempt. Vice President Kirby (Tim Nelson) has taken the oath to temporarily become the President. Assigned to investigate the attack is FBI Agent’s Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Ramirez (Joseph Millson).
Banning knows that he can not stay handcuffed to the hospital bed if he is to discover who is after President Trumbull and when they will strike next. He turns to the only person he can trust but the history between them is sketchy at best. Clay (Nick Nolte) isn’t a fan of the government and sure knows how to protect himself which is what Banning counts on.
As the truth comes to the surface, and it is brutal, Banning isn’t about to let anyone get their hands on the President and he’ll bulldoze through anyone who tries!
Butler as Banning once again dons a suite and tie to begin with but ends up dirty and beat by the end. It’s what happens in between that makes Butler a perfect Banning. Not afraid in any way to get his hands, or anything else, dirty to make this film as action packed as it is. He’s not so much as a one-liner guy, more like a few questions and then an ass-kicking kind of agent.
Nolte as Clay is absolutely killer – literally and figuratively – and he brought cheers from the audience. This character is perfect for Nolte and the scenes with Butler are gems. Jennings as Houston once again plays the role he was born to play, a man with a mission who, like a dog with a bone, isn’t about to stop until he gets what he wants.
Smith as Thompson throws her tiny weight around and along with her partner Ramirez are also on a mission – to capture Banning (good luck with that!). Nelson as Kirby takes over while Turnbull is in the hospital. Keeping the country running is his goal as he decides how to move forward in case Turnbull doesn’t come back.
Freeman as Turnbull does what he does best – act very Presidential. Lets be honest, he’s played the commander-in-chief before so we know he’s good at it. I adore Freeman so I don’t mind if he repeats a character because he does it with class.
Other cast include Michael Landes as White House Chief of Staff Sam Wilcox, Piper Perabo as Leah Banning, Lance Reddick as Secret Service Director David Gentry, Mark Arnold as CIA Director James Haskell and Frederick Schmidt as Travis Cole.
ANGEL HAS FALLEN is an action packed film from beginning to end with a lot of twists and turns. That makes writing about it a little difficult but I’m not about to give anything away.
The audience I screened with was applauding, hollering, cheering and more than happy with the film. Alright, I’ll admit I was having a good time as well. This is the kind of film that cries out ACTION and delivers every bit of it. This film isn’t rocket science or trying to reinvent the wheel.
Instead, it does exactly what I go see action films for – twists, turns, chases, slips and oh so much more. Butler makes sure we get that because, as with the previous FALLEN films, it is what drew us all into the theatres in 2013 with OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. The story brought us in again in 2016 with LONDON HAS FALLEN.
ANGEL HAS FALLEN falls into line and makes me wonder, what will Mike Banning bring us in 2022?
In the end – loyalty has fallen under fire!
LOVE, ANTOSHA Brings Heavy Emotion for the Young Actor
Coming to theatres from director/producer Garrett Price and Lurker Productions is a documentary on the life of Anton Yelchin with LOVE, ANTOSHA.
Best known for his role as the young Chekov in the STAR TREK films, Anton Yelchin wasn't a new comer to films. Not at all, in fact his career began at a young age beginning in 2000 with a role in the television series ER. I remember that episode clearly and Yelchin plays young boy Robbie who loses his parents.
From the moment Yelchin is on screen, there is something amazing in his eyes that says 'get ready to break out the kleenex everyone' which I did. But this wouldn't be the only time this actor would move me.
In 2001 in the film HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, he once again tests every emotion possible. Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2004 would show us another side of Yelchin with scenes that were pure brilliance.
HOUSE OF D that same year from writer/director David Duchovny cements Yelchin as an actor beyond words. Next came ALPHA DOG and CHARLIE BARTLETT along side Robin Williams followed by THE BEAVER with Jodie Foster.
In between Hollywood roles, Yelchin made it clear he wanted to make the un-Hollywood type films. Those around him saw that he needed to stretch and explore different characters in different ways.
When STAR TREK came, viewers thought that this was a newcomer to Hollywood. They embraced the young Chekov and now I can even imagine anyone doing the role. Yelchin met Walter Koenig, Chekov from the original 60s STAR TREK and it is easy to see from this documentary that he wanted to please Koenig.
But there was so much more to this talented and sensitive actor. The only son of immigrant Russian parents, Yelchin showed at a very early age that he was fascinated with films and music. He grew with each and every opportunity and influenced by each person he met.
That is what makes this documentary so absolutely fantastic. It starts with his family talking about where they came from and how they raised their son. Then his close friends talk about the time they spent together and how they always did things nutty (as guys tend to do).
The most surprising part of this documentary is the amount of people that actually knew Yelchin and by this I mean Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Martin Landau for starters. There are funny stories told by Chris Pine and Simon Pegg about Yelchin's need to photograph the unusualness he would find just walking down the street.
The most moving part of this documentary are the notes that Antosha left for his family to constantly remind them of his love. The raw notes he would write to himself are read by Nicholas Cage who happened to be Yelchin's favorite actor.
What a rare few knew was that Yelchin suffered from Cystic Fibrosis and, as with everything this young man did, he did not use CF as an excuse to not push himself. Instead he did what was necessary and jumped into his life fray with every bit of heart and soul he had.
June 19, 2016, the world would lose Yelchin in what would seem the most senseless way. A preventable accident would take him away from the world that so embraced his talent.
In the sadness of this we have to remember one thing, this young actor left behind 69 films and that is stunning. I have seen many of his films but after seeing this documentary, I want to see each and every film he made!
The film brings J.J. Abrams, Sofia Boutella, John Cho, Ian Cripps, Marlon Clark, Willem Dafoe, Joe Dante, Paul David, Ryan Dean, Drake Doremus, Ben Foster, Jodie Foster, Cxraif Gillespie, Dave Glowacki, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Jones, Avy Kaufman, Frank Langella, Mary Lester, Mark Palansky, Jon Poll, Zachary Quinto, Parush Rao, Zoe Saldana, Luke Shaft, Sophie Simpson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jon Voight, and Richard Wicklund out to talk about their feelings and some of it will bring a tear and a lot will bring laughs.
Having amazing access to his journals, writings, home movies, photographs, artwork and music - there doesn't seem to be a stone left unturned to share with the viewer. That is what makes this documentary so very special - its honesty to both the light and dark of his life.
We should all have such amazing friends that would want the world to know who we are, how we are and everything in between in such a way as Price has put together in LOVE, ANTOSHA.
In the end - he was so much more and now we know just how much more!
DORA and the LOST CITY OF GOLD is Fun for Families
Coming to theatres this Friday from director James Bobin and Paramount Pictures is the story of a young girl and adventures with DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD.
Dora (Isabela Moner) is a young girl who lives with her parents Elena (Eva Longoria) and Cole (Michael Pena) in the jungle. Living their most of her life she loved sharing adventures with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) when he visited. Her parents were always exploring and especially now as they feel they are closer to finding a lost Inca civilization. Dora is excited but that fades fast when she learns that Mom and Dad are sending her to cousin Diego believing it is time for her to have the high school experience.
Looking at it as an adventure, Dora is not happy about leaving behind her monkey friend Boots (voiced by Danny Trejo) but looks forward to what could happen next. Diego doesn't know what to make of his cousin and the cheeriness that seems to follow her everywhere especially when she seems to know a little more than a lot of her classmates. It is irritating to one particular classmate, Sammy (Madeleine Madden) but not so much for Randy (Nicholas Coombe).
Dora spends her time trying to fit in and visiting with family and especially grandmother Valerie (Adriana Barraza). Staying in touch with Mom and Dad through calls and mapping, it makes her feel like she is part of it all. Then, the phone calls suddenly stop and Dora begins to investigate why landing her, Diego, Sammy and Randy back in the jungle with Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez) who is also looking for her parents. But there are people chasing them and Dora knows only one thing - she must find her parents and quickly.
No one else knows the jungle better than Dora the explorer!
Moner as Dora is cheerful, inquisitive, blunt and very funny and that's just the beginning. This is a character that absolutely reaches out to children and that is the whole point of the film that came from an animated show. There is definitely culture shock on the part of Dora who goes from a free spirited, jungle roaming and tutored by her professor parent’s kid to a pavement walking high school where there are all kinds of people who don't think the way she does. This is a good film to address both of those issue all while exploring and having lots of giggles.
Wahlberg as Diego is irritated with his cousin at first because he is instantly knows from the moment she lands in California that she is going to have trouble fitting in. He tries to tell her how to make that happen but Dora believes in the philosophy of being herself. He is a good cousin and remembers what it was like in the jungle and that helps Dora a lot. Madden as Sammy is a girl who clearly has self-esteem issues while masking it with a superiority that is way more irritating than the happy-go-lucky Dora.
One adventure might change all that right? Coombe as Randy likes Dora just the way she is with her outgoing personality, her knowledge of the stars and pretty much everything else she can do that most girls in high school don't. He may be afraid on their adventure but he always manages to do the right thing by Dora's side.
Derbez as Alejandro wants to help Dora find her parents and the lost Inca city. He's a little bumbly which amuses Dora but he has a secret as well that she and the rest are unaware of. Derbez looks like he's having a good time in the film. Barraza as Grandmother Valerie is supportive of Dora and sees that even though she may be a little different, it's no reason not to always do what's right even if it is unpopular.
Longoria as Elena wants her daughter to make friends and go off to school to learn more about the world outside the jungle. She absolutely nails the mother role and she does so with humor. Pena as Cole might be wrapped up in his work but he always makes time to talk with Dora about what they are doing and what discoveries they make. That's a good Dad right there folks!
Trejo gets to be a blue friend to Dora and del Toro gets the chance to be a fox who isn't as smart as he thinks!
Other cast include Madelyn Miranda as Young Dora, Malachi Barton as Young Diego, Temuera Morrison as Powell, Pai Miller as Mami, Q'orianka Kilcher as Inca Princess Kawillaka, Isela Vega as Old Womanand Benicio del Toro as the voice of Swiper the Fox.
DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD is definetly a film that families can go see together just to have a lot of fun, a little bit of adventure and learn about family and friendship. The adventure is action packed and well done and there are a few moments of 'Dora'isms' that Mom's and Dad's will get a good chuckle out of. This is the type of film that you buy a huge tub of popcorn and a drink to share with everyone and just enjoy the ride.
I took my granddaughter who is four to see the film and she loved it and there were children as old as twelve also in attendance and they enjoyed it just as much. The laughing was constant and it was very plain to see that everyone in the theatre was having a good time. The film is a little over an hour and a half which means it isn't taxing for the smaller children but enough time for the characters to be developed and a story that is easy to follow.
In the end - unleash your wild side!
AFTER THE WEDDING Brings the Past Present
Coming to theatres from director Bart Freundlich and Sony Pictures Classics comes a family that once was and what can be AFTER THE WEDDING.
Isabel (Michelle Williams) is living in Kolkata, India and a co-founder of an orphanage that is in serious need of funding. In New York, Theresa Young (Julianne Moore) is a woman who not only has made a lot of money but is about to sell her business to come into even more money. She contacts Isabel asking her to come to New York to discuss the details.
Isabel steps into a world wind as Theresa is also in the middle of planning the wedding of her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn). Thinking the deal was done, it is upsetting to Isabel to learn that it might not be the case. Theresa wants to get to know her better an invites her to the wedding.
Arriving a little late, Isabel settles in to witness the rest of the ceremony and looking around she sees Theresa and her husband Oscar (Billy Crudup) and is shocked. It quickly becomes clear that she knows him which means a past trust has been broken.
Now there are three adults that need to talk about what has happened in the past and how it will affect the future. Grace learns about the secrets Isabel, Theresa and Oscar are hiding but one secret leads to another. Time is something none of them have as they each must decide how far forgiveness and family are to go.
Williams as Isabel is a quiet woman who wants what is best for the orphanage and the children she wishes to help. When their funding runs low, she must decide how important life in India is and what she will give up to keep it all going. Williams has the unique ability to keep a strong face when her character’s past comes knocking. Then again there isn’t a performance where I have much wrong to say about Williams, she is amazing.
Moore as Theresa is a woman making changes in her life selling her business, raising twin boys, marriage to Oscar and putting on a wedding for Grace. An actress that always put something more into a role that shines through, once again Moore gives us everything and so much more. Opposite Williams it is two of the best in a story that challenges every human emotion.
Crudup as Oscar is a man with a past and now it is come front and center deserving answers. He is rather calm and collected for a man who’s world is about to come crashing in different directions. Of course his decisions of the past don’t cause him to be sorry in the present either. Yes, I’m being vague; I mean I can’t give you everything!
Quinn as Grace is the one who is confronted with the secrets but then again she might have one of her own about her own life choices. Quinn gives a strong performance trying to fit all the pieces together so she can also find peace.
Other cast include Azhy Robertson as Otto, Alex Esola as Jonathan, Alex Cranmer as Eddie, Eisa Davis as Tanya, Susan Blackwell as Gwen, Mackenzie Owens as young Grace, Jeff Kim as Simon and Greta Quispe as Cibele.
AFTER THE WEDDING comes face to face with three adults and life choices. Of course some are difficult and some are life-altering but then again that is life itself right? We all do things we wish could have been changed somewhere along the line and there are family issues we don’t want to think about any more than we have to. That is the case with this film.
Isabel, Theresa and Oscar are connected on so many levels by those choices and these three actors brought the pain front and center forcing us to become involved whether we want to or not. That is because everything they are saying and feeling we have all said or felt in some shape or form so we want them to do better. Perhaps we want it all to be cleaner than our own situations but then again that would make the film fantasy wouldn’t it.
AFTER THE WEDDING will test heartstrings, bring tears and make us all ask ourselves ‘what would I do?’ The conversation is there to be had and that’s what makes this film worthy to watch.
In the end – every family has secrets!
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK
In theatres now from director Andre Ovredal, Entertainment One and Lionsgate comes the tale of kids and SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK.
It is fall in Mill Valley, PA in 1968 and Halloween has brought out mischief. Stella (Zoe Colletti) and friends Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) had plans of their own as town bully Tommy (Austin Abrams) is the object of their pranks. When it doesn’t turn out well, the three have to hide and find protection in Ramon’s car (Michael Garza).
Getting to know their rescuer, the gang decides to do their own Halloween by visiting the local haunted house. Once owned by the Bellows family, it has a history for spookiness and rumor. Stella tells the story of Sarah Bellows, a woman who was kept in the basement of her family home but no one really knew why.
Finding the room in the basement, Stella finds a book of her stories while at the same time Tommy found all of them! Taking it with them when they manage to get out, they have no idea what they have unleashed.
The book begins to tell stories and Stella is shocked to learn that the tales come true. Beginning with Tommy, she realizes that everyone that was in the basement is now a target. Ramon stays in town to help find the answers as they dig into town records about the Bellows and discover the truth.
They are running out of time and friends!
Colletti as Stella is front and center of the film as a young girl dealing with feelings about her mother while taking care of her father. Growing up with her two buddies, she still feels alone and spends her time writing. Colletti gives her character vulnerability, smarts and a fearlessness that I found myself cheering for without realizing I was doing it.
Garza as Ramon is passing through town but has a nosey sheriff keeping tabs on him. Helping Stella and friends brings him problems from the town bully but those are minor compared to what follows them all. This young actor keeps it together while friends Auggie and Chuck don’t.
Rush as Auggie is a little different than most boys his age and that is the reason Stella hangs out with him. Zajur as Chuck not only is the smarty pants of the bunch but also loves to make sister Ruth, played by Natalie Ganzhorn, miserable. Ganzhorn is the drama queen in every sense of the word and with very good eight legged reason to be.
Other cast include Gil Bellows as Chief Turner, Lorraine Toussaint as Lou Lou, Will Carr as Ephraim Bellows and Kathleen Pollard as Sarah Bellows.
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK has everything suspenseful and very cool special effects. The story is set in an era that is becoming more popular in film and you won’t get a complaint out of me about that. There is something very special about films that are filled with cell phones, loud music, guns, and all the things we’ve become desensitized to.
This film is a good scary yarn that is filled with a few jumps, creepy music, a back-story and kids so that’s a start. That being said, the premise of the film is one I have seen before. Not a reinvention of the horror genre wheel by any stretch, it’s a nice get-a-big-tub-of-popcorn-to-share film with friends (but go to the matinee).
In the end – stay out of scary houses!
Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Andrea Berloff, DC Vertigo and Warner Bros. is a story of three women who know what it's like to be left in THE KITCHEN.
It is the 1970s in New York in a neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen where Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) lives with her criminal husband Jimmy (Bryan d'Arcy James). Friend Claire Walsh (Elizabeth Moss) lives with her abusive husband Rob (Jeremy Bobb) and Ruby O'Carroll (Tiffany Haddish) lives with her degrading husband Kevin (James Dale) and equally degrading mother-in-law Helen (Margo Martindale).
All three husbands work for Little Jackie (Myk Watford) who is the muscle in Hell's Kitchen but find themselves popped by FBI agents Gary Silvers (Common) and Gonzalo Martinez (E.J. Bonilla). Now serving a two year sentence, Little Jackie tells the three women left behind to not worry; they would be taken care of in their husband’s absence. Well, that isn't exactly the case when the envelopes arrive with practically nothing in them, at least not enough to buy food and pay the rent.
Kathy and Ruby go to talk with Little Jackie only to discover that he is full of excuses and hostility but what they do discover is that people aren't paying him. The women want to know why only to discover that no one can count on him. That's when they get the bright idea to offer their services of protection. The surprise is that the businesses would rather pay the women! Thinking they have a bit of muscle, it becomes clear that there is going to be a skirmish for power...enter Gabriel O'Malley (Domhnall Gleeson), a Vietnam vet with a certain set of skills and an eye for Claire.
As the business grows, it captures the attention of Alfonso Coretti (Bill Camp) who would rather work with the women than whack them for being so bold in their dealings. Now their empire begins to expand but with expansion comes the cracks in the three women's friendship. Especially when they discover that their husbands have all had their sentences commuted and they will be home in months rather than years. Kathy doesn't see a problem but Ruby and Claire both know that their husbands aren't about to sit still for the business they've created as Helen makes perfectly clear to Ruby.
Now decisions aren't being discussed, fear is beginning to set in and a paranoia that puts all the women in jeopardy but that's what happens when you take on something as big as THE KITCHEN.
McCarthy as Kathy starts out as a very sweet woman who just wants to be a good wife and mother. When hubby is sent off to the big house she realizes that its time to get things right for her kids. Her parents might not be too happy about it all but Kathy is determined to make it work. McCarthy gives her character heart until it's time to leave heart out of it. She begins to find her place and isn't about to let anyone, not even her friendships, get in the way. Yes, I love McCarthy in comedy but lets be real here, she does a bang up job (pun intended) when it comes to twists, turns and backbone.
Moss as Claire is in an abusive relationship that becomes her world. She only knows what Rob has dished out and can't see a life past that, until she gets with Kathy and Ruby and discovers there is more to her than she dared imagine. Things that might not be great for the other women to experience, she's all about it without batting an eye. It is easy to believe Moss in the role of a strong woman and anyone who has seen THE HANDMAID'S TALE on Hulu can attest to her ability to smile when needed and get a point across when absolutely necessary. She is a little scary in this role and I loved it. Gleeson as Gabriel is perfection in this role as a man who clearly has lost his way yet knows he has a trade he can offer the trio. It doesn't hurt that his relationship with Claire is nothing short of beautiful in a very twisted way.
Haddish as Ruby not only has to deal with the insults of her husband but the rantings of a mother-in-law who makes it perfectly clear that she will always, always side with her son (even if he is so wrong). Once she feels the power that what they are doing brings, she realizes that there is no turning back - not that she would want to. She gets bolder in the way she deals with people and it starts to become noticeable to Kathy and Claire. Common as FBI Silvers makes sure to capture the husband and isn't happy when he learns that they are getting out early. He, along with partner Martinez, are now watching the women to see what is going on.
Camp as Coretti hides his criminal activities behind the doors of his piano store which is a good cover if you ask me. He plays it smart when he realizes that the bet way to expand his business is to work with the women. There is a scene in which things could have gone horribly wrong for Kathy yet it is Coretti who shows, if you will, loyalty. Watford as Little Jackie is just the worst which means he did a really good job in making sure I didn't like him. That's talent right there!
Other cast include Manny Urena as Guy, John Sharian as Cousin Duffy, Rob Yang as Jeffrey, Tina Benko as Donna, Joseph Russo as Tony, Angus O'Brien as Mark, Matt Helm as Colin, Tom Stephens as Father Monoghan and Brandon Uranowitz as Schmuli Chudakoff.
THE KITCHEN is based on the comic book series by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle. What makes the film initially work is taking the 70s era and putting it up on the screen. Nothing says 'I wanna see this!' more to me than a 70s film that goes for the style, cars and music and everything else I love about the 1970s. No need to ask my age because it's pretty clear that if I loved the 70s then I lived in the 70s.
McCarthy, Moss, Haddish, and Domhnall bring the story its depth and brutal factor that one would expect of Hell's Kitchen at that time. Businesses paying for muscle, everyone trying to survive by the seat of their pants and always someone trying to take is the messy theme of the film and the intensity comes from never knowing who to trust.
That all being said, I do have a serious problem with the ending and I was thrilled to discover that I wasn't the only one. The last fifteen minutes was unsatisfying and had people saying out loud, 'are you serious? that's how it ends?’ So let’s just say that the film was going somewhere and it seemed as if writer/director Berloff just didn't know how to cut it off satisfactorily.
I have this little noise I make when I feel like I've been cinematically jilted and trust when I say I made that sound the whole drive home. Okay, once I got past it I relished in the first hour of the film and thought I wish we had seen more of Claire and Gabriel because those two are a pair that would be worthy of more of my time. The Bonnie and Clyde of the 70s except, well, sweeter if they could be called that considering their chosen profession.
In the end - it's time for these women to show what they've got!
OPHELIA Tells Another Story
Coming to theatres this Friday from director Claire McCarthy and IFC Films comes her life from a different point of view with OPHELIA.
Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) is a young spirited girl who is being raised by father Polonius (Dominic Mafham) and devoted to brother Laertes (Tom Felton). Not exactly lady-like as most women in court, it is Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts) who embraces the motherless girl.
Hamlet (George MacKay) also has an eye for Ophelia but knows they can't be together. Feeling she is not a beautiful as other women in the court, Ophelia is often taunted by lady-in-waiting Cristiana (Daisy Head).
While away with friend Horatio (Devon Terrell), Hamlet learns that his father has died. Before he arrives, Uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) has not only taken the throne but married Gertrude.
Hamlet rekindles his feelings for Ophelia but they both know that something isn't right in court. There are secrets, plots, ghosts, potions and when Hamlet makes a fatal error, the young couple has no choice but to call out those responsible.
Their love carries the highest price of all!
Ridley as Ophelia takes this iconic character of tragedy and dives deep into another perspective of the happenings in court. Keenly aware that she isn't high-born, this telling of Ophelia gives her survival instincts and the ability know when to speak and when to stay silent. Ridley embraces it all and gives a stellar performance that, frankly, blew me away.
Watts as Gertrude has the opportunity to also tell another side of her story in a way that is both shocking and completely sad. The duality of her role is based in desires, sadness and torn between what she wants and what is happening around her. All of this affecting the life of her only son Hamlet.
Owen as Claudius has the opportunity to be cruel, ruthless and a plotting fiend. Not that Owen hasn't had the opportunity to have those traits in other roles, just not all at the same time so perfectly. Claudius clearly has one goal - castle domination.
MacKay as Hamlet is taken with Ophelia and he would do anything to protect her, even leave the castle. Returning under circumstances that are entirely questionable, he decides to take control of his fate and love for Ophelia. Claudius keeps his eye on Hamlet and one tragic effect gives the twisted king an opportunity to tighten his grip on the throne. MacKay gives Hamlet such heart and a man with a plan.
Felton as Laertes is a devoted brother who wants the best for his sister but at the same time wants to get as far away as possible from the castle and the mayhem inside it. Felton takes more steps away from the wizarding world and shows his scientific chops in this role.
Head as Cristiana is the lady-in-waiting that is the weight around Ophelia's neck. Terrell as Horatio is Hamlet's friend and his main role is to keep the prince out of trouble and making sure Ophelia knows his true heart.
Other cast include: Sebastian De Souza as Edmund, Martin Angerbauer as Guildenstern, Noel Czuczor as Rosencrantz, Rupesh Tillu as Yorick, Angela Nwagbo as Viola, Anna Rust as Young Mechtild, Jack Cunningham-Nuttall as Young Hamlet and Mia Quiney as Young Ophelia.
Director McCarthy takes from the adaptation by Semi Chellas. This producer and writer is also known for The Romanoff’s, Mad Men and American Woman.
This telling of young Ophelia stays on target to what she sees, hears, experiences and brings that all together in this film. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, she has her part to play but in truth the story isn't about her, only the effects of what happened to her. OPHELIA is intelligent, lovely and cinematically ethereal.
Ridley and MacKay play the star crossed lovers in a very sweet way but are both being torn in directions that keep moving them closer together emotionally but farther apart physically. They both know who is responsible but each can only do their part from their stations in life. This story of Ophelia is smart and still staying with the twists and turns of the Shakespeare tale.
In the end - experience Hamlet through her eyes!
SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home
Coming to theatres just in time to help celebrate the 4th from director Jon Watts, Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures is our friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home.
It is after the Endgame as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is still dealing with the loss of Tony Stark and looking forward to a school trip to Europe. His hope is that he can finally tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels and enjoy some time away from his spider suit. His Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is happy for him as well.
On the trip is best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice), Brad (Remy Hii), Flash (Tony Revolori) and teachers Mr. Bell (J.B. Smoove) and Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr). They are ready to explore Italy first but there is a creature under them with other plans. When it rises to the surface, Peter must do his best to protect as many people as possible.
That is until he sees Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), fly in and lend a hand. When it’s all over, his friends give the superhero a name – Mysterio. Later Peter is visited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) because he needs Spider-Man’s help and gives him something special. Yet Peter can only think of MJ, their trip and being a kid.
Trying to explain his feelings to Fury, he goes back to his classmates only to discover that their itinerary has changed to go, oddly enough, where Fury wants Spider-Man to be. A plan is set in motion with Mysterio and Spider-Man working together to save even more people.
That is when Peter makes a decision that may cost far more than he could have imagined!
Holland as Spider-Man has to be one of the best choices ever made for the Marvel Universe next to Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. He is funny, insecure, fearless and fearful at the same time, has teen angst and most of all – just plain adorably charming. He has made the role of Spider-man his and fans love it.
Gyllenhaal as Mysterio is, and lets be honest here, so cool to watch. Here he works with Spider-Man and befriends him which helps Peter with the loss of his good friend. Gyllenhaal fits into his costume as if it were always destine to be his.
Jackson is back as Nick Fury who doesn’t mind guilting Spider-Man into getting a gang back together. Zendaya as MJ is still her dark self and occasionally has an eye on Peter, Batalone as Ned is there for his web weaving friend but has his eyes drawn in an unexpected way. Tomei as May is happy with her life and to have Peter in it but may have a surprise of her own.
Hii as Brad returns a little older and crushing on MJ. Revolori as Flash once again plays the tourist except he spends more time trying to get social media friends than actual friends.
Shout out to Favreau for returning as Happy Hogan! I have come to love his character and am thrilled to see him be there for Peter Parker.
Other cast include: Toni Garrn as The Seamstress, Michael Mando as MacGargan, Numan Acar as Dimitri, Hemky Madera as Mr. Delmar, and Cobie Smulders as Marla Hill.
SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home is going to delight fans because Holland has done such an amazing job of portrayed the young webbed one. There is something for everyone in the film with action, story, twists, turns and – well, a teen love story that has been trying to break free.
Being a superhero has its price and it is a talk between Happy and Peter that helps the young man decide how to continue being a hero people can look to. I honestly believe that’s what makes this incarnation of the Spider-Man franchise more believable than it has ever been. Holland brings it all together with a tender and emotion filled performance that is so relatable.
The film is fast paced, full of cgi eye-candy and warmth that lets us know that AVENGERS: Endgame is just a beginning for the webbed one. Of course I’m being evasive in my description of the film because, as with most fun films, the fun is absolutely seeing it with the least amount of spoilers possible. I want everyone to have just as much fun as I did!
So as you prepare for the 4th of July holiday, make sure you start it off with a visit from your friendly neighborhood (both in country and out) Spider-Man!
In the end – he is more than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, so much more!
ANNABELLE COMES HOME Needs to Stay in the Box
Coming to theatres this Friday from director/writer Gary Dauberman, James Wan and Warner Bros. Pictures is ANNABELLE COMES HOME.
Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) are bringing the doll Annabelle back to their locked room of evilness. What they haven’t realized yet is daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) is having difficulties of her own in that arena when an article comes out in the paper about her parents and what they do.
Leaving town for a night, the Warren’s leave their daughter in the care of trusted babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iceman). When her friend Daniela (Katie Safire) learns where Mary Ellen is babysitting, she wants to see the house of the demonologists.
The sitter has other plans which are to make a cake for Judy who is going to have a birthday soon. Seeing the parents off, the two settle in for a little cake baking time but are interrupted by Daniela who barges in. Mary Ellen isn’t thrilled but when Judy wants to skate around the block, Daniela volunteers to watch the cake baking.
In fact Daniela has other plans as she finds the keys to the artifacts room. Instead of being curious, she has opened the door to a room full of things that have been waiting to get out – especially the doll Annabelle.
That’s when a night of scares begins and the reality of what has been freed means the Warrens need better locks!
Iceman as Mary Ellen is as sweet as can be and looks very responsible from the get go, but then she is easily swayed by a someone who doesn’t seem to care about a friendship. Once the evil is out, Iseman gets a chance to show her flashlight skills but not her common sense.
Grace as Judy is a kid living with parents that are demonologists – let that sink in! Judy is a moody kid but with reason yet that reason seems to disappear as quickly as it came. She seems more disturbed about her birthday party than a doll wreaking havoc on her home.
Sarife as Daniela is an arrogant, self-absorbed and disrespectful teenager who, at the era the film is supposed to represent, would have gotten an ass whuppin’. She is asked to leave – doesn’t, she is asked not to touch anything – does – repeatedly, and is given a gentle slap on the wrist for endangering a child’s life? Yea, didn’t work for me.
Wilson and Farmiga return for a bit before and after the film which saddened me. They ARE the reason for all of the films success and are whittled down to practically a cameo.
I do, however, give high fives to Bob (Michael Cimino) for his cuteness, scared tenacity in the name of love and wolves and knowing how to use a guitar properly under pressure. I cheered for Bob!
ANNABELLE COMES HOME is a sad ending to a series of films that otherwise always got my attention. I’ll be honest; it’s mainly for the story’s that included the Warrens. The characters played by Farmiga and Wilson are the very reason people crowded to the theatres. They Warren’s made us jump, scream, grab and throw popcorn in fright. Without them, there really isn’t anything left and there shouldn’t have been an attempt to try.
But this is Hollywood milking the last bit of cash from a doll that has clearly lost her mojo. The first ten minutes I thought were a peek at what the film’s frights might be but instead I got a pre-teen and teen film filled with the most ridiculous happenings. I laughed at the comedy of it all.
Yes, there were “scary” moments but nothing along the lines of what we have seen in Wan’s prior Warren-based THE CONJURING stories. The tease of what could happen shows up and then falls flat. It’s like this story was thrown together with everything but the kitchen sink and the only reason they didn’t use that is because it was full of unwashed dishes.
There was so much more than could have been done in this film, the artifacts are there for the telling and yet it gets the slight of hand and the odd remark here and there. The ending is ridiculously pat and layered on thick like the icing on Judy’s cake.
Let’s hope the doll stays in her case – permanently – or at least until someone takes THE CONJURING/ANNABELLE genre a little more seriously and remembers what made us all jump and cheer in the first place. Get back to that, get back to the basics and for gawd sakes bring Wilson and Farmiga back into the game coach!
In the end – she comes home to stay!
LATE NIGHT Tackles Funny
Coming to theatres this Friday from director Nisha Ganatra, writer Mindy Kaling and Amazon Studios is the funny found in LATE NIGHT.
Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is the host(ess) of television's LATE NIGHT. An icon of late night she is also having difficulty in the ratings. Part of the problem is that she seems a little out of touch and always dominating her all male writer's room.
Brought to her attention by Brad (Denis O'Hare), she makes it clear that hiring a female writer for the team is top priority. The writing staff of head writer Tom (Reid Scott), Charlie (Hugh Dancy), Burditt (Max Casella), Mancuso (Paul Hauser), Reynolds (John Early) and others are surprised when Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) walks in the door.
A chemical plant worker by day, Molly has a dabble of experience in comedy and that's enough to be hired for. The team tries to come up with ideas to save the show when they discover that the head of the studio Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan) has taken enjoyment with the announcement.
Newbury is in a state that even her husband Walter (John Lithgow) can't get her out of. That's when Molly kicks her ideas into high gear and the team beings to crank out comedy that it working.
As much as Tom fought against Molly, Molly finding a workplace romance and Newbury fighting change - it takes one work to the media to potentially bring it all down.
That's when comedy does its best work!
Thompson as Katherine is a strong woman who has become a tad complacent about her show. Fighting the change that could have kept her on top, it is a changing of the guard that makes her realize she will try anything once - twice if it will get ratings. Thompson is a favorite of mine so it's always good to see her go in a different direction.
Kaling as Molly brings out all the big guns in her character and honestly doesn't do a thing for me. She uses every excuse in the book for her lot in life from calling herself a "diversity hire" to jokes about "white privilege" and all I could think was 'and she wrote this?'. I don't mind films that bring out issues but when it’s every issue on the planet you lose me quick.
Scott as Tom is a guy who doesn't like the idea of having Molly thrown into the mix with no experience. That would be said of anyone who took the job in the writers room but of course he's going to be raked over the coals. Dancy as Fain gets the chance to be a douchebag and plays it perfectly.
Lithgow as Walter is absolutely lovely and doesn't fit in the film at all. He's the quiet cheerleading squad to his wife's mania. O'Hare as Brad is constantly browbeaten so that is about the extend of his role. Two amazing actors used badly.
Casella, Hauser, Early, Slattery, Barinholtz and the rest of the writer’s room are made to look incompetent when in actuality they were just stuck in a room with their hands tied around their backs.
Ryan as Morton is the iron fist that comes down on Katherine's head with plenty of enjoyment. So basically its one woman of power smacking down on another woman who thinks she has power. So much for lifting one another up eh?
Look, I'm sure there are those that will enjoy LATE NIGHT and it isn't that I totally hated it. There are moments that are funny even if they are far apart.
I didn't know whether to cheer women, women of color, women taking care of their man, women for change, men being brow beaten, men living in job fear, blah blah blah blah. I couldn't invest myself in pretty much any of it because instead of it being a learning experience it felt like constant jabbing.
I'm not sure what Kaling was trying to prove here but for me it didn't work well enough for me to even watch it again on television. Not a fan of whining, blaming or poor me in general but when it's all in one film I pretty much check out early.
The sad part about this is that there are some very talented people in this film and, to me; it feels as if they have just been put in roles that they didn't deserve.
Oh well, that's how I feel about it anyway.
In the end - they are attempting to give comedy a re-write!
Two Hours in the Dark with JOHN WICK: Chapter Three - Parabellum!
Coming to theatres this Friday from director Chad Stahelski and Lionsgate Is the next installment on the journey of JOHN WICK.
Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still on the run especially now since it has been declared that he is 'excommunicado' for killing a man at the Continental - major boo-boo. Basically it means that all the dogs are off their leashes with a W$14 million dollar bounty and no rest anytime soon for him.
Those he has relied on now tread carefully because the Table has sent The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to punish anyone who has helped Wick to this point. Her first task is to sentence Winston (Ian McShane), Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and The Director (Angelica Huston).
Wick knows he has only one chance, to find The Elder (Said Taghmaoul) to ask how he can make this all stop. The one person who can make the meeting happen is Sophia (Halle Berry) who isn't actually thrilled to see him at the door. Watching his every move is Zero (Mark Dacascos), an assassin who is quick and deadly.
Making a deal with the devil, as it were, Wick returns to The Continental where an all out war is declared.
Reeves as Wick has most definitely made sure no one else could possible take his place. He is still broody, still soft spoken and can still give a killer glare that gives nothing away. Oh, and one more thing, he can still make my heart flip-flop in that funny exciting way. What he also does is bring sympathy to a character we should all probably be afraid of!
McShane returns as Winston, the manager of The Continental who has a flare for words, for the finer things in life and has an elegant way of letting who ever know that he is going no where. His affinity for Wick is obvious but there is also a sneakiness about him that makes me give him side eye constantly. Well done!
Berry as Sophia has a history with Wick that is filled with a little rage yet she has no problem wielding a gun when wrong comes her way. Reddick as Charon keeps his concierge desk refined and run like a well oiled machine. I just love his calm demeanor, even when bullets are flying past his face.
Fishburne as the Bowery King is a rougher version of Winston running his bowery as he sees fit. He regrets nothing and is always looking at the bigger picture - that is his saving grace. Fishburne still has it and Wick should be glad he does.
Huston as The Director knows that even though there is an excommunicado order, there is one thing higher than that even if The Table doesn't want to acknowledge it. I just love when Huston plays roles like this because she is a tough broad and I love it.
Dacascos as Zero, aka the Iron Chef Chairman, is fantastic! From the moment his character hits the screen to the very last frame he brings martial arts and twisted humor to the film. Taghmaoul as The Elder brings his own brand of justice and a plan for Wick to stop all the madness.
A serious shout out to Dillion as The Adjudicator and let me tell you why. I have NEVER heard outcries throughout a film when one character shows up on a screen. I'll admit I was one of them yelling at the screen toward this cold hearted character who felt she was above everything and untouchable. When a room full of people react the same way to a character then listen because 1,000 people can't be wrong!
Thumbs up to Yayan Ruhian as Mad Dog, Cecep Arif Rahman as The Assassin and Man of Tai Chi as Tiger Hu Chen for taking on the Baba Yaga with admiration and humor and, of course, sweeping martial arts moves and guts for taking on the boogeyman!
Other cast include Jerome Flynn as Berrada, Randall Duk Kim as Doctor, Margaret Daley as Operator, Tobias Segal as Earl, Obin Lord Taylor as Administrator, Susan Blommaert as Librarian, Jason Mantzoukas as Tick Tock Man, Sergio Delavicci as Ruska Roma, and Boban Marjanovic as Ernest.
Lets be honest here, anyone who loves the JOHN WICK franchise won't need me to say anything to convince them to see the film. But let’s pretend there are those who haven't seen any of the films or even know who John Wick is, wait, what?
Sorry, had to shake off that thought because seriously it is almost incomprehensible to the Keanu Reeves warm and fuzzy side of my brain. Moving onward!
From the first five seconds of the film until the last five seconds of the film I think blinking didn't much happen for me. There is little downtime and since John Wick doesn't get any, then WE don't get any either. This is a ride we take with him and the filmmaker made damn sure we are exhausted by the end - or are we?
Audience participation in films can go between being a good or irritating thing. Let me tell you in the case of JOHN WICK it is almost an involuntary reflex. The gasps, the shock, the wicked (pardon the semi-pun) humor, the action, the story, the cinematography that are happening on screen create the shouting at the screen from the audience.
During this screening I heard shouting, applause, cheering, guttural reactions of groaning, hostility, actual hissing and a theatre full of people rooting for a different kind of super-hero. I can not even count how many times The Adjudicator was a target of audience wanna-be verbal assassins. People in front of me were jumping, the gentleman beside me was constantly fist pumping with a 'yesssssssssssss' and comments behind me ranged from 'they don't know who they're dealing with' to 'ouch - that's gonna leave a mark'.
We were in unison with cheering, applause and groans which makes JOHN WICK: Chapter 3 - Parabellum a group experience. This is the reason we go to the movies (at least a lot of us anyway), to be transported, entertained and walk out of the theatre alive and full of conversation that is going to last for days.
Personally, I was completely exhausted not even realizing how much this film was slowly draining me. Yes, yes, I realize it is Reeves and the cast who worked their collective asses off to bring the story to the screen so let it be known that they drained every bit of everything out of this viewer.
That being said it should also be stated that I may be personally exhausted but after spending two glorious hours in the dark with John Wick aka Keanu Reeves, I'd gladly do it again, and again….and again.
In the end - if you want peace then prepare for war!
CHASING THE MOON in Three Parts comes to PBS with American Experience
Coming to PBS July 8th-10th from American Experience and Academy Award Nominee writer/director/producer Robert Stone is the six-hour series celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing with CHASING THE MOON.
Part One – A Place Beyond the Sky begins the series in the 50s and 60s with the thoughts of astronauts regarding going to space. Neil Armstrong made his indelible and small speech before planting his boot on the moon surface and in his words ring true today. Little did he realize it is used in so many other forms to recognize that we are in a very big universe.
There was a time when people could not fathom “being born on this planet and then taking off for another world”. The world was taking on a new identity and the people in it reflecting on how nothing could possibly ever be the same.
Beginning with Russia and Sputnik, it pushed the US to do one better than the enemy. It also brought fear of war and destruction. When Sputnik II was launched, the American fear becomes even greater as rumors of what they could do next before the US – the moon.
The Vanguard Project was sent up first followed by Jupiter C. Scientist Wernher von Braun from Germany was considered a hero and not a hero all at the same time. World War II brought 120 of the best scientists from that country to be part of looking for a way to space. Becoming a consultant on films about space, von Braun would even help Walt Disney with his theme park.
Project Orion and Freeman Dyson were called in to work on it. Flights and living for years exploring space was their goal. Russia also brought in German scientists to expand their space program. When it didn’t work out, the Germans are sent home which benefitted the US. In 1959, Nixon and Khrushchev talked between each other in harsh terms at the Worlds Fair in Moscow about space.
Then the introduction of the Mercury astronauts with John H. Glenn, Alan B. Shepard, Virgil I. ‘Gus’ Grissom, Malcolm S. Carpenter, Leroy Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra, and Donald K. Slayton. As the training of these men goes on, Russia sends a cosmonaut up in 1961. President John F. Kennedy isn’t happy and von Braun tells him they can make it to the moon first. The Saturn rocket then comes into being.
Alan Shepard starts as the first man in space and makes sure it is done live. Still, another cosmonaut makes his way into space and President Kennedy gives NASA the money to get to the moon. Construction in Florida brings people out in droves because of NASA. The excitement builds as John Glenn is the first US astronaut to go into orbital flights.
Television and journalists like Walter Cronkite brought space into homes of the average American. The intensity of interest from the public was kept in the forefront. Bobby Kennedy wanted to bring an African-American astronaut on board as Capt. Edward Dwight was brought into training.
In Houston, the families came to live and formed their own ‘space’ family. The Mercury men were young pilots and had to be watched. It was 1962 when the decision was made to go from the earth to the moon while transporting a vehicle for moon exploration. President Kennedy thought to have joint missions to the moon with the Soviets as both sides wanted it to happen. All of that changed on November 22, 1963. After that the idea was silenced.
In Part II – Earthrise – President Lyndon Johnson took up the mantle for the space program, even picking up the JFK mantle of Soviet cooperation. Now, the Soviets were behind the US in the space race. The Gemini Project brings computers aboard in outer space. A serious problem was that reporters were starting to question why space and at what cost? NASA had to do what they could to keep the public relations good with the public.
With each Gemini launch, NASA was getting closer to the moon. The Gemini 8 launch was the first craft to have problems as the ship rolled out of control. Neil Armstrong brought it all home with his cool head and abilities. The final Gemini 12 launches with Buzz Aldren and James Lovell and becomes successful in teaching how to train for space.
The first Apollo mission crew is announced with Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger B. Chaffee. Then tragedy as none ever expected even though the astronauts all knew it was possible. The affect on the other astronauts caused stresses that went down to family members. They were a family and now their family was broken.
NASA dealt with a media nightmare that once again brought into question of ‘why space?’ But 1968 brought civil unrest and wars to the forefront of life yet NASA still wouldn’t let go. The Saturn 5 was conceived to put men on the moon.
And what a show! Now the interest in once again peaked by the media and a shot of the moon to beat the Russians right in front of them. The accelerated Apollo 8 brought an orbit of the moon. One person there from the beginning was also the first woman, Poppy Northcutt, in a very serious job. Now Anderson, Borman and Lovell, who are inside the powerful rocket, finally bring a dream to reality. Of course doing it at 25,000 miles an hour. Once in space, there would be a television camera on board that give the people of Earth a good look at what they had all been waiting for.
Once home, people celebrated and cheered after a year of sadness in the country.
Part III – Magnificent Desolation – brings the question involving von Braun in World War II that were never asked before because he was helping the US get to the moon. Once they questions started being asked from the media, von Braun had to take each question carefully, especially when the questions dealt with Nazi atrocities.
The US was also changing as protests grew on college campuses while soldiers continued to fight overseas and this applied to astronauts. Russia was still a hot topic and they were also trying to get a man to the moon before the US. Dealing with failures, the N1 Project took it all step by step. Col. Borman was asked about Russia landing on the moon and he agreed that they were just as motivated as the US.
Now, the Apollo 11 crew was being introduced with Buzz Aldren, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong making the trip. This was going to be the crew to land on the moon as 2 out of the 3 actually stepping on the moon’s surface. Russia had ideas of their own launching an unmanned craft to the moon at the same time.
People converged near the landing pad to witness the next Apollo launch. Some were even protestors who were unhappy about social injustice. On July 16, 1969, the promise of President Kennedy made about reaching the moon is one rocket launch away. Countries around the world were also glued to watch the launch. Waiting for the lunar module to land on the moon was the culmination of a dream turned reality. On July 20th, 1969, the cameras are on and rolling as the world see Neil Armstrong descend the lunar ladder and say, “one small step for man – one giant leap for mankind”.
Soon he would be joined by Buzz Aldren as the two men walked on the moon and the world in their line of sight celebrated this monumental achievement. The celebration continued when the astronauts landed safely back on Earth. Their lives have been completely changed and they could never have imagined how much to this day.
So where do we go from here now that we’ve been shown the beauty of our own world from the surface of another? Of course Mars holds the mystery now as the moon once did so perhaps that is our next man made challenge. There are so many worlds, so much beauty and a dash of charm about the space that surrounds our Earth.
I wonder who will be next in planting their foot on the surface of another world!
Filmmaker Stone says of this experience, “As a 10-year-old kid in England in July 1969, my mother woke me up in the middle of the night to watch two Americans set foot upon another world, the Moon quite literally staring at us through the window above our television set. I’d recently seen Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and the one-two punch of those two intensely visceral experiences ignited a fire in my mind that’s stuck with me ever since.”
“It’s when I first began to want to be a filmmaker. In many ways Chasing the Moon is a culmination of a lifetime of thoughts that have been churning through my mind about this extraordinary period in which I grew up, about the boundless ambition and promise of a brighter future that space travel inspired, the belief that anything is possible if we join together in a common goal, and the urgency it ignited to preserve and care for our home planet. Having PBS as a partner to take this film out worldwide is a real honor for me”.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE executive producer Mark Samuels says about Chasing the Moon, “When we think of that breathtaking moment of the 1969 moon landing, we forget what a turbulent time that was. The country was dealing with huge problems in Vietnam, poverty, civil rights – and there was a lot of skepticism about the space program. Chasing the Moon explores the unbelievably complex challenges that NASA was able to overcome. Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t say, ‘Why can’t we do something today as ambitious, as grand as putting a man on the moon?’ It was a century-defining achievement, and our film tells a familiar story in an entirely new way”.
Ballantine Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, also has a book Chasing the Moon by Stone and writer/researcher Alan Andres that expands on the stories told in the documentary. The details found in the book are absolutely riveting to the point that I couldn’t put the book down. The surprise to me is that I knew I have always been interested in NASA, I just didn’t realize how much until page after page I was wanting to know more.
For 30 years, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE has been television’s most-watched history series. Their documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award including 30 Emmy Awards, four DuPont-Columbia Awards and 17 George Foster Peabody Awards. The series received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 2015 for Last Days of Vietnam. For more information please visit pbs.org/americanexperience.
Along with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Chasing the Moon, PBS brings viewers the universe with SUMMER OF SPACE, a multiplatform experience that includes six new science and history programs, all commemorating America’s journey into Space. The celebration kicks off July 8 with a new space-themed ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Out of This World, NOVA specials Back to the Moon on July 10, 8 Days: To the Moon and Back on July 17, three-part Ancient Skies on July 24 and The Planets on July 24. For more information please visit www.pbs.org.
Chasing the Moon is a three-part experience that allows those involved to tell their stories and personal experiences. Listening to them share also opens up behind the curtain of NASA during a time when every move they made was dangerous. Everyone wanted to get to space and the moon but I’m sure no one then realizes the cost of making that dream come true.
As outsiders, we only witnessed the results of years of dedication and ingenuity but Chasing the Moon allows us to know so much more. This is a stunning way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 walk on the moon. A way to remember where we have been and what is absolutely possible for space in the future.
Gather the family around the same television that families 50 years ago gathered around except this time to listen and learn about one of the greatest human achievements ever.
In the end – it took millions of steps to make one giant leap!
ROCKETMAN Takes Off into the Stratosphere
Coming to theatres from director Dexter Fletcher and Paramount Pictures comes a ride lead by a ROCKETMAN.
Reginald Dwight is a young music prodigy who lives with a father Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) who has no heart for the boy and mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) who only has a heart for herself. Supporting him is Grandmother Ivy (Gemma Jones) who sees musical potential in the boy.
From a music conservatory to playing at the local bar, Reggie (Taron Egerton) is still trying to figure out this thing called life. Then he meets Ray (Charlie Rowe) who introduces him to songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and magic happens.
Ray and music man Dick James (Stephen Graham) send the newly renamed Elton John out on the road including a show at the Troubadour in California. Bernie is thrilled with their windfall but Elton is still trying to figure it all out.
Help comes in the presence of John Reid (Richard Madden) who sweeps Elton off his feet. Reid also ingratiated himself into the performers life and home which doesn't sit well with everyone.
In the meantime the world has become his oyster with sold out performances that allow him to be as wild as he wants. Then, success turns sour as Elton finds himself in the world of drugs, alcohol and the past turn him inside out.
There comes a time when you either ignore the world crashing around you or change the direction of life.
Edgerton as Elton John is absolutely stunning. He is in it from beginning to end and by that I mean playing the life of a legend that, for the most part, isn't pretty. Whether by his own hand or the craziness that comes with fame, Edgerton portrays the naïve, sensitive, longing and angry side of Elton John. He is mesmerizing to watch and cements his talent as an actor as well as a singer.
Bell as Taupin is thrilled to be working with Elton and takes off along side his friend with the sparkle and thrill of a kid. It doesn't take long for Taupin realizes that he, and the man he considers a brother, is headed for disaster. Bell gives his performance everything filled with friendship, loyalty and a bit of tough love. I truly enjoyed Bell's performance as it was truly heartfelt and strong.
Mackintosh as father Stanley seems to have an almost distain for his son and it is the young Reginald who feels every piece of that. Even as the young Reginald grows up, the shadow of that relationship is with him daily. Howard as Sheila is a woman who clearly isn't happy in marriage or motherhood. When there are moments of motherly love and Reginald grabs onto it, he is almost instantly swatted away with added pain.
Madden as Reid is a piece of work for sure. He gives Elton hope that he deserves to be loved but it comes at such a high and debilitating cost. Jones as Ivy is the sole hope for young Reginald, she is strong, compassionate and keenly aware of the situation with Reginald's parents.
Other cast include: Jason Pennycooke as Wilson, Jimmy Vee as Arthur, Rachel Muldoon as Kiki Dee, Celinde Schoenmaker as Renate Blauel and Tate Donovan as Doug Weston.
ROCKETMAN is a film that is to be experienced on so many levels. Yes, it is filled with Elton John's music and the placement of each memorable song is perfection. The choreography is thrilling to watch and the moments in the story where his life is seen through song and dance is toe tapping and engaging.
I also have to say that there were moments that kleenex is needed. Lets be honest, John's life as we are shown is only moments of heartbreak that are hidden with music, flashy outfits and smiles induced by drugs and alcohol. Believing the worst in himself by the stinging comments of those who profess to love him, if your heart doesn't feel it on the screen then might I suggest hanging out with Sheila and Stanley!
It must also be said that Egerton's outrageous and colorful performance is everything for this film. He had the audience laughing at times, sniffling a lot, and toe tapping if not trying to sing out loud to the songs we all know so well.
This is a film that brings us everything, tells us the tale of an icon and how thoroughly lucky that he went beyond the yellow brick road to stay with us. Elton John is someone in my own life who seemed to sing the words filled with emotion that floated around in my own head. Taupin didn't hesitate to bring the words that we have been singing for the past twenty-five plus years.
From Sacrifice, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Your Song, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, I'm Still Standing, Candle in the Wind, Daniel, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and my favorite, I Want Love.
For those of us who love Elton John, ROCKETMAN is the film that embraces the reasons why and lets us all into a life that explains so very much.
It is a Mystery in the Life of an AMERICAN WOMAN
Opening in theatres this Friday from director Jake Scott and Roadside Attractions is a long mystery with AMERICAN WOMAN.
Supermarket cashier Deb Callahan (Sienna Miller) is living her own exciting life in a small town in Pennsylvania. At home is her daughter Bridget (Sky Ferreira) with a young son of her own. Across the street is Deb’s sister Katherine (Christina Hendricks) who is very judgmental of Deb’s life and doesn’t hold her opinion back. Mom Peggy (Amy Madigan) goes along to get along.
After a night out with boyfriend Tyler (Alex Neustaedter), Deb is upset that Bridget hasn’t returned home. She begins looking and discovers she had a fight with her boyfriend and visited a friend before leaving on her own. The vanishing of Bridget sets her off the deep end not knowing what to do.
The years pass and Deb is now with boyfriend Ray (Pat Healy) and raising grandson Jesse (Aiden Fiske). Going to school she is trying to make a better life for herself and the boy. At night she is on the internet looking for any signs of Bridget. The truth is out there about Ray with his temper and Tyler and his fatherly visits.
But it’s time for Deb to strike out on her own, even with the shadow of her daughter constantly following her. It doesn’t stop her from finishing what she started and celebrating with the family who is back in her life. Then she meets Chris (Aaron Paul) and life moves forward as it should.
Yet there is still a mystery waiting to be solved.
Miller as Deb is a woman who definitely has had more lows than highs. Her self-esteem is nearly nil and she is doing her best to raise a young grandson that is smart and well aware of their situation. When her time comes to find the answers she needs to know but is she ready to know.
Hendricks as Katherine is the worrisome sister who sees the path that Deb was taking and once Bridget is gone, tries to stop the train wreck. Deb doesn’t make it easy but that doesn’t stop Hendricks character from making sure she doesn’t totally fall. Madigan as Mom Peggy wants what’s best for her daughter but there are unresolved issues between she and Deb that constantly flow out.
Paul as Chris is the one unexpected thing in her love that begins to make her feel as if there is hope for Deb’s life. He is funny, charming and enjoys the life that they create for themselves. But there comes a moment when a choice must be made and once again it effective everyone that lives in the shadow of Bridget.
Other cast include Will Sasso as Terry, Kelly Golden as Jenna Cunningham, Bates Wilder as Detective O’Brien, Rachel Singer as Mrs. Derrick and Kentucker Audley as Brett.
AMERICAN WOMAN is a slow paced film and in this case I liked it for just that reason. This is a story of a life that is affected by one event with a family left behind to pick up the pieces. The performances are fantastic as Miller, Hendricks and Paul wrap around the story leaving us to slowly pull it all apart.
The cinematography is just as deep and part of the mystery as who stopped Bridget from coming home that fateful night. Watching their journey is one of heartbreak, understanding and relentless hope that for once, the ending could be what all of us would hope for ourselves.
It is the story of a woman who made changes in her life according to events all the way up to a woman changing her life because she was strong enough to do it for herself. It is life moving forward for the sake of living and not on hold for a past you can not change. It takes the power of moving past pain to make that happen and Miller gives us just that.
In the end – never lose hope!
His Story and Life Collide in TOLKIEN
Coming to theatres this Friday from director Dome Karukoski and Fox Searchlight Pictures comes the story of stories told about the life of TOLKIEN.
The story begins with war as Private Sam Hodges (Craig Roberts) finds a very ill Tolkien and makes it his mission to help him survive. Out in the field as bombs rage and gas explodes, he once again sees how his life began and led him to the field of inhumanity.
J.R.R. Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) was a young man living with his mother and brother in a small English house in the middle of vast fields. One day Father Francis (Colm Meaney) helps the family move to the city to start again but it doesn’t last long as once again Father Francis moves Tolkien and his younger brother to the house of Mrs. Faulkner (Pam Ferris). Becoming their guardian, she starts with the boys’ education and Tolkien dives deeper into his drawings and writings.
Eventual Mrs. Faulkner takes in Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) and Tolkien is quite taken with her. Continuing to be watched over by Father Francis, the young man is told that he can’t share his feelings about her and still go to university. He makes the sad choice to leave her and joins childhood friends Rob Gilson (Patrick Gibson), Geoffrey Smith (Anthony Boyle) and Christopher Wiseman (Tom Glynn-Carney), also known as the TCBS, to university.
As the group continues to meet, Tolkien is one step away from having to leave school when he discovers Professor Wright (Derek Jacobi). Sharing his story’s with the Professor, both men become thrilled at the possibilities of the story and language. Finally finding his place in school, the war breaks out and Tolkien is called up.
Before shipping out he once again sees Edith and he finds himself still smitten with the young girl. They have a chance to explain to one another the situation as it was then but their hearts never let go of one another only to be parted again by battle.
Tolkien fights to stay alive, fights to find his friends and without realizing it would soon take all the horrors of war and create one of the most iconic stories ever written.
Hoult as Tolkien takes on the monumental task of playing a character that became famous for his books and his name becomes world wide again when the films come to the screen. I will be honest, I wasn’t sure that justice could be done in the story telling of a writer who impacted my life so profoundly yet Hoult did so. The struggles of youth followed Tolkien and he could have ‘gone wrong’ as the sayings goes but instead he found a path that Hoult walks honorably.
Collins as Edith is a young girl understanding Tolkien much more than anyone else (other than his brother). She pushes him to continue to write stories because she saw something magical about the world Tolkien creates. Collins gives her character strength, dignity and a forwardness not seen by women of Edith’s day. Meaney as Father Francis takes the role of father, protector and if that doesn’t work he uses good old fashioned guilt to ‘guide’ Tolkien’s life choices. I have to say I wasn’t happy with this character and that’s probably because I’m not much for emotional bullying which means Meaney did a fantastic job!
Gibson, Boyle and Glynn-Carney as Rob, Geoffrey and Christopher are three friends I’d love to have had growing up. Although they started out prickly, the story of each of these young men would impact Tolkien in ways they would never see coming. These four actors when on screen together are gripping and I enjoyed watching their friendship grow.
Now, as for Roberts as Private Sam Hodges, I have only one thing to say – stellar and well done young man, extremely well done. From beginning to end it was the life of Tolkien that was his mission and he took it so seriously that nothing would turn him from it. Sound like a story character you might know?
Other cast include Laura Donnelly as Mabel Tolkien, Guillermo Bedward as Hilary Tolkien, Nia Gwynne as Browen, Tony Nash as Mackintosh, Owen Teale as Headmaster Gilson, Lara Maguire as Rose, Holly Dempster as Beryl, Genevieve O’Reilly as Mrs. Smith and David Birkbeck as Porter.
TOLKIEN is well done, beautifully put on screen and gives the viewer a deep look inside what it took for THE LORD OF THE RINGS to make it to the page. Watching the story unfold is like seeing how characters were born in his mind. I caught myself a few times pointing at things I saw on the screen with an inhale and then a smile. Okay, so being a raging Tolkien fan it was like being part of a mental treasure hunt.
The cast brings together with such intensity the moments in Tolkien’s life that he held on to for dear life. The story is raw and beautiful at the same time to the point where I didn’t want it to end. The good news is that sitting on my library shelf are the books and films which are a wonderful solace brought by a man who took what he experienced in his life and shared it in the most magnificent way with the world.
In the end – a life of love, courage and fellowship!
An Emotional and Startling Film from Beginning to End with HOTEL MUMBAI
Coming to theatres from writer/director Anthony Maras and Bleeker Street comes the terrifying attack on the crown jewel of India with HOTEL MUMBAI.
It is 2008 and Arjun (Dev Patel) is a husband and father who works at the Taj Hotel. His boss Chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) and hotel butler Jamon (Alex Pinder) strives to each employee that the hotel has a reputation so the staff must constantly strive for perfection. Stressing that whatever a guest needs is what a guest gets.
Arriving for their stay are couple Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) and husband David (Armie Hammer) along with their baby and nanny Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). Also Vasili (Jason Isaacs), a Russian who owns a company and knows how to enjoy himself arrives with many more guests checking in.
What no one in Mumbai knows is that a group of men led on the phone by the Bull has a plan for the city. Imran (Amandeep Singh), Abdullah (Suhail Nayyar), Houssam (Manoj Mehra), Rashid (Dinesh Kumar), Ismail (Amriptal Singh) and Ajmal (Kapil Netra) are about to wreak havoc.
Beginning with a restaurant the shooting starts and no one is spared, and as the gunman run, again they shoot and this time at police. The crowd starts running and come to the doors of the Taj Hotel. Begging to be let in, what they don't know is that the gunman are among them.
Within minutes the hotel is under siege as Oberoi tries to get as many guests as possible into a room where Arjun helps all he can. From the reception desk and going room to room, the gunman are indiscriminate and unstoppable. Eating at the hotel restaurant, David, Zahra and Vasili hit the floor and remain quiet but Zahra is frantic that the nanny Sally and her baby don't know what's coming.
The gunman are guided by their constant telephone calls from the Bull who keep the frenzy going. Police can only sit by and watch helplessly as most of their force has been killed and the Special Forces are coming from Delhi.
The survivors must work together under the most unimaginable horror to survive and save as many as they can.
Patel as Arjun portrays such a humble man who wants to do a good job. It doesn't help that on this particular day he has footwear issues. He immediately goes into his job and is pleasant, knowledgeable and very endearing. That is what Patel does, he takes a character like Arjun and gives him such relatability and heart and in a second has a role in THE WEDDING GUEST and turns into something completely different. In HOTEL MUMBAI he puts himself second, third and fourth sometimes and always ahead of everyone else. The final scene with Patel just tore me up. THAT is how good Patel is on the screen.
Kher as Oberoi is the father figure of the hotel and his staff listens to him. Doing his best to keep everyone calm and, more importantly, quiet, he never forgets to treat them with dignity (even if some fly off the hinges). Pinder as Jamon has a small role but he constantly reminds everyone that the Taj Hotel is home to the staff and they will defend it.
Boniadi as Zahra is a mother who is going to do anything for her child and husband. Her plans are daring, dangerous and actually made me catch my breath a time or two. Hammer as David wants to bring the family back together which means finding a way to get back up to their room without the gunman discovering him.
Isaac as Vasili is a Russian who isn't afraid of the gunman but knows not to tangle with them either. He takes a protective role for Zahra when she needs it most. He usually is a good guy or a bad guy but in this role he has the opportunity to be both but has his reasons.
Singh, Nayyar, Mehra, Kumar and Amriptal Singh have the most difficult of all roles in this film. As the gunman they are wrapped up tightly in this story with their weapons and their belief that the voice of Bull is guiding them correctly. When I say this isn't an easy role I absolutely mean it. From the moment the first shots are fired, these characters are going to be absolutely disgusted by anyone viewing the film. Of course that is the point but man it takes some acting guts to put yourselves in a role that even though absolutely necessary to the story.
Other cast include Adithi Kalkunte as Simple, Vipin Sharma as Dilip, Gaurav Paswala as Sanjay, Natasha Bordizzo as Bree, Angus McLaren as Eddie, Chantal Contouri as Mrs. Karvelas, Carmen Duncas as Lady Wynn and Sachin Joab as Vijay.
FINAL WORD: To the actors may I say a heartfelt thank you. This is not an easy story to tell, nor could it have been easy to put on film, yet you all took a leap of belief that it is a story that needed to be told. To the writers John Collee and Anthony Masas, it is important that HOTEL MUMBAI not be sugar coated and you both wrote that extraordinarily well.
This is based on true events and no event could have been more terrifying than this one. We all know a little of the story that comes out from the news but until the details are put in front of you it is quite easy to forget. I do not think I will ever now forget what happened at the Taj Hotel. There have only been a handful of true event films that have hit me hard and the hardest was the 2012 film THE IMPOSSIBLE.
I can honestly say that now, said film will have to share the top spot with HOTEL MUMBAI. This film brings the brutality, the humanity, the intensity and the utter heartbreak with each frame of the film. In the midst of the constant barrage of gunfire is the bravery and courage of those who would not let a moment go by without helping - even if it cost them dearly.
There wasn't a moment where I couldn't catch my breath, found myself whispering at the screen, put my hand over my mouth and yes, even felt my eyes well up with tears. This is an extraordinary film from the beginning until the end scene that reminds us of what is truly important - and it isn't shoes.
In the end - in November of 2008 terror struck the heart of the India.
STOCKHOLM is Filled with Twists on a Bank Heist
Coming to theatres from writer/director Robert Budreau and Smith Global Media is the story of a bank heist that would lead to a phrase we all know beginning with STOCKHOLM.
It is 1973 and Lars Nystrom (Ethan Hawke) along with partner Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong) have decided that they are going to rob a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. Taking hostages including Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace), they work with officials to get what they want.
What they want is money and an escape car and make it very clear to Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl). Feeling they aren’t taking them seriously, Lars looses it a little giving officials till morning to meet their demands. In the meantime Bianca is trying to keep it together.
Then the telephone calls from reporters begin and Bianca seems to side with Lars and Gunnar. When the Prime Minister catches wind of the interview he tries to convince the hostages that they are in danger. That’s when Lars gets the idea to make sure that everyone watching believes they are dangerous and Bianca goes along with it.
Now the officials are taking them serious and Bianca, Christopher and Klara are all for helping their kidnappers. It is the beginning of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’
Hawke as Nystrom just wanted a simple bank robbery and when it doesn’t turn out to be simple, he starts showing a human side to his captives. They begin to connect and this puts Chief Mattsson in a mode of trying to break up what is happening inside the bank. But who is crazier – the robbers or the law?
Hawke as Nystrom seems to have all the bad guy moves in place to rob a bank but when it all goes awry; he is the first to sort of panic it out. Never quite sure about his partner or what the crazy Chief of Police will do, it just adds enough frustration to bring out moments of brilliance. Back in action Hawke gives a complex performance that isn’t going to end well.
Strong as Sorensson is like a brother to Nystrom and with that comes brotherly agitation and a few well thrown punches. I love everything Strong does and this is a bit of a strange character that never lets the viewer truly know what is deal is. I’m okay with that!
Rapace as Bianca is a woman who had no idea her day would include wondering if her husband can make dinner while she’s busy being a hostage. Not feeling much in the way of fear, it is more like curiosity about the two men who have the authorities guessing from one minute to the next.
Heyerdahl as Chief Mattsson is, in my opinion, crazier than the crazy bank robbers. With every moment that goes by, he isn’t exactly sure what is going to happen. Trying to keep Nystrom and Sorensson calm, his frustration begins to show and it isn’t pretty.
Other cast include Thorbjorn Harr as Christopher Lind, Bea Santos as Klara Mardh, Mark Rendall as Elov Eriksson, John Ralston as Detective Jackobsson, Shanti Roney as Olof Palme, Ian Matthews as Detective Vinter, Vladimir Jon Culbrt as Davin and Christopher Wagelin as Vincent.
It is easy to see where the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ comes from watching this film. It is Nystrom that shows Bianca a human side with all the frailties and insecurities that come with him. Klara and Christopher follow suit when they realize that the police don’t seem to care if they survive the whole thing. Their tactics pretty much are in line to take everybody out.
It is Hawke and Rapace that keep the story going as they get to know one another and basically what makes them want to survive. Strong is the silent partner who has every reason in the world to be exactly that – silent!
The story is based on the 1973 bank robbery that was written about by Daniel Lang in an article called “The Bank Drama” for the New Yorker in 1974.
In the end – based on an absurd but true story!
Coming to limited release from director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and Focus Features comes a story of self-redemption with the help of THE MUSTANG.
Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has been in prison for twelve years. Mainly keeping to himself in solitary, his temper flares in a second bringing him even more problems. Transferred to a new prison, he refuses to help anyone understand how to get through, not even daughter Martha (Gideon Adlon).
Outside the prison walls are horse stalls and a man named Myles (Bruce Dern) who teaches inmates how to prepare horses for sale. These are mustangs captured by the government and land management and all sale proceeds go back to them. At first Roman has no interested until he hears continual banging from a stall away from the corals.
Then he comes face to face with a very angry mustang and Roman is captured in another way. Myles sees that there is something between the two and brings the convict into the prisons program. Put in the hands of inmate Elijah (Keith Johnson), Roman gets a lesson here and there about how to reach the untouchable horse.
Newly named Marcus, Roman works his new ward daily and something happens to them both. So much so that when daughter Martha comes to visit, Roman confesses what brought him to jail and hopes there can be something between father and daughter once again.
Roman has other worries as well when top inmate Dan (Josh Stewart) decides he wants something from his cell mate and is willing to hurt Martha to make that happen. Both Roman and Marcus become a mixture of emotions and just when they are in sync – one sudden jolt forces them both to come to terms with who they are and where they are meant to be.
It is all in how you define love and freedom!
Schoenaerts as Roman gives absolutely everything to this role. There is anger, confusion, heart, soul, rage, revenge, and confession – just a gambit of where he once was to where we meet him. Strong willed from the film’s beginning, Schoenaerts character is broken down slowly and surely by a beautiful animal that has so much in common with Roman. I could not take my eyes of this actor who portrays a man who slowly comes to terms with a mistake brought on by anger that just can’t seems to subside.
Dern as Myles is a horse trainer who sees something click between Roman and Marcus. He puts a skittish faith and sees it pay off daily. Even when the unthinkable happens, Dern is strong in character and lends it to Roman when he needs it the most. Dern has always been on my list of amazing actors and it is satisfying to see him continue to jump in and lasso a role that suits him.
Aldon as Martha has just as much anger as her father but she is less physical about it. Instead hiding it in the way she speaks as bits of anger seep out with anger at being left alone growing up. Johnson as Elijah is very happy working with horses and takes a keen interest in seeing that Roman succeeds. The problem is that is outside the prison, what happens inside is something else.
Other cast include Jason Mitchell as Henry, Thomas Smittle as Tom, Noel Gugliemi as Roberto, George Schroeder as Officer Peters and Connie Britton as the Psychologist.
THE MUSTANG has a storyline that tugs every fiber of a being. From the beginning of the film and the horses are captured, it plants the seed of emotion wondering why these beautiful creatures can’t just be left alone. In that instant, the film becomes personal to watch.
It is personal in regards to the horses and everything after that. There is a mental encouragement that happens as the film goes on – encouraging the horse to let go of its anger but not let go of its spirit and encouraging Roman to stop hiding from the world. The final encouragement is that they both realize they are cut from the same universal cloth.
There is also a constant shift in the film that takes the two steps forward and five steps back in both Roman and Marcus yet there is no way as the viewer to lose hope. Schoenaerts and the lovely mustang we know as Marcus invite us into a story that only the two of them can possibly tell.
The film is cinematically beautiful with the surrounding wilderness and plopped in its center is a brick building holding men. Between the wilderness and the prison is a place of hope that, at times, makes you forget about the other two worlds. Unfortunately, the other two worlds are very, very powerful.
In the end – they are both untamed souls and kindred spirits!
Coming to theatres from director Michael Engler, writer Julian Fellowes and based on the book by Laura Moriarty and PBS Films with THE CHAPERONE.
Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern) is a married woman and mother of grown twin sons living in 1920’s Kansas. Her life has been turned upside down and she is feeling the need to do something different. When she hears that the young 16-year-old Louise Brooke (Haley Lu Richardson) needs a chaperone while she attends dance school in New York, Norma sees an opportunity.
Husband Alan (Campbell Scott) doesn’t seem thrilled to see his wife go but she makes it clear it is something she needs to do. Norma and Louise board the train for the trip and it takes only a moment before the young girl tries her hand at breaking away. Tired of the small town life, she is going to push every envelope possible.
Arriving in New York, both women are excited and Louise prepares to meet dance teachers Ruth St. Dennis (Miranda Otto) and Raymond (Matt McGrath) at the Denishaw School. While Louise is dancing during the day, Norma decides that she is going to visit the convent where she was an orphan. Hoping to discover anything about her parents, she is met by a nun who isn’t exactly helpful.
Both Louise and Norma are trying to find their way and with where they come from to where they are now. Louise is pushing the boundaries of propriety and the mindset that she’ll never return home. Norma is pushing her own boundaries of propriety to discover that life is full of lies, deceptions and realities that are continually tested.
Who will break away and who will break the rules?
McGovern as Norma is a woman who started off life as an orphan, raised on a farm and married off at a young age – all three of those things done to survive. Once married to Mr. Carlisle, she once again played the role as she had been told. It takes one moment and opening a door to discover that her life has been played out to please others and not herself. I loved watching McGovern take step after step to find Norma’s own truth and happiness.
Richardson as Louise is a rebellious young woman who doesn’t like playing by the rules. Instead she wants to break away from a family that doesn’t seem to care what she does, as long as she does it without rumors starting. Instantly in New York Richardson lets her character loose wanting McGovern’s Norma to join in. I think the final scene between Richardson and McGovern just shook my heart – and I believe it will shake yours too!
Scott as Mr. Carlisle is everything a man of that era would be. He is an impeccably dressed lawyer who keeps home and hearth comfortable while keeping his reputation sterling. He also does as is expected of him by marrying and having children. Scott keeps everything level headed and even when McGovern’s Norma tries to break away, he keeps it calm so no one asks questions or wonders what is going on in their own home.
Otto as Ruth St. Dennis keeps an eye on Louise, especially since she seems to have captured the attention of her partner Raymond played by McGrath. Both of these characters are serious about their dance school and even when Louise becomes a little reckless, it is Norma who steers her back.
Other cast include Victoria Hill as Myra Brooks, Robert Fairchild as Ted Shawn, Tyler Weaks as Howard Carlisle, Kate Grimes as Ms. Burton, Andrew Burnap as Floyd, Bill Hoag as Jack, Ellen Toland as Greta, George Hampe as Earl Carlisle, Sean Hudock as Norman Ross and Blythe Danner as Mary O’Dell.
THE CHAPERONE is a look inside the life of women in the 1920’s and what was considered respectable, acceptable and expected. Marrying and having children seemed to be the only choices that Norma had but it is Louise who wants to break away. Dancing her way to New York, Norma mentally dances along to get some answers of her own.
Even though both women see a freedom in the big city, they first must come to terms with the lies and deceptions of the past. Each has choices to make and, for me, some of those choices are groundbreaking. I will let you decide who breaks the mold and who becomes trapped by it.
I am a period piece person so THE CHAPERONE is in my wheelhouse of films. In this case not only is the casting brilliantly done but the set design and costuming just take me away deeper into the film itself. This is truly and enjoyable film!
Moriarty wrote The Chaperone in 2012 but is also the author of four other books including The Center of Everything, The Rest of Her Life, When I’m Falling and American Heart.
In the end – one trip can change everything!
ARCTIC Brings Life and Death into a Cold Reality
In theatres from writer/director Joe Penna and Bleeker Street comes the harsh reality and decisions that pit him against the ARCTIC.
Overgard (Mads Mikkelsen) is stranded after an airplane crash in the desolate part of the Arctic. Living day to day he rises, fishes, makes sure a message can be seen from the air and sits on a hill to send out a signal to anyone who may be listening. Living inside the wreckage of his plane is the only thing between himself and the elements.
While sending out his usual signal, he suddenly sees a helicopter and couldn't be more surprised. Glee turns to horror when the crafts swings out of control and crashes to the ground. Racing towards the wreckage, Overgard discovers one pilot dead and another, a young woman (Maria Smaradottir), still alive.
Gathering what medical supplies are on board, he loads the young woman onto a sled and takes her back to the plane. Returning to the wreckage, he gathers up anything that can be used to help continue their survival. One such item is a map!
As the days pass, Overgard continues to study the map and use the limited medical supplies but it is clear that his patient needs more than he can provide. That's when he makes the decision to load up and pull her to the nearest station to find help for them both.
The trip is long, arduous and Overgard is faced with decisions that bring him to the breaking point!
Mikkelsen as Overgard is a man who seems to have fallen into a day to day routine of survival. He always keeps his safe haven of a wrecked plane within visual distance, especially when there is a chance to encounter animals who live in the Arctic. There is a back-story to how he came to survive the crash but there are only glimpses of it which leaves the rest to the viewer. Mikkelsen is a tremendous actor and I will watch absolutely everything he is in. There is something mysterious about the way he portrays characters and with one look he can stop the world from spinning - well, at least in my world.
Smaradottir as the young woman tries her best to not only communicate with Overgard but hang on, especially when seeing all he has done to keep them both alive. Her role is limited to be sure but each time he checks on her, it becomes clear that there isn't much time as he pleads with her to just hold on a little longer. That is pretty much what I was saying to myself through the entire film!
There isn't much dialogue in the film but then again there doesn't need to be. There are a few moments when Overgard talks to himself that made me chuckle and there are times when he attempts to communicate with the wounded pilot. Again that is what makes
Mikkelsen engaging to watch, everything you want to know you need only watch his expressions, the way he carries himself and the anger that comes with wanting to survive.
The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking with the vastness of wilderness, the peaks and valleys and the unforgiving moments where nature has its own way of doing things. Each time they stopped, Overgard would MacGyver a way to bring them shelter with the minimal supplies he dragged across the snow.
There are many survival films but there is something extremely breathtaking about a storyline that strips away all the trappings and forces choices that none of us would ever want to make. Throughout the film, this character makes those choices with every step he takes because now survival isn't just about him - he now has a reason to continue that is about more than one person.
ARCTIC is truly a visual and emotional ride that is beautiful, challenging, heartbreaking and will bring about a breath holding ending that you will long remember after the film has ended.
In the end - survival is its own journey.
MARY MAGDALENE Tells a Story from Another Perspective
Coming to theatres from director Garth Davis, writers Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett along with IFC Films comes the story of MARY MAGDALENE.
Mary Magdalene (Rooney Mara) is a young woman living in Judea in 33 AD that is having a difficult time finding her place. Her family is constantly worried because of her emotional state and can’t understand why she doesn’t marry.
When her father tries to have her cleansed of what ails her, Mary falls into a serious state. That’s when she meets Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix) who speaks to her in a way no one else has. She finds comfort in his company and to the astonishment of her family, Mary decides to follow Jesus.
Followers Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Judas (Tahar Rahim), James (Tawfeek Barhom), Philip (Uri Gavriel), and Matthew (Michael Moshonov) among others are not sure how they feel about Mary being with them. They are even more surprised that Jesus speaks freely with Mary and includes her in helping to speak with people.
But they have ideas of their own about what Jesus should be doing and how he should be freeing his people. Mary is surprised by what they think and does not hesitate to tell them so. The problem becomes more pronounced when Peter makes it clear that he believes Mary is weakening Jesus.
That does not stop Jesus from sharing with Mary his feelings and also shares what is to come. Their next stop is to Jerusalem where Jesus is not welcome by the Roman’s or his own people. As what is to come draws close and Jesus feels the weight of the world, Mary makes it very clear that she will be with Jesus every step of the way and beyond.
It is what happens three days later when Mary tells Peter and the other apostles about Jesus that she is once again comes under scrutiny. She doesn’t let it stop her from the strength she has gained in her journey with Jesus nor do they change the path she is dedicated to faithfully continuing.
Mara as Mary puts in a performance of a struggling young woman ahead of her time. She doesn’t want to follow traditions of what her family thinks a woman should do and be. There is something more out in the world and she knows it is just waiting. The dilemma is the hurt she knows her family feels, especially when she turns down a marriage proposal. Mara puts in the emotional time showing every thought this character had up on the screen mixed in with her continuing struggle against those who would try to put her back in the box.
Phoenix as Jesus is Mary’s mirror in that he also struggles with not being a traditional man but instead going out into the world to do good works. He is in constant pull between what everyone else thinks his role is and what he knows his role is. Jesus and Mary discuss what they can together and come to understand their protection of one another. Phoenix gives his take of Jesus as a man who already knows the course his life is to take and even in his human frailty and questioning knows Mary will help him see it through.
Ejiofor as Peter is the man that stands between Jesus and Mary as I see it. He wants Jesus to be the symbol of Jewish freedom but by Peter’s standards and he wants Mary to just serve the wine at dinner and stop talking to Jesus. Ejiofor portrays Peter as another who struggles but his, it seems, comes from a sort of jealousy. Rahim as Judas decides to force Jesus to do what they all think he should and the repercussions of his decision are here with us today. Rahim definitely has the role of a character who doesn’t examine beyond the choices he makes and this actor does so exceeding well.
Other cast include Tsahi Halevi as Ephraim, Shira Haas as Heah, Ryan Corr as Joseph, Charles Babalola as Andrew, Tcheky Karyo as Elisha, Lubna Azabal as Susannah, Denis Menochet as Daniel, and Ariane Labed as Rachel.
MARY MAGDALENE is, of course, the story of a woman who has been throughout history cast as a harlot, a prostitute and a woman of questionable morals. This film examines otherwise and shows instead a strong woman who sees herself as something more than a wife and a mother. In 33 AD, being anything else meant that there was something wrong and it had to be the devil working his ways.
When Mary does take a stand for what she wants and where she is going, Mara gives this moment a face we can all identify with. Now we see another side of a woman who not only boldly breaks with tradition but follows a belief that makes sense to her heart and soul. Phoenix Jesus treats her as an equal, speaks to her as an equal and allows her to stand as an equal.
This film is beautifully put together with a star filled cast yet each actor downplays their character in a way that is relatable. Each is also emotional, understandable and brings us into their personal struggle with who they are and the paths they take.
In the end – her story will be told!
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
Coming this Friday from director Josie Rourke and Focus Features is the story of a woman who would be more with MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.
Mary (Saoirse Ronan) is returning to Scotland from France after the death of her husband King Francis. Taking up her crown as Queen of Scotland, she is met by her half-brother James (James McArdle) the Earl of Moray who doesn’t seem pleased to see her.
He isn’t the only one as John Knox (David Tennant) makes it very clear that he isn’t about to change faiths to accommodate her. Mary makes it very clear that he his council is no longer welcome at her court. James tries to tell Mary that she has started something that could hurt her along the way.
The one thing Mary wants is to seal any breach with her cousin Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). Elizabeth is being told repeatedly by her advisor William Cecil (Guy Pearce) that Mary is a danger and only wants to take the throne. Trying to find a middle ground, Elizabeth suggests that Mary marry an Englishman and offers up her own lover Robert Dudley (Joe Alwyn). Mary has other plans and marries Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden).
Realizing she may have made a mistake, the only way to solidify her position is by having a child before Elizabeth. When she has a son, it changes her feelings and she shares with Elizabeth asking her to be the child’s godmother. Elizabeth believes that this may just be the tie that binds the two women.
Mary is having a difficult time as well when Darnley has no problem showing his disregard for her position as Queen. When her own council tries to take the throne, Darnley is talked into being part of the conspiracy. Intrigue continues to plague Mary as the men around her lay claim, force marriages and don’t understand the fierceness of the Queen.
Seeing one last hope, Mary asks to meet with her sister-cousin Elizabeth in hopes to get support in fighting back those who would take the Scottish throne. Although Elizabeth feels for her cousin, it becomes clear to Mary that she may be at the end of her reign.
Two queens who want the same thing in different ways.
Ronan as Mary is remarkable but then again she is a remarkable actress. The first movie I ever saw her in was the intense and emotionally draining film ATONEMENT followed by the equally intense film THE LOVELY BONES. Since then nothing has stopped her from honing her craft in every way possible and with characters that have obviously taught her more and more about choosing roles and defining who she is as an actress. MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is another example of why I will see every piece of filmmaking she is in – always. This is a character driven by a woman up against men who see her as a trophy to be one and then disguarded because she is, after all, only a woman. Well done Ronan, well done!
Robbie as Elizabeth doesn’t hesitate to put every little bit of her Queen out there – from her lovers, illness and inability to be told who to marry and what children to have. Robbie presents a strong force of a woman that shows moments of private struggle but when push comes to shove Robbie helps Elizabeth straightens her spine and her crown. The scene between the two queens is one of the most poignant and double-edged I have seen in a while on film.
McArdle as James is clearly a man who has been led by the nose at the hands of the council and happily so until Mary comes back. Then his little hurt feelings are put out for all to see and he wants justice for it all. McArdle is an actor on a mission and playing the role of a spurned brother isn’t easy. Lowden as Lord Darnley is just another man in Mary’s life that believes he is owed something at the cost of everything else. Tennant as Knox is a religious zealot who barks a good game hoping others will do the fighting for him.
Pearce as Cecil is a part of the pack on the other side of the pond who wants what he wants and thinks whispering in Elizabeth’s ear means he will get it. Alwyn as Dudley is a man who love Elizabeth the woman but takes orders from Elizabeth the Queen. Not easy being told to go be your enemy’s husband and Dudley is only saved by Mary’s hot headedness.
Other cast include Gemma Chan as Elizabeth Hardwick, Brendan Coyle as Matthew Stewart, Ian Hart as Lord Maitland, Adrian Lester as Lord Randolph, Maria-Victoria Dragus as Mary Fleming, Alex Beckett as Walter Mildmay, Ismael Cordova as David Rizzio and Simon Russell as Robert Beale.
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is a film about two women in a man’s era fighting for their crowns. They should never have had to make that choice between the two of them but with so many men whispering in their ears, I don’t know how they lasted as long as they did with each other.
Mary clearly didn’t know what Elizabeth did and that is you practically have to give up being a woman to hold onto the throne. Clearly having more time to learn that lesson than Mary, Elizabeth wanted to embrace their sisterhood-of-crowns but hard headedness got in both of their ways.
The film is beautifully done and the costuming is breathtaking. I have a weakness for period piece films and when they are done as well as MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, well I can’t help but find no fault in it.
There have been other films that have touched on the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth, and even a television show called Reign that gave viewers a glimpse of her life in France. MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS is a look at what happened once she left France and before the infamous and shocking red dress. From a young woman married to a French king to becoming a widow and returning queen of her own country – there is nothing about her life that is easy or without intrigue and betrayal.
In the end – bow to no one!
THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD
Coming to theatres this Friday from director Peter Jackson and Warner Bros. is a look at the first World War in THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD.
It has been one hundred years since the end of World War I and with over 600 hours of footage, director Jackson along with the Imperial War Museum archives and the BBC tell a story that has never been experienced before.
In those archives are also the voices of men who lived through the war from 1914 to 1918 and share every detail of their military time. When it is realized that war is coming, it wasn’t just men in their twenties signing up. Boys as young as 15 were lying about their age to join and make their way to training and to war.
For some this was their first experience in the world let along a world at war. Their stories of coming together was a mixture of leaving home for the first time and not quite grasping what they were about to do.
Jackson takes the black and white footage and colorized it and within moments we are brought into their world. The film can be seen in 2D and 3D, I saw it in 3D and it is stunning. It is his hope that by telling a small fraction of a larger story of the war that viewers will see and hear for themselves what has not been before.
In the voices of the men unfolds their life once they became soldiers and that includes every detail of marching, eating, sleeping, friendships and the life of living day to day in the trenches. The German forces are on the other side of a field and in the middle is the constant barraging of bombs.
From the very beginning of the film it is clear that this is a documentary like nothing I had seen before. Every gambit of human emotion was happening on the screen but also the response of an audience who was totally invested in the experience. There were moments of gasping and moments of chuckling and in between moments of keeping emotions together.
Transforming 100 year old footage, Jackson and his team have brought together an incredible accounting of World War I. By colorizing the footage he has brought this piece of a larger story into such perspective that it is almost hard to believe that the film is only 90+ minutes. There isn’t a moment that didn’t hold the audience captive and not one person left their seat until the film was finished.
I have spent days thinking about this film because of everything that Jackson managed to put together. He was not shy about the personal life of the soldiers nor was he shy about death in war. Once again the emotions of the film bring a quiet theatre even quieter.
THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD is an amazing documentary from beginning to end and what Jackson accomplished in four years is nothing short of stellar. Jackson also has an investment in the film as his own grandfather fought in the war and he did not receive compensation for the film. It is a documentary but I have not felt this moved by a documentary in quite a long time.
To see the young faces of the men who fought World War I in the way Jackson has presented them tugged at my heart. We have to remember that 100 years ago; these soldiers did not have the technology available today so when you wanted to get a message to someone else on the line, a soldier ran it. Tanks were experimental and crude at best and personal protection entrusting your life to the soldier next to you.
Surviving on rations and taking care of ones self was done through creativity and ingenuity that most of us today can’t even wrap our minds around. That is what this documentary does, helps us all wrap our minds around something that we’ve only read about in books. Now, that word has jumped from page to screen and given faces to it all.
THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD is a must-see on ever level and I would even go so far as to say it is filled with teachable moments. Copies of the film are already in schools in the UK. As Jackson states in the beginning, this is only a small piece of a large war and it is my hope that he continues with this work and brings more to audiences. I would be the first to watch a series of this work!
This is a telling, visually confronting and soul searching film and worth every moment in the theatre to see and experience.
In the end – this is the true experience of being a soldier.
THE FAVOURITE Stars Three Dazzling Women
I absolutely love period pieces so I have been anxiously waiting for director Yorgos Lanthimos and Fox Searchlight Pictures offering of THE FAVOURITE.
Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits on the throne in 18th Century England and Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) is her constant companion. Their relationship is one of straight forwardness and longing. England is also at war with France and Lady Sarah is keeping an eye on it while taking care of the Queen’s frailties and occasional childlike temper tantrums.
Enter Abigail (Emma Stone) a fall aristocrat turned servant girl who isn’t well received in the kitchen of the Queen. Sarah sees how her cousin is treated and becomes a mentor to the young girl. Abigail wants nothing more than to return to the life she once knew and realizes this just might be the way for that to happen.
During one of the Queens outbursts, Abigail takes pity on her and starts a friendship over the royals “children” (rabbits). The Queen is delighted as they spend the afternoon sharing and laughing together. Sarah catches wind of what is happening with the Queen and lets it be known in her own way that trying to weasel in to the Queen’s favor might not be such a good idea.
Now that the gauntlet is thrown down – Abigail and Sarah go toe to toe for the Queen’s attentions and who truly cares for the monarch is at stake.
I must start with Colman as Queen Anne because she is absolutely stellar, absolutely. From her tantrums to her insecurities to her loyalties, Colman portrays the woman as most would never see a monarch – vulnerable. Knowing that parliament is consistently against her, she attempts to turn to those she should be able to trust. I love Colman’s performance with ever emotion lay plainly before us, I do so hope her performance is recognized and that accolades are given. She most definitely deserves them for this role.
Weisz as Lady Sarah is the smart, politically savvy and is the no-nonsense taking companion to the Queen. She works hard at keeping the crown on her royal head and makes it her business to know what everyone is doing at all times. Weisz can pull off sassy and sarcastic in the same breath better than other actress I know. Of course she does have her hands full with Ms. Stone.
Stone as Abigail is a fallen aristocrat who doesn’t want to stay that way. Getting into the Queen’s kitchen is the first step and getting into her heart may just get Abigail off her knees and high in the rankings. Stone begins as a fawn-eyed girl who is thrilled to have Lady Sarah show an interest in her, but of course we all know that Stone can pull off fawn-eyed girl with the best of them. I loved her antics from start to finish and kept thinking about Abigail, ‘just because you can play the game doesn’t mean you should!’
Other cast include Jennifer White as Mrs. Meg, LillyRose Stevens as Sally, James Smith as Godolphin, Mark Gatiss as Lord Marlborough, Edward Aczel as Earl of Stratford, Carolyn Saint-Pe as Madame Tournee, Joe Alwyn as Masham and Nicholas Hoult as Harley.
THE FAVOURITE is a gloriously fascinating film about three women who are filled with so much want that goes in so many different directions. That being said, Abigail and Sarah have much different relationships with Queen Anne although you’d have a tough time convincing Abigail of that.
Sarah and the Queen understand one another clearly and it is also clear that Sarah runs the part of the kingdom that the Queen is to busy being petulant to deal with. That’s the crux of their relationship – one is clearly and adult, the other is drowning from the weight of the crown. Yet in that is a relationship of hilarity and sadness mixed together.
Abigail being the new girl to all of this is a distraction for the Queen when Sarah is gone. The Queen believes she has a new and understanding friend when it is clear Abigail has decided to get what Sarah has and take a lot of short cuts to get there. She doesn’t have the understanding of the other two and that’s where she makes mistakes.
This is a film that spans every human emotion possible in that you don’t know at times whether to laugh, cry or be outright shocked. In an era of excess and political gain, this cast revels in that history with marvelous results. The surroundings only adds to the story telling with its opulence and grandeur along with stunning clothing and jewelry.
THE FAVOURITE has already been recognized by the British Independent Film Awards, Camerimage, and Ghent International Film Festival Gotham Awards. The Hollywood Film Awards gave a win for Rachel Weisz and Costume Designer Sandy Powell. The Venice Film Festival win came for Director Yorgos Lanthimos and Best Actress for Olivia Colman (well done!).
This is one of my favorite films of the year so when deciding what regurgitation to see in theatres, chose something new and amazing with THE FAVOURITE!
In the end – some wounds do not close!