AD ASTRA Takes Us To The Stars
Coming to theatres this Friday from directors James Gray, Dan Bradley and 20th Century Fox comes a story of a man who needs to save the planet with AD ASTRA.
Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is an astronaut who has the uncanny knack for keeping his emotions under control. Constantly being monitored for flight readiness, it has come at the expense of his relationship with Eve (Liv Tyler). During an accident at work, his superiors notice that he kept a level head. What Roy learns is that the accident is caused by the Lima Project that was run by his father Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones).
The senior McBride left years earlier in search of other life in the universe. Hailed as a hero for his work in space, that is what Roy remembers or more so what he has been told.
He is given the mission to go to Mars and send a transmission to his father. Mars is the only planet that hasn't been affected by the violent pulses sent through the galaxy. Going along with McBride is Col. Pruitt (Donald Sutherland), a one-time friend to Clifford and someone to keep an eye on Roy. Stopping on the moon, Roy learns more about what is expected of him once he reaches Mars.
Once landed, Roy is met by Helen Lantos (Ruth Negga) who seems mysterious but actually has information that he has never been privy to. Reaching out to his father through transmissions, all of a sudden things change and those in charge want him back on earth. He is not about to turn back now and with the help of Helen he once again gets aboard a ship that will take him on the most solitary and long voyage he could have imagined.
He has time to make the decision about how to stop the effects of the Lima Project and come face to face with a father he thought he knew.
Pitt as Roy is a man who tries to keep focus on his emotions by keeping himself apart from everyone else. Believing that his father was dead, he is still calm when told it is a possibility that the elder McBride might still be alive. Every step he takes is calculated and once realizing his purpose is served isn't about to stop until he has all the answers. There is something so very cool when Pitt takes a role that isn't full of talk but instead straight forward action. Although there is a full cast here, it is Pitt's character that commands the film.
Sutherland as Col. Pruitt is sent by the higher ups to keep an eye on Roy but there is also a history. Pruitt knew the elder McBride and seems to be hoping to see him once again but his reasons are a bit different that Roy's. I have always enjoyed Sutherland on any screen because he is an actor that may be large in stature but never pulls on the screen. Even when he yells it's brief, important and then back to center with such roles in M*A*S*H, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, ORDINARY PEOPLE and even his role in THE HUNGER GAMES, I am always all in to watch him.
Tyler as Eve has a smaller role but one that is important in understanding the repercussions of Roy's inability to let loose once in a while. She wanted more and he couldn't provide it. Negga as Helen has her own story to tell and she is absolutely ready to tell Roy, whether he is ready to hear it or not.
Jones as Clifford McBride is a hero to everyone who knows about the Lima Project. Roy has lived in the shadow of Clifford even though he didn't truly understand why he chose space over his family. When Jones is on screen there is a sincere insanity that exists in that he believes in what he says to the point of not being able to tell right from wrong.
On an interesting side note - Sutherland and Jones appeared in another movie together in 2000 called SPACE COWBOYS so it seems fitting they would come full circle in suits once again. In that film they were both space geniuses as well so kudos for bringing it back 19 years later!
Other cast include Anne McDaniels as Shunga Hologram, John Ortiz as General Rivas, Kimberly Elise as Lorraine Deavers, Greg Bryk as Chip Garnes, Loren Dean as Donald Stanford, John Finn as Stroud, Kimmy Shields as Sgt. Romano, and LisaGay Hamilton as Adjutent General Amelia Vogel.
AD ASTRA is a film about many different things - from a man who is about to discover that his emotional world is larger than the universe he is about to fly into, to learning that history doesn't always paint a real picture. Clearly the visual are stunning but then again most space films are. In recent years there have been several and since I am a fan of space films, AD ASTRA works.
That being said I also want to say that it seems that this is a man-version of GRAVITY. Don't get me wrong, that isn't a bad thing, it's just how I see it. Throw in 2014's INTERSTELLAR and Matthew McConaughey's character Cooper along with Sandra Bullock's character Ryan Stone from GRAVITY and Roy McBride of AD ASTRA - all have emotional issues that they hide with their space work. When life and death kick in they all trust in what they know intellectually but also experience a sense of acceptance and letting go.
Now that I have that out of my system I truly did enjoy Pitt's performance because of in depth. A role doesn't have to have tons of talking in order for me to totally understand the plight of a character. Pitt seems to be the calm in the middle of a galactic storm as others swirl around the outer vortex of this character.
There is absolutely no doubt that the cinematography is also a character in the film. From the stunning landing on the moon to shooting off to Mars and then Jupiter and beyond, the colors are stunning, the space is cold yet inviting and it is eye candy for anyone who just adores the idea of space and space travel.
In the end - the answers we seek are just outside our reach!
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!
READY OR NOT Really Means it!
Coming to theatres from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Fox Searchlight Pictures comes the usual lethal family drama in READY OR NOT.
It is the happiest day of Grace’s (Samara Weaving) life as she is marrying Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien). Even as he uses humor to warn about the Le Domas family, Grace is just happy to finally be part of one.
After the wedding, Grace and Alex take a few moments for each other but are interrupted by the eerie Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni). She announces that the family is gathering wanting Grace and Alex to join them.
Surrounding the Le Domas table are Alex’s brother Daniel (Adam Brody), his wife Charity (Elyse Levesque), mother Becky (Andi MacDowell), father Tony (Henry Czerny), sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), and husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun).
Tony announces that every time a new person comes into the family, they spend the first evening playing a game as a welcome. All Grace has to do is pick a card from a box which seems simple enough to her. The card ‘hide and seek’ is drawn and the entire family becomes silent and Alex gets pale.
Going along to get along Grace is given a head start and once gone the rest of the family start getting ready – by arming up. You see, the Le Domas family believes that if they don’t seek Grace, something horrible will happen to the family.
Alex sneaks away to find Grace and finally fesses up as to what is happening. Grace is about to taken on a whole family proving she can take whatever nonsense they dish out, including crazy butler Stevens (John Ralston). The in-laws are on the hunt and they aren’t about to stop!
Just another family get-together that goes crazy till dawn!
Weaving as Grace is absolutely fantastic and I loved every minute she was on screen. To go from a happy bride to Rambo-ette was very, very cool. I watched the audience when she was on screen and they shared my feelings about her playing this role. Weaving says, “We had an amazing cast to pull this off and everything just fell into place”. She made a grand entrance in white and she made an even grander exit leaving us all wanting more so that’s exactly falling into place!
O’Brien as Alex marries Grace knowing full well what is about to happen. I’m was not sure how I felt about him throughout the film. I mean your fiancé knows his family is crazy but waits till after the ‘I do’ to say something? Every bride’s worst fear right? Brody as brother Daniel has his own issues with the family but he’d rather go numb with alcohol than deal with any of it.
Czerny as Tony is just plain nutty but made me laugh a LOT. He wants to keep the family together and doesn’t mind doing it with a shotgun. Bruun as Fitch just goes along to get along because being married to Emilie means happy crazy life-happy crazy wife! mother Becky (Andi MacDowell),
Scrofano as Emilie is just a little to tender to do what her family thinks must be done and Levesque as Charity doesn’t have a problem with it what so ever. Guadagni as Aunt Helene is absolutely priceless and she cracked me up repeatedly even though I’m sure she was meant to scare me instead. Now Ralston as Stevens scared me more – well done sir!
MacDowell as mom Becky just stuns in this role. She is happy to have her son back home and thanks Grace for doing it. Hard to believe when she has a weapon in her hand right? Talking about the making of the film she says, “It’s scary to think how everyone was perfectly cast in the film, especially with the role I play. I had a lot of fun being cast in this type of role because I’ve played so many sweet characters and I’m not sweet”. She about sums it up perfectly!
Other cast include Liam MacDonald as Georgie, Ethan Tavares as Gabe, Hanneke Talbot as Clara, Celine Tsai as Tina and Daniela Barbosa as Dora.
READY OR NOT is a fabulous film filled with terror and laughs which, if you think about it, is an odd combination. That’s what makes the film a must-see for me because of the combination of terror and laughs. I mean yes it has violence but it’s by a bunch of people who are just completely out of their minds.
I love the cinematography, costuming and the interesting choices of weapons (like Clue with Fitch-in-the-library-with-a-crossbow feel to it). The story behind the family gathering is pretty interesting as well because it is never let on whether it is true or not – until it is.
Go with a group and prepare to have a good time because when you leave the theatre you might not complain so much about your own family ever again.
In the end – let the game begin!
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!
THE LION KING Comes Alive
Coming to theatres from director Jon Favreau and Disney is the 1994 iconic animated story now come to life with THE LION KING.
In case you come from another solar system I’ll give the story a run down. There is a young cub named Simba (Donald Glover) who is born a prince. Father King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) tries to teach his young son what it is to be a king. He is also learning side lessons from his jealous Uncle Scar (Chitwetel Ejiofor) that get him into a few scrapes.
Along with his best friend Nala, the two explore much to the fright of Mufasa, even if the royal bird Zazu (John Oliver) can’t keep up. Scar gets an idea enlisting the help of the hyenas and their leader Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) to take what he thinks is his.
Simba is caught up in a stampede that brings death and sadness to the pride and the young prince decides to run. He walks away and meets meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and faithful companion Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) who embrace Simba as one of their own.
In the meantime Scar is destroying the valley and Nala (Beyonce) knows it is time to get help. What she doesn’t plan on is running into Simba (Donald Glover) who is now fully grown. Explaining what has happened, Simba meets Rafiki (John Kani) who shows him why it is important to remember who he is and what it means to be a king.
Glover as Simba is a little less animated vocally than I would have expected. The younger cub prince was delightful and brought a bit of playfulness that made the little furry growler even cuter. Beyonce as Nala stayed in her lane so to speak meaning I had thought she would have song-wise taken over but instead they kept it easy and lovely.
Several characters that I enjoyed so much are Oliver as Zazu making me laugh several times with his antics, Kasumba as Shenzi with a tad less humor than her 1994 Goldberg counterpart but still very good and Ejiofor getting a chance to be the devious Uncle Scar.
Eichner and Rogen got all the silliness that made the animated version so much fun. I giggled so much as the antics of Simba’s smaller friends. It must be said that my four year old granddaughter couldn’t stop smiling when these two were on the screen.
Finally, James Earl Jones is the one and only Mufasa and having him once again accept the mantel of King was a wise choice. He is Mufasa and his presence at the beginning and at the most important point of the film’s emotion is something only his voice could capture. It also soothes the ruffled feathers of those not happy with Disney and its live action choices as of late.
Other cast include Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari, Eric Andre as Azizi, JD McCrary as Young Simba, Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala and Alfre Woodard as Sarabi.
Now, let me get this out of the way – do I think THE LION KING needed to have a live-action version? Nope. Am I a fan of live-action films? Not really. I just think it’s a huge waste of money when we could easily enjoy the animated versions of stories on the big screen and my family would love it. Plus, after seeing the trailer for MULAN and the latest LITTLE MERMAID ruckus – I’m still not a fan.
THAT being said, I can’t fault THE LION KING at all. From the moment the screen is lit up with a beautiful sunrise and music that continues to be recognized with The Circle of Life and I Just Can’t Wait to be King, this is absolutely how it’s done folks!
Favreau should be applauded on several fronts – first of all he stayed ever faithful keeping to the original 1994 story that has become so iconic and also allowed the songs to once again bring joy. I saw this on the faces of not just the children at the screening but the adults as well. Oh trust me when I say I caught a woman six seats down singing along to Hakuna Matata and thrilled to be doing it.
The cinematography in the live-action is colorful and lively to the point that it was easy to forget that these lions, hyenas, birds, and the rest weren’t actually real. From the look of joy in Rafiki’s eyes to the sadness in Simba’s eyes, everything that needed to be related emotionally is there. The humor is wonderful in the film and there is a moment between Timon and Pumbaa that gives a nod to a beast of another kind so listen for it.
In the end – the King has returned!
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
In theatres this week from visionary writer/director Quentin Tarantino and Columbia Pictures is a film that can only be called ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.
It is 1969 Los Angeles and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is having an identity crisis. Once the lead in his own television series, he also makes time to do roles in other television shows. Living in the Hollywood hills on the secluded Cielo Drive, he is driven around town by his stunt double and friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
Also living on Cielo Drive next door is actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and husband director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha). She is living and loving life taking time to enjoy her career.
While working out life and where his career is going, Dalton has to take each phase like a scene with decisions that constantly plague him. Cliff is a little more free spirited and enjoys stunt work when he gets it and being a friend to Dalton. It is difficult for Cliff with a rumor that surrounds an incident in his life.
On several occasions he sees the young girl Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) hitchhiking through L.A. After dropping Dalton off on the set, he sees Pussycat again and offers her a ride. Strangely enough she is staying at the Spahn Movie Ranch where Cliff once shot scenes and she invites him to meet Charlie. Eager to see owner George Spahn (Bruce Dern), he is met with hostility by Squeaky (Dakota Fanning) and Tex (Austin Butler).
Dalton decides to go to Italy and do spaghetti westerns and returns home after six months with a wife and a need to simplify his life which includes having to let Cliff go as a driver. That doesn’t stop these old friends from whooping it up one last time. That same night, Dalton’s very pregnant neighbor Sharon and friends Jay (Emile Hirsch), Abigail (Samantha Robinson) and Voytek (Costa Ronin) are out celebrating as well.
What none of them could know was what would happen on Cielo Drive that hot night in 1969!
DiCaprio as Dalton is absolutely stunning in this role. He is a paranoid, dysfunctional, insecure chain smoking alcoholic who believes the worst about himself as an actor. That is what makes his performance brilliant in that he is not only able to pull all of that off, but kept me convinces for two hours and forty-five minutes. DiCaprio’s acting within acting scenes is intense at times but so damn well done I forgot it was a scene within a scene of the movie itself. I will be thinking about this performance for a very long time.
Pitt as Cliff is laid back and happy with his life of being in the background of Dalton’s career. This character that has a past that gets in his way yet not enough to bother him. His true love is pittie Brandy who is just as adorable as she wants to be and very protective of her human. Pitt gives the audience charm, rooftop abs (oh sorry, should I not have mentioned that?), that insanely memorable grin and a threshold of no-nonsense that is amazing up to the point where it isn’t. I am crazy about every aspect of this character until the absolute…very…end and then I just fell head over heels once again for Pitt. There couldn’t have been a better pairing than these two actors and honestly I never would have thought of it which is why I’m not a director.
Robbie as Tate gives a performance of a sweet and simple woman who loved music, friends, and sitting in a movie theatre watching herself not out of narcissm, but to experience the audience reaction. Her character portrayal of the actress was beautiful.
Olyphant as Stacey gets a chance to don western gear and I loved watching him dual it out, so to speak, with DiCaprio. Fanning as Squeaky portrayed someone I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley…ever. Butler, Madison and Beatty as the terrifying Manson trio are as frightening as they need to be and I’m leaving it right there.
A shout out to young Julia Butters as Trudi is epic in her two scenes with DiCaprio. My reaction to her was immediate and filled with smiles. Her character is smart, witty, and perceptive all trapped inside the body of an 8 year old. I want to be her when I grow up!
Other cast include Sydney Sweeney as Snake, Timothy Olyphant as James Stacy, Harley Quinn Smith as Froggie, Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen, Mike Moh as Bruce Lee, Lorenza Izzo as Francesca Capucci, Rumer Willis as Joanna Pettet, Scoot McNairy as Bob Gilbert, Clifton Collins Jr. as Ernesto, Michael Madsen, and Kurt Russell as Randy.
Also, Rebecca Gayheart as Billie, Lena Dunham as Gypsy, Nicholas Hammond as Sam Wanamaker, Mikey Madison as Sadie, Madisen Beaty as Katie, Julia Butters as Trudi, Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder, and Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarzs.
This is as brief of a review as I could possible do for this film because I really don’t want to spoil any of it for anyone. I can say that I think I’ve seen a strong contender for an Academy Award nomination and many actors that could easily fill all the slots for Best Actor and Best Supporting nods.
What I love best about this film, and perhaps it shows my age, is that I remember all of it. The clothing, magazines, music, cars, the scenery, the places and the events of the era turned a light back on inside my head. All of it provided an emotional rollercoaster of staying in the story and trying not to let the eye candy distract.
The story, and oh what a story it is, came from the mind of Tarantino absolutely. Every scene was a wonder of where it was going and what would happen when we (meaning everyone in the theatre with me) got there. Dalton and Booth took us on the ride and I didn’t fight on second of it. We wanted to know more about their personal issues and the six degrees of separation between every character we were introduced to. Trust me when I say this was definitely a theatrical experience.
Were there a few giggles? Of course! Tarantino has a twisted sense of that and he lets us in on it. Of course I caught myself giggling a few times to myself but that’s my own personal twisted sense of humor.
The audience walked out on a high of immediately talking about what they had seen and wondering if the people they were with shared in their thought process. No one left right away but instead mingled outside of theatre 5 to continue sharing the experience. Here I sit and I’m still thinking about it all.
Yes the film is 161 minutes long yet it is one of the best times I’ve had at the movies in a long time. Being in the desert of wanting-thirst for something amazing on screen, Tarantino has just given me a huge whiskey sour and I certainly wouldn’t mind another.
In the end – it is a story of Hollywood Tarantino style!
Fast & Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW
Coming to theatres from director David Leitch and Universal Pictures comes the double team of action with Fast & Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW.
Trying to obtain a virus that could kill people all over the world, MI6 Agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) is sent in with other agents. What they couldn’t have foreseen is Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) arriving to steal the virus for himself. Hattie has no choice but to get the virus out the only way possible.
Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is notified that he will be working with someone else on the case. Imagine his surprise when it turns out to be Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)! They are not thrilled to see one another in the slightest and make it known as loudly and verbally as possible.
When Hattie hits the news that she is a rogue agent, Hobbs and Shaw are told they need to find her and both go about it in their own way. When she is finally captured it doesn’t take long before Brixton breaks the door down to take her away. She is now the virus and someone powerful wants her.
After getting her back, the only way save her is to find Professor Andreiko (Eddie Marsan) who created the virus. There is a machine that can help retrieve it but the company Etheon has it which means finding a way inside, get it and get away and – it’s in the Ukraine.
Time isn’t something these three have and Brixton isn’t about to stop till he gets what he wants. That means it’s time to get off the grid and go someplace no one would think to look and much to Hobbs’ dismay its home in Samoa.
Getting his family and disgruntled brother Jonah (Cliff Curtis) to help proves to be difficult, but then again even when family is a little upset – no one messes with them. It’s time to let the enemy know that you can’t get past Mama!
Now it’s time to go old school and take down Brixton!
Johnson as Hobbs is funny, charming, and everything we have come to expect from an action hero. There is something absolutely fantastic about the way Johnson handles his roles to the point where he makes it all look so darn easy. This time he gets a chance to bring in his own heritage in a way of family and the strength of those who will stand up for you even if they only have large clubs to do it with.
Statham as Shaw can’t help but bring his driving skills to bear in this film. Always behind the wheel, he doesn’t bat an eye when turning corners like they are on rails and jumping anything that stands in his way. Playing opposite Johnson, these two are meant to be in action films together because as much as the characters think they are different, lets be honest they are pretty much the same. They are full of quickness, silliness, brotherly quarreling and everything that goes with this twisted friendship.
Kirby as Hattie is very smart, doesn’t hesitate to act when the moment is right and has to deal with Hobbs and Shaw like a babysitter. I enjoyed her character in that she actually is a seriously more than capable agent and slick as they come and although her ‘wards’ are necessary they sort of aren’t.
Elba as Brixton is a genetically modified man who has been changed by the voice behind Etheon. A history with Shaw that is nothing short of lethal, Brixton is a man who feels superhuman and has no trouble letting everyone know that the human race itself is weak. Elba is deliciously evil and there isn’t a dang thing wrong with that!
Other cast include: Lori Tuisano as Sefina, John Tui as Kal, Joshua Mauga as Timo, Joe Anoa’I as Mateo, Rob Delaney as Agent Loeb, Alex King at Lt. Grapefruit, Eliana Sua as Sam, Eiza Gonzalez as Madam M and Helen Mirren as Queenie. Also, look for a surprise that will make you laugh and cheer!
Fast and Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW is 135 minute thrill ride of action, crazy humor and everything fans have come to expect from the F&F franchise. Everyone in the audience was cheering, laughing and cheering even more as the film drew to a close. It is clear that Johnson and Statham have a chemistry that everyone watching absolutely loved. I kinda liked it myself!
There are a few surprises that bring even more laughs and I think I was grinning from ear to ear a lot. That is saying something. So if you are looking for a reason to spend quality time in a theatre seat then join Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham for a ride that only these two can provide with Fast and Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW.
In the end – they may not like each other but they dislike bad guys even more!
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!
THE DEAD DON'T DIE Puts a Town on Notice
Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Jim Jarmusch and Focus Features comes a tale of small town living and the Earth with THE DEAD DON'T DIE.
Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) are the law of small town Centerville. Along with Officer Minerva Morrison (Chloe Sevigny), their day starts out with a check on Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) and a complaint by Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) about chickens.
On their trip back to the station, Chief Robertson has a feeling something isn't quite right. Noticing that it is later in the day, it doesn't look like the sun is going down. Then weird things begin to happen with watches and cell phones. That's when Officer Peterson makes the ominous prediction that 'this isn't going to end well'.
There answer comes fairly quickly when news reports about fracking has finally done damage to the Earth. Back at the station, the three officers decide what should be done. Of course someone has to stay at the station since there is a corpse in one of the cells!
At the local coffee shop, the local gossip is about Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), who owns the funeral home. Everyone realizes there is something odd about her but it goes unchecked. Waitresses Fern (Ester Baling) and Lily (Rosa Colon) are deep in talk when they are met by…well…hungry customers.
Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones) owns the local comic book shop and sundries when he is visited by Zoe (Selena Gomez), Jack (Austin Butler) and Zack (Luke Sabbath). Everyone comments on the Sturdily Simpson song "The Dead Don't Die" and ask for directions to a local hotel.
All this while the Chief and Officer Ronnie are back at the diner wonder what to do about what they find. Hardware store owner Hank (Danny Glover) is in shock but also notices things aren't right in Centerville.
Almost immediately it becomes clear that what is happening to the Earth has had an impact on those supposedly resting in peace at the local cemetery. The Chief and Ronnie begin to fight back, especially with Ronnie's zombie knowledge.
Their small little town has one huge dead problem!
Murray as Chief Robertson is about as laid back as I would expect a small town lawman to be and exactly how I'd expect Bill Murray as a small town lawman to be! He takes things in and process it with a touch of disbelief as to what's happening in his quaint community. Plus, and it must be said, anything Murray does will bring me to wherever he is in. The fact is Murray is an icon and a national treasure because he is…Bill Murray.
Okay, so I grew up watching him on Saturday Night Live in the days when comedy was hilarious and he provided much of that. He has made his way through comedy roles that just keep him relevant to all of us that love funny. Here he is seasoned but when he lands a line - it's as smooth as ever.
Driver as Officer Ronnie is the side-kick that Chief Robertson needed to pull this whole thing off. It is interesting to see Driver do the give and take with Murray and it works to perfection making them such a unique and weirdly perfect team. If I were the Chief I might not have had the same patience but then again, the last ten minutes make it all worth it. Driver plays a man who is relatively calm. He feels that disaster is heading to town and loads up to protect and serve.
Sevigny as Officer Minerva is, well, emotional in her own way and in the context of the rest of the characters in the film. She is the third wheel of law enforcement but between wanting to hide in the back seat of the squad car and knowing something has to be done, she jumps back and forth with ease.
Buscemi as Farmer Miller is grumpy, loaded and hostile about his chickens. Glover as Hank melts right into the township of people who are a little confused by what's going on and know hiding might be the way to survive. Jones as Bobby looks like he absolutely would own a comic book shop in the middle of Centerville and knows exactly what to do because of it.
The two odd and perfectly placed standouts of the film are Swinton as Zelda and I must say she is a woman I'd hang out with. Odd and out of place without realizing it, she has a part to play in all of this but then again does she? Waits as Hermit Bob is the man telling the tale of Centerville and might be the smartest Hermit ever.
Other cast include Rosie Perez as Posie Juarez, RZA as Dean, Alyssa App as Kid Zombie, Lorenzo Beronilla as Zelda Zombie, Sara Driver as Coffee Zombie, Carol Kane as Mallory O'Brien and Iggy Pop as the best Coffee Zombie ever!!
THE DEAD DON'T DIE isn't your typical zombie movie for so many reasons that I'll let the viewer find out personally. What I can say is that I felt like I was watching a combination of a Film Festival piece and a Saturday Night Creature Feature film that was from the B-film vaults.
It is absolutely everything and absolutely nothing like any zombie movie you've ever seen. This film calls for those who love twisted films that are dry in humor yet still hilarious. It's a journey through small town living with zombies as more of a pest than a reason to get all worked up.
This film has references from old horror films, a nod and feel of Romero and acting that is subdued and thoughtful wrapped up like bacon around a superb piece of filet mignon. The subtexts are there and its up to the viewer to catch them and it seems everyone in Hollywood wanted a piece of the film.
Of course I'm being vague in the telling on purpose because there is no right way to explain the film. This is one of those stories that must be experienced and with all honesty some will find it as hilarious as I did and some will walk away with that expression of 'what did I just see?' on their faces.
This is Jim Jarmusch people! Writer and director of ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (which is a beautiful vampire movie), BROKEN FLOWERS and the documentary GIMME DANGER. He has the ability to bring out the odd in his story telling but truth be known, some of us actually enjoy the odd.
The cast is varied and gives the town a little something special. Lets not forget the humor that is sharp, a bit biting at moments, very subtle in other moments which means there is something for everyone even if they don't know they need it.
THE DEAD DON'T DIE has me scratching my head, furrowing my brow in question, jaw dropping in action and most of all giggling like a little kid who feels like she got the joke no one else did. Who cares, I had a fun time.
In the end - this could be the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled!
GODZILLA: King of the Monsters
In theatres this week from writer/director Michael Dougherty and Warner Bros. Pictures is the return of the titans with GODZILLA: King of the Monsters.
It has been five years since the destruction that led to the death of Mark (Kyle Chandler) and Emma Russell's (Vera Farmiga) son. Daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) has watched her parents go their separate ways not dealing with the loss.
Emma is working with an organization called Monarch and their goal is to find the Titans to learn more about them. In their underground bunker, Emma and Madison watch Mothra come into being. Helping to keep it under control, Emma created a device called the Orca that only these Titans can understand.
Almost immediately there is an attack on the facility and the two are kidnapped by former soldier Jonah Alan (Charles Dance). Arriving at his place of research, Mark is told by Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Graham (Sally Hawkins) about the kidnapping.
He joins them back at the center station where Dr. Ling (Ziyi Zhang) and Dr. Stanton (Bradley Whitford) explain what is happening around the world. The military wants to take over but the scientists believe there is another way.
In the meantime, Emma releases the titan called Ghidorah as more and more monsters like Baphomet, Typhoon, Abaddon, Bunuip and Methuselah wake up. Godzilla is also on his way to Zero and the team must decide if this is the beginning of working together.
The problem is there are people that can't be trusted, titans who have a plan of their own and so many questions as to how to stop the destruction!
Chandler as Mark doesn't want to get involved in what ever it is that Monarch is doing but once Emma and Madison are taken he has no choice. Especially when he realizes that it is technology he helped develop that is devastating. Chandler has the ability to look sorrowful when needed and jumps into action when he can.
Farmiga as Russell takes on the titans when she should be home with her hubby Ed Warren (The Conjuring) keeping an eye on their evil artifacts. Brown as Madison is a kid who believes what she's told and has to choose what is right and wrong - and then get back to the STRANGER THINGS cast.
Dance as Alan proves that you can take the Hand of the King out of Westeros but you can't stop Tywinn from still wanting to rule the world. Whitford as Dr. Stanton is the sharp tongues comic relief especially when he sees his old White House stomping grounds in sad shape.
Watanabe as Dr. Serizawa is the strength of the group who is trying to keep Godzilla alive while trying to find a way to stop the other Titans. I adore Watanabe and this is a perfect character for him as it is strong but equally quiet. Zhang as Dr. Ling is caught up in every minute of the chaos and it's nice to see Sayuri and the Chairman (Memoirs of a Geisha) together again.
Other cast include Thomas Middleditch as Sam Coleman, Aisha Hinds as Colonel Diane Foster, O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Chief Warrant Barnes, Anthony Ramos as Sgt. Martinez, Elizabeth Ludlow as Lt. Griffin, Jonathan Howard as Asher Jonah and David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz.
Look, I know I am making a little fun of GODZILLA: King of the Monsters but there are moments crying out for me to poke fun. The story is straight forward, the technology is cutting edge, the graphics are on point and Godzilla never looked so good.
That being said, honestly I could have seen myself sitting at home watching this on a bit 75" screen television with a sound bar and having a great time with friends. I am a kid of the black/white Godzilla/Mothra/Rodan era and I spent many a Friday night or Saturday afternoon watching the battles.
The first film directed by Ishiro Honda in 1954 introduced everyone to Gojira aka Godzilla and the reaction was huge. Everyone knows who Godzilla is even if the youngsters of today don't know the back story. If they see a statue of Godzilla - they know!
The radioactive lizard looking and extremely HUGE creature slips through the ocean with ease while destroying everything below his very large feet. I sort of have the same problem so I can relate!
From the 1950s until today, Godzilla is part of film history and an icon that we love. Although the films haven't always been successful (sorry Matthew Broderick aka 1998 version), this story works even if it is cheesy, campy and predictable.
Prepare because Godzilla vs. King Kong is going to come large and in charge in 2020.
In the end - long live the king!
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!