REVIEW: “The Get Together” (2021) Vertical Entertainment

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Expanding on his initial 2016 short, director Will Bakke widens the circle from what was more high school kids to college grads with “THE GET TOGETHER”. What starts off to look like a college frat party gone bad, is actually a pretty well thought out process of interconnected stories involving the main characters, and how their actions of the evening actually intertwine with each other. It makes it much different than the opening-thought-to-be frat party impression that is first presented.

Story number one features August (Courtney Parchman), who along with her roommate McCall (Luxy Banner), have not only a rodent problem, but somewhat of a ‘roommate problem’ as well. August wants to be McCall’s best and only friend, while McCall, has become part of the ‘popular’ crowd since they moved to Austen, TX, and heads out to the party of the night without August. Low and behold, as an Uber driver August lands up with Caleb (Alejandro Rose-Garcia), as her ride and guess where he is going – well to a party of course – where as happenstance occurs, he leaves his phone in the car and she goes inside to return it. August causes chaos wherever she goes, this party being no exception, with not only drink throwing issues, but literally ‘pulling the plug’ on the party, and landing party people in swimming pool.

Story two gives us the couple of the night, Damien (Jacob Artist) and Betsy (Johanna Brady), who are meant to be celebrating their upcoming engagement, except he’s to scared to pop the question. With their dinner interrupted by Lucas (Chad Werner), the crazy guy from high school whom no one really remembers, and he pushes them to attend, you guessed it, the same house party. This puts Betsy back in contact with old high school friends she stopped talking to after moving to New York City. And unintentionally her ex-boyfriend, Caleb as well. Through the incident in the pool, the engagement ring is lost, leaving Damien’s plans in ruins.

Lastly, we meet August’s ride, Caleb (Rose-Garcia), and we follow him on his tortuous route through not only losing his phone, which is the conduit to everything in this whole film even happening, but watching him go through the painful realization that his band is never going to be successful, and his ex-girlfriend was the one true love of his life. Though all of this does lead to some kind of redemption, and not just for him, but for all the attendees of the party.

A few beefs on the film would be: why does the more frumpy-type girl always have to be the one who is shown as the failure or the desperate one? it’s so stereotypical of these films, and it’s not done just once, but twice. And while it’s a very decent independent production, it’s a little almost, well there is no other way, as dare I say it, over-acted in parts. By this I mean, some over the top points of performance by a few that didn’t need to be. But that’s probably the only let down as it does give some great insight into what it means to ‘adult’ after college, and at a nice 73 minute run-time, it gets a lot done and told.

While not a perfect film, it’s charming from start to finish, and probably a party you wouldn’t want to miss.

C+

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Newhouse PR/Vertical Entertainment

“THE GET TOGETHER” IS AVAILABLE ON DEMAND FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2021 (Click link here to purchase http://bit.ly/TheGetTogetherMovie )

REVIEW: “The Killing of Two Lovers” (2021) Neon

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Love stories are usually told through an emotional point of view where we transport ourselves to happy places, and the ending is usually where the romance triumphs, Usually the traumas, pain, jealousy and disappointments are part of a different world and don’t interfere with our ‘ideas’ of how romance is supposed to be. In case that’s what you’re looking for, “THE KILLING OF TWO LOVERS” from writer/director Robert Machoian, is not that movie. Instead it’s a shoutout to what the pain that a break up of a relationship where the two main people involved, still possibly love each other, but have realized that no matter how good their intentions are, or no matter how many promises have been made, they might just be better apart.

The story takes place in small town, middle America. David (Clayne Crawford), and Nikki (Sepideh Moafi), are a couple in crisis. They were high school sweethearts who married young and now have four children, a teenage daughter Jess (Avery Pizzuto) and her three much younger siblings. They are on a trial separation and David has moved literally a few hundreds yards away, to his Dad’s house. As the opening scene unfolds in front of us, we realize it’s David holding a gun pointing it directly at his wife and her new partner Derek (Chris Coy), while they sleep, seeming to imply that, and referring to the title, there may be more than just two lovers who could die here. Needless to say, the mere fact that Nikki is dating another man and he’s sleeping in the same house as his kids, is not something David deals with well. He wants things to return to ‘normal’ because he truly doesn’t understand that the issue at hand here, might just be him. Nikki wants things to change because as they’ve basically grown up together as a couple, as with all things turning adult, people change as well, and yet David’s temperament or lack of emotional temperament, does seem to get the best of him at times.

But it’s truly director Machoain and his drawing here of the average American man facing the deterioration of a something he treasures so very much, his wife and his family, and essentially his way of life. Crawford is truly splendid in this role in which he gives us an emotional rawness to his performance — of a type of internal struggle that escapes the usual theme that a film explores. Even the kids here, especially his teen daughter played by Pizzuto, just gives so much to how they feel about what is happening to their world. It is also beautifully filmed with backdrops and shots of perfection based on light and shadows, that just adds to the feelings you experience while watching. The only flaw is perhaps not fleshing out how the crisis of David and Nikki evolved before making the decision to separate temporarily, how they came to this solution, and what exactly happened to open the Pandora’s box of problems presented in the film. There seems to be a bit of an imbalance in the relationship between the two as shown on the screen, and it is perhaps due to the fact that David’s character is much better defined than that of Nikki, as not only does she have way less screen time, but we barely get to know her to see why her attitudes and decisions are made the way they are, making them seem less justified.

Taking away all that, the films is a stark look at love. Beautifully filmed, wonderfully acted, told in an style that makes us all take a good look and think. It truly deserves a watch.

“B”

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“THE KILLING OF TWO LOVERS” is out in theaters and on demand on Friday, May 14, 2021

REVIEW: “RIDERS OF JUSTICE” (2021) Magnolia Pictures

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It all starts with a stolen bicycle. Something taken from someone that usually might not have much merit to it, yet here in ‘RIDERS OF JUSTICE’, it has everything to do with what happens next in director Anders Thomas Jensen’s latest foray into a wonderful film that gives us drama, dark comedy, action and explores just how far someone can go to justify their anger and avoid facing their grief.

Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), is a soldier who is called back home due to his family’s being in a bizarre train accident. His wife Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind) tragically dies in it, but their teen daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), survives. While grieving, she seeks answers for what happened and why. She’s coping by questioning the universe and religion as well, but Markus tells her those are nothing but dead ends. There is nothing good that will come from trying to make sense of it. It was all just a tragic accident and coincidence — end of story. But then where would be the storyline in all this – because one crazy tale is about to be told.

Markus is a soldier, and he sees himself as a man’s man so to speak, so he does what most men do to process loss: he tries to drink and smoke his pain away. He knows no other way to process his grief. That is until one day a mathematics/statistician named Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), and his colleague Lennart (Lars Brygmann), show up to tell him the accident wasn’t a coincidence. Now both of these characters have just lost their job, and because of this, they have time, time to research the statistics of this train accident. And in fact, all ‘stats’ show it was a planned murder by a local gang called Riders of Justice, and they can prove it. And so it begins – Operation ‘Make the Riders pay’ for what they have perceived to have done, is underway.

The team Otto and Markus assemble almost seem like a nerdy group of Avengers, as it’s essentially both of them, along with Lennart – who must be an absolute burden to psychiatrists round the world, and yet he fashions himself one as well, and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), a extremely sensitive I.T. genius. They look like they are highly intelligent and they are, but they are also physically and emotionally damaged men as well. Markus on the other hand, just doesn’t care. He’s fueled by the notion they have planted him with and will stop at nothing for revenge, he’s like a human torpedo determined to blow everything up — and by everything, I mean the guys he believes are involved in this plot. Markus is the muscle, the executioner, and the rest of the team is the brains behind the operation.

Jensen’s not interested here in making a plain, basic revenge movie. No, he wants to explore what’s beneath these men’s grief, shame, and humiliation. He pits Markus’ masculinity and the others vulnerability, using it against each other to see what happens as this group has only one common goal — destroy the gang — but seemingly not much else. Markus only knows how to solve a problem if it involves violence and guns, as ‘feelings’ and ‘words’ are useless to him. He only knows and believes that there is only one way to handle things, with action i.e., ‘actions speak louder than words’, a prevalent use of the motto for this film. He can’t find a way to connect with his daughter, who’s desperately in need of parental support and guidance, as she wants him to see a therapist. Instead he mocks the quasi-diagnosis his daughter and her boyfriend Sirius (Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt) make, even though he knows he will have to confront his feelings at some point. Markus refuses it because he realizes he couldn’t be in control of the situation, which is the only thing he has on the battlefield — and, ultimately, in life.

The rest of the characters are vastly different from Markus, but they all have their suppressed emotions to face as well and it’s kind of fascinating to see how the film lays them out in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes it almost seems far-fetched how Jensen makes the men connect, but he is once again, so good at creating unlikely bonds between the men, that it works out ridiculously well as the balance between very dark comedy, drama and action is perfectly handled. But makes no bones about it, there is a ton of shooting, killing, and bone-breaking in Riders of Justice, but ultimately, all that is a distraction. To be honest, the experience here is something like none other and is absolutely superb. It is comedy, it is war, it is death, sadness and violence – all wrapped up in one, but one in which in a portion of your mind, you are rooting for it in the weirdest way possible, and then you get slammed with a twist that in the darkest recesses of your mind, you never saw coming. Plus, the whole mathematical statistics of how they explain things is so very real, it makes you really take a moment to stop and think as well.

Honestly, Mikkelson is like a well balanced glass of wine here. One thing that is made clear after watching – not only does Mikkelson have the uncanny ability to be able to pick these projects, as well as have co-stars that just might be the most unlikely group to put together, yet are perfectly adept at enhancing his story and his performance every time. It also makes me so happy he continues to make quality films like this one, in his own language, as a translation to English, would just not be workable with a film like this one.

And it might also just be the best film of the year so far.

A

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“RIDERS OF JUSTICE” IS OUT IN SELECT THEATERS IN LA/NYC ON FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2021 // EVERYWHERE MAY 21, 2021

REVIEW: “PINK SKIES AHEAD” (2021) MTV ENTERTAINMENT STUDIOS

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Every few years we have our teen coming of age stories. The 70’s gave us “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, the 80’s was definitely the decade of teen films with ‘The Breakfast Club’ and every single John Hughes film, the 90’s gave us ‘Clueless‘; early 2000’s we went a little different with ‘Mean Girls’, and the most recent of the mid-2000’s gave us ‘Booksmart’ in 2019. So it’s no surprise we were in need of a new one, and writer/director Kelly Oxford delivers to us “PINK SKIES AHEAD”, just in time.

While is might be a 2021 release, ‘Pink Skies Ahead’ is set in Los Angeles in 1998, and is loosely based on events from Director Oxford’s life from when she was nineteen at the time. The film itself follows Winona (Jessica Barden), who after dropping out of college, moves back home to live with her parents in the San Fernando Valley. The blue-haired Winona is a bit of a hypochondriac, though still insists on seeing her childhood pediatrician only, one Dr, Cotton (Henry Winkler), who diagnoses her with an anxiety disorder. While she is completely skeptical of Dr. Cotton’s opinion — she hasn’t had a panic attack after all — she does reluctantly agree to see the referred therapist, Dr. Monroe (Mary J. Blige). And then Winona just simplies carries right on with her wild, partying lifestyle and even though things begin to slowly unravel around her, it still takes a lot to face her truths.

There are sub-plots about meeting and dating a nice but boring boyfriend Ben (Lewis Pullman), that doesn’t go the way we expect, a possible affair she suspects her father Richard (Michael McKean) of having, and difficulties in trying to forge a relationship with her mom Pamela (Marcia Gay Harden). Mostly all of this is due to the fact that having had her at a late age, they want to sell their home and ‘downsize’ to a Westside apartment – without Winona in the picture. She also parties hard with her two best friends, one being compulsive shoplifter Stephanie (Odeya Rush), the other is Addie (Rosa Salazar), and both believe that Winona has the potential to be a writer, but are also baffled that she can’t even pass her driver’s test to get a license. And there is so much more leading into what makes this film a bit different than most teen drama’s, the mental health battle. With scenes that involve job interviews which range from flirtatious to disastrous, we follow Winona’s journey though it all and most of it, you should watch and discover on your own, as it’s a journey worth taking.

While it has it’s flaws, the acting is tight and well done, and at a tight 90 minutes, you wonder if the film is going to hit all the marks before time runs out – luckily it does by making Winona’s step forward with the projected happy ending, versus somewhere in than the middle and it’s a good choice for the films ending as after all, the title is Pink Skies Ahead…

C+

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ 42West PR

“PINK SKIES AHEAD” is debuting on MTV Saturday, May 8, 2021

Review: “WITHOUT REMORSE” (2021) Amazon Studios

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Based on the Jack Ryan universe created by spy novelist extraordinaire Tom Clancy, “WITHOUT REMORSE” focuses on one of the most popular characters in the saga: John Kelly aka the future John Clark, as he gets his own origin story here from writers Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, directed by Stefano Sollima.

The films opens with a big action soaked scene of a hostage rescue in Aleppo, Syria, with Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan,) as part of a Navy Seal team, on what is clearly supposed to be a easy in and out hostage rescue. But of course it doesn’t go as planned and the recourse of what happens here, ends up changing John Kelly’s life forever. Fast forward after the attack gone wrong, John finds himself back at home in Washington D.C. happily awaiting the birth of his first child with his wife Pam (Lauren London), when they are attacked, leaving him badly wounded, while Pam and his unborn child are killed.

The attack, by a team of Russian assassins is payback and now John wants revenge, but the bureaucratic response from the higher ups at the Department of Defense and CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), gives it a no go. In steps Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce), who seems willing to blur the lines somewhat given what John has gone through, and we have the greenlight for John to be part of the team to go in to this time capture ex-Spetznaz agent Victor Rykov (Brett Gelman), although not without some hesitancy from his Commander and friend Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). All the while, this has been more John seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife, but it seems while wanting to do so, he has uncovered what is truly at hand, a covert plot that threatens to engulf the United States and Russia in an all-out war. Of course, things go once again upside down and the rest of the film turns into more of a personal payback mission for John.

The film, which also already has a second part on the way ~ courtesy of a mid-credits scene – updates and changes drastically not only the origin of the character, but the original plot of the story as well, which ends up giving us the feeling like it’s been seen a thousand times before. Not only because he is a military man who seeks revenge for the murder of his family, but also because he rekindles that been there – done that – conflict between the United States and Russia. While the hunt for the Russians keeps throwing our hero into explosive situations, ultimately revealing who the real villain is (to no one’s surprise) is part of the predictability process that is so very well….predictable. It’s the kind of tedious thriller where you spot the villain instantaneously, and realize who the backstabber is without even trying to. The one high point of it all for those who follow this character in Clancy novels, is this is also the telling of how John Kelly became John Clark and it’s moments like that that give it the much needed elevation we all wanted. Sadly, it’s brief, but boy can it be taken from here and really have something special come out of it, well we will have to just wait and see, as the action was decent and well as the acting.

On it’s good side, Jordan is a born action star and if this film is a hit, and future scripts possibly revamped, it could be a major franchise. Jodie Turner-Smith does well enough and all this flack that a woman can’t be a SEAL is just silly. It has been great seeing Guy Pearce come back to the big screen as well, he played his part perfectly, and look forward to having more of him in the future. The true error in all this is the book would have been ideal as an 8 part mini series. There is so much to explore and it could have set up a whole Clark universe with new stories being set in the 80’s, 90’s and beyond, you can’t help but think. So. Much. Potential.

C-

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“WITHOUT REMORSE” is available on Amazon Prime Friday, April 30, 2021

REVIEW: “NOBODY”(2021) Universal Pictures

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“NOBODY” opens with Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), seemingly living the same mundane day over and over, a la ‘Groundhog Day’, and I’m guessing director Ilya Naishuller does this so we can identify with his character, feel comfortable with him, you know, like he is an old friend. Except this old friend’s life comes with a twist – a home burglary which leads to the break in the camels back, and awakens all that is really behind the killing machine otherwise known as ‘Nobody’.

Hutch Mansell is a mild mannered yokel who does the books for a steel refinery. He is also a sleeper agent (known as an ‘auditor’) who gets back into the game after his home is burgled. His home life isn’t the greatest, being somewhat persona non grata in his own home where his wife Becca (Connie Nielsen), a real estate agent, and his son Blake (Gage Munroe), go about their days as if he didn’t exist, he relies on getting attention only from his doting young daughter Abby (Paisley Cadorath). But one fateful night, a pair of armed thieves break into his home. At first he’s more than happy to give into their demands handing over some petty cash and his watch, but then his son jumps into fray and when it looks like he may get hurt, something, for a second, snaps in Hutch. He makes a move to thwart the robbery, but stops with a mid-golf club swing at the head, and thinks better of it. It’s only afterwards, when his daughter brings up a missing little kitty bracelet that she loves, that he gives a twitch and we know something is about to happen. He heads out to visit his aging father David (Christopher Lloyd), at an old folks home and borrows his FBI badge and gun.

When Hutch finally snaps, it’s on a public bus and he confronts a contingent of drunk partiers that just crashed their car into a block of cement, as yes, the bus driver let’s them on (sigh). This is when the film goes all out off the rails with the semi-ridiculous as Hutch takes them all on and ends up sending nearly all to the hospital. This of course prompts the expected backlash retaliation, as an uncle of one of the victims is none other than Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksey Serebryakov). Yulian is a Russian money man who guards the mob’s bank and sings karaoke (but of course), and he goes all out on a rampage, even though once Hutch’s reputation is identified and made clear, it sends such fear, that one of Yulian’s junior associates literally packs up and leave. Then Hutch goes along his merry way and tracks down one of the thieves to a tattoo shop, but he’s snubbed by the owner, although we note a customer recognize a tattoo on Hutch’s wrist and disappears as if he’s seen the devil himself and in a way, I guess we could say he has.

The movie is rife with contradictions, like Hutch’s family’s basement/safe room, which also doubles as a special bone deleting furnace. The pacing is off and feels out of step at times as things just randomly happen with no build up, and other things just come way to easy for the good guys, while everyone else feels safe with no real threat around any corner. As always, a film like this is only as good as it’s villain. While they try to make Yulian a dark comedic one with the whole karaoke schticht, it just doesn’t work well as he and his gang are just not a likable enough, which is so key to making a movie like this work well. The movie has the same cliché of an army of faceless hitmen trespass on a suburban home, only for him to encounter them conveniently two at a time, until they’re all gone. The characters seem one dimensional and stereotypical, with the action being gimmicky and predictable, full of countless action flick clichés. There is zero depth to anyone, with almost nobody being likeable or interesting and it makes it all just bland, bland, bland. I could imagine this being something really special and different, if say his son Blake or his old buddy Harry (RZA) stepped in with him and made it a team – versus 82 yr old Christopher Lloyd. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see him, but it is just beyond ridiculousness that he is machine gunning down 25 men at a time. Or even throw his boss Eddie (Michael Ironside), and his son Charlie (Billy MacLellan), as his side duo. Something to make it really interesting and different. And this goes for Odenkirk as well, as there was never a moment when I bought him as a badass who could take on six guys at once who are half his age. It was ultimately too much to swallow and he just seemed miscast here. Mind you, I understand these aren’t supposed to be realistic films, just entertaining, but we need to believe the ‘entertainment’ at hand so it will be.

Although not a bad movie or acting, it’s an all too familiar story that never strays far from the predictable former killer who is forced to use their old skills storyline. Of course, the body count is large, the fist fights fast, the shootings come at a mile a minute, and the explosions happen very frequently, with the end being just what we expect.

All things considered, “Nobody” is a just an okay ride.

C-

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Universal Pictures

“NOBODY” is available in theaters where available and on (VOD) Friday, April 16, 2021

REVIEW: “THE COURIER” (2021) Lionsgate

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Benedict Cumberbatch is undoubtedly best when speaking in his own voice i.e, accent, giving us characters he can sink into and he proves this to us again in “THE COURIER”. Director Dominic Cooke along with writer Tom O’Connor, bring us this nail-biting tale based on the true story of Greville Wynn, a English salesman turned Cold War spy.

With Benedict Cumberbatch starring as our lead, Greville Wynne, who by all accounts is a happy-go-lucky English, drinking & golfing businessman who is married to Sheila (Jessie Buckley), and the father to Andrew (Keir Hills). Wynne is invited by acquaintance Dickie Franks (Angus Wright), to have lunch with an American “consultant” Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), where he is pressed into “service” for Great Britain, and with the line “I can’t believe I’m having lunch with spies” tells us just how he thinks he’s sitting at the ‘cool kids’ table and you read not only the shock on his face, but the underlying thrill in it as well.

Wynne’s mission, should he accept it, (yes, I know – completely different movie but is just so apt here) and let’s be honest here, there isn’t much of a choice. is to travel to Moscow and collect nuclear defense images of Russia’s presence in Cuba from one Col. Oleg Penkovsky (Mereb Ninidze). Penkovsky is a high-ranking Soviet officer who has grown wary of Nikita Khrushchev’s (Vladimir Chuprikov) threats of nuclear war. Realizing how close to fruition they are coming, Penkovsky is willing to betray his country to save his family and the world, risking everything, including his life.

It’s a startling tale of what one person can actually do to change the course of the world and again, along with decent acting and the refreshing take of Cumberbatch not trying to do accents he just doesn’t succeed in, here it all comes together along with a top performance by Ninidze and Buckley as well. Brosnahan proves that she can be more than just ‘Mrs. Maisel’ as well, with a completely believable turn as the American who first helps turn Wynne from a salesman to a spy, and then is the one who steps in to help as well. ‘The Courier’ adds verifiability to the overall vibe with a look of a desaturated, grim tone color palette, which definitely set the scene for the movie.

All in all, this one is a good thriller with a remarkable story and tension that won’t let you go until the very end.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“THE COURIER” is available on Video on Demand (VOD) Friday, April 16, 2021.

REVIEW: “THE FALLOUT” (2021) SXSW FILM FESTIVAL

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Finishing up my last review of SXSW Film Festival with “THE FALLOUT”, which was hands down one of the best films of the festival. Rather than being just a film on gun control, instead the films takes us through the various reactions and interactions that each person affected by it has after such an horrific event as a school shooting.

Vada Cavell (Jenna Ortega) is a 16 year old high school student who find herself in the school restroom when she hears gunfire starting up. We never see the shooter or the actual shooting itself, instead writer/director Megan Park starts the story from the point of view of Vada and Mia Reed (Maddie Ziegler), as they find themselves hiding in the bathroom stall together in sheer terror of what’s happening outside of the bathroom. While in the stall, a battered young student Quinton (Niles Fitch), runs in to escape the gunfire as well and joins them. It’s important to note that none of them are friends with one another, as it happens to be in most schools, they are in very different friendship circles. Mia is the ‘popular’ girl, and one that Vada and her best friend Will (Nick Ropp), would probably never be friends with, and would also be the ones to make snarky comments about behind her back – most likely something done vise versa with Mia and her friends as well.

Vada, Mia & Quinton form an unlikely bond after the shooting, as Vada’s and Will are having a hard time connecting afterwards. He has channeled what happened to him in a completely different manner than the other three and becomes an anti-gun activist and spokesperson. Vada’s parents, Carlos (John Ortiz) and Patricia (Julie Bowen), are at a loss of how to help their daughter deal with something that no parent should ever have to. Taking the brunt of Vada’s complete change of life is her younger sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack), with whom she was very close to and now has no idea how to even talk about the most basic things of daily life with. Vada and Mia both struggle with their emotions, and start to depend on each other, while Quinton has some serious fallout to deal with as his brother was a victim of the shooting. Not only does he have grief to deal with, but the impact and toll it has taken on him as well, though eventually he and Vada get closer, though not in the way she tries to be. Unable to talk to her parents or deal with her younger sister, Vada does end up seeing a Anna (Shailene Woodley), a therapist with whom she finds it hard to open up to as her life has been forever altered by this tragic event.

With these type of shootings happening weekly here before the pandemic and now once again as things slowly ‘return to normal’, it’s beyond painful to see what anyone has to deal with during such a horrific event, but it’s so much worse when it’s kids. Kids who simply went to school that morning and never make it home and those that survive, aren’t equipped yet to deal with such trauma. It’s no wonder that the films portrays coping mechanisms such as alcohol, sex, and smoking some joints in attempts at self-healing by Vada and her friends. The film also doesn’t shy away from the difficulties they face in returning to school – or returning to anything resembling normalcy after attending the numerous memorial services for their classmates. Again, the writing and direction that Park shows, allows us the audience, to experience every aspect of Vada’s recovery, the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. And then, when we are least expecting it, throws us a gut-punch of an ending that stuns you to the core of your being.

Performances are key here and keep a strong eye on Jenna Ortega as you won’t forget this performance anytime soon and are sure to be seeing a lot of her in the future. Add in the strong writing and direction from Grace Park, and this film is sure to be one to stick with you for a long time to come.

Grade: A+

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Review screening: Courtesy of Prodigy Public Relations

“THE FALLOUT” PREMIERED AT SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL – FULL RELEASE DATE TBA

REVIEW: “THE YELLOW WALLPAPER” (2021) Hysteria Pictures

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Billed as being as a gothic feminist horror and thriller, “THE YELLOW WALLPAPER” by director Kevin Pontuti, is anything but any of those things listed. Based on the short story of the same name by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the film shows us a long drawn out story of a woman, Jane (Alexandra Loreth) who is the victim of ignorant and sexist medical ‘treatment,’ and is confined by her husband in a room with yellow wallpaper. What should be a creepy study of madness and oppression, takes a different turn in this full feature version.

Though it has been adapted several times before, the story is a difficult one to capture as much of it takes place within Jane’s mind and with her relationship with the wallpaper in the room where she is kept. In this instance Alexandra Loreth, who wrote this adaptation, (which should give it something of an edge), seemingly looses track of what the story is actually about as it meanders along. The film opens with a shocking incident which may or may not be real and from there we follow as Jane is nothing of the norm that society of the time, tells her she should be. When her doctor husband John (Joe Mullins), orders that she be confined for the sake of her mental health as she is considered by him to be suffering from a nervous disorder. The ‘cure’ prescribed is just to rest, rest, rest – all the time. From the beginning, Jane feels that something about the room with the yellow wallpaper is off, but she has no control over her own paths in life, and there is always the lingering threat of being institutionalized being held over her. She is oddly forbidden from reading or writing, she has nothing to do with herself except diagnose the pattern on the wallpaper, which she finds herself at odds with. All the while, she ignores more and more not only every day things of life, but her newborn baby as well.

The story unfolds slowly and requires more than just a little patience from it’s audience to get through. With it’s beginning alluding to the early stages of a mystery, we continue to wait to see what could possibly be unfolding between this odd couple. Why they have come to this place and why she is made to stay in this room that disturbs her so much? Sadly, we never really come to find out what it is that does just this as the film plods along instead watching a woman who clearly has post-partum depression, something completely unknown at the time, but slow descent of her mental state without any ‘gothic horror’ is also certainly is not anything remotely ‘feminist’. We do however get treated to some beautiful cinematography and that will just have to do for the time being.

Grade: C-

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Review screening: Courtesy of KO-PR

“THE YELLOW WALLPAPER” PREMIERED AT CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVALFULL RELEASE DATE TBA

REVIEW: “THE DROVERS WIFE” (2021) SXSW FILM FESTIVAL

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While having not read the short story on which the film is based, being a fan of Leah Purcell was enough to entice me to find out what a Drovers Wife was exactly. A NSW/Australian project, “THE DROVER’S WIFE”, is the full feature version based on Henry Lawson’s short story of the same name, and Purcell not only directs, but plays the lead Molly Johnson aka the Drovers Wife, as well.

Our story is beautifully set in the bleak harshness of the Australian outback and we see Molly give early aid to the new lawman come to town, Sergeant Klintoff (Sam Reid) and his London-born wife Louisa (Jessica De Gouw). Louisa’s goal is to publish a newspaper for women trying to empower them, her husband is set on not having this happen due to wanting to keep up the appearance of being a strong lawman. The film turns out to be somewhat of a message movie for women in mid 19th century Australia, and the world, to be free of fear of abuse from their husbands. We watch and we suffer with and through Molly’s marriage to a abusive alcoholic and unfaithful husband along with her struggles to raise her four children alone.

Director: Leah Purcell as Molly Johnson

It is also a strong statement about racial acceptance as the movie progresses, as we learn from an Aborgine man whom she aids that that Molly herself, might be the child of an mixed marriage. It is especially rough when we see there is a legal effort from neighbors to take the children away from Molly, because they are “octaroons” and is heart-wrenching to watch is when her young son Danny (Malachi Dover-Robbins), overhearing the conversation, and asks his mom what an “octaroon” is. He also witnesses so much more that happens to his mother that no child should ever see.

Molly is among the toughest women portrayed in any western— Australian or otherwise, as she is a crack shot with a rifle and, in the course of the film, dispatches at least 5 people for various justifiable reasons. And the acting throughout is decent, it’s just almost sad that it just starts slow, jumps around a bit too much and you lose the sense of the story at times as some of it just isn’t clear due to those jumps, turning it on it’s dull side. Purcell though, is a remarkably strong female lead in this otherwise bleak tale. It is a tough watch at times but demonstrates the power of one woman’s voice to make changes.

Grade: C+

@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Courtesy of k2 Publicity and SXSW Film Festival