REVIEW: “PALM SPRINGS” (2020) HULU

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It’s no surprise that an Andy Samberg comedy is relentlessly funny here with “PALM SPRINGS” –but what was pleasantly unexpected was a deep examination of humanity in general. The film is a really funny, heartfelt romantic comedy that drew me in right from the start.

The premise here is a familiar one, think ‘Groundhog Day’, but then give it an entirely unique twist with new events throughout the story and a you are left with a remarkably fresh perspective.  When Sarah (Cristin Milioti) meets Nyles (Andy Samberg) at a Palm Springs wedding, she unexpectedly joins him in a time loop that sees them reliving the same day repeatedly.  J.K. Simmons is also part of the cast, taking a run at a comical character Roy who is also experiences the Groundhog Day effect, but uses his time to torture Samberg’s character Nyles. It all comes together and wraps up with a fun theory on Quantam Physics giving us a play here in a refreshingly unique story that takes a familiar idea and makes it its own.

While there are laughs throughout, the peak of the humour comes from a typical hijinx montage where instead of the typical cheap gags, there was a familiarization of the two lead characters adding to their chemistry. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are so good together. They were fun when they were supposed to be and when they were supposed to show a romantic energy, they did just that. Samberg not only relying typical his typical humour and charm here as he also brings a much understood darkness to the performance that managed to draw you in. Milioti also managed to show a large amount of pain and conflict in her character while successfully portraying her discovering the world around her. J.K. Simmons is always good and in this movie he goes through an incredible transformation and makes the absolute most of a criminally small role and the smattering of other supporting, Peter Gallagher, Jacqueline Obradors, Jena Friedman, June Squibb and Tyler Hoechlin all add oodles of fun to the all around plot of the film.

The best part about this comedy is it doesn’t overplay it’s hand. It brings laugh out loud comedy to tangible levels where your place in life is examined and how such difficulties can be handled. Besides the silly little comedic jokes which were still enjoyable, there was an underlying depth and intelligence to the humour itself, handling how we may deal with our own decision regardless of the consequences. Slower moments aside, Palm Springs is a complete blast – and if you don’t get the ending, that’s on you.

Grade: A-

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“PALM SPRINGS” IS AVAILABLE TO WATCH NOW ON HULU

REVIEW: “THE OLD GUARD” (2020) Netflix

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Twenty-Five minutes in and I knew Director Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s “THE OLD GUARD” was most likely based on some type of book/comic series that was not known to me. Sticking with the film though was a decent pleasure and doing a touch of research after gave me the insight needed.

Turns out ‘The Old Guard‘ is based on the recent 5-part graphic novel of the same name from Image Comics, and stars Charlize Theron as “Andy”, along with Booker (Matthais Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) make up the tight knit group of four covert mercenaries who fight to keep peace.  With a seemingly almost immortal mysterious inability to die, a trait that once exposed on surveillance tapes by supposed ex-CIA agent Coply (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who had ‘hired’ them for a job to save a group of school children who had been supposedly kidnapped, gains unwanted attention from eccentric British pharmaceutical executive Steven Merrick (Harry Melling), who plans to experiment on the four for the good of mankind aka ‘profit’.

Greg Rucka, creator of the graphic novel series, writes the screenplay, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The fleshing out of the team’s backstory brings with it some emotional ties to the past, which work effectively as without knowing any background, you’re able to follow along. All too often though, the dialogue falls into cliched and stale traps – like when they are trying to look all undercover while meeting in a local street bazaar, they end up standing out so completely that you almost have to have a laugh at it. But it feels particularly clunky when the team come to explain their unusual abilities to newcomer Nile (KiKi Lane), a young U.S. marine who discovers she is just like them while on duty in Afghanistan.

KiKi Lane showcases Nile’s innocence and shock well, as she discovers she may not be quite like other marines in doing what they’ve clearly been doing for hundreds of years. Theron gives a plaintive performance, conveying the weight on Andy’s shoulders and the burdens carried through the years convincingly enough and at least they didn’t try to have her do too many of those floppy comic lines sometimes found in similar type features. Her fellow mercenaries though never really get as much of a chance to make their mark with the exception of what takes place between Booker and Andy. Theron really kicks ass in the well choreographed hand-to-hand combat scenes she does get as does Lane, and there are bouts of bloody action to enjoy, but these are over rather quickly, with the team never really feeling like they are in any kind of danger. In truth, it’s yet another Netflix release that falls into the usual category; not a classic by any stretch, but definitely a passable and watchable two hours.

Grade: C+

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“THE OLD GUARD” IS AVAILABLE TO WATCH ON NETFLIX

REVIEW: “THE TRUTH” (2020) IFC Films

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If someone had ever told me I’d see a film one day with the brilliant and beautiful Catherine Deneuve and Ethan Hawke together, I probably would have made a very large wager that that would never happen. And yet here we find ourselves with just that film in Director Hirokazu Koreeda‘s “THE TRUTH” – where surprisingly enough this famed Japanese director takes on a French/English film. This film is not what one may expect as trailers leave one to think it’s purely a drama, but it’s mostly a dramedy with the leaning more towards comedy, but you have to be able to catch it and it’s inevitable that some just won’t.

The premise of the plot is that Catherine Deneuve’s character Fabienne Dangeville, wrote an autobiography where she not only disappoints her colleagues, but one is which she seems to embellish her past, specifically, her motherhood as well. Juliette Binoche’s character Lumir, her screenwriter daughter who came in from the U.S. to visit, soon finds about all this as she reads the book of what she feels appears to be a work of fiction. Mind you a work of fiction “based on a true story” according to her mother. She tries to talk Fabienne and seemingly never really gets the answer she’s looking for, but the film begs the question what is “the truth” really? Is it how we remember the past or is it unyielding and unbending?

On top of all this, Deneuve’s character has accepted a role in a movie solely to work with an emerging actress who resembles a now deceased friend of hers. This is a thought-provoking piece of work even if it’s not completely understood at all times. There isn’t much plot development but the character depth is wonderfully exposed. Who was loyal? Who was faithful? There are moments in it where you have a hard time distinguishing between it all. But the acting is as good as one would expect seeing the cast list. Particularly impressive is the bilingual dialogue, especially from Binoche who seems to speak both English and French as a native. Also outstanding is the child actress playing Binoche’s daughter Charlotte (Clementine Grenier).

A point of notice from me – the female characters receive most time and adulation in the movie and I found that wonderful as they are what brings this story to life. Not only Deneuve’s and Binoche’s, but also Manon Clavell’s character of Manon Lenior, the actress who Deneuve works with and has that mysterious allure of her long dead friend, the one we really never find out too much about though she is alluded to throughout the film. All have a central role in the story. Ethan Hawke’s husband character Hank, is the only one that truly feels tossed to the side and frankly irrelevant as he stumbles along with very few lines, and has to rely on a sometimes maybe too exaggerated set of gestures to come across.

With a few tweaks on the dialogue this film could have been a great heart warming comedy with some wonderful dramatic undertones had the time been taken to add the depth it needed – as is – it wanders just a bit to much even with the wonderful acting.

Grade: C+

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Review screening link ~ Courtesy of IFC Films

“THE TRUTH” IS NOW AT SELECT DRIVE-IN’S AND ON VOD

REVIEW: “EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA” (2020) Netflix

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“EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA” is the story of two clunky but charming singers, who chase their pop star dreams to perform for their country in the very popular International Eurovision song contest. We see Lars (Will Ferrell) as a child watching ABBA at the 1976 Eurovision and from that moment on in life, he aspires to be everything like them. Singing along to ‘Waterloo’ is too amusing for his family as they all laugh at him, this upsets young Lars and he loses their respect, especially from his father Erick (Pierce Brosnan) who does a wonderful, darkly comedic portrayal of one of those dads who had zero faith and belief in his son on this lifelong endeavor.

Fast forward to 2020 and we see Lars teaming up with his childhood best friend and local singer Sigrid (Rachel McAdams) who along with Lars are ‘Fire Saga’, the hometown band in their small town village in Iceland. They have a few fans at local bars but they are dreaming big and are entered into a knockout competition to have the chance to sing at Eurovision. Sigrid wants to get close to Lars, but he thinks it would get in the way of the music and would be a distraction. When the other contestants are blown up, Lars and Sigrid are Iceland’s only chance left and off they go.

On this wild ride that ensues their journey through the Eurovision contest and predicaments they find themselves in, they meet their crazy fellow contests, attend some wild parties where Sigrid finds she has herself an admirer in the Russian favourite, the arrogant and flamboyant Alexander (Dan Stevens), who gives an downright amusing performance here. He comes between Sigrid and Lars who have a love attraction, until Lars decides to not perform and goes home where he not only feels lost, but realizes that Sigrid is his true love and he must return to her – well that and OMG they actually qualify for the contest itself.

As someone who has never watched more than 10 minutes of a Eurovision contest, I must confess that the film is just a little much needed diversion from everything serious happening all around us on a daily basis. And while we shouldn’t just BOOM! forget everything, we as people can do two things at once at take a momentary diversion for a hot second to enjoy this as it doesn’t take itself too seriously and is a hilarious satire of all that Eurovision entails.  The over the top performances, the voting fix of neighbouring countries, the notable guest starring roles of past contestants, and yes, the noticing of that Britain never gets a vote, just all add up to a gaggle of tidbits to make this comedic enough for all of us to at least crack a smile at.

All of it’s in good fun though you might not get a complete laugh out loud moment, you will be charmed by this one as even the Icelandic accents are funny, done in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. Again, the characters are more enjoyable and charmingly funny rather than a “ha!ha!” laugh-out-loud type funny. But with some sporting singing from both McAdams and Ferrell to close it all down, makes it one to check out.

Grade: B-

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“EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA” IS AVAILABLE TO WATCH ON NETFLIX

REVIEW: “BABYTEETH” (2020) IFC FILMS

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Before getting into the reality of my feelings on this film, a quick synopsis to hopefully enlighten and unwind my quite angry thoughts on this film. Actually angry maybe doesn’t accurately describe the state of mind I found myself in while watching this and wondering how am I the only female reviewer that I’ve seen so far who finds this almost revolting.

We start “Babyteeth” with 16-year-old Milla Finlay (Eliza Scanlen), on platform 4 of a suburban Sydney train station. On her way home from school, she is almost knocked over by Moses (Toby Wallace), a 23 yr old small-time drug dealer sporting some bad prison-style tattoos and a hideous rat tail of a haircut. All Moses wants from her is money, despite this Milla becomes completely infatuated with him, much to the dismay anyone and everyone who is watching this film, most especially if you are a parent, this is your worst nightmare. Yet somehow Milla’s seemingly protective parents – it turns out are just really dysfunctional and drugged-addled themselves. Anna (Essie Davis) is retired musician who has taken so much anti-anxiety medication that she can’t focus on her daughter’s ‘unusual’ guest, and Henry (Ben Mendelsohn), is a psychiatrist who is all the while secretly dosing himself with morphine. Yeah this whole thing is one doozy of a character study of dysfunction. While I understand wanting to give a child with cancer what they want, letting them hang out with a drug-dealing 23 yr old man whom you catch robbing your house and then ask him to move in, is not the first one that comes to mind for most. And that is where my anger set in.

This film is listed somehow as a Comedy/Drama – yet there is no comedy that I could see and it isn’t a dramatic character study of a young girl with cancer, this is a character study of a the worst possible family situation put down on film. About a girl of 16 having an drug addled boyfriend of 23 and the parents not only condoning it, but encouraging it and sponsoring it. And all this is actually not only written by a woman, Rita Kalnejais but also directed by one (Shannon Murphy) no less. How they find this to be okay – let alone putting it out there for society thinking it’s okay to basically have a young girl child/adult-man relationship happen onscreen and make it ‘work’ or allow it to be okay, thoroughly angers me. This movie is why these things are normalized and my only response can be WTF!

How and more importantly why am I one of the few who see’s the scene between Henry & the half his age pregnant neighbor in her third trimester, who he attempts to hit on as just wrong and am revolted when I saw one critic refer to this scene in this manner: “Toby (Emily Barclay), a pregnant woman with a cigarette in one hand and a Frosty Fruit in the other (perhaps the most unequivocally Australian image ever presented on film”.  Is this true? And even if it is, how is this made to be okay in a film more or less saying ‘Oh well, that’s just how it is.’ Maybe I’m supposed to ignore all this because the film won awards at the Venice Film Festival – but I’m not and neither should the many who are ooohhing and ahhhhing over this like it’s perfectly acceptable.

With that I’m just going to end this review without a grade because no matter how much I try to look at it, or even how much I like the actors in it or the acting etc.. I can’t get the thought out of my head of writing and making a film where it’s A-okay to normalize this. Movie or not, I’m never going to be okay with this because it feels as though they are trying to normalize something that should never be normalized…ever.

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Review screening link ~ Courtesy of IFC Films

“BABYTEETH” IS NOW AT SELECT DRIVE-IN’S AND ON VOD

REVIEW: DA 5 BLOODS (2020) Netflix

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Here we have Spike Lee’s first film since BlacKkKlansman and “Da 5 Bloods” is sure to evoke all kinda of reactions including my very own. While I watched the movie about 10 days ago, I decided to wait till all the fervor regarding it died down some before putting out my own thoughts.

Making a film about the Vietnam War isn’t always on the top of most directors lists as it’s not what one would call a ‘good war’ such as some did for WWII.  And a bit of even the most basic history will tell you the Vietnam War was fought on a soil not many American’s had ever touched let alone wanted to fight for.  Needless to say it was known that it was a tough war because so many opposed it, which was probably the right attitude, but it meant that a lot of returning vets didn’t get the respect they deserved or the help they needed – which is sadly the American way, and actually by no means exclusive to just the Vietnam war. And of course we all had learned about the ‘My Lai Massacre’ in school – where 500 unarmed civilians – men, women, children and yes, even babies – were slaughtered by U.S. soldiers. Women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated, as were children as young as 12. When their cover-up was eventually busted and brought public, 26 soldiers were charged with criminal offenses but only Lieutenant William Calley Jr. was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was given a life sentence but served only three and a half years under house arrest. Sound familiar?

Many leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., were opposed to the war as black men were being essentially told (as was everyone as we, the U.S., had initiated the draft) to serve their country, and there weren’t any colleges or doctors writing bone spur deferrals for them. They were asked to protect the freedoms of people in other countries when they still didn’t have real freedom in their own homes. So of course this means POC – and even more specifically black men – were called up in much greater numbers than their white fellow citizens of course, and therefore were also a higher proportion of POC/black men combat casualties in Vietnam. To put the cherry on top of the cake, African American soldiers encountered racists bigots amongst their own ranks, huge discrimination and many disadvantages when it came to promotions/decorations, and lastly,  few to no services if and when they returned home. So yes, there is a lot of history of this war and none of it is good.

Now we’ve seen the Vietnam War done many times, and some of the very well, but Spike, well Spike has got his own tale to tell of this war and in Da 5 Bloods he does just this. The film follows a platoon of four Vietnam vets, headed by level-headed Otis (Clarke Peters) and erratic, Trump-supporting Paul (Delroy Lindo), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) as they travel along with Paul’s son David (Jonathan Majors) who has his own backstory with his dad, back to their former battleground to recover the remains of their celebrated leader and 5th Blood, Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman)…and also the pile of gold they stashed along with him.

From there the film zips from thriller to hang-out comedy, action to drama and here is sadly where the film falters some as it’s all over the place with tone as the plot almost changes completely. The mood of a scene can change on a whim, some of them are ridiculous and so far over the top we almost lose the entire sense of the film itself. It’s as if it almost becomes a reflection of the turbulence of the battle they once fought in – where, as we see in superb retro-inflected flashbacks of so much of the controversy of which the 60’s entailed as Lee also puts in a bunch of videos and stills of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Kent State Massacre and the Fall of Saigon are among the many notable figures and events from the time of the Vietnam War, along with the dramatic events of the present unfolding in the blink of an eye in front of us. Their quest to find Norman’s remains – wanting to give him the hero’s funeral he is painted as deserving – is an arduous one, but is one that is allowing for some truly brilliant character studies of these guys to emerge as well. Of course, to smuggle something to the tune of $7 million of gold back into the United States, the Bloods have to involve Tiên (Lê Y Lan), Otis’ old flame, and a Frenchman named Desroche (Jean Reno). Desroche promises he will get the money to various off-shore accounts that the Bloods will be free to draw from, which truly is up for debate throughout the entire film.

So as not to tell you the entire plot line and give away everything as the film is something you should take the time to watch, delving a little into character study is needed. While all the characters play key roles in this plot, none quite do it like Delroy Lindo does. Lindo, always a great supporting actor, has never really had to really carry the entire weight of a film on his back alone, and here he does a remarkable job of giving us his all. The reflections monologue as he ventures into the jungle is unparalleled by anything he’s ever given us before. Paul is ravaged by PTSD, he is by far and away the most complex and entrancing character on screen, and Lindo brings him to life. You hate Paul – you love Paul – you want Paul to leave – it’s all that and so much more. Almost indescribable. Again this is not about diminishing the other performances in the slightest. Everyone does an incredible job, especially Majors as David. However, it would be remiss not to point out Lindo’s all out one that put’s an incredible hold on you throughout the film.

To summarize it up, after Lee’s last film was there maybe more to be expected, sure there was, and while the message is clear and strong, the sometimes ridiculous plot is saved by the brilliant acting all the way around. For that reason alone my grading goes up a notch.

Grade: B-

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DA 5 BLOODS IS AVAILABLE TO WATCH ON NETFLIX

 

 

KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRL (2020)

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Remember MySpace? yeah, it barely registers on what it was anymore – yet that is where the world found Kate Nash or more to the point – where she found the world back in 2008. From this she essentially became what is commonly referred to as a ‘one-hit’ wonder – and all of it because of a broken leg suffered while working at Nando’s, a fantastically delicious chicken restaurant chain not known in the States.

More recently others may know her as Rhonda Richardson, AKA Britannica, on the critically acclaimed Netflix series GLOW. As someone familiar with the latter version of Kate Nash, I didn’t have a clue of the story behind the actress, which makes the viewing experience all the more compelling. Like her character Rhonda, Nash has battled her way out of dire circumstances on more than one occasion, and has found herself at the center of something extraordinary, both in the music industry and on the screen.

Essentially this is her side of the story of how to be a one hit wonder and survive it. This is a documentary about surviving the pop industry after you have been dropped by the record label and savaged by critics, trying to kick-start your music career back into gear by playing to small venues paying it all herself from her savings, which doesn’t go well. Something learned those in the music industry a long time ago is, you don’t make money from touring, the money is made in the merchandise – but we aren’t shown any of that here. We are shown how she gets a major big boost by her new manager who has supposedly has ‘big plans’ for her, that really don’t seem to pan out as we see an awkward little show during lunch hour at a PR company of sorts. And then somewhere along the line, we also find out that same manager has been using Kate’s credit card to fund his own wedding. But hold on for a hot minute as has he really been appearing in the filming of a documentary about his artist all the while he was scamming her? What was he thinking?

Well we find out as we see Kate not only be completely devastated by this revelation, but also takes legal action against him and would have gotten a settlement from him had his lawyers not wanted her to sign a non-disclosure agreement. And while the outcome of all this is of course a sweet story, there is something about this documentary that just misses it’s mark a little. Whether it’s the part where she decides she wants to be a singer and actress, without any acting training/skills etc.. or where we never really see any of her actual life. While we see family, we really never see friends or boyfriends, or ever know is she is getting support from people in her life besides just her band & family. So it misses the mark there with me not only there but the Nando’s comment at the beginning almost lost me for good right there and then. As someone who has worked the food service industry for many years, it was truly a put-down of spoiled brat pisser comment to me.  There are many, many people who are having to work in the fast food industry and they don’t all have parents to be buy them electric guitars, or the like so note to Kate, be a bit more appreciative of people who didn’t get ‘discovered’ on MySpace, and serve a big purpose in everyone’s lives as we have come to realize, at least I hope you have now.

I think Kate Nash wanted this whole story to fit her narrative about a plucky British girl that fought against the odds to come back. Down to her last penny and got a role in a Netflix show, and viola’! life is good.  In that way it does succeed, unless you look at it deeply, and then it might raise more questions about it being a little bit of fluff. Either way you look at it, it is worth a watch.

Grade: C+

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Media Review Screening ~ Courtesy of K.O. PR

KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRL IS AVAILABLE ON ALAMO ON DEMAND

REVIEW: “HOW TO BUILD A GIRL” (2020) IFC Films

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Teenage girl Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein) is a talented copywriter and not popular at all in her school. At home, Johanna has a “Wall of Gods” featuring photographs of her literary and historical heroes, including: Sylvia Plath (Lucy Punch), Elizabeth Taylor (Lily Allen), The Bronte sisters, Sigmund Freud (Michael Sheen), and Maria von Trapp (Gemma Arterton). Johanna speaks to these photos, and the fact that they answer her makes for some early fun. Johanna’s family hustles to stay just above poverty. Her dad, Pat Morrigan (Paddy Considine), still has dreams of rock stardom even though they have long passed, and now he breeds black market Border Collies. Her mother Angie (Sarah Solemani) suffers from post-partem depression after giving birth to unexpected and unprepared for twins.

 

After winning a local TV spot as student poet (in a quick turn as a show host is Chris O’Dowd) turns mortifying, Johanna’s brother Krissi (Laurie Kynaston) suggests she audition for a London magazine’s opening as music critic. She unironically writes up a piece on the soundtrack to Broadway’s “Annie”—which nabs her an interview, but only as a joke. Undeterred, she overwhelms the smarmy hipster editor (Frank Dillane) into an assignment and gets the full fledged opportunity to work for a rock magazine.  They however are less than impressed when she writes what is essentially a teenage love crush fluff piece on her first big interview piece about musician John Kite (Alfie Allen) and she gets the hatchet.

With that Johanna decides to sharpen her claws and it’s here where, low and behold, she does a complete reinvention of herself and evolves into persona ‘Dolly Wilde’. It’s no surprise that Dolly’s hatchet jobs become a cause-celebre’ hit. Celebrating the idea of “A nice girl gets nowhere, but a bitch… A bitch can make a comeback,” she gradually rises to become the most hated person in the industry including winning ‘Asshole of the Year’ journalism award.

Performance wise, sometimes it’s left to ponder who Considine’s representation is as he can be fantastic actor, but at times picks roles where he fails to bring any expectation to the character he’s playing. Feldstein, being American, has a somewhat thick British accent here and aside from a few struggles with said accent, commands your attention at all angles. There are times when even though you don’t really believe she is fully pulling the character off – you still root for her – follow her – even if her figure character becomes almost unbearable in between. Nevertheless, Johanna has her heart in the right place and so this comedy is quite a decent affair – and not only for girls. That’ll help you miss some of the weaker elements. Minor characters are allowed little opportunity to develop and the story feels boiled down to the most obvious plot points. There is nothing superficial about Johanna, but the film itself fails to dive far enough beneath the surface to do her justice.

While the film doesn’t work perfectly Director Coky Giedroyc does a perfectly acceptable job of making it a fine watch. I do hope to see Feldstein break out of this typecasting of roles and move towards ones that she can really sink her teeth into. All in all “How to Build a Girl” is more of a cutsey, fun watch than maybe the book by Caitlin Moran was meant to be as Moran’s audacious humor sometimes feels muted. There is also something quite fun as well in a film that decides it is up to every girl to build and/or rebuild herself in any images she so chooses.

Grade: C+
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Media Review link courtesy of IFC Films

“HOW TO BUILD A GIRL” hits select drive-in theaters and VOD on Friday, May 8, 2020

REVIEW: “THE WRETCHED” (2020) IFC Midnight

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“THE WRETCHED” is a lovely looking movie – though this might be an odd thing to say about a horror film.  But take into consideration the fact the budget for this was most probably almost nil, the Pierce Brothers, Brett & Drew do an okay job here. The plot is not revolutionary by any means, but there are some surprises including a nifty twist at the end involving one of the horror cliches that the film uses repeatedly to signify the presence of evil.

Speaking of that plot, it opens with a horror film usual – girl alone gets taken out within it’s first two minutes. Then we switch over to the real point of the plot. We follow a teenage boy Ben (John-Paul Howard) who’s struggling with his parents divorce, and has come to spend some time with his father Liam (Jamison Jones). But life soon gets complicated when he notices something weird going on in the neighbor’s Abbie (Zarah Mahler) & Ty (Kevin Bigley) house with their child Dillon (Blane Crockarell), who seeks out Ben when things start going awry at home. Seems an old, evil demon-style witch has come out the forest to mess around with them. She lives under a tree and has the power to cast a spell on people such that they ‘forget’ about the existence of loved ones around them. From here, everything that can happen – will happen. Love interests, conflicts with town bullies, conflicts with father and his new girlfriend Sara (Azie Tesfai), and other plot lines go exactly where one would expect them to as well.

The characters are not the best ones to get behind and the evil presented by ‘The Wretched’ herself, lacks any real dread or scary-ness. Overall there’s just no real delving in the psychology of what’s happening, fear or mystery. However, amidst this somehow everything works, albeit on a basic level, a kind of a flat line if you will. Performances were okay all around, but some of the characters were given very little to work with. That being said, John-Paul Howard as the central hero Ben and Mallory (Piper Curda) as his summer crush, are very much the standouts here in performances. Cinematography and editing can prompt as much critique, though on the background of all that’s aforementioned, the visual side of things provided some comfort. Always extra appreciation for good practical effects, gore and such which thankfully they didn’t overdo on.  Lastly, the original score was – guess what – a bit on the uninspiring side – but hey limited budget again!

Nicely acted and shot, with decent, practical special effects with some struggles with the story which at times was a bit un-interesting and yes, completely cliche. Still it’s a well-edited mainstream pleaser. There’s a story, and it flows evenly as it entertains, accompanied by a romp of characters, decent gore and cinematography. The problem is, it does so on a surface kind of level. The Pierce brothers utilize a wide selection of familiar, ordinary devices and old tricks, perhaps trying to weave together something new, but ending up just bit on the been there/seen that side. If you’re a fan of spooky, ghost/wraith type horror, it’s entirely possible you might enjoy The Wretched as it’s not so much that it’s not to be disliked, but nor is it something to take much away from.

Grade: C+

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Media Review link courtesy of IFC Films & IFC Midnight

“THE WRETCHED”  IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR RENT/PURCHASE ON VOD

 

PEGGY AT THE MOVIES – TV SHOWS TO CHECK OUT.. OR NOT – WEEK 5

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And onto week #5 of quarantine TV watches rated by me.

First up:


We’re Here: HBO
Found this gem almost by accident and immediately fell head over heels for it. It’s real life about 3 drag queens who traverse small town America where they have residents from each town participate in a one night only drag show. It’s the storytelling behind each person and town that had me in tears at the end of both episodes that have aired. It’s a much needed watch for the close minded among us.
Grade: A


Tommy: CBS Network
TV diversity is so much bigger than film. But every once is a while comes a show that just doesn’t work as well & the characters feel forced..even with a stellar cast including #EdieFalco & #RussellGJones the storylines just fall flat.
Grade: C


Hollywood: NETFLIX
#RyanMurphy has a signature look to his shows and this one is no different. Set in late 1940’s its beautifully shot but it took me till eps 3 to figure out the difference #DavidCorenswet & #JakePicking – the middle eps. are great, but the finale is predictable & bland. Kudos #PattiLuPone #HollandTaylor & #DylanMcDermott for keeping it interesting.
Grade: C+ bordering B-


Atlanta’s Missing & Murdered: The Lost Children: HBO
A startlingly look at what happened to these children & the conviction of #WayneWilliams definitely deserves a watch as Atlanta’s new mayor #KeishaLanceBottoms takes the bold and might I add, right step in re-opening this investigation. It’s eye-opening & heart wrenching-and worth every minute of your time.
Grade: A

That’s a wrap on Peggy at the Movies TV recommendations week 5. Till next week..stay safe and sane.

#tvreviews #womencritic #instareviews #quarantineTV #coronaviruswatching #peggyatthemovies #Atlanta #Tommy #WereHere #Hollywood