REVIEW: “QUEENPINS” (2021) STX FILMS

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Coupons. On the by and large one would not equate coupons with high stakes crime and yet here we are with “QUEENPINS”, a story based on the true life of some couponers gone criminal, written and directed by husband and wife team of Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly. Mind you, while the story is real enough, the four main characters of the film are Pullapilly and Gaudet’s very enjoyable creations and they put it all together to make it work quite wonderfully, bringing an almost surreal story to the forefront. It’s a little bit dark comedy, some silliness & hijinks, actual laugh out loud comedy, but not without having it’s really touching moments as well.

Let’s get down now to the brass and tacks of what ‘Queenpins’ is all about as it’s quite the story. Taking place in 2012, the story follows a pair of friends, bored suburban housewife Connie (Kristen Bell), and her ‘aspiring influencer’ neighbor JoJo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). While Connie, our former three time gold medal Olympian medalist in the oh-so-underappreciated category of race walking (yes. you heard that correctly, race walking), is perky and happy on the outside, within she and her husband Rick (Joel McHale), have drifted apart after she loses a baby and they go into high debt with fertility treatments that have never worked. JoJo, on the other side, is a victim of identity theft which makes starting up a business almost impossible, that and to top it off, she’s had to move in with her mother, Mama Josie (Greta Oglesby). This is the sad side that is periodically dropped in to remind you of why these ladies have decided to band together and put their super-saver couponing skills to multi platinum use. Basically CVS and their mile long receipt can stand down when it comes to how well these two shake their lives up by stealing fake coupons and selling them online, scamming millions of dollars from multinational corporations. 

Kirby Howell-Baptiste as JoJo Johnson and Kristen Bell as Connie Kaminski in QUEENPINS. Credit: Courtesy STX Films

But behind the de-facto Robin Hood-esqeness of how this caper starts off for the ladies, with the desire to pay off their debts, it quickly evolves right into what one would expect when suddenly faced with boatloads of cash – downright greed and money. But not for long, as there is another duo working for the other side lurking in the background. Mr. Coupon Prevention Officer Ken Miller (Paul Walter Hauser), who works for a large chain of grocery stores, takes his job very seriously, most especially so when alerted to thousands of unaccounted-for coupons popping up all over the Southwest. And here is where the story truly takes off giving us the type of storytelling that has the viewer invested in and actually rooting for the women to make it all work and get away with the millions, mostly because Bell and Baptiste give us two strong female leads that we can relate to.

Queenpins takes some twists and turns along the way that you don’t necessarily see coming, but Ken finally meets up with Simon Kilmurry (Vince Vaughn), a U.S. Postal Agent, who realizes the crimes can be investigated as mail fraud. While we’ve seen Hauser in this type of character before, what we haven’t seen is him paired up with Vaughn, and once their chemistry clicks, is when both characters are at their best. Hauser has a way with comedic roles which can make audiences laugh without really having to try, and again, here with Vaughn, who has a natural ability to play off his costars which keeps the pacing of the humour in step. Add in Tempe Tina (Bebe Rexha), who hands down, might be one of the funniest side characters created as a perfectly placed completely out of context ‘Identity Thief/Computer Hacker extraordinaire’ – she really makes her mark in a small, but so perfectly done role. Along, with Stephen Root, Dayo Okeniyi, Francisco J. Rodriguez and Lidia Porto rounding out the supporting cast, you’ve got a true little fun caper film on your hands.

Paul Walter Hauser as Ken Miller and Vince Vaughn as Simon Kilmurry in QUEENPINS. Credit: Courtesy STX Films

While not a perfect comedy, Queenpins has heart and focuses on the friendships new and old, with a high point being it altogether avoids the female cliche trap where women are constantly pitted against each other, and instead sees them stick together no matter where they end up. Without the two female leads providing some great chemistry, this film might not have worked out as well as it did. Bell and Baptiste really put the ‘chem’ in chemistry working together with some iffy moments, to make it real enough to not just believe, but laugh at. Not a simple recipe to pull off.

Original comedies are hard and honestly in a sea of reboots and Marvel films, this is no easy feat to pull off – but at 110 minutes run time – this one deserves the your watch.

B-

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

“QUEENPINS” from STX Films – is in theaters on Friday, September 10, 2021 and comes to Paramount+ Friday, September 30, 2021 –

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of STX Films

August Round-up of Reviews

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Apologies for the absence as one again the post-Covid long haul recovery put my the use of my hands out for a bit again. But with some injections and hand/wrist braces on, I’m typing while I can and catching up on some late film festival and screening reviews. September will hopefully be much better!

And with that out of the way, my August Round Up Reviews on the following films:

“THE DAPHNE PROJECT”

Every so often you find a film at a festival that you just fall in love with, well that was me with “THE DAPHNE PROJECT” shown (virtually for me) at the Bentonville Film Festival. This little indie gem is written and directed by Zora Iman Crews and Alex Tibaldi, giving us a die-hard mockumentary in it’s truest form that had me laughing from moment one. Zora Iman Crews also plays Daphne Wilco, a wanna-be NYC ‘theater’ actress who inserts herself from being an extra into the “lead” role of Dionysus, in a super off-Broadway production of “The Bacchae”. The role, which is intended to be played by a male, but Daphne expounds on the fact that maybe a woman should play the role. Crews is hysterical as an over-the-top act that takes her self obsession and self-promoting to a whole new level of mock-ness, but can flip like a coin to show a more delicate emotional side as well…or does she? That’s the best part of the whole mockumentary is you never really know if it’s all just a smart act Daphne puts on for the cameras or not.  The ending is a surprise and also quite fun. The film maintains its solid state of comedic affairs thanks to star-in-the-making Crews, as it’s only lacking quality that I could see is the sheer fact it’s had to be clearly done as such a low budget, as it is noticeable in the supporting cast who hold it up somewhat at times, while struggling to keep up with Crews pacing. But honestly, if that is the worst thing I can come up with for this wonderful kooky 67-minute indie that kept me fully entertained the entire time, well then I’d just go with it and hope this gets all the accolades it so highly deserves and doesn’t get overlooked because of that one reason.

Grade: B+

“AMERICANISH”

This romcom follows the lives of three women navigating the different meanings and expectations of love as they try to stay true to their own identity. This is an upbeat film and while formulaic, one still looks forward to how things will play out for each in the end.

American-ish focuses on two sisters and their cousin: Sam (Aizzah Fatima), Maryam (Salena Qureshi), and Ameera (Shenaz Treasury) as they navigate romance, family life, tradition, and relationships with their own cultural identity while living in Jackson Heights, NY. American-Ish is directed by an American Muslim woman (Iman Zawahry and co-written by her and Fatima) making it the first Muslim romantic comedy, and what a hoot it is. Since all three characters are in different stages of their lives (between high school and early 30’s), and have different relationships with Muslim traditions, the comedy always feels fresh, making it funnier. While predictable and nice, it also crafts its own unique identity to help it stand out among similar rom-rom type films with it being not too heavy, as well as not too light, it’s just a fun movie based around likable characters we don’t get to see as often as we should.

Grade: B+

“ANNETTE”

It’s rare that I am left speechless by a film, not the “oh it was so amazing” type speechless, but the kind where I truly have no idea how to describe what I just saw. This was me after watching “Annette” and sad to say, it still is. As much as I love Sparks music, and I think this was supposed to essentially a modern opera of sorts there is still the fact that part of the entertainment is watching said performers actually singing, which means the storytelling is at a somewhat slower pace than most films. That means that you really need to be interested in the story and to put it bluntly, I simply wasn’t. Giving the benefit of the doubt to the fact that much of it I just didn’t understand as well so maybe not all the blame can be put on the film itself, and I’m completely willing to accept that fact. It could also be that I was setting myself up to fail when it comes to appreciating the picture, because I did almost no research on it before we saw it, but I rarely do as I don’t want to spoil the film by ‘knowing’ too much. Though to be fair, it might have helped me here though again, even after viewing and trying to do so didn’t work for me.

But I also just didn’t find and wasn’t really intrigued by the contrast between Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), abrasive stand-up comedian, and Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard), soprano. The relationship between the two I understood completely – what their lives entailed, how he tailspins as his career falters and hers reaches new heights – but then there was the ‘child’. The cross between a Chucky doll and Annie. I am completely and truly lost there. And ya know what? I’m okay with that.

Grade: D

This weeks movies start off with “Jungle Cruise”  and fun fact: when I was very little my parents took me on this ride and I started crying as I thought it was real and lions, tigers & hippos were coming after me. Thankfully that is not this movie and I’m happy to say there was no crying..but some good laughs as the chemistry between #emilyblunt & #dwaynejohnson is electric and they make this adventure pretty fun. Full review here: https://peggyatthemovies.com/2021/07/30/review-jungle-cruise-2021-disney-studios/
Grade: B-

Next is “Val” and it’s all about the wonderful Val Kilmer telling us his story..the good, the bad, and the Batman. Does this deserve a full review, yes, yes it does – as it was everything and so much more. Sadly, again, I just couldn’t type and oddly I feel like Val would understand this somehow. But it did break me and give me every emotion of not just empathy for what he is going through, but there was joy, grief, fangirling, understanding, hope – again, all the emotions. Being a fan, this was hard to watch sometimes and I shed some tears, but not all just for sadness, because what you see in his eyes is he is still here and still Val.
Grade: A

“PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY”

Anyone who knows me knows my absolute and complete fascination and love of all things ocean, but most especially sharks. Yep, those ‘predators’ of the sea are my thing thanks to @e_w_wilder who loaned me ‘JAWS’ which I read in one schpiel. So Playing With Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story was everything for me. Valerie started as the 1st woman spear fisher in the 60’s and ended up being one of the first people with her husband Ron, to film sharks underwater. Almost every shark conservationist has started off a hunter, until they realize how beautiful these majestically amazing creature are that are literally less dangerous than dogs. But instead we kill millions of them and sadly have wiped out entire area of population not realizing that without them the oceans will literally die..and so will we.
Grade: A

“Stillwater” 

“Stillwater” received a 5 minute standing ovation at #Cannes and I have to be honest and say I just didn’t get that from it. I did get a somewhat okay story about what a out of his element dad Bill Baker (Matt Damon) might do to help his daughter Allison Baker (Abigail Breslin) and some articulated performances. And we can just leave it at that.
Grade: C-

“FREE GUY”

I’ve made it a point at this time in my film reviewing career (eight years of working hard at it btw) to not review movies that they couldn’t be bothered to invite me to view a screening or send a link. It’s frustrating for me and yeah, it kinda hurts at times. Let me make it clear, I don’t think I’m ‘entitled’ to get screening invites, but I’ve worked so hard at what I do, and I love love love it, am most of always thankful to be getting the media invites and I show that appreciation by stopping at See’s or a cookie place to give a little gift when I attend some media screenings. Look I get it, I’m not in the ‘big time’ but I keep trying, and reviewing as much as I humanly can and will continue to do so. But sometimes, more so lately, I feel like it’s a job within a job, within another job to try and get them, when at one point, pre-pandemic, I was consistently invited. I don’t know how I fell off the invites list, but Rosa from @Rosa’sReviews was nice enough to have me as her plus one to this screening as yes, she is in the big time of the listings being both RT & HCA approved. She also probably wrote a great review on it so go check out her page as well. I am most grateful to her for inviting me and truly minus about 25-30 minutes of ‘gamer talk’ this film was a lot of fun and quite entertaining.

That’s all I will say on it as here is to hoping I somehow get back in to more screenings again. I will not give up!

And that’s it for now – as always I will get out the reviews as I can and you can always check out: Peggyatthemovies.com or The Cherry Picks.com for some great full reviews.

Mini reviews – August wrap ups

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Just very behind due to complications still on my hands from long haul Covid – but wanted to do some quick August wrap ups of some mini-reviews of some films I didn’t get a chance to give all of them full reviews as again, the hands. Working on that – typing with supports on them helps so will have some full reviews coming up as well for some.


#roadrunnerafilmaboutanthonybourdain was the 2nd great food documentary of the year. A telling and honest look at a man who begged the question “How do you eat your way across the world?” And then proceeded to show us exactly how to do that. Sadly he also had some ferocious demons and essentially traded one addiction for another..Full review here: https://peggyatthemovies.com/2021/07/29/roadrunner-a-film-about-anthony-bourdain/
Grade: A

#PIG – I mean who knew we needed a movie about a stolen pig and truffles..well #NicCage did clearly as this was the best surprise of film watching in awhile. All thanks to a completely different story & performance..
Grade: B+

#Jolt – Honestly this was sinking low for #StanleyTucci & #BobbyCanavale – though they could be considered its saving grace as well.. there just wasn’t anything new or even believable about this #KateBeckensale film. I just don’t have a lot of words for it.
Grade: D

#OLD – great beginning/good ending. The whole middle is a befuddlement in just trying to hard to be weird vs. good. Though huge kudos to the location scout as the remote beach setting is beautiful. Acting is decent, but it’s just not enough for me to highly recommend.
Grade: C

That’s it for this week..have a few more in another post and again, full reviews coming back starting Sept. 1st. Click the link or go to:
Peggyatthemovies@gmail.com or TheCherryPicks.com

Bentonville Film Festival Review: “FALLING FOR FIGARO” (2021)

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“FALLING FOR FIGARO” gives Millie (Danielle McDonald) an American living in the U.K., has a thriving career as a fund manager and lives with her boyfriend Charlie (Shazad Latiff), who attends the opera because she truly loves it. Charlie does not. So it’s really not a surprise when she upends a promotion at her job, to become an opera star and wants to compete in the renowned ‘Singer of Renown’ contest. But of course first she must learn opera – you know that style of singing that takes a lifetime to learn and be good at. Well for Millie things are going to go on the fast track, because well, of course it is, and she is going to learn this entire lifetime of something as sacred and acclaimed as being an lead opera singer – in a year.

She in turn moves to the remote Scottish Highlands where she wants to be taught by one Megan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley), a once legendary opera singer in her own right. There is one problem, Geoffrey-Bishop is retired and is notoriously known for being a big pain in the arse, completely horrible to her students, believing in the old adage of an opera singer must ‘suffer’ in order to be able to sing. This all of course does not deter Millie in the slightest and there she is checking into ‘The Filthy Pig’ pub/hotel and is welcomed by pub owner played by Gary Lewis, who is quite funny in his introduction. Here as well, we are introduced to Max (Hugh Skinner), who doubles as the cook/server, as well as anything else that is needed. Crazily enough, Max is ALSO a student of Megan’s, in fact he has been singing his whole life and has been a student for five years and wait for it, is also shooting to win the competition. I think we all know where this is heading from here. Of course Max is jealous and upset at first, then they start singing together and well the rest is rom-com history.

Look, I get it, this is what rom-coms are, sappy, cheesy, where there is always something stopping them from finding ‘true love’ until there isn’t. But it also needs to be a teensy bit believability to pull it off really well and this just isn’t that. What can be said and what director Ben Lewin, did pull off nicely was having two things that made it pleasant enough to still give it a watch. The first of course is the music. Opera can be simply beautiful and while we don’t know if the actors really sang this (somehow I highly doubt they did), it was beautifully done and fun to watch. The second thing is casting the simply wonderful Joanna Lumley as yes, ‘Patsy’ makes this movie watchable, as do a few fun takes from Gary Lewis, but mostly, it’s Lumley who shines the brightest and the best. And that’s perfectly fine in my book.

Grade: C

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of the Bentonville Film Festival

Falling for Figaro debuts in theaters on Friday, October 1st from IFC Films

REVIEW: “JUNGLE CRUISE” (2021) Disney Studios

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I was probably 4 years old when I was first taken to Disneyland. I can’t remember my exact age, but I do know I was very young and my parents took me on the Jungle Cruise ride – and I freaked out and started screaming and crying. Because yes, I thought it was real and I remember so well the big hippo opening his mouth right where I was sitting in the boat and I thought I was going to be eaten, and basically thought lions, tigers and bears were all after me. I cried so hard and was so terrified, that I never went on that ride again until I was a teen – possibly even older! Needless to say, there was no crying watching this version of Disney’s “JUNGLE CRUISE”, only laughter as it is definitely not that ride and a much different story to boot.

This adventure begins with Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), who hires a wisecracking skipper, named Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree whose petals hold the power to heal all — a discovery that will change the future of medicine. Along for the ride Lily’s posh, upper-crest brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), who doesn’t clearly belong anywhere in a jungle, but succeeds in stealing a lot of his scenes with his over-the-top persnickety ways, most particularly his interactions with Frank’s pet leopard whom they have on board the cruise. The CGI might have been a bit lacking on the leopard, but Whitehall makes it funny so it’s very easy to overlook.

(L-R): Dwayne Johnson as Frank Wolff, Emily Blunt as Lily Houghton and Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton in Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

While ‘Jungle Cruise’ could have just been a simple escapade through the jungle with some good action and laughs thrown in, we do get some long drawn out sections with Johnson’s character Frank explaining a bit of a convoluted backstory of the special flower, and the enhanced version of the long dead enchanted conquistadors of his time. Kids especially, might get a bit lost here as let’s face it, they just want the lions, tigers and fun action aspects of his character that help endear Frank to us more. Director Jaume Collet-Serra gives us a big scale action adventure here with plenty of laughs thanks to Johnson giving us some of his best cheesy humour with one-liner awful, terrible jokes that are so bad they are absolutely downright funny. It’s perfectly done and no one in this film takes it all to seriously and that is possibly it’s biggest highlight except for the fact that the biggest thing that upstages them is the absolute wonderful, electric chemistry between Blunt and Johnson. This would have been a totally different movie without that as together they are an unbeatable team here and yes, the glue that holds this film together. But the supporting cast consisting of Jesse Plemons, and again, Jack Whitehall with his witty-ness, Edgar Ramirez, and Paul Giamatti, all add to the adventure as well and round it all up.

So my advice is no crying – and get your ticket for the fantastical journey that is – Jungle Cruise.

Grade: B-

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

Review Screening: Monday, July 26, 2021 at El Capitan Theater ~ Courtesy of Disney Studios

“JUNGLE CRUISE” IS IN THEATERS AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 30, 2021 also VOD on Disney+

ROADRUNNER: “A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN”

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It’s June 2006 and I find myself at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market as I lived in West Hollywood at the time and 2006 was when it was still a true Farmer’s Market, not the bougie ‘let’s sell a piece of cheese for $40’ booths it has now. It was a true place of fresh picked fruit and veggies that everyone in town came to shop at. So imagine my surprise when I see Anthony Bourdain sitting there at a table, autographing his latest book. I mean the man that once ate a cobra snake heart is there, albeit looking a little out of his element with a somewhat fake smile plastered on his face, posing for the cameras, greeting fans etc. But being the professional he was at that time, he handled it all like it was just another episode of his then show on the Travel Channel “No Reservations” – the show that brought him the fame he so craved, yet as you find out during “RoadRunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain”, might also have been just fulfilling a part of his addictive side.

“Roadrunner” opens with a short look at how Bourdain became well, Bourdain. Through the journey which started in 1999, shows how the publication of Kitchen Confidential, in essence Bourdain’s memoir, that coincidentally was one of the best books ever written about the restaurant industry – leads to his TV career, and eventually to him becoming TV’s foremost ‘man about food’. I mean Anthony basically begged the question “How do you eat your way across the world?” and then proceeded to show us exactly how to do just that. But as his hit series ‘No Reservations’ went on, it became clear that his shows became about way more than just the food. As we watched, or I did at least, how Bourdain himself noticeably grew up over the years as well. And so it became not just about the food, but about the places and the people making the food around him as well. And honestly how could it not when in 2006 while filming No Reservations in Beirut, we watch as a war breaks out right in front of him and his film crew, between Lebanon and Israel. It’s almost surreal as you see how it effects Bourdain himself as people are lying about a pool, with bombs bursting in the air maybe 5 miles away. It’s an episode that everyone involved agreed profoundly changed Bourdain’s career, and his approach to the show, from that point forward. 

Anthony Bourdain stars in Morgan Neville’s documentary, ROADRUNNER, a Focus Features release. Courtesy of CNN / Focus Features

Director Morgan Neville is giving us Bourdain just as he was, completely unfiltered, as Anthony was more than happy to share his opinions on pretty much anything and everything, and he definitely didn’t shy away from talking about his drug-riddled past. In fact it made him the person he became, along with in his love for punk rock, mostly Iggy Pop and The Ramones, both of whom he did spent time with and did shows with among the many musicians he admired. Add in his two-pack-a-day smoking habit (which he did quit after the birth of his daughter), and you have a bad-boy chef image that would stick with him, whether it was deserved or not. There was a seemingly never ending journey for a odd happiness that simply seemed to evade him even when marrying his second wife Ottavia Busia; becoming a father for the first time at age 50. His filming and production crew, most of whom had been with him since the beginning, a chore especially for his long-time crew who were finding him harder and harder to work with as he changed over to a whole new show and somewhat differing format in “Parts Unknown”. And of course it only got darker from there as Neville takes us down the final turn of Anthony’s life with the much publicized and not always liked relationship with actress Asia Argento. While he doesn’t come right out and blame Argento for Bourdain’s suicide, it’s made clear to all that his death came days after the actress appeared in tabloid photos with another man. Though to be fair, there were so many signs and Anthony himself constantly referenced how he would like to go out, to make her out to be the only source of his depression wouldn’t be right and we do see so much more, like the attempt to decode Bourdain’s final Instagram post, which shouldn’t even been tried to decode. It’s a goodbye in his own way.

We also get a good idea of how loved and respected Anthony was by giving us the appearances and thoughts of many of his peers, including his best friend Eric Ripert, his brother Chris, artist David Choe – who gives us a somewhat startling, yet insightful statement from Bourdain who tells him “and my life is sort of s— now. You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?” which is when we really start to realize all the cracks that have been there all along. As much as we like to look and someone else’s life and wish it to be our own, sometimes if that wish does come true, we do find out it wasn’t all it looked cracked up to be. There are ups and downs in everyone’s lives and as wonderful as it might look on the outside, the inside can be a much different story.

Grade: A-

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

Virtual screening courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN” IS IN SELECT THEATERS AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 16, 2021 // VOD/HBO MAX/CNN to follow.

REVIEW: “THE GOD COMMITTEE”(2021)

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Finally wrapping up my Tribeca Film Festival coverage with what was the highlight film of the festival for me – “THE GOD COMMITTEE”. The film delves deep with a look into a very different type of ‘committee’, one that makes the tough decisions on life and death every day. It also has a compelling backstory within it of not only the people’s whose lives these very transplants can change, but the people making the decisions as well aka ‘The God Committee’.

As the film opens, a transplant patient dies just before their surgery is to begin, making a heart available, but with only an hour or so of viability to decide ‘The God Committee’, pits a group of doctors, nurses, specialists and yes, even a clergyman, against each other as they must decide who gets the heart from a pool of candidates. The Committee – which consists of: Father Dunbar (Colman Domingo), the lawyer turned clergyman; Dr. Allan Lau (Peter Y. Kim), the reticent one of the bunch who tries recusing himself from the decision; Nurse Wilkes (Patricia R. Floyd), probably the least biased one of the bunch; the aging, though hard-living chief surgeon Dr. Andre Boxer (Kelsey Grammar); the idealistic young doctor-with-a-secret Dr. Jordan Taylor (Julia Stiles), and lastly, the just lets-just-get-it-over-with bureaucratic hospital administrator, Dr. Valerie Gilroy (Janeane Garofalo). The crux of the story is the panel’s struggle on the decision making position process, taking us down a mean dive into the grimy and sometimes slimy world of unconditional ethics, along with the tension of the weighing of the needs of many, versus the needs of one. The debate here stems over whether to give a heart transplant to Trip (Maurizio Di Meo), a drug addict with a long history of recurring rehabs who coerced his girlfriend to terminate her pregnancy, or to Walter (Kyle Moore), a somewhat overweight doorman with a family to support or lastly, Janet Pike (Georgia Buchanan), an ornery, elderly woman who doesn’t like the idea of a transplant. The apparent no-brainer is complicated by the fact that Trip’s wealthy father Granger (Dan Hedaya), is dangling a $25 million donation for the hospital in front of the board if Trip is chosen. Well that and he also happens to be a potential investor in the heart surgeon’s Dr. Boxer’s private research.

As the committee members struggle with their literal life-or-death decision, previously unknown information regarding all the patients considered for the procedure and the committee members themselves, comes to light in ways that affect everyone involved in various ways. As the debate over the heart heats up, so does the tension of the room, the digs escalate and the ethics vs. the bribes clash almost to the point of no return. It leaves not just the committee members, but the audience as well, to question what’s more valuable when it comes to people’s lives – the morals of it or the money that can help it?

Writer-director Austin Stark applies a remarkable touch to his adaptation here, while crosscutting between two timelines that the film goes between. November 2014, the time of the actual committee meeting and decision making, and December 2021, when we find out what the research actually entailed. Along with a big twist, the future timeline exists seemingly to supply us with the ‘what if’s’, as it holds us in the back and forth that can twist the decision making. What was once thought of as a list that was first-come, first-serve, is truly anything but. And we the audience feel that along with the film mostly because of the stellar acting of the cast, most notably, Grammar and Stiles, who knock this one out of the park. Also a nice turn seeing Dan Hedaya back and Garofalo really steps up her game her doing the dramatic as well as she does comedic. While we see the outcome of the decision, the only downside to this film is it never tells us whether any of the characters from 2014 were able in 2021 to live with the decisions they all made seven years earlier.

And unlike the decisions made by ‘The God Committee’, the decision to watch this one is simple. Watch it.

Grade: A-

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

Virtual screening courtesy of ~ Betsy Rudnick PR

“THE GOD COMMITTEE” IS IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON DEMAND AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 2, 2021


REVIEW: “THE BOSS BABY: FAMILY BUSINESS” (2021) DreamWorks

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The Baby’s are back and bossing us around again this time with director Tom McGrath’s take in “THE BOSS BABY: FAMILY BUSINESS”.

There are few things more certain in this world than sequels, no matter how old the character gets and The latest Boss Baby adventure is no exception to this rule. And get this, the Boss Baby isn’t a baby anymore though not to worry, what would the story be if he didn’t become a baby again, but it’s all in good fun.

Family Business has the Templeton brothers, Tim (James Marsden/Jimmy Kimmel) and his former Boss Baby little bro Ted (Alec Baldwin), as adults with Tim now married to Carol (Eva Longoria). Tim is now a stay-at-home dad raising his two daughters, Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt), and baby daughter Tina (Amy Sedaris) who, based on the ending of the last one, is a ‘Baby Boss’ as well. Ted, to no ones surprise, is a hedge fund CEO. The two have drifted apart from each other and rarely even speak. But infant Tina decides she must reunite the brothers and turn them back into their younger selves to infiltrate Tabitha’s school which is being ran by Dr. Edwin Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum), who is definitely up to no good. The only way to do this ‘Benjamin Button’ transformation back into babies is quite fun – as it’s all done through a baby formula that only lasts for just 48 ‘teensy weensie’ hours. Tim takes it upon himself to come along and the two brothers wrestle for the formula, getting younger and younger.

The Boss Baby has a lot going on within it. There is the witty banter and sibling relationship issues between the two brothers which can be very fun at times especially when they are back to being their younger selves; There is Precious a pretty pony, a classmate identified only as “Creepy Girl”; there are baby ninjas, and lastly, a tiny toy Wizard named Wizzie (James McGrath), that comes to life. All this goes on while the school putting on a pageant in which Tabitha is terrified of doing a solo performance and Dr. Armstrong is plotting his world-parent takeover. But this movie isn’t just about brothers Ted and Tim. It is also about Tina and Tabitha, and the pressures of school and finding a balance for family, school and life, and not wanting the feeling of disappointing anyone, including ourselves or family.

A bit long in runtime at an hour and 47 minutes with young kids who might get antsy can happen. While it also might just tick off the boxes when it comes to actual points of The Boss Baby itself, it’s truly sweet moments with the young daughters and brothers bonding that make it worth the watch for families.

C+

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Review Screening: Monday, June 28, 2021 ~ Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation & Universal Pictures

“THE BOSS BABY: FAMILY BUSINESS” IS IN THEATERS AND STREAMING ON PEACOCK AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 2, 2021

REVIEW: “WEREWOLVES WITHIN” (2021) IFC FILMS

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There is a sizeable cast in director Josh Rubin’s Werewolves Within, and it takes us on a journey to the quaint town of Beaverfield, which to put it lightly, is about to go through some things.

Due to an incident in town, Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) arrives to take over as the new Forest Ranger, though he is no stranger to ‘incidents’ himself. His first meeting with another person from the town is also a newcomer, mail carrier Cecily (Milana Vayntrub). She shows Finn around and introduces him to the ‘characters’ in town, of which there are more than one, and fill him in on some of the town gossip as well. Oil man Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall), is here to sell the residents on a pipeline, which not everyone is in favour of, even though he’s willing to pony up a pretty penny to buy up their land. Not everyone is ready to cash out and here is where the tensions begin to boil. Jeanine (Catherine Curtin) is the local Inn owner who hasn’t been right since her husband ran off, but on the plus side, she makes great sandwiches. Against the pipeline completely are Joaquim (Harvey Guillen) and Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) are the married, rich gay couple of Beaverfield, and own and run the local yoga studio. On the plus side of the pipeline are Trisha Anderton (Michaela Watkins), and her husband Pete (Michael Chernus), who is essentially the town creeper who can’t seem to keep his hands to himself. Trisha is obsessed with 3 main things; her dog, her husband and the idea that she will finally get the craft store of her dreams as soon as the pipeline sale goes through. Lastly, there is Gwen (Sarah Burns), and Marcus (George Basil), two completely over-the-top, over sexed and yes, over drugged couple who just happen to be the towns mechanics as well. And what would we be if we didn’t have the mean ol’ hermit guy who lives on the outskirts of town aka Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler), whose as big as a bear and just as mean, and everyone just leaves him be. Told you there was a lot of people.

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The journey that this town goes on is one that must be experienced. There are some true laugh out loud moments, but it’s definitely all the throw away lines and moments that keep the laughs up throughout. Not knowing that it was based on an online game, probably helped make me see it the best way possible, new, fresh and fun as it’s a perfect blend of murder mystery, werewolf movie and comedy. The chemistry of the two leads only escalates this one, and the supporting cast bring it all home.

Just sit back and enjoy yourselves with this one.

B-

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of IFC Films

“WEREWOLVES WITHIN” IS IN THEATERS AS OF JUNE 25, 2021 AND ON DEMAND AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 2, 2021

TRIBECA 2021 REVIEW: “ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME”

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There can be a lot of worry and discomfort in the experience of reuniting with friends we haven’t seen in years. Questions can be worrisome like; What are they like now? Will we all get along? Are they the same or grownup versions of what once was? It’s all daunting to see those same friends years later would definitely induce nail-biting anxiety in many. Such is the thought behind director Andrew Gaynord’sALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME“.

The film follows Pete (Tom Stourton), who is reuniting with his college friends for his birthday. The reunion gets off to a rocky start when Pete arrives to an empty house and waits for hours for his friends to get back from a pub. As the reunion progresses, Pete begins to wonder if his friends actually dislike him. We watch Claire (Antonia Clarke), Fig (Georgina Campbell), George (Joshua McGuire), and Archie (Graham Dickson), have an easy, comfortable time together, the kind of time that Pete can’t seem to fall back into. Granted they are all from the ‘posh’ crowd or what we in the U.S. call “The Trust Fund Kids”. Ironically, it takes place in an old-fashioned aristocratic mansion out in the middle of the countryside, replete with pheasant hunting. To make matters worse, they seem to have picked up a stranger at the pub named Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), who dominates the party with his mere presence while being mercilessly hostile to birthday boy Pete and oddly jotting ‘notes’ in a small notebook. The cherry on top is the presence of Claire (Antonia Clarke), Pete’s ex-girlfriend who, according to the group, had attempted suicide just after their breakup, something Pete was not aware of, and is not as okay as she seems.

Among so many unspoken things, mysterious notes and out-of-context information, is the fact that none of them except for Pete seems to have grown up in any way, shape or form, making it difficult for all to be able to tell what is really going on. On the other hand, the film truly captures the discomfort and sensitivity Pete has with overly-familiar Harry, who is intent on making Pete miserable and the butt of a lot of jokes. But there is a lack of something more that while hard to put your finger on completely, it prevents the movie from being great. It’s a more sedate type comedy, rather than a side-splitting, laugh out loud type.

With its fine thread throughout of confirming the game between the “juvenile” and “mature” that lasts the entire film, the story is filled with awkwardness more than it is humour as we wonder if Pete is correct or just being paranoid. While again, a very different type of humour, ultimately, there’s something charming in its oddness.

B-

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Tribeca Virtual screening of ‘’All My Friends Hate Me” ~ courtesy of ID-PR

“ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME” DEBUTED AT TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL JUNE 2021