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-

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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-

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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-

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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.

WEREWOLVES WITHIN

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

TRIBECA 2021 REVIEW: “BRIGHTON 4TH”

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Winner of the Best International Narrative Feature at Tribeca Film Festival, “BRIGHTON 4TH” is noted as being a ‘Comedy/Drama’ which made me do a double take at that one. Drama – yes, in a big way, yet Comedy just didn’t seem to be it’s forte’ as what I watched from director Levan Koguashvili, truly left nothing comedic in it’s path.

It is however a long drawn out story of a former wrestling champion Kakhi (Levan Tediashvili – an actual former Olympic wrestler), who seemingly feels he needs to take on the responsibility for everyone around him and their problems. The story follows his long drawn out trek from his native Georgia to the well-known Russian enclave of Brighton Beach, where many of his fellow countrymen have immigrated to as well. His son Soso (Giorgi Tabidze), went to study medicine, but needs a green card and Khaki had given him $15,000 to do so and if necessary, pay Lena (Nadezhda Mikalkova) to marry him. Instead he is working as a mover and has gambled away the money plus an additional $14,000 he now owes to head of the gambling mob. Khaki finds him in a small room & board house ran by the wife of his best friend who also ended up gambling away his money. Now he seeks to find a solution to it all and while we go through a good hour plus of side stories that include: Kakhi taking a job helping out an elderly couple, and getting sexually propositioned by the wife; as well as a very lengthy deviation that involves Kahki in the midst of a plan to kidnap a man who’s been refusing to pay the Georgian women he hires as hotel maids. All these things relay nothing to the point of the film – what the main goal is – saving his son’s life from the mobsters he owes money to.

We finally get to the point in the final minutes of the film, as it has Khaki challenging the head mobster whom his son owes, to a wrestling match as even though Kakhi is in his 70’s and is at least 20 years older, he does it to take care of the debt his son owes. Oddly, it’s a surprisingly believable moment, even in it’s bleakness. While the acting here is mostly done by non-actors as well, they too are believable within reason. But it’s the length of time that it took to even get to the point here that made it too sluggish and weighed down, and while going through storylines that didn’t lead anywhere. Also, the fact of the oh-so-familiar mob-lines of Russian/Georgian immigrant community in Brighton Beach has a ‘been there – done that’ feel to it all. While the final moment is sweet in it’s own way, it’s the ‘getting there’ long windedness that just didn’t work as well for me as it clearly did for others.

‘C’

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Tribeca Virtual screening of ‘’Brighton 4th” ~ courtesy of Susan Norget Film Promotion

“BRIGHTON 4TH” DEBUTED AT TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL JUNE 2021

TRIBECA 2021 REVIEW: “FALSE POSITIVE” HULU

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One of my tops to watch for Tribeca 2021 was “FALSE POSITIVE” and let me tell you how this slow-burn thriller did not disappoint – for the first hour. What started off semi-interesting, unfortunately took a spin into left field and went for ridiculous and non-sensical.

Lucy (Ilana Glazer), plays a mom who is struggling with something that many have before, conceiving a child. Her husband Adrian (Justin Theroux), agrees they need to to a fertility clinic in attempt to get pregnant, and he conveniently knows of one ran by his old medical professor, Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan). It’s an odd place, with stepford like nurses in Nurse Rita (Sabine Gadecki) and most especially lead Nurse Dawn (Gretchen Mol). She conceives multiple babies, twin boys and a daughter she names “Wendy”. But the one fetus, the girl, is weak, and Lucy and Adrian have to make a choice about selective reduction: save the two males or save the female.

Replete with the evil fertility doctor played by Brosnan, and the thoroughly complicit husband played by Theroux, Ilana gets to play a mom, struggling with something that everybody, in this movie at least, keeps calling “mommy brain”. But it’s clearly much much more than whatever that ‘affliction’ might be. First her husband, then her friends, even the closest one from the ‘mommy group’ Corgan (Sophia Bush), seemingly start to turn on her as we see Lucy having all these random paranoid thoughts and dreams. But the absolute last straw is when the midwife she chose in secret and insists on using finally proclaims, “I am not your mystical negress.” How does that even come to be stated in a screenplay, one will never know. Anyway, what was actually intriguing and entertaining for the first 45 minutes, dramatically changes, but what puts you into the ‘really ick’ category is by what unfolds towards the end. It didn’t sit well with me at all. It was incredibly strange, cringey, and just in bad taste. I’m not even sure if the writers knew where they were going with this ending, most especially the last scene. None of this can be revealed as it’s something each person needs to see to decide for themselves what their ‘factor’ is. Plus it’s essentially the entire plot of the movie as well.

Taking all that under consideration, the acting was still quite good from all concerned, most especially Brosnan who took the creepy villain to heart here. But the whole dream sequence after dream sequence and with an ending that made me scream out WHY?? – just took what could have been a truly good creeper horror and made it almost into a joke – albeit a not so good one from this point of view.

C-

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Tribeca Virtual screening of ‘’False Positive” ~ courtesy of ID PR

“FALSE POSITIVE” DEBUTED AT TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL AND IS NOW PLAYING ON HULU

TRIBECA 2021 REVIEW: “CATCH THE FAIR ONE”

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“CATCH THE FAIR ONE” is a bleak at times, but oh-so-powerful film that pulls no punches in its hard hitting revenge story of a Native American boxer searching for her missing little sister. Kaylee (Kali Reis) nicknamed “K.O.”, is a former boxer and addict who willfully infiltrates a sex trafficking ring in order to find her missing younger sister Weeta (Mainaku Borrero). Waitressing to get enough money to pay the “recruiter”, Lisa (Isabelle Chester), who helps find vulnerable and at-risk girls for a sex trafficking ring. The same ring might have something to do with her missing underage sister which we find out is KO’s motivation. We watch as first Kaylee trains for this like you would a mission, except this training mission involves sleeping with a razor blade in your mouth to be able to use as protection.

All this comes in handy when she is drugged and ‘sold’ to sex trafficker by boss Bobby (Daniel Henshall). But Kaylee surprises her captor, kills him, and then sets off on a ‘no holds barred’ mission to track down Weeta. This all out journey leads to a string of events that take her first to see Danny (Michael Drayer), then with his abused wife & child in tow, to Willie’s house (Kevin Dunn), who is the real main honcho of this sex trafficking ring.

All along she’s been dealing with her unsupportive mother Jaya (Kimberly Guerrero), who has never backed her and made her feel as though it should have been her versus her sister. Flashbacks of Kaylee’s violent times in the ring bring us into what her life once entailed as well. A story that contains a lot of really well done twists and turns, along with real-life middle-weight champion, Reis is impressive in her hunt for vengeance, her hostile expressions and sheer strengths strike fear into her opponents – both in and out of the ring. Summing it up, Kali Reis gives us a powerful breakthrough performance that knocked me out.

Unglamorous, chillingly brutal and all of it left me wanting more. “Catch the Fair One” captures the right mix of vulnerability and empowerment. Reis performed her own stunts and the film doesn’t go overboard with gratuitous action. The unexpected screenplay makes this the one most thrilling film I’ve seen in years with a definite point being made, Native American young girls are trafficked at whim, this is not a fake story line, and they are also less likely to be even looked for. All this is brought to the forefront and in a wildly stark, yet realistic way. It only adds to the brilliance of this film. But please take note of it. It’s important.

B+

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Tribeca Virtual screening of ‘’CATCH THE FAIR ONE’ ~ courtesy of Accolade PR

“CATCH THE FAIR ONE” DEBUTED AT TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

TRIBECA 2021 REVIEW: “CLEAN”

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“CLEAN” from director Paul Solet, is the Tribeca Film Festival offering in the crime-action genre. It also gives us Adrien Brody as writer/lead and impressive as that is, I can’t say I’m rolling out the ‘Welcome’ mat to Brody as an action star from this one.

Clean (Adrien Brody), seems to be just a simple salvage pick-up guy working the graveyard shifts and has a knack for fixing up items he picks up that can be repaired. Cool vintage stuff that actually brings in money and he has somewhat of a friendship with the pawn shop guy played by RZA. Then there is the random fact he always stops off to give a young girl Dianda (Chandler DuPont) lunch and make sure she gets to school. More like protecting her from the neighborhood, but we really aren’t clued in as to why.

On the other hand, we have the usual gaggle of Eastern European mobsters led by Michael (Glenn Fleshler), and he runs the neighborhood drug trade through his grandfathers old business, a fish market, smuggling the drugs in through fish. He’s also trying to teach his fresh out of jail, wanna-be gangsta rapper son Mikey (Richie Merritt), the trade, though things aren’t going well in that area.

To make a long story short and leave out the middle-man so to speak, we know from moment one that Clean is way more than a salvage man. We slowly find out his mobbed up background as he once was called ‘The Grim Reaper’ – I kid you not – as we also find him with a full tattoo of the Reaper on his back. This is right after we are slowly finding out why he is even protecting Dianda and her mother from harm as she it seems, reminds him of his daughter, whom has passed years earlier due to negligence on his part while being the Reaper. After he finds Mikey and his crew ready to take advantage of her and beats not only the whole crew to mere pulps, but Mikey to within a inch of his life. Of course his mobster dad isn’t pleased, and sends a gaggle of the mobsters after them all, which is where all of the ax/wrench/screwdriver/gun killings of dozens of people by only Clean himself all happen.

All in all, while not completely a mess, ‘Clean’ does fail to pass the spick and span test and is a messy story that we’ve seen all too many times before.

‘C-‘

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