REVIEW: “ENCOUNTER” (2021) Amazon Films

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Well to say this film went into the unexpected might not quite sum up completely as writers Joe Barton and Michael Pearce, whom directs as well, take us on a road trip journey of science fiction – adding in a very personal side to the lead character, that at first is just thought of as being a crazy person, but it really goes much deeper than that.

Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) is a ex-Navy Seal/Marine who is on a mission. But not the kind you would think it would be like the ‘too busy saving the world’ kind so he rarely gets to see his sons, who live with their mom Piya (Janina Gavankar), and her new husband Dylan (Misha Collins), but as young boys do, they miss him dearly, and vise versa. One night Malik shows up unexpectedly and persuades his two young sons, Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada), to come with him but won’t explain the urgency of why or where they are going to his them. He has convinced himself and in short, tries to convince his sons that something has happened, something more important than the initial mission apparently, or rather, the ‘mission’ has come to their home.

ENCOUNTER

Malik’s mission as he finally explains it while on the run is this. A comet has brought alien micro-organisms to Earth, and the organisms use mosquitos to transplant themselves into humans where they can manipulate their behaviour. While it might sound far-fetched saying it out loud, think about it, mosquitos do carry things. So in essence he makes it feel very real to them and even somewhat to us, the audience, as he tells his kids, though they might not have observed it first hand, but the aliens had already infected their mom, and it was only a matter of time before she in turn infects them. So Malik is taking Jay and Bobby to a base where they will be safe, while, in the meantime, their mother has reported them missing, and there is an all out alert for Malik for kidnapping. The only person he has trusted so far is the person he has to report and check in with for the past few years, Hattie (Octavia Spencer), and even she is baffled and confused by what he is doing, and while she keeps noting to those hunting for him, how this isn’t really him and he would never hurt his boys. This is where I started to realize what the deeper part of the film was, and it’s clear that Malik is delusional, traumatized and suffering from some sort of PTSD. And it seems the boys are picking up on this as well.

Honestly, Riz Ahmed once again proves once again that he will always pick roles that challenge him and that he somehow pulls off without a blip as he lives up to his reputation of engaging an audience with an intense, committed performance. As well, the kids are scene-stealers with both of the young actors showing real intensity and just the right amount of kid-cuteness to make it all realistic. The long desert cinematography was all quite encompassing aside from the three leads and their obvious chemistry as a family.

This is a hard one to put a label on as yes, it’s Sci-Fi, but it’s underlying tension of what is real and what isn’t, keeps you well alert long after whatever you realize is actually going on. It’s also very much about the bond between a parent and children. It also handles a surprisingly hard subject of PTSD in a such a sympathetic and realistic manner when Hattie is speaking for him, yet the others think he’s going to hurt the kids, it’s done so well, but also in the most different original manner ever. Yet somehow it all works, as there is tension, love, aliens and a road trip all in one film. Colour me Alien-rated as I quite enjoyed this for it’s originality of idea and how that idea was told.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“Encounter” will be in theaters December 3, 2021 for a limited release // Coming to Amazon Prime on December 10, 2021

REVIEW: C’MON C’MON (2021) A24

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In “C’mon C’mon” we find Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), a middle-aged, single man who works as a radio journalist based in New York. His job consists of him interviewing young kids from across the country, about their lives, families, their surroundings and most importantly, what they think about the future. Johnny also has a bit of a family problem as he hasn’t spoken to his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman). since their mother passed away. Viv herself is in the midst of dealing with her ex-husband Paul (Scoot McNairy), who is in and out of mental institutions and she struggles to balance helping him out while taking care of their son Jesse (Woody Norman). Paul is in the middle of a bi-polar mental crisis and Viv asks Johnny if he can come care for Jesse, while she goes to help Paul, even though he really doesn’t know his nephew all that well.

This is where the story takes off as Johnny first comes out to Los Angeles to help, but then because he has to work he decides to take Jesse on a tour and have him help interview the kids. It seems a little far fetched because it is, but you can’t deny the bond that forms between Johnny and Jesse. Their relationship is what is central to the film and rolls from one conversation to another, sometimes about subjects that almost make Jesse seem annoying, but again, kids think and process differently than adults, so it comes across as more loving. As they travel across from New York to New Orleans, they both start discovering different sides to themselves, with Jesse clearly looking up to Johnny as fatherly, even though he loses him not once, but twice in crowds, and realizing parenting is not a simple thing. It helps them grow into better people and even changes their entire outlook on life.

In an odd way, this could almost be considered a ‘buddy’ movie with Joaquin Phoenix playing this role quite effortlessly and while everyone is giving him the kudos on acting, for me Woody Norman is the standout holding his own against the powerhouse of Phoenix’s acting prow-ness. Norman plays Jesse as a very insightful nine-year-old boy who acts as a perfect counterweight to his uncle Johnny, and deserves probably even more of a look-see that Phoenix does. Again, though this duo quite incredible together as it’s clear they have good chemistry, and succeed in making everything feel somewhat genuine and sincere. While Gaby Hoffman has to play 90% of her scenes talking into an iPhone, maybe writer/director Mike Mills is trying to make a point about how we communicate today and the lack on in person speaking anymore, even about important issues like what’s happening here.

Drawbacks that came to mind was the black and white style of filming does take away from it a bit as it makes all the cities seem alike in a way, which takes some away from the point of traveling and being in different ones. As well, on a different note for instance, when they are on the beach in Santa Monica – that exact scene was done in ‘HER’, replacing the phone girlfriend with a child, and It was strange to me. There were many lovely moments, but also hard to connect to moments for me as well as while the film shows a true slice of life, it was also somewhat repetitive in nature.

Wrapping up, there will be some who probably won’t relate to the film, but even if that’s the case, the film gives a lot to think about in so many different ways and the acting goes a long way into making it something more – especially the ending monologue from Phoenix.

Grade: B

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Review Screening ~ Tuesday, November 16, 2021 Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“C’MON C’MON” from A24 is in limited release in LA/NYC beginning on November 19, 2021

REVIEW: “KING RICHARD” (2021) Warner Bros.

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Tennis is usually known as a rich people’s sport and can wholly be verified by just looking at the cost of tickets to even a smaller tournament. For the devout fans such as myself, this has left us for the most part, unable to attend such events. And yes, it is also a very European/white American based crowd as well, especially in the 90’s when the Williams sisters we coming on to the scene. Sure you had Arthur Ashe, but he was in the 70’s and was also a man, and even he had loads of issues being sported on him. With all that leading into the fact that sports movies in general can be difficult watches at times, mostly as the stories either have to be a touching one, a hard one, a biography etc., to make a point. Here director Reinaldo Marcus Green takes us on a journey film of the crazy, intense, wild and somewhat shady life of Richard Williams aka “KING RICHARD“. The film is at times emotional, but most of all, it’s a pretty good vehicle for Will Smith to show off his acting range.

Williams, the father of the now legendary Serena and Venus Williams, comes forth with the focus being mostly on Venus as yes, she is the older sister even though Serena is the more victorious of the two, but the narrative depicts his vision and determination to ensure that his daughters grasp every opportunity – willingly or less so – on their journey to undoubted tennis greatness. Though he does come across as a tightly focused man, he can also comes across and a rather unpleasant, thoughtless individual for whom, after a while, you can began to feel a growing dislike as it’s well known he hasn’t always been the most liked person on the tour, but the question put forth is really whether he was right in having his ‘plan’ and doing whatever he thought was right to get it done. The somewhat arbitrary way in which he treats not just his family, but those around trying to help (and, admittedly, to capitalize on the impending gravy train), can be looked at as all just bit too improbable, but you can’t deny what he did either. Certainly you can put yourself in Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal), or Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn), shoes and would have made the decision to tell him where to get off long before it became apparent that these two girls actually did have the ability to make it big. But then as well, it proved Richard to be pretty much right about his ideals after all.

By far the most inspirational part of the movie was really the improbable story. That a dedicated father instilled in his daughters a strength and resilience and confidence that they could do anything, become number one in the world, and in Serena’s case, become the greatest player who ever lived. Training day and night, rain or shine, he kept pushing them towards greatness, when many people scoffed at his claims about his girls, when many refused to train them, when they saw something insignificant, he saw their full potential.

Aunjanue Ellis is really strong in all the film as Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams, being somewhat of the balance to Richard’s craziness, while Saniyya Sidney does a fantastic job as Venus, one of the best supporting teen roles I’ve seen in a while. She is a revelation and is definitely a name to watch as she completely stole the show at times. As well though they and the rest of the sisters are all too often subsumed in the domineering shadow of Smith. And noting that at 2¼ hours, it is also far too long with too many scenes that detract from the pace, that often can be meandering off and dragged in a lot of areas including how it skims over King Richards past – while many in the tennis world do know there was a true bit of shady-ness to the real man. I think many will have wished we could have done with far more input from the real “stars” of the movie to illustrate just how determined and accomplished they were as opposed to their father.

Overall this is a good watch. So tense, surprisingly funny and with a powerful and uplifting story. A film worthy of the Williams’ epic legacy. Personally I wish it would have shown the journey of the Williams sisters even more into their later career stage, but again this movie is NOT really about them, its about Richard ‘King’ Williams and his belief in them, their dedication to training, and ultimately their resiliency in the face of adversity to become the essentially perfect trifecta that propelled them to unprecedented success that was never realized by any other player before them. When they went onto the court, they truly believed that no one could beat them. Then they went out and proved it. Not only were they out there proving to themselves, but also to every person who went to see them. They then became role models for every other African American girl (and boy) who wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Grade: B-

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Screening Group

“KING RICHARD” – IS OUT IN THEATERS AND ON HBO MAX NOW 

REVIEW: “SPENCER” (2021) Neon Films

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Having high hopes going into director Pablo Larrain’s “SPENCER” considering how much I enjoyed ‘Jackie‘, I was surprised to find myself truly wondering what it was that I was watching and then remembering the word ‘fable’ being brought out at the beginning. And that is at least somewhat of an explanation for this sad tale of a film that I find myself having a hard time trying to describe how I felt about it. Two things I think I can justifiably say this film is a fictional thriller using factual characters, who apparently only speak in poems and riddles and it is definitely not a biography.

The set up is Christmas 1991, and Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), is driving herself to Sandringham Castle in a Porsche convertible no less, through country roads speeding along casually, something that realistically would never happen, but again, it’s a fable so why not. She gets completely lost even though she acknowledges she’s been there so many times before, but not before stopping in a small diner-type country restaurant and pretending almost awkwardly that she is not just a Princess, but regular country folk like they are, all the while in her upscale Chanel clothing. After arriving late and after the Queen, a huge faux pas in the world of royalty, she is clearly targeted by the rest of the family at this point. And here is where it really goes off rails as we all know yes, there was a Diana vs. The Royal Family dynamic, but this film takes that to a whole different level. With visions belying her at every corner, including Anne Boleyn to what I’m guessing is supposed to be taken as a warning for Diana to not fall into a similar fate, as she is literally shown as being a whiney, complaining, consistently late for everything, and Larrain makes her out to be so unpleasant and self-centered, you almost wonder if you would want her as your dinner companion at all.

There is much to follow here as the film continues an almost odd over-the-top portrayal of Princess Diana, with only small bits of actual fact here and there. The bulimia we all know she suffered from is shown up front and personal, yet almost made fun of at other moments. There is an odd whole scenario of a scarecrow which follows us throughout the film, without ever really giving good reason except for the fact that she speaks and dresses it like a human, and a psychedelic dance sequence I’ve yet to figure out. I understand why some may like it, but it’s completely void of any relevance to the Princess Diana and Royal Family story that actually took place. I think my entire beef with this film is that they made her look whiney, weak and mental and I just don’t think Stewart did her justice for me. It wasn’t terrible mind you as Stewart is good, but by far not great and by just simply adding to her actual personality, having a blonde short haircut and a not so Diana English accent, she didn’t encapsulate who or what Princess Diana really was. It wasn’t terrible – but I just didn’t feel the way so many do as besides the haircut she didn’t fit Diana’s personality for me, it’s as though she was almost too distracting for me is how I can best say it. But maybe that was the point – not sure.

It is undoubtedly beautiful to look at, the score is immediately captivating, as well as the costumes, production design + cinematography are the standouts as is her supporting cast of Timothy Spall as Major Alistar Gregory, who comes off as ‘foe’ at first, but might actually be ‘friend’ instead, as well as Sally Hawkins playing her maid en confidante’ Maggie. We barely see Jack Farthing as Prince Charles, and as well The Queen either played by Stella Gonet. The way they portray her is a choice a very unsympathetic and annoying ‘choice’ that was certainly very off putting but the standout part is it did show her love for her sons as I don’t think any film could ever deny that. Again, I realize I’m in the minority here on this one, but one can’t help or deny how one feels about a film as it is truly something each person puts in perspective on their own. But in essence for me, Diana was a strong independent woman who was roped into a lie, and dealt with it better than most, while crashing at times, I wanted them to show the part of how she used it all that and made it her strengths versus weakness.

Grade: C

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“SPENCER” FROM NEON FILMS – IS OUT IN THEATERS NOW 

REVIEW: “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” fails to ignite completely..

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Wandering into “THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN” my assumption was it would point me to a somewhat of a Nikola Tesla type films with Louis Wain perhaps being the British version of him. I couldn’t have been more wrong, which can sometimes be a benefit to not knowing exactly what you are going into as it leaves you to actually judge a film for what it is – versus what others say about it.

The film opens in 1881 and Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch), is a young man whose life has just dramatically changed over the death of his father. Per the time and status that the Wain family has acquired, Louis must step into the role of breadwinner for his five younger sisters and their aging mother. Initially, it’s hard what to make of Wain as he is constantly drawing, yet his eccentricities also include a belief in the electrical currents that drive all life forms, hence my previous thoughts. The film itself doesn’t spend much time on this, though it seems to be important enough, but the feeling is at first it’s more eccentricity vs. a mental illness – later deemed to possibly be schizophrenia. What the film shifts to almost exclusively is Wain’s family life. His stern and demanding sister Caroline (Andrea Riseborough), is completely unforgiving of his little ‘whims’ as they are referred to, and demands that Louis find steady work to support the family, which again is supposed to be his role now, clearly one he does not want. An interview with an Sir William Ingram (Toby Jones), is an editor/publisher looking to offer Wain a job, and this is when we are first treated to see what a gifted illustrator Wain is can be and his speed at drawing is due to an incredible ability to draw with both hands simultaneously.

As we continue on more with his family theme versus who Wain really is, he ends up overcoming one of his insecurities around his cleft lip which he has always covered with a mustache, and ends up marrying Emily Richardson (Claire Foy), the governess to his sisters. For the times this was quite the scandal, most especially given the differences in age and social standing of both involved, but Louis plows on as it seems as though she was the only one who understood and encouraged him as an artist. Needless to say his sisters are enraged at this and there is much more shown here again of this than what really is it that makes Louis Wain who he was.

We then are drawn into the tragedy that strikes Wain, and watch as he really mentally spirals more and becomes inspired by their pet cat, Peter. In fact, Peter becomes his muse of sorts though confusing because again, his sisters are all mixed in plus the fact that he clearly thinks the cat is Emily. It does however leads to thousands of drawings of cats for publication in newspapers, magazines, greeting cards, and just about every other platform available at the time. But also once again the films leaves Louis and takes back to his sister’s lives and his youngest sister Marie (Hayley Squires), being committed. So it’s a mish-mash of back and forth whereas I wanted to know who Louis Wain was about, it was very hard to decipher until the Cat pictures come along and that is what he becomes famous for. Personally I would’ve like to delve into this subject and how it evolved more rather than a major focus being on his family lives instead of his as it seems Wain’s work becomes enormously popular for a time, the film doesn’t really explore it in any detail, choosing instead to dance around the question of his and all his sisters mental states over the decades which span about 50 years in time.

Olivia Colman provides the narration and tries to make it lively at times. Taika Waititi and Nick Cave both have brief cameos, as well as Adeel Akhtar in smaller role as Mr. Rider. A role that clearly should’ve been more prominent as Rider was one of Wain’s few friends who we see meet briefly early on, but in the end finds Wain in a sanitarium and ends up being the one who helps Louis secure a place better accommodations in lovely home complete with a garden and yes, plenty of cats. The performance here by Cumberbatch is a bit over-the-top with his tics in the first half of the film, almost to quirky at times – he does make the mental part realistic at times, and drawing part of Wain seem interesting and real. Again, when the film lets us see those very pertinent parts come through.

All in all, if you know nothing about or who Louis Wain was, this might not explain it to you precisely as it follows the path of his family and all the peculiarities of them and him, rather than serve up a more poignant look at Wain and his Cat drawings for which he is actually famous for.

Grade: C

 

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN ” IS OUT IN THEATERS NOW AND WILL BE COMING TO PRIME VIDEO ON FRIDDAY, NOVEMEBER 5, 2021

REVIEW: “LAST NIGHT IN SOHO” (2021) Focus Features

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Nostalgia can be a beautiful thing and “LAST NIGHT IN SOHO” takes us back to the Swinging 60’s of the scene in the famous entertainment district in London’s stylish West End in way I was completely not prepared for. The film however is also meant to be in the present tense and it’s the vivid intersecting of these two periods, that definitely take you on a ride that you just might not be ready for. What started out completely amazing for its first 2 acts-only switched gears to a different tone in the final act. Not necessarily a bad one, just maybe a gear or two off from what you expected or wanted.

As we see Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), open the film in present day by dancing around her 60’s styled room, in a self-designed dress made of all things – newspaper. We soon learn she’s an orphan raised by her supportive grandmother (Rita Tushingham) and dreams of being a fashion designer. So she is thrilled when her acceptance letter arrives from the London School of Fashion. But it’s here we find out that Ellie also has visions of sorts and this should be kept in mind as she moves herself to London to carry out these dreams.

Once Ellie arrives in London, she is overwhelmed with the big city so to speak, and she immediately becomes the target of ‘mean girls’ and fellow student Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen). Rather than subject herself to the abuse, Ellie sublets an attic room from an kindly elderly landlord named Mrs. Collins (Diana Rigg). Ellie loves the room and her independence, but her dreams act as a portal back to those swinging 60’s of which she’s so fond. But that’s only the beginning. It’s here where she follows/becomes Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), and the mirror effects are truly other-worldly. Sandie is everything that Ellie wishes she was herself – confident, radiant, ambitious, and beautiful. This dream state allows Ellie to live vicariously through Sandie. At least initially.

Her dreams quickly become reality, as Eloise keeps magically getting transported back to 60s London, where she is mysteriously linked to the life of Sandie. These nighttime adventures allow Eloise to live the life she’s always wanted. But the honeymoon period doesn’t last for long, as these dreams gradually devolve into nightmares. The question of what is reality and what is dream begins to get muddled, as the glamorous white lights begin to fade and run into other worldly areas that take the movie out of the context it was in. It’s almost as it in three different parts, with parts one and two being the most creative and stylishly fun, and the third coming in to take it over as a different type of film altogether, and while not making it bad, there was a moment in between those parts where I thought I might be seeing what could’ve been my favourite film of the year had it not changed gears so completely.


With there being no true central villain to this story, as Sandie’s pimp and abuser, Jack (Matt Smith), is one of them, and plays his role with relish but the idea is truly that there are hundreds of villains and for a while, the villains are the ghoulish spirits of controlling men. But the main high points of this film is how it is loaded with so many great hits from the 60s, the score was haunting, beautiful, eerie, and pair that with the cinematography and you have a nice chef’s kiss of fun. And not to be remiss, but the costuming and designing here along with hair is absolute perfection when it comes to what they are trying to tell you with the story. Put all of it together and you will be apt to agree the film just looks phenomenal, from the way it’s filmed to the use of colors, it nails that aesthetic of 60s London, and makes you feel like you’re on the most mesmerizing trip.

Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy were very good as honestly, Taylor-Joy lights up any screen she is on and gave the perfect amount of seductiveness needed in her time traveling role. McKenzie gives an equally good performance in the lead role as she brings that sweet sense of naivety and adorable cuteness, and lighthearted feel amongst the very dark and disturbing nature of many of the film’s elements, and moments where the film slowed down to focus on her character was never boring because she had such an energetic vibe to her and was quite entertaining to watch. Ellie’s admirer John (Michael Ajao), is a fellow student that also hasn’t seemed to fit in and seems to be the only genuine person at this university, offering friendship to Ellie, which nobody else there offers her, but their relationship almost seems more clumsy than real.

The finale twists up somewhat as just where you though you knew where the plot was headed once everything started to wrap up (or so it seemed), then make way as you’re hit with something game-changing for the story and while again, it totally veered into left field from what the beginning of the film started off – it still is a stylish mystery-type horror thriller that has it’s highlights and is worth the Halloween watch.

Grade: B-

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Film Independent

“LAST NIGHT IN SOHO” IS OUT IN THEATERS NOW

REVIEW: “THE LAST DUEL” (2021) 20th Century/Disney Films

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The film that finally reunites Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as writers the first time since Good Will Hunting, and just as in Good Will Hunting they also share the screen acting wise, but with Damon picking up the more prominent of roles, though Affleck having a stand-out as well. This medieval times storytelling in “THE LAST DUEL” is done on a grand scale by none other than the grand scale director himself, Ridley Scott.

The film is told in three chapters each from the point of view of one of the three protagonists, the two duelists – Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and the third by Marguerite (Jodie Comer), of why in this duel is taking place in 13th century aristocratic France. It is supposedly for truth and honour, yet this can not only be confusing at times, but when you have people telling the same incident from three people’s different point of views…. it can start to get tedious, and it does with a runtime of two hours and 32 minutes.

The action is here is brutal, the hardcore Medieval type brutal and though it is filmed well, you have to have a taste for these types of films and they are just not truly in my wheelhouse, yet Gladiator holds a place in my heart that will never be taken away. The story itself leans on Marguerite’s accusation against Jacques of rape. It is met with anger and hostility from both Jean, their friends, and pretty much the rest of France, as rape is not considered a crime against a woman, but a property matter. These kinds of things, while I know existed, just irk me in subject matter. Yet I guess my true excruciating anger came from the rape scene which is is played not once, but twice. As an audience of both male and female, it left a lot of mixed feelings amongst both as it’s incredibly hard to watch. My question would honestly be did Ridley Scott need to amplify the excruciating horror of the act by showing it to us twice? Would it have made a difference to the outcome had we not seen it so graphically performed in front of us on both accounts. I think not. Oddly you also realize what the outcome of the duel will most likely be during these points.

The set decoration, costuming and all seem quite fit for the time and not being an expert in French history of the 1300’s, I will say I was never entirely sure what accent Damon and the cast were employing with their characters as none were French, but it never distracted from the characters either. Comer was probably the best as I can’t imagine the subject matter at hand was an easy one for any actress to deal with. The highlight for me though was Affleck’s somewhat comedic portrayl of d’Alençon as it borders at times on camp, but seems as like it was likely intentional and oh so much fun. It lightened up the hardness of this film to at give it some ‘bon viveur’ as the French would say.

All in all, this film will be a sheer delight for those loving Medieval dramas and Ridley Scott fans. I’m somewhere in the middle of understanding it, being confused by it, angered by it. All in all a fine movie with fine writing, acting and cinematography. It is just not something special and we have seen it all be done better before. There is sort of gravitas missing along the lines and all in all, just did not sit right with me completely.

Grade: C

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Rosa Parra @RosasReviews who invited me along as her guest

“THE LAST DUEL” – is playing in theaters now

REVIEW: “MASS” (2021) Bleeker Street

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Stepping away from acting and putting on a directors hat instead, Fran Kranz gives us a truly heart wrenching movie that is so well written from start to finish and carrying along with it, an almost gut wrenching amount of weight within it’s dialogue in “MASS”.

The film begins perfectly with a sense of something equal to tense energy and yet some awkwardness at the same time. It opens with church volunteers Judy (Breeda Wool), and Anthony (Kagen Albright), along with Kendra (Michelle N Carter), who is in charge of making this all happen. These three are are preparing an private room for what is clearly a high-stakes meeting. The four guests arrive, and it’s two couples – four people – all looking uneasy and unsure about the meeting. As we watch the initial small talk we start to realize what is happening and why they are here. This meeting is taking place six years after a devastating tragedy, and the parents have gathered in the room of a church to come to terms with the events of that time. We finally learn Evan, the son of Gail (Martha Plimpton), and Jay (Jason Isaacs), was shot by Hayden, the son of Linda (Ann Dowd) and Richard (Reed Birney). It’s been six years since the school shooting and both couples are seeking closure to the immense grief they’ve carried. There is also the overwhelming burden of guilt and the weight of blame, finger pointing, and as to be expected, real emotional chaos at times. Some of the issues being discussed reminded me of the documentary ‘American Tragedy‘ wherein the mother of one of the Columbine shooters tries to speak from her POV. But this gives us the difference of having both sides speaking to each other. Here all four leads brings something something different to the table, but put it all together as director Kranz did, and you have yourself one very good film that will stick with you for some time.

To put it quite bluntly, ‘Mass‘ is an acting masterpiece. Martha Plimpton’s performance is like time bomb that devastatingly yet also politely explodes at the finish. Ann Dowd shows someone who is truly drained, but is trying her best to put herself back together while expressing the complicated emotions being held within her. Jason Isaacs takes on the role of a devastated father with the energy of a broken man full of anger all while trying to hold back his hurt. Everyone it seems gets their huge powerful moment except for Reed Birney who is quiet and calm throughout. We only get a peek at his heartbreak, regret and horror, and at times it feels like he gives off such insolence as though he almost just doesn’t care.

Every once in a while you come across a film that doesn’t need any bells and whistles or a Marvel superhero in it, just actors giving raw, heartfelt performances. One that I have rarely seen in this form and one that will stay with you for a very long time. It tells a tragic story that will break you in many different ways. Their ability to convey a wide range of emotions will absolutely tear you apart, taking you on a roller coaster of a ride until arriving at a stop where you are satisfyingly put back together. While not for everyone, it does leave you better for having watched.

Grade: A

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“MASS” from Bleeker Street Films – is playing in theaters now – look for VOD release dates upcoming

NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 RECAP REVIEWS

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Thrilled, honoured and excited to be able to cover Nashville Film Festival in it’s 52nd year, which ran from September 30 – October 6 and had some lovely films, sadly a few I didn’t get to, some weren’t available virtually, and a few I might be hesitant to recommend. I always find a gem or two though!

That all being said – this was my first time covering this lovely festival in the vibrant city of Nashville – although yes, I did it virtually – though at times I felt I could taste the great food, and feel the vibrancy of the city itself while watching!  While I’ve had some great films to choose from, I am only human and can only review so much – and I will not be doing my usual ‘grading’ system as honestly, while some of these Independent Films might be better than others, they ALL deserve respect for just getting themselves made and created jobs for those doing so. Giving someone 200 million dollars for a film deserves getting rated, giving someone who made a film on a shoestring budget while barely making rent/bills, just out of the sheer love of wanting to put in their heart and soul – just deserves accolades period. And with that being said… here we go!

PORCUPINE

In this drama from writer/director M. Cahill, we find Audrey (Jena Malone), a seemingly hard working young woman that is just getting fired from her collection agency job. She is also overdue on rent, had her electricity cut off, doesn’t have any friends, and to top it off, a boyfriend who tells her he’s ‘not coming over anymore’. While she doesn’t seem like a screw up, she has lived in 4 different places and had 7 jobs all in a short time period. We aren’t really sure why she doesn’t talk to her parents anymore, but it’s clear this is mutual decision is mostly because as we can see she beats to the sound of her own drum, something we can clearly tell through the one phone call we hear. Basically she went left when they wanted her to go right.

And Audrey does what many end up doing everyday to keep themselves occupied, she watches endless YouTube videos. On one of them she sees an ad for adult adoption and decides to look into it, eventually being matched up with Sunny (Emily Kuroda) and her gruff German husband Otto (Robert Hunger-Bühler) who have their own odd relationship issues already. While the relationship with the three is tentative at first, they do end up warming up to each other.  The way Cahill wrote this story – which is based on a true one – makes it relatable on so many levels and what Malone brings to the character of Audrey makes it feel even more personal.

THE MURDER PODCAST

This decently fun, very campy little horror indie directed by William Bagely is about two guys, Chad (Andrew McDermott), and Eddie (Cooper Bucha), who are wanting to become amateur podcasters. Crazily enough a murder happens in their small hometown and they start investigating it, clearly very badly, and of course become wrapped up in a full on terrifying adventure full of paranormal activity while people keep getting killed. Upon the investigation, we find out this has all happened before.

This movie falls off the rails in parts, but has it’s comical and gory moments and generally, it’s a pretty good watch considering what month we are in.

GREEN SEA

As noted, I always find a few gems and ‘Green Sea’ was just that for me. Set in a small Greek fishing village, we find Anna (Angeliki Papoulia), who has lost her memory completely and finds herself working in a small tavern ran by Roula (Yannis Tsortekis). It seems that Roula has gone through quite a few terrible cooks, and the regulars think it will be more of the same with Anna. But to everyone’s surprise, including her own, she is a fantastic cook and her meals become experiences that bring memories flooding back of lives lived to each of the regulars, making a bond between herself and them become close. Roula and a few of the wives of these men, aren’t liking it much and while she has flashes here and there of memories, and once the wives see Anna and taste the food, things are better.

There is a lot of story in here and it digs deep into each character lives and most especially Roula’s, which as we find out is not always so pleasant. When Anna has a memory flash and it leads her to a book Roula was reading, is where the complete picture of all her amnesia comes into frame. To give this away would be depriving you of not only a great performance by Papoulia, but an excellent ending to this seaside tale – one that I would highly recommend you take the time to see if possible.

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All virtual screenings courtesy of Nashville Film Festival and their affiliates

REVIEW: “I’M YOUR MAN” (2021) Bleeker Street

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Not knowing much going into this film, little did I know what a lovely surprise I would be in for in director Maria Schrader’s quirky fun rom-com “I’M YOUR MAN”. Not usually being someone who is fond of the A.I. genre of films and having once been known to say “If I ever find that an A.I. is my my relationship – please slap me”, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this one even though I wasn’t ready for it to be almost entirely in German as well.

Thankfully though – this isn’t my story though as this one is not only better but it centers on esteemed archaeologist/researcher Alma (Maren Eggert), who accepts an offer to participate in an usual experiment in exchange for research funds. She agrees to “beta test’ on a three-week trial run, living with a humanoid named Tom (Dan Stevens), who has been programmed to be her exact ideal life partner. From there, she has to evaluate on the successes and/or failures of the AI prototype to help decide whether they should be introduced into society as potential life partners for well, everyone. During this three week time period, we find ourselves watching things that are essentially very human. Alma is anti-relationship as the film starts to reveal more about her we find she grieves over a miscarriage she suffered during a past relationship and her former partner Julian (Hans Low) is very much around. While Alma is single, she’s not alone – she has a younger sister, Cora (Annika Meier) and an elderly, deteriorating father (Wolfgang Hübsch), who require a lot of her attention in life as well.

Not to be overlooked is the fun CGI of a bar scene of playing itself well on the ‘who is/who isn’t’ a AI or hologram and of course the acting. Eggert is wonderful at playing off the strong, defensive woman she is supposed to be and slowly letting her wall down to open up to the idea of this AI actually being ‘the one’. While Stevens is quite good here as he absolutely crushes it by speaking surprisingly fluent German, that is when he’s not speaking Spanish, French, or Korean and most notably, not a single word of English. He also manages to somehow be a robot, yet convey small emotions such as being flirty, funny, sad and dare I say it – humanistic.

With some funny, snappy, smart dialogue and a well structured storyline “I’m Your Man” moves it all along in a realistic looking manner, while being hugely entertaining as well. There can be huge risk involved with films that tackle themes such as this one, and then be successful at it to boot, but this one was all handled so well and came across as down to earth while also making itself fun and thought-provoking.  

Grade: B+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

“I’M YOUR MAN” from Bleeker Street Films – is in limited theaters on Friday, September 24, 2021

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR