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

Standard

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

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

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

Standard

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

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

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

NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 RECAP REVIEWS

Standard

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.

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

All virtual screenings courtesy of Nashville Film Festival and their affiliates

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

Standard

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

REVIEW: “BLUE BAYOU” (2021) Focus Features

Standard

“BLUE BAYOU” the newest film written and directed by Justin Chon, chooses a daunting subject to show in his new film about a Korean-American, Antonio LeBlanc (also played by Chon), who is fighting for his family and his status as a US citizen.

Adopted from Korea at the age of 3, Antonio lives in Louisiana. He speaks fluid English. He is married to a US citizen, and he and his wife are expecting their first child. He is also stepfather to Jessie (Sydney Kowalske), the daughter of his wife, Kathy (Alicia Vikander).

Also in the picture is Ace (Mark O’ Brien), Kathy’s ex and while he is a officer of the law, he also has domestic issues and a load of jealousy towards Antonio as Jessie, his daughter, only wants Antonio as her dad. This all leads to a confrontation between himself, Antonio and partner, Denny (Emory Cohen), to unjustly instigate an arrest and physically attack Antonio – which then begins a chain reaction. Antonio’s record is flagged by ICE, and he is threatened with deportation. Incredibly it becomes clear that Antonio’s adopted parents, who abandoned him into the foster system after only 6 months, did not fill out the proper paperwork to make him a naturalized citizen.

Kathy and Antonio seek the counsel of Barry Boucher (Vondie Curtis-Hall) a lawyer, who informs them that before the year 2000, US foreign adoption laws were very ill defined, and in many cases immigration paperwork was never filed by adopting parents. That and his prior criminal record, struggling to support his family by being a tattoo artist, are all obstacles in his path. So despite being married and in the United States for over thirty years, Antonio still finds it difficult to check off the the most basic of requirements on a form to appeal the decision.

The intense acting and generally good cinematography are the strengths of the film. The regional accents and a certain performance of the namesake song itself are standouts (though definitely not Linda Ronstadt type standards). But there are diverging subplots all over the place, all detracting from the main theme. Sometimes the character aspects don’t ring true and with all due respect to Chon’s clear passion for the project, the script could have benefitted from some help making it not so scattered and more about how this is tragedy of life is actually happening. Instead we get consistent flashbacks to Antonio’s past and life of crime, making you question his decision to go back to that. He also has a friend in I.C.E who is all seemingly unaware what is happening to his friend. Then there is the random friendship between Antonio and Parker (Linh Dan Pham), a Vietnamese refugee and a cancer patient in her dying days. All this takes away from the subject matter at hand and left me with more questions than it ever answered. – how does this happen? how can a child be adopted here and not given automatic citizenship? That is the story that I went into expecting to find out about and wanted to know.

On another thought for me is while Vikander is without a doubt one of the most talented actresses of her generation, emulating accents is not her strongest suit. So while the emotion is there for the character, she is not entirely credible as a Southerner. By contrast, Sydney Kowalske is a brilliant fit to play the character‘s daughter. Not only does she look like Vikander, she also provides the all the heart of the film. If it were not for the scenes in which Antonio and Jessie show such love and a bond for one another, you would be hard-pressed at times to find redeemable qualities in his behaviour — which in turn can be almost detrimental as it’s a film that depends on the audience to be invested in his fate. And sometimes it just lost track of that and honestly for me, the true importance of this subject.

Note: stay for the credits as it names way too many names of people currently facing deportation under this outdated law.

Grade: C

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

“BLUE BAYOU” from Focus Films – is only in theaters on Friday, September 17, 2021

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

REVIEW: “QUEENPINS” (2021) STX FILMS

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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)

Standard

“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

Standard

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+