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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Grade: C+
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Media Review link courtesy of IFC Films

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

REVIEW: “THE WRETCHED” (2020) IFC Midnight

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

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

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

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

Grade: C+

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Media Review link courtesy of IFC Films & IFC Midnight

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

 

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

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

First up:


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


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


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


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

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

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

REVIEW: “TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG” (2020) IFC Films

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We all grow up learning about not only our heroes, but of our villains as well.  Sometimes these “villain’s” can actually become heroes to those who follow and worship them – as is the ‘Robin Hood effect’ where by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, they are greatly admired people in history. Depending on where it is you grow up – is whom you learn about.  So while a greater part of my growing up was in the U.S., I learned of people like Jessie James, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, and Bonnie & Clyde etc. While ‘down-under’ in Australia it seems they had a ‘villain’ all of their very own. Ned Kelly and The Kelly Gang.  I know some of the films done about these characters have taken a lot of liberties when it comes to facts, so when I found out this one is based upon a book written by Peter Carey – who describes the book as being ‘true’ – with a big emphasis on such as it being in the title as well, it was a bit jolting to see the “TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG” open with the statement: “Nothing you’re about to see is true.”

Delving into the first hour of the movie which takes a total focus on Ned’s childhood. Young Ned (Orlando Sschwerdt) as the eldest son of the Ellen Kelly (Essie Davis) and John Kelly (Ben Corbett), who are some of those unlucky Irish who were transported to Australia as convicts. British Sergeant O’Neil (Charlie Hunnam) not only arrests John for stealing a cow which Ned actually stole, but has been with Ellen this whole time as well. The whole episode leaves Ned to start a spiral that seems to follow him from this point on. In-between Ellen resorts to whatever she must do to keep all her children alive and in steps Harry Power (Russell Crowe) with whom Ellen sends Ned away with to supposedly “make him a man,” but has essentially sold him to Power. Power tries to force Ned to kill O’Neil as revenge, and Ned falls short as he shoots him, but almost as an accident, and doesn’t kill him – but O’Neil then hauls him off to jail. Yes, this is just the first hour which is so crazily portrayed, it’s almost as if they are all going through some psychosis or another and we are just along for the ride trying to keep up with it all.

We then fast-forward ten years for the even more graphic second half of the film with a now grown up and out of jail Ned (George MacKay). Ned returns home to find his mother shacked up with a guy only a few years older than himself, George King (Marlon Williams) a drifter from California no less, who proclaims he is going to be Ned’s new father – he is also a horse thief and has recruited Ned’s younger brother Dan (Earl Cave), and Dan’s friend Steve (Louis Hewison) to help out. Their ‘signature’ is of the gang is wearing women’s dresses, which Ned finds and goes on a rail to return the dresses. In doing so, he is suddenly with Mary (Thomasin McKenzie), who he falls for immediately even though she has a baby that isn’t his. And in one of the more odd scenes, and there are many, he meets and almost becomes friends with another British law office, Constable Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult), whose character is hard to differentiate from his childhood nemesis, Sergeant O’Neill.

This whole film is akin to a whirlwind or a high speed hurricane where you find yourself in the center of and can’t get out. I can best describe it as an Insane Historical Fantasy – with a punk rock soundtrack that upon hearing at the beginning, I almost thought Ned was going to be a 1970’s punk rocker, an Australian Sid Vicious of sort, because of it. After doing my own little piece of research on Ned Kelly and his gang, I find out he was known most of all for what made him most famous, as the bushranger who wore a suit of bulletproof iron during his final shootout with the police. While this is shown in the film, and despite the historical setting, context and characters, it by no means represents or even intentionally tries to tell a historically respectable, let alone accurate portrayal of Ned Kelly.

Understandably I’m very split on this film, but let me at least give credit where credit is due. The acting all around is great, the cast is all fine in what they’re given, stand outs include; Orlando Schwerdt as Young Ned, Russell Crowe, Essie Davis – whom I will say totally creeped me out and I will admit to not really having known who she was at all – turns out she is the directors wife as well.  Thomasin McKenzie and Nicholas Hoult did okay enough, but again, it was as if Hunnam & Hoult were interchangeable as their roles were so similar and both distasteful characters. I haven’t got many complaints about the other performers, only that they weren’t given much for me to be invested in despite the film’s insistence I empathize with Ned. I believe anyone of a similar age to when the real Ned Kelly died (25) could play Ned, yet despite the material not being compelling enough to decide if Ned’s actions be justified or vilified, it’s not going to sway how anyone views the character be it hero or righteous criminal, but perhaps intensify it as it did make me personally want to read about him. Mackay is as fine as ever with what he does, yet his lack of a beard that’s always characterized Ned Kelly fails me to even buy him as Ned completely.

Ultimately, it’s greatest weakness is it’s development of Ned as an outlaw. Once Ned is outside the law, his extremist views to the law and state government take hold even though you feel as though Ned wishes he could’ve lived an honest life for his supposed child who from what I’ve now read, never existed. Yet his fall from honest life is fast and doesn’t pick up much weight when his ‘movement’ builds compared to the way the scenes leading up to it do. There’s a lot to admire about this film, yet I don’t think it’ll have a overall appeal to many. I can see it being praised by some, yet ridiculed by others.

With it’s violence and rough sex and language scenes, to say it isn’t recommended to the ‘faint of heart’ would be an understatement.

Grade: C-

@pegsatthemovies

 

Review Screening link: Courtesy of IFC Films 

“TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG” IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR RENT/PURCHASE ON AMAZON

PEGGY AT THE MOVIES – TV SHOWS TO CHECK OUT.. OR NOT – WEEK 4

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Here we are – Week #4 of some quarantine TV watching. Four pretty good shows here ..all worth the watch.

Back to Life: SHOWTIME
On my last week of free Showtime trial and I found this little gem of a dramady..#DaisyHaggard wrote and plays the lead character in this dark comedy of a women trying to get back to life in a small English beach town where she grew up..after being in prison for 18 yrs for killing her best friend. But did she? Watch to find out.
Grade: B+



The Goldbergs: ABC Network
This fun wonderful comedy has been on for a few years now and has yet to get stale. The Goldberg family never fails to be cute, funny, send a message and make you love all the experiences down memory lane of what it was like to grow up in the 80’s. I love it every week.
Grade: A



McMillions: HBO
Who knew that the whole time my co-worker in the 90’s was trying to win the McDonald’s millions with just one missing piece, that it was rigged the whole time. This is a fascinating and sometimes funny look into what really went on behind the manipulation of McDonald’s Monopoly game.
Grade: B

Run: HBO
I’m only on episode 3 of this one written by the indomitable #PhoebeWallerBridge and includes a fantastic cast with #MerrittWever & #DomhnallGleason – it’s playing out as an intriguing story of what-if’s .
Grade: B

Well that’s at wrap on this weeks ‘Peggy at the Movies’ TV recommendations. Hope you all watch and enjoy and please always feel free to throw some recommendations my way. Till next week..stay safe and sane.

#tvreviews #womencritic #instareviews #quarantineTV #shutdown #coronaviruswatching #peggyatthemovies

PEGGY AT THE MOVIES – TV SHOWS TO CHECK OUT.. OR NOT – WEEK 3

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As we continue my quarantine TV watches..I have instituted a rule for myself..No TV before 6pm unless its Sunday or I seriously probably would suffer from over-watch. 🤣
Starting off the week with an oldie but a goodie


Law & Order: SVUNBC
This show has held up over time so very well, with it’s ever changing cast and stories pulled from headline news at hand, working for it – and always led by the wonderful #MariskaHargitay
Grade: B


Killing Eve: BBC/AMC Network
One of the most original shows on TV perhaps only being outdone by its stellar acting of it’s two leads #SandraOh & #JodieComer the just released Season 3 seems to be holding its own.
Grade: A


Ray Donovan: SHOWTIME
Finishing up my 30 day free trial here, I caught up on this one. What was once original storylines, have become a bit over the top as how many times can #JonVoight survive death here. He plays a terrible father/human and sadly I don’t think he’s acting.They moved the show to NYC/Boston for Season 6 where the characters originally hailed from, and it was okay.. but it doesn’t seemed to have saved the now far-reaching plots. If it didn’t have #LievSchreiber and a few other fantastic actors..it would be unwatchable
Grade: C-


Little Fires EverywhereHULU
Have you ever started watching a show/movie where within the first 5 minutes you realize you’ve read the book? Well that was me here. And it was a great book and this show seems to pick up its essence with #ReeseWitherspoon & #KerryWashington holding up as the leads.
Grade: B


Briarpatch: USA
Rosario Dawson looks stunning in this show from her hair to her nails to her clothes. But the shows weird premise is a tough one to keep you entertained throughout its 10 episodes..though I made it thru all of them. It’s a mish-mash to be sure.
Grade: C-

Come back next week for more Peggy at the Movies giving you some more quarantined shows to watch.
Stay Safe and Sane.

#tvreviews #womencritic #instareviews #quarantineTV #shutdown #coronaviruswatching #peggyatthemovies

Peggy at the Movies – TV shows to check out.. or not – Week 2

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Welcome to another week of Quarantine and some more TV shows to check out..or not..courtesy of yours truly.


Council of Dads: ABC Network
Save yourself the time – I barely made it thru the pilot episode
Grade: F

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: NBC Network
This is actually quit cute. Think a Glee for adults – except no one is trying that hard and it’s a great cast #PeterGallagher #MarySteenburgen #LaurenGraham #JaneLevy It’s just simply put – cutsey.
Grade: B-

Homeland: Showtime
So I got myself a 30 day free subscription and caught up on a few things. Carrie Mathison #ClaireDanes still makes the craziest of faces, but it’s the final season and they kinda went back to their roots here and it works.
Grade: B+


World on Fire: PBS
Yes, I watch PBS – as a matter of fact I love Masterpiece etc..this is a decent show that I’m only on eps. 2 of – but i like it. It can be a bit sad & hard, but I recommend it.
Grade: C+

The Plot Against America: HBO
The first 2 eps. were exceedingly slow, but whoa did it pick up. It provides an interesting twist to what if Charles Lindbergh had become President during WWII – for those that still think he’s a hero..and not the Nazi Sympathizer that he was..it will open your eyes. Plus it’s well acted.
Grade: B

Dispatches From Elsewhere: AMC Network
I wanted so badly to like this show..and I tried to keep watching, I really did. Alas, I couldn’t do it anymore – I actually stopped in the middle of an episode. *sigh
Grade: D

Thanks for reading and tune in next week for a new set of shows I’ll be watching including Ozark – which I’ve been saving and Ray Donovan – gotta put those free 30 days to good use! 😊
Take care..stay safe and sane!

#peggyatthemovies #shutdown #quarantineTV #coronaviruswatching #filmcritics #TVreviews #womencritic #instareviews #stayingsane