Quick update / post-Covid reviews

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So as most of you know – I had Covid at the end of December/begin of January. I first had symptoms on Dec 25th, was tested the 29th and given Positive results on Dec 31st. Yes, thank you 2020 for one last kick in the pants. Luckily I had a small viral load and got through it, though it wasn’t easy. I have many pre-existing conditions and was told I wouldn’t survive it if I got it – again, luckily a small viral load and I did. But it’s no joke and should never be treated as such. I am beyond grateful just to be able to sit here and type this out as almost everyday I cry for a few minutes thinking of those 500,000 in just the U.S. alone – that aren’t able to do something this simple.

That being said, there is a lot of things that happen to most post-Covid. I have no sense of smell or taste, brain fog, fatigue, peeling nails, hair loss, and weirdly I got these cysts on my hands and wrists area. They grew so fast that what I thought was three different cysts on my left hand, is actually one large cyst spreading through it. It’s extremely painful and I have got wrist supports for both my hands, but it has prevented me from typing for any extended period of time. I have quite a few reviews to write, and am struggling to do so – so I’m trying to figure out a way to do voice text and just have to polish them up. Until then, I’m going to do my absolute best – but I wanted to put this out there so people don’t think I’m just not reviewing their films, or responding back to them. It’s the absolute busiest time of year with all the awards coming up, and I’m so annoyed at all this! But again, I am here to be able to be annoyed at it so I have to always remember that.

Covid changes your life people, and I hope all of you stay safe and get vaccinated when possible. To a better 2021 for all of us.. Cheers!

Peggy

REVIEW: “BLISS” (2021) Amazon Studios

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To be completely candid here, I’m not really sure what Director Mike Cahill is trying to say or where he is going with “BLISS”, his latest feature coming out on Amazon Prime this Friday, February 5th. In an already overcrowded movie fueled month, along with it being Black History Month, I’ve a feeling this one just isn’t going to find it’s footing with too many audiences. It has a lot of difficulty focusing on what it is Cahill is actually going for. Let me try to explain.

First off, all we can be sure of our lead character is that Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is newly divorced and that he misses his family, most particularly his daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper), who is worried about him. His son Arthur (Jorge Lendenborg Jr.), on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care one bit about him or what happens to him in the slightest. We see Greg at work at a seemingly high profile job, yet he’s spends his day drawing pictures of what he envisions as the ‘perfect world’ along with drawings of a woman. Because of this silliness we also see Greg lose his job and end up at the bar across the street where some very odd, crazy things begin to happen.

Enter in Isabel Clemons (Salma Hayek), who seems to know everything there is to know about Greg Wittle in a almost stalker type way, yet he loves this odd fact. She presents herself as the solution to his problems and begins to tell him some fantastical stories that most of the people he sees and the situations he’s in, aren’t real. She tells him over and over that they are just simulations of people/places and simply through the power of his mind, he can make them do all sorts of crazy things like fall down or crash as they are just in his head. He falls for it and they seem to both think hurting others for fun is well…fun. So it seems like they are sadly both just lost in a fantastical world of severe mental health issues and using a specially ‘formulated’ drug as escapism. Except then we find them inside the actual drawings of Greg’s in a whole other Science Fiction type world where they are the actual creators of an alternative society and add in Bill Nye the Science Guy as actual proof of what they have discovered is profound. And that’s the problem here. This film is ALL over the place with itself.

Honestly, you can watch “Bliss” in a number of ways:

Example #1. You can assume that everything Isabel And Bill Nye are saying is true, and then this is a story about parallel worlds.

Example #2. You can see this as a story about the plight of human mental health issues and why so many turn to drugs to find refuge in said fantastical fantasy story also presented.

Example #3. You can even see “Bliss” as an account of how easy it is for the average person anywhere in the world, to fall out of our society norms and end up lost and homeless due to no fault of their own.

In whichever way you choose to see it is your call, but my call is that pretty much all of them won’t be that great and unfortunately, ‘Bliss’ just never comes across anything even remotely profound, as it’s so jumbled and pasted together in a completely non-coherent manner. All the different stories it tries to tell all fizzle out, and the ending is wholly predictable to a shocking degree. The acting performances are just as bizarrely put out there, with only Cooper coming through as a decent performance in this all-over-the-place feature.

Grade: D

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“BLISS” WILL BE STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2021

REVIEW: “SWALLOW” (2020) IFC FILMS

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Not sure why IMDB had this noted as a horror/thriller and have since changed it as to be clear, this is not a horror film, but yes, it is a thriller of sorts. But please don’t go in expecting horror movie from “SWALLOW” as it’s clear Director Carlo Mirabella-Davis never meant it to be that. It’s more of a psychological drama mixed in with mental health, mixed in with a wife coming into her own. ‘Swallow’ truly fascinated me as I’ve never seen a movie like it and as strange as the film was, I was never bored.

‘Swallow‘ is a study of our main character Hunter (Haley Bennett), and a really good one at that. Hunter is a newly pregnant housewife who finds herself in marriage to Richie (Austin Stowell), one in which his parents feel she married above her stature in life. Richie is the youngest director at the firm that his father Michael (David Rasche) is in charge of and his mother Katherine (Elizabeth Marvel), is what one might want to call a ‘socialite’. Hunter – who is constantly and condescendingly reminded from the three of them that she is not from the same class as them, so she feels out of place. This film highlights profound consequences of trauma and what is clearly a form of PTSD and how it affects some mentally as Hunter – not really knowing who she is or what she is supposed to do, she starts to eat things – as in non-food items. It starts with a marble and then progresses to things that are much more dangerous like thumbtacks and batteries. When she goes to have an ultrasound her they begin notice all is not normal and find the foreign items inside which are removed by an emergency surgery. This infuriates Richie and his family to no extent, though they play the blame game more than anything and never try to find out why, they just want her to stop. They don’t understand she doesn’t know why she’s doing this and are embarrassed by her. Yet when having a dinner party pretending all is well and wonderful, Hunter finds out he has shared everything with those he works with and is beyond upset with him. She is also taken to therapy as well as having Luay (Laith Nakli), a male nurse, to take care of her but it’s more like he is there to watch her every move to make sure she doesn’t start eating household items again.

Be very clear here though as when Hunter is swallowing things, it has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to endanger the child as she really wants the child. The bigger issue rising within that we begin to see was that she hates being a housewife and the biggest issue of all, that she doesn’t know who she is in relation to her past. It’s a poignant way to showcase the point that even if you have everything of what so many people aspire to get – a handsome, successful husband, a big beautiful house, wealth, marriage, and not having to work etc., that it far from guarantees happiness. Her life completely encompasses the age old adage of “Be careful what you wish for”.

Acting wise you have to give major props to Bennett as she makes every scene gripping. On the outside she looks like an a pretty blonde without a care or thought in the world, but there’s something vulnerable about her and in her eyes you can see she is hiding some dark, ugly and sad secret. You really come to understand her motivations and why she does what she does. Stowell seems like the perfect husband on the outside, but we get glimpses that he’s really isn’t and he does well at portraying both sides. Marvel and Rasche do well and portray the overbearing, snobby parents very believably. And Nakli as the male ‘nurse’ will give you not only a great performance, but a wonderful backstory and surprise as well.

Overall, I adored the acting, story, and cinematography, again it’s a little strange maybe but oh so fascinating. A warning to some though, this films ending is very decisive and I can see what happens at the end might be a hot button for some, for me it was perfect where it went and is definitely empowering her as a woman. 

Grade: B

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy oIFC Films

“SWALLOW” IS STREAMING ON TO HULU

REVIEW: “ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI” (2021) Amazon Studios

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A stylish and promising debut from Regina King at the helm “ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI” is a fascinating watch with King working in close collaboration with Kemp Powers to adapt his own play to the screen with a story that pits four iconic figures and their beliefs against one another. The film is set mostly at the Hampton House, a motel in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood and was one of only a few places for Black entertainers and celebrities to stay while performing at the swanky clubs and hotels of the then segregated Miami Beach.

After Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) wins the World Heavyweight Championship from Sonny Liston in Miami, he meets up with Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), all legends in their own right, to discuss their individual roles that they can play in the civil rights movement amid the upheaval of the 60s. Clay has promised Malcolm X that he will embrace Islam and change his name to Muhammad Ali the next morning. Ali/Clay’s boxing career had reached new heights, but he was barred from Miami Beach due to Jim Crow laws at the time, but he also unaware that Malcolm has just broken ranks with Elijah Muhammad, the national leader of the Nation of Islam at the time.

Introducing each of the characters in their everyday vocations as Cook is a hugely successful singer although he seems to be struggling with being accepted across the board i.e., by white audiences, Brown is a famous NFL player, but he’s also just had a taste of movie stardom and likes it, the soon to be Muhammad Ali is the World Heavyweight boxing champ and Malcolm X is a minister and one of the biggest leaders of the Civil Rights movement at the time. The struggles they faced in being black men sets the film up for a rather powerful main act where they discuss how they can use their positions of varied success to be heard during the civil rights movement.

This film has a dash of ironic, humorous moments which serve it well, because a good chunk of the film is a bit intense and lags at times with the rhythm getting bogged down for a few scenes, but there are some lively moments, especially revolving around musical performances. The acting by the four leads though is what kicks this film up at least ten notches as they give it their all, even though their were a few times their personas felt a bit pushed and character-ish. It’s so very difficult when an actor portrays a real person though all of them found a fine balance within their performances. Leslie Odom Jr showed off his singing chops, Ben-Adir gave us a talkative beautiful Malcolm X, Goree gave us all the ‘float like a butterfly – sting like a bee’ he had, but my personal choice was Aldis Hodge’s portrayal of Jim Brown, especially as Mr. Brown is still the only member here still alive. Hodge captured him as I someone who supported his friend, yet was also moving in the direction of ‘going Hollywood’ at time when not many men of colour had that opportunity. I think my only beef is the female co-stars Joaquina Kalukango as Betty X and Nicolette Robinson as Cooke’s wife Barbara, got the short shrift here with a scarce amount of lines, but then it is a story about the four men so on the other hand, it makes sense. Add in the wonderful Lance Reddick, Michael Imperioli, Beau Bridges in supporting roles and you’ve got yourself kicking up more notches up to round out this film. The production design, costumes, and soundtrack were beautiful and having said that, there are parts of the dialogue which are genuinely stirring.

‘One Night in Miami’ is an absorbing & entertaining film about the power of these men who while having some conflicting ideals, are really all striving for the same common goal.

Grade: B+

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Review screening: Courtesy oGinsberg/Libby PR

“ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI” IS OUT IN SELECT THEATERS WHERE AVAILABLE AND COMING TO PRIME VIDEO ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 15, 2021

REVIEW: “NOMADLAND” (2020) Searchlight Pictures

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Opening titles of the film: “On January 31, 2011, due to a reduced demand for sheetrock, US Gypsum shut down it’s plant in Empire, Nevada, after 88 years. By July, the Empire zip code, 89405, was discontinued.”

And thus we begin our journey into this remarkable film which gives us an eye opening look into what happens to the people who have worked their entire lives at one job, where their livelihood and all they know, is suddenly taken from them. Where they are then forced to pack up and vacate due to the fact the company they gave their lives to, also owned their homes. From that opening we follow Fern (Frances McDormand), a hard-working 60-something widow who has lived her entire adult life with her husband who recently passed from cancer, in Empire, NV. before it became a ghost town. With no choice but to convert her van into a home on wheels to live in, we see Fern adopt a semi-nomadic lifestyle and initially she starts off working for Amazon before deciding to leave and start moving from place to place as she hustles from part-time job to part-time job while travelling through the campgrounds of America.

The various jobs that she works throughout the film and the people she interacts with all complement the film’s character development giving us an insight most of us will never be privy to. While most of the supporting characters are not in the film for too long, they are all thoroughly unique and interesting as well. Along the way, Fern meets and makes friends with others in her same situation, sort of a group of mostly elderly outcasts who’ve been equally affected by America’s crippling recession. While new friends like Swankie (Charlene Swankie), the sweet Linda (Linda May), and silver-haired David (David Strathairn), who clearly wants more than just a friendship with her, Fern seems to have committed to the nomad lifestyle. While all these people in the caravans that travel around are all feeling out what is in front of them, they are also all finding the independence of this unplanned situation both freeing and limiting. You truly empathize for them and realize that the nomad lifestyle is not only one rooted in hardship, such as financial difficulty, but can also be one of hope for some of them and puts forth the struggles each of them face within themselves and others.

This isn’t completely all about one woman’s journey, it’s truly a movie about life and although the film is slow paced, it is so well done and entertaining that time flies. It was also very clever of our uncomparable female director Chloe Zhao, to cast non-actors and genuine nomads in a lot of the roles as it really give it a genuine feel into nomadic life and I wish everyone of them could be named here as they were all wonderful. There is a lot of reasons to watch this film and probably one of the biggest is Francis McDormand’s one woman showcase that she gives us here, carrying almost the entire movie on her shoulders alone with ease and it’s a beauty of a performance to be sure. ‘Captivating’ is the closest one word description one comes to as watching this woman attempting to keep it all together while still grappling with the grief of her husband’s death and the loneliness of the open road makes you feel as though you’re taking the journey with her. You can’t ask for her to give much else than that.

Along with all of that, you have the stunning cinematography that shows us the beautiful nature and appealing beauty of the American West. Truly, Chloe Zhao is the Queen of the beautifully done, long winding road films – films that visually show us not only a terrifically done story, but that there really is still so much beauty in this world to be seen and had.

Grade: A

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“NOMADLAND” IS OUT IN THEATERS WHERE AVAILABLE (OVERSEAS) AND COMING TO THE U.S. IN FEBRUARY 2021

REVIEW: “NEWS OF THE WORLD” (2020) Universal Pictures

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Adapting a beloved book can be a tricky thing and Paulette Jiles“NEWS OF THE WORLD” is no different a challenge to that here. But if we have learned one thing from films all these years, it would be that Tom Hanks would be the one who would be able to pull this off and make it along with Director Paul Greengrass, taking full advantage of our faith in Hanks acting abilities here.

In this visually phenomenal film version Tom Hanks is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who takes newspapers and then travels from one small town to another and for 10-cents admission and a sense of panache’- Kidd reads the news stories to weary people looking for a distraction. While traveling one day, he comes across a blonde hair-blue eyed young girl dressed in Native American wear who speaks no English, only Kiowa. With her caretaker having been lynched in front of her, the papers Kidd finds among her things are notes that she is 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), a young girl who’d been raised by Kiowa tribe and is now being returned against her will to her natural German aunt and uncle of whom she knows nothing about.

The film is all about the journey, which the captain undertakes with the girl reluctantly as the she rebels against this so hard at first, his conundrum is realizing the only guarantee of her safe return is if he takes her, and reluctantly we watch as the Captain agrees to accompany her on the journey home. In the long run it bares down to essentially being: two people, a wagon and two horses, driving through the vast nothingness. And as the two encounter numerous precarious situations along the way they begin to bond with each attempting to learn the others ways and language. Along the harrowing journey, encountering moments of true danger in almost each town they enter and every new territorial line they cross. Early on when they are cornered by a trio of swarthy men who want to ‘buy’ the girl, the tense build up that prevails and follows us throughout the journey can be dramatic and even terrifying at times, but eventually this is what will bring them together the closer as they come to the end of the journey and the pointed note of separating.

Zengel doesn’t say much throughout the film, but she has a wonderfully expressive face that speaks volumes with her eyes and it’s easy to believe that she has seen horrors. And even though this undoubtedly adds to Hanks’ performance, even as she’s saying nothing, her pain, her fear is palpable and Hanks plays well on this attribute. But make no mistake whose film this is – as the way Hanks portrays Kidd is the sort of performance that just seems written in stone for him and it’s a perfect vehicle for him and surprising in sorts to see him in a Western. There are numerous supporting cast who also help push the film along with Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Ray McKinnon and Bill Camp to name a few. The movie itself is stirring despite there being no surprise in knowing where the story is headed once Johanna appears – and yes there are some grim sequences but overall its quite an enjoyable watch.

Grade: B+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“NEWS OF THE WORLD” IS OUT ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THEATERS/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON NETFLIX IN JANUARY 2021

REVIEW: “PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN” (2020) Focus Features

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Emerald Fennell is tackling the “paybacks are a bitch” scenario putting front and center the toxic behaviour we have all experienced at one time or another as women as she turns the tables and changes the game in a whole new way with her directorial debut here in “PROMISING YOUNG WOMEN”. This is also hands down probably 2020’s best film of the year, along with it being the one that you MUST see for yourself and not read the spoilers before seeing it as it was made to be entertaining, but also very BLUNT to get an important message across. ‘Promising Young Woman’ challenges at every turn the idea of what a “good guy” actually is.

Like so many other films have done before it, the movie gives us an incredible new take on the anger I think a lot of women feel, but it also doesn’t completely vilify men as a gender purely because they are men. Fennell’s stellar direction is so meticulous as it zigs exactly when you think it’s going to zag and zags exactly when you think it’s going zig with twists and turns during every jaw-dropping second of it.

Doing my absolute best to give you the outlining of the plot without a massive spoiler the jist is: Carey Mulligan plays Cassandra Thomas, a brilliant former med student who seemingly had a bright future until a disturbing event clearly turned her life upside down. It’s an event so stunning that we the audience don’t know what it is, but it’s affected her life in a grave manner. As we slowly watch and find out those said events unfold, just turned 30 year old Cassie still lives at home with her parents Susan (Jennifer Coolidge) and Stanley (Clancy Brown), works at a coffee shop, and doesn’t date or have any friends. But by night, she sits in a club, face down in a red leatherette booth, seemingly black out drunk. It’s a nightly routine – she goes to a club, acts too drunk to stand, and waits for a “nice” guy to come over and see if she’s okay. Needless to say Cassie leads a very different life as there is definitely something else here at play as she attempts to right a past wrong, very cynically and calculating as she does so. So she is living this secret double life at night…until she isn’t..or is this one of those zig zags mentioned earlier? Again, this is for you to find out and find out you will as every single delicious moment of this thriller come at you over and over again.

Promising Young Woman also give us an impressive supporting cast. From Adam Brody as her first ‘conquest’ Jerry to Bo Burnham as our cutesy-type doctor RyanLaverne Cox as her delicately blunt boss Gail, and Alison Brie who nails her role as former medical school classmate Madison while demonstrating how truly insidious and internalized misogyny can be and how this type of toxic behavior is often normalized in both men and women. Max GreenfieldAlfred Molina, Molly Shannon and Connie Britton all show up for impressive performances and Chris Lowell as Al Monroe is a character no one will be forgetting any time soon. And then there is Carey and Oh Carey! what a performance this is. Her wicked-bad acting powers this film all the way through as she salutes what her character stands for – which is essentially all of us. Never have I seen her take something and truly encompass all that female rage, romance, heartbreak and horror brings us all, in one spectacular performance.

As a warning, the ending is difficult, but at the same time, you can’t see it ending any other way as it’s a cross between triggering, healing and educational all wrapped up and honestly it’s true – revenge has never looked so ‘promising’. Please go see it.

Grade: A+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy oGinberg/Libby PR

“PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN” IS OUT ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THEATERS/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON VOD IN JANUARY

REVIEW: “GREENLAND” (2020) STX Films

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Gerard Butler is back in action mode in “GREENLAND” and me going in with a certain amount of skepticism on this one isn’t going to shock anyone. Surprisingly enough, considering the last years of his career haven’t given us the best of films, here Butler gives us some of his best action acting in years as “Greenland” is quite an entertaining motion picture for the most part.

The movie begins with John Garrity (Gerard Butler) a Scottish-born structural engineer visiting his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). John and Allison are separated but working towards a reconciliation. Nathan is fascinated by the stars and the comet nicknamed ‘Clark’ that is shooting ‘small particles’ towards earth and the story being told across the news is there will be no major disaster effect from the comet. While getting ready for a festive neighborhood gathering the Garrity’s have a room full of friends over, when a presidential alert appears on their TV and phone telling them to pack some bags and drive to a close by airfield. This is when the film kicks it up a major notch in the tension as things start to go awry immediately with not only the neighbors, but the whole question of why they were picked. Even the drive to the airfield is building up to something we aren’t sure of but as they are ushered in and just before they are about to board the plane the separation plot kicks in and admittedly it’s not as silly as one might think as it’s actually told very logically why.

Now this might sound like your typical disaster movie but trust me it’s not quite. “Greenland” is smart in how it handles it’s characters and the plot is not always straight forward. The movie tries less to create tension with the looming disaster but rather does so through the human element and the different characters the family members meet on their way. From the seemingly ‘helpful’ couple Ralph (David Denman) and Judy (Hope Davis), to Colin (Andrew Bachelor) they both encounter a number of harrowing experiences in order to hopefully meet up again at Grandpa Dale’s (Scott Glenn) house. The whole separation journey to find each other again is wrought with a great edge of your seat tension as we get to experience what each of the family members do and would do in order to be together again. As well, even when they’re separated, the Garrity’s stay the focus of the movie even as they meet both the good and the bad in the people they meet along the way.

Unfortunately the second half of the film seems as it was unprepared for what it was supposed to become after the excitement of the first half. The tension level drops to low digits and it just never picks back up again. CGI takes over and it loses it’s edge it created for us in the first hour. Acting wise again, Butler gives us a his best effort in a long time, and Baccarin is good. The supporting characters they all met on the journey were all very well done, my only iffy is with child actor Floyd who just doesn’t seem to change the dramatic expression on his face for a good half of the film which at points of seriousness, gave to moments of giggles.

Though it’s definitely a worthwhile entertaining watch, ‘Greenland’ is a raw, tension-filmed disaster film that showcases both the noble and dark sides of human nature, when disaster strikes and ultimately doesn’t come together with it’s two halves, into a completely satisfying package.

Grade: C+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy oSTX FILMS

“GREENLAND” IS NOW AVAILABLE IN THEATERS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON VOD

REVIEW: “SOUND OF METAL” (2020) Amazon Studios

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SOUND OF METAL” is an exploration into not only the reality of those who are deaf of which so much is so poorly represented in film and television, but also what the destructive nature and high cost of denial and self-deception can lead to in the face of the hard truths that come to light. This first feature from Writer-Director Darius Marder – gives an insightful look into a world where sounds can’t be taken for granted and uses the hearing loss of a heavy metal drummer to explore what happens when the life we know is suddenly snatched away.

Riz Ahmed is Ruben, a speed metal/punk drummer for the band Blackgammon, along with his lead singer/girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) who screams out the punk-style lyrics for the band. We watch as Ruben’s euphoria in the moment of drumming is clearly within himself (all the while noting his many tattoos including the Please Kill Me across his chest) and change dramatically during a performance. Afterwards, we see the happy couple living a nomadic lifestyle in their RV in what seems to be a perfectly simple life of a clean-eating, smoothie drinking band on tour not reflected in their style of music. The first crack in the facade of things is seeing Lou’s scratching from anxiety and you realize something might be up with Ruben as well.

The core conflict of this film is when Ruben learns that he is having hearing issues with it leading into his learning that the hearing condition will not only worsen but could be permanent, as he goes against all advice given to slow down the music career and talks ‘options’. Instead Ruben whom we also find out is a recovering addict, just goes full steam ahead in defiance and frustration in trying to figure out how he will afford cochlear implants to get his hearing back and life will once again be “normal”. Ahmid’s wonderful performance here allows us to feel and experience the moment Ruben realizes he has a problem, and how he begins to process this. His girlfriend however, can see the writing on the wall and wants desperately for him to get better and accept his condition as she is the one who moves to get Ruben into a rehab for the deaf. But this is anything but easy as there is immediate tension between Ruben and Joe (Paul Raci), the head honcho who runs the rehab. Why this immediate tension is put to the forefront is due to the very real split within the deaf community and the feelings surrounding cochlear implants and whether being deaf is something that needs “fixed” or is even a disability. Note: Deaf people have managed just fine for many years without implants and have formed entire communities and relationships that don’t define them as being disabled… hence the problems with what Ruben wants to do versus if it really needs to be done. The quality of the writing and acting here though, really give you thought as to looking at both sides here and that is what gives us all pause as is he right or wrong in what he wants.

Yet, as loud and vibrated ‘Sound of Metal’ really is, there is a sense of tranquility to it with the rest of the film carrying out the process of all the questions we wanted answers to. Did Ruben finally accept that his deafness wasn’t necessarily the life-ending disability he thought it was? Did he feel guilty over the way he left things at the rehab? Does he feel like the surgery might be a mistake? Whether you agree or not what we all can agree on agree is that the use of sound in this film was absolutely fantastic and incredibly artful and you very much feel like you are living in Ruben’s headspace. At many points throughout the movie, we hear things exactly as Ruben does, whether that means hearing nothing at all or just muffled sounds. Again, Riz Ahmed is wonderful in this role and proves his career is only on going up. up and away. Olivia Cooke didn’t give me much with a one expression, one note performance even when outwardly she changed dramatically. Paul Raci is top note as well as the rest of the small supporting cast throughout.

The clarity and intense scenes of silence are some of the most captivating and devastatingly powerful throughout the film.  It leaves open the possibility for people to take away from it what they want and the beauty of it all again is seeing both sides of the story as it will definitely make you feel something one way or the other.

Grade: A-

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy oAmazon Studios

“SOUND OF METAL” IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME

REVIEW: “SONGBIRD” (2020) STX Films

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During a pandemic we all might wonder if it’s really a good time for a pandemic film right now – the answer isn’t really definitive as none of us want a something that will instill a probable cause of more anxiety. And considering the staggering amount of cases being reported, the horrible handling of it all and more deaths in one day than 9/11, some might shy away from this one. But yet “SONGBIRD” didn’t instill that in my sometimes anxiety ridden self as it tells an actual story, not a great one, but a story it does have and it wasn’t any worse than the horrible handling that is happening first hand of the actual Covid-19 virus at present.

It’s also essentially the first studio film to be shot in Los Angeles during the pandemic showing us it can be done with all protocols and testing being followed and that is a good thing with the bringing of employment and cash flow back into the city. This one though isn’t dealing with Covid-19 but is set in 2024 with the virus having mutated into another deadlier level aptly called Covid-23 and millions have now died from it. The country is not only under martial law, but has been in complete lockdown for a few years. You must do a viral scan each and every morning and anyone who is infected will be taken by force if necessary and sent into overcrowded quarantine camps again, aptly called ‘Q-Zones’.

There are as with any disease known, people who are immune and these lucky few are given a yellow coded bracelet to wear as proof. Nico (K.J. Apa) is one of these lucky immune people and he is employed by a delivery company owned by Lester (Craig Robinson) which as no one is allowed to step out of their house, an extremely lucrative business. Especially of course to the rich and wealthy as noted by Lester “The rich need their stuff”. Lester monitors all his staff through high tech GPS and an agoraphobic disabled vet Dozer (Paul Walter Hauser) who operates delivery surveillance drones to make sure they get their stuff. The rich here being the Griffin family consisting of William (Bradley Whitford) and Piper (Demi Moore) and daughter with pre-existing conditions Emma (Lia McHugh). William and Emma are not happily married and they are also underground dealers of those special yellow bracelets that can make travel for other rich people possible. Nico is also busy trying to help his girlfriend Sara (Sofia Carson), with whom he has never had a face to face conversion with as their connection is through phone screens and her front door. Sara lives with her grandma Lita (Elpidia Carrillo) who might be at risk of passing her Covid scan. Lastly is of course our villain Emmett Harland (Peter Stormare) who leads the so-called ‘Department of Sanitation’ crew who take the sick to the Q-Zones.

All of this happens very very quickly as writer/director Adam Mason throws everything at us at a very quick paced 90 minutes of runtime. There is no acting standouts here although it was nice to see Demi Moore still giving it a go – though not a fan of her glasses look, she played the bad/good person here well enough. Apa and Carson have a good chemistry even though their whole relationship is done through screens, it was believable. And credit must be given that someone can make a film at all right now let alone write it, pitch it, get it made and released all during a lockdown. Was there moments where you realize with how badly things have been handled, and where empathy is definitely a lacking trait in realization of how many have passed already, yes and it’s definitely not a hope-filled, joyous look at a future that none of us want to see, but there is a story behind it all.

All in all, giving credit where credit is due and while not the best film of 2020, it’s also not it’s worst.

Grade: C-

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Review screening: Courtesy of STX Films

“SONGBIRD” IS NOW AVAILABLE ON VOD