INSTA-REVIEW: “UGLY DOLLS” (2019) STX Entertainment

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“Ugly Dolls” brings a wonderful adaptation of the kids books to the big screen. It’s sweet story with a wonderful message behind it all, that is actually for kids!! No double entendre here nor is it filled with references like a few other kids movies, that go right over their heads..nope..this one is truly for the kids and its lovely.

Also different and very enjoyable, is the voice cast is made up almost entirely of music superstars. Kelly Clarkson voices our plucky pink doll heroine Moxy with Janelle Monáe coming in as Mandy, Moxy’s ally.  Nick Jonas and Blake Shelton offer up their voices as rivals Lou and Ox, the leaders of their respective town’s of Perfection and Uglyville. And most surprising, is a fun debut by Pitbull as Ugly Dog who is one slick rapper!! 😁

The storyline of Moxy wanting to break out of Uglyville and find a child who will love her for all her imperfections could be any one of us charting our way thru life. Being held back at all points by people telling you only the perfect ‘dolls’ can pass thru life and find true happiness, only to learn to embrace herself and fearlessly show others how to love themselves and flaws can be special and there is truly someone out there to love us all.. it’s a sweet, strong message that all children should be taught.

The music/songs are wonderful and catchy tunes you will find yourself singing long after the movie is over. My message to you is to take your kids and yourself to see this one..you will be happy you did.

Grade: B
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Media Premiere Review Screening: Saturday, April 27, 2019 ~ Courtesy of STX Entertainment (post carnival event was absolutely amazing with giant slide, fun house, face painting and so much more for the kids!)

“UGLY DOLLS” IS IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2019

Side note: Running into Kelly Clarkson & Gwen Stefani on the side street while walking up as they were having a nice chat – was a good highlight! 🙂

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INSTA-REVIEW: “LONG SHOT” (2019) Lionsgate

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Charlize Theron hasn’t been the best at comedies.. that all changes with Long Shot . Paired up with Seth Rogan here is maybe the key as their characters really have nothing in common. Charlotte (Theron) is running for President and needs a speech writer.. Fred Flarsky (Rogan) is actually a kid she used to babysit whom had an undying crush on her. 20 years later he comes on board her team as said speech writer.
You would think such an odd pairing would have no chemistry..but they most definitely do. And while you won’t find any breaking out of the box – rom com formula here.. it is just a good fun ride of a comedy.
The supporting cast help make that happen in a big way, most especially June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel. Bob Odenkirk lends a hand as POTUS, Andy Serkis is thrown in for a bit Alexander Skarsgård as Canadian PM & potential romantic partner for Theron, is hysterical as playing the cad. The weakest support coming from O’Shea Jacksons character of Lance, BFF to Fred.

All in all Long Shot – while formulatic, is a fun watch!
Grade: B-

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Review Screening: Monday, April 8, 2019 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV meetup.

 

REVIEW: “THE BEST OF ENEMIES” (2019) STX – Q & A: Taraji P. Henson, Robin Bissell

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How you ask, can you possibly conceive the idea that a story born of such hatred could possible be sweet and touching.  Well the answer to that lies in not only the story itself, but the powerhouse acting chops of both Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell, whom work so well together here to effortlessly to ignite a strong chemistry between the two in “The Best of Enemies”. This on-screen connection creates a film so monumental, and unbelievable, you almost forget it’s based on a true story.

Enemies follows the tale of Ann Atwater (Taraji P Henson), a civil rights activist in Durham, North Carolina, during the 1970s as she works with charm and determination to vouch for school integration. She is met with adversity in the shape of C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a leader of the Durham chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

When the local black elementary school is severely damaged by a fire, the students are forced to continue learning in the damaged building, rather than be bused to the local white school. Hope seems lost in a town overwhelmingly dominated by the power and fear of the KKK.  But in steps a man named Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) who organizes a ‘charette’ which is essentially a meeting for Durham citizens to voice their opinions on the issue of segregated schools and come to a decision. When Riddick chooses Atwater and Ellis as the chairpersons of the event, the film’s narrative of an unlikely friendship fully begins.

The only misstep for Enemies was the clunky writing at some parts, more so at the beginning before the narrative is fully developed. Some bits of dialogue sound rather cliche, as if they could’ve been lifted from any other period piece and inserted into the script.  But director Robin Bissell distracts from that with technical directions that make the film realistic. One of the most interesting, well-made choices was in depicting the KKK: Rather than showing overdone scenes of the group terrorizing a black family’s home or something of the sort, klansmen are often shown bullying or harassing other white citizens of Durham who sympathize with black people

While Enemies is not a perfect film, the tale is so compelling and intriguing that you wonder why this story isn’t written in history books.  It is a lovely depiction of a piece of history with a great, albiet predictable ending the film has a powerful message told in a style all will appreciate. I especially loved the video remarks by the real characters during the end credits noting the significance of Atwater and Ellis’ friendship, is timeless.

Grade: C+

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Screening: March 25th, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Film Independent

POST Q & A w/Taraji P. Henson & Robin Bissell

Henson is a lively speaker and noted all about her transformation to Atwater was very deliberate, especially with her physical appearance. Henson noted that somebody involved with the film contacted Tyler Perry to inquire about the prosthetic boobs for his well-known character, Madea.

“I was like, ‘this suit needs to effect the way I walk,’” Henson said. “‘I can’t look like I’m walking like Taraji. I really have to walk differently, move differently.’”

Rockwell’s character is a tad more complex, as he goes through more of an ethical, moral transformation. However, Rockwell manages to precisely wield Ellis’ mannerisms to progressively edge closer to his final form, peeling away to find layers of compassion within Ellis that were not initially obvious as themes of hope are evident throughout the film, as  noted by Bissell.

“I have three daughters, and I hope they can be inspired by someone like Ann Atwater,” she said. “You can have an effect on the world and change the world if you really go out there and give it a shot, and I think Ann did that.”

“Forty-eight years later, not a lot has changed,” Bissell said. “We thought it did, or white people hoped it did … it’s not better. And so every once in a while, you need some water splashed on your face.”

INSTA-REVIEW: “US” (2019) Universal

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Sadly, this most over-hyped movie of 2019 so far, is also going down as the most underwhelming of 2019 so far.US” and JordanPeele were clearly trying way to hard on this one and it’s not even close to repeating “GetOut” in comedy, drama or horror.

Graphic violence isn’t scary in the slightest. Forced comedy isn’t funny. And basic acting is not a performance. Being disappointed in this film doesn’t quite sum up how I felt. And while you get what is trying to be said, there are also things that I just don’t think can be explained. I mean rabbits anyone??? Anyone got that part figured out yet?! To say the metaphors were all to blatant or that it’s just to heavy-handed is an understatement. You spend the whole film trying to unpack and decipher the story so much, that it sucks any enjoyment you might have found right out.

None of the acting by Lupita Nyong’o Elisabeth Moss Winston Duke  Tim Heidecker or anyone else in the film is noteworthy. I guess my disappointment is highlighted so much by the fact I wanted it to be so good. Again, high expectations and low delivery = unhappy movie watching .
Grade: D
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, March 19, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal

 

INSTA-REVIEW: “THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT” (2019) The Orchid Pictures

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#TheHummingbirdProject let’s us all remember that bringing a film about technology i.e., programming & data analysis..is a difficult topic to make entertaining. And while they don’t dumb it down here and you are able to understand the whats and the whys, you also have to deal with loads of time spent on the parables of how taking one millisecond aka the flap of a Hummingbird’s wings, of processing time of stocks, can make or break the difference of millions of dollars in the stock market.

In between you have to deal with another one of  JesseEisenberg ‘s lackluster, one note performances about how he is contractually trying to get this whole thing done. His polar opposite brains behind the operation is AlexanderSkarsgard who goes against the grain playing a paunchy, balding computer nerd who saves the film from being downright terrible with a dance..yes a dance! Also helpful in adding some much needed humor though is MichaelMando and SalmaHayak though Hayak is given little screen time, she makes the most of it.
So not the most exciting subject matter movie out there, but at least it never makes you feel silly and explains itself well. Just not exciting enough to watch a pipeline being built to make it a great watch.
Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Courtesy of 42West PR.

INSTA-REVIEW: “THE KID” (2019) LIONSGATE

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Catching up on my reviews for March by doing a few Insta-Reviews. This first one is #TheKid which you would think would be another story about #BillytheKid ..and it sort of is.

It’s a story about another kid #Rio played by JakeSchur who is sorta rescued by Billy the Kid DaneDeHaan who is then captured by Pat Garrett  EthanHawke and they try to find Rio’s sister Sara LeilaGeorge who was abducted by their uncle Grant, played by a completely unrecognizable ChrisPratt . If you feel confused, you might be spot on as it’s quite a dragging storyline directed by VincentDOnofrio – the acting is terrible by everyone but DeHaan who brings a bit of life to this version of Billy. On the whole, there is a reason this one has slipped in and out of theaters before you could see it.
Grade: D+
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Media Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate 

REVIEW: “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” (2019) MGM

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A movie, whether based on a true story or fictional one, may be a blend of both facts and fictionalized scenes and events. “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” seems to be case in point depending on whom you speak to.  But instead of pointing out fact v. fiction, just sit back watch and enjoy this one folks.  Let go of the being overly critical all the time as ‘Fighting with my Family’ might have its flaws and not be completely true down to the line, it definitely does have its charms.

Probably the first thing you will do is a double take on the director and writer and make sure if it is THE Stephen Merchant doing triple duty here writing/directing/starring in this film. Turns out it is, which immediately ups the ‘interesting’ level a notch or two.  Even more crazy is to think that Merchant did not know a thing about wrestling before taking on the project.

Inspired by the story of the Knight family, the film tells the story of Saraya “Paige” Bevis (Florence Pugh) and her desire to become a female wrestler.  With the odds against her, along with a family of completely wrestling crazed parents in dad Ricky (Nick Frost), mom Julia (Lena Heady) and brother Zak (Jack Lowden), all of whom put on wrestling shows and train others in Norwich, a small suburb in the UK.  Paige and her brother get called up for a WWE tryout, but with only Paige making the cut, Zak is completely devastated and Paige must deal with not only this, but the drastic change her life is taking and the hard road to living out her dream of being a WWE Superstar.

The next hour is filled with what it’s like to attend the WWE school of hard knocks led by Hutch (Vince Vaughn), and how to alienate and then make best friends with your competition.  This part can sometimes just be all to consuming as we’ve seen this type of story many times before.  Overcoming adversity to win the challenge at the end and it’s here that the film can’t help feeling clichéd. The saving grace here is the flashbacks to Zak being left behind in Norwich and where his life is heading, or seemingly not heading to and it’s got some truly lovely, heartwarming story line.  But training montage footage galore, sibling rivalry leading to a profound confrontation that resolves the issue, and the underdog overcoming the odds gives no surprises to the ending.   Now of course, it’s going to pump in the Hollywood magic to try to help the movie. The Rock is throughout the movie, and while he wasn’t truly vital to Paige’s career, his scenes are fun. The actors do an amazing job with their roles, and have very good comedic chemistry. This movie is witty and charming but at times, it’s all over the place.

The initial presentation of the Knight family rang true, authentic and affable. Putting it in their actual home was a good idea. Frost and Headey were great in the roles as Paige’s parents and Puge did a very good job as Paige. Lowden as her brother made a good mentor, but it also tried to take the high road and make Paige an angelic character.  However, from what I understand, if you are a fan of Paige or the Knight family at all, you will quickly start to see fictionalized moments, exaggerations and inaccuracies. These are something that as a viewer who has no knowledge of the wrestling world, will not impact in the slightest.  No matter this situation, everyone will recognize names such as Hulk Hogan and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – and of course The Rock with his signature “If you smell what The Rock is cooking” done a few times for good measure – makes you realize how far this guy has come.

Overall, the film maintains a good balance of comedy and drama and you don’t need to know anything about WWE or sports entertainment to enjoy the film. Merchant does a good job for his first run here.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening Monday, February 11, 2019 ~  courtesy of LAFTV meetup