REVIEW: “DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA (2022) Focus Features

“Why would anyone want the actors to talk I would have thought silence would be a blessing.” Dowager Countess of Grantham

There is one thing you can always count on when visiting Downton Abbey – it’s a busy place. People hustling and bustling around, from the Crawley family themselves, to all the downstairs employees who are a family unto their own.

But as all things do – time goes on and things change. Hence we find ourselves with “DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA” and boy what an era this turns out to be for all at Downtown. So much is changing in the world and this new Downtown Era transfers beautifully to the film screen, mostly because it has a new vision and a new director in Michael Engler. The original cast whom we’ve all come to know and love is mostly back with Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), as always leading the way and as is tradition, she gets most of the best lines. The Granthams’ Robert (Hugh Bonneville), and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), as well as daughters Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), and sister Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), are back as well with their families, though notably missing is Henry Talbot whose is away racing cars. This doesn’t bode well with Mary as she feels this takes precedence in his life and this might lead to a ‘wandering eye’ here or there. Though front and center is Tom (Allan Leech), who opens the film with his marriage being celebrated by all to Lucy (Tuppence Middleton).

The family and titles might be a bit hard to keep up with, but fans of the series have no problems remembering them all, For new fans, this film really has done a superb job in opening up the plot and the setting in this film in a truly new era.

The are two revolving plot lines in a New Era, one brings us the future, but the other brings us to the past. More specifically, the Dowager Countess’ past. But as half the household vacates Downton leaving Lady Mary behind to manage things at home. The rest of the family including Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), vacate to a beautiful seaside villa in the South of France that Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham has mysteriously inherited from a Count that she met many many years ago. The Villa and the scenery surrounding the mystery is of course beautiful, but it also opens up the story to some very emotional family disclosures, and I will leave it there as the Countess herself notes: “I will say goodnight… and leave you to discuss my mysterious past.” And to tell you more would spoil it all.

On our other story set within the film, we watch as Downton Abbey moves to 1929 and with it, brings in not just the jazz age, but the movies itself within its doors. Movie lovers will remember that 1929, also heralded the end of the Silent movie era and talkies were taking over and the movie industry itself was being revolutionized with this. They manage to fit a lot in here with this theme as Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy), comes to town as a director wanting to make a movie using Downton as his location, also something that is changing – shooting from the backlots of studios to actual location shoots. Since Downton has fallen into some disrepair, the large location fee is most welcome – as is some of the movies cast, bringing in two famous silent films stars Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock), much to the enthrallment of Daisy (Sophie McShera) and Anna (Joanna Froggat).

The music score in this movie by John Lunn with the Downton theme that is so familiar to it’s audience, is effective in this movie and perfectly suits the family dynamics emotional side. As well, the wonderful soundtrack additions of the Jazz Age and songs of the era to round it all out. This film manages to have strong female characters and not only that but it’s also the perfect example on how to include gay characters without it feeling forced. Add in a certain amount of hi-jinx all around, and you’ve got yourself the follow-up movie we all needed.

The two stories are quite beautifully woven together and with so much of the original cast present, along with some wonderful new additions- this one works well in updating the story if this family we never seem to tire of.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Friday, May 13, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA” FROM FOCUS FEATURES IS NOW IN THEATERS

REVIEW: “THE INNOCENTS” (2022) IFC MIDNIGHT

There are films that sometimes just reach out and grab you in the most unexpected manor. “THE INNOCENTS” from Norwegian director Eskil Vogt is just that film. It is wildly creepy, slick horror with a fantasy and drama element thrown in. And it’s a film you will not soon forget. It’s based around four children – two sisters, along with a boy and a girl from the local neighborhood they move to.

The film begins with the two young girls moving into a new apartment complex with their parents during Summer break. As children do, they look for others to befriend and play with and soon the two girls meet other kids in the complex, when something strange starts to happen.
As these young children come together they come to realize they are ‘connected’ in a way that is both evil personified and good personified.

THE INNOCENTS –

Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), is an adorable little girl and is the younger of the two sisters. Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad), Ida’s older sister is autistic and mostly non-verbal. At first, Ida seems like a troublemaker, as we see her pinch her sister, as if checking to see if she is for real as Anna doesn’t cry out or seem to notice the pain from it. For Ida, her sister represents competition for time with her parents, as their focus and energy is mostly spent dealing with Anna’s condition, Ida becomes sadly, sort of an afterthought as she doesn’t require the time and effort Anna does. But here in lies the delicacy of the wonderful acting by Fløttum as she is sublime at showing her character’s growth throughout the film. Then there is Ben (Sam Ashraf), a young boy from the complex and the first friend Ida meets. Ben is a myriad of complexities, with a mean streak driving his taste for violence and inflicting pain on others. Ashraf is absolutely haunting in this role. And lastly we have young Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), the compass if you will, of the group of four and the youngest. She is also somehow the only person who can communicate with Anna at first. Together as a group, these children can be just that, children, or something much much more, and therein lies the chilling effects of this film. The four children play off of each other so phenomenally, which is pivotal, considering they are our main focus throughout the film.

As well, the film is beautifully shot, edited with good sound design, which helps the movie to reach and hold the viewers attention – and then some. The movie is relentless and does not hold back, as certain scenes may be too graphic – but also quite a punch in the gut for some viewers. What the most chilling aspect to watch is the children because as they become aware of their power and it grows, so does the tension within. The Innocents addresses some serious adult themes that we are aware are too grown-up for the small group of children thrown together to deal with, all unaware of the others markings, but it makes the film all the more suspenseful and disturbing.

THE INNOCENTS

Vogt mastery of combining drama, fantasy, and horror in a compelling way is completely on point here. The story being told isn’t one where kids are committing violence for no reason, it’s more in depth than that. It’s more about the fantasy world kids often live in and their lack of understanding when it comes to the very real consequences of their actions, should they ever be given powers beyond their years. As well, there is no big reveal ever on how the children obtained the powers, and honestly, the question never arose in my mind on that as it’s really not the purpose of the story. The purpose is what happens once they do have those abilities and how they act on them – more the good vs. evil tone and the fact that these children as actors, pull it all off while making their debut’s – is truly a piece of excellence in itself.

Grade: B+

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Review Screening: Courtesy of IFC MIDNIGHT

“THE INNOCENTS” IS NOW IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE AND VOD.

REVIEW: “HAPPENING” (2022) IFC FILMS

The past dictates our future in so many ways. So being somewhat traumatized by a film isn’t always a bad thing when that film is so important to whom you are as a person. And nothing could be more prevalent at this moment than Director Audrey Diwan’s film “HAPPENING” based on the semi-autobiographical novel from French novelist Annie Ernaux (originally entitled “L’Événement“). It’s speaks up from the past, not just telling us – but showing us all as well – the true brutality and horrors of what exists when women across the world lose their freedom of choice over their own body.

HAPPENING

The film takes us back in time to France in 1963, Abortion is illegal. Birth control is illegal. Told from the point of view of the main character Anne Duchesne (Anamaria Vartolomei), in close up and close quarters, we embark on this vivid, often hard to watch, journey with her.

Anne, Hélène (Luàna Bajrami), and Brigitte (Louise Orry-Diquéro), are college dorm-mates studying literature, and they are all getting ready to go to a dance. When they arrive, the room is full with men and women dancing though because of the times they are in, there is an undercurrent of having too much fun means you are loose or easy. In the weeks after the dance, we see Anne continually check if she has gotten her period and write “rien” meaning nothing, repeatedly in her diary. When her pregnancy is confirmed by the local doctor, she asks him to do something, but he declines and urges her not to speak about it. Later, as things are progressing and Anne is clearly slipping, she visits another doctor, who is supposedly sympathetic to her condition and prescribes a drug that will guarantee a miscarriage. She learns, however, much later, that the doctor lied to her and the drug is designed to actually strengthen the not yet formed fetus inside her.

HAPPENING

Anne’s friends through all of this present an array of reactions with Bridgette, the supposed more sexually liberated one, keeping her distance and instead it’s the usually quiet and shy Hélène who seems to be the more accepting and understanding of the two. Most surprisingly is Olivia (Louise Chevillotte), once Anne’s nemesis, steps up to the plate and proves to be vital ally when everything starts to spin out of control. The two become unexpectedly connected during a pivotal – and unforgettable scene that had me gripping my seat and squirming wanting to cover my eyes – but you can’t – because while traumatic, it is all to very real. 

While “Happening” depicts the very real story of a young girl who’s forced to make a very tough decision in a time where you didn’t have the freedom to choose, it’s director Audrey Diwan, whose choices here are so effective in making us live every single moment with Anne. She does a great job of depicting the social stigma and incredible secrecy Anne is forced to suffer through, just because she doesn’t want to let a baby dictate her life. You feel not just sad for her situation, but angry for what she is put through, and most of all, you root for her to find a way out before it’s too late, hopefully without any serious repercussions. The disillusionment she receives from her doctor and friends is upsetting to watch, not to mention she can’t even tell her family for fear of the shame it will bring.

The more weeks that pass by, the more stressed Anne gets and we the audience get as there is a sense of urgency throughout due to the spectacular performance of Anamaria Vartolomei. She conveys every single moment for you in such realism that there is almost a sense of relief when she finally gets to the back-alley abortion clinic after raising the money by selling her personal items – even though you clench your teeth, and squirm every which way in your seat, watching the painful procedure take place.

‘Happening‘ is a wake up call to us all as the film doesn’t lecture it’s non-believers. It simply, and effectively discredits them. What changed is that thousands of desperate women no longer died as the result of botched backstreet abortions and simply put – we can never go back there again.

Grade: B+

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Review Screening Friday, April 22, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Accolade PR

“HAPPENING” IS NOW IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE AND COMING TO VOD JUNE 21, 2022.

REVIEW: “Anaïs in Love” (2022) Magnolia Pictures

From the very moment we first see her on screen, it’s clear that Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier), doesn’t have her life together. It’s also clear that that is exactly how director Charlene Bourgeois-Tacquet wants her lead character to be. Anaïs is a whirlwind on the screen, as it is the films running joke throughout that Anaïs is a frenetic girl who is habitually late to everything. She is late to appointments, late to school, late to parties, late to family functions, yet she is never out of breath while being late riding her bike to all these events. To continually make it clear, she is late with the rent on her Paris apartment, late with her University dissertation, and yes, late with her period. She is also late in telling her live-in boyfriend Raoul (Christophe Montenez), that because she is late taking her birth control as she ‘just forgot’ that she is pregnant. But somehow everyone from her landlord to her professor, all look past her seemingly carefree approach to real life as she talks her way out of all of it because, you guessed it, she is late and running off to the next thing that she is late for.

This is all cute and whimsical enough until, suffice to say the one thing she on time for is when she has her abortion. The problem here is how nonchalantly this is all noted as if having the abortion is just another blip in her day. This is supposed to be comedy and there was nothing funny about the way this is handled in the story. Abortion, as we all know, is a serious right, a right for a woman to make a choice. It is not however to be shown so dispassionately and be treated as though it’s just another form of birth control. That something so critical and important of an issue and decision is taken here, by a female director of all people, should’ve been handled with more aplomb instead of being made to look easy to do and be played off as if she is cool as a cucumber doing it. The film lost its comical ‘pretense’ then and there.

So it’s really no surprise then to see as the film goes on that Anaïs takes an older, married man Daniel (Denys Podalydes), whom she met as she was late to a dinner party, as her lover, He then turns it around and ends the affair by stating he doesn’t want his life to change. Anaïs as per usual, just shrugs it off and turns her attention to Daniel’s wife, Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). Emilie is a famous author and Anaïs worms her way into Emilie’s life after reading her book, tracks her to Normandy, where she’s holding a symposium, even though she was hired and supposed to be helping at a completely different symposium in another town. Once again, she just abandons something dependable for something whimsical. In the midst of all this and without warning, the women begin a sexual relationship. It comes as a complete surprise as neither character had up until that point in the film, even the slightest bit any previous indications that this was even something that either of them was interested in. All the while this is going on, Anaïs is coming to terms with the return of her mother’s (Anne Canovas), liver cancer. While this isn’t an excuse for her bad behavior, it seems to be given as some sort of explanation for it all.

There is a lot lacking here in terms of it being a comedy at all and it lacks any sort of dramatic punch even with the side-story of her mothers cancer. Anaïs the character, is never concerned about what the outcome of her actions are, so neither are we. Anaïs Demoustier the actress, is beautiful and does well with what the character is supposed to be, it’s just not enough to make the film any better. This is essentially a movie about an thoughtless young woman, whose mother is dying of cancer, and who makes the lives of those around her unpleasant. And that just isn’t funny no matter which way you twist it.

Grade: D+

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Review Screening: Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“ANAIS IN LOVE” IS NOW IN THEATERS April 29, 2022 and VOD May 6, 2022.

REVIEW: “INBETWEEN GIRL” (2022) Utopia

There are times when watching films that you find a hidden gem amongst all the seemingly endless list of choices to watch. Director Mei Makino’s 2021 SXSW ‘Visions’ Award winner, “INBETWEEN GIRL” is just that gem.

The film is framed in a personal and unflinching manner than what one might expect. It is charming, raw, funny, and truly tackles teen-age romance and sexuality pretty head-on, but in a way that is realistic and mature. It’s all about Angie Chen (Emma Galbraith), a young, pretty Chinese-American girl attending an Episcopalian private school in Galveston, Texas with a flair for drawing. While she is friends with Liam (William Magnuson), the stereotypical school jock who all the girls adore, eyebrows and all, that’s seemingly all there is to it. He gives her rides home each day from soccer practice and they begin to get to know each other, with their friendship beginning to border on something more. Truthfully she could easily fall for him if not for his girlfriend, Sheryl (Emily Garrett), a model/social media influencer who ends up being her partner in a class project, becoming her friend as well, making things all the more complicated. You get a sense of where it’s headed but even still, Makino somehow makes it all feel fresh and full of energy and heart, as well as a learning experience of life.

The dramatic heart and center of the film, also come from her troubles at home as her newly divorced parents make things all the more confusing in Angie’s life. She is living with her mother Veronica (Liz Waters), a lawyer whom is always working, leaving Angie to fend for herself for things like meals, homework, and most notable, her social life. As well, she is feeling distanced from her father Fai (KaiChow Lau), whom she cherishes but seemingly has instantly found a new, better family already with Min (ShanShan Jin), and her daughter Fang (Thanh Phuong Bui). Both of whom speak her father’s native Mandarin dialect and with whom she feels replaced by.

Between the difficulties with her love life and her home life, Angie struggles to come of age as simply as one would expect. While there is a good deal of levity to break up the dramatic plots, there is a natural charm and heartfelt good nature about the film that overcomes any small shortcomings it might have. It’s a winning little film that is beautifully told and acted as Emma Galbraith is a breath of fresh air to this role, that is rarely ever played by someone of mixed race, but she proves there should be more. Even our manipulating cad of a male lead – William Magnuson, puts a star next to his performance here.

This film so deserves to find an audience that will fall in love with this tale we’ve heard before, but truly told in it’s own angsty manner of everything facing a teenage girl. The mistakes, family, drama, happiness, and friendships that shape us into who we are. The film as well, explores the relationships between having a Chinese father/American mother – and how difficult your heritage can be to navigate when that family unit splits. This is one film that no one should miss!

Grade: B+

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Review screener: Courtesy of Caitlyn Hughes PR

You can stream Mei Makino’s Inbetween Girl” on major VOD services beginning on May 3.

REVIEW: “THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT” (2022) Lionsgate

The Man. The Myth. The Legend that is Nicolas Cage.

If “THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT” had been made with and about anyone other than Nicolas Cage, it probably wouldn’t have worked. That being said, it is and it does. The film was written to highlight some of Cage’s best moments in his career, leaving the viewer with Easter eggs galore. Director Tom Gormican, who wrote the film as well, along with Kevin Etten, takes the direction of the film and taps into the action genre while still being a true comedy. And then, just when you think it’s just a comedy, it switches gears into a crime drama, and then just when you think it’s a crime drama, it shows it’s heart and gives us the family moments. This film is truly candy for your soul.

The premise is pitch perfect with Nick Cage (Nicolas Cage), realizing his life is a mess not just personally, but professionally and biggest of all, financially. So he accepts a crazy one million dollar offer from his agent Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris), to attend the birthday party of super-fan Javi Guiterrez (Pedro Pascal). Javi is either his best friend or a villain, and we are not sure which for some time, and there-in lies the bromance fun. Nick somehow winds up being recruited by Vivian (Tiffany Haddish), and Martin (Ike Barinholtz), and working for the CIA to find a kidnapped young girl.

If you love whacky and crazy then Nic Cage and Massive Talent is the film for you. Between this fictionalized version of the star and the younger Moonstruck/Peggy Sue got Married version he sees in his head, the references to the actor’s past films fly left and right. To be clear, this is a downright crazy-fun, goofy movie and everyone involved knows it, which is all part of it’s charm. Cage isn’t the only one taking this film by storm as the scene stealer here is Pascal, who is delightfully charming as the purported cartel kingpin. Pascal’s portrayal of Javi is so over-the-top fun, as he doles out his fandom praise onto Cage at every turn, ensnaring the persona of the actor into every part of his orbit, including the big reveal at the end. Adding in tons of side plots like that of Javi’s brother Lucas Guiterrez (Paco León), and even a romantic sidebar with Gabriela (Alessandra Mastronardi), adds to the film as it never stops moving and making it all work together.

With a supporting cast of Tiffany Haddish and Neil Patrick Harris backing you up, it would be hard for them not to add to the fun, and they do in their key supporting roles. Sharon Horgan is the perfect opposite for Cage, playing his ex-wife Olivia, and Lily Mo Sheen as his daughter Addy Cage, whose whole life has been playing second fiddle to her dad’s career. But it’s the chemistry between our two leads Cage and Pascal, playing off each other that is nothing short of brilliant and  whom deliver it all in one fail swoop of comedy, drama, action, and family combined.

The cinematography brings you to the gorgeous paradise of the film’s setting as the story is incredibly self absorbed and is essentially a film about film where they talk about making a film and maybe will make a film. It has its slower heart-felt moments, but they are timed perfectly and never boring, as it then it flips the script and hits you with belly laugh-worthy bouts of comedy, and true action. For as strange a film as this is, Gormican brings it all together and has everyone playing ball for the same team. Massive Talent is a tight, albeit almost looney film that works from beginning to end. It’s good original fun and goes to show audiences that in order to make a great movie – you do not need to be from the Marvel/DC Universe or more than two hours to be an excellent film. Seems as though all you really need is Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal.

Grade: A+

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Review screening: Tuesday, April 7, 2022 ~ courtesy of 42West PR/Lionsgate

“THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT” FROM LIONSGATE IS OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2022

REVIEW: “THE BAD GUYS” (2022) Dreamworks/Universal

DreamWorks Animation is back with “THE BAD GUYS” movie, based on the beloved children’s book by Aaron Blabey. The film, directed by Pierre Perifel, delivers our favourite book characters  in animation wonderment as they are meticulously animated and modeled. Vibrant visuals and stylistic choice makes this a true feast for your eyes. And doing voice-over justice here are: Sam Rockwell as Mr. Wolf, Marc Maron as  Mr. Snake, Craig Robinson as Mr. Shark, Anthony Ramos as Mr. PiranhaAwkwafina as Ms. Tarantula and lastly, the lovely Zazie Beetz as Gov. Diane Foxington aka The Crimson Paw.

(from left) Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Piranha (Anthony Ramos), Snake (Marc Maron), Tarantula (Awkwafina) and Shark (Craig Robinson) in DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys, directed by Pierre Perifel.

It’s a delightful tale of a crazy gang made up of have been a team of notorious animal criminals that have been together for years, creating havoc around town and feared by all. But when they try to go straight after getting caught at one of their most notorious heists ever attempted where Professor Rupert Marmalade (Richard Ayoade), wins the Dolphin Award for Good Person of the Year, and the Bad Guys set out to steal the trophy. With Police Chief Misty Luggins (Alex Borstein) hot on their heels for a prize arrest, all that can go wrong does and they are caught red-handed. Rupert and Governor Foxington get the gang to undergo a Good Guys transformation to avoid jail time. But trying to fool people into thinking they are now model citizens proves much harder than it seems. That, along with realizing there is a whole new Bad Guy in town, takes us on a whirlwind of a ride.

Now Looney Tunes this is not, as if you’ve ever really sat down and watched those as adults, they have way different themes to you as they did when you watched them as a kid. This film doesn’t have the quick-barbed gags of those toon days, but it does have some decent plot twists that aren’t to hard for the kids to follow, or the adults for that matter. The villains here have hearts of gold, along with being a lot of fun. As an adult you might think the film suffers from a bit of a generic plot, which does knock the film down a few points – but if you have kids, this comes with a high recommendation, and they won’t even notice.  

The animation is stylistic and beautifully done, with maybe only a few quips on editing to speak of, it’s just a good fun time. As well, kids and adults alike will enjoy this one, a true film for the whole family!

Coming to theaters Friday, April 22, 2022 from DreamWorks Animation and Universal – run, don’t walk to get your whole family tickets for this one.

Grade: B

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Cast and Crew review screening: Tuesday, April 12, 2022 ~ courtesy of Universal/DreamWorks Animation

DREAMWORKS ANIMATION/UNIVERSAL “THE BAD GUYS” will be out in theaters Friday, April 22, 2022

REVIEW: “THE NORTHMAN” (2022) Focus Features

As I struggled writing my initial mini-review of this film, at the same time, trying to convey what is to be said about director Robert Eggers upcoming film, “THE NORTHMAN”. The same way I’m struggling to put down in words here in my full review – to talk about this film as a whole.

So many are calling it so many things. With words floating about such as “masterpiece” it’s difficult to come out and say you don’t feel the same way as then there is wrath to face. Almost like the wrath brought down in the Hamlet-like version of a revenge story told here starring Alexander Skarsgård, Anna Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman, Bill Skarsgård, Willem Dafoe and yes, even Björk makes an appearance as a Seeress.

Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic THE NORTHMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Aidan Monaghan / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

As it goes, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), is a Viking prince that as a young boy, saw his father King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), murdered and his future crown taken, though he was able to escape before they could get their hands to murder him as well. Amleth then turns around and becomes one of the warriors fighting for the Vikings destroying village, possibly being one of the most berserkers of all the warriors in the group killing endlessly and mindlessly. Once he learns that his Uncle, Fjölnir the Brotherless (Claes Bang), i.e., the one who killed his father, he decides to leave and head off to make point of his childhood promise of “I will avenge you, Father. I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.” This sends him to a new kingdom where he can come face to face with his Uncle to exact these words of revenge. Even though he is just a measly slave, he is patient in his ways, waiting for the right chance to make this happen, during this time meeting Olga of the Birch Forest (Anna Taylor-Joy), with whom he wants to make a life, but only once his revenge is enacted. Once there, Amleth is in for more than one surprise as while Fjolnir is still ruling over people, it is not the reign one would be expecting him to have. Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman), the mother of Amleth, with whom he thought was taken by force, might not be so upset after all. It’s a not a simple story to tell, watch or understand and it skips across years like the flight of the crow it presents in its myths.

The story told of Viking life in Iceland is not a light affair nor is it for the feint of heart. It’s a savage brutal affair full of mud, guts and one can guess glory at the end – if one can call what happens a victory, then by all means do. Raging full with a testosterone score-fest of blood, death and gore not seen since the days of Braveheart, the films fills the screen with toxic masculinity, myths, sorcery, rage, much to much grunting, and oddly, romance. While the film takes turns with itself, taking itself much too seriously at times, and at others the few spoken one liners are delivered so absurdly that the audience laughs, where it’s not meant to do so.

Claes Bang stars as Fjölnir in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic THE NORTHMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Aidan Monaghan / © 2022 Focus Features, LLC

While one can see just by budget alone there was much thought and effort put into this, and some parts work better than others, but it never really comes together as a whole – most especially the last act which slogs it’s way through a sort of poetic refrain that just didn’t fit with the whole slash ‘n gore look of the beginning and the middle.

This movie is definitely an exercise, whether it’s a workout to watch for all whom aim to look like Alexander Skarsgård at the end will be a challenge for some as it was for me. That being said, I think many will attempt the feat and enjoy it much more than myself and how can one not be happy for that..

Grade: D

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Review screening: Friday, April 8, 2022 courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

Focus Features ‘The Northman’ will be out in theaters Friday, April 22, 2022

REVIEW: “ALL THE OLD KNIVES”

“All the Old Knives” is a romantic spy thriller directed by Janus Metz, based on the book by Olen Steinhausen about romantically involved CIA agents looking back at a mission that went wrong in a big way.

The story is set eight years after the 2012 hijacking of Royal Jordanian Flight 127 and the CIA’s mishandling of it, leading to the deaths of the passengers, the terrorists, and an agent who was onboard. The Vienna-based investigating team, made up of Henry Pelham (Chris Pine), Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton), Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce), Ernst Pul (Jonjo O’Neill), Leila Maloof (Ahd), Owen Lassiter (David Dawson), and their supervisor Vick Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne), are initially clueless. Believing the terrorists had inside help, and only after the capture of the “mastermind” of the terrorist attack, Ilyas Shushani (Orli Shuka), is Henry is sent to interrogate now former agent Celia, with whom he suspects provided information to the hijackers. The story is them rehashing not only the entire day of the attack, but their relationship at the time as well which is when they (and we) realize that the truth is far more twisted than anyone initially thought.

ALL THE OLD KNIVES

One would almost think this would be an action filled, Bond-esque type thriller, but this isn’t that in the slightest. All the Old Knives keeps the suspense going through the conversation and keeps you wondering what happened, who did it – and why. There’s a deliberate omission of details to keep you guessing along about what’s coming next. Conversations that happened in the past are run in together with parallel conversations of the present to help accentuate the impact of certain revelations. Pay attention as well, to the visual clues being dropped, as they all take you down the traveled path of the story at hand with seemingly at every moment a twist is thrown in. We watch as the room gets smaller and smaller, making it almost impossible for the answer to escape as well as asking the bigger question – when it all comes down to it in the end, who do you trust?

ALL THE OLD KNIVES

While the scenery is a beautiful backdrop in the entire film, most especially the restaurant scene where the story unfolds, the film is held together by it’s two leads Pine and Newton. They are the glue that keep it pasted together, though at times to be fair, barely so as sometimes they seem to work with their characters chemistry, and other times they just seem to be working their characters. As well, with a supporting cast that includes Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce playing characters that are certainly within their element, Henry’s interrogation of Bill in a London pub, is devoid of any dramatic heft. Pryce, for his part, makes a spirited effort to give these scenes some depth, but the material just isn’t there. Fishburne barely plays a factor as he might have five minutes worth of screen time, which befuddles the mind as why wouldn’t you want to use someone of Fishburne’s caliber throughout the film to elevate it more. The other supporting actors are all given the briefest of moments, even when it’s revealed that Lassiter, David Dawson’s character, committed suicide over the whole fiasco.

So with struggles to streamline the story and stumbles a bit with it’s own chronology that’s likely better in the book, though it still carves out a decent enough spy-game intrigue.

Grade: C

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Review Screening: Friday April 1, 2022 ~Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR and Amazon Prime

Amazon Studios will release ALL THE OLD KNIVES in select theaters and globally on Prime Video on April 8, 2022.

THE DAY IS HERE!! COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS ~ BEST PICTURE

It’s HERE!! The Holy Grail of all Holy Grail’s aka the Superbowl Sunday of Movies – otherwise known as ‘THE OSCARS’. It’s the final day of my Oscar Countdown and I’ve saved the biggest and best for last. This is a very good slate of films, and most of them deserve to be here. And for the last time this year – I give who I think will win – and what my pick would be – as those two choices sometimes differ. And the nominees are:

BEST PICTURE

NOMINEES

BELFAST Possible upset win

Belfast was beautifully film in black and white, with a wonderful cast lead by a young man that should’ve had a Best Actor nom himself, Jude Hill. It’s a story-telling film, and be on the lookout everyone as we all forget sometimes that the Academy loves these kinds of films, as do I. It’s a very big possibility as the upset win – and I won’t be mad at that one at all.

Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik and Tamar Thomas, Producers

CODA WINNER/MY PICK

CODA is a one-of-a-kind film. It’s tells so much, it’s got so many layers to it and for the first time in memory, features an almost entire deaf cast that speaking in ASL almost for the entire film. It’s about a father/daughter relationship, about life’s struggles, about the struggles of the disabled, and the story of one girls dreams woven throughout it. Some might see it as weak – I saw it as nothing but beautiful. Again, it’s story-telling at some of it’s finest.

Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi and Patrick Wachsberger, Producers

DON’T LOOK UP

I’ll never understand the hatred for this one – I enjoyed it. It played upon so many real-life things, maybe not always done perfectly, but done so sarcastically and I love wit and sarcasm like this. Will it win, nah, but it was fun.

Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers

DRIVE MY CAR

We’ve had a couple great upsets last year with an International Film sweeping the Awards. Do I think the three-hour runtime might have hurt this one with Oscar voters – maybe. But I loved every minute of it as it was one of the few movies of that length that I had no problem sitting through.

Teruhisa Yamamoto, Producer

DUNE

I know many people have mad love for this one – I am on the ‘like’ side of it. I don’t think it’s going to be the upset or my win. Sorry Dune fans – nothing but love for you all though.

Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve and Cale Boyter, Producers

KING RICHARD

King Richard is just a heartwarming story – no doubt about it. While it’s not perfect and yes, glosses over a few things but it’s sad that it never found that audience in theaters. For me as a tennis fan, it worked and it has a great ending that got even me emotional.

Tim White, Trevor White and Will Smith, Producers

LICORICE PIZZA

I had such high hopes going into this one – having heard the raving reviews up until that time. They made it extremely hard to see for a long time though, and when I finally did, I was more than just a little bit let down. No one runs from one side of the Valley to the other – no one. It had a few fun moments, but the Asian speaking thing was not funny, and I was surprised at how someone thought it would be.

Sara Murphy, Adam Somner and Paul Thomas Anderson, Producers

NIGHTMARE ALLEY

I can’t begin to explain how much I love Guillermo del Toro. This film was one of my favourite of the year – though I realize others didn’t feel the same, and I saw their points as well. If I could pick two – this would be my second pick.

Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale and Bradley Cooper, Producers

THE POWER OF THE DOG

Again, the hype around TPOTD before it even came out was this one person telling me it was going to be the Best Picture of the Year. After seeing it, while I tend to disagree with that point, that I think they now do as well, it does have something to it. Let’s be clear, I don’t dislike film, it’s just not the end-all, be-all that was hyped to me. And I’m not sure it’s backed up with favorable response from absolutely everyone either. The ending though – that ending wow’d me.

Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Roger Frappier, Producers

WEST SIDE STORY

West Side Story also won’t win. But I do think it was terrific and I was floored by the dancing, chorography and costumes. It’s not about whether it’s better or worse than the original. It’s about the age old question of should some things be re-made at all? I can’t answer that one – but I do love originality.

Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers

The last thing I can say is forget about fighting over who wins or who loses. Everyone likes different things, celebrate that instead. And most of all – Enjoy the Oscars!

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Peggy at the Movies ~ Film Critic | Movie Maven | Reviews & More"