REVIEW: “SPECTRE” (2015) MGM

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As anyone who knows me will agree that I am a massive James Bond fan..the kind that believes Bond can do no wrong, so imagine my surprise at finding myself at times here, rather bored. With a fantastic opening sequence filmed a-la Birdman style of one long shot, proved to be the most exciting highlight of the film. And it was all over in 4 minutes.
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Being SPECTRE is the 24th James Bond movie and one of the biggest, most anticipated movies of the year, I was sadly disappointed in my man James this time round.

Daniel Craig is still Agent 007 and Christoph Waltz is our main villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The films usual recurring characters are all present and accounted for: Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomie Harris as the ever faithful Moneypenny, while Léa Seydoux is Madeleine Swann the beautiful and dare we say it, age appropriate Monica Bellucci as Lucia are the Bond girls or better yet, ladies, this time.
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While M battles political forces to keep the 00 agent program alive, Bond infiltrates a secret meeting where he begins to slowly peel back the layers to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Directed once again by Sam Mendes, SPECTRE falls a bit short for me from his previous fantastic endeavour the wonderful ‘Skyfall’. The film being long in the tooth with it’s storyline that at times is hard to follow and lacks the ebb & flow of a great Bond film. The Bond villains are for me, always the best because you need a villain that you love to hate and films like this ride or die on their villains. Proving my standing motto of “You’re only as good as your villain” to be true, Waltz here falls short and whether it’s the script or his performance, you feel no ooommmpha from him at all. He doesn’t make you care either way for him in the slightest. Dave Bautista as a non-speaking Hinx doesn’t add any mileage to the villain aspect either.

Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures Entertainment announce the 24th James Bond adventure

Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures Entertainment announce the 24th James Bond adventure ” SPECTRE. “


The cars though are magnificent as always. Aston Martin’s new coupe was created exclusively for Spectre and was unveiled in December 2014 at the official press launch of the film. Director Sam Mendes introduced the car as “the first cast member” with only ten of them being manufactured and eight of those ten being used for Spectre filming, along with two show cars.
Same with the gadgets.. though noticeably not as many as previous films we do see this fun exchange ~
Q: “And 007, one last thing for you.”
Q gives the watch to Bond.
Bond: “Does it do anything?”
Q: “It tells time.”

Sadly, Spectre is not my favorite Bond movie of recent times. It’s good although it’s truly not top-flight 007. While not terrible, it won’t add or subtract any points or do any serious damage to the franchise.

All in all..while I didn’t hate it, the film just proved to be too long, with a bit of a flimsy story line.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

REVIEW: “PEANUTS” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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I couldn’t be happier to be with the old Peanuts gang that I have loved my entire life and with a fantastic little opening of Schroeder on the piano, thankfully, it appears that the people behind The Peanuts Movie” take the legacy of these characters very seriously. The result is a gentle, charming movie that seems far less frantic than much of what is created for young audiences these days.
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Director Steve Martino, working from a script by Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, and Cornelius Uliano, the film hits the mark on many of the familiar jokes and scenes and set-ups we remember so well from the nasally ‘wrrahh wrrahh wrraahh of the teachers voices to a long list of references to the equally as long history of the characters.
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Snoopy spends most of the movie working on a book on his newly-discovered typewriter, the story of a flying ace and his battle against the infamous Red Baron. Sally’s got her crush on her sweet baboo, Linus, who nurses his faith in the The Great Pumpkin. Lucy is still dishing out 5 cent advice at her sidewalk psychiatric stand while making passes as Schroeder every chance she gets. Peppermint Patty and her assistant Marcie both play their familiar roles as well, with Charlie Brown at the center of everything, constantly put upon, constantly taking one on the chin and yes, in love with the Little Red-Haired Girl/Freida who happens to move in across the street here. I mean if this is going to be true to the original strip that Schulz created, then Charlie Brown has got to be suffering, a kid who can’t catch a break with any numerous of things from not being able to pitch a baseball, to the Kite Eating Tree that swallows up any number of his kites he tries to fly.
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As always with Peanuts, there is a message behind it all..for this movie it’s how Frieda/The Little Red-Haired Girl shares to everyone when Charlie Brown asks why she picked him, that it wasn’t his failures that got her attention, it was that he was Kind, Compassionate, Honest & Brave and never gave up. And while there is this message, it didn’t come in a forced – shove it down your throat manner, and it has a purpose in the story. There is also a sweet little side story where Snoopy embarks on his own adventure in a fantasy world. As a World War I flying ace, the lovable beagle pursues his nemesis, the Red Baron, while also trying to win the heart of a beautiful pilot named Fifi.
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This film just made me smile and I’m guessing it will do so for most adults who relived their childhood somewhat like I did while watching. The humour and jokes were really sweet, funny and cute. They too, don’t come at a forced pace but if you are a fan or know anything about Peanuts you will love them and laugh with them as I did. Make no mistake about it, this is just plain fun for adults & kids alike.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Tuesday, November 3, 2015 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide release: Friday, November 6, 2015

My own little personal collection of childhood Peanuts books that I found just recently.

My own little personal collection of childhood Peanuts books that I found just recently.

REVIEW: “SPOTLIGHT” (2015) Q & A w/Producers (Open Road Pictures)

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“Spotlight” boldly brings back into the spotlight (pun intended) and tells the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking up not only us the public, but the entire Catholic Church to its core.
Michael Keaton plays Walter Robinson who leads the Globe’s investigative unit “Spotlight” along with Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). At a time when the internet started undercutting actual newspapers & staffs of some of the biggest papers in town were being cut in half, the Globe brought in new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), and the team begins to unfold a horrific pattern of child sexual abuse by the church that was muted and covered up by high priced lawyers and payoffs to victim’s families. As Walter probes further and further into the events (the setting is just prior to, but mostly after the events of 9/11) the investigation reveals layers and layers of injustice of Catholic Priests that were aided by the highest powers of the church in an effort to keep the story muted.spotlight 1

It all starts with a featured column about Catholic priest John Geoghan who was accused of abusing over 100 boys. A civil suit is filed but the details of the abuse were ordered sealed by the courts. As newly installed editor and the first Jewish one at that, Baron puts the team of reporters on the case and within days the evil that lurked with the sacred rooms of local churches begins to reveal it’s despicable face.
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The investigation goes on for months as the team hits roadblock upon roadblock taking one step forward for every two steps back. But the story eventually breaks and the emotionally exhausted team is eventually able to bring to light one of the more depressing and important stories to hit us in the new century.

The performances are mostly good. Schreiber as Baron, the first Jewish editor is quiet, yet speaks volumes. Ruffalo with some oddly thrown in facial & body tics/expressions that are reminiscent of a bad Jimmy Olsen type reporter is almost annoying to a point, McAdams is her usual bland generic self. Keaton & Tucci both are good, though for Keaton, it’s not Birdman type good. There are more roles to be recognized in Billy Cruddup, Jamey Sheridan & notable is John Slattery. It’s truly an ensemble film as there are no specific leads. spotlight 5
And of course nods to All the President’s Men will be inevitable. The film itself is fresh and invigorating in its painfully frustrating subject matter. It is at times painful to watch. Trusted bonds between people, children, parents and the institution that promotes the opposite to what it sometimes preaches are disgusting revelations that are brought to the screen with sizzling effect. You won’t forget this movie or what happened any time soon after you see it, and truthfully, we never should.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, November 2, 2015 ~ Courtesy of the Producers Guild of America
Nationwide release: Friday, November 6, 2015

POST Q & A w/Producers: Michael Sugar, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagon Faust, Steve Golin ~ It’s always nice when the Producers, Director and Cast take the time out to do a post-screening Q & A. They talk about their passion for the projects and usually give great insight to their films. That’s why it surprised me so much that there was a huge exodus of people after this film. Usually you always get a few, but I would say 1/2 the audience emptied out. Not sure why, maybe they were disturbed by it, maybe they were Catholics upset by the fact that it happened, and maybe some still just don’t want to believe it. I found it sad because as a film-goer, you should have the decency to show respect to the people that again, took the time to come talk to you about a project. Moving on… All producers listed took the time to speak about the films budget, which at 20 million, but they still got good stars to come aboard even though there was no specific lead role, as it was a complete ensemble type film. Mark Ruffalo was the first to come aboard and they appreciated that because it brought others to the table. They also had to clear schedules because they wanted to shoot in the specific time of year of late fall, early winter as that’s when it all actually happened. The Boston Globe also let them shoot in their actual offices where everything took place.
They also had to work closely to get all the legal aspects & clearances done correctly as you would be assuming correctly if you thought the Catholic Church was less than thrilled to be having this all brought up again in a film. The only reaction from the church has been the few apologies you’ve already seen.
Since the piece first ran in Jan 2002, over 600 more articles were published by the Boston Globe unearthing more and more atrocities. The most moving moment was when a survivor was in the audience and thanked the producers for making this film and making sure we never forget and hopefully work harder to prevent this from happening again, as it still is going on all over the world..and not just in the catholic religion to be sure.

REVIEW: “99 HOMES” ~ POST Q & A ~ Michael Shannon

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For a movie with the very real backdrop of the US housing market crash, with such believable characters, 99 Homes gives us the story about one man’s struggle with the housing market catastrophe and is the subject of what Ramin Bahrani’s new film is all about. It is at once sad, heart-wrenching and at the same time, somewhat terrifying to watch.

As the movie opens, we see a real estate guy explaining to an Orlando cop how the owner of the house he came to foreclose on, ran inside and shot himself in the head. We then get to know Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a construction worker who gets laid off and before we know it, his family home gets foreclosed on, and Nash, along with his young son, Connor (Noah Lomax) and mom, Lynn (Laura Dern) end up moving into a motel. Desperate for money, Dennis turns to the real estate guy who foreclosed on him, Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), and actually starts working for him. 99 homes 2
Let me be clear that I am appalled at what happened, that the banks made serious mistakes, and there hasn’t been nearly enough accountability for what caused the second biggest Recession in history. And while this film isn’t fool proof by any means, it does give you the feeling of being at least a somewhat accurate image of how different the concept of “money” is for everyone. Some people are set for life where others are living paycheck to paycheck. This film seems to know and show both sides of that so well.
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99 Homes is a film that’s main topic is eviction and really this should have been dull ride. How this film is able make this topic interesting and thought-provoking is quite impressive. It’s also a complete character study that truly makes you think who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Michael Shannon’s performance is spellbinding and for me Oscar nomination worthy. Garfield is good, but again, it’s Shannon who really controls the screen when he’s on it he holds you in the palm of his hand for the entire time he is on the screen as he plays the villain well making you give thought if he really is just that or just a product of the environment that was created as he shows you both sides of the coin.
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It is also societal story and commentary, and a story of determination all rolled into one. There are literally are 99 reasons to go see this movie.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, October 19, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Deadline Awardsline screening series

POST Q & A with actor Michael Shannon:
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I just adore this man and have for so long now. I call him my go-to guy as I wish he could be in almost every movie. He’s a gem and simply a fantastic actor & I love his touch of sarcasm, witty, ‘no bullshit’ attitude that he even brought to this Q & A. He really went in depth about how he felt his character here was truly a guy you could hate, but yet explained it so well in that he never wanted to take people’s homes as he was a real estate agent and wanted to put people in homes, yet when everything crashed he could either do what he did, or be a victim also. He chose the road he did and Shannon hopes that he was able to give you the portrayal that showed this in his character and he might have actually been relieved at the end. Shannon, through his dry humour & wit, can make you laugh and then next minute be serious. He noted he truly doesn’t like discussing ‘acting’ per se’ and for those of you who loved him in “Boardwalk Empire” he noted while he loved doing it, he would probably never do TV again. My note to all: If you have the chance to see ‘Iceman’ – DO! Shannon’s performance is as good as it gets.