REVIEW: C’MON C’MON (2021) A24

In “C’mon C’mon” we find Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), a middle-aged, single man who works as a radio journalist based in New York. His job consists of him interviewing young kids from across the country, about their lives, families, their surroundings and most importantly, what they think about the future. Johnny also has a bit of a family problem as he hasn’t spoken to his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman). since their mother passed away. Viv herself is in the midst of dealing with her ex-husband Paul (Scoot McNairy), who is in and out of mental institutions and she struggles to balance helping him out while taking care of their son Jesse (Woody Norman). Paul is in the middle of a bi-polar mental crisis and Viv asks Johnny if he can come care for Jesse, while she goes to help Paul, even though he really doesn’t know his nephew all that well.

This is where the story takes off as Johnny first comes out to Los Angeles to help, but then because he has to work he decides to take Jesse on a tour and have him help interview the kids. It seems a little far fetched because it is, but you can’t deny the bond that forms between Johnny and Jesse. Their relationship is what is central to the film and rolls from one conversation to another, sometimes about subjects that almost make Jesse seem annoying, but again, kids think and process differently than adults, so it comes across as more loving. As they travel across from New York to New Orleans, they both start discovering different sides to themselves, with Jesse clearly looking up to Johnny as fatherly, even though he loses him not once, but twice in crowds, and realizing parenting is not a simple thing. It helps them grow into better people and even changes their entire outlook on life.

In an odd way, this could almost be considered a ‘buddy’ movie with Joaquin Phoenix playing this role quite effortlessly and while everyone is giving him the kudos on acting, for me Woody Norman is the standout holding his own against the powerhouse of Phoenix’s acting prow-ness. Norman plays Jesse as a very insightful nine-year-old boy who acts as a perfect counterweight to his uncle Johnny, and deserves probably even more of a look-see that Phoenix does. Again, though this duo quite incredible together as it’s clear they have good chemistry, and succeed in making everything feel somewhat genuine and sincere. While Gaby Hoffman has to play 90% of her scenes talking into an iPhone, maybe writer/director Mike Mills is trying to make a point about how we communicate today and the lack on in person speaking anymore, even about important issues like what’s happening here.

Drawbacks that came to mind was the black and white style of filming does take away from it a bit as it makes all the cities seem alike in a way, which takes some away from the point of traveling and being in different ones. As well, on a different note for instance, when they are on the beach in Santa Monica – that exact scene was done in ‘HER’, replacing the phone girlfriend with a child, and It was strange to me. There were many lovely moments, but also hard to connect to moments for me as well as while the film shows a true slice of life, it was also somewhat repetitive in nature.

Wrapping up, there will be some who probably won’t relate to the film, but even if that’s the case, the film gives a lot to think about in so many different ways and the acting goes a long way into making it something more – especially the ending monologue from Phoenix.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening ~ Tuesday, November 16, 2021 Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“C’MON C’MON” from A24 is in limited release in LA/NYC beginning on November 19, 2021

REVIEW: “KING RICHARD” (2021) Warner Bros.

Tennis is usually known as a rich people’s sport and can wholly be verified by just looking at the cost of tickets to even a smaller tournament. For the devout fans such as myself, this has left us for the most part, unable to attend such events. And yes, it is also a very European/white American based crowd as well, especially in the 90’s when the Williams sisters we coming on to the scene. Sure you had Arthur Ashe, but he was in the 70’s and was also a man, and even he had loads of issues being sported on him. With all that leading into the fact that sports movies in general can be difficult watches at times, mostly as the stories either have to be a touching one, a hard one, a biography etc., to make a point. Here director Reinaldo Marcus Green takes us on a journey film of the crazy, intense, wild and somewhat shady life of Richard Williams aka “KING RICHARD“. The film is at times emotional, but most of all, it’s a pretty good vehicle for Will Smith to show off his acting range.

Williams, the father of the now legendary Serena and Venus Williams, comes forth with the focus being mostly on Venus as yes, she is the older sister even though Serena is the more victorious of the two, but the narrative depicts his vision and determination to ensure that his daughters grasp every opportunity – willingly or less so – on their journey to undoubted tennis greatness. Though he does come across as a tightly focused man, he can also comes across and a rather unpleasant, thoughtless individual for whom, after a while, you can began to feel a growing dislike as it’s well known he hasn’t always been the most liked person on the tour, but the question put forth is really whether he was right in having his ‘plan’ and doing whatever he thought was right to get it done. The somewhat arbitrary way in which he treats not just his family, but those around trying to help (and, admittedly, to capitalize on the impending gravy train), can be looked at as all just bit too improbable, but you can’t deny what he did either. Certainly you can put yourself in Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal), or Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn), shoes and would have made the decision to tell him where to get off long before it became apparent that these two girls actually did have the ability to make it big. But then as well, it proved Richard to be pretty much right about his ideals after all.

By far the most inspirational part of the movie was really the improbable story. That a dedicated father instilled in his daughters a strength and resilience and confidence that they could do anything, become number one in the world, and in Serena’s case, become the greatest player who ever lived. Training day and night, rain or shine, he kept pushing them towards greatness, when many people scoffed at his claims about his girls, when many refused to train them, when they saw something insignificant, he saw their full potential.

Aunjanue Ellis is really strong in all the film as Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams, being somewhat of the balance to Richard’s craziness, while Saniyya Sidney does a fantastic job as Venus, one of the best supporting teen roles I’ve seen in a while. She is a revelation and is definitely a name to watch as she completely stole the show at times. As well though they and the rest of the sisters are all too often subsumed in the domineering shadow of Smith. And noting that at 2¼ hours, it is also far too long with too many scenes that detract from the pace, that often can be meandering off and dragged in a lot of areas including how it skims over King Richards past – while many in the tennis world do know there was a true bit of shady-ness to the real man. I think many will have wished we could have done with far more input from the real “stars” of the movie to illustrate just how determined and accomplished they were as opposed to their father.

Overall this is a good watch. So tense, surprisingly funny and with a powerful and uplifting story. A film worthy of the Williams’ epic legacy. Personally I wish it would have shown the journey of the Williams sisters even more into their later career stage, but again this movie is NOT really about them, its about Richard ‘King’ Williams and his belief in them, their dedication to training, and ultimately their resiliency in the face of adversity to become the essentially perfect trifecta that propelled them to unprecedented success that was never realized by any other player before them. When they went onto the court, they truly believed that no one could beat them. Then they went out and proved it. Not only were they out there proving to themselves, but also to every person who went to see them. They then became role models for every other African American girl (and boy) who wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Grade: B-

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Screening Group

“KING RICHARD” – IS OUT IN THEATERS AND ON HBO MAX NOW 

REVIEW: “SPENCER” (2021) Neon Films

Having high hopes going into director Pablo Larrain’s “SPENCER” considering how much I enjoyed ‘Jackie‘, I was surprised to find myself truly wondering what it was that I was watching and then remembering the word ‘fable’ being brought out at the beginning. And that is at least somewhat of an explanation for this sad tale of a film that I find myself having a hard time trying to describe how I felt about it. Two things I think I can justifiably say this film is a fictional thriller using factual characters, who apparently only speak in poems and riddles and it is definitely not a biography.

The set up is Christmas 1991, and Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), is driving herself to Sandringham Castle in a Porsche convertible no less, through country roads speeding along casually, something that realistically would never happen, but again, it’s a fable so why not. She gets completely lost even though she acknowledges she’s been there so many times before, but not before stopping in a small diner-type country restaurant and pretending almost awkwardly that she is not just a Princess, but regular country folk like they are, all the while in her upscale Chanel clothing. After arriving late and after the Queen, a huge faux pas in the world of royalty, she is clearly targeted by the rest of the family at this point. And here is where it really goes off rails as we all know yes, there was a Diana vs. The Royal Family dynamic, but this film takes that to a whole different level. With visions belying her at every corner, including Anne Boleyn to what I’m guessing is supposed to be taken as a warning for Diana to not fall into a similar fate, as she is literally shown as being a whiney, complaining, consistently late for everything, and Larrain makes her out to be so unpleasant and self-centered, you almost wonder if you would want her as your dinner companion at all.

There is much to follow here as the film continues an almost odd over-the-top portrayal of Princess Diana, with only small bits of actual fact here and there. The bulimia we all know she suffered from is shown up front and personal, yet almost made fun of at other moments. There is an odd whole scenario of a scarecrow which follows us throughout the film, without ever really giving good reason except for the fact that she speaks and dresses it like a human, and a psychedelic dance sequence I’ve yet to figure out. I understand why some may like it, but it’s completely void of any relevance to the Princess Diana and Royal Family story that actually took place. I think my entire beef with this film is that they made her look whiney, weak and mental and I just don’t think Stewart did her justice for me. It wasn’t terrible mind you as Stewart is good, but by far not great and by just simply adding to her actual personality, having a blonde short haircut and a not so Diana English accent, she didn’t encapsulate who or what Princess Diana really was. It wasn’t terrible – but I just didn’t feel the way so many do as besides the haircut she didn’t fit Diana’s personality for me, it’s as though she was almost too distracting for me is how I can best say it. But maybe that was the point – not sure.

It is undoubtedly beautiful to look at, the score is immediately captivating, as well as the costumes, production design + cinematography are the standouts as is her supporting cast of Timothy Spall as Major Alistar Gregory, who comes off as ‘foe’ at first, but might actually be ‘friend’ instead, as well as Sally Hawkins playing her maid en confidante’ Maggie. We barely see Jack Farthing as Prince Charles, and as well The Queen either played by Stella Gonet. The way they portray her is a choice a very unsympathetic and annoying ‘choice’ that was certainly very off putting but the standout part is it did show her love for her sons as I don’t think any film could ever deny that. Again, I realize I’m in the minority here on this one, but one can’t help or deny how one feels about a film as it is truly something each person puts in perspective on their own. But in essence for me, Diana was a strong independent woman who was roped into a lie, and dealt with it better than most, while crashing at times, I wanted them to show the part of how she used it all that and made it her strengths versus weakness.

Grade: C

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“SPENCER” FROM NEON FILMS – IS OUT IN THEATERS NOW 

REVIEW: “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” fails to ignite completely..

Wandering into “THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN” my assumption was it would point me to a somewhat of a Nikola Tesla type films with Louis Wain perhaps being the British version of him. I couldn’t have been more wrong, which can sometimes be a benefit to not knowing exactly what you are going into as it leaves you to actually judge a film for what it is – versus what others say about it.

The film opens in 1881 and Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch), is a young man whose life has just dramatically changed over the death of his father. Per the time and status that the Wain family has acquired, Louis must step into the role of breadwinner for his five younger sisters and their aging mother. Initially, it’s hard what to make of Wain as he is constantly drawing, yet his eccentricities also include a belief in the electrical currents that drive all life forms, hence my previous thoughts. The film itself doesn’t spend much time on this, though it seems to be important enough, but the feeling is at first it’s more eccentricity vs. a mental illness – later deemed to possibly be schizophrenia. What the film shifts to almost exclusively is Wain’s family life. His stern and demanding sister Caroline (Andrea Riseborough), is completely unforgiving of his little ‘whims’ as they are referred to, and demands that Louis find steady work to support the family, which again is supposed to be his role now, clearly one he does not want. An interview with an Sir William Ingram (Toby Jones), is an editor/publisher looking to offer Wain a job, and this is when we are first treated to see what a gifted illustrator Wain is can be and his speed at drawing is due to an incredible ability to draw with both hands simultaneously.

As we continue on more with his family theme versus who Wain really is, he ends up overcoming one of his insecurities around his cleft lip which he has always covered with a mustache, and ends up marrying Emily Richardson (Claire Foy), the governess to his sisters. For the times this was quite the scandal, most especially given the differences in age and social standing of both involved, but Louis plows on as it seems as though she was the only one who understood and encouraged him as an artist. Needless to say his sisters are enraged at this and there is much more shown here again of this than what really is it that makes Louis Wain who he was.

We then are drawn into the tragedy that strikes Wain, and watch as he really mentally spirals more and becomes inspired by their pet cat, Peter. In fact, Peter becomes his muse of sorts though confusing because again, his sisters are all mixed in plus the fact that he clearly thinks the cat is Emily. It does however leads to thousands of drawings of cats for publication in newspapers, magazines, greeting cards, and just about every other platform available at the time. But also once again the films leaves Louis and takes back to his sister’s lives and his youngest sister Marie (Hayley Squires), being committed. So it’s a mish-mash of back and forth whereas I wanted to know who Louis Wain was about, it was very hard to decipher until the Cat pictures come along and that is what he becomes famous for. Personally I would’ve like to delve into this subject and how it evolved more rather than a major focus being on his family lives instead of his as it seems Wain’s work becomes enormously popular for a time, the film doesn’t really explore it in any detail, choosing instead to dance around the question of his and all his sisters mental states over the decades which span about 50 years in time.

Olivia Colman provides the narration and tries to make it lively at times. Taika Waititi and Nick Cave both have brief cameos, as well as Adeel Akhtar in smaller role as Mr. Rider. A role that clearly should’ve been more prominent as Rider was one of Wain’s few friends who we see meet briefly early on, but in the end finds Wain in a sanitarium and ends up being the one who helps Louis secure a place better accommodations in lovely home complete with a garden and yes, plenty of cats. The performance here by Cumberbatch is a bit over-the-top with his tics in the first half of the film, almost to quirky at times – he does make the mental part realistic at times, and drawing part of Wain seem interesting and real. Again, when the film lets us see those very pertinent parts come through.

All in all, if you know nothing about or who Louis Wain was, this might not explain it to you precisely as it follows the path of his family and all the peculiarities of them and him, rather than serve up a more poignant look at Wain and his Cat drawings for which he is actually famous for.

Grade: C

 

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN ” IS OUT IN THEATERS NOW AND WILL BE COMING TO PRIME VIDEO ON FRIDDAY, NOVEMEBER 5, 2021