Category Archives: Drama

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 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

SXSW REVIEW: “SERIOUSLY RED” (2022) Roadshow Films

“It’s Hard to Be a Diamond in a Rhinestone World” – Dolly Parton

Director Gracie Otto makes a bold choice and opens her film “SERIOUSLY RED”, with a terrific and unorthodox lead into to her main character, Raylene or “Red” (Krew Boylan), as we come to know her. She captures her sitting in the bathtub while on a real estate client call, drinking a glass of wine with ice in it. The call reflects this perfectly, and it is as well, the perfect introduction to a character and story that will take us down so many different roads of life as we watch, often predicting what will happen before we see it.

The aptly named Red – due to the gorgeous red hair she was born with, has been fixated on one celebrity in particular her whole life – Dolly Parton. The obsession rolls to the point of going to her company awards banquet dressed as Dolly, which in turn leads to a karaoke performance one will not soon forget. But deep down, Red is a woman with low self-esteem, thanks in part sadly due to her mother Viv (Jean Kittson), with whom she can’t seem to please. Red has pursued this, that and the other, her whole life, with nothing being truly successful in any of them, and can now add Real Estate to that list of things, as she gets fired. But within this crazy evening Red has discovered the world of impersonators, in no thanks to a fantastic Elvis (Rose Byrne), and set’s off to pursue her dream of becoming a Dolly Parton impersonator.

After meeting a talent scout Teeth (Celeste Barber), who has a story about her own name that needs to be heard to be believed, the rest of story follows Red as she first discovers this whole new world of messy artist impersonators. She goes full tilt when meeting Wilson (Bobby Cannavale), who himself was once a Neil Diamond impersonator, and still looks it. Red hits it hard going from a fair, homemade karaoke singer to actually fully immersing herself into Dolly, and not just the big wig, heavy make-up, and frilly costumes, but to some darned fine singing as well. She takes it one step further and falls in love with a Kenny Rogers impersonator named, if you want to believe him, Kenny (Daniel Webber). Losing herself completely though is costly and not just for the implants she gets as well, but for the loss of one of her truest childhood friends, Francis (Thomas Campbell), as he begins to question her losing any identity of her actual self.

But oh this journey is fun at moments, it’s exciting, it’s hard, it’s sad and it’s so heartfelt as you really get a good look inside this entire world of impersonators. With it always being said celebrities have influence, you see just how it can be fun, but also how it can go completely overboard and overblown in someone’s life. The acting here is sublime by Boylan who hasn’t been seen much out of her home country of Australia and note is given here to the native lands and those whom live on them by her as well. As well as acting, Boylan wrote the screenplay, got Rose Byrne to do an amazing Elvis, and Bobby Cannavale, while being the only American in the film, belts out an “I Am.. I Said” as Neil Diamond that will have you up and singing along.

At the end, Red will also reflect on her own life choices, learn to trust herself, and find her way through her crazy journey of life. ‘Seriously Red’ is a story with heart and soul threading throughout it’s journey – it’s fun along with being an oh-so-charming of a watch. And remember to always ALWAYS: “Be Yourself Because Everyone is taken.” – Dolly Parton

Grade: B+

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REVIEW: “THE OUTFIT” (2022) Focus Features

Bringing us back some old school Al Capone-type gangster with it’s opening, director Graham Moore makes his directorial debut here with “THE OUTFIT”, giving us a proper whodunnit mystery that pops along at a decent pace without ever giving too much away.

Mark Rylance takes the lead here as Leonard Burling, a master tailor, or “cutter” as he says a tailor “sews buttons and does hems”. Leonard nicknamed “English” by some of his less than savoury customers, who immigrated over from the U.K., runs a small, high-end tailor shop in Chicago along with his assistant, Mabel (Zoey Deutch). As you watch, we note the shop is possibly also being used as a money drop point for local Irish gangster Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale). When son-of-the-boss Richie Boyle (Dylan O’Brien), and his side henchman, Francis (Johnny Flynn), find an envelope with dangerous information from an organization known only by their insignia and secret name “The Outfit”. This makes the shop, along with Leonard himself, caught in the middle of a dangerous game between the rival gangs of the city, all of whom buy his suits.

(L to R) Johnny Flynn as “Francis”, Alan Mehdizadeh as “Monk” and Zoey Deutch as “Mable” in director Graham Moore’s THE OUTFIT, a Focus Features release. Courtesy of Nick Wall / Focus Features

With the entire film being shot in a single location is a wonderful choice here by Moore with the camera never leaving the confines of the shop, it allows us to see an the entire expansive world of the mystery unfolding before us, and recognizing small details that show up within to add to the makeup of the film. We watch as Leonard has to try to outwit these enemies to make it through the night, and within the singular walls of the store, it lets the characters develop, lets tension build, and keeps everything contained. As well, it let’s the production design sets the mood for the era and elegance within this high-end shop that it all takes place in. The costume design is beautifully done and hits the era of men wearing hats with their beautifully tailored suits, with the musical score helps keep pace with all that is going on around with each character in the shop.

Good acting by the two leads, Mark Rylance who is such a treasure as an actor, and just the gem that makes this film shine, along with Zoey Deutch, who gives her role a snark of sarcasm and confidence that makes one take note. The supporting cast of O’Brien, whose thick Chicago wise-guy accent is distracting at first as it’s so overdone, but he turns it all around with his good turn for the dramatic here, as well Flynn who plays his backstabbing best friend who isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to get to the top. Adding in a nice surprise at the end with Nikki Amuka-Bird as Violet, leader of her own Chicago-bred gang, brings a bold note to the film, all the while keeping us guessing as to her true intentions. Note here again to costume design, as Amuka-Bird is flawless in her hat/coat of the time look.

Nikki Amuka-Bird (center) stars as “Violet” in director Graham Moore’s THE OUTFIT, a Focus Features release. Courtesy of Focus Features

While not without it’s distractions, ‘The Outfit is not a film of ‘big’ moments happening or filled with big shoot outs or heavy violence, if you’re looking for the tommy gun shootouts between men in big suits riding side-car on cars while shooting up the streets, this is not your movie. If you’re looking for sophisticated decently done whodunnit that unfolds with time, this is your watch and I hope it doesn’t fly under anyone’s radar as it deserves to be watched.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Monday, March 7, 2022 ~Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

Focus Features will release THE OUTFIT in theaters this Friday March 18, 2022

REVIEW: “THE BATMAN” (2022) Warner Bros

Sitting down to write this review, reminding myself that there is really only three comic book characters I have ever truly cared about. The X-Men, which I devoutly every Saturday morning at 11am; Superman, along with having a weird connection to a few of the films – which is another story entirely, and you guessed it, Batman. Batman defied logic for me as he didn’t need a super power, his super power was being Bruce Wayne as well, as he fought off The Penguin, The Riddler, or The Joker, whichever villain you pick. And he always did it with the help of Alfred, who not only took the role of the dad figure in his life, but helped him become The Batman in every way. Sometimes there was Robin by his side, sometimes there wasn’t, but even from the beginning in order for Batman to be, there must be Bruce Wayne as well. And while there have been many actors portraying him, numerous takes and variations of him as well during the years, this time we have Robert Pattinson picking up the baton here in dual role of The Batman/Bruce Wayne.

This 2022 version of the film is directed by Matt Reeves and as noted, stars Robert Pattinson (The Batman) and features quite a few villains, bringing back The Riddler (Paul Dano), and The Penguin as his true self here, Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell), in two very different plot arcs. The Riddler here as well, brings a very different look to what we normally see as his costume as revealed in the trailer. Dano wears what basically looks like a full head cover with goggle type eyes looking more Unabomber-ish than what we expect and know The Riddler to be, with his identity not being fully revealed for some time. And Farrell as The Penguin/Cobblespot is completely unrecognizable as himself with some incredible makeup/prothesis done here. As well, helping defend Gotham City on the law and order side is James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), who seems to be the only law enforcement that is on Batman’s side, but alas still with the inevitable mustache.

And yes, the story line is very much the usual fare of villains courting danger in the city of Gotham and one of our most prominent ones here is Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), who is running an underground club, and may or may not have connections to The Penguin as well. As always trusty Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), is there to help The Batman through all the ups and downs of dealing with a city that has a love hate relationship with him. Speaking of a love/hate relationship, back again as well is Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), and one of the true highlights of the film. And how can you not love that they take it back old school somewhat, as even in the cheesy TV show, Batman & Catwoman had constant love/hate relationship and here, that story line features again. As well Kravitz gives it back to the old school ‘exotic’ as well, heralding back to the days of Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfeiffer, bringing back to the role something essential that had been sorely missed.

To delve into this entire movie after you see it is like unpacking after a long vacation, and I mean really long vacation as this is a very long movie with a lot to unpack. You won’t find me giving away any storyline spoilers here but there are moments to love, from the dark gritty mood of it all, to the set pieces, to the cinematography, and the remarkable film score are all simply wonderful. The action is good throughout most of the film, but slows itself down at times almost a second to much with making this Batman into more ‘detective’ versus a Caped Crusader who just gets summoned by the infamous bat signal to help whatever crime is occurring in the Gotham City. It also felt like it could’ve ended at least three different points in times before it did and left us with a bit of hanging suspense for what’s to come. The ending as is, plus the post-credits scene almost betrays the fact and leaves one to realize this is definitely not a one off Batman like they have professed it to be.

And then we come down down to performance as we all have our favourite Batman and on everyone’s mind is how Robert Pattinson will fare as The Caped Crusader himself, The Batman. For me your Batman is only as good as your Bruce Wayne, it’s a fine line and both have to be equally as good for a true Batman to be. But Pattinson doesn’t connect here at all with the Bruce Wayne aspect of the character, to the point where I had flashbacks to him reminiscent of his Twilight character days. His Bruce Wayne portrayal here is not done in the usual classy, almost elegant manner of the billionaire who hides behind his mask. Now, on the better point is his Batman isn’t bad, not great mind you, but definitely not bad enough to distract through the movie as a whole, but enough to distract when being Bruce Wayne. In other words, he is good, but not great. Farrell however is very good as Cobblepot and again, you wouldn’t know it was him had we not known in advance who was under that look. And Paul Dano, while not the best Riddler look, his performance of the character, especially at the end was nothing short of spectacular. But there is also one huge standout here and that my friends is John Turturo as Falcone. He is a perfect villain and gives everyone on the screen a go for their money with his role being as decadent as it is. And lastly we have Catwomen who with her eyes made up, brilliant and beautiful as Selina Kyle, add her cat mask and ‘adventures’ on her motorcycle, and again, the love/hate relationship with Batman done with some very real chemistry, here she is a big meow in all the right ways.

(Photo by MEGA/GC Images)

All in all as you unwrap it all in your head to process it, and it will take a more than a moment to do so, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that it was good, just maybe not great. But as well it’s probably, no it’s most definitely too long and it’s a bit unclear on the direction they will go next, but it’s a solid, entertaining time in the seemingly never ending line of Caped Crusader contenders. Where it rates for each person, will be just that, up to each individual person.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Thursday, February 24, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“THE BATMAN” FROM WARNER BRO. PICTURES WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 2022

REVIEW: “TED K” (2022) Super LTD

One questions always arises as you begin to watch what might seem like another movie about a someone who did so much harm to so many. In essence, Ted Kaczynski was one of America’s first ‘domestic terrorists’. “TED K” is the latest in a slew of films based on one of America’s worst and longest active domestic terrorists. The film by co-writer/director Tony Stone’s biography of Ted Kaczynski, was known during the decades-long manhunt for him as “the Unabomber,” portrays him as a mathematical genius of a man whose idea that the outside world is encroaching on him and he has had enough, a self-perceived righteousness so to speak, to enable him to take action against everything and everyone who contributed to this.

Ted K’ begins with a prologue of basic details, most of what we already know – Kaczynski was a Harvard educated math genius who dropped out of society and moved to the Rocky Mountains in Lincoln, Montana, which as we know, is home to many of these nationalists groups and there has been found evidence that Montana was once selected “for the development of a white Aryan homeland to be used as a base of operation”. So it should come as no surprise this is where Ted picked to live off the grid. Following that, the opening sequence sets the stage as we see Kaczynski hiding in the forest while loggers tear down the forest around him, snow mobiles whiz by with vacationers on them – all feeding his imagination that modern technology, will be the end of humanity as it is and feels this is so wrong, that even though he wants no part of it, he finds himself bowing to it to carry out his ‘ideals’. All the while, trying to convince as many people as he can of the same philosophy.

That’s how the movie’s Ted Kaczynski, is played here by Sharlto Copley. But therein lies the danger here in doing this as Copley is actually so good at points, that the movie approaches the thin line of romanticizing not just the man, but in an odd way, what he stood for as well as you can’t deny some of his predictions ring with a bit of truth in today’s world. So instead of seeing him as the monster he was, you look at him as a flawed human being – when that is just not the case, but it is good acting. The showing of who this man is, how he holds grudges, erupts in rages to everyone from the phone company to verbally abusing his family, all the while begging them to send some money his way. For Ted it seems it was always someone else’s fault for what happens to him in life, and that, more than any of his crazy demands in his 25,000 word manifesto of which this film is based primarily upon, is what defines the man. The deluded thoughts of a man who considered modern technology to be evil and used a hit list to identify the targets for his homemade bombs – bombs by the way, that often injured unintended victims and not his intended targets.

And so it comes to the conclusion that we already know, but that still rings hard with the fact that under the threat bombing of another target, his manifesto makes it to the pages of the Washington Post, therein leading to his downfall after the longest manhunt in history, betrayed I’m sure in his own delusional mind, by his brother who recognized the writings. And so brings us to the end of this long chapter in life, sadly we were to see many more domestic terrorists come to fruition, and even just recently, almost lost our country to them – and maybe that is why it is important to sometimes still watch a film like this. Superbly acted, but also to keep us aware that all amongst us are not with us.

In the end, Ted was just a sexually frustrated misogynist who became a dysfunctional, delusional and dangerous man. Sadly, he won’t be the last.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“TED K” premieres exclusively in theaters Friday, February 18, 2022