Category Archives: Mystery

SXSW REVIEW: “THE COW” (2022)

Winona Ryder is truly at some of her best here in Eli Horowitz’s “THE COW“. Along with Dermot Mulroney in this rather fun “genetic” little mystery thriller, that twists along to an ending you’d never quite think of. While it’s not without it’s problems, it is still just simple fun.

With a film title has nothing to do with the animal it’s named after, the story follows Kath (Winona Ryder), and her boyfriend Max (John Gallagher Jr.), as they arrive at a remote cabin in the redwoods and mysteriously discover it already occupied by a younger couple, one Greta (Brianne Tju) and one Al (Owen Teague). The question of why is answered quickly as it’s clear the rental has already been double-booked, so neither couple has anywhere else to go, with Kath and Max being quickly invited to stay ‘just one night’.

And the mystery only deepens when she wakes up to find out Max just up and disappeared with Greta, and a broken up Al is the one to tell her the next day. Kath goes home, but randomly becomes obsessed with getting to the bottom of their sudden breakup – but will learning the truth be worse than she could ever imagine? Yes, yes it can. See what we end up finding out is the ever so important backstory. Kath is older than Max, by 10 to 15 years, as well, Kath is insecure about herself, and being in a relationship with a younger man has made her even more doubtful of her attractiveness, as we see her examining the wrinkles on her face.  On the other hand, Max isn’t very mature for his age, doesn’t even do the most basic of things like drive, and seems to be out of place at a dinner party with Kath’s friends. Turns out, the trip to the woods was an attempt by Max to keep Kath showing her he CAN be the guy for her, and for Kath to keep Max, showing him that she can be adventurous. Which speaks volumes about what is to happen later as she ends up meeting Nicholas (Dermot Mulroney), the man who actually owns the cabin, on her attempt to find out who Greta really is. While similar in age, and while he might be somewhat of a recluse, Nicholas clearly also has his life together, although as we soon find out, not in exactly the way we thought he did. 

While the film continues on with twists and turns, not all of them come off as one is not sure if this film is every going to go horror on them, or continue on the path it seems to be heading of everything relying on that one fateful night. Honestly, all the credit here goes to Ryder for pulling the bizarre middle and ending twist off, as without her, Tju and Teague, making those twists from left field that keep you engaged in this mystery ride along with Kath wouldn’t be anywhere near as enjoyable. That they can keep you on your toes guessing, even questioning her end-result intentions till the very last moment, is the point of all of it. Without them, this would not be the clever thriller that it is – even with it’s faults on display – they help pull it off.

Having just been picked up by Vertical Entertainment, the film is set to release later this year. Don’t miss it.

Grade: C+

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REVIEW: “SCREAM” (2022) Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group

Ring..Ring.. Ring..Ring.. Yes – someone still has a landline and yes, what would “SCREAM” be if they didn’t. I mean they have to follow some traditions and this one is a MUST to have as they can’t deny us, the audience this one major plot point now can they. Well thankfully co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett agree.

The plot is simple and while it’s good to it all keep vague to not spoil it, it’s also exactly what you think it will be with the exception of this time around they’ve brought along with them a new cast of characters. New girls Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), and her older sister Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), as our female leads, essentially taking the spots of Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox), and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), they have the same chemistry of not really being close at the beginning. And then Ghostface returns to town proving he can still slash with the best of them, and turns everything upside down.

With her own set of suspects…errr… friends, Tara gets attacked by whomever Ghostface might actually be this time around and that list of new suspects is long. There is Sam’s boyfriend Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid), along with Tara’s group of school friends, Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison), the twins, Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy-Brown), Liv McKenzie (Sonia Ammar), and Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette) – who is none other than Deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) son. Combining this new cast along with our old favourites – Gale, Sidney and yes, the now “retired” Dewey Riley (David Arquette), makes this film an absolute blast, with a lot of crisp, smart, but alas also cliched writing, that combines the nostalgia of what has come before with the infusion of fresh talent present here. Now this is how you return to Woodsboro.

SCREAM is a fun, intelligent horror film and the fandom should be quite happy here with it as it draws some good laughs for how the writers nail every piece of the dialogue, along with the film’s ability to recognize not only where it came from, but to play with it along the way. You’re along for the jokes as an audience, while it juggles every one of your expectations when it comes to what is on the screen. And while of course it has cliché galore and some cheese is thrown in, but that is sorta what the DNA of the franchise is notorious for now isn’t it?! Truly, what would a ‘SCREAM’ movie be if your characters didn’t get slashed and still be able to get up and walk around like nothing has ever happened. And that’s also what brings the humour – the quick funny one liners about what people “should” be doing in a horror movie is what made the original well.. so original.

And while the new cast is good and pretty solid in their respective new roles with any one of them being able to be and/or suspected of at one time or another, of being Ghostface. Noting that they remind you of characters of old is to be expected as well, but it is Jenna Ortega who is truly amazing here. She brings the solid teen vibes making being stalked by Ghostface seem realistic. But for all that they bring, it’s hands down the old school cast that brings it hard here. Every one of them brings back not just the memories, but their characters are more solid at this point as well. One can’t help but be entertained by it all.

With tons of slasher kills, some are not for the faint of heart, as they try to outdo each other in this area and while fun, the finale seems almost like they were trying a bit too hard to come up with too many twists and turns that are fairly obvious. But again, it’s mostly just some fun with cliché thrown in adding to the good old time slash – all in all – it’s a ..SCREAM!

Grade: B+

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Review Screening: Tuesday, January 11, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment

“SCREAM” IS OUT IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY, JANUARY 14, 2022

REVIEW: “LAST NIGHT IN SOHO” (2021) Focus Features

Nostalgia can be a beautiful thing and “LAST NIGHT IN SOHO” takes us back to the Swinging 60’s of the scene in the famous entertainment district in London’s stylish West End in way I was completely not prepared for. The film however is also meant to be in the present tense and it’s the vivid intersecting of these two periods, that definitely take you on a ride that you just might not be ready for. What started out completely amazing for its first 2 acts-only switched gears to a different tone in the final act. Not necessarily a bad one, just maybe a gear or two off from what you expected or wanted.

As we see Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), open the film in present day by dancing around her 60’s styled room, in a self-designed dress made of all things – newspaper. We soon learn she’s an orphan raised by her supportive grandmother (Rita Tushingham) and dreams of being a fashion designer. So she is thrilled when her acceptance letter arrives from the London School of Fashion. But it’s here we find out that Ellie also has visions of sorts and this should be kept in mind as she moves herself to London to carry out these dreams.

Once Ellie arrives in London, she is overwhelmed with the big city so to speak, and she immediately becomes the target of ‘mean girls’ and fellow student Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen). Rather than subject herself to the abuse, Ellie sublets an attic room from an kindly elderly landlord named Mrs. Collins (Diana Rigg). Ellie loves the room and her independence, but her dreams act as a portal back to those swinging 60’s of which she’s so fond. But that’s only the beginning. It’s here where she follows/becomes Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), and the mirror effects are truly other-worldly. Sandie is everything that Ellie wishes she was herself – confident, radiant, ambitious, and beautiful. This dream state allows Ellie to live vicariously through Sandie. At least initially.

Her dreams quickly become reality, as Eloise keeps magically getting transported back to 60s London, where she is mysteriously linked to the life of Sandie. These nighttime adventures allow Eloise to live the life she’s always wanted. But the honeymoon period doesn’t last for long, as these dreams gradually devolve into nightmares. The question of what is reality and what is dream begins to get muddled, as the glamorous white lights begin to fade and run into other worldly areas that take the movie out of the context it was in. It’s almost as it in three different parts, with parts one and two being the most creative and stylishly fun, and the third coming in to take it over as a different type of film altogether, and while not making it bad, there was a moment in between those parts where I thought I might be seeing what could’ve been my favourite film of the year had it not changed gears so completely.


With there being no true central villain to this story, as Sandie’s pimp and abuser, Jack (Matt Smith), is one of them, and plays his role with relish but the idea is truly that there are hundreds of villains and for a while, the villains are the ghoulish spirits of controlling men. But the main high points of this film is how it is loaded with so many great hits from the 60s, the score was haunting, beautiful, eerie, and pair that with the cinematography and you have a nice chef’s kiss of fun. And not to be remiss, but the costuming and designing here along with hair is absolute perfection when it comes to what they are trying to tell you with the story. Put all of it together and you will be apt to agree the film just looks phenomenal, from the way it’s filmed to the use of colors, it nails that aesthetic of 60s London, and makes you feel like you’re on the most mesmerizing trip.

Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy were very good as honestly, Taylor-Joy lights up any screen she is on and gave the perfect amount of seductiveness needed in her time traveling role. McKenzie gives an equally good performance in the lead role as she brings that sweet sense of naivety and adorable cuteness, and lighthearted feel amongst the very dark and disturbing nature of many of the film’s elements, and moments where the film slowed down to focus on her character was never boring because she had such an energetic vibe to her and was quite entertaining to watch. Ellie’s admirer John (Michael Ajao), is a fellow student that also hasn’t seemed to fit in and seems to be the only genuine person at this university, offering friendship to Ellie, which nobody else there offers her, but their relationship almost seems more clumsy than real.

The finale twists up somewhat as just where you though you knew where the plot was headed once everything started to wrap up (or so it seemed), then make way as you’re hit with something game-changing for the story and while again, it totally veered into left field from what the beginning of the film started off – it still is a stylish mystery-type horror thriller that has it’s highlights and is worth the Halloween watch.

Grade: B-

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Film Independent

“LAST NIGHT IN SOHO” IS OUT IN THEATERS NOW

TRIBECA 2021 REVIEW: “FALSE POSITIVE” HULU

One of my tops to watch for Tribeca 2021 was “FALSE POSITIVE” and let me tell you how this slow-burn thriller did not disappoint – for the first hour. What started off semi-interesting, unfortunately took a spin into left field and went for ridiculous and non-sensical.

Lucy (Ilana Glazer), plays a mom who is struggling with something that many have before, conceiving a child. Her husband Adrian (Justin Theroux), agrees they need to to a fertility clinic in attempt to get pregnant, and he conveniently knows of one ran by his old medical professor, Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan). It’s an odd place, with stepford like nurses in Nurse Rita (Sabine Gadecki) and most especially lead Nurse Dawn (Gretchen Mol). She conceives multiple babies, twin boys and a daughter she names “Wendy”. But the one fetus, the girl, is weak, and Lucy and Adrian have to make a choice about selective reduction: save the two males or save the female.

Replete with the evil fertility doctor played by Brosnan, and the thoroughly complicit husband played by Theroux, Ilana gets to play a mom, struggling with something that everybody, in this movie at least, keeps calling “mommy brain”. But it’s clearly much much more than whatever that ‘affliction’ might be. First her husband, then her friends, even the closest one from the ‘mommy group’ Corgan (Sophia Bush), seemingly start to turn on her as we see Lucy having all these random paranoid thoughts and dreams. But the absolute last straw is when the midwife she chose in secret and insists on using finally proclaims, “I am not your mystical negress.” How does that even come to be stated in a screenplay, one will never know. Anyway, what was actually intriguing and entertaining for the first 45 minutes, dramatically changes, but what puts you into the ‘really ick’ category is by what unfolds towards the end. It didn’t sit well with me at all. It was incredibly strange, cringey, and just in bad taste. I’m not even sure if the writers knew where they were going with this ending, most especially the last scene. None of this can be revealed as it’s something each person needs to see to decide for themselves what their ‘factor’ is. Plus it’s essentially the entire plot of the movie as well.

Taking all that under consideration, the acting was still quite good from all concerned, most especially Brosnan who took the creepy villain to heart here. But the whole dream sequence after dream sequence and with an ending that made me scream out WHY?? – just took what could have been a truly good creeper horror and made it almost into a joke – albeit a not so good one from this point of view.

C-

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Tribeca Virtual screening of ‘’False Positive” ~ courtesy of ID PR

“FALSE POSITIVE” DEBUTED AT TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL AND IS NOW PLAYING ON HULU

REVIEW: “SWALLOW” (2020) IFC FILMS

Not sure why IMDB had this noted as a horror/thriller and have since changed it as to be clear, this is not a horror film, but yes, it is a thriller of sorts. But please don’t go in expecting horror movie from “SWALLOW” as it’s clear Director Carlo Mirabella-Davis never meant it to be that. It’s more of a psychological drama mixed in with mental health, mixed in with a wife coming into her own. ‘Swallow’ truly fascinated me as I’ve never seen a movie like it and as strange as the film was, I was never bored.

‘Swallow‘ is a study of our main character Hunter (Haley Bennett), and a really good one at that. Hunter is a newly pregnant housewife who finds herself in marriage to Richie (Austin Stowell), one in which his parents feel she married above her stature in life. Richie is the youngest director at the firm that his father Michael (David Rasche) is in charge of and his mother Katherine (Elizabeth Marvel), is what one might want to call a ‘socialite’. Hunter – who is constantly and condescendingly reminded from the three of them that she is not from the same class as them, so she feels out of place. This film highlights profound consequences of trauma and what is clearly a form of PTSD and how it affects some mentally as Hunter – not really knowing who she is or what she is supposed to do, she starts to eat things – as in non-food items. It starts with a marble and then progresses to things that are much more dangerous like thumbtacks and batteries. When she goes to have an ultrasound her they begin notice all is not normal and find the foreign items inside which are removed by an emergency surgery. This infuriates Richie and his family to no extent, though they play the blame game more than anything and never try to find out why, they just want her to stop. They don’t understand she doesn’t know why she’s doing this and are embarrassed by her. Yet when having a dinner party pretending all is well and wonderful, Hunter finds out he has shared everything with those he works with and is beyond upset with him. She is also taken to therapy as well as having Luay (Laith Nakli), a male nurse, to take care of her but it’s more like he is there to watch her every move to make sure she doesn’t start eating household items again.

Be very clear here though as when Hunter is swallowing things, it has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to endanger the child as she really wants the child. The bigger issue rising within that we begin to see was that she hates being a housewife and the biggest issue of all, that she doesn’t know who she is in relation to her past. It’s a poignant way to showcase the point that even if you have everything of what so many people aspire to get – a handsome, successful husband, a big beautiful house, wealth, marriage, and not having to work etc., that it far from guarantees happiness. Her life completely encompasses the age old adage of “Be careful what you wish for”.

Acting wise you have to give major props to Bennett as she makes every scene gripping. On the outside she looks like an a pretty blonde without a care or thought in the world, but there’s something vulnerable about her and in her eyes you can see she is hiding some dark, ugly and sad secret. You really come to understand her motivations and why she does what she does. Stowell seems like the perfect husband on the outside, but we get glimpses that he’s really isn’t and he does well at portraying both sides. Marvel and Rasche do well and portray the overbearing, snobby parents very believably. And Nakli as the male ‘nurse’ will give you not only a great performance, but a wonderful backstory and surprise as well.

Overall, I adored the acting, story, and cinematography, again it’s a little strange maybe but oh so fascinating. A warning to some though, this films ending is very decisive and I can see what happens at the end might be a hot button for some, for me it was perfect where it went and is definitely empowering her as a woman. 

Grade: B

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Review screening: Courtesy oIFC Films

“SWALLOW” IS STREAMING ON TO HULU

REVIEW: “THE INVISIBLE MAN” (2020) Blumhouse/Universal Pictures

There is a difference between what makes scary/horror movies well, scary. There is the slasher/gore type that really aren’t scary, but serve a purpose. And there there is the kind that from the very first moment, have you on the edge of your seat/holding your breath type scare. These are the preferred kind. The kind that holds you in it’s grip with every one of your senses tingling in anticipation.  Writer/Director Leigh Whannell’s “THE INVISIBLE MAN” is that movie.

Where James Whale’s masterful 1933 version of H.G. Wells‘ story saw its main transparent character commit murder on a mass scale on a self-proclaimed reign of terror, Whannell’s refreshing take on The Invisible Man, has gone for the opposite approach.  It’s not just jump-scares or loud noises, it’s something psychological. From the opening shot, you’re immediately put inside Elisabeth Moss’ character Cecilia’s head.  The whole opening scene makes you uncomfortable as we see Cecilia trying to make her escape and this kind of tension is kept on throughout the film.

Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) is a woman living in fear. She is stuck in an abusive relationship and can’t get out of it despite living a life of wealth and privilege in a seaside home; she is ready to take some drastic steps in her life to try to escape from her controlling and abusive husband who despite being considered a wealthy genius in the field of Optics, has made her life a living hell.  All of this combined forces her to make a daring escape that has her barely getting away with the help of her sister Alice (Harriett Dyer).

Picking us up two weeks later – we find Cecilia is in hiding with a friend of her sister’s, Officer James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She is scared to even leave the house and do the most basic of things such as checking the mailbox. All this begins to change (or does it?) when Alice brings Cecilia some information that starts the ball rolling for us all.

So with now having supposedly escaped the controlling relationship, Cecilia’s rehabilitation is cut short by the sudden intrusion of her ex who has figured out how to regain control over her life without anyone knowing how or why.  As it’s around this time that unusual things begin to happen to her. A lost item from the night of her escape shows up, a mysterious kitchen fire starts and lets the audience know to keep their eyes locked on everything as if you blink, you just might miss something cold and calculating happening.  When she expresses her concerns to others that her husband is alive and exacting revenge, and when things begin to escalate, Cecilia is the one who starts to look more and more unstable as the tormenting continues and her life spins out of control.

Expertly utilizing sci-fi trappings to take gaslighting to a whole new extreme, (there is a restaurant scene that you will never forget) the film depicts first-hand the anxieties faced by many modern-day survivors of abuse. As Cecilia stresses to those around her that her genius scientist ex has become invisible, we are left conflicted by knowing the truth of her words but also the understanding that, without hard evidence, it’s hard to accept her story at face value.

By operating in that grey area, ‘The Invisible Man’ proves the horror genre to be one of the most effective means to reflect modern day anxieties to mass audiences. Another thing this film succeeds upon is the writing. The story progresses in a fast paced way which doesn’t seem hurried. The 2 hr. run-time feels achieved. There’s definitely more than one ‘WTF’ moment in this film to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.  As well, the score and the sound design definitely puts you in Cecilia’s shoes as you struggle with her to point out where and how exactly these events are happening aka where this ‘invisible man’ might be. The camera work is exquisite, and the action sequences definitely feel thrilling and the way it’s shot makes you feel like you’re living it.

Lastly, make no mistake about it, this movie is Elisabeth Moss’s and she lives, breathes and takes you along for the ride as if you are living it right next to her.  Hodge has always been a favourite and holds his own genuinely well here as does Storm Reid.  And don’t feel fooled by the seemingly small part of Michael Dorman as the brother Tom or Cecilia’s husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), as both have a surprise or two in hand for you.

Grade: B+

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“THE INVISIBLE MAN” IS NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE

REVIEW: “WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE” (2019) Annapurna Pictures

Imagine my surprise sitting five minutes into this movie and realizing it all seems so familiar somehow.  Unfortunately that is the fate of being an avid reader as well as film goer, I realized I’d read Maria Semple’s wonderful 2012 novel “WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE” (no ? mark by the way) maybe a year or more ago.  And the bad thing about doing so, is it takes you into that dreaded  “spoiler alert” zone which we all try to avoid.

As director Richard Linklater has nabbed this one up and added Cate Blanchett in the lead role of Bernadette Fox, Billy Crudup as her husband Elgin, and rounding out the lead family roles with newcomer Emma Nelson as their daughter Bee.  He takes this rather dark comic tale of a highly creative, yet completely unhappy woman, who’s suppressed her creative talent for a few decades and finally seems to rediscover it through an unlikely journey.  The book is also, as the title suggests, a mystery, though the film seems to leave this portion by the wayside.  The story told comes mostly from two viewpoints. The first part which let’s us get to know the character we are dealing with, comes from Bernadette herself in emails to ‘Mangula’ her India based ‘virtual assistant’ and really have her coming off like a rich woman, who does nothing but bitch and moan about the other women in the picture, neighbor Audrey (Kristen Wiig) and Soo Lin (Zoe Chao). All this whilst living in a decaying mansion meant to have be re-done for years, and did we mention the loads of wealth thanks to husband Elgin having accrued it as a tech titan.

The other half is mostly woven together by Bee, who’s become the sole focus in her mother’s stuck in neutral life. It soon becomes clear that Bee’s also the only person in Bernadette’s orbit who truly understands and accepts her and her ridiculous bad behaviour towards pretty much anyone within shouting distance.  The endless seams being put together here a lot of Bernadette’s misery, the odd way she defects from the community she lives in as they shun her. Yet even though she practically destroys neighbor Audrey’s house, oddly she is also the one to help her escape from the realities she can no longer face and helps her embark on a new journey of adventure and discovery.

Linklater’s undertaking of this book was maybe as task he wasn’t quite up for as while he does great by casting Blanchette who relishes this type of character and can play this persona in her sleep, but he also misses some very pertinent portions of the book that makes the film seem almost uneven.  It’s like he left the best parts of the book on the cutting room floor. Wiig is wonderful as well, and some cameos by Lawrence Fishburne, Megan Mullally, and Steve Zahn are fun, and newcomer Nelson does well on her first go round her being in such stellar company, she definitely holds her own.   While the cinematography is wonderful once they get into the Antarctica portion of the film – it’s almost piecemealed together with what the purpose is of her leaving, what she is trying to do out there, how she gets there, how her husband and daughter try to find her is just given to you here, and it’s lines are not well connected, whereas as the book makes you really understand and feel the panic of not knowing where her mother is or why. Again, major plot portions are skimmed over when they are integral to the story.  Linklater just took to long to help us understand the complexity of Bernadette and her real struggles in skips and starts rather than with the flow that was needed.

While the film has it’s quirky, funny moments, I feel like a lot of this was a swing and a miss for Linklater who is always trying to challenge himself. There are things to appreciate, like the musical score and performances but not a whole lot else in this rather uneventful and non memorable film.  In other words I’m telling you to read the book and do so after you’ve seen the film. It will make much more sense then.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Film group.

“WHERE’D YA GO BERNADETTE” IS IN U.S. THEATERS NOW 

Spirit Awards Review Nominee Screenings – week one

So I am a member of Film Independent and every year they do a two-week long jaunt of screenings of all the Spirit Award Nominees. As a lover of Indie films, these two weeks are quite heavenly as not only are the screenings just a short distance from me, but let me see and open my eyes to many films that you don’t always get a media screening invite for. It gave me personally an extra benefit this year as I was quite ill, especially these past few months and missed quite a few of screenings I did have. So onward with brief thoughts and grades on everything I’ve seen so far. Mind you, I did miss some of these even, as not only do they do a whole block of them on weekends as in four in a row – I had a medical time-out for most of the week. Luckily, many of the films are luckily on Netflix, Prime or Hulu – and as voters are also provided with links to watch all of nominated films. But truthfully, watching films on a laptop just seriously isn’t how they are meant to be viewed now is it. So with that in mind – here we go. (following in the format of the Film Independent Screening Awards schedule)

Day One:
“SORRY TO BOTHER YOU” Dir: Boots Riley

I was really loving the first part of this film as it was satire sharp, imaginative and funny. But not only does it run too long, but that bizarro left turn it takes in the last third of the movie will surely leave most as bewildered as I was.
Grade: C-

Day Two:
“SHIRKERS” Dir: Sandi Tan

This was a great little women-driven documentary that takes on a journey of a lost film, a strange relationship that made that happen, and all the friends along the way. But maybe it’s the oddness of all of it put together that works so well.
Grade: B

“LEAVE NO TRACE” by Debra Granik

If you asked me if I thought I would enjoy a film about a man (Ben Foster) and his 13-yr. old daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) who have been living off the grid in an urban park of all places, and what happens when they make a single mistake and get caught, well I would’ve have probably laughed a bit and given you a ‘NO’ in response. As it was, I loved this film. It was taunt with drama, and the age old question of what is right or perceived as so, and what is wrong, again, perceived as so.
Grade: A

“HEREDITARY” by Ari Astor

While the film wasn’t scary per se for me, nor a particularly good horror film by any stretch, it did stitch itself together enough to follow along and be entertaining mostly because Toni Collette took it there. I had forgotten about Gabriel Byrne somewhat over the years, but his supporting role along with Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff topping off with good performances of their own, helped bring this film up a notch to be sure.
Grade: C

“ROMA” Dir: Alfonso Cuarón

A completely different take on the trials and tribulations in the life of a maid in to a rather dis-functional wealthy family in 1970’s Mexico City. While Yalitza Aparicio is a breath of fresh air to be sure, along with Marina de Tavira and well, truly the whole cast, I do think it’s a bit over-hyped in the ‘how good it is’ department. Mind you it IS good and I will leave it at that.
Grade: B

Day Three:

“PRIVATE LIFE” Dir: Tamara Jenkins

Both Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti give a completely believable ordeal of what one couple goes through to have a child – including numerous fertility ordeals, tests, fake surrogates, family surrogates, money and most of all their own lives and relationships, in a series of choices that can only make one cringe at times as to what some will choose to endure.
Grade: C-

“THE FAVOURITE” Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

Let me just shout about how much and how long I’ve loved Olivia Colman. I always felt she was under-utilized so much or not given enough credit for her work. Here, she finally gets her lead role that will no doubt finally change all that and bring her an award. Alongside Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as her supporting, they do a commendable job of making this odd story come to life. While I didn’t love the film overall, the performances were so strong. Even Nicholas Hoult dons the old British wig and make-up to do a fun spin here as the strangest of cads. All said and done, just give Olivia her due already and be done with it.
Grade: C+

Day Four

“MADELINE’S MADELINE” Dir: Josephine Decker

I tried very hard to find a redeeming quality of this film and I just really didn’t find one. It was all over the place with nonsensical scenes cutting back and forth to add up nothing of what makes a film flow from scene to scene. It completely lacked any sense as you didn’t know if Molly Parker’s character was wanting Madeline (Helena Howard) to be crazy or making her crazy. All in all, it just lacked any and all of the Drama/Mystery/Thriller it is categorized as.
Grade: D-

“MINDING THE GAP” Dir: Bing Liu

As we know not all documentaries are going to be a pleasant, happy experience. This one however, made me feel as though I was watching a long drawn out episode of Teen Mom. And while I’ve never actually watched that show, I’m going to guess if you add in their boyfriends and skateboards, you’ve got it down pat. Enough said.
Grade: D-

“FIRST REFORMED” Dir: Paul Schrader

Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried both give good performances here and once again, without that this would be a truly hard film to sit through in it’s entirety. I just wish the movie didn’t drag so much for so long in many different parts. It’s seems as it’s trying to be a social commentary on despair, climate change, torment and tragedy all wrapped up in a bow that you see the ending coming right at you by the 30th minute leaving nothing to chance.
Grade: C

Day Five:

“If Beale Street Could Talk” Dir: Barry Jenkins

While I wasn’t Moonlight’s biggest fan, I did find Beale Street to be a far better film to be sure. I still didn’t love it as it left a lot of questions unanswered for me that I wanted to know and made it feel incomplete to me. While Kiki Lane and Stephan James are the leads, for me it was all about Regina King and Michael Beach (who is all of a sudden in so many projects and I love this fact) who really brought home the acting. And while so much of this hit hard, there was just still too much I wanted to know more about.
Grade: C+

And that’s all I’ve seen at this point – but I’ve still this weeks schedule and to make up some of last week’s also. So please come back as I will hopefully be posting more often again.

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Review: “A Simple Favor” – or is it simply an unfavorable one (2018) Lionsgate

First things first, “A Simple Favor” is not really a mystery film, though it tries very hard, it seemed almost a spoof of a mystery. As much as the marketing would have you believe, and for those looking for the next Gone Girl or Girl on The Train, you might want to continue your search. The story here is far-fetched, overcooked and unravels in such a hasty-type way that it’s hard to treat much of it seriously. Director Paul Feig (best known for his comedy), is seemingly aware of the story’s inherent ridiculousness and keeps the film light and easily digestible, but the result is a weird hybrid of a comedy-mystery that doesn’t hit home with either genre completely and comes off spoof-like as there are whole bricks of time that you aren’t sure if a certain part was meant to be funny or dramatic, so the laughs are small.

The film, based on the novel by Darcey Bell, gives us neurotic Mommy Vlogger Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick,) a widowed mother to a young son. Her goody two-shoes personality makes her pariah amongst the other parents by being so overly perky that the sneers and snark given behind her back are viciou,s but quite true. But she’s also so desperate for human connection that she’s willing to befriend Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), the martini-guzzling fashion industry executive who is not exactly a hands-on mother to her son. We soon learn that martinis and playdates shouldn’t be mixed. Before long they become best friends, at least in Stephanie’s mind they are and when Emily disappears, Stephanie steps out of her shell to solve the mystery via her vlog. I kid you not.

Kendrick’s role is attuned to her goofy charms, though she always comes off as being more of a teenager than an adult. While on the other hand, Lively convincingly embodies the enigmatic nature of her character in a crucial supporting role. And then we have Henry Golding, who hot off his Crazy Rich Asians role, gets the rough end of the deal playing Emily’s husband Sean, a character who, while not entirely likeable, is cruelly used and manipulated by the two females throughout the film. Though I will say, his roles were so similarly played to me as in, not a huge range in the difference of the two characters.

To be honest, the only consistency between all the characters is that none of them are particularly likeable. They each make questionable decisions, are gratingly self-centered and become increasingly obnoxious as the film progresses with its dubious twists. By the end, you’ll be hard pressed to care about any of them. This is no more evident than in the film’s tacked on “where are they now?’ postscript that feels completely unnecessary and ill informed in assuming audiences care enough about the characters to know where they end up.

On the upside, Feig, who is more proficient in making fun films rather than serious ones, keeps the film feeling light and easy-going. The audience is teased with a stylish soundtrack filled with classy French music (seriously one of the best parts of this entire film is the soundtrack), and there are some funny scenes that incite light giggles rather than any laugh out loud bursts of humour. These meager positives don’t improve the narrative but at least they make it a little less painful to digest. Ultimately, ‘A Simple Favor’ spends two hours flipping between being a trash novel & a parody of one. As the end credits roll, I still didn’t know. And the whole blend of trying to switch between the ‘mystery’ and the ‘comedy’ got tiresome after a while. But hey, everyone tries to give the audience a good time.

Ultimately, It wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen and all the actors play roles they are typically type cast for. It was surprisingly unfunny, oddly kind of enjoyable, even as super far fetched as it was. It’s a strange blend of mystery and comedy that doesn’t gel into a cohesive whole. As a piece of entertainment, it’s entirely disposable, but I give it kudos for not being the same old recycled material we’ve all been seeing lately.

Grade: C+
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, September 11, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate
‘A SIMPLE FAVOR IS NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE // Worldwide release to follow

REVIEW: “RED SPARROW” (2018) 20th Century Fox

So with my media screening confirmation for “RED SPARROW” we received this note from Director Francis Lawrence. I much appreciated this as I hate spoilers and always try to avoid them in reviews. However, after the screening, I’m thinking he doesn’t want anyone to reveal his ‘plot points’ and ‘ending’ because they are downright ridiculous.

To sum this up quickly and make this review as painless and short as possible the basics of this story is Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), a Bolshoi Ballet dancer – yes, if you eyerolled here, you are not alone – who sees her career go down the tubes when her dance partner makes a bad move and breaks her leg. It’s a horrible break which would take months to heal let alone walk in heels – and yet there she is three miraculous months later – running around in heels. Not just that, but she finds out of a conspiracy on the part of the aforementioned partner and her replacement. This is all thanks to the fact that her uncle Vanya Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is nothing less than one of the heads of the secret service of the “mother country” has given her secret tape on this. Dominika exacts a revenge that can only been seen to be believed, in other words yes, again ridiculous. She is then faced with the need to keep her home and medical care for her sick mother, Nina (Joely Richardson), both of which have been provided by the Bolshoi. Well weclome back Uncle Vanya who offers her a job because you know..she has been so intuitive as a child even. YAWN! Well, sweet Uncle Vanya sends her to ‘Sparrow School’ or as JLaw puts it in her ridiculously bad Russian accent, Whore School. You know that place we all want to go to because they train you to have sex and use your body as a weapon to overcome the enemy. After watching some of the weirdest, most uncomfortable sex scenes to grace the screen in a long time, we go to part duex. Sigh.

Dominika has to approach Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA agent who had been working for years with a mole in Moscow and who eventually had to leave the country when he unmasked himself when he mistook some police officers for secret service agents. Nash and Dominika immediately begin a relationship because of course they do – and of course the physical attraction will prove to be a bond to guarantee a “mutual benefit”.

Honestly, that’s all I can give and it’s even more than planned. Red Sparrow is just plain ridiculous and bad. There is no chance anyone is EVER going to believe Jennifer Lawrences’ performance here as not only a ballerina, but a Russian Agent to boot. EVER! Nor Joel Edgerton as a spy – I mean when is this guy ever going to speak his native Aussie again? He really tries with his accents, but never really gets it right. Not even my go to guy, Matthias Schoenaerts or the great Jeremy Irons can save this film. It’s almost like if Fifty Shades of Grey met Die Hard in the worst way possible. With Domenika’s line “They gave me a choice: die or become a sparrow.” I wish I could have chose for her and saved myself from watching this.

Grade: D-
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, Febraury 20, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
RED SPARROW will be in theatres worldwide on Friday, March 2, 2018