Category Archives: Romance

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: “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: “THE LOST CITY” (2022) Paramount Pictures

Coming out in theaters this Friday, the 25th is “THE LOST CITY” with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, taking the leads in this comedy of a shut-away romance book author who gets talked into doing a book tour by her agent Da’Vine Joy Randolph. What ensues is complete hilarity for a good first portion of the film.

Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock), is a successful romance novelist, though she is also grieving the loss of her husband. She reluctantly agrees to do a ‘final’ book tour by her agent Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), as she adds in the books ‘famous’ cover model Adam (Channing Tatum), to the tour much to Beth’s chagrin. As we soon find out, with Loretta and her husbands love of history, she has accidentally wrote in the book on where to find the location of fortune in an ancient burial spot of a notable King and Queen. This brings our villain, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), out in full force with his team Rafi (Héctor Aníbal), and Julian (Thomas Forbes Johnson), who kidnap Loretta with the thought being, she can lead them to the site.

The first half of the film comes at you fast and hard, with one-liners and features most spectacularly, our two scene stealers. The first is ex-Navy Seal Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt), who is hired by Beth and her social media assistant, giving us our second scene stealer, Allison (Patti Harrison), that will have you laughing your socks off for the first half of the movie. Albeit, in the second half, the laughs slow down drastically as the film gets a lot more serious with attempts at character arcs and story moments, while not bad, they are ones we’ve seen a many times before. Going into full romance novel mode without as much comedy, the second half falls a little flatter than what it was going with.

Directors Aaron and Adam Nee do the smart move here with giving Bullock and Tatum most of the screen time, as their chemistry is undeniable. As well, Tatum doing full nod to ‘Fabio’ cover-boy in the beginning gives us a hoot of fun. Supporting cast does well to keep the pace and relevance with Brad Pitt, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison and Oscar Nuñez getting their fair share of inclusion in this movie to stay relevant to the plot and relationships of the character. I wasn’t in love with Radcliffe who seems a bit out of place as he goes almost too big in his role as villain, when some subtlety might have played better.

Had they stuck with the formula they were going with, this would be a great comedy instead of just a good one. As is, it’s still a load of fun and brings something new to the box office this weekend where it should do well.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening: Tuesday, March 18, 2022 ~Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

“THE LOST CITY” from Paramount Pictures is in theaters Friday March 25, 2022

REVIEW: “MARRY ME” (2022) Universal Pictures

“MARRY ME” is the new rom com directed by Kat Coiro rolling itself out just perfectly for Valentines Day weekend release. All I can say is something has happened to me where I think someone has cast a spell on me as this is the second rom com that I will scream at the top of my lungs “YES! YES! YES!” to in one week. Who am I right now? Someone who loves this movie apparently even though you think it might be cheesy and full of fluff, and it is, but it all works so well.

(from left, center Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson) and Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) in Marry Me, directed by Kat Coiro.

The film is about pop singer Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez), who together with her singing and real life partner Bastian (Maluma), are about to release their new album called, you guessed it “Marry Me”. With the simultaneous release they will then get married themselves onstage while filming live to an audience of over 20 million people. When Kat learns that Bastian has cheated on her with her own assistant no less, she cancels the wedding plans on the spot and while on film getting ready to married LIVE. While looking out into the audience in pain, she then randomly sees Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), who was bribed into coming by his co-worker Parker (Sarah Silverman), and with his daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman), in tow ends up in the with a sign that says ‘Marry Me and next thing you know, Kat spontaneously asks to marry him instead. With this one singular act, the lives of both Kat and Charlie both change completely, well at least Charlie’s does. With the assumption that Kat now seems a bit desperate by marrying a total stranger, and Charlie finding himself in the world he does not know with publicity he is not used to at all, the two just put on a show of trying to make the best of it together.

Look, we all know where this goes from here as let’s face it, it’s not rocket science. But it all comes down to how the story is told – even if we think we know the ending. And this is one story that is just all goodness, from how Charlie is the awkward math teacher who does Mathalons with his students, or as we watch as Kat basically continues with her life as well with what I’m sure might just be a bit of a glimpse into what Jennifer Lopez’s actual life is like. But it works, it just all works. Whether is be a moment where JLo pops in another amazing outfit, or sings and dances with the mathletes to teach them a whole new way to lose their nervousness in competition, or even when comedic Silverman’s character Parker tries to capitalize on Charlie’s new found fame – which ever it is, it all works.

(from left) Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) and Bastian (Maluma) in Marry Me, directed by Kat Coiro.

Best of all here is the acting in the film is well done whether it be the supporting roles of Kat’s manager Collin (John Bradley), or her social media maven/assistant Melissa (Michelle Buteau). For Maluma, this is his first acting job in a movie, and as he’s really just playing a famous singer, much like his own career, he doesn’t really get the chance to come forward as an actor. But that’s okay, because that voice is heavenly and so is he. (sorry guys-a quick girl thing there). Owen Wilson is well, Owen Wilson. The same character he has played so many times with the exact same facial expressions, tonal quality to his voice and all – which is probably the best thing to say about his performance, other than again, it works as they do have chemistry. But guess who does all the heavy lifting here – Yep, it’s none other than our newly crowned Queen of Rom Coms, Jennifer Lopez! She sings, she dances, she blows your mind with how amazing she looks, she’s funny, and probably the biggest point of all – she gives it her all here by giving us hand down, her best Rom Com performance to date.

All I can do is leave you with these parting words. Say “YES! YES! YES!” to “Marry Me” this weekend as Jennifer Lopez sings and dances herself right into our hearts with this one.

Grade: B-

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Review Screening: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“MARRY ME” IS NOW IN THEATERS AND STREAMING ONLY ON PEACOCK

REVIEW: “A TASTE OF HUNGER” (2022) Magnolia Pictures

Heading into Danish director Christoffer Boe’s latest film “A TASTE OF HUNGER”, I had more of a picture in my head of the 1990’s film ‘Big Night’ where the focus of the film was basically making food and making the audience drool over it, while having an almost comedic backstory to boot. This film came close in some ways, but not quite in the same manner.

Here in a different take on a chef’s story, Carsten (Nikoaj Coster-Waldau) has been working for 10 years to build up his small restaurant Malus, in Copenhagen with the only goal being that of earning the oh-so-rare and coveted Michelin star. His wife, Maggi (Katrine Gries-Rosenthal), is his partner in life as well as in business. We see how committed to the cause they are, and while they appear to have a solid marriage and are decent parents, it’s clear the kids and the family are not the priority in that as the quest for that rare restaurant star is. Maggi is at the point of looking outside her marriage for affection with another chef from a competing restaurant, which her young daughter Chloe (Flora Augusta) completely notices and their son August (August Vinkel), has an episode where he randomly wanders off and goes missing due to lack of attention from his parents.

A Movie by Hr. Boe Zentropa

All this deflects from the true story at hand here, again, obtaining the Michelin star, and we watch as Carsten goes through some true Ludo Lefebvre type rages that is seemingly popular amongst chefs to do. But instead of following that trend, we get taken into some really delicious and delicate food porn scenery. It’s beautiful to see such flair given here in the details with each dish being shown in it’s carefully arranged and perfectly cooked manner. The acting portrays the deep desire that every chef has to create a dish that the customer would never forget, as one can almost smell all of the delicious food, as if the scent of sautéed oyster, cooked octopus, and fermented lemons are wafting through the screen right into you. It also conveys what it really means to achieve this prized star for your restaurant as a whole. In essence, their entire life rides on it and while some might think it’s just food, it’s clear to not just Carsten and Maggi, but to their friends who join them while waiting to hear – one in particular Torben (Nicolas Bro), shows how important it is even to him.

While the story isn’t perfect here, it is the opening scenes that are truly the most beautiful to set the tone of the movie with the sequence of beautifully presented food and the music create an enthralling introduction to the movie. Yes, the mish-mash of back and forth flashbacks of the family’s decline into unhappiness might not be all that one wants to watch, but it does let you know why things are happening. As with all families, not everything is what it seems on the outside, but it does take away some from the true point of this film.

So while the food portion of this film will definitely cleanse your palette, the story as a whole might lead you straight into dessert, even with all ending as it does. But it’s definitely worth a taste.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“A TASTE OF HUNGER” hits theaters and on demand Friday, January 28, 2022

REVIEW: “THE POWER OF THE DOG” (2021) Netflix

Set on a Montana cattle ranch in 1925, Jane Campion’s psychological Western is a slow burn. Her adaptation from the novel by Thomas Savage, depicts somewhat of a four-sided death waltz between two brothers. One is a tortured cowboy Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), the other, his softhearted brother George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), who have drifted apart in their manner and outlook on the constant life on the range and running of the family ranch. When George marries a restaurant owner named Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst), a single mother with a delicate-seeming teenage son Peter (Kodi-Smit McPhee), the stress on their relationship deepens – especially since all four will now have to live on the family ranch together. The movie is divided into five chapters – none which are given a name, but simply an on screen number and these numbers are a clue as to how the story is going to unfold in progressive steps, with each act building into the next. The story that unfolds from this whole scenario is so many things, but mostly can almost be looked at as a cautionary tale, with it being told in a way that feels almost like a study of it’s characters. As the chapters ensue, the focus subtly changes as does the focus on what characters come to the forefront of issues in each of their lives. It’s a movie that demands your complete attention as the individual incidents often matter less than what isn’t shown, the underlying means of it all. Blink and you just might miss it all.

As well the acting is for the most part, on par with Cumberbatch not being anyone’s first idea of a cowboy. While he does well with the body of work, he is just not good with accents and this one as well, is all over the place. Plemons subtle turn as George is just divine and Dunst is fine as well, but heads above the rest is Smit-McPhee, who has the toughest task as the smart, somewhat devious, shy young man who consistently surprises the viewer – pay attention to this character as he is the underlying thread throughout as little pieces of him are given to you at times, that if you miss them, you won’t understand the absolute brilliance of his character. Thomasin McKenzie, Adam Beach and Keith Carradine fill out some of the fairly large supporting cast as well.

Grade: B-

“THE POWER OF THE DOG” is streaming on Netflix

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REVIEW: “WEST SIDE STORY”(2021 aka the Steven Spielberg revelation) 20th Century Studios

Who would have thought we would see the day where Steven Spielberg makes a musical – and not just any musical, but a remake of the very famous classic “WEST SIDE STORY”. The original which was nominated for 11 Oscars, going on to winning 10 including Best Picture. It was a film that at the time, that defined the acting careers of Natalie Wood and the wonderful Rita Moreno, as well, it further established musical theater phenoms Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim (RIP) as bona fide household names. This movie, based on the 1957 Broadway musical, of which I actually have an original poster of that I acquired in the late 1990’s from an agent I worked for as a parting gift – right after I had finally seen the 1961 original, which is of course based loosely on the classic Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet story. Could there really be a bigger challenge for Spielberg after his long and industrious career? Probably not. The question is: Does he succeed?

Original Broadway poster on my wall

Even in our remake/reboot/sequel/MCU clogged movie world, doing a film like this is still a massive undertaking and also a bit fun for some to complain or discuss the “why’s” of any and all big screen reboots, even if they’re brought to life by oh, just one of the greatest directors of the past 4 decades, Steven Spielberg. Having had the filming pushed back for more than a year due to various pandemic-related issues, the last few months have only further primed audiences to wonder exactly this. Why?

Giving a few early answers: Spielberg and his team wanted to cast differently than the original version, he looked into a variety of Latinx stars in the Shark parts i.e., more roles tailormade for actual Puerto Rican actors versus the 60’s where makeup was used to make them ‘look’ as though from Puerto Rico. Also seemingly wanted to lean into the sense of the actual division between people as it were, and the from my understanding, shifting the arrangements of the musical numbers to better reflect the original musical stage production from 1957.

Moving on as all that sounds well and good, adding touchups and all, but something like “West Side Story” stands tall all on its own, so did it really need those touchups? Turns out, yes it did, as Spielberg’s first musical is not only vibrant, rich with colour, somewhat wild, and a satisfying show of an updated version of the classic. While fans might initially take exception at if and how faithful it seems to its predecessor, Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner take and use those familiar beats to find some new ones as well, in this classically loved story which is pretty much the same, and the one thing I couldn’t help thinking is it might not actually be the greatest story ever told. Girl meeting boy from wrong side of the tracks, and falling in love in what seems like minutes, then to run away together to avoid family strife and a street gang fight. Which is of course not successful as the fight between the Jets (white immigrants) and the Sharks (Puerto Ricans) is one of the major plot points and highlights of the film.

Early on, we get our first conflict between the rival gangs, which introduces us to Riff played by one of the Broadway play breakouts, and truly wonderful in this role is Mike Faist – who as the quick-tempered Jets leader so desperate to protect the neighborhood. Then we have Ansel Elgort as Tony, the former leader of the Jets attempting to find a new path for his life after spending a year in prison for nearly killing an Egyptian immigrant in a rumble, with all the singing skills and charisma of a wet blanket. Rounding out the men’s side is David Alvarez as Bernardo, Maria’s older brother and proud leader of the Sharks – whose goal is to carve out a place in the new land as equal citizens. And then there is Chino, Maria’s ‘date’ to the dance who is clearly enamored with her, played by Josh Andres Rivera. And the dance is also the first run-in with local cops, Officer Krupke (Brian d’Arcy James) and Lt. Schrank (Corey Stoll), neither of whom care what happens to whom, just as long as it doesn’t happen on their watch. But make no mistake here who rules this movie as I’m getting to that. I covered the men and again, Faist as Riff is wonderful and a force to be reckoned with throughout the movie, but the characters of Tony (Elgort), who is dry and listless, and Bernardo (Alvarez), who while he can dance and sing well, there just was something missing from his portrayal and maybe I just had to much 1961 Bernardo (George Chakiris) imagery in my head, but he just didn’t do it for me. In a way most things related to The Jets a bit on the insufferable side, and to be honest, most of The Sharks are as well. And you ask why.. well it should come as no surprise that the ladies here do all the heavy-lifting.

Which leads me into getting into the nitty gritty of this film and that my friends is hands down the three amigas all giving such strong performances. This is Zegler, DeBose, and Moreno’s movie without a doubt. This film is by far ruled in every way possible by first-time star Rachel Zegler as Maria, whose voice is a massive revelation that I don’t think too many saw coming, but it’s also the the other straight-from-the- Broadway production, actress Ariana DeBose as Anita, who is so fierce when she takes the lead on “America”, making one of the most inspiring and fun musical numbers ever on screen. In addition to her singing and beyond terrific dancing skills, DeBose delivers a superb performance in the role that won an historic Oscar for none other than the original herself, Rita Moreno in the 1961 film. Speaking of the one and only Rita Moreno, who is still wonderful and beautiful at 89 years old – she also appears as Valentina, the widow of Doc as she now runs Doc’s Drug Store and is somewhat of a surrogate mother-figure to Tony. It’s certainly no cameo, and though there is no dance number, she does get to sing “Somewhere”, and breaks your heart with her version and this time she is on the valiant end of the rape scene. She is the connect to the original film gives the film a presence where needed.

And while this is the update Spielberg version, you have to give kudos to Justin Peck for some truly masterful work that builds on the brilliance of what Jerome Robbins originally created. It’s not perfect by any means, but the casting of a more actual ethnic cast – as in no makeup to make anyone ‘look’ like something they are not, to the role ‘Anybodys’, a non-binary, always watching things, character played by Iris Menas, to the Spanish dialogue without subtitles where the strong acting and situations make clear what the scenes are whether you do or don’t speak the language. But for my mind, if you’re going to do a re-make and make positive changes, then why keep the slurs of character words still in there – why make a scene completely of Jets where they gain sympathy in the police station. But again, these overlooked parts is what made it not perfect for me – still highly enjoyable, with just beautiful dance scenes where you see such colour and grit.

At the end, you realize it’s a nostalgic, yet contemporary version that may not have you completely charmed in one way or another, but it WILL have you in awe with the story, dancing, music, acting, and story.

Grade: B+

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Review Screening ~ Monday, November 29, 2021 Courtesy of @RosasReviews as her guest.

“WEST SIDE STORY” from 20th Century Studios is in theaters beginning on December 10, 2021

REVIEW: “I’M YOUR MAN” (2021) Bleeker Street

Not knowing much going into this film, little did I know what a lovely surprise I would be in for in director Maria Schrader’s quirky fun rom-com “I’M YOUR MAN”. Not usually being someone who is fond of the A.I. genre of films and having once been known to say “If I ever find that an A.I. is my my relationship – please slap me”, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this one even though I wasn’t ready for it to be almost entirely in German as well.

Thankfully though – this isn’t my story though as this one is not only better but it centers on esteemed archaeologist/researcher Alma (Maren Eggert), who accepts an offer to participate in an usual experiment in exchange for research funds. She agrees to “beta test’ on a three-week trial run, living with a humanoid named Tom (Dan Stevens), who has been programmed to be her exact ideal life partner. From there, she has to evaluate on the successes and/or failures of the AI prototype to help decide whether they should be introduced into society as potential life partners for well, everyone. During this three week time period, we find ourselves watching things that are essentially very human. Alma is anti-relationship as the film starts to reveal more about her we find she grieves over a miscarriage she suffered during a past relationship and her former partner Julian (Hans Low) is very much around. While Alma is single, she’s not alone – she has a younger sister, Cora (Annika Meier) and an elderly, deteriorating father (Wolfgang Hübsch), who require a lot of her attention in life as well.

Not to be overlooked is the fun CGI of a bar scene of playing itself well on the ‘who is/who isn’t’ a AI or hologram and of course the acting. Eggert is wonderful at playing off the strong, defensive woman she is supposed to be and slowly letting her wall down to open up to the idea of this AI actually being ‘the one’. While Stevens is quite good here as he absolutely crushes it by speaking surprisingly fluent German, that is when he’s not speaking Spanish, French, or Korean and most notably, not a single word of English. He also manages to somehow be a robot, yet convey small emotions such as being flirty, funny, sad and dare I say it – humanistic.

With some funny, snappy, smart dialogue and a well structured storyline “I’m Your Man” moves it all along in a realistic looking manner, while being hugely entertaining as well. There can be huge risk involved with films that tackle themes such as this one, and then be successful at it to boot, but this one was all handled so well and came across as down to earth while also making itself fun and thought-provoking.  

Grade: B+

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“I’M YOUR MAN” from Bleeker Street Films – is in limited theaters on Friday, September 24, 2021

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

Bentonville Film Festival Review: “FALLING FOR FIGARO” (2021)

“FALLING FOR FIGARO” gives Millie (Danielle McDonald) an American living in the U.K., has a thriving career as a fund manager and lives with her boyfriend Charlie (Shazad Latiff), who attends the opera because she truly loves it. Charlie does not. So it’s really not a surprise when she upends a promotion at her job, to become an opera star and wants to compete in the renowned ‘Singer of Renown’ contest. But of course first she must learn opera – you know that style of singing that takes a lifetime to learn and be good at. Well for Millie things are going to go on the fast track, because well, of course it is, and she is going to learn this entire lifetime of something as sacred and acclaimed as being an lead opera singer – in a year.

She in turn moves to the remote Scottish Highlands where she wants to be taught by one Megan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley), a once legendary opera singer in her own right. There is one problem, Geoffrey-Bishop is retired and is notoriously known for being a big pain in the arse, completely horrible to her students, believing in the old adage of an opera singer must ‘suffer’ in order to be able to sing. This all of course does not deter Millie in the slightest and there she is checking into ‘The Filthy Pig’ pub/hotel and is welcomed by pub owner played by Gary Lewis, who is quite funny in his introduction. Here as well, we are introduced to Max (Hugh Skinner), who doubles as the cook/server, as well as anything else that is needed. Crazily enough, Max is ALSO a student of Megan’s, in fact he has been singing his whole life and has been a student for five years and wait for it, is also shooting to win the competition. I think we all know where this is heading from here. Of course Max is jealous and upset at first, then they start singing together and well the rest is rom-com history.

Look, I get it, this is what rom-coms are, sappy, cheesy, where there is always something stopping them from finding ‘true love’ until there isn’t. But it also needs to be a teensy bit believability to pull it off really well and this just isn’t that. What can be said and what director Ben Lewin, did pull off nicely was having two things that made it pleasant enough to still give it a watch. The first of course is the music. Opera can be simply beautiful and while we don’t know if the actors really sang this (somehow I highly doubt they did), it was beautifully done and fun to watch. The second thing is casting the simply wonderful Joanna Lumley as yes, ‘Patsy’ makes this movie watchable, as do a few fun takes from Gary Lewis, but mostly, it’s Lumley who shines the brightest and the best. And that’s perfectly fine in my book.

Grade: C

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of the Bentonville Film Festival

Falling for Figaro debuts in theaters on Friday, October 1st from IFC Films

REVIEW: “BLISS” (2021) Amazon Studios

To be completely candid here, I’m not really sure what Director Mike Cahill is trying to say or where he is going with “BLISS”, his latest feature coming out on Amazon Prime this Friday, February 5th. In an already overcrowded movie fueled month, along with it being Black History Month, I’ve a feeling this one just isn’t going to find it’s footing with too many audiences. It has a lot of difficulty focusing on what it is Cahill is actually going for. Let me try to explain.

First off, all we can be sure of our lead character is that Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is newly divorced and that he misses his family, most particularly his daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper), who is worried about him. His son Arthur (Jorge Lendenborg Jr.), on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care one bit about him or what happens to him in the slightest. We see Greg at work at a seemingly high profile job, yet he’s spends his day drawing pictures of what he envisions as the ‘perfect world’ along with drawings of a woman. Because of this silliness we also see Greg lose his job and end up at the bar across the street where some very odd, crazy things begin to happen.

Enter in Isabel Clemons (Salma Hayek), who seems to know everything there is to know about Greg Wittle in a almost stalker type way, yet he loves this odd fact. She presents herself as the solution to his problems and begins to tell him some fantastical stories that most of the people he sees and the situations he’s in, aren’t real. She tells him over and over that they are just simulations of people/places and simply through the power of his mind, he can make them do all sorts of crazy things like fall down or crash as they are just in his head. He falls for it and they seem to both think hurting others for fun is well…fun. So it seems like they are sadly both just lost in a fantastical world of severe mental health issues and using a specially ‘formulated’ drug as escapism. Except then we find them inside the actual drawings of Greg’s in a whole other Science Fiction type world where they are the actual creators of an alternative society and add in Bill Nye the Science Guy as actual proof of what they have discovered is profound. And that’s the problem here. This film is ALL over the place with itself.

Honestly, you can watch “Bliss” in a number of ways:

Example #1. You can assume that everything Isabel And Bill Nye are saying is true, and then this is a story about parallel worlds.

Example #2. You can see this as a story about the plight of human mental health issues and why so many turn to drugs to find refuge in said fantastical fantasy story also presented.

Example #3. You can even see “Bliss” as an account of how easy it is for the average person anywhere in the world, to fall out of our society norms and end up lost and homeless due to no fault of their own.

In whichever way you choose to see it is your call, but my call is that pretty much all of them won’t be that great and unfortunately, ‘Bliss’ just never comes across anything even remotely profound, as it’s so jumbled and pasted together in a completely non-coherent manner. All the different stories it tries to tell all fizzle out, and the ending is wholly predictable to a shocking degree. The acting performances are just as bizarrely put out there, with only Cooper coming through as a decent performance in this all-over-the-place feature.

Grade: D

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Review screening: Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“BLISS” WILL BE STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2021