REVIEW: “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” (2019) MGM

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A movie, whether based on a true story or fictional one, may be a blend of both facts and fictionalized scenes and events. “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” seems to be case in point depending on whom you speak to.  But instead of pointing out fact v. fiction, just sit back watch and enjoy this one folks.  Let go of the being overly critical all the time as ‘Fighting with my Family’ might have its flaws and not be completely true down to the line, it definitely does have its charms.

Probably the first thing you will do is a double take on the director and writer and make sure if it is THE Stephen Merchant doing triple duty here writing/directing/starring in this film. Turns out it is, which immediately ups the ‘interesting’ level a notch or two.  Even more crazy is to think that Merchant did not know a thing about wrestling before taking on the project.

Inspired by the story of the Knight family, the film tells the story of Saraya “Paige” Bevis (Florence Pugh) and her desire to become a female wrestler.  With the odds against her, along with a family of completely wrestling crazed parents in dad Ricky (Nick Frost), mom Julia (Lena Heady) and brother Zak (Jack Lowden), all of whom put on wrestling shows and train others in Norwich, a small suburb in the UK.  Paige and her brother get called up for a WWE tryout, but with only Paige making the cut, Zak is completely devastated and Paige must deal with not only this, but the drastic change her life is taking and the hard road to living out her dream of being a WWE Superstar.

The next hour is filled with what it’s like to attend the WWE school of hard knocks led by Hutch (Vince Vaughn), and how to alienate and then make best friends with your competition.  This part can sometimes just be all to consuming as we’ve seen this type of story many times before.  Overcoming adversity to win the challenge at the end and it’s here that the film can’t help feeling clichéd. The saving grace here is the flashbacks to Zak being left behind in Norwich and where his life is heading, or seemingly not heading to and it’s got some truly lovely, heartwarming story line.  But training montage footage galore, sibling rivalry leading to a profound confrontation that resolves the issue, and the underdog overcoming the odds gives no surprises to the ending.   Now of course, it’s going to pump in the Hollywood magic to try to help the movie. The Rock is throughout the movie, and while he wasn’t truly vital to Paige’s career, his scenes are fun. The actors do an amazing job with their roles, and have very good comedic chemistry. This movie is witty and charming but at times, it’s all over the place.

The initial presentation of the Knight family rang true, authentic and affable. Putting it in their actual home was a good idea. Frost and Headey were great in the roles as Paige’s parents and Puge did a very good job as Paige. Lowden as her brother made a good mentor, but it also tried to take the high road and make Paige an angelic character.  However, from what I understand, if you are a fan of Paige or the Knight family at all, you will quickly start to see fictionalized moments, exaggerations and inaccuracies. These are something that as a viewer who has no knowledge of the wrestling world, will not impact in the slightest.  No matter this situation, everyone will recognize names such as Hulk Hogan and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – and of course The Rock with his signature “If you smell what The Rock is cooking” done a few times for good measure – makes you realize how far this guy has come.

Overall, the film maintains a good balance of comedy and drama and you don’t need to know anything about WWE or sports entertainment to enjoy the film. Merchant does a good job for his first run here.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening Monday, February 11, 2019 ~  courtesy of LAFTV meetup

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INSTA-REVIEW: “ARCTIC” (2019) ARMORY FILMS

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Saw #Arctic today with MadsMikkleson as Overgård – a man who is stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash. We never see his plane crash, only that he is there and has been for some time based on his daily routine. Finally, as he is on the verge of rescue, that helicopter crashes with one survivor, a young woman pilot.

From that point on we watch as Overgård has to make the decision to leave the safety of his camp and plane to embark on a deadly trek through the unknowns of the Artic world, with only the remotest of hope of making it out alive. If any of you remember RobertRedfords’ amazing turn as a person who’s did the solo survivor role in All is Lost – this one is comparable except think snow/ice/freezing cold. I enjoyed it as I never got bored even though there is probably less than 30 spoken words in the whole film. Mads seems to love doing movies in the cold snow and they do him well back as this film is entirely on him and he holds his own.

Grade: B
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“ARCTIC” IS IN LIMITED RELEASE IN THE US – LOOK FOR WORLDWIDE RELEASE IN THE COMING MONTHS

INSTA-REVIEW: “HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD” (2019) Universal

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Four and a half years since we last saw our dragons, they are back in #HowToTrainYourDragon : The Hidden World.  In this one we have little older and wiser Hiccup (JayBaruchel)and he is still leading the effort to save dragons with Astrid AmericaFerrera. Yet not everything is golden as new villain Grimmel the Grisley FMurrayAbraham is out to get them. In between we have a little love affair brewing between #Toothless and new white-scaled dragon #LightFury .

While all of it is fun and it’s a beautifully done film and the Dragons franchise are some of the best animated films ever – it does come up a bit short at achieving the highs of its predecessors.

There is a little lack of the emotional punch in comparison to the first two. And while it might not shine as bright as the two previous works, the few shortcomings the story line has, they don’t overshadow the charm the characters and story bring you.

Grade: B-

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

 

REVIEW: “ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” (2019) 20th Century Fox

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From the dark depths of the cold Los Angeles winter evening, I dared dragged myself to go see this film. With my having already skipped one media screening, I decided to take my own dare and see “ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” as it is the last one under the 20th Century Fox’s banner before the Disney takeover.

Needless to say, I should have picked truth – as while it took 10 yrs to get made, it only takes 10 minutes to wish you had stayed at home as it’s a film completely and totally taken from a barrage of other films.

Now I’ve not read the source material but I do know that Alita was originally a Manga comic series which is a Japanese graphic art novel. It seems James Cameron, along with Robert Rodriguez, are bringing the first of four of these books to the cinema with this film. From the little research I did into this, eastern stories have a lot of tradition – one being that any hero is the last practitioner of a secret and are martial arts experts. In Alita’s case this is something that I read to be Panzer Kunst which means Tank Art according to the online translator. She also, predictably, has no memory of her past which means we can go on this voyage of growth and discovery together riiight?!! well….

The story is set in the South American, Iron City in the shadow of a gigantic floating station from another lifetime, three hundred years after a great war. So: post apocalyptic dystopia. There is a blend of architectures, super cyberpunk characters, ruins and fragments of forgotten technologies. It looks great and the CGI is fantastic. It all starts with ex-engineer Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoff Waltz) finding the head and shoulders of a female cyborg in a junk pile. Somehow, magically the brain is still alive. So like in the story of Humpty Dumpty, he puts her back together again and proceeds to treat her as his daughter who was, you guessed it, named Alita played here by Rosa Salazar. Alita has no memory of who she once was but she immediately finds love with the handsome motorcycle riding human Hugo (Keenan Johnson) and also finds out within hours that she can fight like a badass. When Hugo introduces Alita to the brutal spectator sport of Motorball where the carnage is more important than the score and the winner gets a ticket to the space station. All bets are on you know who is going to want to be a Mortorball star and where this film is heading.

‘If’ this film, which had it maybe been made 10 years ago before we had say Pacific Rim, or ‘if’ it had maybe one original idea of its own, I might have really enjoyed it. As is, ‘Motorball’ the game it portrays, is a COMPLETE and total ripoff of the original 70’s Rollerball with James Caan (catorgically a much better film by the way). ‘If’ maybe the baddies like Zapan (Ed Skrein) weren’t simply already done so many times before, or ‘if’ Jennifer Connelly & Mahershala Ali had just not phoned in their performances and ‘if’ they had given them some grit. All those ‘ifs’ just make this too hard of a film to roll with all the way through.

While the character development is quite decent, it’s the characters themselves that gave me question. Some might not be bothered by the huge Manga eyes on Alita, but for me they were just plain creepy. Add into that, the whole doll-like 12yr old look that reminded me of the ‘Big Eyes’ paintings – another ‘not working’ item for me. I even got a bit creeped out of sorts by Christoph Waltzs’ Dr. Ido at the beginning when he leans over her broken machine body as he first finds her and says ‘You will be my little angel’. Granted, he turns out to be a ‘good guy’.

This was by far not the worst Sci-Fi I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the most lackluster. My take is if you love the comic story it’s based on, you will probably understand the film and like it a lot more as I didn’t hate it and as a time killer it was decent enough. While Alita: Battle Angel didn’t leave me wanting more and the next chapters don’t entice much, the cold hard fact is this film would probably have been best had it been done 10 yrs ago as we might not have seen the same-type cyborg movies that have already been done so many times previous to it and this would have seemed fresh & new. As it was, I’ve seen it and it just was all used material from so many other films.

Lastly, do you need to watch it in IMAX/3D? The flying jumps and weapon projectiles do look good – but it’s a lot of extra money for something that isn’t essential.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening Tuesday, February 7, 2019 ~ courtesy of 20th Century Fox
“ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” IS OUT WORLDWIDE AS OF FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019

REVIEW: “THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART (2019) Warner Bros.

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The Lego Movie took the much-loved plastic childhood toy and built it into meta-comedy franchise that played equally well for kids and adults. Already spawning a more than one spin-off, including the truly not for kids The Lego Batman Movie, now comes the sequel to the original, The Lego Movie 2, which is fast & frenetic in it’s pacing, even if not exactly fresh.

In truth, this “THE LEGO MOVIE 2” doesn’t stray too far from the original, picking up briefly where its predecessor ended, when the Duplo toys arrived to cause havoc. The story then moves on five years; Bricksburg is no more and now our Lego friends live in Apocalypseburg, a Mad Max-style nightmare, complete with a half-buried Statue of Liberty (nod to Planet of the Apes??!!). Only Emmet (Chris Pratt), our orange-vest-wearing construction worker hero, is his same almost annoying, upbeat self. He’s even built a house for his love, the Goth-clothed Lucy (Elizabeth Banks). But then along comes an alien, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), capturing all Emmet’s friends and shipping them off to the Syster System to do the bidding of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who wants to get married and zeroes in on Lego Batman (Will Arnett).

Emmet sets out on a rescue mission, but it’s only when he meets Rex Dangervest (also Pratt) – a future version of himself – that he learns to toughen up in this mean world. Once again there is plenty of fourth wall-breaking, plus more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at with everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Twilight, to Back to the Future. The cameos even get really weird, with Bruce Willis turning up as a sort of Lego John McClane from Die Hard at one point. The problem with all that, while it might be entertaining for some adults, kids have no idea what these references are and the plot is lost on them, hence they then get bored.

With some cute styled like musical scenes, there are show tunes galore – the best being Catchy Song, which also gets plenty of airtime here. Repetition does weigh it down, with the breakneck pacing ironically causing the film to drag at times, again especially draining for the kids, with Mitchell’s insistence on wham-bam action almost as tiring as Haddish’s talkative shape-shifting Queen.

So all in all, The Lego Movie 2’s insistence on never slowing things down to take a breath can be almost tiring as at times it felt as though there were too many events and gags crammed into a scene. But with Richard Ayoade voicing a talking ice cream, the inventive humour that made the first film special, can still shine through at times. Just probably more for adults than for kids.
Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Saturday, February 2. 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
“THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART” IS OUT WORLDWIDE AS OF FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2019

SPIRIT AWARDS NOMINEES – WEEK TWO SCREENING REVIEWS

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Started and finished up Week Two of Spirit Award nominee screenings. Closed it all out on Saturday and granted I didn’t see everything yet, but have gotten in a good portion of those nominated and while some they did provide screeners for most, a few did not (I’m looking specifically at you “Thoroughbreds”), or I made the screenings. From here on it gets real as (drum roll) we vote.

“WILDLIFE” Dir: Paul Dano

‘Wildlife’ is a perfect example of how you can put two very good actor/actresses in a film and it still doesn’t make it good. Jake Gyllenhaal is just plain wooden in his role here and Carey Mulligan almost overacts her role as a cheating housewife. Almost painful to watch what could have had potential, just did not work.
Grade: D

“SUPPORT THE GIRLS” Dir. Andrew Bujalski

I found myself having a soft spot for this one even though it might not have been the best movie I’ve seen – it most definitely had it’s moments while giving a absolute spot on portrayal of what it’s like working in the service industry, most especially in the “Hooters” type atmosphere. Regina Hall leads the cast as the general manager, but almost stealing the show from her are the ‘girls’ Haley Lu Richardson, AJ Michalka, and newcomer Shayna McHayle. James Le Gros as the grubby bar owner rounds this out. It’s definitely got a good #GirlPower message to women servers around the world!
Grade: C+

“COLETTE” Dir: Wash Westmoreland

Colette is yet another true story of female empowerment – a woman with real talent trying to break out of the gilded cage she finds herself trapped in. Colette is the ghost writer of a series of novels about her own life, but because of the times, her husband says they are his and takes credit for them – until she steps out of the cage. While not Keira Knightly’s biggest fan, she does the brooding Victorian women like no other. Dominic West delivers a reliably solid performance as expected, with the supporting cast also doing the same. Sadly, the film seems much longer slog than its 111 minute run time, notably the whole middle portion of the film being somewhat pedestrian as well.
Grade: C

“YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE” Dir. Lynne Ramsay

What a huge letdown this film was for me. Most definitely inspired by ‘Taxi Driver’, and ‘inspired by’ is where it shall remain as this pointless plot about Joaquin Phoenix as hired enforcer with clearly some mom issues of his own. This plot falls all over the place with bad, slow pacing and brings nothing new to the table. Yes, I get it, it supposed to be an ‘art’ film – but even those have to have some semblance of some type of clever conversation or suspense.. anything really. To those that loved it..kudos..
Grade: D

“CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME” Dir: Marielle Heller

Melissa McCarthy brings a whole other side to her acting her with this strong dramatic turn as a celeb bio author who books cease to be published so instead she resorts to ‘authoring’ fake celebrity letters. Something which she is very good at, probably better than writing her actual books truth be told. Aided by the fantastic supporting performance of Richard E. Grant, this film is non-stop literary fun from beginning to end..and by end we mean in jail for fraud.
Grade: B+

“BLACKkKLANSMAN” Dir: Spike Lee

I will confess, Adam Driver kinda kept me away from watching this film because my admitting that I am just not a fan might make some upset because of the whole Star Wars thing etc.. etc.. so Star Wars fanboys I apologize, as I actually liked him here. But come on, John David Washington, was perfection. This movie had me from moment one, and made me laugh with disbelief, but it also made me cry at the very end when you do realize that we ARE letting it happen again – and that breaks my heart. #RIPHeatherHeyer
Grade: A+

“EIGHTH GRADE” Dir: Bo Burnham

I mean all I can say is read my review here to know how much I loved it.
https://peggyatthemovies.com/2018/07/17/review-eighth-grade-2018-a24/
Grade: A-

“WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR” Dir: Morgan Neville

Again, my review from when I saw this wonderful film earlier in the year.
https://peggyatthemovies.com/2018/06/01/review-wont-you-be-my-neighbor-2018-focus-features/
Grade: A+

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Spirit Awards Review Nominee Screenings – week one

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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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