REVIEW: “NOMADLAND” (2020) Searchlight Pictures

Standard

Opening titles of the film: “On January 31, 2011, due to a reduced demand for sheetrock, US Gypsum shut down it’s plant in Empire, Nevada, after 88 years. By July, the Empire zip code, 89405, was discontinued.”

And thus we begin our journey into this remarkable film which gives us an eye opening look into what happens to the people who have worked their entire lives at one job, where their livelihood and all they know, is suddenly taken from them. Where they are then forced to pack up and vacate due to the fact the company they gave their lives to, also owned their homes. From that opening we follow Fern (Frances McDormand), a hard-working 60-something widow who has lived her entire adult life with her husband who recently passed from cancer, in Empire, NV. before it became a ghost town. With no choice but to convert her van into a home on wheels to live in, we see Fern adopt a semi-nomadic lifestyle and initially she starts off working for Amazon before deciding to leave and start moving from place to place as she hustles from part-time job to part-time job while travelling through the campgrounds of America.

The various jobs that she works throughout the film and the people she interacts with all complement the film’s character development giving us an insight most of us will never be privy to. While most of the supporting characters are not in the film for too long, they are all thoroughly unique and interesting as well. Along the way, Fern meets and makes friends with others in her same situation, sort of a group of mostly elderly outcasts who’ve been equally affected by America’s crippling recession. While new friends like Swankie (Charlene Swankie), the sweet Linda (Linda May), and silver-haired David (David Strathairn), who clearly wants more than just a friendship with her, Fern seems to have committed to the nomad lifestyle. While all these people in the caravans that travel around are all feeling out what is in front of them, they are also all finding the independence of this unplanned situation both freeing and limiting. You truly empathize for them and realize that the nomad lifestyle is not only one rooted in hardship, such as financial difficulty, but can also be one of hope for some of them and puts forth the struggles each of them face within themselves and others.

This isn’t completely all about one woman’s journey, it’s truly a movie about life and although the film is slow paced, it is so well done and entertaining that time flies. It was also very clever of our uncomparable female director Chloe Zhao, to cast non-actors and genuine nomads in a lot of the roles as it really give it a genuine feel into nomadic life and I wish everyone of them could be named here as they were all wonderful. There is a lot of reasons to watch this film and probably one of the biggest is Francis McDormand’s one woman showcase that she gives us here, carrying almost the entire movie on her shoulders alone with ease and it’s a beauty of a performance to be sure. ‘Captivating’ is the closest one word description one comes to as watching this woman attempting to keep it all together while still grappling with the grief of her husband’s death and the loneliness of the open road makes you feel as though you’re taking the journey with her. You can’t ask for her to give much else than that.

Along with all of that, you have the stunning cinematography that shows us the beautiful nature and appealing beauty of the American West. Truly, Chloe Zhao is the Queen of the beautifully done, long winding road films – films that visually show us not only a terrifically done story, but that there really is still so much beauty in this world to be seen and had.

Grade: A

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

“NOMADLAND” IS OUT IN THEATERS WHERE AVAILABLE (OVERSEAS) AND COMING TO THE U.S. IN FEBRUARY 2021

REVIEW: “NEWS OF THE WORLD” (2020) Universal Pictures

Standard

Adapting a beloved book can be a tricky thing and Paulette Jiles“NEWS OF THE WORLD” is no different a challenge to that here. But if we have learned one thing from films all these years, it would be that Tom Hanks would be the one who would be able to pull this off and make it along with Director Paul Greengrass, taking full advantage of our faith in Hanks acting abilities here.

In this visually phenomenal film version Tom Hanks is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who takes newspapers and then travels from one small town to another and for 10-cents admission and a sense of panache’- Kidd reads the news stories to weary people looking for a distraction. While traveling one day, he comes across a blonde hair-blue eyed young girl dressed in Native American wear who speaks no English, only Kiowa. With her caretaker having been lynched in front of her, the papers Kidd finds among her things are notes that she is 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), a young girl who’d been raised by Kiowa tribe and is now being returned against her will to her natural German aunt and uncle of whom she knows nothing about.

The film is all about the journey, which the captain undertakes with the girl reluctantly as the she rebels against this so hard at first, his conundrum is realizing the only guarantee of her safe return is if he takes her, and reluctantly we watch as the Captain agrees to accompany her on the journey home. In the long run it bares down to essentially being: two people, a wagon and two horses, driving through the vast nothingness. And as the two encounter numerous precarious situations along the way they begin to bond with each attempting to learn the others ways and language. Along the harrowing journey, encountering moments of true danger in almost each town they enter and every new territorial line they cross. Early on when they are cornered by a trio of swarthy men who want to ‘buy’ the girl, the tense build up that prevails and follows us throughout the journey can be dramatic and even terrifying at times, but eventually this is what will bring them together the closer as they come to the end of the journey and the pointed note of separating.

Zengel doesn’t say much throughout the film, but she has a wonderfully expressive face that speaks volumes with her eyes and it’s easy to believe that she has seen horrors. And even though this undoubtedly adds to Hanks’ performance, even as she’s saying nothing, her pain, her fear is palpable and Hanks plays well on this attribute. But make no mistake whose film this is – as the way Hanks portrays Kidd is the sort of performance that just seems written in stone for him and it’s a perfect vehicle for him and surprising in sorts to see him in a Western. There are numerous supporting cast who also help push the film along with Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Ray McKinnon and Bill Camp to name a few. The movie itself is stirring despite there being no surprise in knowing where the story is headed once Johanna appears – and yes there are some grim sequences but overall its quite an enjoyable watch.

Grade: B+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“NEWS OF THE WORLD” IS OUT ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THEATERS/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON NETFLIX IN JANUARY 2021

REVIEW: “PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN” (2020) Focus Features

Standard

Emerald Fennell is tackling the “paybacks are a bitch” scenario putting front and center the toxic behaviour we have all experienced at one time or another as women as she turns the tables and changes the game in a whole new way with her directorial debut here in “PROMISING YOUNG WOMEN”. This is also hands down probably 2020’s best film of the year, along with it being the one that you MUST see for yourself and not read the spoilers before seeing it as it was made to be entertaining, but also very BLUNT to get an important message across. ‘Promising Young Woman’ challenges at every turn the idea of what a “good guy” actually is.

Like so many other films have done before it, the movie gives us an incredible new take on the anger I think a lot of women feel, but it also doesn’t completely vilify men as a gender purely because they are men. Fennell’s stellar direction is so meticulous as it zigs exactly when you think it’s going to zag and zags exactly when you think it’s going zig with twists and turns during every jaw-dropping second of it.

Doing my absolute best to give you the outlining of the plot without a massive spoiler the jist is: Carey Mulligan plays Cassandra Thomas, a brilliant former med student who seemingly had a bright future until a disturbing event clearly turned her life upside down. It’s an event so stunning that we the audience don’t know what it is, but it’s affected her life in a grave manner. As we slowly watch and find out those said events unfold, just turned 30 year old Cassie still lives at home with her parents Susan (Jennifer Coolidge) and Stanley (Clancy Brown), works at a coffee shop, and doesn’t date or have any friends. But by night, she sits in a club, face down in a red leatherette booth, seemingly black out drunk. It’s a nightly routine – she goes to a club, acts too drunk to stand, and waits for a “nice” guy to come over and see if she’s okay. Needless to say Cassie leads a very different life as there is definitely something else here at play as she attempts to right a past wrong, very cynically and calculating as she does so. So she is living this secret double life at night…until she isn’t..or is this one of those zig zags mentioned earlier? Again, this is for you to find out and find out you will as every single delicious moment of this thriller come at you over and over again.

Promising Young Woman also give us an impressive supporting cast. From Adam Brody as her first ‘conquest’ Jerry to Bo Burnham as our cutesy-type doctor RyanLaverne Cox as her delicately blunt boss Gail, and Alison Brie who nails her role as former medical school classmate Madison while demonstrating how truly insidious and internalized misogyny can be and how this type of toxic behavior is often normalized in both men and women. Max GreenfieldAlfred Molina, Molly Shannon and Connie Britton all show up for impressive performances and Chris Lowell as Al Monroe is a character no one will be forgetting any time soon. And then there is Carey and Oh Carey! what a performance this is. Her wicked-bad acting powers this film all the way through as she salutes what her character stands for – which is essentially all of us. Never have I seen her take something and truly encompass all that female rage, romance, heartbreak and horror brings us all, in one spectacular performance.

As a warning, the ending is difficult, but at the same time, you can’t see it ending any other way as it’s a cross between triggering, healing and educational all wrapped up and honestly it’s true – revenge has never looked so ‘promising’. Please go see it.

Grade: A+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy oGinberg/Libby PR

“PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN” IS OUT ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THEATERS/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON VOD IN JANUARY

REVIEW: “GREENLAND” (2020) STX Films

Standard

Gerard Butler is back in action mode in “GREENLAND” and me going in with a certain amount of skepticism on this one isn’t going to shock anyone. Surprisingly enough, considering the last years of his career haven’t given us the best of films, here Butler gives us some of his best action acting in years as “Greenland” is quite an entertaining motion picture for the most part.

The movie begins with John Garrity (Gerard Butler) a Scottish-born structural engineer visiting his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). John and Allison are separated but working towards a reconciliation. Nathan is fascinated by the stars and the comet nicknamed ‘Clark’ that is shooting ‘small particles’ towards earth and the story being told across the news is there will be no major disaster effect from the comet. While getting ready for a festive neighborhood gathering the Garrity’s have a room full of friends over, when a presidential alert appears on their TV and phone telling them to pack some bags and drive to a close by airfield. This is when the film kicks it up a major notch in the tension as things start to go awry immediately with not only the neighbors, but the whole question of why they were picked. Even the drive to the airfield is building up to something we aren’t sure of but as they are ushered in and just before they are about to board the plane the separation plot kicks in and admittedly it’s not as silly as one might think as it’s actually told very logically why.

Now this might sound like your typical disaster movie but trust me it’s not quite. “Greenland” is smart in how it handles it’s characters and the plot is not always straight forward. The movie tries less to create tension with the looming disaster but rather does so through the human element and the different characters the family members meet on their way. From the seemingly ‘helpful’ couple Ralph (David Denman) and Judy (Hope Davis), to Colin (Andrew Bachelor) they both encounter a number of harrowing experiences in order to hopefully meet up again at Grandpa Dale’s (Scott Glenn) house. The whole separation journey to find each other again is wrought with a great edge of your seat tension as we get to experience what each of the family members do and would do in order to be together again. As well, even when they’re separated, the Garrity’s stay the focus of the movie even as they meet both the good and the bad in the people they meet along the way.

Unfortunately the second half of the film seems as it was unprepared for what it was supposed to become after the excitement of the first half. The tension level drops to low digits and it just never picks back up again. CGI takes over and it loses it’s edge it created for us in the first hour. Acting wise again, Butler gives us a his best effort in a long time, and Baccarin is good. The supporting characters they all met on the journey were all very well done, my only iffy is with child actor Floyd who just doesn’t seem to change the dramatic expression on his face for a good half of the film which at points of seriousness, gave to moments of giggles.

Though it’s definitely a worthwhile entertaining watch, ‘Greenland’ is a raw, tension-filmed disaster film that showcases both the noble and dark sides of human nature, when disaster strikes and ultimately doesn’t come together with it’s two halves, into a completely satisfying package.

Grade: C+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy oSTX FILMS

“GREENLAND” IS NOW AVAILABLE IN THEATERS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON VOD

REVIEW: “SOUND OF METAL” (2020) Amazon Studios

Standard

SOUND OF METAL” is an exploration into not only the reality of those who are deaf of which so much is so poorly represented in film and television, but also what the destructive nature and high cost of denial and self-deception can lead to in the face of the hard truths that come to light. This first feature from Writer-Director Darius Marder – gives an insightful look into a world where sounds can’t be taken for granted and uses the hearing loss of a heavy metal drummer to explore what happens when the life we know is suddenly snatched away.

Riz Ahmed is Ruben, a speed metal/punk drummer for the band Blackgammon, along with his lead singer/girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) who screams out the punk-style lyrics for the band. We watch as Ruben’s euphoria in the moment of drumming is clearly within himself (all the while noting his many tattoos including the Please Kill Me across his chest) and change dramatically during a performance. Afterwards, we see the happy couple living a nomadic lifestyle in their RV in what seems to be a perfectly simple life of a clean-eating, smoothie drinking band on tour not reflected in their style of music. The first crack in the facade of things is seeing Lou’s scratching from anxiety and you realize something might be up with Ruben as well.

The core conflict of this film is when Ruben learns that he is having hearing issues with it leading into his learning that the hearing condition will not only worsen but could be permanent, as he goes against all advice given to slow down the music career and talks ‘options’. Instead Ruben whom we also find out is a recovering addict, just goes full steam ahead in defiance and frustration in trying to figure out how he will afford cochlear implants to get his hearing back and life will once again be “normal”. Ahmid’s wonderful performance here allows us to feel and experience the moment Ruben realizes he has a problem, and how he begins to process this. His girlfriend however, can see the writing on the wall and wants desperately for him to get better and accept his condition as she is the one who moves to get Ruben into a rehab for the deaf. But this is anything but easy as there is immediate tension between Ruben and Joe (Paul Raci), the head honcho who runs the rehab. Why this immediate tension is put to the forefront is due to the very real split within the deaf community and the feelings surrounding cochlear implants and whether being deaf is something that needs “fixed” or is even a disability. Note: Deaf people have managed just fine for many years without implants and have formed entire communities and relationships that don’t define them as being disabled… hence the problems with what Ruben wants to do versus if it really needs to be done. The quality of the writing and acting here though, really give you thought as to looking at both sides here and that is what gives us all pause as is he right or wrong in what he wants.

Yet, as loud and vibrated ‘Sound of Metal’ really is, there is a sense of tranquility to it with the rest of the film carrying out the process of all the questions we wanted answers to. Did Ruben finally accept that his deafness wasn’t necessarily the life-ending disability he thought it was? Did he feel guilty over the way he left things at the rehab? Does he feel like the surgery might be a mistake? Whether you agree or not what we all can agree on agree is that the use of sound in this film was absolutely fantastic and incredibly artful and you very much feel like you are living in Ruben’s headspace. At many points throughout the movie, we hear things exactly as Ruben does, whether that means hearing nothing at all or just muffled sounds. Again, Riz Ahmed is wonderful in this role and proves his career is only on going up. up and away. Olivia Cooke didn’t give me much with a one expression, one note performance even when outwardly she changed dramatically. Paul Raci is top note as well as the rest of the small supporting cast throughout.

The clarity and intense scenes of silence are some of the most captivating and devastatingly powerful throughout the film.  It leaves open the possibility for people to take away from it what they want and the beauty of it all again is seeing both sides of the story as it will definitely make you feel something one way or the other.

Grade: A-

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy oAmazon Studios

“SOUND OF METAL” IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME

REVIEW: “SONGBIRD” (2020) STX Films

Standard

During a pandemic we all might wonder if it’s really a good time for a pandemic film right now – the answer isn’t really definitive as none of us want a something that will instill a probable cause of more anxiety. And considering the staggering amount of cases being reported, the horrible handling of it all and more deaths in one day than 9/11, some might shy away from this one. But yet “SONGBIRD” didn’t instill that in my sometimes anxiety ridden self as it tells an actual story, not a great one, but a story it does have and it wasn’t any worse than the horrible handling that is happening first hand of the actual Covid-19 virus at present.

It’s also essentially the first studio film to be shot in Los Angeles during the pandemic showing us it can be done with all protocols and testing being followed and that is a good thing with the bringing of employment and cash flow back into the city. This one though isn’t dealing with Covid-19 but is set in 2024 with the virus having mutated into another deadlier level aptly called Covid-23 and millions have now died from it. The country is not only under martial law, but has been in complete lockdown for a few years. You must do a viral scan each and every morning and anyone who is infected will be taken by force if necessary and sent into overcrowded quarantine camps again, aptly called ‘Q-Zones’.

There are as with any disease known, people who are immune and these lucky few are given a yellow coded bracelet to wear as proof. Nico (K.J. Apa) is one of these lucky immune people and he is employed by a delivery company owned by Lester (Craig Robinson) which as no one is allowed to step out of their house, an extremely lucrative business. Especially of course to the rich and wealthy as noted by Lester “The rich need their stuff”. Lester monitors all his staff through high tech GPS and an agoraphobic disabled vet Dozer (Paul Walter Hauser) who operates delivery surveillance drones to make sure they get their stuff. The rich here being the Griffin family consisting of William (Bradley Whitford) and Piper (Demi Moore) and daughter with pre-existing conditions Emma (Lia McHugh). William and Emma are not happily married and they are also underground dealers of those special yellow bracelets that can make travel for other rich people possible. Nico is also busy trying to help his girlfriend Sara (Sofia Carson), with whom he has never had a face to face conversion with as their connection is through phone screens and her front door. Sara lives with her grandma Lita (Elpidia Carrillo) who might be at risk of passing her Covid scan. Lastly is of course our villain Emmett Harland (Peter Stormare) who leads the so-called ‘Department of Sanitation’ crew who take the sick to the Q-Zones.

All of this happens very very quickly as writer/director Adam Mason throws everything at us at a very quick paced 90 minutes of runtime. There is no acting standouts here although it was nice to see Demi Moore still giving it a go – though not a fan of her glasses look, she played the bad/good person here well enough. Apa and Carson have a good chemistry even though their whole relationship is done through screens, it was believable. And credit must be given that someone can make a film at all right now let alone write it, pitch it, get it made and released all during a lockdown. Was there moments where you realize with how badly things have been handled, and where empathy is definitely a lacking trait in realization of how many have passed already, yes and it’s definitely not a hope-filled, joyous look at a future that none of us want to see, but there is a story behind it all.

All in all, giving credit where credit is due and while not the best film of 2020, it’s also not it’s worst.

Grade: C-

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy of STX Films

“SONGBIRD” IS NOW AVAILABLE ON VOD

REVIEW: “THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART” (2020) HBO

Standard

“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” is informative, entertaining, and heart wrenching as Director/Producer Frank Marshall reveals the band’s soul and the power dynamic that propelled them to superstardom. Probably the most heart breaking part is it’s being told mostly from the point of view of Barry Gibb, the last remaining Gibb brother.

The memories are wonderful moments here as we are taken through the Brothers Gibb early life in Australia. Contrary to what most thought myself included, the brothers were not Australian but born on the Isle of Man and their parents then immigrated from Manchester, England to Australia in the early 50’s where they started their singing trio consisting then of Barry, and twin brothers Maurice & Robin. Returning to the UK in 1967, the height of Beatles fame no less, the Australian producer Robert Stigwood with his insightful visionary eye signs The Bee Gees and we watch as they break into the UK charts after only five months. This leads to a string of hits as well as a massive touring schedule of the USA and Europe before rivalry between Robin and Barry caused the break-up of the band in 1969, the first of a few splits they have over the years.

We follow the story along with commentary from everyone from Eric Clapton, Mark Ronson, Nick Jonas, Chris Martin and Justin Timberlake sharing either first hand stories or how they were influenced. In the case of Nick Jonas, first hand knowledge of what it’s like to shoot to fame overnight in a band with your brothers and how it can affect not only each person individually, but the family dynamic as a whole. We see how the Brothers Gibb rise to the heights of stardom, only to fall dramatically down and get caught in the tidal wave of egos, drugs, drinking and then realize together they are much stronger than when solo. The comeback is monumental as we watch how they evolve to come to Miami, Florida and make famous the ‘Miami sound’ which takes off immediately in underground gay clubs. We are also introduced to younger brother Andy Gibb, whom they refer to as the ‘caboose on the end of the Gibb train of talented brothers’ and as we know, became very successful in his own right. All this leads into how a semi-famous TV star named John Travolta being signed to a million dollar three picture deal – an unheard of deal at that time and one of these pictures was to be ‘Saturday Night Fever‘. Moving along, the brothers go to the ‘Honky Chateau’ where Elton John had just finished recording his highly touted album of the same name and it’s there that the Bee Gees go on to create that magic that was the very successful Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on which every song was a major hit.

It all comes to a crashing halt thanks to their music being labeled ‘Disco’ – something the Bee Gees did not want to be labeled into any type of genre, and a guy named Steve Dahl starting a “Disco Sucks” campaign at Kaminsky Park after a baseball game. He called for everyone to bring their most hated Disco album and burn them along with hundreds of others. Basically it ended up being more of a racist, homophobic record and book burning which The Bee Gees got caught up in through no fault of their own all equaling the end of an era. It was also the night they announced that Andy Gibb would become an official Bee Gee brother – something that sadly never came to fruition as Andy would pass later that same year.

The last chapter here focuses on another rebirth of sorts for the trio as they ended up writing some top hit songs for the likes of Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton duet, Celine Dion and of course who can forget Barry Gibb’s duet with Barbra Streisand. Barry sums up their career perfectly in noting they never wanted a label put on them even though many tried, they just had different periods in their long career.

Andy Gibb – passed away from heart inflammation on March 10, 1988

Maurice Gibb – passed from complications from a surgery on Jan 20, 2003

Robin Gibb – passed from cancer on May 20, 2012

Barry Gibb is still alive and would rather have them all back and no hit songs.

Grade: A

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy of 42 West and HBO

“THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART” COMES TO HBO ON SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2020  

REVIEW: “DEAR SANTA” (2020) IFC Films

Standard

Being in somewhat of a bad mood due to the rise in Covid cases here and another complete lockdown – I dived into this film all the while thinking I was going into a Christmas film about Santa and his reindeer. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“DEAR SANTA” is a lovely new documentary from Dana Nachman telling us the story of ‘Operation Santa‘ – a lovely program that the United States Postal Office has been operating since 1912 when it was realized something must be done with all the letters children, and yes sometimes even adults, write to Santa each year. There is nothing sweeter than watching the opening where kids excitedly talk about Santa Claus and the letters they write to him. There is nothing that can bring a smile to your face and a lift in your heart more than listening to a young child’s ideal and belief that someone is dedicated to delivering some happiness to each and every one of them. In the 1940’s this wonderful program opened up to the public and has recently has gone online as well. It’s remarkable watching the efforts of everyone from individuals, to families, to companies both large and small, and even other children all join together in this massive effort to bring everyone a little bit of joy during the holidays.

We follow the film as it takes us through big cities and small ones on Christmas day showing us the impact these “Santa’s Elves” have on their communities. We watch as they interview several ‘elves’ in the postal service itself who ‘work with Santa’ to read, sort and deliver the letters received every year. Some of the letters are heart-wrenching as we see families who have been displaced by the huge fire in Paradise, CA or adults who are struggling with just getting beds for their kids. We also follow several of the ‘adopter’ elves i.e., those who go through letters and pick the ones they wish to ‘adopt’ and get the requested gifts and help Santa get those gifts to children and adults all across the country. Some are even past recipients of this wonderful operation and are now giving back in return.

The only beef anyone could possibly come up with about this film is that it’s a bit lengthy, but the end result of it all is this thoughtful, heart-warming, and honest look that proves that not everything is lost in humanity. It’s exactly what’s called for and the world needs back right now, some good old compassion and empathy for others. So if like me you were feeling Grinchy at all this Holiday season – Dear Santa might be just what is in order to remember what makes the season so special.. it’s called giving.

Grade: B+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy of IFC FILMS

“DEAR SANTA” NOW AVAILBLE ON VOD/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILBLE  

 

 

REVIEW: “ALL MY LIFE” (2020) Universal Pictures

Standard

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Screener Passport that Universal uses as it can be downloaded on Roku and you can actually watch in comfort on a bigger screen TV, so I’m always pretty happy when they send over screeners. Why bring this up here and now? Well it’s probably the best thing to come away with after watching this film.

Cheesy, sappy romantic dramas aren’t entirely my cup of tea and most especially ones where you know immediately off – doom is in the cards for one of them. You’ll almost certainly have seen romantic dramas that deal with terminal illnesses as it’s a storyline that is really overplayed in Hollywood and “ALL MY LIFE” from Director Marc Meyers is just this story. Almost from the start, you know what’s coming, and the film knows it too as the film follows the romance between Jennifer Carter (Jessica Rothe) and Solomon “Sol” Chau (Harry Shum Jr). Things seem to be going well for them after they meet at a bar, and they have a sweet little series of dates where they fall right off into ‘that’ couple. We all know the cliches: have to constantly be together, holding hands, laughing at each others jokes, sitting on laps etc. We also learn that Sol works with digital media and is also a wannabe-chef and Jennifer does other things that’ll surely be interesting at some point but we never really find out what that is so touche’ on that one. They move in together so Sol can save up some money and get into his dream job so Sol eventually quits his job and takes that dream job as a chef and proposes to Jennifer. Immediately we find out one of them is ill and since this is based on a true story and it can be easily looked up, it’s Sol that has liver cancer. With the help of family and friends, they start a GoFundMe campaign..for the wedding..mind you not the medical bills they can’t afford but of course a $20,000 wedding that happens two weeks later.

All My Life’ fails itself in two large and very definitive ways. First, it definitely leans more on how everything is impacting Jennifer, we get many more shots of her trying to cope with the trauma of the cancer diagnosis and in an odd way, she makes herself out to be the victim even though you know, it’s Sol’s diagnosis and him who has to deal with it. There is one sappy – you see it coming from a mile away moment – where he says if it’s bad news they will get a dog, later in the film, he shows up with a dog. All along Sol doesn’t get nearly the time to say how any of this is impacting him as again, it’s kinda all about Jennifer. I don’t know if this part really happened is or is liberties the writers made up and ran with, but it doesn’t played out well. The best thing to come out of this film is it’s about an interracial couple with an Asian male lead that never makes you even think twice about it.

Now this is based on true story and yes it can be a grim awareness of a how sickness like cancer can affect any one at any age and be terribly difficult to deal with – but the acting here by the leads Rothe & Shum Jr and their lack of chemistry is almost as bad as the sentiment which comes across poorly and neither lead offers any real depth of character to their roles. The script is just too weak to do justice to the theme or to sustain 90-odd minutes on a big screen. Saving grace are some colorful supporting players like Jay Pharaoh as one Shum’s friends Dave, Chrissie Fit as one Rothe’s friends Amanda, Ever Carradine as Gigi a restaurant owner who hires Sol, and a brief cameo from Mario Cantone as a wedding organizer.

The film wraps up quickly like it’s giving you the barest minimum required to tell its story, with everything handled like we’re in a hurry because there just isn’t enough time to try and let things have an impact or give you time for emotions and that’s where it loses it’s audience as a tearjerker, because you never feel like tears are necessary.

BTW – can I mention how much I love screener passport again..

Grade: D+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“ALL MY LIFE” IS AVAILBLE ON VOD STARTING DECEMBER 2020

REVIEW: “WOLFWALKERS” (2020) APPLE FILMS/GKIDS

Standard

With everyone loving on this new animated film from two-time Academy Award nominated Tomm Moore and his co-director Ross Stewart, my excitement and expectations were high on getting this screener and giving it a watch. Then my internet went out and has been spotty ever since so it took me a moment and after watching I felt as though the title said it all. Not that it’s bad, it’s not bad at all and it could be all about taste as this type of animation is so very different than what we are used too, what could be called ‘very mature animation’ and it took me a moment to adjust as it’s doesn’t really feel like a children’s movie.

Story line sum up is in 1650, a hunter named Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) and his daughter Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) have to move from England to this small Irish town as he has been hired to hunt/kill the wolves who are threatening the small village. Bill goes out each day to do his job while he makes Honor stay in the village so she is safe from them. However she sees herself as a wolfhunter as well and wants to help her father kill the wolves, so she sneaks out of the town and happens to come across a young girl wolfwalker named Mebh (Eva Whittaker), who can transform into a wolf when she is asleep. They start a bond as friends that gets severely tested as the Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) is trying to get rid of all wolves to protect his town, so Robyn has to convince his father that Wolfwalkers are real and must do what she can to save her friend and the wolves.

While the backgrounds are so beautifully done and so is the music, the plot lacks in spots and in places where the characters are supposed to be charming, they came off as annoying. That along with a lot of it dragging in the middle and being somewhat cliche in lots of places, left it still with a somewhat satisfying ending leaving open many possibilities in which to possibly explore in a follow up.

So, the good parts you ask? The villain Lord Protector was done well not only in character but in design in keeping him feeling mysterious, intimidating and keeping the audience engaged with scenes he was in. With Robin’s dad was being the most likeable character, little Robin’s friendship with Mebh has good heart and sweet humour and it’s themes of loyalty, trust, and family truly resonate.

All in all though, after the amazing opening pace the story lacks for a good portion of the movie, losing the magic it held at the beginning in favour of just being characters chasing after each other.

Grade: C+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: PeggyattheMovies

Review screening: Courtesy of 42 West

“WOLFWALKERS” NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILBLE  ~ COMING TO APPLE TV+