REVIEW: “BLUE BAYOU” (2021) Focus Features

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“BLUE BAYOU” the newest film written and directed by Justin Chon, chooses a daunting subject to show in his new film about a Korean-American, Antonio LeBlanc (also played by Chon), who is fighting for his family and his status as a US citizen.

Adopted from Korea at the age of 3, Antonio lives in Louisiana. He speaks fluid English. He is married to a US citizen, and he and his wife are expecting their first child. He is also stepfather to Jessie (Sydney Kowalske), the daughter of his wife, Kathy (Alicia Vikander).

Also in the picture is Ace (Mark O’ Brien), Kathy’s ex and while he is a officer of the law, he also has domestic issues and a load of jealousy towards Antonio as Jessie, his daughter, only wants Antonio as her dad. This all leads to a confrontation between himself, Antonio and partner, Denny (Emory Cohen), to unjustly instigate an arrest and physically attack Antonio – which then begins a chain reaction. Antonio’s record is flagged by ICE, and he is threatened with deportation. Incredibly it becomes clear that Antonio’s adopted parents, who abandoned him into the foster system after only 6 months, did not fill out the proper paperwork to make him a naturalized citizen.

Kathy and Antonio seek the counsel of Barry Boucher (Vondie Curtis-Hall) a lawyer, who informs them that before the year 2000, US foreign adoption laws were very ill defined, and in many cases immigration paperwork was never filed by adopting parents. That and his prior criminal record, struggling to support his family by being a tattoo artist, are all obstacles in his path. So despite being married and in the United States for over thirty years, Antonio still finds it difficult to check off the the most basic of requirements on a form to appeal the decision.

The intense acting and generally good cinematography are the strengths of the film. The regional accents and a certain performance of the namesake song itself are standouts (though definitely not Linda Ronstadt type standards). But there are diverging subplots all over the place, all detracting from the main theme. Sometimes the character aspects don’t ring true and with all due respect to Chon’s clear passion for the project, the script could have benefitted from some help making it not so scattered and more about how this is tragedy of life is actually happening. Instead we get consistent flashbacks to Antonio’s past and life of crime, making you question his decision to go back to that. He also has a friend in I.C.E who is all seemingly unaware what is happening to his friend. Then there is the random friendship between Antonio and Parker (Linh Dan Pham), a Vietnamese refugee and a cancer patient in her dying days. All this takes away from the subject matter at hand and left me with more questions than it ever answered. – how does this happen? how can a child be adopted here and not given automatic citizenship? That is the story that I went into expecting to find out about and wanted to know.

On another thought for me is while Vikander is without a doubt one of the most talented actresses of her generation, emulating accents is not her strongest suit. So while the emotion is there for the character, she is not entirely credible as a Southerner. By contrast, Sydney Kowalske is a brilliant fit to play the character‘s daughter. Not only does she look like Vikander, she also provides the all the heart of the film. If it were not for the scenes in which Antonio and Jessie show such love and a bond for one another, you would be hard-pressed at times to find redeemable qualities in his behaviour — which in turn can be almost detrimental as it’s a film that depends on the audience to be invested in his fate. And sometimes it just lost track of that and honestly for me, the true importance of this subject.

Note: stay for the credits as it names way too many names of people currently facing deportation under this outdated law.

Grade: C

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“BLUE BAYOU” from Focus Films – is only in theaters on Friday, September 17, 2021

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

REVIEW: “JASON BOURNE” (2016) Universal Pictures

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Jason Bourne is back and so is Mr. Matt Damon in the title role. This time he’s well aware of who he is and he is determined to expose the government’s secrets, As the intelligence agencies from Interpol to the CIA are in pursuit, Director Greengrass delivers a movie that is both intelligent and intense. Which sadly is what seems to be lacking in recent movies. Adding depth to the story and instead of investing his money on CGI, there are ACTUAL stunt scenes! Can I say, it’s so refreshing to see plain old school action and its pretty damn flawless. In an age where action films rely so heavily on CGI, it is enlightening to see real stunts and real car chases instead of the usual 3D CGI malarkey that we’ve just been saturated with this year so far. As I watched the ‘REAL THING’ actually happen though, I did have a giggle as “wow, this budget must have been pretty damn big” and worth every penny.
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I will not go into details about this year’s film since I don’t want to spoil your fun. But basically the question of this film is from CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) “Why would he come back now?”

“He” is of course Jason Bourne, super spy, and Damon comes back to the franchise for at least the chance to do all one more time, As for Bourne, he’s always catching up with himself, be it his faulty memory or finding his father. Jason Bourne is certainly home to many of the thriller genre’s paradoxes, including illogical good luck in gun fights and car chases and the usual surprises, including a quick reprise of Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), and about characters you thought you knew. jason bourne 3
The final fight between good and evil, while it might be a bit de rigueur, is good. And you know me when it’s a good villain, I tend to half-way be rooting for them..Here it’s Asset because yes, Vincent Cassel plays him so menacingly well. A bit of Alicia Vikander’s character Heather Lee was just too easily sewed up at the beginning of the film for me, but she gravited well into the role and is pivotal to the ending, which I loved. All in all, it’s an entertaining enough film to satisfy the action fan in us all.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Monday, July 25, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Release Date: Nationwide – Friday, July 29, 2016

7 DAYS OF OSCARS: DAY TWO ~ BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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Yep..here we are at Day 2 of my “7 Days of Oscar” just remember.. I’m giving who I think the winner will be and what would be my pick – because they don’t always necessarily coincide with each other!! 😀

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
As I noted with the Golden Globes – there were times I just thought ‘wow, JJL is knocking it out of the park here’ then there were more times when I thought ‘oh, no no she’s not, she’s kinda annoying me’ so this is a give & take for me but definitely not a pick.

Rooney Mara, Carol
While I’m mostly not a fan of Rooney Mara’s, I will say, she impressed me in this film and was the most likable yet in a film role for me.

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Vanilla, Vanilla, Vanilla. That’s the only thing that truly comes to mind when I think of this performance. Sorry Rachel, you seem sweet, really you do, but you are ‘vanilla’ acting-wise, in your roles, this one included.

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl ~ MY PICK
Alicia Vikander was fantastic in this role. Why everyone liked her in Ex-Machina I’m not sure, as she was a CGI character. And okay..not everyone..just males under 35 – but here she truly was wonderful and showed she can compete with the best of them.

Kate Winslet, Steve JobsWINNER
Another wonderful job by Kate, though I wasn’t particularly fond of her trying on the accent – you could almost overlook it as she was so spot on here.

REVIEW: “THE DANISH GIRL” (2015) POST Q & A W/DIRECTOR TOM HOOPER

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“The Danish Girl” is not just a altogether different love story, but it’s inspiration comes from the lives of artists Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). Einar/Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate what can only be called a groundbreaking journey, even in this day & age, with Lili becoming a transgender pioneer.
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While the film is slow-moving, I honestly found it quite touching, beautiful and sweet. It is delicate in the way it treats difficult subjects as sexuality and the discovery of one’s identity in what is surely an even more hostile period than we live in now. The fact that it is a true story makes it a bit more involving.

I don’t think the film is perfect – but the acting, cinematography, the screenplay are done well. The middle part – where all the characters try to find a way out of the problem and when for the first time they seem to be facing a fracture between them is it’s most moving.
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Obviously, no one knows how well Lili Elbe passed for a woman, but no one, and I mean absolutely no one, would mistake Redmayne’s Lili for anything else especially at first where he is mostly an awkward, clumsy male in a bad wig. However, I was impressed with Redmayne’s portrayal of the transition and transcendence and being that he is of small stature he did well here. I must say, while I don’t think this will win Eddie another Oscar, it is deserving of a nomination for me as I watched, I am impressed lately by Redmayne’s choices of roles. Truly wonderful & different for the most part.
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There were a few heart-tugging emotional scenes in the movie where I was quite struck by Vikander’s acting, being full of some raw emotion.
The rest of the cast, in particular one of my favourite actors of the past few years, Matthias Schoenaerts as Einar’s childhood friend Hans Axgil. He is a breath of fresh air in almost everything he touches for me. Amber Heard as the wild & fun, Ulla and Ben Whishaw as Henrik, add to the mystery and complicated nature of Lili’s existence.

Through a beautifully tangled love story this film opens the eyes and hearts of the audience to the harsh reality a trans-person is born into. A world that clearly is of misunderstanding, ignorance and flat out discrimination.
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As you know, many will be angered about the context of the film because they think by spewing hatred for the person portrayed in the film will make them not exist. Those same people are usually fans of Donald Trump. Enough said.

Grade: C

Screening: Thursday, November 19, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Deadline Awardsline screenings.
Playing nationwide as of Friday, November 27, 2015

POST Q & A WITH DIRECTOR TOM HOOPER/SCREENWRITER LUCINDA COXON/PRODUCER ANNE HARRISON:
Alicia Vikander was also supposed to be part of the post Q & A, but we were told to blame Matt Damon 😀 as she was held over on shooting that day of the new Bourne film. Attached is the link to the video of this wonderful post-discussion.
http://deadline.com/2015/11/danish-girl-movie-transgender-response-tom-hooper-video-1201636101/

REVIEW: “MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.” (2015) Warner Bros. Pictures

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Director Guy Ritchie starts off with a wonderful, very highly stylized car chase. From that moment on I pinned my hopes that the whole film would be just as good as this sequence. It ends up turning into rather a bumpy ride between plot highs..and plot lows..making it an overall fun, but uneven film.
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Henry Cavill as ‘Napoleon Solo’ and Armie Hammer as ‘Illya Kuryakin‘ are the dymanic spy duo coming from differing enemy camps – Solo being from the CIA and Kuryakin respectively, the KGB, who must work together along with help from German/car whiz girl mechanic/possible double agent (maybe even triple we’re not sure) ‘Gaby Teller’ (Alicia Vikander) to battle the forces of mysterious and evil criminal organization – The Vinciguerra Empire – a rogue Italian group of ex-Nazi loyalists ran by “Victoria Vinciguerra” (Elizabeth Delbecki) & her husband “Alexander” (Luca Calvani). The goal is to uncover the plot to stop them from obtaining and detonating a nuclear bomb.
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Following a fairly standard formula for spy plots that involves good guys vs. bad guys to save the world, here Ritchie throws intrigue to the back burner and instead ramps up the charm and personality of his characters. Each one has their own unique set of traits which set them apart, yet it also brings them perfectly together to create the type of “spy team” with palpable chemistry that works all the way around and delivers to us a most entertaining ride.
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Add in the always witty and charming delivery of Hugh Grant, Jared Harris and Misha Kuznetsov in their respective roles as head of differing agencies and you can’t beat the overall fun that they dish out. 1DE8C234
As with any film of this genre, my motto of ‘your only as good as your villains’ once again applies as I did find those being the only characters the lacking the charm and chemistry of their counterparts, though still stylish, just missing what is truly needed to a baddie, the ability to still like them even though they are the villains.

Ending with the perfect setup for a sequel, I do hope the wonderful stylization remains as do the characters, though with a bit better plot and new villains as it could prove that a sequel might even turn out to be better than an original.

Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Arclight Hollywood – Wednesday, August 12, 2015 – Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Opens Nationwide: Friday, August 14, 2015