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

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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+

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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: “THE RENTAL” (2020) IFC Films

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Doing more for Airbnb’s already somewhat tempestuous reputation, “THE RENTAL” will have you thinking twice about booking that weekend get-away vacation we are all aching for.

Dave Franco’s directorial debut “The Rental” revolves around a simple set-up. Two couples, Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Michelle (Alison Brie) and Mina (Sheila Vand) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White), have the idea to rent a beautiful Oceanside rental house where they can do some hiking, relax some, and enjoy each others company, well sort of. Bringing along with them not only their emotional baggage but adding some party ‘favours’ into the mix to spice it up a bit and get them through the weekend might not be the best idea ever, but hey no one has ever turned away from a ‘good’ idea now have they… From the get go though, things are off and the feeling is some things just don’t seem right. There’s clearly some underlying issues between the couples, some lingering attraction between Charlie and Mina, and this sea-side getaway they have rented has seemingly more secrets than one can even imagine.

Adding in some racial and creeper-type tension is Taylor (Toby Huss), the caretaker of the house and so much more – because that is not the only tensity here. Franco does a really good job of slow boiling all the tensions together that are abound here from building up of the obvious sexual tension between Charlie and Mina, which could unravel in many ways, but how it does is all part of again, the build up and layers in what awaits us. As to what they don’t know about the house and slowly start to discover is but just an another added plot line that intertwines with the others so well. That they didn’t know that the very house in which they are staying, has some very invasive recording devices placed in some very private places is just part of it. The slow and precise reveal of all this is done by having a grip on us the viewer – to want to know and keeps our toes tingling in anticipation of how it all draws out.

On the acting level Brie, despite a slow start to her character, revs it up during the second hour of the film as the reveals start pouring forth. Stevens once again not speaking in his native accent but more of a whispery American one which once again he’s just not wholly successful at, but because of the genre of movie, it actually adds a little to it by doing so. Jeremy White as a screw up brother isn’t really a stretch of a character and he’s fine here, but does grow aggravating during a few spots. Vand’s role here is a great find though as she handles the biggest character evolvement of both good & bad, all the while keeping us completely on her side.

The movie also shows the effect that technology can have on our lives and how you never really know if or when you are being watched even in the most private of places. The film doesn’t rely on gore, but on the build up of tension to give us it’s scare. The direction from Franco is also well paced and while it could be argued there may have been a need for more depth on these characters, it’s a very slight one as Franco turns the tension up to the perfect level, delivering an ending that makes it all a notable pay off, most especially leading into the credits sequence which will send much worthy chills right down your spine.

All in all ‘The Rental‘ is most definitely deserving of a rental this weekend. 🙂

Grade: C+

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Review link courtesy of IFC Films

THE RENTAL | Opens In over 250 Drive-Ins + Theaters and Digital/VOD THIS Friday JULY 24

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

“GET HARD” (2015) ~ Warner Bros.

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I didn’t go into this screening with magically high hopes for a genius comedy here, I think you know from the trailer that’s not what you’re going to get, but I was looking for a few laughs. And it completely delivers on that aspect as that’s pretty much exactly what you get ~ ‘a few laughs’ ~ but then you can probably guess that from the trailer also.

So the best way for me to possibly describe Get Hard is to call it a socially acceptable racial observation humor disguised as a buddy flick. We’ve seen this formula before in comedies that worked really well like Blazing Saddles, Stir Crazy or 48 Hours. All funny movies..but time has made the landscape different nowadays and I hear the movie is getting some backlash for this exact reason. Basically the movie looks at how different races and social classes perceive each other through the eyes of stereotypical white, black & hispanic characters. The only thing I can say is just relax and realize this is just supposed to be entertainment not a social study on life today and if you can’t do that, which I understand also, then this probably isn’t the film you should go see.

We start off with Will Ferrell as “James King” an ultra rich stock broker who is engaged to his boss’ “Martin” (Craig T. Nelson) daughter “Alissa” (Allison Brie). Everything in life is going swimmingly for him it seems, that is until James is arrested for multiple counts of fraud ala Bernie Madoff. Unlike Madoff, James is actually completely innocent and as he refuses to take a plea deal, he ends up with a maximum sentence of ten years in San Quentin State Prison with the Judge giving him thirty days to settle all his affairs. Knowing that he has a huge probability of something happening to him in jail, he hires the only black guy he knows, “Darnell” the guy who washes his car played by Kevin Hart. James also just assumes Darnell has been to prison just because he’s black, but because Darnell needs the money to move into a new house, he just follows along with this line of thinking as it looks like an easy street to get the money he needs. Darnell now has less than thirty days to get James prepared for the next ten years of his life in prison..but remember it’s a life he really knows nothing about having truthfully never been to jail or even gotten so much as a parking ticket.

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The movie is filled with quite a few outrageous and somewhat memorable scenes mostly involving the ‘prison training’ of Ferrell’s character King. The movie starts with Ferrell’s ass in your face and it never backs down at trying to be funny (key word = trying), though a lot of it is oh-so-obligatory comedy rounds. I don’t want to spoil any of the funny scenes, as they are mostly during the first half of the film with one scene in particular that did have almost everyone (including me) gut laughing in their seats. But after that, I mostly just did a lot of eye-rolling at how just bad & dumb some of it really was.

The biggest fault of Get Hard is that it was completely & utterly predictable. The moment Ferrell is sentenced to jail, it was quite obvious why he was arrested in the first place. The movie did have one or two original scenes/situations, but they were also pretty much by the ‘comedy’ book with the once again obligatory cliched moments of stereotypical racial and gay jokes. We all get it, all rich white people think blacks are criminals and gay people all meet up in public to give each other oral sex..blah blah blah..
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The one highlight for me was that Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart really DO work fantastically together. I’m not going to lie, but I wasn’t expecting much from this movie but what absolutely makes this movie work even somewhat is due to the performances of Ferrell and Hart. Not that these guys aren’t funny..but let’s be truthful, both of them have played the same character over & over in most of their last few films. They thankfully went against some of their usual schtick of Hart screaming everything & the “Kevin Hart short jokes” which are just tired, were barely acknowledged As usual, Will Ferrell is a lunatic. He goes all out being over the top, but not in an obnoxious way. Hart is more of a straight man to Ferrell and that to me, is what made this relationship work well. T.I. as Darnell’s cousin “Russell” also does a quick turn here as leader of the ‘Crenshaw Kings’ whom Darnell comes to for advice and James actually tries to join when he shows them legit stock market tips and gets the street name moniker of ‘Mayo’ in a couple of fun, lighter moments.
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I wouldn’t say that Get Hard is anything close to rip-roaring, gut-busting hilarious, nor is it trying to reinvent the comedy wheel..but it has it’s funny moments and if you are fans of either Ferrell or Hart and looking to kill an hour and a half or so at the movies, then you will be fine. But go in with an open mind because remember, it’s just supposed to be comedy not a discussion of social problems and if you can go in with that mindset, I think it does what it sets out to do and that’s try to make people laugh.

Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

(See grading scale)