REVIEW: WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR” (2018) Focus Features

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“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is hands down, the best film I’ve seen all year. And you might say “Oh it’s not a film, it’s a documentary” and you would be right. But it is still the best film of 2018 so far.

“WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR” is a beautifully done, heartwarming tribute to Fred Roger’s and his Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood show – which changed children’s television forever. This film highlights Rogers’ humanity and decency and shows how he brought his message to children everywhere. He was a Christian pastor who brought his values to work – without trying to preach or force his religion on you. I must say as a person who doesn’t believe in religion myself..he was truly the epitome of the word “good christian” probably the last of his kind as many who tout themselves as that now, couldn’t hold a candle to this man. And he gave everything to kids and truly cared about their views of the world and what happens to them.

His message remains timely today and also shows the importance of PBS. Interviews with everyone from his wife to his co-workers capture the essence of this wonderful human being.
The film is so well done and emotional – making you laugh, smile and yes, even grown men had tears during some remarkable moments. He made me think again and want to pass along his message of Love..yes..Love people. Do I wonder how he would handle today’s horrible effect of reality TV and what is going on with children being shot at school..yes I do. And I sure wish he was here to help in this time of inexplicable hate.. Please do yourself a favour and watch this film – it might give us all pause to think for a moment.

Grade: A+
@pegsatthemovies

Thank you to @filmindependent and @lacma for this screening.

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REVIEW: “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS” (2016) Post: Q & A ~ Tom Ford

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If you’re looking for a sequel of sorts to  A SINGLE MAN, it won’t be found anywhere in “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS”. Tom Ford’s take on this tale of redemption, revenge, love and cruelty, terrified me at times, but in all the right ways.
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NOCTURNAL AMINALS is a dark, yet stylish thriller directed by a man who knows a thing or two about style – having previously worked as creative director for both Gucci and YSL and now of course, his own design firm, Tom Ford. So to say his delving into film could have been less than stellar or have gone in all the wrong directions, wouldn’t be absurd. He could have gone style over substance, thankfully, here we get both and Ford’s perfectionism makes this one of the most powerful films I’ve seen all year.

This is really a story within a story with the perspective coming from Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner who spends most of her life at home alone, with her often out-of-town husband Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer), pursuing his ‘business’. Randomly, (so we think) Susan gets a manuscript for a novel written by her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she hasn’t heard from in over 15 years and as curiosity gets the best of her, she starts reading it. Almost immediately she finds herself completely absorbed with the story, so much so, we see it as she herself ‘see’s’ it to have happened. As she continues to read, she has flashbacks to how her own relationship & marriage with Edward broke down as well as perceived thoughts that the way she is ‘seeing’ this violent thriller could maybe some type of veiled threat against her from Edward. nocturnal-animals-3

Edward’s novel provides the film with its dark soul, the story of Tony Hastings (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) & daughter India (Elle Bamber), who run into trouble when traveling through some back country Texas roads late at night, you know the type they make movies about how not to ever drive down. It’s pretty heavy stuff to watch it all, and I couldn’t help but clench the seat while watching it all unfold, but it all plays out as essential in making this such powerful watch.
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The rest of the cast features the always scene-stealing, can-we-just-give-him-an-Oscar-already Michael Shannon, as Bobby Andes, a career best performance from Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who is truly vile, creepy and just plain terrifying as the Ray Marcus, and Laura Linney’s appearance as Susan’s mother, Anne Sutton, who even in the short space of time we see her, makes an impact.

Gyllenhaal is good here doing dual roles though playing Hastings is seemingly the much harder performance, I just feel like he’s trying these same type of thriller roles out one after another to see which one hits hardest. Amy Adams is quite brilliant and it’s this role that should garner her another Oscar nomination at the least. It seems some don’t like Aaron Taylor Johnson’s performance, probably because if anyone knows how to bring the ‘pretty’ to a film, it’s Tom Ford and Johnson along with Hammer and a few others are the ‘pretty’ to be sure. But he also knows how to bring a performance, and for me, I like it when I get surprised by one and Johnson’s did that for me.

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This is one damned good film and I’m thinking it’s going to garner itself a few award nominations.

Grade: A
@pegsatthemovies

Screening courtesy of Hammer Museum ~ The Contender Series
NOW SCREENING NATIONWIDE

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Post Q & A with Tom Ford
First off, I can’t say enough on how congenial this man is. He has been quite brilliant as not only a designer, but so far, as a filmmaker also, and yet is more than pleased to answer any and all questions posed and makes you feel as though your friends after only a few minutes conversation.

Mr. Ford acknowledged the fact that he’s been so very lucky in being able to make his films his way so far. After being in the same industry for so long (30 yrs. in design) he says it’s been nothing but a blast for him to be able to do this and he loves it for being so different.
He also notes it’s been great getting the cast he wanted as he really had to find two people who could span a 20 year time frame, and in doing so, both look it and be able to act it out. He felt Amy Adams just resonates so much expression on screen with just looks as she doesn’t speak as she reads the novel, but expresses it.
He noted that while they took some liberties with the film over the actual novel by Austin Wright, it would have been almost impossible to have filmed it exactly as written so deep a story it is. My favourite statement of his was that he wants you to remember this film..not just one day after you see..not just a few weeks later..but still be thinking about a year later and remember how it made you think and feel.
I think he will get his wish on that one. 🙂

“KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE” (2015) 20th CENTURY FOX

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Watch out James Bond ~ the “Kingsman:Secret Service” is in town!!!
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Starting off my 2015 with a early preview screening of this oh!so!fun! fantastic joyride of a film is just what I needed. Simply put, I LOVED IT! and I’m thinking spy movies will NEVER be the same.. 😀 This film truly injects the fun & thrills back into the spy movie genre as it’s a ridiculously entertaining action comedy that will certainly be hard to top – not just by the other parodies but yes, by the actual spy movies themselves. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is enjoyable, well-made action film with a fair dose of humour, lots of slicked along style and panache’ ~ yes I said panache’ because that’s the only word that comes correctly to mind with it’s wonderful style & wardrobe fashion sense, but it’s definitely made by, for, and about people who’ve seen far too many Bond films…and yes, you can count me as one of the latter. 😀 kingsman colin in front of suit store

And while I won’t give away any spoilers….”Kingsman” is the story of a streetwise London youth named Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) who is rescued from his life of petty crime and run-ins with the law by a posh secret agent named “Harry Hart/Galahad” (Colin Firth) and trained to be a new generation of spy working for a top secret privatized spy operation aka “The Kingsman”. How fun is it to see Colin Firth so polar opposite type-cast as a bad-ass and a good one at that?? REALLY FUN ~ I mean who knew??!! Certainly not me as who could even come up with this idea and make it work so well. Matthew Vaughn is who. Truthfully, Vaughn has cast his film fairly perfectly. Firth is game and great in his yes albiet, computer-aided fight scenes with his delivery of the dialogue spot on and with Egerton a naturally charismatic presence with smarts behind his cutesy smile. The always wonderful Mark Strong plays gadgetmaster “Merlin”, while Michael Caine is brilliant, although brief, as “Arthur” head of Kingsman. kingsman colin  taron

Samuel Jackson goes for broke here and strikes it big-time in riches as a over-the-top billionaire Steve Jobs type in villain form, “Richmond Valentine”, and supported wonderfully by henchwoman “Gazelle” (Sofia Boutella), who sports a pair of sharpened-and-bladed prosthetic legs and slices & dices her way through the film with them as divinely mad as any deadly dentures Richard Kiel ever wore as ‘Jaws’ or Harold Sakota as ‘Oddjob’ with his deadly flying top hat in Goldfinger. kingsman blades

But the biggest surprised nestled within “Kingsman” (and trust me, there are a bunch) might be the fact that it isn’t just some knock off doodle of a film. This is a hugely entertaining, heartfelt out and about thrillride!! It’s that bold, unique and whipsmart about what it puts out. There’s a real emotional through-line and Eggsy is a terrific main character, one you want to root for far beyond the boundaries of this film. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a total blast. This is a movie, after all, where the villain sets his diabolical scheme in motion to the disco grooves of KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Give It Up.” I mean come on..what are you waiting for??? that alone should dictate that you see this movie at least twice! And though the action may be ludicrous at times, it’s also hugely engaging and delightful. Yes, the design is full of tributes and nods to other films and other bits of pop culture, but it also creates a logical world for itself. The tone of the film is spice but with a dose of sour but not in a bad taste way, it’s ‘knowing’ yet rarely cynical. And the British-isms of it aren’t lost or sanded down for an American audience. Firth is a killer, but never a brutish bad guy and Eggsy’s up-from-the-bottom determination to do good is clear in every scene, as Egerton pulls off loads of charm in his acting and skill in his action work. kingsman taron water

The whole plot is delivered with a dash of wink and pizzazz, with such bits of wittiness that even at one point Harry Hart/Galahad is conferring with Valentine and notes how much he misses “fun” spy movies. The genre, according to him, has become too stuck in “real world” politics all the while we note that this discussion takes place while the two characters are eating Big Macs of course, because hey, why not right? The movie is very much a throw-back fun return to the splashy, colorful films of the sixties that emphasized outlandish gadgets, deadly vixens and global plots where people push buttons and thousands could possibly die. kingsman big macs

With its fashion-forward flair — the film may borrow liberally from the Roger Moore 007 era, but there’s also a touch of Patrick Macnee’s gentleman spy character ‘Mr. Steed’ from “The Avengers” thrown in especially with Firth’s character. But all in all “Kingsman: The Secret Service” feels like a well-made gentleman’s suit, with superb cut, distinctive colour, and excellent flair. You get all the required gear of an action film, the gadgets, and delights ~ but you also get a good dose of sly winks at how ludicrous it all is yet also how parts are just out-and-out genius. It’s fakes a stiff upper lip but also constantly raises an eyebrow in amusement. It’s full of fun Bond-isms, little bits such as when Eggsy orders his martini with “gin as that’s the way it’s meant to be, shaken for 10 seconds while looking at a closed bottle of vermouth” I mean how can we not laugh out loud at this. (yes, Bond fans will know exactly what I am talking about here)

It’s like Kingsman is perfectly perched at just the right pop cultural moment as this is most likely the perfect moment to give the middle finger to the genre, and start a whole new, self-aware fun franchise in the process. The jokes are sharper, the plotting swifter, the violence more shocking. the sexual innuendos way more prominent as it deconstructs the old school spy genre while also celebrating it and it does so with wit and intelligence and style and yes again, panache.
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It’s clear that as a Director, Vaughn is able to handle world-class actors here getting them to loosen up and play, in ways that feel engaging and new. Sam Jackson’s lisping villain is a genocidal madman who gets weak-kneed at the sight of blood, all the while being able to turn new-comer Egerton, who is all rough-around-the edges charm and brittle good looks, into a movie star with charisma and magnetism. Most will talk about how great it is to see the star of “The King’s Speech” kick ass, but truly Egerton is the real revelation here as he is pure magic in this film.. Mark my words Taron Egerton ~ breakout star of 2015.
All in all, Kingsman:The Secret Service is a thoughtful, exciting, whip-smart spy adventure that doesn’t let its smart-ass post-moderism overwhelm its playfulness or its heart. And lest we forget..we are thoroughly reminded throughout the film of it’s own quote ~ “Remember the suit is a modern gentleman’s armor and we’re the new Knights.” Do I want a sequel? My only response is HELL to the YES!!

Grade: A-
@pegsatthemovies

(See grading scale – as yes, usually an A would be regarded as an Oscar-worthy pic for me, and while this isn’t that..the fun level is so high..I couldn’t go any lower!)

First Advanced Screening in Los Angeles at AMC Century 15 on Thursday, January 8th, 2015.

+++READ~~~~REVIEW OF “LIFE ITSELF”+++

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Film Independent's 2006 Independent Spirit Awards - Arrivals

I’m not much of a crier at movies.. Usually, I know when someone is going to die or pass away, and I prepare for it. Not this movie, I knew what the ending was, I knew I would cry ~ and I did. I also laughed and learned a few things.  Look, I realize there are some people out there who might not even know who Roger Ebert is and are wondering  whaaat?? but for me Roger Ebert epitomized the word “MOVIES.”

And while there were many things I did not know about the man, that this movie nicely took me through to learn more about his earlier life and times, how he got to be the Film Critic for the Chicago Sun Times etc, I was a COMPLETE devotee of Siskel & Ebert ~ At the Movies.  And this movie made me remember so many of the reviews, off camera moments, oft sarcastic remarks they made to each other and a big reminder of how far back I actually started watching them..as I even remembered my mom saying to me “why do you watch these guys ~ all they do is bicker” and I haven’t lived at home in many years now!! hahahaha And oh yes, bicker they did. But what made them special to me was not only the way they reviewed movies, as for me a two-thumbs up was a must-see, but you could see deep down the respect and admiration they really truly had for each other even though arguing like high-school boys over whom was right in their reviews.  I loved every second of watching them. I will even admit that I used to *gulp* set my VCR to record their show..yep..my fandom knew no bounds..hahahahaha  And I know people thought I was weird to be so into what so many of my friends considered a ‘weird show’ for someone my age then, to be watching..And just like now, I didn’t care. To say they shaped how I watch movies would be an understatement. They made me understand movies.

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I remember being so saddened by Gene Siskel’s sudden death of a brain tumour, though it wasn’t as we learned, so sudden. He just kept it hidden.  Roger chose a different route when he was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw. Devastating as it was, he kept going until he felt he could no longer be in public. They removed his entire jaw, he couldn’t eat, drink, speak..nothing..It’s devastating seeing what he went through, but that he handled it with a strength I’m guessing he didn’t even know he had. I know I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it.  I believe he had an amazing support system behind him with his wife, Chaz & his step-children/grandchildren also.  Martin Scorsese and many of Roger’s film critic friends are featured throughout this movie, and tell it like it is.  It’s quite wonderful, funny, and touching.

After Siskel, Roger had a lot of various co-hosts basically giving the a try-out so to speak..(if only I had been old enough dammit!! :)) And none worked so well as Richard Roeper. I was leary at first, thinking was he going to be as good as Gene, would there be that chemistry that they had before.  And while it definitely was a different chemistry, it worked. Until Roger could no longer do a live show.

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Roger Ebert could write about movies like no other.He had a way with words that no one else simply had. He was the 1st film critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize. He became somewhat of a celebrity in his own right getting to be friends with some of the biggest names in film, yet that didn’t stop him from ever reviewing a movie thumbs up or thumbs down.  I know my little movie review blog here could be taken as a bit laughable when compared to the things that Roger Ebert wrote..but that’s okay by me. Without him I would have never been exposed to the movies the way I am..He loved everything from the Hollywood Blockbuster to Independent Film to the little Foreign Documentaries that it took years for the Academy to even recognize. But he did, and with that true love of film ~ he touched a lot of people..I am proud to say I am one of those people he touched. So yes, this film and my review are an ‘Ode to Ebert’ so to say. Thank you Roger.. my little blog about something I love #peggyatthemovies exists because of you.

Grade: A

#peggyatthemovies

GRADING SCALE: A = OSCARWORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE~MUST SEE; C= AVERAGE~SHOULD SEE; D = DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY; F = YEAH..NO DON’T SEE THE MOVIE.. ( + OR – ) GIVES IT A BIT UP OR DOWN