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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REVIEW: “RED SPARROW” (2018) 20th Century Fox

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So with my media screening confirmation for “RED SPARROW” we received this note from Director Francis Lawrence. I much appreciated this as I hate spoilers and always try to avoid them in reviews. However, after the screening, I’m thinking he doesn’t want anyone to reveal his ‘plot points’ and ‘ending’ because they are downright ridiculous.

To sum this up quickly and make this review as painless and short as possible the basics of this story is Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), a Bolshoi Ballet dancer – yes, if you eyerolled here, you are not alone – who sees her career go down the tubes when her dance partner makes a bad move and breaks her leg. It’s a horrible break which would take months to heal let alone walk in heels – and yet there she is three miraculous months later – running around in heels. Not just that, but she finds out of a conspiracy on the part of the aforementioned partner and her replacement. This is all thanks to the fact that her uncle Vanya Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is nothing less than one of the heads of the secret service of the “mother country” has given her secret tape on this. Dominika exacts a revenge that can only been seen to be believed, in other words yes, again ridiculous. She is then faced with the need to keep her home and medical care for her sick mother, Nina (Joely Richardson), both of which have been provided by the Bolshoi. Well weclome back Uncle Vanya who offers her a job because you know..she has been so intuitive as a child even. YAWN! Well, sweet Uncle Vanya sends her to ‘Sparrow School’ or as JLaw puts it in her ridiculously bad Russian accent, Whore School. You know that place we all want to go to because they train you to have sex and use your body as a weapon to overcome the enemy. After watching some of the weirdest, most uncomfortable sex scenes to grace the screen in a long time, we go to part duex. Sigh.

Dominika has to approach Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA agent who had been working for years with a mole in Moscow and who eventually had to leave the country when he unmasked himself when he mistook some police officers for secret service agents. Nash and Dominika immediately begin a relationship because of course they do – and of course the physical attraction will prove to be a bond to guarantee a “mutual benefit”.

Honestly, that’s all I can give and it’s even more than planned. Red Sparrow is just plain ridiculous and bad. There is no chance anyone is EVER going to believe Jennifer Lawrences’ performance here as not only a ballerina, but a Russian Agent to boot. EVER! Nor Joel Edgerton as a spy – I mean when is this guy ever going to speak his native Aussie again? He really tries with his accents, but never really gets it right. Not even my go to guy, Matthias Schoenaerts or the great Jeremy Irons can save this film. It’s almost like if Fifty Shades of Grey met Die Hard in the worst way possible. With Domenika’s line “They gave me a choice: die or become a sparrow.” I wish I could have chose for her and saved myself from watching this.

Grade: D-
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, Febraury 20, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
RED SPARROW will be in theatres worldwide on Friday, March 2, 2018

REVIEW: “LOVING” (2016) Focus Features

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“LOVING” tells us the long overdue, true story of Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga).
The story takes us through the years of what their lives were like while going through the some of the process of their plight to just want to be legally married in 1958’s deeply segregated southern state of Virginia. This was a time and place where this wasn’t legal nor could inter-racial couples even date.
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This story is silent, yet strong in its portrayal of the real-life interracial couple at the center of the 1967 Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia. It’s moving at times and loudly states the facts bluntly: love is love is love ~ and that should be enough.

And yes, while it can be quietly brilliant and amazing at times, it does have holes in the story that could have been filled. Mildred is portrayed at the beginning as being a doe-eyed, non-speaking, almost non-existent part of the beginning of this young relationship that in 1958 would have had racial consequences and problems within both communities. None of which is really shown at all until the last 20 minutes of the film when Richard finally finds a brick wrapped in paper on his car seat, mind you not thrown, just lying there. They missed some opportunities to really show us what the racial hardships might have been instead choosing to almost make the legal battle look far too easy with their lawyers Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass) on whom the casting here might have been a bit of mis-step for me (not to mention their clunky and too “cutesy” dialogue).
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What IS so very important about this film, and a big factor that not just everyone, but specifically why young people need to see this so they understand what our country was like back in the day. For gay people who have struggled to love whom they choose, they need to see that their struggle was not unique and needs to be supported. And that the bible was also used against interracial marriages. And yes, that struggle is struggle and unless we want the clock turned back, so we can “make America great again”, we must be ever vigilant.
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The most poignant and beautiful point of the film came for me towards the ending, in scenes that were so quiet, yet so powerful, showing that even though they were faced with obstacles set over and over in their path, they were resolved to show that their love and union was unaffected by those outside forces, and continued to move through everyday duties such as mowing the lawn, their children playing, doing the dishes, on the very day no less, that they receive the phone call that simply changed everything. It simply touches and yet rocks you at the same time.

The performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga while well done, once again, we have in an Edgerton, an Aussie and Negga who is Irish/Ethiopian, trying to pull off down-in-the-back-bayou southern Virigina accents which yes again, can be outrighted spotted in parts. (Side note: Truly, when was the last time we actually heard Edgerton speak in his regular accent? I can’t even remember if I have at this point). And truly, no matter how small the role, I love when Michael Shannon as LIFE magazine photographer Grey Villet shows up in anything.
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If you want high dramatics, this is not your movie. I left the theatre feeling overwhelmed by the need to vote for our next U.S. President and make sure it is someone who will appoint progressive and unbiased Supreme Court Justices. I think most will understand that feeling, especially with so many people’s rights hanging precariously in the balance right now as it did then.
If you are looking for a touching, loving story that truly reflects so much on today’s times and the change that was accomplished by this one law that didn’t just change their lives, but the lives of millions of people around the world with whom it still affects today, this is your film and a film for all to see and truly reflect on.

Grade: B-
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Review Screening: Thursday, October 27, 2016 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Meetup
NOW PLAYING IN THEATRES NATIONWIDE

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