REVIEW: GRINGO (2018) STX Entertainment / Amazon Studios


Over the past few years, Nash Edgerton has bounced – possibly literally – between being a top-notch stuntman and a career as a burgeoning director. After a stack of shorts and a 2008 feature The Square, co-written with his more famous sibling Joel, he now steps things up with “GRINGO”, a comedy-thriller-esque type movie that looks sharp in the trailers.

With brother Joel Edgerton on board as one of the co-leads, Richard Rusk – alongside Charlize Theron as his co-conspirator Elaine Markinson and David Oyelowo as the trusty but naive, Harold Soyinka what you have here is a south-of-the-border caper with blood, guns and medical marijuana. As the film opens, crooked business partners Richard and Elaine – post-boardroom bonk – get a call from their Harold, screaming that he’s been kidnapped in Mexico.

That’s just the start – or rather the mid-point – of a twisty amoral adventure where no one is to be trusted and most are to be feared or so they like you to be – but you’re not. Flashing back and forth, the film fleshes things out..sort of. In the process of ditching their Chicago pharmaceutical firm to a conglomerate, Richard and Elaine are looking to cut ties with one of their more shady partners in the business of manufacturing medical marijuana.

Harold, the only good guy amid this nest of ever growing scumbags, and yes, even his wife Bonnie – played by Thandie Newton – is doing the dirty on him with no less that his own boss and supposed friend, Richard. Harold gets wind that he’s going to be out of a job and this is when he realises that his employers couldn’t care less about the fact he has been kidnapped, he sets out to turn the tables. But little is straightforward in a dense plot that also ropes in Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadaway as tourists and Sharlto Copley as a mercenary with a conscience.
Double-crosses, cases of mistaken identity… just trying to keep up and make sense of what’s going on at this point, leaves you out of sorts with a plot that really isn’t going anywhere. The script is guilty of trying way to hard, to go into sub-Tarantino area – and completely not succeeding in this endeavour.

Performances vary: Theron’s foul-mouthed act wears thin very fast and honestly, I thought she would be a lot funnier than she was, Edgerton passes you by again, not speaking in his own voice (I’m really so very over this Joel), but Copley provides a few live wire moments. Oyelowo isn’t known for his comedic turns and you will see why here with a mostly blah performance with one or two ha! ha! moments by him. While it’s a pity talents like Seyfried and Treadaway are just a weird almost background note here, as their characters almost seem as if they were given something to do, they would be funny. This is one of those films where the trailer shows you all the fun, best moments of a film that’s not terrible, but very easy to forget.

Grade: C-

Media Review Screening: Friday, February 23, 2018 ~ Courtesy of STX Entertainment
GRINGO will be release nationwide & UK on Friday, March 9, 2018 ~ Worldwide release throughout Mar/Apr


“SELMA” (2014) Q & A w/Ava DuVernay,Common, Carmen Ejojo



Yes, I should have done this review ages ago as it’s been a month since I attended an Oscar screening of this film along with an after-screening Q & A with Director: Ava DuVernay; Cast members Common, Carmen Ejojo, and Henry G. Sanders. Not even sure why I waited so long, but I will say I’ve thought some about it since then. Maybe it’s because the movie, while I’m not even going to pretend it isn’t a strong, powerful film, just missed a few things for me. And historical inaccuracies aside, as let’s be real, many prestigious movies take dramatic license with historical events and pretty much all bio-pics have them, I think I’ve just been trying to put my finger on what it was. Could be the slower pace of it or the fact that, some needlessly added small odd scenes, at times I thought I was watching a MLK biopic instead of a Selma one, or for me the too strong religious aspect of it. Yes I am fully aware and know MLK was REVEREND Martin Luther King..I am aware of the fact he was a religious man, but since they are taking liberties with some things, including re-writing the “I Have a Dream” speech, this would have been what I would have chosen to tone down some as some of it comes off unnecessary in parts. But whatever it was, I think a lot of it has to do with everything going on from Ferguson to New York to Paris, maybe I’ve been trying to come to terms with man’s atrocities against each other in every way and this film started that for me as it couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. Selma 1

As the opening of the film opens with a heart-wrenching explosion we move along quickly to the man “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” (David Oyelowo), pulling off a performance that seems true to the man without being a caricature or overly reverent. The film acknowledges that King was a man, with faults like any other, but in a way that makes him affecting. Oyelowo doesn’t look especially like King, but he does capture a good rendition of the heart & soul of the man. However, he’s only a piece of the puzzle, with this being a true ensemble film with at least a dozen good roles, from Carmen Ejogo as King’s wife Coretta, to pros like Wendell Pierce as “Rev. Hosea Williams”, musician/actor Common “James Bevel” and Martin Sheen “Frank Minis Johnson” as some of the allies King encountered along the way.
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The film does a great job portraying just how much the people in the march, from all walks of life, were risking their lives by participating, against a southern resistance ranging from ignorant yokels to devious politicians, to definitely more than a few sadists, who were so keen to inflict harm to the peaceful marchers that at times it’s painful to watch. There are scenes of people riding horses and brandishing whips, covering wood clubs with spoke-like wire to inflict as much damage as possible on the marchers. While some might think it’s puzzling as to where this hate comes from, but even more so in that the film tries to keep an even hand in showing both sides. Tim Roth as “Gov. George Wallace” could have easily played him as demonic, but he tries and somewhat succeeds to humanize him as much as he can, which is not easy when you’re playing one of history’s truly great evil bastards. Tom Wilkinson is very effective as “Lyndon Johnson“, who’s not above playing the good ol’boy card with Wallace, but also sympathizes with King, even if he’s reluctant to stir up trouble and makes a few horrible decisions along the way.
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In a cast of ‘names’ many of which I have been a fan of for a long long time, yes I’m looking at you Lorraine Toussaint “Amelia Boynton”, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi “Lee White”, Wendall Pierce, Tim Roth and yes, even Oprah Winfry as I wasn’t an ‘talkshow’ Oprah fan, but I am an ‘actress’ Oprah fan. My three standouts of this film that made me sit up and take notice are Stephen James as “John Lewis”, Trai Byers as “James Forman”, and lastly Alessandro Nivola as “John Doar”.

Hopefully the best thing about “Selma” that we can take away from it is that it’s not a movie about blame or hate. Rather, it’s hopeful in that it shows how people can come together and change things for the better in a non-violent manner ~ a message that should always be kept in mind when things get out of hand as they often do. Even with it’s faults,“Selma” is a strong film that sends a clear message to a new generation about what standing up against intimidation in any form is all about. It is a passionate work about a towering figure who left an enduring legacy, but one that, as recent events might indicate, is still short of completion. selma common 1

Additional note: I love Q & A’s after films with directors/producers/cast etc. They really give you insight sometimes into things about how the film got made or a fun antidote or two.. This Oscar screening was on Thursday, December 18th,2014 at The Landmark Theater with Dir. Ava DuVernay giving insight into that this project was really made because of David Oyelowo who took it and ran with it (which explains the large Brit casting also! 🙂 ) getting Oprah & her team including Brad Pitt & others involved, including picking her as the director, even though she didn’t have much experience and convincing everyone to get onboard. Also, reasoning behind not using the actual “I Have a Dream” speech..the rights to it are held by someone else who has never used them and they could not get them for this film so she ended up re-writing it herself. As for something I completely did not know, at the end of the film we see a shot of a bridge ~ it’s the “Edmund Pettus Bridge” ~ as DuVernay noted was named after the leader of the Klan back’s name remains today.
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Grade: B-

Golden Globes – My picks for Film~Best Actor/Actress/Director/Supporting/Foreign


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My picks for these awards are just that..MY PICKS! 😀 This is my favourite award show as it’s both Film & TV..I mean how can you go wrong with the best of both genres drinking it up at one awards show with Tina Fey & Amy Pohler hosting. Well the answer is you can’t. I’ve seen almost all the films presented this year, even the foreign ones – though yes, I’ve missed a few as there is only so much one human-being can do! ha! You might agree or even better, you might dis-agree ~ it’s all good. I will warn you, I did pretty well last year with my picks and this year I think I’m going to do even better. So with that..I give you #peggyatthemovies 2014 Golden Globe picks! Cheers!

I loved the premise of this movie.. the movie itself was good..but not great for me.

I will say I was glad I went into this film not knowing to much about it. Performances were very good, but still not my pick here.

“The Imitation Game”WINNER
I loved everything about this movie. The story is so good~the much speculated and talked about inaccuracies and all. The acting even better, and alas it was the only movie to make me cry..both times I saw it.

Like it as it’s quite a powerful film with all it’s much talked about inaccuracies also…just didn’t love it.

“The Theory of Everything”
Really like the film..second viewing the other night was even better.. performance by both actors, especially Eddie Redmayne, is what awards are made for. Still not my top choice for best picture though.

From the 1st viewing to my 3rd viewing.. BRILLIANT!!

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
I enjoyed this movie as it was tons of fun and entertaining..though I might not think it’s best picture material, others might.

“Into The Woods”
Will admit to not having seen it it just wasn’t on the top of my to-see list. I will eventually get to it though.

This movie never came to a theatre near me as far as I know as it was on my list..if it did, it was in and out so fast I missed it. Too bad because it seems as it would be right up my alley.

“St. Vincent”
This was a fun, sweet film.. I mean how can you not like Bill Murray..and the kid was great..but still not a top film for moi.

Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Wes Anderson has done some good films that I’ve really liked..and I did like this a lot, just not enough for it to be my pick in this category.

Ava DuVernay, “Selma”
Good the fact that a woman director got nominated and it was great hearing her speak about the film trials & tribulations after the screening, but alas, it’s not my pick.

David Fincher, “Gone Girl”
I mean who doesn’t love David Fincher..He;s done some brilliant stuff..and I liked this film a lot as it had a good creep/twisty factor but it’s not an award winner.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”WINNER
But there is only one “Birdman” and this film was stunning with it’s long one-shots and imagination. I loved loved loved it…all 3 times to be exact.

Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Yes, I was stunned as I watched this film unfold as to the idea of it all..and that idea was Richard Linklater’s – but I just didn’t like the movie enough to make it my #1 .. though if Alejandro doesn’t win, he would be my 2nd choice based on just the fact it was done over a 12yr time period..that’s a huge commitment and undertaking.

Jennifer Aniston, “Cake”
I wish I could say I’ve seen this film/performance as a lot of people are raving about it. But I blinked and missed it for the 1 week it was in like 2 theatres here.

Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Loved the film, loved the performance especially for her 1st major leading role and she was 2nd choice for sure.

Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”WINNER
Can we not just give Julianne the damn award already??!!! She needs to finally win it for a lead role in a film dammit!!

Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
While I’m not Rosamund Pike’s biggest fan, she was crazy creepy good in this role. But then she also did Simon Pegg’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” this year which was awful. Just for that reason alone she doesn’t deserve this. 🙂

Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
Yeah..everyone said I would be ‘WOWED’ by this film & her performance..I wasn’t. It was good..not great.

Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Funny-man turned oh-so-serious and pulled it off..pretty well I might add.

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
2014 was definitely the year of the Brits. This performance is really is..but it’s also my 2nd choice. I know..I know..ALREADY!

Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nighcrawler”
Jake pulled off creepy-shitshow reporter here.. but he didn’t come close to my 2 top picks performance wise.

David Oyelowo, “Selma”
Good performance..fair movie..but like Jake, just didn’t come close to the top 2.

Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”WINNER
Yes, I am giving my pick to Eddie Redmayne here..why..because simply put he was BRILLIANT BEYOND BELIEF. He embodied Stephen Hawking in every way, shape, form & speech. This performance is why awards are given. period.

Amy Adams, “Big Eyes”WINNER
Really good performance.. was it the ‘gold standard’ of American Hustle that I then neither was the film and sadly the actress roles were seriously lacking this year across the board. She was however good enough to win this.

Emily Blunt, “Into The Woods”
I’ve come to like Emily Blunt more & more..she was great as an action star with Tom Cruise in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ pulling this off is harder.

Helen Mirren, “The Hundred Foot Journey”
Didn’t see this film..again, I’ve read the movie itself is mediocre but how can you not love Helen Mirren is just about anything.

Julianne Moore, “Maps To The Stars”
Again, blinked and missed this one, but I hear Julianne did a bang-up job.

Quvenzhane Wallis, “Annie”
Let’s face it..we know the genre was lacking contenders so this is a ‘fill up the category’ nomination.

Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
I’m a fan of this film and of the performance, as it was fun. But it’s not a win.

Michael Keaton, “Birdman”WINNER
Let’s face it..we ALL love a really good comeback. And Michael Keaton gives it to us lock, stock and barrel in this film. He’s a fantastic actor who deserves this big time.

Bill Murray, “St. Vincent”
I j’adore Bill Murray. From ‘Caddyshack’ to ‘Groundhog Day’ to this film. How can you not? But it just wasn’t a better performance than my pick for winner.

Joaquin Phoenix, “Inherent Vice”
Ridiculous film..ridiculous performance..and I love Joaquin. This shouldn’t even be up and I’m guessing was another ‘fill in the category’ nomination

Christoph Waltz, “Big Eyes”
Good performance and while some thought it over the top..I was lucky enough to see a screening with a Q & A afterwards with cast/director where they noted it was actually toned it down. I liked it, not enough for a win though.

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
The part I loved most about this was when I finally realized that they were doing this over a 12yr period and having a giggle over ‘hey, that’s when she was doing “Medium” hair-style etc. She probably did the best work of her career here and stands a good chance of winning.

Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year” WINNER
Jessica just went against type here and really came out strong in this performance for me. Very different style & film.

Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
For once Keira Knightley did not annoy the bejesus out of me..She was actually decent in this role. Though she also did ‘Begin Again’ – where she was annoying and probably one of the 5 worst movies of the year ‘Laggies’ – so she can not not not possibly deserve this award.

Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Was one of my top 3 films of the year, but definitely not a favourite performance here. It grew on me a bit more by the 3rd viewing, but still, nope.

Meryl Streep, “Into The Woods”
It’s Meryl. What else is there to say? she’s always good.

Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
This was a fairly good movie, and a nice performance. Though sweetly done, not a winner for me.

Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
I remember when the screening started and I thought “how does Ethan look so damn young here” and it took me a good hour to finally realize what they did here. I’ve always liked Ethan, through the good and the bad..this was part of the good.

Edward Norton, “Birdman”
I’m so torn here as until I saw Whiplash, he had my vote. hands down. but now, uuuggghhh torn, torn, torn! But he’s my 2nd choice, and it actually hurts to say that.

Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
I thought Ruffalo was out of place in this film. He’s playing someone who is clearly supposed to be so much younger and it didn’t come off for me. I know a lot of people loved him in it. He was just okay for me.

J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”WINNER
Damn this movie was good. Even better the 2nd time with a full screening and J.K. & Dir:Damien Chazelle speaking afterwards to fill it all in. I’ve been a J.K.Simmons fan since “OZ” and he blows you away in this film. He so deserves this award for everything he’s done in his career that has been so good, but most of all for bringing this character to life like no other.

“Force Majeure”WINNER
I was way behind on my foreign films because they were all screening at the same times and their English counterparts and I could only do so much. That being said, I saw this the other day..really good film..loved it.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”
Wasn’t able to see this yet

Caught this film this week, and while I know it’s the fav. I found my pick to be all-around better film.

This was an okay-good film. I know sometimes maybe a bit gets lost in translation, and while I thought visually it was beautiful, it story was scattered and lost.

Was not able to see it.

“A MOST VIOLENT YEAR” (2014) – REVIEW ~ Incl. Q & A w/Cast & Dir/Prod/Writer


Truth be told ~ A Most Violent Year could come off sounding like the most boring movie ever about the most dry industry ever. Set in New York City in 1981, Oscar Isaac plays “Abel Morales“, the owner of a heating oil company in the early 80’s when people, instead of having to deal with the electric or gas company for heating, they negotiated heating oil prices with the providers directly. Odd but true. But life has been good for Morales. Being an immigrant, he’s risen through the ranks from driver to owner, married a beautiful, smart woman, “Anna” (Jessica Chastain) who has a rather wealthy & somewhat connected father herself, “Bill” (Peter Gerety) and he’s just about to close the biggest deal of his life.
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But all is not well at Standard Oil. Abel is trying to negotiate a deal to expand their business and gain ground by getting “Josef” (Jerry Adler) and his devoutly Jewish, not completely on the up & up, family to agree to sell their highly-valued, much in demand property to him vs. the competition. And he has 30 days to make this happen. All the while, his company is under investigation for fraud, the bank has pulled out of their real estate deal, trucks of oil are being stolen left and right from Morales’ and to make matters worse, now his seemingly perfect home life is starting to show cracks. It’s definitely a ‘violent’ year for Morales but not in how you might imagine.
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A Most Violent Year plays out like a gangster movie but not like one I’ve ever seen before as it’s done in a refreshingly understated, non-sensationalist gangster movie way as these are guys who don’t even carry guns, and are actually committed to trying to conduct their business in a non-violent manner which may or may not work out for them. This is really about as far from a Scorsese type gangster flick you can get. There’s no real flash in either the direction or the acting as everything is on a very different balance here though I will say, while it might be slow at times, it is never dull. It’s like ‘Casino’ but minus everything that makes it loud, brash or wild. What’s left is a quiet, almost pensive exploration of one man’s year long struggle to keep his business and his life on the path he’s chosen. And sure, there’s the occasional flash of violence but it rarely involves our lead character directly. In fact, the key players ~ Abel, Anna, “Lawrence” (David Oyelowo), “Walsh” (Albert Brooks) and O’Leary ~ are all locked in a power struggle that rarely resorts to violence though some of them really want to use it, Abel feels business can be conducted without it. Instead, the group handle their differences in heated discussions, occasional emotional blowouts and the always to be expected backroom deal.
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When Anna emerges as not only the saviour of sorts, in a pivotal scene of shockingly good grit and Abel blows up at her, is where the film breaks some truly fascinating ground. Not only does Anna emerge as the badass gangster who’s playing the angles and saving the day, but you really start to question just how moral Abel is. It’s here that you see begin to see the layers of movie really begin to reveal themselves. In possibly one of the best on-foot chase scenes that I’ve ever seen in a movie with Morales in dress shoes no less, though the scene some might say comes a little late in the game, I couldn’t help but love every second of it.

The film cements itself together not only by excellent performances from Isaac, Chastain and the strong supporting cast, but by small things like the locations and a truly fantastic step back into this world with even a great wardrobe of the time making it all the more realistic. A Most Violent Year may not be my favourite film of the year, but it will definitely emerge as a contender during awards season.
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Note: Following the film was a fantastic Q & A with Dir/Writer: J.C. Chandor, Actors: Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, Producers: Neal Dodson, Anna Gerb; who really gave a wonderful detailed explanation of the idea & set, even his trenchcoat idea behind the film. Truly, if you haven’t seen a J.C. Chandor movie, you’re missing out. Like, seriously missing out. So don’t skip A Most Violent Year either, you should see it and then head back and check out the director’s previous work like the wonderfully brilliant, “All is Lost” & “Margin Call

Grade: B-

**Seen on Monday, November 17th at a PGA screening at the Arclight Theaters (Hollywood) ~ A Most Violent Year opens December 31, 2014.
(See grading scale)