August Round-up of Reviews

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Apologies for the absence as one again the post-Covid long haul recovery put my the use of my hands out for a bit again. But with some injections and hand/wrist braces on, I’m typing while I can and catching up on some late film festival and screening reviews. September will hopefully be much better!

And with that out of the way, my August Round Up Reviews on the following films:

“THE DAPHNE PROJECT”

Every so often you find a film at a festival that you just fall in love with, well that was me with “THE DAPHNE PROJECT” shown (virtually for me) at the Bentonville Film Festival. This little indie gem is written and directed by Zora Iman Crews and Alex Tibaldi, giving us a die-hard mockumentary in it’s truest form that had me laughing from moment one. Zora Iman Crews also plays Daphne Wilco, a wanna-be NYC ‘theater’ actress who inserts herself from being an extra into the “lead” role of Dionysus, in a super off-Broadway production of “The Bacchae”. The role, which is intended to be played by a male, but Daphne expounds on the fact that maybe a woman should play the role. Crews is hysterical as an over-the-top act that takes her self obsession and self-promoting to a whole new level of mock-ness, but can flip like a coin to show a more delicate emotional side as well…or does she? That’s the best part of the whole mockumentary is you never really know if it’s all just a smart act Daphne puts on for the cameras or not.  The ending is a surprise and also quite fun. The film maintains its solid state of comedic affairs thanks to star-in-the-making Crews, as it’s only lacking quality that I could see is the sheer fact it’s had to be clearly done as such a low budget, as it is noticeable in the supporting cast who hold it up somewhat at times, while struggling to keep up with Crews pacing. But honestly, if that is the worst thing I can come up with for this wonderful kooky 67-minute indie that kept me fully entertained the entire time, well then I’d just go with it and hope this gets all the accolades it so highly deserves and doesn’t get overlooked because of that one reason.

Grade: B+

“AMERICANISH”

This romcom follows the lives of three women navigating the different meanings and expectations of love as they try to stay true to their own identity. This is an upbeat film and while formulaic, one still looks forward to how things will play out for each in the end.

American-ish focuses on two sisters and their cousin: Sam (Aizzah Fatima), Maryam (Salena Qureshi), and Ameera (Shenaz Treasury) as they navigate romance, family life, tradition, and relationships with their own cultural identity while living in Jackson Heights, NY. American-Ish is directed by an American Muslim woman (Iman Zawahry and co-written by her and Fatima) making it the first Muslim romantic comedy, and what a hoot it is. Since all three characters are in different stages of their lives (between high school and early 30’s), and have different relationships with Muslim traditions, the comedy always feels fresh, making it funnier. While predictable and nice, it also crafts its own unique identity to help it stand out among similar rom-rom type films with it being not too heavy, as well as not too light, it’s just a fun movie based around likable characters we don’t get to see as often as we should.

Grade: B+

“ANNETTE”

It’s rare that I am left speechless by a film, not the “oh it was so amazing” type speechless, but the kind where I truly have no idea how to describe what I just saw. This was me after watching “Annette” and sad to say, it still is. As much as I love Sparks music, and I think this was supposed to essentially a modern opera of sorts there is still the fact that part of the entertainment is watching said performers actually singing, which means the storytelling is at a somewhat slower pace than most films. That means that you really need to be interested in the story and to put it bluntly, I simply wasn’t. Giving the benefit of the doubt to the fact that much of it I just didn’t understand as well so maybe not all the blame can be put on the film itself, and I’m completely willing to accept that fact. It could also be that I was setting myself up to fail when it comes to appreciating the picture, because I did almost no research on it before we saw it, but I rarely do as I don’t want to spoil the film by ‘knowing’ too much. Though to be fair, it might have helped me here though again, even after viewing and trying to do so didn’t work for me.

But I also just didn’t find and wasn’t really intrigued by the contrast between Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), abrasive stand-up comedian, and Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard), soprano. The relationship between the two I understood completely – what their lives entailed, how he tailspins as his career falters and hers reaches new heights – but then there was the ‘child’. The cross between a Chucky doll and Annie. I am completely and truly lost there. And ya know what? I’m okay with that.

Grade: D

This weeks movies start off with “Jungle Cruise”  and fun fact: when I was very little my parents took me on this ride and I started crying as I thought it was real and lions, tigers & hippos were coming after me. Thankfully that is not this movie and I’m happy to say there was no crying..but some good laughs as the chemistry between #emilyblunt & #dwaynejohnson is electric and they make this adventure pretty fun. Full review here: https://peggyatthemovies.com/2021/07/30/review-jungle-cruise-2021-disney-studios/
Grade: B-

Next is “Val” and it’s all about the wonderful Val Kilmer telling us his story..the good, the bad, and the Batman. Does this deserve a full review, yes, yes it does – as it was everything and so much more. Sadly, again, I just couldn’t type and oddly I feel like Val would understand this somehow. But it did break me and give me every emotion of not just empathy for what he is going through, but there was joy, grief, fangirling, understanding, hope – again, all the emotions. Being a fan, this was hard to watch sometimes and I shed some tears, but not all just for sadness, because what you see in his eyes is he is still here and still Val.
Grade: A

“PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY”

Anyone who knows me knows my absolute and complete fascination and love of all things ocean, but most especially sharks. Yep, those ‘predators’ of the sea are my thing thanks to @e_w_wilder who loaned me ‘JAWS’ which I read in one schpiel. So Playing With Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story was everything for me. Valerie started as the 1st woman spear fisher in the 60’s and ended up being one of the first people with her husband Ron, to film sharks underwater. Almost every shark conservationist has started off a hunter, until they realize how beautiful these majestically amazing creature are that are literally less dangerous than dogs. But instead we kill millions of them and sadly have wiped out entire area of population not realizing that without them the oceans will literally die..and so will we.
Grade: A

“Stillwater” 

“Stillwater” received a 5 minute standing ovation at #Cannes and I have to be honest and say I just didn’t get that from it. I did get a somewhat okay story about what a out of his element dad Bill Baker (Matt Damon) might do to help his daughter Allison Baker (Abigail Breslin) and some articulated performances. And we can just leave it at that.
Grade: C-

“FREE GUY”

I’ve made it a point at this time in my film reviewing career (eight years of working hard at it btw) to not review movies that they couldn’t be bothered to invite me to view a screening or send a link. It’s frustrating for me and yeah, it kinda hurts at times. Let me make it clear, I don’t think I’m ‘entitled’ to get screening invites, but I’ve worked so hard at what I do, and I love love love it, am most of always thankful to be getting the media invites and I show that appreciation by stopping at See’s or a cookie place to give a little gift when I attend some media screenings. Look I get it, I’m not in the ‘big time’ but I keep trying, and reviewing as much as I humanly can and will continue to do so. But sometimes, more so lately, I feel like it’s a job within a job, within another job to try and get them, when at one point, pre-pandemic, I was consistently invited. I don’t know how I fell off the invites list, but Rosa from @Rosa’sReviews was nice enough to have me as her plus one to this screening as yes, she is in the big time of the listings being both RT & HCA approved. She also probably wrote a great review on it so go check out her page as well. I am most grateful to her for inviting me and truly minus about 25-30 minutes of ‘gamer talk’ this film was a lot of fun and quite entertaining.

That’s all I will say on it as here is to hoping I somehow get back in to more screenings again. I will not give up!

And that’s it for now – as always I will get out the reviews as I can and you can always check out: Peggyatthemovies.com or The Cherry Picks.com for some great full reviews.

REVIEW: “JUNGLE CRUISE” (2021) Disney Studios

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I was probably 4 years old when I was first taken to Disneyland. I can’t remember my exact age, but I do know I was very young and my parents took me on the Jungle Cruise ride – and I freaked out and started screaming and crying. Because yes, I thought it was real and I remember so well the big hippo opening his mouth right where I was sitting in the boat and I thought I was going to be eaten, and basically thought lions, tigers and bears were all after me. I cried so hard and was so terrified, that I never went on that ride again until I was a teen – possibly even older! Needless to say, there was no crying watching this version of Disney’s “JUNGLE CRUISE”, only laughter as it is definitely not that ride and a much different story to boot.

This adventure begins with Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), who hires a wisecracking skipper, named Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree whose petals hold the power to heal all — a discovery that will change the future of medicine. Along for the ride Lily’s posh, upper-crest brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), who doesn’t clearly belong anywhere in a jungle, but succeeds in stealing a lot of his scenes with his over-the-top persnickety ways, most particularly his interactions with Frank’s pet leopard whom they have on board the cruise. The CGI might have been a bit lacking on the leopard, but Whitehall makes it funny so it’s very easy to overlook.

(L-R): Dwayne Johnson as Frank Wolff, Emily Blunt as Lily Houghton and Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton in Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

While ‘Jungle Cruise’ could have just been a simple escapade through the jungle with some good action and laughs thrown in, we do get some long drawn out sections with Johnson’s character Frank explaining a bit of a convoluted backstory of the special flower, and the enhanced version of the long dead enchanted conquistadors of his time. Kids especially, might get a bit lost here as let’s face it, they just want the lions, tigers and fun action aspects of his character that help endear Frank to us more. Director Jaume Collet-Serra gives us a big scale action adventure here with plenty of laughs thanks to Johnson giving us some of his best cheesy humour with one-liner awful, terrible jokes that are so bad they are absolutely downright funny. It’s perfectly done and no one in this film takes it all to seriously and that is possibly it’s biggest highlight except for the fact that the biggest thing that upstages them is the absolute wonderful, electric chemistry between Blunt and Johnson. This would have been a totally different movie without that as together they are an unbeatable team here and yes, the glue that holds this film together. But the supporting cast consisting of Jesse Plemons, and again, Jack Whitehall with his witty-ness, Edgar Ramirez, and Paul Giamatti, all add to the adventure as well and round it all up.

So my advice is no crying – and get your ticket for the fantastical journey that is – Jungle Cruise.

Grade: B-

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Review Screening: Monday, July 26, 2021 at El Capitan Theater ~ Courtesy of Disney Studios

“JUNGLE CRUISE” IS IN THEATERS AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 30, 2021 also VOD on Disney+

REVIEW: FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: “HOBBS AND SHAW” (2019) Universal

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So “Hobbs and Shaw people…much as I hate to admit it…I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout most of this film!! Dwayne Johnson as “Hobbs” and Jason Stathom as “Shaw” continue their cantankerous, yet funny bantering relationship in their first foray out alone in spin-off land of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise.

Let’s face it..we don’t go into these movies for the acting or the story line. We go in it for the action, stunts and for the sheer purpose of being entertained. You get all that plus some great humor schticks courtesy of Ryan Reynolds and Rob Delany, as the two Agents who recruit our lead characters to join the fight to save the world, and Kevin Hart as the Air Marshall who is dying to be part of their team and make the duo a trio. 

Add in Idris Elba as your villain “Brixton” or as he calls himself #TheBlackSuperman and you’ve got yourself a movie worth watching.

Oh and lest we forget the beautiful Vanessa Kirby as Shaw’s sister “Hattie”, who holds her own and makes it believable..and the wonderful Helen Mirren as their mom “Queenie” and we back are a rollin’..rollin’..rollin’.

Now again, we aren’t there for the story as it’s the usual ‘saving the world’ dramatics and the ending is a bit weak, as there is only so much hypocrisy of silly stunting one can handle.  But the soundtrack helps boom this one right along to make it an entertaining and fun time for all. And that’s all it needs to be.

And of course stay for the end credits – because you know you should! 


Grade: B-

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Media Review Screening ~ Tuesday, July 30, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal 

“HOBBS AND SHAW” hits  theaters Worldwide starting Friday, August 2, 2019 

REVIEW: “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” (2019) MGM

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A movie, whether based on a true story or fictional one, may be a blend of both facts and fictionalized scenes and events. “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” seems to be case in point depending on whom you speak to.  But instead of pointing out fact v. fiction, just sit back watch and enjoy this one folks.  Let go of the being overly critical all the time as ‘Fighting with my Family’ might have its flaws and not be completely true down to the line, it definitely does have its charms.

Probably the first thing you will do is a double take on the director and writer and make sure if it is THE Stephen Merchant doing triple duty here writing/directing/starring in this film. Turns out it is, which immediately ups the ‘interesting’ level a notch or two.  Even more crazy is to think that Merchant did not know a thing about wrestling before taking on the project.

Inspired by the story of the Knight family, the film tells the story of Saraya “Paige” Bevis (Florence Pugh) and her desire to become a female wrestler.  With the odds against her, along with a family of completely wrestling crazed parents in dad Ricky (Nick Frost), mom Julia (Lena Heady) and brother Zak (Jack Lowden), all of whom put on wrestling shows and train others in Norwich, a small suburb in the UK.  Paige and her brother get called up for a WWE tryout, but with only Paige making the cut, Zak is completely devastated and Paige must deal with not only this, but the drastic change her life is taking and the hard road to living out her dream of being a WWE Superstar.

The next hour is filled with what it’s like to attend the WWE school of hard knocks led by Hutch (Vince Vaughn), and how to alienate and then make best friends with your competition.  This part can sometimes just be all to consuming as we’ve seen this type of story many times before.  Overcoming adversity to win the challenge at the end and it’s here that the film can’t help feeling clichéd. The saving grace here is the flashbacks to Zak being left behind in Norwich and where his life is heading, or seemingly not heading to and it’s got some truly lovely, heartwarming story line.  But training montage footage galore, sibling rivalry leading to a profound confrontation that resolves the issue, and the underdog overcoming the odds gives no surprises to the ending.   Now of course, it’s going to pump in the Hollywood magic to try to help the movie. The Rock is throughout the movie, and while he wasn’t truly vital to Paige’s career, his scenes are fun. The actors do an amazing job with their roles, and have very good comedic chemistry. This movie is witty and charming but at times, it’s all over the place.

The initial presentation of the Knight family rang true, authentic and affable. Putting it in their actual home was a good idea. Frost and Headey were great in the roles as Paige’s parents and Puge did a very good job as Paige. Lowden as her brother made a good mentor, but it also tried to take the high road and make Paige an angelic character.  However, from what I understand, if you are a fan of Paige or the Knight family at all, you will quickly start to see fictionalized moments, exaggerations and inaccuracies. These are something that as a viewer who has no knowledge of the wrestling world, will not impact in the slightest.  No matter this situation, everyone will recognize names such as Hulk Hogan and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – and of course The Rock with his signature “If you smell what The Rock is cooking” done a few times for good measure – makes you realize how far this guy has come.

Overall, the film maintains a good balance of comedy and drama and you don’t need to know anything about WWE or sports entertainment to enjoy the film. Merchant does a good job for his first run here.

Grade: C+

@pegsatthemovies

 

Review Screening Monday, February 11, 2019 ~  courtesy of LAFTV meetup

REVIEW: “SAN ANDREAS” (2015) Warner Bros.

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San Andrea

Los Angeles and San Francisco – WE ARE DOOMED!! Serious note, I’m not really even sure what to say about this film.

From the moment this film opens with a scene they clearly scooped from the opening sequence of JAWS with dramatic music and a girl – in this one driving a car mindlessly distracted, checking her phone etc..with cars driving narrowly at her on Mulholland Dr. when suddenly BAM..over the cliff she goes AND on que – dramatic rescue, you pretty much get exactly what you need to know about where the rest of the film is headed.
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The film and all it’s characters run the all too familiar ball-game gamut of disaster films. “Ray Gaines” (Dewayne Johnson) is a helicopter pilot with the LA Fire and Rescue Dept. “Emma” (Carla Gugino) his soon to be ex-wife whom is now with new boyfriend, wealthy developer “Daniel Riddick” (Ioan Gruffudd) who proves himself to be an untrustworthy one at that when he ditches Ray & Emma’s daughter “Blake” (Alexandra Daddario) after the quake hits to save himself while in San Francisco.

In the meantime Paul Giamatti as Cal Tech Earthquake specialist “Lawrence”, his staff and never flinching reporter “Serena” (Archie Panjabi) found they have just learned they can predict earthquakes..and within moments of being able to do so guess what happens..SURPRISE!! A super earthquake is upon them at Hoover Dam where they didn’t even know fault lines existed. As they of course predict more, within mere minutes Los Angeles is coming apart at the seams and next on the list is San Francisco. san andrea 1
Somehow we are to just not notice or overlook the fact that Ray is supposed to be going to Hoover Dam to help the rescue efforts there but as he calmly watches the destruction ensue from his helicopter he calls Emma who is having lunch with his sister “Susan” in a little cameo from Kylie Minogue here, its like that mission never existed as he rushes to rescue her from the top of a LA high-rise that is crumbling. Best part yet, we never hear him mention a thing about his sis who’s fell off the DTLA high-rise. what? clearly no brotherly love there. Another fun fact is that not one single one of these characters look like they could be even slightly related is just another fact that we must laughably ignore while watching this trainwreck film.
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And since every film now has to have a token Brit in it, even though it’s a disaster pic about earthquakes in the Golden State of California, we throw in our British tourist on a job interview “Ben” (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) as a love interest for Blake and his little brother “Ollie” (Art Parkinson) and you’ve got your human drama all neatly summed up for you in a nice little square package once the fault line starts a rocking.
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I’d be lying if I said some of the action sequences weren’t a bit fun, and also very silly as there were points I couldn’t stop laughing yet I don’t think I was actually supposed to. I mean the film was so spectacularly bad in ways that it was..well good. And most will know exactly what I mean by that.

There is a small sub-plot about a dying daughter/sister which I believe was thrown in to make it reasonable to the audience of first off why Ray went to get Emma before anyone else and how both are so hell-bent on rescuing Blake.

But the real star of this disaster upon disaster pic is the earthquake itself and the ensuing tsunami – and they don’t seem to stop coming until SFO & LA are completely bulldozed down and there is nothing left of either city or our brains for that matter. The end fact is while having lived through a few of the big quakes here and being petrified myself of them, this film with it’s complete lack of feeling, barely scares me into making another earthquake kit.

Grade: D
@pegsatthemovies