REVIEW: “DOCTOR SLEEP” (2019) Warner Bros.

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In “DOCTOR SLEEP” little Danny Torrance is now a grown up Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), and is still understandably haunted by the things that happened to him at the Overlook Hotel as a small child. Most days he drinks his hours away to silence the voices in his head. After one drug-fueled drinking rampage, waking hungover and getting ready to rob the last dollars from his one-night stands wallet – even upon seeing the fact that she has a toddler – but not even so much as blinking an eye over being such a degenerate, he gets interrupted by his still very present ghost mentor Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly). This all leads his decision to hop on a bus to go across the country to a new town and once there immediately meets good Samaritan Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis). Freeman, who inexplicably within minutes of meeting Dan, just up and pays for his room and board, then magically gives him a job as well. Oh! to be of this place where all lives are wonderfully and simply mended right? And yes, of course all this helps Dan get his life back together, as he ‘meets’ and connects with a young Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), through the chalkboard wall in the room as she ‘Shines’ just like he does and they exchange messages through this medium. Seemingly against his will (yawn), he ends up protecting her from a group of powerful psychics, lead by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who hunt young children with psychic powers in order to feed on them to make themselves live forever.  Oh how the plot thickens as in a twists of all twists (dripping sarcasm) in order to keep Abra (yes, as in Abra-ka-dabra) safe, Torrance will of course be forced to return to the place of all his nightmares, The Overlook and face his ghosts.

The first hour is spent to a certain extent, explaining ‘The Shining’ and what the intentions of the merciless cult-group The True Knot are. As we follow Dan Torrance as a middle-aged man plagued by all these horrific memories, they take liberties left and right rolling right thru a completely inconsistent tone of plot due to the mass sprawl of locational changes. One minute we’re in a sleepy town, the next a woodland area, and then all of a sudden eight years have been and gone. The zippy nature of the editing and bloated explanation results in zero feeling of terror and needles to say, the tension is non-existent.

The second act gives more of an explanation in detailed effect, of the who, what, how, and why’s of the cult group led by Rose. They show us how the group hunt the children and we get to know the some of the main characters that follow her from Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon), Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind), Barry the Chunk (Robert Longstreet) to the creepy Grampa Flick (Carel Struycken) and Silent Sarey (Catherine Parker). We also get a lot of recurring visuals (The naked Lady in the Bathtub for example) that were meant to be scary, but by the end, are just eye roll inducing.  While the acts of Rose and her group of cannibalistic crazies are horrific, most especially the not needed but much detailed kidnapping and killing of Bradley ‘Baseball Boy’ Trevor (Jacob Tremblay), the fact is, they just aren’t scary.  The absolute revolting nature of this heinous act doesn’t make you frightened, it repulses you, which doesn’t make for a good horror scare in the slightest.  It also makes you realize that all you have to do is change these characters to vampires and the ‘steam’ to blood, and you’ve got a typical tween vampire flick going for you here, with about the same embodiment of zest to the performances as well.  Ferguson, who shines so well in action flicks, comes off here as a gypsy Rose caricature channeling Stevie Nicks, while McGregor doesn’t come close to giving us the feels that child Danny Torrance gave us.  One point in particular, there is a ridiculous ‘Buffy the Vampire’ type fight sequence where a supernaturally charged Rebecca Ferguson takes out an axe-wielding Ewen McGregor in a martial arts type scenario that is so out of place in this film that holding in the laughter is difficult because they are trying to have us believe this is serious stuff.  The ridiculousness of scenes like this screeches throughout the film. There is however, one big stand out performance here in Kyliegh Curran, a superb young actress (whom I hope we see much more of in the future) who makes her character so believable and gives us her all.

The third and final act then arrives, and the entire story crumbles much like the Overlook itself. Plagued by an overshadowing sickness that ‘The Shining’ had produced. Nostalgia. Remember that time where Jack viciously chopped the bedroom door down with an axe? Or that moment where blood came hurtling through the hallways in slow motion? What about Room 237? The introductory swooping camera movement that Kubrick embraced whilst the Torrance’s drove to the hotel? The typewriter? Slowly walking up the stairs in a confrontational manner? The snow-covered hedge maze? The twins? No? You don’t remember? No worries as Director Mike Flanagan has got you covered. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, yet it must be handled with delicacy. The difference between imitating and homage is very fine, and unfortunately Flanagan settled for the former.

Sadly most of this film was just..meh. It lacked the nail biting atmosphere that ‘The Shining’ had in spades. It lacked a lot of fear of any kind really.  One can argue that it is wrong and unfair to compare the two films given the uniqueness of Kubrick’s vision, but Doctor Sleep invites these comparisons by constantly referencing The Shining in flashbacks, relying on much of Kubrick’s imagery to pedal its cheap scares.

Grade: C-

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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“DOCTOR SLEEP” IS OUT NOW IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE

 

REVIEW: “AMERICAN PASTORAL” (2016) Lionsgate

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Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Phillip Roth, we have Ewan McGregor doing double time in this one, a.k.a directing and starring in “AMERICAN PASTORAL”. Truthfully, I struggled a lot in my viewing of this one, as the acting often seemed forced, the script failed throughout, and there were a couple of performances that just left me blank. Overall the film was quite miscast and maybe this is what lead to me not really believing in a single character.
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Told in flashback mode from the viewpoint of Nathan Zuckerman (David Strathairn) at a high school reunion is the first thing right off the bat, that didn’t make a lot of sense and seemed to set the tone for the rest of the film doing the same. The film goes on to tell us the story of a high school jock who was blessed with everything ~ good looks, incredible skill at everything he did and a profitable women’s glove business that he would one day inherit and run for his father. Seymour Levov (Ewan McGregor) otherwise known as ‘Swede’ marries Dawn (Jennifer Connelly), the ex-Miss New Jersey. They have a daughter, Merry (Dakota Fanning/Hannah Nordberg/Ocean James), and prosper in the suburbs of New Jersey. Merry grows up with a nasty stutter and a strange attachment to her father, one that set off weird alarm bells for me and I’m guessing most of the viewing audience as well, as it really comes off as just plain creepy. amerian-pastoral-4
From there, Merry grows into an angry rebellious young woman who rages against the United States and a deep hatred of President Lyndon Johnson, the Vietnam war and pretty much anything that ends up in her path. Her parents feel themselves starting to losing control of her and finally she leaves after it seems she bombed the local post office, killing a local resident and family friend. Merry goes under ground and is protected by a network of radicals who continue with their plots and killing more unknowingly innocent people along the way. Gradually the nightmare of not knowing where she is or what she is doing unhinges Dawn and she has a full-scale nervous breakdown. She is slowly able to let go of Merry but Swede can’t seem to do the same, as he finally finds her years later, but she is not even a close semblance of what she once was in one of the oddest scenes of the film to be sure.
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All this would make a great story if there was even the remotest of explanations as to how it happens. One day Merry is a sweet little girl helping her mom with the cows on the farm, the next minute she is spouting off stuttering radicalizations that we really don’t understand as again, not explained. The only thing I truly believed in the film was the points of history shown that actually happened with riots and protests etc.. Visually, it’s done quite well with bringing you a true feel of the 60’s at certain points, until again, the ending portion where logic and sense seemingly go out the window. None of the acting is standout or stellar. The only thing I thought of at the end, as I do love some of Philip Roth’s books tremendously, is maybe now I will read this one and maybe it will become a clearer story as the screenplay is not.

As 2016 is coming to a close and I am still waiting for those Oscar-worthy films to come forth, this was a disappointing exercise of film to say the least.

Grade: D+
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Meetup

Nationwide Release: Friday, October 21, 2016

“MILES AHEAD” PREMIERE & Q & A ~ DON CHEADLE, EWAN MCGREGOR

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It’s made clear to us right off that this film is not factual. There are some factual elements in the film – Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) did stop making music for 5 years, became a reclusive person and something made him start making music again.
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The film starts us in the later years of Miles’ life. He has already reached fame and fortune. But his drug addiction has turned him into a Howard Hughes recluse. And he has temporarily turned his back on music. The story opens with Miles alone in his home when he is aggressively approached by Rolling Stone magazine writer Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) who is interested in writing about Miles’ new project. The opportunistic Brill gets swept into a fantastical series of events that include following Miles as he confronts his record label, procures cocaine and is chased through the streets in a hail of gunfire by unscrupulous folk looking to advance their worldly standing through the theft of Miles’ still-in-progress demo tape.

By way of flashbacks, we get a glimpse into the more serene life of Miles Davis before drugs off-tracked his career. A clean cut Davis is seen rising in ranks through the Jazz clubs of America and eventually falling for Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who would eventually become his wife of 10 years.
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The film doesn’t dive too deeply into the domestic violence between the two lovers that became headlines back in the early 60’s nor does it touch too intensively the racial tensions in America at the time. There is a scene where Davis is unprovokingly harassed by police officers and taken to jail for simply showing kindness to a woman of white skin, but the film has no message to present in terms of Miles’ involvement with racial divides at the time. Instead, Cheadle keeps the camera focused on a single day in the broken down icon’s history. This works largely to the films advantage but sacrifices giving us a glimpse into the life of the historic character.

Don Cheadle is a revelation as Miles. The raspy voice, the trumpet playing, the belligerence. All are played exactly on key. The supporting cast does amply in tow but there is little to look at outside of Cheadle’s performance. Still, it’s ironic that while Cheadle seems to get not only jazz, but the concept of creativity – starting off the movie with the Miles Davis quote “When you’re creating your own shit, man, even the sky ain’t the limit”
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But a jittery hand held camera may throw some viewers off in spots and the film can be dark and discombobulated at times. Trying to follow the story between modern day and the flashbacks was confusing. Not knowing where the time line was going will leave some confused. Did all the craziness in Davis’ life really happen? or was it Hollywood license

We end up with Cheadle/Davis back on stage blowing his axe in patented ‘Miles style’. **Miles Davis died in 1991 at age 65 universally recognized as one of the most influential and innovative American musicians of the century, jazz or-no jazz.

Grade: C

@pegsatthemovies

POST Q & A WITH DON CHEADLE, EWAN MCGREGOR, EMAYATZY CORINEALDI
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Per Don Cheadle on the basics of the films: It took him ten years to write the script for the movie and shot it all on a budget of 8.5 million dollars. The movie was shot in 6 weeks with 30 shooting days, pre production took 6 weeks and it was all shot in Cincinnati where afterwards they had to go in and cut out certain things like hills and change all the license plates to reflect it being in NYC.

He also wanted to make it perfectly clear that “It’s not a biopic” and he notes “I wanted to do Miles Davis. I wanted to do something crazy and make it like a composition of Miles’ life”. Cheadle chose to pick the time in Miles’ life when he had stepped out of writing and music. “You get to 1975 and he just shut it down” on Miles Davis’s music and impact.

Everything inspires Don Cheadle when it comes to his music, acting, and writing. “The most I could, I would stay in that character” Don Cheadle on being Miles. “The hardest part is staying healthy and getting through it” Don Cheadle on wearing so many hats while acting and directing the Miles Ahead movie.
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For Ewan – him and Don met while in Rwanda back when Cheadle was shooting the heart-wrentching, but so well done film, ‘Hotel Rwanda’. They had arranged to meet at Ewan’s house to talk about this film and Ewan, being the motorbike guy he is, went for a ride, lost himself in it as you do, and was 1/2 way to Malibu when he suddenly remembered he had the meeting with Don..felt so bad and rode furiously fast to get back home to find Don just hanging out reading a magazine.
Had fun with it all, and noted that at times how odd it was as Don would be in character as Miles, directing Ewan as Miles, so really he had 2 directors on the project.

Don Cheadle counted on his entire crew to make sure the movie was being done right! There were no deleted scenes and there was one shot that was not in the movie Don Cheadle wanted to empower everyone on his crew.
Cheadle still continues to play the trumpet used in #MilesAhead, playing with the Roots recently. “I played this morning.” he noted.

And with that, the post-premiere party was one of the more fun ones I’ve attended. Had a great time meeting so many people and was lucky enough to meet, chat and have a fun time with someone I truly admire and adore – Mr. Michael Ealy. #bucketlistmeeting

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