REVIEW: C’MON C’MON (2021) A24

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In “C’mon C’mon” we find Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), a middle-aged, single man who works as a radio journalist based in New York. His job consists of him interviewing young kids from across the country, about their lives, families, their surroundings and most importantly, what they think about the future. Johnny also has a bit of a family problem as he hasn’t spoken to his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman). since their mother passed away. Viv herself is in the midst of dealing with her ex-husband Paul (Scoot McNairy), who is in and out of mental institutions and she struggles to balance helping him out while taking care of their son Jesse (Woody Norman). Paul is in the middle of a bi-polar mental crisis and Viv asks Johnny if he can come care for Jesse, while she goes to help Paul, even though he really doesn’t know his nephew all that well.

This is where the story takes off as Johnny first comes out to Los Angeles to help, but then because he has to work he decides to take Jesse on a tour and have him help interview the kids. It seems a little far fetched because it is, but you can’t deny the bond that forms between Johnny and Jesse. Their relationship is what is central to the film and rolls from one conversation to another, sometimes about subjects that almost make Jesse seem annoying, but again, kids think and process differently than adults, so it comes across as more loving. As they travel across from New York to New Orleans, they both start discovering different sides to themselves, with Jesse clearly looking up to Johnny as fatherly, even though he loses him not once, but twice in crowds, and realizing parenting is not a simple thing. It helps them grow into better people and even changes their entire outlook on life.

In an odd way, this could almost be considered a ‘buddy’ movie with Joaquin Phoenix playing this role quite effortlessly and while everyone is giving him the kudos on acting, for me Woody Norman is the standout holding his own against the powerhouse of Phoenix’s acting prow-ness. Norman plays Jesse as a very insightful nine-year-old boy who acts as a perfect counterweight to his uncle Johnny, and deserves probably even more of a look-see that Phoenix does. Again, though this duo quite incredible together as it’s clear they have good chemistry, and succeed in making everything feel somewhat genuine and sincere. While Gaby Hoffman has to play 90% of her scenes talking into an iPhone, maybe writer/director Mike Mills is trying to make a point about how we communicate today and the lack on in person speaking anymore, even about important issues like what’s happening here.

Drawbacks that came to mind was the black and white style of filming does take away from it a bit as it makes all the cities seem alike in a way, which takes some away from the point of traveling and being in different ones. As well, on a different note for instance, when they are on the beach in Santa Monica – that exact scene was done in ‘HER’, replacing the phone girlfriend with a child, and It was strange to me. There were many lovely moments, but also hard to connect to moments for me as well as while the film shows a true slice of life, it was also somewhat repetitive in nature.

Wrapping up, there will be some who probably won’t relate to the film, but even if that’s the case, the film gives a lot to think about in so many different ways and the acting goes a long way into making it something more – especially the ending monologue from Phoenix.

Grade: B

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Review Screening ~ Tuesday, November 16, 2021 Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“C’MON C’MON” from A24 is in limited release in LA/NYC beginning on November 19, 2021

REVIEW: “SPENCER” (2021) Neon Films

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Having high hopes going into director Pablo Larrain’s “SPENCER” considering how much I enjoyed ‘Jackie‘, I was surprised to find myself truly wondering what it was that I was watching and then remembering the word ‘fable’ being brought out at the beginning. And that is at least somewhat of an explanation for this sad tale of a film that I find myself having a hard time trying to describe how I felt about it. Two things I think I can justifiably say this film is a fictional thriller using factual characters, who apparently only speak in poems and riddles and it is definitely not a biography.

The set up is Christmas 1991, and Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), is driving herself to Sandringham Castle in a Porsche convertible no less, through country roads speeding along casually, something that realistically would never happen, but again, it’s a fable so why not. She gets completely lost even though she acknowledges she’s been there so many times before, but not before stopping in a small diner-type country restaurant and pretending almost awkwardly that she is not just a Princess, but regular country folk like they are, all the while in her upscale Chanel clothing. After arriving late and after the Queen, a huge faux pas in the world of royalty, she is clearly targeted by the rest of the family at this point. And here is where it really goes off rails as we all know yes, there was a Diana vs. The Royal Family dynamic, but this film takes that to a whole different level. With visions belying her at every corner, including Anne Boleyn to what I’m guessing is supposed to be taken as a warning for Diana to not fall into a similar fate, as she is literally shown as being a whiney, complaining, consistently late for everything, and Larrain makes her out to be so unpleasant and self-centered, you almost wonder if you would want her as your dinner companion at all.

There is much to follow here as the film continues an almost odd over-the-top portrayal of Princess Diana, with only small bits of actual fact here and there. The bulimia we all know she suffered from is shown up front and personal, yet almost made fun of at other moments. There is an odd whole scenario of a scarecrow which follows us throughout the film, without ever really giving good reason except for the fact that she speaks and dresses it like a human, and a psychedelic dance sequence I’ve yet to figure out. I understand why some may like it, but it’s completely void of any relevance to the Princess Diana and Royal Family story that actually took place. I think my entire beef with this film is that they made her look whiney, weak and mental and I just don’t think Stewart did her justice for me. It wasn’t terrible mind you as Stewart is good, but by far not great and by just simply adding to her actual personality, having a blonde short haircut and a not so Diana English accent, she didn’t encapsulate who or what Princess Diana really was. It wasn’t terrible – but I just didn’t feel the way so many do as besides the haircut she didn’t fit Diana’s personality for me, it’s as though she was almost too distracting for me is how I can best say it. But maybe that was the point – not sure.

It is undoubtedly beautiful to look at, the score is immediately captivating, as well as the costumes, production design + cinematography are the standouts as is her supporting cast of Timothy Spall as Major Alistar Gregory, who comes off as ‘foe’ at first, but might actually be ‘friend’ instead, as well as Sally Hawkins playing her maid en confidante’ Maggie. We barely see Jack Farthing as Prince Charles, and as well The Queen either played by Stella Gonet. The way they portray her is a choice a very unsympathetic and annoying ‘choice’ that was certainly very off putting but the standout part is it did show her love for her sons as I don’t think any film could ever deny that. Again, I realize I’m in the minority here on this one, but one can’t help or deny how one feels about a film as it is truly something each person puts in perspective on their own. But in essence for me, Diana was a strong independent woman who was roped into a lie, and dealt with it better than most, while crashing at times, I wanted them to show the part of how she used it all that and made it her strengths versus weakness.

Grade: C

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“SPENCER” FROM NEON FILMS – IS OUT IN THEATERS NOW 

REVIEW: “LAST NIGHT IN SOHO” (2021) Focus Features

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Nostalgia can be a beautiful thing and “LAST NIGHT IN SOHO” takes us back to the Swinging 60’s of the scene in the famous entertainment district in London’s stylish West End in way I was completely not prepared for. The film however is also meant to be in the present tense and it’s the vivid intersecting of these two periods, that definitely take you on a ride that you just might not be ready for. What started out completely amazing for its first 2 acts-only switched gears to a different tone in the final act. Not necessarily a bad one, just maybe a gear or two off from what you expected or wanted.

As we see Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), open the film in present day by dancing around her 60’s styled room, in a self-designed dress made of all things – newspaper. We soon learn she’s an orphan raised by her supportive grandmother (Rita Tushingham) and dreams of being a fashion designer. So she is thrilled when her acceptance letter arrives from the London School of Fashion. But it’s here we find out that Ellie also has visions of sorts and this should be kept in mind as she moves herself to London to carry out these dreams.

Once Ellie arrives in London, she is overwhelmed with the big city so to speak, and she immediately becomes the target of ‘mean girls’ and fellow student Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen). Rather than subject herself to the abuse, Ellie sublets an attic room from an kindly elderly landlord named Mrs. Collins (Diana Rigg). Ellie loves the room and her independence, but her dreams act as a portal back to those swinging 60’s of which she’s so fond. But that’s only the beginning. It’s here where she follows/becomes Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), and the mirror effects are truly other-worldly. Sandie is everything that Ellie wishes she was herself – confident, radiant, ambitious, and beautiful. This dream state allows Ellie to live vicariously through Sandie. At least initially.

Her dreams quickly become reality, as Eloise keeps magically getting transported back to 60s London, where she is mysteriously linked to the life of Sandie. These nighttime adventures allow Eloise to live the life she’s always wanted. But the honeymoon period doesn’t last for long, as these dreams gradually devolve into nightmares. The question of what is reality and what is dream begins to get muddled, as the glamorous white lights begin to fade and run into other worldly areas that take the movie out of the context it was in. It’s almost as it in three different parts, with parts one and two being the most creative and stylishly fun, and the third coming in to take it over as a different type of film altogether, and while not making it bad, there was a moment in between those parts where I thought I might be seeing what could’ve been my favourite film of the year had it not changed gears so completely.


With there being no true central villain to this story, as Sandie’s pimp and abuser, Jack (Matt Smith), is one of them, and plays his role with relish but the idea is truly that there are hundreds of villains and for a while, the villains are the ghoulish spirits of controlling men. But the main high points of this film is how it is loaded with so many great hits from the 60s, the score was haunting, beautiful, eerie, and pair that with the cinematography and you have a nice chef’s kiss of fun. And not to be remiss, but the costuming and designing here along with hair is absolute perfection when it comes to what they are trying to tell you with the story. Put all of it together and you will be apt to agree the film just looks phenomenal, from the way it’s filmed to the use of colors, it nails that aesthetic of 60s London, and makes you feel like you’re on the most mesmerizing trip.

Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy were very good as honestly, Taylor-Joy lights up any screen she is on and gave the perfect amount of seductiveness needed in her time traveling role. McKenzie gives an equally good performance in the lead role as she brings that sweet sense of naivety and adorable cuteness, and lighthearted feel amongst the very dark and disturbing nature of many of the film’s elements, and moments where the film slowed down to focus on her character was never boring because she had such an energetic vibe to her and was quite entertaining to watch. Ellie’s admirer John (Michael Ajao), is a fellow student that also hasn’t seemed to fit in and seems to be the only genuine person at this university, offering friendship to Ellie, which nobody else there offers her, but their relationship almost seems more clumsy than real.

The finale twists up somewhat as just where you though you knew where the plot was headed once everything started to wrap up (or so it seemed), then make way as you’re hit with something game-changing for the story and while again, it totally veered into left field from what the beginning of the film started off – it still is a stylish mystery-type horror thriller that has it’s highlights and is worth the Halloween watch.

Grade: B-

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Film Independent

“LAST NIGHT IN SOHO” IS OUT IN THEATERS NOW

REVIEW: “THE LAST DUEL” (2021) 20th Century/Disney Films

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The film that finally reunites Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as writers the first time since Good Will Hunting, and just as in Good Will Hunting they also share the screen acting wise, but with Damon picking up the more prominent of roles, though Affleck having a stand-out as well. This medieval times storytelling in “THE LAST DUEL” is done on a grand scale by none other than the grand scale director himself, Ridley Scott.

The film is told in three chapters each from the point of view of one of the three protagonists, the two duelists – Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and the third by Marguerite (Jodie Comer), of why in this duel is taking place in 13th century aristocratic France. It is supposedly for truth and honour, yet this can not only be confusing at times, but when you have people telling the same incident from three people’s different point of views…. it can start to get tedious, and it does with a runtime of two hours and 32 minutes.

The action is here is brutal, the hardcore Medieval type brutal and though it is filmed well, you have to have a taste for these types of films and they are just not truly in my wheelhouse, yet Gladiator holds a place in my heart that will never be taken away. The story itself leans on Marguerite’s accusation against Jacques of rape. It is met with anger and hostility from both Jean, their friends, and pretty much the rest of France, as rape is not considered a crime against a woman, but a property matter. These kinds of things, while I know existed, just irk me in subject matter. Yet I guess my true excruciating anger came from the rape scene which is is played not once, but twice. As an audience of both male and female, it left a lot of mixed feelings amongst both as it’s incredibly hard to watch. My question would honestly be did Ridley Scott need to amplify the excruciating horror of the act by showing it to us twice? Would it have made a difference to the outcome had we not seen it so graphically performed in front of us on both accounts. I think not. Oddly you also realize what the outcome of the duel will most likely be during these points.

The set decoration, costuming and all seem quite fit for the time and not being an expert in French history of the 1300’s, I will say I was never entirely sure what accent Damon and the cast were employing with their characters as none were French, but it never distracted from the characters either. Comer was probably the best as I can’t imagine the subject matter at hand was an easy one for any actress to deal with. The highlight for me though was Affleck’s somewhat comedic portrayl of d’Alençon as it borders at times on camp, but seems as like it was likely intentional and oh so much fun. It lightened up the hardness of this film to at give it some ‘bon viveur’ as the French would say.

All in all, this film will be a sheer delight for those loving Medieval dramas and Ridley Scott fans. I’m somewhere in the middle of understanding it, being confused by it, angered by it. All in all a fine movie with fine writing, acting and cinematography. It is just not something special and we have seen it all be done better before. There is sort of gravitas missing along the lines and all in all, just did not sit right with me completely.

Grade: C

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Rosa Parra @RosasReviews who invited me along as her guest

“THE LAST DUEL” – is playing in theaters now