REVIEW: “THE NEST” (2020) IFC FILMS

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As “THE NEST” opens we find ourselves in 1980’s upstate New York and watch “a day in the life” of the O’Hara’s, a seemingly pleasant family living a pleasant life. But this is writer-director Sean Durkin’s first feature film since the excellent and thought-provoking ‘MARCY MARTHA MAY MARLENE‘ in 2011, so we can well figure that all is not as first presented.

Jude Law stars as Rory O’Hara, a business man with big dreams – dreams far bigger than his work ethic parlays, though his wife Allison (Carrie Coon) might have a clue about. This husband and wife team couldn’t be more polar opposite. Where Rory is the charming big-talker salesman, Allison is a down-to-earth horse trainer who loves her life on her horse farm. Oona Roche plays her teenage daughter Samantha, and Charlie Shotwell is her younger half brother Benjamin. Durkin does a nice job with the family set-up in the first few minutes of the film. We get a sense of each, as well as the family dynamics. But clearly something is amiss as we pan to a shot of Rory sitting idly at his desk, and soon after he wakes up Allison with a cup of coffee and the announcement that they need to move to London because he just isn’t satisfied and has been offered a job back as a higher up in his old bosses trading company.

It’s hard here to pinpoint at times exactly whom the story is about as is it about Rory’s desperation to prove his business acumen as he reeks of desperation when he meets his old (now new again) boss Arthur (Michael Culkin). You see, Rory is a social climber, intent on keeping up with the Joneses and living way beyond his means. He’s even referred to as “Old British – New American” which somehow he takes it as a compliment, but we soon witness Rory as little more than a fast-talking salesman. Or is it about Allison clear unhappiness being stuck out in rural Surrey in one of those huge, cold and drafty 17th Century castle type places that you just know is haunted. But this isn’t a scary movie though they do give you a pause with one scene. It could also be about the kids as Benjamin is not adjusting well and Samantha might be adjusting too well. But this is a story of a families dimensions playing out in front of us. A restaurant scene featuring Allison, Rory, and his co-worker Steve (Adeel Akhtar) is brilliantly played, as we watch as Rory’s professional life slowly begins to crumble and unravel at a pace matching that of his family life.

The film is set in the 1980’s Reagan-Thatcher era, and 1980s music is a-plentiful including the Thompson Twins, the Cure, and many others which is a particular delight for me. Jude Law picked an excellent vehicle for himself here as he plays the role as if its his, and the same goes for Carrie Coon. Beware though as there are a difficult few scenes in the movie involving horses that you may find difficult to stomach – be prepared to look away.

All in all, you come to realize this could be a story about so many different aspects involving a family in crisis mode that it is really just about all of them and not just a single member. It’s classified as a Drama/Romance though I would truly hesitate by putting this in only two such categories as it’s definitely up to the viewer to define this. The ending is a bit abrupt, but it works in the line of the story telling here. Will it be a story for everyone, no it won’t, but none ever are.

Grade: B

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Review screening: Courtesy of IFC Films

“THE NEST” IS NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS (WHERE OPEN) & DRIVE-INS AND ON VOD.

REVIEW: “SPY” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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With the release of “SPY”, 20th Century Fox is putting out it’s second spy genre film of 2k15 with the first being the hugely entertaining ‘Kingsman:The Secret Service‘. But Melissa McCarthy’s latest jaunt into comedy had me contemplating if it was just going to be another one where she wears out her welcome by playing the same character-type once again. I’m pleased to report this is not the case and you will find yourself laughing your way through this one. Not only because of the fact that McCarthy is more or less doing character assassinations on most of those stereo-typed characters of her past, but it’s with a strong supporting, hugely funny and entertaining cast which really pulls this film all together.
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McCarthy plays “Susan Cooper”, a deskbound CIA analyst acting as the eyes and ears for expertly named-and-trained field agent, “Bradley Fine” charmingly done here by Jude Law, with whom she is clearly head over heels for, this fact being advantageous for him. When Fine goes missing and the agency is compromised, CIA spy-team leader “Elaine Crocker” (Allison Janney) gives the unassuming Susan a shot at her first field mission to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer. Needless to say, things do not go as planned. Not only does she have to deal with exotic uber-vixen “Raina Boyanov” (Rose Byrne) who has a hilariously homicidal lack of tolerance towards her own henchmen, but her own fellow on-the-outs disgruntled agent “Rick Ford” (Jason Statham) who is essentially part Rambo, part bumbling Inspector Clouseau.
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Every scene between McCarthy and Byrne sparkles and both play their roles spot on, particularly when they are both aggressors. Not content to be mere supporting actresses, both Byrne & Janney have some of the funniest lines in the movie. The jokes come so thick and fast that you’re likely to miss some of them simply because they’re drowned out by your own laughter along with the audiences. Statham is hilarious and is one of the reasons I wanted to see this film so much as seeing him skewer his tough-man persona, swearing poetically and prat-falling left and right in the most unpredictable spots is just one of SPY’s fun delights. My only beef with his part is I wanted more.
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Spy would not be funny if it were simply Susan/McCarthy bumbling from one scenario to another. It helps that her characters here have vulnerabilities; it works because McCarthy is adaptable to every situation she finds herself in and is able to hit all her marks without a miss. There’s a sense of witnessing a woman empowered and it’s a hoot to see McCarthy given the space she deserves here. The other is watching Rose Byrne vamping it up as Rayna Boyanov, along with Miranda Hart, who is a constant surprise as Susan’s coworker “Nancy“. And then we have 50 Cent, as himself, having a grand old time being, yes, dare we say it, a tad bit funny..
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Director Paul Feig has gathered a game cast here who are more than committed to the faintly ridiculous material they’ve been given which will make Spy likely to be one of the funnier films of the year. There are films with stronger action sequences, but that won’t be your concern when watching as again, you’ll probably be to busy laughing.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Screening at AMC Century City 15, Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 – courtesy of 20th Century Fox & LAFTV
“SPY” – Opening nationwide Friday, June 5th, 2015

RATINGS SCALE: A = OSCAR-WORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE; C = AVERAGE; D = NOT RECOMMENDED; F = SKIP IT ENTIRELY (+ OR – GIVES IT AN EDGE UP OR DOWN)

REVIEW OF “DOM HEMINGWAY” – aka Jude Law like I’ve never seen him before!!

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Image This isn’t a great movie..heck, it might not even be a good movie..I would list it as an ‘ok’ movie as it has 101 different plot holes, but it’s definitely enjoyable enough to sit through and most definitely a good performance driven movie by Jude Law (Dom Hemingway) & Richard Grant as his side-kick (Dickie Black). I mean in a way, poor Jude, as his receding hairline has long been happening, but it’s REALLY receded here and in real life. And no lie, it fits this role perfectly. That, and he’s beefed up considerably from the skinny, scrawny Jude Law of years past and it suits him. He’s darkly funny here as an expert safe-cracker just getting out of prison after a 12yr stint where he served time for getting caught safe-cracking and wants his due ‘back pay’ plus a ‘present’ from Mr. Fontaine (the ever so always wonderful Demian Bichir – whom I love) who he could have snitched on and is now the big-time main man of operations. After a 3 night debauchery weekend of cocaine, booze & women, Dom & Dickie are on there way to France for just this reason.  It’s a beautiful Villa in France and what entails during this visit, where Dom actually does get everything he asks for and more…is well..a bit entertaining as the chemistry between the characters of Dom/Dickie/Mr. Fontaine is dark comedy at a good pace.  It’s a bit RocknRolla – though nowhere near as good of a movie.. What happens after the Villa incidents is next..and the plot gets very meh at this point..mind you, again there have been plot holes galore already, yet you sorta just ignored them due to the fun performances.  But this 3rd act is the family one..you know how he left his wife & child behind because he was a criminal and now wants them back as his wife passed on and his daughter blames him for not making a deal, serving less jail time, being there for her etc etc.. There are still some shades of the fun, dark comedy-humour here and there, but by now it’s lost a lot of it’s pace.  One big scene happens in this part with Dom trying to regain his career as a safe-cracker and being put through a test by Lester (Jumayan Hunter) that is quite fun to watch.  Besides all this, I can truly say the swagger of Jude Law’s performance carries this movie and when they advertised it as “Jude Law as you’ve never seen him before” they were quite right.. All the changes physically and just the performance period – are so unlike everything he’s ever done and I applaud him for it. Grade: Jude Law’s performance – B+   the movie itself: C- #peggyatthemovies