REVIEW: “WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE” (2019) Annapurna Pictures

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Imagine my surprise sitting five minutes into this movie and realizing it all seems so familiar somehow.  Unfortunately that is the fate of being an avid reader as well as film goer, I realized I’d read Maria Semple’s wonderful 2012 novel “WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE” (no ? mark by the way) maybe a year or more ago.  And the bad thing about doing so, is it takes you into that dreaded  “spoiler alert” zone which we all try to avoid.

As director Richard Linklater has nabbed this one up and added Cate Blanchett in the lead role of Bernadette Fox, Billy Crudup as her husband Elgin, and rounding out the lead family roles with newcomer Emma Nelson as their daughter Bee.  He takes this rather dark comic tale of a highly creative, yet completely unhappy woman, who’s suppressed her creative talent for a few decades and finally seems to rediscover it through an unlikely journey.  The book is also, as the title suggests, a mystery, though the film seems to leave this portion by the wayside.  The story told comes mostly from two viewpoints. The first part which let’s us get to know the character we are dealing with, comes from Bernadette herself in emails to ‘Mangula’ her India based ‘virtual assistant’ and really have her coming off like a rich woman, who does nothing but bitch and moan about the other women in the picture, neighbor Audrey (Kristen Wiig) and Soo Lin (Zoe Chao). All this whilst living in a decaying mansion meant to have be re-done for years, and did we mention the loads of wealth thanks to husband Elgin having accrued it as a tech titan.

The other half is mostly woven together by Bee, who’s become the sole focus in her mother’s stuck in neutral life. It soon becomes clear that Bee’s also the only person in Bernadette’s orbit who truly understands and accepts her and her ridiculous bad behaviour towards pretty much anyone within shouting distance.  The endless seams being put together here a lot of Bernadette’s misery, the odd way she defects from the community she lives in as they shun her. Yet even though she practically destroys neighbor Audrey’s house, oddly she is also the one to help her escape from the realities she can no longer face and helps her embark on a new journey of adventure and discovery.

Linklater’s undertaking of this book was maybe as task he wasn’t quite up for as while he does great by casting Blanchette who relishes this type of character and can play this persona in her sleep, but he also misses some very pertinent portions of the book that makes the film seem almost uneven.  It’s like he left the best parts of the book on the cutting room floor. Wiig is wonderful as well, and some cameos by Lawrence Fishburne, Megan Mullally, and Steve Zahn are fun, and newcomer Nelson does well on her first go round her being in such stellar company, she definitely holds her own.   While the cinematography is wonderful once they get into the Antarctica portion of the film – it’s almost piecemealed together with what the purpose is of her leaving, what she is trying to do out there, how she gets there, how her husband and daughter try to find her is just given to you here, and it’s lines are not well connected, whereas as the book makes you really understand and feel the panic of not knowing where her mother is or why. Again, major plot portions are skimmed over when they are integral to the story.  Linklater just took to long to help us understand the complexity of Bernadette and her real struggles in skips and starts rather than with the flow that was needed.

While the film has it’s quirky, funny moments, I feel like a lot of this was a swing and a miss for Linklater who is always trying to challenge himself. There are things to appreciate, like the musical score and performances but not a whole lot else in this rather uneventful and non memorable film.  In other words I’m telling you to read the book and do so after you’ve seen the film. It will make much more sense then.

Grade: C

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: peggyatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Film group.

“WHERE’D YA GO BERNADETTE” IS IN U.S. THEATERS NOW 

INSTA-REVIEW: “HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD” (2019) Universal

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Four and a half years since we last saw our dragons, they are back in #HowToTrainYourDragon : The Hidden World.  In this one we have little older and wiser Hiccup (JayBaruchel)and he is still leading the effort to save dragons with Astrid AmericaFerrera. Yet not everything is golden as new villain Grimmel the Grisley FMurrayAbraham is out to get them. In between we have a little love affair brewing between #Toothless and new white-scaled dragon #LightFury .

While all of it is fun and it’s a beautifully done film and the Dragons franchise are some of the best animated films ever – it does come up a bit short at achieving the highs of its predecessors.

There is a little lack of the emotional punch in comparison to the first two. And while it might not shine as bright as the two previous works, the few shortcomings the story line has, they don’t overshadow the charm the characters and story bring you.

Grade: B-

@pegsatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

 

REVIEW: “DOWNSIZING” (2017) Paramount Pictures

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Welp. we’ve got a strike three for Matt Damon on his 2017 films with “DOWNSIZING”. This movie takes an interesting premise, “What if we could make ourselves smaller to use up fewer resources and save the planet?” and really just does nothing with it. Having heard little about the film aside from its concept, I went into the screening fairly cold. Sadly, the film doesn’t have a whole lot more to offer than its brilliant concept and exceptional first act. I must admit that I left feeling disappointed, thinking they could’ve made this a better movie in many ways. When a film has so much promise and doesn’t exactly deliver on much of it, I feel as though many people would be let down by that.

In this dramedy, which also in part a social satire of its own genre, Downsizing follows a couple Paul (Matt Damon) & Audrey (Kristen Wiig) Safranek, who believe their lives would be better if they were to shrink themselves and be transferred to a new world called Leisureland. This place exists to conserve the Earth and save the environment, as let’s face it, smaller people need much fewer resources. With multiple meanings to the title, this is a concept that sounds incredible on paper but doesn’t exactly translate into that great of a movie. Throughout the first act, I found myself immersed in this world and couldn’t wait to be taken on its journey, but I soon found myself losing interest when political and religious elements began to take over and it started to go very sloooowww. And it’s sad as this is a movie that could’ve done so much more with its premise.

Without giving anything away, there are many characters such as Niecy Nash playing a Leisureworld salesperson, or that of Dusan Mirkovic (Christof Waltz), The Lonowski’s, Jeff (Neil Patrick Harris) & Laura (Laura Dern) or Paul’s good friend Dave (Jason Sudeikis), that come in and out of this film in a heartbeat, pretty much leaving them in the dust, when in reality they were actually interesting and added a layer to the overall story. It felt as though Director Alexander Payne wanted to focus so much on the idea of the Downsizing concept, that he sidelined quite a few characters along the way. His films have always been about characters, and while Paul and Ngoc (Hong Chau) share some great chemistry throughout this film, it’s hard not to wish that all of the characters throughout the first act were present throughout the entire film. This was a very curious issue I had while watching and definitely upon reflection.

As soon as you’re brought into this other world that has been built for those who shrunk themselves over the years, you will find yourself kind of transfixed at how interesting the visuals are and how lackluster the comedy is, but what you don’t expect is for the film to take a dramatic turn and really have you thinking hard about the world we live in and whether or not certain lines of dialogue are true about society in general. This is an eye-opening film in that regard and the third act is incredibly ambitious, but I just don’t think it really sticks the landing that it strives to achieve.

In the end, this is one of the most original ideas I can recall in recent memory, but an idea doesn’t make a film great. It’s the film itself that needs to win you over as a whole, and Downsizing just didn’t do that for me. On many accounts, this is a very impressive movie from a technical standpoint and it takes risks that I didn’t expect it to, but the risks it takes will only work for a few audiences members that can relate to it.

This is a movie that promises a lot and tries to deliver on all of those promises, while also shoving in side plots that make this film too emotionally complex to really be invested in the satirical aspects by the end. I wish this film went through a few more rewrites, because there is a satirical masterpiece of a movie in here somewhere, but it’s just not the product that you’ll be seeing in theatres soon. Downsizing might be worth your time in terms of originality, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up on it being a favorite.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, December 5, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
DOWNSIZING is now playing in theaters nationwide. To be released Worldwide in January 2018

REVIEW: “DESPICABLE ME 3” (2017) Universal Studios

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“Face it, Gru. Villainy is in your blood!” Dru (Steve Carell)

This fun, third-time around romp back into the world of the minions and crew, tells the story of the ex-villain Gru, who teams up with his twin brother Dru (also played by Carell), whom he has never met, in order to fight against former famous Hollywood child star Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). Balthazar, who has become a 80’s obsessed super villain who uses powerful bubble-gum to fight and steal the worlds biggest gemstone.

After being fired from the AVL (Anti-Villian League), Dru tries to convince Gru to come back to being a villian. With the Minions off being busy speaking and singing gibberish – almost becoming reality show singing stars in one of a few hilariously fun skits done with them. Along with being taken jail, we get a fantastic little spoof on JailHouse Rock and whose dance in prison stripes to the Pirates of Penzance’s “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” brings down the house. Agnes (Nev Sharrel) and her adorable obsession with unicorns, and Gru being a basically worthless but lovable villain/anti-villain. At the same time, the movie introduces some positive new dynamics in Lucy (Kristen Wiig) as she isn’t as annoying as she was in her first movie and the fun twin camaraderie between Gru and Dru is completely infectious.

The plot has enough twists and turns to stop it from being formulaic, and the movie has some excellent and funny references to the previous two films. Finally, Bratt is a perfect villain for this type of film and is too tongue-in-cheek to resist. The only little downside of this brotherly union is the minions have less of a role – maybe a little mistake when you consider they are a certifiable home run at any time.

All in all – this one is a fun 1.5 hour romp for all ages.

Grade: B+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, June 26th, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Picture
NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE

Review: “THE MARTIAN” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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I’ve always had mixed feelings about Director Ridley Scott and his films. Some are fantastic and some..are not. Here he is back once again to exploring a familiar territory – space.

“THE MARTIAN” truly strikes cinematic gold here with what could be looked as a quasi-instruction manual on how to survive surefire death on Mars. Though this adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel (which I haven’t yet read) is the best thing Scott has given us in quite some time, he still goes where others have gone before – only this time, with a perky, life-affirming attitude.

The concept is catchy and simple: While on a mission on Mars, a major storm hits the crew of the Ares III facility causing them to abort and head for their escape rocket. As Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain), cyber-whiz Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), flight surgeon Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), pilot Rick Martinez (Michael Pena) and chemist Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie) head out into the vicious winds of Mars where botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and disappears. The others think he’s dead and leave without him. But guess what?! He’s alive! the_martian_2
And in order to survive he must “science the shit” out of the remaining supplies in a lab that was created to last only 31 days. His wit, scientific know-how and vlogs are what sustain him until the people at NASA – including NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), mission director Dr. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and flight director Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) – can figure out how to save him. Add in the back ground techies Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) & Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) who literally come up with the live-saving idea that make it possible to go back and get their man!! All the while they make this trip to Mars almost scenic as you can almost feel the atmosphere while watching.
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There are shifts here between humor, heart and suspense which are all handled quite well. Plus the soundtrack..ohhh the soundtrack… with it’s precise way that it works in the disco from the made-fun-of playlist of Lewis’ – with just a sampling is “Waterloo”
(ABBA) “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (Thelma Houston) and Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around” – is not only truly ingenious but yes, fabulous as well. It hits all the notes at just the right moment in Watney’s journey, giving us a look into his in-the-moment feelings in a perfectly stated way.

While this film is almost all Matt Damon, his very adequate supporting cast really gives the film a huge boost..along with the fact that it engages us intellectually, but not over the top as they make it all relatable and with a dose of humour I just loved. So it makes it hard to even list the one small unfortunate thing about THE MARTIAN as it’s good..really good.. it does stop just one step short of being electrifying. And in this case..that’s still not a bad thing.

Grade: B

Screening: Monday, September 21, 2015 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, October 2, 2015

+++#peggyatthemovies.com ~ REVIEW OF “HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2″+++

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There are times when I love going to see a good animated movie, and sometimes not.  I didn’t have that ‘not’ problem here with “How to Train Your Dragon 2” because I had taken my nephew 5 years ago to see the first one and had enjoyed it.  As with a lot of animated movies..they say they are for kids, and this one definitely is, but they always have a bit of an adult element to them also. And most of the time also a message.. again. also done here. 

This second chapter of the trilogy of the “HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON” franchise, take us back to the mystical world of “Hiccup” (v/o Jay Baruchel) and his now faithful dragon “Toothless”.  It’s a much different place now as their is peace, love and harmony between the dragons and the villagers.  This time around all that is at stake with threats from a new, and very powerful enemy, “Drago” (v/o Dijiman Hounsou).  During a flight of fancy, dragon-racing game Hiccup and his friends, “Snotlout” (v/o Jonah Hill), “Fishlegs” (v/o Christopher Mintz-Plasse), “Tuffnutt” (v/o T.J. Miller) twin sister “Ruffnut” (v/o Kristen Wiig), who as always, give us some of the best laughs of the movie, when she goes after the handsome “Eret” (v/o Kit Harrington) and with Hiccup’s now also grown up, girlfriend, “Astrid” (v/o America Ferrera), they discover a fortress made of ice in which they find a ‘mysterious’ woman, “Valka” (v/o Cate Blanchett) whom has spent the past 20 yrs ~ which turns out to be how old “Hiccup” is ~ freeing captured dragons and caring for the injured ones. 

Turns out that “Stoic” (v/o Gerard Butler) and “Valka” know each other..quite well as a matter of fact as she is “Hiccups” long lost, presumed dead, mother.  Cue the violins (and adult part of the movie) here as it’s the emotional scene coming up where they all get back together as a family immediately, of course and fall back in love on sight.  “Drago” in the meantime feels that all dragons should be captured and enslaved and “Stoic” and his ever-present sidekick, “Gobber” (v/o Craig Ferguson) immediately want to go to battle, whereas the naive “Hiccup” feels that if he can only meet to speak with “Drago”, he will see his reason and change his mind. But as expected. difficult consequences occur ~ note to parents, younger children will probably not understand this part well, and it leads into what could be an emotionally upsetting outcome, but you will soon see the outcome of this and it ultimately leads to the age-old ramification (and message within the movie) good overcome bad and the weak can defeat the strong with all the right attitude. 

This is certainly a fun movie, for both adults and kids alike as it’s pretty visually dazzling and I was able to see it in 3D so the action sequences were definitely made fun with that!!  

Grade: C+

GRADING SCALE: A = OSCARWORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE~MUST SEE; C= AVERAGE~SHOULD SEE; D = SEE AT YOUR OWN RISK; F = YEAH..DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY.. ( + OR – ) GIVES IT A BIT UP OR DOWN