REVIEW: “WILSON” (2017) Fox Searchlight

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Based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes.Woody Harrelson is Wilson, probably one of the most random and least liked characters I’ve come across so far this year. He starts and goes throughout the film, with a random series of unpleasant tics of being the most annoying person in the world, rather than a convincing human being. This problem extends to the film itself. It thinks it’s intelligent and possibly a comedy as it supposedly gives us earth-shattering insights into the human condition with establishing Wilson’s unreliability at the outset, pitting his self-righteous voiceover narration against the realities of his condescension toward strangers. But the character we end up seeing never really adds up to more than the sum of his vulgar outbursts and flagrant disregard for conventional social graces, schizophrenically flipping from pessimism to arrogance to sentimentality sometimes within the same scene and not done well, with the character coming off as more mentally unbalanced than anything else.

The film’s events are driven by the death of Wilson’s father, which inspires in an increasingly lonely Wilson a desire to reconnect with his ex-wife, Pippi (Laura Dern), and the daughter, Claire (Isabella Amara), he discovers she didn’t terminate the pregnancy as he had assumed, but put the child up for adoption. But his oddly portrayed idea of a conventional nuclear family doesn’t track with his distaste for what he sees as the soul-sucking suburban lifestyle, a contradiction that the filmmakers either don’t recognize or refuse to address for the sake of indulging in easy potshots at suburbia. Such contradictions are simply part and parcel of the film’s confused whole. Throughout its running time, Wilson lurches from melancholy to cartoonish slapstick, to dropping f-bombs for the sheer sake of no reason whatsoever, but to be more annoying and it’s just unable to settle on a consistent tone.

Wilson, Pippi and Claire are surrounded by caricatures oddly done mix of middle-and upper-class insularity. The worst is Polly (Cheryl Hines), Pippi’s sister, who’s so monstrously judgmental of her sister’s lifestyle that she’s willing to lie to Wilson about what Pippi does for a living when he embarks on his quest to reconnect with his ex-wife. Clowes might have intended this graphic novel to be a critique of the kind of out-of-touch smugness Wilson represents, but the film often feels like an symbol of just that toxicity. Add in the factor of bad acting from everyone except for the two-minute scene with Alta played by the always strong Margo Martindale, to the fact that it’s not funny in the slightest should have many skipping this one till they can see it on VOD.

Grade: D
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
Nationwide Release: Friday, March 24, 2017

Thanks all for taking the time to give this a read. Let me know your thoughts if you liked this film or not. Don’t forget to give this page a follow or a follow on twitter as well @pegsatthemovies. Cheers!

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REVIEW: “99 HOMES” ~ POST Q & A ~ Michael Shannon

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For a movie with the very real backdrop of the US housing market crash, with such believable characters, 99 Homes gives us the story about one man’s struggle with the housing market catastrophe and is the subject of what Ramin Bahrani’s new film is all about. It is at once sad, heart-wrenching and at the same time, somewhat terrifying to watch.

As the movie opens, we see a real estate guy explaining to an Orlando cop how the owner of the house he came to foreclose on, ran inside and shot himself in the head. We then get to know Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a construction worker who gets laid off and before we know it, his family home gets foreclosed on, and Nash, along with his young son, Connor (Noah Lomax) and mom, Lynn (Laura Dern) end up moving into a motel. Desperate for money, Dennis turns to the real estate guy who foreclosed on him, Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), and actually starts working for him. 99 homes 2
Let me be clear that I am appalled at what happened, that the banks made serious mistakes, and there hasn’t been nearly enough accountability for what caused the second biggest Recession in history. And while this film isn’t fool proof by any means, it does give you the feeling of being at least a somewhat accurate image of how different the concept of “money” is for everyone. Some people are set for life where others are living paycheck to paycheck. This film seems to know and show both sides of that so well.
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99 Homes is a film that’s main topic is eviction and really this should have been dull ride. How this film is able make this topic interesting and thought-provoking is quite impressive. It’s also a complete character study that truly makes you think who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Michael Shannon’s performance is spellbinding and for me Oscar nomination worthy. Garfield is good, but again, it’s Shannon who really controls the screen when he’s on it he holds you in the palm of his hand for the entire time he is on the screen as he plays the villain well making you give thought if he really is just that or just a product of the environment that was created as he shows you both sides of the coin.
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It is also societal story and commentary, and a story of determination all rolled into one. There are literally are 99 reasons to go see this movie.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, October 19, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Deadline Awardsline screening series

POST Q & A with actor Michael Shannon:
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I just adore this man and have for so long now. I call him my go-to guy as I wish he could be in almost every movie. He’s a gem and simply a fantastic actor & I love his touch of sarcasm, witty, ‘no bullshit’ attitude that he even brought to this Q & A. He really went in depth about how he felt his character here was truly a guy you could hate, but yet explained it so well in that he never wanted to take people’s homes as he was a real estate agent and wanted to put people in homes, yet when everything crashed he could either do what he did, or be a victim also. He chose the road he did and Shannon hopes that he was able to give you the portrayal that showed this in his character and he might have actually been relieved at the end. Shannon, through his dry humour & wit, can make you laugh and then next minute be serious. He noted he truly doesn’t like discussing ‘acting’ per se’ and for those of you who loved him in “Boardwalk Empire” he noted while he loved doing it, he would probably never do TV again. My note to all: If you have the chance to see ‘Iceman’ – DO! Shannon’s performance is as good as it gets.

COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS ~ BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/ACTRESS

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Continuing with the Oscar countdown ~ we are moving along to Best Supporting Actor/Actress.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Mark Ruffalo
“Foxcatcher”
One of my least favourite performances in this category

Edward Norton
“Birdman”
i won’t be mad if Norton wins this.. not in the slightest as this was my favourite performance and I would’ve called Norton the winner…until…

J.K. Simmons
“Whiplash”
Until..I saw this performance of Simmons. Long been a favourite of mine since the HBO series “OZ” – he blew us all away with this..

Robert Duvall
“The Judge”
How do you not like Duvall.. he’s truly an acting icon.

Ethan Hawke
“Boyhood”
Love Ethan.. not my fav. movie or performance.

My Pick: J.K. Simmons
Will Win: J.K. Simmons
Possible Win: Edward Norton

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
I will be upfront here.. none of these performances WOWED me. Jessica Chastain for ‘A Most Violent Year’ was whom I would’ve picked, but yeah..not nominated. So if I have to pick…

Emma Stone
“Birdman”
It’s not Emma for me.

Patricia Arquette
“Boyhood”
Truly not Patricia for me either though she’s been sweeping everything and walking up with her lengthy piece of tacky paper to read off of letting everyone know she knew she was winning.

Meryl Streep
“Into the Woods”
Love Meryl.. but I do think they ran short of people and put her in because she IS Meryl Streep.

Laura Dern
“Wild”
I didn’t love this movie.. but Dern moved me some with her performance here, she was definitely the best part of this movie.

Keira Knightley
“The Imitation Game”
While Knightley didn’t annoy the complete bejesus out of me this go round.. she usually does and she did Laggies & Begin Again, both awful films that she should just be punished for that and all the others.

My Pick: Laura Dern
Will Win: Patricia Arquette
Possible Win: Emma Stone

REVIEW ~ “WILD” (2014)

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In yet another film this year based on a memoir, this biopic, “WILD” by Cheryl Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon) who coped with her divorce, the death of her mother, and her own self-destructive behavior by setting out on a grueling, three-month trek along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which runs from Mexico to Canada. Since Hollywood tends not to deal much in too many surprises, whether its sequels, remakes/retreads of the familiar, or actors and directors staying very securely inside their comfort zones, it’s rare for a movie to sneak up and offer something unexpected and this one is no different. I truly expected more all the way around from the Director that made my favourite film of 2013, “Dallas Buyers Club”.

The other big surprise of “Wild” turns out to be Reese Witherspoon, whom after hearing such big notes that she would be going far from her usual comfort zone here, and then really didn’t. If we are looking for out of box characters for her, she was much more convincing for me in her portrayal in MUD. Don’t get me wrong..Witherspoon is far from awful here, and especially after seeing “The Good Lie” earlier this year and that lackluster performance, just not the WOW! performance I was hearing it to be as touted by some. wild 1

We meet Cheryl at the very beginning of her undertaking of this gargantuan hike. Here you would think it’s the sort of journey taken only by hikers with experience, but as we see all of Cheryl’s camping gear coming fresh out of the package, it’s immediately clear that she’s plunging head-first into this huge undertaking with no prep whatsoever as she has no clue what she really should & shouldn’t be taking along. Barely able to support her comically oversized backpack, we follow along as she begins to shed both literal and metaphorical baggage. Cheryl stumbles and struggles through the first few days of her hike, allowing her plenty of time for flashbacks. And that’s really how you find out why she is undertaking this venture because at the beginning you are given no hint as to WHY she is doing so.
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Her mother “Bobbi” (Laura Dern, in a nice moving turn here) was a source of strength, and even in the quick-flash of remembered moments we can see why her loss would be so devastating to Cheryl. Less attention is given to her failed marriage to “Paul” (Thomas Sadoski), but it’s clear that she was in no place emotionally to handle guiding her own life, much less sharing it with someone else. Though she has a brother also, “Leif” (Keene McRae), she seems the be the one with some major problems in life including being a heroin/sex addict and all around mess. wild 3

I think I was just hoping for more here as the movie delves into the easy answers and personal growth waters of ‘Eat Pray Love’ vs. what I had hoped for, more of a harder core. I was looking for some major challenges ala ‘127 hours’ to happen beyond losing her shoes or encounters with a rattlesnake & a caterpillar, both expected considering where she is..a desert. Same with the visuals..There are only a few rare scenery shots here, as well yes, I understand we are in a desert with just a lot of flat land & bushes, but it does change seasons, can be beautiful and I thought there would be some really scenic visuals.

For me, the best part of the story lies in all the characters she meets along the way. I found this part of it the most fascinating. Having undertaken a journey of my own at one point (I packed up my car and drove across the U.S. one summer, stopping randomly in places and meeting people everywhere I went..loved it), though no, not hiking as it’s something I’ve never been fond of, that & sleeping in tents, (yeah I know..picky picky)..but characters such as “Frank” (W. Earl Brown) & his wife “Annette” (Jan Hoag), “Greg” (Kevin Rankin) & his friends, “Ed” (Cliff De Young), the only other female hiker she encounters along the way, the “Ranger” (Brian Van Holt) and the group of guys she gets drunk with round the ol’ campfire, “Josh” (Will Cuddy), “Rick” (Leigh Parker) & “Ritchie” (Nick Eversman). My ending point is that I think a lot of people have done a journey of some type or another in their lives and sorry but I guess I’ve just heard much more fascinating stories than this one.

Grade: C

#peggyatthemovies
(see grading scale)

REVIEW ~ “WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL” (2014 – SONY/AFFRIM)

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There have been a lot of really good sports movies done..especially about our good ol’ American past time, football and it happens to be a sport I do watch on occasion as it can be fun.  Some of those movies have been very memorable like “Brian’s Song” “Remember the Titans” even “Rudy” was a touching tug of the heart one.  This movie is not going to be remembered as one of those.  It’s vapid, religious based storyline is based on the De La Salle High School Spartans football team that had a pretty yes, incredible 151 game winning streak going on from 1992-2004 and then lost it.  Unfortunately, the story of how is bland, formulaic and follows every sports cliche ever done, but without any heart or soul in it whatsoever..which considering the religious aspect of the movie, was really odd.

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The events that define this movie and lead the narrative of it are the murder of their star linebacker “Terrance Kelly aka T.K.” (Stephan James), Head Coach “Bob Ladouceur” (Jim Caviezel) heart attack, and the ultimate loss of this streak but with the always true to form comeback game against the best team in the country, Long Beach Poly.  Now call me cynical, but watching a bunch of kids cry about a loss..even if it’s a big one to them when say a movie like “We Are Marshall” shows the utter loss of almost a WHOLE TEAM was lost in a plane crash makes this feel quite petty indeed.  This movie never showed us about how this streak was even started or anything that lead up to the all the events.. they just sort of happened in whatever chronological order they threw them at us.  Caviezel seems to be walking through this role like a robot, has zero chemistry with his cast, not even his wife, “Bev Ladouceur” (Laura Dern) who just wants him to be a more hands on father, or his son “Danny Ladouceur” (Matthew Daddario) who only wants his dad to be able to coach him during his final senior year because well, he’s never really been at home enough to be a dad…just a coach.

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The supporting cast of football players is simple and the norm for a sports movie.  “Chris Ryan” (Alexander Ludwig) as the best player on the team who is trying to break the long lasting record of touchdown held whose dad is  “Mickey Ryan” (Clancy Brown) one of those horrible ‘sports parents’ who you just want to punch because they are so awful, “Tayshon” (Jessie Usher) as the other superstar of the team, but the bad boy – rulebreaker type, “Beaser” (Joe Massingil) the heavy-set tackle who’s got the hot girlfriend because he’s on the football team tho because of the religious aspect of the movies, they’ve taken a purity vow,  “Arturo” (Matthew Frias) as the smallest kid on the team. 3rd string but plays one play and saves the day..yeah..I know..seen it all before.“Rick” (Richard Kohnke) and lastly the only character that really stood out for me, “Terry Eidson” (Michael Chiklis) as not only did he spark a little tiny bit of humour, but was almost unrecognizable from his various roles and just showed some range with his character in an otherwise dull sports story.

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I’m sure we can all figure out the plot of this movie..they lose..and come back to win again.  My biggest beefs were not only the plodding plot but the product placement was truly ridiculous.  When Caviezel’s character says to his son, “Would like like some of my Muscle Milk shake” with the container right there in full view, or when one of the scouting University’s, Oregon State give one of the players a pair of Nike’s with the phrase..”Here have our newest pair of Nike shoes” and those are just 2 examples.  I realize product placement is part of movies..but the way they handled it in these movies was just plain silly.  Also, I don’t mind religion, I’m definitely a supporter of ‘to each his own’ but when they blatantly show how much prayer they do before the games and how god will make them win and when he doesn’t, well they must pray harder.  That’s just so wrong to me.  And don’t get me wrong, we all see plenty of religious notes from players in sports, it’s a given, i’m not putting it down in the slightest, but in a world where people are getting killed everyday and trust me, not over football, I am truly hoping that whichever god you support, he or she has better things to worry about or do than make sure you win your football game.  Sorry to all those that think otherwise, but that is my sincere thought on the matter. It’s not meant to provoke anyone, just be honest with the situation at hand.

All in all this just isn’t a memorable, inspiring or well done sports movie and that sadly is what will make it completely un-memorable.

Grade: D

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Grading Scale: A = Oscar- worthy;  B = Above average – must see; C = Average – should see; D = Don’t waste your time or money; F – Don’t see.  (+ or – tilts the scale up or down)