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: “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES” (2016) Lionsgate

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Featuring a talented, mostly younger British cast of actors that I truly like and admire, I must admit I have been looking forward to this take on Jane Austen/Seth Grahame-Smith’s mash-up of “Pride and Predjudice and Zombies” for some time now. And yes, it delivers – if of course what you are looking for is a sure-fun little take on an iconic story. Here the zombie apocalypse has landed in the middle of Austen’s prim and proper story, including the now-famous attraction between Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley).

Anyone expecting the seriousness of Ms. Austen’s 1813 novel will be disappointed ~ hence the title should have provided a pretty solid hint of that to most. While her characters and general story line act as a structure here, I expect most critics to destroy this one because it’s made simply for fun, not for art.
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Of course, any Pride and Prejudice spin-off ~ even one with zombies ~ must pay meticulous homage to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. In this versions, it turns out that Elizabeth and her four sisters are highly trained warriors raised to survive and fight against the undead. Mr. Darcy is billed as a zombie hunter and protector of Mr. Bingley, the rich bachelor hooked on Jane Bennett. We follow suit on the original story as things are still made topsy-turvy by the devious Mr. Wickham, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and especially the flamboyant Parson Collins. The interactions between the characters juggle between loyalty, romantic attraction, emotional chaos and hand-to-hand combat – with just enough comedic elements that most viewers will find plenty of opportunities to get some good laughs in. Make no mistake though, this is no ‘Walking Dead’ rip-off and it’s nowhere near as gory with it’s details.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.


And yes, this talented cast is all in. They play it mostly straight to achieve the balance between somber and silly. Lily James and Sam Riley again, are both fun to watch as Elizabeth and Darcy. They are the film’s best fighters with both swords and words. Jane (Bella Heathcoate) is “the pretty one”, who is wooed by the simply stunning Douglas Booth as Mr. Bingley.
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Lena Headey makes an impression in her limited screen time as an eye-patched Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Jack Huston is well cast as the devious Mr. Wickham. Screen veterans Charles Dance and Sally Phillips take on the role of parents to the five Bennett daughters, but it’s Matt Smith, who turns the film fun with his comedic timing and his unconventional twist on the oddball Parson Collins, who pretty much steals each of his scenes.
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Even though this entertaining film offers plenty of fun with laughs, action and romance, I am hoping it doesn’t kick off a new zombie-adaptation trend as that would truly get annoying and mundane. Personally, I just like to be entertained, even sometimes in the silliest ways like this film did for me.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Nationwide release on Friday, February 5, 2016

“LOST RIVER” (2015) Review/Q & A interview w/Ryan Gosling

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Note: Screening at Sundance Sunset Cinemas ~ Sunday, April 12th.

Ryan Gosling has always moved to the beat of his own drum..and in his directorial debut “Lost River” definitely shows you it’s no ordinary drumbeat that he’s moving to.

The once vibrant town known as simply as “Motor City”, Detroit is sadly now decaying and it’s newsworthy abandoned-house scary-ness, sets up the rather miserable and macabre foundation of this story of “Billy” (Christina Hendricks), a single mother of two, who is swept into this bizarro underworld trying to do what is needed to survive with her family, while “Bones” (Iain De Caestecker) her teenage son, discovers a secret road that leads him to a underwater town. lost river 3

The broad overline of this ‘fairy tale’ gone bad, looks at the lengths to which a single mother will go to avoid defaulting on her mortgage. As her attempt to renegotiate terrible loan terms fails, and the sleazy wolf of this tale is her bank manager,“Dave” (Ben Mendelsohn), who not only will make you think twice about ever walking in to your bank branch again, but offers her work in the macabre vaudevillian fetish den he manages on the side. With “Cat” (Eva Mendes) as her “mentor” in this macabre world with scenes that will definitely not be for every one, as while they are shot in amazing fashion, not always easy to watch or even make sense for that matter.
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In the meantime, Bones is stealing metal scraps to fund the repairs to the broke-down vehicle that seems to be thought of as his only viable means of escape. At night, him and his wannabe girlfriend “Rat” (Saoirse Ronan) are stalked by local thug king “Bully” (Matt Smith), who sits atop an actual throne that’s affixed to his souped-up motor city chariot, in another case of where the fairy tale references are too roundabout and evasive.
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All the while this two waaay different sides of the film is going on, we find out about an urban myth which blames the residents’ poor fortunes on a curse of bad town planning, which P.S. also gives you the meaning to the film’s (and the town’s) name. As Bones finds the existence of this underwater city, long since drowned out, he goes to retrieve a piece of it as this will ‘end the curse’

By this time, trust me, you are pretty lost in following whatever story/fable it is that is trying to be told here. Truly, see this film at your own risk. All I can say is Ryan Gosling, I adore you, but if this is what’s in your head..

Luckily for me, this was a Q & A screening and I got “Hot Fuzz” director Edgar Wright and Ryan Gosling himself to talk about the film. Gosling opened up about the process of making his first film, stating that his biggest surprise was the production timeline.
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“I didn’t know it was going to take three years. You don’t know how to make a movie until you make one. As many as I’ve made as an actor, it doesn’t prepare you at all,” he admitted. “But that’s also the best part about it, the thing that I love the most. I got to spend this big chunk of time with this one thing. When you act, it’s amazing, but it’s a few months and that’s it. So the long game of it all was really a surprise to me, but in the end, it’s probably one of the best parts.”

He also noted that though he didn’t realize it, it was pointed out to him that it’s his version of dark ‘Goonies,’
Gosling also said he confided to director Nicolas Winding Refn, telling him that he wasn’t sure if the $5 million he raised to make the film would be enough; “$5 million?” replied Refn. “You can make ‘Star Wars’ for $5 million!” This gave Gosling the confidence to follow through with making the film. “That’s bullshit by the way,” Wright jumped in at the Q&A, referring to Refn’s claim.

Before he had even had a story in mind, Gosling started gathering footage around Detroit. Later, he wrote the script to accompany what inspiration he took from the decaying Detroit landscape. Gosling said he then took the footage and the story idea to director Guillermo del Toro, who told him, “If you don’t direct it, I will.” Gosling said he “felt like the wizard had given me my sword and my shield and sent me off on my mission.”

So at least I understand now the ‘how & why’ it got made, it didn’t change my mind about the movie I’d just watched, but it did make me hopeful that Gosling’s next venture will be so much more.

Grade: ‘D’
@pegsatthemovies

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