REVIEW: “RED SPARROW” (2018) 20th Century Fox

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So with my media screening confirmation for “RED SPARROW” we received this note from Director Francis Lawrence. I much appreciated this as I hate spoilers and always try to avoid them in reviews. However, after the screening, I’m thinking he doesn’t want anyone to reveal his ‘plot points’ and ‘ending’ because they are downright ridiculous.

To sum this up quickly and make this review as painless and short as possible the basics of this story is Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), a Bolshoi Ballet dancer – yes, if you eyerolled here, you are not alone – who sees her career go down the tubes when her dance partner makes a bad move and breaks her leg. It’s a horrible break which would take months to heal let alone walk in heels – and yet there she is three miraculous months later – running around in heels. Not just that, but she finds out of a conspiracy on the part of the aforementioned partner and her replacement. This is all thanks to the fact that her uncle Vanya Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is nothing less than one of the heads of the secret service of the “mother country” has given her secret tape on this. Dominika exacts a revenge that can only been seen to be believed, in other words yes, again ridiculous. She is then faced with the need to keep her home and medical care for her sick mother, Nina (Joely Richardson), both of which have been provided by the Bolshoi. Well weclome back Uncle Vanya who offers her a job because you know..she has been so intuitive as a child even. YAWN! Well, sweet Uncle Vanya sends her to ‘Sparrow School’ or as JLaw puts it in her ridiculously bad Russian accent, Whore School. You know that place we all want to go to because they train you to have sex and use your body as a weapon to overcome the enemy. After watching some of the weirdest, most uncomfortable sex scenes to grace the screen in a long time, we go to part duex. Sigh.

Dominika has to approach Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA agent who had been working for years with a mole in Moscow and who eventually had to leave the country when he unmasked himself when he mistook some police officers for secret service agents. Nash and Dominika immediately begin a relationship because of course they do – and of course the physical attraction will prove to be a bond to guarantee a “mutual benefit”.

Honestly, that’s all I can give and it’s even more than planned. Red Sparrow is just plain ridiculous and bad. There is no chance anyone is EVER going to believe Jennifer Lawrences’ performance here as not only a ballerina, but a Russian Agent to boot. EVER! Nor Joel Edgerton as a spy – I mean when is this guy ever going to speak his native Aussie again? He really tries with his accents, but never really gets it right. Not even my go to guy, Matthias Schoenaerts or the great Jeremy Irons can save this film. It’s almost like if Fifty Shades of Grey met Die Hard in the worst way possible. With Domenika’s line “They gave me a choice: die or become a sparrow.” I wish I could have chose for her and saved myself from watching this.

Grade: D-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, Febraury 20, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
RED SPARROW will be in theatres worldwide on Friday, March 2, 2018

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REVIEW: “THE DANISH GIRL” (2015) POST Q & A W/DIRECTOR TOM HOOPER

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“The Danish Girl” is not just a altogether different love story, but it’s inspiration comes from the lives of artists Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). Einar/Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate what can only be called a groundbreaking journey, even in this day & age, with Lili becoming a transgender pioneer.
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While the film is slow-moving, I honestly found it quite touching, beautiful and sweet. It is delicate in the way it treats difficult subjects as sexuality and the discovery of one’s identity in what is surely an even more hostile period than we live in now. The fact that it is a true story makes it a bit more involving.

I don’t think the film is perfect – but the acting, cinematography, the screenplay are done well. The middle part – where all the characters try to find a way out of the problem and when for the first time they seem to be facing a fracture between them is it’s most moving.
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Obviously, no one knows how well Lili Elbe passed for a woman, but no one, and I mean absolutely no one, would mistake Redmayne’s Lili for anything else especially at first where he is mostly an awkward, clumsy male in a bad wig. However, I was impressed with Redmayne’s portrayal of the transition and transcendence and being that he is of small stature he did well here. I must say, while I don’t think this will win Eddie another Oscar, it is deserving of a nomination for me as I watched, I am impressed lately by Redmayne’s choices of roles. Truly wonderful & different for the most part.
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There were a few heart-tugging emotional scenes in the movie where I was quite struck by Vikander’s acting, being full of some raw emotion.
The rest of the cast, in particular one of my favourite actors of the past few years, Matthias Schoenaerts as Einar’s childhood friend Hans Axgil. He is a breath of fresh air in almost everything he touches for me. Amber Heard as the wild & fun, Ulla and Ben Whishaw as Henrik, add to the mystery and complicated nature of Lili’s existence.

Through a beautifully tangled love story this film opens the eyes and hearts of the audience to the harsh reality a trans-person is born into. A world that clearly is of misunderstanding, ignorance and flat out discrimination.
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As you know, many will be angered about the context of the film because they think by spewing hatred for the person portrayed in the film will make them not exist. Those same people are usually fans of Donald Trump. Enough said.

Grade: C

Screening: Thursday, November 19, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Deadline Awardsline screenings.
Playing nationwide as of Friday, November 27, 2015

POST Q & A WITH DIRECTOR TOM HOOPER/SCREENWRITER LUCINDA COXON/PRODUCER ANNE HARRISON:
Alicia Vikander was also supposed to be part of the post Q & A, but we were told to blame Matt Damon 😀 as she was held over on shooting that day of the new Bourne film. Attached is the link to the video of this wonderful post-discussion.
http://deadline.com/2015/11/danish-girl-movie-transgender-response-tom-hooper-video-1201636101/

“FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD” (2015) Fox Searchlight

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Release date: Friday, May 1st, 2015 in select theatres

Being the film adaptation of a book I read so long ago by Thomas Hardy, that I couldn’t really remember the entire plot. And I’m glad because this film reminded me of what stunning story this literary classic really truly is.

Not being a romantic film lover by nature, I will say this film completely surprised me out of the blue of how much I truly liked it.
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For those of you who like me, might not remember this story, or have never read it at all, it’s the story of the inordinately named “Bathsheba Everdene” (Carey Mulligan) a headstrong, and independent woman who within a short period of time, attracts the proposals of three very different men the times being what they were and all. The first, a sheep farmer named “Gabriel Oak” (Matthias Schoenaerts), then “William Boldwood” (Michael Sheen), a wealthy, older bachelor who owns the farm next to the one Bathsheba has inherited from her uncle who passed, and lastly, the oh-so-handsome, though completely reckless gambler, “Sergeant Frank Troy” (Tom Sturridge).
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Mulligan really does a fine job here considering the original film had the wonderful Julie Christie in the same role. She comes across as clever and strong, so quick in her feelings, expressing in clear voice when noting to her suitors that she has no need to be married or owned by a man as she puts it bluntly. Haughty, yet at the same time, fickle and so vulnerable and silly in her choices at times she holds all the contradictions of this character very well.
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Of the three suitors, Michael Sheen stands out the most as he is so convincing in his adoration of Bathsheba, you can hardly watch as you feel his torment wafting over you. Flashy, and very much the cad, is Sturridge, who dreamy good looks, don’t change the fact that you just don’t like his character much even though you completely get why she falls for him because at the beginning he challenges her and her feelings like the others have not. When the mistake of this relationship is realized, we go back to our hero, the ever faithful Mr. Oak, played well here by go-to good looking man of the moment, Matthias Schoenaerts. From moment one, when he bashfully gains the courage to ask her to marry him after meeting only once, you spend the whole film rooting for her to just come to her senses already and see what has always been standing right in front of her. Him.

This film definitely does the book justice and I loved the many plot twists and turns the story takes. It’s a wonderful ride and visually stunning. For a self-professed non-romantic film lover such as myself, this movie was simply beautiful to me.

Grade: B

Screening: Thursday, April 23, 2015 at Arclight Sherman Oaks

*see ratings scale*

Review: “THE LOFT” (2015) Universal

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Is it bad that I just went to see this movie for the men in the cast?? I mean, Karl Urban, Wentworth Miller, Matthias Schoenaerts, James Mardsen, and to an extent, Eric Stonestreet. I was truly all in for purely the eye-candy factor. Sadly, yes, I know how shallow that sounds, and I don’t care. I meet guys all the time who tell me they are seeing a film just to see Cameron Diaz or Jennifer Lopez, Scarlett Johansson etc. naked or whatever. So this was my freebie and I’m good with admitting that. 🙂

But sadly the movie, which thinks itself a “thriller” is not. It’s basically about five close friends, “Vincent Stevens” (Karl Urban) an architect, “Chris Vanowen” (James Marsden) a psychiatrist, “Luke Seacord” (Wentworth Miller), “Philip Trauner” (Matthias Schoenaerts) Chris’s half-brother and all around drunk/drugged out mess, the last bachelor-soon-to-be married guy of the bunch, and lastly “Marty Landry” (Eric Stonestreet) trying his hand at the dramatic, though so veritably miscast here it’s painful as all he can seem to talk about throughout the film is cheating, huge breasts or wanting to screw everything that walks by even though they are always well out of his league. It’s basically a film of married guys who want to cheat on their wives with other women they deem ‘prettier’…probably the same guys I have met a thousand times or like the ones mentioned above. These guys range from the despicable, to the disturbed, to just plain sleazy. the loft 1

The five take it a step further on the advice of Vincent, to secretly share a penthouse loft in Downtown Los Angeles as a place where they can carry out their affairs and indulge themselves with drink, drugs & women all without having any credit card receipts or motel bills to get caught with. But this whole fantasy soon becomes a nightmare as it comes to a screeching halt when they discover the dead body of a woman in the loft, who is seemly unknown to some of them at least, along with some ominous words written in Latin. It’s then they realize one of the group must be involved since there are only five keys and the men begin to suspect each other of murder.

Yet somebody may be in on their dirty little secret. Or perhaps one of them has something to hide. Either way, it was hard to feel much more than boredom – and slight disgust – for any of it. the loft 4
It really is a shame to see such talented, good looking actors doing such a mind numbing and dull feature. It’s even worse for the women playing their wives. Rhona Mitra “Allison Vanownen”, who does nothing other than walk around with the air of “I’m better than all of you” attitude with her ‘bitchy resting face’, Valerie Cruz “Barbara Stevens” seems to know her husband is a sleaze but only enough to give him bad accusing looks, Kali Rocha “Mimi Landry”, who’s tiresome quips back n forth as she calls her husband Marty, ‘Tubs’ isn’t funny, Elaine Cassidy “Ellie Seacord” the diabetic wife who seems in a constant panic as if we are to feel sorry for her for this, and lastly Margarita Levieva “Vicki Fry-Trauner” Phillip’s new wife whose daddy “Hiriam Fry” (Graham Beckel) owns everything & everyone yet SURPRISE cheats constantly also..in this case, like father like son-in-law. The only actress able to offer a little heart is Rachael Taylor “Anne Morris” who plays what else in this ‘let’s treat women like trash’ film, but a prostitute. Even if her delivery of the dialogue is miserably bad. Of course it’s a thankless role requiring her to have an very unconvincing romance with James Marsden. Isabel Lucas “Sarah Deakins” is one of Vincent’s conquests, and gives one of the film’s poorest performances as she is unable to bring this character to life in any way, shape or form. This is a huge problem as much of the film revolves around her. the loft 2

While most of the cast here is capable of doing so much more, I’m especially talking to Schoenaerts here who’ve I’ve put a pin in since seeing his fantastic performance in The Drop, and I truly hope this isn’t what he’s destined for. Although when it comes to some pivotal scenes, it is impossible to take any of them seriously thanks to a few silly plot points.
One scene where it becomes clear that the wives may actually be aware of their cheating husbands is about as subtle as a sledgehammer hitting a brick wall. While the mystery unfolds to reveal what really happened, leaving the final scene a bit of a surprise, the fact that it’s impossible to care at all makes it a mute point.

THE LOFT is devoid of any real suspense or smarts. It has some plot twists and turns and I think they are meant to be suspenseful, but they are not. The characters defy any real logic as well, they are just all awful people so waiting to see what happens to them is just painful at times. And let’s be clear, you can certainly create morally bankrupt characters in a film that are fascinating, it gets done all the time, but that is simply not the case here. Sometimes I can sit through a movie like this at maybe at home home and get some enjoyment out of it, and I think that would be the perfect way to see this film actually as paying for it hurts. It wastes a decent cast and forces audiences to spend time with hateful people that spout bad dialogue. _MG_3082.CR2

From what I understand, this movie is a re-make of a Belgium mystery film of the same name from 2008 with one original cast member being Matthias Schoenaerts. I don’t know if it’s any better, but truthfully, it can’t be much worse.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

(See grading scale)

REVIEW OF “THE DROP” – FOX SEARCHLIGHT – 2014

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“The Drop” is a story about a man and his dog.. okay..and his cousin/boss who used to think of himself as a ‘big man’..and a girl whom he likes who randomly helps him take care of the dog..but might be linked to more…and an arm with a watch..oh and throw in a bit of Chechen syndicate who ‘the drops’ are for…and lastly..you find out the man with the dog has much more to him than meets the eye and is much darker than you thought.

But let’s start with this…

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Tom Hardy is a man of many accents..this we have learned and Hollywood’s most recent ‘it/go to’ guy does not disappoint with his interpretation of this Brooklyn/Crooklyn accent either.  As the screen rolls up you hear a voice that sorta sounds like Christopher Walken just rolled in after gargling with a shot of whiskey..and lo and behold, It’s a very believable Tom Hardy as “Bob Saginowski” in this quite mesmerizing performance as a somewhat shy, but yet charming bartender at what used to be his Cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini) local neighborhood dive bar aptly named ‘Cousin Marvs’ which is now owned by the Chechen syndicate lead by “Chovka” (Michael Aronov) and used, when designated to do so, as the ‘drop’ bar, a place where all the nights drop payments to this syndicate are made and then picked up. Basically when it’s your night, envelopes stuffed with cash get dropped off into a time-released safe which is then picked up at the specified hour by a designated main guy. Simple enough riiiiggghhtt.except Marv, in Gandolfini’s last spin in a role that was clearly made for him, has decided he wants to go back to his glory days of being respected and plans to heist his own ‘drop’ day, tries to pull off a practice heist with 2 local guys, “Fitz” (James Frecheville) & “Rardy” (Michael Esper) which doesn’t go over well with all involved.

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Now you must be wondering where the dog fits in..well oddly enough, this movie is actually based on the short story “Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane in which a tough, but sweetheart of a guy, with a rather dark past, finds a badly beaten pit bull puppy in a trash can and it gets him into some big trouble.. As with that story, in this one Bob finds said dog in “Nadia” (Noomi Rapace) garbage can & she randomly offers to help him take care of it.  I won’t lie..there are some wonderfully cute scenes with Hardy & the little doggie Rocco..he’s a little scene stealer that Rocco!!! 😀  But turns out Nadia also has a bit of a history..with “Eric Deeds” (Matthias Schoenaerts) who is not only a complete psycho-path, but also the a-hole who beat little Rocco and left him for dead, yet stalks Bob with much malice to try to get the dog back insofar as even threatening Nadia’s life.  Eric has a reputation behind him, and now Marv is going to use him for the big cache heist day.  The whole time everything is going on, we see Bob attending 8am mass everyday at the local Catholic church, which we figure out later just why, but where he has the attention of the very police detective investigating not only a past neighborhood murder from years earlier,  but the recent robbery at the bar. “Detective Torres” (John Ortiz) just knows somethings fishy with the whole scene there at the bar, most especially focusing on Bob whose unassuming ways almost had me thinking at one point he might be a bit daft as in not-so-bright, but that’s really just all part of the charm of Hardy in this role..because even though you might think it for a moment or two, it’s because he wants you to.

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This gutsy, gritty & sometimes funny film ends with a plot twist that I don’t think most will see. but it definitely answers all your questions. I mean I had an idea of what it was, but it was so well thought out and done that I was really never sure which way it was going to go until it actually happened.  Again, Hardy is just simply wonderful in this role along with Gandolfini, they make a great dark comedy team which sadly we will never have the chance be able to see again. (Peace be with you James Gandolfini, you will always be remembered with your great body of work)  Noomi Rapace is good, and I enjoy her a lot in most films she’s done, but honestly she is out-played here by pretty much everyone and the character is a one that the if it was left out of the film entirely, you wouldn’t have even missed it.  A big huge kudos from me also goes to Matthias Schoenaerts. This Belgium actor deserves a big nod for playing his role so well and holding his own in such good company, hope to see much more of him in upcoming films.

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My vote is that you see this movie even if it’s not your cup of tea, for the performances alone.

Grade:  B-   (squeaks in at above average)

#peggyatthemovies

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 the movie     (+ or –  gives the movie an edge up or down)