REVIEW: “THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE” (2017) Universal Pictures

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Let me just start off by saying I went into this with perspective of it being a war movie. And it partially is, but it’s also so much more than just that. It’s more about post-service life for the brave men and women who make the decision to defend our country, as well as the impact it has on their spouses, children, friends, etc. It shines a harsh light on the inefficiency of the VA and how difficult it can be for veterans to receive the help – especially mental and psychological – that they desperately need.

The film, based on a true story, opens with an operation on an Iraqi street that goes horribly wrong. The exact details of the incident are rather hazy but are central to the events that will follow. A trio of soldiers, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), Will Waller (Joe Cole), and Tausolo ‘Solo’ Aeiti (Beulah Koale), are returning home after their stressful and dangerous tours of duty. Adam returns to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) and their two young kids, though money worries and other domestic issues are at the forefront of their relationship and his mind. Solo returns to his wife Alea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who wants her husband to settle down and father a child with her but he has it in his mind to return to the battlefield and be with his ‘brothers’ as according to him “The Army saved his life” and it seems that’s all he knows. And finally we have Will (Joe Cole), who returns to an empty house, his fiancé having moved out and emptied his bank accounts without a word. Though each man is a trained soldier capable of putting on a brave face, the trauma from their time on the battlefield and their attempts to get help are met by a bureaucracy that is beyond overloaded with no true help in sight.

The performances were all on par all the way around and with them the storyline was not only gut-wrenching, but kept me riveted for the entire movie. This might not be an Oscar type film, but it is going to get very high marks from me because of the subject matter and the story told. This movie is a different genre movie, not necessarily action, but not completely drama either, rather it is a movie of true passion of containing real life drama, real heart and mind, real flesh and blood taking you through it’s paces slow but steady.
I’m guessing that this movie won’t be a huge moneymaker, as I honestly I don’t see it finding a particularly large audience because fact – we’re much happier remaining ignorant to the horrors of war and the empty shells of humans that it results in. Needless to say, this film schooled me and was a true eye-opener as I left the theater with such a huge range of emotion, mostly rooted in anger and sadness and a sense of hopelessness. While I would love to think that the light it shines on its topic would result in some change, if not at least greater awareness, I doubt it will. We as Americans, have let our soldiers down. And this hasn’t just happened..its gone on for decades and something needs to be fixed in a big way. Again, sadly, not enough people will probably see this film to make a difference..but we all should. Bottom line though, it’s a great film and now it’s your turn to see it.

Grade: A
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, October 23,2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE” will be in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 27, 2017

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REVIEW: “FANTASTIC FOUR” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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With so many superhero/comic books films coming out over past decade at this point you really need to ‘dress to impress’ if you’re going to put one out there. With this being a well known fact – the question looming on most everyone’s mind regarding this film:
‘Is Fantastic Four..well..Fantastic?’
With only a few ups and many downs, the answer sadly is no. How you ask can this happen? Well oddly enough it’s the sheer lack of an exciting story.

We open on brilliant child scientist Reed Richards, (Miles Teller) who is on the verge of discovering how to both transport matter to another dimension and then bring it back though they don’t know where it goes or comes back from. Jump to a few years later at his high school science fair and he and the project while being dis-qualified from the fair are being recruited by Professor Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey).
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With this Reed is given the resources and help by Storm’s children, the brother & sister team of Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) along with Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), to finish what he started all those years ago in his garage. When they finally crack inter-dimensional travel, Reed invites his childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) to travel to the other dimension/world along with him and the team. An accident causes their physical form to drastically change. Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben must learn to harness and use their powers and work as a team to stop Von Doom who is now hell bent on destroying Earth.
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You would think this could all be exciting right? Well it’s actually a rather dull and plodding affair which was surprising as with most of the cast here notably Teller, Jordan, Bell and especially Toby Kebbell are all actors who have had some damned notable roles in their perspective careers.
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While I could have used more Von Doom, it probably still wouldn’t have saved this lifeless movie as the whole storyline is just weak with a finale that will impress no one. I expected so much more.

Grade: D+
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Wednesday, August 5, 2015 courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Opens Nationwide: Friday, August 7, 2015

‘Cinderella’, ‘Insurgent’, ‘Danny Collins’, ‘Jauja’, ’71’, ‘The Salvation’, ’50 Shades of Grey’

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So I’ve seen a bunch of films lately that have all been pretty average or just plain bad..with one I really liked!! And as sometimes we all feel like a bad film has just sucked it out of us, I didn’t even feel like giving some of them a review..but then decided to suck it all in and just put them all in one with a few bits about each and let everyone make up their own minds to see them or not.

I’m starting with the one that actually surprised me out of the group because I actually did like it…not love it mind you, but a good ‘like’ is pretty much all I’m looking for now-a-days from a film!
So let’s begin:
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CINDERELLA (2015) Disney Studios – Every little girl knows this story by heart growing up..it’s truly a little girls fantasy that no matter how crappy things are, you have the chance of one day meeting your ‘prince’. We all bank on it somewhat that it could actually happen. And then you grow up. ha! What surprised me was how much I liked revisiting this version of the story. Richard Madden as “Prince Kit”, (whom I loved and miss as Robb Stark), really made a very believable Prince and Lily James is a quite wonderful “Cinderella”. Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother was perfect, and it’s always nice to see ‘Daisy’ from Downton Abbey (one of my fav. characters of that show) Sophie McShera “Drisella” and Holliday Grainger “Anastasia” doing a fun spin on the wicked stepsisters. Throw in Stellan Skarsgard as the “Grand Duke” and Derek Jacobi as the “King” and you have a well-rounded out cast that brings some new blood & life to this story. And that’s what I liked best of all about it. Told in a little bit more updated version, though not time-wise, but tale-wise, brought it all to life in a really nice wrapped up gift. Was it super fantastic and the best Cinderella story ever told..nah..but it certainly was a nice breath of fresh air and a decent enough way to spend an afternoon reliving the little girl inside of me.

Grade: C+

Next on the list:
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INSURGENT (2015) Lionsgate/Summit Ent.
For this one I actually looked back at my review of “Divergent” from back in March of 2014. https://peggyatthemovies.com/2014/03/26/peggyatthemovies-review-of-divergent-2/ .

Basically I could just repeat it almost word for word except for a few minor things.. Like first off how this one was worse, second of all; bad bad casting decision on Naomi Watts as “Evelyn”, Four’s mother. And yes, the lovely Theo James reprising his role here, though annoying enough he kills the best character they had of all as I noted in my Divergent review also, “Eric” (Jai Courtney) this time round. You know my motto, you’re only as good as your villain and Courtney played a good villain.
Miles Teller as “Peter” steps it up some this time, but after you’ve seen him in Whiplash, it’s hard to take this performance seriously as you now know what he’s truly capable of. Ansel Egort “Caleb” is pretty non-existent both in character and performance, and Shailene Woodley coming back as “Tris” is annoyingly bad…again. I mean in an opening scene she decides to chop off all her hair for a new look.. now we know with the hack-knife that she’s using there is no way this is coming out well.. but oh no..not with Shailene..it’s perfectly coiffed hair cut. Please. Stop it.

I didn’t hate the first one, but I liked this one even less and losing a good villain and not adding anyone of consequence..I think I might be out of town, or ya know, busy washing my hair for the next one.

Grade: D

Moving on—
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DANNY COLLINS (2015) UNIVERSAL

Sigh. I j’adore Al Pacino. I always have. I’ve met him a few times, sat next to him at a movie at Sony once and he shared his candy with me and is truly one of the nicest guys ever. He’s also Al freaking Pacino!!! I mean… enough said right.

Well here he plays “Danny Collins”, an aging rock star who’s manager & best friend “Frank Grubman” (Christopher Plummer) discovers 40 years after the fact, that John Lennon wrote him a letter telling him to basically stay true to himself at what he was doing at the time. Clearly he didn’t and now decides to change his life and sit down and write the songs that were true to him back then, thinking his now-aged audience will want to hear them. They don’t. There is a back story here that I won’t even get into because it’s so passe’ but I will say that Bobby Cannavale as his son “Tom Donnelly” is refreshingly good and I don’t think gets enough credit for his work ever. Annette Benning “Mary Sinclair” as the hotel manager whom Collins is trying to woo into having dinner and maybe more, with him, of course carries herself. Jennifer Garner “Samantha Donnelly” as Tom’s wife holds her own in this company. There are a few really nice, fun moments and as you see them coming a mile away, a few harder ones also, though you pretty much can see in sight what the ending is. In December I went to a screening with a Q & A with Mr. Pacino afterwards of “The Humbling”. This film is almost a cover version of that one except here he is an aging rock star vs. an aging actor.
But ya know what.. no matter as I will always go see an Al Pacino film.

Grade: C-

Neeexxt…
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JAUJA (2014)
I will be deadly honest with you all here. I am not completely sure what this film was even really about. I went because I was invited to a screening with Viggo Mortensen doing a Q & A afterwards and as I am a big fan of his, I thought “sure I’ll go”. Huh.. I think it’s basically a journey of a father, “Gunnar Dineson” (Mortensen) and daughter “Ingebord” (Villbjork Malling Agger) thru a desert though I’m not sure where they are going exactly, and the daughter runs away with her boyfriend in the middle of it, though there is another person they are hunting, or is he hunting them?? And then he meets a witch in a cave while searching for her.. or does he really?? again, completely confused. And then BOOM! all of a sudden it’s present day and it’s the same daughter living in a nice house but without the father. The whole film switches between Danish & Spanish speaking and let’s just all agree to say that I didn’t get it and call me completely lost on this one.. like ‘we have to go back to the island’ LOST. 🙂

I will say Viggo was an absolutely wonderful guy with a lot to talk about. I think he could tell that I might be a little confused by the film and offered to have me to stay for the second screening they were having later. I told a white lie and said I had plans..which I kinda did. They involved me watching the Malaysian Grand Prix a little later. 🙂 And we ended up talking mostly about football aka soccer, as he brought it up when speaking and it turns out we like the same teams. So there ya have it.
Movie grade: D
Conversation with Viggo grade: A 🙂 Viggo

71
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Being a fan of Jack O’Connell‘s I saw this film a few weeks back and while for the most part, I liked it, and liked his performance as “Gary Hook” the somewhat dis-oriented British soldier who during a riot on the streets of Belfast during the height of the Irish Catholic/Protestant war i.e., 1971, gets left behind by his unit.
What follows was a bit of a convoluted story for me of him being chased down, beaten up, shot, and surviving a bomb attack all in a matter of what..48hrs. I dunno.. a lot of it just seemed a bit implausible for me. And what’s with him always constantly getting the crap beat out of him in pretty much every single film he’s ever done!! ha! Sorry..sorry.. I know I shouldn’t even be commenting that because this is a serious film..but hey. I call it as I see it.

The side story here is of course religion and how much these people hate each other over it..once again..I’m never that great with these story lines because I’m not religious and can’t imagine killing someone over it. But it’s gone on for thousands of years, and as we all know in Ireland, it was really heavy duty for about 30+ or so years until the ‘peace treaty signed about 17 yrs ago, with this time period truly being the height of it all. There is also a nice sub-plot of crooked police detectives “Sgt. Leslie Lewis” (Paul Anderson), “Capt. Sandy Browning” (Sean Harris) helping both sides in a way and the rest of a good supporting cast including Sam Reid as “Lt. Armitage” who is O’Connell’s commanding officer and seemingly the only person really looking out for him & on his side to find him. This is a rough movie, not altogether great, but it will keep you watching till the end.

Grade: C

Almost to the end..

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THE SALVATION (2014) IFC Films

Since this just came for a one week run here in L.A. a few weeks ago, I had the chance to catch it on at my favourite art-house theatre, the NuArt. But whoa.. what a film. I mean if one more thing happened to Mads Mikkelson’s character here. Well I just don’t think it would be humanly possible. To put it lightly..this is a dark dark film (yes pun intended) that just takes you places that I probably never want to visit again.

It’s a Western, but not like one you’ve ever seen before because it’s not just Cowboys & Indians here. It’s really like how it must have truly been because there were tons of immigrants coming from all over and settling in as cowboys, though in every Western you’ve ever seen, they just pretend that suddenly everyone was just a regular old southern boy without an accent drifting out West. ZZZzzzzz

Well this one is 1870’s America, the gold rush is on, and this peaceful Danish settler “Jon” (Mads Mikkelson) has been separated from his wife & son for 7 years and finally brings them out to be with him. Literally within an hour of being here, they are kidnapped, his wife raped & murdered & young son also murdered by two degenerates, one of them being a character named “Paul” (Michael Raymond–James). Jon sets out, with his brother “Peter”(Mikael Persbrant) to avenge their deaths and hunts them down and kills them, which then leads to the unleashing of notorious gang leader “Delarue” (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) coming after them as Paul was, unbeknownst to Jon, Delarue’s brother. The really weird townspeople then desert him in his hour of need because they don’t want to die, ends up most of them do. Eva Green is thrown in as a character named “Madelaine” who has her tongue cut out so she doesn’t speak..which doesn’t matter as she really can’t act anyways.. and then comes some really hard core horrible death scenes and basically anything that can go wrong for Jon does, until of course it doesn’t.

This isn’t a great film, it a super depressing one to be honest, but it’s also not horrible. Mads is quite good as a cowboy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan even better possibly as the villain, though you know my motto, you’re only as good a your villain..yeah that doesn’t apply here. Jonathan Pryce “Keane”, Eric Cantona “Corsican”, Sean Cameron Michael “Lester” and Jose Domingos “Raul Delgado” all offer good supporting characters. This film was definitely a mixed bag for me.

Grade: C

50 shades
50 SHADES OF GREY (2015) Focus Features/Universal Pictures

What was the big deal here is all I kept thinking about while watching this film. I thought I was going to be watching the second coming of Deep Throat or some really trumped up S & M film or something the way everyone was going on about it..and all I got was an actually very tame, quite badly done film about this guy, “Christian Grey” (Jamie Dornan) wanting to control this girl “Anatasia Steele” (Dakota Johnson). She’s a literature student who works in a hardware store (of course she does) and he’s a tormented handsome, self-made millionaire businessman..ZZZzzzz oh sorry I drifted off there for a minute just telling with that ridiculous storyline. They are like the new Twilight couple featuring some S & M sex vs. vampires & wolves. Control in the way of having her sign a contract before sex, because he doesn’t spend the night with anyone or have relationships..blah blah blah.. of he does end up doing so, she ends up letting him take her to the ‘The Red Room’ and with some reeaaally bad dialogue thrown in and possibly worse acting, you have the story in a nutshell. I don’t think two people with less chemistry together have made a movie about sex so badly before. And truly, there wasn’t anything hardcore about this. Why all the fuss?? So the guy has a dungeon like room full of sex toys.. a few sex scenes that seriously weren’t that far out there at all. I feel like I must have missed something..but if I did, that’s okay because I will probably miss the next few ones in the trilogy also unless they up their game and their acting ..a lot.

Grade: D

So now you see why I just threw them altogether in one review. I like some, but didn’t love any of them. And now I’m caught up, back and ready to go! 😀
@pegsatthemovies
peggyatthemovies.com

(See grading scale)

Review: “WHIPLASH” (2014)

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Before I saw this movie, someone said to me “Oh, it looks like a jazz version of “FAME”. A more mis-informed statement could not be ever spoken! A “Fame” remake this movie is not..If you love music, most especially jazz and have heard all those stories about the inner circle of the jazz greats..this is your movie.. With my basic knowledge of music and somewhat better at knowing those stories, I was able to follow along well. But “Whiplash” is a quite darkly, somewhat disturbing movie about 19 y/o “Andrew” played superbly here by Miles Teller, who eats, lives and breathes being a drummer, who wants so badly to be ‘remembered’ in this life as one of the world’s best he will do and put up with almost anything..again, almost..  His journey through what was at times, hard for me to watch as I’ve experienced people in my life like this, is what this movie is about..to be specific about a year of said journey at New York’s elite Conservatorium of Music, Shaffer Academy. And that is about the only thing that would hold a similarity to something like ‘Fame’ is both being held at a music academy schools.

This film begs the question of how far an artist should be pushed to achieve greatness. It’s a devastating portrait filled literally with blood, sweat and tears, leaving our hearts pounding as fast as the intense drumming. The music is quite extraordinary too. “Terence Fletcher” (J.K. Simmons) is the conservatorium’s god maker; we immediately sense how vital it is to Andrew that Fletcher notices him. What follows was for me the hard part of watching as It is the cruel, callous way Fletcher operates that gets under our skin as he offers some of the students words of encouragement, elicits some personal information only before using it against them with biting undercut. Simply said, he is a monster disguised as a teacher. Bullying and abuse come in many forms not just student to student, but teacher to student happens far more often than we realize and this is in large, what this movie is about. The humiliation, bullying, and violence towards all the students in his class are all part of the mix with chairs being hurled, faces slapped and students stripped down to size. Watching blood drip onto the drum kit from Andrew’s overtaxed fingers and hands, while close to exhaustion, is unsettling to say the least.  whiplash 1

Just as it seems as though Andrew’s fortunes are looking up, when he is singled out by Fletcher and simultaneously gets a date with the pretty student he’s had a crush on for sometime “Nicole” (Melissa Benoist) who sells popcorn at the movie theatre he frequents, though neither opportunity turns out as expected. In the background is Andrew’s father “Jim” (Paul Reiser), a disillusioned, failed writer who quietly supports his son but clearly doesn’t understand musical aspirations or what drives him.  Teller drums with the passion of a man literally possessed, the physicality of the performance is truly astounding. As for Simmons, his performance is breathtaking as we are captivated by every tiny expression on his distinctive features. The way he turns from violent abuser to a gentle man is truly quite impressive. Having been a fan of his since his turn in HBO’s ‘Oz’ ~ this is a role of a lifetime.  whiplash 2

It occurred to me during one devastatingly harder scenes to watch that this movie can truly be as tense as any psychological thriller, complete with it’s own type of terrifying moments.  But it also has the operatic highs that only music can bring. For instance that show-stopping sequence at the end of the film when the music wins, is the moment when our hearts can soar and think maybe..just maybe it was all worth it in the end as we applaud.

The performances by Teller and Simmons are the soul of this film and what truly make this movie what it is. I hope that they garner the attention they deserve come nomination time.

Grade: B+
After seeing this film a second time last night at an Oscar screening with Dir: Damien Chazelle & J.K.Simmons doing a fun, lively Q & A afterwards.. I gotta up the grade to an A ~ as this film and most definitely it’s performances are Oscar worthy. jk whiplash 1

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(See grading scale)