Spirit Awards Review Nominee Screenings – week one

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So I am a member of Film Independent and every year they do a two-week long jaunt of screenings of all the Spirit Award Nominees. As a lover of Indie films, these two weeks are quite heavenly as not only are the screenings just a short distance from me, but let me see and open my eyes to many films that you don’t always get a media screening invite for. It gave me personally an extra benefit this year as I was quite ill, especially these past few months and missed quite a few of screenings I did have. So onward with brief thoughts and grades on everything I’ve seen so far. Mind you, I did miss some of these even, as not only do they do a whole block of them on weekends as in four in a row – I had a medical time-out for most of the week. Luckily, many of the films are luckily on Netflix, Prime or Hulu – and as voters are also provided with links to watch all of nominated films. But truthfully, watching films on a laptop just seriously isn’t how they are meant to be viewed now is it. So with that in mind – here we go. (following in the format of the Film Independent Screening Awards schedule)

Day One:
“SORRY TO BOTHER YOU” Dir: Boots Riley

I was really loving the first part of this film as it was satire sharp, imaginative and funny. But not only does it run too long, but that bizarro left turn it takes in the last third of the movie will surely leave most as bewildered as I was.
Grade: C-

Day Two:
“SHIRKERS” Dir: Sandi Tan

This was a great little women-driven documentary that takes on a journey of a lost film, a strange relationship that made that happen, and all the friends along the way. But maybe it’s the oddness of all of it put together that works so well.
Grade: B

“LEAVE NO TRACE” by Debra Granik

If you asked me if I thought I would enjoy a film about a man (Ben Foster) and his 13-yr. old daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) who have been living off the grid in an urban park of all places, and what happens when they make a single mistake and get caught, well I would’ve have probably laughed a bit and given you a ‘NO’ in response. As it was, I loved this film. It was taunt with drama, and the age old question of what is right or perceived as so, and what is wrong, again, perceived as so.
Grade: A

“HEREDITARY” by Ari Astor

While the film wasn’t scary per se for me, nor a particularly good horror film by any stretch, it did stitch itself together enough to follow along and be entertaining mostly because Toni Collette took it there. I had forgotten about Gabriel Byrne somewhat over the years, but his supporting role along with Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff topping off with good performances of their own, helped bring this film up a notch to be sure.
Grade: C

“ROMA” Dir: Alfonso Cuarón

A completely different take on the trials and tribulations in the life of a maid in to a rather dis-functional wealthy family in 1970’s Mexico City. While Yalitza Aparicio is a breath of fresh air to be sure, along with Marina de Tavira and well, truly the whole cast, I do think it’s a bit over-hyped in the ‘how good it is’ department. Mind you it IS good and I will leave it at that.
Grade: B

Day Three:

“PRIVATE LIFE” Dir: Tamara Jenkins

Both Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti give a completely believable ordeal of what one couple goes through to have a child – including numerous fertility ordeals, tests, fake surrogates, family surrogates, money and most of all their own lives and relationships, in a series of choices that can only make one cringe at times as to what some will choose to endure.
Grade: C-

“THE FAVOURITE” Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

Let me just shout about how much and how long I’ve loved Olivia Colman. I always felt she was under-utilized so much or not given enough credit for her work. Here, she finally gets her lead role that will no doubt finally change all that and bring her an award. Alongside Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as her supporting, they do a commendable job of making this odd story come to life. While I didn’t love the film overall, the performances were so strong. Even Nicholas Hoult dons the old British wig and make-up to do a fun spin here as the strangest of cads. All said and done, just give Olivia her due already and be done with it.
Grade: C+

Day Four

“MADELINE’S MADELINE” Dir: Josephine Decker

I tried very hard to find a redeeming quality of this film and I just really didn’t find one. It was all over the place with nonsensical scenes cutting back and forth to add up nothing of what makes a film flow from scene to scene. It completely lacked any sense as you didn’t know if Molly Parker’s character was wanting Madeline (Helena Howard) to be crazy or making her crazy. All in all, it just lacked any and all of the Drama/Mystery/Thriller it is categorized as.
Grade: D-

“MINDING THE GAP” Dir: Bing Liu

As we know not all documentaries are going to be a pleasant, happy experience. This one however, made me feel as though I was watching a long drawn out episode of Teen Mom. And while I’ve never actually watched that show, I’m going to guess if you add in their boyfriends and skateboards, you’ve got it down pat. Enough said.
Grade: D-

“FIRST REFORMED” Dir: Paul Schrader

Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried both give good performances here and once again, without that this would be a truly hard film to sit through in it’s entirety. I just wish the movie didn’t drag so much for so long in many different parts. It’s seems as it’s trying to be a social commentary on despair, climate change, torment and tragedy all wrapped up in a bow that you see the ending coming right at you by the 30th minute leaving nothing to chance.
Grade: C

Day Five:

“If Beale Street Could Talk” Dir: Barry Jenkins

While I wasn’t Moonlight’s biggest fan, I did find Beale Street to be a far better film to be sure. I still didn’t love it as it left a lot of questions unanswered for me that I wanted to know and made it feel incomplete to me. While Kiki Lane and Stephan James are the leads, for me it was all about Regina King and Michael Beach (who is all of a sudden in so many projects and I love this fact) who really brought home the acting. And while so much of this hit hard, there was just still too much I wanted to know more about.
Grade: C+

And that’s all I’ve seen at this point – but I’ve still this weeks schedule and to make up some of last week’s also. So please come back as I will hopefully be posting more often again.

@pegsatthemovies

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REVIEW: “DEADPOOL 2” (2018) 20th Century Fox

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So yes, in case somehow you’ve been stuck under a rock or living in Wakanda and you’ve missed all the wonderful promos leading into the release of this film, yes, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) as his alter-ego DEADPOOL are back for another round. And while the laughs and action are still there, your going to be hard pressed to find a movie more over the top than “DEADPOOL 2”. Director David Leitch takes this one to a whole new level entirely and it works namely because the violence here is just creative vs. all blood, guts and gore. And sure, it defies all logic most of the time, but you can’t help but laugh at the zingers being thrown at you left and right throughout and Reynolds’ charm is undeniable.

We come into the film with Williams having settled into something resembling normalcy, kinda right where you expected him to be – spending his days dispatching villains now that he can with those mutant healing powers – they allow him to recover from gunshot wounds or worse. His nights are spent with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), the love of his life. But some terrible things happen, leaving a depressed Deadpool to crash on the couch at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters making for some hilarious camp X-Men jokes fall in to place.

We have a mix of some of the old friends, the CGI Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), and of course our favourite taxi-driver-wanna-be-super-hero Dopinder (Karan Soni). But we also have a whole new fun group come into play, albeit for some it’s not for long journey – but Peter (Rob Delaney), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), Vanisher (Brad Pitt), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), and Black Tom Cassidy (Jack Kesy) add a fun plot point to the whole film. They are all part of the newly recruited/dubbed ‘X-Force’ group, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but sadly and hysterically I might add, they are gone in quick succession. My personal favourite and one of the last standing through it all, is bad-ass Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose superpower is undeniably “luck”. Our villians could be one of three very different people at various times throughtout. Cable (Josh Brolin) comes into to try to kill Russell aka Firefist (Julian Dennison), who might or might not be ready to step into villian shoes in a big way, or can we call the creepy Headmaster (Eddie Marsan), the biggest villian of the film. That will be for you to decide and see what happens as telling more of this story just defeats the purpose of the fun you will have while watching it. Also, there are cameo moments galore and I hope no one ruins them for you beforehand because they are just plain fun! While I wasn’t crazy about this storyline in comparison to the first one, the one-line zingers are comedy gold. Pay attention as they go fast..very fast.

That being said, go into this movie knowing that it is a campy, corny, over the top superhero/action/comedy that is just about crazy shooting sequences and one-liners, and you’ll be fine. Do not go into this movie expecting deep plot, meaningful conversations among characters, or anything remotely resembling a serious action or drama movie – because that’s not what it’s all about. And yes, this one features the best post credits scene EVER – so don’t make the silly mistake of walking out when the film is over..stay for both sequences..you will be glad you did.

Grade: B+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, May 14, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
DEADPOOL 2 WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE/WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018

REVIEW: “MAD MAX:FURY ROAD” (2015) Warner Bros.

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From the moment you hear Tom Hardy’sMax Rockatansky” croak out the words ‘My world is fire and blood’ you know you are in for a monumental whirlwind of a ride as the world of ‘Max Max:Fury Road’ unfolds on the screen before you. What follows will have you feeling as though you’ve been sucker punched in the gut, but in all the right ways. I left the theatre breathless and two hours later I still don’t think I was breathing properly.

It’s been three decades, 1985 to be exact, since we last saw the Road Warrior known as Mad Max, then being played by Mel Gibson, and from minute one-this film is a methane-fueled thrill ride that only gives you a minute or two to breathe in between the non-stop, rollercoaster post-apocalyptic relentless action of this return trip to the world of George Miller’s MAD MAX.
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And yes, Charlize Theron as one-armed “Imperator Furiosa” just absolutely kills it.
She’s the immovable object AND the irresistible force at the same time. I mean when was the last time you had a such a woman of action, and one armed to boot. Never. Her death-stare is truly like a thousand war-engines revving up. Axle grease used as war paint. Every man’s doom as her and Hardy have one of the screen’s most powerful man-on-woman fights and at no moment does one ever think that Theron/Furiosa is at a disadvantage against him as her opponent.
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Max’s inner demons are what haunts him this time round. He’s lost his wife and young daughter and it’s that little girl’s flashbacks accusing him of failing to save them that keeps appearing to haunt this guilt-feeling Max to the point that he lets his guard down just enough to get captured by “Immortan Joe” (Hugh Keays-Byrne) the over-lord of the citadel in this futuristic bleak wasteland, who dispenses precious water to his followers (quick shoutout to the California drought here ha!) all the while raising a troupe of ghoulish young men called the “War Boys.” The Boys, thinking Valhalla awaits them when they die so they can commit heinous crimes on Joe’s behalf.
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What drives this films plot is when Furiosa decides to go off course with an Immortans War truck along with his best five breeders aka wives “Toast the Knowing” (Zoe Kravitz), “The Splendid Angharad” (Rosie Huntington Whiteley), “Capable” (Riley Keough), “The Dag” (Abbey Lee) & “Cheedo the Fragile” (Courtney Eaton) to make it back to her childhood home ‘The Green Place’. Joe sends his War Boys after her including “Nux” (Nicholas Hoult) who just happens to have his ‘human blood bag’ aka Max strapped to the front of his vehicle in a chase scene that can only be described as sheer motor madness.
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There is not one but three different factions chasing them at times in the the most crazy of action sequences as we go from car chases to fist fights to foot pursuits and then we go back and do it all over again. It’s like the spin cycle of the washing machine is going full blast and giving us with perfect timing, a few moments here and there to catch our breath.

Neither Hardy nor Theron speak much through the first 30 minutes as they are to focused on just surviving. Hardy in yet another voice not his own, only really gives us a few grunts in the first hour, so Theron’s Imperator Furiosa seems almost chatty patty in comparison.
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As I don’t want to give away the whole plot as what I’ve described is really only the first 15 minutes or so of the film and it’s something that just must be seen spoiler free for yourself. And not on DVD or your laptop or your phone..you NEED to watch this in all it’s glory as it’s meant to be seen, on the biggest screen available to you with loud booming sound or you will miss even the crazy maniacal guitarist that would make even the biggest speed metal fan need earplugs as he plows along the desert in pursuit with Joe. Trust me on this one.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two things to end with here. One: the #GirlPower in this film is truly something to behold. Every single female character holds their own and I give huge kudos on this. Two: George Miller with this film simply raises the bar on everything cinematic being released thus far this year. CGI might be great for the Marvel or X-Men and it IS all fun and good, but there is NOTHING like the mastery brilliance that can take the place of watching live action human element of feeling as one – riding along with chainsaw wielding madman sliding across car hoods, crawling on the outside of fast moving vehicles or fear of being plucked out of said moving vehicles by crazed maniacs swinging from high velocity poles. It’s absolutely brilliant and made me giddy throughout the whole movie.

As Nux so aptly puts it “What a Lovely Day”

Grade: A+
@pegsatthemovies
Screening at the Arclight Theatre, Hollywood Wednesday, May 13th,2015
MAD MAX:FURY ROAD WORLDWIDE RELEASE DATE: FRIDAY, MAY 15TH, 2015

RATINGS SCALE: A = OSCAR-WORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE; C = AVERAGE; D = NOT RECOMMENDED; F = SKIP IT ENTIRELY (+ OR – GIVES IT AN EDGE UP OR DOWN)