REVIEW: “HOW IT ENDS” (2021) SXSW Online Film Festival

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Shot entirely during the pandemic, “HOW IT ENDS” takes on a delightfully quirky look of a one young woman’s journey of her last day on earth. While it was a bit chilling to note was how the streets of LA were essentially a ghost town, it definitely ended up playing in the movie’s favour. Being that the movie was very minimalistic due to pandemic restrictions, directors Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein use this to their advantage as it aptly adds to the general aesthetic of the idea that it’s all about to end.  

With the jist of the story being that an armageddon-type meteor is speeding towards a collision course with Earth and will extinguish all life as we know it. Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones), and her younger metaphysical version of herself (Cailee Spaeny), charmingly referred to as “YS,” take to the streets of Los Angeles on a journey to find one last party and instead find themselves on a journey of self-discovery as well. Initially, Liza has no interest whatsoever in attending this party and just wants to hang out by herself and get stoned, eat a pile of pancakes, drink some wine and let it all go. Liza’s only problem is well, Young Liza, who pressures her(self) to attend the Apocalypse Party being thrown by Mandy (Whitney Cummings).

How It Ends’ is an interesting and hilarious concept. Some of what makes this film so charming is the realization that until she set out on this journey, no one could see or knew about her ‘YS’, or so she thought. Running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way is all part of the fun and delight here. From a reconciliation with her mom (Helen Hunt), or realizing she wants to tell her ex-boyfriend Nate (Logan Marshall Green), that she really does love him — to hashing out a long overdue grudge with her friend Ali (Olivia Wilde), or stopping by her dad’s (Bradley Whitford), it’s all in a days work when it’s the last day on earth. By using characters and having a metaphysical younger version of themselves works hugely in the film stories favour as it turns out they meet others with the same along the way, only adds to the delight.

While Lister-Jones might be doing triple duty here as a writer/director and lead of the film, its truly Cailee Spaeny that carries us up and off, elevating the entire movie and delivering an impressive performance that I just couldn’t take my eyes off. Truly they are brilliant together, forming an aura of pure enjoyment and putting a smile on every viewers’ face. Keep an eye out for the standout cameos as well as so you don’t miss the appearances by: Finn Wolfhard, Logan Marshall-Green, Fred Armisen, Bradley Whitford, Sharon Van Etten, Olivia Wilde, Lamorne Morris, Helen Hunt, and Colin Hanks.

Honestly, if it ever comes down to the time where all life is about to end, and earth itself is about to cease to exist… you realize you’re left with nothing but yourself, and all the unfinished business you’ll need to deal with so you can die in peace. Doing something that you might regret later is an inevitability of life, but making amends with it shouldn’t be left to an extreme chance or to the very last moment when everything is about to end… and this is a message I can get behind.

Grade: B

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Review screening : Courtesy of 42 West PR and SXSW Film Festival

REVIEW: “THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2” (2019) Universal/Illumination

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“THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2” is another fun filled little romp for the kids.  With a few new additions to the cast, most notably Harrison Ford as farm dog Rooster.  But the biggest of all additions, a baby is added to the family much to the disgruntlement of our lead dog Max (Patton Oswalt).  This sequel actually divides our team into three smaller stories with a somewhat vague theme tying it all together.  But it works as you never feel you lost track of what is happening in any of them.

The first plotline involves Max’s owner Katie (Ellie Kemperer) getting married and having a little boy named Liam. Max, whose dislike of children is made very clear, falls in love at first sight and becomes very protective over Liam, to the point of scratching himself out of the anxiety he feels to the point of getting a dog cone.  The relationship that forms here is fun and it’s a dog and a baby – who can dislike that?

Max, Duke and the family end up going out to the country where they meet farm dog Rooster and to say in the least, Rooster is not impressed with ‘city-dog’ Max,  nor his cowardice at the farm animals.  And while the outcome might be predictable, it’s charming and sweet to watch as Rooster helps encourage Max to face his fears and have more confidence.

While the family is at the farm our second subplot comes into play.  It’s about my favourite little pet, Gidget (Jenny Slate) as she trying to retrieve a bumblebee toy Max gave her to guard while he is away. The problem is the toy is stuck in the home of  the crazy cat lady downstairs who literally fits the persona to a tee,  as she literally has dozens of cats.  She even talks the incredible Chloe (my other favorite pet), into giving her lessons on how to be a cat. This has some really fun comedic slapstick that made for some good laughs from the entire audience.

Our final plot centers around Snowball, the Kevin Hart voiced bunny who is convinced he is actually a super-bunny because of the way his owner plays with him. He meets a new doggie named Daisy (Tiffany Haddish). Daisy is upset because she saw a baby tiger get taken by a bad man at the circus. Snowball and the team of pets must save the tiger and restore order to the city.

The characters throughout Pet’s are adorable and there are enough laughs and heart to keep the interest level during the film. The  vocal performances are all good and the message on overcoming fears is really sweet.  The ending credits are also a must-see!!  I have no doubt The Secret Life of Pets 2 will make a boat-load of money but for once it is deserved.

‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ is fun, fast moving and best of all, kids and adults will both be entertained. P.S.  Cats RULE!! 🙂

Grade: B

@pegsatthemovoes

 

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, June 4, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal/Illumination

‘THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2’ IS IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2019

 

REVIEW: “UNCLE DREW” (2018) LIONSGATE

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Taking this Pepsi ad/web-series one step further, Director Charles Stone III turns “UNCLE DREW” into a full length 1 hr 43min run-time feature film. As someone who doesn’t really follow basketball, I might have only known who a few of the players were. Though even if you’ve never seen the Pepsi ad, you will catch on immediately that it is a lot of young players were made to look old, enhancing the effects by adding in Shaq as basically the basketball Wolverine. Besides that, this is a very familiar story-line of the forlorn seeking justice in the form of an underdog sports match. And so it goes ——

Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a basketball obsessed Foot Locker salesman whose dream to coach a tournament- winning street ball team. This dream is made all the more sacred due to the fact his longtime rival, Mookie (Nick Kroll) swatted out his game winning 3 pointer in a high school final match up, which he has never lived-down. Then to top it off, Mookie not only steals his prize player Casper (Aaron Gordon), but his team and his materialistic girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish). Dax has spent his life savings on Harlem’s Rucker Classic registration entry fee and is desperate to get another team when he learns from Louis (Mike Epps) and Angelo (J.B. Smoove) about the legendary street player Uncle Drew. Dax finds the now 70-something Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving), a street-ball legend who famously played in the same tournament 50 years earlier. Uncle Drew agrees to play for Dax if he can recruit his own roster of players. The adventure begins as the duo road trips to convince Drew’s old teammates to join the team. So off we go and meet Preacher (Chris Webber), wheel-chair bound Boots (Nate Robinson), Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neil) and the legally-blind Lights (Reggie Miller).

The first third of this movie had quite a few good jabs at laughter and puns with some good comedic timing moments. From there it seemed to turn itself more into trying prove itself as a ‘good family film’. And while it somewhat succeeds at that, although having Kroll play the same role he always plays, and casting Lil Rel as a Kevin Hart type character – makes it fall somewhat short in this aspect as you can’t help but compare the two. Acting isn’t really a strong point here as per usual, basketball players aren’t really the best of actors. But it doesn’t matter as in essence, I don’t think this movie set out to be anything along those lines of best actor, best film etc… I think it set out to be exactly what it is, a little bit funny, cute portrayal that shows family isn’t always just blood relatives, it is what you make it to be by whomever steps up to the plate.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, June 26, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment
“UNCLE DREW” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWING IN JULY 2018

REVIEW: “LOVING” (2016) Focus Features

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“LOVING” tells us the long overdue, true story of Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga).
The story takes us through the years of what their lives were like while going through the some of the process of their plight to just want to be legally married in 1958’s deeply segregated southern state of Virginia. This was a time and place where this wasn’t legal nor could inter-racial couples even date.
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This story is silent, yet strong in its portrayal of the real-life interracial couple at the center of the 1967 Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia. It’s moving at times and loudly states the facts bluntly: love is love is love ~ and that should be enough.

And yes, while it can be quietly brilliant and amazing at times, it does have holes in the story that could have been filled. Mildred is portrayed at the beginning as being a doe-eyed, non-speaking, almost non-existent part of the beginning of this young relationship that in 1958 would have had racial consequences and problems within both communities. None of which is really shown at all until the last 20 minutes of the film when Richard finally finds a brick wrapped in paper on his car seat, mind you not thrown, just lying there. They missed some opportunities to really show us what the racial hardships might have been instead choosing to almost make the legal battle look far too easy with their lawyers Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass) on whom the casting here might have been a bit of mis-step for me (not to mention their clunky and too “cutesy” dialogue).
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What IS so very important about this film, and a big factor that not just everyone, but specifically why young people need to see this so they understand what our country was like back in the day. For gay people who have struggled to love whom they choose, they need to see that their struggle was not unique and needs to be supported. And that the bible was also used against interracial marriages. And yes, that struggle is struggle and unless we want the clock turned back, so we can “make America great again”, we must be ever vigilant.
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The most poignant and beautiful point of the film came for me towards the ending, in scenes that were so quiet, yet so powerful, showing that even though they were faced with obstacles set over and over in their path, they were resolved to show that their love and union was unaffected by those outside forces, and continued to move through everyday duties such as mowing the lawn, their children playing, doing the dishes, on the very day no less, that they receive the phone call that simply changed everything. It simply touches and yet rocks you at the same time.

The performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga while well done, once again, we have in an Edgerton, an Aussie and Negga who is Irish/Ethiopian, trying to pull off down-in-the-back-bayou southern Virigina accents which yes again, can be outrighted spotted in parts. (Side note: Truly, when was the last time we actually heard Edgerton speak in his regular accent? I can’t even remember if I have at this point). And truly, no matter how small the role, I love when Michael Shannon as LIFE magazine photographer Grey Villet shows up in anything.
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If you want high dramatics, this is not your movie. I left the theatre feeling overwhelmed by the need to vote for our next U.S. President and make sure it is someone who will appoint progressive and unbiased Supreme Court Justices. I think most will understand that feeling, especially with so many people’s rights hanging precariously in the balance right now as it did then.
If you are looking for a touching, loving story that truly reflects so much on today’s times and the change that was accomplished by this one law that didn’t just change their lives, but the lives of millions of people around the world with whom it still affects today, this is your film and a film for all to see and truly reflect on.

Grade: B-
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Review Screening: Thursday, October 27, 2016 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Meetup
NOW PLAYING IN THEATRES NATIONWIDE