REVIEW: “DOCTOR SLEEP” (2019) Warner Bros.

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In “DOCTOR SLEEP” little Danny Torrance is now a grown up Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), and is still understandably haunted by the things that happened to him at the Overlook Hotel as a small child. Most days he drinks his hours away to silence the voices in his head. After one drug-fueled drinking rampage, waking hungover and getting ready to rob the last dollars from his one-night stands wallet – even upon seeing the fact that she has a toddler – but not even so much as blinking an eye over being such a degenerate, he gets interrupted by his still very present ghost mentor Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly). This all leads his decision to hop on a bus to go across the country to a new town and once there immediately meets good Samaritan Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis). Freeman, who inexplicably within minutes of meeting Dan, just up and pays for his room and board, then magically gives him a job as well. Oh! to be of this place where all lives are wonderfully and simply mended right? And yes, of course all this helps Dan get his life back together, as he ‘meets’ and connects with a young Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), through the chalkboard wall in the room as she ‘Shines’ just like he does and they exchange messages through this medium. Seemingly against his will (yawn), he ends up protecting her from a group of powerful psychics, lead by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who hunt young children with psychic powers in order to feed on them to make themselves live forever.  Oh how the plot thickens as in a twists of all twists (dripping sarcasm) in order to keep Abra (yes, as in Abra-ka-dabra) safe, Torrance will of course be forced to return to the place of all his nightmares, The Overlook and face his ghosts.

The first hour is spent to a certain extent, explaining ‘The Shining’ and what the intentions of the merciless cult-group The True Knot are. As we follow Dan Torrance as a middle-aged man plagued by all these horrific memories, they take liberties left and right rolling right thru a completely inconsistent tone of plot due to the mass sprawl of locational changes. One minute we’re in a sleepy town, the next a woodland area, and then all of a sudden eight years have been and gone. The zippy nature of the editing and bloated explanation results in zero feeling of terror and needles to say, the tension is non-existent.

The second act gives more of an explanation in detailed effect, of the who, what, how, and why’s of the cult group led by Rose. They show us how the group hunt the children and we get to know the some of the main characters that follow her from Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon), Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind), Barry the Chunk (Robert Longstreet) to the creepy Grampa Flick (Carel Struycken) and Silent Sarey (Catherine Parker). We also get a lot of recurring visuals (The naked Lady in the Bathtub for example) that were meant to be scary, but by the end, are just eye roll inducing.  While the acts of Rose and her group of cannibalistic crazies are horrific, most especially the not needed but much detailed kidnapping and killing of Bradley ‘Baseball Boy’ Trevor (Jacob Tremblay), the fact is, they just aren’t scary.  The absolute revolting nature of this heinous act doesn’t make you frightened, it repulses you, which doesn’t make for a good horror scare in the slightest.  It also makes you realize that all you have to do is change these characters to vampires and the ‘steam’ to blood, and you’ve got a typical tween vampire flick going for you here, with about the same embodiment of zest to the performances as well.  Ferguson, who shines so well in action flicks, comes off here as a gypsy Rose caricature channeling Stevie Nicks, while McGregor doesn’t come close to giving us the feels that child Danny Torrance gave us.  One point in particular, there is a ridiculous ‘Buffy the Vampire’ type fight sequence where a supernaturally charged Rebecca Ferguson takes out an axe-wielding Ewen McGregor in a martial arts type scenario that is so out of place in this film that holding in the laughter is difficult because they are trying to have us believe this is serious stuff.  The ridiculousness of scenes like this screeches throughout the film. There is however, one big stand out performance here in Kyliegh Curran, a superb young actress (whom I hope we see much more of in the future) who makes her character so believable and gives us her all.

The third and final act then arrives, and the entire story crumbles much like the Overlook itself. Plagued by an overshadowing sickness that ‘The Shining’ had produced. Nostalgia. Remember that time where Jack viciously chopped the bedroom door down with an axe? Or that moment where blood came hurtling through the hallways in slow motion? What about Room 237? The introductory swooping camera movement that Kubrick embraced whilst the Torrance’s drove to the hotel? The typewriter? Slowly walking up the stairs in a confrontational manner? The snow-covered hedge maze? The twins? No? You don’t remember? No worries as Director Mike Flanagan has got you covered. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, yet it must be handled with delicacy. The difference between imitating and homage is very fine, and unfortunately Flanagan settled for the former.

Sadly most of this film was just..meh. It lacked the nail biting atmosphere that ‘The Shining’ had in spades. It lacked a lot of fear of any kind really.  One can argue that it is wrong and unfair to compare the two films given the uniqueness of Kubrick’s vision, but Doctor Sleep invites these comparisons by constantly referencing The Shining in flashbacks, relying on much of Kubrick’s imagery to pedal its cheap scares.

Grade: C-

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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“DOCTOR SLEEP” IS OUT NOW IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE

 

REVIEW: “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT” (2018) Paramount Pictures

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Its almost impossible to make a good summer blockbuster right now – However, Chris McQuarrie accepted that mission and has fully succeeded. “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-FALLOUT” is a visual spectacle that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who loves a good, smart action film with beautifully done wide shots and a great storyline. But don’t blink as you watch, because the story comes at you fast, with flash modes and ulterior motives at every turn.

‘Fallout’ picks up two years after ‘Rogue Nation’ and we get a better insight into Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as a character and his motivations. We learn that although Ethan stopped the Syndicate, the Syndicate agents left alive now call themselves “The Apostles”. Due to a tough decision Ethan makes early on, the Apostles now have three balls of grade A plutonium, enough to make three nuclear bombs with strategic destinations plotted for each of them. And so begins our heroes globe trotting heroics to stop these nuclear disasters as it’s up to Hunt and his gang of IMF agents to find them before it’s too late. Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), all return and they’re joined by Henry Cavill’s no-nonsense CIA operative August Walker, Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) as his handler, and Rebecca Ferguson’s MI6 spy, Ilsa Faust is also back along for the ride.

And what a ride it is. A rather elaborate plot full of double / triple / quadruple crosses, treachery and assumed identities, take the team around the world in a whistle-stop tour of some famous cities. A frenetic car chase through the streets of Paris, a rooftop run through London and a helicopter ride from hell in Kashmir – all impress as do the cast, of particular fun is Vanessa Kirby’s mysterious White Widow.

And Tom …oh Tom, Tom, Tommy, damn, you have this action star thing down pat and do the genre huge justice here. Cruise is as reliable as ever and at 56 – yes I said 56 – he shows no signs of slowing down even if it might take him a little longer to recover from a battering these days. Sorry to call it out, but Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson needs to take page or two from Cruise’s handbook on how to be an actual action film star and make a good action movie. As for Cruise, whether it’s leaping from buildings, jumping from airplanes during a lightning storm or riding a motorbike the wrong way around the Champs-Élysées – he’s coolness personified and is the catalyst for another adrenaline fueled thriller that takes cinematic stunts to a new level. And for the most part, they are actually done by him – without a lot of CGI blah-ness thrown in. This is the real deal people. I applaud him and the crew for raising the bar. The man is a legend and honestly shows that CG is a long way off being as good or as exciting as live action scenes.

The bond of the team (Cruise, Ferguson, Cavill, Pegg and Rhames) is what makes this work and the chemistry of the cast is amazing. I loved Michelle Monaghan back as Julia in this film for the few scenes she has. The chemistry with Cruise is emotional and I love their story together and where it has gone. Henry Cavill too, is a welcome addition to the series and honestly steals some the film best moments. The bathroom fight scene is easily one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen. It was great to see him get his teeth into a different type of role. He doesn’t disappoint here.

I also loved that that for the first time they referenced the other sequels which was brilliant but for anyone who hasn’t seen the previous movies it will not go over their heads or is there the need to have seen them.

This film easily takes the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise to another level and proves that with a great cast, crew, director and writers, that sequels and series can progress the story and get even better. Hands down, “Mission: Impossible-Fallout” is easily the must see action film of the summer, possibly the whole of 2018.

Grade: A-
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Media Review Screening: Monday, July 22, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWS IN AUG 2018

REVIEW: “THE SNOWMAN” (2017) Universal Pictures

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“THE SNOWMAN” follows Norwegian detective, Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender). Harry has been struggling with drinking and is no longer given any cases when he reluctantly returns to the police force after receiving a note warning him that more women will end up dead. This all is stemming from an old serial killer case that still haunts him. Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) is transferred from Bergen, has her own personal reasons for getting involved in the case, and Hole ends up helping her with the investigation into the sadistic serial killer.

It seems the women the killer targets kinda have a link that they all have children. Or so it first seems, but it is actually that they have children who they won’t tell or don’t know who the father is. Which all seems a little bit strange at times, but I guess links a little bit to a plot if you really think about it. You get bored with thinking about it though, as things just get messier and crazier. With so many different things going on in an attempt to confuse the viewer and make them unsure of well what is actually going on altogether to be honest. I guess that is just one of the many problems with the film as it just has to many to really count or try to filter through. Though the fact that everyone is speaking English in Norway without even a nod to note that this is a film totally and completely based and filmed in Norway, is blinding. Remember how they did this with the Americanized version of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ – and while that was no winner of a film, it would win an Oscar up against this mess of a film.

I’m not sure what else there is to say on this review except to try to find out whom is responsible for this terribly done film version of one of the creepiest books I ever read. Is it Fassbender, whom for the most part I’m such a fan of but is dead of anything bearing performance here. Is it Rebecca Ferguson whom we had such high hope for after her fantastic performance in the Mission Impossible franchise, but here is just lacking any luster in her performance. Surely not J.K. Simmons as gazillionaire businessman Arve Stop, who seems to be doing some sort of attempt at a Scandinavian lilt-meets-evil-industrialist voice thing, or a lost-looking Val Kilmer wandering through a subplot as Rafto, Katrina’s father and ex-policeman who was murdered by the killer, as they are in it for two blink-and-you-missed-it scenes – though I will point out both are featured in a much larger way in the book. Or Chloe Sevigny as identical twins or Charlotte Gainsbourg as Harry’s ex-girlfriend Rakel who also has one of the most bizarrely bland love scenes ever filmed with Fassbender. Or is it simply the overly annoying roughly 600 shots of a snowman.

Again, I read the book some years back, and still with that, I could not figure out for the life of me what was happening in this film. No two scenes really connected with each other and I guess the topper would be my guest.. who at one point I heard a small snore come from. Yep, that about sums it up. I would truly give this film an F but for the fact it has some of the most beautiful scenery and roads filming I’ve seen in some time. Made me want to leave the theater immediately and go book a ticket to Norway.

What I do know is that Martin Scorsese’s name is on the film and so is director Tomas Alfredson and they both know better.

Grade: D
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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“THE SNOWMAN” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

REVIEW: “FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS” (2016) Paramount Pictures

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Set up beautifully in 1940’s New York and based on a true story, Florence Foster Jenkins tells the story of a truly awful singer (Meryl Streep), completely enveloped in her oddly closed world of a 1944 New York hotel. Pampered by her unsuccessful actor/husband St Clair Mayfield (Hugh Grant), a term we find out to use loosely as he is otherwise occupied in a completely different residence with his long-time girlfriend Kathleen (Rebecca Ferguson).
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Together with ex-actor Mayfield, the wealthy Florence is the co-star of the show at her self-owned “Verdi Club” where she has a non-speaking role enacting various ‘tableau’ scenes. But in the interests of following her dreams, she recruits the help of famous singing instructor Carlo Edwards (David Haig) and an enthusiastic, personable young pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg). Carlo becomes aware of what he is in for once she actually starts to “sing”, which is more like a cackling hen than an actual singing voice and starts to see how she has been deceived her entire life by the people who surround her, into thinking she is something she is not.

This film got on my nerves fairly early in the game and gradually got worse as it went along. Meryl Streep seems to just be coasting and going through the motions in her career right now, this being no exception to the rule. And while Hugh Grant is often quite unfairly criticized for playing Hugh Grant in every movie, here he actually turns a somewhat decent performance as once again though, a cad. Simon Helberg’s character is the most funny, for a bit, and gradually the quirkyness you thought funny for the first 20 minutes, grinds on you.
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While the film is not without it’s charm at points, it fell a little short for me on storyline. The acting was adequate, but I felt like we never really got to know or understand why it had gotten to the point it did on her life. I wanted just a touch more backstory. All in all, I can only recommend it to a certain niche of viewers as I’m sure some will find this a somewhat likable film.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening ~ Wednesday, August 10, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
In Nationwide Release as of Friday, August 12, 2016

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (2015) Paramount Pictures

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Yes.. yes.. yes.. The Missions are back on!! To say the continuing saga of Ethan Hunt carries on with a bang – would be putting it lightly.

A few things to note right off in this latest boot-up of the Mission Impossible franchise – 1. We are going rogue.. 2. Tom Cruise at 53 is the new 33 – I’m telling you – watching him doing these stunts is truly eye popping and 3. Rebecca Ferguson is a fantastic femme fatale bad ass – Hands down – no questions asked – she knocks it out of the park here.

I’m not going to go into full detail here as with all action films, as not only do you need to see it for yourself, but they don’t go for a big emotional point to the storyline..they go for the action and action you shall receive. In abundance.
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Rogue Nation opens on “Ethan Hunt” (Tom Cruise) hanging off the side of a plane, which has been notably played up as the holy-shite-Tom-Cruise-actually-did-that-himself stunt moment. And play up they should as once you hear the familiar theme music – whooosh…you fall right in step with the action.
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This time round the IMF team is on the track of ‘The Syndicate’ an evil group of agents whom are all listed as supposedly dead or MIA along with the fact that no one seems to believe they exist, leads us to understand quickly enough who the bad guys are and who the good guys are..or in the case of one character..it might beg the question..do we?

Simon Pegg back again as “Benji Dunn” adds the expected comic relief at the right intervals and is a fun watch here. Alec Baldwin as CIA naysayer “Alan Hunley” who believes The Syndicate might just be a figment of Ethan’s imagination, and who begs the question if the IMF is really relevant any longer as he feels they’ve more or less just been ‘lucky’ so far. Jeremy Renner “William Brandt” & Ving Rhames “Luther Sitckell” are both back and here to stay. Rebecca Ferguson as “Ilsa Faust” is truly the one who takes it all here. She is a breath of fresh air for the franchise, the right blend of strong and sexy – not knowing if she is friend or foe makes her all the more mysterious and carries in the movie well. My motto of ‘you’re only as good as your villain’ also comes across well with a notably beardless Sean Harris as baddie “Solomon Lane”.
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While Rogue Nation is most definitely an adrenaline ride fueled by high octane action sequences, it’s also wittier than past M.I. films with Cruise facial reactions to some of what’s going on let’s you in on the secret that yes..he knows how impractical it all seems.. but yet makes you feel as it’s not. There are great moments of comic relief mixed with suspense and a wonderful cast that has great chemistry with one another.

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Cruise might have been underappreciated in Edge of Tomorrow but it’s clearer than ever that Ethan Hunt is one of Cruise’s better signature roles and to that extent, just might be back. And to answer Baldwin’s character’s meta-question: Can Mission Impossible stay relevant in this new era of bigger and better-let’s outdo the next guy film? The answer is decidedly maybe. Ok..Definitely maybe. 😉

Grade: B-
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Screening: Monday, July 27, 2015 courtesy of Paramount Pictures
In wide release: Friday, July 31, 2015