Dallas Movie Screening

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Friday, November 26, 2021

House of Gucci



“House of Gucci” is the second Ridley Scott film to be released in the last couple of months. The first, “The Last Duel,” released in early October, is fantastic. It’s a medieval epic, reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” that sucks the viewer in with its presentation of the same story told from three perspectives. Unfortunately, this review isn’t about that movie. Those hoping for a double whammy of greatness are going to have to check their expectations at the door because “House of Gucci” is, in a word, awful.

I can’t think of a single thing I liked about this movie – I guess the set design and costumes were ok. “House of Gucci” is a film that feels simultaneously too long and hastily made. Scott jumps around with questionable edits and random jumps in time. It’s almost like this is a heavily edited version of a much longer epic. Perhaps this will be another “Kingdom of Heaven” situation and we’ll eventually see a much better director’s cut somewhere down the road. Although, I can’t imagine sitting through a longer edit of this mess.

The jarring edits and illogical time jumps are only one part of the whole of this abysmal picture. This feature’s length, nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes, looms over the viewer’s head as Scott drags us through the rise and fall of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at the hands of his wife, Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga). Rounding out the rest of the Gucci family are Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), his uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino), and his cousin Paolo (Jared Leto). Leto’s make-up job looks fantastic – he’s completely unrecognizable in his role.

No one gives a good performance here. Considering the cast, this is close to unbelievable. Yet, these are some of the most ridiculous/horrific portrayals that I have ever seen. Each actor presents their character with outrageous Italian accents. These accents are so bad you can only be left wondering who on the set thought they were going to come across as serious portrayals. The performances themselves frequently delve into over-the-top histrionics, as if each performer is hoping for a Razzie nomination for their work.

Scott is just presenting a bunch of events to the audience. There is never any build-up to what leads to the eventual murder. One second Maurizio and Patrizia seem very happy together then in the next scene Maurizio publicly belittles Patrizia and suddenly can’t seem to stand the sight of her. A former lover is randomly introduced in the previous scene, implying this is the cause of the behavior shift. However, the change is unnaturally abrupt and feels completely out of character.

Salma Hayek portrays a television fortune-teller named Pina that Patrizia frequently visits. Her character comes across as randomly inserted into the story. It’s not until the final scenes that we understand her significance to the Gucci family. There’s little to no development of Hayek’s character or any sort of natural development to the pair’s relationship. I was certainly left wondering why Pina would get involved the way she did.

“House of Gucci” was one of the year-end releases I was most looking forward to seeing. Unfortunately, it’s a bitter disappointment. Good luck to anyone willing to attempt a viewing of this in the theater. It’s long and painful to sit through.

(Review by Bret Oswald)







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House of Gucci



Director: Ridley Scott

Studio: United Artist Releasing/MGM

House of Gucci is a downright crime-thrilling spectacle!


People have mixed feelings whether some films will be a hit or a miss, regardless of them being Oscar contenders circling around social media and the news outlets. People are going to think it’s a good movie, but later change their opinions about any film in particular. They would ask whether who knew crime-thriller films can be so anticipating to those who have brought a lot of Oscar buzz on this film along with several other films that have been Oscar contenders for the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony. Just to be on the safe side, this film contains lots of violence, strong language, dark-thrilling tones, and some nudity. Director Ridley Scott fully commits on completing another film slated for this year’s release and that is House of Gucci. The film features the stars Lady Gaga and Adam Driver.

House of Gucci follows a young woman and outsider named Patrizia Reggiani who marries a man named Maurizio Gucci, the grandson of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, to make her way to the Italian rich label. Though, the relationship troubles the two as her big problem is that due to her being an outsider not being fit for a huge controll of the Gucci heir, her unscrupulous ambition begins to unravel the Gucci legacy and mystery as her romance with Maurizio triggers a reckless plethora of betrayal, decadence, thriller, revenge, and murder.

Singer and actress Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) receives her meatier, protagonist role as female outsider Patrizia Reggiani while Adam Driver (Marriage Story, Star Wars sequel trilogy) is given his supportive role as Maurizio Gucci, Reggiani’s husband and the grandson of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci. Gaga is beautiful, dignified, subtle, and more serious in her role with suspenseful twists as the film progresses, fighting for her own honor and glory against all odds. Her performance gives me some guidance to learn how and what any ordinary actor or actress can do on the set from start to finish. From my ways of viewing this, basically, she is like the female James Bond. Even more so, Adam Driver is also great, supporting Gaga's side behind her back. At first, he seems like a ladies’ man to some female actresses based on his previous films, but overall, he looks like he is having the time of his life as he took his role more seriously and cunning but with a side of comedy and ambition being added. And what stands out is the stunning chemistry between Gaga and Driver that references the past relationship between Kim Kardashian and Kanye West respectively.

Based on the book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, written by Sara Gay Forden, Ridley Scott is the director of the film, marking this his second directorial duty in 2021 following The Last Duel. To those who don't know Scott, he is one of the legendary filmmakers in the world. His directorial credits on his movie resume include 1979’s Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and The Martian. As director for this film, he proves once again that an English director is one of those cinematic-driven forces on Hollywood that manages to make the films of the big studios interesting productions, but at the same time, his films are spectacular enough to become a crowd-pleaser to both fans and critics all over of any Hollywood cinematic productions.

This film is much like a gangster film, possibly due to having Italian characters in it as if this is a film featuring the Italian Mafia. Despite the news about the real-life Gucci family’s disgust and disapproval about this film, the production has all its values, the characteristics, the elements, and the basics of the Gucci family and a Ridley Scott flick, but the story is too emotionless and empty. On the upside, the setting and the cinematography have brought a lot of vision for a real-life family of a founder of any business. As with many similar events that have happened, Scott is trying his best to bring out the strong acting Gucci cast while trying to be truly accurate to the Gucci family history. The perspectives on this case are relatively different not only between the participants but also between those who discuss and interpret the events, both now and in the Gucci family history, but which is something that needs more work than it meets the eye. The pacing and the time lengths are also the biggest issues.

The rest of the acting cast of the Gucci family really played the game really well. We have Oscar winners Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) as Maurizio’s uncle Paolo, Jeremy Irons (Disney’s The Lion King, Reversal of Fortune) as Maurizio’s father Rodolfo, and Al Pacino (The Godfather, Scent of a Woman) as Maurizio’s other uncle Aldo Gucci. The film also includes Oscar nominee Salma Hayak (Frida) as Pina Auriemma, Jack Hutson (American Hustle) as Domenico De Sole, Reeve Carney (Penny Dreadful) as Tom Ford, and French actress Camille Cottin (Stillwater) as Paola Franchi.

House of Gucci is ok, just a typical movie with nice feminist cinema root to it, though it’s very hard to watch as this film clocks in at 157 minutes. I wasn’t keen to try this, but I think the director and the main cast of the Gucci family really outshine themselves onscreen, but Lady Gaga killed it all as a leading actress as she is who or what really makes this film fascinating to enjoy that eventually became one of the leading frontrunners for the Oscar nomination for acting. At first, almost everything else is glamorous, but the uncomfortable storytelling and the unconventional downfalls from this film are highly preventable to see, even the director can’t save the mess.

GRADE: C

(Review by Henry Pham)







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Encanto



Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard

Studio: Disney

Disney’s Encanto twinkles the magic and music for children and families.


It appears that the Walt Disney empire continues to grow as this film marks the 60th animated feature of the enduring Walt Disney Animation Studios classic lineup, spearheading the legacy and the animation interest for both critics and audiences. Directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard decided to head on over to the studio’s animation division to helm this musical, magical classic tale that will take the fans on a magical journey to the magical worlds of South America. The film features the voice ensemble cast of Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Angie Cepeda, Diane Guererro, Jessica Darrow, Carolina Gaitán, and Wilmer Valderrama.

Disney’s Encanto takes place in a fantasy world of Columbia and centers on Mirabel Madrigal, a young Colombian teenage woman who deals with the frustration of being the only member of her family without any magical powers. However, she soon discovers that magic is in danger and she must go on a perilous journey to save her family and their home when their magic is on the verge of disappearing permanently.

Actress Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) is the voice of Mirabel Madrigal, a young teenger being the only one in the extended family who doesn’t have or possess any magical powers, leaving her dreadfully frustrated by her peers. As a voice actress, Beatriz is born of the role and she deserves to do lots of animation work as an actress. She even treats her own character as if she is having fun in her role regardless of whether she is good at acting or singing or both.

The story, the animation, and the visuals are highly well-done, thanks to the crackling team of animators and directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard with a license to kill, bringing a lot of colors and a variety of beautyness for the characters, the Madrigal’s house, and the spark from their magical powers. Some marvelous details on the costume designs, the music numbers coming from Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), and the production design are well-lubricated for that Columbian subject matter. To add to that positive vibe when it comes to storytelling, the film’s subject carries the main themes of family acceptance, reestablishing its harmony, learning to appreciate one another, and even celebrating one another's qualities, whether or not they are extravagant or simple. The directors know that each character in the Madrigal family gets their own personality, which is the main ingredient for character developments. And to top it all off, Encanto isn’t just a story, it’s all about family, music, and magic. With every spell of magic being put together, it’s all about the community coming together to rebuild what’s lost and learn what they can do to fortify one another in the process along the way.

The film bears a striking resemblance from Disney-Pixar’s Coco due to the family themes, the Mexican/South American settings, and the music being the center of attention focally, given the fact that the film’s composer Germaine Franco provided additional music compositions for Pixar’s Coco. His music and the composition score of those music numbers (written by Lin-Manuel Miranda) are astonishing, fitting the genre for the Columbian cultures and boundaries. As the studio continues to grow in terms of diversity, Disney has reached new, greater heights for more diverse representation for its animated features, including recent films like Moana, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Pixar’s Coco.

The rest of the ensemble voice actors portraying their family roles in the Madrigal family are exemplary and superlative to fit the tradition of casting Columbia/South American actors in the Columbian-centered films. Here, we have María Cecilia Botero as Mirabel’s grandmother Abuela Alma, John Leguizamo (John Wick, Ice Age films) as Uncle Bruno, Angie Cepeda as Mirabel’s mother Julieta, Diane Guererro (Netflix’s Orange is the New Black) as Isabella, Jessica Darrow as Luisa, Carolina Gaitán as Aunt Pepa, Mauro Castillo as Uncle Felix, Adassa (in her acting debut) as Dolores, Rhenzy Felizas (Marvel's Runaways) as Mirabel’s cousin Camilo, and Wilmer Valderrama (Handy Manny, The 70s’ show) as Mirabel’s father Agustín. And lastly, we have Disney mainstay Alan Tudyk (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen) as a toucan.

With the cast, the colors, the music, and the magic being just right, Disney’s Encanto is a wondrous flick, clocking in at least 100 minutes. I really loved it, every scene and sequence right there in front of my eyes. This is probably one of the greatest films I ever watched in 2021. The directors, the animators, and the voice cast (mainly Stephanie Beatriz) truly know how animated films and musicals work on so many levels. This movie is deeply a must, no joke, it’s a guarantee from me. As a die-hard Disney fan, this film clearly recognizes the potential for its animation roots to reach family and friendly audiences on their seats over the holidays with this Thanksgiving release and on Disney+. One more thing, this film is theatrically paired with the short film Far From the Tree, written and directed by Natalie Nourigat, which features a strict but loving raccoon parent who struggles on to protect its family and offspring from harm and danger.

GRADE: A+

(Review by Henry Pham)







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Far From the Tree



Director: Natalie Nourigat

Studio: Disney

Short Film Review: Disney’s Far From The Tree


Like humans, animals have feelings and souls too. This film brings back nostalgic memories from the classic Disney animated films like Bambi, The Lion King, and The Jungle Book and the full-color, three-stripe animated cartoon Flowers and Trees, which garnered animator Walt Disney the first presented Best Animated Short Film Oscar in 1932. Animator and director Natalie Nourigat decided to step away from Disney’s Short Circuit to develop and helm this short film in the ways of returning the shorts back to theaters, rather than streaming services, continuing Disney’s (and Pixar’s) tradition of releasing silent short films in front of feature films for much more amusement and enhancement.

Disney’s Far From The Tree, written and directed by Nourigat, features a strict but loving raccoon parent who struggles to protect its family and offspring from harm and danger. With danger never being too easy to face, the cub must soon learn the importance of family, safety, precaution, and of course, survival.

Having no dialogue as part of the tradition for Disney/Pixar theatrical shorts, this short is completely hand-drawn, using the state-of-the-art software technology to create a hand-drawn looks and styles which really brought the confusion for the movie viewers to believe that this short film is made by hand and CGI rather than just actually being by CGI entirely. In addition, lots of people, including animation fans, have been missing this classic animation style that has been missing for a very long time for the American-mainstream animation due to CGI being introduced and taking over most hand-drawn animators’ jobs. For this one, this latest short film is like a breath of fresh air and traveling back through time.

This story and the climax of this short bear the similar emotional effect like the previous Oscar-winning Disney shorts Paperman (shown in front of Wreck-It Ralph) and Feast (shown in front of Big Hero 6) due to the tone and the strong behavior of those characters, giving the feel of the Hero’s Journey procedure. It also mirrors the feature’s themes of family, concern, and the safety of their home in its captivating story of any animal protecting their loved ones and their home from danger and anything harmful.

Disney’s Far From The Tree is a heartwarming seven-minute short film. It will be released theatrically in front of Disney’s Encanto on Thanksgiving Day. Nourigat is a great director and a great lecturer on sharing the most powerful voice of how humans and animals could live their life and purpose in peace without being disturbed by someone or something that puts them at risk. Just like animals, trees, and other living creatures on the planet, she certainly knows we live in a messier world out there all around and we need to be concerned and cautious in our surroundings. This is something we need to learn from our parents and try to be better with our own [future] kids with such a teary story about caution and devastation.

GRADE: A+

(Review by Henry Pham)







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Friday, November 19, 2021

Ghostbusters: Afterlife



Director: Jason Reitman

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Ghostbusters: Afterlife shoots and scores over its predecessors, but not the classic version.


Ghostbusters fans and audiences have been waiting for this long-awaited direct sequel for years after witnessing the critical and box-office failure of the recent, god-awful Ghostbusters reboot. Jason Reitman, the son of the legendary film director Ivan Reitman who has directed the original Ghostbusters film and its 1989 sequel, decides to take his father’s footsteps to helm this sequel, featuring the franchise’s newer cast of Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, and Paul Rudd.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife focuses on a single mother and her two children who are moving to a small town in Summerville, Oklahoma, where they experienced a series of unexplained earthquakes and other supernatural events before discovering their deep connection to the original Ghostbusters and their grandfather's secret legacy he left behind.

Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Mckenna Grace (Disney Channel’s Crash & Bernstein) received their main roles as Trevor and Phoebe while actress Carrie Coon (HBO’s The Leftovers, Fargo) appears on their side as Callie, a Trevor and Phoebe’s single mother who is revealed to be daughter of the original Ghostbusters member Dr. Egon Spengler. All three are great as they are doing their best to act and make themselves comfortable when appearing in a scary movie or supernatural television series (like Stranger Things, Child’s Play, etc.), for which is something Wolfhard, Grace, and Coon took much influence on. Even though acting is difficult in many scenes in the film, they both look like they’re getting used to it as they want their characters to be well-characterized and useful to the plot under Jason Reitman’s behest.

The film slowly turns its head towards the “Sexiest Man Alive'' Paul Rudd (Marvel’s Ant-Man, Avengers: Endgame) who receives his comedic role as Phoebe’s teacher Gary Grooberson under Jason Reotman’s wishes to add some comedy for the film’s background and for some story structure buildups for the other three main actors onscreen. He’s very funny and talented in the film as he tries his darndest to provide some comedy and nostalgic chills in the background. Though, my mind certainly wishes that Paul Rudd gets a little more screen time just to be contributive to the fellow cast members.

Jason Reitman is the director of the film while his father, Ivan, serves as the producer of the film, giving an absolute refresh to the Ghostbusters franchise in order to preserve its enduring legacy. He did a good job, given the great responsibility he had with this film. He looks like he is serious, but well-meaningful on how the franchise impacted him so much, so he decided to get involved in this newly formed Ghostbusters film if any comes to mind with greater ideas. Some ideas are very bright and innovative, making me think that his precious ideas look like they are all actually recycled or unused ideas from the previous films. The first hour and a half is very smooth and beautiful, filled with laugh-out-loud jokes, and suspenseful scenes. Even the nostalgic tones and music from Rob Simonsen are pretty spot on.

However, there are some of the main disappointing parts of the story: the second half threw me off due to the incohesive plot, the last half hour of the film has lost it’s magic bit by bit as the last story arc replicates the first film’s climax at the end, and the usages of fan service and archival recordings are something that needs to be taken away. This is one major footstep the director has taken account of out of respect for his father’s legacy.

Apart from the main cast, the cast also contains a few other young actors: Logan Kim as Phoebe’s classmate Podcast and Celeste O’Connor (Amazon’s Selah and the Spades) as Trevor’s girlfriend Lucky. For tons of bonus points, the film also includes special appearances by the original Ghostbusters actors Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, respiring their roles as Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond “Ray” Stantz, Dr. Winston Zeddemore, Dana Barrett, and Janine Melnitz respectively. In addition to the original cast, the film is dedicated to the original Ghostbusters actor Harold Ramis, the portrayer of Dr. Egon Spengler, who passed away in 2014.

With some laughs and some elements of surprise being present, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is ok, but not as better as the original 1984 film. It clocks in at least two hours, but it was worth the wait, more fun and exciting than the underappreciated Ghostbusters II and that disgusted reboot version. Jason Reitman and the cast really did a great job and so does the original cast who came in at a surprising timing. Regardless of the disappointments I have on this film, it was a good story, seeing how actors can make their characters more interesting to see and lots of winks from the first movie being displayed right there. You really should see it, it’s a must.

GRADE: C+

(Review by Henry Pham)







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Externo



Director: Jonathan Taub, Leandro Taub

Studio: Tikun Olam Pictures

Review: Externo


Externo focuses on a powerful businessman and his ways of doing business and dealing with his mental and personal crisis along the way. The powerful businessman reveals to be Joseph as he gives advice regarding success in business and talks about who he is, what he does, what his achievements would be, and to learn how he can handle business in a proper, orderly-fashion manner.

The film consists of a very small cast of actors being present in the film. Writer and director Leandro Taub portrays his main role of Joseph, a power-hungry businessman while Elizabeth Ehrlich appears as a mysterious young woman he meets (in the end credits, her character is credited as “She”). Christian Bargados also appears as Zeta. Leandro’s dramatic acting is incredible, increasing the heights of the character development for Joseph. He is what makes the film intense and surreal for both the film’s plot and Joseph's personality. Even Ehrlich knows how to act while dealing with the main character’s situations.

The film is directed by the Taub brothers, Jonathan and Leandro, with the latter also portraying the main role of Joseph as well. With Taubs’ direction, the film had an extensive use of on-and-off cinematography, wide-open spaces for camera angle shots, and voice-over, having larger usages of voices coming from only Leandro himself and an unseen man (possibly a narrator or something). In addition, subject texts are highly present throughout the film, with a side of fourth-wall breaks, to signal the next chapter and to understand what the characters are trying to say. As the story starts to flow smoothly and consistently, the story arcs soon become tense as Leandro’s character attempts to learn how to resolve the acts of power, corruption, terrorism, and global threats. Most of the time, it was just Leandro talking and being all by himself, walking through places and talking to someone over his phone. As he comes across as an intelligent and determined individual, Leandro knows how to handle his sticky situations, resulting in him being trapped by his own world of desperation. And the way he interacts with the woman looks like he is taking this interrogation-acting too well. This goes to show that Leandro is a one serious-killer actor.

The film is like a documentary film and a foreign language being mixed together, this unusual, but fairly interesting topic focuses on the life of an charming-eccentric individual who explains how his views affect his own life and to others, it also deals with the major themes of business, money and power. There’s not much narrative being shown in the film as this gives some vibes from The Big Short (with Steve Carell in it) and Pinky and the Brain (due to the latter’s goal to take over the world with higher ambitions). The story is split into multiple chapters like a storybook during the majority of its duration; it feels like it’s a class lecture about business and money. Sequences that show him speaking and interacting with a mysterious woman inside a room with limited lighting flooding through the room are also added to give the much needed depth and complexity to the story’s components.

Despite being run down to 83 minutes, Externo is an interesting, unusual piece of work as the film provides a plethora of powerful lessons given from the directors and the small cast about business, power, mental health, and power-hunger. It is filled with drama and intensity that roams around the earth. With great performances by Taub and Ehrlich, a beautiful intensifying score, and the remarkable, colorful cinematography, Externo is a type of a film that deserves much, much attention, worthy, and praise for all crowd pleasers who are watching any low-budget films at home or in theaters out there.

GRADE: B

(Review by Henry Pham)







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