The Dallas Movie Screening Group

This is the homepage of the Dallas Movie Screening Group. To join our mailing list you must sign up at our group page on Yahoo. You will then be connected to receive notices on how to find passes to the local screenings in the DFW area. It's up to you to pickup or sign up for passes. You can also barter, trade or just giveaway passes you don't want, need or share with other members of the group. Please read the instructions on the Yahoo page very carefully before posting. This group is closely moderated so that your mail box is not full of spam or other unnecessary mail. We appreciate everyone's consideration and cooperation.

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Friday, July 10, 2020


(Review by Chase Lee)

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Money Plane

** (out of ****)

Here is a reminder that the terms “good” and “enjoyable” are not mutually exclusive. For a movie to be good, there needs to be some degree of convicted courage, filmmaking vision, and story competence. Even in the event that a movie’s maker doesn’t have the resources to pull off a flawless production, those three things can be present, resulting in a movie that is worth the price of admission. Money Plane certainly has the storytelling down, with screenwriters Andrew Lawrence (who also directed) and Tim Schaaf paring down every bit of excess that could possibly distract from the central premise. Even if Lawrence doesn’t have the resources or clarity of vision to make the end result work, stripped-down plotting is not nothing. That’s where the requirement to be “enjoyable” comes in.

In order to be enjoyable, the filmmakers must, at the very least, provide a premise with some kind of imagination, performances that chew the scenery, and an energy level that doesn’t let those two things down. This film, then, lies within that weird, grey area between being “good,” which it isn’t in any particularly compelling way, and being “enjoyable,” which it manages to be in spite of its shortcomings. This movie has one goal: to provide a starring vehicle for Adam Copeland, the professional wrestling star known as Edge, who gets to play the burly good guy who beats up the bad guys while unveiling the identity of the person actually behind all those bad guys. Every single answer to every question that one might have is blatantly obvious, although that mostly doesn’t matter to Lawrence.

What matters a little more to the director are two things: a commitment to a certain tone and, well, an equally strong commitment to formula. That second thing takes ultimate priority, to the film’s detriment. The plot opens with Copeland’s Jack Reese – accompanied by a team that also includes tech-savvy Trey (Patrick Lamont Jr.), fellow enforcer Isabella (Katrina Norman), and getaway driver Iggy (played by the director) – hired to steal a $40-million painting for a major crime boss/mogul of some sort known as “The Rumble” (Kelsey Grammer, clearly having a bit of fun here). The mission falls through when the painting is missing from the location of the heist, and the infuriated crime lord offers Reese an alternate solution: rob a “money plane” to retrieve his sum, with interest added.

The eponymous aircraft, on which guests gamble on odds involving deadly situations, is the setting and reason for the movie’s existence. Even if Lawrence doesn’t quite make good use of the plane, he and Schaaf fill it with oddballs, the oddest being the craft’s dead-eyed, psychopathic supervising concierge and a cowboy far too confident in his Russian roulette skills (The director, a once-major Disney Channel star, casts his older brothers Joey and Matthew as these two respectively, and both do quite nicely in roles we never would have pictured previously). The gambling gimmick, though, adds a layer of cruelty over a movie that needed even more of the personality added by its strange players, and there is also a lot of unintentional humor in watching Copeland pretend to fly a plane.

In other words, the movie sets up a lot of promising material that it never quite follows through on, perhaps because the screenwriters are so focused on the simplicity of the premise that they forget even to provide a twist that is genuinely surprising. There is no real mystery about who is truly behind all this, so Lawrence relies on the few scenes of actual hand-to-hand combat given to Copeland, a couple of mild shootouts, and the involvement of a few recognizable supporting actors in completely thankless roles (namely, Denise Richards as Reese’s wife and Thomas Jane as a crucial ally). Money Plane is ultimately wasteful of the opportunities for entertainment that it presents. So, is it good? No, not really. The movie certainly has its moments, though.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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First Cow

Based on his novel “The Half-Life”, author/screenwriter Jon Raymond collaborated with director/screenwriter Kelly Reichardt to explore another Pacific Northwest tale after her work on Meek's Cutoff and Old Joy. Set in the early 1800's way before Oregon was a state, the film is drenched in the thick rain and woods with the quiet desperation of humanity trying to eek out survival. Its a slow deliberate film that will stay with you long after the credits end.

The movie opens in present day when a young woman searching for mushrooms comes across something revealed in the ground discovered by her dog. It's the bones of two people lying close to each other as if trying to keep warm. Flashback to the story of the bones with Cookie Figowitz (John Magaro) a timid gentle man who is traveling with a rough bunch of feuding men looking for work. He keeps his precarious position among them by cooking. While gathering herbs and mushrooms, he finds an Asian man hiding in the thick brush, naked and shivering. Cookie offers him food and warmth. The man is being chased. He watches as the man escapes across the waterway. Later Cookie's traveling companions go their own way leaving him on his own. At the nearest settlement he looks for whatever job he can do and builds a makeshift shelter Then one day he comes upon the Asian man, King Lu (Orion Lee), dressed well and offers Cookie shelter and food.

King Lu and Cookie also find companionship as they fish and build on the tiny shelter. Cookie sweeps it out, adds flowers, making the best of what little that is there. King was a sailor from China and got in trouble with some Russians. Cookie was an indentured servant who spent some time learning some bakery skills. The the local English factor (Toby Jones) is married to a Native woman (Lily Gladstone) and they live in the only real house in the town. It's a big event when he imports the first cow in the territory. Cookie tells his friend of these fried cakes he used to make with milk. King Lu, ever the man looking for opportunity, plans to have Cookie milk the Chief's cow while everyone is sleeping while he keeps watch from a tree. The cakes are so good they decide to sell them in town for whatever the going currency being coins, shells or trade. Their "oily cakes" are an immediate success and everything they make is sold out quickly. The Chief tastes the cakes and it reminds him of home and invites Cookie to come to his house.

Needless to say the situation with the cow is bound to be discovered and it puts the two friends in a pickle. Cookie had been wanting to just take their earnings to head San Francisco, but King Lu wanted to keep milking that cow until they had enough to travel in style. Both wanting and needing something that neither could ever dream of attaining but still trying to hang on to that hope as long as they can. The unlikely friendship between King Lu and Cookie fills the unspoken moments of their daily struggles and ultimate dilemma. The ending is left open for you to fill in the blanks. Just one of the many reasons why you will think about this movie for sometime later.

A24 hopes to have First Cow for award consideration and while it's an usual choice it could be a contender. First Cow is set to open at the Grand Berry Theater in Fort Worth (pandemic willing) and on Amazon Prime on July 10.
(Review by reesa)

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Friday, July 3, 2020

The Truth

**½ (out of ****)

The Truth represents Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s take on the type of family drama we are more accustomed to seeing from French filmmakers. It involves an upper-class family (in part, a French one, bolstering that expectation), long-held secrets, and boiling resentments, leading to a climax in which most, if not all, of these things come to an explosive, melodramatic head. In the fashion typical for Kore-eda, though, everything about the film – up to and including the eponymous revelation – is dialed back from a ten to roughly an eight on that scale of melodrama. This is a welcome choice, as the details of the story (written by the director) are far from subtle. What doesn’t help is Kore-eda’s insistence upon simplifying every thematic concern with a tidy conversation.

Of central concern is Fabienne Dangeville, a legendary actress who has recently become resigned to the twilight era of her career. She once won the highest honor a leading actress can received from the French Academy, and now, she is preparing for a major role in a time-twisting sci-fi blockbuster that she admits “won’t be a great film” (which, of course, is the equivalent of saying she thinks it’s going to be pretty bad). Fabienne is played by Catherine Deneuve, a legend in her own right with a career that spans all the way back to the French New Wave. Furthermore, Kore-eda pairs the veteran with Juliette Binoche (a legend-in-the-making in her own right) as Fabienne’s semi-estranged daughter Lumir, a screenwriter now working in Hollywood.

If this isn’t enough of a casting coup, the director pairs two great actresses with Ethan Hawke, among the best of a certain generation of American performers, as Lumir’s actor husband Hank. The pair have arrived, along with their daughter Charlotte (ClĂ©mentine Grenier), in the aftermath of a tell-all autobiography penned (in part) by Fabienne, opening the door on a life that was riddled with scandals on and off the sets of her various movies, and on the eve of shooting the big-budget production, whose star Manon Lenoir (Manon Clavel) is open about having been influenced directly by Fabienne. Lumir has every reason to believe that the book is pure bunk, not least because of the return of her even-more-estranged father Pierre (Roger Van Hool), whom Fabienne claims to be dead in the book.

The concept of Fabienne’s struggles with telling the truth is central to Kore-eda’s screenplay, and to the film’s credit, it doesn’t push this point too hard. Loud arguments and quick cutting would be death to this story of half measures and whispered lies and intentional evasion. In that sense, the actors complement the material entirely: Deneuve is superbly indifferent before deeper shades reveal themselves. Binoche communicates a lot of pent-up strain. Hawke is solid at portraying a man who wonders what he’s doing here and why he’s been on the wagon for so long, and for her part, Grenier is a complete natural, playing a precocious child without coming across as precocious herself.

Eventually, the melodrama gets the better of Kore-eda, though, even as the treatment hints at something more nuanced and considerate. The details of the movie’s plot begin to merge with the thematic content of the movie-within-the-movie being made by Fabienne, which concerns the building relationship between mother and daughter as they move through time and space. This layer of commentary is one too many for the director, who does not seem to trust the integrity of his characters’ development enough for these issues to evolve naturally. The Truth unfortunately represents a minor work from Kore-eda. It begins as a thoughtful rumination on family, and it moves forward with familiar ideas about how to deal with the emotional upheaval of simple, decent honesty.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Invisible Man

This one is a nifty entry into the saga, not even recognizing H.G. Wells into the source material at all. One of the co-creators of the original “Saw” franchise, writer Leigh Whannell the source material here, with the 2019 all-new version of “The Invisible Man.”

The star here us Elisabeth Moss, who viewers might recognize from her role on television’s “Mad Men,” which ran o cable in the early 2000s, 2007-2015 to be exact. A couple of years back she was part of the female led ensemble that was “The Kitchen” (2019).”

She also had a small yet memorable role in director Jordan Peele’s “Us” from 2019. Currently, Moss is starring on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is currently in its fourth season.

Going back to Whannell’s “The Inivisible Man,” she plays Cecilia Kass, who leaves an abusive ex-boyfriend, Adrien Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen.) This tale contains some very intriguing pretzel plot twists, something atypical of a genre picture of this type. Usually viewers are forced to endure some piece of hokum and derivative mess.

She has a younger sister she confides in, one who know of her ex and the baggage that came with the over demanding lout.

“The Invisible Man” delivers in every single department because there is not an overabundance of “boo” scares or “bagul jumps. It is a finely crafted and nuanced storytelling technique, one that realizes not everyone is a dolt or an idiot. ” This movie, for all intents and purposes is just a well orchestrated tale of deception filled with some genuine scares and terms of suspense.

Also commendable is Aldis Hodge as James Lanier, a family friend of Kass, who shares a close relationship with Cecilia. He also has a daughter named Sydney (Storm Reid, “A Wrinkle in Time” 2018).

She gets along well with Cecilia, thus ensuring their strong bond and connection with one another.

Also woven into the story is a subplot involving Tom Griffin, the younger brother of the now deceased Adrien Griffin.

“The Invisible Man” is worth a definite look, since it takes some older themes and placates twists them for just the right sweep of modern technology.

Grade: B+
(Review by Ricky Miller)

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Satanic Panic

Normally, I don’t do horror, but this one falls into a variety of categories I do cover, namely the horror-comedy hybrid of which I am a big fan of. Some examples of this are Peter Jackson’s “Dead-Alive,” (1992) Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and Dan O’Bannon’s “Return of the Living Dead” (1985).

“Satanic Panic” was actually shot here in the Dallas area, hence another reason why I am covering this.

The main stars of this tale are Hayley Grifith and Rebecca Romijn. Griffith is the new employee on the beat, a pizza delivery girl who lands into some unexpected territory on her route. Rebecca Romijn is Danica Ross, the leader of a coven of witches who worship satan and everything evil. In their wisdom they would like to conjure up the dark lord to reign hell here on earth.

Griffith’s Sam Craft is also in demand with the witches because of her virginity status. This one receives bonus points for some of the witty writing.

I watched “Satanic Panic” on the SHUDDER app.

“Panic” also falls under the Fangoria banner, since they actually produced this fun piece of forgettable fodder.

Those who are in the entertainment business know about Fangoria, since it was a regular mainstay of comic book collectors and the like.

So readers know, Fangoria was a big deal throughout the 1980’s era, when Freddy Kreuger (“A Nightmare on Elm Street” series and Jason Voorhhees (“Friday the 13h”) were the mainstays of the horror world. They also covered popular movies, like David Cronmberg’s “The Fly” (1986), “Fright Night” (1985) and Wes Craven’s “Deadly Friend” (1986).

Directing chores for “Panic” were handled by Chelsea Stardust. She was involved with horror entries such as “Sinister” in 2012. Her lengthy resume goes back even farther, having worked as assistant Judd Apatow’s assistant on 2009’s “Funny People.”

She worked on various horror-suspense entries like “Sinister” in 2012 a well as “The Purge” in 2013.

Stardust seems to be a smooth fit within the horror genre, having worked with producer Jason Blum on a variety of projects, including the Kevin Bacon led “The Darkness in 29016.

Writing for this intriguing tale were scribed by Grady Hendrix, who even pokes fun at the fact all Sams need to stick together.

Although not a great movie by any means, “Satanic Panic” does an adequate job of keeping the viewer entertained for a brief spell.

Grade: C+
(Review by Ricky Miller)

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