The Dallas Movie Screening Group

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Sylvie’s Love



Director: Eugene Ashe

Studio: Amazon Studios

Review: Sylvie’s Love


The title with the word “love” doesn't have to be associated with any romantic genre films in that manner, but to any Tessa Thompson fans out there waiting for what films they want to see next, the answer is right here for that question. It’s called Sylvie's Love which it’s a drama film that is about to get so dramatic and wild around anyone’s hearts and dreams. The film is written and directed by Eugene Ashe and features the consisting cast of Tessa Thompson in her leading role along with actors Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Aja Naomi King, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Eva Longoria in their supportive roles.

Sylvie's Love centers on the young titular woman Sylvie who is living in the early 1960s, working at her father’s record store. She later meets a young man named Robert, an aspiring saxophone player, and they both fall in love with each other.

MCU star Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Endgame) plays the titular character Sylvie in the entire film. She really gives a truly remarkable performance and it is really emotional to her own character as the film focuses on how her relationship with the Robert character has wrestled her images and consciousness that increasingly affected her, especially for her own comfort zones in the settings of the 1950s and 1960s. Surely, she can be very lovable and charming at her own time onscreen, but in the end, she enjoys what she does while filming romantic, drama films based on her professional history with drama films she appeared in. She is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leading the screen very easily to guide the viewers and myself.

Football player and actor Nnamdi Asomugha appears as Robert, a talented saxophone player, who falls in love with Sylvie in the film. Asomugha, who also serves as the film’s producer, delivers a touching, confident performance as he appears to be as good as his word when plays the role of a charming musician who not only knows music, but also knows what love is and is all about. He knows that love isn’t about marriage, it’s about doing the things they love and who they have such as families, friends, and their passion, which is something we should all think about and take.

Ashe’s direction really takes much influences on several romantic and drama films, mainly the inspirations coming from Casablanca, in order to capture the romantic, black representation for the film’s cultural boundaries for the audience to study more on diversity and historical accuracies on this film. Ashe’s work of art as a director and writer even placed the settings of the 1950s and 1960s which nearly took place during the segregation era in order to give the film more structural, accuracy feel for both African American audiences and the histories on black individuals living in the 1950s and 60s being explained in the film’s plot.

While the film is nice and enjoyable, the film lacks comedy and funnier antics going on as the film focuses mainly on the chemistry between Thompson and Asomugha’s characters throughout the entire film. They both look like they focus too much on their family and their passions rather than giving laughs to each other, but they seem pretty stable to act in character under the presence of the director’s wishes.

Also appearing in the film are Aja Naomi King who comes into the scene as Sylvie’s cousin Mona, Ryan Michelle Bathe as Kate, Wendi McLendon-Covey as Lucy, and Eva Langoria as Carmen.

On the flip side, Sylvie's Love is a really fascinating film to see. Thompson and Asomugha are what makes the film really interesting and gentle to see. In my honesty, I have higher expectations on these two actors right there, mostly Thompson's. The cast and the crew have done an amazing job as well. I will admit, Sylvie's Love may be one of Thompson’s finest pleasures to see aside from her MCU films she starred in. This film is a must and it reaches up to nearly two hours for that film’s time slot. And that’s all I’m going to say, but if you want to hear more from me, you’ll have to see it for yourself when it comes out on Amazon Prime Video.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Slay the Dragon



Director: Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Review: Slay the Dragon


Gerrymandering is a practice where politicians or powerful government officials have increased their political power in the party. It’s a form of manipulation of the boundaries of electoral constituencies so as to favor one party of class and weaken the other class.

Just letting the readers know that this is a film with many political topics and answers being used, so if you’re planning on seeing this, might as well take proper precautions on that. Slay the Dragon is simply a documentary film about gerrymandering in the United States, directed by Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance. This film is made under the production company called Participant. The directing duo really defines how gerrymandering could influence predominantly on elections and discusses the sway of outcomes for gerrymandering that has become a hot-button political topic and symbol for everything that can be easily broken in the American electoral process.

Slay the Dragon follows the story of a young woman, Katie Fahey living in Michigan, who desperately wanted to make a change by rallying a group together to create a glowing proposition that prevents the acts of gerrymandering happening in Michigan. Katie Fahey is an American activist who founded the organization called Voters Not Politicians and has led a plethora of successful grassroots campaigns to ban partisan gerrymandering in Michigan

. Having been handling experiences and duties on documentary films about politics and American government from Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance, the duo construct a time-organizing plot for a list of archive footage and interviews about the ways of gerrymandering filling into each scene and climax. The duo and the team also utilized a team of politicians and journalists in order for the viewers to follow what the events and actions take place during the time. Goodman and Durrance not only bring down the lectures, but to make this film more like one's own educational historical textbook for students and teachers to study on how this could affect the future elections and law-publishing rules and regulations.

Over the top, Slay the Dragon is okay. It’s an educational film that allowed me to learn more about gerrymandering. As someone who enjoys politics and social justice, I had an interesting experience learning about that. Though, the only thing I do not like about this film is that it didn't fully capture my attention entirely. In my honest opinion, this is one of most difficult documentary films to watch. I understand that it is difficult to make a documentary of this nature, but I respect the hard work and effort from the directors to put into making this film. I did learn a lot about this and feel inspired and reassured, so the filmmakers could do something to accomplish their achievement.

GRADE: C+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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John Lewis: Good Trouble



Director: Dawn Porter

Studio: Magnolia Pictures/CNN Films

Review: John Lewis: Good Trouble


Back when television was a young medium that had advanced throughout the years since the introduction of television in the 1950s and 60s, it was the biggest opportunity to show the entire world about what was going on in the world daily, leaving the movie industries coiling down the drain.

John Lewis: Good Trouble is another documentary the director Dawn Porter has offered this year after handling directing duties of Gideon’s Army and Trapped, both of which are also documentary films. This film explores John Lewis' actions towards the civil rights movement, voting rights, gun control, health care reform, and immigration. Porter also provides some footage and interviews on Lewis’ childhood experiences, his inspiring family, and his fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957 to discuss how his actions and experiences inspire people to take action on those governmental situations. Coincidentally, this film was released just weeks before Lewis’ death in July 2020.

Under the direction of Porter herself solely, Porter and her team have used a plethora of archive footage and interviews of John Lewis and his entire life from the start-up as a farmer and a student to the most inspirational civil rights activists in America. Porter wanted to make a film about any motivation speaker who wanted to make a difference in the world. In this case John Lewis who wanted to make a difference for racial justice in the white people’s territory. His ways and marches in nonviolence and commitment to the cause have continued for 65 years.

With the story, the organization of plot-creating ideas, and the cinematography coming out steadily, John Lewis: Good Trouble isn’t just a simple documentary film for that genre. It is also a wondrous memoir that weaves an important story about an exceptional man, bringing justice and showing us our history from the '60s to today. Both Porter and John Lewis really nailed down the story and lecture that are easily manageable for both kids and adults as if they are in a classroom to study history.

With the satisfying ingredients being used, John Lewis: Good Trouble is the wonderful documentary film. It clocks about 96 minutes. The director and her cracking documentary filming team made it all possible to learn about an effective leader and his ability to understand the harsher times we are currently living through, from the 1960’s to present. This film is a must for both kids and adults, and also history teachers as well, to remember all that has transpired throughout the years during childhood and young adulthood as we grow up during these difficult times. The film is now up on digital on HBO Max and Amazon.

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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The Fight



Director: Eli Despres, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Review: The Fight


The Fight can be a powerful movie that really demonstrates the advocacy of the ACLU. It is a documentary film that takes the viewers and the audience to the inside look of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) where the legal battles the lawyers are willing to face during the Trump administration. According to the film itself, The Fight is featured as one of the showcasing contenders at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival where the film has won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking. This documentary feature film is directed by Eli Despres, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, with actress Kerry Washington serving as a producer for the film.

The main three directors have used lots of archive footages as well as interviews on the Trump Election that were circled back in January 2017 after President Trump's inauguration and subsequent immigration order, also known as the "Muslim ban." This feature showed a school of volunteer attorneys set up to assist affected immigrants - especially those seeking asylum. With all the editing and the usages of stock footage, the directors and the whole documentary crew draws the basic premise of the film that provides a glimpse of the challenges faced by the ACLU against the Trump administration. All of these footage and interviews about Trump’s inauguration would make a film that teaches people to strongly express their voices on their tastes and distastes on Trump’s future plans as president.

As the documentary film progresses, the cases shown in the film are presented in an easy-to-follow manner, and we get to know each of the attorneys in their respective, individual challenges. Both cases are involved with their specific case and providing their own personal or family life. Each of the attorneys in the film provide their unique tour of the ACLU offices, and quickly understand how they are focused on their own specialties, rather than the organization as a whole.

Compared to that Romanian documentary film, Collective, and regardless of the usages of archive footages, the cinematography is absolutely stunning; the camera team uses lots of steadily camera angles on people to make the story and the interviews from people more understandable for viewers to follow along as well as using the extreme-but-medium close ups The Fight that really defines how people can fight for the power for anyone’s viewpoint in any cases. Besides the story itself, the directors and crew really knew how an ordinary documentary film works on many levels.

With many voices, arguments, and viewpoints being shown, The Fight is a very good documentary, if not better. It clocks into roughly 95 minutes, but this film is something people should give it a chance if you want to learn more about the ACLU and Trump’s administration. You can check this organization if you want before or after the movie, but I personally advise you to see this film first. This film is a must for both Americans and immigrants. I’m not into politics, but I promise you, the behind-the-scenes view of what these attorneys go through to fight for liberty is fascinating and worthwhile. One last thing, please keep your political issues to yourself because they may be some political messages being shown in the film, so be careful as you watch it.

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Collective



Director: Alexander Nanau

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Review: Collective


Just to let the viewers know that this documentary is arguably hard to watch, especially for young teens, so before you watch this, you might want to be careful and take proper precautions on viewing this film in theaters or on digital.

Collective (Romanian: Colectiv) is the documentary film that revolves the group of investigating journalists at the Romanian newspaper organization in their mission to find out about the uncovering assignment of the ongoing public healthcare fraud, political and power corruptions, and maladministration. Shot in a rigorously observational manner, Collective covers an event that took the country of Eastern Europe by storm and led to massive big pharma, powerful predicaments, and government reform. This feature is directed, written, and produced by Alexander Nanau.

Director Alexander Nanau and his crew have put together on crafting this subtle documentary feature that features power and politics for the main dynamics of the film. Nanau also uses people’s powerful voices while on camera to express how things can be done in different situations. Nanau, along with the crew, knows how anyone who dealt with these dilemmas really shows how corrupt a health system can be hard to solve and what are the implications on a national level.

The nice, soft cinematography in this film is absolutely stunning; the camera team uses dimly lit to make the story and the voices of people more advisable for viewers as well as using the low contrast scenes that drive the people home in the intensity of the incident. Additionally, the harshly closeups in telling the story of the people that Collective follows really adds a satisfying taste for that affair. Even the lack of ambient noise filtration in press conferences helps the viewer really jump into the story and the film as a whole. Aside from the storylines and the plot itself, the entire crew really knew how to truly make a stunning documentary film in a trendy way.

Overall, Collective is a very good film, maybe the best by their top of their levels. This film is a must and is highly recommended to those in the ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It really brings some good, moral lessons about freedom of speech and government power to both kids and adults. The director and the documentary crew really did it. Hopefully this film would stand a chance to be one of the Oscar contenders for Best Documentary Film. Though, I do warn that there’s some political elements being used in this film as well as scary graphic scenes that you should be aware of given the fact that this film runs nearly 110 minutes to see more action being witnessed in every scene. With that, Collective successfully calls viewers to action to speak out against power and corruption.

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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One Night In Miami



Director: Regina King

Studio: Amazon Studios

The best things happened all in One Night in Miami!


One Night in Miami serves as the directorial debut for actress Regina King who went from a small-time actress to the most influential people in the world. As a rising star, she had a breakout role in NBC’s 227, which was televised from 1985 to 1990, before prominently featured in Jerry Maguire, co-starring with Tom Cruise. Screenwriter and playwriting artist Kemp Powers, who has written his stage play One Night in Miami and was recently the co-director of Pixar’s Soul, heads to his writing duty to oversee the film’s production version of his play with actor Kingsley Ben-Adir in his lead role alongside the ensemble cast Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr.

Based on the screenplay and stage play written by Kemp Powers, One Night in Miami centers on the icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown whom they are gather fictionally in the group to discuss their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval in the 1960s just before the Civil Acts of 1964 is written, leading their powerful voices all around, defending their rights, and moving the country forward to equality and empowerment for all black people.

Here in the film, we have the ensemble cast of leading actors: Kingsley Ben-Adir (ITV’s Vera) as Malcolm X, Eli Goree (CW’s Riverdale) as Cassius Clay, Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton) as Jim Brown and Broadway star Leslie Odom Jr. (Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton) as Sam Cooke.

As the director and producer, King studys back to history of the world living in the 1960s on how the world or a person can react and express their emotions upon seeing a black individual in person. She also borrows some key elements from Raging Bull and The Godfather trilogy as references in order to portray the characters, the plot, and the setting perfectly for that 1960s historical accuracy, producing a huge powerful and inspirational reflection that powers voices from any speaking individual happening in the country. With all the writing and the production designs overtaking the dynamics for that course, King also provides a powerful message on how anyone who has the position of power, even if it serves as means through music, film, art, and activism, she directs the plot and the storyline of each acts with a aplomb, giving the four main actors a shine to shingle on this very tight project.

Aside from King’s direction, the four mightily impressive leads each delivering a flawless performance of power and stature that goes with the iconic figures they are portraying. They both tried to strongly portray a character based on the figures’ personas and actions, but the four know how to do it smoothly and accurately. The main actors of the three (Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr.) become the best performers for the entire film, but the excellent performance coming from Kingsley Ben-Adir outshines them all.

Also appearing in the film are Beau Bridges, Jeff Bridges’ older brother, as Mr. Carlton and Lance Reddick (John Wick films) as Brother Kareem.

Above all, One Night in Miami is a great film to watch, it takes nearly two hours to watch. It’s very nice and relaxing to see how Regina King can pull that off as the breakout feature-film-debut director as well as Kemp Powers as a writer with a strong, compassionate voice. My paid respects to the main four actors as well. They, along with King and Powers, did a terrific job of understanding how anyone’s voices could question their ideas and arguments. Imagine if you pull the trigger on me, I promise you that this film is really a must. And to top it all off, King is absolutely the strongest director who can outshine Hollywood, I would love to see the Oscar-winning actress become an Oscar-nominated director like so.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Herself



Director: Phyllida Lloyd

Studio: Amazon Studios

Herself is the key of life’s greatest humanistic choice!


Movies can be extremely difficult to choose which drama film to see without having the sharks all over the place out of fear or concern. In that case, family relationships carry the main signature theme to drama films that dramatized the audiences and families who dealt with issues in certain levels. English filmmaker Phyllida Lloyd, who helmed Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady which both films feature Meryl Streep, returns to her directing duties in thus most recent feature film, Herself, featuring the stars of Clare Dunne in her leading role, along with Harriet Walter and Conleth Hill.

Herself follows the story of a young mother Sandra who struggles with her daughters after escaping from her abusive husband. She later fights back against a broken housing system when she sets out to build her own home and in the process rebuilds her life and rediscovers herself.

The entire cast consists of English and Irish actors, which perfectly fits for a Downton Abbey-flavored drama movie outing. Clare Dunne (Spider-Man: Far From Home) leads the big screen as Sandra, the mother of her two daughters named Molly and Emma (both portrayed by Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara). English actress Harriet Walter (Downton Abbey) portrays Peggy in the film who helps Sandra build her a new home while Irish actor Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones) shares some screentime with them as Aido, the construction worker.

Lloyd’s direction over the course of the film exemplifies what a film can do to send the rightful messages to women, especially teaching them how to voice one’s opinions with honesty and bravery. Lloyd really teaches Dunne on how to better herself in many ways to free herself as if any woman would accept or reject something from a friend or family or sprouse. Even with guidance Lloyd offers to her, Dunne knows onscreen on how to follow her character nicely and slow without beating around the bush.

The director, the producers, the cast, and the film also retrace the cultural themes of domestic violence and abuse, the film’s main structure component, as well as the #MeToo movement after the allegations of sexual abuse towards women from powerful men and leaders in the media industries which gives the film a similar, powerful feel that left the audience to think about those situations and predicaments from past to present, dawn til dusk.

Also appearing in the film are Cathy Belton (Ireland’s Red Rock), Erika Roe as Sandra’s pub bar co-worker Amy, Rebecca O’Mara (Thomas and Friends) as Grainne, and Ian Lloyd Anderson as Gary, Sandra’s abusive husband.

Though parts of the film that prevent me from enjoying the film are the darker scenes involving Sandra’s relationship with her abusive husband, which may frighten young viewers upon seeing this, as well as her darkest memories about him, giving her a PTSD shark in her weary world. Nevertheless, a darker, sardonic tone and stride are present throughout her character’s viewing of the world. Life should be a place to just enjoy oneself regardless of the events that occur.

Over the top, Herself is a good film, but I would like to see further incarnations of this tale. It runs about 97 minutes for the full length of time and I have to say, this film is a must, but you might want to take proper precautions before you decide to select this film, digitally or theatrically.

GRADE: B

(Review by Henry Pham)









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