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.

You can use this homepage for posting comments, reviews, and other things that cannot be posted to the group. Of course spam is not allowed. Thanks!

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Reesa's Reviews can also be found at:

Logo art by Steve Cruz

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton

*** (out of ****)

As far back as he can remember, Laird Hamilton always wanted to be a surfer. For him, there was something spiritual that drew him to the water – something elemental. Perhaps it was the cleansing effect of the water, or perhaps it wasn’t as complicated as that. Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton, director Rory Kennedy’s surprisingly comprehensive documentary, takes us from the pro surfer’s introduction to the sport at a young age to where he is now, resting amid fame and notoriety as a giant in the sport he loves. Some opening audio clips, broken and strung together at lightning speed, present a litany of descriptions of the man. Sticking out among a lot of positivity: “incorrigible.”

Kennedy, wisely, does not approach her subject with empty hagiography. This is not a PowerPoint slideshow of Hamilton’s career to this point, nor is it a study in the man’s greatness that shies away from his ego. We get a sense of Hamilton’s entire personality, which has, fortunately, been directed toward a positive energy until now. He reminisces a lot to Kennedy’s camera here, and the conversation is surprisingly engaging. Hamilton makes for a willing witness to his own life, and that’s really the best way to put it: He’s been a witness as much as anyone.

Much of his success, for instance, is either by accident or by a natural disposition toward the sport of surfing, in which he never intended to go professional. A mentor from his childhood noticed something in him and offered to give him lessons one day. That would be the kernel of a motivation that got him in the water, and his eventual career would be spotted with attempts to ride the really tough waves – the ones that no one else would dare to attempt. One such attempt goes horribly wrong when the skin on a fellow surfer’s legs is chafed right off during the wane of one, particularly strong wave.

In other words, Hamilton’s ambition could easily have been confused for obsession. His reaction to failure regularly ended up actualizing itself in his behavior, which alienated him from his first wife and, after one such failure, threatened the stability of his second marriage almost to the point of divorce. The man fully accepts this about himself, and most importantly, so does the film. One does get the feeling with Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton that Kennedy is honey-glazing the surf culture in which her subject grew up. Where it counts, though, the film understands that subject.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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The Florida Project

Reel Time with Joel and Chase
A Wonderful View from a Child’s Eyes and the Harsh Reality Through an Adults. Also, It Just Happens to Have One of the Best Child Performances. Period.

Title: The Florida Project
Rating: R for Language Throughout, Disturbing Behavior, Sexual References and Some Drug Material
Run Time: Ihr & 55min

Joel’s Review
**** (out of ****)

It would be going the easy route for The Florida Project to wallow in the despair that exists at the edges of the frame, but co-writer/director Sean Baker is smarter than that. This is a film about childhood that happens to have a backdrop of deepest poverty. The residents of the “purple place,” as it is known to the children, have made the hotel (which is actually called the Magic Castle and rests roughly a hundred meters from a certain entertainment complex in Orlando) a kind of settlement. It’s a den for the underprivileged, but this is all our young heroine knows in life. The “purple place” might as well be her entire world. What does it matter that this is no place for her to grow up?

Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the manager, is a kind man with a specific set of rules that he enforces with a firm grip on the shoulder while escorting you off the premises, if necessary. The rate per night becomes weekly rent for those who take up residence in his rooms, and he isn’t afraid to “evict” those whom he does not trust to pay their share. His bond with customers is almost always strictly businesslike, but he has developed, perhaps unbeknownst even to him, a fatherly affection for the children of his customers: His ejection in one, particularly tense scene of a potential sex offender preying on the children is as much a decision for the safety of his residence as it is a movement to protect the kids.

The story, such as it is, follows the adventures had by Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) and her friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera), Dicky (Aiden Malik), and, after a game of spitting on her mother’s car, Jancey (Valeria Cotto), who resides in a neighboring hotel. One of the other three eventually moves out, leaving the other two to accompany Moonee through a tour of poverty in the miniaturized bubble of the hotel itself. Moonee’s mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) loses her job as an exotic dancer and enters a life of hustling for the cash that can keep a roof over her head. Eventually, she must bed men to make the cash.

In an astonishing coup, Baker and co-screenwriter Chris Bergoch manage to find the joy in this setting. Perhaps the reason is tied to the film’s perspective, which is that of young Moonee. Everything receives the gloss of a childlike innocence, yet the gravity of these kids’ situation, confronted directly by a climax that also confronts the end of such innocence, is never ignored or evaded. Prince, in her film debut, is a magnificent presence in the kind of turn that should be undone by precociousness but is instead remarkably natural, and Vinaite finds the grey morality in a mother that toes the line between negligence and unconditional love.

Baker, as in his previous film (2015’s endlessly sympathetic and similarly joyous-when-it-could-be-despairing Tangerine), casts familiar faces, like Dafoe (marvelously cast against-type as a man in control of unpredictable elements), Caleb Landry Jones (who appears in a pair of scenes as Bobby’s son), and Macon Blair (as a man from whom Halley steals, then sells, some valuables out of desperation), against the likes of newcomers and, in at least two cases, adult film performers to create a stylized facsimile of reality. The tone is still primarily naturalistic, especially the performances, but Baker’s camera, with the aid of cinematographer Alexis Zabe, takes on a voyeuristic quality. The Florida Project, as a result, moves with the unpredictability of real life.

Chase’s Review

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The Snowman

Reel Time with Joel and Chase
The Snow Melted as Soon as the Movie Began.

Title: The Snowman
Rating: R for Grisly Images, Violence, Some Language, Sexuality and Brief Nudity
Run Time: Ihr & 59min

Joel’s Review
½* (out of ****)

The Snowman is a hollow mystery – pointless and cruel. It begins with the pieces of the central puzzle, and though it ends with the completion of that puzzle, there is a sense of anticlimax. It is as if director Tomas Alfredson and screenwriters Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini, and Søren Sveistrup (adapting the novel by Jo Nesbø) want to convey a sense that the film’s puzzle is less important than what the film is attempting to say about its characters. That, though, can only work if the film seems to be saying anything about its characters.

Here, the characters, including the protagonist, are pawns in the game of a serial killer who seems to be targeting women of whom he disapproves. The method is uselessly brutal: He injects them with a sedative, then removes their head while they are alive (the better to capture the look of fatal surprise on their faces, one guesses). He also builds a snowman somewhere near the site, attacking only when the precipitation is falling in deep winter. He then builds another snowman, this time without its head, onsite, and you can guess what replaces the fake head (He also reverses this action for the missing heads of the victims).

The case falls into the laps of Inspectors Katrine Brett (Rebecca Ferguson), a recent hire onto the investigative team in wintry Oslo, Norway, who answers the call of a missing-persons report that will eventually spiral into this case, and Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), whose unfortunate pun of a name is said just enough to be absurd but not quite enough to be amusing. Katrine is also cultivating a case involving a city official (played by J.K. Simmons) preparing the city for the upcoming World Cup. She suspects him of something-or-other that is definitely illegal. Whatever it is involves the objectification of young women, though the screenplay doesn’t focus enough on it to clarify anything (a common problem, believe you me).

Harry is simply happy to receive the distraction from his hellish home life, which includes the estrangement of the son (played by Michael Yates) whom his wife (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) had in a previous relationship with a man whose identity, much to the inconsequential importance of the narrative, is never known. She’s now dating a hormone specialist (played by Jonas Karlsson). Anyway, the case consists of red herring after red herring, from the rambling uselessness of the stuff with the city official to a handful of flashback sequences involving the first investigator (played by Val Kilmer, whose recent health troubles have rendered the actor unable to speak, resulting in an awkward and obvious dubbing of another actor’s voice in the place of his own while he mouths dialogue) to look into the gruesome crimes.

Most of this plot means nothing when the identity of the killer, which is blatantly obvious based on his unassuming nature and the way Alfredson and cinematographer Dion Beebe (unable to breathe much life into the setting beyond a few attractive establishing shots) constantly frame his profile to be the definition of sinister, is revealed. The motivation is a mostly generic kind of madness, and Thelma Schoonmaker’s jigsaw editing and the imprecise performances, all of which are by actors who seem to be half-awake, don’t help matters. The Snowman is barely watchable – a disaster from the ground up.
(Review by Joel Copling)

Chase’s Review

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The Florida Project

The Florida Project is an astounding film that captures the life of little Moonee as she runs around her motel home with her other little friends. The story goes through a summer for the young girl and captures her experiences of having fun. There is also a spotlight on the struggles for her mother, Halley, as she tries to navigate raising her child in low-income circumstances. Halley, although having never-ending love for her child, is a wild one who doesn’t really have a fantastic character or ethics.

Bobby, the manager of The Magic Castle, which is the motel home of the family, is a hard-working man who has an abundance of patience for his residents and especially Moonee. Willem Dafoe gives a performance as Bobby that is comprehensively impeccable and truly impactful. This, by far, is the best performance that I have ever seen from the actor. He truly communicates the patience, compassion, stress, and resilience that Bobby deals with every day in the story.

I am completely thankful for this film in how it examined the lives of people who struggle to make it and do not have the most resources. The centering attention on people who work the low-wage jobs and live in circumstances like these is completely essential to cinema. I say this because it represents real life for so many Americans. Moonee is just a young girl who has a lot of rambunctious energy and she also has to understand her mother’s struggles with life.

Her character lights up the story and is ubiquitous throughout the entire film. She’s out there sharing sloppy ice cream with her friends, climbing up hills, and going into abandoned areas. Her character reminds us all of the children who we once were. Brooklynn Prince gives Moonee an astonishing soul that is enviable in her performance.

There is a scene when Halley takes Moonee through the back way to a buffet at a good hotel and they both have a blast. I sat there thinking about the different social reality that Halley has in comparison to the other families who were actually staying in the hotel. The differentiation between Halley’s constrained financial life and the family vacations of these other individuals was profound. That is something that this film did very well in its illumination of the way people live just on the outside of Disney World. This is an all-around wonderful movie that is sure going to entertain and stimulate some thought.
(Review by Wyatt Head)

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017


This intense and extremely gripping film tells the story of three girls who get abducted and thrown into the horrifying world of sex slavery. The film didn’t hold back any realism from what it was depicting as its subject. Sara, an 18 year old that has just aged out of foster care, is taken to what she thinks will be a new job. Instead, she is betrayed by a woman she trusted and is taken to a sex house in Texas to be a slave of human trafficking. Amba, an Indian young woman about to go to MIT, is out at a party and is then kidnapped to be put in the trade. Mali, a Nigerian young woman who was separated from her family, has gone all over the world for her body to be used.

This was a phenomenal masterpiece that portrayed the real horrors that the women who are trapped in this world have to experience every day. There was no pull back in the depiction of the rape of these women and the violence that they are subjected to. There were multiple scenes where the men who ran the house punched, beat, and chocked them on screen to further communicate the criminal gravity of the acts. Just to think that these girls were going into the next phase of their lives and that they had great plans for themselves was unsettling to think about. The idea of the ease of being kidnapped and just falling into this system was extremely frightening to recognize.

There is a beginning scene of the film where men are pushing women along in a line. We, as an audience, get to comprehend the disregard for the women that exists in this world and these men’s minds. This film did a great job in having the audience realize the severity of this organized criminal activity. There’s another scene where a girl runs away because she can’t bear to realize what is going on and gets shot in the back. This was a chilling portrayal that forced the audience to realize that this actually does exist.

With the story of the girls being in the Texas sex house, there was also a wonderful story about the friendship that Sara, Amba, and Mali make. They are each other’s source of strength and hope. They experience this sadistic violation of human rights together with the only light being there in each of them. This project is a highly impactful story that makes a thorough footprint and that convinces the public to take immense action.
(Review by Wyatt Head)

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Oct 15 - Oct 21

Don't you love this time of year? The temps are doable, the Texas State Fair is running, there are more movies screening and Halloween is right around the corner.

Just a reminder folks, that some of these movies this week may be screenings for the Dallas Film Society and/or the USA Film Festival. That means us poor line people will be competing for seats in the front sections. Please do not grouse, or put the reps in an awkward position. This is the price we pay for free movies.

Also, when there are signs on the seats that say "Reserved for studio reps" Please don't sit in them. Nor should you sit in any seat that says reserved for VIP's, press, or handicapped. And stop hovering by the press seats. The reps will just tell you to go find a seat.

October 15 - October 21

Oct 16 - Mon

Human Flow - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas
The Florida Project - 7:30 pm - Magnolia
Breathe - 7:30 pm - Angelika Dallas

Oct 17 - Tue

Only the Brave - 7:00 pm - AMC Northpark
Goodbye Christopher Robin - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas

Oct 18 - Wed

Thank You For Your Service - 7:00 pm - AMC Mesquite
The Snowman - 7:30 pm - Angelika Dallas
Geostorm - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Oct 20 - Fri

Chocolat - 7:00 pm - Dallas Farmers Market
Mommie Dearest - 8:45 pm - Texas Theater

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Foreigner

Reel Time with Joel and Chase

If you are Foreign to Jackie Chan as an Actor, this isn’t a Bad One to Start With.

Title: The Foreigner
Rating: R for Violence, Language and Some Sexual Material
Run Time: Ihr & 54min

Joel’s Review
*** (out of ****)

The Foreigner is an action-thriller about a man desperate for answers and driven to use his particular set of skills to find them. The title, by the by, is suggestive in two ways. One of those is more obvious: The plot of the film regards the actions of the Irish Republican Army, and our protagonist is Chinese. So, indeed, he is literally a “foreigner,” at least by birth (The man mentions early on that he is a naturalized British citizen). The other meaning is sort of a joke and sort of insidious to the men who cross his path: He is the unknown variable in their midst.

In other words, this is a reliably efficient action-thriller, and casting Jackie Chan in the part of the protagonist doesn’t hurt at all. He plays Quan, the deceptively unassuming owner of a Chinese restaurant in London, whose daughter Fan (Katie Leung) is among the dozen killed in a brutal terrorist attack just as she’s shopping for a dress to the school dance. She was the only family left for Quan, who lost the rest of it years ago. Needless to say, the man launches his own investigation.

It was the work of the “Authentic IRA,” possibly a rogue cell in the official IRA and a thorn in the side of Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan, really digging into his natural Irish accent), a former member who denounced its violence in the past and who is now the Deputy Minister of Northern Ireland. Political infighting has left the possibility of peace in question (The film is certainly of its time, given the subject and the themes related to globalism), but that is the least interesting part of David Marconi’s screenplay (based on the novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather), which is at its best when designing comeuppances on the part of Quan, whose determination matches only his meticulousness.

Chan’s performance is key here, and it’s quite good, convincing in the wake of sudden tragedy and as an aging man pushed to the limits of his physicality. Merely the task of carrying heavy gym bags, filled with chemicals to create explosives, up the stairs of a hotel causes panting, sweating, and the brief need to sit and catch his breath. He manages to keep up with his attackers in the sequences of hand-to-hand combat (breathlessly staged and executed by director Martin Campbell), but it’s not without a staggered leap between staircases or a slower response in the beats between blows. This is not Chan as a comically invincible hero, clearly, but a man as vulnerable – both physically and emotionally – as anyone else.

The actor’s presence is remarkably potent in such a role, even as the story shifts in favor of some wheel-spinning regarding Hennessy’s place in all of this, which involves the usual behind-closed-doors backstabbing and discreet motives. It’s a bit predictable, not only because Brosnan’s performance isn’t exactly hiding much about the character’s nature, but also because we’ve seen this sort of thing before. The wrench in the works, in many ways, is the presence of Chan. He’s the grounding element in The Foreigner, sleek pulp whose tension outweighs formula.

Chase’s Review

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Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

(Review by reesa)

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(Review by Chase Lee)

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Happy Death Day

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

There is a whole generation of people who are totally unaware of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon. It also relates to what is relevant today concerning the 45th and the Russian involvement with our elections. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) does not take orders from the President, yet then as in now, the White House put pressure to stop an investigation. Director/writer Peter Landesman, based this feature on the 2006 autobiography of FBI agent Mark Felt, written with John O'Connor. Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) was the whistle blower that informed investigative reporters Woodward and Bernstein of the Washington Post to keep digging to unearth the truth and corruption.

Mark Felt, a 30 year career FBI man, was n associate director under Herbert Hoover and considered to be in the next in line for the job. The story begins with the death of Hoover who started the agency and ran it for 50 years. Hoover kept lots of files and notes over the years, so Felt moved quickly to destroy all of Hoover's personal records. Just as quickly, the White House comes in asking for the "secret files". But was really cutting was when Attorney General L. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas) was placed as temporary director of the FBI. Felt sees him conferring with John Dean (Michael C. Hall). Suddenly Gray, the obvious White House mole, orders Felt to tie up Watergate break-in case in a couple of weeks. Felt begins to leak information to Sandy Smith (Bruce Greenwood) of the Times magazine to keep the story from being buried. He also becomes the notorious "Deep Throat" informant to the Washington Post which his identity was not revealed for years.

Diane Lane is Felt's brilliant, beautiful and troubled wife Audrey. She has endured 30 years and 30 transfers as his supporting spouse during his career. They have a daughter, Joan (Maika Monroe) who had disappeared in the counterculture and Felt fears it's with the Weather Underground which has been terrorizing in bombing incidents. He orders that suspected Underground members to be under illegal tape and surveillance, which later in life he pays the price, only to be pardoned by President Reagan. Considering this is supposed to be about the man who brought down the White House, the movie should have spent more time telling that story and less on the search for his daughter.

Unless one is familiar with the history and the players, it's hard to understand what is going on. The film has that 70's feel in costumes, sets and colors. The able supporting cast of Tony Goldwyn, Kate Walsh, Tom Sizemore, and Josh Lucas keep it serious and on track. Apparently most Diane Lane's scenes were cut due to time constraints. Which is unfortunate because what we see is magnificent, but you feel something is missing. The movie is a good nudge to today's political climate. It also will probably want to see All The President's Men for a better perspective.
(Review by reesa)

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Chadwick Boseman has played some real life heavy weights like baseball legend Jackie Robinson and the infamous James Brown. This time he takes on Thurgood Marshall as a young lawyer with the NAACP fighting cases of racial injustice. This is long before Marshall becomes the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Directed by Reginald Hudlin and written by Jacob Koskoff, a veteran civil rights lawyer with no previous film credits, and his screenwriter son Jacob, this movie focuses on one of an early case of his career.

Boseman plays Marshall as an idealistic young trial lawyer from Baltimore who in the 1940 is sent to Connecticut to defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) a black chauffeur who stands accused of the rape and attempted murder of his white employer Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson). As an attorney with an out of state license he must find a local lawyer who will sponsor his standings. Enter Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a Jewish insurance lawyer who was recommended by his brother. The Judge (James Cromwell), doesn't appreciate some young upstart to politicize his court. He orders Sam to be the lawyer of record, and Marshall can sit at the table and not say a word. Sam does not specialize in criminal cases and fights back at every turn as Marshall schools him on what to say and how to proceed. Not much is told about Marshall, whose self righteous hubris is declaring he only defends innocent people. He's cocky and confident while reining the reluctant Sam to maneuver and question the jury selection. Trying to find a fair minded all white jury in Connecticut is the least of his worries. What is more challenging is the victim and accused may not be telling the whole truth.

The story follows a small part of Marshall's life with his suffering wife who suffers a miscarriage without her husband around due to his constant traveling. Marshall also pals with Langston Hughes. As for Sam, he and his wife worry about the relatives back in Germany with the rise of Hitler and his extermination of the Jews. Their similar racial struggles ultimately unite them and opens Sam to defending more civil rights issues. Had this been a movie about anyone else, it would have fared like any other mystery of the week as the truth of the case is revealed. But because it's Thurgood Marshall, it gives it some credibility, but doesn't really tell much of who he was or who he was to become.
(Review by reesa)

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Oct 8 - Oct 14

Why do they also put movies on the same nights? There's the whole week to fill up, but there's only 2 days for 4 movies. Oh well. Chose wisely and hope you see something that you enjoy.

A reminder folks, if you want to add friends to our Facebook page, please make sure they live in the DFW area. If it doesn't say they live around here, then they will not be added.

October 8 - October 14

Tue - Oct 10

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas
Happy Death Day - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Wed - Oct 11

Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri - 7:00 pm - AMC Northpark
The Foreigner - 7:30 pm - Angelika Dallas

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Friday, October 6, 2017

DVF30DocuFest: Extraordinary Ordinary People

Dallas VideoFest 30 presents DocuFest, featuring dozens of documentary features and also shorts, during four days, Oct. 5-8, 2017, on one screen at one theater, Studio Movie Grill on Northwest Hwy. in Dallas.


Official Opening Night Film

Director: Alan Govenar

EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY PEOPLE, a sweeping celebration of the cultures of the world living and thriving in the United States.

**½ (out of ****)

A sense of accidental profundity peeks through the rudimentary style and noncommittal structure of Extraordinary Ordinary People, a documentary that seems to be summed up entirely by its title. That title, oddly, comes from one of those moments of profundity, in which one of its interview subjects states that the subjects of the documentary’s focus are “extraordinary, ordinary people.” It’s not that the moment feels scripted – indeed, only the narration does – but that co-writer/director Alan Govenar felt compelled to keep it in the film that gives his documentary the feeling that something is off.

It’s not a dull subject, which in this case is the National Endowment of Arts as it pertains to the world of folk arts and music. We see a lot of archival footage of artists both current, which are too many to name, and former, such as the likes of the late B.B. King and Alex Moore, both of whom share views on the genre of blues in music that could be enough to redefine for those who are unsure of its charms: King describes it as a state of mind, in that whatever he is singing, it is the blues because that’s what he makes it. Moore believes that it’s the best way to learn about someone. Both men died leaving legacies to carry on to those that came after them. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

Similarly, Sheila Kay Adams (who provides part of the narration, co-written by Jason Johnson-Spinos, in addition to being a talking head) believes that the endowment is powered by its cultural diversity, shrugging off the nationalist views of others who question why those who cannot speak English would be able to be involved in the National Heritage Fellowship. For her, it’s in the name: Her own heritage led her here, and so did theirs. It’s a moving moment, and so is the one in which one of the overseers of the Fellowship must announce its dissolution.

The documentary loses much of its focus on and potency from these moments when it zigzags randomly through history as thoroughly as it shifts between specific subjects, such as the segment involve blues or another involving the similarly legacy-adopted voices of bluegrass or yet more involving international music from below the border between Mexico and the South. We see performances from modern legends in their genres, and the artistic barriers are crossed into the likes of crafting lace, pottery, and other totems of tangible expression.

We don’t receive much in the way of insight across its scant 78 minutes (minus end credits), though. We are provided with merely a glimpse at these subjects before Govenar moves on to another one. Extraordinary Ordinary People nearly gets by on the people of the title. It’s fascinating to listen, but we deserved more time with them.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories

(Review by Chase Lee)

The Netflix original film The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) will launch on Friday, October 13 at The Magnolia location and globally on Netflix.

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Blade Runner 2049

I was a little tyke when the original “Blade Runner” came out in 1982. Even though I was young, I got into it because of supporting turns s played by Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah. To me, they were the real reason to see this adaptation of a story based on the writings of Philip K. Dick. Harrison Ford’s persona of Rick Deckard was just sheer window dressing to me.

In this new “Blade Runner 2049,” Ford returns as Deckard, albeit it in a smaller supporting role. This one is Ryan Gosling vehicle.
He is on the screen for a majority of the flick. Ford’s Deckard does not even show up until an hour in. Gosling’s K persona occupies the majority of the movie.

Quirky performances abound in this flick, especially Jared Leto as Niander Wallace a creator of sorts, who claims to be the maker of replicants, part of the reference point of the title. He nonchalantly guts and kills his creation like it was a spoiled fish.

Also important is Robin Wright’s turn as Lieutenant Joshi, who is for all intents and purposes, K’s boss. She fears for K, who is essentially flying blind in their search for Deckard, who has been absent from today’s America for many a year.

Also returning for a cameo appearance is Edward James Olmos as Gaff, who fashions minute origami’s of various creatures and the like.

Directing “Blade Runner 2049” is Denis Villanueve, who scored major points with me for helming the amazing “Arrival” (2016) as well as “Sicarrio” in 2015. He knows where to point the camera in every single solitary frame. Ridley Scott returns to the “Blade Runner” universe, this time just as an executive producer.

I have a feeling this one will be a front-runner at this year’s Oscar race, kind of like what happened a couple of years back when the well-received “Mad Max: Fury Road” in 2015 received a deluge of the shiny gold statues.

What is really cool is the vibrant color palette in sections of the movie. Like the original “Blade Runner,” it makes references to now defunct companies such as Atari, which has not been a part of the American landscape since the mid-1980s.

What is also cool is the Roger Deakins cinematography that glistens on the screen. He even brings a presence to snow that is falling to the ground.

I saw this at a screening at the AMC Northpark, and this is important because I did not get the goosebumps I’m always looking for, but sheer smiles whenever I heard events unfolding on the screen.

The seats literally rumbled adding to the atmosphere as well by making it a full-on immersive experience.

I know a lot of people dread science-fiction tales, my mom is one of the naysayers who does not really like the genre, but this flick is just awesome.

I highly recommend “Blade Runner 2049” because it does everything t’s supposed to do, even with a conclusion that is thoroughly dynamic.

Grade: A-
(Review by Ricky Miller)

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DVF30DocuFest: Escapes

Dallas VideoFest 30 presents DocuFest, featuring dozens of documentary features and also shorts, during four days, Oct. 5-8, 2017, on one screen at one theater, Studio Movie Grill on Northwest Hwy. in Dallas.


DIRECTOR Michael Almereyda
PRODUCER Wes Anderson

Escapes blazes a wild path through mid-20th-century Hollywood via the experiences of Hampton Fancher – flamenco dancer, actor, and the unlikely producer and screenwriter of the landmark sci-fi classic Blade Runner.

** (out of ****)

Hampton Fancher has had a life worth talking about. The man talks and talks in director Michael Almereyda’s documentary, and when he’s done talking, he talks a bit more. He certainly addresses a rich life of accidental successes and close calls with failure, but the specifics of a life are less important than the anecdotal evidence of one in Escapes, a mostly autobiographical account of Fancher’s life, from his unlikely early career as a flamenco dancer to his current fame as the screenwriter of 1982’s Blade Runner and the co-screenwriter of the film’s upcoming sequel/spin-off Blade Runner 2049. We get a glimpse at the method Almereyda will use in the prologue of the film.

Fancher, narrating most of the points of his life, begins with a rambling story involving himself, a girl, a sum of money, and some sort of hotheaded bigshot who wants it. Words are exchanged, violence is threatened, and there’s some business involving a planned duel between them. The point is lost in the story’s rambling nature. Fancher simply wants to tell the story, and that seems to be the director’s modus operandi for the duration of the documentary. Almereyda lets the man talk for a good eighty minutes of the film’s 89. The specific points of his life are kept to intertitles consisting of broken grammar and sentence fragments.

The simplest explanation is that the director has no patience for biographizing Fancher’s life, and the more complex one is that Fancher doesn’t want us to dwell. That’s clear during the telling of one story, whose point, again, is lost in the rambling nature of it, that ends with a whimper when it reflects poorly upon the man, who refuses to conclude it. It’s a specific type of evasive maneuvering that’s being done in the structure of the documentary, which pairs Fancher’s words with film clips from his early days of being an actor with some degree of popularity. That was mostly because he’d appear in anything and everything during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Almereyda shows us very few of the film titles in question. That it would take a bit of research to learn about Fancher’s involvement with the films and television series in which he appeared is another kind of problem tied to the film’s lack of biographical insight. Instead, we get a long-winded reminiscence about Brian Kelly, star of the classic TV show “Flipper,” whose later paralysis in his leg and arm led to some guilt within Fancher: It was his motorcycle on which Kelly was riding, after all. The anecdote means well, but the point of it is elusive.

We’re getting the sense of a man here without the context of his shortcomings as a person. We hear details of two marriages – the second one to Sue Lyon, star of Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita – ending in divorce but gain little or no information regarding what went wrong in both cases. His friendship with Barbara Hershey, which was always on the verge of something more, leads to his motivation when approached to adapt Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for Robert Mulligan and, later, Ridley Scott. The film picks up a bit when discussing the hardships of that adaptation, which was quite liberal in comparison to the novel on which it was based. By then, though, Escapes only really makes the point that Hampton Fancher is an interesting guy. If one doubts this, one must only ask the man himself.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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DVF30DocuFest: Bombshell The Hedy Lamarr Story

Dallas VideoFest 30 presents DocuFest, featuring dozens of documentary features and also shorts, during four days, Oct. 5-8, 2017, on one screen at one theater, Studio Movie Grill on Northwest Hwy. in Dallas.


Director: Alexandra Dean

Texas Premiere

The world's most beautiful woman was also the secret inventor of secure wifi, bluetooth and GPS communications, but her arresting looks stood in the way of her being given the credit she deserved... until now.

Filmmaker in Attendance

Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Vienna in 1914. Her mother wanted a son, but her father, a bank director, would often take out his bright young daughter on walks and explain to her curious mind how things like electricity and engineering work. Her parents were assimilated Jews who were well to do and send Hedy to private schools, and exposed her to the theater and operas. She went to Berlin to do stage work, then later returning to Vienna to work in movies where she earned a notoriety in Gustav Machatý's film, Ecstasy (Ekstase in German, Extase in Czech). It was considered an art film in Europe, but in the U.S. it was considered basically soft porn. The reputation of this movie followed her in her later career.

Hedy's first marriage was to a munitions tycoon who started to do business with the Nazi's. She was a trophy wife who had beautiful clothes, jewelry, and mansions. At one point they entertained Mussolini. She managed to escape the marriage by using a maid to double for her, while she dressed as a maid with her jewels sewn in her coat, bicycled away from that life, making her way to Paris. There she met Louis B. Mayer who was scouting for talent in Europe. He had her change her name to Hedy Lamarr in 1938 bringing her to Hollywood as the most beautiful woman in the world. She gained fame in Algiers (1938), opposite Charles Boyer. Soon every starlet was mimicking her hairstyle and makeup.

Marriages, affairs and children followed her uneven career, but no one knew the real Hedy Lamarr whose passion was inventing things. She had an affair with Howard Hughes who encouraged her "tinkering", even giving her access to his science engineers. Hedy contributed the wing design to Howard Hughes aircraft that he was trying to make faster. During the war, Hedy wanted to contribute something besides selling war bonds. With the help of composer George Antheil, who used his expertise of player pianos to develop a way of radio controlling torpedoes for better accuracy.

The tech was called frequency hopping. They got a patent, and tried to pass it to the Navy, which didn't understand it and filed it away as top secret. It wasn't until the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the tech was finally used. After the patent expiration date, so Lamarr received any financial gain. Today her idea is the basis for Wifi and Bluetooth, and used in rocket ships.

After the 40's, Hedy's film career was less prolific. Being considered the most beautiful woman in the world, getting older was taking it's toll. She resorted to plastic surgery to keep herself looking young. A process she contributed to by suggesting making the surgery scars in areas that would not show which doctors continue to this day. Except she went too far in her constant surgeries and the result was not complimentary. She became a recluse, even to her children.

Hedy really never told her story. She discredited the supposed autobiography, Ecstasy and Me, which she claims was not written by her. It wasn't until, documentary director Alexandra Dean contacted Fleming Meeks who had an audio interview he had done for Forbes in the 1990's. Hedy is candid and humorous in recalling the events of her life. She was so beyond the cultural limitations of her time. It was a man's world, and she was too smart for them. The film opens with her quote: "Any girl can look glamorous, all she has to do is stand still and look stupid." Thankfully she didn't just stand still
(Review by reesa)

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The Mountains Between Us

For many women getting stranded in the mountains with Idris Elba doesn't seem like a bad thing. This romantic disaster movie directed by Hany Abu-Assad and written by Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe was adapted from the 2011 novel of the same name by Charles Martin. At one time Michael Fassbender was set to play Dr. Bass, then Charlie Hunnman with Margot Robbie as Alex, but she dropped out and then it was Rosamund Pike. Hard to imagine any of these pairings because Idris Elba and Kate Winslet really elevate this tale of love and survival from just being another Hallmark movie of the week.

Dr. Ben Bass was at a medical conference in Idaho but an impending storm has cancelled all flights going out. He has an important surgery to perform in the morning. Photojournalist Alex Martin is also desperate to leave as her wedding is the next day. Overhearing his blight, Alex suggests they hire a private plane. Walter (Beau Bridges) is the pilot of the charter plane says he doesn't have to file a flight plan and he can out run the storm. The pile on board with Walter's dog flying over the snow covered mountains of the High Uintas Wilderness. Unfortunately the storm seems to have taken a turn and is now catching up and Walter is having a stroke. They crash land and Walter does not survive, Alex's leg is fractured, Ben has broken ribs, and of course the dog seems to be OK. No flight plan means that no one knows they are there. Neither one had time to call anyone before they left. The tail section of the plane blew off before crashing so the beacon is missing. Dr. Bass is resourceful and applies first aid to Alex's leg although she is still unconscious. If one crashes, it's good to have a doctor on board. He buries Walter under the wing of the plane. Makes a fire with the chair stuffing. When Alex wakes, she is of the mind to go somewhere that has phone access and maybe civilization. More pragmatic Ben thinks they should stay and wait for help. In the end, they end up getting off the top of the mountain heading for the treeline.

Enduring freezing cold weather, injured leg, deep snow and endless walking, they learn to trust each other despite they very divergent personalities. Alex talks about her fiance and wonders why Ben doesn't talk of his wife. Alex stole a look in Ben's wallet and listened to his voice recorder that had a cryptic message from his wife. After about 3 weeks they find a deserted cabin with a couple cans of soup. Alex had fallen into a pond when the ice broke and Ben nurses her from hypothermia. It's there they give into the chemistry, but they realize they still have to find a way out. Fortunately they eventually find a logging camp and after recovering they go back to their lives. And Ben, who didn't like the dog to begin with, ends up with him. Once they are back they realize that their survival time has forever marked them. The movie can only end with a big heart mending reunion. How can you not like getting back with Idriss? And the dog is cute too.
(Review by reesa)

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Te Ata

Long before technology had taken over the world, people would often pass down stories verbally, as in talking to each other. At the turn of the century Mary Francis Thompson clung to the stories told by her father of her Chickasaw people. Director Nathan Frankowski and writers
Jeannie Barbour and Esther Luttrell follow the formative years of this real life storyteller who is considered an Oklahoma treasure.

Q'orianka Kilcher plays Mary Francis as a young adult. She is set on going to Oklahoma College of Women, but her father is J.B. Thompson (Gil Birmingham) is afraid of how the white people will treat her. He would like her to stay home and live a normal life. Her mother Bertie(Brigid Brannagh) and her uncle, Douglas Johnston(Graham Greene), the Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, encourage her as she has a gift of communication. At school she gets the attention of the drama teacher Miss Davis (Cindy Pickett) who helps her develop her ability to perform her native stories. After she graduates, Miss Davis recommends her to Carnegie Institute. In the meantime she travels on tent show circuit that travels around the states while she hones her skills. She meets with other tribes who give her their stories so she can share with the world. Carnegie rejects her application, but Mary, who has changed her name to a stage name of Te Ata (bearer of the morning) travels over 1000 miles demanding an audition. Which of course, she wins. To help support herself, she auditions for other productions, but is often competing with blonde actresses. The constant rejections almost sends her back home. Miss Davis helps out by setting up private performances one of which is in front of Eleanor Roosevelt when her husband was governor of New York. Te Ata, finally makes it to Broadway, but despite the good reviews, she feels there is something missing. Her boyfriend Dr. Clyde Fisher(Mackenzie Astin), a professor of astronomy helps her realize that she is happiest when she is telling the stories of her people.

The laws of the land at the time made it illegal for Native Americans to sell their art and dance in their ceremonies in order for them to assimilate into white culture. Most of the white characters in this story are accepting of Native Americans, but there are some smarmy supremacist types twirling their mustaches. Still a reminder on how this country treated people of color that seems to be relevant today. Returning home, Te Ata finds her father is ill after government agents raided his store of all the native goods. The crafts the local families need to sell to support themselves. When Te Ate receives an invitation to perform at the White House, she tells her father she will stay home if he will not die on her. Finally realizing that Te Ate has a gift to share and being an unofficial spokesperson for all aboriginal people. Her legacy has been honored by the State of Oklahoma, by the Chickasaw Nation, and many book, plays and movies. She performed all over the world, including the Queen of England. As part of the history of this country it's a worthwhile subject to cover. The movie itself has that Hallmark/Lifetime movie of the week feeling to it's production. Very pastoral and sincere feelings, but lacks any potential dangers. Good for the whole family.
(Review by reesa)

Opening 10/6 at
Firewheel Town Center 18
Grapevine Mills 30
Parks @Arlington 18
Stonebriar Mall 24

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Oct 1 - Oct 7

Happy October everyone!!!

Slowly the more interesting films are coming out. If you know of any that I've missed please let me know.

Everyone seems to be able to get their own passes. But if you can help out when the need arises that would be super. Also if you see someone posting a screening that's not from our usual sources, a head's up is greatly appreciated. (Thank you Ellen!).

October 1 - October 7

Oct 3 - Tues

The Meyerowitz Stories - 7:00 pm - Magnolia

Oct 4 - Wed

The Mountain Between Us - 7:00 pm - AMC Northpark
Tyler Perry's Boo 2 - 7:30 pm - Cinemark West

Oct 5 - Thu

Thank You For Your Service - 7:30 pm - tba Plano

Oct 6 - Fri

Marshall - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Kingsman The Golden Circle

This was a fun flick. As far as sequels go, this is an engaging ride that knows its limitations and parameters to make sure it makes no stops in rountinesville USA.

Even going back to 1989’s violent actioner “Lethal Weapon 2,” director Richard Donner returned to a formula that worked wonders for a captive audience that wanted more of the same.

The plot twists in “The Kingsnan: The Golden Circle” are not in abundance, but just enough to jeep the viewer interested in the story.
Returning to this fast paced tale is Taron Egerton and Mark Strong. Egerton was Eggsy, Firth’s choice to join this specialized group. Strong reprises his role as Merlin, a Kingsman member who knows how everything works.

Also involved with the plot and story are Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and Colin Firth. Moore’s Poppy persona is the villain of this tale, a vindictive and arrogant persona who adores everything from the 1950’s and TV’s “Happy Days” as well as the freedom to peddle drugs wherever she chooses. Berry’s Ginger persona wants to be more active in the field rather than being behind the desk. Tatum’s Tequila persona does not trust the British counterparts in the very least. Firth returns as Harry Hart, a person the audience thought perished in the last entry.

Also returning for his sophomore directing effort behind the camera is Matthew Vaughn, who still manages to squeeze in some very cool plot twists and turns in this entry that had the chance of becoming a bit too mundane. He re-visits some bits of past dialogue while still managing to make the story fun. Even some of the shootout sequences amaze via the well-done fight chorography via a lasso and gunplay aplenty.

What was also cool was seeing performer Elton John in a part with some substance. He made a cameo appearance in 1997’s “Spice World,” but his part added nothing to the movie but a glorified cameo appearance. His last notable role was in director Ken Russsell’s “Tommy” in 1975, wherein the supergroup The Who had their filmed stage play translated to the big screen. He was The Pinball Wizard, a character personified by his enormous boots and presence on the machine involved with the title character portrayed by Roger Daltry.

Also amusing in this tale is that all of the channels in the movie are tuned into some kind of Fox affiliate. There are a variety of channels in the multiverse that is TV, but for some reason, everything goes back to Fox.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” does what its supposed to do in having an engaging stand-alone story that works as a new entry into a series that will hopefully continue and write further chapters into the mix.

Grade: B+

(Review by Ricky Miller)

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American Made

Reel Time with Joel and Chase

Tom Cruise is Riding a Bike Covered in Cocaine. It Sounds Insane, and so is the Story, but Joel and Chase are Split.

Title: American Made
Rating: R for Language Throughout and Some Sexuality/Nudity
Run Time: Ihr & 55min

Joel’s Review
*½ (out of ****)

American Made would seem to lend itself well to a cinematic treatment. The subject of the movie is Barry Seal, a Trans World Airlines pilot who was contracted by the Central Intelligence Agency to perform reconnaissance missions in the air over South America. The setting is primarily Louisiana and, later, Arkansas in the late 1970s. The twists in the story, which is certainly stranger than fiction, were that Seal was eventually asked to act as courier between the U.S. and Gen. Manuel Noriega and that, during the mission, the Medellin Cartel convinced him to run cocaine for them, too.

Any slight research into these accounts will reveal that Seal’s whole existence was tragic. There is an urgent story to be told here, especially as Seal’s fate became wrapped up in a political and moral fiasco for then-president Jimmy Carter. Those closely attentive to the details in the first paragraph can probably guess what fiasco that will turn out to be, but it isn’t until the last line of dialogue, delivered with a wink by its performer, that Gary Spinelli’s screenplay even hints at that fiasco. There is an entire layer of the story, even after Seal’s has ended, that has been rather crudely forgotten.

Tom Cruise, an actor whose charisma would seem to have no bottom, plays Seal in a performance that seems to have found the elusive bottom. He seems a bit exhausted here as Seal, whose entire story is told by montages bridged by singular events in which his mortality (not to mention his morality) is on the line. His wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) is aloof to his activities, on the orders of Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), the shadowy operative who orders various measures with a cheeky grin that is more than a little morose. Eventually she must be looped in when her husband ups and moves them and their children to a small town in Arkansas with a convenient stretch of land and a government-owned airstrip.

Everything here is strategically placed to tell the story of Barry Seal with as much showboaty fanfare as is humanly possible, yet director Doug Liman’s efforts are oddly counterproductive to those ends. Yes, there are a lot of montages, courtesy of editing that relies a lot on style without any consideration for the points of the story, and cinematographer César Charlone offers a lot of Dutch angles and grainy imagery. None of it works to give the film a sense of urgency. Even as the movie reaches the point of confronting Seal’s fate, American Made takes its fascinating story and drains it of all significance.
(Review by Joel Copling)

Chase’s Review

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Rodarte couture label designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy wrote and directed this style over substance feature film starring Kristen Dunst. Moody and highly embellished visual light show with lingering moments of Dunst playing woodland fairy in the big trees, commonly called Woodshock when one is enraptured by the Sequoias. Distribution company A24 which steered Moonlight all the way to the Oscars gives this film some cache and viewer consideration. However the ending product is like a David Lynch film but without the quirky characters.

Dunst plays Theresa who works in a marijuana dispensary in Northern California. Her boss Keith (Pilou Asbaek of “Game of Thrones”) has been experimenting creating a product that helps those clients seeking euthanasia. Theresa's mom who is dying of cancer asks for her daughter's assistance to end her suffering. So she doses her usual medical marijuana joint with the mysterious concoction. This sends Theresa on a downward spiral of guilt and grief. Theresa lives with Nick (Joe Cole) who is a lumberjack. They were not getting on very well at this point and the loss of her mother makes her more distanced from him. Her disintegrating personality takes on a hallucinating dreamscape with Dunst channeling her character in Melancholia. Theresa wanders about her house staring into space, playing with glass facets in the sunlight. She is like those young women in the 60's who are not tightly wound up.

If there is a message in this film, because dialogue is at a minimum and reality is questioned, it may be excessive drug use, the lumber industries destroying forests and of course, euthanasia. Theresa at one point puts the deadly drug mixed pot into some of the bottles sold to customers. She also begins to smoke the tainted drugs too which would explain her nightly excursions building a wood fence in front of her house using random wood pounded with a rock. One thing is the slip she wears of her mother's while doing this construction. In fact all those costumes and set decoration have very retro hipster affectations. It's all pretty and nice to look at, but not much to think about.
(Review by reesa)

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If you are have watched any number of the hunting shows on cable television, then you are aware of the obsession of Americans who fill the woods in their camouflage, rifles and/or archery equipment during deer season. Humankind has been bringing home the meat since forever. But with ready made food products it's no longer necessary for sustenance gathering. Hunting is now a multi-million dollar industry that is encouraged by the suppliers of their equipment, clothes, guides, and resorts that cater to those who can afford the luxury of being led to prime spots particularly in places like Africa that offer big game. As humanity encroaches on animal habitats, it's becomes increasingly more difficult for animals to avoid becoming extinct. Poachers have become a major problem by killing and wasting the animals for their body parts like horns and tusks. Management of these wildlife resources becomes imperative for their survival. Directors Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz take a multi-faceted look at this complex issue without siding one way or another on the subject, letting the viewer decide for themselves.

John Hume runs a rhino farm in Africa, hoping to breed at least 200 animals a year to save them. Rhino's are extremely vulnerable as their large horns are thought to contain some magical healing qualities in some parts of the world. Hume and his team dart the rhino's, take their vitals, and then cut off the horns so that they are not attractive to poachers. The horns grow back, so this is something that will have to be done every two years. The horns they accumulate are stored as the laws had put a moratorium on their sale. Hume cannot fund the farm without the income he can get for the horns unless he allows them to be hunted. In different parts of Africa, wildlife officials have to consider killing a lion that is eating the livestock from some villages where they have resorted to keeping their cows in the house to keep them safe. Photography tourists want the lions for their pictures and the quandary becomes the economic resources to the country verses lions stealing goats.

An American hunter has been planning for years his hunt for "The Big Five" (elephant, lion, cape buffalo, leopard, and rhino). As a creationist he claims the Bible says that God gave dominion of the animals to man. So basically killing endangered species his divine right. The safari guides in Africa, need the thousands of dollars these hunts provide. They also promote the use of conservation to control the animal population and only target older animals. The meat from the animals that are hunted are turned over to the local villages. One of the wildlife officials questions the concept of trying to save something so someone can come in and kill it.

There is a debate in the film with John Hume and the head of Born Free, which works with animal protection activists. While some people understand Hume's goal to save the rhino, they also put forth that he will financially benefit from the sale of the horns. Some activists just want all the animals to go free, unaware of the long term effects of over hunting and poaching will devastate the animal populations. One woman said "look sweetheart, I'm a vegan, I believe in all living things". Which is a nice sound byte, but doesn't save the lions.
(Review by reesa)

Opening 9/29 at Grapevine Mills 30 DIT with IMAX

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Sept 22 - Sept 30

Holy smokes, it's the end of September. New seasons starting on TV this week, the Texas State Fair is right around the corner, and it's the beginning of the fall rush to the Oscars coming up. Hope everyone is having a good time!

Sept 22 - Sept 30

Mon - Sept 23

Battle of the Sexes - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas

Tue - Sept 24

Victoria and Abdul - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas
American Made - 7:30 pm - Angelika Dallas

Sat - Sept 30

My Little Pony - 11:00 am - AMC Northpark

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Friday, September 22, 2017

LEGO Ninjago

The LEGO Ninjago Movie
Director: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Time to Build the Action out of LEGOs.

A third LEGO cinematic offering from Warner Bros. and the LEGO Group after they assembled The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, comes a brick-to-film about a teenage high school student, Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), who was living as an unpopular kid, but is actually a ninja on the inside in the town of Ninjago. As trouble is calling him when he faces the town’s attack under the control of Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux), who is actually Lloyd’s father, he and his ninja friends, under the learning and leadership of Master Wu (voiced by martial artist Jackie Chan), must defeat Lord Garmadon in order to restore peace and put his relationships aside from his father from taking over Ninjago. But the main problem is he and Lord Garmadon really got family issues to deal with while learning the main principle of hope and glory.
It gives me to say this when it comes to father-and-son relationships, similar like “Star Wars” when Darth Vader shoots the “Luke, I am your father” quote, gives me a laugh-out-loud replica of this when a son (Lloyd) is good guy, while the father (Lord Garmadon) is a bad guy. Deep down, the relationship must go on. Sounds about strange, but funny. Never seem to be forgotten in this family-orientated film like returning to classics again. Think back from any movies with deeper family relationships and wisdom for your experience and your childhood. What do you see? Emotions!

The film is fairly decent to say the least compared to the TV series from Cartoon Network. There’s a little too much live-action scenes with some interesting, little-bit-violent scenes based on martial art television series and usage of a real cat, destroyer of Ninjago, throughout the entire film as an advantage of family LEGO film. It lost some notion, which had worn off after those two movies, as well as lacking the depth and textures when everything I see is not entirely made out of LEGOs. Doesn’t sound “awesome” as it looks. Use an instruction manual to learn this clearly. Though, I heavily enjoyed the voice casts, including Dave Franco and Jackie Chan, as well as increasing the comedy to this film like “The LEGO Batman Movie.” I admired the relationship between Lloyd and Master Wu as their form was a reminiscent of DreamWorks’s “Kung Fu Panda,” Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” 2010’s “Karate Kid,” and some other films that may involve martial arts or anything the character wants to learn from.

Overall, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” never seem to disappoint, regardless of any feedback from critics and audiences. I would assume if you’re a LEGO fan, Jackie Chan fan, or just a fan from the TV series, you should go watch this 101-minute creation. Only a “master builder” could enjoy everything. I can’t tell if the box-office record is maybe low unlike the first two films, but I’m pretty sure kids will have an opportunity to shine their faces from a slight bummer to a positive warm feeling on the way home after watching it or at the movies. For adults, it would sound mediocre like “meh.”


(Review by Henry Pham)

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