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!

To join the Dallas Movie Screening Yahoo Group:

Reesa's Reviews can also be found at:

Logo art by Steve Cruz

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Dec 10 - Dec 16

Only 2 more weeks til Christmas!!! Seems like we should be having lots of those award type movies crowding our schedule, but it's so uneventful. Probably a good time to watch the new season of The Crown, or catch up with the binges you have collected on your DVR.

The North Texas Film Critics Association which Dallas Movie Screenings is proud to belong, will be selecting our "Best of the Year". It's unfortunate that we were not able to view all the front runners or the foreign films or even some of the highly touted animated entries. But we do what we can with what we got.

As usual, Yahoo is giving us a headache, so if we missed listing a screening, please let us know.

Dec 10 - Dec 16

Dec 10 - Sun

The Greatest Showman - 10:00 am - AMC Northpark

Dec 12 - Tues

Paul Apostle of Christ - 7:00 pm - Cinemark West

Dec 13 - Wed

Insidious The Last Key - 4:00 pm - Cinemark West
9-1-1 - 7:00 pm - Studio Movie Grill Northwest Hwy.
Father Figure - 7:00 pm - AMC Mesquite

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Disaster Artist

Reel Time with Joel and Chase
It is Bull****, I Do Not Hate This Movie, It is Not a Disaster. It Tis’ Nawwwwwt. Oh, Hi Review.

Title: The Disaster Artist
Rating: R for Language Throughout and Some Sexuality/Nudity
Run Time: Ihr & 43min

Joel’s Review
***½ (out of ****)

“The best thing about all this is that no one’s going to see it.” Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, so the character who says this about the movie whose crew he is part of would probably like to eat his words if asked about them now. He’s the script supervisor on The Room, 2003’s infamously awful romantic melodrama (later marketed as a “quirky black comedy,” though it was anything but) that, following its two-week, awards-qualifying run in Los Angeles, during which it made a small percentage of its budget back, enjoyed cult status because it was so widely reviled – but, in its own way, loved because of that awfulness.

The Disaster Artist, an account of the earlier film’s financing and production, is also about as comprehensive a biopic of its human subject as it could possibly be. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (adapting a nonfiction account by Greg Sestero, the film’s co-star and line producer, and Tom Bissell) are dealt a curious hand with Tommy Wiseau. He was notably secretive – pooling funds with no stated source to afford the equipment that would be used, speaking in an accent that was naturally cartoonish and vaguely Eastern European while claiming to be from New Orleans, and telling his new best friend Greg (Dave Franco) never to speak about him to anyone while refusing to give a straight answer about anything on display in his apartment (one of two).

James Franco plays Tommy in a remarkable performance, and here there are two major achievements: The impersonation is uncanny, from his drooping eyelid to his slurred speech to the laugh that is always three carefully pronounced syllables, and the externalization as an actor of everything within himself offscreen gets to the evasive heart of the man. Perhaps something within the older Franco brother, who also directed the film, caused him to realize that only he could play this role. He certainly seems to understand the drive had by Wiseau – to be the next Tennessee Williams – that sends him and Greg to L.A. from San Francisco to pursue their dreams of becoming movie stars.

Auditions either go poorly (in Tommy’s case) or dry up (in Greg’s case after he signs on with an agent, played by Sharon Stone, who essentially abandons him). Greg meets Amber (Alison Brie), a bartender with a heart of gold who unintentionally interrupts the curious-to-the-say-the-least friendship between Greg and Tommy, and Greg sparks an idea in the head of his new friend: They should make their own movie. And make one they do, Tommy cobbling together a script that seems to be vaguely autobiographical (but who knows if it is), hiring a cast and crew (including Seth Rogen as the script supervisor, Sandy Schklair, and Paul Scheer as the D.P., Raphael Smadja) and pushing forward with their director, whose dictatorial methods are at constant loggerheads with his underlings.

The fun of the film is certainly in seeing the recreation of many of The Room’s most iconographic moments and more than one of its unintentionally funny narrative gaps by actors with more know-how and, perhaps, dignity than their counterparts: Tommy, naked as whatever day he was born, aims incorrectly during one of the awkwardly staged sex scenes with Juliette Danielle (Ari Graynor), the actress playing “Lisa” to Tommy’s “Johnny.” The inexplicable tone of “Johnny’s” reaction to a story of domestic abuse told by “Mark,” Greg’s character in the movie, is nothing on the hours-long process of capturing a single take involving “Johnny’s” insistence that he himself is not involved in domestic abuse. Carolyn Minott (Jacki Weaver), the actress playing the mother of Juliette’s character, questions an apparently abandoned subplot involving breast cancer, and the answer she receives is unexpected.

There is more where that comes from, and Franco’s approach, while very funny, is delicate enough that we appreciate Wiseau’s drive to create, while put reasonably off by his method to get to that point. The ultimate result of The Room might have been quite awful (Indeed, the story’s crux, that the abusive creep is the tragic hero and his poor fiancée escaping the relationship is the villain, is kind of gross, and that’s apart from the lapses in narrative and imprecise performances), but the greatest coup of The Disaster Artist is that it argues in favor of such ambition. It might have been misplaced, but a movie was made. How many people can say they’ve done such a thing?
(Review by Joel Copling)

Chase’s Review

(Review by Chase Lee)

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The Shape of Water

This year's slate of movies heading for the awards season has been fairly eclectic with a good amount in contemporary based stories. Good, and satisfying, but none that stirs such an emotional and visually entrancing reaction as the fantastical and magical The Shape of Water. Directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor is sort of a Creature From the Black Lagoon type film, with romance set in the early 1960's. Every last detail of the set decoration, music soundtrack and costuming is drenched in color and patina the takes you into their world and the journey of the characters that you will never forget.

The story begins with mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who lives above a movie theater as she begins her day, as she does every day with little variation. She is friends with her next door neighbor Giles, an out of work commercial artist for whom she makes breakfast and keeps company. Elisa works at a government research warehouse in Baltimore as a cleaner with her co-worker best friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Being mute seems to encourage those around her to speak more often to fill in the quiet. The research team is gearing up to bring in an "asset". A creature found in a South American river, where the locals consider it a god. The team is lead by the cruel and abusive security leader Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), a highly religious man who doesn't trust the fish-like creature as he believes humans have a moral and righteous superiority over all things.

Curious Elisa sees the creature (Doug Jones) while cleaning the lab. She sneaks back in and feeds him eggs and plays music for him. Her lack of fright at the creature, helps him to trust her. When she sees Strickland torturing him and learns of the plan to take him apart for study spurs her to enact a plan to get him out. Meanwhile research doctor, Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) who is also a Russian spy named Dmitri, is given the task of killing the asset just to stymie the governments plans. Instead, the doctor who finds out Elisa's plan, decides to help her.

Michael Shannon is such an evil character, but he is tempered by his family man home life and the giving in to buying a new car. When he is commanded by General Hoyt (Nick Searcy) to clear up this mess of the missing asset or his professional life is over, kicks Strickland in the path of no return. Giles, is a lonely and frustrated closeted artist who indulges in electric colored key lime pies just because the counter help is nice to him. And Zelda despite her trash talking about her husband, has a big heart and helps her friends despite the dangers. Eliza, who was found in the water as a baby with scars on her neck finds a soul mate in the creature who she believes "sees" her. And the creature despite his other worldly-ness, makes one feel compassion to his plight. Each actor is so perfect in their portrayals, it makes the movie immerse the viewer in the amazing imagination of the filmmakers.

Parents be forewarned, it's not a movie for small children. or even tweens. Older teens would be more suitable.
(Review by reesa)

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure

Director: Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers Studio: Disney

“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” snows and blows!

Hope you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving holiday with your families and friends because this year, Christmas season is here. A long, less-applauded pleasure for holiday nearly-twenty-minute short film as a pre-Coco show to spread the joyous holiday season of the year. Although, there are several criticisms beyond the release in theaters, particular the readings and news over the complaints and issues happening in the Mexico release in theaters. Originally, it was planned as a holiday special on television before it was chosen to showcase it in front a feature film.

In this short film, Olaf the snowman (voiced by Josh Gad) was on the verge of celebrating the holiday for the first time, but hope is lost when the sisters, Anna and Elsa, realized they have no family traditions and it’s up to Olaf to search for traditions all over town to bring the holiday cheery-spirits to the sisters.

Let me say this, it wasn’t a bad film regardless of the negative responses but it was somewhat a bad idea for Disney to place this in front Disney-Pixar’s Coco. I would think it was okay and pretty decent when it comes to short films. The time length is what increases the issue for angry audiences who really looking forward to see the heart-stringing Coco film. It’s not really a short film but maybe as a “short test.” I was surprised when I saw Coco, it didn’t showed the short film to the early audiences and critics (mainly). It may be due to time length. That was a roadkill and maybe a trip to awful-land or promise-land as Disney would have a decision to screen this, thought Disney did said it was for a limited-time, not all the time. I would called it a “staircase” to the upcoming Frozen sequel as many people found it easier to be “marketed” for the upcoming sequel. It was a “reverse payment” for Pixar’s Tokyo Mater when it was screened in front of Disney’s Bolt back in 2008. Looks like the short have lost its magic and the icy moments are about to worn off and melt.

However, the only things I like about the short was the holiday song, the returning cast, and the holiday tradition that connects and ties together for this and Pixar’s Coco, which is based on the Day-Of-The-Dead holiday. I really loved how these gifts that kept on giving for entertainment. It was the first time a non-Pixar short was shown in front of a Pixar film. If Pixar doesn’t have a short film to be released beforehand, then their tradition will be nontraditional. This short is like the “absence of new Pixar short” since there is no Pixar short being produced for Coco. To add a few bonus points for this short, love the fruitcake joke as it seems to be reality check since it was unpopular in the real world.

Overall, this short film was ok, but I think the world is better off of seeing Coco rather than this before the film or seeing this on television or as a special feature on Blu-ray/DVD copy of Coco (if there is). This isn’t my first time writing a negative review of the animated shorts but the time issue and character adjustments have just prevented this short from receiving a positive reaction. Not to be negative, but time was always the issue. The rise of franchises (Frozen, Thor, Star Wars, etc.) seems to have gotten out-of-hands. The time length is 21 minutes while Coco is 109 minutes.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Dec 3 - Dec 9

There wasn't a calendar last week, because there wasn't anything on our calendar. If y'all notice something missing, please share with the group. Hope you had a chance to catch up to what you missed or binged out on your streaming services.

Of course our Yahoo Group page has been a bit wonky lately. And the calendar page lets you look but not touch. So if there's anything missing here let us know. When the group goes down, please check out our FB page for screening links posted there.

With the holiday movies filling the schedule, there will be lots of opportunities and win GA and VIP passes. Please understand the first come first serve rule, keep your wristbands on, and don't fight with the reps. They have a big job keeping track of us all, plus the press, and contest winners. It's a free screening, y'all. If you don't want the drama, go hit the early bird discounted screenings. Keep in mind, saving a place for one or two people is not a big thing, but when you got 10 people who wander in late, it's not fair to those who camped out before them.
You know who you are!!!

December 3 - December 9

Mon - Dec 4

The Shape of Water - 7:30 pm - Angelika Dallas

Tue- Dec 4

The Darkest Hour - 7:00 pm - AMC Northpark

Wed - Dec 5

Wonder Wheel - 7:30 pm - Magnolia

Sat - Dec 9

Ferdinand - 10:00 am - AMC Northpark
Ferdinand - 11:00 am - AMC Grapevine Mills

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The Swindlers

A Ponzi scheme that bilked over a hundred billion won from Korean citizens in 2008 that caused multiple suicides led to a manhunt for the culprit. Unfortunately Jang Doo-chil escapes to China, with the help of a retired counterfeiter who was found later dead from an apparent self hanging. The counterfeiter's son vows vengeance for his death. This South Korean heist film directed and written by Jang Chang-won in his first solo project dominated the ticket sales during it's opening week, beating out Justice League.

In the present time, three grifters (Bae Sung-Woo, Nana, An Se-Ha) who are under the control of Prosecutor Park (Yoo Ji-tae) are set on a task to search for Jang who is rumored to be still alive after everyone believed he had died in China. They find a former associate Choi (Lee Kang-Suk) who is also a con artist. He's currently trying to get an old gentlemen to invest in a real estate scheme. Instead the old guy ends up scamming him using the same playbook as Choi. The team, grabs the old guy who turns up to be Hwang Ji-Sung (Hyun-Bin of Secret Garden fame), who is the son of the counterfeiter. Before Park can throw him in jail, Hwang tangles some first hand knowledge of Jang and that he is hiding out in Thailand. Park decides to work with Hwang who insists that he is in charge of the plan. Park is under enormous pressure from his superiors who had profited from Jang's schemes and would like to get him out of the way permanently. Hwang tries to lure Jang in by offering money laundering though a casino operation. Jang's money man Kwang Seung-gun (Park Sung-Woong) comes to assess the situation. The team has to show a large pile of cash to complete the scam.

This is a very entertaining heist film, with every character having their own motive for their participation in the plot. The film moves quickly
with twists and turns and it's almost a surprise as the conclusion comes to it's satisfying ending. Just don't think too closely at the plot holes that will nudge you afterwards. It's fun, full of double and triple crossing. The bad guys get their justice and the good guys you want to come back and do a sequel.
(Review by reesa)

Movie opend in Dallas, December 1,2017 at AMC Grapevine Mills

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Director: Lee Unkrich Studio: Disney/Pixar

Pixar’s “Coco” Offers Colorful and Musical Memories

Not to be confused for another “The Book of Life” adventure, the team of Pixar Animation Studios has offered an eye-dropping, second main course this year after producing Cars 3. The “ingredients” Disney and Pixar have put together are child actor, slapstick sidekick, refreshing memories, family gatherings, colorful images, and emotions. As far as music films echo compared to “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King,” this film reached the perfect musical height and more complex for the background and plot twist than these four.

The story tells about the ambitious twelve-year-old kid, Miguel, who wanted to become a musician just like his idol, but the main conflict is his family were turned against music. Fulfilling his dream, he must rebel on the Day of the Dead celebration but stumbles into the other side of the world, the Land of the Dead. To return to the living world, he must have some music talents while learn the importance of family and its generations.

The peak of the idea for the film and the worlds of the Land of the Dead was extremely ambitious with some breathtaking experiences and discovery that people drew the line or border of any place, similar like the shadows of Trump’s effort to build a wall on the border. The film highly spread existential questions on how it follows between loving the families and loving the life of music of the familiar masterpieces from time to time. It would be rough to figure out what was more important than ever after witnessing the action and the emotion “Coco” has been carried on as a legacy similar to 2007’s “Ratatouille.” There’s a lot more than anything than everyone’s heart desires. If you can recall from Disney’s “Zootopia,” the motto is “where anyone can be anything.” Going back to “Ratatouille,” where anyone can cook.

As for acting, child actor (and newcomer) Anthony Gonzalez (as Miguel) provided the most intentional, steadiest role ever for a child character, similar like Russell from Pixar’s “Up,” after appearing two episodes from 2014’s “The Bridge” and 2017’s “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.” This was his first time leading the role as a conductor for the rest of the cast. Benjamin Bratt (as Ernesto, Miguel’s idol) provided the most wonderful, beating voice than the mediocre “Despicable Me 2” as El Macho. Even the Mexican actor, Gael García Bernal is willing to save his character, the mess, and the entire family.

The film was perfectly magical as it contains some sense of cartoon slapstick and humor for the film’s acts. But the two most important ingredients are music and family gatherings, which are the centerpieces to the family tree and in everyone’s hearts to remember the love ones, life or loss. It would brought a revitalizing moment to see and to learn from living families and deceased ones. The plot was a heartwarming, delightful taste of the original sensation like the “WALL-E,” ‘Ratatouille,” and “Inside Out.” Though the film’s structures are exactly similar based on “The Book of Life” but Pixar put more effort and eye-dropping ambition throughout the years. The direction, the writing from Pixar worker, Adrian Molina, the music, the entire cast, skeleton characters, and the background have outdone it smoothly and painstakingly. It takes a plethora of people, commitment, years, dedication, idea-makings, and hard work to put everything in one big presentation. It was over improved than “Cars 3” when this film have went to the finish line first. The originalities were better off than “Finding Nemo” and “Cars” sequels. Fun fact is “Coco” director, Lee Unkrich, have pitched this idea after directing “Toy Story 3” and before “The Book of Life” got made in 2014.

Before I get a chance to see this, I took a trip to the Mexica-Art museum, located in Austin, TX, to discover the Day of the Dead arts and creations representing the Mexican holiday tradition, defining research, and assignment. It was true commitment to learn about how Day of the Dead was celebrated every year around the world.

Overall, this film looks mighty great as a Day of the Dead and Thanksgiving treat to all families and friends. You can also watch ‘The Book of Life” before you watch this film, but under the hood, they’re both as aspirational as ever. I don’t understand why this film was released on Thanksgiving despite the fact this is a Day-of-the-Dead film but mainly due to box-office competition with Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” took its date. I can guarantee this film is a “must” and on “before you die” to-do list. Great movie for not only for Mexicans but also for Asians and Americans as well. Due to positive reception, I may predict that “Coco” may have a slight chance of being nominated for an Oscar.

As a bonus, there was a Walt Disney Animation Studios short film, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, featuring the returning characters from “Frozen.” Josh Gad will be brought back to life as Olaf along with Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, and Jonathan Groff. This is the first time Pixar would screened this non-Pixar short film, thought it definitely served as a holiday treat for fans. Running time for this short is 21 minutes while “Coco” is 109 minutes.

(Review by Henry Pham)

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Nov 19 - Nov 25

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Hope you have some good stuff planned. Not too many movies this week, but that's usual for the holidays. The Yahoo Groups calendar is down again so I'm just guessing on the movies this week. If you see something I've missed, please share with everyone.

Nov 19 - Nov 25

Mon - Nov 20

Coco, 7:00 pm - AMC Northpark
Roman J. Israel - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas

Tues - Nov 21

Coco - 7:00 pm - AMC Grapevine.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lady Bird

**** (out of ****)

The idea of preferred names runs through the beating heart of Lady Bird. It comes to a head in a scene early on, as our protagonist and her best friend in the known world sign a sign-up sheet for an activity at their school. Christine – who would like to be called “Lady Bird,” thank you very much – places the given name (“It’s given to me by me,” she clarifies to the easily confused) between her birth name and surname in the same quotations I just used. Her friend does the same thing with a shorthand of her name (“Julie” from “Julianne”). It is not, Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) argues, the same thing at all. Julie (Beanie Feldstein), who later adopts another shorthand by which to be referred, disagrees.

Both of these young women are finding themselves, and the concept of self-discovery is what drives writer/director Greta Gerwig’s exceptionally moving, exquisitely crafted study of the affairs of the heart. This is not, though, a simple, coming-of-age tale. There is no tidy resolution to a story in Gerwig’s screenplay. Likewise, there is no comfortable start. It begins in the middle of Lady Bird’s story, and it ends in the middle. That isn’t to suggest there isn’t movement within her character but that the movement is in the degrees relative to one’s teen age transitioning into adulthood.

In other words, the character changes in ways that seem to her, at this transient period of her life, to be gigantic. In the long run, the changes are quite small, even as the snowball effect of those changes will lead to a path of escape from a life of drudgery and disappointment. One hopes that, given years of hindsight later in life, Lady Bird comes to realize this. Perhaps by the note-perfect final scene, she begins to grasp that truth. This, again, is not the kind of film in which any given character finds a convenient solution for their quirks or personal hang-ups.

It is, though, a film that displays the range of compassion and human emotion. It finds comedy in the awkward and uncomfortable places of an older adolescent girl’s experiences. It locates the gravity of the drama when events within those experiences go awry. There is both a specificity and a broadness to the character that is genuinely inspiring. Film characters should not be so easily defined by how empowering, either specifically or broadly, they are. There is, though, a difficulty in seeing how young women everywhere won’t find this character empowering to some degree. There must, by the simple laws of likelihood in nature, be someone who finds something within themselves in Lady Bird. Her experiences are too universal not to be recognized in the experiences of the everyday, 17-year-old girl looking toward the future and seeing only uncertainty.

That’s the beauty of Gerwig’s film: The events of whatever narrative there might be (It certainly isn’t confined by one in the traditional sense) might be modeled by her own life, which is where the specificity comes from, but the filmmaker understands that we all see ourselves in other people. That is, at its core, how friendships form. Perhaps they fall apart, as one does here, when we start to have trouble identifying ourselves within ourselves. “I want you to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be,” Lady Bird’s mother tells her, and the query she receives in answer is the one that we likely feel we could voice in our own experiences: “What if this is the best version?”

As for the narrative, it’s mostly a patchwork of moments within Lady Bird’s final year at a Catholic high school. She’s looking at colleges that are both affordable and akin to the prestigious ones into which she doubts she can muster up the grades to gain entry. Her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) wants her to stay close, and her father Larry (Tracy Letts) just wants her to be happy. The dynamic here is complex and hardly easy to pin down. She is at constant loggerheads with her mother, whose nervous energy suggests a woman who easily shuts down in the face of tremendous strain, and though she enjoys a more emotionally open relationship with her father, it is disrupted by a revelation involving mental health that causes her to reevaluate almost everything. Letts and Metcalf are remarkable in roles that could have fallen into the archetypical traps of the “parent roles” but, thankfully, don’t.

At school, she wants to fit in somewhere. That means a falling-out with Julie, who is “replaced” by cool-girl Jenna (Odeya Rush) when things fundamentally shift within Lady Bird, occurs even though everyone present knows that no one can replace your best friend in the world. She meets two guys and thinks it’s love both times when it’s really just a crush: Danny (Lucas Hedges in a terrific performance), a theater nerd ignoring a gigantic emotional truth about himself until he no longer can, and Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), an anarchist who seems to be floating through life. She attends school dances, makes plans that might not be ideal for those around her but that offer a chance at arriving at those greener grasses, and, ultimately, reclaims some lost bit of herself to which she never realized she had access.

There’s even more here, every avenue explored thoroughly and satisfyingly within a compact, 93-minute frame. It isn’t too much weight for Gerwig to bear, and it certainly isn’t for Ronan, whose tremendous performance avoids making the quirks and tics within the character of Lady Bird some sort of joke. She’s unique – that’s for sure – but that uniqueness never becomes the defining characteristic of the performance. Like all of us, Lady Bird is discovering how she fits in while being her best self, and Lady Bird, a masterpiece about the baby steps that start this journey, understands that, sometimes, it takes a little work even to get to the baby steps.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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Cook Off!

* (out of ****)

Cook Off! has the stench upon it of falling into the unfortunate trap of being improvised to death. Nothing about the screenplay (by Wendi McLendon-Covey, W. Bruce Cameron, and co-director Cathryn Michon and based on Michon’s book The Grrl Genius Guide to Life) feels as if it was written down or typed onto a document by human hands. The actors, a lot of whom are genuinely talented, simply mug for the camera for 98 minutes. Not one of the characters is sympathetic. The story is told in the mockumentary style of cooking-themed reality programs like “Chopped” or “Top Chef.” The behind-closed-doors baggage of a movie rarely matters, but let us say that it is not surprising that the film, shot in 2006 for a planned 2007 release, has been shelved for a decade.

The year is 2004, and the setting is the disproportionately popular “Million-Dollar Cook-Off” spearheaded by the Van Rookles, whose current patriarch (played by Stephen Root) merely video-conferences a message to the contestants before they begin cooking. The contestants must prepare a dessert of some sort, and what each one prepares apparently isn’t important to the movie. One dessert requires an endless supply of bite-size marshmallows, another one is a pie whose chef burns it at some point, and a third requires creamed corn. That’s about all one will be able to remember, because this is a movie whose priority is to give us a collection of wacky characters and let them loose to do their thing.

We get rival sisters in the form of the Solfests, Sharon (Michon) and Pauline (McLendon-Covey). The latter is a meek nurse whose only life until now has been caring for the elderly 14 hours a day, coming home, and going to bed, and McLendon-Covey’s chosen method of playing the part is to scowl at everything. The former is engaged to Lars (Gary Anthony Williams), and though the pair remains chaste, the way Williams plays the man makes his homosexuality so obvious that it’s a joke when it isn’t the punch line to a larger joke: that Sharon is engaged to a gay man. It’s because this is that kind of movie: Through the power of unbridled improvisation, the film sets up gags and, perhaps because of the combination of the style and a narrative that won’t allow for it, cannot follow through on them.

Patty (Romy Rosemont) is an overworked, very pregnant mother and wife whose marriage is dangling by a thread. Victoria (Cristine Rose) and Cassandra (Jennifer Elise Cox, giving the only performance that suggests effort) are a mother/daughter pair, the former exercising an insane, abusive amount of control over the latter. Daneel (June Edith Wilson) is a former contestant obsessed with winning who enlists Del (Diedrich Bader), the only male contestant in history, to cook her recipe for some sort of chocolate-covered thing. Ladybug Briggs (Niecy Nash), the lone black contestant, is a wise-cracking-Baptist stereotype.

There are others, too – such as Melissa McCarthy, prominently framed in the marketing but only present for 15 minutes as a latecomer whose sole characteristic is being constantly tearful and harried – but they are barely worth mentioning. Michon and co-director Guy Shalem certainly mimic the look and energy of a cooking program, but the result also means the film looks cheap and quickly, thoughtlessly produced. Even at a mere ninety minutes, sans the ridiculously extended closing credits (filled, of course, with bloopers), Cook Off! is padded quite beyond the point of return.
(Review by Joel Copling)

Opening Friday 11/17
Dallas-Ft. Worth
AMC Dine-In Mesquite 30 DOLBY IMAX
Mesquite, TX

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Lady Bird

Lady Bird is the story of Christine, a young woman who goes by the name “Lady Bird”, over the course of her senior year in high school. She has a concrete dream of attending university in New York City which she is determined to achieve. Her mother, Marion, is completely unconvinced that she will make it with her work ethic. She also is certain that their family’s financial circumstances will be inadequate for such an expensive tuition. On the contrary, Lady Bird’s father, Larry, is extremely loving and supportive of his daughter.

This film was an interesting and thoughtful story to say the least. The examination of a high school student growing to become an adult and the many obstacles that they face makes for an enjoyable time. I was pleased with how the many aspects of the conflict in the family and Lady Bird’s personal challenges were portrayed. However, this was not particularly a film that wowed me to an extent that possibly warrants me seeing it again.

There were definitely well-developed plot points that would appease a mature audience looking for a good narrative. Some of these included a boy being gay in a religious school where that sexual orientation would obviously encounter some backlash. There were also personal questions of Lady Bird such as who really cared for her and was she really loved by her mother. The life of high school students was captured well with the intersecting components of theater, academics, dances, sex, and popular students all permeating Christine’s life.

Saoirse Ronan played the role to a tee with the rebelliousness and not quite matured character of Lady Bird extending throughout the film. Tracy Letts, the actor who plays Larry, does a phenomenal job at portraying someone who clearly loves his daughter and just wants the family to be happy. He is depressed because he is laid off from his job and subsequently causes economic strain on his family. Letts played someone who was hurt but also had the capacity to do everything in his possible power to benefit his children and wife.

There is an outstanding scene in the film where Larry has just applied for a possible position that is really looking for someone who is younger. Not soon after his interview, he sees his son dressed up who obviously is interviewing for the same job. Larry instantly shows no sign of negative emotion and instead makes sure his son, a recent college graduate, looks good for his interview. Overall, the film was reasonably well done with a couple of golden factors in the script.
(Review by Wyatt Head)

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Nov 12 - Nov 18

This is what I'm talking many movies and they are playing on the same days. Makes it hard to decide which ones you want to stand in line for hours or which ones you are willing to pay for when they open.

As y'all know you can ask the group if they have passes they are not using. So if you have a conflict, or decide to attend another movie, please share with someone in need. And make sure you take the conversation directly to the person asking or offering. Not to the whole group. Of course the big ticket movies are going to be highly desired and their availability will most likely be scarce. So enter those contests, put your name on waiting lists, don't expect anyone to get those passes for you, you must do this on your own and good luck!

November 12 - November 18

Tue - Nov 14

Justice League - 7:00 pm - AMC Northpark
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas
Wonder - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Wed - Nov 15

The Disaster Artist - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas
The Man Who Invented Christmas - 7:30 pm - Angelika Dallas
Wonder - 7:30 pm - Cinemark 17

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Friday, November 10, 2017


Screenplay writer and movie director Margaret Betts has given us the 2017 release, the Novitiate, a story line which covers 10 years from the 50's into the 60's and in an era where the Roman Catholic Church was under going great changes via Vatican II. It stars Melissa Leo as the overbearing and abusive Reverend Mother or "Mother" of The Order of the Sisters of the Blessed Rose, where several young girls have come to train for a while in order to become members of the Novitiate where the wheat is separated from the chaff, in the world of producing nuns for the order. Once accepted, the women will never leave the convent and will lead a life of prayer and military like discipline. It was beautifully filmed in Nashville, Tennessee and world premiered at Sundance, early in 2017.

Julianne Nicholson plays main character Novice Sister Cathleen's (Margaret Qualley) mother, Nora Harris, a divorced single mother. She did not raise her young daughter to be religious but Cathleen did get an opportunity to attend a Catholic school and it was there she felt the call, much to her mother's dismay. The story told in the film presents a wide variety of questions and viewpoints but not many definitive answers which is a good decision when involving a film about organized religion. Don't expect very many real answers to the storyline questions but do expect to think long and hard about what is right and proper in the indoctrination rituals of organized religions, especially when military like hazing rituals come to mind. And secrets.

Of primary prominence is Melissa's Leo's amazing and oft times frightening performance as the women responsible for all that happens, good and bad, with in the pristine stone walls of the gorgeous convent grounds. Everything is perfect looking in and on but we soon find out that things are definitely not as they seem. While those inside seek peace and to commune with God on a daily basis, there are conflicts around every sharp, hard and bleak corner. These young girls are mostly 17 and 18 and while they seem to know what the seek and want, to marry God and serve him, every day, through devotion and prayer, their young minds and bodies send them messages in conflict. All of them struggle with the imperfections and shortcomings that Reverend Mother continually points out to them. they doubt them selves and their decision, which flies in the face of the reasons they are there in the first place. Nothing is to come before God; friendships, distractions, shortcomings, outer trappings, the outer world, and even family are not allowed to come in real contact with them. It is as if Mother is trying her best to form them to be as old, unattractive and bitter inside as she is herself, as she battles authority within her own church and the edicts of Vatican II, which she is resisting with all of her might. The girls lose each other along the journey an they must feign friendships, budding sexual feelings, separation from friends and reality as well as the realization that convent life is not all that it is cracked up to be in their romantic young heads.

The emotional abuses are palpable as well as the physical abuses are visceral. Catherine in her quest grows gaunt and unwell as if she is truly giving her heart, body and soul to God. They are punished for speaking at the wrong times, emotionally humiliated as they examine any faults, taught how to inflict self pain to promote inner suffering and bring them closer to the One they love. It all comes across as a sick, sadistic ritual rite of passage and not all of them make it.

The film is about the girls and their journey, and the dedication it takes to make such a life long commitment. Dianna Agron portrays the trainer who empathizes with the women, as her own journey was completed in the last three years, and see the benefits of the changes that Vatican II will bring the changing church. The film is frequently difficult to watch, and cradle Catholics will not much like what they see, or accept that it might have once been a reality. But the film's value lies in its examination of the young women and their journey as well as the very fine acting performances found in all of the cast. People will talk about this one.
(Review by Cheryl Wurtz)

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Beats Per Minute

*** (out of ****)

The reality is set upon them from the beginning: No matter what their diagnosis, they will always be considered HIV-positive or, at the very least, associated with the diagnosis. It would be unbelievable that this is, indeed, the reality of those who have joined an activist group trying to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, but then we see the bigoted push-back from citizens who believe that the condition is limited to those who engage in the kind of sexual activity for which the bigots have reserved a crude epithet. That’s when the reality clenches: There are greater stakes than even the physical survival of an entire class of people. This is about existential survival, too.

Beats Per Minute isn’t exactly a biographical account of the early days of this particular group, called ACT UP, although the early segments of the film suggest something of a biographical nature. We are introduced to the de facto leaders of the group – or, at least, those elected to speak on its behalf, such as Sophie (Adèle Haenel), Eva (Aloïse Sauvage), Luc (Simon Bourgade), and others. We learn the radical methods by which they attempt either to educate the masses to lift the stigma on the HIV-positive (or the “poz” as a shorthand) or to disorientate the pharmaceutical companies withholding studies on a drug that could treat much of the ailments caused by the condition.

Much of the film’s surprisingly dense middle section is devoted to that cause, with the ACT UP members staging scenes of disruption within the offices of the pharma company: They fill balloons with “blood” (mostly watered-down, non-toxic paint or red food coloring) and send them flying into windows and onto the desks of the officials at the company. Their vague bleating of uncertainty regarding the release of the study because of a “lack of experts” leaves the ACT UP members unmoved. They don’t want a team of experts to double-check what they themselves have spent months learning to check by reading the science. They want answers, a treatment, and to live.

Eventually, the focus must narrow to a smaller handful of these people. In this case, that means the torrid love affair that sparks between Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart in a towering performance) and Nathan (Arnaud Valois), two like souls who discovered their sexuality through illicit acts by others in their teenage years and who, now, find that the act of intimacy is more important than ever. Sean is a “poz” himself. He could wither away and die the uncomfortable and elongated death of a person with AIDS. He needs the physical comfort of another human to survive emotionally.

The narrowing of the focus, despite Biscayart’s devastating portrayal of a man whose body is failing him and the refreshingly frank attitude toward sex (which is, indeed, explicit but never gratuitous), is the shakier element of Campillo’s screenplay. We gain a certain type of potency in its portrait of illness, but there is also the sense, forgotten in these later segments, of greater stakes beyond a single person or romance. Otherwise, we receive a sprawling account of activism in media res within Beats Per Minute. This is a thoughtfully performed study of the voices that power such activism.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Nov 5 - Nov 11

Wow!, lots of movies this week, then next week, they are all on the same day. Go figure.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Hope you are starting to make room for the bounty.

I'm offline at the moment. Probably won't be back on the grid until Wed. So if y'all can help out and post screenings to the group that you find it would gratefully appreciated

Nov 6 - Mon

The Long Road Home - 7:00 pm - Studio Movie Grill Northwest Hwy

Nov 7 - Tue

Lady Bird - 7:00 pm - Magnolia

Nov 8 - Wed

Mudbound - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas
Last Flag Flying - 7:30 pm - Alamo Drafthouse Cedars

Nov 9 - Thu

The Room - 7:00 pm - Alamo Drafthouse Cedars

Nov 11 - Sat

The Star - 11:00 am - AMC Northpark and AMC Grapevine
Alpha - 11:00 am - AMC Northpark

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Saturday, November 4, 2017


It's unfortunate that most young people are unaware of the legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson with his Great Society legislation, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid as well as his escalation of the Vietnam War and most importantly the Civil Rights Bill. Johnson was an old school southern politician when he was the Senate Majority Leader. He was smart, savvy, and knew how to maneuver the various factions of Congress. It was because of his influence that he was tapped by John F. Kennedy to be his vice president. This is despite the objections of JFK's brother, Robert Kennedy, who thought LBJ was too stuck in his ways and not ready for the new vision ushered in by JFK. Even LBJ, who highly respected Kennedy, felt his good looks and charisma outshone the old white southern boy from Texas. Woody Harrelson (in thick pasty makeup) looks close enough although he's not as tall. He's got the drawl and harsh language that LBJ used to get things done while in office.

Directed by Rob Reiner from a script Joey Hartstone which was on the 2014 Black List of scripts that were most promising, meanders the story from LBJ's work before his presidency, to the fateful day in Dallas, to what he has to do to appease the Southern Caucus who think they finally got one of their own in power. Robert Kennedy (Michael Stahl-David) wanted to impede Johnson't influence while he was JFK's second in command. JFK (Jeffrey Donovan, who got down the signature eye crinkle and smile), lets his brother keep a close eye on Johnson, and lets him be isolated. Jennifer Jason Lee is a remarkable double for Lady Bird Johnson, who supports her husbands' moments of insecurity by reminding him that this is what he wanted.

Everyone is familiar with the assassination that propelled LBJ to become the 36th President of the United States. LBJ, wife and Jackie Kennedy huddle on Air Force One while he is sworn in as president. He seems stunned and overwhelmed in grief, but quickly takes charge of the staff and secret service who seem just as stuck in place. Senator Richard Russell (Richard Jenkins), a close colleague of Johnson, thinks that now it's assured that the Civil Rights agenda that was supported by Kennedy will not progress. That their southern way of life will be forever kept in place. Johnson recalls how their African American maid who he considers part of the family has difficulty going out in the world ever wary of the looks and comments in her wake. Johnson doesn't think anyone has to endure this kind of prejudice. Considering the present state of the world with each factions digging in to their personal righteousness, it's fitting that the man who was able to support JFK's agenda and change the world. We don't really get that much of an insight to LBJ but we do get a satisfying bump when he calls his mentor Senator Russell a racist.
(Review by reesa)

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Thor Ragnarok

“Thor: Ragnarok” -- This third entry into the Thor series finds banished sister Hela persona laying claim to the throne of Asgard. She is played with a vicious stride by Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett (“The Aviator,” “Elizabeth”). This entry is played for plenty of laughs. Star Chris Hemsworth is around for the majority of the movie. He does, however share plenty of scenes with Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo and Tessa Thompson. Also in it are Idris Elba, Karl Urban and Jeff Goldblum.

Hemsworth also shares plenty of time with adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the movie. Although they are not flesh and blood identities, their closeness was supposed to seal a bond between the men.

For the first time Hemsworth’s Thor persona loses his blonde locks.

It also makes a past reference to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) referring to him as “Point Break.”

Gone are the days of introducing one off characters, wherein their existence will just be looked at as a futile attempt to keep them around for later chapters.

I think both “Captain America: The First Avenger” and the mediocre “Iron Man 2” were notorious for dabbling into this end of dissapointmentville, USA with these productions.

Tessa Thompson is worthwhile as Valkyrie, who once battled Hela years ago with Odin (Hopkins). These scenes are only just a few of the backstory inserted into the plot.

“Thor: Ragnarok” is all about comedic timing and the rapport the characters show with one another. The banter between Hulk and Thor makes for some amusing moments.

“Thor: Ragnarok” uses 3-D visuals, but they are limited and sparingly to just the right degree. I think ever since the abundance of visuals that were a part of James Cameron’s overrated “Avatar” (2009), the 3-D craze has been slightly overused.

Karl Urban is Skurge, a reluctant warrior who pledges himself to Hela, for the sake of saving his own life. He values his life, so he does what he can to make sure he stays in Hela’s good graces.

Director Taika Waititi knows how to present the comedic timing in “Thor: Ragnarok” Part of this goes back to his earlier work like the little-seen “What We Do in the Shadows,” (2014) a vampire satire that made fun of the undead and all of the nuances that occur when being part of the creatures of the night.

A New Zealand director, Waititi also did a credible job with “Hunt for The Wilderspeople,” the tale of an orphaned boy who struggles to find a family that will accept him.

I am one of the few writers in the film industry who does not mind the constant onslaught of superhero productions. Part of that rests in bigger production budgets and attention to detail that is played out in large scale productions.

I have not quite reached the point of superhero fatigue quite yet. The closest I got was Ryan Reynolds’s turn in Martin Campbell’s abysmal “Green Lantern” (2011).

The whole point is that “Thor: Ragnarok” does what it’s supposed to do and give viewers a good time. It runs slightly over two hours, and is worth every moment ones eyeballs are glued to the screen.

Grade: B+
(Review by Ricky Miller)

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thor Ragnarok

Screening: Thor: Ragnarok
Director: Taika Waititi Studio: Marvel Studios/Disney
Thor hammers down the action and humor!
“WARNING: This review may contain spoilers”

Looks like Chris Hemsworth is making on his way to his latest “Thor” entry: facing the power-hunger sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett) and the impending doom of Ragnarok that will conquer Asgard. The third film happens to be a whereabouts of Thor and Hulk, missing out on the events of Captain America: Civil War. Seems like a mystery. They been focusing on something different.

The main film tells about Thor, who was searching the Infinity Stones, got imprisoned into the devil’s demon, Surtur. Once he battles Surtur, he returned home with the Surtur’s crown and wants Loki to know where Odin is. Using directions from Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), they found Odin who was dying to allow Hela, a first-born daughter who is overambitious on ruling Asgard, to escape from prison. They battle and simply fled to Asgard. Hela arrives in Asgard and resurrects her army who fought with her. Meanwhile, Thor crash lands to Sakaar and was captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), under the ruler of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). This led Thor to battle his greatest opponent: Hulk. Together, Thor persuades Hulk and Valkyrie, along with Korg (voiced by Waititi), the rocky gladiator, to assist him to defeat Hela.

This film was a vast improvement over the first two “Thor” films. Much more comedy to add than “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Wonderful cameos from Benedict Cumberbatch, Matt Damon, Sam Neill, and Stan Lee. Director Waititi made the juiciest job and outlandish model to step forward into comical action. The Loki character made the actor Tom Hiddleston act like a “phony, sassy screw-up” on Thor. However, the most interesting part of the film is relationship of Thor and Hulk (he said, “He’s a friend from work”). Perfect time for Thor to shoot a greatest “laugh-out-loud” commotion to the audiences just as they saw the trailer. Cate Blanchett have done the feminist, meatier role for the supervillain. Mark Ruffalo brought a supporting role to Hemsworth. Even the cameo-king Stan Lee provide the marvelous laughs ever out of his stack of cameos. Also, music and songs playing in the background that definitely added more colorful texture and nostalgia to this piece. Very interesting to look back from viewing the paradise. Special effects and CGI are well-done perfectly. The background carried more climates from Pixar’s “WALL-E.”

Overall from the film, “Thor: Ragnarok” was one of the most viewed MCU films ever in the universe with a perfect need for the plot and perfect emotion to Thor and Loki. Great film for a Halloween /Thanksgiving treat and for Marvel fans out there. No complaints on this, better get this on DVD sometime in early 2018. You’ll be stunningly surprised from what Disney and Marvel Studios did. So, better save your energy on any movies you planning on seeing right before the film’s opening day. Remember the phrase from “Jurassic Park,” “Life will find a way” by Jeff Goldblum and John Hammond’s “We spared no expense” quote. Nuff said!

(Review by Henry Pham)

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Oct 29 - Nov 4

You know that it's gonna be a crazy crowded screening for Thor. Please be mindful and cooperative. Passes became available and were quickly redeemed. If you can't use your pass, please offer it to someone in the group, but y'all will have to respond directly to the person offering.

It's chilly out there. Dress warm, drive carefully and go get your flu shots.

Not too many movie for November so far. I'll be offline for a couple days while my internet provider is being switched out. So I would appreciate it if you would all keep an eye out for screenings and post them to the group, to Facebook/Twitter sites.

Oct 29 - Nov 5

Mon - Oct 30

Thor Ragnarok - 7:30 pm - Cinemark 17
Thor Ragnarok - 7:30 pm - tba - Grapevine
A Bad Moms Christmas - 7:30 pm - Harkins Southlake

Tues - Oct 31

It - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Thu - Nov 2

Shameless and Smilf - 7:00 pm - Magnolia

Sat - Nov 4

Daddy's Home 2 - 11:00 am - AMC Northpark

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene

*** (out of ****)

Of course, we all know That Scene in Psycho. The apparent protagonist of the 1960 film, played by Janet Leigh, is stabbed to death in the shower seemingly minutes before achieving peaceful freedom. 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene breaks down the sequence in a startlingly intimate fashion, then examines the influences that led to it and the influence it had on other films in what would become the slasher genre. Director Alexandre O. Philippe’s film does all this by way of talking head interviews, and the thought process here comes, almost subconsciously, in three waves.

First there is the sequence itself, and the discussion of the mechanics that Alfred Hitchcock, whose career of being fascinated by such mechanics and the setting of a place of privacy (the bathroom, featured in many of his early works, particularly 1927’s The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog) used to achieve it is fascinating. Leigh’s body double, Marli Renfro, discusses the watered-down chocolate syrup poured onto her body, the shots spliced and the images in black-and-white cinematography partly to conceal the limited budget with which Hitchcock was working. There’s the act of splicing itself, a montage approach directly inspired by the innovations of filmmakers like Sergei Eisenstein, that would heighten the unreality of the sequence as it played out.

Hitchcock was working with all of the elements that contemporary filmmakers were avoiding. Shot continuity was intentionally staggered, again to heighten the sense of terror in the sequence as the stand-in for Anthony Perkins, as the main antagonist, approaches the shower curtain behind which Leigh and/or her own stand-in awaits. Violence in movies until this point was often obscured or dumbed down by over-acting, and sexual perversion, which pervaded the narrative (both of Hitchcock’s film and the novel by Robert Bloch on which it was based), had not been handled with such forthrightness since the pre-Code era in Hollywood.

Psycho, the film and its interview subjects suggest, signaled a change in all of that, which brings us to the second wave of thought in Philippe’s documentary. If it wasn’t the first film in the so-called “slasher” subgenre of horror, it certainly and immediately popularized the trend: Within twenty years, the Halloween franchise, jumpstarting the career of Leigh’s daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, as a “scream queen” herself, would take Hollywood by storm, and later, franchises like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street and filmmakers like John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and Wes Craven would owe their careers to the influence of the “Master of Suspense.” Even Martin Scorsese would go on to emulate the shower scene’s technical details in the infamous boxing match in 1980’s Raging Bull.

The talk is fascinating, though the final wave of thought might be its biggest stretch. Philippe and a handful of his subjects for interview go further than tracking its influences to hypothesize that, by virtue of being released in the first year of a tumultuous decade that would see the Civil Rights Era and the sexual revolution, helped to clear the logjam in the path toward that progress. It’s a neat idea, but Philippe doesn’t fully explore it (In any case, it covers a lot of ground in ninety minutes). Still, 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene is a neat little peek into a slice of film history, and there’s always worth in such a thing.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Reel Time with Joel and Chase

The Killing of all your Visual and Auditory Senses…in a Good Way

Title: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Rating: R for Disturbing Violent and Sexual Content, Some Graphic Nudity and Language

Run Time: 2hr & 1min

Joel’s Review
*** (out of ****)

One regards The Killing of a Sacred Deer with befuddled bemusement. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise, though, because this is the latest film from Yorgos Lanthimos, a director whose interests are firmly in placing a work of macabre awkwardness in front of an unwitting audience. The central plot seems to exist in the film’s world, which seems to be but a facsimile of our own. That closed world impacts the interaction between the people, who are caught within it like rats in a maze: Their speech is strangely formal, and their inflection is just as oddly mannered.

The intention is to shock, but there’s a flat, morbid irony to the method. The opening sequence rather literalizes this concept: The first shot is of the open-heart surgery of a patient. We get an extreme close-up of the organ as it pumps blood to the proper places and as those performing the operation begin to close. Then we cut to a banal conversation between the doctors who just performed it. Matthew (Bill Camp), the anesthesiologist, has just gotten a new watch. Steven (Colin Farrell), the surgeon, has been wanting a new watch for a while.

The two discuss the depths at which the watches will stay underwater, compare the practicalities of leather vs. metal in the watch bands, and agree to set up a meeting between Steven and the man who sold Matthew his watch. The conversation isn’t all that engaging, to be frank, but it’s the way in which Lanthimos and cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis capture the conversation as a lengthy one-take backward through the hallway of the hospital that ends up symbolizing a greater deal about the movie that one might anticipate, especially since the close-up of the surgery includes a slow pull-back on the camera’s part.

There are very few instances in which the camera doesn’t pull back in Lanthimos’ film, which is as difficult pin down as an experience as it is to summarize on a narrative level without making it sound more impenetrable than it actually is. The relevant details reveal themselves slowly in the screenplay by Lanthimos and co-screenwriter Efthymis Filippou: Two relationships are central here. One is between Steven and his family. Anna (Nicole Kidman), his wife, is a clinician, currently renovating her office. Their children are Kim (Raffey Cassidy), an aspiring singer, and Bob (Sunny Suljic), a budding pianist. They feel like a unit through a quartet of strong performances (particularly from Kidman as the character begins to unravel), although they have their quirks, including an openness in intimate behavior and conversations that could be called unseemly.

The other relationship is between Steven and 16-year-old Martin (Barry Keoghan, eerie in a cautiously modulated performance that uses the actor’s gaunt features very well), who is the son of a former patient of Steven’s who died on the operating table. The nature of this relationship, at the beginning, is complicated by an insistence, on Martin’s part, on regular meetings between the two. Those meetings become more and more intrusive, as Martin shows up at Steven’s work uninvited, invites him to dinner (where Martin’s mother, played by Alicia Silverstone, takes too kindly to Steven’s presence), and demands the sort of intimacy that Steven shares only with his family (This includes an exchange of gifts and a punctuality, which, if he does not meet it, indicates a kind of betrayal).

We think we know where this is going, but we do not. Even after the plot shifts inexorably toward a situation laden with doom, it isn’t quite clear what Martin’s role is here. Admittedly, as the film’s final movements are completed, ending in a perverse kind of sacrifice, the opacity of the film’s treatment of the climax is frustrating. It elicits yet more of that befuddled bemusement and certainly presents a twist on expectations, even those that one might have formulated as the event draws nearer. Frustration and bemusement are just two of the emotions elicited here, though: The Killing of a Sacred Deer also inspires intrigue, confusion, the inability to deny its impact, and, above all, appreciation of its craft.
(Review by Joel Copling)

Chase’s Review

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Tragedy Girls

Reel Time with Joel and Chase

It all Boils Down to Liking the Main Characters. By the Way, They’re Two Serial Killer High School Seniors with a Splash of Narcissism

Title: Tragedy Girls

Rating: R for Strong Bloody Horror Violence, and Language including Some Sexual References

Run Time: Ihr & 38min

Joel’s Review
*½ (out of ****)

One’s enjoyment of Tragedy Girls will measure in direct proportion to one’s ability to tolerate its pair of protagonists. They are two girls who would be the villains of any other piece but who, according to screenwriters Tyler MacIntyre (who also directed the film) and Chris Lee Hill, adapting an original screenplay of the same name by Justin Olson, are deserving of sympathy as antiheroines here. The set-up to the joke at the center of that screenplay is that McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) are fascinated by all things serial killers.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with this particular shared interest. This writer admits to a similar fascination, particularly as it pertains to children even younger than these two committing such atrocities, although he certainly wouldn’t channel that interest in a way that reflects the actions of these young women. That leads us to the punch line of the central joke: The girls have been killing people around town, then using the mysterious disappearances as fodder for their video blog, which shares the name of the movie. It isn’t much of a joke, obviously.

The film opens with their first of such killings, in which some poor high-schooler, who has a crush on one of them, discovers the dangers of having that crush in the form of a machete to the face. Yes, the killings here are, in theory, brutal, though really, they’re just grotesque: The school bully (played by Savannah Jayde) has her head sliced open with a table saw in the school’s craft room and then is dismembered, the pieces of her body placed as a showcase for a traumatized schoolgirl to find the next morning (There is an admittedly amusing moment when the school janitor intrudes upon the dismemberment process, only to pay no mind to anything but his whistling and his work).

The plot, whatever that may be, regards the girls’ activity as their involvement gets closer and closer to public knowledge. That involves the kidnapping and imprisonment of the town’s actual serial killer (played by Kevin Durand), to whom they show affection even while applying a Taser to his neck and torturing him for the fun of it. The wrench in the works is Sadie’s developing crush on Jordan (Jack Quaid), the son of the town sheriff (played by Timothy V. Murphy), whose tragic past unexpectedly ties in the current goings-on. A rift between McKayla and Sadie settles in when the latter saves someone’s life and turns the tide of their video blog away from sadism and death.

The film’s emotional core, if it even has one, is twisted further into something repellant by a sudden turn toward demented moralizing in the final twenty minutes. The girls certainly achieve the fame for which they created their video blog, but they’ve forfeited their soul in the process (The bit of context we gain into a past that informs this present only makes it worse, given the acts of cruelty that follow and undermine it). Tragedy Girls is an ugly movie, featuring performances from Shipp and Hildebrand that certainly commit the characters’ depravity. That we catch a glimpse of Edmund Kemper among the collage of admired serial killers says everything we need to know, really.
(Review by Joel Copling)

Chase’s Review

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Thank You For Your Service

The 2013 nonfiction book by David Finkel, follows several members of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion after they return home from Baghdad in 2008 is the basis of the directorial debut of Jason Hall who also wrote the screenplay. Hall, who wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, explores from the soldiers perspective as try to fit into their old lives and families after everything they experienced. Many films have been made about the traumatized veterans, but this film really gets the different levels of PTSD and how the people at home react to it.

Miles Teller plays Sergeant Adam Schumann who after three tours is coming home for good to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) and his two small children. Adam is traveling with his two squad members, Tausolo Aieti (Beulah Koale), and Will Waller (Joe Cole). Amanda Doster (Amy Schumer) confronts Adam at the airport wanting to know how her husband James (Brad Beyer) was killed. Adam says he wasn't there, but he's clearly avoiding her question. Adam is tightly controlled. He was considered to be the best at finding at finding bombs and always rode lead shotgun on their missions. The last two events in Iraq really shook him up, but he bottles it inside, leaving him with nightmares and hallucinations. His wife sincerely tries to get him to talk about it, but he won't.

Waller returns home to his fiance and child and finds his apartment is cleared out. His girlfriend won't answer her phone. The only thing he could talk about in Iraq was coming home and getting married But now she is gone without a word. When he confronts her at her work place, she refuses to talk to him about it, just saying he was gone to long. Waller's mother at Will's funeral gives Adam the name of a facility in California that treats returning soldiers for PTSD where she was going to send Will.

Meanwhile "Solo", an American Samoa who says the Army saved his life, finds out he's suffering from a severe concussion syndrome that will prevent him from going back for another tour. He is having trouble remember things. On top of that his wife Alea (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is pregnant. One night while Adam and Solo go hunting, they realize that they are hanging by a thread and they need help. Adam and Solo decide to go to the Department of Veterans Affairs to finally get help. The bureaucracy of the VA is backed up for months leaving vets that are really in dire needs to their own devices. Filling out the questionnaire about their experiences terrifies them with the memories. They both start making bad decisions.

Koale is a stand out as Solo. His haunted eyes reflect the tenuous hold on his reality. Teller, who has been impressing the world with roles in Whiplash and Bleed For This, does an excellent dramatic turn as Adam. You can see the torment in his eyes and just as quickly he slips into a stoic countenance. Their brotherhood had been forged in the fire of battle, the death of their friends, and the guilt that only each other can comprehend.

During the Vietnam war the country was united in protesting sending their reluctant draftee young men to fight in the horrible conflict.
Returning soldiers, then as in now, are faced with the misunderstanding of their family and neighbors, a mental health care system that is overwhelmed with the number of cases and no career track when they come home. This country has been in war so long, that our daily American lives seem isolated and unaffected by the sacrifices made by the men and women in our all volunteer armed services. We see a person in uniform we automatically thank them for their service. This movie shows that we have to do better by them after all they gave it all for us.
(Review by reesa)

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Director Todd Haynes' dovetailing story of two twelve year olds who exist fifty years apart is sometimes hard to grasp what they have to do with each other. But as the movie progresses, you can't help feel caught up in their stories and ultimately feel satisfied as they gel together in the end. Based on the 2011 juvenile graphic novel Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick who also adapted the novel into a screenplay. Todd Haynes who did the Oscar nominated Carol, has created what may be the most mainstream movie of his work.

Oakes Fegley plays Ben who in 1977 lives in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. The son of a single mother (Michelle Williams), the town librarian, he often asked about this father. She never gets around to telling him when she dies in a car accident. He's now living with his Aunt and her family. One night, going through his mother's stuff, he finds a bookmark in a special book called Wonderstruck which is about being a museum curator. The bookmark is a message to his mom, from whom he presumes to be his father asking her to meet him at a bookstore in New York called Kincaid's. When he attempts to call the bookstore, the phone line is hit by lightening and he loses his hearing. Obviously freaked out, Ben is spurred to head to New York to find the bookstore.

In 1927 New Jersey, Rose (Millicent Simmonds, who is actually deaf) lives with her businessman father who throws her book on lip reading. He doesn't have to time and patience to communicate with his daughter. He plans to bring in a special tutor for her. Rose is a fan girl of Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore), a stage and silent screen actress. Rose is mesmerized by her, enraptured by her performance which in it's over done pantomime of the medium speaks volumes to her. Rose who fills her room with pictures of Lillian, and paper folded cityscapes, discovers Lillian will be on the stage in New York. She decides to venture to the big city to see her in person.

Each timeline is gorgeously dressed to reflect the style and feeling of their eras. The past is shot in black and white, and 1977 is in disco colored city streets. Their stories intersect as the two go seeking their desires. Rose finally meets Lillian who turns out to be her mother. Lillian locks her in her dressing room so she can send her back to New Jersey. So she escapes out the window and searches for her brother Walter who works at the Museum of Natural History. Meanwhile, Ben, who had his wallet stolen, finds the bookstore that is now closed. He can't hear when a young kid tell him that the store has moved. So he follows him to the museum where his father works. Jamie (Jaden Michael) shows Ben his secret closet where he hangs out. There are meaningful coincidences that happen as each child explores the museum culminating in the discovery of the Wonderstuck cabinet of collections.

The last chapter resolves those coincidences and if you haven't figured everything out by then, it spells it out. It's a movie for kids afterall so they need to make it clear. The Wonderstruck cabinet doesn't really figure in the story except being a clue to bring the characters together. The performances are all wonderful, and the movie is a visual delight. The children despite their hearing deficits are not limited in their experiences. But the real star is the museum. And if nothing else it will encourage people to explore the beauty and knowledge offered by these informative institutions.
(Review by reesa)

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Oct 22 - Oct 28

After the plethora of movies last week, there's not much happening and it's not even a holiday! The State Fair of Texas is over now, hope y'all went and had a good time. At least the weather is getting nice again.

It's gonna be nuts trying to get those Thor passes. As soon as they are announced, they are gone. You may want to actually shell out for this one and avoid the line. So folks keep your begging to a minimum.

October 22 - October 28

Mon - Oct 23

Suburbicon - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Tue - Oct 24

Suburbicon - 7:30 pm - Cinemark 17
Thank You For Your Service - 7:30 pm - Angelika Dallas

Sat - Oct 28

Daddy's Home 2 - 11:00 am - AMC Northpark

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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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