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:
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Reesa's Reviews can also be found at:
http://www.moviegeekfeed.com

Logo art by Steve Cruz http://www.mfagallery.com

Website and Group Contact: dalscreenings@gmail.com

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Oct 14 - Oct 20


We just had lots of movies last week, and now there is only one movie. The big one for October. Hope everyone got their passes. If there are more movies that we failed to notice, please share with others.

Oct 14 - Oct 20

Tue Oct 16

Halloween - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark








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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Bad Times at the El Royale






(Review by Chase Lee)





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First Man





Reel Time with Joel and Chase

Out-of-this-World Astounding, an Intimate Look into One of America’s Iconic Figures.



Title: First Man

Rating: PG-13 for Some Thematic Content Involving Peril, and Brief Strong Language

Run Time: 2hr & 21min



Joel’s Review

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

Humanity’s greatest collective achievement was, perhaps, to put man on the moon. Maybe the manned mission to Mars, currently scheduled for the decade after next, will surpass it, but the innovative forward-thinking it took to take that one small step that was also a giant leap is perhaps the current paragon of human intellect. In First Man, the burden of this significance is placed upon one man in particular: Neil Armstrong, who also happened to attain status as the first man to walk on the moon. Director Damien Chazelle’s film examines what this meant to Armstrong – as an astronaut, as a father, and as a man.

And, well, it’s complicated, to say the least. As an astronaut, the prospect of going to the moon means years of preparation, of simulations, of practice flights gone awry, and of hours upon hours of study. There is an intimacy in the way Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer (adapting James R. Hansen’s book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong) immerse us in the mundane details of the process to get an aircraft into space without breaking apart, killing the pilots, and potentially grounding the whole process. “We fail down here, so we don’t fail up there,” is how Armstrong puts it at one point.

The opening scene, a dizzying simulation (abstractly edited by Chazelle regular Tom Cross) meant only to disorientate viewers and to put them on edge, certainly illustrates Armstrong’s point. It is 1961, and the flight that will put Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), and Mike Collins (Lukas Haas) on the moon is still eight years away. The major narrative thread of the film follows Armstrong into space for the first time on Gemini 8 with Dave Scott (Christopher Abbott), his involvement in various missions to include the doomed Apollo 1 mission (in which three pilots, played in the film by Jason Clarke, Shea Whigham, and Cory Michael Smith, died in a test-launch fire), and, finally, the moon landing itself in July 1969.

Chazelle, with the accompanying help of Cross and cinematographer Linus Sandgren, approaches the flight sequences as intentionally disorienting and removed from the usual sense of awe we feel when dealing with space in movies. That is confined specifically to Armstrong’s running, leaping, and jumping tour of the moon’s surface, captured with reverence, humor, and a keen sense of the loneliness of the moment. Smartly, the filmmakers provide the recreation of the landing against the backdrop of archival audio, meaning that the famous proclamation Armstrong made upon descending from the ladder of the craft is made by Armstrong himself in voiceover.

As a father, we get a brief glimpse of his early years with wife Janet (Claire Foy), in which the pair endure the death of a daughter to cancer and celebrate the birth of two sons who, later, will worry that their father won’t return from his mission. These sequences are often gutting, especially because Foy’s performance is strong enough to elevate the usual “worried partner” material that accompanies movies of this sort. The worry goes far beyond Janet herself, and the outcome of this marriage, with its foundation in reality, is far bleaker than people might have known, given the legend of the story.

That, ultimately, is the point of Chazelle’s film: to strip away the mythic legacy of the journey and, in the process, locate the man at the center of it. That brings us to the film’s examination of Armstrong as a man, which is often during quiet sequences of reflection. Gosling’s performance is exceptional because the actor, skilled at conveying a lot without needing to express it, understands that Armstrong was a man of stoicism, patience, and, to a fault, solitude. Consider the moment Armstrong learns of the Apollo 1 crash or the moments before the capsule doors open onto the lunar landscape.

First Man is filled with lovely, intimate moments like this, and it is also filled with the sound and fury of the astronautical process. In other words, it deftly covers the range of feelings one has when witnessing a truly great movie, and Chazelle makes the whole thing look too easy. Tense and tender, grand and intimate, the film is an ode to technological advancement, scientific progress, and the intelligence of a people who looked up at the stars, wondered what was out there, and had the fortitude to find out. It is also the story of one man who finds himself at the center of it all and says, when he is told he will command a crew to do so, a simple “Ok” that contains multitudes.
(Review by Joel Copling)






Chase’s Review

(Review by Chase Lee)


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The Oath with Ike Barinholtz Interview







(Review by Chase Lee)



Interview with Ike Barinholtz at the ZaZa Hotel, Dallas TX






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Bad Times at the El Royale




The best way to approach this neo-noir mystery thriller film written and directed by Drew Goddard is not to know anything about it. Because the best part of this movie is to let it surprise you. The set dressing and concept is major enjoyment of the film. The motel itself is its own character. It's kitschy and embodies the slick modern chic of 1969. It's stylish, atmospheric with a soul music heavy soundtrack. The idea was the El Royale is set on the border of California and Nevada. Half the hotel is in one state and the other with a line down the middle. You can choose which state you would like to spend the night.

The characters include Seymour "Laramie" Sullivan (Jon Hamm), a vacuum cleaner salesman who wants the bridal suite a perk he explains can be charged to his expense account. He's brash and loud, so the fact that he is not what he seems is telegraphed right from the start. There is the priest Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), lounge singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) a hippie chick with a prickly attitude and her sister Rose (Cailee Spaeny) who never officially checked in. They are welcomed by the motel clerk Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman), a young concierge who explains the differences you have to understand while choosing the state of your room. They all look full of secrets and mystery.

The story relies on some flashbacks to fill in the character development that helps figure out what is going on with these people. There's a Tarantino element to the proceeding like in the Hateful Eight. Several divergent characters supposedly just happens to check in on this particular evening. Everyone seems OK, but as the story progresses there is Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) like Channing Tatum surprise appearance in the Hateful Eight to add more violence to the proceedings.

It's always a charm to have Jeff Bridges in a film as he adds a humanity to the story. Cynthia Erivo's voice needs a whole movie of her own. John Hamm is loud and obnoxious for a salesman...but is he really selling vacuums? Dakota Johnson is efficient as the sister to the really sinister Cailee Spaeny who pretty much steals the last part of the movie. As for Hemsworth, the whole shirtless Adonis strut is nice and distracting.

It's a wild ride at the El Royale.
(Review by reesa)


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First Man




There has been many films that explored the U.S. space program, most notably The Right Stuff. This new film puts the story in a more personal perspective in the hands of La La Land director Damien Chazelle and written by Josh Singer, it is based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen. Armstrong had famously made the "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" as the first man on the moon. It's hard to imagine there are conspiracy groups who are convinced the moon landing was a faked. Hopefully they will have a new appreciation for the skill and sacrifice that these American heroes so rightfully deserve.

The movie opens with Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as a test pilot of X15's in the early 1960's. The action puts you right in the pilot seat with Armstrong, hearing the vibrations, roar of engines, and the sound of his breathing as he takes the plane to edge of space. He gets a glimpse of the darkness beyond before losing control of the craft bouncing off the atmosphere as he fights to get back to earth. Neil risks his life everyday, but at home he tries to have a normal life with his wife Janet (Claire Foy), his son and his 3 year old daughter who is fighting cancer. Her passing weighs heavily on Neil. He applies for a new program at NASA. The training of the future astronauts tests their endurance to withstand what they may experience in space. Meanwhile, Janet has another child and makes friends with the wives of the other astronauts who all live in the same neighborhood.

The space program is spurred by the support of President Kennedy and the race with the Russian program. But the loss of human life also takes a toll. The first Apollo team is met with tragedy. The politics of the world is changing. People think all the money spent on the space program should be put somewhere more helpful to the populace. The night before the moon mission Janet has to force Neil to say goodbye to his sons since there is always a chance they will not see him again. The journey to the moon is detailed to the most visceral experience ever displayed in a movie. There is a point of view perspective that brings one to feel the claustrophobic space capsules. The dials of the controls, the whines and shaking as they hurtle into space powered by burning fuel beneath them. The wonder as they look out the small windows to see earth from space, a small blue marble floating in the void. They are so well trained for the mission but it doesn't take away from the actual excitement of being the first human to plant their foot print on the moon.

Ryan Gosling gives a stand out performance as he internalizes the angst of losing his daughter and the loss of his friends in the program. He gives Neil a stand up attitude to getting his job done fearlessly. It's people like him who can think quickly and without panic that opened the door to space exploration. First Man right now is one of the best of the year.
(Review by reesa)




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Goosebumps 2: Haunted House




The children's horror book series of Goosebumps by R. L. Stine is back after the first film in 2015. That story had the characters of Stine's books come to life. This version has Halloween characters come to life to terrorize a small town while everyone is out tricks and treating. Directed by Ari Sandel and written by Rob Lieber from a story by Lieber and Darren Lemke brings some zany fun to what could be scary, but it won't freak out the young ones. Considering that going out on Halloween night and people decorating their houses seems to be a thing of the good old days as some places are opting for safe and boring homogenized Harvest Festival celebrations.

Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam (Caleel Harris) are best friends who started a business called the Junk Brothers so they can find treasures like American Pickers. They get a call to go to a run down abandoned house where they find a box with a locked book inside. Suddenly they find a ventriloquist puppet in the box with a note saying his name is Slappy. The boys decide to take him with them. Outside they meet the school bullies who steal the book and try to steal Slappy too. But Slappy causes the boy's pants to drop. And as they try to escape on their bikes, Slappy causes the bulliesg to have an accident. Sonny is working on a science project about the famous inventor Tesla that once had a electronic tower in their town. He works on his presentation in from of Sam and Slappy, but his model shorts out. After Sonny reads the magic words on the back of the card Slappy comes to life. That's when serious things start to happen. Slappy will do anything for his "family". That includes Sonny's sister Sarah (Madison Iseman) who was betrayed by a possible boyfriend. Sonny gets revenge on those that do his family wrong. Their mom Kathy (Wendi McLendon-Covey) thinks the puppet is a pip and discards the kids warning that Slappy is dangerous.

Slappy gets upset when the kids try and get rid of him. He goes to the Halloween store and brings everything to life. The kids examine the book to find that the book was not finished. They contact the R.L. Stine Appreciation Society but can only leave a message for Mr. Shivers. Shivers is really R.L. Stine (Jack Black) packs his typewriter and heads out. Meanwhile the displays on neighbor Mr. Chu's house (Ken Jeong) which includes a giant balloon spider, mummies and other weird things. Mr. Chu helps the kids escape from the mayhem and to disguise themselves to get to the Tesla power tower to stop Slappy's attempt to destroy the town. Slappy also possessed their mom to become a puppet mom.

It's a crazy wild ride. The relationship of the teen daughter and middle school boys is believable as bickering but loving siblings. Even the bullies who are jerks are sympathetic. And Slappy despite his terrible retributions really only wanted to have a family. It's great to have a Halloween movie that doesn't involve fear and blood. Something for the whole family.
(Review by reesa)





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Monday, October 8, 2018

Venom




This one is Marvel related in that audiences have seen this character before, most notably in director Sam Raimi’s misfire that was 2007’s “Spider-Man 3,” wherein he tried to squeeze too many villains into the kitchen, which made the story making for what turned out to be a misguided mess. I thought his “Spider-Man” from 2002 was just average. On the A-F scale, I graded it just a C. I liked 2 a lot better, giving it an stellar grade of an A-.

In “Spider Man 3,” “Venom” attaches himself to Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) only to latch on to Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock later in the story. Raimi incorporated subplots galore with a menagerie of villains with The Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Green Goblin (James Franco) and Venom/ Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). It did not work with all of the bad guys together. As a part of the series, it disappointed me to no end, but dealt with a lackluster conclusion. I gave this one a C-.

But we’re here to talk about “Venom,” a character that is integrated into the “Spider-Man” universe. The main character besides Venom is now Tom Hardy’s persona of reporter Eddie Brock, a hot-shot investigative journalist who for all intents and purposes is a one man band.
His significant other is Michelle Williams, Anne Weying, a big time corporate higher-up who knows some of the same people that Brock is investigating. The pair clashes from time to time, and after a ludicrous event they are all but over.

He covers anything and everything, and the one fact that always remains is that it must be true. What we’re dealing with here is called a synobite, a foreign alien DNA that needs a viable host to just live and survive. This alter-ego is referred to as Venom, who can take out adversaries with a single swipe or bite as it were.

The pair co-exist in Brock. Brock has to teach Venom, while the alien DNA does not approve of being called a parasite. Eddie wants to emphasize that they only take out bad people, not just commoners on the street.

This is the part I was most disappointed in. After all of the years studios have made stride in computer generated effects, and computer integrated imagery, I was expecting phenomenal visuals, but alas they were just average and mundane. They did not dazzle me the same way as anything from Amblin Entertainment (the “Jurassic Park” franchise) or even recent entries such as the inventive “The House With A Clock in Its Walls.”

One of the strongest parts of the ensemble comes from Golden Globe-winning actor Riz Ahmed, who plays the main antagonist of the movie, Carlton Drake, a wealthy industrialist who has welcoming hands with ulterior motives in mind. He also knows of the aforementioned symbiote as well. His alter-ego is Riot, a malevolent villain who cares little for human life.

Director Ruben Fleischer has scored strokes of genius with 2003’s “Zombieland,’ but also foul balls with the dismal “Gangster Squad.” (2013). He also gave audiences the fun ride “30 Items or Less” in 2011.

“Venom” clears the rough and entertains from beginning until its end, leaving room wide open for a sequel whenever the studio looks at the final numbers to fund the next chapter, because there is a lot more to tell.
Grade: B-

(Review by Ricky Miller)








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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Oct 7 - Oct 13



Just love this time of year. The weather is cooler...well better than summer, but the humidity sucks, the State Fair is happening, football on TV...not really, and everyone's favorite non holiday - Halloween. Everyone is looking for those Halloween passes. It's suggested that you be patient. The screening isn't until next week and there will probably be more outlets offering passes. If you don't get them by next week, then you can ask others if they have any to spare. And remember to write the person offering and not just reply to the list.

The Yahoo Group calendar is out of whack again.


Oct 7 - Oct 13

Mon - Oct 8
Goosebumps 2 Haunted House - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Tue - Oct 9
First Man - 7:30 pm - Cinemark West Plano

Wed - Oct 10
Bad Times at the El Royale - 7:30 - AMC Northpark





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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Venom




Director: Ruben Fleischer Studio: Columbia Pictures/Marvel Entertainment

“Venom” spits messy goo onscreen

“Venom” may reach the top like Marvel Cinematic Universe films, but it turns out, this film backfires more than ever according to the critics and audiences. I like and respect the spin-off films, but I did not enjoy several of them as much as the original films. The best spin-off movie I ever seen is “Black Panther,” which is a spin-off from “Captain America: Civil War.” In Black Panther tells a story about T’Challa (known as Black Panther) returning to Wakanda to take his father’s place as king, thought the main concern is cousin, N'Jadaka (Killmonger), who seeks to overthrow him to assume the thrown. I can’t give out any spoilers for “Venom,” as the film

In “Venom,” the story tells about the journalist Eddie Brock who discovers the alien symbiote and gains super-strength powers, granting him the name of “Venom.” Trouble is happening when a leader of the Life Fountain Company named Carlton Drake (under his ego “Riot”) becomes obsessed with analyzing the human subjects and symbiotes illegally. Now Brock must face his biggest challenge as Venom in order to save humanity.

“Venom” became a downfall as the film lacks comedy as comedy is ruled out in the favor of using CGI and special effects much more. Fleischer’s direction is very unlikable and his role of being a director is nowhere near like Ryan Coogler, Jon Favreau, Christopher Nolan, and Brad Bird. I admired Hardy’s performance as Venom as Tom Hardy is the best choice for an antihero’s role, but not so much on supportive actors Michelle Williams (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Riz Ahmed (“The Night Of” television series). The music sounds really great which adds up more points to the film’s structure and plot lines. The plot is okay but cheesy with an ungrateful tone of this whole movie and the cast. I didn’t enjoy some of the action sequences as fifty-percent of them are terrific but the fifty-percent is unpleasant as the story goes through.

Let’s not forget about the special appearance of Stan Lee who made his cameo at the end. Despite not being a creator of Venom, he always have the commitment to show up in many Marvel films, including Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is the scene where the movie redeems itself from receiving a strong negative review.

As a movie director, Ruben Fleischer made his terrific debut on 2009’s “Zombieland,” which received a score of 90% from Rotten Tomatoes. Pretty sure Fleischer could have pull the trigger to make this “Venom” great rather than making up something different. He and the studio wanted to make a film that will actually became a hit and guess what, it backfires them easily.

Not trying to be harsh, but in my personal opinion, “Venom” isn’t a bad movie despite the harsh reviews from critics and audiences. I’m not only a movie reviewer, but also a film student. “Venom” may be considered the geekiest film ever watch. I really want to like this film, but the laughs, the “oohs”, and the “aahs” are missing. If you’re a comic book fan, then you can decide whether or not you want to watch this film, but I highly recommend you to re-consider selecting another comic-book film like “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

Running time: 112 minutes.

GRADE: C-
(Review by Henry Pham)

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Venom






The Marvel Universe is huge with multiple characters attacking and saving this world and beyond. Unless one is a comic book nerd, it's hard to keep track of who and what and in this case why. Does Venom belong in the Spiderman world and that means he would eventually belong to the Avengers universe? Is this just a stand alone entry? Will there be more? Obviously yes, since the extra scenes after the credits indicate a continuing adventure. Are we being overloaded with CGI superhero mayhem? Directed by Ruben Fleischer from a screenplay by Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, and Kelly Marcel, the film throws the audience into the action without much explanation on the alien creatures. The beginning of the film sets up the action with a privately funded space craft carrying capsules of specimens crashing in the jungles of Malaysia. Something has taken possession of one of the pilots.

Back in San Francisco, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and his soon to be bride Anne (Michelle Williams) are stupid in love. Anne works for the LIFE Foundation run by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). He's the boy genius who built his company with the idea of creating a better world. Of course he's a nefarious actor who funded the ill fated specimen gathering expedition. He is experimenting on the remaining samples saved from the wreck. His team of scientists have discovered that the "creatures" are symbiotic taking over a living host. Drake thinks that it will be a good way for humans to visit other planets. Eddie, an investigative journalist, is assigned to interview Drake, but he has to play nice. Unfortunately, he had peeked at this girlfriends computer and found information that smells like something is afoul. He confronts Drake, which gets Eddie fired from his job, and Anne also gets fired and breaks up with Eddie.

The first part of film kinda chugs along establishing characters and motivations. One of the LIFE scientists calls Eddie because Drake has decided to up the experiments to human trials. Homeless people are gathered up and brought in as volunteers. The symbiotes end up eating their hosts from the inside. Dora (Jenny Slate) sneaks Eddie into the lab where he finds one of his neighborhood street people. He tries to break her out but ends up getting infected by the creature within her. He doesn't realize what is going on until the symbiote helps him escape.

The rest of the movie involves Drake and company trying to retrieve their property and Eddie trying to figure out why he is exhibiting some strange behavior and hears someone talking to him in his head. Hardy fluctuates from his regular guy persona and his Hyde hybrid with the "James Brown lounge lizard" vocals. There are some silly moments when he tries to explain to his ex girlfriend in a restaurant where she is having dinner with her new boyfriend. He ends up jumping in the lobster tank eating the live lobsters. Venom has the need to eat live things, including biting off the head of the bad guys trying to pursue them. Venom tells Eddie that his species had planned to be discovered so they could invade earth to eat and destroy it. But having absorbed Eddie, it decides he likes it here and wants to stop the other of his kind who wants to take the spaceship back to get the others.

Early critics of the new Marvel entry were harsh in it's assessments. It's really not that bad. It's pretty much just more of the same as far as structure and plot line. Hardy is always a joy to watch, while Williams doesn't have that much to do except for some pluckiness in the final act. It still doesn't explain anything about Venom's origins or why Eddie was able to be a carrier for it when others failed. Maybe this will be addressed in the following sequels. In the meantime, just watch, enjoy, forget.
(Review by reesa)





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The Hate U Give





Tupac Shakur once explained in an interview that THUG LIFE was actually an acronym standing for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody.” This new film directed by George Tillman Jr. and written by Tina Mabry and Audrey Wells is based on Angie Thomas' 2017 novel of same name. The book spent over 80 weeks on the New York Times best seller week and getting a push back by school districts for it's portrayal of drugs and sexuality. This young adult novel doesn't center on quirky growing up with romantic misadventures or an apocalyptic dystopia. It does address growing up in a world separated by racism and police brutality.

Starr Carter (Amanda Stenberg) lives in poor predominately black neighborhood with her family. Her father Maverick (Russell Hornsby) schools his three children on the Black Panther Ten Points Program that reinforces their pride, confidence and dignity. He also makes them rehearse what they should do if they are ever detained by the police. Hands out where they can seen, do not talk back, do not instigate or fight back for any reason. The violence in their neighborhood was one of the reasons that their mother Lisa (Regina Hall) sends the kids to a mostly white prep school in another town. Starr finds that she is acting like Starr Version 2 at school where her white friends try to act black and embarrassingly so. She even has a while boyfriend Chris (KJ Apa) who want to meet her parents, which of course she avoids. When Starr hangs with her homies, she is just another girl from the hood.

At a weekend party she meets up with an old childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith). Khalil has always harbored a crush on Starr, so when he drives her home after an altercation at the party, he kisses her. But he is understanding when she tells him she already has a boyfriend. Even though the street is deserted of traffic a cop pulls them over for not signaling a lane change. Starr immediately puts her hands on the dashboard. Khalil is talking back to the cop about why is being stopped. Things get out of hand when the cops thinks the hairbrush in Khalil's hand is gun. The panicky white cop handcuffs Starr who sits helplessly watching her friend die. At the station the questioning detectives seem more fixated on Khalil's drug associations than how or why he died. Her uncle Carlos (Common) is a police officer who tries to give her perspective on the dynamics of what goes on in a cops mind when making a stop. April (Issa Rae) a activist lawyer wants Starr to speak out at the grand jury while firing up the locals to get justice for justice. Khalil's drug boss King (Anthony Mackie) is afraid that if Starr talks, it will put his operation in danger. Meanwhile, her mother wants her to stay quiet, while her father says he named her Starr her light will shine.

Amanda Stenberg who played Rue in the Hunger Games really shines her as a young woman treading between worlds trying to do the right thing. Especially knowing that even if she speaks up it will make no difference in the case. There's a bit of an afternoon special TV feel, but the movie speaks some solid truths. You feel for Starr's dilemma, her parents pain, her communities need to organize and let the world know what is going on, even if it means to take a knee during the national anthem. It's a powerful film that shines a light on police brutality and racism that should translate to all people no matter of what color. Parents should not have to school their kids on how to stay alive if ever stopped by the police. We are all humans just trying to get along.
(Review by reesa)



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Free Solo






FREE SOLO
*** (out of ****)
Perhaps the best thing about Free Solo is that it doesn’t psychoanalyze its subject. The camera keeps just enough of a distance from Alex Honnold to respect a man who distances himself from much of everything around him. The man is one among very few – a free solo artist who climbs mountain walls without any support. The practice can result quite easily in falls, some of which can be more than 1,000 feet and most of which are deadly. At one point, news of the death of an acquaintance, the late Ueli Steck (who fell more than 3,000 feet after attempting to climb the West Ridge of Everest in April 2017), reaches Honnold.

The climber’s reaction to his friend’s death is telling. We see no crying, and the immediate reaction to his reaction from one of his attendant climbers suggests that there probably weren’t any tears away from the camera, either. Honnold comes across as pragmatic to a fault: Steck, like himself, knew the risks. This doesn’t mean the man was responsible for his own death, per se, but he put his life in his own hands. Honnold understands the concept so well that it’s rather unsettling. He knows that, at any given point, he could fall, and whatever safety precautions he or his fellows might put in place will not be helpful.

In other words, directors Jimmy Chin (a veteran of these extreme activities) and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (who seems to do most of the camerawork here) allow Honnold to come to his own conclusions – about himself, about his hobby-turned-career, and about their impact on his life. The usual biographical elements are almost secondary, although we learn that he might be on the autism spectrum and that he dropped out of college a year into it. He moved into his van, in which he now lives permanently, and met Sanni McCandless, his current girlfriend, at a book signing. She didn’t know who he was when she arrived, but the event ended with her giving her number to him.

The main subject of the film is Honnold’s attempt to climb the El Capit├ín wall in Yosemite National Park in California. From base to summit, the climb is 3,000 feet. Much of the film’s dominant framing device is the preparation, the training, one failed attempt after bailing at a particularly hard spot on the climb, and the expedition itself, which is historic. There isn’t a lot of complexity to this structural approach, but the lack of nonsense in it mirrors Honnold’s own. He is quite the character – inexplicable even to those who are audience to his headspace. Free Solo is a serviceable and affecting tribute to that old adage about why people climb to these impossible heights.
(Review by Joel Copling)



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All About Nina





ALL ABOUT NINA
*** (out of ****)
The eponymous protagonist of All About Nina has a lot to say. Indeed, she is a comedian in a market dominated by men, and just after our professional introduction to her, by way of a comedy routine, we get to see her interactions with the other stand-up comedians who perform in this particular club. We’ve already seen her routine, which is chockful of sexual innuendo, bathroom humor, and the liberal use of a certain, four-letter word. It’s below-the-belt stuff, but it’s funny, both because her delivery suggests feigning laidback and, well, because it’s so true.

It also helps that Nina is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a performance that calls upon the actress to convey a lot through her face and expressions. As such, Nina is clearly repressing a lot within the honesty of her routine. She is forced to suppress a lot, too, in those interactions with fellow comics and the bartender, which are ostensibly veiled excuses to proposition or otherwise harass her. She’s accustomed to the treatment by now, but she still doesn’t like it, constantly rejecting the advances of one particular colleague (played by Jay Mohr) and fighting the institutional sexism that doesn’t welcome female comedians.

That is, until she meets Rafe (Common), a newly divorced man of nine years her senior, who empathizes with many of the impulses behind her routines. The best parts of director Eva Vives’ screenplay (or, perhaps in part, the actors’ improvisational abilities) allow Nina and Rafe the opportunity to sit and talk – about their passions, about their insecurities, about their feelings for each other, about why some of those feelings are frightening, and about their dreams. Winstead and Common have immediate and infectious chemistry as actors in these scenes, so that the potential of physical intimacy is of secondary importance.

Her home life is abusive, with a policeman husband (played by Chace Crawford) who regularly beats her up, and a secondary plot follows her attempt to find some television popularity by moving impulsively to Los Angeles and auditioning for a program whose showrunner (played by Beau Bridges) sees a lot of potential in her. The problems arise, though, when the weight of the past, brought forth by circumstances in the present, send her down a self-destructive path. The payoff to this build-up is a climactic routine, in which Nina’s insecurities come flooding out of her.

It’s a scene both painful and galvanizing, and it comes to sum up the entire point of the film without feeling tacky. Vives’ straightforward shooting style, which refuses to be showy, is gentle until the events of the finale takeover. By then, the actors have taken over, and the final movements of the plot, which provides a crossroads of sorts for Nina both personally and professionally, ring true. It is a familiar plot of demons and vices that anchors All About Nina, but the honesty of the piece is sometimes overwhelming and always courageous.
(Review by Joel Copling)





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The Hate U Give







(Review by Chase Lee)





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Venom






(Review by Chase Lee)



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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mandy




This one is very far out there, but with a worthwhile conclusion in the end. “Mandy,” for all intents and purposes is nothing more than a vengeance story covering the loss of past love and connection. In “Mandy,” Andrea Riseborough’s character is in love with Nicolas Cage’s Red Miller, who just works his day-to-day job only to meet after the end of her shift.

Mandy works at a job where she can spend time reading a bizarre fantasy allegory that also represents her own life as well.

The setting is 1983, and the viewer learns this through Red’s mentioning of Erik Estrada from the “C.H.i.P.S.” TV show from that era. That is only one of the elements on why Cage chose this script. He also mentions the comic book character of Galactus, an evil entity that consumes entire planets.

Cage also delves into the weird mannerisms that accompany some of his work. Like his Oscar-winning role in “Leaving Las Vegas,” he succumbs to a brief drinking habit after he mourns the identity and soul that was Mandy.

He also shares some great scenes with Bill Duke (“Commando,” “Predator”), a close friend of his that was holding some of his weapons of his in storage. Duke’s Caruthers understands his circumstances and wishes him the best, since he feels that he will not see him alive again.

The score is an immersive one, the type wherein the whole theater rattles during the events that unfold send you to another time and place.

The villains in “Mandy” are reminiscent of the cenobites, the evil villains from Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” entries. In “Mandy,” however they are just run-of-the mill human beings who can actually perish via stabbings, swordplay, chainsaws and anything else that a person can do to eliminate someone from this great planet of ours.

Linus Roache is creepy as all get out at cult leader Jeremiah Sand. Sand feels insulted when Mandy hears some awful music he poured his soul into and she just giggles and laughs. The juxtaposition of his nonsense rants are intriguing, since he intersects shots of Mandy crossed over with himself. Give Cosmatos credit for this, since he wants the viewer to understand his character’s nonsense and fake philosophy.

“Mandy” comes from director Panos Cosmatos, whose father George P. helmed some big flicks from the 1980’s era with “Cobra” and the mammoth hit that was “Rambo: First Blood Part II.”

“Mandy” marks the sophomore directing effort from the filmmaker, whose only other credits were second unit work on his dad’s “Tombstone,” the Wyatt Earp story with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer.

Panos only other credit is for helming is “Beyond the Black Rainbow,” an avant-garde mystery-thriller which that he also directed in 2010.

Like director Jonathan Grazer’s little seen “Under the Skin” with Scarlett Johansson a couple of years back, “Mandy” delivers, but for those who like their movies with a quirky and offbeat taste. It is also fun to see the Oscar-winning Nicolas Cage chew up some scenery for a few chuckles as well.

Grade: C+
(Review by Ricky Miller)



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