The Dallas Movie Screening Group

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

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

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

Website and Group Contact: dalscreenings@gmail.com

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse




Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman Studio: Columbia

Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This maybe the first time I ever seen Spider-Man being animated in this upcoming animated feature. And no, I’m not talking about the 1994 animated series, I’m talking about how this beloved animated film that features not only Spider-Man, but also Miles Morales who lay eyes on the actions and witness of Spider-Man as well as the team of Spider-heroes from a different dimension. The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have brought this whole Spider-Man idea to Sony in 2014 as the film’s producers and know if the idea really works, the answer is a simple “yes.”

This film centers a young man named Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) who is bitten by a spider and gains spider-webbing super strengths. He also encounters several chaos happening in the city as well as bumping into Spider-Men and Spider-Women whom he eventually teamed up to save the universe.

There is a major turning point in the story: The character development of Miles Morales that carries the structure of the film. Even though Venom was already released which performed badly to public despite earning over $800 million at the box office, the world still needs another Spider-Man film.

I’m a devotee to animated films [predominately] as well as comic-book films like 2012’s The Avengers and 2018’s Black Panther. For those who love comic books and Spider-Man, Miles Morales became a rousing success as a spin-off character who finds life meaningful after greeting and receiving advices from the team of Spider-heroes consisting of Peter B. Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson), Spider-Gwen (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (voiced by Kimiko Glenn) in a Anime style, and legendary Nicholas Cage as Noir version of Spider-Man. Not only them, but also Morales’s parents (voiced by Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez) which become the center of the story’s dynamics.

The directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman did such a fantastic job of keeping the pace of storytelling, the plot, and forming the line of diversity actors in the film. The animation really shines it all like magic. The comedy and the sound effects are well used for a slow or fast paced-action. I also enjoy the cartoon gags from Looney Tunes which are perennial. The different looks and aspects on those Spider-heroes are such a beautiful, smart move to gather more attention viewpoint. The music coming from Daniel Pemberton (2015’s Steve Jobs, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) sounded very well and fitting for an action-packed film. Let’s not forget about Stan Lee’s cameo showing up in the film.

However, I have some troubles from Into the Spider-Verse due to lack the character developments on the Spider-Men, Spider-Women and the villains. There isn’t enough explanation why both of them didn’t come along way since they both meet each other onscreen together. It definitely sounds confusing and really got myself off course when it comes to social relationships. In addition, my dislike also includes the filmmakers using little too much action sequences as an advantage of an action-animated film, comparing to any Anime films.


GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)




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Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse









(Review by Chase Lee)





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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I Miss You When I See You




Hong Kong’s independent filmmaker and one of the city’s few out LGBT directors, Simon Chung, creates a story that explores the loneliness and depression brought on by unrequited love in a world where same sex relations are considered illegal. The bleak digital cinematographic style enhances the masculine dynamic of the characters. It's a quiet and lonely journey as two young men must accept and embrace their true selves.

Jamie (Bryant Mak) and Kevin (Jun Li) were friends in school but they haven't seen each other in 10 years. Jamie who was visiting an uncle in Melborne, goes to Sydney to see Kevin who is living in a halfway house for people are recovering from serious depression. They haven't seen each other in 10 years. It's a tentative and awkward meeting, yet Kevin decides to accept Jamie's invitation to return to Hong Kong. Jamie wasn't exactly ready when Kevin asks if he could stay with him until he gets work and his own place. Jamie's girlfriend Elaine (Candy Cheung) is suspicious of Kevin. Whatever estranged the two friends hangs over them as the story highlights some flashbacks from their school days. Jamie was the more outgoing and had lots of friends, while Kevin was an outcast. Still they developed a close friendship. Jamie works for a tutoring company and gets Kevin a job. He invites him to gathering with his friends, but he still feels uncomfortable. At one point Jamie asks Kevin why he came back. Kevin confesses that he thought about Jamie all the time. But Jamie says he can't live in the past.

Kevin endures adjusting to the fast paced city life while also comes to terms with his own sexuality. Jamie who by all appearances seems to be the more stable one is fighting his feelings. He even shows up at his girlfriend's workplace trying to purpose which goes badly. Jamie criticizes Kevin's friendship with one of his tutor students. Eventually Kevin starts using a Tinder type phone app to set up hook ups. In a society where same-sex partners can be arrested for immoral behavior it's understandable why they are both reluctant to give in to their true natures and denying their emotional connections. Simon Chung effectively charts their struggles while empathizing with Kevin and Jamie. The final scene is full of hope and surrender.
(Review by reesa)


DVD Release:
12/18/18
Available on VOD: 12/11/18
iTunes
Amazon Prime Video
Google Play
Vudu
FandangoNOW



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Minding the Gap







Minding the Gap, a documentary from first-time director Bing Liu, is, on its surface, a film about skateboarding. It begins by following a group of young men as they go around the city of Rockford, Illinois on their boards. The scenes, fantastically photographed by Liu, using his camera to gracefully follow the boarders down the street, set a mellow tone that’s soon ripped apart. As the film progresses, this surface level story fades into the background, unveiling a more upsetting, intimate, and introspective work.



Chosen as the documentary’s subjects are Kiere Johnson, Zack Mulligan, and the film’s creator Bing Liu. Johnson is in his late teens while Mulligan and Liu are in their twenties. These guys are clearly serious skateboarders. Liu’s camera shows off their moves and skills (Liu is mostly unseen since he works the camera) as they skate in designated skate parks as well as sidewalks, parking lots, and mostly empty city streets. The boarders use whatever they can find access to as their equipment; Liu uses close-ups of these makeshift skateboarding ramps and pipes to showcase the city instead of the typical cityscape shots. Just what is it that propels them to devote so much of their time to this pursuit? Through the subject’s interviews it becomes obvious that Minding the Gap is going to be a heavier work than the first scenes imply as the darker, heavier issues lurking around them begin to arise, suggesting more to their drive to skateboard than meets the eye.



Mulligan is a father-to-be with his girlfriend Nina. The two seem happy about it, but one has to wonder where the money to raise the kid is going to come from. There are frequent time jumps throughout the documentary, a device Liu uses to his advantage here to skip over Nina’s pregnancy, moving the story forward to right after the baby, Elliott, has been born. As Mulligan puts it, “having a child causes you to grow up fast.” The couple soon find themselves fighting and bickering about work, money, and taking care of the child. Mulligan also reveals his troubled relationship with his father. The footage about his relationship with his girlfriend starts to suggest that he will follow in his father’s footsteps. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Johnson is also from a troubled background. His parents separated when he was young and he was sent to live with his abusive father, who has recently died at the start of the shooting of this documentary. Johnson has since moved in with his mother and older brother. Early on, he comments to Liu that he’s never felt close with his family. Filmmaker Liu is also revealed to be from a troubled home. When he was younger, his mother remarried to a violent, abusive man, who hurt both Liu and his mother. Early interviews with his half-brother and a skate shop owner start to give the audience a clue about his past.



Some of these events are obscured by the presentation. Early on it feels like the people being interviewed are purposefully being vague. We get the idea that there is an issue, but it doesn’t always become clear until much later what that issue is. Liu’s abuse by his step-father is the most ambiguous. It’s not until he interviews his mother later in the documentary that his troubled past becomes obvious. Johnson’s interviews can feel equally vague at times. The intention is probably to get the audience invested in the subjects before putting all the information out there for them to process. Mulligan’s story is clearer as his relationship with his girlfriend tumbles before the camera. She tells Liu in one of her interviews that Mulligan hits her. An explanation she reluctantly gives to explain her screaming death threats to Mulligan, which Liu is shown hearing in a recording shared by Mulligan’s roommate during an earlier scene. Liu refuses to accept things at face value, one of the documentary’s strengths. He always makes sure to show things from all sides to give an unbiased view of the events, even going so far as to have someone film his face as he interviews his own mother – an interview he knew would be painful for both.



I often found myself wondering how truthful the events and emotions were in this documentary (I should mention that I’m not typically fond of documentaries). I’d imagine the subject’s behavior was affected by the presence of a camera crew. Were some things contrived or re-enacted for a more emotional story? How were these people acting when the cameras weren’t rolling? The footage of the guys skateboarding in the city streets also bothered me. Were these streets closed off while they did this? Was someone watching to make sure no cars were coming? This all seems irresponsible and kept taking me out of the moment while watching.



Ultimately, Liu’s film reveals how he and his subjects use skateboarding as a release to escape from the harshness of reality (an idea I imagine most people can relate to). The documentary feels like a therapeutic exercise for the subjects. The three men, and Nina, are shown as they grow, or don’t, over the course of time presented to the viewers and as they finally begin to come to terms with the rougher, less ideal elements of their lives and personalities.
(Review by Bret Oswald)





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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Dec 9 - Dec 15


I have no idea why I didn't post the calendar for last week. I hope everyone was able to get the passes they needed. Sometimes you just have to wait if you miss the first notice. We have lots of website screening sponsors offering screening passes. Don't try to rip those passes from people who made an effort and were lucky to get them quickly.

Only 16 shopping days til Christmas. Which means parking at the mall is probably going to be problematic. Please keep that in mind and a adjust your travel time to account for circling the parking lot stalking leaving patrons. That's why it's killing me to not be able to transverse from the Angelika to Northpark on Tuesday in time to see Mortal Engines. bummed.

Love this time of year, so many movies, so little time.

December 9 - December 15

Mon - Dec 10

Aquaman - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Tue - Dec 11

Once Upon a Deadpool - 5:00 pm - Angelika Dallas
Mortal Engines - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark
They Shall Not Grow Old - 7:30 pm - Angelika Dallas

Wed - Dec 12

Welcome to Marwen - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas
Escape Room - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Thu - Dec 13

Second Act - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark




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Anna and the Apocalypse




Just imagine the TV show Glee with high school kids singing and dancing in the hallways then add hoards of zombies. This is pretty much what this new film directed by John McPhail and written by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry, based on the 2010 BAFTA-winning short Zombie Musical, is all about. Set in a small Scottish town called Little Haven during Christmas, it follows the plucky Ella Hunt as Anna as she becomes the warrior zombie killer while the world seems to be coming to an end all around her.

Like all teens who are unsure of themselves and facing an unknown future, Anna has decided to forgo University to travel to Australia. She breaks it to her widowed dad who is not supportive of the idea. The news on the car radio talks about a pandemic lethal virus threat, but since they are arguing on the way to school, they shut it off. In fact like all self involved teens they are only worried about their classes and personal relationships. Their angst is covered in the first song called No Such Thing as a Hollywood Ending. Anna is not attending the annual school Christmas show to work at the bowling alley with her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming). John wants to be more than just buddies with Anna, but she avoids it by reasserting they are the best of friends.

The next morning, Anna wakes refreshed and full of life as she head out of her house with headphones and hoodie while singing and dancing about the beautiful day. Completely oblivious to the mayhem and carnage happening all around here. Sort of like Shaun of the Dead here. She meets up with John in the park when a snowman lumbers toward them. Unsure and scared, Anna decapitates the snowman with a teeter-totter. Because everyone knows thanks to zombies movies, the only way to stop them is to get them in the head. Their phones are not getting wifi so they head to the bowling alley where Steph North, a lesbian outcast (Sarah Swire) and Chris Wise (Christopher Leveaux), the boyfriend of Anna's best friend Lisa) are hiding. They discover people are posting selfies with zombies on social media. Because unfortunately that's exactly what young people would do. They learn that some survivors are holding up at the school after the Christmas show. They have heard the army will be coming to help rescue them. The tyrannical headmaster Arthur Kaye (Paul Kaye) doesn't want to lose control of his captive audience and lets the zombies in.

The fight to head to the school is helped by Anna's arrogant ex BF Nick (Ben Wiggins) and his gang. Anna wants to find her dad Tony (Mark Benton) the school janitor, Chris wants to find Lisa (Marli Siu) and his grandma, and Steph wants to get her car keys taken by the headmaster. The final journey of course leaves several characters behind and Anna finds a strength and confidence in herself with the aid of a bloody candy cane decoration. This is definitely destined to become a cult classic.
(Review by reesa)


Dallas Movie Screenings had a chance to meet with Ella Hunt at the Alamo Drafthouse Cedars. She spoke to us of her start in community theater where she had the good fortune to be seen by an agent who told her mother that she should go into acting. Being athletic and having singing skills helped secure her in her role as Anna. She loved filming in Scotland having been from a small town when she was younger. Hopefully we will see more of Ms Hunt.





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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Roma







Reel Time with Joel and Chase

Passion and Beauty Fuel This Personal Journey for Alfonso Cuarón



Title: Roma

Rating: R for Graphic Nudity, Some Disturbing Images, and Language

Run Time: 2hr & 15mins



Joel’s Review

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

The opening shot is a static one: We look at a stretch of tile floor as the title and credits play over it. Then there is the sound of splashing water, and eventually, the water, sudsy with soap, enters the frame. Someone is washing this stretch of tile, which – we find out – is part of the floor of a garage, and while we eventually turn away from that tile to find the person who is cleaning it, this opening shot sets the tone and pace of Roma in tangible, lingering ways. With this extended shot of our protagonist cleaning this floor, on which so much happens over the course of his story, writer/director/cinematographer/co-editor Alfonso Cuarón is establishing a necessary patience.

First, there is the length of the shot, as well as the events of the following series of shots, in which Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, great in a striking and auspicious debut performance) finishes cleaning the garage floor and diligently goes about the rest of the house to do other chores – pulling the sheets off beds to wash them, later turning lights off and on depending upon what needs to be lit or darkened at night, etc. She and Adela (Nancy García García) are the two maids and, more often than not, babysitters on staff for Sofía (Marina de Tavira), Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), and their four children – Toño (Diego Cortina Autrey), Paco (Carlos Peralta), Pepe (Marco Graf), and Sofi (Daniela Demesa).

This is Mexico City in the early 1970s, captured by Cuarón in luminous, black-and-white photography that is often comprised of long takes of great complexity, and this family for whom Cleo works is a broken one. Antonio leaves his wife and children early into the narrative, claiming that research for work is taking him to Quebec. This leaves Sofía to figure things out for her children, though she often arrives home late from her job, teaching biochemistry at a nearby university. Cleo slowly becomes these children’s de facto mother, though she develops her own identity along the way.

She loves movies, and Cuarón gives us a stunning shot from behind Cleo and her date that, like many compositions here, is enough to make one hold his or her breath. She is, we can guess, barely out of her teenage years, which means that company spent with Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) is often rather discreetly company spent in the nude and in bed. This has predictable consequences, as Cleo discovers that she is pregnant and Fermín flees all responsibility to join a group of aspiring martial artists to introduce a bit of order in a life that, he feels, has become chaotic.

Cuarón isn’t out to tell a traditionally structured story, though. What the filmmaker has provided is an exceptionally delicate and compassionate series of stream-of-consciousness observations that find Cleo in sometimes desperate situations: A family sojourn to a shooting gallery at a forest estate ends with much of the forest on fire. Cleo visits the OB/GYN unit of a hospital just as a small earthquake provides complications for everyone, and later, her labor begins as El Halconazo (a massacre of demonstrating students by soldiers in the Mexican army in June 1971) happens outside a furniture shop.

The sting of tragedy is everywhere one turns in Roma, but by shooting the action in black-and-white and by taking an observational approach with his camera (which often simply makes turns somewhere between 180 and 360 degrees as it observes the characters’ actions), Cuarón distances himself from the opportunity to turn this material into a cheap melodrama. The pieces are there in the story, particularly in a climactic scene set on the beach that nearly turns to tragedy. In lesser hands, such a scene, which ultimately provides emotional closure for Cleo following unthinkable loss, could be construed as an excuse to provide trite characterization. Things are complex in this world, which – with all its chaos and comfort – is undoubtedly the real one.





Chase’s Review



(Review by Chase Lee)



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The House That Jack Built





The House That Jack Built premiered out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year where it caused quite a stir. Director Lars von Trier is known for releasing brutal and difficult movies, so reports from Cannes of walk outs and boos following the screening painted the image of a film that would be equally hard and as uncomfortable a viewing experience as his earlier work.



The core of the movie is Matt Dillon’s fantastic performance as the film’s psychopathic lead – Jack, a serial killer. The viewer observes five of the “incidents” that shaped Jack as he discusses them with an unseen man named Verge (Bruno Ganz). At first, Jack attempts to blend in to society, practicing putting on a false façade in front of the mirror to fool those around him. Over the course of the movie, he becomes increasingly more daring in his actions as killing’s therapeutic release becomes less fulfilling to his inner demons. Jack is shown more than once to be an audacious killer. He murders in the bright of day, on public roads, or in houses with open blinds before sloppily taking the bodies to a building that he owns which hosts a large walk-in freezer. Often, his trail ends up being covered by acts of God. Acts he then tests by taunting the police, sending photos to reporters, and bringing a body back to the scene of a crime – by walking in front of rows of occupied apartments. Does this guy want to get caught?



There are other familiar faces present in the movie. Uma Thurman plays Woman 1, Jack’s victim in the first described incident. It isn’t revealed if she is Jack’s first murder or one of his first. Her insistence that Jack assist her in fixing her broken jack followed by her constant pestering and rude commentary once he acquiesces to giving her a ride make one wonder if his interactions with her were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Would he have still become this monster if he hadn’t stopped to help her or was killing her on his mind when he initially stopped? Other victims include Siobhan Fallon Hogan and Riley Keough, whose names you might not recognize but whose faces you probably will.



Director Lars von Trier successfully manages to combine aspects of 1970’s exploitation cinema with art-house ideology. The movie fittingly takes place in the 70s, when many infamous serial killers were active. Like the exploitation flicks of that time period, von Trier’s film focuses on the depravity of the main character through an examination of his thought process and by observing a few of his many heinous acts. The House that Jack Built brings to mind movies such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, though it’s far removed from the exploitative nature of those two movies. The film’s harsher aspects, which are most likely causing the uproar with cinema-goers, have been included in other movies, in much more graphic presentations (see the two before mentioned titles, director Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, or one of the hundreds of genre films from that time period), so the uproar over the material is hard to grasp and feels exaggerated. Maybe a lot of the controversy from Cannes is due to the fact that it was shown to an audience of people not expecting to so bluntly see the grimier side of cinema.



Taking a cue from his previous work, von Trier approaches the material for The House that Jack Built in the same fashion he took with Nymphomaniac. In that film, a woman explains to a man several sexual exploits that have happened throughout her life which he then relates to banal things such as fishing. Throughout and after each of the five incidents shown in The House that Jack Built, Jack relates his murders, which he views as his artwork, to what he thinks of as great art or to specific artists. Throwing in the viewers face the phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder. At what point does this idea stop applying? Verge acts as Jack’s guide, questioning his motives and explanations as he relates his tableaus to works of architects, musicians, painters, and eventually dictators.



Von Trier saves the more artsy elements for the films finale. The ending is filled with the beautiful slow motion photography that was unleashed from the beginning in movies like Anti-Christ and Melancholia. As much as I’d like to describe some of this, I’ll restrain myself. Too much analysis or commentary on this film would veer into spoiler territory. Part of the “fun” in watching a movie like this is dissecting it yourself and discussing it with others after viewing it. As in his other films, von Trier throws in visual cues that are meant to be metaphorical. Though, like the brazen protagonist, The House that Jack Built is more forthcoming with its comparisons and imagery.



Besides the before mentioned Nymphomaniac (surprisingly given its length and subject), The House that Jack Built is easily the most accessible of von Trier’s work. The flow of the movie is excellent. There is a great balance between its straight-forward narrative moments with its introspective analysis before unleashing the enigmatic epilogue. The epilogue raises its own set of questions, but I won’t go into that. The House that Jack Built uses the shaky cam approach often as von Trier did in his 2011 movie Melancholia. Here the technique is used more sparingly and less distractedly, though it’s appropriate for both films to highlight the inner turmoil of the leads. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself laughing at some of the horrific things unfolding on screen. The film was intended to be humorous as much as it was intended to shock.



The House that Jack Built continues to ride a wave of controversy following the screening on November 28 of von Trier’s director’s cut. The MPAA has decided to make a fuss over the movie distributor’s, IFC, failure to acquire the appropriate waiver to show the unrated version in theaters and for releasing it so close to the film’s R-rated release, December 14. They claim that this action undermines the effectiveness of the group and diminishes the trust of the parents who use the ratings. Does that even sound like a logical argument to anyone after the movie I’ve just described? Who would take their child to see this movie?
(Review by Bret Oswald)



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Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle




This is not the animated version of the All the Mowgli Stories by Rudyard Kipling like the previous Disney movies. There are no songs and happy beasts dancing in the jungle. This live action film utilizes motion capture to bring the animals to life. Who knows better about motion capture than Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes) at the helm with a script by Callie Kloves. It's a dark and more adult version of the story of a young boy raised by wolves. Beautiful to behold, but definitely not recommended for younger children.

Rohan Chand was 10 years old at the time of filming as the young Mowgli. As a baby his parents were killed by Shere Khan the Bengal tiger (Benedict Cumberbatch) and left alone. He's rescued by Bagheera the Black panther (Christian Bale) who brings him to the wolf pack. The Indian wolf pack lead by Akela (Peter Mullan) agrees to keep the man cub sensing that there is something special about the young boy who shows no fear. Andy Serkis as Baloo the Himalayan brown bear teaches the young pups the rules of the jungle. They all have to be ready for the ultimate test that will make them hunting members of the pack. Mowgli suffers from the bullying from some of the young wolves except for Bhoots (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) who has a bad leg. Neither can be as fast since Mowgli is hampered by having to run on all fours. Fortunately Baloo shows him how to take advantage of his human form by climbing trees and jumping from branches. He discovers the scary monkey people and connects with the mythical elephant.

Mowgli often watches the human village. Bagheera knows that eventually the man cub may have to return to his own kind. Especially since Khan wants to take over the jungle and eat the boy. Khan has been killing the villagers cows thereby putting the pack in danger from human hunters. Khan is not the only one that becomes a threat to Mowgli. There is the giant python Kaa (Cate Blanchett), the hyena Tabaqui (Tom Hollander) and even a human hunter (Matthew Rhys). The young man cub has to grow up pretty quickly and find out how he fits into this world of humans and animals.

There are somewhat disturbing moments that may not be appropriate for the young ones. Like Mowgli under water holding his breath while watching Khan washing his bloody muzzle. The fighting of the wolves trying to dethrone Akela. The Monkey people attacking Bagheera and Baloo when Mowgli is captured. And the hunter's taxidermy table. Since this is on Netflix, one should preview the film before hand before letting the kids watch.

Rohan Chand breathes life into the young Mowgli. His eyes express the wonder of the world around him trying to understand the contradictions of the jungle rules and the human world. There should be a follow up to this story.
(Review by reesa)



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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

El Angel




Director Luis Ortega’s film El Angel tells the story of Carlos Puch. Puch, named “The Angel of Death” by the media due to his pretty-boy looks, is one of Argentina’s most infamous criminals, currently serving a life sentence. Ortega co-writes, with Sergio Olguín and Rodolfo Palacios, a fictionalized account of Pugh’s criminal activity leading up to his arrest and imprisonment.



The opening scene finds Carlos (Lorenzo Ferro) breaking into a house in 1970’s Buenos Aires. He calmly roams the rooms searching for things to steal before turning on a radio and dancing around the living room. Ortega gives the audience a glimpse inside Carlos’s psyche with this episode, revealing Carlos to be carefree, indifferent, and off-kilter. As he leaves, he steals a motorcycle and rides home. When questioned by his mother about the bike, he nonchalantly waves the question off. His parents (Cecilia Roth and Luis Gnecco) are not amused by him continually borrowing things from friends and tell him to stop. Neither parent realizes where nor how he is actually getting these items. The Pughs are straight-laced and hard-working. Throughout the movie, Mr. Pugh is shown to be a stern man quickly becoming discontent with his son’s behavior while Mrs. Pugh is shown to become increasingly more upset by it.



After starting a new school, Carlos meets Ramón Peralta (Chino Darín), in one of his classes; the two become friends after a brief confrontation. A confrontation that is possibly flirtatious on Carlos’s part. Carlos gives Ramón a lighter he’s stolen and brags of his thievery. The boasting ends up being a good twist of fate for Carlos because Ramón and his father, José (Daniel Fanego), are also crooks with Ramón’s mother, Ana (Mercedes Morán), in on their jobs. The Peraltas are easy going and free-spirited (José is introduced in a revealing close-up while cleaning a gun on the couch in his underwear) and more in line with Carlos’s view on life. The family takes Carlos under their wings after he proves his skills to them by robbing a gun shop, a sequence that further clarifies his reckless behavior. Instead of casing the joint as he was supposed to, Carlos takes almost every single gun in the store then returns for the bullets. Together, Carlos and Ramón embark on a life of crime. One thing eventually leads to another and Carlos shoots a man during a robbery. An accident, met with his usual indifference, which serves as a gateway to other murders.



Lorenzo Ferro is fitting as Carlos, made up to look effeminate and androgynous. He gives a performance that showcases the young man’s unhinged nature while still portraying the cold, uncaring emotion of a sociopath. Chino Darín is also good as Ramón, who sets his eyes on getting out of crime and into the limelight, much to his parents’ chagrin. Sexual tension is thick between the two, becoming most apparent during a jewelry store robbery where Carlos tries on a pair of earrings and the two mug in front of a mirror with their guns, drawing thoughts of Bonnie and Clyde. The roles of the parents are finely acted with Cecilia Roth standing out as the distraught mother.



The cinematography is good minus a few distracting moments. At times motion looks odd, like frames have been dropped or the camera hasn’t properly captured the action, probably some random digital anomaly from the equipment used. Other than those fleeting moments, the camera work is great. There are a few well timed tracking shots and the framing is always well done. Cinematographer Julián Apezteguia includes some grotesque close ups throughout, the before mentioned shot of José and a shot of Ana sensually wiping a layer of water from Carlos’s lips as she comes on to him. These shots act to further develop both characters and their inappropriate relationship with Carlos.



This movie isn’t without its share of problems, mainly pacing. The film gets off to a good start but begins to fizzle out before reaching the end. Nothing specific comes to mind, but the final 30 or 40 minutes had more than a few scenes that felt like they went on too long. Some of this is from the inclusion of sub-plots that don’t go anywhere and moments that don’t fit with what’s previously been shown. A scene toward the end shows Carlos crying although he’s shown almost no emotion, other than giddy excitement and lust, the rest of the movie. This introspective moment is out of place with how the character has been portrayed up to this point.



Ortega’s film, despite its problems, is one of the better movies to be released this year. Although Argentina has selected El Angel as their official selection for Best Foreign Film at the next Oscar ceremony, the movie has been released unrated meaning that publicity for it is next to zero.
(Review by Bret Oswald)





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Obamaland




OBAMALAND
zero stars (out of ****)


In the year 2040, Barack Obama (Chris James, adopting the tone and inflection of the real man, then leaning too heavily into both) is entering the 34th year of his Presidency for Life, and the nation over which he presides, once known as America, has radically shifted. The idealistic change that was once his campaign platform and poster-ready slogan has become something resembling a dictatorship, although he boasts to everyone, far and wide, that it isn’t a dictatorship. His ideology, feared to be socialist by the political right, is about to become a literal weapon against those who refuse to distribute everything equally.

This is the comic premise of Obamaland, a political satire steeped in science fiction that takes its name from the new one for America. Director Greg Bergman’s screenplay goes too far with that premise, though, in various ways, and whether it was intentional or not, the undeniable feeling elicited from the filmmaker’s treatment of this material is that it was borne from the political ideology it apparently seems to mock. There doesn’t seem to be the remotest sense of understanding the modern world, the ideas behind the birtherist conspiracy theories that certain public figures pushed in public venues, or even storytelling.

The hero of the story is Tinder Tucker (Isaac Anderson), who discovers that his girlfriend has come out as genderqueer, pansexual, and form-positive. Horrified by their newly realized gender identity and sexual orientation – yet, conversely, accepting of his friend Ebony’s (John McLaughlin) “ethno-gender reassignment” from white man to black woman – he goes on a journey of self-reflection. Along the way, he falls in with the Trumpublikans, a group of political dissidents who protested Obama’s refusal to abdicate the commander-in-chief position to Donald Trump in November 2016.

The Trumpublikans idolize and worship a white, virginal woman known as “The Great Hope White” (Christina Leidel). She is something of a legend or a myth to most of this persuasion, but some unknown influence inspires her to come out of hiding. Growing closer to Tinder – and, in one scene, propositioning him for sex by telling him, “I want your genitals inserted into my genitals,” as one does before a little sexy time – Hope rallies a legion of troops for some sort of battle to end Obama’s tyranny once and for all. In case you are following closely, yes, the aggressive and violent militia are the heroic ones here.

Meanwhile, the film’s view of everyone else barrels through any line of good taste. Obama and his nearly all-black advisors (most of whom are in Black Panther garb), with the exception of a groaning skeleton in the place of Nancy Pelosi (one of the handful of jokes that even come close to working), are barely seen outside of a context that establishes them as mustache-twirling villains. The citizens of Obamaland are sort of ultra-Millennials, patronizing a coffee shop that asks if white customers want to “check their privilege” for an “Obama buck” (just one example of the bizarre view of the culture right now that instantly dates anything the movie is trying to say).

This is an embarrassing failure of nerve, courage, conviction, and the simple rules of filmmaking and storytelling. The comic aspects are childish and inane, largely established at the expense of marginalized people (in particular, people of color, who are broad stereotypes, and the queer community at large, who are all seen as rather terrifying and alien). There is no other level to Obamaland, though, and if the film is embarrassing on that simple level, it should tell you how it is as a collective experience, too. Here is satire without focus, purpose, good taste, or common sense.
(Review by Joel Copling)




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