Dallas Movie Screening

Dallas Movie Screenings started out as a mailing list on Yahoo Groups to facilitate finding free screening passes in the DFW area. When Yahoo Groups shut down, we are now posting screenings on our Facebook page at http://www..facebook.com/groups/dallasmoviescreenings
Earlier 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, January 27, 2019

Scheduled for the Week of Jan 27 - Feb 2

Finally, some movies this week. Hope everyone is surviving the cold and crazy warm weather. Typical this time of year...well anytime of the year in Texas.

As always there are probably some screenings that I have not heard about. The whole idea of this group is to share screening info with each other. So please feel free to post them to the group and where the passes were distributed. If you don't want to post it yourself, just email me and I can do it for you. Thank you!

Jan 27 - Feb 2

Mon - Jan 28

They Shall Not Grow Old - 7:00 pm - Angelika

Tue - Jan 29

Fighting With My Family - 7:30 pm - AMC Northparkmovie

Wed - Jan 30

Miss Bala - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark
Miss Bala - 7:30 pm - Alamo Lake Highlands

Sat - Feb 2

The Lego Movie 2 - 10:30 am - Cinemark 17

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Friday, January 25, 2019


With “The Sixth Sense” in 1999, M. Night Shyamalan came on like gangbusters. That was early in his career. Somewhere along way through, he lost his ability to just make a decent stand-alone movie.

His post “Unbreakable” efforts included the decent Mel Gibson-led “Signs.” (2002) (Grade: B+), “The Last Airbender” (2010) (D+), “The Happening” (2008) (C-), “The Village” (2004) (C) and “Lady in the Water,” (2006) (C-).

Lest we not forget “After Earth,” a Will Smith project that landed with a giant thud in the summer of 2013. Smith was proud of that entry since it not only featured his son, Jaden, but he received a co-writer credit as well.

Another dud came out a couple of years back with “The Visit,” (2015) after which I said I would not frequent another Shyamalan film until he finished his so-called trilogy involving both “Unbreakable” (2000) and “Split” (2016).

“Glass” is the final film in the series Shyamalan started with “Unbreakable” 19 years ago.

The second installment of the trilogy, “Split” (C+), dealt with James McAvoy’s Kevin, a man with 23 distinct personalities. The 24th personality, referred to as The Beast, has yet to be uncovered. At the center of this story was Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey Cooke, a student from a dysfunctional home who encounters pure evil after a trip with friends to the zoo.

“Glass,” the final episode in the three-part series, does not disappoint. It takes the best parts of “Unbreakable” and “Split” and turns those storylines into functioning cohesive story.

Returning to the tale is Spencer Treat Clark as Dunn’s son Joseph. His mom, Audrey (Robin Wright) passed away from cancer earlier in the storyline, so it is just Joseph and David running the families’ security business.

Multiple Golden Globe-winning actress Sarah Paulson is Dr. Ellie Staple who wants to disprove the fact that these men are not superheroes, rather just normal men. This sets up what is essentially an origin story. It takes advances in modern technology, like cell phones, to disprove Staple’s notions.

The majority of the movie take place in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. It convenes inside a hospital where a few individuals have tales that crisscross until the very end of the story.

“Glass” restores Shyamalan’s reputation as a great director and filmmaker who can tell a good story. Hopefully, his future endeavors will continue his approach in telling fluid and dynamic tales.

Grade: A-

(Review by Ricky Miller)

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Stan and Ollie

Depending on how old you are, there was a time when Laurel and Hardy shorts were played with Saturday morning cartoons. Born from the vaudeville days, their humor was broad and slapstick. Laurel being the doofy one and Hardy thinking he's the brains. This biographical film is based on the later years of their career directed by Jon S. Baird and written by Jeff Pope. As with all aging entertainers, they rely on their past hits and skits. It's their endearing friendship that bonds the two men giving this story a sensitive and heart felt journey.

In 1937 it was their height of the comedy duo's popularity. Stan (Steve Coogan) wants to confront the studio producer Hal Roach (Danny Houston) that they need more financial recognition for their global fame or they will not renew their contract. Ollie (John C. Reilly) doesn't want to rock the boat as he's broke from paying alimony to his various ex-wives and a serious gambling habit. The rift separates the two until they are reunited in 1953 for a comedy tour in the U.K Stan convinced Ollie that at the end of their tour they will do movie based on Robin Hood that Stan is rewriting. Stan is the writer of all their bits and Ollie laughs as his biggest fan having worked together since 1927. Now in their 60's they are embarking on a comeback tour. Their English tour manager/producer Bernard (Rufus Jones) has booked them in seedy hotels and low class music halls all the while encouraging them that it's going to be best. Hardly anyone shows up and they are discouraged as their wives are meeting them when they eventually hit London. They decide to do public relation advertising and soon they playing to packed theaters.

Stan learns that the studio producer has decided they can not get the financing for their Robin Hood project. He is unable to tell Ollie the news and they continue to rehearse the scenes that Stan has written. The arrival of their wives Lucille (Shirley Henderson), the third Mrs. Hardy, and Ida (Nina Arianda), the fourth Mrs. Laurel are also used as a bit much to the women's annoyance. Lucille wants Ollie to retire. His weight and poor health is a constant worry. The tension between the duo comes to a head at a reception after their big performance, then Ollie suffers a heart attack while judging a beauty pageant at a seaside resort. The reality that their run has finally come to an end gives the two a time to reflect. Bernard tries to hire a replacement for Ollie, a local comedy star Nobby Cook (John Henshaw). Stan realizes it's not the same and goes back to make peace with his friend.

The film is somewhat typical of biopics as far as they go. The story is focused on the ebbing years of their career as they look back without regret. It's the performances by Reilly and Coogan that give the story some heart. Laurel and Hardy used their odd couple chemistry as a source of humor. When the two were in public they slipped into their personas. They were hard working professionals no matter what size the audience or what personal grievances they had with each other. They appeared in 107 films, starring in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, and 23 full-length feature films. It's sad to think that their legacy will be lost to future generations.
(Review by reesa)

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A giant tuna they call the Beast is the Moby Dick to Baker Dill's Captain Ahab. In this neo-noir thriller film written, produced and directed by Steven Knight (Locke, Redemption) has some twists and turns that are best not revealed here. It's a stylish mystery involving a heavy drinking fishing boat captain and a dangerously sexy blonde woman of his past who wants him to take her abusive husband out to sea and feed him to the sharks. Just the type of sultry film seen on TCM on Saturday nights.

Matthew McConaughey plays Baker Dill the captain of his fishing boat the Serenity. He's hired to take out tourists to hook fish while they drink and lounge. His first mate Duke (Djimon Hounsou) reminds him that he must let the charter customers to reel in the fish when one is hooked. But Dill decides he will fight the Beast himself. Dill keeps all obsessive encounters with this elusive fish in his notebook since he has yet to bring him in. Living on the small Caribbean island of Plymouth everyone knows everything what is going on with everyone else. His friend with benefits Constance (Diane Lane) who lends him money since he lost the fee from his angry charter clients so he can pay Duke and restock his ship. While drinking away his misery a woman comes in who wants to hire his charter. She also wants him to take her husband out to see and drop him in the drink. Turns out Karen (Anne Hathaway) is his ex, who left him to marry another when he was in Afghanistan fighting a war. Dill is still upset with her but mostly concerned when she says their son is also affected by his step father. She promises to pay him 10 million dollars to do the deed. Desperately in need of funds, he tries to get Duke to come back to work for him. Duke is still angry with him and advises not to take the job. Meanwhile this squirrely dude in a suit, briefcase and glasses keeps trying to meet with Dill who he keeps missing.

Karen's husband is truly a piece of work. Frank (Jason Clarke) is rich, obnoxious, and mean. Dill takes him out on the boat while Karen waits for good news on the pier. About 2/3 of the movie operates like a typical thriller with it's obvious broadly sketched characters. As delicious as everyone is digging into their roles, there's this left turn that spins everything on it's head and you have to wait out the wave to it's conclusion. Little hints and clues are set up which one can discuss during your after movie dinner. But it's worth it even it's just for the McConaughey butt shots. Worth the popcorn.
(Review by reesa)

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The Kid Who Would Be King

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Stan & Ollie

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Friday, January 18, 2019


M. Night Shyamalan knocked everyone's socks off with the 1999 Sixth Sense. Then Unbreakable in 2000 saw some success, but subsequent films were interesting and disappointing. The 2016 Split garnered positive reviews and was a huge financial success. The character from Split was cut from Unbreakable, so the Eastrail 177 Trilogy was created by uniting the Mr. Glass, David Dunn and the 23 personalities of Kevin Wendell Crumb. If you have not seen the other two films, you may be adrift as to what the heck is going on. Like all Shyamalan movies, they are finely created, with great images, sets, and setting up mystery and expectations. A lot has been made to not reveal the twist ending. So no spoilers here.

David Dunn (Bruce Willis) the only survivor of a train wreck in Unbreakable is now working in a home security store with his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). Joseph has always believed in his father's superhero abilities of The Overseer. He listens to the police radio band directing him to crime to be rectified. The police are after some missing cheer leaders who have been kidnapped by former zoo employee Kevin (James McAvoy) who taunts his victims with his various split personalities who he calls the horde. The horde is ruled by Patricia, but they are physically protected by The Beast. David attempts to save the young women and confront The Beast. The police show up and arrest them both.

Sarah Paulson plays the very controlled Dr. Ellie Staple: A psychiatrist specializing in delusions of grandeur. She gets the men committed to Raven Hill. She joins them with Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), aka Elijah Price, the comic book expert, aka genius Mastermind. Mr. Glass sits in a wheel chair due to his fragile bones and heavy sedation. He's been locked up for the past 19 years after being a mass murderer while trying to convince the world that superheros walk among us. Dr. Staple tells them she only has a few days to get them to stop believing they have super powers.

The believers, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) was a victim of the horde who managed to survive the Beast, Mrs. Price (Charlayne Woodard), Elijah's mother who always encouraged her son that he was special, and David's son Joseph who fights to get his father released. Dr. Stable tries to convince them that they could not possibly be super, which of course they know is not true. It's a wordy script that talks about this whole superhero universe that has become a pulp mythos for nerds everywhere. Seriously what would happen if people with extraordinary abilities inhabited our world?

Bruce Willis seems vacant trying to suppress his gift of strength, stamina, invincibility, and extrasensory ability to see a person's crimes when touching them. Samuel L. Jackson has lots of close face shots looking all drugged up as Mr. Glass. It's James McAvoy who dominates the story with all the multiple personalities that slip in and out especially when a light flashes in his face. There is a lot of anticipation for this film but it's fair to say you will either love it or "meh".
(Review by reesa)

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Jan 13 - Jan 19

Yes, it's January and there are very few screenings. Hope you get the chance to catch the ones destined for the Big Award show coming up.

Just enjoy the cold weather, staying home warm and safe. Check out your streaming services.

Jan 13 - Jan 19

Mon - Jan 14

AGFA Secret Screening - 7:00 pm - Alamo Drafthouse Richardson

Tue - Jan 15

Glass - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Wed - Jan 16

Glass - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

Sat - Jan 19

Mermaids - 6:00 pm - Alamo Drafthouse

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What I liked about this movie is the fact it is gritty and kind of a throwback to 1970’s American cinema that makes no excuses for its violence factor and the ratio in which it occurs. Think back to the days of “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2,3” or Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”

It was directed by Karyn Kasuma, who helmed the 2003 science-fiction entry “Aeon Flux.” More recently she helmed 2009’s “Jennifer’s Body,” scribed by “Juno” Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody. Neither of these are worthwhile, but they show a more diverse hand in storytelling that never fell into doldrums or the like.

What also worked for me was the presence of Nicole Kidman, who has constantly downplayed her beauty and on-screen allure and presence for years. I’ve been a fan of hers for years, even going back to 1989’s “Dead Calm,” one of the few water-based entries I actually liked.

“Destroyer,” for all intents and purposes is just a good old undercover tale about a woman, Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) who is deep undercover in a bank heist scheme that goes awry. She shares some great screen time with co-star Toby Kebell, one of the nefarious bad guys she gets involved with.

The trouble I sometimes have with movies like this is that it is not for the greater good, rather an individual’s own self-worth and just plain old greed. It is not for the greater good or a child’s medical condition, rather just plain old gluttony and the ability to get ahead.

As a point of reference, I would compare this to Christopher Nolan’s pretzel-twisting tale “Memento,” (2000) in that the storyline is not all spelled out for you in a paint-by numbers style and execution. The story never hits any dry spells, but is just very methodical in taking you to an end point where it can just settle down.

Kidman takes one of her bolder steps in presenting her character as a deeply flawed and troubled persona. She gives Bell her own nuanced identity, one that finds her own individuality.

Bell even has a daughter she is estranged from and only sees on a minuscule basis.

The setting occurs in a small town in middle America, one with a small-town police force. What was also cool was to see the characters’ interactions with each other and how each person stands out since every person had their own separate angle to the story.

“Destroyer” is a worthwhile movie since it shows Kidman in a whole new light. Although she is known for her beauty and grace, best exemplified in Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge,” (2001) one of the few musical entries I can actually tolerate. She also displayed her charm in 1998’s “Practical Magic” with co-star Sandra Bullock as the younger sister of the pair.

“Destroyer” does what it’s supposed to do in that Kidman, known as a great actor and versatile performer, once again shows she can carry her weight with the best of them.

Grade: B-
(Review by Ricky Miller)

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Dog's Way Home and Interview with W. Bruce Cameron and Cathryn Michon

Best selling author W. Bruce Cameron has written multiple books on dogs like A Dog's Purpose and the upcoming A Dog's Journey, wrote the screenplay with Cathryn Michon in this touching family film directed by Charles Martin Smith. If you spend your time watching animal videos on social media, this is the long version of a sweet young dog who gets separated from his human and embarks on a 400 mile trek to go home. Bring tissues.

Bryce Dallas Howard is the voice of Bella, a pit bull mix pup who is born under a collapsed building that is occupied with feral cats. When the animal control workers come, they managed to extract the mother dog and some of her babies, while Bella is rescued by one of the mother cats who lets him nurse with her babies. One day Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and Olivia (Alexandra Shipp) come by to feed the feral kitties, they discover Bella who they can't resist taking her home. Bella adores her human and his Army veteran mom, Terri (Ashley Judd) who suffers from depression. But they worry the landlord will discover him. Plus there's a pit bull ban in the city of Denver with will destroy any pits they capture. Lucas brings the dog to the VA hospital where he works and Bella quickly becomes a comfort animal for veterans. The crisis comes when the vindictive, corrupt dogcatcher in league with the slimy developer who wants to kill a colony of feral cats living across the street target the dog as a banned breed. Olivia's relatives are willing to take they dog while they find another place to live out of the city. Unfortunately, it's in Farmington, NM.

It is there that Bella, missing her human, becomes fixated on Lucas's last command to "go home" that caused her to be picked up and ended up in the pound. And now she doesn't know where she is. Even though her new caretakers are nice and giver her food, she still wants to complete going home. She jumps the fence and starts a journey that takes her over 2 1/2 years to accomplish. The scenery is outstanding.

Her various adventures involve befriending an orphan baby mountain lion. Since Bella was raised with cats, their friendship is understandable. They help each other forage for food and keep each other warm. It's also a good association when the wolves come calling. Bella learns to find food from wandering dog packs who show him how to find treasure in trash cans and handouts from the back door of restaurants. Bella helps a hiker in an avalanche and gets a home with a gay couple who gives her a collar and love. The most jarring segment is when Bella falls in with a homeless veteran (Edward James Olmos) who uses him to get more handouts. Then later chains him to himself before he dies in the woods leaving Bella to weaken from hunger and thirst before some kids free him. This may be a little too much for younger viewers, but it's quickly followed up Bella finding her way home.

Bella who is played by rescue dog Shelby is as cute and lovable as a dog can be. It's unfortunate that the CGI segments of the film involving the wolves and the cougar are so distracting. The play with the cat and dog on the ice is like a Disney film and it's hard to accept the live dog and fake cat. As a movie for kids, they probably won't notice. It's also a plus to see Wes Studi as a police captain at the end to make sure all is well. This is a nice family film for dog lovers everywhere.
(Review by reesa)

Shelby star of A Dog's Way Home:

Author W. Bruce Cameron & Cathryn Michon screenwriters for A Dog's Way Home at a round table talk about the movie.

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The Upside

The French 2011 film The Intouchables, which was itself inspired by the life of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo has had two other remakes in the Indian Oopiri and the Argentinian Inseparables. This is the third remake directed by Neil Burger and written by Jon Hartmere starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart. It really gives Hart a chance to show some serious acting moments and not the usual manic characters of his comedy outings. Of course with Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman will make anyone look better by association. The French film was nominated for C├ęsar Award for Best Film and awarded Omar Sy for the Best Actor. This film is not quite up to par to Intouchables, but decent enough to bring one to the theaters in January for mindless entertainment.

Kevin Hart plays a parolee Dell Scott who needs to have his job searches signed to keep him out of jail which leads him erroneously to the applicant line for a Life Auxiliary at a penthouse of Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston). Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) his business manager helps him interview prospective aides, but they are boring and pretentious. Enter Dell who is thinking he's applying as a janitor, demanding that they sign his papers. His rough and brash attitude intrigues Phillip who hires him giving him overnight to think it over. We are then introduced to Dell's ex and his son who live in a moldy leaking tenement apartment. He realizes he needs to work to make their lives better.

Yvonne is not happy with Dell joining their household and tells him he has three strikes before they fire him. Dell has to learn how to feed, dress and attend to the more personal needs for Phillip who is paralyzed from the neck down in a paragliding accident. Dell must be on call 24/7 and it takes him awhile before he adjusts to just thinking of himself. He also brings Phillip out of his shell that he has built by grieving over his beloved wife who passed from cancer and of course the loss of mobility. He introduces Dell to opera and Dell introduces him to the Queen Aretha Franklin.

The story has the usual manipulative and formulaic tropes of poor person of color and rich white guy bromance. They are about as opposite as two people can possibly be, but they find common ground. The issue of race doesn't seem to be the main focus except for Phillip's neighbor Carter Locke (Tate Donovan) who reminds Phillip that he lives in the building with his ex-convict employee. The more prevalent issue is the socioeconomic contrast of their lives. The haves and the have nothings. Although Phillip is stupidly rich enough to buy the Nets, but not rich enough to buy the Mets, he's still unhappy stuck in a body that won't move. While Dell, healthy and street smart, is mired in his inability to get out of his own way while trying to stay in his son's life. Of course it all works out in the end, and the journey there is entertaining enough to be worth the popcorn.
(Review by reesa)

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Jan 6 - Jan 12

Happy New Year everyone! As always it's slim pickings for the beginning of the year. The kiddos are going back to school. The weather is typical Texas torrential downpours and/or shorts and flip flop weather. Last night's Golden Globes was interesting but anticlimactic. I can't seem to take my Christmas tree down yet. Hope to see y'all this week.

January 6 - January 12

Wed - Jan 9

The Upside - 7:00 pm - Angelika Dallas
Perfect Strangers - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark
The Upside - 7:30 pm - Studio Movie Grill Northwest Hwy

Sat - Jan 12

The Kid Who Would Be King = 10:00 pm - Angelika Dallas

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Escape Room

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Bird Box

Since its release in May 2014, Josh Malerman’s novel “Bird Box” has become a hit among readers. Scan any list of recommended recent horror novels (or forum threads asking for horror recommendations) and the title is more than likely to be among the first to pop up. The novel surprisingly (since it was the author’s first published book) sold its film rights before being published with Andy Muschietti, director of last year’s hit horror movie “It,” originally in talks to direct the project at Universal. The project eventually found its way to Netflix, who produced the film for their streaming service, helmed by director Susanne Bier.

Malorie (Sandra Bullock) stands in front of a young boy and girl. The scene is tense, Bullock’s voice stern and authoritative. She hopes to ensure the children, who are raptly listening, obey her directions as she prepares them to go outside, the most adamant command – never take off your blindfolds. After this speech, the trio is outside, blindfolded and feeling their way to the river front, getting into a small metal rowboat once there. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer begins weaving the story through past and present (like the novel) showing how Malorie winds up alone with the two children she calls Boy (Julian Edwards) and Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair).

Five years previous, Malorie was an artist, recently left by her roommate (the father of her then unborn child) and occasionally helped by her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson). Jessica arrives to take Malorie to a doctor’s appointment, commenting on her concerns over what’s happening overseas. Unware of the events in Russia, Malorie is told to turn on the TV where the footage is on almost every channel. Some sort of pandemic has started that causes people to suddenly become violent and suicidal. While the two sisters are out, the sickness finds its way to their area, resulting in Jessica crashing the car and leading to Malorie finding herself locked in a house with a group of strangers. Through their own accounts of the events and through news reports the group soon understands that people are being driven insane by something they are seeing outside and cover the windows of the house.

In addition to Malorie are Tom (Trevante Rhodes), Douglas (John Malkovich), Cheryl (Jacki Weaver), Greg (BD Wong), Charlie (Lil Rel Howery), Lucy (Rosa Salazar), and Felix (Colson Baker). The group is eventually joined by another pregnant woman Olympia (Danielle Macdonald) and, long after her arrival, Gary (Tom Hollander). Bier has gathered a strong cast for the movie, but, despite the actors involved, the cast never totally clicks together. There are obvious conflicts between the characters, particularly between Malkovich’s Douglas and almost anyone else, but the tension is never felt. Some of the roles are so small it’s surprising that a few of the bigger names agreed to take them – Paulson, Weaver, and Wong spring to mind, none of their characters are given much to do. Bullock and Rhodes manage to spark a connection with each other (the two become an item through the succession of events) and with the two children actors, but not enough to draw the audience into the movie.

Similar to the novel, the film lacks suspense. From the beginning it is apparent that Malorie is going to end up alone with the two children, leaving the viewer to wonder the why and the how of the final situation – Malorie, Boy, and Girl blindly boating down a river to a supposed safe zone – interwoven throughout the narrative. The film, as well as the book, would have worked better told through a linear story. As it’s presented, viewers know almost all of the survivors in the house will eventually die so it’s no surprise when they finally do.

A story in which the characters are required to cover their eyes doesn’t sound like an ideal choice for a feature film since film, obviously, is a visual medium. Though a good portion of the movie takes place inside a single house, a lot of the action happens while the characters are blindfolded. Instead of pulling the focus away from what can be seen, Bier and cinematographer Salvatore Totino allow the viewer to see things that the cast cannot – landscapes, windswept debris, things wildly swaying in the wind, and large shadows of things unseen looming large over the frame.

Bier’s movie winds up feeling too safe and conventional, causing the drama to often come across flat. The material calls for a claustrophobic world of darkness to bring viewers into the narrative. Why not show things from Malorie or the children’s perspective? Strip the viewer of their sense of sight. Even when the camera shows the point of view of the blindfolded characters, the blindfolds they wear are slightly see-through. Shouldn’t they have gone crazy by now from catching even a slight glimpse of the creatures? Or, was this purely a device used to keep from showing a totally blank screen? This seems to be prime material to showcase sound design, but it too is flat. Most of the action is left fixed to the screen instead of expanding around the viewing space, something that “Roma” (a drama) recently handled very well. While it makes sense, from a visual perspective, to show the outdoor footage from an omnipresent, third-person point-of-view, it doesn’t work well for the story.

“Bird Box” is by no means an unwatchable mess. It’s good enough for a watch but isn’t anything remarkable. This could have been an effective thriller / horror movie if it was handled differently.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Escape Room

Director Adam Robitel’s “Escape Room” opens with Ben (Logan Miller) falling from an air duct into the back of an elaborate, and crammed, study. He picks himself up, looking disheveled and beaten, and scrambles, limping, for the door on the other side of the room. A maze embedded with a series of knobs, each labeled with a number, is attached to the door. Knowing that he must solve this maze to open the door he begins moving one of the numbers, triggering the room’s trap and causing the walls to begin to move. As the walls close in on him, the threat of impending death pushes him to more frantically search for the clues that will help him escape.

Using a familiar trope, the movie shifts the story back to a few days prior. The film’s first act is used to introduce the audience to three of the movie’s main characters, an odd decision for writers Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik since the story comes to focus on six individuals. A young woman, Zoey (Taylor Russell), is in a physics class on her college campus. The professor asks a question, Zoey raises her hand to answer, then thinks better of it. After the class is excused, the professor stops Zoey to tell her to try something new over break (the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up). Jason (Jay Ellis), a ruthless business man, and Ben, a stock boy at a grocery store, are also introduced. The three are each given a puzzle box, sent via names they know and trust, which, when solved, reveals a card inviting them to Minos Escape Room for a chance at winning $10,000 if they manage to escape.

The movie requires the audience to go with the flow and suspend belief a lot of the time. Zoey, Jason, and Ben’s solving of the boxes, shown through a montage, is a bit of a perplexing sequence since the plot of the movie depends on them, and the yet to be introduced characters, opening the box to find the invitation and, in addition, actually deciding to go to the escape room. Who’d spend that long trying to open a box right when they receive it? Only giving viewers lengthy introductions to Zoey, Jason, and Ben cues the audience in to the fact that the other three characters – Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), Mike (Tyler Labine), and Danny (Nik Dodani) – introduced once the movie shifts to Minos office building probably aren’t too important (especially since the opening scene featured a solo and soiled Ben).

At the Minos building, the remainder of the cast is given breezy introductions. Amanda passes Ben as she walks in the building, joined in the elevator by Danny. Mike is already in the waiting room with Zoey and Jason when Amanda and Danny arrive. Ben, who was outside smoking, is the last to arrive. Dodani gives a convincingly energetic performance as the geeky Danny, who excitedly tells the group about escape rooms, serving as a guide for audience members who may not know much about them, as the six players wait for instructions. Ben decides to go back outside to smoke, causing the group to realize that they are already in the game when the doorknob breaks off in his hand revealing an oven dial. The stakes escalate when they learn the waiting room is actually a giant oven.

“Escape Room” moves the action along quickly. The group goes through multiple rooms as they attempt to escape, driven by a pounding score that attempts (and is somewhat successful) at adding to the tension. Lines are thrown in to the dialogue, awkwardly at times, to hint at the past events of each character. Items included within the rooms indicate to the six that things are not quite as they seem. The film brings to mind James Wan’s “Saw” and Vincenzo Natali’s “Cube,” though this work is a severely toned down, teen-friendly take in comparison to those, removing the excessive gore and lengthy torture set pieces and replacing them with an amusement park atmosphere.

The characters aren’t unique. They are all one stereotype or another – Danny’s the geek, Zoey’s meek and quiet but smart, Ben’s the punk, etc. Though the cast works well together and Dodani is very good in his role, the acting is about what you’d expect – serviceable enough for the movie to work. The film is well-shot, allowing viewers to take in the action and get a good look at the production design on the escape rooms. Robitel, who has predominately worked in the horror / thriller genre, has a good understanding of the material and handles it well.

Robitel’s movie doesn’t end exactly where you’d expect, though it will probably be pretty close. But, what could have been a satisfying conclusion is dragged out to an almost unbearable length, causing viewers to begin wondering if the movie is ever going to be over. Obviously, Sony thinks this is strong enough to be a franchise starter, tacking on an unknown villain (hidden in shadow and talking in a garbled, disguised voice) to leave the movie open-ended for a potential sequel. “Escape Room” is fine as a standalone movie, leaving it open-ended for a sequel is a step in the wrong direction and tarnishes the audience’s takeaway.

Not taking the final 10 minutes or so into account, “Escape Room” is a fun, entertaining movie (especially considering that January is usually considered a month full of dreck). As long as you go in with the right expectations and you’re able to suspend disbelief, you’ll have a good time.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Dallas Movie Screenings Top 10 Lists

Dallas Movie Screenings has a diverse group of contributing critics that review movies each week. Between us all, we have seen hundreds of films that are not always promo'd to the public. We hope that you enjoy reading them as much as we like to report on them. We would love to hear your comments on our lists and hear what you enjoyed seeing this past year. Thank you, and hope we have a great year in movies!

Reesa's Favorite Films of 2018

1. Burning

2. Shoplifting

3. Green Book

4. Won't You Be My Neighbor?

5. Black Panther

6. First Man

7. Crazy Rich Asians

8. Isle of Dogs

9. The Favourite

10. Hearts Beat Loud

Runner ups: Annihilation, Hereditary, Bohemian Rhapsody, Roma, Widows

Chase Lee
Top Ten of 2018
Happy new year!

1. Hereditary

2. Roma

3. Widows

4. The Favourite

5. Blindspotting

6. First Man

7. Three Identical Strangers

8. Annihilation

9. You Were Never Really Here

10. BlacKkKlansman

Joel Copling
Best of 2018

1. Shoplifters

2. Vice

3. First Reformed

4. Widows

5. Roma

6. The Favourite

7. BlacKkKlansman

8. If Beale Street Could Talk

9. Blindspotting

10. Minding the Gap

Bret Oswald
Best of 2018

1) Roma

2) A Quiet Place

3) Paddington 2

4) Green Book

5) Upgrade

6) Shoplifters

7) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

8) Bad Times at the El Royale

9) The House That Jack Built

10) Won't You Be My Neighbor?

2018 best of calendar year
By Ricky Miller

1. “Green Book” A+

2. “Incredibles 2” A

3. “Bohemian Rhapsody”

4. “Crazy Rich Asians” A

5. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” A

6. “Ready Player One” A

7. “Avengers: Infinity War” A

8. “A Simple Favor” A-

9. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor? A
10. “Black Panther” A-

Rounding out Ricky's list are "First Man," "Isle of Dogs," "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald" and Bradley Cooper's update of "A Star is Born."

Henry Pham
Top Ten Films of 2018

Here are my list of the top 10 films of 2018. Let me say this, it has been a great year these films being shown in public with some anticipating films ever, including Avengers: Infinity War.

1. Black Panther

2. Incredibles 2

3. Mary Poppins Returns

4. Ralph Breaks the Internet

5. Avengers: Infinity War

6. Won't You Be My Neighbor?

7. A Star is Born

8. Christopher Robin

9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

10. Crazy Rich Asians

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