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Monday, June 29, 2020
This one is a nifty entry into the saga, not even recognizing H.G. Wells into the source material at all. One of the co-creators of the original “Saw” franchise, writer Leigh Whannell the source material here, with the 2019 all-new version of “The Invisible Man.”
The star here us Elisabeth Moss, who viewers might recognize from her role on television’s “Mad Men,” which ran o cable in the early 2000s, 2007-2015 to be exact. A couple of years back she was part of the female led ensemble that was “The Kitchen” (2019).”
She also had a small yet memorable role in director Jordan Peele’s “Us” from 2019. Currently, Moss is starring on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is currently in its fourth season.
Going back to Whannell’s “The Inivisible Man,” she plays Cecilia Kass, who leaves an abusive ex-boyfriend, Adrien Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen.) This tale contains some very intriguing pretzel plot twists, something atypical of a genre picture of this type. Usually viewers are forced to endure some piece of hokum and derivative mess.
She has a younger sister she confides in, one who know of her ex and the baggage that came with the over demanding lout.
“The Invisible Man” delivers in every single department because there is not an overabundance of “boo” scares or “bagul jumps. It is a finely crafted and nuanced storytelling technique, one that realizes not everyone is a dolt or an idiot. ” This movie, for all intents and purposes is just a well orchestrated tale of deception filled with some genuine scares and terms of suspense.
Also commendable is Aldis Hodge as James Lanier, a family friend of Kass, who shares a close relationship with Cecilia. He also has a daughter named Sydney (Storm Reid, “A Wrinkle in Time” 2018).
She gets along well with Cecilia, thus ensuring their strong bond and connection with one another.
Also woven into the story is a subplot involving Tom Griffin, the younger brother of the now deceased Adrien Griffin.
“The Invisible Man” is worth a definite look, since it takes some older themes and placates twists them for just the right sweep of modern technology.
(Review by Ricky Miller)
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Normally, I don’t do horror, but this one falls into a variety of categories I do cover, namely the horror-comedy hybrid of which I am a big fan of. Some examples of this are Peter Jackson’s “Dead-Alive,” (1992) Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and Dan O’Bannon’s “Return of the Living Dead” (1985).
“Satanic Panic” was actually shot here in the Dallas area, hence another reason why I am covering this.
The main stars of this tale are Hayley Grifith and Rebecca Romijn. Griffith is the new employee on the beat, a pizza delivery girl who lands into some unexpected territory on her route. Rebecca Romijn is Danica Ross, the leader of a coven of witches who worship satan and everything evil. In their wisdom they would like to conjure up the dark lord to reign hell here on earth.
Griffith’s Sam Craft is also in demand with the witches because of her virginity status. This one receives bonus points for some of the witty writing.
I watched “Satanic Panic” on the SHUDDER app.
“Panic” also falls under the Fangoria banner, since they actually produced this fun piece of forgettable fodder.
Those who are in the entertainment business know about Fangoria, since it was a regular mainstay of comic book collectors and the like.
So readers know, Fangoria was a big deal throughout the 1980’s era, when Freddy Kreuger (“A Nightmare on Elm Street” series and Jason Voorhhees (“Friday the 13h”) were the mainstays of the horror world. They also covered popular movies, like David Cronmberg’s “The Fly” (1986), “Fright Night” (1985) and Wes Craven’s “Deadly Friend” (1986).
Directing chores for “Panic” were handled by Chelsea Stardust. She was involved with horror entries such as “Sinister” in 2012. Her lengthy resume goes back even farther, having worked as assistant Judd Apatow’s assistant on 2009’s “Funny People.”
She worked on various horror-suspense entries like “Sinister” in 2012 a well as “The Purge” in 2013.
Stardust seems to be a smooth fit within the horror genre, having worked with producer Jason Blum on a variety of projects, including the Kevin Bacon led “The Darkness in 29016.
Writing for this intriguing tale were scribed by Grady Hendrix, who even pokes fun at the fact all Sams need to stick together.
Although not a great movie by any means, “Satanic Panic” does an adequate job of keeping the viewer entertained for a brief spell.
(Review by Ricky Miller)
Thursday, June 18, 2020
Director: Andy De Emmony Studio: Kindle Entertainment
Review: Four Kids and It
My mind has a soft spot on British family films when it comes to telling stories about an imaginative character coming to life in kids' eyes. The world has Paddington, Harry Potter, The Lorax, and any films that feature magical creatures based on the books. Co-written by Mark Oswin and Simon Lewis, the story of the film is based on the book called Four Kids and It, written by author Jacqueline Wilson. The film stars Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen, Ashley Aufderheide, Billy Jenkins, Ellie-Mae Siame as main leads while Paula Patton, Matthew Goode, Russell Brand, and Michael Caine as supportive characters.
The film focuses on the four children who are taking a holiday at Cornwall, only to find a magical creature at the beach that grants wishes to anyone who encounters it. Meanwhile, a notorious man named Tristan Trent is obsessed with searching for the magical creature so he can make his wishes and let all his dreams come true. With that, it’s now up to the four kids to keep the creature out of sight.
Director Andy De Emmony really gets the children cast off the ground by explaining about the situations on how they can deal with this creature and to themselves when it comes to sibling conflicts and issues in front of the family. Taking advice and inspiration from Steven Spielberg’s movies, including E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, De Emmony and the duo writers, Mark Oswin and Simon Lewis, tackle each scene to create the perfect shots and dialogue from the child stars in order to imitate the perfect flavor and colorful, body language from those movies, especially when the child actors are trying to express their motives and relationships in real life on the set.
However, the plot on the first half of the film seems a bit off as the film storyline left me a bit confused and unmoving during the course of the scenes between the four kids and Psammead. Not to mention the lazy-script writing coming from the duo right there which puts Wilson's literature into a different universe (That is if anyone has read that book).
The magical creature in this film is Psammead — a timid CGI lovable, lookalike of E.T. and voiced by Michael Caine — who provides the children’s imagination by granting any wish per day to children or anyone who comes across Psammead in person. Actor Michael Caine provides a supportive, yet caring friendly-figure for his Psammead persona compared to how much Caine provides for his fatherly relationship with Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight trilogy.
The actor who played as the man named Tristan Trent who selfishly wants Psammead is Russell Brand. Brand was an English native hailing from England around the Sussex area. He has contributed to a plethora of films as an actor, including Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Bedtime Stories, the Despicable Me films, Trolls, and the 2011 remake of Arthur, directed by Jason Winer.
This fleeting, tonal flick may not land on the bad movie section like the junky Spiderwick Chronicles movie but may not land on the good movie section like the Paddington films either. Four Kids and It just lands on the average-pleasure, rather than a guilty-pleasure. For me, Four Kids and It is an 110-minute average-but-somewhat-okay movie, though not as enjoyable to say the least. To make this a simple choice, I say be careful what you wish for before you select this film for your viewing pleasure. If you regret watching this, I say go back to and watch any of the Paddington films just to make up for that time.
(Review by Henry Pham)
Director: Judd Apatow Studio: Universal Pictures
Review: The King of Staten Island
Imagine if a character Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation watches this film, he would have a good laugh and taste at this. Director Judd Apatow offers a good comedy movie everybody needs in order to sweep up the darker days away. The film is practically based on Pete Davidson’s past where his firefighting father died due to the aftermath of September 11 attacks and suffers a disease of ADHD whilst battling depression as a result of his father’s death. The film stars Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, and Bill Burr.
The story centers on the young tattoo artist named Scott whose father died while working as a firefighter, an tragic event that deeply affects him. As he continues to mourn and suffer the loss of his father, he must get his life together in order to accept his father’s death as well as focusing on his future and himself after learning about his mother’s new relationship with the new man, who is a firefighter and the father of a young child whom Scott encountered.
Directing chores for The King of Staten Island, Judd Apatow is widely known for spending much of his time directing The 40-Year-Old Virgin, This is 40, Knocked Up, and Trainwreck under Apatow Productions, a movie company he founded.
As the film progresses, the chemistry between Pete Davidson and Bill Burr becomes the primary focus of the film as the scenes with them really add a nice, touching, but sophisticated relationship compared to any films that feature unhealthy and dysfunctional families. This one is the main trigger for both father and son’s character developments that become the dynamics of the story. At first, their relationship is a bit of a rocky start, but later they start to have a time of their lives.
The film also includes Steve Buscemi, Pamela Adlon, Bel Bowley, and Maude Apatow, the director’s daughter.
This engaging flick really stands out to both fathers and sons out there. I say The King of Staten Island is a great movie for teens and adults out there, if not better. The director has really nailed his role as director like the previous films. It’s not like Trainwreck (a little titular reference right there), it’s just the best way to address one's own subject matter and humanism that can become powerful messages on one’s own depressive experiences. The King of Staten Island really touches me increasingly to be honest. I am heavily surprised that there’s children appearing on screen despite the R-Rated genre for this film, but everything else is pretty spot on. The picture, the quality, and the storyline are such wonderful improvements throughout the whole sequence. I believe if anyone wants to watch this, it’s the best movie for Father’s Day and for a father-and-son outing.
(Review by Henry Pham)
Scoob! revives the franchise but falls short for both kids and adults.
It’s been some long, quiet years since the last Scooby-Doo film, Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed, which was a live-action film produced by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, was released in theaters back in 2004. Now, Warner Bros. stated that the reboot of the franchise went into effect, bringing down some childhood thrills and chills that kids and adults can engender nostalgia in front of their eyes on the big screen (or as one says “television” before it became a major thing in the fifties).
The Scooby-Doo franchise was founded by MGM animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera under their own production company, Hanna-Barbera, an animation studio that was established in the late 1950s before being sold to Taft. The animation company was later acquired by Turner Broadcasting System and, following the merger between Turner and Time Warner, the studio was absorbed back to Warner Bros. Animation as a holding company.
Here in the film, it starts where the origins of how Mystery Inc. has been established with Shaggy as a kid who befriends a dog that is later named Scooby. After becoming best friends, they both come across the three kids: Freddie, Daphne, and Velma for the first time. They later run into superhero Blue Falcon whose plan is to capture his arch-enemy Dick Dastardly and it is up to Scooby Doo and the gang to stop Dastardly from his evil plan.
Taking inspiration from the classic Scooby-Doo television shows, director Tony Cervone knows the tips and tricks on how the film flows smoothly for the storylines and the characters’ personalities to capture each moment based on every show of the franchise, including the shows’ nostalgic episodes. The directors and the crew really outdid the CGI-colorful animation tackling around scene to scene with canine slapsticks, heroic James Bond-typed adventures, and encountering dangerous, risky journeys ahead. Cervone, along with the producers Pam Coats (Disney’s Mulan) and Allison Abbate (The LEGO Movie), really wanted to make this as some sort of a “challenge obstacle” beyond the film’s and the characters’ focus on this mysterious story. It takes much commitment on the story development and more Scooby-Doo influential episodes to watch in order for the film to cinematically create the perfect tone and the beatable, pricy outlook for the entire film as a whole.
Aside from this, the cast of the Scooby-Doo gang includes Will Forte as Shaggy, Zac Efron as Fred, Amanda Seyfried as Daphne, Gina Rodriguez as Velma, and Frank Welker who made his sensational return to voice Scooby. With Zac Efron voicing as Fred, this marks the first time Fred is not voiced by Frank Welker himself not counting the live-action films. Similarly, what’s very hard to believe is that veteran Scooby-Doo actors Matthew Lillard and Grey DeLisle didn’t appear to reprise their roles of Shaggy and Daphne respectively.
Also appearing in the film are Mark Wahlberg (The Departed), Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, and Harry Potter star Jason Isaacs who provide the voice of Dick Dastardly, the main villain of the story.
While the film is enjoyable to watch, there are some downfalls about this piece. The plot doesn’t provide enough details compared to the television shows as well as not bringing the old-school 90s and 80s flavor to the party while the script-writing seems very unfitting and completely filled with lazy-writings while trying to make a film that echoes the classic and modern day shows nowadays. Like those two live-action films, which received negative reviews from critics despite the box-office successes, the film did not save them from being a great film series nor redeeming itself as a good movie. Even, the newer cast playing as the Mystery Gang didn’t help much as the casting strongly ruins the originality from the franchise, though the filmmakers manage to make up for that by securing the voice-actor Frank Welker to return as Scooby-Doo as well as working things out with the characters’ personalities as friendship becomes the main theme and the central point for the film.
On the side note, “Scoob!” is a bit okay but isn’t as good as the classic series nor the modern sitcoms that was aired on Cartoon Network but it certainly is a fun-filled adventure with canine slapsticks and loads of heroic laughter for kids and adults to enjoy while in quarantine. I believed the director over did it, but Frank Welker did a bang-up job on his role as Scooby. I didn’t like it or hate it, I just wanted to see how this film turned out to be. It’s really hard to tell whether it’s a good film for adults who grew up watching Scooby-Doo in their lifetime, but for the kids, surely yes. To make this simple, you can watch it, but if you don’t like it, then go back to watch the classic ones I mentioned to make up for that. I think this 90-minute-movie would be a rental rather than owning this on Blu-ray/DVD when it comes out. Just to let you know, the film is up on VOD now.
(Review by Henry Pham)
Monday, June 15, 2020
Schedule of Events for USAFF50 In-Theater Program
June 24 - 28, 2020
DALLAS – The USA Film Festival announces the schedule of events for the 50th Annual USA Film Festival, June 24 - 28, 2020. The in-theater program will be held at the Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, Texas.
One of the oldest festivals in the U.S., the USA Film Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The first festival to devote itself to the American filmmaker back in 1970, today presents over 50 days of diverse programs every year.
The recent shutdowns caused the USAFF to re-schedule its annual April festival, which will now take place on June 24-28, 2020 at the Angelika Film Center Dallas.
“As Dallas theaters begin to reopen, we are so glad to be able to bring our program to the community.” USAFF Managing Director Ann Alexander says. “With support from our Sponsors, this year’s program will be presented as all-free-admission.”
“We know that a lot of people are experiencing financial challenges and that people have missed being able to get out to a theater and see a movie. We wanted to present an accessible program that offered something for people of all ages.”
This year’s opening night, “Free Dinner and a Movie,” will feature two classic films – Hal Ashby’s beloved, offbeat dark comedy Harold and Maude (1971) and a 40th anniversary screening of the ever-popular disaster movie parody Airplane! (1980). A new animated family film for younger kids, 100% Wolf, rounds out the opening night line up which also includes a free box dinner courtesy of USAFF sponsor Norma’s Café.
“The full line-up includes new feature films, documentaries and true stories, and short films” Alexander continued. “And of course, safety measures will be in place. Masks will be required and social distancing seating protocols will be observed for this year’s contact-free event.”
Additional programs featuring Master Artists will be scheduled later in the year.
USAFF Award-winning Short Films were selected by USAFF National Jury Members -- director and teacher Karen Allen; actor, producer, director and teacher Diane Baker; actor, playwright, screenwriter, author and film historian Jim Beaver; cinematographer Bill Butler; actor Dale Dickey; visual artist and filmmaker Rosson Crow; actor Peri Gilpin; animator and animation supervisor Bill Haller; motion picture sound mixer, writer and director Ron Judkins; filmmaker and teacher Sandra Luckow; actor, producer, writer and director Ralph Macchio; manager, writer, producer and director Chris Roe; actor, author and storyteller Stephen Tobolowsky; and actor Brian Van Holt.
For more details and to view the full schedule, visit www.usafilmfestival.com
USA Film Festival 50 is supported in part by the City of Dallas Office of Arts & Culture, the Texas Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Presenting Sponsors include TACA – The Arts Community Alliance, Sidley LLP, Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate, Gaedeke Group, Carol and Alan J. Bernon Family Charitable Foundation, Moody Fund for the Arts, Headington Company, Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District, Mary Fox and Laura Fox, Norma’s Café, Texas Film Commission, SAG-AFTRA, Dallas Producers Association, The Downtown Business News, and the Angelika Film Center.
ABOUT THE USA FILM FESTIVAL
A year-round film festival featuring 50 days of programs
The USA Film Festival is a 50-year-old Dallas-based 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the recognition and promotion of excellence in the film and video arts. Year-round events include the annual KidFilm® Festival; monthly screenings; special programs and premieres; and the USA Film Festival, held each Spring. Throughout the year, the Festival presents a variety of membership, exhibition, educational, and cultural programs designed to promote equity and equality, and to bring together audiences and artists.
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Thursday, May 7, 2020
At the start of director Coky Giedroyc’s “How to Build a Girl,” the film’s protagonist, sixteen-year-old Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein), is an example of the typical bookish introvert – an overachieving student who dreams of someday becoming a writer. She hands in papers that are much longer than assigned, stares longingly into the “cool kids” room at school, and even has a wall of her bedroom covered in photographs of her favorite idols (both real and fictional) who frequently converse with her. She lives in a cramped house in Wolverhampton with her parents (Paddy Considine and Sarah Solemani) and four brothers, sharing a partitioned room with her oldest brother, Krissi (Laurie Kynaston). Most of this will soon change.
Johanna wins the opportunity to read her poetry on live TV, an event that does not end well. After the disastrous experience, Krissi encourages her to put her poetry aside and enter another writing contest that will award its winner the role of journalist for a weekly independent rock newspaper. While Krissi is a supportive brother (he and Johanna are shown to have a strong brother/sister relationship), he seems to be leading Johanna astray because she’s no rock fan. Instead of letting Johanna listen to one of his rock records, Krissi stands by as Johanna sends in a review for a recording of the Broadway show “Annie.” What!? Why does either of them think this a good idea?
Yet, luck is in her favor. Initially called in for the job as a joke, Johanna manages to talk her way into covering a concert, quickly reinventing herself as Dolly Wilde and falling head-over-heels for the rock scene. Johanna just as quickly conforms to her co-worker’s point-of-view, transforming into a mean-spirited critic widely loved by readers and just as equally reviled by the artists.
“How to Build a Girl,” based on the book by Caitlin Moran, is about a young woman’s journey of self-discovery. In this case, that path takes a torturous turn, shifting an initially likable character into a vicious, self-absorbed bully. Feldstein, sporting a borderline-passable British accent, makes Johanna believable, effectively showing the character’s evolution as she changes from wallflower to It Girl of the moment. In some ways, Johanna (and her journey) is like Lindsay Lohan’s Cady from “Mean Girls,” just without the snappy comebacks and throwdowns. Johanna may finally have the popularity she’s always desired but it has come with a steep price tag.
The audience gets the idea that Dolly is a personality to be reckoned with; the movie and Giedroyc’s direction – not so much. Giedroyc tries to keep the movie’s tone light. Johanna’s interactions with her idols on her bedroom wall are goofy, attempting to give the film a quirky edge that’s almost over-the-edge. While these sequences are meant to help show Johanna’s overactive imagination, they don’t always play in the film’s favor. The film’s tone maintains this light approach even when the material moves into darker directions.
“How to Build a Girl” follows familiar character arcs and features safe direction. It’s an entertaining enough watch, holding the viewer’s attention until its story is tied up with a bow (however unsatisfying some of the resolutions may be). Ultimately, the audience is left with the sensation that this movie doesn’t rise up to its full potential.
(Review by Bret Oswald)
Thursday, April 30, 2020
*½ (out of ****)
The Wretched is another of those movies in which some supernatural threat lurks in the shadows of a seemingly comfortable suburbia. That is, it would lurk in the shadows, if not for the insistence of its writers/directors, the Pierce Brothers (Brett and Drew), to show off some pretty neat makeup effects work in constricting close-up. The demon in this case is credited as “the Wretch,” and he, she, or it is played by Madelynn Stuenkel, for whom this role is a first-ever credit. A spot of research finds that Stuenkel was trained in stage combat as a theatre performer specializing in movement, which makes perfect sense: The Wretch contorts his, her, or its body into some seemingly impossible positions. It’s just a shame that a being such as this one, with so much promise, is wasted on the movie around it.
This is to say that there isn’t much to the movie around the Wretch, whose origins are rushed through in a quick montage of phrases on an online encyclopedia, as searched by the protagonist of this story. Ben (John-Paul Howard) has just moved in with his dad (played by Jamison Jones) for a summer away from his mother. Mom and dad are divorced, and Ben spends the first few days in sullen silence, watching from afar as Liam, who manages a nearby boating pier, connects romantically with fellow manager Sara (Azie Tesfai). Meanwhile, Ben himself flirts with co-worker Mallory (Piper Curda) and takes notice of neighbor lady Abbie (Zarah Mahler), her husband Ty (Kevin Bigley), and their two kids, all of whom begin to act strangely.
Eventually, the two kids disappear. Ben is convinced that Abbie is at fault, until a darker force reveals itself – to Ben, through suggestion and, to us, through the Pierces’ shallow implementation of scare tactics. The being, which follows rules as intriguing as they are random, passes in the background of shots, emerges from chest cavities in others, and, otherwise, possesses characters at the drop of a hat (whose performers often simply glare unblinkingly at Ben, which isn’t as creepy as it should be). The humans, mostly Ben, are idiots when it comes to dealing with these dark forces, investigating strange noises from shadowy areas and otherwise ignoring entirely the suspicious things happening in front of their faces.
Howard is wooden as a lead, seeming untested and not confident in the material given to him, and nothing is worth discussion with the other performances. The plot has the basic and expected structure of a supernatural horror film: a prologue that introduces the central threat, the opening act that introduces the chief protagonist, an extended middle act comprised of that central threat being a horror movie villain, and a rushed action climax, which here is polished but still aggressively loud, in which the dark force either is or isn’t vanquished. The Wretched introduces only two variations on this: a twist within that climax, which suggests the film’s perspective was an act of trickery, and an ambiguous final shot, which hints at more danger on the horizon. We have no reason to care by this point, though.
(Review by Joel Copling)
“Bad Boys For Life” (2020) -- This title finally came out in theaters earlier this year, sans Michael Bay, who was off doing other things, more specifically “6 Underground” with Ryan Reynolds for Netflix.
So readers know, I saw this in the theater earlier this year before the stay at home mandate went into effect, changing our lives and the daily routine of stay at home or else went into effect nationwide.
This tale finds two of veteran Miami cops Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowery (Will Smith), one of who just wants to retire. Smith’s Lowery is still up for all the action, something his nimble body is still used to. Marcus, on the other hand feels he has done enough for the people of the city and wishes to end his stint as a cop in blue.
Of course sewn into the plot are the other members of the Miami police force. This includes Vanessa Hudgens (“Sucker Punch,” the “High School Musical” franchise), and Alexander Ludwig (TV”s “Vikings,” “Lone Survivor”).
Gone are the fast paced quick cuts Bay used to employ. Instead, the audience is treated to the action from directors Adi El Arbi and Bilall Fallah who do a competent job of shooting their antics for the big screen.
The duo spent their careers on a variety of projects, including music videos and short films. Fallah directed 2018’s “Gangsta” He also helmed the independently made “Black” in 2015…
In the end game of things, this one turned out to be the best of the trilogy. Part 2 was too lengthy for its own good. It ran for 2 hrs., 27 min. That length to me is just ridiculous, since Bay and the filmmakers should have none better.
Also woven into this tale are the duo’s disclaimer they don’t want the other new cops singing the “Bad Boys” theme song. They explain it took them years to master it, and don’t appreciate them mangling their precious song.
The plot essentially revolves around a mother-son Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio tag, a tag team wreaking havoc all across the golden streets of Miami. The catch is that one of her sons is actual Lowery’s offspring.
Also involved Joe Pantoliano: as Captain Howard. He’s been in all of these tales, since the original in 1995.
He’s a welcome return, since his appearance always put a smile on my face. He’s just a fun actor to watch. I liked him in “The Fugitive,” (1993), “Bound” (1996), “Memento” (2000) and “Midnight Run: (1988). Lest we not forget his part in the Wachowski sibligs “The Matrix” in 1999.
So with all my reservations covering this trilogy, “Bad Boys For Life” actually turned out to be a tolerable piece of popcorn entertainment.
(Review by Ricky Miller)
“Bad Education” -- This HBO movie stars Hugh Jackman, Alisson Janey and Ray Romano. Also important to the tale is supporter Kathrine Narducci as student Sharon Katz, who does an expose piece on Janey’s Pam Gluckin, who was embezzling money for her own self gain.
Upon further investigation, it was Jackman’s school higher-up, Frank Tasso who was the one doing the embezzling. This movie does a credible job of showing what happens to people when they are given positions of power.
As far as roles go, this is one of the better parts Jackman has on his resume, even going back to duds and misfires like “Deception,(2008), “Pan” (2015) and the letdown that was the Gary Hart biopic “The Front Runner” in 2011.
He is just a fun enjoyable actor to watch.
He was great as the computer hacker in the crazy as all get out “Swordfish,’(2001), “Kate and Leopold,” (2001). One of his starring roles of merit was his lead turn in Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige” (2006). He was aces as illusionist Robert Angier, who gets in a competitive streak with rival Christian Bale, who just wants to end up on top.
“Bad Education” for all intents and purposes is just an enjoyable tale that proves true life is sometimes stranger than fiction. When the story opens, the high school was touted as the fourth best in the state.
By the end of this witty and well constructed tale, the Roselyn High was at the pinnacle of their prestige, with the top ranking in the state of New York.
Directing chores for “Bad education” were handled by Cory Finely who helmed the little seen “Thoroughbreds” with Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy. It was the last movie done by the late Anton Yelchin.
“Bad Education” is a must see for anyone who just wants o see an enjoyable and engaging flick all around. It is worth both the time and energy, since it just a solid piece of entertainment.
(Review by Ricky Miller)
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Thursday, April 16, 2020
***½ (out of ****)
A postmodernist neo-noir breaks out against the backdrop of an East Coast private boarding school in Selah & the Spades. This is a striking feature debut from writer/director Tayarisha Poe, whose tone control and command of symmetry within her shot set-ups are compelling enough before we even get into the labyrinthine plot. That plot involves blackmail, attempted murder, and the illicit behavior and dealings of several factions that, within this boarding school, essentially comprise the gangland politics of a criminal organization. The opening sequence establishes the rules of this group with an admirable efficiency: The collective is responsible for the overall partygoing atmosphere of the students’ social lives, and each faction is responsible for one aspect of that atmosphere.
The responsibilities for the other groups rather disappear in a haze of exposition, but the important thing to know is that the Spades, led by Selah (Lovie Simone), are in charge of providing alcohol, drugs, and other such paraphernalia. This involves ruling by an iron fist for Selah, who, to look at her, would seem unassuming. She is an African American teenager in a school whose students all seem to be taller than her by at least an inch, which means that she must exert some degree of control over the Spades, with her loyal right-hand man Maxxie (Jharrel Jerome) by her side. Initially, the plot follows her attempt to break new member Paloma (Celeste O’Connor) into the group dynamic, despite pushback against the idea of inviting a freshman.
Selah sees her job as multifaceted. Not only must she juggle the responsibilities as current head of the Spades – she also sees it as important that the school’s administration, represented entirely by its headmaster Banton (Jesse Williams), fall in line with the collective vision for the school had by the members of the various groups. Set to graduate in the fall, she must also choose a successor to take her place by the end of the year, which proves more than difficult for someone in the grip of megalomaniacal control. In a fascinating reflection of her school reign, Selah’s home life is tense and uncomfortable. Her mother (played by Gina Torres) expects the very best, questioning where “the other seven points have gone” in an early confrontation upon learning her daughter made a 93 on a test.
As happens in such situations, Selah’s own model of authoritative behavior reflects that of her mother when applied to the Spades, which becomes important when unknown variable Paloma takes on duties in street deals to gain upward mobility within the group. Eventually, the pressure of training the newbie and a tip from rival faction leader Bobby (Anna Mulvoy Ten) that Maxxie’s ability to delegate may be slipping disastrously. Soon, Selah isn’t sure whom to trust, and by the final shot of this movie, it isn’t entirely out of the question to believe she has since lost her soul. That is the issue throbbing at the center of this film’s rather broken heart, too.
Something within Simone’s performance, which is perfectly pitched between threatening and vulnerable, communicates this truth quite well, and Jerome and O’Connor are also quite good as foils for Selah’s sense of ultimate control – Maxxie with the old ways of doing things and Paloma, clearly in love with her new “boss” of sorts, with fresh, risky, and exciting new ways to approach internal loyalty. As the final act turns rather violent, Poe does a fine job of finding the heart of Selah & the Spades, and the results are vibrant and alive.
(Review by Joel Copling)
Director: Walt Dohrn Studio: Universal Pictures
Review: Trolls World Tour
Not to be confused with another film that had the similar title called Troll 2, which was a comedy-horror film released in 1990 and was directed by Claudio Fragasso. Trolls World Tour is a musical, animated film that takes place right after the first film, produced and released in 2016. DreamWorks animator and director Walt Dohrn steps in to helm this fun-filled, colorful animated feature based on the famous doll brand by Thomas Dam, and with Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake returning to their lead-role duties, along with a duo of writers, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. The film is originally scheduled to be released in theaters this month, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the film is instead released on digital for home entertainment.
Trolls World Tour mainly focuses on Poppy, now queen, adjusting to her new role as the ruler of the pop Trolls after the events of the first film, along with her friend, Branch. However, she is forced to leave her Trolls village when she receives a message that invites them to a Rock N Rock Trolls party, led by Rock Troll leader named Barb (voiced by Rachel Bloom), where all different types of music-Trolls came to unite.
With the colorful CGI animation and the musical numbers being the center of attention, Walt Dohrm’s direction tackles each task of adopting every musical scene and numbers to rehash the livings and the integrity style of the 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s. One of the main goals Dohrm and his team are trying to complete is to craft a film that takes a straight aim towards Rock-N-Roll fans and musical fans out there. Not only the story, but they additionally knew what are the pros and the cons to this musical feature in order to get kids to come and watch. On the inside, the director and the crew really knew that even though they overworked by putting much effort into adding and placing musical animation sequences into certain time-pacing parts, they still had a good time producing this film just like how they did in the first film. It’s like repeating and following the same recipe to avoid any disastrous results.
The musical numbers from the film (provided by Timberlake, Kendrick, the rest of the cast, and the composer Theodore Shapiro) really capture the sparkle and an emotionally, touching message about evoking friendship and not just music parties for fun. Music is the way to learn about what music does and what friendship does to anyone’s minds. Even when the film is focused on sing-along songs, some scenes and the characters' singing parts on screen have engender multi-colored, slapstick energy coming from different music-genre Trolls that fulfills the need that falls into the retro-levels of American Idol, West Side Story, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and other musicals people enjoyed.
While Kendrick and Timberlake share the spotlight together, the film also consists of returning cast of James Corden, Ron Funches, and Kunal Nayyar while the new cast of actors consist of Rachel Bloom, Ozzy Osbourne, American Idol star Kelly Clarkson, Sam Rockwell, and Kenan Thomspon with the director Walt Dohrm taking over Jeffery Tambor’s duties of voicing Poppy’s father, King Peppy, which is very strange to see when it comes to casting decisions.
Although, there are several things that are not enjoyable from the film entirely: a small numbers of returning characters receiving less screentime, not having variety of any fictional worlds to discover throughout the film compared to any Mario games, too much colors being added on every scene, the Timberlake’s song “Can’t Stop the Feeling” not been used unlike the trailer, and not having to reveal much about the origins of any music being brought into the world before Trolls came to the village(s) with the latter being very questionable to see how the flow of the plot progresses.
With the colors and the consistency present, Trolls World Tour is less ok but falls under the guilty-pleasure town and the average-film category. I didn’t hate it though, I certainly did enjoy Timberlake and Kendrick’s performance along with Sam Rockwell and Rachel Bloom as the four are what makes the film so fun to watch. The direction too, but I expect more from him when it comes to adding numbers of ingredients to the recipe that could make the film go better on a scale of A-F level. It’s a good movie for kids and maybe some adults, but nothing touches me nor brings anything special to what the film or the filmmakers have to offer. It would be a tough decision to choose which film to watch for a lovely Easter weekend and in April in general. I rather stick with the original film to make up for that.
(Review by Henry Pham)
How and why this thing got made comes down to the almighty dollar. This one is enjoyable, but it lacked originality and pizzazz of the 2013’s “Frozen.”
Disney wants to hold onto their possessions, but at some point, in time they will just have to make due with what they are given. This flick manages to strike then right chords, since I did get those goosebumps at least once during the various song and dance numbers.
So readers know, I’m reviewing this again since it is one of the upper tiered titles on the Disney + app.
That, however, was a bit hokey and superficial in spots since everything felt too staged in spots and sequences.
There is an entire sequence that reeks of an old-time 1980’s music video wherein one feels the cheese and rolls their eyes and surprised this became part of a theatrical film.
“Frozen II” essentially has the same voices of the original tale. This includes Kristen Bell’s Elsa, Idina Manzell’s Anna, Josh Gad’s Olaf, Hans (the voice of Santino Fontana) and his trusty steed Duke (Alan Tudyk).
“Frozen II” deals with Elsa’s running away from home (again) and trying to figure out her place in the kingdom in which she resides. It is flourishing town, but somewhere in the past some unsavory events occurred.
The problem with “Frozen II” is that it feels like it just wants to exist to sell merchandise and the like. I had fun, but at some point, it just feels too forced.
At some point in time, the events that occur feel like a sitcom that has ran for just too many seasons.
Returning for directing chores on “Frozen II” are Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. Buck helmed 2013’s “Frozen” as well as 1999’s “Tarzan” and 2007’s “Surf’s Up.”
With “Frozen II,” he delves into some deeper parts of the storyline in which the past comes back around and gives a touch of life lessons that are important for that easygoing feeling.
Lee also directed the enjoyable and sentimental “Frozen” short “Frozen Fever” in 2015. It ran before Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella” update that same year. Lead Lilly James was great in the title role, a part she was born to play. I enjoyed that one because there was not a plethora of song and dance numbers throughout. Branagh just made a great story even better, since he put all his energy into making a family flick fun again.
I would recommend “Frozen II,” despite the forced aspects of the storyline. It does what it’s supposed to do in that it reintroduces a bunch of people the entire family can love.
(Review by Ricky Miller)
Friday, April 3, 2020
Director: Eliza Hittman Studio: Focus Features
Review: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Never underestimate the movie title to be questioned when the audiences and critics want to figure out why the filmmakers choose to name this film production, but as far as any drama films go, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film Eliza Hittman, the director, had offered to audiences at both film festivals and movie theaters, but Hittman always knows the palm of her hand when it comes to crafting a film that is only meant to be showcased at film festivals but deserves more attention than ever. And what is good news is that the film introduces the new actress Sidney Flanigan, playing the lead role as Autumn while Talia Ryder acts it out as her friend, Skylar. Just to let the readers know that this film is originally scheduled for March 2020 theatrical release, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the film is instead released on VOD.
The film focuses on the teenage girl named Autumn (portrayed by newcomer Sidney Flanigan in her feature film debut) decides to get an abortion following her unexpected pregnancy which causes her to question whether she’ll be ready to be a mother or not.
While the film’s main characters Autumn and Skylar both portrayed as simple friends comparing to any teenage-girl films, the characters both shared the screen time together that fits the story miraculously with those two providing strong, but somewhat redundant character development that explores the ordeal lives of teenagehood and motherhood while living in the suburbs or city in their older teen ages (or younger adult ages). Teenagehood and motherhood are something that can be easily concerned once as the film goes by understanding what it means to be a teenager and a about-to-be mother at the same time.
The direction is well put together when shooting every scene that focuses primarily on those two young girls. Hittman knows where to place each camera and its angles to the right spot to capture a perfect, engaging shot of those two regardless of the difficulties she and the actresses had gone through. In the end, she managed to work tirelessly and on time without going back to re-edit anything or start the process all over again.
The film won the Special Jury Award for Best Neo-Realism at the Sundance Film Festival 2020, which was very hard to capture this enduring moment due to its distinctive flavor of being an European-made film or an Italian film (for which Neo-Realism is known for there). The main answer is not only Hittman’s direction did the trick, but also the cinematography work from Helen Louvart, and the scenes about parenthood and abortion that defines naturalistic artwork any film or television series could ever done. Cinematography and certain scenes needed to be filled and focused on are the basic ingredients to follow the recipe when producing an ordinary drama film.
Overall, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is an excellent movie, if not better. I really enjoyed it on every scene that caught my attention. It’s a rare deadpanless film with a huge tendency that intrigues and woes the audience and critics out of their minds when talking about extraordinary films. The director, the two main actresses, and the cinematographer both did a wonderful job of putting this graceful story piece together. I honestly don’t care what other movie critics say, but I say this, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a great viewing pleasure at home. You will love it. Trust me!
(Review by Henry Pham)
Thursday, April 2, 2020
So readers know, I saw this at a press only screening earlier this yar before the COVID epidemic took ahold of our country.
This version, titled “The Hunt” comes out as the latest from the Universal Pictures assembly line that is Blumhouse Pictures. They were involved with the “The Purge” franchise. They also did the surprisingly well-told “Happy Death Day” movies and last year’s awesome “Glass,” which finished the trilogy director M. Night Shyamalan started with “Unbreakable” in 2000.
Usually, I do not like horror movies, but this one falls into the category of something I do like: sardonic tales that are very tongue in cheek and not to be taken too seriously.
When it comes down to it, is just an old-fashioned update of “The Most Dangerous Game,” wherein human beings are hunted down as the ultimate prey. It was a short story originally written by Richard Connell. It ran in Collier’s magazine in 1924.
The main stars in “The Hunt,” are Betty Gillipn (“Stuber,” “Isn’t It Romantic”) as well as two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Boy’s Don’t Cry”) The duo engage in a plethora of witty banter as well as plenty of scenes with the duo fighting fisticuffs aplenty.
The top billed stars of “The Hunt,” are Emma Roberts and Ike Barinholtz, but the duo exit stage left before even the end of the first act.
Also enjoyable is Ethan Suplee from director Kevin Smith’s underrated “Mallrats” (1995) wherein his character as a tough time with a “Magic Eye” painting and can’t find the hidden object in the portrait. Everyone but hi can see the hidden fisherman but him. Suplee looks slimmer and healthier in this movie.
Also supporting is Amy Madigan from Walter Hill’s “Streets of Fire” (1984). In this one she co-owns a small store with her husband off of the beaten path.
On a side note, but not the give anything away, there is a lot of dead bodies in “The Hunt,” but most of the deaths are taken as very tongue-in-cheek.
The best line was in “True Lies” wherein Arnold Schwarzeneggger’s Harry Tasker states “They were all bad.”
“The Hunt” should not be taken too seriously since the people in the flick are not actual people you would not like to know in real life. They are truly evil personas you would not like to hang around with, hence just passers-by in the everyday world.
“The Hunt” serves as a solid 90 minute time-waster that almost delivers in said departments, even though you will even remember seeing them the first time.
(Review by Ricky Miller)
Friday, March 27, 2020
Director: George Nolfi Studio: Apple
MOVIE REVIEW: The Banker
The Banker is an interesting, but fitting title for the story and the characters’ roles as African American bankers. The film is based on the true story of Bernard Garrett, a banker hailing in the 1950s or 1960s. Director George Nolfi steps into his game to helm this historical film with Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson co-starring with each other as the first African American bankers in the film.
Supposedly, the film was meant to be released somewhere in late 2019, but for some strange reason, was pushed back to sometime in the spring, before shifting its decision to release on Apple TV Plus due to the allegations of sexual harassment from the Beonard Garrett Jr., the co-producer of the film and the son of the real Beonard Garrett. Therefore, he was removed from the film’s project and was uncredited.
Here in the film, we have Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) who are two African American entrepreneurs living in the 1950s. Their main goal is to pursue an American dream by becoming what they want to be by becoming a janitor and chauffeur. They both become successful, though the main conflict is they have been threatened by the attention of the federal government.
While the film serves as a bio-topic for both civil rights and the racial discrimination, director Geroge Nolfi has a done a outstanding job of keeping the pace of the characters, the actors, and the historical setting to maintain its accuracy for that period. He even uses his American history knowledge and the intellect of the American economy to understand what the film explains perfectly when it involves racism and economical struggles. Even when the director overworks with the film, his time and money is well spent on the costumes, which really add bonus points to the film.
The main piece of the film that is highly enjoyable to see is the chemistry between Anthony Mackie’s character Bernard and Samuel L. Jackson’s character as Joe. Their relationship increases more character development, more accuracy, and more structural integrity to the film as this adds much depth for the film’s flavor. Not to mention that they both appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, starring with Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson.
Also appearing are Nia Long as Bernard’s wife, Eunice; and Nicholas Hoult, which both of them are just as perfect and easy to watch for anyone looking for fresh streaming content.
Overall, The Banker is a good movie, if not enjoyable. I enjoyed every aspect of the film the director has done so far. Feels like it’s a good film for both social studies students and history-major students and teachers. Mackie and Jackson both nailed it together on their respective roles (NOTE: I also met Anthony Mackie in person in the summer of 2019). And that’s all there is to it, I can't complain much, it’s just that it’s a good film to watch while you’re at home or studying history during class or anything that has something to do with race or economical issues. The Banker is worth investing your time.
(Review by Henry Pham)