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.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom



Director: George C. Wolfe

Studio: Netflix

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom brings down the honorous farewell to Chadwick Boseman!


People often say any film is boring, but some people have changed their thoughts on the last minute. For Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, it’s one of those films to watch for those who are feeling excited and frisky this year. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is directed by theater arts playwright George C. Wolfe and is written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, based on the inspirational play of the same name by August Wilson. Produced by Denzel Washington, Todd Black, and Dany Wolf, the film stars Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in their leading roles, with Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and Michael Potts in their supporting roles.

Taking place in Chicago in 1927, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom focuses on the rising tensions in between Ma Rainey and her ambitious horn player Levee Green, under the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues,” a name adopted by Ma Riney herself.

Viola Davis (Fences) mainly stars as Ma Rainey, the legendary blues singer while Chadwick Boseman (Marvel’s Black Panther), in his final feature film, stares onscreen as Levee Green, a talented trumpeter. The trio Glynn Turman (Peyton Place), Colman Domingo (AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead), and Michael Potts (HBO’s The Wire) join in the film as pianist Toledo, trombone player Cutler, and the double bass player Slow Drag.

This film serves as Chadwick Boseman’s final feature film. He died suddenly on August 28th, 2020 due to an epic battle of colon cancer during the film’s production, leaving the fans, filmmakers, and celebrities devastated at this news. His acting credits include 42 and Marshall, before entering his breakout role in the MCU film Black Panther released in 2018, leading Boseman to become the first black actor to have a main, headlining role in a MCU film.

Wolfe, an experienced Broadway director, has utilized his theater-directing experiences to film every scene and shot centering on the music group, Davis’ character, and the chemistry between Davis and Boseman. Even when all the stress comes based on his steady story-creating job, the music insertion for the film, the gritty writing, and the focus shots of the camera angles facing towards actors as opposed to theater stages, Wolfe knows how to craft a film that becomes a musical production number as if anybody is going to see a play at the performing arts theater.

The performances coming from Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in their leading roles are very easy to follow. They both know how to portray a character based on the written play and know the pros and cons between acting in the film and the play. Davis provides a confident but similar technique on how drama films work in any direction rather than her own action films she ever starred in. Not just acting, but she serves as Boseman’s acting mentor on how to amp up the scene and the character development of his Levee Green character. Her onscreen chemistry with Boseman is really what makes the film easy to guide the viewers. Speaking of which, Davis also appeared in Fences (directed by Denzel Washington who serves as a producer for this film) for which she has won her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role.

Additionally, the costume design, the visuals, and the entire production design layouts are pretty ecstatic and genuine to give the film a proper boost for the characters, the 1920s decade feel, and the entire storyline to that affair. Though, my main focus is the costume design which can be a great profound contender for Best Costume Design Oscar nod.

However, my main downside for this film is that there’s a lot of bad language coming through those characters, which prevented me from seeing this too easily. It felt like the writers were trying to bridge on advancing themes of the racial violence and the 1920s setting before the Great Depression came to rise. The accuracy of the film based on the play and its setting just keeps getting weirder and wilder. But above all, the film and the actors’ performances provide some outstanding moments of history, the music, the class, and the culture which are very well recalled, well presented, and preserved.

Overall, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is an excellent movie that excels on the plot, the characters and the main points of the setting. Davis and Boseman really nailed it. I kinda say, this film is a must as the film serves as a “thumbs-up” for the film, mainly Boseman who makes this film enjoyable and pleasant to see. The cast and crew did a great job on the film, serving as a memorial tribute to Boseman. I have to say this, this film is top notch at being nominated in such glamorous Academy Award categories, particularly Boseman for that Best Actor role for 2020. This is absolutely one of the best films I ever watched in 2020, I’m putting this on my top ten of the year.

GRADE: A+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Soul



Director: Pete Docter

Studio: Disney

Pixar’s own Soul stone takes its storytelling level to its new height on life’s greatest mysteries!


Some say Soul can be mistaken for another Inside Out film upon seeing the trailer, but the studio offers another delightful flick this year that takes you and your family on a trip of a lifetime. Pixar director and Academy Award winner Pete Docter, who helmed Up and Inside Out and was appointed to Chief Creative Officer at Pixar following John Lasseter’s departure, returns to his fourth directorial outing, putting Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey on board as main leads of the film while supportive actors Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett play along in the scenes. Newly director Kemp Powers also stands in as co-director for this anticipated animated film.

Soul follows the story of a middle school band teacher Joe Gardener, who has a deep passion for jazz, has a lifelong dream of performing in the jazz club with several respected musicians. However, he runs into an untimely accident that causes his soul to be separated from his body, heading towards what is called The Great Before, where all souls develop personalities and traits. With that, he must work with another soul in order to return to his body before it’s too late.

Actor, comedian, and singer Jamie Foxx (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ray) voices Joe Gardener, a middle school band instructor whose soul is separated from his body as a result of his untimely accident. Actress and comedian Tina Fey (30 Rock) voices 22, a soul with a dim view of life who she is assigned to Joe. Supportive actors also appeared in the film: Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show) as the mother of Joe, Questlove (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) as a drum player Curley, Daveed Diggs (Blindspotting, The Black-ish) as Joe’s rival and nemesis, and Angela Bassett (Black Panther) as Dorthea, a much respected jazz musician and saxophone player.

Soul is the first Pixar film to feature a African American protagonist. The studio has increasingly, and arguably, engendered more cultural traditions and diversity after the productions of Coco and the short Bao. As a director, Docter have come to his past situations, dealing with life that signifies and embodies how any ordinary human life can be when it comes to growing up while Kemp Powers strongly focuses on the providing character developments of the main African American protagonist taking over onscreen based on stereotypes and representation of blacks and on his own life.

Doctor and Powers have really brought the Black representation of portraying Foxx’s character and other characters accurately to get a better understanding of how these humanistic explorations and contributions have endured in our culture and the ways of living in our world. These are the things that focus on what world we live in, the things we love, and what they are passionate about, borrowing the same elements from Inside Out, also directed by Docter. Their (Docter and Powers) experiences towards the film really adds a soft narrative structure to this powerful message about Black people and becomes the main part of the story’s dynamics to that affair.

The animation is really exquisite on every scene in the human world and the soul world that perfectly captures the enduring journey of how any person or life that engenders lots of happiness and compassion, giving the film’s main comparisons of the setting from Pixar’s Coco between this and the Land of the Dead and Inside Out, which focuses primarily on the five main emotions inside the girl’s mind. It’s really glowing to watch carefully as the animation from each soul could represent life and living on their well-beings as if one is watching the latter all over again. With the beautiful animation and the storytelling provided from Docter himself, Soul could potentially lead to become an Oscar contender for any categories, especially Best Animated Feature, with a very high hopes for that film to simply be nominated and winning it at the same time, but we’ll have to wait til the Academy is getting closer.

And let’s not forget the soft, beautiful, jazzy hardworking music from composers Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross with jazz music writer Jon Batiste, which stands perfectly on the film, the narratives, the characters, and the climaxes. Their music-writing compositions almost sounded like it’s good combination of Michael Giacchino and Randy Newman. Just to let the viewers know that this is Pete Docter’s first directorial film since Monsters, Inc. without having Giacchino on board.

As aforementioned, Soul is heavily one of the greatest films on my top ten list to watch. It clocks to at least a hundred minutes. Docter and his team of actors and film crew have done an outstanding job delivering messages, bringing the Black representation over to Hollywood, and learning better ways to get to know life, culture, and diversity at places and boundaries. This is absolutely one of Pete Docter’s finest hits. Though it’s very depressing and disappointing that this film has lost its gig on the big screen, I promise you that this flick will cheer your spirits up as you watch it and hope that 2021 gets better than ever that way we can go back to the movie theaters again. I must say, Soul is a must and is anybody’s soul food. You can watch this Disney+ or if you don’t have Disney+, better wait til the Blu-ray release is out.

One last thing, there’s a Pixar animated short called Burrow, which was originally scheduled for the theatrical release before the film, that you should watch before watching Soul like a traditional Pixar viewing pleasure in theaters.

GRADE: A+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Wonder Woman 1984



Director: Patty Jenkins

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Wonder Woman 1984 offers a fiery, fist of pain and glory!


After a few rounds of theatrical delays, Warner Bros. heavily made a hard decision to release this film in theaters and on HBO Max at the same date and time. Though this doesn’t mean that movie theaters will be gone forever, sometimes movies can be convenient and enjoyable at home for others who are afraid of going out during this pandemic. But fear not, let’s hope that 2021 gets better and brighter than ever. Patty Jenkins returns to helm the sequel while Gal Gadot reprises her role as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, the titular character in the film alongside Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, and Connie Nielsen in their supportive roles.

Wonder Woman 1984 takes place in 1984 just decades after World War I (the first film) and centers on Diana Prince, along with her former lover Steve Trevor, who is on a mission to battle against her newly found foes, Maxwell Lord and Barbara Minerva/Cheetah.

Gal Gadot returns to the onscreen sequel as Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) while the returning Chris Pine (Star Trek Into Darkness) appears as Steve Trevor. Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen also return to reprise their roles as Antiope and Hippolyta, the aunt and the mother to the titular superhero. Newcomers Kirsten Wiig (Despicable Me films, How to Train Your Dragon trilogy) and Pedro Pascal (Disney+ The Mandalorian) arrive in the scene as a small archaeologist-turned-villain Barbara Minerva, who dastardly revealed to be Cheetah, and the glamorous businessman Maxwell Lord respectively.

Patty Jenkins, having directed the first film, utilized her experiences to produce a sequel that gives a stronger, meatier characteristic role for Gadot to take on to her long journey after World War I. Jenkins even strolls down to memory lane by putting down the old 1980s vibes for that sake of the plot and the setting which bring the viewers to reminiscent of those times and memories that have been cherished in the 1980s where video games, television, and even movie stores became popular during those times, engendering the sparkling bright lights to people’s minds and eyes as they grew up. 1980s also sets in the Cold War, which is very interesting to see.

And what a wonderful way to give nice, subtle bonus points for the film is the cameo appearance of Lynda Carter, the actress who portrayed Wonder Woman in the 1970s television series, which gives the film a breezy, catchy surprise for that old-school 80s setting.

The narrative of the film is a lot bigger than is shown in the trailer. They are bruises and pieces that need to be put together to create one huge, prestigious, narrative flick. Though, the main disappointment is the lack of magic and faith for the film’s main narrative structures as well as giving Gadot's character a [somewhat] weaker characterized tone. Aside from that, parts of the plot seem very fitting to guide the viewers but there’s a lot of nonsense coming from the steady focus on Gadot and Pine’s chemistry as well as the battling chemistry between hers and Maxwell Lord character compared to the first film when she encountered Sir Patrick Morgan/Ares (portrayed by David Thewlis), revealing his true colors.

While it certainly didn't live up to the ridiculous hype, Wonder Woman 1984 is still a grand spectacle that satisfied my cravings for a cinematic experience. I would say it’s an okay movie that lies between “magnificent” and “disappointment.” I admire and respect the visuals, the music composition coming from Hans Zimmer himself, and the exhilarating experience the director and Gadot have offered this year, but the lack of emotional touches and bits of weakened plotlines left me untouched. And that is all I’m going to say about it, and since the film is going to be released in theaters and on HBO Max altogether, I can’t give any more details until you see it.

Just to let the viewers know that the film is about 2.5 hours long so you might want to pick a good time and date to view it.

GRADE: C+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Wolfwalkers



Director: Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart

Studio: Apple TV+

Wolfwalkers is a tale that keeps on giving


Any animation studio can pull up a good stunt on storytelling like Pixar or Sony Pictures Animation, with the latter that produced Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which won Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2018. Under the big animation flicks and tricks Disney have produced throughout the years, it's hard to remember if there are any other studios making animated films just as great or even better for kids and adults to indulge. For this one, it’s from the television-streaming division from Apple. The film is directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart and features the voice cast of Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon McBurney, and Sean Bean.

Wolfwalkers tells a story about a young girl named Robyn, living in Ireland in 1650, who wants to become a hunter like her father Bill Goodfellowe whose main job is to clear the wolf pack in the village to prevent the wolves from endangering the village and its people. However, her desire has turned to fear when she meets a free-spirited girl from the wolf tribe who can transform into a wolf in a magical shapeshift called a “wolfwalker.”

Famed The Lord of the Rings alumnus Sean Bean voices Hunter Bill Goodfellowe in the film while Honor Kneafsey plays into the picture as Bill’s daughter Robyn. Actress Eva Whittaker voices Mebh, a free-spirited girl Robyn meets who can magically transform into a wolf under of what the powerful spell is called a “wolfwalker.” while Maria Doyle Kennedy voices Mebh’s mother who not only leads the wolf pack but is also a wolfwalker as well.

The direction being taken from Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart explores deep into the wilds of those characters that have been given a time setting in the 1650s which lies in the Early Modern period era. The director and producers put every inch of the story that builds some accuracies compared to the war periods and the war films as a whole (like Grave of the Fireflies for example). Building up the blocks on the strong storytelling idea, the directors’ story and the characters are absolutely fascinating and touching. It brings the cultural themes of friendship, loyalty, trust, and family that will truly resonate with people of all ages. Even the music from Bruno Coulais and Kíla that brings the glory and emotion to add to that effect.

The entire hand-drawn animation coming from Cartoon Saloon, which also serves as the co-producer for this film, is some of the most beautiful courses anybody has seen. Every frame or scene in the film has several of these intricate, meticulous details that make their films a unique visual delight to behold and to grasp on their hands. This film also contains numerous cinematic shots and sequences that push the boundaries of what can be done in the medium when it comes to films, both live-action and animation.

Overall, Wolfwalkers is an excellent film, on par with their other brilliant feature length animated films The Breadwinner, Song of the Sea, or any other non Disney-Pixar films you named. Maybe Grave of the Fireflies if you're a strong, wary animation buff. The cast and the crew of animators did an amazing job to tackle every scene with glee and emotion. It clocks about 102 minutes. This film can easily become the Oscar and Golden Globe contender for that attitude. I would strongly recommend anyone give this film a watch. It’s like Isle of Dogs but with wolves being used instead of dogs.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Thursday, December 10, 2020

I'm Your Woman

I’m Your Woman

** (out of ****)




Co-screenwriters Julia Hart (who also directed) and Jordan Horowitz are faced with a unique challenge in I’m Your Woman. The plot follows a woman who goes on the run, along with her child and an acquaintance, to escape the sins committed by her corrupt criminal of a husband. Curiously, there are two halves of a story being told here, but only one of those halves is being told onscreen.

Nearly everything with the husband is offscreen, with the exception of glimpses of the aftermath of what followed in his wave of destruction and deception. There is, then, a fascinating genre experiment being performed here, too. Hart and Horowitz have stripped this crime thriller of what we expect to see and shifted focus upon the villain’s hapless and clueless wife.

One day, Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) and Eddie (Bill Heck) are on the back end of having spent several years trying to become parents (either naturally or through adoption), and the next, Eddie has come home with a baby in tow. He offers no answers regarding whose child it is, but Jean doesn’t ask.

Soon, Eddie, who was involved in a major criminal organization, has disappeared after betraying and killing the organization’s boss, prompting Cal (Arinzé Kene), an associate of Eddie’s, to activate a plan to hide Jean and her child. The plan takes her to a safe house, where a nosy neighbor mucks things up, and ultimately to Cal’s family home, where his wife Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake) and father Art (Frankie Faison) reveal surprising connections to Eddie.

This is, until an inevitably violent climax in which all the conflicts come to an explosive head, the extent of the plot and of our understanding what drives that plot in the background. Jean isn’t a static character, thankfully, but her journey here is entirely predictable, moving from helpless, passive observer to headstrong, active participant with as much inevitability as the arrival of that violent climax.

Brosnahan’s performance essentially carries the whole of the film on its back, and it’s initially surprising how calm, how reserved, and how deeply considered it is in the actress’s every choice. In every way possible, Brosnahan is the movie, and it’s quite an effective and complex portrayal of fear, betrayal, and loss of innocence.

In other, crucial ways, though, the film does not hold up. The experiment, while intriguing, is merely one of genre and expectation. We expect to be led to the inevitable violence of the climax by way of a byzantine plot, complicated and complex characters, and double-crosses and revelations of a different sort. What we receive is quite different, more character-driven, more ambitious, and ultimately less satisfying as an experiment: Hart and Horowitz seem more focused on the fact of their subversion of expectations than with thinking of ways to take advantage of that promise.

I’m Your Woman still moves forward in the ways we expect, with predictable twists and a broad protagonist. It just shifts the perspective by 90 degrees.

Review by Joel Copling







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Dear Santa



Director: Dana Nachman

Studio: IFC Films

Dear Santa spreads holiday cheer to both children and families.


Everybody knows the song, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” because children and families become more and more desperate to find out about Santa's existence. But to make this simple and clear, there are always city communities who are always helpful to fulfill the children and families’ wishes on having a wonderful Christmas. Dear Santa is a documentary feature film that tells a tale about the U.S. Postal Service serving as the primary focus in the film, setting up a goal to fulfill for children’s Christmas wishes.

Dear Santa explains focusly on the light on the 100-year-old ‘Operation Santa’ Program of the United States Postal Service. Every year, thousands of letters to Santa arrive at Post Offices around the country. Through Operation Santa, the United States Postal Service makes it possible for the public to safely adopt these letters and make children’s dreams come true. Traveling the country, much like Santa does on Christmas Eve, this documentary film focuses on the selected ‘Operation Santa’ Centers in metropolitan areas, including New York City, and others in small and big towns where the Post Office becomes the heart of the community.

Nachman, who is an experienced documentary filmmaker, gathers large usages of footage being taken and given from children as well as interviewing them and families about their Christmas history, past and present. Nachman not only films the entire film scene by scene from other cities, and documents the children’s scenes, but also captures the messages on how children would respond to these situations to determine whether Santa is real or not. Nachman knows how to record and interview each family about their Christmas histories with children, but on the inside, she knows how to handle these small situations and the horrible crisis up in her sleeve. Even when she makes lots of impossible moves the director and the postal workers in the film have done as means to say, “nothing is impossible.”

The scenes, the editing, and the plot focusing on the children add a touching empathy feel as children serve as the principal meaning on how the holidays are celebrated. Nachman guides the children and teachers on what they like to have that can make their dreams come true. Not just to make children's lives easier to understand the existence of Santa and the importance of the holidays, but she also gives the same moral lessons to adults in general. She basically tells the audiences and families how to give their children and themselves the best Christmas gift they ever receive without ruining their hopes and dreams as well as bringing some cheer for children and adults for the holidays and during the COVID pandemic as well.

Dear Santa is a good documentary movie. I really enjoyed reading and watching the moral lessons and messages the director and the film gave to teach people how to make a difference in different parts of the world. This film is a good choice for children and families just to bring some holiday cheer during Christmastime and the ongoing pandemic. It's a whole new American film that embodies the spirit, the struggle, and the demise of the new “holiday” frontier. Just to let the viewers know that this film clocks in about nearly eighty-four minutes.

GRADE: B

(Review by Henry Pham)









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I'm Your Woman



Director: Julia Hart

Studio: Amazon Studios

Review: I’m Your Woman.


Crime and drama films being put together sounds extremely intense and completely new for my viewing experiences, especially when it comes to seeing a film at the movie theater or at home. Director Julia Hart comes in as the director of the film, featuring The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Rachel Brosnahan in her leading, meatier role and Arinzé Kene.

The film takes place in the 1970s where crime and drama have existed in people’s eyes and minds. Here, a woman named Jean who is forced to go on the run after her husband Eddie betrays his partners, sending her and her baby on a perilous journey.

Rachel Brosnahan portrays a lady named Jean who is a mother of her baby and a wife to Eddie. Brosnahan knows how to act out as a strong mom on every step and direction as the director Hart would want. Brosnahan, under Hart’s guidance, really provided some dramatic performances that nearly landed on her Oscar-contender section as she knows how to deal with these situations in real life to reflect on other people. British actor Arinzé Kene also steps on Brosnahan’s side as Cal who helps Jean on her journey.

Hart, after the directing chores from Miss Stevens, Fast Color, and Disney+’s Stargirl, uses her talent and experience to film this cynical feature film that explores the concerns about the woman and her baby in her breath-taking, near-fatal experience that opens the mind-blowing imagination to both the cast and the crew’s journey through the streets outside of their homes. Hart uses several camera angles, focusing on Brosnahan’s character and her slowly-pacing scenes, giving some proper “suspense” effect on her character and the baby scenes as well. Hart even created some crafty scary, suspenseful images on the film entirely and towards Brosnahan’s scenes, taking higher advantages of a R-Rated crime-thriller film.

What can be enjoyable is the chemistry between Kene and Brosnahan compared to the film Far From Heaven starring Julianne Moore and Dennis Haybert, with Dennis Quaid as a supportive husband to Moore’s character. Kene and Brosnahan can maybe be a great couple together, but in the end, it sounds like they just enjoyed working with each other and having the time of their lives.

Though, the downsides of the film are mainly the slow pacing on the writing and editing coming from Julia Hart and her husband Jordan Horowitz, the scarred focus on the Brosnahan’s character and the baby, giving her a powerful feel of being damsel-in-distress nature, having the husband character getting a small screen time, and the baby in the a thriller, which seems a bit dangerous to have, even on the set.

Also appearing are Marsha Stephanie Blake as Teri, Cal’s wife who is revealed to be Eddie’s first wife, Frankie Faison as Art, Marceline Hugot as Evelyn, James McMenamin as Mike, and Bill Heck as Jean’s husband Eddie.

Despite the downfalls, I’m Your Woman is an okay movie. It clocks in two hours to see how their experiences would judge beneath their skills. Rachel Brosnahan really nailed it out of the ambulance, but I feel like the cast and the crew overdone just to make this film as good as anyone’s, trying to reach its Oscar-worthy level to that account.

GRADE: C+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Enola Holmes

Any movie that can make me smile when just thinking about it receives high marks in my book.

Such is the case with the Netflix produced “Enola Holmes,” which traces the Sherlock Holmes family lineage to a younger sister, Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), (“Stranger Things,” , “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019)) who has a penchant for solving mysteries and the like.

Throw in Helena Bonham Carter (“A Room With a View” and “The King’s Speech”) who disappears one day out of the blue thus making mysteries afoot.

“Enola Holmes” occurs in the middle part of the nineteenth century, so their are no references to modern technology to get kids involved with. I hate to make another “Scooby Doo” reference because that is not what occurs here.

So readers know, Enola’s name is a palindrome, one where the letters can be mushed up and spell alone, hence part of the gimmick of the title.

That is also another plus to this story, since the family has a lot of letters in their home. Think of a bunch of Scrabble pieces that are strewn about in the living room to their residence.

There is also a lot of fourth wall breaking, since Enola talks directly to the viewer about her situation and predicaments. She even mentions that she doesn’t know how to embroiderer, something most teen girls were taught when they were younger.

Early on in the story, she even goes to meet brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill, “Man of Steel”) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Me Before You”) at the train station to rendezvous for the latest aforementioned predicament. Enola does not wear gloves or a hat because the hat makes her head itch.

Directing “Enola Holmes” is Harry Bradbeer, who recently won a plethora of Emmy awards for his work on “Fleabag” a British TV show that also does a lot of fourth wall breaking as well. Co-creator and lead Phoebe Waller-Bridge has a wit and sense that make her character very watchable I this tale, kind of like what Bobby Brown does here.

Part of what occurs in the plot is a lot of nonsense in that they want to make Enola something she is not. Both Sherlock and Mynecroft think they will do better for her if she follows the straight and narrow both by trying to get her to assimilate in modern society.

Sardonic tone and stride are present throughout her characters’ viewing of the world. Life should be a place to just enjoy oneself regardless of the events that occur.

I am not sure how this thing is doing ratings wise on Netflix, but I would like to see farther incarnations of this tale since it is a universe all unto itself.

Grade: A
Review by Ricky Miller




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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Uncle Frank



Director: Alan Ball

Studio: Amazon Studios

Review: Uncle Frank


Uncle Frank is not just a drama film, but it’s also a road-trip movie that strolls down into memory lane. The film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival just before the virus hits the earth. Director Alan Ball, known for writing a screenplay for 1999’s American Beauty that later granted him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay as well as creating huge-hit television sitcoms Six Feet Under and True Blood, takes the lead as the director of this film, featuring the main stars of Paul Bethany, Sophie Lillis and Peter Macdissi.

Uncle Frank focuses on Frank Bledsoe and his 18-year-old niece Beth whom they take a road trip from Manhattan to Creekville, South Carolina for the family patriarch's funeral, they are unexpectedly joined by Frank's lover Wally. After hearing the news about the death of his father, Frank is forced to reluctantly return home for the funeral to finally face a long-buried trauma that he has spent his entire adult life running away from.

Paul Bethany, the fame in Marvel Cinematic Universe films, portrays the titular character Uncle Frank, the literature professor living in New York while actress Sophie Lillis appears as his niece Beth. Actor Peter Macdissi comes in as Frank’s longtime partner Walid "Wally" Nadeem, an arrangement that he has kept secret for years to avoid revealing the truth to his entire family.

Bethany really gives a truly memorable performance and it is really emotional, the film focuses on how living this secret life has affected him and how even though he is intelligent, it doesn't change the fact that he is scared about living his life. He is very charismatic and charming and just leads the screen very well here. Same words go for Sophie Lillis and Peter Macdissi who serve as his past memories that deeply affected him.

The cast of actors portraying Frank’s family also appear in the film: Steve Zahn as Frank’s brother Mike Bledsoe, Judy Greer as Kitty Bledsoe, Mike’s wife and Frank’s sister-in-law, Margo Martindale and Stephen Root as Frank’s mother and as Frank’s father with the latter disapproving Frank's relationship with another person in the same gender, and Lois Smith as Frank’s aunt. The cast of the actors did an amazing job and gave them something to add on the film’s structure components.

Ball’s direction really tones the voices based on how well his story of this film is well-put together, even when some writings coming from him have some good dialogue, it has a lot of drama and emotion and actually produces some pretty funny moments which helped the flow of the film, but as mentioned there are some forced moments that pretty much comes by weaker writing, that disrupts the flow of the film at times. Ball really makes the film so unique to watch as this deals with many important subjects and themes, it is a film about acceptance and understanding people which is very well done. Ball and his team really know how humans can be dark and depressing at anytimes when it comes to learning and accepting one’s way, which is why humans live in a cold, cruel world today.

Overall, Uncle Frank is a very good, interesting movie to see. I really enjoyed the film as much as anyone else could, it tells some important messages that makes people understand a little better and makes the acting and the story pace so worthy to see both at home and in theaters. This film is worth a watch for anyone, whether you’re a fan or not, this is a film anybody is interested in when it comes to good, moral stories being told by someone.

GRADE: B

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Sound of Metal



Director: Darius Marder

Studio: Amazon Studios

The Sound of Metal delivers a loud, flawless performance


My viewing pleasures have a soft spot on music films and drama films, but sometimes they can be both at the same time like Whiplash, La La Land, and the upcoming Pixar’s animated film, Soul, the latter of which will be the most exciting film to see despite not being given a theatrical release due to the virus still spreading around the world. The Sound of Metal is a drama film that features a character with a disability called hearing loss. It had its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival before making its way to theaters for the general public. The film is directed and co-written by Darius Marder, in his directorial debut of a feature film, and publicly features the consisting cast of Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, and Paul Raci.

The Sound of Metal centers on a drummer named Ruben Stone who suffers a hearing loss after four years of sobriety following his drug addict. Because of that, he is forced to meet a counselor named Joe who leads a deaf community for people with hearing losses and severe deafness.

Riz Ahmed portrays Ruben, the drummer with a hearing loss disability in the film. Ahmed is one of those actors people cannot take their eyes off. He basically and simply plays any character he likes. He's always intense and, most importantly, he always makes people care about the characters he's portraying, but deep down he looks like he’s enjoying himself. His acting credits also includes HBO’s The Night Of, for which he has earned a few Emmy nominations, Star Wars’ Rogue One, and Jason Bourne, with the latter two being released in 2016.

Actress Olivia Cooke (2014’s Ouija, A&E’s Bates Motel, Vanity Fair, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One) appears as Ruben’s girlfriend and his manager named Lou who supports and tries to help him overcome his situation of deafness at any cost while Paul Raci, with a Dennis Hopper impression, stands in as Counselor Joe who leads a deaf community for people with hearing losses.

As a feature film director, Marius really puts all the camera angles towards Ahmed’s character in order to give the character some stronger characteral developments compared to the main characters from the first two films mentioned above. Marius not only makes the story seem promising to digest, but also makes the film as enjoyable and filled with concerns about people with disabilities and real-life situations just to make the film more appealing to audiences, predominately the audiences with impaired hearings. Not only Marius' direction, but the usages of sound effects add a nice touching effect on several characters with hearing losses. Aside from being a director of this, he is also an editor, writer, and director of Loot, a documentary film dated back in 2008.

Also appearing in the film are Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead, Marvel’s upcoming Eternals) and Mathieu Amalric (James Bond’s Quantum of Solace, Steven Spielberg's Munich, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).

In conclusion, Sound of Metal is a great movie, more like an Oscar-worthy type of thing despite all the language being used in the film. I really enjoy every aspect of every scene given to the characters in the film, mainly the cinematic focus on Ahmed’s character. I think this film will stand on my top ten lists for 2020, but I’m not too sure. I have to wait till I have reached New Year’s Day. This film is definitely a “must” and it clocks in around two hours. The cast and crew did an outstanding job of delivering a flawless performance, especially that ending right there which is extremely effective, but there’s no surprises at all. Another excellent performance coming from Riz Ahmed himself. A few more films like this and he will finally have earned his Oscar.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Friday, November 13, 2020

The Nest



Director: Sean Durkin

Studio: IFC Films/Elevation Pictures

Review: The Nest


For starters, the title of the film brings a good definition of a “bird leaving their nest” symbol, giving me time to think about how anyone moving to another city or country would change and impact their entire life when it comes to learning about “out with the old, in with the new” meaning. It’s a similar structure like seeing their own grown children go off to college or seeing a man move to another city or state for a new career role. This film is directed and produced by the second-timer Sean Durkin who recently helmed Martha Marcy May Marlene starring Elizabeth Olsen. The Nest stars Jude Law (Warner Bros.’ Sherlock Holmes, Marvel’s Captain Marvel) and Carrie Coon (HBO's The Leftovers, FX’s Fargo) in their leading roles while Charlie Shotwell, Oona Roche, and Adeel Akhtar (Murdered by My Father) have been casted as supportive actors in the film.

The Nest centers on a man named Rory O’Hara whose plans on moving his family to England for his new job role over there, though the biggest problem for his family is that they have concerns on how to accumulate themselves with the England lifestyle as their uncertainty upon relocation from America to England has lead them to the intense isolation of their new home that affects them differently and entirely.

Here in the film, Jude Law plays as Rory O’Hara, an English entrepreneur while Carrie Coon portrays his wife and a farmer named Allison. Child actors Charlie Shotwell (Captain Fantastic) and Oona Roche both appeared as Benjamin and Samantha, Rory’s children.

Taking up his directing tips and tricks up his sleeves, Durkin captures the enduring family scenes that makes an impactful film that brings the entirely unsettling story that can be easily centered and resolved on a dysfunctional family with the most difficult choices and emotions that affects their behavior with huge amounts of struggles and dealing with darker times as they are forced to live a new life from going to that “same-old, same-old” nature, giving a feel of an empty-nest syndrome, which is something that carries the film and the characters’ structure dynamics. Durkin and the crew have worked the cast simultaneously on handing things properly on how to adapt a new and different life and perspective from place to place.

Aside from the direction and the pace of the story, the music sounds very flattering on that England setting, compared to the American settings in the film at the very start. Even when the actor Jude Law has done a smartful job on keeping in character as both a father and a husband, which deals with real-life situations on how any father or husband would do anything for their family, even when it means getting jobs just to get paid handsomely. Jude Law and Carrie Coon really know the basics of being a husband and wife to each other.

Though, my huge disappointments are the lack of laughs and comedy being missing in the background as well as children using bad language as an rewarding opportunity for that R-Rating film. My viewing pleasures don’t find it very pleasing and enhancing. Though, the plot is very manageable to follow.

Also appearing in the film are Adeel Akhtar as Steve, Rory’s co-worker while Michael Culkin as Arthur Davis, Rory’s boss and supervisor. And for that short onscreen appearance, actress Anne Reid (BBC’s The Mother, Wallace and Gromit’s A Close Shave!) appears as Rory's mother.

With that being said, The Nest is a really good movie, if not better. The director and the crew really outdone it. Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Charlie Shotwell, and Oona Roche did a great job of keeping the pace of the story and their characters in the palm of their hands. I say this film is great for any families out there who have been struggling a lot of times, but deep down, there’s hope to come if you choose this. I really like this film, but I can’t go higher than that regardless.

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Friday, November 6, 2020

Let Him Go



Director: Thomas Bezucha

Studio: Focus Features

Let Him Go is the rightful choice to have!


At first, Let Him Go is heavily believed to be a Western, modern film, but it’s actually a crime thriller and sorta like a coming-of-age movie for grownups and adults who expect such greater things after reviewing the trailer and the poster itself. Thomas Bezucha takes the role as the director and producer of this feature film based on the novel written by Larry Watson. Academy Award winners Diane Lane and Kevin Costner have been given a large role as the main pair of protagonists in the film whilst Kayli Carter and Lesley Mansville received a supportive character role.

In the film, upon the death of their son, a retired sheriff named George and his wife Margaret fight to rescue their widowed daughter in-law and young grandson from a dangerous, dysfunctional family through the streets in North Dakota.

Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, whom they both worked together in Man of Steel, appear throughout the film as George and Margaret living in the countryside in Montana with Kayli Carter portraying Lorna, their son’s now-widowed wife after her husband’s death. Will Brittain steps into the scene as Donnie Weboy, Lorna’s abusive husband with Jeffrey Donovan portraying as Bill, one of Donnie’s family relatives. And lastly, the legendary English actress Lesley Mansville arrives as the mother of Donnie.

Also appearing is Booboo Stewart (The Twilight Saga, X-Men: Days of the Future Past, Disney’s Descendants) as Peter, the Indian horseman George and Margaret meet.

Bezucha gives all the fuzzes, the energy, and the fuses when he and the crew build a large scenery in the countryside to treat the film like a modern, Western film taking place in the 1950s and 1960s for that film’s ordinary textures to fit the Drama and Western genre. He even brought some Michael Giacchino’s scoring pieces to give the film some proper boost to follow the guidelines on crafty thriller production line and to match the personas for both Costner and Lane’s characters together along with Carter’s motherly character.

One of the main focus of the film is the chemistry between Kevin Costner and Diane Lane’s characters, which is also part of the film’s structural dynamics when it comes to acting out as a family couple, a similar output and tasty amusements like the filmmakers did from Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel, the first film of what is called DC Extended universe, co-starring Henry Cavill and Amy Adams.

Though what can be scary is the number of violences that appear almost at the end that shocks and shrieks right out of my ears and can flip both myself and the adult audiences out of the edge of their seats. Another thing is the director and crew went extremely overboard on the much-violent, not-so bright, unglamorous Weboy family characters.

In conclusion, Let Him Go is a great movie. It is a must see when it opens in theaters and on digital. Not only the director plays the cards well but Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are what makes the film very interesting to see. I would give best bets on the entire cast and crew who made it all possible. Just to let the viewers know that the film clocks around roughly 114 minutes for that feature time length, so if you’re planning on seeing a two-hour presentation, I say watch this. You’ll be fascinated by the fantasies of “countryside vs. city” life.

GRADE: B-

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Touch!



Director: Aleksandra Szczepanowska

Studio: Jungle Cat Productions

Review: TOUCH!


Movies can be filled with life-threatening issues people have everyday or sometimes just for a living. TOUCH is a dramatic Korean-storytelling tale crafted by a first-time feature film director Aleksandra Szczepanowska and is going to be showcased at The Lone Star Film Festival in Fort Worth, TX in November 2020. A little backstory for the director is that Szczepanowska is a writer/director/producer/actor born in New York. Prior to TOUCH, she has written and directed several short films including Let it Ring and Naked Soles. Aside from being a filmmaker, Szczepanowska also steps in as an actress for the main role with Chinese actors Jun Yang, Beckham, and Jiangwei Yuan.

In Szczepanowska’s feature directorial debut, Fei Fei, a Caucasian, Western woman is living an affluent, cosseted existence as the wife of hard-charging, business executive Zhang Hua and mother to young son Mo Mo. Though she feels deeply alienated from the country she loves, her friends, and husband, her issues and mysterious circumstances have caused her life to be threatened by her own privileged, fragile existence and her family.

Director Aleksandra Szczepanowska portrays as Fei Fei while Jun Yang plays as her husband Zhang who is concerned about his wife. Jiangwei Yuan appears as an blind Chinese man named Bai Yu whom Fei Fei later encountered. Backham also comes into the scene as Mo Mo, Fei Fei’s young son.

The film is entirely shot somewhere in Asia, though the location for any Asian cities where the crew have shot the film is unknown. Szczepanowska, despite being a director and actress altogether at the same time, had much commitment on filming and editing the scenes throughout the film, bringing this delight and taste to that so-so old-school, new-school bilingual film compared to that critical-acclaimed film The Farewell with Awkwafina and Best Picture Oscar-winning film Parasite. Not to mention that this film is in English and Mandarin Chinese. Other than the scenes and editing themselves, the music and the camera shots and angles look pretty much similar to any films that were produced or made in Asian countries, giving a strong delicacy for the film’s texture and balance for both Asian and American audiences and critics.

The majority of the actors are all new to my viewing pleasures which means that my passion for films begins to grow simultaneously inside and outside of America. They both look like they’re having a hard time with Szczepanowska’s character, but they seem like they are getting along well. And to add a couple of bonus points, Szczepanowska also gives a good headliner for a female character, which is nice to study her own character developments and for that motherly focus on herself and to Backham’s character rather than focusing on the husband character entirely.

TOUCH is a nice, soft 95-minute production and is worth the watch. It gives me the chills and thrills. Of course, I realized that some people can be picky about movies, but as I recently pointed out that there are plenty of options to choose from. I say TOUCH is a so-called “real steal!”

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Darkness in Tenement 45

Director: Nicole Groton

Studio: Wood Entertainment

Journey through the Darkness in Tenement 45


Surely, movies can be dark and depressing to watch, but life is also dark and depressing to see depending on who you are or the way you tell a story to your kids for a bedtime story. Darkness in Tenement 45 is written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Nicole Groton, though she did direct The Melting Family which was a documentary film about her experiences with her divorced families. The film features the main stars of Nicole Tompkins, David Labiosa, Melissa Macedo, Keyon Bowman, Anthony Marciona, and Casey Kramer who take on a supportive role throughout the film.

The film mainly focuses on sixteen-year-old named Joanna who has been living with her overbearing Aunt Martha in a low-income NYC tenement building ever since a violent outburst left her fighting with a scarful feel of darkness. With no food left and Martha's controversial role as leader expanding, Joanna realizes that she must face both her darkness and her aunt in order to save the tenants.

Nicole Tompkins plays the signature role as the main girl Joanna who’s desperate in seeking something outside of her tenement, though she was heavily discouraged by her aunt Martha, the leader of the family group and is portrayed by Casey Kramer.

Groton weaves a fascinating tableau that tells a dark, imaginable story by taking her own experiences with family divorces and separation into a nice, soft plot-twisting idea that even children should come and watch regardless of the genre and the ratings. Groton also throws a plethora of horrifying, gruesome special effects to give the cast onscreen a more proper feel if this is another Jordan Peele’s adventure or maybe just another Beetlejuice film with a side of Casper the ghost.

By the looks of the film itself entirely, Darkness in Tenement 45 is shot in one building because the filmmakers, including the cast, wanted to find a decent location to shoot the entire film in without having to ask people who own any certain buildings or homes or apartments. The film did deliver some stay-at-home order references due to the characters being told by the director to stay put just to give the film and scenes some proper thrilling experience personas that bring the uncertainty to both families and children.

Out of all the scary, horror films I watch, Darkness in Tenement 45 is just a safer choice unlike several of those films I watched that I haven't enjoyed most. Needless to say, this film is a must see. Though the sad part is Darkness in Tenement 45 going to release in the early November just after Halloween. I wish I could see this in theaters, but times have changed. Watching this good movie at home is like substituting an outdoor activity for an indoor activity when the weather becomes rainy. I think it's ok, not that bad but I can’t go higher than when it comes to liking it more than anybody else.

GRADE: C

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Ouija Warehouse

Director: Israel Luna

Studio: La Luna Entertainment

Review: Ouija Warehouse


As Halloween is just around the corner, they are a plethora of scary, horrifying films to be offered in theaters or at home via digital streaming service. This film is made locally and was heavily consist of several of my colleagues who have worked on this project called Ouija Warehouse directed by Israel Luna during the pandemic. The film features the cast of Kristin Keith, Joseph Herrera, Abby Joy, Suha Kim, Swisyzanna, Justin Armstrong, Chaselyn Wade, and Angel Rose Keeley.

Ouija Warehouse centers on the group of friends who discovered the spiritual game board at the warehouse where they are gathered for the birthday party. However, one of the two party-goes accidentally set the spirit free by playing it, forcing them to solve the case of this spirit that died in the warehouse just a year before the events of the film.

Actors Joseph Herrera and Suha Kim played key roles as Noah and Kay who are responsible for releasing a deadly spirit after they found the spirit game board in the room and started playing with it. Kristin Keith came along in the scene as Elaine who is busy setting up a party in the warehouse. Also appearing are Swisyzanna, Justin Armstrong (who also serves as an executive producer), and Chaselyn Wade. And finally, Angel Rose Keeley comes in as Isabella, the spirit that rises into the room.

Due to the pandemic, the film was shot entirely in one location with less than seven days to work on those scenes, editing, and acting out in the film. The crew have spent so much time finding a decent storyline down the road as well as focusing on the character developments for Joseph Herrera, Kristin Keith, Chaselyn Wade, and Suha Kim in which they represent an old-school survival challenge compared to the A Quiet Place and other scary films that have something to do with survival. The crew even throw in some special effects for that horror-graphic flavor for the film, but in turn, the plot seems manageable for audiences to look directly into. Though, the downside is not adding little more special/visual effects to keep it classy.

Ouija Warehouse has just enough satisfying twists and turns to keep one’s interest come in handy. My main challenge is picking a scary film to watch can be tough, but for my advice, see the trailer first and voice your thoughts honestly. My last theater experience is The Hunt, which was released earlier this year before the pandemic begins.

With the colors and the flavors present, Ouija Warehouse is a pretty good 86-minute (almost 90) indie-feature film. I feel like this film is safe lubricant for teens and maybe older kids. The film gives me lots of laughs and shocks along the way throughout the film. The director, the cast, and the crew did an amazing job of keeping the paces behind their backs. And that’s all I’m going to say, I can’t give out too much. I rather watch this again when it comes out on digital. Lastly, just to let the readers know that most of my colleagues have worked on and appeared in this film.

GRADE: A-

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Director: Jason Woliner

Studio: Amazon Studios

Review: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm


Borat Subsequent Moviefilm serves as the official, direct sequel to this critical acclaim film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which was released in 2006. Although, no word of the sequel hasn’t been official to the public yet until the news came in the mid-2020s. The sequel is directed by feature-film first-timer Jason Woliner, though he had a background on television as he was directing some television episodes from several television sitcoms, including Parks and Recreation. The film’s cast consists of Cohen who reprises his role as Borat Sagdiyev and Maria Bakalova in her supporting role on Cohen’s side.

Sacha Baron Cohen reprises his role as journalist/reporter from the first Borat film. Despite that pandemic is still spreading, he uses his advantages to start filming but in a secretive manner out of sight. Cohen gives his character and persona more comedy, more vitamins, and some hilarious tactics in order to received bonus points and making the film as enjoyable, possibly making it brighter and better than that lazy-and-lousy Dumb and Dumber sequel. Taking a stand on Cohen's side, Maria Bakalova appears in the film as Tutar, the daughter of Borat Sagdiyev.

The setting of the film takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic as the some events happening in Hollywood are referenced during the film which made the viewers to believe that the film was made and set somewhere in the world during this time. Woliner, Cohen, and the crew took much of their time traveling and shooting multiple film scenes day-in and day-out right after the stay-at-order was lifted. Although Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a mockumentary, comedy film, Cohen also threw in some father-and-daughter scenes together to give it more proper, structural family dynamics and whimsical tones for that chemistry between those two and the film as a whole.

Even though there are more films and titles to come, I say Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is one of the greats for house-viewing activity, though only for teens and adults due to its disturbing contents. The sequel threw in several loads of laughs, bruises, and amusements for this 96-minute feature. The director and Cohen really made this comedy classic all possible as means of spreading joy during the pandemic. And that’s all I’m going to say, I can’t give out too much, you’ll have to see it for yourself if you love Borat and Sacha Baron Cohen so much. So please watch Borat Subsequent Moviefilm if you can!

Bonus points for that Tom Hanks cameo in the film.

GRADE: A-

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Bullets of Justice

Director: Valeri Milev

Studio: Zenit TT

Review: Bullets of Justice


Bullets of Justice is one of the darkest, scariest films to watch this season, giving the fact that Halloween is just around the counter. Bulgarian director Valeri Milev, who is known for directing Re-Kill in 2015, flew over to Eastern Europe and somewhere in Central Asia to take the role as the main film director for this horrorous, post-apocalyptic feature film with Timur Turisbekov coming aboard as the producer and an actor with Danny Trejo also starring onscreen.

The film takes place in the era called the Third World War where the American government has initiated a secret project code that creates super soldiers by inbreeding human beings with pigs. 25 years later a breed called "Muzzles" occupied the top of the food chain, eating and farming humans like animals. The film also centers on Rob Justice who is an ex-bounty hunter working for the last line of human resistance, which actually consists of a group of survivors hiding in a nuclear bunker deep underground. His mission is to find out how muzzles came to power and destroy them.

Valeri Milev and producer Timur Turisbekov, with the latter acting in the film as the ex-bounty hunter named Rob Justice, have filmed the entire scenes, the film itself, and action sequences in Kazakhstan, which is a transcontinental country mainly located in Central Asia with a smaller portion west of the Ural in Eastern Europe. The two also took some inspirations from several zombie films and other post-apocalyptic films in order to match the style, the depth, and the characters’ performances, even when it means going through tons of bloody CGI-usages and sexual appeals on the characters, both real and robotic in the scenes.

Not only the direction, but the killer-shooting meltdowns add some putrid effects on those disturbing pig scenes. What is more horrifying is the music in the background, which bears a striking resemblance to that old-school Hitchcock’s persona just to give the film some vitamins for its strength and some structural tones for the film’s central atmosphere. And lastly, to make matters worse, Trejo’s screentime is cut short in order for the filmmakers to focus on other characters, thereby, going against the criteria from that movie poster and trailer.

I hate to say this, but Bullets of Justice is the worst film I ever watched. Though only Trejo’s scenes are what makes the film enjoyable to see. I really wish Danny Trejo has more screentime as said in the poster of this film, but sadly, the filmmakers have really focused on other scenes and characters more than focusing on Trejo. And that’s all I’m going to say, I feel like their movie skills are beneath them. This is one huge mess of a film that hurts to watch, truly painful. You will never kick yourself for passing on this one.

GRADE: F-

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Fugitive Dreams

Director: Jason Neulander

Studio: New Republic Studios

Review: Fugitive Dreams


This film feels like this one is made in the 1920’s or 1930s due to the looks of the film, possibly giving steady captures and tones from The Wizard of Oz adventure. Fugitive Dreams is based on the play of the same name by Caridad Svich. Director Jason Neulander takes the helm of producing Fugitive Dreams that weaves a wandering tale of homelessness, addiction and mental illness in a dream-like depiction of rural parts of America.

Fugitive Dreams opens and centers heavily on Mary (April Matthis) who is wandering through empty fields, aimlessly walking towards a city limits sign, which is actually middle of nowhere with no signs of habitation anywhere else, before finding refuge in an abandoned petrol station bathroom. She is later about to press down when John (Robbie Tann) bursts in and shocks her from the moment of self-harm.

Under Neulander’s direction, the film is shot in black and white and this gives Mary and John’s travels a stark beauty, a clear juxtaposition that allows the anyone who watches this film, mainly some, to truly capture some extraordinary, yet stunning images of the empty American countryside, giving some historical references from the segregation era due to the settings and the tones of the film for that accuracy. Though as the film progresses midway, colour of the scenes have been switched to return to the modern world that looks like the setting takes place in the present day, which lost its beauty and narrative for the film’s structure integrity.

April Matthis and Robbie Tann played as Mary and John, the two homeless folks who are in desperate need of finding shelter somewhere in the countryside in America. Also appearing are Scott Shepherd and O-Lan Jones who played the mother-and-son duo of Israfel and Providence in the film, supporting the main two actors onscreen.

As the film deeply explores the beauty and the naturalness of the characters and the settings, the scenes in the colour world (parts of the second half of the film) did not capture the blink of the eye for the gloriousness for how the film will find their way to beautyness, much to the film’s detriment. The colour scenes really lost their flavor on how the story aims for the decent storytelling and for the reasonable plotlines which nearly felt that the director is very off-topic to make the film itself to be more compatible to any road-trip movies anyone has ever watched. But on the bright side, the plot and the main focus on Mary and John really adds a nice touch for their chemistry, which is part of the film’s climax.

On the side note, Fugitive Dreams is a fascinating 95-minute feature presentation. It may or not be as enjoyable as any other balck-and-white drama, road trip movies. but I say this film is a really interesting story to tell that fights and flies beneath the surface. This film is a must for any first timers out there.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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The Witches

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures/HBO

Review: HBO’s The Witches


Originally tended to be released in theaters, Warner Bros. and HBO have officially decided to release this film digitally on television through the latter's own streaming system called HBO Max. Based on Ronald Dahl's book released in 1983, The Witches serves as the second full-length feature film to be adapted from that book, the first was that classic cult released in 1990 with Anjelica Huston starring in it. Famed director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) returns to the director’s chair to produce this dark, comedy film on HBO Max. The film features the stars of Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, and Stanley Tucci, with Chris Rock narrating the film.

The film talks about an imaginative tale of a seven year old boy who lives with his grandmother and has a run in with some real life witches, including the Grand High Witch, at the hotel just before he was turned into a mouse. He later overhears the witches' plan to turn children into rodents and it is up to him to foil their evil schemes.

Anne Hathaway portrays the Grand High Witch, the main witch who is responsible for turning children into animals, while Jahzir Kadeem Bruno plays as a young boy, the main protagonist of the film, who is turned into a mouse by the Grand High Witch while comedian Chris Rock does the voiceover for Bruno’s character and primarily serves as the film’s narrator. In addition, Octavia Spencer appears as the supportive grandmother to the young boy whilst Stanley Tucci came into the scene as the hotel’s manager named Mr. Stringer. And lastly, Kristin Chenoweth also appears as the voice of Daisy, another mouse who was once a human girl named Mary who was turned into a mouse by the witches before the film takes place.

Utilizing his experiences from his directing duties in 1992’s Death Becomes Her and 2007’s Beowulf, Zemeckis and his team have used a bucket load of CGI on the mice Hathaway’s character, with the addition of special effects that are mainly focused and aimed on Hathaway entirely throughout the film. Not only, he and the crew have guided Hathaway’s onscreen performance throughout the film, but also gave Spencer’s and Bruno’s character a fine mother-and-son relationship chemistry in order to give the film some much needed lovable amusement for the audiences regardless of the genre.

Though, there've been some downfalls on the film where Zemeckis and the filmmakers overdid compared to his (Zemeckis’) own films, predominantly his recent films. He has taken deep advantages in focusing on two things: the scrawny CGI effects and unglamourous Cats-style visual effects. Those two things really bring up the much more scarier tone like the classic one dated back in 1990. Even when the crew have planted a subtle plot and the lazy script-writing, turns out it wasn’t as imaginable as ever like how Ronald Dahl would want when his books got made into films. Not only that, but the mice and witches scenes are the most frustrating things to watch because it feels like it could've been made by somebody else, though Hathaway and Spencer’s performance are pretty flawless to follow, which makes the film too enjoyable to watch.

In conclusion, The Witches is a god-awful, disappointing 104-minute movie. I honestly don’t know why they chose to remake the first one which was great and all for both critics and audiences. I feel like the special effects are just too much and have taken over the movie compared to that junky, musical Cats film released in 2019. I hate to say this, but don't watch this and don’t waste your time on this one... enjoy the first one again instead.

GRADE: F

(Review by Henry Pham)









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