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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Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Wretched






THE WRETCHED
*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)





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Bad Boys for Life





“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.

Grade: B-

(Review by Ricky Miller)


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The Wretched







(Review by Chase Lee)





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Bad Education





“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.

Grade: B+
(Review by Ricky Miller)




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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Selah and the Spades





SELAH & THE SPADES
***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)





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Trolls World Tour









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.


GRADE: D+
(Review by Henry Pham)




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Selah and the Spades








(Review by Chase Lee)



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Frozen 2






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.

Grade: B-
(Review by Ricky Miller)






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Friday, April 3, 2020

Never Rarely Sometimes Always






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!


GRADE: A
(Review by Henry Pham)



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Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Hunt






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.

Grade: C+
(Review by Ricky Miller)




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The Other Lamb







(Review by Chase Lee)





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