Dallas Movie Screening

Dallas Movie Screenings started out as a mailing list on Yahoo Groups to facilitate finding free screening passes in the DFW area. When Yahoo Groups shut down, we are now posting screenings on our Facebook page at http://www..facebook.com/groups/dallasmoviescreenings
Earlier Reesa's Reviews can also be found at:http://www.moviegeekfeed.com

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

Website and Group Contact: dalscreenings@gmail.com

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

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

It isn’t even remotely clear what Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is. The film comes from veteran sibling documentarians Bill (IV) and Turner Ross, and it depicts the final operational night of a Las Vegas dive bar, as patrons and at least two members of staff gather to commemorate it, commiserate about their shared experiences, and drink away the night of the 2016 election. It should be noted that the said pending election barely factors into the proceedings here, and even though there is a television in the place, it’s always tuned into something else (sometimes to the point of self-parody). Nevertheless, one truth gotten to by the Rosses is the sense of casual anxiety about what is to come. Everyone present has feelings about it, and only a handful actually voice those feelings.

It wouldn’t matter to the Rosses anyway, because this is no ordinary documentary. Sometimes they keep their camera on the subject who is talking. At other times, they focus their camera on someone else, if that other person is behaving in a more interesting way than the speaker. Even other times, the directors keep going back to that television screen, on which might be a cruise ship advertisement or the regularly scheduled news or an episode of a soap opera or even, in a truly amazing moment, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (just as the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” plays on the overhead speaker in the bar, which is every bit as strange and amusing a juxtaposition as it sounds).

As for those subjects, they are, indeed, a motley bunch. There are the two bartenders, Marc and Shay. The former is something of a musician, serenading the bar, called the Roaring 20’s Cocktail Lounge, whenever he feels like he has music to share (and watching out for the binge drinkers of the group, such as one man who really needs to be at work right now). The latter, having been given the night shift, has more of a hardline approach to what happens in her bar (and an eye on her teenage son, who hangs with friends outside talking about how much plutonium is necessary to affect the balance of the earth). Present all day in the bar is faithful customer Michael, once a promising actor who failed and then became an alcoholic (At least it was in that order, he opines).

There is Bruce, a veteran suffering from deep-seated posttraumatic stress from his time in the Vietnam War, who believes that the current election will end in a truncated Presidency – either by impeachment or assassination. There is Pam, who arrives to belch freely, to flash her fellow patrons, to mourn the loss of her husband, and to wish a fellow patron, who lost his son, the best of luck in life. There are others here, too, all of them memorable characters who have seen better days than the one that has them gathering, on the last night the 20’s will be open, to celebrate their time together over many years. The film just has one catch: Most of it was staged by the Rosses.

The bar is located in New Orleans, and it is still in service – or was, at least, at the time of filming, though it is depressing to think of what its patronage looks like during the current crisis. The “subjects” of the story are all professional actors of some sort: Michael is Michael Martin, who has had more than a dozen roles professionally within the last 20 years, and Shay is Shay Walker, who recently appeared in Benh Zeitlin’s Wendy (These are only two examples, and even though I cannot really find evidence of it, Bruce and Pam both look vaguely familiar to these eyes). One would have to assume, with the involvement of professional actors playing patrons of a dying bar, itself played by a still-operating one, that the events are fictional. The question is whether that matters at all.

It will to some who prefer binary, explicable, and purist definitions of “narrative” and “documentary.” These things may not be happening in the moment, but it doesn’t mean that they have never happened in some other dive bar that was really closing, coincidentally on the night when this movie takes place. These conversations may have been workshopped, rehearsed, and delivered under controlled circumstances, but their naturalism, easygoing flow, and on-the-fly bouquet would simply mean that the actors are truly gifted at pulling off what the Rosses asked of them. These ideas might have been born, not out of the wild imaginations of its subject, but from the minds of its makers.

That doesn’t make them any less profound, timely, urgent, and warmly, distinctively human. The cumulative impact of Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is enormous – particularly after a second viewing that calls more attention to the seams of its fictional bearings and, thus, more attention to the Rosses’ management of tone, performance, and even smaller things like the astonishing soundtrack that covers the range of old favorites to current chart-toppers. Honestly, a review would only do certain justice to the pleasures of this deeply unusual and instantly unforgettable work that mixes sociological essay, improvisational drama, absolute realism, and touches of magic here and there. I haven’t seen anything like it, and you won’t have seen anything like it, either.
(Review by Joel Copling)

Bookmark and Share

Rebuilding Paradise

Director: Ron Howard Studio: National Geographic Films

Review: Rebuilding Paradise

The film was originally slated to be released during the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, but it was heavily cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Though, the film did have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer, under their own production company Imagine Entertainment, decided to step up their game to craft a subtle documentary film that deeply explains the real-life stories and the events of the 2018 California wildfires being occurred in Paradise, California.

Throughout the film, Howard has assembled his team to search for stories from the victims of the 2018 wildfires in parts of California, including the little town called Paradise, CA. They have put all the edits, interviews, and footages of the events before and after the wildfire into one 90-minute featurette that impacted the lives and experiences of the people who oversaw the fiery hazards in parts of the forest regions of Paradise.

Compared to any environmental documentaries, both film and television, Howard knows how wildfires became the center of humanity concerns to those who have studied the weather hazards affecting the community and the life-threatening causes that have torn the town and people’s hearts apart from the public. Howard’s team, the town’s community, and the firefighting departments understand how people need to survive the whole mess to rebuild the town and their homes in order to keep everyone safe and healthy afterwards.

Though, the only thing that is missing from the documentary feature is the narration for this subtle story that didn’t explain the details, the tragedy, the calamity, and the reasons why the wildfires are responsible for putting the town in danger. Though, it’s not some cold-eye feature film, it’s just how the film brings the concerns to several parts of the country in regards of the fiery hazards, similar like the Tornado Alley, Hurricane Katrina, and other dangerous weathery parts of the world that threaten the people and the cities nearby. And also, the COVID-19 pandemic which gives the similar structure to the film itself.

Also appearing in the film, at one point, is the fabled activist Erin Brockovich who shows up to assist the people in helping the town to its rightful glory during the town’s meetings about rebuilding Paradise.

Rebuilding Paradise is a good documentary 90-minute film. Ron Howard really knows the ways of putting everything together in one big, wonderous show-and-tell session that is good for not only the audiences, but also great for firefighters, police officers, teachers, and the environmental communities around the city and state. I got to say, this feature looks pretty interesting and very sentimental to watch when you’re studying the weathery, catastrophic events happening to the public that hold their breath into the fresh air. Just watch it and you’ll be shockingly amused and filled with environmental concerns on how the film brings the charity support for the people in Paradise.

(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share

The Rental

(Review by Chase Lee)

Bookmark and Share


(Review by Chase Lee)

Bookmark and Share

Friday, July 17, 2020

Blessed Child

*** (out of ****)

The question of objectivity for a documentarian is dismissed almost immediately in Blessed Child, a brief but affecting account of a young woman’s escape from the cult that, in part, was responsible for her being on this earth. The cult in question is the Unification Church, created in 1954 by Moon Sun Myung, a Korean-born Christian convert. The story goes that Moon was visited by Jesus, who asked the young man (16 at the time) to finish the work he left upon crucifixion. That meant, of course, that Moon was to gather followers en masse. The group marriages, sometimes unifying pairs of people by the dozens, came later on. That’s where director Cara Jones’ story begins.

It means that this documentary is the definition of personal, and there are times when the movie reminds of a therapy in the way Jones directly confronts her troubled past, whether through interviews or visiting the church while a wedding takes place. Jones never anticipated that she would find herself in the position depicted in the film’s framing device. Years after her own marriage fell apart, she is taking measures to ensure that having a family is not out of her grasp – freezing eggs until she settle down with the right partner. The rest of Jones’ movie is devoted to telling her story, as well as that of the church, in three parts. This isn’t the most adventurous route, but it does pay dividends.

When it comes to the church itself, that story makes up the film’s second segment, and if there is one shortcoming in this documentary, it’s that Jones doesn’t go much further than detailing what the first paragraph review already did. The extra tidbits touch upon the church’s move to Tarrytown, New York, and Moon’s various scandals, from a tax fraud case to infidelity. Nothing of real insight comes from this part of the film, though that might be because of Jones’ real intentions. Much more important to the director and us is the story of how her family – father Farley, mother Betsy, and brothers Bow, Matt, Harvet, and Farley Jr. (those latter two not featured in the documentary in any meaningful way) – came to be in the church.

The answer to that lies with her father, who had survived a childhood of increasing disappointment and fallen in with the church’s theology. Moon was a father figure to him when he had no other people, and one of the many complicated and uncomfortable truths confronted by Jones in this documentary is the fact that her parents are still members of the church. That is especially complicated when it comes to Bow, the director’s brother, who realized early in life that he was gay. Sexuality that deviated in any direction from a traditional view was (and still is) firmly outlawed, and so Bow’s only recourse was to attend a conversion therapy event hosted by the church. He remains unhappy with his lot.

We also learn about how Jones herself became disillusioned with the church. It was around the time of her first marriage, which happened early enough that she went from the ceremony to college. Her then-husband, meanwhile, went off to do ministry work for the church, much like Betsy was absent for the first two years of her daughter’s life. This left the young newlywed to a college experience that followed years with no socialization at all. It led to parties and infidelity of her own, and by the time the scandals surrounding “Reverend Moon” (as he was known by family and followers) were unveiled, the prospect of remaining was, by then, unrealistic and toxic.

Jones recounts all this in only 73 minutes – minus credits – which means that she must cut to the quick with efficiency and without wasted time. It does mean that much of the record feels rushed and a bit underdeveloped as a historical account, which is not insignificant when it comes to analyzing this film as a document. Where it overcomes that disappointment, though – as well as its rudimentary style and approach – is in its status as an emotional release for Jones herself. That’s where Blessed Child gets its power. Jones has left that life behind, but she still has ties – personal and familial – to a controversial and phenomenally awkward past. Some of those are going to be impossible to sever.
(Review by Joel Copling)

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Painted Bird

(Review by Chase Lee)

Bookmark and Share

Dirt Music

(Review by Chase Lee)

Bookmark and Share

Day 13

Director: Jax Medel Studio: Breaking Glass Pictures

Review: Day 13

My mind has a huge distaste of horror films, but this one is just safe for my soul when it comes to seeing horror and thriller films compared to any film that became a cultural phenomenon. Here, we have the Indie filmmaker Jax Medel who steps up to his game to helm this defying film that captures the familaring Hitchcock’s Rear Window stigma on the digital screen at home. The film stars Alex MacNicoll (Amazon Original’s Transparent, The 5th Wave) as Colten who looks out for his younger sister, Rachel (portrayed by Meyrick Murphy, Kubo and the Two Strings), and G. Hannelius (Disney Channel's Good Luck Charlie, Dog with the Blog) as his new neighbor Heather who moves across the street from him.

The film starts when the boy named Colten whose main task is to look after his sister while their mother is out of town. He suddenly comes across a man and his daughter named Heather who moves into the house across the street from his house. Later in the middle of the night, Colten increasingly grows suspicious when he witnesses Heather’s father attempt to harm her inside their house.

Upon reviewing the film’s scenes, my main take is that Medel’s direction has a soft spot on directing an ordinary feature film. His directing ways really put the focal points on the three main characters (Colten, Heather, and Rachel). The main focal point on them really gives a nice, steady touch that gives both the filmmakers and the audience at home to rehash the old Hitchcock’s suspense to study and delicately smell the wonders of the movie-thrilling ride to Promised Land. Though one of my main troubles are the gritty lazy-writings from Dan Gannon and Walter Goldwalter that don't sound too extraordinary for the film’s plot and the main characters. The other one is that scary, horrifying CGI-emerging ending that threw me off, leaving a strange, confused cliffhanger for both Colten’s character and the entire film itself. And lastly, going from an opposite direction, the music from Evan Goldman is what satisfies the film for its background to give it more depth and distinct flavor for an upscale horror film, poking fun at Hitchcock's and M. Night Shyamalan’s works.

Also starring in the film are Darlene Vogel (Back to the Future Part II), Jonathan Ohye, JT Palmer, and Martin Kove who portrays Heather's abusive father.

Although it’s not a great movie by any means, Day 13 is an ok-movie, if not worse. Day 13 does an adequate job of keeping the viewer entertained for a brief powerful spell just like any regular “Friday the 13th” films that fit the genre. The director really did it. Even those three actors (MacNicoll, Murphy, and Hannelius) are fun to watch onscreen.

(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share

My Spy

This one was slated for release last year but it flew under the radar finally premiering on Amazon Prime this past summer. Dave Bautista of “Guardians of the Galaxy” fame is a C.I.A. agent who ends up in a slight quandy when Sophie, (Chloe Coleman) a 9 year-old girl finds their undercover work in a minor pickle.

In order to save their assignment, both JJ (Bautista) and Kristine Schaal’s Bobbi have to play along in their adventure.

“My Spy” works because the director, Peter Segal knows what goes into great comic timing.

He helmed the mediocre boxing flick “Grudge Match” with Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro in 2013. It was not a great movie per se, but it showed Stallone’s ability to be alongside one of the greatest actors alive today. He also helmed one of the better Adam Sandler films to come our of the past 20-plus years with “50 First Dates” (2004), in which he re-teamed with his co-star from “The Wedding Singer,” Drew Barrymore.

This movie also delves into and touches on the bully crisis that has been running rampant in today’s American culture as well. A couple of over exaggerated street toughs mess around with Sophie in a couple of scenes, but they eventually get what’s coming to them.

Like 2019’s disappointment that was “Stuber” Bautista looks like he is having fun with the so-so script that actually works at times. He shares some great chemistry with the pint-sized Coleman who knows how to delve out the banter at the appropriate time.

Another amusing sequence involves an over excited JJ cutting a few rugs on the dance floor and Bobbi comments they looked like “Shrek” on the dance floor.

What is also amusing is the fact that Bautista looks very uncomfortable wearing a suit. I think back to “Raw Deal,” a 1980s actioner in which Arnold Schwarzenegger went deep undercover fighting the Chicago mob. He looked absolutely ridiculous.

To be quite honest, I actually left with an amusing chuckle and thought that this wasn’t all bad.

Grade: B-
(Review by Ricky Miller)

Bookmark and Share

Friday, July 10, 2020


(Review by Chase Lee)

Bookmark and Share

Money Plane

** (out of ****)

Here is a reminder that the terms “good” and “enjoyable” are not mutually exclusive. For a movie to be good, there needs to be some degree of convicted courage, filmmaking vision, and story competence. Even in the event that a movie’s maker doesn’t have the resources to pull off a flawless production, those three things can be present, resulting in a movie that is worth the price of admission. Money Plane certainly has the storytelling down, with screenwriters Andrew Lawrence (who also directed) and Tim Schaaf paring down every bit of excess that could possibly distract from the central premise. Even if Lawrence doesn’t have the resources or clarity of vision to make the end result work, stripped-down plotting is not nothing. That’s where the requirement to be “enjoyable” comes in.

In order to be enjoyable, the filmmakers must, at the very least, provide a premise with some kind of imagination, performances that chew the scenery, and an energy level that doesn’t let those two things down. This film, then, lies within that weird, grey area between being “good,” which it isn’t in any particularly compelling way, and being “enjoyable,” which it manages to be in spite of its shortcomings. This movie has one goal: to provide a starring vehicle for Adam Copeland, the professional wrestling star known as Edge, who gets to play the burly good guy who beats up the bad guys while unveiling the identity of the person actually behind all those bad guys. Every single answer to every question that one might have is blatantly obvious, although that mostly doesn’t matter to Lawrence.

What matters a little more to the director are two things: a commitment to a certain tone and, well, an equally strong commitment to formula. That second thing takes ultimate priority, to the film’s detriment. The plot opens with Copeland’s Jack Reese – accompanied by a team that also includes tech-savvy Trey (Patrick Lamont Jr.), fellow enforcer Isabella (Katrina Norman), and getaway driver Iggy (played by the director) – hired to steal a $40-million painting for a major crime boss/mogul of some sort known as “The Rumble” (Kelsey Grammer, clearly having a bit of fun here). The mission falls through when the painting is missing from the location of the heist, and the infuriated crime lord offers Reese an alternate solution: rob a “money plane” to retrieve his sum, with interest added.

The eponymous aircraft, on which guests gamble on odds involving deadly situations, is the setting and reason for the movie’s existence. Even if Lawrence doesn’t quite make good use of the plane, he and Schaaf fill it with oddballs, the oddest being the craft’s dead-eyed, psychopathic supervising concierge and a cowboy far too confident in his Russian roulette skills (The director, a once-major Disney Channel star, casts his older brothers Joey and Matthew as these two respectively, and both do quite nicely in roles we never would have pictured previously). The gambling gimmick, though, adds a layer of cruelty over a movie that needed even more of the personality added by its strange players, and there is also a lot of unintentional humor in watching Copeland pretend to fly a plane.

In other words, the movie sets up a lot of promising material that it never quite follows through on, perhaps because the screenwriters are so focused on the simplicity of the premise that they forget even to provide a twist that is genuinely surprising. There is no real mystery about who is truly behind all this, so Lawrence relies on the few scenes of actual hand-to-hand combat given to Copeland, a couple of mild shootouts, and the involvement of a few recognizable supporting actors in completely thankless roles (namely, Denise Richards as Reese’s wife and Thomas Jane as a crucial ally). Money Plane is ultimately wasteful of the opportunities for entertainment that it presents. So, is it good? No, not really. The movie certainly has its moments, though.
(Review by Joel Copling)

Bookmark and Share

First Cow

Based on his novel “The Half-Life”, author/screenwriter Jon Raymond collaborated with director/screenwriter Kelly Reichardt to explore another Pacific Northwest tale after her work on Meek's Cutoff and Old Joy. Set in the early 1800's way before Oregon was a state, the film is drenched in the thick rain and woods with the quiet desperation of humanity trying to eek out survival. Its a slow deliberate film that will stay with you long after the credits end.

The movie opens in present day when a young woman searching for mushrooms comes across something revealed in the ground discovered by her dog. It's the bones of two people lying close to each other as if trying to keep warm. Flashback to the story of the bones with Cookie Figowitz (John Magaro) a timid gentle man who is traveling with a rough bunch of feuding men looking for work. He keeps his precarious position among them by cooking. While gathering herbs and mushrooms, he finds an Asian man hiding in the thick brush, naked and shivering. Cookie offers him food and warmth. The man is being chased. He watches as the man escapes across the waterway. Later Cookie's traveling companions go their own way leaving him on his own. At the nearest settlement he looks for whatever job he can do and builds a makeshift shelter Then one day he comes upon the Asian man, King Lu (Orion Lee), dressed well and offers Cookie shelter and food.

King Lu and Cookie also find companionship as they fish and build on the tiny shelter. Cookie sweeps it out, adds flowers, making the best of what little that is there. King was a sailor from China and got in trouble with some Russians. Cookie was an indentured servant who spent some time learning some bakery skills. The the local English factor (Toby Jones) is married to a Native woman (Lily Gladstone) and they live in the only real house in the town. It's a big event when he imports the first cow in the territory. Cookie tells his friend of these fried cakes he used to make with milk. King Lu, ever the man looking for opportunity, plans to have Cookie milk the Chief's cow while everyone is sleeping while he keeps watch from a tree. The cakes are so good they decide to sell them in town for whatever the going currency being coins, shells or trade. Their "oily cakes" are an immediate success and everything they make is sold out quickly. The Chief tastes the cakes and it reminds him of home and invites Cookie to come to his house.

Needless to say the situation with the cow is bound to be discovered and it puts the two friends in a pickle. Cookie had been wanting to just take their earnings to head San Francisco, but King Lu wanted to keep milking that cow until they had enough to travel in style. Both wanting and needing something that neither could ever dream of attaining but still trying to hang on to that hope as long as they can. The unlikely friendship between King Lu and Cookie fills the unspoken moments of their daily struggles and ultimate dilemma. The ending is left open for you to fill in the blanks. Just one of the many reasons why you will think about this movie for sometime later.

A24 hopes to have First Cow for award consideration and while it's an usual choice it could be a contender. First Cow is set to open at the Grand Berry Theater in Fort Worth (pandemic willing) and on Amazon Prime on July 10.
(Review by reesa)

Bookmark and Share

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Truth

**½ (out of ****)

The Truth represents Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s take on the type of family drama we are more accustomed to seeing from French filmmakers. It involves an upper-class family (in part, a French one, bolstering that expectation), long-held secrets, and boiling resentments, leading to a climax in which most, if not all, of these things come to an explosive, melodramatic head. In the fashion typical for Kore-eda, though, everything about the film – up to and including the eponymous revelation – is dialed back from a ten to roughly an eight on that scale of melodrama. This is a welcome choice, as the details of the story (written by the director) are far from subtle. What doesn’t help is Kore-eda’s insistence upon simplifying every thematic concern with a tidy conversation.

Of central concern is Fabienne Dangeville, a legendary actress who has recently become resigned to the twilight era of her career. She once won the highest honor a leading actress can received from the French Academy, and now, she is preparing for a major role in a time-twisting sci-fi blockbuster that she admits “won’t be a great film” (which, of course, is the equivalent of saying she thinks it’s going to be pretty bad). Fabienne is played by Catherine Deneuve, a legend in her own right with a career that spans all the way back to the French New Wave. Furthermore, Kore-eda pairs the veteran with Juliette Binoche (a legend-in-the-making in her own right) as Fabienne’s semi-estranged daughter Lumir, a screenwriter now working in Hollywood.

If this isn’t enough of a casting coup, the director pairs two great actresses with Ethan Hawke, among the best of a certain generation of American performers, as Lumir’s actor husband Hank. The pair have arrived, along with their daughter Charlotte (ClĂ©mentine Grenier), in the aftermath of a tell-all autobiography penned (in part) by Fabienne, opening the door on a life that was riddled with scandals on and off the sets of her various movies, and on the eve of shooting the big-budget production, whose star Manon Lenoir (Manon Clavel) is open about having been influenced directly by Fabienne. Lumir has every reason to believe that the book is pure bunk, not least because of the return of her even-more-estranged father Pierre (Roger Van Hool), whom Fabienne claims to be dead in the book.

The concept of Fabienne’s struggles with telling the truth is central to Kore-eda’s screenplay, and to the film’s credit, it doesn’t push this point too hard. Loud arguments and quick cutting would be death to this story of half measures and whispered lies and intentional evasion. In that sense, the actors complement the material entirely: Deneuve is superbly indifferent before deeper shades reveal themselves. Binoche communicates a lot of pent-up strain. Hawke is solid at portraying a man who wonders what he’s doing here and why he’s been on the wagon for so long, and for her part, Grenier is a complete natural, playing a precocious child without coming across as precocious herself.

Eventually, the melodrama gets the better of Kore-eda, though, even as the treatment hints at something more nuanced and considerate. The details of the movie’s plot begin to merge with the thematic content of the movie-within-the-movie being made by Fabienne, which concerns the building relationship between mother and daughter as they move through time and space. This layer of commentary is one too many for the director, who does not seem to trust the integrity of his characters’ development enough for these issues to evolve naturally. The Truth unfortunately represents a minor work from Kore-eda. It begins as a thoughtful rumination on family, and it moves forward with familiar ideas about how to deal with the emotional upheaval of simple, decent honesty.
(Review by Joel Copling)

Bookmark and Share