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

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Website and Group Contact: dalscreenings@gmail.com

Friday, September 17, 2021

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Director: Jonathan Butterell

Studio:Amazon Studios

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a dazzling musical journey the audience will never forget!

There are times that people love and want to pursue their careers, some don’t, but it doesn't mean you have to choose which one fits your style. Sometimes, there’s plenty of options to choose from. There’s always a career for you and your little heart desires. This biographical-musical drama flick is based on the Broadway musical written by Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae, the latter of whom also wrote the lyrics to this musical and contributed the film as a screenwriter. Having been directed by Jonathan Butterell, the film features main leading actor Max Harwood, alongside Sarah Lancashire, Lauren Patel, and Richard E. Grant in their supporting roles.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie follows a teenager named Jamie New whose secret career ambition is to become a fierce and proud drag queen. His best friend Pritti and his loving mother shower him with endless support, while local drag legend Miss Loco Chanelle mentors him. But the main problem is that Jamie also has to contend with some unsupportive people, including his estranged father, who wanted to ruin his dreams. With such rousing and colourful musical numbers being displayed, Jamie and his community inspire one another on how to overcome prejudice, understand the power of acceptance, and learn how to step out of the darkness.

This film serves as Jonathan Butterell’s directorial debut. A little known fact is he’s an English choreographer and stage director with his professional working-history in the West End, on Broadway, and Off-Broadway mainstreams. His onstage directing experiences from time to time lead him to direct Everybody's Talking About Jamie under the writers and the producers’ supervision. He certainly knows working a motion picture can be difficult and classy, but his onstage directorial leadership would help him achieve his own way of making musical movies.

Actor Max Harwood portrays his main role as Jamie New, a sixteen-year-old teenager who wants to be a sensational drag queen, while actress Lauren Patel joins the spotlight as Jaime’s best friend Pritti Pasha. This is Max Harwood’s acting debut in a Hollywood feature film. Harwood simply gives it all on best acting skills when it comes to portraying a drag queen character. Harwood knows This chemistry between Harwood and Patel (as Jamie and Pritti) has furtherly backed up the cultural, central theme that anyone can be completely different to each other but still have strong and supportive relationships like real friendships would purposely define.

The performances from English actors Sarah Lancashire (Coronation Street) and Richard E. Grant (Logan, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) are very wonderful and heartwarming. Lancanshire portrays her role as Jamie’s supportive mother while Grant steals the spotlight as Jamie’s mentor Miss Loco Chanelle. They both displayed real courage and real-deal family support towards the main character as they always do what they really love to do: accepting, helping, and loving someone. That’s the main task Lancashire and Grant are willing to do under Butterell’s direction and for the sake of the film’s plot.

This musical is highly comparable to Lin-Maneul Miranda’s In the Heights. The choreography and the music are incredibly beautiful, thanks to Butterell’s screen captive direction. The actors in the film are so talented, bringing the life, the color, and the raw energy that are highly unmistakable for the film’s depth and tone. The film’s storyline looks very modern, and gloriously bright, when explaining current issues about social acceptances and messages regarding LGBQT. And the story is well-written and relevant: it is mainly about loving and being who you are, no matter what. Similar to what Mister Rogers would always say, “I like you just the way you are.” This deep-telling message really resonates with our society nowadays, especially present days.

Also appearing in the film are Ralph Ineson (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter films) as Jamie’s estranged and unsupportive father, Samuel Bottomley (CBBC’s Rocket's Island) as one of Jamie’s school bullies, Sharon Hogan (HBO’s Divorce) as instructor and uninspired career advisor Miss Hedge, Shobna Gulati (Loose Women) as Margaret's close friend Ray, and Adeel Akhtar as the school principal Iman Masood.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie is a great two-hour musical movie, if not better. The direction, the cast, the choreography, and the musical numbers have really excelled in every direction and in every scenery. I’m not kidding, this musical film is deeply a must for all. I would give the director, Max Harwood, and Lauren Patel two thumb-ups on their respective roles and duties. This may be one of the greatest musicals anyone ever seen in one’s own viewing pleasures, maybe Oscar worthy to add to that subject. If you’re planning on selecting any film, this film is a ticket worth your time and money just like In the Heights film. If you have the chance, you should go and watch this film, like right now. Period!


(Review by Henry Pham)

Audio from the interview of Everybody's Talking about Jamie by Henry Pham

August 16th, 2021 which is a Monday at Adolphus Hotel in Downtown Dallas at 300pm. The director is Jonathan Butterell plus two actors Max Harwood and Lauren Patel.

Part 1

Part 2

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Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Alpinist

Director: Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen

Studio:Roadside Attractions/Universal Pictures

Review: The Alpinist

The Alpinist, is just a fun, documentary flick despite having a PG-13 rating on their hands. No Earth-shattering dynamics, just a good time watching a story about a man who wants to fulfil their dream based on what their heart desires. It is a similar experience teaching people to go and do great things regardless of who they are, they still have a bright dream and future as they overcome their fears and problems to inspire many people. Having been directed by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen, the film will also include some interviews from Marc-André’s family and friends, explaining about their relationships with him, his climbing routes, and his perseverance and struggles.

The Alpinist follows the story of a young, free-spirited 23-year-old climber Marc-André Leclerc who makes his way to some of the boldest solo ascents in history. Because of this, he draws scant attention. Though the problem for the shy climber right there is that he doesn’t have a phone or a car for his climbing solo outings. With no technologies, ropes, or any necessaries on hand for his climbing goal, Leclerc's approach becomes the essence of his solo adventure.

The main directors in the film are Peter Mortimer and Nick Rose. Mortimer and his filming crew filmed and shot some scenes for Marc-André’s climbing journeys somewhere in Canada, even with or without Marc-André’s approval. Mortimer’s experience of filming Marc-André’s high climbing seems to be difficult as the process of filming someone climbing is considered a risky and dangerous move for one’s safety and extracts many concerns for future mountain climbers and eskimos. Of course, this is a documentary movie, but it’s also filled with nervousing-intense images for anyone who wants to conquer that goal. Filming all over the mountains and heights may be a steadiest pace and chore task, but Mortimer and his documentary crew want to make this film a simple good documentary under Marc-André’s wishes himself.

The Alpinist is a good 90-minute documentary. It really sets the stage on how any average documentary films about how a person can fulfill their ultimate goal and how one has touched other people's lives. A goal is centrally what the main characters or real-life people should aim for. That is what the audience and movie-reviewing members pay to see, read, and listen. You should give this a go. The director and the crew out done it. It is kind of a nudge and a wink-of-the-eye to the audience since, if all goes well. Who knows, maybe this might be your last meal before you go out hiking and climbing. And if you think about it, take those words “anything is possible” for your own take on films and your future.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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The Card Counter

Director: Paul Schrader

Studio:Focus Features

The Card Counter is an easy win-win.

Gambling and poker films are extremely hardcore, especially for sports fans out there who loves watching sports on national television and playing games at home or elsewhere. Director and writer Paul Schrader sits in front of a poker table as director while his frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese serves as executive producer of the film. The film features the camera-focusing quartets of Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, and Willem Dafoe.

The Card Counter focuses on William Tell, a military-serviceman-turned-gambler who was haunted by his dark past and sets out to reform a young man seeking revenge on a mutual enemy Major John Gordo from their past. As he wanted to focus on playing cards, his existence that lies on the casino trail is shattered to pieces when he is approached by Cirk, a young, vulnerable detective who seeks assistance to execute his plan for revenge on a military colonel.

Golden Globe nominated-actor Oscar Isaac (Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis) calls the front poker booth as main character William Tell, a former military interrogator who is now a professional gambler, while Tiffany Haddish (The Carmichael Show) steals the spotlight as La Linda. As an actor in this poker film, Isaac keeps his eyes open as William Tell for any luck and chances that come and go, especially when he turns his head towards something he encounters, like his dark past and his onscreen glorifying chemistry with Haddish’s La Linda that puts his test of love and redemption while setting his poker skills aside. This is what makes the movie interesting to see thanks to Isaac and Haddish as they both know what to do when acting in crime films and drama films, even adding some comedy in the background.

Paul Schrader is the sole director of the film. He’s been in the movie business since he frequently works closely with Martin Scorsese as a fellow writer and producer. His Scorsese-collaborated films include Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Bringing Out the Dead. He also directed his own, such as Blue Collar, Affliction (also featured Willem Dafoe), and First Reformed, the latter of which got him nominated for Best Original Screenplay Oscar, his first Oscar nomination in his career.

As director, while Schrader pays much attention to Oscar Isaac winning poker in the poker series, he keeps the cast going from shooting fun-filled casino scenes and games to supplementing darker, brutal images in the prison center displayed in the film with a side of disturbing contents flowing through space. Schrader captures on how any film or scene that can be as horrifyingly-violent or visual-graphically brutal as if he treats this film not only as a crime-drama film, but also as a gangster-mystery movie to define its own Martin Scorsese glory. It’s a skill he, as an aspiring filmmaker, majorly took heavily influence on while directing and producing films on-and-off.

Actor Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One) tags along with Isacc and Haddish as Cirk, a mysterious young man who oversees Tell’s poker-playing talents while actor Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Finding Nemo) plays his small, but major role as Major John Gordo, a corrupted military leader and a hidden antagonist in the film despite having some small screen time from beginning to end.

I hate to admit it, I’m not a huge fan of Paul Schrader nor Martin Scorsese when it comes to loving movies and studying about them, but The Card Counter is good, maybe not the best, just an interesting movie in that matter, clocking in at 113 minutes. It’s an enjoyable piece for adults only, possibly for poker players and poker fans out there. My main advice is, someday, when you play your cards right, you will definitely get a good kick out of this film. The director and the four main cast did a terrific job, though I really wish Dafoe would get more camera-playing focus just to have more information about his character. Nevertheless, this is a film you should watch, but I highly recommend that you need to proceed with caution when selecting this flick.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Small Engine Repair

“Small Engine Repair” is the type of movie that works best when the viewer goes in completely blind. I almost managed to pull this off and really wish I had (the movie’s trailer kind of spoils things). Writer/director/star John Pollono’s film, based on his stage play, is about the relationship between three childhood friends – Frank (Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) – now adults who have further bonded over the raising of Frank’s daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo).

The film begins with Frank getting out of prison and going to pick up his young daughter (Nina Peterson) from his pals. It’s obviously been some time since Crystal has seen her father because she is reluctant to leave the caring arms of Swaino when her father arrives. But, this isn’t a movie about a father attempting to win back his daughter’s affections. This opening serves to start building the characters’ history and spell out Frank’s troubled past.

Jumping forward, Crystal is now a senior in high school (played throughout the rest of the movie by Bravo) living with her father. Her mother, Karen (Jordana Spiro), is still in the picture, but the relationship seems strained. While Karen takes Crystal Christmas shopping, Frank and his friends go to a bar. At the bar, Swaino and Packie get into a fight which leads to Frank joining in and losing control. This event leads Frank to decide to cut Swaino and Packie from his life. The majority of the movie takes place three months after the bar fight when Frank mysteriously decides to call Swaino and Packie together for a hang-out at his shop.

Upon viewing “Small Engine Repair,” viewers will not be surprised to learn that the film is based on a play. The story essentially boils down to three scenes – the opening scene, the scene at the bar, and the scene in Frank’s shop – and most of the film’s action is dialogue heavy. Past events are shown, but they are shown with voiceover as one of the men tells his memories to the others.

For most of the runtime, the movie feels directionless. It’s more of a character study than anything; there’s no apparent plot. The actors are completely natural and at ease in their roles. For the most part, their relationships feel well established, although Swaino and Packie’s relationship is a little vague (probably purposefully so). It felt like there was more to be explored between those two. The world these characters inhabit feels “lived in” and not part of a production, enhanced by the cold and grim photography from Matt Mitchell.

I can imagine this is the type of movie that many audience members will find boring but there is a purpose for each scene and it all builds to a final act that’s shocking but within character. Here things take a turn to a harsher reality for all the characters. It may seem aimless for far too long but, for those viewers willing to stick around, there is a payoff following the buildup.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Thursday, September 2, 2021


Director: Kay Cannon

Studio:Amazon Studios/Sony Pictures

Cinderella is a colorful-faithful musical event for children and adults of all ages.

Just letting the audiences know that it is not a Disney film. In fact, this film serves as the first live-action adaptation from the story written by Charles Perrault since the release of the 2015 remake of Cinderella, released by Disney. This remake, however, takes a refreshing, modern take on the story when Sony Pictures decided to do a musical of this piece. With producer Kay Cannon taking her directing chair to helm this new live-action adaptation, this film introduces singer Camila Cabello in her acting debut, alongside Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Nicholas Galitzine, Billy Porter, and Pierce Brosnan in their supporting roles.

Cinderella focuses on a young girl and dress designer named Ella who’s been living an abusive life with her cruel stepmother and her stepsisters after the death of her father. She dreams that one day she wants to be a well-known fashion designer while encountering Prince Robert, the son of King Rowan, who falls in love with her. Pitch Perfect writer and producer Kay Cannon is the director of the film, marking this her second directorial effort after Blockers, featuring the stars of Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena who both played as the trio of parents to their respective daughters, portrayed by Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, and Geraldine Viswanathan. She also wrote and produced some episodes from two television sitcoms, 30 Rock (featuring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin) and New Girl (starring Zooey Deschanel).

Singer Camila Cabello makes her acting debut in the film, portraying her main role as Ella (also known as Cinderella), a young girl who dreams of becoming a fashion designer, while Nicholas Galitzine (High Strung) rises above as Prince Robert, the son of King Rowan, who meets and falls in love with Ella. The duo soon become important key roles in the film and its climax. These two always keep their acting and their chemistry together when it comes to musical, romantic films. Even though they keep their heads slipping, they always put their fairy-tale acting skills to the test for character development.

Actress and singer Idina Menzel (Disney’s Frozen, Glee) hoses down as Ella’s cruel stepmother who puts Ella to work and refuses to let her attend the ball, hosted by King Rowan and Prince Robert. As an actress and singer altogether, Menzel never ceases to amaze me (and her fans) when she is up for the challenge of appearing in musical films, even putting her hardwork and her acting pace into her levels of doneness. It seems though, Menzel made her own singing and acting just too easy as her early resume of singing and acting got her the gig in FOX’s Glee and the famous Disney animated film Frozen, for which she provided the speaking and singing voice of Elsa.

Actors Minnie Driver (Gus Van Sant's Good Will Hunting, Disney’s Tarzan) and Pierce Brosnan (James Bond films) are very noteworthy on their royal parts as Queen Beatrice and King Rowan, the latter of which still believes that following the king’s laws and regulations is the the right thing to do to continue the royal legacy and, certainly, he wants what’s best for his carefree son, Robert.

Also appearing in the film are actors James Acaster, also-producer James Corden (The Late Late Show with James Corden), Romesh Ranganathan, Maddie Baillio (NBC’s Hairspray Live!), and Charlotte Spencer. Acaster, Corden, and Ranganathan voiced the trio of mouses (later portrayed as Ella’s three footmen) who served as Ella’s supportive friends while actresses Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer stood in on Idina Menzel’s bright-or-dark shadow as Ella’s evil (later reformed) stepsisters. And last but not least, actor Billy Porter magically appears as Fab G, Ella’s Fairy Godparent, as well as providing the narration of the film.

Cinderella is a fun-filled, remarkable live-action adaptation, clocking to almost two hours, but that is all there is to it. Kay Cannon, Camila Cabello, Idina Menzel, and Nicholas Galitzine really fit the bill all together in their parts and so does the rest of the actors and crews. This musical is a must. I know it’s not a Disney film as you’re expecting but this is something we can take pride and appreciation to enjoy when it comes to seeing musical films based on fairy-tale stories we look up into. It’s a task that we should do instead of going back to only Disney musical films for the time being. So, kudos to the director, the producers, and Camila Cabello who have made this all possible.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an intriguing blowout for Marvel fans.

This project has been in development for almost twenty years with no clear announcements being made whether or not the film will be green-lighted. That is, until sometime in the late 2010s when Destin Daniel Cretton and screenwriter Dave Callaham were hired to direct and write this film, the production was officially being announced. Having been directed by Cretton himself, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings marks the first MCU film to feature an all Asian cast, consisting with Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings takes place after Avengers: Endgame and follows the story of a martial artist Shang-Chi who is summoned to join what-is-called “The Ten Rings'' organization. While doing so, however, Shang-Chi, while being the master of martial arts, is forced to confront his past he left behind after being drafted to the Ten Rings organization.

The main director and author of this film is Destin Daniel Cretton. He has been known for making films that feature Brie Larson in the house, which builds up her acting career on several future films, including MCU’s Captain Marvel, released back in 2019. He recently directed Just Mercy, featuring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. As director, Cretton follows other MCU directors’ footsteps to film and capture the enduring focal attention on Liu’s character, mimicking the basics of how Jon Faverau did on Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man. The action sequences are very spontaneous, which made the film’s climaxes really smooth to follow. The filming crew really took a lot of dedication, effort, and hard work to craft such a beautiful artistry on not only the action sequences, but also the emotional-moving characters, the settings, and the heartfelt storytelling, which all of them became anonymous from head to toe.

Simu Liu (CBC’s Kim’s Convenience) portrays his titular role as Shang-Chi, a martial artist who joins the Ten Rings organization while Awkwafina (The Farewell) joins Liu as Shang-Chi’s friend Katy. Liu is very solid when he takes his action star role precisely well and so does Awkwafina. Their friendship just keeps on growing and never ends. Both of them knew what to do and knew what was going on for the film’s structural components.

Featuring in the film are supporting actors Meng'er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung. They portrayed Xialing, Jiang Li, Razor Fist, Jiang Num, and Wenwu/The Mandarin, Shang-Chi’s father and the Ten Rings leader. Just letting the viewers know this is Michelle Yeoh's second MCU film after previously appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Aleta Ogord. And lastly, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings serves as actress Fala Chen’s first acting debut in a Hollywood film.

Let’s not forget, a small number of MCU actors return to this film to reprise their roles from their previous MCU films. Tim Roth appears as Emil Blonsky/Abomination from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Benedict Wong as Mystic Arts master Wong from Doctor Strange and Avengers: Infinity War, and Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery from Iron Man 3.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a great Marvel flick, maybe not a fast-paced event to say the least with all the visuals and the CGI in the way, but it still captures its endurance and intriguing moments from start to finish. Like the previously-released MCU film Black Widow, one can actually discover in the past to see what is right and what is wrong. The director, Liu, Awkwafina, and the cast did an astounding job on picking up the pace. This 132-minute film is worth the wait and is highly a must. So go ahead and watch this in theaters, at my behest.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Monday, August 30, 2021

The Night House

Director David Bruckner’s “The Night House” can’t decide what type of horror movie it wants to be. On one hand, it explores its main character’s grief over her husband’s recent suicide, using the ghost angle to reflect on how his actions have affected her. On the other, it falls into the typical traps of modern horror movies, relying on cheap thrills and loud noises to jar the audience as Beth’s psyche weakens. It’s as if Bruckner is trying to straddle the line between art-house and mainstream. He fails at both.

Bruckner opens the movie with Beth’s (Rebecca Hall) return from Owen’s (Evan Jonigkeit) funeral. Hall portrays the character with precision, painting the portrait of a woman who’s haunted by her husband’s actions. She’s teetering on the edge and ready to fall off (easily the best element of this film). When the hauntings begin, the audience is left to wonder how much of what Beth is experiencing is within her own head.

As she starts to purge Owen’s possessions from the house, Beth begins to uncover secrets that make her question what she knew about him and their relationship. Her friend Claire (Sarah Goldberg) warns her to stop digging for answers but, of course, Beth doesn’t listen. This leads to some disturbing revelations.

Writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski introduce ideas then drop them just as quickly. The story seems like it will go in one direction then willy-nilly goes in another. Even the hauntings are inconsistent. They start with the typical loud noises, electronics turning themselves on, and shadowy figures you can’t quite make out before evolving into other terrains. Collins and Piotrowski include elements that ultimately don’t go anywhere, frustrating the viewer.

At its core, “The Night House” is a slow-paced haunted house movie. Although cheap thrills are inserted early on to try to liven up the proceedings, this will probably be a hard sell for most audiences looking for a thrill. To put it bluntly, I frequently wished this one would hurry up and end while watching it. The most frightening part of my film experience was the odd noises coming from the back of the empty theater (I was the only one in attendance at the showing I went to).

There are some interesting concepts and visuals scattered throughout the film so it’s not a total waste of time. Still, this is one that I think could have been handled much better.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Friday, August 27, 2021

Vacation Friends


**½ (out of ****)

We’re not really sure what to make of the second couple of protagonists in co-writer/director Clay Tarver’s Vacation Friends. They’re diametric opposites of the main couple that leads the story, so in comedic terms, they are perfect foils. In broader terms, though, this very raunchy, occasionally clever comedy doesn’t quite understand how to ingratiate us to them. It does help that Ron and Kyla, the carefree couple in question, are played by John Cena and Meredith Hagner, actors who are often very funny when given the right material. As for that material, again, there is a sense of warring attitudes here: Are we supposed to laugh at their weirdness or simply be uncomfortable about it?

If the approach taken by Tarver and his co-screenwriters (siblings Tim and Tom Mullen and Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley) wasn’t clearly meant to be a big, raunchy comedy, then one could see the movie working on the ruthless level of a Neil LaBute screenplay. Ron and Kyla would be unapologetic in a way that matched the surrounding attitude toward their behavior. As it is, the film is more simply going for the comic payoff to the bizarre friendship that develops. Ron and Kyla merely do weird things, both on the trip to Mexico where they meet the protagonists and during the wedding weekend that ensues after a jump forward in time.

We like Marcus and Emily, the main couple, a lot more immediately, not least because they are played with no shortage of charisma and chemistry by Lil Rel Howery and Yvonne Orji. He’s the owner of a construction company who has become far too dependent and focused upon his work recently, and the pair, who begin the story as an engaged one, have decided to head to Mexico for vacation. Their troubles start immediately, with their room flooded by the Jacuzzi in the one above and the only other room in town belonging to a one-star hotel. They have, of course, arrived with the expectation of five-star treatment. That’s when they meet Ron and Kyla, whose devotion to a problem-free philosophy borders on recklessness.

That’s another way of saying that, yes, theirs is the room above (and the Jacuzzi within it), which is not surprising whatsoever. They serve Marcus and Emily margaritas with a more intense substitute for the salt around the rim. They make up wild and distressing stories about themselves to make their lives seem even more interesting than they are. When saying goodbye at the airport, they loudly embellish bomb threats and human trafficking and drug-smuggling suspicions for the laughs. Meanwhile, Marcus and Emily are more cautious, considerate, and stable.

It comes as no surprise, though, when the narrative jumps forward by seven months to the main couple’s wedding ceremony, where Emily’s father (Robert Wisdom) is dismissive of Marcus’ occupation (he’s a “construction worker,” despite numerous protests to clarify that label). Ron and Kyla crash the wedding, cause a major misunderstanding involving a pregnancy and one aspect of a wild night of drugs and booze, and somehow work everything out with Marcus and Emily by the end. This feels like the film’s final word on whether we’re meant to like or to gawk at this crazy couple. Vacation Friends is still an uneasy mixture of raunch and discomfort, though, with good actors who deserved more refined material.
Review by Joel Copling

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

(Review by Chase Lee)

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(Review by Chase Lee)

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The Lost Leonardo

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Director: Stephen Daldry

Studio: Bleecker Street/BBC Films

Together is always a message for people at home during the COVID-19 pandemic!

Being together is the positive message and vibe to those who missed seeing each other during this difficult, frightening time due to COVID and the uncertainty of their future lives. This film feels like an English-British version of Ed Helms’ Together Together film released in the same year, but this is all very different. Together is a dark comedy-drama film that deals with the heavy concerns of the COVID-19 that causes the entire world to go into quarantine until the world gets better and brighter. The film is directed by Stephen Daldry and features the duo of James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan.

Together follows the story from the very first days of the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 until the present day. It focuses on a married, but dysfunctional couple who are re-evaluating their relationship and learn how to deal with the uncertainty of their future throughout this COVID-19 pandemic while caring for their 10-year-old son, Artie.

Stephen Daldry steps in as director to take on the challenge of crafting a film that takes place in the center of COVID-19 pandemic. Daldry’s films on his profile include Billy Elliot, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Reader and The Hours. For his work on Billy Elliot, The Reader, and The Hours, he received his nomination for Best Director Oscar for both films. All of his films, except Billy Elliot, have received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, so Daldry is highly an Oscar-trending talent when it comes to movies and onstage productions with unique storytelling.

This film only contains a very short cast of actors in the film. They are James McAvoy (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and Sharon Horgan (Pulling, HBO’s Divorce) as well as child actor Samuel Logan. McAvoy and Horgan portrayed their role as a married couple who expressed concern about the COVID situations affecting their lives, their relationship, and their son when they heard the news in the UK while Logan appeared as Artie, the couple’s son. The chemistry between McAvoy and Horgan is brilliant and so is the screenwriting coming from writer Dennis Kelly. Of course, COVID is a very scary thing, but the actors reassured us that we can get through this, they just keep lecturing and guiding the viewers to bring the positivity towards the audience and critics.

Although not all fourth-wall breaks and the monologues are not as funny and enjoyable compared to fourth-wall breaking fictional-characters like Deadpool or Ferris Bueller, some are very confusing as the director wants the audience to engage on opening a conservations about the certainty and the uncertainty on their well-being, their health, and their vibes at home. This movie and its story do feel like a stage play, since they mostly involve us in their conversations, they look straight to the camera and give us lectures on how to stay productive and active during this ongoing pandemic. It's kind of oddly-strange for a second, but it doesn't last long for me to be hooked on that story and the aromatics of this COVID situation on what needs to be done and well-handled.

Together is okay. It clocks in around 90 minutes, but it doesn't feel long for its time length. This movie is just on in the background, but then I just get caught by it. The acting is superb, and the script is funny, sad, and poignant. This movie is tough to watch, but rest assured, it is an insight into many relationships and the ups-and-downs they are willing to face during lockdown, like all of us. It is a compelling viewing pleasure. I wish lots of people, who spent the time doing new things or something to pass the time, would watch this.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Free Guy

Director: Shawn Levy

Studio:20th Century Studios

Free Guy is the funniest Ryan Reynolds movie ever!

So basically, actor Ryan Reynolds is just Ryan Reynolds playing as Ryan Reynolds in every Ryan Reynolds movie. And that’s the ticket to your comical needs of your desperation. Director Shawn Levy is turning up the heat for Reynolds right there to direct Free Guy. Having been written by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, the film features the stars Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, and Taika Waititi.

Free Guy takes place in the open-wide video game world called Free City, where the game setting focuses on an average man named Guy who is a non-player character (NPC) working as a bank teller. With the Free City game being developed and programmed by founders Millie and Keys and published by Antoine, Guy soon becomes self-aware of his world being a video game when he falls in love with video game character Motolov Girl operated by Millie herself, and takes steps to make himself the hero, creating a race against time to save the game before the developers can shut it down.

Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) stands in as Free City’s non-player character named Guy who works as a bank teller until, upon meeting that female videogame character Motolov Girl, he realizes he’s living in a video game world instead of a real world while performing the same routine again day after day. Reynolds is basically having fun playing himself in a different character name, he certainly looks like he really enjoys his job as an entertainment actor and (possibly) the funniest actor alive. Whenever any director, such as Levy himself, needs him to bring the comedy down the house, Reynolds is there to save or satisfy their directorial needs.

English actress Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) plays her game role as Millie as well as her video game avatar Motolov Girl who Guy falls in love with. Comer nails down every inch of role she has ever given for the sake of the film, the story, her own character development, and the director’s wishes as well. She even helps Reynolds in the film by offering some advice about life and purpose. Thus, alternating Reynolds’ Guy character development and timeline.

Actor Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok) walks into the house as Free City publisher and the main antagonist Antoine. Judging by the casting, seeing Reynolds and Waititi seems like an atypical, peculiar combination, given the fact they worked together on a promotional short film of this as Deadpool and Korg in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the film, Waititi just keeps doing what like to do to bring out the drama and comedy towards his fellow acting co-workers on the set. His wildy “gangster” appearance is heavily based on how his game-playing persona really triggers his role as a game publisher and a game credit hog. Even though acting in a video game movie can be difficult, Waititi knows his skills, his steps, and his direction in every CGI/visuals-effect additions affecting his moments in various scenes of the film.

21 Laps Entertainment founder Shawn Levy is the director of the film. You may not know him but his film credits include the kids’ comedy flick Big Fat Liar, Cheaper by the Dozen (with Steve Martin), and the Night at the Museum trilogy (featuring Ben Stiller). He also produced Stranger Things and the 2016 film Arrival (with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner starring in), for which he was nominated for the annual Best Picture Oscar. Since this is a video game movie rather than a science-fiction movie, director Levy has the actors study video games and the designs to portray what lies between the video game world and the real world. Levy also has the CGI and visual effects crew to work on the video game worlds and the pieces of Ryan Reynolds’ exploration in the world while the actors playing as gamers do what other video gamers do in the film. Levy even went further to provide pop culture references and cameo appearances, taking many influences and hardball cases from various video games and video game films (like Disney, Marvel, Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto, Anime, etc.).

While the film is funnier to watch, the somewhat-distractive CGI, and little-too-much visual effects have really thrown off the edge from being a great sci-fi flick as the director took advantage of this video game atmosphere to create more depth to bring the cultural themes of video games. The story and its writing from Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn are a bit woolly while some character developments ended up being dry for its measurements. No matter, the comedy and the music from composer Christopher Beck really redeemed this film from being a commercial and critical flop and intentionally saved the light on both the game world and the real world. Levy and the crew both know that the temptation is irresistible.

The rest of the cast featured in the film are Lil Rel Howery (The Carmichael Show, Get Out), Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Joe Keery (Stranger Things). Howery portrays Guy's best friend Buddy, a bank’s security guard who always enjoys the same routine without a fuss until Guy inspires him to do what he really wanted to do in his life. Joe Keery receives his supportive, but superior role as Keys, co-founder of Free City, who helps Millie crack the codes for their game and the Guy character while Utkarsh Ambudkar receives his role as Mouser who assists Keys.

Aside from pop culture references shown in the film, the film also includes several, yet surprising cameo appearances that are really enjoyable and highly hilarious to see. They include Youtube streamers and professional gamers like Jacksepticeye, Ninja, Pokimane, DanTDM, and LazarBeam as well as celebrity actors Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson, Tina Fey, John Krasinski, and the MCU regular Chris Evans. Speaking of cameos, this film is dedicated to Jeopardy host Alex Trebek who posthumously cameos in the film.

As aforementioned, Free Guy is the funniest Ryan Reynolds two-hour movie, but maybe the most surprising hit of all, lying between the OKs and the “very good” section. I felt like I’m seeing a modern, present-day Zelda game or watching any video game being played by someone else, but I mostly enjoyed Reynolds’ performance, numerous comedic laughs, and the cameo appearances from celebrities and gamers. Reynolds really killed it on his part and so does Comer under the blessing from the director. I mean, who knows, this is a smorgasbord of fun and lasagna-filled laughs for Ryan Reynolds’ fans out there. This film is definitely worth the wait and is hilariously a “must.”


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Thursday, August 5, 2021


Tom McCarthy has not made a bad movie yet.

He won an Oscar a couple of years back for directing he Oscar-winning "Spotlight" in 2015.

He always tells compelling and intriguing stories about the human condition. Even his so-so movies are notewoprthy. Namely the Adam Sander-led "The Cobbler," (2014) in which a person gains a new identity by slipping into someone else's shoes.

"Stillwater" is a Matt Damon-led movie, however. It follows his stint visiting his daughter (Abigail Breslon) oversseas, where she is accused of killing her former Arabic girlfriend.

While overseas, he befriends a mother (Camille Cottinoleen) and a daughter, Maya (Lilou Siauvaud). He strikes a friendship and relationship with the pair. The duo are essentially a lifeline for him as he deals with agovernment in a foreign land that cares little for human life and the right side of justice.

The pacing on this film is not altogether quick, but is more of a sllow burn tale.

Damon is solid as usual as well as Breslin, who always knows what she is doing.

On a side note, I interviewed McCarthy for "Win Win" back in 2011. I brought my copy of his directorial debut "The Station Agent." He signed it for me as well as his other effort at the time, "The Visitor" (2007) with Richard Jenkins.

So, "Stillwater" is a movie worth seeking out, but as aforementiomned their are not a lot of bright or dazzling fireworks rather just a satisfying means to an end with this entralling drama.


(Review by Ricky Miller)

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Director: Leos Carax

Studio:Amazon Studios

Annette is a dark, not-so-bright soap-opera movie for musical moviegoers!

Hate to say this, but if you have kids, please do not show this film to your kids if you’re a parent and a music buff altogether as this film contains much darker images and strong language despite being a musical film or an opera film. Annette serves a English directorial debut for French director Leos Carax. Written by the Sparks duo of Ron and Ruseell Mael, this film features the duet of actors Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard.

The story of Annette focuses on the relationship between a stand-up comedian named Henry McHenry and his wife Ann Defrasnoux, an famous opera singer. As Ann gives birth to her newborn daughter, she and Henry soon realize how their lives are changing when their first child has been gifted with a natural singing talent, thereby becoming the famous singing celebrity called Baby Annette.

Star Wars actor Adam Driver stands up onstage as Henry McHenry, a drug-addictive and a stand-up comedian whose life turns upside down when he makes sexual advances on his wife due to his drug abuse, while French actress and musician Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) shines the light as Henry’s wife and the famous opera singer Ann Defrasnoux. Driver’s performance onstage as a comedian is beyond powerful, but he certainly pulls up a stunt in a weird position and the fact that the film didn’t bring much of his redeeming qualities, which is very unemotional to see. Cotillard, on the other hand, is essentially just a figurehead for kindness, passion, and purity who doesn't get much place and space to act. Though she, as both an actress and a singer, knows her music gig and background in the palm of her hand. The director of the film is Leos Carax. With his direction, the film is entirely an opera movie and is way too long but the story is basic and utterly predictable. Carax really had the choreography and musical numbers crew working on so many levels as if this movie is a lot more than just any average musical film. With that being done in a tight squeeze, they seem like they’re on fire on such good choreography, the set designs, and photography, which all of them are fabulous and amazing to see.

While parts of Carax’s direction and chemistry between Driver and Cotillard are perfectly well-balanced, nothing could hardly save the film, however. The crew made the film being so tightly paced and filled with intensity and musical numbers, which is actually really boring. All the songs follow the same lazy pattern as one only sees a lovely couple, but truthfully sees random people singing one sentence over and over again. And that dark ending and the Annette character at the very end seem very messy, unforgiving, and not helping as the Carax and the Sparks duo focused on adding newer, but heavily not-colored music pieces to the puzzle. This goes to show from the director that an apology and forgiveness are not enough. Forgiveness is, but not always, will be forgiven. So don’t expect anyone or God to forgive you when you go out there, doing bad things. All of the cast and crew would say that forgiveness is a very hard deed.

The film has a lot of emotional manipulation throughout the film and is almost a romanticization of domestic violence. Drug abuse, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, and domestic violence are the main themes of the movie. Like Promising Young Woman, Annette is clearly the major influence from the Weinstein effect when Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment towards women. All the stress, hard battles of marriages, and anxiety-inducing, especially for victims of such abuses, are the essences of what make romantic relationships far too worst as the main character gets away with a lot. If that’s the big case, this shows a prime example of another bad (and unhealthy) case of male gaze.

Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) and Devyn McDowell are also featured in the film. Helberg portrays The Conductor, who is also close friend to Ann Defrasnoux and a victim of Henry’s drug abuse, while Devyn McDowell plays her role as Henry and Ann’s daughter Annette whose singing talent gains popularity in the world as Baby Annette.

I really hate to break it to you, but Annette wasn’t a good movie, coming at 140 minutes for the film’s entirety. This looks very hard to watch and really nerve-wracking to see the habits of their relationship. I may love music but I felt like the beauty and artistry of this so-called “opera” film in the first half seemed too easy to enjoy but after that, they have increasingly died down, reducing the art of passion and music. But Driver and Cotillard are top-notch and even Helberg fitted in quite well. From what I witnessed, Driver could stand a chance of receiving his Oscar nomination (or perhaps a Golden Globe nom) for his role. While the film is tough to choose, the acting is outstanding, but the music songs are repetitive throughout the course. I don’t know what to say but please consider selecting a different movie if you can as choosing this movie makes you want to leave the theater during the movie or after the movie in dissatisfaction.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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The Suicide Squad

Director: James Gunn

Studio:Warner Bros. Pictures

The Suicide Squad is better than the original!

Just letting the fans know that The Suicide Squad is not a direct sequel to that disgusted original film, but is rather a standalone sequel. For some odd reason, lots of people didn’t like the original film due to the finishing touches of it with some fans and studio executives believing that the future of DC Extended Universe is in jeopardy. After James Gunn was [temporarily] fired from Disney and Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. and DC Comics seized the opportunity to hire him as director and writer of this sequel after looking for several replacement directors since David Ayer, the original director of Suicide Squad, has stepped out. The film features the returning star Margot Robbie, alongside Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, David Dastmalchian, and Viola Davis.

The Suicide Squad focuses on the task group of convicting prisoners, consisting of Bloodsport, Nanaue, Ratcatcher 2, Polka-Dot Man, and Peacemaker, who are sent by Amanda Waller to destroy Jotunheim, a Nazi-era prison and laboratory that holds prisoners and conducted experiments, as well as battle against the gigantic alien, sea-creature look-alike called Starro. Along the way, the team is also tasked to rescue Rick Flag and Harley Quinn, with the latter being held captive by the Corto Maltese President and his military comrades.

James Gunn (Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy) is the director of this film after being ousted from Marvel for a short time. As director, Gunn has to fill David Ayer’s shoes as he cleans up Ayer’s mess from the original film as well as adding some new story twists on the settings, the characters, and the script-writing with the side of humorous comedy in the background. Gunn looks back at the original film as well as several war films and superheros to capture the tone and quality for the film’s storyline and unique, ballsy setting for the characters, and the creative CGI-bloody, violent action sequences splattering around the bushes. If one takes my advice, some examples for everything aforementioned include Platoon, Forrest Gump, Full Metal Jacket, and some MCU films.

Actor Idris Elba is a newcomer to this sequel, portraying his meatier, superhero role as Robert DeBois/Bloodsport, a criminal and mercenary with a technologically-advanced suit and weapons, while actress Margot Robbie reprises her role as Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn, a crazed criminal and former psychiatrist. Elba is originally going to be Will Smith’s replacement, but director Gunn gave him a new role to allow Smith to return in the future.

The other members of the Suicide Sqaud include John Cena (Ferdinand, F9) as Peacemaker, Sylvester Stallone (Rocky films) as the voice of King Shark, David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man) as Abner Krill/Polka-Dot Man, and Daniela Melchior as Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher 2, a young girl who can control rats and community with them.

This sequel is a unique combination between war films and superhero films, it blends humour and seriousness perfectly. Some of the scenes between John Cena and Idris Elba are hilarious, as well as the lines from King Shark. Even David Dastmalchian and Margot Robbie are such good helpers to trigger tons of die-hard laughs and colorful dynamics onscreen. The action sequences are highly stunning and bloody violent for that R-Rated advantage. My main guess is that the studio is very tired of giving the superhero films a PG-13 rating in order to get more views and audiences. But the main enjoyable parts are the funny chemistry of Bloodsport and Harley Quinn, the visuals, the humor coming from all characters and superheroes, and emotional moments from the main Suicide Sqaud team. The film felt like Gunn really takes his Guardians of the Galaxy directorial steps too well without any hassle. With good direction and great dialogue coming from writer Gunn himself, this sequel is filled with enduring, funny one liners and never takes itself too seriously, going straight out of boredom and confusion.

The returning actors from the original film are also present in this sequel. Viola Davis (Fences) returns to the sequel as Amanda Waller. Davis provided some background, hidden-antagonist feel right there while giving orders to the task force team whilst Joel Kinnaman returns to his role as Rick Flag, the leader of the Suicide Squad ordering the task force members on what to do, with Jai Courtney returning as Captain Boomerang. On the other side, the film also includes some small screen times of Michael Rooker as Savant, Taika Waititi as the first Ratcatcher and Cazo's father, Pete Davidson as Blackguard, Nathan Fillion as Cory Pitzner/T.D.K., formerly known as The Detachable Kid, and Sean Gunn as The Weasel. This Weasel character adds more die-laughing humor to it.

In conclusion, The Suicide Squad is an incredible sequel, maybe reaching greater, ballistic heights of an average DC Comics film that will jump out of your seat with glee and excitement. It clocks in at least 132 minutes. I will say this, this sequel is better than the original film and is basically like an Avengers movie targeting adults with violence, gore, irreverent comedy, and much, much swearing being placed all over. And yes, you will figure I said those words. Gunn really nailed his role as director and the cast all did a terrific job as well, especially Idris Elba and Margot Robbie. These two both killed it victoriously. The Suicide Squad is definitely a must, no joke, and this is a kind of DC film that will make Marvel look bad. So, I’m sending my compliments to Mr. James Gunn himself. This is the kind of Suicide Squad film lots of people have been waiting for at this very moment.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Escape from Mogadishu

In the late 80's and early 1990's, South Korea and North Korea sent diplomats to Africa to woo the countries that will vote on their admission to the United Nations. Counselor Kang Dae-jin (Jo In-sung) and Ambassador Han Sin-seong (Kim Yoon-seok) try to meet with Somalian dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Meanwhile the North Koreans, Ambassador Rim Yong-su (Huh Joon-ho) and Tae Joon-ki (Koo Kyo-hwan) who the South Koreans suspect of selling arms to the local rebels, suddenly find themselves at the beginning of a civil war to oust President Barre.

Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan, Escape from Mogadishu was based on the true events of the evacuation of both the North and South Koreans that had to work together to find a way out of the country. There's a bit of Argo and Black Hawk Down with tense and horrific violence as the diplomats and their families try to endure as angry rebels clash with Somolian forces who are just as cruel and corrupt. Not even their diplomatic status can help them.

This film is not your usual shoot'em up adventure. There is a more personal perspective of the characters in play. The career diplomats who serve in often hostile countries with their families. The spycraft, the bribes, the sensitive dance that one has to engage in to bring a favor to their mission. Counselor Kang is more hot headed and uses his press sources for intel. Ambassador Han is more measured and world weary having devoted most of his service with little resources. Their distrust of their Northern countrymen makes it a difficult choice to rescue Ambassador Rim, staff and their families when they run from their embassy after the rebels vandalize the building and steal all their belonings and money. Despite their political differences and rumor based fears, they let them in and feed them what little they had left. There is no power, food or water. The Somolian guards hired to protect them have suddenly left. They plan for the two groups to escape to other embassies. South Korea will go to the Italian Embassy as they have a relationship with them. The North Koreans are not welcome there, so they will go to the Egyptian Embassy. Unfortunately, Egypt can't help. Ambassador Han tells the Italians that the North Koreans are converting to the South, so they would be eligible to escape with them.

Despite the geo-political background of the times, it really comes down to the relationship of the two Koreas that have to put aside their anomosity and find a way out. Kang at one point realizes that the North Koreans can not go with them to the South or the children that they had to leave behind would become orphans. It's a harsh reminder of how different their societies have become.

Filmed in Morocco in 2019, the opening of this film was delayed by 2020. It opened in South Korea becoming the biggest opening of the year beating out Jungle Cruise. It's a fast paced, well acted actioner, with at the edge of your seat final act of the escape through the streets of the war torn city with both rebels and Somolian armies hot on their heels. At one point you can imagine the warring factions as mindless zombies chasing them as the pursuers have the same single minded purpose of death to all. It's one of those stories that no one would know about but should.
(Review by reesa)

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Friday, July 30, 2021

John and the Hole

Director: Pascual Sisto

Studio:IFC Films

Review: John and the Hole!

John and the Hole sounds very nervousing for the film’s title due to suspense and horror themes being brought up from the director and that main character in the film. This film is based on the story called El Pozo, written by Nicolás Giacobone, and became the most anticipated film for a Sundance Film Festival entry. The film features the ensemble cast of Charlie Shotwell, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle, and Taissa Farmiga.

John and the Hole centers on a boy named John who discovers a hole in the backyard and traps his parents in there while exploring the unsettling reality of freedom and independence at his home. While doing so, he soon learns what it is like to be an adult and growing up as an adult.

Charlie Shotwell (Captain Fantastic) receives his main protagonist role as John, the boy who has discovered a large hole in the back of his house. With the family characters being given on limited roles, Shotwell steals the spotlight to see how anyone can fully understand what are the messages of living adult life throughout the film, which is totally unexpected from such a protagonist-centered narrative. However, there are some “wait, that's illegal” moments with him drugging and trapping parents that seem a little confused and somewhat low while experiencing cruelty and anxiety right there. Feels like the director has put much tolerance on the story, but he wants his movie to be a comedy one, rather than a drama-thriller film.

Actors Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Jennifer Ehle (BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice), and Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) are really formidable for the John’s family characters, transforming a small bunker into the most interesting place in the film due to their fascinating interactions. Seeing their characters trying to stay sane proved to be surprisingly and hilariously entertaining. Technically, Paul Özgür's cinematography offers some memorable shots that elevate a few particular sequences, but it's Caterina Barbieri's unique score that really generates the tense, but curious environment, from the very beginning to the very end.

John and the Hole serves as Pascual Sisto’s directorial debut. Sisto tackles every scene and every direction he has put for the cast and the crew. With a screenplay written by Oscar winner Nicolás Giacobone (Birdman), the nature-exploring themes of isolation, skewering the upper class of adulthood, and the toxic effects of individualism are fully and materially realized. In his particular manner, he knows that money and facing adulthood become the essence of growing up and are constantly displayed as a central theme of adult relationships, child relationships, and human responsibilities.

John and the Hole is an ok film, but somewhat lies in the “average” town. It’s a little bit too hollow and a little too gritty for the storyline to be followed. Though, the director and the four main cast have mastered themselves on the pure levels of entertainment. I actually saw this as part of the Oak Cliff Film Festival. And despite what the audience and critics say about this film, John and the Hole is yet another ambiguous 98-minute movie entry in this year's edition of Sundance, but this time, it actually comes close to satisfying me. I can’t argue more, but I think it’s going to be a tough challenge to watch once you pick this movie up in theaters or on digital.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Jungle Cruise

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra


Jungle Cruise is the center of the universe!

Originally released in July 2020, this film widely deserves more attention than the Pirates of the Carribean franchise but there were some rumors about this film when they announced this on the news, with Toy Story actors Tom Hanks and Tim Allen starring in. The film is loosely inspired by the theme park attraction of the same name located at Disneyland and Walt Disney World over by the Magic Kingdom section. Having been directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the film features the cast of Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti.

Jungle Cruise follows a riverboat captain named Frank Wolff who transports the British scientist Dr. Lily Houghton, and her brother MacGregor, on a mission into a jungle to find the Tree of Life, which is believed to possess healing powers that could produce and generate medicine. While set sailing, the trio must face perilous obstacles, such as fighting against dangerous wild animals, survive in a deadly, heated environment, and compete with the folks of the Imperial German expedition whom they are determined to find and claim the tree.

Jungle Cruise marks the fourth Disney film for Dwayne Johnson to star in. He appeared in The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, and that animated film, Moana, for which he voiced Maui. As a lead actor for this film, Johnson has put aside his comedy-action acting skills to focus more on his meatier role as an actor in an adventure-survivor film. He really brings down a whole emotion of being an adventure towards Blunt and the cast as if he’s in another Jumanji movie. Based on his experiences with action-adventure films, he seems to be very good at what he does and needs to do under the director’s decisions whilst being a role-model towards his fellow co-stars onscreen as he always fulfills other people’s needs, including the director’s.

English actress Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Mary Poppins Returns) portrays Dr. Lily Houghton, a British scientist who must embark on a mission to find the Tree of Life, supporting Johnson on his back, while Spanish actor Édgar Ramírez (Carlos, The Bourne Ultimatum) plays a mean, villany role as Agguire, a mercenary who is hired to assist the rivalry expedition to the Tree of Life.

The film is more like a survival film despite being advertised as a fantasy-adventure film and is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. His films on his resume include Orphan, House of Wax, and some Liam Neeson-lead films: Unknown, Non-Stop, and The Commuter. He is set to direct his upcoming DC Comics superhero film, Black Adam (which will also star Dwayne Johnson in the film), as part of the DC Extended Universe. As director for Jungle Cruise, Collet-Serra seems to take heavy influences on the Disney Parks rides as well as inspecting the Pirates of the Carribean films in order to give the film and the cast proper storylines and settings. He also guides the actors on adventurous locations to shoot the boating scenes and the jungle scenes, even adding some nods of CGI and the visual effects correspondingly.

Though, there are some downsides to this film. First, some destructive usages of CGI and the visual effects on the scenes and animals, which are something that needs work on and take some of the worst parts away. Second, the director gave some weak villainy-character traits, which are really messy and gritty compared to the screenwriting from Michael Green, Glenn Ficcara, and John Requa. And lastly, since this film is based on a ride, the film didn’t put much fun-filled colors and fun tools for children.

Also appearing in the film are Jack Whitehall (Bad Education), Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad, Frago), and Paul Giamatti (Saving Private Ryan). They both portrayed their roles as Lily’s brother MacGregor as part of Lily’s main mission, the German aristocrat Prince Joachim who leads a German expedition to find the tree, and the harbormaster Nilo Nemolato.

Overall, Jungle Cruise is ok, but better than the disappointing Pirates of the Carribean sequels if I do say so myself. Despite the massive usages of CGI and visual effects, the director, Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, and the rest of the cast have done an amazing job of keeping this film as entertaining as possible. They are eager to please the fans and critics out there who waited this long to see this film since the pandemic has roared into place. I even mistake this for another Jumanji movie or another The Mummy movie, but this adventurous, survivor film is a moment to shine. Though, I wasn’t sure what to tell you with higher confidence but I think this overly-two-hour film is maybe a go-go but you might want to take some extreme proper precautions if you’re planning on selecting this film in theaters and on Disney+.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Snake Eyes

“Snake Eyes,” for all intents and purposes is just a fun flick. No earth shattering dynamics are involved here, rather just a fun time watching something one might of played with when they were younger. I too had some of the action figures when I was a wee lad.

So readers know, the full title of this yarn is “G.I. Joe Origns: Snake Eyes.”

Not to nit pick too much, but the eight of “Snake Eyes” is 5’10.”

I think that in the earlier adaptations, Ray Park was in both “G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra” and “G.I. Joe Retalliiation” a couple of years later.

Henry Golding is a tad taller with a 6’ 1” frame. Golding looks like he is having fun with the role, even wielding a couple of asction sequences involving swords and a major car chase on the Tokyo freeways.

The trouble is, however, the action scenes don’t really pull the viewer into the aforementioned events. Unlike what the Wachowski siblings did in the “The Matrix Reloaded” where a major fight occurred on the L.A. freeway, the fight in this movie, however never really warranted any due tension, rather a shrug of the shoulders and a so what reaction.

What was cool for me to see was actor James Hiroyuki Liao in an antagonist role. I know him best from re-runs of a great short-lived show “Umforgettable” at the start of the decade.

Directing chores for “G.I. Joe: Origins: “Snake Eyes” were handled by Robert Schwentke, best known for the Bruce Willis led ensemble that was “RED” in 2010 as well as the 2013 Jeff Bridges led sci-fi crossover that was “R.I.P.D.,” that also featured Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Bacon. Like the misplaced “X-Men Origins: Wolveerine” (2009) earlier in this decade, it does llittle to add but a backstory to the proceedoings. Honestly, it’s just a place filler for fans of the action genre who are fulfilling a chapter to satisfy their craving.

This one also sets up the “G.I. Joe universe” in that it introduces new characters for the stortyline, since that is what the audience members pay to see. It is kind of a nudge nudge wink to the audience since if all goes well, the follow up to this tale will get greenlit in a millisecond.

Like the earlier entries in the G.I. Joe universe, “G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra” and “G.I. Joe: Retaliattion,” “G.I. Joe: Origns: Snake Eyes,” does what it’s supposed to do and just work as sheer entertainment.


(Review by Ricky Miller)

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