The Dallas Movie Screening Group

This is the homepage of the Dallas Movie Screening Group. To join our mailing list you must sign up at our group page on Yahoo. You will then be connected to receive notices on how to find passes to the local screenings in the DFW area. It's up to you to pickup or sign up for passes. You can also barter, trade or just giveaway passes you don't want, need or share with other members of the group. Please read the instructions on the Yahoo page very carefully before posting. This group is closely moderated so that your mail box is not full of spam or other unnecessary mail. We appreciate everyone's consideration and cooperation.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Crock of Gold – A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan



Director: Julian Temple

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Review: Crock of Gold – A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan


Music documentaries are all new to my viewing pleasures since lots of musical fans admittedly enjoy musical films and Broadway shows back in the days but not musical documentaries. Crock of Gold – A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan (or Crock of Gold for short) is a documentary feature film that focuses on the life and career of a musician Shawn MacGowan. It is directed by Julian Temple and produced by Johnny Deep. Before you select this film, please be advised that there’s strong language in this musical, documentary feature film.

Shane McGowan is not only a fabulous musician but is also an interesting topic to discuss - and the music of The Pogues - that remains an engaging thesis to study about and sometimes emotional to watch despite the usages of archive footage and the stressy scene-editing which takes some of the good stuff away sadly. Temple, Deep, and the crew take major influences on explaining the ups and downs of MacGowan's lifetime, his downfalls, and his ways of building up his strength and working his way through to success (sorta like climbing-up-the-ladder thing).



Temple’s direction on Macgowan’s biography is really riveting on the subject matter as the film flows from footage to footage with the strong build-ups of animation sequences being placed in the favor of entertaining the viewers as if people are actually watching Sesame Street. MacGowan’s scenes also bring up a good topic on how his career as musician has inspired viewers and wannabe-musicians on getting back on track when it comes to legal troubles, conflicts towards life and society, and horrible treatments being centered all around for focal plot’s dynamics. Though what is heartbreaking offered by MacGowan himself and the cinematography team is that there are brutal, sad honesty ideas being centered on MacGowan’s history of drinking and drug addiction that aren’t going to give up his heavy drinking easily and getting far behind for his career as with so many documentaries that deal about addiction are ending up being pummeled with periods of alcoholic troubles and fake optimism. Temple knows that not only any ordinary documentary film focuses on a person’s life and career, but also talks about someone going clean and getting one's life back on track as the film rolls along the way and after the film, which certainly increases good depth on the feature film and tone for the man’s welfare.

Additionally, Crock of Gold also features some unseen archival footage from the band and MacGowan’s family, as well as the animation coming from legendary illustrator Ralph Steadman, Julien Temple’s 60th birthday celebration where singers, movie celebrities, and rock ’n’ roll artists gather to celebrate MacGowan and his impacting legacy.

Overall, Crock of Gold – A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan is a wonderful two-hour movie for that delight. This is highly regarded as one of the best documentaries I ever seen about a musical artist living the life of conflict. The team and Johnny Deep did a great job for making this possible. I can tell you with confidence that this film certainly feels like I’m watching a documentary film about The Beatles during their time together since their formation in 1960 following the breakup in 1970. Just a little advice that this is very powerful to watch and it’s an absolute “must” regardless of whether you’re a music fan or simply a fan of Shane McGowan entirely.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Stray



Director: Elizabeth Lo

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Review: STRAY


You’ve probably heard or been familiar with Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey, or mainly The Secret Life of Pets, but here’s another doggie-dog adventure called Stray. Stray is such a beautiful film coming from director and writer Elizabeth Lo who introduces the audience to a dog named Zeytin, a simple and stray dog who is living life to the fullest on the streets of Istanbul. This film serves as a directorial debut for Elizabeth Lo who had a history of directing documentary shorts and now moving on to the big screen by helming Stray, Lo offers a story that even tells the tales about how an ordinary dog has his day in Istanbul just as any dog in America or other countries could have a wonderful life with purpose and fulfillment.

Under the direction of Lo herself, Stray is filmed across Istanbul and parts of Turkey. Lo shows the hardships of life with Zeytin in the eyes of the city along with other dogs who share their purposes with Zeytin. Lo not only focuses heavily on Zeytin, but also focuses on other stray dogs and their adventures shown in the film and throughout rather than facing the camera towards humans and Sybrian refugees. It feels like Lo wants to pay towards attention to the dogs and focus less on humans present with less dialogue. Lo, along with her documentary teams, really want to capture the hard lives of a stray dog or any other pet that would end up in the streets, looking for something interesting to happen. This darkening purpose and fulfillment are where Zeytin’s climaxes become more and more cinematically interesting as the story is manageable to follow closely.

The documentary and the cinematography teams did a great job of handling the camera angles towards the dogs and their adventures on what comes next scene after scene. They really bring up a good theme of poor living poverty based on how different countries have faced as well as cultures of indifference and the animals’ way of life, which becomes clever and precise for that tone. Though, one of the biggest downfalls is that lack of color and happier brightness as the team didn’t put much effort on the settings and locations to see. And lastly, the score from Ali Helnwein is smooth and very majestic like the sounds of Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Joker musical composition. It really adds a nice tone of structure to have for Zeytin and other stray dogs’ scenes for that affair.

Overall, Stray is a good 70-minute, I wish I can see a lot more action and adventure coming from Zeytin and other dogs embarking their adventures through the city. Lo and the team really crack the nail of producing this high-end doggy-tail documentary movie that will make the people scream and bark for more. This is a must for all dog lovers out there and I can personally guarantee that this will help learn more about dogs and their high-flying journeys. It felt like I was watching a documentary version of A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey.

GRADE: B-

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Some Kind of Heaven



Director: Lance Oppenheim

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Review: Some Kind of Heaven


Remember what Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” Some Kind of Heaven is a documentary that takes place in The Villages, a huge retirement community in central Florida. It focuses mainly on the four elderly residents living and striving about the meanings of life, solitude, and ageism. This documentary serves as the directorial feature-film debut for the director Lance Oppenheim who offers a treat to both humans, young and old, about the aspects of anyone's living while growing up.

Here in this documentary story, there are four main elder residents: Annie, Reggie, David, and Barbara. Anne and Reggie are a married couple and are looking forward to a happy retirement life. However, Reggie had a history with pursuing drugs and it is up to his wife Anne to help him overcome his drug charge he finds himself facing. David, though not an actual resident of The Villages, is a lonely bachelor who lives in his motor home and is currently looking for a woman. His (David’s) main problem is that he is nearly out of money as he is desperately trying to find a woman quickly. And lastly, Barbara is a widow who has moved into The Villages with her husband, who died shortly after they moved in.

As the director, Oppenheim clearly made his point about these characters’ disconnect with the life they expected at The Villages. He really explains a lot about life’s purposes and other things the residents never got the chance to enjoy. This is a main, subtle message that is even furtherly well-told throughout the film when it comes to aging life. It would have been very interesting to know how many other residents found this “Disneyland of retirement” life less than satisfying to listen or to hear more from those for whom it had fulfilled all their dreams in the real world. He additionally makes the documentary film funny to watch as he provides some funnier moments on some scenes and towards the four main residents centered around the film.

Not only that but cinematographer David Bolen also did an excellent job of portraying and balancing the dichotomy between the images of The Villages’ community and the reality being experienced and told by the four main residents and other residents who shared their stories and motivation. Bolen brought some colorful, happier balances between the residents and the activities being shown in the film, such as golfing, swimming, dancing and other ones people like to enjoy. With these livelier emotions being fulfilled, Bolen and Oppenhiem knew that the themes of longing and disillusionment became steadier, wiser, and clearer with each new obstacle encountered by four main residential characters and other residents.

Some Kind of Heaven is a good 80-minute documentary film, Oppenheim and his team did an admirable job of bringing life’s greatest questions to the forefront as we, as viewers, consider the irony of unfulfilled desire in the midst of the "Disneyland of retirement". This documentary is a good film that provides moral lessons for all and it’s a must for everyone of all ages. Agree or disagree, we should not be picky on which film to select. I totally understand that documentary films are usually boring and unmotivated, but I guarantee, some of them are very interesting to watch whether you’re at home or at a movie theater that will increase your motivation.

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Sylvie’s Love



Director: Eugene Ashe

Studio: Amazon Studios

Review: Sylvie’s Love


The title with the word “love” doesn't have to be associated with any romantic genre films in that manner, but to any Tessa Thompson fans out there waiting for what films they want to see next, the answer is right here for that question. It’s called Sylvie's Love which it’s a drama film that is about to get so dramatic and wild around anyone’s hearts and dreams. The film is written and directed by Eugene Ashe and features the consisting cast of Tessa Thompson in her leading role along with actors Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Aja Naomi King, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Eva Longoria in their supportive roles.

Sylvie's Love centers on the young titular woman Sylvie who is living in the early 1960s, working at her father’s record store. She later meets a young man named Robert, an aspiring saxophone player, and they both fall in love with each other.

MCU star Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Endgame) plays the titular character Sylvie in the entire film. She really gives a truly remarkable performance and it is really emotional to her own character as the film focuses on how her relationship with the Robert character has wrestled her images and consciousness that increasingly affected her, especially for her own comfort zones in the settings of the 1950s and 1960s. Surely, she can be very lovable and charming at her own time onscreen, but in the end, she enjoys what she does while filming romantic, drama films based on her professional history with drama films she appeared in. She is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leading the screen very easily to guide the viewers and myself.

Football player and actor Nnamdi Asomugha appears as Robert, a talented saxophone player, who falls in love with Sylvie in the film. Asomugha, who also serves as the film’s producer, delivers a touching, confident performance as he appears to be as good as his word when plays the role of a charming musician who not only knows music, but also knows what love is and is all about. He knows that love isn’t about marriage, it’s about doing the things they love and who they have such as families, friends, and their passion, which is something we should all think about and take.

Ashe’s direction really takes much influences on several romantic and drama films, mainly the inspirations coming from Casablanca, in order to capture the romantic, black representation for the film’s cultural boundaries for the audience to study more on diversity and historical accuracies on this film. Ashe’s work of art as a director and writer even placed the settings of the 1950s and 1960s which nearly took place during the segregation era in order to give the film more structural, accuracy feel for both African American audiences and the histories on black individuals living in the 1950s and 60s being explained in the film’s plot.

While the film is nice and enjoyable, the film lacks comedy and funnier antics going on as the film focuses mainly on the chemistry between Thompson and Asomugha’s characters throughout the entire film. They both look like they focus too much on their family and their passions rather than giving laughs to each other, but they seem pretty stable to act in character under the presence of the director’s wishes.

Also appearing in the film are Aja Naomi King who comes into the scene as Sylvie’s cousin Mona, Ryan Michelle Bathe as Kate, Wendi McLendon-Covey as Lucy, and Eva Langoria as Carmen.

On the flip side, Sylvie's Love is a really fascinating film to see. Thompson and Asomugha are what makes the film really interesting and gentle to see. In my honesty, I have higher expectations on these two actors right there, mostly Thompson's. The cast and the crew have done an amazing job as well. I will admit, Sylvie's Love may be one of Thompson’s finest pleasures to see aside from her MCU films she starred in. This film is a must and it reaches up to nearly two hours for that film’s time slot. And that’s all I’m going to say, but if you want to hear more from me, you’ll have to see it for yourself when it comes out on Amazon Prime Video.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Slay the Dragon



Director: Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Review: Slay the Dragon


Gerrymandering is a practice where politicians or powerful government officials have increased their political power in the party. It’s a form of manipulation of the boundaries of electoral constituencies so as to favor one party of class and weaken the other class.

Just letting the readers know that this is a film with many political topics and answers being used, so if you’re planning on seeing this, might as well take proper precautions on that. Slay the Dragon is simply a documentary film about gerrymandering in the United States, directed by Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance. This film is made under the production company called Participant. The directing duo really defines how gerrymandering could influence predominantly on elections and discusses the sway of outcomes for gerrymandering that has become a hot-button political topic and symbol for everything that can be easily broken in the American electoral process.

Slay the Dragon follows the story of a young woman, Katie Fahey living in Michigan, who desperately wanted to make a change by rallying a group together to create a glowing proposition that prevents the acts of gerrymandering happening in Michigan. Katie Fahey is an American activist who founded the organization called Voters Not Politicians and has led a plethora of successful grassroots campaigns to ban partisan gerrymandering in Michigan

. Having been handling experiences and duties on documentary films about politics and American government from Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance, the duo construct a time-organizing plot for a list of archive footage and interviews about the ways of gerrymandering filling into each scene and climax. The duo and the team also utilized a team of politicians and journalists in order for the viewers to follow what the events and actions take place during the time. Goodman and Durrance not only bring down the lectures, but to make this film more like one's own educational historical textbook for students and teachers to study on how this could affect the future elections and law-publishing rules and regulations.

Over the top, Slay the Dragon is okay. It’s an educational film that allowed me to learn more about gerrymandering. As someone who enjoys politics and social justice, I had an interesting experience learning about that. Though, the only thing I do not like about this film is that it didn't fully capture my attention entirely. In my honest opinion, this is one of most difficult documentary films to watch. I understand that it is difficult to make a documentary of this nature, but I respect the hard work and effort from the directors to put into making this film. I did learn a lot about this and feel inspired and reassured, so the filmmakers could do something to accomplish their achievement.

GRADE: C+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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John Lewis: Good Trouble



Director: Dawn Porter

Studio: Magnolia Pictures/CNN Films

Review: John Lewis: Good Trouble


Back when television was a young medium that had advanced throughout the years since the introduction of television in the 1950s and 60s, it was the biggest opportunity to show the entire world about what was going on in the world daily, leaving the movie industries coiling down the drain.

John Lewis: Good Trouble is another documentary the director Dawn Porter has offered this year after handling directing duties of Gideon’s Army and Trapped, both of which are also documentary films. This film explores John Lewis' actions towards the civil rights movement, voting rights, gun control, health care reform, and immigration. Porter also provides some footage and interviews on Lewis’ childhood experiences, his inspiring family, and his fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957 to discuss how his actions and experiences inspire people to take action on those governmental situations. Coincidentally, this film was released just weeks before Lewis’ death in July 2020.

Under the direction of Porter herself solely, Porter and her team have used a plethora of archive footage and interviews of John Lewis and his entire life from the start-up as a farmer and a student to the most inspirational civil rights activists in America. Porter wanted to make a film about any motivation speaker who wanted to make a difference in the world. In this case John Lewis who wanted to make a difference for racial justice in the white people’s territory. His ways and marches in nonviolence and commitment to the cause have continued for 65 years.

With the story, the organization of plot-creating ideas, and the cinematography coming out steadily, John Lewis: Good Trouble isn’t just a simple documentary film for that genre. It is also a wondrous memoir that weaves an important story about an exceptional man, bringing justice and showing us our history from the '60s to today. Both Porter and John Lewis really nailed down the story and lecture that are easily manageable for both kids and adults as if they are in a classroom to study history.

With the satisfying ingredients being used, John Lewis: Good Trouble is the wonderful documentary film. It clocks about 96 minutes. The director and her cracking documentary filming team made it all possible to learn about an effective leader and his ability to understand the harsher times we are currently living through, from the 1960’s to present. This film is a must for both kids and adults, and also history teachers as well, to remember all that has transpired throughout the years during childhood and young adulthood as we grow up during these difficult times. The film is now up on digital on HBO Max and Amazon.

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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The Fight



Director: Eli Despres, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Review: The Fight


The Fight can be a powerful movie that really demonstrates the advocacy of the ACLU. It is a documentary film that takes the viewers and the audience to the inside look of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) where the legal battles the lawyers are willing to face during the Trump administration. According to the film itself, The Fight is featured as one of the showcasing contenders at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival where the film has won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking. This documentary feature film is directed by Eli Despres, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, with actress Kerry Washington serving as a producer for the film.

The main three directors have used lots of archive footages as well as interviews on the Trump Election that were circled back in January 2017 after President Trump's inauguration and subsequent immigration order, also known as the "Muslim ban." This feature showed a school of volunteer attorneys set up to assist affected immigrants - especially those seeking asylum. With all the editing and the usages of stock footage, the directors and the whole documentary crew draws the basic premise of the film that provides a glimpse of the challenges faced by the ACLU against the Trump administration. All of these footage and interviews about Trump’s inauguration would make a film that teaches people to strongly express their voices on their tastes and distastes on Trump’s future plans as president.

As the documentary film progresses, the cases shown in the film are presented in an easy-to-follow manner, and we get to know each of the attorneys in their respective, individual challenges. Both cases are involved with their specific case and providing their own personal or family life. Each of the attorneys in the film provide their unique tour of the ACLU offices, and quickly understand how they are focused on their own specialties, rather than the organization as a whole.

Compared to that Romanian documentary film, Collective, and regardless of the usages of archive footages, the cinematography is absolutely stunning; the camera team uses lots of steadily camera angles on people to make the story and the interviews from people more understandable for viewers to follow along as well as using the extreme-but-medium close ups The Fight that really defines how people can fight for the power for anyone’s viewpoint in any cases. Besides the story itself, the directors and crew really knew how an ordinary documentary film works on many levels.

With many voices, arguments, and viewpoints being shown, The Fight is a very good documentary, if not better. It clocks into roughly 95 minutes, but this film is something people should give it a chance if you want to learn more about the ACLU and Trump’s administration. You can check this organization if you want before or after the movie, but I personally advise you to see this film first. This film is a must for both Americans and immigrants. I’m not into politics, but I promise you, the behind-the-scenes view of what these attorneys go through to fight for liberty is fascinating and worthwhile. One last thing, please keep your political issues to yourself because they may be some political messages being shown in the film, so be careful as you watch it.

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Collective



Director: Alexander Nanau

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Review: Collective


Just to let the viewers know that this documentary is arguably hard to watch, especially for young teens, so before you watch this, you might want to be careful and take proper precautions on viewing this film in theaters or on digital.

Collective (Romanian: Colectiv) is the documentary film that revolves the group of investigating journalists at the Romanian newspaper organization in their mission to find out about the uncovering assignment of the ongoing public healthcare fraud, political and power corruptions, and maladministration. Shot in a rigorously observational manner, Collective covers an event that took the country of Eastern Europe by storm and led to massive big pharma, powerful predicaments, and government reform. This feature is directed, written, and produced by Alexander Nanau.

Director Alexander Nanau and his crew have put together on crafting this subtle documentary feature that features power and politics for the main dynamics of the film. Nanau also uses people’s powerful voices while on camera to express how things can be done in different situations. Nanau, along with the crew, knows how anyone who dealt with these dilemmas really shows how corrupt a health system can be hard to solve and what are the implications on a national level.

The nice, soft cinematography in this film is absolutely stunning; the camera team uses dimly lit to make the story and the voices of people more advisable for viewers as well as using the low contrast scenes that drive the people home in the intensity of the incident. Additionally, the harshly closeups in telling the story of the people that Collective follows really adds a satisfying taste for that affair. Even the lack of ambient noise filtration in press conferences helps the viewer really jump into the story and the film as a whole. Aside from the storylines and the plot itself, the entire crew really knew how to truly make a stunning documentary film in a trendy way.

Overall, Collective is a very good film, maybe the best by their top of their levels. This film is a must and is highly recommended to those in the ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It really brings some good, moral lessons about freedom of speech and government power to both kids and adults. The director and the documentary crew really did it. Hopefully this film would stand a chance to be one of the Oscar contenders for Best Documentary Film. Though, I do warn that there’s some political elements being used in this film as well as scary graphic scenes that you should be aware of given the fact that this film runs nearly 110 minutes to see more action being witnessed in every scene. With that, Collective successfully calls viewers to action to speak out against power and corruption.

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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One Night In Miami



Director: Regina King

Studio: Amazon Studios

The best things happened all in One Night in Miami!


One Night in Miami serves as the directorial debut for actress Regina King who went from a small-time actress to the most influential people in the world. As a rising star, she had a breakout role in NBC’s 227, which was televised from 1985 to 1990, before prominently featured in Jerry Maguire, co-starring with Tom Cruise. Screenwriter and playwriting artist Kemp Powers, who has written his stage play One Night in Miami and was recently the co-director of Pixar’s Soul, heads to his writing duty to oversee the film’s production version of his play with actor Kingsley Ben-Adir in his lead role alongside the ensemble cast Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr.

Based on the screenplay and stage play written by Kemp Powers, One Night in Miami centers on the icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown whom they are gather fictionally in the group to discuss their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval in the 1960s just before the Civil Acts of 1964 is written, leading their powerful voices all around, defending their rights, and moving the country forward to equality and empowerment for all black people.

Here in the film, we have the ensemble cast of leading actors: Kingsley Ben-Adir (ITV’s Vera) as Malcolm X, Eli Goree (CW’s Riverdale) as Cassius Clay, Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton) as Jim Brown and Broadway star Leslie Odom Jr. (Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton) as Sam Cooke.

As the director and producer, King studys back to history of the world living in the 1960s on how the world or a person can react and express their emotions upon seeing a black individual in person. She also borrows some key elements from Raging Bull and The Godfather trilogy as references in order to portray the characters, the plot, and the setting perfectly for that 1960s historical accuracy, producing a huge powerful and inspirational reflection that powers voices from any speaking individual happening in the country. With all the writing and the production designs overtaking the dynamics for that course, King also provides a powerful message on how anyone who has the position of power, even if it serves as means through music, film, art, and activism, she directs the plot and the storyline of each acts with a aplomb, giving the four main actors a shine to shingle on this very tight project.

Aside from King’s direction, the four mightily impressive leads each delivering a flawless performance of power and stature that goes with the iconic figures they are portraying. They both tried to strongly portray a character based on the figures’ personas and actions, but the four know how to do it smoothly and accurately. The main actors of the three (Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr.) become the best performers for the entire film, but the excellent performance coming from Kingsley Ben-Adir outshines them all.

Also appearing in the film are Beau Bridges, Jeff Bridges’ older brother, as Mr. Carlton and Lance Reddick (John Wick films) as Brother Kareem.

Above all, One Night in Miami is a great film to watch, it takes nearly two hours to watch. It’s very nice and relaxing to see how Regina King can pull that off as the breakout feature-film-debut director as well as Kemp Powers as a writer with a strong, compassionate voice. My paid respects to the main four actors as well. They, along with King and Powers, did a terrific job of understanding how anyone’s voices could question their ideas and arguments. Imagine if you pull the trigger on me, I promise you that this film is really a must. And to top it all off, King is absolutely the strongest director who can outshine Hollywood, I would love to see the Oscar-winning actress become an Oscar-nominated director like so.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Herself



Director: Phyllida Lloyd

Studio: Amazon Studios

Herself is the key of life’s greatest humanistic choice!


Movies can be extremely difficult to choose which drama film to see without having the sharks all over the place out of fear or concern. In that case, family relationships carry the main signature theme to drama films that dramatized the audiences and families who dealt with issues in certain levels. English filmmaker Phyllida Lloyd, who helmed Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady which both films feature Meryl Streep, returns to her directing duties in thus most recent feature film, Herself, featuring the stars of Clare Dunne in her leading role, along with Harriet Walter and Conleth Hill.

Herself follows the story of a young mother Sandra who struggles with her daughters after escaping from her abusive husband. She later fights back against a broken housing system when she sets out to build her own home and in the process rebuilds her life and rediscovers herself.

The entire cast consists of English and Irish actors, which perfectly fits for a Downton Abbey-flavored drama movie outing. Clare Dunne (Spider-Man: Far From Home) leads the big screen as Sandra, the mother of her two daughters named Molly and Emma (both portrayed by Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara). English actress Harriet Walter (Downton Abbey) portrays Peggy in the film who helps Sandra build her a new home while Irish actor Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones) shares some screentime with them as Aido, the construction worker.

Lloyd’s direction over the course of the film exemplifies what a film can do to send the rightful messages to women, especially teaching them how to voice one’s opinions with honesty and bravery. Lloyd really teaches Dunne on how to better herself in many ways to free herself as if any woman would accept or reject something from a friend or family or sprouse. Even with guidance Lloyd offers to her, Dunne knows onscreen on how to follow her character nicely and slow without beating around the bush.

The director, the producers, the cast, and the film also retrace the cultural themes of domestic violence and abuse, the film’s main structure component, as well as the #MeToo movement after the allegations of sexual abuse towards women from powerful men and leaders in the media industries which gives the film a similar, powerful feel that left the audience to think about those situations and predicaments from past to present, dawn til dusk.

Also appearing in the film are Cathy Belton (Ireland’s Red Rock), Erika Roe as Sandra’s pub bar co-worker Amy, Rebecca O’Mara (Thomas and Friends) as Grainne, and Ian Lloyd Anderson as Gary, Sandra’s abusive husband.

Though parts of the film that prevent me from enjoying the film are the darker scenes involving Sandra’s relationship with her abusive husband, which may frighten young viewers upon seeing this, as well as her darkest memories about him, giving her a PTSD shark in her weary world. Nevertheless, a darker, sardonic tone and stride are present throughout her character’s viewing of the world. Life should be a place to just enjoy oneself regardless of the events that occur.

Over the top, Herself is a good film, but I would like to see further incarnations of this tale. It runs about 97 minutes for the full length of time and I have to say, this film is a must, but you might want to take proper precautions before you decide to select this film, digitally or theatrically.

GRADE: B

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Promising Young Woman



Director: Emerald Fennell

Studio: Focus Features

Action speaks louder than words in Promising Young Woman


Promising Young Woman is a darker, comedy thriller for anyone who has enjoyed comedy and thriller films altogether. As a director, producer, and writer for the film, Promising Young Woman serves as Fennell’s directorial debut in her career. Before that, she was an English actress who had minor roles in The Danish Girl (starring Eddie Redmayne) and Vita and Virginia (with Elizabeth Debicki in it). The film features the ensemble cast of Carey Mulligan in her leading role along with Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, and Connie Britton in their supportive roles.

Promising Young Woman centers on a young woman named Cassie Thomas who, after being traumatized by a tragic event in her past and finding out about the murdering of her close friend Nina, plans to seek vengeance against those who have wronged her and cross her path.

The characters in Promising Young Woman are very likable and intriguing. That’s one reason how this film works. Carey Mulligan (Pride and Prejustice, 2013’s The Great Gatsby) portrays a young, rebellious woman named Cassie who works at the coffee shop with actor Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade) joins Mulligan's side as Ryan Cooper, the doctor and her former classmate. And actress Laverne Cox who aides with Mulligan as Gail.

The supportive cast consist of Alison Brie (BoJack Horseman) as Madison, Chris Lowell (CW’s Veronica Mars) as Al Monroe, the futurely wedded man who is responsible for murdering Nina, Cassie’s closest friend, but rarely unseen character, and Clancy Brown (Spongebob Squarepants) and Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie films, Legally Blonde) both appear together onscreen as Cassie’s parents. And lastly, Connie Britton (Spin City) is seen in the film as Dean Walker.

The film and its key plotlines are similar to 2018’s A Simple Favor, another dark comedy-thrilling flick, directed by Paul Feig. It felt like, as director, Fennell wanted to take it the hard way after taking inspiration from that said film and, of course, the #MeToo movement where people, including celebrities, let out their voices on their toxic work environments and publicize allegations of sex crimes committed by powerful and/or prominent men. The film A Simple Favor and the #MeToo movements are the primary dynamics to the film and the Mulligan’s character entirely. There was also another dark, thriller film called I’m Your Woman, which was released in the same year, featuring the main-leading star of Rachel Brosnahan with a similar concept of this film but with family crisis being added.

The storyline threads and tales are in abundance here, the same applies to the chemistry performances between Mulligan and Burnham’s character being shared onscreen to that rapport. The director wants to fulfill this scenery between them in order to make this film more appealing to the audiences. The direction in every scene and climax from Fennell herself and the main focus of the performance coming from Carey Mulligan really shines the actors, the viewers and critics with a powerful glee. Also, just to let the viewers know that actress Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad) serves as one of the producers for this film. And let’s not forget about the screenplay from Fennell, her screenplay is what really makes the film pleasant to enjoy for those Oscar-contending attention getters.

Also appearing in the film are Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) as Jordan, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (How to Train Your Dragon trilogy) as Neil, Max Greenfield (Veronica Mars, Fox’s New Girl) as Joe, and Molly Shannon (Jim Carrey’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas!) as Mrs. Fisher.

With the promising delightful treat being offered from the director, Mulligan, and the crew, Promising Young Woman is certainly one of the greatest films I ever watched. It clocks in about nearly two hours. I honestly don’t care what the critics or audiences say about this film, I still think it’s a great film to watch even though some parts of the film are hard to follow. I would pay high respects to Fennell and Mulligan in their capable best of their abilities. The film may stand a chance of garnering some nominations for Oscars’ Best Picture, Best Director for Fennell, Best Actress for Mulligan, and Screenplay. I’m not sure how it goes, but I can totally dig it for some Oscar recommendations. With that, Promising Young Woman leaves the moviegoers with a touching message, a satisfied palate on their hands, and a positive smile galore.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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