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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Friday, March 26, 2021

Stay Out of the Attic



“Stay Out of the Attic,” also known as “Stay Out of the F**king Attic” according to IMDb (I’m not sure if this is meant to be stylized or if the stars are included to prevent profanity from being in the title), is not only badly titled but a bad movie, in general. Directed by Jerren Lauder, who co-wrote the script alongside Jason Scott Goldberg and Jesse Federman, “Stay Out of the Attic” starts out promisingly enough but ultimately offers little reason to stay the course of the movie.

The story centers around three ex-cons who now work as movers. Their latest job focuses on moving a man, Vern Mueller (Michael Flynn), out of his rather large home. The job turns out to be much bigger than the boss/owner Schillinger (Ryan Francis) expects. When voicing his concerns on completing the job done in a single day, Mueller offers a handsome bonus prompting Schillinger and his co-workers, Imani (Morgan Alexandria) and Carlos (Bryce Fernelius), to agree to pulling an all-nighter to complete the job. Mueller offers a single instruction to the movers – stay out of the attic and the basement.

There’s plenty of cheap jump scares thrown in throughout the film’s first half, an abrasive, jarring remainder that yes, we are watching a horror movie. They don’t help to set the atmosphere, and they definitely don’t offer much in the way of terrifying imagery. Unless, of course, you find the sight of fingers frightening.

The trio eventually come to discover that Mueller is a Nazi doctor. Following this discovery, Schillinger, Imani, and Carlos are locked into the house by Mueller. It’s a rather dumb plot development, especially considering the protagonists don’t do much to try to escape. These morons don’t even try to break out the windows. You might have more fun with this one if you’re able to overlook this idiocy.

As it turns out (and as I’ve already hinted), there’s nothing threatening in the attic – but the basement is another story. I guess the filmmakers didn’t want to have their movie confused for a remake of 1973’s “Don’t Look in the Basement” or an adaptation of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps book “Stay Out of the Basement.” Mueller’s laboratory is housed in the basement, complete with a surveillance system he uses to track the movements of the people working above him. In addition, the lab is home to his human experiment, which he unleashes on the movers after they discover his true identity.

To be honest, Lauder’s movie does have a good set-up. It’s just not a fully realized movie, and this isn’t just due to its small budget. The presented themes of the film aren’t fully explored, and the movie isn’t even fun on a basic, exploitative level.

Gore-hungry horror fans may find some things to like with this movie. There are some body-horror elements and the film’s final moments are fairly graphic. Still, that might not be enough to persuade many to sit through this movie’s scant 80-minute runtime. “Stay Out of the Attic” isn’t particularly thrilling or terrifying, and it certainly isn’t a “fun” horror movie. On a more positive note, it does manage to avoid being a complete and total bore. Still, I’d say avoid this one unless you’re desperate for something to watch.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Nobody

Director: Ilya Naishuller

Studio: Universal Pictures

Nobody is a fool to see Bob Odenkirk back in action!


Nobody is such a strong word for its title to avoid confusion with another film, Nobody’s Fool, directed by Tyler Perry, but if anyone who is a fan of Bob Odenkirk could get a good taste in this action, crime-thriller flick. This film looks very interesting to see with Odenkirk taking his steps into something hotter and catchy this year. Nobody is directed by Ilya Naishuller and stars Bob Odenkirk in his main role, along with Connie Nielsen, RZA, Aleksei Serebryakov, and Christopher Lloyd in their supportive roles.

Nobody focuses on Hutch Mansell, who, after the thieves ran into his home, declines to defend himself or his family to prevent any serious complications. When his family begins to drift away from him, it ignites his resentment about being an unsubstantial father and husband, thus awakening his suppressed skills and illuminating his dark secrets.

In the film, Bob Odenkirk (AMC’s Breaking Bad and its spin-off Better Call Saul) portrays Hutch Mansell, a father to his son Blake and a husband to Becca Mansell, who refuses to save his family from burglars invading their home. Gage Munroe (Hotel Transylvania: The Series) and Connie Nelson (2017’s Wonder Woman, Gladiator) appeared in the film as Hutch’s son and wife Blake and Becca, supporting the protagonist.

Director Ilya Naishuller, who have taken his directing duty from 2015’s Hardcore Henry, takes the filming stage to guide Bob Odenkirk and the cast on how any action film is heavily done in certain levels. This includes guiding actors and the cinematographers to shoot some cooler stunts, comedic character performances, and heavy-visualized action sequences, compared to John Wick series and other thriller films people have watched, thanks to Naishuller’s partner and screenwriter Derek Kolstad who utilized his script-making duties from John Wick films and sets out on his big, breakout writing duty for his new television miniseries, Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which will be shown on Disney+.

While the film is nice and easy to follow when it comes to storytelling, the director gave weak characterizations for Hutch’s family characters as the wife, son, and daughter sounded too weak and helpless, waiting for the man to do the job. Thus, giving them the damsel-in-distress character build-up as if someone is waiting for Superman to be rescued without even thinking about them strongly to how each character gives its personal trait. This is something the filmmakers have missed when all comes down to character developments.

Also appearing in the film are RZA (Kill Bill: Volume 1) as Hutch’s half-brother, Aleksei Serebryakov as Russian mafia lord Yulian Kuznetsov with a Robert-De-Niro persona-type, Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) as Hutch’s father, Michael Ironside as Eddie Williams and Colin Salmon (Resident Evil) as The Barber. And lastly, better not forget about Paisley Cadorath who also comes to the stage as Sammy Mansell, Hutch's daughter.

Nobody is a classical, thrilling 92-minute feature film, crossing between John Wick and Taken films. It’s funny, exciting, emotional, and epic in that order. Odenkirk really nailed the role as I really enjoyed every scenery Odenkirk has ever taken freshly based on his acting professionalism under the director’s blessing. I feel like this film may deserve at least one Oscar nomination and maybe at least one sequel if they ever come up with something cool and radical for the next chapter. Surely this film gives its good 90s (or early 2000s) vibes and it’s really off to a good start for 2021 for any action film being released in theaters. I like this film, but I can’t give a higher rating on this chilly so-called “crime” film.

GRADE: B

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is at the Avengers: Endgame level of DC Comics!


Fans, celebrities, and audiences have been waiting for this cut for a long time after that dreadful 2017 version was released, directed by Joss Whedon, which flopped the box office and critics’ reviews entirely. As a result, the future of the films and production lineups based on the DC Comics is in jeopardy, leading to the media speculation for Warner Bros. to focus on the superheroes’ solo, independent films before joining altogether in one film like Marvel’s The Avengers. In addition, the news from fans, the studio, and the filmmakers also led Zach Synder himself to produce and release his own version of the film, under the name, “The Snyder Cut.” The film is directed by Synder himself and features the ensemble cast of Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher in their superhero role-playing game of the team.

Like the previous 2017 theatrical release of the film, Zack Snyder's Justice League follows the Justice League, consisting of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aquaman, and the Flash, as their mission is to save the world from the catastrophic, intergalactic threat of Darkseid, Steppenwolf, and their army of Parademons who are invading Earth.

Actors Ben Affleck (Good Will Hunting), Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher return to this restored version as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg respectively. The ensemble cast have done an outstanding job of keeping in character as Synder would want. It seems pretty heavy to redo the entire scenes and film additional shots that haven’t been seen on the original version, thus making the Joss Whedom’s version very unpleasant to watch due to his unsuccessful attempts of making a greater story. This Synder cut is absolutely more-detailed as this version focuses on not only the heroes’ journey of saving the world, but also focusing on their times and memories with their families, which give the film much more structural tone and depth for the film and also providing some stronger character developments of the film.

Zack Synder, who left production of the 2017 version of the film following the death of his daughter Autumn, comes to the rescue after hearing the critics’ reviews on Joss Whedon’s directorial version. Synder’ direction really saves all the trouble of directing and providing guidance towards his fellow actors and the rest of the cast and crew. Reworking on this film is extremely difficult when it comes to story arcs being easy to follow and the cast knowing what to do in the sceney, but by the looks of it, the actors enjoy working with Synder as well as having good social relationships with him, better than Joss Whedon’s. Speaking of that, if you hear about Whedon, he was accused of his abusive behavior towards Justice League actors according to the news.

The special effects, the character development, and the music composition from Junkie XL are pretty ambiguous and tediously straight-forward, trailing with Avengers: Endgame for that distant flavor and texture being used and shown in the film. And the ending isn’t so bad either, leaving the rhetorical question from critics and audiences whether a sequel to his cut will likely happen in the future, but it appears as though Synder will likely say yes in that glorious manner. While the major improvements work, the time length of the film gives me a nervousness and a lot of anxiety to see, treating this like a four-hour episode or a movie miniseries released at the same time as opposed to separately on a weekly basis on television. Another issue is that some small parts of the story really threw me off, especially on that bloaty climax right there which kind of got lost in the center for that strategical backstory on the villains.

Also appearing in the film are the returning stars of Willem Dafoe (Finding Nemo, 2002’s Spider-Man), Amber Heard (Aquaman), Jeremy Irons (The Lion King), Amy Adams (Enchanted), Diane Lane (Unfaithful), Connie Nielsen (Gladiator), and J. K. Simmons (Whiplash, Raini’s Spider-Man trilogy), reprising their roles as Vulko, Mera, Alfred Pennyworth, Lois Lane, Martha Kent, Hippolyta, and James Gordon. In addition, Ciarán Hinds also returns onscreen as Steppenwolf, the main antagonist of the film, while actor Joe Morton reprises his role as Silas Stone, Cyborg’s father.

Some newer cast are present in the film whom they didn’t get to appear in the original version, Ryan Zheng is introduced as Ryan Choi while Kiersey Clemons portrays Iris West in the film. And lastly, Ray Porter portrays Darkseid, one of the main villains who threaten Earth.

Regardless of what is told and what is done, Zack Snyder's Justice League is a good four-hour movie event on HBO Max. It’s a massive improvement over it’s 2017 version. Synder really knows what to do and understands the nuts-and-bolts of how a great film is being made. My compliments to Synder himself as well as the six main actors and the rest of the crew who made this occasion possible by bringing this restoration back on its feet. One last thing, due to its time length, I highly recommend splitting two hours of your time watching this today or tomorrow and pick it up where you left off the next day after that. I kinda say, this is a must and this is far, the most anticipated film to watch for the studio and on HBO Max.

GRADE: B-

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Saturday, March 20, 2021

Chaos Walking

Director: Doug Liman

Studio: Lionsgate

Chaos Walking is a film with a Hunger Games hype!


Science fiction and dystopian films being mixed all together aren’t my real thing, but Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley are such admirable actors in everyone’s eyes and minds. The film gives me a similar vibe compared to The Hunger Games series or Maze Runner since the film is also heavily based on the sci-fi trilogy Chaos Walking, adapting its first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go written by Patrick Ness who also serves as a screenwriter for the film. As mentioned, the film stars Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland in their main-leading roles while actors Mads Mikkelsen, Demián Bichir, Cynthia Erivo, Nick Jonas, and David Oyelowo appear in their supportive roles.

Chaos Walking follows a young man named Todd Hewitt who lives in a dystopian world where there are no women and all living creatures can hear each other's thoughts in a stream of images, words, and sounds that are widely known as this so-called "Noise." When a young female crash lands onto the planet, he must help her escape danger.

To those who are not familiar with Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, Holland portrays Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the MCU’s Spider-Man films while Ridley portrays Rey in the new Star Wars trilogy. Holland also voices Ian Lightfoot in Disney-Pixar film Onward, which was released in March 2020 just before COVID hits the earth, while Ridley appears in 2018’s Ophelia as the titular-leading character. Here in the film, Holland made his onscreen appearance as Todd Hewitt, a man living in a dystopian, distant world while Ridley steals the show as Viola Eade, a young woman who crash lands onto his world.

Doug Liman, who previously directed The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow, takes the mantle as sole director. He has been in the movie business since the mid-1990s when he first directed 1996’s Swingers, featuring Jon Faverau, the founding father of Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the performances of Holland and Ridley, the story borrows several key elements from the Hunger Games series, taking much more complexity of the characters and the forest setting compared to that said film. It pretty seems as if Liman wants to crank things up a notch in regards to his camera-shooting professionalism like he did for Bourne Identity films while taking influences on other science fiction films that involves people living in a dangerous society.

This whole building-story-arcs thing comes together alright as the plot flows by but it's just not well done enough to engender a higher score. Daisy Ridley puts in another mannequin-like performance, and she is carried away like by Holland for most of the film. Despite the chemistry between Ridley and Holland being enjoyable to watch, the CGI and special effects given to those two characters with more range simply made the characters underdeveloped and the film increasingly uninteresting.

Also appearing are Mads Mikkelsen who portrays David Prentiss while actors Demián Bichir, Cynthia Erivo, Nick Jonas, and David Oyelowo portrayed as Ben Moore, Hildy Black, David Prentiss Jr., and Aaron respectively.

Sorry to say this but, Chaos Walking is a disappointing 109-minute flick. It doesn't have any surprising moments and exciting thrills, but Holland and Ridley are what makes this film pleasant to watch. I like Tom Holland as he did everything he could for Daisy Riley onscreen together, which is very chivalry, but I didn’t like the film entirely as I actually felt like I’m watching a plagiarized version of The Hunger Games or Maze Runner. The director and the writers have thrown too many eggs in one basket due to much CGI and special effects being that have taken more attention and input than the characters’ development. I hate to say this, but I rather skip this unless you can take proper precautions on this film.

GRADE: F

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Nomadland

Director: Chloé Zhao

Studio: Searchlight Pictures

Nomadland is a bestie of the year!


People may ask, “Who says any non-Americans can’t make American films?” The answer is Hollywood, but before director Chloé Zhao takes on her big, breakout directing role for MCU’s upcoming Eternals film, she brings the real definition of what motion pictures are all about in our cultural ways of seeing something at a movie theater and that is making Nomadland. A film doesn’t have to start or end with Hollywood. Films are as good from anywhere coming from visionary filmmakers all around the globe. This film is based on a book written by American journalist Jessica Bruder and features Frances McDormand in her main-leading role with David Stratharin in his supportive role given by Zhao.

Nomadland takes place in 2011 and centers on a woman named Fern who, following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad while looking for seasonal jobs around the winter.

Frances McDormand takes on her leading role as Fern, a lady who has been traveling in her van to find work throughout the winter season while actor David Stratharin appears as Dave. The film also features the real-life nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern's mentors, fictionalizing themselves onscreen to guide Fern in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.

This film serves as Zhao’s third feature film to direct after her previous experiences with Songs My Brothers Taught Me and The Rider. She is set to direct her venturing Marvel blockbuster film Eternals, featuring Angelina Jolie and Richard Madden, which will be released in Fall 2021. For this film, she takes her job of making films based on one’s stories extremely well. She and her camera crew really know how to take some good filming shots on the characters, the setting, and the real nomad scenes to see how people can study about the modern lifestyle and the differences on how anyone can live their life to the fullest. Not to mention that the script-writing, the editing, and the cinematography are anonymous and ambiguous, ful-filling how anyone can see how conflicts and issues are resolved when it comes to overcoming challenges they faced in the film.

Speaking of that, the casting of real world people is a bold, but fantastic move by the film makers. It adds much realism to the fictional story that just can't be manufactured and theoretically lets anybody, including myself, get some of these fascinating glimpses into a world that is way above different than my (and your’s) own world. The main point of the story is that you can’t judge a movie by its name. It is pretty much like a movie that has a very documentary-like flavor at certain times.

Nomadland is a nice magnificent two-hour flick. Zhao and McDormand really nailed their parts together to bring all the ingredients down together. Seems like an Oscar-worthy for Zhao and McDormand. This is a very quiet movie and is deeply a must for all ages. It is a very slow paced film due to its setting and the atmosphere the director has given us, but I didn't find this overwhelmingly hindered by the experience in any way though, I was never bored when I was watching this. Needless to say, you should go watch this, you’ll be fascinated by the wilds of nature and drama anyone has ever experienced in their entire life. It’s an easy flick to regret if you missed out on this!

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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The Father

Director: Florian Zeller

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

The Father tops it all for Anthony Hopkins!


Anthony Hopkins is easily one of the greatest actor of all times, from his honorable portrayal in The Silence of the Lambs to becoming Thor’s father Odin in MCU’s Thor series to his latest nominated role in The Father as he slowly slides into the horror of this father as he loses his mind witnessed primarily through his caregiving daughter portrayed by the brilliant Olivia Colman. This film serves as directorial debut for Florian Zeller, who has turned his written play Le Père (The Father) into a nice, grand entry to the motion picture industries.

The Father follows the story of an aging man who refuses all the assistance his daughter has given as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind, and even the fabric of his reality.

Anthony Hopkins portrays Anthony, the main protagonist of the film, who suffered Alzheimer's disease who moves into his daughter’s house while Olivia Colman portrays his caring daughter Anne. The film also includes the rest, but a much smaller cast consisting of Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, and Olivia Williams.

Zeller’s direction takes on the high-note when it comes to coming-of-age drama films, he and the crew filmed on every stage and action as the way he wanted from his play on stage. Zeller provides some conveying messages about the living with Alzhemier’s disease and dementia, which these two are the whole, main point of what is going on in the film and what are the problems in the story that the cast and crew take note in this particular situation. The story has somewhat a sticky situation scenario but when it all comes down, Zeller perfectly captures the real-deal family crisis between a normal family member and a family member with a disease/disability.

The chemistry between Hopkins and Colman brings the significant amount of family dynamics between Hopkins and Colman just as the director really need, giving the sternly father-and-daughter relationship as part of the film’s climax, even with the opera music is being placed in the background to give the film a much deeper tone for a fatherly emotion living in a England-home lifestyle. One thing noticeable is that playing a father and a daughter seems hard for both Hopkins and Colman, but they knew what to do as their onscreen relationship really gave a lot of perception for critics and audiences who need to put themselves in Hopkins’ shoes.

I can’t tell you more from this but The Father is an amazing film, being carried by Zeller, Hopkins and Colman. This movie is highly well-told coming from Hopkins' perspective, as he ages his memory fades and things get more complicated than it seems. This movie is emotionally powerful, beautiful, and depressing to watch. It makes me think about the films featuring any old man and his daughter's relationship. While the point of this movie is to bore or confuse us, I got a little lost in the film as I felt like it needed a little more explanation of what was really going on truthfully. Nevertheless, the performances and the story are fantastic. Anthony Hopkins is amazing, very worthy for his Oscar nomination.

GRADE: A

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Us Again

Director: Zach Parrish

Studio: Disney

SHORT FILM REVIEW: Disney’s Us Again!


Us Again is a very common, but riveting title for that name to attract Disney fans and to add a few pointers to those who wanted to become visual animators and voice sharers in the future. It is the first short film in five years to be produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and to be preceded in front of feature film since Moana. Usually when it all comes down to short films, the studio releases them in front of feature films as part of the studios’ tradition, but these days, the studio reverts to making short films for Disney+ instead which really bumps everyone out, especially Pixar fans as well. This short is heavily directed by Zach Parrish, who was the head of animation of Big Hero 6, released back in 2014, which won Best Animated Feature Oscar.

Us Again focuses on the relationship between the elderly man and his young-at-heart wife who rekindle their zest for life through dance on this one magical night in the city.

The characters are given no dialogue in this short, though it is heavily influenced by Keone and Mari Madrid, the famous dancing duo. This magical tale, despite being set in the modern, present-day world, is just an absolute way to reminiscent musical films being shown which is what Parrish and his short-film team really wanted to capture these enduring moments of any coming-of-age feels for both children and adults while growing up.

The story, the animation, the lighting, the music from Pinar Toprak, and the characters are very enthralling and captivating to see to enhance one’s own amusement. It is like a mixture of any coming-of-age musical classics like Mary Poppins,West Side Story, Singing in the Rain, and Grease. Following the no-speech rule, Zach Parrish, as director, guide the animators on imitating the dancing duo’s moves onscreen as they wanted to make it a fine-wine musical, but silent flashy short that adds an excessive amount of tone, the vibrancy, and a whole lot of richness compared to other musical films that involves singing-and-dancing, and to Disney-Pixar theatrical shorts due its formulaic ways of storytelling and the no-speech rule that kept the tradition very irresistible.

Us Again is a brilliant short film that serves as a fine opening act of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. It certainly comes between musical and coming-of-age drama in that genre. The director has done a marvelous job following the Pixar formula and sharing his passionate voice. I admired every task Parrish and team have accomplished. I love this theatrical short, it’s heartwarming and wonderful with that same feeling of watching the Pixar shorts. I’m glad Disney returns on making shorts that will be shown in front of full-length feature films. This short film is worth a watch if you’re planning on seeing Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters. You will love it, just as you love the Pixar shorts entirely with that same reaction on your face.

GRADE: A+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Raya and the Last Dragon

Director: Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada

Studio: Disney

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is a five-star classic with formulaic storytelling!


Animation is something that revolutionized the movie industries throughout the decades thanks to these rousing, early animation gurus of Winsor McCay, Chuck Jones, the Fleischer brothers, and lastly, Walt Disney. After the release of Frozen 2, Raya and the Last Dragon becomes the 59th animated feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios as well as the studio’s first original film since Moana. Though, there were several theatrical-release delays and minor setbacks of the film due to COVID-19 pandemic. But no need to frown because this film is officially up in theaters this week and on Disney+ simultaneously. Directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, this film features the stars of Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina in their main leading roles.

Raya and the Last Dragon focuses on the female warrior named Raya whose main mission is to track down the very last dragon in order to stop a group of sinister monsters called Druun once and for all. However, along the way, she soon discovers that the main problem is not only does it take a lot of dragon magic and needy assistance from the dragon to save the world — it's also going to take trust to build and conquer entirely.

Star Wars regular Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) voices the titular character Raya while actress and singer Awkwafina (The Farewell) appears as the voice of Sisu, the titular dragon, supporting the protagonist. The chemistry between Tran and Awkwafina is nicely put together for that classical buddy, comedy feature film, especially when it comes to strengthening one’s character development to the other, which is one of the most traditional chore being placed for traditional Disney and Pixar films. Despite working on an animated film, it may seem hard to both Tran and Awkwafina entirely, but they both knew how to do their jobs properly at the directors’ behest.

Raya and the Last Dragon serves as a directorial debut for long-time Disney animator Paul Briggs (Big Hero 6) who serves as co-director of the film while Jennifer Lee (Frozen), taking the leadership role as the studios’ Chief Creative Officer following John Lasseter’s departure, is involved as an executive producer of the film. Thanks to the direction coming from Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, and Paul Briggs, the animation and the story seem to be very realistic (and magical) increasingly throughout the film. The film’s narrative structure, the themes, and the CGI the directors and the team drew upon have successfully captured every Asian cultural element there is as studied to make this film highly anticipated and extremely questionable on how the story, the characters, the scenes, and the craftsmanship flow in a number of levels.

Not only the story’s integrity and the animation itself, but the settings and the authentic-Asian representation of the film have hit hard on core compared to the real-life countries of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and other Asian countries the filmmakers and animators have traveled or influenced. The representation for the story gives a nostalgic feel of DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda films due to the style and similarities being used in the film, even when it involves adding the simplistic actional sequences which bring the whole climax down altogether for a one big opportunity to see and to learn thanks to the subtle, visionary writing teams of Qui Nguyen, Osnat Shurer (Pixar short Boundin, Moana), Peter del Vecho, and Crazy Rich Asians alumni Adele Kim.

After handling music-composing duties from his previous Disney animated films Dinosaur, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Treasure Planet, James Newton Howard returns to the animation studio to score this film, utilizing his skills and influences from his previous works, plus a usage of the works of Hans Zimmer and John Powell in order to create a stunning, colorful dynamics to give the film a few bonus points.

As the studio is getting diverse, the majority of the voice cast all consisted of Asian American actors who have done an exquisite job keeping up with their characters right there. Here, we have Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians) as a corrupted warrior Namarri, Daniel Dae Kim (2010’s Hawaii Five-O series) as Raya’s father Chief Benja, Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) as Virana, Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, Avengers: Infinity War) as Tong, and the studio’s mainstay Alan Tudyk (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen) as Tuk Tuk, Raya’s pill bug pet.

With all the colors and the magic being shown, Raya and the Last Dragon is a wonderful two-hour delight for fans and audiences out there. The cast and the crew did a terrific job of making this possible, especially Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina. Whether you will see this at home or at a movie theater, this animated tale is a “must” and I think, with strong confidence, Raya and the Last Dragon has even more potential compared to the previous Disney animated films like Frozen, Zootopia, and Moana. You will love it, trust me, it’s a five-star classic. Like I said before, I’m a sucker for Disney and Pixar films. And speaking of that, I’m also excited for Encanto, another Disney animated flick, on the way this year as well as Pixar’s Luca which comes out this summer.

One more thing, if you’re planning on seeing this in theaters, Raya and the Last Dragon will be accompanied by a new short film, Us Again, directed by Zach Parrish.

GRADE: A+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Coming 2 America

Director: Craig Brewer

Studio: Amazon Studios/Paramount Pictures

Review: Coming 2 America!


People have been savagely waiting to see if any sequel from any original film can be quite as good, unlike that insipid Dumb and Dumber To, Zoolander 2, or Independence Day: Resurgance. This long-awaited sequel really brings a lot of nostalgia for lots of Eddie Murphy fans out there, but it’s very questionable whether this sequel will outstand the original. After taking directing duties from Dolemite Is My Name, Craig Brewer collaborates with Eddie Murphy again to helm this sequel, featuring Murphy and Arsenio Hall reprising their main-leading roles while actors Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Wesley Snipes, and the returning James Earl Jones appear in their supportive roles.

Coming 2 America takes place after the events of the first film, former Prince Akeem Joffer is set to become King of Zamunda when he discovers he has a son he never knew about in America – a street savvy Queens native named Lavelle. Honoring his royal father's dying wish to groom this son as the crown prince, since Akeem and Lisa’s daughter is ineligible to take over the throne since Zamunda law has to be a male heir to take the throne. Akeem and Semmi set off to America once again.

Murphy (Shrek series) and Arsenio Hall reprise their roles as Prince Akeem Joffer, who is about to be king, and his friend Semmi respectively, taking the audience and fans to their next adventure after the 1988 original film. The film also includes the returning cast of Shari Headley as Akeem’s wife and queen Lisa Joffer/Lisa McDowell, John Amos as Akeem’s employee Cleo McDowell, Paul Bates as Oha, a royal servant, and the legendary James Earl Jones (Star Wars, The Lion King), reprising his role as King Jaffe Joffer.

With the direction from Craig Brewer himself, the story seems to be in order when it comes to finding a new chapter for Eddie Murphy's characters in the film. Brewer and the writing teams, along with Murphy himself, want to make a nice, gentle sequel that brings a lot of goodness, the comedy keys, and the natural flavors to it as Murphy and his team are trying to rehash. Even so, Murphy orchestrated himself and Hall on following along with the character parts and the settings in the sequel, plus adding much humor to that effect. Murphy and Hall both look like they are having a hard time remembering what they did in the original film, but they just simply work themselves out as they are both having fun working on this film as if this serves as “Chapter 2” of the book.

Though there are some downsides in the film due to unorganized, baffled plot arcs on the first half of the film, the mystified-gritty writing on some parts of the story, and Fowler’s Lavelle character being introduced as a son without any personal identification or DNA test to see how this character can possible be the rightful connection towards Murphy’s character onscreen (and the entire film as a whole). Because of this, it feels like the sequel has brought up some family truth-bombs to drop as family and seeking long-lost relatives are part of the tale’s formulaic dynamics, though the comedy and the African-stylistic culture are what makes this film entertaining for people of all ages.

While the film is funny but unamused, the costumes right there throughout the film are fabulous to make all the Zamundans look terrific and royalty, thanks to Oscar-winning Black Panther costume designer Ruth E. Carter, thus meeting its credentials on crafting a African-American film with many cultural tastes and outcomes.

Not only Murphy and Hall appearing onscreen, the majority of the cast are all newcomers here: Jermaine Fowler as Akeem’s illegitimate son Lavelle, Leslie Jones as Lavelle’s mother Mary Junson, Tracy Morgan as Lavelle’s uncle Reem, KiKi Layne as Akeem’s first daughter Meeka Joffer, Bella Murphy (Eddie Murphy’s daughter) as Akeem’s second daughter Omma Joffer, Akiley Love as Akeem’s third daughter Tinashe, Wesley Snipes as General Izzi, and Teyana Taylor as General Izzi’s daughter.

Also appearing in the film are the surprising cameos of Rick Ross, Davido, and Morgan Freeman.

Coming 2 America is an average film, maybe landing between the good and the bad films in that section. It runs almost 110 minutes in length. I didn’t love it or hate it, I just think this film didn’t live up to its standards like the original film. Though I heavily enjoyed Murphy’s and Hall’s performance like before as well as paying high respects to James Earl Jones. While the cult, classic original film still holds up to its glory on both raucous romantic comedy and African American fairytale, the follow-up is toothless, but comical to revisit the moments of greatness yet too much of the same old story if you’re in the need of looking for something fresh. I'd rather go back to rewatch the original film again. This film is more like “Coming to Promiseland” in that manner.

GRADE: D+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Tom and Jerry

Director: Tim Story

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

This new, nostalgic Tom and Jerry movie have missed their hits!


Just you know, there was another Tom and Jerry movie that was released in 1992, which flopped the critics’ reviews and the box office worldwidely, so this theatrical film counts as a second-timer out of the entire Tom and Jerry media. This new Tom and Jerry movie marks the first Tom and Jerry production that came to light without the involvement from the original creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera who died in 2001 and 2006 respectively. Based on the characters created by Hanna and Barbera, the film is directed by Tim Story and stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Peña in their onscreen, main-leading live-action roles while the titular characters are voiced by William Hanna, Mel Blanc, and June Foray via archival recordings.

Tom and Jerry focuses on the animated titular duo looking for a fresh start of their lives with Jerry taking up residence at the Royal Gate Hotel, located in New York City. However, when Jerry is discovered, a newly-hired hotel employee Kayla hires Tom out on the street to get rid of Jerry before the wedding starts, leading to a fight and a cat-and-mouse chase between each other.

For the live-action roles in the film, actress Chloë Grace Moretz (The 5th Wave, Greta) portrays Kayla Forester, a young, newly-hired employee of the Royal Gate Hotel and a wedding planner who enlists Tom to remove Jerry before the wedding while actor Michael Peña (Marvel’s Ant-Man) portrays onscreen with Moretz as Terrence, Kayla’s boss. Also appearing are Colin Jost (Saturday Night Live) as Ben the bridegroom, Rob Delaney (Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw) as the wealthy hotel manager Mr. Dubros, and Ken Jeong (ABC’s Dr. Ken, The Masked Singer) as Jackie, the hotel’s head chef and baker.

After handling directorial duties from the first two Fantastic Four films (with Chris Evans in them) and Ride Along film series (featuring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube), Tim Story and his crew are trying to bridge up the gaps between live-action humans and cartoon characters evoking in the same time, same location settings. Story and his live-action/animation teams are trying multiple ways to get humans interact with cartoon folks in just the right consistency, mainly Moretz and Pena’s onscreen encounter with the animated duo, as if they want to make this film to be as realistic and simplistic as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was dated back in 1988.

Though, there are lots of worst things being taken for the film. The plot and the animation are very messy and aren't realistic as they are compared to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The crew are trying their best to put more good-old 1900s cartoon nostalgic feels and thrills in the film but sadly it didn’t go really well as planned, even the characters' slapstick performances just aren't helping enough and fails to penetrate laughter and surprising emotions for that old-school cartoon classics. Additionally, the writing is very gritty and confusing throughout since the director doesn’t focus on the animated duo, instead the main focus on the film is particularly the live-action cast, which is completely unnecessary. Everything else, not so much, not even the ending which is very confusing that makes this film heavily discouraged from liking or enjoying this film.

Aside from the full cast, actors Nicky Jam, Bobby Cannavale, and Lil Rel Howery also feature in their voice roles for their hand-drawn animated characters in the film. Jam as Butch the black alley cat, Cannavale as Spike the Dog, and Howery as Tom’s Shoulder Angel and Devil. In addition, as a substitute for archive recordings, legendary voice actor Frank Welker returns to voice Tom and Jerry respectively. And lastly, Bollywood star and Indian-Australian actress Pallavi Sharda appears as Preeta, the bride of the wedding and Ben's fiancée.

After some ups and downs, Tom and Jerry isn’t a great 100-minute movie as nostalgia really had a harcore on bringing the classics back like the cartoons ones. This live-action/animated flick is an animated guilty pleasure right there for both audiences and critics who grew up watching Tom and Jerry shorts back in the day. Though, the only thing that makes the film enjoyable is Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Pena's performances right there and so does the animated duo from the start. I hate to say this but, if I were you, I would rewatch Who Framed Roger Rabbit to make up for those hundred minutes of your life, or better yet, wait for next week for the studio’s rival, Disney, for the upcoming animated film Raya and the Last Dragon.

One last thing, this film is dedicated to the Tom and Jerry animator and cartoonist Gene Deitch who died on April 16th, 2020 during the production of this film.

GRADE: F

(Review by Henry Pham)









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Bad Folks

Director: Michael Crum and Gerald Crum

Studio: MGI Films

Review: Bad Folks!


Bar-fighting sequences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making an action movie or thriller movie or both at the same time, same pace. Just to let readers know that this is made in Dallas as the film was being shot somewhere in Richardson, TX under the Dallas County area. The film is heavily directed and produced by Michael and Gerald Crum who serve as writers for the film. Bad Folks also features the focusing cast of Shanon Snedden, Joshua Winch, and Gerald Crum.

Bad Folks follows the story of a small group of people who are set to meet up with an unnamed investor, but when things go awry, their sideways and confessions lead to a violent confrontation between each of them inside the bar.

Under the direction coming from Michael and Gerald Crum, they pretty much know how the film feels when they both shoot an action, indie B-movie inside the bar, which is the only location they focus on shooting during the ongoing pandemic, which is a difficult timing for filmmakers in these days as the COVID-pandemic begins to spread across America. They set the standards on controlling the characters’ traits and the storyline in that order. Though the story and the ending left me confused and extremely unmotivated to see as my main downfalls for this film have broken my spirits up when it comes to seeing an action film, but with a smaller cast and crew. It’s really difficult and somewhat nervousing to view how the story is going to flow through.

The cast here is limited to at least 10 people on screen, maybe less if counted respectively. Most of the cast does well on their parts while the others are on the cringy side of acting. The acting needs a little bit of work but they know what to do at the bar right there. Since the film contains a much smaller ensemble cast, the film felt like they provided tons of hits and misses on the character roles while watching the film carefully which is very easy to follow but harder to pay close attention to.

Overall, Bad Folks is an interesting super indie with a low budget, but not as enjoyable to say the least. It doesn’t add up to some particular levels on how a thriller film works, but it highly works well for some actors right there. The cast, despite the smaller numbers shown in the film, have done a great job and that’s more than anybody can usually ask for. I can tell you that even with those 70 minutes on the clock, the film is very tough to watch with some crazy amounts of blood and violence being scraped from top to bottom.

GRADE: D+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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The Independents

Director: Greg Naughton

Studio: RGB Films

Review: The Independents!


While the film was made and premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February 2018, The Independents is a coming-of-age, musical, comedy/drama that focuses on the life and the traveling career of their own music band called The Sweet Remains. The film features the band in their main leading roles. The Independents is written and directed by Greg Naughton and produced by Naughton, Jonathan Burkhart, and Dorottya Mathe.

The Independents focuses on the three struggling singer-songwriters, consisting of Rich, Greg, and Brian, whose chance-meeting rekindles each of their fading dreams of making it in the music business whilst traveling on their tour.

The real-life band members Rich Price, Greg Naughton, and Brian Chartrand portray themselves in the entire film, giving the whimsical formulaic tale of how their music career has caught on the road throughout the film with music being heavily used to bring a strong, exercising Beatles-flavored dynamics for this artistic craftsmanship.

With some heavy direction, Naughton drew inspiration from several films and documentaries from the several bands and real-life musicians in order to create a fine, musical-comedy film that even the audience should watch and remember the good times any music group has done before they get disbanded. Naughton, the three band members, and the full crew did the zaniest job on perfecting the tone and the music in the film thanks to the band members’ experience on bringing magic and music towards their fans. And the music compositions from the music-playing trio sounded lovely and easy to spot on for its touching harmony. Though, the writing and the editing are a bit gritty and cringey to add that effect for an ordinary coming-of-age drama film for its vibrancy and accuracy.

While the main cast are heavily focused on the trio of band members, Hollywood celebrities also appear in their supportive roles. Here, we have actor Richard Kind (Spin City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Pixar’s Inside Out) as Granny, Chris Sullvian (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) as Alvin, George Wendt (Cheers) as Eduardo, Broadway actress Kelli O'Hara as Kelly, James Naughton (Law & Order) as Officer Sanders, and Boyd Gaines (Law & Order) as Professor Green.

With all the musical and the dramatic pieces put together, The Independents is a great film, it runs about 97 minutes for its length of time. Naughton, the band, and the full cast and crew did an outstanding job on keeping the time-filming pace and vibrancy of the film. I felt like this film is very easy but hard to follow when it comes to musical films with band members being publicly featured. If you want to watch this, please do so when it comes out on digital.

GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)









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