Dallas Movie Screening

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

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

Website and Group Contact: dalscreenings@gmail.com

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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Jungle Cruise

The Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland opened in 1955 and became one of the most popular E-Ticket rides second to the Matterhorn at that time. For kids the hippos rising from the water next to the boat, the elephants on the shore, the crocodiles swimming towards you became an immersive adventure for young minds in the 1950's. For the parents, the skippers on each ride offered some cheesy dads jokes for their amusement. As one got older, kids began to notice the details and sometimes offensive depictions of the jungle natives which has only been recently corrected in anticipation of the opening of the movie. For today's media savvy youngsters, the ride didn't have any commercial tie-in's or references. It was old school, just becoming something you stood in a long line for your parents to enjoy a flash from the past. Disney now has revitalized the concept by adding some of the most popular actors to revitalize the franchise. The idea for a movie based on the ride started in 2004 going through several writers, directors and stars being attached. Eventually coming to life with Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson to headline the feature directed by Jaume Collet-Serra from a story by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and a screenplay written by Michael Green, Ficarra, and Requa.

Set in the Amazon in 1916 before WW1, Johnson plays Frank Wolff, a skipper of a rickety but beloved boat that takes tourists on the river with a nod to the theme park ride complete with the dangerous animals and jungle natives who we find out later are of course paid by Frank to scare his passengers. Enter Dr. Lily Houghton and her fussy brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall) who are looking into their father's research of the legendary "Tears of the Moon" petals from the Tree of Life that is supposed to cure all ailments. Also hot on the trail of the petals is Prince Joachim, a deranged German aristocrat played by Jesse Plemons who basically steals the movie. He has a sub and crew who want the petals to help in the coming war. Paul Giamatti shows up briefly as Nilo Nemolato the harbormaster with whom Frank owes a lot of money. Édgar Ramírez is Aguirre, a deadly mercenary from the past, a cursed character that is brought back to life. There are so many previous adventure movie tropes carted out and woven together from African Queen, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Romancing the Stone to name a few. The film relies heavily on the chemistry of it's lead performers which thankfully works better than one would expect.

Lily is a scientist and a modern fearless woman for the times. Frank who had never seen a woman wearing trousers nicknames her "Pants". He is reluctant to take her. Frank tries to discourage and subvert the trip at every opportunity as he seems to know more than he's willing to tell her. But Lily offers him a lot of money which he can't turn down as Nilo had taken his boat engine as collateral for the loan Frank owes to him. Dr. Lily and Frank's banter battles are fun and silly. You can tell they had a lot of fun making this movie. Frank throws most of McGregor's luggage off the boat because really who needs several changes of clothes and golf clubs for a trip on the river but keeps the booze. McGregor is another Disney LBGTQ character that they tried not to stereotype into the story by making him just the usual comic foil. Plus he actually says he's gay, which is a big step in Disney's attempt of inclusivity. He does haave some cute scenes with Frank's pet jaguar Proxima and getting drunk with the natives. It is Jesse Plemons who is just a kick as the villian. It's worth the watch just for him.

There are many CGI action sequences that are at times non-stop and forgettable. The quiet times when there is a bit of character development is a welcome respite. The Legend of the Tears of the Moon will not make sense to the little ones, but really who cares? It's just a construct to keep Lily and Frank moving to their goal while trying to create a chemsitry of the two that is more plantonic than romantic. Mexican actress Veronica Falcón plays Trader Sam who on the ride was selling shrunken heads. They tried to depict her and the tribe members in a little less racist manner, but they still come off as background and exotic. Disney has a long way to go on this point. Despite it's flaws, the movie is fun summer family movie that will play well in the theaters after a year and a half of staycation activities. It will also be available on Disney+ with Premier Access for US$30 for those still staying safe at home.

(Review by reesa)

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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Joe Bell

Bullying has seen a resurgence lately as seen in the media about airplane flights, anti-maskers/anti-vaxers, and the rise of Karen/Kevin incidences of folks offering their unwelcome opinions on everything. It's tragic especially when it happens to children by children who learn from their personal environment that it's OK to hate, insult, and physcially assault others. There has been numerous movies made about this issue, but are they really making a difference? Director Reinaldo Marcus Green, with a screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana brings a quiet and heartfelt true story based on a father's journey in the aftermath of his son's suicide.

In 2013, Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg) is confronted by his 15 year old son Jaden (Reid Miller) comes out to his parents that he is gay and he's going to be a cheerleader. Joe tries to reassure his son that he's not affected by his revelation, that he loves him no matter what. But his wife Lola (Connie Britton) knows that he is probably not all that accepting. Jaden has been constantly bullied at school because he's so obviously different from the usual high school football culture in LeGrange, Oregon. When Jaden really needs someone to help and be there for him, his dad gives lip service to his blight, brushing it off as something to address at another time. So when Jaden loses all hope, the parental guilt of failing their child hits Joe like a ton of bricks. Lola has been drinking to deal with her sorrow. At one point Joe sits in his car with his gun before his son Joesph {Maxwell Jenkins) calls him out on it. He decides he needs to get out to clear his head, so he plans to walk to New York City, a place where Jaden dreamt of going, and talk to anyone who will listen.

Setting off with a cart to hold his stuff he begins his long walk sorting out his brain by imaging he's walking with Jaden having long meaningful conversations. Talking about the things he should have said to his son. He camps along the side of the road, occassionaly staying in motels. He speaks at resturants, highschools, local halls, anywhere he can speak to the community about bullying. Whether anyone is listening, Joe plugs along, town after town, mile after mile. Some people give him postive feedback to his mission. Faith in humanity falthers when someone steals his cart and he's forced to carry his belongings on his back. After six months and he's in eastern Colorado. He begins to question his purpose until a local cop stops him and brings him to the staion for a hot meal. They bond with the similar stories and a renewed sense of what he is doing will be heard.

Wahlberg who usually plays tough working guys, dials it back a notch with a man broken by grief and guilt. The internalized stuggles of the would-of/could-of's are nicely portrayed in his performance. Wahlberg has had charges of violence and racism as a teenager (for which he served some time) and in 2001 he founded the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, which raises money for services and programs for young people. The film itself would work nicely on cable or required viewing for teens as a great starter conversation addressing the reality and costs of bullying.
(Review by reesa)

If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online. Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

The Trevor Project helps LGBTQ+ people struggling with thoughts of suicide at 866-488-7386 or text 678-678.

The LGBT National Help Center National Hotline can be reached at 1-888-843-4564.

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Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Director: Morgan Neville

Studio:Focus Features

Review: Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain.

As a movie lover and a foodie altogether, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is a personal, lovable feature film to look upon at its leisure. This documentary tells a story about the life of Anthony Bourdain and all of his various journeys he explored in his entire life. Having been directed by Morgan Neville, this documentary charts his amazing journey from being a chef to a fellow writer to the most-critically acclaimed television host, as told by his closest friends, the people he worked with, and his family.

Just to let the viewers and foodies know that this film is challenging on many levels. For starters, Bourdain's suicide is still a recent event in the public eye and a shocker for those who knew him in his lifeitme. It's a very difficult flick to watch on a full-length story scale of someone's whole life being broken up, knowing that it's going to end so inevitably, suddenly, and sadly. However, Roadrunner succeeds in higher grading-point by showing us Bourdain, his journey, and his totality balance the sadness, depression, and anxiety of his inevitable life-threatening end.

Seeing and studying about this is the best part of Anthony's inner circle. They all have so much to say. This is something people are going to say about what a powerful, beautiful, wondrous impact this man's life had on them yet the devastating, painful, frustrating crater-sized hole his death has left in them. This man’s life is the only thing both people and chefs have left in their good-old, childhood memories.

The director of this documentary feature film is Morgan Neville who always caught my eye of attention from his 2018 documentary film about Fred Rogers in Won't You Be My Neighbor?. As a certified documentary movie director for this and that said film, he just simply shows some interesting footage that increases the film’s structural depth and Bourdain’s inner circle of his life. His main questions aren't set up with some hidden, but fairly-formed agenda; he lets the subjects, the cast, and the celebrity guests speak for themselves to boost a stronger tonal voice. This is exactly the most brilliant way for a documentary filmmaking business Neville and this film are fueled by. He never gives the viewers some hard questions and answers but he knows how he can handle all types of duties when directing any film an ordinary director wants.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is the kind of film I hoped it would be. This competent, two-hour documentary film the whole-wide world needed it to be. Though I’m a bit disappointed that this does not contain more stories of Anthony. It didn't make him out to be anything he isn't, which is very hard to boil. Nevertheless, Bourdain managed to show us the realms of realness about life, food, and one man’s journey from day one. No film, book, podcast, media property, or movie review could ever, ever change that. This film is a must to everyone, worth the treat and worth your time. No joke. In addition to that, this film is also great for foodies too.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Dallas VideoFest to End After 34 Years

Dallas VideoFest to End After 34 Years

Among the city’s first film festivals, Dallas VideoFest has championed unknown filmmakers, embraced new technologies and expanded Dallas film culture since 1986

July 19, 2021 - DALLAS – In 1986 Dallas VideoFest (http://VideoFest.org) was born on the heels of a wildly successful video art program called “Video as a Creative Medium” Bart Weiss co-presented at the Dallas Museum of Art.

At the time Weiss, a filmmaker and film teacher, had been delivering similar programming in Dallas area nightclubs. Embracing the concept of a four-day festival, Weiss brought the first Dallas VideoFest to life inside the DMA’s Horchow Auditorium in 1987.

Now, after 34 years of organizing VideoFest, Weiss has decided this fall’s event (Sept. 30-Oct. 3 at Angelika Film Center - Dallas) will be the last. But, he insists, he is not stepping away from the media world entirely.

Focus on Innovation

That first year at the DMA, in a sense, set the focus for VideoFest for years to come, when Weiss asked Comedienne Edie Adams to showcase the archived work of her husband Ernie Kovacs from the 1950s to early 1960s.

“Kovacs was the first artist working in television to not just stand and tell a joke but to use the camera to tell the joke,” Weiss explained. “Kovacs was exploring what the art form could evolve into, which is what we’ve tried to do with Dallas VideoFest.”

In addition to recognizing innovators with its prestigious Ernie Kovacs Award, VideoFest has also dedicated its platform to filmmakers, who use technologies and techniques to present their work in new and different ways.

Set Apart

Weiss says it’s this focus that has set VideoFest apart from other film festivals. After a full decade of screening in the DMA — a space that featured five viewing environments, including installations and a video wall — VideoFest relocated to the Dallas Theater Center to retain autonomy in the films it screened.

“We had the whole building, and it was this incredible Frank Lloyd Wright space,” said Weiss. “We had to build everything. There was no screen, projector nor sound systems. We built a universe.”

Weiss reflects fondly on the VideoFest’s “Theater Center years,” a time when the event truly hit its stride. “People could come hang out in the lobby and talk to each other while deciding what they wanted to see next,” he said. “We loved the community aspect of it.”

Adapting to emerging trends and consumer needs, a number of local theaters have hosted VideoFest, including Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Studio Movie Grill, the Angelika Film Center — during the pandemic — drive-in theater sites. VideoFest also featured a special series called “Expanded Cinema,” where the work was shown on the outside walls of the 23-story, 1001-room Omni Dallas Hotel downtown, while the sound was transmitted simulcast by KXT-91.7 FM radio.

While available space often dictated the quantity and type of material screened, Weiss’s tastes also held sway. “Over the years, programming for the festival has been a reflection of things I’m thinking about,” he said. “Often it was about figuring out what was best at that particular moment.”

In the beginning, Weiss said VideoFest sought to fill a gap for presenting work from underrepresented communities. “It’s never been our intent to have films that would show up in the movie theater the next year,” he said. “We wanted to show things that might not be as readily accessible.”

This focus, he said, has been both a blessing and a curse. Dallas VideoFest never became a celebrity-based festival. Rather it remained a festival focused on the content and aesthetic of film work, rather than a celebrity cast.

Weiss is also proud of Dallas VideoFest’s commitment to championing interactive media — from CD-ROMs and HDTV to virtual reality — when they first arrived on the scene. When VideoFest was held at the DMA, video artists had the opportunity to work with the space’s video wall, which featured stacked monitors.

In recent years, the festival has been broken down into a series of mini-festivals, the Medianale for video art, Alternative Fiction for narratives and DocuFest for documentaries.

Nurturing Talent

Over the decades, Dallas VideoFest has nurtured many previously unknown filmmakers, who have achieved continued success in the film world. Dallas-based indie filmmaker David Lowery screened one of his first films at VideoFest before going on to win a nomination for AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

The festival also remains connected to the founders of former Dallas animation studio DNA Productions Inc., John A. Davis and Keith Alcorn – Davis a former student of Weiss at SMU. The festival showcased the pair’s animated films for years, including the pilot of JIMMY NEUTRON, BOY GENIUS, which continued for several seasons and became a feature film.

One important initiative for Weiss has been to save the work shown at VideoFest, which the event has done since the second year. “We now have tapes of what is essentially a history of this medium from 1988 to the present,” he said. “In some cases, some of the filmmakers may not have copies of the work we have.”

The Future

As Weiss reflects on the next steps, he says the end of VideoFest feels bittersweet.

“Personally, it’s sad, and in some ways, it’s somewhat of a relief,” he said. “Throughout the pandemic, I know a lot of people have gone through this questioning of ‘what is it important for me to do?’”

Weiss said the nonprofit that organizes VideoFest, Video Association of Dallas, will continue to produce his monthly show on Dallas’ public television station, KERA-TV, FRAME OF MIND, occasionally award the Ernie Kovacs Award and potentially partner with other organizations to continue contributing to Dallas film culture.

On a personal level, Weiss — himself a filmmaker — also has ongoing projects he’s looking forward to committing more time to. These projects include a narrative series called FIRE BONES (https://firebones.org) and two documentary films of his own about the Denton band, Brave Combo, and noted film critics, Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell. During the pandemic, Weiss produced a series on “How Performing Arts Organizations Can Go Digital,” for the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and he also created a sizzle reel for Dallas Arts Month.

In the future, Weiss said he hopes to reimagine what an organization could be like that does not need a large staff to produce major events but still finds ways to influence culture.

The very last Dallas VideoFest presents DocuFest + will be at Angelika Film Center (5321 E Mockingbird Ln #230, Dallas, TX 75206) from Thursday, Sept 30 - Sunday, Oct 3. http://VideoFest.org

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Space Jam: A New Legacy

Malcolm D. Lee

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Ain’t I a stinker? Space Jam: A New Legacy is a long-awaited sequel in over two decades.

After the box-office success of the original film, the sequel has been in development for over twenty years with several ideas, story-telling creations, and projects of using athletics in future Looney Tunes films have been officially canceled due to the critical and box-office failure of Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The question is will this sequel ever get possibly made, the answer for both fans and filmmakers believe that there’s still a chance of making this sequel possible. So, in the end, the answer is yes, the sequel is worth making this possible. Having been directed by Malcolm D. Lee, Space Jam: A New Legacy features the basketball-playing star LeBron James in his main role, alongside with the Looney Tunes cartoon characters who are appearing as supportive characters.

Space Jam: A New Legacy follows the story of basketball champion LeBron James who is trapped in a virtual reality while rescuing his son, ruled by a powerful artificial intelligence named Al-G Rhythm. With that, James is forced to team up with Bugs Bunny, along with the other Looney Tunes cartoon characters, to win the basketball tournament against Al-G Rhythm’s digitized basketball champions called the Goon Squad in order to save his son and get back home.

LeBron James portrays himself throughout the film as well as voicing his animated counterpart in the film’s animation sequence while Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Avengers: Endgame) appears as Al-G Rhythm, an artificial intelligence who rules and kidnaps James’ son Dom in the virtual reality, prompting LeBron to rescue him. The chemistry between James and Cheadle really gives the nostalgic twists compared to the original Space Jam film where Michael Jordan encounters the animated antagonist Swackhammer (voiced by Danny DeVito). As a basketball player and actor altogether, James has a good rule of thumb on keeping his character like Jordan’s, but adding a few comedic nobs and some refreshing intakes on restructuring the Looney Tunes movie just to make this film extremely anticipated in so many levels, like the powerful fan-fave likes of Finding Dory, Incredibles 2 or maybe Chicken Run 2, which comes out in the near future. All that can be known is that James is trying his best to make this film a fun-filled outing for both Space Jam fans and the people who grew up in the 90s.

The film is directed by Malcolm D. Lee, known for his works like Scary Movie 5, Girls Trip, and Night School. As director, Lee studies and takes heavy influences from the original film by crafting similar scenarios and basketball routes in the film’s plot, the climaxes, and for the live-action and animation characters entirely. Lee, the crew, and the animators have themselves stripped up with lots of commitment of putting this wacky, but fun-filled tale into a big, ginormous cartoon with live action actors and scenes being included. Though, parts of the story got really lost, especially on the climaxes, as James enlists the help and teams up with the Looney Tunes characters. This whole sh-bang just another Michael Jordan adventure, even though that basketball player from the first film did not show up in a sequel.

Actors Sonequa Martin-Green, Cedric Joe, Ceyair J. Wright, and Harper Leigh Alexander are also appearing in the film, portraying their roles in the LeBron James’ family. Martin-Green as LeBron’s wife Kamiyah James, Joe as LeBron’s youngest son Dom, Wright as the older son Darius, and Harper as the daughter. And lastly, Khris Davis appears as LeBron’s friend Malik.

The animation is very stunning with brighter, beautiful colors thanks to the usages of CGI and hand-drawn animation, with the latter being used in the recent show on HBO Max (and the rebooted Animaniacs show). Even the crossovers with other animation characters Warner Bros. have owned (such as Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, etc.) are trying to build a thirsty, eponymous match from the first film. The voice cast and veteran voice actors of the Looney Tunes also return for the sequel, consisting of Jeff Bergman (as Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, and Yosemite Sam), Eric Bauza (as Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, and Marvin the Martian), Bob Bergen (as Tweedy), Jim Cummings (as Tasmanian Devil), and the archive recordings of Paul Julian (as the Road Runner). New voice actors are introduced in the film: Candi Milo (as Granny), Gabriel Iglesias (as Speedy Gonzales), and Zendaya (as Lola Bunny).

The voice cast did an amazing job, providing the voices of those characters like they did in the previous Looney Tunes media, though the recasting for Lola Bunny and Speedy is worth not enjoyable and disappointing as Warner Bros. did not approach long-time voice actress Kath Soucie and the still-returning Eric Bauza to reprise their roles as Lola Bunny and Speedy. Instead, giving the role to Zendaya and Gabriel Iglesias. The same stunt happened to voice actors Matthew Lillard and Grey DeLisle for that new Scoob! movie, which was released last year, when they’re replaced by live action actors to voice their characters without being contacted from the studio. Going through the aesthetics, my main reasons for this (and that dastardly Scoob! movie) are that Warner Bros. believed recasting may be the zaniest action just to give any A-list live-action actors an opportunity to voice a character with or without the original voice actors’ approval regardless, giving the characters different persona intakes, and securing the film’s marketing anticipation.

Despite some laugh-out-loud slapticks and cooler-realistic animation displayed in the film, Space Jam: A New Legacy is just a two-hour soulless, average movie, maybe a bit better than the original film. Sadly, it did not land on the sheer brilliance and mind-blowing techniques of Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? film, though, Lebron James, the animators, and the voice cast did an amazing job, trying to entertain the fans and Looney Tunes lovers out there as hard work takes twice as much work as perseverance. I wasn’t sure if this sequel was worth the wait, but maybe in your thoughts, it might. I hate to crush your dreams and waste your time, but if you want to see this, you can, but I’m sticking my neck out for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? film and maybe that dreadful Looney Tunes: Back in Action, with the latter outperforming better than Space Jam based on the critics’ reviews. This film would be a stinker and a hard pass to live up to its name. The film is up in theaters and on HBO Max.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Black Widow

Cate Shortland

Studio: Disney

Marvel’s Black Widow is a theatrical survivor from COVID.

For nearly a decade of keeping the MCU running, fans have been long-waiting for this solo Black Widow movie, but not before COVID hits the world but after seeing The Avengers, which was released in 2012. The only solo films being released before that are Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. This year, Marvel Studios has officially granted the fans’ wish, but on a serious level. Directed by Cate Shortland, this film features the returning star Scarlett Johanssan along with a newer ensemble cast of Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz.

Black Widow follows where Natasha Romanoff (known as “Black Widow”), after her battle in Captain America: Civil War, goes on her run and is forced to go into hiding. While she does so, she has and develops a long conspiratory that ties directly to her, during which she forces herself to deal with her life-long history as a spy and fighter and her past, broken relationships with her friends and family she left behind on the time before she becomes an Avenger.

Scarlett Johanssan (The Avengers, Marriage Story) returns to the MCU onscreen, reprising her role as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, an Avenger who is also a fighting spy and formerly associated with S.H.I.E.L.D while actress Florence Pugh (Little Women) portrays her superhero role as Yelena Belova, a trainer and Romanoff’s friend who serves as a sister-figure to her. Actor David Harbour (Stranger Things) receives his out-fiting role as Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian, a Russian soldier who is the counterpart to Captain America and serves as a father-figure to both Romanoff and Belova while actress Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Bourne Legacy) has her supportive role as Melina Vostokoff / Black Widow, a training spy and a mother-figure to Romanoff and Belova.

After long periods of finding movie directors, director Cate Shortland took the stage as director for this film, becoming the first solo-female movie director for Marvel Studios. Her flawless films on her resume include Somersault, Lore, and Berlin Syndrome before getting promoted to Black Widow, which is her first action movie to helm. As director, Shortland drafts a fine, but arduous story on the ideas for the titular superhero after the character’s role-playing game from Captain America: Civil War. She also instructs Johanssan to keep in character like she did from the previous MCU films, but added some few character developmenting modifications to learn and understand better for the Black Widow character itself and the reality of it for the sake of the plot.

This film is more like a spy movie rather than a superhero movie itself, taking major influences from the eponymous James Bond films, but Shortland’s action sequences are flawless to say the least. She looks like she is going to do whatever it takes without failing at Marvel Studios. On the other hand, Johanssan, as an spy-fighting actress, really copies every move she does back in her MCU past as if she is fighting not only for herself, but also for her teams and friends to defend. Not only Johanssan’s acting and fighting skills are best bets, but Pugh, Harbour, and Weisz’s performances have done an amazing job in their superhero-fighting acting styles, supporting Romanoff's own Black Widow character.

The script-writing from writer Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnarok) really adds some nice touches for the superheroes, the story, and the climaxes to build enduring relationships for the Black Widow team. Pearson knows that, based on his writing experience with Thor: Ragnarok, focusing on superheroes and fighters having a heartfelt connection with friends and family is just as more important than that dastardly CGI and the visuals displayed in the film and its backgrounds. Pearson’s screen-writing is just too emotionally wicked, even when he, along with Shortland, adds Lorne Balfe’s music composition that brings the all the flavors down, consisting with the matching textures of Hans Zimmer, John Powell, Henry Jackman, and Alan Sivestri.

Also appearing in the film are O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale), the returning William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Captain America: Civil War), and Ray Winstone (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull). They are portrayed in the film as Rick Mason, United States Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross, and Dreykok respectively.

Overall, Black Widow is a wonderful movie, it clocks in at 134 minutes for the film’s entirety. Though, it may not top Avengers: Endgame as bestie for the Marvel Universe, but I’m sure this film is highly amazing and anticipating that manner. Shortland, Johanssan, and the cast really fit the bill together to make a movie a good one, if not better. That is all I’m going to say, I can’t give out any more details until you have watched this. This movie is worth the wait and is deeply a must if you’re planning on seeing this in theaters and/or Disney+. You should watch this whether or not you’re a Marvel fan.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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The Tomorrow War

For all intentts and purposes is an all-out 1970's era disaster flick with a nifty helping of science fiction peppred with some familial drama thrown into the mix.

The all-new action opus "The Tomrrow War" hits the on demand Amazon Prime service as another top tiered flick that deserves your time and patience in that it is a lengthy tale (The running time is a little over 2 hrs.). 2hrs., 20 min. to be exact.

As with most science fiction entries of the past few years, one just needs to sit back and digest the shenanigans that occur in director Chris McKay''s "The Tomrrow War," a fun entry that captivates as fun eye candy throughout the lengthy running time. He is best known for helming "The LEGO Batman Movie" in 2017. So readers know, this is first foray into an action flick with actors as well as the high count for the visual effects.

I would reommend this if one is tired of flipping through their remote control since they've alleady watched Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element" (1997) or David Twohy's "The Chronicles of Riddick" (2004) too many times.

Chris Pratt ("Guardians of the Galaxy," "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom") is aces as high school biology teacher and former soldier Dan Forester.

Oscar winner J.K. Simmons ("Whiplash") is solid as Pratt's father, James Forester. Also important to the story is Yvonne Strahovski, TV's "Chuck, (2007-2012), "The Predator"). She is Pratt's daughter Muri, an MIT graduate and high-ranking officer in the military.

The creatures in "The Tomorow War" are referred to as whitespikes. They have tendrils that shoot out poisonous darts a la the graboids from "Tremors," a Kevin Bacon-led westrern comedy from 1990.

The estimated budget on "The Tomorrow War" falls in the $200 mllion dollar range. The money is witnessed on the screen, with some in your face visuals that do not disappoint in the very least.

Like "Edge of Tomorrow," one feels exhausted and tired after watching the onslaught of visual that were cntantly being barraged with. So readers know, I've seen this a couple of times.

Grade: B+
Review by Ricky Miller

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Tomorrow War

Chris McKay

Studio: Amazon Studios/Paramount Pictures

Review: The Tomorrow War

This Chris Pratt-lead flick can be mistaken for another Guardians of the Galaxy movie or simply another Aliens sequel. To be on the safe side, if you’re a Chris Pratt fan who enjoys his movies, then you might want to get a kick out of this because this film, whether or not it’s good or bad, might blow your socks off. Produced by David Ellison, the film is directed by Chris McKay and features the stars of Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, Betty Gilpin, and J.K. Simmons.

The Tomorrow War takes place around thirty years into the future when mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species. The last and only hope for survival is for soldiers and military civilians from the present to be transported to the future in order to join the fight. Among those recruited is high school teacher and family man Dan Forester whose main goal is to save the world for the safety of his young daughter by teaming up with an intelligent scientist and his estranged father to help him on his quest to save the planet.

Actor Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) portrays Dan Forester, a father of his young daughter and a high school teacher who is drafted and transported into the future to fight off the alien enemies. His character is a mixture of Star-Lord and Jurassic World’s Owen Grady role. Based on his resume with science-fiction films, Pratt knows the drill of playing a fistful man with some military background. Of course, throughout the film, playing a military cadet isn’t so easy, but he does know his stunts and tricks because his role in the film is specifically written for him on his behalf. For moments, this film seems to be hard but exciting to work but Pratt assures the audience that he can do it. Pratt also stands in as an executive producer for the film. Actress Yvonne Strahovski (Zachery Levi’s Chuck) portrays as scientist Romeo Command who helps and provides instructions for Dan Forester on how to capture the deadliest alien for research. She is later revealed in the film’s second half to be a future version of Dan Forester’s daughter Muri who tells him never to leave her when she was a child.

The Tomorrow War is Chris McKay’s first live-action feature film as director, he was involved in the The LEGO Movie (also featuring Chris Pratt) as animation director as well as director for some episodes of Robot Chicken. With his direction, the story and its action sequences aiming at war between humans and aliens bring sturdy elements and contents from Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame being placed around the borders of the film’s entirety. McKay has his crew take a lot of location shootings and cameric angle “action-shots'' to film the deadliest alien battle scenes in order to please the action-adventure movie fans. In addition, McKay takes up the humor and comedy for Pratt’s character from above.

While soaring over the actional-violent sequences, the fiery, monstrous CGI and the visuals are very distracting as the director flavored more on those tools rather than focusing on laboring down the character developments for several actors, including Pratt and Strahovski. Even for the lazy script-writing that didn’t meet the criteria of any formulas of James Gunn, James Cameron, or the Russo brothers. And the explanation of how the aliens have been formed at the end of the second half left me confused and highly questionable.

Also featured in the film are Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Edwin Hodge, Jasmine Mathews, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, and Keith Powers. They are portrayed as Dan’s wife Emmy, his partner Charlie, Dorian, Lt. Hart, his young daughter Muri, and Mayor Greenwood respectively. And lastly, J.K. Simmons (Sam Raini’s Spider-Man trilogy, Whiplash), despite his small screen time, appears as James Forester, Dan’s estange father who helps him on his quest to save the world.

All in all, The Tomorrow War isn’t a good movie. Maybe not as instant as James Cameron's Aliens film or any average Aliens vs. Predator films. Clocking in at 140 minutes, I do not recommend this film, though I do admire the performances of Pratt, Strahovski, Gilpin, and Simmons. I felt like The Tomorrow War is a bit painful and scary to watch, given the fact that there’s a R-Rating price tag to that order under the director’s wishes for the cast and crew to get involved in certain duties to fulfill. I hate to say this, but this shivering flick is a hard pass to go through, but if you’re a Chris Pratt fan, better be prepared for all the action and dangers you will face.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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