Dallas Movie Screening

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

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

Website and Group Contact: dalscreenings@gmail.com

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Director: Andy Serkis

Studio:Sony Pictures

Venom: Let There Be Carnage strikes better but shatters its claws and teeth.

This week, we’re heading back to Sony’s own Marvel Cinematic Universe with another film coming up after the first film. Actor and director Andy Serkis walks into his office as director of this sequel with Kelly Marcel returning as a sole screenwriter. Despite being a Marvel film, Venom: Let There Be Carnage only includes some small numbers of actors reprising their roles in the film with a few newer additions added to the film while sharing the same connected universe with Spider-Man and other Marvel superheroes owned by Sony.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage takes place sometime after the first film and focuses on investigative journalist Eddie Brock who struggles to adjust life as a regular human and the host of the alien symbiote Venom, which grants him superhuman abilities in order to be a moonlighting vigilante. As Brock attempts to reignite his normal life and journalism career, he soon encounters and interviews Cletus Kasady, a psychotic serial killer who later becomes the host of the symbiote called Carnage.

Most of the actors from the first film return for the sequel. Oscar-nominated actor Tom Hardy (The Revenant) reprises his role as Eddie Brock/Venom, a journalist trying to balance his life as a human and as the host of Venom, while Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Manchester by the Sea) reprises her role as Eddie’s ex-girlfriend Anne Weying. Woody Harrelson receives his big role as Cletus Kasady/Carnage after appearing in the mid-credits scene from the first film that foreshadows his twisted villainy role in the sequel.

New actors Naomie Harris (Moonlight) and Stephen Graham (The Irishman) appeared after being summoned by Serkis. Harris portrays her role as Francis Barrison/Shriek, a woman who possesses her screaming power that breaks the sound barriers to anyone who comes across her and is Cletus Kasady’s love interest while Graham appears as Mulligan, a somewhat corrupted detective who utliizes Eddie Brock to pick up the pieces of Kasady’s murder victims. Taking some advice from his previous films as an actor, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is Andy Serkis’ third directorial effort due to his wide experience with films containing CGI, visual effects, and motion capture technologies. As director, Serkis takes on his heavier camera shooting skills to focus more directly towards Hardy’s character as both Eddie Brock and Venom, giving him an improvable-balancing character development. Serkis even shines the tone and color for the steady-timely pacing, the returning actors, the on-and-off chemistry between Hardy and Williams, the violent action sequences, and the pieces of San Francisco setting. While the film improves its quality and tone, the story seems tacky in number of levels due to the distracting CGI on the Venom and Carnage scenes. In addition, the visuals and the weak Cletus Kasady character are what needs to work while trying to focus more attentively on that Carnage villain.

Also returning in the film is Reid Scott (HBO’s Veep) as Dan Lewis, a doctor who now becomes Anne Weying’s fiance, and Peggy Lu as the convenience store owner. And if you have a good eye while watching this film, another easy-to-miss cameo hidden reference shown in the film is the late Marvel comic book titan Stan Lee.

I’m not a Rotten Tomatoes type-of-guy but Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a smooth, bold attempt to outshine the original film (despite being less than 100 minutes for the time length) with some interesting visual points and plot twists down the road thanks to the director and the returning cast members, particularly Hardy and William’s acting performances. While my honest reaction to this film lies between “good” and “mixed,” this sequel is a tad better with funnier moments being included. Unfortunately, this sequel fails to make up for its movie-infested CGI, the visuals, horrifying plotlines, and weaker villainy characters inside and out. The sequel is surprisingly good, but stupidly funny. I’m not sure whether this film is a good option, but you can give this a try if you want. It’s a hard gamble between your time, your money, and this movie.

One last thing, if you guys stick around for the mid-credits scene, there is a J.K. Simmons cameo in the film, reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man films, that ties directly from Spider-Man: Far From Home and possibly setting the stage of the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home and the future Venom sequel.


(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share

Falling For Figaro

Director: Ben Lewin

Studio:IFC Films

Falling For Figaro sings to a higher note but fails flat.

Learning about opera films can be quite a boring choice to select, much like selecting a musical film or a Broadway show to watch but with difficult issues to experience depending on who you are. It takes a lot of knowing and growing to see how opera films worked on certain levels. Even for opera and musical fans, this film like other opera films will stand in the way of people's eyes, voices, and hearts. Ben Lewin takes the stage as director to helm this feature film.

Falling For Figaro follows a young woman named Millie who desperately leaves her unfulfilling job as a brilliant young fund manager and long-term boyfriend named Charlie to chase her lifelong dream of becoming an opera singer ever through the streets of London and Scotland. There, she meets her opera instructor Meghan and a fellow opera student Max while in training, and what begins as a rivalry develops into something more.

Actress Danielle Macdonald portrays Millie, a smart fund manager whose main desire is to become an opera singer while supportive actress Joanna Lumley stands on the practice floor as Meghan, a strict-opera instructor who abuses but guides Millie on the way to become the perfect opera singer. Throughout the film, English actor Hugh Skinner comes into the scene as Max, another struggling opera singer and a rival-turned-love-interest to Millie.

With Ben Lewin’s direction, the story of this film bears a striking resemblance to the 2014 film Whiplash due to the plot and the main two characters between an ambitious music student and a strict-mistakeless music teacher. Lewin really nailed down the basics on operating heavy camera machinery on the two opera singing characters while trying to find the perfect balance on the characters. While filming Macdonald’s opera-singing scenes can be quite strenuous, Lewin, Macdonald herself, and the filming crew gather much arduous ovation towards the cast and the filming crews. They both know doing this requires lots of effort, commitment, and dedication to shoot various of brightful, beautiful singing skills throughout the film from start to finish and around the background.

The editing, the musical numbers, and the performances from Macdonald, Skinner, and Lumley are flawless and very spot on to keep the plotline nice and smooth, but some performances and scenes fall flat straight through. The crew also throws some adequate punchlines to orchestrate heavy musical artistry and the divine choreography coming from Nic Lawson and music composer Cezary Skubiszewski.

Falling For Figaro is a good movie, but falls flat on some parts of the scenes. However, the main acting trio and the filmmakers never ceased to amaze me. I enjoyed every musical number they sang which builds up the intention of being an opera film, meeting the basic requirements on how to craft this modern soap opera with the essences of 19th and 20th century modesty. This film is ok, whether or not you’re an opera fan. If you love opera, then you will love it, I guarantee this is worth the price of admission.


(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share

My Little Pony: A New Generation

Director: Robert Cullen and José Ucha


My Little Pony: A New Generation sparkles its wings of glory.

My Little Pony: A New Generation marks the fifth incarnation of the My Little Pony series compared to Marvel Cinematic Universe, under their term “Phases.” This film was originally going to be released in theaters before switching to Netflix as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Still, this is the kind of animated flick where lots of fans and audiences should turn their heads to. Directed by Robert Cullen and José Ucha, this film features the main voice cast of Vanessa Hudgens, Kimiko Glenn, James Mardsen, Sofia Carson, and Liza Koshy.

My Little Pony: A New Generation follows the story of the three types of ponies – earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns – have grown apart, living in separated domains from one another in paranoia, mistrust, and prejudice. The film follows the main character named Sunny Starscout, an earth pony who, after meeting the unicorn Izzy Moonbow, embarks on a quest to reunite all pony types and restore magic and glory to Maretime Bay and to the entire pony land.

As for the main cast for the main ponies, actress Vanessa Hudgens (Disney’s High School Musical) voices Sunny Starscout, an earth pony whose desperate attempts to reunite all types of ponies while Kimiko Glenn (Netflix’s Orange is the New Black) voices the unicorn named Izzy Moonbow. Secondly, actor James Mardsen (X-Men film series) voices Hitch Trailblazer, an Earth pony who’s a hard-working sheriff at Maretime Bay and helps Sunny on her quest to reunite all ponies along the way. And lastly, here comes actresses Sofia Carson (Austin & Ally, Disney’s Descendants) and Liza Koshy whom they voiced Pipp and Zipp, a pegasus duo, respectively.

With the direction coming from Robert Cullen and José Ucha, the story flows nicely and is casually subtle with a effect of narrative changes, building story key arcs of the characters, and colorful vibrant on those characters’ contrast on each scene and setting. This is the one thing any ordinary animated film can create such powerful, narrative tones and structures on the storylines, the settings, and the characters with gentle perspectives whilst following the My Little Pony traditions. And to add some greater strength of softness, screenwriting duo Tim Sullivan and Gillian Berrow add some nice key layers and some smart subtext to the narratives, which give the film some bonus points.

The film also bears a striking resemblance to Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, another animated film about magical dragons, and Zootopia due to the messages of mistrust, racial discrimination, and prejudice. These messages onscreen when it comes to the franchise’s virtues are very heartening to see how any female protagonist can discover their combined voices that reach the galvanizing force in the film. It pretty much seems that the directors and writers really keep together on the light-hearted tones for the characters to watch carefully. The filmmaking team and the voice cast are trying to do their best for the characters to do their part together to make a great development throughout the film.

Also appearing in the film are Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) as Pipp and Zipp’s mother Queen Haven, Ken Jeong (The Hangover, The Masked Singer) as power-hungry deputy sheriff named Sprout Cloverfield, Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds) as Sprout’s mother Phyllis Cloverfield, Phil LaMarr (Samurai Jack, Futurama) as Alphabittle, and Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap) as Sunny Starscout’s father Argyle.

I hate to admit, while I’m certainly not a big My Little Pony fan, I think My Little Pony: A New Generation is a great 90-minute film. Though it may not stand on the levels of Pixar’s brilliance nor the feet of the MCU’s top-nodded Rotten Tomatoes’ percentages, it's still a beautiful, shiny film in its own way that gallops into joy and excitement. The voice cast did an outstanding job and so did the animation crews. This film really brings some good messages about fear, friendship, and social acceptances, so I’m sending some big compliments to the directors and screenwriters who made it all possible. This is a must for everyone of all ages.


(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share

Friday, September 24, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Simu Liu is terrific as Shang-Chi, the newest hero to join the Marvel universe. The movie title  is a bit lengthy, so here it goes:  "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,"  the newest part of the Marvel universe, entering phase four.

This one is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton who has spent time with Brie Larson "Short Term 12" and "Just Mercy" who is also part of the Marvel universe as "Captain Marvel," directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. This was just a pure fun ride on the action train that delivered in virtually every single department.

Liu currently headlines as even friend Mandy (Awkwafina) comments on his name, since his name is just Sean, so no stretch of the imagination when it comes back to his upbringing. 

What is kind of cool is the appearance of actor Trever Flaterry (Ben Kingsley), an out-of-work actor reprising his role as The Mandarin.  Remember him because of was also in Shane Black's "Iron Man 3." 

Also making a return is Benedict Wong as Wong.  Remember him from "Doctor Strange" (2016) a couple of years back?   Now with "Shang Chi," Marvel is able to do what they want and branch out to segue into other tales without having to go back and do "origin stories," but that will all change with "The Eternals" coming out in early November.

Now, going back to Shang Chi," Leung’s patriarch has other plans for his offspring in that he wants them to join him for a fate that does not really exist.    His Xu Wenwu keeps thinking he's hearing voices from the other side from his deceased wife who's been gone for many a year.

  So readers know, I have followed Tony Leung Chi Wai for many a year, even going back to 1992’s John Woo directed opus “Hard-Boiled” that paired him with Chow Yun Fat, one of my all-time favorite actors whose repartee combined equal part Paul Newman, William Holden and Robert De Niro.

A lot of American audience don’t realize this, but Chi Wai is a huge star overseas. Not only is he s matinee idol, but like wunderkinds like Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Jet Li, he can bring in the audiences no matter what the cost.

So readers know, I've seen this a couple of times in the theater, something I hold very dear.  Sure, one can watch it on a streaming service at home, but it is so much better as well as immersive seeing it on the big screen.

  This one, however contains some sci-fi mumbo jumbo, but you're having such a good time that all logic is tossed out the window.

  Like I said before, I don't know how they do it, but the team over at Marvel studios know what they are doing every single step  along the way.

So readers know the studio obviously has confidence in this one, since they already teased that another entry is coming soon. It might be a bit presumptuous, but they have a formula for printing money.

So readers know, “Shang Chi and the Ten Rings will be streaming on Disney Plus later this November.


(Review by Ricky Miller)

Bookmark and Share

Shiva Baby

Director: Emma Seligman

Studio:Utopia/Dimbo Pictures

Review: Shiva Baby

Shiva Baby focus on the bisexual college student name Danielle who runs into her sugar daddy Max and her ex-girlfriend Maya at a Jewish funeral service with her parents. Though, her main problems are that Max is married and her mother hardly asks questions about her disorganized life as her anxiety rapidly increases.

Actress Rachel Sennott portrays Danielle, a college girl who has an unknowingly crush on Max while Molly Gordon (TNT’s Animal Kingdom) appears as Maya, Danielle’s ex-girlfriend. Sennott and Gordon are very wonderful in their roles, providing some good advice on friendship and relationship, even for LGBTQ characters. Their chemistry on their performance and their behalf slowly entertains one viewer (or movie critic) to another.

Thanks to Sennott’s serious acting, from the perspective of her protagonist-role as Danielle, everything in the film under the director’s directing bloodline, just to watch her uncertainty of where her life is going that maniacally leads to plenty of strange miscommunication, nervous breakdowns, and amusing moments. The performers' delivery from that script is purely great with a side of huge relief, which is particularly meant for comedies and dramas around the house, but one can fall flat if the delivery isn't perfectly in-sync with the screenwriter's intent. There are plenty of indie comedies with decent scripts that lack convincing dialogue delivery. This highly-tension builds along with the intensity of the score and the suffocating on the way the shots are composed. The grinning faces of Danielle's are occasionally framed in a way that they appear comically (and cringeworthy) menacing.

Based on her short film produced in 2018, Shiva Baby is more of a comedy-thriller film with claustrophobia being featured as a mindful protagonist for the main character and serves as Emma Seligman’s first-time feature film as director. Seligman had the bright idea of creating a film that teaches people about sexual issues, the messages of claustrophobia, the themes of LGBT, and women empowerment, even through camera shots, intense music compositions, and relationship chemistries. Her role in the film quickly paved her way as a good start-up to her film career. If this makes the case, she would have been landing on top like other A-list female directors in Hollywood.

Also featured in the film are Fred Melamed (A Serious Man) and Polly Draper who appeared as Danielle's parents Joel and Debbie while Danny Defarrari and Dianna Agron (FOX’s Glee) portrayed as Danielle’s sugar daddy Max and Kim, whom they have been married and they now have a baby.

Shiva Baby is a great film, maybe exceeding on its levels of highly-class entertainment, despite being a 78-minute movie. The director and the performances from Sennott and the cast have done a great job. I'm always into good comedies and dramas out there when the year has to offer, which is very hard to come by, but this film is pretty powerful to watch and is worth the time for your amusement.


(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

(Review by Chase Lee)

Bookmark and Share

I'm Your Man

In director Maria Schrader’s “I’m Your Man,” Maren Eggert stars as Alma, an expert chosen to evaluate the use of robots as a replacement for romantic partners. Using information about her, the unnamed company creates what they consider to be her ideal mate – Tom (Dan Stevens). The movie begins as if Alma and Tom are meeting on a blind date. Alma arrives at a nightclub and is greeted by a host (Sandra Huller), later revealed to be an employee (the character is also credited as Employee) of the robotics company and case worker of sorts for Alma and Tom.

Employee guides Alma through the intimate club as loud jazzy music plays while couples sway on the small dance floor. Alma is reluctant in her meeting with Tom, obviously uncomfortable with the situation. The character’s emotions are perfectly portrayed by Eggert, showing her hesitations while questioning the authenticity of Tom. Alma’s experience remains uncomfortable as Tom brings her to the dance floor, soon starts glitching and is quickly removed. Employee promises Alma this is a rare occurrence (similar in probability to winning the lottery) and to return the next day to pick up Tom and start her evaluation.

Even after picking him up, Alma continues to have a stand-offish attitude toward Tom. She’s opposed to allowing him into her life. Stevens does a great job as Tom. He presents the robot as something close but just not quite human. There are odd tics and reactions (or lack of reactions) that continue to prove that he’s not flesh and blood. Although his appearance is convincing to the general public, there’s just something slightly off about him. Oddly enough, no one ever questions his humanity even when they are questioning his odd behavior.

“I’m Your Man” is really a movie about emotional connection. Alma’s task is to keep Tom for three weeks then give her opinion on the use of robots as romantic partners. What’s most interesting about Alma is that she’s not interested in a relationship of any sort which makes you question why this company would allow her to test their product. It’s a set-up that works (and makes for a more interesting film) but doesn’t quite make sense. As Alma interacts with Tom, she finds herself warming to the relationship. Can an AI be a fulfilling replacement for a human mate? Is this just emotional manipulation?

While the pacing gets kind of clunky in some parts, as a whole, “I’m Your Man” is an enjoyable sci-fi feature. Although the film’s main concept has been explored recently, “Her” and “Jexi” come to mind as two examples (of varying quality) from the past decade, it does offer good performances from its stars. Overall, it’s not the most original piece of filmmaking but there is some appeal, making this worth a watch.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

Bookmark and Share

Friday, September 17, 2021

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Director: Jonathan Butterell

Studio:Amazon Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Review by Henry Pham)

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

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

Part 1

Part 2

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Alpinist

Director: Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen

Studio:Roadside Attractions/Universal Pictures

Review: The Alpinist

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

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

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

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


(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share

The Card Counter

Director: Paul Schrader

Studio:Focus Features

The Card Counter is an easy win-win.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share

Small Engine Repair

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, September 2, 2021


Director: Kay Cannon

Studio:Amazon Studios/Sony Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Review by Henry Pham)

Bookmark and Share