Dallas Movie Screening

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Friday, November 26, 2021

House of Gucci

“House of Gucci” is the second Ridley Scott film to be released in the last couple of months. The first, “The Last Duel,” released in early October, is fantastic. It’s a medieval epic, reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” that sucks the viewer in with its presentation of the same story told from three perspectives. Unfortunately, this review isn’t about that movie. Those hoping for a double whammy of greatness are going to have to check their expectations at the door because “House of Gucci” is, in a word, awful.

I can’t think of a single thing I liked about this movie – I guess the set design and costumes were ok. “House of Gucci” is a film that feels simultaneously too long and hastily made. Scott jumps around with questionable edits and random jumps in time. It’s almost like this is a heavily edited version of a much longer epic. Perhaps this will be another “Kingdom of Heaven” situation and we’ll eventually see a much better director’s cut somewhere down the road. Although, I can’t imagine sitting through a longer edit of this mess.

The jarring edits and illogical time jumps are only one part of the whole of this abysmal picture. This feature’s length, nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes, looms over the viewer’s head as Scott drags us through the rise and fall of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at the hands of his wife, Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga). Rounding out the rest of the Gucci family are Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), his uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino), and his cousin Paolo (Jared Leto). Leto’s make-up job looks fantastic – he’s completely unrecognizable in his role.

No one gives a good performance here. Considering the cast, this is close to unbelievable. Yet, these are some of the most ridiculous/horrific portrayals that I have ever seen. Each actor presents their character with outrageous Italian accents. These accents are so bad you can only be left wondering who on the set thought they were going to come across as serious portrayals. The performances themselves frequently delve into over-the-top histrionics, as if each performer is hoping for a Razzie nomination for their work.

Scott is just presenting a bunch of events to the audience. There is never any build-up to what leads to the eventual murder. One second Maurizio and Patrizia seem very happy together then in the next scene Maurizio publicly belittles Patrizia and suddenly can’t seem to stand the sight of her. A former lover is randomly introduced in the previous scene, implying this is the cause of the behavior shift. However, the change is unnaturally abrupt and feels completely out of character.

Salma Hayek portrays a television fortune-teller named Pina that Patrizia frequently visits. Her character comes across as randomly inserted into the story. It’s not until the final scenes that we understand her significance to the Gucci family. There’s little to no development of Hayek’s character or any sort of natural development to the pair’s relationship. I was certainly left wondering why Pina would get involved the way she did.

“House of Gucci” was one of the year-end releases I was most looking forward to seeing. Unfortunately, it’s a bitter disappointment. Good luck to anyone willing to attempt a viewing of this in the theater. It’s long and painful to sit through.

(Review by Bret Oswald)

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House of Gucci

Director: Ridley Scott

Studio: United Artist Releasing/MGM

House of Gucci is a downright crime-thrilling spectacle!

People have mixed feelings whether some films will be a hit or a miss, regardless of them being Oscar contenders circling around social media and the news outlets. People are going to think it’s a good movie, but later change their opinions about any film in particular. They would ask whether who knew crime-thriller films can be so anticipating to those who have brought a lot of Oscar buzz on this film along with several other films that have been Oscar contenders for the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony. Just to be on the safe side, this film contains lots of violence, strong language, dark-thrilling tones, and some nudity. Director Ridley Scott fully commits on completing another film slated for this year’s release and that is House of Gucci. The film features the stars Lady Gaga and Adam Driver.

House of Gucci follows a young woman and outsider named Patrizia Reggiani who marries a man named Maurizio Gucci, the grandson of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, to make her way to the Italian rich label. Though, the relationship troubles the two as her big problem is that due to her being an outsider not being fit for a huge controll of the Gucci heir, her unscrupulous ambition begins to unravel the Gucci legacy and mystery as her romance with Maurizio triggers a reckless plethora of betrayal, decadence, thriller, revenge, and murder.

Singer and actress Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) receives her meatier, protagonist role as female outsider Patrizia Reggiani while Adam Driver (Marriage Story, Star Wars sequel trilogy) is given his supportive role as Maurizio Gucci, Reggiani’s husband and the grandson of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci. Gaga is beautiful, dignified, subtle, and more serious in her role with suspenseful twists as the film progresses, fighting for her own honor and glory against all odds. Her performance gives me some guidance to learn how and what any ordinary actor or actress can do on the set from start to finish. From my ways of viewing this, basically, she is like the female James Bond. Even more so, Adam Driver is also great, supporting Gaga's side behind her back. At first, he seems like a ladies’ man to some female actresses based on his previous films, but overall, he looks like he is having the time of his life as he took his role more seriously and cunning but with a side of comedy and ambition being added. And what stands out is the stunning chemistry between Gaga and Driver that references the past relationship between Kim Kardashian and Kanye West respectively.

Based on the book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, written by Sara Gay Forden, Ridley Scott is the director of the film, marking this his second directorial duty in 2021 following The Last Duel. To those who don't know Scott, he is one of the legendary filmmakers in the world. His directorial credits on his movie resume include 1979’s Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and The Martian. As director for this film, he proves once again that an English director is one of those cinematic-driven forces on Hollywood that manages to make the films of the big studios interesting productions, but at the same time, his films are spectacular enough to become a crowd-pleaser to both fans and critics all over of any Hollywood cinematic productions.

This film is much like a gangster film, possibly due to having Italian characters in it as if this is a film featuring the Italian Mafia. Despite the news about the real-life Gucci family’s disgust and disapproval about this film, the production has all its values, the characteristics, the elements, and the basics of the Gucci family and a Ridley Scott flick, but the story is too emotionless and empty. On the upside, the setting and the cinematography have brought a lot of vision for a real-life family of a founder of any business. As with many similar events that have happened, Scott is trying his best to bring out the strong acting Gucci cast while trying to be truly accurate to the Gucci family history. The perspectives on this case are relatively different not only between the participants but also between those who discuss and interpret the events, both now and in the Gucci family history, but which is something that needs more work than it meets the eye. The pacing and the time lengths are also the biggest issues.

The rest of the acting cast of the Gucci family really played the game really well. We have Oscar winners Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) as Maurizio’s uncle Paolo, Jeremy Irons (Disney’s The Lion King, Reversal of Fortune) as Maurizio’s father Rodolfo, and Al Pacino (The Godfather, Scent of a Woman) as Maurizio’s other uncle Aldo Gucci. The film also includes Oscar nominee Salma Hayak (Frida) as Pina Auriemma, Jack Hutson (American Hustle) as Domenico De Sole, Reeve Carney (Penny Dreadful) as Tom Ford, and French actress Camille Cottin (Stillwater) as Paola Franchi.

House of Gucci is ok, just a typical movie with nice feminist cinema root to it, though it’s very hard to watch as this film clocks in at 157 minutes. I wasn’t keen to try this, but I think the director and the main cast of the Gucci family really outshine themselves onscreen, but Lady Gaga killed it all as a leading actress as she is who or what really makes this film fascinating to enjoy that eventually became one of the leading frontrunners for the Oscar nomination for acting. At first, almost everything else is glamorous, but the uncomfortable storytelling and the unconventional downfalls from this film are highly preventable to see, even the director can’t save the mess.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard

Studio: Disney

Disney’s Encanto twinkles the magic and music for children and families.

It appears that the Walt Disney empire continues to grow as this film marks the 60th animated feature of the enduring Walt Disney Animation Studios classic lineup, spearheading the legacy and the animation interest for both critics and audiences. Directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard decided to head on over to the studio’s animation division to helm this musical, magical classic tale that will take the fans on a magical journey to the magical worlds of South America. The film features the voice ensemble cast of Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Angie Cepeda, Diane Guererro, Jessica Darrow, Carolina Gaitán, and Wilmer Valderrama.

Disney’s Encanto takes place in a fantasy world of Columbia and centers on Mirabel Madrigal, a young Colombian teenage woman who deals with the frustration of being the only member of her family without any magical powers. However, she soon discovers that magic is in danger and she must go on a perilous journey to save her family and their home when their magic is on the verge of disappearing permanently.

Actress Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) is the voice of Mirabel Madrigal, a young teenger being the only one in the extended family who doesn’t have or possess any magical powers, leaving her dreadfully frustrated by her peers. As a voice actress, Beatriz is born of the role and she deserves to do lots of animation work as an actress. She even treats her own character as if she is having fun in her role regardless of whether she is good at acting or singing or both.

The story, the animation, and the visuals are highly well-done, thanks to the crackling team of animators and directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard with a license to kill, bringing a lot of colors and a variety of beautyness for the characters, the Madrigal’s house, and the spark from their magical powers. Some marvelous details on the costume designs, the music numbers coming from Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), and the production design are well-lubricated for that Columbian subject matter. To add to that positive vibe when it comes to storytelling, the film’s subject carries the main themes of family acceptance, reestablishing its harmony, learning to appreciate one another, and even celebrating one another's qualities, whether or not they are extravagant or simple. The directors know that each character in the Madrigal family gets their own personality, which is the main ingredient for character developments. And to top it all off, Encanto isn’t just a story, it’s all about family, music, and magic. With every spell of magic being put together, it’s all about the community coming together to rebuild what’s lost and learn what they can do to fortify one another in the process along the way.

The film bears a striking resemblance from Disney-Pixar’s Coco due to the family themes, the Mexican/South American settings, and the music being the center of attention focally, given the fact that the film’s composer Germaine Franco provided additional music compositions for Pixar’s Coco. His music and the composition score of those music numbers (written by Lin-Manuel Miranda) are astonishing, fitting the genre for the Columbian cultures and boundaries. As the studio continues to grow in terms of diversity, Disney has reached new, greater heights for more diverse representation for its animated features, including recent films like Moana, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Pixar’s Coco.

The rest of the ensemble voice actors portraying their family roles in the Madrigal family are exemplary and superlative to fit the tradition of casting Columbia/South American actors in the Columbian-centered films. Here, we have María Cecilia Botero as Mirabel’s grandmother Abuela Alma, John Leguizamo (John Wick, Ice Age films) as Uncle Bruno, Angie Cepeda as Mirabel’s mother Julieta, Diane Guererro (Netflix’s Orange is the New Black) as Isabella, Jessica Darrow as Luisa, Carolina Gaitán as Aunt Pepa, Mauro Castillo as Uncle Felix, Adassa (in her acting debut) as Dolores, Rhenzy Felizas (Marvel's Runaways) as Mirabel’s cousin Camilo, and Wilmer Valderrama (Handy Manny, The 70s’ show) as Mirabel’s father Agustín. And lastly, we have Disney mainstay Alan Tudyk (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen) as a toucan.

With the cast, the colors, the music, and the magic being just right, Disney’s Encanto is a wondrous flick, clocking in at least 100 minutes. I really loved it, every scene and sequence right there in front of my eyes. This is probably one of the greatest films I ever watched in 2021. The directors, the animators, and the voice cast (mainly Stephanie Beatriz) truly know how animated films and musicals work on so many levels. This movie is deeply a must, no joke, it’s a guarantee from me. As a die-hard Disney fan, this film clearly recognizes the potential for its animation roots to reach family and friendly audiences on their seats over the holidays with this Thanksgiving release and on Disney+. One more thing, this film is theatrically paired with the short film Far From the Tree, written and directed by Natalie Nourigat, which features a strict but loving raccoon parent who struggles on to protect its family and offspring from harm and danger.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Far From the Tree

Director: Natalie Nourigat

Studio: Disney

Short Film Review: Disney’s Far From The Tree

Like humans, animals have feelings and souls too. This film brings back nostalgic memories from the classic Disney animated films like Bambi, The Lion King, and The Jungle Book and the full-color, three-stripe animated cartoon Flowers and Trees, which garnered animator Walt Disney the first presented Best Animated Short Film Oscar in 1932. Animator and director Natalie Nourigat decided to step away from Disney’s Short Circuit to develop and helm this short film in the ways of returning the shorts back to theaters, rather than streaming services, continuing Disney’s (and Pixar’s) tradition of releasing silent short films in front of feature films for much more amusement and enhancement.

Disney’s Far From The Tree, written and directed by Nourigat, features a strict but loving raccoon parent who struggles to protect its family and offspring from harm and danger. With danger never being too easy to face, the cub must soon learn the importance of family, safety, precaution, and of course, survival.

Having no dialogue as part of the tradition for Disney/Pixar theatrical shorts, this short is completely hand-drawn, using the state-of-the-art software technology to create a hand-drawn looks and styles which really brought the confusion for the movie viewers to believe that this short film is made by hand and CGI rather than just actually being by CGI entirely. In addition, lots of people, including animation fans, have been missing this classic animation style that has been missing for a very long time for the American-mainstream animation due to CGI being introduced and taking over most hand-drawn animators’ jobs. For this one, this latest short film is like a breath of fresh air and traveling back through time.

This story and the climax of this short bear the similar emotional effect like the previous Oscar-winning Disney shorts Paperman (shown in front of Wreck-It Ralph) and Feast (shown in front of Big Hero 6) due to the tone and the strong behavior of those characters, giving the feel of the Hero’s Journey procedure. It also mirrors the feature’s themes of family, concern, and the safety of their home in its captivating story of any animal protecting their loved ones and their home from danger and anything harmful.

Disney’s Far From The Tree is a heartwarming seven-minute short film. It will be released theatrically in front of Disney’s Encanto on Thanksgiving Day. Nourigat is a great director and a great lecturer on sharing the most powerful voice of how humans and animals could live their life and purpose in peace without being disturbed by someone or something that puts them at risk. Just like animals, trees, and other living creatures on the planet, she certainly knows we live in a messier world out there all around and we need to be concerned and cautious in our surroundings. This is something we need to learn from our parents and try to be better with our own [future] kids with such a teary story about caution and devastation.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Friday, November 19, 2021

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Director: Jason Reitman

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Ghostbusters: Afterlife shoots and scores over its predecessors, but not the classic version.

Ghostbusters fans and audiences have been waiting for this long-awaited direct sequel for years after witnessing the critical and box-office failure of the recent, god-awful Ghostbusters reboot. Jason Reitman, the son of the legendary film director Ivan Reitman who has directed the original Ghostbusters film and its 1989 sequel, decides to take his father’s footsteps to helm this sequel, featuring the franchise’s newer cast of Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, and Paul Rudd.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife focuses on a single mother and her two children who are moving to a small town in Summerville, Oklahoma, where they experienced a series of unexplained earthquakes and other supernatural events before discovering their deep connection to the original Ghostbusters and their grandfather's secret legacy he left behind.

Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Mckenna Grace (Disney Channel’s Crash & Bernstein) received their main roles as Trevor and Phoebe while actress Carrie Coon (HBO’s The Leftovers, Fargo) appears on their side as Callie, a Trevor and Phoebe’s single mother who is revealed to be daughter of the original Ghostbusters member Dr. Egon Spengler. All three are great as they are doing their best to act and make themselves comfortable when appearing in a scary movie or supernatural television series (like Stranger Things, Child’s Play, etc.), for which is something Wolfhard, Grace, and Coon took much influence on. Even though acting is difficult in many scenes in the film, they both look like they’re getting used to it as they want their characters to be well-characterized and useful to the plot under Jason Reitman’s behest.

The film slowly turns its head towards the “Sexiest Man Alive'' Paul Rudd (Marvel’s Ant-Man, Avengers: Endgame) who receives his comedic role as Phoebe’s teacher Gary Grooberson under Jason Reotman’s wishes to add some comedy for the film’s background and for some story structure buildups for the other three main actors onscreen. He’s very funny and talented in the film as he tries his darndest to provide some comedy and nostalgic chills in the background. Though, my mind certainly wishes that Paul Rudd gets a little more screen time just to be contributive to the fellow cast members.

Jason Reitman is the director of the film while his father, Ivan, serves as the producer of the film, giving an absolute refresh to the Ghostbusters franchise in order to preserve its enduring legacy. He did a good job, given the great responsibility he had with this film. He looks like he is serious, but well-meaningful on how the franchise impacted him so much, so he decided to get involved in this newly formed Ghostbusters film if any comes to mind with greater ideas. Some ideas are very bright and innovative, making me think that his precious ideas look like they are all actually recycled or unused ideas from the previous films. The first hour and a half is very smooth and beautiful, filled with laugh-out-loud jokes, and suspenseful scenes. Even the nostalgic tones and music from Rob Simonsen are pretty spot on.

However, there are some of the main disappointing parts of the story: the second half threw me off due to the incohesive plot, the last half hour of the film has lost it’s magic bit by bit as the last story arc replicates the first film’s climax at the end, and the usages of fan service and archival recordings are something that needs to be taken away. This is one major footstep the director has taken account of out of respect for his father’s legacy.

Apart from the main cast, the cast also contains a few other young actors: Logan Kim as Phoebe’s classmate Podcast and Celeste O’Connor (Amazon’s Selah and the Spades) as Trevor’s girlfriend Lucky. For tons of bonus points, the film also includes special appearances by the original Ghostbusters actors Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, respiring their roles as Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond “Ray” Stantz, Dr. Winston Zeddemore, Dana Barrett, and Janine Melnitz respectively. In addition to the original cast, the film is dedicated to the original Ghostbusters actor Harold Ramis, the portrayer of Dr. Egon Spengler, who passed away in 2014.

With some laughs and some elements of surprise being present, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is ok, but not as better as the original 1984 film. It clocks in at least two hours, but it was worth the wait, more fun and exciting than the underappreciated Ghostbusters II and that disgusted reboot version. Jason Reitman and the cast really did a great job and so does the original cast who came in at a surprising timing. Regardless of the disappointments I have on this film, it was a good story, seeing how actors can make their characters more interesting to see and lots of winks from the first movie being displayed right there. You really should see it, it’s a must.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Director: Jonathan Taub, Leandro Taub

Studio: Tikun Olam Pictures

Review: Externo

Externo focuses on a powerful businessman and his ways of doing business and dealing with his mental and personal crisis along the way. The powerful businessman reveals to be Joseph as he gives advice regarding success in business and talks about who he is, what he does, what his achievements would be, and to learn how he can handle business in a proper, orderly-fashion manner.

The film consists of a very small cast of actors being present in the film. Writer and director Leandro Taub portrays his main role of Joseph, a power-hungry businessman while Elizabeth Ehrlich appears as a mysterious young woman he meets (in the end credits, her character is credited as “She”). Christian Bargados also appears as Zeta. Leandro’s dramatic acting is incredible, increasing the heights of the character development for Joseph. He is what makes the film intense and surreal for both the film’s plot and Joseph's personality. Even Ehrlich knows how to act while dealing with the main character’s situations.

The film is directed by the Taub brothers, Jonathan and Leandro, with the latter also portraying the main role of Joseph as well. With Taubs’ direction, the film had an extensive use of on-and-off cinematography, wide-open spaces for camera angle shots, and voice-over, having larger usages of voices coming from only Leandro himself and an unseen man (possibly a narrator or something). In addition, subject texts are highly present throughout the film, with a side of fourth-wall breaks, to signal the next chapter and to understand what the characters are trying to say. As the story starts to flow smoothly and consistently, the story arcs soon become tense as Leandro’s character attempts to learn how to resolve the acts of power, corruption, terrorism, and global threats. Most of the time, it was just Leandro talking and being all by himself, walking through places and talking to someone over his phone. As he comes across as an intelligent and determined individual, Leandro knows how to handle his sticky situations, resulting in him being trapped by his own world of desperation. And the way he interacts with the woman looks like he is taking this interrogation-acting too well. This goes to show that Leandro is a one serious-killer actor.

The film is like a documentary film and a foreign language being mixed together, this unusual, but fairly interesting topic focuses on the life of an charming-eccentric individual who explains how his views affect his own life and to others, it also deals with the major themes of business, money and power. There’s not much narrative being shown in the film as this gives some vibes from The Big Short (with Steve Carell in it) and Pinky and the Brain (due to the latter’s goal to take over the world with higher ambitions). The story is split into multiple chapters like a storybook during the majority of its duration; it feels like it’s a class lecture about business and money. Sequences that show him speaking and interacting with a mysterious woman inside a room with limited lighting flooding through the room are also added to give the much needed depth and complexity to the story’s components.

Despite being run down to 83 minutes, Externo is an interesting, unusual piece of work as the film provides a plethora of powerful lessons given from the directors and the small cast about business, power, mental health, and power-hunger. It is filled with drama and intensity that roams around the earth. With great performances by Taub and Ehrlich, a beautiful intensifying score, and the remarkable, colorful cinematography, Externo is a type of a film that deserves much, much attention, worthy, and praise for all crowd pleasers who are watching any low-budget films at home or in theaters out there.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Thursday, November 18, 2021

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

(Review by Chase Lee)

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King Richard

“King Richard,” directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, is a biopic about Venus and Serena Williams through the eyes of their father, Richard. As you can expect from a sports-related film, it is a story about triumph over adversity due to hard work and perseverance.

Will Smith stars as Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena – portrayed by Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton respectively – and the man who pushed them to become superstars. Smith gives a good performance, showcasing a parent who never lets up on his children. He’s a star example of a helicopter parent – unrelenting, overbearing, and always there. The only thing he wants in life is for his children to have a better future, no matter how abrasive he needs to be. He does make some questionable decisions which make the viewer wonder if he really does have his children’s best interests in mind. Are the girls hooked on tennis just because he’s been forcing the game down their throats?

Starring alongside Smith is Aunjanue Ellis as Oracene Williams. Ellis gives a stellar performance here. She’s the heart of the family. While she always stands by her husband’s side in public view, she’s never afraid to put him in his place when they are in private. Ellis frequently steals the spotlight from Smith, giving an honest performance whether Oracene is happily looking on at her daughters’ successes or fuming mad at what’s going on under her roof.

Green presents the Williams as a happy, supportive family. They are stuck together like glue and always have each other’s backs, offering up a seemingly-never ending supply of support for each other. “King Richard” offers a glimpse of what being a loyal family is like in both happy and troubling times.

Despite this, the film does indirectly raise some questions about Richard and Oracene and their relationship with their other children. There are five daughters (and apparently Richard has more children from other marriages), yet, Richard and Oracene seem largely focused on the success of Venus and Serena. The film briefly highlights the success of the other daughters but otherwise throws them to the side, suggesting they are less significant in their parents’ eyes. This could merely be a case of only having so much screen time to tell the story requiring less focus on other characters. As for Richard’s other children, they are just briefly brought up during a fight with Oracene, further implying that Richard might not be as good a father as the film is making him out to be.

The second half of the movie focuses on Venus as she starts her ascent into tennis history. Initially coached by their father, Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn) agrees to take on training Venus alone after Richard talks him into watching the girls play. The hurt and frustration of Serena over this situation is another angle this film could have explored better. Her reactions are shown, but like her other sisters, it seems once Paul starts training Venus, Serena is thrown to the sideline. Eventually, the family signs a contract with trainer Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal) who prepares them for their professional careers.

Overall, “King Richard” is a fine film. While it’s on the long side, it flies by. Green sucks the audience into the story and pulls all the right strings as the viewers cheer for Venus and Serena’s success.

(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife

*½ (out of ****)

From afar, Ghostbusters seems an odd movie to shape a nostalgia trip around, but it is almost completely the only thing Ghostbusters: Afterlife has going for it. We live in nostalgic times when it comes to the movies we loved as a kid and the studios willing to make money off of that love, and here is one of the ultimate examples of that phenomenon in effect. The trio of main characters are the progeny of the one original Ghostbuster who could only improbably return for a surprise cameo (Let’s just say the movie finds a way to do that, though). Even the action climax is sort of a redo of the original movie’s conflict resolution, until it becomes a definite redo of that climax.

Until then, the movie is a constant barrage of callbacks to the first film (not so much the second film – though there is no outright ignoring it, as such long-delayed follow-ups are prone to do these days – and thankfully not the misguided remake), not only through the inclusion of various props and tools used by that first quartet but through a basically ineffectual exploration of the legacy of that movie’s events. It certainly feels strange, placing this much significance on such a uniquely silly and slightly overrated 1980s property, but screenwriters Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman (the latter of whom also directed) get lost in that state of looking back. The movie never looks forward at what it could be doing for itself.

The result is a movie that begins with some promise and eventually settles into doing far too little with way too much. We like the central family unit, including single mother Callie (Carrie Coon), her teenage son Trevor (Finn Wolfhard, whose casting is sort of an in-joke that no one acknowledges), and her preteen daughter Phoebe (McKenna Grace, rising so far above the material here that she must simply be a complete natural and a gifted actress). They’ve arrived to claim ownership of a rundown farm, left to Callie by her absentee father. Much of the movie is devoted to concealing who exactly Callie’s father was, but let us only say that his death is not merely a plot point but a necessity. Beyond that, one can do their own math (or simply look at Phoebe’s chosen hairstyle and spectacles) to figure it out very quickly.

Anyway, the kids discover that ghosts haunt this rural Oklahoman town with a vengeance, as Trevor and his new friends, as well as Phoebe and sympathetic teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd, very funny in spite of his character’s near-total irrelevance to the plot) discover at the edge of an abandoned oil well atop a mountain. Not much can be said about the threat beyond the tired explanation for it that we had already received in the first movie, but Kenan and Reitman simply repeat what had worked before, with the hopes that lightning might strike twice. Needless to say, it doesn’t, especially as the cogs in the wheel of the plot turn toward a particular brand of familiarity in the noisy, murkily lit action climax.

There are some inspired bits here and there, such as how the finale reintroduces some old heroes, only to make them irrelevant, or an amusingly horrifying scene involving regular-sized versions of the Stay-Puft marshmallow man emerging in a grocery store and proceeding to do unspeakably violent things to each other. It certainly inspires the feeling that Ghostbusters: Afterlife needed more of that kind of risk-taking subversion of our expectations of it. Instead, the movie simply coasts on our nostalgia.

Review by Joel Copling

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Who Is Lun*na Menoh?

Director: Jeff Mizushima

Review: Who Is Lun*na Menoh?

To let you folks know that this documentary film is part of the 2021 Asian Film Festival in Dallas, Texas. Who Is Lun*na Menoh? is an English-Japanese documentary film that follows the life and career of the extraordinary Japanese artist Lun*na Menoh. From her early career in Japan to the underground music scene in Los Angeles, from fashion show runways featuring her sculptural designs to art galleries showing her fantastical work, Lun*na's edgy, witty and beautiful creations are explored.

The film is directed by Jeff Mizushima and produced by Reiko Kondo, Junya Sakino, and Shingo Kidaka. Mizushima crafts this film because he wanted to discover who Lun*na Menoh, as an artist, and understands how she has brought an impact to her friends, her family, and the world on her outlandish artwork and her fashion-designing costumes being made out of recyclable objects after being thrown out in the trash. She and the fashion team know how they took the many trashy items to turn into something creative for models and other fashion designers. Mizushima even took the opportunity to interview her family, gallery owners, models, fans, and fellow visual artists and musicians all over the world to find out who and what Lun*na Menoh is and why her art-crafting artistry forms and fits in the entire world.

Mizushima and his crew not only provided some archival footages on Lun*na Menoh and her history as an artist and a fashion designer, but Mizushima also provided some onscreen, friendly video feedbacks from his fellow friends and colleagues to see if his documentary makings can be as good as any other who criticized him for not providing much more details and information about Lun*na Menoh herself as well as making one’s own video to pass it off as his own rather than rework on his important project, even though, according to him, it took over ten years to develop and craft a story about Lun*na. This is where the film director has jumped the gun on how to produce a decent documentary without missing the marks. Even some of his crew and people being interviewed agreed that his direction and his questions are confusing and are completely off. Nevertheless, Mizushima still had guts and determination!

There are many fourth-walls being broken, which made me believe that Mizushima and his crew are actually filming a documentary film. So basically, it’s a documentary-within-a-documentary film. The director has a snappy Deadpool response to the audiences on how this documentary film is being made without fighting through the clock. It kills me all of the sudden that crafting a documentary film, despite the crew breaking the fourth wall, proves to be harder and harder like making a feature film. They need to have some creative ideas and permission from one’s family to use their recordings, interviews, and photos to ensure the film’s documentation without invading their privacy for their own sipid amusement. Surely, making a movie, even a short film, can be hard too regardless of the time, money, and commitment.

Who Is Lun*na Menoh? is an interesting topic, clocking in at about 80 minutes. Most of the documentary cast and crew really made this piece of work fun and enjoyable. If you don’t know who she is and what she is, you might want to see this when this film gets released to the public. It’s a simple fact that this is like asking who the person [or celebrity] is whether the person is a filmmaker, actor, actress, musician, whatever. It’s a film that reveals secrets to anyone who is interested in knowing and mysteries being solved for those who want to find out. Whether I like it or not, it’s still a fascinating piece to discover. One last thing, please be advised that this documentary film contains swearing in the film.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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C’mon C’mon

Director: Mike Mills

Studio: A24

Review: C’mon C’mon

A24 is known for making incredible low-budget films and Oscar-winning films. C'mon C'mon is a typical coming-of-age movie that not only focuses on characters, but also their ways of learning, feeling, and imagining things. It doesn't have to be anyone’s slice of life story, it can be a story in your own way of living at a certain point of time. Oscar nominee and filmmaker Mike Mills steps to his game to helm this feature film, shot in black-and-white, featuring the stars of Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hofmann, and Woody Norman.

Mike Mills' newest feature film C'mon C'mon follows a radio journalist, Johnny, who embarks on a cross-country trip with his young nephew, Jesse, to interview some children in different cities.

Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) stars in the film as Johnny, the radio journalist and Jesse’s uncle while Woody Norman appears supportively as Jesse. If you don’t know Joaquin, he recently won his Oscar for portraying Arthur Fleck/The Joker in Joker back in 2019. As an actor, he got used to this and despite being an uncle to a nephew, it felt like he serves as the father-figure to Woody Norman’s Jesse character, who is a genuine human being that has found warmth and struggle in this newfound connection. Being with him is cozy and relaxing, even in the most challenging moments, but the main event for the film’s climax is Woody Norman. He brings the voice of reasons for his acting skills and Joaquin’s screentime with him. The relationship between these two characters is very subtle and smooth which references a father or mother having a difficult relationship with a child with autism. This is something that triggers the father-and-son (or mother-and-daughter) moments right there.

To those who are not familiar with Mike Mills, he is known for directing 20th Century Women, for which he earned his Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. As a director for C'mon C'mon, his idealistic style of making a film about ideas and not storywise either works for you or doesn't in many different ways. Once his idea has been thrown out on his sheet of paper, he knows there's always room for lots of storytelling ideas out there. He even made the characters interact with the world around them to create a slice-of-life story (or simply what-am-I-doing? moments), which is the ultimate goal for any filmmakers and actual media journalists out there. As mentioned before, slice of life isn’t for everyone just as movies aren’t for everyone. Slice of life is just anyone’s thing.

The story is very pleasing despite the film being shot in black-and-white for the favor of the plot. It does have some emotional breakdowns that really enhanced myself. Even with the slower, pacing moments are added and the parts that felt insignificant to the film’s plot, these moments and scenes are enjoyable as every moment is meant to be cherished. What can be more relaxing and satisfying is that Joaquin Phoenix and the crew actually went out and interviewed actual kids in different locations. So, kudos to the screenplay writers who made all possible and for making these actual kids amazing at acting. It almost seems like Joaquin Phoenix is actually portraying as Joaquin Phoenix rather than using his character name. The film also references many texts and songs throughout for us to remember for ourselves.

Also appearing in the film are Gaby Hofmann (Amazon Studios’ Transparent) who plays Jesse's mother Viv, Dallas-born actor Scoot McNairy (12 Years of Slave) as Paul, Molly Webster as Roxanne, and Jaboukie Young-White as Fernando. All of the acting suddenly hits in a deep, genuine way where anyone can hardly forget they're actually acting onscreen.

C'mon C'mon is a good coming-of-age movie, trailing up to 108 minutes of the film’s runtime. It captures many aspects of emotions and life that just simply come and go around us in a way like no other human beings. Joaquin Phoenix really fit the bill and so does Woody Norman thanks to Mike Mills and the incredible script-writers on bringing some warmful dysfunctional-family moments and coming-of-age sceneries. As an autistic, I felt confidentiality connected to the story and didn't want it to end this way. Everything feels comforting, even the way Joaquin captures each scene and city that feel like a wonderful new experience because it's a visceral experience that everyone should have everyday in their daily lives.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Mayor Pete

Pete Buttigieg is known for keeping his real life persona close to him and only to those who he trusts. That factor plays into the new Amazon documentary ‘ Mayor Pete’ that premiers on November 12. The documentary, directed by Jesse Moss, is supposed to be a typical behind the scenes documentary about a maverick candidate who proposes new things to shake up the political landscape. Mr. Buttigieg’s maverick qualities being the first gay married man running as a mayor for the presidency.

His presence is more valued than his naive political experience and this documentary shows it, warts, and all. His every supportive husband, Chasten, is actually much more skilled as a speaker and overall politician. This reviewer wonders if this is a trial run for Chasten more than Pete. The presence of the cameras capture the one thing Pete was trying to keep the spotlight from, his sexuality and his relationship, but in those private moments, they really show him as a wonderful husband and companion. It’s in these moments, his ability to lead is showcased for the first time, and it’s very powerful.

The real downside of the documentary was when his day job as mayor gets in the way. A racial shooting of a black man named Eric Logan by a white cop occurs. Pete initially does the typical politician thing of saying they did enough, but he does go back on his statement, and says he could have done more, at the townhall and during an actual debate. The event was a real rarity during a political campaign and ultimately cost him votes and ultimately showed the real disparity among black voters, which led to him losing the democratic nomination.

Pete Buttigieg’s campaign was historic and while was not nominated, the documentary is probably his best campaign video for a second run.

(Review by Alfred Ramirez)

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Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Souvenir Part II

**** (out of ****)

With The Souvenir Part II, writer/director Joanna Hogg both continues and, for all intents and purposes, resolves the story that began in 2019’s The Souvenir, that great drama about a star-crossed romance between a young, aspiring filmmaker and an older, troubled, and troubling man. The film understood the relationship that blossomed between them, even if we in the audience and even the young woman at its center didn’t quite get it, mostly because such connections genuinely happen in real life, whether we ask for them or not. Within the stoic features of Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), we understood how we could not understand what she saw in Anthony (Tom Burke, whose performance in that earlier film was exceptional in the way it fully absorbed the possessive and destructive qualities of the man), and that was a brilliant trick on Hogg’s part.

Those who saw the first part of this story will remember how this relationship ended – with Anthony having sold off some of Julie’s possessions to buy drugs, just before dying of an overdose in a public restroom. It was the kind of gut punch that left a lot of questions and unfinished business in its wake, so it only comes as a bit of a surprise that we have this follow-up, which begins within the aftermath of that tragedy. Julie searches for answers that are unlikely ever to come. Anthony’s parents (played by James Dodds and Barbara Peirson) have opened an investigation into the Foreign Office, where Anthony claims to have worked when he was alive, and his therapist (played by Gail Ferguson) suggests that it was the tragically simple case of a shell of a man deciding he no longer wanted to try living.

None of these explanations suffice, of course, but it is unlikely any explanation ever would. The space between unthinkable grief and acceptance is where this part of the story rests, however, especially after Julie’s first brush with intimacy following her boyfriend’s death. We can sense a few similar qualities within Jim (Charlie Heaton), a famous actor cast as the lead in Julie’s friend Patrick’s (Richard Ayoade) big-screen, studio-backed musical, with whom she has a messy and dissociated one-night stand. Once again, she is falling into the arms of a man who is, by all accounts, emotionally unavailable to her. We all do strange things in the wake of grief. Was it his casual mention of having met Anthony once or twice that did it? We don’t know, and Hogg doesn’t try to explain it.

Some time passes. Julie re-enters film school and concentrates on making the student film that will allow her to graduate (Understandably, the strain of her recent tragedy has had an impact on her work). Hogg allows the realization of what the film-within-the-film is about slowly descend upon us. We see the production designers constructing an artifice that eventually reveals itself to be the bedroom in which so many conversations and so much intimacy happened. We see the casting process, in which another popular actor (played by Harris Dickinson) and Julie’s lead producer (played by Ariane Labed) wind up playing Anthony and Julie. This is Julie’s story, told by Julie within the film and, once again, by Hogg within a larger context.

Such a move into the meta-referential arena is a brilliant one for the filmmaker, who ends up saying as much about Julie as about the exorcistic nature of storytelling. For Julie, the movie she makes is a way of dealing directly with her grief and the relationship that came to mean, so inexplicably, so much to her. She handles the production with grace, but there is undeniably a certain trepidation on her part to handle some of the tougher scenes without a little too much input (The actor playing Anthony points out, either helpfully or unhelpfully, that he is technically working from Julie’s version of events and is inherently unable to get at the truth of the character). Swinton Byrne’s performance gradually opens up for the audience over the course of these scenes, which cleverly reframe scenes from the earlier movie and offer a new access point for understanding them.

For Hogg, the move means that we can have a deeper understanding of the world around Julie and without Anthony, whose absence haunts this half of the story. Her parents (still played by James Spencer Ashworth and Tilda Swinton, the actress’s real mother) tiptoe around the topic, but Hogg’s screenplay knows that the two were befuddled by Anthony’s domineering personality and controlling tendencies but are now speechless to understand Julie’s grief. Eventually, though, life goes on. Julie premieres her film, gets on a road to real professional success, and finds happiness where she thought it was absent before.

In many ways, then, The Souvenir Part II is about how the stages of grief never truly make sense. If she could deny his death, perhaps the anger would never come. If she could bargain her way into doing work as an escape, perhaps she might never feel the depression. Finally, though, there is acceptance, and the greatness of Hogg’s achievement here is in showing us that acceptance is not an act of ridding oneself of those previous feelings or the experience that charged them. It is, ultimately, an understanding that everything can be ok (The final shot, which is a dizzying pullback and a fourth-wall rupture simultaneously, reveals this to be a personal story, too). This is not only a great continuation of the first film. It is also an essential one.

Review by Joel Copling

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Director: Kenneth Branagh

Studio: Focus Features

Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast is the wondrous tale of childhood and humanhood.

To those who don’t know Kenneth Branagh, he’s one of the most-respected British film directors and actors of all-time for both British and American cinema. Of course, he was nominated for tons of Oscars and Golden Globes, but has never won one of each. Though, he certainly enjoys making movies and never gives up on his fans, actors, and filmmakers who idolized him while studying and watching movies at home or in theaters in different cities. This film features the cast of Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, and newcomer Jude Hill.

Belfast follows the story of that chronicles the life of a working class family and their young son's childhood during the era of what is called “The Troubles” in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the late 1960s.

Actor Jude Hill is the main protagonist as Buddy, a little young boy who comes from a small-town family, experiences life in tumultuous times. Then, actor Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades films) portrays Buddy's father while actress Caitriona Balfe (Starz’s Outlander) portrays Buddy’s mother in the film. Their performances are outstanding, giving the film lots of bonus points. With my huge tastes and likes of Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, and Jude Hill, you're in for some great acting treat right there. Dornan is great but is more serious in his role to understand his character wisely without failing onscreen while Balfe, on the other hand, sounded like she is also having fun with the cast of actors and looks like she is having the time of her life. But for the film’s entirety, it was Jude Hill who took all the acting shots.

As director, Kenneth Branaugh has really taken verbal, autobiographical accounts from his own personal childhood. Surely he's a great actor and a filmmaker and all, but what can you expect from him when it comes to filmmaking. Everything you've ever seen from him has either been okay, great, or just disappointing in your own opinion. My main guess is that he has never, ever made anything as personal as this. With the story being nearly auto-biographical, there’s a whole lot out of this world on what Branaugh has to offer. He makes this film a fun, loving tale where one heavily touches on heavier objects like losses and family hearts. In addition, the music from composer Van Morrison and the screenplay are written astonishingly well, trying to bridge the family-caring moments in dark time periods. To be on a safe side, this movie could very well be considered a buddy (or family) comedy type. Still, the film can be a bit melodramatic.

The rest of the actors are great, but my way of viewing is aimed directly at Academy Award winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) and Ciarán Hinds (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2). They are both portrayed as Buddy’s grandparents respectively. Despite having some small screen time, Dench and Hinds really played the perfect grandparents towards the protagonist.

Clocking to simply 97 minutes, Belfast is a heartfelt watch, thanks to the great acting performances, the direction, and good writing. Kenneth Branagh's film, based on a true story from his own perspective, personal childhood, really touches many people' hearts and minds with an intimate view of any average family and the struggles of the working class citizen life. His lead-directing film could have a chance of being a front-runner for Oscar contenders of any category. One last thing before you finish reading this, just a little precaution for all parents and kids that there is some profanity as well as some dark and depressing moments being scattered all over the film. I highly recommend all of you to be emotionally prepared for this before you decide to watch this film. That’s all I’m trying to say.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Friday, November 5, 2021


Director: Chloé Zhao

Studio: Disney

Marvel’s Eternals has its name but is flawed on every heartfelt moment.

Marvel Studios never fails to bring the excitement towards fans since the 2008 release of Iron Man. In fact, the studio’s main goal is to expand their own MCU rigorously and the only way to do that is to introduce newer characters and superheroes along the way. To answer that question, Eternals has a lot of them. With the characters created by Jack Kirby, Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao enters the Marvel Universe to direct the film, featuring the ensemble cast of Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie.

Eternals takes place after Avengers: Endgame and follows the group called the Eternals, an immortal alien race created by the Celestials who have secretly lived on Earth for over 7,000 years, whose main mission is to reunite in order to protect humanity from their evil, dreadful counterparts, known as the Deviants.

Actress Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians) is the leading star of the film as Sersi, a member of the Eternals with a strong sense of connection to humans and the Earth. This is Chan’s second MCU film has starred in, the first being Captain Marvel where she played Minn-Erva. As a leading actress, Chan has worked her way up from reaching the top of her acting gig after her experience with Captain Marvel, she knows the pros and cons on portraying whatever part she gets, whether it's a superhero or supervillain or just a regular character onscreen. It’s not a real crime to look upon the eyes of Gemma Chan’s acting performances, but if one can dig into it, one can always be sure that this movie is Chan’s own film rather than an ensemble film based on what the script says. And not only Chan herself, but Scottish actor Richard Madden (Bodyguard, Game of Thrones) just comes and goes as Ikaris, a powerful Eternal supporting Chan’s Sersi character. Not only does Madden keep his supportive-superhero persona going like other Marvel superheroes supporting the protagonists, but his chemistry with Chan onscreen always brings the delectable treat together to make this movie as friendly, and romantic as ever. This is what the colors of any Marvel productions should look like.

As far as storytelling Zhao has to offer, the plot flows smoothly, but later gets messy and uninspirating as every new film featuring new characters and events becomes harder and more desperate for Marvel to fit everything in the MCU. At least, some good visual effects are well done and The Avengers were referenced in the film, but strangely, Thor and his friends from work looked like they don't care when Earth is in danger again. Not really, all points directly towards the Eternals who are now introduced as the new "Thanos" in town doing all the work. And as for Zhao and her massive filmmaking team, they both know there is so much to tell about those characters that went over the storyline, even though those 150 minutes don’t seem pleasant enough, there are a lot of good things, including the exciting locations, to see.

The rest of Eternals' actors did a great job despite receiving some smaller key roles. We have a show stealer Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, The Big Sick) as Kingo, Lia McHugh (American Woman) as Sprite, Brian Tyree Henry (FX’s Atlanta) as Phastos (which marks the first MCU superhero to be depictedly gay), Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead) as Makkari, Barry Keoghan (Calm with Horses) as Druig, Don Lee (Train to Busan) as Gilgamesh, Harish Patel (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Karun, Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) as Dane Whitman, and Salma Hayek (Frida) as Ajak.

And lastly, we have Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted, Maleficent) has a surprisingly small role as Thena, the elite Eternal warrior. Like the rest of the cast, she does a great job on her acting part, trying to improve her worth on the MCU family. However, there's a lot of focus that deserves more attention, given the fact that she and some actors are only there to play small parts and not big ones. It seems pretty low that this film doesn’t have any balance on any of those actors, but perhaps it would be best if they chose cameo actors and actresses.

I’m very mixed about Eternals, but it’s not a bad movie or a good movie entirely, it’s just average, maybe putting on the mediocre section. Despite some wonderful visuals being showcased and the wonderful acting team, it’s sad to see that this film didn't reach the grading levels of Iron Man, Avengers: Endgame, or Shang-Chi. And the time length is probably the biggest issue right there, clocking into 156 minutes long. It’s way too long but still entertaining in the director and the cast’s own right. I thought I was excited for this one, but my long-awaited enthusiasm really backfires. And that is all I’m going to say, I can’t give out more details on this movie, but I think this MCU film is something people have to pass up on this opportunity. I really want to like this film, but the pacing, the time length, and the script-writing issues discouraged me from liking this film.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Last Night in Soho

With aspirations of becoming a fashion designer, Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), aka Ellie, moves to London to attend college. She’s a small-town girl, out of her element in the big city, with a history of mental illness in her family – her mother (Aimee Cassettari) committed suicide – making her grandmother (Rita Tushingham) worry about the move. Her grandmother also comments about Ellie’s gift – she’s subject to visions, mainly seeing her dead mother in mirrors, introducing viewers early on to some “supernatural” elements. More on why that’s in quotes later, though you can probably guess the implications…

Of course, things in London get off to a shaky start. Ellie’s harassed by her cab driver, and she doesn’t get along with her roommate (Synnøve Karlsen), though to be fair her roommate is pretty awful. So, Ellie decides to rent a room from landlady Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg), a formidable woman with a no-nonsense policy. Shortly after renting the room, Ellie begins having visions of 1960s era Soho featuring a wannabe singer, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), and the man, Jack (Matt Smith), who is helping her start her career.

In “Last Night in Soho,” director/co-writer Edgar Wright plays up multiple angles. How are we supposed to take Ellie’s sudden visions of the 60s? Are we to believe that she’s actually seeing events from a time before she existed or is this the start of a mental snap caused by an abrupt and massive change in her living environment?

Wright, whose movies are known for their over-the-top theatricality, plays things straight here. Despite the use of visions, and ghostly apparitions that appear later, the film never shifts into campy territory. Presented as more of a whodunit in the trailer, “Last Night in Soho” is actually more of an is-she-or-is-she-not going insane type movie. The photography, frequently tinged with neon colors, and soundtrack of 60s hits bring the viewer into Ellie’s quickly twisting world.

McKenzie does an excellent job of making the viewer question her character’s sanity. She’s wide-eyed and frantic most of the movie. Although, she comes across as a bit too whiny/timid at times, making the character a little annoying. Taylor-Joy’s Sandie is an attention-seeker. She’s sure, confident, playful, and unfortunately, finds herself in a situation that gets out of her control, all moods perfectly captured by Taylor-Joy. Ellie finds inspiration in Sandie, who begins influencing her physical appearance and her coursework.

So, why such a lukewarm reaction if most of the individual elements didn’t bother me? There’s just something about this film that didn’t quite land with me. Maybe part of it is disappointment in the lack of a whodunit storyline, in which case that’s on me. The ghosts that start to follow Ellie felt a little goofy despite the seriousness with which they are presented. Everything leads to a final showdown that’s reminiscent of Polanski’s “Repulsion,” which could further play into the insane angle. Except, I don’t think Wright is going for a layered movie here. This is one that’s meant to be taken at surface level. The final 30 minutes or so don’t do the movie any favors. I think it’s this section that really drags the film down, tying things up a bit too perfectly and abruptly.

(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Hell or High Seas

Director: Glenn Holsten

Studio: Invincible Entertainment

Review: Hell or High Seas!

The title is not meant to be confused with Hell or High Seas (the one with Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine starring in it), Hell or High Seas is a documentary film that follows a U.S. Navy veteran Taylor Grieger and writer Stephen O’Shea as they embark on their greatest adventure of a lifetime — sailing around Cape Horn, the world’s most treacherous ocean waters. This documentary is a moving picture focusing on a veteran who uses his own painful journey with PTSD to find the healing source for himself, and to pave a smoother path for veterans who are returning to civilian life.

Taylor Grieger is such an amazing character and a storyteller, he does capture the true nature and the sudden reveal of PTSD for lots of American veterans in a powerful way, along with Stephen O’Shea whom Taylor got to share his adventures with. Most shots throughout the film are absolutely breathtaking, giving the feel as if this is an action-adventure film. The story and the setting fit nicely and so does the usage of social media that expands the story of their perilous journeys. And lastly, the overall beauty that has been garnered throughout the voyage conveyed the colorful, restorative effects of the high-sea journey. However, most of the good, exciting stuff have been cut out due to the documentary time lengths being limited.

The director of the film is Glenn Holsten, under the supervision of producer Chayne Gregg and executive producer Robert Irvine. Holsten and the crew have really dedicated themselves to placing lots of single-shot cameras on the boat to see what Taylor shows on his amazing journey on the ocean waters similar to how the crews from Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch (featuring Sig Hansen as the main captain for the show) have ventured through.

Overall, Hell or High Seas is alright, clocking in at 90 minutes for its height and length. This documentary film is more than just a documentary, it’s an adventure film that brings some dark and deeper messages about one’s own life’s greatest mysteries, darkest past, perseverance, and hope. Nevertheless, Taylor and the team have outdid themselves to better understand the beauty and the artistry of any movie (or documentary movie). I’m not a huge documentary movie type of guy, but this is a film other people need to think about watching.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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(Review by Chase Lee)

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Last Night in Soho

Last Night in Soho, as a movie title, is a very apt description for the way the movie, makes you feel. The whole movie feels like a bad hangover that won’t go away from a party that left you it tatters. There were great high highs and extremely low lows. It’s a film that I won’t soon forget no matter how hard I try or maybe not even want to.

Directed by boy wonder, now grown up, Edgar Wright, with a script by Edgar and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, the film is essentially Edgars’ version of the Tarantino classic, Once upon a time in Hollywood, with a little Touch of Evil thrown in for good measure.. less humor and more horror and thrills. He transformed a small block into 1960s Soho in his native London, and while he does not have the Hollywood leads known to the typical American audience, the hip ones will get it all the 1960s British cinema cameos. His exciting storytelling lets you know he’s giving a joyful wink at his previous movies (Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim among others) with each frame, and mischievously straps you in like a demented ride operator, the second our protagonist’s story really gets going. The excellent camera work by Chung Hoon Chung, also helps in bringing us straight into the glitz, glamour and seedy underbelly of 1960s Soho.

The movie opens with our young protagonist Eloise Cooper, or ‘Ellie’ played innocently by Thomasin McKenzie; dancing to vocal duo Peter and Gordon’s 1964 hit, “A World Without Love,” in her best Audrey Hepburn glee. She has been raised by her grandmother to love everything 1960s, after her young mother traveled to London for school, and subsequently committed suicide. Ellie’s grandmother, played by British 1960’s screen legend, Rita Tushingham an apt casting if there ever was one, as she starred in the 1960s classic, A Taste of Honey. Naturally her grandmother is concerned and tells her every second “London can be a lot.” It is alluded that Ellie’s family had a history of schizophrenia and Ellie begins to shows signs as well, as she sees her actual mother in a mirror reflection besides her own. Ellie blindly ignores all her grandmothers’ warnings and decides to carry on no matter what.

Ellie is waiting on an acceptance letter to attend Fashion School in London and plans to become a worldly fashion designer, and nothing will get in her way. She soon receives the letter and is off to modern day London. However, she soon encounters a terrible dorm roommate, and quickly finds a way out via an old landlord, (played by 1960s queen Diana Rigg in her last onscreen performance,) Ms. Collins, who offers her an upstairs room that triggers her schizophrenia and an unknown type of sixth sense while listening to her favorite 1960s records. These combined diseases send her spiraling into a fantasy or real life experience as a 1960s chanteuse via ‘Sandie’ (Anya Taylor Joy).

The rollercoaster begins with Ellie going every night after class into Sandie’s world of 1960s swinging Soho. However, it soon turns darker as Sandie’s ‘reality’ of how to really make it, gets closer and closer to Ellie’s ‘reality,’ as Sandie meets the charming Jack (played by (Matt Smith), as her singing dreams begin to no longer be his top priority.

Even when Ellie begins to find herself in her work, the darkness of Sandie’s real life, begins to affect her, and her private life. She meets a nice boy who initially stole her soda at a dorm party, John (played by Michael Ajao) and later replaces the soda with an apology. A date finally happens, but it’s too late. Ellie is tormented at every turn by the men Sandie must please, now turned into walking faceless monsters, in her new role as an escort, in the lowest ring. The date coincides with a nite cap, and during the session, she witnesses the death of Sandie by Jack right in her own bed she is making out with John.

This scene is a little innocently racist unfortunately, and the effect is completely misinterpreted by the filmmaker. The rest of the movie is a thrill ride that will leave you breathless with a very happy ending. A few might be wanting more, but this reviewer had his fill. A great Halloween movie that will surely scare you into reminding you of the horror and glamour of 1960s Soho.

(Review by Alfred Ramirez)

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